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

 

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 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…

Anchors, Aweigh! [Part 5 of my story of making the best decision of my adult life]

PREVIOUSLY…

The second time – could’ve been another day, could’ve been later that day – I revisited the notion after a long day at work. For a good month or so I’d spend at least 15 minutes in a stall in the men’s room crying softly. The feeling would just come on all of a sudden; I’d have to log off the phone, hold it in while I walked quickly to the restroom, hope no one else was in there, and just let it out as quietly as possible, sometimes stuffing toilet paper in my mouth to help keep it muffled.

...but you already know what I'm thinking...
…but you already know what I’m thinking…

Following one of those many days I had a similar mental exchange. Except when I got to the accomplishing part it seemed a little easier; I was already in my car and there was a highway right over the hill I could have a fantastic wreck on. But then I thought of the other people who might be possibly involved. And then the third voice barged in again, asking what the fuck I was thinking.

You know what I’m thinking, I responded.

RIGHT – BEFORE YOU DO YOU ANYTHING YOU’LL REGRET, MAKE A FUCKING PHONE CALL!!

And then, I don’t know, I just came to my senses and called back home to North Carolina and talked to my surrogate mom – I was ashamed and scared to tell her what I had been considering. Ashamed for the stigma surrounding people possessing such thoughts and scared to admit it because that somehow makes it more real.

She wasn’t mad, she wasn’t ashamed, but she was scared for me and suggested I call my former therapist. I called her right away and we talked for a few minutes. I called her again a few days later; no more thoughts along those lines, and by that time more people were coming into my life.

The all caps, bold and italic lettering voice I think was the voice of God; or my guardian angel if you think God is above using the f-bomb.

TO BE CONTINUED…

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.

Four Years

Four years ago to the day my life was about to change in ways I never imagined.

I boarded the plane in Baltimore, had a six hour delay in Chicago, and at 11ish PM Friday, July 13, 2012, I set foot in Honolulu for the first time in 23 years.

When I was eight years old my family spent our summer vacation here for just shy of two weeks, I think. We landed in Honolulu, spent the night here, then flew to Maui the next day for a few days, then to the Big Island for a few days, then back to Oahu for the last few days before heading back East.

I have a handful of solid memories but mostly just impressions from that trip:

Marveling at the lava flow on Big Island.
Running around a golf course at midnight on Maui and helping bullfrogs learn to fly.
Sparrows flying into the rooftop restaurant on Oahu.
Being afraid that the roof of any of the inter-island Aloha airline planes we rode would come off like it did a few months before.
Chewing sugarcane for the first time.
Watching my first Indiana Jones movie – The Last Crusade – at a drive-in movie theater.
Marveling at the hula ladies…

Even then I couldn’t put my finger on it, but there was something magical about this place.

Twenty-seven years later, after four years of living here I still can’t.

The Aloha Spirit.

Ohana.

The verdant landscape.

First scenic shot. Taken on my birthday, July 29, 2012.
First scenic shot. Taken on my birthday, July 29, 2012.

The very earth itself brimming with life and vitality.

There’s just something magical, mystical; old yet fresh about this place.

While I’m not a fan of the population density on Oahu, I always feel like I’m back home whenever I return from a trip somewhere else (with the exception of The Big Island – I always feel like I’m going back home whenever I visit there).

Four years ago today, I had no idea what I was getting myself into; what with my assignment at a joint command, my first duty station usually reserved for no lower than E-5s, maybe an E-4 soon to be promoted, yet there I was, an E-3.

2013 shot - doing background work for an episode of Hawaii Five-0
2013 shot – doing background work for an episode of Hawaii Five-0

And little did I know how much of the world I was about to see.

I thought boot camp and “A” School busted open my worldview…

Cumulatively six months in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific.

A month and some change in Europe and then a couple months on a couple glaciers.

I feel as though I’ve certainly aged, but I also feel as though I’ve gotten a little younger somehow…

Started making real-life grown-up decisions on my own, being as far away as one can be from friends and family before you start going back around.

In 2014 I met, dated, and married this gem of a lady. Best initiative I ever took.
In 2014 I met, dated, and married this gem of a lady. Best initiative I ever took.

Knowing what I know now there are some things I wouldn’t have done, but I don’t really regret anything. It all goes into that worldview I was talking about before.

I’ve learned not to grasp things too tightly for too long, so I’ve learned to cherish the present moments even more.

Entering the service and giving up many freedoms have helped me appreciate and value freedom even more; I feel more a free man than I ever have.

Nov. 2015 - Barking Sands Beach, Kauai. Living life and learning to live with Jenn. Loving almost every second of it.
Nov. 2015 – Barking Sands Beach, Kauai. Living life and learning to live with Jenn. Loving almost every second of it.

I met my wife and my kid was born here.

Where will I be in four more years? No clue.

Probably still around. Maybe about to head elsewhere; who knows?

Until then I just keep doing what I do everyday: take it one day at a time.

There is A LOT going on this year, but the arrival of this little guy is by the far the most epic.
There is A LOT going on this year, but the arrival of this little guy is by the far the most epic.

Auditioning for the Band

The news started breaking as I was heading to bed after 0200.

“Mass Shooting in Orlando – 20 Dead, 20 Injured”

All I could think was, “Shit…here we go again.”

By the time I woke up this morning it was 50 confirmed dead.

Fifty souls lost at a night club in Orlando, Florida.

Gun crowd says there should be more guns in the hands of citizens to fend off such attacks.

Gun control crowd says the laws need to be tighter.

Some say it’s (radical) Islam which is to blame.

Some blame the President for making our country more friendly to terror – er…Muslims.

Some say it’s God’s judgement.

Some say it’s just a super fucked up thing to happen.

As mass shootings increase in frequency; as hatred continues to grow in strength and manifest in vile groups such as ISIS, the KKK, human traffickers, and politicians; as acts of terror become the new normal…I gotta confess, I’m not entirely surprised.

Always saddened and disappointed with humanity, but not shocked and certainly not surprised. Before things get better, they’re going to get worse.

There are moments of reflection where I sit back and wonder why on earth I colluded with another human to bring a new human into the world. There are moments where I reconsider and doubt the wisdom of my career choice in pursuing content creation (filmmaking, writing, etc); shouldn’t I be doing something important with my time instead of dreaming up frivolous stories for entertainment? The Titanic is sinking and I’m auditioning for the band?

"And the band played on..." image capture from James Cameron's 1997 masterpiece.
“And the band played on…” image capture from James Cameron’s 1997 masterpiece.

Yup.

Entertaining is all I’ve ever really felt good about being good at.

When you can laugh, think of a joke, sing a song, or just be creative in even the darkest of circumstances fear is castrated, terror is mortified, brokenness is restored.

And when you can get other suckers to laugh, think, sing, create with you, then the doom of doom is even more pronounced.

Besides, the boat is sinking; ain’t nothing changing that fact.

Now, the more we laugh and sing and dance gaily about our merry lives, the more darkness there is that conspires against us, seeking to snuff out the delight of life bringing only ruin and misery to nature’s existence.

But did you know that scientists seem to be discovering that even in dark energy there is light?

Reminds me of ol’ Psalmist man saying to G-d:

12even the darkness is not dark to you
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

Even in the darkest, coldest, most remote parts of the universe (apparently), there is still light.

So, light is everywhere; not darkness. Or wherever darkness is, light is right there with it, keeping the scary places not so scary.

The boat is sinking. You want to go down lamenting and wailing without dignity or shall we sing and laugh, reflecting on the time we had, marveling that we lasted as long as we did?

So, uh, yeah: fuck evil; fuck terrorism; fuck fear.

Shalom, y’all.

The Fountainhead (or: The Poop is Always Greener on My Hand)

Keep reading…you’ll get it. (Source: Wikipedia)

“Enjoy it!”

“Be sure to enjoy it while you can!”

“It goes by so fast; enjoy it!”

These are the admonitions my wife and I receive whenever we tell someone new of our recent delivery (alas; still no DiGiorno…). Recent…well, I reckon today it’s a month! How about that? On one hand I find myself wondering where the time went and on the other I dreadfully realize: it’s only been a month.

As you could see in previous posts, the first week or so at home was pretty rough. Up until the grandparents relieved us for an afternoon and early evening I thought Jenn and I were both going to eventually lose our minds.

And if you follow me on Facebook, you’ve seen me post stuff about home life with a baby that isn’t necessarily up to socially acceptable code. It seems as though there’s a prescription for doting on one’s child and posting pictures with captions that are all about how cuuuuuute and looooooving their little humans are, and just how precious and sweet one’s offspring is.

A night or so ago I posted a few second video of my firstborn crying incessantly in his bassinet, hungry – YET AGAIN – for a bottle of formula or pumped mudder’s milk.

He also seems to have this internal timer that goes off any time Jenny and I, or just I, sit down to eat together (or by myself), after a bout of crying, diaper changing, and feeding, to start crying again before the first bite can be taken. WITHOUT FAIL, PEOPLE.

And then a couple nights ago…he’s fussy. The indicator stripe on the Pampers diaper is blue. Time to change.

Stormy’s actually not too fussy once he’s on the table. I’m like, cool.

Undo the diaper; start to wipe down the peethenBAM!! What would normally be a benign fart was actually a piñata of poop that burst forth its fecal candy on the table, on the paper towel roll, on the diaper genie and accompanying trash can, and my freakin’ hand.

Jenn, of course, had just sat down to eat her soup and was yukkin’ it up at my turn of fortune.

Now, for the sake of full disclosure, though the explosion had spread, it was fortunately enough light on intensity. So there were little dots of green, but that was it; no chunks or lumps or anything like that. Just little specks of Stormy poop that needed wiping.

Before I can finish cleaning – one-handed, mind you, as I have his legs up to keep him from getting anything on him – this little play-doh pusher starts a right good movement of the bowels.

“OMYGOD!” I say, giving Jenn the play-by-play, who is choking on her soup for all the laughter she’s indulging in.

Thankfully there was a paper towel beneath him to mitigate the staining of the changing mat.

So, I start to clean that when suddenly Stormy fancies himself a bit of a wiz’, and has his infantile junk positioned in such a way as to bypass the paper towel pee guard and get that out on the table, too.

Jenn’s ROFL’ing by now as I’m clambering about, trying to keep this natural disaster and potential biohazard contained.

By the time I’ve replaced the paper towel beneath him and start to dry off the droplets of his biological sprinkler system he’s begun his second movement of green, oozy, babyshit.

All I can do is stop and watch.

Stormy isn’t fussy at all; it’s like we’re both just resigned to the fact that some serious shit is going down and there’s nothing we can do about it in the moment.

He finishes; I clean; he pees AGAIN. Every time it catches me by surprise and I celebrate with a punctuated colorful metaphor and Jenn follows up with breathless laughter.

Our Nightstorm lies there and I don’t even get to the paper towels when suddenly a clean, vertical shoot of clear liquid (our boy is hydrated) springs up, perfectly perpendicular to the earth, and he’s engaged in his third movement (Beethoven wishes his movements were so moving, affecting the very bowels of a newborn) of green goo and all I can do is shout profane-sounding gibberish in shock and awe at the amazing feat my son has just pulled off.

Jenn finally catches her breath and asks if I need anything.

A third hand, I say.

She laughs.

I’m fresh out of third hands, babe, I say.

Oh, heehee, she says and asks how she can help.

I take Stormy over to the sink to wash him off and she goes to swab the Poop Deck.

After four shits and three pees, Stormy’s finally in his new diaper and suckin’ on a fresh bottle before burping and going down for the count (of about 20 minutes before starting it all over again).

And he was one Fussy McFusserstein once Jenn went to bed. The moment I’d start to nod off, thinking he was sleeping, he’d start that malcontent engine revving with little nasal whimpers, cresendoing into his crying forte.

So on Facebook and in this here blog I try to keep it real.

Sometimes I think the people who say, “Enjoy it” are either sadists getting off on some sick schadenfreude knowing Jenn and I are getting 4-5 hours of sleep a night or masochists who genuinely enjoyed the incessant crying, fussing, etc. and are trying to spread the love.

And then I go and listen to Episode 99 of the RobCast and hear the heartbreaking story of a mother whose 9-yr old girl finally died after being born without a brain.

I read a Facebook post or two of friends who lost children in the womb, or shortly after birth, having experienced the thrill of hearing the heartbeat and seeing the life movements of their unborn children only to hear the sickening silence a week or so later and see the fuzzy outline motionless on the computer screen; or to have their tiny child pass to the next world, still in the hospital under the care of those who try their hardest to preserve life.

I remember that Jenn and I are still in the SIDS window and that no moment is promised to any of us, and sure, I’ve made it in this world these almost 36 years and Jenn’s almost made it to 27, but Stormy…I’ve seen the young of birds eaten by snakes on National Geographic…why should Stormy make it past one month? What unseen forces of nature may be conspiring to take him; not out of any inherent malice, but just because that’s the cold, fucking, hard reality of the world?

I think of stuff like that.

I sure as heck don’t enjoy the crying and sleep deficiency, but I’m ever so grateful Jenn and I have a healthy kid that can cry and keep us awake.

An hour before writing this post...
An hour before writing this post…