1,158 — Wow

Friday, June 12th, 2015

So, it has been 1,158 days since my last post. I guess that means it has been 1,158 days since my Grandpa Cookie–my last living grandparent–passed away. Hard to believe I have been that quiet, or that it has been that long since my g’pa passed.

Well, I am back–at least for awhile. Most likely I am typing this for myself, but today marks day 1 of a project I want to document. Today, we begin finishing my basement. And being married to a cheapskate (sorry, Rebecca), I have decided to general contract the project myself. What makes me qualified to be a construction general contractor? It’s quite simple, really, and is one word:

Google Logo


Yes, thanks to Google, I have all the skills and knowledge it takes to manage this project.

So, here’s how we have gotten here.

On Friday, June 5, I ordered the wood necessary for delivery. On Wednesday, it showed up at 9:00 am — right when they told me it would.

The wood sat in my driveway until today, when the contractor I hired to frame the basement showed up with his 13 year old son and moved the wood into my clean basement. Why the emphasis on the word clean? Well, quite simply since we moved into my new house back on October 31, 2012 (yeah, sorry — a lot has changed since I last posted), our basement has been jam packed with stuff. Why the emphasis on the word stuff? Frankly, I didn’t want to swear as my mother will probably be one of the 5 people to ever read this article.

Over the last few months in preparing to finish the basement, Rebecca and I have:

  • Donated a bunch of stuff to the Good Will
  • Sold a bunch of stuff, including some really nice and expensive stuff from my old home theater, on Craigslist.  Sidenote:  I have some stuff still for sale on Craigslist if you’re local and interested.
  • Taken a load of stuff to the dump.

After ridding of all of that stuff, the basement was clean and ready to begin accepting walls.  That begins tomorrow.

I plan to post some before, during and after photos of the project in the days, weeks and months to come.  My stretch goal is to have the basement completed before I host our neighborhood poker game in September, but no matter what, I need it done in time for our 10th Annual Halloween Party.

So, if you are really, really bored, be prepared to follow along and see the evolution of our empty space below.

Peace — and don’t vote for Hillary Clinton (some things will never change).


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So Many More Memories… And a Phone Call

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

Grandpa's GangLast night after I wrote my post about my Grandpa “Cookie”, so many more memories were filling my head as I tried to bounce between monitoring some chats at work and ultimately trying to drift to sleep.  Amazing how the mind works… I have always claimed my memory isn’t very good.  Yet vivid details of growing up with all of my grandparents kept filling my head.  Most, due to the circumstances, were centered on my Grandpa (and Grandma) Carlen.  Memories of their house, and how all of us kids loved going down to the basement and playing billiards (even if we weren’t supposed to).  The bar in the basement, complete with an antique (was it really antique back then?) cash register and all of the old, detailed glasses behind the bar.  A carousel of poker chips.  A bottle with numbered, round die that we would spill out of the bottle — I guess this was used to play some game of pool, but all I know is we had to make sure we didn’t lose any of the numbers.  The somewhat scary–at least to a young child–storage area which was adorned with a sewing machine for grandma and fly fishing lure making equipment for grandpa.  Of course, this is also where the large, wooden Santa sleigh and reindeer cutouts were stored when it wasn’t Christmas time.Bug Zapper

The backyard of my grandparents’ house always had a garden–a rather large one, at that–and grandpa spent a lot of time trying to get the sprinkler system just right to cover it properly.  Oh, and keeping rodents and rabbits out of it!  Won’t mention the “gear” he used in assisting with his garden patrol efforts.  Not sure why but three other things about the backyard really standout.  First, the clothes lines that hung in the middle.  Second, the bug zapper that was always at work on the patio, and third, the bushes around the fence which had secret paths we liked to go in and hide, as well as see the barking dogs next door.  And how could I fail to mention the cinder blocks near the garage, where we as kids would take the large bark from around the trees and put them in the openings of the blocks, pretending they were mailboxes, just like the mailboxes at the post office where we would go, a few short blocks away, with grandma or grandpa to get the mail.

Grandpa loved bowling and rolled at least one 300 game in his time (don’t know how many, but know he had his name on plaque at bowling alley and had a ring to prove it!) and helped teach me to golf.  I think the man golfed nearly every day of the spring-fall while he was able!  So did my grandma.

American FlagEvery time I see a long Lincoln Town Car  or similar with an American Flag clipped to the window, I think of Grandpa.  Oddly enough, I saw one here in the OP just a few weeks ago.  Grandpa always drove around with an American Flag flapping by the window.  He loved his country like he loved his family.  I remember the last time I road in a car with G’pa driving.  Scared the hell out of me.  I believe this was after my grandma passed away, and clearly grandpa was at the onset of his horrible disease.  He was driving me from the airport, and entering I-25, he failed to get over into the actual lane.  Yep, we were driving on the side of the road.  I had to speak up to get him over.  Thankfully, he did, but it became crystal clear to me that day, driving shouldn’t be in the cards for him anymore.

Grandpa and I at my Wedding

Grandpa and I at my Wedding

Grandpa visited Rebecca, Spencer and I about five years ago with his lady friend Betty who had family out here in KC.  They came out here for the Renaissance Fair and visited my old house.  He came again when Rebecca and I got married.  I may have the order of these two visits backwards, but I am so thankful he got out here and saw me where I live.  Every moment is precious, and a great memory.  I am thankful that he got the opportunity to meet my entire family, including Brody, before he passed.  I know he doesn’t remember it, and neither will Brody, but it was important to me for that to happen and I have pictures to show my kids later in life.  Brody’s middle name is Carlen, a tribute to both my grandma and grandpa, and I am so thankful that Rebecca suggested the idea.  I haven’t mentioned how much Grandpa liked to give the ladies kisses and hugs.  Never will I forget all of the kisses he gave my Princess Braelyn when he met her.  I so wish I could go back to that day again.

I finally drifted to sleep last night, probably around 12:45.  Within a half hour, the phone rang.  I didn’t have to look… I knew.  It was my mom.  Instead of saying “hello” or anything else, I answered the call with “Our prayers were answered?”.  My mom replied, “Yes, it is over.”

I have been on this earth 14,630 days now, and today is the first without a living grandparent.  I feel blessed to have known and to remember each of my four grandparents–I know not everyone gets that opportunity.  While I am saddened that each of them are now gone to a better place, I am thankful that my grandpa’s struggles are over and that he is dancing again.

Love to my family, and thanks for your prayers.  They helped.



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It’s Been Awhile… Now Praying for Grandpa

Monday, April 9th, 2012

It sure has been awhile since I last posted on my blog. Far too long. The emotions of writing about my brother-in-law and his battle against Cancer is just too much, I guess. Sadly, I return to WordPress and my blog to write about another great person who is about to end his earthly journey…my Grandpa”Cookie” Emmett Carlen.

Grandpa Cookie

Grandpa back in July 2010

As I type, my grandfather lies in a bed in an Alzheimer’s home in Southern California. My mom and aunt spending every last day with him. Mom was encouraged to come last Friday, as the end was near. Grandpa is the last remaining grandparent I have, and he, too, will soon be gone. My family is in constant prayer that the Good Lord will take him soon, as his quality of life has diminished and is beyond repair. This, though, began many years ago as Alzheimer’s began to set in.

G’pa was, and is, a great man. When my grandma, the love of his life, passed away back in 2004 after her own bout with Cancer, the signs of Alzheimer’s were already showing. I think my grandma knew it when she departed this world into the next… she prepared as much as she could for him (including birthday cards for all of us throughout the year). Of course, she always took care of him, and the two were quite the duo. You could never leave their house without a smile on your face–their playful arguments. I will never forget them. I do remember as a child being astonished one day as I stood in the living room of their Mills, WY home, hearing my grandpa say “Come here, shit head!” I was so thankful when it wasn’t my grandma that followed him out of the kitchen, but their poodle, GiGi. For some reason, that and the candy jar, usually full of either root beer suckable candy or Atomic Fireballs that was strategically (and secretly) placed by “Grandpa’s Chair” (Grandpa’s Chair was the chair no one could sit in for very long, because when he returned, anyone in it was booted!) Another very fond memory is grandpa sitting there in that very chair, sucking on his candy, using his electric shaver, and watching the TV…either golf or QVN (yes, grandma and grandpa bought quite a bit of stuff off of QVN!).

Grandpa Dancing

Grandpa Dancing

My grandfather worked for as much of his working life as I can remember at the Casper Texaco Refinery. A hard worker and a very handy man, he wasn’t afraid of fixing anything and electrical stuff was his specialty. Grandpa and Grandma both were the odd-balls of the family–basically the only liberals in my family–and boy would they argue their side. Arguing (and farting) was their game — each blaming it on the other or the dog, but we all knew they were equally guilty.

Another vivid memory I have of my grandpa is his “hatred” of Christmas (not the holiday itself, but the commercialization of such). This was quite the contrary to my grandmother who absolutely loved it and all of the decorating that comes with it. I am pretty sure that Grandpa really did love Christmas, he just couldn’t admit it.

Dancing… my grandpa LOVES to dance. So did grandma. And whistling… you could always hear grandpa whistling.

My Family with Grandpa

My Family with Grandpa

Then evil came and began to take his mind. My family has, in recent years, experienced a lot of tragedy when it comes to evil diseases. As if Cancer weren’t enough, I can tell you Alzheimer’s in some way is worse, if that’s possible. At minimum, equally as bad, and definitely hard on the loved ones. C&A are two diseases that I pray will be eliminated in my lifetime or my children’s.

The last time I saw my grandpa was a almost two years ago when most of my family went to California for a vacation and to spend some time with him for his birthday. He looked much better then, physically, at least compared to the pictures I have seen of him lately. My mom sent me one today which just brought tears to my eyes. It’s undoubtedly time for Grandpa to go to the better place, and to spend eternity with his Maker and the love of his life, Grandma Cookie. I have no doubt they will be swing dancing soon, and I hope and pray it will be soon as the suffering needs to end.

Sending lots of love to my mom and aunt Lynda who are with him now, as well as to my Uncle Randy who could not make the journey from Casper. They are the three wonderful children of Emmett and Virgina Carlen, the crazy Democrats who are responsible for me, my sisters, my cousins and all of our kids. Grandpa, you did well. We love you, and we wish you a peaceful journey Home.

Grandpa, Mom, Lynda and Randy

Grandpa, Mom, Lynda and Randy


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Just received word that at about 2pm Mountain today, my brother-in-law Michael Lee Lovato passed away after a major battle with Cancer.  Mike has always defeated his foes, and I for one still consider him undefeated.  Cancer has been disqualified for cheating.

Mikey and My Sis

Mikey and My Sis

To my sister, Stephanie… I love you so much and will be with you soon.  To my nephew Stevie, you are a stud because of your mom and dad, and we will always be there for you.  To my niece Ashley, we’re there for you, too.

More reflection later.  Rest in Peace, Mikey.  For the first time in a long time, you’re free of health issues.


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Michael, My Hero

Saturday, July 16th, 2011

My stepson Spencer turns 18 next month.  Crazy.  He’s a pretty typical teenager, minus getting into a lot of trouble.  An atypical trait that Spencer posseses is his fear and hatred for roller coasters.  While I have always enjoyed roller coasters, the one my brother-in-law Mikey and my sister have been on is not a fun ride.  And our whole family has been along for the ride.

In January, if I recall the month correctly, Mike was diagnosed with cancer.  While this was not the beginning of the roller coaster (one could say it was much later in the ride as Mike had twice had to have kidney transplants), it was definitely the beginning of the biggest, fastest, curviest, scariest part of the ride.  Since his diagnosis, there have been a whole lot of downs and a few ups along the track.  Often, we feel as though there really isn’t a track.  Now, is one of those times.  Mike was proclaimed cancer free just a few months ago, and within two weeks of that, he was given a few days to live as more cancer…very aggressive cancer…took hold of his body.  Mike, being the champion fighter he is, defied all odds and doctors’ wisdom and got better.  Not cancer-free better, but better.  He put weight back on, started eating (and tasting food) again, regained his memory, and became the Mike of ‘ole.  Me and my OP family had feared a few months ago we would be heading to a funeral for Mike.  Now, we have a roadtrip scheduled next week to celebrate his 44th birthday.

Another drop on the roller coaster surfaced just a few days ago, and this one is steep.  Mike is now, once again, on his death bed.  While no new abnormalities show in his blood work, an infection has taken over his immune system-weak body; one that doctors don’t think antibiotics will help.  Mike refused to go to the hospital last night, and in-home hospice was arranged.  Just moments ago, my mother sent me one of the most horrible text messages I have ever received:

“He told us goodbye a while ago.  Said to tell everyone how much he loves them.  He doesn’t want to fight anymore.”

The doctors say he won’t last long, I am told.  He has defied them before.  Only God knows when Mike is going to go, but once the will to fight is gone, well, it probably won’t be long.  To go from thinking we would be celebrating a birthday with Mike (a miracle in itself) just a few days ago, to fearing I won’t ever see him again, is just mind boggling.  I want this coaster ride to end; but with Mike healthy and happy.

Michael truly is a hero to me.  He came into our lives long ago and became the father my niece Ashley needed and deserved.  He became the man who made my sister Stephanie truly happy for the first time in a long time.  He and my sister brought my 9 year-old nephew Stevie, a black belt, into this world.  He treated my wife and kids as good as he treats his own wife and kids.  He fights, fights, fights and overcomes all obstacles in his way.  He boasts about how much work he does, even sick, as compared to his coworkers.  He melted when he received an honorary black belt when Stevie earned his.   Mike is all things good, even when it seems only bad things happen.

Maybe Mike has given up on this battle; maybe he hasn’t.  Whichever it is, he is a champion and an inspiration.  I pray to God I will see him again, but I also pray to God to have mercy on him and my sister, nephew, niece, and entire family.

I love you Michael Lovato.  While I am not liking this roller coaster ride, we’re on it with you.  We got your back, just like you always have ours.

My response texts to my mother:

Oh my.  We love him, too.  Please thank him from me for being such a wonderful husband and father to my sister, Stevie and Ashley.  Please tell him that for me.  And for being a great uncle and brother-in-law.



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The Fighter Continues His Fight…

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

I do not know what more to say about my brother-in-law Michael Lovato.  I do know this… I always knew he was a fighter.  What I guess I did not know is just how strong of a fighter he is.  After several days of being completely unresponsive, the last few, he has been all but that.  I was so amazed yesterday when I called my mom for an update.  She was at the hospital and actually put me on the phone with Mike–who talked to me!  I was so blown away that I didn’t say everything I wish I would have said, but I did tell him that I, along with my family (the OP Elledges), love him so much and are praying for him hourly.  He thanked me, and it was a joyous occasion.  Then today, I wake to the news that the doctors and nurses are amazed that he is where he is today, and they decided to resume treatment rather than just hospice care.  I do not know today if Mike will win the ultimate battle of his young life, but I am convinced more than ever he has a lot of fight left in him.  And based on his past, I would not  be surprised in the least bit if he doesn’t knock out his opponent, despite him being the underdgog.

Mike truly gives me a whole new perspective on life.   I sit here today, troubled with my own life events… but nothing compares to what Mike is going through.  And I know, if he can continue to fight the good fight, well hell, so can I.  And today, more than ever, I intend to.  If I learn nothing else from Mike, I learn that fighting to overcome hardships and obstacles ain’t no thing.  So I will.  And it WILL change my life.  He is fighting for life, and inspiring me to change mine.  I pray the outcome for both is a victory.  Don’t get me wrong at all… Mike’s fight is much more real and courageous than mine.  But I am going to model my remaining life, no matter how long that is, to be like his.

I continue to pray for Mike and my sister and family,  I pray for comfort and I pray for him to defeat this big, bully “Cancer”.  I know he can.  And I know my sister can remain strong.  And further, I know I can learn from them both, and change my life accordingly.

Love to and prayers for Mike, Stephanie, Stevie, and Ashely, along with the rest of my family….


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Mike & His Fight

Monday, May 30th, 2011

My brother-in-law Michael Lovato is a fighter.  No other way to describe it.  Today, he lies in a hospital room in Casper, WY fighting cancer.  He has already fought and won two rounds of kidney transplants.  Mix in a courageous fight this year against cancer, which just some three weeks ago he was declared “cancer-free”.  Our entire family rejoiced that God had been with Mike and he had beaten the big C.  But now, in just the last week, a very progressive cancer has spread and taken over his body and mind.  The prognosis is grim.  I know if there is anyone who can beat it, it is Mike, but at this point, it looks like a heavenly intervention would be required.


Stevie, Mike, Grandpa, Stephanie and Ashley

My sister, Stephanie, is such a strong woman, or at least she shows herself to be.  I do not know how she remains so strong with all she and Mike have been through.  It is amazing, to say the least.  I am so proud of her for demonstrating such strength and courage in the face of adversity, but I know on the inside, she is weeping like the rest of us.  I’m sure she has her private moments where she let’s it out.  That is good…she needs to.  I know she is trying to be so strong for my nephew, Stephen, and my niece Ashley, both of whom are also showing amazing strength.  My thoughts and prayers are nearly exclusively with them all.

Mike entering our family over 12 years ago was truly a blessing for my sister and my niece.  Mike became the father figure Ashley so desperately needed and longed for.  While he is, on paper, only her step-father, it does not ever feel that way.  He loves Ashley as if she was his very own.  And Ashley needed that.  So did Stephanie.  Then, thanks to Mike, we were blessed with the addition of Stephen some 10 years ago.  What an awesome, strong young man he is.  I can only imagine what is going on in his head.  He absolutely idolizes his father (and rightfully so).  I know Stevie will be the same fighter Mike is, I just pray he doesn’t face a fraction of the battles his father has.  I hope his battles will be the fun kind, as he continues his pursuit of his black belt.

I feel helpless sitting here in Overland Park while my big sister is going through this; but that’s what she wants.  She told me on the phone she wants me to stay here–she doesn’t want me to remember Mike how he is right now.  She wants me to remember him as the champion fighter he has always been.  And I will, no doubt.  This is just another sign of how strong my sister is.  I want to be there for her, but she wants to be there exclusively for Mike.  I respect and understand that.

Cancer is the most hideous disease I can ever imagine.  It takes far too many people, far too soon.  I pray for the miracle that will allow Mike to win this fight.  He is definitely up against the ultimate opponent.  While the odds may be against him right now, I know that I, for one, don’t count him out.

Sending love to and prayers for Mike, Stephanie, Stevie and Ashley, along with the rest of my family,


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I Love You Mommy!

Sunday, May 8th, 2011

It’s hard to imagine life without my mother.  My sisters would undoubtedly tell you I am a mama’s boy.  I don’t really know that to be the case, considering I have a close relationship with my dad, too, but if that’s the case, so be it.  My mom is a great woman, and I am proud she is my mom.  I am thankful we have a day each year designated to pay our respects and show our love to our mothers, though they most certainly deserve far more than a single day a year.

My Mommy and My Princess

Mothers are truly amazing, and their work and efforts do not get recognized near enough.  I see that much more clearly now, having two kids of my own and a step-son.  My wife is a wonderful mother, too.  As are my two sisters.  If you pay even the slightest bit of attention, you will recognize what superior people moms are.  My mom, my wife, and both of my sisters all work(ed) full-time jobs (my mom retired a few years back).  Yet, when their work work is done, that is when they kick it into high gear.  From changing diapers, cleaning house, cooking dinner, running errands, getting kids to practices/games/events, doing laundry… man, the list is overwhelming and non-ending.  The  things they do blow my mind.  I am spoiled.  I am fortunate.  The mothers in my life are champions.  I get exhausted physically and mentally at work, and when I get home, I just want to relax and chill.  My wife picks up my slack.  I feel the pain when my wife travels out of town.  I do not know how many times I have told her that she is a much better primary care giver than I am.  She is.  I am thankful for all that she does in taking care of me and the kids, much like my mom did (and still does) and my sisters do.

My dad’s mother passed away just a few weeks ago.  This is his first mother’s day where, at least in physical form, he cannot thank his mother for all of the wonderful things she did for him.  I can’t even imagine being in that situation.  I saw his post on Facebook this morning and shed a tear.  Mothers are so important.  My mom’s mom passed back in 2004.  Seeing my mom posting pictures of her yesterday makes me realize that even 7 years later, a mother’s love is never forgotten.

On this Mothers’ Day 2011, I find it so easy to say “Thank You” and “I love You” to the moms in my life:  my mother, my wife, and my sisters.  And oh, I would be remiss to not mention my mother-in-law.  What a wonderful mother she is, as well.  Mothers are remarkable.  While it is easy to say today, I realize I need to say it again tomorrow, next week, next month, and all the days ahead.  Without mothers, we’d all be in trouble.

To all you wonderful mother’s out there, Thank You and Happy Mothers’ Day.

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The Social Birthday

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

The Social BirthdayOver the past two years it seems that birthdays have changed significantly. On Tuesday, my 39th anniversary of life on this planet, I experienced my second “Social Birthday”. What I mean by this is that the traditional methodology of friends and family wishing me a happy birthday has officially evolved from a phone call or greeting card to a text or Facebook message.

The Social Birthday actually begins the day before the actual birthday. There is no doubt as to why this is, since Facebook lists your FB friends birthdays for you, sometimes showing you who will have one the next day. It is clear to me people actually look at this stuff daily and make a practice of wishing their FB friends a happy birthday on their birthday (plus or minus a day).

My Social Birthday
Happy Birthday, LOLTo show what I mean about birthdays becoming Social Birthdays, let’s look at my birthday greetings. I received:

  • 8 text messages
  • 3 physical greeting cards in the mail
  • 1 phone call greeting (thanks, mom!)
  • 1 e-mail greeting (Thanks Shawn Porter)
  • 107+ individual birthday greetings on Facebook, beginning several hours before my birthday and ending the day after my birthday. These greetings came from friends and family both, and some included some “wonderful” facebook application greeting cards. I’m pretty sure there were more greetings hidden in comment threads, but I didn’t go back and count those.

Additionally, I received quite a few in-person, real social greetings from my wife, kids, co-workers and friends. One friend (@ShawnHashmi) even picked-up my lunch check.

I should note that my mother contacted me in the most methods: phone, Facebook, text, and physical greeting card (including a check!) Thanks, mom!

My Conclusion
It is clear that birthday’s of old are gone by the wayside. Having said this, and while I greatly appreciate all of my “Social” birthday greetings, my birthday was most complete by the “Happy Birthday” from my daughter Braelyn (who peeked around the corner of the shower), my son Brody, step-son Spencer, wonderful wife Rebecca, my mother who called me and my friends and co-workers who said it in person.

There is definitely a place for the Social Birthday and it is great to be able to send and receive FB greetings to those we don’t interact with as regularly. I guess as I think about March 21, though, I just wish there was more personable interactions with those we are truly closest to than a thread on Facebook or a text on the phone.

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Where I Come From, We’d Call It Tuesday

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

Some are calling it the “Blizzard of Oz”. Others refer to it as “Snowmageddon”. Where I come from, we’d simply call it “Tuesday”.

NBC photo

Oh my, Shut Down the City

Yes, the midwest is bracing for possibly the worst storm in decades. Forecasters are calling for anywhere from 4 inches to 3 feet of snow out here in Kansas and Missouri. Schools are closed. Light snow flakes fill the air. The roads have some snowpack. The winds might get to be 30-35 mph. Yes, we are boarding up our windows now, having successfully raided the grocery store for flashlights, candles, bottled water and canned foods. We are hastily switching channels between the local news stations to see what’s happening out there. I really enjoyed the clip of a snow plow driver prepping the streets, talking about safety, while driving with a bright tv camera light in his face (showing off at least three teeth). Please pray for us…

Here it Comes!

Having grown up in Casper, Wyoming, this is nothing. Schools would be in session. Offices would be open (yes, I closed our office today–it’s the thing to do out here). Traffic would flow at the normal 30 miles per hour (sadly, speed limits are still dreadfully low in Casper). People would survive. Afterall, 35 mile per hour wind is just an average Tuesday in “C” town. But not out here. We’re all hunkered down, fearing the worst but praying for the best. If you don’t hear from me, wait for Snowmageddon to stop and call for help. Thank you.

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