Friday, November 29, 2013

The Thanksgiving That Almost Wasn't

Another Thanksgiving has come and gone. One more day of thanks for all the good in the past year. Just one more day? Shouldn't I be thankful everyday?

Last year we celebrated Thanksgiving in the desert mountains of Picacho State Park. It was a wonderful time that was to be remembered as the start of a new tradition. You can read about it here  To my disappointment we were unable to continue the new tradition this year for a variety of reasons, but our time together was no less precious.

Since there was no camping this year, we opted to accept my brother's invitation to join with his family for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. But even still, Nichole and I wanted some way to make our family time special.  Early in the morning we decided to take the boys to a movie. They don't often get to go to a theater showing since movies are so expensive these days.

The hot ticket this year is the Hunger Games - Catching Fire. Its a good movie, but not to be seen without having watched the first one.  After the movie and a quick stop at home to gather a few things we headed north for dinner.  Fifteen minutes into our 1 hour drive we found ourselves stopped in traffic. I could immediately tell this was more than an holiday traffic jam; Something was wrong.

Resigned to an extended wait, I turned off the engine and we sat... and sat.  Many drivers became impatient and tried to exit the freeway by driving backwards down the shoulder. I cringed every time a car maneuvered to turn around or back up. Using the shoulder to drive against traffic or during an obvious emergency situation just isn't advisable. How else will the emergency crews get through?

Some at least had the good sense to turn their cars around and drove forward... the wrong way down the shoulder.  Including a Santa and his elves who should no longer be allowed to drive on roads. 

As if to prove my point, one hour into our wait, the bomb squad drove past us, along with one or two members who'd obviously been called out from their own family celebrations.

The boys were surprising well behaved and calm in spite of the time spent cooped up (if ever possible, don't get stuck with three boys of ADHD in a car on the road for 2.5 hours). In fact everyone was. Among the many people strolling through the freeway parking lot there were jokers of kinds. Cries, of "lets have a potluck" and "what did you bring?" rang out as we recognized we were all most likely on our way to dinner somewhere.

Traffic was finally freed to move 2.5 hours later, too late to make the 1 hour drive to brother's house so we headed home. Isaac was distraught that Thanksgiving was "ruined" until we reminded him that Thanksgiving was about us being thankful and spending good time together. I even suggested we have a Charlie Brown thanksgiving of leftover movie popcorn and toast.  He liked that idea until we remembered the boys were to spend the night at Auntie Lisa's.

When we arrived a Lisa's we discovered she and her sister Charlene were prepared for us all. We gathered in front of a movie and ate Cornish hen, potatoes and stuffing. Everyone needs an Auntie Lisa.

What I really want for "traditions" is for the boys to have good memories to carry to their own children. Maybe we didn't get to go camping this year, but it is definitely memorable. In the end, I did have a Thanksgiving feast with my family and look forward to next year's adventure (as well as any to be had in-between.)

Monday, November 4, 2013

Family is as Family Does

Nichole and I got married last week. Okay, so we've been together 11yrs. In fact, 11yrs to the day (10-26-2002) we held a grand commitment ceremony. We stood before family, friends and God to declare our love and commitment. Back then, that was all we could do. Same-sex marriages were not "legal" then. Instead we were allowed to register as Domestic Partners. Separate and almost equal. 

Objectors to the idea of same-sex marriages continually stand by the idea that commitments of partnership are the same "after all, they grant most of the same rights as straight couple marriages." Most is not the same. I don't know of any married straight couple who has to file separate legal declarations to ensure their rights of spousal benefits, survivor benefits, medical power of attorney, or spousal privilege in legal matters. I don't know of any straight married couple who must prepare (but not file) an extra joint federal tax return in order to accurately file their joint state taxes.  These are a few examples.

Now that I am off of the legal soap box, lets get back to the wedding. In 2002 we held a large celebration. Several extended family members joined us in our moment of joy. Aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters - but no  parents. It hurt like hell that our parents wouldn't join us in one of the most important events of our lives. Like dutiful children, we sucked in our hurts, forgave and moved on.

I can't speak for Nichole's hurts, but I must put mine out in the open.

In 2002 my parents stood on their principals and chose not to attend. According to my father, the ceremony was not sanctioned by the church (and therefore not by God), nor was it a "marriage." In fact, my father accused us of just "playing house."  My oldest brother attended out of a sense of duty to support me. Duty, not joy or love. His wife refused to attend and they forbade their children from attending.We were told by my brother and his wife that they did not want their children exposed to such an event - as if we were dirty, salacious abominations.

On the other side, my sister and other brother did attend - genuine in their celebration of our love. His children attended and to this day they remain "normal" and unscathed by our commitment.

Okay... there is the history. History, as we know repeats itself. Mid year 2013 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld challenges to California Proposition 8. Prop 8 was an anti same-sex marriage declaration. It was narrowly passed by vote and promptly challenged as unconstitutional.  I don't know or understand all the legal mumbo-jumbo but the bottom line is that the U.S. Supreme Court has made it possible for homosexuals to legally marry in California. Now we finally have truly EQUAL rights to marry.

As it happened, our anniversary of commitment (10-26) fell on a Saturday this year. Nichole and I decided it fit perfectly for a marriage ceremony. We planned a small ceremony this time and sent out only a few notices to family and friends.

We knew that extended family from out of state would not attend. It was never expected (although one could always hope).  Besides, we knew these were the same family member who have always stood with us and who attended the original commitment. What came as a crashing heart rending blow was the fact that NOT ONE SINGLE BLOOD FAMILY MEMBER ATTENDED!

My father, brothers and their families live barely one hour from us. Father originally told us he wouldn't attend, then he surprised us to tears by saying he would. "The church has softened its position and the marriage is legal." I was ecstatic. Up until the day before our wedding Father declared his intent to join us. Then, as he often does these days, he decided he wasn't up to it. He didn't feel good and wouldn't be there for me once again in my important time.  I wish he'd just maintained his first impulse to not come, rather than raise my hopes.

The younger of my brothers, and his children - all who'd attended the original ceremony - each sent in their regrets that they were out of town an unable to attend. But my oldest brother and his wife - well they too had a convenient other thing to attend. I guess something more important than a sisters wedding.... worse still, is the fact that their three children, all of whom I've supported through their major events and such, didn't even have the courtesy to send their regrets! Because these three had been forbidden 11yrs ago, I made sure that each one received their own invitation so that they could feel free to make their own decision.

Now I know where I stand.

Okay so back to the good stuff. I want you all to know that despite the heartbreak, MY wedding to Nichole is the greatest event of my life. Being legally married makes us a complete family now. I have blood relatives, extended family, and I have my family.

My family consists of:

Nichole - my WIFE
Isaac - my oldest son
Nathan - my middle son
Austin - my youngest son
Lisa - because everyone needs an Auntie Lisa.

I am thrilled to have this family and the friends who all showed their love and support for us on our special day.  To those far away who couldn't attend - I love you all and thank you all for your kind words and support. I know you were there in spirit.

I will never forget my wedding day. It will stand as one of the happiest days of my life. It will also stand as a reminder that family is not about blood. Family is as family does.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

New Beginnings

June 26, 2013

Early morning clouds promise a cool day as we sit in silence - each in his own thoughts. It is the first day for all; a new beginning. We do not know each other, but when the week is done we will be bonded together as the "newbies." A new crew with but one goal - to provide a future.

Most are young kids really, barely out of their teens creating their own way. As for me and the few others of age and wisdom; we are here because we love. We've worked through our prime years and yet find ourselves struggling to provide for our families. We find ourselves in need of just a little extra to pull through the rough times.

Rough is a relative word. What our ancestors lived through before us is, by far, greater an accomplishment. History will show that what we work so hard for are the extras - extravagant lives. They worked for the basics; to live.

But like I said... its relative. I work for my family and for myself. I've had my career, now it is just about living. So why not have fun while I do so? When my last job became overwhelming and no longer was fun, I changed. Now I have fun again... I drive the city bus.  It is fun. I see some of the same people daily, but new faces as well. I'm outdoors in the not-so-fresh air and although I have a route, I am mostly independent.

What matters most to me is that I feel positive at the end of my day. I can return to my home and family less frustrated (most days) and not worried about whether or not my very productive day resulted in profits. I no longer work to exhaustion only to be told "its worthless."

I feel positive and I am happy. What more is there?

From time to time I look back at my notebooks for meanderings and the starts of various writings. I often find interesting words strung together in pathetic attempts to make sense of my own mind.  I recently cleaned out several pages from the notepad I carry at work. The best by far was not written by me but by my youngest son. I have placed it here for safe keeping... word for word and spelling not corrected. He was about 6yrs old at the time of his writing, and note should be made that his printing is the most readable of all in the family!

A story

I have a manchin that is big. I love my manchin that I live in because it is scary and spocky.

Austin Eugene Groschup-Black - age 6

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

From Paige to Page: 3-11-13  RMB A Tree Friend Dear Rita Mae Brown,In ...

Posting from a blog I follow - a word on how the world is intertwined

From Paige to Page: 3-11-13  RMB A Tree Friend Dear Rita Mae Brown,In ...: 3-11-13  RMB A Tree Friend Dear Rita Mae Brown, In Starting From Scratch: A Different Kind of Writers’ Manual you write “I wou...

Monday, May 13, 2013

From Paige to Page: 3-8-13 Electric OrchidDear Rita Mae Brown,“If I we...

For all you writers in the world - an interesting take on the use of words

From Paige to Page: 3-8-13 Electric OrchidDear Rita Mae Brown,“If I we...: 3-8-13 Electric Orchid Dear Rita Mae Brown, “If I were you, I’d read this chapter.” You crack me up. That is the first line of “The ...

Monday, April 29, 2013

From Paige to Page

 Funny how some things written or argued 50 years ago are still so relevant today. Here is a new site I am following that honors one of the more relevant writers of yesterday and of today.

From Paige to Page 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Gypsy in Me

“I don’t believe in coincidences.” I’ve heard this from many people, friends and strangers alike. For me, I just don’t know what to believe.  According Coincidence is “the occurrence of events that happen at the same time by accident but seem to have some connection.” Is it then coincidence that on April 14th, 2013 I lay awake half the night with a sense of foreboding; so much so that I called my best friend and told her “something big is bugging on me, and I don’t know what”? United States History will forever remember April 15th, 2013 not as “tax day,” but as the day a terrorist bombed the Boston Marathon. I’m not going to join the multitudes and speculate the “who, or why” of this horrific event. But I do wonder why I was awake half the night before.

Yesterday, April 17th, 2013 at about 4:00pm PDT, I sent an email to my best friend. Again describing a sort of anxiety I was feeling. I told her, “It’s not like a panic attack, but more like a heavy feeling as if something big is going to happen.” A couple hours later, at about 8:00pm CDT a fertilizer factory in Texas caught fire and blew up with force enough to destroy a radius of several city blocks. More died in this explosion than in Boston two days before. The injured and missing are still being sought. Coincidence? Maybe – or maybe I am channeling my Gypsy heritage.

My family heritage comes from the German Bohemians. While the family is of German descent, they lived in Bohemia – what is now known as Czechoslovakia. One of my Great-Great relatives married into a Gypsy family. I grew up with romantic notions of the Gypsies; their nomadic lifestyle, and their connections with the mystical world. I grew up “knowing” things. Not big stuff – I was not able to predict the future, or tell fortunes. But I was able to know when the phone rang that the call was for me, and that it was my cousin. Is it coincidence she lives in Texas?

My best friend is psychic. She knows things and feels things. We call on her frequently when we can’t find the car keys or something. She describes where they are (not typical or usual places) and then we find them.  The last time they were lost she described “dark green shag” like a carpet. The keys were found in the front yard in tall grass.  She also “knows” or feels people.

It’s an energy thing. She can tell when someone is “off” or when there is “more” to the story. Skeptics say that it is just an ability to read body language. I don’t know. She was instrumental in helping us determine how our house fire started. She insisted that Isaac knew more than he was telling. Despite the quality of his lie (until then we could always tell) she pressed on until he finally admitted playing with the matches. She was the one who kept on Isaac, telling him he wasn’t giving us the truth. She is the one who asked the probing questions that led me to see the moment of give in his eyes. I had stopped asking him and started telling her to drop it. But she knew.

We both feel spirits. She sees them and hears them. In a sense, she lives with them. I mostly feel them – at times. I know when I feel my mother, or my grandmother. They come in loud and clear. I feel others too. I don’t  always know who they are, but they are there. We have a guardian angel that used to watch the boys when they were toddlers. She sat with them through the night. She is an older woman with merry eyes and full of love. My best friend says her name is Mabel and I know her. I don’t recall anyone named Mabel, although we did have a Mildred. I don’t think she is Mildred. We also have an impish spirit. This one I see out of the corner of my eye. It passes into the kitchen and out again. I used to think it was one of the boys, barely tall enough to be seen over the counter. But I still see this spirit on occasion and all three boys are taller than the counter now.

The Gypsy in me knows things. I can read people and know their spirit. I know what is broken in them. It is an energy thing. I feel their “vibe” and instinctively know how to soothe them. Is it coincidence then that I also know how to hurt them? This is an unfortunate consequence of “knowing.” Naturally, I never intend to harm anyone, but on occasion when I don’t reign in my gift, I do. Perhaps this is why so many Gypsies also have the reputation of being self-serving con artists. That is another story for another time. I embrace the Gypsy in me. This is a gift, whether blood born or not, that must be cherished and nurtured. This is a gift we see in Nathan. It is up to us to teach him how to use it for good things and not allow the “knows” to consume him.

This is the coincidence of life. We are all here on this earth, co-existing as manifested energy. We are all each other and what one emits another feels or knows.

Thursday, April 11, 2013


Eighteen years in law enforcement; half spent in a department where I was cross-trained as a firefighter. At least that is what I tell people.  Our training consisted of two weeks of what not to do and some basic fire science. Nonetheless, I did fight fires on occasion. Eighteen years of knowing what to do in almost any emergency - seven years later I felt like an absolute fool.

It is said that in times of stress or emergency a person falls back on their initial training. Rote practice enables muscle memories to take over and actions automatically fall into place. Not really though. When the emergency becomes close and personal, things change. OK, that and maybe six years have dulled the autonomic responses.

Tuesday afternoon our house caught fire. Yep, something you only read about in the news... it happens to others in far away places. Tuesday, it happened to us. The boys smelled smoke and mentioned it. I dismissed it as "the neighbor's BBQ." Then the boys said it smelled like plastic burning. I didn't smell anything but wood smoke like a fireplace (not likely in 80* heat) or maybe wood chips in the BBQ. I want BBQ.

After a few words back and forth, we all saw the column of smoke billowing from our wooden patio covering. It was a lot of smoke. Just like we'd practiced, every time I burned dinner and smoked out the house, I told the boys to get out and go to the neighbor. They handled their part perfectly. I on the other hand stood in my bedroom trying to figure out what I was supposed to be doing. I couldn't remember the plan. I finally settled on the laptop computer (have to attend class when this is all over) and the cat. I also had the presence of mind to call 911.

Just like in every nightmare I've had, I couldn't get the phone to dial out or miss-dialed. When I finally got it right I told the operator "I'm on fire!" That is about the time I came to my senses and started over. All the while going back in to get the dog. Really, the fire was on the patio and hadn't come inside yet so I had plenty of time. By then neighbors I've never met were there with hoses dousing the inferno.

We were ripe for this fire. An old sofa just outside the back door had baked in the sun for two years. An old broken rocker sat nearby and last year's dried out Christmas Tree was right beside the sofa. The fire started in the sofa. A bright orange wall of flames consumed the tree, sofa and the flashed over (rather under) the wooden awning.

While neighbors were dousing the flames, I walked in circles in the front yard. Not only was I stunned, I was in a fog and felt helpless. Sheriff deputies and firefighters all arrived and finished putting the fire out. Damage was minimal - all things considered. Then came the hard part. How the hell did a fire start in an old sofa?

I watched as the Captain interviewed all three of my boys. I suspected the truth and I allowed the Captain to question them without my presence. He came up with nothing. Isaac has apparently begun perfecting his lying skills. He had us nearly convinced, but for the fact that there was no other way.

I promised all three that no one was "in trouble" and no one was going to jail; just tell the whole truth. I repeated it several times to Isaac until I finally saw that investigative moment. The moment of resignation. There was fear in his tear filled eyes. I asked him if he was afraid and he barely nodded yes. I knew then that it was time.

Isaac, as many 11yrs old do had played with matches. Of all things, he had lit the match (or matches), extinguished it and then dropped the hot stub on the couch. Apparently the match had enough heat to smolder under a perfect storm of heat and wind, because without much more the flames were lit.

Isaac had no intent to start the fire. He was doing what so many do; acting grown-up. Lighting matches because he is old enough and mature enough to do so.  I thought I'd taught him about smolders and about how matches burn even after they are blown out. I guess I hadn't. The look in his eyes was all I needed. Isaac was truly impacted by the fire and "what could have happened." I'm sure it won't happen again.

So in the aftermath, we are dealing with clean-up crews, construction crews, insurance agencies and three boys terrorized - again - by fire. All three remember the fires of 2007 when we evacuated. Austin had nightmares and fear of fire for years.  Now it has started all over. All three refuse to sleep anywhere but in our room with us. Austin couldn't close his eyes without crying, twitching, or all out screaming. At least at this age he could tell us what he saw. His nightmare visions of lightning, fire, and firemen dying made me cry. That was three nights ago.

So now what? I don't know. All the training and practice in the world never prepared me to be the one on the helpless side. But that is what I feel: helpless. Helpless to comfort a guilty child. Helpless to comfort a terrorized child. Helpless to comfort a quietly suffering child. Helpless, helpless, helpless.

Maybe once the construction crews are gone and our house is back to "normal" things will fall back into place and I can go back to being the one in charge and the one who has it all together. Or maybe nothing will ever be the same.  I just don't know.