My Sweetie Has Spent More Time in Jail than I Have

My Sweetie Has Spent More Time in Jail than I Have

Back in ancient times when I drove a concrete mixer, I met a couple of drivers who partially convinced me that I’d missed something by not going to jail. Not so much that I was in a hurry to knock off a bank, mind you, but clearly my life experiences had a gap.

More surprising is that my sweetie has spent more time behind bars than I have. In fact, she seems to be making a bit of a habit of it. Darn near monthly, she’s landing in the Idaho Correctional Institution in Orofino, ID. Last night, she brought home a former inmate.

Meet Summer. Summer was abandoned in a home filled with feces and frightened to death. Joyce Keefer, a  local Realtor who already does a tremendous amount of good work for the local Humane Society, discovered the poor dog (along with a trio of kittens) and alerted authorities. Summer ended up in the care of the Lewis Clark Animal Shelter and my sweetie. She was understandably skittish and had some trust issues when she arrived but started to come out her shell with the help of the staff at the Shelter.

Then, Summer went to jail with my sweetie accompanied by five other dogs. They were the introductory group for a new program at Orofino. The program is called PAWS (Paroling Animals With Skills) and was started by Lieutenant Earl Johnson. Started originally to help the dogs, the program has been even more transforming for the inmates/trainers. The dogs live with the men inside. Each dog has a pair of trainers and get training daily. KLEW-TV ran a segment on the program with my sweetie and Lieutenant Johnson.

The evidence nationwide, not just at Orofino, is that the program increases social interaction and teaches skills including patience, responsibility, compassion, and self-esteem for the prisoners. For the dogs, they get the benefit of 24/7 training. Both get a healthy and needed dose of unconditional love, perhaps the most transformative substance known to humanity.

Summer is a boxer mix. She’s sweet-tempered (she let our 2 year-old granddaughter pet her). She’s still a bit timid, but fully trained and available for adoption. If you’re not ready for a dog but want to support the program, you can donate at the Lewis Clark Animal Shelter website. They have a special wishlist on Amazon or you can donate at the button to the side. Volunteers are always welcome and appreciated.

If you meet Lieutenant Johnson on the street in Orofino, thank him for all the good work he’s doing, please.

To watch an inspiring video of the program in Massachusetts, click here.

You can read A Walk With Rose for free on Kindle Unlimited

Are You a Believer? Or, How Does An Avowed Agnostic Handle Prayers for Him?

Are You a Believer? Or, How Does An Avowed Agnostic Handle Prayers for Him?

I’ve had a spot of trouble to deal with lately. Specifically, a spot on my forehead that popped up three months ago. As it happens, it is squamous cell carcinoma. Yesterday, Dr. Burry of Valley Facial Plastics and ENT excised it, leaving a quarter sized hole over my right eyebrow. Dr. Burry, by the way, is fantastic. Once we have confirmation that we got it all, he’ll be stitching me up.

The size would probably have been greatly reduced had the cancer been correctly identified sooner. This is partly my fault. I went to the urgent care because I was working six days a week, dawn to dusk. I had a Saturday pop open and used it to go to the clinic.

The clinic is not staffed by a doctor. Instead, as is becoming increasingly common, it was staffed by a physician’s assistant who did not recognize what they were looking at. My mistake was taking that person at their word. Four weeks later, when the prescribed treatment program failed, I went to my doctor, got a referral to a specialist, and another to Dr. Burry. Fortunately, it hadn’t started to metastasize. If it had, I’d be in pretty deep trouble.

I’m not much for keeping those kinds of secrets, so when people asked what was going on with my head, I told them the truth. Many of these people, including most of my family, are followers of Christ. I am not, though I’m also not antagonistic toward faith. I wish I had it.

It is impossible for a person with any degree of true empathy to attend a worship service of religious believers and not see the beauty that exists in their submission to a God that asks that they live to their highest selves and to love their neighbor. It does not matter that they will fail in that task. We know that human beings are not perfect. They will sin. We all will and, yes, I include non-believers in that statement. Unless a person is so egotistical to consider themselves above any guiding principles (and those people do exist, sadly), they will have some moral foundation that they will subscribe to. The only question is whether their transgression is against a divine or self-imposed law. In either case, people will transgress.

As I mentioned, my family is blessed with faith and I was in their prayers. You expect that of family, accept it. Or ought to, though some resist.

But what of friends and acquaintances?

“Are you a Believer?” I was asked, and I answered honestly, “No.” Then, I explained why, not in detail, but enough.

“Well, I’m going to pray for you anyhow.”

There is a segment of society that would be offended at such a statement. They are militantly atheistic. Some will claim agnosticism while denying the fundamentals of that position. To be linked to religion even tangentially is an anathema. That’s a shame. They deny themselves on a great gift. Just as there is a beauty to a communion service, there is a beauty to the offer of prayers.

When a Believer offers to pray for you, he or she is not just offering a religious experience. They are freely giving you the strength of their hope and belief. In that moment, they come the closest to living the ideal of loving thy neighbor as they ever will.

There is great power in knowing that people care.

So how’s an agnostic to respond to that?

By accepting the gift with gratitude and thanks, not just for the gift of their faith, but of the blessing that they bestow by caring.

To all those that offered prayers and best wishes, family and friends alike, thank you.

Thank you so very much.

Dawdling into a Productive Day

I am willing to concede, as a practical matter, that I am not an organized individual. Those that know me well just fell over laughing at the understatement. I’m the guy that can lose his glasses, car keys, a coffee mug three seconds after setting the item down. I have a theory regarding this, and my wife has a competing theory. My theory is that when I’m inattentive, which is most of the time when I’m performing mundane tasks like getting ready for work or driving, my brain fails to accurately record where I put my keys or, when driving, that I should have turned right eight miles ago. My sweetie’s theory is that I use everyone else as part of my extended memory. She might be right, since my first instinct is to bellow. This worked better when all the girls lived with us as it gave me extra ‘storage’, plus extra eyeballs when things invariably went missing. Middle daughter, in particular, was helpful here, because she has a bit of an OCD streak.

Since my sweetie has her own things to track, making sure I can find my way to the door isn’t high on her priority list. And the girls are gone.

I’ve compensated by setting up failsafes. My glasses only get put down in specific locations (except when they don’t because . . . squirrel!) Likewise, keys go into one spot. Highly organized, except that every system has a weakness. In this case, the weakness is named Paul. I’m not consistent. I know this, so I set up another system, too. I have four keys to my FJ Cruiser. On my keyring, one inside the vehicle, one hidden outside, one in the safe as a backup when I lose yet another key. It’s not overkill; it’s planning for the inevitable. Ditto. I know where my old glasses are and the prescription is close enough that I can function. 

I recently have adopted a scheduling book and to-do list because tasks were falling through the gaps, especially the unpleasant ones. Very Type A, I’m told. Nope. A fallback-

(Sorry for the interruption. Just realized I had committed to kid-sitting but hadn’t recorded it. Fixed now.)

– position so that I get stuff out of my head. With the exception of appointments, the whole schedule is subject to sudden and rapid changes. Such as, this morning is set aside for revising Splintered Magic for my editor. 

Doesn’t this look like editing? No, you say?

Yeah, busted. I’ll get to the editing, but I’ve been working effectively seven days a week for a month and haven’t written anything in a while. I needed a fix. That doesn’t mean the editing won’t happen. It will, but in the meantime, I’ve managed to dawdle today and send out marketing letters for the book, post on a private group asking (begging!) for reviewers, checked in with my cover designer, written this blog post, answered a half-dozen work related questions, rejected a couple of work proposals, printed a report that I will hand-deliver on my way to work in a couple of hours, done some paperwork for the business, and imbibed two pots of coffee.

The failsafe, though, is set. I know that I’ll get to the editing shortly. It’s on the list, and I can’t afford the time to bump it and still meet the publication schedule. So while I lollygagged this morning, it was productive time. Remember that line about attentiveness? When I work, I work. I don’t check email, social media (I’ve mostly broken that habit, thankfully), book sales, or the latest outrageous news from whatever or whoever. A slew of tasks that eventually needed to get done, have been. That frees me up mentally to take on the editing.

Just as soon as I figure out where I left my coffee cup. Pretty sure I’m wearing out the coffee maker today. Onto editing and pot of coffee three.

Have a great day, yourself!

Teenage Boys and Guardian Angels

Teenage Boys and Guardian Angels

I got to thinking about the guardian angels tasked with keeping teenage boys alive and, mostly at least, out of major trouble. This ties into my thoughts that boys need to get into a certain amount of trouble in the first place to finish growing into men. How we deny them that will need to be the subject of a longer post later.

Back to guardian angels. When you conjure that image, the timeless art of the cherub, encased in a golden glow and sporting white wings, springs to mind. A little three-year-old missing in the woods? She’ll have an angel to look after her, tall and strong and kind. An elderly person passing from this plane? A guide, compassionate and welcoming. Heart-warming concepts, indeed.

Exactly the opposite of what teenage boys need. By nature, teenage boys are prone to do stupid things, usually in an effort to either move up in the dominance hierarchy or to impress a girl. Which is redundant. Work with me.

When a teen looks at a small chasm with a swiftly flowing creek, he sees an opportunity to measure himself and impress his peers where mature adults see an idiot playing Evel Knievel. This is the narrowest point in the creek. It seems more impressive when up-creek and down-creek spread out like that to either side, but it’s also the point with the deepest plunge if he misses.

“Bet I can jump it!”

“Bet you can’t.”

He and his big mouth firmly puts his body on the line. His brag got called. No backing out now without loosing face. His friends will deride him not for the attempt, but to discourage him because they’re eyeing the same yawning gap and thinking, “Crap, if he makes it, I gotta try.” The girls, if present, will tell him, “Don’t do it, you could get hurt. Do you think you can make it?

“Sure!” What other answer is possible? Thus committed, the teen backs up, checks the distance from one shore to the next. Backs up two more steps. Three. It looks like erosion made that damn jump a heck of a lot longer than it was a moment ago. His friends, sensing a chicken, heckle.

So far, his guardian angel, the one on duty – they work shifts twelve-and-twelve to keep up with the level of testosterone induced lunacy – sighs and puts down her cigar. Her squadron never has a quiet shift.

She’s a veteran at the game, not some rube cherub just getting its wings. Imagine a cigar-chomping, raspy voiced, frazzled woman, tougher than a Drill Instructor and half as sentimental. That’s the prototypical angel for boys 12-and up. Her mission, to keep the moron boy alive for one more day.

While he’s making his run up to launch mode, she makes decisions. Will the fall kill him? No. Good, a teachable moment, then. Can he get hurt. Probably, but not relevant. Will he make it? Snort. She could trip him before take-off but the chucklehead will just back up more, three times as determined.

She let’s him jump.

And he’s going to make it, by about a shoe-length, as in his heels hang on the edge of the abyss. But, since boys need lessons in mortality, she loosens the embankment. A dirty trick, to be sure, but if he makes it cleanly this time, he’ll try again, something bigger and more dangerous.

As the grassy verge breaks loose, the boy experiences an instant of panic and hurls himself forward, skinning his shins in the process. Inside, he’s pure elation. He won! At least, this time, because one of his buds is going to one-up him soon. But not today, no-sirree. He stands, wipes the blades of grass off his chest, and turns to face the rest of them.

The boys are looking at their feet. Hah! The girls are looking at him, which normally makes him uncomfortable as hell. One, the cutey blonde has hasn’t got the guts to ask out, looks at him concerned. She cares! It can’t get any better. Her next words crush that like a car compactor taking on a Yugo.

“How are you going to get back?”

His guardian angel snickers, picks up her cigar, and puffs it back to life. My, but she does love a two-for-one lesson.

Disruption and the Dearth of Good Options

Sarah Hoyt has yet another interesting post over at her place. As usual, she makes me think and it ties into much off the research I’ve been doing for my current book series. Go read it for the full Sarah effect, but the gist of her post is that the same stick of disruption whacking is doing the same to every facet of human activity. She’s right, but that is not the scary part.

The Good News is There is No Good News

The part that should terrify everyone is we are just entering the disruption. Worse, we don’t know which direction it will travel. Will the technologies Sarah mentioned fundamentally transform human society and, possibly, supplant it? That’s certainly a possibility and for those who assume that forward progress in technology is an immutable fact, a given. In fact, it is the dominant position.

That position, though, involves considerable pain. One example: once the disruption is in full bloom, we will have surplus population relative to the work needed. Automation will replace nearly every repetitive job in every industry. Not just manufacturing, but every industry. I can’t think of a single one that won’t be impacted. What do we do with the extra people? The usual human method of shedding population involves violence in large quantities.

An aside for those how think they’re in a bullet-proof industry. You’re not. If it involves routine processes, you are replaceable, whether that process is physical or mental. The current crop of robots have already transformed manufacturing. Almost no one will dispute that. But what of a medical diagnosis? An AI is already in development to function as a primary care practitioner and the long-term prognosis for the medical field is machine-based. The law? We already have computers to do taxes (poorly in the case of Timothy Geithner) and wills.

Maybe you build houses? Safe as it gets, right? Meet the future.

Even with the automation in manufacturing, they’re still on the edge of innovation. What happens when every home has a 3D printer and uses open-source plans to make most of their household possessions? It’s reminiscent of Frederik Pohl’s excellent sci-fi story, The Midas Plague. Which, I was thrilled to see, is available for free.

(Sorry for the interruption. Love that story, so I took a break . . .)

The Bad News is Worse

That’s the future, as much as I can see and by definition limited, if technology remains ascendant. It’s not the only possibility, though. We have plenty examples from the past to see alternative paths, most of them wildly unpleasant.

We take our toys and the infrastructure that allows for them for granted. Those systems are relatively fragile and vulnerable to human neglect or sabotage. The Luddites haven’t taken to the streets yet, but they will. They may hamper innovation, bring it to a stop, or even manage to set it into retrograde. The latter is possible if the Luddites decide that the STEM fields should be subject to opinion and the same lack of rigor that the social sciences maintain.  That’s the best case scenario for the disruption heading negative.

The next-worst case is deliberate sabotage, combined with totalitarian control of the population. For that scenario, the only useful technologies to survive will be those that enhance the state, the theocrat, or the monarch, depending on how the rulers choose to present themselves. North Korea is a prime example of what could become ordinary. A thoroughly ruthless dictatorship that uses tech to control the populace and prey on neighbors. Any deviation from orthodoxy will be detected and eradicated.

A common misconception is that such a thing could not happen here. Ludicrous. Look to the educational campuses and their rigid intolerance of competing views. They go so far as to spy on students, Soviet-style. The riots on the streets of Berkley, when both the police and the university were forewarned, provide another data point. There is a faction that would be pleased to the role of Supreme Leader.

A total collapse of human civilization would be my next-to-last worst case. Imagine all the ungovernable regions in the world without the aid they currently received and see how long human ‘decency’ holds. Starving people will not worry about niceties. They’ll love their neighbor – in a soup, or on a spit.

Worst case? We kill ourselves off and the roaches or AI-enabled-robots with Austrian accents take over.

Pick your scenario, make your plans, plan to be flexible, and know that it all can disappear in a blink.