Friday, November 18, 2011
The other night a few friends stopped over to play some cards and consume some adult beverages. They represented a small majority of family, friends and soldiers all of which have been with us through thick and thin. I thought it funny that night that there were more family members than I remembered from my childhood. I’m not sure where the family line gets crossed when you’re in the military. Friends that have been there forever become the support to your family that you need to do the job that you do. No matter where I was in my career our friends were there for us from moral support, emotional support, mechanical support, or even support to fix the plugged toilet courtesy of my kids.
My family changed during my tour with the military as I met people that would become my brothers, sisters, and elders that would guide me, mentor me. Many of my brothers and sisters were there for me when I couldn’t help my loved ones back home. They understood what I was going though as many faced the same obstacles of separation. Being separated I felt my wife’s pain as she described what was going on back home and understood the words that were never said. I knew that for everything she shared there was much more that she held back knowing there was nothing that I could do. The only thing I could do was encourage her and give her the emotional support that she needed to get through.
Susan being the soldier’s wife that she is has understood the importance of the military family and has adopted many of my brothers and sisters as if they were her own as well. It’s not about a person’s color, their race it’s about the common objective that brought you all together. It’s more than just serving together side by side it’s about being there for each other whether a shoulder to cry on, a hug, or someone to buy you a beer. The military had a way of bringing in individuals from all walks of life, giving you matching uniforms, putting you in the locker room together for the first time and heading off moments later to play your first professional game. Some brought a game book, some humor; a few strong backs and some came with weak minds complete with strong hearts. Kind of like a chef assembling ingredients with a pinch of this and a little of that and behold a meal fit for a king.
I use to feel so guilty leaving Susan at home with four kids while I traveled to some place or other knowing what I could expect when I got to my destination. There was always that awkward moment upon arrival and soon you would meet someone with your values and beliefs and you were no longer alone. Sure you were faced with hard work but there was always a feeling of family for the most part. What made it worse looking back was I knew what her world would be like without me there and there was nothing I could do but rely on our friends if push came to shove. No matter where I went I didn’t want to be there a way from my family. But if I had to leave usually the people that I was with were in the same boat and we almost always made the best of a bad situation.
The line in the sand has been erased as neighbors, friends, soldiers I served with and their families became our family. All of my kids have benefited from the military family having aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters from different walks of life. The family circle becomes even wider as our kids friends become our adopted kids. Same thing being said many of our friends think of our kids as if they were their own as well. When one of our friends is hurting, we all hurt, when one celebrates a major mile stone we celebrate as well.
Imagine a tall majestic tree swaying back in forth as the wind blows. The tree has many branches of different sizes and shapes just like soldiers in the military. Some of the branches have many little branches that are growing bigger and sprouting their own branches as well. The leaves represent the different families, back grounds, and the individual reasons they serve. Once a year they show their true colors and celebrate that they are family. No matter your belief we can all agree that the brilliant colors can and do take your breath away. What’s important to remember though is that even though there are many branches and lots of leaves now, at one time the tree was just a sapling. Our friends are kind of like Mother Nature and gave the tree water when it needed it, sun shine to grow, provided the fertilizer to grow, and love to make our world a better place.
Being a military family you want to believe in the play it forward philosophy. I have been so blessed by the support of our family and friends that there is nothing that I wouldn’t do to give back to those that have given me so much. Right now there is a member of our extended family that needs us to keep him and his family in our prayers. I’m ready to help and will give my unconditional support no matter the time of day.
This Thanksgiving as I eat my meal surrounded by the many branches and leaves of our tree I will give thanks that I have those that I love around me this year. I will also say a prayer thanking those that still serve and asking God to look out for our extended family serving in harm’s way. If I were to die today I would consider myself blessed by so many men and women that I am proud to call my brothers and sisters.
In closing I just want to share a thought with you about life that I think is so true today. Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain!
That is all,
Monday, November 7, 2011
Good morning it’s been a while since I put some of my thoughts in print. So much is going on in my life right now. The past months have been filled with remodeling, moving, and selling our house in the cities. Finally Susan and I are both living at our house up north (formerly known as the cabin). She moved up here full time mid August and it’s been very busy to say the least. Between work, moving, and the constant upkeep of both residences it was hectic to say the least. How I had wished that I had some time off to get it all accomplished.
Now here it is early November and my wish was unexpectedly granted I’m unemployed wondering where the summer went. I have worked full time almost all of my life doing one job or another. I would love to confess that I’m scared but were going to be OK between my pension, unemployment and Susan’s job. Sure money will be tight but the big guy has always looked out for me yesterday, today and the day after that. My biggest issue was that my job with the military had become my identity. Coming out of 30 years of service I wondered who I would be without it. So far I have found that my blood pressure is down, my stress is gone and my cell phone hardly rings. My brief contractor job working for the Army gave me some of the transition time that I needed to wean myself from the military.
I thought to myself that losing my job would be the worst thing that could happen to me at this place in life. Truth is that this time has given me a chance to re group and deal with some things that I have been putting off. One of which was my health. I made a doctor appointment to deal with the undiagnosed joint pain I have suffered with for years. Blood testing was ordered followed by a biopsy with the results indicating that I have Celiac Disease (good bye Gluten). On 1 December I will say good bye to my beloved beer, Caseys donuts, fast that is deep fried, served on a bun or on a flour tortilla. Truth be told I'm OK with that just know that I will still dream of the Big "G" from Gordys Hi Hat in Cloquet. I know I was lucky and that others have medical issues far worse than me. In my case the special diet will make my pain go away.
Enough about me the true blessing of being unemployed is that Susan and I been able to focus on our marriage and taking our relationship to new levels. While I had thought losing my job was the end of who I was, it was really only the beginning of discovering the real me.
Now for one of those no shit there I was moments: There I was sitting at the kitchen counter knowing it was there on top of the refrigerator looking at me. Trying not to make eye contact I could make out the first letter on the orange package it was definitely an “R”. I told my self "Self, use the discipline that the Army taught you". I refused to be weak and stayed strong for 3 days before Susan mentioned that she had opened up the bag of Reese’s Peanut Cups. Knowing the bag was opened destroyed my resolve and I was up and at em.
One became two and the chocolate high had me, lock stock and barrel. I know some of you are laughing but I did it in the name of science. I was worried that the candy would be stale. I felt like I had the devil on one shoulder yelling go team, while the other guy was telling me you’re going to hate yourself later. OK I admit it that I just might have issues when it comes to chocolate (stop laughing).
Looking back on Halloween I realized that I am sick and desperately need help. I was doing a pretty good job of convincing those gathered at Grandma’s house that there was a Reese’s Peanut butter cup recall due to contamination. As lame as it was I almost had them all young and old alike, in fact my great nephew and niece each gave me a Reese’s for testing. I have to ask myself sometimes “Self what is wrong with you when you take candy from children?” I’m OK now I know that I cannot be left alone with Reese’s ever again!
All kidding aside I’m a better man today than I was yesterday! I’m searching for employment where I can take pride in a job that’s done, to laugh, love and make tomorrows memories become a reality. Who knows maybe there will be a day when I replace “Crankshaft” the bus driver or pray that someone does not want to super size their meal. Just recently on a recent application under previous work experience related to the job I was applying for I said I have mopped, waxed and buffed floors all over the world. Remember life is what you make of it you have to put something into life in order to get something out of it.
I have to go now Susan just un-wrapped a fresh loaf of homemade Pumpkin bread. For some reason I believe history is going to repeat itself if you know what I mean ;)
That is all!
Sunday, October 9, 2011
V.I.P. / R.I.P.
(Very Important Person / Rest In Peace)
Recently I attended the funeral of a friend's son Cory who left this life way before his time. I wasn't fortunate enough to have known him well, but the others in attendance that day did. I was envious of Cory for the family and the many friends gathered there that day. One of the sayings I love is; a true measure of a man is not the money in his bank account, instead it's the friends and family that show up to pay their respects. In my eyes Cory was a very wealthy man because the family and friends that showed up that day nearly filled the church to its capacity. So many of those that were there will forever wonder "Could I have done something to avoid this"? Did I miss a sign or not return a phone call when I should have? Or the ever hopeless thought of I wasn't there for him when he needed me. His memory will haunt us all for some time yet his life will always be remembered by those who knew him, always and forever!
I was in awe of the turn out and so impressed by Father Kevin Anderson who officiated over the service. My understanding was Father Anderson knew Cory, his family and so many of the friends that were gathered there that day. It wasn't just a funeral; it was a tribute to Cory and a celebration of his life.
Father Anderson took a stand that day in the Catholic Church when he said that depression was an illness. Those that commit suicide were ill and would not be held forever in purgatory. I found great comfort in his words and his ancient folk songs he sung. It seemed to me that the folk songs explained the difficult journey Cory faced. More people than you and I will ever imagine suffer from depression unaware that they have this illness.
My father and his father before him would have looked the other way seeing me cry openly. My heart was broken watching my friends suffer, not to mention when the brothers and sisters read their letters and testimonials to Cory. But Lisa's letter to her son is the one that took me over the edge. I can so relate to her in the fact that we may not have been there at birth but we are and forever will be their parents. Not just because of marriage, not because of changing the diapers, but because of the way you found your way into our hearts.
One thing I will never understand is the helplessness that Cory must have been in when he left his life behind. I myself believe that he was very ill because I could never imagine that he would knowingly have hurt those that love him so. He would never have left it to his family to pick up the pieces and deal with the aftermath of his actions. I pray that Cory's family will someday move on with their lives; the first year being the hardest with the first birthday, Christmas, Halloween and Thanksgiving without Cory. Just know that it's OK to mourn him and wish that he were there with you as you gather together as a family. Truth is that he will be there with you, because each of you will have Cory there with you in your heart.
I wanted to share two things from the funeral flyer that was handed out that day. The first one written by his family is:
Cory touched the lives of all those that had the privilege of knowing him and becoming his friend. If you were privileged enough to have had Cory in your life as a son, brother, or friend you were one of the lucky ones. Just as he embraced everyone, we embrace Cory into our hearts. It was a true privilege to know him.
The other one is the poem on the back side that's reads:
Don't grieve for me, for now I'm free, I'm following the path that God laid for me. I took his hand when I heard him call. I turned my back and left it all. I could not stay another day to laugh, to love, to work or play. Tasks left undone must stay that way. I found my place at close of day. If my parting has left a void, then fill it with remembered joy - A friendship shared, a laugh, a kiss, ah yes , these things I to will miss! Be not burdened with time of sorrow, I wish you the sunshine of tomorrow. My life's been full; I've savored much - Good friends, good times, a loved one's touch. Perhaps my time seemed all to brief. Don't lengthen it now with undue grief. Lift up your hearts and share with me. God wanted me now: he set me free.
To Cory's family I wanted to say thank you for sharing your son, friend and brothers life with us. I can honestly say that I wish I had taken the chance to have gotten to know Cory better. I'm here for you all if you need me and will keep you all in my thoughts and prayers.
Cory Allan Hoffman
27 September 1992 to 31 July 2011
"May you find the peace that you were searching for!"
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
It’s not that I’m afraid to step forward and lead again it’s more like I need a break from the stress that I was under. I always said to the soldier “poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine”! After I barked I almost always gave them my best effort to help resolve their crisis. I wasn’t aware of the stress I was under until after I retired. Since my retirement from the Army both my cholesterol and blood pressure have dropped to the normal levels. I no longer lie awake at night worried about what I did or what I have failed to do to take care of my soldiers and my family. I no longer call my work phone to leave messages pertaining to tasks that came up since I left work for the day. Nor do I send text messages or E mails to myself with the top 5 things you need to accomplish while you’re at work. E mails are now fun for the most part although I still delete the ones that say “forward to 10 of your best friends or else!” No more meetings that were moved up 2 hours that you never knew were happening in the first place. What matters now is me, my wife, our family, friends and the rest of our life.
It’s not that my soldiers don’t hold a place in my life because they do and always will. I will always remember the soldiers, their families, and those that gave of themselves in order for me and my fellow Americans to enjoy the life that we have. Soldiers that are serving and have served are my family and I will always have a place for them at the dinner table. You can’t be a soldier for as long as I have and just walk away like it was nothing.
My life now is different than before. I get emotional more frequently and my heart is filled with pride as I watch my kids grow. My eyes moisten when patriotic songs are played, a soldier dies, or a little kid waving an American Flag welcomes his dad/mom home from a deployment. I still regret the times I missed being there for my children but I plan to be there for them tomorrow and the day after that. I look forward to family get-togethers, phone calls from the kids and family time up north at the cabin.
What’s funny is I just now realized I really was a soldier not just a supply guy. I spent years trying to get out of uniform and now that I’m out I miss it. In the past it took me forever to get into the uniform at work but only seconds to take it off. I can’t find the words to explain how I belonged to such an organization but spent my time on the outside looking in. My job was about giving the soldier the tools to do their job, teaching them to do the right thing and making them accountable for their actions and equipment. Being deployed took me to a different level and was definitely an experience I will never forget. It gave me comfort knowing after years of preaching to the soldiers I was able to practice what I had preached. I miss the soldiers I served with and the feeling of belonging to something great. I miss giving of one’s self to your soldiers and your country.
Deployment’s taught me about me an awareness that I had needs to. Somewhere along my 30 year journey I had forgotten who I was although I had many titles; husband, Sergeant Major, soldier, father, counselor, mentor, uncle and brother. Somewhere, somehow “Dave the individual” disappeared below the radar. For so long now I have lived my life for others giving of my time and energy to make those around me happy. I wasn’t alone; Susan gave of herself to support me, our families and the military. She was the CEO, accountant, financial planner, military spouse and business manager of “Crotteau Enterprises” for the past 30 years.
From day one, we’ve had kids spending our time together serving family and country. I don’t want to sound selfish but it’s our time now to live, laugh and together pursue happiness. Our kids have their own lives to live now and are pursuing their dreams. We’re OK with that knowing they have all the tools they need to be successful. If a road bump in life occurs we will always be there for them.
To our family and friends our door is always open to you just call ahead so we can enjoy our time together. To the deployed soldiers sending back a snippet of their time at Mob station and in theater keep it up. We love hearing from you and will always keep you in our thoughts and prayers!
That is all,
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
When describing raising my kids to others I like using the analogy of a tool box. Each of our kids was given a proverbial tool box when they were born. As parents we gave the kids the tools to live life taking responsibility for the life they live. I gave them all the tools I could and others gave tools that filed in the gaps. The others were (teachers, clergy, grandparents, neighbors and the day care lady Leslie) to name a few. They all have the tools needed to survive life. Some of them have added tools on their own others have placed the tool box on the shelf to be used later.
For what it’s worth here is what your dad thinks of you from the heart:
You were my first and I have loved you since the day I met you. When you introduced me to your friends as your dad I knew then that you were mine forever. You captured my heart and taught me about being a father. Because of you I wanted to be a better man.
When you were young I used to sing you a song that went something like this.
Darcie if you want me to be closer to you
Get closer to me
Darcie if you want me to love, love only you
Then love only me
Darcie if you want me to see, see only you
Then see only me
Now years later I must confess that I stole the lyrics from Seals and Croft. I used to sing to you because of what I felt in my heart when I held you close. Now years later you’re getting ready to start the next chapter of your life. Instead of getting closer to me you’re going the opposite way. I’m OK with that because I know you’re always with me in my heart and never farther than a phone, text or E mail message away. I ask that you continue to use the tools given to you. You have so much to offer the people that you come into contact with whether at work or at home. Don’t sell yourself short and never allow yourself to be someone’s “second in command”. You and I both know that your partnership material both at work and in your private life.
I’m proud of you, the life you have lead and the woman that you have become. I love you Darcie go forth and do great things!
You too have been with me from day one. You were just a baby when we met but you also captured my heart and soul. I’m sure you will agree the road we have traveled together has been under construction at times. It wasn’t all bad and there are many memories of us I will treasure forever! I hope that being a father now has opened your eyes to what being a father really means. I hope that you understand some of the sacrifices I had to make in order to provide for my family. Being a father isn’t easy by any means. Being a father living a ways away from your daughter makes it even harder. You’ve been given the same tools as the rest, it’s time to pull the toolbox out and do a little maintenance, update and inventory.
Hopefully of the tools I gave you you’re using the one dealing with making the best of the time you have together. I was gone a lot throughout your life with work, schools and necessary travel. Being a dad one or two weekends a month means placing emphasis on spending quality time with her over quantity by putting your daughter’s needs above your own. I know that’s not hard for you because watching you around Aubrey I know you want what’s best for her. You can be a young adult anytime, being a father to your daughter is forever. Don’t find yourself in my shoes wondering where the time went and if you truly did your best at being a father. Don’t ever sell yourself short and never accept anything less than your dreams.
You have the potential to do great things if you choose. The future is yours for the taking! I love you Matt!
Jacki what can I say but wow! It seems like you went from childhood to motherhood almost overnight. Watching you with the boys has me thinking what a wonderful mother you have become. It shouldn’t surprise me as a little girl you were a mother to your siblings, pets and the neighbor kids. You definitely were born to be a mom and I’m excited for whatever the future may hold for you.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again whatever the future holds count your blessings today. You were blessed to have the boys enrich your life. Regardless of the outcome, the boys will always remember “Jacki” as the one that loved them, cared for them, and made their house a home. When looking to the future remember what I told you early on “Never forget who you are, never forget your dreams and most importantly never become a person you don’t recognize in the mirror". You are who you are and the person that truly understands this quality will cherish you forever. Just like a wild animal you should never be taken from the wild and made to live in anything less than the standards and goals you have set for yourself.
Between me and you, I was surprised the day that you enlisted into the military, but I’m not surprised by the path you have now chosen. You’re a people person whose priorities are about the individual not the numbers.
You’re a great mom, a beautiful lady and my daughter I’m a better man because of you. I love you Fish!
You and I will always share the bond of being the baby of the family. To this day I ponder whether better to be the baby or to be the eldest child. Both have their benefits, but being the baby means you’re the last one home when the rest have moved on. I know I felt a little guilty when I finally moved out of my parents house, let me just say don’t worry about me and mom were going to be OK.
I love the way you look at life and the ways you have envisioned your life to be. I’m sure you have benefited from lessons learned as your siblings took off, crashed and rebounded. It’s your time now to leave the minor league and head for the majors. It’s time to see if your fresh ideas, wisdom, and the tools in your tool box will really work. Be prepared to adapt your ideas and to adjust your goals as you travel down your chosen path.
You’re going to meet more interesting people that will share their opinions with you. If you take them to heart remember opinions are like butt holes, everyone has one. One of your gifts is seeing through the smoke and mirrors to see people for who they really are. Remember the wizard of Oz was scary until the curtains were removed and the Wizard was exposed. Until you walk in another person’s shoes you may never understand why some people behave the way they do. Give people an honest chance and you will be rewarded with friendships that will last a lifetime! Unconditional love/friendship for others will make you a great man.
What can I say about your service to your country except that you and only you are in charge of your destiny? I knew from early on that you would join the military when you were ready; I only hoped that you wouldn’t be disappointed. Just like life, you will get out of the military what you’re willing to put into it.
I am proud of the man you have become. I love you Meho! While you’re in the game just know that mom and dad will be on the sidelines if you should need us.
What would a father’s day letter to his children be without a bit of advice and that is when in doubt remember to use the tools WWMD (What would Mom Do) and WWDD (What would Dad Do). Either tool should set you up for success.
To the others that have touched my life and found a place in my heart thank you for your gift of friendship. Thank you for making my world a better place just by being in it. Thank you for opening my eyes and my heart allowing me to be a better father to my kids.
To my dad just know that I meant it when I told you I was sorry not so many years ago. You were startled by my apology and asked me to explain. I said I was sorry that I doubted his parenting skills. As a child I always envisioned things that I would do differently when I raised my kids. I saw all kinds of holes in my parents parenting skills, until I became a father myself. I always told myself that when I became a parent I was going to do things different. So Dad let me just say “Old man take a look at me now I’m a lot like you were”.
That is all,
P.S. A golfer friend of mine passed along these words that apply to golf and life “Play the course, don’t let the course play you”.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
During the construction I stayed in the Lucile Ball camper at night with the dogs instead of loading and unloading tools each and every day. By 7:30 PM you had to be inside as the mosquitoes came out to punish those making changes to their home. I’m sure the kids that stayed with me heard chainsaws going through the night if you catch my meaning. In one weekend we (family and friends) had the shell up and the roof on. Brother Doug, Potato Bob, Neighbor Bob, Little Dougie, Harriet (Harry), Susan, and our kids made the plans come to life. Whether it was lifting a framed wall, fastening in a truss, hanging on for dear life screwing down the metal roof to feeding the crew we all worked together.
Upstairs there is a blemish in the dry wall where Harry made her mark. She was on scaffolding when she lost her balance while painting and fell. Trying to catch her balance she stayed up right marking the wall with her paint brush as she stumbled into the closet. The painting on the wall and the blemish in the drywall where her head came to rest are all part of the 5 cent tour. What was truly funny about this is once we made sure she was OK the kids ran to get a camera to capture Harry laying in the closet with her can of paint spilled all over her and the floor. If anyone wants there are still pictures if you’re interested.
Now years later our friends both old and new still come up north eagerly anticipating what’s going to happen next. I’m sure the talk on the way up is whose going to push me on the swing, I wonder if the boat will ever be taken out, to what’s changed since last time. One or two may be wondering if there is a project planned, while others are anticipating taking money off Harry. Even Irving gets excited when I tell him whose coming to the cabin next. I suspect and hope our new friends feel at home there as well. To the crew of past and present just know that our doors are always open.
We have been there and got the T shirt with everything from bad backs, bruises, wounded pride, trees falling, large fires, small fires, ladder rides down the north wall to successfully falling on the fallen ladder down below. We have all been there and done that hopefully we are all just a little wiser because of it. As I get older I realize I’m not nearly the man that I use to be but then again you only go around once. I read it somewhere on a bumper sticker “I don’t want to just walk across the gates at heaven; I want to slide across the opening saying wow what a ride”!
During phase II construction of the pole barn Potato Bob tried to fill in a hole we just made with his body. He was carrying a post into place when he accidentally filled the 48” deep hole with his body. Did I mention the hole was more than half filled with water? Or that he was laying there with the 14’ 6” x 6” post on top of him? We did what anyone would do once he found out he was OK. Yup you guessed it one of the guys ran and got his camera. I’m sure it will be captioned something along the lines of “Bob with wood”.
I know I have a few stories to tell that should be used as lessons for our kids in the future. I wanted to move the fish cleaning house (roughly 8’W x7’H x 10’L). Susan was recovering from surgery so I had her operate the winch on the 4 wheeler. With a little careful maneuvering of the car trailer and securing my 4 wheeler to a tree to keep it from sliding the task was accomplished. Granted it’s not exactly where I wanted it but its close enough. There was also an awe shit moment a time or two where I thought my endeavors were going south. Afterwards Susan said that was the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen you do. I said it before and I will say it again “I wonder what she was comparing it to”?
If that’s the case then the weekend before last came as a close second. It seems me and the guy that I hired to help me transplant the garage door from the existing cabin to the new 26x30 pole barn had a language barrier. I hired him to help me install the garage door and he said he would be there Friday night. I left work 2 hours early to get a few things done before he arrived. I eagerly awaited his arrival and started calling periodically after he was 15 minutes late.
I knew I wasn’t going to the cities with my pole barn standing open for all to see. The shed was already half full of the treasures of our life. I started out with one of my WWDD (What Would Doug Do) moments. I put in door stops, knowing that the garage door couldn’t go all the way down. Next I put the first panel into place after spinning it around. It was then I realized that all the panels were facing the wrong way against the wall where they were stacked.
I called the hired guy again before panels 2, 3 and 4. I’m sure by this time even if he wanted to call me back he might have been just a little paranoid because of the messages I may have left him. Keep in mind that each time I put a panel into place I had to spin it around in the half filled pole barn. Of course the boat was sitting in the center of the floor making me lift the panels high as I spun them around. After the 3rd panel the opening was now ¾ filled with the three door panels.
Thinking to myself I thought “Self, there is no way you’re going to get the last panel into place by yourself”. Feeling frustrated and being a little pissed at the hired guy I sat back to access the situation. Using the WWDD method I devised a plan in my mind. Putting my Dewalt drill on the ladder with all the screws to fasten it into place I was ready. There was no way the door was going to kick my butt, not today and definitely not tomorrow. Cursing to myself I lifted the door high balancing it on the palm of my hands. Wait a minute I still needed to spin it around. Over the boat it went knocking the pre position ladder and tools over along the way. It was then I remembered telling my boss that I wasn’t going to do anything stupid when I left early that day. I was wrong on so many levels but what should I do. There was no way I was going to stop now and putting the heavy door down was not an option. Placing the edge of the door on top of the 3rd panel (6’H) wasn’t an easy task but I did it. Sure shit this was the first panel that wouldn’t stay there by itself. No ladder, no screws and no way to secure it by myself. It was like a light flashed when I noticed my 4 foot level resting against the wall. I’m pretty sure I mimicked a mime as I walked my hands carefully down the garage door trying to keep the top panel from toppling over on me.
I grabbed the level and made my way back to the center. Using the level I propped it high on the fourth panel and worked my way nervously down the level supporting the all so heavy door above. With one hand and the level I balanced the door panel above, the other patted the floor in search of the drill and screws scattered on the ground below. I found what I was looking for and made my way back upright. Did I mention that it was late and the natural lighting was now filled with the garage door? I did my business and the door was now temporarily secured in place. A few rails here, screws there, and two well placed wooden blocks and the door was now secured against potential winds. My treasures were safe and I was not just physically exhausted I was mentally exhausted as well.
In hind sight I realized only after I was done I should have turned the panels around while the opening was open. Each panel was harder than the first only because I didn’t do what Doug would do. As far as the hired hand goes he never did call me back although he mentioned to Harry later in the week that he told me he wouldn’t be coming if the weather was bad. Sure I was wet, but not from the drizzle outside.
Adding insult to injury I gave him the benefit of the doubt and asked him to finish the install the next time I saw him. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do it was more of a matter of doing it right the first time. I envisioned tightening the springs and numerous trips up and down the ladder. Or even too much spring tension which could send the door flying into the back wall. At this point it doesn’t really matter he never showed or called. Burn me once no problem, burn me twice I have an issue three times no way.
Susan and I have been married a while and she called in the reserves that day before I did something else stupid. She called the neighbor, who had a cousin, who installed garage doors for a living. As luck would have it he was right down the road at his brothers cleaning the barn. He made it look easy and we were done in no time. So Susan thank you for not letting me do something else to add to your list of stupid things I’ve done?
If you’re ever looking for me or want to add to the story of our cabin stop by, I will leave a light on for you!
That is all,
Friday, June 10, 2011
I know Irving isn’t real, I also know he’s not the one that left dirty dishes on the counter last night. He’s not responsible for the electric bill nor does he add his 2 cents worth during a conversation. On the bright side he stands by me and is always there for me when I need him to be. Why just the other day I needed someone to hold the door open. Nobody else offered so Irving did it. He didn’t complain or get an attitude, he just did it.
I suspect that Ted is envious of Irving with his vibrant color and the fact that he can recycle nitrogen into oxygen. Never once has Irving told me that I need to get a real job, or that the food I make tastes bad. When I wake in the morning he’s not there to say I drink too much or that I don’t spend enough time with him. He’s grateful for today and has no expectations of me for tomorrow.
Irving and I have never discussed politics, religion or current events. I’m not sure of his political stance or if he is a member of some cult that gives away daisies at the airport. Instead he seems to thrive when we watch certain gardening shows on TV. Yes he gets nervous when a commercial comes on that has anything to do with killing weeds, cutting grass, or weed whackers. Who wouldn’t get nervous? For us humans it would be just like watching that seat belt commercial where pedestrians jump on this guy’s car and smash the windshield with their heads. The last part of the commercial where the driver gets rear ended and his own head goes through the windshield makes me cringe as well.
Teddy teaches, trains and mentors more people in a day than most people do all month. Seeing him interact with soldiers is amazing he stands firm on his decisions all while taking care of the soldiers he serves. He believes that if you ignore your soldiers they go away. I can’t ever picture Ted crossing the street just to avoid someone walking towards him on the same side walk.
In retrospect maybe Teds right about Irving being just a f%$king plant I mean he’s right about everything else. Between me and you I’m not going to tell Irving and ask that you all do the same.
That is all,
Thursday, June 9, 2011
Being in the Army all those years there were many times that I missed out on a family event. Now more than ever I so value time spent with my family. Watching the boys interact with Uncle Josh was priceless. Seeing Uncle Josh sitting on the ground at the kids table was rather funny as well. They were here, there and everywhere and it was great! Jacki’s childhood dream of being a grandma is in the early stages but could easily be accomplished within the next 15-20 years. Our kids are awesome and it goes without saying that Jacki and Zach have done an amazing job raising the boys.
The other thing I came to realize is our cabin is everything we wanted it to be and more. We wanted a place where cousins can go to be friends. We wanted our cabin to be a place where memories are made and that our family and friends want to keep coming back too in the years ahead! We wanted our cabin to be a place where your problems are left at the doorway and the silence of the cabin could be filled with love and laughter.
After much debate we agreed to sell the house instead of waiting for the market to bounce back. Unfortunately now it’s listed for a lot less than it was valued a few years ago. Life as we know it now will be changed forever once our house sells. The marks on the wall, our kitchen table marked from past school projects, and the now vacant bedrooms hold many memories. But I believe that the memories will last forever regardless of where we live. I also know in my heart that the house does not make the home; it’s the people that live there that make it a home. Together we wait eagerly hoping for a sudden sale. I still live at the cabin with my roommate Irving Mon – Fri with Susan living in the cities. We alternate weekends between the cabin and the cities. Not the best plan, but it’s a plan that will work for right now. The next chapter in our life together is waiting to be written.
That is all,
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Family members are like underpants! Some crawl up your butt; Some get a little sideways; Some are your favorite; Some are holy; Some are cheap and just plain nasty; Some of them are full of poop; Some you don't know how you got them; and Some actually cover your ass when you need them too!
Some of us may focus on one part, while others think that part of the message is clearly talking about someone else. My own brothers and sisters may read the above and say different things about me. One sister may say I’m the favorite, where the other sister may say I get a little sideways. One brother would say that I’m full of shit, and the other may not claim to know me in public. My hope is that no matter their personal opinion of me when push comes to shove that they would be there for me if I needed them. After all blood is thicker than water right?
A while back there was this letter to Dear Abby that went something like this:
I met this great girl who I really love. I really want to bring her home to meet the family but I’m nervous. My father is an alcoholic; my mom gambles, one sister is a nun, the other a prostitute. My older brother makes moonshine and the youngest is serving time. My question for you is should I tell her about my brother that plays for the Minnesota Vikings?
You see even in humor families flaws are known but it’s the one odd duck amongst you that wrecks it for everyone. So I’m asking you, are you the odd duck? I suspect I am with my brothers and sisters. Maybe that’s why I was left tied up in the basement a time or two when I was little playing cowboys and Indians. My point is you can pick your friends; your nose and your friend’s nose but you can’t pick your family. You’re stuck with them at birth that’s why the hospitals give your parents a title when you’re born.
Seriously “family” is the one known denominator between me, my brothers and sisters. My posting on face book was slightly humorous, probably bordered on awkward, but it could also be used as a tool to measure yourself in others eyes. If you care about what others might say that is, what part of the message above would your family or friends say closely resembles you?
My own personal belief is that opinions are like butt holes everyone has one. What I do believe is the true measure of a person shouldn’t be the number of friends one has on face book. Instead the true measure of your life should be the number of family and friends at your funeral?
That is all,
Friday, May 27, 2011
This Memorial Day for me is filled with the remembrance of fallen comrades. I for one can do a roll call in my mind of soldiers that never came home. I wonder what their families are planning this weekend. I’m guessing somewhere on the itinerary there will be a trip to the cemetery. Will they be celebrating a 3 day weekend or wishing their soldier was home with them even if for just a minute? Will there be an empty place setting at the table where their deceased soldier would have sat?
Being a soldier isn’t easy by any means but being a soldier’s wife, husband, parents, family or significant other is definitely the hardest job there is. Imagine watching the news and learning that another American soldiers lost their life today in the very land your soldier now calls “home”. Would your hands tremble as you answer the phone? Would your heart skip a beat when your door bell rings in the wee hours of the morning? Do you think a few gray hairs might be added to the inventory until finally hearing the words “I’m OK”.
Men and women serving our country say good bye and hope they will see their loved ones again. Some say good bye knowing that Grandma, Grandpa, Mom or Dad will not be alive when they return. Others have said good bye unaware that the next time they touch American soil they will be in a Flag covered coffin.
Inevitably birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, reunions, first dates, first steps, and father daughter dances will be missed but not forgotten. Some of the guys deploying such as my nephew are expecting. His hope is to be home on leave when their child is born. During my deployment more than one dad watched the birth of their child utilizing a web cam. Things have changed since the World Wars then again there is nothing that can replace the wishing you were there feeling when your spouse needs you the most.
Putting the above thoughts into words reveals from within me mixed emotions this Memorial Day. I would love to be like some and ponder trivialities such as what adult beverages to serve or choice of meat for the grill. Instead many of my kids (soldiers) are going back across the pond as part of their patriotic duty. For some it will be their first deployment, others are experiencing second, third and in some case fourth deployments. I would like to say it’s my time to sit back and wave as the kids climb aboard the transport planes, but I would be lying. A big part of me will be going with them.
I spent over 30 years taking care of my kids and anticipating their needs. Blood, sweat and tears are just a few of the words I have used to describe a soldier’s life. There are 7 Army values that are the key ingredients of a US soldier. Many of you know what the words below mean.
How often do you see someone actually live up to these sacred standards? Soldiers learn these values in detail during Basic Combat Training, and continue to live them in all aspects of daily life - whether on the job or off.
Men and women everywhere are serving their country whether it as a law enforcement, firefighters, or the military. So many are serving to say that they stepped up when the going got rough, that they served so others wouldn’t have to. For me I served in hopes my kids would never know the tragedy of war. I was wrong, my kids, nephews, and nieces are now following in my footsteps of me and my forefathers.
President Abraham Lincoln’s words below are pretty powerful. The words spoken so eloquently years ago remain true today.
The Gettysburg Address
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate -- we cannot consecrate -- we cannot hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
As you celebrate this Memorial Day weekend take a moment to remember those Soldiers that gave the ultimate sacrifice. Remember that a large number of Minnesota soldiers are serving in or are on their way to the sand box (while you sleep in your comfy bed tonight). I ask that when the flag goes by you this Memorial Day that you stand a little taller, take your hat off, place your hand on your heart and give thanks to those that selflessly serve so you have the freedom you enjoy today.
That is all,
P.S. Just remember to the world they may have only been one person. To the one person they may have been the world. May all my fallen brothers and sisters rest in peace in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit Amen!
Monday, May 9, 2011
What can I say that hasn’t been said before? Looking back at all the cards and letters that I have sent you over the years has left me without original words to thank you for being such a wonderful mother to our kids. You are my wife, confidant, best friend, partner and the mother of our kids. Our kids are like the proverbial snowflake and that is no two are alike. Being a mother to such a variety of kids can’t be easy by any means. No matter the amount of frustration you feel sometimes or the dream of a future that may suddenly change you are always their mom first and foremost. As if that wasn’t enough you have to be “Super Woman” and find room in your heart to help out other lost souls.
Sometimes I’m jealous of the relationship that you have with our kids. I guess I should have known better when I became the third wheel so long ago. Even back then you were a mom that put her kid’s needs first and foremost above her own. I’m not complaining I knew that about you when I signed on. In fact the love that you had for your kids was one of the things that I loved about you. I have to say I do feel an extreme amount of pride when one of our children writes on face book telling their friends that my mom is more than a mother she is my best friend. To be called a best friend by one of your kids is truly priceless.
I have often wondered what our life would be like after the nest was vacated. We’re very close now but I’m smart enough to realize that the zip code and area code may change but not the amount of phone calls from our kids just checking in. How many times after answering a call have I seen you grab your cigarettes, a fresh bottle of diet Pepsi and head out to talk on the phone to one of the kids in need. I always breathe a sigh of relief when you come back in and say all is well.
My years in the military provided for our family but you were then, as you are now the go to person for our children. In my day I’ve spent hours on planes, airport lounges or sitting on the tarmac waiting to get home. Hours have been spent day dreaming of our life together and what the future might hold for us. The United States Army was an unforgiving mistress that dictated the time that I could spend home with my loved ones. Today the Army is a distant memory and the future is ours to enjoy. It’s me and you now; for better or worse, in good times and the bad until death do we part! We have done our time in purgatory it is our turn now to live, laugh and love as though no one is watching us.
Just remember I have loved you before I ever met you. You are the woman that I dreamed of when I was young. You are my soul mate for ever and always. Thank you for being such an inspiration to our kids. Thank you for being there for me and the family when we needed you most. Most importantly thank you for being the best mother possible to our kids.
I Love you Susan and Happy Mother’s Day!
I just wanted to say Happy Mother’s day to a lady I am honored to call Mom! I know you will never replace my Mom, but you have filled the void that was left when she passed over 20 years ago. I watch you watching my kids and wonder to myself if she would be as proud of my kids as you are. With you by my side I have faced the world head on and have so enjoyed my time with you. Without your continued support and the love of your daughter I may not have become the man that I am today.
Sometimes though there is a side of you that others seldom see. Remember the day that you asked me to put tires around your tomato plants. You look so surprised when I came in and asked for more tires. I would love to say that you suppressed your laughter rather well when you discovered that I placed the tires around the potato plants instead. Notice I said “I would love to say”, you see your laughter that day more than likely led to your issue with changing your pants now years later.
I remember the first time I met you I was pretty nervous to say the least. Having asked Susan to marry me after such a brief courtship must have made you both a little nervous as well? I’m sure Sheldon’s fear of me beating your daughter in the years ahead quickly vanished once he got to know me (right?). Let me just say my first interaction with Sheldon left something to be desired as I tried to engage him in conversation. Try as I might he seemed to answer questions with all yes and no answers that left little to discussion. Soon after wards he drifted off to sleep, after which he headed back outside. I wish someone would have thought to tell me beforehand that Sheldon was hard at hearing.
Have you ever noticed that words or phrases bring you back to a time when life was simple? Talks of roller skating, root beer floats, drive in movies or county fairs are like time machines to the past. Around our house the word Harriet or more affectionately “Harry” makes all those that know you smile. We all have our stories that are told so lovingly to others. You have to know that you’re such an intricate part of my life, my family and close friends that words cannot describe the love that I have for you.
After the death of my father in law and friend Sheldon I wondered what the future would be like for you. All my fears were quickly cast aside and I knew that you were going to be Ok. You started off at a crawl and then took off running as you became more confident. It wasn’t long before you became even more independent and started living the life that you deserved. Then last winter you went down to Texas and came back the owner of a winter get away. I am so proud of you and I’m glad that you’re such a great role model for my kids.
Just the other day you told me “I had to take a nap after making all those goodies for the grandchildren”. I laughed and said all you have to do is change the first part because the last part remains the same. You gave me one of those “What are you talking about Willis looks”. I clarified and said that you could say “I went to golf today and had to take a nap afterwards” or “I went to the Gym today and had to take a nap afterwards”. Where you find the time in your busy schedule to watch the hours of television you T Bo I will never know.
I just want to go on record and say that because your family I have never charged you my normal fee while teaching you Cribbage 101. In fact the other night at Buck Burgers (Actually $1.50) I was not surprised when you admitted that you took $3.00 off someone while playing cribbage waiting for poker to begin. I’m going to say this once and will never repeat it again but I look forward to playing cribbage with you. I watch you play whether as my opponent or partner and have to admit that you’re pretty good if I do say so myself. It seems like just yesterday I was teaching you to play at the kitchen table and now you’re flying solo on the club circuit.
I’m not the only one who adores you, my friends and colleagues all ask about you often. Not to mention what the kids tell their friends after an adventure with Harry. Just so you know Doug, both Bobs and I have made a pact that nobody but us will ever take your money and make fun of you as long as we are around. Your money tin may be lighter now but it’s not empty. Instead it is filled with the laughter and tears that have been shed gambling at the cabin.
You have taught me so much about unconditional love and have stood by my side for almost 25 years. That truly in itself is something that not many can claim and should win you the title of “Mother of the Year” hands down from this day forward!
Admit it Mom there have been some great moments that will never be forgotten. Remember the guess your age booth at Valley Fair or the Doctor talking to me and you about our daughter’s surgery being performed later today. The times we have spent laughing, learning and living will be the treasures that I will carry with me always. One thing that all those that were present that day not long ago will agree on is that Harriet, tent camping and grilled cabbage does not mix. They are a lethal combination just like ammonia and bleach.
To my adopted Mother and best friend I love you! I hope that this Mother’s Day that all your wishes come true.
Your favorite son-in-law (named Dave)
P.S. You’re not the only one that likes the new picture that they put up at church!
Thursday, May 5, 2011
The Medicine that I took sure made my morning commute more tolerable I even let an older couple pass me for the heck of it (JK). Actually the medicine that they had me on Saturday had me not so regular. Even though I urinated quite frequently I hadn’t gone to number 2 since Saturday. Keeping it short and sweet I have now officially joined the ranks of the pain peelers club. I don’t want to get into the details let’s just say I was so glad that number one stall was open although I may have bent the handicapped rails just a bit. I would be surprised if the cleaning lady stays on here though after her brush with hazardous fumes. Note to self “self maybe it wasn’t the brightest idea that you’ve ever had making your secret recipe chili last night”?
In all my years of back problems I have never felt so miserable and helpless. In less than two weeks my brother Doug and associates are helping me build a pole barn at our cabin up north. I am trying to be good and know that if I was at home I would be overdoing it. I promise that tonight at the cabin I will sit on my hands, take some medicine, and watch one of the two channels all while kicked back in my recliner hoping to get better soon. I just hope that tonight when I get to the cabin that Irving will recognize me. Speaking of Irving I may not recognize him if I forgot to water him last week when I left. I hope I find his leaves pressed against the window eagerly anticipating my arrival. Maybe, just maybe we will both need to recover together.
I hope that this posting finds you all healthy and that you protect your back at all costs. I was young and dumb at one time and thought I was invincible. Years later I find that there is no cure for stupid and wish that I had taken better care of my back. To those of you that asked me what I’m looking for today as I walked in hunched over let me just say it wasn’t the future. To those that made fun of my duck like walk just know that with a rifle I’m pretty good at shooting targets both in and outside of a arcade.
I pledge to you that I may be down right now but I will rise again. Today I’m the fire hydrant but tomorrow if I play my cards right I may be the big dog again.
That is all,
Monday, May 2, 2011
After it was standing upright again I was loading the 4 wheeler back on the trailer when it happened. I was bent over moving the ramps when my back went out. I felt like my upper torso was a spinning top pivoting on my stationary lower torso. I might have looked like Gumby or SpongeBob Square pants under the influence as I moved around trying to stop the hurt. I know if I was watching some guy going through the motions that I was probably going through I too might have laughed. So I do forgive you Josh and Zach for laughing, but Zach the pooping comment that you made to Jacki really wasn’t that funny.
The trip back from Mankato that day was by far worse than riding my motorcycle back from the west coast back in 1982 after my motorcycle accident. I was still driving because of the car trailer behind and the fact that we still had to pick up a set of doors from my brother Doug on our way home. I didn’t want to relinquish the driving to anyone else and felt as comfortable as I could be given the circumstances. Propped behind the wheel supporting myself by my elbows and knees took my mind off the pain. I wanted to take the pain medicine after I backed up the trailer at Doug’s and after we loaded the doors just in case I became under the influence. The old song from “Heehaw” came to mind as I hummed a few bars of “If it weren’t for bad luck I wouldn’t have no luck at all gloom to spare and agony on me” under my breath as we headed north.
The next few weeks were/are going to be busy to say the least. I have so much to do to get ready for building my garage in less than two weeks. I was supposed to be in Montana on a business trip this week. Susan and I were going to drive out and spend some much needed time together going through North Dakota on our way out and South Dakota on our way home. I envisioned stops at Crazy Horse, Mount Rushmore, Old Faithful and the badlands. I know so much to do, and so much to see in just five days. But if nothing else was accomplished being alone for five days with my bride would have been awesome. With me living at the cabin and her at the house our time together is precious. After the events of the past week I believe a trip out to Montana was just what the doctor would have ordered.
After we got home from Mankato I went to bed to try and get better. I had already taken the muscle relaxant that Doctor Zach gave me and was hoping to sleep it off. Josh left for work and Susan ran to town and I unfortunately had to go to the bathroom. I grabbed the pizza plate off of the night stand beside me and headed off. I wasn’t quite done yet going to pee when Gumby and SpongeBob came back to teach me to dance. I didn’t want to crash into the toilet or land in tub so I moved somewhat faster than a caterpillar tying his 16 pairs of sneakers as I headed back to the sanctuary of our bedroom. I made it as far as the hallway when it was either drop down to my knees now or tumble into the drywall in front of me. I opted to drop to my knees than face the embarrassment of the crash and burn method I was faced with. I made it as far as the bedroom floor when I was stopped dead in my tracks. I couldn’t go forward, back ward, or climb Mt Rushmore to my bed that beckoned me. I was in a position right out of some KungFoo movie as I laid there crouched on the floor in agony. The only thing that kept me sane was Bella and Mikey as they waited for me to let go of the pizza plate. Rather than help me their only thought was you distract him and I will get the plate out of his hand. Two or three different times they attempted to get the plate from me. I’m not sure how much longer I could keep them from the plate but I was determined.
I was still on the floor 25-35 minutes when I heard the garage door opener engage. When Susan walked in minutes later I was so relieved I told her I needed some help and know she was surprised to find me lying there on the floor. I admit this would have been a great time for one of those I’ve fallen and can’t get up commercials to be produced. I know water may have escaped my eyes as Susan gave me the support I needed to get up again. The embarrassment of her calling 911 seemed to be all I needed to get up on my feet again. After careful maneuvering I was able to stand somewhat upright, get some sleep pants and slippers on and then navigate to the top of the stairs. Standing at the top of the steps it looked to me like it was at least a mile to the landing below. Instead it was only seven steps that saved me from an ambulance ride.
I’m not sure how I got to the emergency room once I got in the car. The bumps lining Seventh Avenue were rough to say the least but the end definitely justified the means. Susan left my side for a little while at the entrance to the ER propping me up on the wall while she parked her car. After a few shots of morphine and some muscle relaxant in the emergency room I’m on the road to recovery. I have never been in that much pain before nor do I want to be ever again. As I type this blog I am sitting like an old man in my living room reclined in my non brand named Lazy boy recliner with a blanket covering my lap writing. Hopefully tomorrow after I see my chiropractor I will be better and head off to work.
All I can say is protect your back while you can otherwise you could end up in the recliner next to me cursing those seven stairs to the outside. To my wife Susan I know the past week was a tough one for you. I just thank you for being my rock through the recovery process. I will get better soon and someday God willing we will dance either a Waltz or a Fox trot at our 25th Wedding anniversary.
So if anyone should ask you if you got the license number of the truck that hit me it was BR 549 and Lady Destiny was not driving it!
That’s all for now,
Friday, April 29, 2011
I noticed lately a lot of our friends are asking for help in the way of prayer requests. My mother-in-laws niece, a co workers infant daughter, a soldiers spouse left behind, and a buddy’s step daughter are all part of my normal prayers. I say a prayer most days thanking God for my life, my wife, family, friends, and soldiers serving everywhere. I almost always ask that people everywhere learn to play well with others regardless of their beliefs and religion. I normally say my prayers during my morning commute to work. Those of you driving by me may smirk thinking I’m doing the sign of the cross in hopes of making it to the fuel pumps, or that I’m praying that my car makes it in to work. No, I’m actually praying to God asking him to look out for our friends from Texas in hopes their health improves or our friends from Warba and Cottage Grove that their lives will be better as they recover. I never forget to thank the big guy for my life and the spectacular sunrises and the rather impressive sunsets I witness almost daily.
Lately I’ve asked God to help Jacki and Zach travel through the muddy waters. I can honestly say it’s hard to stand in line watching my daughter traveling on the roller coaster of life without stepping forward to make sure that her PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) is in place. Like everyone else I ask the big guy to help them, guide them, and be there as they make their journey. It’s not easy, in fact sometimes I feel like Helen Keller as I stand there not knowing what to say or how to express one’s self.
Not so long ago I heard the pain in Jacki’s voice as she asked me on the phone if Mom was there. I knew instantly something was the matter and waited anxiously to hear exactly what. My worst fears were realized as Mom relayed that Jacki was having complications with her pregnancy. I thought to myself then as I do now that they are already dealing with more than their fare share of troubles. I want to step forward and lighten their load but I know their load is theirs to carry right now. I pray they find their way and they ask God to help them through this troubled time. For the record, I’ve asked God to help all my kids and to be with them all as they travel through life. There is a poem I have always liked titled “Footprints in the Sand” that has always made me reflect on life.
"Footprints in the Sand"
One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there were one set of footprints.
This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints. So I said to the Lord,
"You promised me Lord that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there have only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?"
The Lord replied, "The times when you have seen only one set of footprints, is when I carried you.”
Yesterday I too sent out a prayer request on Face book and through my e mail account asking everyone to keep Jacki, Zach and their family in their prayers. Maybe I was too late in asking everyone’s help or maybe the doctor was right when he said “Sometimes there is nothing you can do if it wasn’t meant to be”. Instead of accepting either one I believe it wasn’t his time and that God needed him more. Baby Hercules will never know the world eagerly awaiting his arrival. He will never witness the glorious sunrise or sunsets that God has painted for us. But I feel in my heart and soul that baby Hercules will know he was loved by many and he will be forever. I pray he is with our family now on the other side walking hand in hand with those that have gone before us.
Jacki I swear to you it will get better. I mentioned in the hospital that your mom and I lost a child (Samantha) as well. I find comfort in knowing that through the tragedy of death comes a new commitment to each other and the future. When Mom gave birth to you, and later Josh it truly was a miracle. I can say that being a parent isn’t always about the good times, nor is it about the bad. What life is about in my eyes is celebrating the love we have, the life we have had, and the dreams of what the future hold. I’m asking you to carry a piece of Hercules with you in your heart. I also ask that you teach your family to dance as though no one is watching you. Love as though you have never been hurt before. Sing as though no one can hear you. Live as though heaven is on earth.
Look back years from now and wonder about the man he may have been. Then ask yourself if Hercules would be proud of you for the life you led. Your mom was right in saying we should plant a tree in honor of Hercules. Your idea of plating a weeping willow in his memory is beautiful. His brothers helping plant the tree will make the event all that much more meaningful. If you want we could release some helium balloons carrying messages from the boys. I have beautiful spot in mind near the pond where we can place a park bench. It will be a place to sit in quiet solitude or perhaps listen to the kids as they play nearby. Imagine the whisper of the wind blowing gently through the branches. With the crickets, frogs and the rest of nature’s choir providing the background music. As the seasons change your heart will heal and you will move on with your life.
As I get a little older I get a little wiser. Knowing what I know now, I’m asking my family now before its too late to not morn my death, instead I ask that you celebrate my life and take with you a part of me as you live your life day to day.
That is all,
P.S. To the duck that held it all together I am proud of you. You were swimming in the pond without even a ripple on the surface of the water. While under the surface you were kicking your legs for all they were worth to stay afloat. It’s ok to rest now and let Jacki know your innermost feelings. Part of the healing process is to share your feelings and to grow together through this experience. I’m asking you from one father to another to let your boys see your tears in order for them to know that it’s going to be ok. Tears are nature’s way of making a bad situation better!
Friday, April 22, 2011
Yesterday I spent some time on the internet trying to find out who the fire marshal in my area is in order to get a burning permit. You see I was kind of nervous after talking to a colleague at the VFW who had a run in with the local law. I have spent a few years burning brush at the cabin under the assumption that I didn’t need a permit. Just understand I always have a shovel or a rake nearby and a cell phone in my pocket just in case one of those “Hold my beer and watch this moment“ happens. For some reason or other I had it in my mind that when I asked at the courthouse they said I didn’t need a burning permit. Then again maybe I asked while there was still snow on the ground, who knows for sure.
I wasn’t in the mood to gamble so I decided it was time to get a burn permit. I was thankful that there was an on line application after my fire marshal search left me more than a little frustrated. What a deal $5.00 for a yearlong permit and never having to run to town and get a permit ever again. I filled out the application, located my cabin on the map and then I gave my payment information. I did everything right or so I thought. I stopped at the place in my road where cell phone coverage stops to make my call. I called the number and complied with the request for my permit number and hit the pound key afterwards. I thought the message said thank you but some burning restrictions are in place. The call was scratchy at best but left me with no further options. I hung up and backed up some to get the best of both bars on my cell phone. I redialed the number and went through the process again. Sure enough the message said some burning restrictions are in place.
Thinking to myself I said “self you must have filled out the online application wrong”. So I did what any man would do under the circumstances, yep that's right I used my permit to start the fire. Before you start on me about are you sure you made the right choice? Understand my fire was by the pond and it was drizzling out. If you’re worried about the permit I have other copies but I had marked up the one I sacrificed to the fire gods. This morning at work I found on line that there is a fire ban in place. Had the recording last night said burning ban in place I would have done the right thing instead of lighting up the night.
Some may call me a pyromaniac but the truth is I love being outside and I love having a fire going nearby. Fires seem to bring me back to a place long ago camping with my dad. Life was so simple back then being a little boy memorized by the fire. Hot dogs; marshmallows; s ‘mores; popcorn all cooked over an open fire who could ask for more? What a simple life it was with no thoughts what so ever about what tomorrow would bring.
Flash forward to 2011 and you will find me still memorized by the fire and chilling to the sound of nature’s orchestra. Last night the owls were hooting, frogs were croaking, coyotes were howling and then Bob made a rather loud unpleasant noise and all was quiet. I actually think that a frog croaked after the forest smells were replaced for a moment by last night’s fermented chili.
If you’re ever looking for the cabin just point your car towards the glow in the night sky. You will find me there with a smile on my face enjoying the moment.
Thant is all!
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
I know what a strange title for a blog. It’s just recently during my daily bathroom/library trip I was forced to use stall number two at my work. Stall one which is oversized and much more comfortable was occupied already needless to say stall two was my only option. Did I mention that stall one has hand rails, acceptable lighting, magazine rack and a much higher ergonomic toilet? Stall two is always the less preferred because of the size that can be compared to a phone booth. I’m sure the same company that made the phone booths got the bid for bathroom stalls at all government agencies. Stall two is so small (how small is it) that you smack both your elbows into the side walls as you try to slide your Spiderman underwear and pants back up.
As I prepared to do my business I noticed under the divider the coveralls piled around the ankles of the man next to me. Yep sure enough it was my buddy Mr “T” (name changed to protect his identity). It wasn’t our first time for us; we have met before under similar circumstances. Most of you that know me well might say I’m a little modest at times. Others might say I’m a guy that gets things done. But when it comes down to the sanctuary of a bathroom I suddenly become very shy. At that moment I wish that I had been born with a muffler as I tried to suppress the air escaping out of my butt. After a few muffled bursts Mr “T” said softly “Go ahead SGM and let her go were all friends here”.
If he only knew the anxiety that I have with making noises in the bathroom when I’m not alone. If he only knew the possible outcome of his request I know he wouldn’t have asked me to “Let her go”. He was taking his life in his own hands and I could not accept that responsibility. After some small talk he finished his business, slipped on his superman coveralls and returned to work. Yes he washed his hands for what it’s worth. Not that it matters he then touched the door handle that had just been touched by the smelly trucker who didn’t wash his hands before him.
After he left I sat there in quiet reflection and thought that bathrooms + poop = Awkward situations/stories. For example while I was at Ft Lewis back in 2009 I had the unfortunate reaction to shrimp scampi. After walking back from the mess hall I felt pains in my stomach. All kidding aside it felt like my stomach was doing advanced aerobics. My stride increased and I noticed my dinner companion matching me stride for stride. The foot race was on and we wrestled briefly at the men’s room door as I pushed by him to complete my mission. There was no modesty that day as it came down to a do or die situation. The men outside at the urinals, whose eyes were now watering, quickly finished their business and got out of Dodge. Sadly, we both had the same reaction the next two times we ate shrimp Scampi. I know your thinking why in the world would you do that to yourself three times? I have to say it was great food!
Then there was the time when I was in a restroom up north. I was sitting in my stall mentally going through my too do list. It sounded like small arms fire followed by a grenade hitting the water in the stall next to me. Then I heard the man say “nice weather”. Trying not to laugh and a little upset that the quiet solitude had been broken I replied “it sure is”. He then asked how long I had been on the road and I replied “about an hour and a half and you”? He then said rather rudely “I have to go now the guy in the stall next to me thinks I’m talking to him”. My question is who in their right mind talks to someone on their cell phone while going to the bathroom. What do you do with your cell phone while you’re wiping? I know if it was me my phone would slip off my shoulder and land in the muddy waters below.
There should be a law against people using their phones in public restrooms. Imagine the same scene above only this time the man next to you says “Hi I love you”. Sure you’re laughing now but what if the room darkened as he blocked out the light on his way into the bathroom. What if the stall wall was bulging and you heard him say “Daddies thinking of you”! Or even worse hear him say “why don’t you come over to my house and play”.
Can you honestly keep a straight face if you hear your friend talking to you while they are going to the bathroom? Imagine the noises one might make that echo amplified through the phone lines. The water hitting the rocks below might take you back to a trip along the north shore. For me personally, the sound of rounds coming in take me back to a place that I don’t want to be.
Tell me you’ve never been next to nowhere when you notice there is no toilet paper in your stall as you duck walk down the line looking for more. As soon as you start the walk of shame you get caught by the senior citizen that proudly cleans the interstate rest rooms across America. I call it the walk of shame because shame on me for not checking more than cleanliness, lights, and locks on the stall door.
Speaking of cleanliness why is it that guys can’t seem to hit a urinal at less than a foot away but are convinced that they can pee into a toilet without raising the lid? Come on if you’re in a hurry to pee and the kid in front of you is fumbling with his zipper at the urinal go ahead and use the stall. Just use your foot like everyone else to raise the seat up!
All in all times are changing and bathroom behavior is now much more acceptable. I have friends that have decorated their bathrooms by doing their own backsplash. I have friends that have cleared out offices and others that have brought tears to my own eyes. I know bathroom poets and bathroom remodelers. I have friends that have dropped valuables into the forbidden waters and others that have failed to retrieve them. I know one guy that loves to show off his handy work using both corn and peanuts for texture.
My final thoughts as I begin the final descent is never let your turtle show in the middle of nowhere and always keep a clean roll of toilet paper in a baggy under your front seat just in case. This almost sounds like advice from Red Green. With that being said “keep your stick on the ice”!
That is all,
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
To hear her cry and bare her soul for all to see is something that I pray I will never witness again. My heart broke as our daughter’s world crumbled down around her. I wanted to assure her that in pure numbers alone she is one of millions of people that have suffered a postponement of a wedding. I wanted to assure her that life isn’t fair, that relationships are priceless, and that life has its share of heartbreak. How can your heart not break when you lose a loved one, or when a child suffers, or even when somebody's beloved pet gets hit by a car? But all this is just words of comfort that will be spoken by many, but never heard by one.
But broken hearts are what give us strength, understanding and compassion. They say that a heart never broken is pristine and sterile and will never know the joy of being imperfect. All these words mean nothing as you hear her vulnerability on the phone.
I want to believe that her life will get better and that each day she will be stronger and less vulnerable. I hope and pray that her heart mends and that they resolve their problems whether it be together or apart. I know this hasn’t been easy for either of them. Right wrong or indifferent the future is for them to decide. What bothers me is that all the well wishers mean only the best, but what it actually comes down to is all the eyes are on them right now. I just hope that you ignore their whispers as you both pass by.
What happened I’m asked is always the second question after is Jacki OK? I don’t know, and I’m guessing that even they can’t begin to give you an honest answer. What I can say is that if it was meant to be it will happen. If it wasn’t then close out that chapter of your life and move on. Don’t wait until the final chapter to realize that you could have altered the ending.
If you need me I will be on the sidelines cheering you on no matter the outcome.
Just remember I was the first man that you loved and I have loved you unconditionally always and forever!
Friday, March 11, 2011
I would like to say I filed away the deployment into my life experiences file as soon as I saw my wife, family and friends. But I would be wrong; the deployment left me with a bad taste in my mouth that I’m just now getting over after over a year. I am just now placing it into my life experience file as lessons learned, and have decided not to dwell on the past instead I’m letting it go. Susan said it best when she asked me “If you had to do it over again would you have done anything different given the circumstances”. My answer after some thought was “No I would have done it all the same only different”. More often than not my wife is the voice of reason and common sense and that’s one of the many reasons why I love her.
Honestly there is no easy answer, what it comes down to is after 30 years of being a soldier you still place your soldier’s needs above your own. I may be old school (be nice) but I was always taught that the officers come up with the plan, it’s up to us the enlisted guys who are the subject matter experts to put the plan in motion. Being a senior enlisted soldier you’re responsible for the soldiers under you and around you. Our soldiers depended on us and it was up to us to drive on no matter the cost. You had to keep your game face on, support your boss all while placing the soldiers needs above your own. Kind of like driving and texting you have to be able to do many things at one time. Truth be told I lost a friend during the deployment who I think forgot somewhere along the way that he was the enlisted soldier’s first line of defense against the system. Understand I am not without blame for I have my own faults and know that it takes to two Tango.
Enough about that as the saying goes yesterday is the past, today is the present and tomorrow is the future. Our destiny is what we make it and when the day is done we can lick our wounds or say I did my best and anticipate the next day. There is a saying that I like that goes something like this. I have been shot at, misquoted, trampled on and beaten bloody. The only reason why I’m here today is to see what they are going to do next. I think this saying sums it up best “Some days you’re the dog, other days you’re the fire hydrant”.
On the bright side my car had an orgasm today! I know you’re shocked and I sense that you’re all wondering where in the world did this thought come from. It’s just I gave my car a much needed bath and discovered the beautiful white stallion that was buried under the dirt from life’s travels. And yes my hearing may be bad but I’m sure I heard my car moan in ecstasy when the foam was applied not once but twice as the winter dirt was removed. It may be my imagination but my car goes a little faster now and the car stands an inch or two taller than the other cars parked nearby.
I’m sure I’ve kept you in suspense long enough “Irving’s transplant went well”. I was nervous doing my first solo transplant and could easily relate to how a doctor must feel doing his first ever brain surgery. I procured (appropriated, acquired, relocated) new digs for Irving earlier in the week. I was nervous and tossed and turned the night before wondering if I was doing the right thing or more importantly what if something went wrong?
I put on some Barry White music to perform the transplant and extracted Irving from his cramped coffee cup. Upon inspection the soil was dry and the roots were somewhat exposed. (Note to self I should give him water on a regular basis not just when his leaves are brown). His new digs are much larger with room to grow. Not to second guess myself but maybe, just maybe some fresh dirt should have been added instead of the hardened chunks of earth that I recycled from the newer pot. Dam those insurance companies and their high rates, if only there had been affordable insurance he might have received new dirt!
I was a bit apprehensive at first and I have to admit I left him alone for the weekend. I was nervous on what I might find when I returned to the cabin. I was scared to look at him the first day, but the second day there he was all green and glowing. It’s almost as if he saw the light and was turning over a new leaf.
All is well at the Crotteau house more postings will follow. Special mention to Jacki’s as her wedding gets higher in the horizon. You’re not closing doors your opening up windows of opportunity.
That is all,
Thursday, January 20, 2011
My dad was a career Marine and this really chokes me up but it is a story that, to me, is not just about how Marine's act but rather how we should all act. We are not alone in this life unless we choose to be alone. Be kind, be a friend and you will find that kindness and friendships come to you in time too! Read this story and have a wonderful day!!!!
The Old Man...
As I came out of the supermarket that sunny day, pushing my cart of groceries towards my car, I saw an old man with the hood of his car up and a lady sitting inside the car, with the door open.
The old man was looking at the engine. I put my groceries away in my car and continued to watch the old gentleman from about twenty five feet away.
I saw a young man in his early twenties with a grocery bag in his arm, walking towards the old man. The old gentleman saw him coming too, and took a few steps towards him. I saw the old gentleman point to his open hood and say something.
The young man put his grocery bag into what looked like a brand new Cadillac Escalade and then turn back to the old man and I heard him yell at the old gentleman saying, 'You shouldn't even be allowed to drive a car at your age.' And then with a wave of his hand, he got in his car and peeled rubber out of the parking lot.
I saw the old gentleman pull out his handkerchief and mop his brow as he went back to his car and again looked at the engine. He then went to his wife and spoke with her and appeared to tell her it would be okay. I had seen enough and I approached the old man. He saw me coming and stood straight and as I got near him I said, 'Looks like you're having a problem.'
He smiled sheepishly and quietly nodded his head. I looked under the hood myself and knew that whatever the problem was, it was beyond me. Looking around I saw a gas station up the road and told the old man that I would be right back. I drove to the station and went inside and saw three attendants working on cars. I approached one of them and related the problem the old man had with his car and offered to pay them if they could follow me back down and help him.
The old man had pushed the heavy car under the shade of a tree and appeared to be comforting his wife. When he saw us, he straightened up and thanked me for my help. As the mechanics diagnosed the problem (overheated engine) I spoke with the old gentleman.
When I shook hands with him earlier, he had noticed my Marine Corps ring and had commented about it, telling me that he had been a Marine too. I nodded and asked the usual question, 'What outfit did you serve with'
He had mentioned that he served with the first Marine Division at Tarawa, Saipan, Iwo Jima and Guadalcanal . He had hit all the big ones and retired from the Corps after the war was over. As we talked we heard the car engine come on and saw the mechanics lower the hood. They came over to us as the old man reached for his wallet, but was stopped by me and I told him I would just put the bill on my AAA card.
He still reached for the wallet and handed me a card that I assumed had his name and address on it and I stuck it in my pocket. We all shook hands all around again and I said my goodbye's to his wife. I then told the two mechanics that I would follow them back up to the station. Once at the station I told them that they had interrupted their own jobs to come along with me and help the old man. I said I wanted to pay for the help, but they refused to charge me.
One of them pulled out a card from his pocket looking exactly like the card the old man had given to me. Both of the men told me then, that they were Marine Corps Reserves. Once again we shook hands all around and as I was leaving, one of them told me I should look at the card the old man had given to me. I said I would and drove off.
For some reason I had gone about two blocks when I pulled over and took the card out of my pocket and looked at it for a long, long time. The name of the old gentleman was on the card in golden leaf and under his name...... 'Congressional Medal of Honor Society.'
I sat there motionless looking at the card and reading it over and over. I looked up from the card and smiled to no one but myself and marveled that on this day, four Marines had all come together, because one of us needed help. He was an old man all right, but it felt good to have stood next to greatness and courage and an honor to have been in his presence.
Remember, OLD men like him gave you FREEDOM for America . Thanks to those
who served... & those who supported them.
America is not at war. The U.S. Military is at war. America is at the
Mall. If you don't stand behind our troops, PLEASE feel free to stand in
front of them!
Remember, Freedom isn't "Free" -- thousands have paid the price so you can
enjoy what you have today.
LET'S DO THIS -- JUST 19 WORDS
GOD OUR FATHER,
WALK THROUGH MY HOUSE
AND TAKE AWAY ALL MY WORRIES AND ILLNESSES;
AND PLEASE WATCH OVER AND HEAL MY FAMILY
IN JESUS ' NAME. AMEN