Who’s The Man?

Every culture has it’s rights of passage. For some it consists of a blood ritual, or getting tattooed by an old guy in a hut smoking banana leaves. Or perhaps you may have to chuck a spear into a lion at what I would assume would be fairly close range and then run like there’s no tomorrow (because there ain’t gonna be for you). Whatever it is, every culture has that one thing that separates the men from the boys.

For our culture that right of passage has become blurred over the last fifty or so years. As the family continues to disintegrate so do customs and social identity. Becoming a man in our society has gone from early teens to the early thirties. Something just seems wrong with that.

There comes a time in every young mans life that a warrior ethic develops. Try to suppress it, you will develop some very bad behavioral issues. Teach the boy the proper context to use his aggression, strength and imagination and you will have a very healthy and productive member in society.

That’s why we have regular wrestling tournaments in our cottage. Basically I just stand there and toss every kid that jumps on me. It helps develop bonding, team work and lets all kinds of energy out. It also helps to establish pecking order in the house and lets the boys know the old man still has a few moves left in this dumpy, decrepit body; until recently.

This particular day I bet the boys that if they pinned me I would let them stay up all night and watch TV. What happened next was a fight for my life. The first hit came from Ken who ran behind me and tackled me at the knees, next Ray jumped off the monkey bars and landed an elbow to my lower back. As I was trying to stand up, Adam started kicking me in the ribs.

At this point I seriously started thinking my title was up for grabs this time, So I rolled over and did a couple leg sweeps and slammed Ken on his back. Just then my two sons decided to jump in by kicking me in the head. All bets were off at this point.

I then struggled to get to my feet with seven kids hanging off of me. All I could think of was “I’ll be darned if I’m going out this way, killed by elementary kids”. Just then my wife wife yelled for us to come in for dinner. As the kids ran inside I took a seat on the ground and thanked God for letting me hold on to my pride for one more day.

It’s hard to admit when your on the downhill side of life and the youth and vigor of yesterday is gone. But until that day when I’ll be forced to admit defeat, I’ll keep on showing them the old bull is still standing guard. -Launch

The Best Night Of My Life

I think everyone has a few moments from the past they wish they could go back and say or do something different that would change the outcome. For me it’s a nasty divorce and two boys that were caught in the middle of something that never should have happened.

In the years that have passed since that time, the time that I have spent with them has not nearly been enough and the pain for everyone involved has been rough to say the least.

This year I have my sons for the entire summer. I have loved and enjoyed every second of it and I think the boys have gotten a lot out of the experience so far. They have seen what I and my wife do for a living, been an important part of the cottage and played with the other boys, learned to jump off the diving board at the pool and most importantly, ride the motorcycle with me.

It’s that last part that really hit home for me. For me, the only time I am completly free and able to relax is when I’m cruising back roads with bugs hitting me in the head. It has become my lifestyle and identity that has attached itself to every area of my life. So when my six year old son wanted to ride to church with me on the bike (An hour away) I was very touched.

So, we got him a helmet. A red, 1970’s Easy Rider style, and hit the road. On the way up to church he waved at every car we passed and pointed out every piece of road kill and any other motorcycles he saw. When we got to church he didn’t want to take his helmet off until we finally explained everyone would think he was just a little “Special” by walking around with a big red helmet. He still insisted on carrying it around.

On the way home, we decided to roll into downtown Greenville and cruise Main Street. As we headed down Main, my son waved at everybody and kept yelling “Woo-Hoo” at which every College Spring Break wannabe would respond in kind. Every time I stopped at a Traffic light he wanted me to make the pipes scream. Yep, he’s destined to be a biker.

We stopped at a Coffee shop and he got a soda while I got a coffee and we just talked about dead pets, riding the school bus next year, why he thinks his younger brother is a jerk, if Jesus had tattoos and why I had hair on my back. Just normal run of the mill conversation.

We got home about 11:30 pm after cruising about 150 miles and walked into the arms of my wife, who was ready to rip my head off (I should call next time). But it was all worth it.

I have dreamed and ached to spend time with my kids like I did last night. Words cannot express the blessing God gave me, and hopefully my son, for such a wonderful night. -Launch

Vacation Time!!

Today is the beginning of a two week vacation.  On Saturday we will be leaving to meet my dad for a week in St. Louis.  We will be staying at his time share for the week and seeing the Arch, Six Flags St. Louis, the Cardinals play the Mets, and a day at NASCAR Speedpark driving the Go-Karts.  We will also play some golf at the resort, take out the paddle boats, play some miniature golf and have some cookouts.  I am planning to continue eating the way I have been and not binge the whole week, yet enjoy some good food like steak and shrimp.

I also know that we will pay for it when we get back to the cottage.  All my dishes in the kitchen will be in the wrong place and many of them will be put away dirty.  The children will be missing half their clothes and the remaining half will be stuffed up under their beds.  I will get to hear stories from the other houseparents about how rotten my kids were to the vacation and relief staff while we were gone as well as all the things they were able to get away with that we never would have allowed.  The children will make us pay with bad behavior for about a week as revenge for leaving them behind.  The med logs will be all messed up, and we will have 2 weeks worth of paper work to get caught up on.  We will have about 300 E-mail messages in our home inbox that will have to be sorted through and will have to get the children caught up on all the appointments they had to miss because of our vacation. 

I am sure there will be other things and we will be totally frustrated for the first two weeks after we get back.  Surprisingly that is equal to the amount of time we will be gone on this vacation.  Go figure?  But all in all I think it will be worth taking the vacation.  I can really use some fun!!

Recovery

The day after a trip always is always rough in the cottage. Everyone is cleaning and trying to get back into routine. I’m the worst when it comes to attitude after we get back home. All I want to do is relax and zone out in front of the Tv. Fortunatly my wife keeps me moving with the occasional slap in back of the head everytime I even think of sitting down when we are trying to get the house back in line.

One of my duties is to clean the bus. Usually it’s a cool job, sweep it out a little, gas it up and turn it back into the motor pool. This time was different. After a week at camp and having 15 people ride 6 hours straight, it was a disaster. It smelled like a sewage treatment plant and looked like a garbage truck.

While washing laundry we found 18 rocks, 3 pencils, 4 sticks, a golf ball, two letters from girls pledging undying love for one of our Romeo’s, a dead lizard and some unknown organic clump.

Our twelve year old is mad because we mixed up our six year olds underwear with his. The six year old wears only Superman Undies while our twelve year old opts for a more mature Sponge Bob Square Pants. I don’t know how we could have made such a mistake.

There are no socks left. Apparently they are hanging from trees in Tennessee somewhere, along with their tooth brushes. They have however been diligent at keeping all their Gameboys clean and accounted for, which is all that is really important anyway.

Do you know the best part? We head out to Georgia next week for three days of hanging at a sponsors house and we get to start all over again!!!

Summer Camp

Another year, another death defying camp with pre-pubescent youth. This year was one for the record books though.

We loaded up the bus and headed for Camp Living Stones in Englewood, TN. My first reaction was it was not much different from other camps I had been to in the past, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The first major adventure we had was a cave hike. No problem I thought, a nice walk thru a cave with a tour guide shining a light on some stalagmites while remarking how it resembles two squirrels fighting- been there, done that. Again, I was wrong. Our guide, Marcus, took us up a nice trail thru the Tennessee woods and to a opening in the side of a hill that was about the size, give or take, of my butt. I (and my butt) started getting a little tense at this point. 

After shoving my gang of boys down the rabbit hole opening, I crawled in the cave with them. We looked around for a few seconds in a room that was just high enough to stand in and then proceeded on with our journey into middle earth. A few seconds later we were ankle deep in water. 

The next part of the adventure was down some narrow corridors and I was feeling pretty confident that the rest of the exploration was going to be a cake walk. Marcus had other plans. We went down a passage called the “Gas Chamber” which consisted of crawling on your hands and knees while starring down the rear end of the guy in front of you, hence the name “Gas Chamber”. About this point my four year old son was screaming “Why Daddy Why?” while I gently encouraged him by letting him know if we did not keep moving we would all die. It seemed to work. 

The next part was a little place they call the “Birth Canal”. It was a passage just big enough for you to get on your belly and crawl thru until you dropped out the other end into a rock crevice that took some fancy yoga moves to maneuver thru. I opted to go another route around the “Birth Canal”, I decided to call it the C- section route (Everyone else gets to give a cool name to places in the cave, why not me?). To get past the Birth Canal I had to get on my stomache and swim around a rock formation without a flashlight. Thats when I discovered I had to go under water and swim underneath a rock to get to the other side. Marcus did a great job encouraging me to get to the other side. At this point I started to get a feeling that I may get to see Jesus and all my dead relatives in the next few minutes, but I made it.  All the kids made it thru the Birth Canal and a few minutes later we were standing in sweet daylight. 

The next day we headed to a waterfall, where as you may have guessed, I decided to follow the crowd and jump off it. I slipped and landed side ways in the river below, but not before I let out a involuntary school girl shriek. I tried looking macho walking out of the river, but my wife still laughed at me. Lucky for me they got a picture of it. 

Some of our boys did the rope course and zip line, climbed a rock wall and did some work projects. All of this was combined with a devotions and services. The food was top notch and the atmosphere was very family oriented. The staff is very professional and dedicated to providing the best possible experience your group can have, spiritual and physical. We spent an afternoon on Buck Bald mountain overlooking the mountains, played sports, ate and had an evening service. All in all it was a great experience.

I do recommend that your kids be middle or high school age. All of our kids are elementary and that did stop us from being able to participate in everything. If I had older kids, I would be there every year. It is an experience all teens would remember for a lifetime and could very well be a defining moment in their walk with Christ. Check them out at Camp Living Stones.

-Launch

16 Basic Social Skills

Last week at this time I was in South Carolina visiting Launchpad.  My wife and I had to drop some kids off at camp in North Carolina and Launch’s place was only an hour out of the way so we stopped by his cottage for supper and a visit.  When we arrived we were greeted at the door by some pleasant young men that looked us in the eye, introduced themselves and stuck out their hands for a handshake.  Afterward, one of the young men offered to give us a tour of the house and did an excellent job.

After meeting these young men it reminded me of visits I have made to other facilities where I was greeted in the same way and realized that they were being taught the 16 basic social skills that Boystown has found will help a person effectively handle more social situations and get along better with people.  I also realized that how different it is at our facility where the 16 basic social skills are not formally taught.  We try to teach manners and address social situations but I have decided that we need to do more.

On the way home my wife and I decided that in spite of what anyone else on campus does, we are going to start working with our children and start teaching the Boystown basic social skills. 

The 16 Basic Skills are:

  • Following Instructions
  • Accepting Criticism
  • Accepting No for an Answer
  • Staying Calm
  • Disagreeing with Others
  • Asking for Help
  • Asking Permission
  • Getting Along with Others
  • Apologizing
  • Having a Conversation
  • Giving Compliments
  • Accepting Compliments
  • Listening to Others
  • Being Honest
  • Showing Sensitivity to Others
  • Introducing Yourself

As you can see they are things that everyone should master, and if everyone did, think how much better we would all get along.

Being the computer guy that I am, I started searching the internet and found several places where they were listed and also gave each step of the skill with different variations.  It wasn’t until the 3rd or 4th page of Google results that I found the source direct from Boystown.  Parenting.org is a service of Boystown and lists the 16 basic skills and detailed instructions for teaching them.  Here is a link to the exact page: http://www.parenting.org/behavior/socialskills/ 

Every houseparent should visit this site and if teaching the basic skills is not part of your facilities program, you should take it upon yourself to teach them.  I may just make your job a lot easier in the end.

The Old Swimming Hole

OK, so it’s not exactly the old swimming hole in the creek down by the woods. It’s more of an Olympic size swimming pool with life guards and diving boards, but it’s still sacred space to me.

The pool is the one place I can sit back and watch the boys dunk each other, get sunburned and yelled at by lifeguards. Yep, it’s chill city. Sometimes when I’m feeling just a bit squirrely I’ll jump in and toss the boys about until they beg for mercy. Pool time is sweet.

Our boys would live at the pool if they could, come to think of it, I would to. The only major drawback to the pool is the sun. Coming from European decent, I get a sunburn if there are to many light bulbs on in the house. So this year I discovered sunscreen rated at 80 spf. The only way to get more protection would be to wrap my body in a quilt, which would be suicide in South Carolina. I figured with 80 spf I could kick back in the sun all day without the slightest darkening of my creamy albino complexion.

You have probably already guessed that my plan failed miserabley. Only my butt and finger tips did not get third degree burns, probably so I can type this blog and serve as some kind of warning to all of you. I wish you could all see the tears run down my face as I type this, not from emotion, but from the fact that 1000mg of Motrin is having no effect. Oh how I wish I had a hook up for morphine.

I tried some of the old fashioned remedies for sunburn. I started with spreading shaving cream all over my body. Unfortunately it was menthol, which felt like someone dumped kerosene over my body and flicked a match on me. After I stopped screaming like a little school girl and my wife finished her spastic laughing, I jumped in the shower, which was equivalent to the pain one would receive after being shot 4 thousand times by a BB gun.

I tried laying on the bed, but as you can imagine, I would rather stand. Being a Yankee I grew up with a very short summer season and much longer winter than what my Rebel brothers did here in the south. As such, I never miss an opportunity to ridicule everyone here when it comes to driving in the snow. Unfortunately, paybacks are harsh. The boys seem intent at greeting me with a slap on the back, which causes me to involuntarily to drop to my knees and try to smile like it doesn’t hurt.

Right now that group home in Alaska is looking real good… -Launch

An Open Letter To Christians

Nothing frustrates me like good old fashioned religion in action. The past few months I have been dealing with others in the Greenville, SC community that claimed to be of Christian practice. As time goes on I am beginning to see them as nothing more than a bunch of hypocritical church scholars that have knowledge of Christian Doctrine but practice nothing but self service.

Example 1- A homeless man with three kids came to our church last night. His wife left him with the kids never to return. All the kids are under 13 years of age. They had been to several of the LARGE churches in the downtown area and several other “Ministries” to try and get some help with a place to stay and maybe a bite to eat. No one would help them. Not a single blasted church in a decent sized city would help. Our church put this guy and his kids up in a hotel and several people our trying to get this guy hooked up with work and some help for his kids.

Example 2- Once a month we run a soup kitchen downtown. Normally it was held in the parking lot of a large church downtown. Unfortunately we can no longer use the parking lot because to many “Undesirable ” people would show up, like over a hundred of them.

In both examples, the people who need help have more than likely made a series of poor decisions to put them in the position that they are in. As Christians we don’t get to pick and choose who we help, we are expected to just do it. Maybe the help we give that father will go unappreciated or he will continue a series of poor choices and never turn to God. But his son, who is watching everything happen, will be impacted by the CHRISTIAN example of love and service. If you call yourself a follower of Christ, it’s your duty to serve, not to sit in judgement and decide whether someone is worthy of your time.

We serve others, it’s what we are called to do. Remember that whole “Let your light shine before men” thing? I’m pretty sure they were talking about letting the holy spirit guide your actions, not at your own comfort and convenience.

As a rule, if your church’s idea of outreach is a movie night with the same people who are there every week and 95% of your budget is used to keep the lights on, chances are that church is a waste of every-ones time.

My challenge to all of you is this, next time someone needs help, give it to them. Even if it goes against reason and especially if it’s the kind of person that you normally wouldn’t hang with. You may be surprised at what blessings God opens up for you. -Launch

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Memorial Service

This past week I attended the memorial service for the wife of one of our Family Teachers here. Her passing was not unexpected and from what I have heard her death was a relief from what she had to endure from her illness.

Unfortunatly I never had much of a chance to know this lady or even hear much about her until the service. It was only then I realized what a great life she had lived and the many kids she served and cared for over her life. On top of that, she was a biker, which really hit a soft spot in my heart.

A member of her family played “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd that was very moving. Even more moving was the fact that this lady lived life and served Christ by serving others. I can’t think of a better way to show your love for Christ. It also got me thinking about my own upcoming demise.

I figure I’ll have little say over when and how the good Lord will call me home, and with my luck it will probably be something embarrassing or stupid like a bleeding hemroid or peeing on an electric fence. Hopefully I will have a little influence in the after party. I say party because that is exactly what I hope it is, a celebration of a life that (hopefully) meant something.

I hope when I die that people can laugh at all my faults and stupid situations I found myself in, and I really hope there is a kid or two that remembers their time with us as being a good and safe place to grow up. Beyond that I have few other simple requests for my wife to put together.

1. I wish to be strapped onto my bike in an upright position on top of a funeral pyre, Viking style.

2. I want my Bikers For Christ colors on.

3. As Free Bird is played by a live band I want the engine started.

4. When the guitar solo starts, I want cousin Jimmy to shoot a flamming arrow into the funeral pyre. (He won the Buckmasters compound bow competition for the last two years. I don’t want anyone to miss and hit me in the leg).

5. I want my remains scattered at Sturgis.

Now that you all know what I want, here is what my wife will probably do,

1. I will be displayed in a nice box at McNealy and Sons Funeral Home.

2. I will be in a suit that I told my wife I would only wear over my dead body. (She is a literalist).

3. Instead of a rocking song like “Free Bird” playing loud and proud it will be a taped recording of the Gaither Family singing “Down By The River”.

4. Instead of a Flaming arrow and explosions, I will be loaded up in a Hearse and driven to a nice cemetery.

5. There will be a nice ham and potato dinner at the church.

However it goes down, one things for sure- I’ll be chilling with Christ. -Launch

I’m Back

Feels like forever since I’ve had a chance to sit down and blog something. But I’m back after a week and a half of dealing with the last day of school, failed assanation attempts, two funerals, swim lessons, summer academic program, two going away parties for different kids on campus, two kids moving in and one kid leaving for a perfectly dysfunctional family. To top it all off I have to deal with those on campus that don’t work with kids that smile and say “Aren’t you glad it’s summer and you can relax some with the boy’s?”. In another time and place I would have choked those people out

Yep, been real busy in South Carolina. So much so, that when when Mike Hyde dropped by on his way home to Mississippi he mentioned there was a little facility in Idaho hiring that I may be interested in….(This was where my wife started screaming).

You see, summer for us is not laid back. If anything the schedule becomes more hectic and you are dealing with drama from the time you wake up and it stops when you pass out at the end of the day. This is a great facility, filled with great programs and events. But there is a point when to much programing and scheduling is as destructive as having no program. It’s kind of a yin and yan balance type of thing

But I’m happy. Mostly because I have enough Prozac to make it through until the end of August and also because I know I’m fighting the good fight. I can’t imagine life being anything else than what I do now with people I love, mostly. -Launchpad