Monday, December 29, 2014

The Phone Rings Again.

Snow past and snow past without a single word. I was wearing a black tie and a suit I had bought for celebration.

It seemed like hours and hours past that I had avoided that box that presented my best friend and brother like an advertisement in a storefront presentation of Christmas. I had been avoiding the thought of it for days. I didn't want to speak about him, but I couldn't not say something. He was my very best friend. When I had nowhere to go, he was willing to sleep in a tent with me to keep me from being alone.

This Christmas day will be 5 years since he left. One of the most haunting memories was the day we went to his funeral. I chose not to go in the garage on Christmas. I knew it would be the death of me. The last time I saw him, We laughed, we slept, then he was gone from my house. A week later, he was gone from everywhere on earth.

It snowed so much that day. The drive to his funeral was about 45 minutes. I wanted to get there early to have some time alone before everyone started showing up to pay respects. I laid my head against the passenger window and watched the snow pass faster than light beside me. I remember feeling worse than I had ever felt before. I took an inventory of what was inside me and couldn't find anything worse.

People came all day and hugged everyone. His kids cried and people cried for them. Will's mom and dad stood at the front the whole time saying thank you to people who came to respect their son. I could not imagine a harder job than theirs.

As I spoke with all of his friends, my eyes kept glancing to him laying there. I didn't want to see him, but it was as if spotlights were on him all day.

I gave in again while speaking to someone. I walked away as they were speaking and lost my legs 10 feet from him and almost found the floor. I regained my legs and kneeled on the pad at his coffin. He looked real to me. As if real were something that was actually real. I won't forget this. Will's dad came and kneeled next to me and put his arm around me and we just watched our hearts break together.


This above blog was the blog I was writing the night my telephone rang about Joe. I had placed a period and was ready to move to the next thought. Then I saw who was calling me in the middle of the night and I knew.

Christmas is hard for me. It brings back all of these feelings and memories, both great and terrible. I had been trying not to write about Will very much. I know it hurts some of his family to read, and they have been through enough. This night, I chose to tell you about a very important funeral. So I wrote until my phone rang and ended up on the floor. I couldn't fathom repeating the last five years again. I couldn't bear his mother losing another son.

Stressful days and terrible nights passed. I got through the funeral, which consisted of his parents staying at his side again showing their strength of heart,  and went back to work hoping to take myself somewhere different. Just like with Will, the mornings are the hardest. It takes greater effort to get out of bed and the nights are sparse with sleep. Just like with Will, I can't remember things and am somewhere other than here often. But unlike with Will, I don't feel guilt. We all tried everything we could. Unlike with Will, I am drawn to God instead of away from Him. Unlike with Will, I am allowing myself to let go of the little things that don't matter.

Just like with Will, my wife carries me.

I could say a lot of things about the people in my life that love me; and in fact I will be saying them. But the thing about them that holds us all together is their selflessness. I've made so many mistakes in my life, but the people I chose to make my family and the couple of people I was born to weren't a folly. I can't help but notice what remains. I have this habit of looking negatively at life and what has been lost from it. Right now, as sad as it is to have lost these two brothers, it is more wonderful to have what remains. I am not full, but I am so blessed. God allows sorrow, but doesn't cause it. Remaining in the dirt has gotten me nothing but a mouth full of mud.

It's hard to say what happens when the noise and excitement of Christmas go away and silence reigns. Last time, the month of February nearly brought me to the brink. The newness fades and people go about their daily lives and most move on as they should. That was the month when I really started feeling alone in this. I took destructive paths and didn't heed the wisdom of my wife. I am resigned to not repeat those mistakes. I will not lay my head in the dirt. I will mourn like a man with purpose and fire. I have endured much, but have been given riches. I'll weep, but only for a time, then I'll march.

God is still good as He has always been. I am His son, whom He loves, just as He loved my brothers. I'll move forward, leaving behind the destructive memories that have crossed my eyes. I will be reborn again, even if I walk limping severely.


Thanks for reading...Z

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Grief and God

God is teaching me things, even when I have a hard time looking at him at all. I would love to spew venom about my Creator on here. I would love to be able to blame Him for all of this affliction on so many people. But I can't do that. I told my brother Andy (Vernon) on this blog that God had stricken me. He was quick and fierce in reminding me that God had not. God didn't do anything harmful to me, it only feels that way. When Will died, I spent the last five years in a crisis of faith, struggling to get past my own arrogance and short sightedness. I could not divorce my feelings from my knowledge. If I asked myself what I would tell someone else who were going through this, I had different answers entirely. This appeared to be personal.

I'm not going to do it anymore I hope. Maybe the world is just so profoundly destroyed that people with seemingly every possibility in the world would say goodbye without saying goodbye.

I can't relay to you what is going on inside me. I can't give insight right now to what the world is like underground. But I can't blame God. I was really trying to, until Will and Joe's mom flooded me with words about God's will and the love of His Son. She is so much like her mom, who would only talk of God so fiercely. How could I turn my face from God when the mother of two lost children hadn't? So I won't either. I'll figure out a different way to grieve. I don't know what that means, but it won't be me angry at the person who gave me all of these beautiful people in the first place.

These past several days have reminded me that I have still so much. I have lost so much yes, but what remains is worth the tears. In my grief, I have had my brothers Andy and Jeff at my side grieving with me. I have had my beautiful wife most of all, trying to deal with her own grief and fear, and afraid to leave me alone. I put her at ease. I will put you at ease. I'm not going anywhere. I am profoundly sad and angry, but I will remain and seek happiness. I will seek my God until I find Him. I will seek to mend some of the broken things left behind.

None of this will come without anguish.

I have read all of your well-wishings and cherish them. When Will died, I found myself going back to them for literally years to this day for comfort. Thank you.

The Dead End Kids are gone. I am the Dead End Kid. I'll revisit both of their lives. I'll share my struggles and probably bleed everywhere. I won't forsake my God.

I'll be writing about them often, but will try to focus on times when they were happy.


Thanks for reading...Z

Sunday, December 21, 2014

What I Forgot to Say

I'm not gonna bleed all over for everyone tonight. I just want to say a few things I meant to say, but couldn't get them across my lips. I couldn't speak very eloquently and my mind was jumping all around and I lost my thoughts.

  • Thank you so much for every kind word of condolence or encouragement. Thank you for showing up, even if you didn't know Joe very well. Showing up to love and support your friend means so much to them. Sometimes those that hurt so bad just need a familiar voice and someone to grab their hand for a moment.
  • There was never a single moment that the room wasn't full of people and for 8 and a half hours straight, people flooded in. I don't think Joe would have expected that, he always underestimated himself.
  • If any of us forgot your name or didn't remember things correctly, we are sorry. It's been hard to keep our thoughts in the right place. So many people from so many different places and circles makes it hard to place. 

To Joe. 

My little brother. I would have really liked to talk all night about what you mean to me. There is so much I wanted to say. More than that, there is so much I would have liked to say to you. I told you I loved you so many times, but I didn't always show it. I am honored to have been so close to you. I loved the things you would say. This one time when I was in distress, you told me "Hey man, life is a bowl of shit, play with it." You have no idea the perspective that gave me. It gave me the ability to let go.

Joe, as much as you wanted to be your brother, you weren't. You were no more or less. You were an entirely different person. You liked to live in his shadow and try to snuff out your own. You had a beauty that both of us admired and wanted so badly. That smile of yours and that laugh. That heart that made ours break. Your heart was all over your face. 

I wanted to tell you about the time my son, who is very sensitive was struggling with fear. His mother and I had been working so hard to help him calm down. You took him aside from us and spoke to him. He returned and said, "I feel better now." He continued to tell us for the next week how much you had helped him not be afraid. I have no idea what you said, but I have a pretty good idea that it came from your heart because you have made me less afraid too. Thank you. 

Thank you for every crazy moment I had with you. Thank you for teaching me that sometimes life is to be lived spontaneously and without planning. Thank you for always being yourself with me. You told me both the bad and the good, but I believe you told me everything that you were feeling. You would have stepped in front of a train for me and this one time, you did. 

I said I wouldn't bleed here and here is all this blood. I'm not deleting it. I needed to say it because I struggled to find words to say about you to these people that love you so much. In anger, I couldn't think. In distress, I couldn't put the words together to make proper sentences. In my sorrow, I forgot to say what you mean to me. 


Thanks for reading...Z

Friday, December 12, 2014

What if...

Words don't mean what they used to. In many ways they have lost their meaning. Why imagine, when you can perceive? It is a sad day when a point is better made in lights and media than in language.

We say so much. We speak so many words that they all drown together. There are liars and manipulators and those with flattering lips. The people who speak the truth are shouting into an abyss.

We are a people bent on entertainment, which is why we are susceptible to scare tactics and lies that persuade us to move in a particular direction. "There is a new plague and it has killed 6 people!!! We must take cover!" Meanwhile, the everyday murder happens as usual, killing an entire generation. When did words begin to mean so little?

We are sleeping.

We are easily lied to.

We are ready to believe anything but the scary truth.

The truth is...

We are the real problem with the world. We are intelligent enough to know the truth, yet weak enough to ignore it.

What if we were to wake up?

What if we were to turn off the lies and speak only when we have educated ourselves? What if for a moment you blocked out everything you were raised to believe and thought for a moment on your own? What would happen then?

What if we stopped hating for no reason?

We will likely never know the answers to these questions, because we will likely never take the time to think.

There is an easy way to live. One that hurts absolutely no one and leaves only goodness behind.

We can love every breathing human on this earth and mourn every person lost. We can forgive and forget. We can leave all of that hatred behind and grow into something better.

The problem with religion is that humans hate and religion allows it. The problem with the secular world is that humans hate and we allow it. People are people. Hate hasn't been cornered by any specific people or culture. We all have something to learn about love.

I am a Christian. I follow the teachings of Jesus because He condemned hate and handed sinners real forgiveness. We are all sinners in need of forgiveness. It's easy to grasp that. It's easy to accept forgiveness, but so hard to accept forgiving. We are a harsh and angry species. I don't believe God is too pleased with our behavior.

What the world needs now is love, not division. We want to divide based on race, religion, color, creed, and behavior. How about we divide no one by anything. Maybe we can accept that people are people all over the world and love them. We don't have to agree, but we do have to love. Maybe our anger would fade and we would be a happier society.

Photo credit to intao @


Thanks for reading...Z

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Data (A Short Story)

I was a veteran of Iraq 1 and 2. I had been given a medal of honor for saving my platoon from an ambush in the mountains. I had lost 2 men in my command, but could have lost all 15. I reacted quickly and threw myself onto a land mine that my subordinate lifted his foot off of as I shouted for him to freeze. I jumped on the mine and lost both of my legs, sending small pieces of me onto the faces of my men. They carried me crying for my mother to the old Jeep and took me to what would be my own little shrine of glory.

A year later I participated in my last interview. The BBC journalist asked me the only important question that none of the others had thought to ask. She asked, "Would you do it all over again?" I was taken off guard, but quick to react. I said, "Yes." Something in my stomach rejected my own words and I froze after speaking. I sat and thought of running again. I thought of all of the people who now stare at me first in the face, then at my missing legs. I thought of the moment that my wife left me behind for another officer in another time.

I should have said no.

Five years later I am alone. Many people in history have written those words on paper and through binary. During the war, one of my closest friends marooned behind a rock in the mountains and surrounded wrote this in Morse code, squawking it with his handset. He died alone and so will I. Throughout history, people have only spoken of being alone. I am the second to actually be alone. The first...Adam.

The second war ended and things got calm. The economy flourished and America smiled like two twin children that hated the guts out of each other. Nothing happened, then nothing happened. Then came the Great War. The war that came out of nowhere. A meteor struck us and killed a million people. The sand kicked up and killed 3 million more. The waves crashed and killed another 2 million. Then China attacked every border of every western country and killed 10 million more.

We all shot rockets and warheads. We all hid in bunkers and waited for the first to fire the nuke. This time it wasn't America. This time it was Russia, and it was pointed at the Statue of Liberty. Everything blew up and we threw some nukes at them and vice versa and vice versa. In the end, I was the only one left standing...alone in a bunker in the capitol of the United States.

Everyone from the bunker was evacuated once the first nuke struck, except me. I was commissioned to report bomb activity in the former capitol. I was given a death sentence. The president actually got teary eyed when he shook my hand and left the bunker for a larger one in Missouri. Nukes fell and blood was bled, but nothing dropped on top of Washington that had radiation in it.

A year later I ran out of food. I made my first step, well crawl out into the air and expected to feel my lungs burn. I felt a cool and wonderful air. An air that made me remember my childhood and how it smelled and felt to step outside on the first warm day of spring. I looked around and there were ruins. I couldn't figure out what was what. I explored and found supermarkets to be untouched and convenience stores fully stocked. No one had a struggle to survive. Everyone had either left or died instantly.


Fifty years later and nothing has happened. I found this electric journal in the basement under a Christmas tree that I used to put up every year until I finally lost hope. I would string the tree with lights and tack the strands onto my roof to celebrate the day that the Son of God was born. I would celebrate the most wonderful holiday to have ever been forgotten. This particular day, I picked up the Christmas tree and found the computer. I plugged it in and here I am, an old man.

A lot has happened in this time. Nothing has happened in this time.

I am still alone. I haven't seen another breathing thing since I saw the president. I guess that makes me the president. I stopped replacing batteries in my walkie 10 years ago. The thing would fuzz, then make a strange noise, then fuzz. Every-time it got my hopes up. No one ever answered when I beckoned them too.

I am a vegan now. Not by desire. I have a garden that I am very meticulous with. I grow enough to keep my body healthy. I have found nothing to keep my soul. Sometimes I catch myself inside one of my DVD movies, pretending to be a real character that changes the outcome of the film. I wake up in ditches and on random neighborhood floors and realize that I can't change anything. I watch the same film to make sure, hoping I would have changed the ending of "The Abyss," or "The Last Man on Earth." The ending always stays the same. Even in my dreams, it ends with me being alone.

So here I write my last note of this forgotten machine, forgotten by only me. No one will read this. No one will care at all or wonder what my childhood was like. No one will listen to my stories or drink this last glass of whiskey with me. I write as I have lived...with no companion and no one watching. Goodnight. Goodbye oblivion.


I twisted the handle of the door that gives way and opens into a little room. Inside is a skeleton slouched in front of a dusty, silver machine. The head lays beside the keyboard of what looks to be a primitive keyboard. I charged the device and here I am. I am no one looking into the eyes of the past. This is the only evidence we have found of anything living and intelligent on this world. I am ecstatic.

I have been pulled from this duty. We have all been pulled. This has been deemed a dead world, but I am so fascinated with history. I have to leave and I am not permitted to take anything from this place, so I'll leave this note on this old journal.

The Earth is a cold and lonely place. I don't believe it had to be.

Goodbye, I say to dead data.


Thanks for reading...Z

Sunday, December 7, 2014


I drive from one ancient house to another. Each home presented it's own ghosts. One of the homes, now inhabited by someone that rides a tricycle, used to be the place that I listened to Def Leppard on tape, and would rewind "Love Bites" over an over until the bite fell into my dreams. Another is always dark and quiet. It is as if no one calls it home. This was the place I lived when I met and dated my wife. She would sit on this mustard velvet couch I had bought at a garage sale and watch me dance to my favorite songs.

Another is a home for pot heads. I know this because on a date night with my wife, we drove past it. As we slowly past, I noticed the blue elephant slide I played with as a kid in the back yard. It had been more than 22 years since I had seen it. I stopped the car and my wife insisted I ask about it. We went to the door together and were greeted by a few very high teenagers who had no idea about the slide. It was removed the next time I drove by it.

One ghost after another. I moved every couple years growing up and left many homes behind. I met and left so many people. You would be hard pressed to find a person that has met this many people with so few close friends. But the memories made in ancient spaces are priceless.

This is nostalgia. We drive by the places that houses our childhood ghosts. When we stop to stare at them, we can see ourselves playing in the backyard or swinging on the swing-set. We remember the very feeling we had in the moment that we see. We feel it as though it had never left. Maybe it didn't. Maybe we drove here to revisit a time that we were happy or a time that we were so profoundly sad. Humans revisit extreme emotions. It's our way. We embrace intense feelings.

People are born with the natural desire to be happy and experience beauty. Tragedy ruins this and we find ourselves still yearning for beauty, but often find it in tragedy. Maybe not the tragedy itself, but the human response to tragedy. There is beauty in a person watching his ghost throw a football in the air as a child and running under it in time to catch it and get all of the glory that comes with being beautiful and stupid. There is beauty in being a person that you never got to experience as a child.

There is beauty in looking backwards and seeing how you had no idea that you seemed to have been set up to lose. You just kept plugging away clueless until you got the idea.

People sometimes ask me what I believe in. My answer is mostly based on reflection of my own ghosts. I remember lying on a drier in the laundry room as a teenager and was just finding out that I was the punchline of the joke. I didn't know it at the time, but I wasn't alone. I felt like I was on an island, but I was simply on a drier with a great God sitting with me.

I believe because God has always been there when I felt like no one else was. No, you cannot prove God. I don't care. You cannot prove any emotion we experience. You cannot prove the "origin of species." We are left to our own devices. We are left to our own ghosts.

But we are not alone.


Thanks for reading...Z

Monday, December 1, 2014

5 Reasons I won my Wife and 5 Reasons I Could Have Lost Her

And here is another sappy tribute blog to the greatest woman to ever live. At least the greatest I've ever seen. We started dating in September of 1999. We met at a wedding of mutual friends. I was cocky and pretty conceited, but I was also very genuine and honest in my actions.

I had noticed her looking at me at the wedding ceremony and did the whole "It's on" thing from Swingers, which I had not seen yet due to my thought that it was a porno. At the reception, I noticed her staring again, so I picked up the camera and snapped a photo of her looking at me. After all, a photo does last longer. She asked me to dance later that night and now we are married.

I had planned how to win her heart while dating her. I believe that I succeeded and almost failed. Here's why.

How I won.

1. I took her on our first date to the cider mill, then to some old train tracks to meet homeless people that I had been feeding in a ministry I was in. I felt this would let her know my heart. Girls love guys with tattoos that also care about homeless people.

2. I would not kiss her for several dates. I wanted to connect on a different level, but was mindful of putting myself in the "He's a nice guy but super lame" category. I also didn't want to mess up. I was devout in my faith and didn't want to betray that.

3. I got her a music box and a teddy bear with matching features that I had for Sweetest day. She in turn got me tickets to my favorite band in the entire world, "Counting Crows." It was a double move that won us both over.

4. I chose to stay very close to my friends and to encourage her to do the same. I have always believed that people need their friends no matter what relationship you are in. In doing so, you show her you have self respect and also respect her.

5. I embraced her life. I went to her family functions and enjoyed them. I hung out with her friends and never discouraged her from anything she dreamed of. I loved her in entirety.

How I almost lost.

1. During the wedding we met at, I made this arrogant and awful statement that was pretty common of me at the time. She was discussing her fears about a dear loved one that was very sick and she had been attending church more due to that. I regret my own tongue for saying this. I regretted it the moment in slipped past my awful lips. I told her, "So you go to church only when you need something?" I wanted to smash my own nose when I said it. It was meant to be a joke, but it wasn't funny and I knew it. I have been known to say things that aren't funny when I get nervous.

2. I took her to Second City on a date. I wasn't so much of a fashion guy at the time. I liked the girl a lot, so I thought it would be a good time to update my wardrobe. This was a bad night for me in that sense. Joan Rivers would have made me the laughing stock. I wore these grey dress pants and this way-too-tight green sweater, that almost had a little turtle neck to it. She said nothing at the time, but would later admit wanting to vomit on it.

3. Our very first Christmas together, I had learned that her parents had gotten her a new television. I decided to get her a VCR and a Tom Green video tape. I didn't even know if she even liked Tom Green, but I thought he was funny. So funny in fact that I opened the video and watched it before I gave it to her and lamely tried to shrink wrap it. She knew right away. I won't live that down anytime soon.

4. I was in a rap-core band. I rapped. Take that in. I played the turn tables. Take that in also.

5. I usually would wait before calling a girl. I played it cool. The night we met, she almost didn't give me her number. That messed with my head a lot. The girl dances with me all night and hesitates to want to see me again? I lost my mind and called her like twice over the next couple days. I spoke with her little Scottish grandmother, who assured me that "Lauda was ot shcoool ond would be hoem suoon." Luckily, she did call me back.

In the end, I won the girl and got this amazing life.


 Thanks for reading...Z