If you like what you see in my blog, check out my eBook

I clicked a button recently which published some family history  that’s been a long time in the making.  It was that simple.

After pecking away at this “narrative journal” for the better part of 30 years, I decided to take a leap of faith on this story of my father’s life, my life, and the struggles my family has endured going back to my father’s childhood and just self-publish the thing.

Cover 2Now, “Simple Man: Learning To Live Without A Father, From Generation To Generation,” is out there on Amazon.com for anyone out there in the world with a Kindle reader or the free Kindle reader app to see.  This is just the start of what I dream of being a whole new adventure when it comes to my first love in a career path: writing.

It comes out of my passion for putting words together in a way that makes the reader think, entertains, and in some cases inspires.  It also comes out of necessity.  It comes out of a strong desire to be my own boss, to do more to decide my own fate.

This blog was born during a low time in my life, a difficult time for my family.  It was born at a time when I’d been laid off from a computer programming job, and it would help me to maintain my sanity in the year and three months that would follow while looking for another decent job.

I did find a decent job again in the middle of March last year.  The struggle to regain financial footing after that continued.  Just over a year later, last April 1, that “decent job” was taken away.  My family and I found ourselves back at square one … again.

Just before that “decent job” was taken away, I had what could best be called a “vision” that went right to my heart.  It involved self-publishing, going beyond this blog and into an even bigger arena, with a variety of stories to tell.  What better way to kick it off than to publish something that’s been around 30 years in the telling?

Self-publishing isn’t the only thing I have going now.  I’m seeing about getting trained at a “day job” that is about as blue collar as it gets, but — as is the case with so many middle class Americans these days — it doesn’t quite pay all the bills.

Which brings me to self-publishing.

Dad

My father, John Miller, in his Army days.

My father was about as blue collar as it gets.  His main occupation was mining, and it was that occupation that ended up killing him, four months before I was born.  He came from a background where he learned how to survive through hard times, without his own father to guide him along.  Like father, like son.

That “decent job” I had for around a year up until April Fools Day may have been taken away, but I come from a background where you learn to adapt.  We’ve gotten help along the way, help that’s been appreciated, the kind of help we desperately want to repay many times over.  We could easily choose to just give up hope, give up faith, just fade away.  But I wasn’t raised that way, and I want that “family tradition” of survival to be an example for others.

My mother, Betty, myself (far left), brother Curtis, and sister Lynda Kay.

My mother, Betty, myself (far left), brother Curtis, and sister Lynda Kay.

My father’s death going on 54 years ago provided some huge challenges for my mother, who was left to raise three children, including an older son born with cerebral palsy who would die at age 10.  It provided huge challenges for my sister and me.  We’ve done what my father would have wanted us to do: survive, become the best persons we can be, making it through the hard times and being stronger as a result.

That’s the kind of survival I talk about in my book.  We’re not fancy people, we’re not celebrities, but there is still a story to tell in simple lives based on survival, with the goal of inspiring others to push through their own personal struggles, no matter how hard those struggles may be.

It all started with my father, a “simple man.”  It won’t end there.  I will have more stories to tell in my self-publishing endeavors, at times in the same way that I’ve shared them in this blog.  I will be taking a hard look at the world we live in, the hardships so many people face, examining ways we can make this a better place to live.  This collection of family history is just the start.  I’m gradually taking control now, not leaving my family’s fate totally up to someone else.  With hard work and a lot of faith, we’ll make it.

That’s what survivors do.

Posted in Dad stuff, Faith, Family, Job search, Middle class life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

An Empty Father’s Day

A View From The Middle (Class):

I came across this blog article a few days ago on The Huffington Post, and the deep feelings here grabbed me. That’s because I can relate to them all too well, as someone who was never able to see or touch or listen to my own father even once in my life. To all those who are able to celebrate this Father’s Day by making memories with their father or their children today or celebrating memories of the past, make the most of it. Cherish those memories. They are priceless.

Originally posted on Michelle Hanson:

I have passed the rows of Father’s Day cards when shopping for weeks now. It’s like a knife to my heart every time. I even stopped and read a few last week, seeing what it would do to me to read words I’ll never get to say to you again. The grief is different now, eight years after your death. It is a copper basin, deep and somber. It echos when the teardrops drops fall, and they do fall still. It is fresh and old all at once, this grief. It has become a part of me.

The Father’s Day ads are everywhere, a constant reminder that I am alone. Each reminder lances that grief, sometimes deeply and others merely scratch the surface. I have lived with this pain since I was 16- this tension between everyday joy and a burden that was too heavy for a young girl to bear.
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I envy…

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With Mary Grace, it’s about amazing ability — not disability

While some might see her “handicap” as a challenge, Mary Grace Gallekanao has come to look upon it as God’s purpose.  When you listen to her playing the piano, you are left with no doubt that she’s been given a divine gift.  It’s there to inspire others.

Mary Grace Gallekanao (Photos by John G. Miller)

Mary Grace Gallekanao (Photos by John G. Miller)

She was born in the Philippines.  She has a stub for a right arm, her right leg is smaller — eight inches shorter — than her left.  She wears a platform orthopedic shoe on her right foot to help her walk normally.  She has said she had a very difficult time growing up because of how she looks, asking why she doesn’t have a right hand like everyone else, asking herself what she did to deserve being born that way.

But she went on to college and earned a degree in psychology, finding friends there for the first time in her life.  Perhaps her greatest gift — which was displayed Saturday at the Wasatch Hills Seventh-day Adventist Church in Salt Lake City — is on the piano.  It is there where her “handicap” becomes not an example of an imperfection, but an example of a grand design.  On the piano, she plays the melody of complex pieces of music with what she calls a fleshy protrusion at the tip of the stub that is the perfect size to fit one key.  She plays chords with her left hand, crossing over when the chords are in the higher keys.

DSC_3059The speed and dexterity that’s demanded in the music she plays does not suffer.  She can interpret music with a master’s touch.

“If the stub were any longer or shorter, it would be hard for me to play the piano,” she told her audience Saturday.  “I know that I was created for a purpose.  Each and every one of us is special in the Lord’s sight.”

Mary Grace said there have been several people who wanted to introduce her to the world, she could have made a lot of money with her talent and have anything she wanted.  But, she added, there were two conditions:  she could not mention anything about God in her performances, nor the two ministries she is so passionate about (Help-the-Needy Inc., and Adopt-a-Minister International).  They only wanted her to talk about herself and what she can do.

DSC_3056“I had to turn them down because I know it’s not about me now.  It’s about God,” she said.  “And it’s not about what I can do, but what God can do through me.

“The Lord has blessed me more than money could ever hope for.”

Mary Grace has given concerts around the world — in Guam, Europe, Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Canada, and the United States.

She ended her talk with some words of inspiration.

“Surrender our lives and He will surely work wonders.  I hope that, no matter what’s going on around us, we would always focus our eyes on the cross, and one day — when all is said and done — we could say we have run the race, we have finished the course, we have kept the faith.”

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Jamie Glaser teaches us to ‘Hear the Silence’

If you listen for a guitar playing during the music accompanying the classic comedy series “Seinfeld” or “Married… With Children,” you can hear him.

If you’ve spent a fair amount of time listening to the music of jazz fusion artists like Jean-Luc Ponty or Lenny White, or if you’ve listened to The Manhattan Transfer’s 1991 release “The Offbeat of Avenues” or some of rocker Bryan Adams’ best work, there’s a good chance you’ve heard his guitar skills there as well.

Jamie Glaser plays guitar with his longtime band leader, legendary jazz fusion violinist Jean-Luc Ponty.  (Photo courtesy Jamie Glaser)

Jamie Glaser plays guitar with his longtime band leader, legendary jazz fusion violinist Jean-Luc Ponty. (Photo courtesy Jamie Glaser)

The player you’d be listening for is Jamie Glaser, who’s been known as a top session guitarist for many years with credits including work with Chick Corea and Chaka Khan as well, just to name a few. He’s played live in front of audiences around the world. He can be found via YouTube on an old video from The Tonight Show with Manhattan Transfer. He’s done a lot in his musical career, continuing his playing/recording/producing/directing/teaching career from his base between Salt Lake City and Provo, Utah — far from the faster life he once knew in places like Los Angeles or his roots in New York City.

With that kind of history on his resume, you’d think the achievement he’s most proud of would have to do with his accomplishments as a musician. But what he’s actually most proud of is surviving a disorder – manic depression – that’s plagued him in the lowest points of his life, through poverty and homelessness, bringing about behaviors that made even those who were closest to him question whether he was a drug addict.

Glaser is most proud of surviving a disorder that’s taken the lives of other gifted musicians through their own manic behaviors (how is it that some of the most gifted artists have been known to suffer from bipolar disorder and done so much creative work given the “genius” tag in their lives?) and going on to encourage others to get the help that they need as well.

hear the silence coverHe’s doing it again through the recent republishing of his book, “Hear The Silence,” in online form. It’s a book that’s far from a “typical musician’s bio” with tales of celebrity antics. In fact, it really doesn’t cover much of his musical life at all, only giving brief references to his experiences in the spotlight more as a way of showing the highest highs he’s seen in his life before sinking to the lowest lows.

“The one thing that I hope that is my legacy is the book I wrote, celebrating life, and inspiring others who may be depressed, are bipolar, suffer mental illness, just down in general with lessons I’ve learned and that have me celebrating life from morning ‘til night 365 days a year,” Glaser says in a post on his Facebook page.

The thought of “hearing the silence” is first mentioned in his experiences dating back to Glaser’s days at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, where he went to see a teacher and – in the quiet darkness of the teacher’s room – was asked to describe the sounds that were around him, finally dawning on him that there was much more going on around him than what little was happening in that room.

“He continued telling me he would teach me to notice these sounds, to know how to find them, to use them musically and in my life,” Glaser writes of that lesson that’s stayed with him through his life. “I believe it is this lesson that has given me a life like few others. I believe this lesson has given me a career like few others. And, most importantly, it is this lesson that got me through my horrible, painful experience with bipolar disorder.

“… Learn to ‘Hear the Silence’ and you will learn one of the greatest secrets there are to enlighten and fulfill your life!!”

Jamie Glaser flies in a guitar solo.  (Photo courtesy Jamie Glaser)

Jamie Glaser flies in a guitar solo. (Photo courtesy Jamie Glaser)

With those words, the first chapter of the book is complete and the stage is set for Glaser to tell the rest of his story. It tells a story of …

  • Having a young man with cerebral palsy – who could only speak by pointing at letters one at a time – helping Glaser to appreciate the beauty and goodness that surrounded him instead of being angry and bitter.
  • Days when he was known more as a “maniac” – throwing paychecks for his television work out the window of a moving car on a San Diego freeway, spending money and traveling aimlessly.
  • Spending long periods of time not wanting to get out of his bed or leave his home due to fear or depression.
  • The people who cared about Glaser, recognized he needed help, and guided him through his own personal darkness.
  • Traumatic experiences that helped to trigger some of his deepest bouts with depression.
  • Glaser’s spiritual beliefs, animal friends, a beloved children’s television show that all helped to lift and keep him out of his depression.
  • Advising those who may be experiencing their own personal darkness on how they can pull themselves back into the light.

It’s part musician memoirs with deeply personal insights into self-help and motivation along the lines of Tony Robbins or Wayne Dyer, two of Glaser’s favorite motivational figures. It’s a combination that makes for an engaging, uplifting read.

Glaser tells his story in a style that puts his personality on display. As you read it, imagine sitting in a restaurant that serves New York-style pizza as Glaser talks to you across the table with his own New York flavor. There’s honesty and heartfelt passion in his words. And as anyone who’s gotten acquainted with him in person or on social media can attest, he’s looking to help others more than he’s looking to help himself.

“Hear the beautiful symphony in the silence,” Glaser says in the final chapter. “Play life’s gorgeous melodies over and over. May the songs of this beautiful existence be always at the top of the charts for you.”

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Yeah, that Cliven Bundy — quite the ‘hero,’ ain’t he?

Welcome to my world.  Won’t you come on in?

Cliven Bundy, carrying the flag "cowboy style."

Cliven Bundy, carrying the flag “cowboy style.”

It’s gotten to the point where Nevada cattle rancher Cliven Bundy has become a household name because of his refusal to pay his fair share to the federal government for grazing fees, his refusal to even recognize the federal government exists (all while literally carrying the American flag while he parades on camera for millions to see), his whining to Fox News and other conservative media about Bundy’s stand to the point that it’s equated to the Boston Tea Party, which turned into an armed standoff in recent days with the end result being that the Bureau of Land Management backed down from legally confiscating Bundy’s cattle in order to be compensated for unpaid fees due to concern for the safety of BLM employees and the public — namely, the armed militia members from around the country aiming loaded weapons at government employees.

It’s become such a big story that it’s gotten lead-in attention every night so far in a memorable war of words this week between Jon Stewart on The Daily Show and Bundy cheerleader Sean Hannity on Fox News.

And now that Bundy is showing his true character (or lack of same) by talking about blacks being subsidized to the point they would have been better off remaining slaves, Hannity and others like him — with concerns over lost advertising dollars or lost votes racing through their minds — can’t back away from the “hero” they’ve been propping up fast enough.

Having lived in “Bundy country” all my life, I can’t say I’m surprised at all.  In fact, I could see it all coming a mile away.  Make that a “country mile” away — you see, out here that’s a lot longer than a mere 5,280 feet.  In “Bundy country,” that’s about as long as it takes for fresh cow manure to wear off your boots after you’ve stepped in a steaming pile of it, or for the smell from that same cow pie to wear off, whichever comes first.

Out here in the West, not all rural people believe the same things that ol’ Cliven Bundy believes.  Believe it or not, there are actually a good amount of decent, hard-working rural people out here who live off the land and actually use common sense, logic, fairness, intelligence, concern for the environment — all the things that Clive Bundy lacks.

Oh, but it’s those Bundy-like characters who can sure skew the perception of what the West and its people are like, and there are plenty of them out there.

I remember a time back around my late teens or early 20’s when I was helping a friend of mine whose family ran a cattle ranch do some chores up in the hills, and a song from the Queen album “A Night At The Opera” was playing on a stereo when the friend’s father got back in the vehicle.

“Turn off that jungle music!” my friend’s father insisted.

When I see and hear Cliven Bundy today, I’m reminded of that time.

Welcome to my world and so much of what I’ve seen through my lifetime.  Won’t you come on in?

Cliven Bundy, an "American hero?"

Cliven Bundy, an “American hero?”

Cliven Bundy is a symbol of many things, and now America is getting more than a glimpse at those Bundy qualities.

He’s a symbol of a breed of individual so damn stubborn to cling to the ugly parts of our past and all the shame that goes with it that he’d die to hold on to it, and he’d put his wife and children at the front of the firing line if it came down to actual shooting.

He’s a symbol of an American right wing that’s been there for at least as long as we could utter the name Cleon Skousen (ah, hell, going back to the founding of our slave-owning nation for that matter) that’s gone from being on the fringes of conservative politics to being at the forefront of conservative politics.

He’s a symbol of nonsensical “feelings” about the direction we’re going with little opinion being based on facts or a nasty thing like deep, analytical thought and reasoning.

He’s a symbol of that “I’ll do whatever it takes to get mine, but I’ll be damned if I’m gonna stand by and let you get yours” line of thinking.

He’s a symbol of a pawn being used in some perverted game of chess where people behind the scenes pulling the strings would love nothing more than to have millions of acres of protected land turned over to states who’d love to turn it over to the giants of industry to do what they please.

He’s a symbol of someone too damn stupid to see that he’s being used as a pawn.

He’s a symbol of an American racist who’s too damn stupid and stubborn to admit he’s a racist because it’d be too hard to change his ways.

The likes of him aren’t found just on the desert ranches of Nevada either.  They can be found in places like liberal Northern California, where it can still be hard to this day for a black man with a decent job to find an apartment to rent.

Bundy is a symbol of an ugly side of America that still exists, where a person with color might have the cash, but they can’t cash in their face.

That’s ugliness.  It sure as hell ain’t heroism.  Real American heroes didn’t fight and die for that (to use a “Bundy country” term) bullshit to be celebrated.

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Good Friday

A View From The Middle (Class):

May your Easter holiday be a blessed one.

Originally posted on I Shutter at the Thought!:

For those observing the Easter holiday, please remember to look beyond the Crucifixion to what it reveals about God. Happy holiday; God is love.

“The Cross exposes the diametrically opposed ruling principles of God and Satan. The other-focused, self-sacrificial love of the Servant God shines in stark contrast to the prideful and ambitious manipulator of the survival-of-the-fittest principle. The God who washes dirty feet is willing to die for his creatures. How different from the creature Satan, who did not shrink from asking his creator to worship him (Matthew 4:9)! The gentle persuasion by the God who values our freedom stands in strong opposition to the methods of force, fear and coercion that Satan uses. These opposing principles were clearly revealed at the Tree of Knowledge and at the Cross. In the end, our affiliation with the respective sides of the conflict is revealed by the methods we use, as…

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About this new American ‘hero,’ Cliven Bundy

Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy became an American “hero” on Saturday.

Cliven Bundy

Cliven Bundy

It appears we are extremely desperate for “heroes” these days.

Bundy has been running cattle on government-owned land — as in, owned by the government since the Mexican Cession in 1848, never owned by the Bundy family itself — and in 1993 he decided he didn’t want to pay fees for grazing rights to that land.  Again, his family may have been grazing on that land since the late 1800’s, but the family itself has never owned the land in question.  As with so many ranchers who play by the rules, you need to pay a fee to use that land in order for that land to be managed.  It’s things like that that, if properly managed, keeps the land from being overgrazed and becoming useless.

It’s methods like paying for grazing rights that keep anyone and everyone from running as damn well many cattle over the land as they damn well please.  Think of it like a traffic light.  Without things like a traffic light, anyone and everyone controlling a motorized vehicle could go whenever and wherever they damn well please, and to hell with anyone else.

Should we just do away with any and all regulation and let everything — including our natural resources — go down the crapper?  Apparently, Bundy and his supporters believe so.  Bundy’s been fighting over paying these grazing fees that so many other ranchers pay for over the past 20-plus years — effectively giving Bundy an unfair advantage over ranchers who play by the rules trying to make the same living Bundy’s family has for so many years.  In 1998, Bundy was legally prohibited from grazing his cattle on the land near Bunkerville, Nevada.  He received fair warning that if he didn’t cough up the money he owed for trespassing, his cattle would be confiscated and auctioned off.

Instead of playing by the rules, Bundy thumbed his nose at them and decided to run even more cattle on the land instead — giving himself even more of an unfair advantage over the ranchers who do play by the rules, effectively ripping off American taxpayers in the process.  The legal fight continued as the years went on, Bundy faced around a million dollars in unpaid fees, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) finally stepped in and started backing up its words with actions.  They started confiscating Bundy’s cattle.

Images from the Cliven Bundy standoff.

Images from the Cliven Bundy standoff.

Bundy went whining to Fox News, Bundy went whining to Alex Jones, Bundy went whining to Sean Hannity, and before you knew what was happening, militias from all over started popping up in rural Nevada, treating Bundy’s “stand” like it was some modern-day Boston tea party.  Right-wingers salivated over putting a stop to what they saw as a standoff akin to what was seen in Waco, Texas, and Ruby Ridge, Idaho, which claimed lives.

All over one rancher who didn’t want to play by the rules and wanted his cattle to eat as much as they could wherever they could, all so he could get more dollars in his bank account.

The “standoff” ended Saturday when the BLM backed away.  The situation was getting ugly.  And America now has another right-wing “hero.”

Man, we are sadly desperate for heroes these days.

I’ve been watching this with great interest since word has been popping up about it over the past several days.  Part of my childhood was spent on a dairy farm/cattle ranch operated by my grandparents.  My grandfather knew what it took to graze cattle the right way:  You let them eat where there’s food, when the food source is eaten down you move them to a different area and let the area that was grazed be replenished.  It’s a natural cycle.  Overgrazing is an idiotic concept, but it happens among those who are foolish, irresponsible, and have little more than dollar signs floating in their heads.

The Bundy story also brought back memories of the days when I was managing editor for a small daily newspaper in southeast Idaho, in the heart of potato and cattle country.  I took on a big project myself which examined public vs. private property issues.  I spent a fair amount of time looking at the case of a farmer/rancher in the Aberdeen area who was running into problems with the state Department of Fish and Game telling him what he could and could not do on his property.

One example that comes to mind today is the memory of the property owner wanting to pull up an area of Russian Olive bushes on his land before they started taking over.  If you’ve never come across Russian Olives, they’re nasty, basically useless weeds that can be used for cover and protection by birds who eat the fruit, poop out the seeds and bring about more bushes filled with needle-sharp growth.  Fish and Game fought with the property owner to keep him from pulling up the bushes.

That was a case where a government agency — a state agency in that case — did infringe on the rights of a property owner to do what he felt was necessary within the bounds of his own land.  That was a case where a government agency was out of line.

bundy foxIn Bundy’s case, the issue of private vs. public lands should not be confused.  But in Bundy’s case, it’s been exploited by Bundy running to the extreme anti-government talking heads and whining about how tyrannical the actions against him have been, when the fact remains that Bundy is simply breaking the law, giving himself an unfair advantage because of it, forcing American taxpayers to foot his bill, and becoming a right-wing “hero” because of it.

Cliven Bundy and his anti-government supporters may feel like they’ve won this standoff.  What was lost out of it was common sense and balanced land management.  It’s a balance that — out here in the West — is very delicate.

Try making sense out of this story.  I dare you.

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Spending more than a day in our lives with the homeless

Maybe I’m amazed.

This is the first time in nearly two months that I’ve written an article for this blog.  Not that I’ve stopped caring about it, far from it.  It’s just that … paying work gets in the way.  Life itself gets in the way.

Life has a way of carrying on, no matter what our situations, as long as we keep pursuing it.  The key is to keep pursuing that life we’re given, no matter what.

I’ve been checking in to the blog recently and looking at the stats, and here’s what has me amazed:  Despite the fact that I haven’t written anything new in nearly two months, this blog is still getting about the same number of views on a daily basis that I used to see when I was putting up fresh, new articles every day.

A long line of homeless people line up behind the ICOR truck at Pioneer Park in Salt Lake City in early March. (Photo by John G. Miller)

A long line of homeless people line up behind the ICOR truck at Pioneer Park in Salt Lake City in early March. (Photo by John G. Miller)

Here’s the main thing viewers are going to when they come here:  A day in the life of a homeless person.  And if they’re not going to that one, they’re going to some other article I’ve written about personal time that I and members of my family have spent going out to help the homeless as part of the Wasatch Hills Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Inner City Outreach (ICOR) ministry.

I’m hoping the reason that particular article is being viewed so many times is because of a deep, genuine sense of caring for those less fortunate.  After all, that’s part of our moral obligation.

It’s been a few weeks since ICOR volunteers went out for the last time this season to Pioneer Park in Salt Lake City.  The weather was getting warmer, but the needs were still great.  The line of the homeless was long, and it still included men, women, children, pets.  Everyone was helped in some way, no one was turned away.

The needs are still there.  And, regardless of what the naysayers will tell you about the impoverished side of America, the poor among us really don’t have it all that great.  I still stand there on the street along the west side of Pioneer Park and talk to the people getting help, and can only shake my head when I hear how many of them have a paying job and still can’t afford a decent place to live, so they find themselves living out of a vehicle or a homeless shelter.

Alicia Miller, Grant Miller (middle) and ICOR coordinator Steve Binder help those in need.  (Photo by John G. Miller)

Alicia Miller, Grant Miller (middle) and ICOR coordinator Steve Binder help those in need. (Photo by John G. Miller)

Anyone telling you the working poor in America have it pretty good compared to other places … well, have they ever tried walking a mile in those people’s shoes?  My son Grant wrote the heart of that article that’s been getting so many views here.  I think that assignment touched him in some way.  It’s done my heart good this season to see him getting so involved in the back of the ICOR truck, helping those in need on a face-to-face basis.

It also can’t be said that the homeless who don’t have jobs don’t want to earn a living, that they prefer to live off of handouts — at least not all of them.  This week, I was infuriated by a story from Scottsdale, Arizona, of a 35-year-old homeless mother of two children who could not find anyone to care for her toddlers while she went to a job interview to try and improve their lives, so she was left with no choice but to leave the children in her vehicle with the windows cracked open while she sat in the interview.  Authorities came to take her children, and the mother was charged with two felony counts of child abuse.  She not only lost out on the chance for a job to improve her family’s life, she stands to lose her children as well.

I — along with many others who’ve read the story — don’t find myself angered by the mother’s choice to leave her children in the car unattended as much as I do with how glaringly this story shows that we are apparently becoming a nation that seems to care less and less about those less fortunate, our desire to lend a hand seems to be diminishing, even toward those who are still trying to pull themselves up only to find themselves shoved back down.

This is becoming less and less of a Christian nation.  More and more people are losing their homes, whether they’re working or not.  You have to see it to feel it.  You have to look into the eyes of the people to feel the impact.  You have to talk to these people to understand what it is to be without a home.

Try spending a day in your life among the homeless, just like Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) has done and spoke about in front of the House of Representatives.

Until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes, no one has room to talk about how good America’s poor have it.

Try spending more than one day among the homeless.  I challenge you.

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Super Bowl XLVIII: Offense and defense and ads, OH MY!!! (A live blog post)

I’m not anti-social.  Maybe a bit on the quiet side at times in a crowd, but not anti-social.  We were invited to a Super Bowl party today with lots of people and small children running around, but that’s not how I prefer to watch a Super Bowl.

For me, the Super Bowl isn’t a time for a pro football fanatic to get together with more casual fans chattering away about so many other things other than the game itself, or having to press my ear closer to a TV screen to hear an explanation of a crucial call during the game because the youngsters are running around playing games.

Don’t get me wrong — I love socializing, I love children.  But this is the Super Bowl.  My biggest enjoyment comes in immersing myself in the game, either with my own little family or with someone who’s as focused on the game as I am, if not more so.

Phyllis and Andy Kotowski with their son Bill in football gear from 1999.  (Photo courtesy Bill Kotowski via Facebook)

Phyllis and Andy Kotowski with their son Bill in football gear from 1999 in Pocatello, Idaho. (Photo courtesy Bill Kotowski via Facebook)

This Super Bowl in particular, my memories take me back to 25 years ago, to the day when San Francisco faced Cincinnati in Super Bowl XXIII, sitting in the living room of my friends Andy and Phyllis Kotowski in Blackfoot, Idaho, along with their four small children.  Andy played semi-pro ball in California himself.  We coached football together from Little League through junior high school ages.  He was into every play, and his wife knew a lot about the game herself so she contributed to the football-rich atmosphere that made watching the game so enjoyable.  Even the children were into it.

I remember that game 25 years ago very well to this day.  I remember the collective groan when Cincinnati nose tackle Tim Krumrie broke his leg, and the sight of that lower leg flopping around being shown on the giant screens at Miami’s Joe Robbie Stadium.  I remember the classic come-from-behind finish with Joe Montana throwing a last-minute touchdown pass to John Taylor in the back of the end zone.  Classic finish.

My friend Andy and his wife Phyllis were the ones who helped introduce me to my lovely wife Amy.  Andy was best man at my wedding.  He died all too young.  The last time I saw Phyllis and the children was early last decade after I’d found out that Andy had passed away.  We stayed in touch through email for a while after that, but then lost touch again for too many years.  I finally caught up with their children on Facebook a couple of weeks ago after the NFC Championship game, sadly to find out that Phyllis, that sweet football fanatic herself, died last August, all too soon.

I’m watching this Super Bowl with Andy and Phyllis and their children in mind.  I can still hear Andy growling and shouting over big plays, Phyllis cheering.  I’m reliving those memories with my own family around me, reminded of Andy and Phyllis when I look at my wife’s lovely face as she watches for every Budweiser ad that involves the Clydesdales.  If it weren’t for Andy and Phyllis, my happiness wouldn’t be complete.

Tune in for my updates on the game and the commercial starting around kickoff time, and you can hit refresh on your browser to see the latest thoughts on the game action and the ads to see the latest thoughts.  All times MST.

4:20 p.m. – Renee Fleming singing the National Anthem.  Yeah, that’s the way it ought to be sung!

4:28 p.m. – The coin flip and Joe Namath gets a little ahead of himself.  Denver’s ball first.  The tone will be set early.

My Italian burritos.

My Italian burritos.

4:32 p.m. – Kickoff … time to taste my entree, Italian burritos.

4:34 p.m. – Seattle safety on a bonehead play to start it all off.  Are you kidding me?

4:46 p.m. – It’s 5-0 Seattle on a field goal after a challenge I thought would go the Seahawks’ way.  Denver’s lucky it didn’t end up 10-0.  Peyton needs to get going now.

5:02 p.m. – Denver “D” containing Marshawn Lynch so far, which it needs to do.  Still getting hurt in other ways.

5:05 p.m. – On to the ads — Arnold Schwarzenegger and ping pong.  Don Cheadle and a yak.  Okay, now it’s coming together.  The teasers have apparently been coming for a while now.

5:07 p.m. – Another Seattle field goal, and it’s 8-0.  The Broncos need to rally on offense, starting now.

5:12 p.m. – Manning throws an INT.  Okay, who kidnapped Denver’s offense?

5:22 p.m. – Marshawn Lynch runs it in from a yard out, 15-0 Seahawks with 12 minutes to go in the second quarter.  Too many dumb mistakes from Denver.  The Broncos under Manning are looking rattled and they’re having a tough time shaking it.  If this doesn’t change and soon, defense will win another Super Bowl — for Seattle.

5:38 p.m. – Another INT on a bad throw from Manning under heavy pressure, and Seattle’s Malcolm Smith runs it back for a touchdown.  It’s 22-0.  If Don Meredith were alive and broadcasting the game right now, he might start thinking about singing.

5:54 p.m. — Denver has to give it up just before halftime.  It says a lot that Denver’s bread and butter on offense — intermediate to long range passing — has been taken away, thanks in part to intense pressure off the edge.  If the Broncos can’t turn that around, it’ll be a long second half.

6:26 p.m. – About time to start the second half.  I just saw the meme of the game so far.

peyton

6:32 p.m. – Percy Harvin, 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, and it’s 29-0 Seattle 12 seconds into the second half.  Percy, why didn’t you do stuff like that late in my fantasy football season instead of nursing injuries?  And I can hear Don Meredith singing …

6:39 p.m. – And I finally see an ad I can truly appreciate:  Audi’s “Doberhuahua.”  Yeah!

6:53 p.m. – Morpheus has a great voice in that Kia commercial!

6:56 p.m. – It can’t get any worse for Denver, darn near literally handing the game over to the Seahawks.  So bloggers just resort to filling up a live blog with commercials.  They’re more entertaining right now if you picked the Broncos.  Total domination by Seattle.

7:03 p.m. – Jermaine Kearse touchdown pass from Russell Wilson.  Yes, it can get worse for Denver fans.  What a blowout, 36-0.  Puts the “ugh” in “ugly.”

7:11 p.m. – Wow!  Denver scores a TD with no time left in the third quarter, and a two-point conversion.  A 36-8 game.  Bronco fans, don’t get your hopes up for an epic comeback.  Not against that Seattle defense.

7:20 p.m. – Is it just me, or do the Super Bowl ads get more lame overall every year?  Oh, and the Seahawks are about to … yep, score again.  Doug Baldwin helps make it 43-8, 11:45 left in the game.

7:28 p.m. – My lovely wife, the horse fan, wants to see “Thunder,” the Broncos’ Arabian mascot, do some running.  The problem is, “Thunder” only runs after Denver touchdowns.  My lovely wife might just have to settle for this …

7:42 p.m. – I remember Super Bowl XX, when the Chicago Bears trashed the New England Patriots 46-10.  I recall having slept through much of the second half.  This is one of those games.

7:51 p.m. — Amy’s excited to see the Budweiser ad.

7:55 p.m. – Game over.  In the battle of the legalized recreational pot states, Seattle takes it to a higher level.  Certainly a well-deserved championship.  DOMINATION!

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Super Bowl XLVIII prediction: Who’ll fly higher?

Let’s just get it out of the way, shall we?  Super Bowl XLVIII features two teams from the only two states in America to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.  It’s already had its share of … errr, messed up moments, right from the closing seconds of the NFC Championship game when egos became the talk of the nation.

So, out of this year’s big game between the teams representing the weed capitals of America, who will fly higher when it’s all over and who will end up having taken the biggest … hit?

superbowlNow, let’s get something else out of the way, shall we?  This whole Richard Sherman thing that had much of America, football and non-football fans alike, talking after the end of the NFC Championship game.

Sherman — the Seattle Seahawks’ standout cornerback — got the ball rolling by throwing the universal symbol of choking in the direction of the San Francisco 49ers bench in general or Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick in particular, followed by an awkward exchange between Sherman and San Francisco receiver Michael Crabtree as the last seconds of the game were left on the clock, capped off by one of the more memorable live television interviews ever conducted following an NFL game with Sherman declaring himself to be unbeatable and his foes little more than mediocre.

It wasn’t the first time Sherman has struck that kind of pose, tearing others down while building himself up to fabulous heights.  He was setting himself up to become the next Fred “The Hammer” Williamson, a talented and talkative defensive back for the Kansas City Chiefs who spouted off plenty before Super Bowl I and ended up getting knocked out during the game — literally — as the Chiefs were being trounced.  While Sherman had plenty of supporters for his actions, he had just as many detractors.  Over the past two weeks, however, he seems to have had a bit of an awakening, showing itself in a guest column on the Sports Illustrated web site.

“No one has ever made himself great by showing how small someone else is.” – Irvin Himmel

And then there’ve been concerns over weather conditions in this first Super Bowl ever played outdoors at a cold weather site.  How odd it’s seemed to think that the biggest sporting event in the world that’s classified as one of the biggest non-holiday days of the year — Super Sunday — could end up being moved to a Friday, Saturday or Monday instead to avoid bitter cold or a winter blizzard.

That’s messed up, man.

But here we are, hours away from kickoff, and it appears the game will go on as scheduled.  Enough of the Sherman hype, enough Weather Channel watching … are you ready for some football?

Here we have the No. 1 offense in Denver with league MVP Peyton Manning going against the No. 1 defense in Seattle with Sherman headlining a dynamic back seven.  It’s a classic matchup, you couldn’t ask for anything better.  It’s been said that offense wins games but defense wins championships, and it’s been proven to be true in the past.

Defense could very well be a deciding factor in this game.  But will it be Seattle’s defense winning it, or Denver’s?

The Seahawks have one of the top power running backs in the game in Marshawn Lynch, with just enough speed to break it once he gets through punishing would-be tacklers.  The thing is, the New England Patriots were showing that same style as they lumbered their way to the AFC Championship game and the Broncos ended up handling it defensively just fine.  They could do the same thing against Seattle.  If you contain the power running of Lynch, you force second-year quarterback Russell Wilson to beat you.

In a matchup of Wilson vs. Manning, the league MVP would get the nod.

The Seahawks will do all they can defensively to keep Manning off the field by pounding the ball inside and killing the clock.  But I have a feeling the Broncos will mix it up just enough offensively to do the same thing, with Manning using his vast array of receivers to keep Seattle’s defense guessing all game long when he’s not handing it off to Knowshon Moreno for some clock killing of his own.

In a game of inches, Richard Sherman turned away the 49ers with a well-timed play that could have easily gone the other way had Kaepernick’s pass to Crabtree in the end zone been just a touch longer.

You won’t see Peyton Manning making the same mistake.  You won’t be seeing Richard Sherman flashing the choke sign in Manning’s direction.

In the end, in this year’s Doobie Bowl — errr, Super Bowl — it’ll be the Broncos riding the highest, 27-23.

It’ll be a Rocky Mountain high.

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