One Man's Search for Peace

Father of eight trying to find his way.

In the Thicket of Things.

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The neighbors have a fence line that is covered in grape vines.  The vines are established and should be producing lots of grapes but in the seven years we have lived here there have never been enough grapes for them to be shared as far as our family.  Last spring I struck up a conversation about them as the neighbor was out pruning and I was told that the vines are worthless and never produce even a bushel of fruit.  The output is so low that it is not even worth harvesting them most years.

It should not be this way.  There are 60 feet of two-wire trellis for the grapes and probably 14 separate trunks along that line.  I am not an expert in pruning grapes, but I know the basic idea behind it so I volunteered my services this spring.  I started yesterday and I got about 20 feet pruned.  I know that this is a test and although I believe that I am going to get a really, really good harvest from those vines, I also know that I could end up with an epic failure.  I am willing to try because I want the vines to produce the way they should so there will be fruit for me and my family, and because even an epic failure won’t be worse than the harvest they got this last fall.

I get a lot of satisfaction from looking at the overgrown bramble of vines and selecting thick, tan vines to secure along the wires.  I then cut away everything else in an effort to direct all the spring sap to these few branches.  I can imagine every node along these branches shooting new growth full of flowers that are open to the sun and ready to be pollinated.  I can imagine the clusters growing heavy as they ripen in the shade of dark green leaves, and finally I can see the harvest.  It is a dream, but without this dream there would be no harvest.  Dreams are the beginning.

I have been lacking dreams for a very long time.  With the weight of a constant headache, everything I was doing was based entirely on necessity.  That is not to say that I did not find enjoyment or satisfaction in life with the headache, but I have rediscovered the power of anticipation in the few weeks that I have been without it.  I want to do so much more now… except sit at work and make money.  I want to be out doing, living, dreaming.  Even pruning.

Because of my newly found motivation, I was able to understand my friend’s daughter in a way that I would probably have missed before.  She is 18, ready to graduate from High School, and putting in her applications for college.  She has big dreams (read that ‘costly dreams’) that have her father more than a little frightened.  I think that as we get old, slow and tired that we forget how to dream big.  Life often beats us into a posture where we can no longer see the fantastic horizons open to us because we need to watch our next step so carefully.

I was envious of her dreams, but partly this is because I am envious of her freedom to dream.  If she puts everything on the line for her dreams she has the potential to win big or lose everything, but at her stage in life, everything is not so much.  I am tied with responsibilities, mouths to feed, a future to plan for and everything that I have been able to accumulate so far: all the rewards are still there, but the cost of losing is greater.

Perhaps that is just my current excuse.  I did not take the opportunity to work in a fossil pit in Wyoming one summer, nor did I go to the Galapagos Islands when I had the chance.  A friend went on a summer-long trip to Europe when I was in college and I was invited along but did not go because it would have meant risking my secure job for an unknown quantity of enjoyment and fun.  My life is full of things that I did not do because I considered them to be too risky, because I put work first or because I could not just let the transitions take care of themselves.  I have never been able to ‘just go with it’ and trust that I would end up where I wanted to be.

And now I find myself right here; right in the center of where I have arrived.  I find myself in the 10 ring of what I have always seen myself becoming even if I have not always been able to define it.  It is not glamorous or exciting but it is important that I be here – especially now that I am here.  Picking up and leaving now would be damaging to a lot of other people, so it is a good thing I don’t have dreams that would encourage this.

I don’t know that I would have ended up someone drastically different than the person I am if I had made different choices or if I had allowed myself to dream big dreams.  Fame and fortune have never meant enough to me that I have been willing to work for them.  I think it likely that I was destined to become a family man pruning his neighbor’s trees for fun.

At any rate, my advice to Madeline is to Dream big and love it while it lasts.  It may be bad advice but anyone who would really take advice from me is asking for problems.

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One  Man

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Written by OneMan

January 20, 2015 at 4:01 pm

A Dog’s Job

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We have a dog now.  It is Dog Again for me and for my children (although they probably don’t remember much of the dog we had when they were young), and a first dog for my wife and her children.  My wife tells stories of how much she wanted a dog when she was a girl but she admits now that a good portion of that desire for a dog was just a way to poke at her parents.  Our dog is now about 8 months old and has become an integral part of the family… as dogs tend to do.

She still has a problem or two – she thinks that anything left on the floor is hers – especially if it is on the floor for several days; our Ping-Pong paddles have unique grips.  Her fascination with shoes seems to be at an end, at least when it comes to eating them.  I still catch her sticking her nose into a shoe for a good deep smell on occasion but I have not caught her picking any up.  There are some of the kids who don’t like the dog in their room but this has to do more with the fact that their floors are covered with potential dog toys.  It is easier for them to keep the dog out than it is to clean their rooms.  Mostly, she is loved.

We got the dog for two reasons:  I wanted a hunting dog and we wanted a companion for the youngest boy who often finds

When my shoes came off, she dropped.

When my shoes came off, she dropped.

himself alone in the house.  It is good that we wanted her for two purposes because she is small for her breed and she does not have much of the hunting dog temperament so far.  She is a wonderful family dog and the youngest boy has a best friend who never tires of him.  I even relented and let the kids play tug-of-war games that will not be helpful if I expect her to bring back birds without marking them with her teeth.  She is a family dog.  And that is good.

Because she began as my future hunting dog, I felt I was ultimately responsible for her mistakes, messes and disobedience.  As a puppy I knew that I wanted her to be able to sleep with the kids at night rather than be a kennel dog, so I allowed her to sleep next to my bed on a pillow.  She is not allowed on our bed – ever.  Something she continually forgets, almost as if it is a game to her.

Because she was on my side of the bed, I was the one she woke when she needed to go out, and it became the regular routine for her to wake me at about 2:00 every morning.  We would go out, take care of her needs, and return to my room where she was locked in so she could not wander the house and be naughty.  My wife is a light sleeper so she almost always awoke as well – sometimes suffering through not being able to get back to sleep.  The dog was not always well spoken of after 2.

As time went on, the dog proved herself more trustworthy and more headstrong.  She learned that when we came in the house at 2:00, she could beat me upstairs and take a position on a child’s bed where she would attempt to look very small and inconspicuous.  My choices were either to chance waking her host-child or to just let her sleep.  Eventually it became the pattern for her to sleep with the kids after her trip out, mostly without incident.

Now she is to the point where she decides when and where she is going to sleep.  Sometimes I want to sleep before her kids do and she was very vocal when she could hear a ‘party’ going on while she was locked into my room.  With three or four kids working on homework at 11:00 at night, it often sounds like a party even to me.  I don’t even check on her anymore.  I know that she will find a place to sleep when the kids go to bed.  She knows how to open the doors if she needs to.  We are working with her on learning to turn and close the doors when she lets herself in from outside.  I will let you know how that turns out.

She does not always open doors quietly – especially as her paws are tipped with claws that tend to drag as she works the latch and pushes the door open.  For this reason, I have to make sure that my bedroom door is closed only far enough that a soft push with a nose will open it.  Although the dog goes to sleep with the kids on their beds, and although she does not need to go out in the middle of the night, she still thinks it is her job to wake me at 2:00am!  Every single morning that dumb dog will get off the kid bed where she has chosen to sleep, walk to my door, push it open and come to wake me.  At first I thought she needed to go out so I would get up and walk to my door only to see her tail disappear around the corner leading to her boy’s bedroom.  Now I only pat her head and tell her I am awake.  Once she is sure she has done her job she returns quietly to her bed.

I really believe she thinks she is doing the right thing.  The consistency of this ritual tells me that she thinks it is something important.  She always wants to help.  Cooking, cleaning, bringing in groceries – it is best to find some way for her to be ‘helpful’ or you will be fighting with her nose as she tries to figure it out on her own.  The kids love to have her carry things for them and running the vacuum is a lot more fun with her helping, but sweeping with her help is nearly impossible.  In the fall she helped me pick beans and squash but she had trouble choosing red tomatoes over green ones so she was not much help there.  She also helped us tend the flower garden when we pulled up the annuals.

Sophie helping with the leaves

Sophie helping with the leaves

Big mistake:  She saw that we wanted the plants out of the flower garden and she was happy to help.  This was fun to watch as she would pick up the plants we had pulled and carry them around, or dig at the roots of the plants as we were pulling them.  Unfortunately that big nose of hers told her that we were missing some of the plants that were under the ground.  She knows they are there and she knows we want them gone so she has begun a campaign to rid our flower garden of the bulbs and wintering roots.

I have hope that I can cure her bulb-removal with some pet repellant spread where we don’t want her digging.  I don’t have the first idea of how I am going to cure her of helping me wake up at 2:00 every morning though.

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One   Man

Written by OneMan

January 15, 2015 at 11:22 am

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Managing the Cars

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One of my step daughters started at the community college this week.  It is a huge step for her and we have been busy trying to help her through her fears, frustration and confusion.  Every one of my kids is different and each has their own abilities and difficulties.  This child struggles with adult roles but excels at compassion and empathy.  Her feelings are easily hurt when people suggest that she should be doing more or better – something her brothers are constantly vocal about.

This morning, the 17 year old was expressing his opinion that his older sister needed to go to bed at 8 or 9 so she could get up at 5 to catch a bus to her school, thus freeing him to be able to drive one mile to school so he could leave the car in the parking lot all day until he needed it to drive the one mile back home.  In his mind, having his sister ride a bus at 6:00am was a valid solution to his problem of not having a car at his disposal.

His sister wilted – as she often does.  Eyes downcast, fingers fidgeting… It was obvious that she was taking her brother’s ‘opinion’ about how she should fix his problem personally.  This was not the time to get on her about what she is not doing to live up to her brother’s expectations, and although he was talking through her, as if she were not present, he knew his target audience and the effect he was having on her.  He could certainly talk her into riding the bus given enough time to pressure her by continually telling her how her choice is ruining his life.  Eventually she would come to believe that she is the problem.

I interrupted at this point and told the boy that he was welcome to drive the Saturn.  I wanted to remind him that we are a family and that we share in the consequences from the actions of the other family members.  The Saturn is a touchy subject because this boy took it, along with three of his best friends, to practice driving the manual transmission.  In this process they managed to somehow shake the oil cap off the engine.  When they stopped to pick it up and replace it, the car would no longer go.  They had unknowingly also sheared the drive shaft which then fell out while they were pushing the car to the side of the parking lot.  According to this boy, the car was working fine until they stopped to see what was lying on the ground and recognized it as the oil cap for the car.

The Saturn was my ride to work.  It was an ugly, plastic, toy like car that was anything but comfortable or glamorous.  It had a strong engine, a two-year old clutch, and it got a composite 38MPG going to and from work for me.  We also had a 12 passenger van that my wife drives around town and a car for the College kids to use.  This allowed the High School kids constant access to their daily ride – the Tahoe.  The Tahoe is the nice car and the one everyone wants to drive.

I was not there to see what happened with the Saturn, but I drove that car every day and never had the oil cap come loose.  The fact that the drive shaft snapped on the same adventure where the oil cap came free certainly indicates usage that is beyond normal wear and tear for a vehicle, and the fact that the noise level in the car was high enough that no one could hear the drive shaft break, or the subsequent thumping from the broken end banging against the car, indicates to me that they were having a lot of fun doing whatever it is they were doing.  The boy indicated that some of the black donuts left in the parking lot might have been a result of his turning too sharp once or twice.  He indicated that he would not know how to tell if he was mistreating the car when it broke so I suggested that any time he and his friends are making so much noise in the car that they can’t hear a piece of metal an inch thick when it snaps – that they are probably mistreating the vehicle.

He had no reply to that.

He would still have us believe that he was doing us all a favor by breaking the car in the parking lot because it was sure to break on the freeway otherwise.

The car was not worth repairing so we had to shuffle the cars remaining.  We were very fortunate that we could commission the ‘college’ car to be my daily driver.  We will eventually purchase another vehicle but we all have to learn to make what we have work for now.

Isn’t life wonderful?

 

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One  Man

Written by OneMan

January 14, 2015 at 11:09 am

Anti-alergy

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A friend of mine has recently composed several essays about being antifragile.  His essay was my first exposure to this idea, but it immediately made sense and I have been trying to become more antifragile personally and within my family.  I am not sure I am making any real progress but the idea is there coloring my daily experiences.

Once you understand antifragile, you will understand what I mean by antialergic.  I have come to the conclusion that I must be antialergic to seafood.  My wife thinks that it is wishful thinking, but my obviously biased memory says that my occasional headache-free days all followed a seafood binge.  The more I think about it, the more sure I am that the correlation between the two is a positive one:  ‘Eating seafood relieves my headache’, or ‘My head feels better after eating seafood’.  Maybe it is simply an excuse to eat seafood, but this must be thoroughly tested.  YES!

I have my headache on the run – why change my attack now?

One wonderful result of being headache free is that I feel energized and alive!  I want to go and do things that before seemed important burdens.  One of the things I can’t wait to begin is the tree pruning.  Last year I started too late and probably did too little.  This year I am starting early and I am really, really looking forward to it.  I have at least 44 trees in 12 different yards already on my list for this spring.  All of them are fruit trees right now – I can do the other trees later in the year.

It is the middle of January and I feel like a spring lamb.

 

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One  Man

Written by OneMan

January 12, 2015 at 12:59 pm

Posted in About Me, Garden, Headaches

Day two:

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Knock on wood.  Touch Iron. Pull your earlobe. Cross your fingers. Rub a horseshoe.  Do something to insure that talking about this won’t put an end to it.

Headache.  I have not had one in TWO days.  I had not realized how much life gets sucked out of me when I have one.  After having a constant headache for over 19 months it became the new-normal.  I am so happy that I just had to share my good fortune.  I want to go do something!  It stinks to be feeling so free when I spent all my vacation time over the holidays… with a headache.

The only bad thing is that the headache left without me making any changes.  I don’t know what brought on the sudden and consistent headache and I don’t know why it left me.  I had my brain scanned at about this time last year and the results surprised everyone – we were all expecting a Homer Simpson situation with a tiny nut of a brain floating freely inside my gourd but everything looked normal in there.  It was all so normal that I asked if they were sure that they had not mixed my MRI results with someone else.

My sister-in-law is sure that my headaches are caused by a heart problem called PFO.  I don’t buy that because of the sudden onset and now the sudden cure.  My wife thinks they are related to stress, which seems more likely to me.  I have proven to not handle stress well as evidenced by the Bell’s Palsy I got three days after getting married and taking on five new kids.  The fact that the headache resides entirely on the same side of my head that was affected by the palsy furthers this hypothesis.  I don’t know where to place the evidence of the headache leaving when I went back to work though.

The scientist within me wants to know why.  I have been doing various studies for the past 19 months in which I changed my lifestyle, diet, caffeine consumption, medications, sleep patterns, exercise levels… everything I could think of.  Unfortunately, I quit my medical research on myself in the first part of December so nothing is evident as a cause.  It is frustrating.

Not that I want the headache to come back just so I can further my research.  I am happy if I have put the whole thing behind me now.

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One  Man

Written by OneMan

January 6, 2015 at 4:39 pm

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Is this thing still on?

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Wow.  It has been a long time since I have taken time to sit and put thoughts to paper… err… whatever.  The strangest thing is that I have not really recognized that I missed it.  Life has had me in a headlock and has been slowly backing me toward the precipice from which there is no returning.  The act of writing with the intent of publishing has been a source of relief or at least of categorizing the concerns that plague me.  Often they seem more trivial after addressing them semi-publicly.  This is good.

The part that is not so good is that I have lost what little anonymity I assumed I had.  Enough people know the identity behind my moniker that it seemed more and more pointless to try to hide it, which of course only furthered the decay of my facade.  Perhaps that is what I am secretly seeking.  My previous blog attempt was ‘outed’ to my EX by its popularity.  She became suspicious when typing in the first names of our three children all brought up the same blog as a top return.  It should be no surprise that she did not like what I had written about her.  I was not writing to please her.  Or to be honest, I was not willing to please her.

In contrast, I care greatly what my now-wife thinks.  I also care about the feelings of my children who are now old enough to discover this blog on their own (although I have no indication that any have).  The things in life that frustrate me most, the things that are often the most constrictive, are relationships – probably because those require the most real effort to maintain.  I can go to work and pretend for a day or two and no one notices, but that is just not possible in a relationship.

Let this stand as fair warning:  I intend to pick up this blog again but I do not yet have a format.  I feel the desire to write so I may blunder without direction until I find a way to write that is compelling without being offensive to those I care about.

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One Man

Written by OneMan

December 10, 2014 at 4:53 pm

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Call me Mr. 300 today

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The older I get, the less recognition I seem to get. Birthdays have become simply another day and for the most part people just consider that anything I do is simply because I enjoy doing it. I am fairly grumpy so this is partly due to my behavior that leads people to believe I would never do anything just because it is the right thing to do.
For this reason I have been really looking forward to this day. Someone at the donor center noticed that the donation I was to make today was going to be a milestone and so they told me that they were going to make a big deal about it. The idea of someone making a big deal over me has been a pleasant one.
It was not really a surprise party because I knew it was coming, but I was surprised at the people who were there to give me thanks for my 300th successful platelet donation. They made me feel that what I have been doing has been important by making time to be there. They had posters, a banner set up outside, a certificate, a gift card, and they held a raffle to decide which of the phlebotomists would get to stick the needle in my arm.

Celebration to mark my 300th Platelet Donation

Celebration to mark my 300th Platelet Donation

Then they all left me quietly bleeding into the machine that harvests the platelets from my blood and things were back to normal. Although I am the first in this donor center’s history to reach the 300 level there was nothing to set me apart from the other people donating today once the procedure started… and despite all the hype they still asked to see some ID when they registered me.
If you were dedicated and never had to miss an appointment due to illness, injury or travel it would take 12.5 years to donate 300 times. It took me about 17 because I have not been completely healthy or completely dedicated. I never really set a goal to reach 300 donations, but in the back of my mind I have always thought that this would be a nice number to meet. Now that I am here, who knows where I will end up. Another 300 before the end of my life is not inconceivable.
It is not the numbers or the recognition that keep me donating (although as I said, I enjoyed it today), but the fact that I know I am doing good through my donations. You can’t do something like this for so long without understanding a bit about the business and I know that my blood is tests CMV negative meaning that it is safe for infants or people with compromised immune systems. Someday I may be exposed to the virus and lose my CMV negative status but even then I will still donate and my donations will still be valuable.
In the old days they used to be able to send out letters informing donors that their donations had been used in the care of a patient with a particular ailment. They never made any mention to anything identifiable but under the new Health Information Protection rules even this was too much information to share. Instead I occasionally get a call informing me that a patient matching my HLA type is in need of platelets but no follow up as to whether my donation was actually used or not. They lose their potency quickly if they are not immediately needed. I know that some of my donations have expired before they were needed, but isn’t that the best outcome? I would never wish someone injured or ill.
When they next call me looking for a donation, I will go in. I will just keep doing that and let the numbers take care of themselves. In the end, as with anything in life, the good you have done in the past has no value compared to the good you might do in the present.

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One Man

Written by OneMan

February 14, 2014 at 2:38 pm

Posted in About Me

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