Brush With Greatness 
Sunday, September 26, 2010, 06:46 PM


There are very few times that I get star struck. It has happened to me a few times in my life, but for the most part I like to think that every one is human and people are people. Just because they get paid millions of dollars for doing their job doesn't mean that they are much different from you and me. They are human, they have families, they have a monther, a father, some have siblings, and all eat and do other human things. So what makes them so great? Usually nothing much more than what you and I have.

Then you read about someone that believes in all the things that you do. You hear that they have the resources that allow them to do things that you only dream about. They care about the environment. They work for the good of all. And, inspite of the things they've achieved in this life they still carry an air of humility. There aren't many people that can do this. From what I have read most have gotten full of themselves and forget that they too are just a human living on this earth with so many other humans. There have been very few that have caught my attention and are SO good at their craft that they cause me to be star struck.

Friday night I got to share a space with just one of those people. You know him from movies and maybe theater. His name is Edward Norton and I was lucky enough to see him in person. No, I didn't get to meet him. He doesn't know I exist. However, having heard him speak I can tell you that everything you have read about his humility is true. He's a great person and my love of his craft deepens with this chance encounter. I have said before that I think he's one of the most brilliant actors fo my generation. The works that he has done proves that to me. The movie I saw premiered last night, STONE, was again another brilliant performance. This is his second movie with Robert Dinero. You have to be pretty damn good to do one movie with Dinero, let alone two!

After the movie ended, Edward came out for a short question and answer session. It is because of this I can tell you that he's as genuine as everything you've read. He was not scripted and answered things with the same integrity of other reports. He told us about his role selection. This is not only a great movie, but the character goes through a great transformation. Some one asked him about the roles that he chooses because they saw a theme. Edward replied, "I don't choose a role because of that. What I look for is a character that goes from here to there." It was his description about how he chooses roles that really tells me about his character. He doesn't choose roles because they are on some life changing mission. He chooses them because they have to go from point A to point B and it semes like an impossible stretch. He sees these chacters as a challenge. He takes them because they are not easy! They challenge him. Man can I relate to that.. I choose relationships the same way.. ha ha ha

There is so much more I could say about this trip, but I'm going to let your imagination fill in the gaps.. Yes. he's two feet from me when I took this picture!! As Kathy Griffin says, "Suck it bitches!!!" That's my Edward Norton!!! In my opinion the best actor of my generation!!
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Basic Training 
Tuesday, September 21, 2010, 08:01 PM


After three full weeks in the pack, Black Jack has found his place in the world. He has proven that he is a very quick study and aims to please every on in the family. He does follow me the closest, but when Bear snaps at him for getting too close to the bone that Bear is chewing on, Black Jack responds by providing a wide berth. He does the same with El Gato. El Gato seems to have accepted this minor annoyance in the family life, only because he feels like he's got the upper hand with him. Black Jack will still try to play with El Gato several times in a row. A quick swipe of the paw and El Gato makes his point. I am not sure if El Gato is holding back the claws, but we've not had blood.

Black Jack has learned that the whole house is his kennel (at least while I'm home). He has had only one or two minor incidents in the house while he's been out roaming. The second one that I can recall was more my fault because I was not paying close attention to him. He went over to the door, but didn't make much noise. How was I supposed to know what he was doing. We have both made our points. I tell him he's got to be a little more direct and I tell him that I will open the door for him. Only once has it been a false alarm. I have learned to keep these to a minimum by not giving cookies every time they go out to potty. He is getting plenty of those all on his own.

Bear and Hershey really like that aspect of having a puppy around. "We are getting two to three times the amount of treats that we used to get!" Believe me, they weren't hurting for treats before! Bear has also taken a liking to the fact that there is always a bone on the floor to chew on these days too. Never mind the fact that two bones sat on the floor for three weeks untouched before Black Jack came along. No, that means nothing. By the way after Black Jack showed interest in those two bones, they were disintegrated in a matter of two days. I do have to say that if Bear gets up and walks away from a bone, he is very cool with Black Jack going in behind him to chew on it.

We each love having Black Jack in our family. He's been a very good addition to our loving family. He is very respectful of others (aside from daddy who is pouncable at any time). He has learned that he can enjoy his food and it's best to wait for the 'okay' before beginning to eat. (we'll work on saying grace now that he's got the basics down). He knows that he is not to potty in the house, and that it's better to get some one's attention BEFORE you begin the process. (he found out that Bear will rat him out for doing any business in the house). He's also learned that sleeping on the bed is the coolest thing in the world and is best enjoyed eight hours at a time (although afternoon naps rock too!). In the last four weeks he's shown that he's a quick study and going to be a great match four our family.
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Happy Tails!!! 
Tuesday, August 31, 2010, 01:02 PM - Black Jack
You will never guess were I took mom for dinner on Saturday night. Go ahead try! Nope, not even close. We went to Deanies in New Orleans! <pause waiting for you to catch your breath again!> Yes, we took a road trip Friday night. It was a quick trip and something I'm SO glad I did for many different reasons. It all started last Wednesday when my friend Kay sent me an e-mail with a link (Catahoula Rescue ) and a request asking me to tell her she didn't need a new puppy!!! The link was for the Catahoula rescue here in Austin. I wrote back telling her she's a bitch for 1) sending me a link to a dog rescues site, and 2) because she knows I will never tell her not to get a dog if that's what is in her heart. I should have been smart, and left the site immediately. But no.. I had to go looking at pictures of the dogs they had for adoption.

Most were cute, but just that, cute and full of puppy energy. I like my mature dogs. They are easy to take care of. They know my routine. I know all their habits and they know mine. We all get along well. Then I came across one that stabbed me in the heart. His name is Black Jack, He's a lab catahoula mix about seven months old. I pondered his pictures and story for a bit, then found myself submitting an application. I put down that I owned my house but lived in my RV. I didn't really think it would happen as quickly as it did. I guess it was all that was supposed to happen. I got a call from the rescue agency that night. The phone was on silent so I didn't get to the phone. I decided to sleep on it another night before calling her back. When we talked, she gave me the information on Black Jack. He was rescued, and was sick when they got him. He fought back from parvo and was now healthy and looking for a forever home. We talked about where he was rescued from. They have a guy in Gray, Louisiana that rescues a bunch of Catahoulas in southern Louisiana. She told me that she could have Black Jack transported when she had another puppy flown out here on September 4 but I would have to be confident about adopting him before she would do that because the foster parents were attached to him. I don't know where it came from, but I said, "I wouldn't be opposed to going out there with my boys so we can do a meet and greet. They have veto authority and I couldn't have him shipped here only to have them say no."

I looked up Gray Louisiana on the map and sure enough it was less than ten miles from my friend J's house. J was just out here a couple weeks ago and told me that we were always welcome to come visit. Mary, the woman here in Austin that runs the rescue said she would have John, the foster dad in Gary give me a call that evening. I talked to J and he was all for a weekend visit. I started thinking about who I could take as a co-pilot, first thinking about Scott, my little brother. After John and I talked about Black Jack, I knew I was going for a meet and greet at the very least. So I called the owner of the RV park to see if mom was working the next two days. She said she wasn't and in her feisty way said, "But you can't take her to New Orleans!" Mom was over with Freddy and Catherine. I had it all cleared with her work and even got clearance to have a third dog in the park. Leave it to me to forget that little detail, he he he. When I asked mom if she wanted to go to Bourbon St. Tomorrow night, she looked at me a little confused. I had drank a couple of beers so I was planning on going out first thing in the morning. Well once mom realized she was going to get to go to New Orleans she said, "I can drive, we can leave tonight." That was it, we were on the road.

We arrived in Thibodaux at eight in the morning. Mom drove the first two thirds of the way and I did the last third. We made it in about eight and a half hours. The boys slept the whole way! When we got there they were happy to see their buddy Bandit, J's dog. I called, Mary at the rescue agency and told her that we had made it to Thibodaux. She was very excited and asked if I was going to pick up Black Jack and Ashley that afternoon. I think I won some points when I said, "No, my mother hasn't been to New Orleans before and I think we're going to go into the city. I don't think it would be right for me to pick him up, put him in a new house then disappear for several hours. I will keep my Sunday morning appointment with John." Oh, Ashley is the pup they were going to fly out to Austin the following weekend. She had asked me if I could transport her home for her. Of course I agreed. Mom and I were both tired and wired at the same time. You know how it is when you've been on the road for a long while. Mom was ready to go into the city right then. I said, "No, let's catch a couple hours of horizontal time, then we'll get up and go do things." That's just what we did.

We got up and on the road about twelve thirty. The weather was rainy and cool so the swamp tour was out. However, I did remember the plantation tours and suggested that. What a great thing for mom. She loved it! We wandered around there for a couple hours, getting to take the tour and see some demonstrations. After that we finished the drive into the city. Parking was a little hectic so we drove down to the River Walk and paid for parking there. We walked along the river walk for a ways. Then stopped in Jackson Brewery. Next we made our way up to Bourbon Street. It was still day light out and I wanted mom to see it before it got crazy and dark. We hit up Pat O'Briens, then a voodoo shop, and strolled through the quarter. After a couple cocktails we figured it was time to go eat. We had dinner at Deanie's. After dinner we strolled down Bourbon Street. Then we meandered through the quarter back to Jackson Square. I was tempted to take the carriage ride though the city, but it was getting late and I was exhausted. So we walked to Cafe D'Monde and had bengiette's. It was the perfect New Orleans Sampler! Mom had a great time!!!

The next morning I was up at 6:45. John had to go to church so I had to be there early, UGH.. ;-) The connection with Black Jack wasn't as instant as I had hoped it would be, but he did hold his own and the boys seemed indifferent. They didn't even flinch when I walked them all together. Towards the end of the visit I loaded the boys in the back of moms car. Then I invited Black Jack to load up. He did with no problems. The boys didn't even seem to mind him being back there. Not bad, I thought. I took that to mean that neither Hershey or Bear was going to exercise the Veto Authority they had been given. I had spent a few days talking with them about adding to the family. I was very honest with Hershey about his age being a factor. He seemed to understand. He knows he's twelve years old now. He knows he's not going to live forever. I explained it to him the way that it had worked out with BiJae when he came along. Since they weren't giving me the, "NO!" I went ahead with the adoption. I went back in the house with John and Black Jack. Meanwhile, J stood outside with Ash and Ashley, a couple of catahoula pups that were rescued and up for adoption. I received all of Black Jack's paper work, then received all of Ashley's for transport. She was going to a foster house in Austin, so I had to take her paper work too.

So the four dogs and two humans got in the car and headed back to Thibodaux. On the way there, J confided in me that he was falling in love with Ash! Holding Ashley, Ash's sister wasn't helping. When we got back to the house all five dogs were invited out back to play. J made some coffee, which helped me a lot! I poured a cup and went out back to watch the circus of tails! They were all Happy Tails! Hershey was playing fetch with J. Bear and Bandit were running as they had done the day before. Now they were being followed by Black Jack and Ashley. Ashley is just about ten weeks old and all puppy. But she hung in there with the rest of the crew. She ran as fast as she could trying to keep up with the boys. They would round a corner and come right back towards her. Of course that startled her so she turned, tucked tail and ran as fast as she could. Her eyes were huge as she headed toward me, realizing she had three big dogs on her tail!! Of course they didn't see her at all and ran right past her. When she realized she wasn't in danger, she ran after them again! This went on for a couple of hours. Puppies running and playing. Old dogs running along side them and playing. It was such a great sight to see. It turned out to be the best thing for all too. When we hit the road for home, they all fell asleep.

Ashley spent the first couple hours in mom's lap. We brought a box for her, but after watching her in the yard and how she reacted with the other dogs, I figured she was going to do just fine. She did better than that. Our eight hour trip home was a breeze, even with a two and a half hour extension due to I-10 being closed outside of Beaumont. Ashley slept most the way, or when she was awake she entertained herself by chewing on a toy. Black Jack slept the whole way too. You would have guessed he'd been by my side since he was born. He stretched out in the back. At one point he had his head on Bear's rump and Ashley had her on his. It was a dog pile for sure. I was very impressed with the way that every one handled themselves on such a long ride in the car. I don't know many 'children' that could have done that.

We made it home about midnight Sunday night. Mom and I were exhausted. Bear and Hershey were ready for bed. Black Jack didn't know what to think. He wasn't upset in the least bit. He was more like a kid at a slumber party. Too much exciting things to go to sleep. I figured because of his age and how well he'd been the whole way home that he would be okay sleeping in the bed with Bear and me. That didn't work out so well. He was fidgety and wanting to play. He took my hand and tried to get me to play a few times. When he realized I wasn't going to get up and play, he thought he'd get off the bed.. I was one step ahead of him though and had firm hold of his tail. I knew that he was crate trained, but I didn't have a crate. So I came up with a solution that worked perfectly for all of us. I took the blanket that they had laid on in the car on the way home. I put that in the basin of the shower. I took a dog bone and a water bowl and placed that in the shower too. I opened up the door and invited him in. Viola, he walked right in and curled up on the blanket. I closed the door behind him and twisted the lock. The beauty about RV showers, they come with a lock to keep them from swinging open while in transit. Turns out it works perfect if you want to kennel a dog too! This 'kennel' was bigger than the one he had been sleeping in and I figured, "if he goes potty in the night, there's a drain right underneath him!" it worked like a charm. When the lights went out, he let out a couple of small whines, then a groan.. .then silence. He'd found a home... (to be continued)

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What a summer 
Thursday, August 26, 2010, 01:22 PM
I've been trying to write this entry for a couple weeks now, but things have just been going nuts! It's crazy in a good way, but crazy none the less. First let's talk about the weather!!?!? Austin had the hottest May on record, followed by two cool months. We didn't hit 100 degrees until August 1. We made up for lost time quickly with heat and heat indicies at around 107-110 degrees for nearly every day this month. Yesterday we had a "cool" front come through dropping the temperature 11 degrees. You know it's been a hot few weeks when every one around you is talking about how nice it is at 96 degrees. Even as I type that it sounds refreshing. We have relief in sight, the sun is setting earlier and rising later every morning. I can remember in my youth I disliked that characteristic of late summer. Now, after ten summers in Texas, I can tell you it's a beautiful thing.

I really have no comlaints about the weather this year. Yes, I've been confined to the house for the last three weeks. Like our brothers to the north we have to take refuge indoors when we have inclement weather. It's just different here because our inclement weather doesn't always mean clouds and rain and snow. No, our inclement weather is a bright sun shiny day. Where they stay indoors because of white ice on the ground, we stay indoors because the heat and humidity cause everything to melt. I knew the humidty had broke when Hershey started to chase the ball more than three times. When it's hot out he doesn't last long. Yes, he'll go lay in the sun, but he knows how to not over do it. Now that the weather is breaking and the mornings are cooler, we're getting out for our morning walks again. That's great for all of us!

Every year at this time I have to think back to a time not so long ago when there was no air conditioning. I had the chance to experience a little bit of that life this summer. I went to a friends house to go horseback riding. He was living in an old ranch house built in the 1920's. It got a little warm, but it wasn't really that bad. They knew back then how to get the windows lined up to get that cross breeze. I think that air conditioning in some ways have spoiled us. That night as we grilled I sat on the porch thinking about how they never had the option. The second day down on his ranch was not bad at all. Yes, during the heat of the day we didn't do much but sit on the porch and shoot the breeze, but without air conditioning you can adjust. Of course I can really see why they continue to have siesta in Mexico. What a perfect way to pass the heat of the day by!



Our weather has been very fortunate in other ways too. With all that has been happening in the Gulf this year. We are very fortunate to not have had more tropical depressions and storms develop. This has turned out to be a very quiet year thus far. September is the peak of the season. In the last week of August we've had five named storms. Thats' far less than we've had in years past. Only one of them has come into the Gulf. I am very thankful for this because it has allowed the workers there to be able to contiue to do what they can to clean up that catastrophy. It has been devistating to watch the whole story unfold. Now that they have stopped the oil from gushing in to the gulf, it's hard to separate the truth from the hype about how far the clean up has come along. I have had a profound interest in marine biology my whole life, and I know the power of the ocean to clean herself, but some of the reports that microbes have consumed the plume of oil are "too good to be true" Washington Post. Yes, I believe those little organzisms are consuming as much as they can. But to hear the way the Washing Post tells it, you'd tihnk the disaster was over.

I read yesterday that they were happy to report that the populations of oil eating microbes have been located in the plumes. Scientists were pleased to report that the oxygen saturation in these areas had not plummeted because of the population growth. There has been a great, and warranted, fear of massive dead zones appearing in the Gulf of Mexico because of this disaster. They are not seeing that becaue of the population boom of oil eating microbes. What happens when they all die when the food source is gone? The Journal Science, as reported in the Washington Post claims, "The result was a nature-made cleanup crew capable of reducing the amount of oil in the undersea "plume" by half about every three days,". I would wish that to be true, but I have a hard time believing it. They claim they're going out and looking for oil but only finding bacteria. Any one who knows anything about zoology and ecosystems knows that when a population explosion happens because of food bounty, there will a population bust when the food source disapears. Something just doesn't sound right about this report. We're finding the bacteria that are consuming the oil and we're not seeing the oxygen depletion from their massive consumption and metabolization. Nor are we seeing any oil?

It sounds too good to be true. My guess, it is. I believe in Mother Nature, I believe that there are things that will consume everything that man puts in its way. Look at an old road that is not driven over for a couple years. Can you find it? The plants find a small crack in the concrete or asphalt and they take root. These little things are strong enough to destroy anything we have created. But can they do it in thirty days? I have a hard time believing that. Yes, I think nature will take care of itself and the oil is being consumed by bacteria. That much is true, but don't believe for a second that it's going away as quickly as they report. The Congress and Corporations want this to be out of the media as soon as possible so that they can get back to drilling, because that's where the money is. Yes, this is the worst man made environmental catastrophy, but don't blink, cause they're gonna make it go away!
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A Lesson in Time 
Wednesday, June 30, 2010, 06:32 PM
Think about this. You go about your day, it's a rather busy day. You're working along and one thing after another just seems to spiral out of control. Nothing you seem to do can change your luck for the day. You fall into the spiral of anger and despair. Next a simple person crosses your path. You struggle to understand their request. You can't and you just give up and process it along, thinking that nothing really would come of your actions. You're a simple file clerk, processing the paper of the day.

Sounds like nothing would change, right? Think about it this way. Your job is an immigrations officer working at Ellis Island in New York. You've had a bad day all the way around. Here comes another person to be processed. "Name?" you bark. Something is rattled off in a language you're not familiar with. "Family Name?" you say louder as if increasing the amplitude of your request would cause the translation to be easier. Again you are told something you cannot even come close to making into words, let alone having to write in on the form you're provided. Frustrated by yet another person coming across your path that can't even answer a simple question you throw your hands down on the table. "Sir, what is your name?" Scared the person looks at you only returning silence. "Fine, what do you do for work? What is your occupation?"

A light goes off in the immigrants brain. He's heard that word before. He grins and says, "SHOE MAKER" in such a thick accent you barely understand it. You repeat back to him, "Shomaker?" The first work shared in common is a complete misunderstanding. You're looking for a surname only to be given an occupation. Excited to have exchanged words with an American, the immigrant smiles more broadly, "YES! SHOEMAKER"

"Thank God!" you sigh under your breath. "Next," you holler as you wave the man through.

Think the little things don't matter? Think again. The actions of the above fictional character changed the entire history of the immigrants family. They went from having a surname for hundreds of years to becoming, Shomaker. It happened repeatedly and more than likely continues today. An officer makes the decision to write what they hear on the form without taking the time to understand the person they are speaking with.

How many times in a day do you give your complete attention to the person you're listening to? Think listening just a little bit closer won't make a difference?

Think again!
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Dances with Coyotes 
Wednesday, June 23, 2010, 12:06 PM
I had an interesting night last night. I woke up after only 45 minutes of sleep. The AC was on so it wasn't the blasted heat. Although I'm sure that has something to do with it. I was kind of hungry but not really. So I made some popcorn. I ate that while watching an hour long recorded program. After that I turned off the television and took the boys outside. Some one had left the television on in the club house, annoying but no big deal. Suddenly Bear jumps to attention and looks toward the club house. I figured he saw the flashing of the television in the windows. I didn't give it much attention at all. He was wired and at full attention still. Suddenly I see something small running down the hill in the road in front of my place. Hershey, Bear and I spotted it all about the same time. Bear started to take off. Thank God he's trained about the yard monster because he slowed and stopped at the edge of the yard. As I was coming up behind him, still trying to get Hershey woahed to a complete stop I see something coming at as pretty quick like. I was just seeing around the dumpster. I saw one, then two coyotes coming toward me, and fast. Hershey was about ten paces infront of me and excited to see another 'dog'. I know Hershey is very social and would love to sniff butts with any dog, but these weren't dogs. They kept coming toward me. They were chasing the bunny that had run down the hill and didn't see us until Hershey let out a whimper. That didn't slow them. They were still coming and I knew I had to do something to halt them or I could have a big pack fight on my hands. So I dug down deep in my chest and let out a big ol long and low bark, expanding my chest by putting my arms out wide and half bent inwards. I made myself big and loud. The lead coyote looked at me, then looked back at where the rabbit had run. He was quick and thought about it for a second before realizing he'd come across something he didn't want to mess with. I was moving forward. I now stood in front of my pack in front of the dumpster. The coyote tucked his tail and turned back to where he came from. I watched him go back into the neighboring space that was vacant. It was only then that I saw the other six of his brethren all filing back up to the wall. They hopped one at a time up the wall, then ran along that wall back into the woods. It was a site to behold. The RV spaces up on that wall had the Electricity posts lit up so as each of the seven trotted along that wall I could see a clear profile of them. They were quite magnificent. I have heard of them running through the park before. This was the first time I had seen them in action. They had scared up the rabbit that mom saw feeding two days before. I know they were hunting, but i don't think they were on to the rabbit. He had a good lead as he took off down the hill, and only two of the seven were in pursuit. Clearly the pack was trying to stir something up and find some food.

I thought about this interaction for a while before I went back into the house. My being outside at that perfect time was incredible. I was able to see a pack of coyotes in action. My action and my wanting to protect my pack had disrupted their natural behavior. I'm certain that Hershey thought they were neighboring dogs coming to visit and play. He's not had much experience with the wild before. Had they gotten nose to nose, I don't know how it would have turned out. He's an elderly dog now, with hip problems. It could have started out as a meet and greet. However, if they smelled his inability to run and turn on a dime they might have attacked. I'm sure he could have held his own with on, but with seven, it would have gotten ugly fast. I know Bear would have jumped in there too. He's a little aggressive when it comes to someone messing with any of his brothers. All of this flashed through my mind as that coyote was coming towards us. I had to do something to keep the two groups from mingling. After it was over I thought about how my actions had disrupted a natural occurrence. As I wrote my mom telling her that I had saved her bunnies life, I thought also how I had kept a family from eating. One rabbit could have fed them each a morsel and given them strength. My actions were just and the Great Mystery of life put me in that position at that moment for a reason. Perhaps it was to ponder the actions, no matter how simple they are, and the effects of them in every way. Either way it was a beautiful dance between me and nature. I'm so glad to have been able to experience it. What magic!
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Growing up and getting older 
Friday, June 18, 2010, 05:25 PM
I remember when I was younger I started noticing that time seemed to speed up as I got older. I asked my grandmother one time if that was true at her age too. She laughed and said to me, "At my age things are just a blur." I thought that was funny then. It's not so funny now! Time does go by faster the older I get. Thankfully I've learned not to try to put so much into my day that it goes by so fast. I have learned how to step back from it all for a couple of days and look back. Especially when there is a period of five weeks with something going on coming up.

This summer is going to be one of those fast ones. There is a lot going on in my life this year. I'm thankful for every bit of it. We, mom and I, have made some good friends at the RV park that I'm living at. Several of us are going to Willie Nelson's Fourth of July picknic. It happens to be just down the road from the RV park. It should prove to be a very fun time. I also have two weddings to celebrate this summer. In the coming weeks I have two sets of friends that have joined each other in marriage. I am looking forward to those celebrations. Then of course is my birthday, that too is going to be something to celebrate.

This year my former match from big brother big sister is wanting to take me to a Rangers game. He's now twenty one and wants to drive (he just got his license) and treat me to a game. I told him to save his pennies because they are not cheap. Well he did just that and bought two tickets for the Saturday game before my birthday. There happens to be a day game the following day, so I offered to pick up that game and the hotel room so we wouldn't have to drive back late at night. While I was at it, I went ahead and made the effort to extend our time up in Dallas by getting us two tickets to the water park right next to the hotel and ball park. I may be getting older but that doesn't mean I don't want to do all the fun stuff!

This is going to be a great birthday. Not only do I get to see two baseball games at Ranger Stadium, but I get to share them with a young man that I watched grow from a young boy. The fact that he wants to take me to a game tells me that he's growing into a fine young man. He's grown up quite a bit. Since he's moved back to Texas we've become closer, sharing more of the adult things in life. He knows more of my personal history and story. It's funny because most the stories come with one of two responses, the first being, "Why didn't you tell me?" and the second being, "Wow, you had a life!" Yes, I have lived quite a life. He doesn't even know a quarter of it yet. Hell I barely know half of it. There is so much more ahead of me. Now that he's a grown man I don't have to worry about telling him everything. We've really gotten close the last few months. I'm thankful that I've still got him in my life. I'm honored that he wants to treat me to a baseball game.
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New Year New Attitude 
Wednesday, January 6, 2010, 03:32 PM
So far 2010 is presenting some of the same old challenges that 2009 had in the end. It doesn't matter what the calendar says the challenges keep coming. 2009 ended with an oil change on the truck and a request to have them look at my hydrolic pump. It had been whining quite a bit since the first cold snap. It had been running for three months that way but figured while it was in there I should have them look at it. Sure enough they told me that the pump was going bad and the fluid was completely black. I juggled my budget and said, "it has to get done, so let's do it."

Of course it took longer than anticipated. Noon became two, two became four, four became five. When it was all said and done I had my truck back with fresh oil and a hydrolic pump that no longer whined about being used. It looked like it was a great way to end the year. For the next three days the truck ran flawlessly, zipping me up to my sisters house for a New Years Celebration with the family, zipping me home for a hike in the woods, and then to volleyball and happy hour Sunday night. I even made it to the gym four times in the first four days of the new year. Then on my way home Monday night the truck started sputtering.

What little margin I had in the budget was eaten by the first repair. Now, the truck limped home, barely making it over the last hill there. Instead of getting wound up about a dead truck I checked my attitude. I made myself realize there are things I can do and things I cannot do. At that very moment there was nothing I could do to fix the truck. I couldn't call the mechanic. I couldn't worry about what it was. I did not have the resources to trouble shoot the issue. I did not have the resources to fix the issue. So I let it sit in the driveway. I went in the house, picked up a new book and started to read. I had a great evening reading that strange story, "The Man Who Fell In Love With The Moon".

The next morning I got up, called the tow truck. I got myself a shower, dressed then waited, and waited, and waited. The tow truck missed the hour window to arrive. I followed up, they were sending a new truck. I took the extra time to get some breakfast. An hour later, relaxed and ready to roll the truck showed up. I dropped the truck off at the mechanics. They told me they would investigate, calling me when they know something. When they called they didn't have an answer, or a diesel mechanic. Thankfully I had AAA Plus and was able to send the truck to my diesel mechanic sixty four miles away. Twenty four hours later I have a fixed truck and a bill due of another six hundred dollars.

While the challenges are the same in 2010, I'm not letting them get me down. I'm facing the challenges as they come, breathing deeply and swinging for the fence with each pitch. Life is always full of challenges. Things are always coming up. I'll always have decisions to make. If I let them spin me out of control with all the what if's and what am I gonna do's I'll make myself crazy(er). Instead, I'm picking up a book, enjoying a good story and solving the puzzle of life one piece at a time.
So far 2010 is presenting some of the same old challenges that 2009 had in the end. It doesn't matter what the calendar says the challenges keep coming. 2009 ended with an oil change on the truck and a request to have them look at my hydrolic pump. It had been whining quite a bit since the first cold snap. It had been running for three months that way but figured while it was in there I should have them look at it. Sure enough they told me that the pump was going bad and the fluid was completely black. I juggled my budget and said, "it has to get done, so let's do it."

Of course it took longer than anticipated. Noon became two, two became four, four became five. When it was all said and done I had my truck back with fresh oil and a hydrolic pump that no longer whined about being used. It looked like it was a great way to end the year. For the next three days the truck ran flawlessly, zipping me up to my sisters house for a New Years Celebration with the family, zipping me home for a hike in the woods, and then to volleyball and happy hour Sunday night. I even made it to the gym four times in the first four days of the new year. Then on my way home Monday night the truck started sputtering.

What little margin I had in the budget was eaten by the first repair. Now, the truck limped home, barely making it over the last hill there. Instead of getting wound up about a dead truck I checked my attitude. I made myself realize there are things I can do and things I cannot do. At that very moment there was nothing I could do to fix the truck. I couldn't call the mechanic. I couldn't worry about what it was. I did not have the resources to trouble shoot the issue. I did not have the resources to fix the issue. So I let it sit in the driveway. I went in the house, picked up a new book and started to read. I had a great evening reading that strange story, "The Man Who Fell In Love With The Moon".

The next morning I got up, called the tow truck. I got myself a shower, dressed then waited, and waited, and waited. The tow truck missed the hour window to arrive. I followed up, they were sending a new truck. I took the extra time to get some breakfast. An hour later, relaxed and ready to roll the truck showed up. I dropped the truck off at the mechanics. They told me they would investigate, calling me when they know something. When they called they didn't have an answer, or a diesel mechanic. Thankfully I had AAA Plus and was able to send the truck to my diesel mechanic sixty four miles away. Twenty four hours later I have a fixed truck and a bill due of another six hundred dollars.

While the challenges are the same in 2010, I'm not letting them get me down. I'm facing the challenges as they come, breathing deeply and swinging for the fence with each pitch. Life is always full of challenges. Things are always coming up. I'll always have decisions to make. If I let them spin me out of control with all the what if's and what am I gonna do's I'll make myself crazy(er). Instead, I'm picking up a book, enjoying a good story and solving the puzzle of life one piece at a time.

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Struggling 
Saturday, December 19, 2009, 05:00 PM
2009 has been an interesting year to say the least. I've had to face some very large hardships. I was hoping to keep the collateral damage from a failed business deal to just the business deal. I am finding that it is impossible to keep them separate. I lost the ranch to the bank in July along with it more than twenty five thousand dollars that I spent keeping it alive for as long as I did. Through all of this I have kept my other bills current, struggling with that at times.

This month one of the big banks that I have been with for more than seventeen years took action against my account. Because of the falling credit report due to the foreclosuer they decided that I was a greater risk than I was previously. Never mind the fact that this account has been open and in excellent standing for close to two decades. Never mind that I make more money now then I did the last time they raised my credit limit. All of that matters nothing. They gave me two options, leave my account open and pay thirty percent interest on the balance or opt out, closing the account and my access to that credit.

After several phone calls I was given one remaining option, to transfer the balance into a loan with fixed monthly payments and a definitive payoff date. I was told this would leave my account open for emergencies but any new charges would be at the thirty percent interest rate. Not fully understanding the 'cost' of this I decided to sign up for this program. My goal is to get rid of the debt so why not put a target date on it. When I received my first bill with the new program my payments increased more than three hundred dollars.

I tried to budget for this new amount. I tried everything I could, ceasing all extra curricular activities. By the middle of the month it was clear that I was not going to be able to make this payment. I know defaulting by a dollar is the same as defaulting by the whole amount. I did not want to give them any opportunity to raise the interest through a default, nor did I want a bad mark on my credit report because of this. So I wrote a letter. After a week the bank called me back. They were still 'unable' to give me any assistance or restore my account without the thirty percent rate. My only option was to convert it back to a revolving account at the opt out rate which would reduce my payments back to what they were before all of this, but still no access to credit.

After seventeen years of being a loyal customer Citibank has determined that I am a risk that they are not willing to take. They have thrown out my years of on-time payments, large balances to say that I am not worthy of their business. My first reaction was to take this personal. After some careful meditation and consideration I realize this is not a personal attack on me. This does not change my character. I'm still the loyal customer and will continue to do the right thing. All this changes is my faith in this country to honor doing the right thing.

These United States of America are no longer rewarding the loyal, honorable citizens. The capitalistic society that we are living in rewards those that do wrong. I could get my debt reduced by fifty percent if I am willing to default on the debt for six months. The bank will simply write off it as a loss and sell the debt to a collection agency. That agency will then harass me until I am willing to negotiate. At that time I could make a large payment and settle the rest for less than fifty cents on the dollar that I owe. I'm trying to come to terms with why I'm unwilling to do this.

Why do I feel morally obligated to pay high interest rates when I could walk away and pay pennies on the dollar? I do it because I was raised by the moral codes that were instilled in me through the same society that is now rewarding those that walk away. When did the rules change? When did it become acceptable to reward those that do wrong and punish those that do right? Will we begin to jail the law abiding citizens and release the criminals also?

Does this Sound preposterous? It does to me too. Yet we live in a world that gives relief to those that do the wrong thing. We live in a world that imposes higher fees and interest rates on those that continue to pay. It is not just in the banking industry either. The healthcare crisis we face today is not because healthy, premium paying, people are in more need of care. Those of us that pay our bills and premiums are carrying the burden of those that do not.

I'm tired of all the rhetoric about health care reform being socialism. We already have socialism, however we have some fat cats at the top taking upwards of fifteen percent off the top. Now that we've reached a crisis stage they are panicked we'll take that money away from them. And we should. We should be outraged at being charged a percentage more for health care because they administrated the fees in advance.

My family is not wealthy by any means. We never will be and I'm grateful for that. It seems to me the more you have the more you want. And the more you want the more you will hurt others to get it. The moral values I was raised with to pay my bills, take care of my neighbor, feed the needy, care for the infirm no longer apply in The United States. Today I am worth more dead than I am alive.

While living I can barely take care of my basic needs. The greed of bankers, wall street, insurance companies and countless others drains my account monthly. I cannot get ahead in these economic conditions. Yet if I were to die, my employer has an insurance policy for me that will pay more than a quarter of a million dollars to my heirs. That money is enough to pay off my house, my credit card debts and still have half of it left over. When did a life become worth more after it's over?

We live in a very sad time. My faith and my spirituality teach me to honor every living being. My heart confirms this with the joy I have when I help a friend. The joy of helping has even out weighed the pain when that same friend did things to hurt me. I honor my commitments to my friends. I honor my commitments to my financial responsibility. I do so because I was taught, and believe it is the right thing to do. Yet every day I pay a higher price on everything because they know I will continue to follow my moral compass. It is very disheartening to live in such a world. It is frustrating and infuriating to see others get ahead from doing the wrong thing, while I continue to struggle and get punished for doing the right thing.

When will we, as a society, wake up to these atrocities? When will we see that these banks, these insurance companies, these politicians are not building a better world? When will we get mad enough to say, “ENOUGH!” When will we let the banks fail because they made bad investments? When will we be mad enough to tell the insurance company that my life is worth that test? When will be say, I want prevention medicine in addition to treatment? When do we return to a world that rewards those that do the right thing and punishes those that do the wrong thing?
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Family Support VITAL 
Tuesday, December 8, 2009, 01:53 PM
Going through my morning news I found this article on CNN.. It's a great article about the effects of deployment on military families. Many of you know my brother in law is deployed to Iraq for the third time. The article grabbed me right from the start:

"You don't do it alone," Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Monday to a crowd gathered at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. "You do it with phenomenal family support. And we could not be the Marine Corps we are, the military we are without extraordinary family support."

That first line rings true now more than ever. This year my family, and my sister, faced a crisis at home. Nothing is more frightening than to receive a call at 6:20 in the morning from your brother in law in Iraq, "Brian, I need you to go up there and get the kids. I don't know what is going on, but Michele is in the hospital." I shook the sleep from my head and my eyes and got right into motion. Adm Mullen's words are very accurate. Every time Scot deploys, be it to Iraq or Korea, we all take on the burden to some degree. I was happy to see that Sea World took a moment to recognise this fact of life. Scot's mother and I took the girls down to Sea World. Before they started the Shamu Show they took a moment to have all the military stand up. They then extended the offer to have all the families of military service people deployed stand up. It's not the first time I've stood up for my brother in law, but it was the first time I've done so in such a public forum.

It is nice to see the 'popular' press take a moment to show this perspective of military life. One soldier deployed is not One life affected. It's dozens of lives. Thirty thousand soldiers deployed is hundreds of thousands of lives affected by their service over seas. They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well it takes a family to support one soldier. I'm very thankful to have a strong family, both born and extended. I'm proud of our soldier and our family.

Bless you all in the coming year,

Brian

CNN's complete article
Family support 'vital' for service members


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