Your Voice

Which voice are you going to listen to?Your Lying voice or your Lion voice?

Your lying voice tells you

You are NOT good enough.

You are too old.

You have too much pain

Your LION voice says

I am GREAT!

I am WISE beyond my years!

I CONTROL the pain!

Your lying voice tells you

You are weak.

You are not important.

You do not matter.

You will fail.

Your LION voice says

I am STRONG!

I am IMPORTANT!

I MATTER!

I WILL NOT FAIL!

I have been lying to myself for a long time, but no more.

I will be TRUTHFUL to myself!

I will work HARDER!

I will train LONGER!

I will be the LION!

What about you?

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Valentines day assignment

My 10 year old daughter had a writing assignment to do this weekend using “juicy words” and “fantastic figurative languages”.  It was supposed to be what would happen if she found cupid the day before valentines day with a broken wing and had to be his helper.  I suggested that it could be a sad story, which she loved that idea.

 

All day we kept talking about the story as she wrote it.  Forming the time line, building characters, plotting the story.  Every time we talked about what would happen in the next paragraph she would start crying, thinking about the characters and their feelings.  After she wrote her version I wrote this to show how she could use even more descriptive words to get stronger emotional responses from readers.   Man did it get an emotional response, more than I expected…..

Now keep in mind that this story is geared for young readers, not adults.  Also, that it was written in a matter of how fast I can type, not planned out, and isn’t edited.

 

The Absent Love

 

He sat there on that late winters evening like he did every year, waiting patiently on the friends that never came.  His brown eyes, those dark brown eyes, they still gleamed with the life and exuberance of the 5th grade boy that sat in that same spot so long ago.  His hair a little messy, tousled by the breeze, still with the funny cowlick in the front that Abbie always picked on him about.  It was a nice park, the only park he knew really.  At least the only one that meant something to him.

He watched the joggers go by, ear buds in, huffing and puffing, in their own little world.  The moms power-walking with the strollers, talking about their husbands and kids and futures.  He heard a young couple laughing.  They were high school age, sitting on a blanket, feeding the ducks and the fish in the pond.  Oh to be in love.  An ever so small tear came to his eye, his smile faded a little.  That boyish look left his face, and in an instant the gleam from his eye left as a tear, leaving a trail down his cheek.

It was the same every year.  Different people, different ages, but the same feeling.  He knew it would be no different this year, not that he would change it though.  Nothing would ever make him feel any different, he almost looked forward to it.

A voice called out “Josh.  Josh, what are you thinking about?”  A loving caress of a woman’s hand ran through his hair.  She played with the small curl, now sticking up because of the breeze.  “Hi baby.  Just thinking that its time that I tell you why I sit here alone every Valentine’s Day eve.  I want it to be shared with our child.  I want you to know the whole story.”

 

 

Josh and Abbie grew up in a small rural town.  They lived in a cute, well-manicured neighborhood, with lots of kids there, and a park across the street.  They went to school together for as long as they could remember, sometimes they had different teachers, sometime they were in the same class.  It was their 5th grade year that they became really good friends.  Abbie and Josh walked to classes together, had lunch together, and rode the bus together.  Abbie thought boys were gross and stinky, Josh thought the same about girls, but they seemed to not mind each others company.  I didn’t hurt that their parents were friends and they would all enjoy dinner together on weekends some times.

One winter evening, Valentin’s Day eve to be exact, Abbie finished dinner and asked her mother if she could meet Josh in the park across the street and play for an hour or two.  She begged and begged since they haven’t been able to play in a while, and it was the first chance she had to go outside in a long time.  Hesitantly, her mother let her, under the condition she dress warm and that she was very careful and not too rough.  Abbie was so happy she was already putting her coat on and calling Josh before her mom finished her sentence.  Josh said that he’d met her at their usual spot, the old park bench by the trees, in the corner of the park.

Abbie got the bench first.  It was a quiet spot, not too close to the playground, or the woods, about a Frisbee throw away from the fish pond (she knew this because the class clown came and took her Frisbee the year before and flew it there).  Abbie and Josh’s parents liked the spot because they could both see it from their kitchen windows, and the police station was across the street.  No one would ever have to worry about bad people there.  Also, for some reason, no other kids would play there.  Just the occasional older person would sit and enjoy the quiet place for a bit.

As Abbie was doodling on a valentine card she was making for her teacher she hear a little smack, like a squirrel or bird hit the tree above her head and had fallen to the ground beside her.  To her dismay, there lay CUPID!!!!   Yes, Cupid.  The guy that goes around every year, shooting his arrow into innocent boys and girls, forever changing their lives.

As Cupid lay motionless, she gently sat beside him, only to notice a few things.  First, he actually wasn’t wearing a diaper, or naked, like in the pictures in the books.  He was actually wearing jeans, a t-shirt, a jacket, boots, and a leather helmet looking thing.  Second, he wasn’t little, not at all.  If anything, he was maybe an inch or two taller than her friend Josh.  And third, his wing was broken.

Abbie took out a tissue from her backpack and started to wipe some of the dirt off Cupid face and jacket when he regained his consciousness.  Startled, he sat up quickly, not realizing the pain that he was really in, and started to disappear.  Softly, she touched his hand and said “You’re hurt.  Let me help you Cupid.  Please, let me help.”

The pain overwhelmed him.  He couldn’t fly.  Couldn’t disappear.  Couldn’t stand.  He could barely even talk.  Slowly he spoke to her.  “Thank you Abbie.  This is the first time anyone has helped me, much less seen me.”  Caught a bit off guard, she asked “H, h, how do you know my name?”  Cupid replied “I was coming to see you, Abbie, then I hit this stupid tree.  I was looking around to see if Josh was coming, and BAM!!  Tree got me”.

Surveying the extent of his injuries, Cupid knew that even though his luck was bad that day, it was good at the same time.  He and Abbie sat and talked for what seemed like hours, but was only minutes.  Something magical must have happened that day, for in all Cupids years, of all the couples he had brought together, he had never fallen in love, yet he had fallen for Abbie in and instant.  Maybe because he never had the thoughtful touch of another, the gentle hand of a loving friend…  His mind was buzzing….was it from the hit on the head?  Was it from his rapid heartbeat from meeting this wonderful girl?  In his mind he was asking himself “Is this what love feels like?”  “Did I just say that out loud?”  “Should I tell her how beautiful she is?”  A million things were going through his head….but he had a blank stare on his face…..

A voice called out “Cupid.  Cupid, what are you thinking about?”  A loving caress of a girls hand ran through his hair.  “Cupid, this is my best friend Josh.  He was coming to meet me when, um, we umm, when you…” Cupid quickly cut her off “Hi Josh!  It’s great to meet you”.

In no way did Cupid want Josh to know that he was supposed to be the one Abbie was to fall in love with.  As selfish as it was, Cupid didn’t want to take a chance of Abbie liking Josh instead of him.  He had to think quickly.  How could he find a way to spend the most time with Abbie, without making her fall for Josh?  “Josh, I’m so happy that I met you and Abbie.  You see, I’ve had this little accident and broke my wing. Now I can’t deliver the arrows that help couples to fall in love.  Do you think you can help me?”  Josh, quit confused at the rapid turn of events, asked “Me?  How am I supposed to do that?  I’m a fifth grader and I don’t even like girls.  Well, except for Abbie.  She’s my best friend.  Besides, I don’t know anything about shooting arrows, love, or couples.  What if I miss?  There’s not enough time to teach me anyway.  Valentine’s Day is tomorrow!!!”    “Easy” said Cupid.  “My helmet is what makes me get the job done.  It slows time enough to find the couples that truly deserve true love.  You can shoot from a really, really, long way away once you find them.  You don’t even have to leave the park.  I know that if I had a park like this, I would never leave.”  Cupid stopped, he realized that he probably said too much, and may have given away his intentions since he was staring at Abbie the whole time he was talking to Josh.

After a few minutes, a few practice shots, and some rushed instructions from Cupid, Josh agreed to help.  The three sat in the park, on that very bench, and picked out some of the most unfortunate couples to fall in love, as well as some of the cutest couples too.  Some young, some old, some childhood friends, and love at first sight couples.

Over the next few months Abbie, Josh, and Cupid became the best of friends.  There wasn’t a thing that Abbie wouldn’t do for Cupid or Josh, she was the perfect friend.  Cupid felt guilty for not doing his job by having Josh and Abbie fall in love, but he also knew that his job was just to help.  True love cannot be force upon someone, it just happens.

Josh and Cupid also became best of friends.  They had so much in common.  They like the same style of clothes, the same baseball team, and both loved to fish.  When Abbie wasn’t around they fished in the lake, when she was around they fed the ducks (she didn’t like to touch fish, so they didn’t fish with her).

As summer passed and the trees started to lose their leaves, Abbie and Josh went back to school and spent less time in the park.  This drove Cupid nuts because his two best friends weren’t around as much.  As Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years passed, the snow got deeper, the sun went down earlier, and it got colder.

 

Abbie was spending less and less time with Josh and Cupid now.  Cupid asked Josh one day as they were taking off the ice skates after playing hockey on the lake in the park, “Why didn’t Abbie come out?  I thought she LOVED to skate.”  Josh just shrugged his shoulders, kicked his skates off, and said “She’s not home, no one answered their phone.”  Cupid replied “Well, remind her that the one day of the year that I actually have to work is in two days.  We need to do a little practice with my new bow before then.  We need to not miss like last year.  As cute as the pet potbellied pig and parrot couple were on YouTube, that romance was not meant to be, and should have never happened!”  Josh just rolled his eyes, and said that if Abbie wouldn’t have sneezed on him, he wouldn’t have bumped Cupid as he shot.

 

The morning of Valentine’s Day started off a little gloomy.  The snow was wet and melting, making the walk in the park a muddy mess.  The sun was hiding behind the clouds like it didn’t want to come out.  When Cupid walked up to their bench, he saw Josh was alone.

“Why are you late?” Cupid said. “It’s my only work day and you two are making me late?  And you aren’t looking like you are too excited to have some fun!!”  Josh just lowered his head a little more, his shoulder sagged down like he had heavy weights on them.  He gave a little sniffle, his nose was running.  “Where is Abbie?  And why are you wearing that black jacket and your fancy shoes?  It’s muddy out here for crying out loud?”

 

“She’s gone” said Josh.  “What do you mean she’s gone?  Where did she go?  She didn’t tell me anything.” Replied Cupid.

 

“She loved you Cupid.  She was so happy with you, so happy to help you.  She would have done anything to make you happy.  That’s why she didn’t tell you Cupid.”

 

“Tell me what? Where did she go JOSH?  Are you afraid that I will go see her without you?  YOU are my best friend Josh.  TELL ME WHERE SHE IS!!  We can both go see her with my magic.”  Cupid said as if he was unstoppable.

 

“Not where she is.  You can’t see her.  No one can, Cupid.  She died in the hospital last night.  Abbie was sick for a long time.  She was already sick when we met you.  Her parents let her spend so much time playing with us because they knew she wouldn’t be able to play as much as time went along.”  Josh wept.  He took a deep breath, “Cupid, I loved Abbie for a long time, as long as I can remember.  I also knew you loved her too.  I didn’t want to fight over her, that would have caused sorrow for her, and she didn’t need that.  I don’t know what I am going to do without her, Cupid.  But I still need my best friend, please.”

 

Cupid pulled out of his jacket pocket the Valentines card that Abbie was making the day they had met.  She had crossed out the “Happy Valentine’s Day” and wrote “Get well soon” on it.  He lay it on the ground, in the exact same spot that she had found him over a year ago, when he fell.

 

Josh and Cupid sat on that bench together and cried.  They met every day after school, sat on that bench, and cried.  Over time the tears lessened, they would have good memories of Abbie too.  They laughed about the times they would chase each other, or imitate the people jogging, or shoot people with two arrows instead of one.  But they still cried often.

When Josh would leave, Cupid would give him a hug and tell him “I love you, my best friend”, and Josh would do the same.  He never told Abbie he loved her.  He never want to be afraid to tell his friend this, while he still had the chance to say it.  When Josh went home though, he had a family to be with.  Cupid had no one, which made him sad.  The love of his life left him forever, and his best friend left him every day.  Cupid cried every day. He never told Josh this because he didn’t want Josh to feel bad for him, especially since he didn’t allow Josh to have Abbie as his true love.

 

It was a nice February morning.  The sun was out, they didn’t have much snow that winter, so it wasn’t even muddy.  Josh thought was strange that Cupid was sleeping on their bench when he walked up, so he did it walked quietly.  He was about to jump on Cupid and scare him when he noticed a small note taped to Cupids backpack.  It read,

 

“Josh, you are the best friend anyone could ever ask for.  You have put aside your feelings for Abbie to let her be happy, even though you loved her.  You let me have someone to love.  I am sorry that I was selfish, Abbie should have been your girlfriend, but I fell in love with her since the moment I seen her.  I have been dying since I have lost her.

 

Your friend,

C

 

“He’s gone.  I can’t believe you’re gone.”  Josh sat next to Cupid, pulled him up and hugged him like he did every day.  “I love you, my best friend”, he said, just as he said every day since they lost Abbie.  Josh never knew what Cupid did every day as they parted.  When Josh or Abbie asked, Cupid would just say “I go home” and left it at that.  As Josh held Cupid, he told Cupid that it was ok, that he could “go home”.  At that instant Cupid began to fade away.  The only one to ever see this before was Abbie, she seen him start to disappear the day they met, but that time Cupid stayed.

As Josh gathered up the items Cupid left behind, he realized that Cupid left his bow and arrow, his backpack, and his helmet.  Cupid respected his friend enough, knew that Josh was a good enough person, that despite his feelings, his love for one, that he would put others chances for happiness in front of his own.

He noticed that the get well card from Abbie had never disappeared.  It was in the exact same spot that Cupid placed it in when Abbie died.  Next to it now there was a small stone in the shape of a heart.  On it in Cupids handwriting it said “Abbie, the one true love of the one that granted true love”

 

“Honey, all these years, this is where I come.  I come to see my friends. I haven’t seen Abbie since grade school, but I know she’s here.  Same with Cupid, he is home.”  Josh reached into his coat pocket and pulled out 2 cards, one for Abbie and one for Cupid.  He laid them both on the ground, next to the bench.  Although the ground was covered in leaves and snow, you could see little glimpses of paper and ribbons from previous years, the memories written down by Josh on the cards he brings every year.  There was an outline of the heart shaped too.  Josh didn’t bother to uncover it, he knew it was still there, magically protected by the true love of Cupid for Abbie.

 

As Josh sat and reflected on the past, the woman touched his hair again.  As he turned to her she asked “After all these years, all the heartache, pain, loneliness, why are you sharing this with me now?  Josh, I love you with all my heart, and we will make it.  Together, we will be together forever.”  Josh smiled and reached under the bench.  As he pulled out an old backpack, he said to her, “Abigail, you are my one true love.  I have more to tell you.  I want our son, Abe, to have this”.  He pulled the helmet, the bow, and arrows from the backpack.  “You know, Abigail, I have been sick for a long time.  I will not be around much longer and wanted our son to know about me.  To know about Abbie and Cupid, of true love.  He is very young now, just a baby, and may have no memories.  I know that you will miss me, and I will miss you.  I think that Abe will be the one that can bring true love to others.”  With that, Josh handed Abigail the backpack.

 

A young brown eyed boy, elementary school age, and his mother were walking in the park.  The boy asks his mom “Why doesn’t anyone ever sit at that bench?  Is it broken?”  The lady looks at the boy, gives a gentle smile and tells him “It is not broken.  Actually, it couldn’t be more perfect.  I think today is a great day to sit there. I have a wonderful story to tell you.”

 

 

A moment in my mind

Darkness looms

Inescapable pain, will it pass this time…

Soundless cries of sorrow, for pity

Standing one foot on the edge, firm foundation of strong souls
One foot over the edge, no balance, 
Don’t fall. 

It’s unavoidable
False hope, it’s a tunnel?
Light at the end? I pray, please let it be
Too dark to see light
The liquid will help, but only for a moment
Sleep only doubles the dark, doubles the fear
Rise up, be strong, no choice, surrounded by my rocks
I control the dark, it will not master me

Into the light, healing
My life is an endless mountain range, back into the tunnel
Brace for the pain, more than last, but I’m stronger than ever

2,190 Days

2,190 days ago I sat in the Emergency Room alone when my world came crashing down.

I had been out of school for a few years, working in a job in radiology that I absolutely loved.  My children were happy and healthy, my wife had a solid career going, we just signed a contract on our dream home, life was great.

In the early part of July 2009 I flew out to Denver to see my brother Joe.  I wanted to see him play in his band, Blame Paul, who had just released their first CD.  You see, I had went into the military a few years out of high school and never seen him play in high school or college so this was a great opportunity to catch up.  During my trip there I had a headache come on, just a little nagging one that a few Motrin should help.  They didn’t.  I figured maybe I’m having allergy issues so upon returning home I started taking allergy medicines.

I didn’t really think much about the headache for a few weeks, it never got worse, but never went away either.  I still figured it was allergies, or lack of caffeine (my vice), so I medicated more and drank more coffee, to no avail.  It actually got to the point that I was taking large amounts of aspirin and Motrin, just to take the edge off.

Eventually the headache did get worse and started to really dictate what I would do daily.  I dealt with it at work, but when I got home all I wanted to do was sleep.  It wasn’t a way to live, not at all but it was the only thing that helped.  I guess deep down I knew that I needed to see a doctor, but didn’t want to go for whatever reason.

I finally went to see my primary doctor on a Friday, who prescribed me aspirin with caffeine and a muscle relaxer.  Loaded up with meds I looked forward to finally NOT having a headache.  The following day was my wife’s birthday and we had plans to go to Disney Land for the day.  Unfortunately the medications didn’t work at all, so I stayed home and slept.

The next day I went to a Walk-In Urgent care clinic and was given a steroid to go along with the other medications, as well as stronger muscle relaxer.  I slept well that night, but had a worse headache the next morning.

Now a word of advice, if you take a medication for 3 days and get no relief, go back to the doctor. Oh, and don’t wait a month to see a doctor for something that effects your life style.

On that Monday I didn’t go into work, instead I had my wife take me to the Emergency Room at the regional trauma hospital in the afternoon.  There wasn’t too long of a wait, and they got me back relatively quickly.  The first thing they did was start an IV called the “headache buster” which had three or four different migraine medications mixed together.  It was FANTASTIC!!! I couldn’t remember how long I had the headache, but I knew it was at least a month.  This was the first time I can remember not being in pain.  In the meantime, a non-contrast CT scan was ordered to check my brain, to make sure it was where it was supposed to be.

When the CT department was ready for me a nurse came and unhooked my IV and took me to the radiology department for my scan. I couldn’t have been gone for more than 15 minutes.

When I returned from the CT my wife was waiting for me, but it was getting late.  She had to leave to go take care of the kids.  As I sat there by myself my headache started to creep back, minute by minute I became more aware of its presence.  Within an hour it was full-blown pain.  It felt as if the muscles in the back of my neck were pulling off my skull and my cowboy brain was using my optic nerves as reigns.

About an hour after the CT the doctor came around to see how I was feeling, said the CT was “clean”, no bleeds or anything.  He couldn’t believe that the pain had returned once the IV had run out, it just didn’t make sense.  We reviewed my history, the timeframe, the medications, the symptoms.  One thing that I had told him stood out, the fact that the headache pain had actually woke me up from a deep sleep a few times.  Apparently that’s kind of a big red flag….who knew?

The meeting of the minds was called to order upon this new tid bit of information and a contrast MRI of my brain was ordered to be done asap, which meant in a few hours of so.  I sat there in pain, and slept, and tossed and turned, so uncomfortable, miserable, just wanting the pain to stop.

Somewhere in the fog I was taken to the MRI and scanned.  Nearly an hour of brutal banging, clicking, smashing, cramped, time of not being able to move, scratch an itch, or even swallow.  Its just wide enough in the machine for my shoulders to go in with slight rubbing, or, its so narrow that once I’m in there to my waist I cannot move my arms.  UGH.

Sometime later, around 3am a Neuro-surgery resident came into my little place in the ER.  The funny thing is, I know this guy from the operating room at the hospital that I work at.  I would occasionally do x-rays during his spine surgery cases.

He must have been thinking the same thing when he came in because we both said “Hey, I know you!  What the hell are you doing here?”

(Here’s were the good part is)  A very serious look came across his face and he said “I have some very bad news for you. You have a brain tumor in about the worst place possible.  And worse yet, it has your optic nerve and carotid artery encapsulated and flipped over each other.  However, we have the BEST surgeon in the eastern US to do your surgery.  I can get you into seeing him in 2 weeks, but you may have a stroke and die before you make it to surgery.”

The next 10 seconds will stick in my mind forever.  The doctor said “Are you ok?”

Imagine if you will, you have a great job, you spouse does too, healthy kids, new home….the American dream!!!  Gone, just like that.  My wife will be a widow, my children fatherless, a huge mortgage for a new home, one that we picked out everything together.

Devastated. Broken.  Alone.  Scared.  Sad. Hopeless.  Anything you can think of that describe the worst feeling of loneliness and helpless.  In that second that’s what I felt, but definitely not “OK”.

He left me alone to do what I had to do.  I cried, and wept.  Out of selfishness for my own incomplete aspirations, for my wife being left, for my children being fatherless, my parents, my friends.

The next thing I had to do was call my wife and tell her.  It was so difficult, but she handled it amazingly well I must say.  She never shown weakness or fear, just the strength that we would beat this. I am a very lucky man to have this woman in my life.

I had to call my parents the next day and tell them.  Being that they live 900 miles away and are very concerned, they dropped everything and came to visit me and help my family with whatever they could.

The surgeon was able to determine a few days later that the worry for stroke was not so much as a concern, but was still able to move my surgery up a few weeks.

I made it through the surgery fine, and after a few days in the Neuro-ICU I was discharged home for recovery.  To say being forced to stay home for multiple weeks, unable to leave on my own, was difficult is an understatement.  It would be like on house arrest, while you fell like crap.

The surgeon allowed me to return to work six weeks to the day after my surgery.  I think that may have been the best choice for me, but possibly the worst also.  I mentally was ready to go work, and work hard, however, my skull wanted something else.

There were mornings that I would sit in the parking lot before work and cry, just because.  Maybe due to pain, or self pity.  Maybe it was because I was angry.  Angry that this happened to me.  Why do I have to go through all this and what have I done to deserve it?  I don’t know why, just guessing.  It very well may have been depression.  Not uncommon among people with that undergo brain surgery.  I fought those feelings a lot, even daily at first…  Sometimes I won and would put on my smile and can-do attitude and kick ass at work, but often I would mentally lose that battle, start my car up and go back home and wallow in self pity.

I don’t take losing well, but it is a part of life.  Some days I could only manage to make it through half the day and call it quits, pack my crap up and go home.  My goal was to make it half a day of work before going home, then make it a whole day, then two days…  I was blessed to have such great co-workers to be so understanding and for having a manager that was patient with my recovery.  The care and concern of those around me, the co-workers, supervisors, even the patients, they all kept me going.

Things got easier over time.  The fatigue lessened, the post-op headaches less frequent, the callouts farther in between.

I have had some problems afterward.  The tumor returned six months later and was very aggressive.   I had to have radiation 22 months after the original brain surgery (that’s another big ordeal, another story).  I had a few big concerns where I was told to go immediately to the ER due to the possibility of death from stroke.  Vision issues and palsy due to radiation.  There is a whole list of things that come along with brain tumors and their treatment, and no two persons are the same.

That’s all behind me now but I will always be looking over my shoulder, never let down my guard.  I surround myself with strong people that have my best interest at heart, that love me and support me.  I lean on those that will hold me up when I want to quit, they are my foundation.

It has been 2,190 days that I have been recovering.  It’s been 2,190 days straight that, no matter what, I am truly thankful for what I have, and that I feel blessed that I am here to enjoy it.

Don’t wait till some life changing event happens, make that change now.  Enjoy life, love those that love you, be kind to the ones that don’t.  Tell those that are important to you how much they really mean to you.

I have been LIVING for 2,190 days

9 Things Han Solo Taught Me About Being a Dad

Han is the MAN!!

Carter Gaddis

As a child of the ’70s, I considered Han Solo the epitome of manhood.

Fiercely independent, yet secretly sentimental. Skeptical, but willing to believe in magic if he sees it with his own eyes.

Secure enough in his own skin to pursue a princess, but not above taking a wide-eyed farm boy under his wing. Best friends with a Wookiee.

A lovable scoundrel who poses as a mercenary, but who deep down recognizes the best things in life are free.

In short — the ideal dad.

I readily acknowledge that my exposure to Star Wars at a young age shaped the adult I have become. And while Obi Wan was a superb mentor and Vader achieved redemption in the end, it was Han Solo who taught me the most about how to be a good dad.

Here are just a few examples of why I believe General Solo, who had not fathered children…

View original post 180 more words

I’m not that strong

This week marks the five year anniversary of a very, for lack of a better term, special day in my life. But first, let me tell you a little history.
I graduated from college in 2007, immediately took a job working in the VA Healthcare system, and was extremely happy. I loved my job, my wife had a great job, we had healthy kids, and everything was falling into place. In July 2009 we went to contract on our first new house with ground breaking the next month. A beautiful home in the country, a quiet neighborhood, great neighbors, what more could we ask for? It was our dream home!!
In the mean time I started to have some uncontrolled headaches, for about a month. The only relief I could find was sleep. After a few weeks of hibernation I went to my regular doctor (forced by my wife actually.) A few doctor visits and weekend clinic visits and multiple pain meds, muscle relaxers, steroids, later I finally decided to go to the ER.
In the ER, they did multiple test, labs, and CT scans when the doctors said they pegged it. I’ve had a month long migraine!! Only one problem, the Headache Buster IV ran out and the headache came back with a vengeance. More test and MRI’s!! Ultimately a neurosurgeon came in to discuss the findings. I had a tumor on the bottom of my brain about the size of a golf ball. Worse yet, it was in a bad spot, a very bad spot, the worst possible place surgical wise. Even worse than that, it had wrapped itself around my optic nerve and carotid artery (one of four main arteries that feed your brain). I knew what he was explaining to me was serious, just not how serious. What he told me next CRUSHED me. He said “we don’t know if you are going to make it to surgery. Potentially, you may have a stroke and die before we can get you in. On the good side, we have the best surgeon in the eastern United States. I can get you to see him in two weeks.” We discussed possible treatment and side effects/outcomes from surgery. Blindness. Stroke. Then death. And if I opted out of surgery. Blindness. Stroke. Then death. He then asked if I’m alright, to which I replied (sorry mom) “Fuck no! You just told me I might die at any time in the next few days!”
Now here I am, it’s 3am, I’m alone in the ER room, my wife had to leave to take care of our kids, and this bomb has been dropped on me. I’m gonna die. I cried, and cried, and cried some more. All I could think of is who’s going to take care of my daughters? My 3 year old is my world, and I hers. I can’t leave my baby. My older daughter is my “bonus” daughter, and she doesn’t need a third dad. How is my wife going to afford our new home? I can’t die. I can’t leave them. Never have felt so alone, so scared, helpless, lost.
I had to call my wife and tell her what’s happening. I had to call my mom and tell her. Those were the two hardest calls I have ever had to make. How do you tell them? Break it gently? How the hell do you candy coat that? “I got a great opportunity to test this neurosurgeons skills to see if he can help me cheat death.” Bullshit, it doesn’t work that way. I think it was more like incoherent babbling due to the snot sniffing and crying.
Well, as you can tell, I survived the surgery, but not without consequence. I was taking 90 oxy’s a week!!! Two every four hours around the clock. That stuff is amazing, and evil. A friend from the military lost a spouse due to them. I know it wrecked his family’s world. Dave, I’m so very happy you have pulled through those days, your boys are lucky to have a great dad like you. Seeing and hearing your pain made mine seem insignificant.
With the oxys, the pain, the fear of death, I’m sure I wasn’t a great person to be around. Hell, I didn’t like myself then either. Then came the withdrawals. The skin crawling, insomnia, depression, anger. The feeling of being held hostage in your own home, in your own body. Oh, I’ve been low before, but damn, never that low. And for no other reason except the drugs. Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease, at least that’s how it felt to me. I NEVER want to take those things again.
During my recovery a few of my friends came by, Mike from work and Mike from the military, they mowed my lawn and took me out of the house for a bit. Mario and his wife brought food. Food that I found out later that my family ate it all and didn’t give me any.
I had family come down and help some, my wife’s family help out too. My wife is strong person, through all of this she never cracked, broke down, or left me. She had it all under control. It wasn’t until a few years later that she told me that she cried all the time, just not in front of anyone. She had to be the one that held us together. She did just that.
I would like to say my recovery was good, as well as can be expected, but it wasn’t. I expected to wake up from the surgery blind in my left eye, that didn’t happen. I braced for the news that the tumor was cancer, but it wasn’t. However, after eight and a half weeks of missing work I was stir crazy, and returned earlier than I should have. I always tried to put on the positive face, the one that said “I got this! Life is good!” Every day was a struggle. A struggle to get out of bed. A struggle to go to work, to make it through ONE day without leaving early. I never “had this” nor was life “good”. I was broken, in pain, mentally and physically. And drained, no energy, emotionally flat. I wanted to give up. Every day, I wanted to crawl in a hole and disappear. Many times I’d get to the parking lot, call my boss to see if anyone called out, and if not I would call out and go home. I missed over 900 hours that year. She was a very good, empathetic boss.
One of the after effects of the brain surgery was memory loss. I do not remember much from before I was in the USAF. I don’t really remember high school, who I dated, who I fought with, who my friends were. I do remember a few, but not a lot. Most of my memories involve the Vampire Hunter. My mom sent me my yearbooks so I could look through and maybe jog a few memories. I couldn’t wait for the day that the box came, I was giddy as my daughter on Christmas. When that day came, inside the crushed box was a lemon juicer thingy. No yearbooks. No friend’s stupid little remarks about some obscure joke you had, or whatever. A damn lemon juicer!!! My attempts to get a search from the post office was fruitless, my history, the memories sought, gone. I was crushed, again.
Social media can be a real pain in the ass, but for me it was a chance to start new. A few of my memories of friends came via Myspace and FaceBook. Conversations with old friends led to reestablishing relationships with other friends, and soon enough I had more memories and more friends than I ever thought possible. Things were looking up.
Dawson
Dawson get a section to his own, he deserves it and so much more.
During my recovery I noticed that an old friend Michelle would post about Dawson, so I asked who he was. She said that Dawson was a little boy born in November of 2008 and was the grandson of another person we were in school with. When Dawson was about 2 years old he was diagnosed with a brain tumor, but his was cancer. November of 2010 it was classified as stage 4, soon after they did surgery. I was following Dawson’s recovery online, and always praying. I asked “Why him? This boy, always with a smile on his face, surrounded with love. Why?”
In April of 2011 Dawson had the news that his tumor was gone after 30 rounds of radiation. I, on the other hand, had been informed that my tumor had returned and that I had to be treated with radiation. Going through the radiation was difficult to say the least, but I would think of Dawson and know that he done it, and I need to just deal with it.
Every morning before work I looked forward to see how Dawson was. His bravery, strength, to go through what he did. I prayed for him, and for other children. I asked everyone to pray for Dawson too.
In September of 2011 I was informed that the radiation had worked on my tumor, it had shrunk 25% and was not believed to be cancer. On the other hand, Dawson’s MRI that month shown multiple tumors. In October of 2011 they had his 3rd birthday party early. Dawson died that month, one month shy of being 3.
To this day I cry when I think of him. That strong, smiling, little boy that had more bravery and courage than I. That little boy that for half of his short life called a hospital home. He will never know how much he moved me. He is why I never quit, never gave up. Dawson’s journey made the world seem so cruel, yet beautiful. I would wallow in self-pity, he only knew love from others and had no self-pity. I had been given my health back, his was taken away. I hope Buzz goes with him to infinity and beyond.
There is a lot more to my story, but may be later told. I want to leave you with a few things that I learned in the last five years.

Find your Rocks.
You do not need to go through life suffering alone. Surround yourself with people who care for you, that love you. One person may not help you the whole way, all those individuals can. All those little rocks, use them, lean on them, let them hold you up, they will build a foundation for you. We all need a little help sometimes. Maybe a kind word, a joke to get a smile, or a friend to listen to you when you’re down. Remember them on the good days, thank them, and appreciate them. Also, be there for them, be their rocks, support them when they need it.

Don’t wait.
Why it that it isn’t until someone faces something life threatening that they change? We go through your life going a mile a minute, so fast that we don’t get to see that we live in a beautiful world. I have a cousin, Jason that travels the world for work. He takes time out though to do some photography, and quite an amazing eye he has. He appreciates the beauty of the world around him, captures it with his lens. I don’t have the opportunity to travel like he does, but I do take country roads when I travel, when possible. The back roads, off the beaten path, that’s where the beauty lies.

Slow your life down and LIVE!!! Make a new friend, go somewhere you always wanted, chase that lifelong dream and make it reality. I always wanted a dog and a son. We were lucky enough to be in a position to help out a young man that has done well in life, and we are very proud of him. Richard may not be my son by birth, but he will always be a part of my life, and will always welcome in my home. And the dog, well a childhood friend reached out to me after losing contact over 25 years ago. He said that I was always good to him in grade school and he wanted to repay me with a bulldog. Mike sent me Blue, and now my life is complete…

Tell special people that they are special. Tell them NOW! You are missing the chance to make meaningful, lifelong friendships and everlasting memories if you wait.

I’m a two time THRIVER, because surviving isn’t good enough!!!

A special thanks to Sandra, my parents, a bunch of guys named Mike (or Michael), the Torres-Ortiz family, Michelle, Kerri, Debbie doc and her sister Rachel (and Wayno to an extent) Hans the Pastafarian, Lucy, Dana, Rocky, Rebecca, Felisa, Tracey, Hootie, Jules, Brutha Tuck, Big Steve, Notre Dame Dave, Crackshot, Doug, Peter, Salette. I know there a many, many more rocks, I’d love to name you all…

Time-Travel and Fish Vengeance: They Just Don’t Mix

I may have to become a Craigslist troll

The Byronic Man

This is a recent, and real, posting on Craigslist, here where I live.  I’ve kept it exactly as is, except for removing information which might reveal identity or contact information:

In need of a time travel companion (please take this seriously)

I have a functioning time machine I know it sounds unbelievable, but “I assure you it works.” I need a second person to operate it with me. I’m looking for someone who is adventurous and reliable. Preferably a female that can do heavy lifting.

I am leaving on July 31st, in the morning and plan to return August 3rd. I am going to June 1988 to handle some business. If you are serious about time travel and are reliable, then please contact me.

You do not have to pay anything, but you will need to pack light. I will be conducting interviews in the next couple of days. The only qualifications…

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That damn BB gun

Now there are traumatic things we see, such as car wrecks, and traumatic things that happen to us, such as getting mugged in an alley on a dark night. These things get ingrained in our thinking, our conscious and subconscious thinking. They may change the way we think, travel, or where we go. We drive safer, slower, maybe buy a better car. Maybe we dont go to certain parts of a town or stay out of bars. It becomes a part of our lives, we control it, just as it controls us.

I wrote before about our hunting party and the weaponry at my brothers disposal, but I didn’t tell you about how my brother became such an adept hunter, especially in the dark.

My childhood home was a ranch style home out in the country. We had a basement in the home that was partially finished. Now, picture this, a dark basement with a wall down the middle, only two windows and a door on one side of the wall, and no windows on the other side. This dark side became, well, the dark side for me. Jeff would “convince” me to come “play” in the basement. The convincing and the playing were never reall a suggestion, and I had no options to do otherwise, it just was how it worked out.

Now that you get the idea of where we were and how I got there, I’m gonna tell you why. Jeff happened to come across a large box of wooden matches. If I were a betting man I would bet that Jeff already had and idea of what he wanted to do first, then found the tools he needed to carry out his “training”. Most likely he took them from our camping supplies that were in our camper. Anyway, Jeff wanted to practice hunting in the dark, which I did not understand at the time what the hell it had to do with me. I found out shortly there after.

Jeff got out his bb gun. It was a nice one, way better thant the Red Rider that used a spring to project the balistic. His gun was an air rifle, but not the CO2 type, it was the “pump” type. If you are not familiar with this type, it basically had a handle under the barrel that you could pump several times, which then built up the pressure in the chamber, therefore sending the desired projectile at a much faster rate. I have seen Jeff shoot many birds, bullfrogs, and rabbits with his gun. Getting back to my story, Jeff shown me that the wood matches fit perfectly down the barrel of the rifle, and that if you pumped it up enough and shot it the concrete wall in the basement, the match would ignite. Pretty cool, huh? NO, it wasn’t.

Where it gets bad now, and what I should have seen coming (even at a young age of 8, I already knew that Jeff was devious, but he just took it to another level) was what Jeff told me next. I asked Jeff what any of this has to do with me, why am I here. I figured maybe it would be to help him aim, or tell him where he hit the target, if he hit it at all. NOPE!! He said that if he could hunt in the dark, without a light source to scare off the prey, he would be the ultimate hunter. Still, I didn’t understand how it involved me.

Then, Jeff turned and aimed the loaded gun at me and said “run!” Oh the hell that rained down on me…

Now, it is a scientifically proven fact that a wood match, shot at a concrete wall with relatively low velocity, will ignite. When done on the dark side of a basement with no windows or doors, the small explosion will give off just enough light to, but only for a split second, see your prey.

If said ballistic match hits human skin, no matter the velocity, it will NOT ignite. However, the screams of pain from a certain 8 yr old kid that has been shot and hit will, for only a split second, give away his position.

I try to convey a moral or lesson from my stories, something to take away and apply to adult life. I cant for the life of me see one in this story, except maybe that you should never leave wood matchs anywhere that a devious kid with a pump bb gun might get ahold of them.

To this day I do not like going into unlit basements, I do not have a bb gun, and I exclusively use book matches.

You choose

I don’t have many memories of my early childhood, which may or may not be for the better. I do have a few specific ones though, and every once in a while something triggers a new one.

I just returned from paying my respects to a dear childhood friend, Laura. Our families went camping over the summers in the early and mid 1970’s. Laura and her brother, Craig, were near the same ages as my older brother (the vampire slayer) and I.

Our friendship was that typical childhood friendship, innocent, fun, and I guess fleeting. We would all go riding our bike around the campground, catch crawdads, walk the trails, and tell stories around the campfire. I don’t have specific memories, just a good happiness when I think of her.

Over the years we drifted apart, went to different schools, moved to different towns. It was not on bad terms or anything, we just grew up.

It pains me now as I reflect on those memories, and saddens me that someone that, in my mind, had been such a part of my childhood summers, is gone.

We may hear things about someone’s failures, bad decisions, or lifestyle. Those are one persons perspective, one persons ideals, one persons beliefs. I do NOT choose to believe others stories nor buy into others point of view. I DO choose to remember her from MY experiences. I choose how to respect a family that lost. I chose to honor her in my own way.

You may choose to remember the same way as I do, or you may choose to reach out and rekindle a lost relationship. I will now do more to make memories rather than look for lost ones.

5 Little Words

Being prior military and working in a VA medical facility, I pride myself on my ability to relate to the veterans and am able to provide better care. One of the things I do is to thank every veteran for their service, something that they can never be told enough.

One day I was doing an exam on a former US Army Infantry Member, a gentleman that by his appearance and attitude, has had a rough go of it. Short on words, personality, and especially temper, he didn’t seem to want to be there or to have small talk. Once the exam was over, as I held the door for him, I said “Thank you for your service.” I dont think he could have spun around on me faster, pointing his finger at me. As I seen the hardend look on his face fade and become saddened, hidden behind a slight smile, the soldier said “I served in Vietnam, when I came back I was told how horrible I was, that people wished I had died over there. Thats the first time in over 40 years have I been thanked.”

Sometimes those five little words can change how a person has felt for decades…..maybe…