RSS

Monthly Archives: June 2016

Why, Why, Why, Why, Why?

Why do I invest so much heart and emotion into the teams I root for?

I am a long-time fan of the Golden State Warriors … started rooting for them when I moved to the Bay Area in 1979.  Before that, I had rooted for the Knicks, a leftover from when I lived in New Jersey. But seeing as how basketball was somewhat down on the list of sports I cared about, it was a relatively easy switch to simply root for the “home” team.

For some reason, I got invested in them.  I tell you, there were years that they were so bad, I think that on any given night, they could have lost to Duke, North Carolina or Kansas, three perennial college powerhouses.  I lived through the “Run TMC” period, named for Timmy Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullen, the three stars of the team back in the early 90’s.  Those teams were fun to watch, but they had as much defense as Switzerland … it was nothing for them to score 125 points in a game, and then wind up losing by 10 points!

So the Dubs resurgence (“Dubs” as in “W” as in “Warriors”, for you non-basketball enthusiasts) over the past 3-4 years has provided a great deal of sports joy. Unfortunately, “sports joy” is fleeting. It’s like a sugar rush: when they win, especially a championship, the feeling is incredible. But it’s short-lived.  Not only that, it doesn’t translate over into the rest of your life.  A couple of days later, if you get a ticket, or if you get into an argument with your boss, you don’t really sit there afterwards and say, “Yeah, but man, those 49ers are Super Bowl champs!!!!”

What’s even worse, is that when they lose, it does seem to translate over to the rest of your world!  I’ve gone through times when, after one of my teams lost in the playoffs, it would affect my mood for weeks!  So that being the case, why, why, why, why, why do I invest so much heart and soul into rooting for a team?

Last night’s loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers sucked. Big time.  I mean, the Dubs were up three games to one!!!!  I was already celebrating, which was stupid, seeing as how I know “it ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings!”  I experienced the other side of that “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory” experience a dozen years ago, when the team I root for – the Boston Red Sox – came from four games down to sweep the hated New York Yankees in the AL championship series and then went on to win their first World Series in 86 years!  At a gut level, you know that anything’s possible … that having a commanding lead doesn’t mean squat.  That’s why they call them “upsets” or “miracles”.  But when your head says, “Jeff, you know they haven’t won it yet,”  your heart steps in and tells your head, “Shut the hell up, will you? I’m celebrating here!!!!”

After they lost last night, my Facebook post was, “Shit. Shit. Shit.  Wasted season.”  Here they had set a record for the most wins any team had ever had in a season.  They were now part of the, “Who’s the best team ever?” debate.  And then last night, they shit the bed!

Funny thing, though.  I woke up this morning … and the world hadn’t ended!  The sun was shining, Frank was licking my face, and the coffee tasted pretty damned good!  Huh.  What’s going on?  And that wasn’t meant as a rhetorical question, either?  After finishing my morning meditation, I really thought about it … “What’s going on?”  Why wasn’t I feeling the way I felt in 2003, after Grady “effing” Little left Pedro in too long and the Red Sox had yet another kick-in-the-gut loss?

My first thought was, “They won last year.”  As bad as last night’s loss was, they did win the NBA championship last year.  They’re part of what could go down as one of the top five “Game 7 of the Finals” of all time, albeit on the losing side.  They didn’t get blown out, being in it until the end. They had a record-breaking season this year and were one game away from a repeat.  Maybe this loss will give them reason to improve the team, perhaps go after free agent Kevin Durant in the off-season.  Either way, they’re set up for potentially being in the finals for the next 6-7 years, given the team’s talent.  Yeah, they lost, but it could be worse.

sonny and c

“Mickey Mantle don’t care ’bout youse … nobody cares!”

Then I thought about one of my favorite movies, A Bronx Tale. Everything in life can be explained in a movie … and I am one of the biggest movie buffs (literally and figuratively) of all time.  Here’s the scene I was thinking about – where young Calogero is heartbroken after Bill Mazeroski’s grand slam gives the Pittsburgh Pirates the World Series over his beloved New York Yankees …  and Sonny the gangster imparts his sports perspective. “If I can’t pay my health insurance next month, maybe I should go ask Steph Curry and see what he tells me.

Then I thought about the Cleveland fans and how they must be feeling right now.  Not only had the Cavaliers never won a championship, no sports team from Cleveland had won any championship for over 50 years!

I remember when the Red Sox won in 2004.  I sat on the end of my bed and cried.  I mean, I had both hands covering my face, with tears streaming out between my fingers!  How could I begrudge that feeling to some Cleveland fan who was stupid enough to invest as much into his teams as I had in the Red Sox?  And by the way … what I wrote about sports joy being fleeting at the beginning of this post?  The 2004 Red Sox championship is the exception that proves the rule.  That championship provided sports joy that will last me the rest of my life!

So, I’m cool.  I’m surprised as all hell that I am … but I am!  Only thing I can chalk that up to is the perspective of coming so far out of the valley I was in only 19 months ago. Of feeling an overriding sense of inner peace after being on the road for more than a year.  There’s a lot to be said for that.

I root for four teams:  the Boston Red Sox; the San Francisco Giants (out of deference to my grandfather, who introduced me to baseball – the greatest game ever invented;  the only time I ever saw the man cry was when the Giants left New York for the west coast); the San Jose Sharks; and the Golden State Warriors.  If I had to pick a football team – I’m a semi-interested New York Football Giants fan, so five teams.

Since the beginning of 2004, those five teams have won nine championships.  Nine championships … in twelve years!  Maybe I should go ask a San Diego sports fan if I have any right to be unhappy about the Warriors failing to make it ten last night.  What do you think he’d say?

Yeah, this “inner peace” thing is pretty cool!


Frank and I took a drive over to see the ocean yesterday.  I’m planning on taking him to the dog beach in Wildwood, NJ this afternoon, but it was nice day yesterday, and I’ve been missing the ocean ever since we left Charleston a year ago.

Avalon-by-the-Sea is the closest beach town. It’s right across the bay from where we’re staying, so that’s where we headed and drove a little ways north from there. The bay was on the left, the ocean on the right, and we were approaching a waterway connecting the two. We caught a break … just after crossing a tiny, two-lane drawbridge over the inlet, I noticed a cruiser approaching from the bay and knew they were going to have to raise the bridge to let him through. So I sped up a little and made a U-turn at the next chance to head back over the bridge in the direction from which we had come.  Sure thing, we were the first car in line as the bells started ringing, lights flashing, and the safety arm lowering.  I got out of the car and snapped a few shots.  What a great vantage point it was, being up over the water instead of at sea level.  Here they are:

A view looking towards the southeast, out into the Atlantic.  Lots of surf fishermen out today:

southeast

A view looking to the northeast. I was surprised there weren’t more folks out on the beach celebrating Father’s Day.  The weather was glorious!  By the way – check out the rust on the bridge.  Pretty scary, huh?  What do we need to do as a country to develop the will to address our failing infrastructure?  There are like, what … 70 thousand bridges that are structurally deficient in this country?  We’re waiting for a disaster before we do something about it?  Why can’t we get our elected officials in Congress to do their freaking jobs instead of focusing on bullshit??? (Hmmm … where’d that “inner peace” go?)  :o)

northeast

A view over the car looking due west, into the wetlands.  The NJ mainland is in the distance.

west

A view to the southwest and the “Great Bay” separating Seven Mile Island from the mainland.  The cruiser in the foreground was the reason we were sitting on the bridge.  All because of those outriggers!

southwest

Five years ago, if you would have bet me that I’d be happy sitting on a drawbridge waiting for a ship to pass underneath, I’d not only have taken the bet … I’d have given you odds!  Isn’t it funny what perspective can do for your psyche?  :o)

bridge.jpg

This last shot was taken after we crossed back over the bridge and were back on the island. The view is from behind a seawall in Avalon, looking north.  I’m pretty sure the buildings in the distance are the south side of Atlantic City, about 20 miles due north as the seagull flies.  By the way, if a seagull spends all his time on the sea, what would you call a bird that spends all his time on the bay?  Answer:  a bagel!!!  (Don’t shoot the messenger – I ran across that little dandy a few days ago.  Nothing in this world is as good as a bad pun!  And yes, I know – “bad pun” is redundant!)  :o)

ac

 

Advertisements
 
2 Comments

Posted by on June 20, 2016 in Musings, Play Ball!, Travels

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Miscellaneous Photos Part 2

The leg’s much better … thanks for the emails and private messages you all have sent. They’re very much appreciated.  It’s only been a couple of days and already the pain has subsided substantially – I can get around without having to rely on my walking stick for support now.  The redness has started to recede from the line the nurse put around my leg to show the upper point the infection had reached.  (I hope she wasn’t a practical joker … I’d hate to find out she used indelible ink.  I can see it now: “That’s an interesting tattoo. Is there a story behind it?”)  Here’s hoping the issue becomes a distant memory shortly after I finish the antibiotics course I’m on.  Another eight days …

Anyhow, here are the rest of the photos I promised earlier this week to post.  There aren’t a lot of them,  I’m sorry to say – the phone continues to act up.  Hopefully I’ll have a new one  before we leave New Jersey at the end of the month.

Antietam / Sharpsburg

Depending on whether you’re a Yankee or a Southerner, you know this battle site by different names.  If you grew up a Yankee like me, you were taught “Antietam” in school.  As with other Civil War battles, Southerners refer to the site by the name of the nearest town, hence “Sharpsburg”.  I had ancestors that fought on both sides of the war. More importantly, I have dear friends in both parts of the country.  I will refer to the place as “A/S” from here on out in order to show no deference.

This site wasn’t even on my radar until one of my Texas friends suggested that I visit there after I had posted about going to Gettysburg on Facebook.  We had run out of time for a visit while staying at Circle M, but then once I realized that our next campsite was in the same general area, that was the first thing I planned on Frank and I driving to see.  Chris, I’m really grateful for the suggestion.  Like you said, A/S is nothing like Gettysburg.  It’s much more pristine, very well preserved, and completely devoid of the “tourist” feel  surrounding the latter.

We arrived around 11am and stayed until after 3pm.  Visitors can see pretty much everything via a car tour.  We were given a very detailed map, with descriptions for each of the various stops they suggest during your drive.

dunker church

Dunker Church today

For those of you that aren’t familiar with it, A/S was the bloodiest, single-day battle that’s ever taken place on American soil.  At the end of the day, almost 23,000 Americans were dead, wounded, or missing … 12.5 thousand Union soldiers and 10.5 thousand Confederates.

The battle had three distinct phases: in the morning, it was centered around a cornfield in the northernmost part of the site and in the woods to the west; in the afternoon, the battle moved further south and was centered around what’s become known as the “Bloody Lane”.  In the evening, it moved further south still and was centered around a bridge that the Union army had to capture in order to flank the Confederates.

DunkerChurchAntietam1862

Dunker Church, in background

In the morning, the Union planned to attack from the north, aiming for Dunker Church, visible atop a small hill to the southwest. (I think it’s ironic that the church was used primarily by German immigrants that were known to be extreme pacifists.) You know, so many of the sites we saw here and at Gettysburg were given the moniker “bloody” – The Bloody Wheatfield; the Bloody Lane; and here, the Bloody Cornfield, which stood between the Union position and the church.  To me, it almost diminishes the ferocity it’s supposed to represent, being used so many times to describe these battle scenes.

The battle raged all morning, back and forth through the field and through the woods to the west.  It started with artillery barrages from both sides and ended in hand-to-hand combat.  The Union Commander, Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, had this to say about the morning battle … and to me, gives a much better understanding of what it must have been like to witness the horror of that day:

“In the time that I am writing every stalk of corn in the northern and greater part of the field was cut as closely as could have been done with a knife, and the slain lay in rows precisely as they had stood in their ranks a few moments before. It was never my fortune to witness a more bloody, dismal battlefield.”

By the way, the historical photos are courtesy of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine and were taken by two assistants to Matthew Brady, considered by many to be the first photojournalist.  The photos were displayed in New York City and were the first time  average citizens could view actual scenes of war.  I found them in doing some research before visiting the battlefield.  What I read though, was that the photos didn’t have the effect everyone was expecting.  Instead of repulsion, they created a fascination amongst the people visiting the photo exhibition.  What is it about humans that we’re drawn to the macabre?  As an aside, I’ve never understood the popularity of horror films either, especially those that are violent and gruesome.  But I digress …

irish chaplains

Chaplains of the Irish Brigade … not very “priestly” looking, are they?

By midday, the battle had moved a bit further south as the Union advanced on the Confederates, whose men had taken position in a sunken road that had been worn down by years of wagon traffic.  The Union attacked, sending several waves of troops.  This included the First Regiment of the 69th New York Infantry, better known as the Irish Brigade and comprised mostly of immigrants.

They attacked directly at the center of the Confederate ranks, and while their maneuver allowed other parts of the Union Army to flank the line, they lost almost two-thirds of their men. I read that of all the regiments that fought in the Civil War, only two others suffered more losses over the course of the war than the Irish Brigade – one from Vermont and the other named “The Iron Brigade”, made up of units from Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan.

irish brigade

Monument to the Irish Brigade at the Bloody Lane

 

Anyhow, at some point, a weakness developed in the Confederate line and two regiments of Union soldiers were able to gain control of a small hill overlooking the sunken road.  Again, fierce fighting took place.  The three hours of battle that occurred in this little section of land resulted in over 5,600 casualties and the “Bloody Lane” label.  I came across this quote from a private in the 9th New York Volunteers and was quite moved by his observation of the scene he witnessed after the battle was over:

“Before the sunlight faded, I walked over the narrow field. All around lay the Confederate dead…clad in `butternut’…As I looked down on the poor pinched faces…all enmity died out. There was no `secession’ in those rigid forms nor in those fixed eyes staring at the sky. Clearly it was not their war.”

When we visited the Bloody Lane, I was struck by how small an area it is.  I was picturing it in my mind as some long highway, but on arrival, I was taken aback at discovering that it couldn’t have been much more than the length of a football field!  The road took us past the start of it to the west and circled around to a parking lot on the east side.  There, I got out to take a few photos and to stop for a moment just to try and envision what it looked like years ago.

BloodyLaneAntietam

Aftermath of the Bloody Lane fighting

A previous post mentioned the “Ghosts of Gettysburg” and how it seemed they were absent the day Frank and I visited.  That wasn’t the case here.  After snapping a couple of photos, I was hit by the eeriest feeling of the presence of dead souls.  The hair on the back of my neck and on my arms were suddenly … and literally … standing on end.  I tried to laugh it off as I walked back to the car.  But as I opened the door, I saw that Frank had curled up into a little ball on the passenger-side floorboard … he was shaking and would not get up on the seat! That really freaked me out.  I got back in the car and started driving to the next point on our guide map, and it wasn’t until we had been moving for about five minutes or so that Frank finally got back up on the seat.

13422295_10209708121518018_7824441712426657457_o

The Bloody Lane, today

Take a look at the photo to the left.  It was shot from the eastern end of the sunken road.  It extends to perhaps fifty yards beyond the tall monument you see in the distance.  Look at it for a moment and then consider that in that little patch of ground, almost 2,000 men were killed or wounded per hour … and that went on for three hours straight!  I recognize that in certain cases, war is a necessary evil. I hate that, but accept it. I wish though, that the war hawks in Congress … the ones who are responsible for sending off our boys to battle … were required to visit this place first. I doubt that many of them have any real inkling as to what war is really like, or the impact it will have on the young men who are the ones risking their lives.  It reminds me of a verse in one of my favorite Jackson Browne songs, “Lives in the Balance”:

I want to know who the men in the shadows are;
I want to hear somebody asking them why
they can be counted on to tell us who our enemies are,
but they’re never the ones to fight or to die.

Odd, I have no idea where that soapbox came from.  I’ll put it away now. Back to A/S …

I don’t have any photos from the rest of our visit.  About ten minutes after we left the Bloody Lane, it started raining.  After that, we saw the bridge that was seized by Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside and thereafter named for him. Then we drove through the back area that was controlled by the Confederates and from which they retreated towards the Potomac River at the end of the day, followed by a drive past the national cemetery on the southeast edge of the battlefield.  All along the route (actually, all throughout the the historic site),  we stopped to read the placards that identified positions of the various regiments of each army along with the action they saw at each particular location.

The Road to Sharpsburg

CF State Park

Cunningham Falls State Park, MD  … I love roads like this!

We traveled through some absolutely wonderful countryside on our way to visit Antietam / Sharpsburg.  To get there, we had to pass close by Gettysburg again, after which we were treated to more farmland … beautiful, expansive fields with silos and farm buildings in the distance.  It reminded me so much of the farmland in eastern Tennessee I used to visit when I was a kid, going to see my grandparents’ farm outside of Knoxville.  I love how they lie nestled among wide, rolling hills. There’s just something so “America” about it, to me.  But as soon as we got off of interstate, we entered a thick woodland and began driving through Cunningham Falls State Park.

appalachian trail sign

Have you watched the movie, “A Walk in the Woods”?  I happened to watch it about a week before seeing this sign and was reminded of it.

I’ve mentioned before that I absolutely love driving on roads like this, especially when there’s no other traffic, like the day Frank and I traveled this one.  You get a chance to slow down to 30mph or so and really look at what you’re passing.  There were a couple of times where we had cars come up on us (fortunately, the speed limit here wasn’t much higher than what we were driving, so it’s not like I was a hazard).  When that happened, we just pulled off onto the shoulder and let people pass so we could continue to dawdle.

We also drove by an egress point on the Appalachian Trail.  I’m including this photo, despite its “suckitude”.  The grey blotch you see at the bottom was actually mist rising up from the gravel walk you would follow from the parking lot to get to the trail itself.  There have been more than a few times where I’ve wished I was traveling with a professional photographer, one who could show me the proper way to shoot some of the things Frank and I have come across.   I’ve read and read about photography – I bought a couple of “concept” books that were more about approach and less about settings, along with reading innumerable online “How you shoot ‘X'” instructions.  They just don’t seem to take (pun intended).  As I read them, I’m thinking “Ahhhhh” … but when I’m faced with a situation, I can no more remember what the book said than I can remember what I had for dinner last night! Alas, I have too small a hard drive inside my skull. One that’s near capacity and no longer benefits from any attempt to  “defrag”!  Ask what David Ortiz’s OPS was during the 2007 World Series, though (.945) … who can explain this shit????   :o)

I feel bad that I’m not doing our subject matter justice … that these shots do a disservice to you folks who are following the blog.  Anyhow, take a look at this photo and imagine how it might have been captured by an Ansel Adams or a Jim Brandenburg …    :o)

appalachian trail mist

Mist coming off the walk into the Appalachian Trail

Frank Makes a Friend

moose

Say hello to Moose!  :o)

I can’t put Otter Creek behind us without mentioning Moose … a basset hound that was camping a few sites away from us along with his humans, Bobbie and Mike.  This was Frank’s first encounter with a relative and he really seemed to understand how close in breed they were!  Frank’s normally the standoffish one when he meets another dog. It’s funny to watch him in a dog park … he’ll run up to a group of dogs, but then stay on the outer fringes.  He’ll happily jump up and down along with the rest of them, but he’s always on the perimeter. Never in the middle of the group.  It’s like he wants so much to join in, but he’s afraid he’ll get trampled or something.  Hilarious to watch!

moose1

Is this a trick mirror or what???

But that wasn’t the case when he and Moose met.  In a matter of seconds, he became really excited, as if he was fascinated by the physical resemblance.  I think Moose was a little bit taken aback at first.  He just stood there while Frank was seeing if he could set a world record for the number of times he could circumnavigate a bassett hound in 60 seconds!  The blur in the shot to the left isn’t the fault of the camera … none of us could slow Frank down! I can’t remember if I’ve ever seen him this wound up!

In the “small world” department, Mike came back for a visit after finishing his walk with Moose.  We started talking about where we were from and places we visited.  Mike mentioned that he was from a little town in the San Bernardino valley east of Los Angeles … Glendora.  I said, “I know Glendora!  My uncle lived here at one point.  You don’t happen to know anyone with the last name ‘Tice’, do you?”

Mike replied, “Yeah. Mike Tice. He and I were friends in high school.”  I think you could have knocked him over with a feather when he found out that Mike was my cousin!  I’ve had a few “small world” experiences over the past year and never fail to be amazed by any of them.  There were a couple of others that happened just his week!  A woman was admitted to the ER while I was laying on my gurney with some antibiotics dripping into my arm through an IV.  As it turned out, she was from San Jose and lives only a half mile or so from a home I used to own back there.  Not only that, one of the nurses was from Pompton Plains, a town right next to where I grew up in Pompton Lakes!

Anyhow, Frank and Moose had another chance to visit later in the week.  Bobbie walked him one morning and as they neared the  Nutshell, Moose took a detour up our driveway and let out a bay.  Frank heard it and jumped out of the Nutshell to scamper over and greet him as quickly as he could manage!  Both their tails were wagging a mile a minute.  Later that morning, the two of them had a short play date at the playground across the road, where Bobbie was watching her granddaughters on the swings and slide.  They ran around each other as much as their leashes would allow (Moose and Frank, not the granddaughters … I felt that needed to be said).  Bobbie and I spent most of the time doing a little dance as we tried to keep the leashes from getting tangled.  Moose was baying like crazy and Frank had the biggest smile on his face I’ve ever seen!  A good time was had by all.

That’s it for now. It’s Saturday morning in south Jersey.  The campsite is near capacity now. We have tent campers on either side of the Nutshell and Frank has been straining at the end of his lead in order to capture as much activity as he can.  He is one nosy neighbor, figuratively and literally!  We’re about to take our morning walk, after which I’m sure Frank will hop back up into the Nutshell to take another of his midday naps.  I’m pretty sure that in an hour or so, I’ll be joining him in Dreamland.

I hope everyone enjoys their weekends!  :o)

 

 
2 Comments

Posted by on June 18, 2016 in Travels

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Number is …

146!!! That’s 146!!! Anyone?  Yes, we have a winner!

A couple of days ago, I promised to post more photos that were taken during our stay in the Susquehanna valley.  Alas, something came up that kept me from following through.

Tuesday morning, my left leg started to ache.  Thinking it might be a circulatory issue, I took Frank for a walk.  We went up the north side of the park, past the swimming hole, walked along the back border and then back down to our “street”.  It wasn’t a long walk … took about 20 minutes or so … but I figured it was long enough to get my blood flowing.  In the past, I’ve occasionally had problems with edema in my legs but it hasn’t really been an issue of late, despite my being fat.

Unfortunately, the walk didn’t help.  The lower part of my leg, from about mid-calf on down, started to redden and became very sensitive to the touch.  My first thought was, “Shit!  I’m  getting shingles again!”  I suffered from shingles about six years ago, to the point that I was left with long-term neuropathy in the last two fingers and the heel of my left hand!

If you’ve experienced shingles, you know what the pain is like.  I couldn’t even lightly rub a finger across the back of my leg without feeling like it was on fire.  It wasn’t the type of heat you have from an artery blockage and the swelling wasn’t like an edema.  I figured it had to be shingles.  The only issue was that it was a day before my Social Security deposit was to hit the bank account.  I run pretty thin on funds (about the only “thin” thing to which I can lay claim) and figured that I’d find a low-cost clinic to visit the next day, when I’d have the funds to pay for the visit.  I then had a totally sleepless Tuesday night.  It was agony each and every time I moved my leg even the slightest bit.  And if I happened to let a tooth of the zipper on the side of sleeping bag hit my leg? Oh my God … I’m surprised folks in the neighboring RVs didn’t wonder if someone was being murdered in that little “thing” parked at the end of Beach Road!

By Wednesday morning, I sort of figured out that it wasn’t shingles.  The blisters I thought were forming on Tuesday didn’t develop any further.  At that point, I thought it might be a spider bite or something.  All I knew for certain was that putting any weight on the leg resulted in a “please let me pass out so I don’t experience any more of this” pain.

Anyhow, I had found a clinic that opened at 5pm in a local pharmacy.  Not knowing how long it would take, I also found a dog sitter that would be able to watch Frank in her home. Fearing that it might be something more than what the clinic could address, I made sure that she’d be able to keep Frank overnight if it came to that.  Jane said that wouldn’t be an issue.

Sure enough, the clinic took one look at me and said, “We can’t help you here. You need to go to the hospital for this.” So after calling Jane to let her know that she was going to have an overnight guest, I drove a few miles up the Garden State Parkway to the local ER.

Everyone at the ER was great.  The treatment I received was exceptional. The only thing I’ll mention is that I questioned a couple of the tests they wanted to administer.  I’m in a unique situation with my insurance: it’s a Texas-based policy and offers limited ER coverage when I’m out of state. I’m also responsible for the first $3,000 of expenses, including prescriptions … after that, my bills are covered 100% (to the extent the costs are “approved”).

The two tests were an ultrasound, to verify whether I might have a clot, and a chest x-ray because of swelling /edema in the leg.  Before discovering that either test was ordered, the ER doc said (rather emphatically) that I was experiencing a severe tissue infection, that I would be given a strong antibiotic and some Lasix via IV and would then be sent home with a prescription. The instructions were that I should return if the pain and redness didn’t decrease substantially within the next 24 hours after continuing the antibiotics at home.  Based on that, I asked if those tests were absolutely necessary at this stage of the game … that if in fact I had to return, that I’d prefer waiting until then to go to the next step.  What’s funny to me is that no one came back to acknowledge my question – they simply released me without administering those tests.  But all of that is an aside.  I won’t get into a discussion about how absurd I think the U.S. medical delivery system is.  There isn’t enough ether in the Internet for me to go down that path!

The big surprise came when the doc returned to let me know I was being released.  “Did you know you were diabetic?” he asked.  I told him,”No, I’m not diabetic!”, that I had had a full blood workup less than three months earlier and the results had come back negative for cholesterol and diabetes. “Well, that’s not what your test results show today.  You’re diabetic, my friend!”

I looked at the blood sugar level and sure as hell, it read “146”.  That same value was about 110 back at the end of March!  My first thought was, “Damn … I can’t use that joke anymore!”  When asked if I have a history of diabetes, my typical response at a first-time doctor visit has been, “No diabetes. No cholesterol problem.  I’m just fat!”

I asked the nurse if I could have a copy of the test results and she cheerfully provided them.  I told her that the only big change in my diet was that since early April, I’ve been enjoying an almost daily gin and tonic (what I didn’t tell her was that my gin and tonics are about 50% gin … and they’re served in a really big glass).  She said, “Alcohol is very high in sugar, so yes, it’s possible that that change could produce a higher blood sugar count.”  Then the she said something that really took me off-guard:  “Diabetes is something you need to get control of – simple infections can become a lot worse.  You don’t want to lose that foot!

Huh?  What?  Lose a foot?!?!?!?!?  Nahhhh, I didn’t hear that right.  Lose a FOOT???????

Unfortunately, it happens to a lot of diabetics that don’t get control of their disease. Diabetes makes infections like the one you’re dealing with a lot harder to take care of and sometimes amputation is the end result!” Geezus, I was contemplating having to lose weight, but I didn’t think that it would happen via a surgeon’s knife!  That threw me for a loop … I’d be a liar if I said anything different.

Now I’ve had an on-again, off-again weight problem most of my life.  I’ve addressed it at times, other times … like most of the last five years, for example, I’ve ignored it.  No problem is too big that it can’t be ignored or procrastinated upon. It’s what I call the “fuckits”.  About eight years ago, I undertook a concerted effort to address my weight. I went to Weight Watchers (which I think is a fantastic regimen) and lost 160 lbs over an 18 month period!  Then certain things happened in my life and as quickly as I decided to go to meetings, I said, “fuckit!” … and stopped .  I didn’t just stop meetings – I stopped giving a shit about what I ate.  And to no surprise, proceeded to gain back about three-quarters of what I had lost. What does it matter? Who cares, anyhow?  Fuckit!  There’s that “Anti-Jeff” I mentioned in the George Foreman post, talking full in my ear. He’s been around quite a while.

Food has always been my crutch.  More than anything else, I’ve gone to food as a way to deal with depression and anxiety … and anger.  It’s the paradox of feeling “in control,” i.e “No one is going to tell me what I can or cannot eat!  I’m going to do what I want!” Of course, the reality is that when you have an addiction to food, the last thing you recognize is that you’re not in control – your addiction has control over you!

As I’ve mentioned though, I’ve been trying to get a handle on eating better over the past month, the result of the work I’ve done on reaching a certain level of peace, happiness, and acceptance of myself.  The problems (aside from the whole thing surrounding the George Foreman grill) have primarily been convenience.  Even with the galley and the new camp table, the vagabond lifestyle isn’t as easy as having a roomy kitchen for food prep, cooking, clean-up and the like.  At least that’s been my excuse.  But that excuse pales in comparison to, “You don’t want to lose that foot!”

Nevertheless, I really hate having to face reality!  I lamented to my buddy Mike in Houston that it would have been much easier if this had happened a year ago. I’d have simply dropped Frank off with the caretaker I’ve designated if something were to happen to me … I’d have driven west to the Pacific … and would have plunged the car over a cliff. With me in it!  Problem solved!

But I can’t do that now because I’ve been having a fair amount of fun over the past few months!  I have a reason not to go cliff-diving: I’m enjoying life and want to live! Damn it!

I’ve not been eating balanced, something I confessed to Mike.  I’ve gotten a pretty decent handle on carbs, which have always been my downfall.  Sure, I’ll buy a bag of Doritos every now and then, but no more than once a month (he says as he glances at the half-eaten bag sitting on the storage bin below him … I guess I won’t get to count “salsa” as a vegetable anymore).  I’ll also have an occasional treat: my go-to candy is Red Vines, or Twizzlers, those red licorice things.  I love those.  But my meals have been pretty much 100% protein: I’ll eat a pound of ground beef at a sitting. A couple of big chicken breasts, or two steaks. No vegetables.  No side dishes.  Just meat.

I half-joked with him that my arrangement doesn’t allow for storing a lot of veggies.  I’ve had them go bad on me after only a few days.  “What am I supposed to do … go shopping every day?”  And as soon as I said that, I knew what the response was going to be:  “Well, what else do you have to do?  I mean, it’s not like you don’t have plenty of time on your hands.  You don’t have anything you’re gonna be kept from, right?” (Well, Mike was a bit more tactful than what I was expecting.  I figgered the reply was gonna be, “What kind of cheese do you want with that whine???”)   :o)

Right! Touché! You got me!  One more pseudo-argument against taking better care of myself just went down the drain.

So, it is what it is.  This afternoon, I went to the grocery and bought the fixings for a big crock pot of stew … complete with green beans, peas, stewed tomatoes, mushrooms, carrots and pearl onions.  The only thing missing from my standard recipe are the potatoes. Not that I didn’t buy them – I just couldn’t fit any in the crock pot once everything else was added! I’ve just finished my first bowl while prepping this post and it was delicious!

So we’ll see how this goes.  The Weight Watcher stuff – the point values, my daily points allotment – all of that was committed to memory years ago.  (Funny … I can remember that stuff … and baseball stats … and dialogue from over 793 movies.  Just don’t ask me what color shirt I wore yesterday.)  I’ll just focus on eating more healthy under that regimen and won’t bother at this point with the weekly weigh-ins or going to the meetings that followed.  The key will be whether I’m committed or not.  We’ll see. Oh yeah – “You don’t want to lose that foot!”  Okay, I guess commitment is to be assumed at this point.

I almost forgot to mention – Frank.  I picked him up early this morning.  When I spoke with Jane on the way to the ER, she said that he was anxious. He had been panting ever since I left for the clinic and wasn’t really settling down yet.  I realized that last night was the first that he and I have spent apart since we met!  Anyhow, he started howling the minute I pulled up. I could hear him as I got out of the car.  And when he came around the corner from a back room, he literally ran and leapt into my arms, nearly knocking my walking stick out of my hand and sending me reeling!

When I got him back in the car and got his leash off, he refused to get out of my face and stop licking me! I finally managed to get him to sit in the passenger seat, but Frank wasn’t done.  All the way down the driveway and for the next half mile after that, he sat there howling at me.  Browel, browel, browel, browel, browel … that beagle bay, letting me know how pissed he was that I just up and left him last night.  He was alone when the rain started at about 2am.  I finally talked him down, after which he laid down on the seat with a bit “Pffffft” of air escaping through his jowls.

I don’t have to do grocery shopping tomorrow. I’ve made enough stew for a few days.  I’ve made it before on this journey, but this time, I’ll be able to reheat it in the electric skillet.  I have to say, cold stew that’s congealed while sitting amongst the ice in my cooler does not make for appetizing leftovers!  I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s lunch, that’s for sure!  Almost as much as the now “once a week” gin and tonic I’ll have on Saturday evening!  Looks like I’ll have to be more diligent in getting my daily fruit allowance from something other than a lime!

I’ll work on posting the remainder of the photos tomorrow afternoon.  Thanks for bearing with me while I get my act together!  :o)

It’s not a pretty foot.  In all honesty, it’s a pretty ugly foot, when you get right down to it!  But it’s mine.  I’d like to keep it, thank you very much!

 

 

 
3 Comments

Posted by on June 16, 2016 in Musings

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Miscellaneous Photos

Frank and I are in South Jersey now … less than 5 miles from the Atlantic Ocean as the crow flies.  We arrived this past Thursday.  The campground … our second Thousand Trails location … is really nice, although it’s nothing like Circle M.  This has more of a “campground” feel to it.  Even then, it’s not really what I expected.

13403388_10209692412565304_4149354604196294616_o

Sea PInes Campground, Swainton, NJ.  That’s the bath house in the back … as in all real estate, it’s, “location, location, location”!

I was thinking we’d be resting on sand, with little shade.  As it turns out though, there are lots of trees and we’re pretty well protected from the sun.  While there’s no sand, the campsite is pretty much all dirt.  Frank loves it … he rolls on the ground what seems like 283 times a day. Me, not so much (either loving it or rolling in it)!  After each rolling episode, he wants to get back into the Nutshell.  He’s funny – when he wants back into the cabin, he patiently sits next to me until I can take him off his lead and let him hop in. He has a street urchin look about him. His muzzle is smudged with dirt, he’s got dirt clinging to his ears, and dried up leaves all over his back!  I’m fondly remembering when all I had to do was release him from the tree or bush that he had wrapped his lead around. Much easier!

 

13422333_10209716725053101_6039979237415023103_o

Frank, I have more water … no need to hang yourself!

Anyhow, I was finally able to download a number of photos off my broken phone (long story).  I took a lot more than I’m posting – simply put, most of them suck,. Because the phone was intermittently pulling up some sort of Google search page, it was a fight to get it to stay in camera mode … and when it did, it seemed to decide on it’s own when to click the shutter, leading to a lot of blurry photos.  It’s really disappointing … especially the shots I took at Antietam / Sharpsburg.  I wanted to share those, especially (I’ll get into why later on). That said, here we go:

 

The Susquehanna Valley

otter creek road

The ride in to Otter Creek Campground was a very cool experience

Otter Creek campground is situated right along the old Susquehanna Canal, which was built back in the early 1800’s so that barges could bypass a section of the river that was so rocky that it was impassable.  The campground was pretty much out in the boonies, which gave us a chance to see some really pretty farmland. But as you got closer to the camp, the farmland gave way to woods. It reminds me a lot of where I grew up  in northern Passaic County, NJ.  The sunlight dances through the trees, creating a mystical feel as you drive down a two lane road that disappears around a bend in the distance.

 

canal signThe area is steeped in history.  About 500 yards before the camp entrance, there were three historical markers all bunched together.  The first gave a little history of the canal itself.  Another mentioned that we were at the site of the “Old Furnace Bridge – last of the old wooden bridges erected across the Susquehanna River between Harrisburg and Tidewater.” A couple of the other bridges were burned down during the Civil War to impede the progress of General Lee’s army.  Not this one though … it was destroyed years before the war by an ice jam.

 

tequan club

Doc, my glass is empty … can you write me another prescription?

The last marker referenced an old stone building right on the canal.  When it was first built, it was used as a store house for materials being barged up and down the canal.  Later on, it was taken over by a group of well-to-do businessmen up in Harrisburg.  They formed a group called the Tucquan Club and ostensibly used the building so they could escape the city and return to nature.  In doing a little research I also discovered that the club escaped Prohibition during the 20’s, thanks to the addition of a few doctors to the club … who then prescribed alcohol for “medicinal” purposes.  You know the old saying – “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day: teach a man to fish and you give him a reason to sit around and drink beer!”  :o)

 

The club is still active today.  I can think of few places better to escape for a weekend!  Here are a couple of shots of the river, taken about 1/4 mile north of the Tucquan Club at a little picnic area with a boat launch.

Here’s one last shot of some farmland we passed coming in to Otter Creek.  It was overcast that day and some storm clouds were moving in.  The photo really doesn’t do the countryside justice.

pretty countryside

Gettysburg

We’re backtracking here just a bit.  While we were still at Circle M, Frank and I took a day trip over to Gettysburg, which was only a little more than an hour west of camp.  I hadn’t been there since I was a kid.  I have to say it was considerably more meaningful going there this time.  You know, you learn about things like the Civil War in school, but to actually visit some of these battlefields is an entirely different thing.  The only thing I wish was that we had been able to go at a time when it wasn’t so crowded, being Memorial Day weekend.  I was just one of what seemed like thousands of tourists.  After the visit, Larry asked if I had felt the “Ghosts of Gettysburg”. I hadn’t – I’m sure any that were there were too busy dodging all the cars to make themselves known … or felt!

copse of treesWe spent a lot of the afternoon at one of the battle’s focal points – the site of Pickett’s Charge, a key event that took place on the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg.  Having not had much success during the first two days, Lee had ordered Pickett’s division to attack at the center of the Union defense line.  The bloodiest fighting took place along a stone wall, near a place where it took a 90° turn and has been referred to as “The Angle”.  Next to it was a small grove, now called the “Copse of Trees” which, according to tradition, was the focal point of the charge.  The Confederates were repelled by the Army of the Potomac, under the command of Maj. Gen. Wilford Hancock.  It proved to be a near-total disaster for the Confederates.  Out of the nearly 12,500 soldiers involved in the assault, over 1,100 were killed and another 4,000 wounded.  On the Union side, about 1,500 soldiers were killed or wounded.

the angleNear the copse of trees stands a monument, erected on the site of what’s called the “High Watermark of the Confederacy”, marking their furthest penetration into Union territory.  That’s where Frank and I sat for about an hour, feeling the juxtaposition between the low murmur of tourists and passing cars to the chaos and upheaval of 150 years ago.  For me, it was painful to take in … I had done a lot of reading about the three days of battle before coming here and sitting there, I remembered one quote I had read from an officer from Ohio:

They were at once enveloped in a dense cloud of smoke and dust. Arms, heads, blankets, guns and knapsacks were thrown and tossed into the clear air. … A moan went up from the field, distinctly to be heard amid the storm of battle.

Try letting that register in our mind as you’re sitting in the spot overlooking where that carnage occurred.

second brigade new jerseyThe whole area is filled with monuments , statues and markers.  Across the road from the Angle stands a tall statue of Maj. Gen. Hancock, astride a horse.  He had been wounded during the charge when a bullet ricocheted off his saddle and went into his thigh, carrying shards of wood and a nail along with it.  Further down the road I found a marker indicating where a regiment from New Jersey was positioned.

From there, Frank and I drove south to see Big Round Top and Little Round Top hills, another area of fierce fighting that took place during the second day of battle.  Below them stood the Devil’s Den and what has become known as the Bloody Wheatfield, where another 6,000 casualties total were incurred by both sides.  Here are a few more photos we took.  First looking up onto Big Round Top from below.

big round top

Next is the rock-strewn Devil’s Den, which was used by Confederate snipers while attacking Little Round Top:

devils den

Last is a photo of the Bloody Wheatfield

bloody wheatfield

It was a quiet ride home.  Normally, Frank and I carry on a pretty good conversation in the car.  Sometimes we sing … only when we can agree on the music, though.  I like folk and country, while Frank’s more of a hard-rock listener.

I have a few more photos, but I’m trying to shorten individual posts and make them more frequent.  I’m going to stop here and add the rest in the morning.  All I can say is that the last few weeks have been incredibly enjoyable and both of us are looking for more of the same.  :o)

 

 

 
1 Comment

Posted by on June 14, 2016 in Travels

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

A Word About Depression

Specifically, MY depression

When I updated the “About” page a couple of months ago, I included the following statement:

My symptoms no longer occupy as much column space as they used to. But I often include some ideas that have helped me effectively deal with those symptoms. I feel like they’re in regression. So if I can help someone else get closer to dealing with theirs, or at a minimum, let them see that someone else is making it out of the blackness and that there are possibilities, then that’s a good thing, too.

With that in mind, something “significant” happened over the weekend that I’d like to share.  Significant for me, anyway.  Let me give you the background first …

foreman grill

The George Foreman Barbecue

I’ve been carrying around a George Foreman barbecue grill … not the type that you might have in your kitchen.  It looks like a Weber grill. It’s electric, so it’s a lot easier to use than a charcoal or gas grill.

Anyhow, the last time I used it was back at The Last Resort in August … and it’s been riding around in the trunk ever since.  It’s been unused because, well, I never cleaned it.  For the last ten months, I’ve been carrying a disassembled, greasy, filthy grill around as we’ve traveled over 10,000 miles through 16 states.  I took it apart, packed it away just as I got it, but never cleaned it – neither the grill or the little pan that catches the grease (which I had put inside zip-lock baggie so none of the coagulated grease would leak through in the car).

I’ve had a lot of chances to use it and thought about it quite a bit … but not the way you’d expect. At least the way you’d expect it to for those with healthy minds.  Thoughts of the grill became a way of beating myself up.  To tell myself, “Look at what a piece of shit you are, Jeff.  You can’t even man up to clean a freaking GRILL!  You’re no good. You’re a bad person. You’re worthless!”  

Not only that, I’ve probably let at least $250 of meat rot in my cooler over that time period – food I bought with the idea of cooking it and not doing so… because it was more comfortable for me to avoid facing my own failure as a person.  “Jeff, you’ve failed as a human being.  Look at yourself – you can’t even take care of yourself the way anybody else would!

Meanwhile, as the food rotted, I was continuing to live off fast food: pizza, drive thrus, convenience store sandwiches – anything to avoid facing that grill! “You’re lazy. You’re fat. You deserve to be fat!  This is who you are and this is who you will be. Forever!!!!

So that’s the background.  That brings us up to about three weeks ago.

Now, I’ve been making progress dealing with my symptoms, as you know if you’ve been following the blog. The depression has lifted considerably.  Anxiety has not reared its head in quite a while.  The overriding symptom, the one controlling those other two and more … is inertia. Continuing to do something because it’s easier than changing. I’m doing better on it.  For example, I’ve been using the crock pot I bought. I’ve been using the electric skillet as well. But there’s still resistance. (Before embarking on this journey,  I wasn’t keeping my apartment clean … and if I was letting dishes pile up there even when I had a dishwasher, it certainly hasn’t gotten any easier facing dishwashing when I have to heat water in an electric kettle, pour it into a bucket and do my dishes by hand!)  So I’ve still been resorting to fast food for a decent percentage of my meals.  I’d say that for most of the last four months, I’ve been cooking about three out of seven dinners a week.

But like I said I’ve continued to break the inertia.  At our last campsite, the Circle M,  we had a stand-up grill at the campsite. I joked with someone about it being one of the few grills I’ve come across where my first reaction wasn’t to think about when I last had a tetanus shot! So I wound up using it almost every night to cook. And it was great!  I mean, it was enjoyable!  Burgers, steak, chicken, Italian sausage … “enjoyable” is an understatement.

But here at Otter Creek?  No grill.  Not even one a rusty one.

When we arrived, I had a pork tenderloin in the cooler.  I had bought it last Wednesday afternoon and had been marinating it in the ice ever since.  So on Saturday afternoon, when I thought about what to have for dinner, I naturally thought about the tenderloin.  And because of having done barbecue so much at the last place, that’s what first came to mind.  Then I remembered – no barbecue. And then I remembered the George Foreman.

So then began the mental conversation, but not the same one I’ve had before regarding the grill.  Who’s the conversation with?    With “Anti-Jeff” I suppose, the demon that’s been living inside me for so long.

Anti-Jeff: “Ha!  I’ve been waiting for this. The George Foreman is dirty!”

Me: “Yeah, it’s dirty. But I can just clean it.”

AJ: “You haven’t been able to clean it for almost a year.  You won’t clean it now because you’re weak. What makes you think you can clean it now?”

Me: “I’m not the same person I’ve been. I’ve been getting better.”

AJ: “No you’re not. You’re just fooling yourself. Besides, it’s filthy. It’s probably been building up mold. Why even bother to look?  You know you’re not going to do it.”

Me: “That barbecue last week was so effin’ good.”

AJ: “That was easy. This won’t be. Just go get some pizza. Why bother putting yourself through all that?”

Me: “Screw it.”

Now I’ll be honest: there were a few more back and forths in that internal conversation.  But the resulting “Screw it” happened.  And with those two words, I got up from the picnic table, got the box out of the car and opened it.  After pulling out all the other pieces and finally getting to the grill, I discovered it wasn’t moldy. It hadn’t eaten away at the surface of the grill (something else I imagined might have happened).  It was just … filthy.  And as it turned out, the grease coagulating on the surface made it easier to clean!  A lot of it came right off, with no elbow grease needed.  And I had a delicious pork tenderloin … with enough left over to have sandwiches the next two days.  And, I cleaned the grill and cooked up all beef hot dogs the next night!

So, now … if you’ve been following the blog because of key words like “depression,” “anxiety,” and “PTSD”, then this next part is for you.

I’m going to ask a semi-rhetorical question … and I want you to hold off answering it right away, okay?

Putting myself through that whole ordeal was stupid.  Letting a dirty grill get the best of me was stupid. Wasting all that money on food … going through the motions and then having to toss it was stupid.  Am I right?

Let me answer for you:  NO. None of that is stupid.  The anxiety. The dread. The avoidance. The fear.  The sweat beading up on my brow and the heart racing at twice its normal rate. None of that is stupid.  “Stupid” is judgmental and there is nothing about the experience to judge.  Those feelings were as real to me as the pain I might feel in my arm if I  had a pinched nerve in my neck.  Would I be stupid for thinking the pain was in my arm when the cause was located elsewhere?   If one of your friends was experiencing that, would you tell them they were stupid?  Of course not!  But that didn’t happen to a friend. It happened to me. And if you’re like me, that judgment comes easy.

We don’t need to have others judge us – we do a pretty good job of that ourselves.  And if you’ve suffered like this for a long time, I’m pretty sure telling this to you will have a low probability of helping you.  Close friends would tell me for years that I was being too hard on myself and it never took.  It’s only been through hard work … work that’s taken months while being on the road (not even counting years and years of therapy and medication that never seemed to result in much progress) … that I was able to reach the point where I could finally clean off that damned grill!

Now I’m not a therapist. I have no medical background. I am not qualified to tell you what you need to do.  The only thing I can do is tell you what has worked for me.  And by the way, while the rest of this is addressed to the generic “you”, it’s only for presentation: please know that these are all things I’ve had to realize for myself.   If you’re interested, read on.

  1. Accept that you don’t have a true sense of your own self.  If you feel incapable of changing or getting better, you might tell me, “well, that’s good for you.  But I’m different!”  I used to have long conversations with my buddy Larry about this.  He’d offer up all sorts of ideas and suggestions and moral support … and I’d answer with a “but …” each and every time.  He finally said, “Do you agree that your friends have a different view of who you are than you do?” When I agreed, he then asked, “Can you accept that, if you see yourself differently, that your view might be wrong instead of theirs?”  It took quite a bit of effort, but I finally agreed.  That was the starting point for me: if I was wrong about how I saw myself, then it meant I could change my perception. I might have thought that was beyond my ability, but that was okay.
  2. Don’t listen to Nike and Nancy Reagan.  In my opinion, phrases like “Just do it,” and “Just say no,” are such bullshit! Not only do they over-simplify the work that needs to be done to overcome things like depression and anxiety, they only reinforce negative feelings about yourself when you can’t “just” fix yourself.  I can’t tell you how many well-meaning friends have told me, “You just need to start being happy!” Or, “I think you like being miserable. Otherwise, why don’t you just change?” They used to really piss me off, to the point of wanting to slap them.  (I never did.)  Finally, I just recognized that they’re well-meaning, but don’t have a clue as to what’s going on.  Even friends who went through a particularly upsetting or depressing event like losing a job or a spouse or anything else from which they recovered. Going through a depressing experience is not the same as having depression or another mental disorder!  When that happens, just thank them for their concern and let them know you appreciate that they care.  They do.  They just don’t know how to help.  And by the way? Those friends like that?  Don’t ever discard them simply because they keep up with the Nancy Reagan impressions.  I haven’t … and some of them have come through with a tremendous amount of loving support!  You can never have too many friends.
  3. Stop judging – be kind to yourself.  Speaking of friends, how about being a friend to yourself???  It takes practice to recognize when you judge.  It’s second nature to belittle yourself when you’re like I’ve been. To see yourself as unworthy or incapable, or to downplay any progress you’ve made.  What I did was to make a list of all the things I felt were bad about me.  I then put it in the perspective of a friend – if I had a friend who was suffering from depression or anxiety or low self-esteem, would I believe anything on that list was true about them?  The answer was, “Of course not!”  This helped … at least it helped me to recognize that I wasn’t being very nice to myself.  I’ve kept that list.  Keep yours, too.
  4. Change your “inner-speak” from negative to positive.  Here’s where the hard work starts to happen.  This was tough for me.  I can’t tell you how much I felt like it was all just bullshit!  I started a log, writing down “accomplishments”.  I started small.  Did laundry today.  Big  deal. Everyone does laundry.  But if you haven’t done laundry for weeks and have been wearing dirty clothes?  That’s an accomplishment.  You may think, “That’s pretty bad if you have to sink so low as to be proud of yourself for just doing the laundry!”  But remember – that’s judgment. Not allowed.  (That’s why it helps to have that list I mentioned in the last point.  One of the things on my list was, “you think little stuff you overcome aren’t worth patting yourself on the back”.)  Take baby steps.  Maybe it will progress to bigger things, maybe it won’t. I don’t know that my accomplishment log ever had anything “big” in it – that’s judgment, too.  But I was gradually able to separate judgment from actions and stop feeling that I wasn’t able to do anything!
  5. Eliminate pessimism.  Anxiety is, by definition, “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.”  Pessimism is taking that uncertain outcome and expecting the worse.  Once again, I started making a list of events that had caused anxiety as I was going through them, along with the outcome of each event.  Pretty soon, I was able to see that there were more things on that list with a positive outcome than a negative one.  I even went so far as to put a little sign on my dashboard. I’ve referred to this in earlier blog posts.  That one little thing has helped tremendously.  This goes a long way towards helping you with changing that inner-speak to positive, by the way.  And oh … almost forgot … these lists aren’t a one-time thing.  You should add to them on at least a daily basis.  At some point, you’ll think, “I don’t have to do that anymore.”  I’m not, for what it’s worth … but I waited for a month until after that first thought came before I actually stopped making the list.  I now end most days expressing gratitude for good things that happen and recognize situations that might have thrown me for a loop in the past, but didn’t.
  6. Don’t be afraid to change, even if it’s a big deal.  For me, that change involved retiring from work and becoming a vagabond.  I’m not suggesting that you have to something that drastic.  I felt I did, but that was me!  I was in a drastic mental place that called for drastic measures.  Some people commit themselves to an institution – I committed myself to the wide open spaces.  You?  Maybe the change you need is to get off your ass and exercise. Release some endorphins.  Maybe you need to get out of a bad relationship.  Maybe quit a job. Maybe get off political blogs.  I don’t know that you need to necessarily change anything other than fixing your inner-speak and working on pessimism.  Only you know what has to change.  Be willing to embrace it.  A word of caution here – PLEASE don’t do anything drastic on your own.  Talk to someone close to you about things you feel you need to change. Talk to more than one person, if you have them . Talk to your doc or your therapist.  The last thing I want is for you to do something drastic because, “that’s what Jeff said to do”.  Like I said, I am NOT a qualified therapist. I’m only telling you what worked for me.  And you can do pretty much everything in this list while staying at home, right?  Right!
  7. Find something outside of yourself to focus on.  For me?  I got Frank.  He’s a living thing that depends on me. He loves me … and he could give a shit about who I am, or what I do, or where we live.  But I’m responsible for him now.  If a dog isn’t your thing, get a cat. A goldfish. A turtle. Or if you can’t have pets, then go volunteer somewhere.  Do you know how to read?  Go to a retirement home and read to the residents.  Volunteer at a soup kitchen.  Or join a group and share (Back when I was living in New Jersey, I joined ASCA – “Adult Survivors of Child Abuse”. I would have continued going, but there weren’t any meetings within driving distance after I moved to Charleston.  It helped hearing how others handled things as they came up and sharing things I learned with others helped, too.)  Find something … anything … to make you think about something beyond yourself.  And by the way – if you volunteer, pretty soon you’ll have a lot of new stuff to put on that “accomplishment” list, too.
  8. Accept yourself as you are right now. I’m not perfect.  Neither are you.  Neither of us ever will be.  You’ll have good days and bad.  And it has nothing to do with whether you are a good person or a bad person. As it says in the Sermon on the Mount, rain falls “on the just and unjust alike.”  That’s not to say that bad decisions can’t have a lasting impact on a life.  But even with that, if you don’t accept yourself and all your faults, you’ll never be able to love yourself enough to reach a sense of peace.
  9. Don’t give up. I almost did. I’m glad I didn’t now, but it wasn’t always like that.  And do whatever it takes to keep going.  You’ll be sure to hit a point where you say, “Screw this.”  Please don’t.  If there’s a day when you decide not to do your list, or get caught up in a bad experience, do what you can to keep the impact to that one day.  If you decide not to add to your accomplishment today, promise yourself that you’ll follow through tomorrow … and when tomorrow comes, keep your promise!!!

This is hard work.  I will tell you that it might get easier, but I don’t know when.  Suddenly, one day, you’ll recognize that you’re different.  That’s the way it was for me.  I was sitting at a campsite one day and I suddenly realized that I felt at peace.  That I wasn’t in a good place,  waiting for the “other shoe to drop. I was happy and not fearing the worse.   Do you know what I mean?    The work was showing gradual improvements, but the realization was sudden.

And it wasn’t until then … and a bit more time feeling that peace … that I reached the point where I was able to attack a dirty George Foreman grill. Oh, and by the way … I’m cooking burgers on the clean grill tonight. Again. Fourth time in the last five nights.  Be patient with yourself.  Let yourself fail a few times. Or more than a few!  You will. It’s okay.  Be kind to yourself. It’s worth it. It won’t happen overnight.  Don’t worry about how long it takes.  Whenever you reach that point, it will be worth it! You’re worth it!


I started this post on Sunday evening.  Monday turned out to be a pretty bad day.  In the space of 24 hours, my phone took a dump … followed by the laptop not booting up … followed by Frank getting loose while I was in the restroom and running off.

First off, Frank was retrieved by a couple who decided that he must’ve run off from the campgrounds, seeing as how he had his lead still wrapped around him and it was just down the road.  He was back in my arms in about 15 minutes … even though it seemed like an eternity going through it! (Thank you, Guardian Angel over lost dogs!)

I spent the rest of the day dealing with the phone and laptop. Calls to Amazon and the manufacturer.  Calls to a local repair tech. Calls to Verizon.  Trying to figure out how to surf on my freaking Kindle, typing with the on-screen keyboard.  It seemed like everything that could possibly go wrong, did. (Except that I got Frank back, of course.)

Yesterday morning, instead of getting right back into it, I decided to give myself a break and punt. Frank and I went to visit the National Historic Site at the Civil War battlefield of Antietam / Sharpsburg.  Now before I started out on this healing journey a year ago? If those things had all happened in one day, I’m quite certain I wouldn’t be around today.  Hell, six months ago, it would have ruined a good amount of time … I certainly wouldn’t have simply let it go the next day and gone off on a sightseeing trip!  I would have brooded over it for at least a week, if not more (and this is despite the sign on my dashboard about “things will work out” … remember, I said to be patient with yourself, that you’ll fail).

Anyhow, we had a great time. And when I got back, I turned the laptop on for giggles.  It booted up … despite it not having booted up the more-than-three-dozen times I did the same thing on Monday!  (I wonder which guardian angel was in charge of that one?) The phone I still have to deal with … but the upset and anger and frustration from Monday was left behind.  That’s something for the accomplishment list, don’t you think?   :o)

This is all my two cents.  Do with it what you will.  Next time, we’ll return to our regularly scheduled blog about Frank and camping and road trips and other stuff like that.  Tomorrow, we break camp and leave Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna Valley for the south Jersey shore!

This special episode was brought to you by Spectrum Industries, proud manufacturer of the George Foreman Grill.  We help knock out the fat! And by Blue Buffalo All Natural Dog Food.  Made with only the finest natural ingredients and real meat.

Thank you for tuning in.    :o)

 

 

 
7 Comments

Posted by on June 8, 2016 in Musings

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Frank’s Top Five

Upset that he wasn’t consulted before the last post, Frank wants to add his two cents.  So … in his own words … here are his picks for the top five picnic tables he’s visited over the last year:

frank in alabama

I remember that missing patch of fur … man, those shots hurt!

5. Chickasabougue Park, Mobile, AL – I did not like this place one bit.  We had lightning and thunder almost every day.  One day, there was a storm so bad, some guy came by in a white car with lights on top … he said we needed to get out because of something called a “torn ado alert.”  Now I don’t know what an ado is, or what happens when it gets torn, but Woof put me in the car and we drove around for a while. He kept looking at the sky and telling me, “Look at that sky!  Have you ever seen a sky like that?”  In all honesty, I don’t look at the sky that much. I’m more of a “nose to the ground” type of guy.  I have to say it was a pretty weird color, though.  No, I didn’t like this place at all.  The picnic table wasn’t bad, though.

Frank on a picnic

Huh?  Did you say, “dinner”???

4. Georgia Veterans State Park, Cordele, GA – When we got in the car that day, I had no idea where we were going. Woof said it was the start of a “journey”.  I tell you, it was the longest drive he and I had ever taken up to then.  And when we stopped, there was this beautiful lake.  Woof wouldn’t let me go swimming in it though … something about not wanting me to become “gator shit,” whatever that means.  I liked this place. Nice view from atop the picnic table, but it was made of stone.  You ever sit on stone?  Makes your butt numb after a while. But a dog’s gotta do what a dog’s gotta do.  And I’ve got to be up high.  Better to see any bad people that might be sneaking up on us.  Woof and I look out for each other, that’s for sure!

franks hole

Asleep in my “Sun Room” at The Last Resort!

3. The Last Resort, Pagosa Springs, CO – I have to mention this place, even though I didn’t like the table.  It wasn’t just that it was made of plastic.  Woof used it to tie me up to the bench all the time.  I remember he got mad one day because he went off into this building (he does that all the time – really ticks me off) and while he was gone,  I pulled and pulled and *sproing *!  I actually got free!  I decided to take advantage of the time and visit some of the folks on the other side of the park.  I don’t know why that was worth getting yelled at!  And then there was another time when I got free and went down to the river to take a little swim.  The water wasn’t running very fast but man was it cold.  (It’s the only time I’m glad I was neutered … if I hadn’t been, those balls would have been the size of apple seeds!)

No, I liked this place because of the house I built, right next to the river. It was pretty good, if I do say so myself. I dug three different levels – one for morning, one for early afternoon, and one for when it got hot in the middle of the day.  It’s the best dirt I’ve seen on this trip!  And please … a plastic picnic table??? What’s up with that?  That’s just not right.  And speaking of apple seeds …

13139260_10209409286967341_8670024529914252619_n

Hey baby!  You ever make it with a beagle????

2. Johnny Appleseed Park, Fort Wayne, IN – I meet Woof’s brother here and his nephew, Aiden.  It was nice having Aiden around.  He petted me a lot and took me for a couple of walks.  Plus, he’s more my size.  I didn’t have to reach up as far to give him a kiss as I do with Woof.

The other reason I liked this park were the chicks.  Man, you should have seen the legs on that cute golden retriever that camped out next to us for a few days … woof!  She was a knockout!

12045528_10207711119874225_929434325322827665_o

Woof, you’re spending way too much time on the laptop … this is what’s called an “intervention”.

1. Circle The Wagons RV Park, La Veta, CO – I have to take exception to Woof’s post yesterday.  He keeps telling people that I was oblivious to those three deer that walked right by us when we were sitting on the picnic table that one morning.  Hell, I saw them! I knew they were something I’m supposed to chase.  But I’m a lover, not a fighter hunter!  I mean, if he’s feeding me every day, why do I need to chase down a momma deer and her two babies???  I’ll stick with food I don’t have to catch.  Unless I don’t have to run after it … like that big piece of chicken I caught off the table when Woof left it there at the last camp while he went to get my kibble out of the back of the car.  He got mad when he came back and saw me scarfing it down.  But you tell me – if you had a choice between a nice, juicy chicken breast and some hard, dry pieces of bone meal and vegetables, which are you gonna choose? Exactly! You’d have been sneaking that thing off the table, too.  Every. Single. Time.

So that’s it.  I’ll keep giving you the canine perspective on places we visit.  I’m enjoying this journey of ours. Lots of cool places.  Lots of bushes to mark.  I’ve hit bushes and trees and rocks and stuff in 20 different states now.  How many beagles can lay claim to that?!?!?

 

 

 

 

 
4 Comments

Posted by on June 4, 2016 in Frank Speaks, Travels

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

The “Top Five” List

Earlier this week, I made a post in Facebook’s Teardrop Camper Group about having Frank and I having hit our one year anniversary on the road.  Robin, another member of the group, replied, “If you get a chance, it would be cool to know what your favorite places were and why.”

Thanks for the idea, Robin.  Over the last year, we visited / traveled through twenty states; we camped in nine of them at a total of 20 individual sites (I’m not counting places where we just stayed overnight as we passed through).  Some places we stayed for just two days … in others, we stayed for two months!  Here are our top five personal favorites, along with a couple of “honorable mentions”.  The links go back to earlier blog posts when during our stays at each particular place.

Honorable Mentions

Hey Kids

Mom, what’s the furry thing on the shore? And what’s that little thing with the wagging tail?

Georgia Veterans State Park, Cordele, GA – This was our first stop out of Charleston last May.  GVSP is in the south central part of the state, near historical sights like Andersonville and Plains.  It’s a fairly nice size park, with about 2/3 of their sites situated right on Lake Blackshear.  Our site was 20 feet off the lake, with a picnic table and fire ring.  Since it was our first campsite, it was a learning experience, which took away from the enjoyment just a little bit.  We learned a LOT and figured out pretty quickly a few things that didn’t work (i.e., don’t take every single thing out of the car when you unpack … you’re not going to need it all and it’s going to be hell putting it all back in the car when you leave in 14 days).  Then there were the gnats. They were constant, even with the “no-see-um” repellent we bought.  Now that we’re in the Nutshell and out of the tent, I’d like to come back here at some point … just not in June.  Perhaps in the fall, when the gnats are back in school or something.

Two Old Vagabonds

Our first “selfie”, in La Veta, CO

Circle the Wagons RV Park, La Veta, CO – We stayed here for a month, starting in mid-September.  Our site bordered up against a small creek.  The park was okay. We had a picnic table at our site and that was about it, but the facilities were very clean.  The main attraction for me was the area.  La Veta is on my list of places to consider for settling down, if and when I come off the road. (It’d be on my short list if it weren’t for the fact that they average 9 1/2 feet of snow every winter!).  Frank had his first real wildlife encounter here, when a doe and two fawn wandered past us early one morning.  He was not impressed. If word got out about how nonchalant he was as they walked by, the “Hunting Hound Dogs of America” club might pull his membership card!

That’s it for the Honorable Mentions.  On to the the top five, in reverse order …

newlogsign

Be sure to bring your guitar or fiddle if you’re coming here!

#5 – Triple Creek Music and RV Park, Woodville, TX – Now this is not your run-of-the-mill RV Park.  First off, it’s out in the middle of nowhere, down a 3-mile dirt road.  It’s also nothing to look at.  We stayed here for a month beginning in late February … our first camp with the Nutshell (not counting overnights on the way back from picking it up in California).  At that time, most of the other folks were “Winter Texans”, escaping the snow in other parts of the country.  There was a conglomeration of old RV’s, mobile homes and semi-permanent fixtures.  We’re not talking “vacation destinations”, okay?

No, that’s not what made this park special.  It was the people. And the concept.  Each weekend, Triple Creek hosted music events.  People came from as far away as Houston to stay for the weekend and join in with the pickin’ and grinnin’.  The alternating themes are gospel, folk, country and bluegrass.  And it wasn’t just the music … the hospitality was incredible, with pot luck dinners three nights a week, a Saturday morning community breakfast and Bingo on Monday. (Yep. One of my guilty pleasures is bingo.)  Frank made a lot of new friends there.  In fact, we plan on spending another month there next February.  Hopefully the road doesn’t get washed out the way it did last year, when we had 14 1/2 inches of rain over three days.  Even that didn’t wipe it off this list … that’s how much we enjoyed it!

gosp

Now THIS is a campsite!

#4 – Goose Island State Park, Rockport, TX – We greeted the New Year here, staying for two weeks right next to the Gulf of Mexico!  Full disclosure – our site wasn’t actually right on the gulf, although they do have water-front sites.  We were still in a tent at that time and opted for the protection from the wind that the trees provided.

This park is very well maintained. I really liked our campsite. It was spacious, but not isolated.  The sites were on loops intertwined throughout forests of scrub and live oak.  It gave you a real “camping” feel.   It’s penciled in as another site we’ll return to when we’re back in Texas for the upcoming winter.  Oh yeah,  this was the first place where I saw someone staying in a teardrop.  I remember thinking, “Oh, if only!”  Little did I know that, with the help of friends, Frank and I would be in the Nutshell less than three months later!

13323333_10209580483767154_572854732579994575_o

Does this look relaxing, or what?

#3 – Circle M Camp Ground, Lancaster, PA – This was the last site we were at and it’s the first Thousand Trails campground we visited.  I loved it! I’ll tell you up front: this is a camping resort, but that was incidental to Frank and me … we didn’t partake in any of the resort amenities (including things like a swimming pool, a miniature golf course, and for one of the weekends we were there, a Memorial Day kid’s parade).  No, we were able to stay for two weeks in a portion of the park that was far removed from the hustle and bustle.  Our site was right on the Conestoga River and I don’t think I’ve felt more relaxed at a campsite since last summer at … well, I’ll leave that discussion for “downstream” (pun intended).

This campsite had everything we could need – a picnic table, a fire ring and a barbecue grill … one that was clean enough to use without worrying about whether I was up to date on my tetanus shots!  It was just flat out comfortable!  I’m going to have to visit a few more of their places … our next one will be in another week, near Cape May, NJ … but if they’re all on par with the Circle M, I won’t be hesitant in recommending them to anyone who is a frequent camper.  More on that as we move further into the summer.

12440622_10209042400195401_7311281548289155150_o

The Nutshell, with a Lake Lewisville cove in the background

#2 – Lake Park Campground, Lewisville, TX – this is probably the prettiest park we stayed at during our first year on the road.  It’s a city-run campground, with about 50-60 sites that all have a lake view.  Not only that, it’s cheap … easily the best bang-for-the-buck campground we’ve stayed at.  It’s $16/night … half-price for seniors age 62 and over!  (If any of you have camped near Dallas, you’ll know that most places that you’d want to stay at are at least $50/night.)  We stayed here for two weeks and had I known they let you stay a maximum of 28 days, we might have stayed longer! (As it was, we ran into some issues getting the Nutshell registered, so we actually did extend our stay a few extra days while waiting for paperwork to arrive from out of state.)

We had a picnic table and grill, and some of the prettiest sunrises you’ll ever see without an ocean involved!  The facilities are immaculate – they really take pride in keeping it clean.  Being from the Dallas area, I have extra reasons to return – visiting long time friends.  We’ll be back next year … for the full 28 days … and I’m really hoping more of my buddies will be able to sit fireside with Frank and me while we enjoy a beer and burgers!  Friends or not, though, I’d come back here again any time and highly recommend it if you’re looking for a place to stay in the Dallas area.

And that brings us to our pick for the best place we’ve stayed over the past year …

franks dirty nose

Frank really “dug” this place … literally!

#1 – The Last Resort, Pagosa Springs, CO – I’ll tell you right up front, I have a bias for this place. We stayed here for almost two months last summer, beginning in mid-July and came back for a few days back in April while we were visiting Keith, an old high school buddy who was getting ready to move to Hawaii.  I consider The Last Resort as “Ground Zero” – a place where I started to heal from a lifetime of depression, anxiety and turmoil.  If you’re looking for a beautiful setting right along a trout stream … a place where you can decompress and put aside whatever it is that’s troubling you, I can’t think of a better setting!

Stacy and TJ are the proprietors and they’ve gone the extra mile to make this place an extension of their home.  I know they have campers that have returned every year for a decade … a testament to how wonderful a place it is to visit.  Our campsite was right on the river, with a picnic table, fire ring and grill.  The main building offers a full kitchen, free to use for campers, along with rest rooms showers and laundry.  Oh yeah, there’s the community coffeemaker, too … running full time beginning at around 5:30am.  Outside, there’s a big fire ring where all the campers gather on Friday and Saturday nights.  It’s a really small park (ideal for teardrop campers, I might add).  I would recommend this park to anyone … and have, on numerous occasions!

I’m not sure when I’ll be back.  It’ll happen some day.  But I feel like my life started over here.  The healing that began on the banks of the Blanco River enabled the rest of the trip to turn out the way it has for Frank and me.  And for that, this park will always hold a special place in my heart!

So that’s it! Our top five campgrounds during Year 1 of our journey.  This next year will be decidedly different from the first.  Because we were in a tent for most of the time … because of the physical exertion required to setup and break down our campsites … we focused on places that offered extended stays.  Year 1 saw us staying a month or more in five different campgrounds!  But now, with the Nutshell and the ease in which we can settle in at a place, that’s simply not going to be the case.  Between now and the end of 2016, we have reservations (or plans to make reservations) at more than two dozen campgrounds, up and down the east coast. After that, we’ll head back to Texas for the winter.  And after that, who knows?  I made tentative plans to do the Great Lakes next year.  But we may wind up spending more time in the Tennessee valley. Perhaps see more Civil War sites.  Perhaps spend more time in western Pennsylvania and Virginia.  I’ve realized that I’m really not in a hurry to get to the west coast, which is sort of our symbolic “end of the road”.  If you keep following the blog, we’ll find out together what comes next.  Stay tuned!  :o)

12593782_10209029176704822_2389711171118732716_o (1)

Our most recent “selfie”

 

 
2 Comments

Posted by on June 3, 2016 in Travels

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,