What's your word?

I heard a radio host yesterday asking people to call in and define 2019 in one word. “Tumultous”and”chaotic” were used frequently. Myself, I choose “disappointing”.
I am disappointed in our lack of respect for human life as first responders are targeted for death, people are beaten and killed over the color of their skin and innocents are being slaughtered over failed political and religious ideology.
I am disappointed in the pursuit of money, power and belongings at the sake of character, integrity and morality.
I am disappointed in our fascination with celebrity without merit, gossip without respect for boundaries and the idea that bad behavior is acceptable if it accomplishes your selfish agenda.
On a personal note, I am disappointed in myself for losing the optimism I once had so much of, that I let life get to me this year instead of customarily plowing through the pile of horseshit looking for that pony that must be in there somewhere.
I hope that next year is better, if nothing else that people stop being ugly to each other and we start treating each other as brothers and friends we have yet to make. And I hope that I get back my power to create my situation instead of being defined by it. And I hope that anyone who suffered through this post has a great 2020.

What’s your word to describe 2019?

A New Year's Toast for all

Raise a glass…

to the parents struggling to care for their family. May they be able to provide sustenance and love for the children

to the first responder running towards danger when others run from it. May you always stay safe

to the soldier thousands of miles from those that love them. May your mission be righteous and your body unscathed

to the healthcare workers who do more for others than they do for themselves. May their selflessness be recognized and appreciated

to the bullied child. May your struggles be recognized before it’s too late

to the bully. May you see the error of your ways

to the ill. May you experience recovery

to the grieving. May you experience closure and peace

to the hungry. May your plate always be full

to our leaders. May they do what is right, not what is profitable or electable

to the disenfranchised, the angry and the frustrated. May you find an outlet and peace in your heart

to the practitioners of hate and division. May you become part of the solution, not part of the problem

to those that chose the path of honesty and integrity. May you never be caused to second-guess that choice

to those who are hopelessly glued to screens. May you look away and see the beauty all around you

to those fighting a hard battle. May the people you meet treat you with kindness and respect.

Here’s to a better you. A better us. A better world. It’s up to us to make it a good year.

Here’s to you.

the day after Christmas

It was the day after Christmas and my youngest daughter and I were nursing our morning coffee after a late night of junk food and binging Netflix. My phone rang its distinctive Duck call ring tone and I walked over to the counter to see who it was. It was my ex. It was a dick move but I chose to let it go to voice mail. I do that a lot. I’m not proud of it. I don’t hate her but I have been conditioned to feel a sense of foreboding when she calls.

Too many years. Too many bad phone calls. Too many uncomfortable associations.

2 minutes later she texted me. Please call me it’s an emergency!

I called her right away. Her boyfriend Glenn was missing. He had been since Christmas Eve.

Do you remember Glenn? I wrote a blog about him a while back. He is the boyfriend that moved in with my ex and caused a family brouhaha. With a history of drug problems, still married with a shit ton of baggage some of us were less than thrilled that they were shacking up. It blew over, like most things do. I met him on Thanksgiving. He was a nice enough guy and I accepted him, if not the situation. My only problem was that I knew, as did my ex, that it would end badly.

It ended worse than anyone could imagine.

He’s dead.

My ex saw his car at a rest stop several hours later. She found his lifeless body in the back seat curled under a blanket. We’re waiting for the autopsy results but we know it was an overdose. The only unknown was how much of what he took.

She is a hot mess right now and I feel terrible. The memory of finding his lifeless body will be burned in her brain forever. Despite all of my animosity towards her I find myself perplexed and frustrated because I want to help. There’s nothing that I, or anyone can do.

She had told him, and herself as if in an effort to convince herself, that if he used drugs while with her that she would throw him out. Several months later, when he was still there, I assumed that he was clean. I now know that he wasn’t. He relapsed several times, disappeared for a few days at a time on benders and then showed up begging for forgiveness. She caved each time. I guess that’s what you do when you love someone.

I drove two hours yesterday to see her. To comfort her. I put everything aside to give her a hug. It was the first time we had hugged, even touched each other since my father’s funeral in 2013. I told her that I would never in a million years want such a thing to befall her. Then I left and drove another 2 hours.

I checked my FB at a gas station on the way up. She had posted a meme about how her life would never be the same and added her own commentary about how no one had ever made her feel as he did and that her life was changed forever by his love and that she will never feel again about another man. As concerned as I was about her I was stung a bit by her post. I spent half of my life with this woman, nearly killed myself trying to support and love her and this is what I see? Part of me wondered if she ever loved me that much.

I quickly reminded myself that it wasn’t about me.

Still, it stings. I guess I will just pile that onto an already heaping shit pile of things that I will never understand. Again, it’s not about me.

Addiction is a powerful thing. More powerful than many, including my ex, will ever understand. Like suicide, it’s the ones around and left behind that get hurt. I take no satisfaction in the fact that I told her she would end up being hurt. Being right doesn’t matter. The damage is done. The pain is palpable. The struggle continues.

All that is left is the cleanup.

the power of youth

I am a conservative, words hardly uttered on the blogosphere or social media in general. Conservatives have it hard these days, we find our beliefs and values under fire, even under attack in today’s left-leaning society. I’m ok with it, I know that I’m neither a bigot, a Nazi, a Xenophobe or a racist and I really don’t have time or the desire to defend or explain myself. My blog has likely suffered, however, because I stay away from current events for lack of desire to be attacked as all of the labels listed above. Having said that, I am going to say something that may surprise many of my fellow conservatives and say that I don’t entirely believe that climate change is a myth.

Climate science is not an exact science. In fact, the term “alternate facts” comes to mind. About 2 years ago a debate erupted after Kelly Conway defended Donald Trump and used the term “Alternate facts” and a brouhaha ensued along the lines of factuality. “Alternate facts” was touted as a means of promoting falsehoods and I found it entirely disingenuous. Alternate facts actually refers to the existence of different sets of arguments or evidence. And that is where climate science breaks down for me. For every scientist that presents evidence that the earth is warming/cooling/changing there is another with a set of conclusions that says it is not. Especially when you read a story about a Arctic expedition heading to the North Sea to study diminishing ice and have to turn back due to too much ice. As a layperson I don’t know what or who is correct.

But, unlike my fellow conservatives I don’t deny that there is a problem. There certainly is.

Is the earth cooling or warming due to manmade activity? It’s possible. Is the earth going through a natural cyclical adjustment that may or may not involve eventual rising sea levels and massive weather events that may extinguish a large portion of the population? Also possible. It happened before and it was called an Ice Age. Another one is also possible. Whatever you believe, it is difficult to deny that animal methane emissions, fossil fuel consumption and rampant pollution are having a severe impact on our beautiful planet.

We only have one.

Enter Greta Thunberg. Never heard of her? You’re the only one. Greta Thunberg is a 16 year old, angry Swedish teen with Asbergers syndrome who has become the face of climate change through her fiery speeches lashing out in particular at boomers for destroying the planet for her generation. She has become so famous that Time magazine named her “Person of the year” (much to the dismay of Donald) and just today the prominent British Magazine Nature blessed her with her own issue for the awareness she has raised for environmentalism.

I have a lot of problems with Greta. None of which are her own fault. She is a tool of the left, likely backed by notorious leftist George Soros. It wouldn’t be the first time youth and the disenfranchised were exploited by the left, it wasn’t that long ago that caravans of “broke” people crashed our border after traveling thousands of miles in mere weeks and somehow had transportation, iphones and all of their meals and other expenses miraculously paid for. I also feel that she is being exploited by her parents who are undoubtedly making a small fortune off of their angry daughter. She is also woefully uninformed in environmental science as AOC is regarding basic economics and the accolades thrown the way of this angry little waif as a “expert” are misguided and borderline comical as she and the Bloomberg’s of the world lecture us about our “footprint” and tell us to use public transportation as they crisscross the world on private jets and jump their privileged asses into limousines.

But again, it doesn’t mean she is entirely wrong and as much as I dislike her and her angry rants she is energizing her generation and spreading awareness. Maybe boomers will reevaluate their rampant consumerism and millennials will use less plastic Starbuck’s cups full of complicated coffee drinks and be a little nicer to this planet. The miles wide patches of plastic floating in our oceans and killing our sea life will thank them.

There is a problem folks, even this conservative (one who is confused how conservatism somehow became synonymous with climate non-believer) knows it. So if it takes a angry little puppet’s scowling face posted everywhere to make us love our Mother then I will gladly watch it happen.

I can’t stand her, but she may be doing some good. Youth gets our attention. Youth is good. Youth is powerful. Embrace it.

My last shot?

Look no further for the fool. It is me. Shame on this fool. I should have known better.

We met online. At first we followed each others blogs, then we started emailing. I was enamored by her. She was exciting and fun, and lord knows I lacked both. What I didn’t know is that I caught her on a high.

I would soon meet the low.

One day she posted about ending it all. I emailed her right away with my phone number. Not on my watch will a friend do this if I am able to help. She called me. That voice, oh my that voice. She sounded broken, despondent. And so sexy. Her loneliness reached through the phone lines over the many miles and nearly choked me out. Her marriage was in shambles. She felt marginalized, abused and feared that she will be homeless and alone due to a cruel, heartless dick of a husband. I implored her to find the good, to not end it all. After an hour of rambling conversation she said she felt better. She called me a lifesaver.

I was just being kind. That’s what I do. Normally it works out for me.

Daily conversations soon followed by text, email and phone. She was feeling better, she was exciting again and I got caught up in it. It had been so many years since a woman paid any amount of attention to me. It blurred my judgment as much as it stirred my loins. Every fiber of my being told me I was on a steam train plummeting towards destruction but I strapped myself in and hoped to survive the impact.

She said we should be a couple. I saw my exit from the train. I told her long-distance doesn’t work. That I can’t let myself get caught up in that boondoggle.

“What if I was to move there? My marriage is over. I have no ties. A change would be nice.” At that moment I allowed myself to feel for her. It would prove to be a crucial lack in judgment with tremendous implications.

6 months of at least 8 hours of talking a day. I was smitten. She even got me to say the “L”word. It had been so very long since I had said that phrase to anyone other than my children. I allowed myself to get immersed in it. I wrote sappy blogs about what our first meeting would be like, what our lives together would be. It made her happy. And that made me happy.

I fell. Hard. The voices in my head screamed at me to slam the brakes. That it can’t work out. That I would get hurt. But I was feeling things that I hadn’t felt in so long, often feeling them stronger than I can ever remember. It was new, it was exciting, it was a high that I couldn’t explain. One thing I did know is that I was in need of what I was experiencing. I was starved for affection, excitement, romance. She offered all of it.

She stole my heart and I let her keep it.

Then one day she tossed me aside like a cigarette butt out the window of a speeding car. How could I be treated like that? Don’t I deserve better?

I should be over it, but I’m not. To be discarded like a stale pastry is not something I can just “get over”. I don’t miss her…I miss the feelings she gave me.

In a futile attempt at recovering, I signed up for a dating site. The results have been less than spectacular. My honest profile, in the interest of saving the trouble and embarrassment of having the conversation abruptly end when the phrases “I live with my mother” and “I have a chronic illness” are spoken has left me with little to no activit. By trying to avoid it I have apparently scared them all off. No “likes” or conversations started. My page is a ghost town.

I miss how she made me feel. I want to love again. I want to be loved maybe for the first time.

Have I had my last shot at love already?

The price of war

I was raised by a Vietnam Veteran and a WW2 Veteran. It didn’t take me long to learn that their experiences impacted them profoundly and that most vets didn’t talk about it. I once worked for a guy that would wake some nights finding himself on top of his wife attempting to strangle her. I asked my Dad about it and he said flatly “he saw and did some shit.”

Just take a moment to let the fact that 22 Veteran’s a DAY commit suicide in this country sink in.

Last week I was watching Forrest Gump with my mother’s BF. We were hanging out, drinking a beer and chatting back and forth. All of a sudden we came to the scene where Gump and his platoon came under heavy fire in the Vietnam sequence. Dave suddenly raised his voice and said loudly “turn it off, turn it off! I hate this shit!.” I quickly changed the station and I asked no questions. I knew that the scene had touched a nerve with him. We never spoke of it.

In the current news there is a lot of talk about Syria. There is controversy about pulling out. Many think we should stay, many think like our President, that enough is enough with foreign wars.

I agree. To be honest, we’re not over Vietnam yet. If you don’t believe me, please watch Ken Burns’ documentary.

Then you see kids, good kids from good families, kids that back home would help little old ladies across the street and go to Bible study, do these horrible things. They’re in country for a little bit and it’s like the veneer of civilization peels right off of them

The above quote was from a Vietnam Veteran as interviewed for the 10 part documentary The Vietnam War by Ken Burns. He was talking about “acts of war”. In particular, the acts of savagery committed by some American soldiers while serving in Vietnam.

At an average of 90 minutes per episode, completing the series was challenging. But I did and I have a lot of takeaways. Hours of battle footage, commentary, and interviews with all the players; politicians, soldiers from South and North (the enemy) Vietnam and all of the geopolitics involved in Cold War Southeast Asia. Per usual Burns provides an honest, balanced and unflinching look at one of the darkest chapters in recent history.

The veterans interviewed did the unusual. They talked openly about their experience. They ranged from the reluctant draftee; to the wide-eyed eager recruit seeking the honor and glory his father achieved; to the everyday guy from Anytown, USA that felt the call of Patriotism. They all went to the same place but all came back very different. It wasn’t like the last war, their Dad’s war. And glory was not in the cards.

A lot of men did and saw things that would haunt them. When villages were razed, livestock slaughtered, suspected enemies gunned down and food supplies destroyed were part of “following orders” a lot of soldiers found their moral compass in danger. Some made “deals with the devil” to rationalize their acts. One soldier said “I will never kill another human, but there’s no limit to how many Vietcong I will waste.” His compromise was to not see the VIetcong as people. If they are no longer people then it becomes easier. They are the enemy they do not matter.

Then there were those who stretched the thin red line even further. Rapes, mass killings of civilians and excess brutality sometimes occurred. As it says above, it was if the veneer of civilization had worn off of them.”

At home, the war had changed people as well. The escalating campaign was enormously controversial. Young people broke rank with their parents’ beliefs. Students took to the street and challenged authority figures. Peaceful protest morphed into violence as frustration with a growing conflict grew. Pictures of bombing campaigns and burned children were finding their way into American living rooms and people were outraged. Some activists decided that violence was justified and riots and bombings occurred. It culminated when the National Guard opened fire on a crowd at Kent State and killed four. One veteran lamented “It has gotten so bad we are killing our own at home”. By the time of the Saigon airlift of ’73 this country was divided and forever damaged.

When the soldiers returned, there was no ticker tape parade. The hostility towards the war had been directed towards those who had been charged with fighting it. The brave men and women who fought the unpopular war emerged from planes and boats to be called “baby killers” and were spit upon. These people are still owed the Welcome Home they deserved. But as I have said. Everyone changed.

What are the rules of civilization? Are they inherent? Are we born to act rational and be decent to each other? Is it the job of parents to instill the concept of society in us? Is the veneer of civilization so thin that it can be easily worn down to the point that we are easily capable of barbarism and savagery?

If you don’t know what it was like to see the political climate of the late 60’s and early 70’s it isn’t too late to see it. Just turn on your TV. Riots, Nazi flags, death threats, mass shootings, people just being ugly to each other.

So I have to ask…how thin is your veneer?

more on being a man

This is the third installment in my series on being a man. If you have been following this series, you will know that it is a reaction to the attack on masculinity. Being a man has become taboo and traits formerly known as “masculine” are under attack as toxic. I have detailed and acknowledged a few that are indeed toxic and have tried to outline “good” masculinity and the traits that define a good man. So far I have listed Honest, Accountability, Integrity and Humility.

Let me continue.

Work Ethic.
There is an old saying. “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will feed himself for life.”
Why is this significant today? Hard work is under fire in this country. Young people are told that they have to go to college and consequently the trades are suffering. They are told that the dirty hands of the working man is somehow crude and beneath societal standards. Consequently, the unemployed guy with the Philosophy major and 100k in student loan debt is having his power shut off by the guy who went to work for the power company right out of High School, did an apprenticeship, has no debt and is earning 80k a year. Hard work is not a bad thing. Would you rather wear a suit and earn 50k or overalls and make 100k?

There is a push in this country towards Socialism under the guise of Democratic Socialism. I get it, our system is not perfect. There is inequality in all areas of society; income, gender, the list goes on. In many ways it is unfair. Our system is based on free markets and industry which are driven by the workers. At the heart of any booming economy is the drive of the workers to succeed. Because men inherently want to earn, to succeed, to achieve, to accomplish and to win. Not to win against each other, but to collectively win over complacency and the need for a handout. A real man will always choose to work for his paycheck over having one handed to him. The best beer is the one that is placed on a sweaty forehead and then twisted open with dirty hands.

Do more than the bare minimum. Someone will almost always appreciate the extra effort. Don’t just show up, make your mark while you are there. Be a great worker and a greater co-worker. At my Dad’s funeral, several of his co-workers showed up to pay their respects. I asked them one question,
“Was my Dad a good co-worker?” The unanimous response was that he was the best.

The thing about work ethic is that it tends to be learned early on, usually from the father. Myself, I was raised by a man with a tremendous work ethic and I would like to think that I grew up with a similar one. I always wanted to be the best, to be valuable. My dad always said “be the guy that when he calls in sick, people notice”. But you don’t need to learn it from your dad, some people are born with it and others develop it out of necessity. But it is definitely generational. If you come from a long line of dependency, it is much more difficult to develop a killer work ethic. But it is possible.Which brings me to my next, related topic.

Grounded.
A good man is grounded, feet firmly planted on the ground. The best way to get somewhere in life is to know where you come from.

It is said that the best father can come from two things. A great father or a terrible father. Either way, the tools are there to do a great job. You just have to know your roots. Humility, work ethic, the entire way you carry yourself comes from having a healthy knowledge of who your family are and where they came from. Heredity motivates us to either maintain the good or change the bad and a good man is capable of both.

My father had a terrible upbringing. His family was very poor. Welfare and alcoholism were prevalent. Instead of falling into the same trap, his upbringing motivated him to do better. Consequently, I was raised with a better life and I was motivated to do the same for my children.

A man with a healthy goal for the future must have a solid appreciation and understanding of his past.

more to come…