Saturday, February 23, 2013

Saturday Morning Thoughts

I’m feeling like I should explain a little about This Post I wrote along with the Haiku a few Fridays ago. Bear with me while I recall my motivation for such a somber piece. Let me be clear to tell you that I was not complaining about people not coming to my blog or not liking my stories. I was not calling for attention by telling people I am a Veteran of the American war in Vietnam, and I certainly wasn’t feeling sorry for myself, although melancholy and waxing nostalgically can certainly sound that way, especially when read on a gloomy day.

Thursday afternoon, a good friend stopped by. His name is Nick and he is 73 years old. I’m 63. So, here we are, a couple of old men in an old Ford Escort station wagon, driving around the county on rural roads. It was a warm day for January, temperatures in the 40’s. That fact, in and of itself, is a story as it is minus 14 as I sit here and write this.

Nick and I enjoy smoking a cigar now and then. In the Spring, Summer and Fall, we sit in the garage or near the fire pit outside and enjoy each others company and a cigar. Sometimes, we use the patio at the coffee shop in Pepin, WI. We would ride our motorcycles down there on very twisty curvy scenic township roads through the forest, along the streams and through the cultivated fields of corn.

Lately, Nick’s old Escort was in for some badly needed repairs. It wasn’t sure whether or not Nick’s car could be repaired. This was problematic as Nick , nor I, smoke cigars in our “good” cars. Those would be the later model vehicles that we keep and other members of our respective families use for their conveyance. Only the old “beater” is used for smoking forays, and I was without an old beater at this time.

Now this will change as I have been busy horse trading and will go to St. Paul and pick up an old beater of my own this Sunday. It’s a 1999 yellow Dodge 1/2 ton truck, perfect for such country excursions for the purpose of no purpose at all, except to loan to friends that need to haul something and/or are moving and to smoke a cigar.

Anyway, Nick and I were driving around in his resurrected Ford Escort and the conversation was flowing to all kinds of places. Nick is well versed and as rounded as anyone I know when it comes to personal experiences and adventures. We never run out of subjects and each of our personal vignettes from different periods of our lives has an adventure attached to it.

We were nearing the end of our ride and we had just stopped at a brand new Flying J truck stop that had opened up along Interstate 94 near Roberts, WI at Exit 10. We both could swear that truck stop wasn’t there a week ago and that it was built, up and running and open for business, in what seemed like, overnight!

As we got back on the road after leaving the Flying J, I started talking about how glad I was that I no longer had to drive over-the-road trucks to make a living. The conversation went on and I recalled a few very rare stories that I don’t even remember telling anyone about ever in my lifetime. Trucking stories, being on the road. The many miles over the years that I put on driving big rigs, criss-crossing the country.

I related to Nick that I don’t usually get asked about my experiences from my old truck driving days, or any other job I’ve had for that matter, then I told him about my Brother-In-Law asking me about Vietnam when I was in Chicago visiting my sister before Christmas.

The conversation drifted to this idea that people don’t know all the things someone has done in their lifetime when they look at them, and most people don’t just start telling others their life stories at the drop of a hat. It was agreed upon that that’s one of the reasons why these discussions never come up in general conversation.

I thought about this when I got home and wrote my Haiku poem for the Haiku My Heart project that I am involved in on almost every Friday. 

So, today’s post is an explanation, and a short story from that cigar smoking session on that balmy day, spending time with Nick. Sharing the idea that when we see another human soul around us, at the coffee shop or a restaurant, at the grocery store or any outing, even glancing over at the person driving the car next to yours at a stop light, they all have lived a life and have a story to tell.

(As a side bar to the idea of a short story, the cigar brand I was smoking was an Arturo Fuente. Fuente was a premier Cuban cigar maker and made some of the most glorious cigars in Havana right about the same time that Earnest Hemmingway was living and writing in Cuba. As in most other things of this nature, cigars come in several shapes and sizes and use different types, colors and strengths of tobacco. Fuente has kept up the Hemmingway theme and has a line of cigar offerings called the Hemmingway series. One of these is labeled a "Hemmingway Short Story". It is short in length, a small cigar, and very satisfying. That is what I was smoking this day in Nick's Escort)

I would relish the idea of sitting down with a stranger, or with anyone, and spin yarns. Just get on a subject and see what is said. Bask in the images created in our minds from the words that are spoken. See the people, the landscape, the weather and feel the drama, laughter, pain and ecstasy of life. Too bad this couldn't happen outside on a shaded patio where I could smoke a cigar, and perhaps share a smoke with another storyteller, but the weather is too harsh for such enjoyment here in the Northland.

I think I will do some of this today and speak to a stranger at a coffee shop I haven’t been to before.


Friday, February 22, 2013


Haiku My Heart
February 22, 2013
Haiku My Heart is a weekly posting of Haiku from participants all over the world. To see more and find out how to participate, please visit Rebecca's recuerda mi corazon.

Raw hurtful feelings

My heart aches for true justice

All those that conquer

It’s not supposed to happen. A person with white skin from the white race isn’t supposed to complain about racism to a person that is Black or Indigenous Native American, I’m being told, in a discussion that I entered into. They said I wouldn’t know anything about it and that I shouldn’t have hurt feelings at what was said because I am White.

What was said was pretty straight forward and simple. Someone was mistreated at work. They did some work and someone else, who was sloughing off all day long and tends to do so on a regular basis while on the job, took credit for it.

The person that was mistreated, a Native American, in his complaint, said, “Some white guy” did it. I wondered if he thought the guy did it because he was White. I wondered if this mistreated person thought that all White people did these things. I wondered if this person did these things to everyone or just minorities. I wondered if the word White even needed to be used to describe what happened.

I also wondered if people that have been a victim of racism measured their experiences with other minorities that have experienced racism. Like the Jews in Nazi Germany versus the Cherokee on the Trail of Tears, who had it worse? Whose persecution was harder to endure?

Maybe these people are right. Maybe I have no basis for defending myself as a White man because I don’t get a daily dose of discrimination and racist hatred thrown at me on a regular basis. Maybe. I don’t know. But I see it done to others and I know it to be wrong.

What I do know, is that I don’t do things, or say things, to people based on the color of their skin or their race. I also know that I didn’t choose to be white skinned when I was born. Whatever higher power or natural event that created us as human beings never gave me or anyone else a choice as to what race or color we would be. The decision was out of my hands.

I know that in America, white men have privilege. Many White folks don’t understand this concept. I am fully aware of it. There is nothing that I can do about having this privilege. I can’t get rid of it. I wish I could, but I have not figured out a way to get rid of white privilege. 

It just makes me feel terrible that some people insist that they must mention the race and skin color of someone that did something. They make it part of the conversation, then tell me that they are not racist. I just want Peace.

Peace and Justice for all

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Birthdays and Anniversaries

Today is February 20th. Just another cold mid-winter day here in the Northland. For many years, I have spent this day, and many days on either side of it, away from home. My usual wanderings had me spending this time of the year in New Mexico or other destinations in the American Southwest.

It’s not uncommon for Midwesterners to travel to the Southwest, Southern Texas, Florida and other warm temperature climates to find some sunshine and heat. Many folks call themselves “Snowbirds”. The locals in places like Tucson and Phoenix definitely call people that travel to these places only during the winter, Snowbirds.

It’s been a great excuse. No one questions the decision to get away from Wisconsin, Minnesota and other Northern climates to land in warmer places anything else but lucky and fortunate because they could afford to do so monetarily, or have the time off from work to get away from the cold chill of Winter.

I say excuse because I have always had another reason for making these treks this time of year. You see, I celebrate, and I use that word carelessly here, the anniversary date of the day I was sent to, and subsequently sent home from, Vietnam in 1969 and 1970 respectively.

Sure, it was a long time ago, but the mind has a way of kicking the seat of my pants to remind me what happened on this date so many years ago.

Sometimes it is a conscious fact and I recall vividly the details of my arrival, and departure, in the war zone. Sometimes I just feel like crap and wonder what the hell is going on? Why is my head so discombobulated? Then I see a calendar and remember this date.

February 20th isn’t the only date that does this to me. Seems like there are many anniversary dates of tragic happenings that plague me for one reason or another. Unfortunately for my middle daughter, February 20th is also her birthday, and I can count on one hand how many times I have been at home to celebrate a good and wonderful day. A real Happy Birthday celebration when a child was born, my own daughter, my own flesh and blood.

But home I am. And aware I am as well. Aware that this is an important date in the history of the lives of all my family. I will do all I can this day to celebrate my daughter’s life by cooking her favorite foods, singing Happy Birthday and eating cake and ice cream.

I pray that I can stay focused enough on the happiness of the present to forget about the past and wake up tomorrow in a different frame of mind. I am so blessed to have a family that surrounds me with love and I ask The Creator to help me see that love every minute of every day that I am alive.


Monday, February 11, 2013

Feeling Lucky

It was a nice surprise the other day to get in touch with a couple of school friends from way back. I’m talking elementary school. I guess I’ve known Jim ever since I can remember, then I find out he married someone that also went to school with us, his childhood sweetheart kind of deal. He told me during a phone conversation that he always had a crush on Barbara, but didn’t start dating her until college. That takes some patience. I recalled that both Jim and Barbara were the top of the class. There is no way I would ever admit this when I was younger, but it's okay now as humility has found me. They were and are smarter than I ever was or will be.

When Jim and I had this telephone conversation this morning, it sure gave me a lot of emotional feelings and allowed them to surface. He told me about his wife’s bout with cancer and how she is one of the fortunate ones that seems to have gotten through it with her life. Besides the feeling that I am indeed fortunate to be remembered over 45 years since the last time I saw this guy, I was reminded of how blessed my own life has been.

That lead to other thoughts and got me thinking about the many good things that have happened throughout my life. Sure, I’ve had some bad things happen too. But the good things were the focus today and I felt I have been very lucky.

Luck. Now there’s a word for the ages. What is luck? Is it going into a situation one way and coming out with a good ending? Is it just for that particular situation, or is it for the entire lifetime? How about some of this and some of that? Hard to figure if you ask me.

I have a couple of friends that have fallen on the ice this year. Both of them ended up with terrible injuries that put them in casts and therapy for the rest of the Winter. I’ve heard more than one of my friends mention, and sometimes ranting about, the idea that something has to change in their lives and they can’t take it any longer.

This reminded me of the year 2005 when I went to Hot Springs, South Dakota to spend eight weeks in an in-patient program that was supposed to help me deal with PTSD and the accompanying symptoms, one powerful one being that of measuring my own self-worth and believing my life had value even when the statistics and how I felt at any given moment made me feel like the most unworthy soul to come down the pike.

This program, run by the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical System, the VA, had us doing classes and other physical and mental exercises that were to help us get through the tough times and help us out in mind, body and spirit.

The main focus to accomplish this was the free time. The time we spent talking with other Veterans that were having trouble with PTSD during this free time was figured into the therapy. Besides the classes in anger management, depression, spirituality and a daily time set aside to walk, and therefore put some exercise into our lives, the program was anchored by a three times weekly group therapy session, each an hour and a half in duration.

It was in one of these counseling sessions that we each got a chance to tell our story. Actually vocalize to ourselves and to each other what trauma, or stressor, we experienced in that American war in Vietnam that more or less defines our experience. The thing that happened that comes back to haunt us at any time and all the time, whether we are sleeping or awake, whether we are experiencing fear,  joy, tears, laughter, melancholy or anxiety.

There were nine others in the group and I can tell you what happened to every one of them. One was on a submarine, one worked at the huge base camp and stuffed bodies into bags, another killed many and watched others kill indiscriminately. Each Brother had his story and as I listened to them, I thought each one had it worse than the one before and for sure had it worse than I ever did. 

I kept wondering what was I doing there? What could I possibly say that would be as bad as what these guys have endured. Surely I had nothing to complain about, be remorse about or be bothered with compared to the others. Each of them had it so much worse. I was so lucky to not have to live with the pain that they have had to live with.

There’s that word again. Lucky. How lucky for this, how lucky for that, or unlucky, if you will.

When it was my turn, I spoke and told of my trauma. Almost apologetic that my experiences were not as traumatizing as their’s were. Feeling poorly that I’d be wasting their time with my paltry story.

That’s when they told me. That’s when we all told each other. That we all felt the same way. They would never want to have to experience what I did, and I would never want to have to go through what each one of them did.

I felt lucky. I was spared the pain and suffering that my brothers had to go through. I didn’t have it as bad as they did. They knew that they wouldn’t want to have to do what I did. Each of us sharing with each other and realizing that we are not alone, that we all have feelings, that it can be far worse for each of us on any given day at any given time.

This idea taught me something and I have carried that through life ever since I got out of that program. The other day, a friend sounded off about her plight. They called it a rant and apologized for it, but I knew what they were feeling.

It’s easy to tell a friend that what they were feeling isn’t true and that the feelings they have aren’t the way life really is, but that would be the way we see it and not the way they are living the experience.

I know those feelings. I know how it feels to feel less than others, to feel worthless, unworthy to our mission in life. It is such a powerless and empty feeling, but if I remind myself of those gatherings with my Brothers-In-Arms back in the counseling sessions at Hot Springs, I can remember knowing that the opposite is the truth. We are all worth something more than we think, even when life’s curveballs strike us square in the jaw.

Take what you need and leave the rest. Someone some where will need it.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sunday Morning Musing

Looks like I haven't been here in a while. I don't lack motivation, I just don't have enough hours in the day. That goes for visits to your blogs as well. I need a time planner. Seems like there is always so much to get done. Even my VA medical appointments get in the way of every day living.

Mrs. Spadoman has been doing a lot of work as well. We're painting the downstairs living area of our house. Because of circumstances beyond our control, our daughter and the Grandkids are moving back in with us. This scenario has created a lot of little projects that I want to get done to make this experience better for everyone concerned. That meant building walls, moving fixtures, paint and other business as one thing needed to be finished or moved before another could start. A never ending cycle with what seems like no end in sight.

Today, I'll take a break, like I did yesterday, and do some cooking for the family. Youngest daughter will join us for an early Sunday afternoon dinner. Kind of a celebration after the testing of my pacemaker last Wednesday. The drugs were good. I don't remember a thing, and the pacemaker works! In fact, it has been "pacing" my heartbeat for the past 15 months.

In other news, the big snowstorm hit out East last week. A storm is due to hit the Midwest today and tomorrow. It is not predicted to dump 2-3 feet of snow, but rather an underlayment of ice from freezing rain and anywhere from a few inches to a foot of snow. We'll see what Mother Nature brings us. It is Winter. It snows on a regular basis during the Winter in this part of the world. I'm just glad I don't have to shovel it or go off to work driving on the slick roads with others, trying to get to work to make a living.

I had thought about taking one of my road trips to New Mexico and Arizona, but will forego such extravagance in an attempt to hold onto what little money I have in the Spadoville coffers right now. Besides, I think there is a trip to Florida in the not too distant future for Mrs. Spadoman and myself to visit friends along the Gulf coast. This will most likely happen in late March/early April.

One mid Winter activity that I like to do is look at motorcycles, and this year, since I wrecked my motorcycle last September, has me drooling over a replacement. I know, I know, I mentioned that I would consider giving up riding. I just can't. Not yet. It defines me and I enjoy it so much. I'm just about ready to pull the trigger on a deal for another Triumph Bonneville. We'll see what the next few days has to say about it and what I decide to do.

In the meantime, I'll go about my business. Hope I get around to visit soon enough. It is the scourge of having so many wonderful Blogger friends, the fact that there is just not enough time to visit all  of you.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Liebster Award Revisited

I went to my  blog, you know, this one. The one you’re reading right now. The one I don’t get to on a regular basis because I’ve been so busy lately. I saw a second comment on the same post from a good dear friend. I got the hint. She hadn’t seen me around and was wanting me to check in, so I did, at her blog.

She’s pretty cool about that. She cares for a great many people. Paying it forward in thankfulness that she still has a life after all she’s been through. Spreading the daily thoughts as if they came from Fairies when I know she has changed her own life from thinking this way and is sharing it with the people she loves in hopes that we, I, can change my life for the better, if I ever need to.

She did this Award Thing called the Liebster Award. She answers questions someone asked of her, then she asks questions and we are asked to answer them. I guess it makes for some interesting reading and personal insights to other people here in Bloglandia.

Well, I was chosen to answer her questions. I’m not sure if she picked me because she thought I would answer them and was curious about how I would answer them, or if she thought I’d like to do it and there would be a good chance that I would actually do it. (There is also the idea that she chose me to irritate me) Doesn’t matter. When Mel asks, or even suggests, anything, I jump into action. That’s how much respect I have for her.

Here’s a link so you can go check out her blog: Mel's Dream

Below are the questions she asked with the answers I provided from my own thoughts and life experiences. I will not ask anyone any questions, but everyone should feel free to answer the ones Mel suggested and post them somewhere. I’d like to hear your answers. Incidently, she gave me an award for doing this. It was soooo worth it!

How do you celebrate your favorite holiday?

My favorite holiday is Los Dias de Los Muertos, the Days of the Dead. It falls on November first and second each year. I throw a party and invite everyone, friend and stranger alike. I cook food, from appetizer and main dish to dessert and ask people to bring a dish to pass. We honor and remember the lives of the loved ones we have lost to this world. We laugh, cry and eat our way through the day and night.

What unique tradition have you developed in your family (past or present)?

We have many things that we do over and over and have done since we met 43 years ago. We call these things traditions. Some involve a certain food served at a holiday gathering and some are gestures or comments made to each other if a word is said or a question is asked. I guess a fun one that we do is this: Our wedding anniversary is October 9th. On October 9th every year, I wake up my spousal unit by singing Happy Anniversary to her. Using the melody from the first lines of the William Tell Overture, I sing it over and over, changing the key after each stanza and go up and do this until she is begging me to stop.

What's on your nightstand by your side of the bed?

I don’t have a nightstand. I have this cubical shelf that sits sideways. My daily line up of medications sit on the top along with the pill cases I fill once per week. In the cubicles below are some books I intend to read, or finish reading, some day, and some old files of stuff I just can’t throw away.

How many tries does it take you before you actually thread a needle?

So many that I never counted how many times I tried, but rather how many minutes it takes me to accomplish the task. By the way, it takes me a long long time.

One quirky thing you embrace as uniquely YOU?

This one is hard. I have quite a few quirks that I know about and that I have never shared with anyone. I don’t know of anyone else that gets a song melody in their head, then sings it using the alphabet to see if it ends up on “Z”. I use multiple syllables for the letter “W”)

A worry that paralyzed you, then or now?

Then: everything Now: Everything else. I worry, or at least I am anxious about most everything most of the time. This malady seems to accompany PTSD, and I have experienced much trauma through the years.

Which parent can YOU hear when you say something today?

My dad. I am built like him physically and have the same diseases that he had when he was the age I am now. I can actually ‘see’ him talking and remember things, then, I will be in a similar situation and realize that I act like him and say the same things in the same way as he did.

When do you consider it 'late at night'?

Late at night are the hours between 1:00 AM and 5:00 AM, especially if I am awake.

How do you respond when someone hurts your feelings?

I want to get in my car and leave, and I have done so many times in the past. I am a bit more grounded now and don’t get on the road at the drop of a hat, but still think about how it would be if I just left it all behind.

What are two staples you can't run out of? And (LORD help us all....) what happens if you DO run out of them?

I have no particular items that I need to keep stocked up, but if I run out of something I am looking for at any particular moment, I bitch and complain. I might have even blamed another person-who-shall-remain-nameless for running out of said item.

And finally--WHO do you need to say "I love you" to, today.....go do that and report back!

I’m sure there is someone that needs this or someone I want to tell, and there are those that I wish I’d hear it from, but most every day, I say I love you to my Grandkids and my wife as well as my daughters if I happen to talk with them. They say this back to me too. Sometimes, they initiate the I Love You, then I say it back.

Thanks for including me Mel. You are one of a kind, a gem amongst stones.

Peace to All

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Heart of the Matter

Heart event ahead

Heart event behind has passed

Matters of the heart

Thank you for the comments.

I will explain this Haiku. Next Wednesday, February 6, 2013, I am scheduled to have the pacemaker that was installed in November of 2011, tested. The VA doctors put the device in my chest and never tested whether or not it will indeed "shock" me if my heart malfunctions. My pacemaker has a built-in defibrillator and this defibrillator has never been tested.

Last month, I had the device checked and by hooking it up to a specially programmed computer, it was found that I haven't had any reoccurrence of Atrial Fibrillation or Atrial Flutter. I was taken off of the blood thinning medication, Coumadin, (Warfarin), and the pacemaker was powered down and put into a power saving mode. It was also noted that the device was never tested.

So, they will mess with my heart while I am under anesthetic and see if it works and the defibrillator does indeed shock me. It is a routine procedure to the doctors. But to me, it means they will kill me, then bring me back to life.

I know I am ready to die when the time comes, and no one knows when that time will be. It is out of my hands and I accept the inevitability of death. My anxiety is because I sure don't want to die at the hands of someone testing the device that is supposed to keep me alive.

Hence, the Haiku. The heart event coming up is the test next week. The heart events in the past were the previous heart surgeries and installation of the pacemaker. The last line is obvious then, all matters concerning the heart that beats inside my body.

This should explain it. I ask for prayers and good thoughts, not to live forever, but to be able to deal with the anxiety it causes me.  Thank you.