Family & Old Friends

One of the few benefits I enjoy about being an over the road truck driver is once a while I get to visit with old friends that I would not be able to see otherwise. That was the case this week. Thanks to Facebook, I still have some contact with a few of my friends from when I was in the Marine Corps. In this case, it wasn’t my old friend who contacted me, instead it was one of his daughters. That was a few years ago, but we finally met up with each other last Saturday.

Mike and I met while in infantry training school at Camp Pendleton in the beginning of 1985. After training, there were only a few of us who went to the same unit together and eventually overseas. There’s really only two of those I left ITS with that I still have contact with today. After coming back from overseas, I changed companies and headed overseas again. So I didn’t see much of either one of them from 1986 on.

Out of all the people I have known in the Marines, Mike and I have been married the longest. Mike had four children (all girls), and I had two (one of each), all of which are now grown with several having children of their own. Mike and I haven’t seen each other since we were both younger than any of our children are now. It was a weird feeling.

I have visited old friends before, but this was very different. Usually, there is only time for a couple cups of coffee while the two of us talk about old memories and significant events that have taken place since. But this time, it was more like a party. Mike’s daughters along with husbands and children all came over to see their dad’s old friend. One traveled over 50 miles to be there, and I’m glad she did. She was a hoot. She reminded me of Fat Amy from the Pitch Perfect movies; super funny and super talented. She was the youngest and the only one not married, but I’m sure that won’t last long.

Now for somebody who has to make a living away from his own family, this couple of hours was very special to me. We may not have seen each other in decades, but somehow I felt like I fit right in with the family, and oh how I have missed that.

Both my parents had large families, and some of my favorite memories were when everyone would get together for the Holidays or some other event. We’d all sit around the table laugh, cut up, and even bicker together. That’s family, and there is nothing else quite the same. Each is a little different, but there’s enough similarities to know the same blood is in each one.

It’s always seemed so sad to me when that special element just kind of disappears. People get older, some will divorce and remarry, some will move away, some die, and some fight until they can’t stand each other anymore. Either way, the family just kind of dissolves and something beautiful sort of disappears unless it reforms in different ways and starts over.

For somebody whose been feeling a bit alienated, lonely, and homesick, this was special to watch. It’s been tough for me. In 2013 I left my home town and my aging mother to pursue a career dream (once again) that has never really worked out for me. Now, not only am I prevented from being with my mother during this phase in her life, but I’m right back to doing the very work I tried to get away from.

My wife and I seem to be drifting apart. I don’t see her much any more. When I’m home from the road, she has been gone to visit her mother who is very sick. We don’t share many of the same interests and we have opposing views on some issues we are both passionate about. I’m losing her.

Technically, I live in the same town as my children, but I’m gone most of the time, and when I’m not they either have to work or have other plans. I’m alone all the time it seems. I walk alone, I eat alone, I watch movies alone. I wonder if God is punishing me for not taking care of my mother. She’s alone too, and I don’t know what to do about it.

I wasn’t meaning for this to be my own pitty party. I really just wanted to say how special it was to visit not just an old friend, but to experience family even while on the road.

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Thoughts on Mass Shootings

At the risk of losing some more friends, I feel compelled to share some personal thoughts on the mass shootings taking place on a regular basis in our country. The reason I feel such a strong need to share on this matter is because I think people have really missed the point. Gun control is not the real problem, although it’s become a real problem because of the real problem, and nobody seems to be talking about the real problem.

What is the real problem? The real problem has to do with mental illness, unresolved anger, untreated depressions, and unrelenting feelings of hopelessness. Regardless what your thoughts are, I ask you to hear me out. Right now health care in the United States is a disaster and we all feel it, but mental health care is even worse. Many insurance companies won’t cover it at all. For people like me in the lower middle, help is practically unattainable. So I’m not going to write this from the perspective of the right or the left. Instead, I would like us to try to consider it from the mind of the killer.

Please don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe I am any kind of a threat. I have no desire to hurt anyone. But I do believe I share in some of the thoughts that lead to these shootings. I’m not proud of them. In fact, for me they are pretty easy to dismiss for more reasonable thinking. But the fact that the thoughts are there give me a little insight into what nobody else seems to be thinking about.

I believe it all started with Columbine. I remember my first thoughts after hearing about that shooting. Inside I knew that that one event would trigger a whole series of other events and it has. Now if you were never picked on as a child; if you were never the outcast trying desperately just to fit in; if you’ve never thought life sucked and wanted to get back at those who made it suck, you probably won’t relate to this. Perhaps to you, these shooters are nothing more than stupid idiots, cowards, and evil people who need to die and burn in Hell. But that is the very thinking that makes these killers want to shoot people.

There’s no way to know the mind of each of the killers, but I feel there are some things the mass killers have in common.

  1. They each are suffering from severe emotional pain.
  2. They feel rejected and incapable of fitting in with those around them.
  3. They have not found the elements in life that make it enjoyable.
  4. They feel hopeless and suicidal.
  5. They are incredibly pissed off at the world, and they want to hurt people. The more the better. In a sense they have found a purpose that they are willing to die for.
  6. They want to get our attention even if they have to die to do it.

Many of us have had some of these feelings especially while growing up as teenagers, but we found resources to help us deal with the circumstances before our thoughts turned to drastic action. People can normally deal with a few items on the list without it ever becoming a real problem, but when a person is experiencing all of them together, you have a dangerous person. All they need now is the instrument to get our attention.

Now if you are angry to the point that you no longer want to live, but you want to hurt as many people as possible, how are you going to do it? Well a bomb is a pretty good choice. Timothy McVeigh certainly was able to get everyone’s attention through a bomb. But since that time, the government has cracked down in all sorts of ways to prevent anything like the bombing of the Federal building from ever happening again. Plus, not everyone knows how or has the ability to create a bomb capable of killing a lot of people. The Boston Marathon bombing killed 6 people along with injuring several others, but I bet they were hoping for more. But once again, we cracked down on that being able to be done again too.

9/11 demonstrated how a mass amount people could be killed using some hijacked aircrafts. But we’ve also grown wise to that. We’ve increased airport security, armed pilots, put pilots behind locked doors and so forth. Not likely that will ever happen again.

Some had some success using vehicles, but people have more time to move out of the way, it’s more likely to only injure people instead of killing them, and the killer more likely to be arrested being killed himself. I suppose a person could use a knife too, but nobody is going to get very far that way. It is unlikely a person will be able to get in even a couple slashed before being put down by some courageous bystanders.

So again I propose the question: If you have hate in your heart and want to kill as many people as possible using only the means you have available to you, how would you do it? The answer is obvious to me: guns. And it can’t be just any guns either. I would need something that can shoot fast and shoot a lot before being reloaded. I would need several of these weapons so that when one jammed or ran out of ammo, I could grab the next one. Once people have a chance to react, I’d be finished.

This isn’t rocket science. It doesn’t take intelligence to kill a bunch of people. It doesn’t even have to take a lot of planning. It just takes a crowd and some powerful weapons. People won’t know what hit them, nor do they have a chance to respond before there are dead bodies everywhere.

Now if I was such a killer, would I be worried about people in the crowd being armed? No, not really. If I knew who they were (like teachers for example), I would want to take them out first. But considering the fact that assault weapons are capable of killing many people within seconds before anyone has a chance to react, a lot of damage could be done before return fire took place. Besides, as the killer, I’m not planning on being alive when this is over.

In seeking a solution, all the above things need to be kept in mind. Primarily, we need to address why people are getting to the point of angry hopelessness that would lead to the desire to carry out mass murder. That will mean making mental health care available to all the people who need it. It will mean watching for warning signs and trying to address issues before it reaches a state of hopelessness. But I also believe very strongly we are going to need to keep certain weapons out of the hands of certain people.

In writing this, I imagine I will offend all sorts of my friends and family. Just about everyone I know are either gun owners or at the very least want the right to own guns. I share many of their concerns. I grew up hunting and I would like to preserve our right to hunt. I also like to spend time on the range shooting at targets, and I want the ability to protect myself and my family. But I do believe it is possible to have these rights to some degree while restricting those rights from those who may be dangerous. This would mean stricter laws as far as who can own weapons.

Our children are afraid to go to school. Throughout the country children are walking out of the classroom protesting on behalf of their own safety. The NRA with all its money is buying up political power in order to secure its right to sell weapons of every kind to anyone with the money to buy them. It has become a real crisis and until some significant changes are made it’s not likely to get better. We’ve got to get help to people who need it and we need to find ways of keeping such harmful weapons out of the hands of such dangerous people. I’m not for taking away guns, but to not restrict who can own them is a very big mistake.

So I’ve said my thoughts. Please feel free to share yours.

What do you think will help put an end to the mass shootings?

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When 💩 Happens

I remember the scene in the movie Old Yeller that I have never forgotten. . It’s that scene after Travis had to shoot and heartbreak is all around. Travis’ father returns and has even brought his boy a new horse, but Travis is too down to be thinking about the horse. The father goes out to see Travis who’s just experienced his first real blow. There is just one word on Travis’ mind: WHY? It’s an incredible moment. It’s a welcome to manhood moment. The father says to his boy words to the effect, “I don’t know? Every once in while it seems, for no reason that anybody can figure out, that life will hit so hard that it knocks all the wind out of you.”

It’s true for everyone I suppose. We all face setback, broken dreams, loss, and disappointment. It scares the Hell out of us and makes you us like you’ll never recover. But we usually do. At least that has been my experience. After the confusion of the major blow there’s not much else to do but pick up the pieces and try to go on until it all happens again, and it will. None us gets out of this alive, and at the very least we will face death with all of it’s ramifications.

It’s been tough lately for my family and I. Depression this winter has been overwhelming at times. But I was picking up the pieces and trying to adjust to the necessary changes. But we’ve gone in debt, changed job, and moved several times. Currently we don’t have health insurance since there is a waiting period with just about any new job. Not that the health insurance will be worth anything with it’s high cost and high deductibles. We were hoping for time. NOPE.

My wife has been having pain in her chest for some time now. I know she should have gone in, but we are simply trying to survive financially right now. But last night the pain was so severe, she had to go in. I still don’t know the outcome. About the only thing I am certain of is DEBT. Big time debt!!! We were just crawling out and hoping to break even in the near future, but that won’t be happening anymore.

I have been very discouraged about our country’s health care for a long time now. I mean we have the best health care in the world. It’s just not available to a big portion of its citizens. Meanwhile, there are billionaires capitalizing on people’s suffering. It really makes me angry. The whole country is all upset and griping about guns because of all the mass shootings. Guns may be part of the problem, but certainly not the real problem. These shooters are all messed up in the head and nobody seems to be talking about trying to figure out how people are getting to such a state where they want to kill people they don’t even know.

If you’ve tried to get mental health care, you’re at least somewhat aware of the problem. It’s really hard to get care and its completely out of reach for the people who need it most. I know; I’m one of those people. So I’m feeling really scared right now. We don’t know what’s wrong with my wife. We don’t know what it’s going to cost us. I’m about a thousand miles away from home trying to make a living so I can give all the money I need to survive to the people who have so much money that they can’t even count it fast enough.

It’s stupid to worry. I just can’t seem to help it. I’m scared, depressed, and yes quite angry. But I guess all I can really do is drive down the road and hope for better days.

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My First Three Weeks

Today marks my third week since I returned to truck driving. I’ve driven 8466 miles so far. I’ve gone to New Jersey, Washington DC, Baltimore, and Gulf Port, MS among other places. So far it hasn’t been too bad. Even though very few truckers like driving on the east coast, I was able to see some old friends and one of the girls we used to have in our cottage when we worked for Souther Christian. I was only there a night, but it was nice to catch up. Such super nice people; it’s such a blessing to know them.

I found a nice place in East St. Louis where I could park the truck and access the metro system to get around. So I spent the day running around downtown St. Louis.

The arch was doing quite a bit of construction so that meant a very long line to get tickets. Took me over an hour standing in line outside, only to discover later that if I would have walked over to the old capital building a few minutes away (which I did anyway) there was no line for tickets for the arch. Words of advice for those planning on visiting the arch. Either get tickets ahead of time or go to the old Capital building to get them. It will save a lot of time. Even though the line was very long, there was only one cashier in the booth by the arch.

But I eventually went up in the arch. I’ve been up there several times in my lifetime, but I think the last time was probably 20 years ago. So I wanted to go up again and get some nice pictures.

Not only did I go to the arch, but I also was able to finally go into the Old Catholic Cathedral located very close to the arch. Out of all the times I had been to St. Louis, I’ve never been able to go inside that building.


This old building was really something to see. There was incredible art work throughout the structure in typical Catholic fashion. The picture immediately above is what you see as you coming in the doors, but there is all sorts beautiful art work and candles along the walls as you walk down the isles. I love old historic building and this one has an incredible history.

Next I’d went over to the Old Capital Building. I’ve been there before when I took a vacation with my children, but it was nice to go again.

I guess the neatest thing about the old building is its history, architecture, and the incredible art work which adorns the walls and ceiling. These pictures just don’t do it justice. It is definitely a place to visit.

I also took the metro over to the historical museum, but I wasn’t able able to spend much time there because it was about closing time. It was a great museum, but I was only able to explore two exhibits before being one of the last ones to leave after glares from the security guards wanting to go home.

I got back to my truck right as the the sun was setting–beautiful.

From St. Louis, I went home for a little while. There was just enough time for me and my wife to take our granddaughter to the Little Rock Zoo. She is so adorable.

It was a nice home visit before returning to the road.

The other thing I was really happy to do was break down and get a much newer phone. I’ve been using a iPhone 4 for the last year or so, and with all the updates and so forth, it really wasn’t working well at all anymore. My wife and I were able to both get phone since they had a two for one special going on. I am so excited to have a newer phone.

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The Reluctant Trucker

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written on my blog. It’s been a tough fall and winter, and now I’ve had to return to the life that I managed to escape from back in June of 2016. For the most part, I really liked working with a children’s home. At first I thought I finally found my niche, but life changes and just because I love a job doesn’t necessarily mean that I will be any good at it. And just because I hate a job, doesn’t that I won’t end up having to do it anyway.

I have sort of a love/hate relationship going with truck driving. When I was a child, I would run away from home and sometimes even hitch hike my way across the country. A number of times I would spend the nights in the truck stops because I could usually sneak into a shower, and there were lounges I could spend the night watching TV. It was a whole lot better than sleeping outside. It was normally truckers who would help me out by giving me a ride and sometimes even a hot meal. The smell of the diesel in the air and the sounds of the idling engines left a last impression on me.

One of my friends from back in Jr. High managed to talk his parents into taking me in for a while. His father was a truck driver, and my friend and I thought we would both be truckers too. After all, they made pretty decent money and it didn’t require a lot of schooling or anything. Living with his family didn’t last very long, but our relationship has. He’s what I call a Super Trucker. He’s been doing it since the 80’s when he graduated high school. Me, I joined the Marines, went to college, got into the ministry, etc.

When things fell apart, I took to driving. Just like when I was a child, I would try to run away from my problems and the people who I didn’t think wanted me around. My old friend and I now talk regularly as we both travel down the road miles away from each other and home. I’ve always been a wonderer. Even though I have tried, I have never been able to stay in one place very long. As a child I had 21 school transfers before graduating, and my adult years haven’t been much better. Since my wife and I met and married, we have moved about 18 times over the last 27 years. Most of the time it wasn’t my intention. Sometimes we moved to chase a better life. Other times we moved because the hope for a better life just didn’t work out. Either way, my whole life has been spent on the move.

Today’s my 53rd birthday and I’m sitting in a truck stop 560 miles from home. I’ve been here many times. It’s only about 90 miles from where I used to live and where my mother and brother still live. The town’s changed a lot over the last decade. They all do. Life’s always moving, and so I’m always moving too. It seems to be my default career. It’s not a life I really chose, but it’s kind of chose me. It’s a living, and at least I make enough to get by.

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Me Of Little Faith

Refuge & Strength by Morgan Weistling Refuge & Strength by Morgan Weistling

It’s been over a decade since I saw this print of Jesus rescuing Peter from the water in a store in Branson, MO. But it has obviously made a lasting impression on me. When I saw it, I believe it had the caption in the mat, “Ye of Little Faith.” I really wish I would have bought that painting because there has never been a more fitting description of my own spiritual journey than that painting.

The story of Peter walking on water is only recorded in one of the Gospels: Matthew in chapter 14. It bothers me that none of the other gospel writers included such a significant event. Especially when all the gospel writers refer to Jesus walking on the water, but not Peter. Be that as it may, the message is one of faith and doubt, and that is what I would like to discuss with you.

People of faith have doubt.

When we read about the great heroes of the Bible, we tend to think of their great faith and what God accomplished through them. We often completely overlook the initial skepticism each had. Even though Peter is criticized for his lack of faith in this story by Jesus himself (Mt. 14:31), I think Peter demonstrates incredible faith. Let us not forget that Peter had enough faith in Jesus to leave his family and career to follow Jesus in the first place. Peter is known for his impetuous nature, but this quality is brought out as a result of a strong faith. After all, it is Peter that calls out to Jesus when he sees him walking on the water so he may join him. It would take faith beyond any reasonable thought to step out on the water in the first place.If we forget this, we miss the real point of the story.

I think the point here isn’t Peter’s lack of faith as much as it is showing doubt in the midst of faith which is something that everone struggles with. I think Christians today are afraid to admit doubt even though we all have some. Faith is not certainty, nor is doubt the opposite of faith. Faith has to do with trusting God in the midst of our doubts.

Those who think doubt is the opposite of faith wonder if they are truly saved if they doubt. Therefore, they keep silent as if they can hide thier thoughts from God. But doubt is normal and even healthy. You would be hard pressed to come up with a biblical figure who didn’t have doubt even though faith remained in tact. God doesn’t always tell us what he’s doing or where he’s going with the events in our life.

Peter stepped out of the boat without a moment of thought or hesitation. Unlike most of us, Peter had seen what Jesus was capable of. He knew Jesus could heal the sick, calm storms, even raise the dead. He had seen it. Therefore, his faith approached certainty more that our own. But even Peter’s strong faith was not immune to the doubt as he noticed the storm all around him. He got side-tracked. As a fisherman, Peter would have been well acquainted with storms on the sea. When he looked at the storm, he freaked out just like anyone of us would have. But even as he was freaking out, he knew on whom to call.

Even people who are held up as pillars of faith (see Heb. 11 for some biblical examples), have times of confusion and doubt. Each has triumphs and each has defeats. It’s even quite common that some severe defeats come after great victories. Who hasn’t had such moments in life? Sometimes we are so confident in God’s existence, grace, and promises that we can not conceive of that confidence changing. Then something happens. We see the unexpected storm, somebody dies, we experience persecution or suffering, even worse we discover we were wrong. These things are not unusual, they are all part of the journey.

Doubt is part of growth.

Perhaps faith is a lot like a muscle; it must be stressed in order to grow. This wasn’t just the case with Peter, but everyone I read about in the Bible and everyone I know. Faith is a growing process and that growing process comes with questions, mistakes, defeats, and doubts. It is when faith is stressed that it is determined. It’s easy for people to talk about faith in God when things are going well. It’s also easy to look down on others who suffer when you are not. Faith is more of an ongoing relationship with continual peaks and valleys instead of an arrival at the summit. Like exercise, it must continue to be stressed to grow. Some will feel like their faith is strong because they go to church, surround themselves with motivational Biblical quotes, often taken out of context, and speak about God’s love in ever event of their lives. It’s easy to criticize when our own faith is not stressed. For example, it is easy to criticize Peter for doubting as he stepped out in faith, but sank in the storm. We criticize him for denying Jesus after claiming he was ready to die with him. We criticize the disciples for running away and hiding when Jesus was being crucified. But who are any of us to say how we would have reacted. Faith is determined by adversity. We may not know it or feel it at the time, but we are being made stronger through the process.

Do we remain silent?

The book of Psalms is a book of worship, yet a great of those psalms express laments, criticism of God, doubts, questions, etc., but Israel considered these Psalms worship. God knows our fears and doubts and there is nothing wrong with communicating them to him and with each other. It’s all a part of being honest with each other and ourselves.

I relate very well to Peter. Much like him, I feel like I have stepped out in faith, but I have become lost in the storm. Much of the time I feel like I am sinking into the sea. I have trouble reconciling certain things I have believed to be true with other things I have learned. I know I’m not alone. There are so many out there who are struggling. Most really want to believe and cry out to Jesus for help even if it doesn’t come as quickly as we would like. Other’s have given up.

I would love to hear from others on this subject. I crave interaction but receive very little. Each of us has our ways of dealing with the doubts and struggles that come our way and I would love to hear from some of you.

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Lessons & Memories 2017

The last couple months of 2017 have been difficult ones for my family, but there are many great memories of 2017 along with some lessons to learn. I may as well admit what’s obvious to everyone who knows me: I’m excessively moody. I don’t mean to be and I’m ashamed of it, but there is no denying it so I may as well face facts and try to fix it.

Women have things like PMS, menopause, Post Pardon Depression, hormones, etc. to blame for their mood swings, but as a man I can’t claim these. I can claim PMS, but that stands for poor me syndrome instead of premenstrual. Either way, I can be every bit as moody as women, but my mood swings last longer. I bring this up because the primary lesson I need to learn from this year is to work on getting better control of my emotions.

There are several things that trigger my emotions and start me on a downward spiral.

  • Improper rest
  • Fixating on failures
  • Critical people (disappointing others)
  • Finances
  • Worrying about EVERYTHING

I also have several coping mechanisms.

  • Exercise
  • Music (listening, playing, writing, or just messing around)
  • Writing
  • Talking with people who won’t just criticize me
  • Walks, preferably in nature
  • Grace, my granddaughter
  • Being around people who can love me in spite of all my flaws.
  • Thinking about good times

There are so many of my triggers that I don’t seem to have much control over. I’ve never been able to sleep well and when I wake up I may as well get up because if I don’t that is when the worrying starts and dark thoughts become overwhelming. I’ve tried medication, meditation, and anything else suggested, but sleep is a big problem. I’ve also noticed that many of my coping mechanisms are not being used.

With this in mind, I would like to reflect on some of the precious memories I have from 2017

  • I have worked with a lot of great kids this year. In December many of the girls I was close to left the home to go to more permanent placements. But new ones come and each touches your heart in a special way. Of all the people I have met over the years, I don’t think anybody I have ever known could cheer me up as much as Anna and Grace (the two girls below). I have so many good memories with these two kiddoes. They both make me feel blessed to know them. There are so many other as well and I don’t mean to overshadow others who mean the world to me but these two really stand out. Both of them are everything I am not, but I really wish I could be. They are happy, goofy, funny and into everything. Grace turned two this year, and I have been so blessed in the time I have had her. Anna got into some trouble and I’m not sure where she is anymore, but I’m hoping our paths will cross again.
  • I have written several songs this past year which I think are pretty good including: Crusty Tea, Aunt Edna, Don’t Poo Poo in Your Pants in your Bible Class, Come out to play, and most recently Poo Poo Britches. Yes there has been a lot of poo poo 💩 this year. I have started learning a bunch of kids songs, because the little ones really like to sing and listen to me play. They may be the only ones.
  • I have been able to go places this year that I have been wanting to go to for many years. My son and I went out west to see the Grand Canyon. My wife and I went out east to Washington D.C. I have also been able to visit some wonderful places within just a couple hours of my home. I have walked a lot of trails and seen the beauty of God’s creation in so many ways. Many of my travels are the subject of several blog post.
  • I don’t want to go on too long, but one of the greatest things we’ve been able to achieve in the midst of the turmoil is that now my wife and I live in the same town with both our children. I’m not yet sure of how I feel about working all the way over in Fort Smith yet, but who knows what the future holds. We are all in the same town, and my children both paying on their own houses while in their early 20’s.

I’ll share this YouTube video once again from the pictures on Facebook. Lots of good memories.

2017 Memories

What are some of your lessons and memories or 2017? I’d love to hear from some readers.

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