My Sunny Valentine
February 14, 2012
So, here’s the other thing, Dear. (In case you were wondering at the end of the last post–Just Blame Her, She Can Take It.)
How do you know when you’ve tapped into true love? Personally, whenever her smile hits me like the morning sun, chasing the ghostly worries of the night and the aches of yesterday over the hills. Flash, they’re gone. Poof. Magic.
No, actually it’s real, and love can do that. I can be sitting in the soup of my sorrowful woes, and she comes in the room, or better yet, she doesn’t even have to be present; all I have to do is think of her jumping out of a warm bed in the wee hours to rescue her daughter who had a flat in a dangerous part of town, or taking her ailing mom to the store for hours and hours, or staying awake to listen to my delusions of failure–any of those will do, or just remembering how she laughed at my joke yesterday, and joy pushes my heart back into position.
She’s my Sunny Valentine. I hope you get one.
I love you, Babe.
Blame Her, She Can Take it. Happy Valentine’s Day!
February 7, 2012
Have you ever wondered why someone would do something that was truly on the top of the stupid list, then you do that same idiotic thing yourself, AND THEN (because obviously you are not that stupid!?) you go and blame someone else—someone you love dearly.
Last fall my wife and I were on our way back from the yearly camping trip that we dearly treasure, where I spent two of the best dry-fly fishing evenings of my life on the famed San Juan River, and we explored Mesa Verde, including a fabulous meal at a five-star restaurant. We’d pulled our trailer nine hours from Mesa Verde through the awesome arches country of eastern Utah and the spectacular Colorado River canyon. We ached to go home. But if you’ve ever pulled a trailer, you’ll know that nine hours is long enough. Plus, home was another five hours away. So we pulled into a picturesque camping spot near Rifle, Colorado. We were both tired and ready to have a bite, read a book, and enjoy the views.
That’s when I tried to scrape off a vent cover from the top of our trailer, using a pinion
pine tree. Once I actually saw, with my own two eyes, someone scrape off the side of their trailer on a tree at Yellowstone. Seeing should be the best way to actually learn a lesson without experiencing it. Right? Those pull-through trailer sites can be tricky. But not for me.
I have a photo attached you should study, in case this “incident” does not “take.” Yeah, wouldn’t have been so bad if had just been the oven exhaust—one baggie and some duct tape, story over. But no, this had to be the biggest vent in the roof, aside from the AC unit (thank God that tree was just on one side and not overhanging the entire top). Though the hole, if left open to rain, could have ruined the refrigerator, heater and half the kitchen—all big-ticket items (okay, the AC would have been worse, not to mention other things happening to us—much worse—but I precede myself).
Getting back to the “incident.” Did I immediately blame myself for being so stupid? Nah. I jumped out of the truck and blamed my wife for not watching the trees and warning me that any second, if I pulled further forward, that tree limb would scrape off the vent and part of the trailer. I have to train her better.
Really? Would someone actually think that?
I am such a dolt—one with Guilty written into every red corpuscle. Flip each little red blood cell over in that boiling oil you want to fry me in and you will also see a very tiny Stupid tattooed on the back side.
The great thing about it? We both laughed it off. After. She knew I didn’t mean to blame her. Okay, she loves me more than I deserve. Also, I got to saw off the limb because I could not even budge the trailer without more damage. Have you ever sawed a pinion limb? Tough mothers. And perching in a tree like a monkey, but with the balance of on overweight, middle-aged, has-been athlete, I found concentration and sweaty fear took the place of anger. Yeah, pretty quick.
After that, I needed a lot of duct tape and a ladder. Colorado Park Rangers are your friend, by the way. She held the ladder and I taped the covering back on while we talked frankly about the “incident.” She never even let the ladder sway. Not once. She made great bacon and eggs for dinner; I had two beers; and we both slept like babies. After all, worse things could happen, like being in the middle of a twenty-car pileup on I-70 the next day before reaching home.
Just kidding. I was more careful and more awake, so everything went well—no pileup.
Two lessons I hope I learned. Never blame others for your own mistakes—you’d think after all these years I’d have learned that one already. The other thing: Don’t take yourself so seriously. I’m fallible. It was only a vent. My wife and I are still alive
and safe. It’s people that matter. Especially those you love.
So tell someone you love them, before you blow up and blame them for your own stupid mistake.
Happy Valentine’s Day, Baby. I do love you. Now, about that other thing …
Dan’s War is an award-winning techno-thriller with heart, about the end of world oil . . . in two weeks. Cajuns and one lone computer geek try to save us against an ecofanatic and his army.
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January 17, 2012
So, you think by building schools, hospitals, and training all
those soldiers to respect Muslims you can erase all the drilled-in
depersonalization of the enemy, precise killing techniques, and subtle (well, maybe not so subtle) building-up of their anger after 9/11.
I have read the books on war, Sun Tzu to Clausewitz, and more recently, Lt. Col Dave Grossman and Captain Paul K. Chappell,. I have studied war at the Naval Academy. It all sounds very chess-like, until you are there, killing people. No matter how you cut it, war is not kind, not filled with etiquette for the other side. Gentlemen (or ladies) don’t wage wars; barbarians do. If you call the enemy Krauts, Nips, commies, gooks, chinks, or ragheads it allows you to depersonalize it, and keep it okay. And make sure those soldiers know the easiest, quickest, and most lethal way to kill the enemy, and that they actually do it. We don’t want them aiming high to avoid killing another human being. We have to drill that out of them. They must understand that the enemy is not a real person like you and me. They are Yellow Devils, or the Axis of Evil. God does not bless them, like they do Americans. We are right, and always will be.
Cut off and take one of their dead ears and spit on their face. They deserve it. And those ragheads who killed all those innocent people at 9/11? Piss on their dead bodies.
But go ahead and build your hospitals and schools, and try to help their culture believe that we are right and they are wrong, after you’ve starved them for a decade with an embargo and killed half their neighbors. Spend billions of dollars a month training our soldiers to kill “targets” with machines that are the most lethal in history. You will surely be able to change all those killing habits you’ve cemented in your soldiers, those same soldiers who have tried so hard to do the right thing, preserving our freedoms, but have nightmares and lose families over recurring visions of buddies blown to bits by those @#$& targets.
You think there might be a double message there: Kill those people, but don’t you dare call them a name or piss on their bodies. Double messages don’t mean anything, right? (Except to politicians!) Just do what you are told, soldier. Don’t think about it. Besides, we have psychiatrist who can treat our soldier’s messed up mind.
But, you politicians should try not to focus too much on stopping wars, or keeping them from happening. War is our heritage, our children’s future. Without wars, patriotism would wither. Oh yeah, and where would we spend those billions of dollars?
And the death of all morality? Who cares. If you think you can make war moral, you are indeed a true politician. You think this is the only amoral thing that has happened in war, and that court martialing them will cure it? They just won’t video tape it. First rule of the Naval Academy: You rate what you get away with. Don’t get caught.
No, it’s not the right thing to piss on a dead enemy, rape his daughter, or cut off the breasts of his wife. If we must be at war we should at least kill quickly, and treat the enemy with respect. We are not barbarians, after all. Are we?
Why isn’t there a law passed that states: If the US is in a war, there MUST be a daily debate in Congress about how to get OUT of war, as fast as possible?
Talk about getting priorities straight.
Prioritizing Life: On being a dad, doctor, and writer. Oh yeah, and a fisherman.
January 9, 2012
The New Year is all about resolutions, so try this. The lesson is at the end. It’s only 7 minutes.
I’ve been a dad almost as long as the others, so it seems natural for me to compare them. All of them competed for time, that illusory wisp of the disappearing present, so how can you do any of them well?
Of course being a doctor must be first. It’s special, a calling, on a higher plain than any other job. More important than children or wife, right? Sure. Ask any surgeon, or interview at any surgery residency program. They pride themselves in destroying families for the sake of almighty medicine. Patients are priority. That’s what most patients want—a doctor who will stay up all night with them when they’re sick, read every book, every current article about their malady, and be there when they need them on Christmas Eve. “It’s wonderful that you have a family and all, Doc, but if I am having belly pain in the middle of your daughter’s
birthday party, you better come see me. How else are you going to save my life?”
And writing? Well, you must write every day to get better, and not for a few minutes, at least twenty hours a week. The more hours, the quicker you improve. You have to take all the latest courses on how to hook your reader, how to market your writing, who the best agents are for your genre. Family is important, sure. Maybe you can write about that, if you have a family after becoming a doctor. Or maybe you can sell a book about losing your family to medicine? You never know, one of them might be the All American Breakout Novel.
Fly fishing can relieve stress, keep you healthy, get you outdoors. If you want to actually catch some fish you must learn how to cast a fly line, practice twenty minutes every day, at least. You have to learn the river, fish at least once a week, three days to figure things out well. It’s a big river, and there are so many others, too. And the flies you buy fall apart and are too expensive, so you must learn to tie your own. Oh, yeah. They catch fish so much better. Why not teach what you know and help others to get the addiction? You can be a guide. You could teach your kids how to fish, if you can wait for them to learn to cast, to mend, to set. Then again, how will you ever get to excellence if you wait for them? You’ll never catch that record.
Okay, time for a reality check. The son and daughter are only six-years-old once. Their birthdays will be no more than photos and memories in hours. Them learning to ride a bike with you holding onto the seat will pass in maybe even one peddle down the street. It does take a few moments to sit with your wife at breakfast discussing her latest creation, or crisis, or watching her laugh at your grandson eating an ice cream cone.
If you’re not there at that special moment, time will piss on you leaving. The only memory you will have is wishful thinking.
You figure it out yet? Save patients, write the breakout novel, catch the world record fish, or enjoy your family. It’s your choice, not mine. I made mine and I have to live
in the present every day with them. You’ll have to live with yours, too.
But here’s a method to ferret it out: It takes 7 minutes. Do you have the time?
1) Write down the top 10 goals you really want to accomplish in the next 10 years, but do it in two minutes. You’ll have to write fast, and you MUST do it in under two minutes.
Make them specific, or general. Whatever. We are working with your unconscious mind here. Don’t give the conscious one a chance to interfere too much.
2) Write down the top 10 goals if you only had five years to live. Same method. Two minutes.
3) Write down the top 5 goals if you only had 1 year to live. Only 1 Minute this time.
4) Now you only have 6 months to live. Write down the top 5, one minute.
5) Now you have been given 1 month until you die. What are the top 5 goals. One minute, if you need that long. You’re wasting time if you take longer.
I hope you came up with the real priorities in your life and live with them. If you are a list maker, make sure you include the top 5 in everything you do every day. You can always change them, redo them if something comes up. But, pretty soon you won’t need to make a list. It will be as natural as sharing a mountain stream, flyfishing with your kids.
We have no control over time, only what we do within it. Take 7 minutes to make a better New Year. It would be a shame if it took a war, like for Dan, to wake you up.