September 11, 2001.
There are only a few dates in a person’s life that can be recalled in perfect clarity. Dates where your memories are supercharged by the emotions felt that day, dates that haunt your dreams and whose events can be replayed like an old video.
My wedding day is one such day for me. The other is not nearly so happy: September 11, 2001.
It was my first day off from work in nearly two months, and I rewarded myself by sleeping in that morning. I was sitting at my kitchen table, a cup of coffee and the morning newspaper (yes, back then, a newspaper was not unusual) in front of me when my wife hollered from the living room. “A plane just hit the World Trade Center!” she yelled. “It’s on the TV. Come and see!”
I’m ashamed to admit that my first reaction was that it was a bad accident, but one I had been expecting for years. After all, those two skyscrapers jutted out, almost into the air lanes at the very southern tip of Manhattan. That no pilot had accidentally run into them before I considered a miracle.
I went into the living room, coffee in hand. My wife had the Today show on. They were showing the smoke pouring from the building via a helicopter shot and Matt Lauer was babbling about the WWII bomber that ran into the Empire State Building. I remember thinking that as much as I had dreaded a pilot losing his way and flying into one of those towers, I couldn’t wrap my head around how one had done so on that morning. The weather seemed so perfect, the skies so clear, that it seemed impossible that a pilot couldn’t have seen where the hell he was flying.
Fast forward a bit, and the first reports came in that air traffic controllers had lost contact with the plane before the crash. “Maybe the pilot had a stroke,” I remarked to my wife. It was 9:01 am. I remember the time because I had glanced at the wall clock as I turned to go back into the kitchen. I was hungry and about to root around for some food.
2 minutes later, my wife was screaming, “Another plane just crashed into the South Tower!” It was the moment our world changed. Because at that moment, I knew this wasn’t an accident. It was a planned, coordinated attack on the very heart of our economic might, on symbols of our national strength. Someone had just declared war on the United States.
Do you remember how you felt at the moment you first realized that? I do. I was pissed off. And confused, because like most Americans I had no idea who it might be. I had never heard of Al Queada, and never in a million years would I have guessed a bunch of cave dwelling goat herders could be sophisticated enough to use our own aircraft to attack us.
After that, of course, came the mad scramble. I called my store, told my employees to lock up and head home for the day. Called my DM to tell him what I did and why (like a lot of people, he was already at work and had no idea what was going on yet). And then the phone lines were jammed – nobody could a call through, which just added to my wife’s anxiety. I wasn’t certain if it was another attack or just everyone in the country trying to call one another, but I wasn’t taking chances. We raced to the school to grab our kids, just in case this was a precursor to a larger attack.
Of course, there were two more attacks that morning: flight 77 rammed into the Pentagon, and the heroes of flight 93 averted a major disaster by taking back their plane and crashing it before it reached Washington.
At 9:59, the South Tower collapsed – and like everyone else, I was shocked. One plane brought down a 1000 foot skyscraper? A few minutes later, the North Tower followed it’s sister to its death.
I was numb. I was angry. I was afraid.
And I wanted whoever had done this to be beaten to a bloody pulp, heads ripped from their necks, a pike driven so far up their asses that when it rained they could get a colonic.
When a date is so traumatic, so vivid, that it can be shared by a generation, it is a milestone event, a moment in history that can galvanize and define nations. Such is September 11.
God bless those who lost their lives that day and the men and women who toiled for weeks after to search for survivors and perished as a result.
May God bless the United States.
Some time back, the left uncorked a nutty idea: parents weren’t essential cogs in society. Over the last couple of weeks, this ugly theme has reappeared as a talking point in several leftist articles with wide circulation, all arguing that child rearing is better left to government overlords. Indeed, we are again being told that thousands of generations of humans have been poorly served by parents, because the reality is that “it takes a village” to properly care for a child – if that child is even deemed viable in the womb by those overlords. This seems like yet another attempt at destruction of the most essential building block of society, the nuclear family.
Now, for a quick detour. Why, you may ask, would anyone want to destroy families? The answer is simple, if you understand history. The first thing to understand is the roots of modern liberalism are found in the ideals of socialism, and modern socialists (whether they understand it or not) are promoting a soft communism. They may be willing to swap out the dictator for some sort of proletarian government, but make no mistake: they believe all of society’s ills can be cured by government. Their contention is that no government, regardless how well intentioned, can survive so long as private, unregulated ownership of property and capital is allowed to exist.
The nuclear family has been seen as an existential threat to this ideal since the very first promulgation of their warped philosophy. It was Engels who wrote an entire book on the subject, in order to reinforce his and Marx’s idea that the family was a construct of capitalist societies that existed primarily to ensure the preservation of individual wealth. They then further fantasized that governments and western religions encouraged the nuclear family, as a way of ensuring that children were indoctrinated with the approved morals and views of government.
Taken in that light, it isn’t terribly surprising to the rest of us that the family is one of the left’s foremost targets. So long as the family unit exists, the possibility of a socialist utopia cannot. The two are mutually exclusive.
Over the past 50 years, the left has launched a legislative assault on the traditional family. Liberalized divorce and abortion laws have removed most legal impediments to dissolving a family. The expansion of child welfare agencies and redefinition of what constitutes abuse have left parents who want to discipline their children at the state’s mercy. Increased participation in school curricula and operations by federal and state legislatures have ended parental control over their children’s education. They have even redefined the family with the legalization of gay marriage and making gay adoptions permissible.
While this assault on the family has recorded casualties (we’ve gone from 87% of children being in a traditional family to 68% in the last 50 years), the fact is that the normative family remains the standard in American society. But if your goal is to further the socialist ideal, to focus on the dubitable positives of equality of outcome, the family remains as your greatest threat. Modern socialists realize they cannot emulate their Marxist heroes and end the family by decree, so they instead have instigated a propaganda campaign to persuade us that parenting is not the most important job a person can have.
This line of attack, while perhaps not coordinated, has seen a dramatic uptick in the last few weeks. The first of these “thought pieces” that came to my attention was by Daniel Enberg in Slate. In Parenting Doesn’t Matter, he writes:
…what does affect a child’s future? Twin studies say a large proportion of the differences between children’s cognitive abilities, personalities, and chances of ending up with mental illness (among other long-term outcomes) can be explained solely by their DNA. And most of the rest appears to come from random chance, quirks in their biology, and specific non-parent-related life experiences: the teachers they had, or the friends they made along the way.
The entire article is a screed about how, even though he’s the father of an infant, he doesn’t see how anything he does – including things such as helping his daughter choose her friends, selecting her classes, her extra curricular activities, even simply reading her a bedtime story – will make any difference in her life. As he puts it, nothing he does “means she’ll still be shitting her pants at her high school graduation.”
The second piece was Ruth Marcus’ well publicized op-ed in the Washington Post. It is one of the most reprehensible articles I have ever read. It is nothing less than a full throated endorsement of eugenics, solely for a prospective mother’s “convenience.” She wrote:
I’m going to be blunt here: That was not the child I wanted. That was not the choice I would have made. You can call me selfish, or worse, but I am in good company. The evidence is clear that most women confronted with the same unhappy alternative would make the same decision.
Indeed, further on in the piece, she acknowledges that she foresees abortion as being the key to allowing eugenics to become a new societal norm (not unlike Nazi Germany’s “Final Solution”):
Technological advances in prenatal testing pose difficult moral choices about what, if any, genetic anomaly or defect justifies an abortion. Nearsightedness? Being short? There are creepy, eugenic aspects of the new technology…
But hey, if the mother chooses to kill her family before it even begins, that’s not society’s concern, right? I would fully expect an avowed leftist like Marcus to pen such drivel and assume some sort of perverted moral high ground with it.
Then there’s “How to Raise a Boy” by Will Leitch. Now, I enjoy Will’s writing when he sticks to his bailiwick, which is sports. But for some reason, he felt it necessary to provide the rest of us his take on parenting. Many others have taken his piece to be a commentary on other leftist tropes: white male privilege, the need to end “gun culture,” the virtue of being a beta male and so forth. But in reality, he supports Enberg’s view that parenting really amounts to little more than providing food and shelter for his offspring, not moral guidance or education.
There are things that I think I’m supposed to show them…that I don’t necessarily agree with but don’t want to stand in the way of. What do I know, you know? Every parent is only pretending that he or she has any real answers…this lesson of self-reliance is only an illusion. I can tell myself that any “success” I’ve had has been because of “hard work” and “perseverance,” but I’m kidding myself.
So, even though Leitch acknowledges that his parent’s example and instruction, their constant admonishment to “work hard and study hard” may be the reason he is able to earn a comfortable living as writer, he is conflicted as to the reason. Why? Because the combination of a liberal education and liberal thought has told him that his success is solely dependant on his DNA.
And in the end, that is what liberalism wants us all to believe. Not what our history and experience tells us. They won’t be happy until something similar to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is society’s new normal – and they know that can’t exist so long as even one traditional family exists.
I just found out today marks the 8th anniversary of this blog’s launch.
8 amazing, incredible years that have seen a lot of change. Personally and professionally for myself, and profound for our country.
Over these 8 years, over 5,000 of you have decided to hop aboard. I’ve typed out over 425,000 words, spread out over more than 500 posts – and for some reason, ya’ll keep coming back for more. Thank you, each and every one of you, for following my wonderings and observations.
Here’s to another 8 years, God willing!
(Reprinted from someone who wants to remain anonymous, who farms, writes well and actually tried this)
I had this idea that I could rope a deer, put it in a stall, feed it up on corn for a couple of weeks, then kill it and eat it. The first step in this adventure was getting a deer. I figured that, since they congregate at my cattle feeder and do not seem to have much fear of me when we are there (a bold one will sometimes come right up and sniff at the bags of feed while I am in the back of the truck not 4 feet away), it should not be difficult to rope one, get up to it and toss a bag over its head (to calm it down) then hog tie it and transport it home.
I filled the cattle feeder then hid down at the end with my rope. The cattle, having seen the roping thing before, stayed well back. They were not having any of it. After about 20 minutes, my deer showed up– 3 of them. I picked out a likely looking one, stepped out from the end of the feeder, and threw my rope. The deer just stood there and stared at me. I wrapped the rope around my waist and twisted the end so I would have a good hold.
The deer still just stood and stared at me, but you could tell it was mildly concerned about the whole rope situation. I took a step towards it, it took a step away. I put a little tension on the rope, and then received an education. The first thing that I learned is that, while a deer may just stand there looking at you funny while you rope it, they are spurred to action when you start pulling on that rope.
That deer EXPLODED. The second thing I learned is that pound for pound, a deer is a LOT stronger than a cow or a colt. A cow or a colt in that weight range I could fight down with a rope and with some dignity. A deer– no Chance. That thing ran and bucked and twisted and pulled. There was no controlling it and certainly no getting close to it. As it jerked me off my feet and started dragging me across the ground, it occurred to me that having a deer on a rope was not nearly as good an idea as I had originally imagined. The only upside is that they do not have as much stamina as many other animals.
A brief 10 minutes later, it was tired and not nearly as quick to jerk me off my feet and drag me when I managed to get up. It took me a few minutes to realize this, since I was mostly blinded by the blood flowing out of the big gash in my head. At that point, I had lost my taste for corn-fed venison. I just wanted to get that devil creature off the end of that rope.
I figured if I just let it go with the rope hanging around its neck, it would likely die slow and painfully somewhere. At the time, there was no love at all between me and that deer. At that moment, I hated the thing, and I would venture a guess that the feeling was mutual. Despite the gash in my head and the several large knots where I had cleverly arrested the deer’s momentum by bracing my head against various large rocks as it dragged me across the ground, I could still think clearly enough to recognize that there was a small chance that I shared some tiny amount of responsibility for the situation we were in. I didn’t want the deer to have to suffer a slow death, so I managed to get it lined back up in between my truck and the feeder – a little trap I had set before hand…kind of like a squeeze chute. I got it to back in there and I started moving up so I could get my rope back.
Did you know that deer bite? They do! I never in a million years would have thought that a deer would bite somebody, so I was very surprised when ….. I reached up there to grab that rope and the deer grabbed hold of my wrist. Now, when a deer bites you, it is not like being bit by a horse where they just bite you and slide off to then let go. A deer bites you and shakes its head–almost like a pit bull. They bite HARD and it hurts.
The proper thing to do when a deer bites you is probably to freeze and draw back slowly. I tried screaming and shaking instead. My method was ineffective.
It seems like the deer was biting and shaking for several minutes, but it was likely only several seconds. I, being smarter than a deer (though you may be questioning that claim by now), tricked it. While I kept it busy tearing the tendons out of my right arm, I reached up with my left hand and pulled that rope loose.
That was when I got my final lesson in deer behavior for the day.
Deer will strike at you with their front feet. They rear right up on their back feet and strike right about head and shoulder level, and their hooves are surprisingly sharp… I learned a long time ago that, when an animal -like a horse –strikes at you with their hooves and you can’t get away easily, the best thing to do is try to make a loud noise and make an aggressive move towards the animal. This will usually cause them to back down a bit so you can escape.
This was not a horse. This was a deer, so obviously, such trickery would not work. In the course of a millisecond, I devised a different strategy. I screamed like a woman and tried to turn and run. The reason I had always been told NOT to try to turn and run from a horse that paws at you is that there is a good chance that it will hit you in the back of the head. Deer may not be so different from horses after all, besides being twice as strong and 3 times as evil, because the second I turned to run, it hit me right in the back of the head and knocked me down.
Now, when a deer paws at you and knocks you down, it does not immediately leave. I suspect it does not recognize that the danger has passed. What they do instead is paw your back and jump up and down on you while you are laying there crying like a little girl and covering your head.
I finally managed to crawl under the truck and the deer went away.
Now for the local legend. I was pretty beat up. My scalp was split open, I had several large goose eggs, my wrist was bleeding pretty good and felt broken (it turned out to be just badly bruised) and my back was bleeding in a few places, though my insulated canvas jacket had protected me from most of the worst of it. I drove to the nearest place, which was the Co-Op. I got out of the truck, covered in blood and dust and looking like hell. The guy who ran the place saw me through the window and came running out yelling, “What happened?”
I have never seen any law in the state of Kansas that would prohibit an individual from roping a deer. I suspect that this is an area that they have overlooked entirely. Knowing, as I do, the lengths to which law enforcement personnel will go to exercise their power, I was concerned that they may find a way to twist the existing laws to paint my actions as criminal. I swear… not wanting to admit that I had done something monumentally stupid played no part in my response. I told him “I was attacked by a deer”. I did not mention that at the time I had a rope on it. The evidence was all over my body. Deer prints on the back of my jacket where it had stomped all over me and a large deer print on my face where it had struck me there. I asked him to call somebody to come get me. I didn’t think I could make it home on my own. He did. Later that afternoon, a game warden showed up at my house and wanted to know about the deer attack. Surprisingly, deer attacks are a rare thing and wildlife and parks was interested in the event. I tried to describe the attack as completely and accurately as I could. I was filling the grain hopper and this deer came out of nowhere and just started kicking the hell out of me and BIT me. It was obviously rabid or insane or something.
EVERYBODY for miles around knows about the deer attack (the guy at the Co-Op has a big mouth). For several weeks people dragged their kids in the house when they saw deer around and the local ranchers carried rifles when they filled their feeders. I have told several people the story, but NEVER anybody around here. I have to see these people every day and as an outsider — a “city folk”. I have enough trouble fitting in without them snickering behind my back and whispering, “There is the dumbass that tried to rope the deer!”
All these events are true so help me God…An Educated Farmer
After a year of what may go down as the dumbest protest in American history, it seems the National Football League is ready to listen to their fans and end the shenanigans, once and for all. The NFLPA should thank them, before any more of their members are made to look like communist sympathizers.
Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick began this hairbrained scheme on September 11, 2016. At the time, I thought it was nothing more than a very idiotic marketing ploy by a former starter whose poor play had landed him on the bench of a bad, and dysfunctional, team. He may have claimed it was to protest police brutality, but his actions since (appearing at press conference in Miami wearing a Fidel Castro t-shirt & drawing little pigs on his socks among them) only bolstered my opinion: either he was a wannabe Che Guevara (but without the cajones), or he was desperately trying to force the league to keep him employed. When the season began with him not having a job and the outcry went up from certain segments of the sports commentariat that Kaepernick “deserved” a job, I felt vindicated. After all, his terrible play the previous three seasons certainly didn’t justify his being on an NFL roster. But that didn’t stop that rather vocal group of commentators from assuring us the only reason Kaepernick was watching the games from his couch was racism.
(As a side note: 22 of 87 NFL quarterback are black, as are 9 of the 32 starters. The NFL, as are all pro sports leagues these days, is the most egalitarian of employers. The only thing that matters is performance on the field, not race or religion.)
The NFL is a league that employs rapists, murderers, drug fiends and wife beaters, among other sundry malcontents. And until a week ago, approximately a quarter of those players were engaging in on-the-field behavior 90% of the country finds reprehensible. The outcry and backlash was the result of a few players who may have thought they were doing something principled, and a bunch of guys who get paid to have their brains routinely bounced around their skulls falling for what President Trump does best: troll.
And that was the insanity of this protest from the get-go: perceived police brutality in American cities is a topic worthy of discussion. But the moment you start using the National Anthem and the US flag as the center of your protest, the cause gets drowned out. It isn’t very positive imagery. Look, I get it: the First Amendment allows political speech involving the national symbols as props. But it doesn’t excuse you from widespread ridicule and scorn when you’re even perceived to be disrespecting them. The result in that case tends to be that your cause gets lost in the noise. Nobody cares, nobody wants to hear it – worse, your cause becomes anti-American. If you need a better example, the Supreme Court rulings that upheld disrespecting the flag as political speech were over the flag burning incidents in the late 1960’s and early 70’s. Does anyone remember what those protests were about? No. All we remember is seeing the images of people burning a flag, and the outrage and anger it sparked.
Prior to the President’s calling out the players, only a handful were engaging in carrying on Kaepernick’s egregious demonstration. But, Trump Derangement Syndrome combined with the idea of team unity, and that Sunday nearly every team was protesting the flag and anthem. The blowback has been fierce, to say the least: attendance and viewership have cratered in the intervening two weeks. The league and networks have been scrambling, and the proposed rule change is a result of all that. Of course, the better option for the NFL might be to forgo the nearly $6 million they get annually from DoD for their contrived displays of patriotism prior to kickoff. But somehow, unless Congress expressly forbids it in the next budget, I don’t see that happening.
As for the players who feel strongly about police brutality and targeting, they have plenty of outlets to do something. After all, these are all multimillionaires with public megaphones in their adopted communities. They can arrange rallies and protest marches, and actually do more than simply stage ridiculous publicity stunts. They can endow scholarships. They can engage in outreach between their communities and the local police departments. Money and fame both talk, and neither is in short supply for a Cam Newton or Marshawn Lynch.
As for Mr. Kaepernick, he gave an interview on Saturday that amounted to him begging for a job. Of course, his girlfriend came out Sunday and tried to claim he was misquoted, but I suppose the cat is out of the proverbial bag now. As I thought from the beginning, he was trying to use the BLM activists to ensure his employment. Rather than celebrating him, they should be seething at this point. He used them, and in the process, turned their protest movement into a mockery of responsible public demonstration, making it a subject of abject ridicule.
As for me, I don’t watch football for political stunts and could care less about them. I tune in on Sundays to watch young men get their brains routinely bounced around their skulls, not unlike the Roman gladiators of old. Much the same as I don’t care a whit about the idiocy of the people who entertain me from Hollywood, the same goes for the ones on the gridiron. So I’ll keep watching, at least until they decide to switch from tackle to flag football.
Update: looks like the NFL isn’t going to force players to stand, only “encourage” them. Whatever, it’s their funeral. -10/11/17
Things that grind my gears:
- Sub-par football players who think they are entitled to an NFL job, simply because they stage lame-brained protests. Also, people who think sub-par football players are entitled to an NFL job, simply because they stage lame-brained protests.
- People who think other people shouldn’t do their job because their name sounds like a guy who’s been dead for 147 years.
- People who think being somewhat conservative automatically makes you a Nazi. Also, people who think being somewhat liberal automatically makes you a communist.
- Customer service reps who seem to care about everything except the customer.
- People who cannot discuss their differences without hurling bricks at each other.
- People who think shooting police officers is good sport.
- Police officers who think everyone is ready to shoot them.
- Gas station attendants who don’t know how to pump gas.
- People who are absolutely certain the only character quality that matters is the pigmentation God gave them.
- Americans who insist they’re something other than an American. For instance, Asian-American, Hispanic-American, Irish-American, Italian-American, African-American, Polish-American, Arab-American, Hindu-American, German-American… Knock it off. You were born here, you’re an American. End Story.
- People who don’t think, but immediately launch into “tribe’ mentality. Nobody is perfect, not even the anointed leader of “your side.” Be real enough to fess up when they mess up.
- Store clerks who can’t do basic math. I mean, nobody ever taught you how to take 10% off a ticketed price? Seriously?
- Fast food employees who somehow think an entry-level job is worth $15 to anyone. Here’s a clue: if the only thing you’re qualified to do is ask “Do you want fries with that?”, you need to get yourself some edumaction. You. Not the government. YOU.
- Public Sector Unions. Heads up: working for the government is a privilege, not a Constitutional right. We – your fellow citizens – hired you because you’re supposed to be the best and the brightest. Prove it.
- The Veteran’s Administration.
- People who think nobody needs a gun, so nobody should own a gun. Hopefully, I’ll never need mine. But if you try to take mine away, you’ll be proving why I need them.
- Idiots who own guns, but leave them around for kids to blow their heads off. Hint: the mattress isn’t a lockbox.
- Cockroaches. Cockroaches annoy the HELL out of me.
- So do skunks.
- Finally, people who treat everything as if it’s a life and death matter. It isn’t, trust me. Learn to laugh a little, even at yourself.
Trust me, you’re funnier than you know.
I sent this to Kentucky Fried Chicken’s corporate headquarters yesterday. Apparently, they thought I was kidding.
On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the best score possible, I would rate your Fallsington, PA store a -10.
The condition of the restaurant appeared unsanitary and unappealing. The waste receptacles were filled to overflowing, it looked as though nobody has swept the floor in days and the counter was sticky. Perhaps someone spilled a soda last month and nobody thought to wipe it up?
Regardless, my family wanted your chicken for dinner, so I soldiered on. Despite it being the typical dinner hour, only one employee was taking orders – and she was also handling the drive-thru window. After waiting 20 minutes to place my order, this poor creature had to inform me that a Kentucky Fried Chicken had run out of… fried chicken. Could I wait ten minutes until the next batch was ready? As I said, my family had their hearts set on your chicken, so of course I said yes.
Ten minutes turned into thirty. I asked to see the manager, but was informed he was not available. I suppose not having a manager might explain the unsatisfactory condition of the restaurant. It could also go a long way toward explaining how a fried chicken restaurant didn’t have any, you know, FRIED CHICKEN. It certainly would explain why I had been standing in your store (no way I was sitting in those filthy excuses for seats) for nearly an hour. Anyway, the employee at the counter did offer me a free soda for my trouble and when I declined (I am a diabetic, as I explained to her), she included a free chocolate cake with my order. How a chocolate cake is any better for a diabetic than a soda is a little difficult for me to comprehend, but I suppose you cover that in employee training somewhere.
Another ten minutes went by, and my order was finally ready. I honestly can not recall the last time I was so thankful to leave a restaurant, even if my wallet was $40 lighter than when I arrived. At least my order was correct. I arrived home tired, hungry, and with a family ready to gnaw off my left arm. Great relief was evident as my wife unpacked the bags and began to plate our long anticipated, desperately desired food. I sat down to my meal, ready to devour every last morsel. I was halfway though my first piece of chicken when, to my horror, I discovered it was bleeding! Yes! Despite taking an hour to cook your world-famous chicken, your store had served my family a salmonella infested bucket of undercooked poultry. Happily, my wife cranked up the oven (because who isn’t happy with a 425 degree oven roasting the house on a 90 degree summer day?), finished cooking our chicken and saved our lives.
Now, I do need to give credit where credit is due. Despite her poor training, lack of support and a curious fascination with her cell phone, the employee at the counter/drive-thru retained enough of her humanity to be genuinely concerned about the situation. Not that she was able to do anything to correct the problems, mind you, but at least she was upset by the entire episode.
I hope to hear back from you within the next 24 hours, with your ideas for ensuring something like this never happens again. It would certainly behoove you to do so, as at 2pm tomorrow this letter will be posted to a number of social media outlets. Thanks in advance for reading this and correcting the situation.
Well, it’s now 5pm tomorrow and still not a peep from Colonel Sanders.
Suffice it to say, I will never eat at KFC again.
I know many people are thoroughly confused about why the power goes out.
As I’m sure many of you know, I’ve dealt with an aggressive case of Crohn’s Disease for almost 26 years. As much as I hate to admit it, I’ve won most of the battles (including a couple when, by all rights, I should not have survived), but the disease is winning the war. That’s why, as of today, I am officially retired.
This hasn’t been an easy decision for me. Willingly giving up my business is one of the most gut-wrenching decisions I’ve ever made. It isn’t one I did on the spur of the moment, but really, my body made the decision for me. I was strongly contemplating it last Fall; by Thanksgiving it was fairly obvious which way I was leaning. I had pretty much made up my mind by New Year’s. My hospitalization in January only served to confirm my decision.
Most people nowadays are at least aware of Crohn’s Disease and know it has something to do with frequent bathroom breaks. That’s a far cry from when I was diagnosed in 1992, when almost nobody had heard of it (I certainly hadn’t). What most of you probably don’t know is all of the other ways Crohn’s can play hell with your life. Over the past 6 years, this disease has shown itself not content with ruining my digestive tract. It’s spread (in order of appearance) to my eyes, my vascular system, my bones, my heart, my lungs and my endocrine system. The most recent organ to feel Crohn’s wrath is my pancreas, which has my blood sugar yo-yo’ing like a hyperactive toddler on a teeter-totter.
Then there’s the chronic fatigue and chronic pain. Sadly, there isn’t much anyone can do about the fatigue. I power through as best I can, but between the sugar spikes and pain I find myself expending energy just to sit upright. As for the pain, literally every joint in my body – from my neck to my ankles – is constantly throbbing, aching and burning. In a way, it’s a good thing: I don’t notice the pain in my gut nearly so much. When it gets unbearable, I’ll take a couple of Tylenol. The doctors have offered me a wonderful cocktail of Tramadol and Flexoril, but as long as I can grin and bear it, I’ll prefer bourbon and rum in my cocktails.
Of course, since I was confirmed legally blind in November I’ve lost my driving privileges. To be honest, that wasn’t a huge blow. I’d noticed months before that my eyesight was failing and drove sparingly. But it’s still just one more reason that retiring now makes sense.
Finally, there is my family to consider. Fortunately, my sons are all doing reasonably well for themselves. But I can’t work myself into my grave so long as my wife is willing to stand by my side. And I’ve cheated death too many times not to feel his grip on my shoulder. Hopefully, God will hold off a while before He decides He needs another Marine to guard the Pearly Gates.
As for what the future holds, well, I don’t really know. I know I need a heart valve replaced; I’ve begun the testing to see if the rest of my body can stand the strain. I suppose I might do more woodworking and fishing. I’ll probably have time to read the 40 or so unread books in my Kindle library. And I suppose we’ll start looking at property in warmer climes. Even though this winter has been relatively mild, the simple fact is my body starts to shut down when the mercury dips below 50°.
So, it’s time to say so long to Rothfeldt Consulting. It’s been a good ride, but all good things must come to an end.
Those of you who have been following my blog for a while should know a few things about me. I am a proud veteran, and I have Crohn’s Disease. And I have been an outspoken critic of the Veteran’s Administration, and the Veteran’s Health Care System in particular. But I try to be fair in my criticisms, and when someone does something right they deserve to be recognized. Such is the case with my recent hospitalization at the East Orange VA Hospital. Following is a letter I wrote to the Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs (Des.), David Shulkin and the Director of the New Jersey Veteran’s Health Care System, Vincent Immiti.
I am a Cold War era veteran who has dealt with the Veteran’s Health Administration since 1994. Over the intervening years, I have had my share of complaints. I have been either an inpatient and/or outpatient recipient of services at multiple hospitals: Ft. Lauderdale, Wilmington (DE), Philadelphia, New York Harbor and, of course, the Lyons and East Orange campuses of the NJVHCS. I am not writing to tell you that rainbows are blooming over the VHA – only a fool would believe that. But I feel that after years of heaping some well-deserved abuse on what has proven to be a dysfunctional system, my most recent experience is deserving of praise for a job well done.
On Saturday, January 21 of this year I was brought into the East Orange Veteran’s Hospital Emergency Room. I have suffered with Crohn’s Disease since 1994 and this was the beginning of yet another hospital stay for me. I was not looking forward to it, as my previous partaking’s of the VHA’s hospitality always left me feeling more as if I were a POW than a patient. Allow me to say, I was pleasantly (as pleasantly as a hospital stay can prompt) surprised by this admission.
It truly was a night and day experience, compared to all my previous hospitalizations. Whereas in the past, my concerns and questions were met with derision or (even worse) indifference, this time I found the medical staff earnestly answering my questions, explaining the anticipated course of therapy and being attentive to my concerns and those of my family. In past hospitalizations, medications would arrive haphazardly without any semblance of a schedule, nurses would be impossible to find, even when called, and doctors acted as if I, the patient, were a burden they would rather not deal with. The only thing they seemed interested in was prescribing high doses of pain killers and moving on to the next victim.
Hospital cleanliness was always a concern, as I could go days without seeing a mop or broom used. As you’re probably aware, Crohn’s patients in the middle of an extreme flare are prone to having accidental, violent bowel movements. In 2009, after once such episode, the nursing staff did eventually come in to change the bedsheets – but with a set of blood-stained ones. Such was the level of contempt that the overall staff seemed to have for the patients in their care.
As veterans, we do not ask for anything special. Every veteran I’ve ever met is proud of our service to our nation and would gladly reenlist should the nation need our services again. As patients, all we’ve ever asked for is to be treated with the basic respect anyone should give another human being. The anger and disgust many of us feel towards the VHA is rooted in the failure of the VHA to recognize and act upon that humanity.
But as I mentioned, this hospitalization was not only what one would expect at any medical facility, but in many ways surpassed even the highest expectations one could have of any hospital. The staff exhibited all the hallmarks of a professional medical organization: courtesy, attentiveness, compassion and competence. Nurse calls were answered promptly, and if an RN was needed but unavailable, the LPN’s explained the situation. My attending physician not only provided timely and pertinent explanations of my care – in terms a layman can understand! – but proved an exceptional coordinator with the specialists I needed (gastroenterology, pulmonology and cardio). Tests that were performed were explained beforehand, including not only descriptions of the procedures but the reasons for them. The residents, interns and medical students did not treat me as an object of fascination on par with a living cadaver, but as a suffering patient with information they needed to perform their duties. Even the orderlies, janitorial staff and other support staff approached their jobs with a general friendliness and professionalism that made the otherwise dread of a hospital stay comforting.
The change is remarkable. I was going to attempt to single out individuals for jobs well done, but then realized everyone associated with my care deserves special recognition.
I am not a medical professional. I suppose you could say I’m a professional patient, given my history, but that’s the extent of my medical training. However, my post-military career has been in operations and program management. As such, I can recognize and appreciate when an outstanding manager has taken control of a bad situation and is effecting a complete turnaround.
As I began, I’m not going to gloss over the fact that there are still major problems and deficiencies throughout VHA. However, Mr. Shulkin, upon your confirmation I can think of no better place to start turning around the system than seeking out your best, listening to what they’ve done and implementing those practices throughout VHA. Based on my recent stay, you would do very well to begin with Mr. Immiti. The change he has effected is nothing short of amazing.
I thank you for your time and again, congratulations on a job well done.
Semper Fi and Regards,