Thursday, May 16, 2013


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. I've been doing a lot of reading lately. I've begun Hemingway's Farewell to Arms. The title should have been 'Farewell to Legs' with how its starting. I think I read it already a long time ago - maybe high school. Whatever.
I'm also on a bit of a graphic novel kick. I'm reading a lot of Batman and Avengers. Batman rules. I've also just finished a really good one by Neil Gaiman called Death. It's worth a look.
I've heard you've been a bit down lately. I have too. Maybe there's something in the air. Most of the time when I feel down I don't really know how to explain why I feel this way. It's not that I don't want to feel better. I just don't. The problem with not being able to explain the 'why' behind how you're feeling is that if you can pinpoint the problem - you'll be hard pressed to come up with the solution.
Carl Rogers was a Psychologist whom I've been recently studying that really seems to speak to me and has been a help when I'm low. Roger said that we all have an image of ourselves of what we would like to be like - an ideal. You, of course, are perfect. I'm not talking about you - this is about me. Anyway, if how we see ourselves is close to our ideal self consistently then the higher our sense of self-worth is. Convexly, (convexly?) if our life experiences are unacceptable and our ideal image is nothing to what we see ourselves to be - our self worth is denied since we are in a state of incongruence. This is all based on how we see ourselves (self-image), how we think about ourselves (self-esteem), and who we would like to be (ideal self).
As you can probably guess, Rogers was not much on behaviorism or psychoanalysis. His theory was that people behaved as they did because of how they perceived their situation. Nobody, Temple, knows how you perceive your situation and your life. You are the expert on that. Ever have anyone tell you how you should feel, think or act in a situation where you felt just the opposite? They are basing their views of how you should feel on their own situations - not yours.
You have good instincts and plenty of life lessons beyond your years already. Trust your instincts. Trust yourself.
One of the determining factors of reaching self-actualization (Maslow bomb! - think fullest potential) is your environment. When you're a kid you don't get much call on the environment you grow up in. You're getting older now and you've got a pretty good handle on what environments are healthy and which ones aren't. You know who loves you and who's acting in their own selfish interests. You know who keeps you safe and who handles your care with disregard. The older you get, the more you will have charge over where you go, what you do and who you choose to be around. Trust your instincts on this. Trust yourself.
I love you much and miss you always,
Uncle Justin

Saturday, May 4, 2013


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. Should be a short note tonight. I'm about to head out to a buddy's house and hang out by a roaring bonfire. Should be fun.
Elijah and I just got done building Tony Stark's Iron Man Laboratory. It's fun spending time with just him in the evenings. Here's a fuzzy picture of it. You can't see it too well from the photo, but there's a lot of detail and movable parts. Your cousin is getting to be a pretty capable builder.
I hope you're having a nice weekend. I love you much and miss you always,
Uncle Justin

Friday, May 3, 2013


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. I don't know if I've told you yet, I don't think so, but I am about to be an Uncle again - twice. My sisters are both expecting girls. I am very excited about this. Being an Uncle is cool. You already know this and I'm sure you are just in awe of my coolness.
Maybe not.
You might not think I'm very cool, Temple, you may think that I'm out of touch and forgotten how to be cool. That's where your logic fails you. I'm so cool that I don't even remember HOW to be cool. This makes sense. Don't argue with me.
Let's move on.
I like waiting for more children to come into my life. Kids are an important blessing. My sisters and their husbands are good people. These little persons are fortunate to be being born to such caring and loving people.
It's good being the Uncle for another reason, Temple, I have children being born into my family and I don't have to DO anything. I just get to be excited. I don't have any real responsibility toward raising, caring, funding or anything else for these children. My interactions with them are basically based on what my sisters are willing to allow me (just because I'm family doesn't mean I'm entitled to anything.) I feel fortunate that I have good relationships with both my sisters and we are willing to actively be involved in each other's lives.
Sounds kind of like a legal contract rather than a relationship, but I've found that it's good to be careful about these things. I'll tell you why.
When my father died (yes I'm talking about that again - there were a lot of poignant lessons during that time) I had a lot of interactions with close family and veritable strangers that ran the gamut from caring and helpful to completely inappropriate and destructive. A friend of mine, Philip Rhodes, told me something very wise that I've kept with me.
"Go have a beer," he said. He is a very wise man.
There was something else he told me that was also very insightful.
He said, "People do all sorts of odd things during emotionally charged events like funerals. People say crazy things that they don't mean. They laugh and they don't know why or feel like they shouldn't be laughing. Some people are good at these things. Some people just fall apart. Most of them don't know what they should do - and they are usually the worst of the lot."
"What should I do?" I said.
"Watch them," he said, "Take notes."
That's just what I did. I paid real close attention to people, what they were saying or doing. I paid closest attention to the people who shined. Those that knew how to comfort. Those that knew when to help and when to get out of the way. Those who said just the right thing at just the right time. I also made sure to note what the destructive people did. I watched every time they chose selfishness over empathy. I watched every time they followed their own agenda, fulfilling their own desires over those really in need. I listened to every destructive or careless word they said. I took good notes, Temple, and I do my best to model myself after people who model what I hope to attain to be.
Being a good Uncle is easy. It's so easy, that it's easy to mess up and I'm not going to do that.
I get to be excited that I get to have more children in my life.
If my sisters were the type of parents (which they are not) that don't like anyone to touch or hold their babies, if I had to admire this new life from across the room. That would be enough for me because I get to be an Uncle and am excited that my sister's are having children.
If they didn't want me to visit for a year, for whatever reason, and I had to wait until the child's first birthday to see her. That would be enough for me because I get to be an Uncle and am excited that my sister's are having children.
They can make whatever rules they want and I don't care. I have no expectations of them or the baby. I just get to be excited, and I am.
My sisters are having kids and I get to be an Uncle.
I felt much the same way when you were born. I love you much and miss you always,
Uncle Justin

Thursday, May 2, 2013


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. It's been a beautiful couple of days here. We've got some rain coming in tonight. Later on I'll be going to see Iron Man 3 with my neighbor. Being broken down fathers of young children, we're going to the 9:00 show. I made the mistake of going to the midnight showing of The Avengers with him. I fell asleep and missed the last 45 minutes of the movie. He told me it was good.
Today I was busy running errands. I have some laundry to do and will start making dinner soon. See what you have to look forward to when you get older! Excitement! Suspense! Mundane boring repetition of basic custodial practices and routine! Hooray!
I get through my day by telling myself that I am providing my children and spouse with a clean, crafted environment where they can live and thrive. This is important. It's also not very exciting. However, I am not fooled by my daydreams of adventures and spontaneous living without cares. I like living in a clean place, having enough food and a roof over my head.
I'm hoping to get to the lumbar yard and pick up some more materials for the boy's tree house. I've got another couple of projects I'm working on. Blah, blah, blah and blah.
Can you tell I'm a bit crabby today?
Our garbage man has suffered for my attitude. Don't get too upset with me. It's his own fault. Last week I didn't have the garbage bins far enough out in the alley and he ended up not picking up my trash. This irked me. I'm not talking about a lot of distance here. The man couldn't be bothered walking an extra four strides. To make a long story slightly shorter, I wasn't planning on cleaning out my garage this week, but when my trash wasn't picked up, I did just that.
Today's garbage pick-up was something to behold. Full bins of garbage and refuse stacked high. Old paint cans, old home project refuse and to top it all off - a heavy old couch. He didn't show any signs of knowing, or caring, about the pile of garbage. I'm sure somewhere in his heart, he was contrite.
I saw him muttering a bit and I imagine him saying, "I should have taken care of this last week. 'A stitch in time' so they say."
Who knows?
I have to be careful, Temple, being home and out of contact with adults can make someone odd. Give me a couple extra years and I'll have imagined a whole feud between myself and garbage man. I'll live for Thursdays where we will engage in a epic struggle of him attempting dodgy service while I try and destroy his lower back with hidden masonry at the bottom of garbage receptacles.
Come to think of it - I really need this night out.
I love you much and miss you always,
Uncle Justin

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. Thank you for writing me back. I appreciate it. My stories do tend to be a little random, but I never have an agenda. I just write you and see where it goes. If there is anything you want to ask me about or talk about, just drop me a note and I can answer you here. I would tell you to call me, but most of the time I don't even know where my phone is - much to the chagrin of people who want to get in contact with me.
I don't know why I lose my phone so much. I won't bore you with the introspective meanderings of my mind, but my current belief is that I have some sort of repressed hostility against technology and it's continued invasion of personal privacy. I don't like the idea that people are feel entitled to instantaneous contact with me at any given moment of the day.
You're bored now. Sorry.
I've done a lot of cleaning today and I still have much to do. Your cousins destroy just about as fast as I clean. They are learning to pick up after themselves, because I tend to inconvenience them with cleaning at moments they would much rather be doing something else. Like playing outside in the warm weather. Hopefully, they'll take the hint and start cleaning up things right after they are done playing with them.
I just got back from taking the kids to the park. They biked around while I went over the draft of the children's book I'm working on. I think it's ready to send to my editor, but she's booked up until the end of May. There isn't any real rush on this. I'm just impatient.
I have a goal about being a successful author. I define success, in this case, by making good money as an author. This hasn't worked out so far. I've found that success only comes through hard work, so that's what I'm doing. My plan is to write a lot - every day. Get better at writing through hard work and never give up on myself. No matter how many time I get rejections for my work, I will keep sending it out. I will not except failure. I will only get better. I've gotten close to being published, but close isn't enough.
If you have a dream, Temple, you have to make it happen yourself. Most of the successful people I know, achieved their success through hard work. You don't have to look any further than your Aunt Crystal. She's worked hard through school and she's not done yet (I hope she won't make me call her Dr. Hunter.) She carefully planned our her career to put herself in position to achieve employment that befits her talents. None of her success was handed to her. None of this was easy. Her supervisor is retiring, which puts her in charge of the Early Childhood Special Education Program for one of the biggest cities in America.
Your Aunt Crystal did this herself. I am intensely proud of her. If you want something out of life, Temple, roll up your sleeves and go get it.
I love you much and miss you always,
Uncle Justin

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. I was so happy to hear from you after yesterday's letter. I want to make sure I answer you - so here is what you wrote. It makes me smile every time I read it.

- hay uncle justin thank u 4 the note. and realy ......u will kill the kid. wow. thanks a lot 4 saying i cant have a boyfriend until on 40. have u been talking 2 grandma & grandpa? i love u tons. and lol u r funny. love temple
- ps its temple

- never mind i already said its me

- lol
I've noted and appreciate your charming use of sarcasm. Temple, I am your Uncle. That means if anyone is mean to you - they must die. That's not being overprotective. That's in the Uncle bylaws I signed when you were born. That's also why I live about a six hour drive away from you. 
I'll explain. Remember I take the long way around while explaining. Just listen.
When your Aunt Crystal and I got married we moved from Wisconsin to Missouri. We moved for reasons of work and opportunity. Which we have found. We also moved this far away because of the father-in-law rule. Your Grandpa and I get along very well, (except for the time I was beating him in chess and said, "Pastor, where is your God now?" I don't get many opportunities to gloat when we play chess. Anyway.) Your Aunt Crystal will always be his little girl and that means that no matter how well your Grandpa and I get along I know that I'm toast if I ever do her wrong. Living six hours away by car is helpful. 
If he ever gets upset with me and jumps in his car to get me - there's a good chance he'll calm down by the time he gets here after six hours of driving. This helps you in reverse. If any twerp does you wrong and I jump in my car to get them - there's a good chance I'll calm down by the time I get there. 
This reminds me of a story about when my older sister came back from the park crying. She told my father that another kid hit her. My dad stormed out of house to the park to find the boy. His rage died when he found the aggressor only came up to his knee.
Random story? Yes. That's how I roll.
Thank you so much for writing me back. I love you much and miss you always,
Uncle Justin  

Monday, April 29, 2013


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. Yesterday was Elijah's birthday - we had ourselves an nice time of it. We went mini-golfing, ate out, went to an indoor playland and saw a movie at the dollar show. Elijah received loads of presents and went to bed happy. It was a nice day.

Your Aunt Crystal reminded me that you're twelve years old. Twelve! This is serious stuff. I thought that today I would impart you a little unasked for Uncle advice on boys. Don't be embarrassed! This talk is long in coming. I used to be a boy and know their ways.

Your Grandparents have probably instituted a "no dating until you're forty" rule, but in case you decide to break that one. Keep this list in mind. There are a lot of creeps out there and These rules will keep them at bay.

1. The boy must be nice to you. This is easily the most important rule there is. If the lad calls you names, is rude, or makes you feel small in any way. Dump him. This rule alone will cull nearly seventy percent of boys out there - and you won't miss them.

2. The boy must be respectful. If the boy you like is rude to your Grandparents, give him the boot. If they don't respect your Grandparents or their rules, they won't respect you or yours. Dump him.

3. No Wimps - No Monsters. The boy must not be a sissy. You need someone who will stand up for you when needed. I know you don't need it, Temple. You could probably beat up nearly every twelve year old boy out there. Don't let them know that. Too threatening. You also don't want some hot-headed kid who hits everyone who gives him a cross look. Find someone who is gentle, but who can muster courage when he needs too.

4. The boy must be nice to you. In case you forgot.

5. The boy must never make you uncomfortable. If the kid tries to take you places or put you in situations where you are uncomfortable, nervous or scared. Dump him. If he's doing those things, he's not trying to get to know you, he's trying to put you in submissive situations where you don't have power or control.

6. Uncle Justin Veto Rule. If Uncle Justin doesn't like the kid. Send him packing. I can understand why you may not understand or agree with this rule, but this is my list and I can add any rules that I want. You can complain to your Grandpa, but I think he will agree with me (I think he has a "Grandpa Veto Rule.")

I think a top six list is good enough to get you started. Basically, respect yourself enough to date someone of quality. I love you very much and don't want to have to drive up to where you live and kill some kid for being unkind to you.
I love you much and miss you always,
Uncle Justin