Wow, what a year!

It’s been an insanely busy year for me, thus my complete lack of posts.

Not that there’s anyone who really reads here to keep up, but this was once an outlet for things that bother me or discussions I found interesting. The “Bible” writing has gone by the side as my real life took so many twists and turns, as have the general posts about life and family. It’s not that I haven’t had anything I could write about though. To the contrary, I have had a million things to write about but some things just don’t need to be in a public forum such as this one.

I intend to start again, in a different location, with my musings as things move along. I am not sure where I will write, but I expect this to be my final post on this now-forgotten blog.

Perhaps I will write anonymously in order to have an outlet for my thoughts, and so that the parties and/or events I discuss won’t be under pointed “public” scrutiny, even when it would be appropriate.

For the couple of you that have read the posts I placed in this location, thank you.

We’ll see what the future holds. If I knew for sure, it’s possible I would share. Right now though, I don’t know either. My crystal ball started to malfunction and show me untruths about 5 months ago.. so who knows at this point.

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“You’re one of THOSE guys”

I have been considering writing this story for some time, but for various reasons it hasn’t been written. With Valentine’s Day now merely a large set of headlights in our rear view mirror, I find the timing appropriate. Many people dread Valentine’s Day and the associated “pressure” they may feel… personally I am completely indifferent to it, and I am supremely glad that the special woman in my life agrees with me in this regard. Honestly, I can’t presume to take the credit for her indifference, but I have no doubt that I reinforce her feeling about it. I’ll explain…

Some months ago, the very special woman in my life was having a bad day at work, so I went to a florist and ordered some flowers to be delivered to her at work that same day. I selected something meaningful and suitable, and the lady behind the counter had gone in the back to coordinate with the other florist (was delivered to another town) for the delivery as I was ordering very near or perhaps momentarily beyond the “deadline” for same day delivery.

Another guy comes into the flower shop and tells another store clerk that he NEEDS to be buy flowers… he has $30 to spend. He picked something that I thought was rather “bleh,” but whatever.. and the lady leaves to construct the other customers selection so he can carry them away when he leaves. I was standing at the counter during his conversation with the store clerk, and I know that he was buying flowers because he had done something to piss her (the lady in his life) off.

As he and I stand near each other waiting for the completion of our respective transactions, the following conversation occurred:

Other Guy (OG): So, what did you do?
Me: Nothing.
OG: So why are you buying flowers?
Me: Because she’s having a bad day…
OG: What do you do when you piss her off?
Me: I apologize.
OG: Oh, you’re one of THOSE guys.
Me: Huh?
OG: You’re one of those guys that guys gifts and does things for your woman for no reason, and make the rest of us look bad because we only buy things on holidays or when we’re in trouble.
Me: Sir, I don’t make you look bad… you do.
OG: Get her all warmed up for me, and I’ll have her next year and will let you know what’s up.
I actually laughed at him for a moment at this point, and then regained my composure
Me: Fat chance bud, you can’t even keep the lady you have now happy. I’ve ruined mine for people like you. She now has realistic expectations that you can’t live up to. She’s used to be treated like she’s precious, important and loved. She’s cherished, and she knows it.
Other Guy rolls his eyes a bit

Some people just don’t understand at all.

The very next time I was buying flowers, I was in a grocery store and just happened to be standing in line behind another guy buying flowers. Would you believe I had almost exactly the same conversation again? I absolutely did, sans the part where the other guy told me he would “have her next year.”

Check it out folks. If you only do something nice for someone because it’s a special occasion or because you’ve pissed your partner off, you’re totally missing the boat. Christmas isn’t special because it’s Christmas. It’s special because we’ve MADE IT SPECIAL. We enjoy family and friends a little more, we go out of our way to be nice to each other.. it’s a great time of year. There’s far less “asshole-ery” in the world around Christmas.

Anniversary’s aren’t special because it’s the day you were married, or your first kiss, or whatever “Stupid-versary” you celebrate. It’s special because you intentionally MAKE IT SPECIAL.

Well, why is a random Tuesday any different? Do something nice. Buy flowers just because. Leave a love note.

Quick word about love notes. I bought dozens of blank cards in a pack. They all have the same design, and all come in a purple envelope. I write encouraging/loving things in them and my special lady gets them from time to time, at random times of day and in random places. From the reaction I get, it seems that at this point what I have written inside is far less important than the fact that I’ve done it at all. When she finds one of her purple envelopes, she gets excited. This single act has taught me much about gift giving and doing nice things for people. It really isn’t the THING.. it’s that you’ve bothered to do it. Back to the flowers…

If you only buy flowers or do randomly nice things because a holiday is telling you to, or because you’re in trouble, you aren’t doing those things for your partner at all. You’re doing them for yourself. So you don’t feel neglectful during holidays, or so she won’t be mad at you.

Do something JUST for your partner sometime. You’ll be amazed at the results.

I’m helping you out, the image is a link.
purple flowers

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“Sound” Advice

People argue.

I know this is a shocker, right?!?

Countries engage in wars over differing opinions, people engage in fist fights over words, and couples scream at each other over emotions. I’m 41 years old, with a plethora of “life experience” behind me, and I’ve come to a grand conclusion with regard to arguments. Honestly, it’s a method to minimize and then resolve the issue being argued about. This advice, this simple “program” of only three simple steps is so amazing and guaranteed to work, that I’ll gladly refund to you your purchase price if you aren’t 110% satisfied. Amazing! No need to watch any cheesy videos or slideshows. There are no mailing lists to join, simply continue to read this article and I’ll tell you how to minimize your argument to the point that you can resolve the issue about which you are arguing. Ready? Here goes…

Step 1) Take 5 deep breaths.

Calm down… relax… if it’s a life or death situation, call 9-1-1 before you take the deep breaths, but you damn well better get to it. Stress and anger, the emotions that are most likely causing you to yell, will be somewhat quelled. You can NOT skip this step, it’s important.

Step 2) Lower your voice.

Nothing will change if you don’t change it yourself and when you are yelling, your “opponent” feels attacked. Don’t do it… just use a normal voice.

Step 3) Talk.

What are you arguing ABOUT? You may have been yelling about the kids, or the checkbook, or the burnt corn on the stove but you likely were not arguing BECAUSE of any of those things. Set aside the “object” of the discussion, and discuss why it got so heated so you can determine the underlying issue.

That’s it! End of lesson, 3 easy steps and you’re now well educated on improved inter-personal communications and relationships.

If not satisfied, kindly submit, to the email address associated with this article, in .jpg format, your proof of purchase, actual UPC code, credit card statement showing date you made your purchase, and a letter of no more or less than 417.5 words stating the reasons you require a refund, and I will happily refund to you the entirety of your purchase price of $0, minus shipping and handling, state and local taxes, and an 87% re-stocking fee.

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Open letter to an adult son

My son,

I can still remember the day you were born. I was so scared for you, and for me. Scared for you because you weren’t immediately healthy, and scared for me in that I had to learn how to keep you that way (healthy). I had to learn to be a mentor, something which I had no experience. I remember laying on the couch with you in my arms, wondering what you would become and what you would do. Would you take after me? Would I act in a way that was worth following? I was barely 22 myself, and my eyes weren’t yet open to the world yet.

I can still picture making “forts” in your room of blankets and chairs, and them building a bed for you to sleep in within the fort. I remember laying inside the fort with you (my lower body would stick out, only head and chest was inside), and with a flashlight, reading to you.

I remember coming home from work exhausted and you couldn’t wait to tell me about the new deck you had built with your pokemon cards, and how you were going to win at the league I always took you to on Friday nights after a 60+ hour work week. I always had to be up early and at work Saturday morning, but this was important to you and you so loved to go, so I made it important to me. I don’t think we missed a week.

I can remember punishing you, and then feeling guilty.. wondering if I was punishing you for being the person that I was teaching you to be or whether your actions were of your own creation. In hindsight, I think it was a little of both.

I can remember the many arguments we’ve had. We disagreed so vehemently and with such frequency, one might think we enjoyed it. I didn’t. I held my ground when we argued because I had to, because there was something valuable to be expressed/learned from the action.

We have certainly had our share of differences, but in the end you made a good choice and are following your dreams. I can’t ask for more than that.

When we found out you were going to be a father, I was terrified for you. You were younger than me, and I knew you weren’t ready. You have really “stepped up to the plate” and are doing a good job at being the best father you can be. I know the choice you’ve made was a hard one, but it is the best thing for your son. He’ll appreciate the decision and thank you for it someday. If it is necessary to be away from those you love in order to take care of them, that’s what you do, and you have.

We spent many years at odds, you and I, and I didn’t tell you as often as I should have. I do, very much, and I’m proud of who you’ve become. The world is your oyster my son. Give it all you’ve got, and you will reap the rewards.

Never quit, no matter what you’re doing. Make a decision and then stay the course. If you want to be the best soldier ever, don’t ever stop learning and trying, and you’ll get there. If you want to go to college, go, and work as hard as you can; little man is counting on you.

I’m honored that you’ve followed in my footsteps. I’m proud that you saw our career (mine and now yours) is worth doing… that it’s worth doing because it is honorable and people need someone to do it for them, because, for the most part, they can’t do it for themselves.

I love you buddy.


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A daunting task

I am sitting in my house in Maryland… the movers come in 6 days and my task is to get ready. Alas, with all of the life changes occurring the time leading up to today has been filled with phone calls that include “what about X, do you want it?”

I’m preparing to move from one household to two. In those two households, there will be less space available than there presently is in the single house. The majority of the items are going to one of the homes, with only a few select things going to the other. Generally, in such situations as mine, there is an equitable split of the household, but I am just not interested in the fight that often creates. I don’t need the couch or the chairs… I couldn’t care less about the towels, pots or pans. It’s all just “stuff.” I can buy more stuff. I don’t even like a lot of the “stuff” here. Unfortunately, there IS some stuff that I want that has been destroyed in a bitter fit of “he’s such an asshole.”

Gifts that have been given are the property of the one who receives it, all other items are owned by BOTH parties… and the few little trinkets I wanted have been thrown away. “I didn’t want it, it was a reminder of ‘us’,” she said. I don’t really see it that way, and honestly, that’s not necessarily a bad thing in my mind anyway. There was one particular item that I really wanted that we had purchased in Germany. We used to purchase wine that a store made. They were very fruity tasting and many of them were good. We so frequented this store, that I bought a stand that you placed the bottle in and it was surrounded by 5 little wine glasses. It didn’t remind me of “us,” it was a reminder of the 3 years I enjoyed in Germany… of the good times with friends… of the amazing places I went and things I saw. Well, she threw it away because she didn’t want it. Thanks for making that decision for me…

Alas, that’s not the daunting part. I have several boxes of Army “stuff” I have accumulated over my 20 year career… books, equipment, comfort items I bought to make my life easier. Those boxes are the problem.

The books are outdated. The equipment is no longer authorized. I don’t need the comfort items anymore, my days of going on military exercises and training events are gone. No more fights for me… That is what I am having trouble dealing with. The boxes are large and full. I am confidant that I could just drag them all straight to the curb and let the garbage man take them entirely. For the most part, I’ve not gone into them in years. I don’t think I can do that though.

I am headed into the basement to sift through them… to remove each item from its home and relive the memories, ponder the friends that made those times so fun. It’s a task I have pondered and procrastinated, but it’s one I must now accomplish.

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more…”

And only once more.

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This is par for the course. I get involved in too many things, and the least important ones get pushed to the side as the more important things on my list get crossed off (that IS the way it’s supposed to work!). Writing a blog that four friends and my mother read is pretty low on the list… but I haven’t forgotten about this at all. The Pauper’s Bible will continue at some point in the future, I just don’t have the time for it right now. Honestly, I am probably the only person that thinks it’s funny anyway, so it will get done when it gets done. It is what it is.

This post is about persistence, and I must begin by calming all of the grammar police. Yes, I am well aware I incorrectly spelled it in the title. We all have “trouble words.” Some people don’t know their there from their they’re. Some people haven’t the foggiest where the apostrophe belong when applying an “s” to an otherwise singular, non possessive word. For whatever reason, I seem to always spell persistence incorrectly. I am eternally grateful that there are no other words like it, and spell check can tap me on the temple when I do so and fix me up. There! I know it doesn’t have an “a.” Now you know, that I know, that it doesn’t have an “a.” Let’s get on with it…

persistence – noun /pərˈsɪstəns/ the attitude or behavior of someone who continues to do, or try to do, something in a determined way

As I VERY slowly traversed the area of undergraduate education, I posted from time to time online about my current “status” as a student. Often, I would just gripe about taking on too much as I found myself behind the desired pace. As it is, I spent six years completing the last two years of college for my Bachelor’s degree, and I found myself struggling during the last year. Not because the courses were any more of less difficult though. I struggled because I wanted to finish before I retired from the Army so I could move on to something else and have a completed degree so that more doors would be open for me. As I trudged forward, I saw a very kind and encouraging post from my cousin Patty. She is a professional writer and has commented in the past on some of my musings, and they are always very positive and supportive. This time, however, she said something along the line of “I often use you as an example of persistence.” That single line made me pause. It was nice to know I could be used as a practical example in random conversations, and living in Seattle I am sure Patty tires of talking about the weather (yes, more rain.. we know…). I suppose spending six years completing two years of college qualifies.

I had thought frequently about being a lawyer over the years. It’s a field I am interested in, and to be frank, I believe I could do well in with my personality (those of you that know me, know what I mean). I was surrounded by people, however, that were afraid to take chances. Had I tried to go to law school, there would have been arguments and dissent over how to survive and pay the tuition, what about all of the student loans, etc… One day, a very dear (my best) friend told me just to try. If I get in, I can figure out the money side. If it’s a dream, chase it. I slowly nod my head up and down as I’m hearing all of this, and with very little hesitation I decided to at least give it a shot. I set about studying for the LSAT. For those unfamiliar, it’s a heinous test that is used to help determine potential success in law school and the legal field. There are ridiculous questions requiring paths of logical thinking/reasoning that just don’t come easily to most people. I had about 75 days or so to study for the test, and reading online tells me that many people spend months and months studying.. and my score reflected my rapid decision to test. I scored just a couple of points above the national average.

By the time I got my “stuff” together, there was only one law school of my few choices (those near enough my daughter that I can see her with any type of regularity). It just so happens to be the school I preferred because it would allow me to have the 50-50 custody with my daughter that she and I both need, . I applied with my mediocre (at best) grades and LSAT score and hoped for the best. Generally, law schools don’t do interviews. Your records and writings speak for themselves. A few weeks after I applied, I got a phone call. It was the assistant dean of admissions. The short version is a retired military lawyer, and he let me in. I’m almost 41 years old… I’m a grandfather… and I’m starting over with a bunch of 20 somethings, and I couldn’t be more excited. I AM persistAnt, regardless of how you spell it. There is something out there I want, and I intend to go get it.

If you’re a future classmate, grab my shirt tails… I’m gonna own this!


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Goodbye Mr Grapes

It is important to begin by stating that today is March 27, 2012. Today is also Tuesday. It was my intention to be making this journey on Wednesday, but I presently find myself exhausted from lack of sleep and a far too early “screaming at” by my alarm clock, hurling through the air in a giant, shiny dart.
I was just “home” visiting my family in California after X-mas last year, and it has thus been less than 3 months since I was there with them. To visit so frequently is very unusual as I live in Maryland and I generally find that I don’t have the financial means by which to visit with any flavor of regularity. Today I find myself rushing back “home” on a vacation I don’t want to take.

I am flying home to say goodbye to my grandfather, goodbye to “Grapes.”

As I see him so irregularly, I notice the changes in his appearance with each visit I make. There have times over the years when I did not make it home for more than a year, so the visual differences and physical changes that my family and friends go through seem dramatic to me. To those of my family that live nearby and see each other often, the new gray hairs and fresh wrinkles that display the ripening of our bodies aren’t as noticeable. They slowly and gradually appear, with no neon advertisements announcing their arrival unless the owner creates such a ruckus. Things are very different for me when I come home though.
I witness the worry on my mothers face as she strains under the pressure of caring for her aging parents who are toddler-like once again. I can hear the stress in her voice, and she wears her frustration on the outside like a carnival mask. She is, when dealing with her dementia ridden mother (my “Granny”), a different lady. Over the last couple of years my grandparents have rapidly required more and more assistance, for the last six to eight months, they really should have had round the clock care. My mother was, after years of beating her drum to the song “move away from the snow,” finally successful last fall in convincing my grandparents that they needed to move. In all actuality it was “Grapes” who one day out of nowhere exclaimed, “I can’t spend another winter up here.” So, after spending a couple months of discussing it “Granny” seven or eight times a day as if it were the first time, they moved. My mother and her husband found a senior living community in the foothills of the Sierra’s, away from the heavy winter snows of Lake Tahoe and the family packed “Granny and Grapes” and they moved to their new home just three or four minutes from my mother.

I mentioned that I just recently visited, and I do so to explain that this was my first time seeing my grandparents outside of their house in Lake Tahoe in more than 30 years. My mother had described their new living situation to me and I understood all too well that they now required at least the level of assistance that this facility provided but I wasn’t really prepared for the scene that unfolded when I crossed the threshold for the first time. My grandfather is a shadow of the man I remember, his cheeks now shallow as his appetite has become less and less lately, and while I can clearly visualize standing in the street in front of the house with him throwing a baseball back and forth, I can hardly believe this is the same man.
“Granny” sees my mother enter the two bedroom apartment and notices there are other people in tow (my younger sister and I). I witness a flash of confusion envelope my grandmothers face, but it is slowly and obviously replaced by her natural desire to be hospitable. I’ve spoken to “Granny” on the phone repeatedly and I often have to tell her who I am, who’s child I am, and answer the same questions five or six times during the conversation. I thought I was ready for what happened next, but I wasn’t. As her desire to be polite surfaced, “Granny” looked at me following my mother into the apartment and feeling the familiarity of my mother, she deduced correctly that I am related to her and exclaimed “Oh! How nice to be visited by one of my handsome relatives.” She hasn’t a clue who I am.
Before we even entered the building I could sense that my mother is on edge, and when we walked through the apartment door, it was like someone spilled “anxiety paint” all over my mom’s body. Her brow furled as she walked briskly around the apartment taking care of the tasks that her parents can no longer remember to do themselves, and she does it all alone. Her brothers are of no assistance in this effort. My mother attends to her tasks of gathering the dirty laundry, sorting mail, separating and distributing medications… I am sitting across the living room from my grandmother, who is looking out the window, holding a cup of coffee in her left arm which is in a sling. Her right hand is swollen and black, broken from the same fall just two days previous that placed her arm in the sling… the cast she is supposed to be wearing is on the table next to the coffee she claims to be “drinking,” although it has sat so long it is now the same temperature as the air in the room. I’m told she’s wearing the same nightgown that she’s been wearing all week. I spoke calmly and repeatedly to “Granny,” inviting her to get dressed and then I would assist her in putting her cast on.
“What cast?”
“The one right there on the table,” I respond as I point at the item.
“What’s that for?”
“Your hand.”
“My hands are fine.”
“Look down, the one that’s all black… it’s not supposed to be. You should be wearing your cast.”
“Yes sir, Doctor,” she responds with the look she’s made my entire life when she makes a smart-ass comment and I feel for a second like I’ve gotten somewhere, but as fast as the look of recognition appeared, it vanished.
Later, when my mother has done her parents weekly laundry, she notices that “Grapes” had 7 pairs of drawers, 3 pairs of pants, 7 pairs of socks and 7 t-shirts. A reasonable expectation for a week’s worth of dirty clothes. “Granny” has one dirty nightgown.
“Granny” is already gone, replaced by some strange replica that looks and walks like “Granny”, but doesn’t talk anything like her… doesn’t know like she knew.

This story isn’t about “Granny” though, it’s about “Grapes.”
I mentioned how skinny he looked to me when I saw him after Christmas, and when my mother called and told me that he had lost 20 pounds in the last 6 weeks I had a good idea where this story was leading. After a week or two of doctor appointments and lab visits, we’ve learned he has stomach cancer. He’s unable to eat because his stomach is filled with the diseased growth so he’s losing weight faster than I could have ever imagined. As it was relayed to me, this is how the appointment with the doctor went when he learned of the disease that was eating him away.

The doctor relays that “The tests came back inconclusive but we can tell by the way this looks and is acting that it is indeed cancer.”
“Grapes,” 89 years old, nods his understanding almost imperceptibly. My mother is in attendance as she’s the caregiver for “Grapes” and she asks the doctor what the next step is…
“Well you have an appointment with the specialist next week and he’s probably going to want to use a scope and run it down your throat into your stomach to take a peek at this thing…”
“Grapes” begins to slowly move his head back and forth.
“He’s probably going to want to see it from the other side too so he’ll run a colonoscopy as well. The tumor can be removed by the healing process is long…”
“Grapes” moves his head from left to right and back again with more vigor.
The doctor recognizes that “Grapes” doesn’t want any part of any of this and nods his recognition as he continues to talk, he has to get this all out there.
Sitting in Maryland, I am waiting anxiously for the test results from today. I know “Grapes” isn’t doing well and I am going nuts waiting. These are the times when living so far away from my family is the worst.
When my mother finally calls me she relays the conversation to me and continues by explaining that “Grapes” has signed a DNR order, has only authorized medication for his own comfort, and refused to be fed by a tube.
He’s has decided that he’s at the end of his journey. He lives in an apartment that isn’t his home with a stranger that looks like the love of his life, looks like his bride of 65 years, but she just isn’t that person anymore.
I am clearly overcome with moments of sadness and expected that I would be continuously bawling as I came to grips with what is happening, but that’s just not the case. “Grapes” has had a wonderful life filled with love, laughter, family and friends. He found true love, bathed in it for nearly seven decades, and now that it’s gone his pain is too overwhelming. I don’t know if it’s the pain of his lost love or just physical pain. What I do know is that he’s exhausted. He’s unable to eat and he’s tired. I know that he’s had a wonderful life that he’s not tired of living, but he’s trudged on like a trooper through years of health problems… I believe he’s tired of dying, and I understand. Saying goodbye is never easy, but his family can take some consolation in the fact that we are afforded the opportunity to do so. He made the decision to not be treated and all but told us “Ok, call me!”
Hurling through the air at 600miles per hour or so, I am en route as I write this to see him one last time. If I don’t make it, I am comfortable knowing that I’ve said all I needed to say to him, and he knows he’s loved.
My siblings have explained to me how he doesn’t look anything like “Grapes” anymore… so frail and shallow looking, a heap of bones with a blanket of skin laying over it has replaced my grandfathers body. I’m not sure that’s the last memory I want of my grandfather. I really hope I make it home in time.

I’m terrified that I just might.

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