The Heartache of Houseparenting

It’s 9/11 and I have spent the day in Washington DC walking around and seeing as many of the legendary monuments as I could. I’m tired, my feet hurt, and I’m a bit bummed out. My wife and I were going through the Holocoast Museum when I got a call from  one of the girls who will be leaving the children’s home, and knowing how things go in this business, I’m just not sure if I will ever get to see her again. 
Houseparents are as different as the children that they attempt to care for. We all try to connect with the children; some we do others we don’t, and once in a while there’s a bond equivalent to that of our own biological children. And just like my own children some will make some bad choices. Perhaps too many bad choices. 

Well I lost one like that today, and my heart is breaking. We had to say good bye on the phone instead of in person. I’m wondering now if a seed has been planted and nourished enough in that young girls heart enough so that it will grow and flourish. Will she learn from her bad decisions and change or will she continue down the wrong road making bad decisions that will be more and more permanent. 

I can’t help but think of another little girl that I watched grow up. I tried my best to be a mentor to her as well, after all she was my niece and even though she did such heartbreaking and maddening things, I still loved her. She’s not little anymore. She’s a momma now, but she can’t raise the child because she is in confinement. She as multip felonies on her and such a bad drug addiction that I wonder if there is any hope of a future. 

It’s a heartache that keeps me trying. Some you win; some you loose, but I must keep trying. 

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Road Trip (Part 4): Virginia

A good portion of Saturday we spent on the road. We did get a late start. I discovered a little country music store in Pigeon Forge and we just had to stop. Most of what we traveled on Saturday was familiar to me because I used to drive it quite a bit as a truck driver, but it was new to Paula. Even just driving down the interstate is very scenic. 

We stopped just across the Virginia state line at the visitor center. It was right next to Bristol, VA or TN. I didn’t know it but Bristol claims to be the starting place of country music. The first recorded music anyway began there. It began in the 1920’s when Ralph Peer, a record producer came from New York to Bristol to record some of the local music. Those recordings were to early starts of Country Music, and the first stars in the genre. People like the Carter family, Jimmie Rodgers, and Earnest T. Stoneman had their start in Bristol. 

I will probably regret it, but we didn’t take the time to visit Bristol. It was already about 3:00 and we wanted to get at least half way through Virginia, so we moved on. 

We stopped at a campsite in back of a TA truck stop by Lexingburg, VA, home of the legendary Stonewall Jackson. Lexington was founded in 1786, so I was excited to get to visit this area. Saturday night we ventured into the cemetery were Jackson is buried and took some pictures. 


Anyone who has known me long at all must know that I have a real love for old cemeteries. But Arkansas, where I live just doesn’t have all that many of the really old kind, so I have greatly missed my cemetery walks that I used to go on up in Rock Island. But this cemetery and the ones I visited in Franklin are the very thing I love about cemeteries: history. 

Most of the stones are too old and worn to read, but there is a pleasing quality to them none the less. I’ve drug my family through a number of cemeteries. They just don’t seem to get it. When I find one that I really like, I can usually find some books about it and the people that are buried there. 

Modern cemeteries just don’t seem to do it for me. They are much better organized with pretty longer lasting stones and laser engravings which can produce any kind of picture you might want. Those are okay I guess, but for some reason I am drawn to the really old dilapidated areas of the cemetery. That’s where I like to go and just let my mind wonder. Those were hard time back then. Many stones are from little children. 
Since Jackson’s house was just a couple blocks away, we walked to it. It was a little farther than what my wife destribes as “walking distance” but she endured it and we got to see some of this very historic town. 

Lexington is a pretty small town by population, but it is home to the Washington and Lee University, and Virginia Military Institude. Cadets were walking all over the town in their nice white uniforms. This institute is one of the oldest of its king in the country. It is none as the West Point of the south and prides itself on quality and discipline. 

Both colleges are very old with lots of historic sites. Washington and Lee University started all the way back in 1749. It’s name has changed several time, but it has played a major part in the history of the United States. The two institutions are next to each other. I only took a little time walking thing the Washing and Lee University. I do believe it was one of the most beautiful campus’s I have been on. I don’t think there was a single weed to be found. 

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Road Trip Continues (Part 3): Smokie Mountains & Gatlinburg, TN

Paula and I have come to the conclusion at this point that there is more that we want to see than we have time to see. Even though my wife and I are total opposites, both of us were able to what we love to do. I love nature and she loves to go shopping and looking around. That is exactly what  we did on Friday. We had no real plans, there was just a couple thoughts. I wanted to see Clingman’s Dome which was the highest point in the Smokie Mountains. This took a bit longer than anticipated because the mountains were so beautiful that we kept stopping to enjoy the scenery. Most of the morning and early afternoon were spent exploring the mountains. 

First stop was the Gatlinburg visitors center. This ended up being kind of home base for the day. We didn’t know it at the time, but it is impossible to get parking in Gatlinburg without paying a whole ton of money. The visitor center which is in between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge is also one of the big places to catch the trolleys, and the trolleys are the way to travel, but we didn’t know that at the time. For us, it was a place to get souvenirs and information. 

It is also a place where some tours begin. We saw an interresting little bus that I wish I could have drove around. 

After looking around we headed out and really got some incredible pictures. 

The pictures really don’t do the view we saw justice, but it is all we had. I’ve been up to Clingman’s Done once before. I don’t remember what year it was, but it had to have been about 10 years ago. We came in early string and the road leading to the highest point was closed from December through April. So if I was going to get there, I was going to have to walk the 8 miles up there and back alone. And that is exactly what I did. I didn’t see another person the entire hike up the hill, but I did see little bear cubs which really freaked me out because I didn’t see momma bear, and I spent the whole hike thinking she was going to jump out of the woods at any point. 

This time we drove up the road with little trouble, however there was a 1/2 mile stretch that had to be walked from the information center to the top of the hill. Paula was less than enthused about making that 1/2 mile journey. She tried, but kept needing to rest. I ended up going up completing the short hike without her. 

It was quite a bit cooler up on the mountain than what it was in the lower elevations, but the biggest disappointment was when I got up there, the done was under construction which didn’t leave any real view at all. I guess they need to work on it sometime, but I think they could have picked a better time than when I want to go up. 

Last time when I made it up to the done there was a deer up there that just stood there no matter how close I got to it. I felt I could have reached out and touched it on the nose, but I didn’t. Anyway, this time all I got was costruction workers who would let me by. That is just all kinds of wrong. 

Oh well, life has it’s disappointments, and the view was incredible. So I headed back down, and we drove through the mountains some more. Paula had not been to North Carolina before, so we drove south for a while.

We stopped some place along the road to have lunch. I had bought some Toe Jam back in Franklin, so now was my chance to enjoy a Toe Jam and Peanut Butter Sandwitch on the side of the road. 

This was an incredible day. I had so much fun and I wish I could be out here for a week or more hiking trails and enjoying nature. But now it was time to go explore Gatlinburg. 

The neatest thing I did in Gatlinburg was to go up in the Space Needle tower and take pictures. 

Paula really just walked around and enjoyed the shops. It was a lot of fun. 

It was late before we made it back to the campgrounds. We ended the day just sitting around the fire outside our tent. I wrote this post and we just sat and listened to music together. Not a bad day. Not bad at all. 

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Road Trip Continues (Part 2)

Wednesday night was spent at Henry Horto State park. Paula absolutely insist upon having nearby bathrooms after our first night camping. Don’t ask, I’m not aloud to tell anyone. So camping just got a little more expensive, but a little more expensive than free isn’t too bad, yet. After getting up and around we headed for Pigeon Forge. The campgrounds at Henry Horton State Park were wonderful. We camped next to the bathroom/bathhouse. No Coyotes this time. We were able to take a shower and it was a very nice shower, the type you just hate to leave. It was a nice park with a river running through it, but we weren’t there long. It was after ten when we arrived, but no worries, Paula are getting the hang of things and we set the tent up and built a fire without much trouble. 

We only drove about 4 hours Thursday. It was a beautiful drive with lots of rolling hills. Paula drove most of the day. She was able to get a taste of what I have gone through as a truck driver. In just about every city when traffic picks up people get in a hurry and drive like a bunch of teenagers hyped up on Meth. Since we live in a small town, we don’t experience such people very often. 

Dolly Parton has her pictures and name all over the place in Tennessee. I think she must have bought the state. The further east you get the more prevelant her face. I don’t mind. I admire the woman and all the things she’s accomplished. I read her biography a couple months ago which may have been the only book I actually read this year as opposed to my wife’s hundred and something books. I love biographies about musicians and songwriters. Dolly Parton is a great song writer and her humble beginnings make for a capturing story. 

Therefore, I had to stop to see the town she grew up near: Sevierville. It was a much bigger town than I was picturing. There was a little statue right next to the incredible looking courthouse. We walked around Sevierville for quite a while largely because we got lost, but it was still fun. 

The Statue of Dolly must have been based on the younger woman. It didn’t look much like her.  

I took a couple pictures of young Dolly because it was late afternoon and the sun was not cooperating. We thought about getting our son a t-shirt or some sort of souvenir just to be annoying. He really doesn’t like Dolly Parton. But other than that he’s  a pretty good guy. 

Next we pulled into our campgrounds: The Eagles Nest. This a pretty good little set up for those with RVs. It has a little rec. room, a pool, laundry room, bathrooms, and showers. It was the cheapest that we found in the area of Pigeon Forge and probably the nicest. Tent camping was just kind of an open grass lot with no electricity. We are really having trouble charging our electronic devices. Nice quiet place other than one stupid dog that really wanted to poison for barking so long for no apparent reason.

We were delighted to find out that there was free concern on the island in Pigeon Forge. I don’t remember the name of the band, but it was something like Foggy Rythum Brothers even though I know that’s not right. 

A.D.D. set in anyway and we didn’t stay at the concert long. They was good and all, but there were so many shops and things to look at that we wanted to explore. 

There was a big Ferris Wheel, but since my wife has such a fear of heights, there was no chance of riding the thing with her and I hate riding things alone so we just walked around. 

Eventually we got hungry, but most of the resturants on the island were going to cost us 20+ a piece which is just too much for any meal in my opinion. So we ventured off the island and found all sorts of places to eat for about half the price. 

When we found Mel’s Diner it appealed to both of us. Both of us rember the show Alice from when we were kids so we really wanted to go see this place. We were not disappointed. Flo wasn’t there, neither was Mel or Alice, but they had some nice t-shirts with the signature line, “Kiss My Grits” on them. 

Plus the food was amazing. 

Is was packed with people and a waiting line outside. But it wasn’t long before we were seated. I’m a real ice cream lover so when I saw quite a few people sharing some 6 scoop sundays and banna splits, I knew we would be getting dessert as well. We opted for a huge chocolate brownie cake hot fudge sunday that we shared. Powerfully good. 

The last time we were in Pigion Forge was when our children were still pretty small, and I don’t remember anything significant being there. Now it seems about like Branson, MO with all sorts of traffic, shops, shows, and resturants. 

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Road Trip Begins

This will be my first post in quite a while. The reason being that I have been going through a period of depression and I ether didn’t feel like writing or what I was writing was far from being anything anybody would want to read. I still love what I do for a living, but sometimes there is a lot of stress and anxiety that can trigger anger which is quickly followed by depression. 

The truth is I have never really recovered from the blow of being fired several years ago now. I don’t think I’ve recovered from the time I was fired from a position before that. 

Anyway, my wife and I have two weeks off and we are going on a road trip out east. We are stopping at various places on our way out to our nations capital, then we will be heading up to Ohio to visit some family before coming home. Tuesday we stopped in Memphis for a little while and got to see one of the most awesome Bass Pro Shops I have ever seen. It was located in the Pyrmid just over the river. 

This place was incredible with an inside river with fish as big as my little granddaughter who my wife and I were both wishing could have come. 

I was almost attacked by a bear in the the store. Luckily Is as able to see him just before he had me for lunch and I ran away to the fudge shop. 

Here is one picture I took from inside Bass Pro Shop. This place was truly incredible AND FREE. Well they did con us into buying fudge and some candy pecans, but for the most part free, and that’s important to me. 

We also stopped by the visitors center which was’t far from the pyrmid. It was there that we took selfies with Elvis and B.B. King. I was a little disappointed that they wouldn’t talk to us, but they seemed bigger than life anyway. 

We spent the night at a primitive campsite along the Natches Trail southwest of Nashville. It was also free!!! First night camping. I didn’t sleep well. Wednesday morning we were up early to we could have breakfast at Marcy Jo’s Mealhouse Resturant. This may be just a little rundown country resturant, but it is also in the family of my favorite country artists: Joey and Rory. The resturant was started by Joey and Marcy (Rory’s sister). Just down the street is Joey and Rory’s farm. Joey died just last year and it coming upon her birthday. In honor of that Rory is planning to perform at their farm Friday and Saturday. This would be very difficult to Rory since he stated he had no interest in performing without her. Tickets were a hundred dollars, and the shows are all sold out. BUMMER!!! 

The little resturant is just the way I like it. Humble, old, filled with good food, neat stuff, and uniquely beautiful. When we started planning this trip, I insisted upon eating at this little gem of country living. The food was great and I enjoyed looking around at all the little pictures and nick-nicks of some of my favorite people. 

After Marcy Jo’s we headed up to Franklin, TN. This is a beautiful little town with a lot of historic significance. It was not only a battle spot in the Civil War, but it is also historically significant for those in the Church of Christ. But I was hear for a different reason. Since I have been so depressed recently, it was suggested that I may need to get in for some counceling. I was reluctant, but there was one man that even though I didn’t know him personally, I felt could be helpful. He not only had the scientific education and experience to understand the emotional struggles I was facing, he was also a preacher that I have greatly admired for years. I just didn’t think there would be anyway I would be able to meet with him. I was wrong. Paula stepped in, contacted him, and made an appointment. Wednesday morning I was able able to sit down face to face with one of my heroes. 

The meeting was very helpful and left me feeling a new sense of energy and hope. I now feel I have a new weapon in my arsonel to help when I am really struggling. Several suggestions were made, most that I already thought of, but it is nice to get some affirmation that I was on the right track. I feel a friend was gained and I am forever greatful. 

Paula and I walked around Franklin for a while then headed up to Nashville to look around. We didn’t have much time, but we were able to tour the capital building which was a treat. We then went back to Franklin for a walk around the cemeteries and a short walk around town before heading to the church for a small group Bible study. 

Paula and I were pretty wore out by the time to meet with the church, but I don’t think I have ever experienced a finer group of people that really energized us. After the study we talked with several people and one offered to take us out to eat. It turned out that we new many of the same people from where Paula and I went to school. It was a wonderful meal and even more than wonderful conversation. 

After eating Paula and I left for the State Park south east of Nashville. We set up our tent, built a fire, and sat down to talk. Wonderful day. 

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Feeling Helpless

I’ve seen a lot of suffering in my life. Quite often I’ve had a front row helplessly watching as people have struggled with illness (usually cancer) till there was nothing left of them to struggle with. Currently, my wife’s mother has been diagnosed with ALS which is terminal. I don’t have much problem with the dying part. We’re all going to die and that is sad enough, but it is the suffering that often comes before death that I find so hard to bare. 

My mother, on the other hand, is not terminal. Physically, she is great shape and she is not that old. But mentally she is tormented worse than anything I have ever witnessed. My heart aches for her, and I wish so bad I could end her suffering. Nobody is really sure what’s wrong. She’s been to some of the best psychiatrists and hospitals in her area. Everybody has their own opinions, diagnosis, and suspicions, but nothing is helping. The hospitals uually end up trying to diagnose her with dementia so they can pass her on to the nursing home and be done with her. But finding a nursing that will take her is not an easy task and its even more difficult to find one that will keep her. 

We’ve been through this several times over the last decade. I’ve actually lost count as to how many times. As I said, we are not sure what causes it, but each time she starts getting delusional, we know she has a urinary track infection. She is also a very brittle diabetic (type 1), which really complicates everything. She usually has to be hospitalized and each time she is, the hospital  just makes a bad situation even worse before trying to discharge her. This last time it took a court order for the hospital to even admit her. And each time a new doctor basically starts over from scratch. It is sickening. 

It’s one thing when the hallucinations begin and she may think she’s some sort of messiah or a demon depending on her mood), but it gets so much worse. I’ve seen her go for days sobbing, and I do mean sobbing not just crying. She walks around like a zombie completely lost and confused. She can get very mean and violent which scares all the patience. One time it took 5 police officers to get her in the car to go to the hospital. I’ve seen her ripping at her skin and screaming because she is convinced bugs are eating her alive. 

Recently, I was told how she was screaming and flopping around on her bed convinced that she is being raped. It reminds me of the old movie “The Exorcism” which scared me so bad as a child. Her head my not spin around, and she doesn’t speak in other lanquages, but the anguish and unrelenting torment is just as real and heartbreaking to watch or even hear about. 

This usually last a couple months, costs tens of thousands dollars that she has spent her life saving, and then slowly she gets better. She’ll go on living just fine for quite a while, and then it’ll come back all over again, and the whole process will begin again. 

I guess the most comforting thing about it is when it’s over she doesn’t remember most of it. But she does remember things which are distorted from reality, and this may cause her to be angry at family who have tried their best to help her. 

I haven’t been there for this episode because I live 500 miles away now, and it was her request for me to not be involved. That, of course, doesn’t make it any easier. I am so frustrated with hospitals who take her money and do nothing but cause harm. I feel a sense of shame that I can’t be there. I feel hurt that I’m not wanted there, but most of all, I feel helpless do change the situation.  

I am appalled by the mental health help available in this country. Most people are not aware of how bad it is until they see a friend or relative having issues. There are hardly no long term fascillities and quite often the only help offered by the most educated people involves doing little more than prescribing drugs. If that doesn’t work, they will give more drugs. 

I think we all dread the day we our parents pass from this life, but seeing the suffering is so much worse. 

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The Arkansas River Trail

Everybody needs a new toy once in a while just to keep life interresting. My new toy for the last month or so has been my bicycle, and I have really been enjoying it. 

I haven’t been doing a lot of cardio  exercise since my last 5K in February since I started having some nerve issues. As a person diagnosed with  Multiple Sclerosis, I decided to take it easier for a while. But thanks to my new toy I’ve been more active. 

I can’t go like the youngsters at the bike club, but I can still go and have fun. I also have a new app on my phone that makes it all more interresting. It keeps track of my miles and my elevation. It even records my efforts and speed. Cool right? Well, I think it’s cool. 

I’ve been hearing about a bike trail in downtown Little Rock that goes on both sides of the river from between interstates 440 and 30. So Tuesday my son and I decided to meet in Little Rock and go for a little bike ride. We started over in Two Rivers Park, which made the trip about 25 miles. There were places where the trial had to be shared with other traffic, but most of the time in was just pedestrians and bicycles with made it nice. We crossed three bridge altogether, and all three were bridges were devoted to foot and bicycle traffic. 

This is a picture of my son as we were going over the bridge from Two Rivers Park. He was smart enough to bring a helmet and sunglasses. Me, on the other hand, I brought a helmet and sun glasses, but they were still in the truck when my wife drove off to take our granddaughter to the zoo. 
The picture below is of the Big Dam Bridge which is the biggest bridge devoted to foot traffic and bicycles. It was really something to see. 

This is me on the bridge looking over the river. 

Parts of the trail were under construction, and I think some are still under water from all the rain we’ve been getting. Still it was a very nice ride. 

The next two pictures are from the third bridge located just west of I-30

On the other side of the bridge is the Clinton Memorial Library. We stopped there just long enough to take pictures in front of the big bugs out front. 

Downtown Little Rock has got a lot of construction going on which includes the bicycle path. So we had to find find our way around at times and travel on some very busy streets, but we made it through okay till we were back on the path again. 

Altogether my son and rode 30 miles before we put up our bicycles for the day. Both of us were a little sunburned and tired, but inspired at the same time. Where will we go next? I don’t know. But riding a bicycle is a whole lot funnier than running, and I plan on doing much more this summer.  

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