Heart to Heart – Part 1

So here I am. A week after open heart surgery and on the path to recovery. Sore, tired a lot and slowly on the mend.

It all started 20 years ago when it was discovered my mitral valve had failed. When it was discovered, my heart was good and strong and there was no danger to my health. So, after having it checked and regular monitoring, it was decided surgery was not needed.

For years, my murmur was just my normal. Something that differed from most had but was not affecting me, and I could live a normal life.

I rode my bicycle everywhere, and that was just how I got around. It was my life as I didn’t drive. I live in a town where you could easily get around without a car and that is what I did.

Then in 2013, I moved to Mississippi to start over from a nasty divorce. I moved to the Gulf Coast, where getting around without a car was difficult. So, I got a car and stopped cycling. I suspect this affected my heart condition, but the valve was going to fail anyway. It was just a matter of time.

I was warned that down the road, that my condition would eventually change. And… it did! At the end of 2020, just after Christmas, I found myself in the hospital with congestive heart failure. I was released a few days later at the start of 2021 with the realization that the time had come, and my heart valve needed to be repaired or replaced.

I won’t go into the entire year of finding insurance or counting down. But it was a very long year. It is in times like this that you find out who your friends are and who really has your back.

The day came, Nov 23rd, for the surgery. I arrived at the hospital at 5am and made my way to the surgery waiting area. I was eventually called back and prepped for surgery. I was then rolled into the OR prep area where the nurses asked me a few questions and then they placed a breathing mask over my face and asked me to count backward from 10.

And then, everything went black…

Moving Forward

Bing laid off because of the Coronavirus does suck, but it has given me time to work on some projects.  I recently discovered a sit called Patreon.com and have setup an account so I can charge membership for access to content such as my writing and photograph projects.  The goal is get funded so I can focus more on my work and creative projects.

I would love to do my art as my living so am hoping this will be a start. We shall see.

Anyway visit my site at: https://www.patreon.com/MoZaikArts

This will be a fun experiment.

Story Behind The Poem, The Tree.

Story behind The Tree

The poem The Tree is listed on this site already.

Before we get to The Tree poem, I will go through the experiences that lead to that day. I will recall from my memory as best I can. I have tried to forget as much as I can, but alas it is stuck in my head.

When you go through a rough time, as in this case my divorce, you truly find out who your friends are. In this case I found a best friend for 20 years was not really my best friend at all. I took the divorce to see him for who he was and his agenda. Basically, use my insecurities to keep me compliant so he could look like the leader and be in control.

Understand this is just my opinion on the matter. Over the years in this friendship I would eventually see a cycle of behavior, act like a friend, then at some point put me down usually in front of others making me a mockery, then a quiet apology when no one was around…rinse and repeat. If someone commented on this, he would justify his behavior by saying “He’s used to it!”. Sorry, that is not a justification for treating someone bad.

This friend, Mark, became friends with my former wife Elaine. During our marriage Mark and Elaine developed an unusually close bond. It did not take long for him to start his routine and make me look like a fool as my wife laughed at me not realizing what he was really doing.

After our trip to see dad for the first time in 40 plus years Elaine and I flew home only to find her not only terminated from her job, but she also decided she wanted a divorce. Mark and Elaine became close-knit and he supported her throughout the divorce but not one word to me, in fact it was like I did not exist. One night he called and asked for Elaine and after a half-hour talk, she handed me the phone and when I said “Hello” all I got was dead air, he had hung up. This hurt beyond anything I ever felt before. Betrayal! I have forgiven him, but forgiveness does not mean trust and friendship will continue.

Mark, the two roommates we had taken in, had turned Elaine against me and this would be the beginning of a spiral downward I nearly did not make it through. On top of that this had driven me into a seriously bad rebound relationship that I will not even go into because it is so unbelievable even though it happened. I will call her Lynn. One day Lynn got fired because medications, where she worked, had come up missing. She was on her way home and I was lying in bed seriously depressed and hitting that spiral downward. Then I suddenly hopped out of bed, loaded my camera, laptop and some clothes into a backpack and headed to a hotel and for 4 days stayed there wondering what to do.

I called my sister and Elaine was there and they were making plans to take the RV Elaine had bought and drive her down to Arizona to retire and start over. I reconciled with Elaine and joined the adventure. I took a few days and after a quick stop in California we made it to Arizona where a retirement community awaited Elaine.

After dropping her off and seeing she was gonna be ok my sister and Brother-in-law flew back to Washington while I flew to Gulfport, MS to visit dad. Dad and I talked and shared for two weeks. I did a lot of writing about the soldiers and the home while there. You will see some of that soon.

I was unemployed, vision cloudy during the day from a cataract in my good eye. No job, no home, no idea what I was gonna do next. Then one day dad took me out front and showed this oak tree. It had been around since before the year 1812 and at one time was massive with 50-foot branches and then was nearly destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Its branches had been sheared off and they couldn’t decide what to do with it. Cut it down? Let it be and see what happens? They decided to clean up the broken branches leaving basically a stump and then let it decide what it was gonna do. Since then it has started the long journey of growing back. I had found the inspiration for what would be my greatest poem. It was also an inspiration for me and my life. The tree decided to grow back and so did I.

To be continued…of course.

 

The Letter – Meet the Author and Artist – Part 4

The Letter

Then a week later I went to the mailbox and mixed in with the bills and junk mail, there was an envelope with the address handwritten and addressed to me. I had gotten a letter…from Washington DC.

I opened the letter and was surprised that it was from dad. But the letter was sad to me as dad, because of guilt and regret he had, first denied I was his son in the letter. I wrote a letter back and it came with a reply that even though I was his son it was pointless to reconnect now. I was heartbroken and sad. I decided to let it go figuring I had done all I could to reach out.

Things happen for a reason and I would realize this 6 years later.

A short while later a I got another letter, but from Alabama. I opened it and it was a letter from my aunt Carolyn. She was excited that I found dad, but unfortunately, I was so disheartened by dad’s letters I let it go for a while deciding to write her later. I never got the chance. My late mother-in-law would develop cancer and eventually die in July 2007.

In 2008 my former wife and I would move into a new home. Then one night in 2009 I decided to try again. I asked my sister for my Aunt Carolyn’s address and she searched for me only to discover devastating news, she had died. It was like getting hit in the gut! But then my sister found two names listed as siblings, my aunt Kaye, and my Uncle Ron. I contacted them and let them know who I was. After a half hour my Uncle Ron responded back, and I had made a connection.

This eventually led to an RV trip around the united states in 2010. That alone is a story to tell later. We would meet Uncle Ron, Aunt Kay, and other family but we did not get to see dad.

In 2012 we flew back down south to finally see dad after over 40 years of being apart. We would meet and reconcile and become father and son again. This too is another story to tell later. But upon meeting dad we offered our love and forgiveness and as a result all his guilt and regret rolled away.

No sooner had we gotten back home in May of 2012 when all hell broke loose. My former wife had gotten fired from the job I helped her get. We had also, against better judgment, taken on two roommates who turned out to be absolute nightmares and caused a lot of problems. To top it all off my former wife wanted a divorce.

This led me to a horrific rebound relationship that drove me to the brink of suicide and in that moment of wanting do die I made a decision. My sister and brother-in-law were taking my former wife and her recently purchased RV to Arizona where she planned to start over. I went along and made peace with my ex and then after dropping her off I went to Gulfport, MS on my own to visit dad.

I spent two weeks with dad looking at my life and thinking things over. At this point I was single, unemployed, and homeless staying at my sister’s house. I had developed a cataract in my good eye that would leave me nearly blind and dad had given me the money needed for the surgery.

I was getting ready to check out of the hotel when I got a call from dad. Dad said “Son, if you want to come back here and live with me and start over, I’ll help you.”. I got on the plane and flew back to Washington State. Upon landing I had made my decision and that decisions was to move to Mississippi and start over. A new life filed with new adventures and challenges.

In the next article I will share one of my greatest writings.

To be continued…

 

Blind in the Dark – Meet the Author and Artist – Part 3

Blind in the Dark

A retired couple, Doris, and Harold Reynolds had taken me under their wing and Doris gave me a challenge that would influence and change my life forever.

Doris looked at me and said…

Doris had taught herself how to paint and did some amazing ocean scenes. It was from this new talent that she handed me a challenge. She knew I was having a rough year. Not only was I behind a year and a half in my schoolwork but I was also coming off my medications. You see my sister let me know that at 17 I had the right to request to stop the medications if they were no longer needed and I did just that. After a few tests, the doctors decided I did not need the medications and so as I started my school year, I was also being slowly taken off my medications after 12 years. Yeah, this is gonna be a fun year.

It was hopeless and no one expected me to make it and figured I would be held back a year. After all I was already told earlier not to plan for a normal life and would never make it through school. But then a certain retired painter had other plans.

Doris looked at me and laid out the following challenge: “Neal, if you graduate on time this year, I will paint you a painting.”. I did not know what to say but I knew what I had to do. My teachers all allowed me to work ahead and I worked hard the entire year. I was not a popular kid and the preacher’s kid and his cronies were always against me, but I fought hard and strong and I pulled it off. I graduated on time and soon after got my painting. It would be a decade before I looked on the back and saw the title, she had picked…” Bright Future”. I was stunned. To this day it is my most prized possession.

While in my teens attending church and their school the pastor talked about gifts and talents and I felt so useless cause I had none, but as the medication wore off in my last year of school, I started to wake up. I taught myself how to draw and acquired a huge collection of drafting tools, then I would eventually become an avid bicyclist and would ride miles in a day often over 50. I even taught myself how to repair and rebuild bicycles. Then at age 24 I become an avid computer whiz and would do all kinds of cool tricks, expert data recovery, and even learned to build my own systems. I could recover stuff no one else could and in the eleven years I worked in IT my boss would ask me to teach him my tricks and recovery skills.

Something happened when the medications slowly wore off and the affects went away over the next few years, something unexpected, something unplanned, something amazing…I began to learn at an advanced pace. Yeah, the kid who was expected to be a zombie had woken up and began to learn.

Because of the expectations of what they thought would happen to me, my mother and stepdad never taught me life skills and my social skills sucked. At 18 years old I had the mind of a 5-year-old kid. I would stumble through my life with no direction or any idea who I really was. In my thirties I had to learn what I should have learned as a teenager.

Dating was never really a good experience for me. As of this writing I am 55, single and doing some amazing things. It is awesome.

Blind in the Dark – Meet the Author and Artist – Part 2

Yes, a miracle did happen. After two years of dealing with a hopeless case and nearly given up the teacher got an unexpected surprise…I snapped out of my trance and then began to repeat everything thing to her she had been teaching me those two years…I had woken up. The newspaper and local TV station ran news reports on what had happened referring to me as “The Miracle Child”. You see back then cases like mine were considered hopeless as treatment for Epilepsy experimental. I was one of those experiments.

Yes, I had done the impossible and won a major battle, but the war was still on. I would spend time in and out of this state always being made to feel hopeless and worthless. Twenty years later I got to meet this teacher again to hug and thank her for believing in me. She still had a copy of the newspaper article about me.

Kids are cruel sometimes, often judging and avoiding that which they do not understand. I was the handicapped kid no one wanted to be around often bullied or forgotten.

My school at that time would often take us to the roller-skating rink after school and it as one of my favorite things to do but also a time I would often regret. The skating rink, Skateland, would do this thing where guys would line one side of the rink and girls on the other. The girls would roll around and choose a guy to skate with during some romantic style song and each time it was the same result, I would be let standing by myself as no one chose me. I would roll to my seat and sit by myself alone. This would set in some deep self-acceptance issues that would take years to overcome and occasionally still battle.

I would still struggle with learning in school. I would have few friends and always be awkward with groups. There would be many victories and defeats throughout my life as continued my schooling.

In my preteen years, my mom would divorce her third husband, Dave, and I would learn the true definition of fear. We moved out to a new place and soon after the terror began. People would climb on top of the house, a large two-story home, and jump up and down screaming. People would stand on the front porch but never knock, but the scariest part was cars would slowly drive by with their lights off. There I was not even ten years old lying on a cold living room floor in fear of the car driving by not understanding why.

Most of my life was in total darkness. There are things in the dark we bump into not even aware they are there. Jeffery Epstein was a spark in a bigger flame, a flame my sister and I bumped against and our lives would have been a lot different had other people had it their way. I wish I could say I was crazy or full of it, but other witnesses, evidence, documented events, and court records reveal a dark and dangerous world of which I was exposed. Somehow, we escaped and survived a much worse fate.

Jump now to 13 years old when Jim, my mother’s fourth and current husband, would get us to join a local church and eventually attend the churches school. This church, I will refrain from what type and other details, was extremely strict and isolated us from associating with other churches or even others outside the church unless they approved. Basically, we only did what the church wanted us to do. It was not until years later, after I got away that I realized we had been inducted into a cult.

I would attend the church school from seventh grade until graduation. When I turned 17 and in my last year of school, two things happened. My sister would inform me that now that I am 17, I can legally ask to stop the medications and I did just that. After thirteen years I would soon be free of the medications but would also face one of my deepest and toughest challenges. My last year in high school I was a year and a half behind on my schoolwork due to my learning issues. Either I completed two and a half years’ worth of schooling or face being held back and graduate a year late.

A retired couple, Doris, and Harold Reynolds had taken me under their wing and Doris gave me a challenge that would influence and change my life forever.

Doris looked at me and said…

To be continued…

 

Art

Photo Copyright – 2020 by Neal StoneDSC_0129

I’m back

Yes I’ve been quiet for a long time but I’m back baby and with the time I have while on unemployment, I plan do write and update.

Catch you cats later.

Neal

The Human Manifesto

My Manifesto

My Story – Meet the Author and Artist – Part 1

First Article for the Coastal Breeze.

Sometimes things fall, hit the ground and shatter into a million pieces. You can sweep it up and throw it away or you can do something more creative…make a mosaic.

This is my life, shattered into a million pieces, broken, and scattered into oblivion from the day I was born. Then something amazing happened, I fought back and proceeded to assemble the many scattered pieces into a mosaic.

In this and future articles I will introduce myself more and share a little more of my story with you.

She lies alone in a hospital room, a young mother about to give birth. Alone in a dark room in a foreign land. Alone in pain and despair, cries in the night unheard. Alone ready to give birth to her last child. But not tonight as a nurse who had some prejudice against this young mother walks away and leaves her all alone, alone in the dark and in pain, alone with a large bruise on her arm where a needle was violently shoved in. One hour, then two, then three…five, six…eight…and then twelve passes.

He walks through the hospital greeting his patients. He stops and gives them good or bad news but makes his rounds as usual. He walks slowly towards the young mother’s room. She can hear his footsteps and his voice as he talks to others in the hospital. Time slows and each step echoes slowly down the hall. She tries to cry out but is too weak. Lying in in pain and unable to cry out, she must wait. Wait for someone to find her.

Each step the doctor takes has an eerie echo. After what feels like a lifetime the doctor reaches the room of the young mother and walks in. What he sees is beyond belief. Laying on the bed in a pool of blood a young mother clings to life. Her unborn child stuck in the birth canal for no less than 12 hours. She is rushed into labor and the child, barely alive and blue, is born, a child not expected to survive.

The stage is set. What would become a very troubled life had begun. A long journey of trials and pain had started.

Born Neal Allen Stone this child, called by Allen (I now go by Neal) his middle name so not to be confused with his father with the same first name, would develop a few disabilities that would make his life difficult. Blind in his right eye and years later physical ailments more to come. At age 5 he would develop severe Epilepsy and with the medications that followed a learning disability as well. Partially blind, having seizures and perceived by many as dumb and stupid, Allen never had a chance to begin with. Deemed hopeless and a dim future, he would struggle, but soon give up. Not a good way to start life.

His natural father left when he was two. This would lead to a lifelong search with an unsure ending and feelings of rejection down the road. Years later I did find my father and we reconciled, and he became my biggest hero. That story another time.

There he would sit in Special Ed as the teachers would discuss him with his mother. They would stand there and discuss his hopeless learning disability while Allen played not realizing that he was listening and crying inside. “Why am I different? What is wrong with me? I am so stupid!” would run through this gentle child’s mind.

Yet there was one teacher who felt different. While the others ignored Allen or gave him little hope, she would sit with him and work with him. Often frustrated, but never giving up hope on Allen. And for two years she worked hard. Could she reach this little zombie who sat staring blank at the wall? A child who could barely speak and express himself, shuttered away in his mind alone like his mother in the hospital. Crying out inside with no one to hear his faint voice. A cry in the night no one heard slipping helplessly into the dark. Could she reach him or was it hopeless?

And then a miracle happened…

To be continued…