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Thursday, November 30, 2006



"Do you really think you can do anything with me? I don't think you have the guts or maybe it's brains you lack." It was mocking me. I was angry sure, but maybe deep down I knew it was right. After all what have I done lately?

The insults and ridicule continued, but it faded into a blur of confusion. By now, my own thoughts had taken over and were telling me things much worse. Maybe it was right. Maybe I have lost it. Maybe it's over for me.

I am not a quitter and certainly don't want anything telling me when it is over, but for some reason I haven't been able to perform, answer the bell, you pick the metaphor.

I can blame it on too much to do, or any number of things, but it is what it is; a lack of production. Without results all of the criticisms and degradations are true.

Sometimes I wake up at night wondering how to correct the problem. How can I get it off of my back and make it an ally once again? I give it thought at work and during my runs and when I am walking Bear dog. Nothing comes to mind that seems worthy.

"Hey are you listening to me?" I was out of the fog and hearing him again and his insults. "You're useless. You make me sick." I started to say something, but stopped. This only brought on another barrage of defamation. "What? What were you going to say? Yeah, I thought so. You've got nothing to say. You are empty. You're washed up. Accept it. Put yourself out of your misery."

I turned to walk away, but something inside me told me to stop. “Don't let him talk to you like that,” the voice said, “None of it is true. You are not a quitter or any of those names he is calling you. Stand up for yourself." So I did.

"SHUT UPPPP!" I yelled; and he did. "I brought you here and when you are used up I will throw you away like ordinary trash. I am the master of you and I won't put up with anymore of your insults."

I felt better letting out those words. It did stop talking. I picked it up and wrote down these words. I thought it only fitting to take the pen that insulted and mocked me and write something to prove I can overcome writer's block.

I think it's time to take my medication now. It helps with the voices.

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, November 28, 2006



Michael Richard's (Kramer) tirade was caught on tape. Faith Hill's reaction to losing an award was recorded, and George Allen's words were recorded for posterity.

Everywhere we go, we are being recorded. A few years ago, this statement would be well within the confines of paranoia. Today it is an accurate pronouncement.

It is interesting to me how people react to this evidence. The reaction is often judgmental and self-righteous. The press runs with it and the public wallows in self-righteousness. I am not defending what Kramer did or any other inappropriate incident caught on tape. But come on folks, how would your life stack up if we could pull out the worst 10 seconds of your behavior and let the world watch?

Think of the words you have said in private to friends. Have you said things that were insensitive? Have you made fun of whole groups of people for a laugh? What have you said about others in anger?

Have you always done the right thing? Have you always been where you were supposed to be?

Are you proud of everything you have done and said?

This piling on mentality reminds me of grade school. "Teacher, he said a bad word."

Is there such a news vacuum we have to watch Paris Hilton having sex or read salacious IM's from a public figure?

I try to be a pretty good man, father, husband, son, Christian and citizen. Still, I have done things and uttered words that would embarrass the heck out of me if they were revealed to the public.

A person can say things that are inconsistent with their actions. However, in today's climate, one's words are used as iron-clad evidence of a man's intentions and the quality of his soul. Not the words the man in question says define him, but the words caught on tape in one of his low points.

How is it that an abusive parent is still loved by their children. Maybe the abuse is not the totality of the parent’s being. Maybe there is something loveable about them.

Most everybody has some endearing qualities. We are many faceted beings and should not be judged by a slip of the tongue, a bad day, or words uttered out of drunkenness.

How many folks carrying torches going to the lynching have asked for mercy for lesser offenses.

I wish things were different. I wish our private, embarrassing moments were not being laid out there for the world's entertainment, but that is not reality.

Instead I will have to hope people get their voyeuristic fill and begin to put some of these things in perspective. The perspective in what one person says about a topic they are probably not expert in and what that really means to the world.

It all boils down to someone's opinion. Why the big fuss? If we strip away self-righteousness, judgmental noses in the air, and political opportunism, all we have left is the words of someone who wished they had seen the camera before they started talking. I believe these words caught on tape are not the core of the person, but more often anger and frustration overstating a point.

Anger and frustration will make us say things to which our cooler heads do not agree.

The standards we use to judge others will someday be applied to us.

Until the next time
John Strain


Saturday, November 25, 2006


Mississippi Coast Marathon

It was a beautiful day for running. The temperature was 37 when I woke up, but it was probably near 50 at the start of the race.

The Stennis Space Center is just into Mississippi from Louisiana and a 40-minute drive from our house in Covington.

I felt about as good as I could before a race. Training had gone well and I was shooting for a sub 3:30 marathon.

At 8:00 AM the starter horn launched some 200 to 300 runners on the course of a 5K, Half-Marathon, and Marathon, depending on what they signed up for.

My first mile was a 7:49. It was 26 seconds off of the 8:15 I had planned to run. I thought I was running easy and was surprised at the time. I thought maybe the course was marked incorrectly. Sometimes that happens; you get an unexpected time, make adjustments, and then get a bigger surprise on the next mile.

It was marked right though and my next mile was slower, but still too fast at 7:52. I ran the third mile in 8:02 so I figured I was on track to slow down and go on with the plan.

Then I started running with a guy who was running the half-marathon. I did a 7:55, a 7:48, and a 7:52. I began to think that I felt good and maybe I could maintain this pace and still speed up. Ha. You must respect the marathon.

I ran the first half (13 miles) in 1:43:03 instead of the 1:46 or 1:47 I had planned. I did maintain the pace, but it was getting more difficult. Mile 19 was run in 9:19 and I was scratching my head. How could I slow down one minute when I thought I was running the same pace? I had my answer after I ran mile 20 in 7:00 minutes. Those miles were mis-marked.

I was beginning to fade now. Mile 21 was an 8:54, then I had to start mixing 30 to 60 second walking breaks with the running.

Mile 22 - 9:41
Mile 23 - 9:53
Mile 24 - 9:40
Mile 25 - 9:45
Mile 26 - 9:26
Mile .22- 1:40

My last half of the marathon took about 10 minutes longer than the first. This is exactly opposite of how I should have done it. I was in shape to run a 3:30 but I didn't execute the plan correctly.

In retrospect, I should have slowed down and let my new friend go on, but I didn't.

On the bright side, I only had 2 people pass me from mile 21 on. I finished 11th overall and 3rd in the 45 to 49 age group.

Barbara walked the 5K and she won 3rd in her age group as well. We cleaned up on medals and plaques.

Here are a few pics from the event:
Finishing the Mississippi Coast Marathon
Here I am finishing the Mississippi Coast Marathon.
Boy does that finish line look pretty.

I needed to recover. Carbs for my men and whiskey for my horses.
Recovery involves replacing carbs.
Carbs for my men and whiskey for their horses.

Barbara was 3rd in her age group for the 5K
Barbara got 3rd in her age group for the 5K

Now I have to set my sights on Baton Rouge next weekend.

Have a nice weekend folks.

Until the next time
John Strain


Marathon Day

Today is the Mississippi Coast Marathon. I am strappin' up the old running shoes and getting ready for a nice Saturday morning run. The weather is perfect, clear and 37 degrees. It should be around 50 at the start and near 70 at the finish. Stay tuned - I will post my results later today. My goal is to run the marathon today and next Saturday under 3 hours and 30 minutes.

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, November 23, 2006


Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Cartoon

Here's to a happy Thanksgiving. I hope you get to spend it with someone you love.

Until the next time
John Strain and Bear


Monday, November 20, 2006


From the paws of Bear

by Bear

Hi everyone, it's me Bear.
If Daddy isn't going to write, I guess I will have to. Look at the treat Mommy gave me Sunday night. It is a brand new $5.00 bone; yum yum.
Bear and his bone

I love bones. They keep me busy. I even get obsessed. I chew and chew until I get one of the knobs off, then I may take a break. Sometimes I eat it all up at once, and then other times, I may take a couple of days to eat it.

I only eat it when my family is around though. For some reason, I just don't feel like eating a bone when my famiy isn't home.

Daddy put a new photo in his sidebar. It is a picture of him on the USS Constitution aka Old Ironsides. It is a US Navy ship that is in Boston. It is the oldest commissioned US Navy ship. It goes back to 1797.

Daddy said it was neat taking the tour. He said the canons shot 32 pound canon balls 400 yards. What's a yard anyway? Oh, if you click the photo of Daddy on the ship, it gets bigger and you can also see his brother; my Uncle George.

The last time Daddy posted was a real rainy day. He took me out to play in the rain and I had fun. I like to chase my ball and get all wet and muddy. Daddy throws the ball in the ditch so I can swim. The rain fills up our ditches and they are like my own personal swimming pools.

This week is Thanksgiving. I hope I get some turkey and good treats. I may get stuck at home by myself though, because my family may go to Vicksburg for the day. They will come back because the Chiefs are playing the Broncos Thursday night.

I better go. I will tell Daddy to get back to writing.

Have a fun week and I hope you get lots of good treats for Thanksgiving and that you get to be with your family.

Bye for now,


Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Like a cow pissing on a flat rock

It is raining like the headline says. Speaking of idioms. Does anyone know the origin of the phrase: "It's raining pitchforks and n'babies?" I often wonder how sayings get into circulation. Usually they make some kind of sense, but this one has me stumped. I Googled it, but came up empty.

Raining in Covington

I wonder if Bear really needs to go out this morning or if he can hold it until tonight? I think I know the answer. It is time to suit up and get wet. I'll dry.

I hope you are having fun with your weather where ever you are.

Until the next time
John Strain


Saturday, November 11, 2006


Greater love hath no man . . .

Justin D McLeese died in Fallujah 11.13.04
I keep the program from Justin's funeral in a prominent place in my house. I won't forget him nor what he did.

In the Book of John 15:13, Jesus said this:
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. KJV
That is exactly what Lance Corporal Justin D. McLeese did in Falujah on November 13, 2004.

He was just one of our local boys here in Covington. He played football for Covington High and he joined the US Marines to follow in the footsteps of his family and to answer a call that the attacks of 9.11.01 seared into his soul.

When we learned of Justin's death we were all shocked. It was on that day that the war in Iraq became both real and personal. To date we have lost some three thousand good men like Justin. This is a day to honor Veterans and their service; to focus on what these men have done and are doing.

Throughout the history of this country, generation after generation answers the call. Men and women step up. They fight, they die, they sacrifice limbs and dreams. They do it out of love for their fellow brothers and sisters in arms. They do it out of love for their families at home, and they do it because they love America.

It is fitting that Veterans Day is in the month we also celebrate Thanksgiving. If you are a Veteran or the family member of one, know that a very thankful American is writing these words.

I thank you for making it easier for me to sleep at night.
I thank you for the measure of pride I feel when I think about America.
I thank you that when the Star Spangled Banner is played I tear up and get a lump in my throat.
I thank you that our flag has meaning because of you.
I thank you that I am free and because of you; and because of those who will follow after you; I can rest knowing that my grandchildren will also be free.

If you are reading this and feel the same way, why not follow up these sentiments with action. Find a way to do something to help a Veteran. I am going to donate money to The Wounded Warrior Project. What you do is your business, but please do something - even if it just to shake the hand of a Veteran and tell him/her thank you.

I think about the movie "Saving Private Ryan." Men died to save Private Ryan. Being aware of the sacrifice, he endeavored to live a life that would honor that sacrifice. Are we any different than Private Ryan? Many have died in battles for this country and we are the direct beneficiaries of that sacrifice.

When a GI jumps on a grenade to save his fellow soldiers, he is also saving us. The sacrifices that have been made give us an opportunity to live in a free land with great opportunities. We should live in such a way to honor these sacrifices.

So one of the ways we can say thank you to a Veteran is to live a life that exhibits the principles these heroes demonstrated in their service.

Our country could use more people heeding the words of John F. Kennedy, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." It is that attitude that made us great, because it fueled the actions of service and sacrifice.

Happy Veteran's Day to everyone.

Check out these links:
Another fine Veterans Day post written by my mother

Video: A tribute to Bobby Warns, a marine who died in action.

Links about Justin D. McLeese
A death in November
More about where do we find such men
Honoring a hero
Still thinking about Justin
The Bronze Star V (Valor in combat)
Passing the torch
JM Forever

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, November 10, 2006


Two weeks to go

Two weeks from Saturday i will be running my next marathon at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. This facility is used for rocket propulsion testing among other things. On Saturday, November 25th it will be a marathon course.
Stennis Space Center

The very next week, I will run the Baton Rouge Beach Marathon. This will be the first time I have run two marathons in a row. I have run two in three weeks before.

I have one more hard week of training to go. This weekend's long run is 20 miles. The hard part is the 12 and 13 mile runs during the week. To get those in, I have to get up at 4:30 AM. I have to stay in shape though, one never knows when he is going to have to defend himself.

It looks like a nice weekend is in store for us here in Louisiana. I will try to squeeze in a little yard work, running, BBQ, and football.

I hope you have a nice weekend in your corner of the world.

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, November 09, 2006


Real Life

Do overs and second chances are not a part of real life. If you lose an election or a football game; you've lost - period. That is one reason such contests are so exciting.

It is even more exciting if you have some emotional stake in the contest. I had an emotional stake in the election, but guess what? I crapped out that's what. Well, you won't catch me wiping my tears. I am moving on.

The reality is that whoever is in power tends to muck things up, but only so bad before the electorate ousts them.

On the weekends, I watch LSU on Saturday, and the Chiefs and Saints on Sunday. A good weekend is when all three teams win. I sleep better and I have a better outlook on life the rest of the week.

If my teams lose, it eats at me. I avoid the highlight shows. I don't want to be reminded of the losses, but if my teams win, I watch the highlights again and again.

This is what real life is. There are winners and losers. It is clear which is which. No "I tried" ribbon or buttons that say "We're all winners."

I have learned that if your horse loses, then get back to the racing form and pick the winner for the next race. The next thing helps us forget the last thing.

That's just life and I love it.

Until the next time
John Strain


Sunday, November 05, 2006


When patients attack

It figures. I was too arrogant with fate and I paid a heavy price.

Exhibit One: I was bragging about the ice bath and touting its healing properties. The day I posted that I caught a cold. Thankfully, it is pretty much gone already, but I felt pretty lousy Thursday and Friday. Barbara, of course says it is because of the ice that I caught the cold, but I am not ready to concede that just yet.

Exhibit Two: The last couple of months I have been thinking about the fact that although I have worked in psychiatric hospitals for 20 years, I have never been the victim of an assault or an attack.

Exhibit Three: Without knocking on wood, I wrote a post about how my life hasn't been very exciting. I implied that since there was no real excitement in my life, I had nothing much to write about.

At the confluence of these three exhibits was Friday. It was just another day. Isn't that how most stories begin? It seemed like just another day, because I could not read the future, but by the end of the day I would no longer be able to say I had never been attacked by a patient and I would not be able to say my life lacked excitement.

In 20 years I have participated in a lot of "codes." A code is when a patient is out of control and they must be physically restrained. In some cases, a patient is placed in restraints. In other situations, the patient is simply held down for a shot, and then released.

Codes are stressful for staff, the patient being restrained, and the other patients on the unit. Great care is taken to ensure everyone's safety and most of the time; a code ends with no injuries to anyone.

You get bumped around in codes and sometimes a glancing blow brushes you or a random fingernail leaves a mark, but I have emerged virtually unscathed over the years.

The other way a staff member might get hurt is if a patient throws a sucker punch or simply attacks you. This is what I had always feared. I didn't know if I would be able to react to defend myself in a case like this.

I am usually pretty good at calming people down who are angry by talking to them. With my poor vision, I know I am a sitting duck of sorts. I might not see a punch coming and I have always had this worry in the back of my mind.

Being a man, I didn't want to get bested by another man in a physical confrontation. The ego carries scars much longer than it takes for a nose to stop bleeding.

The population we service are seriously mentally ill individuals. Many have schizophrenia and are paranoid when they come to us. Many of these folks also abuse drugs. They often have no family support, because their families have disowned them.

The paragraph above describes someone who is more likely to assault staff in a hospital. One of the best predictors of violence with these folks is a history of violence. If they were violent once, they can be violent again.

On Friday, we had a new patient to us. There was nothing that made him stand out. He was like one of our typical patients. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia, he was paranoid, he was off of his medication, and he was angry.

I will call this man Sugar Ray for reasons that will be obvious later. Sugar Ray was outside my office and a bit upset. He was asking someone the usual questions. "How long do I have to stay? When can I get out? Who put me in here?"

This is often a good time to start working with a patient. I said to him, "Sugar Ray, I am John, your social worker, come on in my office and let me see if I can help you with these things."

Sugar Ray came in and sat down. He was trying to figure out how he was committed to the hospital. He wanted to know which doctor signed the papers.

Beyond his questions, he would make statements about women. They were so off the wall, I can't remember what he said exactly, but his words were paranoid and he believed women were responsible for some bad things in his life.

As he made a few of these comments, he got a bit more intense. He leaned forward in his chair and said something similar to this:

You're a man and I'm a man. I am talking to you face to face. I am telling you that the next man I talk to here is going to get the anger. Not you though, I am going to let you off of the hook, but the next man. . .

At that point, Sugar Ray balled up his right fist and came at me. He was only sitting about 4 feet from me, so it didn't take him long to arrive.

During the milisecond it took for him to cover the short distance between us, it was almost funny. I was thinking, "I'll be damned, this guy is attacking me."

He threw a right hook, but I cocked my head and put up my left arm to block a direct hit. I was sitting in a chair and he was on top of me driving me into the wall. I couldn't get any leverage at first, but I managed to stand up.

I had my left arm on his right shoulder trying to keep him from throwing another punch. Meanwhile, he was grabbing my neck and face with his left hand. Then he used his left to punch me in the nuts a few times then he started grabbing and squeezing.

I was still off balance, because the chair was behind me. We spun to another wall in my office making a huge crash and knocking a picture off of the wall. I had him tied up so he could not do any more damage to me. At this point, I was hoping someone would hear the commotion and come in and relieve me. I even yelled help, but it was like I was in Maxwell Smart's cone of silence.

I quickly realized that if I were going to get any help, it would have to come from me. I stepped in front of him and slightly to the side, and then I locked my left arm around his neck. Using my left hip for leverage, I flipped him over my hip onto the ground.

I got on top of him and he was on all fours. I pulled his shirt over his head like a hockey player and locked my arms around his chest. This was a good control position, but by then he was out of gas.

He outweighed me by 60 pounds, but I had 5" on him. It helps that he was out of shape and a smoker. I heard people outside the office, "Should we go in" someone said. I yelled, "GET IN HERE!"

When they opened the door, it must have been quite a sight. Chairs turned over, pictures off of the wall, and my carefully sorted stacks of paper were all over the floor. In the middle of the floor was me with my arms locked around Sugar Ray.

We walked him to a place where he could chill out and he received some medication. My shirt was untucked and wrinkled. I had a bump above my right eye that I don't know if it was from a punch or a head butt. I also have some scratches on the right side of my neck.

All in all, it was a good experience for me. I won. I defended myself. I was professional - in that I did not become angry and take revenge. I never hit him. It gives me a story to tell and a blog post to write.

The thing is though, the next guy could be some ripped 27 year old who beats the crap out of me. Maybe I am looking old and Darwin's Theory is at play; you know, being culled from the herd.

I still have to finish this guy's social history on Monday. That will be round 2 I suppose.

I suppose I should thank my childhood pals, Frank, Bruce, and Doug. We wrestled each other a million times. One against one, two against one, you name it. My confrontation with Sugar Ray felt like one of those matches – aside from the low blows.

I am glad I thought about this attack thing. My way of dealing with fear and anxiety is knowledge and information. I went through some scenarios and decided that if someone were to come at me, I would tie them up and wrestle them, hopefully to a position in which I could control them. It worked just like that – at least this time.

So there you have it. My life is exciting, the ice bath may have given me a cold, and I got attacked by a patient.

I think boring was just fine.

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, November 02, 2006


Ice Bath

Here's something you can try if you need excitement in your life. Fill a tub up with enough water to cover your legs, add three bags of ice, and hop in for about 20 minutes.

I just described an ice bath and I take 3 or 4 a week. Why? you may ask. Not because I am hard up for thrills and it isn't a revolutionary way to shrink swollen prostate glands.

Then why?

OK, OK, I'll tell you. It speeds recovery of sore muscles. Craziness gives way to craziness. I start by running a long way. I run so far that my muscles get sore. The cure is more pain and discomfort - hopping into an icy tub. Maybe it would make more sense not to run and then there would be no need for the ice.

The science is more anecdotal where ice baths are concerned. They are supposed to drain the legs of blood, reduce swelling and inflammation, and generally invigorate the muscles.

From what I found in Internet searches, most folks soak for about 10 minutes. I have been doing it for 20 minutes. I figure it is the same as with medication. If one pill is good, then 2 pills are twice as good.

My coach first brought these cold soaks to my attention. Over the years, I have taken to them and they are a part of my routine. They really do reduce soreness and get me recovered and ready for the next run.

Here are a few links if you are interested:
Video: These guys are ametuers and I don't know what else

Rugby players do it

Runners do it too

I have been doing these ice baths for at least two years now and the only thing I have noticed is the disappearance of my nads and a markedly higher voice. Other than that, my muscles feel fine.

I am even going to buy a little freezer to make my own ice. I figure it will pay for itself in about a year. 3 bags of ice cost nearly $5.00.

So give it a try. Don't just take my word for how fun it is.

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, November 01, 2006


The occasional blogger

I checked and I only posted 13 times in October. I have noticed my inspiration and motivation for posting slowing down. I need Geritol for writers.

I am on my fourth year of this blog. Maybe that is enough time to say what is in me. It ain't easy coming up with something new every Thanksgiving, Christmas, Mardi Gras, Spring, Fall, and you name the event. That is the challenge I suppose.

In college I took professors that I liked, but noticed after two or three semester classes, they just said the same thing. I feel like I am doing that here. I have certain values and I superimpose them on current events, recollections, and most anything else.

I haven't completed my life's story, so I can get back to that. I started a book entitled "Lamron" a couple of years ago and I can get back to writing it. I am just thinking out loud.

Problems are opportunities. If the problem is I don't know what to write, then the opportunity is; I have a wide-open opportunity to write what I want. I know in school I often said, "I wish I could write what I want instead of this lame assignment." Well, now's my chance.

I am running a lot since my next marathon is coming up the 25th. The one after that is the next Saturday. Here is my running schedule for last week and this week:

18, 0, 8, 0, 13, 7, 0
16, 0, 10, 0, 12, 8, 0

I have been getting home from work around 7:00 PM and by the time Barbara and I eat some dinner, walk the dog, and watch a little TV, it is bedtime. I need to snap out of this rut and experience something that will inspire me.

We are driving a PT Cruiser rental because John has our car and we have his in the body shop getting a new bumper. Some lady in a mini van ran into him back in July. That is exciting.

Life may not be a thrill a minute, but I am not complaining. I like everyday stuff. I enjoy walking the dog, smelling the air and looking at what nature serves up for that day.

I like seeing the same people each day, and going through familiar actions. Those things give me a kind of assurance. Life gets exciting enough, but it is usually on a timetable other than my own. I am not usually consulted prior to exciting events. I guess if I were, they wouldn't be exciting.

I will keep writing, even if it is not as often as it once was. Life continues on and so do I.

Until the next time
John Strain