The Journey (The Second Time Around)

Frank Sinatra sang, “Love is lovelier the second time around.”  Personally, I couldn’t agree more.   Over the past two years, there have been many positive changes in my life.  You can read about many of them here in previous blogs.

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Through it all, there were times that I had to really be honest with myself, which wasn’t always easy.  I had to make some hard decisions.  I could no longer lie to myself about my feelings.  I had to really examine my life and the things that I was doing.  The more I did this, and the more decisions I made, it became easier to “get honest.”

I had a follow up appointment with my doctor about my blood pressure on Friday.  For the most part, it is under control, but on occasion, I will get a headache or just not feel right.  Usually, this means my blood pressure is up.  I looked up my past two visits (in January and September) to see what my blood pressure readings were.  It wasn’t those numbers that bothered me, though.  I noticed that since September I had gained about 30 pounds!  All of a sudden I felt like Fat Bastard from the Austin Powers movies!

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I am not going to lie, I knew the shirts I was wearing were beginning to get tight.  I also knew that my jeans were a big more snug than they should be.  I have found that working overnights has really put me at a disadvantage.  I tend to snack more.  I tend to drink more coffee (hence – more creamer).  I tend to do fast food in the morning on my way home.  It is just not good.  I had to do something.

I have struggled with my weight all my life.  I was always a chubby kid.  I was active (played baseball, rode my bike, walked, played football, etc) as a kid, but I was also taking every opportunity to eat.  I remember sneaking food all the time.  I would go to the fridge and eat bologna right out of the container.  I would eat bread and butter, candy, and whatever I could find in the house. When we ate fast food, I always chose the biggest sandwich (Big Mac, Whopper, etc).  I was sometimes eating and not even realizing it!

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One of the most embarrassing things I ever did was at a friends house.  I think it was a birthday party, I don’t remember.  What I do remember is that we were all sitting around talking and watching TV.  I was sitting in a chair and there was a bowl of Doritos next to me.  As we talked and whatever, I literally ate the whole bowl!  It was probably a whole back of chips!  Everyone saw me.  I was probably like a machine – take chip, eat chip, swallow, repeat.  When it was pointed out that I had ate the whole bowl, I probably pretended to laugh it off, but that day has forever remained etched in my mind.  I was humiliated – and I was responsible for it.

They say that comedians usually have issues from childhood that steer them into a life in comedy.  I can totally see this.  I used humor as a way to cover for many things growing up.  I figured people didn’t want to be the “fat kid’s” friend, so I told jokes and made people laugh.  I guess I thought people didn’t mind being friends with the funny kid.

I remember having to go to a special store to buy jeans for school.  I needed the “husky” size.  My dad used to joke with me about my pants waist size.  There was a big guy we knew who wore size “52” and every time I had to buy dress pants, my waist size was growing.  My dad used to say, “You don’t want to be in 52’s!”  He said it jokingly, but he was probably trying to say, “Hey, son.  You really should watch what you are eating.”

As a teenager, I saw a weight counselor.  I remember having this workbook where I logged my food (I often lied about it), and the feelings I was having when I ate.  What emotions were driving me to eat?  That’s the kind of stuff they wanted to know.  Back then, they put me on a diet, which was very hard to keep on.  We visited my grandma every Sunday and she always had a crap ton of Italian food.  She was always giving us food, candy, and baked goods.  My battle with my weight was one I always seemed to lose.

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Shortly before by 28th birthday, I was wearing size 48-50, depending on the style of pants.  I tipped the scale at about 300 pounds.  I had popped in to see my old high school band director and he had lost a lot of weight.  I asked him how he did it and he said he did Weight Watchers.  He told me how it worked, and I went and signed up.  On my 30th birthday, I celebrated the fact that I had lost 30 pounds with friends.  I eventually lost over 100 pounds!  The day I hit my goal weight of 199, it was truly amazing.  What a feeling!

I kept the weight off for some time and then I had an allergic reaction to a medication.  I broke out in hives and red spots.  The doctor gave me steroids, but the spots and hives wouldn’t go away.  They gave me a hefty shot of steroids and then had me keep taking the steroid pills, too.  They spots and hives finally went away, but I packed on 40+ pounds in a matter of weeks.  That was the beginning of the slide.

As an emotional eater, I turned to food for comfort during some difficult times in my life.  Loss of a job, the death of my mother, the death of my grandma, the deterioration of my marriage, the loss of another job, and depression led to much more eating, and drinking alcohol in abundance.  You can imagine what that did for my weight.  Now, fast forward to the last few weeks….

A co-worker has been doing Weight Watchers to get ready for her daughter’s wedding.  The more I have watched her do this, the more questions I asked her.  Then, I saw another friend of mine post daily pictures of her daily walk times.  She is out there every day and working hard!  My wife and I have talked more than once about losing weight and eating better.  I have said “I’m gonna do this diet.  I’m gonna join a gym.  I am gonna….” and yet, hadn’t done anything.  That changed Friday.

Friday morning, I had my alarm set so I could get up and shower before the doctor appointment.  Sam had to be up early to be at her clinicals.  I woke up with her I jumped on the scale.  I told her I was not waiting any longer.  I was joining Weight Watchers again.  It helped me before, and I know it will help me again.  I need to be accountable to someone and this would do it.  I signed up for the online app and decided it was what had to be done.  When she left for work, I noticed I had 2 hours before I had to leave, so I went to the bedroom, grabbed my jogging pants and a sweatshirt, and went out to walk!  I didn’t have a whole lot of time, but I walked for about 30-35 minutes and came home to shower.

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When I arrived at the doctor, my blood pressure was high – 132/91.  When he came in, I told him what had transpired that day.  He told me I was doing the right things and once again told me (as he has numerous times in the past) to get off of midnights. That’s kind of hard to do when you work in a sleep lab and run sleep studies.  He asked me to relax and he wanted to get my blood pressure again.  When they took it again – it was 132/100.  It was higher!  That visit only solidified in my mind that I had made the right choice to begin a weight loss journey.

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So here I am, the second time around, doing Weight Watchers (or WW, as they are going by now).  While it is scary to put this out there for strangers and friends to read, it had to be done.  I need to be accountable to you and to myself.  It’s been almost 20 years since I was 199 pounds, and I know that the older you get, the harder it is to lose weight.  That’s ok.  I’m going to work just as hard as I have putting the rest of my life back into order.  I am doing this for my children.  I am doing this for my wife.  I am doing this for my family. I am doing this for my friends.  I am doing this FOR ME!  I want to be around for a long time.  Life is too good now, to not stick around to enjoy it.

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The journey begins …..

 

 

A Letter to Mom

Mother’s Day – 2019

Dear Mom,

Christopher and I met some time ago and mapped out a project to honor your memory. I have written a few things that will be included in it. Some of them have appeared here on my blog page. I’ve gone through pictures and have picked out favorites. I have other ideas as well, and eventually, we will produce and publish it.

The night Chris and I talked about this project, we exchanged ideas of what we could do. One of my favorite ideas he suggested was to write you a letter. You would think that it would be extremely easy to sit down and write to you, but this one simple idea has turned out to be the most difficult of them all! I have started letters to you more than once, but I cannot seem to be able to finish them. Today, I am going to write this! Through tears and pain, today, I will complete this letter!

Today will mark the 13th Mother’s Day that has passed since you passed away. I won’t even begin to pretend that it gets easier. It doesn’t – I wish you were here. I wish I could once again tell you in person, how grateful and how thankful I am that YOU were chosen to be my mother. I wish you knew how happy it made me growing up to know I was making you proud of me. You were my biggest cheerleader and there have been SO many times that I have needed you since you have been gone.

So many things have changed over the years. There have been countless times that I have wanted to call you. There have been so many times I needed to hear your voice. I have needed your guidance and advice more times than I can count. Before making big decisions, I have found myself asking, “What would mom say about this?” The longing to be able to share just one more conversation with you is ever present, and never seems to go away.

I have been told by so many people that you would be proud of me. I believe that. I graduated college, mom! All those times you told me to go to school and get a degree and I kept playing around on the radio … I’m sure it drove you crazy! Well, I now have that degree! I worked hard for it and earned it – knowing the whole time that it was what you and dad always wanted me to do. Even though you were not there physically, I felt you there in spirit. As I addressed the entire graduating class – I pictured you there, smiling and proud. When I mentioned you in my speech, it was the only time I thought I might break down.

You won’t believe this, but Dante’ is 17 now! He is in high school now! I don’t even know where the time went, mom! He’ll graduate next year! I remember you telling me how fast I grew up and how you couldn’t believe I was graduating…I completely know how you felt. He is quite the young man, mom. He is so friggin’ smart! He has made such an impact on his teachers and friends. They all talk of what a joy he is. He is polite and a gentleman. He is always going out of his way to help people by holding the door and things like that.

You’ll be happy to know that he wants to do something with trains when he graduates. I would venture a guess that it is probably because of that day you took him to the Day Out With Thomas the Tank Engine! He STILL talks about that day. It is a memory that he will never forget – and neither will I. He misses you, too. He never lets me forget your birthday, Mother’s Day, or the anniversary of your passing. We have spent many hours at your grave sharing memories, laughing and crying. He always makes sure that we stop and get flowers for you, when we visit. He will never forget the love you showed him, and you remain one of the most special people in his life – you made quite the impact on him in 4 short years. Both of us are glad that we have so many pictures of you two together!

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Remember that day we were all together at dad’s? You were trying to sleep and Dante’ was running around being loud? You laughed and I asked you what was so funny. Do you remember your response? I do. “I hope when you have your next baby that it is another boy. That way, you will know just what kind of stuff you and your brother put your dad and I through!” Well, and I have my suspicions that you played a hand in this, your wish came true. Dimitri was born shortly after you left us.

Blonde hair and blue eyes – I know you’d have spoiled him just as much as you did Dante’! Yes, they fight with each other, just like Chris and I did! There are many times I yell back to them in the car and I can hear you saying the same thing to Chris and me! It’s pretty amazing to put pictures of Chris and me next to pictures of the two of them – it’s crazy how much they look like us! Dimitri loves to sing and is in choir. He’s in middle school now and he’s quite compassionate. He is SO competitive and gives his all and hates to lose! He plays video games and gets into them much like you got into playing that pinball game at the Dugout!

He is always telling us how much he wishes he could have met you. He hears stories from Dante’ and he gets sad. He knows what an amazing grandma you were and he wishes that he could have share some memories with you, like his brother. I wish that he could have, too. I think that’s the only disconnect I have from him. Dante and I can talk about you and the times you shared together, but Dimitri gets sad, because he missed out on that, and that makes me sad, too.

I had a very difficult time after you passed away. There was quite the roller coaster of emotions I had to deal with. I was in a deep state of grief, trying to cope with your death and at the same time, there was the joy of the birth of Dimitri. Factor in the stress of the loss of another radio job, depression, and a variety of other issues and you can guess how messed up I was. I was taking all kinds of medications, altering the dosage, adding new ones and changing to different ones in hopes of finding a way to cope and to be happy. All that did was make me someone I was not. There are times I do not even remember saying or doing things. It took me many years to get through it and to address the issues I was facing. This meant doing some things that took me out of my comfort zone. This meant facing some hard truths about me and where I was in life. This meant severing ties with things and people that were holding me back and forcing me into a whirlwind of unhappiness. It was not a good place for me – or anyone else close to me.

I am ashamed to admit that I thought of ending my life. The unhappiness and depression were very bad. With help from therapy, I was able to look at some things in my life and make a very difficult decision. Divorce was not easy. Coming out on the other side, the true colors of those who I thought cared about me began to show. Rumors and untruths continue to be spread in an attempt to discredit me and make me look bad. You, of all people, know that I am far from perfect. However, it hurt to see how quickly people took sides and believed so many lies. It is hard to not let that bother me, but I have gained some powerful tools through therapy and true friends that have helped. I have been able to move forward.

Mom, all you ever wanted for me was to be happy. I am SO happy today. What I wouldn’t give for you to meet my wife, Sam. She is amazing. She is beautiful. She doesn’t take any crap from anyone! She does what needs to be done and doesn’t make rash decisions. You would like her a lot. She is supportive, honest, responsible, and loves me. I love her more that I could ever explain to you. She is one of the hardest working people I have ever met. She is a true blessing to me. She loves Dad, Rose, and the boys, too. It is because of her, that I am where I am today. She was a lifesaver, mom. She asks about you often and loves to hear me tell stories about you. I want you to know that she is taking good care of your boy, and she is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

Because of all that has transpired, and where I am now, my relationship with Dad and Chris are stronger than they’ve ever been. We speak often on the phone and I have seen them more over the past two years than I probably did through that first marriage. Sam will often ask, “Have you talked to your dad? Did you call your brother?” It’s pretty amazing. She knows how things were in the past, and refuses to let that continue. While I am glad to have those relationships thrive, it makes me sad that I missed SO many things with you during that time. I should have stood up more and made sure we spent more time with you – I regret that so very much. For that, I am sorry.

It hurts to look back and know what I could have and should have changed. Hindsight is 20/20. Oh, the things I would have done different! I would have called more, mom. I would have made more time to come visit. I would have told you I love you, every chance I got. The list of “should haves” “could haves” and “would haves” is SO long!!! There are things that I wish I would have wrote down or asked you. So many things that left with you that I can only wish that I had asked about.

Oh, and before I forget to mention it – thanks for your letter. We found them almost a year after you left us. It was probably the most amazing thing I have ever experienced. Here was a letter to me that you had written years before Dante’ was born. “Know that I love you” was the first thing you told me. I think it probably took me 20 minutes to compose myself after reading that line. My eyes are welling up with tears right now as I remember it. Thank you for that. I have it, along with the tissue I wiped your tears away with on your last night here and other things that remind me of you. I only wish that you had been able to write something to Dante’ – I know he would treasure that as much as he treasures the photo book you made him with those pictures from Thomas the Train.

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13 years gone and yet it still seems like yesterday. So many holidays without you. So many birthdays. 13 Mother’s Days. I hope that you always knew how much I loved you and still love you. I hope you know how much I miss you. I hope you know that even though there were things we didn’t see eye to eye on everything, I was glad that God chose to make you my mom.

Thank you, mom, for all you gave me. Thank you for the many days you stayed home with me when I was sick. Thank you for the hours of phone calls containing laughter and tears. Thanks for the memories that will live on in my heart and soul. Thank you for putting band aids on cuts and scrapes. Thank you for singing off key in the car. Thank you for being such a wonderful grandma. Thanks you for your wisdom. Thank you for understanding hugs. Thank you for telling dad things I told you not to tell him. Thanks for every single thing you did for me – there is probably not enough room on the internet to list them all. Most of all, thank you for being my mom. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I miss you and will forever love you.

“See you later”

Love always, your son,

Keith

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“My mind knows you are gone, but my heart will never be able to accept it.”

Tune Tuesday – Feelin’ Good

One of my followers asked how picked my songs for Tune Tuesday.  To be honest, I have no rhyme or reason for the songs that end up here.  Last week, I wrote about Marvin Gaye for his birthday, and the week before that it was Nat King Cole for his birthday.  Today, it just happens to be a song I heard while in my car this afternoon.  It also happens to be a song that fits where I am in my life right now.

In the past year I have been blogging, I have written much about weeding out negativity, and the positive changes that have happened in my life.  I have written about reaching a point where I thought of ending my life, only to come through dark times to find true love and true happiness.  This song totally fits where I am now –  Feeling Good!

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The Song

The song was written by singer, songwriter, and actor Anthony Newley for the musical “The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd”.  Despite being covered by many artists (including Traffic, The Pussycat Dolls, George Michael, Joe Bonamassa, and John Coltrane – just to name a few), prior to Michael Buble’s version, the best known version was by the amazing Nina Simone. She recorded it for her 1965 “I Put a Spell on You” album.  Her version was never released as a single, but became known because of a Volkswagen advertisement in 1994.

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I was first introduced to his music from a friend of mine who worked at All Access.  Kelly knew I was a big fan of the “Great American Songbook”, and the music of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Billie Holiday, and other great vocalists.  We spent a lot of time talking music.  She sent me a copy of Buble’s debut album and I was pretty impressed.  I was not only impressed with his vocals, but I was impressed with his band and the arrangements of the songs.  When his next album, “It’s Time”, hit stores, I made sure to pick it up.

Feelin’ Good is the opening cut from the “It’s Time” album.  It was released as a single, coincidentally this month in 2005.  The song opens with a slow fade up, and Michael’s vocal.  It’s soft and smooth and then the band kicks in with a big bass line, a sloppy and bluesy brass line, and you are hooked.  Everything about the arrangement of this song is perfect.  I love Nina’s version, but after you hear Buble’s version, it sounds “unfinished”.  It sounds weak and like it needs a few more musicians.

Buble’ acknowledges the influences of Dean, Frank, Tony Bennett, and continues to keep those wonderful songs alive (as well as some originals of his own).  Many people think of him and think of his Christmas music, which is sad.  He has SO many great songs.

As I reflect on where I am now in my life, I have found a happiness that I never knew I could experience.  I have found a love that many only dream about.  Ask me how I am feeling, and I will tell you I am “Feeling Good!”

Feeling Good

Birds flying high
You know how I feel
Sun in the sky
You know how I feel
Breeze driftin’ on by
You know how I feel
It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life
For me
And I’m feeling good
I’m feeling good
Fish in the sea
You know how I feel
River running free
You know how I feel
Blossom on the tree
You know how I feel
It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life
For me
And I’m feeling good
Dragonfly out in the sun,
You know what I mean, don’t you know
Butterflies all havin’ fun,
You know what I mean
Sleep in peace when the day is done, that’s what I mean
And this old world is a new world
And a bold world
For me
For me
Stars when you shine
You know how I feel
Scent of the pine
You know how I feel
Oh freedom is mine
And I know how I feel
It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life
It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life
It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life
It’s a new life
For me
And I’m feeling good
I’m feeling good
I’m feeling so good
I feel so good

 

Part II – The Proposal

Yesterday’s blog was an emotional one to write.  I put some things in it that I had been quiet about for some time (depression, suicide, divorce, and unhappiness). It came as a surprise to many, and the wonderful words shared by friends on Facebook, and right here on my page meant more to me than you can imagine.  Thank you for reading, following, and your comments.

But, wait!  There’s more!  The story continues…..

When I ended my blog yesterday, I brought you to the place where I had come to realize what an amazing woman I had been blessed with.  As crazy as it sounds, so soon after a divorce, I knew that everything was right!  I did not want to lose this wonderful woman that had been placed in my life.  She had expressed to me that she was very happy as well.  There was no doubt that we had both fallen deeply in love with each other.

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I knew I wanted to be with her forever.  I wanted to propose and I wanted it to be something special.  I had bought a ring and had kept it hidden.  It was not your traditional “solitaire” diamond.  I liked it, but I kept wondering whether she would like it.  I finally caved and texted her sister and asked for her opinion.  She told me it was “perfect” and that it was exactly what Sam would like.

Now, I had to think of how to do it!

The Plan

Sam loves Disney movies.  In discussing movies, we discovered that we both loved the Disney/Pixar film, Up! (An amazing film, that is a MUST see).  The film begins by introducing us to Ellie and Carl.  They are adventurers!  Ellie even has An Adventure Book to record all of her adventures.  Ellie and Carl grow up, get married and the book plays a big part of the story.  In doing a search, I found the perfect way to deliver the ring!  I found a book that could be personalized and when you opened it up, the ring would be tied to a ribbon!

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It was PERFECT!  I ordered it with the understanding that it would take a few weeks to deliver.  I had made dinner reservations at a nice Italian place we had discovered quite by accident.  It technically wasn’t where we went for our first date, but we both really liked it, so I chose to go there to have dinner after she (hopefully) said “yes”.  We live close to Frankenmuth (home of the world’s largest Christmas store, for those who don’t live in Michigan), and I had arranged for a horse-drawn carriage ride.  The plan was to hand her our book and ask her while we were crossing the bridge in Frankenmuth.

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When the plan fails to come together, you improvise …

As that Saturday approached, I continued to watch the mail.  The book had not arrived yet.  I knew when I order it that I was cutting it close.  When the book didn’t arrive in the mail, because of our work schedules, I decided I didn’t want to wait a week.  I had the carriage reserved, I had reservations for dinner, I would proceed without the book.

We arrived in Frankenmuth and we began to walk toward the Bavarian Inn Restaurant (where the rides leave from).  Sam looked a bit confused, because I had already told her I had dinner plans in another city.  She must have thought we were going to eat there, until I walked up to the horse and carriage.  We climbed aboard and the ride began.  I began to thank her for how she changed my life.  We turned onto main street and approached the bridge.  I told her how happy she made me and how much I loved her.  As I struggled to try to get the ring box out of my pants pocket, I told her I could imagine my life without her in it.  Off in the distance, there was a slight rumble.  With the ring box now in my hand, my anxiety level was through the roof!  As we reached the point – it was time.  As I began to speak, from behind the carriage that rumble had become a load roar!  At the very moment I was about to ask Sam to marry me, this group of 20-50 bikers came roaring past us with a thunderous noise that made it impossible for us to hear each other!

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To this day, I am surprised that the noise didn’t startle the horse that pulled the carriage.  I don’t know, maybe it was deaf!  It had to be.  Honestly, that horse should have jumped and scurried and wrecked the carriage with us in it!  That didn’t happen, thankfully, but by the time the motorcycle gang from hell had passed us, we were over the bridge and the ride was just moments away from ending.  We were almost back to where we started.

All the momentum that I had built up to lead to that special moment was now long gone.  I think, to be funny, I said something along the lines of, “So, anyway ….”  and eventually popped the question before the horse and carriage had come to a stop.  She, of course said “yes”.  There were tears and my anxiety was no longer present, it had been replaced by overabundant joy!

We held hands almost the entire way down to the restaurant.  I think the only time we weren’t holding hand was when she was looking at the ring, now on her hand, smiling that wonderful smile of hers!  We had an amazing Italian dinner at Maggiano’s and we had an amazing day!!

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Now to plan the wedding

The only people we told right away were some family members.  Her folks knew, her sister at least knew it was coming, and My dad and Rose knew.  We chose to keep it secret from our friends and other family members until we decided when and where we were going to get married, and go from there.

With our first anniversary only two days away, that story will be next.

Oh, and that book showed up the Monday after our date!

The Beginnings of a Beautiful Friendship

Beginning

One year ago tonight, right about the time I am writing this blog, Sam and I posted a picture on Facebook of us in front of the “Welcome to Kentucky sign”.  We were on our way down to Florida for a vacation that would not only serve as a vacation, but also as our honeymoon.  Coincidentally, 4 years before that picture, we became Facebook friends.  With our first anniversary approaching, I thought I would write a few blogs that tells our story.

Baker College

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In June of 2013, I graduated from Baker College with my degree in applied science as a Polysomnographic Technology (Those two fancy words simply mean, I am a sleep technologist).  I became very good friends with the sleep instructors (Christine, Michele, and Angie).  I was asked by the program director if I would be willing to volunteer to tutor students in future classes if they needed help.  I told her that I would love to help out.

One of the hardest classes of the degree was Pharmacology.  This wasn’t your normal Pharmacology class.  Yes, you had to know the types of drugs, the names of drugs, what they did, and such, but you also had to know how these drugs affected a person’s sleep.  It was pretty detailed, and much of that information was not found in the books.  I was called and asked to meet with a small group of students from the current class.  I remember meeting up with them at the Tim Horton’s near the college.  Sam was among those in that group.

Sam and I actually met shortly before this.  I was doing my clinicals at a lab that worked with pediatric patients.  She brought 2-year-old Gracie to my lab and I actually ran her study!  She may have been the first pediatric patient I hooked up and ran on my own.

Well, over the next few months, I met with Sam off and on and went over stuff for the classes.  We prepped for tests and talked about working with kids and sleep related stuff.  When it was time for her to do her clinicals, she was placed at a lab that did not work with pediatric patients.  Sam wanted to work with kids, so there was one night she shadowed at my lab so she could observe, prior to starting her clinical rotation.  Sam graduated one year after me.

The “Unwritten” Rule

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Many sleep techs drive far to get to their jobs.  Many people who graduated in my class drive anywhere from 40-60 minutes to work.  It’s just the way it goes.  I currently drive 70 minutes, and Sam drives 50 minutes.  So, there is an understanding among people who work in sleep, an “unwritten rule” so to speak.  Basically, what it says is “Know who is working on nights you work.  If you are driving home in the morning and you feel like you are falling asleep, call someone you know is also driving home.  Talk each other home.”

Sam and I ended up working many of the same days.  It was not odd for either of us to call each other at 6:30 or 7:30 in the morning to “talk each other home.”  At first, it was a lot of shop talk – what kinds of studies we ran that night, crazy heart stuff we saw, or comparing notes on what equipment or mask worked best.  The more we talked, the more we learned about each other.  It was not odd to chat about my boys and her brothers.  There were times where she would even call to say she was taking her brothers swimming and wanted to know if my boys wanted to go as well.  We became very good friends.

It was not odd for us to run into each other at the college in the office of Christine, who was the Dean of the program, or at one of the sleep classes.  Sometimes, we even helped present review material or helped proctor tests.  At one time, there was talk of how we could all start our own sleep lab. Conversations involving Christine, Michele, Sam and I were often referred to as meetings of the “Collective Brain”.  The friendships that were made because of the sleep program go very deep and helped me through some very turbulent times.

Days of Trouble

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Without going into detail, I will just say that working the midnight shift had only added to problems I was going through at home.  The added stress affected me very much.  I was already suffering from depression and was just going through the motions and fighting the constant battle of trying to make ends meet.  The struggles were physically, emotionally, and mentally draining.  It was not something that I spoke about to many people.  There were plenty of fake smiles on social media, and I hid things very well.

The “Collective Brain” saw through much of this.  For example, one day I got a call from one of them while I was at the laundromat.  Our dryer had died months before and the budget didn’t allow for us to get a new one.  I received a call one day asking if I was going to be at home.  I stated that I was going to be home for a little while, and I was told that I had to  be home between 3:30p and 4:30p.  I asked why, and was told by one of the “brain” folks not to worry about it and to be there.  At about 4:15 a truck pulls in my driveway with a dryer in the back!  I was told that someone had paid for it and they were told where to deliver it.  These three friends, pooled together money and wanted to relieve a little of our stress and bought it for us!

There was another time where we were all just talking.  I was trying to work some overtime to try to make sure I had money to get the boys Christmas presents.  The stress must have shown, because the “brain” once again surprised me with a bag of Nerf guns, and other toys because “there is no way that your boys are not opening up presents on Christmas morning!”  You cannot even begin to know how humbled you can feel when you are the recipient of someone’s gracious giving heart.  They brought me to tears yet again.

Saved from the Darkest Days

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As the trials and tribulations continued at home, I found myself in an unhappy place.  I was feeling worthless.  I felt like the ultimate failure.  As I began to really sense all that was going on, there was this overwhelming feeling of emptiness.  I was worried, I was scared, and I felt like I had truly reached the end of my rope.

There are a few people who know this, but now I will publicly admit that I had reached a point where I was ready to end my life.  I didn’t know how I was going to do it.  I didn’t know when I was going to do it.  I had convinced myself that I was not doing anyone any good and that I was causing more trouble for people by being around.  Then, without knowing it, Sam said something that saved my life.

It was one of those “talk me home calls”.  She was tired and trying not to fall asleep.  I was driving home.  She innocently asked me about the boys and asked what we were doing with them over the weekend.  I don’t remember what it was, it probably wasn’t much.  After I told her, she replied with, “That sounds like fun.  Your boys are so lucky to have you as their dad.”

BOOM!  It was a punch to the stomach!  The ton of bricks hit me square on the head.  It was a shot of reality.  It was one simple sentence that made me realize that I could NEVER leave those boys!  It would be selfish and hurtful to even consider it anymore.  What kind of dad would do something like that and leave his sons to wonder “why”?!  NO!  That option, which should have never been an option, was officially off the table! She saved my life.

I had no choice but to move forward!  Dark days became darker.  Struggles became more difficult.  Arguments, disagreements, more arguments, and irreconcilable differences led me to divorce.  There was a brief period where I tried to co-exist, but the tribulations continued and I was told to leave the house.

In another “talk me home” call with Sam, I asked nonchalantly if she knew of anyone who had an apartment or room to rent.  She asked my why and I told her.  Without missing a beat, she told me that she had a spare room in her house that her brothers used when they came over every other weekend.  She told me that if I didn’t mind sleeping on a bunk bed, I was welcome to stay with her until I found a place.  She said I could sleep on the couch when her brothers were there.  I asked her how much she would want me to pay her to stay and her response was simply, “Keith.  You’re my friend.  You need a place to stay.  Every so often, help buy some groceries or toss a few bucks toward the electric or water bill.  I’ll help you in any way I can”

“I’m on my way from misery to happiness …”

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In the months that followed, we spent lots of time together.  She helped me with so many difficult decisions.  She was a voice of reason, a true friend, a shoulder to cry on, and was always honest and supportive.  It was apparent to both of us that we really enjoyed each other’s company.  The more time we spent with each other, the more connected we felt.  As feelings continued to grow, we began dating.

What an amazing feeling to live life with someone who doesn’t judge you, belittle you, insult you, make false accusations of you, spread gossip, or is not happy unless they are making others unhappy.  To be free of the judgement and negativity and to actually feel special, loved, and important was all new to me – and wonderful!

She saved my life.  She changed my life.  This beautiful friend and I fell in love at a time when I never expected it, but then again, isn’t that when they say you truly find love?!  I was experiencing joy that was so unexpected and astonishing that I decided I had better make sure we were going to be together forever …

…that story will be in the next blog.

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