Tempting The Past With The Future

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Do you remember the saying, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”?  This goes back to the days when people used to go out to the hen house and gather the eggs that the chickens had laid.  The idea was that if you put all your eggs in one basket and then drop the basket, or the bottom drops out, you lose all the eggs and all your work, and the work of the chickens will have been in vain.  But if you put your eggs into more than one basket, then if you drop one basket you still another basket with some eggs left in it. This cliché is used in life to remind us that that we need to have more than one plan, that we need to have contingency plans (plan B) just in case plan A fails.  Because if you have only one plan and it fails, then you are left with egg on your face and nowhere to go.

So why am I talking about an age old cliché? Earlier today I was sitting outside of a previous place of employment and while I was waiting I posted a question in my Facebook status which asked if I should be wary or skeptical about inquiring about a job which, back in February 2014, laid me off. Basically that was the question or statement. Since then, of course, I have inquired. Where did this impromptu visit stem from. Well, last night after dinner I was looking through job postings on Indeed and Monster and to my surprise I see the job posting. Now, I had been watching this company lately because I had seen other engineering positions post, but nothing related to production, that is until last night. I applied for the position through Indeed and really got to thinking, I need to make an appearance to show my face. Most of don’t remember names, but we almost always remember a face. So, I decided to hand carry a copy of my resume and show my face, hopefully to someone I knew since there have been many personnel changes over the last eighteen months. I was relieved to walk through the door and a dear friend had made all the cuts and survived all the changes. She filled me in on pretty much everything I was asking and so much more. We talked for about fifteen minutes when another familiar face came in. He looked very surprised to see me and also thankful to see me.

We talked. We had an informational talk in my opinion. I know, you want to know, was I hired? No, I was not hired. Why? Because the position doesn’t actually open until the end of the first week of August. But, I do have day to meet with the owner and his son at the end of next week. Yes, with bills stacking up the time seems like years not days or weeks. I had prepared for this answer actually with the full intent that I would carry on looking for work and not putting all my eggs into one basket in hopes that they hire me back. Only thing I have going in my favor at this time is I was the number one application and I gave face time to express my intent and interest. Maybe I was a bit eager or being naive instead of gun shy. I’m not a patient man, I’m not a person who likes to sit around answers or results. But, not working, all I have is time. Anyway, I just wanted to give a quicky update as I promised I would do. I keep my fingers crossed that something will break soon.

Those Damn Teenage Years

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In a recent conversation with my soon to be fourteen year old son, I was reminded of my youth, the choices I was forced to make, and how rough it really is being that age. I like to think I’m taking a different approach to parenting than the approach my parents took with me, I was raised in a wrath of God house by two very devout Catholics with closet human tendencies. Of course, my wife and my style differs from many parents as I’m told. I also get told I’m doing it wrong, the parents are the boss. Before you assume way to much here, I’m not the “friend” parent type. I am the type of parent who has instilled justifiable fear into his children, after all they live in my house, sleep in my house, and scary shit happens when you least expect it. Anyway, I’ve tried very hard to not raise quitters in a society where quitting has become the norm. I believe in self esteem because without it you have little control of your inward or outward emotions. But, we all get to the point where we start asking when is enough going to be enough, when will the madness end, and why can’t this be easier.

We all have given up at some point. All of us at a certain point have stopped believing that we’ll be able to make it. Some of us have done it often, some just very few times, but all of us know how it feels.The  sad fact is that most of us give up far too soon.My son explained to me that he was thinking the other day, why does he actually give up? What are his most common reasons and are there any ways to get around those reasons for giving up?

He thinks discouragement is the biggest reason for quitting and failure. No matter what you have decided to do, as soon as you share it with people there will be at least few who will tell you that YOU Can’t Do it and come up with different reasons about why it can’t be done. At that point you may decide to give up the idea even before giving it a try.  Instead of thinking about giving up think about how are you going to prove all those people wrong.  In fact proving those who doubt me wrong has been pretty good motivation for me so far, I have spent a lifetime trying to stay on top of my game. As well, if you don’t believe in yourself you will always be tempted to give up because you won’t believe in your success. The self-doubt will be keeping you from pushing forward.

I somehow thought that I was not strong enough to make my dreams come true, but then there was a shift in mindset which sort of set me free. And it was one simple realization. The realization that none of the people who have succeeded are better than me. They worked harder, they were persistent and they believed in their dreams, but they were not actually better, just approached life differently, as most of us do. These days there are so many distractions… Social media, TV series, and different smart phone notifications not letting you focus on the important things. If you don’t keep focus on your goal you will end up with insufficient results and that will discourage you even further. But, as I discussed with my son, social media didn’t exist when I was growing up, none of this shit did. My social media was friends and family. My internet was called “the outdoors”, I earned my allowance by being a part of the family unit team. Unlike today, parents give their children money to just leave them alone. As it is, in our house we are pretty tight, we do allot together on a very regular basis. On top of it all we have dinner together, every night, without fail. Also, no television is on, no cell phones are allowed at the table, and we talk or play games while we eat, there is fun and laughter, and it is also a time to gather to discuss more serious matters, if any.

That reminds me of yet another reason we, as humans, give up, we give up when we don’t get the immediate results. We all want things to happen fast and it is hard to realize that there are things that actually takes time. One can not have instant on and instant off like the flick of a light switch each and every time. Some things, to include pets and people, are more challenging, they take more time, things like trust and value in a person have to be developed and earned, which takes time. There is no such thing as overnight success so we have to keep in mind that it takes time and to be prepared not to give up.

When I am starting something new I am on fire. I am full of enthusiasm and I am motivated. But with the time things may start cooling off and at some point the self-motivation may not be enough to keep me moving. That is when I may think about giving up, that is when I need to go back to beginning and try to recall the big why. Why did I start that project in first place and what was initially motivating me? That brings me back on track most of the time. But still we need motivation, we still need the allure that there is a prize waiting for us at the end. No matter what kind of life you had, you are used to your own personal comfort zone and that brings you great comfort. Now when you have initiated changes you entered the stage of uncertainty and struggle, which by no means is comfortable. What makes me not giving up in those cases is the thought that once I get where I wanna be my new comfort zone will be a much better one. But, what I’ve learned over the years cannot be taught, it has to be experienced. This is my son’s struggle know, the learning curve, stepping out of the comfort zone, finding new experiences doing new things or with new people. Plus, he is at the beautiful age where he has really realized he really likes boobs. One more thing we have in common.

Anything worth achieving is hard. Yes the easiest option is to just give up, but then, will it be easy living with the regret that you gave up midway? On the other hand I would not say that giving up is something terrible and wrong. Sometimes you may end up having too many things on your plate and that may make you overwhelmed. Sometimes you may need to give up certain things because they may not be a priority at that point. I find myself looking at the details in my own life on a regular basis, there is never room for bullshit, it is always the first into the fuckbucket. What is important that you don’t give up your dreams and the things you want really bad. Don’t give up your passion and never give up on life. I understand living with a person like me is challenging, being a sarcastic jackass is a fine art and we all don’t appreciate fine art. We all have given up at some point. All of us at a certain point have stopped believing that we’ll be able to make it. Some of us have done it often, some just very few times, but all of us know how it feels. The  sad fact is that most of us give up far too soon.

Where does all this leave the conversation I was having with my son? Well, he was never actually clear as to what he was thinking about quitting. And, I’m not altogether sure we were even talking about the same thing. Later, while talking with my wife I was informed that a girl he knew in school, friends but not inner circle friends, had committed suicide last week. There was no clear reason why, she left no note, gave the parents no inkling that she was distressed, same with her two sisters, teachers, and friends. Except for one person, who came forward to “confess” to her parents that he knew why. You see, they were boyfriend and girlfriend. She wanted an exclusive relationship (at 14) and he wanted to play the field. She took it had, it killed her self esteem and self worth, and according to him, as she told him, she didn’t feel she was worth the effort of having his love if he was not willing to commit to her. Granted, this is the opinion of a 14 year old boy, and this story was also posted up on Facebook, so I don’t really know if it actually ever happened. But, after going back to my son to talk, he said that I did answer his question of “why people quit” without even knowing that was what I was doing. We talked more, we talked about the cruelty of emotions, especially in a teenager. But suicide is not an easy subject, simply because there isn’t an actual answer to give. The only person who knows is dead.

I don’t know if this makes me angry or sad. I do know that I have been in my sons shoes before, knowing a person who has had her self esteem crushed on a daily basis for “fun” by others. But, that is another topic altogether, since bullying seems to have become so evermore popular these days, or its just more in the public eye these days. As a parent I try to teach my children to hope for the best and prepare for the worst because the two survive together hand in hand. One may think they are just words, but others take those words to heart. As uncomfortable as I was talking with my son about suicide and how I personally believe it should never be the answer for anyone, I was also proud of my son for wanting to sit and talk to me about life, emotions, feelings, relationships, and family with me. It takes courage to begin a conversation with your father when you don’t know what the outcome will be. Both of us feeling a little bummed, we invited the rest of the family to go out for ice cream. Ice cream? Yes, the one thing on the planet stronger than any drug, stronger than and alcohol, stronger than any words, stronger than any bond, it is a time of peace for a troubled mind or a troubled soul. Its a time to take a break from the crap life offers and just enjoy a bite of ice cream.

Yes, I know, ice cream doesn’t solve all problems, but it does give the opportunity to step away from them, not to quit them, but to take a break from them. Everyone needs a break, we all take breaks or celebrate in our own ways. In the end I learned from my son that I should keep my past close so it can be accessed and shared. I never knew my life, in general, would be an education tool for the youth in my family. But then again, we do learn most of what we know from our parents and family. Having children has been the best challenge I never quit. Try something new, get in your child’s head today, give them a nice tight hug, a big smile, and a peck on the cheek. When they ask why just tell them it is because you were thinking about them. It scares the crap out of them. I know from experience that life isn’t easy. It wasn’t designed to be easy. We don’t evolve within ourselves if we are not constantly challenged. Don’t let life discourage you, leave that to the people around you, you know, the people who don’t want you to succeed because they don’t care about succeeding. Until we “meet” again, remember to eat it everyday!

Filling In The Missing Pieces

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Y’all might have noticed that I’ve posted a couple of very task specific entries to the blog the last couple of days and might be asking why now, why the push of information about filing a VA claim and the bewildering plethora of related data. Good and fair questions. If you weren’t wondering then that is okay as well, because I’m going to try to explain it all right now. In previous posts I wanted to express to any and all veterans the importance of arming oneself with the proper information. This is very fresh in my own skull since I just re-re-opened my own claim so I can provide additional relative information to strengthen the facts in my own file in hopes that I can get an increase in my own personal rating from the VA.

My process actually started in March of 2014, not with the claim, but with my claim in mind. I fulfilled a large portion of the leg work to eventually get the ball rolling. How so? Up until then I wasn’t in the medical portion of the VA, only in the claims side. But, when I was laid off I soon found myself in dire straights. Forget everything else, I was finding out fast that I was headed for a dilemma which if not contained may have had some major health complications involved. Why? I’m an insulin dependent diabetic. If you aren’t aware of the nature of that beast just look it up. So, my number one priority was to contain that fire before it spread. Since I was already in the system and a VA card holder, enrolling for medical benefits was simple enough, time consuming, yet fairly easy, even for a simpleton such as myself. Good grief I blew through some trees filling out that paperwork, it was insane, it was as if they couldn’t share the same sheet of paper in my file around the office, everyone needs a completely originally signed document in order to proceed. That is nothing compared to the mountain of papers (records and reports) I face at this exact moment. I have mentioned what a pain in the ass the VA makes the process, haven’t I?

As well, at the time of my lay off I was in line to do an exploratory and maintenance surgery on my knee to clear away debris, old hardware, and torn ligaments. Being told beforehand they couldn’t repair anything since it would only complicate things down the road. I had an my surgery date, I had time arranged to be off from work, and then I’m laid off. Talk about coming to a screeching halt, Yea, dead in my tracks, cancel all plans until further notice. Being laid off screwed up allot, allot more than I will mention here. Then, and only then did I considered enrollment into the VA medical program, something my wife says I should have done back in 2000, but I was stubborn, I had private insurance, I saw no need in being in VA medical. For the most part I was right, everyone hears the horror stories about veterans trying to get care, getting the wrong care, how slow the process is, and the same mistakes made over and over. Who wants to be a part of that kind of mess? But then, who do I turn to in my true time of need, who do I expect to be waiting there for me at the edge of the red carpet, you guessed it, the VA. I will be one, of millions who can attest to the slowness of the VA. Fuck their timelines because they look good on paper but have no relation in real time with real people, and that blows ass for every single one of us veterans.

Reluctantly, yet willingly, I got “in line” and jumped into the process. The process wasn’t hard, but it was time consuming, lucky for me, at the time, all I had was time on my hands. I had four months to ride this pony for the big show or it wasn’t going to happen. It took longer, duh, and when I was hired to a new company last October I hated the fact that I needed to take time off here and there to button up all the loose ends, and there were allot of loose ends. I was seen multiple times at the clinic’s version of an orthopedics office, where we discussed my direct interest in seeing the orthopedic surgeon downtown. But there is a process, first the PA has to be convinced of a “need” before we “bother” the busy orthopedic surgeons with what might all be in my head. In my fucking head you say? Let’s review, for the sake of argument, that this PA went through my private sector medical records, my military medical records, started my new VA medical records, the MRIs, the CT Scans, the x-rays, the exams, and so forth, and this motherfucker was convinced ALL of my pain was in my head. Look, I know real pain and I know manifested pain, there is a distinct difference. As well, I know that there is very little help in eliminating the pain of degenerative joint disease, also known as osteoarthritis, and that steroid enhanced visco supplementation injections are a sick fucking joke. There is NO over the counter medications or prescription medications which can stop the pain of bone on bone contact. Just ask me, I have tried many, many combinations, and get the same result, pain. Hyaluronan injections (rooster comb) are nice and beautiful by design, but I don’t just have arthritis is my knee.

Finally, somehow, someway, I convinced the PA to give me the recommendation I was wanting, after a final review I was scheduled to finally see an orthopedic surgeon, 13 months after originally asking. My first visit to the orthopedic surgeon gave me the impression the doctor was blown away with the damage in my knee and he was a little shocked I was still walking. The overall decay within the joint is estimated, by him and one other doctor, to be a 97% coverage. At first he discussed surgery to remove the weight bearing of the joint to shift it more out to the outside, but after further review, eight weeks later, I was told I’m not a candidate because I would need the unloader surgery on both sides, which cant be done. My only option was to have my knee replaced. However, that option is gone as well because it is claimed that because I’m under the age of 50 that the VA will not do that particular surgery. Even though the governing regulations state that age cannot be used as a determining factor but is still an option of the individual physician. Nice double talk, right? Right. In reality, I was told to tough it out, move on with my life, and just try to “take it easy” for the next 4 years. Needless to say, I’m beyond pissed. What a fucking joke! Now I can’t get treatment? Isn’t the VA here to take care of my service connected injury? Seems that the answer is they will do it at their leisure. Hell, I don’t mind waiting in line if that is the issue, I know times are tough, money is tight, and y’all are having your asses handed to you by the media and the investigations right now, but why just tell me flat out no.

I don’t take rejection well. I really don’t. I did my part. I played the game. I followed the rules. For what? For nothing, that’s what. I know, boohoo wo is me. Well, okay, getting up to go to work every day is a bitch. A bitch I don’t mind riding because there are bills to be paid. Plus, I’m not the kind to sit on my couch all day to watch Jerry Springer. I have a drive to get out and work, to be functional on a daily basis. I’m at a loss here. I decided, after a careful review of the entries into my visits to the doctor, where he cites in black and white, that I’m not a candidate for either surgery due to age and complications down the road in the future that “could” happen, and his recommendation is daily, regular doses of over the counter anti inflammatory medications and more quarterly injections. I will have my way, one way or another, so I re-re-opened my claim with the VA, providing all the supporting evidence from day one back in 1990 until now, to include findings from a civilian orthopedic surgeon which I see next week. We’re doing a review of my records to review treatment, and follow up with his recommendations. I really don’t give a shit about the money, I just want to get this knee fixed, hell or high water. It’s never been about the benefits, it never will be, it’s about not being taken of because of one jack asses opinion. In the end, my goal is to rattle enough cages to get my knee replaced, which is recommended by two VA surgeons and two civilian surgeons, so come on motherfuckers, replace it already.

Yes, y’all have found a sore subject with me. I’m tired of doing battle, the VA is supposed to be here to help me and fellow veterans, not give us the run around, not to deny us care, and certainly not to individually bend us over because it is the easier thing to do. They can kiss my hairy white ass first, I came to fight, I came to get what I need, I came to see that the VA does the right thing by me. Hopefully, my education along the way can be used by other veterans who are getting the big shaft. So, my plan is to continue writing and sharing information about how to make sure all your bases are covered. It doesn’t need to be a battle to receive care, the VA just makes it that way. I have friends within the VA system, many of them veterans, and they encounter the same bullshit the rest of us do. Who knows what will happen with my case/claim, anyway it turns out I hope that someone has read some of my postings and figured out how to get through to the VA. I know it is bureaucracy at work, policy and so forth, set in place to curb abuse and better promote the health and well-being of veterans, but it has backfired, and now we all suffer, thanks. Next time y’all think that we are being handed freebies, remember we are people too, we just want to live our lives as normally as possible.

Seems A Bit Old Fashioned To Me

Nobody knows what the smell is like, it takes too long to load up and crashes halfway through. But I bet it smells allot like……….desperation.

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White Weddings Are For Fairytales

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“I don’t know how young girls get it stuck in their heads that the perfect wedding is one of our life’s goals. When I was a little girl I learned that I desired the perfect white wedding to mark the beginning of my life as being married to my prince charming. What I never knew was how it was all going to happen for me. I suppose one could say I grew up in a typical suburban family, the youngest of three girls, all of us achieving the goal of being a high school cheerleaders while remaining as straight A students. We all followed in the footsteps of our mother who we all idolized, we all wanted what she had, we all wanted to be where she was in life. Being the youngest, I was witness to seeing just how easy it is for one’s dreams to fall by the wayside. Somewhere in high school I began losing my faith in God, not because I blamed him for anything, but because he no longer seemed to have the answers. I grew impatient with him because when I turned to him to find my strength I felt as if I was waiting for something that he couldn’t help me find, myself. I lost myself wanting to be like my sisters and wanting what my mother had. Dreams I would soon find that I could not reach the way they reached them.

Halfway into my freshman year of high school my oldest sister found out she was pregnant. My sisters and I were close, we had a pact to remain virgins until our honeymoon, so I was sure how my sister explained it was the truth. She had attended a seniors only party a few months before, she went with her boyfriend of three years, and she was dropped off by that boyfriend after the party. The truly strange part about it, because my parents had DNA tests done, is that he was not the father of the baby. At the party she did like she always did, just drank diet coke, because she didn’t drink. A few hours into the party she remembers feeling sick so she went to the bathroom, which is where her boyfriend found her thirty minutes later, passed out on the floor. Long story short is that it is believed that someone at the party put some kind of drug into her diet coke, this lead to her getting sick, which lead her to the bathroom, and where someone raped her while she was out cold. Nobody is ever going to know the secret to the mystery. At five months pregnant, the fetus aborted in the middle of the night, we were told that due to unseen complications during the pregnancy that it just terminated on its own. Three days later, during my sisters first night back home from the hospital, she committed suicide. We buried my sister and her unborn daughter at the end of the week.

As a family we took all of this real hard, my parents really closed off the world, even worse, the closed us off from them the most, emotionally and physically. It seemed, at the time, that being the youngest, that I was taking it all in the most negative way, but the following event proved the opposite. Within a month of her funeral, my other sister decided to just disappear from the face of the planet. She left a brief letter to explain not to worry about her, she needed to be far away, and she would be okay because she had a plan. Nice plan, abondon everyone, give everyone something new to grieve about. I personally, have not seen or had contact with her since the night before she disappeared. I continued high school, I watched my parents grow distant from each other, and finally my dad decided that everyone would be best if he left as well. After their divorce, shortly after I graduated, I too, left everything I knew, my mom was heart broken, but said she would always be there for me. I ended up in Houston somehow, came in with the wind one night, broke, hungry, and alone. I didn’t like my current situation so, after seeing an ad I applied for a job and was hired a few days later. That job lasted about a month and one day I heard these two pretty girls talking about the money they had been making. I sat down with them, we became friends, and, in a weird way, showed me an uncertain path.

Which, coincidentally, is where we sit today. I will be 23 in a few days, graduating from Rice University later this fall, after 4 very long years of hard work. I really don’t mind doing what I do, strip for money, because it has actually given me a bright future, one that I can touch, feel, and see. Stripping has given me an education about people, an education that I’m not sure I could have received anywhere else. When I graduate this fall I will be leaving this club and beginning the next chapter in my life, always being very thankful that I overhead a conversation I was never meant to hear.” 

…………. The preceding paragraphs were transcribed from a recorded conversation between myself and Molly, well, most of it was her talking while I listened. I have let technology take the place of my own memory and little black note book when it comes to writing for Scorpion Sting’s Bartender Stories. I’m liking the way it worked out, I didn’t have to handwrite any of it and I just pushed play and pause to thumb type this on my phone. I hope y’all enjoyed this entry, it was sad and happy, just like my own life seems to be, sometimes life is what it is and we must roll with the punches just to survive.