50th Birthday Musings And A Tragedy

 

perfect 10sToday marks my 50 years here on planet earth, the “big 5 oh”, “the over the hill” birthday, the “your eligible for AARP birthday,” the “your half a century old” birthday. I suppose most people approach their 50th birthday the same way I have. I am looking back on my fifty years, and I am thinking how different my life would be if I had the wisdom, understanding, and experience I have now when I was 20. To have what I have gained in 50 years and still have my youth, to be in shape and have all my hair would be tremendous. I imagine many of the decisions I made would be greatly different. I imagine I would accept those opportunities that were presented to me instead of passing them up, only to later regret not taking them. I wonder if I would still have made some of the same dumb decisions I’ve made over my 50 years of living? Hindsight allows me to look at the good choices I made and the bad choices I made. I am able to take pride in the many accomplishments and good choices I made as well as recognize the bad choices I made. As I look back on my life thus far, I realize hindsight is 20/20. Hindsight makes it easy to ask myself “what was I thinking.” It allows me to feel both regret and delight in the decisions I made over the last 50 years. It also allows me to play the “what if game” What if I had said no instead of yes, what if I had gone to another school or college? What if I had accepted or stayed at a particular assignment? While hindsight can give us a better appreciation of our past experiences and decisions, it cannot answer the “what lays ahead” questions that I am now faced with.

 

funny-50th-birthday-gift-straight-outta-1967-adjustable-apronWhen I went to bed last night, I thought about how different my life’s course has taken. I had many plans for this time of my life. On my 50th birthday, I expected to have reached the golden milestone of military service, 20 years on active duty. I assumed I would stay on active duty for another five years and retire at 55. Our goal was to retire and live in our RV full-time traveling across North America. What I did not anticipate was the results of spending two years at war. I went to war knowing  I could be killed or even come home with serious physical injuries. I was ok with that, and I freely took my chances and went to war. What I never thought about was coming home with the unseen injury of PTSD. I was unprepared for the emotional and spiritual struggles that go along with having PTSD. I did not anticipate the years of depression, hopelessness, suicidal tendencies and gloom that would follow me years after returning from war. I did not predict the extended psychiatric hospital stays, the treatments I would undergo and the medications I would end up taking. When I went to war, I never anticipated that soon after returning from war I would lose my military profession at the very pinnacle of my career. It never crossed my mind that going to war would cost me the opportunity to continue my lifelong love of being a full-time minister.

These were the thought I had last night when I went to bed. Then this morning I woke up and saw for the first time the horror that took place in Las Vegas. I was shocked and horrified by what I saw as the news was unfolding before me. I felt the same sense of disbelief I experienced when I turned on the TV on September 11, 2001. I watched about an hour of news this morning when I left for a doctor’s appointment. As I drove to my appointment I took the time to rethink my thoughts from last night in light of what happened in Las Vegas. I did not come up with any life-changing insights or ideas, I merely reflected on the fact that for many people life does not go as they plan. Not one of the 22,000 plus people who were at the concert last night had any expectations the night would turn out the way it did. Over an extended ten-minute period, the lives of tens of thousands of people changed forever. Hopes, dreams, and expectations all vanished in a hail of fire. Lives were lost, people suffered horrific injuries, while others suffered less threatening injuries. Some escaped the shooting with little or no injuries at all. Some will bear the hidden emotional and spiritual wounds of PTSD. In light of this terrible event, my life story seems small; my struggles don’t look as bad as others. My complaint of how my life is different from what I had planned, really does not seem all that important. My experiences, twists and turns and where I find myself today is just part of life.

My story is not unique; I’m not the only one whose life has taken a traumatic turn. I do not stand alone as an example of how life can unfairly mess with someone’s dreams. Although my life has taken a different course than I had anticipated, I still have my life. I still have those who love me, and I love them. I still have a future before me. I still have years of living before me, if God so chooses to grant me more days on this earth. I still have opportunities that lay ahead of me. I have no idea of what the rest of my life will look like, all I know is, I have this very moment in time, and it is my choice on what I will do with it.

 

TRAIN SHOWS and TRAIN RIDES

I LOVE TRAINS

A Great Train Song “The City of New Orleans by Willie Nelson 

When I’m not writing, blogging, practicing my banjo, being a bum or going on cruises, I enjoy all things railroading. Last year my wife and I started selling railroad memorabilia, advertising, safety and retirement awards, along with railroad documentation, papers, and magazines at local train shows. We mainly specialize in items from the 1940-1950 and a few times will venture into the 1960s. But the golden age of railroading was in the 1940s and the 1950’s.

IMG_1347This year we are branching out just a bit and adding railroad gifts, some Thomas the Train Engine books and my wife is making railroad theme pillows.

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my Booth at the Houston Train Show

The train show season is not very long, usually from September to February and they seem to be at the same time. Which makes it hard to have a  consistent schedule of train shows to sell at. This year we have already missed two shows, one in Temple, Texas due to previous commitments and the Galveston train show which was canceled due to Hurricane Harvey. We are scheduled to sell at the New Braunfels, Texas train show sponsored by the New Braunfels Railroad Museum. The 9th annual winter show is scheduled for October 28-29. This is a good show that is held at the New Braunfels civic center. The 30th annual  Train Show and Jamboree is planned in April 2018 at the civic center. The big show that we sell at is the Houston Annual train show which is held in February. It is a one day show but draws in a few thousand people each year.

But my train hobby goes beyond just selling and attending train shows. I also enjoy “riding the rails” when we can. During the labor day weekend, my wife and daughter took a one day ride on the Austin Steam Train association “Hill Country Flyer” from Cedar Park, Texas to Burnet, Texas. The “Hill Country Flyer” is a 66-mile round trip excursion journeys through the Texas Hill Country, crossing the wooden trestle bridge over the South San Gabriel River and Short Creek Canyon. During the two hour layover in Burnet, you can enjoy lunch on your own, a leisurely stroll around the historic town square and the Wild West Gunfight. We had a great day on the trip and enjoyed the day together. Below are a couple of Videos and pictures from the trip.

This first video is a short video with all the great sounds that make riding the rails so fun.

This second video is a short video as we pass four diesel engines on a siding. 

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         Train at the Cedar Park Station                                    Train at the Burnet Station

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Burnet Train Station 

Take a look at all the wonderful day trips available at the Austin Steam Train 

Click here for fun-filled train trips

GET A JOB

JUST EXISTING IS NOT LIVING LIFE, IT’S JUST PASSING TIME UNTIL ONE DIES

My 50th birthday is coming up in October. So I’m contemplating what the second part of my life is going look like. I have three different pictures of the direction of my life. The first one is to keep doing what I’m doing now and what I’ve done for the last three years, just staying home and existing. Existing as in not really doing anything important, significant or meaningful. The thought of doing that for another 20 or so years does not seem very appealing. Just existing is not living life, it’s just passing time until one dies.

I’ve thought about selling our house, all our stuff and heading out to the open road with our 5th wheel trailer. Stopping to flip a quarter at every major intersection to determine our direction. We have seriously considered doing this and were pretty close to actually making it happen. The excitement of traveling, going where we want to go and doing whatever we want to do seems very attractive. But eventually the traveling will get old and we would have to ask the question “what we were actually doing with our lives?” Do we really want to spend 20 years or so living in our 5th Wheel? Going place to place without any real purpose or direction? Establishing short-term relationships because we know we were only going to be around for a short period of time. Then head out again and show up somewhere different to start all over again. While on the surface it sounds great, it lacks purpose and significance and in essence is still a form of just existing.

Continue reading “GET A JOB”