Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The best things in life are free

So many times we think, if I only had this, how happy I'd be or just let me purchase that, and I'll be a happy man. The truth is, it's the things we cannot buy with money that are of the most value to us. When I think of things that have the most value, words like, faith, courage, kindness, love, character, and friendship come to mind.
I heard from my old friend Sue yesterday. I hadn't reconnected with Sue for 37-38 years, and it was great. But clearly, the best thing about renewing an old friendship is finding out that those we cherish  have many of the characteristics for which there is no price: faith, kindness, courage, love, etc.
These are the kinds of things we need to spend more time on developing. Sue reminded me of a great self-help book, one of early vintage that helps develop such traits. The book is called I Dare You, by William H. Danforth. It is easily readable in less than a day and will help you improve your life.
Let's focus on the important attributes, the things most precious that money cannot buy.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Mt. Sneffels, Colorado

My friend, Eric Reeder took this fabulous photo of Mt. Sneffels in Colorado:

I love this part of Colorado. We nearly moved to the Durango/Cortez area years ago, which is only a hop, skip and a jump from Ouray, the town closest to Sneffels, at least on the east. West of Mt. Sneffels is the touristy town of Telluride. For more of Eric's fine work check out
Here's a classic scene from The Avengers. My grandkids kept asking me what I was going to be for Halloween. Finally I decided on Tony Stark. I can pretty much resemble Stark, I think. The attitude is what I need to work on. I won't be in the Iron Man suit however.

I had ordered a shirt with the flashing lights power emblem on it, and it was supposed to barely make it before Halloween, but a week or so later I got a notice that it wouldn't be coming. All other sources seem to be bereft of that shirt as well. I'm not going to wear the Black Sabbath shirt on principle. I've got a Plan B going for that though, thanks to my cousin Gena.

A FB friend of mine hates Halloween because she believes it glorifies evil. I'm not a fan of the evil part of Halloween, but I'm always in favor of those who fight evil (fictional or otherwise). I told her that instead of focusing on evil, focus on helping little kids just be kids, and ask them to dress up as superheroes or other heroic figures. What are you going to be for Halloween?

BTW, do they make Grecian Formula for beards?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Kind of my theme song...

Bob Seger's Against the Wind

Life is kind of like that. You all keep fighting and I will too. Cheers. 

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

The tale of Herbert and Agnes

There are times in every relationship when we feel that life has given us a bad rap, that things are just not going right. In our emotional cave-in, instead of focusing on the good, we sometimes find ourselves searching in our past for things that have gone wrong, that have led us down this road. We might find a place in the past where a different choice could have been made or decide that if our actions had been other than what they were back then, our current path would be better.

Consider the path of a friend of mine (all names are fictitious). When Herb was 18, he was in love with Agnes. Over the space of a year or more they had done many things together, getting to know each other by relaxing at parks, picnics in the local canyons, going to movies, finding restaurants they both enjoyed, hiking,  in short, just building their relationship until it grew very strong. At least in Herb's mind. When she told him that her dad didn't want her to get married until she was 21, he created a t-shirt that said, “I can't wait for 1065 more days” or something like that, and there were days crossed off on the shirt so that the 1065 was replaced by 1064, and so on. He loved her. Clearly he planned on marrying her when her father said she had his blessing. He even remembers one day at work when they saw a couple of stuffed animals, monkeys, that were hugging each other. “What should we name them?” Agnes said. “I'll name the boy monkey, Herbert,” Herb said. Then Agnes laughed, “And the other one's Agnes. Herbert and Agnes it is.”

“Thinking back, I think she really wanted to name them after us. I jokingly said 'Herbert' because I think Herbert is one of the worst male names. Then she chose 'Agnes' for the same reason. That's why I'm telling you to use Herb and Agnes instead of our real names in your article,” Herb said to me.

Herb tried to get her to see him and only him, but she said, “I can't. My dad wants me to go out with others.” Fine, he thought. I'll still love you. You are wonderful and I can't imagine life without you. In his mind were the words of his high school psychology teacher, “you kids cannot know you're in love this young in life. You need to get older to know you love someone”. Herb took what the teacher said to heart, after all, a psychology teacher ought to know about things like that, Herb thought. The teacher was wrong, but Herb didn't realize it until later. All he knew was that he loved her, but that he wasn't mature enough to recognize it according to the teacher.

"When she signed my senior yearbook, she began her entry with 'My dearest, darling, Herb'. I felt that was sincere," Herb said. "We were good friends--but of course, more than that."

As months went by, the unthinkable happened. Through the grapevine, he heard another of his friends ask, “So, what are we going to do for Agnes'  wedding?” Or something like that. It didn't matter how it was said, what mattered, was that she had decided to marry another. He bolted the restaurant booth where he'd been hanging out, knowing that he would see her once again at work the next day, but crying inside with anguish.

When she saw him, she confronted him, singling him out. “Herb , I'm so sorry you had to find out that way. I was going to tell you...Herb, I love you.”

Then why, he wanted to scream. Why are you marrying another? You love me and are marrying someone else? Why? Herb wanted to say these things, but was too frustrated to get them out. He thought about the psychology teacher and couldn't even tell her he loved her back, though he did. He finally left her and went to his post at his place of employment. Within just a few days, he quit the job. On his last day there he said to her, from his car as they were both leaving the parking lot, “Hey Agnes,”.
“What?” she said.
“Can I talk to you a minute?”
She came over to his car, her fiancee's car idling just a few yards away. “What?” she said.
“I want to wish you a happy life,” he said.
“Thanks.” she said.

That was the last time he saw her. Not invited to the wedding—he wasn't sure he could've made himself go anyway. As the months went by, he thought he saw her a few times after that, at the college, here and there, but he was either wrong, or too bitter to look close enough to find out if it really was her after all. He had lost the love of his life and had his heart ripped out in the process. He cursed himself for not speaking out at the time when she'd told him she loved him, but was marrying another. He would like to know if it would've changed her mind if he'd have said, “then why don't you marry me instead?”

“Have you ever seen the movie Somewhere in Time?" he asked me. I responded that I had. “For me it was like that guy who has the modern coin fall out of his pocket and he's instantly transported away, never to be able to return. I was about as ready to die as him for a while. It was like she'd been suddenly taken up by aliens, never to be seen again.” I responded that I had often wondered how parents have felt whose child has suddenly just vanished. You hear about them in the news from time to time. "Yeah, well, in effect, that's what it was like," he said.

Life went on, but the innocence of teenager-hood was over. He thought about Agnes often, his sense of loss  his constant companion. He did not date for at least a couple of years. A couple of years later, he himself found a wonderful woman. They dated and married. Liz  took Agnes' place in his heart, at least for the most part. Occasionally, throughout the years, Herb found himself still wondering about Agnes—it was so hard to not ever think of her, as close as they'd been--and tried to find out where she lived. He just wanted to know how she was, maybe even find some sort of closure to the relationship. She had not only been the love of his life, but she'd been one of his best friends. He needed to know that all of that hadn't been a lie. He didn't want to cause trouble with her current relationship if she was in one. He knew he would never try to destroy her marriage.  He also knew he would never be disloyal to Liz. He loved Liz with all his heart. He wanted to be able to look at himself in the mirror and not want to destroy it.

As time went on, Liz got sick. It was an illness that would get progressively worse with time, some kind of autoimmune disorder. “It's tough being a caregiver,” Herb said. “And I'm pretty sure that Agnes knows that too.” Herb had heard through one of Agnes' relatives that she had a child who had been born with some complications. “I'm not the only one with challenges in life,” Herb said. “We caregivers have a lot on our plates, but how do you think people like Liz feel?”

But he readily acknowledged, “The thing is, the caregiver is a second victim. In my case I'm alone in trying to help.” He said that his children are supportive, but that he just doesn't have anyone who he can really talk to about it.

Sometimes, things would trigger memories of the past. Maybe it would be reading through one of his old journals.  Thoughts would sometimes strongly  come into his mind about the end of his time with Agnes. “I got to the point where whenever I thought about it, it was like it was happening that day, like right now. I even screamed out her name a couple of days ago...Agnes! Why? This was after several decades. I guess stuff like that never leaves you.”

I told him he needed to find someone to talk to—a close friend, maybe a church leader or something.

“No,” he said. “all my friends have their own lives. We connect from time to time, but I don't feel like I can talk to anyone about this. I certainly can't talk to Liz. Liz has had a very insecure life. She got stronger, but with the disease, she already feels worthless. She'd feel like I was going to leave her.” He turned to me. “I'm not. I won't abandon her. You know what she calls me? Her superhero. Can a man let down a woman who thinks of him as Captain America?” He looked away again. “I'm no superhero. I try, but sometimes, life and memories get in the way. I'm a human being, not someone who has no feelings. Maybe I need to see a shrink.” He went on to say that he never had thoughts of leaving Liz, even though the going was often difficult because of the disease. "She needs me, and I'm with her to the end. That's all there is to it."

Finally he said, “I'd really like to talk to Agnes again, at least once. Just to see how she's doing and to maybe finally heal from all these years of wondering...and hurting. Just an email or something would be okay. I need to know all of that was real. Is that too much to ask? I'm not thinking about doing a reboot on our love affair.” Looking at me he said, “I just couldn't bear hurting Liz in any way.” And then, "the thing is, we are supposed to be getting wiser with age. The only wisdom I ever learned from this is that heartache doesn't really ever go away. Either that, or it's just me. Maybe I have a problem." He said that there are long periods of time when he doesn't think of Agnes at all. "It isn't like my life is wrapped around this bad episode in my life--well, the bad ending anyway. The rest was very good. I have a great life now too. I have lots of blessings even though some aspects are extremely challenging."

So what if Herb had taken that other path or been given the chance? The fact is, that we will never know. Not all paths lead to the same challenges, but most paths lead to some. Herb's heart may not have been broken in such a way that it has never fully healed, but there may have been other things—other challenges that came up. No one gets away fully unscathed. Herb assured me he was glad to have Liz and their children and grandchildren. "My life has been greatly blessed in many ways," he told me.

I asked him if he would ever consider trying to find her again, if life's circumstances worked out. He ruefully shook his head. "Those are the questions that if we answer them, we look like we're waiting for someone to die and that's ghoulish." He paused a moment. "I think there are questions we all ask ourselves, like what if my wife dies, will I remarry? I really think if I found myself widowed as an old man that I'd at least check into it. I'm not going to sit around and wait or dream of the possibility. That gets you no where. And that actually is ghoulish." Looking directly at me he said, "Look, I'm happy now, with periods of mild insanity, periods of darkness. It's something I've been living with for a while now. I want Liz to live and get better, not slowly waste away with this stupid disease. Besides, historically the men on my side of the family have died fairly young. I aim to buck that trend, but you never know. The bottom line is, I'm not looking for romantic involvement with Agnes. I just want my old friend back. She's been missing for a long time.”

The sad fact is, that many of these just finding an "old friend" experiences lead to marriage break-ups. Most are done behind a spouses back and things done in secret within a marriage are never good.

I thought back on the words he had said about needing someone to talk to, thought about his story and how it was so similar to mine. I told him that maybe he needed to talk more to Him. I pointed heavenward. He nodded. “Yeah. I'm sure I do. At this point, He's about the only one who can help me. If I even deserve it. My thoughts...well, I don't know.” He said nothing more.
One thing I knew though, as I shook his hand across the table, was that he was right. He was human.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Military service

People sometimes ask me if I ever served in the military, and the answer is "no". There was a time though when I considered it. Just after high school when I was trying to decide what to do with my life, I approached some Army recruiters who came over to my house and met with me. I was interested, but told them I needed to give it more consideration. After some days of thinking about it, I decided that I would go a different direction. About that time one of the recruiters called me back and asked me what I had decided. I told him that I'd decided not to do it. He said something like, "Well, you're never going to make it in life if you don't join up." That pretty much sealed the deal. I'm the kind of person who if someone tells me I can't do something, I go ahead and prove them wrong, which I've done.

That doesn't mean I've accomplished all I want to in my life. But the day is still young. I've got other people to prove things to, including me, and more causes to fight.

All that being said, my thoughts on this weekend are for those who gave their lives in defense of liberty. I honor all such men and women. To me, they are heroes. Other heroes to me are those who live to fight for freedom. One doesn't need to die to be a hero. One doesn't need to have joined the military to be a warrior in the cause of which I'm speaking. One only needs to stand up for the Constitution, to love liberty, to stand for our God-given rights, to not shut our mouths when confronted, but boldly make our points and defend them.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Writing challenges and how to overcome them

I found a solution to the schedule change dilemma I mentioned in my last post. I found a timer I could download and put on the desktop. I can set it for any length of time, so, what I've done is set it for 10-15 minutes. This allows me to wake up as I peruse Facebook or other things like that. When the timer goes off, I switch it to 30 minutes and do some kind of writing for that length of time. Now writing can mean revising a scene, posting on this blog, thinking about how to change a scene to incorporate all the info I need it to have--you know, anything to do with writing. I'll even use it to study a writing book. As long as I'm focused on writing.

As for finding more time in a day to write, I'm afraid I'm just out of luck. To be a writer when you have an eight hour job, you need to either write only for a short time per day, or abandon other things that need doing, such as keeping up the yard, working out, etc.

One idea I'm toying with is setting aside a specific night per week to write for a longer period of time, say two to three hours.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Work schedules and forming habits

Now, after having been screwed up in my writing schedule by my place of employment changing our starting time to 7:30 from 8:00, I find myself trying to adjust. And they've announced that they're doing a study as to whether or not they can change our starting times 7:00. This seemingly small thing has caused me to stop writing, because I was doing both writing and my gym time before work. I find myself thrown off of my habits too easily. I've finally got the gym going (after work), and now I'm thinking I'll be able to do the writing before work. In fact, that's what I'm doing now by writing this. It's the most I've actually written in the few weeks since they changed our schedule.

It's said that it takes 21 days to form a habit and only about two weeks to lose the habit if you stop doing whatever it is you've been in the habit of doing, so it's kind of like starting over again. Nevertheless, we writers need to persevere and overcome these little roadblocks, for they are everywhere.