Rebel Phoenix

She gives me way too much credit as she always does. She says I bought her a boat. But that’s not how the conversation went.

Paige had been looking at boats for a while. She learned to sail in college and fell in love with it. Having her own boat was one of her dreams.

So when she wanted to talk about getting a boat, after my Barkley had died, I only had one question.

Is this on your Plane Wheel List?

It was. So I told her no more discussion was necessary.

And the Rebel Phoenix took its maiden voyage on November 4, 2017, with Captain Paige, her dad, her brother and me. It was fun. It was really fun.


That actually takes a lot for me to say because 1) I know nothing about sailing, 2) I get motion sick at the drop of a hat, and 3) I’m a terrified of water – well, not water so much as drowning.

There have been a few adjustments made. The first was a strong investment in motion sickness prevention medicine. We pretty much Green Eggs and Hammed Dramamine. And for the unfortunate times when the preventative measures did not stick, we made sure the cabin was well stocked with trash bags so that I could throw up all dignified like.

We also made sure the boat was fully stocked with lots and lots of life preservers. I always wear one. And it’s fancy too. It will inflate as soon as I hit the water rather than waiting on a manual release. That way if I hit my head and get knocked unconscious, it will still inflate. This is important to me. Very, very important.

Finally, I took a sailing class. There are several reasons for that – the main one being that Paige kept yelling out all these words that I swear she was just making up. Jib, tack, jibe, spinnaker, and so on. The unfortunate thing was that because I didn’t know what she was saying, I couldn’t help. The other reason is that I had to know how it all works, the whole sailing thing. I find it difficult to do something that I don’t understand.

(Which takes me back to math classes in school. I remember asking my algebra teacher in the 9th grade during one of her lectures “Why?” She looked at me, smiled, and said, “You have the wrong department for ‘why.’ You need head to the science department for ‘why.’)

Now I understand sailing. It’s fun. It’s not my passion but I like it.

The thing I like the most, however, is watching her.

It is her passion. She gets excited about it. She wants to share the excitement with everyone else loves having people out on the boat with her. She gets excited even if people aren’t with her. It gives her joy.

It also gives her a place of her own, where she can have “me time” that she needs. She has a place that is hers, that makes her happy. And she wants me to share that joy as often as I can.

Her eyes light up.

And that’s my passion, my joy.

I didn’t buy her a boat, but if I had known then what I know now…



It was always you

It’s been 6 months and I still grab 3 treats even though only two dogs come in.

I put a tattoo of us on my body so I wouldn’t forget you. But who am I kidding? Forgetting you was never even a remote possibility. You’re the wallpaper on my computer. Your pictures stream on the digital picture frame on my desk. Your hair is on my clothes. The tag from your collar is my keychain.

Even without any of those things, I could never forget you. I still see you. When I look out in the backyard, I see your little white body walking towards the house. When I’m in my car, I see your eager little face pop out from in between the seats as you stand on that center console. When I wake in the morning, I feel your soft little body on my pillow. When I roll down the car window, I see your sweet face with the wind blowing your hair back as you try to absorb everything around you.

I read some random comment from some random person on some random website and it said, “My Henry was ‘the one.’ I mean, I’ve had other dogs since him, but he was the one.”

You are the one, my precious boy.

Your birthday is today. You would be 17.

I remind myself that I should be grateful that I had you in my life for over 16 years. And I am so very grateful for that. I mean, 16 years. You were there with me at the very rough end of two relationships and some very, very rough patches.

You were with me after the accident. You were with me through depression, anxiety, mania. You were with me after the stroke. You patiently listened to me repeat words over and over as I was teaching myself to talk again.

And you always had something to say in return. I can’t believe I miss the barking. But I do. Desperately.

You, sir, were the best part of me. You trusted me implicitly and in doing so made me trustworthy. You taught me the purest love I’ve ever known. I would give you anything, do anything for you, and I wanted nothing in return but your happiness. Your tail wagging was all I needed. You helped me realize that I could be loving and that I could share love. And that I was lovable. You knew my moods, you knew ME and you loved me anyway.

I know you loved me. You would wait, staring out the window, for me to return. When you would see me, your tail would wag and you’d prance over to me. That was everything to me.

So I knew when you lay dying, that I would be there with you until you drew your last breath. I would hold you, pet you, and let you in on a secret.

Throughout your life, when I asked you who was my good boy, it was always you. It was always you.


Drag Marks Leave Scars

I used to counsel survivors of domestic violence. It was both the most rewarding experience as well as the most painful of my career. On one hand, I was able to see survivors getting better and making decisions that were healthier. On the other hand, I saw the very worst of human behavior and the people willing to endure it because they, for some reason, believed that they deserved it. The survivors would frequently question their decision to leave the abusers citing that they still loved him or her.

When this would come up in a session, I would pull out a children’s toy. The toy had a lid with differently shaped holes. There were blocks that were in corresponding shapes. For children, the idea is to get them to put the blocks in the respective corresponding holes. I, however, had a different purpose in mind.

I would hand the survivors the square block and ask them to put it in the triangular hole. When they would laugh and say it would not fit, I would request that they try loving it a little harder and see if that helps. It never did. No matter how much you love that square block, it will never fit; it will never be what you need.contemporary-baby-and-toddler-toys

I recently had an encounter with a square block. And despite all of my training and my usually excellent identification of manipulation, I didn’t see it this time. I realize now that it was because I loved that block and I chose to see the triangle because that is what I had hoped for. I had hoped I could trust and that this block wouldn’t take advantage of my already fragile mind. But I was wrong. Hope and love and even kindness didn’t make a bit of difference. Nothing does to the square block.

In my recent situation, I’ve chosen to allow myself to be angry and using that energy to rebuild walls that I had let fall. Sadly, it was this same person who did the exact same thing to me 20 years ago when I had built the walls initially. So I am plagued with shame, embarrassment, and self-loathing for not seeing it for what it was.

I considered directing my anger at the block but why? It’s always been a square block. Decades haven’t changed it so why would my feelings make any difference now? They certainly haven’t historically. Briefly, there was so much anger that I wanted to lash out. But that’s just not who I am.

My heart is too full to carry hate. I opted to keep loving the way I always have: unconditionally.  I don’t need to be loved back in order to love. That’s not how I work. But I have lost all faith in this block. All hope.

I also used to say something else to the survivors about hope. It’ll probably lose something in being written rather than spoken but I’ll give it a shot anyway.

Hope is a double-edged sword; it can be the thing that keeps you hanging on but it can also be the thing that keeps you hanging on.

There’s a Buddhist belief that sums it up nicely as well.



Plane Wheel List

On August 2, 1985 Delta Air Lines Flight 191 was heading from Fort Lauderdale, FL to Los Angeles, CA with a stopover at Dallas / Fort Worth International Airport. Though in the middle of a thunderstorm, the plane was prepared for the landing by extending its flaps and lowering the landing gear. Then it encountered a microburst from the thunderstorm. The pilots lost control of the plane and it impacted a mile short of the runway. Having come in at a 30 degree angle, it was surprising that the plane was still structurally intact. The landing gear struck a nearby farm and leaving deep depressions in the field and continued on to run over a stop light on Highway 114 where the nose touched down. It hit two more street lights before it began fragmenting.

On August 2, 1985 William Mayberry was rushing to a relative’s house in Grapevine, TX as he was expecting a call from his wife Terri and two children, Barbara and William Jr., who were in Vicksburg, MS. Bill had moved to Texas to work as an electrician at DFW airport but had taken a job at a local Toyota dealership in Dallas when the electrician job didn’t pan out. His wife and 2 children were planning to move & join him in 2 weeks.

He was driving on Highway 114 when a plane engine suddenly crushed his black 1971 Toyota Celica. It was completely flattened and the only discernible item was his license plate. The image of his flattened car ran in newspapers and on television across the country. Those images are how the kids found out about Bill’s death. The kids saw the image of Bill’s crushed car in the newspaper and asked their mom if daddy had gotten squashed.

On August 2, 1985 Bill Mayberry was tragically killed by a plane engine as he drove down the highway to get to a phone call with his family so they could wish him a happy birthday. Oh, didn’t I mention it was his birthday? Yes. He turned 28 that day.

The crash killed 136 people on board, including 128 of the 152 passengers and 8 of the 11 crew, and Bill Mayberry.

I first saw this story on a television show and it hit me in a most profound way.

People often speak of their “Bucket List.” Most often such a list is created and its execution is started towards the later years of the person’s life. The term Bucket List is essentially from: things I want to do before I kick the bucket but it seems to be more synonymous with: things I want to do when I retire (or when I have time, or when I have the money, or when the kids are grown, etc.).

But here’s the deal – we are not guaranteed retirement. We’re not guaranteed the later part of life. We aren’t guaranteed any of it. Hell, Bill Mayberry wasn’t guaranteed 29.

That realization led to the creation of my Plane Wheel List* – the list of things you wish to experience before you die, which could be at any moment, like if you’re driving down the highway and a plane crashes on your car. Don’t wait until the “right time” or your golden years. Do that shit now.

I was reminded of the Plane Wheel List earlier this week when my co-worker lost his husband unexpectedly. He wasn’t old and gray. He should have had a lot of time left. Time to spend hiking with my co-worker. I’m hoping that he had a chance to experience much of what was on his list, even if he didn’t know he had one.

Also, this week I found out that my Barkley has a tumor in his spleen. So I’ve started making a bucket list for him. And I’ve run in to the main problem with bucket lists; he’s old and not feeling well enough to enjoy the things he may have once enjoyed. Who knows – maybe he would never have enjoyed doing them. He is very neurotic, like me. But that’s not the point.

Do that shit now. And the shit that you want to do with someone else, the things you want someone you love to be able to experience? Do that shit too.

Bill Mayberry had no idea that he would be crushed by a plane engine on his 28th birthday. You don’t know how or when you’ll be taken from this existence. So do the shit that matters to you now.

And hug your dog. Every. Single. Day.

*Note: when I first heard of Bill Mayberry, I was under the impression that he was crushed by the wheel of the plane rather than the engine. Thus – plane wheel list.



So I realized that it’s been over a year since I posted anything. I’m actually pretty surprised that so much time passes between my posts. I used to write more often. I will say that 2016 kicked my ass & 2017 seems to be trying to follow suit. I was going to dive in to everything that has happened but then I remembered that I wrote a summary to a PM as I was apologizing for not writing back to him. So the lazy, emotionally drained me is just going to paste it.

Also seeing that I owe you a message. Have for a while now. Sad thing is that I’ve thought about you a lot and wanted to take a minute to write but 2016 happened. One hit after another. I had 1 friend murdered, my mother in law passed away, another friend died in a motorcycle accident, my boss was “asked to retire early”, our branch was almost closed down but instead we merged with another branch which is a tough transition, bought a new house which is great but had a nightmare for a seller who drug things out and made life awful for a while. Not trying to make excuses for being a shitty friend (though I do apologize for it). Blah, blah, blah.
I hope that you’re doing well and you are getting some quality time with your beautiful wife and family. I’m not sure if you’re still on the submarine or not but I do hope you are safe wherever you are. Remind me to tell you of my recent snorkeling experience. 😉
I guess I should work now but I promise to write you back before it hits a year since the last message. Hugs and love to you and your family.

So there it is. Why I’m a terribly blogger. My plan is to be better, as it always is. I do promise to write when I have something more meaningful to say than, “I suck.”

Until then. 🙂


Mask of Light

When I rode in the car with my mom, I rode in the front seat next to her (one perk of being the only child of a single parent). I remember looking up at her face a lot. At night the reflection from the rear view mirror cast a reflection of light in a strip that fell over her eyes. It seemed like a mask of light. And who wears masks?


Of course, I didn’t appreciate her heroics at the time. In my selfishness, I would whine incessantly when she saw an accident on the road and would pull over to help. One time she pulled over for one accident and found a man bleeding to death so she squatted down and put pressure on that artery for about an hour while the authorities debated on whose jurisdiction this was on. She squatted for an hour, keeping pressure on gaping wound, keeping this man alive, comforting him  & trying to keep him conscious. Yet when the cop comes over to my mom and my mom starts to tell this guy’s info, the cop looks at her and says, “Mind your own business.” And I didn’t appreciate that despite that, she continued stopping at accidents to help.

I didn’t understand how amazing it was when she invited a certain girl from my class to my birthday party. This little girl had Down Syndrome and my mom accurately assumed that this little girl didn’t get invited to very many parties. When it was time for cake, she looked to her mom who looked to my mom and said, “She’s never had birthday cake before.” When my mom looked concerned (because the little girl had diabetes), the girl’s mom said with a big smile on her face, “I think we can adjust the insulin this one time.” She didn’t like the cake (too sweet) but she had the chance to try it because of my mom. I didn’t appreciate that my mom had made one day fun and exciting and “normal” for this little girl that died only a few years later.

I didn’t appreciate that she let my grandparents live with us off and on throughout my childhood. She would do anything for them. My Pawpaw drove her nuts and they (politely) argued all of the time but she still opened her door to them anytime. And it was because of her generosity that I had the chance to spend time with my Mimi & Pawpaw. I had the chance to develop wonderful memories that I hold so close to my heart now that they’re gone.

I didn’t appreciate how hard she worked as a nurse. She took care of people. She saved lives. She was hard on her body, hard on her spirit. She ruined her knees. She was underpaid and unappreciated. She came home covered in fluids that are not supposed to be on the outside of a human body. And in the latter part of her career, she did something that only a special person can do. She was a hospice nurse. She was the best hospice nurse. She has a file cabinet full of cards from clients’ families thanking my mother for the care she provided. When the mother of one of the administrators at the hospice at which my mom was working got sick, the administrator refused to let anyone but my mom care for her.

My mom has spent her life doing for others. She has given and given and given. She has asked nothing in return. She has put everyone else before herself.

I am so proud of my mother. All of the selflessness she has shown over the years has taught me so much about the person I hope to be.  But that is not what makes me proudest.

My mom, after years of taking care of everyone else, did some nice things for herself. I’ve never met anyone who deserves it more.

She has loved dolls her entire life. We always had dolls when I was growing up. We played with them together. So I wasn’t surprised when her doll collection started to grow. Those dolls brought a smile to her face. She deserves smiles.

When I was a kid, I remember looking up at her, seeing that mask, and thinking she looked like a superhero. I was right more than I knew.




What I Got

My friend was murdered on January 19, 2016.

Jared was choked to death by his stepfather in their kitchen. His stepddad admits doing it but said it was self defense and that Jared was the aggressor.

Now I’m not a detective  (though I like to play one when I watch TV ) but the fact that Jared had broken a couple of ribs earlier that week and was in extreme pain makes the self defense argument a little shaky in my world.

The police report says he was accidentally choked to death. Again, not a detective but how exactly do you accidentally choke someone to death? Oh, I tripped and fell and grabbed on to your neck and squeezed until you died. Um, no.

But the case is closed and no arrests will be made.

Jared’s mom is standing by her husband. Her abusive, murdering husband.

She didn’t have a memorial for Jared. I honestly think it’s because she wouldn’t be able to look us in the eye.

But as much as I want to be, I can’t be angry with her. She had 2 sons and they both died before the age of 40. And all she is left with is an abusive man who murdered her youngest son. I can’t imagine the pain she must be experiencing.

And Jared deeply loved his mom and I don’t think he would want anyone to have hard feelings towards her. But that piece of trash stepdad is another story.

What breaks my heart the most is how tragic his death is.

Jared messed up a lot in his life. He took & sold drugs. He drove under the influence. He did things that I’m sure that I don’t know about. He did really bad things.

He went to prison.

And he got clean. And he turned his life around. He got a job that gave him every opportunity to relapse but he stayed strong. He started writing for an online publication. He was motivated and determined and inspired. Then he was dead.

When he and I got back in touch after 20+ some odd years, it was through Facebook. He had posted some lyrics from a song I love. So I replied with some more of those lyrics. And that led to some awesome conversations.

And I think about how those lyrics sum up my friend. The details aren’t necessarily the same but the overall message is totally him.

Here are those lyrics from Sublime:

Early in the morning, risin’ to the street
Light me up that cigarette and I’ll strap shoes on my feet
Got to find a reason, a reason things went wrong
Got to find a reason why my money’s all gone
I got a Dalmatian, and I can still get high
I can play the guitar like a mother fuckin’ riot

Life is too short, so love the one you got
‘Cause you might get run over or you might get shot
Never start no static, I just get it off my chest
Never had to battle with no bulletproof vest
Take a small example, take a t-t-t-t-tip from me
Take all of your money, give it all to charity

Love is what I got, it’s within my reach
Yeah, and the Sublime style’s still straight from Long Beach
It all comes back to you, you’ll finally get what you deserve
Try and test that, you’re bound to get served
Love’s what I got, don’t start a riot
You’ll feel it when the dance gets hot

Lovin’ is what I got, I said remember that
Lovin’ is what I got, I remember that
Lovin’ is what I got, I said remember that
Lovin’ is what I got

I don’t cry when my dog runs away
I don’t get angry at the bills I have to pay
I don’t get angry when my mom smokes pot
Hits the bottle and goes right to the rock
Fuckin’ and fightin’, it’s all the same
Livin’ with Louie Dog’s the only way to stay sane
Let the lovin’, let the lovin’ come back to me

‘Cause lovin’ is what I got, I said remember that
Lovin’ is what I got, I remember that
Lovin’ is what I got, I said remember that
Lovin’ is what I got, I got, I got, I got