Just Another Day?

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

It’s hard to believe yet another year has come and gone. So many things have happened since my last birthday. There wasn’t much cause to celebrate last year. Cancer treatments were wearing me down. It was all I could do to focus on getting through each day.

Since then, I’ve been cured of my stage 4 prostrate cancer. Started to get my strength back once I went off the medications. I looked forward to being able to mow my lawn in the summer. Mrs. D had taken over the responsibility the summer before while I went through treatment.

Then my shoulder and arm started hurting. Another summer gone and I’ve still not mowed the grass. Maybe next year.

It’s the simple chores that seem like a bother until you can’t do them anymore. I never thought I would miss mowing the lawn.

It was one year ago today that I committed to writing every day. I posted almost every day for 10 months.

I’m feeling better, so what better day than to commit to writing every day again. Maybe I can make it a full year this time?

Florida, Hurricanes and Power

For most of the past week, I’ve been living in the cone. What’s that you say? Anyone who has lived in Florida for a while knows that phrase. It’s being in the cone of uncertainty for the path of an oncoming hurricane. For most of the week, here in Jacksonville, we were smack dab in the middle of the cone.

Hurricane Ian was projected to hit Tampa Bay and then traverse the state directly toward Jacksonville. As usual, there was a mad rush to go buy groceries which doesn’t make much sense to me. How you going to cook all that meat when you don’t have power?

On Wednesday at work, we did our usual hurricane preps. Cleaned up the pipe yard and strapped down loose material. That night, the hurricane hit south of Tampa Bay at Fort Myers. Then it continued toward Orlando. At that point, it shifted slightly to the east. This was just enough that when it turned back north, it pretty much missed Jacksonville. The southern part of the county saw heavy rainfall, but the rest of us only saw light rain and mist and windy conditions.

Naturally and it happens every time, the power was knocked out. For this storm, my power was knocked out for about an hour and then would come back on for 1/2 hour, then back off for an hour or so. This continued all day. When the power came on, we would make a mad dash to the kitchen and brew coffee and do some quick cooking.

In case the power remained off for an extended period, we had a propane camping stove. Didn’t have to use it this time.

Every hurricane is a bit different. This one caused massive storm surges and flooded the hell out of Fort Myers. Sharks were swimming in the streets!

In Florida, most of the state is subject to massive damage during a hurricane. Here in Jacksonville, due to geography, it is probably the safest part of Florida for hurricanes. It’s been a long time since Jacksonville was hit directly with a hurricane. I think it was 1954. Are we due for another one? Eh, maybe. Most people here in Jacksonville do our normal preps, but don’t take hurricanes too seriously. Those that are new to the area tend to freak out the first few years.

Thankfully, even though there was massive property damage in Fort Myers and other areas of Florida, the loss of life was minimal. Houses and buildings can be rebuilt.

Saturday Morning Coffee Break

Had to get my blood drawn this morning. The lab opened at 7 am so I got there a bit early. Apparently not early enough as there already was a line of people waiting. I got ready for a long boring morning of waiting.

Then Dan spoke up. Who is Dan? Dan is obviously on the spectrum. As people arrived to stand in line, he would loudly say, “Hello” and wave. Then he would introduce himself by saying, “My name is Daniel. You can call me Dan.” He would repeat “You can call me Dan” until you said “Hi Dan!”.

The whole mood of everyone there brightened. Instead of a line of strangers standing there silently bemoaning the wasted time, people would talk to each other. Even when the lab opened, everyone had a smile on their face and generally had an enjoyable moment talking with complete strangers.

Even after Dan went in to get his labs done, people continued to be open. When new people walked in, at least someone would greet them and the cycle of just pure enjoyment continued.

You don’t get many moments like this in life and I’m grateful to be a part of it this morning.

“My name is Matt, you can call me Matt!”

Weekly Writing Challenge #28 – Oy Vey

Prompt – Write about someone getting their driver’s license for the first time.

Photo by Ingo Joseph on Pexels.com

In the mid 90’s, while stationed on the USS Kauffman FFG-59 in Norfolk, Virginia, I held the role of Leading Petty Officer. In civilian parlance, this meant I am the team leader for 10-15 men. It’s a bit different in the Navy, as we not only work together, but while at sea, we eat, sleep and do everything together.

One Friday, in port, one of my younger guys came up and asked me if I could drive him to the car dealership so he could buy a car. I didn’t have anything planned, so I agreed and off we went.

I walked around with him and the salesman until he picked out the car he wanted. The salesman asked for his driver’s license to make a copy of it and then we could do a test drive. The young guy hemmed and hawed and looked at the ground.

“You didn’t leave your license on the ship?” I asked.

“Um, I’ve never had a license.”

Oy vey! I forgot this kid was from New York City. He was used to getting around on public transportation. I apologized to the salesman and took him to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get a learner’s permit.

Over the next month, I let him drive my car all over Norfolk, teaching him how to drive. I grilled him every night for the driver’s test. Finally the day came. He took the test and got his driver’s license. We went back to the car dealership and found the same salesman as before.

I stood there proudly as he handed his license to the salesman. Luckily, they still had his preferred car on the lot and we did a test drive. A couple hours later after helping him navigate the purchase of his new car, he proudly drove off by himself.

Going above and beyond for not only this guy, but all the guys in my team is what made me the success I was in the Navy. As a side benefit, when my own children got to the age of being able to drive, teaching them was a breeze as I had already been through the stress once.

Beta Readers Needed.

By a landslide, this cover is the one everyone likes. So I am officially designating it as my book cover.

I’m finally at the point where I need to find a few beta readers for my memoir “My Cancer Journey” (Stage 4 to cured) It’s a story of courage, raw emotions, and an alternative cure to cancer. It details my encounters with the cancer industry.

I’m looking for feedback on readability, interest, and pacing.

It’s a novella length, so it shouldn’t take too long to read.

Who wants to help an aspiring author realize his dream of being published?

Weekly Writing Challenge #24

Prompt – Start a story with a quote from a song.

Dust in the wind is a fact of life in southeast New Mexico on the high plains of the Llano Estacado. That’s Spanish for Staked Plains. The early conquistadores saw the many yucca plants with a single stalk sticking up four or five feet and said it looked like a bunch of stakes.

During the windy period of March and April, the wind blows from sunrise to sunset. A stiff breeze is about thirty miles per hour. 50, 60 and sometimes 70 mile per hour wind is common. Being a dry arid country, this naturally picks up a lot of dust. Since the wind blows predominantly from the west, the saying was that during this time, Arizona blows and Texas sucks.

In the 1970’s and early part of 1980’s it wasn’t uncommon to have a sandstorm. The wind would strip off a layer of dirt and sand and it would form a wall of sand. If you were on the highway, the prudent thing would be to stop on the side of the road when you saw one coming. If for some reason you wanted to drive through the sandstorm, this was a recipe for disaster. The sand would be so heavy that visibility drops to zero. It’s like turning out the lights. The increased velocity of the sand due to your car driving through the storm is enough to strip paint from your car down to bare metal.

I used to ride a motorcycle quite a bit. One time I looked up and saw a wall of sand 100 feet tall moving toward me. I quickly slowed and steered my motorcycle into the bar ditch beside the road. Putting the bulk of the motorcycle between me and the approaching storm, I curled up like a turtle and covered the best I could. A long ten minutes later, the sandstorm passed and I shook off the accumulated sand from me and my motorcycle. With a prayer on my lips, I kickstarted the engine a few times until I heard the distinctive sound of my motorcycle roaring. With a gritty smile, I was back on the road heading to town.

Farmers around that area started changing how they managed their crops and by planting winter crops, cut down on the sandstorms tremendously. Now it is exceedingly rare to have a sandstorm. The weather in that part of the country is very interesting. It is considered the start of tornado alley. When I was in Junior High School, one day we were outside practicing for a track & field event. A cry went out and we looked to the north to see five tornado funnels across the horizon. The coach watched for a few minutes and saw they were moving away from us. He then yelled for us to get back to practicing.

Living in Florida, I don’t miss the constant dust in the wind. Mrs. D is happy she doesn’t have to dust every single day.

Want to be part of the Weekly Writing Challenge? Using the prompt above, write your story and publish it with a link to this story. Make sure you tag it either md-wwc or #md-wwc

Author’s note: When I first picked this prompt, I thought it would be easy. Then I realized there are thousands of songs and thousands of lyrics to choose from. My first couple of tries, I wound up telling the story of the song. That didn’t appeal to me. Then I went looking for esoteric lyrics and started a couple of stories that just petered out rather quickly. Finally, I went back to the Rock Classics I grew up with. As soon as I saw this song, I knew what to write.

Cancer Story

Photo by Miguel u00c1. Padriu00f1u00e1n on Pexels.com

After getting my blood draw results Saturday, I am finally able to complete the first draft of my memoir “My Cancer Journey – Stage 4 to cured in 10 months” I did the first round of editing and then sent it to Mrs. D to look over. She pointed out some things that I didn’t remember correctly and has been reviewing all my medical records to ensure that my story is accurate.

In addition to that, we have been talking about the whole journey. Mrs. D liked that I shared how I was feeling even the bad times. Over the next week or so, I’ll also be interviewing Mrs. D on what she was feeling so I can add it to the memoir.

The reason for that is no Cancer journey is a solo effort. I felt like the burden was all on me most of the time, but in reality loved ones are just as involved. So it is important to get her true feelings written into the story also. Even the times she was scared I was going to die.

I believe by writing this memoir with my thoughts and feelings and Mrs. D’s thoughts and feelings is important. Almost everything I read about people going through cancer treatments is that you have to have hope. Hope is hard to come by when you are going through treatment. I also want to show that it is natural to feel depressed and hopeless at times. So many stories either ignore that or gloss over it..

I also want to share what cured me. It’s unconventional to say the least, but it did work. My primary physician said he was okay with me doing the unconventional treatment as it wouldn’t harm me.

Meanwhile, my sci-fi book is on hold as I’m concentrating my time on this memoir.

Life Happens Ramble

A Berg’s Eye View meme

As I go through this journey called life, hardly anytime do I find it interesting. It’s just happening. Only in hindsight which is 20/20, do I find the humor or lesson in what I went through.

When asked if anything ever happened to me that is interesting, my mind goes blank. Then I let out a vignette or two and people are amazed. They all say I’ve had a very interesting life. I think they are either lying to me or they have exceedingly dull lives to think that mine is interesting.

I think that is a normal way of thinking for anyone who has lead an exciting life that they did not purposefully seek out. Yes, there are the ones that thrive on doing exotic, daring adventures. I’m not talking about those type of people. The ones who live larger than life. No this is for those of us that just let life happen.

When I was in fifth grade, I had a wonderful teacher named Mrs. Faye Capps. She recognized that I was way ahead of the class in learning. She set me up for advance learning to keep me interested in school. I was reading adult level books by this time. My parents were concerned that she might be spending more time on me and less on the normal and so-called slow kids. They came to the class several times and observed that she spent just as much time with the slow kids as with me. She tailored her teaching to the kids level.

For teachers in public school, this is a big no-no. Everyone gets taught at the lowest level is the mantra. Mrs. Capps lasted three years in the public school before quitting in disgust at all the admin roadblocks.

In my sixth grade class, it was the complete opposite. The teacher didn’t like me and I was sent to the principals office about fifty to sixty times that year. So many times that the principle kept a desk outside his door for me to sit in and do my work. The teacher was failing me at first saying I didn’t turn in any homework. Turns out he was purposely losing my homework. My parents caught him at it when they surprised him by visiting right after school ended.

The only reason they did that is because Mrs. Capps had called my parents and told them not to believe a word that my six grade teacher was saying. After confronting him, my grades went back up to straight A’s. While they were grilling him, he let slip that he knew that I could teach the six grade class and that’s why he didn’t like me. I was constantly correcting him in class when he made errors on the board.

Usually that was a quick boot out of class for the rest of the day. Though I do admit that I definitely deserved to be booted out of class one day when I wore sunglasses. See the teacher was bald as a billiard ball. He asked me to take off my sunglasses and I refused. When he asked why, I responded with, “The glare off of your head is just too bright.”

Well, his face and head turned bright red and I knew I had gone too far. Before he could say a word, I grabbed my books and headed out of the class to the principals office. Of course, I took off my sunglasses before I got there. I may be a smart-alec, but I’m no fool.

Somehow I made it through the sixth grade without the teacher killing me.

So tell me, was the above interesting? To me, it wasn’t that special. It was just my life and what I went through. I didn’t seek it out and I didn’t ask for it. I had forgotten about the whole thing until the other night when I was reminiscing with my mom when she was here. After all these years, I finally found out exactly why my sixth grade teacher hated me. I had thought my older brother had pissed him off when he went through his class and the teacher was taking it out on me.

Turns out my mom didn’t know I went to the principles office so many times that year. She thought it was only a few times. The teacher never reported to my parents that he had sent me all those times.

Now that I look back, I see that I had many interesting experiences in my life. Probably more than my fair share. Maybe this is why I have so many topic ideas on writing. I draw from my experiences way more than I let on. Some of these stories I say are fiction, but in actuality they are pretty close to what happened in my life. I’m not telling which ones those are, you’ll just have to wonder.

Weekly Writing Challenge #21 – Oh Look! A Squirrel.

Prompt – Choose an animal. Write about it!

Photo by Mrs. D

Over the last year, Mrs. D. has attempted to befriend a family of squirrels. At first it was just a male and female squirrel. Since then they have had four babies. Mrs. D places nuts on the posts of our backyard fence.

Photo by Mrs D

She is able to get within about a foot of the adult squirrels before they scurry off a few feet. The babies are more skittish. Of course, Mrs. D only gives them nuts that are already out of the shell.

Photo by Mrs. D

I first noticed her doing this a few months ago and was aghast at the idea. You never feed wildlife, especially squirrels. They are nothing more than tree rats. I railed at her for doing such a foolish thing. They are destructive to trees and houses. Plus who knows what kind of insects and bugs they bring with them. Mrs. D pooh-poohed my concerns and kept feeding them almost every day.

A few times, we would spot a hawk on our back fence. I know it was looking for a tasty squirrel meal. Mrs. D would rush out into the backyard clapping her hands to scare away the hawk. My thought was, “Why?” Doesn’t the hawk deserve to live also? To me, they are more majestic than a squirrel rodent.

Mrs. D persists and won’t back down from feeding the squirrels. For the longest time, I grumped about it, but secretly in my heart I thought it was pretty cool. I just didn’t want Mrs. D to know I enjoyed the squirrels and their antics on the fence every day. I think she knew that as occasionally I would point out that the squirrels were waiting for their nuts.

Mrs. D hasn’t named them yet, but it is only a matter of time.

Want to be part of the Weekly Writing Challenge? Using the prompt above, write your story and publish it with a link to this story. Make sure you tag it either md-wwc or #md-wwc

Intro to Boot Camp

Driven, determined, goal setter, purposeful and passionate describe some people from an early age. This does not apply to me at all. For most of my life it was like I was the leaf that floated down a slow-moving river. Caught in an eddy at times. The turbulent rapids tossed me here and there. Somehow I continued on without getting snagged by a low hanging branch or sucked under never to be seen again.

The eighties are mostly a blur in my memory. There were a couple of things that did stand out and I have never forgotten how I felt. This is a story of one of them.

After High School, I did one semester of college and dropped out with a 0.69 GPA. It takes a determined effort to have that low of a GPA. I had gotten caught up with partying, drinking and drugging. My life was on the fast track to nowhere. I couldn’t tell you why I decided to join the Navy, but one day found myself at the recruiter station. After a lot of tests and a warning that I needed to be clean of drugs, I was accepted into the Navy. Of course, I never stopped drinking and drugging while waiting to enter boot camp.

I said goodbye to my parents at the bus station and took the long trip to El Paso, Texas. There, they put me up into a hotel room for the night and I had a roommate. He was a few inches shorter than me, but he had an afro that stood taller than me. I had never seen one that big. My hair was long also as it reached half-way down my back. Both of us had brought the last of our weed. We partied the whole night. The next day, they had us say the oath of enlistment and put us on a plane. This was in the time where there were few non-stop flights. We flew to Albuquerque, then Phoenix and finally to San Diego. Along the way, my new found friend and I took turns going to the bathroom on the flight to smoke the rest of the weed we had left. By the time we landed, both of us were pretty well stoned to the gills.

It was a short bus ride to boot camp which was good as the navy guy that boarded the bus with us yelled non-stop. In my state, I couldn’t understand half of what he was saying. Finally as the sun went down, we pulled up in front of a building where they hollered and yelled for us to move as fast as we could inside. We sat down on the tile floor and in came a man wearing khaki’s that proceeded to yell, holler and rant at us for what seemed like forever.

I looked at him and he seemed to be Hispanic. I couldn’t understand him at all as his speech was heavily accented. A sudden fear arose within me. Holy SH*T! I think I’ve joined the Mexican Army! I must have gotten on the wrong bus at the airport. I didn’t know at the time, but Navy Chiefs wore khaki’s. Also in the early 80’s, they accepted Filipino’s from the Philippines directly into the Navy as the Philippines were still a territory of the U.S.

I kept quiet as I didn’t want to be yelled at as so many of my fellow recruits suffered from by speaking up. Eventually a U.S. Navy sailor in dungarees yelled at our line to get up and follow him. We went to the bathroom where he handed me a cup. I asked what it was for and he said, “You need to piss into the cup so we can see if you have been doing drugs.”

I laughed and said I sure had been, I was high as a kite. Luckily for me this was right before they instituted the No-Tolerance policy and they let me stay in the Navy. Afterwards, we got uniforms issued and a whole bunch of shots in the arms. They also shaved our hair. It was several weeks later that I finally recognized my erstwhile roommate from El Paso.

This was my introduction to the next four years of my life. Somehow that four years turned into twenty-one years. Eventually I too got to wear the khaki uniform that scared me so much on my very first day.