2023 – Back to Utah

There and back again

I did not anticipate 2023 passing with no posts until the year end wrap up. I guess we got busy and I didn’t have any rants or commentaries boiling up that had to be unburdened from my soul. When last year ended, we had begun the process of grieving Renee’s mom and dealing with all that her passing brought about in our lives. Let me recap what transpired over the year before we end another chapter in the Zeliff family saga.

We began the year by attending the Cotton Bowl in Dallas on January 2nd with close friends who are like family, Michelle and Rita. Despite the USC Trojans defense allowing Tulane to pull out a come from behind victory, we had a great time. Later in the month, Jesse and the Precious would move out of Scott’s house and into mom’s place so we could put it on the market. This set in motion our plans to return to Ogden, Utah so Karri could grow up near her sister Rachel in Logan, Utah.

In February, I resigned from my IT position at Central Texas College so I could be available to help the family with sale preparations and consolidation of three households (Scott’s, Mom’s and ours). For our anniversary, Renee and I visited the Yankus family and enjoyed catching up with Joni and Jarid for the first time since their wedding day years earlier. The following day, we made a return visit to the church where we had served as youth pastors thirty years prior.

In March, we shifted into sales mode with the first of several estate/garage sales. We also took several trips within Texas and one back to Utah. We took a trip to Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose and a couple days later rode the Austin Steam Train from Austin to Bertram, Texas. We closed out the month with a birthday celebration in Utah with little sister Rachel. We went from 80 degree weather to several inches of snow and then back to the heat for more packing and sales.

As we continued selling things, we made the decision to donate one retro robot/video based game to the National Videogame Museum in Frisco, Texas. We met up again with Michelle for BBQ after spending some time in the museum. We ended April by visiting, along with Renee’s sister Carla, the niche where mom and Scott’s ashes now reside.

In May, we packed up and cleared out of the house that Renee was raised in. Jesse celebrated his birthday and we snuck away to Sea World in San Antonio to catch our breath before the final days in Texas. We moved into a local hotel while Karri completed first grade and then we began our road trip back to Ogden. We enjoyed a lunch break with my friend and brother Jim in Colorado Springs midway through the journey. Upon arrival in Ogden, we settled into a long term stay hotel while we looked for permanent residence.

We FINALLY obtained keys to something other than a hotel to kick off June and I continued to await my start date with an IRS IT contractor. Karri was delighted to once again take swimming lessons at the pool where she had previously taken them. Because our domicile was a brand new build, we had to wait until the end of June before reestablishing our Utah residency due to the postal service and landlord delay in giving us a mailing address. Pizza and package deliveries were quite a challenge too as Google maps didn’t show our address as being real.

We surprised Karri with a trip to Disneyland/California Adventure in July prior to us attending San Diego Comic-Con again. She had no idea where we were going until she read the “Welcome to Disneyland” signs. She met several of the Disney Princesses to include Cinderella, Ariel, Jasmine and Anna. She also enjoyed almost all of the rides with the exception of Space Mountain which she was not happy her dad taken her on. Following two busy days at Disney, we stopped in Laguna Beach to dip our toes in the Pacific before checking into our hotel in San Diego. Four days of Comic-Con show floor visits and cosplay were followed by a return flight to Utah.

As August began, I was still waiting for the IRS IT job when the Director of Technology for Ogden School District reached out about an opening at one of their junior high schools. I interviewed and was hired which allows me to work directly across the street from the elementary school the Precious attends. We ride to school together and I walk her to school each morning.

We saw Michelle again in September when she was in Salt Lake City on a work trip. Prior to her work meetings, we enjoyed several days with her. At the end of the month, Renee flew to Texas to attend a women’s conference with Michelle. Upon Renee’s return, I was off to Colorado Springs mid-October to do some fly fishing with Jim. I had inherited a tin of hand tied flies from my father in 2009 that I had been yearning to get wet. While there, I also visited with his daughter Christina’s family included taking his grandsons with us on one day of fishing.

As November began, we secured tickets to return to San Diego Comic-Con once again. Our Thanksgiving was spent with just the four of us and missing Renee’s mom who had departed one year ago. With December arriving, we are preparing to celebrate the 8th birthday of our granddaughter and the Christmas holidays. We appreciate you taking time to read this post and pray your year has been full of blessings and triumphs. We hope that next year brings us all more of the same.

Closing the book on 2022

A very eventful 2022 has ended and it’s time to recount and reflect on what transpired as 2023 begins.

January began like every new year with hopes of brighter days ahead and better living. At the end of January, we were heartbroken over the sudden death of Renee’s younger brother Scott. Before we could leave for Texas to be with her mom and help clear out his house, Renee had outpatient surgery. Following that surgery and a few days of recovery, we were off to TX to be with her mom and pack Scott’s house into a storage unit for safekeeping.

While in TX, Renee was informed that her surgery revealed cancer and the need for another surgery. In March, she underwent another more invasive surgery to include the removal of lymph nodes. The doctor assured us that all of the cancer had been removed as we awaited the results from biopsy of her lymph nodes. We were relieved to find out they were cancer free and Renee need only take it easy for six weeks while she recovered.

As a result of her brother’s passing, we began making plans to relocate to Texas to assist her mother who was battling cancer. In April, we made a day trip to the Golden Spike National Monument in Promontory, Utah where Karri earned another Junior Ranger badge. In May, we began packing and as the month ended, we celebrated Karri’s kindergarten graduation.

June brought the delivery of the POD, my last day of work, and final packing. On the 8th, Jesse and Karri flew ahead of us to Texas. We took a couple days to drive down making an overnight stop in Colorado Springs to see Jim and his pups. On the 10th, we arrived in Copperas Cove, TX and Renee took over as primary caregiver for her mom.

June through September was filled with countless doctor appointments, hospital stays, and treatments. As September ended, we took mom to MD Anderson in Houston to get their input and direction on mom’s cancer. They confirmed that treatment was no longer an option and hospice was what lay ahead on this difficult journey we had undertaken with her.

At the end of October, we invited Scott and mom’s friends to celebrate their lives and see mom before her condition deteriorated. We hadn’t had a chance to mourn him and mom was still alert enough to speak with all who came. As November arrived, mom grew weaker and she did her best to make it to Thanksgiving, passing on to the next life on the Wednesday before it.

Our hearts were heavy at her departure, but relieved her pain had come to an end. In December, Karri turned 7 and we held a celebration of life for Scott and Mom Rezny a few days later. They were both placed in a companion urn which would be placed in a glass front niche at month’s end just a few minutes from Renee’s sister Carla.

Christmas brought much joy as our 7 year old girl lit up the houses with excitement. She was delighted with her many gifts and we enjoyed her enthusiasm. Christmas is truly best seen through the eyes of a child.

2022 was filled with ups and downs, joys and heartaches. We hope the coming year is filled with more of former and less of the latter for everyone.

We don’t talk about gun violence, no, no!

There are many things that the church is very vocal about like the value of unborn life and freedom of expression of our faith in public. However, our silence on gun violence is abhorrent. We will march and protest for some things, but when people are killed by the blight of guns in our society, we sit on our hands or label those who call for action idiots.

Let me provide some background for my belief that we must do something about America’s gun addiction. As a toddler, my parents had a hand gun in the home until they found me playing with it in the middle of their bed. After high school, I joined the Army and learned to handle multiple weapons. I also accepted the Lord while serving and lost all desire to take a life using those same weapons.

After leaving military service, I went to Bible school in Dallas, Texas. At that time, a lone gunman drove his truck into a Luby’s cafeteria in Killeen, Texas shooting fifty people and killing twenty-three. One of the survivors was our pastor. He became an advocate for gun ownership and still preaches with a firearm on his hip.

Five years ago, another gunman opened fire on a music festival from the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada killing sixty and injuring hundreds. I walked by this location multiple times while attending conferences over the years in Las Vegas. Had I been attending a conference during that fateful night, I might have been a victim as well.

There are more guns in the United States than there are people. More guns is not the answer. Texans have more licensed weapons than any other state yet have five of the worst mass shootings since 1991.

Unless you are an ambidextrous marksman, owning multiple firearms and more than a dozen rounds is excessive. If you say it’s for hunting, recent numbers show about 15 million hunting licenses issued which makes up less than 5% of the United States population.

I ask these questions of all Americans and especially the church. How many weapons are enough? How much ammunition is enough? Why do gun manufacturers continue to profit from tragedies as gun sales spike? How many innocent lives must be lost to gun violence before the church says something?

Keep fighting

The Big C, cancer attacks our lives in our own bodies or the ones we love. I lost my mother to lung cancer several years ago. My mother-in-law is in the midst of her battle with cancer. Renee recently underwent surgery to remove cancer and the surrounding organs it was impacting. My best friend is dealing with his father’s terminal cancer diagnosis.

Whether we like it or not, cancer will impact our lives in one way or another. Let’s not stop fighting it in every way possible.

Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
I Timothy 6:12 NKJV

Who can it be now?

The 80’s song by the Australian band Men at Work comes to mind as loss once again comes knocking on our door. The longer we exist on earth, the more frequently this unwelcome visitor appears at the threshold.

I lost my parents in 2009 and 2017. My father-in-law passed in 2014. Recently, two classmates passed as well. In November, I had to put down our 16 year old feline family member after being diagnosed with renal failure.

Over the weekend, my sister-in-law called to inform my wife that their younger brother was no longer with us. He was only 46 years old, but had lived with diabetes since childhood. My wife looked at me and said “now there’s only 7 of us” referring to the four members of our family, her sister and spouse, and her mom.

While longevity is certainly what we all wish for it does come with this caveat. The longer you live, the more frequent visits from loss will occur.

But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
I Thessalonians 4:13?-?14 NKJV

Year end reflections, the 2021 version

In past years, we would alternate each year who would write the Christmas newsletter that would be included with our Christmas card. In 2017, that traditon ended as a result of two painful losses we suffered that year. They were always a great way to wrap up the year and look forward to the coming year. It is in that spirit that I write this blog post.

2021 began with us in Texas assisting Renee’s mom following major back surgery. I was able to telework from there for the IRS as a Contact Representative. That is just a fancy way of saying tax collector. At the end of the month, we returned to Utah for a few days before the family went back to help mom while I remained. February passed with us spending our anniversary and birthdays apart for the first time.

As Easter approached, the family would return and this time only Renee would leave to help mom. The rest of us stayed in Utah until Mother’s day when we would all remain under the same roof for the first time since January. Renee spent 6 months helping her mom and was happy to be back together in Ogden as was I.

Summer was filled with swimming lessons which Karri enjoyed greatly. In June, we met up with Jim as he traveled from San Diego to his new home in Colorado with his pups. We would pay them all a visit in July to see the new place and spend some time together. Summer ended and Karri began kindergarten.

As Fall arrived, changes began to occur professionally. Jesse and I would both start new jobs. I reapplied to the school district after the part-time job I had previously held was made full time. The position with the IRS which allowed me to telework was moving to the next phase where I would begin placing levies and liens against taxpayers. I was not looking forward to that and was grateful to be offered a position as Site Tech at a nearby high school.

In November, we traveled to California to attend San Diego Comic-Con after missing it for several years. It was the largest crowd we had been around since the onset of the pandemic. With all attendees required to be fully vaccinated and wearing masks, it was good to be back amongst the fans.

As 2021 comes to close, we hope the challenges we faced in the past year will not be repeated and that many new blessings await us in the new year. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours.

Get back to where you once belonged!

Each of the logos above is from one of the schools at which I have taught or been a staff member. After graduating from Christ for the Nations Institute in 1992, I served as a youth pastor and began teaching 4-6th grade in the church’s private school. I would eventually move up to 7-12th grade to teach and coach athletic teams. In 1996, I attended Oral Roberts University working during the year as a student worker and over the summers coordinating faculty payroll.

After moving back to California in 2003, I was employed by Excelsior Education Center as a computer tech and an instructor. I taught at the high school for a short while before moving to the Prep Academy, their junior high. I even attained a California teaching credential. I left education again in 2006 until I rejoined the Silverado High School staff as a computer tech in 2015. I left that position in May 2019 to join my family in Utah after a prolonged and unplanned separation.

In September 2019, I became an office assistant part-time at Bonneville Elementary School entering attendance. In April 2020, I transferred to Ogden High School after securing a position as a part-time computer tech. Unfortunately, the pandemic forced my resignation and another departure as I began teleworking for the IRS full-time helping taxpayers with their tax debts.

After the computer tech position was converted to full-time with benefits, I reapplied with the Ogden School District. The position was not offered to me and I remained with the IRS. A few months later another computer tech position within the district became available and I reapplied. I am now returning to education at Ben Lomond High School and the “Friendly Fighting Scots.”

It’s exciting to be going back to where I once belonged. Whether it was as a teacher or a staff member, I always enjoyed being in education. I hope the rest of my career is spent there.

Heart to heart, 12 years later.

Today marks twelve years since the fateful morning of my mother’s desperate call to me while paramedics worked to resuscitate my father following a heart attack. He was 67 years old when he passed that day and had suffered a heart attack almost thirty years prior outside my bedroom door. I saw paramedics in the hallway working on him from the bottom bunk while my younger brother slept in the bed above me.

Yesterday, I met with my cardiologist’s PA a year after my own heart attack to check my progress after a stint was placed. I was told I am doing great with good blood pressure, pulse and having lost 15 pounds. I was cleared to stop a few prescriptions, but still have two arteries with blockage percentages that will keep me taking some of the meds.

I miss you pops and wish you had done more to make sure you were around longer to see your grandchild grow to adulthood. I will do all I can to make sure I stick around as long as possible to be here for my grandchild.

“That’s not a movie.”

I said that to my father as he lay paralyzed on his left side from a stroke in a hospital bed in Lakeland, FL on the morning of 9/11. It was a day of loss and selfless sacrifice by 1st responders rushing into danger to try and save lives.

As we honor their sacrifices and remember the many who are departed, I wonder how many more times I would have repeated that phrase standing next to my pops as we observed events of the recent years. We have seen a callous and uncaring police officer kneel on a man’s neck until he expired. We have seen over a half-million of our countrymen pass from sickness. We saw the sitting president whip a crowd into a frenzy to prevent the certification of his successor.

The many selfless acts from that day 20 years ago have been replaced by so many selfish acts of today. The death of a man of color unjustly does not prompt outrage by all and some are more outraged by the phrase “Black Lives Matter.” The mandating of a life saving vaccine causes people to object to their individual rights being trampled instead of seeking to stop a pandemic. A large portion of the electorate believes the election was rigged because their guy lost despite no evidence to support their allegations. My way over others is most important.

John F. Kennedy said “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” Matthew 7:12 says “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you,¬†for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”