Sunday, August 28, 2016

I Moved My Daughter Into Her Dorm Today... A single dad reflects on divorce and how fast kids grow up.

I moved my daughter into her dorm this weekend.

It feels like she went straight from the maternity room to her dorm room without pausing. Like there wasn't 18 years in there.
Being divorced only made it worse. Whatever time I might have had with her was reduced by about 75 percent.
I was there for the big things...Recitals, graduations, art shows, and talent shows. I've never missed a birthday or a holiday with her. I spoke to her every day that I wasn't with her.
But there were little things that were stolen from me. It wasn't me who took off her training wheels when the time came. It wasn't me who pulled her first loose tooth. I had to share her first day of school with the monster her mother married...and is now divorcing. I would call her and he would always make it a point to talk loudly in the background, just so I could hear him and he would let me know that my daughter was in HIS house. He would bait me and hope that I'd lose control and go after him. I have the habit of writing her a letter that I include in every birthday card. It usually recaps the years that have passed and talks about the future. The one I wrote her on her ninth birthday, Jeff (Holly's second husband) decided to "edit" and deface. I wanted to kill him. Somehow I managed not to.
Her mom played along. She liked the feeling of rubbing salt in my wounds.
But I stayed and I fought for whatever time I could get and squeezed in a little more by having lunch with her at school or picking her up and taking her to her mom’s just so I could have the time in the car.
Still...I missed about 75 percent of her bedtime prayers. I missed her singing in her room every night. I didn't catch nearly enough lightning bugs or bake nearly enough cookies or color nearly enough funny pictures. I wish I could be Santa just one more time and she would believe when she was little.
The house I bought in Franklin TN had a Jacuzzi tub. I never used it but she liked it when she was little. One time I put a giant scoop of "Mr. Bubble" in it and she was literally lost in the suds. She had a blast. That's how it was for the first ten years. Once a week and every other weekend we had an adventure of some sort. We had fun and we laughed and we could forget that our little family was broken.
But I see her now and I see the adult version of what was a happy little girl. She trusts no one. She has a chip on her shoulder about men, because she saw how her mom's new husband treated her, and she didn't have a chance to see me treating someone well because I remained single. She has a love for Jesus but a distrust for church because she saw me be essentially abandoned while my life had exploded. Not until I found a different church did she see people caring, as a body of believers, and it jaded her. She knows how individuals helped and cared, but she loved church as much as I do and she felt the disappointment.
She feels like she skipped childhood after age 10. She feels like she was rushed into adulthood because her home life demanded it. I have to agree. Her mom's house wasn't a safe haven, and after 2008, I had no house at all.
She's in the dorm now. She has two roommates and a floor full of young women of varying ages and backgrounds. I am excited for her. I am praying daily that her room mates and RA's and her floor sisters are all exactly who God has picked out to help heal the wounds my little girl carries.
I shudder to think of what might invade that heart if she was in a state school right now. I'm thankful that, while Liberty is growing academically and physically at a tremendous rate, our president, Jerry Falwell has managed to keep our school Christ centered. I'm thankful God brought it about that I can work there and she can go there because the two are financially inseparable right now.
But this hole in me is huge and today it's palpable. 18 years is a blink even if you aren't divorced, or homeless, or both. It's a blink to healthy families where things go well.
For me it was even faster than that. She is my only immediate family. She is the chance I got to right the wrongs from my own childhood, and be a better parent than I had. She is my second chance at seeing dreams come true. She reminds me of my grandmother when she sings. She is loving, tender, gentle, fiery, stubborn, and very broken.
And today she lives in a dorm on Liberty Mountain. And I'm sitting here wondering how it happened so quickly, and wondering if I did it right enough. We talked this weekend about the past and the future. Where I succeeded and where I failed. She told me that no matter what...she always knew I loved her. Because I told her and because I showed her.
I hope and pray that is enough.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Colin Kaepernick...a line-by-line assessment of his ridiculous statement

Note:I have a dear dear friend who lost both legs at the hip in Vietnam. Before going to war, he had been a standout high school football player. He would probably love nothing more than to dance with his wife, run with his grandchildren...and stand for the National Anthem.

Colin Kaepernick came out with an insulting statement about how he refuses to stand for the National Anthem. I thought I'd dissect it line by line. Here goes.

"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," 

When one says "A COUNTRY that oppresses black people and people of color" you are saying that this is an official action, sanctioned by the government. "The COUNTRY is oppressing you" means that it's the policy of the nation. Sorry Colonoscopy...that isn't true. In FACT, good people of ALL colors died to make sure those laws were changed so that this was NOT true. You know who fought those against changing those laws the hardest??? Democrats
When you say "The Country" you include ME and all other fellow Americans. Including the millions who bought your stupid jersey after you turned in one good year...and then fell into the abyss of sub-par play. You include the owner who gave you 90 MILLION dollars after one good season...have you offered to return any of that money? When you say "The Country" you include the NFL...the league in which you play, where the majority of players are black. How's THAT oppressive? And can you NEVER use the term "people of color" again??? I have a color too, jackass and mine is as important as yours.
Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game.

"To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way."

No...what's selfish is for you to ignore the men and women who died for that anthem so you could bilk the NFL in the safety of a football stadium, you thankless fraud! There are men who will NEVER, EVER be able to stand for that anthem again, because they stood when it mattered. Think about that the next time you jog off the field after going three-and-out again, on your two healthy legs.

"There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."

WHERE??? Where are the bodies
 in the street and the people getting away with murder? Michael Brown? BZZZZZ false narrative! Hands weren't up...he wasn't running away. He was charging an officer he had tried to kill.
Treyvon Martin? George Zimmerman is a jerk, but Treyvon tried to beat him to death and met his end.
Freddie Gray? Nobody tried harder to convict those cops than that race baiting prosecutor..and yet she went 0 for 6.
Philandro Castille? Turns out he reached for his gun
Alton Sterling? He reached for his gun too and he was a convicted pedophile and he'd already done time for possessing a firearm when prohibited!
Nobody is "dying in the streets" while cops notch their gunbelts, you miserable little turd. And maybe you just have a law enforcement problem after that whole "being in the hotel room while a girl got raped" thing. Was it your money or your skin color that got you off the hook with that? Or were you actually those cops turned out to be.
You want to protest, fine. Protest in some way that doesn't disrespect the very anthem that makes your entire dream life possible. But at least have the decency to quote facts and not race-baiting blither.
Rant over...Chip can have him. I hope the 49ers go 0-16

Sunday, July 31, 2016

My America...

I grew up in the America where you saluted the flag EVERY time you saw it.
Where little leaguers paraded into their stadium on Opening Day and then took off their ballcaps -without being told- and stood rigid as fence posts while the National Anthem played.
Where being on a government assistance program was embarrassing and if you found yourself busted your butt to get off as fast as you could.
Where you went to church on Sunday, and so did the local business owners...because they didn't have to open on Sunday to stay afloat.
Where whether or not you were a Catholic, you respected the local Priest if you saw him. Same for the local minister or Rabbi.
Where voting was taken seriously, and talked about passionately, but it never ended friendships, mostly because, while the Dems and the Repubs differed on the means, they agreed on the ends back then.'s a battle between a communist takeover and a group who lost it's vision, it's connection with it's people, and it's soul.
Where a cop was respected, admired, and typically someone from the neighborhood.
Where sports were what we PLAYED far more than what we watched.
Where professional athletes sold us cars and sneakers...not tried to influence our votes or our social positions. (Except on the matter of race...which was important enough to need those voices)
Where a man who worked hard was respected, and saw the fruit of his labor after years of toil, and his neighbors didn't want the government taxing it all away from him because they were envious. They saw him as an example of what hard work could achieve.
Where little boys dreamed of being astronauts or jet pilots or star athletes or doctors or engineers or police / fireman. Or building a business that bore your name and served your community. Not DJ's making millions for creating a drum loop.
Where journalism was respected and if you read it in the paper it was true. Unvarnished, unbiased, TRUE.
Where a soldier was awe inspiring.
Where a tattoo on a man told a story that sometimes brought him tears when he told it.
Where kids knew that communism and socialism were evil.
Where being an American meant a swelling pride -even with our mistakes- and being American was the focal point of our being here at all. It was what brought our parents and grandparents here and they never let us forget how good America had been to us.
When Fireworks on Independence Day were recognized as what they are...symbols of the battle we fought to become America.
Going to the polls this fall will be two entire generations who have no idea what any of this even means. THAT is why we have the candidates we have.
In that America, a Hillary Clinton would be in jail, and an example of what you tell your kids happens to you when you have no moral compass. And Trump would be an admired business man who's shortcomings made him unelectable.
I comfort myself by looking at this and realizing that a man or woman can learn to act Presidentially, but when someone is entirely bereft of character and integrity and has done the unspeakable, they are truly a lost cause.
But I hope we get serious about taking control of our heritage and getting back to that America. Liberals always say "It wasn't YOUR America!" I assume it's those who either never lived in the above mentioned era, or who had beliefs that opposed that sort of greatness.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Please, Don't Come Quickly, Lord Jesus

*I literally wrote this about an hour before the barbaric events in Dallas last night, not knowing what was about to occur. 

Sometimes, when we’ve had a day or a three-day period in this country like we just had, I write. I write in the hopes that people read my words, because I love to communicate and I love expressing my thoughts. I hope for feedback and dialogue, because then I know someone has been reading, and thinking about what I wrote.
But today, I’m writing for a different reason. I’m writing different words. I’m probably going against the grain a little, compared to my evangelical friends.
This week we’ve watched as a ruthless, evil, soulless woman calculated her way to committing treason and, not only got off scot-free, but flipped the bird to the entire collective nation. Hillary Clinton knew the fix was in all along. After watching the debacle in the house today, I believe FBI director Comey was in on it from the start.
Justice was kicked in the crotch on national TV, and Hillary was doing the kicking.
Obama is complicit, Lynch is complicit, Bill Clinton is complicit. Who knows who else?
 Then, in a 24 hour period, two black men were killed by police officers. In the Baton Rouge case, the man resisted arrest, and did it forcefully. He also had a gun. In the Minneapolis case, it seems like the man did everything he was asked to do. Still, both men are dead. I can no more believe that there is a conspiracy among cops to execute black men, than I can believe that all black men are arrest-resisting gangsters, who meet their fate as they deserve. There is fault on both sides…plenty enough to go around.
If I zoom in to the picture I get lost in the divide and the anger. So I choose to zoom out. Out beyond the partial video that everyone wants to use to go ahead and have a trial right now. Past the declaration of evil cops or evil black men. Out far enough that I can see this nation from border to border. The whole picture. All of us.
Pardon me for saying it this way…but what in hell has happened to us?
While MY government…that’s right, it’s MINE and it’s YOUR’S, was playing a con game more intricate than the one Newman and Redford pulled off in “The Sting,” racial tensions got ratchetted up to nuclear level. Conveniently just before the major political conventions. Two men are dead and the three cops involved were instantaneously judged and found guilty and the mob wants blood.
What happened to this country of ours? In my lifetime we passed the Civil Rights Act. We saw the elimination of Jim Crow laws, the breaking of color barriers, and, more importantly, the breaking down of the walls of perception that kept us separated far more than any laws ever did. We were making progress, we were getting past that time in our history. In the last eight years we’ve see all that precious ground given up and then some. We are more divided, more angry, more separated than we ever have been in my 52 years. Why?
The easy thing is to correlate this regression with the election of Obama. The man is a racial divider and there is no other way to say it. No denying it. He divides us by race, class, income, gender, sexual preference and especially by religion. I don’t even think he does it because he is a racist necessarily. I believe he does it because he knows that when we are this divided, we cannot stand together, and he and his cronies can get away with what they have been getting away with for eight years now. Division, demolition, destruction. If you think he cares any more about black America than he does white America, you are in denial. He hates America…all of it. He despises capitalism and American values. He simply plays us against each other in order to keep us too busy fighting to see what he’s up to.
But I can’t lay this at Obama’s feet. Not entirely. Not even predominantly, as much as I want to. Obama is simply the symptom of the problem. The evidence that we are sick as a nation. He’s the fever, not the infection. The infection is deeper and more deadly.
What’s really wrong with us is clearly stated in Psalm 9:17 “The wicked will go down to the grave. This is the fate of all the nations who ignore God.” (Emphasis mine)
We are descending into Hell, because this is what happens to ANY nation who ignore God. America was founded by Christian men on Christian principals. That did not make us a “Christian nation,” at least not a Theocracy. But it made us a Christian society. And any time a society is made up of predominantly Christian folk, who are living their Faith, God will add His blessing to it. You cannot look at our history and argue against this.
But we have run as far from that place as possible now. When our Secretary of State not only lies, but plans her lies, and then escapes even a hint of consequence because she was assisted from the top down…we have abandoned God.
When men and women and children and gunned down in the streets…sometimes justly, many times not…we have ignored God. When babies are slaughtered by the millions and people who defend them are mocked and threatened, we have ignored God. When little girls and boys in this country, are sold as sex toys, we have ignored God. When right is wrong, and wrong is right…we have ignored God.
There are those who say “America needs to repent.” But how can a society repent when they no longer even realize they have sinned? The only people in this country who need to repent right now are Christians. Those who name the Name. We have failed. We have broken our promises. We have forsaken our first love. Romans tells us “How will they hear without a preacher? (Romans 10:14) and yet what are our preachers preaching? “Love” in the form of a fraudulent gospel that requires no change, no surrender, and no sacrifice? “Come as you are and it’s okay if you stay that way?” A “salvation” experience at the cross that is no longer a life-changing, head-on-collision, but a mere scratch in the mall parking lot.
We don’t preach repentance for salvation. We preach: “Find your path.” We don’t hear “Judgement begins in the house of God” and check to make sure our house is in order. We stand for absolutely nothing anymore. Including the belief in Hell. If you want men and women who will stop running in gangs and start listening to cops and therefore not getting shot...change their hearts! If you want compassionate, caring, slow-on-the-trigger cops who command respect AND trust...change their hearts! 
That, more than anything, is why we are here now. The urgency of the Gospel is gone. Vanished. A victim of populist preaching and limp-wristed praise and worship songs that fool me into thinking God is my bud. God is Tom Sawyer to my Huck Finn. Jesus is my cosmic homeboy who just wants to party with me and “do life” with me. I want to puke!
We don’t preach with passion. We don’t speak about the sins that ruin this country: divorce, pornography, hatred, lying, and alcoholism. We have absolutely NO idea what God’s holiness is and what it looks like and what it demands of us.
No changes in our hearts, no communities affected by revivals, no sense of awe at His presence. Only this weak, unholy view of a Holy God. God; my hipster pal who plays guitar with me in the park. No pillar of fire. No burning bush. The great, unnamed nothing.
I can’t change politics. I can’t enlighten 340 million people about voting issues.
But I can share the gospel. In the end…it’s neither Trump nor Clinton who will end corruption in government and stop people from resisting arrest and cops from going too far and using deadly force. It isn’t more money or programs or a Democrat or a Republican who will finally get us to move beyond tolerating each other to really loving each other.
It’s Jesus.
Not Joel Osteen’s Jesus, or Perry Noble’s Jesus, or Steven Furtick’s Jesus or any of the other imposters and flock stars who are in this because it made them famous.
It’s the Jesus of Paul. The Jesus of Gethsemane. The Jesus of Billy Graham and Tozer and Ravenhill and Falwell and my old pastor Paul Walters, and my friend Dave Lewis. It’s the Jesus who shook me at 14 years old when I heard Keith Green’s “No Compromise” record for the first time and knew I could never be the same.
It’s the Jesus who says “Come see this cross. Come to this Rock, this cornerstone. If you fall on this rock you will be broken…and changed…but if this rock falls on you, you will be crushed and destroyed!” (Matthew 21:44)
I’m done with politics as a solution. I will still vote, still discuss it, still think and reason and decide. But I will not look to politics for solutions to the heart problem that is ripping this nation, and this world apart.
I see my Christian friends writing “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.” Today. I cannot say that. Not yet.
I say, “Please don’t come yet, Lord Jesus.”
Because the sooner He comes and takes His children home, the more people will be left behind, and their fate sealed. If you think we’ve done a good enough job spreading the real gospel (by The Gospel I mean repent and believe so you will be saved) that you’re okay with Jesus’ coming back right now, good on you. But I am not. I want to roll my sleeves up, spit in Satan’s eye and spend my days preaching the gospel. Seeing lives radically changed, not altered a little through osmosis. I want to wage war in prayer. I want to declare the inner cities off limits to Satan. I want to stand shoulder to shoulder with my black brothers and sisters in Christ and DO something, not just pose for pictures, laugh awkwardly at how different we are, and then go on as if nothing can ever happen. I want to use words like “Born Again” and “Saved” and “Transformed” again. I want to see altars in churches full on Sundays with weeping, broken, CHANGED people…of all colors.
I want to spend what I have to gain what I cannot buy.
Then…I can say “Come Lord Jesus”
I’m restless and sad and broken tonight. I am begging God to use me, starting now. The only hope we have is in the Gospel.
God send laborers. Starting with me.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Saying goodbye to Ali...

I was hesitant to write anything about the passing of Muhammad Ali. Everyone seems to be jumping on that bandwagon, and rightfully so. The man was beyond legendary. But I wondered whether anything I had to say would be of value. I have never written an article here to simply generate web traffic and I was concerned that this could be construed as nothing more than click-bait.
But I decided to write, because Ali was such a central figure in my childhood. Having written a book about growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, I felt that I was allowed an opinion. So here goes.
Muhammad Ali was something special. He was a unicorn for my generation. He was smart, handsome, and powerful. He was a pied piper even for those who hated him. He was a ratings boom for whatever TV show or special event he was attending or appearing on. He was larger than life, and a force of nature.
He was also a lightning rod. He was polarizing for a while. I was not born yet when he burst on the scene and won the Olympic Gold in Rome in 1960. I was not even a year old when he beat Sonny Liston the first time and captured the World Heavyweight Championship in 1964. I was unaware when he converted to Islam, and I was barely four years old when he refused to be drafted, citing his status as a conscientious objector.
I was only beginning to watch fights with my grandfather when Ali was stripped of his title and relegated to giving speeches. But I do remember the country at the time. I remember hearing the adults talking about the riots, the assassination of RFK and Dr. King. I remember the cauldron that was boiling in the sixties and on into the seventies.
These last 48 hours, as people have reminisced about Ali, there have been many detractors. Folks who want to remind us that he refused to join the service when asked. People who call out his many failings in marriage. People who remind me us that he converted from Christianity to Islam, as if he was an Isis member.
Those things are true about Ali. He did refuse induction. He did convert to Islam as he rejected his Christian Faith. He was a maritally unfaithful man for much of his younger days.
But it is also true that he was a giant. It is also true that, while he was reviled for claiming his conscientious objector status, and for denouncing the Vietnam War, he did so at great personal cost and risk. Where other celebrities chose to go overseas under the guise of a teaching job or a student deferment, or simply escape to Canada, Ali stayed here, lost his entire means of support and his beloved titles, and took his lumps like a man with a cause. You don’t have to like his cause or agree with it…but you have to admit that he stood firm and paid a price for it.
He could have gotten himself a cushy assignment doing morale booster tours and promotional appearances for the Army, as other celebrities have done over the years, Ali refused the offers. He would not take the easy road if it meant abrogating his integrity. He could have gotten some “Elvis Duty” and pretended to be a soldier while basically performing an advertising campaign for the military. He could have done that and kept his belts and his fame and had the three years of his prime that he lost…but he refused.
Like him or not…you have to admit that took guts. It took courage. It brooked no compromise. Ali seemed to know how important he was to the times. And he was.
That he held no ill will toward the country, and the people who took away his livelihood is a measure of the man. Ali, in his heart, seemed to genuinely like people. Maybe even love them.
For me he was a cartoon character in real flesh. He was a super hero. He was a role changer. He was the first famous black man I was ever aware of. Maybe the first one, famous or not. It wasn’t until third grade that I remember having a black classmate. When I was eight or nine, we had a Little League coach, “Coach Ernie” who was black. But Ali was the first black man I was aware of and watched. (By the time I knew who MLK was, he had been killed.) Ali erased the racial lines for me and most kids of my generation. It took baseball years to fully integrate, even after Jackie Robinson broke the barrier. Football was not as popular in my childhood as it would become. But Boxing had seemed to always be integrated. In fact, it was dominated by black men.
But where previous champions had been quiet, relatively unknown and seldom marketed, Ali was the opposite. He was brash. He was loud and braggadocios and in your face. You either loved him or hated him but he made you decide right away. He never grew on you.
I loved him.
I was so heartbroken when he lost to Frazier in 1971. My stepfather despised Ali, so he was thrilled of course. He claimed he disliked him because he was a “draft dodger” but I suspect it had more to do with Ali breaking the mold of the stereotypical black man and my stepfather hating him for it.
Ali was smart. He was handsome. He was intelligent. He was well spoken and well versed. And he was beloved. There are people in this world who simply could not stomach those traits where certain other people-groups are concerned.
For me, he was the prism through which I viewed all black people the first time I met them. I went into every situation assuming they would be as impressive, well spoken, colorful, intelligent and well-rounded as the great Ali. That is what he meant to me. That is what he meant to most of my generation.
He had faults. Big, hairy, glaring faults. He was a womanizer. He had a roving eye and an appetite that he simply refused to control until much later in life.
But he was, by all accounts, a wonderful father to his children and he never shirked his responsibility to them. A couple of years ago I read a story about him traveling to the high school graduation of his white grandson. The young man described his grandfather as doting and loving. He didn’t reject his children or their children. He seemed to learn and grow as years rolled on.
Hindsight would tell us that his opinion of the Vietnam War was correct. Perhaps his approach was wrong –I saw it was- but his assessment of that war was accurate. It’s easy to say that now, but forty years ago it was the cesspool of division that tore our country apart.
I have wondered if Ali didn’t claim conscientious objector status and refuse the draft not as a war protest…but to call attention to the real war he was fighting. The civil rights war. Had it been strictly about Vietnam, he could have arranged some tour of duty in Guam, or Germany or stateside where he could have posed for some pictures, smiled a lot, and trained every day without giving up anything of his career. But his real fight was for the equality that we were only beginning to seek in those days.
Ali was aware of his measure. He was aware of his impact on the world and he used this fight…as he did his fights in the ring…to raise awareness, and to raise us all above where we were.
Despite his faults and failures, Muhammad Ali continued to develop as a man. He finished his life devoted to one woman. Living peacefully, and giving his life to promote peace. He grew as he learned. He was far more hero than he was draft-dodger or philanderer. He became, in the second half of his life, something more than an icon. More than a magazine cover. He became an event. Ali’s mere presence would stop the room, and everyone in it would hold their collective breath. He was beloved. He was a natural resource. He was always aware of how much he’d been given and he did his best to give it back.
He doesn’t have to be one or the other…beloved or slandered. It’s possible to love much of his life, and dislike other parts.
For me, he was something from my childhood that will always be. He was a mythical creature. He was a happening. He was a force of nature like a hurricane. I saw him in his prime. I’ll tell my future grandchildren about him one day. They likely won’t ever really grasp the impact of his life the way I did. By the time I become a granddad…if ever…their world will be almost devoid of racial differences. Not that racism won’t still exist, but it will be generations removed from the accepted norm that it was back then. That was his greatest victory. He was such a huge character, such a giant persona, that you simply couldn’t look at him and allow for racism. “You can’t treat Ali that way…” would, over time, lend itself to “You can’t treat black people that way.”
He didn’t start that movement. Jackie Robinson, Willie O’Ree, and others had begun that fight decades before. But Ali came along and gave it a steroid shot. And he appealed to the generation I was part of. Kids too young to have made up their mind yet, about matters of race.

God’s Speed, champ. You were the greatest fighter of all time. In and out of the ring. Were you never to have been born, it would have taken five men to accomplish all that you did. 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Why I'm Voting for Donald Trump... (An Open Letter)

*I really hate the whole "Open Letter" thing. But Trump is very aware of social media and I'll never have the chance to say these things to him in person. So I'll say them here and hope he see it. -Craig

Mr. Trump,
     I generally detest the whole “Open Letter” trope. I’ve done it twice in my life. Once, knowing full-well that the intended recipient was not going to read it, and another time I wrote President Obama, because I had just lost a job offer after Obamacare was implemented and the cost of my position rose above what the employer was able to pay. I had hoped he might see it, or perhaps one of his staff, but I never got a response. I am certain my plight wasn’t one he would have publicized, because it didn’t fit his narrative.
     However, I am writing this open letter because you are very aware of social media and you seem to notice when you are addressed, even by “insignificant” regular folks. So I thought I’d give it a try. I cringe at the mechanism, but it’s worth a shot.
     I wanted to write to tell you my story and to encourage you in your push toward the presidency. I think I am much like the average conservative American these days. I believe that my story is reflective of millions of stories out there right now, and –to be honest- you seem to be the only candidate who hears us, sees us, and has actual experience in helping people like us. My story could easily lend itself to me becoming a mindless Sanders supporter, seething with rage against the faceless “one percent” who succeeded in my stead and somehow took all the money from the system and left me broken. I could fall for Hillary’s farce of being helpless unless the government steps in and does it all for me.
I am neither.
     What I am is a fifty-two year old man who has tasted bitter defeat in recent years and still believes that the American system (at least the one I grew up under) is still the best solution, because it allows me the opportunity –when it runs properly- to work hard and fix it myself. I believe you embody that ideal better than any candidate out there.
     My story could be taken as tragic if I chose to see it that way. I do not. It was hard. It was difficult. It broke me down and shattered the dreams and plans I had. But I believe that I am bigger than those hardships, my faith is placed in a God who is certainly above those depths, and I believe that this country was created especially for a man like me.
A man who has tasted defeat by the pound, but still desires to do the hard work to rise from the ashes instead of letting someone else come along and give it all to me.
     From 1998 until 2008 I was in the mortgage industry. I entered the business, as green as anyone could be. I had a wife of two years and a four month old baby.  I left carpentry to enter a field where every penny was commission, no base salary, and I had absolutely no idea how to do the work. I had never owned my own home, had never even filled out a mortgage application. But I knew I could do better in this industry than I could do as a carpenter and my family needed me to succeed. So I did.
     I threw myself into the business with all my might. I studied loan matrices until one or two in the morning after running appointments until nine, ten, sometimes eleven pm. I spent time in the processor’s office, learning to put together a better file, while other guys were on the golf course. The first month I made nothing. In fact I sold much of my construction equipment to pay the bills because, being in a straight commission job, nobody was paying my gas, or food, or expenses. The second month I closed my first loan and made $795 dollars. The third month I was the number three Loan Officer at that company and made $8950, after taxes. I was so proud. I worked hard for that money.
     Nine months later, I had my own branch of a national mortgage company. It takes most guys five years to get their own net-branch, but I was already producing volume and had become so knowledgeable in the field, that I was offered a branch.
     For the next eight years, I was increasingly successful in business. Sadly, my wife was just plain not happy and we divorced. My daughter was eighteen months old, and I settled into the life of a divorced dad, and a mortgage banker. I bought my first home in 2000. I sold it and bought my next home in 2004. I was making very good money –in the six figure range- and had flexibility to spend more time with my daughter than just the given “Once a week and every other weekend.” I received multiple awards from my employer, was active in the community and my church and had a good, comfortable, but modest life.
     Then came 2008. I did not survive the crash of the industry. I was 45 and had two years of college, and the most success I’d had was in a field that had now all but vanished. I lost my home, and by May of 2008, I was literally homeless. I slept in my car, which I hid behind a church. My daughter’s mom had remarried and had a home, so, thankfully, our daughter did not have to endure this with me. I could not leave my daughter. I grew up without my dad and would not let my precious daughter grow up without hers.
I am a Philadelphia native, but lived in Nashville, TN during this time. I could not go home and could not move to another city where there might be work. So I stayed.
     I lived this way for almost 6 years. During this time I would sleep in my car (and after that died an old GMC Yukon that was bigger and more “comfortable”) and showered at the county recreation center. I took odd jobs. I have built chicken coops, washed windows, and cut grass for meal and gas money. I took my unemployment because I felt that was okay since I had paid into it for so long. But after that ran out, I refused any other government assistance. I am not against it entirely. My biggest fear was not shame from taking a welfare check or food stamps…although it would have been shameful for me…but I feared it would eliminate my drive, and my ambition and my desire. We are all fueled in part, by pride. Not arrogance but pride. I was proud of my success in the mortgage industry. I was proud of the dad I was to my daughter. That pride drove me daily and helped me succeed. I felt like a government handout would strip that from me and I would never again succeed as I had before.
     During this time of homelessness I returned to college, through my alma mater’s online program. It was hard. I studied in my car, at the library, or in restaurants that provided free Wi-Fi. I graduated in May 2012, from Liberty University, while still homeless. I had hoped that this would open doors of employment for me, but alas; while I had my degree now, we still had the same president and the same horrible economic policies.
     I tried returning to the mortgage industry, and was immediately offered a job. My reputation in that field was stellar and the local manager was more than happy to hire me. However, one week later, after Obamacare was official and the guidelines for commissioned employees took effect, the offer was withdrawn. They simply could not afford the enormous costs the new policy would incur and froze all hiring. I was crushed. Perhaps more than any other time in my life and certainly more than any other time while I was homeless.
     I returned to carpentry as a last resort. There was not much work at the time, but I took whatever I found. Meanwhile, my daughter’s life was unravelling because her home situation became dangerous. It is the hardest thing in the world to have a child who needs your help and not be able to give it. I could not. I did what I could, but I could not get her out of the situation then. There were times when this was too much. Times when the work I was doing was extra painful…like the time I was hired to build custom, hand-made porch columns for government subsidized housing in Nashville. There I was, living in my vehicle, homeless, and building beautiful porch columns for people who would not have to pay a dime to live in the houses I was building them for. Sometimes it drove me to tears.
     Finally in 2014, my daughter and I decided to move. (Her mom saw the trajectory of her husband’s behavior and agreed to let our daughter come with me) I applied for a job at my alma mater and, without a guarantee of work, moved to Lynchburg, Va. We came here with two months’ rent, and no furniture except the brand new mattress some folks had bought for her before we left.
     For the first time in 6 years –almost to the day- I had a home. I slept on the floor, on the foam that I used in my truck. But I was in a home. I did carpentry that summer, and in August was hired at Liberty University. I have a wonderful job at a place I have loved since high school. I work hard and I still do carpentry on the side. Liberty takes good care of me, but we are a nonprofit, and daughters in college are expensive. While I get her tuition as part of my benefit package, there are still many expenses incurred. I have bills to pay. I am digging out of a big hole. I work most weeks, about 70 hours between my job at LU and my side business. I am blessed that I have a craft that I am very good at, that pays well. I love my job here and I love working for my school. I know you have a friendship with our President, and I love working for him. He’s a great boss and a visionary.
     My road was hard, Mr. Trump. Very hard. But it never occurred to me to give up. I wrestled with the thoughts sometimes, but I never could imagine myself living in public housing, or letting someone else pay my way forever. My pride remained intact. Damaged for sure, but intact. I overcame, entirely by the grace of God and the faith I have in Him and His providing me enough –just enough- when things were hard.
     Three of my grandparents were immigrants. They came (Legally!) with nothing, worked hard, built a life, and took nothing from anyone that they didn’t pay for. That is my heritage and that is what drove me to do it the same way they did it.
     And that is why you will have my vote this fall.
I did not arrive at this decision easily. I had my reservations. Honestly, I initially would have preferred someone who is a little less rough around the edges. But I realized that when you spoke, you spoke with the voice of people like me. People who have been miserably failed by this “president” we now have and who feel the full weight of the truth that he does not care about us. That he never cared about us. I know you hear us, Mr. Trump and I believe you care.
     And so I wrote this because I wanted you to understand the history behind this one vote. You’ll be getting millions of them this November, Mr. Trump…but mine was hard earned. I lived this mess for that long, six-year period. It made me better. It did not defeat me. But it hurt. It hurt in ways I can’t describe. I lost things that had nothing to do with money. I lost those years with my little girl. I went almost six years not tucking her in at night and hearing her bed time prayers. I can’t ever get those back. She was ten when this started. She was sixteen when we arrived here and I finally had a home again.
     This vote I give you in the fall is dear to me. It’s precious. It’s sacred. Those immigrant grandparents of mine ventured far and wide to give it to me. I did not give it to Barack Obama. But his eight years have steeled my resolve as to how precious this vote of mine is. I am giving you mine this November and now you understand how valuable it is to me. You understand how much I have endured just to still be here and vote this fall.
     I love this country. Love it with all my heart. This country gave life to my family and gave me a chance. I took it and succeeded. I plan on succeeding again…I already have simply by surviving this. I know you love this country as well. While I still have questions and reservations concerning your presidency, I do know you love this country.
Take care of my vote, Mr. Trump. Now you know what I had to do to hold onto it. Bring this country back. Give people their pride back. The pride that comes from doing it ourselves, against long odds, with our leaders cheering us on, not standing in our way.
Listen to the voices of those who love this country, this flag, that Constitution, and our freedom. Treat my vote like the sacred thing it is.
     You are getting my vote because I believe you will do exactly that. I trust you will not fail me in this.

     Respectfully yours,

     Craig Daliessio


Saturday, May 7, 2016

Happy 18th Birthday Daisy

“Oh the happiest day I have ever known
Was the day you took your first breath.
And to watch you grow in the warmth of the sun,
Is the only other wish I could ever have.
But if cold night winds should begin to howl
And if trouble should come your way,
Remember these words I’m telling you now
And all your days I pray you’ll call His name.

Rain will fall, as it surely must,
On the heads of the wicked, and the just.
God forbid that rain turn your dreams to rust.
And all your days I pray you’ll call His name

On that bittersweet day many years from now
When you take your first steps on your own.
Remember this, my precious child,
As much as I’ve loved you,
There is One who loves you more.
So if cold night winds should begin to howl
And if trouble should come your way,
May the warmth of the sun, comfort and guide you,
May those cold night winds stay forever behind you
If you lose your way
Know that God will find you…
And all your days I pray you’ll call His name.

                                  -Rick Elias
                           “For My Children”

Today, my daughter Morgan turns eighteen.
Eighteen years ago –tonight at Ten p.m. to be exact- my precious daughter came silently into this world.
Her entrance was silent…no crying, no distress. She was the quiet baby and she is a quiet adult now. But her impact on my life was as loud and as forceful and as brilliant as the Mummer’s Parade on New Years.
Everything they tell you about a baby changing your life is true…and none of it is.
I never saw her as an inconvenience. I never calculated what I could have been doing or might have done had I not become a dad. I never thought about the extra hockey games or the extra golf or the travel or whatever. I am a dad. I was born to be a dad and I have only found my happiness since that wondrous night, May 7, 1998.
It was chaotic and hectic and amazing.
She was perfect.
She calls herself “Daisy” because she doesn’t like her given name. 
I swallowed hard at that for a while, but if that’s the only headache she gives me I’m fine with it. She really is a Daisy anyway. She’s bright and lively and she adds color to the meadows of the world.
But she’s not a little girl anymore.
It went by so quickly, these eighteen years. Being divorced from her mom when she was only eighteen months only hastened the arrival of this day. When you see your child once a week and every other weekend, you miss more than you see. I missed as little as possible. I took days each week to eat lunch with her at school so I’d have those extra 3o minutes. I was in the mortgage industry then and I had the flexibility. I learned a silly magic trick every few weeks to entertain her friends at the lunch table. They thought I was the best dad ever. I sat there –all 6’ 4” of me- hunched in the tiny cafeteria tables at Park Avenue Christian School where she went to Kindergarten, or at Westmeade Elementary, and I looked like Shrek amongst those tiny little people. Those were some of the best days of my life.
She suffered terribly because of the divorce. In many ways she still does.
She suffered more because I refused to allow myself to find happiness again. I didn’t realize this until a year ago or so. 
I realized that I felt so bad for how much she was hurting over the divorce –a divorce I did not cause or want- that I felt guilty inside every time I thought about entering a relationship and going on with life.
I would literally think to myself “My daughter is unhappy, what right do I have to be happy?” I thought that her having me all to herself was better than her having to share me with someone else, the way she had to share her mom. I was so wrong.
I thought about how, if I remarried, I’d probably wind up with someone with children, because that was the age I was then. I felt guilty because I would have been spending more time with someone else’s children than I did with my own.
And so I stayed alone and tried to be devoted to her. I was so wrong about that. I denied her an alternative to the horrors that soon revealed themselves after her mom had been married for a year or so. I denied her the chance to see her dad love someone, to see what that looks like and to use it as a standard. I denied her the chance to see someone love her dad too. The only archetype for marriage she has is terrible, because I didn’t give her an alternative view.
She endured my homelessness. The nights I couldn’t come get her when her mom’s husband was on one of his usual benders and was becoming violent. I couldn’t get her when her mom sided with her husband and told her to get out. I remember one night, going to get her at 10 pm because the situation was so bad. We drove to a Waffle House and just sat there for a few hours and ate something and let things cool down. Then I had to take her home. I have no words to describe those days.
She has such a broken family. A grandfather who has never met her and probably never will. A grandmother who is too harmful a person to be around her, whom she has not seen or heard from since she was 7. She has Uncles and Aunts and cousins she loves and loves being a part of, but who she sees far too infrequently. She has two “adopted” sets of grandparents whom she loves as her own flesh and blood, but sees not nearly enough of. (Jewell and Pop are gone now)
When she was little, she was happy and outgoing and joyful. As she got older, and her world grew dark, she retreated into her gifts. She has a magnificent voice. I don’t say that lightly. She is a music major here, and already gaining notice because of the purity and beauty of her voice. Music became her refuge. The thing nobody could take away or damage with their own agenda. Her art is the same. She can draw and create such beauty on paper and media. Beauty that she can’t always –or often- find in the world she lives in now.
I have tried my best to shield her from those hurts and wounds, but I wasn’t able to do what I wanted to do. Not entirely anyway.
I wish I had given myself permission to get over the divorce sooner than I did, and to let myself love someone when it still could have impacted my daughter. Not that I wanted to “find her a mom,” but she needed to see that love and marriage and relationship can be wonderful, can be good. She needed to see a real-life second chance, because she…like everyone else on Earth, will need them as she goes through life.
But she is grown now. Eighteen and ready to move to the next adventure. She moves on campus this fall and I pray she finds great friends on her hall and people who can pour in love and healing to the wounds she bears.
I love this young lady more than all my many words will ever reveal. All that I have or ever will have could be burned to ashes if it meant her dreams and hopes would live longer. She is the only arrow in my quiver, and today begins the flights from my bow.
She’ll spend half the summer here and half with her mom. When she comes back, she’ll be in the dorms at Liberty and not my roommate anymore.
I am scared. I am a perfectionist and all I can see are the things I didn’t get right. The mistakes I made. My faults as a dad.
Did I pray enough? Did I live my faith right enough of the time? 
Is she going to be okay?
My dear friend Rick Elias wrote the song that I quoted in this post. He wrote it for his son’s first birthday. I have loved this song and always wished he’d release it.
I trust that if my daughter loses her way she will know that God will find her.
And her dad won’t be far behind.
Happy Birthday Daisy.
All the best things of my life have their genesis in you and in this day eighteen years ago.
I love you more than you will ever know. I am more proud of you than I can possibly show. God has such a plan for your life. You are my beloved daughter…I am very pleased with you. Take flight, my arrow…and don’t ever stop. The world needs the targets you were meant to hit.
I love you,