Monday, November 26, 2012

Effective Charity and Hurricane Sandy

Every month, the crisp letters from Samaritan's Purse came in the mail.  According to them, if they had not been allowed into Ethiopia, nobody would have been fed.  Their trucks floated by the evildoers so they could pass out bags of rice.

World Vision, The Salvation Army, Operation Blessing, Christian Relief, the local Baptist church, Catholic Charities.  You name it, we got the letters.  Mama lovingly stacked them beside the couch.  Every month they asked for money.  Every month, they had a new tactic.  Every year was a cash-strapped year.

But the overarching narrative was always the same - Christians relief organizations are the best equipped to bring aid to hurting and needy people because they bring the love of Jesus along with a can of pork and beans.  Secular organizations were poorly run, selfish, and had no eternal purpose and thus were ineffective.

In true form, I, Incongruous Circumspection, received an email from a relief organization just last week.  Here was the text:

Dear I. C.,

As our members sit down for dinner today with friends and family, many of us—particularly here in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut—are thinking about those still hurting in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. There's still a long way to go in the recovery, but today I'm giving thanks for the thousands of members who stepped up to help those in need.

Earlier this month, our members donated over half a million dollars for Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. That money has helped local organizations on the ground in the worst-hit areas to:
  • Provide Thanksgiving meals to more than 20,000 people
  • Pass out 100,000 body warmers for those still without heat as the cold rolled in
  • Establish portable sanitation systems for areas with no sewer service
  • Create warming stations in neighborhoods without power
  • Establish charging stations for cell phones so that folks could keep in touch with loved ones and work
  • Distribute food, water, blankets, clothing, and other basic supplies to those made homeless by the storm

That's just a partial list. But in short, our members' generosity helped provided vital assistance to those critically in need. In addition, our members partnered with a local group to go door-to-door in one devastated area, many volunteered in their own communities, and thousands signed a petition asking Mayor Bloomberg to make sure the recovery efforts don't leave out the most vulnerable communities.

There's still much work to do. But the generosity and dedication of our members has made a real difference in the lives of many hit by Hurricane Sandy, and I am thankful to be a part of this community and this movement.

Thank you, truly, for all you do.

What organization did that come from?  Samaritan's Purse?  Catholic Charities?  TBN?


Carry on, ALL who provide assistance to the downtrodden.  Do it with no strings attached, political OR religious.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Stepping Into the Unknown - A Poem

I dedicate this poem of sorts to a dear friend of mine, B. K.


There were no more tears. They had been spent. Used up on the years of life which she had known. Tears, longing for the arms of god to come to her aid and carry away her sorrows. Tears from taking a step forward and being beaten back. Tears from giving her heart in deep and abiding love and being despised. Tears from friends lost. Tears from the dreams of happiness, shattered before her very eyes. Tears from yearning for one good thing – just one – to be granted her, and never getting her wish.

But there were still tears. Tears for the three shimmering baubles laid out before her in the beams of the moon, their chests rising and falling in their dreamless sleep. These tears were beautiful tears. Tears of love. Lasting tears that would never dry until she breathed her last deep sigh of life, having lived it to the fullest, becoming the woman she was meant to be.

Turning away, she gazed across the depthless waters of the unknown, while behind her stretched a warm comforting blanket of despair and familiarity, clutching at her heart, tearing at her by her arms and shoulders, pulling her back by her feet. Her mind raced backwards while she tried to step into the abyss before her.

She lifted her foot – and laughed.

Welcome home, woman of history.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Today's Vital News

The nose hair I just plucked from my nose, causing one eye to begin twitching uncontrollably, tears flowing from both of its corners, as well as commencing a shooting pain in the nostril that dissipated as quickly as it began, followed by an itch beneath my left big toenail that persisted due to the inability to relieve the tickle by scratching without completely removing the hard nail - was white.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Go Vote, Minnesota

Make me proud, Minnesota!

Vote NO on the marriage amendment.  The arguments for it are chock full of religious poppycock.  Traditional marriage is better defined as owning women as property.  If that's what you want, then I'm happy to be against you.

Bring Minnesota out of the dark ages.  We don't need a bronze age, child stoning, women raping, stories of a giggling, murderous god, conflagration of writings by tent dwellers to run our lives anymore.  We are enlightened people. 

We can do it.


I. C.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Fat-Fingering 9-1-1

Late last night, I fell asleep.  While slumbering, I had a dream:

I was a salesman, selling nothing exactly.  I was simply...a salesman.  Apparently, my job was to go to homes that called my wife and sell my wares. 

On this fateful day, she sent me off on a run.  My only vehicle to deliver my goods was a snowmobile (snow machine, for you Alaskans).  The snowmobile had only four gears, of which, only the first two worked.  They worked so well that I was able to move at a rapid pace, across random lawns and boulevards, at 43 miles per hour (69.2km/h for my internationalites).

Not having asked for directions, I had no idea where I was going.  I saw a middle-aged woman and her 12-year-old son walking along the sidewalk.  I pulled alongside them and struck up a conversation with the son.  The mother was nominally interested and quickly grew irritated at the noise of my machine.  Getting the message through her body language, I veered off onto a lawn and called Kristine (my wife).

She answered the phone and I asked for directions.  She began to give them to me when I heard a knock on the door in the background.  She told me she had to get the door, continued talking as she said hello to the visitor, then became eerily silent.

"Hello?", I said, "Hello?"

No answer.

Slightly miffed, I turned toward home, reasoning that I had to ask for directions in person, now that she had stopped talking.

I came around the back of our house and watched a tan sedan careening out of the front driveway.  Looking toward the front door, I saw Kristine's limp hand sticking out of the slightly ajar door.  I raced in to find her unresponsive, fully undressed, and going fast.  There were no obvious signs of trauma, but she had obviously been drugged with a powerful drug that was trying to kill her quickly.

I raced into the other room to grab the phone, yelling to neighbors and passers-by.  They rushed in and I ordered them to begin CPR.  I began dialing the police and noticed what I always notice in the dreams where I try to dial the police - the buttons on the phone were for ants.  The whole keypad was as large as two of my index fingertips.

I took a deep breath, knowing this was a dream, and determined to win the battle this time, and dialed.

9 -3 - 3.

No!  I hung up the phone, which took an agonizing 10 seconds.  I dialed again.

8 - 9 - 9.

No!!!!  Shit!  I tried again.

9 - 1 - 1.

Yes!  I was so happy.  After years of dreaming this dream, I had finally done it.  I had not fat-fingered 9 - 1 - 1.


Um...that wasn't the police.


"Yes!  Yes!  Is this the police!?  I have an emergency at 5..."

The voice on the other end was obviously irritated, hopped up on opiates, and bloody used to this interaction.  She went on to inform me in a slow, trailer-trash drawl, that she was always being mistaken for the police.  She was getting fed up with it.

I tried to apologize, wasting valuable moments, and finally hung up.

9 - 1 - 2.


7 - 4 - 3.

Holy god in heaven!  Why can't I do this!!!???

Kristine was dying.  And I was fighting one of the last battles for complete control of every second of my dream world. 

I woke up.

I am now more determined than ever to win.  I WILL NOT fat-finger 9 - 1 - 1 the next time.  And when I succeed, the RIGHT people will be on the other end of the line.

Count on it.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Saving Arielle - Almost There!

We have raised about $70.00 and need about $100.00 more for Arielle to wipe the slate clean with her landlord.

You can read her story and about her need here.

The Chip In site is here.

Keep in mind this little quirk about Chip In.  They use PayPal to process funds.  If you use PayPal with a credit card, they charge a fee that can sometimes be substantial.  So, $10.00 becomes $9.59.  If you actually transfer funds directly from your bank account with PayPal, they charge no fees at all.

Just something to keep in mind.

Thank you,


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Learning to Love Childish Things

I posted the following story on my Facebook feed this morning and got an overwhelming response.  As I wrote the post, I choked back tears because of what I knew it meant to me.

See, I was pretty heavily abused as a child.  Whenever I did childish things, like spilling milk, I was slapped or beaten and ordered to clean it up.  Simple things that happen to or are done by all children turned into monstrous abusive "lessons" to prove that Mama was in complete control of my life and everything I was going to do right in my life was due to her.

In reality, it made me shifty eyed and really good at "getting away with" anything I wanted to do.  At the age of nineteen, I ran a business right under her nose without her knowing it and got away with thousands of dollars by the time I "ran away" at the age of nineteen.

Sure, she knew I was running the business, but I carefully crafted all contracts so that, what she thought I was making, I was actually pulling in double.  The customer saw the real contract, Mama approved the fake.  She taught me well.

And yet, I didn't realize I had been taught the wrong way to approach children.

For the first half of our 11 year marriage, I would treat my children the same way she treated us, without the severe beatings.  Essentially, if I wanted them to do something, that's exactly what I expected them to do.  There were no arguments or equivocations.  There was only doing.  And if you deviated from the clear path I laid out, you got slapped, yelled at, treated like shit, and got to watch my back as I stomped away, leaving destroyed lives in my wake.

Then, this afternoon happened.  I had left that all behind years ago.  But, it has been a constant struggle.  A continual battle.  I still wanted my kids to do exactly what I asked them to, but was learning to think through the mind of a child.  And I began seeing things.  When I began to treat them as I thought they were thinking and approaching life, weird things started happening.  Things like random kisses.  Random "I love you"'s.  Random bright smiles.

This afternoon, I put all five kids I had with me down for a nap.  They had stayed up pretty late the last two nights and desperately needed the sleep.  So, I tucked them all in and then went back a few minutes later for a bed check.  I walked into Laura's room and saw her head scrunched down, slightly tilted away from me.  She was hardly breathing, obviously hiding something.

I reached down and peeled the blanket back to reveal two open candy bars, one half eaten.  I took them from her, wrapped them up in their wrappers, put them on top of the dresser, and told her that she didn't have to sneak them - just ask - and that eating chocolate after brushing her teeth was a bad idea.  I also told her that she need not be afraid to just ask, reiterating my first point.

What happened next was amazing.  Rather than me slapping her and walking away to the sound of her crying, I heard these six wonderful words:

"Daddy, can I have a hug?"

Trying not to cry, I walked back over to her, wrapped her in my arms, kissed her on the cheek, and left.  She fell asleep immediately.

I love my new life.

Putting Kids to Bed

I sit here in the middle of our second floor, 35 foot hallway, piano music playing on the iPad, my cell phone rattling to the tune of twenty texts an hour, and the laptop on my knees. 

I'm right outside the door of my two youngest girls.  The door is open.  I can hear Analisse (2) sucking on her pacifier - a sucking that rivals Maggie Simpson (though Maggie has had 20 years of practice so it's not really a fair fight).  Felicity (5) is also fighting the thumb sucking.  Her dentist has told her not to suck it.  We've tried putting socks on her hands and she got used to that.  Then, she began taking them off and ended up not sucking her thumb most of the time.  One can really tell when she does enjoy that little finger, though. 

Laura (9) is "sleeping", missing her older sister, Renaya (10), who left to sleep at a friend's house.  But Laura is living on the excitement of driving alone with me to Kansas City, Kansas, to her best friend's house for the weekend.  This best friend just happened to move away at the peak of their ultra-loyal friendship.  The two are peas in a pod.  Both deeply loyal, will grow up to be smashingly beautiful, and quietly passionate about life.

Frederic (7) is pretending to sleep, electing rather to play with toys in the dark while his brother, Jack (3), sleeps soundly beside him in his bed.

I used to read to them.  But this hallway is so long.  I should get back to that.  But here, the music and sometimes the washer and dryer do the same trick.

I enjoy bedtime.  It relaxes me.

Same Sex Marriage in Minnesota

Same sex marriage is illegal in Minnesota.  Precedent was set in 1971 with Baker vs. Nelson.  While no law against same sex marriage had ever been written into the state statutes, the inability to procure a certificate of marriage license for same sex couples due to the restriction to different sexed couples was enough to cause the case to be decided against the plaintiffs.  The case was appealed to the Supreme Court and died there.

Until 1997, this precedent stood as reason enough for same sex marriage to be outlawed by court decision.  Then, in that fateful year, a law was passed that put the standard against same sex marriage into the Minnesota statutes.

Deeming that this was not enough, the Republican-controlled legislature of 2011 decided that they needed the banning of same sex marriage to be written into the Minnesota State Constitution.  This would, in their view, make it more difficult for a paltry 1997 law to be overturned by "activist" judges (a term which is meaningless as a negative, being that all sides of any debate are perfectly willing to find those same "activist" judges that will agree with their side).  All changes to the Constitution requires a majority vote by the citizenry of this great state.  Thus, we find ourselves going to the polls to decide the fate of thousands of same sex couples that desire the same rights as everyone else.

The reasons for and against this law have been hashed and re-hashed ad nauseam with the pro-crowd (the ones that want same sex marriage banned) landing on either religion as the reason for the ban or thinly veiled religious ideas. 

But I don't want to argue reasons.  I want to tell you a story.

In 2000, a friend called me and asked me if I would like to come to a retreat in Duluth, MN.  I agreed and went.  While there, I met a woman.  A beautiful woman.  She smelled of a perfume that I had never smelled before and I wanted more of it.  She wore a pullover Columbia coat which she had to pull over her head hundreds of times during the weekend, revealing a perfect chest and every once in a while, the perfect stomach. 

Everything about this woman was perfect.  I loved her voice, her hands, her feet, her knobby knees, the form of her lips, her long nose where the middle of the nose extends down further than the outer nostril layers.  Conversation flowed.  While it rained for most of the weekend, we sat together under canopy after canopy, talking. 

I fell in love.  Two months later, I proposed.  A year after we met, we were married.  12 years later, we are still very much in love.  I love my wife like the air I breathe.  She is perfect in every way imaginable and I am indebted to my friend for inviting me to this retreat so many years ago.

But I remember going to the licensing office and paying for a marriage license.  The lady behind the counter was nice enough.  We hugged and kissed through the whole process while the entire state office rolled their eyes.  They were sick of love while we were lovesick.  But we were never questioned for our intentions.

We had sex before marriage and were reviled by many.  But, in the society we lived in, we learned that there were many who looked on us and celebrated our love for each other no matter how physical we became or artificial lines in the sand we failed to cross before enjoying the pleasures of one another.  We felt at home in society.

We loved each other and the world loved us for it.

I wish the same for all my friends and all people.

True Freedom Can be Ugly

Recently, I took a trip to Mystic Lake Casino in Shakopee, Minnesota.  The casino is owned and operated by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.  This trip to the casino was two weeks after returning from Las Vegas, Nevada, where I went to about twenty different gambling establishments and saw elements of society that was well dressed and there for tourism and fun.  In Las Vegas, there seemed to be very few compulsive and unhealthy gamblers on the playing floors.

That wasn't the case at Mystic Lake.

Arriving at the casino, I pulled my car up to the valet and noticed the man's false teeth.  He couldn't have been much older than forty and yet he had that leathery look to his skin, the false teeth, the watery look to his eyes - essentially, all of his features revealed to me that he had an alcohol problem.

The gentleman whisked my car away and I walked into the casino to be greeted with a shock to my system that would affect me for the next 16 hours until I realized the reason why.

Inside, the air was thick with smoke. Disabled people were hobbling around from machine to machine, slipping in money, pressing buttons, losing.  Wheelchairs were everywhere, being pushed by relatives or friends.  Some of the wheelchair-bound couldn't even hold their heads up on their own and had to have assistance to play the slots.  Poor and ragged men and women slumped over every other machine.  Elderly, with cigarettes hanging from their mouths, while sometimes another one unknowingly between their fingers, the ashes growing longer, sat at the card tables or slot machines, throwing a leg up on the machine for comfort.  Single mother's with their teenage sons and daughters standing behind them with a dazed "I've been here all day" look on their faces.  Security walked around in pairs, dressed very poorly, in ill-fitting clothing, looking bored and callous.  It was 8:00 at night.

I walked past a bank of four machines.  A lady was sitting at one of the machines, playing all four.  Her son, probably in his early twenties, shifted his feet behind her.  As I passed, he looked my way with a blank stare.  He didn't really see me but looked through me.  To him, I was just another person traveling through the casino, looking for my big win that was never going to come.  He stared for a few seconds, shifted his feet again, then looked back to his mother, grabbing the back of her chair for support.  She lost some more money.

I died inside.

My head began to spin.  I wanted to help these people.  I wanted them to do the right thing and make better decisions with their money.  I wanted them to think about their future and actually run the math on their betting and realize that, in all reality, they were better off buying fireworks and actually having fun burning their money, with no hope of return.  I wanted to grab them and drag them off to college or some skills training center. I wanted to go sit at a workforce center and help them fill out hundreds of applications for employment.  I wanted to help them regain their dignity.

But mostly, I wanted to legislate gambling out of existence.

I went home sore.  I couldn't sleep.  If there had been a dog or cat, I would have kicked it.  Instead, I stayed up and talked to my wife and then myself - all night, sleeping only fitfully.  I had no idea what was wrong with me.  I hurt for these people. 

In the morning, I woke up and went to work, still drunk on the feelings deep inside me.  I sat at my desk - working - nose to grindstone on a project, the thoughts and memories of the night before roiling in my head.

Then it hit me.

My mind and heart were having a war.  I have a deeply held belief in freedom of personal choice.  It's a foundational, core belief of mine that I constantly check with new ideas and inputs to see if it is being trampled upon.  But, fighting this core belief was a philosophical paradigm shift - the deep desire to save people from themselves.  To rein back their ability to freely choose to destroy their lives.  Essentially, what I was fighting was the desire to remove the foundations of freedom from society to force people to act as I felt they should act. 

Then I realized that the idea of personal freedom had nothing to do with whether I agreed with another's choice or not.  The reality of freedom was such that every person in society had the ability to choose how they wanted to live their lives. 

Freedom, while a necessary principle for life in a contented society, was and is never guaranteed to be pretty.  In practice, freedom can and is, many times, very ugly - like the type of people gambling attracts.  But, better than the realization that freedom will manifest many unholy acts in those that practice it, freedom also gives me, a person who has made arguably good choices in life, the ability to change the minds of those that add to the ugliness of it.

Friday, November 2, 2012

I'm coming back!

To all my readers,

My life has been very busy recently.  A trip to Vegas, new friends, newer friends, new experiences, new thoughts, new ideas, new dreams, changes at work.  I'm a very happy and contented gentleman right now.

Now, I'm coming back to writing.  I need it.  Writing is what makes me deeply satisfied and I miss it terribly.

Stay tuned!  I promise.


I. C.