I met a woman today….

I stood nervously rocking back and forth. I don’t know why I still get nervous after all these years but I do. Just another presentation, a dog and pony show as it were but for some strange reason my brain reverts to when probationary was the status written below my helmets crest. Fear of failure, saying the wrong thing, not adequately relaying information to a public mass who in reality is really happy to have us around. Sure there is the occasional grump or bitter individual who for some reason carries a chip on their shoulder whenever we are around (and this night was no different) but the majority simply want to say hello, or thank you, or in some cases words can’t form and they sheepishly smile while politely waving as they pass.

It was a local schools annual harvest festival within our town. Our fire engine had been assigned to appear as part of an ongoing public education effort. We pulled up, met with organizers and took our place upon the basketball courts right next to our local Police department’s display. Doors opened, cabinets exposed, wrinkles shifted from our shirts, plenty of stickers loaded into the upper right pocket and in mere seconds they came and came and kept coming to our delight..

Over the course of two and half hours we helped children into our engine, showed them all our fire gear while explaining what we do along with a little bit of how we do it. Kids make me smile, they are honest, truthful, hilarious and have no filter. They are perfect human beings, their thought processes still untouched by the cruelty of adult life along with hurtful biases or opinions. There are days I wish I could still witness the world through their wide absorbing eyes. Days I wish I could go back and do a lot of things over again, channeling my inner child to greater achievements as an adult. But I can’t, none of us can and so the fun in my job is being surrounded by these fantastic awestruck little people.

Tonight though something else happened. This “something” has been happening more and more and I am not sure what to make of it. It always catches me off guard and I never know quite how to behave or present myself. Much like an acting student who for some unknown reason develops a serious case of behavior altering stage fright, I freeze under the pressure and become extremely uncomfortable.

In the middle of giving demonstrations a line had developed filled with children (and a few adults) waiting to climb into our Fire Engine. As we happily interacted with the masses by placing one child at a time inside the engine for picture opportunities a woman walked up and gently grasped my arm. She looked me in the eye and asked; Are you Betty? To which I replied; I am?

She then explained she had been battling breast cancer and with it how much she thoroughly enjoyed Betty’s writings.

As has been the usual mode of reaction, my cheeks felt flush, my heart rate doubled and I mumbled something. I don’t remember what I said because after I learn someone actually reads and enjoys my writings in person I suddenly feel like a 12 year old boy who has just professed his admiration to the prettiest girl in class and she’s responded by saying she likes me. Awkward and elated all at the same time!

This sweet lady with the kindest smile told me her husband was amazing, and how much she appreciated him along with all he has done for her during this very trying time in their lives. She asked if she could hug me, I said yes and as she did I felt thankful, warm, full of love and humbled.

As I have stated on numerous occasions, this blog took a life of its own when my wife became ill. It morphed into what I hoped would be nothing more than a journal to reflect upon after we hopefully conquered Leukemia. Then as time progressed it changed into an open forum for all to read hoping other spouses in my shoes would know they are not alone. A gnawing deep inside told me to share through my experiences with other spouses or caregivers. A reminder to others they have the power within them to carry on, pick up pieces and provide a solid foundation for not only their family and loved ones but for the countless other lives they touch along the way. Cancer, Leukemia, and Bone Marrow Transplants are no longer something someone else has, a blank face or nameless person looking sad upon a Facebook post or commercial asking for donations either monetary or life altering. But real people you know or someone you know knows! We can no longer turn our backs believing it is someone else’s problem to deal with because trust me the statistics showing those affected are all too real! This power lies within you to open others eyes, to reach out and comfort those who need your help because you my friend have walked this path and survived! These diseases do not curse just those who are carrying them and trust me their fight is hard enough for them to live with and handle on their own. But the entire process both physically and emotionally beats down hard upon all of us who live, love and care for those stricken. It is at times overwhelming at how much our lives change and the inner pain it can bring.

So to hear another human being while holding your arm explain with the warmest of smiles and softest of hearts exactly how your writings have meant something to them. Well that brings up emotions that are hard to contain.

I am not sure why I fumble my words, or feel uncomfortable. Maybe because I am shocked that anyone takes the time to read my blog at all. Helping people is all I have ever wanted to do, I always wonder just how many people actually take the time to read this spattering of words and I always wonder who? Who has it helped, who really needs to hear from someone right now because they feel as though they no longer can? Who? Who is at the end of their rope or feels like God doesn’t have a plan for them and this is all just a miserable dark place in their lives that will never end! Who? Am I reaching enough people? How do I reach more? If I do reach more am I writing the right material or am I even the right person they should be reading about? I really don’t think you can write the wrong material as long as it’s truthful and from the heart. But, what if I am wrong and someone out there is missing the point or thinking if that guy’s in pain, you know the one writing about always having faith and carrying on is in pain then why should anyone have faith things will be any better? I don’t have an answer to that!

Yet it remains so important to me; sharing that is. It has become so paramount there have been nights I lose sleep out of guilt for not having written in a week. Our loved ones and/or caregivers are so important, they bear so much emotional burden and over time people who were helping, slowly fade away. Its ok, they have lives, we as caregivers were and still are extremely blessed for the time any and all assistance was provided! It is how it’s supposed to be and no one expects anyone to still be constantly rescheduling their lives, away from their families and friends for 2, 3 or even 4 years later. Suddenly though one can understand how it is to become isolated and alone. 24/7 your whole world revolves around a single human being. Try as hard as you might at some point even your kids begin to suffer! Your intentions are great, you do the best you can and strive to keep their lives busy and full but trust me they feel it! They feel the isolation and to some extent a bit of emotional disconnect. Nothing changes though, we are still there, handling every aspect of our stricken loved ones lives? It is a job we take a lot of pride in, for if you love someone there is no greater gift than to care for them when they are down. It is what love is, it is what God would want.

So to the woman I met today.

Thank you, for filling my heart with joy, giving my writings meaning, and allowing me the honor of meeting you. I apologize if my response was awkward, it was not my intention.

You reminded me that one of the greatest gifts we as human beings have is the power to share ourselves openly with others. You gleefully shared your story with me by my having shared my story with you over time on these pages. Our lives crossed paths and I will never forget that.

My heart is full.

 

Advertisements

So this is 50…

“A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted 30 years of his life”

                                                                                                                                ~Muhammad Ali~

 

I can distinctly remember awakening on my 15th birthday, lying in bed while pondering the importance of this day. You see it was my last year before complete freedom, six months from now with a little effort I would obtain a learners permit, then if I kept my nose clean a full-fledged driver’s license would soon follow. I had dreamed of obtaining my license from the very moment I fell in love with cars and now we were but 12 short months from it becoming a reality!

And that my friends started a habit that has both served me well and left me face first in the dirt wondering why more times than I can count. The habit is known as looking forward.

Most people look forward to a vacation or the purchase of some tangible object. I on the other hand began looking forward to landmark dates and moments in time where my life would hopefully just fall into place. Laying my head upon the pillow at night I would count off the time. 5 years until I turn 20 then I will be able to drink legally, 5 more years and I will be 25, either dead or married but either way that’s 10 years away! Plenty of time in between to explore and have fun! 5 years after that I’ll be a dad that’s if some woman is stupid enough to marry me!! Wow think about that! At 30, 15 short years from now, I will become a father to some snot nosed kid! Ten years after that I will become 40 years old! Who wants to be forty that’s freaking old!! Oh well, I will still be the same just I will have a couple kids to hang out with, go skateboarding, ride bikes and work on cars!! It will be fun, like having your best friends over every day because of course they will see how obviously awesome I am!! Ten years later I will be 50 and then, well then I will be really old! Like the teachers with gray hair I see feebly walking the halls, or the old men that every morning make their way into Fords Café. Pretty sure they are too old to actually have a job, they’re just killing time. Wake up early, go meet with other old dudes who are counting the days until they die, eat breakfast, drink coffee, and repeat! At least when I am 50+ my kids will be grown and gone, and I will be able to party hard once again while watching my ancient body wither away..

 

Ahhh the mind of a young man without a clue. So sure of himself, self-absorbed and completely unrealistic.

I turned 50 years old yesterday. Really not sure what I was expecting to happen, but going to bed the night before was held with great trepidation. Moving my pillow, placing items on my nightstand in perfect unison as if by awaking the following morning to find they were moved held some form of significance in determining my age.

Staring at the ceiling I began my usual looking forward process, except this time I wasn’t looking forward but instead mourning the past. Rolling back in five and ten year segments, memories flooded my conscience and with it joy, pain, fear, sadness and tears. We work so hard at looking forward, to the next conquest, challenge or milestone in our lives I think we forget to honor the past. Not just remember the past but actually honor the past. Without the past we wouldn’t be able to say; hey you remember when we…..???? Or you remember that time….???? And of course; I can’t believe we/I survived……????

We forget to not just remember the good times because all of our good times whether we admit it or not are tempered by that portion of our brain protecting us from pain, but to remember while holding in the highest regards the bad times as well. I know you are thinking what, but I want to forget the bad times! Who needs that kind of grief in their lives? In reality if we don’t take a moment to remember our struggles, relive our pain, relish in strengths formed from having our souls drug through the deepest of dark pits, we would be doing ourselves a huge disservice. It is those struggles and pain that forge the human being we are today. Life is easy and lived well when you are always happy never feeling the burdens life can provide. Life is cherished and held even closer when you struggle then survive, rise above the darkest of times always searching for a better moment to bask under. The struggle helps us to become who we are and creates a human being who cares about others, feels empathy, and knows the importance of tolerance and understanding even during the most challenging of times.

I laid in bed for an hour watching my usual round of The Daily Show, The Amazing Race and Amy Schumer. My eyes were watching but my mind was a million miles away. 50 years old, double the amount of time I really thought I would live. Every person who walked through my life over the last 40 years that was no longer with us crossed my mind. Grandparents, friends of my parents, other family members and of course close personal friends. Human lives never afforded the chance to make it to 50 years of age. Life played out is hand and they were gone way to soon leaving those around them suffering with the stark reality that when it’s over, it’s over. We have no say, no choice and life is not a guarantee. So I ask myself, why am I different? Why did I make it here and the others didn’t? Some lost their lives in accidents while others to cancer, illness or the hard realities of a life not lived well. But here I was getting prepared to embark on this landmark (by societies standards) birthday. 50 years old. Some didn’t make to 20, some 30, others in their early 40’s. Either way they were no longer with us. So why am I still here? What is my purpose? Because if I made it this far there must be a purpose otherwise I may as well be nothing more than the walking dead.

When I awoke, I sat up straight like Bill Murray in Groundhog day! I looked around and everything on my night stand was right where I left it. My phone was already loading up with well wishes from friends and the kids were beginning to rustle for school. Jacy had retreated downstairs as she does most mornings around 3:30/4am due to the wacky schedule her medications have her body beholden too. My morning was fairly uneventful for having just turned 50! No new pains, my joints still working fine and there appeared to be no new grey hairs sprouting mysteriously from my head. I still needed glasses to see and when I stepped on the scale there appeared to be no rapid weight gain possibly warranting the use of suspenders with my belt. Brushing these 50 year old teeth I found myself thankful they were all still there and once my hair was combed it didn’t look as though it had thinned any more than normal. I guess you could say it was turning into an uneventful morning, nothing like what my inner fears told me turning 50 would become.

The 15 year old boy still trapped deep inside calling me an old man was happy none of his premonitions had come true.

Today I am much more cognoscente of my surroundings at 50 years old. Birds, fields, a certain smell or breeze that is just the right temperature hitting my face floods my brain with memories. Good, bad or otherwise. I appreciate life, not just my life, but any life. Animals hold a dear place in my heart, I cannot stand to see any animal mistreated; if you are mistreating an animal rest assured I will mistreat you! Nothing brings more joy than a nuzzle  from a horse, the purr of a cat or the slobbery happiness of a dog. I finally have the patience when fishing I wish I held when I was younger. A morning working a horse can erase an entire day of shit! There is something so calming about learning a horse, its character, abilities and personality. Happiness definitely comes from spending time with my children, whether at a rodeo, playing ball, going to the beach, sitting at a school function or just reading together, they are my world. My overall temperament has changed as well, although those very same children I love can on occasion bring me close to the explosive person I could be when I was younger, I now have the ability to walk away, calm myself down and look at things from another’s point of view.

Understanding the power of commitment. My wife is an amazing human being, she fights every day for the simplest things we all take for granted. Time with her children, the ability to walk outside, go to the store, or even just drive the car without wanting to fall apart physically. She lives in fear of the unknown and wonders if she will ever feel better. Every day she wakes, and works hard at making lunches for her children so they know she is still here and she loves them. She sleeps a lot due to her medications and her body doesn’t help when it comes to walking from point A to point B. She worries about everyone and everything. She is my hero. I am terrified of a life without her.

I miss my dad. Wasn’t sure at times how I would feel about that since we butted heads a lot over my entire life, but I really do miss my dad. I have also come to understand in the circle of life his departure leaves me up to bat as it were. I would rather read than watch TV, sit in a quiet room than listen to music at a million decibels, although there are the occasional times alone in the car or at work in my cubicle I have been known to crank up some Zeppelin or Van Hagar! (only those my age will understand the Van Hagar) I have grown fond of the complexities involved with classical music and nothing brings a smile to face faster than some down and dirty jazz. Real country music not that crap they play today is what is on my channel 80% of the time.

Mornings are amazing! Every morning is a little different and I now wonder why in my younger years I wasted all those mornings sleeping in when I could have been out watching in amazement as the earth rotates bringing a bright glowing sun from beneath the shadows of darkness. I feel the same way about a sunset. Something about dusk just speaks to me. It is the perfect time of day.

I worry about our future and what we are leaving behind for our children. There is so much hate in this world and our outlets for entertainment seem to thrive on exploiting only the negatives of life. We are developing a nation of self-centered glory hungry humans that care for no one but themselves. I know there is lots of good in this world I just wish there was more reporting of positives than negatives. I also feel as though we are ruining this planet and our great grandchildren are going to pay the price. If we don’t hurry up and make some major environmental changes than we will permanently damage this planet. It is our only home.

So as you can see the 15 year old no longer lives here and thank goodness! I think differently, and lord have mercy I look different! But looking forward will still be a part of my life as I grow older, just there will also be many more times where looking behind is just as important. There are many more challenges remaining in this life that I don’t WANT to accomplish but NEED to accomplish for my own growth and wellbeing and if I make it to my 60’s.70’s or god willing my 80’s I hope I still have the ability to dream big, love even bigger and hopefully are still able to help anyone who will listen to navigate this crazy thing called life so they can find out just who they are or are getting ready to become when they to hit the big 50.

[JF1]

Pushing back from the table for I might be full.

Our daily lives at times seem to flow like an oceans tide. Highs then lows, troubled waters an incoming squall or the serenity of a calm sea. I feel as though we are such a part of this earth, so intertwined and yet it’s not what many would have us believe. All things remain cyclical yet no observation as to the cause or need? Blinders have been affixed and our noses lay heavy towards the ground out of fear or repetitive motion. This mundane normalcy deemed appropriate as we refuse to raise our eyebrows casting glares into alternate directions for no other reason than to ask why? A society spoon fed by the very corporate dollar so many rage against. There is no trustworthy source any longer, no sense of community bringing bright ideas and alternative messages to an open forum where mockery and ridicule are not to be tolerated. We are a society of mongers. It is no wonder so many hearts are filled with anger and hate. It is why those who are not filled with anger and hate only feel fear, sadness, bewilderment and confusion. Our modern day is frustrating to say the least. Just an observation.

Trying my hardest to find positives around me, my head hurts. My head is feeling as though it is filled with sand and ready to burst at the seams. When I feel this way, knowing myself as I do while understanding my body, I know I am emotionally full. Neck pain, back pain, the inability to tackle large projects or even affect them in some small way. These are signs I may be a bit troubled.

My blog is suffering. There has been many stories as of late, yet I have been making excuses not to write. It’s as though I am procrastinating for some unforeseen life test that I have not studied for and time is desperately running out. You remember school don’t you? Mid-terms, tons of material to study for and you begin to feel as though you just can’t? So you put it off one day, then another and soon one day becomes two, two becomes four and four becomes a week, a week becomes two then bam, you staring down the barrel of having done nothing and you have 48 hours to get all that work/studying finished!

The book is kicking my ass! No kidding, it is seriously killing me!! Every writer feels as though there is this romanticism associated with the act of writing. (cue dreamy music) Holed up in some small cute cabin in the woods alone with nothing but a Hermes 3000 and a couple reams of paper to keep you company. There is a light rain and endless wildlife roams at will around your cabin. Scotch, scotch, scotchety, scotch! There is plenty of scotch, a few steaks for grilling; a warm fire leaves nothing but your imagination draining through clunky metal keys as you pour your souls into the world’s next greatest novel! A book written from the heart, full of love for all to read and draw conclusions while filling your desire to reach just one person! Then if you are really lucky you end up on the talk show circuit telling all who will listen just what an amazing experience it was to find yourself, in that little cabin while sharing your pain and exploring your mental boundaries! Oh yeah, also while consuming copious amounts of scotch!

In reality, you write when you can. At work, the desk at home, at three in the morning when you can’t sleep, or you just tell your laptop to GFI with a super number one symbol shown using solely the middle finger as you walk by.

Right now I have over two years of writings, some from the blog, others never published. There is back stories needing to be filled and fillers needed where some writings have failed to draw a conclusion. Then while writing new material or correcting older stuff you realize you haven’t even begun to touch the depth of pain pulsing deep inside. Oh you think you have done a fine job of explaining where you are on the pain scale but in reality it’s more like a large, gross scab. Each and every time you begin to write about a certain painful moment you are really just picking at it! The scab that is. The problem becomes the more you pick at this scab, the more you wish to keep picking at this scab no matter that it hurts! Then you find you long to pick at the damn scab, almost crave picking at this fucking scab and before you know it the scab has started to bleed and each drop of blood is another level of pain for you to experience! Once you have bled enough you find the need to analyze the blood, categorize the emotions and before you know it, you are writing about it and another scab is there for the picking!!! Oh bloody Hell!!!!

Reading through my journal, correcting grammar while restructuring sentences has forced me to relive every emotionally charged experience over and over again. Some evenings I can only make it through one or two before I find myself feeling blue. Feeling the pain as though it is happening right then, right now. My heart aches for my wife and all she has endured and continues to endure. It is not fair and many times I wish it was me and not her. But it is not, so the best I can do is honor her by writing this story the right way and pray that when it’s finished a story is told that adequately reflects the message I am trying to convey. During many of my postings a follower asked if I thought I would survive reliving the experience while writing this book. I can say with all honesty that I will. It will be painful, it will most likely change me as a person forever, and if I do it right I pray it will change the lives of others, but it will leave a mark, a toll and once the scab is healed, leave a scar.

Work.

My whole career I have been really good at doing my job and much like taking my uniform off to go home; putting it away when I am done. There has been some rough calls as of late. Vehicle accidents, a few fires and a few fatalities. The beauty of our job is the thousands of hours of hands on training and preparing all pays off, then we are able to quietly slip away into the background. Notoriety is not what a true public servant wishes for in my eyes. This job we do is so much more than a job, it is who we become and it fulfills a need we harbor to help other human beings without fanfare. So for the better part of 22 years that’s what I have quietly done. But the last loss of life call I participated in was much more. It was a young life, it was a good call (as far as work goes)! Everything went right! From on scene time, to assistance, to hand off, the patient was treated and cared for exceptionally! Hell upon arrival at the hospital there were signs we had in fact succeeded! It all sounds great right? Do your job well then go home? You quietly pat yourself and your co-workers on the back for as a team we either do well or fail and this one was in the win column. Right? Ah no wrong! Sadly the patient ultimately perished.

Where things have become harder is in today’s age you can no longer erase the calls, and move on keeping some form of sanity. Why? Because we have Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. It’s not that we don’t want to know the outcome or for that matter want you to know what we did or how we did it, for we do, but instead of a verbal update from your medical director or battalion chief complete with an after action assessment we now get all of that plus the social media report! Our world is becoming so small and because it’s shrinking rapidly we see patients or victims plastered across any number of social media sites and with it comes the arm chair quarterbacking that so often follows a senseless tragedy. Those thoughtless comments, or ignorant compilations of medical strategies or tactics that should have been used, or weren’t used at all! These of course are usually coming from people with little to no knowledge of emergency services or the stressful split second decision making that often times accompanies a fast paced life or death situation. No, other than watching an episode of Blue Bloods, Greys Anatomy or Chicago Fire the majority of these people spout off from the relative safety of their computer screens with little or no thought other than self-absorption as to what their statements say to all of those involved! The consistent proverbial stirring of the pot, pointing of the finger, trying to find someone else to blame at all costs is taxing!! It shouldn’t bother me, it really shouldn’t, I mean I am grown man who loves his job and can empathize with overwhelming grief and sorrow. Usually a few of the main precursors to spouting ignorance before cooler heads prevail! But once the faces become a repetitive fixture, shown over and over again, complete with background stories, testaments from loved ones and of course the aforementioned written rage well it becomes hard to not take it all personally. To transpose that person as one of your own loved ones and then carry the guilt.

We do our best, we try very hard for the citizens we serve and we carry the faces of each and every one we have ever lost while trying to do this job. Sometimes it just sucks and there is nothing you can do about it. It is the job.

So you can see there is a lot on Bettys mind, I may be a bit full right now, but not to worry! Anyone who knows Betty, knows Betty loves to eat!

Hopefully my next ramble will be filled with a little more humor.

I think we all need some laughs!

Maybe I’ll go fishing?

 

 

What do I say?

What do I say?

My son has wanted to be in law enforcement since he was 8. It started with the FBI, moved to local law enforcement, wandered towards Fish and Game and now hovers around CHP.

The events of this last week, a proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back in regards to a movement or movements either fighting against the establishment, or protecting it. Targeting entities, blaming all problems on injustice or race, centered on the actions of a few while targeting the many. Wallowing in hatred and an unmistakable inability to look in a mirror at one’s self before casting blame. To kill or protect, hate or understand, listen or scream, these seem to be the only options available and all though some are working hard to find common ground as long as media agendas, and motivated hate mongers are allowed to stir panic, and rage through social media there will be no winners.

What do I say?

How do I tell him I am terrified for his future, scared that he will become a target as opposed to a respected asset to the community he chooses to serve; and not because of his individual actions but instead for his chosen profession in conjunction with the color of his skin. Blind hate stirred carefully over time through abuse from both sides of this fence has seen to that.

He is an incredibly smart, college educated, handsome young man. One who cannot stand injustices towards others, who was raised to honor an individual for their accomplishments, persona, ethics, and integrity; to never judge someone but spend a moment in their shoes before an opinion can be made about the who, where, what and the why of it all. He has been raised to understand we are all Gods children, color has no bearing in our house and the hate he sees in our world is taught. You are not born that way.

Yet his dream is his dream. His passion is fishing, hunting, camping spending ever moment he can outdoors. He also longs for the day when he can chase down law breakers, work on a difficult case bringing resolution to a person or family struggling with heartbreak. He wants to help you and not because you are family, but because you are a human being who needs assistance.

He is braver than I, stronger, and mentally sharper than I’ll ever be, he picks apart situations and is able to quickly decipher any moment, finding a resolution or answer. He is quick witted and knows the minute you are lying. He is the son of a fireman and therefore knows exactly what is waiting for him in this world. I have kept no secrets. And yet it is what he wants. To help you at all costs, a stranger.

I have told him you will be lied to everyday, some people will hate you simply because you wear the uniform. He will quickly find most people fail to take responsibility for their actions and therefore whether it’s a domestic issue, robbery, car theft or speeding, somehow, some way it will be his fault.

Throw into the mix our messed up society brandishing a camera, hoping, praying he screws up, loses his temper, does something stupid so they can become the next YouTube sensation and his job gets harder by the minute. It is not an easy profession, he will be spit on, punched, kicked, demoralized and berated. Hopefully no one ever shoots at him but I think those days are long gone where an officer never needs to pull his weapon, but yes that means at some point he will need to draw his gun to the glee and delight of all those iPhone camera toting social media trolls.

What do I say?

What do I say to my son, to the boy who I played baseball with, held when he cried, and laughed with while we fished. My job as his father is to help support him, keep him from harm, and lead him down a proper road while giving him all the tools for success. So what do I tell him in regards to this career choice he has made, that he has dreamed of for so long?

Do I tell him his mother and I will have multiple sleepless nights, worrying about his safety and the safety of his fellow officers? Do I tell him I selfishly wish he had become a firefighter like me? Do I prod him towards another profession, breaking him down and crushing his dreams all in the name of my own personal wellbeing?

No

Instead I hug him and tell him I understand. I understand what it’s like to want something so bad, to be a part of something much greater than you so bad it drives you crazy and leaves you sleepless at night! I tell him I am proud of him for his choices and remind him I will help him in any way possible to ensure he achieves his dream. I reinforce our families belief that all people are equal and help him to understand there are people in this world ready to tear him down at a moment’s notice and to not judge all because of the actions of a few. I remind him change can only come when people like himself get involved and provide a positive presence for all to see and learn from. I remind him that I fully understand the old adage of; if not you, then who?

We still have a few years to go before he is ever sworn in anywhere and maybe our country will have worked hard to turn things around, rebuilding trust and furthering our ability to no longer mire in hatred. He may also have joined the military and taken a different path into law enforcement you never know. Either way I know this. I am proud of the man my oldest son is becoming, I look forward to the day he finally achieves his dreams and I pray he surrounds himself with good people, starts himself a loving family and remembers he has a solid foundation for which he was built upon. Those things alone will keep him humble, caring and make him one hell of a man.

What do I say?

I say I love you son and thank you for just being you.

 

 

 

365 days

One year-365 days

The day before yesterday I awoke to my phone buzzing incessantly on my leg. I had traveled back to the firehouse for an emergency recall as emergency units were fighting a stubborn structure fire and additional manpower was needed for daily operations. After changing into my uniform, checking the operations board, determining who went where and why. A moment came where I dropped into a chair to catch a minute while enjoying the air-conditioning. It is the last thing I remember. That is until my phone started buzzing upon my leg.

Answering it, my wife started talking and I quickly realized I had no idea what she was saying. Not only did I have no idea what she was saying but I didn’t know where I was, who I was, or why I was sitting in a chair inside the firehouse. I panicked and thought shit something is wrong, why is she calling? She is at the hospital what has happened? Is it bad news? Is she ok and once again, HOW THE HELL DID I END UP AT WORK!!! Had I been there for a couple a days? Was this my shift? CRAP!!! I was lost..

The entire time my inner self is freaking the hell out, my wife is simply asking me when I am coming home for dinner? When I didn’t answer she would simply ask me again.

This morning when I awoke to head off to work, I awoke alone. Seeing no one there, I panicked for a second, took a breath, cleared my eyes then remembered as I have reminded myself on multiple occasions she wasn’t in the hospital. Odds are she is probably downstairs in her recliner after another long, horrible, sleepless night filled with coughing and pain. Instead watching Netflix with her headset on, and most likely snuggled up in a blanket trying her best to let me sleep.

A year ago Jacy received a bone marrow transplant. Today, according to BMT lore is her new birthday. A new birthday is given to every transplant patient upon receiving their transplant. This transplant saved her life. We are, and will be forever grateful for such a generous, selfless gift given without hesitation by a person we have never met. Modern medicine is amazing and I find myself in awe at what these treatments have afforded our family.

But it has not come without a cost.

I wake up disoriented and confused all the time! Exhaustion is a standard of living for me. I can’t fall asleep until after midnight. I fill my time doing laundry, cleaning house or simply watching television while she lays beside me. But even then I am watching carefully, listening to her breathe, judging her every movement. I do my best by allowing her the freedom to make decisions on her own in regards to her day, energy exertion and tasks she wishes to complete on her own. Never overstepping my bounds but asserting myself when I think she may have done too much or is planning to take on more than she can handle. Of course who am I to say what she can, or can’t handle? This is Jacy after all and she is going to tell me what she can or cannot do. Then when things don’t go as planned I just smile a sly smile and without saying; “I told you so”, help her get to where she needs to be. Most of my days are spent working outside for a while, then coming inside to make sure she is surviving and comfortable; certainly being inside also has to do with the current heat spell we are experiencing; trying my best to get the hard stuff done before it becomes too hot. In the morning I generally awaken at first light, toss and turn, trying to sleep just a little longer which may or may not get me to 0630. Then its coffee with the wife and my day begins.

It is as though w have Bone Marrow Transplant PTSD. I panic at anything in regards to her health, position, status, whereabouts, etc.. It is hard to love someone with all your heart, be their caregiver, take care of children, work, run a household and ranch all while trying to remember it is all going to be ok and you should probably take a moment or two for yourself.

The phone calls, updates, a year of hearing it’s all going to be fine then 5 days later you are signing DNR paperwork. The next weeks prognosis is good, but a few days later she is back in ICU. She is going to live, she is going to die. She is a miracle from GOD, she praying to GOD. She is kissing her children, she is praying for one more day with them. Doctors patting you on the back and smiling. Doctors patting you on the back while they sit you down to explain some very serious complications. The amazing amount of time you have, alone in your car, traveling 2-3 hours one way, hoping to spend more than a couple hours with her awake, knowing it is not her fault as heavy medication kept her from any form of alertness.

For a year I have watched the very same medications saving her life wither her body away to nothing. Taking away muscle and tone she worked so hard for so long to achieve. Leaving skin and bone in its aftermath, tearing away at her self-esteem. I have watched as hair has fallen off, skin has flaked away leaving lesions, blotching and discoloration covering her body. I have held her as impaired vision causes her pain, balance issues and nausea.

She cries a little each time we go back to Stanford, afraid some nurse or doctor will admit her. She lives in constant fear that if she does get sick she is doomed. She has mini panic attacks when calling her doctor or making an appointment for the same reasons. The slightest sniffle or cough leads to worry as a fever or discolored sputum brings doubt as to her overall health.

A year has gone by and our children are no longer the same. Learning about life and hardship, struggle, pain, sickness and survival. They will never look at a hospital or doctor’s office the same way again. Our youngest feels that if you go to a hospital the odds of coming home right away are very slim. They no longer know the mother who rode horses, or played sports, gardened and ran the perimeter of our property. No a year has gone and with it all expectations of normalcy.

But I am not writing this to be a downer, because although it has been an extremely difficult year and continues to bring struggles to our family, it has also been of year of immense growth.

365 days of love, caring and a town that never quit supporting our family. Never did I have to worry about whether my children would have a meal, or a place to go hang out, friends to play with, or a parent to help them. My oldest learned what it meant to be a BIG brother. Not just their brother, but one who cares for them, keeps them safe and ensures they stick to their schedule. We are pretty sure they also ruined him for ever having children.

Those children who can’t play soccer, go camping or ride horses and bicycles with their mom anymore have instead learned the importance in taking care of another human being. They have also through helpful guidance from myself and their older brother (as mentioned above) learned how to take care of themselves. Has it been perfect? NO! Have they all made mistakes, some larger than others? YES! Have I screwed up numerous times trying my best to parent from afar while at Stanford? HELL YES! But after this bout of family struggle in their lives I have no doubt our children will grow into fine adults who will undoubtedly help others along the way. Something (compassion) a parent wishes for from the time their children are born. Do our children want things to be the way they were before? YEP, but they also know we cannot go backwards and though it has been challenging they are ready for whatever lays ahead happy with the knowledge mom survived and mom is home.

 

Those medications her and I despise are keeping her alive and with each day comes another opportunity to interact with not only her family, her children, but her friends as well. She still feels as though there is work here on this planet for her to do and although each day taking 23 medications three times a day is a struggle. It is a struggle worth the price. I remember her saying one time that if GOD would grant her the ability to survive she would be content just watching her children grow from the comfort of her easy chair. We all know that isn’t enough for our Jacy and it really doesn’t matter what those medications have done to her outer appearance. The inside is still the magnanimous, charismatic, hilarious, moody, determined, intelligent, caring, loving, the woman we all know. That my friends is all that matters. A teacher once asked me; what will you do when your looks are gone? I can say without a doubt that if we have the love of family, friends and most of all ourselves. Then looks never really mattered anyways did they?

As far as constantly being exhausted, worrying about everything from my wife, to our ranch, long term finances, our children’s welfare, work and beyond? It has been a reality check, and a very long exhausting two years. From first being diagnosed with Leukemia to her having the Bone Marrow Transplant. I am tired, so very tired, I am overweight and I don’t feel all that great, my inner confidence is waning and some days I feel as though I am drowning. But I also know this is exactly where I am supposed to be. I married an incredible woman, God gave me a second chance at life by introducing us. It is within our nature as human beings to complain and as much as I despise complaining I have done it a time or two, or three, ok maybe half a dozen, yet I wouldn’t trade anything. From the moment we met we both knew we were meant to be together. We both heard and felt a higher power formulating a plan while drawing us together. When we married, she began working to make me a better person, not because she had to, but because you just naturally become one once you are around her. Trust me, I didn’t always like it, we sometimes fought over it as I raged against change. But without her, I am not sure I would be who I am today and for that I am thankful and she deserves all the love and devotion I have to give. So a little exhaustion is fine, some residual hospital PTSD is ok and at some point I am sure I will stop feeling exhausted or falling asleep the moment my body quits moving.

But in the end, as tired as I am, through all the hell our family has been through, thanks to God, great friends and family along with Jacy’s incredible will power, she is still here on her new birthday, and for that I will be forever grateful.

kids

 

 

 

It’s TIME!!!!!!

Saturday morning has come and gone. Quietly I made breakfast for everyone, fed Ms. Jacy, ensured each child had done their required morning chores before anyone noticed we had all slept in a little too long. I met with one of our horse borders/friends I hadn’t seen in a while and put another load of laundry on rotation while the washer/dryer spun out their last few moments.

But something is nagging me.

Lately I have taken to working on the ranch from six to noon, dropping into a two hour nap after lunch then taking care of odds and ends in the house until bedtime. This routine has developed for a few reasons.

  1. It has become too hot for working past noon around here. The days of old where I could go and go and go for hours on end through 100-106 degree’s are long gone. To many years of riding around in air conditioned cars and sitting behind a computer doing reports in an air conditioned office have done away with any tolerance once held for the almighty heat.
  2. Taking care of myself has always been on the back burner. Taking care of Jacy then the kids is always first and foremost! Between softball, rodeo, Jacy, doctors’ appointments and the ranch (thankfully I have awesome help in that regards) anything to do with me is nonexistent.

Once rodeo and softball finished I finally found some fresh air, a breather if you will; time to do what needs to be done around here and that led to my newly installed schedule which as of late has been working great!

Almost too great!

You see after a week of my newly created schedule, things around here are getting done! I am able to plan for the next month or so projects to be completed. I am not exhausted from going all day trying to get something finished in record time. Taking instead the stance of “a little bit each day leads to a lot in the future”. It is as though,,,,,,,,, wait for it,,,,,,,,,, my life is normalizing….

I know right?? A normal day, with a normal schedule, with a normal outcome! Who would have thought? Today is my last day off and tomorrow I will be back for a 48 hour shift. I chose to sleep in today after,,,,, wait for it,,,,,, a date with my wife last night!!!! WHAT??????

So today I took it easy and I feel fairly rested. Tomorrow for the first time in a long, long, really long time I will not be dragging my ass into work completely exhausted!!! It has been so long since I have felt this way that I actually feel guilty. As though something must be wrong with me!

But with sleep, rest and a normal working schedule there comes another small dilemma.

My brain is working again. Yep running as though it’s an engine with high octane fuel coursing through its pistons! Lots of horse power to spare and nowhere to use it! I cannot turn it off! Ideas for writing just flowing through my head! So far this morning my fingers are cramping from typing! I finished a few other stories written for myself or some publication in the future and then you see I have this idea for an e-book!

Yep, it’s been racking my brain this whole book thing, and I need some help. I have flirted with writing a book in the past, had several very kind people insist I should give writing a book a try and even started a few outlines. Many ideas and formats have crossed my mind and I have enough material for several books on Haiti, Mission trips, Leukemia and of course raising children. But none of it flows and like a never slowing carousel; where exactly do I jump on without getting hurt? Or do I just dare fate and take a leap of faith? (hmm think I just answered my own question) Now whether this emotional wall comes from my two year hiatus of exhaustion or just my inability to turn off my ADD long enough to form a correct thought or not has yet to be (oohhh butterfly)….

ribbon

I’m back, where were we..

Oh yes, so I need some help from all of you. You see I can’t do this alone as much as I would like too. So I am going to start bouncing ideas off the mighty brains of all three of my readers (sarcasm)! I am not saying I will use your ideas, or even like them, but I will appreciate them and use some of them and that folks is what brain storming is all about. Collective minds working for a greater good.

You are probably asking yourself why? Why am I doing this and what will my topic be? What is the overall purpose? What do I have to offer Betty? And why isn’t Betty running for President?

The last one we will talk about in 2018 when I start campaigning.

So let me give you some information to help get us started.

  1. The book will be about surviving as the spouse of a Leukemia patient
  2. Do I write it as a “how too” or a rough guide? Dry and simple, listing resources and web-sites for those who need a place to reach out?
  3. Instead of writing it as a “how too” should I expand upon my blog, telling the whole story as more of a living biography? Hoping the reader grabs a message of faith?
  4. Should it just remain what it is, a representation of my blog, leading more people to read our story, find hope while reaching out for help and answers. Or should I elaborate on each entry a little more while basically keeping it the same?
  5. Am I just crazy and none of this really matters?

If you are a follower of my writings then you know all I have ever wanted to do was help people. It is why I changed careers in my early/mid twenties when I could have easily made a nice living driving/owning my own semi-truck to becoming a firefighter. I felt the overwhelming need to help people then and I feel it now. I have made no secret that I feel there is more, not only for me but for each human being on this planet. We need to work harder on helping each other as opposed to today’s current climate. Of course that is for a longer deeper discussion at another time.

I feel sharing our (Jacy and I) experiences would be beneficial to others. But especially from my point of view, that of a caregiver, husband, spouse. I know there are thousands of spouses/significant others/parents/siblings out there feeling lost, waking up each morning wondering if today is the day they emotionally quit swimming thus allowing the proverbial water to cover their noses.

I am here to say “drowning” is not an option. They have the strength in them, more than what they know or understand, and that one person who needs them most see’s them as a pillar of strength. That strength is there, they just don’t know it. I think, I can help.

So give me some answers. Let me know what you think?

Oh yes there is a number 6 to my request.

  1. Please, I hate to pander but if you like my blog, “like” it on Facebook then go to the blog, sign up for the emails and hit “like” there as well. Also share it with as many people as possible. The more likes it receives on WordPress the more followers I have which leads to more exposure in the WordPress reader. I love talking with the spouses who have reached out to me during this time and I hope to meet many more.

Thank you to everyone who answers my rally cry, comes up with ideas or simply decides to reach out! More to come, I promise!

 

 

 

 

 

A “Betty”Fathers day thought.

Its Father’s day.

Yesterday while saying our goodbyes as we prepared to leave Bishop California after a week at the California High School Rodeo Finals, a friend slapped me on the back and said; well at least we will all be home for father’s day!

I chuckled and made some smart ass quip about spending the day cleaning the trailer, tack, horses and clothing. Yup father’s day at its finest! Grumble, grumble…..

This morning after rousting my crew awake, driving one to craziness as he drug his very tired butt outside to feed, I decided maybe Father’s day was indeed a perfect day to be revered. But not in the way most would think.

Father’s day has always been a day for others to appreciate their dads. The men who shaped and modeled, be it through exemplary parenting, a fumbled menagerie of discourse or simply a reflection of horrific role modeling that brought you, now an adult, into the parental place you are today; good bad or otherwise.

One problem for me on this day of days.

My dad isn’t here anymore.

My father passed away on December 31st 2015. This is my first father’s day without him. Something I am realizing this morning I took for granted. He is not here for me to call in the morning, take to lunch or dinner in the afternoon, hand a card to and hug. His frail shaky body no longer walks the driveways between our houses, his voice no longer bellowing larger than life yelling “slow down” towards speeding cars lost on our dirt road. No lecturing my boys on speeding around the property aboard a quad, dirt bike, tractor or horse. No laughter at Jakes antics or pride while watching Cody triumph at just about everything he does. No glee watching Parker or a simple, sly faced smile while seeing Jessica ride in the arena. No dad for me to bounce ideas about a horse from, just silence, a vacancy, an emptiness and I cannot help but stare at the spot in the driveway where he passed.

Yesterday to make emotional matters worse my wife’s uncle passed away from a tumor in his brain. We all knew it was coming yet as I am sure you all know that doesn’t make it any easier. I understand it really shouldn’t matter but not making it an additional 24 hours, his children are now spending father’s day without their dad. It seems like a silly thought but it is one of the man things I found myself thinking about first thing this morning. How about instead I worry about the simple fact a good man is gone and the day has nothing to do with it? Maybe it struck me weird because I, an outsider thought Brian was an amazingly intelligent man, one of the kindest I have ever had the honor of knowing and to not be here for his family to revere just hit me weird. I always looked forward to seeing him at family functions because the conversation was always intriguing. He had done so many things few of us ever dream of doing. But most of all he was an explorer. To me that is what living life is about. We as human beings never truly explore beyond our little circle or comfort zone. I am speaking of not just what is beyond the horizon but within ourselves as well? Always talking a good game there are very few who actually follow through. Brian was one of those people who actually followed through. His presence within our family will be greatly missed and my heart aches for Jacy’s dad, Brian’s brother. Blair has lost his mom and now his brother all within a relatively short time. The void must be huge, the struggle within very tough.

I wish I could say I cannot imagine what his family is going through but I can and I am sure today, a holiday dedicated to fathers will feel empty at best.

This week for me was spent surrounded by kids, families and friends. Rodeo is an amazing collection of hard working people all trying their very best to survive while providing for their children. Family is always at the heart of this sport and it has always drawn me to it since I was a kid. Stands filled with cheering parents. Animals treated with love, better than many people treat themselves all working just as hard to perform. Kids not just competing against other kids but helping their competitors as well! It doesn’t matter what district you are from in this state it is not uncommon for kids from those competing districts to be helping others. They come here as competitors/rivals but leave here friends. District one rider needs a horse because theirs is hurt, no problem as District 8 lets them borrow one. District 5 needs a saddle? District three to the rescue! Don’t even get me started about the rough stock! It doesn’t matter what district you are from everyone is on deck supporting, helping and ensuring that not one competitor isn’t taken care of before they nod their head, signaling to open the gate! There are roughly 300 kids, the best in their events from across the state with parents who should be proud of not only what their kids have accomplished but what they as parents have accomplished as well.

So today on Father’s day since my father is no longer here to say thank you. I am going to go a different direction. Inspired by a week surrounded by children and family, a week filled with victory and loss, a week ending with my own family’s tragic sorrow.

I am going to say this;

Thank you to all the fathers who inspire children across this great nation, those who stand tall choking back tears during successes and failures of not only their own kids but others as well and doing so proudly while lighting the way for others to see. Every father who knows exactly when to say the right thing at the most inopportune time, creating those perfect building blocks for a child to use as a foundation for future success. Thank you to all the dads who understand the importance of putting their own dreams aside so children and again not just their own may flourish. Those dads who know being a father isn’t just about raising your own kid but holding a positive influence over every child who crosses your path. The world can only evolve if we love each other equally, help each other selflessly and not just focus on what is ours.

To the dads who become fathers to those who don’t have one any more. Who remember the importance a parental figure plays in a child’s life. Especially a child who is alone. To all the dads who were a father to me when mine wasn’t around. The ones who ripped my ass when I needed it without fear of reprisal from my own dad. My dad believed it took a village and if I was caught doing something wrong then by all means let me have it!! It is the same way I parent today and if someone doesn’t like it they can take it up with me in private. I am a very good listener.

Today is also important as I reflect on not just how special I believe my own children to be but all the kids I have had the privilege of parenting in some small way or another. I think of all of you all the time. I am thankful for this crazy social media thingy called Facebook because I can see your smiling faces, watch you all continue to grow as adults, friends, family members and even parents of your own. You all make me so proud (and you know who you are) my door is always open, there will always be a seat at my dinner table for you and an ear to listen if you ever need any help.

I think about my own kids on this day. How lucky I am to have four very different individuals living under this old farm house roof. They all drive me crazy at times, and leave me exhausted but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

To Cody, Jake, Jessica and Parker; Thanks for being my kids, allowing me to be your dad. Thank you for filling my life with memories, joys, laughter, and experiences that could never be replaced. But most of all on this Father’s day, a day where I cannot hug my dad and say thank you. Thank you for filling my life with love. I love you all so very much!!

I’m going to close out today with a simple request from all of you.

There are some who are hurting today because their father is no longer around. Reach out to them and let them know you care. There are those who you as a father or male figure have had an influence upon in your life. Drop them a note to say hello. There are some children out there who may need you as an extra fatherly figure in their life to help them along the way. Reach out to them. There are many who maybe don’t need you in a parental manner, but as a strong male figure they can trust. Step forward and make it happen. We all lead busy lives, and excuses are easy to come by, but I ask the simple question; if not you then who?

But most of all be thankful God helped create those children you have, who love you more than anything in this world. Remain the very best father you can be, you are going to screw up, make gigantic mistakes trust me! I am the KING of mistakes!!!! Just own them, apologize when needed, stand tall and do the very best job you can do.

The rewards are amazing.

Oh and Happy Father’s Day……

 

 

 

 

Rambling, for the love of God, I am rambling!!

Yesterday, from the passenger side of my truck while Cody drove, I slowly raised my feet and stuck them out the window to rest against the mirror support. Seat back, shorts on, flips on the floorboard my feet hanging out the window feeling a warm breeze running between my toes while I watched the world travel by at 65 mph.

I felt 16

(From here I start rambling, please forgive me)

My mind wandered to a time when I had no cares. My biggest worry was whether or not I could earn enough money during the week to keep gas in my truck or purchase lunch or help pay for beer. I worried constantly about how much trouble I would be in for poor grades or not coming home on time. I worried about a kid who felt like he wouldn’t live to see 25. Life was good, life was free.

I never understood just how free my life was.. Everything when you are young is important, blown out of proportion, lost in the minute. You behavior is strewn with emotions, feelings that you really have no control over! You are loud and obnoxious, hyper and animated, life is just beginning to open up for you to explore with not only yourself but your closest friends as well. You just want to make a difference, be taken seriously and to be heard! You really don’t know what you want to become or who you are but you cannot wait to find out. You look forward to the future.

I am turning 50 in roughly 10 weeks the future is here and I still don’t know. I still feel deep inside as though there is more!

My life has become heavy, tiring and I can’t think straight. There is so much to do around here and I just don’t want too. That is not me. I don’t know who I am, or what I want to be when I grow up and I wonder how to convey that urgency to my children. Luckily they all say they know what they want to become, hopefully they are right. I am depressed. It is hard to admit but I think I am. Writing this right now, my heart hurts and I want to cry. I want to hide. I want to go camping and not come back. I want to run into the woods like a spoiled child avoiding their parents when reprimanded! I want to disappear. Disappear onto the Pacific Crest Trail hoping to find myself once again. To feel the confidence I once held at 25.

But I cannot, life gets in the way doesn’t it?

For a long time now I have been pushing my feelings down, shoving them deeper into some void, doing my best to keep one foot in front of the other, smiling, hoping, and trying for everyone. My wife is my world, she has been my friend, confidant, lover, and advocate; of course no marriage would be complete without her also having been a staunch, frustrating at times adversary. But in the end she has always been there for me in one way or another and these last 14 years.  I too have been there for her (even more so these last 24 months) and continue to do so taking care of her anywhere, anytime.

I am a convoluted mesh of emotions. A walking mess. I cannot sleep yet when I do I cannot wake up. My stomach hurts all the time and it only stops when I eat, so I eat, a lot. My inner self hurts which makes my outer self-hurt as well. Exercise was once an escape, now it pains me to walk to the corner and back. I haven’t worked a horse in almost a month, it has been easier to have others do it for me.  There is so much to do, so I choose to do nothing at all. I am a whiney complaining, ball of self-doubt. I cant seem to escape.

But as I write this, I know what I am going through it not ok, but ok at the same time.

To everyone who will undoubtedly dissect my inner emotions, claiming I need therapy or some form of self-help assistance. I know these feelings are ok. Not healthy, but ok none the less. It is ok to feel the way I do, yet knowing doesn’t help me right now. I was raised to not complain, to cry only when it really hurts, to rub dirt on it and walk it off. So even sharing this with all of you is painful and embarrassing to me. It admits defeat and leaves me fearing being judged. I know I have lost nothing, I know there was no competition for me to lose at, but the man I have grown to become, laid upon the fondation of my upbringing feels confused and utterly defeated.

If there was some way to clear my head, to take away the confused, angry, afraid, emotional, distressed feeling I wake up with every day? I would do it in a heartbeat. But unlike a computer I cannot hit delete or save as and place it neatly in a folder labeled “crybaby” for future reference.

I wonder how many people struggle on a daily basis with trying to overcome these types of feeling inside their heads. A feeling of hopelessness, like you can never get ahead, achieve solitude or even make it through the day successfully without just quitting? I wonder how many turn away from friends and family finding alternative methods hoping to quiet the voices of despair. I wonder how many pray at the beginning of each day to feel as though they can take on the world again.

I selfishly wish to fall asleep and wake up to my wife pre-leukemia. Not for me, but for her. It is tearing me apart inside watching her hurt. She hates looking at herself in the mirror, she wants so desperately to be her old self again. She cries at the thought of only having enough strength to get up and down the stairs once or twice during the day. She is terrified at each and every visit to Stanford that they will tell her it’s time to be readmitted into E1 for long term treatment. She is sick of feeling like a prisoner in her own home. She is exhausted from everyone telling her what to do or how she should live. She is horrified at what this has all done emotionally to our family, friends and most of all her children. She just wants so desperately to get better, to be better, to excel the only way Jacy knows how! She is and always has been a winner! She isn’t feeling that way right now. It is tearing her down.

She misses her students.

I cannot begin to explain to what depths this woman misses her students! It is as though a piece of her has been amputated. She can feel the appendage as if it was still there, but she can no longer see or touch what was once hers. It has handicapped her spirits, her self-worth, and her ability to thrive inside. Every moment she is alive, she believes is one more step towards having a classroom to herself once again. Every moment her body takes a step backwards she feels it slipping from her grasp. I will never forget the moment she was offered a job at this school. We were in Vegas, the phone rang, and she answered, five minutes later she was bouncing off the walls! I can honestly say it was one of the happiest moments I can recall. These children, your children, the children of people she doesn’t even know, they all breathe life into her! You see them as your children, she sees them as our future. Each and every little personality there to grow, expand and blossom simply by being themselves.

This has and continues to be a long arduous journey. I guess all this rambling comes down to a few points. Thank God for everyday. Even though it doesn’t sound like it, I am thankful for each and every day. I get to spend them surrounded by my wife and children. I can never take a day with her or them for granted. You never know what you can handle until it is time to step up! Every day is a challenge for me right now, but I am making it. Some days are incredibly harder than others, but I am still here.  Jacy is handling it, some days are incredibly harder than others, but SHE is still here! At the end of the day sometimes that is all that matters. Know you are not alone! I have my writing, but I also have prayer, and a huge support network. I still feel alone at times, but I know I am not! When your day is shit! Just remember things could be worse. Look around on the inter-web, there are plenty of people who have it much worse off than you or I. Last but not least, thank God for faith, otherwise think of how hard this thing called life would really would be.

To the (three) people who actually read my blog. Thank you. Thank you for allowing me to ramble incoherently as I did today, to share my thoughts and feelings without judgement, to simply be. Today’s posting held no real significance other than to purge my endless inner long winded musings along with some of what is painfully shoved down deep inside hoping to offload enough that I may gather my inner Betty once again.

Betty loves you all….

The Grey Area

Over the last several years a strange phenomenon has occurred within my personality. It’s as though forces are conspiring against me to change who I am and how I think. On one side, my inner Betty feels as though I haven’t aged at all! Looking through these eyes, it’s really hard to believe that 50 is right around the corner because my brain still perceives our world with the wonderment of a 20 year old. On the other side wisdom garnered from age has taken hold, expanding my view points, quelling my youthful rage thus allowing me to become softer and gentler when it comes to this world’s constant bombardment upon my soul.

But something HAS changed. I really don’t believe it is a change solely within me. I believe whatever “it” is has been going on for a long time with little notice from the public. Similar to a small leaky pipe, nothing anyone notices at first then after time a small spot of condensation makes you think; hmmm, should probably take a closer look at that? More time passes and occasionally you stroll by the leaky pipe, noticing there is now a puddle. You think damn I really need to do something about this, yet you keep on without attempting a repair. One morning you wake up and the entire downstairs is flooded in three to four inches of water! What the Hell is your first thought! How did this happen! How do we fix this! The damage irreparable!!!! Its then you realize it was within you to make a small repair long ago when you had a chance. But you didn’t because it was time consuming, required effort, and you really couldn’t be bothered. You knew the right thing to do, you chose not to do it, hoping no one would notice and now it is costing you.

That change in us all for which I am speaking is known as living in “The Grey Area”.

When I was younger I did not notice this phenomenon as much probably because I pushed the envelope every chance I could without recognition of any wrong doing. Although lately it seems to me we as a society have let “the grey area” become more of a reality or fact than left as just that; a grey area of interpretation. Something for fodder, or a disillusioned discussion between participants without a clue. Now that I am older I have acknowledged we all know how to recognize a problem, to fix a situation as it arises or interpret right from wrong. We all know or should know the law and how it reads or is understood pertaining to almost any behavioral moment or simple civil situation. We all were taught or should have been taught the basics in regards to following rules/laws put in place for our own safety and or protection. Yet for some strange reason they no longer seem to matter anymore. For some strange reason it feels as though we are all working against ourselves, living within this grey area of life.

I will use the most simple of examples being a Californian.

The California stop

That’s right a grey area rule breaking motion that went from an occasionally seen abnormality usually kept to the slip of a brake pedal when approaching a stop sign to a repetitively normal operation perpetrated by almost every motorist on the road today! Don’t believe me? While filling your car with fuel, do so at a gas station corning a four way, two way or single stop sign intersection. Watch, just watch! I hedge to bet one in every ten cars actually stops, waits then goes. Even when other traffic is present each car will try their hardest to keep moving forward leading to a “me first” mentality! This is also extremely prevalent while driving our fire engine code three! I cannot tell you how many people pull out in front of my fire engine while we are enroute to someone’s emergency! The reason? They California stop the intersection! No look, no care about anyone else, just tap the brake and go! Once in my lane of travel with me rapidly slowing down, only then does said motorist wonder what that annoying sound is behind them, only to look, panic then pull off the roadway finally allowing our engine to pass!

Here is another example, unfortunately it has to do with driving again.

A newly minted driver can only carry family members as passengers for the first six months before being given the nod to terrify their friends with newly tempered driving skills.

Yet I cannot tell you how many kids I see rolling through our local high school parking lot whom I know personally have not crested the six month mark and are driving around with their friends! It’s now become a grey area! A standard for acceptance! The excuses usually sound like this; It is ok, only this once dad, really it will save you guys from having to pick us up later! Aren’t you glad my friends have their license, look at all the trips we’re saving you guys and all the other parents too!

How about underage drinking?

We drank as kids and survived right? So therefore it must be ok to further that wrong by allowing it for our kids! Plus it totally makes you the cool parent who really just has our children’s best interest in mind? Right? But in your “Grey Area” mind this theory only works as long as every child leaves their keys upon arrival to your casa party central! Wait I know how this plays out inside that Grey Area void! It is so a counter balance thing, you are countering the whole underage drinking issue that you created by keeping them from driving home drunk? Grey area wins again! Good for you sport; good for you!

It is the same with so many other issues as well, from politics to law enforcement, from raising your kids, to how we treat our educators, we continually are pushing those boundaries using these grey area themes as a crutch! We have behaved this way for so long many things have naturally become the norm! Unfortunately it’s allowing our society to morph into an incredibly self-centered and rude place that’s fracturing into separate cells! Our cascading inability to care for others or place others first because we have accepted our ability to do whatever we want as long as we don’t get caught is more prevalent than ever before! Yet when we do get caught we cite example after example of others prospering from the very same infractions as if their examples of getting away with things makes everything ok! No recognition of wrong doing because you were working within a grey area of interpretation.

All of this weighs heavy as I see it time and again, not just as a parent but in my job as well. If we are going to remain a civilized society centered of progression and not regression it is our responsibility to stand up and say enough is enough! No more television shows tearing us down with attacks upon women, children, race or gender. No more allowing our politicians to live under the standard of; do as I say not as I do! No more allowing people into public office who don’t uphold our countries constitution and that is from the local city mayor upward! We have laws for a reason, we have standards and ethics that must be followed, it our job as parents to instill these attributes upon our children and if we continue to give in at every sign of a bump in the road or transgression interned upon us then yes we will turn upon each other as simple little grey area’s here and there converge upon each other building into one dark giant nasty storm!

Then much like a tornado siren sounding after an F5 has hit the ground it will be too little, too late. All we will have left is a giant mess and many pieces to pick up.

 

The Journey

Thursday we made our bi-weekly or so, journey to Stanford. These required visits are needed so doctors may track Jacy’s constant state of GvHD.  Whether it be dealing with a pulmonary function test, her intestinal tract, eyeballs, skin or simply drawing blood to determine antibody needs we always arrive nervous, expecting the worst but hoping for the best as in serious signs of improvement. These appointments can range from down and dirty, leaving us with more time on the road than actually inside any facilities, to eternally trapped on campus with no place to retreat between sessions! Moving from one appointment to another with sometimes more than an hour or two in between visits. We laugh at each other for it has become the only alone time we ever receive and of course nothing is more romantic than swooning surrounded by similarly sick people or holding hands beneath the deep shadow cast from a set of IV pumps inside a sterile chamber. On this particular day Jacy was meeting with her primary Doctor which is always a treat. She loves seeing Dr. Muffly and always comes away feeling as though she just spent time with a friend. But first a 4 hour IV infusion of antibodies to boost her multi layered, still very confused immune system. After that a little round of pulmonary function testing and then it’s back on the road to hash it out with every Bay Area commuter trying their best to get home in under 3 hours. Of course the first hour is fun for me as I play a time honored game started with my son Parker that centers on the Toyota Prius. Much like the road game slug bug only the Prius takes its place. We also play the car spotting game, Tesla, Ferrari, Audi, and Porsche. It is fun driving through a community where the majority of vehicles on the road are green or simply cost more than my house. Ahhhh to have that kind of disposable cash….. We pulled into Stanford’s Cancer center turn around at 10:30 am after a leisurely 3 hour traffic jammed ride when my wife suggested I find something to do other than sit by her side for 4 hours during her infusion. Now normally I would have balked at this absurd suggestion as I have always believed a husbands place is by his wife’s side, no matter what! But today she was right, I needed some Betty time. Time to reflect and be alone. Time for just me with no one needing me for anything. Trapped in the center of Silicon Valley with no excuses to hide behind, that is just what I chose to do and with a kiss, a hearty good luck and I’ll see you in a while, this guy headed out alone.

Where to go, where to go????

I thought about going to the Tesla store but I knew then I would want one and since that type of purchase is nowhere in our future I turned the old faithful 200,000 mile wagon left instead of right. Of course this also eliminated the Ferrari store, the Audi store and who couldn’t pretend car shop without sitting inside a Porsche 911 4S! To dream ah to dream.. First retreat I chose to patron was a little restaurant I have passed a hundred times. A quaint little place nestled in the hills above Palo Alto. A place I have yearned for my world to stop just long enough so I may cross its gastric threshold, yet there never seems to be enough time. Today would be different. When I pulled into the parking lot the first thing to hit me was a smell of ancient redwoods filling my nostrils. Walking up to this small, shake covered hut, heavenly aromas wafted across the open plane. Stepping onto a huge well seated porch I quickly took my place silently amongst some of my favorite people in the whole world. Bikers

That’s right Bikers, masters of the motorized two wheel sleds. Throttle squeezing, leather wearing, Carbon fiber covered, alloy loving, helmet adorning, race pipe thundering, high rev, revving BIKERS! Eating my breakfast a Cheshire cat smile glistened as I listened to each story about the mornings ride, or a previous ride or a tale about someone else’s unbelievably adventurous ride. Tech talk at table two involving power commanders and horsepower. New heads for table fives Harley and a freshly painted fairing to boot! I could almost feel a bike running underneath me! It was good to be back amongst these folks. Gazing across the landscape I recalled many of my bikes from days past. A simple street cruiser, bench seat KZ500, my very first Harley! I could still sense the raw power and throaty noise coming from one of my customs while aching for the sheer arm stretching torque produced by my ZX12R which had quite a few modifications. Each motorcycle reserving a special place in my heart, leaving me smiling, content and hoping I’ll know that feeling again. Yeah, someday day, I’ll be back. After settling up with the waitress I drove down the road a ways to a state park where walking off breakfast sounded like a good idea. Parking the car, walking to the trail head I chose a direction and headed out across this large open field. Working my way along the hillside there arose a bench in the distance. Reaching that bench I couldn’t help but laugh as I read the plaque inlaid upon its top plank. It was quite simply labeled “Bobs Bench”. Taking a seat the view was amazing. I thought to myself somehow dad knows I’m here, sitting on a bench with his name and wondering how he is doing. In return I knew he was looking down upon me, letting me know he’s watching over Jacy. He loved her so, they bantered back and forth and in reality the old man lived for her calling him out for his shortcomings.

Strolling farther down the path it felt as though the weight of my world had left for a bit, a beautiful fern laden path, some ancient trees, and even a few Mountain Lion tracks made this the perfect hike. I lost track of time and before you know it I had traveled 4 miles. It was glorious! Now I will say this, when deciding upon an impromptu adventure, ensure you retain alternate apparel somewhere in your vehicle for just such an occasion, for as I discovered the hard way; Vans are not for hiking! Just saying!

Back at the car I made it three miles down the road when Jacy called to say she was almost finished. Perfect timing. Picking her up some lunch then circling back into the Stanford Cancer Centers turnaround she climbed inside already a bit exhausted. We headed over to the main hospital where we arrived very early for her last appointment, a pulmonary function test. Luckily we didn’t have to wait very long and before we knew it back on the road we were, heading for home.

I thanked my wife for the wonderful morning, and I told her all about the day’s events. She told me about her appointments but before long she was drifting off to sleep. We weren’t 30 minutes into traffic when Jacy’s head nodded its final nod, resting gently towards the door, looking completely tuckered out.

These trips are hard on her and so is the process of recovery. She tires of being exhausted all the time and doesn’t understand why she just isn’t healing or regaining any of her former strength and vitality. Jacy is very thankful to have survived, to have fought as incredibly hard as she did, but the longing to just be normal, to ride horses, to help her kids, to be a teacher again surrounded by children who aren’t hers, but in reality are very much her children has become overwhelming for her at times. It is hard as her husband to see her in pain, to see her struggle, to see her longing for the past. As a man I am a fixer by nature and I can’t fix this, I can’t make it better, I can’t take it from her and make it my own.

The best I can do is support her, listen when she needs an ear, stay quiet when she screams at the ceiling, give advice when she asks for it and when my wife says to go do something on my own. In this case a journey within the monthly journey.  Do it, enjoy it, and thank her for it afterwards for without her coaxing me to do so, I wouldn’t. I would stay right by her side, making sure she is ok and telling her just how special she is to me.

I cant wait until the both of us can sit on Bobs Bench.

bobs bench