Friday, November 30, 2012


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. I watched the movie The Hunger Games last night. It was pretty good. I read the first book in the series and enjoyed it. The day before I went over to a friends house and saw Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom. I enjoyed that too. When you have as many children as I do, you don't have much left in the tank at night. Movies make great passive entertainment.
The Hunger Games was about a rich central society that squelched uprisings by having yearly lottery that selected children as area representatives to kill each other off in a game. Sound like fun? I saw this movie was kind of the same as a foreign film I saw a while ago called Battle Royale. It just goes to show you that there is nothing new under the sun.
Moonrise Kingdom was a 'coming of age' film. ahem. That means it's about children who are in a transitional phase. It was excellent. Anderson makes movies that are so beautifully shot that you almost don't need a story since you're too busy looking at the scenery. The film was a little uncomfortable to watch at times, but that's kind of the point. I've seen a lot of these types films done by foreign directors and didn't feel the same way. Maybe deep inside I feel only French people can have coming of age moments. In America you're supposed to just work three jobs and chase that dream. You don't have time for all that life nonsense. I'm kidding. Sort of.
This morning I was giving the baby a bath in the sink when our three year old said he had to go potty.
He's working on going poop in the potty. It's going alright. I was in a dilemma since he needs help with going potty. I had to choose between letting the baby drown in the sink or cleaning the bathroom after the boy. So I left the baby and tended to the three-year-old. I will miss him dearly. Just kidding.
I finished with the baby and checked on the kid in the bathroom.
There was poop all over the floor, toilet and on him. It was pretty gross. Usually I clean up after children. This was the first time I cleaned on my way to get to the child. When I got to him I picked him up and  had him stand in the sink and hosed him off with the sink sprayer. When he was clean enough I put him in the bath. I was seriously grossed out. Because the five of us were already in the bathroom, I threw Elijah in the shower and ended up with four kids all clean and fresh.
It was nice while it lasted.
They had meat, veggies and peanut butter on bagels for lunch. If anyone with a peanut allergy comes within five blocks of our house they will probably drop dead.
I taught the toddler to raise his hands when I say 'Green Bay Packer Touchdown.' I think I'll teach him the discount-double-check move later. Tonight we'll go down to main street for the holiday traditions festival stuff. We'll see all the period Santa's and characters that are associated with the Christmas holiday. Santa, folklore and Dicken's characters only. Nobody who'll offend religious groups.
I love you much and miss you always,
              uncle Justin

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. The little ones won't be going anywhere anytime soon. I talked with their social worker yesterday and she said there is no chance at reunification in Jan. The next court date will be late March or April. I was very happy at the news. The honeymoon was short lived at the baby got me up twice last night and was up for good around 5:30. His screaming waked the toddler. Luckily, the older ones slept through it.
We are going through a lot of coffee here.
I remember when we got the emergency call from the county asking if we could take the babies, I thought we had about thirty to sixty days before the baby would start sleeping through the night. That was seven months ago. I've gotten some advice about just letting him scream it out at night. I've also gotten some advice the other way - If the baby cries, tend to him.
You can't win pleasing other's with parenting, Temple. People tend to argue these things pretty hard. I have the choice of getting up with the crying child, spoiling him into a squealing brat. Or, I could leave him cry it out at night - which I was informed is the "Laziest form of parenting."
We've chosen to tend to the kid. For the reason that he's going to wake everyone else up. which he just did. It's going to be a long day. I have to go.
          I love you much and miss you always,
                       Uncle Justin

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. I missed writing to you, but talking to you was better. It was nice having you here. Now that the wonder, happiness and family togetheressness of the holidays are over and we are back to our usual business, I thought I would write you a letter. I enjoy writing to you. It’s a nice break.
Today the little ones are at a visit with their biological dad. The older ones and I had a blast. We missed the baby and toddler, but big kid stuff is soooooooooooo much more fun. The babies being gone, everything seemed to go at a faster pace. The smell around here was better too. Those diapers can be nasty business.
I liked our conversation about cars. I’m thinking back to the cars I’ve owned, some of them nice, some of them didn’t last a month. Here’s what they were going backwards from my current car. This list does not include the Super Beetle or Gremlin project cars. I will also include a notation to what happened to them. Here we go:

Dodge Caravan
Chevy HHR (Inherited from Crystal when traded the Battle Wagon - traded for Caravan because of growing family)
Mercury Grand Marquis - THE BATTLE WAGON (Lost the battle)
Chrysler PT Cruiser (Intoxicated neighbor wrecked it.)
Dodge Daytona (Transmission went. Bought a different car instead of fixing it.)
Chevy Corsica (Totaled by a lady who didn’t look before turning left - I miss this car because it was so reliable.)
Buick Skyhawk (bought the car for a hundred bucks and it lasted a month before it died -money well spent!)
Ford Festiva (blown engine)
Ford LTD (fell asleep at the wheel and wrecked it)
Just for fun - Here are your Aunt Crystals
Volkswagen New Beetle
Chevy HHR (traded in for a van)
Chrysler PT Cruiser (electrical fried out - $5000 fix! No thank you. Goodbye car.)
Ford Escort (gave to your aunt and uncle.
Volkswagen Cabriolet (My dad tried to pull it out of the mud and ripped the undercarriage)
Honda CRX (hit from behind and totaled)
I’ve had more cars than your Aunt Crystal. I’ve bought some pretty interesting rides in my day. Thank goodness Wisconsin didn’t have safety or emissions inspections. You Aunt Crystal just said the list is a lot like old boyfriends. I don’t know what that means. I don’t have any old boyfriends.
I love you much and miss you always,
       Uncle Justin


Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. In stewing over hurting someones feelings yesterday, I've come to the realization that two events seem to coincide in my life. I don't believe in omen's or anything like that, it just occurred to me while brooding and I would like to share.
I would like to talk to you about seeking forgiveness and roadkill.
I'm not speaking about asking forgiveness of an animal after running it them. I really don't see myself asking Mr. Kibbles' mangled animal body for forgiveness. I talking about two separate events. More specifically, I'm talking about seeking forgiveness and not receiving it. These types of events tend to stick out in your mind.
A couple days ago I ran over a cat. We have a couple strays around here. We live in an area that has an older population, several of which leave out bowls of food and water for the cats. When we moved into our home back in 2006 we found two old bowls of moldy cat food under the porch. For awhile a grey cat would stop by and mew at the front door. That explained how our dog got fleas.
Anyway I hit one of those little buggers when I turned out of our alley. I didn't mean too. It ran out in front of my car. I couldn't stop in time and there was nowhere to swerve. Dead cat. It wasn't the grey one. It was the one I affectionately referred to as 'that orange one.' Since then I have hurt someones feelings, inadvertently, and have yet to be forgiven.
There was another time back in high school where I was camping with my friend Brian. We were driving at night out to our campsite in the Wisconsin nowhere. We were on a small two lane highway and all of a sudden out of the darkness came a flash of several eyes reflecting white from my headlights. Then came a series of several bumps.
The next day Brian and I saw the wreckage. It seemed that a large group of Raccoons were crossing the highway at the same time we were passing through. It was pretty gross. That same day we went to a state park that I was very fond of since my Uncle used to take me there camping as a kid. Since we weren't spending the night, I didn't think I needed to check-in at the state park office. I was wrong. We drove in, parked the car and spent some time hiking the park trails. When we went back to the car, there was a park employee there writing a ticket. I explained myself, apologized and asked for forgiveness. She told me it was okay. She took my license to copy and a small daily park fee. She tore up the ticket and told us to enjoy our day. We went back to exploring the park.
When we returned there was a state trooper parked next to our car. It turned out that she didn't really forgive us at all. She just went back to her office and called the police. He wrote me a ticket that was double what she had written. He didn't believe my explanation and laughed at my apology. Before he left he pointed at the Christian symbol I had on the back of my car.
"I don't see how you can have this on your car," he said. "You can't claim you're a Christian when you act like you do."
Maybe my next novel should be called "Roadkill and the Unforgiven." Maybe not.
Once I hit a bird on the highway. It just kind of flew into my grill and bounced upwards and over my car. Physics being what they are, the bird seemed to suspend in the air for a moment before I lost sight of it. The day before that I told a girl that I would be with her forever. That forever lasted about 21 hours. An old girlfriend that had broken up with me a few months ago came back and wanted to get back together. You would know her as your Aunt Crystal.
The other girl. She has yet to forgive me and I don't think she ever will. The next time my car runs over a creature great or small, I will have to really watch my behavior.
Forgiveness, Temple, is an opportunity to practice God in small. Don't get me wrong - All the responsibility isn't on the forgiver. The one seeking forgiveness needs to be repentant. Meaning there is a marked attempt at a change in behavior. If someone seeks forgiveness, but doesn't change. They really aren't looking for forgiveness - they are looking for blanket acceptance. Even if that means at your expense.
Anyway, I'm sure you can think of a few times where people didn't forgive you when you asked for it. There's really not much you can do about that. It hurts - it's also a good lesson for when you have the opportunity to forgive. When someone doesn't forgive you, it feels like your sin sticks to you. There is a part of you that is unable to move on since the other person is unwilling to provide closure. They are telling you that your relationship isn't worth repairing. They are holding a something, even a mistake, against you and will not drop it. Ever. You tend to remember those times more than the times you received mercy. Funny how that works.
I feel very thankful that God isn't like that. God doesn't hold anything against you. If you seek forgiveness you'll find it every time. No matter what. He even paid for your sins himself. Makes you feel pretty worthwhile, at least it does for me.
I would also like to add that forgiveness is an action - not a feeling. You can forgive even though you are still working through pain. Forgiving a person doesn't mean they are automatically your best friend. Forgiving a person doesn't make the ramifications of what they did go away. I've said, "I forgive you" through clenched teeth a couple times and it still counted. I'm sure I'll feel better after a couple days in good company and enjoyment of the holiday.
I will see you tomorrow.
I love you much and miss you always,
                     Uncle Justin

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. I screwed up today. Since I'm home now and don't interact with as many adults as I used too, I'm obsessing about it. Here's what happened. I wrote on the 18th in my letter to you that my literary agent and I had 'acrimoniously' parted ways. I didn't mean that. Acrimoniously isn't a positive word and there has been nothing but positive in every interaction I've had with her, until today and it's my fault.
Here's what's going on - I've had some recent personal changes that have made it difficult to be able to afford to pay my agent, per our contract, the money it takes to send out queries and manuscripts to her contacts in publishing companies. Before I go on I would like to point out to the fifty or so people who read these letters every day, that paying an agent certain costs associated with copying and sending out query packages isn't a ridiculous thing to do. There is a general consensus surrounding agents that if you have to pay any costs the agent isn't a good one. These people say that if the agent is reputable, they won't take any money until the work sells and they get their percentage.
I used to have an agent like that. She is now out of business.
Times are tough right now and the publishing business suffers just like the rest of us. Publishing houses, more than ever, are wary of investing in a new author because there is not guarantee on their investment. Why publish somebody nobody has ever heard about when you can find something that is a sure sell? Get my drift? We'll continue -
Gone are the days where a book can be turned in unedited and hand-written on coffee stained legal pads. Publishers want a polished and finished project. Nothing else will be considered. When I first sent my work to my current agent she told me she wanted the project, but it needed editing. She offered to edit it herself, for a fee and then would represent it. Her price was reasonable, but more than I could afford. She told me that if I had the work edited by someone else, she would still take it for representation. Several months later I found an editor that was looking for new clients, and was offering to edit for half of what she normally charges.
I could afford that and took her up on the offer. Several weeks later, I got back my edited novel. It took me several more weeks to make the changes and then I brought it back to the agent. She read the book again and, true to her word, she offered to represent my novel. I've invested a lot of money in myself and my work and I see paying these monthly charges as part of my investment. If the book sells, I will easily make the money back and more.
In my contract are certain charges that I pay in order to assist in the costs of sending out packages to publishers. These costs are reasonable. What comes out of it is professional and goes directly to my agent's contacts within the publishing houses. These are people who wouldn't look twice at anything I did, unless they saw my agent's name on it. They trust my agent not to waste their time, so my book gets read.
So my agent, because she is a kind person, was willing to let me out of our contract. She offered me well wishes and told me to get in contact with her if anything changed financially in the future.
Then she read the blog post.
Now she's upset and is unwilling to let me out of the contract, because she feels I've lied to her. I've tried calling her, Facebook messaging her, and e-mailing her and as of this writing haven't gotten a response. I said something stupid and am trying to make up for it. It's kind of like dating.
This reminds me of a story about when I was in second grade. Back in school I called another kid a really nasty word and didn't know it. I know you're not a little kid anymore and know more swear words than I would like to believe, but you may not know this one - so I won't write it here.
I was just playing around with the kid's name and suddenly his face dropped.
"I never thought you would call me that," he said. He went to go tell the teacher. As he was ratting me out I called across the crowded room.
"I just said ****! I said ****! There's nothing wrong with ****!"
The teacher took me aside and explained to me the meaning behind what I said. I was embarrassed, but on the brighter side I probably gave her a story to tell her friends for the rest of her life.
The mistake I made on the previous blog post is even more embarrassing because when you throw around big words you should really know what they mean. I should have learned something in second grade.
We'll I'm off to check me messages and hopefully she'll forgive me and still be willing to help. We'll see. Sometimes mistakes cost you. I made one. I plan on learning from it.
I love you much and miss you always,
Uncle Justin

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. I'm feeling a little discouraged today. My literary agent and I have harmoniously parted ways. I don't want to really bore you with the details, but this pretty much brings me back to square one with my writing. Oh well, Kurt Vonnegut became famous at 47 so I plan on slugging away for at least another fifteen years before I think about hanging it up.
The only problem is I'm not Kurt Vonnegut.
Anyway, I would like to talk to you a bit about failure. I would like to tell you a bit of a grown up story. Hopefully we'll both learn something.
I left college without finishing a degree and went into the workforce. College was someplace I always knew I was going to do, but when I got there I didn't apply myself and felt very lost. If I could offer you a bit of advice, even if you feel lost at college (if you decide to go) I would buckle down and complete you degree. Life is easier when you have one. There are millions of people who don't have degrees that are successful and lead happy and productive lives. I don't want you do get me wrong. But people who have advanced schooling degrees tend to obtain better jobs and make more money. For awhile after I left school I was underemployed - and let me tell you that's a tough place to be.
I was living in Milwaukee when I left a job at a bank for another job that promised more money and better hours. That job fell through and I ended up working at a liquor store. Even though I was working full time I wasn't making nearly enough money to live. I'm not talking about having to switch to a generic brand of caviar - I mean not enough money to pay rent and eat.
I needed another job and I prayed hard to find one. I applyed for several and couldn't find employment that would work with the hours at my other job and was very much at a loss of what to do. Then on a whim I opened up a copy of the Riverfront times and saw an ad to work as a bouncer/doorman for a new nightclub.
I walked in and applyed for the job and got it. I found it pretty funny that God blessed my prayers by making me a bouncer. The Lord works in mysterious ways.
Now, I was working two jobs totaling around seventy hours a week and was still having trouble paying my meager bills. I was living in a bad neighborhood in Milwaukee. I could paint you a little picture of where I was living by telling you that once I was pulled over and cuffed by the police who thought I was in the neighborhood to buy drugs. It took a litte convincing to make them belive that I, in fact, lived there. Anyway, I really didn't have much going for me except my beautiful, smart, talented girlfriend who was dilligently working her way through school at Concordia. You would know her as your Aunt Crystal.
I needed to make money and I didn't have any more hours a week that I could give to earn it. So I turned to fighting. I fought toughman contests, Milwaukee Rumble and other smaller events in the area. I told your Aunt Crystal that I was boxing/kickboxing and God bless her, she thought I was taking an areobics class. I let her keep thinking that and did what I had to do.
You are now, I'm sure, old enough to notice ads with scanitly clad women plastered everywhere. The way women protitute themselves to make money, to me, is in the same vein as men beating each other to a pulp to satisfy a bloodthirsty audience.
I know one thing - God didn't make me a good fighter.
I lost more than I won and didn't make much money doing it, but the promise of a good payday kept me at it. The last time I fought was in 2006, which was my worst fight and the one seen by the most of my family and friends. I was sitting the back room with the rest of the fighters as we were lead out like cattle one bout after another. The kickboxing event was tournement style and I would fight once the first night and as many as many as four times the next, depending of if I kept winning or not. That night the luck of the draw was not with me as I fought a guy called 'the rock' (not the WWE wrestler) who knocked me unconscious in the first minute of the first round. I went home hurt and the next day painfully rolled out of bed, put a piece of tape over my cut eye and went to work.
It was a terrible feeling. I felt very worthless. When your time isn't worth much and you make your body worth even less - there isn't much left for you.
Now I have a family with secure employment and livable income. I have a home and a credit score in the mid 700's, something I never thought I would have. I work very hard, but feel like there is something more for me out there. I feel there is something bigger that I'm supposed to accomplish. What worries me is that on my deathbed I'll be surrounded by people who love me and have led as good a life as I could and still be thinking, "Is this it?"
This worries me becuase I have a feeling that I'll get into heaven and God will welcome me by calling me and 'ungrateful little sot' or something - and he will be right.
It's important, my delightful niece, that you work hard and do your very best to accomplish your goals and make your life worthwhile. You have to be careful, as I very much do, with how you define failure. You may not really be failing at all. The only one telling you that you are a failure is you. Nobody - not even the people that love you the most - can help you with that. You have to find your worth yourself. If not, then even a thousand sounding your praises with fall deaf in your ears.
I know that even if I never succeed at getting a book published that God will be happy with my hard work and efforts of creation. I'm pretty sure he likes people who create things. He can relate.
Just remember, Temple, that no matter what you do, I love you. You are an important and worthwhile person. You are surrounded by people who love you and would do anything to keep you safe. Everyone gets discouraged, especially when things don't happen in the timeframe that one sets for themselves. It's important to realize that all we have is time until we don't have it anymore. All we can do is try, Temple. I'm going to keep trying.
Maybe my work will be published post-humously and my grandchildren will reap the benefits. Won't that be nice - for those ungrateful little sots. :)
I love you much and miss you always,
Uncle Justin

Saturday, November 17, 2012


Dear Temple
I hope this note finds you well and happy. This note finds me very much embarrassed. Let me tell you a little story. When you get to your thirties you will remember things from your past that you will want to re-live. You will spend a bit of your time, not too much, but a bit of you time savoring a little nostalgia. Your Aunt Crystal was in Minnesota for a conference not too long ago, and she spent some time with my sister and brother-in-law who live there. One of the fun things they did was spend an evening at a dueling piano bar.
These places are neat and I will be sure to take you to one in about a decade when you're old enough. At a dueling piano bar you usually have a couple guys playing pianos. That's it. Sounds great doesn't it? No? Well, I'm not finished. These pianists will play whatever song you want them too. Give them a couple bucks and they'll play anything. You could have them playing Billy Ray Cyrus all night long as long as you keep those Washington’s flowing. You think they will get tired of it? No way. If you're paying Washington’s for Cyrus, others will start paying Lincolns to get them to stop.
Anyway, So while I toiled and slaved taking care of the kids I got a call from your Aunt Crystal asking me what song she should request. It didn't take me long to think of a good one.
Quiet Riot's "Metal Health" - people think this song is named "Bang your head" but it's not. Before I continue I would like to point out, if your Grandpa hasn't already begun speaking, that the band Quiet Riot is nothing but horrible, tasteless drivel. The lyrics are disreputable and obscene. They are completely anti-Christian. It is for these aforementioned reasons and more which I thought made this a great choice.
Just kidding.
The reason I thought that song by Quiet Riot was a great one was because I thought it would sound absolutely hilarious on the piano and the lyrics are priceless. Here are the song's first lyrics.

Well I'm an
Axe grinder, pile driver
Mother says that
I never, never mind her
Got no brains I'm insane
The teacher says that
I'm one big pain

Pretty funny stuff. These dudes were serious when they sang too. Now, here's the problem with nostalgia. Sometimes it turns around and bites you in the posterior.
When I said that this song would be a good one to play, I had the song on my mind and I wanted to listen to it myself. So I picked up a copy at our local library. I cranked up the volume and roared down the road being and axe grinder, pile driver guy who doesn't mind his mom and has no brains. It was great.
Then we traded in my HHR and bought a minivan. When I traded the Chevy I forgot to take the CD out of the player. I was horrified. I remembered the mistake that evening at dinner. I held my head in my hands.
"I forgot a CD in the HHR," I told your aunt Crystal.
"Just call them," she said. "I'm sure they still have it."
"You don't understand," I said. "I forgot a CD that I got from the library - just to listen to one song -all by myself and nobody would ever know about it - ever."
"What CD is it?"
"Quiet Riot," I said. She began to laugh.
"This is no laughing matter," I said. "I have to call the car place and ask for it." She kept laughing. Sometimes she isn't very helpful. Now, I know I could give fifteen bucks to the library for the CD, claiming it lost, and save myself the embarrassment. Apparently my dignity isn't worth fifteen bucks. I called. I told the receptionist what I was missing.
"Really?" she said. "Quiet Riot?"
"Yes," I said.
I went to pick up the CD the next day and nobody remembered me calling and nobody could find the CD. I stopped by the place during the day. I was the only one there. It was a domino effect of embarrassment. Seven sales associates, two finance people, six mechanics and two receptionists were looking for my CD. Nobody could find it so a couple salesmen went next door to the detailing place they use and all of them began looking around for the CD.
"You the big Quiet Riot fan?" A smirking detailer asked me.
"Oh, yes," I said. "I accept no substitute for my daily dose of rock."
Here's what I think happened - I think somebody stole my CD. Some dude at this place found the CD and took it because he liked it. He would fess up to taking it, but then would suffer the same embarrassment I'm going through.
Somebody at Lou Fusz loves Quiet Riot.
I think what I've learned about this whole thing is that we are all a bunch of closet Quiet Riot fans and if their music wasn’t so darn embarrassing - they would be lauded as the greatest band of all time.
Maybe not.
Maybe I learned that my dignity is worth fifteen bucks.
I love you much and miss you always,
Uncle Justin

Friday, November 16, 2012


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. I was at the grocery store and bought food for Thanksgiving and forgot what people eat at the meal. Now, I'm not an idiot. I got the main stuff, Turkey, stuffing, gravy, potatoes and libations. I didn't get pie - your grandma is bringing that. Then I hit a bit of a wall. I'm not really sure what to make and serve for side dishes.
I'm missing a primary, integral ingredient to any Thanksgiving meal and I think it's due to the fact that it's only been the past two years we've had it at our house. I'm missing the plethora of relatives that all bring their 'signature' side dishes.
You know what I'm talking about.
We will have a large group of people here. Our family, the Johnson's, You and anyone lucky enough to tag along with you from Illinois, and maybe a few couples from our small group. This is still about a week to go - we may even have more show up. I don't know. What I do know, is that we don't have several great-aunt-Hilda types who bring their famous rhubarb trifle every year.
I need more great-aunt-Hilda's. Work on that for me.
Before my family grew beyond my long road trip patience capacity level, we used to go up to Green Bay and spend Thanksgiving with my family. I can tell you I miss the trip very much. It's really the only time, apart from yearly reunions, that we see each other. You're now probably thinking that since we have reunions every year that Thanksgiving isn't the ONLY time everyone gets together. Here's how this works. Since our family didn't used to have reunions every year, Thanksgiving was actually the only time everyone was able to get together. Since that was how things used to be, the yearly family reunions are merely riders on the bill of singular family togetherness gatherings.
Have I lost you yet? I'm a bit muddled myself. It makes sense when you're old. Sort of.
Anyway - dang this letter is way longer than I thought it would be - for a bit my Uncle Tom used to bring his girlfriend Kate to our Thanksgiving meals. She was a very nice and quiet person, and she was the Generalissimo of Thanksgiving side-dishes. There are so many side-dishes of wonderment I could regale you with, but one sticks out in my mind with vapid fervor. It was jello - wait for it - a completely decorated swimming pool with diving boards and teddy graham swimmers. BAM! Thanksgiving just got Thanksgivinger.
Now, I love my Uncle Tom very much. He is hands down the funniest person alive on the planet. He's very quiet, that's why you have to sit close. Something happens or somebody says something and he slides in a little comment that is so insipidly (I mean that in a good way) clever that I just burst with mirth. His girlfriend Kate never really said much. In fact, I never remember her saying anything really. Her silence was absconded only once every year. She was a conversational sniper that would make me jump once a year without fail. She did it with three words:
"I made this!"
The family used to admire her side-dish handiwork as a part of usual small talk. When this began to happen I would start looking over my shoulder. I knew it was coming. I just didn't know when. Suddenly, while I was pulling burning rolls out of the oven or something, a side comment on her food would make her gush forth is sudden totalitarian nationalist pride "I MADE THIS!"
It was like God after making the duck-billed platypus.
I love you much and miss you always,
Uncle Justin

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. Today was a pretty full day. I got the little ones ready for their visit to their biological dad and his girlfriend. Funny how I got his kids as well as my own and myself showered/bathed, fed, nails clipped, clothed, packed and to the pick-up spot five minutes early - and he couldn't get his own posterior up and dressed to be on time. He was fifteen minutes late and by the time the baby was pretty upset.
I was a little upset myself. I had scheduled to pick up our new son at 2:30. This meant that I had should have had alone time with Elijah from 9 until 2:30. Alone time that we will rarely see from this point onward. Any reason that time was encroached upon, especially when it's a selfish/stupid reason - didn't sit well with me.
Oh well, Elijah and I had a good time. We went to the Art Museum and the Zoo. We made it through everything at the art museum. I felt like we were speed walking. Never had I been slapped with so much culture at such alarming speed.
Elijah knew many of the artists work on sight. He knew Warhol, Kline (that's the stuff you like dad), Monet, Rembrandt and Van Gogh. I was pretty proud. Your Aunt Crystal has been working with him. We saw a really good media installation piece - James Nares' Street.
The zoo was fun. We saw everything we wanted too. It's nice to be able to go during the day since exhibits like the sea lions, which is usually a long wait, was empty and we could watch at our leisure. The animals are very interactive when there isn't a crowd around. Elijah played with Lemurs, monkeys and a baby sea lion.
Then we went to the camels. I didn't want to go to the camels but Elijah said we had too. He didn't want to miss the show. There is this one camel that hates my guts. He just watches me when there is a big crowd, but when it's just us he always trots over and just stares me down with unbridled menace. Once he spit at me. I don't like him either. I'm not sure really why we hate each other so much, but we do. Elijah thinks its hilarious.
I will get him in the end though. Once my novel sells and I make my millions, I plan to provided a large endowment to the zoo. I wouldn't ask for anything in return for such philanthropy....maybe just one little thing - a 40 ounce camel steak.
I love you much and miss you always,
                  Uncle Justin

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. I already wrote you a letter today, but our Internet is having trouble keeping it's signal recently and I lost it. The letter was funny and engaging. I'm sure you would have liked it. I was very proud of it. But it's gone and we have to move on with our lives. I thought about re-writing it, but that's stupid. You will just have to keep living knowing that there is an awesome letter from your Uncle that you will never get to read. It's lost in cyberspace forever. It's almost worse for you since I know what it was and you can only ponder it's magnificence.
Well, maybe it wasn't THAT good, but I'm still a little miffed that it's gone. These letters don't grow on trees you know.
I think I'll write you about something else.
Last night I was driving home from my friend Jeffrey's house and was hit by a song that never fails to make me cry.When I heard it last night it made me cry again so it sill never fails. If, for some reason I listen to it in the future and it doesn't make me cry, I will have to change the 'never fails' to 'nearly always'. As of this writing, it never fails.
Anyway, the song is R.E.M.'s - Let Me In. I should preface this by letting you know that my sister Theresa is the number 1 R.E.M. fan of all time. She's been listening to them for as long as I can remember. As goes with siblings, since she liked them so much, I really didn't listen to them much. I always like the band, I was just never a super fan growing up - so it's only been recently that I've been listening to their music. It's been a very enjoyable experience.
About a year ago I was listening to them pretty much all the time and then they got relegated to some cupboard somewhere in the house and I listened to something else. Yesterday, I went into the recesses of the cupboard and took out the REM Monster CD. Let Me In is a later track on the CD and comes in all static and heavy - so at first listen, it sounds like a throwaway song.
Michael Stipe, the lead singer, comes in with some nonsense lyrics and you're about to hit the button to go the the next song, then the chorus hits. Stipe says the words "Hey, let me in" in such a vividly strong yet soft plea with so much emotion that you can't help but taken away with the feeling. I didn't know much about the song so I asked my sister about it and she told me that it was written by Michael Stipe to Kurt Cobain after his suicide.
Kurt Cobain was the lead singer of a group called Nirvana. It's very weird to me that I have to add that information. I must be getting old.
Anyway, the song speaks to me as a friend reaching out too late to another. It's a very sad and lost sound. It's also good lesson. I've been surprised continuously throughout life where I've felt very alone only to have found others who have lived through the same things I have, known exactly what I was going through and could tell me things were going to be okay. Whenever you feel that way, and we all do at some time or another, just give me a call.
I just might be able to help you,
I love you much and miss you always,
                 Uncle Justin
You can click the link below to listen to the song -

Monday, November 12, 2012


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. Only ten days until Thanksgiving. I'm waiting for the Turkey's to go on sale here. I had an excellent weekend. My friend Ben and his son came down from Wisconsin to visit me. There were five kids (all boys) here and it was a very busy and fun time. We went to the zoo. I don't really know what to tell you about the zoo. I was thinking of saying something obvious like 'there were animals there', but that's kind of dumb. I could also say something like, 'it was zootastic!' but that doesn't really sound like something I would say. I don't get how some people like that kind of stuff. We had a zoorific time! HA HA HA - vomit.
We went to the zoo. We saw animals. It was nice.
The weather was really warm too. I think it's the last nice weather we're going to get until Spring. My friend picked a great time to visit.
We watched a movie called 'Monster Camp' about people who do live action role playing. My computer wasn't streaming well so we didn't finish it, but what we did see was pretty entertaining. I have mixed feelings about watching those kinds of movies. I think most people watch them because they get to make fun of nerds who are into things like live action role playing. Some of the people in the documentary seemed pretty lonely or stuck in life and people like to watch movies like that because it makes them feel better about their own lives when they see someone else struggle.
I'm not into live action role playing and I thought some of the things they did were kind of funny, but they really seemed to be having a lot of fun. Maybe they know something about getting enjoyment out of life that I don't. Then again, maybe they don't get enjoyment out of life so they make up a complete fantasy one to escape. Maybe I'm overthinking this.
Anyway, I liked the movie.
Your Aunt Crystal is off work today due to the holiday. It's nice having her here.
Elijah is doing his homeschool and the boys are playing in the living room. It should be a good day. We're getting rid of the roseback couch. I'll put it on craigslist today and hopefully someone will pick it up and get it out of our lives. It's a pretty couch but pretty doesn't mean comfortable. Besides we need the room for the boys.
The little ones worker extended the visits for the biological family so they will be gone for longer periods on their visit day. Soon they will probably have overnights. We'll see. Our new kid will stay with us again from Thursday to Sunday, I miss him already. We dropped him off yesterday evening.
I love you much and miss you always,
               Uncle Justin

Friday, November 9, 2012


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. Today is going well. All four boys are here and are having a good time. Elijah is happy with having someone to play with. I didn't think it was going to be a good day. The toddler was up at 5:30 and the baby woke up three times during the night due to teething. Your Aunt Crystal and I didn't get much sleep, but I guess we asked for it having so many kids. The odds of one or two having a rough night are pretty good.
We're not doing homeschool today. I'm trying to keep it simple. We'll probably go to the park later. We'll see how brave I am. I guess with four kids if one runs off and gets hit by a bus it's not too bad. I still would have three. Just kidding. Sort of.
Elijah set up a video game store outside. He figured out that when he picked a job he could choose one that immerses himself in what he likes. He told me he sells Star Wars toys at the store too. Doesn't sound like a bad job to me.
Your Aunt Crystal is off work for Monday, which is nice. My friend Ben is coming down from Wisconsin with his kid, which is also nice. We're going down to Forest Park and go to the zoo and maybe the art Museum. I may have told you this already. The best thing to do when and adult repeats stories or information to you is to humor them. Pretend to be interested. We like to hear ourselves talk. Deal with it.
I've been working on my novel again. I put in about 4,000 words this week, but couldn't get many yesterday. Too much going on to really lose myself in writing a book. Your Aunt Crystal thinks I should write one about the process we're going through now. I think it would sell. there is a definite market for it. I just don't want to write it right now. Maybe later. I don't know.
We have to get some Christmas shopping done soon. We were way ahead of the game a while ago, but we've done nothing since and now we're about par with everyone else. I really dislike going shopping around the holidays with the packed stores and the sick consumer-frenzy feeling I get from my fellow man.
We already got your gift and I think it's a good one.
I love you much and miss you always,
                  Uncle Justin

Thursday, November 8, 2012


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. Today I get to pick my new kid up around 2:30 and drop him off in the evening. Tomorrow I'll pick him up again and he'll be staying the weekend. My friend Ben is coming down from Wisconsin and he's bringing his kid. Should be a good, testosterone-filled time.
We're probably going to be spending a lot of time in Forest Park. We're going to the zoo, art museum and maybe the history museum. The little ones will be at their visit with their biological family so doing a whole-day thing is possible.
We're getting closer (still a couple of months away) to the court date for the little ones. I found I had to check myself a bit on my expectations for what will happen there. I've had a lot of expectations of what I thinks going to happen during this whole process and each time I've been wrong. That shouldn't be surprising, since this is a new experience for me, but people usually like to know what their lives will look like and mine has changed dramatically every couple months for the last year.
I believe that the judge will begin the transition of the little ones back to their biological family. They are doing what they are supposed to do to be reunified with them. The process has been hurried and the current system view here in Missouri is to reunify at all costs.
To be honest with you, part of the fact that the boys will be going back has been a relief to me. I've gone from one kid in April to three kids and now by the end of November I'll have four. That's a lot of kids - quickly. It's not that I don't think they'll eventually stay. I believe that they will. Having them here means court dates, two or three visits to coordinate a week, social worker visits and all the joys of working with a completely dysfunctional biological family.
I can't control whether the boys stay here or leave, but a part of me thinks that if they leave all the government baloney will stop. The biological family will hurt the boys again and we'll get them back, stripped of parental rights, plain and simple. We adopt them and can move forward.
What might happen is that the judge will put everything off again for another three months and I'll have to figure out how to do all this with four kids. Your grandma will know something about that.
We have another change going on for us as well.  The boys we have here now are all pasty white skinned and mega blond. We look like we're leading the Aryan race down the block. Even though the boys don't look like us, people assume they're ours. Our new son is African American. So we are now what is referred to as a trans-racial family (You would know something about that.) That is another big change for us. We're going to do all we can to keep the guy immersed in his culture. For example; if he wants to join choir or a theatre group, we're going to find one that's representational of his race. It's not as simple as that, but I'm not writing a book here.
I am worried though. I've already screwed this up with Elijah. Ever since Elijah has been with us we thought he hand an Irish background. A year ago I got a pretty harsh look from a short, red-haired, kilted, ruffian who told me "That is not an Irish name! That's Scottish!"
"What's the difference?" I told him. Just kidding. I'm kidding. Sort of.
I love you much and miss you always,
                   Uncle Justin

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. Yesterday we elected Barack Obama the 44th president of the United States. I didn't vote for him, but there is no time for election hangover. We are headed for another fiscal crisis and we must work together to figure this mess out.
I hope our government can work together on this. Increasingly, nobody is willing to compromise on anything - so nothing happens. This is especially true in our Senate. This is not the way things used to be. When Bob Dole was the Senate Majority Leader he would basically put people in an office and tell them not to come out until they resolved their problem. We don't really have that now. We've become very polarized. That is not a good thing.
When you compromise on a problem to come up with a solution, it doesn't always mean you're compromising on your faith values or personal moral principles. Your morality hasn't changed. You haven't changed. You just cooperated to solve a problem. When we've lost the ability to do that, we are in pretty dicey territory. The people we elect to govern should have the ability to work out issues. This is a skill. It's easy to find someone who has values that match your own. It doesn't mean that they have the ability to work out our country's issues and solve problems. It just means they have beliefs and that is not enough to govern.
We all do this on a daily basis with the people we work with. When you get a job, become famous and send your Uncle lots of money - got lost there for a second. When you get a job, you'll work with a group of people who will have different value systems, religious beliefs, problem solving skills, intelligence, skills, etc. You will have to work together, even though you believe different things, to reach the company's goals. If you can't do that you'll be out on your posterior.
I get the feeling that making a compromise to obtain solutions to problems has become synonymous with defining you personal morality. That's ridiculous. If you and your satan worshipping neighbor work together sharing labor on each other's home projects, It doesn't mean you're now a satanist or that he's into God. It means your dang porch railing is fixed and his gutter doesn't leak anymore.
Get my drift?
I love you much and miss you always.
              Uncle Justin

Sunday, November 4, 2012


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. Today I have to go to the library and would like to share with you my favorite library story. Once upon a time I went to the library and checked out a book. The end.
Did you like that story? No? Try this one.
Once I went to the library and was astounded when my schema of what a library entailed was blown asunder by our area branch remodeling which included several things, but none so wonderful as a drive-up window for fast pick-ups. When you get as old as I am, you become astounded by menial things. Maybe I wasn't astounded, but starting a story with "I was reasonably contented by this small convenience" doesn't really make for something you want to keep reading.
Anyway, I had a few items to pick up and didn't want to unload the children from the car - so I chose to try this new drive-up window thingy. I pulled the Chevy to the window and pressed a large red button for service. A tired looking twenty-something clerk walked up to the window.
"Can I help you?" He said.
"Yes, I would like to pick up some reserves." I said.
"Did you call ahead?" He said.
"No," I said, "Am I supposed too?"
"Yes," He said.
"Can you make an exception for me this time?" I said. "I'm already here."
"You should really call ahead," He said.
Lucky for me the library's phone number was printed on the drive-up window. I took my cell phone out of my pocket and, still facing the clerk, dialed the library. The phone next to the clerk rang and he picked it up.
"Hello?" He said.
"Hi," I said. "I would like to use the drive-up window to pick up some reserves. My name is Justin Hunter."
"Okay," He said. We hung up our phones and stared at each other for a moment. Then I leaned out my car window and pressed the red service button.
"Can I help you?" He said.
"Yes," I would like to pick up some reserves." I said.
"Did you call ahead first?" He said. Totally deadpan.
"Yes I did," I said.
He got my selections.
When you get a job in a few years, Temple, there will be some rules that may seem pretty stupid but it's a good idea to follow them anyway. I'm sure this clerk thought the call first rule was stupid, but when you have a new thing like a drive-up window at the library you have to teach people how to use it. Otherwise they would be running back and forth from the front to the back all day and that would make for a pretty long day. Our interaction, although silly, was pleasant and we were both able to get what we wanted.
After what I did at the library drive-up window there was a new policy with large signs dictating the new drive-up rules. Not only do you have to call first in order to use the window, your selections won't be available for fifteen minutes. I'm changing the world Temple.
I've done this once before. Back in 2000? I went to the University of Milwaukee Wisconsin for a short time. I instituted a Wednesday night card night in the smoking area where we played cards well into the late hours and smoked cigars (a filthy disgusting habit.) There were so many complaints about the smoking that they closed the smoking area inside the building. Ever since then smokers have had to indulge in their habit outside. You'll remember its very cold there.
This means I am personally responsible for every single University of Milwaukee Wisconsin college student who had frozen their posteriors off outside for a smoke for over a decade.
Changing the world, Temple. I'm changing the world.
I love you much and miss you always,
            Uncle Justin

Saturday, November 3, 2012


Dear Temple,
You should have gone to bed by now. Maybe you're up. I don't know. It is Saturday after all. Maybe your sitting by your computer on a Saturday night just pining for whatever gibberish I have to spew all over this page. Maybe not.
Met my new son - your new cousin - today. He's a neat kid. Very nice. Well mannered. Runs all over the place. Pretty much your average and healthy three year old boy. He's got a great personality, he should fit in well here. He's got a raspy voice. He sounds like he's been smoking unfiltered cigarettes drinking whisky for decades. It's the kind of thing that's cute when a kid, not so cute when you're sixty. His foster family thinks he'll have a deep baritone voice when he grows up. I agree.
He's spending the day with us tomorrow. We have a lot of plans for what we could do, but he'll probably be so into our home and all his new brother's toys that he won't want to go anywhere. We'll see.
I cleaned the Gremlin for awhile today. I'm working on the dashboard and seats. There's a lot of scrubbing to do. I'm thinking about taking some automotive classes. Should be fun. I'm getting more fond of the car daily. Since I've been going through the car, I've found three knives hidden in various places. I think the previous owner may have been a bit paranoid. Whenever I pull out one of those camouflaged-handled beauties I smile a bit. The knives arent' expensive ones by any means. I think he may have gotten them in a package deal. I can just see the dude going out to his car and picking out the best places to put them.
I found the first one in the glove box, pretty standard spot. The other two were in pretty hard to reach areas tucked under the seating. It's funny to me, because if he were ever in any sort of trouble he would have to ask his assailant to wait a minute while he contorted his body enough to retrieve his defensive weapon.
Take it from your Uncle that whenever you have to ask an assailant to 'wait a minute' the answer will always be no.
Has your Grandpa given you a pocket knife yet? I think I had my first one when I was nine. It was a Swiss army knife that I got from my Uncle. I thought is was pretty cool. It had a knife, file, tweezers, toothpick and saw. I wish I still had it.
I don't know why you would want a camouflage knife anyway. What if you dropped it is dense foliage?
I really didn't intend this to be all about knives. Nice tangent. Next time I'm going to talk about flowers and bunnies.
I Love you much and miss you always,
              Uncle Justin

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. Goodbye to October. Guess we'll see it again next year. Mayans be darned! That whole Mayan calender thing isn't really going to be the end of things, Temple. It's kind of the same thing you do when your yearly calender runs out. You start the year over. We all don't explode after December 31st do we? No.
Anyway, I bought a van. I actually really like it. The kids have space. It rides well. It's practical. That's really all I have to say about it. It could probably use some flames or a big skull or something. We'll have to look at decals when you're up for Thanksgiving.
I had trouble sleeping last night so I got up and played Elijah's Lego Star Wars Wii game for about five hours or so. It was a good time killer, but I don't recall having a lot of fun while playing. I unlocked all the characters for him and beat a bunch of levels, so he's happy. I don't know why I couldn't sleep last night. I just couldn't - so I got up. Your Aunt Crystal said I should just roll over and go back to sleep. That's just crazy talk.
Crystal got Elijah a Star Wars Lego set as a present from her trip. He saw the box at around 5:45 this morning so he got up early too. Your Aunt Crystal said that she can't leave anymore because all the boys in the house develop weird sleep patterns. I disagree. We are men of the night. Not exactly all night - you have to sleep sometimes. We are men of the day and odd times of the night depending on current circumstances or Star Wars sleep disruptions. That's better.
Star Wars always makes me think of Ronald Reagan. Ask your Grandpa about that.
Elijah's pumpkin survived Halloween without being busted by delinquents. He's very happy about that. He guesses it's because he made the face upside down this year so the kids thought it was already messed with. Maybe he's right. We must have some pretty dumb delinquents around here.
Tonight I'm going to work on our new son's room. It's going to have a pirate theme. I've obtained a world map that I've cut up and burned to make it look old. I'm framing the pieces now. We've got a Thomas Tew pirate flag, pirate toys, a pirate ship wall decal, and some photos of Somali teenagers in rafts (just kidding) If the kid likes pirates, he's in for a treat. If not? Oh, well. He's just going to have to deal.
I love you much and miss you always,
                          Uncle Justin