Ventral Hernia Repair–What to Expect

Oct 5, 2016 by

I had a ventral hernia repaired in my abdomen Sept. 26, 2016. Today is Oct. 5. It’s nine days post-op and I am posting this information because leading up the my surgery, I surfed the Internet for information about what recovering from a ventral hernia would be like and I have to tell you, NOTHING was helpful nor accurate.

Ventral Hernia surgery is no picnic.

Ventral Hernia surgery is no picnic.

My Dallas surgeon initially had my procedure set up as outpatient. Even the morning we arrived at the hospital nurses were still telling me I’d likely be going home because that’s how it was listed. My pre-op nurse from a few days before said that would not be the case, and even my doctor had begun by the Thursday before to say I probably wouldn’t be going home the day of. Now why that was not changed, I cannot explain. I asked late last week and didn’t get a clear answer. It’s somewhere between working with insurance and “everyone reacts differently.”

Things To Know About Ventral Hernias

A hernia happens when part of your abdominal muscles rip and tissue from deeper inside your gut punches through. In my case, the hole was 6 cm by 5 cm and a mass of tissue had accumulated under my belly button, stretching it to a disgusting look. All in all, the mass was 16 cm by 10 cm. This was NOT cut OUT of my stomach. No, it was crammed all back into the hole and then a mesh was placed over it and sewn into my abdominal muscles.

This was all revealed via a CT scan the week before surgery. This involved drinking the bariatric lemonade (there are other flavors) and then having an MRI done of my lower abdomen. A few days later they had me return to drink some of the pasty, fizzy gag-inducing radioactive stuff so they could watch me swallow in real time. The doctors were looking for a hiatal hernia during the upper GI scan, but thankfully nothing was found.

The CT scan also showed an inguinal hernia, which needed repairing, too.

Surgery

We were told beforehand that surgery would take an hour and a half and recovery would be another hour. I went back to surgery at 0730. I had not regained my senses until about 1430 (2:30 p.m.) roughly six hours later.

My surgery was done laparoscopically. Four incisions were made around my stomach so they could put hoses in for tools and to inflate my stomach with CO2 so there was room to work around inside. Because of the displacement from pushing the 16 x 10 cm mass back into my gut, my doctor also did something of a tummy tuck around my belly button with a three-four inch cut going up and down from my navel south. So there are five cuts. They weren’t sealed with stitches but with new fangled high-powered glue. Amazing. (I say all this because sometimes this is done with “open” cuts, where more like a C-section, a long incision is made.)

Recovery

I was taken up to a room in the hospital and put in one of those horrible Hill-Rom beds that is like an inflated bean-bag. Whenever I got comfortable and thought I had good support, the damned thing shifted, like it was deciding what was better for me. And when I tried to get up all the rest of the week, it was a horrific experience because I didn’t have anything solid to use to push off of—it was like trying to climb out of a pile of leaves. The Hill-Rom bed is the WORST bed possible for hernia recovery and someone should really re-think this. I will do a separate post another day on how sucky the Hill-Rom bed is.

Nurse Ratched wasn't my actual nurse, but one of the ones who treated me could have been 1000 times nicer.

Nurse Ratched wasn’t my actual nurse, but one of the ones who treated me could have been 1000 times nicer.

The night of my surgery, the head nurse of the floor (hereby known as Nurse Ratched) was in my room demanding I get up out of bed. She had two orderlies come in and try to PULL me up out of the bed, which only produced screams of 12-13 pain (the scale only goes to 10—10 when you think you’re going to pass out). Finally one of them defied orders to pull me out of bed and walked out of the room.

I was on morphine every two hours for a day and a half. Even with every two hours, I was still in 7-8 abdominal pain. Then they moved me over to hydrocodone. It did little to relieve pain as well. Be ready for that.

After Nurse Ratched’s episode on Monday night, by the time I figured she’d be coming on Tuesday morning at 0700, I was doing all I could to move my left leg and then my right leg over to the side of the bed so I could sit and then stand. I wanted to do it on my terms and Lord forbid be pulled again.

I was told that the more I got up, sat up, and walked, the better it was going to be for my abdominal muscles. Nurse Ratched was off the next two days and I never had her assigned to me again. She did explain to me Thursday evening when she was trying to restart a badly-placed IV that never ended up working, that she’d been concerned about my developing pneumonia and that’s why she had been so insistent on my getting up out of bed.

By the time I was trying to get out of bed Tuesday morning, I felt like a huge bit of phlegm was accumulating in my chest. That spurred me on, as well as thoughts of Nurse Ratched, to get up. I began using the spirometer every hour, too, to ensure I was getting air deep into my lungs.

Sitting Up and Drinking Lots of Fluids

I was not hungry nor thirsty Tuesday and into Wednesday. My IV was still pumping saline into me, so I was getting fluids, but my urine output was dark and about 100-150 ccs. One of the nurses went and got me a big hospital mug filled with ice and water and told me I had until she left that day to drink two of them. This was not easy to do.

The other thing that was going on here, as explained by my doctor, was that my intestinal track was asleep. It had pretty much shut down so as food was going in, it was backing up. This was in part because of the pain meds, but also because of the anesthesia and the shock all of this brought to my system.

I did not want to have a BM and they kept asking if I was passing gas, which I wasn’t and didn’t until Thursday. Any one just reading this might say that’s too much information, but I wish I’d known all this going in.

My doctor also would say, “tomorrow we will talk about when we send you home.” That didn’t mean I was going home the next day. That meant we were going to talk about when I might.

The BM was a significant factor, but so was my incredible pain, AND I was distended in my stomach. That’s a nice way of saying I was bloated and with the bloating, they weren’t going to send me home, either.

I’m Home Now

A week and two days later, I remain in a fair amount of pain. I received a call from a nurse at the hospital yesterday who was asking about how I was doing on my meds and I told her I was trying to only take the hydrocodone at night and using Tylenol during the day. Because of a back injury in May, I’ve had to take it regularly for pain. A fusion of my back is now tentatively set for mid-December—when I will be able to handle lying on my stomach again for four hours. .

My nurse said to worry about hydrocodone dependence in a few weeks.

“A ventral hernia is a serious surgery,” she said. “You’re not going to be sore for just another week or two, but probably at least another three weeks.”

I told her, “Yeah, and no one really told me that going in.”

“I know, but that’s how it is. You need to take your meds. If you’re taking meds because you’re in pain, that’s different than taking pain meds because you’re not.”

Binder and Spanx

I have a binder for my stomach which I’m supposed to wear the next two weeks. I also have a back brace because of a three-level laminectomy on Aug. 11. Yesterday I received a 2X Spanx T-Shirt for men, and I have to tell you, it works better than either the binder or the back brace. I highly recommend the Spanx shirt. HIGHLY.

I’ve included a picture to the right. I hate how I look these days, but it was worse before the hernia repair because there was an extra bulge I no longer have. This pic might be seen as negative by some but for me, it’s a personal victory.

A Spanx for men 2X shirt holding my all in, giving needed back and stomach support following two significant surgeries.

A Spanx for men 2X shirt holding me all in, giving needed back and stomach support following two significant surgeries.

So I’m on meds still. It still hurts to get up and down out of bed. I’ve been walking at least one mile each day to help with stomach and back muscle stability. And I’m taking my hydro again every 4-6 hours as prescribed.

Conclusion

Maybe you will do better with a ventral hernia than I did. The surgery results according to my doctor are “Great.” The pain from it all is more than what I was led to believe it was, but more in line with what I had suspected. I never accepted the thought that sewing a mesh into my abdominal wall was going to be a picnic. It has not been, but I am on the mend. From all accounts, if your doctor is going to do your surgery laparoscopically, celebrate. I know two friends who had the open version and somehow what they endured is even worse. One friend had a 24-inch incision. I have five—one about 3-4 inches long and the others are each about one inch in length. If you’re not ready to get up out of bed the first day, don’t. But you do need to get up and sit and walk. You do need to drink fluids and to eat and eat enough so that eventually your intestines will push all that’s in you on out. Don’t be afraid to ask for the pain meds. And at one point, they make it so you have to ask for them and in your stupor, you may miss that. Having someone in the hospital with you also helps because my floor was so busy once I hit the call button—BTW, the one on the Hill-Rom bed didn’t work—it took a good 30-40 minutes before my nurse would appear, staffing was so tight.

With the Spanx shirts I feel better and with the big bulge off my stomach, I think I look better, too.

I hope this helps.

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Perspectives on Life

Feb 16, 2016 by

My late, maternal grandfather was an artist. One of the most important things he ever taught me was perspectives on life–the way of looking at the world.

When I was in second or third grade, grandpa brought me a small microscope to K.I. Sawyer AFB in the upper peninsula of Michigan on one of his visits. It had a little lamp he’d been using to reflect off the mirror under the specimen platform. But grandpa had done something quite clever. He’d used double-sided tape to stick colored specs of see-thru plastic to the mirror so as I moved the mirror and looked through the microscope, the specimen changed so I could see it, literally, in a new light.

In my teens, when we would visit the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art he’d encourage me to turn my head and look at the paintings sideways, even upside down if I could.

Years later, when we moved to Castle AFB in Atwater, CA, grandpa came out several times and would disappear during the days, no matter the season, to go up to Yosemite National Park. My love for this one area of the country has grown through the years and I make a trip to California whenever possible, now with my daughters, to enjoy this national treasure.

MORE ON PERSPECTIVES

I know several people in my world right now who are going through some fairly significant trials. The tasks before them, and me, seem monumental  to say the least. Here, look at this picture of El Capitan from the Yosemite Valley perspective.

El Capitan in Yosemite from the Valley floor.

El Capitan in Yosemite from the Valley floor.

That’s pretty ominous, isn’t it? If I’d not shot this with one of my grandpa’s film-based Canon’s in the late 2000s, I could blow it up and show you blue, red and green spots of humanity clinging to the face of El Cap, braving the forces of nature and working their way toward the top–like all of us do in the problems we face in this life.

I’ve never tried to climb El Cap, but my girls and I walked pretty close to the base of the face to look up. That is an even more daunting view.

FROM SENTINEL DOME

I’ve made no secret that when my time on Earth has come to its end, I should very much like to have my ashes sprinkled somewhere off the trail on the way up to Sentinel Dome. Probably not legal, no, but in the vast long run of the eternity to come, will it really matter if what remains of me is left in some off-the-beaten wind swept path? I think not. I desire this knowing that in spirit I will be in Heaven with my maker, but the thought of my ashes resting in view of Half Dome and the hundreds of miles one can see in a 360 panorama all around, well… I digress.

I want you to look at this second photo now, taken from atop Sentinel Dome in Yosemite, looking over at El Capitan.

El Capitan from atop of Sentinel Dome in Yosemite.

El Capitan from atop of Sentinel Dome in Yosemite.

Quite a different view, isn’t it?

I submit to you, those of you who feel like you’re at the base of a real-life mountain, that how you view your task is monumental to your success in overcoming it. El Capitan doesn’t look so big from higher up, does it?

Now imagine what our problems look like to our Lord, who rests higher still than these photos show.

PERSPECTIVE

Perspective is everything in this life. If we let the world around us dictate how we are left to see what is before is, the tasks will almost alway seem like they will be impossible to overcome.

I encourage you to consider these two photos regularly when life seems to be getting the better of you. Remember, God’s view is even higher than what we as humans are able to perceive. You should also know that you’re never alone in your walk. I promise, if you look hard enough, like the climbers half way up the face of El Cap, you’ll find someone who is willing to lend you a helping hand because they’re on the same walk as you, just maybe on a different path, higher up, or coming up from behind.

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Happy Birthday To My Fictional Characters

Apr 7, 2015 by

Happy Birthday To My Fictional Characters

This morning my sister sent me a text–“I wonder if you know the day Kip was born on.”  I promptly sent her a copy of my Aeon Timeline, a timeline development software program compatible with Scrivener, the novel writing software, showing his pre-book life history and that of most every other character I’ve invented. But she wrote back, “No, the day he got into your head.” It was April 2, 2014 when the domain name was registered.

Let me explain.

I had the idea to finally begin writing a major work in March of 2013. Since then, it’s been a high priority among work projects and being a dad. I’ve now written more than 54,000 words in what Scrivener project’s is going to be a 94,700-word manuscript when Draft One is completed. In the process, I’ve gone through at least 1,000 4″x6″ notecards, which are all in various stages and stacks around the house. I’ve used Scrivener, which is a pretty powerful organizing tool, I’ve read dozens of books on “how to, how not to” and then I’ve really settled on some key guides–Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey, Eric Edson’s The Story Solution, and Robert McKee’s StoryBooks for Privacy2

There have been other works along the way that deserve mention–Brian McDonald’s Invisible Ink, Sally Hogshead’s Fascinate, Jonathan Gottschall’s The Storytelling Animal and Carol Pearson’s Awakening The Heroes Within. This weekend I devoured Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering and did some serious thinking about Concept and Theme enhancements that I’d not as deliberately developed using Vogler. (My Kindle is loaded with other books about writing, but none of them compare to this core group or the other titles pictured to the right. You might also notice, I didn’t skim these books–there are color tabs hanging out of many of them for quick reference.)

Character Name Generation 

But it was a year ago, April 2, that I used Scrivener’s Name Generator to search for the right names to suit the characters I’d determined I needed for the story I want to tell. When I found a name I liked, I purposely went to Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, LinkedIn, WhoIs.net and Google to see what came up for that name. If I could not register the character’s domain name, get them an account on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, the name was tossed. If something came up in Google or in Amazon it was discarded. That was the last test. When a name had cleared those six hurdles, they were allowed to become real–at least in my mind and my writings for now.

My book may not ever get published. I am not planning for that contingent, but moving forward positively. When it is published, my character’s names are already commercially protected. I own them and I’ve established use of them by locking down accounts for them in Social Media, which will be critical for commercial marketing when the time comes.

My Characters

So, sadly, I missed April 2, 2015 as the day they came into existence. But in the year and five days that have passed, they’ve taken on lives of their own. I have a two-inch thick binder of Myers-Briggs profiles on all of them (Read David Keirsey’s Please Understand Me II). I’ve done the Color Quiz. I’ve created a chart where I’ve taken the Hero’s Journey and applied Pamela Jane Smith’ eight Inner Drives chakras to each character and where I think they’re going to be during each of the 12 phases of the book. And like I said, over the past weekend, I took Larry Brooks’ “What If” exercise to new levels for my characters, really pushing to get to the drama that needs to be included to make my work as intriguing as I know how to make it.

They are nothing but names to you, for now. For me, they’re crowding my head with work, family and wonder. During the day, whether I’m sitting at my desk or a lonely table in Jason’s Deli–I do wonders sitting in a public cafe with all the noise and chaos around me, not there to eat, but just to be in an active atmosphere–I write about ups, downs, challenges, inner demons, ways to cause havoc in the world by hacking into places that are impenetrable and blowing things up, ways to fall in love, and ways to save the world.

My characters hurt, they find joy, mystery, and anguish. They sometimes are very sacral chakras centered and only care about sex, money and power, and others, even the same ones, at other times, are in the heart center, focused on the good for all mankind. And while they float the range of chakras, apparently, I do, too.

So I say Happy Birthday to Kip Rippin–Kip, a name I found by accident, means a “unit of force.” I’m writing a thriller. He’s going to need some units of force to survive and save us all. Maycee Vincent is into honey potting–she is from Menlo Park, CA, and works in a quasi-governmental Internet monitoring operation between Stanford and the NSA. (And yes, Maycee is also the name of my 11-month old Great Pyrenees.)

Colin Mistry is my villain, working for President Oliver B. Carr, and my Mr. Big Bad Guy, corporate America businessman, Josh Chi Dormin. (Spell Dormin’s name backwards and think of what he might want to do–this time with a computer.) (“Chi” coincidentally, is an “Birthday 1energy force.”) Purely by accident, I pitted a “unit of force” against an “energy force.”

It was one of those forces of wonder that comes from creativity. It’s perfect. It spells one thing–CONFLICT. My other secondary characters include Zach Woodhall and Gwinn Bolynn–her parents were “Yoopers” in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Gwinn is a small town near Marquette where I lived several times thanks to the USAF.

It’s been a fun year with my characters. “A year?” you fellow writers might say, “That’s a long time.”

I thought that, too, this time last year. I thought I’d be finished with all of this. Chasing publishers and agents. But to make a book as close to right as possible, this is not something one goes and does on a weekend and comes back from the mount with it all on a tablet.

Amazon is filling up with those kinds of self-published half-baked, unedited books, full of typos and plot holes a semi-trailer truck would get stuck in.

For me, patience and discipline is so important now. I’m not saying it’s easy. Like an aging wine. It has to ferment, the tastes blend and become something more than it was when it was first poured into a bottle. It’s like preparing for life. You’re not ready for a massive journey into a special world any more than you can decide one day you’re going to go walk the 2,600-mile Pacific Crest Trail on Friday and be back in six months.

Happy Birthday, again, to my characters.

If you’re on a similar journey, I hope you can take the time to let your characters grow as mine have. You’ll find they have much more to them as characters if you do.

 

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Good Friday, Better Me.

Apr 3, 2015 by

Good Friday, Better Me.

In most cases it’d be a cliché to say, “I’m changing,” but in this case, I feel it’s dramatic enough to not be.

It was five years ago last month that my second marriage came crashing to an end. The details, many still like fresh wounds under a band-aide that can be yanked off exposing…you get the picture, but in the past year, I’ve learned a lot about myself I didn’t know or either had suppressed or worse, stopped believing.

Since July, I’ve been a student in the Southern Methodist University Writer’s Path program. I’m on the novel track. It’s like being in a master’s program, but it’s continuing education. There’s no degree at the end. Instead, there’s a high prospect of having a well-structured and polished manuscript ready to submit and plenty of feedback gained from people who have published novels. At the end of the program, there’s the opportunity to submit the work to a blind-committee who can pick up to 13 people to go to New York City and meet with potential agents and publishers. It is the only program like it in the world.

That’s a great outer goal for me. I’d love to be selected one day. But even better, there are more important things happening to me on the inside because of this process.

The Hero’s Journey

I didn’t know consciously about the Hero’s Journey before I decided in March of 2013 to write a book, but the more I was exposed to it, the clearer I see it. A few weeks ago, I told someone it was like having once seen the arrow in the FedEx logo–once you know its there, you can’t “unsee” it.

Time has proven there are 12 phases any character in a reputable work of writing, either film or print, must endure for a story to feel complete. They are: Ordinary World, Call to Adventure, Refusal of the Call, Meeting with the Mentor, Crossing the Threshold, Tests Allies and Enemies, Approaching the Innermost Cave, the Supreme Ordeal, the Reward, the Road Back, the Resurrection and then the Return with the Elixir. I will not go into the aspects of each of the phases, but I will say this: Writing about them and exploring them with my characters has caused ME to go through my own hero’s journey.

There’s a fun movie called Ruby Sparks about an author who writes the perfect girl and then she becomes real and ultimately helps him realize how he has to change his view of the world and relationships with the people in it. But Calvin Winfield isn’t just writing a second novel to be writing a second novel, he’s writing because his counselor thought it would be helpful for him to do so.

The leader of the SMU program, Suzanne Frank, (If you follow the link you’ll find her works on Amazon) often says in a writer’s first work, they’re exposing their innermost thoughts so much, “It’s pretty much full frontal nudity” of the psyche. Irene Adler, “The Woman” on Sherlock also said it well, “D’you know the big problem with a disguise, Mr. Holmes? However hard you try, it’s always a self-portrait.” In other words, for young/most writers, the more we try to disguise, the more it becomes a self-replica.

There are things that are in my writing that are truly reflections of me inside, though part of me still denies that. It is important for me to note that studying the process of change a character must undergo in their story has helped me come to understand the changes I need to make in my OWN life. There are major points in any story where a hero will announce or be told what he/she needs to address in their life in order to move on or to be the only one who could bring the end of the story to its ultimate outcome.

This is true for me in my life, as much as it is for any character you’ve seen on screen, but just as well, it’s true for you, my reader as well.

Good Friday

It’s Good Friday 2015 today. In Heroic Chapters Wednesday night, Author and SMU Scientist Keith Goodnight (you may also follow the link to his work on Amazon) was describing what has affected one of the lead characters of a person in my writing group. He said it sounded like the hero had suffered such a massive, horrific Supreme Ordeal, that he just got stuck there until years later, something came along that rekindled a spark inside him to move on to seeking a reward, taking the road back, finding/proving his resurrection and ultimately, returning with the elixir of a better world than when he started the story.

I took several significant Supreme Ordeal type corrective steps earlier this week. Keith’s words, spoken to someone else, nonetheless were affirming. Not shamefully or with any sense of anything else negative, I knew he was right. I understood what he was saying.

I don’t know what life holds in the days, months and years to come. No one does. I’ve written about 53,000 words of what I project to be a 97,400-word work and I still have much to learn about me, my characters and life. But I’m on a positive path now. In many ways, I’ve killed off the person who I’d let others turn me into over the past few years. Now I’m trying to resurrect the old, stronger, younger one–the foremost student iconoclast, as I was labeled after leaving college by a history professor I never studied under–but as important, someone who is stronger than the guy at the beginning of this story, changed forever, better or for worse, to be the only one in the world who can face my challenges head on.

Get Out Of Your Own Way

I leave you with this video from Rachel Platten. Her song is called Nothing Ever Happens. It’s written for a woman, but guys face the same issues. I have. The chorus grabs me every time I listen:

And nothing ever happens if you stay in your room
Nothing ever happens if you leave the party too soon
You’ll never be a winner if you’re not in the game
And nothing ever happens if you always play it safe
Make a little space and get out of your own way.

The next step in your life is up to you. I finally realized it was me who was holding me back. Not the people who dumped crap all in my life. I let their misery, anger, hurt, shame and baloney stick to me like concrete and freeze me, hold me back, even though intellectually I knew I needed to move on. I had to do what Rachel says, make a little space and get out of my own way. I’m 53,000 words closer to having done just that…..

Grammatic Artist 

You may already have noticed, you’re on GrammaticArtist.com and not DaddyClaxton.com. I’m rebranding. Even on Twitter. A grammatic artist, is someone who uses words, pictures, sound and video to tell stories with purpose, just like a graphic artist would focus on just images.

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On Winton Blount III

Feb 9, 2015 by

My friend Winton Blount III died in Montgomery, AL this morning at the age of 70.

imageIn 1993, after working on the City Stages music festival in Birmingham, I interviewed with Winton the day after it ended in his Montgomery offices at the corner of the Boulevard and Vaughn Road. That week in Birmingham, I’d befriended Guy McCullough and the night before, he’d seen me with my golf cart piled high with coolers, hoses, extension cords and the like, trying to save equipment from walking off. When Winton and I finished talking, he said, “I want you to meet my creative political consultant,” and through the door walked Guy.

Those next 13 months of life changed me in many ways. From Guy’s influence, I bought my first laptop computer and got a PCMCIA card–a modem, that was sporting a whopping 14.4 mbps when connected to a phone line and CompuServe. Guy and I exchanged email in those days when we talked about things for the campaign.

Thanksgiving of 1993, we went on air with a 60-second commercial of Winton wanting to take back the state from the career politicians who had been at the trough of government for decades. At rallies, we even had a wooden trough on wheels that squeaked louder than anything so as to turn heads when it came down the hall.

Winton’s favorite Chik-Fil-A sandwich? One chik, no pic.

He had a driver, a former Montgomery police officer named Jim who drove around a van we traveled the state in. It even had a fax machine in it in those days. We drove from one end of the state to the other in those 13 months.

There were many days we were in the lead. Then former Gov. Fob James switched parties and entered the race. Then former state Sen. Ann Bedsole entered the race. (And just as Word did then, when you type Bedsole, it changes it to Bedsore.)

Winton came in third in the Republican primary in 1994. We lost.  The final weekend, Ann Bedsole went on TV with video of her picking up a grandchild. We had been ready to do a spot showing how in 197X Ann voted for a bill that would have allowed drug peddlers, child molesters and rapists to go home for the holidays for Christmas. We’d even looked into buying the rights to “I’ll be Home for Christmas.”  But Ann went soft, and negative, and it was too late to do anything about it.

We were ready election night to use Van Halen’s RIGHT NOW as a theme song to carry the campaign forward. The song still resonates in my mind. Of course, Chris Roberts at The Birmingham News was poised to also point out the song was from the album For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, which if you take the first letters of each of the four words spells…..

I rode with Winton after the primary to some event he’d agreed to do in Dothan. Every time he saw one of his campaign signs along the road he cussed. I probably did, too.

He handed me off after his loss to work for Gov. Fob James’ campaign. I gave Gov. James my dedication while serving him, while a certain craphead woman in Birmingham accused me of being a Blount man in the heart of the James administration. Bitch. I was honest. I fought hard for my job. You still suck, Bettye.

In 1995, Winton got a number of Democrats to switch parties. He staged a rally on the steps of the Capitol and like I’d been taught to do, recorded the event. Winton gave a glowing endorsement of Fob. Afterward, I called Winton’s life-long friend and consultant, Lawrence Bear and told him what I had. That wound up being a commercial, a soft one, we ran at the end of a brutal runoff election between Fob and Winton in 1998.

There were those who wanted me to engage in rumor mongering about Winton during the 1998 campaign. I refused.

Winton and his then wife, Lucy, and I all were together again in late 1998 campaigning for Fob. It was nice to be around them. Lucy even featured me in a book she’d written about the campaign–it’s a rocky road, but there’s a rainbow in sight, was the title of the book. I still have my copy.

In 1999, Winton hired me to shoot video of the Blount Family reunion in Union Springs. I was nervous. I didn’t know how my presence would be taken. But alas, later in the evening, I was sitting in a building out back and Stuart, Winton’s only daughter, walked in and gave me the warmest of greetings, a hug, and made me feel like nothing had been changed by the previous four years. It was one of the most relieving events of my life.

It’s been since before 2001 when I left Alabama that I’ve talked to Winton. I won’t get into why. I reached out to him a couple of times in the years gone by but nothing in return happened.

Today, I’m told, he passed away in his sleep. Tonight, he will join our mutual friend, Lawrence Bear, and the former Mayor of Montgomery, Emory Folmar, no doubt in the Buck’s Pocket of Heaven. And Lordy what a party that shall be.

Lucy Dunn Blount once told me in 1993 that “Winton will be just as good a friend to you in 20 years as he is today.” That’s how I remember him. That laugh he had. The jokes he would tell–(Lord, for his opening interview with Phil Rawls of the AP in 1993, Winton told a joke about the Fugawee Indians and I almost fainted. If you don’t know it, a lone tribe of Indians used to wander the Great Plains and every once in a while they’d pop their heads up from the corn and look around and say, ‘Where the fugawee?!'” Phil was a deacon in his church….)

He didn’t die a rich man from the accounts I’m hearing. Not of earthly wealth, but I certainly admired him for what he tried to do to continue to make positive changes in Alabama and for that, to me, that makes him one of the richest people I could ever hope to know.  He will be missed and my heart is filled with sadness.

One last thought.  In the 1990s, Winton used to have the National Geographic map of the universe at the top of this post on his conference room wall. He called it his “It Just Doesn’t Matter” picture.  It shows where we are in the scheme of things in the universe. He said when people tried to get him down about life’s problems he referred to this picture because a problem compared to the immensity of the universe … It just really isn’t going to matter in the long run.  Such a great thought to keep in mind.

 

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Christmas 2014 Is Over

Dec 28, 2014 by

Christmas 2014 Is Over IMG_4923

It’s been a depressing sort of weekend. With Christmas Day Thursday, and daughter Chandler’s 18th birthday to follow Friday, I went ahead and removed our trees and decorations Thursday evening. Yeah, Christmas night everything came down and was boxed up in hopes I’m still alive to unpack it and put it all back up again next November.

At 49-years-old, I probably should not begin to wonder if I’ll be around for another Christmas, but there are some things that are deeply troubling me that just make 362 days from now seem like they’re an eternity away.

While I was packing things up, I even considered writing myself a note of congratulations in hopes that I’m around to read it next year and maybe tell myself that I shouldn’t do that again. But that seemed a little too morbid.

There’ve been some significant family losses the past few months. I lost my grandmother and a brother-in-law. Last week my youngest daughter was in a one-car accident where she very well could have gone through the windshield and into a tree the driver hit at a moderate rate of speed. That’s made me think a lot lately about the frailty of life and at Christmas when family members are missing, well….

Thing I Do Want To Do Differently For Christmas 2015

Friday night at 1 a.m. the power went out for several miles around. Maycee and I got up and walked the complex to see if it was a local accident or something else. Apparently, it wasn’t a drunk hitting the power units on our main road. But I came to realize that I’m tired of a Christmas tree with static white lights and red balls. That’s really been my Christmas Tree set up since at least 1988 and it occurred to me that that’s gotten a little tired.

My mom always used to hate blinking lights on a tree. And then I discovered white lights and moved completely away from the multi-color strings.

So next year, I’m thinking that at least on one of our trees, I want to try multi-color lights with a few blinkers.

Things I Learned During Christmas 2014

Andy Williams sings The Most Wonderful Time of the Year and he mentions the telling of ghost stories. Huh?  Well, my Aunt Lynda said to Google it and leave to the Victorians, but yes, they would actually tell “scary ghost stories” at Christmas, not just at Halloween.

Did you know the guy who wrote Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas was from Birmingham, AL, and Judy Garland at first refused to sing the song as originally written? I think I actually read that last year, but for you trivia buffs, it’s still a valid fact.

And Speaking of Christmas Songs…. 

How on earth did John Cougar Mellenhead’s I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus and Bruce Springstein’s Santa Claus is Coming to Town become songs that SiriusXM and commercial radio decided they need to play every 10 minutes on the radio at Christmas? Mannheim Steamroller is in that mix, too.  My gosh, there are so many Christmas songs. These get worn out before Christmas season even gets close. I’ve gotten to where I just turn off the radio when either Bruce or Mellencamp come on.

And Kelly Pickler can’t sing the word “Bag.” It comes out “Bahaagg.”

The worst thing about Christmas music to me is how many songs are about not being with the person you love for Christmas. It’s bad enough when that really happens. If you turn on the radio, you get it over and over and over. It has made it worse this Christmas.

That North Texan, Kelly Clarkson’s Underneath the Tree has to be my new favorite Christmas song of 2014.

January 2015

When I was a kid in Northern Michigan, I didn’t know I was going to spend so many more years of my life in California, Alabama and Texas where the idea of a White Christmas is something in a song sung by Bing Crosby. The Weather Channel has been toying with the idea of freezing rain here in DFW for New Year’s Eve, but the odds are minute.

To me, Christmas just doesn’t seem to be the same without a mantel of white to cover up the ugliness of the world. Maybe that’s what it is in my mind because I know there are tough aspects in the road ahead.

I wish you all the best for the coming year. Please pray for my family and I shall do the same for yours. We’re all going in so many different directions. I hope and pray we can all celebrate the holidays together again next year. But down deep, I know that’s not really possible. Even if we come together, we will all be so very different from life’s experiences the next 362 days.

Remember when we were kids and didn’t realize when Santa asked Rudolph to use his nose to help him through the Christmas Eve fog, that clouds weren’t encircling the entire planet all at once? Yeah, life just isn’t that simple. But it’d be nice if it was.

Merry Christmas.

 

 

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