My name is Betty and I have an addiction..

Sitting in the stands watching junior rodeo today I couldn’t help but continually pull my phone from the upper left pocket of my shirt. Now this doesn’t seem like much of a “to do” as it were but as I kept referencing the electronic brain keeper between events it occurred to me I might just have somewhat of a problem. Not a dang it’s not working fast enough or shoot I left the sprinklers on or even an oops my wife texted me I forgot to call her type of a problem. But something much bigger than that! I believe I have an addiction?

Yep an addiction to instant gratification of flowing information spewing forth from this 2×4 inch screen! Every minute I am not moving this “apple” of a device comes out to fill an imagined or ill perceived void within my life! Seriously while I am typing right now my gaze continues to wander over towards this mesmerizing gismo as if it’s going to leave me, run away! You know self-destruct in Mission Impossible grandeur or heaven forbid its screen will just stay black, never to illuminate my life again with such mind bending information like what the hell Ryan Lochte is doing at this very moment or if a cage match has been declared between the two most unfit individuals to ever run a presidential campaign! Better yet I wonder who is posting something awesome on Facebook the “real” reality on the internet! Wait, ok that’s not a bad thing, I really like keeping up with all my friends. Until FB there were lots of people I cared about but lost touch with so the good intent or reason it was created side of FB still keeps a thumbs up from me! But with all of this power to reach out into our world instantaneously at my fingertips (once again I am not saying it is a complete bad thing) I also realized there is a bigger problem than my addiction to reading about Joe from Tennessee’s disgusting racism or Cheryl’s equally disgusting reverse racism or Brock the rapists light sentence (asshole) while along with all the inequalities, injustices and hatred pounding our senses every day making us wonder if we are headed towards anarchy and civil war (which is exactly what every other country hopes for) or if we can pull our heads out of are arses and get things together with love and understanding! Yes people there is a larger problem for me the newly crazed information junkie!!!

You see this open age of rapid fire information has changed my ability to read, absorb and understand! Ok I know that’s not worse than the direction our country is headed but hey, I needed a buildup so cut me some slack!

Yep, information today is fast and spun so well; but with whatever source it comes from who knows if it’s true or not and in reality I don’t think people really care! The way I read through stuff now is more like an Evelyn Wood reading dynamics course (only us older folks will understand that reference) than with retainable substance. If you don’t get me hooked within the first couple of lines well this magic device will find someone or something that will! Hence the ability to feed our minds with miss-information is formed. Don’t think for a second the story writing internet gurus don’t know this! Through careful data collection they have determined sensationalism earns clicks, clicks equal views and views equal a chance for an advertiser to be seen which in turn creates well spent advertising dollars funding the source or writer! The best part is these stories don’t have to be accurate or even good, and judging from the atrocious grammar contained within them it is obvious no one cares. But the damage done is there for all to see! When I read anything now I no longer settle in, gaining traction on whatever the author is describing; no absorbing relevant information or deducing a hypothesis from a well written piece. Nope, my brain begins to rapid fire after the second paragraph, I may stick it out through a couple more paragraphs but you better get to the point and quick or I begin scanning ahead, looking for key words to help me extrapolate what the author is “really” saying because let’s face it there is a hidden agenda in every written internet piece right? I mean that’s what all the commenting, shit stirring trolls who have anything to say about anything on any posting want you to believe while they are throwing emotional grenades in all directions just waiting for the explosion creating more hatred and discontent!

Also don’t get me started on what it has done for my ability to simply relax and enjoy a novel. My brain can no longer sit that long, moving slowly from page to page, waiting for a story to build, characters to develop, a plot to thicken as it were! Nope I might as well read just enough to learn who the characters are and then jump to the back of the book! There novel finished, case closed, I wonder what’s happening in the real world! Great job James Patterson killed your latest work in 42 pages! Don’t really care about the other 326! I Googled a review of the book helping me to plug in the missing clues. Cue me picking up my phone and OH LOOK IT’S A BABY IN A SKUNK COSTUME CRAWLING ON THE FLOOR FREAKING PEOPLE OUT!!!!! AWWWWWWW ISNT THAT CUTE! I MUST SHARE!!! Wait someone has commented it is child abuse, another has commented the child is suffering under the weight of that heavy costume and the parents should be arrested! Oh look a third says its Obamas fault! Yay!!!! Instantaneous gratification of idiot proportion right here at my fingertips!!! Ahhhh the world is right again, just as fucked up as when I put down my phone to try and read this stupid novel! Thank god that 15 minutes of my life I’ll never get back is over and I am on to more web surfing! My daily fix is in.

Now this is all happening to me; a 50 year old fairly educated, well-spoken adult who has no problems saying it like it is while being in command of his personal abilities to say yes or no to anything. Time and life experiences have brought me to this point. As an adult yourself I am sure you could probably draw the very same conclusion? Because you’re a smart, witty, thoughtful, educated, filled with life experiences person with the ability to put down that phone, turn off that pad or laptop at any time. Right?

So let me ask you this.

If a phone, pad or laptop with such far reaching potential and the power to change my personal ability to read, disseminate information, come to conclusions, and not just any conclusion but well education conclusions can change the way I learn and retain information, warp my sensibility, and control the extent of my emotions all while allowing me the freedom to say what I want when I want to anyone within the world wide web’s reach without repercussion can do this to me as an adult.

What do you think it is doing to our children?

Put it down, I dare you. Leave it down for the day, two days, a week! I dare you! I double dog dare you!!!

You can’t! Neither can I! We are addicted! Our children are addicted too and it is rewriting the hardwiring program witin their brains! I see it in our youth with emotional outbursts if juniors pad is taken away or it’s nowhere to be found. An inability to work our way through problems of any kind because the answer is on another web page or the YouTube channel! Kids becoming completely disorganized and afraid of trying anything away from their computer devices. I have heard stories of children in their rooms at almost midnight still scanning the internet with eyes either wide open and bloodshot or passed out with an iridescent glow upon their faces.

Teenager’s necks straining downward looking at their phones while walking, riding bikes recklessly, or sitting in their cars. A world of wonder passing them by all why they laugh at an instagramapictuetubeasnapchatamoment. They have no idea where they are when traveling with family because they are focused on their phones and can’t go a minute without texting someone, anyone, about anything. They are continually afraid they are missing some magic social moment, a minute shared between friends while moving blindly through life. Once I heard a story about a child’s phone that was broken and she had no device for a few weeks. According to a friend she was a different child, she was the daughter they had before biting into the apple.

Does any of this sound like addictive personality traits to you?

It is, I recognize it as an adult. I worry about what all of this is doing to our children and I worry what is to become of our country as we continue let the “benefits” of an electronic age rule our very lives.. The dumbing down of a society, the dependence on electronics, an inability to think for ourselves and the desensitizing of our youth. What about us adults? As we become more dependent what is it doing to our abilities to interact with others? We have a shield for our hatred, a hiding place for our sorrows and slowly our abilities to interact with each other are fading too as we sit together but rest alone, everyone focused on our individual portals to the world, ignoring what is right in front of our face. Other human beings.

I am no different, I am not preaching, I am simply stating what appears to me as fact.

My name is Betty and I have an addiction…

 

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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?

 

 

Michael J Fox ruined my life…

for love or money

Being a child of the eighties was something that well, only us children of the eighties fully understand. It was a time of freedom, rebellion, exploration, awesome music from all genre’s, cocaine and money. Lots of money. Ok lots of cocaine too but that’s neither here nor there! We as a nation oozed money, it poured from our skin like Don Johnson sexy sweat! Our country was thriving on a robust bond market, a sizzling hot Wall Street, real estate, and oil, black gold, Texas tea. Our parents (or so history would have you believe) were reaping the benefits of an administration that fostered free trade along with the opening of borders and capitalism. Dancing in the street led us all to be a bit Footloose.

A country had emerged from two decades of war, drought, protest, reform, political unrest and of course who could forget the gas crisis? Line after line of cars waiting, hoping there was still gas left when their turn arrived at the pump.

Our youth of the sixties fought racism, fought for woman’s equality and against war, people of the 60/70’s cared more about social reform than capitalism believing higher education created unequal social classes, while caring for one another through shared progress brought much higher rewards. Citizens struggled with the after effects of Vietnam and in doing so turned their backs on soldiers who were struggling mentally when they came back ashore. A recession in the 70’s showed us higher interest rates, and economic instability with most Americans struggling to earn enough money to survive. Our country was tired, emotionally spent having put forth so much effort in finding balance, only to be rewarded with a lying president (Nixon) who stepped down, cover-ups, just plain dirty politics and a new administration (Carter) that did nothing to create or foster stability.

I remember these times well. Worrying about how much money was left at the end of the week and where it should be utilized. Do we buy more gas that we can’t get or food for the table? My parents arguing about money and finances, over interest rates and fees, they were always working just to survive.

When things began to turn around in the eighties it became clear Americans were looking to become more self-involved as opposed to socially invested. Americans were looking for relief in any way shape or form. That relief appeared in the form of fantasy. But like many Americans Fantasy has a way of mimicking reality.

New television formatting arrived and with it shows like Dallas, and Dynasty were on top of the Nielsen ratings chart. Fading away was American staples like All in the Family, Chico and the man or the Jefferson’s; these shows broke new ground showcasing America’s struggle with diversity and acceptance. These shows handily worked at creating a better vison for America through entertainment. The eighties arrived and popular television shows turned self-centered, focusing on money, wealth, fast cars, lavish homes and expensive clothes. Changing the face of what America perceived as being American. Intertwined in this new gluttonous direction was a story line focused on the philandering practices of each cast member, showcasing a need for greed in both monetary and the flesh. We were a country desiring an escape. So many years of war, hate, death, struggle and need. The eighties came and took that from us each and every night corralled in either 30 or 60 minute segments.

As a child I too felt the pain. We never spent a lot on food, clothes or shoes. Food purchased was just enough to feed us in hopes dad had a good week on the road. (He was a salesman during this time) The change in the way I perceived how life should be lived came with a little family television show called Family Ties. It had everything I described above, as its two main characters were children of the 60’s now raising a family in an 80’s world. Struggling with a former social conscience while enveloping themselves in an emerging capitalistic society.

Their son Alex Keaton was an upstart young Republican, fighting against his parents democratic values, learning along the way that when you merge the two an amicable resolve can always be found. It peaked my interest as I identified with young Alex. A lad who didn’t have much but wanted more despite his parents trying to create a well-rounded giving child. It became my first taste of a capitalism fantasy.

That fantasy grew as most movies around this time also focused on the imaginary cash flow that Hollywood felt every American was living with during the Reagan era. Every high school film focused on kids coming from households either struggle or affluence. Either way you and your friends would end up driving BMW’s, Ferrari’s, Jeep Grand Cherokee’s and Porches. It was Weird Science but girls were at the ready and no one seemed to ever wonder where the money came from unless it was Risky Business. We all knew what pot held that cash! Of course if things didn’t work out the way you had planned there was always a Breakfast Club nearby to reignite friendships and ease your disturbed young mind. Or you could just have a Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The world would stop, just for you because you were young, smarter than your parents and that combination always led to success.

But during this time as we emerged from high school wondering what awaited our young eager minds, we were not met with BMW’s or Ferrari’s, rich girls or money. I was met with three jobs, working hard just so I could find my Bright Lights Big City. It was hard and tiring, leaving me many times sleeping on the side of the road in my work truck, or in my own car at the back of my dad’s restaurant.

Why? Why did I work so hard? Because I had a dream. A dream to one day be successful, own a BMW, live in a giant mansion and become the Secret of my Success. Michael J Fox had shown me that it was as easy as being a part of a family that always did the right thing, having a dream, sneaking into a large company, assuming another’s identity while dating the boss’s wife or girlfriend then once inside the inner circle just woo many wealthy investors with you childlike wit and charm! Bam! Money and success are all yours!! On top of that if you have to choose For Love or Money you can’t lose! Education be damned! Our ambition will win out every time!!! It was the eighties remember!!! Michael showed me time and again through different directorial visions that is how it’s done!

Unfortunately my brain believed all this could be true and as I worked hard providing ideas while trying to prove that I was willing to go that extra mile, work 14-16 hours a day looking for just a snippet of financial excess. Something happened. The truth, I was nothing more than an employee. You see the movies and television told me hard work paid off, long days, endless hours helped you get noticed and ultimately afforded you a seat at the head table. But 90% of the time it does no such thing. Don’t get me wrong, you are valued, I never felt as though in some small way I wasn’t valued at the jobs for which I worked the hardest. But unlike what Michaels movies had taught me, there was no monetary reward at the end of a hard day. That to this day is held for the exceptional family member, investor or capitalist. Not the hard working outsider. Of course maybe I just didn’t work hard enough, or my ability to recognize opportunity wasn’t sharp. Either way I walked away with only the satisfaction of doing a good job. I only wish I hadn’t been brain washed to believe there was more. For that Michael J Fox you crushed me.

Today, I have an enlightened social conscience, a family that makes the Huxtables look lame and I am trying my hardest to instill a solid work ethic combined with education so when my four children hit the world after college they have an ability to choose between a capitalist lifestyle or a socially conscience one. Hey maybe I’ll have one of those children that can do both, you know that ultra-rare animal, the one that leaves you in awe whenever you gaze upon its presence; the philanthropist? One can only hope.

So as I creep up on my 50th year, struggling at times to make ends meet, still keeping just a slim hope that Michaels words, ideas and strategies might just pay off. I think; Fuck it!

In the end I could never stay mad at you Michael J Fox! I guess you really didn’t ruin my life and your movies allowed me to dream big. I try to share dreaming big with my children because of you and truth be told you are still one of the funniest actors I have ever seen. Hopefully my children can figure it all out. Succeed where I have failed. Heck someone has to take care of me when I get old, and they are not allowed to warehouse me in a convalescent home! I will not be put in an institutional Cocoon but prefer instead to be On Golden Pond.

On-Golden-Pond-2

 

 

Pythagorean Theorem=Boobs????

Over the years my wife and I have spent countless hours helping our children to succeed through both word and deed.

It takes no shortage of creativity, knowledge, a sense of humor and occasionally some good old-fashioned ass kicking to solidly seat things into our children’s thick know it all skulls.

A week ago a new low had been reached in our household, the bottom if you will. All was going reasonably well, homework becoming finalized before an upcoming work week, and yes I can hear a collaborative parental moan now: why wasn’t the homework done Friday night? No excuses, no answer other than it is just the way we roll here at the BCR (Black Cloud Ranch) if it isn’t last minute well then it wasn’t worth doing!

One of our boys, oh hell why beat around the bush; it was the fourteen year old! Anyways he just doesn’t seem to grasp the importance of Algebra! Seriously Algebra! Algebra is the very basis for all math we will NEVER EVER USE AGAIN IN OUR ENTIRE LIVES!!! It might as well be stinking cursive! Who the bloody hell uses cursive or ever thought cursive was so freaking imperative? Isn’t Cursive like the Beta video of language expression? Oh sure I have seen many hybrid versions, you know a mix of block lettering, plain print and cursive. But really in the end it is as useful as a chocolate tea-pot!

Algebra was the very bane of my existence as a freshman in high school, and it appears to be a genetic learning disorder! Yet Jake has one glaring ace in his pocket for which he refuses to take advantage that I never had at my disposal! His mother teaches math! I know right? Mom teaches math! HELLLLOOOOOOO????? You say you don’t understand math, ask your mother politely for assistance and well, 1+1=uh an easy freaking A! But no, Jake stands before his mother, arms crossed as though he was in the center of a Law and Order episode awaiting his lawyer! This boy, this hard-headed, rodeo driven boy, has been given a free ride for way too long based upon his dimples and charm, yet at home his mother and I see the poop thrower from three years of age. His dimples purchase no currency at the parental store of effort and trust. Mom continues teaching, Jake continues fighting the process. My teeth are grinding and my inner voice hears our beloved dentist God Bless her soul telling me to let it go before irreparable damage is done!

Finally after many witty and not so witty exchanges take place mom has hit the wall, this lad has more excuses for why he cannot learn the Pythagorean Theorem than a desert has sand! Who doesn’t understand the relation of lengths in three sides of any right triangle! Right? RIGHT! Ah Duh!!!! (Ok truth be told I didn’t know what it was either until this fight, but hey enough about my adult ignorance!) Yet a no learning wall is up, affixed, complete with eye rolls, heavy sighs, and the occasional slack-jawed look of stupidity.

This entire process of enlightenment and denial was finally broken when my wife, teacher of equations and mentor with wit, creator of interesting theory and conclusions nonchalantly threw out a reference as to the design of her latest mathematical problem looking a tad bit like boobs! Yes you heard me right BOOBS! Brought forward in that casual oh look what I accidentally drew they resemble BOOBS, kinda way! Every teen boys dream! Men and women alike can agree that BOOBS are pretty freaking cool! Right? Hey I won’t lie, I looked! She said BOOBS for Christ’s sake!!! But instead of a chuckle, juvenile laugh or smirk our sense of humors, no matter how imperfect for the moment (seemingly appropriate I might add) were greeted with teenage loaded snide sarcasm and cynicism!

NICE! Now I am not referencing “NICE” in relation too, eyebrows wiggling, crooked grin, hey there look at that or creepy stalker nice; oh nooooo. This was a thoroughly disgusted, grossed out, want to vomit because my mom referenced a girls private parts “nice”.

What the hell! Its boob’s son, no matter how big or small all girls have them! Even some men! How in the hell can you treat it as though it is a dirty word? BOOOOOOOBBBBBSSSSSSS! See rolls off the tongue! Remember when we had the sex education talk and we made you say PENIS, PENIS, PENIS- VAGINA, VAGINA, VAGINA? You thought that was a freaking riot! Red cheeks and all! So what gives? Wait is this because you think we are automatically referring to you moms boobs? Well heaven forbid your mom, a WOMAN has boobs! Or is it because you cannot stand looking at boobs in front of your mom? Well then we have done something wrong if you are ashamed of the female body and all its glorious shapes, curves and dimensions in front of another woman! What is it? No son of mine is going to ramble on with some form of weird embarrassment over a hand drawn set of circles that look conspicuously enough like a set of boobs! (+)(+)

Then it dawned on us, he saw two circles, we saw two circles, he still remained steadfast in his attempt to thwart any assistance given by his mother, his mother remained steadfast in breaking down that wall. Hence forth two circles that once were nothing more than an equal equation in a math problem became the nucleus for an excuse. By acting as though we had stained his little eyes, burned an unwanted image into his brain, leaving him to die upon the sword of our humor amidst an assumed embarrassment. He believed homework time would be over, a byproduct of our apologies for such inappropriate behavior on our parts. Crying at the table, head in our hands, relished to failure as parents for our poor lack of judgment, he could leave the table thusly going about his evening bypassing another painful night of math while feeling as though he finally got the upper hand!

Hmmmm in retrospect, quick thinking young grasshopper! I am impressed at how fast you grabbed ahold of an opportunity to exploit a situation hoping for instant benefit and gratification… In many instances this quick thinking may have brought forward a prosperous outcome. This would not be one of them!

BOOBS, BOOBS, BOOBS (+)(+) Do you see them???? BOOBS, BOOBS, BOOBS!!!!!

Now do your damn homework!

 

 

Every minute of every second of every day…….

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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2015- I cant wait to meet you.

AND NOW A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE…

On January 1, 2014 I wrote this piece, posting it on the 2nd. My 2015 post is at the bottom of the page..

The Face of Leukemia 2014

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2014 Day 1……..

364 days to live.

364 days to wake up every morning, count our blessing and live. 364 days to write a new and exciting story! You see my dearies pontificating New Years resolutions involving the standard fare of weight loss, higher education, finding love, spending more time with our children, adding onto the house, finding a better job, saving more money, vacationing more, visiting family and friends and so on and so on is just not my style this year. But watching my wife live is.

364 days, until I can count 365 more days of life lived, 365 days written into the history books of our family. Cancer has this funny way of cheating you from a reality lived by so many others, changing the way your life story is told.  Cancer also has a way of sticking in your craw like an annoying persons laugh or an itch you just cant scratch.  It’s there, no one else can see it, no one else can feel it, only those who have it, or love someone burdened by it understand, yet the rest of the world just goes on with its business of worrying about resolutions for which a majority will sadly never achieve.

A new year a new fear.

We are winning this battle! Jacys superwoman body has done incredibly well! The last bone marrow draw showed no signs of Leukemia swimming in her blood, lurking in the darkness like an evil monster. Consolidation therapy starts on Monday and she will begrudgingly return to the hospital for 5 days of chemotherapy.  Her strength is back, she is feisty as ever, feeding horses in the morning and an occasional walk in the afternoon! (rumor has it she was spotted jogging on a levee, but its only a rumor) The next round of therapy will knock her down again and from what we understand recovery gets harder each time she finishes a session. She will come home weaker and a little sicker. Chemotherapy is not for the light-hearted, these patients (my wife included) are my heroes as I have witnessed the strain it places on the human body.  Yet Super Jacy has never deterred from her mission. Kicking cancers ass one cell at a time!

A fear still remains though. What if it (Leukemia) comes back? What if her white blood cell count doesn’t recover? What if she catches a common cold during these periods, (something that could kill her) what if?????? These are fears we will live with for the rest of our lives.  Every cough that arises, every sniffly nose, every fever, every-time she feels run down, for the rest of her life she will need to go have blood drawn and see the doctor. 3 more times to go, 3 more week-long sessions, three more weeks of hell.  In the end, a small price to pay to live. Jacy promised me she loved me enough to beat this, she is keeping her word.

Day 1…. Today began our 2014 journey and Jacy spent it the only way she knew how.

It was a day filled with visiting friends, making her children laugh, planning a birthday party for her son and wondering whether or not to shave the small patches of hair fighting against the laws of chemistry. Little strands hanging on for dear life, trying their very best to make my wife look like a chia pet. Biggest decision of the day? Shave the head or let those little hairs grow only to meet an untimely death in 4 days.

With the beginning of a new year I wonder about the thousands of other spouses, significant others, and children all living and loving someone close to them with Leukemia. I worry about the ones who struggle to support their loved ones without the means of expression such as writing brings to me.  Do they lay in bed at night afraid of the darkness, wondering how long, why them, all while scooting a little closer to the one they love just to feel their body heat. Are they ok, do they know its ok to feel the way they feel, can they find peace? I am sure they do and I am just rambling, but its in my nature to worry about everyone and everything.

So welcome 2014! I welcome you with open arms (and Betty’s arms are plenty big enough) for the hug of a lifetime! 2014 we hope you are filled with many misadventures, happiness and love! But most of all 2014, we pray you don’t leave us reeling like your bastard predecessor 2013 did! But if you do, not to worry, the story you tell will be interesting none the less…

364 days… The story begins right now…

images-18And what a story the year 2014 became.

2014 was indeed a year of highs and lows and yes I embraced it all with open arms.

Leukemia, sickness, emergency rooms, a torn up knee, a hurt back, a bum shoulder, my horse injured yet again.  An old friend lost while other old friends struggled to understand why?

A senior headed off to college, a Freshman headed to Nationals for rodeo, a daughter no longer scared of horses and trying her hardest to train them herself. A littlest son, discovering his love for art, painting, drawing, and creating.

Hundreds of new friends, family members united, a wife who Kicked Cancers Ass and cheated death!

2014 was indeed a challenge; it has left myself feeling many years older than my earthly age. I am tired, worn, raw, broken and quite frankly even though there were scattered good times, very glad to see it go!.  This year found me working hard at remaining mentally strong throughout the first half while floundering physically during the second half. It was indeed a struggle to keep a positive attitude at times, but thankfully I had an entire village of people supporting me, something I will never forget.

Highs and lows, isn’t that what its all about? Highs and lows?  We travel this pathway of life learning, absorbing, growing and hoping one day we understand what it all means. Changing, evolving, sculpting our little piece or niche that we can point to and claim as our own, our destiny, our end game.

I don’t know what’s in store for this year 2015. So many things swimming in my head about life, the future and what it may or may not hold for myself and our family. What direction our lives should take, both personally and professionally. What lays around the corner, hiding in the darkness? Are more demons waiting to rear their ugly heads, further terrify our souls or is this family finally going to see a silver lining surrounding us for some time to come? My fingers remain crossed…

Either way there is one thing I know for sure, I am and always have been a believer in new beginnings; that each day you arise from slumber a fresh day awaits you like a clean chalkboard, an empty etch a sketch, or a blank canvas just waiting for your creation.  No matter the pain felt inside, no matter the physical or mental limitations holding you down, and no matter the baggage carried by others in your name. A new day awaits. But one must remember, with a new day comes a responsibility to create, otherwise it is just that and nothing more. Only your vision achieved through hard work and positive thinking can mold an unforgettable day, a brighter week and eventually with time and practice a spectacular year.

No one can hand you these skills, no one can will you an outcome, steal success for you or force you into making changes you need to succeed. Just you, only you, and only through an ability to let go of the past and look forward to a brighter future.

So even though I am tired, worn, raw and broken, a new year is on the horizon and with it, anticipation for 364 more days of creation…

Betty thanks you for following me in 2014 and wishes you all the very happiest of New Years…. 2015 here we come!

 

Party on man….

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Christmas time is here my darlings; time for good tidings and fellowship! Time to praise God, celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and reflect upon another year gone by! A reflection that includes ones own growth or demise along with those cherished most. Family and friends.

One problem. After a long year filled with many activities, surrounded by a multitude of generations, families, friends, strangers, covering from here in California to as far East as Iowa. I have been fortunate enough to make new friends, meet, watch and cheer new kids playing new sports and revile as children I’ve known from childhood into adulthood move on with their lives.  Being the ever astute observationist it has come to my attention a certain (middle) age group believes entitlement should be afforded regardless of the fact they are not law-abiding adults.  It is also becoming rather apparent after witnessing such behaviors, looking on FB, Instagram and such this entitlement issue is expanding at a rapid rate, further propagated by the lackadaisical attitudes of the very same law-abiding of age adults that are supposed to be prohibiting such behavior!

What behavior would I be referring? Drinking alcohol, chewing tobacco, smoking cigarettes.

To say I am shocked would be a lie.

Oh yes I hear the groans now for this has been the very same argument passed from one generation to the next. The same question tossed forth year after year. Is this generation really worse than the last? Isn’t this the very issue we dealt with ourselves as young adolescents? Come on, whats a drink  here or a drink there anyways? A dip never hurt anyone and jeez our parents smoked all the time! Not everyone gets cancer right? Seriously, as long as it’s happening in my home under my watch its ok!

Now before I ramble on in some parent/wet blanket/buzz kill tirade lets clear the air.

I had my first drink at 13 and was a pretty proficient drinker by 16. Let that sit for a minute.

There was never a time, I turned down beer, California coolers or wine. If it showed up on friday night, I drank it, partied hard, then drove, where ever and when ever I pleased. I was hell on wheels and there was no stopping me! My parents tired of the fight and I think at one point short of just yelling at me every time they saw me, they gave up. I never came home at curfew, I stayed out way too late, put myself in situations I should never have been in, and I survived.  During the school week it was not uncommon to place a few drops of Everclear in a can of Copenhagen and get royally stoned during class. I snuck (gulp hard here) Black Velvet during the day replacing it with water in hopes no one would know, then hid in my room for hours on end staring at the ceiling wondering why I hated my life.

I was lucky.

My parents DID NOT condone this behavior. My parents tried everything they knew to stop me, but it didn’t work and do you know why? Because there was always somebody elses parents who did condone drinking. Someone else’s Uncle or Aunt who believed the law was stupid and as long as the drinking was held inside their home it was ok. If that didn’t work there were students who looked like adults and could purchase alcohol at 7-11, and there were students who worked at stores where alcohol was available, thus bringing it home for Friday and Saturday night parties on the hill, in a field or out at the sloughs. No Student drinking task forces with underage buyers to bust the stores, no one to stop the wheels of intoxication from turning and a law enforcement group that still believed a ride home or following you to your house with a stern talking too or speech to your parents was sufficient. We were just a bunch of really young kids with no common sense doing things that could (and in some cases did) change our lives forever.

So where am I going with this?

Today life is so much more complicated. Laws are tougher and enforced with vigor. Lawsuits are the norm as opposed to a last option. We as parents have much more to lose and so do our children.

It (temptation) is around us everyday, enveloping our moral compasses; Drink Budweiser and beautiful girls will flock to you. Stay thirsty my friends is touted as gorgeous twenty something’s caress the most interesting geezer in the world. Coors light can only be consumed by sheik sexy men who climb mountains to provide that ice-cold freshness for only you. Copenhagen is for the only the toughest of Cowboys, baseball players and such, and if you want to be the sexiest, coolest, darkest most brooding social misfit then light up! There is a multitude of products for you to burn down those lungs of yours.

Don’t worry though, thanks to the errors of your parents (such as myself) we are also drowning in advice, direction, and choices provided from the likes of MADD-Mothers Against Drunk Driving, TATU Teens Against Tobacco Use, AA-Alcoholics Anonymous etc.. yet despite this barrage of media saturation both in schools and on the street through social media outlets etc. Our kids continue to laugh it off as if nothing will ever happen to them! Do you know why they laugh it off, shrug their shoulders and continue to do as they please? Because we allow it, as parents WE are not unified. We are not setting the standard. WE never learned from our mistakes and are now in some instances relieving those glory years through our children without any thought about the ramifications within our modern-day justice system! ITS NOT 1983 ANYMORE PEOPLE!!!!!

Here is where my problem grows larger.

In the logical sense I am a hypocrite for telling my 14-year-old son not to drink solely based upon my torrid past.(Regardless of the obvious under 21 reality) Recently he was busted partaking in a bottle of beer with a friend. No doubt both of them were covered in AXE body spray, sipping their micro brews just waiting for Victoria’s secret models to fall from the sky on angels wings. I mean seriously they had 2 out of 3 of what advertising agents are gleefully promising the male species on television! So who am I to say he shouldnt do this? Drinking beer with friends; being one who went out of his way to do so at his age it is a conundrum for sure? What is the big deal anyways, its one beer right?

I can see it in his eyes, when his mother and I talk with him about consequences for his actions. The same genetic eye roll, the same blank stare, the very same I dont know what the hell I am talking about tone in his voice! Then just as my blood begins to boil and my teeth cant clench any tighter as I suffer through watching a smaller version of myself reincarnated! I think fine let him head down this path, let him learn the hard way, the same way I learned to become a complete failure! Her you go! Have at it! Your future will now consist of never being able to chase your dreams as a young man because once the party bug bites it’s a hard infection to shake! It’s all you will think about and everything else WILL SUFFER!

But I can’t do it…. I cant let him follow a path leading eventually to the possibility of losing everything he and his parents have worked so hard to achieve. Having been there, walked in those same old alcohol/barf soaked shoes, living through it was an exhausting personal, internal struggle to overcome and the time lost, I can never retrieve.

Like I said I was lucky. Not everyone is so…

Today our children not only risk losing their identities through alcohol/tobacco use, but with social media girls are at the highest risk ever of sexual impropriety. illicit photos taken, shared with god knows who, advances that would be thwarted otherwise, even rape.  The same goes for our young men, temptation is too great for their VERY underdeveloped minds! Hormones raging, social media at their finger tips, throw in peer pressure, some alcohol and a full-fledged conflagration is brewing. We expect them to act like men, their bodies begin to look like little men, they carry themselves in some case like men and yet we forget their minds are still that of a child!

So my worries continue; not just for my child (which is why I am rambling so), but for all our promising young adults. I don’t know how to fix this problem, I don’t know how to get other parents on board, I don’t know the answer when it comes to keeping my child on the straight and narrow. But I do know from what I have seen, a storm is brewing, our children are at risk, and it seems as though we are all living a life as if it (something horrible) will never happen to us, our children, or our families.

I will leave you all with this.

Last night I sat my boy down and told him as calmly and directly as I could.

Son, I know you are going to do stupid things, its genetic! (Insert laugh here) But I want you to know if that idiocy ever leads to you becoming inebriated or climbing into a vehicle with a drunk friend you need to call me. I will come and get you and your friends anywhere, anytime. I never want you to be so afraid of being punished that you make the wrong choice hoping you wont get caught. But let it be known, the very next day you will face your mother and I to answer for what you have done the night before.

He agreed then wondered why it was so important, that I drill this knowledge into his head. In his mind all he could correlate our conversation to was the fact he had drunk ONE lone beer the week before and I was seriously overreacting.

I looked him in the eyes, leaned over the counter and in a dead calm voice asked him. Have you ever been there when a mother is being informed her son was killed in a vehicle accident with a few of his friends and alcohol was suspected?

He looked at me and said; (sullenly) no

I placed my hand on his and told him I had, it hurts really bad. (my throat tightens and hurts as I type this)

Then just as calmly said; please dont ever put that responsibility upon someone else because you made a bad choice. It’s not fair, it never goes away and it can never be taken back.

I am hoping he understands….

Talk to your children about drinking, talk to your children about tobacco use, follow-up on their extra curricular activities, its your job to NOT be their friends, its your job to MAKE them hate you at some point, It’s your job to drive them crazy and when it’s all done hopefully with a little luck they turn into outstanding adults who will always remain your child, but have now earned your friendship.

Then sit back, reflect on another year gone by while enjoying watching the very same traits you instilled in them trickle down to their children, your grandchildren.

norman rockwell santa

 

I may be a parental failure.

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Today my dears, a realization hit with the ferocity of a hammer.

I am a horrible father….

Since becoming a father on July 11, 1996 nothing has been more important for myself personally than becoming an extremely successful father (yes I am competitive). No books, no mentor following me around pointing out the do’s, don’ts, and why’s along with sharp poignant strategy to overcome even the smallest of situations. Nope just me and the wife figuring things out as we go.

Along this journey there has been incredible highs, overwhelming lows and obstacles thrown my way that far exceed anything one could ever have imagined in the parenting realm. Work, friends, my personal time and space all cast aside sometimes begrudgingly, but cast aside none the less because my eye has always been on the prize. That prize of course, becoming a great father with absolutely wonderful well-rounded children who outside the home are polite, practical, hardworking, giving, with empathy for their fellow-man, a strong social conscience, a definite awareness of right and wrong and a complete understanding that all actions bear consequences both good and bad. I don’t think it is too much to ask as a parent for your child to meet this glaringly obvious criteria before entering our revolving wacky, social populous. It is after all my job to help them become successful in life. As one half of this parenting equation and after time spent giving up on my own selfish wants and dreams it is with great sadness that I must report. I am indeed a horrible failure of a father.

A Horrible father you say; why how can this be true? I mean we all see the Instagram perfect Brady Bunch family pictures you post almost daily on Facebook! Is that all a lie?? Well my darlings its like this; after dealing with the emotional distress of graduating one child from high school while walking another warily through the very same gates. Struggling to understand the wants and needs of my, not quite but almost teenage daughter who balls her fists up whenever things don’t go her way like DeNiro in Raging Bull. Then standing slump shouldered and befuddled while my 9-year-old refers in the third person repeatedly to his “being” in the afterlife to avoid putting down the iPad and read an assigned book for the evening that I realized something is amiss. The whining, the complaining, the hatred or mean looks cast our way whenever we investigate, disseminate, initiate, propagate and communicate, well, it all just seems wrong. My parenting is missing something, I must not be reaching out to the children in a way they understand. Are my ways to old and antiquated, am I expecting too much? After doing further investigation I have determined the answer to be yes! I have gone about parenting all wrong, way, way wrong. Thanks to the internet, the Disney Channel, Snap-chat, Instagram, askfm, and Yik Yak I feel the needs of all children everywhere and it has nothing to do with my plan of attack or game plan as it were. No sir I was not only WAY off base I wasn’t even in the same ball park!

So from this point on it is with great trepidation that I must announce a new game plan, a winning formula for parental success! It has taken hours of deciphering the aforementioned comments, concerns and wickedly smart one liners thrown at us parents by our own children, both in person and on the internet. But seriously I think I got it down and failure is not an option!!!! So here goes..

From this point on I Betty declare here and now to my children that I will no longer:

  • Tell you what time to go to bed or care if you even “make” that bed.
  • Remind you to do your homework
  • Let you know you need a shower
  • Expect you to care about your grades
  • Expect you to study and achieve good grades
  • Expect there to be good grades when I check the schools web-site
  • Expect the teacher to give me a glowing review when I ask about your grades
  • Aw hell, even expect you to go to school
  • Limit your time on the x-box, Nintendo, or Playstation to the weekend only after your chores and homework are completed.
  • Have any chores for you to do at all. I apologize for the burden of work we placed on you.
  • Expect you to clean up your room
  • Lift the toilet seat before you pee
  • Put the toilet seat down after you pee
  • Clean up the god damn pee!!!
  • Flush the toilet
  • Brush your teeth
  • Do your own laundry
  • Fold your own laundry
  • Put away your own laundry
  • Even give a shit about what freaking clothes you are wearing!
  • Make you wash your hair again (of course this is if you are still showering)
  • Ask you to pick up after yourself
  • Feed your animals
  • Clean up after your animals
  • Hell even care at all about YOUR animals, set them free!
  • Care if you talk back/smart mouth your mother. It is open season from here on out!
  • Ask to see YOUR phone, even though we pay the bill I fully understand possession is 9/10ths the law. I am sorry for invading your privacy.
  • Look through your phones apps-once again apologies for the privacy invasion. My bad…
  • Punish you and take away your phone for inappropriate texts, pictures, and comments left on your phone by not only you but your friends as well. (That’s right you little bastards I know who you are and I have seen body parts that I cannot erase from my brain)
  • Set limits on your use or interpretation of the English language. No more G rating expected and all forms of slang are now allowed! Got it playa! I know sick huh! Word…
  • Monitor the television shows you watch.
  • Make you go to church
  • Ask you to help elderly people, such as grandma and grandpa. They are just gonna die anyways right?
  • Expect you to do the dishes after dinner
  • Expect you to help with dinner
  • Expect you to eat dinner. Your mother and I are hiring a professional eater for you.
  • Care whether you spend the entire day inside lying around or outside, lying around.

That was just a few examples but as you can see young children, fruit of my loins, this world is all yours for the taking! No more stupid old parents and their even stupider rules to bog you down! Dope huh?

This new winning strategy is sure to be a hit! I will no longer hang my head in shame as that of a failure! No more confrontation, no more irritation, no more aggravation, it is all yours, all three of you left in our house and you will chant the sonnet that is my name from the mountains high and it will ring sound from the hills below! It will be glorious, magnanimous, there will be parenting books written about me for decades to come as others soon follow my lead!

Things shall be written like, visionary, mind bending genius, a parenting guru! I shall grace the cover of People magazine and the View will book me ASAP!

Yes a new brighter future awaits!

Let the children live I say! Let them be free to express themselves anyway they see fit, do whatever they want to do and experience life in a way only our youth can admire! Imagine! Imagine the adults they will grow to become, the leaders, the thinkers, the pillars within their communities all because WE took the time to release them from the parental chains that bound them from true expression!!!! Yes….Yes… YESSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!

Wait…….. Maybe I am not failure after all……

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Being Thankful-One year and seven days later

Another Thanksgiving has come and gone. I browsed briefly through many blogs this afternoon all touting the importance of being thankful and although I hate jumping on any blog bandwagon (Ferguson), I find that this evening in particular thankfulness shall abound and with good reason.

One year and seven days ago I stood in an arena, working a cute grey mare, getting her in shape to practice hard during the off-season. At 11:40 am my phone rang and through trembling voice my wife informed me she needed to head towards Vallejo Kaiser immediately or she might die.

Think about that for a moment.

A seemingly perfect day, slightly overcast and a little chilly brought to a screeching halt, turned upside down because of one single phone call and the words “I might die”. I have been dealt this card before so my recollection powers are incredibly strong and as I type the smell of cold wet sand and winter eucalyptus trees fill my senses. A moment captured forever deep within my brain.

One year and seven days ago our world changed forever. Although we try, it’s like the ghost in the closet, the elephant in the room, the fat lady who hasn’t sung yet. It is just there.

One year and seven days ago, I didn’t know if there was going to be a forever for her and me. I cried, hard, then did what I always do; Sat down, absorbed all the information, shut my mouth for a while, and developed a plan.

One year and seven days ago my friends, people I have known and cared about knocked on my door, called me, walked into my home and said nothing more than: how can we help? I have never been good at accepting help, I am a helper by nature not a recipient, but all that changed and they assured me with love that I had no say in the matter.

One year and seven days ago my children sat dumbfounded, confused, and unable to comprehend exactly what was going on. Words like chemotherapy, drugs, cancer, Leukemia, blood cells, and sick all became a staple of conversation in their worlds. They never quite knew how to take it all, the thought that their mother might die, but they did in their own ways. It changed them a little, I am not sure what the lasting effect will be, only time will tell.

One year and seven days ago a six month odyssey began with month-long stays in the hospital, missing most of our high schoolers senior year, juggling a family with the help of friends, multiple midnight runs to the emergency room, nights alone wondering if she was going to die, nights in bed with her wondering if she was going to die. Days knowing she would be alright only to be slapped in the face with another trip to the hospital. Days of triumph and love, nights of cursing our life and the strain it was bringing to our family and to her. Nights of praising God for the reprieves, and slowly understanding things were going to get better.

One year ago today we had Thanksgiving in our house. The meal was completely prepared by friends, family and strangers. It was amazing that so many people cared about us, our family and our children to the extent of ensuring we had a thanksgiving meal. We Facetimed with Jacy that night and before desert could be dished I was back on the road, heading to Kaiser to sit with my wife, thankful to be able to do so thanks to a rapid diagnosis by an extraordinary young doctor and a myriad of family and friends watching my children.

Tonight, my wife lies next to me asleep from a long day of travel and family. She is not perfect, she may never be the same as she was before, although it won’t be for a lack of trying. Her emotions are still raw from 6 months of chemo-hell, her brain struggles with the after effects of chemotherapy at times which leaves her frustrated and her body is always doing strange things. We don’t know how long chemo-brain will last, we don’t know how long her body will continue to hold her down when it comes to strenuous activities and we don’t know if the leukemia will come back in one year, five years or never. But put all that aside and what you’re left with is one mother of four who can hug and kiss her children and to date is cancer free.

For that, on this Thanksgiving Day, I am thankful….

The Fire Service saved my life/The Fire service is slowly killing me….

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The Fire service saved my life.

The Fire service is slowly killing me…

When becoming a firefighter in 1995 it was clear to me this choice would forever change the course of my life. No longer would my family wonder when daddy would be home, no longer would stressing about paychecks, health care, retirement, and the ability to actually take a vacation fall upon my shoulders with such weight. There would always be adventure, excitement and the repeated knowledge of a job well done for me to submerge my inner ego or satisfy the adrenaline junkie long hidden deep inside.

Constant education, growth (both inner and professionally) a career tailor made for a lost soul looking for something, anything to help define who he is, what he is, while allowing his search to encompass a life with honesty and compassion. Two emotions he knew he possessed but could never quite get to emerge.

You have not truly lived until deaths hand has been held. I know that sounds hard and cruel but looking into deaths seething eyes while your team members rip away a life chosen, robbing deaths intentions, handing life back to the living, one cannot help but leave feeling a tad bit invincible. This euphoric high comes from helping someone on the “verge” and it must be ten times more potent than any other drug. There are different levels of euphoria achieved through a job well done. Whether it be a successful extrication, saving a life, any life from fire or re-starting a heart then witnessing a human being trying their hardest to breathe again; to feel the warm soft touch of an elderly persons hand in thanks for helping them back into bed after spending an unwanted night on the floor, or calming a new mother who has called 911 for nothing more than cough, or sniffle. Changing a smoke alarm battery at 2 in the morning because the occupants are scared there may be a fire somewhere in the residence, or simply smiling and waving to a kid on the street as their eyes light up watching us drive by. This job has saved me, it took a man filled with pride, and no idea how to harness an energy created by his abrasive personality and shaped me into what those who love me, hoped I would or could always become. Yes this job saved me, from no one person or anything other than myself.

This job is also killing me…

Every day I hurt, something hurts, my back, my neck, my shoulder and some days my heart. I carry with me the pain of every person I have ever comforted or held, I remember locations in town by the severity or need. I have a job that is very emotional and yet we can show no emotion while on scene, many times stepping outside for just a moment to swallow hard, retain that granite exterior the public expects, then walk back inside to do your best. I know I have spoken of this in the past and it’s no different for any other person who works hard every day, struggles with life’s ups and downs, but it seems that writing it out always makes me feel a little better. This job, this blessed job, with the ability to touch so many lives, garner respect that you often wonder is really deserved, this job is slowly killing me. I stay in shape, both physically and mentally. It is a requirement if you chose this career path. To believe it is not is pure naivety usually held by the young and brash. This entire writing came about due to a realization two days ago while driving home that in fact some days are better than others and some days it just isn’t my fault for the way I feel.

In the fire service we work very hard at creating awareness. Awareness of our surroundings, including people, places, weather, traffic, building size etc… Basically we teach what is known as ‘size up” from the moment we leave the station on a response we are constantly sizing up the situation. So imagine everyday you are at work the captain is preaching size-up, analyze the call, the updates, the appearance once on scene, your immediate surroundings. Now being a good new guy you start sizing up everything throughout your day because well practice makes perfect. Yes? So at lunch you size up the structure, pretend it’s on fire, what is the occupancy load, what time of day is it, who is or is not inside? Now since it’s my fantasy fire there is flames ripping from the A/B side of the structure and in my little fantasy world I need to determine manpower, resources, plan of attack, do we go offensive or defensive? Should I up this alarm or can we handle this fire at the current alarm status? What are my needs and the needs of my men and am I able to adequately relay those needs?

Do you get the picture? Day in and day out we do this as good firefighters sharpening our skills, keeping us ready for any contingency, setting ourselves up for the next promotion. To ultimately become the very best we can be. Then over time practice slowly becomes filled with little doses of reality.

A few days ago while driving home gazing into a perfect beautiful blue sky, a light wind is blowing, temps in the mid 60’s, tail of a slow moving front pushing through (see still sizing up) off in the distance there is a plane banking off to the left or southwest. It looks so serene pressed against such a glorious sky. A sigh of contentment as I stare at this military giant cruising through the sky. Then it happens, all my eyes see is a plane, wing separated, spiraling into the ground with smoke billowing from its fuselage. Explosion, location, the farmland and house it has leveled, people inside the plane screaming as gravity takes hold. A shake of the head, the plane is still aloft, safe as it has been a thousand times before. It is the epitome of size up combined with real life past experiences. Because during this planes imaginary corkscrew into the ground my brain instantly went from size-up mode to reality. Visualizing one of the many plane crashes I have responded to including one where I witnessed the plane fold up and plummet straight to earth! So in my brain the process continues, what would I see, what resources would I need etc..

I feel at times as though I can’t do a thing or listen to any conversation, idea or verbally expressed thought without instantly ruining it with my engrained fear. Every car crash, house fire, CPR that was unsuccessful, suicide, fall victim, shooting victim and person assaulted or raped have all left an indelible mark upon my heart, mind and soul. It has created a better firefighter, it has created a person who can share their experiences freely, openly with others in our ranks, but it has taken a toll.

My children can’t do anything without me overanalyzing, my poor wife, no matter what fantastic idea she comes up with gets shot down immediately because in seconds I see the tragedy associated with whatever her plan held if something were to go horribly wrong. Odds are something will never happen, but for me the responses are always the same and hurtful. My parents are aging and somedays I wonder if their passing will affect me? Not that I won’t be sad, but am I so callous towards the face of death that I fear I will be the one comforting others instead of allowing others to comfort me?

Driving my family anywhere is reserved solely for me; the fear of relinquishing the steering wheel is too great. While driving down the road my mind visualizes every guardrail, ditch, narrow road, blind intersection, car alongside and where we would go in a collision. It is hell, a 2-3 hour family trip feels like an eternity in my mind.

Over the years there have been many coping processes but in the end just being quiet although irritating to those who care about me, has been the best. Writing about my experiences has helped immensely as has drinking copious amounts of alcohol. (Just kidding, couldn’t write this whole piece without one smart ass comment) Humor has saved me as well, although some of my humor is not fit for the public as we need to laugh at times at the public’s expense. It is not as though we are heartless, but there are things we see as funny and if we can’t laugh at them or our own stupid responses then this job would quickly become unbearable.

The good runs, lives saved, houses saved, humans touched by our service definitely keep things in perspective. I am surrounded by a loving and incredibly forgiving family and a choice group of friends who understand to the very core what we go through. People who I can speak openly with about the real horrors of this job. It is by far still the greatest job in the world, the fire service did truly save my life and I am forever grateful for all it has afforded me. A great career, bountiful memories, wonderful friendships and a feeling of success. But I would love just once, one single solitary moment where I don’t look at something fun and see only the tragedy.

That is how the fire service is slowly killing me..