The Corner of NW 65th Place and Nevada

We made our move from Florida to Kansas City in May of 2009. We moved into our home on a large lot on the corner of NW 65th Place and Nevada in a community called Thousand Oaks. The job I held at the time of the move was a remote position in which I worked from home. So a move between these two states was not an issue, especially since the company was actually in New Jersey. The remote aspect of the occupation obviously provided great flexibility for me and my family. But within a few weeks of arriving in Missouri, and one week from closing on our new home, I was laid off. Not a great start to the move.

Fast forward to 2011, I was given the opportunity to return to the same company in a consultant role performing the same duties I had before in quality assurance. Granted the money was less as contractor of sorts, the pliability of my schedule remained. But over the next two years my job duties evolved. My responsibilities and workload increased to where I was handling more important projects beyond that of my previous employment.

Shanti and I began discussing the idea of pushing for a return as a full-time employee. Despite the fact that we knew it would restrict the liberal schedule, being on staff would come with an increase in pay and benefits including paid time off.

I began negotiating this with the company in early 2013. By the beginning of April they agreed to bring me back to full-time status the aforementioned salary and benefits. After paperwork and some light training, May 13th was assigned as my official start date as an employee.

I have to admit I was little nervous throughout the process. Mostly because my previous role was more in the background, and that is my cup of tea. Now I was working my way up a ladder of sorts which put me more in front of people. Granted “in front of people” actually consisted of regular conference calls from the comfort of my home, but I hate the phone.

As the start of my new role approached the stress began to creep in. It wasn’t just a change in my position at work, it was a shift out of my comfort zone and routine. Presuming it was related to said stress, I had started to experience intermittent chest pains in the weeks leading up to the big day of May 13th. They weren’t excruciating by any means. And although I was in my early 40’s and enjoyed chicken wings and pizza, the minimal pain and infrequency kept the blip of a heart issue from appearing on my radar. That was until one day the pain didn’t stop.

I was sitting at my work desk on Wednesday May 8th, five days from starting my new appointment. Let me reiterate that up until that point these pains hadn’t been extremely painful and they typically faded after 15 to 20 minutes. I was going on about 40 minutes this particular day so I did what any wise forty-something adult would do…I consulted the internet.
Being the poster child for the stereotype that men usually ignore health concerns and doctor treatment, I caved and made an appointment after the sensation lingered for an hour straight. What I mean is, I called Shanti at work and had her call the doctor’s office…I’m not a phone person remember. So she called, made the appointment, informed her boss and then headed home to pick me up. I then let my boss know of the situation. While I had her full support and understanding I’m quite sure I perpetuated the chest pains by dwelling on the fact that I was leaving work just five days before my boss was going to give me more money. But I guess I couldn’t do the job dead, so I relented…even if only slightly.

Not knowing what the doctor visit would have in store I called my mother on the way. While I felt there was no serious concern I knew I should still inform her since she was half way across the country in Florida. Of course I proactively explained that I hadn’t mentioned the issue previously because I felt it was no big deal. But seeing as I was on my way to get checked out for “chest pains” I figured she should know.

As soon as I hung up Shanti expressed that she was surprised I didn’t ask Mom to fly out. Again thinking there was no real severity I didn’t think it was necessary, but she knew if there ended up being any health concerns that my mother should be there. Knowing that Mom was retired and could easily get a “buddy pass” from a retired airline relative I figured it wouldn’t hurt. I called her back and asked her to fly out. After hanging up she immediately arranged for a flight first thing the next morning. Part of me thinks she was packing a suitcase before I called back to invite her out.

After several test and details that are essentially boring to write about(and I tried) the doctor told me that they were 85-90% sure that there was nothing going on related to my heart. However, if it was my heart, I was over 40 with a desk job and a diet that consisted of essentially non-food. The doctor’s advice was in two parts. He first suggested I get checked out by a cardiologist to be on the safe side. Part two of his advice was that since it typically takes one to two weeks to get an appointment with a cardiologist, and again since it is my heart we’re dealing with, that I should simply check myself into the hospital’s ER overnight and the on-duty cardiologist will check me on his rounds.

That was not how I wanted to spend my evening, but it seemed like the wisest choice. After a few hours I was checked into the hospital and finally spoke with the cardiologist. He felt there was no need for Shanti to stay over night. The doctor clearly said it would be an uneventful evening and we felt that if she stayed that it would worry the kids even more – it would be best to have Mommy at home.

We said our goodbyes and eventually the nurse got me settled into my overnight room. I talked with Shanti and the kids before they were put to bed back home. It seemed like a long day and I was tired by 8:30 that evening, but it was difficult to fall asleep as I was informed that every three hours the nurse would be coming to check my vitals. And that would continue throughout the night.

Thunderstorms had started rolling into the area, I could see and hear the rain through the window of my room. Around 9:00pm the nurse came in for a vitals check. Before she left the nurse confirmed that she’d be back in around midnight to check again. I fell fast asleep within minutes of her leaving the room.

For whatever reason I just happened to wake up around 11:50pm before the nurse returned. I reached over to grab my phone off of the side table and there was an email from a friend in the neighborhood. I opened the message upon my finger swipe to see the subject line of: “Fire”. The body of the email simply said, “You guys ok?”

Now, my friend doesn’t know that I’m not at home. He doesn’t know that I’m in hospital. So he doesn’t know I’m in the hospital getting checked out for chest pains…waking up to read an email titled “Fire” and asking if “You guys ok?”. Then another email comes in. This one was was a push notification from our neighborhood’s Facebook page. I opened to read the neighbor’s post. –

“Cable’s out, lightning strike at 65th and Nevada!”

 

Well I hate to leave my cravers hanging, but after these emails I failed to reach Shanti to make sure everything was ok. I was left hanging myself…I had to wait for what was next. Check back soon for the next craving

 

Peace, and forgive me!

ER

Starting Small

I rebooted LATENIGHTCRAVINGS.COM (LNC) with a dual purpose in mind. It is here for more than simply transferring random thoughts to virtual paper. I put those stray ideas down and sometimes they turn into a current post or sit in a back log folder until it finds a way to make sense. But the other side of LNC’s purpose is to share my family’s journey with God. This is a catalog I already have stashed away to be pieced together in chapters here on this page.

I do have several of those random thoughts on the stove as well. Some of which is commentary that might possibly have been inspired by various current events. But I felt like moving those to the back burner for now. I felt like sharing more of….well, happy thoughts.

Today I had a couple of small items that crossed my mind. I say small because some of the major life-altering events that God has orchestrated in our lives have been somewhat dramatic. But while these seemingly insignificant pieces that I’m passing on today may not be grandiose on the surface, they are an essential piece of fabric in my walk with the big man upstairs.

The first of these two happenings goes back to the summer of 2008. It had been about a year since Shanti and I started going to church which steered us onto God’s path. Over the course of that year we made the effort to apply the pastor’s teachings to our lives beyond Sunday attendance. Growing up and going to Sunday school at our local Baptist church I really only recall being told that Jesus saves and was given Bible verses to memorize each week. That’s not to say that those Sundays didn’t help lay a good foundation. But It wasn’t until I landed back in church in July 2007 that I discovered there was an actual relationship to be had with our creator.

Over the course of that first year (2007-2008) I had been making time first thing in the morning to pray and get into God’s Word – getting to know Him. By summer 2008 we had been serving as ushers for a couple of months already. After each service we walked up and down the aisles and picked up any weekly handouts or other items left on the seats and floors. Now I am a people pleaser, to the point that it causes me stress at times. Leading up to this particular weekend at church I had been praying and questioning whether or not I was pleasing God. In hindsight that was obviously a truly a ridiculous question. But at that season in my walk I was unsure.

The morning before we headed out the door for church I prayed yet again for peace to this question. Fast forward to the end of service and we are performing our clean up duties and I stumble across this little gem on the floor –
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A piece of paper hand-cut in the shape of a heart on which a child happened to write “I Love you. From: God.” Whether that child was in service instead of Sunday School or his parents had this little note with them, it was left on the floor of a church with a congregation of almost 3000 at that time. But that little note was left right where I found it. Coincidence?! Hmmm.

Ok, so you’re not picking up what I’m laying down. So try this one on for size. Skipping ahead to the fall of 2009, I’m deep into my God walk and about four months into living in Kansas City, Missouri after moving from Florida(that’s a bigger story, it comes later.) We’re living in a beautiful midwest planned community called Thousand Oaks. In the center of the neighborhood is a beautiful pond, man-made but picturesque nonetheless. A paved winding trail wraps around the perimeter of the pond which is lined with trees that the developers left standing in place during construction. We had walked this path plenty of times with the kids in the few short months we had lived there.

This season in my life I had another question for God. For some reason I had felt that I had not really been giving much focus on Jesus himself. Looking back I know it was another insecurity of mine – I was asking “am I doing this right?” But in any case, that is where my head and my heart was at this point. Just as I was praying two years earlier asking if I was pleasing God I was now praying about my relationship with Jesus. That was part of my prayer on this one beautiful fall morning which was followed up with a walk around the Thousand Oaks pond.

The foliage had just begun to change colors. While not many, the winding trail did have a few scattered leaves on its surface. There were also random twigs no bigger than a thumb’s width that had fallen to the ground here and there. We had reached about the halfway mark of the walk when we happened upon a bit of a clearing on the path. Nothing definitive but just a little less natural debris compared to the first portion of our trek. Just a few feet into this clearing was an object that stood out. As I approached the area I looked down to see this –

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Now I don’t know what anyone reading this believes, but I know what I believe. That little note, “From:God”, two years prior in church was not a coincidence. Then one day I’m praying about Jesus specifically and came across this piece of art. Someone took two small twigs and tied them together with twine to form a cross. The person that chose to do that happened to be living or just passing through my neighborhood. Whether accidental or intentional, a cross ended up in the center of a trail – a trail in Thousand Oaks that I happened to walk on and stumble upon a response to my prayer on that specific day. Coincidence?! Rod Serling didn’t suddenly appear from behind a tree…but God did.

 

Peace, and forgive me –

ER

The America Show

I wrote the following post along with a back log of others a month or so ago. Not that the world wasn’t already in shambles, but since writing this several more incidents of tragedy have hit our nation and the world. So before posting I thought I’d start off with this sort of post script-preface to say that by no means am I wanting to marginalize any horrendous events or lives lost. My purpose in the below piece is simply my spin on specifically highlighting our society’s fasciation, reaction and interaction within not only current events but everyday life. That being said, here-we-go!

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I recently finished writing and directing a short film; a video montage if you will. Granted I only accomplished this piece of work in my mind, I’ve watched it several times already. No other eyes have seen it. I mentally orchestrated these scenes that play out as a of promo of sorts for a television show.

We see alternating shots between several families in various countries outside of America. Their household settings clearly display each of their cultures and, without subtitles, their respective foreign languages are heard through the speakers. Their excitement is obvious as each family rushes to gather in the living room areas of their humble abodes. The shots of the different homes progressively shorten in length; the cuts between them increase in frequency.

A final rapid sequence through each home – a close-up on their faces further express thick anticipation as they gaze in the same direction while huddled on and around their couches. When the last family in the sequence is shown the camera pans over and quickly zooms into a television. Epic dramatic and celebratory music blasts from the speakers as flashing images of Kanye, Bieber, the Kar…(almost)…Trump, Hillary, a gorilla, Prince and air brushed photos of Jack Black’s six-pack abs appear on screen. The title adorns the screen in glowing neon fashion:

THE AMERICA SHOW

That’s our nation! By Nielsen ratings America would be a globally top rated reality show. Drama, conflict and oh yes, division. Just to be clear, difference isn’t the enemy here. That’s not my point, variety is paramount. We’re a little bit country, we’re a little bit rock-n-roll. But we have certainly become obsessed with the drama and conflict within our variety. And we are no longer only spectators as we’ve descended onto the field; the abyss where TMZ is lurking in the darkness.

What?! The episode is over?! What are we gonna do now? We have to wait until next week to see who gets the next rose? I wanna know who will be voted out now!? Oh wait…I can just binge watch Orange is the New Black until next week.

Done! Hmm…now what? Well if there’s nothing else to watch and absorb turmoil, I can get my fix by simply acting out the drama in-home from the comfort of my couch.

It appears that our personal lives, households and neighborhoods have been infiltrated by this phenomena of conflict addiction. Facebook and Twitter are now the preeminent arenas for contesting. Around the clock both strangers and friends alike step onto the virtual field to spar with their artillery of diatribes and hateful word jabs. Each castaway seems to be an expert on life; we all seem to know how and why our way to live, fix the world and stop hate is better than the other’s method…to the point of hatred. As if it would do any good for someone gripping another person by the chest of their shirt and repeatedly punching them in the face while screaming “Don’t you see what I’m saying, violence won’t solve anything!”

Between two suburban neighborhoods, one in Kansas City and now Tampa, I see it almost daily in our community where closed Facebook groups of residents are meant to communicate and help one another. Where we are now in Florida there are of over 9,000 members on our neighborhood page. It is intended for suggestions on trade services, offering items for sale, new resident questions, or looking out for our fellow neighbors by reporting potentially suspicious activities. But inevitably most posts turn into a juvenile debate or an immature battle of insults. Whether impactful or not, a resident’s post with good intentions still manages to garner someone’s need for a derogatory reply that is entirely unwarranted. And this is by done by grown adults…parents! Not sure what happened to “love thy neighbor”!

Obviously this isn’t confined to closed group pages on Facebook. It’s all over the social media outlets and the internet at large. Twitter wars is an actual thing. Even us Christians partake in the punches. I mean come’n dudes, can we stop that already – it’s embarrassing! A great friend of mine frequently pointed out that everyone’s memorized John 3:16 but they don’t know what the next verse says (http://bit.ly/28QrrsI – go head, look it up). Sometimes I wonder what percentage of Christ followers have ever read the entire Bible because I’m pretty sure it speaks about love with quite a degree of frequency.

But I digress!

I don’t recall a winner ever coming out of an argument between my wife and I over who was right or wrong about something. Come to think of it, I can’t remember any person or entity ever agreeing or seeing it “their” way via the use of hateful comments, arguing or forcing one’s ideas down the other’s throat – that would only choke someone. But I have seen people change their perspective and their way of life NOT because they were told to but because they were…wait, are you ready for this? Ok here it is – change was INSPIRED!!

What a novel idea right?! But while we wait for inspiration to prevail, please know that the toilet paper roll goes up..not down. Starbuck’s coffee sat on the burner too long, America runs on Dunkin’!! Listen to rock-n-roll, not country, understand it’s the Beatles and not the Stones, and for heaven’s sake – Jesus is a Star Wars fan, not Star Trek! Now if only everyone would just see things my way this would be a better world.

Until then we’ll just be the media and continue to write the scripts and produce episodes that (dys)function and thrive on strife and discord. But with this cast and theme, productions costs are extremely high. The Producer may eventually have to cancel the series and we may be asked to grab our torches.

“The tribe has spoken!”

Welcome to The America Show!!

GREETINGS EARTHLINGS!

Greetings, thank you for visiting LATENIGHTCRAVINGS.COM. This is my second attempt at running this blog (“blog”…errggh!). Call it a reboot if you will, either way I’ve spent entirely too much time trying to craft this re-introduction post. I was working towards something clever and humorous, short and direct while subtly dropping pieces of my brain matter without giving a bullet point laundry list of characteristics. Striving for perfection I was, until I realized it was around 8:00 and that’s when I rearrange my sock drawer.

I plotted a Star Wars reference somewhere (DOB 1970 – that fan). I planned to highlight my affinity for Batman with a footnote that I’m not into comic books but was hooked by Christopher Nolan’s reboot with his Dark Knight trilogy. I even considered playing up the reboot concept itself and explain that this is not a mediocre retooling of Spider-Man, then liken it to said Batman reboot. In fact I wrote this post in an unrecognizable and exceedingly raspy voice despite the fact that I am not Batman. Or-am-I?

In any case, I thought the aforementioned anecdotes would clearly indicate my obsession with film. These details would be followed by revealing that I am blessed with an awesome wife and three kids…who are all absolute angels. And, while I like many genres of music (including classical, but not country), I’m a metalhead at the core and eagerly seek opportunities to be surrounded by other suburbanites at traffic lights whilst my kids are piled in the mini-van as growling vocals, distorted guitars and double bass pedals thrust through the open windows.

Last but not least, I’d finally point out that I’m a believer. Yes…a metalhead and a Jesus freak! To the best of my ability I would then summarize all of the above with the hope that it would never read as self-indulgent; I don’t talk to hear myself talk and I don’t write just so people can read my thoughts. I’d rather my audience of 3.5 know that I crave to write in order to squash the appetite to rip my restless gut out of my stomach. Then I questioned, is “…rip my restless gut out of my stomach” too graphic? My gut told me, “No, it is not!”

To avoid succumbing to my addiction of mental self-dissection, compartmentalized perfectionism and procrastination I eventually made the wise decision to take a break from reworking this post to do some much needed research…on Facebook. And boy did it pay off. It was there that I came across this little gem –

 

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I started to peek into the mirror but stopped at the last second – I didn’t want to see the red splotch reality left on my cheek. But with the slap I acknowledged that I had wasted several days complicating a simple, short and sweet post. A few sentences to share my faith and my penchant for film. Some text to denote that my ears are tickled (or flicked) by heavy metal while driving my children around in a suburban assault vehicle. And then a summary would wrap things up with a subtly verbose statement (a what?) explaining that while writing is therapy, I chose to release it on the “Internets” for humans to find on “The Google” with the hopeful byproduct of inducing a spectrum of results ranging from a chuckle to inspiring someone to win a Nobel Peace Prize.

With all of that being said, I again welcome you to the grand re-opening of LATENIGHTCRAVINGS.COM. For now, please pardon the dust of the Dream Builders as this attraction is still under construction. But check back regularly to read the words I put together to form sentences and paragraphs. Peruse the passages my bloody and calloused fingers type within the bubble of suburbia. Discover the mind-blowing accounts of our trek with God or delight in a dessert recipe I may share…or probably not. Gloriously bask in the random musings of a musical composition that reminded me of 1995, a movie review or a reflection of my aversion to cats. Marvel with hypnotic awe as your eyes feast upon a historic retelling of the soap operas that play out on our neighborhood’s Facebook page. Whether a daytime human or nocturnal, you may freely make frequent trips to my pantry – its door is open and stocked with Jesus, metal and other latenight cravings. I’m breaking all the blog rules (because there is such a thing)…I’m just that insane and rebellious.

 
Peace…and forgive me!
ER