Friday, January 23, 2015

The Chalice from the Palace has the Pellet with the Poison

A bad book is the worse that it cannot repent. It has not been the devil's policy to keep the masses of mankind in ignorance; but finding that they will read, he is doing all in his power to poison their books.

Much literary criticism comes from people for whom extreme specialization is a cover for either grave cerebral inadequacy or terminal laziness, the latter being a much cherished aspect of academic freedom.

I have been reading up on the late economist John K Galbraith, after reading a quote posted by a friend on the Facebooks.  He died in 2006 and was known as modern liberal.  I majored in economics in college, and I'm still not sure I know exactly what "modern liberal" means.  Economics and politics aside, my research on Galbraith took on a much broader scope, as I read many quotes he for which he was famous.  I have chosen these two above, because they are seemingly connected in my mind.  

I believe over the past couple of decades, that a modern view of higher education involves a large degree of sardonic sentiment.  Scientists and experts are utilized in many ways in our society, and the American public has come to realize the tools of politics and influence generally involve getting an expert who is "on your side".  Perhaps, there are some who do not hold the view of scientific reporting, or expert analysis as becoming a commodity in the political and judicial arenas, but with the media and entertainment industries of today, I would think there would be few left that don't realize that trend.  

This represents, of course, a type of rape of science and knowledge.  The separation of knowledge and research, from its original purpose and environment, to become a simple tool of influence in an argument or discussion overly simplified as being about power.  However, I would add that members of the school of higher education are not quite innocent bystanders in this process, as they promulgate the use of expert testimony within their chosen fields (as a source of income, for which they should not be completely culpable, we all have to make a living).  I have personally known more than a few (that number being around 6) people that, in my opinoin,  stayed in college to attain PhD's as a form of escape from the real and working world.  Rather than maintain a pure motive for advancing the study of science, philosophy, or field of study, they gave the appearance of a non-passionate pursuit of continuing the college lifestyle as long as they could.  Lack of internships, lack of leisure focus on their field, and lack of a practical job, all point as indicators that a degree in higher education does not provide fuel and accreditation for attaining one's goal or mission in life. 

The combination of the commoditization of  science and knowledge alongside a dispassionate, and un-purposeful pursuit of higher education represent what I call an ugly two-headed coin. Far from the days of the silver dollar, which have become rare and a nostalgic reflection of what many will call "better times".  The ugly two-headed coin appears more like the Susan B Anthony dollar (absolutely no offense to Susan B Anthony or the coin itself).  A coin which never achieved success in circulation due to its close size and likeness of a quarter.  It's usefulness waned quickly as people found the risk of a coin being spent for a quarter of its worth too much, and occurrence too frequent (I found this out the hard way personally).  Hence, it became an ugly coin, having intrinsic value, but not finding a home in the real world due to lack of practicality.  I believe we risk the same loss of value through the devaluation of higher education from misuse in application and attainment.  

Rotating the subject material, to a 90 degree angle, to view from a different perspective, we can begin to see that Galbraith's quote on a bad book, poorly researched, or written with a pointed end as a goal, can pervert the science, and/or field from which it is derived.  This has always been a risk within the scholarly community, but I believe the processes described above proliferate possibilities for poor science and pre-drawn conclusions in academia.  I won't pretend to have any evidence pointing to this fact, other than the anecdotal matter presented in this opinion based blog.  The point being that a bad book, with bad information, or poor writing, remains in the world, there's simply not a process for expunging bad or incorrect literature...and therefore it cannot repent of itself, but remain as a either a learning tool for the wise, or pellet of poison awaiting ingestion.

If we continue the rotation of the subject to a full 180 degrees, we can seemingly get off track, and yet I would maintain we are simply viewing yet another perspective of the same root causes manifesting themselves in another facet of life...follow me for a few moments, if you would.

The explosion of technology and entertainment over the past 3-4 decades has been incredible.   From before the 1960's and 70's the concept of the double feature, was an aberration of normal entertainment.  An exercise in entertainment excess, and a marketing tool for lower performing movies to be paired with more desired ones.  The double feature presented a rare excess in going to the movies, or in seeking entertainment.  To shorten my argument, as I don't think it necessary to belabor the, we can not only watch as many movies in a day as we can fit, but we can adjust that from cinematic features to Broadway shows (not live of course).  We can, from our living rooms, watch a concert from Wembley Stadium, and then catch the Riverdance from the comfort of our couches.  

I'd go into the "all you can eat buffet", and the excesses of sports events, but if you've read this far and been able to follow, then there's really no need to expound on the decadence that's pervaded our society.  Drawing to a point with a bit of brevity, entertainment has become an end in itself, rather than a part of a well balanced life.  A distortion of the purposeful break in our normal driving lives, which seek a satisfying existence and balanced life.   

Perfect timing for a question of substance..."So, how can you tie these two quotes, devalued science, and the prevalence of entertainment into something useful?  Please tell me you haven't simply driveled on about these things giving me no value for my time."

Here in the Oklahoma City area, our NBA team, The Thunder, use "Hard Work" as a tagline.  Kevin Durant's quote demonstrating the grit and grind that we'd like to embody our community and state, "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard".  

That quote, in itself, from a one and done collegiate player, packs as much true wisdom and academia as Galbraith does in both the quotes shown above.  

We are at risk, and I believe I see this happening, or to say better, has happened...of having constructed facades of true work, in order to satisfy our intentions of "living a balanced life".  We've taken to shortened efforts in research and "hands on the wheel" type effort, in order to circumvent the lengthy time a proper effort for a job would require.  We've built paper thin shells around ourselves, and our jobs, in order to produce a lesser value product, for production's sake.  Leaving us with more, and more time to devote to the excesses of our personal lives.  

Broad statements, yes.  I'm not even sure I can argue this point effectively for any length of time, which points to the precise reason I'm writing about it.  I can tell you, though, that I've lived it.  A well constructed system of doing work, which needs to be done, in the manner in which it is required...rather than sitting back and pointing out the truth that this task or problem truly requires a lenghty, prolonged effort to re-evaluate the purpose and function for which it is produced.  Slower, harder, more focused work would produce better, increasingly hardened results.  We rely too much on assumptions of previous efforts or productions, rather than starting from scratch again, to construct thick, strong, outputs.  Corporate management, in seeking cost reductions, increased output, and growth in the ever important profit margin, tend to feed into this cheaper quality of work, particularly as long as it provides enough value to keep their customers engaged and purchasing.

I didn't start out with the point of shirking my responsibilities, or to take shortcuts to the finish.  I simply utilized the speed of technology, previous work on certain subjects and processes (why re-invent the wheel?), in order to advance and make my own efforts more efficient.  Yet, in the end, the plastic product produced, does not uphold the quality and craftsmanship reflected in the old, iron, time consuming, and costly product.  Nor does it provide the satisfaction of a job well done.

Dedication to doing a job correctly, with the right amount of time, and attacking the task with passion derived from accomplishing something can restore the confidence needed to build into a stronger sense of self confidence and increased self esteem. [One could shoot off on something about depression or the like at this point, I believe] 

I suppose to conclude, which I need to stop at some point...  We have engaged in a cycle of cerebral inadequacy and laziness, which produces bad books and pointed argumentation based upon poisoned viewpoints, for the sake of getting away from prolonged hard work, and off to our decadent lives of entertainment.  To combat this, discussions around our dinner table are being held subject to different rules these days.  Internet searches can provide a single quote, brought to the table...then you are on your own to discuss, present and share your thoughts alongside others.  I have a backyard filled with dead trees, and I'm cutting them up one at a time, because there's no need for me purchase the firewood I could easily afford.  I'm sitting down and writing a very lengthy blog entry, because it takes time to make a point, or two, or five, and then tie them together into a block of writing that attempts cohesion and logical argumentation.

I'll end with adjusting Durant's quote a bit:

Hard work becomes necessary, for talent without hard work, destroys both the worker and the product, slowly from the inside out.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Wherever You Are, Wherever You Go...

I sometimes volunteer at my kids' school, helping out with various things...sometimes I help monitor, or tutor at lunchtime, the kids who are ineligible and have to work during the lunch hour to improve their grades.

Lisa was on the basketball team.  That's how I recognized her in the room.  She had attitude and didn't take kindly to my checking on her work.  She got a little mouthy with Mr. Johnson and had to leave the room.  I saw her in the hallway later, as I was leaving and asked her if she played basketball...she flashed with recognition and said, "You're Daphne's dad right?"...then she loosened up.  (I have no name at this school, just Daphne's dad...feel free to use it)  I asked her why she hadn't been at practice and she shrugged.

Fast forward to last week.  I'm in the office waiting for my boy on an orthodontist day.  Lisa is in the office.  I sit next to her.  After a few minutes, she asks about the basketball team.  Then she volunteers that she's failing all of her classes.  Not wanting to rush her, I let the conversation mature with long silences...  We talked a bit about whether she wanted to fail, and what might help her set some goals and motivation...and I simply reinforced that her performance was for herself, and to protect her own identify and self-image...(she admitted to me, without prompting that she's simply not trying).

As I met with Mrs. Williams, one of the school counselors, I mentioned my interaction.  She was baffled, Lisa was an excellent student in 6th grade and last year struggled and this year practically quit.  She indicated she was having a difficult time at home, and was in counseling but was struggling with the counseling as it seemed unhelpful.  I got the indication that Lisa was pretty bankrupt for a 12 year is hard to deal with things of that nature, we all know that from experience, and then having Depression myself...I know that it is a matter of time before you wake up without enough energy to fight, and start the process of giving in.

I saw Lisa a couple of times over the last week or so, and simply reminded her that she was a smart and powerful young woman, and she just needed to remind herself of that.

I saw her this week, after school...she tugged on my shirt as I walked past to get my attention..."Hey, I retook my math test and got a 97%!" with a big smile.

A high five and a wink with "I told you that you were smart and powerful, isn't that fun!"...she smiled and said "yeah".

We are difference makers.  Every day, every interaction...that's why I'm happy to be on a PTO team with like-minded and purposeful people.  I'm thankful for being on a team that gives me a platform to be who I am, with others doing the same.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Wonderful Kwanza...and all that.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

An open letter to Ray Rice

Dear Ray,

You play football pretty well, but this video shit needs your attention.

I don't know you, Ray... and I hope that this video business has shown you that your story to the NFL involved a slight perception discrepancy between something that "might have gotten a little out of hand"...and a Mike Tyson One-and-Done-Go-To-Sleep-Haymaker to a petite young beautiful woman who certainly couldn't defend herself against the likes of you.

And by hope... I really mean that we've been dependent on TMZ, of all respected news outlets, to enforce the reality of your actions upon you...due to your inability to remember "knocking her the fuck out"...not sure how that could have escaped your sense of heartfelt integrity and memory when you spoke to Emperor Darth Goodell, but your charm seemed to have worked.  I'm also glad to high heaven you hadn't told him you did something really bad like beat the living hell out of a woman you supposedly loved...because that probably would've meant she'd be dead.

Get some help please.

Mrs. Rice, please stop the madness...everyone else is done putting up with violence against women...perhaps you should be too...stats aren't in your favor babe...if you want to remain as pretty as you are.  He could change, but if you believe that, you could convince us of your deep seated faith and love in your husband by volunteering at the battered women's shelter for a few months...

the Caddy

Friday, August 23, 2013

An Open Letter To My Wife...

So, for those of you that know me, and for those of you that don't...I've decided that it is time for me to write an open letter to my wife...and I thought I'd start with what I consider to be a bullshit meme about living life with blinders on...  This is my attempt at humor, and hopefully my wife is already laughing...real life, where I live is where a nice crap sandwich gets passed around and everybody takes their turn dealing with the icky, non-talked about issues between people.  I need to connect with my wife, and as I do that,  some of you  can expect an ushy-gushy love filled letter...the rest of you are still laughing at my picture...  I arrived at the decision to write this letter after my latest session with my psychologist, who did not put me up to this, and rarely puts me up to anything, but endorses our general dialogue on life, love, the universe and trying not to mentally break minor children under your direct guardianship.

Dear Lovely Wife:  [business tone indicates the nature of this letter and pre-empts emotional state of wife as she understands the topics of this letter...and fears I'm about to divulge our darkest problems in a public venue]

I love you.  You know that.  You love me, I know that.  You've been in medical school for several years now and we are in the closing years of this project...project Dr. Cindy West.  This well run project has been successfully on schedule since its start, and the primary and secondary team members have performed admirably, we still engage in meetings on team structure and organizational improvements...namely in the management areas of the male parent resource and the minor members of the team.  Which, admittedly need work...all the time...and probably a project manager, team coach, or other adjunct member to help the team be more successful.  The primary project resource has performed above expectations at every level of the project, thus far, and continues to incite solid confidence in the external (and internal) stakeholders of this project.  

Project Dr. West, does not sit alone within our organization, as you well know...good grief, you know more than anyone on the face of the Earth.  Accompanying project Dr. West, an ever exciting story of love, grief, trial and tribulation of the Ongoing Life and Times of a Family Affected by Depression.  Which chronicles a superhero and his family's hilarious adventures through a life filled with joy, doubt, ups, downs, more downs, and hopefully less downward down's as life moves ever forward.  

It is on these two topics that I write to you today.  

Last night, we had a wonderful discussion about a vacation, its schedule, familial complications, and a husband / wife relationship that fights through imperfect circumstances to defy marital statistics about divorce.  
I arrived at two observations from our discussion last night, upon which I need to elaborate.

My historical shortcomings are well chronicled and documented, regarding scheduling, follow through, laundry, thinking ahead, and general 'checking out' when I feel I can possibly get away with it...  Depression, and our battle to live a happy successful life complicates things from time to time, and it is such a difficult topic to discuss.  You always have to be on your guard that any point in an argument or discussion, I will play the "Depression Card" and seek some type of sanctuary behind a diagnosed illness, when instead I should be moving balls forward and attacking life.  Which is a very recognizable fear, from my perspective.  I'm so glad, interestingly enough, that I'm the one with the condition, rather than it being someone "not me"...because I'm pretty sure I would bail on that person and tell them to get over their little mental issues about the sun not coming up tomorrow.  Your persistence in this matter remains well recognized and appreciated.  

Now, to get a bit personal.  

Being labeled with a mental illness carries real and imagined stigmas about a person's mental stability and frame of mind.  Everybody has had a crazy ass uncle, or relative that leaves you always thinking "WTH, does this person know they are this out of touch with reality?".  So, I open up my brain and let you know how I deal with this...

Having depression, is not the same as having is a medical condition, the other is a dark cloaked character that loves his precious dark moods and underachieving mental state.  One I treat with medication, the other I have to keep a close eye on and beat the shit out of...when I recognize him whispering into my ear.  How I manage that process, reveals my grasp on my mental state, and the quality of my mental fabric.  

My ultimate fear:  losing touch with reality, under a tremendous amount of stress, and not being able to recognize that I'm losing my shit.  

So, to monitor this possibility, I generally start with a status report of my faculties, based upon externalized factors indicating my success rate of self efficacy...or how is it going, and how am I doing?  How's the house operating, are they kids alive, fed, and moderately mentally healthy...all that.  

I've not been close to losing my shit.  But, that's always where I start...because having a mental illness, means that it is my head that could be tricksy with me.  If it were my arm...I could assess it everyday by picking something up, and moving it around.  Inside my head, its a bit more complicated.  

That's all for the losing my shit factor...  I'm not worried about it, my mental framework remains as ironclad as most other people I know, and better than several people I know.  But, that doesn't mean I can't have depressive episodes and spiral does mean that I have to identify when that happens and get the cloaked bastard in my head out of my ear and start battling life a little harder.  This process, as described, does not account for my, being the most valuable asset I have.

My biggest challenge with depression remains making improvements in my life regarding character traits and habits (mental and physical) that I've accepted as unchangeable, and to commit myself to believing in a better tomorrow, and applying myself in a successful way to change myself into a better superhero.  The funny part about this process, has to do with the cloaked figure inside my head... which, after a hard day's work, says "you really didn't work that hard, you just muddled your way through a job that somebody else could have done quicker and better".  I know he's a lying bastard...but, I have to safeguard that my commitment to changing myself is solid, and not twisted...  otherwise I will exhaust myself physically and mentally chasing after an unbalanced model of success, to which I can never attain.

In summary, I start with the "losing my shit" checkpoint, and work towards, "Am I working hard at living life in the best way possible?".  

My point, and invitation to you, is that when I play the depression card, in a discussion...what I am actually doing, is inviting you into that conversation, and asking an extremely vulnerable question..."in your opinion, am I working hard enough on my character and life, and not misapplying myself and not recognizing it?"  As the closest person in my life, your input into that question, means more to me that most anything else in the world.  I don't base my confidence in myself, or in my abilities on your opinion...that would be codependent...instead, I am seeking external input, from an expert, regarding the baseline assessment of my disposition toward life, family, marriage, and work.

I'm not running away from you.  

I am running to you, naked, and honest, and vulnerable, in a world where I keep the shields up 99% of the rest of the time.  Because I love you, I trust you, and I need you...and at the most base level of communication, I don't want to fuck up what a great thing I have going...I want to remain the type of man that you would remarry today, tomorrow, and the rest of the week...we'll talk about next week over the weekend.  [Levity utilized here to lighten the mood after a fairly technical gushy point]

Secondly, on marriage, life and the divorcing of couples that once loved each other, and then for some reason don't make it...

This one fascinates me.  

You being a doctor, and me being the stay-at-home dad, with a job and flourishing career...makes for a difficult family and intimacy model.  [To everyone else: she just said...NOOOOO SHIT!]

You are a tremendously independent person, and to some degree, past my own social nature, I am as well.  However, we've built a model in our marriage based upon mutual love, admiration, and respect for each other.  So, with our hard as hell schedules, no sleep for you, perhaps too much sleep for me (in you and Malcolm's opinion), how do we maintain a marital relationship based on intimacy and love, when we are in a part of life that makes quality time very hard to come by...?

As we've embarked upon this journey (aka project Dr. West), I've noticed a few things about life, the universe and everything.  You view the world in a very independent way, but you live in a very partnered model. I view the world in a very connected way, but tend to live in an independent fashion.  

10 years ago, I could have never imagined being a single dad, with two small children, working, living, and being successful at it.  

10 years later, after being a de facto single dad for the past 5 years much of the time, I've noticed that I've developed a new mindset.  I'll call it the single parent mindset.  You are prone to having this mindset naturally, but don't act upon it, unless you need to...  I've had to develop it, and learn how to deal with shit as a single parent, because my wife isn't there to do it all for me, while I sit in the garage and piddle, or watch football and stay drunk all the time...Your mother did it, and my father did it, under differing circumstances.  

As couples drift apart, as we have openly admitted at times during project Dr. West, this mindset continues to develop.  It matures in one's head, from "I'd be shit canned screwed if I was a single dad", to "I could maybe pull this whole thing off, or at least fake it for several years".  

In some cases, not ours mind you, couples get to a point where they are "emotionally divorced", their lives simply diverge over a period of time, due to schedules, or whatever the hell screws them up....  but, the point is that they drift apart...slowly developing a "single parent mental model" subconsciously, because that's what they are, when the other spouse isn't around...we know people like this... it isn't us, but we are in a position in life where it can become us for short periods of time because of our respective schedules.  

The key, in my mind, comes when the single parent mentality matures.  Under normal healthy marriage circumstances, it is tucked back in the far regions of the soul, and thought of in reference to, "What if something tragic happens?"...or "What if something happens to me?".  

In other cases, the single parent mentality blossoms to a point where one parent says, "I don't need this shit anymore, I can do this better by myself, and have a much happier life that way."  

When the two parent mentality of marriage loses value, and the single parent mentality produces a utility and value point greater than the two parent mentality...divorce becomes a serious consideration.  Now, there a lot of other factors, and bullshit that go into that...but, that's my observation.  

In conclusion, I have seen that mentality develop in my head, over the past few years...which, actually is a great thing...getting back to the depression section of this letter.  I know that you are tremendously independent, and that you could pull off being a single parent.  I think I could possibly fake it for a few years.  

Regardless of that analysis, I still believe the marriage we have poses a far greater value to me, than any life I can imagine where you aren't with me.  I am still a much better person, because of you.  Beyond any of this reasoning, though, I still love you.  I still respect you, which is more than I can say about 80% of the whole fucking world.  You are a truly fantastic person.  You penetrate the bullshit of life in ways I can't seem to navigate, and challenge me mentally...which again, is better than 90% of the world.  Arrogant as that may sound, you are simply smarter than me, and I'm smarter than most...  [everybody else just let that go...]

In a very non-emotional way, and in a very emotional way, you are my wife.  You are my best friend.  I would never hurt you, and I will give my life anew everyday to protect you, and this life we've built as a family.  

The key to that last part isn't a heroic giving of's one bloody fucking day at a time, downgrading my own needs, desires, and order to continue investing in a marriage that currently finds itself challenged for quality time and intimacy.  

But...that's what I signed up for...and I'm good for it.

I'll have my people get with your people and we should do lunch soon.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Scarring Your Son For Life...For Dummies

I do the best I can as a parent.  Sometimes it is good enough, and sometimes it isn't.  If you are a fan of John Irving, and life's sometimes dark twisted humor, then you probably understand that all children are destined to become incredibly warped and scarred by their parents, regardless of anyone's intentions.  It has always been this way, and will continue to be this, we might as well enjoy it and learn how to see the humor in the ultimate destruction of our children...right?  They'll turn out ok, whether they have our genes, or our nature, our worst fears and traits await us, like a mirror...patiently awaiting us to stare at our broken selves in their faces.  Wondering how in the world I could break such a delicate and beautiful thing, and twist it into something far more fun and infuriating to the average parent.  

If you caught some humor in that paragraph, this post is for you...  On the other hand, if you had visions of me dancing in the dark with Freud and whiskey, there are updated baseball scores here:

I helped coach my son's baseball team.  During the end of the season tournament, my son was scheduled to leave on a trip with his grandparents, and would miss the last few games.  My wife reminded me, "Remember this is his last night to play, so make a big deal out it with the team and make sure he gets to say his goodbye's."

After the games, (they played two), I was walking back to the car with my son, and the head coach, when he said, "Well Malcolm, I guess that was your last game of the season."

Doh!   I suck so bad...Horrible Dad awoke from the back of my mind, "you dumbass, you are such a dumbass, oh my, this is hilarious, you are completely insane and intent on breaking your son's poor psyche, you are hilarious my friend".

Tears ensued on the ride home, and I listened to Horrible Dad, and worked to find Compassionate Dad, who was absolutely nowhere to be found inside my guilt ridden head...almost like he was saying "Yeah, I'm out on this one, you idiot".

Fast Forward...

Boy goes on trip with Grandparents and is gone for around three weeks.  He's having fun, hanging out with his cousin at DisneyWorld and enjoying life.  

I'm taking care of his guinea pig.  Frappaccino.

Frappacchino had been with our family for two or three years, and was the first pet my son bought with his own money, and cared for him (most of the time).  A fat little guinea pig, that did all the things guinea pigs do, which is basically nothing.

I had no problem caring for "Pig" as he had come to be known in family circles.  I fed and watered him, played with him a few times during the day, and we had a genuinely wonderful relationship.  I would talk to him about his secret spy missions regarding watching the dog, who loves to abscond with defenseless stuffed animals and sleep in beds when the doors are left open.  Pig's job was to alert me when this happened.  He was pretty bad at it, but enjoyed his job immensely, so I let his performance slide most of the time.  

Feed, water, play, discuss missions....coaching sessions, reprimands for cavorting with the enemy (I think he and the dog had an agreement).

About 5 days before my son would return, I noticed that Pig hadn't touched his food or water.  I wasn't too alarmed, got him out and played with him, he was spry and cuddly, and apologetic about letting the dog sleep in the bed, so I thought he must not be hungry, having gorged himself on food and water over the previous days.

4 days before my son would return, I repeated the check on the pig, who still hadn't eaten, but was still having a good 'ole time, as pigs do, whenever it is they aren't on duty watching for the dog.

2 days before my son would return...

I check on Pig, and he's laying there, spread out on his bedding, not looking too spry.  I pick him up and realize "Houston, we have a problem!".  His breathing had become labored, and his eyes were all crusty, and he didn't really want to move.

Horrible Dad: "You're gonna kill the piiiiiig!, you're gonna kill the piiiiig!  This is awesome, you are gonna kill your boy's pig, and it's gonna be all your fault, man, where is my popcorn and Dr. Pepper, I'll be right back..."

Compassionate Dad: "You got this, he's sick, but, you got the Internets, and you can fix this...if he's terminal, all you gotta do is keeping him alive until the boy gets home, take him to the vet, spend hundreds of dollars on a poorly performing spy, and if he dies, it'll be in your son's culpability on your part whatsoever."

I was pretty sure Compassionate Dad didn't like Pig, but he gave good advice.

I texted a 911 message to a friend, whose wife is a vet.  Then I took to the internets.

I checked my work schedule, since I work from home, the internet portal and my work portal are next to each other.  I dialed into a conference call and went to work on Guinea Pig Illness Diagnosis 101.  Which was pretty good, those guinea pigs have organized their owners and gotten them some web skillz.  I was able to quickly diagnose an Upper Respiratory Infection based on the symptoms.  Antibiotics needed.

Waiting on friend's vet wife. 

Working on conference call.

Internets:  Try to hand feed and water the ill pig, in order to keep its energy up.

Me:  Sitting in the living room, with a towel, Pig, water bottle (with vitamin C for all those sticklers out there), and a carrot...on a conference call discussing critical defects needed for an initial delivery of software to a very large bank in Eastern U.S.

20 minutes....tick-tock tick-tock....

Me: Sitting in living room, on conference call, now wet, pig shit on towel (and me), getting a little water in him, and he's trying to munch on carrot.

Horrible Dad: "You are actually trying to save him...[munch munch, nom nom, slurp]...I mean you can't make this stuff up, you think you're a vet or something, Pig is toast dude...just admit it, you suck, and you're gonna kill your boy's guinea pig...awesome stuff, you suck!"

Compassionate Dad: "Uhm, this is not going well, maybe the internets will have some more information or training that will help you become a vet in the next 10 minutes or something."  

I left Pig on the towel, (not like he was going anywhere), stopped to actually speak on the conference call for a few minutes, while I further consulted Al Gore's expertise on Guinea Pig URI's.  

Horrible Dad: "Did you catch that part about how URI's travel fast, and you have about 36 hours to get the antibiotics...Pig's dead dude, You killed the Piiiiig, You killed the Piiiig!"

Compassionate Dad: "You can still wait to hear back from the vet and get the antibiotics, just keep water in him and you have a chance."

Horrible Dad: "Yeah, or you can call 968-273-382533."

Compassionate Dad: "That's too many numbers."

Horrible Dad: "you-are-fucked....get it....get it....this is hilarious, why don't you move to Alaska or something, they need things killed there....I'm here all day folks [slurp]."

Me: I'm confused, angry, trying to work, trying to save pig, have pig shit on me, a dying pig, my boy's out of town, my software's in the tank...I'm living the dream.

I pick Pig up again, this time I give him some food pellets, since the carrot isn't working.  Great news, he's trying to eat.  He's weak, but he's working on the pellets.  

Compassionate Dad: "Uhm I think he's trying to swallow them whole, no teeth moving...dude, do something"

Me:  [digging pellets out of tiny guinea pig's mouth]  I think I got it.

Pig shudders, or convulses.  

Me: [On conference call], "I'm gonna have to drop, I've got another...thing, to go to"

I take Pig to the bathroom, where he looks at me with his crusty eyes.

"Oh, no, you are not going to die on have to wait two more days, until boy gets back, you are not gonna screw me like this."

Horrible Dad: "Oh yes he is, and it is all because you suck [chomp, chomp]...I live for this stuff."

Pig convulses heavily, it takes a minute for me to recognize this is what is happening...then goes limp, gasping for breath.

Compassionate Dad: "I think you better do something, you're losing him...this is where professionals would call in help from the crack medical you know guinea pig CPR?"

Me:  No.  [Trying to give some version of CPR to Pig, trying to see if his airway is obstructed]

Horrible Dad: "This is awesome, I'm gonna call some friends, he's giving CPR to a guinea pig!!!  This is better than when you killed his fish over Christmas by turning the Thermostat down to Manitoba to save'd that work out Pig Killer?"

[Text Message:  wife worked early, still asleep]

[Lots of cursing, Pig shaking, squeezing, more cursing, shaking, cursing]

Text Message to Wife: "we're screwed, Pig's dead"

Text Message from Wife: "yup"

RIP Frappaccino

Sunday, June 23, 2013

July 6

In a couple of weeks, I'll commemorate the 27th anniversary of the day my father passed this life, leaving me a completely clueless 15 (and a half), year old, wondering what would become of my life. 

I've encountered some lost years, before and after his passing, where the memories are faded and fleeting, like an old book where the edges have faded, leaving sentence fragments and bits of paragraphs.

I've encountered some low years, where I was ashamed of who I was, and who I was becoming, drifting without purpose, and internally injured without knowing how to tell anyone.

I was fucked up...pretty much beyond measure...and didn't really realize it.  But, that is youth, albeit youth amidst adversarial circumstances.

I've encountered years of digging, out of the holes I created for myself, wondering if I would ever see daylight again...longing for the searing heat of the Oklahoma summer burning on my face as it did when my father was watching me mow the lawn for the first time.  

I've come through years of dodging, trying every way I could to avoid the 'normal' path to success.  Trying to find ways to magically be successful, or to find an alternate route that was shorter than reality.

I've also awakened each day, with something deep inside of me that drives me like a nuclear reactor, pushing me, sometimes in the wrong direction...understandably without a compass, who would blame a ship for going in circles.

I've also known triumph of persistence, hard work, and patience that seemed as if it would crack my very skull with the anticipation of seeing a normal life.

I've walked across a stage that I fought after for so long, and that without the help of others, I would never have seen.  I looked for you that day, and you weren't there.

I found a woman, a most beautiful creature, that has torn me apart and seen me through being put back together.  A woman smarter than I, more driven than I, and more powerful than I am, in many ways.

I had some kids with that woman, and she...and they, are the most wonderful creatures, the most beautiful beings I've ever set eyes upon.

So, 27 years's something that I have to say, read it if you like...but, surely, this for me...

My father can be summed up in a few words, which in no way, does justice to who he was on this earth...but, it's a start.  Mackey West was a man of values and principles.  His work ethic was called into question by my fore-fathers and mothers...which, quite honestly, I've not really heard much from in the way of positively describing people.

Yet, I remember my father putting himself to task, and sticking with his jobs...sometimes over a period of months, mind you, until they were completed.  Something I've always struggled to achieve.

He was a man of few words, but gave cogent thoughts, and relevant commentary within the many conversations I remember.  He was friends with people of other religions, political parties, and ideologies...and had a way of managing that aspect in difficult conversations.  At times, he would grow frustrated, but in conversation with his friends, that was infrequent.

Anger and frustration, toward his sons, were a different matter.  My father never raised his hand to me without cause, and I've never thought back on him with any thoughts of physical anger issues.  His words, though, were different.  He was a part of a generation that did not herald success, but internalized it, and moved forward focusing on improvement, or gaps in performance and character.  

He taught school, and was an administrator for over 30 years...around a quarter of a century at the same school, being a principal of the elementary school, middle school, and serving as the government programs administrator.  I really have no idea what the administrations he served, thought of his work...except in the past 27 years, I've really heard no particular sign of appreciation for his commitment or that from the students, and parents of those he taught.  He wasn't a man that enjoyed recognition very much, so it seems appropriate that he quietly did his job, and internalized his successes.

To you Dad, here's what I have to say:

1. There was a ne'er do well dropout that came by school one day...wearing his army greens, and some of the kids jeered at him, making fun of his Army gear....calling him G.I. Joe.  At the time, I had a brother in the service, and truth at the time was that guys without jobs, and futures, joined the Army...this was true of my brother.  Before an incident could unfold in a difficult manner, I saw you standing on the steps of the school, hands on your hips, your "business" stance.  You must have seen from your office...I still see it clearly in my mind, enough to put the trees in their spots, the flagpole, and cracks in the sidewalk.  

Before he started yelling, you called to the G.I., by name.  You approached him, and held his head in your hands and spoke to him forehead to forehead.  There were probably a hundred of us, or so, on the grounds watching...and we heard every gnat, bee, and leaf rustle in the commanded that sort of respect.

I don't know what you said, but, then again I do...because somehow you put it into me as well...  

He hugged you, and then walked away, disturbed and glaring, but with a restored sense of self control.

I learned that there are few situations in life, where the right words, the right love, even for the un-lovable, can't remedy a situation properly.  I learned that you kept a high valuation of character within people, even when they hadn't earned it...and you had learned how to open that up and tap into it...making people believe themselves capable and willing to try once more.

2. You told me one time that I was being considered for an all-star basketball team....but that my play of late had been inconsistent.

What I realized later, was that I "had" been considered, and had been evaluated and came up short.  You didn't pick me up from didn't encourage me through that disappointment, or point me on toward a better hope into the future.  Which is probably something I would do today... and perhaps, that was a fault of yours, but I know by the disappointment in your voice, and your anger with me...that you thought me more capable than most of the others, and that you expected that performance out of me.

I learned to own my own performance.  I learned that people are always watching, whether you know it or not.  I learned that to those that are given much, much is to be expected...from myself, first.  That I was the only one in charge of my destiny.  

3. An African American family moved into the small town, where you taught.  You pulled me out of class, and asked me to introduce the teenager, in my class.  You did this knowing that there would only be 2 African Americans in the entire school, and that it had been almost decades since that had occurred.  

You didn't know how to do that.  You didn't know what to was the most vague instruction you ever gave me, and I could tell that you were nervous.  One of the two or three times, which I can remember seeing you nervous.

You did that because you knew I would know what to trusted me.  You had taught me at home about Civil Rights, and how slow the country was to awaken to a proper understanding of how people ought to be treated.  You had faith in me that I could figure out how to do the job, and I think...or hope that I did.  

4. You remembered every student, and their parents, and where they came from...what they did, what their circumstances were, and you ingrained in me that I was to look at every person as a member of the family and economic situation from which they came.  You understood that some kids were smarter than others, which is to say that some people are very smart, and others might not be very smart.  You gave that to me...of all the things I see...I see that.  As my wife says now..."people cannot do, what they cannot do"...and to expect things beyond a person, is simply not a good model.  Each person should be gauged as an individual with extremely high value, regardless of their IQ.  As one of your friends said one time, "It may not take much of an IQ to lift a bail of hay, or haul the cotton to the gin...but, there are many more of the smartest people I've met pushing plows and herding cows...Scotty, you remember that, farmers make the world go round, and they may not be college smart, but they are some of the smartest people you'll ever meet".  I'll admit I had to take some time unwinding that one...  but, you put me around the right people, dad. They weren't polished, and certainly weren't liked, but I'm not sure you were well liked either...I know you were respected...but, I'm pretty sure you didn't give a rat's ass who liked you and who didn't.  I still need to learn that a little...maybe that's a bit of mom inside me that's always worried about what others think...I can own that.  

Dad, there are a list of things I hope for...a list that I've wanted to talk to you about, a few things that remain un-closed for me...and that I spend a lot of energy chasing, even decades later...

1. After I saw Saving Private Ryan...a movie you would have loved...  I always want to look at someone who knew you, and say "Please, Please tell me I'm a good man...that after I tried to fuck up my life, that I've lived a good life, and done right by people and worked a hard days work, and helped to make people better....that my Daddy would be proud of me."  No matter who says it, how many times they say it...I want to hear it from you...that I did ok, that you are proud of me, and that you love your grandkids...

2. I realize that inconsistency was a demon for you as well.  It must have been, because it pissed you off so much.  Nothing burns a man more than his own wounds...and no wrath burns more into the children of a man than a demon he can't defeat himself.  I've grown "ok", with this...well, not "ok", but I've learned that it will be a part of me for a long time to come...and that my persistence will play itself out in becoming a bit more consistent as I grow older.

3.  Why did you wear those cut-off baggy ass jeans that made you look like a plumber?  You only wore them at home, and in the summer, but for the life of me....that is one of the hardest reconciliations I've worked to match up...the crisp shirts and ties at work, and the "plumber cutoffs" that I remember.  

4.  Did you ever want to kill us as children?  I mean, to start over...with a fresh batch?  I look back at my childhood, and after mom passed away, I can't help but think that the four us helped your stress level to a point that it shortened your life.  I'd like to say that we all turned out, but that wouldn't be true.  Three out of four isn't a bad record...that with all the crap you had to put up with when we were younger.  One was lost, and regardless of what you did to help him, he never did find his way...  we buried him a few years back, and remembering the arguments and discussions from when it was just us three at home...  I can tell you it was bittersweet...because at least I didn't have to worry anymore...I didn't have to try to manufacture any more hope, where hope had been squandered time and time again.  There are tragic lives, and unfortunately, one of those tragic lives was one of ours...I'd love to have a cup of coffee and talk about that with you sometime.

5. You were there, you saw it, I traveled most likely, but I made the shot, and we won...we won it all that night...I glanced over and saw you smile...I never needed anyone since that day, to tell me I was good...I could have walked off the court forever that day...because I got even better, I got better than I ever thought I could.  I earned the respect of people that played for a invites to play with people that I had to turn down...but, I could have walked off the court that day forever, and I would have missed the joy of playing for myself, and for the sake of the game...because I still look for you when I play. last thing...  Our family history...  It's sort of organized on mom's side, thanks to some Aunts and Uncles that keep track of stuff... but, on your side, there's only a couple left...  and the medical history that you all left us with makes a doctor's eyes alternatively flash and roll as we discuss the health history from your side of the family.  From mental illness, to diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and nearly anything else I can think of...  did the West's just work hard as they could to log health problems for future generations? You wouldn't know this, of course, but in the past 27 years, health history is a bitch of an indicator for all sorts of would've been nice if you guys had a family walk every now then 40-50 years ago...   

I miss you Dad.  I think of you every 4th of July, because I know the 6th follows it every year.  I'll do my best to get down and polish things up for you, mom, and Mike this year.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Being Torn Apart

"Where does the love of God go, when the waves turn the minutes to hours?" sang Gordon Lightfoot, decades ago.

Yet, there's a ring of truth for that, yesterday and today, here in the Heartland, as we reach, bend, and stretch our minds to find the love and grace of our God in the aftermath of yesterday's disaster.  

Barry Trammel wrote of the ultimate horror, "Where are the children?" 

And I wondered about the children, who cries for you?  Who cries out for you, when the things most sedentary, safe, and secure that you can imagine, are literally ripped out of your grasp?

What do you hold on to?  When you grasp a tree, a tree you couldn't fall with a car, without hours of work with an ax...and it is ripped up in seconds, along with you?

What do you depend on, when you're in a building, that in a million years you couldn't pull down with your 3rd grade hands, disintegrates around you?  You watch it being pulled apart in seconds...the roof above your head is gone, the walls rumbling and crumbling in on you.  When you see a car fly the air?

What do you do, when you are in a storm shelter, and the door is ripped open, or off?  You did what you were supposed to do!  You took cover, you got in the cellar, only to have the Beast overcome your safehold.

There are things in this life that we depend upon each and every day, things we cannot move, break, and destroy...and we learn that these things are safe.  Buildings, homes, schools, and cars...only to have that innocent perspective ripped away from us in a flash by Mother Nature.

You reach out mentally, from home, wanting to help, not wanting to watch TV, but being pulled, like a black hole to the only information source that can help you find out more....morbidly watching, rationalizing that maybe there's something good about to happen.

Because, for most of us, we understand the dangers...and then we forget.  The day before, I watched a nice and beautiful storm swirling around our heads, hoping to see my first tornado live...even as the NWS, located here in Norman stopped momentarily monitoring to seek shelter themselves.  10 minutes later, that beautiful swirl dropped a tornado that killed two.  Yesterday the Monster drove through Moore like a gigantic bulldozer...destroying everything in its way.

Then it isn't fun anymore, it isn't interesting...still fascinating, you watch the TV...literally staring at something that looks like a fake monster eating up a is surreal, and somewhere in your head, you know that not everybody is going to be ok.  You slowly make the connection from 'awestruck' to 'serious and deadly situation'...and yet you can't quite meld the two together in a cohesive thought.  "Do I turn the TV off?"   "Do I keep watching?"  

I sent the kids outside, in the immediate aftermath...because of a quote I once heard..."you cannot unsee what you've seen".  Perhaps I'm old fashioned, but I'll let a bit of their innocence escape to be stolen a bit later in life.

Then you realize it hit a school....two schools...and you see the pictures, and you hear the newscaster say "Oh NO...No....Oh my God"...and you do the same math in your mind...Not everybody will be ok.  There are people's children...that will no be ok.

My son forgot his lunch today, and I was barely able to hold it together as I walked down the hallway of his school to his room...imagining the walls being pulled, twisted, broken, with shit flying everywhere...I had to shut off for a minute.  I made it to my car, before I started to cry.

We ask "What do we do?  To cope?  How many times does the same damn town have to get hit?" a sense of relief that it wasn't your city or town...Guilt, shame, angst, and amazement swirl around as you sit in your home, nice and safe.

You volunteer.  You give blood. You donate.  You see who you know that's affected, and help.  You move, that's what you do...numb with disappointment, grief, and serious violation of personal safety...yet spurned on by a sense of compassion, community and identity as an Oklahoman, or as most of our country today, an Oklahuman.  

Last night, before I went to bed...I watched as rescuers continued to dig through the rubble, looking for children and teachers.  I hoped...but, eventually you have to go to bed...there's another day to live tomorrow.  The practicality of life smacks you in the face, your kids have to go to school, you have to work, the world continues to turn.  It makes you want to scream "Stop for just a damn minute, World!!  Something very wrong just happened, and I'm quite ready to move on just yet!!"

As I tucked my kids in, they both told me that they no longer liked storms, and that the Joplin tornado hit in the middle of the night.  I told them that it was my job to keep them safe, and that I would be watching the weather, and that my phone beeped really loud when a warning came on....but, I was never able to shake the dad on TV, saying his daughter was still buried out there was his job too.

Frail, our grasp on life is...and control can be a serious illusion.

I don't know if the God I believe in hears tears as prayer, or if it even helped...but last night, and again today...

Who cries for the children....I do.