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Meaning of life

"The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away." ~ Pablo Picasso

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Visions of
St. John
The 1979 Bentley Concert Choir
From the Album: Together

This is the song that won our choir a Silver Medal at Houston's World Competition in 1979! I thought you'd like to hear it.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Livin' la Vida Loca!

From Rock Star to Reality

I told you, I’ve been busy and now I’m paying for it! More anniversaries, more reunions, more sleep!

Thanksgiving weekend I partied like a rock star! I arrived in Detroit and was swept off to 336, a bar in Plymouth, Michigan. Rick Canzano (RICKYSEE) was entertaining. I don’t know where the energy came from after such a long flight. I graduated with Rick and he is one of the most talented guys I know. This guy can pick up ANY instrument and play with ease. His first tenor vocals add to his entertainment prowess!

Our Multi-talented RickySee entertains at the class reunion

I bumped into many friends from long past, many I went to elementary school with! This would be a once-in-a-lifetime, multi-reunion, homecoming holiday weekend. On the agenda; 30 year class reunion on Friday and a Concert Choir Reunion/ birthday party on Saturday. Both reunions would bring friends from all over the world! It was an event I could not miss!

I stayed with my buddy Craig and his family for the holiday. Thanksgiving morning began with a gathering of old choir friends from high school. We sang (YES I DID) “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” for Ward Presbyterian Church in Northville. Our high school Concert Choir director, who also instructed the church choir, was turning 75 and ALL of his past students were invited to attend a 50th Anniversary Choir Reunion/ Birthday Extravaganza to celebrate on Saturday. Those that wanted to also join his church to sing this great song Thanksgiving morn were welcome participate. It’s really hard to describe how important this weekend was to me and how grateful I was of the timing of this event.

I haven’t been off my feeding tube for long and I certainly haven’t been able to sing very well after all the radiation to my head and neck! Up until 6 months ago my diction was still poor. If this was any other time in the last 3 years, I would not have been able to attend or enjoy. As you will soon read, that would have been tragic!

Doctor Jerry Smith (Doc-doctor of music) taught at our high school from 1959 until 1985 when the high school closed. He was throwing a major shindig to celebrate. This was no ordinary choir. It was a well run organization with its own government of students.

I was elected the choir's business manager in my senior year of this fine choir and was responsible for coordinating all aspects of our Spring Tour, which took us far across the country to sing for churches and talk shows. We traveled by bus from Michigan to Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas entering a World Competition, which we snagged a silver medal, and so much more! That is a whole story for another day!

This choir was not a class you could get into easily. You had to audition and pass a sight reading test. Oh…and you needed the chops to sing! Many lucky inductees began in the boys or girls choruses. The choruses were music classes you took for fun, but Concert Choir was the serious top level you strived to be a part of, if you wanted more than just a cake class.

After rocking the Battle Hymn, Craig’s family put on a feast. Remember, I had my very first quarter sized piece of meat (venison) with his family while still on the tube! So, to celebrate Thanksgiving and have the honor of carving the beast was simply awesome. This would be my first family holiday meal since I had my feeding tube removed. I can not even begin to express the high this created.

30 Years Later

Friday would be our 30 year class reunion and 400 people showed up! I was apart of a very large graduating class over 800, so for a 30 year reunion, this was a great turnout! To be fair, we did combine 3 graduating years which seems to be a growing concept trend.

LeAnn, Scott, Dave, Ron, Diane, Craig, Jill, and Me Me Me

Everywhere I turned there was a person I knew from some point in time. Conversations flowed as if time stood still. I was transported back to high school in one deep breath. They all looked fantastic and there was not an air of pretense in the room. It was simply magical.

Game show host, Chuck Woolery stopped by for "two and two" because he married a fellow classmate

What I began to realize is that every one of these people had a small impact on who I am today. Our entertainment was RICKYSEE of course. Rick pushed me to be a better musician strictly by just being Rick. He never worked hard to be talented. He possesses one of those innate magical abilities we wish we all had. His talent set the bar so high that he motivated me to achieve more musically and fostered my competitive spirit.

Wednesday I saw a childhood buddy, Jeff Saunders who is now a successful attorney. Jeff would often play big brother to me, making sure the others didn’t beat me up. I don’t ever recall being beat up. Great job Jeff! He was also responsible setting me up with my first (French) kiss from a hot older woman (by a whole year!) in Junior High. Jeff was the popular jock and I was the puny tag-a-long, but Jeff never seemed to mind.

We used to walk to elementary school together and as I OFTEN waited for Jeff to get ready; his mother would serve me breakfast and give me a multi-vitamin expressing the importance of a morning meal to start the day off right. “Feeding the brain early helps you to be a better student,” she emphasized.

Jeff taught me that you can be friends with even the most unlikely and his single mom raising two boys, taught me lessons of nutrition and jump starting your day. She would program Jeff to be successful at an early age. Jeff was great at sports, basketball I remember. I wasn’t very good at sports except hockey and he encouraged my competitive nature, through Ping Pong.

We entered a Ping Pong tournament together as a team and won! He pushed and encouraged me in a positive way. Something I would have not done on my own. I was a bit of a loaner and ALL my friends in there own way wouldn’t let me be. They always included me in there activities. I would later develop into quite the social bug because of this. That’s just how it was growing up in my neighborhood.

Ding Dong the Gang's All Here!

I remember one time, a group of us went out ringing door bells. Ding Dong Ditch we called it. We’d single out our victim’s home and one of us would ring the door bell and run. Sometimes we repeated this several times a night, as we all watched somewhere close from the bushes or behind a car. Yes, I grew up in a BAD gang! We were the terror of the neighborhood don’t-cha know!

I was never allowed to ring the bell, only watch because they knew I wasn’t fast enough and I’d surely get caught. One night I stood my ground, “It’s my turn to ring the bell.” They all rejected that idea, but soon relented after me insisting, “I’m doing it!”

I slowly made my way toward the door, swiftly rang the bell and turned to bolt as fast as I could. I thought the fastest getaway would be to jump a low hedge planted next to the porch. So, off I lept like a gazelle only to fall flat on my face at doors edge.

I failed to clear the hedge with enough speed and there I lay flatly, faced down as the door swiftly opened by the angry homeowner. I just laid there motionless, I guess hoping he wouldn’t notice my bruised body splattered a few feet from the door.

“You’re the Walin boy aren’t you? You're gonna have to do better than that if you expect to be successful at it!” A deep voice said with a chuckle. “Nope don’t know him,” I screamed as I pealed myself off the cement and ran for my life! I soon learned to be honest with myself and embrace those things I wasn’t innately gifted at. I had to for survival!

Street gangs of my era were a kinder gentler bunch. If we carried knives, they were made of rubber. If we carried guns, they were loaded with suction tipped darts. If we popped pills they were administered by a PEZ dispenser in the shape of a cartoon character.

We gambled and established our dominance against rival gangs by drawing a circle and shooting our marbles against theirs for possession. Oh we were bad! And if we dared to drink, it was in protest to being given too much milk and we retaliated by drinking Coca Cola!

We overran the sidewalks on our bikes, with playing cards attached to the spokes of our wheels by clothespins, creating a loud racket like gunfire. We would gather in the green grassy yards of our neighbors and scream blood curdling messages such as, “Red Rover, Red Rover, send Judy right over!” The neighborhood adults showed their fear by yelling, “Go play in your own yard or I'll call your mother!”

Everywhere I turned that night at the reunion was a friend with great memories. The more I thought of each and every friend, the more I realized I have become the embodiment of all of their actions and influences. This really started me thinking deeply about how important social impacts are in early child development. “Water may flow far from the spring, but every drop originates from the same beginning.” ME

Before there was GLEE, there was BCC!

The next night was our Bentley Concert Choir Reunion. This weekend just kept getting better. We began with cocktails and a roving gourmet dinner with more friends from the past and a deep realization of how each influenced my life in some way. There were 840 in attendance and with all those well trained voices in the room we had to cut a Christmas album (CD) right? It was amazing! The room was wired for sound in more ways than one. A professional DVD of the evening was also produced.

The Bentley Concert Choir Alumni directed by Dr. Jerry Smith

There was someone from every year and they came from all over the world to attend. Even our foreign exchange student, Stephan flew in from Austria to attend. Again, I can not express the impact this was having on someone who had lost his tongue! I was singing again, eating, drinking, socializing, and having the time of my life.

Sure, I was bandaged up, exhaustion was running trough my veins, and all had a concern I might pass out at some point. I have to admit, I was a bit worried about that too! Then there was the entertainment aside from our singing. Musicians from within our group entertained. There was plenty of talent oozing in the room and many, now professional entertainers all inspired by Doc. Theresa Goralski sang a flawless Ave Maria and RickyC rocked out the evening with his version of Queen’s, Bohemian Rhapsody! OMG!

The evening ended all too soon with a sing-a-long closing the reunion by turning the lights to a tender glow as we all hugged and softly sang Silent Night. IT ROCKED!

Driving Miss Penny

Sunday began a day of rest…oops not yet. I spent the afternoon with my friend Suzanne, who I ran into at the choir reunion. Her mother, Mrs. “Penny” Duprey (Ma) was the girls chorus teacher. Ma Duprey received her education from the famed Julliard School of Music in New York. After having a marvelous career, she settled in Michigan to raise her family and teach music. I befriended Mrs. Duprey, who lived a block away, at the suggestion of my father, after Mr. Duprey passed away.

My dad thought she might need help around the house, boy did she ever! I traded her vocal lessons for my maintenance services. She even asked me to sing for Suzanne’s wedding. I couldn’t have been more honored. We grew close and eventually took a long vacation together driving all the way across the United States, from Michigan to Los Angeles and back. She was the coolest old lady I’d ever met…another story, another day.

My humble beginings as a professional entertainer (1981)

That night I returned to Craig’s home and he had prepared surprise dinner; a delicately marinated venison fillet grilled to perfection! OMG! The perfect ending to a perfect weekend!

I was so exhausted and by now running on sheer adrenaline. I spent 3 days in bed to recover. I couldn’t lift my head off the pillow! I pushed myself to the limit and it was good, but a cold began to settle in and make me very miserable with a runny nose that wouldn’t relent!

There were so many people I missed and so many I only spoke with for a moment and somehow lost in the sea of 840. Everywhere I turned was a smiling face with tender memories!

Pieces of ME

One such friend was Chris Skotzke, who I haven't seen since we graduated. I only spoke with him briefly that evening and poof he was gone. About a week after my long recovery from the festivities, I received an email from Chris and I had a long cry. He explained he had intended to tell me how much I had influenced his life simply convincing him to try out for Select Chorus, but he couldn’t find me after our brief hello.

When we were in high school, he was looking for a class with no homework. While in journalism class , I suggested he try out for the boys Select Chorus, but he had never sung before. He would eventually be inducted into Concert Choir after acing a flawless audition. He felt my prodding changed his life and gave him all his wonderful memories, allowing him to be a part of today's reunion.

He explained, in detail, how he has become a full fledged deep voiced bass and can be found on the far right end of the second row in his church choir most every Sunday. Something he would not be participating in today, and enjoying immensely, without my influence.

His note was the best gift! It was detailed and emotional and brought me to tears. I had no idea a simple suggestion could make such a difference in someones life. Chris was also experiencing the same emotions that I was about the reunion.

When I look at the whole equation encompassing who we are today, it seems we each took with us in life a little piece of each other and to this day those attributes are still influencing our lives. What was insignificant to us at the time, has turned out to be mini life-altering events. WOW!

What more can I say???
Peace B

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Meaning of Life

I know it’s been awhile since I’ve updated, but I have had so much going on. I don’t know where to start! This year has just been amazing!

Have you ever asked yourself "why" something happens or pondered the meaning of life? Today we'll explore those thoughts.

Little Caesar Enterprises celebrated a 50 year anniversary in the spring. This December marks the 25th anniversary of Walin Enterprises, Inc., the company I founded when I became a franchisee of Little Caesars Pizza. The legacy would live on to become a successful part of many lives.

In 1984, after attending the University of Michigan, I signed my first franchise agreement becoming the youngest franchisee of Little Caesars Pizza at the time. I moved from Michigan to Fremont, California, incorporated my own business, and contracted my first restaurant to be built the following spring. I was young, cocky, and full of energy. Boy have things changed!

My life would follow a synergistic path that I feel I’m still on to this day. In August of this year I was able to play Master of Ceremonies to an audience of friends, business associates, and old employees. As I looked out over the crowd, I saw my entire professional career before me.

My trusted accountants and lawyers of over 25 years, fellow franchisees I’ve worked close with developing a strong and worthy co-op in the San Francisco area, and employees who became friends and later franchisees. And it was all playing out at my favorite East Bay restaurant, Papillion’s who has hosted many wondrous parties for me in the past, but none has ever been this sweet.

What made it all so spectacular is that I’m still alive to see it after all I've been through, and not just see it, but to be such a grand part of it. I’m not sure how wise it was to give a heavily medicated man that had a few drinks a microphone, but things went better than expected.

I’ve mellowed since many have last seen me. Cancer has not only changed my appearance, but my value system and allows me to see life and friendships on a whole different level. I’m not the boss anymore, but the patriarch of this group at my young age.

My whole life has been fast paced, most always being ahead of others my own age. Many nicknames have been given to me over the years: the Maverick, the Titan, the man who has it all, the Asshole. All of which I wear with pride. Well…not all, but they were well earned! The evening was almost like a roast/retirement/reunion/anniversary and then some party; a reflection of past, present, and future.

As most of my life has been, I feel this story is nothing short of extraordinary. This is a bit of how my presentation unfolded that evening:
My life and our time here today are all about synergy and coming to understand the meaning of life:

Synergy (from the Greek syn-ergos, meaning working together) is the term used to describe a situation where different entities cooperate advantageously for a final outcome. Simply defined, it means that the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts. Although the whole will be greater than each individual part, this is not the concept of synergy. If used in a business application it means that teamwork will produce an overall better result than if each person was working toward the same goal individually.

• A dynamic state in which combined action is favored over the sum of individual component actions.

• Behavior of whole systems unpredicted by the behavior of their parts taken separately. More accurately known as emergent behavior.

• The cooperative action of two or more stimuli or drugs.

Why do things happen in our lives? What I have learned over my short years is that there is NO answer to, "Why?" You will never find it. It is what it is, nothing more. But for those of you who refute that, then you will find there is only one of three possibilities:

1. GOD made it happen.

2. KARMA - It was fate and you made it happen by actions you have taken.

Or, my personal favorite…


In 1984 I moved to Fremont, California to follow my dream: to be an entrepreneur, found my own company, and become independent. I incorporated using the family name. It held a hidden meaning. Walin Enterprises, Inc. was known only by a few as "WE Inc." WE Inc. personified all that was built within would be accomplished by all participants feeling a part of its whole, a synergistic approach if you will.

As I grew up, my father always impressed upon me, nothing was his alone. It was “ours.” He always made it clear it was “our” home, “our” car, “our” whatever and if I ever slipped up, I was surely corrected.

Nothing was “mine.” So, to pay tribute to that philosophy, I searched for a befitting corporate name that would exemplify this. I found nothing that I could make sense of, so I settled on using the family name calling it Walin Enterprises, Inc. Before I had new letterhead and labels printed, I would send out company mail and realized the name was a pain in the ass to write with each envelope, so I shortened it to WE, Inc. and that’s when it hit me. How perfect that was to honor the idea that WE as a whole (meaning all involved) would make this company sound and profitable. Little did I know how far that little thought would go.

Synergy began to play its role and the following spring my very first restaurant was being built in my new home town. Far away from home and alone, it was sink or swim, and I knew how to swim!

As I waited for the construction to complete, I began to connect myself with the local government, media, and finding a great team of accountants I trusted. Most was accomplished in one afternoon after being invited to a birthday party for the Mayor. It’s amazing how well connected those guys are and how many business and government officials attend those little shindigs!

Everything fell into place. I was in all the local papers, and everybody was pulling for the young “kid” from Detroit. At that time there were a little over 500 Little Caesar locations nationwide and the Fremont location was the first in the San Francisco Bay area.

The first restaurant opened with a few setbacks. The Honorable Mayor Leon J. Mezzetti cut a celebratory ribbon and a grand party ensued. That night Mayor Mezzetti handed me a ten dollar bill saying, "I want to be the first customer of your new venture. Wishing you much success in our fine City of Fremont." He became a regular customer and good friend. His ten dollars still hangs in my home office today, behind a glass frame.

That Christmas, after only 6 months in business, my father passed away, leaving me without my rock to call every night and tell of all the daily events. Even though he was thousands of miles away, I always knew he was there with his never wavering support. I was lost, and that’s a story for another day.

That same year Roberto and Isabel Gonzolas moved to Fremont and settled with their three children. I would not meet them for years to come, but they would become a major part of the WE Inc. family in time.

Many grueling years went by. I was well established with 3 restaurants, president of a marketing co-op of 70, and flying back and forth to Los Angeles helping with our national commercial roll-out, and life couldn’t be better. As Fremont prospered due to the Silicon Valley boom, so did I. I was at the top of my game, with a home in the hills and MC Hammer for my neighbor. I had more hats then I could wear and still learning every step of the way.

The best advice I was ever given was from Denise Ilitch, the eldest daughter of the founder of Little Caesars: “Be a sponge,” was the simple advice she imparted at our very first meeting, and I sucked everything up!

In 1991 a young man entered my office looking for work, his name, Roberto Gonzolas, Jr. He was a good kid, mischievous, and fun to work with, but needed a kick in the pants now and then.

One evening, when young Roberto first started, I was in my office as he mopped the lobby floor. I noticed he was having a difficult time pushing and turning, scrubbing and stooping, and wringing that big mop. So, I went out to show him how to properly mop the floor saving time, labor, and making it easier to accomplish.

He understood and I returned to my office to watch Roberto Jr. on the monitor to see how he was doing. Nothing had changed! He was still mopping the same way he was before.

I flew out of the office. "Roberto! I thought you understood how to properly mop the floor," I bellowed.

"Yes sir, I do. I just wanted to see if you were still watching me!" he said with a grin as he straighted up and began to mop as instructed. That was Roberto, forever playful.

Though I didn’t work with him often, I liked young Roberto, a lot. I had a policy never to get involved with the parents of our younger employees unless there was a legal matter or serious concern that needed addressing. If a parent would call me personally about a scheduling conflict or a problem with time off I would always say, “Your child is old enough to handle these issues for themselves. They are not babies anymore. As long as we are following the law, you have no reason to call me. I did not hire you, I hired your child.”

Well, that ruffled a few feathers, but that’s what I believe and it was my company to set the rules and I made darn sure everybody knew them!

Because of this, I had no personal contact with Roberto’s parents for over a year until one afternoon when I received a frantic phone call from an employee named Ryan. “Brian, I can’t make it to work tonight! I was in a bad car accident with Roberto,” his voice was shaking. It turned out 4 of my employees, all from my different locations, had been in this accident. I didn't even know how they knew each other, but they all knew young Roberto.

Without hesitation I was on my way to the hospital. There in the lobby was the largest congregation of Mexicans I had ever seen. It seemed every family member, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins some 3 times removed were there for the family, some from far away. Half of Mexico went missing that day! I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before. My entire family can fit in an average sized living room and this group overflowed onto the parking lot!

When I arrived, I immediately wanted to see Roberto, Jr. Ryan led me back to the ICU as the lobby congregation stared and wondered who the white guy was. There “beyond the glass door” was the funny little boy; Roberto, all tied up to machines as his parents Roberto Sr. and Isabel looked on with a doctor contemplating when to pull the plug. Young Roberto was brain dead. Erika, one of the girls involved, was killed instantly at the scene of the accident. Ryan was badly shaken and Murna, the fourth girl, was an emotional mess.

It was that day the Gonzolas family would become mine and vice versa. It was also the first time I met “the eyebrow.” Isabel has a way of expressing displeasure by raising one eyebrow and scowling. “And just WHO are you?” she sneered. I explained I was Roberto Jr's boss and she continued with, “Who let you back here? My own family isn’t allowed back here!” It was then that I realized that group that appeared to encompass half of Mexico was all her family and I walked right past them, naively led by Ryan.

After the two funerals, the restaurants took awhile to settle back into the groove, but the Gonzolas family was having a difficult time. I watched them fall apart. I felt so bad I wanted to do something, but what?

I would call Isabel nightly to talk. She only let a 2 or 3 people into her life at that time and shut all others out, but why me? Why a total stranger? Let’s just put that in the “shit happens” category. We would talk all night on the phone until 4 in the morning sometimes. I even spent a night with Isabel and the family priest talking and drinking at her home.

Do you know priests drink??? Can you imagine? That evening we polished off three bottles of wine and called it a night at 6 AM! I had to get up and make dough in a few hours and he had to give a sermon! As you can see, it was… what ever it took to get the family back on track!

A few years of this could kill a man. Indeed a few years had passed and Isabel needed to get back to work. My then current Office Manager and childhood friend I grew up with, Debbie, was leaving WE Inc. to venture off with her husband on a new family business and I needed a replacement. Isabel stepped up and offered to take Deb’s place. I thought it would be a great idea. However, Roberto Sr. leaned over at that moment and whispered, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you!” I probably should have listened. After all, he had more experience with Isabel than I.

It was a struggle. It wasn’t “our” office. She tried to claim it and all its contents for herself and I would protest saying, “Dammit Isabel!” If I had a dollar for every time I said that! She had a very hard time understanding who the boss was. We soon learned that being in the office at the same time wasn’t the best idea. So, she often avoided the office when I was there. Her job didn’t require set hours. As long as the work was done, I was happy.

I took my first personal vacation in over 10 years of owning WE Inc. and she was left in charge. I could have strangled her when she would call me with problems she should have managed alone! There were enough arguments over the years I think some of the employees thought we were married. We still don’t fully get along to this day, but we both know we are in each other’s lives for a reason. After all, shit happens! Perhaps it was balance, I let her know when I’m right AND I let her know when she’s wrong. Get it?

In 1995 I became deathly ill. I was given 3 months to live and Isabel would say, “Don’t you leave me with all this crap to handle by myself!” Life has always centered around that woman in her mind, even if YOU are the one dying! I wasn’t going to leave her with it, but I would devise a good compromise in the future!

After 4 months I was still alive and growing stronger. The doctors were wrong, imagine that, and I still had a little more time on this grand planet. Isabel was doing her best with some occasional help from Deb and even my dear friend, Joy stepping in to help with some of my personal things.

What do you do when you’ve been told you will die and you outlive your expiration date? P-A-R-T-Y!!! That year we threw one hell of a Company Christmas bash, Tens of Thousands of Dollars on a party, a block long Jacuzzi limo, and outrageous gifts! Hey, I was dying and I couldn’t take it with me!

Joy and I flew to Vegas and booked the best suite high atop the Mirage Hotel on the strip. We did the town and more money poured out of my pockets. This is what you do when you’re dying, right??? Though I’d do it all again in a heart beat, I wish I had some of that cash today!

I grew stronger and continued running the company, removing myself from some of the other obligations I had created over the years. I would concentrate solely on the restaurants and the Easter Seal Telethons that had become a WE Inc. family tradition.

Many years would pass and I found it time to move on. I was tired, my body drained to the point of exhaustion. Illness had stolen my work ethic. My heart was no longer in it. I hated coming to work emotionally and physically drained. I just needed time to put life into perspective. My grand business career that I had begun at such a young age was coming to an early end. So, at the young age of 38, I planned an early retirement. The Gonzolas family offered to buy WE Inc. and keep it alive to honor our friendship and their son Roberto. Well… and to make a shitload of money too, let’s be honest!

Eight years would pass and in 2007 retirement wasn’t so bad, but once again I became ill with oral cancer. I sought the best doctors in the Bay Area. I zeroed in on UCSF with the reassurance of Warren Buffett, who's wife Susan was treated for her oral cancer, by the same team of doctors that delivered my horrific news. I was going to lose my tongue and I didn't like what I was hearing. I needed a second opinion for this rare cancer.

I found myself at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston being sliced, diced, micro-waved and poisoned and there was Isabel selflessly by my side as they ripped out my cancerous tongue and replaced it with my forearm and forced to survive through a feeding tube. (see past blog posts!) She was my caregiver and patient advocate during those hardest moments. Many of my Little Caesar friends stepped up including an ex-franchisee Pasty, who used to own franchises in Hawaii. Patsy flew from Illinois, leaving work and stayed with me during my chemo and radiation treatments when Isabel had to return to California to take back the helm of WE Inc.

For some reason I’m still here. Why? Shit happens! After being subjected to a feeding tube for over 2 years and learning to speak, swallow, and eat all over again, I live. I beat the odds yet again and I'm enjoying every breath.

Now here we are in 2009 celebrating a life of synergy: a 10 year anniversary for the Gonzolas family, 25 year anniversary of Walin Enterprises, Inc., a 50 year anniversary of Little Caesars itself, friendship, love, life, death, and everything in between. Life just couldn’t get any better even with the tragedy within! Or could it? Remember: "There will never be a rainbow without a torrid rain."ME
And this is the short version!!!!

Now if you haven’t figured out the meaning of life yet from all of this…well… you’re an idiot. Go back and read this again!
Peace B

Monday, November 23, 2009

Lyrics From The Songs Of Life

Angels On High

By Brian N. Walin

Why do we lose those that we love? It’s hard to perceive what’s waiting above. We struggle with loss, the sadness it brings. There’s anger and hatred and all of those things.

Why did this happen to you in your life? How will you deal with the grief and the strife? Why did it happen? Where did they go? Your heart hurts so much. It’s such a big blow.

You ask all your questions, but you never hear, the answers you need and some that you fear. It’s all in God’s plan. He knows all too well. We all have a fear of going through Hell.

You just can’t go on, you’ve needed him so. But his time here is over and now he must go. The angels have cometh to taketh his soul, while you plant the remains inside of a hole.

He sees all this different. There’s no loss he feels. He now knows the plan and so he now yields. A place upon high he now resides, to watch over us all, God’s rules he abides.

A new morning rises. The dew it does rest. The sun shines so brightly. Now here comes the test. Will anger consume you or will you now know, it’s all in God’s plan, when it’s our time to go?

Remember the good times, the laughter, and love. And always keep looking to that sky up above. Search for the rainbow, the colors it brings, the magic and wonder in all of those things. Smile and enjoy the time you have left. Your life is a tapestry woven as weft.

Try to imagine what’s waiting above. Spend the rest of your days here, living with love. Those all around you need you so much, to teach them, and love them, with your gentle touch.

Your time will come too, and then you will know, the plan that God has and where YOU will go. Be rid of your anger, your sorrow, and strife. Keep moving ahead, improving your life. Keep love in your heart and stop asking, “Why?” It’s all in God’s plan, so try not to cry, and someday you will be with angels on high.

©2005 Brian N. Walin (All rights reserved)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Spotlight on Cancer - Part 3

The Finale

Bob Pemberton won his freedom from cancer the morning of October 28, 2009. With ROTC as pall bearers and the First Baptist Church choir, 90 strong, singing towards the heavens, he was laid to rest in the Florida National Cemetery with full military honors. Taps played, a gun salute, and his battle was over. Bob Pemberton will now and forever rest in peace without cancer.

The last time I spoke with Bob, we had put the final touches on Part 2 of Dead Man Talking. October 26 was the last time we communicated. He wanted to leave a message for others to learn. I think he accomplished that goal here and perhaps taught us all how fragile life really is. Please take a moment to learn from this courageously strong man and ask yourself...Are you living life to the fullest? There are no guarantees how long you will be here.

As Always...Peace B

©2009 Brian N. Walin (All rights reserved)


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Just a Thought...

A Single Grain of Sand
In the midst of the Universe, is there a common thread? Are we the end, beginning, or middle? Have we the acceptance to understand that there are billions of universes such as ours with infinite possibilities of life within the cosmos?

Is it a question of God or mathematics? Surely we are not alone. Can our minds grasp how minuscule we are in the greater scheme of things? That everything that you accomplish in your daily life has absolutely nothing to do with the greater equation? Do you understand what a gift it is to have this privilege for the very short time you walk this Earth, which is nothing more than a single grain of sand in a cosmic ocean?

Do you realize there are more than 400,000,000,000 stars in the Milky Way Galaxy alone? When you walk along a beach, can you conceptualize that Earth is represented by nothing more than a single grain of sand and you are one of 6.795 Billion people living on that single grain of sand? Can you even comprehend the significance of that, or perhaps the insignificance?

The Milky Way Galaxy

“From an intergalactic vantage point we would see, strewn like sea froth on the waves of space, innumerable faint, wispy tendrils of light. These are the galaxies…

A galaxy is composed of gas and dust and stars – billions upon billions of stars. Every star may be a sun to someone.

There are some hundred billion galaxies each with, on the average, a hundred billion stars. In all the galaxies there are perhaps as many planets as stars, 10 to the eleventh x 10 to the eleventh = 10 to the 22nd power. That is, ten billion trillion" - Carl Sagan

A Galaxy Cluster

We have been given the most precious gift ever to be bestowed: Life on a single grain of sand. Why do we continue to devalue that? War has no purpose. Why is it so hard to live in peace, and love one another? It's not a question of who's right or who's wrong, but an understanding we all have a right to our opinion as long as no harm comes to another. It doesn't matter which God or Deity you believe in, as long as you believe in the greater good for all mankind and that only a great power could have created it.

Do you understand all this? Can you not see it? Or do you believe that you, your life, your family, your country, or your world is indeed the center of the Universe?

A Single Grain of Sand - You are HERE

Peace B

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Spotlight on Cancer - Part 2

Dead Man Talking
By Brian N. Walin

Today we explore a world that is most often off limits. A topic that is taboo, or gently whispered in some homes: What it’s like to die. But when you get veteran cancer patients together from around the world and from all walks of life, nothing is out of bounds when it comes to this topic. For seasoned cancer patients, it’s a reality ever-circling overhead like a vulture.

I think we as cancer patients have so much time to think about dying, that often we become desensitized to it. We tend to see life from a different perspective, and begin to appreciate more. Cancer clarifies the honest realities of life and that we all have an end, often sooner rather than later for some cancer patients. The new convertible BMW and the million-dollar home are no longer life’s goal. You simply want to survive.

As you approach what could be your final days, you want to make sure your loved ones are secure. As I was preparing to write this, Bob Pemberton was planning every detail of his own funeral with his wife Joyce and tearfully reviewed insurance policies with their agent. Bob has volunteered to be a participant in an “End of Life” study at The Moffett Cancer Center so others may learn. In the midst of all this, he generously took the time to answer questions from fellow cancer patients wanting to glean something from his experiences.

At a time like this, there are so many questions. Darkness is knocking as you reevaluate your life. Religion often becomes a deeper part of the equation as you view your own mortality at hand. There is so much to do if you have been a procrastinator. Do you have a will, a trust, or a clear understanding of how your loved ones will be provided for? How will the bills left behind be paid? Are all your insurance options covered? There are plenty of options for insurance if you plan ahead, but few if you wait until it’s too late.

Most of this should have been attended to years ago, long before you ever get sick, allowing peace of mind if and when tragedy strikes. But, there are those that refuse to believe they will ever die or simply refuse to discuss it until life spins out of control.

Bob has been married to Joyce for over 32 years. Their union was blessed with beautifully healthy children. The Pembertons are the epitome of the successful American family.

Bob served our country in the Army as a First Sergeant Sapper, an elite combat engineer, at Fort Bragg. He became a successful real estate agent and worked with a computer team in Chicago on the side. He is a well-educated man with the emotional strength of an ox, and with his Army attitude, nothing was going to bring this man down.

His strength is innate, as a close friend once recalled how tough Bob has always been, “When we were in ninth grade, Bob was a star on the basketball team. One day at practice he missed a shot or a rebound, and punched the wall in frustration. Bob broke something in his hand. He was mad at himself -- but the pain never bothered him.”

His wife Joyce works for the American Cancer Society. They are active with church and own a well-appointed home in a quiet suburb equipped with a pool, a yard full of critters, and a loving dog that lounges around the house. They are the American dream personified.

Life was blissful until the day Bob felt his first lump. Dreams do come to an end. Life would never be the same from that day forward. His war with cancer began, and life took on new meaning. Bob found himself on the front lines of a whole new Army and waged a personal war to survive. First Sergeant Pemberton would battle cancer for the rest of his life. All other life goals would take a back seat to the vicious enemy within.

With his fifth recurrence, he was recently sent home to die after a failed operation that would have removed a tumor, as well as the remainder of his tongue, esophagus, and larynx. The plan was to pull his stomach up to the back of the throat, leaving him permanently speechless.

It seems the tumor had attached itself to his esophagus and grown dangerously against his carotid artery with major veins wrapped around. Any attempt to remove it, could be catastrophic. The severity was discovered 90 minutes into surgery. They stapled him back up and delivered the unimaginable news to Joyce. There was nothing more they could do for Bob. If the tumor continues to grow as predicted, it will cut off the blood supply to Bob’s brain and the curtain will fall.

Bob has said that getting cancer has been the worst and best experience he's ever had. I have said those very words myself. So much more of the world becomes exposed to you. You become more conscious of what’s really important as you watch others shuffle through life thinking they have all the answers. I just smile and say to myself, “They just don’t get it.” And because I was once one of them, I understand why. You need a life-altering equation to discover a life-clarifying answer.

Bob and Joyce - Relay for Life

Bob and Joyce are in this together. Joyce, the ever-loving wife, tries to understand every procedure and chemotherapy Bob encounters, so she can provide him with the best possible care. It’s the minefield side of the equation that leaves most minds boggled. Joyce shows the outward signs of stress with every breath, while trying to keep herself together so she won’t fall apart in front of others, especially Bob.

Joyce plays caregiver while still working for the American Cancer Society. She’s not new to the cancer equation, yet she finds it difficult at times. Joyce says, “As a caregiver, here's the deal....you are in a constant state of helplessness. I can't count the number of times I've said, "Can I do anything?" She maintains her own blog, THE LATEST FROM BRANDON, recounting their struggles with this deadly disease.

Caregiving is not an easy task. I have been on both sides of that coin, and, at times, I too have felt helpless and overwhelmed. After all, you’re responsible for someone else’s life.

Even though loved ones and caregivers are directly involved with treatments and the daily routine, no one will ever understand the philosophical side of life better than a cancer patient. But even when giving clarity, cancer does not reveal all of life's secrets. We still need to learn from others. With this in mind, I asked Bob if he would answer a few questions in his darkest hour. He graciously agreed in the hopes that others may learn.

The following participants have been carefully chosen from around the globe to ask Bob, a miraculously strong man staring death in the eye, some hard-hitting, direct, personal questions. These are people who have successfully mastered the art of living with cancer and have the insight to ask real questions, based on personal experiences. Though Bob is unable to speak at the moment, it did not stop him from communicating. From Bob’s bed, with hospice hovering nearby, he answers questions from others who also have had their lives altered by this voracious disease.


Jeanne Sather, from Seattle, Washington, is a world-traveled, professional writer and jewelry designer who has been living with metastatic breast cancer for 11 years, and has tangled with a deadly melanoma. She has had more radiation and chemotherapy then she cares to recall. At this point she jokes that there must be a pale green glow emanating from her body! Her cancer is considered incurable, but she continues to fight with a vengeance. She also maintains a no-holds-barred blog: The Assertive Cancer Patient

Jeanne would like to ask Bob:

Jeanne: What do you know now, that you wish you’d known when you were first diagnosed? Do you have any regrets?

Bob: As Joyce and I look back over the several things that were revealed to us about what was being visited upon us, we both agree that knowing more would not have been helpful. The information was given out or dispensed in the right portion so that we were not too overwhelmed by the totality of it all. I think at each turn we were hopeful that this was the last episode as opposed to knowing there were five such episodes to come. We were given several courses of action to choose from, radiation, surgery, and if we wanted to go outside the standard medical treatment scenario, we could have selected a holistic approach. Traditionally, this has not been a direction we would take and did not want to take this type of treatment at such a dire moment within our life.

We have continually placed this within the lens of how we view all things and that is one of the Biblical World View. How is our experience consistent within the context of historic characters of faith, and how is our behavior consistent with those of the same characters.

Sharifah Rashida bt. Syed Ahmad, has been teaching English Language, Commerce, and Mathematics for 17 years and resides in Kedah, Malaysia. She lost her tongue to cancer (total glossectomy) in April 2008, being led down the same ugly path as Bob and I. Her country provides government managed health services and Sharifah’s care seems to be remarkably on par with the U.S. While still on a feeding tube, she’s lovingly named “Miss Peggy,” she longs for the day a simple piece of bread with butter will pass her lips without a struggle. She maintains an insightful blog: THE TONGUELESS TALK - Battling Oral Cancer, recounting her fight through the oral cancer jungle.

Sharifah’s questions to Bob are:

Sharifah: I’m curious to know how you handle your emotions when you have run out of options and know your time is almost up? Are you trying alternative treatments or are you willing to?

Bob: As far as our emotions go, we have been at opposite sides of the spectrum at the same time and at different times. We remain faithful to the Biblical World View, meaning that those things (principles) we have held dear to as young people, then as young parents, we will continue to embrace them as we grow old and are threatened by the issue of cancer. At this stage of life we do not question “Why me,” but rather, “Lord, since it’s me, help me to manifest outwardly those attributes that most reflect Your Love, and Grace.”

Joyce and I have not embraced alternative treatments in the past and don’t judge or criticize those who do, but since we’ve no first-hand knowledge of “lemon grass” or other popular topics of the day, we decided to stay with those treatments that have more consistent documentation through the medical community. I have no doubt there are success stories to be heard, but I’m not certain that for my tumor type or cancer type I would want to expend the emotional calories.

Dawn, is a retired nurse practitioner living in Richmond, BC, Canada. She was apprehensive about posing a question to Bob because the subject hits too close to home. Her father died within three months of being diagnosed with a colon cancer that wasn’t caught until after it had metastasized, which was discovered during a routine chest X-ray. Both her aunt and uncle are currently in palliative care. Bob's blog brought her to tears, making it too difficult to ask a man in his position a question. After careful consideration and a little prodding, she finally relented with this question for Bob:

Dawn: Thirty-five years ago I was administering Demerol to a woman whose life signs were fading and with her last breath near, she asked, “Am I dead yet?” I still remember that day. Do patients ever realize how hard it is for health-care professionals to care for terminally ill patients, and not take the thought of them home with us every night?

Bob: Dawn, I must confess that medical personnel are not the first thought I’ve had considered when discussing my diagnosis, but I’m often reminded in conversation whether the nurse or doctor is in need of a good word when having to discuss bad news.

Dr. Wendy Harpham is a doctor of internal medicine and 19-year survivor of multiple recurrences of lymphoma. When ongoing illness forced her to retire from clinical medicine, she turned to writing and speaking to help others. She's written award-winning books for patients and has a regular column --"View From the Other Side of the Stethocope" -- in a professional oncology publication. She also has an active blog, entitled: Dr. Wendy Harpham - On Healthy Survivorship. All her work revolves around the notion of Healthy Survivorship, a term she coined in 1992.

A "Healthy Survivor" is a survivor who (1) gets good care and (2) lives as fully as possible. I am assuming you are getting optimal care, which means your cancer has received the best treatments to control it, your pain is optimally controlled, your nutrition is optimally managed and so on.

Dr. Harpham: Your treatment options have run out, and you know that most people in your situation die from their disease. How are you calming your fear of the unknown, and how are you quieting the grief over losing everything you know and love, so that you can “live as fully as possible” until you die?

Bob: Pointing back to the answer of Q#2, I think it’s necessary to point out that we look to the writings that support our faith of purpose, direction, and motivation. I look first to Psalms 55:22 to help frame the situation for me and allow my limited mind to grasp the infinite. “Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” I have applied this to both sides of the grave and find comfort in it.

In a summarizing way, I would say applying the Biblical Worldview would also indicated a life time of Bible studies and discussions of practical application of these end of life scenarios have helped in “calming fears of the unknown.” We have learned to be absent from the body is to be in the presence of the Lord. There is some consolation in that as well.

Daria Maluta, is a breast cancer survivor from Edmonton, AB, Canada who was first diagnosed in 2000 with a recurrence in 2004. Four years later a lump showed up during her annual mammogram. Further investigation revealed her Stage IV cancer had spread to her bones, liver, and lungs. She has been on constant three-week cycles of Taxotere chemotherapy since August of 2008. Her father had bladder cancer and her father-in-law died of brain and liver cancer. She authors Living with Cancer, a very interesting and detailed blog surrounding her high and lows with this dreaded disease. Daria had a whole list of questions, so we picked her most important:

Daria: Spiritually speaking, how has this disease altered you…from the inside out? Speak to being more mindful…a greater awareness in the present moment.

Bob: The disease itself has allowed me to move from the intellectual knowledge about Christ to a full emotional buy-in to all the teachings he has instructed.

Carl Wilton has been a Presbyterian minister for 19 years at the Point Pleasant Presbyterian Church in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey. Diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in December, 2005, he went into remission for eight months following chemotherapy, after which his cancer returned in an indolent form, one that's considered incurable, but treatable. He's been on a watch-and-wait protocol ever since. Carl continues to reflect on life, health, and faith on his blog, A Pastor's Cancer Diary.

With all Carl's experience surrounding spiritual life matters, he brings forth this question:

Carl: How has your awareness of God's presence in your life changed as you've come to contemplate the inevitability of your own death?

Bob: His presence in my life is only more evident with each passing moment.

I have so many questions for Bob. After all, this could be the one man who could save my life by my learning from his mistakes, but there is one burning question that haunts me every waking hour: When do I give up? So I had to ask Bob:

Brian: It appears you might have run out of options, are you contemplating giving up the fight?

Bob: I can’t tell the difference between “giving up” or resignation. My comments mentioned above might put proper understanding to it.


While some cancer patients and their families might choose to ignore the pink elephant in the room, these participants groom it, feed it, and ride it into the sunset, by blogging, writing books, and inspiring others with the spiritual aspects of the cancer realm.

We all are going to die, never knowing when. Are you prepared? Will your loved ones be provided for? Have you thought about putting a plan in motion before something happens? What will you do with the time you have left?

Live your life strong, no matter the length, and count your blessings, especially if it’s longer without cancer. But even if you find yourself in our shoes, it’s not over unless you stop fighting. Don’t waste it. Plan ahead for the darkest hours and do something life-changing today.

With Bob leading the way, we’ve managed to examine the beginning, middle, and end of the cancer life cycle. And in the end, that’s all you really have…The End

A final thought:

“I think those that do not encounter cancer are missing out on one of the most enriching times in life. People choose this time in life to share how much they care for you ... do yourself a favor, don't wait for your friends to have cancer to let them know how much you enjoy their company, or care for them. Find a reason to tell your non-cancer friends how much they mean to you. Your life will be enriched by it ... without the whole cancer thing.” –Bob Pemberton

©2009 Brian N. Walin (All rights reserved)


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Spotlight on Cancer - Part 1

Dead Man Talking
By Brian N. Walin

After living with my cancer for many years now, I have met several cancer patients along the way. Most have some other type of cancer. Only a few have the same, rare tongue cancer that I do.

What makes this story so difficult to write is the fact that most tongue cancer patients I have met along my journey are no longer with us. Squamous carcinoma of the oral cavity is responsible. This is an extremely aggressive cancer that leaves the recipient with a 50/50 chance to live five years, after being diagnosed. If it has infiltrated the lymphatic system, it can further worsen those odds by an additional 25%.

In 2007, after being diagnosed myself, I began to aggressively fight back. I underwent several operations to remove the Stage IV venomous growth along my left lateral tongue and the floor of my mouth. Cancerous lymph nodes were excavated from my neck. An uncomfortable tracheotomy allowed me to breath. The corners of my mouth were filleted open to allow access to the project within.

Body parts were rearranged: a skin graph from my thigh covered the hole that was left after removing a skin flap from my forearm that was then used to fashion a new tongue. Dangerous radiation and cancer killing chemotherapy followed…more invasive surgery to my oral cavity and a two and a half year engagement with a life sustaining feeding tube protruding from my belly.

After months of speech therapy, mouth and tongue exercises, food modification, depression, and mounds of mind-numbing medication, I’m exhausted. I’m still alive, winning my battle, and eating some solid foods, but always concerned cancer will strike again and I will repeat this dance anew.

The clock is ticking. Half of my time here is gone, according to statistics, yet I am still cancer-free. In my mind I fear the evil will return. I think that is a fear all healthy survivors have. You live day to day with that cancer cloud looming overhead. I’m free, but am I really?

Every time I lose a fellow tongue cancer patient, it’s a staggering blow that brings me front and center to the harsh realities of this dreaded disease. I personally don’t have an issue with dying. I’ve faced that road before. It’s the suffering, pain, and overall loss of the quality of life that goes along with continual treatment that is an issue for me. Horrifically, “life altering” does not begin to describe the reality of the situation.

Many friends and family members of cancer patients ask themselves, “What do I say at a time like this? How do I react? What can I do?” or even, “Why?” as they watch their loved ones suffer a slow, agonizing defeat.

First, let me go on record to say there is no answer to, “Why?” It is what it is! It isn’t anybody’s fault. It’s not a punishment, nor is it anything you have total control over. For those of you with controlling personalities such as myself, let this one go!

Having been close to death a few times now, I feel I can give advice as to how you should treat a cancer patient. Just treat us as you always have. No matter how bad we look or how weak we are, we want life to be as normal as possible. Save the tears, we don’t need them. Jokes are a good thing, laughter is best. Reminisce about the good times, and hugs are always welcome, if not longed for.

We are no different with or without cancer, even if we have no hair! Be honest with us and yourself. We know our odds aren’t good. Don’t make things worse by throwing a pity party. Now is not the time to hide from the truth. While life hangs in the balance, emotions are raw. Don’t say or do things YOU might regret later AND say all the things you wish to say, before we are gone. We need to hear them now.

We need a caregiver and patient advocate who is strong and caring and understanding of OUR wishes and not those you think we want. If others object to the plan in motion, remind yourself, these are our wishes, not theirs. This could be our finale, our last goodnight, and therefore needs to be our choice how things should be managed.

Personally, I don’t like to be fussed over. I prefer to do as much as possible for myself, even if it appears I’m struggling. I will let you know when I need help. I need that independence to get my strength back. If I let you do too much, it’s like saying, “I give up!” which is never a good thing. I think it’s essential for a cancer patient to remain emotionally strong and independent to survive, if not be down right stubborn.

I’m compelled to write this, because once again a fellow tongue cancer patient’s life hangs in the balance. The harsh realities are rearing their ugly heads. Bob Pemberton, is a friend and fellow tongue cancer patient. I met Bob after I completed my last surgery, while still sporting my feeding tube. We had a long “talk” about life with tongue cancer and the necessity of a feeding tube.

Bob, is someone I look up to after being through so much more than I have at this point. When I now look at Bob, I see what my future might be. He’s like the senior classmen and I the novice freshman student.

I generally maintain this blog to surround readers with my life and my cancer issues…Me, Me, Me! But, today I am inclined to open up the door and let Bob in. Not just Bob, but other readers and fellow cancer patients. I thought I would set the stage and have an open, raw, discussion with a man who is facing a death sentence. Something has compelled me to do this. I can’t tell you why, but I think either selfishly I need it, or I feel that others need to hear it. Especially those who are healthy and think they have something to worry about. Perhaps we’ll even touch on the meaning of life.

For me this is a personal project. I wanted to enroll the help of several people who are also surrounded by cancer in some way, to interview Bob. My goal is to obtain an open and honest dialog about doctors, treatments, and what it is like when you’re not sure if there is a tomorrow. For those of you who get upset because you get caught in a traffic jam, or have lost your home or job in this bad economy…look out, this might just change how you view the rest of your life!

If you had the opportunity to ask a dying man life altering questions, would you, could you? In Part 2 of this blog post you will find six seasoned cancer veterans who volunteered to step up and ask Bob some riveting and emotional questions. Bob has agreed that EVERYTHING is on the table for discussion. This has not been easy for any of us involved. So, stay tuned for the most enlightening story I’ve ever written.

©2009 Brian N. Walin (All rights reserved)


Friday, September 25, 2009


I had a request from my massage therapist to write something funny because she needed a laugh. She thinks I'm funny for some reason.

It's not easy for me to write on demand, in fact it's extremely difficult and it's even more difficult to be funny at the same time. So I dredged my memory banks for a story that might put a smile on her face.

This is for you Maryann:

Right On Target!

While going through radiation and chemotherapy, the skin on my neck began to break down. The radiation burns were causing redness, swelling, bleeding, and excruciating pain. I used all kinds of products to help ease the pain, keep the skin moist, and a blue patch with a gel to keep the skin cool. All highly uncomfortable, but useful in someway. My world was nothing more than my Houston apartment, a medical bus, and the hospital during these many months.

Because I was on a feeding tube and all of my supplies arrived by UPS, it was almost unnecessary to leave my apartment. I had a lot of help from a wonderful nurse, and friends who had flown in to stay with me during the roughest times. I was very self conscious of my appearance because my face was so bandaged up, skinny as a rail, and fatigued from being poisoned and micro-waved.

One afternoon, I needed to venture out for some simple things. I was alone and no help was available. With my face and neck covered with bandages like a patch quilt, my weary body boarded the bus and ventured off to the local Target.

While shopping I noticed many people staring, but it wasn't as bad as I assumed it would be. I found people to be kinder, more helpful, but also very curious. I get so tired repeating myself to strangers. Sometimes it can be annoying, but being a curious person myself, I understand that their questions are harmless and more concerned in nature.

Except for one young man being pushed around the store in a shopping cart by his obviously frazzled mother. This boy was maybe four years old and extremely unruly...AKA: a BRAT! I followed behind as the frantic mother pushed the cart while her boy attempted to pull everything off the shelf he could reach. He was loud and obnoxious, demanding, and disruptive. He protested loudly, "I want that! I want that! Give it to me!" as his mother picked the items off the floor and kindly said to him, "You have enough for now. No more for today."

Personally, I would have beat the crap out of the kid at this point. I've NEVER been a big believer in "time-outs." Give him something to remember! Guess that's why I've never had children.

As his poor mother bent over to pick up the plethora of items strewn across the floor, he got a good glimpse of me all bandaged up in my Sunday finest. My expression was of displeasure for this young man as we had an eye to eye showdown.

He was seated in the shopping cart, facing backwards, looking directly at me. He stared me straight in the eye with a sneer and said in his bratty voice, "What happened to you?"

So I told the little boy my story. I knew I had to be gentle and make sure I chose my words carefully, so he would thoroughly understand..."My mother beat the crap out of me because I was acting up in a Target store, and now I have to be bandaged up the rest of my life!"

The expression on his face was sheer horror as he put back what he was holding in his hand neatly back on the shelf, as if in slow motion, without ever losing eye contact with me. At this point his mother wheeled herself around, probably readying herself with a "how dare to talk to my child that way" until she saw my bandaged face. Her expression went from anger to almost pity. Then, with a gentle smile, she silently mouthed the words, "Thank you!"

When she turned back around to face her little terror, her son's hands were clasped calmly in his lap and not a word out of either one of them as they continued down the isle in a slow calming bliss. I probably scarred him for life and his mother has me to thank!

The Good or Bad Quandary

by Brian N. Walin

Who is to say if you’re good or you’re bad? You have to know now, with the life that you’ve had. You want to be good. You know that you should, but sometimes do bad things because that you could. They weren’t the right things, I’m sure you must know, and you could have changed them, despite what you show.

You are in charge of your destiny. You have to be wise and not choose poorly. You have the ability to help those in need. You have to try hard to do a good deed. It’s not all that easy doing things well. It sometimes takes longer, only time it will tell.

We all have our choices, they’re good or they’re bad, and sometimes the wrong ones can make you quite mad. But curbing your anger and channeling it well can help you immensely when going through hell. Learn from your anger and try to be smart. It’s not all that easy. It’s kind of an art.

But as you keep going through life you will see, that if you keep trying it becomes quite easy. Good or bad, it’s really your choice. You will soon learn that you have your own voice. The choices are yours. There’s no one to blame. Don’t make that excuse. It’s really quite lame.

The riches of life come from choices we make, the good and the bad, and paths that we take. So, if you choose paths you know that you should, you can answer yourself, if you’re bad or you’re good.

©2005 Brian N. Walin (All rights reserved)

Peace B

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Stupid Signs

School is back in session. Please drive carefully, even if you don't know the exact time!
Beware of the Mountain Dragon. I don't think we had those when I was in school.
And most importantly...Kids...STAY IN SHCOOL SCHOOL!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

There's A Mouse In My What?

I thought I would spend some time with mom, to help her recuperate. In the drive sits my father's old car, still in the family since he died. One afternoon mom had to go to see her doctor. I packed her up walker, oxygen tank, and all. While I was putting on her seat belt. I noticed some rust flakes on the floor. I thought, "I better vacuum that up when we get back."

After spending the afternoon driving around from doctor to dinner and then getting lost, we finally arrived back at the house. (I don't know the area as well as I thought!) With her oxygen tank almost depleted, she was ready for bed. It was 5PM!

As tired as I was, I put on my glasses and got out the vacuum to clean up the flakes of rust off the floor of the car. OMG! It wasn't rust! It was mouse crap! That's right, Mickey and Minnie had moved in and crapped EVERYWHERE!


When I looked at the floor of the backseat, I almost tossed it. I couldn't believe the amount of poop! We drove all afternoon in mouse shit! That's what happens when you still have one cataract and don't wear your reading glasses!

I have no problem driving. If you remember my new lens implant lets me see Mars! I just can't see five feet in front of me. I can't believe I thought it was rust! Never, would I ever think mice would have moved into a car, without paying rent! This clean-up was going to take awhile.

I thought it best to disconnect the car battery, to avoid draining it while I had all the doors open, which left the interior lights on. When I popped the hood, to my surprise, those little buggers had built a nest under the air cleaner!

There was paper, twigs, berries, palm seeds, small rocks (?) pieces of bark, and leaves. I'm surprised we didn't set the engine on fire while we drove to the doctor's! I should have waited until the mice were in residence and then fired up the engine. We could have had "mousemallows" giving a whole new meaning to S'mores! I don't think Girl Scouts offer a badge for that.

Whatcha Doin?

 I couldn't get it all out by hand, the material was everywhere. So, I began to vacuum out the mess from the engine bay. While I was sucking out the nest, a neighbor wandered by.

"Whatcha doin?" he asked.

OK, think fast..."Well, the engine looked a little dusty to me. I'm a clean freak doncha know?" I snapped. He gave me a funny look. I continued, "Don't you vacuum your engine regularly? You'll get better gas mileage. You probably don't even Pledge your valve covers, do you?" He walked away.

After I was done sucking the engine, I put on some rubber gloves and a mask and attacked the interior. A neighborhood boy strolled by walking his dog.

"Whatcha doin?" he asked, poking his nose in the car with his dog sniffing around.

"Just vacuuming up mouse crap. Whatchu doin?" I replied.

"Just pickin up dog crap. Mom said I have to walk the dog! I hate curbing Willie, it's gross!" He quipped with a crinkle of his nose, holding up a plastic bag for me to examine Willie's freshly made...well you know.

"Guess we're both having a crappy day!" I grinned.

What is with everybody in this neighborhood? Can't anybody just say, "Hello" and keep moving? I met two strangers and our conversation centers around shit! Go figure!

As much as I love little critters, I had to get rid of them before they destroyed the car! With the engine and interior cleaned, I set a mouse trap on the floor, complete with peanut butter. I really want to steam clean the interior. I can't stand the thought of what's still on the carpet after vacuuming, but I have to catch the lil rodents first! A week went by and nothing, not a squeak, not an eek, not even a creak! I was so obsessed with catching them, I couldn't sleep!

With mice being nocturnal, most active at night, I went out and checked the trap at 2AM! With flashlight in hand, I peered through the car window, hoping to score me some mouse!

One night, a small white car pulled up, flashed a bright light into my eyes and a stern voice said, "Whatcha doin there?" That must be the standard greeting around here!

It was a security guard. I wasn't about to tell him, I'm hunting mice... at 2AM... in a car! So, I showed him my ID, explained who I was, and that was enough for him.

The next morning, on the floor of the car was a large frog, well... the remnants of one. Only the head was left along with the leg bones, devoid of meat!

The very night I was being interrogated by security, those little buggers threw a party and brought home carry out! They dined on frog legs and peanut butter. Yup, that's right, they ate the peanut butter, but didn't spring the trap! I wonder which wine goes with frog legs and peanut butter anyway? And once again, after a heavy meal, what's next? A good, healthy shit! I never knew mice could crap so much! It's the War of the Turds!

Once again, I vacuumed the interior and the beginnings of another nest in the engine. This time they nibbled some engine air hoses. Cha-Ching! These things can cost you a lot of money if left unchecked! I bought TWO foot long by six inch sticky "rat" traps, set a dollop of peanut butter in the middle of each and once again, baited the snap trap to be safe.

Another week went by. Nightly, I would check the car, flashlight in hand. By now the security guard just smiled and waved as he drove by finding me in robe and slippers, staring into a car window with a flashlight...at 2AM... hunting mice. There was no activity within.

Then one night, I noticed one of the traps was flipped over. No sign of any mice. As I slowly turned the trap over, there in the sticky goop was nothing more than two tiny little hand prints, like the kind you'd find in cement, in Hollywood, in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre. That was it, not even a turd... as if to say, "F-U, I'm not playin none of yo games!" I swear that mouse gave me the finger in the sticky glue!

More traps, more peanut butter, more waving to security! A few days later... success! There in the goop was one of the fattest mice I had ever seen! It couldn't even fit in the standard mouse trap. I'm sure there is a male somewhere, but I hit the mother lode! It all began to make sense. Only a pregnant woman would crave peanut butter and frog legs!

After vacuuming once more and a thorough steam cleaning. I took the car in for engine repairs. The mechanic said, "This is the cleanest old car I've ever seen!" I wonder why? Doesn't everybody vacuum their engine and steam clean their entire interior? Damn! I forgot to Pledge!

Oh, and if one more person here asks, "Whatcha doin?" I'm going postal!



Words To Live By:

"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service to others." -Mahatma Gandhi