And I'm going to those places

One of the better lessons I have learned from my current adversity is the number of lives each of us touch every day – and how each life, in turn, touches your own.
That friends and loved ones mean everything.
My hiking buddy, Leon, hooked me up with Backpacker magazine, and it’s Continental Divide Trail Mapping Project.
I read the Backpacker blurb; I applied.
Immediately.
Leon does some work from time to time for Backpacker; mostly detailed trip reports on his favorite Northern California treks (the man is out, under the stars, like 70 nights a year).
Just because, Leon sent a email, on my behalf, to Kris Wagner, Backpacker’s map editor, and Jon Dorn, the magazine’s editor-in-chief.
Here’s the email:
“When I told Thom G, the Outdoors Editor for our Redding newspaper, that the "Nelson Threesome" were applying to participate on the CDT Map Project, he promptly submitted his application, too!
“In that regard, I'd like to encourage you and BACKPACKER to give serious consideration Thom's interest in helping as a volunteer.
“I've personally had the pleasure of backpacking with Thom on numerous occasions. He's a Real Winner to be with whether it's in camp or out fishing! I've observed, too, that his buddies are more than OK with his cooking - he's even written several feature articles on the subject for his Outdoors section in the Redding newspaper.
“And speaking of writing, Thom might not have included on his application info concerning his having received quite a few awards from the Outdoors Writers of America Association, ranging from first place to first honorable mention. There's no doubt he'd be good for a story or a series on BACKPACKER's noble plans to create the much-needed map for the CDT!
“Thanks for taking time to read this, Kris. It's been my pleasure to put in a Good Word for Thom!”
I’m in.
I’m totally part of the CDT project.
Next year, I will be part of the grand plan, 200 volunteers strong, to hike, map and photograph all 3,100 miles of the CDT.
To be part of history.
To make history.
Here’s Kris’ reply:
“Leon: You’re the best. Consider the three of you in. You get the greenlight from me and Jon! We’re still hashing out details, and we’ll inform you as soon as we know more, thanks, Kris.”
I am happy.
I am humbled.
Oh! The Places You'll Go!

Oh! The Places You'll Go!

It just might be the ticket I need to fully get my head out of my ass.
My backpacking buddy Leon (he’s in his 60s and flat-out can hike me into the dirt) forwarded me a listing from Backpacker magazine. Seems that they’re looking for a few good people to take on the Continental Divide Trail and map it next year.
It’s the 3,100-mile trail that goes from Canada to Mexico, across Montana, Idaho, Colorado and New Mexico. It’s called “The King of Trails.”
It links the Bitterroots, Wind Rivers and San Juan ranges; Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks and the Weminuche and Bob Marshall Wilderness Areas.
Problem is, no accurate map exists to take people across safely. More than 1,000 miles of trail remain unsigned, undetermined or simply unmapped.
Enter Backpacker.
Over the next few months, the magazine will pick 200 volunteers to spend a week each on the trail to get as much of it mapped. Maybe 2,000 miles, maybe the whole damn thing.
“It’s a unique opportunity to make hiking history,” said Jonathan Dorn, Backpacker’s editor.
Volunteers will be split into teams and give GPS units and training. The magazine will set people up with free swag and assign each team to a specific location on the trail.
During the week, the team records waypoints, take photographs and submit trip reports.
Next winter, the magazine will publish and post a downloadable version of the map on the Backpacker Web site.
I signed up. No thought process involved. I want this.
If picked, I’ll need to take a week off, and provide my own transportation to wherever I might get assigned.
No problem. I’d hitchhike to my destination, if needed.
And while difficulties swarm my life at present, I find myself excited about the possibilities. About being part of something that’ll make a difference.
About being out in the outdoors, where I belong.
Cross your fingers, readers, I need all the good karma you can channel my way.

She's got the Ph.D - and I don't

Sometimes, I am as dense as a fruitcake.
I killed my cell with saltwater, and I was working up an ulcer trying to figure out how to pay for a new one. My first chance at an upgrade doesn't come until March; I get a full upgrade six months after that.
I just couldn't see spending $190 - or more - for a new phone.
"I've got an old one, I'll send it to you and see if they'll transfer the service over to it," my sister, the doctor, said.
Duh.
I dug my old cell out of the drawer, charged it up, and brought it into Sprint. Told them my tale of woe.
"Yeah, saltwater is corrosive to phones," the guy said. "You've killed this one."
And then he transferred service over to the old phone for free.
I like the old phone better than the one I killed anyway. I dropped it into the toilet once, and that didn't kill it.
They gave me a little plastic doggie bag for the old one. A plastic mailer to send it back to the factory for recycling.
Adios, crappy cell.
Hello cell that survived the crapper.

Salty cell

It is not a good idea to introduce salt water to cellular telephones.
It is very bad.
My cell is quite dead.
And really, it didn’t get all that wet. It’s not like I dropped it overboard.
The company’s $12,000 digital Nikon camera got just as wet, and it’s still working.
Oh, well.
I didn’t like my phone anyway.

The chundering herd

There are no mariners in my family.
No pirates in the woodshed, either.
No sea legs to speak of. None whatsoever.
I spent 12 hours on a 55-foot catamaran on Friday, fishing for rockfish and picking up Dungeness crab pots near the Farallon Islands, some 27 miles from the Golden Gate Bridge.
It’s a two-hour ride out to the fishing grounds. I spent that time watching, trying to take notes, trying to take pictures.
And trying not to throw up.
Amid lots and lots of vomit.
The swells leaving the Gate were already kicking up to six feet; outside the bay, the swells reached nine feet.
I sat in the back of the boat and watched the waves nearly swamp the back end. As long as I watched the waves, I was OK.
But around me, 11 people were barfing into five-gallon pickle buckets.
I was too terrorized to puke.
All I could think of was my boss, and how I’d have to explain that I’d lost the $12,000 digital camera when the boat eventually sank. The movie, “The Perfect Storm” kept invading my brain.
There was this beautiful Japanese girl who got on the boat, and an hour into the ride, she looked like one of those apple carvings, all shriveled and gaunt.
She was next to me, her boyfriend at her side, chundering.
“Hey, what to I do with this?” he asked the deckhand.
“Isgot throw up in it?” he said.
“Yeah.”
“Give it here,” the deckhand said as he peered into the bucket. “Hey, turkey!”
He tossed the contents overboard and we shared a laugh.
“Wait until we stop,” the other deckhand said. “Then you’ll really see some hurling.”
A 55-foot catamaran on nine-foot swells – pushed around by a 4 knot current – is no place for sissies.
My coffee came up first. Then the contents of my gall bladder.
I had made the decision, early on, not to eat prior to leaving for Berkeley (at 2 a.m.) I did drink 10 cups of coffee (which seems like a lot, but, hey, I lost it all) and I resisted the temptation for an Egg McMuffin prior to boarding.
A wise choice.
Throwing up solids, I think, is worse than throwing up liquids.
But there were guys on the boat, guys who had done this plenty of times, who were drinking beer and eating roach-coach burritos. And smoking.
And throwing up.
And doing it all over again.
“Hey, you just gotta get through it,” one angler said. “Ain’t no big thing.”
We’d fish for a bit, throw up for a bit, and go right back to fishing.
It was somewhat surreal. On one hand, I was sicker than I had ever been; on the other, I was having a great time catching fish I’d never caught before.
In the end, I set new benchmarks for duration and volume of vomit (five hours, five, 16-ounce bottles of water and whatever fluids my body kept manufacturing for the cause) that I hope to never accomplish again.
Two days later, my sides are so sore that I can’t sleep on my back – I don’t feel I can get enough air into my lungs.
It was certainly Top 5 most brutal things I have ever voluntarily done to my body.
But it was fun, too.
Maybe there was a pirate in the woodshed somewhere.

My many thanks

I should be in the middle of preparing a huge feast for my family. Instead, I’m puttering around the house, waiting to go over to a friend’s house, one of several people who offered me sanctuary on this Thanksgiving.
I’m taking a break from calling people in my life who deserve a personal thank you for being in my life, and taking the time to give a damn.
To ponder Thanksgiving. To write down my thoughts.
I am thankful today to have friends and family who care for me – without judgment. I am thankful to have a career I love and I am thankful for the talent born into me to do it. I am thankful to have goofy pets who love me unconditionally, and can bring a smile to my face just by putting their furry head in my lap, or sit next to me and purr.
Most of all, I am thankful to have been able to love a woman and her children so completely that even with distance between us, my heart remains complete.
It is being able to love that will get me through difficult times that lay ahead.
Along with my burgeoning mental tool kit, I have the strength to face what lies ahead. It will not be easy, whichever path I venture.
But I will venture down a path.
Because I have loved.
And I will love again.
Thank you to the people who read this, for taking the time to take a peek and be a small part of my twisted – but, hey, if you get right down to it, fulfilling – life.

The state of my emotions

Somewhere between a Vulcan and a Neanderthal lies that perfect balance of good and healthy emotion.
With the Vulcan being cold and unemotional, suppressing every single emotion and supplanting it with cool logic.
And the Neanderthal full of anger and rage, raw emotions for a time when the world was raw.
I have been on a guided journey to feel my emotions, to be a good and healthy emotional being.
Problem is, I have always been someone who pushes my emotion aside, pushes it down and was under the impression that I was the master of it.
I am no master. I am under the influence. Weak.
And that has caused my heart, my mind and the loved ones who surround me to suffer. Too much. Way too damn much.
I may never get parts of my life back, and that’s a problem I’m going to have to deal with. Which I will, given the tools being presented to me on my guided trip through my emotions.
I am confident in that.
But here’s the problem: I think too damn much. I approach life as a problem to solve. My mind takes over and instead of feeling the emotion at the time, I suppress it in a manner that has built pools of raw emotion inside me.
Thus radiating a brilliant, white-heat of anxiety that that manifests itself by lack of appetite, stomach cramps, dry heaves, periods of restlessness, periods of no sleep at all and all manners of jitters, lack of focus and general depression.
I’ve done it so long that I no longer remember how to feel the emotions that well inside me.
I just know that they leak from me in fits and bursts.
And that is not a good situation for anyone within my radius. No good for me, either.
It has frustrated me to no end.
But yesterday, there was a breakdown.
Breakthrough.
I went from anger to sadness to grief to guilt to sorrow to more anger, more grief, more sadness…
And burst into tears and uncontrolled sobs for minutes, feeling each and every emotion physically.
And just as fast as the tears came, they stopped. And I laughed, then teared up again.
Tears of joy.
I was so calm. So tired. So drained.
It was the most horrific – and beautiful and cathartic – thing I have ever done for myself.
And I felt sure I could recreate feeling – instead of suppressing – each emotion.
Maybe not all at once.
But each as they come up, each by its own exceptional flavor.
Anger is by far the most seductive – thus the most repulsive (to me) – emotion. I always thought that I was just an angry guy, but that’s not the case. I just pushed enough down to fill a well of darkness.
Anger, if felt, can be a source of energy, a great tool for survival – and a powerful emotion to bury.
And when it comes, I will feel it.
Just like all the others, when they come up.
Like I said, it’s been a guided journey and a breakthrough happened. Doesn’t mean I’m cured. Not by a long shot.
As it turns out, the anxiety is back today. There is sadness and grief I need to feel, but not yet. Not now. So I puke, I feel knots in my stomach, I have less than optimal energy at work – and face the prospect of watching the darkness of depression creep in like the clouds and rainy weather outside.
But I now know I have the tools to face it.
I have just to face it.
Soon enough.

Bodies at rest, at motion

Inertia.
As a classical physics term, it means a body that does not move will remain at rest or, if moving, will keep moving in the same direction unless affected by some outside force.
But if apply it to one’s mental health, it means something completely different.
Sure, a body at rest will stay at rest – and sometimes that’s a good and needed thing.
But a body in motion needs to get knocked around a bit, for sanity, to keep it from continuing in one predictable direction.
Inertia has been on my mind these days.
To stave off a sure mental meltdown due to pressures real or perceived, you’ve got to keep moving. A body at rest will tear itself apart by remaining at rest – and letting that gray matter dream up all matter of dark and devilish thoughts.
You get out, you get on, you leave well enough alone and you survive.
Even if your life is in a weird state of limbo. And the darkness of depression hangs like the oncoming dusk, and you feel like giving in, cover up and pretend that the outside world can just kiss your ass for the moment.
A body at rest will remain at rest. It doesn’t mean the mind will rest. And this is dangerous.
A body in motion, getting knocked around, will travel from point to point and pick up energy.
Good and decent energy to go on and face the planet (without pills, even).
I spin, but I am not out of control.
I am at motion, willing to see where that singletrack goes, where that trail leads.
I am in motion.
Because I need the motion to keep me sane.

Marking time

Nov. 18 marked the one-year anniversary of my mom’s death.
I spent it outside, with a long mountain bike ride (Jason, you’ll get your shorts back when I get all the mud out), mowing the lawn, clearing the flowerbeds for winter and a stout hike with Trinity.
I didn’t really realize what the date was, until my neighbor brought it up.
Then I thought about it.
And knew that I am OK.
I still miss her, but you come to grips with the loss and you go on. You do the things that make you happy.
You live your life.
I called my dad, and even he sounded upbeat. My sister and her husband were there, and they were getting ready to go to the cemetery. He talked about missing her, talked about talking about her – but also said he was ready to start moving on.
Then I talked with my sister, who was marking the day at a conference. She said she would be using the date as a starting point to put some thing in her life in focus. She was going to reduce stress in her life, do for herself, starting with Nov. 18.
It seems everyone in my family got through the day, and got through it with plans to continue to heal.
It made me feel even better about where I was in all of this.

Organs for $ale

The RobRogers has offered up an intriguing question to Surface Tension – basically, what’s a kidney worth to you?
He is of the opinion I go with Sirius Satellite Radio – and sell my kidney to pick up an 80-gig iPod (20,000 song capacity) for $349.
I say a kidney is worth way more than $349.
If someone wants one of my finely tuned kidneys (hey, I drink at least the recommended eight, eight-ounce glasses of water a day), we’re talking tens of thousands of dollars.
I did some looking around, and one kidney (in 2002 dollars) was going for $6,000.
Even that seems kind of cheap.
In 2002, more than 75,000 people needed kidney transplants in the U.S.; only an estimated 23,000 got them.
That, right there, dictates the supply-and-demand nature of selling organs.
Six grand?
I don’t get out of bed for less than $75,000.

Siruis vs. iPod for control of my musical soul

I stand at a musical crossroads.
And no, I am not talking about whether to offer my soul to techno or country and western (the only way that happens is if I suffer some horrific closed-head injury and then, well, I couldn’t help myself could I?)
Christmas is coming, and I’m in a pickle to whether to ask for a new 30-gig iPod, or a Sirius Satellite Radio receiver for the car.
My original, first-generation 5-gig iPod is giving up the ghost. It often forgets its program. It gets to songs that it refuses to play. In shuffle mode, it’ll shuffle for a time, then refuse. Poor little thing; it’s given me years of trustful service, it’s got more than 1,000 songs on its brain (punk songs, by virtue of being short and sweet, has allowed me to surpass its estimated song capacity).
But do I want another one?
Like I said, I’ve got more than 1,000 songs on it – a 30-gig iPod would increase that to 7,500 songs – but even I don’t want to listen to a particular song at a particular time (although, yesterday, the dB’s “Any Old Thing” came up and boy, I hadn’t heard that in a while and gave me a big smile). I tend to scroll through the shuffle play to find something that fits my mood.
(And, please, don’t talk to me about playlists; I could make 100 playlists and still find something I don’t want to listen to at a particular time.)
With Sirius, I get new, exciting stuff all the time. If I don’t like the new alternative stuff, I can switch to one of 193 channels of music, sports or talk radio. All commercial-free.
But, Thom, what about listening to a little Ramones or White Stripes or The Replacements at work? Sirius is satellite radio for your car. With the iPod, you just walk in, plug in and listen.
Well, I get Sirius for the car and I also get Sirius Internet Radio. Fully-streaming music right from my laptop (I’ve been pirating my dad’s subscription since February).
Here’s the biggest dilemma I face: portability.
I can’t take Sirius into the grocery store, or in the backpack when I’m fishing (unless I get the Sirius mp3 player that allows you to record your favorite songs).
So, I am conflicted.
I do know that I’m leaning toward getting the Sirius radio for the car (I have Dish at home, so I get Sirius there, meaning I’d have commercial-free tunes most everywhere I find myself) and a two-year subscription.
And then saving my pennies for a 4-gig iPod Nano ($199) for the portability.
It’s a win-win thing.

And now for something completely different

Alex Baldwin talking about his "Schewdy Balls" on a SNL skit:

Truth in PSAs

This is the real Mark "Chopper" Read, Australian gangster, in a 30-second PSA against violence against women. If only they did PSAs like this in the U.S., there - I believe - would be a lot less crime:

Just say no

Today is a travel day; I’m a couple hours away from returning to California.
And I’ve been to Wal-mart twice already.
Dad needed to fill a prescription.
He felt that 20 minutes was too much to wait.
So we left, drove over to Walgreens and got some vitamins he takes (and, surprisingly, they don’t carry at Wal-mart).
And we drove back to Wal-mart.
To do 20 minutes of shopping for groceries – before picking up the script.
I make this solemn oath and pledge: Unless I am with my father in Nebraska, I will never ever, never, never, never, not once, even if my fucking life depended on it step foot in another Wal-mart for as long as I live.

Sadness in familiar places

I saw something recently that truly made me sad.
My dad and I came down with a bit of stomach flu, which for me is no problem, but when you’re 78 it’s not so good. We were having a bit of gastric distress and I finally got him to agree to take some Imodium.
I had to go to Wal-mart to fetch it.
At 7:10 a.m. on a Sunday morning while the rest of my family got ready for church.
And while you’d think another trip to Wal-mart would be sad enough (my dad just hollered that he was ready to go “anytime you’re ready,” so I guess I’m going to Wal-mart – again) but no, this was worse.
At 7:20 a.m. on a cold Sunday morning in Nebraska, a couple was doing their shopping.
In their pajamas.
How fucking sad is that?
I mean, they consciously decided to go shopping – and made a conscious decision that dressing for the occasion didn’t mean dick.
They both had on flannel sleeping pants and fuzzy slippers; I couldn’t tell what they had on top, since they were bundled in their stocky winter jackets.
It just made me really, really sad.

A test of faith, you say?

The skies of eastern Nebraska are today as leaden gray, dark and foreboding as my spiritual self.
And I know, for some of you out there, that is hard to hear.
Spiritual crisis?
Spiritual thermonuclear destruction is more like it.
After my mother died, I felt her presence so strongly in church, that it made me re-think my commitment to God.
Then I visited Catholic Central – Rome – and again felt a renewal in my spiritual self.
I decided that I need more God in my life.
I have always been a spiritual person; I do believe in a power higher than myself. God, Yahweh, Jehovah, whatever.
I just didn’t necessarily think I needed to be in a church to believe. To get my signals. To pray.
I have been a person who has always believed in the church of nature and in the church of being a good person. In the church of leading by example.
But in the past year, I have come to realize that church is a comfort of my youth, a comfort that guided my mother through cancer and her death.
I started going back to church. I was asked to be involved. I was asked to become a reader; the priests welcomed me and welcomed my spirit.
Truly, I have never understood why man was made to suffer, if they believed. If they were good and led a good life.
And when my life was turned upside-down recently, I took to prayer to help solve the crisis. Granted, I was asking for a specific thing.
It does not look like my prayer will be answered. To God, to St. Jude to my mother – and any other saint I thought could help.
And I now find myself in spiritual crisis, a thermonuclear meltdown of my faith that threatens to turn my heart to a fiery pit of hate for faith. For God.
I am not like a petulant child who does not get the prize and now will pitch a fit.
I am seriously looking at faith and where my heart – and my head – fit in it.
I have a friend, a brother, who says not to give up, to keep praying since God has a plan for me and it will be revealed. That this past year is a test. A test of faith.
But I am a mere mortal. And my heart can only take so much hurt.
Before I just say fuck it.
And spin down a path that probably will not be good.
For my heart.
For my soul.
For my spiritual self.
I am lost.
And the path is starting to become overgrown.
Tangled with feelings, like thick, sharp brambles.
I hope I can find my way back.

Saving grace

As much as I’d like to think so, I cannot save anyone.
Hell, I can’t even save myself.
There have been times where I thought I could save people, just by my loyalty and my fierce protection. By listening to them, and giving them wise advise.
We’re all alone here.
Oh, I’m still a good listener, I still will be there for anyone who seeks my counsel.
I will remain fiercely loyal and protective for those I love.
But I can’t save anyone.
We’re on our own here.
It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but one I’ve needed to take for some time now. The idea that you can make an absolute difference in a life, when all you can do is hope for the best.
Hope that person listens.
How that they seek further guidance.
And truly think about – truly see – the situation before them.
But, in the end, the decisions we make are individual decisions – which can affect more than that one person.
We have to make the best decision possible for ourselves.
And hope that the fallout doesn’t destroy those around us.
Oh, I wish I had the power to save.
But I don’t.
I can listen.
I can do things to make myself a better person.
In the end, we are responsible for ourselves.

Nebraska, my Nebraska!

Here’s what comedian Jeff Foxworthy has to say about Nebraska (and Nebraskans):

If you consider it a sport to gather your food by drilling through 18 inches of ice and sitting there all day hoping that the food will swim by, you might live in Nebraska.
If you're proud that your region makes the national news 96 nights each year because it's the coldest or hottest spot in the nation, you might live in Nebraska.
If your local Dairy Queen is closed from November through March, you might live in Nebraska.
If you instinctively walk like a penguin for five months out of the year, you might live in Nebraska.
If someone in a store offers you assistance, and they don't work there, you might live in Nebraska.
If your dad's suntan stops at a line curving around the middle of his forehead, you might live in Nebraska.
If you have worn shorts and a parka at the same time, you might live in Nebraska.
If your town has an equal number of bars and churches, you might live in Nebraska.
If you have had a lengthy telephone conversation with someone who dialed a wrong number, you might live in Nebraska.

YOU KNOW YOU ARE A TRUE NEBRASKAN WHEN:
1. "Vacation" means going east or west on I-80 for the weekend.
2. You measure distance in hours.
3. You know several people who have hit a deer more than once (and some who when back and picked it up; it’s legal here).
4. You often switch from "heat" to "A/C" in the same day and back again.
5. You can drive 65 mph through 2 feet of snow during a raging blizzard, without flinching.
6. You see people wearing camouflage at social events (including weddings).
7. You install security lights on your house and garage and leave both unlocked.
8. You carry jumper cables in your car and your girlfriend (or wife) knows how to use them.
9. You design your kid's Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit.
10. Driving is better in the winter because the potholes are filled with snow.
11. You know all 5 seasons: almost winter, winter, still winter & DARN HOT!
12. Your idea of creative landscaping is a statue of a deer next to your blue spruce.
13. You were unaware that there is a legal drinking age.
14. Down South to you means Kansas.
15. A brat is something you eat.
16. Your neighbor throws a party to celebrate his new pole shed.
17. You go out to a tailgate party every Friday and every Saturday (if the Huskers are playing or not).
18. Your 4th of July picnic was moved indoors because your fireworks melted.
19. You have more miles on your snow blower than your car.
20. You find 0 degrees "a little chilly."
21. You actually understand these jokes, and you forward them to all your Nebraska friends.

All of the above is true, by the way.

What's wrong with this picture?

An Americano is shots of espresso (usually four) to which hot water has been added.
How do you fuck something up like that?
I admit it, I am a coffee snob; since I've been here, I have refused to drink the HyVee (it's a Midwestern grocery chain) standard swill my dad drinks.
I turn, instead, to the little Starbucks kiosk that's also in the store.
Granted, I hate Starbucks too, but there is no other option for coffee here. There is no mom-and-pop shop.
So I order my regular, a large Americano.
And I've been disappointed each and every time.
The problem is twofold; first, they've got people working the machine who should be stocking the produce aisle; second, there's probably a Starbucks-mandated single serving of espresso that the servers can't go over without squeezing some of the profit margin out of my very expensive $2.50 coffee.
These Americano's taste like they've taken house coffee - and added hot water to it. Weak. Bleak.
Today, I tried an extra shot in my vente Americano (55 cents extra). It still wasn't as good as the gals at Breaking New Grounds in Redding can do with a 20-ounce Americano.
So, tomorrow, I'm going all-out. I'm getting a grande house coffee - and having them put three shots of espresso in it.
It'll cost me in excess of $3, and they'll look at me funny, but at least it'll taste like coffee.

Still falling, now and forever

Today should be a day of joy. And it is. A bit sad, too.
It was six years ago that my wife first met me for coffee.
So simple a meeting; she walked into Starbucks wearing a black blouse and black slacks, her hair naturally curly and beautiful. Her skin silky and warm.
It was just a meeting for coffee, suggested by office matchmakers and confirmed by me through email (the chickenshit I was, I couldn’t walk to her desk and actually ask her).
We ended up talking for nearly 31/2 hours. We joked in the parking lot that we should have just continued at lunch; I was game, and so was she. We were awkward and cute and we parted ways.
And began talking on the phone every spare moment.
Then I started going over to her townhouse, after he daughter went to sleep, and never staying until morning (that would not be proper).
It would be almost three weeks before we had our first “official” date.
I spent Thanksgiving and Christmas as her guest at her grandparents’ house.
What started at coffee six years ago turned into a love affair.
I am apart from her today.
I miss her terribly.
I miss the joy of looking at her face, her hazel eyes. I miss burying my face into the mass of those blond curls, the smell of vanilla or coconut that warms me.
As much as it pains me to be apart, we are apart. In more ways than distance.
See, I was able to only give her 10 months of a fairy tale romance before life intervened.
Life, well, it came down hard.
And as much as we were strong individuals who came together to form this really perfect couple, we began to lose ourselves in the grind. Too much happened way to fast, and it got even worse 11 months ago when I lost my mom to cancer.
I suffered in silence a loss she could not comprehend.
And I lashed out when she didn’t understand. I became hyper-critical and hyper-controlling of things that I thought I could control.
When only I needed her shoulder to cry on.
He touch to comfort me.
Her ear to confide in.
I was arrogant; I’m Thom G. and I am in control of my emotions.
I needed serious help.
And I sought help.
Maybe six months too late.
But here I am, on the sixth anniversary of that day when my life changed forever. That day when I met the love of my life, the woman I consider to be my soulmate in this life. The person I know I can love and trust with my wrecked heart.
I miss her terribly.
And, in that, there is joy and there is sorrow. Knowing that she’s in my world.
Just not as close as I’d like her to be.
Not nearly that close.
But it is a test for us, to see if those two strong individuals still have what it takes to come together and form that perfect couple. Two people united in so much trust and passion as to be OK alone – and formidable together.
Our first Christmas together, six years ago, she gave us a journal to pass back and forth to chronicle this love affair. It was a beautiful idea, and there would be days when I would find the journal on my pillow, after we had grown comfortable and exchanged keys (I nearly fumbled the first time I told her I loved her; we were having lunch at my house, and I longed to tell her how I felt. I, instead, told her how much I liked her. We started to walk out to our cars, when in the garage I said, “You know when I said I really liked you? Well I really love you.” Amid the cobwebs and smell of dust and oil, she kissed me and told me she loved me, too).
The last entry I made was the night before we wed; her last entry was the night of our honeymoon.
Just before I left, I re-read every journal entry of our budding love affair, every card we’d ever sent to one another. It filled me with joy.
I left her a very long journal entry and gave it to her.
I took cards with me, to write down, in our absence from each other, how my heart and soul aches to be with her.
“Now and forever.”
That’s how I sign all my cards, for six years now.
She returns cards with “Still Falling.”
I sure hope so.
I love this woman with every atom in my being.
Today is a great day, but a bit sad, too.
Today marks the sixth anniversary of my finding the love of my life. I miss her.
And I’m still falling for her.

The clock's ticking

As I write this, it's 1:15 p.m. in the Midwest - and I've not been to Wal-mart once today.
I realize that it's early, but dad had two doctor appointments and a P.T. appointment. He's resting quietly.
Meaning he's got no reason to send me out to Wal-mart.
However, he did mention that he wanted to make a couple of pies.
Bet he doesn't have something.
And I'll have to go to Wal-mart.
Again.
The horror, the horror.