surviving both prosperity and adversity, defines the essence of what we’re made
of. Over the course of our lives, we learn to appreciate the true meaning
of prosperity, only after suffering through the throes of adversity. Like most of my gut wrenching
I’ve learned these attributes the hard way. During an aggressive life-altering
maneuver to right some grievous wrongs, decisions I made in earnest, ultimately
affected thousands and me.
Everyone deserves second
chances, some even third, and fourth, and fifth ones. So when fate knocks, you
answer. Throwing caution to the wind, you risk it all to play the hand you’re
dealt, which in my case was aces and eights, most commonly referred to in
western lore, as the dead man’s hand.
… and then I met
the girl of my dreams…
It’s a long story—one
that’s worth sharing, but I must warn you before hand, it’s filled with broken
promises, shattered dreams, unrequited love, unbridled lust, and finally,
redemption. In the end, as one of Facebook’s relationship status identifiers
states, it’s complicated.
I am a designer, dreamer,
and as of late, a freelance personal financial crisis manager for my own
mess. I live in the foothills of
the Smokey Mountains in the heart of Tennessee beside the shores of a lake that
I have truly come to love as much or more than any other destination I’ve found
on this precious Earth.
Dale Hollow is a breathtaking,
52,000-acre man-made reservoir ranked in the top ten nationally for its natural
beauty, deep, clear waters, and abundant wildlife. Up until five years ago, I had never heard of this body of
water. And by its lack of development and buffered, unspoiled shoreline
privacy, not too many other people outside this region knew of it either.
According to the
relocating powers that be, this area was deemed ideal to re-invent me.
it was an out-of-the-way location, offering me a fresh start to create retreats
and escapes for a privileged few investors wanting a home-away-from-home near
nature and water. And two, the
remoteness of these acres reduced my exposure to the outside world and my
previous past. Until now, most of
my dealings in the real-estate world were far from this area of the US or
In a nutshell, in my
self-chosen career, I designed and built multi-million dollar homes for the
rich and famous throughout the western U.S. and Canada, concentrating mostly in
Texas. Lone Star Governor, Rick
Perry, had done a good job of generating wealth all across Texas. So, if
real-estate is your market, it’s best to go where the money is flowing. But
with wealth and abundance comes those scheming to take it all away. That is
where the root of this story begins.
My last and currently
most infamous project brought down a mismanaged financial empire as well as the
greedy S.O.B., A.J. Standford, who ran it. This “financial whiz,” all by
himself, managed to lose upwards of eight billion dollars in shady offshore
investments, promising too good to be true returns to his multitudes of
investors. Most of his clients were upper middle class American families—doctors
and lawyers and such, including one prominent New York City Italian family, the
However, quite a few
investors were normal, hard-working everyday Americans who entrusted the
essence of their lives with him. These are the people who have suffered the
most because they have neither the time nor a thriving economy to pick up the
pieces of their life’s savings.
collapse and the impending doom on Wall Street, there was an initial rash of
suicides in this latter group, prompting quick and immediate action of
restoration and hope on behalf of someone, somewhere. Unfortunately, little of
this much-needed action did not trickle down from our illustrious government.
Now, here’s where it
Quietly and secretly,
small bags of large-caret diamonds started arriving by mail to some of
Stanford’s former clients—those desperately in need of redemption. Once a
month, a select few of these all-but-forgotten investors began receiving
nondescript packages filled with 120 to 180 two-to-three caret diamonds worth
upwards of 1.5 to 2 million dollars per package. Enclosed in each parcel was a
simple handwritten note that said, please use all that you need and pay it
forward with the rest.
Thankfully, as word got out, the suicides declined; and little by little, these
remaining mom-and-pops had renewed hope that they, too, will receive a nondescript
and unmarked treasure in the mail.
But back to me.
My newly-formed fresh
identity and location helped me conceal those aforementioned two hundred pounds
of polished, large-caret diamonds, as well as miscellaneous South African
trinkets and a treasure trove of mega-buck financial records and ledgers from
the shadiest of shady business foes across the globe. Basically, my new temporary home gave me some breathing room
to ponder on just how I elected to deliver some of my ill-gotten and illegal
gains to deserving folk without a paper trail or legal repercussions to myself or
those I intended to help. And, as
a personal special benefit, it also helped keep me alive while I tried to put
together my whimsical, elusive plan.
After all, some of the
worst decisions make the greatest stories…
Trying to do the right
thing in the beginning, within reason, cost me my business, my family, my friends, and
my life as I knew it. Some things, such as a much-maligned marriage, are better
off forgotten—out of sight and hopefully out of mind. Whereas the damage my
ex and I inflicted on our sons through the slow and painful death of their
mom’s and my relationship will take the rest of our lives to repair. Not to be
forgotten are the friendships and business relationships I’d developed over the
years, which I can never replicate.
But I’m trying. I’ve rebuilt before, and I can do it
Concentrating on me
first, I’ve started a daily exercise regiment, walking 5 miles a day in an
effort to eventually wear my Air Force blues again, if and when the need
arises. My hair is thinner and longer with shades of gray to match my beard.
The crow’s feet around my infamous bedroom-brown eyes are significantly more
pronounced. Thankfully, my heart and mind are still the intact. My heart is a little more broken, while
my mind is now much wiser—two things I’ve gained in my life-lessons through the
throes of adversity and prosperity.
Via these lessons, life
has now become all too fleeting. I remember thinking when I was about 15 that
40 was older than dirt. Now that I’ve surpassed that milestone, I believe 80 is
old. I’m doing my best now to reach this next one in reasonably good shape,
where I can determine on my terms the next milestone.
But since we’re never
promised tomorrow, I’ve learned it’s best we cherish each moment, living just
for today. We should do all the good we can and try not to
repeat the past.
We should let
tomorrow, if there should be a tomorrow, take care of itself. And it doesn’t hurt
to continue to dream dreams in brilliant vivid colors …
… for when the
dreams stop, so will the breathing. Chapter 1 of 58
Friday morning broke
with penetrating colors of orange, red and blue painted across the sky. As I gazed out the window and into this
gorgeous day, I hoped this artistic canvas in my windowpane was signaling
possibly something more than the norm may lie in store for me today.
This day, unlike the others of
late, does not envelope me in the silence of solitude, but of hope. Having
escaped from a once enduring relationship with my ex-wife, I resigned myself to
the fact that living alone is a far better state for me. Being in the presence of someone I
loved, who after twenty-five years of togetherness, no longer had the time,
space, or desire for me had become draining for me. Alone was better than disgruntled in that marriage—by a long
I scrambled out the door
for my 5-mile wake-up walk with Major, my constant four-legged companion
leading the way. This daily morning ritual is healing for me, mostly because it
clears the cobwebs from my head brought on by too many restless nights.
For me, however, the day
is just starting and after dropping Major by the house, I began my daily
40-minute trek to Starbucks, for my morning jolt of reality.
this particular day, I ordered a Venti Breve Latte from my ever perky, young, blue-eyed
barista named Lauren. After her
cordial smile, I headed out the door.
As I stepped from the
curb, an attractive brunette in a Range Rover raced through the drive-through
lane and almost took out my Latte—narrowly missing me. Slamming on the brakes,
the driver proceeded to mouth some words much better left to my imagination.
Watching my life quickly flash before my eyes,
I decided if it was finally time
for me to exit this world that there was no better way that I could choose to
hasten me through the eternal, everlasting door. I could imagine the headlines
of tomorrow’s paper: Crazed Woman Takes Out Man in Starbucks Drive Thru.
She, too, must have seen
my potential life-altering exit averted because she slid sideways into a
parking space and immediately jumped out screaming, “Are you ok?”
“Uh, No!” I chided. “Just what were you thinking? Where was your head, Ms. NASCAR? You
could have spilled my latte!
eased her fears to some extent.
Tears cascaded down her
cheeks, testing the best Sephora had to offer. “I’m sorry,” she whimpered. “I wasn't thinking. All I could think
was I need caffeine! I’ve been on
the road for two hours and I can barely keep my eyes open. Today was supposed
to be special. It’s my birthday.
“Are most of your
birthdays special?” I chuckled.
this one is my
first birthday being single in a long time.” Her demeanor showed on her
sleeve. This spectacular specimen of a woman seemed to be wrapped up
and consumed by the moment. She
had been daydreaming about what I would soon learn was her upcoming trip
girlfriend. She’d planned an escape, if you will, from the role she now
in her own daily soap opera. Seems she, too, came to the Starbucks
well as lonely—resigned to the fact that what once was a vibrant and
relationship had unraveled quite similarly to my own.
Standing before me was a
beautiful young lady not much over thirty and dressed to impress. She had on
high glossed-brown, mid-calf riding boots, skinny cords, a white v-cut silk
blouse that accentuated her attributes. She sported a bright red flowing
cardigan sweater that angled almost to her knees. Stunning is a word that comes to
may be even a better one; this coming from one who has been starving for the
scent, touch, and feel of a woman against my skin for quite a while.
I spoke softly, yet
firmly. “You need to take a deep
breath, close your eyes, and think of something wonderful for just a moment.”
She did as I instructed
as I watched her trembling ease and the ashen color of her face return to
“There, that wasn’t so
bad, was it? Everything has a
way of working out. Are we good?”