ANCHORS AWEIGH PART 12

Hey! So it’s been awhile. Holidays happened, life happened, and I’m finding myself overcome with projects, some going on a year old now. However, I didn’t want to abandon this. Thank you to the few who take some time to read my ramblings and I’m so glad to hear from some of you that this stuff actually helps encourage you! That’s the whole point, why I write, create, blahblahblah – to try and make the world a better place if only a little bit at a time. So, I’m going to try and get this back into weekly mode and maybe get into more stuff as time goes on and I get this time management magic worked out.

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So here’s where it starts getting weird.

I got that initial paperwork regarding the treatment of my kidney stone in as quick as I could. A day or two later I learned that it was not sufficient. There needed to be something stating that I was treated, released from care and that there were no subsequent occurrences. So, I figured I needed to do a little more footwork. I thought and thought and thought…and HUZZAH!

I remembered when after I passed the stone I visited a urologist for follow-up. So I tracked down the doctor who did all that, called up the office and was able to get the records sent relatively quickly.

However, in conjunction with that, Navy Personnel Command required I get tested locally to show a recent record of my clean bill of urological health. It would be a doctor’s visit requiring a pee test and a CAT scan.

Uh-oh.

At the time I was working in a call center department for a natural gas company through a temp agency. Because money was kind of tight I used their 0$ group health insurance. I had no idea how much a CAT scan would cost, but I was convinced my meager health insurance wouldn’t cover it, so I googled out-of-pocket costs for CAT scans. Holy Cheerios, the lowest was about $1,500 and highest around $4K. There was no way I could cover that at the time.

All that time I had been praying, seeking God’s will. I was sure he wanted me to pursue enlistment, but with the setbacks I wasn’t so sure he wanted me to succeed. I was seeing it more as a “are you willing to go this far?” kind of faith test, perhaps preparing me for something greater.

Well, I called up people back home in North Carolina and was encouraged to not give up quite yet. Just go into a doctor’s office and see what would happen. Bear in mind, I didn’t have a primary care physician at that time, so I had to go to a Minute Clinic. Before leaving the house that morning I said to God, “Hey man, you want this to happen, I’m gonna need to get this procedure for a song.”

On my lunchbreak, I went to the nearest Minute Clinic location. Handing over my paperwork to the lady at the desk, my heart skipped a beat as her brow furrowed.

“I’m sorry, we can’t help you with this.”

I asked her why not.

“Well, we’re in a Kroger grocery store, so we couldn’t really fit a CAT scan machine in here. But our location on the other side of the parking lot has one! You can try there,” she said with a smile.

So I booked it on over to the location on the other side of the parking lot.

I handed the lady there my materials, she had me sign in, and I asked how much it would cost.

“Oh, well, technically this is just a visit, so that’s $29.95.”

“What about the CAT scan?” I asked.

“We can just put that here under the ‘visit’,” she smiled.

“Wait,” I said, “so the whole thing is just $29.95?”

“With your insurance, yup.”

I swear I could hear the Divine humming Rooster In the Straw.

Sunrise in the early morning hours of Chanthaburi Thailand. (from Adobe Stock)

TO BE CONTINUED

 

2016 Reflections

It’s been quite a year.

A lot of folks think it’s been a terrible year. The world has lost many worldwide famous entertainers as well as close, personal loved ones. Even now, as the clock ticks down to midnight on the east coast, I’m seeing new Facebook posts pop up from folks whose relatives or family members have passed on to the next life.

I’m not going to say how people should grieve or handle loss, but for me 2016 wasn’t a terrible year, though it certainly hasn’t been without its fair share of new challenges and hard lessons.

I’d say the most significant event for me was Stormy’s birth back in April. He came a couple weeks ahead of schedule and has changed everything, and I’d change nothing back.

The second most significant event for me was transitioning out of the military and back into being a full-time student, this time in my dream major: filmmaking.

Losing that job security has had its share of stressors, but Jenn, Stormy and I are doing okay so far, and the future’s looking good so long as we’ve got each other.

I’ve learned that there’s a difference between knowing the world isn’t black and white and viewing it as such and acting accordingly.

I’ve learned that if I truly believe I am as worthy of respect as the next guy, I need to stand up for myself and understand that sometimes people will be upset when I do that.

I’ve also learned that standing up for myself doesn’t mean I get to or have to be a dick about it ( – baby steps – ).

I’ve learned and experienced a newer, deeper level of selfless love since Jenn and I became parents.

I’ve learned that though I may have missed out on friendships available over 18 years ago, under the right circumstances it’s never too late to reconnect and enjoy the good old time now rather than lamenting the previously missed opportunities.

I guess I’ve learned that redemption is divine and the mundane is sacredly profound.

I’ve learned that I have a whole lot more to learn before it’s my time to go.

Here’s to another 365ish days hurtling through the frigid vacuum of space in solar orbit on our homey pale blue dot.

Hey – THANKS

I wasn’t sure if I was going to do anything for today or not in terms of posting anything…but it has been two weeks since I posted an entry for the Anchors Aweigh so, here we go.


Found along the Kuliouou trail. It speaks to me on so many levels.
Found along the Kuliouou trail. It speaks to me on so many levels.

My earliest happier memories of Thanksgiving are from when my family and another close to ours would rent a beach house on Emerald Isle, NC every(ish) year and spend a week or so down there. Sometimes extended family would join us and amplify the fun.

And then in 2010 I spent my first Thanksgiving away from home, as I moved to Ohio that summer. It was kind of depressing as through some unfortunate miscommunication I wound up spending it all alone.

Thanksgiving 2011 was radically different. Dinner was spent mostly in silence as I was surrounded by my Navy recruit family at boot camp. It was a vast improvement over the previous year.

2012 saw my first Thanksgiving overseas. I was on my first mission with JPAC in Laos. Staff from the Lao detachment brought over some traditional dishes and volunteers spent most of the day cooking. That was pretty cool; definitely an improvement over 2011’s dinner, but I still felt like I hardly knew anyone. I think as soon as I was done eating I retreated to my tent for some Doctor Who and Sword & Sworcery.

One of the best video games ever.
One of the best video games ever.

2013 was a step up, once again, as I was on mission again, but this time to the Solomon Islands. I’m pretty sure we worked that day, though I’m not 100% on that; regardless, for dinner I had room service deliver a cheese pizza and beer. I spent the rest of the evening watching movies and contemplating my future.

2014 was an evolutionary leap compared to the four previous years. It was over a month since I had proposed to Jenn and so I went with her to her family’s gathering. First time since 2010 I was with family, though still surrounded by mostly strangers I was at least with my dear lover.

Last year Jenn was pregnant with Stormy.

This year littlebig Stormy is with us and I don’t think I could be much happier. He’s teething, so that makes for a lot of ungodly-hour early mornings including today, but after Jenn took over at 2:00, I took over at 6:00 and after feeding we just played, and it was wonderful. Jenn rejoined about 10 or so and we watched the Macy’s Parade while I made egg nog French toast and coffee.

Now Stormy is napping, it’s going on 11, and we’re just taking it easy. I mean, we’re doing stuff around the house, but it’s such a relaxing day by comparison (at least for me; I think for Jenn, too).

Being thankful, being grateful, is, I’m learning more and more, one of the foundational principles of happiness. It’s really to think of all that I don’t have and be woeful of that.

But thinking about what I do have: a loving wife and child, income, a roof over our heads, a family support system, working vehicles, plans and dreams for our family’s future….

Looking back six years and then where I am now, I am one lucky/blessed son of a gun.

However your Thanksgiving is going – or life in general – I hope you are able to find your happiness, too.

END OF TOUR

Five years.

In retrospect it all just flew by; things always seem to have gone faster once you’re on the other side of them. Yet, I feel like getting to where I am now has been in the works for many more years than just the last five.

Part of me thinks I should have enlisted right out of high school or college. Of course, had I done that, I wouldn’t have had the experiences I’ve had; I wouldn’t be who I am today. While I’m not 100% proud of the choices the who-I-am-today makes, I’m on pretty good terms with him and we get shit done.

So yeah, it couldn’t have happened any other way. My experience in the Navy wouldn’t have been the same, I think. I wouldn’t have the same appreciation for life and the gifts it brings that I have today. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have the same worldview, either. Maybe close…the more time that passes, the more I’m convinced I was on the right track when I was 17, 18, but for whatever reason I lacked that inner core of confidence to just freakin’ go for it.

Shucks, I am 100% positive I wouldn’t have gotten this assignment to Hawaii with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (neé JPAC) 18 or so years ago had I enlisted then and I would have missed the incredible experiences and interesting people I’ve met and worked with.

From Laos to Greenland it’s been one hell of a ride and a privilege of which to be a part.

First time ever in Laos - last day of the mission surrounded by such incredibly lovely people.
First time ever in Laos – last day of the mission surrounded by such incredibly lovely people.
Greenland - amazing mission with quality people. No one makes 'em quite like the Coasties.
Greenland – amazing mission with quality people. No one makes ’em quite like the Coasties.

Now it wasn’t all sunshine and daisies, but the ups sure outnumber the downs and in the end I’ve learned to stand up for myself and for others – not perfectly, and hardly ever gracefully, but everything is a work-in-progress. I only hope I can pass what I’ve learned on to my son, as my father hoped to pass certain things on to me.

So what’s the next step? Who the heck knows?!

I’m about halfway through my first semester at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, in the Digital Cinema track (modern filmmaking); working on a couple novels; working on my filmmaking portfolio; raising a baby with my wife; loving the crap out of my wife (we keep each other regular); and meeting each challenge as it comes. We started working on our plan more than a year ago and continue to work on it. Life changes things. Plans change.

Adapt and overcome.

So yeah, I feel like I’ve been waiting for this my whole life and blam-o, here I am in the thick of it already.

Zing.

What living on a glacier for six weeks can do to a man. Desperately trying to get this look back...
What living on a glacier for six weeks can do to a man. Desperately trying to get this look back…

Anchors Aweigh Part 8 – The First Step

PREVIOUSLY…

A fast road through beautiful countryside. ...TO A NEW LIFE!!
A fast road through beautiful countryside. …TO A NEW LIFE!!

So, having decided on the Navy, I started googling around, trying to find the nearest recruiting center. One morning on the way into work I decided to try and find it, just for my information.

The building was remarkably nondescript.

There was a sign, way up on the wall, near the roof that simply said, “ARMED SERVICES RECRUITING”. I parked, walked up to the door and there was a sign that read something to the effect of, “Sorry, sucker, we’ve moved.” And the address was listed below. I checked that out on my awesome Palm Pilot phone and saw it was just down the street. In fact, I had passed it many times during my commute.

So, I got back in my car and rolled back the way I had come and found the office. This one had a sign saying, “MILITARY RECRUITMENT” or something like that. I parked, got out, walked up – this sign simply detailed the hours of operation. There were also inspirational, G.I. Joe kinds of posters and cardboard cutouts of elite, awesomesauce, badass warriors of the modern age, like some amped dudes from a Michael Bay film.

I checked my watch; ten minutes to zip over the freeway and into a spot and to hopefully clock in not too late.

I looked at the hours of operation again.

I stepped inside.

The hallway had signs for all the services: Marines on the left, Air Force in the back, Army on the right in the back, and Navy on the right in the front.

I didn’t even think, I just walked in. Three or four gentlemen, about my age (certainly in better shape than I was), dressed in their service uniforms looked at me and whatever conversation had been going on suddenly stopped.

Anchors Aweigh Part 7 – Considering Options

PREVIOUSLY…

Sometimes you have to ignore the signs...
Sometimes you have to ignore the signs…

My initial reaction was one of disbelief, but deeper within that, within the guts of my soul, I knew this was the answer I was looking for. I didn’t say that right off the bat, no, I said I’d consider it, pray about it and look into it. As soon as I got off the phone, though, I had a mild rush of excitement as I knew this was the avenue I was to pursue, even if it didn’t end as I thought it might, which at that point, I had no clue as to how such a pursuit might end.

I had no point of reference to compare to the military, so I couldn’t even begin to imagine what it might be like.

One thought flashed in my head: BAND CAMP. I quickly dismissed it, though, thinking there was no way high school band camp could at all compare to boot camp or the military experience in general.

I started checking out the different websites for the services – Army.com, Navy.com, AirForce.com, Marines.com – and settled on the Navy. Something about the romance of seafaring grabbed my gut.

I started looking through the different job possibilities, I even took a survey to see which one I might be suited for. The result was: photojournalist. The page said something about how I’d be good at telling the Navy’s story through word and image. I scoffed at that; after all, that’s kind of what I majored in at ECU many moons ago. I felt as though I had already blown my chance at making something of myself in the world of media. Whatever karmic energy there is that gives a brother a shot at doing something he loves, I figured I had used mine up in the media department.

I thought perhaps I could be some kind of welder or work in construction. I didn’t know, just something new, something different. As much as anything I saw this as a way to reinvent myself, to learn something new about myself, to make something better of myself.

Anchors, Aweigh! [Part 6 of my story of making the best decision of my adult life]

PREVIOUSLY…

The company of friends is a great thing, and when you’re at your lowest, nice strangers are good stand-ins until they become friends which is what happened for me. I was connected with a small group Bible study from another church. Being near about the oldest person in the group – by a margin of a few years – was a bit strange for me at first, but they were just cool, nice people who accepted me as I was.

I’m pretty sure they didn’t know of the recent emotional devastation I was coming out of, and that was okay.

These new friends helped me smile again. With make-up.
These new friends helped me smile again. With make-up.

They were younger so their faith was younger, more fresh – zesty, I daresay; and by faith, I guess I just mean their outlook on life. In addition to just being younger in age, some of them were younger in the faith, and I needed newness, freshness, different perspectives to help me heal and move on.

Things were starting to look up. I wasn’t going to the bathroom at work to cry as much, I was generally feeling better, and since I wasn’t dwelling so much on the past I was able to start thinking about my future.

That was when I realized, I had no freakin’ clue what to do about it.

At that point I was qualified to be a schoolteacher, work in middle management, or just management in retail. But I had no drive, no real motivation.

Over the years I had considered becoming a pastor, but that would require more school.

I briefly considered returning to video/filmmaking, but I felt grossly underqualified and clueless about the whole thing.

So while I was feeling better about things in general, I was rudderless, directionless, feeling no push or pull in any given direction, and that got me feeling antsy.

During another phone conversation with my surrogate mom, I expressed all this to her. She said to pray about it, so I did. A few days later during another conversation she said she had been talking to her husband, who among other things is a Marine who served in Vietnam during the war. He suggested I look into the military, the Air Force or something.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Connecting With the Past

We shouldn’t live in the past, but by all means we should be connected with it.

Tuesday morning I went into the gym for my daily Fit By First workout. It involved jumping jacks, situps/crunches, planks, and other things.

I took my place in front of the mirror.

I jiggled.

I wiggled.

I shook and shimmied involuntarily as I put my body through the paces.

And I watched.

Never have I seen me in such a state.

I’ve weighed this amount before, but I’ve never put myself in front of a full-body mirror and tried doing full-body exercises.

A few years ago that would have been mortifying. Now it’s…well, while I’m not satisfied with my metabolic status quo I realize it’s not going to change overnight and I’m not going to lose anything of value while I’m in it.

According to the Navy, for my height I’m about 30 pounds out of regulations. I think it’s fair to say it’s not all muscle; it’s not even 50% muscle, I think. I’d say it’s probably more significant than I think, but nowhere near what I’d want it to be. Well, maybe near; I’m not obese, but I am rambling, so to the point:

A lot of change has been going on in my life.

IMG_2295

I became a father this year. I went back to school. I’m getting out of the Navy after five years of service. Jenn and I moved and she went back to work. I have to drive Stormy to his grandparents at 0530 every morning (If we leave on time) and be back at Manoa in time for my 0730 class on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I’m writing a book and getting coached in how to publicize it and sell pre-orders to get it published by Inkshares. I’m working on a prospective project for my side business. I get 4-6 hours of sleep most nights.

And while I don’t want to stay 30 lbs out of regs – even after I separate – I’m not super-ashamed because look at my life.

Crazy? Frenetic? Hectic? Abso-toot-ly.

But then tonight, after Jenn finished feeding Stormy – his last before bed – I was carrying him, gently burping him, and he had his head on my shoulder, facing toward me, but eyes shut tight, breathing deep, falling deeper into sleep.

Skinny Cliff would kill for such moments.

I thought back to when Jenn first told me her pee test popped positive; when we got our first ultrasound of him; the first time we saw his little body developing and he had limbs and as soon as the camera was on him he stretched out all the way, all of a sudden – a real live critter, just starting out; strong heartbeat, good vitals, our future son.

And that connection, that memory of the not too distant past (though it feels like a world away) flooded me with appreciation and emotion for this moment tonight.

I thanked God for this life, portly though I may currently be, and I’m just…happy. I’m content. I prefer the abilities of skinny Cliff and am working to get back to that, but to keep my spirit. Same body, a little leaner; same spirit, always growing.

Living the dream, baby.

 

Buy my book?

Once Upon a Time…

Pre-order today!
Pre-order your copy today! Just click on the image!

Once upon a time, Magnami was a world of fantasy and magic. A great cataclysm was brought upon the land when Dalimor, the King of Shadows, attempted to usurp power from Thael, the Star Guardian. As the peoples of the world began to rebuild, they did so not with magic, but with science and technology.

The cataclysm changed the face of Magnami. The Impassable Mountains sprang up between Aenod and Xiriath; the ocean was widened between Aenod and Silespi; the land of the Huma, Avotin, was brought closer to Aenod, the land of the Hara, thus, expediting the proliferation of tools and machines and the diminishing presence of spells and enchantments.

Where there was once a divine paradise, there is now a frozen wasteland where legend has it time itself freezes in the otherworldly frigid climate.

Over time, the era before the cataclysm (B.C.) fell into myths and legends, stories not to be taken seriously, but only considered as fairytales.

And so, in the new post-cataclysmic world (P.C.) a new era of civilizations strive to make sense of their history and initiate the Myth Initiative. The mission is to explore the myths and legends to discover the truth behind the stories. However, within the coalition is a faction with more clandestine objectives.

Led by the mysterious General Krazán, he always has a handpicked man or woman leading each venture.

At the time of the Frozen Wastes, we join Perilea Greyleaf, a 19 year old freshman in college joining in on what’s supposed to be the final mission of the Initiative. She herself suffering from a genetic condition endemic to her ethnicity has been tenaciously researching the history of her people, the Shohara, and discovering more questions than answers in the annals of medicinal history; but when going down a more fantastical road of insight, she learns of amazing new possibilities as well as a potential threat in the Wastes of a most ancient and evil origin…

Pre-order your copy today!

Doors

Lotsa doors, yo...you can only go through one at a time, though.
Lotsa doors, yo…you can only go through one at a time, though.