Friday, November 1, 2013

Suicide is painless.


It's selfish. It's very painful for those you leave behind... It's a lot of things.
But mostly? Its a very PERMANENT solution to a TEMPORARY problem.

Soul bearing time...
I've always been an artsy emotional fellow. I was emo before there was emo. I remember sitting in my room, unable to sleep and writing gut wrenchingly sad songs to deal with MY inner turmoil. I took everything personally. When there was a breakup? It was my fault. Somehow, I wasn't worthy or just simply unlovable. I did something wrong. I wasn't enough this or too much that. It ate me alive. Literally. I was diagnosed with ulcers when I was 16. I went to a counselor who said it was ok for me to get mad. That I needed to exercise those feelings. To vent them. That's when I got a Roland Juno60 synthesizer and started writing songs. But the feelings persisted. I was a roller coaster. I had great friends and had a lot of fun. But I'd go home and wallow and binge in my despair. Listened to A LOT of Pink Floyd. :) I'm a libra. We know how to wallow. But I also brought it on myself. I was different. I didn't want to dress like everyone else or listen to the same music as everyone else... I got a lot of, "Hey faggot." But that didn't really bother me. That fueled me.  What killed me, was girls. Rejection. Not feeling loved or wanted. And that has to do with my father. And that's another story.
Like I said, I took everything personally. I have NEVER been a violent guy. I have been in VERY few physical fights. The last was with Jody, my little brother, at our house on Baranof. That too is another story... lol. At any rate, I'm just not a violent guy. My father was, and that is the reason I am not.
I had graduated. One night my girlfriend told me she had cheated on me. More than once. I was crazy about her. I was crushed. I was SO angry with her. I was SO hurt by her actions and admissions. I wanted to hurt her, or someone, or anything. So, I chose myself...
Clearly I didn't succeed, but I was in the hospital for a few days. My poor mother. My little brother, They didn't understand. How? Why would I do that!? I had just reached that point. I was emotionally immature and at that age EVERYTHING seems like the end of the world. But I felt ill equipped to deal with the emotions. Rejection. The hurt. The idea and thought it would happen over and over... The irony was that a year later, I watched two close friends drown. Guys whom had nothing but hope and a lust for life. Guys who had never travelled the dark paths I had. That day, and the year or so after that? I struggled with the guilt of living. How was it that I, someone who had chosen to try and take my life, and had felt that life was unbearable and too much to take, was the only survivor of a boating accident? What kind of cruel twist was that? But that accident changed me and my life forever. My out look. My fervor for life, truth, honesty and forgiveness. My hopeless devotion to love. To just wanting to TRY and do the right thing always. I don't succeed. But I try. And I'm thankful for everyone and everyday. I wish there were a more pronounced way to show it. So I merely try and live my life right.
When Jody's life was cut short... His light was SO bright. I ache. I ache at the thought of that loss. Why him? Why not me? Why them? Why not me? I've been through some shit. We all have. But having lived through all that? Having 3 beautiful, happy, healthy kids whom I love without bounds or measure? Knowing what love IS and ISN'T? I'm happy. I'm SO thankful for what and whom I have in my life. I want to live. Everyday.
I think its the sum of those things that brings perspective and clarity. And so to those who might feel as I once did? As my departed friend that took his life did? I simply say don't. Please don't. I know it hurts. I know that ache. Feeling alone and hurting? Hopeless? It's not. You're not alone. You are loved. Tomorrow really is another day and another opportunity. It may sound cliche, but it's the honest truth.
If I had succeeded all those years ago, there would be no Connor or Samantha or Ethan. There would be fewer songs in the world about fish and dinosaurs or about love and JU87 Stuka Dive Bombers...
And what if one my kids loves science? And then they love chemistry and go to college and become a scientist? And what if they become part of group of brainiacs that evolves genomics and helps to end the cancer that took their uncles life? It possible. It's plausible. Causality.
We don't know what the future holds. But we have a hand in writing it. It's not always easy. But it's always worth it. There is always gonna be someone thankful for you and your contributions. We may never know about them or of them. But they are there.
Its faith.
It's life.
Choose it.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Make it count.

March 23rd, 1987 started like so many before... But would end unlike any other, before or since.

Eric Mann, my college roommate, Troy Stevens, another college pal and I had decided to spend Spring Break on the Oregon coast together. Eric's father had a beach house in Waldport, OR and said we could stay there. We'd driven in Troy's little ford pick up from La Grande, where we were all in our freshman year at Eastern Oregon State College, or so it was called at the time. Eric was from Albany, OR and Troy from Buhl, ID and I of course a goofy new wave kid from Ketchikan, AK. They were both into cars. Gear heads. On the surface, we weren't likely friends. Not a lot in common, beyond food and girls, but we were all small town boys who respected our elders and possessed a dry sense of humor and a lust for life and laughs.

We got up that morning had breakfast, pancakes and eggs. We wanted to get out on the water but the weather couldn't quite decide what it was going to do so we went down stairs and shot pool. You'd of thought it was our major by the amount of time we spent at the tables in the rec room of Hunt hall, our dorm. When the sun started peeking out and the fog had burned off, we made our break. We grabbed the zodiac and our life vests and made for the beach. It wasn't but a few blocks away. When we got there we snatched the boat from the back of Troy's pick up and walked by the hotel we parked behind. It was breezy, but we were determined to get some beach time in.

I had heard of rip tides or rip currents, but never really experienced them. What they are or how they occur? How powerful they are? The Ocean is? Breaking waves are? We learned that day. We waved to the guy cleaning the pool as we passed the hotel and headed to the beach. We were talking about what we wanted to have for lunch. Another friend, John, was supposed to be coming up and visiting later that day, or the next, and we were making plans of what to do. We donned our life vests, set the boat in the water and headed towards the waves. Thought we'd splash around a bit and play in the surf. The sky was beginning to grey again and the waves were getting bigger. We didn't really notice the wave that tipped the boat. It just came up, knocked us out of the boat and flipped it over. We didn't think much of it. We tried to flip the boat but weren't able to gain leverage being in the water. Eric and Troy climbed on top of the bottom of the boat and I held on to the rope that ran the perimeter. We were still oblivious and didn't notice the rate at which we were being taken further out to sea. I remember dropping under water about a foot and being able to touch the bottom...

Minutes later we entered the first set of breakers. Another wave swamped the boat and swept Eric and Troy off the bottom of the capsized boat and ripped the rope from my hands. We churned in the water beneath the wave and surfaced moments later to find the boat gone. It had just disappeared. The waves continued to crash for the next few minutes, as we were swept further away from land. The water was cold and it didn't take long until I was numb and couldn't feel it anymore. We found our selves in the trough in-between sets of breaking waves. I saw Eric. He was wide eyed and dazed. I could tell he was shaken and scared. He was about 15 feet from me. I asked him how he was doing. I remember looking at him and not registering his words, "I don't think I'm gonna make it." We'd been physically in the water for about 20 minutes by now. Then what he had said hit me, I said, "What!? Don't even talk like that man!" I reassured him. His eyes were fixed on the shore. I was facing him and the open ocean. I could see that we were approaching the next set of waves. The sky had grown darker and the wind had picked up. The waves were getting bigger. I told him, "The next set is coming, you gotta hold your breath and paddle like hell to get to the surface again, ok!? You ready killa? Tell me when you're ready!" (A line from an L L Cool J song) He didn't smile. He had ALWAYS smiled when I said that to him previously. I knew he was scared. I was too.

The roar of the surf grew and the waves began to roll over us again. I wasn't sure where Troy was. I hadn't seen him in awhile and I was focused on Eric. I don't know if you've been overwhelmed by a wave and tossed about in the churn as it crashes over you. The weight. The sound, even underwater. You feel helpless.You wait for the bulk of the tumult to pass over you and you paddle towards the light. Even underwater, with your eyes closed you can feel the the light from the surface and cold that accompanies the dark as you drop deeper. I looked for Eric when I surfaced again. I didn't see him. Another 5 minutes later, we were entering the trough between waves again. Rising and sinking on the backs of the swells that had just pounded us. I spun around looking for him. Nothing. I called, "Eric! Eric, where are you!? Eric!?" Nothing. Then I saw him atop a wave between me and the shore. As he slid down the backside of the wave I could see he was face down in the water. I swam towards him, as well as I could in the life vest I was wearing. It felt like it took forever. I thought, "This isn't good. Is he holding his breath?" I reached him. His body was limp. I spun him around and lifted his head. Nothing really prepares you for what death looks like. I've seen movies. I've seen people die with their eyes closed. I've seen people die in films with their eyes open and then the hero or heroine shuts them dramatically. But you can not mistake the look of a lifeless gaze when faced with it. I knew he was gone, but, I tried to talk to him. To wake him... his blue skin and mouth agape. We were in the water and I couldn't do cpr or mouth to mouth in the water like I could on land. I didn't know what to do... So, I held him.

When I broke from the shock of it, I called out for Troy. Nothing. I tried again. He answered. I was relieved. I looked in the direction of his voice. He was about 20 yards further out and separated by a single set of swells. I told him that Eric had died. Even as I said it... It didn't seem real or possible. There was a pause and then I heard him, "Oh, man." He was shaken. I asked him how he was doing. He said he was ok. "Cold." He asked if I could see anything on the beach. I couldn't. We kept talking for a bit I wanted to keep him engaged and focused. We were getting close to another set of waves. They were bigger yet. I remember thinking, "Am I gonna die? I just watched Eric die. We had pancakes not that long ago... How does that happen? This is serious. Shit. This isn't good." I was still holding Eric's body. I didn't know what else to do. Then, the next set began to tumble towards us... They met Troy before me.

I had swallowed SO much sea water, I felt ill. I had developed a drill after being tossed about by the previous waves. As I approached the breakers, I would stare at them and as they rushed at me, about 10 feet out, I would quickly spin and turn my back to the wave and as it's thunder and froth consumed me. I would ball up and tumble freely in it's churn and then as it eased, I would spring open and paddle to the surface. That was the plan. I was still holding Eric when the first wave crashed over me. It's force ripped his body from my hands. I paddled to the surface. I instantly looked for his body. Again the waves. They seemed relentless. I had gotten to the backside and was again bobbing on the swells. Where was Eric? I felt responsible, somehow, for guarding his body. I scoured the water. Nothing. Anywhere. Then... I saw his life jacket. No Eric, just his life vest. The water had been forceful enough to rip the vest off him. I was in dismay. I yelled for Troy again. He answered. He was still ok, all things considered. Then I saw it...

Movement! On the beach! "Troy! Someone's on the beach! I think they found the boat." He didn't respond. Then I saw an oar that had been in the boat floating 10 yards or so down the trough. I made my way to it and lifted the oar into the air to try and 'wave' it so someone, anyone might spot us. Little did I know, the pool guy had seen someone with the boat that he'd seen us carrying. He called 911. They had responded and had sent a diver to try and reach us. The current was far to strong and washed them further down the beach away from us. They tried, but in vain. Just as my waving was in vain. And it was brief. Out of the water my arms were as lead. SO Heavy. I had hardly any energy. I started thinking about my clothes. I was wearing a t-shirt and a set of scrubs I had 'borrowed' from my mum and KGH and had cut off into shorts. My shoes? Maybe they were pulling me down? Maybe I would be more buoyant if I removed them? So I did. I watched them float away. Piss. My feet began to get colder too. My shoes had evidently provided SOME insulation as it were. Ok, NOT a good move. Then? More waves... I felt like they would never stop. We had been in the water a little over an hour now. It would be nearly 2 more before the chopper came.

Forty five minutes, some desperate and random thoughts, and a few more sets of breakers later, I found myself near Troy. He could no longer speak. He just shook and shivered. Clenched jaw. I talked but he didn't respond. Neither with words nor gestures. His mouth was covered with sea foam. I got to him and cleared his face and talked with him, I pulled him close and told him we needed to stick together and try to stay warm. I got to him and he began to climb on me, he was forcing me further down in the water. He was moving slowly but forcefully. Instinctively, without thought. I remember hearing stories about how drowning people can panic and drown others who are trying to help them. I wanted to help him, but was scared, in his panic he could drown me too. "Troy, you can't do that! Troy! Get off me!" I spun around and looked at him. I held his hands and held him at a distance. We seemed so far from the shore. I couldn't tell what was going on anymore. I could see the flash of police or rescue lights. I told Troy they were coming for us. I thought they had found Eric's body. It shouldn't be long now. Just hold on! As if on cue... Breakers.

When I saw Troy again he was face down in the water. NO! I saw people on the beach. They must be coming! I wasn't sure but back on shore, they had been trying. The waves were now to 10 feet. Too big for smaller boats and the inlet was too shallow for a cutter or any of the larger Coast Guard boats. They would later dispatch a helicopter based in Newport that would make the 20 min flight down to us. I stayed with Troys body. As we got further out to sea, there were larger breaks between sets. I thought, "This doesn't bode well. Eric and Troy are dead. I'm probably not gonna make it." I reflected on my wrongs and rights. My family, my mum, Jody, my father and grand parents. Friends... as the words, "I'm probably going to die," washed over me. I struggled. I just couldn't see myself dying. I didn't feel like I was going to die. I started singing 'Oh, Superman' by Laurie Anderson. I don't know why... and then rain. I felt like I had been floating there forever. I was cold. I was so tired. I knew about hypothermia. To not go to sleep, get naked with someone, all that. But I was tired and my eye lids were so heavy. I was just exhausted. And, the latter bit? About getting naked was futile considering there was no one to get naked with. I didn't see a way out. I didn't like the thought of drowning. Inhaling water. Would it hurt? All I knew is it wouldn't be long. I felt resigned. And then a calm settled over me.  Things began to fade, sounds. The waves seemed to beckon me to sleep. The gentle roll of the sea... I didn't feel the rain anymore. I didn't feel anything anymore.

The salt water of a wave coming from the next set filled my mouth. I jolted alert as my body heaved and I began to vomit violently. To this day I can't stand the taste of sea water in my mouth... I saw the next set descending upon me. 10 ft seas may not seem like much. But if you imagine just your head sitting on the floor and a basket ball hoop height wave coming at you... they seem huge. The power behind them. You feel helpless. Yet, I didn't feel hopeless, even though I felt like I should. I was in the middle of that set when I heard the distant whir of chopper rotors over the din of the surf. Then, I saw them. The chopper swept along the shore. They seemed to be looking. I tried to wave. The chopper passed by then swung around and passed over me again. Did they see me? The waves were still tumbling over me, so, I wasn't sure. As I entered the back side of the breakers the chopper came back and hovered over me. I could tell they were trying to reach me but the waves were so big they could have easily been overcome. They tried to time it, to drop down between swells. I swear I saw a blade cut through the chop atop of one wave... they tried several times then suddenly descended and threw a rope ring. I grabbed it and they pulled me to the open door. I tried to lift myself into the bay of the chopper but fell completely limp. Once out of the water I was dead weight. I couldn't move. I couldn't even turn myself over. As soon as my body hit the deck of the helicopter, I lost it. I knew I was going to be okay, but I couldn't stop crying. The crew asked me the usual line, How many of us? Where? I told them... They're dead. Eric's body was lost and Troy had been face down for a long time... "Keep talking to us, Russell. Don't go to sleep. Focus on me."

Three minutes later we were descending once again. They had found Troy's body and were trying to fish him from the water. A crew member jumped in, put the sling around his body and brought him up. They started CPR and resuscitation efforts. I watched and cried. I knew. He wasn't coming back.

I don't really remember much of the flight other than them trying to keep me awake. But it was such a blur. When we landed, they took me to some room in the ER, I think. They kept talking to me... "Don't go to sleep, Russell. Stay awake!" The doc was from England and knew of P. G. Wodehouse and made chit chat. "Are you related to him Russell? Russell, keep talking to me. Stay with me, Russell." They used my name a lot... They gave me a mask with warm steam to breathe and covered me in heated blankets. My core temp was 87 degrees.

I remember the Sheriff interviewing me. The same questions everyone had been asking. I remember them calling my mother and her voice and her crying when she heard mine. I remember hating being alone in the hospital that night. I called Eric's mother, Janet. She sent Eric's uncle and my friend John who had arrived that day to spend time with us. They came and got me late that same night. The first time I saw Eric's father again, a couple of days later... I'll never forget his look. The pain. And what killed me? I could see in his eyes, how much Charlie wanted to be seeing HIS son alive instead of me. For a moment I wished he had.

There was a girl named Missy that I dated early on when I got to EOSC. She came and apologized for things she had said and done. She said that, had I died that day with Eric and Troy? I would never had known how she felt or how sorry she was. That, really struck me. I carry that with me to this day. I don't want to ever know that regret. I need for people to know I care about them, that I have feelings for them. I don't want them to wonder. I want to be happy. I am happy. I want to make each day count. I remember drinking in each day after that. My clothes didn't matter. How my hair looked? It doesn't matter in the scheme of things. All the little shit that so many of us agonize over EVERY day? It doesn't matter. Things, are just things. They can be replaced. Stop and enjoy who and what you have NOW. Make every day matter. Make it count. That doesn't mean you live it like it's your last and go crazy. You should have every expectation that tomorrow will come. But, if it doesn't?

The year following the accident, I had a real hard time. I was so emotional. I cried every day. Out of the blue. Something would hit me and I'd start bawling. I did an interview on KRBD with the late, great Tom Miller and told my story. One of the difficulties I faced was that people didn't know how to react. Many in Ketchikan read the article or heard the interview... Some, many perhaps, had most likely seen me breakdown at some point in Sea Mart, the mall or somewhere... And they didn't know how to react or what to say to me. My close friends were always there... But some "friends' or acquaintances actually started to avoid me. They would cross the street when they saw me approaching. It was hard and lonely. I understood, but it was still hard. I had SO many differing and conflicting emotions. Why was I alive? Why me? I would be so happy and relieved, then SO sad and depressed and then SO angry. Angry at Eric and Troy because if I lived they should have. They didn't try hard enough. They didn't want to live bad enough... The guilt I felt. The guilt. There had been a time shortly after high school when I didn't want to live. I was emotional and felt ill equipped to deal with my feelings. I thought for the longest time that had I been a tiger, my mother would have eaten me. I was 19 when I thought there was no other way out...

The guilt I felt for having not wanted to live... The guilt I felt for having tried to give up on everything and everyone... When that thought had never entered the heads of neither Eric nor Troy. There wasn't a day, for a long time, that I felt as though I wouldn't have traded placed with either of them. I saw a counselor and kept a journal. I was told about all the emotions I'd go through, and I did. I cried SO much over that year or so that I didn't cry again for another five after that. My brother, friends and music saved me. I stayed close with Eric's family for a long time. I haven't spoken to Janet, his mother in a dozen years. It's been about 5 since I talked with his brother Alex. Maybe I should...

Losing Eric and Troy allowed me to appreciate all that I am and have now. It allowed my brother and I to be as close as I could have ever hoped or imagined. I have wished several times that EVERY ONE could somehow, even if virtually, experience the loss I had. It changes you. It changes your life and puts things in perspective. When I see such twisted senses of self or misplaced value systems that are all about money or possessions? When siblings or couples fight, over what tv show to watch... or what's for dinner. People who haven't spoken to parent's or siblings in years because they said something mean or hurtful... Will that obstinance console you when you're told they are gone? What if you reached out? What if you say you're sorry, or I forgive you? We don't get time back. Regret is nothing to live with. Live a life of love and forgiveness. Not pain and regret. Reach out to someone and let them know... It could change your life. Their life. Even if they reject you or continue to harbor anger. That's their choice. You tried. That is the important piece.

I love. Whole heartedly. That's what life is about. Forgiveness, love and finding the joy in every day. It's not always easy. But it's worth it. I talk a lot about love and showing and telling the people you care about, that you do. Tell them. SHOW them. Talk. Listen. Take the time to look them in the eye and tell your wife, husband, children, mother, father and friends... Tell them you care. You love them. Be thankful for what you have while you have it. I will always view life through the prism that day gave me. A gift. My children. My time with friends and family... My brother.

To those that have taken the time to read this and have reached out to me, thank you. I love you. I am SO thankful for each one of you and my life is that much richer having you in it. Please, reach out to one person. A friend or family member... Let them know you care.

We all have one go at this life... Make it count. Live. Laugh. Love. ALWAYS.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Lost and Found

Jody was 35 when he died of Colon Cancer. He was a fortnight short of three years, my younger. I was 9, and he 6 when my parents divorced. My mother and I moved away to Spokane for a year and a half while Jody and my father stayed in the Tri-Cities. It was an odd and lonely feeling, like I was an only child during that time, after having been an older brother for as long as I could remember. My mother joined the army to advance her career and garner an education in nursing that the GI bill would afford her when she finished her service. I went back and was reunited with Jody and my father in the Tri-Cities. My father worked and Jody and I had a lot of time alone together, before and after school. I inherited the mom/babysitter roll. Making dinner, being in charge of making sure Jody and I got chores done, etc. Jody didn't like that so much and, as many siblings do, would fight with me about what chores and how I'm not the boss and so on and so forth. We've all heard it! But Jody had a violent streak now and then when he got pissed off! Whether that was trying to whack me with a bat or small chair or threatening me with a knife... LOL. Fortunately, I was considerably bigger than he and could always wrestle the implement of bludgeoning or impalement from him. I'd sit on his chest with my legs over his arms and ask, "What is your problem, man! It's not me that's messed up, or you, it's the situation!" I explained that if we didn't get the chores done, dad would beat BOTH our asses! And, after a few times of that, he discovered that yes, diplomacy and compromise was preferred and mutually beneficial. That was when it happened. We worked together and from that time forward we continued to work together. In everything. On everything. We were avid horror and b movie fans. My father got us a Super 8 movie camera and we fell. Hard. We had every special effect magazine made. Rob Bottin, Ray Harryhausen, Rick Baker, John Carpenter... They were our heroes. We made audio plays and would stab watermelons for sound effects. We'd audio overdub soap operas... We made stop motion and blood laden slasher home made super 8 films. They were cheesy, they were creative, they were genuine, bloody and wonderful. Then we got into music. Then screen plays and comedy bits. We talked and shared secrets as only siblings can and do. We had separate friends, but we had many more in common and mutual. It was usually "Russell and Jody," or "Rusty and Jody" if you were family. :)

I moved back down to the tri-cities, where Jody was living in 1995. He was in a play and I went down to see it. I never left. I lived for awhile on my sister in-law's mother's couch when I first got down there. Jody and I started doing a lot more music. Recorded and played live at some body building events and various gigs. I helped him with comedy material and routines. We started writing screenplays seriously. We talked about building a house together. We always felt connected and that we would succeed TOGETHER. We were well suited to work together. He was good at broad strokes and wacky ideas. I was the polishing  and grounding. He came to see me in  play I did, "Shadowlands." I attempted to portray C.S. Lewis. It was a more dramatic role with a lot of emotion involved. I had always, like many who knew him, admired Jody's acting talent. And when he saw the show and came to me, teary after the show and hugged me and told me what a brilliant job I had done, it meant the world to me.

We both admired the other and were jealous of each other, as is often the case with siblings. I thought Jody was really handsome, (my jealousy, you get tired of your girlfriends talking about how cute or handsome your brother is!) and very talented and funny, (my admiration). Jody thought I was really smart (his jealousy) and very talented and funny, (his admiration). My humor though was much more dry and dripping in sarcasm. His, was much more overt than mine, pratfalls and impressions. But when you got us together? And we BOTH had a few drinks in us? I don't think either of us laughed so hard! My sides would literally be hurting and I would wake up the next day with a sore stomach from laughing so intensely and for so long... It always felt like we couldn't get enough of each other. I remember us talking about what we had... When we'd hear other people talk about how they hated their sibling or weren't talking with them and weren't even sure where they lived, or that they hadn't talked with them in years. I remember our dismay. The thought of not being together or talking to each other everyday was inconceivable. Yes we had disagreements. But rarely. Once every 15 years and it never lasted more than a few hours. Siblings share things that no other relationship can. You share secrets and knowledge your husbands and wives never know... Your parents never know... Being brothers, being sisters, those are special bonds and are to NEVER be taken lightly or for granted. 

I remember Jody telling me when he got sick. I was shocked. I didn't think it could ever happen, That nothing could snuff the fire that burned in him. That if anyone could rise and overcome, it would be him. I always flashback to the scene in Blade Runner, where Roy (Rutger Hauer) confronts Tyrell about removing the cap on his life expectancy... Tyrell tells him it's hopeless and inevitable and then offers this, "The light that burns twice as bright, burns half as long, and you have burned so very, very brightly..." That was jody. He was/is loved and admired by so many, he seemed larger than life, or death in this case. We worked and focused on projects between treatments. He and the family moved up near Seattle so he could focus on acting and then treatments at the hospital there. He worked at Zones, computer catalog company. We talked several times, everyday. He'd call and launch into a new comedy routine he was working on and I'd give feedback. We'd email script ideas. He, Niki and the kids would come down to visit family and we'd write songs and drink beer... and laugh. A lot.

He had the tumor removed and was well for a solid stint. And when he got sick again, and was told he had, maybe,  6 months... I don't know. You know its coming. You say the things and you go through the motions. But somehow it doesn't seem real or possible. I was with Niki at Terri and Dennis's house when Jody died. I stayed there for a few nights before it happened when we knew it was close. He slept a lot, but he'd get up now and then and we'd talk and hug. The last thing he said to me before he fell asleep for the last time was, "I love you." Those were his last words. Ever. The next morning, we knew he was likely to pass that day. Niki and I were sitting with him and he hadn't moved or responded since the night before. I took his jaw and started moving his mouth like he was a puppet and was doing some of his jokes. Niki and I agreed, it was morbid AND pretty funny... and, EXACTLY what Jody would do if things were reversed!

Jody was dead a few hours later. March 10th, 2005. I had trouble with it, even though we knew it was coming. I was thankful he wasn't in pain anymore, yet, how? Why? I couldn't imagine not being able to talk about scripts or finish the song we'd been working on. I couldn't imagine not seeing him smile or hug his children or hear him tell all of us, ANY of us, that he loved us. Or tell him I loved him. I had a real hard time for a long while. ANY time I heard someone talk about their sister or brother, how they went out and had a nice time or that they were fighting with their sister or brother... I was SO jealous. I was now part of a group that didn't have one. I was an only child again. I hated that they had a sister or brother to do things with, or to fight with, and I didn't anymore. I would think about how lucky they were. Or conversely, I'd get so upset that they were wasting or squandering the brief time we have, with fighting or bickering... And over what? That they took your shoes? That you felt they always got out of cleaning up or mom or dad paid more attention to them? Piss, blame mom or dad for that. And even then, its stuff. Let it go. What? They said something mean out of anger or hurt? And you haven't ever done that?! Siblings are a rare and special thing... Life is a rare and special thing... I can't imagine being the person who get's told their brother or sister is dead and that person hasn't spoken to them in years over a stupid ass fight over a girl, a boy, words... This is blood. Blood is thicker than water. You can pretend its about being above it or it's principled and they should reach out or apologize first... Bullshit. You should forgive, first. Being above or bigger is about YOU reaching out, you saying your sorry. It ALWAYS takes two to fight. It takes one to forgive. One to reach out and say, You're my sister. My brother. My father or mother and that bond, that connection, is stronger than the words you said, and didn't really mean, when you were angry or hurt. That love and all the things you went through, together... That is stronger than your obstinance. Your anger and resentment. I've said it before, this life is not worth living without love. Love between siblings. Love between parent and child... The love of your friends. They are all just as valid as the love of your life.

I have lost grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, friends... (more about this in a couple of weeks) and my brother. Jody wasn't just my brother, he was my best friend. It's been 8 years and I STILL struggle. I know I always will. I know I'm not alone in this. Any one who has lost anyone close to them knows the pain I'm talking about. But, I think the loss of a sibling. That's different. We expect to lose parents. It's not a fun or pleasant realization but an expected outcome. It's not nearly the pain a parent feels when they lose a child... I can't imagine. I couldn't bear. But not having my best friend? The guy who has known me the best and longest? Who knew my secrets? Whom I could tell anything to and NEVER be judged? I miss that guy... But I celebrate, and am thankful for everyday that I had with him and am secure in the knowledge that neither Jody nor I wasted any of those days. Not even time can rob me of that. 

Whether you're cool with your sibling(s) or haven't spoken to them in days, weeks, months or years? Do. Do it tonight. Don't wait or think about it. Time is the one thing we don't get back. Life is way too short to live in anger, pain or regret. Tell them you're sorry, if you need to. Or, just call and tell them you love them and you're thankful that you have them. I have lost... But I have not forgotten. I have lost, but I have found; Reach out. Forgive. Laugh and hug when you can, but love - ALWAYS.

For my best friend and brother.

Jody Michael Wodehouse 9/17/69 - 3/10/2005

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


I had a friend message me on FB. She mentioned the blog and how she appreciates my honesty. How open I am and have been. But here's my question. Should I? Am I being self indulgent on some level? I like to think it's NOT about me. That it's about the bigger picture. I like or want to think that if I'm honest and share my thoughts and experiences, that somehow we all can benefit. That maybe my discussions will cause further discussions and help others down the line. That maybe you go home and talk with your husband or wife, that maybe you have a frank discussion about the roles of parents, or that you kiss your significant other or child THAT morning, or that you reach out during the argument and in that reaching out maybe it stops one or both of you from saying something you regret. Or that maybe it's reaching out THAT time that makes them think, he/she cares... They do love me. That WE are worth fighting for...

That's why I'm frank. That's why I'm open and honest. It's not an effort to garner sympathy or to villainize someone. I like to own my part. I'm not perfect. I make mistakes. There is no ONE person at fault. My question, for you, right now though is, do I share TOO much? Am I TOO open and honest? Have I crossed a line? My feelings are; What if I were with me, or someone like me and they wrote what I do? Would I worry that people would assume it was about me? That they were sharing our private life together? The good and the bad? How would I feel? I want to write about the feelings. The situation. The words. The experience. Not necessarily about the person even if they are the impetus. Sometimes it may be unavoidable, but is it enough to NOT mention names? Am I capable of writing someone into anonymity?

I think we all share a bit of our private lives on FB. But isn't that the point? Maybe this is a little LESS public? Or is it? Questions... Answers? So, thoughts? Please share them!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Failing Forward

SO this started when a female friend, factually, she was, briefly, more than that, said to me that she hates women. That women are hormonal and crazy. That is their fate and so, she eats healthy. She eats organic food. She doesn't drink anymore. She doesn't smoke anymore. Though she can and will partake of marijuana on occasion. She HAS to exercise and eat only organic food or she will freak out. It keeps her balanced. I get her claims. I respect her choices. And this is not a bashing of any sort. It's a factual story to gather input, to discuss and help me understand. To help ALL of us understand and be aware... of who we are. how we act. And maybe we can help each other...

She HATES women and girls. Of ALL ages. She says all women are hormonal and crazy. That the food they eat that is full of shit makes them even crazier. She had mood swings. She would have an episode where she would kinda blowout. Yell about whatever was making her crazy... Food. Lack of exercise. My kids... She said it was because she wasn't eating organic food and getting enough exercise. Though nearly nightly she would walk or bicycle for 2-3 hours. I tried to give her space. To let her know I cared and supported her. That it could be worked through... It's all small stuff. Don't sweat it. 
I think where I took issue is when she said couldn't stand my daughter. That Sam was spoiled and was gonna grow up to be a snobby, bitchy girl like all the cheer leader types she hated in high school. Girls are crazy and hormonal and jealous and Sam was gonna be one of them. She couldn't stand to be around my daughter...
I said my daughter is not perfect. She's 8. She gives her older brother a hard time and bosses her younger brother around. Not all the time, but she tries to be "mom" sometimes. Sam has been told by nearly everyone, from an early age that she's SO beautiful... I've talked about this on FB before. And she is a pretty girl! But I compliment her on being smart. Being artistic. On being talented and remind her that being kind. Being smart, is WAY more important than being considered popular. I try to temper all that and make sure she's a nice girl. That she's respectful. Her mother does too. Kids are kids. She has siblings. They fight. She couldn't handle it. She has one son. She's not use to being around kids. Smaller ones included. Again, my kids aren't perfect. But they don't go around tearing every toy off the shelf and leave a heaping wake of destruction in their path... I don't need to pull them kicking and screaming from the store. They chew with their mouths closed. They say thank you. They hold doors open. They take their own plates to the sink and rinse it off. They ask if they can have sweets. I don't know how many of you have siblings... Jody and I got on famously, but we still had fights and arguments. It's what siblings do. But they work together. They defend each other. And they grow out of that phase... It's a natural part of childhood. Do they drive me nuts sometimes? HELL YES! But does that mean they are destined to be monsters and horrible people that you can't stand to be around? In my humble opinion? No.
Another issue I take with her, or anyone for that matter, is reacting or passing sentence on something that MIGHT or COULD happen. We can WHAT IF all of our lives. That doesn't get us anywhere. Unless it's in the form of "WHAT IF we tried confining the fuel of the gaseous fission reactor magnetically!?" These what if's can be fruitful. "WHAT IF you find another woman attractive when I get older and hormonal? I couldn't deal with that so I'm gonna be pissed and upset and call it off now!" Um, NOT so fruitful. But reacting out of fear... saying, "Well, she's acting like this and people who react like that are typically drug addicts and drug addicts usually steal stuff to support their habit, so I better lock up my ipod and get out of this relationship ASAP because I'm dealing with a drug crazed person who is gonna steal my iPod!" When people act like that it amazes me! I don't know how to deal with that! They have prosecuted a theoretical future event in their head and reacting to in real time, real life!? How do you do that? What is in a person's head that allows that? HELP me understand....

I know that many of us carry baggage. That we react out of fear. But when you have a partner who remains calm and calls us on it, we start to be aware. We can step back and call it what it is. We can rationalize eventually. We can change. For instance if my blood sugar gets low, I get cranky and short. I got called on it. Then I got to the point where I would catch myself and say, hey. I know I'm being pissy and it's not you. I'm sorry. I need to eat. AND then I got to the point where I could START to feel it and say I need to eat something so no one has to suffer my pissy disposition. We can change. But ALL change starts with the admission and recognition of a or the problem. When we say. That's how I am and it's never gonna change! You're right. It won't. You won't. And the problem is yours. No matter how much you try to play the victim or blame others... It's yours. Own it. Change it. 

I'll save the Organic Food and conspiracy theory for another blog... But suffice to say that change starts with a recognition. Then a choice. Then steps to affect a change. Baby steps are a good course of action. I take issue, again, with people who say you aren't changing fast enough. You don't think like I do and if you don't change we can't be friends or just can't be period... LOL. AGAIN, I'm NOT religious. But what if Jesus had taken that approach? 
Just because someone doesn't believe as you do, or think as you do, or value things as you do doesn't make them less or wrong. I can respect their choice. Or at least that theirs varies from mine. I'm not set out to convert the world to my way of thinking or belief system. I just ask that they if they ask or want to know that they respect my right to have a different opinion if indeed I do. If I have a partner or even a friend, I don't need to have them believe as I do. I won't disparage or devalue someone who chooses to subscribe to different views than mine. I have several CLOSE friends who are of polar opposite religious and political views. But we share commonalities too. Respect. That we choose to be goodly to  others. At the end of the day, we are brothers and sisters. We are flesh and blood. We are neighbors and friends. Husbands and wives. Mothers and fathers. Daughters and sons. And THAT should be what matters. 

A former student posted a story today. The story was not so moving to me because I sincerely doubted its validity and wasn't very well written, but there was a paragraph that spoke to me...

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up."

I HATE giving up or watching others give up or letting them give up... Sometimes people are SO damned determined to fail. Sometimes we need to let them. In education we call it failing forward. I remember my parents consoling me after a break up and that there would be other girls... "Not for me! I'm different! That was you! Your experiences don't apply to me!" They were right. But we have to learn our own lessons. We can try to save others from mistakes. But often times they need to learn themselves. And, as it often is, we are doomed to make those same mistakes if we DON'T learn from them...
I hope she learns. I hope she learns to love herself. Because if she doesn't... no one else will ever be able to. Not me. Not the next guy or the next after him. There is no amount of quitting or running that will allow you to escape, yourself.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


So... Questions and comments on LOVE.

I have always held an idealistic, yet plausible (I think) view of love. I know that we are limited in the English language by the one word that defines the many flavors and nuances of LOVE. Whether we love that movie, or love our children, or love our partner... One word for so many different feelings. The Greeks had four distinct words for love. But I digress...

I'm starting to feel alone in my definition or belief in LOVE.

Let me speak to romantic love. The love of a partner, a wife or husband. I think, feel and hope that love does conquer all, that it never fails. That love is is a commitment and work but once made. It's a promise. It means things might get tough, but what I'm PROMISING you is I won't give up. Sure that comes with caveats. Like cheating, though I can see and have seen how infidelity, can be worked through and in some cases bring people closer. DON'T get me wrong, I'm in no way condoning that as course of action to become closer to a partner! But I think the bottom line here is trust. The importance and necessity it plays in concert with love and experiencing a truer, deeper love. I believe that there isn't ANYTHING that can't be over come if you choose. If you are committed. But it starts with that commitment and promise. So am I crazy? Idealistic? Off base? Right on? In need of therapy, STAT!?

All too often I see partners, and have learned through experience, that trust and communication are two vital pillars in the building and maintenance of love. Promising love, and saying, I want this and you forever, and then in the heat of battle saying I don't know if I can do this... To me that erodes my trust. It is toxic to me. To ME it means I'm willing to give up. That somewhere in the mind of whoever says that, is saying that giving up IS an option. Ok. I agree it's idealistic. Soul mates. True love. And I confess I'm beginning to doubt it does exist. Perhaps I should be more pragmatic about this whole love thing? But I can't. I want to believe. I want to think it's more than an arrangement. More than something we settle on or into. But are there other BELIEVERS out there? Am I alone?

Look, I get that it's work and compromise! I think it should be. But I know when I feel that someone else is as committed as I am, and I trust them? That feeling? That love is unparalleled. But when that same person turns and is upset and says, I'm not sure I can do this... That rocks my foundation. My thoughts are instantly, "Can I trust you?" And I want to recede. I want to build walls. I'm afraid of being hurt. Well, shit! I AM hurt! I KNOW people argue and fight and have disagreements. EVERYONE does. It's part of every relationship. And I know there's a balance. It can't be a fight every freaking day... it's not pink fluffy unicorns dancing on rainbows everyday either! Too often we react out of fear and hurt and want to strike out at the one we feel hurt or wronged by. Two wrongs... DON'T make a right. Kill with kindness. Treat them as we want to be treated. Calm your self and try to go into the discussion being calm or rational. Waiting 10, 20 90 minutes? Not a bad thing. But don't go to bed angry. Try not to walk around slamming doors or being visibly upset. Especially in front of children! Take a short walk or run or shower. And remember. Everything looks different in the morning... Please. Don't be rash. Choose your words carefully.

Are people capable of committing to each other? I know I can. But I know that I need to be able to trust that person. To believe and trust their words and that those words will be backed with action. We can get into into the five languages of love and I think it's a valuable tool, but my eyes are open to that and I can talk with my partner and work on that. But beyond that... I try. I'm not perfect. Not as a person, father or partner/husband/boyfriend... No one is. I try and treat my partner how I want to be treated. When I get up I say, "Do you need anything or want anything? Something to eat or drink? No? You sure?" Sometimes I feel perhaps I was a Jewish grandmother in another life! So if someone doesn't do that... If they just get up and make or get themselves something... I feel hurt sometimes. Am I being too sensitive? I know logically there can be reasons. Their mind is elsewhere. They are use to being alone and not having to consider another... But somehow I feel hurt. I take it personally. And THAT is my bad. And so I try to balance that. Will they come around? Will there be a time that they say, "Can I get YOU anything while I'm up? I'm making a sandwich, do you want one?" I do it because I care about them, I'm thinking about them... and somehow in my brain if they don't do that, then they must not be thinking about me or they don't care about me... I get that, that doesn't make my perception the truth. And so I say, "This is how I feel when that happens..." Here are things I do to show you I care. And I ask them, "How do you feel you are showing me? What do you do?" And, I don't mean it in the sense of keeping score, or in the sense of look how much I do, what the hell do you do!? I mean that I'm trying to understand what they feel like they are doing to show me. What love is to them or how their actions exemplify love through their eyes. So I can recognize it.

I'm tactile. Words are important to me. I don't care about gifts... It's touch, and words, and quality time. I admit, I can be needy! It has taken me a long time to learn to feel and cry again. But I do now. Maybe more often than I should. NOT that there is a recommended daily allowance or anything! But after the boat accident, when I cried uncontrollably for over a year and felt alone because I was a mess and people didn't know how to deal with that or me... I didn't cry. I was numb. It wasn't until Jody died and even then I did it privately. But as of lately, I feel like I can feel again... But for me it all comes down to trust. Trust and communication. And for me it's important to say what I MEAN. To not strike out in anger, to say things to hurt. Because once you say them you can't take them back. And those those rash and hurtful things can erode trust quickly. Can raise doubt. Can build walls. And trust takes MUCH longer to build than to destroy... But that's the nature of it. `

Look, I'm NOT a religious guy. Spiritual in some senses or aspects but that's for another discussion. But Jesus, whether you believe or not, had valuable lessons. And the two I most highly regard are these. LOVE and FORGIVENESS. Those are universal lessons. They are meant for and should be practiced by ALL. Or, at least those are MY personal beliefs and one that I try and practice. For instance, when I have an argument with my partner, I may be upset, or angry, or sad, or all of those things at once! But I make it point to try and be close. To hold their hand or be in contact. Or I flat out tell them I love them. Because to me, being angry or upset does not mean WITHHOLDING love. Denial of my love or affection should NOT be a punishment for a wrong that I FEEL has been done. Because it's important, to me, that my children and my partner know that I can be angry, hurt, sad or upset but that does NOT mean for an instant that I don't LOVE them. That I don't value them. I have noticed though, that this has been hard for my partner(s) to grasp. I have found that most people hold that over their partner. I'm pissed at you and I will DENY you affection or comfort. I will punish you and raise your fears and doubts. THIS is a hard lesson, but so important and part of submitting to love. True love. UNCONDITIONAL love. It often times has to do with our childhood and how we were raised or punished by family or former partners. But when someone is hurting when they feel badly, maybe even guilty but certainly sorry. And they come to you and reach out and you push them away!? Would you do that to your child? Touching them, embracing them, holding them. Doesn't mean you aren't upset or everything is ok. It means you can and will forgive them. That healing can begin. Which brings me to my next point...

"Sorry. I'm sorry for X. I'm sorry that what I said or did made you feel that way, that was not what I meant or was trying to do or say." A lot of us are SO damned stubborn! Why? Why be so prideful? Pride was one of the seven deadly sins folks! (again I'm not religious, but just sayin') I'm sorry begins the healing. It's acknowledgement. And owning our shit, our mistakes? Paramount. No one is perfect. It's not about being right or wrong. Or keeping score! I know many of us are or have been of that mind. And sometimes view our partner or their words or actions through that prism. Sometimes we even paraphrase or put words in their mouths... "You said I'm not a good cook or that I'm stupid or that you don't like me." Those weren't the words used, but that's how we FEEL or the words they did use made us feel. But kids, that doesn't mean that's what they or we meant, or were trying to say, or even said! And then when you run off and tell your mom or a friend that your partner called you stupid or unattractive... Bad juju! 1st. Keep personal and private stuff, especially any arguments or anything of a sexual or physical nature PRIVATE! They should remain just that. Boys, men, (not me of course) are especially bad at sharing too much PRIVATE physical things. Girls and women tend to share more of the other. And friends, bless their souls will and can stir the shit. Why do we go to them in the first place!? For affirmation. They say things like, "He/She was wrong to do or say that to you. You're NOT stupid or ugly. I love your crab dip!" That's not really being a friend in my book. No one is ever solely to blame. We all have a part in every issue. It's not always an equal part, but it's a part! And dragging friends and or family in to our personal matters NEVER is a good idea. People, get a therapist or counselor. They are meant to help you and help you work through your issues. They are Switzerland. Or SHOULD be!  There's no shame seeing a therapist! It doesn't mean you can't handle things or are ill equipped or in anyway LESS. It's a natural instinct to talk about our issues. I would hope you talk with your best friend, who I also think SHOULD be your partner! But if you need to talk with someone other than them, find a counselor. Don't let it fester. Don't sweep it under the rug. Just talk about it. Talk about your feelings. 7 or maybe even 8 times out of 10 it's a simple misunderstanding or miss communication that is at the root. But none of us can change or fix things if we don't know about it! Another thing... Some of us are better about communicating our feelings or telling our partner how WE feel. But the other half, and just as important is LISTENING. Be in the moment. Asking questions. Look them in the eye... Showing you can listen, will listen and do listen builds trust. Another point? Rolling your eyes, heavy sighs or the like will not go over so well... TRUST me. Listen and be open. An ounce of prevention, eh?

When I look back at the boat accident and the morning we went out on the water, you NEVER think this is the last time or day I will ever see you or someone again... But I try and live that way. And every time I leave the house I say I love you. I kiss them. Because it's never worth chancing. But I know people who hold regrets because they didn't tell that someone how they felt. That they loved them, that they were sorry... Life is tenuous. Short. Shorter for some. There's no need to live with regrets or what if's. Live in the moment. Don't with hold love... Forgive. Communicate. Trust. Love.

LOVE. I believe it's what makes this life worth living.