Monday, January 9, 2017

Alive Day: Version 10

It’s been 10 years. 

Our memories are always defined in increments of some kind. We have high school and college reunions on the 5 year, 10 year, 25 year dates and so on. We do the same for tragedy. The first year then on to 5, 10 and so on.  Well this is my 10 year mark since my heart attack.

On January 10, 2007 I died. I was brought back but a part of me never came back. It is really hard to describe as you really need to have something like your life being in legit jeopardy to realize what I am talking about. I have a few friends who understand what I am talking about.

This one is special to me because I made it to 10 years.  The day I left the ICU there was a crabby nurse there who just came on shift and I guess she wanted to be the “tough love” nurse.  She told me that I would probably be back in 3 years. Definitely in 5 and probably dead in 7 to 10. I did not go back in 3 or 5.  I did not die in 7 and here I am at 10. 

One truth is that a part of me did die within the past 10 years. It was the good part. I know I am blessed that I did not die on this day 10 years ago but the impact that day had on my life has been defining.  I learned so much about myself and a lot of it was not good. Before the heart attack I was a person who already dealt with enough harshness that this life could bring to last several lifetimes. That day 10 years ago was to bring about a change where one realizes that life was worth living. At first it felt that way. I had a new appreciation for life but after time, I lost a major part of me.

I lost hope of life.

I did not notice it at first but my life plans went from long term to short term.  I am not talking about that “live for today because tomorrow is not guaranteed” crap.  I am talking about that part of you where you see the value in yourself and the value in a long time future or love, life and happiness. The loss of self-worth that my upbringing engrained into me added to a possible life cut short really impacted me is such a profoundly negative way. I lost the part of me that is important to everyone who wants the best in life.  I mean why should I invest in me when my life was going to get cut short anyway? Why should I care?

There have been good moments that I will get to (I promise) but there are so many bad ones the past 10 years. 

One of the biggest issues I have is that I self-destruct.  I owned this mentality that I was not worth much anymore because I was now tainted.  Why should anyone like me or even love me? Why should anyone care?  When you thing that way, you often destroy the good things.  I did my share of destruction. Laying in that hospital bed was the pinnacle of this. Just die and end it already. You are not worth crap anymore Richard and no one will miss you a day past your memorial service.  Do everyone a solid and just slip away. You don’t matter. You don’t have anyone.  You can just die and be a “oh I think I remember that guy” memory.  Was that wrong to think? At the time, no. 

Trying to move past that is still a daily battle for me.  Trying to figure out if I have value to anyone is a struggle.  I should know, and not have to hope for that.  It’s the vicious cycle that has been hard to break free from. It has caused me to miss so much within the past several years.

There have been 2 major significant moments the last 10 years for me.

One was the death of my stepfather here in my home.  He was fighting the onset of cancer and was getting weaker and weaker. One day I was in my room and Max was watching TV with my stepfather and Gene slipped off the chair onto the floor.  Max was like 4 or 5 at the time so he did not know what to do.  He went and told my mom and she and my aunt Nora went to check on Gene.  Next thing I know my cousins are beating on my door telling me that Gene was not breathing.  I ran in there and saw my mom and aunt crying over him so I started CPR while my sister called 911.  The fire and ambulance guys were here in minutes and they took over.  They took him to the hospital but he could not be revived.  Gene died. I called my aunt and asked her to bring Max to the hospital.  I went to get him then took him outside and tried to explain to him that Gene died and what that meant.  I know he kind of knew what I was talking about but he was so young.  I felt like I failed him.  He saw me doing CPR but it did not work. I sat in that ER room with Gene and cried. Real crying.  Then it stopped because I needed to handle the business of getting the funeral home on the phone and starting that process. My heart went cold that day.

The other moment was the death of my friend Jason Stone.  A few years before my heart attack I lost everything.  I mean everything. No job, no money, car out for repo, everything I owed in the back of my SUV. I slept in it many a night. At times I would steal food. Steal gas. It was not a good moment for me. I told Jason what was going on and the only thing he said was “bring your stuff, you can stay here.”  Once that happened, everything turned around for me. When I had my heart attack I was in ICU and it was late at night.  I was pumped full of blood thinners and bleeding out of everywhere.  My nose was non-stop bleeding. I was flat on my back so I was spitting up blood all over myself. My good nurse had left and the replacement was not around.  Well here comes Jason.  He looked at me and walked right out. A few moment later a nurse was in there with towels and a new gown and got me cleaned up.  Jason was an intense don’t mess with me kind of guy that you did not want to meet if he was angry.  When he saw me, he was angry. After that there was someone checking on me often.  That was my friend. He fixed things that were broken.  Some of those times it was me that was broken.  Jason was killed a few years ago in a car accident.  My stupid ego messed up our friendship and we were not hanging out like we use to.  I put off fixing that then it was too late.  I regret that daily.

But this story is not all whiny dribble.  Although things have been ugly at times, there have been good things too.  

There have been people that have come into my life and have shown me a better path. Even when they did not know it. I cannot write about these last 10 years without mentioning a few. Although I have tons of family and friends, there are a few that I have to mention because of their impact on me still being here.

First I have to speak on my family.  I don’t know where I would be without my mom and sister. They showed up when I was on that hospital bed and took care of me the weeks after.  I got to meet my nephew Max and have gotten to see him grow up.  Now I have that crazy boy Ree Ree running around too.  It makes everything amazing.

My cat. She is my responsibility and she hates me so much until she needs food.

My friend Melinda Wells.  We have become family. She is as true a friend as you can get. She is the one that answers and says “well come over anytime you want”.  Melinda is selfless and always thinking of others.  She takes care of her family and she makes you family.  She and her sister, Lyndsay, are 2 of the best people you could ever know. They open their homes and hearts to everyone and they are my ride or die chicks for sure. Plus Lyndsay’s apartment has monster Jenga… so there is that.

My friend Maria Miller.  I have known Maria for so many years now.  Since the crazy auto finance days. I am not sure I can take credit for her being married but I think I did introduce her to her husband Josh. You’re welcome.  Maria has always been there for me too. Who else would go vinyl record shopping with me?

My friend Meriam Bouarrouj.  I met Meriam through Team True Beauty.  I see her pretty much every time I go to Los Angeles.  She is my tour guide. Meriam is one of my definitions of an elegant lady. She is such an example to me of someone with a kind, caring and loving spirit. She has shown me what hard work and determination can do. She has been so sweet and caring to me and a pure joy to be around when I get to visit LA. 

My friend from Germany, Dana.  None of you know her but she is the one person who made me realize that my voice means something.  We all have that moment where we wonder what it would be like if we weren’t here.  Dana was the one who made me realize that I mattered.  Short version is that I would get tons of people tweeting me because of who I knew and it got to be so much trying to make everyone happy so I just stopped responding.  Dana kept asking me to follow her so she could send me a direct message and I just wouldn’t. Ultimately she spilled her guts on Twitter to me. She was so brave to be so open in such a public way. I felt horrible because I did not mean for her to have to do that. But after reading what she wrote me I decided to respond so I wrote her a Twitlonger.  That is a way to write a long tweet without being limited by the 140 characters.  She was hurting herself.  The place she was in, I had been there.  What she did with a razor, I did with food and stupidity.  I did my best to let her know that there was hope there for her. That her young life was worth living and the mean things being done were temporary. I listened and simply responded like I did many times.  Years later she told me that she stopped self-harming that day and never did again. The impact of that moment for me was probably one of the most significant in my life.  When I would ask if I had value over and over there would be no response, until that day.

My ICU nurse, Annette Love Berry.  She was the one that was with me when I first got to the ICU when I had my heart attack.  Many times a nurse will sweep in, write their name on the board, show you how the TV works and then they bounce out. Annette was my nightingale. She was there that night through the morning and was there after my heart surgery. She stayed past her shift to make sure I was ok. She was so reassuring to me the entire time and did not judge me at all.  I was a fat blog of human waste at that time.  I was gross and worthless. Laying there very deserving of what happened to me because of my life of excess.  But she did not judge.  She is having major medical issues right now so stop for a moment and say a prayer for her healing…. I will wait…. Thank you… I told her the other night something that is the most truthful thing I can say… until the day I leave this world her name will always be uttered from my mouth when anyone asked me about kindness.  And when I get to heaven and meet God face to face I will be able to say “she was You!”

There is one person who I will forever call my BFF and that is Dianna Delagarza. Oh I have tried my best to mess that up… but she never gave up on me.  I know she thought about it, but she didn’t.  Dianna is that friend who always says “I love you”.  She will say it when I say I am leaving. Says it when she hugs me goodbye.  Says it again when I start to walk away. Then she will yell it when I start to get in my car. When we get to hang out it is nothing but laughter and meaningful conversations. Always at the most needed times. We have been through great times and extremely rough times. But we always get though them, don’t we. If it was not for her, I would not have realized my biggest dream of publishing not one, but 2 books.

Now I have had people come into my life like seasons. They swoop in… make stuff amazing then leave just as fast.  But I have one friend, Kirsten, who I have known for a short period of time but she came in at a significant moment. Young in age but the caring of someone of extreme years.  I am not going to lie, I had a bad moment in my life just over a year ago.  As I tend to do, I started to tear myself down.  It is an unfortunate habit but I was imploding.  We would Instant Message all the time and I was in that place.  You know that place, where someone is all destroying themselves and people usually respond with postcard statements like “oh it will get better” or “just let go and let God”… you know where you don’t know what to say so you change the subject or patronize them away.  She didn’t do that. She stopped me right in my tracks and affirmed me. She did not give me a cliché statement. She said something significant and life changing and personal.  She took the moment to shut it down when others would just brush it off.  I still don’t think she knows the impact of that and how much I love her for that. To be so young yet so thoughtful gives me hope for people younger than me.  I honestly don’t think I would be here if it wasn’t for her.

To all my buds, Jack, Rob, Keith, Dave… I can say I have a pretty bad ass group of buddies.  A wannabe YouTube star, a chef, the sports dude, the free spirited artist traveler. 

There are so many people I could go on and on about who have been bright lights in my life, so I thank you all.

I know that is all over the place but it gets like that on my blog at times.  The past 10 years have been on all ends of the life spectrum.  I am definitely in a better place now than I was a few years ago.  Everyday truly is a blessing and I am slowly seeing that.  It is not easy to realize that the light at the end of the tunnel is not a train.  But like I always say: sometimes your get the ring, sometimes you get the finger.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

30 Day Blog Challenge. Day 30: What I learned the past 30 days.

So what did I learn the past 30 days?  I learned that many people just do not like me.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have some amazing friends.  They are 2-way relationship type friends. They are my meet me half way people. The past 30 days were a test for me. I decided to after reading a quote that said “If they miss you, they’ll call. If they want you, they will say it. If they care, they’ll show it. And if not, they aren’t worth your time.

Now let’s look at some stats. In the last 30 days I got 2 text messages that was sent first and I got zero phone calls that were not spam calls trying to sell me a home security system or something. First let me explain that my crew, my squad, my homies… whatever people call it is not what I am talking about here.  I have ongoing conversations with a handful of people like my friend Dianna. We could be texting like 100 a day that ends with a question then go like 2 or 3 days with nothing then all of a sudden there is a text with the answer. That is normally how that goes.  I have posted blogs and I have received a lot of views and the one with the most views was about putting my nephew’s cat, Georgie down due to a serious illness. Got over 60 views on that.  Now I did post a picture on Instagram of Georgie and I posted the link to the blog on Facebook and got a couple sweet comments but, after over 60 views, I did not get one message of condolence or anything. No “Aww so sorry, hug Max for me”… nothing.  Do people really not give a damn about me?  Proof is in the stats.

Let’s talk about the types of friends in my life….

2-way friends.  I have a few people in my life like Dianna, Melinda, Lyndsay, Maria, Lisa Marie, my boys, Catherine, Brooke and a handful of others.  These type of friends are the goal for any friendship. For example, I can text my friend Maria right now and say that we need to hang out and the response would be “let’s do lunch like Thursday and go record shopping”.  2-way friends are the type who, when someone expresses that they would like to spend some time with them, they respond with “when is a good time for you?”

1 of the text messages I got this month was from my friend Brooke who is on the East Coast. She wanted my address.  I gave it to her.  A few days later I got a card from her telling me that she was thinking about me and wanted to show some love.  Who does that? An amazing friend.

1-way friends. I am not listing names but I have many. These types of friends are not the goal because if one person is doing everything to keep the friendship going then it is not worth the time.  These types are the ones that respond to the “we need to hang out” statement with an “aww we do” and they leave it at that. No “well let’s make that happen, what’s a good day for you?” 1-way friends don’t show up when the chips are down, but get mad when you don’t show up for them. 

Work friends. Now we spend most of our days at work and we make friends there and those friends stay there.  There are ones who move into the 2-way or 1-way or just stay as the work friend. Some of my 2-way friends were made at work. There are prior work friends who don't have my cell but they have been posting comments and showing some love like my friends Pat Kroll and Teresa Gray. They are such good people.  

Haters. We all have them and at times, we are them. They can disguise themselves in the 2-way, 1-way and work friends but ultimately the mask does get pulled off.   

I was told by a former friend that I was a high maintenance friend because of my expectations.  My response was simply that my expectations are based on the ones that were set by this particular friend.

I don't get it really.  Am I wrong to think that friendships are valuable?  That when 2 people decide to be friends and share each others lives in that role, those friendships become valuable?  Is it wrong?? The difference between friends and family is that we choose our friends.  We pick each other out from the group and say that we are friends.  We share stories and emotions.  We support and encourage.  We take the role of having each other's back.  I don't understand why that has to be an issue.

Finding great friends is harder than people may think.  Great friends are the ones that are there in the good times and the bad.  Most seem to be there only in the good.  Like the old saying... a good friend will bail you out of jail.  A great friend will be sitting next to you in the cell.  I have learned this lesson the hard way over the past years.  My stepfather died here in this house.  I did CPR.  It failed.  I failed.  That is how I felt and that is how I still feel about it.  I let everyone know.  I had this expectation.  That expectation that was not totally met.  I sat in that funeral home waiting for my closest friends to walk in and be there for me.  It did not happen.  However my friend Duane, who I had seen only once in the past 20 plus years drove up from Killeen to be there with me and my family.  My friends Sarah and Natalie had me over to Sarah's that night and made dinner and were there for me.  My reassurance in people was saved by them that night.  Is that high maintenance?  To expect people to drop everything and come running when you are in trouble?  Is it wrong to drop everything and listen when someone needs to vent?  If it is in that situation then I have a crapload of high maintenance friends out there because I have done that.  I have driven miles and miles to be there.  I will again.  That is what a friend does.  This is not a call out on anyone.  Just my perspective.

This came up recently with my friend Dianna. Her Grandmother took a turn for the worse and passed away a couple days ago. Their family is very private and during the last days it was family only that was there.  It was not appropriate to pop in. But I texted her daily. I know she was not looking at her phone and reading messages.  She went dark during this time to devote all of her attention to her grandmother. But when she finally did look at her phone she was able to see that a friend was praying for her and loving her and willing to do what was needed if asked. I wanted her to know that she was not alone. That is what a friend does.

What I ask for in a friend is to live up to the expectation that you set.  I am pretty flexible on this but the expectations have to be realistic.  I don't think having to takes sides or choose a belief because one friend wants you to do that over another friend is realistic.  Nor do I think it is fair.  It is like one friend telling me to stop being friends with another friend because they like "Hello Kitty" too much... No one has that authority over me.

Sometimes things come up but it is just as easy to cancel a plan as much as it is to set it.  Heck if you fail to show for your doctor's appointment, the doctor will charge you a fee.  So to avoid it, we call and cancel or change.  No big deal.  No harm, no foul.  But why is it wrong to expect the same from a friend.  Like saying, "let's meet for dinner next week"....  "Ok let's do that. You pick the day since I have no schedule issues."  "ok I will call or text you tomorrow and let you know."  The expectation is now set.  One friend is now in charge to call or text about it.  Well then there is nothing.  No call.  No text.  Nada...  Is it wrong to be bothered by that?  For me I think the friend who failed that expectation is not considerate.  I don't believe it is high maintenance of me.  I think it is the natural reaction to a failed expectation.

I had a friend that wanted to meet for Pho last week.  We set a day and time. Well first thing that morning, before I even woke up, she texted me and said she was assigned to train someone for the rest of the week and she needed to postpone. She was considerate to me and my time.  Well Friday morning she texted and said that she did not have to train and wanted to see if I wanted to meet that day. She apologized for it being short notice but she wanted to see me. Well I had a thing so I couldn’t do it but she showed me that she did want to see me. That was considerate.

At my last job the biggest complaint from customers was that the set expectation was not made.  No follow up that was expected, was completed.  Customers got upset and gave bad service scores.  Sometimes there are things that come up that keep you from meeting the expectation.  The simple solution is communication.  Even if that communication comes well after the fact in a form of an apology.  Does it fix the missed expectation?  No.  But it may ease the impact of it.

The issue here is that "oh he will get over it" attitude that I don't like.  No, I will not get over it if I am left hanging.  Communication of some kind can ease the situation.  I don't believe it is high maintenance.  I believe it is a basic request.   I may be wrong on this but when a friend asks me to drop everything and come running, I do.  I guess I am high maintenance like that.

So many times people talk about cleaning out their Facebook friends list of people they really don’t know or people they only met once that they friended.  I have been “cleaned out” of some lists myself. I am not sure if I am going to do that but I know I will not waste another moment on inconsiderate people who don’t want to appreciate when someone is willing to give them time. I thought about just changing my number and blocking people from my life. Like they always say “Time is valuable”.  I am no angel, that’s for sure.  I have not been a good friend at times myself. No one is perfect. I don’t expect perfection from anyone.  I expect consideration and honesty.  Is that so wrong to expect?

“Choose who you spend time with wisely. Life is too short to waste your valuable time with the wrong people” – Joel Osteen via Twitter

Monday, May 30, 2016

30 Day Blog Challenge. Day 29: Have I ever had surgery/been hospitalized? If so, why?

Duh. If you have read my blogs then you know this to be a fact.

There is a list, small one thankfully, but there is one.

So let’s go in a particular order.

I was able to survive my childhood with never breaking a bone or having any significant issues. 

1.  Post high school I snapped my left ankle pretty good so I still have problems with it to this day.

2. I had a motorcycle accident in college and punctured the lower left leg and calf muscle.  It left a nice scar and my left calf muscle is about half what it normally should be.

Now stuff gets real.

3. January of 2007 was the heart attack. It was vicious. I had a Stent procedure done and half my heart was stented. 

4. February of 2007 was the second half of my heart’s stent procedure.

5. August of 2007 I had 4 wisdom teeth cut out. It was an outpatient surgery where they put me under to cut them out.

6. January of 2008 was a weird moment for me.  I was walking out of a Walmart and when the door opened my right ear starting ringing and it would not stop.  As I was driving home, I started to get dizzy and the noise grew louder in louder in my right ear.  Got home and tried some ear wax remover to see if that was it. It didn’t work.  I started to freak out so I told my mom I needed to go to the hospital. I was having a panic attack and thought it was a heart attack.  I went to the ER and my heart was fine. They checked me and said I was having vertigo. At that point I lost hearing in my right ear.  After a CAT scan it was determined that a nerve snapped in my ear and the hearing is gone forever. It sucks.

7. April of 2009. I was overweight… a lot over.  My cardiologist, PCP and Endocrinologist suggested I take major action to lose a lot of weight rapidly. It was serious as my heart was not enjoying trying to work with such a big ass.  So I went to a weight loss doctor and went thru a 90 day process and determined the Lap Band was the best method.  So under direction of all my doctors I had the procedure done.  Well it never worked.  I either had it filled and could not eat, literally starved, or it was loosened and it never restricted food. Turns out the doctor set it too high so it had no impact. I ended up getting a large needle and jammed it into the port and emptied the band completely so I could function.

Now this is where SHIT REALLY GETS REAL…

8. Last summer I decided I wanted to have the lap band removed because it caused physical pain.  If I bent over too far the port would flip and it was like having a stomach cramp with needles attached.  I would have to physically reset it and that was worse. A friend used a weight loss doctor and suggested I go to him.  So I went.  They were pretty strict on their process due to my prior heart procedures, so they did stomach x-rays where I had to drink barium and all.  It was gross. Next I had to do an Upper GI.  This is where the issues started. 

So I went in for the Upper GI. It was quick.  When I woke up and waited for my ride they had me sign forms because they found tumors and needed to biopsy them and needed my approval to get them tested. They said if there were any issues, they would call.

The Thursday of the following week was my last day before PTO as I was flying to NYC the next morning for a weekend getaway with a friend before my Training class the next week in Hartford.  So I am at work and on the phone and get a local call. I could not answer it and whoever called did not leave a message.  So when I got off the phone and googled it, it was the Forest Park Medical Center where I had the MRI done. I called and said I missed a call. The lady said there should have been a voicemail message but there wasn’t. So I called the fat doctor to see if there were issues and was told that they have not received my results back so as of now, no issues.

I went to NYC and then Hartford for the following week.  When I got back almost another week passed when I decided to call my fat doctor.  They told me they had been calling me daily and I said I had never received a call or missed call. I confirmed my number and they had transposed 2 numbers.  I was like “really?”  So anyway, they put me on the phone with the Tech and I was told I needed to come in ASAP.  I was like, “I am at work you can tell me now.” She said no and told me again that I needed to come in. At this point I am getting pissed.  You cannot transpose a contact number and have some apparent important info and not at least email a brother.

So after almost cussing her out she finally gives in and tells me “The biopsies came back positive on your tumors.”  So needless to say I drove right over. So I get there and they show me the results and pictures of what was going on and we started the process to get to surgery.  I had to do a sleep study then a stress test before things could be authorized.  They told me they could remove the band and do chemo/radiation to get the tumors dealt with since they were in a small cluster and it was very early in development. I had uncles die from stomach cancer so I declined that option and went for the removal.

So under the direction of an oncologist and my fat doctor, they removed about 90% of my stomach via surgery similar to the gastric sleeve procedure.  They were able to leave just enough to form a tube so I could have some relatively normal functions.  They tested all the tissue cut out and there was no spreading or growth outside the cluster so there was nothing further that needed to be done.  It has caused a lot of negative side effects.  I have to take a zillion pills a day and if I eat sugar I get seriously sick. I have to drink a lot of liquid protein daily and water.  I have lost a lot of weight which is ultimately the healthiest path for me.

I did not let many people know about all this as it was something that I figured would not be as big of a deal as people would make it out to be plus too many people in my life freak out over little crap. I told my job since I was going to miss work. It cost me a ton of money. Between the $2500 deductible and around $14,000 in non-covered bills, it has been difficult.  But all in all, I am alive and that is the point.  

Sunday, May 29, 2016

30 Day Blog Challenge. Day 28: If I could rid the world of one thing, what would it be?


Shaming it was it is called now but the practice has been going on for ages. It was called “dissing” or “belittling” or “humiliating” or “embarrassing”.  No matter what it is called, it is a horrible practice and it is so much worse today due to social media. The end results are definitely the same tough.

This is a personal issue for me and it is the subject of my next book as it has defined every part of me.  As I mentioned in my Day 27 blog, there were moments where this happened to me while growing up that have so negatively impacted who I am today.

First, as I spoke on this before, I did not grow up in the normal and traditional household.  We did not have money, we did not have nice things and we did not have the best clothes. My mom raised me and my brother as a single parent.  My dad was around on the typical weekends and some extended time in the summers. He never paid child support and we did suffer due to that. Looking back on what he was going through as an alcoholic and as someone living the 70’s lifestyle, I can now understand how responsibility was not a strong suit.

Being from a single parent household and not having much money, we did not eat, what we call today, a nutritious diet. My mom worked the night shift at low paying jobs.  We lived in a house owned by one of my aunts and she would watch us while my mom was at work.  We ate typical Mexican family foods, lots of beans and beans and beans.  Needless to say I was a chubby kid. I went to an elementary school in the upper middle class area of Irving, which was just outside of where we lived.  I should have went to another school but my mom wanted me and my brother to stay at that school since we started there.  I spoke about it before but there were 3 other Mexican kids in my grade and we were segregated a lot. I was on the government assisted lunch card program since we were low income.  Being that kid in an upper middle class school as not the best place to be.  It was bad enough that we had to stand in the back of the line and get cold sack lunches if they ran out of food, but we were made fun of… a lot. I remember being called “fat poor kid” and “ugly” and many other things. Kids back then were cruel too. I did not understand it. 

I remember field trips and how much I dreaded them if they were all day trips. All day trips required either bringing a sack lunch from home or money for them to pay for your lunch. If you brought money you would be able to buy like a McDonald’s meals or something like that. I remember one trip so vividly. I told my mom that we needed either money or a sack lunch to take so she made me a sandwich. Well we didn’t have turkey or ham and Wonder Bread, so she made a meat patty with cheese on regular bread. We didn’t have hamburger buns.  She packed some chips in a sandwich bag and put it all in a paper sack.  By the time I got to school, the grease soaked the bag. Some of the kids made fun of it and laughed at my expense.  It was honestly the first time I remember feeling embarrassed and ashamed. As lunch approached, almost everyone had money so they could buy a burger meal. I sat out of sight as much as I could and I honestly hid my lunch out of embarrassment.  I was a damn 3rd grader… sitting out of sight… fighting tears… trying to figure out why I was so weird… trying to figure out why everyone was making fun of me. That was the first time I felt shame.

Later during the lunch time was the one few moments where I felt saved from the shame.  There was this kid from another class who came and sat by me and asked “did you bring money or did you bring a sack lunch?”  I pulled out my greasy bag and showed it to him.  He asked what I had and I told him it was like a hamburger but on regular bread and that I had some chips too.  He looked at me and said, “Wow, that looks good, want to trade?”  (tears in my eyes right now because I am remembering this moment so vividly).  I said sure. So he gave me his burger bag and I gave him mine.  He opened it up and started eating. He kept saying how it was so much better than the stupid burgers everyone else had. When he finished he got up and left.  I never saw him again. No one made fun of me the rest of that day from what I remember, or I just didn’t care. In my time of shame, someone came in and snatched it away.

Later on in my early life I would spend my summers with my dad.  Some days I stayed at his apartment with my brother.  My dad would leave us money and would tell us to walk to the 7-11 to get food. The first time we went there and had real money we bought candy and cokes because we never got much of that. We did that every day. I would get tired of it and want real food but my brother was in charge of the money so we got candy and cokes most days. My dad would call later in the day to check on us and I would tell him I was hungry. He would tell me that I should have eaten already and would tell me how fat I was already. Many days he would stumble home from a day of drinking at work and post work happy hours and he would either have fast food for us or would take us to get fast food. That was my diet. I would eat as often and as much as I could because I was not eating regularly.  I was a fat and unhealthy kid.  It seemed to be a joke.  Like “look at his fat little kid!” Like I mentioned in the Day 27 post, my dad’s company had a softball team and I was the Batboy.  They had jerseys made up and I had one that had “fat boy” on the back. People would laugh at me all the time. Once again… I was a third grade kid… Who does that to a kid that age?

I grew up never knowing I had value.  I was ashamed of who I was because I was conditioned to be that way by the people who would shame me in school and in life. From family to classmates to older people who thought it was funny to make fun of a friend’s fatboy.  I never gave myself credit.

I was always the chubby kid as I went through school. When I played football in junior high and high school, I was always a lineman.  I remember in high school they wanted us to bulk up so we would be the biggest team.  They would tell to eat all day and often.  The summer of my junior year I was 5 foot 6 and 181 pounds. Back then if you were a lineman in high school and weighed over 200 pounds, you were considered huge.  In comparison, there are 300 to 350 pound linemen in high schools now.  I was a dumpy 181 though.  I was soft. Everyone was calling me fat all the time. I would go to family things and there would always be “there goes Richard to get food!” It was non-stop. It was like I was an embarrassment… and that was family.  In school, it was the same in many ways. I always felt like I was fat and ugly.  That is what I was called growing up so why would I believe different? 

Funny thing is I am 5 foot 7 now and if I weighed 181 pounds now people would call me skinny.  Amazing how that is.

My weight was always an issue because food was my comfort.  When people treated me like crap, I would eat.  When someone would call me “ugly” or “fat” or any other derogatory name, I would eat. I became the funny fat guy. Ask anyone, I am the guy at the party or happy hour that is making people laugh.  People tell me all the time that I should do stand up. Being shamed my entire life pushed me to defense mechanisms. Either being funny or being the guy who would eat anything or whatever. All of my health issues were caused by that lifestyle.  My heart attack, my stomach issues I had last year.  Everything negative health wise was due to me needing comfort from the pains that names caused.

But there are other things that are damaged by the shame game and the biggest and hardest to get over is what it did to me mentally. 

There is a Catch-22 with this side of it because it starts a cycle that you cannot escape from. Trying to get over one shame has led to another.  Trying to be the funny guy leads to people not taking me serious.  And when I get serious, I get called “mental” or “dramatic”.  I try too hard and I try too fast.  When I meet people I just try too hard to be their friend and it seems to end badly because when I stop being the crazy, funny, let’s do something exciting guy, and try to be real, people don’t seem to like it. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard “dude, stop being so serious” or “you are being too dramatic” and my favorite “can’t you just be funny?” I get defensive because I am a real person with real feelings and real problems.  In my “trying too hard” style, I do so much for others.  If someone calls and needs something, I jump right on it. If someone needs to vent, I am there to listen and give advice. But I never seem to get it back. If I don’t reach out to people first, then there is never contact. Now I have lifelong friends who are always there for me.  It is a small circle and I will talk about the whole friendship deal in my Day 30 blog to come.

  The biggest issue out there now is shaming.  Kids are shamed behind the scenes like never before. They are cyber bullied by people hiding behind keyboards. If you came up and got in my face and called me “fat” or “ugly” now, I would destroy you physically.  But now kids are called everything and anything and treated horribly. It is an epidemic that many times starts right at home.  Children are so valuable. No matter their look or economic background, every single kid is valuable and should be treated as such and that should start at home. Shaming in any way should not be tolerated.  Every single day a child takes his or her life over it. Is that not a clear and present sign that there are problems?  Back when I was in high school in the 80’s I remember that there was one kid who attempted suicide and thankfully failed.  Today I doubt there is one kid in high that has not been touched by suicide in one way or another.  Many kids don’t even reach out anymore because even that is shamed or not believed… well until it is too late.

I have a friend and her daughter reached out to her and told her that she felt like she had no friends and was having issues in school.  My friend loves her daughter.  She posted on Facebook and asked her friends to help her with a project. She asked us to write her daughter a letter/email and share our experiences when we were in school.  So many of us took to our laptops and shared our stories so we could help boost her and show her that she was not alone and that she had people who cared for her.  Who does that?  A good parent who listens when her child reaches out.

So if I could rid the world of one thing, it would be shaming. Why? Because it is something that call ruin lives.  It is something that can hamper emotional growth and it is something that will take a life. 

If someone reaches out to you… someone of any age… listen and try to help. Don’t patronize and start the cycle over again. Once again, listen and try to help.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

30 Day Blog Challenge. Day 27: Where do I hope to be in 5 years.


Just kidding… I hope.

This question is on every blog challenge list I have seen and it is somewhat your typical cliché topic. I kind of didn’t want to do it but I gave in, as you can tell.

Well right now I am 48 which means I will be 53 in 5 years.  My dad died at the age of 52 so getting to 53 is a goal, a sad and cryptic goal but a goal nonetheless. When my dad was 48 he a 27 and a 29 year old sons.  He was an established architect but was on Disability due to his past heart attack and continuing heart issues.  He was married and divorced 2 times and was in a relationship with my late stepmom, Judy. 

His heart issues and mental issues were due to his service in the Army. The life he lived was hard. While in Vietnam he was captured and tortured. He came back with a lot of problems. He was trained to be an architect and worked for one of the biggest companies in Dallas at the time. I remember being a kid and when it was his time to have me and my brother, we spent it with him at his job.  My brother stayed at home a lot so I would be up there at my dad’s office a lot.  This was the 70’s and life then was shocking compared to today.  They had a bar in the office.  They architects and staff would drink all day, every day.  Friday would be the day the company stocked the bar. It was a legit high level bar. All kinds of liquor and beer.  It was an alcoholics dream. They played softball on Sunday nights so on the weekends I was with my day, I was the batboy.  Or as they called me, the fatboy.  They thought that was funny and even had a jersey made with that on it.  (That is a whole other coming blog to address how that messed me up). 

After drinking all day they would go to happy hour. They all went to a place called “The Roundtable” it was your typical bar with darts and pooltables and a jukebox.  I was there every night my dad was. If not, I would be back at his apartment with no food and just a TV.  Once that place closed they started going to a place called “The Cedar Pub”.  Same deal.  The company he worked for eventually bought “The Centre Racquetball Club” which had a full bar and dinner service.  I pretty much lived there in the summers when I was 8 to 11 years old.

That lifestyle eventually took its toll on my dad and put him in the grave. Once again at 52.

I have not fared much better healthwise, but medicine is so much more advanced that my medical issues are mostly behind me. Getting to 53 should be a breeze. 

But where will I be? What will I have? That is the question. Reality versus hope are 2 different things.

Neither reality nor hope are known when you are talking about the future.  I could die tonight and leave both answered, right?

Here is what I would dream… to be in an amazing job and to be in an amazing relationship.  The job will work itself out.  I will always be working as I am satisfied anywhere that allows me to be happy.

The relationship is the hard part.  When you are a man and you want to be a parent, you could legit father a child at 110 if you lived that long. For a woman, there is a real timetable that exists if you care and focus on the health an well being of the woman.  There are many different thoughts on that but the older a woman gets, the more and more chances of a negative health experience does grow with age.  I know many woman who have said that they will never have a kid past 40, others cut it off at 35.  So being 48 myself, my clock is pretty much blinking 12 on this one. I mean I would need to marry a far younger woman to be a father.  I don’t want to just have a baby momma, I want a wife who is a mother to our child. So the hopes of being a parent is blinking 12 as it is now, so at 53 the clock will be unplugged and tossed in the trash. 

It should have been different.  I blame myself for that. So many missed opportunities.

So where will I be in 5 years?  Working and probably with 134234 cats… or dead.  Or in Vegas at the Glitter Gulch getting a dance from a 70 year old stripper… but probably enjoying then due to both of us being AARP members…

Friday, May 27, 2016

30 Day Blog Challenge. Day 26: My Dream Job.

Outside of being a world famous author or a TV Comedy writer or an actor… the real dream job for me would be to be a trainer.

I have spent most of my career in positions where I have had to train people or mentor and I have been very successful at it. I have taken many people under my wing and given them opportunities to succeed.  Many of them have become leaders in their industries now.  Many are far more successful than I could ever have dreamed of. There are some who are high level figures who make crazy incomes. I am not jealous of that, I am actually proud. I have had a few people come to me and tell me that if it were not for me and how I helped them, they would not be where they are now.  That’s the best compliment to hear.

I decided long ago that I wanted to be that guy. The guy who would do what he could to make other around him better.  This started back when I got my first real job.  I was a part time collection rep.  It was a crap job but it was a foot in the door. The President of the company was a guy named Richard as well. He noticed that I was really working hard to learn my job and to be great at it.  He eventually offered me a full time job in a position that was way over my head.  I was going to be doing things that I did not understand.  He pulled me in his office and told me that he wanted me to succeed and that he would work with me to understand my position.  I would meet with him weekly and he would go through my work and give me pointers and advice on how to work better and more efficient. I learned a lot from him and he really set me on a path that was all about learning and adapting.  I eventually progressed into better opportunities and was put in charge of training people to use the system we worked with.

I spent many years in the auto finance industry.  I worked in credit and funding and internal audit. I was usually in a senior roll or a manager.  I focused on being the type of manager that would have made my first boss proud.  I made sure people were trained to use the system properly and to do their job efficiently. My goal was to make sure that anyone who wanted to progress and grow had the skill level to do it. Like I said, there are many successful people out there that I helped to get started.

I have worked with good people and bad ones.  I have trained good and bad as well. It’s easy to figure out who is in it to progress and who is in it for a paycheck. I have been put in charge of both kinds. Training the paycheck people is just as easy.  I learned a long time ago that most paycheck workers have never been motivated because they do not see growth potential.  I ended up being like that when I worked at Liberty.  I mentored some people there who are managers now. I could never progress there because I did not have college degree. At the time you could not qualify for many opportunities because you did not have a degree.  There were places I wanted to go within that company but it just wasn’t going to happen.  It made me sad leaving because the people I met there were damn good people. I am friends with more Liberty people than I am with Travelers people. I have friends for life from Liberty.

I will say at my most recent job I was given great opportunities to mentor and train.  I actually became a certified trainer. I trained so many people locally and at other offices. I took pride in that. There will be future leaders there that will be able to look back and see who really helped them get their start in commercial claims. Unfortunately my efforts were not as appreciated as I thought they should so I ended that relationship. 

I still believe I have plenty to offer and I will be out there again looking for the best opportunity that will take me from here to retirement.  I never set out to be the CEO because I know my place. I am content with being that person that would be completely happy as a full time trainer.  Traveling to other cities and living out of suitcases. Long days on my feet. Long hours on planes.  Long days of prep and planning. It was what I enjoyed doing and hopefully will get to do again.  Or I can just become an actor.   

30 Day Blog Challenge. Day 25: What’s in My Wallet?

This is simple since I have my wallet with me. Ha.

1. Cash. Got $26 in $2 bills.  I am going to just hand them out eventually.

2. My debit card.

3. 2 credit cards.

4. My Hilton Honors Card.

5. A picture of my German Sheppard, Willie.  I always carry it. He was my favorite pet.

6. My Forever Young Record Discount card. I am 1 record purchase away from a $20 discount.

7. A Blank check.

8. Social Security card.

9. Funeral card from my Stepmother’s funeral.

10. A note my friend Nicole wrote me a couple years ago when I was in Hartford. She told me to hold onto it until I saw her again and she would write me another one.

11. My Driver’s License.

12. My Texas Insurance License.

13. My Austin Avenue frequent drinker card.

And that is it.