Ten years ago

Today marks the 10th anniversary of Diana’s death, but I remember this day for an entirely different reason… it was the last time I smoked marijuana.

The first time I smoked it was early in the morning on January 1st, after a New Year’s party. Everyone had left but two friends, and one of them convinced me to try it, explaining that I’d feel nothing at first and then I’d feel really good.

From that point on, anytime I had the opportunity, I’d smoke with them. It was very recreational – maybe once a week or less, but I enjoyed the feeling I got from it. It gave me a means of escape and a sense of euphoria during a time when my life was becoming increasingly complicated. Everything came to a screeching halt the evening Diana died.

After going out for a burger and fries, I went to the home of some friends to relax and watch SNL. A few minutes into the show, an anchor broke in with the news of Diana’s car crash. At first I thought it was some kind of sick joke that SNL was playing on its viewers, and it took several minutes before I realized that the news was real. By the time they announced that Diana was dead, I was riveted to the screen.

Afterwards, still stunned, my friends and I began smoking pot through a water bong and I was intent on getting as high as possible. When one of the guys said he’d had enough, I jokingly called him an “amateur”. That’s when things took a turn for the worse.

I remember sitting in my chair and laughing hysterically for no reason as reality slipped away. I suddenly snapped to as I realized that I was seeing items repeat into infinity, just like in the movies when they try to visualize someone’s drug trip. I felt sheer terror force the adrenalin into my fingertips and I felt completely out of control of my mind and body. I tried to remain calm, but started to panic, thinking that something was terribly wrong. My friends soon realized that I was losing it and tried to help, but didn’t really know what to do other than reassure me that everything would be fine. I decided that a cold shower might snap me out of it and somehow managed to make it to the bathroom, where I stripped and stood under the freezing water. Unfortunately, it didn’t work.

By this time I was probably smack dab in the middle of a full-fledged panic attack – not something that goes well with being high. I was hysterical – crying, praying, pacing the floor. Nausea began to set in and I went outside and vomited on the lawn. Then I began to worry that the burger I’d eaten for dinner might be causing me to be sick and I started begging them to take me to the hospital. They informed me that we’d all be arrested if they did, so that wasn’t an option.

Finally, I decided to lay down and sleep it off. That was the longest night of my life. I’d look at the clock and close my eyes, opening them after what seemed like an eternity to see that only a minute or two had passed. My mind began to torment me with thoughts that I had died and that this was some form of hell, where time had stopped and I would be completely miserable forever. That’s when I promised God that if He’d help me and get me through it, I’d never partake of marijuana again. I’ve kept that promise to this very day.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with other people using marijuana recreationally. I would much rather be around a person smoking weed than one who is intoxicated on alcohol and I think it’s hypocritical of our government to keep one legal and the other illegal. I simply decided that I was going to honor the vow that I made to God and I don’t need drugs to enjoy life anyway.

Twisted logic

I had an interesting conversation with a coworker this afternoon that went something like this:

Him: I’m willing to watch just about any movie, as long as it’s not one by Michael Moore. (looks my direction and guffaws)

Me: You wouldn’t even be willing to watch Michael Moore’s film about health care?

Him: No.

Me: Why not?

Him: Because everything he says is a lie. He makes money by being anti-American. There’s a large market for that in this country – defeatists who want us to lose in Iraq… (segues into tirade about how people who don’t love this country should leave and that this country has the best of everything, including health care)

Him (after calming down a bit): The Bible tells us that God puts men in positions of power, so we should respect them. (referring to Bush)

Me: Does that mean that God put Saddam Hussein in his position?

Him: Yes.

Me: Then wasn’t it wrong for us to remove him from power?

Him: No.

Me: Why not?

Him: Because God has always set some up to be stronger than others so that they can overthrow them. God commanded the Jews to do it many times.

Me: So, you think God told us to go into Iraq?

Him: Absolutely!

Me: I so do not agree.

He got up and left the room. It scares me that some people are allowed to vote.

The cat people

I never thought I’d have three cats in the house. Two maybe, but never more.

We started with Blu, a shelter rescue that we fell in love with via pictures posted on Petfinder.com. After several months had gone by, we got Twinkie from a coworker. We had two “kids” that could keep each other company when we were out of the house and we figured that was that. Then Macy Gray came into our lives.

When I first brought her home, it was out of pure necessity. I had to save this kitten and make sure that she was going to be properly cared for. I figured that we would be able to find a good home for her and we’d go back to being a two-cat household. Things have a way of not always working out as planned.

We’ve had her over four weeks already and she’s growing like a weed. Honey continually reminds me that I promised we’d find her a new home, but I can’t seem to gather the courage to hang a flyer anywhere. I know that vet bills and upkeep for three cats will be rather expensive, and that there will be more cat hair to vacuum and litter to scoop, but the thought of her being mistreated makes me cringe. Even the idea of her being outside in the heat is enough to make me want to keep her.

So, for now, we are officially the cat people. No one may ever want to come to our house for dinner, but they’ll understand our predicament when they see Macy Gray’s precious mug!

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Letter from my father

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When I made the decision to come out to my parents several years ago, I feared that my father would take it the hardest. I was even somewhat fearful of his reaction, but it turned out that I had judged him completely wrong. A few days later, he gave me a handwritten note on a folded up piece of paper that had “To Brian, From Dad” on the outside. This is what he wrote:

Honesty
Integrity
Courage
Intelligence
Sensitivity
Love for children
Love for animals
Love for nature & its beauty
Lack of prejudice
Talent for singing
Talent for making people laugh
Sense of humor
Love of giving things
Ability to see through phony issues
Willingness to work

Brian,
This is a list of a few things that make me proud to tell people that you are my boy. It took about 5 min to think of these.
Dad

Back to the old grind

I’ve returned to work after an enjoyable three-day weekend. The fun started on Friday, Honey’s birthday, when I took off from work and asked him how he wanted to spend the day. He chose swimming, so we went to the home of some friends and spent several hours goofing off and laughing in the pool.

That evening, we went to dinner with five friends. It was kind of an interesting mix of people that we knew well, but who knew each other very little or not at all. It definitely made for some exhilarating conversation as stories were shared and laughter ensued.

Saturday was a nice, boring day without much to do besides relax. We did rent The Number 23, but it was completely not what I expected and I didn’t enjoy it at all.

Sunday started with church, which was followed by a couple of meetings – one of which was the book club (I’ll write more about that later). After wrapping things up, we went to lunch with Karen and to see Evening. It stars Glenn Close and Meryl Streep, among several other fantastic actors, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

All good things must come to an end, as they say, so here I am back in the place that I like the least. It’s not the work that I despise… it’s some of the people I have to spend my day with. I’m trying to be gracious and loving, but it gets just a little harder all the time.

Watchful eyes

I’ve lived beside Mrs. J for many years, as a child and as an adult. My childhood home was on one side of her house, and I purchased the house on the other side of her almost nine years ago. She was always the type of person to keep an eye on our home when we were gone, making sure the cats were fed, the plumbing hadn’t sprung any leaks, and reporting any visitors that we might have missed during our absence.

There is a window on the end of her house that faces our driveway and is near where she normally sat. Any time we had visitors, it always amused me to see her peeking out her mini-blinds to see who was there. The fact that the light was on in her house and we could see her entire profile lit up in the window never seemed to deter her in the least. We always just pretended that we couldn’t see her and got a good laugh out of it.

These days, we’re the ones watching out for her. We usually go to the nursing home every day and spend a couple of hours visiting with her, which helps keep her spirits up and enables us to stay on top of her eating habits. She lost almost 10 pounds in the first two weeks following her surgery because she wouldn’t hardly eat a thing.

As I’ve mentioned before, the lady that lives in the room with her suffers from Alzheimer’s. Her husband normally sits with her for most of the day, but has recently been hospitalized with IBS and had a colostomy. This change in routine has caused Emily to become rather depressed and combative.

During our visit on Tuesday, she decided that she needed to use the bathroom and asked for our help. After we explained that we would have to page a nurse to help her, she became very angry and assailed us with insults about “not being Christians” and something about Presbyterians, which I couldn’t exactly understand but found quite funny. However, her situation was far from humorous.

The facility where Mrs. J lives is obviously understaffed, although I think that part of the problem lies with certain nurses who simply don’t care enough to take care of business. They’d rather clean up a person after they’ve messed themselves, than to help that person onto a toilet or bedpan.

Yesterday, Emily once again informed us that she had to go to the restroom. We pushed an alert button to call a nurse and the waiting game began. As she became more and more irate, she began pulling her pants down. Considering the fact that she was sitting up in a wheelchair and has around 80% of her motor skills, this was no small feat.

After several minutes of waiting, we finally decided to go into the hall to track someone down for help. After attracting the attention of two nurses and informing them of the situation, they simply told Emily that she would have to wait because they were busy with another patient. Explaining such things to someone in her condition is quite pointless, of course.

Over the next hour, Emily managed to remove her shoes, pants, and soiled diaper and placed all of them on the floor underneath her chair. The call light for her room was on for the entire time, even though we noticed a gaggle of nurses carrying on a conversation in the hallway just outside the room for several minutes. Finally, some nurses arrived, cleaned her up, and put her to bed for the evening.

I can’t help but worry about the care that our neighbor is getting while we aren’t there. I know that most of the time she is taken care of pretty well, but watching her roommate sit in her own excrement for an hour leaves me with plenty of doubt. I suspect Emily’s situation would have never occurred if her husband had been there, as the nurses seem to pay the most attention to patients that have visitors.

Perhaps watchful eyes are a strong motivator, and maybe this is our opportunity to repay her for keeping an eye on us for all of these years.