Wednesday, September 29, 2004


I've known for quite some time that it is impossible to throw away a garbage can. There are possibly two ways to get rid of one. Leave it when you move, and I haven't tried this one but, take a reciprocating saw and cut it into small pieces and put it in another trash can.

But it wasn't until just recently that I learned that you can't throw a dust pan away.

My lovely bride had cleaned up a particularly ugly mess a few weeks ago and decided that she didn't want the plastic dust pan she used for the clean up anymore. She tossed the dust pan in the trash.

Monday is trash day and when I brought the empty trash cans up from the curb, there it was, the dust pan, sitting pretty in the bottom of the trash can. I left it there and over the next week put bags of trash on top of it.

The next monday afternoon was a repeat...a plastic dust pan in the bottom of the trash can.

This time I tossed trash in the bottom of the can, wedged the dust pan between a couple of bags and crossed my fingers.

When I arrived home Monday, there it was, as neat as you please in the bottom of the trash can. The little bride says we should try putting it in a black trash bag.

The last people that lived in our house left the most awful garbage can here. It's tall and thin and tips over really easy. I bought a reciprocating saw at the home center...

Sunday, September 19, 2004


I became familiar with the concept of tithing nearly thirty years ago. I was about 20 years old, in my salad years and always broke. I went with my parents to church and thought, "oh lucky me, one time I come to church and the preacher says it's the one day a year he talks about money."

I can't for the life of me remember his name, but I remember his message. He said that you didn't have to believe that it would work, that God promises it will and it does. He basically guaranteed a minimum return on investment of 10 times over...I had two dollars to my name and was hoping they would mate in my pocket and multiply. I ruined that plan by dropping them in the offering plate thinking smugly to myself, "we'll see."

At the time I was working for a state agency and one of my duties was to drive the courier van and make bank deposits. I was sitting in line at the drive up window and noticed in the side mirror of the van a dollar bill laying in a water puddle behind me. A man had just gotten out of his car and was walking that way. He would see it any minute. I didn't have money for lunch, and even if I did I would have done the same thing. I leapt from the van and snatched the bill up. It was a twenty. I started to think there might be something to what the preacher said.

Fast forward through the next 25 years - years of "giving charitably" and forgetting about God. I became successful. I worked my way up from laborer to supervisor to manager and at last I was vice president of a small company. I put fifteen years of my life into building and making that company successful. I made a lot of money in the process. Got the executive house in Overbrook, filled it with antique furniture and drove new cars.

Then, for some reason, things began to go wrong. My father called me and said he'd been diagnosed with brain cancer. He was scared. Even though I'd never met him until I was 28 years old and never had a "relationship" with him, I jumped on a plane and flew to Houston to spend a week with him. After the surgery, the doctor told us he had basically two years to live and they would be comfortable. I came back to Little Rock happy with my new relationship with a sister I had never known (she got the call too.)

About two weeks after I got back, my boss told me that he no longer needed me. The rug was pulled out from beneath me. I slipped into a funk that was the greatest depression I've ever experienced in my life. The only thing that got me out of bed in the morning was the fact that my wife insisted that I take the kids to school. Oh yeah, that's another thing. My 14 year old son had been expelled from school the year before, expelled from summer school, and now had been arrested twice in the first month of school repeating the 8th grade.

I pretty much laid in bed for two weeks. My little bride is an amazing woman. She told me to get my sorry butt out of bed and go find a job. I half-heartedly did so. "Did you go look for work," she'd ask when she came home. "Uh, yeah, sure," I'd answer.

I've never had any interest in watching church or preachers on television. I have always thought of the guys on TV as "swindle preachers" who are only out to get your money. Don't ask me why, but I found myself watching a local preacher on TV. Can't really say how I even found the channel. He was somewhere near the beginning of the David series and I remember being so impressed with his wisdom. I've always said I can't go to a church where the preacher isn't smarter than me. I know, that's pretty snotty. But it was me.

I went on the internet (ever wonder if any of this stuff is worthwhile?) and found when and where they are. I showed up for church that Sunday. I didn't have a job but was receiving my severance pay at the time, so I tithed 10% based on that. Yeah, it was on the net, not the gross.

We had already decided to down-size the house. My wife told me that we couldn't find a house she would be willing to live in for my target price of 100K. I wasn't so sure myself. We started looking.

I talked with an ex-customer at Alltel and he told me as much as he'd love to hire me, it just wasn't in his budget. He did give me a 30 day assignment filling in for folks on vacation. This had the wonderful side effect of putting me on display to his other vendors. I started getting job offers. I put all of my eggs in one proverbial basket accepting a job that fell through three days before my assignment ran out. Within an hour I had an offer from a competing company. I interview with them the next day and mentioned how things had fallen through with the other company. She said that it sounded like God's hands were all over it. Turns out my new boss was a born again Christian.

I began working for the new company doing something I'd never done before - selling. I started to worry when a few weeks went by and I still hadn't sold anything. My boss said don't worry, that's normal. In my second month I sold a job for $8,000. My new employer was quite impressed. I started getting orders. I even sold $7500 worth of printing to a guy whose wife sells printing for a competitor. God smiled on my life.

We found a house nearly as big as our old house within 2 blocks of my mother in law. The owner said he'd tried to sell it six years ago for $135K and couldn't. Said he'd take $100K to be shut of it. My son spent a week in jail and "saw the light." He divested himself of all his worthless old friends and spends his time with a Christian boy who shares his interests in cars and motorcycles. We sold our old house for enough to allow me to buy a new car that I really needed and to fix up the new house the way we want it. My wife says she likes living here better than at the old house.

My son has been going to school and trying to make grades. My youngest son has been going to church with me every Sunday and is learning to tithe too.

I've since changed jobs (so did my Christian boss) and am working for a local company. God has blessed me with the gift of selling. I have sold nearly $30K in mailing services since I started with my new company. Short version of the story (yeah, I know it's too late for that...) is that I will probably make as much or more than I did at my last job as vice president.

We're going to Louisiana next month to spend some time with my "new" sister.

Moral of the story? I've not had to worry about finances since my life turned upside down. I've tithed 10% (yes, net - not gross) for nearly a year and a half now and God has blessed us richly. I was baptized with water in the Assembly of God in January, get son2 to come every Sunday, son1 comes sometimes. Now, if I could just get my little bride to come. Would you pray for me on that one?

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Black Wires

I stared at the wires and drew a blank.

Ever done something many times in the past, go to do it again and can't remember EXACTLY how to do it? That's the way I felt. I had 3 black wires, 3 white wires, one switch and a light fixture.

Then it hit me. The switch has only black connections. I painted one of the white wires coming from the switch black with a sharpie pen and everything made sense.

Today I spent taking down all of the old shelves in the barn loft and then wiring the loft for outlets and lights. Amazingly enough, the lights came on and the outlets work. That's step one towards being able to use the barn loft for storage and...

I have that sweet exhaustion that comes from honest labor, and I have a roast on the grill, veggies on the stove and suppers going to be ready in 10 minutes.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Mailing For Dollars

One could imagine Ali G asking the Postmaster General, “Does you think that some paper finds direct mail a way out of the ghetto?”

Forget those ads that tout a way to get rich mailing envelopes from your kitchen table. I don’t think that has happened to anyone. But there are folks who have gotten rich in the mailing business, and I have helped some of them get there.

How does one unintentionally get into a specific industry like mailing? Someone died, that’s how.

Back in 1977 I was working for a state agency in their print shop. The mailing operation had a supervisor and a clerk. The clerk quit on Friday and the supervisor had a heart attack and died on Sunday. Monday, I told the manager of the department of my deep yet secret desire to be a supervisor at the tender age of 21.

I’ve now worked for every major mailing company in this city. My experience running the machines, supervising crews, estimating and quoting and selling and dealing with customers has helped me to be successful over the past 25 years or so. Oddly, two of the three mailing companies that I’ve left have gone out of business.

Hard work, but it’s what I know. And, I’ll likely do this until I die or retire. I don’t wish it on my sons. My daughter seems to have good sense and will likely steer clear. Why couldn’t I have been working in a bordello and the madam died?

Every mailing project is a train wreck looking for a place to happen. It’s my job to make sure the train stays on the tracks. Sometimes I’m in the way and it runs over me. I have been known to talk ugly on occasion. I’m working on that.
Anybody got something I can mail? Let’s help poor families of 60 pound offset paper out of the ghetto. A stamp is a terrible thing to waste.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

You get two for one...

It's Sunday and Friday is a blur. What the hell did we do Friday? The only thing I remember particularly was son2 asking me to make bananas foster.

Saturday we had guests for dinner. Son2 went to stay the night with his grandmother and son1 hung with his buds. And, we had guests for dinner. We've just lately gotten the house to the point that my little bride will agree to entertain. So, we've entertained twice this past week.

It helps that she's feeling much better. Apparently a sinus infection. This is pretty typical for Arkansas.

Son1's friend surprised me last night and called to ask if he could go to church with me this morning. I told son1 and he agreed to go too. Turns out friend had a friend spend the night and I wound up with three teenage boys to accompany me to church. I think that to be an accomplishment.

Afterwards, son1 convinced me that the most important thing in the world would be to take him to the drag races at the state fairgrounds. We went, in the heat of the day, and spent a couple of hours watching 60's and 70's muscle cars strut their stuff and thump their chests. It brought back memories - look, there's the 72 Malibu like I got thrown out of at your age. What a night, spun out of control on Romine Road (a two lane country curve fest back then) and I remember clutching the dashboard for dear life just before I found myself in a ditch in a cloud of dust. Wow, there's a Dodge Dart just like the one I used to ride to school in with my friend Mike. That '65 Chevelle reminds me of the '65 Goat that Wyatt had.

Son1 was only interested in raw horsepower and torque at the wheel...

I did have more fun than I thought I would. Not like the monster truck rally that he begged me to take him to... halfway through that ordeal, I whispered in his ear that he should treasure this moment as it would be the LAST monster truck rally I ever went to...actually, it wasn't a whisper. You had to yell to be heard. And the smell...

I know, I'm using too many elipses. Maybe I should go all the way and stop capitalizing and punctuating...

I'm home, I've taken the trash to the curb for tomorrow, I've set the sprinkler to do half of the front yard, I've drank a few beers and now I have to think about supper. My little bride says, "You wouldn't go and get us some burgers, would you?"

I'll see you tomorrow...

Friday, September 10, 2004

Zen Parenting

Siddhartha found enlightenment at age 35. Why then, at the age of 48 am I not even close?

Son 1 has been a challenge since birth. Have you ever known a child to begin hating school in kindergarten? He did. By seventh grade he had all but given up on school, barely squeaking into the eighth grade. Constantly in trouble, he was expelled from school within the first month of 8th grade, wound up at an alternative school and failed. We tried summer school. He was expelled from summer school within 2 weeks. Repeated the 8th grade, arrested twice in the first month and a court appearance set for February.

At the court appearance he told the judge that it was just too much trouble to go to school. I was momentarily distracted and never saw them whisk him from the room. Next I saw him he was wearing an orange jump suit.

A week in detention seems to have gotten his attention. He went to school every single day from February 26 until the end of school in June. He is now going to school every day and even showing an interest in making passing grades. Part of this is so he can get his learners permit to drive.

But lately it seems to be getting more and more difficult to get him out of bed.

Is the spell wearing off? Are we headed for disaster? How can I know when to apply the pressure and when to back off?

Each morning I drop him off at the bus stop about 15 minutes early. The day before yesterday he missed the bus. He had walked away and when he came back the bus had already passed him and wouldn't stop again. Of course it was a) the bus driver's fault for not stopping and b) the stupid other kids at the bus stop that didn't ask the driver to wait. It was not a) Son 1's fault or b) anywhere within a city block of Son 1's fault.

How do you get children to take responsibility for their actions? I'm accountable if I don't get the right cereal or the right jeans. But there's no accountability for making failing grades or having some idiot cop arrest you just because he doesn't like the way you break the law...

Does it help sometimes to just vent your frustrations in this venue? Is there hope for me as a parent?

Thursday, September 09, 2004


Waiting for my daughter to get here for lunch. One of the pleasures that come with grown children is to get to see them occasionally. And, it's always a pleasure to see Hannah. She calls and says she's leaving, but the drive from Conway always seems to take too long. I find myself getting nervous and wondering where she is. Has it been thirty minutes yet?

She hasn't been to see me at work since I changed jobs, so I get to tour her around and introduce her to my new co-workers. Then we'll get lunch. Did I mention she made the Dean's list last semester?

Well she finally made it. We went to a new Caribbean restaurant down town called Studio 69. It's owned by Vic Allotey who used to play for the Kansas City Chiefs. Turns out Hannah is a big KC fan and so is her boyfriend. I asked Vic if he would autograph a menu for her and he one-upped me and signed a large photo of himself playing for the Chiefs. Made her day and possibly made dad just a little taller in her eyes. She says that her boyfriend will be quite jealous when he sees it. And, the food was great.

I'm just back from a couple of cold-calls and feeling pretty good. Think I'll finish up the day at the Business Expo going on at Alltel Arena this afternoon.

Life can be good and a daughter's smile can do the trick.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004


What kind of person sets themselves up for rejection over and over again? A salesman, that's who. A writer friend of mine is starting a new magazine (Ozarks Monthly Magazine - ) and is having to get out and sell advertising. She told me today how hard that is. As a writer, she said, she got rejected long-distance. She could fall apart or not without having to face the antagonist. But direct selling? That's different.

This is what I do day in, day out. Luckily the Good Lord has kept his eye on this sparrow and we're not going hungry. But I'm out there in the wind every day.

One may suppose that the victories offset the losses, and I have to admit there's a bit of freedom that doesn't come with a time-clock, but it's a bitter pill when it's not coming together.

So, do me a favor, if a salesman comes calling on you, be nice to him. It might be me...

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

losing my cherry...

...a totally new and random experience for me. Much like my entire life. I can't think of one thing I ever did deliberately and this is no exception.

I stumbled across blogging in a google websearch. The object of my desire was embedded in a "blog". While the link to my interest didn't seem to function correctly, the voyeuristic pleasure that I found in lifting up the covers of someone's life was intriguing.

I've followed the blogs of this gentleman for some weeks now, all the while trying to decide should I join in the fun or just lurk?

This is an experiment. Keep that in mind. I may or may not continue to add to this. It all depends on how much fun it turns out to be. So now it's your turn to look under the covers...

Once you've seen the elephant, there's not room for the mundane...