A Few New Gigs: How A Love Of Others Finally Surfaced, And Finally Slowed Me Down…

A Quick Inventory…

It wasn’t that long ago, that I was immersed in the relentless pursuit of all things physical – or as many as I could fit into a day.  Lifting heavy weights daily.  On a rapid hike.  My stair-stepper, treadmill, or bike. I have used all these to escape from the world around me.  As recently as two years ago, I might have done all those things in a single day.  That was my pace for years.  Sitting still, I have long reckoned, left me vulnerable to the chaos of the world around me, and more so, to the turmoil within.  In mathematical terms…

Spare Time + Movement = Escapism

I would fit in time for work as I needed to, but only because I had to – work is what supports my movement.  In hindsight, between work and exercise, I left little room for anything or anyone else in my life.  As I consider this now, it seems I have spent the past 2 decades running away from the chaos of the day, and from the puppets in my head, soliciting lesser thoughts to my weakness.

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Wars, natural disasters, school shootings, the relentless media and social media, the strained relationships of my past, and the abundance of ignorance around me, have never been fast enough to keep up with my racing heart and trekking feet.  My daily action has also been a method of self-medicating one (possibly more) mood disorders, and increasingly, I wonder where I fall on the spectrum.

As the distant worlds though, and the worlds more proximate to me have grown more complex, and seemingly more chaotic, the worlds within me have simplified.  Though I still find value in my daily action – strength training cycling in particular, my need for a physical release has lessened, and my desire for escapism has minimized, or shifted.  Rather than running away, I find myself running toward…

The Guillotine Chop…

If there was one factor – one moment that helped me revaluate my disproportionate level of physical activity, it is the day my mother moved in with me.  Okay, if comparing mom moving in with me to a guillotine chop sounds unsavory, I’m being kind.  In truth, her moving in was more like a dull bread knife cutting into the fragrant baguette that was my self-absorbed life.  Deep down though, I knew what I was getting into, why I was doing so, and honestly, I have never questioned it.  As my mother ages, she is going to require more from me – and that’s a most honorable gig.

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Shortly after moving in, my mother quit driving.  Step 1 of my changing life began.  If my mother was not going to drive, I would make certain that she would still get out of the house each day of her life.  My hiking time, would become my time to take mom shopping, to her exercise class, or to lunch.  There were several other reasons that I gave up my daily hike, but that it consumed nearly 3-hours of my day, and was usually in the middle of my day, was reason enough.  This would now be mom’s time.

Paging Doctor Doolittle…

One day in 2012, a friend observed my dog sitting on my lap as we watched TV.  She pointed out that as I stared at the TV, my dog had his head pressed against my heart as he stared up at me – like I was his world.  Though I’ve always been a dog person, that was the moment I became a Dog Person.  The entertainment my TV brought to me was meaningless drivel to occupy my mind.  But to my dog staring up at me as I watched TV, I was his entire world.  From that day forward, I have dedicated no less than a large chunk of time to sitting down each day, and holding my dog on my lap – feeling his head pressed against my heart.  My workout my might get shortened, or skipped altogether in favor of my dog’s attention.  Yet another honorable gig…

Shortly after mom moved in, and after my dog won my heart – again, a cat named Mischa entered my life.  My soulmate family grew by one more.  Mischa, like Stroodle, requires a certain amount of lap time each day.  I provide this to her, unquestioned.  So, as the love of my mother and of my pets has expanded, there has simply been less time for running away from the world via exercise.  No complaints though.  In exchange for my time, I receive dividends of love. However, I have also noticed that taking mom to the thrift shop, petting my cat, and walking my dog – and doing so for them, are also ways to escape from the worlds around me.

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Friendship And Community…

As I have found myself giving more time to my mother and to my pets, I have begun to question why I haven’t been giving as much time to my neighbors and my community. I have long believed that volunteerism in a small town is what is keeps community blood flowing.  I have not done much in the ways of volunteering here in Fallbrook.

This week I submitted an application to join the local Rotary Club.  Shortly after, I sent an email to the director of the local Senior Care Foundation, offering my services to conduct workshops on balance and walking for the seniors in my community.  I know time spent engaged with these organizations will cut into time otherwise allotted for physical escapism.  Two more honorable gigs…

The Life Of Pie…

As I reapportion the 19-hour pie that I refer to as my waking life, the thing I’m most coming to realize is this…

…my need to escape from the chaos of the day is very real.

However, it’s just as gratifying, perhaps more so, to run toward something than to run away.  Maybe…  Jhciacb

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Landmines And Moments…

On Landmines…

My mother, in her late 80s, has lived with me for just over a year.  Though she’s largely independent, she requires some regular assistance.  Most of that, comes from me.  It’s no secret that being a caregiver for an aging parent presents many challenges.  Each day can be like a walk across a minefield.  I know they’re there.  I have no choice but to step forward.  I know I’ll hit one eventually.  I just never know when or where they will be.

The good news is, that stepping on one of mom’s landmines won’t harm me physically.  They will though, concuss my emotions and tend to blow me far off course from whatever I might be involved with at a given moment.  From my work, to my leisure, to my good moods and even the act of me trying to assist my mom herself, I am thrown to the other side of the day, a half-dozen times per day.  It’s hard to live like this, and still enjoy a day to its core as I have always attempted to do.  I try to be my childish self most of the time, but a more serious tenor underlies any good mood or any good day.

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Landmines in this instance, can range from the dropping of dishes, to forgetting medical appointments, abrupt mood swings or the failure to understand a simple question or statement.  A landmine can also be that paralyzing feeling I get when I see her watching TV with the volume completely off and a blank stare on her face.  This can last for an hour.  One recent landmine involved me smelling something funny, subsequently opening the oven and seeing a plastic dish melting away inside.

One landmine comes with regularity – her awakening each morning, usually between 5:30am and 6:00am.  The sound of her bedroom door opening sends a shudder through me.  She raises her hand, offers a weak wave as she ambles her way to the bathroom, her trembling voice whispering “good morning”.   I say good morning back, but with the knowledge that my early morning quiet time has come to an end.  This is the calling to order of all other landmines for the day.

That Which Ails Her…

My mother lives with two conditions which are the sole sources of her landmines.  The first being dementia, which has only recently manifest, but is on the increase.  The landmines of dementia aren’t terribly concerning.  They can throw me off course, but the recovery is usually quick and without incident.

The second condition she lives with is acute paranoia.  The paranoia can go dormant for days or weeks, but when it arises, the landmines are caustic.

A friend once told me…

“Dementia isn’t losing your car keys.  It’s finding them, and not knowing what they do…”

I have found that to be a useful metaphor.

Paranoia on the other hand, isn’t forgetting something that actually happened or what the function of an object is.  Paranoia is remembering things that never happened at all.  Most of these false memories involve blaming bad things that never happened on good people who truly exist.  I try hard to remind myself that no matter how ridiculous her paranoia seems at a given moment, these things that she is remembering – these things which never happened, are very real to her.

The latest example:  A live-in helper that I brought into our house has been either drugging or poisoning my mother for weeks, and systematically stealing everything from jewelry to cheap Corelle Ware.  Of course, the helper isn’t really doing this, but with mom believing she is, I go along with it.  The helper understands the situation and has been very gracious in dealing with it.  Still, the helper will be moving out next week.

Funny Bone…

Whether it’s been dementia or paranoia chipping away at our days, I have depended on humor as my primary shield of protection.  Mom has daily concerns about many potential threats, but the ones she mentions most often are rattlesnakes and the would-be killers in our neighborhood.   When we go to bed at night, she reminds me to lock my door…

I tease her, “How else will the killers and the snakes get in…?”

“Oh Roy…!”

She also worries excessively about the dog…

“Have you seen Stroodle…?” is a question she asks 8-10 times per day.

“Shit!  I left him out front.  If the snakes don’t get him, the killers surely will…!”

Again, “Oh Roy…!”

There is no using logic when confronted with dementia or paranoia.  There is simply the demonstration of false agreement in the attempt to lessen the impact.  What I lack in patience, I hope to make up for with humor.  Each evening before she retires, I always check her bedroom for rattlesnakes and killers.

“All clear, Mom!”

“Oh Roy…!”

The Real Me…

Here’s a truth I’m not always up front about; I’m less a mensch than I make myself out to be.  I can get resentful about all of this, and turn a cold shoulder just as quickly.  Not deep down, but definitely on the surface.  The surface though, is where I live most of my life.  I piss and I moan about too much of this, too much of the time to my inner circle.  I get angry, short-tempered and I let it get to me more than I should.  I am trying to improve.  The stakes are higher these days, and my use of humor may be coming to an end.

Yesterday, mom confronted me about our helper steeling another dish.  Mom witnessed her taking it to her car.  I suggested that as punishment, I’d get the helper alone and choke her to death to teach her a lesson.  “Oh Roy” never happened.  Instead my mom burst into tears insisting that she isn’t crazy.  I held her hand, kissed her forehead and assured her I would find a new helper.  In time, her tears will be forgotten, only by her though, not by me.

Moments…

I have rearranged much of my life to help guide and protect my mother during this transitional time.  I am honored and proud to do this, but that is the deep-down Roy.  Again, the surface Roy is a little resentful a lot of the time.  Everyone says that’s okay, that frustration and resentment are part of the process and should be expected.  It’s not okay with me, but I still can’t seem to shake it.

For every landmine, there is a moment.  Moments are those times when mom still laughs.  Moments are when she speaks lucidly about her childhood and does so with detail.  Moments are when I hug her, tease her, hold the door for her like a gentleman.   Moments are when I treat her to dinner at local café and take her for an evening drive when we’re done.  Moments are subtle – they are the opposite of landmines.  Of course, I hope that as I inch closer to my own senility, I will remember the moments with mom more than the landmines, though all things being equal, I’m sure to remember both – until I can no longer remember at all.

One can only write so many negative things about their mother without sounding like a horrible person, so I pared this down to protect her innocence and my own reputation.  Of course, I love my mother and am grateful to have this opportunity to help care for her.  And no, I don’t really think I am a horrible person for writing this.  For sharing it…?  That’s another story…  Jhciacb

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Sweet Peachy Tea…

For much of my adult life, I’ve stated that every dog is the best dog that ever lived, tied for 1st place with every other one.  For the past 14 years though, I’ve been lying.  Peaches Fern Cohen, has held the highest place in my heart.  Not just in mine though, everyone fortunate enough to know Peaches, recognized that she was special.

Peaches belonged to my daughter, and her mother.  Peaches went home yesterday, to be with her sisters, Leilui, and Luna.

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If I could describe Peaches in one word, it would be Sunshine.  No ray of sun, shining down from the sky, ever touched or warmed me the way Peaches did.  It began with her face, which was sweetness incarnate.  It just wasn’t possible to look at Peaches without feeling her sweetness.  But that was just the first layer.  Beyond sweetness, there was the happy – and her happy was always turned on.

Except for the occasional grumbly stomach, broken leg, fractured spine, paralysis, or bladder reduction, Peaches radiated joy.  In fact, she experienced and survived all of those, and more – a big part of what made her exceptional.   Any one of those medical events might have taken her too soon, but not one of them did.  Each condition made her a little more fragile, but they also increased the worth of her spirit.  Her 14 years is a testament to the commitment she had to her loved ones, and ours to her.

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When I think of Peaches, my mind always sees her first, sitting outside beside the rosemary plant that she loved to smell.  Her face was often pointed to the sky, and it appeared that she was the one radiating warmth toward the sun.  Whenever I would see her like this, whatever toxins might be in my heart or mind, we instantly defused.

If I’m being honest, Peaches had an unusual look about her, but she made it work.  Due to the afore mentioned medical events, her body changed over time, becoming increasingly fragile.  A Pomeranian by birth, by the time she was 8 years old, she looked more like a punk rock Chinese Crested, mutating into a tiny pachyderm.  She used this funky look as both a fashion statement, and a way to make friends.  It wasn’t possible to walk Peaches without a stranger stopping to admire and inquire.  It almost always started with…

“Oh my god, she’s adorable….!”

The funny thing is, it was impossible to describe Peaches to a passerby with any detail, because once they saw Peaches, the person walking her became an invisible bystander.  People just marveled at her.

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One manifestation of the physical changes she endured, was a high arching spine.  This made her look like a little buffalo.  She often fulfilled the buffalo look by lowering her head into thigh of the nearest seated human – as a silent request to get petted.  If the petting hand would dare stop, the li’l buffalo would push her head harder into the human’s leg until they got the hint.

When she wasn’t being a buffalo, Peaches, always held her head high and looked up in wonder and in joy.  In 14 years, I never saw Peaches growl, snap, or display any intent towards another creature, other than kindness.  From her earliest days, she was a kind old soul.

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Every dog is the best dog that ever lived, tied for 1st place with every other one.  The one that rose above them all though, well she went home yesterday.  She is now free to smell the heavenly rosemary, to buffalo God’s thigh, and turn heads wherever she struts.

As Miss Trudy and I each held one hand to Peaches, our daughter was present in spirit.  Peaches lay calm on her belly, getting weaker, but still holding her head high.  Radiating sweetness till the very end, she was still looking up when she took her final breath.  Be well…  rc

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C’est La Vie, Say The Old Folks…

Last night I witnessed a most humbling act of human love.  I was invited to dinner by oldest client, a 91-year old widow.  Also invited were Dick, a retired Marine Colonel, his of 54 years, Beth, and my mother.

Just over a year ago, Beth had a stroke which almost killed her.  When I say “almost killed her”, a mutual friend had called me the night of the stroke and suggested Beth wouldn’t make it more than a few hours.  I went to bed that night believing she had already died.  Goes to show you never can tell…

Beth would spend weeks hospitalized, and in an unconscious state.  Eventually she would regain limited motor function and be transferred to a skilled nursing facility where she would reside for months, barely able.

In time, Beth would be sent home to be cared for by her husband, with a vigilance and determination no medical facility could provide.  She now has an obvious awareness and presence of being, limited motor function, limited and delayed speech, and is wheelchair bound – and that’s where I witnessed a love like no other.

When they arrived at Dinner last night, I met Dick at the driveway to assist him with getting Beth out of the car.  Like a good Colonel, he cast me aside with an arm gesture and a grumble, and stepped in for a job only he could do.

As Beth sat in the car, Dick leaned in and wrapped his arms around her, locking his hands against her back and began to hoist.

“Come on, Babe.”

“Help me out, Little Lady.”

“We’re almost done.”

Beth, frail and unable to help, smiled each time Dick spoke.

The tenor of his voice was soft and quite reassuring.  The hold he maintained as he transferred her to the wheelchair was better than any firefighter.  All the while…

“Come on, Babe.  Thank you, little Lady.  Let’s do this together…”

Throughout dinner, Dick doted over her like they were in high school.  All evening, Beth smiled with eyes so bright they were in a perpetual state of big and round.

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Dinner was good.  I ate too much, but in a room full of post-depression era people, piles of food kept flowing, and who was I to argue.

The evening’s nutrition though, for me anyway, came not from the food, but from witnessing the love of man for his wife who nearly died, but stuck around finish what they had started so long ago…  Jhciacb

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The Doorway, The Empty Bed, And The Parents Left Behind…

The Bad News…

I was driving south on highway 163 through Balboa Park when I adjusted the radio dial to to catch the news of the day. That’s when I learned of the Columbine shootings. After a few seconds of shock, I pulled to the side of the freeway and gave in to some trembling and a few tears. Though I was in San Diego looking to buy a house, my wife and daughter were still back in Colorado. Columbine was an unincorporated area of Littleton, adjacent to where were lived in Highlands ranch. This traggedy hit home.

I soon gained control of my emotions and continued driving to my empty apartment. Despite the early hour, I crawled into my sleeping bag and took it all in, continuing to listen to the radio, and to all the media speculation as to why the shootings happened. I wasn’t interest in why.

My most immediate thought was not about the reasons why, not about the perpetrators, nor even the victims of the tragedy. The image that stood fast in my mind was that of a married couple – two silhouettes of unknown parents standing in the doorway of their child’s bedroom on the first morning after the shootings, and staring at an empty bed. And that was the tragedy to me; the doorway, the empty bed, and the parents with nobody to wake up on that first day after. It’s an image I’ve never been able to go.

Too Soon…

Since that time, other school shootings notwithstanding, I have been proximate to the deaths of too many children, some by accident and some by disease. When I become aware of these losses, that’s where my head goes first; to the doorway, the empty bed, and to the parents standing emotionally paralyzed with nobody to wake up and get ready for school on that first day without.

Two months ago, after learning that a friend’s adolescent daughter passed unexpectedly, my head went there again. My heart ached at the thought of my friend and her husband standing in that doorway, looking at an empty bed, with nobody to wake up and get ready for school on their first morning without Clara.

Clara...

Clara…

I checked out that day. I cancelled my sessions, took my dog to a nature trail and spent the day immersed in heavy thought. Trying to be grateful for all I have and all I am, I took inventory of my life but came up short. For the next several weeks I tried to reconcile this untimely loss. Despite the strength her mother has showed in the wake of this tragedy, I just can’t do it – I can’t get good with the loss of this child.

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Several weeks later I would learn of another young girl stricken with cancer who may not see 2017. Again, I went to the doorway, to the empty bedroom, and the parents who will be left behind with nobody to wake up the next day and get ready for school.

As I think of these young people, and of the parents they leave behind, regardless of what circumstances lead to their passing, I will always think first of the parents in the doorway, and of the empty bed.

Though the bed can be removed and the room can be reassigned, the doorway – that portal of access into a child’s life, always remains. I can’t imagine the strength that is required to pass through that doorway on a regular basis. I can though, love and appreciate all the parents who face this, and I bow down to them with enormous respect and a great deal of love. Be well… rc

Beyond the doorway there is an empty bed
Two shadows stand and nothing is said

This moment is a vacuum as love can’t breathe
It falls to the floor and two parents grieve

Tears form but aren’t able to flow
Dreams fall never to grow

A blanket of sadness covers the two
Souls filled with lead not believing it’s true

Though the sun may shine, and the world may turn
And as the lives of others may flicker and churn

The parents in the doorway are unable to feel
Unable to cry, not ready to heal

The empty bed may stay or may go
It might be a shrine or may be let go

But the doorway is there, and will always remain
An ongoing reminder, and a portal to pain
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Daughter’s Day…

My daughter lives over 2,000 miles away. I’m not able to meet her for lunch today. What I try and do, at least every-so-often, is to be with her from a distance, in some way that is meaningful.

Once a month or so I order dinner in for her and her boyfriend and allow them to enjoy the evening on my dime. It’s my way of being at the table with them despite that I can’t really be there. I did this earlier in the week. The following day she called to thank me in a way so sincere, I consider that phone call my Father’s Day gift.

I’m exhausted already by the overthinking which takes place increasingly of how Father’s Day should or should not be celebrated via social media. Should single moms be included…? Should deadbeat dads be ignored…? Dads who were great, dads who picked there moments, and dads who were there only in the periphery. Doggy daddies and kitty daddies. Enough, please.

Father’s day is neither about dads, nor is about how adults should perceive the place of dads who aren’t their own. Father’s day is about the children. Father’s Day is a day to celebrate my child. I know, I know, so are the other 364, but on this one I can get away with crying as I reminisce.

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It’s been assumed far too often for far too long that we as fathers are here to teach and lead our children. Although teaching and leading is an important part of fatherhood, what is most important is that we observe, follow, and learn from our children. Though I learned this late, it was not too late.  That I learned it all is my highest destiny as a man on this earth.

Alaska -- many many years ago...

Alaska — many many years ago…

The best part of fatherhood, for me, has been all I have learned from my wonderful daughter. What has been exposed to me by way of that child has enhanced and enriched my life more than any other aspect of it. The wonder continues and grows with each passing year.

What my own father might have neglected in teaching me the ways of the world, my daughter has more than made up for. How lucky I am to have come in-between them.

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If you are a father and you believe your primary job is to teach your child, I ask you to stop, look, and listen. You  should be amazed, and grateful for all that you will learn.  *should be*  Be well… rc

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from Dawes.  Please take a listen…

Stroodle Gets A Steward…

Who’s on first…

These are the first words I speak each day,

“Thank you for being my light, my beacon, and my truth.  Thank you for guiding me, teaching me, reminding me, and forgiving me.” It may sound as though I’m praying to a god with those words, but I’m not.  I continue, “Thank you for being my best friend.  Thank you for letting me be your human, and your steward.  May the lord bless you and keep you this day my Baby Boy.” These words are spoken to my dog, Stroodle.

I have been Stroodle’s human, and his steward for nearly 7 years. In truth, I didn’t want Stroodle at the time he arrived in my life.  I was caught up in a very selfish lifestyle.  I lived in condo with no yard.  I worked long days.  When I wasn’t working I was working out.  I didn’t want to be bothered.  Besides, I already had Pumpkin, a low maintenance Shi Tzu/Pug mix.  Blind in her only eye, and nearly deaf, Pumpkin was the Helen Keller of dogs.  However, my daughter and her mother thought I could provide a good home to Stroodle, and his presence might do both Pumpkin and I some good.

Pumpkin and Stroodle; the salad days...

Pumpkin and Stroodle; the salad days…

Stroodle had likely been abused as a puppy.  He was just under a year old when he arrived.  His left rear hip was damaged, and despite two surgeries after I got him, he still uses that leg for balance only.  After I took him in I immediately hired a couple of neighborhood girls to walk Pumpkin and Stroodle each afternoon while I was working.  At night the three of us would sit on the living room sofa, and watch ESPN until bedtime.

Mr. Misty…

I have belonged to a household with at least one dog since the day of my birth.  I am a dog person.  I come from a long line of dog persons.  In truth, I was always a minor contributor with the upkeep of the dogs I had growing up.  Most of their care came from my older brother, and my parents.  I loved, and appreciated dogs, but I could rarely be found with a brush in my hand.  I had better things to do. Misty, a male collie who was named by my brother after Dairy Queen’s Mr. Misty drink, accompanied my family throughout most of my childhood.  He probably deserved a better home, but he was loved and appreciated, if not well groomed.

One day when I was 16, I walked into the house and gave Misty a hug.  I was surprised when underneath his un-brushed fur, his stomach was the size of a basketball.  I had discovered a tumor that he had likely been carrying for a while.  I was the only one home. It was snowing, and my car wouldn’t start.  I began walking Misty through the snow about a mile to the local veterinary clinic.  When Misty could no longer walk, I picked him up and carried him in spurts.

Eventually we arrived, I checked him in, and I guess without giving it too much thought, I left him there in trusted hands and contacted my mother and father to let them know what happened. The following day Misty passed.  I believe he was 13.  Though I was sad when told of his passing, in hindsight I can say I was more neglectful of Misty, than I was an advocate for him through the course of his life.  What did I know…?  I was just a kid.

 On stewardship…

As I have gotten older, perhaps due to the influence imbalanced human relationships have had on my life, I have come to realize that despite my life long appreciation of animals, I’m only now learning to appreciate the value of animals in the human experience. Some values which are often associated with our pets:

– Unconditional love

– Living in the moment

– Truth

– Devotion

Some values which may go less noticed:

– Dignity

– Elegance

– Humor

– Playfulness

 Back to Stroodle…

I had always depended on Pumpkin and Stroodle to be there for each other.  I was simply providing them a safe home, some love, some kibble, and lap time at the end of my workday.   Some time back Pumpkin passed away, and Stroodle was alone.  This, this is when I discovered what it truly means to be a dog person.  After Pumpkin’s passing I made a promise to Stroodle that I would be the best human he could hope to have.  I made it a priority to be his steward, and his advocate, not his owner.

My brother from another mother...

My brother from another mother…

Each morning I hold him because I believe no dog should go a day without a human touch.  They deserve to feel love through hands of another being.  Many times throughout the day though, it’s more selfish than that.  I hold him because I’m the one who needs to feel love through the touch of another being.  As the chaotic world around me unfolds through my 17” computer screen; babies dying, shootings in schools, wars and politics rage on, my dog never questions my need to touch him.  He simply provides me with comfort – willingly.

A house is not a home…

I believe children should be exposed to pets at an early age.  My daughter was born into a house with two dogs, and we added as she got older.  By the time she was 13, the dogs she knew as a child had passed. Though there is certainly sadness, and heartache that comes from the loss of a pet, there is also a perspective, and context which can be applied to life.

If we are fortunate enough to love an animal, and be a steward for him, we are blessed in many ways. Not the least of which is learning a superior context we can apply to apply to the duration of a life. When we are born our parents are already older. We never really know them in their youth. If we are fortunate enough to have children, we know them in their youth, and perhaps even into middle age. However, most never see their children live deep into old age. Having a pet gives us a different perspective on this. Horse, dog, hedgehog, or cat, we often get our pets at an early age, and are often able to see them live a complete life.

When I stop to consider this, it reminds me that we have so much to learn about the seasons of life from our pets. The fragility of spring. The restlessness of summer. The calm of autumn. The perspective of winter. Watching these seasons unfold through the animals I have loved, helps me better understand my life, and the lives of others.  Be well…  rc

Stroodle, and his cousins-in-law; Luna, Peaches, and Posey...

Stroodle, and his cousins-in-law; Luna, Peaches, and Posey…

The only truth I will ever know, is looking into the eyes of a dog.

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this from Wooden Shjips.  Enjoy…

Gimmie back my playlists!!!

Home is where the lyrics are…

Listening to, and appreciating music has been at the front of my existence since I was young.  I bought my first record, Harry Chapin’s, Taxi, when I was in the 3rd grade.  I was captured by the movie in my head.  I have been buying and listening to music of all kinds ever since.  I have often thought of music as my home.

Through adolescence, well into my adult life, I have always apportioned some percentage of my weekly wages, and directed them to the local record shops.  This had been how I collected music over time; 1-2 albums, 1-2 times per month.  I would dream about having a collection so vast, I would have instant access to any music I wanted to hear.

We live in an amazing age… 

In this era, electronic media and music sharing services have evolved, and platforms like iTunes and Spotify exist.  My life-long dream of instant access to all things music has been fulfilled.  Unlike cataloging records, cassettes, and subsequently CDs, tracking electronic music has required more structure due to the high volume of music available.  Playlists were born. 

My Spotify playlists were several years in the making, and ongoing creations.  They involved thousands of songs from many genres of music.  They represented the musical genres I have been most fond of including the Paisley Underground, Alternative Country, Blues, Traditional Country, Punk, Classic Rock, Bluegrass, and more. 

Of them all, my favorite playlist was titled, Old, Odd, And New.  It was an amalgam of alternative country, paisley underground, some Scandinavian hard rock, and a lot American garage rock from the mid-west and the east coast.  The primary theme of this playlist was that it contained songs with filthy guitar sounds, raspy voices, and consisted of songs created largely by artists who never had much success.  This playlist was the soundtrack of my recent life – it felt like home.

 Technical difficulties…

It may sound trite to compare the loss of music playlists from an electronic medium to the death of a loved one, but I’m about to do that.  Several weeks ago I woke one morning, turned on my Spotify browser, and attempted to queue up the playlist I named, Morning Start.  It was 800 songs or so, and was the music which lured me through my morning rituals of showering, making coffee, letting the dog out, checking email, and prepping for the day ahead. 

As I attempted to navigate my browser, it looked noticeably different – all my playlists were gone.  My Spotify browser had the look of an application just downloaded; a factory reset kind of look.  Morning Start was no longer there.  My stomach sank.

It felt like I was looking into my child’s bedroom, only to see the child missing from the bed – as though he had been kidnapped. ..

Gibson

Trying not to let my emotions get the best of me, I followed a progression of logical steps required when dealing with technical snafus.  I restarted my computer.  That didn’t help.  I uninstalled the Spotify program, and subsequently reinstalled it.  That didn’t help.  I began searching youtube and internet message boards to see if others had suffered similar afflictions, and to learn how they resolved the issue.  I had no luck there. 

Finally, I contacted Spotify for help.  I received only this simple statement several hours later:

“We are not able to explain why your playlists disappeared.   Short of the steps you have already taken, we have no suggestions for you.  We are sorry for your difficulties.”

Spotify 

My loved ones were gone.  I was sad, depressed, and very emotional for days after my loss. 

Humpty Dumpty, three chords, and the truth…

My playlists were art in continuum.  They were sculpted by me, malleable and always changing.  They were organic, and well represented the changes in my recent life.  Several days after they disappeared, I came to accept there would be no ransom payment, no search party, and no beautiful conclusion – they would never be seen again.  Closure. 

Each day, after I accepted said closure, and as spare time would permit, I attempted to begin the process of reconstructing those playlists.  With each attempt though, came an increasing realization that my playlists could never be reconstructed – no more than a lost loved one could be brought back to life.  It was time to let go and move on.

Home where the heart is… 

Two-thousand miles and several weeks removed from the playlist crime scene, I found myself in Chicago for the event of a lifetime.

photo(52)

My daughter’s mother and I had just attended our child’s college graduation.  It was early on a Sunday, and before most people walked into church that day, her mother and I had watched our daughter walk, along with 3,000 other students, into the next phase of their lives.  By 10:00am commencement was completed, and the three of us were in a taxi headed back to our riverfront hotel. 

I was on one side of the bench seat in back of the taxi, my daughter on the other side, with her mother in-between us.  Shortly after we entered the cab, I looked over to see my exhausted daughter laying her head on her mother’s shoulder.  In that sweet moment, I knew at that my daughter was home.  She was at peace, in her happy place, resting comfortably on the one shoulder she knew would always be there for her.  It was music to my eyes. 

Playlists be damned, nothing else will matter to me more than that sight so long as I live.  In that pure, perfect moment, I realized how insignificant any material object is.  I also realized just how very significant family love is.  The love of a momma, the love of a daughter, and the man who sees them both with awe and with great appreciation; we were captured by the music of the moment, and we were all home.

The living versus the idea…

A child too, is art in continuum.  She was sculpted by me, by her mother, by her circumstances and environment, and by her own free will.  Malleable and always changing, she is organic, and well represents that which helped sculpt her.   

She is a playlist of another kind.  Unlike my silly music playlists, my daughter is the product of love, not of a need to fill a void of entertainment.  She represents the genres of joy, intelligence, happiness, love, humor, and many others.  Seeing the look on her face, as her cheek rest on her mother’s shoulder is all the music I will ever need.  Sometimes music is to be seen, and not heard…  Be well.  rc

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Please check back in two weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from Townes Van Zandt.  Enjoy….

On Family, Moving, And Regret…

This is an essay which has the potential to offend anyone reading it, including my family.  In writing this, I had never intended to offend anyone.  However, in reading it on completion, I realized it clearly will.  But it is written, and can’t be unwritten.  I want to apologize, in advance, to anyone who might find this condescending or offensive.  It is my hope that you will see true intention of my thoughts.

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On Family

For most of my life I have had no idea what the word family meant.  Even now, I’m not sure I know, but as my middle life unfolds and I face the back 9, I think I’m starting to get it.  It’s just a little too bad, that it’s just a little too late… 

Divorce; It’s What’s For Dinner

I grew up in household with parents who separated multiple times while I was a child.  They would eventually become divorced.  I would grow up to marry a woman who also came from divorced parents.  She and I would have a single child, but would become divorced, and I unequivocally take responsibility for that divorce.  My brother, my only sibling, would also go on to marry, then divorce, and marry again to a woman who came from divorced parents – they are still married and have three adopted children. 

No Place For Too Long

I was born in Massachusetts.  When I was young, my father would move our family west to Colorado for a better life –over 2,000 miles from a grandmother, an aunt, an uncle, and cousins who all lived proximate to our family, and who we saw and interacted with regularly.  I also had aunts, uncles, cousins, and a grandmother in the Deep South.  Growing up in Colorado, none of these felt like family.  I knew of them, but we traded no letters, rarely saw each other, and I thought of them only as often as I thought about performing tree surgery.

In adult life I would live in and out of proximity with my brother, mother, and father, multiple times.  They would move, I would move.  Sometimes closer, sometimes further away.  Sometimes we would be in the same state, but a different city.  Other times we would be in different states altogether.  As a family, we were porous to say the least.

Once I was grown and on my own, I would remain fairly close with my brother, mother, and father, but I have always felt have we lacked the highest form of closeness; the desire to actually be together for more than three days at a time.  Many reading this have said the following from time to time:

 “I love being with my family, but only in small doses.” 

Moving to another city, or seeing them move away, was always a good cure for this.  When my mother lived in Alaska, she couldn’t drop in unexpected.  When she lived down the street from me in Phoenix, she most certainly could – and often did.  Not that this was a bad thing, but it seemed to stifle true adult independence.

Avarice And Acknowledgement

I grew up and lived most of my life thinking, truly believing that most families were just like mine; divorced, dysfunctional, and disjointed – the 3 Ds of the modern American family.  My mantra was that Ozzy and Harriet wasn’t real, and divorce was the standard of modernity.  My own divorced life reflected the lives of more than half of my contemporaries so I thought divorce must be normal, and so too with moving away — it’s just what we do now. 

But as I have gotten older, I have started to take more notice of the other half – of those many families that don’t divorce, that don’t move away, and that they choose to spend time together – regularly, and actually like it.  And I have become jealous of those families, because I know my chance to enjoy what they enjoy has come and gone.

Of late, I have begun to miss living near my brother and his family, to miss living near my mother, and though it kills me to say it, there are days when I miss living near my father too, all of whom live hundreds of miles from me now.  Most of all, I miss living near my daughter who I only had the blessing of living with until she was 10 years old, and it was my choice to leave.

The Damage Done

I’m dug in now.  I own a business.  I live in a great place.  I have a over decade of roots extending a little further with each year, into the networks of friends and social circles that have established themselves as my surrogate families, in a place which is not my real home.  On any given day I may have lunch with a friend, cook for a neighbor, or workout with my workout friends, and I am blessed to do so – I adore and I appreciate my friends. I am blessed to know so many, to have so much, and to live in such beautiful surroundings. I know many people who would gladly accept my life and a thousand lashes, in lieu of their own life and a pot of gold, and I can honestly see why – being Roy is a good gig, for now.

At night though, in my quietest moments, as I lay my head on a pillow alone in my room with no flesh of my flesh, nor blood of my blood anywhere around, I am haunted the by the absence of family. If you read this and are contemplating a divorce, or a move away from family, do what’s best for you please.  But take note of my regret, of my guilt, and of my appreciation for all that I had taken from me, and all that I walked away from.  I don’t know what it’s like to have committed murder.  But I well understand what it’s like to move a family away from family, and what it’s like to dissolve a family, and can only assume those feelings are similar.  Be well. rc         

Comments are closed this week.  Oh, and there is this from Micky Braun.  Enjoy…

I Blame Me: A Relationship Story…

Not A Good Year

I’m not lying, this has been the worst year of my entire life; dark, drunk, and trying.  And when I say, “trying”, I don’t mean the year has taken its toll.  I mean I have truly tried.  I have given my all to a relationship which I knew early on could not give back.  Still, I put on my blinders and lowered my shoulder into the future.  With few expectations but irrepressible dreams, I worked hard at it.  She did too.

This year I have been in bed sick far too often.  I have missed too much work.  I have had too much to drink.  I have shed too many years.  I have also turned my back too often on many who care about me.  In short, this year was just like last year, the year before that, and the year before that.  You know, all the years since the day she and I met.

I Blame Me

It started over four years ago when I fell in-love and gave my heart to someone I deemed special beyond words – and she is.  The pedestal I built was not strong enough though, to support the idol I had created in my head.  And there I prayed, every day and most moments of my life, to the woman I placed well above me.  Rarely, I now see in hind-sight, did she ever pray back, or even look down.  

But that’s not her fault, she had other things to occupy her prayers and her eyes; two daughters.  Though her girls would never come to accept me, I can’t blame her for that either.  I soon knew though, that the interest of her daughters would be the critical weakness in our relationship.  She convinced me it would not be.  I leapt.

What does it say about me, or about the ideal of love, that just a few months in, when I first recognized a potential weakness in the relationship, one which I knew we would not likely survive, that I still charged it full steam, for years…?  Again, that’s on me.  She’s a good person with a good heart and fairytale eyes, but I knew better.  Second families rarely work, and her family would be second to no one.

Everyone Needs A Hobby

I do many things wrong, but I think I do partnership pretty well.  I may be a hard person to love, but at the end of the day I give plenty of reasons to hang on tight.  I always thought that would be enough – to be emotionally present, with no expectation of an equal return.  But she couldn’t be as present, her hands were tied.  She did the best she could under the circumstances, but the immense gravity of this conflicted dynamic pulled her into the event horizon.

My Own Daughter

In all of this, what most saddens me is the effort, time, and money diverted away from what should have been my biggest priority – my own daughter.  This is not to suggest that I woke up one day after falling in love, placed my daughter on an iceberg, and clipped a note clipped to her collar reading, “If found, handle with care”, and pushed her out to sea.  But I did leave a large helping of woulda shoulda coulda on the table during the course of this now failed relationship.

When I look back at potential moments lost, I shudder.  I could have been so much better as a father.  My daughter is better than me though.  She’ll learn from my mistakes even if I might not.  My daughter often referred to my would-be marriage as, “the epic fail”, but she always supported it, and did so sincerely.

The Point Of Friendships

I wouldn’t know many of my Facebook friends if they bit me on the ass and called me Jew-boy.  Nor would they know me as much.  But I will bet that if I asked many of them to be there for me in a time of need, and if it were within their grasp to do so, they would accommodate.  And I like to think the same is true in reverse.    

My partner of four years was there for me when she could be, but it was scarcely at best.  When I needed her most though, at critical times to stand up for us and help stake our claim to our future, she was silent.  One lesson learned is that in my next love, if there is a next love, at the first sound of such silence, I will tuck my tail between my legs, back away slowly with one eye looking forward and one eye back, and just keep stepping. 

At Best, At Worst

At best, I am a hopeful romantic and as my friend Robert says, probably too nice a guy. I believe in love, marriage, and I don’t want to grow old alone.  I don’t always have high expectations of romance, and I’m not looking for someone to save me from myself.  But there are times, like many, I want to hit my next relationship out of the park.

At worst, I’m the kind of guy who is willing to just keep hitting his head on the door-jam – over and over again, hoping there is something meaningful on the other side.  Next time out, I will hope to remember the door-jam is almost always too low, and what’s on the other side is seldom enough.  Be well.  rc

Comments are closed this week.

Please check back in two weeks for whatever happens next when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there it this from Micky Braun of Micky And The Motor Cars.  Enjoy…