Category Archives: Friendship

Brian’s Blog: Do Blogs Really Matter?

 If you are reading these words, then you are of a belief that blogs matter. I believe they do too. But you and I are but two people in a big world. And maybe we are in the minority.

 We live in such a time right now; when anyone can make themselves well-known (either famous or infamous) based on the words they write and then publish. Blogs can provide a glimpse into someone’s soul: what they believe, what they value, what they cherish.

 But there are so many blogs out there right now. I feel fortunate to have you reading this because I know I have so many “competitors”, so many other writers who have something to say and a forum to say it in. This is my forum and this is what I want to say.

I am at home behind a keyboard. I began typing out short stories on an old typewriter when I was about 8-years-old. I can not imagine a life where I did not regularly sit down and write.

 Why do blogs matter? Because I believe, boiled down, blogs are about human nature. People have a desire to share. People have  a desire to learn and for their minds and hearts to be stimulated. People want to know that someone is there and that someone cares; that someone is paying attention. I think, in a way, blogs do this. Write something in a blog and you are automatically sharing something. And if that something is of value, it makes you think and perhaps you learn something about the world around you. Or maybe you learn something about yourself. And if you write a blog and someone reads it, that shows a level of caring. Even if you never see that reader face to face. Even if you never know who that person is….they took the time to click the link that leads them to your blog and they read your words.

 I write my blog through WordPress. And a part of the blog function allows me to see how many people have found my blog worthy enough to read. And I fortunate in the fact that when I publish something, hundreds of people usually take the time to read it. It is humbling and it is confounding all at the same time.

 Do blogs matter? Yes. Because words matter. And the sentiment behind words matter. If you have ever heard someone say “It’s not what you say but how you say it”, they are only half right. It IS what you say but it’s also how you say it.

 There are wonderful people in this world. Delicate people who may not have the confidence or social skills to get what’s on their mind and in their heart…off their chest. They may feel uncomfortable in a public setting. They may feel uncomfortable in actually saying something they believe out loud. They may feel they don’t really have a voice.

 I have a voice. I don’t know if it ever says anything of value, but I hope it does. And sometimes, that voices comes out through my fingers when I type on a keyboard to form my blogs.

 Words matter. Thoughts matter. 

 And please don’t ever make the mistake in thinking that blogs need to be cold hard facts or an outlet for opinion. While both have their place, I would implore you to never, ever turn your back on emotion. Too many people pay too much attention to their brain and not enough attention to their heart. The best emotions in life are based in your heart: consideration, compassion, understanding and love. This world would be a better place if those ideals were adhered to more.

 Words matter. My words. Your words. The words of others. It can be overwhelming and it can seem like when you add it all up it just adds to the noise of the world. Maybe it does. But a quiet world would be boring.

Brian’s Blog: Grandpa Keller

 I don’t really know how common this is or not. It is not one of those things that naturally pops up in conversation with friends. But I was a lucky little kid because, for a while, I had my great-grandfather in my life.

 His name was Harry Keller. He was my grandmother’s father. And I remember him. He died when I was about 5-years-old. But for a time while I was young, he and I lived in the same house. We were around each other every day.

 He was always good natured. I remember a lot of hugs and a lot of butterscotch candy that he would slip me when no one was looking. It was good. I think it is why I still like them to this day. I remember doing silly dances for him to make him laugh. I remember a lot of Summer afternoons in the backyard, looking at rose bushes that he attended to. I remember drinking lemonade with him at the kitchen table when it was hot outside.

Harry Keller was my great-grandfather. He is pictured here in either the late 1960’s or early 1970’s. He was an exceptional man.

 He was such a dear man. Such a sweet man. The story that I don’t think I will ever forget was the afternoon he and I were in the backyard. I had an oversized set of golf clubs and I hit the big plastic ball that came with them over the backyard fence. He hoisted me over the fence so I could get the ball, but half-way through the hoist I ended up getting stuck on the fence and he couldn’t get me off. He had to run inside for help and I remember thinking “Where are you going? I am stuck on a fence!”

 I remember the winter’s day where a storm had moved in. It was snowing a lot. And he decided he was going to walk one block to the grocery store. I told him I wanted to go with him and he said no, that he would be right back. I remember standing at the kitchen window, tears streaming down my face as he walked into the snow. I did not want him to go alone and didn’t understand how anyone else thought it was OK for a nearly 80-year-old man to walk into a winter storm alone.

 Eventually, he got sick. Really sick. It was Cancer. I didn’t understand that then. What I remember of the time is going to an old brick building on the campus of Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines and showing him my new Star Wars figures. I explained who each character was and if they were a good guy or a bad guy. He sat there and indulged me, smiling and making comments where he could.

 When Grandpa Keller died, my life changed. His was the first death I ever had to deal with. I was shielded from it. I did not go to the visitation or the funeral. My family was worried that it would lead to nightmares. They wanted me to remember him with the memories I had of his life..and not memories of how he appeared in death.

 He was a kind, patient and loving. He was gentle and tender. He was hard working. In short, he was everything a man should strive to be. My Grandmother always said he was the perfect father; something I am sure my Aunt Penny would agree with. As as for a great-grandfather, he was so sweet. His hugs were full of emotion and they provided the exact type of emotional security blanket that every child should have and deserve.

 It would not be until years later that I learned that Grandpa Keller was an amateur writer. In his later years, he wrote poetry and short stories. He even gave his hand to drawing and captioning cartoons. All for his pleasure and ultimately the pleasure of his family. I began writing short stories on an old 1932 Royal typewriter when I was about 8-years-old. I had no idea Grandpa Keller and I shared a love of the written word until years later. And when I did learn of that connection, it really meant something to me.

 Harry Keller was an amazing man. The only regret I have involving him is that he and I did not get to have more time together.

There Must Be More Than Just Being Earnest

 For as long as I can remember, I have been a very serious and focused person. I have long-time friend who will tell you that I have been 40 years old since the age of 12.

 I think part of this comes from the fact that I was (partially) raised by my grandparents. Growing up, my mother and I lived with her folks. The good news is that I was able to learn from the experience of an older and much wiser generation. My grandparents survived the Great Depression. They knew what it was to struggle with poverty and yet find the strength to overcome. My grandfather fought evil in World War II and, by his example, taught me to never to afraid to stand up and confront what’s wrong in life.

 The bad news is that I essentially had three parents; three sets of eyes watching my every move and questioning my every motive.

 By growing up in that environment, I learned the importance of a strong work ethic and the value of doing a job right. But I also think, partially to my detriment, it taught me to depend on myself and to question the capabilities and motives of everyone around me.

 There are also times in my life where I have not enjoyed the good time like I should have. The old phrase “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” comes to mind.

 I think there can be a thing as being “too focused”. I rarely stop and smell the roses. I rarely smile. While my friends will tell you I have a good sense of humor, I usually use it because I want to ease the stress of those around me and not because I just genuinely want to be funny.

 I have many friends but I rarely see any of them and rarely do anything with them. I can not tell you the last time I went out to eat with a friend “just because”. I literally have a life of either being at work or being at home. That is it. There are no movies with friends. There are no lunches/dinners with friends. Nada.

 So I am thinking of making an early New Years Resolution for 2011. That resolution is to enjoy myself a little more. To put more value in the people around me and not be so isolated from people. To crack a joke and be funny just because. To cultivate more friendships and tend to the ones I already have.

 I enjoy being earnest and serious and focused. I think my work demands it. But I also think I should demand more of a divide between who I am at work and who I should be as a person.

 In short, I think I should stop focusing so much on work and maybe focus a little more on play. I think maybe I should stop and smell the roses more often (once the snow melts, of course). I think I should make more time for family and friends. I think maybe it’s time I should start living my life a little more than what I have been as of late.

 I don’t think this is any big epiphany. I simply think it’s the wisdom that comes with age and paying attention to life. I don’t want to be one of these guys who gets to the end of his life and says “I wish I had done this” or “I should have done that”. There is a quote that comes to my mind every once in a while; it says nothing is more expensive than regret. I don’t want to pay that bill if I don’t have to.

This picture is of the last time I really let my hair down. This is my 2nd birthday party at my grandparents' home in Des Moines. It is February of 1975. Yes, that really is my hair. I was a hippie baby.

 

  I hope you enjoy the above picture. I imagine I will get the raspberry from a lot of you for posting this pic. Consider it an early Christmas present.

 Before I go, I want to share my latest guilty  pleasure with you. Being the father of a 6-year-old and a 3-year-old, I end up watching a lot of Disney Channel. Currently, they are running a music video for a song called “Happy Universal Holiday”. It’s a bunch of Disney tween stars rapping about the holidays and for some reason, whenever it comes on, I can not turn the channel. I have to watch it. It’s almost got a hypnotic power to it. Feel free to watch it and tell me what you think.

 That’s it for now. Thanks for taking the time to give this a read. My last blog post was in September when the late, great Jack Shelley passed away. Now I have written two blogs on two days in a row. It feels good to sit down and write….just because.

 Have a good night everyone.

My Fight With Pneumonia

 The last two weeks have been some of the most challenging and physically painful of my life.

 It began the morning of December 2nd as I was returning from a road trip. I had developed a nagging cough and quickly lost all of my energy; to the point that I had to stay a motel and just get some rest. I was actually having trouble keeping my eyes open.

 That next day, Friday, December 3rd, I was at a doctor’s office in Sioux Falls where I was told that I had some type of lung infection in my left lung. I was given some medicine and told to go home and get some sleep. Which I did. It did not help.

 Four days later, Tuesday, December 7th, I was back at a doctor’s office. My condition had worsened tremendously and quickly. It frightened me. I was run through a barrage of tests; blood work, blood oxygen levels, chest x-rays, the entire thing. The nurses and doctors repeatedly asked me the same questions;

 “Mr. Allen, do you feel dizzy?”

 “Mr. Allen, do you feel nauseous right now?”

 “Mr. Allen, are you having trouble breathing?”

 The answer to all of those questions was “No”. I just felt miserable. I had a continual temperature of 102 degrees, I was coughing to the extent of having physical, long lasting pain in my ribs and my stomach.

 Turns out the reason I was being asked so many questions (repeatedly) is that my blood oxygen tests came back at 89%. Normally, someone will take in 96% oxygen as part of normal body function. This was way low and dangerous and they wanted to know what was happening.

 The tests came back and showed that what had been an infection in my left lung four days previous was now active viral pneumonia in both of my lungs. This is not a good thing. Pneumonia in one lung can severely cripple your body. Both lungs is dangerous.

 How did I get this? The doctors say they have no idea. They say viral pneumonia happens but that it is hard to trace the source of the initial infection.

 I know for a fact that the doctor was seriously thinking about admitting me to the hospital. But I think she also knew I would fight the idea tooth and nail. I hate going to the doctor’s office; the hospital would throw me into a stroke.

 So the compromise was this: back home, away from work for at least a week, multiple medications and a what is called a “booster pack”, a machine that I can use to help me breathe when I have problems.

 So I went back home and went back to sleep; for roughly the next 7 days. There are entire patches of time I do not remember. The doctor says this is the result of having a continually high fever over a period of days.

 I was on an anti-biotic to fight the infection, a pain killer to ease the physical symptoms of all the coughing, a cough syrup (which really didn’t work) and my “booster pack” machine.

 In time, the fever broke. Then more coughing commenced which allowed me to literally pull the infection out of my lungs and get rid of it. I will spare you the description of what I coughed up. Suffice to say, it was painful and not pretty.

 So I now sit here typing this blog, into day #15 of fighting this off. I am still not 100%. I am still coughing, still in pain and still getting rid of this infection. It is amazing to me that I have been sick this long. I hardly ever get sick and when I do, it is usually a 2 day affair and then it is done.

 But while there have been an amazing amount of negatives from this, I am also trying to count my blessings. I am thankful I live in a country where I have immediate access to health care and a quick diagnosis. It makes me sick to  my stomach to think how I would be right now if the doctor’s hadn’t caught it. I would be in the hospital, likely for a long time, probably talking about permanent lung damage. I am thankful for my family who rallied around me to take care of me. I am blessed by having so many friends who worry about me and take the time to email me and ask me if there is anything they can do.

 I do not recommend double pneumonia to anyone. I would not wish it on my worst enemy because the pain is real and lasting. But I am also smart enough to know I am surrounded by good people who want good things for me. I was truly flattered to receive words of encouragement from my fellow journalists who work at different radio and TV stations in town. You folks are a class act and I am glad I know you.

 I was also able to grow what I dubbed the “pneumonia beard”, a picture of which you can see below.

This is what I have to show for 2 weeks of fighting off Pneumonia; a pretty sweet beard.

 The above picture was taken by KSFY photojournalist Robyn Black on my first day back to work; Monday, December 13th.

 I produced the 10PM newscast that night and find out I was rushing things just a little bit. The next day, Tuesday, December 14th, I worked a half-day before jumping back into in on Wednesday, December 15th with a road trip to Pierre to interview outgoing South Dakota  Governor Mike Rounds. I was then urged to take another couple of days off before returning to the anchor chair for a 6 day run from December 19-December 24.

 It has been a learning experience. Part of it involves fear; how does someone get that sick that quick? How does a lung infection in one lung morph into Pneumonia in both lungs? I have no answers to these questions.

 I have now been told by my doctor that a Pneumonia infection this severe and long lasting may make me more easily susceptible to Pneumonia down the road. I hope not because I truly NEVER want to go through this again.

 I ended up losing 15 pounds in about 13 days time. That also provided a bit of trauma for my body. The doctor says that must weight loss that quick can provide a serious challenge to a body. I could stand to lose the weight, but not that fast and not like that. I am now struggling to try and put some weight back on. My stomach shrank over two weeks time from a lack of eating and only drinking small amounts of water, 7 Up and Gatorade.

 Thanks to everyone who took the time out of their busy lives to check on me. I do appreciate it. I do not take it for granted.

 I wish for all of you good health this holiday season.