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Saturday, May 21, 2016

Why I'm Voting for Donald Trump... (An Open Letter)

*I really hate the whole "Open Letter" thing. But Trump is very aware of social media and I'll never have the chance to say these things to him in person. So I'll say them here and hope he see it. -Craig

Mr. Trump,
     I generally detest the whole “Open Letter” trope. I’ve done it twice in my life. Once, knowing full-well that the intended recipient was not going to read it, and another time I wrote President Obama, because I had just lost a job offer after Obamacare was implemented and the cost of my position rose above what the employer was able to pay. I had hoped he might see it, or perhaps one of his staff, but I never got a response. I am certain my plight wasn’t one he would have publicized, because it didn’t fit his narrative.
     However, I am writing this open letter because you are very aware of social media and you seem to notice when you are addressed, even by “insignificant” regular folks. So I thought I’d give it a try. I cringe at the mechanism, but it’s worth a shot.
     I wanted to write to tell you my story and to encourage you in your push toward the presidency. I think I am much like the average conservative American these days. I believe that my story is reflective of millions of stories out there right now, and –to be honest- you seem to be the only candidate who hears us, sees us, and has actual experience in helping people like us. My story could easily lend itself to me becoming a mindless Sanders supporter, seething with rage against the faceless “one percent” who succeeded in my stead and somehow took all the money from the system and left me broken. I could fall for Hillary’s farce of being helpless unless the government steps in and does it all for me.
I am neither.
     What I am is a fifty-two year old man who has tasted bitter defeat in recent years and still believes that the American system (at least the one I grew up under) is still the best solution, because it allows me the opportunity –when it runs properly- to work hard and fix it myself. I believe you embody that ideal better than any candidate out there.
     My story could be taken as tragic if I chose to see it that way. I do not. It was hard. It was difficult. It broke me down and shattered the dreams and plans I had. But I believe that I am bigger than those hardships, my faith is placed in a God who is certainly above those depths, and I believe that this country was created especially for a man like me.
A man who has tasted defeat by the pound, but still desires to do the hard work to rise from the ashes instead of letting someone else come along and give it all to me.
     From 1998 until 2008 I was in the mortgage industry. I entered the business, as green as anyone could be. I had a wife of two years and a four month old baby.  I left carpentry to enter a field where every penny was commission, no base salary, and I had absolutely no idea how to do the work. I had never owned my own home, had never even filled out a mortgage application. But I knew I could do better in this industry than I could do as a carpenter and my family needed me to succeed. So I did.
     I threw myself into the business with all my might. I studied loan matrices until one or two in the morning after running appointments until nine, ten, sometimes eleven pm. I spent time in the processor’s office, learning to put together a better file, while other guys were on the golf course. The first month I made nothing. In fact I sold much of my construction equipment to pay the bills because, being in a straight commission job, nobody was paying my gas, or food, or expenses. The second month I closed my first loan and made $795 dollars. The third month I was the number three Loan Officer at that company and made $8950, after taxes. I was so proud. I worked hard for that money.
     Nine months later, I had my own branch of a national mortgage company. It takes most guys five years to get their own net-branch, but I was already producing volume and had become so knowledgeable in the field, that I was offered a branch.
     For the next eight years, I was increasingly successful in business. Sadly, my wife was just plain not happy and we divorced. My daughter was eighteen months old, and I settled into the life of a divorced dad, and a mortgage banker. I bought my first home in 2000. I sold it and bought my next home in 2004. I was making very good money –in the six figure range- and had flexibility to spend more time with my daughter than just the given “Once a week and every other weekend.” I received multiple awards from my employer, was active in the community and my church and had a good, comfortable, but modest life.
     Then came 2008. I did not survive the crash of the industry. I was 45 and had two years of college, and the most success I’d had was in a field that had now all but vanished. I lost my home, and by May of 2008, I was literally homeless. I slept in my car, which I hid behind a church. My daughter’s mom had remarried and had a home, so, thankfully, our daughter did not have to endure this with me. I could not leave my daughter. I grew up without my dad and would not let my precious daughter grow up without hers.
I am a Philadelphia native, but lived in Nashville, TN during this time. I could not go home and could not move to another city where there might be work. So I stayed.
     I lived this way for almost 6 years. During this time I would sleep in my car (and after that died an old GMC Yukon that was bigger and more “comfortable”) and showered at the county recreation center. I took odd jobs. I have built chicken coops, washed windows, and cut grass for meal and gas money. I took my unemployment because I felt that was okay since I had paid into it for so long. But after that ran out, I refused any other government assistance. I am not against it entirely. My biggest fear was not shame from taking a welfare check or food stamps…although it would have been shameful for me…but I feared it would eliminate my drive, and my ambition and my desire. We are all fueled in part, by pride. Not arrogance but pride. I was proud of my success in the mortgage industry. I was proud of the dad I was to my daughter. That pride drove me daily and helped me succeed. I felt like a government handout would strip that from me and I would never again succeed as I had before.
     During this time of homelessness I returned to college, through my alma mater’s online program. It was hard. I studied in my car, at the library, or in restaurants that provided free Wi-Fi. I graduated in May 2012, from Liberty University, while still homeless. I had hoped that this would open doors of employment for me, but alas; while I had my degree now, we still had the same president and the same horrible economic policies.
     I tried returning to the mortgage industry, and was immediately offered a job. My reputation in that field was stellar and the local manager was more than happy to hire me. However, one week later, after Obamacare was official and the guidelines for commissioned employees took effect, the offer was withdrawn. They simply could not afford the enormous costs the new policy would incur and froze all hiring. I was crushed. Perhaps more than any other time in my life and certainly more than any other time while I was homeless.
     I returned to carpentry as a last resort. There was not much work at the time, but I took whatever I found. Meanwhile, my daughter’s life was unravelling because her home situation became dangerous. It is the hardest thing in the world to have a child who needs your help and not be able to give it. I could not. I did what I could, but I could not get her out of the situation then. There were times when this was too much. Times when the work I was doing was extra painful…like the time I was hired to build custom, hand-made porch columns for government subsidized housing in Nashville. There I was, living in my vehicle, homeless, and building beautiful porch columns for people who would not have to pay a dime to live in the houses I was building them for. Sometimes it drove me to tears.
     Finally in 2014, my daughter and I decided to move. (Her mom saw the trajectory of her husband’s behavior and agreed to let our daughter come with me) I applied for a job at my alma mater and, without a guarantee of work, moved to Lynchburg, Va. We came here with two months’ rent, and no furniture except the brand new mattress some folks had bought for her before we left.
     For the first time in 6 years –almost to the day- I had a home. I slept on the floor, on the foam that I used in my truck. But I was in a home. I did carpentry that summer, and in August was hired at Liberty University. I have a wonderful job at a place I have loved since high school. I work hard and I still do carpentry on the side. Liberty takes good care of me, but we are a nonprofit, and daughters in college are expensive. While I get her tuition as part of my benefit package, there are still many expenses incurred. I have bills to pay. I am digging out of a big hole. I work most weeks, about 70 hours between my job at LU and my side business. I am blessed that I have a craft that I am very good at, that pays well. I love my job here and I love working for my school. I know you have a friendship with our President, and I love working for him. He’s a great boss and a visionary.
     My road was hard, Mr. Trump. Very hard. But it never occurred to me to give up. I wrestled with the thoughts sometimes, but I never could imagine myself living in public housing, or letting someone else pay my way forever. My pride remained intact. Damaged for sure, but intact. I overcame, entirely by the grace of God and the faith I have in Him and His providing me enough –just enough- when things were hard.
     Three of my grandparents were immigrants. They came (Legally!) with nothing, worked hard, built a life, and took nothing from anyone that they didn’t pay for. That is my heritage and that is what drove me to do it the same way they did it.
     And that is why you will have my vote this fall.
I did not arrive at this decision easily. I had my reservations. Honestly, I initially would have preferred someone who is a little less rough around the edges. But I realized that when you spoke, you spoke with the voice of people like me. People who have been miserably failed by this “president” we now have and who feel the full weight of the truth that he does not care about us. That he never cared about us. I know you hear us, Mr. Trump and I believe you care.
     And so I wrote this because I wanted you to understand the history behind this one vote. You’ll be getting millions of them this November, Mr. Trump…but mine was hard earned. I lived this mess for that long, six-year period. It made me better. It did not defeat me. But it hurt. It hurt in ways I can’t describe. I lost things that had nothing to do with money. I lost those years with my little girl. I went almost six years not tucking her in at night and hearing her bed time prayers. I can’t ever get those back. She was ten when this started. She was sixteen when we arrived here and I finally had a home again.
     This vote I give you in the fall is dear to me. It’s precious. It’s sacred. Those immigrant grandparents of mine ventured far and wide to give it to me. I did not give it to Barack Obama. But his eight years have steeled my resolve as to how precious this vote of mine is. I am giving you mine this November and now you understand how valuable it is to me. You understand how much I have endured just to still be here and vote this fall.
     I love this country. Love it with all my heart. This country gave life to my family and gave me a chance. I took it and succeeded. I plan on succeeding again…I already have simply by surviving this. I know you love this country as well. While I still have questions and reservations concerning your presidency, I do know you love this country.
Take care of my vote, Mr. Trump. Now you know what I had to do to hold onto it. Bring this country back. Give people their pride back. The pride that comes from doing it ourselves, against long odds, with our leaders cheering us on, not standing in our way.
Listen to the voices of those who love this country, this flag, that Constitution, and our freedom. Treat my vote like the sacred thing it is.
     You are getting my vote because I believe you will do exactly that. I trust you will not fail me in this.

     Respectfully yours,

     Craig Daliessio


Saturday, May 7, 2016

Happy 18th Birthday Daisy

“Oh the happiest day I have ever known
Was the day you took your first breath.
And to watch you grow in the warmth of the sun,
Is the only other wish I could ever have.
But if cold night winds should begin to howl
And if trouble should come your way,
Remember these words I’m telling you now
And all your days I pray you’ll call His name.

Rain will fall, as it surely must,
On the heads of the wicked, and the just.
God forbid that rain turn your dreams to rust.
And all your days I pray you’ll call His name

On that bittersweet day many years from now
When you take your first steps on your own.
Remember this, my precious child,
As much as I’ve loved you,
There is One who loves you more.
So if cold night winds should begin to howl
And if trouble should come your way,
May the warmth of the sun, comfort and guide you,
May those cold night winds stay forever behind you
If you lose your way
Know that God will find you…
And all your days I pray you’ll call His name.

                                  -Rick Elias
                           “For My Children”

Today, my daughter Morgan turns eighteen.
Eighteen years ago –tonight at Ten p.m. to be exact- my precious daughter came silently into this world.
Her entrance was silent…no crying, no distress. She was the quiet baby and she is a quiet adult now. But her impact on my life was as loud and as forceful and as brilliant as the Mummer’s Parade on New Years.
Everything they tell you about a baby changing your life is true…and none of it is.
I never saw her as an inconvenience. I never calculated what I could have been doing or might have done had I not become a dad. I never thought about the extra hockey games or the extra golf or the travel or whatever. I am a dad. I was born to be a dad and I have only found my happiness since that wondrous night, May 7, 1998.
It was chaotic and hectic and amazing.
She was perfect.
She calls herself “Daisy” because she doesn’t like her given name. 
I swallowed hard at that for a while, but if that’s the only headache she gives me I’m fine with it. She really is a Daisy anyway. She’s bright and lively and she adds color to the meadows of the world.
But she’s not a little girl anymore.
It went by so quickly, these eighteen years. Being divorced from her mom when she was only eighteen months only hastened the arrival of this day. When you see your child once a week and every other weekend, you miss more than you see. I missed as little as possible. I took days each week to eat lunch with her at school so I’d have those extra 3o minutes. I was in the mortgage industry then and I had the flexibility. I learned a silly magic trick every few weeks to entertain her friends at the lunch table. They thought I was the best dad ever. I sat there –all 6’ 4” of me- hunched in the tiny cafeteria tables at Park Avenue Christian School where she went to Kindergarten, or at Westmeade Elementary, and I looked like Shrek amongst those tiny little people. Those were some of the best days of my life.
She suffered terribly because of the divorce. In many ways she still does.
She suffered more because I refused to allow myself to find happiness again. I didn’t realize this until a year ago or so. 
I realized that I felt so bad for how much she was hurting over the divorce –a divorce I did not cause or want- that I felt guilty inside every time I thought about entering a relationship and going on with life.
I would literally think to myself “My daughter is unhappy, what right do I have to be happy?” I thought that her having me all to herself was better than her having to share me with someone else, the way she had to share her mom. I was so wrong.
I thought about how, if I remarried, I’d probably wind up with someone with children, because that was the age I was then. I felt guilty because I would have been spending more time with someone else’s children than I did with my own.
And so I stayed alone and tried to be devoted to her. I was so wrong about that. I denied her an alternative to the horrors that soon revealed themselves after her mom had been married for a year or so. I denied her the chance to see her dad love someone, to see what that looks like and to use it as a standard. I denied her the chance to see someone love her dad too. The only archetype for marriage she has is terrible, because I didn’t give her an alternative view.
She endured my homelessness. The nights I couldn’t come get her when her mom’s husband was on one of his usual benders and was becoming violent. I couldn’t get her when her mom sided with her husband and told her to get out. I remember one night, going to get her at 10 pm because the situation was so bad. We drove to a Waffle House and just sat there for a few hours and ate something and let things cool down. Then I had to take her home. I have no words to describe those days.
She has such a broken family. A grandfather who has never met her and probably never will. A grandmother who is too harmful a person to be around her, whom she has not seen or heard from since she was 7. She has Uncles and Aunts and cousins she loves and loves being a part of, but who she sees far too infrequently. She has two “adopted” sets of grandparents whom she loves as her own flesh and blood, but sees not nearly enough of. (Jewell and Pop are gone now)
When she was little, she was happy and outgoing and joyful. As she got older, and her world grew dark, she retreated into her gifts. She has a magnificent voice. I don’t say that lightly. She is a music major here, and already gaining notice because of the purity and beauty of her voice. Music became her refuge. The thing nobody could take away or damage with their own agenda. Her art is the same. She can draw and create such beauty on paper and media. Beauty that she can’t always –or often- find in the world she lives in now.
I have tried my best to shield her from those hurts and wounds, but I wasn’t able to do what I wanted to do. Not entirely anyway.
I wish I had given myself permission to get over the divorce sooner than I did, and to let myself love someone when it still could have impacted my daughter. Not that I wanted to “find her a mom,” but she needed to see that love and marriage and relationship can be wonderful, can be good. She needed to see a real-life second chance, because she…like everyone else on Earth, will need them as she goes through life.
But she is grown now. Eighteen and ready to move to the next adventure. She moves on campus this fall and I pray she finds great friends on her hall and people who can pour in love and healing to the wounds she bears.
I love this young lady more than all my many words will ever reveal. All that I have or ever will have could be burned to ashes if it meant her dreams and hopes would live longer. She is the only arrow in my quiver, and today begins the flights from my bow.
She’ll spend half the summer here and half with her mom. When she comes back, she’ll be in the dorms at Liberty and not my roommate anymore.
I am scared. I am a perfectionist and all I can see are the things I didn’t get right. The mistakes I made. My faults as a dad.
Did I pray enough? Did I live my faith right enough of the time? 
Is she going to be okay?
My dear friend Rick Elias wrote the song that I quoted in this post. He wrote it for his son’s first birthday. I have loved this song and always wished he’d release it.
I trust that if my daughter loses her way she will know that God will find her.
And her dad won’t be far behind.
Happy Birthday Daisy.
All the best things of my life have their genesis in you and in this day eighteen years ago.
I love you more than you will ever know. I am more proud of you than I can possibly show. God has such a plan for your life. You are my beloved daughter…I am very pleased with you. Take flight, my arrow…and don’t ever stop. The world needs the targets you were meant to hit.
I love you,