Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. I pick your Aunt Crystal up from the airport today at 2:30. It will be so nice to have her home again. She's been gone since Saturday afternoon and that's too long. I don't feel quite myself when she's not here. I plan on saying 'hi' and then throwing three kids at her and then go take a nap. Not really. We're probably going straight from the airport to test drive a van. Today I may become a 'Van Achiever' - a great honor in parenthood. Is there really such a thing as Van Achiever? No. I just need to make my life more exciting than it really is.
Yesterday we had small group come over to our home. We had a really good time. We're discussing the book The Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn. It's a good one. I wish you dad was here for last night's discussion. We are on some chapters that have a lot to do about numbers in how they deal with time and the Hebrew calender vs. our own. It would have been good to have your grandpa here to help sort that out. I'm sure he could explain it better than the book does.
That's kind of the key to a lot of things - having the right person there who can explain things the right way so that they can be easily understood. That's why it's good to know a lot of different people. I know how social you are, so I dont' think you'll have a problem with that. Me? I'm very social. I just prefer to socialize with myself. I find myself to be very good company and I tend to agree with my own opinions.
I seem to be rambling today, but I'm very tired. So just deal with it young lady. When I was a kid I had to listen to adults when they rambled, so now it's my turn. It will be good to have Crystal back. I don't know how single parents can do this non-stop. God bless them. I guess you gotta do what you gotta do.
I love you much and miss you always,
                          Uncle Justin

Monday, October 29, 2012


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. I'm happy to be seeing you over Thanksgiving. It should be a good time. I'm going to be making a big meal. There is a great spice shop on main street and there is a maple brown sugar rub that will make that turkey taste very nice indeed. I love turkey, but nobody else in my family does. It's the only time of year I feel okay buying an eighteen pound bird that I'm going to eat myself. Not all at once, mind you. That would be piggish.
If my memory serves, you are a fan of turkey yourself. If you want some you better sit close to me. Your grandpa can put away a sizable amount of fowl himself. Here's the plan. We keep the bird close to us and have him sit at the other end of the table. We then make sure there are a bunch of starch-heavy, belly-busting side dishes that he will have to eat through to get to the meat. It will be a battle, but we shall overcome.
I took Elijah bowling while the boys were on their visit with their biological family on Sunday. It was a good time. I forgot what a cheap form of entertainment it was too. I found that I bowl how I handle most things in life. I whip the ball as hard as I can right down the line. I don't do that little crescent spin I see most avid bowlers doing. What happens is that I usually hit an easy strike or veer sharply left or right and knock down a single pin. I do everything with rampant gusto. It may look like I'm laid back, but that's just how I rampant gusto.
Elijah had a good time. Maybe we could go bowling when you're here. Maybe you hate bowling. Maybe that's the worst idea ever. Let me know.
I love you much and miss you always,
            Uncle Justin

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. Dropped the boys off for their visit with their biological mom this morning. I pick them up at five. Elijah and I went to church. I would have probably skipped it but he was insistent, so we went. He's such a good boy. He also didn't have to wake up several thousand times last night. I don't know what was up with our dog Delilah. She barked a lot last night. Normally she doesn't say anything. She's getting old and I'm sure when I'm old I'll do a lot of barking at nothing too - so I guess it's par for the course.
My grandmom - What a terrible bridge to this conversation. I talk about my old dog barking at shadows and that leads to talk about my deceased grandmother? Yes I am. She was a wonderful woman, but neural synapses are going to fire how they do and I am powerless to stop them. Anyway, my grandmom who has since passed on, was in a nursing home for a long time. She lived independently in an apartment for a long time, and as long as possible. She once told me that when she planned on living only a few months when she moved into the nursing home. She was wrong and the years wore on for her. She used to tell me when I was in town visiting that she didn't know why she was still alive.
"Why don't I just go ahead and die?" She said.
"I don't know," I said.
"I can't see anymore. I'm in a lot of pain and I can't do anything for anybody," she said.
"You're making me happy just seeing you," I said.
"That's a bunch of phooey," she said and she was right.
My grandmother wanted to die a lot earlier than she did. Time is a funny thing in that it is a singular difference in something we are bound by and God is not. He created us and he created time and he created us to live in time. He doesn't have too, obviously, and sometimes this can create a lot of strain on us humans because of this. A million years is as a day to God, but a million years is a million freaking years to us. My grandmother entered the nursing home and then went blind, couldn't move, couldn't do anything but sit or lie down and talk and even talking hurt. What's worse is that you get put on all these drugs for the pain that make you say and do things you normally wouldn't. What's worser than worse is that you can live long enough in that state and people start remembering you like that instead of the vibrant person you used to be. My dad once told me that everything vital to life works in her, but everything extra is gone.
What's the point of living like that? She buried her husband and three of her children. Who wants to live longer then their children? Me, that's who. Just kidding.
So when my grandmother asked me on a few occasions why she was alive, I didn't know why and couldn't tell her. Sometimes I would tell her that God new why, but I think we both thought that answer was a little weak. I think we both thought that God kind of forgot about her.
But then it happened.
My father died suddenly several years ago and things were a mess. We went to go see her and let her know what the arrangements were for the funeral. My mom was a mess. My sisters were a mess. I was a mess. There was my grandmother. She was sad, but, I don't know, solid. She sat in her wheelchair, blind and in pain, and seemed strong and even enough to hold up everyone herself. She didn't blubber. She didn't whine or complain. She just started talking, practical and in charge.
"Well we just need to cut back," she said. "I don't have to have my hair cut every week..." she just went on listing things she could do to help right the ship that had just took on a lot of water.
"Darn Straight Grandma," I thought, but I thought something else too. I was thinking about our conversations as to why she was kept alive and so many years in pain. Maybe it was for that moment in time where her strength was needed for our family. Maybe God hadn't forgotten about her after all. She was paying the bill in spades for our blessing, but sometimes blessings come from pain.
Then the door shoved inward and I heard the nurses shouting "Maynerd! Don't go in there Maynerd! Maynerd!" This dude was shoving his wheelchair backwards into people's room doors trying to get in. He had a look of incredible intensiveness on his face. I tried to meet his eyes but he didn't look at me. He didn't want anything but to get in the room. His face said, "Booyah, I'm in!" while the nurses scrambled to get him out. I'll never forget that guy. All those ladies yelling "Maynerd!" ha ha ha.
If I ever end up in a nursing home, which I will, I want to be like Maynerd. I don't want to just sit there without purpose. I want to wake up and get in my wheelchair and create enough havoc that they will put a little extra juice in my IV drip to knock me out.
I love you much and miss you always,
                      Uncle Justin

Friday, October 26, 2012


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. I am not a proud man today Temple. I have given up. It's time I let you in on a little secret that I've kept since middle school. I tried this week to go back on what my heart has told me over and over for so long, but it is not meant to be.
I, Justin Hunter, hate James Fenimore Cooper's novel The Last of the Mohicans. I hated this book every time I've attempted to like it, and there have been several.
I should really like this book. I am well-read. I love the classics and what is more famous or classic than this work by Cooper? Not much. I love the movie and the book is always better than the movie, isn't it?
I finished Gore Vidal's Lincoln and found myself staring at my built-in bookshelves looking for my next read. I saw the book and thought to give it another chance. You see, Temple, this book makes me feel stupid. Why don't I like it? Is there something wrong with me? Am I not learned enough to find joy in such a weighty tome?
I went in search of the answer at the library. I know I didn't have to go to the library. I have a beautifully bound copy at home. But I've tried to get into the book so much that I was bringing out the big guns, audio book style. Whenever I've had trouble getting into a book, my last resort is listening to it on CD. I can put it on when I'm on the treadmill, working on the car, doing the dishes or whatever. I've 'read' a lot of books this way I wouldn't have otherwise.
So this week I came home with all sixteen CD's of The Last of the Mohican's unabridged (that means they don't cut out anything).
I listened to the first three CD's and hate the book now more than ever. BUT NOW I KNOW WHY. I'm older now Temple and that makes me wiser. I knew I hated this book when I was a kid, but I couldn't put my finger on why. Now I can. The pacing is terrible. Cooper flowers his words more than an old lady splashes on rose water. His inability to use words less than three syllables make the pace of the reading seem as slow and jumbled as driving over a ten mile stretch of speed bumps. If this didn't hurt the reader enough, he's added footnotes and sequences of French which is akin to learning how to drive a manual car. You just get the thing going and it dies suddenly, like the book, it's hard to pick up again.
Things happen so slowly it makes the reader want to die. Cooper gives advance notice to any and all action, then has lengthy conversations and illustrious paragraphs about character's turning their heads, that you are sick on the action before it even happens. You cousin Elijah said it best, I had it on while we were doing homeschool.
"What are they doing in the story?" He said.
"They got out of the river and are talking," I said.
"They've been doing that a long time," He said.
"I know."
"They are talking about the same stuff. They aren't doing anything. Aren't they in trouble?" He said.
"They are supposed to be," I said.
"This is the worst book ever."
I agree.
I love you much and miss you always,
                         Uncle Justin

Thursday, October 25, 2012


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. It's about 5:45 in the morning. I've been up for awhile and off and on all night. The baby it teething. The little sharp bones lacerating through his gums makes him uncomfortable. He's awake and he makes sure we are too.
Your Aunt Crystal and I get to meet our new son on the 3rd. Elijah is coming with us. The little ones will be on a visit with their biological family. It should be a good time. He could be with us permanently as soon as Thanksgiving. That would be nice.
Having four kids will keep us very busy. You can ask your grandma about that - but we will survive. We are made out of the sternest mold. Sternest mold? I know I'm mixing up my phrases, but I don't care. You get the idea.
Yesterday I actually sat down and wrote 400 words on my newest novel. I haven't worked on it in awhile. When I get any sort of break I'm just too tired to really invest in something like writing. That's kind of depressing so I'll talk about something else.
Tuesday started roughly. The baby kept us up all night with his teething issues. He only slept when it was time for us to get up, which makes you want to strangle the little buggers. The toddler was calling to get up so I got him. Two things happened to him during the night that don't usually happen. His diaper slipped and he had a bowel movement. His pajamas showed no leakage from the outside, but unzipping them showed a foulness that cannot be described without vomiting on my laptop, so I won't...yes I will - It was like he was wearing a Hazmat suit backwards - all the nasty kept inside.
I gagged all the way through giving him a shower and gagged while cleaning the shower after. Then Elijah and the baby woke up. They got baths/showers and breakfast and we went right into a pretty intensive homeschool session with Elijah.
We had to accomplish homeschool quickly since I had a meeting in Saint Louis to go over our adoptive son's file. It was also laundry day so I was washing and folding mountains of clothes. I used the stove timer to keep on track. This was a very busy morning.
Now usually I don't get my shower in until 10:00. I can shower earlier if we're going somewhere, but that entails putting the little ones in a bouncer and pack-in-play in the bathroom so I can watch them while I get clean. They hate this and let me know about it. I don't like showering amidst the screams of young children, so I was planning on waiting.
Things were in full swing when we heard a knock on the door at nine. I ignored it at first. I thought it was either one of Elijah's friends or a neighbor who needed to borrow something. It's not the nicest thing to ignore a knock, but I did. The person wouldn't leave and continued knocking so I answered the door.
There was the children's foster social worker. We had a meeting that morning and I had forgotten about it.
Usually when she comes for her monthly visit our house looks like the set on Masterpiece Theatre. Everything is spotless. The toddler walks in wearing his cummerbund. I pretend this is how things always are. We talk for awhile and she leaves.
On Tuesday she walked in and the sofa was full of folded laundry with a pile on the side that needed folding. Laundry that doesn't get put in the dryer was hung on the built-in bookshelves. Toys were everywhere. I was putting most of my concentration on getting Elijah's schooling done rather than cleaning up after the toy dumping duo.
The worst part was me. Now the boys were clean, fed, wearing clean clothes and happy. I was a mess. I hadn't showered. I needed a shave. To top it all off, I answered the door wearing nothing but jeans. My greeting went like this.
"Hi," I said, "I'm going to go put on a shirt." She didn't beg me not too, so I know I should hit the treadmill a little bit more. I'm kidding.
I was very embarrassed. Now the house was messy with toys and clean laundry, but it wasn't dirty. I wasn't showered and dressed, but the boys were. It was kind of a normal day here, it's just not the picture I strive to portray to the social workers that pass regularly through our home. I explained my appearance and apologized for forgetting our meeting, and the worker said it was okay.
"It's not the first time I've had someone answer the door that way," she said.
"That makes me feel better," I said.
"Never in a foster home," she said, "But it's not the first time."
"That's nice," I said.
Darn it Temple - When you start to take yourself seriously, God gives you plenty of reason for humbleness.
I love you much and miss you always,
                    Uncle Justin

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. Early morning note for you. The boys have been keeping me very busy and I'm tired of flaking out on making sure I get to talk to you. So you get an early morning note - Your uncle has risen to the new dawn (actually I wish the boys would let me sleep until dawn. I'm going to have to rephrase.) Your uncle has risen to the waning night. That's better. I'm going with it. Night can wane in these notes. I don't care.
Our toddler is a little nuts in the morning. He wakes up as early as possible so as not to miss your aunt Crystal going to work. He is very insistent. He's also a light sleeper. I think this morning he woke up to the automatic coffee pot turning on. So I'm sitting here thinking about how I need coffee because I'm tired, but the coffee is what's making me tired since it woke my kid up. It's kind of like the snake solacing his hunger by devouring his own tail.
I'm not really sure what I want to eat for breakfast. Maybe I just won't. When I grew up I would eat leftovers for breakfast usually, so I've had some pretty nice spreads when I've broken fast. Right now I could go for some Chinese food, as odd as that sounds. I don't have any leftover Chinese food in the fridge and I'm feeling pretty particular - so I just may skip food until my taste buds wake up with the rest of my body.
I used to live in De Pere, Wisconsin. It's a nice place near Green Bay. I had a small studio apartment above a photography studio. It was cheap and served my needs. I have a nice house now, but I still sometimes miss the simplicity of living entirely in one room. Your Aunt doesn't agree with me on that. Anyway, There were small apartments above stores and one of the store, which I frequented, was Number 1 Chinese Restaurant. They made some really great food there. Being the Number 1 Chinese restaurant, I guess they should.
Where was I? The story I'm about to tell you isn't about breakfast. It's not about De Pere. It's not about very much at all except for Chinese food. This conversational bridge only supported by my minor food craving. I'm tired - just walk with me.
I knew the owner of the place back then. We got on well. Earlier that day I had watched a news program that spoke to how bad Chinese food was for you. After ordering I asked him about that.
"I heard Chinese food is bad for you," I said.
"It's not bad. It's good," He said. "I'll show you." He brought out two plates and set them on the counter.
"Ready?" He said.
"I can't wait," I said. He took a large scoop of rice and put it on the first plate.
"This is China," He said as he put a small scoop of Sesame Chicken on the bed of rice. "You understand?"
"I follow you," I said.
"This is America," He said as he put a small scoop of rice on the second plate then slathered it with a heaping dollop of Sesame Chicken. You couldn't see the rice under all that sweet brown goo.
"You understand?" He said.
I did.
I love you much and miss you always,
                     Uncle Justin

Sunday, October 21, 2012


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. I had a great time this weekend. I got to forget stress and just enjoy time with family and friends. My brother-in-law Aaron drove down from Green Bay and took me to see the Rams/Packer game. I've lived here since 2003 and have never been to a Rams game. Season tickets are reasonable and we can use your Aunt Crystal's work parking space which is two blocks from the stadium. I may pick up a couple season tickets for next year. If you're down on a weekend when they're playing, I would like to take you.
I was a little worried about wearing a Packers jersey at Ram's Stadium, but the place was half full of Packers fans. It was almost like a home game. The fans of Green Bay really love their team to make the drive. Green Bay is truly a great place to be if you're a football fan. You've been alive when the Packers have been predominantly a winning team, but I've lived through some pretty awful seasons. There is a difference between St. Louis and Green Bay. Even during those years when the losses pile up - the stadium is full of fans and everyone loves their Packers team. The Rams just don't have that. They love their team when they win. When they lose - not so much.
I also got to enjoy a nice time with our friends Amy and Jeffrey who hung out with us last night. Crystal, Aaron, the Johnson's and I had a nice fire outside and talked well into the night. Good conversation with good people. I think you would have enjoyed it.
I'll write more tomorrow, I have some funny stories for you.  I just have a lot to attend to tonight. Just want you to know that I miss you and love you very much,
              Uncle Justin

Friday, October 19, 2012


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. Forgive the lack of letter yesterday. Your Aunt Crystal went to a conference so I had the boys to myself for a night. We watched Darby O'Gill and the Little People. It was a good movie, but I didn't remember all the scary parts it had. Elijah, who gets nightmares pretty easily, closed his eyes for those parts. He doesn't shake scary images well. When you put garbage in your head you can never get rid of it.
It was fun to see a young Sean Connery in the film. He sang a couple times. Now I know why his musical career never took off.
With Crystal gone I stayed up late, smoked a couple pipes (which is a filthy and disgusting habit) and read. I'm reading The Black Rose by Costain. I picked up the book at the library book fair not knowing anything about it except that it had a beautiful cover. It's nice that the story is as good as the binding.
I was able to get the Gremlin started. I have a lot more to do before I'm able to drive it around, but it lives. I am learning a lot about cars and having a great time while doing it. Right now most of what I'm doing is cleaning it. I'm going to make the shop-vac cry and ask for seconds.
You Aunt Crystal just came home and three blond boys were very happy to see her. I plan on getting out of the house for a bit of solitary time. The boys are into the Berenstain Bears books and we've read about forty of them in the last few days. That is not an exaggeration. Stan and Jan Berenstain are nothing if not prolific. I think our library has over two hundred of their works. I think I may press the issue of moving on before then. I need a little more variety then the boys do I guess.
The baby got some shots today and Elijah has a bronchial infection. We had a lot of waiting room time today. We made it out alive, but I don't know if we are any better for the experience. I know Elijah is. I am like most parents in that I prefer my child to be able to breathe.
I love you much and miss you always,
             Uncle Justin

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. Today I've got bathrooms to clean, laundry to fold and put away, dishes and vacuuming. Last night I picked up a bed and mattress for your new cousin. The bed needs to be put together, which I'll do during the little one's first nap. Your Aunt Crystal will be out of town tomorrow and most of Friday for a conference, so I got the boys all to myself. I don't plan on doing anything different really. Her trip is during the week so our schedule will go as normal.
We're going to take her Beetle in to have the tires checked. We just got her car's oil changed and we have AAA in case something happens on the road. I'm sure she'll be fine.
She gets pretty bored on these trips and I don't blame her. Hotels are much more exciting when you're a kid. When you're an adult and have to spend a lot of time in hotels due to work, it gets a lot less fun. My most exciting hotel stay was on a road trip to Florida with my high school buddy Brian. I think we spent thirty bucks to stay there. The room was dirty and the door didn't even lock. We kept getting dubious calls from dubious people all night long. Not great for getting a good nights sleep, but it's something I'll always remember.
Come to think of it, we spent a night in a worse place on a mission trip to Texas. That place was infested. Our room was okay for a night, and I mean ONE night, but the girl's had to be put elsewhere. Think about flipping the mattress and seeing all sorts of nasty things scurrying for cover. I should have slept in the van.
Sometimes life gives you a dirty mattress, Temple. Think twice before flipping it, what's underneath might be worse. Just lay down and try not to think about the crunching sounds you hear when you roll over. Pray for daylight and put a few hundred miles between yourself and that motel that next day. Just check your shirt first - you may have taken a few friends with you.
I'm also working on trying to consolidate Crystal's school loans. It's a fun process. Mine are all paid off. Crystal's would have been to by now if she wasn't so into all that fancy book-learning. We are reaping the benefits of all that knowledge crammed into her pretty head so I'm okay with the cost. When I was younger you could put off your payments forever, but now the Federal Student Loan people wield the powers of mighty Thor and can garnish themselves to oblivion. They are not to be trifled with, so we don't.
I have to mow the lawn too. I'm hoping it's the last time for awhile. Although I remember last year doing it once in January.
I love you much and miss you always,
                  Uncle Justin

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. Yesterday I got my AMC Gremlin car. I really like it. It runs, although not well. A little bit of elbow grease and a lot of cleaning and I'll be zipping around town in no time. I think this car is really cool - pretty much exactly what I want in a fun project car.  The car was really inexpensive since the guy I bought it from had to clean up his property or get evicted. Don't worry, I didn't take advantage of him. He told me the price - it was so low that I didn't even try to talk him down.
But you know what? I feel pretty bad about owning it. Not bad because I think the price was too low for what I got. Think scrap metal prices. I called the guy last night to tell him the car was here and he was happy and thankful for the deal. What I feel bad about is spending the money on something selfish when it could have gone to other things.
This feeling I have is palpable to those around me. Your Aunt Crystal likes the car too and she doesn't really understand why I'm kind of upset about it. She says we never buy each other anything substantial - ever - and she also wants me to have something to do when she leaves town for conferences. It's good to be busy. Especially someone who broods as much as I do. Better to brood over drum brakes.
Here's my issue. I have another kid coming, two little ones that are going but are expensive, a van to purchase and bills to pay. Shouldn't I be spending my money more wisely than a old car? The answer is a resounding Yes and No at the same time. The answer Yes makes the most sense to me at this point in time. I could easily make a profit seven times what I paid for the car if I put it on craigslist today. The guy who brought the car to me said he got five offers while it sat in his driveway overnight. It's not that I'm behind on payments on anything or that this car will lead to our financial ruin (it's the kids that will lead to our financial ruin:) It's just not a 'smart' purchase. Does that make sense?
I don't need this car.
I want this car and I'm worried my wants are getting in the way of focusing on my needs.
Crystal thinks I'm overthinking this, but I don't know. There's also the obvious that I'm a stay at home dad and am not bringing in any money, which makes this purchase seem ultra selfish. Crystal thinks that ridiculous and it is, but it's still on my mind. I bet that every parent that stays home thinks this way from time to time. It would be nice if my agent sold my book so that I could bring some scratch to the table.
What I do know is that I'm going to try and listen to your Aunt Crystal and enjoy the car. If I brood over it too much it will annoy everyone around me and we didn't spend the money to make me conflicted. We spent the money on a cool car. We spent the money on a healthy hobby that will give me something to do outside of wiping butts all day. We spent the money because sometimes it's nice to ENJOY the fruits of labor instead of taking care of needs and socking away the rest for when you're bedridden at seventy-five.
I also think your Aunt Crystal will steal the car from me when it's done. It's that cool.
I love you much and miss you always,
                  Uncle Justin

Monday, October 15, 2012


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. Today my car is coming - I'm feeling very happy and trepidatious at the same time. I wish I trusted people more than I do. I can't get rid of this feeling that the guy stripped the car before he put in on the shipping truck. It's not a good thing to feel this way. Most of the time people are worried about other people doing things that they themselves would do in the same situation. Don't get me wrong Temple, I am a good person and don't steal from others. Maybe I just need to be a little more positive on a Monday morning.
Anyway, Friday night was spent babysitting our friend's children. Their Dad had a working weekend and Mom had to go to a wedding. Enter Mr. Awesome (me) to look after the kids. Your Aunt Crystal and the boys were there for awhile. We had fun playing outside and got some pizza from Mr. tiny- Greek-hairy pizza guy resturant place. I can't think of the name right now. Boy, Temple, your Uncle is a little tired today. Little Ceasars - that's the place. Good to know Alzheimers is thundering chronologically in my personal direction as we speak.
Everything was good until bedtime. My friends have two delightful girls ages 2 and 4. This is a very fun age until bedtime. Easy for trusted parents who know the routine, hard for trusted parents' dubious friend (me).
The two-year-old was NOT happy about bedtime. She hid in her sister's closet, didn't want to be read a book, didn't want to be sung a song and didn't want to be tucked in. She DID want me to leave her alone - which I did when she was in her own bedroom. I was given explicit instructions to get her daddy right now. Basically, everything I wanted to do to give her comfort didn't provide her with any comfort at all and the one thing she explained would give her comfort, I couldn't give. It's hard to be two. She must have been tired because she went to sleep quickly.
The four-year-old has a strict routine for bedtime. It's pretty easy to follow. Pajama's, teeth brushed, potty, book read, a little television then off to bed. I was feeling like a Rockstar. She wasn't crying, I had this down pat. Both parent's were gone and I was able to get their little girl down with little stress. She climbed into her bed and I covered her up.
"My mommy and daddy sing me a song," she said.
"I can sing you a song," I said. "What is the most special bedtime song that they sing to you?"
"Head, shoulders, knees and toes."
"Really? That's the most special bedtime song?" I said.
"Yes," She said. I sang the song. When I finished I got up to leave when she sat bolt upright in her bed, yelling for me to wait and that I forgot prayers.
"Do you have a special prayer or would you like me to pray for both of us?" I said.
"I have a special prayer," she said. "Repeat after me."
What followed was a lengthly prayer about Jesus, hedges of protection, keeping nightmares away, angels and paragraphs about rainbows. When we were finally done, about 45 minutes later, I got up and left. She was a little sad, but eventually went to sleep.
When her mommy came home later I asked about the prayer. She said everything was correct except for the rainbow part. That whole half-hour section was just an add-on for my benefit. She also explained that there was a little misunderstanding with how the 'hedge of protection so no one can do her harm' part can be worded so that she thinks that the nightmares are inside the hedge and can harm her all they want. This might explain the small bout of crying when I left. Next time I think I'll have them write the prayer down in advance.
I love you much and miss you always,
                       Uncle Justin

Sunday, October 14, 2012


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. I'm having trouble starting this letter. I was going to start it - "There I was" or "Last night was an experience", but both beginnings sound equally lame. Pretty much as lame as how I throw out random punctuation. I went to an alternative school and learning was pretty much alternative to what I was actually doing. I think today I'll tell you a little story about my education at Aldo Leopold School in Green Bay. Not the topic was going for today, but tangents are what they are - We are but powerless to follow.
Aldo Leopold School was an alternative, tree-hugging, nightmare-gulag of an educational experience for me. I really didn't do much work in regards to education. You'll find, Temple, that there are a lot of schools out there that use pseudo-technical babble that really means nothing when it comes to true academic learning. Trust me on this. Even as a kid I knew there wasn't much there.
Take report cards for instance. The report cards at Aldo Leopold didn't have written grades, only comments on progress. Mix that with a err toward the ultra positive-esteem building dogma of the place and you get something like this. "Justin has made some progress in math since last quarter. Would like to see more initiation in the completion of projects." Translated: "The dang kid hasn't done any math all quarter. He just sits in the corner and reads." I did have the teaching staff pretty well pegged. If I put up with a lecture every other day or so I really didn't have to do any work. You'll get a lot of people who rile against the grading system, but it's hard to argue a failing grade. The comment system could always be twisted and rationalized to fit my needs.
Anyway, (can't I stick to anything?) all this just because I don't know where to put my commas. If a system like Aldo Leopold had would work, it would have to be a little more active in the free wheeling atmosphere of taking advantage of teachable situations. For example, our grade-level was doing a "sim city" project. One classroom was filled with huge boxes that we turned into businesses for commerce. It was a fun. Every frivolous subject like science, math, English, etc. were flung aside. For weeks we hung out in our simulated city every day and all day. We ate popcorn and played video games, bought and paid for with our "money."
I don't remember what the money looked like except that it was you basic play money reprinted off the copy machine. A teacher controlled the city bank and stamped the back of each bill with a dinosaur stamp. This stamp made the money valid. What a few of us realized is that nobody was verifying the money stamp when they took the bill. So a couple kids (not me, but I knew about it and used the money so I get just as much blame) took the money and made copies of it at the library. They used the counterfeit money the next day and nobody caught them. You know what that means? That means that stacks and stacks of bills were copied over the weekend. Kids in middle school don't have a real sense of scale, so there was money literally strewn about all over the place.
The teachers noticed - I don't know how they couldn't have - and they didn't handle it very well.
They called an assembly and, frowning and solemn, spoke of how disappointed they were in us and the grave disgrace of counterfeiting that was going on in our city. They had us write down on a piece of paper, confidentially, the names of the people involved.
We were one step ahead of our teachers though. They had announced the assembly earlier that morning and had closed the city for the day. It didn't take rocket science to figure out what they were going to talk about. Those involved in the printing of the money or the use of it made a pact and all wrote down the name of another kid. He was our sacrificial goat - but not really. The teachers must have known they were being duped and dropped the whole thing. They took the money off the market and told vendors to check each bill the received for authenticity.
What would have probably worked better, and have been truer to our project, would have been this - Keep the money in the system and see what happens. The teacher who ran the bank could hire a select task force of children to develop new money that was harder to counterfeit. It could have been a lesson in inflation - if prices went up everywhere 800% because of the mass-printing of cash (a problem we have today in real life) that would be a harsh pill to swallow for awhile until things balanced. How would we have handled all that worthless money? What would we do for the businesses that were duped the most? Would they go under? How could they be saved? Should they be saved?
It could have been so much better.
Sin is also a part of society, which is why we have so many safeguards against it. There are always people trying to take advantage of a system. They reap benefits of the system while at the same time messing it up with their own destructive behavior. Isn't it better to learn how to deal with that in a simulated atmosphere than to sweep it under the carpet? I think so.
I love you much and miss you always,
                                    Uncle Justin

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. Thank you for the birthday card. Don't worry that it was late - I am the king of the belated birthday well-wishers. My brother-in-law had a birthday a week or so ago and I still haven't wished him anything. He's coming down to see me next weekend. We're going to the Rams/'Packer game. It should be a good time. Maybe I'll jumbo-tron a birthday message to him at Rams Stadium during the game. Maybe not. If I was the guy who controlled the Jumbo-tron message thingy I would "accidentally", instead of the birthday screen, put up the heart-shaped border that people use when they propose to their girlfriends at games.
That would be a sight and worth the subsequent job-loss.
Anyway, thanks for the birthday card. I liked the horse drawing. I got a nice message and art. Nothings better than that.
Your Aunt Crystal and I went Van shopping today. We didn't find anything yet. Whenever you make a large purchase it's important to have patience. What you want exists out there, especially cars. You just have to keep looking. When it comes to thousands of dollars, it's a good thing not to have to settle on something you don't want. You don't want to be the guy who says, "I just got this car that I really didn't want, but at least I paid way to much for it." That would be dumb.
My AMC Gremlin comes tomorrow. We went to a car show today. It was a lot of fun to see all those classic vehicles. Your Aunt Crystal really liked a VW Fastback. She said it was just like the one your Uncle John used to own. I saw a Gremlin and talked to a couple guys from a local car club who offered to help me restore mine and invited me to hang out at their next club meeting. That sounds good to me. I like hanging out.
I missed my pipe club meeting today (which is a filthy, disgusting habit - Grandma disclaimer). I seem to be never available on the Saturday mornings that they meet. I hope I can make the next one. I'm smoking a filthy disgusting pipe on the filthy disgusting porch right now. I'm enjoying myself, but I enjoy smoking my filthy disgusting pipe with my filthy disgusting friends at pipe club much more.
I love you much and miss you always,
                   Uncle Justin

Friday, October 12, 2012


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. This weekend we will be going Van shopping. I will now join the ranks of my fellow children heavy-adults with this practical purchase. Your Aunt Crystal wants something brand new, five star safety rated and top-of-the-line. I want something with a thrown engine rod I have to tow away myself that I can pick up for about fifty bucks. With our marital powers combined we should drive away something used, well maintained, low miles and at a reasonable price.
I'm not too keen on owning a van and Crystal isn't either. It is a necessity with the four kids and a dog. I have experience driving a van as I learned how to drive in one. My parent's owned a Plymouth Voyager. It was beige to the max with that lovely fake-wood siding. I used to call it the 'chick magnet' since there was space and appropriate seat belts for seven passengers. The idea for 'chick magnet' was both a sarcastic and a very unrealistic moniker at the same time. I don't think I had seven chicks sign my highschool yearbook let alone want to ride in the same car with me. :)
The chick magnet ran for a good long while, but eventually the transmission went as usually happens in those vehicles and my folks didn't think it worth the cost of the fix. They were probably right.
I even used the van for my driver's test. During the test I ran a stop sign. The guy who was administering the test freaked out but I told him no police officer would pull over such a sensible vehicle. I don't think he would have passed me except I was stubborn with the parallel-parking and didn't stop backing up and pulling forward until I had it perfect. At least I think that was the rationalization he mumbeled as he tossed the paperwork for my liscense at me.
Thinking of that time in my life always brings to mind my driver's education class and the teacher - Mr. Toebe. He stands out to me because as the class progressed, Mr. Toebe's personal hygiene regressed. It was like I was watching him in the throes of a slow-burn depression breakdown which got worse as the weeks went by. He was nerdy, pudgy and clean-cut at the start of the class. By the end he was unkempt, dumpy and stained. What happened to the guy? I'll never know. I was busy with my own problems. The class was me and a bunch of Wisconsin farm boys who had been driving since they were ten. They could drive anything and everything and all I had ever driven were the bumper cars at Bay Beach.
Anyway, if we find a suitable ride I'll have a van by Sunday. Thank Goodness the Gremlin comes on Monday.
I love you much and miss you always,
                 Uncle Justin

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. Yesterday we got the call that we were chosen as the adoptive placement for the child. That means you have another cousin - and I am again a Dad. I really didn't know how this one would turn out. Now, obviously, I know. The funny thing is I don't feel the slightest bit different. I think it may be due to being so tired and run roughshod by the foster children and their biological family's needs that I'm not paying too close attention to my own. I don't know. I Do wonder how this one came to be a 'yes' while the other's were a 'no.' I like to think that it was because of my rugged handsomeness and irresistible charm, but I'm most likely wrong.
I have this odd feeling that God allowed us to be chosen because he knew we were about to give up the pursuit of more children and focus on what we had, that he knew he'd better bless us with this one because it would be his last opportunity. Does that make sense? Is that silly thinking? Probably. Maybe not though. My prayers were sounding like this - "God if you want me to raise another child this is probably the last time I will seek out the blessing." I was serious - and got the blessing.
I'm feeling a lot of peer pressure to react a certain way to the blessing. You'll find, Temple, that your reaction to events that happen to you doesn't always match what other's expectations of what your reactions should be.
I wrote on my Facebook page that I 'couldn't be happier' that this child was placed with us. To tell you the truth, I'm not very happy - I'm mostly tired. It's not that I don't want to be the child's dad. I very much do. It's just that people would react oddly if I told everyone that I was 'recently chosen as the adoptive placement for a child today. I couldn't feel any more neutral and emotionally complacent." That would have been more to the truth, but it would have rubbed people wrong.
Your Aunt Crystal and I have been in the process of adopting through the state for about eight years. That's eight years of classes, staffings, weekly adoptive profiles of abused children, countless social workers combing though our home, zero financial privacy, etc. It's been a long road to say the least. We adopted Elijah through the state - that was five years ago! We have been slogging through this gulag of a process and now we've finally achieved what we're looking for! Shouldn't I be ecstatic? According to some people, yes - according to me, no. I am glad the process to adopt is over and that we have a child, but we're not dealing with a Hollywood type situation where the child runs into my arms and we live happily every after from then on. The child that's coming home doesn't even know he's leaving his current home. He has no idea that I am his father and that all he knows of home will soon be ripped away. This type of transition is slow, tricky and very emotionally painful for the child. There will be a great deal of sadness while the child acclimates to his new home. We will give him all the time and care he needs. We also cannot shrug away the system since we still have foster children in our home. I'm thinking everything will get back to normal in about four months.
We are not out of the woods yet.
I love you much and miss you always,
                          Uncle Justin

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. No word on the staffing yet. You usually find out if you're chosen for the child that same day, but there was someone missing from the staffing panel yesterday and they want their opinion before making the final choice. That means my family and the other families have to sweat it out for awhile. The staffing went well. There were twelve people interviewing us which was a little intimidating, but your Aunt Crystal and I are very well spoken and handled it well.
I know you are a mega huge Tom Petty fan (not). I have a chorus to one of his songs running through my head. It's where he sings, 'the waiting is the hardest part.' Waiting is difficult. Especially when what you're waiting for effects the rest of your life. Children are a forever choice. I don't really mind waiting for the panel's answer. Sometimes having to wait for something is good for building character.
It seems like nobody feels like they have to wait for anything anymore. Kids now-a-days with their e-mails, texting devices and hula-hoops. Patience is a lost virtue. I blame the advent of the microwave. That was the turning point.
I'll stop sounding like a crotchety old man now. Thanks for putting up with it.
This morning Elijah worked hard at his homeschooling and then we took a walk for about an hour or so. It was nice being down on main street. The shops were opening up. We got to spend time talking to a few neighbors. Saw our alderman. Exciting stuff.
My 74 Gremlin might be here tomorrow. I'll post pictures. Tonight Elijah had gymnastics so I'll get to finish up Gore Vidal's 'Lincoln' which I've been reading for awhile.
Kind of a scattered letter, but it's kind of a scattered day. Your cousins and I will go about our usual business, but we're all waiting for that phone call. No matter what we're involved in, no matter what today brings at least some of our attention will be on that phone. When it rings I hope it's happy news. Then we'll be happy. If it's sad news - we will be sad. Time will tell. Right now I have kids that are getting ready to go down for their first nap, laundry to do, dishes to put away, dog to wash, floors to sweep and mop, homeschool to orchestrate and a thousand words to write on my novel.
I'll be busy.
I'll also be waiting for that phone to ring.
I love you much and miss you always,
                         Uncle Justin

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. I got my haircut yesterday. Have to look my best for the staffing today. Can’t go in there looking like a ragamuffin. That would be wrong. Anyway, I asked you Aunt Crystal if she thought I was due for a trim and you know what she said to me? She said, “I don’t know. I don’t know WHAT you have in mind for your hair anymore.
She’s right.
Over the past couple years I’ve done a lot of things different with my hair. That includes growing it out long. Something your Grandma never hesitated to tell me she hated. Her desire for me to cut my hair made me grow it at least another couple inches. That shouldn’t surprise you. I can be a very impertinent and stubborn person.
What I’ve never done is totally shave bald. I’ve thought about it. Sometimes I think about it more than other times. Don’t worry. I got myself a tasteful cut and am looking rather dapper. If I ever did shave it off completely I don’t think your Aunt Crystal would let me in the house and I’ve grown accustomed to sleeping indoors.
I don’t think I have the right head for it either. To look good with a completely shaven head you need the right looking dome. I think my head is too round for it to look good. I bet the skin underneath my raven locks make Elmer’s glue look like burnt umber by comparison. Not good.
The guy who cut my hair was clean shaven on top. That’s what we talked about.
“You look just like my dad, except for the pigment,” I said.
He laughed. “Your dad must be handsome,” He said.
“When did you shave it all off?” I said.
“Awhile ago. I was getting a little thin on top so I just shaved it all off.”
“Did your friends freak out?” I said.
“Yeah,” he said, “But they got used to it. Now they can’t see me any way else.”
“I’ve thought about doing it.”
“Don’t give your wife my number if you do,” he said. “I don’t want to deal with that.”
“No worries,” I said. “I don’t think it’ll ever happen.”
“You’d burn up your scalp anyway,” he said. “I was lucky enough to be going on vacation right after I shaved it off. Soak up a little sun. There’s one thing about it though.”
“What?” I said.
“Your hair soaks up sweat. I have to carry a towel around with me.”
“You’re like a fountain now?” I said.
“Yeah,” he said.
Maybe someday I will do it, Temple. Maybe someday I will shave it all off and see the wonders of my cranium. Maybe not.
I love you much and miss you always,
Uncle Justin                                                                                                                              

Monday, October 8, 2012


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. I have a lot on my mind lately. Writing you helps me get my head straight. First, thinking about you makes me happy and writing to you makes me think about you. Second, sometimes putting things down on 'paper' helps clear thoughts. At least it can't hurt. I am a control person, Temple. That means I like to have control over what happens in my life. I am careful about most decisions and calculate desired outcomes before I make choices. I am also self-reflective and see how my choices effect strings of events in my life and I plan accordingly. This is also known as being boring.
Being a control person is hard because there is little in life you can control. Everything changes all the time. It is the way of things and a person can't change all that change. Trying to control things can drive you nuts if you let it. I don't know how I could cope with it except for that I am a Christian and when everything seems a muddle I trust God to see me through.
Tomorrow I am in a staffing to adopt a child from our area. There are two other families that are looking to adopt the same child. A panel of people will decide who gets the blessing. I have no control over. Your Aunt Crystal and I have been the second choice for the last few staffings. You get to the point where you wonder if something is wrong with you that you're not chosen. I know I'm a good father. Crystal is a good mother. I know we can provide a good and safe home for children. You would have thought we'd have a full house long ago. It just hasn't been so.
Most of the conversations I have with God tend to boil down to two questions. I'm either asking him 'why?' or 'why not?' God has been on my mind a lot lately. Like everybody I wonder what his plan is for me. I hope it coincides with my plan for myself. It can be logically confounding and tricky since we tend to make God agree with ourselves and our plans that we forget his.
It's kind of like that with adoption for us. We have been trying to adopt through the system for years. We have been blessed with Elijah, but still have those empty rooms that are ready for kids. When I try for something and it doesn't happen for me, I tend to think that maybe God is putting these roadblocks in my way as a way to tell me that he doesn't want this for me. If I don't pay attention to the roadblocks and eventually get what I was going after, and then I hate what I pursued, then it's my own fault for not paying attention.
On the other hand, I could say that this is a test to my perseverance. That this may be just a test of character. God may allow me to get what I'm going after, if I show him how much I want it by trying over and over again no matter what the setback. What if God is setting these roadblocks to my desires to see if I am a person of fortitude?
Both make sense. Which one is right? I don't know. I can probably guess that God will greet me in heaven and let me know that I was way overthinking things on earth. Maybe I'm not overthinking things and both logical reasoning strands were correct at the same time!
I wonder what your take is on all this.
Right now we have three kids in our home. We could have four kids soon or still three. When the foster children leave we will be down to one or two depending on what happens tomorrow. That is a lot of transition. It's also a lot of change for a control person.
If we don't end up being chosen for this little boy tomorrow I don't know if your Aunt Crystal and I will try for another. There are some other avenues we can explore. Other states we can look at adopting from, still through the system. We could take out a huge loan and go buy a kid from another country. We could kidnap, but that would be wrong. 
Maybe we'll just stop.
Your Aunt Crystal and I are a little tired of fighting for something that may not happen. There is a draw to just stop all this madness and just get on with our lives.
Elijah is an excellent boy. I love him very much and he's going to be a great man some day. He is enough for us. I just have this feeling that we were meant for more. Life is better when there are children around. We'll just have to see what happens tomorrow and make our decision from there.
I love you much and miss you always,
                          Uncle Justin

Sunday, October 7, 2012


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. Forgive the two day absence from writing. My sister and brother-in-law were in town over the weekend. We had a nice time. We stayed mostly indoors as the weather turned significantly colder here almost overnight. We took the family down to the pumpkin patch and stayed a whole 45 minutes or so. We usually plan on spending the whole day there when we go. It was cold, wet and basically uncomfortable. We stayed just long enough to take a few photos. Then we went to the mall.
Now you know how much I love the mall. Every day I wake up and say, "Oh, boy! Any day above ground is a day I want to spend at the mall! Joy of Joys!"
Not really.
Actually, I had a nice time at the mall. We got to visit a store my friends have some art in. We went to a nice book/game store that was fun. I saw a lot of toys I used to play with when I was a kid that are now 'collectable' and cost big bucks. I should have saved them. If I knew Castle Greyskulls would have appreciated so much I would have bought about two hundred and stored them.
My 1973 Gremlin car is coming probably by the end of next week. In no time I'll take a road trip up to see you and we can cruise around looking cool. I'm thinking about breaking out my 80's Gargoyle sunglasses. Then I can take a road trip up and we can cruise around while you pretend you're not related to me. I don't think those sunglasses were ever cool. Oh, well.
On Tuesday I could be a dad yet again as we're going to try and be the family that's chosen for a three-year-old boy. It would be a blessing to be a father again. The house will be full of boys for awhile. There will be lots of grunting and smelliness - not a lot of sitting around and talking about feelings.
I tell your Aunt Crystal that men only have two feelings; mad and asleep. She tells me sleeping is not a feeling and she has photo proof that I was happy once back in the 90's.
I'm kidding. It's hard to type sarcasm. Maybe I should italicise.
Elijah is going to do a lot of work on reading for homeschool this week. I've got phonics videos, classic reader books, as well as his normal work. I'm sure I will enjoy myself - he'll probably complain, but I'm his dad and can make him do stuff - so I hope he tries to make the best of it. He's looking forward to gymnastics on Wednesday. I just signed him up for another couple months.
I love you much and miss you always,
                                 Uncle Justin

Thursday, October 4, 2012


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. We did a lot of cleaning here today and tonight to get ready for my sister and brother-in-law to visit. It's going to be nice having them here. We have a lot of company coming over the next few weeks. My other brother-in-law is taking me to the Rams/Packers game toward the end of October. My friend Ben is coming with his son early in November. It's nice having people coming to see me. There must be something wrong with them. I'll tell you why.
Right now our home is spotless. It will remain so until 6 a.m. tomorrow morning when the kids wake up. They can mess an entire household in mere moments. I plan on not being home much tomorrow so that we can keep the house in this facade of cleanliness until my visitors walk through the door. Then I can let my guard down a little. Our home isn't dirty, Temple, it's just impossible to keep everything in order when there are little kids destroying everything right behind any cleaning effort.
Our lives are a bit chaotic too. I wish that I could greet my company warmly, offer them an aperitif and maybe go for a nice walk down to beautiful main street.
What I usually do is hand over a baby while I run to keep the toddler from drowning in the toilet then spring outside since my six year old is about to attempt a backflip off the roof of his clubhouse. What I'm trying to say is a visit to my home doesn't seem like a vacation to me.
I wonder what goes on in their houses to make mine seem like a nice place to visit, and soon their may be FOUR boys here.
I love you much and miss you always,
                Uncle Justin

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. Today didn't go very well over here. I won't spoil your evening with the details. My father used to say, "It was a pretty awful event but at least it lasted a long time." Funny guy. There have been too many downer letters to you lately. Soon enough you'll be sick of my chatter. "Uncle Justin you are booorrringg," you'll say - and you'll be right.
Enough is enough! Tonight I'll tell you a story that is kind of in line with what we've been talking about. I've been trying to be a healthier me lately. Ran three miles on the treadmill, lifted weights, hit the heavy and speed bag and basically wore myself out yesterday. When things are stressful I tend to need some pretty heavy exercise. I work myself into the dirt - then I feel better.
One of the things I want to do with the weight loss is to be able to remove my wedding ring. Not that I need to remove it, perish the thought. I mean it Temple. Perish it. I just haven't been able to get the darn thing off my finger since it was put on by a tiny Chinese lady in a cheap costume jewelery shop several years ago.
You see, I've lost my original wedding ring. I lost it when I used to work with Preschool children. Small children are cute but can be pretty disgusting. There's always vomit, poop or something vile flying through the air. Whenever that had to be attended to at my job, I wore latex gloves. Sometimes, when removing the gloves, my ring would slip off with them and end up in the trash. This meant my wedding ring stayed at home and I would put on one of the five or six costume jewelery cheapo rings I had. When those ran out I would go to Lee's Jewelery. I could grab several rings for about four bucks apiece.
One day I forgot to change my wedding ring for a cheapo. I saw my ringless finger at lunch and felt a little sad I lost it. Didn't make me any less married, but Temple, your Uncle Justin needs his bling.
It's funny the things you can remember and the things that just won't stick in your brain. In High School I was always forgetting my locker combination - an important thing, but 80's Pop song lyrics sear themselves into my memory cortex so I can quote Duran Duran like Shakespeare - 80's pop song lyrics - an unimportant thing.
Here I was at the counter of Lee's trying to remember an important bit of information, my ring size, while being stared down by a tiny, wizened Chinese woman.
"I don't know what my ring size is," I said.
"You're not wearing your wedding ring?" she said, scowling.
"I will never go to Vegas again," I said bowing my head in shame, "Can you help me?"
She reached out and felt my finger. She said a number in Chinese and grabbed a ring from behind the counter. She then took my hand and did a little twist-push with the ring and it was on my finger. Permanently.
"I think it's a little small," I said.
"It won't 'accidently' come off in Vegas this way," She said.
"I was joking," I said, "This thing really isn't coming off."
"I guess it's a sale then," she said.
"I guess you're right."
So, years later the ring is still on my finger. It's not a bad looking ring, except for one thing. It spins. I'll try to describe it. The ring comes in two pieces. A solid band of metal holds a separate piece of lattice work design metal. The lattice piece moves freely in the band. Make sense? No? I just read over the last sentences and it doesn't make sense to me either. I'll just have to show you the next time I see you. Anyway, this thing spins like some fancy rims where the car stops but the rims keep on a spinnin'. I've gotten pretty good at spinning it with my thumb. "All day baby!" I say. "All day." It is decidedly not cool. But I've never claimed to be cool.
I would really like this ring off my finger. Soon enough I will lose enough weight and it will slip off on it's own. The cheap metal can do some pretty interesting things to your skin. I wonder what color my finger is under there. Best not to think about it.
When it does finally come off I will have to take a trip to Lee's Jewelery - where I know that old Chinese lady and her deep scowl is waiting for me. You'll have to come with me. Always a good time.
I love you much and miss you always,
                     Uncle Justin

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. Today is a very nice day, weather wise. I have a lot of work to do today, but writing you is important. The work can wait a few minutes more. It took us a little while to digest the information we received from our foster children's court appearance yesterday. Bad news sometimes takes a little while to sink in. The boys will be leaving us probably within the next four months or so. Your Aunt Crystal is very upset, more upset than I've seen her in a long time. There isn't much hope for a good future for the boys if they go back with their parents. Not a very nice thing to say, I know. I'm just not feeling very nice today.
What we're having a hard time wrapping our heads around is how a family that has made very destructive decisions in regards to children, only has to make good decisions for a couple months or so and then everything's okay. I'll explain is like this; (misuse of semicolon! - sometimes I just like to throw them out there) Anyway - it's like this - Say you're being bad for two hundred days. Then you are good for two days. Does that two days automatically cancel out the last two hundred bad ones? Are you suddenly a good and trustworthy person? I don't really expect you to answer that. It's not an easy thing to answer.
Here's the thing - ANYONE can keep their act together for a couple months or so. It takes a steel reserve and REAL effort to make good and healthy decisions over the long term. My Dad used to tell me that you cannot define a person by any one single action, but you can make a pretty good assessment of that person by the sum of their actions over time. He was much less impressed by a person who one day saved a child from a burning building, than by a person who got up every day and went to work, took care of their family, was honest and love-oriented in their actions. It's those little daily decisions to get out of bed and do the right thing - that is the hard stuff. That is what makes a good person. Every day. Every action. Every moment.
Nobody is perfect and everyone fails at times. That's why we have forgiveness. That's why people should be treated with compassion. You'll notice that people have a hard time dealing gently with each other. They are much more forgiving of their own faults while they drive hard nails into their neighbors. Some people lack the ability of self-reflection, yet are quick to see evil in others.
I'll give you a simple example. Yesterday I got upset at Elijah for leaving his dirty socks on the floor and gave him a hard time about it. I then went downstairs to see I left my shoes in the middle of the living room floor. I got upset with Elijah about something I've mentioned to him several times before. Something that I know that he knows he should be doing to care for our home and here I was doing the same darn thing. Funny how that works.
If you pay attention, you'll see God provide you with example of this all the time and quickly. The next time you get upset with someone, keep watch for the same behavior in yourself. I bet you see it. Don't get too down with yourself about it. It's just God's way to remind us to treat each other gently.
You are very fortunate to be surrounded by people who love you. You have a lot of people who take good care of you and make the hard decisions and sacrifices so that you have a good life. The hard truth is that there are bad people out there. People who make selfish decisions. People who love only themselves. People who can keep up appearances for a little while then just go right back to the destructive lifestyle when it suits them. These people do not love you or me. These people should not be treated gently, for they only know how to take. They feed off of the good people. They indulge in the hard work of others. Most importantly, they don't take any responsibility for their own actions. These people have a way of rationalizing their lives. They blame others for all their sloth and destructiveness. These people spend so much time leeching their loved ones and society, while at the same time hating those same people who save them time and time again.
I'll give you an example ;;;;; (I just can't help myself - Kurt Vonnegut said that writers should never use semicolons. He said the thing you could tell about a person who knows how to use them is that they went to college) Anyway - here's an example. The biological family for our foster children costs the state of Missouri about - and this is probably a conservative number - around twelve thousand dollars a month. This includes food stamps, court costs, foster care costs, prison costs, social worker salaries, etc. They leech off the system while they hate it. They blame everyone else for their faults, yet take and take and take. What's happening is that they are keeping up appearances for a couple months. When all that support is gone and the boys are back with them - what do you think will happen? They will go back to their same destructive behavior. The will find a reason to use drugs again, to steal again and to hurt their children again. When the children grow up they become like their parents and the cycle continues.
What chance does our boys have? Not a very good one.
I prayed to God continually during our long day at court. I didn't really feel his presence there. I know he was there, but I didn't really feel much in the way of his intervention in the course of things. God does answer all prayers, but sometimes the answer is no. Sometimes God just lets things go about their course and you just have to hold on and do the best you can with the circumstances. There's nothing more we can do for the boys. It is what it is.
It is my most ardent wish that you grow up to be a woman who takes responsibility for her actions. I hope you put forth the effort to be a good person and do the right thing. I hope you lead every decision with love. I know you Temple and I know you have it in you. I love you very much. You are very special to me and I would give everything I have to protect you from the people who would do you harm. I know I'm not the only person you have in you life who is like that. You have a lot of good people pulling for you. In the end, like my own children, it will be up to you.
When you are an adult you will make the call for what your life will be. You will make the decisions for yourself. It's up to you.
Your Aunt Crystal is an excellent person. She's not perfect, but she's pretty darn close. Like I said, she was very upset yesterday. Sometimes life gives you so much that it's hard to compartmentalize it all. Sometimes you just can't. She didn't even want consolation from me. All my attempts couldn't help the situation. But she is a good person. She is a person who leads her actions with love. She is a person who works hard and can be trusted. Know how I know this? When you get upset, so upset that you don't even want those who love you around, so upset that you become indulgent in your feelings, it's hard to do anything beyond getting through the moment. You tend to forget to care for others. That's when we fail the most. No matter what's going on around us, there are three boys who need love and care that must have our attention. Every night before bed we make sure to make a bottle for the baby. He wakes up in the middle of the night for a feeding. Crystal was so upset that she went to bed early and I didn't know if she remembered to make it. It would be an easy thing to forget and I was planning on getting it ready myself, but when I finally can to bed around eleven, I felt in the dark on the counter. There was a bottle.
She took the time to care for others even amidst all her pain. That is what makes a good person.
I love you very much and miss you always,
                    Uncle Justin

Monday, October 1, 2012


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. Today we went to court for the boys permanency hearing. Things went as we expected. The boy's biological family is doing what what they are supposed to do for reunification - so the boys will eventually go. They will be with us for Christmas and probably be gone sometime in January. Such is life.
We have good news on the kid front. On October 9th we are involved in a staffing for another kid. A three-year-old boy. A staffing is where your Aunt Crystal and I will be interviewed by a panel of people to see if we are the right placement for a child who is in the custody of the state. There will be about four families interviewed. If the people in the panel don't have their heads up their patoots - they will choose us.
Having children around is expensive. I want that old Gremlin car to work on, but those funds seem to go to such frivolous things such as food and diapers. Would I trade any of the kids for an old car? Yes I would - but that would be wrong. So I won't.
My sister is coming to visit us this weekend, which is cool. I don't know if anything is going on down at main street. Last weekend was Oktoberfest, so I think it will be quiet. You never know. It could be Scottish fest or something. I don't know how my gut will react to such diversity of cultural victuals. We'll have to test the water and see. Where we live somebody always seems to be 'festing' something somewhere. We just have to sniff it out.
Elijah got out of homeschooling for the day because of the little one's court appearance. He was pretty happy about it. He got to spend the day at my friend Jeffrey's house. He has his hands full with kids so I am always very grateful when he helps our family out. Good friends are hard to come by. He's one of them.
I hope you had a nice Saturday.
I love you much and miss you always,
                 Uncle Justin