Category Archives: Family

Here’s to you Mom…

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Transitions are tough. Change seems to be the primary cause of fear and unrest in our world. But change and transitions are a fundamental fabric of our being.

My mother died this morning at 10 a.m.

Josephine was born in 1922. She married my father and had three children. I was the youngest…the mistake.

My father died in 1989. My father was my mom’s world. My ex-wife and I invited my mom to live with us after my dad’s death and she became part of my new family…she was Grandma to my step kids and to my two new little ones. It gave her life. It rejuvenated her spirit and passion. It also was a blessing beyond measure to have her around my kids at a particularly challenging phase of my life.

I divorced my wife and my mom went to live with my older brother. He and his wife earned their saints wings for the years they took mom in. She could be difficult. She feared change.

My mom and I had a complex relationship, as all parents/children do. It created a lot of guilt for me as she grew older that I resented her worldview and bitterness. I wanted her to be different. I wanted her to be happy. And I was angry at her because she wasn’t.

I loved my mom.

I found out she died this morning while riding my bike. I had just passed a convalescent home that had been the source of guilt for me every time I rode by (i felt guilt that I didn’t have the financial means or stable enough lifestyle that I could prevent her also from being in a convalescent home). As I passed I had the unwavering feeling that she had died.

The phone rang 5 minutes later. It was my brother…

I spent the rest of the ride cycling through tears. I prayed SO hard that mom and dad are reunited. She deserved that. She deserved peace.

Transitions are hard. I’m okay with my mom’s passing. It’s what happens. I just hope she can feel the warmth of my dad’s hand in hers after so many years apart…

 

 

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How 2 Wheels Changed Everything…

BikeDad

Dec. 21, 2007 is my sobriety date. I haven’t found the need to ingest any alcohol or other mind altering chemicals since that date. I’d love to claim that this occurred because of a personal epiphany or that I was suddenly struck with an urge to get healthy, but that would not be the truth. The truth was, as I was sitting handcuffed in the back of a CHP car, I decided to change my life…enough was enough. I had somehow contracted the disease of alcoholism (funny how that happens…I thought everybody blacked out and drank as much and as long as I did), and as a result of my actions while drinking…I had picked up my second DUI the night I was fortunate enough to be in that CHP car (as opposed to the Coroners van).

The State of California decided I needed to be without a driver’s license for 365 days. Damn. That was inconvenient. I had a life then. How the hell am I going to get to work, pick up my kids…do life?

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The answer took the form of 2 wheels. For the next year, I did life on 2 wheels. Entertaining my kids, work, grocery shopping…life was done on 2 wheels.

In a million years, if you would have told me I’d be a cyclist now, at age 55…I would have genuinely laughed. And I did at the spandex laden freaks I saw on the side of the road. Until I became one…

As I spent that year on 2 wheels, something clicked inside me. Every single time I set forth…those first few pedal strokes invoked a sense of freedom and youth in me I hadn’t felt since I was a kid on my Schwinn. And that feeling remains today.

Last year, I rode over 3500 miles. On the bike pictured above, I’ve ridden 12,602 miles. And I’ve become a cycling addict. Every climb calls to me like another challenge awakened…every long ride instills in me a sense of accomplishment and…well…life.

I’ve lost 30 lbs cycling and for the first time in my life, all my lab work at my annual physical was normal…hypertension: gone…high blood sugar: gone…routine labs: normal.

So it was with this justification that I decided to spend some money on my health and my future. I bought a “real” road bike. A carbon fiber dream that I’d been coveting for a few years.

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I haven’t even taken it out on the road yet. It just didn’t seem right until I eulogized my 2007 Gary Fisher Mendota…

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The two wheels that got me to the market, got me to work, to my meetings, to my kids…the two wheels that helped keep me sober and helped me quit smoking–the two wheels that profoundly changed my life and my health. I didn’t see it coming. Sometimes the best things in life work that way.

I hate to part with you my friend. And although you’ll be my campus bike when I get into UCLA in 2017…you’ll no longer be my daily rider. My daily meditation. My daily savior on two wheels…

 

 


Selfies Are Tough With Tears in Your Eyes…

Sean Newport
A little over two years I birthed this blog while I was on leave from work after hip replacement surgery. My first and second posts concerned the reality that my first-born was off to college. She’s now a successful college junior in D.C. I made sure to memorialize our last moments together with a (sort of) selfie of her and I together. Actually, the man taking the picture was my son.

My son. The man that less than a half an hour ago I kissed and embraced very hard as I said goodbye to him. My youngest begins his collegiate journey tomorrow. I meant to take a selfie to continue the tradition but a couple of things happened.

At some point in the evening after our awesome “guys” dinner at a local steak house and our post-feast visit to Starbucks, I needed him to go. Not because I wanted him to go but because the reality was starting to set in. And so were the tears. And the lump in my throat that is still present.

I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t about me at all…it is. The empty nest just showed up at my door and for the first time in my life, I have no genetic family within driving distance. But it’s so much more…

It’s the sadness of physically parting with my best friend. My son. My little guy who is now bigger than me.

It’s the joy of and excitement shared of watching him embark on what I am absolutely certain will be a wonderful experience at a Division I school and the promise of a bright future as he studies Biology and Pre-Med.

It’s the sadness of seeing the sands of time fall in front of my eyes. Each grain hitting the sand pile like a hammer on marble. It was acutely present tonight.

It’s the joy of accomplishment. My son and daughter are each talented and unique individuals who have set off on their own paths with enthusiasm and discipline. Four eyes on the prize for sure…

It’s the sadness of loss. Of saying goodbye to a man that means more to me than I could ever express in words. To a young man that carries my hopes and dreams for him along with his own.

So…any selfie I took tonight would have been smeared through the eyes of a proud father…

I miss you already buddy. Vaya con dios my son…


How I Spent My Summer Vacation…

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My fourth semester of the “Return to College Tour” starts tomorrow so I thought I’d share a few thoughts regarding the last few months.

When I finished the last semester I posted a blog stating I would use this summer break from school to hone my craft…blog-wise.

Ok, so that didn’t happen. What happened was that I realized life happens. And when life happens, I tend to get sucked into the vortex of drama that daily life can be.  To whit:

I moved back to the City of Los Angeles for the first time in 35 years.

I transferred jobs…to a more high-stress, high-return sales environment. So far so good. The challenge being to not get swept up in the upward shift in income as I will again need to downsize in 2017 when I enroll at UCLA.

And as always, people can be counted on to do the wrong thing. I’m currently mired in a landlord-tenant dispute with my old landlord (I’ll spare you the details, suffice it to say they are sticking me to the tune of several hundred dollars despite the oral assurances of their representative)…so yeah, that’s pretty fun.

And oh yeah, when I moved, as I was pulling in front of my new apartment complex, my nice shiny Penske rental truck saw fit to take the front bumper off a parked car. More fun.

At the end of the day though, I’m loving life. Although the next three semesters of school are core classes for the transfer to UCLA and have nothing to do with writing, I suspect the discipline needed to maintain my GPA will lend itself to actually doing some creative writing, aka my blog. We shall see…

Finally, I’m frankly staying as busy as I can to avoid the sense of impending doom I’m experiencing with the loss of my youngest child to the University of Oregon. My new Duck is also my best friend (he’s the handsome one in the photo above) and I am really sad that I won’t be able to see him as much as I do now. Of course, this is tempered by my immense sense of pride and love I have for him. I am incredibly excited to watch his journey, just as I have marveled at the journey of my now college-junior daughter on the east coast. But there is a special bond between father and son and I’m already hurting…the good kind.

So, much like every other chapter of my life, my best laid plans got waylaid. Life got in the way.

And it’s a good life.

*Note to self: quit making plans. Just do the footwork and let the results take care of themselves…

 


Melancholy in the Waning Hours of Parenthood…

My son, Me, My daughter

My son, Me, My daughter

In less than six hours from now, I will no longer, technically, have kids.

My youngest child will turn 18 and will legally become an adult.  Yes, I will always be a “parent” (my “children” will vouch for this) but I can no longer accurately describe them as “kids”…they’ve become adults.

This might not seem like a big deal, but I find myself filled with melancholy right now.  My brain is awash in all the things I could have, should have done…

Was I the best parent I could have been? Absolutely not…I failed on many occasions, sometimes on an epic scale. Do I wish I could go back and do things differently…be a different parent…be a different person…you’re damn right I do. My “kids” deserve the best and I failed them in that.

What I can say is that I tried. Yes, I failed at times to achieve perfection, but I did the best I knew how to do at the moment I was in at those points in my life.

During their lives, these guys lost their older brother after five years of suffering, watched their father lose his career on the fire department as the result of the disease of alcoholism, waited for their dad while he did 39 days in jail (I cannot imagine many scenarios more crushing than calling your child from jail and awaiting the automated voice that tells your child they are receiving a call from the city jail), see their parents through an acrimonious divorce, see their mother remarry a man that they hated, and struggled to find themselves in the midst of these challenges.

And find themselves they did. Both “kids” have matured into exceptional human beings. Kind, caring, ambitious, intelligent citizens of their communities. One at George Washington University pursuing her passion to change the world and another embarking on his dreams at the University of Oregon.

Lest this digress into an exercise in self-flagellation, I will admit to this: I turned it around.

I set an example.

I got sober and I worked hard. I devoted my life to their emotional and intellectual well-being. I didn’t have the financial resources to give them half of what they deserved, but I can unequivocally say I gave them my heart and soul and am guided by an overriding desire to model the axiom that if you get knocked down…no matter how far…you can get back up and succeed.

Every year since they were pre-teens, I write them a letter. Here’s the letter I’ll be presenting to my son in his eighteenth birthday tomorrow, the day he becomes a man:

 

Dear (son),

I have no idea if you save these, but if you don’t, please save this one. It contains the keys to a happy, rewarding life. That’s a big claim, I know. But it’s true. And it’s deceptively simple. Here are the keys:

 

  1. Fear is the root of all negativity in your life; find a power greater than yourself to place your faith upon.
  2. The key to genuine happiness is getting out of your own head. Put others needs ahead of your own. Service to others is the only way to achieve true happiness.
  3. Be disciplined. There are no shortcuts. Work hard and you WILL be rewarded.
  4. Life isn’t fair. If you are counting on this, you will be constantly disappointed. See #3 for the corollary to this.
  5. Be on time. Be trustworthy. Be respectful of all people regardless of their station in life. These three things will give you a HUGE advantage in your professional career.
  6. Be humble. No matter how successful you become, remember #2. Humility will pay dividends in your life. Karma is real…I lived it.
  7. Have fun. Surround yourself with positive people.
  8. Keep your side of the street clean and let God handle the rest.
  9. Own up to and admit your mistakes, no matter the cost.
  10.  Do good things and good things will happen to you.

 

If you strive to do these 10 simple things in your life, you will find success beyond measure.  Good luck son…I am always here for you!

 

I love you,

Dad


TWC=FML

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My first clue that Time Warner Cable lacked a corporate soul should have been their logo. When my kids were younger they loved a mind-numbingly silly Anime called “Naruto”. The title character wore a headband with same logo as TWC…just upside down. Ominous imagery indeed when your corporate logo is the upside down version of a violent Japanese fantasy.

TWC entered the legions of corporate bad citizens for me when they blacked-out two of my local channels that just happened to be carrying my beloved Los Angeles Dodgers.

I cancelled my long-time service with them and switched to Verizon; a superior customer service experience to-date.

Here’s the deal: if I could live without cable altogether…I would. I maintain a debt to these service providers because I’m not yet technologically savvy enough to figure out how to watch sports on television without cable. I find just about everything else on TV completely worthless. This from a kid (I’m 53 now) that used to memorize the TV Guide as a child. It was my third parent. My father was in the industry. I majored in Telecommunications a lifetime ago.

I hate TV…and I hate Time Warner for their latest stunt–their latest schoolyard bully move…

TWC has seen fit to strong-arm the Dodgers into an exclusive contract. In other words, if you don’t subscribe to TWC…you don’t see the regularly scheduled Dodger games we enjoyed last year.  Apparently TWC is counting on Dodger fans to demand that their providers pay TWC to carry their channel.

I fail to see the difference between a bully extorting lunch money from a skinny kid and the corporate crap TWC is pulling. I will NEVER participate in any activity that gives them so much as a dime. That said…I’m screwed this year and so are a lot of other loyal Dodger fans.  I’m not going to get strong-armed into going back to them and I suspect a lot of people feel the same way. The Dodgers are not without blame in this PR train wreck either. They are at serious risk of alienating a large percentage of their fan base. This simply isn’t right.

Perhaps the biggest tragedy in this orgy of corporate opulence is the absence of Vin Scully in my life.

Every Spring, one of the simple pleasures in my life has been the literal goose bumps I get hearing Vin say “It’s time for Dodger baseball.”

It goes without saying that Vin Scully is a living legend. And for me and thousands of others, we are separated from this national treasure by the obscenity of corporate greed.

Vin Scully will live on in the memory of myself and my children for the remainder of our lives. The pathetic pursuit of the almighty dollar at the expense of what is right will be once again forgotten and chalked up to the failure of yet another corrupt corporation.

I’m hoping against hope this will change this year…I’m not holding my breath.

We’re with you in spirit Vin…but we long for the golden vibrato of your soothing call…


Higher Education…a Family Affair

Lillis_Complex_(University_of_Oregon)

 

Greetings from Eugene, Oregon. My son and I have just completed “Duck Days”, otherwise known at the University of Oregon’s sales pitch to students and parents attempting to get them to enroll. Trust me, you didn’t need to. One foot on this historic campus and we were done.

My son was officially “accepted” here last fall, but wanted to (wisely) wait until he had heard from a few other colleges before committing. It wasn’t too long after we had crossed over the California/Oregon border that I think his commitment was cemented. I could go on and on about what the last 48 hours have been like for us, but suffice it to say it’s been epic.

And then this: while we are awaiting the welcome remarks yesterday from the President of Admissions, my phone rings…it’s my daughter who is a sophomore at George Washington University in DC. She announces that she has been chosen as only one of four students to receive a fully paid scholarship opportunity to go to Israel and study this Spring. To say I was blown away and infused with pride would be a tragic understatement. To be on the majestic campus of U of O with my son and then to receive this mind-blowing news from my daughter was almost too much to comprehend.

Oh and this: I was officially accepted into the Honors Transfer program for UCLA at the community college that I attend. I’m 53 years old. I’m stoked…

I desperately wanted my kids to go to college and I was the only one in my immediate family to lack a degree.

I’ve been on the wrong side of Karma most of my life. I’ve turned my life around and am realizing the sweet nectar of the right side of the Karma. It tastes good…


It’s the End of the World as we Know It…

16 and Pregnant.

I’ve never seen this MTV show, but apparently it deals with girls, well, 16 and pregnant. 

Here’s where I admit my bias: ever since MTV stopped being “Music Television” I’ve tuned out. As pre-teens and teens however, my two kids were glued to this crap. “Real World” was a staple of the prepubescent crowd.

So now this…and here’s where I’m afraid monkeys start flying out of my butt and it starts raining blood.

Apparently this show has been partially responsible for the decrease in teen birth rates. You can view the evidence here.

I don’t know about you, but the realization that ANY pabulum from MTV is actually responsible for changing the behavior of young people boggles my mind.  I’m not completely ignorant. I understand that MTV has always had a hand in shaping the styles, trends, and mores of our young people, but for me to comprehend that this show may actually be responsible for REDUCING the teen pregnancy rates is something that boggles my mind.

Being at the forefront of fashion and music is one thing. Helping to reduce teen pregnancies, a vital social challenge, is quite another. 

In the final analysis, I think I’m disturbed at the fact that a channel that is so blatantly commercial and exists simply to line the pockets of its shareholders, is responsible for shaping such a critical issue.

I have to applaud the final outcome, even as I cringe at the methodology. But what frightens me most is the corollary. If an MTV show can so profoundly impact such a serious social issue, what prevents our young people from being impacted in a profoundly negative way from some other program. In other words, I guess I’m just blown away that something so pedestrian as MTV has realistically affected such an important issue. 

As all forms of our media have become pseudo-parental figures for increasingly fractured traditional family units, and our kids are increasingly scoring poorly on traditional scholastic metrics, I can’t help but think we are not too far away from a frightening scenario where those who control the purse-strings of the media begin to control the hearts and mind of our youth.

Maybe it’s already happened and I need to remove my blinders. But I have two young adults who I’ve tried my hardest to teach to think critically and have an appreciation for social culture beyond the electronic sphere.

I have to believe the human heart and the thirst for knowledge is inherent in our spirit, and there will be those who fight for truth and will continue to think critically. And a profound thank you to those educators who continue to fight the good fight…


Perspective

Since age 18 (I’m 52 now) I can count on one hand the number of “normal” Christmas holidays I’ve enjoyed.

I’ve primarily worked rotating 24 hour shifts since that time or have, for the last five years, worked in a sales environment that required Christmas eve worked, Christmas off, and a solid 12 hour shift on the 26th…basically one of our biggest sales periods of the year.

This year was no different, with the exception that I was doing exceptionally well…folks were opening their wallets and I was selling much more high-end product than normal. All well and good, but the real moneymaker traditionally occurs on the 26th.

I woke up the morning of the 23 with a weird little cough…I blamed it on keeping my window open all night.

For some perspective, I’ve not gotten sick in four years…not even a mild cold, so of course this can’t be happening now.

Just to be safe I started slamming water and vitamin C.

On the morning of the 24th, I had the tell-tale “hot” feeling in my chest. OK, I feel it coming, but the water, the humidifier and the vitamin C will beat it.

On Christmas morning I wake up with a 103.5F fever…the highest I’ve experienced since I was age 28. I spent the night buried  under the covers with the room temperature at 72F and shivering like I was laying on a block of ice.

I knew I’d never make it to work on the 26th, a day I critically needed to work (I ended  up dropping to 101.5F on the 26th and didn’t go in).

So if there was ever an excuse to feel sorry for myself this was it: miserably sick, losing money, couldn’t enjoy Christmas with my kids as I had hoped. All the standard pity-pot excuses.

And I’m laying in bed…shivering…and wondering how the hell this feels:  On concrete. Or in a makeshift tent somewhere next to the freeway. Homeless.

Lot’s of people experience that. And I’m not so financially secure that a monetary misfortune wouldn’t land me there too. Not that I don’t have a certain social safety net, but the prospect of being homeless is not entirely outside the realm of possibility. The simple notion that I could suffer within the comfort of my own home was mind-blowing.

So it was with that perspective that I, although achy as hell, was able to put a smile on my feverish face when I exchanged gifts with my kids on Christmas day.

It really can be a lot worse.  Sometimes you have to experience some “a lot worse” type experiences to realize that.

Merry Christmas everyone!


“Stand in the Place Where You Live”

R.E.M. said it…I should have listened.

A while back I wrote this…basically an epitaph to my retail job.

I had started a new job in the recovery field. It was a one of the most prestigious rehabs in the country.

I’m back in retail…

WHAT???

Here’s the deal…it’s a two-fold deal actually: in order to maintain my position at the rehab, it would have cost me nearly $1000/month out of my own pocket to provide a modified/basic health insurance plan for myself and my two kids. Incidentally all 3 of us are in or will be in college in 2014. This is versus $300/month to provide FULL health care benefits and FULL Dental…it was a no brainer. When I saw the rate sheet, I put in my two weeks notice the next day.

But it wasn’t entirely about the benefits…in fact I’ve decided to drop my Addiction Studies major at school and concentrate exclusively on obtaining my BA in English. The rehab field isn’t for me, for reasons too numerous to enumerate here. Suffice it to say that when money enters the picture, the whole ball game changes. I love recovery. I love the purity of one alcoholic helping another. But I detest what money does to that. I’m not calling out the whole industry…there are some great facilities out there I’m sure…it’s just not for me. I didn’t have the core passion for that business I saw within some of my colleagues…and I wish them the best.

This is the second time I’ve left the retail job to pursue another career path, only to be stymied by the exorbitant cost of health insurance.

Look, I’m not the brightest bulb in the world, but this time I got it. I’ve made a minimum six-year commitment to the retail job to I can provide quality health care for myself and kids while we pursue our academic goals.

Retail is a bitch…it’s fraught with petty commission fights, angry and entitled customers, and long days on one’s feet. It’s also the home of tremendous benefits, both retirement  and health care.

From the day I got that job, I was looking for an out. This time, I’m making a commitment to stay for a while and it’s made all the difference in the world in my attitude. Perspective…in essence, putting my big boy pants on, hunkering down, and being an adult.

So I’m back in the trenches, not necessarily in a job I love, but in an occupation that provides killer benefits and with some people who have become the fabric of my life…people I truly love and care about.

 

 


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