All posts by michaelestrock

Digging out of the closet

 

For many years, I’ve struggled with being happy.  I’ve struggled with being the best person I could possibly be, and trying to make the right decisions so that I didn’t feel like I was a disappointment to everyone else around me.

I’ve struggled many years with worry.  Worry about being jobless.  Worried about being homeless.  Worried about being looked at as a failure compared to other people.

In October of last year, I had a very down point in life.  I had to make some very painful decisions that would affect people around me.  I tried to make the best decisions I could make, given the information I had at the time. Given the obstacles that I had in my way at the time, I made the best decisions I could, and I moved on.

I’ve always struggled with being the ‘sad’ guy.  I even had a friend who I worked with sixteen years ago approach me and give me a book on why I shouldn’t commit suicide.  It had never crossed my mind. 

Fast forward to about three months ago.  I’m getting all my stuff together to do my taxes.  I prepare everything and look at the amount I owe.  I couldn’t believe it.  So I waited for my wife’s information and did her taxes.  Then I re-did the taxes, filing jointly.  It brought the amount down substantially, but it was still a very large amount of money that I owed.  I had and have never owed taxes in my life.  I’ve always had more taken out of my check so that I didn’t run into that situation at the end of the year. It was a struggle.  Dealt with.  Major league pain in the ass though.

At that point, I thought, “I’m worth more dead than I am alive.”  If I take ten to twelve Tylenol PMs one night, maybe I’ll just go off to sleepy land and never wake up again.  My problems will be over.

Then I thought about the people around me.  My wife.  My kids.  My ex-wife.  My parents.  My wife’s parents.  The few friends I have who I actually can call friends who would help me if ever I was to have an issue I needed to discuss or a problem that I faced.

Growing up, I was never bullied.  I had kids make fun of me because my head is shaped like Beldar from Saturday Night Live due to hydrocephalus.  But in fifth grade, I picked a kid up and drug him through a mud puddle.  He was one of the kids who picked on me.  Pretty much, being picked on stopped there.  Thankfully.

Many kids and adults are bullied.  Many take their own lives because they are bullied.  Many people take their own lives because they feel overwhelmed by the circumstances that they face in their lives.  I feel sad for them.

Yes, I considered suicide.  But, even if my issues in life are sometimes very difficult, I have found that life is worth living.  Reach out to those around you.  Reach out to people who may not otherwise have friends to talk to.  If you have a friend you haven’t heard from in a while, reach out to them.  Say “Hey, I’m just checking on you.  You doing OK?”  It might make a world of difference to that person. You might even save a life.

I’ve had a couple friends reach out to me in the last several weeks, for which I’m grateful. 

Am I over the hump?  Of being thinking that I’m worth more dead than alive, yes.  I still struggle some days with a sadness, because frankly, at six hundred and ten months old, I thought I would have life figured out a bit more than I do.  I thought I’d be in a better place in life.

But then I remember that God has gotten me through 100% of my struggles to date.  So I guess I’m batting 1,000.  May not seem like it some days.  But I am.

I have a wife who loves me, and kids who love and tolerate me.  My parents still love me and I’m thankful to have people in my life who care. 

What was the purpose of this entry?  I’m not sure.  I guess what I’m saying is that you should reach out to those around you.  You NEVER KNOW what might be going on in their lives where just saying “Hello old friend, I’ve not heard from you in a while.  You doing OK?” might make a difference in someone’s life.

My Grandmother has passed away at the age of 101

This morning, my mom called me to tell me that my grandmother had passed away at 102 years old.

Not unexpected.  She’s had failing health for many years.  I received a phone call about eight years ago that they didn’t think she would make it through the night.  Miraculously, she did.  At that point, I was pretty sure she was going to outlive us all.

I remember many things about my grandmother.

  • I remember trips to church, the church that she and my grandfather so dearly loved.  She took care of the flowers and he took care of a lot of the  maintenance around the church.
  • I remember trips to the zoo.  Trips on the ferry to Kingston.  Trips on their boat out in the Sound, either just putzing around or fishing.
  • I remember her driving home from church in her Pontiac GTO, burning rubber at stoplights.
  • I remember her gingerbread.  I remember that she made the best cookies ever, called Jubilee Jumbles.  For me.
  • I remember she loved my brother and I and my two cousins.
  • I remember she loved people.  More than anything, I remember she loved people.  She went out of her way to love people.

I remember that my grandmother was a strong, confident woman.  She loved God.  She loved people. She loved my grandfather.  She loved to have fun.  She loved to garden.

But most of all, I remember she loved me.  No matter what, my grandmother loved me.  100%. 

The last few years, even though I lived two miles away from her, I didn’t get over to see her as often as I should have.  She had failing health, I was “too busy” or honestly, I wasn’t interested in seeing her in her state of failing health.  She had Alzheimer’s and the one of the last times I saw her, she didn’t recognize me.  I knew it wasn’t her.  I knew it was the disease.

I loved my grandmother with all my soul.  Always have, always will.  I will miss her.  But I know, deep down, she is in Heaven.  My grandfather is rejoicing because he has his wife back.  My grandmother is happy because she is out of pain and she is in her forever home with my grandfather and her friends who left this world before her.

I’ll miss you Gram. Truly I will.  Thank you for the love you showed me and showed others.  I’ll see you again someday, I’m sure of that.

Love,

Mike.

Reflecting on 602 Months

602 months ago yesterday, I was born.

When I was eight years old, all I wanted to be was a dad.

My father is my hero.  I’ve always wanted to be as good a father as he was, and have always wanted to make sure that my parents, especially my father, was proud of me and the things that I did and the person I became.

I didn’t attain that goal.  I’m not nearly the father that my father is, and frequently, I think that I am more of a disappointment to my parents than I am a joy.  It’s OK.  I’ve learned to accept it, and I continue to strive to do the right things.  But I really wish that I could have been more of a joy to them than a disappointment.

My children are a joy to me.  They don’t always do the right things, but I am so thankful to have them in my life.  I just want to be as helpful to them as a father as I can.  But sometimes, I feel like I have even failed them.

I’m human.  I make mistakes.  But I try very hard to do the right thing at least 95% of the time.  Still not good enough.  But I’m not giving up.  I want my children to know that I love them, unconditionally, and will help them however I possibly can moving forward.  Sometimes, I can’t, for whatever reason, but they need to know that they are a priority in my life and I will always be there for them.  Always.

Reflecting on 590 months

590 months ago today, I was born.  It’s been a long haul.  Lots of life to live yet.  Last few months have been full of changes.  Some good, some bad. 

My mom recently had surgery for colon cancer.  After they removed the piece of her small intestine, we received the news today that she is cancer free.  Awesome news.

I’ve been blessed with many blessings in my life.  Looking forward to the future.

I’d like to buy a small piece of land in Eastern Washington and build a small cabin with solar electric power and rain water harvesting capabilities.  I’d like to live there later in life.  I’ve found the piece of land, but need to get the rest of my life in order.  Like I said, it’s been a few months full of change.

Well, as I reflect on these 590 months, I look forward to the future.  I am thankful for the past, as it has helped me learn things I wouldn’t have otherwise learned.  Would I change the things I’ve done in the past?  Would I do them differently?  Sure.  I’d change some of the things I’ve done, but all in all, I find that I’m an OK person.  I have friends.  I have family.  I have a roof over my head.  I have a job.  Lots of things that some other people might not be able to say “I’ve got that too.”

So we push forward.  Small steps at times, big steps at other times.  Hopefully moving forward with more steps than we move backward.  Some days, I wonder.  But today, today is a good day.  Today I can see that the world isn’t all bad things.  It isn’t all unicorns and butterflies, but it isn’t all bad.

The Mobile Landscape

I use a mobile phone, for both home and work.  I use the phone for many things.  I use it for phone calls.  I use it for email (both work and home).  I use it to communicate with my family and friends via texting.  I also use it for navigation, finding places I have to go.  I get lost frequently, and having a GPS built into the phone is indispensable to me.

I’ve tried the three major mobile platforms.  I had an iPhone.  I had a Windows Phone 7 device.  I’ve also had (and still have) an Android device.  Each has it’s benefits and drawbacks.

IPhone

The iPhone has a great app store.  It also has great support, and it is easy to use.  It allows me to have two email accounts and have independent sounds for each account so I know what email account just received an email (pretty indispensable for my needs).  It also allows you to easily use the phone as a music device, synching with ITunes and you can also use the phone to view movies.

What it doesn’t do well, in my opinion, is navigation.  I haven’t had an iOS6 device, just an older device, but the navigation portion of the phone just isn’t useful enough for my needs to make the phone worthwhile.

The other issue I have, and this is personal preference, is that you are unable to write native applications for the phone unless you are a Mac user.  I’m a Windows guy.  I’m not sure I necessarily want to write iPhone software, but the opportunity is not even available to me because I am a Windows guy.

Windows Phone 7

When Windows Phone 7 was first released, I acquired a Samsung Focus so that I could evaluate the platform.  It’s a nice phone.  It’s small, it’s fast, the battery life is pretty good.  It’s easy to set up, and easy to configure email accounts, Twitter accounts, Facebook, etc.  You cannot have two email accounts on the phone which have unique sounds.  So if you have a work email account and a home email account, they both have the same email alert sound.  For someone like myself who runs two companies, plus a side business, plus having a home email address, it’s pretty important for me to be able to easily distinguish WHICH email account just got an email, especially if I have the sound enabled.  It’s not possible with Windows Phone 7.  Windows Phone 8 has just been released, and much to my amazement, this issue (which cannot be unique to me) is not resolved with this new release of the phone software.  I couldn’t believe it.

Also, navigation on the Focus is abysmal.  Turn by turn navigation is not available on the phone without purchasing a secondary application.  I *need* navigation.

Android

A long long time ago, I had a Samsung Captivate.  I hated it.  The software was horrible, the applications were horrible, I could hardly make the phone work.  I took it back.

A couple years ago, I acquired a Dell Streak.  It was another Android device.  I *loved* this phone.  *LOVED* .  I used it for quite a while, but the screen broke, and then Dell stopped selling and supporting the device.  So I acquired a Samsung Galaxy Note.  With it’s 5.4” screen, it’s a behemoth of a device.  It’s a phablet. It does everything that Android can do, and it does it wonderfully.  It charges using a standard mini-USB plug, and it has Google integration and navigation and everything else necessary.

Best part about the phone,  is the navigation and the syncing with Google, which I use heavily for email.  I love the size of the phone, although most will hate it as too big.  Definitely check it out at your local retailer.