Posts by Perry James

“Well I’ll Swan!”

I really have no idea what that phrase meant; it was something my dear grandmother said quite often. The best I can tell, it was an old time colloquialism which was pretty much a substitute for “Well I’ll Swear”. For younger readers, I should say that swearing used to be another word for cursing, or cussing. Since we were deep in the Bible Belt, cursing or swearing was strictly forbidden – at least in our family. 

Our family, meaning pretty much the entire clan, were/are Christian. Today the term “Christian” can mean just about anything, and might conjer up an image of some right-wing fundamentalist group set on changing the world. The Christian world that I grew up in was vastly different than it is today. The best way I think I can describe it is that they wanted to change or improve the world around them, or their circle of people. They didn’t go out and threaten others around them with hell and such; they just strived to live the best way they could according to what the Bible taught, and teach their children to do the same. I can’t remember anyone in my family ever saying to me that if I didn’t accept Christ, I would go to hell. Oh, they believed that, and it was probably woven into life lessons, but it was never used as a threat or scare tactic. Christianity was more like living cleanly, being meek and modest, and helping those around you that needed help.

I should say that my grandma pretty much raised me until she died when I was seven years old. My father had pretty much abandoned my mom and I when I was very young. In those days it was very difficult for a woman to be able to support herself, much less raise and support a child as well. We were forced to live with my grandma and grandpa for several years. My mom worked full-time and went to as many college classes as she could, believing that it could make things better for us. My earliest memories of my existence were somewhere around three or four years old. My grandma and grandpa stand out mostly in those faint memories. I called my mother mom, but it was grandma who raised me during those years. Sadly, “Mom” was just a moniker for the lady who came into my bedroom late at night and held me for a few minutes, kissing me on the forehead and telling me she loved me. Please note that I am not criticizing my mom; she was doing her best for us that she could. 

My grandmother was practically a saint, especially compared to those who say they are Christians these days; myself included. She woke up very early in the morning, prayed for wisdom, grace and for those around her that were in distress. She made sure that my grandpa had breakfast, and packed his lunch, which was one sandwich, one apple, a coconut macaroon cookie, and a thermos full of hot coffee. I can’t really remember ever being awake when either grandpa or my mom left in the morning. I feel pretty sure that she woke me up by a schedule that best suited her daily duties. What I remember about the start of my day was her turning on the T.V. set while she made me a bowl of oatmeal. This would have been in 1961 or 1962 perhaps.

We had a television, but in our house the T.V. was primarily for watching the news and not for entertainment. My T.V. time was the exception. There were basically two shows that she allowed me to watch; “The Lone Ranger” and “Captain Kangaroo”. By the time Captain Kangaroo came on, she had brought my breakfast to me, and returned to the kitchen to finish washing the breakfast dishes and plan for dinner that night. 

“The Three Stooges” came on right after Captain Kangaroo, but I was forbidden to watch them. I can still remember Grandma marching into the living room to turn the T.V. off when she realized that Three Stooges were on, and muttering, “foolishness!” as she reached for the knob (known today as the power button). I loved the Stooges, and it may have been my giggling that alerted her to the fact that I was committing an infraction. I have never been sure if she didn’t want me to watch the Stooges because it had no redeeming value, unlike Captain Kangaroo and the Lone Ranger, or if it was because they were just … foolish. It could have been a combination of both I suppose. 

I didn’t have many toys. I remember two stick horses, a Teddy Bear, a homemade sock monkey, and a small plastic stagecoach with horses and a driver. I also remember a dart gun which had the darts with suction cup ends that Grandma didn’t like. She had thrown away the darts, and the gun itself usually lived on the mantle, where I couldn’t reach it. I had several puzzles too, and was quite adept at working them. My mom says that even when I was very young I would finish working one of the bordered puzzles, and hold it up, over the top of my crib, or playpen with one thumb in my mouth, until someone exchanged it for a puzzle that I had not worked that day. 

My grandma was the consummate housewife of days gone by. She spent her days preparing dinner, washing clothes and hanging them out on a line to dry. Just about everything she cooked was from scratch. I’m still not sure if the Coconut Macaroons she pout in Grandpa’s lunch every day were store-bought or homemade. She sewed a lot, and she quilted some very fine quilts too. I can’t remember if we had a garden at that house or not, but I don’t remember being in a garden at that house like I do after Grandpa bought the house that I currently live in. We had a pretty big garden here, and the tending of it fell to Grandma, all except for the plowing. My grandpa pretty much thought that anything that couldn’t be done with a chainsaw or a tractor was women’s work. I can remember sitting in those old metal yard chairs in the shade of a big Hackberry tree helping her snap beans and shell peas into a big porcelain wash pan. I probably wasn’t really much help, but it kept me occupied. 

Grandma was my sole disciplinarian. She believed in the old saying, “Spare the rod, spoil the child”. I can recall the first time that I remember her tearing my bottom up with a switch. Someone (maybe Grandma) had likely pointed out to me a Robin’s nest up in a tree when I was maybe four years old. It must have been springtime, and I faintly remember my grandma saying that the robin might have eggs in that nest. I’m not sure if it was out of personal curiosity, or if I was trying to check and see if her theory was right. I got one of my grandpa’s cane poles out of the shed and knocked the nest out of the tree. I remember one angry bird, flitting around fussing at me, and the sadness I felt when I lifted the overturned nest to discover that there were pretty blue eggs, and they were all broken. My sadness was punctuated by fear as the screen door slammed and I recognized the look of anger as Grandma made a beeline down the steps in my direction. In her hand was a switch (an ancient instrument of corporal punishment). The next thing I can remember is my best rendition of moonwalking, and any other dance-steps that we thought Michael Jackson invented. I’m quite sure that this wasn’t the first time I had met “the switch”, but it was the first time I remember it being applied in earnest. If any readers think that my grandma was a horrible person for whipping me, please note that I never disturbed another bird nest on purpose. Switches were small, but were sure the to the get attention of an errant child. I can’t remember Grandma ever using one on me when I didn’t deserve it.

I have taken a large rabbit trail, as I often do, to circle back to the start. Grandma didn’t allow words that could be conceived as cursing. This really makes me wonder about my assumption about the meaning of the phrase, “Well I’ll Swan”. Back then, people also used the phrase, “Well I’ll declare!”. I should say that I was a very literal child, and had been read the story of “The Ugly Duckling”, so I knew what a swan was. When grandma would say, “I’ll Swan”, I would watch her carefully for a few minutes to see if she would turn into a beautiful swan like the Ugly Duckling. I’m not sure what I would have done had she turned into a large waterfowl, but I do know that it was a source of confusion for quite some time. 

Another thing reason I question my original theory is that Grandma didn’t allow cuss word substitutes. I’m not sure if she lit me up with a switch for it, but I remember repeating the words “darn, dang and gosh”, and getting in trouble for it. I can’t imagine what Grandma would think about the vocabulary that is accepted these days. As much as I miss her, I’m glad she isn’t alive to hear how people talk. I’m pretty sure at times she might even make me go get a switch for her to use on me. 

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In Retrospect

At this point it seemed as if the neaurologists were conducting experiments on his wife, offering tidbits of relief through various medications. They didn’t appear to have any clue medically what caused the problems she was having.  

She had been sent there to be tested for Multiple Sclrosis and Parkinson’s Disease. He was very thankful that those tests had come back negative, but couldn’t shake the feeling that they really didn’t know just what was wrong at all. It felt something like taking your car to a mechanic who replaced all the parts in a failing system in your car because they could not make a diagnosis, either by willful or sheer ignorance. 

Her symptoms were especially varied from neuralgia in her legs to slight tremors (at first), to episodes that resembled seizures

Sporked Again!

 I’m sure that just about everybody has had an experience with a spork. It’s almost a right of passage. I think it all starts just about the same way.

You stop at KFC (or your favorite processed quickly food establishment), you get your order to the table, or to the house and begin to disperse the delicacies. You eagerly find the plastic ware package, only to find that you are equipped with …. something other than the fork, spoon and knife that you  fully expected, and so justly deserve. You tear the package open only to find the meager packages of salt and pepper, the tiny napkin that you could barely wipe the mouth of a house fly with….and a SPORK.

 

The Average American Spork

That’s right! You’ve unwittingly been sporked. If you had hoped to eat your chosen table fare with this utensil, you are fairly out-of -luck. There’s no hope of tearing the chicken off the bone with this wonderful invention. You can’t possibly eat ALL the mashed potatoes and gravy or Mac and Cheese with a spork, but if you ordered Okra as a side, you may be in luck with that.

Spork.org has a somewhat brilliant observation of sporks. “A spork is a perfect metaphor for human existance. It tries to function as both spoon and fork, and because of this dual nature, it fails miserably at both. You cannot have soup with a spork, it is far too shallow; you cannot eat meat with a spork, the prongs are too small”.

It’s really kind of a slap in the face from an establishment (no matter the name) where you paid way too much for the food, possibly got the right order, and caught an attitude from the person selling it to you.
I sincerely thought that I was going to do quite the original piece on sporks, only to find that sporks have been a subject matter, sometimes even fondly, for years. There are even web sites dedicated to the spork. I even found “The History Of Sporks”! http://www.salon.com/2012/10/06/consider_the_spork/  I had no idea! It’s slightly amusing reading, capped with Spork Mythology and all. 

For Those Born With A Golden Spork In Their Mouth


There have been many variations of Sporks throughout history, proving that some people have little more to do with their lives than try to re-invent the spork wheel, or build a better spork trap. 

The Vicious Saw-toothed Spork

I’m sure that the above pictured Spork is ergonomically designed, as long as you are holding the spoon part. Unfortunately, I’m sure that if I were using it, I would saw my lips up in some way, making for a painful meal. If I were holding the “fork” end, I might inadvertently severe tendons in my hand. It was designed to cut meat you know! Not the “best” Spork for me.

Infamous Face-Stabbing Spork


This Spork is designed with nice long tines which MAY be good for fork eating folks, but imagine the law suits which could result from those tines piercing a cheek or lip. It might be handy for those who enjoy wearing fish hook piercings  in their faces though! The spoon portion looks slightly useless except when wanting to pour soup into your mouth. 

Sporks of Many Colors


It’s one dexterous person who can eat with 5 Finger Sporks! On second thought, I think it is quite the sicko that buys and uses these. It’s one thing to buy them as a joke or a novelty gift, but anyone (besides a kid) who would seriously use them is beyond dementia. 

How Pro-Life Sporks Are Made


As I began to research the manufacture of Sporks, I came across the above picture. I immediately stopped my research. I don’t want it to be said that I don’t believe that forks shouldn’t have a choice. Perhaps organization isn’t the only reason that our silverware drawers have dividers! 

I’ve been looking for some type of business to engage in, and I believe I’ve decided what I want to do….

……I’m going to open a Spork farm. I’m sure that the Spork gene pool has some fantastic bloodlines these days, and after all, how much could a Spork Breeding farm cost? But then again, looking at some of the above pictures, it would appear that there has been some incestual Spork breeding going on as well. 

Remodeling

I am currently doing some long overdue remodeling on the house that I live in. It’s a really old house that is in a family trust. I’m not sure when they started building it, but it was finished in 1917. It had a big makeover in the 50’s and some minor renovations through the years, so it has been way overdue. It’s been in my family for around 54 years.

I must give credit here to my lovely bride, Stacy. Not only was she strategic in getting me to do the work on the house that was needed, but she inspired in me a new drive to achieve more and better. She renewed in me a sense of hope and confidence that WE were going to do great things together. Plus that, she’s a darn good job boss!

If any of you have tackled a remodeling job, you know it is an arduous process. It would be great to have the money to be able to hire out the work, but in our economy, it just isn’t possible for us.

Each room that is picked for remodeling is different and has different needs. Some of those needs are minor, with only painting required or some major cleanup and some sprucing. Some have to have flooring done, which sometimes leads to discoveries that sub floors have problems and turns into a major project. Some rooms have to be pretty much stripped of everything and completely redone.

I discovered long ago that if I thought something would take 3 hours, I had better allow 6 hours (or more) to have it completed. This can be compounded if a person has a touch of adult A.D.D.. Don’t ask how I know! Have you see Quantico yet?

I don’t know a lot about home construction, but since I wasn’t wise enough to pick and study for a career early in life, I know “a little about a lot” of it, having had to make a living doing assorted things to make a living. Though I deeply regret my lack of wisdom, especially in my early years, it comes in quite handy in this situation. I should also give credit to my step-father Archie who had us helping to do some things to this same house many years ago. I think about him often when I am working on it now, remembering the sweat and toil that we put into closing in porches and such, and me wanting to do the cool things, but not necessarily ALL things. My bio-dad also helped me the last time I did some remodeling. 

We’ve been working on it for several months now, and the whole process is bittersweet and difficult. It’s sometimes easy to get the big stuff tackled that really makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something, and for me, even easier to move on to the next big thing, leaving the little things that mark finality and are the finishing touches that bring it all together. 

Going back to my prior statement of how some rooms have to be stripped of the bad stuff so that good stuff can be installed. I have realized while I was working on this project how similar it is to our lives. 

Sometimes we need some remodeling in our own lives. It’s sometimes easy to know that we need changes, but we walk right past them, like walking past that bad paneling for years and years, or that door that needs fixing. We grow accustom to our own flaws and somehow disregard the changes that need to be made. 

Some of the changes are minor, and somewhat superficial, but some of them are major, requiring that we painfully tear out the old things so that we can usher in the new. This requires self examination and honesty with ourselves, and it often requires tearing out much more than than we thought, much like remodeling a house. It involves many mistakes, and dealing with those mistakes. 

Yes, I have been working on some personal remodeling as well. It is slow going, as is remodeling this 99 year old house. I know that not everyone will like the differences in both remodel jobs, but I think the changes are good for me at this time in my life. 

I’ve had to recognize many mistakes that I’ve made, and do my best to deal with those mistakes. I’ve had to strip bad habits from my life of many varieties, and replace them with better habits. I’ve had to re-enforce weak areas of my life that I’ve walked by and ignored for years. 

It hasn’t always been fun, but more often like hard work. It is not easy to be my age and develope traits that I should have established long ago. 

I’ve had a lot of help…both on the house, and my life from my beautiful bride Stacy. I’ve seen her exhibit so much perseverance and love in both jobs. I couldn’t or wouldn’t have done it without her. We’ve faced construction obstacles on both jobs, and sometimes had to start all over. 

I have no doubts that both jobs will be well worth the work that has been invested. This remodeling thing is going to come out great!

Where Have All The Good Teachers Gone?

It’s no secret that the education of our youth has plummeted to new lows. For years students have been graduating from high school, unable to read their own diplomas. Colleges have long since been providing remedial classes to get College Freshmen students up to speed, so that they can take real college courses. It’s really sad that in our society, in the midst of booming technological advantages in our classrooms, many kids can scarcely read and will have an extremely tough time getting through life with virtually no education.

There is a wide assortment of things that this problem can be blamed on. There are homes with parents missing, and the remaining parent has to work two jobs, often to make less than a decent income. Sometimes the remaining parent is looking for another spouse, or is too worried about their own social life to be bothered with the education of the child they have been blessed with. Whatever the case, the children most often suffer emotionally, physically and scholastically. 

There are homes where both parents are there, but one or both of them are too focused on whatever things in their lives have become important to them besides their kids. Maybe it’s racing; maybe it’s time at the lake; maybe it’s motorcycles; maybe it’s just being a social butterfly. Whatever the parent’s focus is, it isn’t the future and well-being of their kids in too many cases.

Many times a parent’s lack of involvement is to blame for the poor education that kids are getting these days, but let’s be real for a minute. It isn’t always parents who are to blame. The whole of our public education system has really gone down the tubes, and has been on its way there for many years. We (John Q. Taxpayer) have been sinking boatloads of money into public education for decades, only to graduate more and more students that cannot read, and can’t do simple math.

I’m sure that some may be guessing, by the name of my piece, that I am saying there are no good teachers left. I hasten to say that I’m not sure if as many of the teachers on the job today are as dedicated as they once were, but I think more of the blame should be placed on the educational system itself in general. Perhaps much blame could also be placed on Federal guidelines, school districts, or the individual schools in those districts. I’m sure that there is plenty of blame to spread around equally.

In the last few decades it seems that we see more and more public schools turn into virtual indoctrination institutions than systems of learning. The things that really make our kids into more knowledgable young people, capable of learning more on their own appears to be a thing of the past. More time seems to be focused on social issues and political leanings than learning how to read and write. History has been re-written by those who would seek to disavow our country’s founding. Math has been turned into a complex circus of numerical confusion. More time is spent on making sure kids don’t have an identity crisis (something that SHOULD happen at home). Sex education and sexual identity seems to be the focus in many districts.

The teachers that would endeavor to teach our children how to learn so that they can broaden their own horizons are bridled by mumbo jumbo from districts and State mandates, which could in part be controlled at the Federal level. Those teachers are out there, and some of them are still teaching, but some of them are struggling, wondering what to do, because they really aren’t allowed to “teach”. They care about their chosen field, and they care about their students, but are kept in check and perhaps even beaten back (metaphorically speaking) by illogic in the system.

I am married to such a teacher. Stacy got into teaching a little later in life by volunteering in literacy programs. She could have done anything in the world she wanted to do. She would have made an excellent Attorney or Judge. I’m sure that she could have breezed through med school if she chose to. The thing is that Stacy loves showing others how to better themselves. She teaches people how to learn and she’s damn good at it…if and when she is allowed.

She currently teaches English at a small school in our state to Special Education (SPED) students. Teachers who are involved in SPED are saddled with an extraordinary amount of paperwork and meetings within the school, district and even at the State level, regarding their students, which isn’t required for regular education teachers. Not only does Stacy have that in addition to her regular duties, but also the extra burden of finding out just how to help each individual student. There isn’t much wholesale teaching in SPED, because each student has more intricate “problems” than may be found in a mainstream classroom setting. Some students may have a problem with Dyslexia, might be on the Autism Spectrum, while others may come from less than ideal family situations, where abuse may be involved.

I appreciate the teachers that I have had through the years, but I have to say that watching my Stacy work, is like watching a magician do her work. It isn’t really magic, but seeing her evaluate each student in a few days time, and directing their individual studies to suit their specific needs in the future is a magical thing. It comes with quite a lot of stress on her part and sometimes behavioral problems with students, but she does such an excellent job in resolving their needs and issues. Where many other teachers have failed at getting these kids to learn, Stacy accomplishes it more often than not.

Sadly, most of her students, for whatever reason, didn’t learn how to read or write well. How can they accomplish learning in any class if they can’t read? Although English is mainly what she teaches, she spends an extraordinary amount of time teaching them vocabulary, and reading. Many of her students go to regular classes too, and she asks the teachers of those classes to send her material that they are studying, so that she can help them with their problematic classes. Stacy does that for the kids, not the teachers. She incorporates many outside resources that can help them learn new words. She does some things with them that even make learning fun. Many times they leave her classroom not even realizing that they’ve learned something.

Stacy is tough but fair with her students. They always know what she expects of them. Genuine effort is the expectation, and they understand that she knows the difference. Not only does she teach English, Reading and Writing, but she teaches mutual respect…something that should be taught in the home, yet something some of these high school kids know very little about. She promises them respect, but more importantly, she teaches them the importance of respecting others. In other words, she teaches character traits that will benefit students long after they are out of school and making their way through this long and difficult journey that we call “life”.

She also ends up reading their tests in subjects that she doesn’t teach, because she is…well, a Special Ed teacher. Most times she ends up doing this during her own lunch time, and sometimes even during a class where she is supposed to be teaching English or Reading. Just how ironic is it that she has to stop teaching her students Reading and Writing, so she can give a test orally to students who don’t read well enough to take the test on their own? How’s that for administration? 

Stacy is given no allowance by her school to purchase any materials for projects, or other supplies. The books and materials that she was left with were old and outdated. Some of them were incomplete sets (ie. seven textbooks and two workbooks, or two textbooks and seven workbooks). There are three or four desktop computers in her classroom (not sure how many of them work), so she bought three additional laptops for the students with her own money. She has also purchased a couple hundred dollars worth of books (some on sale, some not). Almost everywhere we go, Stacy has her eye out for some type of materials to use with her students.

At times, she spends parts of our weekends at school, preparing lesson plans, or getting lessons together that she has come up with, that are far more practical and maybe even fun for her students. She also has to do special preparatory paperwork in advance of yearly or bi-annual parent-teacher State/Federal SPED meetings, which must meet legal guidelines.

These are just a few of the things that she does. I’ve left out quite a bit, mostly for time’s sake. I won’t include the battles that she faces almost daily from different teachers and/or administration. Stacy is a true hero to me for what she does, and how she does it. I truly wish that I’d had teachers like her when I was in school. I didn’t have horrible teachers, but they were more like old-time school marms. They knew their stuff, but they had no drive.

I’ve spent a lot of time bragging about my wife Stacy and her teaching skills. In as much as I’ve done that, I realize that she isn’t the only one of her caliber. I’m sure there are many teachers across America who really do want to teach….to make a difference in the lives of the kids who are in their charge. They too may be bridled by the “powers-that-be”. They too have reached the point where they wonder daily “what’s the use?” They too are encumbered by things in their school districts that have absolutely nothing to do with enabling kids the ability to go father in life by what they’ve learned in the classes of great teachers.

Where are all the good teachers? Many are looking for jobs that are really meaningful to someone. Many are still in the system, but have given up, at least in part, and are chasing their paychecks from week to week. Many have retired, weary of the useless psychobabble that they have been forced to shovel out instead of real life learning skills that schools cared about once upon a time. 

May God be with our kids who will run the future generations one day without the aid of the good teachers.

Why Feed The Vets? 

This piece was shared on Social Media by a good friend of mine who is a Marine. Ever since I have known him, he has been a huge part and influence regarding especially veterans events. He is a huge part of our local biker community….loved and respected by everyone who knows him. Thanks for letting me share this Big Joe!

Talking Paper: Why Feed the Vets & Other Events at Ft. Roots/McClellan & all VAs?

Vet History 101: The Dream Part 1— They leave their families and friends and all that they’ve known their entire lives. They are excited, scared, pumped, and hopeful. Everyone wants to be a hero and come home to parades—or not—to families that cheer them and they want to re-find their place in those lives and in society. They want things to be better; they’ve fought for their country and all that they hold dear, and for that the expectation is that they will have more devoted families, promotions based on merit and what they’ve sacrificed, and Happily Ever After is at their fingertips…

Dream Part two– They go to into theater and become members of fighting machines—whether it’s on the ground, tanks, planes, ships, subs, or virtual. These relationships are built on respect, trust, friendships, and sharing gains and losses. They believe this will last an entire lifetime and for them—this is their NEW reality. They know, or hope, that this present life won’t be forever; that they will all go home at the end of the tour and keep in touch once home; but that forever they have friends who will always be there for them in tough times and celebrations. This is what keeps them going when –oops—their spouse sends them a “Dear John/Jane” letter; the kids hate them because they missed a birthday, a wife/husband/significant other doesn’t understand why they signed up to stay, or volunteered for another mission. These are the people who remind them that they are crazy and really DO have things to look forward to when they get home…safely…intact. These are the friends who understand the loneliness, the bitterness, the depression, and the glory of triumph; the ones who will always understand—because they share similar experiences; they can talk about “that night” or “that day when got hurt or killed.” No one, no matter how much they love a Veteran, can ever understand that in order to survive mentally and physically you have to suspend your old life reality in order to go back to it.

Dream Part three— Vets come home and are thrilled to be back with family, friends, jobs, kids, and all the other aspects of their lives they’ve missed for weeks, months, and years. They dream about it and it’s what keeps them going when nothing else can. This is their fantasy dream world of motivation. Now they’re home and everything is going to be awesome.

Reality Part 1

1) A Vet just lost a best friend when an IUD took out the tank he or she was supposed to be on because he or she stayed back in order to participate with a birthday or celebration online with family.

2) Vet was in the tank that the IUD took but Vet survived but had to hauled back stateside and is not a amputee—and best friend still died.

3) Vet lives with no injury, most friends make it back safely with only a couple of injuries but realizes it’s only because another unit or company was on duty and you were partying with your friends.

4) Vet makes it through but hates the killing, the injuries, the stress, the knowledge that they have no one to go home to and wtf was all this for; nobody will care and their aren’t going to be any parades when I get home; only a mom that has gotten older, and a significant other that moved on.

5) Vet loses so many friends, kills some women and kids in the name of “greater good” but can’t live with it emotionally and withdraws so far into self that nothing matters and the hope is that they won’t have to go home and face anyone.

Reality Part 2

The Vet goes home as a survivor. Everyone cheers them as the great warrior and the savior of democracy. Wife, husband, kids, mom & dad, all the friends, the boss, the VA, and their Vet friends celebrates your homecoming and wishes you well in your life’s endeavors. Vet goes through forced counseling, re-integration classes, personal relationship classes, and signs up to go to college. All is good.

Reality Part 3

Three months, six months, two years go by, and somehow things didn’t work out. Vet and significant other split up because “they aren’t the same,” either emotionally or physically. Vet doesn’t want to talk about experiences. Vet or s/o get more distant. Vet yells all the time or never talks at all. Counselling didn’t do anything. School didn’t work out because Vet has nightmares, insomnia, PTSD, TBI, whatever, and can’t hold down school plus the family.

The Downward Spiral–Vet starts drinking too much and too often. Vet wants to party with buddies from unit. Vet starts drugs and pain meds for sleep and maybe both. Vet feels depressed and nothing makes the adrenaline pump like saving a friend’s life, or running from hostile fire, or the glory of living through another attack. Vet can’t forget the last moment spent with friend who died night before going home, and why did friend die instead? Doubt, anguish, uncertainty, loneliness for team, guilt for not being able to make family happy, not making more money. Bitterness because Vet lost family in divorce, VA denied or took too long to process claim, an amputee isn’t a whole person are they? Nightmares, no sleep, no job, no money. Why go on?

Tough Ones who try to hold it all in—No scars, can still smile, function, appears to have come through pretty much unscathed because there is nothing to remind friends, family, or society that Vet ever served other than a DD-214—Vet goes home, takes up where they left off. Works, takes care of kids and family, or marries and starts new life. Everything good but Vet never talks about anything. Everything is held in because Vet don’t want to appear weak or desperate. Vet appears normal. Vet doesn’t do crazy shit like they show on tv. Vet ok.  

 Who are these Vets to be visited?

1. Veterans who enter VA facilities for either mental or physical, or both reasons may be at VA for extended periods of time or for entire life. They may or may not have families to visit. They may have families and friends, and a support group, but still, when you are in the hospital, you are cut off from normal.

 2. Veterans who have outlived their families, have no close family members, or have alienated family may not have anyone who comes to see them at hospital.

 3. Dementia patients may have outlived their families, may have family that are themselves unable to visit due to age or illness, or families live far away.

 4. Patients who are at VA for Physical Rehab, ie: hip surgery, knee replacement may be at VA for 4-12 weeks. They may have families who visit when they can but most of their days are spent hoping for release and trying not to get depressed if rehab is not going well.

 5. Patients who are constantly re-admitted into hospital due to relapses, age and infirmity, chronic illness, or dementia

 6. Mental Health Patients who have entered either a short or long term psychological and/or substance abuse program may spend anywhere from a couple weeks to a year in these programs.

 Why is there such a push for Vets, Bikers, and volunteers to visit the Veterans at VA?

1. They may or may not have family that live close enough to be visited.

2. They need to be reminded, esp if at VA for long rehabs or programs that there is “light at the end of the tunnel.”

3. Long Term Substance Abuse programs tend to “institutionalize” Veterans so that they don’t remember what “normal” or “life outside” means to them. Visits forces them to remember that they are working and striving for a better life outside VA.

4. The only quality of life that Veterans have, aside from great staff, occasional family visits, and lots of food—are the volunteers who come to visit, entertain, talk/read, sing happy birthday, and celebrate or honor their service with events such as annual POW/MIA ceremony, National Salute Week, Valentine’s Day visits, Holiday Visits, and “Feed the Vets” for Veterans Day.

 ➢ It’s common knowledge that even when a Vet will not talk about his or her experiences in service to a family member, they will almost ALWAYS talk with a fellow Vet. Most “therapy” and “recovery” for a Vet takes place in conversation with other Vets.

 ➢ Vets trust other Vets. Vets trust members of their own service. Vets want to feel that comradery that they remember from their service time. Being with another Vet rekindles the memory of why they served their country in the first place.  

 Why the Paperwork during Events?

1. VA is government and paperwork is part of it.

2. If it’s not documented, it might as well have never been done. Just like in the military.

3. Voluntary Service, as well as any other program at VA must be able to quantify as well as qualify the programs that they are providing.

4. Programs are validated and funded by numbers of Veterans served, and effectiveness of programs.

 Bottom Line: The more volunteers and donations that go to serve a certain program or event at VA, the more money and support VA will put into that program!!!

25 To Life

I had intended to post a new story yesterday celebrating my sobriety of 25 years. I actually wrote two different pieces, but they just didn’t seem to carry the message that I wanted to convey, so I didn’t post them yet. I will post at least one of them, which isn’t much of a celebration, but is pretty dark a little later.

Thank you to all my readers who re-read the post “The Most Sobering Moment For Me” from 5 years ago, that I re-posted yesterday. I appreciate all the kind words from friends and family.

Almost everyone among us has been touched in some way by a friend or a family member who has become a slave to drugs or alcohol. It’s such a prevalent problem. Since I have been sober, I always have been dis-amused by the fact that beer and liquor commercials have been allowed all these years without more than a warning to be a responsible drinker. That said, I am not on a campaign against drinking, even though it robbed me of being a decent man and father for so many years. It put innocent people in danger of me each time I drove drunk or buzzed. I understand that not EVERYONE becomes a slave to alcohol like I did.

I am very thankful to have the priviledge to be alive today, and a second chance at being a functional and somewhat decent man. It was a very difficult road, especially at first. Most of the “friends” that I made in those years were at least drinkers or substance abusers, and to say the least, I had to tell them all that they wouldn’t be seeing me around, but I still counted them as “friends”. Most of them thought I was crazy, and didn’t believe that I would be sucessful at sobriety. As it turned out, I didn’t really have to leave them behind, because they left me behind. It was certainly a time when I began finding out who were real friends and who were users.

I can’t really remember how long it took, but my mind slowly began to clear, and there came a realization that almost all of the bad circumstances in my life that I tended to blame the world on, were actually created by me. I started to see that I had been in charge of the building of my own destiny, and had bungled it badly.

I had gone from being a decent young man to one of the people that we generally don’t want anything to do with. In fact, I had become a person that even some of my drunk friends didn’t even want to be around if I had had “too much”. Now that’s pitiful. I had hurt many people along the way (mostly family members) who genuinely loved me. Those were the ones, besides myself, who I hurt the worst. Most of those have verbally forgiven me, but many of those people carry serious scars from my deception, theft, and generally bad behavior.

During the worst years of my drinking, I fathered two wonderful children, but cheated them out of a decent an loving father. This is one of the things that still haunts me to this very day. Cheated time can rarely be made up for, especially with your children. I made life tremendously difficult for my two oldest kids.

The realization of all of my folly was a difficult thing to bare. I can’t even describe the feeling of desparation that I felt, especially while going through the first year of sobriety. Even driving by liquor stores that I had frequented was a traumatic experience. The first time I drove past one of those stores on the way to the deer woods was especially tough, but a break-through moment. That break-through didn’t actually occur easily. It involved tears as I fought my demons. When I actually arrived at the place where I hunt, I wept violently, sitting in my truck with my rifle between my legs, pointed at my head, grasping for a way to avoid that battle even one more time. Thankfully, thoughts of the people who loved me and were cheering for me prevailed. Never again did I begin to “act” upon thoughts of suicide, although there were surely fleeting thoughts of it at times.

It was a terrible thing to have gone through, but I always kept in mind just WHO put me through it. There were many AA meetings, which really took me back to my raising, and the thought that I had totally neglected God in my life. I remember the moment that realization hit as well. I wa talking with my sponser before a meeting, and said to him, “I don’t really belong here. I belong back in God’s fold.”. He looked at me and said, “It seems to me that your “GOD” left you high and dry!”. A figurative light bulb clicked on in my head as I answered him. “NO…. He didn’t leave me. I left Him”.

Although I gleaned some great things from Alcoholics Anonymous, the majority of my help and comfort came from my Bible and church meetings. I didn’t care to sit around with a bunch of drunks re-hashing old times. I wanted to learn how to live. I credit a praying mother so much for my life and my sobriety.

My path to sobriety may not be the correct path for everyone, but it was correct for me. We are individuals all, and our paths to whatever destiny we choose will be different. I have suggested and/or shared my path to others before. No one that I know of chose that exact path, and some of those folks are still struggling with life.

My celebration of 25 years of sobriety is not for patting myself on the back, for I should have never been in that place to begin with. I rather celebrate it by saying to others that have friends or family who have ANY type of addiction problems, “DON”T GIVE UP ON THEM. THEY NEED SOMEONE.”. Underneath the filth and corrosion of the garbage that they have admitted into their lives, there is likely the same great person that you knew years ago. In order to succeed, they need someone to believe in them, as tough as it will be. They are fighting demons that you have no clue about. They have spent years unwittingly instilling hopelessness into themselves. They have ALL sincerely tried to quit before,even though it may be hard to see. Those who have no one to believe in them almost never make it.

Beating addictions is a “One Day At A Time” deal. Different people take different paths to sobriety, but that ALWAYS is a factor. I never said, “I want to be sober for 25 years”. Some make it for days, some for months, some for years, and others don’t make it at all. Pray hard and encourage those that you know who have problems. Don’t embed yourself so deep as to endanger yourself or your family to help…It can happen.

I will say this. I am very thankful to have rettained sobriety for 25 years. I am a fortunate man. I celebrate my sobriety by saying, “Now I can start on my next 25 years!”. 

Not only do I get to start on my next 25, but I’m starting that 25+years with my new bride Stacy! She has been more supportive and inspirational than I can even begin to describe. This 25+ years will fly by!