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Walking Alone?

I was a pastor for about 11 years before joining the USAF as a Chaplain. That is a little over a decade. Not a short time to be somewhere.

My first year as a pastor, I hired a a youth minister that lasted about 6 months. He got a better job, making more money at a bigger church. I will always believe that the new church was where he was supposed to be.

What made me sad was the feeling of loss the kids were going to experience.

I knew the transitory nature of ministry. The average youth minister lasted 18 months, the average pastor lasted 2.5 years. The average minister got out of ministry after 5 years.  It was the nature of the beast.

I was told that we tend to make great salesmen.

There was a young girl in our church, a 4th or 5th grader at the time we lost the youth minister. I had gathered the group around me the next Wednesday night, and she asked me a pretty tough, but understandable questions. “Are you going to leave?”

My answer has become blurry through the years. I think I started with, “In ministry, we go where we are called. I can not promise that I will, or will not be any place for a set period of time.” You get the idea.

But, I did finish with this… I looked straight at her and said, “You know, I’ll probably be here longer than you.”

That sounds horrible. I remember thinking that I would see her graduate, and then she would be off to college or something. Well, it didn’t work out that way. She ended up dropping out of the church. I remember it was shortly after her daddy died. It was a hard time.

Well, I’m connected to her on FaceBook, and saw a post. She was holding her brand new baby girl, and promising to never leave her. To never leave her, just like her mother had left her.

I don’t know why I’m writing this. It could be a story about breaking the chains. How someone who had suffered much separation is doing her best to stop it with her family.

I like to think that is it.

Maybe it is a story of someone just trying to make it. She never did college. She ended up moving in with a guy and getting pregnant. Not exactly planned, yet not unwanted either. She is living in the same basic area that she grew up in. That could end up being a sad story, or perhaps one of “blooming where you’re planted.”

Whatever it is, it just is. It is life.

Now, I find myself in a very transitory job. I’ll move bases every 4 years. I’ll deploy every now and then, for 6 months at a time. People will be coming and going all the time. A tough situation when one wants deep relationships with others.

Life is transitory. We must make it count.

WoW can be lonely, and it can be very social. That depends upon us. If you don’t like people in your guild, then join another one. Life is too short to spend it with people you don’t like. People count. You count. Do something that counts.

Make a choice, break a chain.

Love hard, love deeply. There are people around you, or at least there could be. You don’t know when you’ll have another chance.

See what happens.

Z

“Hope is our weapon against the darkness.”

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Work That Matters

b/c BUUURRRRTTTTT is my favorite sound...

b/c BUUURRRRTTTTT is my favorite sound…

I’ve been thinking about “work that matters.”

I’ve even come to a conclusion that all work matters. Please, let me explain.

First off, every morning when I pray, I thank God for giving me work that matters. What I mean is, I’m thankful for a job that has me caring for other people. In particular, I get to care for men and women of the armed forces. I get to see Sailors, Marines, Soldiers and Airmen every day! I get to sincerely inquire as to how they are doing. I get counsel them. I get to provide for their religious needs. I get to be a listening ear, when they don’t think that anyone else is willing too. These are the men and women that keep my wife and kids safe at home. In this case, they are taking care of things in Central America before they reach our US southern border. I serve them out of a sense of thankfulness.

For me, this is work that matters.

There are some jobs in the USAF that people may assume has no meaning. For instance, new Maintainers may have to literally count bolts. I’ve seen them do it. This is an accountability issue. Based upon previous needs, they carry enough parts (including bolts) to fix the planes when they need a repair. While at home, if they don’t have a part, the plane will be grounded until it comes in. Sure, the pilot may not get his/her flight hours. The plane may not fly, and in that case will have to have extra maintenance done to make sure it can fly later. But, nobody loses a life because of it not flying. However, in a deployed environment, that may not be the case.

warthog2

My favorite plane is the A-10. Part of its job is to provide support for Soldiers that come under fire. So, when our guys are pinned down, the A-10 comes in to blast the enemy; saving the lives of our Soldiers. If that plane is unable to fly because we run out of bolts (or some other part), then those lives will be potentially loss.

You see, the work of a Maintainer is essential to saving lives; even if he/she is just counting bolts.

Now, what about those folks who just can’t seem to find meaning and significance in their jobs?

Maybe you are a Vegan, and the only job you can find is as a burger flipper at McDonalds.

Every time you look at those delicious fries, you just see hypertension in a box. When you look at the kid joyously ripping into their Happy Meal, triumphantly raising their new toy into the air…all you can think is, “choking hazard.”

First, please find a new job. But if you can’t, I have a question. What does that job allow you to do? Hopefully, it allows you to survive, and your life matters. I hope that it allows you enough money to hang out with your friends and families every now and then. Our relationships matter. Maybe it allows you to provide for that age appropriate toy for your own kid, and his/her smile matters.

You see, work matters because we all have meaning and significance. Work matters because we matter. Even the most mundane of jobs enables you to participate in other things that matter.

I will continue to be thankful for work that matters, regardless of how I may feel at the time. I hope that you will as well.

So tell me, what do you do that matters?

Z

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Air Force Wings

tl;dr

OMGOSH GAIS I MADE IT IN!!!!

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For those wondering what actually happened, here is the slightly longer version.

As most of you know, I’ve been trying to get into the United States Air Force for over a year now. I’ve faced more than a couple of “hiccups” along the way.  As of a month ago, things began moving relatively quickly.

I finally passed my medical!  Remember, the big thing holding me back was some dental work. Well, after about $13k worth of work and healing, I made it through.

Next was a back ground check. There was a little bit of misunderstanding between what my local recruiter was supposed to do, v. what my regular CO recruiter was supposed to do.  On top of it, my CO recruiter was out of office, which left a TSgt responsible for collecting my documentation.

Well, it turns out that when my regular recruiter got back, the TSgt left for a week of prep-work to get ready for a MSgt exam!  Oh, and all of those pages and pages of documentation that had been sent his way?  Well, it was locked up tight on his computer! My local recruiter had to send it all back to my regular CO recruiter. Thankfully, things got done in a hurry.

Now my packet had to “get signed by the general.”  Granted, I didn’t know who this general was, but I was under no illusion that my packet would be at the top of his things to do.  My CO recruiter said that it might take a week or two, if no hiccups came along (see: TSgt away at exam prep).  Still, that put the two week limit in the middle of the week my family takes off for vacation.

You know those vacations, don’t you?  They are the kind where you go see grandma, and grandma doesn’t have any wifi set up at her house. You know the one. The one where your fancy-pants iPad becomes useless, because of the said lack of wifi. The one where all you have is two out of five bars on your smart phone, unless you hold it up at the right angle to get 2.5 bars.

Surely, you’ve been on those vacations!

I find myself having some “ETT*,” when I get a call from my CO recruiter late on Monday afternoon!

“Hey, Z!  I’m going to email you the Letter of Acceptance right now. You don’t have to return it immediately. Tomorrow would be ok.”

Me – “Wait, what?  I have to print it out and mail it back?” Hoping that my mother (grandma to my children) has ink in her 10yr old printer.

COr – “No, SCAN IT IN, and email it back to me tomorrow sometime.”

Me – Did I mention the 10yr old printer?  “Sure thing. I’ll get it done, and emailed off to you tomorrow!”

I’m thinking to myself – surely there is a Staples, Kinko’s or some kind of office supply/printing shop in this small town?!

And the answer is?

No.

No there isn’t.

You know what there is?!  There is a library with a very liberal computer policy, and a laser printer.  Yeah…and it closes in 30 minutes!

My phone dings that familiar “just got an email” ding, and we are all heading off to the library (and ice cream at the local DQ afterwards).

Get there in time to print the bad boy out…and stare at it for the next hour. I forego the ice cream for some water-downed lemonade. I gotta get in better shape!

You see…THAT was it.  That single piece of paper.

It had three _________ places for me to write things down. The first being, “When are you able to begin your active duty? ______”  The second being, “Sign your complete name here: _________________, and Date: _________”

Three little blank, underlined spaces and my life is signed away to Uncle Sam for God and Country.

My wife and I spoke to some length that night about when I could reasonably go on active duty.  This was a real choice for us.

Actually, my CO recruiter had mentioned that that was the last real negotiable thing I had. That I could take as much time as I needed to finish things and end well with what I’m currently doing.

My wife and I have spoken about this quite a bit, but now the paper was in front of us.  It was real. Paper and ink, right in front of me.

By 10:00pm Monday night, I had placed the preferred starting date, and signed and dated the document.

That was my contract. That was the agreement. That was my “name on the dotted line.”

Woke up the next day. Got back over to the public library, where it cost me $1.00 for them to scan the document and email it back to me.

A quick save to drop box, and I’m emailing the signed document back to my CO recruiter. By 4:00 that afternoon I received a congratulatory email from my recruiter. He informed me that my packet was over at placement, and that I would be hearing from them at their earliest convenience.

So now…I get to wait some more. 🙂

But, that is ok. I know that the slots are open for me to go active duty during this fiscal year. I know that they desire to have me on board.  Now, I’m just taking the time that is allotted to me and finishing well.

One thing I’m looking forward to is my “swearing in.”  For enlisted, it is done at MEPS. For me, it seems I get to put that together on my own.

I know, weird.  Still, it gives me the chance to have significant people in my life as a part of the ceremony.  As far as I know, all I need is another Commissioned Officer (of any branch) and a US flag, and I should be good to go.  Instructions concerning the ceremony should be coming with my eventual paper work, so it isn’t anything to have done right now.

Who knows. Maybe I’ll point you to an eventual video. 🙂

If things go quickly, I could be going to a COT at the end of May.  While that would be nice, I’m not holding my breath.

Z

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CO – Commissioned Officer. Only a Commissioned Officer can recruit another person to be a Commissioned Officer. But, they get an enlisted recruiter to put us through MEPs, and finish up some paper work. Oh, and the local recruiter gets NO CREDIT for doing all this work on your behalf!

ETT- “Effective Toilet Time” (TMI?) I first heard this used by @The_Koltrane on the Convert to Raid podcast. The idea is to use that 10-15 minutes of potty time to read up on raid information, or watch the lates youtube video about a boss fight.

COT- Commissioned Officer Training course.

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Yeah, I really didn’t do that , did I?  I didn’t put out a great big Merry Xmas or a Happy New Year on the day of.  To be honest, I didn’t even think about it.

My Christmas was spent with family, as I hope you had the chance to be with those you hold dear.

My New Year’s Eve and Day was spent with my wife and children.  I wouldn’t change it for the world.

I don’t really have resolutions this year, which is a first.  I can’t say I have many goals, though I could mention one or two.  Do I want to do stuff, to get things done this year?

You bet.

So, here are some of my hopes for this year.

I hope to get into the Air Force some time this year.  My dental issues are taken care of. All I need to do is pass MEPS, and I’ll be one step closer.  This has been well over a year, maybe even a year and a half now.  Have I doubted my course?  Of course I have. But, tenacity is all about staying in the game even when things get hard.

I want to be tenacious this year.

I want to write more this year.  Perhaps you’ve seen the 500 words .gif at the upper right hand corner of the screen. It is a challenge by Jeff Goins to write 500 words per day.  My January 2 is about over. This will probably post on January 3rd…but, this is my 500 words for January 2nd. 🙂

It’s not that I’m going to be a professional writer. Not at all. I want to be a USAF Chaplain, remember?  But I do want to write in a consecutive, meaningful way.  I may not write my book to be published, but I will write for the month of January…at least.

I want my legendary cloak, dangit!  Surely, I can get that done this year.  Right?

Finally, a little other WoW related hope. I want to flex raid a bit.  I realy want that BoA bow that drops from Garrosh.  I have a Horde hunter that is geared for it, but my Alliance hunter is a little undergeared at the moment.  If you have a time on Monday mornings, or just about any other evening, please let me know.  I’m good most nights but Wednesdays.

My dirty little desire is to one day make it on the Twisted Nether Blogcast.  But, don’t tell Fimlys or Hydra now about it. It would feel to much like a pitty invite if I was able to be on any time soon.  But still, wouldn’t that be the coolest thing ever!  I mean no offense to The Tauren Think Tank, Convert to Raid Podcast, The Instance, Azeroth Round Table, and the many others that are out there. But, Fimlys and Hydra have it going on, YO!

Yes, a 40 year old nerdy, southern, white dude just said “YO!”

I want to do at least one ZKI™ this year. Time to get started on that.

I hope you all have a blessed 2014.

May each day grow in light, love and happiness.

Z

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Air Force Wings

Other working titles were:

“Pain of Dah Teeth,” and “Consequences Suck.”

Catchy, eh?

You can catch up by reading the USAF Update: Worse Fears.  That should give you a sense of where I’m coming from.

You can also check out my other posts tagged with USAF.

Since that time, I’ve done a few things. 

First, I’ve gone to some other dentists for second and third opinions. 

No one likes the idea of the “all-on-four” procedure.  They want you to keep as many natural teeth as possible. The procedure would necessitate some being taken out.  They also agree that just getting dentures is the poorest choice for a couple of reasons.  They agree that as a professional communicator/counselor; I need to be able to talk without something coming lose.  I also get mouth ulcers when I’m stressed, and they all cringed at the thought of an ulcer forming underneath a denture plate.

They want me to get the teeth removed that have to be removed.  That’s about seven to eight regular teeth, and all four wisdom teeth.

Removal of my teeth will cost around $2,000.00 (estimate).

I’m still looking at getting 5 implants (eventually).  Each implant will end up costing $4,000-$5,0000 a piece.  I’m sure that you can do the math on that one.

Either way, that is a butt load of money.

I also have another $2000.00 of other incidental teeth procedures (cavities, porcelain build up, etc.).

To begin the process, we are looking at spending between $2,000 and $4,000. 

That hurts.  It would take a year to pay that off at our current income level and cost of living.

Which brings me to the second aspect of what I’ve been doing.

I’ve been looking for another job.

I would either end up with two jobs, making enough to pay for the dental procedures.  Or, I would end up with a new job that pays more than my current position.

At this time, I’m applying for a chaplaincy position at a local hospital.  It would be a weekend salaried job, Friday through Sunday (36 hours).  I would at least make as much as I’m currently making, and I would probably have better benefits.

Here is the clincher… The reason I want the position so badly, and that I’m willing to give up my position of 10+ years.

I would be able to keep my boys at home on Monday through Thursday and save us $1,200.00 per month is childcare costs.

Read that again.   That is $1,200 SAVED IN CHILDCARE COSTS!

That, in and of itself is an amount consistent with a part time job (within my field of experience).

One kid is starting Kindergarten, the other would stay home with me on those days.  Heck for $105 per month, I could put him in a “Mother’s Day Out” program for two days a week, so that I could get stuff done around the house.

That still saves us over $1,000 per month.

That, right there, can begin the process of getting my teeth fixed.

I can’t begin to tell you how much I want this job. I don’t have the words to convey the depth of sadness this whole thing has brought into my life, nor the amount of hope a single position can hold out for me and my family.

I had a preliminary interview with a recruiter for the hospital’s parent company. She has passed my application and resume on to the Director of the department.  I’m waiting to see if she/he thinks I warrant a second interview.

Oh God, please let me get this job.

Z

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One of the neat things about my process into the USAF has been the people I’ve met.

One of the hard things about my current situation is dealing with them asking “how are things going?”

WoWScrnShot_060613_093624

At the very beginning, I took an opportunity to talk to quite a bit of people about what it was like.  I had a handful of prioritized questions I could ask someone if given the time.  If they only had a minute to talk, then I would only ask one question.  If they had longer, we may make it through all five questions.

I’m sorry, but I don’t have those questions on me at the moment.  I’ll have to look them up and give them to you.

In doing this, I unknowingly interviewed a number of USAF Colonels.  I also had the opportunity to speak with a Brigadier General.

Where most of the conversations lasted between 5-20 minutes; the conversation with the General lasted well over an hour.  In the end, he asked me if he could personally give my information to a recruiter.

I was utterly humbled.  This man, one of the highest ranking officers in my future/possible command, was asking me if he could pass on my information.

Did I mention how humbling this was?

Of course I gave him an emphatic “YES!”

I later found out that the General and three Colonels signed onto my application as personally recommending me to the USAF.

Well, today I received an email from the General asking me how the process is coming along. 

My heart sank just a bit.

You see, I take the condition of my teeth as a personal failure.  I’m not fishing for sympathy, I’m just stating how I feel.  Let’s face it, while there are some genetic issues that come up with teeth, most of the problems are self inflicted.  For me, it was a life time of nursing Dr. Pepper all day long, combined with an unhealthy love of jaw breakers. I wasn’t the greatest at brushing and flossing on a daily basis.  I also suffer from mouth ulcers that pop up when I get anxious about something, which makes brushing a literal pain.

Yes, even now I have one on the inside of my lip.

You can very well imagine what happens to your teeth when you have soda and hard candy in your mouth for most of the day.

I view this whole situation as a negative consequence of my bad choices.

In a way, I feel that I failed the General and the Colonels.  I feel that I’ve failed my wife and children.  I feel that I’ve failed myself.  I feel that I’ve failed my God.

Please understand, I don’t lack in the ego department.  You have to have a huge ego to do what I do.  If anyone tells you different, they are lying.

I’m one to go to “next steps” very quickly.  But, I also believe in being introspective, naming self-defeating behaviors and internal “talk.”  I also want to be honest about my emotions.  These feelings of failure are real. If I let them, they can be self-defeating.  I have to deal with them, not sublimate them.  That is part of the reason I’m writing this.  It’s therapeutic.  WoWScrnShot_060613_093626

So, what do I do now? (See what I did there?!)

I think being honest continues to be the best policy.  When asked, I give people the truth as I know it.

I look to next steps.  For instance, I know of at least a few things to do.

  • I’ve already called my Oral Surgeon, asking their finance people to see if they know of any creative ways to pay for the recommended procedure.
  • I’m also planning on calling the closest dental school to see if I can be their guinea pig teaching tool.
  • I’m going to contact another dentist to get a second opinion; and hopefully discuss all possible options as s/he sees it.
  • I’m asking for prayer from family and friends (which was actually the very first thing I did).

Now, we are in a pattern of actively waiting. 

We wait to see what might surface.  But, our waiting isn’t made up of me just lounging around and sitting on my hands.  Instead, I’m going to do what I can think of to do. At the same time I realize that I can only see from a limited perspective.  I’m fully confident that something (either through my actions, or another source) will reveal itself as the proper thing to do.

I’m still going to feel sad/bad/mad in the midst of the process. But, I’m not going to let my feelings paralyzes me.

What do you do to get through those experiences that feel like a punch to the gut?

Z

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Air Force Wings

If you’ve been following my journey, then you may know that I needed a waiver to enter into the USAF.

In short, I needed a “dental waiver.” It turns out that you can’t have eight or more identifiable problems with your teeth.

I had eight.

I received word yesterday that my request for a waiver was denied. 

My recruiter told me that I’m required to get everything fixed before I could go further in the process.

So, I’m right at the end; passing they physical requirements is the very last thing…and now we are at a pause in the process.

Understand, my teeth are pretty bad. I’ve grown up nursing sodas and sucking on hard candies.  There is nothing good about that. I made stupid choices, and these are the consequences.

Following my oral surgeon’s recommendation is a fairly expensive process. I’ve got a couple of lower teeth to extract, to be replaced with a post and crown(s).  That will be around $3,500.00 for his office, and whatever the cost would be on top of it for some hardware and placement at the dental office.

My upper teeth are worse off. There are six teeth there that need to be replaced and/or fixed.  He recommended getting all of my upper teeth replaced via an “All on Four” procedure.

Basically: all the teeth are pulled, four posts are implanted, then a new set of teeth are made and attached to the posts.  These are considered “permanent” replacements; though there are certain material types that may have to be replaced over the years.  For instance, most of these false teeth are made with resins, which tend to wear over time.  It isn’t unusual for them to be replaced after ten years.

The “All on Four” procedure would have me paying $16,900.00 to the Surgeon’s office, and then whatever my Dentist would require for her part in the ordeal.

In short, we are estimating around $25,000-$30,000 in dental costs.

Yeah, that’s $25k-$30k… Estimate.

To be honest, I don’t know what to do at this point to come up with that kind of money.  We don’t have that kind of money on hand, and insurance only covers up to $1000 per year.

I’m checking out other options, other procedures that might fit the bill.

He made his suggestion because I’m a vocational communicator.  In other words, %90 of my job is communicating.  If I can’t talk, or if there is an issue with my speech; that could hurt my job.  Having “dentures,” “partials,” or other things could “get loose” in the mouth during speaking engagements.  That would be pretty bad for a vocational communicator.  So, his recommendation was based upon what would be best for my job.

We may have to go one of the less optimal routes on this one.

Even if it was just $10,000 in costs, that would still be really hard for us to do.

So, that is it for now.  We are at a pause in the process.  I hope it isn’t a point that we can’t get beyond.  I’m 39 years old at the moment, and I have until I’m 42 years old to make it in.

That’s about it.

Z

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