I found the photo on an old phone I had tossed into the junk drawer in the kitchen. Just a bad picture taken in a dark bar with...well, I can't remember the girl's name. And it bothers me to no end. I remember the exact night and I remember we had lots of fun and I remember she thought she was in heaven dancing with me. When I invited her to sit at my table, she insisted some drunk cowboy who called himself 'Shorty' take the pic, which he did. I remember Shorty and I recall he was pretty short...and his hat was way too big...but I can't remember the girl's name. She was one of hundreds, maybe a thousand or more that I spun around the dance floor on so many Saturday nights. I recall some of their names. I can almost smell the sweetness of their perfumes as images of them in my arms beneath the lights of a dance floor flash through my mind. I'd always take one last smell of my shirt as I took it off in the wee hours of the morning before crawling into bed...alone, and allow the memories of the night to flood my mind as I lay down to dream of a time that was sure to come...someday, when I'd not be alone. But the girl whose name I can't recall, she was the last. It was after midnight on the night that photo was taken that I ventured across the parking lot toward my pickup. I picked up my phone and saw a missed call. Had I not missed that call, the photo with the girl whose name I can't remember would have never been taken, for the call I missed would have changed the course of the night. I had shirked my biggest responsibility and neglected to be there for the most important person in my life in their most dire moment of need. I hastily called the number, but there was no answer at such a late hour. I drove through the night toward my house with thoughts not of the girl I'd danced with, but of the responsibilities I had neglected. It was a sleepless night for I knew I'd never gotten the call had I not been needed. For the next six months, I would watch from a distance as a family slowly and painfully unraveled at the seams, always ready at a moments notice for a call I knew would someday come. I no longer spent my Saturday nights in the glow of neon lights. There were no more women's names to try to remember, and my shirts smelled only of fabric softener. My phone rang occasionally or a text would come from some female friend or another, "Come dance with me?" I'd make one excuse or another, dutifully remaining at my post for the call that was sure to come. And one night, it did...and I was there. Over three years have passed and I've not failed to be there for that one most important person in my life...not once. I am a proud single parent who takes his responsibilities very seriously. I cook and clean and do loads of laundry. Happy Hour now means half price sodas at the Sonic. Instead of ironing a shirt for a Saturday night, I iron blouses for Sunday church services. My stress is no longer from how many drinks will I have to buy for some blonde...it's how much will four years of college cost. My prayers are not 'Hope I make it home,' but 'Hope I don't fail.' I've not failed. All is well as this change in life nears its fourth year. I've not missed the glow of neon and I don't dwell on the dances I've missed. But this adventure nears the home stretch as my child nears the time when she will assume her rightful place in a society of young adults. I find myself wondering...'What's next?' As her social circles blossom, my responsibilities become less and less. I find time on my hands that I'm not accustomed to having, and I find myself struggling to find my rightful place in a society that seemingly has passed me by. I occasionally find myself depending on memories to entertain myself, while yearning to make more...just a few more memories to fall back on in years to come. I've come to accept a fear that gnaws at my very being...a fear that my most challenging time is yet to come. A time when I am no longer needed. A time when some young man will come along and relieve me of my responsibilities. What then? But with the time I have left, I vow to make the most of it. There are memories to be made. From the thrill of reliving prom night through the eyes of my daughter to the sure to be emotional graduation ceremony that comes in just a few short months, there are surely many, many memories to be made. I cherish the thought of every one of them! I will be there, proudly clinging to my responsibilities as a parent every step of the way! Every so often, one group of giggly teenaged girls or another, while tromping through my living room, will pause just long enough for me to share a story or two about those Saturday nights from another life. I'll tell them about Psycho Sherry, or the school teacher who forgot to mention she was married, or the blonde who forgot to mention she was a lesbian. If I can hold their attention long enough, I'll start remembering more women I've met throughout my adventures. They usually laugh and listen intently to my every word, for they haven't yet been where I came from...and I pray they never do. Their eyes widen as I tell the tale of 'The Black Widow' or the night a girl from the western store got in a fist fight with a woman from New Mexico...all because of me. I tell those tales fondly, but there's one story I've never told them...of the night I met the girl whose name I can't recall...
If the truth be told, I did not expect to still be writing these posts into 2017. It was probably last September that I had vowed I'd cease to publish my weekly ramblings if it all came to be as we were told it must. I was prepared to pull the plug...flip off the lights and shut 'er down and mosey on in search of another adventure. In all reality, I was physicked. The demise of the Rusty Goat, the passing of yet another failed author seemed to be in the hands of fate. I had said all I had to say with what could be said, and rather than continue with meaningless and hollow platitudes, I'd just quit. But as I write this, I find myself determined to forge onward for the winds have shifted direction. No longer is it taboo to speak of patriotism. No longer does one have to fear the label of insurgent for taking a stand for the morals and values of our country. No longer do we have to bite our tongues, clench our teeth in forced silence, and indeed, shirk into the shadows as the armies of a few batter us with their socially misguided banter. No longer do I feel the need to draw my curtains before I pray or cast a nervous glance as I walk across a church parking lot. The shifting winds carry me forward. An earthly wanderer for decades, my beliefs in a God Almighty suppressed somewhere deep inside me, I lived my life as I pleased, asking for help from no one, not even my Creator. In my mind we had an understanding...I'd live my life as I wished...and He'd let me. Then things happened, big things and I began to see the need for spiritual guidance. For I began to realize there was a whole other world that I'd been missing and somewhere around eight years ago, I ventured into that world. It was at that exact time that the forces of evil...yes, you read that right...began to rise throughout our great country. As these forces grew in power and in popularity, I found myself drawn even further into that other world. As 'morals' and 'values' became dirty words and patriots and Christians were declared to be renegades and agitators, I determinedly pressed onward in my quest to find the meaning of it all. And I shared it with anyone who would read of my revelations. But as time passed, there was talk...behind closed doors, fears nervously shared in church pews, whispers of persecution. Yes, in our land, persecution, and retaliation for our beliefs. Quite suddenly, as I remember, an ominous and sinister cloud fell across the land. Our fears were genuine. We feared for our children, for our neighbors, and for those who shared our beliefs. Perhaps we all handled it differently. Some brave souls plodded onward, some kept a low profile. Me...I quit writing about this new spiritual world I had recently reconnected with, deciding instead to pen meaningless and empty stories, space filler basically. And it grew tiresome and monotonous. I found no satisfaction and had reached a point of despair. I wished to bring it to an end. With an almost certainty that this assault on our morals and beliefs was destined to continue with an upcoming presidential election, I had vowed that my writing would come to a halt. But I'm here to proclaim to all that will listen that it is COOL TO BE A CHRISTIAN TODAY! The winds have shifted and the clouds have passed. Eyes have been opened and ears are hearing a strange new message. Think about it! There are children who are eight, ten, twelve years old who have never heard a president utter the name 'God' or mention prayer in their entire lives until just days ago, much less see one inside a church building. They've never heard of a vice-president marching in a 'Right to Life' parade. These kids may actually be given the opportunity to learn the Pledge of Allegiance and even...yes, say a prayer in class if they wish to do so. No, politicians did not bring about this change...we did. Beneath the suppression of our basic freedoms, a revolution was born. Silently and stealthily it formed and grew into an unstoppable force to be reckoned with. Those who fell asleep at the helm lost their footing, floundered, and fell, crashing on the reefs. More will follow. Ponder this: The founder of your favorite social network no longer calls himself an atheist and in fact has set out to discover what drives Christians in their faith. Two iconic country music performers have veered from a familiar path and recently released gospel albums. Perhaps most amazing, probably the least likely person you'd ever imagine in our country has called upon God to help him direct our nation onto the road to becoming 'Great Again!' Are these all just fluke coincidences? I think not. Last Sunday as I sat in church, tears came to my eyes as I gazed around the crowded sanctuary wondering if I had ventured into the wrong church. People like me raised their voices in songs of praise. When the pastor delivered his message, 'Amen's' echoed through the room. I'd not heard many in recent times. As we filed out we hugged each other and exchanged hearty handshakes. The congregation meandered out into the sunlight filled with joy and peace, a refreshing wind of change greeting us. There are those of you who don't want to hear what I have to say. Just move along if you are one of them. My space and my dime here...I'll speak my mind as I please. It's been a long time coming!
What promises to be an edge-of-your-seat, anxious, and interesting four years kicked off last Friday with the Inauguration of our 45th president. I wasn't able to catch the event live but managed to flick the TV on briefly at noon Texas time, eager to see what I had missed. To my surprise, a mere forty-five minutes after the historic gathering, the news was broadcasting...no, not the gala events of the inauguration, but the now ex-president Obama speaking to...well, I do not know who, seeing how everyone was attending the inaugural party. So, I resorted to whatever I might find on my Facebook feed, picking up my iPhone and scrolling as I chomped down on a dripping peanut butter and jelly sandwich. To my dismay, I found more headlines about the ex-POTUS than I did about the swearing in of our new president. What few articles I did run across were, shall I say, extremely negative. This, boys and girls, is today's news media. From bashing our new First Lady's baby blue dress to unwarranted and meritless comments about the youngest Trump. the media is relentlessly digging deep to soil this historic moment. This type of news reporting is what we will be subjected to for at least the next four years. Sensationalized, slanted news. It's certainly nothing new and perhaps most of us have learned to take all those 'breaking news' stories with a grain of salt. That's sad, really. We've just accepted the fact that we will hear the news 'they' what to us to hear and we will hear it the way 'they' want to tell it. Unable to find any relevant reporting on the inauguration, I amused myself with a couple of videos caught during the address. I'm sure you saw them. They seem to be far more 'news worthy' than the induction of our next president. We've all seen George W Bush struggling with his poncho during the speech and I admit it was good for a hearty giggle. I always liked George W...and no, I don't want to hear your opinion. My favorite, though, was of ol' Bill Clinton and his wandering eye. I just love how he got busted by his wife! I can relate as I have been caught in the act myself from time to time when I had some wife or another to keep an eye on me. I used to always walk about two steps behind my wife whenever we strolled through the mall and in spite of my clever tactic, was often busted turning my head as some smoking hot chicklet passed. What married man hasn't been caught by his wife as his eyes ventured away to forbidden territory? I like Bill because he is who he is and makes no bones about it. A good man...I don't know. But we all know who he is. The same holds true to George W. We know him and we can count on him to always be who we expect him to be. I think the same will hold true with Donald Trump. I believe we've not seen the real Donald and perhaps never will. But there seems to be something beneath the facade of staunch, stoic facade of a billionaire businessman. It's there. You can see it in the way his kids interact with him. You can see it in his wife's eyes. Will our news media try to expose those hidden traits of our new president? Will they humanize him the way they exposed the human side of Mr. Obama? Will they paint the American people a picture of a new Camelot? I have my doubts. I fear the news media organizations will instead waste their time and talents on a smear campaign like we've never seen. There may little good news to read for the next four years as the media pounds their negativity into our brains, day after day after day. The more intelligent Americans will take their news stories with a grain of salt, but even then may find themselves doubting their own convictions and beliefs. Those who 'ain't all that smart' will devour everything the news reports and willingly trust it as fact. Bitterness and hatred will continue to spread throughout our land and yes, divisiveness will spread like an incurable disease. It is my opinion that the divisiveness of our country is a direct result of the news media organizations that poison our minds, the minds of our children, and the future of our country. As I scroll through my iPhone on this Saturday afternoon, my timeline is cluttered with stories about the Women's' March and celebrities standing up and speaking against our new president...and he's been our president for one day? Is this really the most pertinent news of the day or are the media outlets simply playing it up into something it's not? Personally, I want to hear about the tongue lashing Bill Clinton got when he got home after the inauguration. I want to know what happened to George W's poncho! Did Dick Cheney finally take it away from him? And I want to hear how Donald Trump's first day in office is going. Deep sigh. There is no greater force that plots the course of our country than that of the news media, be it the high road or the low, the right direction or the wrong. The press has an enormous responsibility to the American people and should never take this responsibility lightly. The power of the press should never be abused under any circumstances and those who do should suffer consequences. We are guaranteed a free press under the constitution, but just as with free speech, we must be willing to accept the consequences when we abuse that freedom. Continual abuse will ultimately lead to a freedom lost. We as Americans stood up in unity in November 2016 and said we wanted to change the way things were. Perhaps we now need to stand together and demand fair, consistent, and unbiased news. In today's society, constant trending news plays a huge part in our lives. To be bombarded 24/7 with content that spreads vile and negative images of our country is not healthy, not for us and not for our nation. The vast majority of us genuinely want our president to succeed. We really do want our country to be great. Most of us are willing to give it all a chance. And we want the news media to do the same. Give it a chance to work. If it doesn't...then we expect you to tell us about it. Tell it like it is...not how you want us to think it is. No, CBS News, I do not want to watch a 360-degree view of the thousands of women marching through Washington DC...is Bill Clinton there? Boy, he's gonna get it when he gets home!
I want you to play along with me here. Let's imagine a group of us got together, say five of us, and decided to put five dollars a week in a pot. Every Friday we'd draw out a name from somebody's hat and that person got the money we'd all contributed that week. Now, let's pretend that more and more folks joined our group and contributed their five bucks. One lucky person would win the prize every week...following me? Sounds like a pretty good game, right? Now, let's say the fella who's pot we were putting our money in decided we should pay him a portion of the money for using his pot, and the fella who's hat we'd draw names from wanted payment for using his hat....and the person who was in charge of drawing the name from the hat wanted to be compensated as well. Suddenly, our prize money begins to dwindle to the point that the only folks coming out ahead were the man who owned the pot, the man who owned the hat, and the fella pulling the name out of the hat. Well, that would suck and most of us wouldn't want to play that game anymore. Folks, that's what is wrong with Obamacare. It seems logical to me and a few others that if every man, woman, and child in our country is contributing toward affordable health care, there ought to be lots of money in the pot. Yet, premiums continue to skyrocket. Why? I'd venture to guess it's because there's too many hands dipping from the pot. There are some of you out there in la-la land who can't seem to absorb that. I don't have Obamacare. I have had my own health insurance for decades. It used to be the best insurance on the planet. When a rowdy horse broke my leg way back, I believe it cost me around a hundred bucks to get it fixed. That included the surgery and a nice titanium plate screwed into my leg bone. When my daughter was born back in '98, I paid a hundred and fifty dollars...total. When I had a heart attack back in '05, I was out around twelve hundred dollars...that included time spent in ICU. But when I had my gall bladder sucked out through a straw a couple of years ago and sent straight home afterward, I was out sixteen hundred bucks. I think it would probably cost me about that much just for a doctor's visit now. See, Obamacare users, it's not all about you. Obamacare has screwed up the whole system. Our government stuck their nose somewhere it didn't belong and forced insurance companies to follow a whole new set of rules. The insurance companies pursed their lips and said, "Okay, but we're going to dip more money out of the pot." Meanwhile, the doctors and hospitals saw what the insurance companies were up to and they decided to dip more money out of the pot for themselves, as well. When the pot began to run dry, the government told us we'd have to put more money in. Now, don't overlook what I said. We would HAVE to put more money in the pot, even if we didn't have more to contribute. So, now my monthly premium is more than my car payment and my auto insurance combined. And if anyone in my family ever gets sick, we'll have to have the car repossessed! There's not a shadier bunch of people in America than the medical industry. They are professional crooks and lose no sleep at night ripping us off. Case in point: Last year I visited my doctor because I was experiencing a rapid heart rate, shallow breathing, and tingling in my hands. Sounds like a heart attack, right? He checked me out (25.00 co-pay) sent me across the street to the hospital for some blood tests (65.00) and told me to come back the following day (no charge of the follow-up) After all that, he determined my symptoms were due to a wild night at the local Pizza Hut and a reaction to all the MSG loaded into their pizzas. I paid my ninety bucks and vowed to stay away from Pizza Hut. When my insurance company sent me a notice that they had paid the claim, I noticed my doctor had charged my follow-up visit as my annual 'Wellness Exam' i.e. a comprehensive annual physical, in effect bilking the insurance company out of hundreds of dollars. And it's not just him scamming the system. My daughter had two cavities filled and her teeth cleaned. I paid the co-pay and went on my merry way. But when I received a statement from my dental insurance company, the dentist had charged them for what looked like a major reconstructive procedure. I could go on and on with stories but you get the point. Obamacare was a good concept but oh so flawed. Rather than assume a position of the 'watch dog,' the government just let the system unravel. Rather than impose penalties on those in the medical field who abuse the system, they simply gave the nod to increase premiums. Rather than encourage fair competition, which in turn, would keep rates affordable, they allowed a select few insurance companies to gouge the American public. Rather than step in and admit that Obamacare wasn't working, they simply shrugged their shoulders and said, "Sucks to be you." When your washing machine quits working, you throw it out and get another one, right? If your fridge won't keep your milk cold, you get another one. If your husband isn't doing the job for you anymore...you get the picture. Same with this Affordable Care crap. Kick it to the curb and find something that works. Yes, America needs health coverage. Hopefully, those folks we elected will get it right this time. We don't need any more voodoo. We sure won't survive long with this bad medicine that's been shoved down our throats! Now, about that five bucks each and every one of you are going to send me...I've got the hat and I can find a pot to put the money in. Y'all get your wallets out!
Author's note: I'm going to be 'out of pocket' this week (does anyone know what that means these days?) Well, busy, gone, unavailable, you know...out of pocket. So, I thought I'd share this post I wrote about this time last year with you. Now, Facebook has informed me that we've been together for nine years, which is longer than my last wife lasted! Enjoy and I will see y'all next week...
I got out of bed the other morning, trudged through a dark house, finally finding the light switch in the kitchen right where I left it, and aware of the jingle behind me, opened the door to let the dog out to pee. With the coffee gurgling, I trudged into the living room and turned on the morning news and picked up my laptop. You can bet this is how every morning starts for me. Even my web surfing is predictable. First I check to see if anyone clicked on a Google ad on my site. I make a nickel...sometimes a dime if someone clicks really hard. Then over to Amazon to see if anyone bought a book while I slept. They hadn't, but I made thirty-five cents because some Amazon Prime member read forty pages of my book. I checked my email and erased four days of unread messages and...oops, the dog was still outside so I let her in and poured a cup of coffee. Sitting back down in my easy chair, I made my final stop...Facebook. My gosh! They were having a party! A colorful notification graced the entire page announcing that today was my eight year anniversary! Balloons, party hats, confetti, and random pictures of my past...all just for me. Well, I think Facebook was a whole lot more excited about our eight years together than I was. But, the event did jar some memories loose. I don't know what drew you or those other billion users to Facebook, but mine was, well yes...a woman. As Facebook so subtly reminded me, it was eight years ago when I met her and if you've known me for any length of time, you would guess I met her out on some dance floor or another. I'll just call her Tammi...Tammi Jones since that's the name I used when I may or may not have eluded to her in 'The Search For The Perfect Woman.' (I don't usually put ex-girlfriends in my books, but I felt she deserved it as you will see in a minute.) On that night eight years ago, Tammi, a strawberry blonde with sparkling blue eyes, had caught my attention as I danced beneath the neon lights with a girl I'll call Sammi (since that's what I called her in the book.) During my dozen or so dances with Sammi, I had become aware she was a bit of an odd bird so somewhere during the evening, I asked Tammi to dance. And boy could she dance. Eventually, they turned the lights on and told us all to go home, so I walked Tammi out to her pickup and laid a kiss on her. And then I asked for her phone number, to which she responded, "Last thing I need is a needy man calling me all the time." That put me off...sunk my battleship, so to say. I turned and headed across the parking lot, mentally crossing her off my list, but then she hollered out, "I'm on facebook! You can facebook me!" I wasn't real smart in those days. It took me till the sun came up the next morning to figure out how to get on facebook. Once I had set up a profile, I searched for 'Tammi Jones.' There were millions of 'em. I finally found her about the time the sun went down that day. She took me on a three-month long roller coaster ride...no, not like that. Shame on you. I don't want to get too personal, but she really wasn't much fun...I found out there toward the end that she was also a lesbian, which explained why she wasn't much fun. So, to wrap that story up, had I never gotten on Facebook... Facebook is a problem child for me. I've reconnected with people from my past and have enjoyed catching up. Invariably, after a date or three with some woman, she'll 'friend' me and, well there's all sorts of problems there. Lucky for me (?) they never last too long and I can unfriend them and get on with my life. I had two ex's keeping tabs on me at one time. That was like sitting on a park bench between the two of them. I've been stalked on Facebook...more than once. And then there's the government snooping on all of us. I find new challenges these days. I wrote under the alias of 'The Rusty Goat' for seven years...not once did I attach my real name to my work. An author's success relies on name recognition and with the release of my first serious book, 'The Chimera Parables,' somehow the tag 'A Novel by Author Rusty Goat' just didn't seem to fit. So, one year ago this week, I made a difficult decision to put my name out there. I weighed my decisions carefully and decided if I am to continue trying to put my books out there, they would have to have my name on them. Sacrificing my privacy was not something I took lightly and as you would expect, there have been complete strangers show up on my personal Facebook page. And that's what it's all about, right? I also gave up my freedom. When I was writing incognito, I had freedom to write whatever my imagination wished. Now, I have to evaluate every sentence I write. Will this hurt or embarrass someone close to me...jeopardizing a friendship I truly value? That's not to say I wasn't discovered once or twice before I went public. Take for instance that long tall little filly from once upon a time. She never let on that she knew...she played me like a fiddle.
So I tend to be a bit cautious and perhaps even suspicious when folks I don't know crop up on my personal Facebook page offering their virtual friendship. In this day and time, one never knows whether some evil hacker is trying to overtake Facebook or some random misguided woman stumbled in searching for her next ex-husband! But I do have a nice 'Rusty Goat' facebook page where I welcome everyone with a friendly Texas-sized hug. I'd love to see you stop by and let me know you came to visit!
I have Courtney's blanket. It's an awesome stadium blanket adorned with the University of Texas logo and Cortney's name monogrammed on the bottom right corner. I don't know Cortney and I have no clue where this blanket came from. I discovered it in the hall closet the other day and let me tell you...it's the warmest blanket I've ever wrapped up in! I'm sure Cortney's dad paid at least a hundred bucks for it! When one has teenagers, things like this just magically appear occasionally. I have never heard the name 'Courtney' mentioned in conversation and am pretty sure she doesn't live around these parts for most everyone out here in west Texas swing toward Texas Tech. Red and black are the colors of choice, not that horrid tint of orange that UT picked to associate themselves with. If this blanket could talk, I feel certain it would tell the tale of how it migrated to the heart of Texas Tech country. Since it can't, I'll just have to make up my own story. I have a feeling more than a few teens were involved. Things magically disappear as well when you have teens in the house. I lost an iPhone a couple of years ago and we've had a sixty dollar Texas Tech sweatshirt vanish. Seems like I remember a hundred dollar pair of shoes walking off somewhere down the line as well. Those disappearances were the result of blatant thievery. More often than not, most things disappear because, well it goes like this: "I haven't seen that hundred dollar pair of jeans with the spangles on the pockets lately. What happened to them?" "Oh, I loaned them to (fill in the blank here) last month." The ensuing tirade is futile for by now those jeans have likely made their way to Austin, Texas and there is a good chance that some chick named Courtney has her little hiney squeezed into them. I have to give my teen some credit. She's not typically prone to loaning her stuff (paid for by Dad) out...that I am aware of. But things do magically appear in the laundry basket. I'll lift an article of clothing to eye level from time to time and purse my lips, thinking 'I have never seen this before in my life!' I've had teenagers throughout the course of my life and this is simply a way of life for them. CD's never stayed around for long. I had spent an hour of my life slaving away at a piddly job just to make enough money to buy that CD...and some kid who calls himself 'Animal' is blasting it through his Bose speakers! Thankfully, the era of the CD has passed. Now all I have to fret about is exactly how many kids out there are piggy backing on a Spotify account that I slave away at some piddly job to pay for every month. And Netflix (rolling my eyes!) Exactly which kid out there in the vast universe is burning up my Netflix? It's a given that when a herd of teenage girls appears at my house, their first course of action is to patch their smart phones into my wifi. Data, after all, is hard to come by and when a teen exhausts their monthly quota...life as they know it comes to an abrupt end. No more Spotify or snap chat for the rest of the month! Teens wilt like a dead red rose when the data's gone! You can see genuine pain in their eyes as they gasp for air. I try to sympathize but really, I get no sympathy when I run out of MONEY before the next paycheck comes in. I suppose we as parents could be thankful that our children are of a giving nature but I really don't believe that concept crosses their minds as they hand over that hundred dollar pair of jeans to their best friend's cousin's friend's friend that they only met thirty minutes ago. No, the only thing flitting through their mind is 'Dad will buy me more..." That puts the monkey on our back, right? Why do we do this? Why do we slave away at a job we truly detest for the majority of our adult lives just to buy our kids stuff which obviously isn't all that important to them? If it were, they wouldn't give it away! I can relate. If someone gives me, say, a shirt that I really don't see myself bonding with, I'd have no problem giving it to my best friend's cousin's friend's friend that I only met thirty minutes ago. I think many of us as parents live with the notion that our kids will like us better if we spend money on them. "Look, I bought you something you really don't want to show you I love you. Please love me back?" Materialism is an evil that ravages our society today. Stuff makes our world go round, right? So we give our kids stuff to make their world go round. But, obviously stuff is not what they want or they wouldn't be haphazardly giving it away! Truthfully, what they really want...what they crave from us...is our time. In their own time, of course. They are teenagers, after all, and truly want our time and attention on their own time schedule. But trust me, they really want us to be there when they want us to be. The stuff we buy them holds little value. The time we make for them...priceless! They'd never admit it, but... The house is a bit chilly this morning. Think I'll fetch that blanket from the hall closet. Courtney, I really like your blanket and I don't intend for it to get away! It's mine now, chicklet!