Thursday, September 19, 2013

Blue Stars

It was just a request, my wife telling me to pick up the blue star pajamas at the house on Sunday.

I quickly opened up my phone and jotted it down in Google Note. Not wanting to forget with everything that had happened over the week.

When I left, I somehow knew it would be the last personal item I would be grabbing at the house of my beautiful mother in law who was so tired and sick.

It was all very sudden, she went in to the hospital a few weeks earlier not knowing the reason she was tired, we found out quickly it was stage 4 cancer.

It was a shot to us all, the girls taking it the hardest, they were about to lose their mom after losing their father only a few years back.

Next were the doctor’s appointments, the late night breathing treatments and pain management. I never saw 2 girls working so hard for a solution to a problem.

When we finally came to the realization that the battle would be lost we chose to bring her home.

Home, from the Hospice of room after room of sick or challenged people not able to take care of themselves, of uncaring or just numb caregivers, that had seen this all before.

Was it selfish? No, I knew that these loving girls could do more in the next 12 hours than the nurses that were paid to do so could.

We were very fortunate to have her for even that short amount of time. And I am sure she was happy too.

I got the Blue Star pajamas back home as requested, but mom was not ready for more time in the care of others. I would have done anything to keep her here longer, but I knew I couldn't.

She had a higher calling and was heading home.

I hope she is surrounded by real Blue Stars now.

Love You Addie.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I Believe In Miracles

I Believe In Miracles.

That’s absurd you might say. You can’t prove it was a miracle.

It might have just been dumb luck, or all the right things falling into place at the right time.

That is just your opinion, you will say.

You’re right. And I say it was a miracle.

A miracle that my son was born after all the miscarriages and high risk doctors said we couldn’t conceive.

A miracle that I was freed from addiction and it didn’t cost me my job, life or freedom.

A miracle that a person with only a high school education, could survive 2 layoffs, and still work at the most prestigious hotel in Vegas.

Sometimes it takes a miracle. Sometimes the odds are not in our favor, and no matter what we change it doesn’t work out the way we wanted. But it does work out.

We want it all to work out to our plan, but we can’t. It wasn’t really our plan to begin with.

We don’t have control of the outcome, only the work we put up to that point.

I agree that we should meet our challenges head on, and fight for what we want. No one gets everything, life isn’t always fair.

When we stop and see the miracles around us it makes the fight worth it.

I am fighting to keep my family healthy, my son on track to be the best he can and staying employed under the circumstances of our current economy.

There are people that are fighting cancer, to take their next breath, to have a positive outlook for the day.

These are when the miracles happen, when we aren’t expecting them to they show up in our lives.
Making the unexpected possible.

I am grateful when I can sit back and watch the miracle happen.

Not the luck of it all.

As Wayne Dyer Says: I am realistic, I expect miracles.

The Sleeper Must Awaken

(An excerpt from my upcoming book “How To Spend 24hrs A Day” that I hope to print before the end of year.)

In the classic story of Herman Miller’s “Dune” the duke’s son must make a trip to a hostile desolate planet and he is apprehensive about it. After speaking with his father about the trip he is told “A person needs new experiences. They jar something deep inside, allowing him to grow. Without change something sleeps inside us, and seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken.” 

When we examine our desires to make a change in our lives what are the driving forces? If someone desires to climb Mount Everest they will manifest that reality till it is completed. They may however never make it to the top; they may only get as far as the foothills. Still however frustrated they get about never reaching the top of the mountain, they will not be as tormented as the person who never leaves their hometown to try.

How do we jar what is sleeping in our lives to become forefront and possible? How do we decide to make the change and awaken the sleeper? We are told we can do anything we want if we put our minds to it, so why don’t we?

It’s simple really.

Most of us want to reach our goals but never take any of the steps to try to accomplish them. Our excuse to ourselves is that there are only twenty-four hours in the day. We don’t have time to make such a huge commitment to ourselves. We have obligations and must attend to a busy work schedule and change diapers.

What goal is asleep inside you waiting to get out? Starting a new business? Maybe you have the next great Kickstarter idea? Maybe you just want to travel to somewhere you have never been.

When will you find the time in your current busy schedule to start working towards your goals? You have twenty-four hours of daily time. Within that timeframe we must try to find heath, rest, discovery, enjoyment, love, relationship and the meaning of life. What do all these things depend on? Your happiness - if there is no happiness it what you are doing you will never do it fully.

First we have to start to rearrange our current lives and schedules and start thinking about how to achieve our goals. We can start small. Give yourself 30 minutes a day and come up with 5 goals you want to accomplish. After you have your goals start thinking of the next steps to accomplish them and write them out. It is not enough to just come up with the idea. You need to figure out the next steps.

There are a million books that will tell you how to make more money, but how many tell you how to make more time? Money is far easier to come by. If we were to really look at all the things we do in our “Daily 24” how many of us could say “I have truly lived today”.

(more to come.)

What To Do When You Get Laid Off

I have been laid off twice in the last 3 years. There was a time when having a specific skillset (like being a Systems Administrator) would keep you under the radar for such things.
Not anymore.
In the new “American Dream” there is no such thing as security. Notice I wrote when you get laid off, not if.
Your bosses don’t care about you. They care about protecting themselves first. You may not even be a clear second. They may care more about keeping the janitorial staff. I apologize now if you are on that staff, I don’t think you are any less important.
All companies are thinking of how to cut the bottom line and look good for the next shareholder meetings.
  1. Don’t burn bridges.  I know it sounds great to remote into your old job, (because they forgot to terminate your access) and change all the root passwords to every domain server. Don’t do it. Just because you were part of a lay off doesn’t mean you won’t need their help in getting your next job. You might even have some of the same bosses there. If word gets out that you are “that guy” that can’t be trusted you are finished.
  2. Update your social media accounts. In the new social world, you have to get the word out that you are available to take on your next engagement. Engage your social circle and let them know you are looking. It is possible someone wants to hire you but your page shows “currently employed” and they don’t want to bug you. People won’t know you are looking if you don’t.
  3. Update Your Resume. Make sure your resume is not from a template with weird formatting, and is compatible with Office 2003, most companies have not upgraded and won’t. You might want to even have a plain text copy handy. If you haven’t been on the job market in a while you will soon notice that no one really wants to read your resume. If it doesn’t fall into a specific key word search or have the exact application they are looking for you won’t get a second look. Even your email address can get you into the “do not call back” pile. So get rid of that evilgirl69@hotmail account and get one with “your name” at Gmail or Outlook, or using your own domain if you are into web design, software development etc.
  4. Brand Yourself. Guess what? Everyone in IT can use Microsoft Office and change a stick of bad ram. But can everyone program in Java using a RESTful API? No of course not. You have to show that you have your own niche of knowledge. Create your brand and sell it. “I am a Business Analyst in the Casino field in charge of new Product Development.”
  5. Contact The Agencies. You may have never thought of working contract before but companies are less likely to hire someone Full-Time without a “Try and Buy” period. It is easier to see how you work if you are just working, and are not a new Full-Time employee with benefit meetings and sexual harassment training seminars on your work schedule. Call your local IT or other Agencies and see what they have available.
  6. Register for Unemployment. It will take up to 2 weeks to get any new income coming in from unemployment if you are qualified. So start this as soon as possible and use Job Connect if available in your state to see what jobs you qualify for. They have positions listed that won’t be on any website or newspaper.
  7. Make Finding a Job Your New Job. People are more comfortable when they have a routine. There is less stress when you wake up knowing you have to take a shower, get dressed, get coffee and go to work. So you need to keep a routine. Instead of driving to a job, you will be looking for employment or scheduling an interview during your day. You should also try to meet with someone you haven’t seen for a year for lunch. You won’t have this opportunity again for a while. I volunteered once a week at a food bank, this was added to my calendar and I stuck to it. If I was talking to a new prospective employer and the interview time interfered, I would let them know I was volunteering at that time and we would have to reschedule. This leads to.
  8. Clean Up Your Home Office. If you don’t have one, make one. This is where you will be during the day making appointments and sending emails to HR managers. This should be a quiet place set away from the rest of the house; it should be free of dogs barking when the mailman arrives or other distractions. Make sure you have all the things you needed at your office if possible. You will be asked to sign and email back forms, and fill out online applications.
  9. Cancel Memberships You Don’t Use. Still paying for Netflix and not using it? A gym membership or other monthly re-occurring account? Close them. You can always start them up again after you start getting paid.
  10. You Will Find Something. There are still jobs to be had out there. If you are new to the market it will be harder than someone who has experience. But someone wants to hire you. Remember that this exercise is to get you the next job, not the best job. It might turn into that, but you are looking to get the next job first.
Remember not to ask “why did this happen to me,” it’s not about you personally. Companies are riddled with debt and are looking to cut the bottom line. Payroll is the biggest expenditure. So it is only natural that lay-offs are the biggest savings to a company’s shareholders.
Hopefully you won’t need this list, but you probably will. I just hope that it keeps you focused on getting to the next job, where your new boss will probably hate you. 

In The Navy

I joined the Navy at 17. I was a senior in high school.

I was on a Delayed Entry Program or “DEP” because the Military loves acronyms. It meant I could tell my teachers not to worry about my grades because I already had a career.

I joined because my father served and I wanted to make him proud, for some bizarre reason. A lot of people asked if it was because of the movie “Top Gun” that had just hit the box office.

I also just wanted to get away from Moore Oklahoma. I hated growing up there.

Looking back now it probably wasn’t so bad. But at the time it seemed so stagnate, stuck in a “Footloose” movie sort of way.

There were the typical cowboys in lifted trucks with small dicks and bad attitudes. Hot Girls that would ask what church you went to, whose only interests were building the attendance of theirs.

I always felt I needed to be part of a bigger city, with business professionals scurrying off to their 9-5 office jobs. I ended up in even a smaller town, called Pensacola Florida.

It was the bedroom and bible thumping community of the state. There was so much more action back home, Saturday night on 12th street was like Mardi Gras compared to the whole city here.

I realized that this had been the stupidest idea I ever had. I had traded 1 backwards group of people growing up, to pursuing a full career of them. That might be a little harsh but it is what I thought at 18.

I turned 18 in boot camp and spent the day quiet and to myself. I made sure no one found out, sparing the humility of getting publicly spanked in front of a room full of shaved head recruits.

I had some great experiences in Pensacola. I met my first real girlfriend and enjoyed living on my own. However I made sure to leave as soon as my time was up.

There were others who hung around and got married. But I knew that I wasn’t supposed to end up in another small town.

I finally ended up in my big 9-5 city. Actually it is more of a 24/7 city. It wasn’t too big when I got here and still reminded me of the old places I had lived. But it has matured, and after finally settling down, I am glad to call Las Vegas my home.

The Navy didn’t get me where I am today. I have no real skills I can show from those years. But it made me see that I can endure anything. I could go and do whatever I wanted.

I didn’t have to settle on what my parents thought was best for me. I could create my own destiny. 
Start my own family with our own ideas of what that means.

I would do it all again.


I was watching Big Brother last night and Amanda was speaking how she felt because she wasn’t in control of the house.
Scared and powerless.
She knew that because she was trying to manipulate everyone that eventually it would come back to bite her in the ass. And when it did she lost it.
Unfortunately for her, she never realized that we are all powerless, we do not control others thoughts or actions. I cannot make anyone do anything. I can make suggestions and maybe someone will follow them.
Here is an example of forced suggestion, “What is your favorite animal? A mole, a sloth, a puppy?”
Anyone pick mole?  No, we go straight to puppy, like the magician wants us to.
The beginning of addiction is marked by the struggle for control; its conclusion, the loss of control and disaster or rock-bottom.
Addicts use everything when they are using, drugs, people, shopping, anything to make the pain go away. Amanda may not see how addicted she is, not to drugs, but to the drama, the control, the using.
Amanda is good at her manipulation of the others in her surroundings. Like the magician that gets the people to pick the forced suggestion. But what happens when they don’t?
When the suffering comes we seek what we know, what feels comfortable.
One thing Amanda can’t control is her feelings and she self-destructs because she can’t. She does what has worked for her in the past; she bullies everyone till it makes her feel better. Others in the real world might grab a bottle or baggie of something stronger. It is what they know has fixed their pain in the past.
This is of course the quick fix, the problems and feelings still remain. So what is the real solution? Accepting the situation and knowing that if we stop trying to control the outcome, it will eventually work out. We will get through it. 
We are not in control of the feelings when they come. “Powerless.”
But we are in control of our choices. “Powerful.”

War Games

I was watching War Games the other day and it reminded me of being a geek in Middle School.
Not that I am not a geek now.
There is a scene where Matthew Broderick cradles his phone onto the coupler of his trusty 1200 baud modem.
He launches a program and starts war dialing the whole prefix of Sunnyvale California to find the open line of a new gaming company called Protovision. I was blown away to see a computer finding all those open systems out in the wild.  Directly connecting to all the banks, schools, libraries, and in the movies case, a substation with a direct link to the Norad Command Center.
Of course it was only a movie.
The following summer I was invited to a party with my friend Mark and met a true computer geek. Not to say that Mark wasn’t. But living in Moore Oklahoma I never expected to meet someone that had as much computer equipment as this guy did.
He was showing off his 2400 Baud Hayes Smartmodem and was war dialing the 799 prefix in Moore. You could actually hear the modem dial the number, hear the pickup and someone say “Hello” then click and off to the next.
I was thrilled. It was really cool to prank call people with a computer, when you are a 15 year old geek.
Of course this also took a lot of time and we weren’t going to get any real information back till the next day. So we started talking about other things to do. and he mentioned he had swiped a calling card number from a radio station. We should call someone.
I later found out that Mr. Haas was in need of a heart lung transplant and was at the station to do an interview and get the word out.
My friend Mark said “Hey I have a friend in Australia we can call. I met him using the Hamm radio.” So we did, for 8 hours, on a stolen calling card number.
In the Movie War Games the characters see a news flash on TV that Norad had moved to Defcon 4 because of the little “Game” Matthews character was playing.
In real life, we heard the radio station throughout the week say that they got hit for a huge bill for a call to Australia. They were going to find out whoever did it, and call the FBI.
I ‘m sure they did. I don’t remember.
Consequences in life are not fun.
Doing stupid things as a kid that you can get in trouble for is exciting.
Even if it’s geeky.

Weeping Willow

When people see a weeping willow they think of summer days and whispering winds.
I think of my Dad, and the way he would make me go out and grab one of the branches to use on my butt.
It is probably wrong to talk about him since he is no longer here to defend himself but that is what I am thinking about. The way he would beat me for all the offences I made while he was gone for the week.
My Dad was a truck driver with a bit of a rough and tough cowboy exterior. He wore blue jeans, pearl snap button shirts and the ball cap of the week.
He also drank, a lot, and was a mean drunk. I am sure he would wait until he got home on the weekends to really start a tear, as he drove through the week on long hauls.
My mother would then let him know of all the horrible things I did as he was gone.
There was no defense that I could use. The sentence was delivered without testimony.
The switch of the Willow or the Leather of his belt was administered.
I would try to run or hide but it was no use. The welts and marks would remind me through the week how much I hated having him home. My mother probably felt like we deserved it for the torture we put her through during the week.
Looking back I can say I didn’t deserve it.
No one does.
I had a chance to re-connect with my father a few months before he passed away. We never talked about how much I hated him while I was a child. But I could tell he was sorry for everything he put me through.
The pain of being young and having a drunk weekend Father, being in fear, hiding in closets and forts of blankets where I would be safe.
As I saw him in those last months leading up to his death I didn’t see that hard cowboy anymore. He was older and so was I. I wasn’t scared anymore. I only felt sadness for him, because I knew he never wanted that life of a father.
He had gotten married young and had no skills and no opportunities. He had been discharged from the Navy with a disability and no promise of any career. He had a baby on the way and had to support this new family.
He became a truck driver and never stopped.
I try to do everything different as a father then he did. I don’t hit my son, I try to praise him when I can and give him little life lessons along the way.
I want him to know that he can do anything in this world if he tries.
I don’t have a Weeping Willow.

White House

Last year we decided to go on a trip to Washington D.C. to see my friend who lives in Virginia.
I was looking and saw that the Smithsonian does a "Night at the Museum" like in the movie of the same name.
That's the plan I said, "We will go spend the night at the Museum and make a trip out of it."
My wife who works here in the insurance industry in Las Vegas is an acquaintance of Rory Reid who is the son of Harry Reid.
I mentioned she should ask him to see what it would take to get us a tour of the White House since we would be in town.
He said we would need to send in information for background checks and the dates we would be in town.
We had to submit the paperwork 6 months in advance.
After sending in the appropriate paperwork we got very official emails for the tour and a specific date/ time to arrive during our trip.
When we arrived at the security section of the White House garden we were asked to see our ID's and looked on a list to find our names.
We then walked through another gate around 20 yards away and got the same treatment.
After that we walked through a building that made walking through TSA a joke.
It had security guards posted with automatic machine guns. Dogs on leashes and no less than 3 scanning stations.
But we were in.
We got to see some of the amazing history in those halls on our short and "No pictures allowed" self-guided tour.
I did snap 1 on my phone of the entrance and got yelled at by a guard.
I am only glad that I can say we went, and that I had my son with me. Who knows when the public will be allowed in again?
To our White House, the taxpayer’s house.

Krispy Kreme

I remember the first time I had Krispy Kreme. I was 19, living in Pensacola FL and an Airman in the Navy.

I had just driven by the store with its neon flashing in the window.

“HOT NOW” it screamed at me.

It was probably 2 am and I really had nowhere to be, I was just enjoying the fact that I had a car and freedom and really needed coffee.

When I stepped into the store it had a look of desperation and a 50’s diner styling. White tile was everywhere with grouting that looked dirty from years of mop water.

I sat at one of the bar-stool near some old regular and ordered a coffee. The waitress asked if I wanted a donut since they had just been cooked. “Sure, sounds good” I said, probably not even hearing the question all that well.

When the waitress brought my order it was served on a stoneware plate and had the company logo imprinted on it. The donut was shiny and smelled heavenly.

The coffee in the mug was as black as you could get it. I added the half and half from the creamer dish that was on the table. It cut into the darkness adding its light as it went.

It was so amazing, the donut was light and sweet and fresh off the drying rack. The coffee aroma woke me up instantly. My night had been made.

I was so excited after my caffeine and sugar rush that evening I knew I needed to be a regular customer, sitting on the stool night after night enjoying the cool evenings and fresh donuts.

I never went back.

20 years later they opened up for business in Las Vegas where I currently live. I reminisced about that night and built up an excitement to relive that moment and get my fix.

I drove to the free standing building near a Wal-Mart near Chinatown and was already disheartened about its existence.

This was defiantly not the Krispy Kreme I remembered. No diner styling’s, no old dude on a bar-stool, no bar-stools at all.

What I did see were tons of people that had similar experiences, probably better ones than I had, clamoring around ordering everything in sight.

When I got my order I grabbed the dry, white, glazed donut and gobbled it up.

It was horrible.

So sickly sweet, I thought I would die of a sugar coma. The coffee, served in a paper cup, didn't help cut the amount of sugar I had just eaten.

Immediately I realized what I was trying to buy was those memories, of freedom, and being 19.

I wanted that stoneware plate, on a bar at 2 am, in a strange building surrounded by old homes and trees.

I never went back.