Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the month “February, 2013”

David Versus Goliath

So what is a person to do, when you are positive that you are being wronged, but your pepetrator is not only not your size, but so large in numbers, have infinite resources, and counts on you not to resist?

Much like my days as a child, I faced bullies every day.  I say bullies, because no one ever took me on one by one.  It always had to be a gang.  To this day, I still do not understand why.  I was tiny, I never fought back, I was no challenge.  I was an easy mark for even girls to come after me because I was raised never to retaliate.  Though it was clearly a moral reason as to how I was raised, a clear example of why not to retaliate can be seen in sports.  It is never the first guy to throw the punch that has been witnessed, but the one who throws back is the one to get caught.

My nine years of elementary and junior high school gang beatings accomplished two things.  The first, I have a ridiculous tolerance to pain.  The second, and just as important an issue, I no longer pick my battles, I fight everything.  I surrender to nothing, no matter what.  Neither is necessarily a good characteristic to have.  This behavior often alienates me, misrepresents who I am, and on occasion has resulted in threats of litigative action.

But then again, that negative experience had also prepared me for one of the biggest fights in my life, a battle with Hodgkin’s Disease, cancer.  I did not let it take away my spirit, my fight, my life.

But as I said, I no longer pick battles.  If I even sense that someone is being anything more than courteous with me, anything stronger than a recommendation, I immediately become defensefive.  And with too much time to think about the situation, it is likely that I may feel that instead of working with me, you are working against me.  No matter the size of the issue, if I sense no respect coming from you, I react as if you were one of my school yard bullies.  And I do not mess around either.  Granted, I do not physical, but I will resort to any other tactic to get you to leave me alone.  Some examples…

Imagine, you are a telephone solicitor or even just someone conducting a survey, you have literally just a few seconds to reconsider contacting me before you realize you “dialed a wrong number.”  It may have been the number you saw, or the robot dialed, but it was definitely the wrong call to make.  Every phone call from anyone other than family or friend has an ulterior motive, a strategy, and prepared for my “no.”  And it is the refusal to accept my “no” that sends me back into the “bully defense” mode.  The call is ended shortly after that begins.

Wendy and I bought a dog at a pet store (something we will never do again because with so many dogs that need homes, the last thing I ever want to do is support puppy mills who sell their dogs to pet stores).  When Pollo got real sick as a puppy, as in no breath, tongue out, eyes rolled, and carried him into the vet, as he came back out of the exam room on his own power and tail wagging, I thought I could help the vet by finding out information on his mom and dad to see if there were any cardiac issues.  Their simple refusal to even answer that simple request resulted in my unleashing the PA Department of Agriculture, the USDA, countless news agencies, and even The Peoples Court on them.  There was a good thing that came out of it.  Sadly we found out Pollo came from a puppy mill, but at least now that one was shut down because of all of the investigation.

If you are a manufacturer or retailer that will not back up the product you sell?  You are a bully.

Try to negotiate a labor contract through the media by printing a teacher’s salary publicly (meant to enrage the public?)  You are a bully.  Hence what began my politcal run for the local school board two years ago.

Of course I am a firm believer that a bully in school grows up to be a bully in adulthood.  Instead of the school playground, the environment is the workplace.  But the atmosphere is still the same, bully versus victim, bystanders, and people who do not want to get involved at all.  So in my current job, I spent the first four years fighting against my supervisor who routinely tried to get to work in certain ways, short cuts if you will.  Because I would not, he made things personal with me.  Everyone knew it, but just as bystanders on a playground, no one wants to get involved.  Eventually you take the work home with you, and family and friends no longer want to spend time with you.  But just as I did with my cancer, I survive everything I face and he moved on.

And there are more examples of when I have seen bullying take place in the adult world, most noticeably by our school board over the last few years.  The chances are pretty good that their behavior will show up.  I seem to have taken after a Stephen King character from Storm Of The Century, as I repeatedly quote “give me what I want, and I’ll go away.”  It is that originally posturing that is taken that puts me on the alert, it’s going to be rough.

And now, just as the three rivers flowing into Pittsburgh, I have a similar event occurring right now, unfortunately not as beautiful to watch, but just as dangerous.  Time will tell by the end of the week if I have three more things to deal with, all major.

character from Storm of the Century

What It Means To Have Support

Tonight I spent close to three hours with many people who want to support me in my quest to sit on our local school board.  It is kind of surreal because I do not know most of them on a personal level.  Many recall my election effort two years ago and are excited at the prospects this year.  There is a lot on the line, including taking on the current school board president, current vice president, another long term board member, and what is anticipated, the former board member who was handpicked by the board as a replacement for a board member who had resigned (yes, the one that they picked over myself and fellow running mate, Tina).

And there are tons of issues this time around, many continuing from two years ago, and several new issues.  There will be plenty of time to get into the issues, but for now, this blog is just about the fact that so many people believe that along with my three other running mates, we are the ones to make the difference for public education in our area.  They support us.  This is just one of many examples from my life, of when support has mattered the most to me, and made the difference.

And within our campaign, there is support.  Alex is making his third run, the last time was in 2011 with me, and he did better with results than in 2009.  He is facing the same candidates that he faced in 2009, but now he has three great running mates.  Like me, he is a family man, married with two daughters.  And he is super smart.  I have spent a couple afternoons recently with him, just casual visits.  Relaxing, interesting, and educational from a technology point of view.  I know I will have the support of those in Alex’s circle.

Tina was a new-comer to our last campaign, but she brought something special, pride.  She was “super mom”, sports mom, spirit mom.  If you were involved in sports, everyone knew her.  She is soft-spoken and passionate, but can totally relate to the parents and young graduates.  She is very likable so many come to her to give her leads of issues.  As we have shared car rides occasionally, casual conversations have led us to more vulnerable talks, giving us a more human feel for the campaign.

Murali (pronounce “murly”) is a newcomer to our slate, but not to our school district as he spent his entire education going through our system.  He is a very nice, well spoken young man.

So we stood in front of a room packed with supporters.  All interested in signing our petitions to run for the public office of school board director.  So many expressed  concerns for what they felt were issues that they believe were important, but also that we would hear them and listen to them.

This petition process will be done soon, and then it is time to put together a platform, narrowed down from more than a dozen issues that I feel need to be addressed, as well as the issues the other candidates have for the district.  But bottom line, it is the education of the children that has to be the top priority.

A Page From Job

I had finally turned my screwed up life around, when I finally proposed to my girlfriend.  Somehow, somewhere, I screwed things up because my world came crashing down the day that I was told that I had cancer.  I was happy, “was” healthy,  taking care of “man” urges, all things were good.  Because of my then fiancé, I had also been attending church again.  After all, if we were going to be married there, the minister wanted to see us there more than just our wedding day.  He got his wish.

I put a phone call into his office, that I needed to speak to him urgently.  This man of the cloth called me back.  “I’m really busy right now.  The Advent season has just started so my schedule really doesn’t have any room.  I can make some time for you after the new year.  So, I am diagnosed with cancer, the one place that I turn to, my church, can’t make time for me because they are getting ready for Christmas.  Yeah.  I’m sure that my cancer will stop screwing with my emotions for the Christmas holiday break.

I have a quirk in me, that is 100% certain to react when an initial need is not acknowledged and dealt with in an appropriate manner.  Without guidance, I will seek out on my own, and the very first thing to embrace me, is where I will turn.  I had lived a shitty life for that past seven years, but I had turned things around, things were good, now they were shit again.  So my minister did not want to be there for me, I turned to my own bible.  I had heard of a character named Job who basically lost everything and blamed God.  Of course it was some deal between the Devil and God, but Job threw the blame at God.

Job lost his character, his family, his house, and his health.  Job cursed the day he was born.  God tries to set Job straight, and Job continues that his complaints are not only just, but never ending.  He hated his life.  Job speaks again of his innocence and then prays for relief.  Eventually he is convinced that his life will turn around with his faith, and it does.  I do not recall the length of time to get to that point, but I was definitely feeling like Job.  Later through the book, God makes his presence  firm saying that he would never turn away from children .

But when I got that diagnosis, I could help that feeling.  In one fell swoop to have just everything ripped out from under my feet.  Of course I saw the error of my ways, and though still not an openly publicly religiously practicing man, I do still have strong faith.  Or at least at this point, I think I do.  In spite of having the ultimate gifts in my life, my daughters, I find myself at a crossroad once again.  For nearly five years, I have taken one “punch” after another beginning with my emergency heart surgery.  Little by little, the assault on my life has been relentless and merciless.  At moments, I have been able to calm things down, just to focus and steer actions in what was hopefully the right direction, only to get sideswiped by yet something else.  For every action, there are three reactions or “side effects” that come my way.

Currently, I am staring down the “barrel” of  three additional actions that are anticipated to occur within this week alone.  And perhaps knowing that they can and most likely will occur is more stressful than having them sprung on you.  But the only part in my favor, under “normal” circumstance, normal is in quotes because my definition of normal is so understated, I adapt to crisis very well.  When I can anticipate, I can plan and prepare.  I can do better when I am not caught off guard.

This effort will no doubtedly be my biggest to date.  I apologize for the lack of details, not that publishing them is going to change anything.  I believe they will still occur, but until they do, I want to control or at least do what I can to control the circumstances, and the consequences.

Keep you arms and legs inside the car at all times, and wait until the ride comes to a complete stop before exiting.  Hang on, this is going to be a rough ride.


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