Don’t live in fear

All I’m concerned about is job satisfaction. I hear this at least once a week from a co-worker, who like me, is coming to grips with the thought of retirement. The more he talks about it, the easier it is for me to see how he is going through the stages of grief.

Since the very first day that I worked with him, over six years ago, all I heard about was how horrible of a job it was and the only reason he was there was because he was made redundant. That job, naturally, was the best job he ever had. He finds comfort in the mundane, he finds peace in routine, and he feels at home when he can talk to anyone and everyone and get away with it under the guise of work.

After hearing how disgusting this job was for that long, to now in the last few months, listening how rewarding and satisfying the job has become, finally got to be to much for me. I finally said that the only reason it is satisfying is because he is scared of retirement and not having this job to give him purpose everyday.

For the first time since I’ve known him, he was speechless. He did not have a response, mainly because he knew it was true. It is just my opinion, but I do believe he is truly fearful of trying to do anything on his own. To spend the day, on his own, without any human contact would bring him total incapacitating fear.

At the end of the day, I just don’t see him leaving that job gracefully and peacefully. There will be no joy when he hands in the keys for the last time. My last day, will see me with and ear to ear grin! The time will have come to work on my personal goals, as all the goals dealing with the government have been met.

When I moved to England in 2016, I had a handful of goals in mind that would lead to my retirement. First, was successfully passing two visa applications, so I could stay and work here. Second, was to stay under the radar while I lived here. By that I mean, not to use or need the government for anything that I could do on my own.

My initial visa in 2016, stated that I wasn’t entitled to any form of government assistance, so this part wasn’t that difficult. Yet, when I acquired throat cancer late in 2016, I was entitle to some worker benefits, yet I didn’t apply for or receive the benefits I was entitled to.

As far as the government was concerned I was a valuable immigrant. I worked, I stayed out of trouble, and most importantly, I never asked the government for any form of assistance.

These two simple goals have gotten me to the point that I am able to live and work in England for the rest of my life, without having to update my visa every two and a half years. The last goal was applying for citizenship. Which was approved and the ceremony will take place in June 2022.

My goals for work in England, and in reality, for life, have been met. I worked in England at a job to achieve a goal. In America, I worked with the goal of having a career, which I also achieved.

Now it’s time to “work” on the benefits and goals of retirement.

A Slippery Slope

It wasn’t long after I moved to England that heard the feel good story of James Bowen and Bob. If you don’t know there story, I highly recommend the movie, A Streetcat Named Bob. It is about a heroin addict (Bowen) who finds and becomes attached to a stray cat, that he names Bob.

Bowen is basically homeless eating out of trash bins and making some money by playing his guitar on the streets of London. One night, he was returning to his apartment when he finds a cat. For the next couple of days he takes Bob around the neighbourhood trying to find his owners. He finally accepts that Bob is homeless and ends up providing for him. In Bowen’s defense, he takes better care of that cat than he does of himself.

Bob seems to realize this and won’t let Bowen out of his sight. He accompanies James on the streets as he plays his guitar. In time word gets out about this street act who has a cat with him. YouTube videos appear as well as newspaper and magazine articles about this unique relationship.

In time a book is written about it and then the movie comes out. The movie and books were a success, making Bowen a millionaire. In the movie, Bowen gets off heroin and starts his journey in recovery. Bowen says that Bob was his inspiration for getting clean. Bob became the most famous cat, since another ginger cat named Morris did TV commercials for 9 Lives cat food.

With his new found freedom from drugs and alcohol, Bowen purchased a £500,000 ($636,575) home and it seemed like this was the ultimate feel good story. Sadly, this wasn’t the end of the story. Bob died at 14 years old after being hit by a car. But it was actions by Bowen before and after that event that have people beginning to question exactly what is going on. I’ll be the first to admit, I have no idea what Bowen’s portfolio looks like but I think it is safe to say that if he can purchase a half million pound home, he has money.

First, Bowen had a fund-raiser for a “cat cafe” which raised over £160,000 ($203,465) was never built or opened and the money was never refunded. Instead Bowen said he gave the money to charities. Next, was a fund-raiser for his wedding. His goal was £10,000 ($12,714), which people gave money for. Yet, no one seemed to question why are we donating money for a wedding of a millionaire? Finally, only a couple hours after Bob’s death, he started another fund-raiser asking for £250,000 ($317,860) to build a memorial to Bob. Now on his Facebook page he is selling himself. He says he’s not a therapist or psychologist or a social worker, but you can tell him your concerns or problems – for a price! Voice of experience, if you want someone to talk to or someone to listen, go to AA or NA or any other 12 Step Program. You’ll learn more there than Bowen could ever teach you. Used the money you save for your pet, or your wedding, or your home. Just save it!

There are a lot of things in this world that I don’t understand, yet one thing I am an expert at is addiction. I have been clean and sober for well over 27 years. I’ve run 12 Step Programs in county jails. I’ve spoken at Universities about addiction and growing up in a dysfunctional home. I’ve been a recovery voice in the USA’s Recovery Month Programs. And my writings on the 12 Promises of AA were used for studies in Melbourne, Australia, at a SAA Convention. I mention these few events to show that I can speak from a clean and clear mind about the games we addicts can play. We are masters of manipulation and be the victim that the world has never seen before.

As a person in recovery, and having attended 12 Step meetings in three different programs, I can safely say that it is not in a persons best interest to ask anyone for money for things that are not a necessity. I love cats. Right now, my wife and me have our own ginger tom, in fact, he’s having a proper afternoon snooze on our bed. He’s a rescue cat, that we got after our last cat died at 15 years of age from cancer. She’s still with us. Her ashes are in a beautiful vase sitting on our bookcase. She had a few friends and was talked about to our co-workers and family, yet we would have never dreamed of asking anyone to donate money for her path to the rainbow bridge.

The wife and I are nowhere near millionaires and when we got married seven years ago, we had a very simple wedding that we paid for and didn’t expect anyone to donate to it to make it big show. Addicts make a life out of using others. When active, addicts steal, cheat, and lie just to assure their next high. Recovery teaches us to stand on our own two feet and not to expect anything from anyone. Please, don’t enable Bowen. Help him to grow in his recovery. Help him to stand on his own two feet.

As an alcoholic/addict asking for money that I am unable or unwilling to work for or earn myself leads to manipulation, game playing, stories, and flat out lies. Ultimately, it will threaten my sobriety. I’m not saying that is what is going on here, yet as a non-professional, there are some red flags popping up and I have to question how strong is the foundation of sobriety if money is constantly being requested.

With all that has been said, please keep in mind that Bob was a lost cat before Bowen found him. There are many lost cats everywhere waiting for a home. If you have the room please consider adopting a rescue cat. They know what you are doing for them and believe me, they’ll give you unconditional love everyday of their purr-fect life.

Just one name

Just one name can say a lot. To the philosophical like Socrates and Plato. To leaders in war like Churchill and Zelenskyy. To the pure evil like Hitler and Putin.

I realize at this time, it may not be the smartest idea I have come up with, yet I must make a couple of historical comparisons with what is going on in the Ukraine right now. I love history and I especially enjoy studying World War II.

I find the similarities between President Zelenskyy and Winston Churchill quite enlightening. They were given the opportunity to leave their country before the fighting intensified, yet both remained and were constantly seen and heard by their countrymen. Through the destruction of buildings and the war crimes committed against everyday citizens, they told the world that they would not surrender. They walked among patriots doing all they could to protect their homeland.

Putin, on the other hand, has done everything in his power to go back in time. I won’t give him the title of president or anything else,except maybe despot. As history is being written the name Putin will mean inhumanity and cruelty. No one will care if he was a leader of a country or even what his first name might have been. Putin will be said with disgust, like the names of Stalin and Hitler.

He’ll be remember as a commander whose generals were fearful of relaying the truth to him, just as those in command were fearful of Hitler. What is almost comical if it wasn’t so pathetic, is how Putin always is quick to share his perceived strength and knowledge because of his KGB background, yet when things aren’t going his way, he disappears from public view – much like Hitler.

This war, has also shown that he isn’t as intelligent as he believes. General Omar Bradley said, “Amateurs talk strategy. Professionals talk logistics.”

Putin believed that this war would be quick and easy. Now, over a month has passed and Russia is retreating. They can use whatever word they want but they are retreating. Why is such a powerful army retreating? The troops have no food, they have no oil, or petrol, or ammunition. The same mistake Hitler made when invading Russia. He too, thought it would be quick and easy. By winter, Hitler’s troops were cold and hungry and no longer in fit shape to fight.

The biggest blunder of all by Putin was believing the world would just stand by and let him do what he wants. What he did do was to unite NATO, when just a year earlier some were questioning whether it was still a needed commodity. And he united all of Europe and most western countries to impose sanctions on all trade with Russia.

Yet, on Russian TV, the belief is the problem stems from the United States. Like Goebbels protecting Hitler with propaganda, Russian TV lies to protect Putin. And like the Nazi state if you disagree with Putin, you just seem to disappear, be locked up, or poisoned. This also seems a lot like Hitler, doesn’t it?

Since I brought up Nazi’s, it is the reason Putin gave for starting this conflict. He wanted the denazification of the Ukraine. You know how ludicrous this has become? President Zelenskyy is Jewish and lost family members in the Holocaust.

The same Holocaust that killed people based on who they were. Citizens killed just because of who they were. Hospitals bombed to kill future generations.

Like Germany before them, Russia is no longer a military force, but rather they are an extermination force.

The Power of 10

The Power of 10 has been a part of my life for well over two and a half decades. It started when I hit the lowest and loneliest part of my life. It started when I could no longer imagine a life with alcohol, but I also couldn’t imagine a life without it.

Why the Power of 10? When I quit drinking some people told me just to quit for the day. They said that surely I could stay sober for one day. I never answered them because I knew I couldn’t stay sober for that long. Not having any alcohol in me for 24 hours terrified me. I had gotten to a point where I could not function without it. I eventually gave up eating anything of substance and lived on a liquid diet. Quitting drugs was easy, but alcohol would be a battle, literally for my life.

I slept with a six pack of beer on the nightstand next to my bed. I had a a can of beer and a cup of coffee for breakfast and had a six pack of beer on my ride to work, which was only six miles from my home. At lunch time, I’d drive those six miles back home, consume some more beer, then have a couple more beers for lunch, then drive back to work drinking some more.

So the idea of quitting just for today was inconceivable. So, I came up with an idea, I could quit drinking for ten minutes. I knew I could do that because on the rare occasions when I ran out of beer, it took me ten minutes to drive to the liquor store to replenish my stock. And that is how my sobriety started – in ten minute intervals.

At that time, I work as a maintenance manager at a church and school, so I could find time to disappear and be myself during times of withdrawals and cold sweats. I’d look at my watch. 3 minutes down 7 minutes to go! As I got closer to that ten minute mark, I’d begin feeling a sense of accomplishment and celebrated with the idea that if I could do it once, I can do it again! And another 10 minute sobriety was started. The highlight of my day, came at bedtime. I knew that when I woke up I’d have 48 more sobriety celebrations under my belt.

This is how my sobriety started. It was my sobriety for the first two weeks of my new life. Then it expanded to half-hour celebrations, then hours. It took me a month before I felt confident enough to believe that I could stay sober for 24 hours.

At this time, I was separated from my wife, Janice. I lived in a mobile home, behind on a gas station, right next to Interstate 80. I had no close neighbours and what friends I had were more like drinking buddies than true friends. Which at the time was perfect, it gave me the strength to find my Higher Power and to build a strong foundation based on the 12 Steps.

One of the things I did was to place a large poster board on a pantry door in the kitchen. On it I wrote dates that meant something along my journey. Also down in the lower right corner were dates where I had a spiritual awakening by living this new life.

The first entry on that board? It said 9/4/94 1 Day 135 pounds. My first day of sobriety and my weight when I started. Next entry was 9/11/94 1 week. I didn’t do my weight change all the time but I did keep track of anniversaries. 9/14/94 10 days. Every day of sobriety was a day to celebrate and this was my way of remembering the journey it took to get me to that point. One month, two months, three months, 100 days. 150 pounds, 170 pounds, by the end of that first year 185 pounds.

Coincidentally, I still live by The Power of Ten. During my 10th year of sobriety, my first two books were publish, then during the 10th year of the 21st century the Purple Power CD was released.

The Power of 10 started my journey into a life without alcohol or drugs. The 12 Steps strengthened the journey and gave me a foundation to live my life. It made me reach for stars and made some of my dreams turn into reality. A third book was written and second CD was produced. Speaking at recovery events, as well as a lecturer to a University Masters Psychology Class. My writings on the 12 Promises of AA, have been used at a SAA convention in Melbourne, Australia.

My profile has been published in the USA Voices In Recovery Program, as well as my poetry being used by individuals for different photography exhibits. And poems written about cancer have been used around the world for different fund-raising events. As well as recovery poems being read at recovery events throughout America.

All in all it has been a good life in sobriety all because of ten minutes. And today, I write on my imaginary poster board – 20 January 2022 – 10,000 days sober. Ten thousand days… and it all started with ten minutes.

A Beautiful Gift… An Apology

10 years old at photo booth with a friend

As the end of another year, in this realm of existence approaches, it is getting easier to separate the delusional from reality. Through my whole life all I ever wanted was an acknowledgement that I lived through an abusive, destructive, and terror filled childhood.

Most of my life my three older siblings ignored the subject and if I tried to start a conversation about it, I was met with comments about growing up and being a man. It took me years to figure out that while all four of us had the same parents, we were raised by different parents. My brothers, were all separated by just over four years. I was an after thought. While they aged between 8 and 12, I was born. When things got tough they had each other to lean on, I had nobody.

My parents alcoholism didn’t take serious hold until the two eldest moved out and the other used the house as a place to sleep. The three oldest enjoyed taking summer vacations, renting a cabin for two weeks in New Hampshire. While I was there I don’t remember it as either good or bad because I was to young. My brothers enjoyed boy scouts. Church activities with being altar boys, and other things that families enjoyed doing together. My parents were actively involved in our church activities themselves with helping with bingo and the Holy Name Society.

Yet, as the boys got older their involvement became less and less. And alcohol slowly became their new god. Think about it, my mom was an alcoholic and was out of control. My dad was an alcoholic and was out of control. And they were in control of me.

A few years back, shortly before his death, my oldest brother did acknowledge that I had the worst childhood. That we couldn’t compare parents and that mine was filled with terror. Think of that, he used the word terror.

I’ve held a lot of anger and resentment towards my brothers. Which is kind of sad. Growing up they were my idols, they could do no wrong. Now I look back and see that they too were Damaged Merchandise.

One brother served in Vietnam, making our family proud. Yet within a year of being back home dad found a pound of cannabis in his bedroom closet. Another came home for a holiday why from school and during one of mom’s drunken episodes, he promised to never come home again. For her he never did and as such left me behind as well. A brother I have not seen in 40 years.

The other brother who can recite words they said with great clarity and things they did. You’d swear my parents were royalty. On a high pedestal they were place and to this day they sit. Yet, he seems to forget his own misdeeds. Nearly burning down the house because he passed out in bed smoking a cigarette. In the morning, the first thing I saw from my bedroom window was a smokey mess. Wasn’t sure what it was and it wasn’t until later I learned what happen.

What’s comical about this one is how much hatred my mom had for him. Yes, you read that right – hatred. She constantly berated him, yet if you talked to him, you’d swear he was talking about Mother Theresa.

My anger and resentment towards them runs deeper. They were old enough and on their own, yet they did nothing to get out of that mess. They sat back and watched a child cry in fear and they walked away. I wonder if that is part of the reason we aren’t close? Maybe, they can’t look me in the eye, because of what they knew and what they let happen to me.

If they knew what happen to me when the lights went out and everybody was gone, or even had an idea that it happen, then they are in more pain than me. If they knew and did nothing then I hold them partially responsible for some of the things I did growing up. I’m not deflecting responsibility for my actions. At the end of the day, I am totally responsible for my actions, yet I wonder what might have been different, if just one brother went to the police and told them what was going on. Or if one brother went to an uncle and asked for help.

As Christmas season approaches, the greatest gift I could receive is a gift I’ve been waiting for. The gift of acknowledgement. Got it from one brother, I wonder if the other two will ever swallow their pride and say I’m Sorry. What a beautiful gift that would be.

Dreams of a Haunted House

Nightmare on Demarest Avenue

Early in my sobriety I did a lot of self-analysing of my life. I spent loads of time looking at my dreams. They always seemed to have messages for me if I spent the time to try and listen to them. I’d go to sleep with a pad and pencil on my nightstand and when I awoke from a dream, I’d write down the highlights of what I had just experienced in my sleep.

Then the next day, I’d write in more detail what happened in that dream. To go a bit deeper I purchased a book that asked questions about your dreams. Just a simple example. You had a dream where you are running away from a main street, entirely naked and people are watching you. You’d then look in the book and search for towns, or people, or nudity. Then come up with the question of what secret are you scared of being exposed? Or what was exposed that you can’t deal with? The questions were limited with only your own personal insight.

It helped me understand my insecurities and fears. It helped me look at things in a different way. I haven’t studied my dreams in over a decade. Lately though through odd impossible dreams, that could never happen, it has made me look back at a dream I had consistently for over three years. I had this dream at least three times a week and dream never changed.

Everyone has dreams and I thin it is safe to say that a majority of the population forgets their dreams shortly after they wake up. I had this one dream so often that I knew every detail in it. It was a house, that had a deathly silence. It was dusty and unkept, except for one room in the center of the house. A room whose walls were all glass. A perfect hygienic room. There were never more than 4 people in the dream. One was myself. Two were friends but more than that they were observers and the other was a being who was part of me. Except for me, none of the other three had faces. No one ever talked but we all knew what the other was thinking and what each of us had to do.

During those three years of studying this dream and as more details came out, the more confused I got with it all. I finally went another step deeper and wrote a poem about it entitled Dreams of a Haunted House. I still couldn’t understand what my subconscious was trying to tell me. I went to a final step and made a video about it, using the poem as the main part of the video.

At that same time, I was coming to a personal decision that would change my life. I didn’t put 2 and 2 together, but while the dream remained with me it was occurring substantially less than before. I finally decided to act on what was in the back of my mind for over five years. I moved out of my home and filed for divorce.

I still watch that video and remember that dream. I look at it with total awe, at just how powerful our minds can be if we just listen. After I moved out, the dream stopped and never returned. My subconscious finally got through to me, that for my survival, divorce was necessary.

I don’t study my dreams like I did at one time. Yet, I still study them and enjoy the meanings they send to me. Below is the video from that dream. A dream that changed my life. The evil in the dream wasn’t my ex-wife, it was the depression that had overtaken me and that pristine room was my inability to talk about my troubles to her or others – they were all faceless and couldn’t help me.

Do you look at your dreams? You may be surprised with the messages being sent to you… from you.

No Car? No Problem!

Waiting to depart Manchester with my trusted partner

I spent more than half my life living in the United States, in the state of Nebraska. Farm country. Where towns were separated not by a five minute walk but rather a ten mile car ride. Until the last six years of calling Nebraska home, I live in small rural communities. No gas stations, no grocery stores, and no jobs. Everything was a commute to the city to get necessities for everyday living.

To do this, a car was needed. And being married meant that two cars were needed because usually both spouses worked, or even if they didn’t, the one needed transportation in case of emergencies. In my case, having two cars wasn’t enough. I had an emergency third car, for the unforeseen breakdown or flat tire. What money was saved living out in the country as far as taxes, was quickly eaten up by transportation expenses.

When I moved to England, I was in for a shock I had never experienced. Besides the cultural differences between our two countries, I was surprised that a car wasn’t considered a necessity. Next to London, Manchester is the largest city in England and has every method of transportation available.

My first experiences with mass transit was with buses. It got me everywhere I needed to go and I became quite comfortable knowing when buses would arrive and also what bus would get me to where I wanted top go. To go shopping locally? 358, 383, and 384. Hospital? 375 and 192. Manchester? 192 and odd 200s. Cancer Centre? 42 and 42A. Within no time, I could watch a bus approach the stop and know with certainty if it was the one I needed.

The bad part with buses is it stops so often that a 15 minute car ride could take a half hour by the bus. When I got a job in Manchester, taking a bus could mean being on the bus for an hour, depending on traffic. So, I was introduced to trains. They were the fastest method of travel available and could get me to my job quicker than a car. The only downfall was that it took me 25 minutes to walk to the train station. So, my daily commute before getting on the train was nearly an hour.

So, the next step in transportation was a bicycle. You can take bicycles on trains, so it was a way for me to cut down on my daily walk. A 25 minute walk has turned into an eight minute bike ride. The bicycle is an electric one, so I really don’t use much energy pedalling it.

At my job, I walk close to ten miles a shift on average, so this has helped save a little bit of my energy. When I was shopping around for a bike, more than one company said that an electric bike wasn’t an alternative for a bicycle, but rather it is an alternative for a car. Granted, I can’t go on long distant drives with it, but I can get groceries and other essentials with the rake that was provided with it. As far as taking up space, this bike is a folding one and can fit in even the smallest places.

Having not ridden a bicycle in over 40 years it took awhile for me to get my balance and confidence back, but now I just cruise the streets like a pro!

England has it all for transportation and I continue to explore the different ways to get from Point A to Point B. I’ve been on a propeller plane to get from Northern England to the Southern part. A whole half-hour flight! And the most enjoyable mode? River taxi’s. In London, on the River Thames, there are taxis that travel up and down the river to various points.

With the ease of using mass transit will I ever own a car again? I won’ say never but I really doubt it.

10 Minutes Has Led To 27 Years

A new chip for sobriety clock

On September 4, 1994, I had placed myself on a crossroad between life and death. I don’t mean to sound overly dramatic but it was the truth at that time and remains the truth today. Though I had full-time employment, I owned a house, a couple of cars, and all the luxuries afforded to me at that time… yet I was homeless.

The court system had thrown me out of my house. Notice that I didn’t say home instead I use the term – house. The reason being a terror filled place of existence could never truly be a home. I was evicted from this residence because of my drinking. While the wife and kids could stay there I could not. What happened was a daughter had told a school official that she was scared for her life. That I was a violent out of control drunk.

I knew that if I wanted any chance of a healthy fulfilling life, I needed to quit drinking. It was upon this realization that I had placed myself in the loneliest place in the world. I couldn’t imagine a life with alcohol, yet I couldn’t imagine a life without it.

I was scared to quit drinking. At nights, I went to bed, with a six pack of beer on the nightstand. In the mornings, I drove six miles to work, drinking a can of beer every mile. And also having a 12 pack hidden in the car for when I could sneak outside for a quickie. Everything I did involved alcohol. When we went out to dinner as a family, places like Burger King or McDonalds were never visited because they didn’t have beer. Often we’d go to Pizza Hut. Order the pizza and get a pitcher of soda for the family and a pitcher of beer for me.

For the short times I didn’t have alcohol in me, I’d get violent shakes, become quite nauseous, and continually sweat. Though my personal life was totally out of control, or as the Big Book says self will run riot, my work life was still functional to a degree. I believe people knew I drank to much, but I don’t think they realized the full extent of that drinking.

Finally, facing a very uncertain future, I decided to try one final time with sobriety. I had been sober for over five years (1986-1992), but decided that maybe I wasn’t an alcoholic and went back to drinking. Anyway this time was worse.

My first sobriety I did basically on my own. I had a small support bubble but nothing that would now be considered strong. I had no lifeline. This time, I would do it the AA way – by using the 12 Steps.

The first thing I learned was to just be sober for today. Which was an insane thought for me. For over two years, every waking moment had me with a beer in my hand. There was no way I could stay sober for a day. No way! So I came up with a plan. I believed I could stay sober for 10 minutes. So, that is what I’d do. I’d watch that clock and figure out when my next 10 minute anniversary was and shake and sweat my way to it.

When the celebration of a ten minute sobriety was over, I’d start a new ten minute count. I did this for the first week of my sobriety. The highlight of my day was when I could go to bed because I would wake up the next morning having celebrated 48 sobriety anniversaries in my sleep.

During my second week, I increased my time to staying sober for a half hour. After a month, I was up to an hour. It wasn’t till my second month that I began looking at sobriety in terms of one day at a time. Can’t stay sober for one day? Then why not try staying sober for ten minutes. If I can do it, I know you can! Because of my ten minute sobrieties, a miracle happened. In fact, many miracles happened and continue to happen all because I quit drinking.

I would have never written a book, if I was still drinking. I never would have created musical CD’s if I was still drinking. I would have never saved a penny if I was still drinking. And most of all, I never would have found my Higher Power if I was still drinking.

Hidden Blessing: End of the Big 12

The one thing that I have enjoyed throughout my life is American Football. For most of my life, I’d just say football. Yet, now that I live in England I realize “true” football isn’t what Americans call it. They use the s-word to describe what the rest of the world calls football. Anyway, starting to drift away from what I wanted to write about.

Growing up in the New York city area my love was with pro football – first the New York Giants, then in my late teen years my love changed to the Pittsburgh Steelers. My thoughts never ventured far from the world of pro football, mainly because I live in a major metropolitan area and college football seemed kind of like pro wrestling event with cheerleaders, bands, and the fans seemed fake with all the enthusiasm they shared.

My thoughts began to change when my brother played football for Iowa State University. With my parents, I got to see some of his games in person. This wasn’t like a high school game – this was big time. The stadium was bigger, more people, more traffic, more of everything. For a college game, it seemed quite professional.

Though my love was still with the Steelers, I began to see college football in a new light. Then when I went to college in South Dakota, my love for pro football left and I was hooked on the college game. Being a neighbouring state of Iowa’s it became easy to follow Iowa State and Big 8 football. Then when I moved to Nebraska, it was real easy to follow them because Nebraska and Iowa State were in the same conference.

Living in Nebraska and not being a fan of the Cornhuskers was a challenge. This was in the mid 90’s till 2010. During the end of the 90’s Nebraska was THE team. Three national championships, which some would argue could have been four. While they were on top of the mountain, my beloved Cyclones were one of, if not, THE worst program in college football. Yet, I still loved them and still followed them enjoying their occasional upset.

2010 is when college football began to change. Conference realignment destroyed regional conferences, as well as 100 year old rivalry games. The Backyard Brawl between Pittsburgh and West Virginia – GONE. The Border War between Kansas and Missouri – GONE. What seemed to be the annual Big 8 Championship battle between Oklahoma and Nebraska – GONE. And not on that large of a scale The Telephone Trophy between Iowa State and Missouri – GONE.

When the realignment nightmare started, I admit I wasn’t concerned about these rivalry games, I was more concerned if my beloved Iowa State Cyclones would find a place at the big boy table. The reality was that the football team wasn’t good. The facilities and stadium, if possible, were even worse. Without being in a conference that was consider a “power conference” the thoughts of ever competing on a national scale would disappear forever. Luckily when the dust settled, Iowa State remained in a power conference, mainly because they were a founding member of the conference they were in – The Big 12.

This time though is different. Iowa State has a stadium and facilities as good as any of the power football teams. The Cyclones, will start the 2021 as a Top 10 team, with a head coach that everyone can’t stop talking about. They have become the Cinderella sweethearts of the upcoming season.

To me, the best outcome for Iowa State would to end up in the Big 10 Conference (BIG). There are some Cyclone fans who hate this idea. Mainly because they will be in the same conference as their main rival – The University of Iowa. Many Iowa fans feel the same way, in fact, many Iowa fans hope that Iowa State will lose their status as a member of a power conference.

This is where short-sightedness and stupidity have me shaking my head. The population for the State of Iowa is extremely small, yet to have two major universities is something which should be cherished. The annual football game, which right now, is simply for bragging rights because they play in different conferences would have a more intense feeling if they were in the same conference. For Iowa State, their annual paycheck from the Big 12 is roughly $38 million. In the BIG it would grow to over $54 million.

All of this is great, yet one thing is seldom mentioned when talking about ISU joining the BIG and it has nothing to do with sports. It has to do with academics. To be a member of BIG, you must be a member of the American Association of Universities (AAU). There are only 64 universities in the United States and 2 in Canada that are in the AAU. These schools are on the leading edge of innovation, scholarship, and solutions that contribute to scientific progress, economic growth, and security.

The BIG grows on the academic side with the AAU status and a consortium between the conference institutions, as well as the University of Chicago. They receive billions of dollars in research funds from the federal government every year.

While I have loved watching Iowa State football go from a laughing stock to a respected football program and hope that it continues in the BIG conference. At the end of the day, the importance of Iowa State remaining a top flight university with their academic achievements while being part of the consortium is more valauble than any conference championship or new years day bowl game.

A Story About Humility

As an alcoholic, I have spent my time in recovery learning. I never want to get to a point where I believe I know it all. How arrogant that would be. Former Czech President Vaclav Havel once said, “Seek those that search for the truth and run from those that have found it.” We all need to be teachable. We all need a sense of humility.

Humility is being teachable. C.S. Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less of ourselves but rather it is thinking of ourselves less.” Humility also relies on a strong sense of gratitude. What we have and who we are is directly due someone or something else in our lives. Ultimately all the gratitude goes to our Higher Power, because if it wasn’t for this deity putting someone or something in our life, we wouldn’t be who we are.

Presently, I know a couple of gentlemen who have come into some serious money, not because of something they did, but rather through inheritance. Yet, if you talked to either of these individuals you would swear it was because of their financial knowledge that they have what they have.

One is roughly my age. Since I’ve known him he has struggled to rub to pennies together. In the past he has been very impulsive with money. Very much like a kid in a candy store, he has to have it all. We kind of developed a love/hate friendship mainly because we were very similar with where we were with debt.

The major difference was his debt was self-inflicted. My debt developed through medical expenses. For me, it quickly spiralled out of control. My ex-wife had breast cancer and we were already on a razor thin budget when she started her treatment. In no time at all, my paychecks couldn’t cover the co-pays nor her prescriptions. So I started using credit cards to help pay these bills, which in reality, only made matters worse.

Here I was in my mid 50’s, with nothing to show for it. A house in need of major repairs. Cars that needed to be in top running shape so the ex could make all of her appointments and take me to work, and I had nothing in the bank. No emergency fund. 401-K? I borrowed the maximum I could on it.

At the same time, this friend of mine was using his credit cards to buy couches, stereos, and other junk, that in reality a person in their 50s shouldn’t be so obsessed with. The clincher was his purchase of a towbar for the back of his car. He wanted it so he could haul his boat to the lake to go fishing! All well and good, but he didn’t have a method to haul the boat, in fact, he didn’t own a boat, in fact, in didn’t own any fishing gear! Five years later he sold the car with the towbar! As far as the boat? He still hasn’t purchased one, I doubt he has gone fishing anywhere – from a bridge, shoreline, anywhere!

Just a couple of years ago, he was on the verge of bankruptcy. Anyone who knew him kept telling him this was where he was headed, yet he knew better. For a little while he had a little humility. That quickly disappeared when his mother passed away and left him with just under $100,000. The sad part was that she died with him owing her over $30,000. The debt was forgiven by his two sisters, so in fact, he stole from their inheritance.

A new sense of I’m king of the world appeared and he purchased a home. All well and good, yet I question the logic of a person in their 60s purchasing a home? I just look back at my own home adventures. If you are a somewhat good handyman the costs can be kept at a minimum. But all your free time evaporates managing this investment. If you hire someone to do all these household projects, than you will regain your free time but lose your money.

Maybe it’s just me but I’d rather spend some money on rent and not worry about managing a house. I find it very freeing not to worry about heat pumps or water leaks or anything else. Just a phone call away is the landlord and then it becomes his problem.

I will say the guy did follow a bit of my advice and saved some money. He put it in a long term CD, which doesn’t have the greatest return, but at least he is trying. Yet just a couple of years later and he is moaning about how tight money has become.

Through it all I have never heard a word about paying his sisters the money that is rightfully theirs. Through it all I’ve never heard a word how hard his folks worked to make his life more comfortable. At 60 years old, he is living for the first time without the safety net of his parents money. He has got it all now and when that disappears, which I’m sad to say will happen, I wonder which one of his sisters will support him.

He worries about his legacy, yet he has no humility to try a clean up the wreckage of his past. Humility would have given him the gratitude to see how much he owed his parents. Not just for his inheritance, but also the unconditional love they showed him since his birth. In theory, the humility that started it all would have taught him that he needed to change and rely on his Higher Power for guidance. That the largest enemy to becoming the best version of himself… was in fact… himself.

Forget the illusion of power, forget the competition, forget the material. Instead focus on the growth that comes with humility and gratitude.

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