Monthly Archives: December 2015

The Kevin Costner Tent

After surviving the fierce winds of La Feria, the tent frame has been warped a bit.  It now leans back and to the left … back and to the left … back and to the left …


Our home base as we enter 2016 … Goose Island State Park, Rockport, TX


Posted by on December 31, 2015 in Travels


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Did I remember to dig up that bone and bring it with me from the last campsite or not???

pensive Frank

Happy New Year, everyone!

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Posted by on December 31, 2015 in Frank Speaks


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Green Tent Down

It was a helluva weekend. Beginning Thursday afternoon, heavy winds swept through the Rio Grande valley I awoke on Friday morning to find they were strong enough to tear a hole in the rainfly and collapse a corner of the tent.

rainfly hole

The rainfly’s not going to stop a lot of rain after this …

Susie stitched it up and Len gave me a hand in trying to get it back over the tent, but the winds tore it again as we were holding it up. And where the first hole was only about 4″ x 5″, this one tore about 4 feet long, starting at where the original hole was located.

Not to worry … Len brought out a heavy duty tarp. First thing we did was put in some additional stakes. Len had some heavy duty stakes that made my so-called “heavy duty” stakes look like sewing needles! From there, we tied roping around the frame of the tent to keep it from collapsing. Then we anchored the tarp by throwing rope over the to hold it against the frame. Len said, “I’ve camped in Canada on the side of Storm Mountain – we didn’t lose a tent then and I’ll be darned if we lose one now!”

Of course, Len’s tent up on Storm Mountain wasn’t an instant-tent, geared for ease of setup rather than standing up against the next tropical storm. The next morning, Frank and I awoke to not just a collapsed tent – one of the tent legs had snapped completely in two! The wind had even created a 2-foot separation along on of the seams that went directly across the top of the tent!

tent tiedown

Saturday morning – the front, right leg snapped in two!

The forecast called for a low chance of rain. I had removed most all the electronics from the tent already and put them back in the car. The only thing left inside was the cot, the bedding, the heater and the laptop, the latter two being under the cot just in case.

Len told me Tuesday morning that according to the weather report he saw the night before, the highest gusts that had gone through the valley were clocked at 71mph. From what I can tell you, the sustained winds seemed like they weren’t much lower than that! Here’s a short video I took inside the tent around 4pm on Sunday afternoon. It’ll give you a taste of what Frank and I were experiencing.

We experienced something else though. I made a pretty significant turn in attitude over the weekend.

If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you know how there have been a few things that I have been thrown for a bit of a loop over the course of our journey. They’ve required massive energy getting myself back under control, mentally and mood-wise.

When I stood there surveying the broken tent leg on Saturday morning, I went straight to the mantra – “It’s all worked out before; trust that it will work out again!” Frank patiently waited the 30 minutes it took for me to sit and collect my thoughts / continually repeat the mantra as I enjoyed some coffee. Then we started to go to work … which quickly came to an end.

I contacted Amazon, who told me that repair items could only be purchased from the company itself. I found the website for Core Equipment, but discovered their customer service / warranty department wouldn’t be open until Monday morning.

I’m proud to say that I didn’t obsess, or go into a panic. I was able to recognize that nothing could be done until Monday – any anxiety or anger or upset or any other negative emotion wasn’t going to do anything except take two days away from us. Soooo, we hunkered down to wait out the winds … which were still going on.

Len had already told me that it was okay for Frank and I to use the common room in the main building. He laughed and said, “If anyone gives Frank any static, you just tell them to see ole’ Len and I’ll set ’em straight!” Backtrack a bit … Frank and I had a great Christmas. I fixed a tuna salad, got Frank some treats and we watched the Warriors / Cavs game on the big TV. First time I’ve gotten to see them since before the playoffs ended last year.

So on Saturday, we sat for about an hour in the common room. There wasn’t much on TV, the winds were affecting the reception, and Frank couldn’t understand why he wasn’t allowed to get up on the couch! (Len probably wouldn’t have minded, but I wasn’t going to take advantage of the situation. After an hour of that, I decided that Frank and I would just go back in the tent. If anything, we’d add extra ballast in case the winds uprooted on of the stakes (which it actually did as we were getting things set on Friday … we never did see where it landed).

Sunday was more of the same. We spent the day in the tent. it was cold and the heater provided only modest relief. Frank hunkered down in the sleeping bag, I put on my sweatpants, sat right directly in front of the heater and did a marathon viewing of “The Man in the High Castle”, seeing as how my data plan started over on the 26th. (Great series, by the way – “Wolverines”, meet “Lost”).

Monday morning, we awoke to eerie silence. It took me a while to wake up and realize that the winds had stopped! Things got even better from there.

Core’s customer service department opened at 8am and I was on the phone at the opening bell. I explained to Jennie, their rep, what had happened. She said the leg replacement was pretty easy. All it would take is sliding up a cloth sheath to expose the joint, removing a couple of philips head screws to loosen the damaged leg and then fastening back on the replacement. She also confirmed they’d be able to ship it overnight to the Motel 6 in Rockport, TX, since we were due to pack up and leave the next morning. (I’ve already removed the damaged leg and she was right – it was a “breeze” – pun intended!)

Next thing was cost. Core’s warranty expressly excluded damage from high winds. I knew I was going to be on the hook for this. The cost came out to about $70 … the overnight shipping was another $60. I explained my situation, and asked if there was any way they might be able to discount my cost.

Jennie went off to speak to her supervisor. After about 3 minutes, she returned to the phone and said, “My supervisor agreed to cover the cost of the leg and rainfly under warranty. You’ll have to pay the shipping costs though.” I couldn’t believe it! I thanked her, told her that was very gracious of them and was much more than what I was hoping for! This was a complete 180 degree turn from the customer service experience I had with Coleman, by the way.

I confirmed with Motel 6 that they’d be able to hold a package for my arrival the next evening and emailed their address to Jennie, along with photos of the damage for her files. Within an hour, I had shipment confirmation and a UPS tracking number.

Things have worked out in the past; trust that they will work out again.

I spent the rest of Monday getting the car packed up. By mid-afternoon, the only things left to pack were the cot, bedding tent carpet and tarp, and the things that rice in the carrier rack on top of the car.

Yesterday morning, Len and Joe came over to give a hand getting the tent taken down. We pulled the stakes from the ground, gathered the rope, removed the tarp and got everything packed. We left about 2:15, earlier than my planned 3pm departure.

I have to say, I hated leaving. Len, Susie and Joe made me feel like family. Susie and Len both said how much they were going to miss Frank. Frank’s funny – he knew we were leaving by all the activity going on. He went over and gave both Len and Susie big kisses and wistfully looked out the window at them as we were leaving. Later on, he started crying in the car a bit, which turned into a howling session. He’s a funny guy.

So here we are in the Motel 6. It’s Wednesday morning the day before New Year’s Eve. The replacement rainfly and tent leg were waiting for us at the front desk when we checked in around 6pm last night. I don’t know about Frank, but I was asleep before 7:30!

It’s dreary weather outside. This will be the first time we have to set up camp in rain. The ranger told me they were putting me in a wooded area to shield us from the wind coming off the bay. Hopefully that will provide some cover from the rain, too.

Frank’s laid out on the bed, soaking up as much of the mattress as he can before we’re back to the cot. We’ll be leaving as soon as this post is finished. I’m looking forward to getting into our new digs in time to catch another Warriors game tonight.

Happy New Year, everyone. It’s going to be an interesting 2016.


Posted by on December 30, 2015 in Travels


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Merry Christmas

Yes. Merry Christmas. Happy New Year. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

Feed me!


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Posted by on December 25, 2015 in Frank Speaks


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Shame and Vulnerability

I watched an interesting video yesterday afternoon. It was a TED talk by Brené Brown and it was about the interaction between shame and vulnerability. It was posted on a website support group for PTSD sufferers. Here’s a link to the talk if you’d like to listen to it. It’s not very long.

I didn’t think the talk itself was very meaty. Brown talked about her own experience with shame and discussed how she got involved in her research. It was long on definition and short on “what do I do to overcome my own shame?” But then, I don’t think that was really what her audience was looking for.

Two things did strike me out of her talk. I’ll get to the second point later on because the first one really hit home: she gave a short, concise explanation of the difference between guilt and shame. Guilt is a feeling of, “I made a mistake.” Shame is where you feel, “I am a mistake!” Pretty easy to understand the difference, right?

From the get-go … from before I entered kindergarten … I have felt like I am mistake. That may shock some of the people that know me outside of this blog. They’ve latched on to the personna that I maintained to hide that shame, until the weight of keeping it up became tougher and tougher, until it caused a final breakdown that left me a wreck (and of course, reinforced the feelings that I was in fact, a huge mistake).

I mentioned kindergarten tbecause I had an experience back then that is pretty telling.  to The class was going to make paper mache pumpkins together for Halloween. The process took several days. Day one, we cut up the paper; day two, we made the frame; then we made the paste, attached the paper to the frame and painted our pumpkin faces.

We were almost done when the teacher announced the final step: “Tomorrow, we’re going to shellack and then we’ll be all done!”

Now the only time I had ever heard that word was when my father would give me a beating and call it a “shellacking”. I was terrified – I even tried the old “fake sick” routine to get out of going to school. My mother would hear nothing of it. Based on what went on around the house, I figured she was in on it.

When I got to class, I kept measuring where I was in relation to the teacher and the door. When she announced it was time to begin, I screamed like a banshee, jumped out of my seat and headed out the door! I had almost made a clean getaway when a janitor caught me headed out the door to the playground. All I kept saying was, “Please don’t hit me. I don’t want to get hit. I don’t want to get hit!”

When my mother came to pick me up, she and the teacher laughed it off. When my father got home, he called me a fucking idiot, smacked me across the face for causing everyone so much trouble and sent me to bed.

Now you tell me – what 4 year old wouldn’t feel like they were a mistake, given that they were living in a situation that would result in this experience?

Religion played a big deal in my shame as well. I was raised as a Christian Scientist. I think I’ve mentioned that before. One of the things that was reinforced was the concept of “efficacious prayer” – that prayer worked. Not prayer like, “Please save me,” or “Please give me this or that.” Prayer, in Christian Science, is trying to align yourself with God. That this mortal life is an illusion because man was made in God’s image and likeness. When you prayed, you tried to see how the “truth” about a given situation would overcome the “error”, error being illness, a bad relationship, financial problems … and in my case, being badly abused.

Once you fully understood and absorbed the truth about a situation, Christian Science promised that one of two things would happen: either the situation would change (a healing, in other words), OR you would be lifted out of the situation (a redempton). That was a promise.

But there was a catch. If neither of those two things happened, it was because you hadn’t seen the truth correctly and needed to work on it more.

So here I am. From the ages of 7 until 14 or 15, I prayed every day, all day, to understand the “truth” about me and my relationship with my father. And every day … and I mean every day … I’d be subjected to what could only be described as torture. And instead of getting any relief from prayer, it was only reinforcing what is typical of child abuse victims (or victims of any abuse, for that matter). I was continuing to be abused because I wasn’t smart enough to understand what I needed to understand in order to gain my healing. It was my fault!

I basically gave up. When it came time for a beating, I developed this ability to leave my body. To shut down and take myself out of time while the abuse was going on. I knew from the clock that sometimes it’d be five minutes, other times as much as an hour. I trained the way a swimmer would to hold his breath underwater.  I’d practice stopping thought.  And I became very good at it.

Unless they’ve gone through a similar situation, I don’t know that anyone can fully grasp the lifelong implications that childhood experiences like these can have on an adult. When I look back at this, I can certainly understand why “dissociation” became my subconciousness’ go-to method for dealing with anxiety, depression, indecision and fear. Shame has become such an innate part of how I see myself, it’s pretty tough to do the exercises needed to counter it. I remember the first time a therapist introduced me to the subject. He gave me some workbooks. I got one chapter in and was so overwhelmed with pain and anguish that I shut the book, cried uncontrollable for more than an hour, never opened it again and never went back to see the therapist! That was in 1984. From then, I decided that I was just going to suck it up. After all, that’s what real men do, right?

This segues nicely into the second point of her talk I want to discuss – that men and women experience shame differently. Quite frankly, I don’t remember the “women” part  (listen to the webcast). Men? We feel shame when we feel weakness. That’s pretty much it in a nutshell. Nothing else brings out shame the way weakness does.

Being beaten on a daily basis makes you feel weak. Being tortured and humiliated makes you feel weak. I dated rarely in high school. Strike that – I went on a decent amount of first dates but never asked anyone out a second time. There was no way I was going to let anyone see what my life was like.

I know I was hell to live with during both my marriages. I rarely opened up about things that were bothering me. Stuffed them inside as deep as I possibly could … until something would happen that’d make me snap and lash out in anger. Neither marriage ended well.

My last relationship gave me hope. I had decided to reestablish a spiritual aspect to my life and started going back to church. I chose Catholicism because its “social responsibility” teaching spoke to my inner nature. I started this relationship, but was going down the same stoic road. She kept telling me, “you have to open up … you have to trust.” For a couple of years, that was the story until I finally decided to do that. To become “vulnerable” as Brown discusses in the TED talk. I went back into therapy. I allowed my depression to be visible, to let her see my anxiety. The culmination of all of that was her finally telling me that she couldn’t deal with it anymore … that she was no longer committed to the relationship. So I left. Feeling the shame of weakness, that I wasn’t able to overcome my childhood, my depression, my anxiety and all the other symptoms of complex-PTSD. I’ve gone from being at one point a successful executive to a guy who’s living in a tent because of mental illness.  Complete and utter failure.

So that’s basically how I came to be living in a tent, on a long term camping trip, with Frank the only “relationship” I feel capable of maintaining. Still trying to figure out how God plays into all of this.

So, what’s the point of all of this? It’s certainly not to have you feel sorry for me, nor is it to lay blame for my failure at life on my parents. I accept full responsibility for my inability to get better. Therapy works for some, not for others.  I’m here either because of decisions I made or wasn’t able to make.

I think the point of this is two-fold: First, to let others who have been through similar trauma know that they’re not alone. I have felt alone my entire life – no need for you to do that. Know there is someone out there who understands pain and who it can impact you, your health, your relationships, your outcome in life.   Don’t wait until it’s too late to get help and be willing to do what’s necessary.  Don’t give up.  That’s for you.

I think the second point is for me: I’m still trying to be vulnerable. Writing this was incredibly difficult. I haven’t talked about the shellack experience in decades. I spoke to some church brothers about how Christian Science prayer resulted in increasing my own shame a few years back … but then became so ashamed at what was going on in my life afterwards … after the allowing me into their group … that I didn’t deserve to be there because of how broken I was.

I don’t know what good will come of it, but I have made myself vulnerable. We’ll see what comes of it.


Posted by on December 24, 2015 in Musings


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About This Morning …

Can we sleep in?  I had a helluva Christmas shopping experience at the mall yesterday …

sleey frank

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Posted by on December 22, 2015 in Musings


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Frank Channels Yoda

A few of my friends have been telling me, “You should write a book!” One of them, Cheryl, even suggested a title – “Life Lessons From Frank”. That’s given me a lot to think about over the last week. (No, not the idea of writing a book … quite honestly, I’m amazed that there are people even following this blog and can’t imagine an editor thinking anything I share as being ink-worthy.) :o)

I’ve not looked at my relationship with Frank in terms of anything other than “companion”. He looks out for me and I look out for him. But the more I thought about Cheryl’s suggestion, the more I realized that yes, there is quite a lot that I could learn from ole’ Frank. And as I’ve pondered that idea over the past week, here’s what I’ve come up with – the top 10 things I’ve learned (or could learn) from Frank, the wonder beagle. And in honor of the whole Star Wars thing, I looked at it as if Frank was channeling the wise Jedi Grand Master – Yoda.  After all, I think they are about the same size:

frank windows1. To what each day brings, look forward you must – In the 1 1/2 years we’ve been together, Frank has never arisen with anything but a smile on his face. He enthusiastically looks forward to each and ever day. He approaches life as something to be enjoyed and doesn’t worry about what may or may not happen.

2. With gusto, lead life – all you have to do is watch him eat. He puts his all into it. When eating, he’s pushing that nose into his food, not caring what’s falling out of the bowl (that’s to be cleaned up afterwards). There’s nothing dainty about Frank, nor does he even care about that.  When he plays, he plays hard.  When he’s happy, his tail is wagging a mile a minute.  There is nothing halfway about how he approaches his life.

3. Better than a nap on a dreary day, there is nothing  – Frank doesn’t fret if it’s cloudy or cold. It’s not a time for moping or being upset because he had made other plans or things didn’t turn out the way he had hoped they would. Instead, he decides that if he has to stay indoors, he might as well do what he does best. Sleep! Frank knows how to make lemonade out of lemons! Of course, #3 is a perfect lead-in to lesson #4 …

franks hole4. Better than a nap on a sunny day, there is nothing either – Life isn’t always about trying to fill up your moments with activity. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to just stop and do nothing. Sleep might not be the best (or only) option, granted. But taking time to relax and reinvigorate your soul is something we don’t do as much as we should. I know I sure didn’t do enough of it when I was pursuing a career.

5. Strangers, without apprehension you should meet – Frank sees every new person (or dog for that matter) as a potential new friend! He doesn’t judge. He isn’t wary about skin color, ethnicity, political beliefs, size or appearance, or any of that stuff that we humans tend to do at the first instance of meeting someone new. The world would be a better place if we all weren’t so judgmental. I have to say that I am grateful we humans have graduated from sniffing crotches to shaking hands, though!

6. A short memory, must you have – Frank is scared to death of thunderstorms. He’s under the cot (or whatever else is handy) at the first rumble and doesn’t come out until 20 minutes after it ends. I mean, he is terrified! But once it’s over, does he spend any more time agonizing over how horrible the experience was? Does he let a memory of thunder affect him the next morning … “Yeah, today could be a good day – but that was a pretty nasty storm yesterday. What if we have another one today?” IF THERE WERE ANY LESSON I could learn from Frank, this would be the one that I think is most important for me.

7. Grudges, hold you not – there have been times when I’ve hurt Frank’s feelings. Just a few moments ago, he wouldn’t stop jumping up on a woman and I had to pull him on his leash and scold him a bit to get him to stop. Just like other times when I’ve had to discipline him, he doesn’t let that color how he deals with me. It’s something that happens in the moment and he doesn’t withhold his love … or think that I don’t love him … simply because of a minor disagreement.

smiling franks8. A sense of humor, important it is very – Frank has an incredible personality and I know he appreciates humor. The other morning, he woke me up early. I crawled out of bed, thinking he might need water, or have to go out. Literally, I crawled across the tent floor and over to his water dish, only to find it half full “Frank, you’ve got water. Do you have to go out? Frank? Frank!” I turned around to find him up on the bed in the EXACT place that I was occupying only moments before … his head on the pillow and his body fully stretched out down the warm flannel of the sleeping bag. “You little bastard! You just wanted MY spot?,” I exclaimed. He had has back to me. Wouldn’t turn around to even look at me … but his tail was wagging a mile a minute, laughing at how he had tricked the human! The more I play scolded him, the harder that tail wagged until he finally turned his head up and looked at me with a big grin on his face!  The next morning, he tried to do the same thing and I said to him, “No way am I falling for THAT trick again!” He looked at me with that same grin, thought about it for a moment, and then crawled into the sleeping bag right next to me and laid by my side. There are so many ways he expresses humor and I absolutely love that about him.

9. Okay, everything will be … trust – Frank isn’t worried about anything. Granted, he probably knows that he’s got me to take care of him, but again, he doesn’t worry about whether I’m going to leave, or what might happen down the road. He doesn’t care that we’re in a tent or that we don’t have a lot of material possessions. Life couldn’t be better as far as Frank’s concerned. He lives it fully and always in the moment.

cool franks10. Love, unconditionally, and show it you must – I can’t tell you the number of times that Frank’s reached out to help me. There were days back in Charleston … hell there have even been a few days on our journey … where my anxiety has reared up. The dissociation episodes got to the point where they happened daily last fall and winter. I’d sit in the recliner and just “lose time”. My mind would get so overwhelmed that it would just shut down and if Frank hadn’t been there, I’d have lost hours before coming to my senses. When those times happened, he’d be right there, forcing me to snap out of it. There have been occasions on this trip when he’ll sense an anxiety attack coming. The next thing I know, he’s at my feet with a worried look on his face, putting his front feet in my lap asking to be picked up. And once he’s up on my lap, he’s licking my face or nuzzling up against me. Once the anxiety starts to lessen, he’ll ease himself down against my shoulder and just sit there, content to be sharing space together. Again, the world would be a much better place if, when we saw someone in pain, or anxiety, or depression, we took concrete steps to “help”.

So those are the top 10 life lessons I think we could learn from how Frank goes about his life. I think he’s a pretty good teacher … I just need to work on being a better student!  Overall, I think Yoda would be proud of Frank’s mastery of the force as he knows it, inability to wield a light saber ignored for the moment.

On a separate note, I am very happy … and quite grateful … to say that this is the first Christmas season in memory that I have not felt an overwhelming sense of dread arising out of the season. No anxiety. No overriding depression. We’re just sitting here in south Texas, appreciative of the fact that we don’t have to deal with snow. We don’t have to deal with crowds of people in the stores (not that I ever really did much holiday shopping … whatever presents I couldn’t buy online were picked up in a 3-4 hour shopping sprees). No worry about whether you’re showing enough love if you don’t spend your last cent on the perfect gift.

franksittingsBut it’s more than that. So much more than that. Aside from just now, writing this blog, I’ve not wasted a bit of time reflecting on all the dreadful Christmas experiences of my youth or the alcohol-induced rages I had to endure. I’m not dreading what the future has in store. I’m worried about it (I’d be lying if I said otherwise), but I’m not DREADING it. And that’s a big difference for me. In the past, I couldn’t escape the dread, no matter what I tried to do! Hell, I’m not even dwelling on the fact that I’m alone! I’m not … I’ve got a pretty good teacher, companion and best little buddy alongside, who’s sharing a peaceful, reflective holiday season with me.

Merry Christmas, everyone. Happy Hannukah, Joyous Kwanzaa, or whatever else floats your boat. Festivus for the rest of you – let the airing of grievances commence! :o)

May you all be filled with blessings as we enter the new year.


Posted by on December 20, 2015 in Musings


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