Monday, February 13, 2012

Healing: A Month Later

Thank you,
To the family, friends, and co-workers who have poured your hearts out to my family and I, thank you. Your support has been immeasurable and overwhelming each and every day for the past couple of weeks. Heck, even before these past couple of weeks, people who hardly knew my Mum, my Pop or I were stepping up and contributing in ways that only the Westside of can do. Gift cards, meals, or rides were given generously to us. For that I thank all of you a hundred times over.

Thank you,
To everyone who came to my Mum's memorial service on Friday. I know my Mum would be upset knowing we held a memorial service for her, but while we all celebrated the beautiful life which she led, people were able to begin finding closure for the friend which they lost. Thank you for making that service remarkable and a true testament to my Mum's life.

Hours. Hours that have turned into nights. Nights slowly becoming weeks as I've stared at my laptop here trying to find something to write about, and it seemed fitting that it only begin with those "thank you's." By no means are those extensive or compelling enough to truly express how appreciative my Pop and I are for everyone who has reached out to us during this time. Time has passed to remove us from my Mum's passing and the healing process has begun, or at least that's what we're supposed to believe. Healing is difficult to quantify and then even more difficult to qualify on how "healed" someone may be after something.

I'm going to try and express life after the memorial service.  The thoughts, emotions, and events that have led me to this point and where life might be heading. These things aren't necessarily coherent or tangible, so I'll do my best to describe them in ways that can be related to on some fundamental level.

After the memorial service, I moved back home with my Pop after having lived with a friend of mine for a couple months. In so many ways this simple act was bittersweet in itself. My slightly regained independence was abandoned and replaced by the security of knowing I was at home where I grew up. I have the opportunity to spend time with my Pop and make sure that things are taken care of for him, but spend every day and night in the shadows of my Mum's life she had in this house. Our home isn't just where I've lived since I was in fifth grade, but the home that my Mum spent her childhood in as well. Having spent so much time in this house with someone, you at times just kind of expect them to drop in through the door after having made a trip to the grocery store. But they don't, and you're left waiting with a  hint of anticipation building in each moment of complacency.

Movement is the name of the game right now for me. To stop and sit is the invitation of letting yourself feel everything that's going on in the world, and I'm afraid of what the consequences might be of that realization.  Momentum provides the force to keep moving forward and to stop could mean not starting again. Just like Newton stated. All you might really want is to stop and digest the things that have happened to you, to process the emotions you're having, and to find the comfort you need to move towards the future.  While this is all you may want to do, you aren't afforded that opportunity because despite your world coming to an abrupt stop, the rest of the world keeps turning and moving. Bills still need to be paid, work still needs to be attended, and life still needs to be lived.

I've taken on the responsibility of running the finances for our house after my Mum passed, and it's been a process of trying to figure out what bill is due when and what gets paid from what account. Next comes grocery shopping and household chores. Sundays are laundry and shopping day, and my general excuse each week for trying to get life back on track before the upcoming week. The rest of the week is some combination of attempts of trying to remain sane and accomplishing something to get things a bit more in order.

The moments that are the hardest are also the most bizarre and inexplicable. They can be tied together by the common theme of quietness and that moment where one allows themselves to lapse and think. Times at work while working on a machine alone for a few hours, drives that last a little too long with a song that has just enough reminiscing, or a dark room at the end of the day as you lay down for bed.

It hits you then. The first few times it's like you were smacked by a large wave from the ocean, or a switch flipped and you're nothing but an incapacitated mess. Slowly it lessens and you're just left feeling empty and exhausted like you just acknowledged the nine hundred pound gorilla you've been carrying on your back.  All I try to do is think of how proud my Mum would be of my Pop and I for pushing through like we have, and know that she wouldn't want us to dwell on her passing. It may not be much, and often times it isn't enough, but at least that is something.

Then there are good moments and days. Times when you feel adequate and happy because of the people you surround yourself with or enjoying something you do. It's hard to say that I live from a moment like that to the next, but they help to give you a bit more of that momentum you need to keep going day in and day out. Nights of catching up with old friends for the first time in months, or a genuinely relaxing Sunday in good company on a beautiful day. You grow to appreciate the opportunities that are afforded to you and begin thinking there actually may be something to "carpe diem."

So, that's how it goes these days. One minute, one hour, one day, so on and so on. I'm sorry for everyone that I haven't gotten back to here in the past month or so. Between a broken laptop, said laptop out for repair, and all other shenanigans I haven't done well on keeping up with messages and such. I hope everyone  is doing well and healthy despite the crazy weather we've had here lately (sinus are running a-muck!).

Monday, January 2, 2012

In Memoriam: The New Year

Why do we write? Some write in order to definitively state their goals, and lay out plans for achieving those goals in very organized and calculated memorandums. Others create scripts that carry us through the spectrum of emotions and beliefs to make us feel something we may otherwise couldn't or wouldn't. Then more write articles to chronicle the recent events of the world, or to express their point of view on a matter that may be trivial tomorrow.

To be honest with you, I'm not entirely sure for what reason I write a blog.  A significant part for why I may write this is so that I can process and work through these thoughts and emotions. Though, I think that I write for many of the same reasons that I stated before. These entries in this blog are statements of my goals and plans, not in any obvious or apparent manner, expressed publicly so that I'm held accountable for them.  What I write hopefully causes some sort of response from you, but not necessarily in a sympathetic way. These things I write, with any luck, let's you live a little bit more of the human condition and find closure with the world outside. And I obviously write this blog as an effort to mark the things going on in my life and the world.

Do me a favor, it takes six and a half minutes, listen to the song "What Sara Said" by Death Cab for Cutie.

I'm the only child of two amazing and compassionate individuals who have dedicated theirs lives to two things: each other and to me. My Pop is brilliant and hilarious with a sense of humor steeped in irony and wit. He's striven to do everything within his power to provide a life for my Mum and I that was better than his own growing up as a kid. The man is unrelenting in his determination to give us the means and opportunities to live a high quality of life.

My Mum is the rock which our family has been built on, and she provides us uncompromising love and support. I'll openly admit that I'm a "Momma's Boy," and can say honestly that she has been the best friend I've ever had.

When I came home one day after school while in the first grade, I promptly told my Mum that I wanted to play the viola. She had asked me why the viola and if I was serious about actually playing a musical instrument.  Now of course, six year old me didn't bother to tell her the reason I wanted to play was because my friend at the time said that's what he wanted to play. My Mum probably already knew that, but fueled the fire to play the viola by taking me to rent an instrument. Then signed me up for the orchestra in school. Then found me private lessons to attend. Then got me an audition for surrounding orchestras. Then let me take a job at the local violin maker's workshop. Then she drove me to all these places. Then I stopped playing the viola after 12 years. Then my Mum admitted she just enjoyed seeing the happiness I got while playing.

My Mum worked as a nutritionist in a clinic serving underprivileged areas of Cincinnati for several years, but then quit working for the most part when I was growing up. Recently she worked as an instructional aide to special need students in a local elementary. It's easy to say that she is a compassionate, people person, but it's hard to convey to what extent her empathy went.

I've been living the song "What Sara Said" since Christmas Eve of this year, and I've lost my battle with Breast Cancer. Desperately, I wanted to fight to the bloody damn end and give everything I possible could. But it wasn't me who was feeling the pain. I couldn't trade places. I couldn't be the one to endure the physical pain of the disease and treatments, but I'd give anything if I could.

I rang the New Year in by watching fireworks burst over downtown Cincinnati on a crisp clear night while standing in the fourth floor chapel at The Christ Hospital. It's one of the most beautiful things I ever saw, but all I could think of was the irony.

My Mum's blood pressure had taken a dive and she could no longer receive pain medicine.  She had been in the hospital since Christmas Eve and already made one trip to an intensive care unit. They transferred her from the oncology wing she had spent the past couple nights, and moved her to another intensive care unit to keep a closer eye on her. I spent the night on a recliner in the corner of the room, and left in the morning to go get my Pop. After consulting the doctor, my Pop and I made the decision to make my Mum as comfortable as possible, and place her in hospice care.

A good family friend of ours took me in the hall after the decision and told me that I live a life that is my own, but I build a monument which is my parents achievement. So as my parents have paid it forward for me, I intend to do the same.

I lost my battle with Breast Cancer, but my Mum won her's. She never once complained, didn't make excuses, and never showed us that she was scared. I love you Mum.

In Loving Memory of Linda Hughes
July 5, 1952-January 5, 2012

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Little Christmas Tradition

I'll be completely honest from the get go of this blog. What I've written is personal and open. It's written in a stream of consciousness that is a bit frayed at this point.

Twas the night before Christmas....

How many times have we heard this intro? Normally this is followed by a nice account of a jolly, fat man delivering presents to children around the world. My version follows a slightly different path.

Christmas Eve for a lot of folks is a time of great memories and merriment as the spend time with family and loved ones. This hallowed day has taken a new twist for my family in recent years. Yes, we spend Christmas Eve in one of the many emergency rooms in the area. As I write, I'm actually at an ED (they prefer emergency department now over room) writing this blog on my cell phone as we wait for the results of a CAT scan.

The back story is this: I've written before how my Mum is fighting Breast Cancer for the second time. This time around it has metastasized in her bone marrow effecting her red blood cell and platelet numbers. That has made it very difficult for her to do a lot of activities because of the amount of movement required for them.  Recently we discovered that her Breast Cancer has spread to her stomach which brought us here today.

Last year we spent Christmas Eve in another ED due to a broken tibia and fibula that my Pop experienced after a fall. My Pop, being the discerning man that he is, asked that we take him to Jewish Hospital because he wanted to be sure the staffs would be there on Christmas.

So here we are, Christmas Eve in a hospital room lit not by a tree and lights, but by EKGs and IV machines. It might seem bizarre to some when I say this time is the most concerned I've ever been going to a hospital. My Pop has undergone surgeries to remove great portions of his large and small intestines, to have vertebraes fused together, and to have entire heart valves replaced. But that never really fazed me much. I always had a sense that the man was invincible, that regardless what happened he would walk away from it like he had every other time. My mom has always been the rock in our family, and in a thousand lifetimes I could never repay her for what she has done for my father and me. I'm concerned about and for her.

I'm going to put into writing a conversation I've had with myself dozens of times and possibly once or twice with other people. At what point does this culmination of unfortunate circumstances become too much? When does breaking down happen and why? How long can someone continue to presist with these things placed on their shoulders? They're answers I'm afraid to know or acknowledge. My Pop told me that when things first got difficult for him he adopted a simple credo, "Do the next thing," and it reminds me a lot of Tennyson's "Charge of the Light Brigade" where he writes, "Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do or die."

So that's what we do, that's what I do. Keep pushing forward. To stop to think or reason is to invite the opportunity to quit. Life isn't just, but we can do our best to make outcomes favorable for ourselves while living a decent way.

I hope everyone this holiday season has taken the time to let the ones they love know that they do. Please, I ask one simple favor of you if you haven't, make sure that they know you care for them sincerely.

OK, I lied, I have two favors to ask. If you see me around, don't ask me how I'm doing or how I've been because I don't want to reflect. My Mum is still in the hospital and waiting to her from her oncologist on Tuesday. With any luck we'll have a few more answers then and a course of action. I hope everyone had a great Christmas and are looking forward to a bright New Years.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Autobiography

I don't want to come off as an arrogant prick or pretend anyone really cares, but I'm taking the blog back to what it was originally intended for: airing out my life.

A substantial portion of my life is led in full view of everyone to see.  I don't hold many punches so pretty much what you see is what you'll end up receiving.  Either I'm a foolish man for allowing so much of my personal life to be on display for the world to view, or that's the course of leading an open and honest life.  I don't pretend to have an answer or to be righteous about these things.  I refuse to make excuses for myself or others but will undoubtedly give anyone the benefit of a doubt.  I spread my time between a fair number of people who all enjoy different things and live unique lives.  I live an open and honest life because by spending time with each of these people, I can share a particular portion of my life with them in an intense way that I couldn't with majority of other people.

Over the course of time this has brought up bizarre charges of being false and insincere with people I know or talk with, yet I'd argue the exact opposite is true.  I can never, nor will I ever, attempt or pretend to be someone which I'm not.  I'm content with where I am and understand that each day brings new lessons and growth for me. For the most part I'm secure being on my own, and don't necessarily need to have someone else in my life.  So when it's said that I'm being false with those around me, I'm baffled.  I much rather share a very personal and distinct memory with those people around me, and I'd like to think my friends who have known me for a long time feel the same.

In a lot of ways this particular blog is an autobiography.  Not one with dates and stories, but a self reflection of  what someone is comprised of in the short and long term.  I have a need to talk to people openly and honestly, to provide them with my sincere opinion and thoughts, and listen to what it is they have to say.  Yeah, yeah, sounds great and wonderful.  I don't write these things for appearance because what's the point? Eleven people may end up reading to this point of the blog, so I'm not searching for public opinion.  I write these things to be able to say this: I am socially awkward. Dreadfully, painfully, and clandestinely awkward. In the most social situations I haven't the slightest idea how to behave or act regardless if it's one on one interaction or a bar with hundreds.  The go to for this kind of problem is a sense of humor, and the ability to laugh at yourself.  A second practice used for the socially awkward is to tell good stories because these can be memorized and rehearsed for effect.  Lastly, I try to be as genuine as possible because I'm not sure how else to handle myself.

I'm paraphrasing something which I read recently (I can't remember what or by who, naturally) but by striving for the ideal of which we can be we are able to achieve what we're capable of in reality. Everyone has an option or choice they can make: Invest yourself wholly into whatever it is you're doing, or master the ability to multitask.  The world needs both people and there's a place for everyone, but those people driven by a single ambition push the world forward as the multitaskers make the world operate.  Myself, I'm a multitasker to my center, but I envy those which have that fire which burns at their core.

Let me tie up the lose strings so I can let you get back to your day/night.  People may want you to think you can be apathetic in your life and just go through the motions. Not me, no longer. I must live my life like I'm trying to obtain that ideal.  I must live a life in which I multitask my jobs and responsibilities so that I can allow my friends to be driven by a singularity of purpose.  We live in a world and a time which the success of one person can be set by themselves, but requires the efforts of everyone around them. Now, PHOTO MONTAGE!!!!!!!! (Sorry for it not being more inclusive, apparently I'm not very photogenic).

Left: Old School, Luke and I senior year of high school
Right: Had to dig an old one up, Tess and I at a wedding.... for someone.... not sure who
Roadtrip Partner! Trina and I

Ben, Krista and I with a cameo of my ranger hat

College roommates Dave and MJCIII

There's a strong chance we were separated at birth, months apart. Andy Mike and I

Hope everyone is doing well and that the weather isn't causing too many problems for everyone. I'm shut down from lifting for probably at least a week because of a strained back. The key now is to not miss work.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Short Story on Hold=More Musings

Fun Fact: After having successfully flown their airplane at Kill Devil Hills in 1903, the Wright Brothers continued their flying tests in Dayton, Ohio until they achieved what they deemed sustainable flight.  They accomplished this feat in 1905 and from that point on quite flying until they had secured their patents for a heavier than air, powered, controlled, manned flying apparatus (in essence). 

True Story: The Wright Brothers were no dumbski-s! They knew that the airplane was a great business opportunity, and didn't intend at all on letting the financial possibilities slip away. Paranoid that their invention would get stolen or copied, the Wright Brothers refused to provide demonstration flights for potential customers (Governments and armies across the globe) until they had signed a contract to purchase their product. 

How awesome would it be to invent a product that you could make a government sign a contract to purchase it without ever having seen it work.  Now take that and multiply it by about 431297213 because of how revolutionary the airplane has been to the world.  No big deal, the Wright Brothers were essentially self taught engineers, one with a high school a diploma and one without, and built bicycles for a living.

Now admittedly, I'm slightly obsessed with the Wright Brothers because of working as an interpreter on the subject for a year, being a nerd for all things airplanes, and my niche for Imperial American history.  It's incredible though that such everyday people from a Midwest city were able to influence the course of human events in manner hardly imaginable 25 years before their time.  This came to mind because I recently stumbled upon (not so much physically tripped and almost fell, but while using the StumbleUpon) quotes from Charles Bukowski. Now everything that I have gathered (with reputable research done through wikipedia and Amazon's biography sections on book reviews) about this individual is this: he had a terrible childhood and grew up to be a drunk that wrote poems, short stories, and novels about the average man. Think of him as a modern Pieter Bruegel (the Elder, that is). No, doesn't do much for ya? Well here, this is a quote attributed to him from this website I was shown:

"That's the problem with drinking, I thought, as I poured myself a drink. If something bad happens you drink in an attempt to forget; if something good happens you drink in order to celebrate; and if nothing happens you drink to make something happen." A selection cited from his work Women.

I say that may just be one of the most brilliant things ever realized. If you're not sold yet, how about this:

We are 
Born like this 
Into this 
Into these carefully mad wars 
Into the sight of broken factory windows of emptiness 
Into bars where people no longer speak to each other 
Into fist fights that end as shootings and knifings 
Born into this 
Into hospitals which are so expensive that it’s cheaper to die 
Into lawyers who charge so much it’s cheaper to plead guilty 
Into a country where the jails are full and the madhouses closed 
Into a place where the masses elevate fools into rich heroes

Having read that got me thinking about the capability which each of us have to make an impact. The latent good that we have often goes unnoticed, or questioned heavily when we consider it's appearance.  So I pose this challenge for one day: Do all of those things you were taught to do as kid (yes, I'm talking about using manners and acting on common human decency).  Random acts of kindness were popular for awhile, but I'm not asking you to do any such thing. I'm challenging you to treat people like people for one day to see the reactions you receive.  Go out to eat, go buy groceries, or do whatever it is you need to do in a day.  When you go to check out, ask they cashier how their day has gone.  When asked by a customer service employ about how you're doing, answer their question; say thank you; and return the favor.

Common courtesy has been lost in a day and age when we are immensely tied into our personal lives by appointments, jobs, smart phones, etc.  I ask that you try this challenge to see how you can impact one persons day on a small but personal level.

Thanks for being patient everyone! Hope that you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with friends, family, and loved ones.  Special shout out to those of my family that I didn't get to see this year at Thanksgiving: Love ya Aunts Jan and Jill, Bryan and Justin.  Hope you're doing well!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Lies: Life Lesons

Fun Fact: I sometimes fail miserably at writing frequently, and writing those things which I say I will.

True Story: So I'm guessing at this point you've realized that I have not written a segment of a short story yet.... Sorry, I know everyone is devastated. What I can offer as a compilation prize is really rather good. I've got good stories to share.

Let us first start with establishing this: I'm not exactly what one would call "a wild and crazy guy." I often joke that I'm a 70 year old man trapped in the body of a 22 year old.  It's a treacherous existence, I promise.  I'm cantankerous, judgmental, and really disapprove of most youth shenanigans.  On occasion though, I have been known to go out and enjoy myself with my friends at an establishment which makes a majority of its revenues from alcohol. Yes my friends, I'm speaking of the glorious places we affectionately refer to as bars.

One evening last weekend myself and two friends decided to go to such a place and have a drink or two, but unbeknownst to us the night had different plans for us.  Minding our own business, a gentleman strikes up a conversation with us and introduces to his wife.  I use the terms "gentleman" and "wife" in the vaguest and loosest of senses because this man proceeds to tell us how he has been shot four times, stabbed twice, and in prison for ten years.  Be jealous of the company I keep, it's OK I don't blame you. During our conversation, the women which was with this man made a comment about how she felt old.  My friend, we'll call him this for the time being until he gets me killed, makes a quick quip about how she must only be 25 or so, she obviously isn't, in the best taste of chivalry, which if it wasn't dead before it will be at this rate.

What happened in the following moments were some of the most frightening of my life.  The woman asked her "hubby" if she could give my friend a kiss for being so kind and he agreed, but not before stretching his arm across the bar, pointing a finger in my friend's face, and stating, "No tongue!" The three of us chuckled uneasily, and the woman proceeded to walk around the bar, grab my friend's face, and lay a big ol' smooch on him right in front of us all.  Everyone kind of laughed and thought nothing of it until we turned to look at the ex-con sitting to my immediate left. To say that this man was upset would be completely wrong, and angry wouldn't detail just how enraged this man was at the moment.  The man then got up from his seat and walked out of the bar while leaving his life behind with us.


The man reentered the bar. He looked around and made eye contact with me, and then walked straight to where I was sitting.  I braced myself for the knife blade that was going to enter my side. Closed my eyes so I wouldn't have to see the blood. Nothing.  No stab, not so much as a pin prick.  I opened my eyes to see the woman escorting her husband out of the bar and home.

So needless to say, I almost died at the hands of an escaped serial killer who was shot seventeen times, stabbed a dozen times and served twenty years of a four life sentences.

I hope everyone is doing well and staying warm and getting ready for some grubbin' on Thanksgiving! Everyone make sure to carbo load on Thursday so you have the energy needed to fight your way to the top on Black Friday.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Apology: Not as epic as Plato's

Dear "Those" Guys of the world,

With my last blog installment, I never intended to terribly offend or degrade your position of honor within our complex and lackadaisical society.  My post was merely for educational purposes so that those of you out there who wish to cease being "That" Guy could identify the things to change and correct in your behaviors.  I hope my apology is sufficient in absolving our differences so we can continue to coexist in the world.



Fun Fact: Apparently an announcement was made over TGN ("That" Guy Network) about my last blog, and resulted in a call to action.  It has led to an amassing of forces which is unlike that of any other seen before on this Earth. Spanish Armada of 1588, assault on the beaches of Normandy, and the invasion of Iraq pale in comparison to the this collection of troops.  Composed of elderly drivers, naive teenagers (read as "stupid, insolent kids"), and non-observant individuals from across the world, I have been ambushed by  an overwhelming force of incompetence while driving and performing daily activities.  So much so that I must recant my last blog.  Please let this be the end of the onslaught because I cannot take much more of this vicious crusade.

Pretty please? With a cherry on top?

Since you now know about what it is I must endure in order to reach work each and every morning, it seems only fair that I tell you a bit about where I work and what I do.

I work for a company that works on industrial equipment. We re-fabricate older machines and then sell them to other companies who need those pieces of equipment, and my job is to tear them apart so they can be painted and worked on by the folks who make them work.  It goes without saying that my job is grimy, dirty and a bit nasty. Ironically, I'm totally OK with that. By the time I go back into work on Monday morning, my hands and fingers have finally lost the black hue which covers them every other day of the week, only to get re-covered by 9AM that day. It's a nice change of pace from all the other kind of work I've ever done, but my favorite part of the job is when we move things around the warehouse. That's when I get to go ahead and act like a twelve year old kid and just climb all over anything and everything to find a spot to place a 4,000 lbs welding apparatus. Let me put this simply: I get paid, to run around and relive my youth while everyone else has to do actual work. Joke's on them!

What I enjoy most are the reactions which I receive once I leave work at the end of the day, and go out into the world. Covered in rust, dirt, and grease, the mere sight of me is enough to shock most anyone who feels like they make an honest living, and then they hear me say something other than, "I"m a drunk haggard that enjoys playing in puddles of machine oil."  I watch peoples' minds burst as the smoke rolls out from their ears.  So the moral of the story is: Don't shake my hand or give me a hug after work until I've gotten a shower, it's in your best interest.

Hope everyone is doing well! My next blog will be the first installment for a short story.  Intriguing, I'm sure. Otherwise, thanks for the continued support seven blogs into this exercise!