Contacting Craig

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Monday, May 27, 2013


Summer is here...officially. Memorial Day weekend always means summer is here. I know the calender says it actually happens on June 21, but for as long as I can remember, Memorial Day was the official beginning.
When I was a kid, we never got out of school before June 12th. That was always the official last day of school. It was so ingrained, that the calender on our kitchen wall came with the date already highlighted.
Those last two weeks between Memorial Day and the last day of school were almost entirely useless. We took our year-end tests and we packed up our desks...the ones that had tops that opened to two different angles for writing and drawing, or you could lay them flat. They made a distinct sound when you opened them. Mine was always a disaster by the end of the school year. If not for my trusty school box I wouldn't even know where my pencils were. But we cleaned them out and removed the paper-bag book covers we had made for all our textbooks and turned them back in. We took all our library books back and Mrs. Singer gave us a stern look that always melted into a smile and she ignored the late fee and told us she was looking forward to seeing us the next fall.
Summer was special and it couldn't get here soon enough.
Now I am a dad myself. I will be 50 this fall. Summer is here again. Usually my favorite time of the year but this year I meet it with dread. Today was Memorial Day and I spent it essentially wandering. I was up at 4 AM, because I can't really sleep anymore. I went to Dunkin and got my coffee and did some writing this morning until 7 AM when the gym opened. I worked out and took a shower and went to Panera where I sat for a few hours, reading the book of Job and thinking. I haven't read Job in five years. For some reason I avoided it all this time I was homeless. I'm glad I did. There was a lot in this book that reminded me of my situation and not in any good ways.
After a while I left to go get something to eat. Something cheap. Then I came back to Panera again and put out more resumes. More applications for jobs that simply aren't there. Not for  someone in my demographic.
I set up my Hootsuite so that I could promote the divorced dads book throughout the day and then I left again. I went for a walk and then tried to catch a nap for 20 minutes because without sleeping much I get very weary. Not just tired...weary.
Now I'm back at Panera again until 9PM when they close. That's how I spent my Memorial Day. No cookout. No ballgame. I didn't get to see my daughter. I wandered. I'm wandering every day now. I have been homeless for four of the last five years but to be honest...maybe I've always been homeless. There has always been something else out there. Not something material...this isn't a lust or a desire or a materialistic passion. It's internal. It's dissatisfaction with whatever is right here and right now. There has always been something more I was seeking. Somewhere else I was wanting to be. The last 2 1/2 years while I finished school I didn't feel it. I felt connected and settled. I was doing my one thing. But now I don't have school and I don't have a garden to tend or a house to maintain and my daughter can't some see me. I have nowhere to lay my I wander.
It has to stop. I can't endure this again. Not for another summer. My daughter is growing up and soon she'll be gone and I'll have missed these years. I don't want to miss her like I do. I don't want to be a vagabond and a wanderer. But there is nothing out there for employment and it takes some time and a good bit of luck to sell a book. "Remembering America" is a GREAT book. I haven't met anyone who hasn't been mesmerized by the stories in this work of mine. But without a publicity push nobody will hear about it and word of mouth takes a long time unless you have the finances to do it right.
So I am stuck wandering. Wandering as a man, wandering professionally...wandering as a dad.
I hate this life of mine and I'm not sure how much more I can deal with. I am no degree and my writing would attest to that...but I am desperately near quitting.
I need a home and some measurable success. I want to have a home to come home to. Not just physically. My heart needs a home. My heart needs to stop wandering.

Memorial Day Prose...

To all the little boys who won't see their dad at their ballgame 

or have him around to teach them about changing oil or starting a lawnmower

 ...or about life.
To all the little girls who won't hear their daddy telling them they are beautiful

 and who won't have him there to put some appropriate fear into the hearts of suitors.
To the wives trying to sleep in an empty bed.
To the dad's who said goodbye but never got to say hello again.
To the moms who lost their little boy and for whom, he will forever be just that.
None of us can comprehend what today means to you. 
"Thank You" is meek and meager...but it's all we have, and it's from our hearts.

So...Thank You

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Making Excuses for God...The Modern Theology of a Natural Catastrophe

Two days ago, the Oklahoma City area, and specifically Moore Oklahoma, were devastated beyond description buy a tornado of immense proportion. It wasn't even fit for words. Normally they tell you to stay put, seek shelter in a closet or a basement or a safe room. On Monday they were actually telling people to get out. Get in your car and drive as far from here as fast as you can. This storm was frightening even to the most hardened veterans of tornadoes.
When the storm subsided, 9 children were among the dead. Their elementary school was destroyed and they apparently died in the storm cellar, victims of drowning. They had done as they were trained to do, and they died anyway.
In the aftermath of this, social media showed (yet again) both it's value and it's detriment. It was invaluable in relaying information in real-time. It helped with the call for aid and donations. It got the word out. But it also became a posting board for people trying to attach their theology to this tragedy and in effect, to make excuses for God.
Now, let me say this first: I understand the human need to make some sort of sense of something like this. The need to assign some sort of sacredness to the awesome power of Nature even when it turns against us and ends young lives. I understand the fear we all felt on Monday afternoon. Those kids could have been ours. That could have just have easily have been the elementary school right down the street. Somehow we need to make sense of this and we will --it seems-- go to any length to achieve this.
I've come to expect certain things after tragedies like this, or like Hurricane Sandy, or the Newtown, CT school shooting. There will be several prescribed responses that will make their way to Facebook and Twitter. Usually they go like this: Someone will start using the event as a call for "God's people to repent and pray".  Then someone will try quoting bumper sticker theology in a vain attempt at making sense of the occurrence and in an effort to get God off the hook. Because we all know that God protects His favorites, right? They'll post something about how the 9 third graders are all in a "better place" now and we'll "see them again soon" and after all, we are "not of this world" and we're just "Pilgrims" here.  That's an awful lot of rhetoric and cliche. It's enough bumper sticker theology to make a billboard.
The coup d'grace will then be administered when the well-meaning theologians will post some inane praise and worship song that usually has some mention of the tragedy in the title. Monday's selections had titles like "Trusting You in this storm" ""Peace like a river" "Though the wind blow" and the like. Now the obvious issue I have is that nobody in OKC is checking Facebook right now and if they are, they sure aren't doing it to find solace in some song by Hillsong or Chris Tomlin. They couldn't give a rat's bum about that stuff right now.
9 little kids are dead.
Have you ever seen a parent when their child dies? I have. Three times. Once was so dramatic that I can barely speak of it. A friend of my then-wife had twins. They were 4 years old and both wandered into a friends swimming pool in one blink of an eye. She discovered them and had nobody else to help her. Her friend went to call the paramedics and the mom was left to administer CPR to two toddlers simultaneously, in effect having to decide which one would live and which would not. My wife was working that day and she called me and I met her at the hospital. I sat dutifully in the waiting area in the ER, while Holly tried as best she could to comfort her friend. There was one moment I will never forget...Holly opened the door to come out of the exam room and she was sobbing. I happened to look up and behind her I saw the devastated mom...hugging the son that didn't make it as tightly as anyone ever could...his lifleless little body hanging limp. Her broken heart poured out in a low wail. For all the rest of my days I will never forget that sight, though I wish I could.
I saw it again a few times since. Each time was painful and sorrowful beyond imagination. Each time, there were no words to properly describe nor was there some sort of song running through my mind at the moment that would somehow bear up to scrutiny and be a proper soundtrack for the event that was unfolding. Sometimes silence is the only proper thing.
Monday, May 20 was such a day.
Yet people insisted on making noise.
Noise in the form of video clips of wimpy sounding praise singers singing songs that are somehow supposed to encourage these poor people who hold their lifeless child next to their heart...wishing somehow that they could transplant their own beat into the stillness of their babies chest. Willing and wishing they could die in their place. Holding on to what remains because letting go this time is permanent.
This is pain on a scale that few will ever come to know and none ever should. In a perfect world we would never have scenes like this. But it's not a perfect world.
Somehow we feel this need to explain it to others. To arrive at some conclusion about what God did or didn't do, and should have done, and could have done and might have done. Then we look at what He permitted and we rearrange that too. We instantly turn it on it's head and say "Think of the ones He miraculously spared". Someone always points to a change in the path of the Tornado and attach God's hand to that too. As if God needs an escape hatch from natural disasters. It defied logic. If, as some say, God turned the tornado at the last minute or spared so many kids when it "could have been worse" then He chose not to spare 9 kids who probably weren't all satan worshippers or atheists. None of them had "666" as a birthmark on their scalp. They were the same kids as the ones who survived. They probably had Godly moms and dads and they probably went to Sunday School and played Little League.  God didn't select them to die that day. He permitted it...that's very different. He didn't "call them home" and then use an F-5 Tornado to do the calling. God can simply remove life with a word. He doesn't need a natural disaster to keep the schedule of life running on time.
I understand how people need to do this. It's hard to look at a God who didn't stop this storm in it's horrifying path and still trust Him. If anyone says otherwise they are lying. ...or they've been through some stuff.
I detest using myself as an example here...I am not comparing my struggles with those of the parents and families of the victims in OKC. But all I have to go on is my own experience so bear with me.
4 out of the last 5 years I have been homeless. I'm homeless now. Every individual day was hell in one way or the other. Some days were less hellish and some were more. But each day was a burden that was almost too great to bear. I doubted God. I shook my fist at heaven. I spit in the air and clawed at the sky and scratched the ground. God never responded in anger. Most times He never responded at all. But it was in the silence after my rant that I knew He was okay with it. That He even expected it and had made allowance for it. God remembers that He made me from dirt. He doesn't expect much.
Over time I grasped it. To be honest, only about half of what I have endured has made sense as the years passed. The other half are simply lost days that I might never understand until Heaven. But underneath it all I learned that God was still working. Every day. In every event. "Working" doesn't mean "fixing". And it doesn't mean he took away the pain I felt. It means He strengthened me enough. His grace was sufficient...not abundant...sufficient. Not overflowing, certainly not numbing. I felt every sting and every wound. He strengthen me just enough to breath in one more time. To take one more step. To get up off the ground after I'd collapsed into a heap and cried until I was exhausted.
People tried constantly to make sense of my situation. It only made it hurt worse. The best thing was to do what Job's friends did...sit silently as Job wept and wailed and suffered. If the sufferer didn't feel the need to speak...neither did his friends.
I believe that we make these statements after disasters because we need to keep God's "goodness' intact. We can't reconcile "God is Love" with the God who holds F-5 tornadoes in his hands and who could change them into gentle summer breezes if He so desired. We also like to think of a God who micro-manages the world for us. He doesn't do that either. He has...sometimes...but that's the exception and not the rule.
The Bible speaks of believers having the peace of Jesus. The bible says it is a "peace that passes understanding". In more common language, it is "Peace that doesn't make sense considering the situation". It's not a peace that makes those things palatable or tolerant. It's simply having some sort of peace that goes beyond the here and now. It doesn't say this peace ever replaces pain or anguish or the smashed hearts of moms and dads who won't ever tuck in their third grader again.
It is a peace that looks at the destruction that God Himself permitted and says, I don't understand it...I don't want to understand it, I have one sliver of hope to hold to and that is that God is never not at work. That something good will come from this. God may never let me see this good, I may never stop hurting. But He has already planned on making a good thing happen somewhere in this world from the bad thing that destroyed my world." the source of peace.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Random thoughts from a Homeless Dad

Yesterday a friend of mine told me how he had just watched the movie "Zero Dark Thirty" and how they showed some of the techniques used to extract the information used to find Bin Laden.
He said, "You know...the final breaking happens when they torture these guys for days or weeks or months and then they stop. They clean them up. Give them better food. Stop the sleep deprivation and whatever else they were doing. They let them gain a glimmer of hope that perhaps they have endured the worst nightmare they could imagine, then just when they start to grasp that hope...they start it all again."  He told me that according to the film, the breaking happens quickly after that, because they dropped their guard and began to hope. Once that faint glimmer was extinguished, their fight is all gone. Then he said something I'd been feeling since February but couldn't quite understand, he said, "You know...that's what happened to you. That's why this is so much harder this time. You endured that for four years, worked your butt off got your degree, wrote two books and started a business and got yourself in a house. Then the wheels came back off. It has to hurt worse than before...much worse"
He's right. It does. I didn't know about this being a tactic of inquisition...I just thought it was a particularly cruel twist. It hurts and it hurts like nothing I can describe.
     I picked up my daughter after school today. I do this every day to help her mom out. To be's something I look forward to. It makes me feel like I'm still her dad. Like I'm doing something. I spend about 20 minutes with her every afternoon, driving from school to her mom's house. She is usually burnt out after school so we don't talk as much as I'd like.  But I get to see her and for me, that's everything. I can't put into words how much I love my daughter. How much I wish I could get out of this nightmare and make something of a life for us again. How much I would give to hear her saying bedtime prayers, to cook breakfast for her, or to help her with her homework. This life of my hurts. It's painful. I'm past the point of dreaming dreams for myself anymore but I sure dream them for her. I dream of her being happy and fulfilled and becoming who she was put here to be. 15 years ago, when the doctor put her in my arms I felt the enormous weight of being the person who was supposed to make the way for her. It's her job to dream the's mine to give them wings. And I can't.
I look at a $20 bill and try to figure a way to make it stretch into a tank of gas and some food, while our erstwhile president is partying like a rockstar this week. I am losing hope...and something had better change.
Meanwhile my daughter races toward adulthood and I am almost the invisible man in her world. She loves me and respects me and appreciates the sacrifice I made to remain here in Nashville and in her life. But she can't live on the intangible forever, and neither can I. Something has to break my way. More has to break her way. Her dad needs to find the success he once knew, and he needs to find it now. Because time is racing by like the wind. I can't describe how I miss her and the five years we have lost. I lived in my car and tried to rebuild. I studied and got my degree. I wrote three books. I started a little business. And for all that, I am back to sleeping in the car again...and this time the shame and humiliation is killing me. It is literally draining life from my heart. It hurts to live like this. In ways I can't describe properly enough to do them justice. You will never know what it is to lose your career, and your home, and your family. Most people experience one of those...maybe two. But few ever experience all three together. I have. It hurts. Physically hurts...I feel like I am lugging around a 300 pound man strapped across my shoulders. The shame and humiliation is palpable. But the lack of hope is the worst thing. How do I get that back?
I just want my daughter to be happy. And I want to be there to see it. I'm losing the ability to imagine that day.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Happy Birthday Morgan....

Today is my daughter's birthday.
15 years ago I was a 34 year old husband who had only recently moved from my native Philadelphia area to Nashville with a pregnant wife and enough money for two months rent. We arrived in Nashville November 15, 1997 and Morgan arrived on May 7, 1998.
I was scared, excited, awestruck, and overwhelmed. All my life I wanted to be a dad, and now that day was here. A million thoughts raced through my head as I watched her come into this world at exactly 10 PM on the dot. She was perfect as perfect could be. 6 pounds 13 ounces of beauty. She made me understand Psalm 139:14 "I was fearfully and wonderfully made". The Hebrew word for "made" used here is the same word used in the story of Creation. It's also the same word a Hebrew writer would have used to describe an artist creating a work of art. That's how God did it with us...especially with my Morgan.
She had thick black hair and her mother's deep blue eyes. The eyes remained the bluest I have ever seen but the hair quickly turned blonde. At a little after 10 PM Dr. Bellardo placed her in my arms and subsequently into my heart. She has had it ever since.
After only 18 months, her mom and I divorced. It was the single greatest heartbreak I had ever known and it took me years to recover from the hurt of not being married anymore. In those years I focused on my career and my fatherhood. I seldom dated at all, choosing instead to reserve every free moment for time with Morgan. I wanted to give her as much of my time and focus as I could. I grew up without even meeting my dad...I was not going to have my daughter miss hers. Morgan was my "little buddy" for so many years. We went everywhere together. We went home to the Italian Festival every summer and to the beach with "Mom-C and Bob" (her "adopted" grandparents) and in 2007 when I finally met most of my paternal family, we started going to Uncle Franny's for "Feast of Seven Fishes" every Christmas Eve.
She has been my companion on walks in the woods and sliding down the stairs with her on my back. She has helped me raise two Springer Spaniels named Bonnie and Cooper, a cat named Giacomo, and a pony named Willie. Every spring she would draw out the vegetable garden row by row and decide what we were planting. There was not a part of my life, personally, professionally or spiritually that she was not the focal point of.
In 2007, as the mortgage industry began it's internal combustion, I lost that house. The garden was gone, the woods we would walk in and explore, and starry nights chasing lightning bugs. Gone. We rented for a year and I told myself it was better because we now had neighbors that weren't covered in fur or feathers. But in my heart, it hurt me and I know it disappointed her a bit. She had to give Willie to the neighbor and my little girl didn't have a pony anymore. I know this wasn't the end of the world and a lot of kids...most in fact...will grow up without owning a pony. But she is a tender hearted kid and Willy wasn't just an idol or a symbol of her dad's affluence. She was no Veruca Salt. She loved Willy as a member of the family. Truth be told, she was too timid to even ride him. Instead we would walk around in the pasture on our property and get him to walk up behind us and nudge us for an apple or a piece of candy he knew we always had in our pockets.
As a dad, I felt awful giving the big guy away. Like I was failing my daughter somehow.
One year later, in May 2008, just a few days after her 10th birthday, the company I worked for had closed it's doors and I was jobless. Because I was unemployed, I was also now homeless. By August of 2008 I had placed Bonnie and Cooper and Giacomo with some families to take care of them and broke her heart again.
I miss those pets more than I thought I would and more than you can imagine. But I ache for my daughter because we were supposed to have those moments together, my daughter and I, and our pets. And I couldn't do anything to stop the collapse of the economy and I couldn't keep a house for us to live in and I couldn't keep our pets. I let my daughter down. She didn't see it that way, but that's how it felt.
As the next 5 years unfolded the nightmare grew uglier, and more frightening, and consumed more of my dreams.
Morgan never questioned my life, never gave up on me and never did anything but remain the same loving, sweet, wonderful, beautiful, talented, tender-hearted girl she always had been. The girl who once tried to comfort me when I found out her mom was remarrying,  by telling me "I'll marry you, daddy", grew into young adulthood while her dad slept in his car, finished his degree and tried to rebuild his life while wearing the scarlet H of homelessness. Last May when I walked across the stage at Liberty University and got my degree after 28 years, she was the one person I most wanted to be proud of me. Those long cold nights when I shivered in the dark and did tissue damage to my neck reading textbooks at odd angles, and built chicken coops, and did odd jobs just for gas money...that was for her.  Because I wanted those dark days to mean something. I wanted to be able to look back and show her that her dad was no quitter, that he loved her enough to stay put when people told him to leave. That he wanted her to always be proud of him because he loved her more than the very next beat of his heart.
Today she is 15. She is far more woman than girl now. More beautiful than even I thought she'd be. More intelligent, more loving, more godly, more talented and more humble. I love my daughter more than anything I've ever known or loved in this world. And today is her birthday. I'll pick her up after school today and we'll be doing something special. But I wanted to write her this letter today and I wanted to share it with the world...because while the world watched her dad being beaten and tossed around for almost 5 years now, she has remained the best daughter anyone could ever imagine and I wanted to share this with those who frequent this page...
     Dear Morgan,
            Today is your 15th birthday. 15 years ago everything about my life changed forever, and every change was infinitely for the better. You entered this world and entered my heart. In truth, you were already there. I loved you from the first moment I knew you were coming. I loved you more when I saw your beautiful face on that grainy ultrasound. I loved you deeper still that night I said "I love you" next to your moms belly and you kicked because you already knew my voice. And today I love you more than I ever have. You are a young woman now...almost grown into adulthood. I have to took me by surprise. I had high hopes for you, big expectations and grand plans. You have already exceeded every one. Your kindness and sweetness and compassion for others makes me more proud than I can say. Your talent and gifts hold me in amazement. Your godliness gives me hope that you'll be alright in life.
I am so sorry for the last five years. Sorry that no matter what I did, I couldn't see this economy coming. I'm sorry that we don't live in our house in the country anymore and we don't plant a garden each spring. I am sorry you don't have a pony to ride. I'm sorry you have to miss Bonnie and Cooper and Giacomo. I miss them too, but I know your heart and you miss them the most.
I am glad I stayed here and endured all that I did so that I could stay in your life. The car was cold sometimes and sleeping in it was hard. Studying in a car was hard too. But my love for you gave me all the strength I needed to push on. And it still does.
I know things are not at all as you dreamed of or hoped for. You have had to deal with the pain of our divorce, then the pain of losing our home and our pets and the worry about your dad and the things that were happening to me. I promise you, I am doing everything I know of to make things better for us. And I will never quit until this happens...because I love you more than anything in the world and a dad never quits. Not ever.
The sacrifices and hardships I endured these last five years were worth everything. I cried myself to sleep a lot of nights worrying about you and were you okay and how was this effecting you? I pushed myself when quitting would have been easier because you are my treasure. Being your dad is the single greatest blessing God has ever bestowed on me and I will never be anything other than thankful for it.
You are a woman now. As your dad it's my job to bless you. And I do. I bless you as a woman of God. You are godly, virtuous, loving, beautiful, Christlike, and honorable. Your dreams will come true and I will give my all to see this happen. I bless you, my precious daughter, with the love of the God who would die for you, with the resources of His kingdom, and the heartbeat of His Son. I will give my everything to see you achieve yours. I would breath my very last breath into your lungs to give you life, and I would set my own dreams alight to illuminate the path that leads to your dreams.
Happy Birthday Morgan. Whatever gifts I give you today will pale in comparison to the gift of love I hold for you every day of your life. I am very proud of you, as my daughter, and as a Christian.
The world holds promise for you that you have yet to imagine.
"Oh...the places you'll go..."
I love you,

Thursday, May 2, 2013

YOUR opportunity to read and REVIEW the new book!

Hey is a link where you can read a three-chapter galley of the new book and provide a review! Review Craig's new book

I'd love your input!