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Something Wonderful

“I don’t know, Terri, these things don’t always work out so well.”

“Well, just think of it as a chance to meet somebody new. I think you’ll like her.”

My friend, Terri, was trying to set me up on a “blind date” with one of her fellow nursing school students.  I wasn’t opposed to the idea, having found nurses (and women wanting to go into nursing) generally to be very admirable and likable people. I was a little nervous about it, but Terri was persuasive. I made the call and suggested a place to meet.  And so it was that at lunch time on November 15, 1984 I found myself waiting at the Fish Tale Restaurant near the Cal State Long Beach campus waiting for a complete stranger to show up.

Well, the stranger did show up. Her name was Kathy, and to be completely honest I don’t remember too many details of that first meeting.  I remember that I liked her right away. She was personable and unpretentious; easy to talk to. We ordered lunch and chatted; probably a fairly typical “getting to know you” conversation.  I know I talked some about the new job/career I was about to start with the Social Security Administration.  As we were leaving I gave her a bag of homemade cookies I had baked the night before just for the occasion, and we agreed to get in touch again.Image1-11_edited-1

To make a very long story very short, we did get in touch again. In fact we continued to stay in touch constantly after that. We were married two years to the day after that first fortuitous meeting.  Now, 25 years later we are celebrating our 23rd wedding anniversary, having shared a life together that at times has been incredibly blessed: with children, family, good careers, adventures, shared joys… and at times has been extremely difficult and challenging. Through it all, that remarkable young woman named Kathy has been the rock around which my life has played out.

I’m not sure, now, what it was that our friend Terri saw in us that formed the potential for a lasting relationship.  It wasn’t an obvious pairing. We were seven years apart in age, with quite different life experiences to that point.  Perhaps it was as simple as her recognizing two people who would be able to get past the superficial differences and grow from each others strengths.   Whatever it was, it worked. Twenty-three years of loving and faithful marriage testifies to that.

Now that I am older I have come to realize that there are certain specific moments in a person’s life when everything changes, for better or worse.  Often these are moments or decisions that seem unimportant or trivial at the time they happen.  Only in retrospect can one see the huge impact that a seemingly small thing has on the course of a life.

A young woman walks into a restaurant early on a Thursday afternoon in Southern California.

Our eyes meet.

And something wonderful happens.

My life had taken on a whole new course I could never have envisioned. I had been changed forever.

Kathy, I know you will read this at some point. (I think you and Mike are the only people who read my blog regularly.)  I’m still hopeful that we’ll be able to do something grand to mark our official Silver Anniversary in two years.  But for now, I just want to say thank you so much for 25 wonderful years together.  Your love has been my greatest blessing ever.

Happy 23rd Anniversary!


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On Being a Vet

Today is Veteran’s Day, a holiday that seems to be getting more attention these days as a new generation of veterans has been returning from long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  It is good to see the expressions of thanks and gratitude, coming even from those who are philosophically or politically opposed to the wars themselves, to these brave young service members who have sacrificed so much to protect our country’s security.  And to which I add my own sincere, “Thank you, veterans! I appreciate your military service so much.”

As a Vietnam-era Navy veteran myself, I always view the holiday with somewhat mixed emotions.  I have always been proud of my Navy service; proud to be a vet and to have participated in a small way in the defense of our democracy. But I have to admit that when I joined I didn’t do it so much for altruistic reasons, but rather because I was looking for a way to get my young life on track, get ‘out of the box” and have some adventures.  “Join the Navy and See the World,” as he recruiting slogan at the time put it.

Well, I did, “see the world” (or at least a decent portion of it).  I put in a lot of hard work, learned military discipline, experienced danger and, yes, made some sacrifices.  But overall I got a lot more out of it than I put into it.  I learned more about life and the world we live in during those four years than in any other period of my life, made lifelong friends, and had experiences that I’ll remember forever.

So for those who say thanks for being a vet, I say “You’re welcome; thank you for noticing.”  But I also have to say that I am thankful for having had the opportunity to serve.

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Sunny Valley

Driving down the Interstate through southwestern Oregon last Friday, a light rain falling, we drove past a sign that said “Sunny Valley.”  “That’s an optimistic naming,” I thought to myself, given that due to its location the place probably had many more days such as we were experiencing – cloudy, perhaps some precipitation, very little sun, than actual sunny days.

Someone else in the car commented on the irony, and I responded “Well, I doubt there are too many ‘Cloudy’ Valleys around,” which elicited a few chuckles as we all recognized the truth that human nature makes us want to emphasis the positive- what is possible as opposed to what is likely.  So a name like Sunny Valley just suits us better than Cloudy Valley, regardless of the actual climate.

Today I checked the Geographic Names Information System, and, sure enough, there are no places in the USA named Cloudy Valley. There are actually fewer Sunny Valleys than I would have thought, though. A few valleys in the northeast, the populated place in Oregon, and several schools, plus one church.

Sometimes when I am going through difficulties I need to keep this in mind.  Even if things are looking cloudy right now, at some point there will be another sunny day.  If I’m still focused on the clouds I might forget to enjoy the sun.

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Dreaming Incomplete

I don’t have vivid dreams all that often, and remember them well even less frequently. But the other night I had one that really got me thinking. It was pretty vague (like most dreams are), but in the dream I had two big projects I was trying to get finished, and could not get the stuff I needed to finish them the way I wanted to. One was some kind of information device – like a giant book or something, and I needed the right letters/words to finish it off. I had several people helping me; they kept bringing me different letters and words and I was saying “no, no, not that one; not that one.”

Patterson - Hanging InThe other project was a large building of some sort, not a house but a factory or something like that. Again, I had people bringing me different panels to finish off the final wall but none of them worked. We kept trying different panels, and I was getting frustrated and the helpers were getting frustrated with me.

I never resolved either problem; then I woke up.

Now, I’m not big on the interpretation of dreams, but it seems to me that this one clearly has to do with some issues I’m working through in my own life. I have some major health problems right now, mostly related to severely limited lung capacity brought on as a complication of the bone marrow transplant used to cure my lymphoma eight years ago. As a result I get extremely short of breath upon any physical activity. This makes it difficult for me to function, either at work or in just taking care of daily activities. Needless to say, this is a source of great frustration for me.

I have long said that despite my now ten-year long battle with cancer and the after-effects of the treatment that I have no complaints about my life. I’ve been blessed in many ways: with a wonderful, loving family, opportunities for rewarding work, and many chances to travel, have some amazing experiences, and see many marvelous sights. The current frail state of my health has me pondering if I could perhaps be in the last stage of that life. I think the completed portions of my projects in the dream represent my life up until now: all good and satisfying, yet incomplete. The work I’m doing in the dream represents where I am now – trying to “finish well” but increasingly vexed by my own limitations and frailties.

I’m not sure what to do about it, but my dream tells me I have a deep psychological need I need to deal with.

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EA discouraging used Sims 3 game sales with registration

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In my case, my son thinks he “maybe” registered the game using one of his email addresses, but can’t remember the password. Now I’ve picked up the game and started playing around with it, but soon realized that the appeal and replayability is limited without access to the extra content available on the game’s web site, which you can’t get without registering the game. When I tried to register, I got the same “invalid code” and runaround the author describes in the linked article.

When are these stupid companies going to realize that treating their paying customers like criminals and/or lambs to be fleeced is not the way to build customer loyalty.  Their actions do next to nothing to discourage piracy, but make it well-nigh impossible for paying customers to get the $50 worth of enjoyment they paid for. I’ve always been a law-abiding citizen, but I swear, due to all this DRM and content-control B.S. they are pulling I’m am on the verge of declaring myself in active civil disobedience against copyright.

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