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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Homeless in Obama's series. New book

Hi folks,
I'm writing a new book right now and I thought I would begin posting snippets of it here as I write.
The working title of this book is "A Dad Never Quits. How I Survived Being Homeless in Obama's America"
This is a sort of stream of consciousness section I wrote the other night. It moved me to tears. Please share if you feel like it, and please, send me your feedback.

When you’re homeless, you feel like you’re on the outside looking in. Like there is an invisible wall between yourself and “normal” folks. It feels like it’s a slow-moving nightmare and you can’t tell which part is the dream and which is reality. You want to wake up, but you’re already awake.
     It feels like you’re watching the normal folks with their normal life, a life that you used to have as well, and you start forgetting what all that felt like. What it was like to have a kitchen, and a stove, and a bed…and an address. You try to forget about your dogs and your cat and your garden. You overhear bits of conversations about mundane home ownership and you wish you could be doing those things that the normal people complain about. You wish you still had a lawn to cut. You wish you had a driveway to seal, or an electric bill to complain about. You’d give anything for a nosy neighbor.
     When you’re homeless, you don’t wake up on Monday mornings and have the Monday morning blues and make jokes with your coworkers about how “It’s Monday again…” Because when you’re homeless, every day feels like Monday. Every day greets you with the blues. Every day finds you one day further removed from humanity. One more day since your last meaningful conversation. One more day since you had clean sheets and a warm bed. One more day has passed since you had a cup of coffee in your kitchen, in your mug, from your coffee maker.
     When you’re homeless, you can’t run home for lunch, or grill out, or hang your laundry out to dry. You can’t take a warm shower at the end of a hard day’s work, because you don’t have a shower, and you can’t find any work. When you’re homeless, you can’t stay indoors on a cold, rainy November Saturday and get caught up on some reading and have a nice fire in the fireplace and make some soup and watch the cold rain as it falls. When you’re homeless, you try to stay dry and warm and out of sight if you can.
     When you’re homeless there are no pictures on your walls, because you have no walls. So you carry them in your wallet, and in your heart. They come alive at night, these pictures. They haunt you. Pictures of your little girl and the rope swing you had in the oak tree out back and how she laughed and wanted you to push her for hours. Pictures of how your beloved dog Bonnie would come over to you on the sofa and lay her chin on your leg and let out a soft little sigh and look at you plaintively until you scratched her head. Pictures of your daughter and the time you filled the Jacuzzi tub with Mr. Bubble and she was lost in the suds and laughing up a storm and having the most fun you’d ever seen. Pictures of when it was that you had a life.
     Other times, it’s like being on the inside looking out. You swear everyone knows. Everyone sees. You hide your bedroll in the trunk of your car but maybe they saw it when you were getting your school books. You circle the church where you hide your car at night to get a few hours of sleep. You circle it like a hawk, hunting for his prey, waiting until you don’t see any headlights coming in either direction and then you race in before someone sees you. Your heart races and pounds and you swear that this time, they saw your tail lights and they’ve called the cops. You hurry up and back into the overgrowth until you are hidden from view. They can’t see you but you swear they can. You wait, being as quiet as a mouse, barely breathing. Ten minutes go by. Then twenty. Sitting still like this means the fatigue starts to catch up to you but you fight it. After enough time passes, you let out your breath and realize that nobody saw you. You pulled it off one more time. You get changed into your sweatpants and sweatshirt and zipper into two sleeping bags and try not to let yourself admit how cold it really is. The cold has gotten into your bones by now and you never feel quite warm. Your body is warm enough with all the layers, but you’re still breathing frigid air and you wake up shivering.
     You feel like every pair of eyes in the world is dialed in on you when you’re homeless. Do they know? Surely they know. Everyone knows. You walk with your head down, and your eyes lowered. Because even if nobody else around you knows, you know. And that’s bad enough. You stop looking into store front windows because you can’t bear seeing your own reflection. You hide your shame when you see your daughter, because after all…you’re still her daddy. But you feel like a caged animal. Like the little people inside a snow-globe, never moving, never showing any reaction whenever some outside force shakes their world and stirs up the snow. Their smile painted on. Their faces plastic and emotionless. That’s you now. Feeling less and less because feeling anything at all only reminds you of who you used to be and who you are now.
     When you’re homeless, you don’t tuck your kids in at night. You lay there in your sleeping bags and cry because you miss them. On the coldest nights, the tears freeze to your cheeks and they cut you like diamonds when you wipe them away. You remember your little girl’s bedtime prayers and you swear you can still hear her voice as she says them… “God bless Bonnie and Cooper and our cat Jackie. God bless Daddy…”
God bless Daddy. God? God who? You question Him. Sometimes you curse at Him because it feels like He’s just left you here. Sometimes you cry out to Him for mercy and beg Him for hope. You pray to Him. You pray to him for your daughter. “Please, God,” you beg, “Please give me a place to live again. My daughter needs me and I need her.” Then you think about her life and the pain she feels. “Please God,” you continue, “Please protect her like I would if I was there right now.” And the tears resume, and the sobs, and the memories, and the questions, and the doubts.
     When you’re homeless, you don’t get your daughter once a week and every other weekend. You get McDonald’s for an hour every few days after school. You try hiding the truth from her, but she’s smart. She finds out and then you feel even worse because you know her, and now she is worrying herself sick about you every night. When you’re homeless, you are still someone’s father, but you sure don’t feel very fatherly.
     When you’re homeless, you think of the old days and the happy times and those memories are triggered by the strangest things. I was walking through the mall one hot summer afternoon, just trying to stay out of the heat. I walked past the “Build-a-Bear Workshop” store and I stopped outside and watched the little kids. There was a girl there who reminded me of my own daughter a few years before. She was finishing up her bear and doing the little routine where they tell the kids to jump up and down and turn around. I remembered all the trips we made together to this place. Back when I had a job and a home and she had a bedroom where she kept all these prized little stuffed friends. It felt like it was a million years ago. It felt like I was watching it all from some cloak of invisibility. The little girl clutched her new beloved friend as mine had done. I turned away in tears. I raced to the bathroom before the sobs embarrassed me in the mall. When you’re homeless, every little thing reminds you that you used to have a home, and your daughter used to spend weekends with you, and you used to be someone.

     When you’re homeless, you reach a point where you want to quit. In that moment, you’d better have a reason to keep fighting. You’d better have something or someone you love more than you love yourself because believe me, when you want to give up, when you want to craw inside a bottle and die or jump from a bridge, or just fall asleep in the dead of winter and let your body freeze…there had better be a face you see when you close your eyes that keeps you going. Because when you’re homeless, just you…isn’t nearly enough.

Friday, October 14, 2016

My response to "Liberty United..."

NOTE: I am a Liberty University alumnus. I am also an LU employee. My job does not involve contact with President Jerry Falwell Jr. in any way. In 2 1/2 years here I have spoken to President Falwell once, and that was concerning a personal matter. I did not discuss this with him before writing. I wrote this in my home, at 4 AM this morning, on my personal computer and not on the job at LU. I do not represent the school officially or unofficially. I do not (knowingly) represent any other employees, alumni, staff or faculty at Liberty. I am strictly writing this as ONE LU alumnus and as a man who has experienced the very very bad of the last eight years.

I wrote this in response to Dustin Wahl and Tyler Mcnally and their petition against Donald Trump. They began the petition and the subsequent media blitz using their status as a Liberty student as it's basis. They claims to speak for "most" LU students on campus. I do not believe their opinion is in the majority but that is not the point. I took umbrage to their comments. There is a place for dissent and debate and social media should not be the first forum you use, but the last. If you do so, you should not try for embarrassment as your goal. Going out of your way to attempt to embarrass someone with whom you disagree is not the way you comport yourself in the grown up world. 
I also write this as a man of 53 years. A man who has tasted the bitter disappointment of these last 8 years in huge gulps. I write this to counter their statements and, perhaps, to educate them, because I believe their youth and inexperience has rendered them idyllically blinded. These thoughts are mine alone and I discussed them with no one as I wrote. 

     I thought I’d write this letter to you. I don’t know if you’ll read it, you’re very busy with your new-found fifteen minutes of fame. Enjoy it, it’s fleeting.
But I had some things I wanted to say to you and this is probably the only forum I’ll have to do so. I would love to tell you that I applaud your taking a stand. I did in the beginning, not because I agreed with you at all, but because I admire conviction in anyone…until I see through it. Then I read that bloated manifesto of yours. I’ll give you some advice from a writer: learn not to be in love with the sound of your own words. When you think yourself amazing for a sentence you just wrote, you tend to start writing more of them and each one is less amazing than the last. You soon descend into pontification.
     You lost me with your snark. There are times for that. I’m from Philadelphia, believe me I know sarcasm and attitude better than anyone. But there are also times when your dissent must be delivered with respect. You went after your university’s president. You didn’t do it in a respectful fashion, you did it with attitude. You didn’t simply make a statement that you disagree with Jerry and you want it known that other LU students do as well. Your seemingly endless letter sounds, from the very beginning, like you know better than he and you want everyone else to know that. You sound like someone who thinks they speaks for the Christian world. You come off as someone who thinks they have the only opinion that matters. You’re too young to know about respect yet, but this might be your baptism.
     On a personal level, I want to tell you my view of this. Things you probably don’t know yet. You live on this beautiful campus and your education is paid for, either by your parents or scholarships and grants or a combination of all of those. You swipe a card to eat your meals, likely never considering what that food actually costs. You swipe your card again to get into your dorm where you have WiFi, Cable TV access, and the amenities of apartment life. You can work out, swim, walk the trails, do whatever it is college kids do and probably never consider what the real-world value of those things might be. I don’t know how much or how little your folks are helping you, but since I work here I do know that you wouldn’t be here if the bill wasn’t being paid somehow. I say God bless. Good for you. But this campus isn’t the real world. Let me tell you something about the real world.
     I am an alumnus of Liberty. I also work here. I was here when there were no student loans to speak of. I worked 40 hours a week at the Advance Auto Parts store when it was in Hill’s Plaza, just to pay my tuition. I got no help from home. None. I made it through one year like that and couldn’t afford to return. I finally graduated 28 years after I started. A lot happened in those years. A lot of things that shape my decision to vote for Trump, and to write this to you explaining why. I’ll give you some examples.
     In 2008, when the economy collapsed, I lost everything. I lost my job when my company pulled all it’s branches from Tennessee, where I lived. I lost my career, when that industry continued to crash until it practically ceased to exist. I was 45, had two years of college and ten years of success and achievement in an industry that was now gone. Ultimately, I lost my home because I had no job. I had no prospects. 
I also have a daughter. She was ten when this happened. She lived with her mom primarily (we divorced years before) and so at least she had a home. But her life was becoming a hell. Her mom’s husband was growing more violent by the day and he attacked my daughter with mental cruelty that was increasingly becoming physical. I could not find work and yet, because of my daughter’s situation, I could not leave Nashville to move someplace where I might get a job. I was the only barrier between her and the monster she had to live with. So I chose to stay. Choosing to stay meant sleeping in my car, hidden behind a church. I don’t know if you’ve ever slept in a car before, but I did it for almost 6 years.
I put out over 350 resumes. I did odd jobs. I washed windows. I built a chicken coop for someone once, just for food and gas. I showered in the county rec center and often times the only food I had was from the sample stations at Sam’s club or the grocery store. I wanted to quit a million times. Sometimes I wanted to die. But I had a daughter I loved, who loved me, and I had to keep going. I have no family who could help and to be honest…I didn’t want help. I wanted a job. I wanted to come back on my own.
     Three times during this nightmare of mine I was offered the chance to return to the mortgage industry. I never wanted to do that since it had bitten me so hard and taken so much. But as time went on I realized I needed to do something and since I had been very good at that before, I decided to do it again. Three times I was offered, and three times the hope that I had from a job offer was crushed by the policies of Barack Obama and the Democrats, and the Republicans who failed to stop them. Let me tell you about the first time.
     In August of 2013, I had an interview with a mortgage company in Brentwood, a suburb of Nashville. It was a Friday. The branch manager was actually excited to have me consider working for him. He knew my reputation in the business and actually said it was an honor for him to welcome me aboard. I left there that afternoon with hope for the first time in years. I had to fill out some paperwork online, and then we would start my certification process. Within a few weeks I would be active in the business again.
     I called my daughter to tell her the news. This was a mistake, in hindsight, but I had no idea what was to happen next. I wanted her to have hope too. That next Monday, I picked her up and we went to Franklin High School and walked through it. She had been attending a school near her mom’s house and was miserable. We talked about our plans. She was going to move in with me as soon as I got a place and she would go to Franklin High. I saw her smile for the first time in years. (By this time she was 15).
That Thursday, the second phase of Obamacare was enacted. The next day –one week from receiving the job offer- I got an email rescinding the offer. The reason: the cost of implementing Obamacare, coupled with the mandatory base salary they now had to pay (the mortgage industry had always been a 100% commission job) made it impossible for them to add any new employees. They withdrew the offer and wished me well. I had to tell my daughter that our plans were cancelled. I had to break her already fractured heart. I had to condemn her to remaining in that house for another year before I could finally get her out.
     I am fairly certain you have never suffered a loss like this. I am certain you have not felt the crushing weight of failure and loss and shame and embarrassment that enduring this sort of thing brings. If not for the failed policies of the current administration, I would have been back to work, my daughter living in a safer place, my life rebuilding sooner than it has. It’s not just my detest of Obama and the Democrats that demands I write this. Nor is it any need to defend my school or it’s president. Jerry is a smarter man than I am, and quite capable of defending himself should that be necessary. This is personal for me. I felt the pain. I am one of those stories you hear about on conservative talk radio and likely ignore. My daughter –who is on this campus right now, one of your fellow student- has lived this nightmare too.
     I am a Christian. My degree is in Biblical studies and this spring I hope to begin seminary here. I have weighed this scripturally. And I have called upon the wisdom of having actually experienced some of what has happened these last, nightmarish, 8 years. Something you simply do not have the benefit of doing. 
I wish Trump were less rough around the edges and more squeaky clean. But to be honest, smooth and squeaky clean is what helped create the policies that held me in my car for 6 years. Smooth and squeaky clean best describes all those Republicans who  fell in line behind Obama.  Six years, boys,. think about that. Think about six years of your life being lost to inescapable shame and embarrassment and hopelessness. I am certain you cannot understand that or grasp the impact. That’s why I wrote this today. Because you need to. You need to understand what has really happened out here in America. You need to understand why, at this moment in American history, we need a blunt instrument and not a scalpel. The time for a scalpel is later. Right now we need a sledgehammer. I worked construction for the better part of 20 years. I’ve used sledgehammers. They aren’t precise. They are heavy and loud and ugly and they make a mess. But when you have to demolish something to get it out of the way, there is nothing else that will do.
     This is why I am still voting for Trump. Because I have already lived a Clintonian nightmare. I have no desire to go back to sleep and have another one. I literally fear that will happen.  I am voting for him because I have experiences you know nothing about. Because I literally dread the thoughts of Hillary as president. And with good reason.

One day, when you have had life experiences and doubtless suffered losses of your own, you’ll understand this. Today, you simply do not. Perhaps after reading this, you will.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Why I will support Trump to the end...(How homelessness tells me who to vote for)

I want to say this because it's been on my mind all day.

I am supporting Trump this election. Trump was not my first choice -that would have been Cruz- but Trump is the nominee and as I've watched the race unfold, maybe the only one who had the ugly roughness that it takes to FINALLY confront the Clinton's. Hillary Clinton is as purely evil a human as exists in this world. That she would sell out this nation for money and then demand to be it's next president is proof enough. That she provided cover for her sexual predator husband and did so with ruthless, callous cruelty is further proof. Her soul is as dark as a soul can be.
Only a man who is gruff, unbending, slightly arrogant, and used to the viciousness of the boardroom and the construction site can have the thick skin needed to absorb the impact of the attacks she launches. Only a man who is used to mean people, used to being both unpopular and popular at once, used to having to be a bully because sometimes in the business world that's the only thing that works...only that man can stand up to her, look her in the face and say the things we all know to be true and wish we had the chance to say. That man happens to be Donald Trump. I wish it were different, but this isn't 1980 anymore.This isn't Reagan against Carter. Looking back I feel like Ted Cruz would never have fired off the "You'd be in jail" comment. He never would have invited four of Bill's many victims to sit there in plain sight. He would have tried to out- think her. The truth is, she isn't as smart as she lets on and out- thinking her isn't how you beat her. Because this society has fallen so far that most of them don't even CARE what she has done or the implications of her vile despicable self-servance. They hear in soundbites. They think in Tweets. Trump takes shots and gets the truth out there in ways that a kinder, more intellectual society would not tolerate, but the current society understands and gravitates toward. I wish this were not so, but it is.
Now the why...
I support Trump because from May 8, 2008 until May 17, 2014, with the exception of about 6 months when a friend let me stay in her house while she was away and it was for sale, I was homeless. I slept in my car and showered in the rec center. You all know this story so I won't return to it.
But I will try to tell you how it felt. Writing the new book has put me back in touch with some emotions from that time that I thought I had buried forever.
I don't know if you will ever know what it is like to drive around almost all night looking for a place to hide your car so you can just sleep for a few hours without the cops finding you. How tiring it is. How drained you feel the next day. How going without sleep will break you until you just sit in your car and cry. I did this. I know.
I don't know if you know what it is to wake up on cold mornings with frost inside your car because the overnight temps dropped into the teens and your breath froze to the windshield. Or how it feels to be so cold you can't stop shaking but you can't start your car and get heat because someone would find you. I have been there.
I can't explain the loneliness. The miserable, bitter, hard, isolating loneliness that crushes you and makes you angry and weary and afraid of people after a while. Those six years where the loneliest of my entire life. 
I don't know if you know what it feels like to have your young child call you begging you to come and get her out of the house and all you can do is pick her up for a few hours but you have to take her back to the abuse and violence of her mom's house, because you don't have a place for her. I do. I can't tell you how it made me weep.
I have awoken to ice on my face where my tears froze to my cheeks. I have wandered aimlessly around a Sam's club for hours just to stay in the A/C in blistering Nashville summers. 
And I have felt the shame and screaming failure of putting out literally hundreds of resumes and not getting any calls. Because I was in my forties, and unemployed and the economy just kept getting worse and worse. I can't express how it feels to have finally gotten a job offer and to feel hopeful and to literally cry for joy because your nightmare seemed to at last be over. Only to get that email a week later that rescinded the job offer because of the excessive costs of the newly implemented Obama care. I had that happen to me three times.
It took 6 years to find a job. I have no furniture. I have a mattress on the floor of my bedroom. I have a kitchen table that someone gave me that is so warped that your plate will slide off it. And yet I am so thankful. I struggle each week, even with the side jobs, to get ahead. But I have a job I really love and I work for and with some of the best people I have ever known. I survived it. I am on my feet. But honestly...I live every single day in fear. Every day I worry about the economy, this society, this wonderful country of mine. I fear not having enough savings or enough stockpiled food. I worry about returning to homelessness. Because I don't ever want to go there again. I don't know if I could handle it emotionally a second time around. I get a knot in my stomach whenever I think about how I have no savings yet, or play the "what-if" game. What if I get hurt? What if there is a layoff? 
Hillary Clinton will destroy this nation. There will be a smoldering ruin when she is done. Her policies have never worked anywhere in the world at any time and yet she wants to go back to them. I fear that a Hillary presidency will put me back in that car, homeless, broken. Trump has employed people. He has paid payroll. Whatever else he might be, he personally has amassed wealth and doesn't wish to lose it. The same can be said for Clinton but the difference is Trump did actual work for his, and Trump wants others to be rich too. Clinton wants to rule the poor. I can't go for that. Just put us back to work, just protect us from terrorism and an illegal invasion. We'll handle the rest. I live in dread of ever living that nightmare again. Hillary Clinton would guarantee that.
So I support Trump.