The Voice

It’s an early Saturday morning.  I put on my uniform, grab my glove, and jump on my bike.  I’m riding to my team’s season opener; a double header!  There is still a slight chill from the night before, it is only early spring.  The dew is thick on the grass and the sun is just starting to warm the air.  It is a perfect day for baseball.

Over the next four hours I play pitcher, catcher, third base, and even outfield; depending on what the coach and team needed.  Every catch, every throw, every hit and play I made I heard a voice in the stands.  I was embarrassed by this voice.  It was loud and drew attention to me I didn’t want.  I did not understand.

Love, given freely and unconditionally.  Wisdom, a reservoir of life experiences both successes and failures.  Courage, supporting a family never knowing what the future will hold.

Strong hands held me as I took my first steps.  They protected me from harm and guided me in life.  They sacrificed and provided for me, to afford me opportunities they never had.  Countless hours spent running and chasing and playing and having fun.  Zipping a ball back and forth in the front yard at what felt like a 100 miles an hour!  Knowing to miss the catch would be a nasty shot in the face and the pride inside knowing I was returning the same.

These were the moments I cherished most with my father.  I imagine he might feel the same.  The time he invested and the love he poured into me, to prepare me for what I thought was just a game…ended up being my entire life.

I think back to that voice I remember hearing in the stands.  The one that was cheering me on after every good play I made and bolstering my spirits after the ones that slipped by.  That voice that I dreaded to hear because I was ashamed of the looks I got from my teammates for having such a loud supporter.  I understand now.

That voice was loud because it was proud.  Proud of me, his son, who he has poured himself into and is watching face down life’s challenges with a head held high; even if only on a baseball field.  Finally, at 32 years old and a 6-year-old daughter of my own I realize how lucky I was to have such a strong supporter.  No longer does the memory of that voice make me feel ashamed or embarrassed, but I am grateful and proud.  Thank you dad for being that voice.  For always believing in me and being in my corner.

Happy Father’s Day.

Love,

Your Son

Age Be Damned

Knees are long since shot

Back moans in protest lifting his weight

There is more white in his beard each day

He should be a body at rest, but all he knows is motion

 

The muscle memory runs deep within his core

Legs, once iron pistons tearing up meters of pitch with everystride

Arms were battering rams; shoving aside torso’s in his wake

Heart, still pounding to a warrior’s beat

 

But like Charon at the Styx, time has taken its fare

Not in coin, but in speed and strength and wind

Young pups nip at his heels

Passes, runs, tackles…all happening almost faster than he can follow

Hits, once dismissed as a light tap, fall as a staggering blow

 

His rational brain says “Stop! Enough! We are done!”

But his warrior spirit is unyielding

Emotions of battles past, of matches won, overwhelm the logical centers of his brain

“Once more” the warrior says as the cleats pull on

“Just this match” he lies, as the jersey slides over him

“We are NOT done yet” he snarls as rationality crumbles

 

He stands on the pitch, staring down an opposition who mirrors his past

His body marked by countless matches, to their paltry few

“They think we are weak” his warrior voice whispers

“We are no threat” he adds with disdain for any who think so

So there he stands as he has hundreds of times before

Brothers on either side of him, bearing their own scars and theweight of time

Challengers wait across the open pitch, they expect an easy win

They are about to be taught a lesson all young pups must learn

Wisdom and experience will triumph every time

The anticipation puts a great-white smile on his face

“Bring it!” screams his warrior heart

Author Credit: Dennis Noonan

Editor: Nathan Payne

Lost Boy

First there was one. He was the center of his fathers world. He was the sun. 

Catch in the yard, horse rides to bed. The childhood joys, Love is what bred.

Then there were two. The first boy still had joy in his life and a brother made new. His father was his hero, a man of music and soul.  Chasing a dream to be a musician, his ambition was bold.

Little did this father know, with two boys and a wife his responsibility did grow. Working a 9-5 he saw his dream soon fade and into depression did he quickly slip away.  Drowning in the bottle begun, the whole world changed for this first born son.

At six years old responsibility was born. Duty called and the inner instinct to look after his own had formed. A brother and two cousins were under his care; making pbj’s, getting juice and water, applying bandaids, all he would bear.  His hero and grandfather in the other room, there for emergencies but beneath the bottle all often and too soon. 

Then there were three. A new start desired we attempted to flee. A young family trying to find its way. Traveled across the country in seven long days.  Now the first son was accustomed to the task. With two younger brothers he protected and loved. Naive to the sacrifices he made, just thought it his job. 

The spiral continued and the pain multiplied. Three young boys wondered why their mother so often cried. Little did they know if not for them she’d have died. A grit and determination only a mother can summon. We moved again with a fourth brother coming.

Finally at ten the eldest knew. Time to confront his hero and defend his mother too. He mustered up all his courage and strength, he marched to his father with tears in his eyes. A cry and a plea to leave her alone, never realizing that wrath would change to his son.

Divorce soon followed that fateful night. A broken family clinging to life. The oldest son grew into a natural leader full of grit. Guiding his brothers, supporting his mother, unwavering and steadfast through all of it. He was the rock. He had to be. If he wasn’t strong for them then who would be? If you ask him his path he has no regrets. Proud of the man he became although he chooses to forget. Because deep down inside, behind the mask of duty and pride. Behind the responsibility and sacrifice and honor; he hides. A Lost Boy who misses his hero resides.

Bubbles Underwater

Long have we pondered the unknown.  What is out there?  What is left to be discovered?  The frontier ever eluding our grasp, always beyond the horizon.  I am determined to find out…  It was a rigorous training and selection process.  It required investment of large quantities of my own personal funds.  The time had finally come to test the skills and training I have been honing over several weeks and brave a new atmosphere.  The early morning temperature was cool…the environment much colder than when most choose to explore the unknown.  We began the difficult process of donning our EPS or environmental protection suit.  Some new fancy material called neoprene or something.  I’ll leave that to the scientists…  All I know is the thing was a pain in the ass to put on and I felt like my entire body was caught in a Chinese finger trap!  I think it had 7mm written on the cuff…whatever that means.  I have to wear this backpack with a cylinder on it and hoses coming out to gauges and a mouthpiece my trainer called a regulator…basically the thing that keeps me from dying.

Finally, the team is suited up and does their final gear checks.  We make our way down to the entry platform…  I wouldn’t be surprised if some of us were saying a few final prayers.  Anyways, the time has come to take that giant stride.  With my air breather in my mouth and a hand on my mask, I step off the ledge and take the plunge into another world.  I tap my head to let my team know I’m ok…standard protocol I learned in training…I must have looked like a pro for a minute!  Little did everyone else know I was sweating bullets inside as the cold flooded into the spaces between my body and my suit; sending shivers down my spine.  We are all waiting on the surface now for our team lead to give the signal to descend.  The anticipation has my adrenaline spiking and I try to steady my breathing and remember my training.  Just the kind of situation a rookie like me would screw something up in…the first descent.  I get my focus back and it’s time to adjust our buoyancy and plunge into the deep.  I’m just making sure I breathe calmly and clear the pressure in my ears so I don’t get the squeeze.  I heard about a guy who went down his first time and got the squeeze and never was able to walk right again…something about his equilibrium being all messed up.  Didn’t even get any VA benefits or anything…a real bummer.  So far, I’m flying down smooth and all of a sudden, a whole new world is opening up before my eyes.  I keep checking my gauges and trying to not forget my training but there is new life around me I’d never seen before.  They were coming up to me and checking me out just as much as I was checking them out.  Thin slender looking things with eyes and tiny wings on either side making waves with their bodies to propel them around.  Very strange creatures…I can’t figure out if there is any hidden intelligence within them or just pure animal instinct.  They weren’t in any of the safety briefs so I don’t think they can hurt me.

The team lead gets all of our attention and signals for us to follow his lead.  They gave us these giant webbed feet to wear over our boots to help move through the dense atmosphere…so I start fluttering my feet to propel myself after the lead.  I’m starting to feel the chill of the environment.  My hands have the thinnest layer of protection to retain enough dexterity to operate my life support equipment and they are starting to feel the numbing sensation of being submerged in a bucket of ice water.  I remember my training and clench my fists a few times and use my arms to move to help raise my core temperature a little.  As we travel along, deeper into this other world, I am seeing relics of a time long past.  It is almost as if another generation lived here before the environment was overtaken by this alien substance.  There is a school bus, a boat, a Blackhawk helicopter, even a basketball court!

I have gotten so enthralled with this new horizon I am conquering and the amazing sights it has to offer I realize I haven’t looked at my gauges in…well I don’t even know how long.  I check my watch and 25 minutes has already gone by and we only planned for a 30-minute trip and I have no idea if we are near our extraction point.  I check my air pressure and am down to about 700lbs and know I’ll burn threw that in a matter of minutes if I don’t chill out and relax my breathing.  I spot my lead and he seems to not be panicked so that helps me settle down a bit.  He gives everyone the signal to start heading up but to take it nice and slow…something about breathing in this new environment and pressure changes can damage your lungs if you go up to fast.  I check my gauges and have about 550lbs of air left and we are supposed to always have at least 500lbs left for emergencies so I think we will be ok.  As I’m slowly rising to the surface the enormity of what I just did hits me and everything around me slows down to half speed.  We make it to the surface without incident.  I have just completed my first dive!  But…if you asked me what I will keep with me forever…in that moment of ascent and all the team around me…it was the bubbles.  Seeing all the bubbles exiting our life support systems and rising to the surface breaking apart and reforming as they traveled with the sun’s rays beaming down and splitting through them into a prism of colors…that is what I’ll remember.  The bubbles underwater.

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Mia’s Fire

Opening day of dive season and the weekend was perfect!  We arrived early Saturday morning and didn’t even bother setting up camp.  After a pre-dive brief we were all eager to suit up in our neoprene and hit the water!  You would think that camping was a second thought at best…and to be honest, it was.  I have had the pleasure of countless nights spent under the stars and there is one common experience that turns a night outdoors into camping.  It is the thing that brings everyone together and ignites the conversation of the day that goes well into the night.  It is where we dry our boots and warm our souls.  We were fortunate this night.  Little did we know but we were about to experience the most beautiful campfire of our lives.  I think it is because we needed a reminder that we weren’t just diving, but we were camping too.  A glowing bed of coals at least a foot deep and twice that wide.  Burning embers that if given a little more oxygen could smelt lead.  Every log placed tenderly with care and in perfect precision.  This was the product of the most unexpected of characters.  A petite young woman named Mia.  She saved us from just sleeping outside to having a true camping experience.  This is Mia’s fire.

 

Mia’s Fire

The fire burns at perfect tempo and time.

A sacred ember planted by the Italian “mine”.

The heat, the smoke, the dark orange glow.

The blue flame dancing in a nightly show.

It brings us together and warms the soul.

We share fellowship together and the stories grow.

Mia has tended this fires heart.

With grace and deft, from the start.

Many doubted, nobody knew.

We all are thankful that Mia’s fire grew.

-Thank you to Mia and Dillon for the wonderful photos!

 

Breakfast for Dinner!

Two eggs omelette filled with maple bacon sausage, caramelized red onion, fresh basil, Parmesan, and diced tomato topped with a little sour cream and chives!

Storing my maple bacon sausage and red onion for more yummyness another day! But…if you want to know the secret to AMAZINGLY flavorful caramelized red onions…dice them fine, heat about 1tbsp of real butter in a nonstick sauté pan on med-low heat and when sizzling add your red onion. Cook on medium heat (have patience) and let it start to char a little. Season with a pinch of kosher salt and generous fresh ground black pepper. Finally, hit them with a splash of balsamic vinegar and let it cook off…you will want to eat them by themselves with a spoon! Enjoy 🙂

As I Lie Awake

I open my eyes. I see my beautiful spouse lying next to me, still sleeping contentedly. It is a Saturday morning and I am the first to rise. Our daughter is still snuggled in bed with closed eyes. I go to the kitchen with a thought in mind. To get my favorite coffee beans and give them a fresh grind. As the water heats I look outside, a perfectly manicured lawn and white picket fence is where I reside. I contemplate the American dream, a perfect life is what it seems.

My cup freshly brewed, the delicious aroma in the air. I take my first sip and so begins this nightmare.
The taste is bitter and brine. My eyes pop open for the second time. I realize before was all a dream. Reality setting in is not what it seemed.
I am a divorced middle aged man, with a patchy lawn and a weathered fence that can barely stand.
I still have blessings and purpose in my life, but I am also lonely, without a wife.
My daughter is my shimmering moon, a gift for my heart, in my wake of despair.
I am finding myself again, through being a father, a chef, a diver, a sailor, a writer…these things are my air.

I close my eyes after a long day. My mind is blank and I drift away. The next time I open my eyes, from my sailboat on the open ocean is a majestic sunrise. My daughter has grown up and left the nest. I’ve pursued my passions, and followed my dreams. Am I asleep or awake? Maybe both it seems…

Music

I am tense. It has been a long day. My muscles are knotted and tight. My body is rigid and my mind is weary. I am a single father. I just worked all day, picked up my little girl, made dinner, lunches for tomorrow, did bath and bedtime routine, and cleaned up the kitchen and any other things needing attention. My muscles are knotted and tight. My body is rigid and my mind is weary. It has been a long day. I am tense.

The waves wash over me. I open my ears, close my eyes, and clear my mind. The sound flows into me and reverberates through my bones from my head down to my toes. The bass notes hit and penetrate my core. I feel the rigidity leave me. The tensions relax. I feel the pounding of the beat pulsing in my head and find a calmness and a peace. The melody plays; feeding my body and mind with rejuvenating rhythm. The instrumental begins; strumming the strings of my heart and stirring chords deep within my soul.

I think about my beautiful little girl sleeping soundly in her bed without a care in the world. I take a deep breath with a long exhale. I am aware and grateful for the tremendous blessings I have been bestowed. I am relaxed and calm. I have been restored. The sacrifice isn’t as heavy as it was and more than worth it. I am ready for a new day. Music is my cure.

Mushroom Gravy Chicken

Decided to try the meal subscription service “Hello Fresh” and this wasthe first meal I’ve had. Not only was it very easy to make, all the ingredients were fresh, the flavors were delicious! The lemon and arugula balance and cut perfectly the richness of the mushroom gravy and the couscous is a perfect vessel to soak up the gravy with bites of chicken!