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life is funny, part 372

In my first 6 months on the suicide crisis hotline my 40 hour weeks have consisted of over 2,400 calls, I too am worried that “American Dream” is a thing of the past.

i like margarine

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

I run past him almost every day. He stands at the corner of the intersection I cross to get to the greenbelt for my daily run. He’s depressingly cheerful. He likes to high five me. And he always wears a dress.

I think about him a lot, the endless symbolism running a loop in my head like intervals on the track. I assume he’s desperately poor. He’s either Hispanic or Pima, two groups we try so hard to repress. He’s posing as the Statue of Liberty while pushing a tax service. Ironic, even in the Marty Cortinas sense of the word. And still, he seems happy.

I finally stop today for a photo. I’ve tried to…

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Homeless at 11

As my loyal reader, which would be me, already know that I am now working as a Crisis Counselor on a Suicide Crisis Hotline. Though rewarding, it is often stressful but has its rewards.

Today my last call will be with me a long time. It has been very busy for the past few weeks, there are so many hurting people on the USA and Canada, more than I ever imagined! I have handled over 1,700 calls myself in the first 4 months and 1 week.

I often wonder what it will take to fix the broken Mental Health system in the USA. It is appalling to me that athletes and coaches make millions while so many suffer. If I could answer the question, where are our priorities, perhaps I would have enough money to fix the system. Communities, Churches and local Governments have failed these people and the Federal Government could care less, it costs too much.

I left work the last two mornings with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. Yesterday as I ended my overnight 10 hour shift a young lady in her late 20’s weighed heavy on my mind. I will call her Alice (not her real name), tired, suicidal, an abuse survivor and trying hard early in the morning  to decide if life was still the answer. Unable to sleep for days at a time  because of night terrors, but still reaching out for help. I know she said she would call back, but she didn’t. I can only hope and pray she held on as she promised. But she did have a plan to end her life, so I will just hope that she found that hope.

Then this morning, my last call came in late in the morning. Carol, (not her real name), in her early 20’s tore my heart out. Maybe it is because that is the age of my youngest daughter, maybe it is just because I care. But she tore my heart out as she told me her story. An alcoholic that blacked out in her motel room last night, broke, out of luck , out of hope and a pint in her hand that would be today’s breakfast. Her phone stolen, her spirit broken informed me she would be homeless at 11:00 and that may be the last straw. She was still fighting for life and a reason to live. Thirty nine minutes later I was able to convince her to carry on. Two potential shelters and rehab programs phone numbers were provided to her. With a glimmer of hope Carol promised to call these programs. She also promised to call back before she would end her life. She is a fighter, she won my heart!

I drove home with tears in my eyes and a new Hope that she will get the help she so desperately needs and longs for. It is the Carol’s and the Alice’s that I admire. They are not playing for Super Bowl rings, just a chance. They are fighting the odds, the abuse, the addictions, the poverty, in hope of a brighter day. In spite of the pain, they get up and try another day. They will never know how much they inspire me, the one that should be inspiring them

Reach out and help someone today. Visit the lonely, the sick, the elderly, the hopeless. Make a difference.

To live or not to live

I have been employed for 4 months now at a National Suicide Crisis hot line. In a short time I have received over 1,700 calls which is mind blowing, at that rate I will talk with around 5,000 to 6,000 people in year who are in crisis, the vast majority either are having thoughts or are planning or in progress of committing suicide.  Fortunately to my knowledge non I have personally encountered have followed through. It can be a rewarding position, but it is definitely a heart wrenching job. I wish I could do more. I wish I could feed the hungry, pay the utilities of those in the dark and cold,  help them move, end their pain. We really need to fix this broken system. Then mentally ill, the lonely, the hungry. That is a quick overview which led me to this blog of my last 48 hours. Choose life, please choose life. Call a hotline if you are in crisis and fight on my friend!

The last 48 hours of my crazy life has been full circle. I finished my 10 hour shift on the suicide crisis hotline at 7a Sunday listening to people wanting to end their life and then slept as my wife drove me to Kansas City to attend her oldest sisters Memorial Service. Sue fought hard for 2 years to beat Cancer. She never waivered in he fight, faith and love of the Lord and some can say Cancer won, but Sue is resting in Eternal Peace. She fought hard, never gave up, never complained and the impact she made in the lives of others was evident by the estimated 500 people that showed up to show their respect yesterday afternoon. The irony, the calls I received the 24 hours before were soul searchers asking “tell me why I should live”, versus my sister in law saying I will fight pain, I will fight this evil thing called Cancer, I will do whatever it takes to live. It is a crazy world! We fight for our own rights while so many suffer. People can connect on Facebook, snap chat, skype, twitter in an instant, yet so many suffer in agony, loneliness, despair, mental illness, poverty, hunger, cold, darkness with so few that seem to care. No one willing to reach out. Sue reached out to help, she was giving, kind and one of the nicest people I have met. While the left and right fight for “their rights”, which is the Right we have in USA, I will follow Sue’s lead and try to feed the sick, the poor and the desperate, of which there are too many. I cry many a tear each day for Little B and the many voices I hear on the phones 40 hours a week. I hear the cry of the these people and I have nothing to offer but a kind word and encouragement and they need so much more. Our Mental Health system is badly broken, our medical costs are far too high. Too many people still do not have help and are in desperate need. The Government cannot and will not fix it regardless of who is in office. It matters not which Party is in control. We the people, the civic organizations, the churches, communities have the power to help and must do more for others and God forbid, less for us. Check on your neighbor, give a hand up. As I told my children growing up, it is not about you! It is about what you can do to help those in need. I am sick of the fighting in this Country. I refuse to get into the divide. I vow to continue to fight to help the sick, the poor, the lonely, the destitute, the homeless, the mentally ill. End of rant. Thanks for reading if you made it this far. I will at least give you a song to entertain.

One MagicChristmas

Santa

When I was a junior at Kearney State College, (now the University of Nebraska – Kearny), I was asked by a fraternity Brother of mine, Bruce Blankenship to take the job as Santa. He was the Assistant Director of the Kearney Chamber of Commerce and they were having trouble filling the gig. I was a poor college student and needed the extra money so I said yes!

I was also running Cross Country that year so I was a bit skinny for the job, but nothing a couple pillows couldn’t handle. So the day after Thanksgiving I returned from my hometown and family Turkey feast to make my debut as the towns official Santa!

I rode in a fire truck down Central Avenue to the World Theatre. Sirens blasting, lights flashing and kids screaming, a real Rock Star entrance! The kids then lined up to get their candy cane and coloring book and give me their wish list.

The next two Saturdays I sat in two different grocery stores, Bogart’s the first Saturday and Bob’s Super Store the next. I also started sitting in my house that you see In the attached picture at the beginning of this blog, the North Pole house on Central Avenue.

It was a great experience. Most kids told me all about what they wanted. But the one 13 or 14 year old girl that I still think of today broke my heart. Not that her request was bad, in fact it was quite sweet and definitely unselfish! You see she brought her two younger siblings in, they were 4 to 6ish. They gave me their wish list, got their candy cane and stepped out of the house. Now I look up and the older sister is standing in front of me. I am a bit dumbfounded and  I ask her, ” can I help you with something”, she said, “yes Santa, I want to tell you what I want for Christmas”. I must admit in my mind I am thinking, are you serious, you are much to old to believe in Santa, but I asked what I could bring her.

Her request floored me. In fact I think of that little girl every year at this time. She said, “I would like money”. I responded with a rote answer, something like, “that makes sense for a teenager, what will you do with it”?  Her answer still brings tears to my eyes today. She told me she would use it to buy the toys for her brother and sister because her parents did not have enough money to buy the gifts. She said all there money went for food and rent. It was my first taste of really being aware that not all children had the extras in life.

I think of that little girl every time at Christmas, in fact a lot of times throughout the year. If you can be a Santa for someone in your neighborhood or community this Christmas/Holiday Season, please do. Reach out and help rather than judge or condemn.

The Spirit of Santa lives and instills hope to many. You are never too old to believe in Santa and the Christmas Miracles  and the dreams that dance in the minds of Children, and Adults for that Matter.

On Christmas Eve that year I was asked to deliver presents to 3 homes and 1 dormitory. I was offered money, but turned it down. That little girl taught me the true meaning of giving from the Heart. So I took a dump truck and football and kicking tee to one home. The Grandfather came to me with tears in his eyes one day and told me his oldest grandson had recognized his neighbor as the Santa that visited his home. Now, the older brother  was telling his 4 year old brother Santa was a fake. I was able to dispel that rumor by making an appearance at 7pm Christmas Eve with the gifts they had on their Santa list. (grandpa purchased the gifts), I also stopped by a dorm at the college as the dorm parents were unable to go home that year, and were a bit sad about it, so I thought a quick visit by Santa to drop off a doll for their 2 year old daughter might help cheer them up. After two more house stops it was off to my hometown of Minden, The “Christmas City” to celebrate with my family.

Christmas City

This is the Courthouse in Minden.

That year I played Santa was a life changer. I changed. On the day after Thanksgiving, I was playing Santa. By Christmas Eve that year, I had the Heart of Santa and was no longer playing Santa, I was Santa. Santa lives and is or can be in your heart forever if you let him.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Happy Holidays.

 

The Circle of Life


Wow, it has been a while since I have blogged on any site. I have been busy, but that is no excuse. My life is a whirl wind as are my emotions!

It started getting crazy in June of the past year. My middle brother was diagnosed with lung cancer and the prognosis was not good. Then at Christmas he announced that this will be his, our last Christmas. 58 just doesn’t seem enough, 58 for him, 57 for me. His 59th Birthday was in February. As if enough wasn’t already happening, my wife springs on me that she has accepted a transfer to Omaha so she can be closer to her mother. We had been debating the move, though I didn’t want to leave GI, where I am a Head Track Coach at a small parochial school and the Assistant Cross Country Coach at the local High School I knew the move was what she wanted. I thought we had agreed to wait until this summer, as we needed to list our house and after 6 Children in a home for nearly 14 years a lot of work; not to mention packing: and throwing stuff out was in order! But no, she gave me a three-week notice. It seems she accepted a position in Omaha the end of February. I couldn’t believe it, she has never been this impulsive in her life. It even led me to ask the question after 32 years of marriage, was she trying to get rid of me, she says not, but she has put me in a bind at an already difficult time in my life.

Well after 6 weeks of hard work and elbow grease and help from a good friend of mine the house was ready. It had new carpet, baseboard, lament wood flooring, tiles bathrooms fresh paint and lots of hours the home was market ready. It also took three U-Haul trips and 8 straight weekends of my SUV full of stuff to Omaha. That was the hardest part, I had to box and load all of our stuff myself.

That is another story. Our daycare provider for our special needs adopted son got an infected toe. Not a problem for most, but he is diabetic and they had to amputate the toe. So we had to improvise daycare. It is not easy finding daycare for a severe and profound special needs son, that is an understatement! I would leave GI on Friday or if possible Thursday night, head to Omaha and have Little B duty through Monday noon, then rush back to GI to coach and work on the house. My wife came dangerously close to using up all her leave time which would have been major as she is the primary income in our home. I have been the primary caregiver for our son the past 11 years as he can be physically challenging and I am better suited to handle him. We are in the process of having him enrolled in the Public School system in Omaha but they have been dragging their feet since March 1st and it now is obvious they never intended on getting him in school prior to next August. Several of the School Special Service Providers have told us he will be one of the systems most difficult kids. Funny, he is a lot of work, but after having Little B for 11 years, he doesn’t seem like that difficult to me, I know he is, but come on.

Well I have rambled on. My middle daughter gave birth to my first grandchild, Luna Rose last Wednesday, the same day the School I coach at had 3 individuals qualify for this upcoming weeks State Track Meet, ( I was told when I was hired not to plan on any kids qualifying, to which I said hogwash), Our house closing date is May 30 and my brother has been told he has less than 4 weeks to live and has begun Hospice. I am still an emotional wreck and if it weren’t for my running would have probably gone off the deep end by now. I am still in disbelief that my wife put us in an extremely difficult situation all because she wanted to move now, not on a reasonable timeline and can’t see the selfishness of her premature decision. As I told her, you can’t move 32 years of stuff in 3 weeks and get your house market ready. She also made several life, no make that MAJOR Life decisions on her own without my agreement. When we moved back to Nebraska 14 years ago we agreed not to live in ethers home town, but to live somewhere between Lincoln and Grand Island, this one which was not discussed before her accepting the new job in Omaha. She also told our nephew we would take his house, (we are renting), without discussing it first with me. I told her I will move this time out of love, but that I will not make this impulsive of a move ever again.

The house in GI however, I sold, by owner in 10 minutes to the first couple that looked at the home. We got a fair price and they got a great home to raise their 2 children!

Thus ends my rant, blog, scrambled thoughts or whatever this is. No one typically reads my blogs, but I feel better after I write them. I need to close on the house, end the track season, hold my granddaughter, get to Omaha full-time, rest, run and heal. I need to get my brother’s house in order and spend some time with him and move on. I need to take time to grieve, run, find a new job, make new friends, and basically begin again. All this while hanging out with my Little Buddy, Little B. As the song says, “All my life is a circle”. http://youtu.be/1yjxWfyxpqY

Waiting for a Miracle

2013 will likely go down as the worst year on record ,in my 56 years on earth. At least it seems. It started with the Boston Marathon and being 50 yards from the first bomb at the finish line. Actually it started with a knee injury a month before Boston that slowed me down by 40 minutes to put me by the bomb. Well maybe it started with having the flu not one time, but three times in January and February, you see I never get sick at least not til now.

It gets worse, a couple months back my middle brother was diagnosed with Lung Cancer. Not in one lung but both. Inoperable, as it had also wrapped around his aorta. He has undergone radiation and chemo treatments and last week was hospitalized with a 104 fever and pneumonia. Yesterday he went in the hospital again. It appears his tumors did not shrink, but actually another tumor has been found. It looks like he has very little time left on this earth.

We are not close but we are if that makes sense. If I needed him, he would be there and the same Is true of me for him. He Is a hold over Hippie of the 60’s. He drinks, smokes and has seen his share of the 60’s drug use. We are quite opposite. He a loner that loves his bar crowd. Me a social being thrives on people. He is and always has been single,a good thing as he barely provides for himself. I am married and have been for 32 years with 6 children. I am an avid runner, he wouldn’t run if his pants were on fire. But we share the same childhood memories the same brother, the same parents.

Life is full of surprises. It is as Forrest Gump’s mama said, “like a box of chocolates”, ya never know what you will get. It should not surprise me of my brothers illness and imamate death. But it stings just the same. There is nothing I can do but pray and offer what ever help he needs and basically just be there for him. If he wants us there for him, again, he tends to be a loner. That is how he likes it.

Until then as Marc Coen says, I’m willing to wait for a Miracle.