Axl Remembered

Axl

Axl

Last week was tough for my wife and me; we had to say goodbye to our cat Axl. He started showing signs of renal failure a couple weeks ago. As it reached a point that he was no longer ambulatory, we made the decision to have him euthanized.

As all pet owners know, death is a certainty that will have to be faced one day. We always hope that it is a long way off and when it does come you hope that it is quick and painless. Those elements don’t always go together but we hope they do. The longer a pet lives, the closer our bonds become with them, the more they become a part of the family, and all the more painful when we lose them.

I am ready to work - Are you?

I am ready to work – Are you?

As I enter my office to write this post, I am reminded just how much I will miss Axl, not because of his super-cool-awesome-catness, but because he did try his utmost to not let me get any work accomplished. Honestly, after Manu passed 28 months ago, Axl really bonded with me. Like I was a replacement Manu. Manu for the record was his litter-mate and they had been together always (approx. 15 years). sharing everything.

Can you see me?

Can you see me?

There was no such thing as too little a space. Just squeeze a little.

I remember the times at night, like clockwork, Manu would chase Axl through the hallways between the hours of 11 and 11:30. It was the funniest thing to listen to as we have wood floors and no carpets, the cats would try their hardest to gain traction and move forward but they would do the car equivalent of burning rubber when their hind legs would move but they didn’t really didn’t get anywhere at first. Also, when they finally did get to running they would often collide with the door to the t.v. room because they couldn’t make tight turns as they might if they were on carpet.

 

Axl patiently waiting for soft cat food

Axl patiently waiting for soft cat food

I will miss Axl’s early morning scratching on our door signifying he wanted soft cat food (I would sprinkle it with glucosamine and chondroitin powder to help with his old cat joints). I will also miss his meow when he greeted me when I did finally manage to get out of bed for said feeding, although it was really to take a shower, he made sure it was all about him.

Where did my head go?

Where did my head go?

 

 

I will miss his playful antics and obsession with what I can only imagine was string on the underside of our big purple chair for he would get his head fully underneath to chew on said offending string only to have it look like he he had no head.

I will miss his regal self-importance. I will miss his bizarre need to get into the bathtub to drink water.

Now what's in here do you suppose?

Now what’s in here do you suppose?

I will always remember how he could relax ANY and EVERY where he saw fit. His totally relaxing while I rubbed his belly, or any time really and they way he really looked at me like we understood each other. I guess in a way we did. We had our routines and I will miss him terribly. You are my favorite orange kitty!

Lord Axl presiding!

Lord Axl presiding!

Peace be with you!

More to come…

 

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My experience(s) with being bullied

It seems like I can’t escape how often I read about some poor young person (mostly) that is being bullied and has decided to take their own life rather than taking the online cyber bullying, in person verbal and sometimes physical abuses. Why is that? I mean, why do people feel the need to belittle and demote, denigrate and tear a person down so far? Is it to make themselves feel better, is it they are young and have no real sense of the impact of their words or actions?

I recently came across an article about a young girl named Isis. Of course, because of her name, she was bullied. She actually posted a video (probably on Facebook) taking aim at all of the shamers, mean spirited and ignorant folks that continued to make her life miserable. This was her way of being able to confront those people in a safe environment and express herself in a very mature way. For this I must applaud her. Hers is an ongoing story and I am sure that Isis still struggles with ignorance all around her. But she fights on.

The main reason I felt the need to write this post was to lend my words and support to those people like the young girl Isis and any others that are bullied, and share my own experience with bullying and how it has effected me. This is my story of being bullied.

When I was much younger than I am now, say 40 years ago, my family lived on small street in Portland Oregon. I went to school initially with my sisters or friends or by myself. School was about 5 blocks away, not all that far and times were different then. People were more self reliant, harder, if you will.

It started when I was in 1st grade I believe. I was on my way home after school. I was walking across the railroad tracks about a block and a half away from my house. Kind of an industrial part of town. Not very populated with houses and not many people around.

A kid a couple years older than me approached while I was in this no-mans-land area and although I forget his exact words, I remember his actions. He made me find a stick for him and then had me stand with my back to him, leaning against one of the supports to the foot bridge that went over the tracks. Then he would beat me over the back with the stick. He was older, bigger, stronger and faster than me. I couldn’t outrun him and I knew no other way to and from school. I had to take this route. Remember, I was 6 years old at the time.

This went on for some time. I tried my best to partner up with other kids or be very watchful for this person, but inevitably he would find me alone and the process would start over again. I would try to find sticks that were small, thin or looked to break easily. I also cried much more than it actually hurt so he would finish sooner and let me go home.

As you could imagine, my mom eventually found out. And when she did, she was furious. She marched me into the school principals office, lifted up my shirt and told them what happened and by whom. They told her that without proof that this kid had actually beat me, that they, the school, could do nothing because it a) did not take place on school grounds and b) we could not prove that this kid had actually beat me. Done…case closed. My mom fumed for days. I was not allowed to go to or back from school alone ever again, until the bully finally moved away.

After this kid moved away and things went back to being normal(ish), I felt like things would be okay…but I experienced more bullying in middle-school. This was verbal abuse and I am sad to report I simply took it. I do remember one time it making me cry and running off the gym floor after an especially mean-spirited attack.

The impact from all the earlier stuff plus the ongoing barrage made me hypersensitive to criticisms. I remember another kid that I had gone to elementary school with and now was going to middle school with, had said “I don’t know what happened to him, he used to be smart!” This probably hurt more than any of the other stuff because it wasn’t said in anger or to be mean, just a statement of fact. You see, I had started to be less responsive and withdrawn in middle school, unlike elementary school where I enjoyed being there, learning and excelling. My not answering questions in class was mistaken for not being smart.

I can tell you all of this has impacted me in a number of ways, some I can relate to you now and others I haven’t even begun to uncover. When I feel threatened and fight, flight or freeze (lizard brain) kicks in, I want to fight! I detest bullies and am liable to step up or confront people that are doing so to others. This has its pro’s and cons. Pro because maybe I get to help someone. Con because maybe someone gets hurt or worse in the process. Myself included.

I also get that feeling when having a heated discussion or debate. All perfectly harmless but I still feel like I am being attacked. This has also led to me being less communicative (Freeze) in some instances, less able to relate my thoughts or feelings. Feelings…argh, who needs them right? Truth is, we all do. Whether they get hurt or not, feelings are there for a reason (sometimes I cannot fully understand them) but I am pretty sure we make use of them.

I also struggle with self esteem. I can’t necessarily claim with any degree of certainty that this all stems from exposure to some pretty messed-up stuff as a child but deep down I think it has had an effect.

As I was walking my dog today I also thought about the impact this has had on my working relationships. I get into the fight-or-flight mode at times when I feel like I am being criticized or scrutinized, like during annual review time at work. Whenever these evaluations made the rounds and regardless of how I felt or knew how things were going on, often less than desirable evaluations were given. This even after I purposely set up a by-monthly meetings with my manager so that we could discuss areas where he thought I needed work so that those areas could be addressed throughout the year and no big surprises would show up on my review. Low and behold, he made one, maybe two meetings. The rest were moved and never got to or cancelled and rescheduled. This for a whole year. My inner voice told me is was because I wasn’t worth it.

I truly believe that this had some impact on my desire to work alone. I don’t have to give annual reviews of myself, have someone else say how good I am doing, and I don’t need someone telling me how to do my job. I gave up a decent paying job with financial security and good benefits to work in the voice over industry. Now, the only thing I hear…is silence. In this industry, if you don’t land the job, you don’t hear back from the client. That can be tough but maybe it’s worth not being marginalized at work.

My personal relationships have suffered as a result too. If get into a heated discussion about something with my wife, I struggle with my feelings of fight, flight or freeze. Letting a disagreement be a disagreement has been a challenge. She wouldn’t have agreed to be my wife and still be with me if she didn’t love, care and want to be with me. Having disagreements in a relationship is natural and should be dealt with honestly and maturely. I struggle with keeping that in mind. I also struggle with being in control of my emotions as if I might fly off the handle if something strikes that fight, flight or freeze response in me. Really? Seriously? It has been 40 fucking years! I would like some peace of mind, thank you very much!

Can I attribute all this back to being bullied? Of course not. But I think that some of what I feel and how I react in those high-stress confrontational moments, is related to these early experiences I had in my formative years.

Meditation has helped somewhat. I try to be in the moment. Deal with what is on my plate at any given time. I try not to expend energy thinking about what-ifs and if this or that would or could have been different then blah blah blah. I try to make a plan and stick to it as best I can. If things change along the way, I try to be flexible enough to manage the issue and move forward. This has helped relieve quite a bit of stress for me, which is a good thing.

For anyone out there who has ever been bullied, please don’t give up! Encourage others to speak up and be strong. I can’t say things will get better, but they can’t if you have given up. Things may always be challenging for you if you have experienced some of the things I endured, maybe you went through or are going through worse, far worse. Even with the challenges I have had to face and continue to face, life is still worth living. It is my greatest desire that you continue to move forward with your life and be the best you, you can be. There is SO MUCH good out there. There are SO MANY good people in the world. Don’t allow the bullies to win. Please fight the good fight. Seek out people you trust and confide in them. Talking about my experience has helped lift some of the burden. Maybe it will for you too.

I am totally receptive to hearing or talking with anyone who wants to share…anything.

Peace be with you!

More to come…

 

 

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A Blast from the Past

I was going through some pics today for a project I am putting together and I ran across this photo. It isn’t part of the project I am working on, but I thought I would share all the same.

Who is staring who down?

Who is staring who down?

It is no secret I have a fear of sharks or more specifically getting attacked by one while snorkeling. Yes, I know the likelihood is rare that that would ever happen, but…

This pic was taken at the Sydney Aquarium, where my wife and I took our honeymoon (not that we honeymooned at the aquarium). I’m the menacing one with the big snout. Err…something like that.

Does anyone have any similar pics or stories they care to share?

Peace be with you!

More to come…

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Ever get a gift from a friend that knows you really well?

Over the holidays, I have a friend that likes to make dessert plates filled with all manner of sweet confections that he hands out. This year my friend added a little something special. A little extra if you will.

Now that's one BIG die!

Now that’s one BIG die!

Yes, you are seeing correctly, that is a giant chocolate 20-sides die. Not a hollow Easter Bunny wanna-be, but a giant-size monster d20. I have placed 2 other dice next to it for a size comparison. The smaller of the two dice is Ugly Betty, (yes I name my dice – some of them anyway) and stands maybe an inch tall, and the larger is just the largest die I had on hand (another gift from a friend that knew I was a gamer) and stands maybe 3 inches tall.

If you’re wondering, yes, my wife and I already ate most of the other sweet, delicious treats. We didn’t just get a plate with a single rice crispy treat, a piece of divinity and the largest solid chocolate die you have ever seen.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and New Year. I wish all of you the very best for 2016.

 

Peace be with you!

More to come…

 

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What to do when PDX gets its 1st snow of the year and closes everything down?

You make home-made chicken noodle soup of course. Duh!

Just about ready to eat!

Just about ready to eat!

Over the holiday, my wife found herself with a new Pressure Cooker. I know it is a little self serving to get your spouse something to cook with, especially when you like to eat like I do, but hey, what’s a guy supposed to do. My wife loves to cook…and I love to eat. It works out well that way.

A couple nights prior to this picture being taken, we cooked a whole chicken in the new appliance. Needless to say it was delicious. Going into that meal we knew we were going to be making stock with all the left over chicken-bits, like you do when you have a just cooked a whole chicken and denuded it.

So with the left over chicken and newly made broth, we broke out the flour and eggs and made the noodles. This was out first attempt and as you can see, the noodles are a little long and a little fat. This was our first attempt and honestly, aesthetics take a back seat to taste. And believe me when I tell you this – this meal was fantastic!

So we roll the noodles a little thinner next time and we cut them shorter for ease of placing them neatly in our maws. But overall – this was a fantastic idea. It allowed my wife and I to make something from scratch together from ingredients we already had lying around the house. Aside from the fun we had making them together, we also got to determine what went into this meal. This was about it:

Broth was made with the following:

  • chicken carcass
  • water
  • celery
  • onions
  • salt
  • pepper
  • Better than Bullion chicken stock (I think)

Strain everything out and have pure flavor.

Noodles were made with the following:

  • flour
  • eggs
  • salt (maybe – I forget)

Roll dough out and cut into strips (we will make them thinner and shorter next time)

Soup was made with the following:

  • Bring broth to a light boil or simmer and add chicken, carrots, celery and parsley (we used curly as we couldn’t find Italian)
  • Add noodles one at a time so they don’t stick to one another. We stirred the broth as we did this so the noodles were fully immersed and were cooked on all sides.
  • Once all ingredients were together we let the whole thing cook another 5-10 minutes (maybe) until the noodles were fully cooked. Smaller noodles will take less time to cook.

The whole dish was constructed by adding the left-over chicken (cut into bite-size chunks) from the chicken we pressure cooked a few days earlier to the broth (that was simmering) we had made followed up by the noodles we also just made. The all-in time was probably less than an hour.

It doesn't get much better than this!

It doesn’t get much better than this!

Peace be with you!

More to come…

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Happy Thanksgiving!

image

Getting my pre-dinner snack on! Clearly, my love of great snack/lunch food is at its peak today.

I am thankful to be surrounded by family, to be in good (relatively) health, to be working in a field I really enjoy and finally, to have the love and support of my wife in all my endeavors.

My fondest and best wishes for everyone.

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A week at the Oregon Coast!

Earlier this month, my wife and I took off and spent eight days at the Oregon Coast; Seaside to be specific. It was a fantastic time. The weather was more cooperative than you could imagine for nearly the entire time, getting to and above 60 degrees several times. We only had really typical cloudy, rainy weather a couple days.

Often our early mornings were spent with me writing and then later discussing my writing with my wife, having her give me a different perspective and a very logical one. This helped me keep things straight in my head. Not like I didn’t have to start my writing over at least once, but with her feedback, some of the things I am writing may even make sense.

We also had some friends over for our last weekend there. It was nice to be able to relax and not worry about too much…for a little while any way.

Not much more to say that I am thankful my wife has the presence of mind to take time to just get away for a little while with me in tow. This was a really enjoyable trip.

Here is a a slide show of some of the pics I took, from our trip. To give some explanation of some of the sites – there is a Custard King in Astoria that my sister asked about from her time at Job Corps 30+ years ago. There is a beer sampler and list of the beers we tried with our lunch – the beers are in order starting from the upper left most in the pic that coincides with the Fort George Regulars that are always on top. The rest are mostly beautiful pics of Seaside and Indian Beach near Ecola State Park.

 

 

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