Saturday, February 25, 2012

Should I Stay Or Should I go?

Recently Tommy, my brother from other parents, sent me an email asking me to keep a date open because his band (Alloy) is finally going to be playing a show after a long hiatus. They've been spending their time practicing and recording, when they could get together, but they also knew that they needed to start playing live again. Not only do they have a gig lined up on April 7th but it in fact will be their highest profile appearance ever. In the past they had played mainly at a small bar for no money, solely with the intent of gaining experience and getting their name out to be recognized. Now they get the chance to potentially have more people listen to them at this one show than all their other ones combined.

Then comes the drawback to the scenario, where they will be playing and who it's for. They are to play outside the Tea Party Convention that will be held in Tulsa. My question to him when we next talked was if it was in support of the Tea Party or in protest of them. If it were the latter then that would be great, something that I could wholeheartedly get behind. If it were the former, well, I have reservations about being there even if it is only to help the band set up and break down.

You see, I feel that the Tea Party cloaks itself in patriotism yet hidden underneath there lurks an ugly side consisting of old school prejudice and racism. They say a lot of things that sound right, less government and so forth but then it seems that all too frequently a local leader or spokesperson gets far too comfortable with themselves and ends up sounding off with some bizarre comments about race or immigration. Maybe it's just me and my perception but that's how I feel about it.

So now I was perplexed about what I should do. If I came to the show I felt like I would be endorsing the Tea Party even though I don't like them or agree with what they stand for. At the same time I really want to be there for my friends, not just as a roadie, but to see them playing and hopefully gaining new fans. I may not be a member of the band but I'm probably as close to it as anyone can be without actually playing an instrument. After all, I write lyrics for them, roadie their gigs when I can, try to find gigs for them and am designing and will run their website. With this dilemma what's a poor guy to do?

Luckily Tommy and I talked it over and used each other as sounding boards to see what each other thought. Tommy completely understood my viewpoint and told me that if I felt that strongly about the Tea Party then I should follow my convictions and not think twice about it. One thing he did say was that by playing outside the convention it is not as if the band is endorsing the Tea Party. If they were playing inside and were part of the itinerary then that would be a different story altogether.

Let me be clear here, the band itself does not endorse the Tea Party. Tommy is on record as saying that while there are things he does like about them there are also things that he doesn't like. If you take the time to listen to the lyrics of the band you'll find that the way I feel about groups like the Tea Party is evidenced fairly well. This is merely a chance to get some badly needed visibility for them as well as a chance to play a big show. There will be two other bands playing and I believe that Alloy will play last. Hopefully people will stop and listen and not just walk in or out.

The question for me now is what am I comfortable with? After I really thought about it I feel that since the band is not endorsing the Tea Party I need to be there with them. If anyone asks me my opinion I will readily provide it with enthusiasm, pulling no punches. Besides, I really don't think that a reporter will see me there and say "Hey, Why is Don Leach here? He says he doesn't support the Tea Party. He's a two faced lying jerk!" Once I climbed down from my high horse I decided that I'll use the opportunity to educate myself about the Tea Party and the way they operate. The old saying goes "Keep your friends close and your enemies even closer" or words to that effect so I'll take that to heart.

If you decide to show up and see me there please do not think badly of me. I'll just be there to rock out and support my friends. If you want to hear what the band sounds like you can look them up on ReverbNation. Just search for Alloy and select the one from Claremore, Ok. There are two songs (Silencer and The Blacksmith's Testament) and although they are far from finished at least you can have an idea of what the group sounds like. I'll also be putting more information on this blog when I get their website up and running. Maybe I'll even get a t-shirt made with my thoughts about the Tea Party that I can wear that day. Don't put it past me. Stranger things have been known to happen when I'm involved.

Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Valentines Day At Work?

They passed out paper sacks to us at work a few days ago and the idea is that after decorating them for Valentines Day we are to put them up on our desks so that people can put valentines in them. Suddenly I feel like I'm in grade school again. Well, after a bit of internal debate I decided I would partake of the my own way of course.
Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Un Oso Rojo, A Movie About Doing What Is Right For Your Child

Yesterday I finished watching a film by the name of Un Oso Rojo (A Red Bear) by Argentinian director Adrian Caetano. It's very good, compelling movie about a man (Oso or Bear) that has just gotten out of prison and he wants to reconnect with his daughter who does not remember him. The problem is he has a violent past and he doesn't exactly wish to leave that part of him behind. To compound those problems while he was in prison his wife divorced him and married another man. This other man has lost his job but still wants to place bets that he mostly loses. They are deeply in debt and are about to be evicted.

Oso comes to realize that although he dearly wants to be there for his daughter and take care of her his presence may actually hurt her. This is shown in a scene where she is riding a merry-go-round as two police officers harass him and he sees the worry and the questions in her eyes. There is also a story about a man Oso works with whose granddaughter and son were killed by the police because of his own criminal lifestyle. That knowledge torments the co-worker and his grandson and daughter-in-law want nothing to do with him.

In the end Oso has to make a decision about what is best for his daughter and not for him. Is it better to know her and be involved in her life or to stay away so that she isn't burdened by his past? He loves her very much and perhaps with her in his life he could make himself a better person. Then again he is who he is and after living this way for so long it's a part of him. It's very doubtful he could leave it behind even though he does not want to hurt or disappoint her in any way.

My son is the best thing in my life. Knowing that I helped to create hm, bring him into the world and am influencing who he becomes is the greatest thing I could ever accomplish. What would I do if somehow I was to undergo a dramatic change in who I am in a negative fashion? Would I be able to look objectively at what was best for him? Would I blindly hold onto my emotional feelings and selfishly cling to them even if it meant he could be placed in danger? Those are difficult questions for me to think about.

I know how I'd like to answer those questions but truthfully I am not that kind of person, I am not in that situation. If I am being honest with myself I will say that until I am put in an adverse situation like that I do not truly know how I will react. I only know how I think I would react. Having the connection that I do with my son it would be very difficult for me to stay away from him. At the same time I want the very best for him in life and do not want him to be placed in harms way. It's a dilemma that I hope I never have to face. I won't ruin the movie for you by telling how it ends. I'll let you see for yourself. Suffice to say that it is not an easy decision for Oso to make either.

Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Why Can't Don Write Anymore?

If you are one of the few people out there that reads this blog you will have noticed that lately my productivity has declined. It's not that I don't have any ideas, quite the opposite there, it just seems as if I've lost my urge to write. There no longer seems to be the push that I had before to make it happen. I've been giving a great deal of thought as to why this has happened. In September and October I was seemingly on fire with stories and song lyrics and then the effort to follow through and bring them to life literally dried up overnight.

Time of course is always a culprit when you have a young child and are the only person working in the family. Stress can also be a problem although I've found that sometimes it can be a veritable goldmine for making me think on a deeper scale. Once I'm thinking I will inevitably find an idea to focus on and then develop. The one thing that I could identify that was different was that in September I started taking a nootropic supplement called AlphaBrain from Onnit Labs. I had heard about it on Joe Rogan's podcast. AlphaBrain is a cognitive enhancer made from natural ingredients and is designed to sharpen your focus and increase creative abilities as well as memory and can even help you with lucid dreaming. I never noticed a sharp increase or surge but rather it seemed to be a slow building one. I was intrigued enough to buy a second bottle and that's when it was clear that not only was I was writing a lot more but I was also having ideas constantly appear. I've always had those ideas but now I was following through on them and bringing them to life.

I even had one story come to me in a half-dream state and it ended up almost completely finished in my mind before I even woke up. Everybody dreams but perhaps because of my severe sleep apnea (untreated at the moment) I never have been able to remember mine. If I was to recall even a small bit of a dream, upon waking it would fade away and within a few hours not even a wisp of the dreams content remained. With AlphaBrain however that was changing. I was starting to remember what I dreamed about. Not every day mind you but it was becoming more and more frequent.

Then came November. Unfortunately my financial situation changed for the worse and I couldn't realistically justify spending the money for this supplement, no matter how much I was convinced that it was helping me. When you are worried about being able to make your house payment or getting your utilities paid on time you have to cut whatever you can, big or small. Dish Network had been sacrificed long ago. Thankfully we never put a lot of things on credit cards so there was no big bill there. We changed our cellphone plans to spend less. Since we need the internet for various reasons it was AlphaBrain that got cut as well as some other less costly things. Eliminating smaller things added up along with some help from our church with groceries so for the moment we are okay. However my wife now has knee surgery coming up so we have to wait for her recovery from that and then perhaps we'll see an improvement in our finances.

Once I was off AlphaBrain there was a pretty immediate change in my output. While I still had ideas I just couldn't seem to follow through with them. My blog posts decreased rapidly and by December I only made three of them for the entire month. January was even worse. Additionally I also had basically stopped working out. There just wasn't a passion anymore, no fire burning in me to do much of anything. I'm sure part of it could be reasoned away by the changing of the season. After all, the onset of the colder months can do strange things to the brain as well as the human body. Still, it seems clear to me that it's more than that, AlphaBrain had an overwhelmingly positive effect on me and now I am missing it.

At the end of January I realized that I had gotten a check from my older sister as a Christmas and a late birthday present combined and had forgotten to cash it. At the same time I received an email from Onnit that was about a special offer for an eighteen percent discount so I decided to jump on it while I could. I made my order with the thought that I'll worry about getting more once it runs out, that is if I continue with my previous production. Today was my first day resuming AlphaBrain but I won't count the first two posts I've made in this month as both were almost completely written within the last week or so.

Some people may say something such as AlphaBrain doesn't really work and some may say that it does. Personally I'm the kind of person who likes to experience things for myself instead of listening to what others have to say. Do what I did, research nootropics, go to Onnit Labs website and look at the ingredients and research them then make a decision for yourself. Whether you do or don't please keep coming back to see if my "experiment" will show another increase in output or if it sputters into abject failure. I already know which way it's going to go but I'll wait for the proof.

Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.

A Medical Decision Looms

Two weeks ago I took my wife for an appointment with an orthopedic doctor and the news we received was basically what we expected. She is only forty years old yet her right knee is the knee of an eighty year old. There is no cartilage in her knee at all and you cannot regrow cartilage. At some point in her life she will require a knee replacement. While it is very unusual for someone her age to have this procedure it also is very unusual for someone her age to have a knee this bad.

She has Rheumatoid Arthritis which has been getting progressively worse over the last few years and seemingly as each month has gone by during the last year. Her right knee has been severely swollen for the past few months now and she has been using crutches to help her get around. Pain is a constant foe for her and she cannot do a lot with our son that requires her to move around. As a matter of fact doing simple everyday things like washing dishes or cooking has constantly proven to be a painful problem for her to deal with.

She hasn't been able to work for some time now and before that only sporadically in a job that allowed her to sit most of the time. It stands to reason that it has taken quite a toll on our household economy which in turn affects our marriage and our health as well. Luckily we were able to refinance our house for a lower monthly payment last year that allowed us some breathing room. Basically put, she doesn't have much quality of life and depression is becoming a very real thing to her.

Her options are to get a steroid injection which the doctor would prefer not to do since she just had one in November and it should have lasted longer than it did. If she were to receive another shot it would be the last he would be willing to give her ever because while it can help in the short term it can also cause more problems in the long term. Then she would just have to live with the pain for as long as she could stand it.

The second option is to not have the steroid injection and to live with the pain as long as she is able to. Given the severity of the pain and lack of quality of life that I spoke of earlier that's not much of a choice at all. The third option would be to have the knee replacement surgery now with the knowledge that it will only last ten to fifteen years and will then need to be redone. She would recover within six to eight weeks and be able to regain much if not all of her mobility and be pain free. Perhaps she also could get back some sanity that has been dampened by the thought of having to live with pain (the way she is now) for the rest of her life.

Given these circumstances the decision ultimately was very easy for her to make. Better to have the surgery now and gain some peace of mind, to be able to enjoy her time with our son while he is young, and see what the future will hold when that time comes. With the way medicine and science is progressing it's very likely that when the new knee wears out they will be able to do something amazing that will negate the need for anything further to be done in her lifetime. At least we can hope for that. We go back to see the doctor on Monday to schedule the surgery. Wish her (and our family) luck.

Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.