Monday, August 20, 2012


You know how they say no two snowflakes are alike?


How do they know? Does someone check?


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Early Years

Yeah, I know. It's been a long time since I posted. I have been informed by those who would know, that my fan base is dwindling. Ever being the one to want to please the fans, I thought I might want to try to win them back.

So, having nothing better to say, I thought I would grace you with some new old pictures.

This is my wife and I in our very early years. We decided it was either the year before or the year after we got married. 1983 or 1984.

Back when I owned many Harley t-shirts but never the bike itself.
Attempting a "Cool" sitting position. Cause you never know which girl is going to be looking.

...girls like these.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

What can you do?

My wife broke down Thursday night. And there wasn't a thing I could do about it but put my arms around her and tell her I was so sorry. And no, it wasn't me that brought on the tears and heartache. Just another bureaucrat who is forced to "do the job" and cut the costs instead of doing what may be the best thing for the child.

The little guy is gone. Simple as that and that quick. He was scheduled for a visit with his birth-mom on Friday morning, who has only showed up to ONE of the last SIX visits, and the county, in their infinite wisdom decided that they wanted this little boy just a little closer to home. Apparently an hour's drive is too far for the caseworker. So my wife, who pours her heart into these children, gets a call on Thursday night at 7:00 telling her that after his visit is over Friday morning, he will be going to another home. So make sure you bring all his things.

How do you pack up all of a child's belongings while tears are running down your face? How do you wake him up happy and help him enjoy the morning and do the things that are necessary to make sure he has a good day when your heart is breaking and you know that you will probably never see him again. Sure, he's only been here for three weeks, but how long does it take to invest yourself in a happy, smiling two year old, who already struggles with abandonment issues to the point that he follows you around the house afraid that you're going to disappear when you go into the next room? A little boy who has never been around men for any length of time and who was just starting to let down his guard around me.

We know people, great, qualified people, who have left the foster care system because they couldn't take the heartbreak any longer. People who have decided that they can no longer participate in such a ridiculously broken system. And the system is broken. Don't let anyone tell you any different. The way the foster-care system runs in this country is a joke! And it's supposed to be there to protect and meet the needs of those individuals of society who CANNOT protect themselves. They are the most vulnerable among us. And yet they get pushed around from home to home, never allowed to find a place to settle and establish some sort of root system, forced to deal with school systems that don't want "Those" kids, (and we have heard those exact words coming out of the mouths of school administrators here in our town.)

I have always balked at the message of someone who tries to send me on a guilt trip in order to get their point across. I shy away from those who spout statistics in order to back up their claims. But sometimes we need to hear the sheer enormity of them in order to understand the reality of the situation. Because when you are walking through Wal-Mart, there is no way for you to know that the child who just passed you in the aisle, the child who is clean and well-clothed, who looks to be about 6 years old, is holding the hand of his NINTH foster mother since he was born to a mother who was barely out of grade school herself. When you are eating at that fine restaurant, there is no way for you to know that your waiter, or your busboy, or even the manager of the restaurant, spent their lives going from one foster home to another, being shuffled around because either the foster parent couldn't handle them, or the county wanted them closer, or some judge had decided they needed more visits with their birth parents who beat them, abused them and tormented them at night, so they need to be closer. Or the money is cut from the system. The foster care system is already sucking the hind tit. What more do they want?

The city of Cleveland is one of the poorest cities in the country. Actually, it's number two, second only to Detroit as the poorest city in the country. And that's up from holding the number one position in 2006. And in the midst of this joke of an economy, they have had to reduce their number of caseworkers by HALF! 50%! How would you like to come into work one day and discover that your work load has just DOUBLED! But you still have to get it all done in the same amount of time and for the same money. This is akin to my boss telling me that instead of driving from Ohio to Chicago and back, I have to do it twice, and still do it within the same time frame and for the same amount of money and within the constraints of the law! Are you serious!?

So Cleveland cuts there number of caseworkers in half and yet the owner of the Cavaliers was willing to offer LeBron James an extra $128,000,000 over a six year period to stay in Cleveland and not go elsewhere. That's $21.3 Million a year for the next six years. And that's on top of what he was already making. How many caseworkers would 21 million a year provide for? I'm thinking more than a few. Maybe even all of the ones that were let go. (Actually, it's about 600.)

Depending on what study you look at, there are between 800,000 and 500,000 children in the foster care system within the United States, with approximately 115,000 of them waiting for a family to adopt them. Personally, I think those numbers are way too low. But let’s take the lower numbers to be conservative. 500,000 children. Taken from their families, usually because they are living in an abusive or neglectful situation. The town I live in only has 11,000 people in it total. The town I work in claims about 50,000 people. What about where you live? How many people are there? See, this is the problem. We don’t think of these children as people. They tend to be abstract numbers. Names on a page. I think every child’s file should have a minimum of ten different pictures of that child attached to it in order to remind those who work for them that they are real people who have real feelings, who suffer real pain and trauma.

According to the 2010 census Oklahoma City has 579999 people in the entire city, men women and children. Tampa, Florida-335709. Atlanta, Georgia-420003. See my point? These are entire cities. For there to be 500,000 children in the US who cannot live with their family is horrific. No two ways about it. And for there to be more children than twice the number of citizens of Mansfield, OH to be waiting and wanting to be adopted, who have no hope of going home to their original family is atrocious.

And as for my government employees, by which I mean the President and ALL the members of Congress to fight and whine and cry and throw their temper tantrums because they can’t come to an agreement to operate our government in a fiscally responsible manner, and then to have the gall to let us know this Saturday morning that they worked late into the night and pat themselves on the back for finally coming to an agreement and thereby not force our government to shut down? Shame on you, Mr. President. Shame one you, John Boehner. Shame on you, Harry Reid. Shame on all you Republican and Democrat members of Congress alike. Don’t blow your own horn and be proud of what you did. You nearly screwed it up for everyone with your tantrums and whining and it’s not over yet. And the children continue to wonder when, if ever, they will be allowed to call some place home.

So you ask me, what can I do about this mess, John? First of all, take care of the children that you have in your home. Provide for them, love them, and meet their needs. Then find a way to help one, just ONE of these children that are stuck in the “system”. Be a foster parent. Be a Big Brother or Big Sister. Be a mentor. Or, maybe even go so far as to provide a Permanent home for one of them. Sure, they have struggles and behavioral problems. Who wouldn’t? Let someone yank you from your family, no matter how abusive they are, and tell me you’re not going to have a hard time dealing with it.

Secondly, if you see another family in your community struggling with raising the kids that they have, don’t let the first thing you do be to call children’s services. Let the FIRST thing you do be to go to them and see what you can do to help. Maybe that single mom just doesn’t have enough time in the day to get everything done. Maybe her job doesn’t pay her enough to keep the electric on and put gas in the car and keep the heat on and put food on the table. It’s expensive to live in this country. Maybe that couple has never had anyone show them what being a parent is really all about. Remember, we don’t get a training manual for this. Maybe the child with Autism or Developmental Delay or ADHD is just more than they know how to handle. Maybe they just need someone to help them along for a little while and point them in the right direction to get the services that they need, or even to take the child off their hands for a few hours and give them some rest.

Really, it’s not that hard to love on someone, even if it’s just for a little while. And children can use all the love they can get. So put yourself out there. Go out on a limb and risk having your heart broken. You’re an adult…probably…and I think you can handle it. Probably much more than one of these kids can.

Can you tell I'm angry? Can you tell this important to me? And I make no apologies for it.

My wife woke up this morning…crying and sad and with a broken heart. But she woke up. And it wasn’t the end of the world. And I’m sure, knowing her the way I do, that she will do it all again. Some other child somewhere along the way will benefit from her love and compassion. She can't help herself.

There are a lot more smiles than there are tears when children are involved. And even the tears are worth it all.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


You know the old saying, "The only thing you can count on to remain the same is for nothing to remain the same"? Seems like that could be the motto for my life. But usually, it's a good thing.

I "had"? to get a new phone a couple months ago, a Droid X for those of you in the know, and I've spent that time figuring out all its bells and whistles. And yes, it comes with actual bells and whistles! I was thinking about the Iphone, but at the time Apple and Verizon had not joined hands and I liked the bigger screen on the X. Maybe next time for the Iphone.
Anyway, one of the big things about this phone that I have discovered is the availability to download the app for I have always been a big reader, (or should I say heavy? No. Voracious? Yeah, that works) and about 17 years ago I discovered the joy of Books-on-Tape. Then that progressed to Books-on-Cd, which for some reason does not have quite the same ring to it, and about 3 years ago I started loading books on my Ipod.
Then I discovered this app for Audible that I can put on my Droid X and I don't need to use the Ipod anymore, which my daughter is quite happy about since she crashed hers and is now using my old one. The app allows me to access any book that I've purchased through, download it to my phone, listen to it, and then delete it from the phone, without ever having to hook up to a computer. Which means it can do all this while I'm asleep. Which is good. Sometimes the download takes a while, but I usually keep a few books waiting while I finish the one I'm listening to now. Some of the books that I've listened to over the last couple weeks:
"Black Cherry Blues" by James Lee Burke, I love James Lee Burke's style of writing but I much prefer Will Patton as the narrator to Mark Hammer. Mark Hammer just doesn't seem realistic in his reading. Too stilted and false sounding.
"Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter" by Tom Franklin, a new author for me to try,
about half of "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" by William L. Shirer It's HUGE! Over 57 hours! LOTS of detail that I just had to get away from for a bit,
"Water for Elephants" by Sara Gruen one of the few books I've read where a female author writes in the first person from the perspective of a male character. And she does it VERY well,
"Waking Lazarus" by T.L. Hines, I got this one because Tom Stechshulte is the narrator and I loved the reading he did of "The Lords of Discipline" by Pat Conroy.
"Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury I read this years ago in high school but for some reason always remembered it as being written by JD Salinger. Don't know why that is,
"Slumdog Millionaire" by Vikas Swarup, originally published as "Q & A". One of the best narrators I've heard in a long time and it was an excellent movie as well. And
"Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy" by Donald B Krabill, Steven M. Nolt, and David L. Weaver-Zercher. This, my dear friends, was an amazing book. It revolves around the response of the Amish community to the shooting of 10 schoolgirls at Nickel Mines, PA in October, 2006. It went a long way towards explaining what the Amish believe about grace and forgiveness, and how they live this belief in their daily lives. This book had me in tears a number of times and made me examine my own feelings of anger, bitterness, and my desire for vengeance. This is a must-read book for anyone who has had, currently has, or is planning on interacting or having a relationship with ANY other individual on the planet. You know who you are.
The books that are waiting in the wings are:
"A Time To Betray: The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent Inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran" by Reza Kahlili,
"Every Man Dies Alone" by Hans Fallada, translated by Michael Hofman, narrated by George Guidall,
"Light in August" by William Faulkner,
"Summer's Path" by Scott Blum,
"The Great Santini" by Pat Conroy,
"A Dangerous Fortune" by Ken Follett,
"The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara,
"A Game of Thrones" by George R. R. Martin,
"Daemon" by Daniel Suarez,
and "Freedom" by Daniel Suarez.

Other changes: We have a new little boy in the house, and it looks as though he's gonna be here for a while. He's been here for about three weeks now and the county is trying to decide where they want him "permanently". He'll probably be placed with us for the long-term. He's a cutie though. Just turned two and a tiny thing. No big "special" needs that we know of right now, except a severe peanut allergy. That makes 6 kids in the house. Some days are more interesting than others.
My parents came for a visit a couple weeks ago and we had a wonderful time with them, but I think I heard them breathe a sigh of relief as they headed for my brother's house. Just kidding , Mom. All I can say is we live in a busy house.
Work has been slow for a couple months but seems to be picking up. The interesting thing is that with fuel prices rising again, my boss is trying to combine runs when he can. So every other week, instead of me doing western Michigan, Chicago, and Milwaukee, I've been going to Toledo, Detroit, and Flint, MI Before going on to Grand Rapids, Chicago, and Milwaukee. And two weeks ago we started a new customer in Fort Wayne, IN which I hit this week on the way home. So work is still slow but the run is getting longer. Sad thing is that when my run gets longer, someone else's gets shorter. Or gets cut altogether. Which means the other driver works in the factory all day on Monday instead of being out on the road where he loves it.
So there you go. Life in our dull and boring world.

How's your world spinning?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

How's this?

So tell me. Does this grab you as the opening scene for a novel, or not? Honest opinions please.

The piercing sound of the alarm finally penetrated his dreams and he began to wake to reality once again. Four-thirty in the morning was too early for most people and he needed some time to wake up. The anticipation of this day had made it difficult for him to fall asleep the night before; that and the torturous lumps of his parents old couch, on which he had spent the last three nights. But he was awake now, all dreams and visions gone from his mind.

He sat up and slowly pushed his out-of-shape body off the couch and started towards the kitchen to make coffee, banging his shin on the coffee table that his brother had made for their parents in tenth grade.

He held back the word that came to his lips, can’t say those things in mother’s house, and limped into the kitchen. He found the coffee and the filters in the same cabinet his mother had kept them in for the 28 years his parents had lived in this house, and started the brand new coffee maker brewing a fresh pot.

Coffee makers did not last long in this house at the rate that his father drank the stuff, and he was usually safe in buying them a new one at least every other Christmas, if not more. If the last one hadn’t given up the ghost by then, it probably wouldn’t be much longer. And then his mother would have his father climb the pull-down stairs to the attic to retrieve one of the fresh new coffee makers that sat up there in the darkness, still in their boxes, just waiting to be put to use.

These thoughts ran through his mind as he watched the dark liquid begin to fill the bright glass pot and realized that he had other business to take care of right now. He headed down the hall, so familiar there was no need to turn on the lights, and turned into the hall bathroom his mother kept fresh and clean for the frequent guests that came to visit. He stood before the commode, trying to aim his stream. He certainly did not want to splash anywhere in here. He was startled by the memories that came flooding back to him; the days that his mother and father had spent training him in all the little things that make a boy into a man.

And here he was, a man in his parents’ house, no longer the child who needed training. His own wife and children asleep in the back bedroom his parents kept as a guest room. He moved about in the familiar darkness, doing the things a man does when he is the only one awake in the early morning hours.

He finished in the bathroom, dried his hands on the small guest towel his mother kept hanging by the sink, and went back towards the kitchen. The coffee should just about be finished by now and he found that he needed the familiarity of that domestic habit, on this day in particular.

He poured the strong brew into the old travel mug that he carried with him wherever he went, and sat at the kitchen table. It was his desire to leave his family a short note before he started out and he was glad for the quiet that allowed him to focus his thoughts, but his thoughts were slow in coming. And as he sat in the stillness, pen in hand, paper and coffee on the Formica tabletop before him, he thought of the course that he was to begin on this day, and the possibilities it might bring back to his wife and children, and of all the joy that they had shared already as a family. And he wondered if his decision to embark on this campaign would bring some of that joy back. Or would it bring about their destruction?

In the end, he decided a short note telling them that he loved them and hoped to be back soon would be enough. He folded the note into thirds, wrote his wife and children’s names on it, and propped it against the napkin holder, which was shaped like a duck from a children’s book, and which his mother kept in the center of the kitchen table. They would be sure to see it there when they sat down with his parents for breakfast in a few hours. By that time, he hoped to be halfway across the state, heading east.

His note left, his bags having been packed the night before, he found that there was nothing more keeping him from starting out. It was time. Today was the day that he had been working towards for so many months, if not years, and it could not be put off any longer. He went to the front coat closet and got his old leather coat. He would need the warmth of this old coat this morning, and in the days to come. The mornings were still chilly in March here in central Texas and the smell of this old coat kept the memories of home close.

He picked up his small duffel bag of clothes, grabbed his travel mug off the kitchen table, opened the kitchen door that led out to the carport and his parents’ driveway, went outside and pulled the door shut quietly behind him. He stood in the driveway in front of his pickup and looked up at the bright stars overhead. He knew that he was being slow about getting started on his journey and that he was only putting off the inevitable. Still, he stared a few moments and allowed his mind to traipse back over the years. Back to the early years of joy and happiness, the wonderful births of his children, the usual financial struggles that came with young children and young parents. And then the later years came. The months and years of pain and of fear and of anger and betrayal.

He hoped that this expedition would bring an end to those years of turmoil, and that maybe, just maybe, it would set things right. But maybe not. Either way, this was as good a day to get started as any. This was as good a day to fix things as any other day. This was as good a day as any to kill some people. If not today, than when?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A conversation with Preston

Preston is getting ready for school this morning. I'm standing there watching him making sure he keeps moving. He is putting on shoes.

Preston: I like to just slip my shoes on without untying them.
Me: I do too. Mostly because I'm fat and I can't breathe when I bend over to tie them.
Preston: Dad, your not fat.
Me: Yes I am. As a matter of fact according to the american medical association I am obese.
Preston: Obese?
Me: Yes.
Preston: You mean obtuse?
Me: That too.
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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Thaw and Freeze

In the morning the parking lots are all ice. By afternoon they're slush. Next day, rinse and repeat.
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