Saturday, March 31, 2012

Costa Rica Exit and Finding Helen of Troy

Sorry it has been a bit since I have updated the blog.  After we came back from Costa Rica, I just needed to take a break for a while.

I supposed I should finish off the story of our Costa Rican trip with the last day we were there.  We arrived back in San Jose on Tuesday afternoon and got set up in hotel.  After dropping us at the hotel Ruben headed home to deal with the family medical issue.  The actual medical issue is that one of his uncles has been ill for a while but in recent days the situation had turned much more grave and his uncle was expected to die within a short period of time.  As a result all members of the family were being called in to sit with his uncle during his last days.  So given the situation Ruben had to make the call he did to cancel out of the rest of the trip.  Given where I have been in life, I know the importance of having family around to help out in situations like that.

Last Tuesday Zack and I spent most of the day in San Jose wandering around the city.  It was a hard day for me as I was having extensive pain from my back and I didn’t have any pain pills with me.  I had made the call to leave all my pain pills at home because I was becoming concerned that my body was building up a dependency upon them.  A good friend of mine, Heather who had been on these same pills for a back problem of her own, told me that she had gone through some serious withdrawal symptoms when she stopped using them.  I wanted to avoid that situation.  In the end run my decision to leave the pills behind in the US was the right one.  Tuesday and Wednesday were absolute hell when it came to the amount of pain I was feeling, but by this weekend things had started to resolve themselves and my pain levels were way down.

On Tuesday evening we joined Ruben and several of his friends for a concert in Costa Rica’s National Theater.  The Alan Parsons Project had been in Costa Rica for several days performing shows and this was to be the highlight show as it was being performed indoors at the National Theater.  Having been in the National Theater before, I knew we would be in for quite a show!  The Theater is absolutely beautiful with lots of ornate decorations and beautiful paintings.  The acoustics of the place are also tremendous!  The band put on a top notch show.  The amount of energy and effort that they put into the music was phenomenal!  Not having listened to music from Alan Parsons since I was in my early 20’s there were a lot of songs with which I was unfamiliar.  However there were also a lot of the old time favorites from the early days of the band.  Regardless of whether they were new or old songs the show was great!  It definitely got me in the mood to think about seeing some concerts this summer under the stars at Red Rocks here in Denver.

Zack wasn’t exactly thrilled with the idea of sitting through an entire concert but once the music started he was very into it.  This was the first concert he had ever attended so it was a great experience for him.

The concert lasted until 10:00PM after which Zack and I headed back to the hotel and got some room service for a late dinner.  Shortly afterwards Zack was sound asleep.  The same could not be said of me as my mind was a mess of horrible distractions and my body was racked with pain each time I turned or tried to flip over.  No good!  In the end I slept fitfully for about 2 hours and then finally decided at 4:30AM to give up the quest for more sleep.  Instead I sat in front of the window and stared down at the San Jose Cityscape.  It seemed like it took forever for the sun to come up and the day to get started.  San Jose and Costa Rica in general is an early rising country.  Given the hours of day light seemed more skewed to the morning, most people are up and about by 6:00AM.

We packed up and headed out to meet Ruben who was coming by to take us to the airport.  He arrived promptly at 9:00AM which gave us 2 hours and 45 minutes to make our flight, which may seem like a lot but not with the lines at the San Jose airport.  We made it to the airport quickly enough and got there to find the normal lines I have experienced in every past trip to Costa Rica.  The line for check in on United Airlines as normal stretched out the door of the terminal.

The first step in the boarding process is to pay the Costa Rican airport authority fee.  Once done we waited in the long line in front of the United counter.  As we stood there waiting we heard an announcement that they were looking for a lot of volunteers to be bumped to a later flight because of a weight issue with the airplane.  For whatever reason 737-900 aircraft have a lower tolerance for difficult wind conditions and a full cargo load.  They were looking for 30 volunteers who would each get $350 in an airline credit.  Since the next flight was only an hour later and we didn’t have anything planned for the evening, we decided to take the later flight.  We also decided while we were standing there, that we are going to New York City for Thanksgiving again and we will use the airline credit to purchase those tickets.  We were happy with our decision to take the opportunity to be bumped as it made us a fair amount of money and our new flight was also on time.

One thing that I always like about the San Jose airport is the way the planes take off there.  Due to the heat and the high altitude of San Jose airplanes have a difficult time getting enough lift to talk off.  The solution to the problem is to take off at much higher speeds.  It took about 40 minutes to get the plane boarded and the luggage and cargo stowed.  When we got to the active runway, the pilot held the brakes of the airplane on and let the engines go to something near full blast.  All at once he let off the brakes and the airplane shot a head like a bullet out of a gun.  Down the runway we went, gaining increasing larger amounts of speed.  It is difficult to tell how fast the airplane was going but it was certainly much higher than the normal takeoff speed of 150 miles per hour.  After running down the runway for what seemed forever, the pilot quickly brought the front end of jet up in the air and we rotated off the surface like a military jet hitting its afterburners.  San Jose always provides for some of the most dramatic takeoffs that you get to experience.  It’s just like taking off from John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California, though Orange County requires the dramatic takeoff mechanism because of a noise ordinance. 

The flights back home were routine.  The only issue we had at all was how long it took for us to clear immigration and customs in Houston.  It took us almost 1.5 hours to get through both immigration and customs and as a result we came pretty close to missing our flight from Houston to Denver. 

On the flight to Denver, Zack did a notable good deed.  We had the middle and window seats on the right hand side of the airplane.  There was an elderly African-American gentleman sitting next to us in the aisle seat.  You could tell just by the look on his face and his demeanor, he really wasn’t all that comfortable flying.  When the flight attendants were bringing around drinks and for-purchase snacks, I got one of the snacks for Zack since we didn’t have a chance to eat in Houston.  The gentleman next to us didn’t realize that airlines no longer give out peanuts or pretzels or whatever.  When the flight attendant came around to get our drink order, Zack heard this gentleman asking the flight attendant about something to eat.  Obviously the flight attendant didn’t have anything.  So Zack opened up his snack box and asked the gentleman if he would like the package of pretzels that came with it.  He accepted Zack’s offer.  It was a very kind gesture by Zack.

We got home with no problem.  My brother came to the airport to pick us up and we were home by 9:40PM.  We stopped at my brother’s house and transferred our luggage into his Explorer and got Finn and Lex.  The pups were exceedingly happy to see us and they were thrilled to be home.

Even though our trip didn’t exactly take place the way that we had anticipated it was still a good trip.  I feel very comfortable in Costa Rica as I have now been there either 5 or 6 times.  Next trip Zack and I will head back to Costa Rica we will make sure we have back up plans in case any emergencies occur.  I really want to spend some time in the northern part of the country and see the La Arenal volcano and Pacific Coast.  We are definitely going to do that and do that soon.  Costa Rica – Zack and I will be back!

Now that our trip to Costa Rica is over I am starting to shift gears and prep for our trip to Iceland.  As of now I haven’t yet purchased our airline tickets but my plan is to do that within the next week.  What I am starting to discover as the key to our Icelandic vacation is the rental of the proper car.  Looking through the available cars I have been able to find online, the car is going to cost as much or even more than the price of the airline tickets to fly to Iceland.  Then you add on top of that the price of gasoline in Iceland and you have a very substantially priced item.  Right now I feel that the rental of the right car/jeep is the most critical part of our vacation, so I will be spending a lot of time in the next 2 weeks researching it.

Now it is time to move onto the last subjects of the day.  The first thing I guess I should note is that our trip to Costa Rica revealed to me that I am not that far out of the main stream of life.  At times I have worried with my sense of who and what I am that I have been outside of the main stream of life.  And yet when I was in Puerto Viejo and I saw all the people there who were obviously into smoking a lot of herb or drinking their days away – every single day, I realized that though my life is tough and strenuous, I do handle it better than many other people.  That is a scary thought in a lot of ways, but yet I can take some solace from the fact that my life is OK and a lot of other people who live in a tropical paradise struggle more than I do.

The absolute last subject of the day is something that I am going to call Helen of Troy.  I suppose most of you are familiar with the story of Helen of Troy.  She was a Greek princess who was “kidnapped” or seduced from her home by Paris a prince of Troy.  The say is that the beauty of “Helen of Troy” launched a thousand ships.  As a result of her kidnapping the Trojan Wars ensued which eventually ended up with the Greeks constructing their “Trojan Horse” that they used to enter Troy, and then destroyed it.  So what the hell could I possibly be writing about that has to do with Helen of Troy?  Simple – there was a Facebook profile picture taken this afternoon that can only compare to Helen of Troy.  Rarely in my life have a found a beauty that compares to the absolute beauty any man can imagine.  In my case I have a difficult time finding a woman who compares to the beauty of my late wife Patty.  It may seem disrespectful, but I know Patty would appreciate the beauty to which I am referring. 

Today a picture captured a beauty that I haven’t seen before even though I am intimately familiar with the subject.  That is pretty much about all I can say about it.  I am stunned and amazed by what my eyes have seen.  To my friend who was the subject of this picture, you probably have no idea how your image has affected so many people – but you are truly gorgeous.  And yes – I am sure I have embarrassed the hell out of you.  Sorry!

Oh well – it is time to wrap it up for the night.  I have been sitting here writing for a long time all the while sipping vodka and “Full Throttle” energy drink.  It is nearly the witching hour for Zack to go to bed and for me to put the alcohol away and reflect upon the day.

Hope everyone is having a great weekend so far.

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Emergency in Costa Rica and My Life Regrets!

Today’s update on activities from Costa Rica is actually pretty brief.  Early this morning we left Puerto Viejo and made our way back to San Jose.  Originally our trip back to San Jose was going to go another direction but unfortunately, this much long road has been closed for repairs and no traffic is getting through.  So we returned to San Jose by the way we came – route 32 from Limon to San Jose.  Once again we marveled at the rain forest and enjoyed all the scenic views along the way.

Once we returned to San Jose, Zack and I checked into our hotel and then I made several calls back to the United States to check up on things.  I had talked to Nancy very briefly yesterday only to find that she was sick, so I wanted to make sure that things were OK with her.   After my phone calls we hit the city streets to see what we could see.  We ended up running into another American and sharing some lunch with him in a small cafĂ©.

This afternoon some very bad news came our way.  During our time in Puerto Viejo, Ruben had been receiving calls from his family about a situation that going on involving a sick uncle.  This afternoon as I was sitting here in the room, I received a text message on my phone from Ruben indicating that he couldn’t continue on with Zack and me on the trip.  He could help us get to the next stop but then he needed to be in San Jose to deal with his family situation.  So basically unless I could immediately come up with a car or some other form of transportation we couldn’t go forward with the trip.  So Zack and I need to return home tomorrow.  Needless to say I am not happy.  There are many feelings running through my head and I truly understand the pressure that Ruben is under from his family as I witnessed some of the phone calls when we were in Puerto Viejo.  It’s has just added to my downright unhappy mood.  I so wish so many things in my life could be different.

Now it is time to move onto my major subject of the day.  This subject was the point of a post that I made on Facebook earlier today.  On Facebook I wrote the following: “The hurtful and not good things we do in our life out live our good deeds. We can't do bad and hurtful things to the people we care about because sometimes we never get a chance to fix them.”

I have always tried to believe in my heart that I am relatively good person, but I am starting to understand that may not be the case.  Why do I say that?  I say that because deeds of the past to which I take full responsibility continue to haunt me and drive the goodness out of my life.  Instead of the life that I want lead, my life is continually being pushed into directions that I don’t want because of my hurtful behavior. 

Perhaps I am not a good person is what it all boils down to.  It’s hard to look your self in the mirror and admit that but that is the truth.  The sins of my past continue to come and haunt me years later.  I think that is the only thing that it could mean.

So what do I specifically mean?  What I mean is that the harm that I did to Shelly in 2010 has continued to pay dividends.  The impact of my decision to go back to her again in the summer of 2011 has once again cost me to the opportunity to start a new relationship with someone who is quite important to me.  And it is all my fault.  It is my fault that the pain I caused continues to do me harm today.  It was my fault that I went back to Shelly in the summer of 2011.  It was my fault and only my fault and my actions in that moment destroyed the hope of a future today.

For me I once again feel forlorn and in the depths of depression.  I believe in the goodness of life and I want to believe that I can make good things happen in my life, but the reality is different from what I hope.  In reality life continues to chew me up and spit me out in the element of life that I consider to be one of the most important – my personal relationships.

But I guess once again I need to step back and look at the good things that I do have.  Despite his not so hot grades, I have a son who adores me and loves me.  I have a wider family that accepts me and loves me for who I am.  I have a good job that pays well and allows me to do the things with life that I want.  So despite the fact that my relationship “life” isn’t what I want it to be, life can be OK.  I just need to find the acceptance within my heart to move forward with life.

Oh well – it has been a trying day and you aren’t supposed to have trying days on vacation.  Bren – if you ever read this – all I can ever say is sorry for the choice I made.  It was forever the wrong choice and I am sorry.  Though you say I made you the second choice, it was forever the wrong choice!  You are so much better of a person!!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Costa Rica - Days 1 & 2

Our first full day in Costa Rica started relatively early as I awoke around 5:00AM and couldn’t get back to sleep.  I had made arrangements to meet up with Ruben at 8:00AM at our hotel.  So I had some time to kill before I woke up Zack and we met up Ruben.  I spent much of the next hour just looking out from the windows of our hotel room as we were perched on the eighth floor of our hotel.

It has been six years since I have been in San Jose and I will admit there is not too much of the cityscape that I can identify from here in the hotel.  After waking Zack and meeting up with Ruben we headed out to begin our trip!

Our plan for the day was to reach the small little town of Puerto Viejo which is located in the far southeastern corner of the country about 40 kilometers from the border with Panama.  Puerto Viejo is a small little beach town along a no-name highway that travels from the Port City of Limon to the Panamanian border.  Though not necessary popular with American’s due to it’s somewhat remote location and belief that there are high crime rates, Puerto Viejo has some excellent surf and most excellent beaches.

We first started with a brief tour around some of the districts of San Jose as Ruben showed us some important buildings in Costa Rican history.  He also showed us the San Jose home of the US musical star Pink.  She has a pretty fantastic home-away from home here in Costa Rica.

To reach Puerto Viejo we would travel by a Costa Rican highway through the high rugged mountains and rain forest that surround San Jose to the east and south of the city.  San Jose – the capital of Costa Rica is located roughly in the center of the country.  Driving from San Jose you can reach either the Atlantic or Pacific coasts within 3 hours.  That is kind of cool if you ask me.

The first part of our drive was absolutely amazing as we journeyed through the rain forest covered mountains.  Most of this part of our drive took us through the Braulio Carrilo National Park.  When this highway was built in the 1980’s to keep costs lower the builder of this highway tended to blast apart the sides of mountains as opposed to tunneling through them.  As a result, the road travels through these many deep cuts in the mountains.  Each one of these cuts is just covered with deep, dark, lush green trees, bushes and other kinds of plants.  To hike through the jungle at this point would be near to impossible as the plants present a solid wall of green resistance to any attempt to move through them. 

We stopped at several points along the way to look at the jungle and some of the rivers that flowed through deep gorges that we crossed on bridges.  The rivers are running low and slow as this part of the country is in the midst of its dry season.  But given the deep gorges and rock strewn channels, it is obvious that these rivers must run high and wild during the middle of the rainy season.

The road was very good with very few holes or other issues.  However road safety in Costa Rica is of a very different sort than in the United States.  In many places the road is not marked in anyway shape or form.  And by that I mean there are no lines, guide marks or indications of the edge of the road.  Our drive through the mountains was very enjoyable but at night I can imagine that it would be a very different experience without any of these guides and marks and the only light coming from your headlights or the headlights of other cars.

The entire drive through the mountains and Braulio Carrilo National Park was absolutely beautifully but eventually we began a dramatic descent out of the mountains to the flat plains below.  As soon as we left the mountains signs of civilization began to crop up almost immediately with road side stands selling food and many other items.

We stopped for breakfast at the first road side restaurant we came upon.  This is a place the Ruben stops frequently and he knew it well.  The entire structure was open air with the kitchen and food line – as it was cafeteria style being on one side of the building and the seating area on the other.  Zack and I let Ruben pick out what we were going to have as it was a traditional Costa Rican breakfast.  He picked out a heart meal of savory meats, rice and beans, cassava cakes and a bunch of things that I don’t know what they were.  Regardless of what they were it was very tasty and I like it.  Zack even asked for seconds!

After that it was back to the car to resume our journey.  Much of the remainder of drive to Limon was made up almost exclusively of banana plantations.  They were everywhere.  What surprised me is how land intensive these plantations are.  To prepare for the plantations a huge patch of jungle would be totally cleared of all vegetation.  Then the soil would be leveled and large canal ways built into the land to provide for irrigation.  Lastly the banana trees would be planted and the land would look nothing like it did before the plantation came into being.

We made one stop along the way to look at a Costa Rican version of an antique store.  It was a very well kept store with all the antique pieces being from the surrounding area and all were in extremely good condition.  Ruben had purchased some pieces there and knew the owner.

From there we made a beeline to Limon.  In Limon we made a brief stop to visit the very old cemetery there and get a snack.  At Limon we turned to the south and followed a route that ran parallel to the ocean.  Shortly after leaving Limon we saw the ocean for the first time.  It was a fantastic view as the surf was breaking hard on the rocks and there was lots of spray in the air.

As we continued south the road became more desolate and barren.  Within a few short miles we were totally on our own travelling south into what seemed to be desolation.  We stopped at a beach about 20 miles south of Limon and we were the only ones there with the exception of another couple.  It was fantastic to basically have this entire beach to ourselves as far as we could see.  It extended to both the north and south with absolutely nothing in sight other than ocean and sand.  It was truly spectacular.

By this time our minds were beginning to become interested in reaching Puerto Viejo and so we were back on the road heading south.  We passed numerous other deserted beaches, bracken estuaries and banana plantations.  The road continued south in an unbroken line.

Finally we reached Puerto Viejo around 12:30PM.  Basically there wasn’t much to reach.  Puerto Viejo is a small town without much there except for a row of cantinas along the beach and a row of hotels, cabanas and bungalow on the side of the row away from the beach.  We had reached our paradise.  It was a remarkable sight as there we about a dozen or two boats pulled up on the shore of the local fisherman and anyone who wanted to make a living with a boat.

We quickly found the place that we were staying which is called the Cabanas Casa Verde.  It is a small non-descript set of bungalow style rooms set back about 50 meters from the beach.  The rooms are clean, simple and low-key.

After we checked in we changed our clothes and were quickly back in the car.  We were headed another 25 miles further south to another small beach town that Ruben used to go to as a child.  The ride was beautiful and we passed many more open and deserted beaches.

I didn’t actually catch the name of this small town but it was actually quite busy.  There were many, many cars backed up to the beach.  There was an obvious combination of both locals and tourists all enjoying the beauty of the vast open beaches.   Getting onto the beach we began a meandering walk to a point we could see off in the far distance.  Ruben promised us that it would be worth the walk.  We walked and played in the surf as we went.  After about 30 minutes of solid walking, we finally reached this point we had seen in the distance.  It was a high point that stood out from all the other landscape.  Scaling this high point was a little difficult as the path was mud and slick but we finally did it.  Atop this point we could see for some distance in either direction.  There was a small island about 100 yards off shore on which stood one tree.  It was amazingly beautiful and had been well worth the walk.

We sat on this high point for a long time looking at the ocean and surf breaking onto the shore.  It was an absolutely fantastic sight.  After enjoying this for a long time we began the walk back during we stopped many times and went into the water and just being on the beach.  We grabbed a late lunch at a cantina near the beach and then spent another hour or so playing in the surf before heading back to Puerto Viejo. 

Once back in Puerto Viejo it was time to slow down and get a small nap and then get cleaned up.  For dinner we were heading to the restaurant owned and operated by two of Ruben’s friends Jorge and Christer.  It is called Kiko Beach and it is a pretty interesting restaurant.  Jorge and Christer have operated this restaurant for the last 3 years and it is anything but a typical cantina.  It is like a five star restaurant that is open to the elements.  On top of being pretty much totally outdoors the majority of the restaurant is made from re-cycled material that the two owners have recovered from the surf and garbage dumps around the area.  One might think that it would make for an ugly restaurant, but instead it is beautify and the food was great.  The most unusual aspect of the restaurant however were the 3 residents of the 2 large trees that grew out of the center of the floor.  These residents were 3 toed tree sloths that make a habit of climbing down from the canopy of the trees above to the lower trunks of the trees to watch the diners eat their dinners.  It was pretty amazing – especially after drinking 4 or 5 mojitos  to watch this sloth slow hang down from above.  It was a highlight of the evening.  On top of that since Ruben personally knows the owners we were definitely given VIP treatment.

After that it was back to our bungalow for some sleep!

Monday morning didn't so much as dawn as it sounded.  As the darkness began to fade we were awoken to the hoots and songs of almost every kind of bird you could imagine.  Our “hotel” has a massive courtyard that supports a very big garden.  The birds like this garden and come to it in droves in the morning.  It was a fantastic symphony to which to wake.

I had to spend the first part of the morning doing things for work and then we were off.  We headed across the street to a cantina playing loud rap-style rasta music.  There were only a few people there but the food they offered up was good and hearty.  From our seats we faced the ocean and saw several boats of fisherman heading out for the days catch.  The breeze was blowing softly and I could have then imagined spending many years in Puerto Viejo.

Our first destination on Monday morning was the Jaguar Animal Rescue Center.  This is an animal rescue center located about 2 miles south of Puerto Viejo.  It was set up by a pair of biologist from Spain who came to the area, fell in love and stayed.  Once people heard that there were a pair of biologists living there they started to bring them sick and wounded animals that they found and before you knew it a new animal rescue center was founded.  Their goal there is to return the animals to the wild so they work for years with some of the animal to get them well and back into the wild.

It was an interesting tour and we spent many hours there.  The highlights of the day were spending an hour or more playing with the howler monkeys that they have.  We actually got to go into the animal enclosure and handle the monkeys.  All of the monkeys who are there are juveniles so they are easy to handle and not aggressive.  Zack especially loved when the monkeys sat on his head. 

We also got to spend a lot of time with the facility’s tree sloths, both 2 and 3 toed.  They are remarkable animals and they are so stinking cute.

Besides the monkeys Zack’s second favorite was an orphaned baby white tailed deer.  But since the deer has gotten so accustomed to people it will probably never be released into the wild.  Zack must have spent at least 20 minutes petting and playing with this deer.

We caught a quick lunch at another cantina in Puerto Viejo and then spent pretty much the rest of the day at the beach.  We went into the water right off of the main area of Puerto Viejo and we still had most of the beach to ourselves.  Costa Rica truly can be a beachgoers paradise.

This evening for dinner we head a little ways off the main strip of cantina and journeyed to a Brazilian steak house that is located about 5 miles outside of the town in the middle of no where.  The food we had was excellent but as I sit here and type this I am stuffed to the gills as I had one of the best tasting steaks I had in a very long time.  Shortly it is going to be time to turn the light off for the night and go to bed.

One thing I wanted to remark upon about Costa Rica is the fact that this country has one of the best infrastructures of cell phone networks and Internet access I have ever seen.  Even in the middle of nowhere there are many cell phone towers.  In the past before privatization of the cellular network was run by a government monopoly.  Therefore cell phone networks were put into the country pretty much everywhere.  So even though we are near in the middle of nowhere we have excellent cell phone and Internet access.

One last point before I sign off for the night.  I am not uploading any pictures to the blog yet simply because I haven’t taken the time to try and download the pictures to my computer.  I may have some time to do that tomorrow afternoon but I am not sure.

Ok – I thought that was the last comment but I do have to add this…  One of the things that I really miss traveling on a trip like this is having a partner with me.  Ruben, Zack and I are good travel buddies but doing a trip like this with a female partner would be unbelievable.  Just wishful thinking at this point – but a point that needs to be made!

Thanks for following along on our journey!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Journey To Costa Rica

At last our spring break trip has arrived!  My writing of this blog entry is starting on board United Flight 1565 from Houston to San Jose, Costa Rica.  Surprisingly given that so many schools are on spring break this week the flight is not crammed packed with travelers.  I would estimate that the flight is only 75% – 80% full.  Based upon the ages of people on this flight there are plenty of students on board.  I guess most people are heading to Costa Rica for pleasure!

Our trip today has come off pretty much without a hitch.  As what has become my habit, my sleep pattern last night was on and off.  Zack got to bed around 10:00PM and I went to bed around 11:00PM.  Despite getting to bed at a reasonable hour, I kept waking up every hour.  This got even worse after midnight, to the point that at 5:00AM I just decided to give up on sleep and get up. 

There was still a lot of packing that I had to do, so I got busy on that.  I had planned pretty well for this trip and had all my laundry done by Wednesday evening.  When I folded the clothes on Thursday evening I had organized them into piles and just kept them piled in my room on the top of my dresser and sofa.  Packing clothes never really takes me long at all.  The tougher stuff to pack is all the other things that we take.  In our case this usually revolves around what electronics are we going to take.  Given the amount of time we are going to spend on or near the water, I make the decision to leave my best cameras and lens at home.  No use having them stolen, dropped in water or covered in sand.  Instead this trip it was all about the GoPro - I hope to get some interesting movies out of our travels - but shall see.

Once the majority of the packing was done I got to doing other tasks that needed to be done around the house for while we were gone.  At 8:30AM we took the dogs over to my brother’s house as he will be looking out for them this week.  Nancy is coming and staying at the house while we are gone so that did eliminate a bunch of other tasks for us. 

Since my brother wasn’t going on spring break with Celinde and Cole he had offered to drive us to the airport.  (He is taking classes right now for an advanced degree and his school's spring break doesn't match Cherry Creek.)  Tim showed up promptly at 9:00AM and we were off to the airport.  Once we arrived at the airport and got checked in we discovered the only hitch to the day – the lines at security.  The main lines in the center terminal seemed to be extremely crowded.  To save time we decided to use the normally much less crowded security checkpoint at the Concourse A land bridge.  I definitely got it wrong this time as the wait at that checkpoint was very long.  Oh well – it happens!

The backup at security made us have to rush to make to our flight before boarding began.  We wanted to get something to eat from the Concourse B food court and so that pushed us a little bit more.  We were flying out of gate B15 which is at the end of the concourse so we definitely scurried a little bit to make it there before boarding.  Despite our time concern we made it there in time and got a chance to eat a little bit of our food before boarding.

After that everything pretty much went on cue.  We left Denver around 11:40AM and arrived slightly a head of schedule in Houston at 2:25PM.  This gave us a bunch of time to walk around and stretch our legs, get some lunch and take care of buying some duty free things that I was bringing to my friend Ruben who is our host in Costa Rica.  The shopping list for duty free goods was pretty short.  Ruben had asked me to buy him his favorite cologne because it costs so much more in Costa Rica.  And then I took the liberty of buying a pretty good bottle of scotch for him as Ruben is a fan of scotch.  Unfortunately for that bottle of scotch I think it will have a very short life as I am certain between Ruben and myself we probably enjoy it all this week.

Our flight from Houston to San Jose took off on time.  An actual meal was served in route, which in this day and age is practically unheard of.  I guess the difference on this flight is that it is an international flight as opposed to a flight within the country.  The flight is only 3 hours long so for an international flight it is pretty darn short.

(I am finishing the blog from our hotel room in San Jose.)

In the past when I arrived in San Jose, getting processed through immigration and customs would take a significant amount of time.  However, the infrastructure to support arrivals has definitely changed and we had no wait time at all.  Our passports and immigration papers were given the once over and before you knew it we were picking up our luggage, moving through customs and then we were walking out of the airport.  Ruben was right there waiting for us and within 2 minutes we were in his car on the way out of the airport.

It was great to see Ruben and catch up with him.  I haven’t seen him since June of 2010 and a visit was way overdue.  Ruben and I have known each other for about 7 years.  We first met in Merrillville, Indiana when we were working on a project for a client there.  Ruben and his team were one of the first teams from my employer to move the Payroll function from the US to my employer’s delivery center in Costa Rica.  The work in Merrillville was extremely difficult but Ruben guided his team to a successful transition of the work.  We became close friend through the work we did and we found that we shared many of the same irreverent viewpoints on life and many other things.  Ruben is known as the king of political incorrectness due to completely hilarious musings on life and his friends.

The ride into San Jose from the airport was uneventful by Costa Rican standards.  Yes – you can take that as you will.  Costa Rica isn’t bad in terms of the overall driving situation.  It is nothing as crazy as India that is for sure but compared to the US, it certainly is a little bit less refined.  The bottom line is I don’t think the Costa Rican police force has any officers assigned to enforcing traffic laws – short of when some one is killed.

We took in some sites of the city, ate a light dinner at a very nice Italian restaurant (as it was already 10:00PM and no one was that hungry) and then Ruben dropped us at our hotel.  Zack quickly found his way to his bed and is sound asleep and I am here typing up a storm on my computer.

Tomorrow morning we will be up early and heading out of San Jose for the Caribbean Coast.  We will travel through the mountains and through the jungle until we reach the town of Limon.  This is the capital city of the Limon province and a thriving community.  We will spend a bunch of time enjoying some of the world famous beaches located there and drinking a bunch of mojitos.  It will be an excellent start to the week.  On top of just being in Limon, I am very much looking forward to the drive and seeing the beautiful Costa Rican countryside!

All-in-all I think today has been a good start to our vacation.  Over the next 2 days I do need to find some time to get a few things done for work.  As always seems to be the case a number of fairly large work issues arose on Friday right before it was time to end for the day.

Something I noticed today is that I can tell my body has gone through a lot with my broken leg and injured back.  The amount of muscle mass lost in my legs became apparent to me as we walked for large distances to get around the airports.  I had no problem doing all the walking, carrying luggage and running to make our first flight, but I noticed it was different than it was before.  At the end of vacation I will be taking some very serious action to rebuild the overall condition of my body.  Today proved to me that I can get back to full scale physical activity.  The only thing that felt really weird was my leg where the plate has been attached to my bone.  I don’t know but it was like I could actually feel the plate today as I put large amounts of pressure on that leg.  It felt weird!

Oh – one last thing to mention.  Zack and I are staying in a Holiday Inn tonight.  What is really funny about it being a Holiday Inn – is that it is a 5 star hotel.  Not crapping you – this place is beautiful and the rooms are great.  It’s such a far cry better than the Holiday Inns we have back in the US.

Well that does it for this evening.  I am hoping to blog my way across Costa Rica throughout this week.  But that will truly depend upon the Internet access available in the several different towns we are going to be staying in and my ability to give myself some time to write every day.  Umm… I think that latter challenge is going to be harder as once we get doing something fun, it might take away my ability to concentrate on spending time writing.  Oh well – I'll just have to wait and see.

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

In A Box

Sometimes there are no words to really describe where I am.  This morning is one of those days.  Sleep did not come easily last night and it did not last long.  And now my entire world seems wrapped in anxiety.  Though I can normally apply the face paint that makes me look normal and happy, there is a tide of anxiety roiling around inside my head and heart that is debilitating. The anxiety stops me cold in my tracks in my ability to do anything or it leaves me doing things that drive others away.

I feel as though the anxiety is closing in from all sides and there is no where to run.  I am boxed in and can't escape the trap of my own mind and my own worries.  So I lay wake all night in the dark and I think of my worries and horror stories.  What are my horror stories - pretty simple, my horror stories are the life that I live - being alone and trying to make my way through this world.  I am so tired of being alone.  I am so tired of the constant hours of silence ringing in my ears.  There are times in which I long for some kind of accident or medical emergency to take me so that I can be in a coma and just sleep through it all until it is my time to go.

But despite it all I have to go on.  I have to raise this young man of mine to be some one who is good, caring and driven.  I have to try each morning to forget about the sleepless night and put the face paint of normalcy on so that I can function in the "real world".  Yet what is my real world?  Most of is defined by the walls of 8642 E. Otero Place.  As time goes by I don't want to leave this little world of mine.  I am becoming like one of those characters in the movies who doesn't ever leave their home.  For example, I should be looking forward to next week with joy and happiness, instead it is producing anxiety and trepidation in my heart.

To make all of this worse, I have absolutely no one to talk to about all of it.  The one person who I might be able to talk to about all this I keep driving away because my anxiety makes me so needy.  I don't know if everyone understands chronic anxiety and how it makes you want to grasp and hold onto security.  You want that reassurance that things are OK.   I need to add a very specific message - Brenda, I hope I haven't driven you away.  I think you are one of the few people who can understand where I am.  I think you are stronger than me because you faced the same situation with a lot more grace and dignity than I have ever faced it.  I am sorry for being such a pain in the ass.

So for now I am in a box.  A box that has been made in my mind.  I feel desperate and utterly isolated.  There seems to be absolutely no way out.  All the medications, short of the ones that knock you out are useless to me.  They don't do any good to still the anxiety that cause my heart to beat so loudly and quickly.

Right now I don't have any answers to the questions I have posed.  My mechanisms for currently dealing with the pain and agony - medication and alcohol are not effective. I haven't a clue as to what I am going to do in the long run.

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


There is the old saying that being a parent is the toughest job in the world.  Tonight I couldn't agree more.  I have been tested and tested again by my son!  It is not that he has done anything specifically bad that got him into serious trouble.  Instead it is just his stubbornness and unwillingness to agree or do anything that is told of him.  For Zack to do something that is expected of him he must fully understand and agree with it.  When he doesn't understand or agree with what he is being told he questions and negotiates.  Tonight he pushed me too far with his questions and his desire to negotiate.  I lost it!

When I lose it with him I am sure you can hear my voice for miles.  I don't do anything like spank him or hit him - as I don't ever do physical violence.  Instead I just yell, scream and implement consequences.  Tonight's disagreement centered around a subject that has been sore point with him for ages.  I refuse to allow him to take his hand held video games system, the Nintendo 3DS to school with him.  His whole argument is that the school bus ride is SO long that he gets bored and he needs his game system to prevent himself from getting bored.  He also makes the argument that all the other kids do it.  My response to him is that he is not all the other kids, he is my kid and he will do what his father tells him.

He decided to argue about this as he was going to bed this evening.  After a long day in which I did lots of things for him, I just could not stand to hear him try and weasel his way into taking his game system to school.  I exploded like a freaking atomic bomb.  And despite my first outburst he kept on pushing his case and that is when I really lost it.  As a result he has many consequences coming to him in the next several days.  The least of which is his loss of video games and TV for the remaining days of this week.  Needless to say that did go over well with him.  To which my reply was, TOUGH CRAP ZACK!  I am starting to shake again as I re-tell and write down this story.

I get so upset about this particular situation because we have discussed it at least several hundred times in the last 2 years.  My feeling is I don't even have to explain my motivation on this one to him.  However given you are my audience I am sure you would like to understand my thinking.  My whole motivation behind this is that if he takes his Nintendo 3DS to school there is a good chance that he is going to take it out of his backpack during the day and attempt to play it during school hours.  Zack is not a kid who has a lot of self control when it comes to video games.  So I am certain if he took his 3DS to school he would be playing during school hours and I just don't even want that temptation to be there for him.

OK - I need to take a deep breathe and calm down as I feel that my head is going to explode!  I think what makes everything so absolutely hard is that I am doing all of this on my own.  There is no back up to me and I have to raise this young man on my own.  On top of that I feel so incredible isolated.  I don't know how to get around this anymore but I really do feel like it is me against the world.  There seems to be no back up - no help.  I am in this game all alone and it just stinks at times.

This has been a truly whiny post.  I had been planning on writing an exciting post about our upcoming trip to Costa Rica, but instead I wrote this.  Gees - how absolutely pathetic is that!  Sometimes I really just do not know if I am coming or going as my head seems to be spinning half the time.

On a positive note regarding Zack, he had a psychiatrist appointment this afternoon and he got a lot of positive comments from her.  She was absolutely amazed in how different he appeared from the last time he saw her in early January.  She thought he wasn't even the same kid.  That is very good thing, however I just wish there was a pill that could drive the stubbornness out of him!

Oh well - time to try and get myself to calm down so I can actually sleep tonight.

On a really good note - the situation with my back continues to move forward - Yay!  It still hurts when I wake up but after getting something to eat and taking a few Advil, the pain totally disappeared for most of the day.  My back is healing and it will be better.  I can't wait until I can get back to the gym or get on my bike but that won't be until I return from Costa Rica.  

As always - Thanks for reading my ramblings!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sometimes Life Seems Like A Herculean Task - But then again there is clean bedding!

In the Greek mythology there are a set of stories that involve the "Labors of Hercules".  The "Labors of Hercules" are piece of the bigger drama of the Greek Gods involvement with humans.  The main story plot to the "Labors of Hercules" is that Hercules in a fit of rage killed all of his children.  To atone for his deed, the Oracle of Delphi advised him to serve King Eurystheus for twelve years.  In doing so he was put to twelve different tasks by the king.  Of course all these tasks were virtually impossible and only Hercules could accomplish them.  Because they were so difficult these tasks were called Herculean tasks.  So what is my point in the Greek Myth legend today.  My point is simple - I feel like my f'ing life is a Herculean task!

(One of Hercules Tasks - Killing the Multi-Headed Hydra)

That is the problem with how things are right now.  My day-to-day life seems to swing back and forth between normalcy and Herculean tasks.  Whereas yesterday seemed bright and sunny today has been stormy and difficult.  Why the difference?  I really don't know.  There is a lot that I could go into but, to be honest my mind does not have the ability these evening to write a blog entry like I wrote last night.  So I will keep it low key for the night.

So I will sigh my argh for the night and get to the more important part of today's blog.  Clean laundry.  Yes - clean laundry.  The great thing about working from home is that you can get small little tasks like washing your laundry done during the day.  What was special about today's laundry day was that I did every ounce of my bedding.  Now I don't just mean my sheets as I usually put clean sheets on my bed at least once a week.  No - I did everything today.  The comforter, the mattress pad and the fabric thingy that goes around the bottom of the bed - I guess it is called the bed skirt.

As I type tonight I am stilling on my freshly cleaned comforter which smells of wonderful scents from the washing detergent and fabric softener.  Because my dogs sleep on this comforter every night it gets a special treatment before it goes in the wash.  I take a fabric roll thing that catches dog hair and lint and I got over the whole comforter as it tends to collect Finnegan hair like there is no tomorrow.  So even before it goes in the wash most of the dog hair has been removed.  Then I usually wash it twice and dry it twice just to get all the dog hair off it entirely.

It feels wonderful to lie here on top of these clean sheets and clean comforter.  It feels good to have my pups here beside me, but I must admit I would much, much rather have a certain female in bed her with me as opposed to the dogs.  Oh well.... At least I had a wonderful good night conversation with a certain said female.

On top of doing all my bedding I also went to my kitchen designer shop and signed the contract today.  Gulp - because in addition to the contract I also provided them with a check for $25,000.  Next to buying houses and cars that is probably one of the largest checks I have every written in my life.  It is well worth it though as my kitchen is going to be gorgeous.  This house is either going to be so livable if we decide to stay or so salable if we decide to sell and move somewhere else.  Demolition of the existing space will probably start in about 4 weeks.  Needless to say I am quite excited by the prospect.

I don't think there is much else to say for the evening.  Just a note from yesterday, I filled up the gas tank on the Explorer and it cost me almost $70.00.  Gas prices here in Colorado are finally starting to catch up to the National Average I guess.

That's about if for the evening.

Thanks and peace to all! ~ J.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Reading Between the Lines

It was a successful St. Patrick's Day as the day has ended and I was alive, I didn't get arrested or a get a DUI (not that I drove drunk, cause I didn't), I didn't drink so much that I puked or got sick and in general I didn't make an ass out of myself despite the quantity of liquor I consumed.  To me when St. Patrick's Day falls on a Saturday all those accomplishments are indications of a successful and fun day.

Today is now Sunday and to be honest I am not hungover or sick from drinking too much green beer or margaritas. My back and right leg are hurting like a son of a bitch.  I am trying to keep my neurosurgeon's words in mind.  His view is to look at things on a week to week basis and not on a day-to-day basis.  If I were looking at things on a day-to-day basis I would be very unhappy as the pain in my back and leg is about 10 times what it was yesterday.  My pain is what it is, so time to shut up about it and get on with the day.

What I have to write next is not easy and I really don't know how to write it.  It's something that I have struggled with for the last 4 years.  So I am just going to try and write it the best as I can and see how it comes out.

Ever since Patty got sick in 2006 I have been searching for a sense of normalcy.  Between March 8, 2006 and March 10, 2006 everything that had been the foundation of my life was changed.  Patty got sick with something (we didn't know what at that point) and the way we lived life changed literally overnight.  Everything that had been normal was literally swept away with one call from the doctor.  I remember so much of it so vividly.  The evening of March 9th I could sleep in bed with Patty and then the evening of March 10th once we knew her platelet count was so low - I never had the opportunity to sleep in the same bed with her again.  I took to sleeping on the couch as that way I wouldn't accidentally bump her in my sleep and cause her to have a massive bleeding problem.  I guess it was on that night my search for normalcy began.

For much of the time while Patty was in the hospital, I managed to hold onto normalcy by building a new sense of what was normal around her being in the hospital and achieving emotional sustenance from taking care of her.  But once she reached the point that she was incapable of communicating very well with me, I was grasping at straws.  I was alone in the midst of hell with no one to provide to me the emotional validation that I required.  I needed someone to provide me with some kind of comfort - some kind of reassurance that life would be OK and good again.  At that point I started to spin out of control.  From the outside I looked like I had it together as much as I ever had it together but I was going places emotionally and physically that I should have never even entertained.

The sad thing about all this is I wasn't even aware of what I was doing.  I was in survival mode.  I just needed to survive to the next day so that I could take care of Zack, Patty and Nancy.  At the same time I needed to maintain my job, take care of the house, see to our dogs and just keep shit together.  I had some support, but I didn't have the support that I really needed - which was the support of some one to say "how the hell is it going for you".  So yes - I kept going to my bad places with alcohol and a bad personal relationship.

After Patty's death I stayed in the same place.  I thought I had a plan.  I thought I was through the grief of Patty's death.  How wrong was I.  So slowly through life I meandered.  Everything from the outside looked great.  But on the inside it wasn't great and it was getting worse.  Then along came Shelly.  Ahhhh!!  She seemed to be everything for which I had hungered.  She seemed to bring back that sense of normalcy of the day-to-day life I had with Patty.  But within 3 months I found that normalcy with Shelly came at a price.  It was a very heavy price.  To have Shelly I had to surrender almost all control of everything to her.  The pace of our relationship, how we would live, how Zack would dress - she wanted to control pretty much everything.  It wasn't a good place to be.  But yet I continuously gave in to her.  Did I feel ready to get engaged - not really, but Shelly had a need to be engaged as her father was dying.  We had no common place in our relationship but Shelly was on a timeline and I gave in.

In the end I totally avoided all the red warning flags that I should have seen.  I gave everything in to her.  Why - because I wanted the dream of a family and a good life together again.  Jerry - you stupid, stupid, ass.  And then when she broke up with me in the spring of 2011, I had the opportunity to break free as the sweetest, most compassionate, most beautiful woman had been under my nose for months.  In the spring of 2011 I took the time to start growing a relationship with someone who really was good, who really understood that sense of normalcy of a family and been down the path in life that I had been down - her husband had died.  On top of all these assets she is strong as can be and has the determination and fortitude to be a marathon runner.

Then like an ass I responded to a text from Shelly.  The text wasn't sent out of concern for me, I believe it was sent to fulfill her own needs.  And then I was drawn back in again.  And what did I do - I walked away from this wonderful woman- B - with whom I was starting a relationship.  Dear god what was I thinking?  To go from the transcendental beauty of B's soul that was filled with compassion and understanding and go back to demands, a lack of compassion and little understanding of how to work in a long term relationship.  I was caught in a nightmare that was supposed to be a dream.  But my emotions craved for the "instantaneous" sense of family that I thought I would build with Shelly. My mind knew what I should do, but my emotions wanted to be sucked back in.  I was addicted I guess and couldn't that I was in a horrible position with Shelly.

In the short time from mid-August to late October, the dream once again turned into a nightmare, but I kept coming back. Despite all of the attributes that Shelly exhibited that were unpleasant, I still always saw goodness in her that made it almost impossible to leave.  It finally ended when things just got out of control and the venom aimed at me was just too much to bear.  It did not end well and we will never speak again.

But in the aftermath of going back to Shelly I left B alone.  I hurt her badly.  During one of the frequent times that Shelly stormed away from me B and I had a dinner together and talked.  She didn't paint any allusions for me.  She had moved on, she was dating someone else.  At the end of dinner, I walked her to her car and hugged her.  We held onto each other for a very long time.  I buried my face in her hair and drank in the wonderful smell that was her.  I locked it in my memory as B had been so very good to me and I never wanted to forget her.  And then she drove away.

Two more months passed after that final dinner with B and finally the relationship with Shelly came to an abrupt end.  I hung on to the dream of normalcy with her even after the fact - you all have read the story here.  I waited a month or so and then I dated another woman for a bit.  We had fun but we just were never made for each other - so we pleasantly parted company.

Along the way I got up the courage to send B an e-mail..  B was amazing because even after all that I did she didn't de-friend me on Facebook.  We stayed in as much contact as just being causal friends on Facebook allows you to be in contact.  B did respond to my message and eventually we exchanged text messages and then phone calls.  Finally we met again in person and it seemed that all the connection we had before was still there.  Except there was a giant wound in front us and 6 months of living different lives.  Those two things don't make for an easy reconciliation.  But at least I was single and so was she.

What we do have is a sense of commonality that I have never shared with anyone since Patty died and we both understand that feeling of normalcy that comes from having a partner in your life day-after-day.  B lost her spouse a number of years ago and has raised her kids totally on her own since then.  She has a remarkable sense of self-determination and integrity.  There isn't any romance between us at this point and there may never be romance again, but there is still a tremendous amount of romantic chemistry and feeling - so we will see where it goes.  But we talk, we hang out, we go out - somehow I am optimistic because what we feel for each is based upon an understanding of where we have been - not demands for the future that one person wants.  I can only hope that things with B will grow and develop as time goes on. Only time will tell.

This blog was a long time in the writing and a long time in me mentally challenging myself to figure it out.  I don't know where things will end up with my life but no matter what I want to get to a point where I am consistently happy and content with my life.  I am not quite there yet, but I have been on my own for many months and overall each day has it's ups and downs but the general trend seems to be going upward - I hope I can continue it.

Many of you might read this for the "soap" opera quality of my life.  The bottom line is I have made a lot of mistakes and screwed a lot of things up.  I will do things right.  I won't mess stuff up again because I can't continue to live like that.  I want my life to be free of drama, and I want to be happy and content.  On top of that I want to be able to deliver those same things to my partner.  I want her to be the happiness person in the world because I am a good partner to her.  And yes - I do hope that person who is my partner is B.  I've known her for 1 1/2 years and she continues to amaze me.  Stay tuned as I am sure I will write much more about this all of this in the future.

For all of you who don't live in the Denver area I suppose I should make a note of our weather.  For the last 5 days we have had beautiful weather with temperatures in the 60's and 70's.  Today things are changing and the wind has been howling all day.  As I sit here and type there are some horrific gusts hitting us.  Given the way the trees are moving and the loud howling, I am willing to bet that some of these wind gusts are between 40 and 50 miles per hour.  It's pretty darn amazing.  I hope all of you are experiencing good weather where every you are.

I hope everyone had a great weekend!

Thanks for reading! ~J.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Ides of March

Today is the March 15th or more famously known as the Ides of March.  Given I took 4 years of Latin in high school, the Ides of March and the events that happened on that day in the year 44BC was something that I heavily studied.  Despite the fact that I studied it quite intensely in high school, I forgot a lot of it.  So to refresh my memory I did a quick read of Wikipedia concerning the Ides of March.  So in case anyone is interested, here's the scoop!

The Ides of March is a phrase that we all seem to become acquainted with during high school literature classes when William Shakespeare is studied.  Shakespeare famously used the line "Beware the Ides of March" in his play "Julius Caesar".  Of course the play is fiction but it is based upon historical fact.  In reality Julius Caesar, the first emperor of Rome was assassinated on the Ides of March in the year 44BC.  The "Ides" was a name the Romans applied to the mid-point of the month, so in the case of March, it was March 15th.

Wikipedia describes the etymology of the word Ides and particularly the Ides of March as the following: "The word Ides comes from the Latin word "Idus" and means "half division" especially in relation to a month. It is a word that was used widely in the Roman calendar indicating the approximate day that was the middle of the month. The term ides was used for the 15th day of the months of March, May, July, and October, and the 13th day of the other months.[1] The Ides of March was a festive day dedicated to the god Mars and a military parade was usually held."

When he was assassinated Caesar was famously reported to have said "Et tu Brute" (in English "And you Brutus") in reference to one of his closest friends Marcus Junius Brutus.  Well, I should be honest and say I don't know if that was a reported historical fact or if it was a line popularized by Shakespeare from this play.

 (The assassination of Caesar has been a popular topic of painters.  These are just a few of the many paintings that have been made on the topic.)

Brutus was one of the ringleaders of the plot against Caesar.  After the assassination of Caesar, things did not turn out too well for Brutus.  Once Caesar's adopted son Octavian become a leader in Rome, he kind of had it in for Brutus.  As was common in Roman times, everybody got their armies and did what men with armies tend to do - kill each other.  Brutus came out the loser in a series of battles and on October 23, 42BC, he did what guys back then did when they lost battles - he killed himself rather than surrender to Octavian.

What makes the Ides of March a slightly more interesting story is that Caesar was supposedly warned by a fortune teller to "Beware the Ides of March".  He didn't take to much stock in what the fortune teller told him and he ended up paying the price.  Had I been Caesar I think I would have slept in that day!

Just a little diversion from my typical stories of all the crap going on in my life.  Speaking of which.....  I had an appointment with my surgeon today.  The appointment turned out to be with his nurse practitioner, but it was a good appointment.  The pain levels I have been experiencing in the last several days have gone down dramatically since they prescribed the steroids.  Needless to say, my whole outlook on life is a tab bit different now that my pain levels are going down.  I cannot tell you how absolutely happy I am going to be when I don't have any pain and I don't have to take any pain pills, muscle relaxants and steroids.  It will be a great day!

This blog has now reached a milestone!  As of today's published entry, I have now published 500 different blog entries.  Very few personal blogs reach this number of entries.  I guess I am kind of proud of myself for having the tenacity to continue to publish this thing.  On top of that my subscriber base continues to grow.  There are now over 100 subscribers through blogger, another 40 or so through Feedblitz e-mail and almost 10 through Facebook's Network blog feature.  Yay!  I think I will have to go out and celebrate this weekend.

I look forward to when I will be able to announce that I have published 1000 blog entries.  Hopefully the next 500 are going to be full of a lot of happiness, adventure and good tidings.  With the appointment today about my back, you can be darn sure that you will again be reading of hikes and other outdoor adventures.

I think that is about it for the evening.  It is getting late and I am getting sleepy.  I hope so much you all have had good days and that the Ides of March have brought good things to you!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Sharing A Smile - A Story from Hospice

This is going to be a very quick post with something that happened last night.

Every other Wednesday evening I volunteer at a hospice that is associated with one of the local hospital systems here in Denver.  It is the same hospice in which my Mom died in 1999.  She died here in Denver because at the time that was the only "center of gravity" of the family.  That is - it was the only place in which more than one of us lived.  She was here as we thought we could support her better then if she were back in Pennsylvania.  Additionally, with my sister-in-law being a doctor we figured she could get additional treatment that she couldn't get back in Pennsylvania.

I digress and I wanted to get this story posted before I start work for the day.  It has been several weeks since I was last at hospice because on my previously scheduled night it was the day that I had my back surgery.  So except for 2 remarkable patients who have been there for several months I didn't know any of the patients.  The place was almost full when I walked in the door for my evening shift as there were only 2 open beds and while I was there a new patient was admitted.  Given how full the place was, myself and Phil, the other volunteer on duty spent pretty much the whole evening running from one task to another.

At one point Barbara, one of the CNA's (Certified Nursing Assistant) on duty asked me to look in on a patient in room 6 because the patient needed something.  I had walked by this room several times and I was pretty sure that room's occupant wasn't going to be with us for too long.  She had that look about her that was withdrawn and detached from the present.  After seeing many people in their final days/hours you begin to recognize some of the signs.

I got into the room and the patient was awake but she was at a point where she could hardly talk.  She has a type of cancer that is affecting her breathing and her ability to talk.  I had to get really close to her face to understand that she was asking for water as her voice was nothing more than a scratchy whisper.  I felt relieved as it was something I could actually get for her.  As volunteers we are only allowed to do so much.  We can't help patients with medicine nor are we supposed help patients who are on "fall watch" get out of bed and walk.  I scurried off to the kitchen and got her a glass of water filled with ice.  The glasses that are used at the hospice are special as they are these plastic mugs with built in straws.  That makes it easier for the patients to drink with out spilling any water on themselves.

I hurried back to the patient's room and gave her the mug filled with water and ice.  And I thought my work was done there.  However she just looked at it with this look on her face that she either didn't know what to do with it or couldn't do anything with it.  She looked as if she were ready to cry.  I stood there talking to her, trying to figure out what she needed.  She wasn't able to reply.  I did some song and dance, said I would be right back and went to the next room where Barbara was working.  Barbara had been calling for me to come to help her slide a patient up in bed.  (Granted I shouldn't have been helping Barbara move patients up in bed.  But it is something I have always done as I am always the youngest and strongest volunteer there.  I was not going to let my recovering back preventing me from helping out.  And no matter what I was going to help Barbara as she is a tireless worker and busts her ass to help the sick and dying day-in and day-out.  Though I have known her for almost a year, she thinks my name is Jessie instead of Jerry.  I don't bother correcting her as I think it kind of funny.  Makes me feel like Jessie James - the outlaw not the motorcycle idiot.)  As I helped Barbara move this patient up in bed I explained to her the situation in the other room.  She told me that the patient wasn't able to drink well because of her disease and to get water in to her you had to get her toothbrush, dip it in the water and then let her suck the water off the toothbrush.  OK - problem solved!

As soon as I was done helping Barbara I went back to "my" patient.  I told her "Hey I know what to do to help".  She got somewhat of a smile on her face as she could clearly understand what I was saying.  I got her toothbrush from her bathroom and started to do what Barbara had recommended.  You could tell from the patient's expression how good it felt to have the cool water in her mouth.  I kept doing this for while but some of the water started to spill out of her mouth and I was dripping some on her as I made the transition from the cup to her mouth with the toothbrush.  Getting a towel from the bathroom I used it to gently clean up her face and chest from where the water had spilled.

At this point the patient tried communicating with me again.  After a bit I figured she was asking me for a much smaller cup so that she could try and actually drink some of the water instead of this whole toothbrush method.  Off I went to the kitchen to find a smaller cup.  Returning to her room I wasn't really sure if she would be able to drink or not.  I gave the cup to her and asked her if she needed help to hold the cup up and drink.  After a few seconds she was able to communicate that she wanted my help.

I lifted the cup to her lips to let her drink.  It was a slow process but the expression on her face with each very small swallow of water she took was priceless.  She wasn't able to drink a lot but as this process went on of me lifting the cup to her lips, her drinking and then me figuring out when to take the cup away to let her swallow, we started to make a game of it.  I can't really explain the feeling that came over me as we played this little game of guessing how much water she wanted.  The best part of it was that she smiled.  We didn't know each other from the man on the moon, but yet in the horrible, dire time in her life a simple little game exchanged between us was able to make her smile.  With that smile I knew if I did nothing else while I was there that evening or even if I did nothing else for the rest of the week I would feel good about what I accomplished for this entire week.

I don't write to this pat myself on my back or anything like that.  I wrote this simply because it is such a story of the basic needs of every person.  During my shift last night that patient had no visitors so her only contact was with me, the other volunteer and the nursing staff.  Otherwise she was alone in that room contemplating that this was the end for her.  She will never leave that room alive.  But despite that, a small amount of company could make her smile.  I didn't even notice her name but she made a profound impact on me by the grace and humanity she exhibited during our short time together.  When I go back to the hospice for my next shift I am pretty darn sure she will no longer be there.  But she's always going to be remembered in my heart and head for that smile she gave me.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thursday.

Thanks and peace to all! ~ J.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Is it time to give up???..... NO!

So another work week has dawned large in front of me.  The work week for me actually started late Sunday night when I had a call with one of my company's delivery team leaders in Dalian, China.  I cannot deny I truly hate working with company personnel based in China.  I have nothing personally against them or the country, except for the fact that it's work day falls almost exclusively within the zone of sleep for my time zone.  That really sucks because I always try to be the person who sucks up the time zone differential.  I figure as an executive within my company I need to demonstrate the leadership skills that are needed to motivate others within the company.  So if the difference comes down to me being awake at some god awful hour of the day as opposed to those who really do and deliver the work, I would rather take the hit to my sleep.  In some ways it doesn't really matter as my sleeping hours seem to be totally out of whack these days anyway.

The title of today's post is meant to refer to my ongoing issues with the L4/L5 joint in my back.  I am now 10+ days post surgery and as I sit here attempting to type, my entire body is wracked with pain.  I have never experienced this kind of ongoing permanent pain that I currently feel.  I did feel OK for the first 2 - 3 days after the last surgery, but since then the pain has come roaring back into my body.  Now there is nothing that seems to make it go away short of falling into a deep state of sleep.  I am really wondering what my next step is to correct this problem. 

I guess the answer to that question isn't going to come until I have another appointment with my surgeon.  That appointment is scheduled for this Thursday.  Though at times there is a deep depression in my heart about all of this pain, I have never been more determined to overcome something.  I am not going to let this pain put me in a place where I can't do the things I want.  It's going to take a while I am sure, but I am coming back from this injury stronger, faster and with more endurance than I had before this injury.  I will not be kept down and I will not live in pain.  This problem IS going to go away!  (The next step turns out to be taking massive doses of steroids.  This morning - Tuesday - I started on a prescription pack of 88mg of Prednisone.  We'll see how it goes maybe this quantity of steroids will calm down all the nerves that are causing the pain - who knows.)

OK - Enough about the back issue!  I don't want that stupid thing to consume my life and I have to be the one to stop it.  So enough is enough.

(Once again this blog entry has been written across 2 days as I started it on Monday and I am finishing it on Tuesday.)

I got one of the best e-mails from school about Zack that I have ever received.  Zack is definitely a little bit on the difficult side to work with.  Though he is my son and I love him more than anything he definitely adds stress to my life.  So when I receive and e-mail like this from one of the para-educators who works with him, I am happy as can be.  Here's the content of the e-mail I received.

"In all honesty, Zack's behavior has gotten to be much like that of any other seventh grade boy. Most of the fear mongering is gone (still a little here and there)  and now it is just dealing with the laziness that you referred to and a great deal of negotiating that he is attempting to participate in.

I did want to share with you something great that Zack started doing Friday. He has started taking his binders into social studies early so that he will not be late to class anymore. I honestly can't remember if this is something he and I discussed earlier in the year or if this is just something of his own initiative, but I did want to share with you the fact that he is stepping up with regards to being in social studies prepared and on time.

Sometimes I forget how much growth he's shown over the course of the year until I sit down and think about it."

It made me very happy to read that e-mail.  Of all the legacies that we create while we are here on earth our children are the most important.  To see that Zack is 'finally' starting to get it makes me so happy.  Perhaps, maybe just - I am not 100% failing at this parenting thing.

On another note - it has now been four months since Nancy has moved to Cranbrook.  There are a number of different observations about the changes in my since then.

1 - Nancy in some ways actually seems to enjoy the place.  She will never admit to it.  (She never reads my blog so I can say all this.)  Each day she will say how much she hates the place and then she will go on for 20 - 30 minutes giving me the run down of everything that is happening there.  She knows every one and everyone knows her.
2 - For us here at home it seems strangely quiet with only the 2 of us here.  So I either need to sell this place and get a small place or I have to find someone else to live here with us.  The silence I experience day-in and day-out as I sit here and work is deafening and I hate it.  Something I never realized about myself is that I hate being alone all the time.  When I was a kid I liked it - now I hate it.
3 - Despite her concerns Nancy is doing financial OK even though she is spending money to live in the Cranbrook.
4 - The outcome of all these changes have been weird to me.  The changes have been made all the worse by the fact that I have been laid up with this back issue.  The whole back thing has been such a downer on my whole life.  I feel a bit lost and out of my element as nothing seems normal to me.  I guess I just have to give it more time.  I also feel that broadening my social life and getting more people into the house as visitors will help.
5 - Zack has seemed pretty unaffected by the change.  He really has complained about it.  Additionally, when I go out on some evenings he is getting used to being home alone.  I don't do that too much, but it is good that he knows he can do OK being home alone. 

I think that will be it for tonight.  I have several other subjects to write upon but I will save them for another day.  Thanks for being my readers and I hope you enjoy my blog!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.