Plateaus……

I am probably in over my head with this one.  That certainly won’t be a first, so here goes.

I haven’t had a very good week, actually the past 2 or 3 haven’t met my expectations and I have learned not to set those expectations very high.  I have spent some time trying to understand why.  Is it the fall weather i.e. shorter days, longer nights or the thought of facing the winter holidays without two members of the family?

Those things probably contribute but I think subconsciously I feel I should have moved to the next plateau by now.

I think emotional plateaus are similar to the geographic kind, reasonably level with subtle highs and lows including a few unexpected bumps.  The transition from one plateau to the next makes the emotional kind unique.

The move to a lower plateau can be and usually is sudden and catastrophic like stepping off a cliff, thankfully, God usually places some family and friends near the bottom to help break the fall and to soften the landing.

The transition back to a higher plateau or level is a much slower and deliberate process.  The stairs or ramps that get you there are hard to find and the incline is not steep, making progress toward arriving at a new plateau difficult to detect.

I have stepped off three of those cliffs in the past four years, the details have been previously documented, in fact that is the reason I blog.  The one in November ’08 was completely unexpected, I didn’t really try to find the stairs to climb back up because it was highly probable there was another one ahead, although it wasn’t unexpected it came this past January and was much more catastrophic.  I thought I had arrived at the bottom; don’t ever make that mistake, believe me, there can always be another cliff.

I had found some slight inclines and was making a little progress back up the hill, and completely unexpected, in early March, I stepped off that third cliff. If there is a plateau lower than that one, I don’t want to think about it and I sure don’t want to go there.

I spent the next few weeks reminding myself to breathe and to place one foot in front of the other. The next few months I found an occasional ramp or set of stairs and by summer I had reached a higher plateau.

I thought by now I would have progressed to still another level; maybe I’m just impatient.  I don’t think this is as good as it gets, I fully believe higher plateaus are out there; I just wish I could find that next set of stairs.

I’ll be okay, thanks for listening and keep me in your prayers.

Good Night and God Bless.

Dave

Advertisements

Quitting is Easy………

I started smoking when I was about 15 and continued to smoke until I was about 40.  Everyone says it is hard to quit, I didn’t find it difficult at all, and I probably quit more than a hundred times.  I have quit as many as two or three times the same day, quitting is easy, not starting again is a whole nother issue.  I went through the same process with the smokeless stuff, or dip as it is called here in redneck country.  It just didn’t take as many years to kick that habit.

I was 66 when I picked up this habit called blogging; I had been off cigarettes for 25 years and hadn’t had a dip in more than ten.  I am beginning to think this is just as addictive as the nicotine, however, the surgeon general hasn’t declared it to be hazardous to one’s health.  The only two health issues I see are: I sometimes deprive myself of sleep to write these things and there is always the chance that my words could offend the wrong people.

I have quit writing a few times the past six months, in fact I quit this week, but just like the smokes, staying quit seems to be a problem. I like to write and I need to write, again like the smokes, I liked to smoke and I thought I needed to smoke.

Why did I quit?  If you have read me very long you know I write from the heart and I don’t leave much in there.  I thought I was starting to get a little redundant, saying the same thing, just saying it a little differently.  I would like to change my style and write about the fun and exciting things I do every day, there have been periods in my life I could have written some interesting stuff, maybe those days will return but right now fun and exciting aren’t descriptive of my daily routine.

I spent some time last night reviewing what I have written the past few months.  I even went way back in the archives and looked at some of the “Mom Life Cancer” stuff.  I saw a lot of room for improvement in the way I handle the English language; but I didn’t see the redundancy I was expecting.  Maybe it was there, I just didn’t want to see it so I can keep writing.

I used a non-word “nother” in the first paragraph. I know I have a few grammar police that read what I write.  I didn’t use nother just to bug you.  I used it as a lead in to put in a plug for a blog I follow http://grammarbelle.com/ I think some of you will enjoy and appreciate what she has to say.  I provide her an unlimited supply of material.

I have to make one serious comment.  I talked about my almost 40 year addiction to nicotine; Sharyl never used tobacco of any form, not even one cigarette.  Why her and not me?

I am processing some thoughts for something a little more typical of what I usually do; they just need to stay on this side of the keyboard until I understand them well enough to share.

It is pretty obvious that I still need your prayers, and thanks for running down the road with me.

Good Night and God Bless.

Dave

Fish Stories…..

One of the things we were taught in grade school math, or arithmetic if you are old like me, was how to round up and round down numbers.  If it is more than half you round to the next higher number less than half you go the other way.

Every fisherman I have ever known uses that round up process.  By Monday morning, the fish he caught Saturday that weighed 5 lbs 9 oz is 6 or 6 ½ lbs or if he caught 17 fish the round up process would take that to 20.   Rounding down is never used for weight or numbers of fish; it is only used to tell his wife the rod and reel that was $149.95 cost a little over $100.00 or that he will only be gone a couple hours.  Four or five hours later he shows up crying about the 6 ½ pound bass that got away.

I have done the round up thing, but I never needed to round down because Sharyl enjoyed fishing as much as I did and she didn’t care how much it cost if it would catch fish. I didn’t need to round down the time because she was almost always with me.  Sorry Jim, Gene, Ron and the list goes on but she was the best fishing partner I ever had and she would even do a little rounding up.

White Bass or “Sand Bass” as they are called regionally became our fish of choice, they don’t get very big and some other kinds taste better.  The method of pursuing them fit our style, catching them is pretty easy, finding them is the challenge.  One of my fondest memories of Sharyl is how excited she would get when the Sand Bass were really hitting.  It was quite common for the two of us to catch 30 or 40 in a couple hours and on a real good day we would approach triple digits.  Am I rounding up?  It’s your call.

Two or three times a year we would do a fish fry.  Those are four-step processes catch, clean, cook, and consume.  Sharyl enjoyed step one and she would consume a little bit of fish, I don’t remember her ever saying, “I sure am hungry for fish”.  I know she never cleaned a fish and I don’t think she ever cooked one.  I don’t enjoy cleaning them, but I kind of like to cook the things, I use one of those redneck macho outdoor cookers. Number of guests varied from as few as 8 or 10 to as many as 50.

Several years ago when Braxton was a little guy I was cleaning some fish.  I think Sharyl or his mom needed to get him out of their hair so they suggested he go outside and watch Paw Paw clean the fish.  I think he was expecting a little bar of soap, some small washcloths and towels; he was shocked at what he saw.  He watched for a little while and found something more interesting to do; let’s face it fish cleaning isn’t a real spectator sport.  A couple hours later he almost panicked when his mom told him to come in so she could get him cleaned up for dinner.

I would like to have a fish fry, maybe just to see if it is still fun, but there is a problem, I don’t have any fish.

A few days ago I went fishing, alone.  The first time I had fished since August 2009, that day in ’09 is one of those days I will always remember, it is the last time Sharyl was on the water.  We were with four very good friends and we caught a “boatload” of Sand Bass.  We still hadn’t used nor accepted the word terminal as it applied to Sharyl’s illness. We had plans to do it again next weekend or the next.  I don’t remember the last time just the two of us were on the water; it was sometime the previous fall; a time when we still took a lot of things for granted.

I needed to do the first trip alone I don’t know why; I just needed to.  I had fished alone a lot of times over the years but this time was different.  I think I was trying to accept this as part of the “new normal” I talked about in an earlier post.  I hooked a nice fish almost immediately.  I think mixed emotions is an over used term; I have used it over the years and thought I knew what it meant.  I now fully understand mixed emotions, it took something as simple as the excitement of a fish attacking my lure and the simultaneous realization Sharyl would never experience that again. I took it off the hook put in the live well (I use an old ice chest) and continued fishing.  I fished for about an hour; I caught seven, if Sharyl had been there we would have had fifteen.  She always caught at least one more than I did.  If you round that up it would be twenty.

It is not a pleasure trip this time but I am back at the lake. The new normal is slowly taking shape and I think I am beginning to leave some of today’s problems up in Hughes County (another reference to a previous post).

It has been a little bit of a tough week but I’ll get there. I love you babe and I miss you every day.

Thanks for reading what I write and keep me in your prayers.

Good Night and God Bless.

Dave

Trivial Thoughts and Other Stuff…….

In my last post I talked about the reason for my recent trip and tried to share the important stuff.  If you have read me for a while, you know when I worked for a living I did some business travel. Upon my return to the office, some of my managers wanted me to do a trip report to fill them in on the important things.  I always wanted to include things like, the 20-hour weather delay in St. Louis, the fiasco at the car rental counter in Detroit, or the weirdo in the seat beside me from Atlanta to Cincinnati.  I could go on but I’m sure you get the idea.  My managers didn’t want to hear about that stuff.

Guess what, I’m going to share some thoughts and other goofy insignificant things from last week’s trip.  Traveling alone I had a lot of time to think about some serious things and some not so serious.  I know it is your option to read or not read, just let me believe someone finally heard the rest of the story.

It was the first long run I had made in a long time and the first without my favorite traveling companion in a very long time.  I don’t know how many miles I drove; I didn’t look at the odometer before I left or when I got home.  I wasn’t getting paid for mileage so it really didn’t matter.  While I was in Morgantown I noticed a lot of zeroes on the odometer; the little Chrysler hit 100k.  The cars they were building when the Interstates that took me there and back were new usually didn’t make trips like that if they had 100,000 miles.  Some old guys like me still complain, “They don’t build em like they used to”.

President Eisenhower or “Ike” is credited with getting funds approved to start construction of the interstate highway system.  I thought about him and Mayme driving the Chevy along I-70 from the White house to their hometown of Abilene, Ks in 1958 and them making the same 1200-mile trip today. Mayme might say, “Ike I’m not sure I like your Interstate highways, there are too many cars and all these trucks scare me”.  I’m glad Mayme wasn’t with me on I-40 /I-55 through West Memphis, Arkansas.

I thought about what those highways did for the trucking industry and I thought about what they did to the railroads.

I thought it was strange that the smallest vehicle on the road also made the most noise.  I followed a motorcycle onto I-44 from I-35 I liked the speed he was going but I couldn’t handle the noise, I passed him and found a nice quiet 18-wheeler to run with.

The run through Oklahoma and Missouri was pretty uneventful and most of the thoughts related to reaching my destination.  I wondered about one thing; in Oklahoma the department of transportation uses the acronym ODOT, in Missouri it is MODOT, I don’t know if Illinois and Indiana both use IDOT or if it is ILDOT and INDOT.

I think the state provided rest stops are becoming decent places to stop again.  During the 70s and 80s they were a mecca for drugs, prostitution and panhandlers, my stops were during the day, they may still get a little crazy at night.  I found these were good places to watch people.

I stopped at one in Tennessee with signs clearly directing cars, RVs and trucks to their respective parking areas.  One guy thought that meant all the other RVs, he used about nine spaces in the car parking area. It looked like a rental RV. The people traveling in it were taking pictures under a sign designating the place as the “Johnny Cash Rest Area”.  Maybe Johnny bought some drugs there back in the day.

The speed limit in Illinois and Indiana is 65 and most of the people actually drive 65.  I noticed in most of the states, people, to an extent have the same driving habits.  Tennessee is the exception; everyone kind of does it his or her way. In Illinois and Indiana they drive like old people; I know I am old, and I do a lot of other things like old people but I don’t drive like that.

Illinois and Indiana were both doing some much-needed repairs to I-70.  I did my drive on Saturday, the workers were not present but I hope no one else needs any of those orange barrels.  I think there was always one in sight between St. Louis and Indianapolis.

In Indianapolis I made a mental note to get a new GPS.  The maps in mine are 5 or 6 years old, and yes I know most of them can be upgraded. I bought a refurb on Ebay; I probably just need a new one.  The thing told me I needed to take exit 73B, I thought I saw my highway at exit 69, but the GPS is kind of like me it is almost always right.  I was still on a six lane I-70; I looked at the GPS and there was no highway showing.  If you have used one you know about the annoying voice telling you “When possible make a legal U-turn”.  Mine didn’t say anything; it was completely confused.  I stayed on the brand new section of I-70 and went through Indianapolis instead of taking the south bypass.  The GPS recovered and was okay for the rest of the trip.

I drove all the way across Ohio and spent a few minutes in the southwest corner of Pennsylvania, I didn’t see many orange barrels and they didn’t drive like old people.  I made up some time, if anything interesting happened I was probably asleep and missed it.  That is one small advantage to traveling alone, if you go to sleep no one rudely suggests you should stay awake.

I think I should have taken more pictures in Morgantown.  I saw a lot of photo-ops; I saw very few places to park.  I could have shot pics out the window but someone had to drive.  That is a disadvantage of traveling alone.

I like the way they drive the open road in West Virginia.  They kind of let the highway dictate how fast they go.  Speeds seemed to range from 70 uphill to pushing 90 downhill if the curves weren’t too severe.  I don’t know if the state troopers are forgiving; I didn’t see one.

I didn’t spend enough time in Virginia to form an opinion.  I guess I just drove and didn’t think.  I remember some construction.

Forgive me Tennessee; you may think I’m picking on you.  That isn’t the case at all; I was in the home stretch.  The serious thoughts were bundled and tucked away; I was ready to kick back, relax and see what was happening on I-40. I’ve already talked about driving habits in Tennessee.

I saw a guy pulling about a 16’ X 65’ mobile home, he passed an 18-wheeler; the 18-wheeler was doing at least 70.  The guy with the mobile home was pushing 80.  It was a little scary but kind of fun to watch; and yes I passed the mobile home, I just had to see what (truck and driver) was pulling it.

I saw 5 or six older ladies in a van owned by the state of South Carolina.  I was doing about 85 when they passed me.  I don’t know if the governor knew they were crossing Tennessee in one of his vans at 90 mph; I think the lady driving knew where they were but I don’t think she knew they were going 90.

I think the most exciting stretch of Interstate I traveled was I-40 from Memphis to Little Rock.  The first few miles not only carries the I-40 traffic headed west to OKC or maybe to LA it also carries the I-55 load headed north to St. Louis and Chicago.

I learned a long time ago that nothing you see or hear in Arkansas should be considered unusual.  Except for the traffic on I-40, what I saw in Arkansas will remain in Arkansas.

A final note:  I will probably never work again but if I do, I think I would like to work the night shift at a travel stop.  You know, the one that is always at the next exit on the Interstate, maybe between Little Rock and Memphis or between Tucumcari and Albuquerque (had to use spellchecker on that one).  I have always enjoyed analyzing people; those travel stops provide an endless supply of material.  I would only spend a few minutes with them, no long term relationships just a short visit and let my imagination run wild.  The coworkers would provide more than enough material for long-term evaluations.

Maybe I would have got the story on the couple in the overloaded Thunderbird with Alabama plates.  I think I even saw a corner of the kitchen sink in the backseat.  We traded places at least six times between Nashville and Oklahoma City.  Or maybe I could have learned about the white haired old man with Oklahoma plates that only bought a can of Red Bull and some peanuts, oh wait.

I know this one is different from my normal style.  I enjoyed writing it and if you are still reading, thank you.

Please consider a donation to the cancer research organization of your choice and continue to remember me in prayer.

Good Night and God Bless.

Dave

 

 

Please Accept My Apology…….

Forty-two years ago a young know-it-all in his late twenties accompanied by his wife and three year old daughter left our nation’s capitol late one afternoon on US50 headed west.  Sometime around midnight after too many miles of dark, narrow and crooked two-lane highway they found a room at a cheap motel in Parkersburg, West Virginia. Did I mention the rain?

The next morning, following a cool shower and breakfast with a bunch of rowdy mountaineers and coal miners at a smoke filled greasy spoon they found a partially completed Interstate and made their way to Kentucky.  Immediately upon entering Kentucky I looked at Sharyl (you probably already guessed it was us) and said, “If I ever cross West Virginia again it will be at thirty five thousand feet”.

Never say never; I did the 35,000 feet thing a few times over the years but I am writing this from ground level (not level ground) in Morgantown, West Virginia.  I need to apologize to the entire state.  The landscape is very attractive, the people aren’t very friendly but maybe someone told them what I said all those years ago.  I am enjoying my visit.

Why am I here?  I came to help that three-year-old daughter’s son celebrate his 21st birthday.  He is now officially recognized as an adult; life has forced him to mature well beyond those 21 years.  He is here playing the sport he loves and continuing his education as a West Virginia Mountaineer.

I have developed a new appreciation for those guys and gals known as student athletes.

He looks much better than I did yhe morning after my 21st

We have spent time together as his schedule permitted.  He pitched a couple innings in an inter-squad practice Sunday afternoon. For you baseball buffs, he had a good outing. We had dinner and spent a couple hours visiting later in the evening.  Monday his day started with an 8:30 am class, he had time for his birthday dinner at 8:30 pm.  He wrote a paper after dinner and was in the weight room at 5:45 Tuesday morning.  We squeezed in breakfast between the weight room and a 9:30 class.  Dinner was at 8:30 again. I didn’t ask about his Wednesday schedule; I know it is one of his real busy days, after dinner we said a difficult good-bye.

Wednesday morning I looked in the rearview mirror as I merged with traffic on Interstate 79; I didn’t see the hilly town with the crooked and narrow streets.  When Morgantown became a city it wasn’t about north, south, east and west.  It was about following the terrain and getting from point A to point B, that practice has continued.  It really is a pretty town.

I saw a reflection of the past 21 years.  I saw the good times and the other times; a lot of smiles and also the tears.  I saw a young man of whom I am very proud.  He was on his way to class to continue his education, then to baseball practice to pursue the dream, and maybe some dinner about 8:30.  I said a little prayer thanking god and his mom and dad for the young man he has become.

I looked through the windshield, and yes I saw the Appalachian Mountains, the fall colors just beginning to evolve, but my focus was on the future.  I saw a family; a very close-knit family beginning to regain their emotional balance and footing and learn to walk again. With god’s continued help I am confident we will be OK, never the same but OK.

My focus returned to the foliage and traffic, after all I had about 4 hours of West Virginia to enjoy.  I hope to come see you guys again real soon.

I spent Wednesday night on the Cumberland Plateau in eastern Tennessee.  I mooched a

A cup of coffee and this view of the Cumberland Plateau started my day Thursday.

meal and a bed from my nephew and his wife. We talked about family, old times and genealogy among other things.  I’m still resisting the urge to spend some time checking my ancestry.  They have two dogs, Sammy is a “pound puppy” one branch of his family tree is Basset he liked me better over there.  Toto is a “found her standing beside the road puppy”, she liked me better close up and personal. Thank you Gary and Cathy for putting me up and for putting up with me.

I am back home, I enjoyed the trip and plan to do it again, but the flatlands and streets that run north, south, east and west, where most of the corners are 90 degrees sure look good.  I guess once a flatlander always a flatlander.

Please keep me in your prayers. Good Night and God Bless.

Dave