Saturday, June 17, 1995 & Living the Dream

On Saturday, June 17, 1995, I had just returned from an up & down week at South Carolina's Palmetto Boys State, sponsored by the American Legion. It was up & down due to the weird things going on with my body that just didn't seem normal-night sweats, back pains, inability to use the bathroom at times, throwing up after I ate, & being really tired participating in sports activities throughout the week.

I vaguely remember explaining to my mother, an ER nurse of a decade or more, my symptoms on the ride home to Prosperity, SC. As soon as I got home, I  remember still being excited to head out on Lake Murray for a day of water skiing, cooking out, and just being on the lake. Back then I was in shape and had pretty hard stomach muscles, so like any dumb teenager, I didnt mind having those muscles tested with a gut shot, or punch. My aunt was at our house that day when we got home en route to the lake and unfortunately for her she was the one that played around with me to provide that gut shot to the stomach...I can never forget that punch. It wasn't because she really hit me hard or hit me when I wasnt expecting it. It was because when she did playfully hit me, it almost caused me to fall down and start throwing up it hurt so bad.

Twenty-one (21) years ago as I sit here typing this, I can still see the scene:

I was standing right outside the white linoleum kitchen flooring, on the light brown carpeting in front of my mother's decorative bench that sat under the four pane, mirrored decorative piece hanging above it. I was facing towards the side door that lead to the garage and Aunt Mary Kay was bouncing around playfully like a boxer, but unlike a real boxer, she was wearing a black bathing suit with white highlights, while our kitchen table was to my left. She playfully struck with her left hand and then more sternly with her right hand.  Now I recognize the awkward looks between the parental figures, after seeing my animated reaction to such a light &  playful interaction.

My mother decided to let the rest of the family head on to the lake but maybe my complaints of fatigue should just be checked out real quick at the hospital where she worked, Lexington Medical Center. She drove her gray, Mazda 626 with gray cloth seats on a bright, sunny day towards Columbia and tried to console me that this was no big deal, I was fine. ( I realize now she was really trying to calm herself down-she later revealed to me she thought I had mono.) 

When we got to the hospital, we were provided professional courtesies for her many years working in the ER and I went straight back to a private waiting area. A nice phlebotomist, a heavier, set black male, who apparently had won the respect of my mother as a "1 sticker" drew blood for lab work. (I write this narrative for medicinal value so I can help open long vaulted compartments in my psyche, so no wonder I am having some manifestations of those emotions right now as I type, aka crying.).

I didnt realize what was going on at the time but I did recognize my mother's voice in what seemed to turn from surprise, then to aggressiveness in demanding tests be run again as she talked with her colleagues at a nearby nurses station. The phlebotomist came in again and drew more blood work and did so calm as a cucumber indicating another test needed to be run. Shortly thereafter is the scream I can hardly forget from my mother and then her wailing. I started to get nervous at that point as my mother was a pretty stern lady, that showed emotion when needed but to cry openly in her comfort zone and in front of her colleagues kind of scared me. That was not normal & apparently as time would tell, neither was my blood work. My white blood cell count was over 150,000 with normal ranging from 3,500-10,500. 

My private waiting area was quickly transformed as I was asked to go change into a gown all the while not knowing what was going on. That was the part I hated the most looking back. Nobody would tell me what was going on. I was no idiot and at the very least, knew if my lake day was about to be ruined and my mother was screaming, something had to be wrong. Plus,I was the only one getting medical work performed upon. 

As I got my own private room at this point, I will ever forget that coy, son of bitch, white haired doctor whose name started with an "M". He acted like I was interrupting his day, laughed and was joking around. Again, I still had not clue what was going on. He indicated he just had to take a sample real quick. Then he proceeded to take a bone marrow aspiration from me without any anesthesia other than some lidocaine to the skin. That extraction device he screwed into my hip is  probably not nearly as medieval as I remember but I will never forget him stopping in the middle of screwing that device into my hip bone & saying, "Son, you have some strong bones." Then he proceeded to twist harder into my hip. To this day it is the worst pain I have ever felt in my life. 

Fittingly, understandably, and realistically, that is where my memories of today, 21 years ago stop.  I was ultimately diagnosed with Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), and later told of my two week prognosis. I remember snipets of the days and weeks that followed. More importantly, I remember the love and outpouring support from my family, friends, my church, and my community. I will forever be indebted to them all.   

God is good, life is good, and we can only make the most with what we are given. I hope you all take advantage of the opportunities and wonders given to you every day. Now you know why I say:

I AM LIVING THE DREAM!

 

 

Where's the Balance in Life for ________ (Attorneys, Doctors, White/Blue Collar Workers)?

This article was brought on by two separate contacts I had with friends inquiring about the satisfaction and enjoyment I obtained from doing my job. Both of these friends were fellow attorneys but working in different specialties. I was honored to be contacted by them because they are both hard working and intelligent individuals with what would appear to be great jobs. I was a point of reference as someone that truly enjoyed what they did and appeared to gain fulfillment, or satisfaction, in doing their job. That had not always been the case for me and I was delighted to know that my subconscious behaviors had eluded to the happiness in my life.

Even when I passed the SC Bar and became an attorney, my biggest goal was to pay my $125,000.00 in student loans off in three years (before I turned 30). All I worked for was money and how I could make more of it. I was looking past the people I could help, the experiences I could get, the good things I could do with my professional status, and the hard working reputation I could build. I also was fueled by hatred for insurance companies and how they had treated myself and my family when we were going through rough times (cancer). I would take my work home with me both figuratively and literally. I lived and breathed law and when I could not get any reprieve from it, I would drink until I could not think about it anymore.

I was miserable and hated who I was, what I did, and why I had not done more with the extra years I was given. Then I stopped beating myself up, stopped thinking about only myself, stopped worrying about trying to fit my whole life in what I thought was only 3 more years of living and just starting having fun. I realized I had to put my faith in myself to do the right thing instead of other people. I also concluded that whatever happens, happens and I can not control other people. The Serenity Prayer is not solely for alcoholics. It's great for every day application for anyone. Life is so simple if you just allow it to be.

I had felt my life was in a rut and I never wanted to live like that given the second chance at life I had been given. I always wanted to travel the world, sail the seas, be in movies, date models, and live on islands. However, I also wanted to help people, earn a higher educational degree, and run my own company. In choosing the higher educational degree, I failed to think about who would pay for it and how much it would cost in resources and time.

Now that the student loans are paid down to free money (federal loans at 1% interest) and I have enough investments to pay off my debts, I guess it is time to travel the world, sail the seas, be in movies, and live on islands.   I already consider the girls I date to be more beautiful than models, if not models themselves. ; )

Or, I could continue to do what I enjoy: helping people, suing insurance companies, and getting paid to do it. 

Blackberries, Iphones, and Touch Screens Oh My: Simplicity Save Me

Lately I have caught a lot of grief over my cell phone and its simplicity.  The poor thing only makes calls and texts.  It use to have picture taking abilities but that doesn't work anymore.  The phone I have is a flip phone and sometimes the screen will not work. 

I have tried the fancy phones out. I had a Blackberry for about a week. However, once it was all linked up and ready to go, it buzzed and/or rang all the time. New email, internet alert, and texts. I found myself out at restaurants with beautiful guests yet all I could do was check the internet for scores, stocks, and more emails.  I began to feel vibrations or anticipate "alerts" even when I did not have the phone in my pocket.

I love technology and all the new Web 2.0 social applications, ie Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I think if Verizon had the IPhone, I would have one of those--for at least a week. I realize some people truly are more efficient and can utilize these fancy phones to be a real advantage in a professional setting.  Considering I sit at a desk the majority of the day, I have everything I need in front of me.

What I realized was that like television, video games, or computers, I would allow this small technological device to take my attention away from exciting adventures, interesting people, and beautiful places. The wonders of technology at your fingertips will have to wait a little longer to replace the joy of having a good friend, loving family member, or significant other right nearby on a cool, fall day while the leaves change with the season.

I know you can find a picture of what that may look like or research why the leaves change color on your fancy phone. Can you smell the aging leaf? Hear the wind shifting through the trees? Or touch the leaves and feel their leathery exterior prior to becoming brittle and frail? Me either. I am stuck at work doing things I could probably do out and about on that fancy phone.

We Need Cycle Killers, Not Psycho Killers: Shooting People Aint Too Cool

     

    Embracing the recent Spring like days with open arms, I awoke on Wednesday, March 25, 2009, to a light rain, dark clouds, and cold weather.  Nothing outside the normal as we had still not approached the 85-95 degree days of a “Southern Summer” but we had enjoyed a teaser of warm temperatures. 


    I had a mediation scheduled in town, conveniently located less than a mile from my home on the West End of Greenville.  As I was presenting the mediation a bustle of sirens and activity seemed to provide both an ominous future for my presentation and someone’s well being.  It wasn’t until the completion of a very short, yet required mediation, that I learned the sirens rushed to less than a block from my home.  Having planned to be in mediation all day it was hard to transition back into traveling to Anderson for work with all the activity going on around the house. I planned to finish my work day out from my home office. 


    Little did I know my home office was going to be near a recent crime scene. The city block on Vardry Street between Green Avenue and Anderson Avenue was blocked off with yellow crime scene tape and the foot traffic was ever more increased (see photo above).  The conditions remained cold, rainy, and dreary.  However, few details were being offered by the young, Greenville City Police officer standing post on the Green Avenue block near the crime scene tape.


    The Greenville News would provide a report late in the day indicated that several people were behind a home on Vardry when one of the persons started shooting.  One person was killed, another injured, and another that fled from the altercation.


    In the snap of someone’s fingers the lives for all these people changed today. I wonder if they had come to grips with who they were, what their purpose was in life, and made it clear to everyone they loved how much they cared for them?


    Probably not. More than likely, they were spending idle time doing unproductive things with unproductive people expecting positive results out of negative input.  How will the cycle change if someone is constantly going around in those circles? 

 


 

South Carolina Foreclosure Sale: My Personal Experience

The current home I live and work out of is on the West End of Greenville, South Carolina:

The current Greenville County Master-in-Equity, Judge Charles B. Simmons Jr., provides an excellent "Primer for Mortgage Foreclosure Sales" on the Greenville County website. Judge Simmons highlights 14 points that are important if you decide to embark upon this path during the recent economic climate.

As an attorney and real estate investor, I felt confident in the process because I had bought foreclosure sales before from banks but not "on the courthouse steps" so to speak. I made several mistakes and got lucky. I do not trust that luck will get me through again so I share these tips:

  1. Always have title work done/checked on your prospective foreclosure house!- The house I bought was being foreclosed upon the "Smith" family-seriously.
  2. Physically go see the house. Don't trust internet services or court records. I visited my prospective house but never got inside. I knew I was going to "gut" the inside to my liking but wanted the "bones" to be good. On another home I went to go bid on, I went by the morning of the auction and there was no house on the lot, just a lot. Imagine how high I would have bid for what I thought was a house and a lot.
  3. Factor in more time and/or money if it is inhabited. I paid for the first month's rent and moved the inhabitants of my foreclosure house out because I had just sold my house. I was on a tight time frame with repairs and knew how slow the eviction process could be if disputed or fought.  "Honey attracts more flies than vinegar." 
  4. Have financing and closing attorney already arranged. You only have a short turn around time to complete the closing on the house after you put your deposit down the day of the sale. Likewise, you can't move in or make repairs until you have title, ie close.
  5. This is not a "new" thing. Some people make their living off of buying homes in foreclosure sales. You may very well find a great deal but don't think you will be the only one there.

Anytime there is an opportunity for reward there is a risk. Foreclosure sales are the poster children for inherent risks. Do your homework and you can capitalize.  Have fun and enjoy your new experience.

If you would like for me to forward you the recent article entitled, "Prudent Bidding at a Foreclosure Sale," by Clifford P. Parson and C. Joseph Roof that was published in the January 2009 edition of the South Carolina Lawyer, please email me (trey@trammell-law.com) or post a comment request.

A side note: I do civil personal injury law, not real estate law. Outside of paying lots of money for a "Real Estate" class in law school and visiting the records room of a Georgia courthouse, I have no real estate law experience. 

 

The Greatest New Year's Resolution Ever

I have been trying to find motivation after returning from my first full week of vacation without any contact with the office to offer some great epiphany or advice. Instead I simply return with a clear head and a fresh start, which is good enough for me.

However, I did come across an article in my Google Reader by Leo Babauta, author of Zen Habits entitled "The Single Secret of Making 2009 Your Best Year Ever". In this article Mr. Babauta states:

So what’s that single secret, the one thing that will not only make 2009 your best year ever, but put personal development and self-help bloggers and authors out of business?

Are you sure you’re ready to hear it.........

Stop waiting for happiness. Happiness is right here, right now.

As a cancer survivor of 14 years you would think I could keep that one simple mantra ingrained in my head, yet, like all of you, I continue to chase after the proverbial carrot. I spent this past week with good company on beautiful islands in the Eastern Caribbean imagining what it would be like to live on a small sail boat and sail around from island to island.  However, I came to these conclusions:

  1. Work Ethic- I would get bored in a week because I was starting to crave work by the end of our 7 day cruise. 
  2. Passion- When you finally find what you enjoy doing it still remains work but a much more satisfying endeavor.
  3. Civic Duty-We all share this earth and the benefits of what the Lord has provided us and we can never truly receive until we are able to give.

I leave you with this wonderful quote and a map of my visits:

"A good tree cannot bear worthless fruit, neither can a rotten tree produce fine fruit. Every tree not producing fine fruit gets cut down and thrown into the fire. Really, then, by their fruits you will recognize those men." (Matt 7:18 to 20).

 

 

The Devil's Drug

I had never heard of methamphetamine referred to as the "Devil's Drug", until I saw what a crushing blow it could have on a local family, leaving young children and a loving wife in its wake. 

It's hard for loved ones and even addicts to reach out for help but there are so many resources made available that I felt compelled to list some of them: