Expanding on an earlier Facebook post.

Vacation

I am on vacation.  I have the next week off and will have my sons all week.  I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am to have them over.  I am hoping that the weather will cooperate and we’ll get to do some fun things this week.   This vacation could not have come at a better time.  I’m not sure why, but I just need the break.  I have so much that has been on my mind.

For example, Thursday was typical for me.  I slept for about 3-4 hours.  It is my day to switch from “midnight” mode to “days.”  Normally on Thursday, my head hits the pillow and I am asleep quickly.  That was not the case.  I actually broke my own rule (and what I tell all my patients about electronics before bed) and was surfing the web and reading stuff hoping to make myself tired – it didn’t work.

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I read once that if you can’t shut your mind off,  just jot all the thoughts down.  The thought process is that it can help free your mind of them.  I hoped that this would work and posted the following on Facebook.  In posting it here and re-reading it, I may or may not comment on these thoughts.  Some of them are repeat thoughts, some are not.  Here goes:

“Been here in bed since 10:30. Sam is already sleeping. The cats are both on the bed, too. Mind won’t shut off. Trying not to think about something that happened earlier that really just made me angry. Random thoughts/wishes:

* As much as I love to sit and write, I wish I could find a gig that paid me to do it.

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Comment:  The more I think on this, the more I wish I could do this!  I believe that you are always your own worst critic.  I have often wondered why anyone would even want to read what I write, yet, here you are.  I’m sure many authors have wondered if people would want to read their stuff too.  Writing is therapeutic for me.  Much like radio, I can take my observations and share them.  You won’t always agree with my thoughts or opinions, and that is OK with me.

* In talking to an old radio buddy, it makes me miss doing it full time (even though it has changed dramatically)

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Comment:  While I am not doing this full time, I need to acknowledge that I am very lucky to still be doing it part time.  Even if it is once a week, whether it is live or recorded, I still have my foot in the door and I get to “create” and “perform.” I still love it and radio will probably always be in my blood.

* I wish I could review music, bands, or movies and get paid for it. Neat to see some friends of mine doing it and having success with that!

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Comment:  I follow some blogs that write movie reviews.  I know they don’t get paid for that.  However, I have a friend who writes a lot of political stuff for websites and gets paid for that.  I also have a buddy who always seems to be out and about interviewing celebrities about their films for various news stations, TV and radio.  What a cool gig that has to be.  When I interviewed people on the radio I was always told I was a “good interviewer.” Maybe I am.  Pardon me while I digress and share two instances come to mind:

When I was at B95, Craig Morgan was scheduled to come by the studio.  At the time he had a minor hit, and some tunes that weren’t being played on the radio.  I was told by my boss to put him on the air for a few minutes, ask him about his new song, play it and move on.  I did my research, and there were a lot of things about Craig that I found interesting.  Yes, I was going to ask about his song, but there were other things I wanted to as about.  I asked about his military career, his family, and such.  Craig is a very funny guy.  He and I hit it off instantly.  We laughed a lot and had a bunch of fun. About 5 or 8 minutes into the interview, my boss went into the studio in the next room and stood in front of the window.  I thought he was gonna give me the “Wrap it up” signal because we were going longer than anticipated.  Instead, he gave me the “keep going – stretch it out” signal.

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I don’t recall how long the interview went, but it was FUN.  My boss said, “You just took a guy who no one was really familiar with, and made the listeners love him, because you related to him.  You asked questions that made him so real.  It was entertaining, and enjoyable.  That’s the best damn interview I have heard in a long time!”  The kudos I received were unexpected.

Also at B-95, Jewel came by the studio and I interviewed her on the air.  She had recorded a country album and was promoting it.  I did my research and prepped for her interview.  I found a lot of stuff that I could ask about.  Jewel was homeless for a time.  She lived in a van.  I wasn’t sure if that was a topic she would want to talk about.  When she arrived I asked her off air if there was anything that she didn’t want to talk about, she said to ask whatever I wanted to.  Naturally, I asked about her album.  I also asked about her family life and pop hits. I also asked about her being homeless, in which she shared some great stories about writing songs.

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One of the things I asked about was some Wizard of Oz TV special she did in the mid ’90’s.  She started chuckling and joked about it.  She asked “How did you find out about that?!” This led her to talk about some plays she was in in school and some other childhood memories.  She was so moved and excited to be talking about those things.  It was so cool for me to see how moved she was to remember those stories and it was great radio!

After Jewel left the station, about a half hour later, I got a call on my cell phone from the record rep who brought her to the station.  He said, “I wanted you to know that Jewel just told me that you were by far the best interview she has done on this radio tour!  She was blown away that you asked her about that Wizard of Oz thing!  She said she felt so comfortable talking to you and she really enjoyed herself.  She said you made her remember some great stories that she has never shared with anyone before.  Nice work, cowboy!”

Again, a high point in my radio career!

back to my original thought – I think it would be very cool to get the chance to hear an album before it hit stores, see a movie before it hits theaters, or read a book before it hits the shelves and then offer a review.

* It’s a shame when an entire team has to be punished because of a few others.

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On my hour drive to work each night, it is often the time I catch up with friends on the phone.  We talk about family, friends, and work.  In discussing work, there was this common theme.  Rather than dealing with employees individually and holding them accountable for whatever the issue was, bosses made a knee-jerk reaction and punished the entire staff for the issues of a few people.

I am not in a position of authority at my job.  I was a boss on more than one occasion.  Observations that I made as an employee, helped me to manage.  Managers motivate!  When employees are motivated, they will go above and beyond for you.  Many managers tend to demotivate.  Jay Trachman, one of my radio mentors, wrote an article geared toward radio managers, and it holds true for any manager, really.  It included things that managers do to demotivate, with or without knowledge of doing it.  They included:

  1. Ignoring employee ideas
  2. Setting unattainable goals and holding employees responsible for them
  3. Treating employees like children
  4. Ignoring that employees have lives outside of work
  5. Making rules for the entire staff because of the behavior of a few members
  6. Focusing on errors or mistakes, no matter how trivial (Incidentally, the facts show that when you dwell only on problem areas destroys the employee’s confidence and self-esteem makes the employee more error-prone!)

* I hate when an opportunity seems right, but no matter how many ways you try to make it work, you can’t.

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Comment:  Without going into detail, an opportunity presented itself.  It was one of those opportunities that doesn’t come around too often.  I took it all in.  Asked questions.  Weighed options.  Re-weighed options with different scenarios.  Crunched numbers.  Re-visited scenarios.  Made a pros and cons list (my wife swears by these!).  It was an opportunity that just was not something I could jump at.  I am ok with that, though, because, it doesn’t change anything I am already doing.  No big deal.

* I am hoping the scale shows a loss tomorrow at weigh in.

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Comment:  It did.  My total weight loss now is at 24 pounds!! I couldn’t be happier!  I was a bit worried because last Saturday I DJ’d a wedding and the dinner didn’t necessarily have the most healthy choices.  Oh, and they had a doughnut bar!  LOL.  I am determined to get back down to 199 (where I was about 20 years ago, and the last time I was on Weight Watchers).  The journey continues!

* I am not looking forward to a visit to the dentist tomorrow.

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Comment:  Uneventful cleaning.  No cavities, so I was happy with that!

* I wish I could do more voice over work.

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Comment:  I looked into a few voice over services, but most cost money to be a part of.  They also require you to do many auditions daily.  I could probably do this on my days off, but it is hard to do working midnights, and without a home studio (or the money to build a home studio)!

I am lucky to have the relationships I have with The American Way, Whitetail Journey, Modern Craft Wines, Fox 66, and RPM Auto Sales.  I would love to add a few more clients to that list.  If you know anyone looking, I can certainly send a voice sample to them.

* I probably could have wrote a blog instead of this. Maybe I will just copy and paste it….lol.

Comment:  That’s what I am doing!

* There is so much sadness in the Facebook feed this week. My heart goes out to my friends who have lost loved ones or have loved ones in the hospital.

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Comment:  Scrolling the Facebook news feed this week, I was saddened to read of some friends coping with the loss of someone special to them.  I also read of a dear friend who is now home with hospice care.  Some friends have been Facebook silent, but I am aware of some health struggles that are dealing with.

Many people state that they hate Facebook.  They say there are too many political arguments, opinions, etc.   I would agree, but I also utilize the “mute” button.  There are ways that you can unfollow those who post stuff you don’t want to see.  You remain friends, but you don’t see their stuff.  You can also post things while making sure that certain people can’t see it.

I happen to like Facebook.  It is a great way to keep up with friends.  I almost never forget a friend’s birthday! I always love the pictures of weddings, first and last days of school, band concerts, dance recitals, and the addition of new babies or grandbabies.  There are sad things, too.  The passing away of parents, prayer chains for those who are sick or suffering, or the loss of a pet.  Without Facebook, I’d never know these things. It can be a place to offer words of support, encouragement, or better yet, prompt you to reach out to your friend on the phone.

While I love social media, I also feel that it is important to reach out and actually talk to friends.  I have decided that I am going to try to do that more.  Yes, texting and messaging is easy, but you know what?  I want to hear your voice!

* I hate change. I am a man of routine. Sometimes, change is inevitable. Sometimes change is exciting.

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Comment: I take the same way to work every day.  I am a creature of habit.  One of the things that helps me stay focused on Weight Watchers is that I know the point values of meals.  I tend to find something I like, and will stick with that meal.  I have been eating a lot of veggies and fruits.  I am also eating a lot of salads.  However, to change things up we had turkey tacos last night.  Not going to lie, changing it up was exciting!  That’s right – I was excited for Tacos!!

* Guy on TV said to his gal, “I couldn’t be happier.” I think you can always be happier. Happiness can grow, much like love can grow. Each day I think I can’t love Sam any more than I do, but that love grows deeper. Happiness can grow too – that’s cool to me.

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Comment:  Just re-reading that made me smile.  Think about this – “Happiness is a habit – cultivate it” (Quite attributed to Elbert Hubbard)

* The wrong motivation can kill morale and desire to give their all for you.

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Comment: See above comments about punishing the entire team because of a few others.

* I wish I was an expert on something. With the recent talks I have done for conferences and small groups, I would totally love to do that for a living.

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Someone commented on the original Facebook post and said I should be a motivational speaker.  I don’t know that I’d go that far.  I have many obstacles of my own that I have yet to conquer.  I am not sure how motivating I can be.

I have always enjoyed doing career days at schools.  I think it would be cool to host classic movies at a theater.  I have no problem public speaking.  I thought about teaching a public speaking class at one of those community education night class type programs.  I don’t know, it’s a pipe dream perhaps.  I just think it could be a very fun thing to do and would be great to get out and meet people.

* Was hoping that by jotting this stuff here, I’d get sleepy … Maybe I should at least try to go to sleep.

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Comment:  I didn’t.

* Even with all of these random thoughts, one still remains true. I am one lucky man! I am blessed beyond measure.

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Comment:  The Bible says in I Thessalonians 5:18, “In EVERYTHING give thanks.”  What powerful instruction, and a very difficult thing to do! I have always tried to make this one of my “life mantras,” but some days are harder than others.  At one point in my life, nothing could make me feel better.  I was deep in that depression and suffering with so many feelings.  I was struggling bad.

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Today, however, I am a new man.  Those quotes that I always had in my mind are back and help keep me focused.  This one still remains difficult, because “everything” means “everything!”  In good times and bad times – give thanks!  What a challenge! Despite the fact that I had a variety of things (both good and bad) running through my head Thursday night, I remind myself of just how thankful I am to be alive!  I am thankful for my family.  I am thankful for my job.  I am thankful for my friends.  I am thankful for YOU.  Thanks for reading!

Now, I am off to enjoy my time off!

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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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