Category Archives: PTSD

About my struggled along a jagged path to healing

Stop Writing About Me

unforgiven

November 11th was like most days for me. Late afternoon and I needed a break from the home office before I started dinner for the kids. I walked to the Santa Margarita Tavern and sat down in front of a beer.

A couple walks in. I recognize the guy as a fellow Little League parent from Douglas’s baseball team. We say hi to each other as they sat down at a table in the back corner.

A  few minutes later I turned around and looked over. I recognize the women sitting with him.

It was Karen Velie.

They were engrossed in discussion over a document, reviewing it page-by-page. I wanted to talk to Karen, but I didn’t want to interrupt their business. After 10 minutes, when it appeared they were done, I approached their table.

(In the interest of privacy, the guy’s identity is changed to John.)

Me: John, can you excuse us for a few minutes as I would like to talk with Karen.

Karen: I don’t want to talk to you.

Me: All I ask is a few minutes of your time Karen.

Karen: I don’t want to talk to you. Stop writing about me.

John: Kenny, I don’t want to get in the middle of this.

Me: John, that’s why I asked you to excuse yourself. So that you’re not involved in this.

Karen: Stop writing about me.

John: Do you want me to call the Sheriff?

Me: John, have I committed a crime?

John (pulling his cell phone out): Do you want me to call the Sheriff? Do you want to talk to them?

Me: Karen, why haven’t you called me back? You promised you would?

Karen: Stop writing about me.

With that said, I excused myself, left the establishment and walked home.

Ruminations

ruminations

One day in May 1994 I came home from my first day at Dick’s Sporting Goods, loosened my tie and opened a celebratory beer. It was early evening and the day’s sun was setting, sending rays of orange light onto my back deck. My wife was pregnant with our first child. We had settled into our 10-acre homestead the previous year. Life was good and it was as happy as an afternoon as I would ever have.

★★★★★

This morning I woke up in my bed, in a house that I didn’t own. It was chilly because we turn the thermostat off to save money. My phone beeped, alerting me to an email alert from my bank stating that my account balance had dropped below $100. I have no savings, having lost it all in my wife’s fight with cancer, her death and three subsequent years of unemployment. And I ask myself – “Well, how did I get here?” I have never been arrested. I am not an alcoholic. I smoked a little weed in college thirty years ago, haven’t touched it since. But I have committed one of the most basic sins in America. I had failed. I lost everything I worked for – the houses, cars, the 401k, motorcycles and vacations. All gone. And nearly my sanity. Yet I am not alone. Since 2008 over five million families lost their homes to foreclosure. Real wages have declined since the Reagan administration. Millions of people have stopped looking for work. In America the Walton family holds as much wealth as the bottom 40%. Worldwide, 85 people hold as much wealth as the bottom 50%. The top 1% continue to accumulate wealth, at the expense of the rest of us. But this isn’t a story about them. This is about me. My failure was all the harder because I had my dream job.

★★★★★

Back in 1994 Dick’s Sporting Goods had a vision. I was a part of it, and it was captivating. The eight years I spent there were exhilarating. The Company went through two rounds of re-capitalization, going through several periods of comp sales decreases. I struggled to keep the vendor community engaged. I learned how to engage and motivate our customers. I learned how to build an assortment, how to price & promote, how to market, how to launch a label, how to turn goods, how to maximize margin mix, how to develop product lines. We punched the chain out to 132 doors. I was managing a $70+ million division. I loved what I was doing. When the scooter fad hit in 2001 I jumped all over it. I picked up a quick three million dollars in sales. I killed my bonus plan that year. Because we were in a pre-IPO my GMM baked the scooter numbers into my plan for 2002. I vehemently argued with him, it was only a fad and thus not sustainable. He kept it in the plan. We go into 2002, the scooter business withered. Gone, empty, you couldn’t give the crap away. I managed our receipt flow, not getting caught with inventory. What else could you do? I was going to miss my plan by millions. I had always made my numbers. I was Buyer of the Year, Member of the President’s Buyer Council. For five days a week, eight years I left for work before dawn and returned home after dark. I was The Company Guy, a Salaryman. I was lucky to see my kids before they were tucked into bed on weekdays. I was worn down by the three-hour daily commutes, the 10-hour workdays, the weekend travel to stores every month, the relentless trade show and buying trips. I was missing a big part of my Girls growing up. My wife’s BPD wasn’t helping matters, she was starting to push my kids away from me. It had gotten out of my control, the long workdays, the fucked-up work/life balance, the unattainable plan. The dynamic that existed was that I was going to do the same job year after year, only do more of it and do it faster. My Dream Job became hell. I had to make a change.

★★★★★

It all started innocuously. I grew up not having any career aspirations, just coasted in high school. I had joined the Out Spoken Wheelmen, a local bike club and where I met Arni Nashbar. One day in May 1977 Arni offered me a job. My first paycheck was $14.00 – 7 hours @ $2.00/hour. I was riding a lot and getting some results. Work was fun – taking telephone orders and answering customer questions, orders to pick in the warehouse, mail orders to process, deliveries to be unloaded, shelves to be stocked, retail customers to be waited on, custom bikes to be built, frames to be prepped. I’d go in on Saturday mornings to catch up on the order backlog. But something was missing. I realized that there were better things than being a warehouse/retail clerk. I enrolled at Youngstown State University. No one in my family had attended college. I thought I wouldn’t be able to cut it, having just gotten by in high school. I worried how I was going to pay for tuition. One day I was over an engineer’s house. He was a professor at the university and rode a lot with the club. He was building wheels on the side for Bike Nashbar. I asked him if he could teach me how to build. I found out I was real good at it. And it helped put me through school. I spent the next six years working from 8:00 – 4:30, then going to classes from 5:40 until 9:30 every weekday. Five days a week, for six years. One night a week I would build wheels from 10:00 until 2 or 3 in the morning. Saturdays was all wheels, I’d build non-stop from 7:00 in the morning until 11:00 at night. Sundays became the only time I could ride. Running after hours was how I could kept in shape during the week. One dark evening while I was flying down a trail, I stepped into a hole and went flying. I broke both my arms trying to break the fall. It turned out to be, literally and figuratively, the luckiest break in my life. With both arms in a cast I couldn’t work in the warehouse. Arni sat me at desk to try some buying. It turned out I had a proclivity for it, this I started my career as a merchant. I graduated with Honors, earning a perfect 4.0 in my Finance major. I quit building wheels to focus on the Company and my new marriage. I began to drive it at work. Having learned how to capitalize and budget, I began to develop plans for sales, turns and margin and steered dollars into high-growth categories. One of the special projects I took on was designing a conveyor-based warehouse picking system and supervising the installation of the conveyors, gravity racks, pallet racking and shelving. When it came time to commit to ordering the fixtures I made an executive decision because my Boss wouldn’t commit. I nearly got fired over it. Karen, our Controller, saved my ass. All turned out well though, we made our deadline and moved into our new warehouse. That system is still in use today. I pushed the hard lines business to over $20 million dollars. I learned to put together a line of bikes, first in Japan, then into Taiwan and finally China. I travelled overseas regularly, developing and sourcing product. I built much of the content in the catalog. It was a lot of work but fun too. And I enjoyed the people I worked with. I put together a 5-year business plan for pre-built engineered wheels, years ahead of Mavic. It showed we would have made a profit by the second year of operation. Arni seemed OK with it but Jerry, the VP, nixed it. Jerry wanted his little brother to have the work. I was frustrated, at a dead end. It was the last straw for me. There was no room in the Company to move up, no room for my ideas. In the spring of 1994 I decided to look for another job. Two months afterwards I found the position at Dicks Sporting Goods.

★★★★★

Eight years of working at Dick’s burned me out. I took a sabbatical and backpacked the lower half of the Appalachian Trail. I returned, energized and ready for the next challenge. People told me that leaving your job before getting a new one was tantamount to career suicide. It seemed everyone in the industry loved me, so I didn’t give it a second thought. I started making some call, soon finding out no one was returning my calls. Panic. I sent out hundreds of Resumes. I’d spend hours on each cover letter making sure it matched the job requirements of the position. I logged every call I made, every email and letter I sent, every contact made. I called everyone I knew, asking if they knew anything open. I had telephone interviews with dozens of companies. I landed eleven interviews. Some of them went pretty well, so I thought. No one made an offer, after a year of searching. I was running out of savings. And I had a family to support.

★★★★★

My family business was a sleepy, little bait and tackle store. One day I had an epiphany. To develop a store concept, get some capitalization, and roll it out to more locations? So I decided to spend time on the family business. I repositioned the store as a premium Archery destination. I changed the merchandise mix to reflect our new demographic target. I remodeled the store and installed a modern POS system. The results were very encouraging. Sales nearly double in the first year, and were ramping up for another big gain the following year. Mom had been running the business under the guise of a sole proprietorship. I drafted up Articles of Incorporation for a LLC that allowed her to draw a monthly rental income off the real estate that was higher than her personal draw. We would be able to expense that out too. And I would have collateral to get bank financing for expansion. My store concept was working and I wanted to roll it out to more locations. I needed to get the LLC finalized. Mom wouldn’t sign the papers. She couldn’t find it in her to personally let go of the business. She had worked very hard her entire life and she couldn’t bear herself to sign the stock warrants over to me. I underestimated how hard this was for her. And I didn’t have the courage to help her confront those fears. Reality came crashing down. My dream of wanting to work for myself crumbled. I resigned myself to re-entering the job market. At the same time I was concerned about the quality of life, the lack of outdoor activities, the lousy weather, the political corruption of the Mafia in Youngstown, the lack of opportunity. There were a few places I wanted to live – Colorado, Seattle and the Central Coast of California were places I dreamed about. I researched companies that were located there and I picked up the phone.

★★★★★

Copeland Sports had a good reputation in the Sporting Goods as a premium merchant. I cold-called them to ask for a job, a long-shot but why not? I asked for their GMM and was transferred to her. I told her who I was, why I was calling and asked if “you can use someone like myself”. Long story short, several months later I negotiated a compensation package and began preparing for my family’s move. I was finally moving to California! We travelled across the country on Amtrak in a private sleeper cabin. It was a luxurious 3-day trip where the kids got to experience the size and beauty of our country. One time we were sitting in the viewing car with other passengers, gazing out at the Rocky Mountains, when Douglas suddenly pointed out the window and shouted “Cantaloupe! Cantaloupe!” There were no cantaloupes to be seen. He had spotted a herd of antelope. Everyone in the car laughed. Good times. The company had checked out well during my research. They had a great reputation within the vendor community. My vendors told me Copeland’s always paid on time. Their store concept looked good, putting seven distinct “stores” within one roof. My new office was in downtown San Luis Obispo, CA. The happiest place on earth, as Forbes Magazine would call it. After spending the first morning filling out routine paperwork, I sat down at my new desk and started to look into my areas. When I sat down with a pencil and paper and calculated the inventory turn, I came up with 2.18. I didn’t believe it. I ran it again on a cost basis. It was accurate. At the margins we were making, that turn meant the Company could not afford to replenish their inventory on a profitable basis. The run rate was unsustainable. When I got home that evening I remarked to my wife “I think I made a mistake”. That wasn’t the worst of it though. The Company was being run on an ancient Wang VX-1200 mainframe. It was stepping back in time twenty five years, to my Fortran days at YSU. They would generate reports and send the jobs to a spooler to be printed on 158-column green bar paper. The worst was seeing my colleagues spend hours a day transposing numbers from hard copies into Excel spreadsheets for analysis. No one there had thought of simply taking the txt files directly from the spooler, zapping the file with a text editor, and importing directly into a worksheet. Everyone’s mind exploded when I showed them that. The prior year the Company got an injection of $20 million from a VP firm based in New York City. With it they installed their guy at CEO, Joe Fernandez. He was a real piece. Expensed his manicures. Palatial office space with the buyers crammed into cubicles. An ego as large as Trump, a walking dictionary of corporate-speak. You know the type, but I’m digressing here. The company had spent all of the money the previous year buying inventory. The buyers went nuts, filling the stores up. None of it went into IT investment. Copeland’s had a great year selling the new receipts, posting impressive comp gains. When it came time to replenish, well, that’s where things got interesting. That buying binge masked a lot of terrible buying mistakes. Unsaleable inventory was accumulating in the stores. I had taken over a couple of divisions. The Golf business was a mix of 40,000+ SKUs. The Company’s policy was to print a full price ticket for each item, with an internally generated upc. It was retarded because the system had the capacity to map manufacturer UPCs into the register POS system, negating the need and expense of printing new stickers. But no one had implemented this. Less than 50 golf items had their manufacturer UPC scanned in! Bikes was worse. Goods would get rung out under the wrong code; i.e., I’d bring in an assortment of drivers across a size run per door. A customer would walk up to the cashier with a Calloway Big Bertha – medium flex, 9° loft, righthand. The cashier would manually enter it as a stiff, 10º righthand club because the Copeland’s sticker was mis-labeled, lost or un-readable. My Rebuyer would bring in more goods in accordance with the sell throughs. The store would end up with TWO stiff 10º righthand clubs and NO medium 9º righthand clubs. This nightmare played out like this with every item, every store, every department. The stores were what I called OB² – Over Bought and Out of Business. On my first trip to one of our Las Vegas stores I walked into an empty rack of BMX bikes. Zero on-hand, inventory showed 60+. Why didn’t anyone at the store call me? I pulled past audits but didn’t get anywhere – their last pre-fiscal inventory had the numbers showing, no one could tell me what happened to 60 bikes. The store and hardwoods manager maintained they never had those bikes. Yet no one bothered to pick up the phone and say “um, we have no BMX bikes here”. It just wasn’t part of their culture. No wonder the store wasn’t making plan. They didn’t have the right product allocated. The last straw for me was when I picked up the phone one day and Dennis, our VP of Store Operations, was on the other end going off on me. He was a real piece, the most sadistic manager I’ve ever run across in my career.It turned out that day the store he was in was out of business in swim goggles. The system showed hundreds in stock. He didn’t care, unleashing a profane tirade, saying it was my fault and how badly I failed him. Him. When your IT is so fucked up no, it’s not my problem. It’s Joe’s. We just completed reconciling a fiscal inventory. The overall shrink was a bit high at 4%. But the over/under was huge. I mean, just huge. My second Dream Job was falling apart. There was nothing I could do to help them anymore. I resigned a year into it to go work for VAS. Eighteen months after I left, Copeland’s declared Chapter 7.

★★★★★

VAS was a case study. It was the industry leader in action sports video. Staffed by some incredibly talented people, all with big hearts. We were carving out new territory and I was stoked to be a part of it. They had this interesting dynamic of operating underneath a VC investment group. The VCs were removed from the realities of our marketplace; e.g., wolves in a henhouse. Every few months the principal would randomly swoop in from his NYC home and completely disrupt our business strategy/platform. It was a Monday morning, November 5, 2007. Michael, the VC Managing Principal, had flown in from NYC the previous day. George, the President, called me into his office and fired me. George also fired the Creative Director and several other people. Then Michael fired George after he did Mike’s dirty work. None of us had no clue this was going to happen, no idea this was coming down. Not even George. Heck, we just closed October out, our first-ever million dollar month. We were doing great. I was told that there was a change in the business model and that I was no longer a part of that. Eighteen months after I was fired, VAS closed their doors.

★★★★★

I went home that day and told my wife the news. She went apeshit, taking the birdcage with my three finches in it and throwing it at me, in front of the kids. I walked out of the house, leaving the kids to gather up my three little finches. My Landlord lived only a few houses away so I went and told him the news and asked for an extension. He still expected the rent to be paid on time, as always. The next day I made another cold call, much like the one I made to Copeland’s in 2003. I called the owner of Cambria Bicycle Outfitter. CBO at one time was solid Top 5 in mail order. It had fallen on hard times. Marketing was non-existent, the stores were a mess, and the website was archaic. But there was still cachet to the brand. I sensed a turnaround opportunity. All it needed were some disciplines put into place. The owner liked my ideas and hired me. Two weeks later I started at CBO as their General Manager. When I started my tenure the company had just came of a $1.5 million decrease in sales the prior year. I turned it around and eked out a 10% sales increase the following year. Our monthly uniques increased by over 125%. We booked our first profit in three years. The IT infrastructure was a shambles. I migrated the internal network/ERP to a virtual space to improve performance and saved $1k a month. The owner wasn’t happy with this nor the pace of our turnaround. I pointed out that we missed sales due to out-of-stocks from our poor cash position. He didn’t want to invest any capital. He decided a merger with a San Diego-based competitor was the solution. I couldn’t see the value in the strategy but as a good soldier I had my orders and I complied. After six months and a significant outlay of our cash, we had nothing to show for our side; zip, nada, zilch. I told him that it wasn’t going to work. He didn’t want to hear it. We entered the winter of 2009/2010 in a precarious cash position. I had already cut payroll to the bone. We flipped into the new year and the owner let me go. It was January 15, 2010. I was now staring at unemployment, with a wife who just completed a cancer battle and three wonderful kids. The cancer fight wiped out all our savings. Things looked bleak that day. I went to the unemployment office and filed for employment for the very first time in my life. I had never been so humiliated and denigrated in my entire life. None of the staff appeared even remotely qualified for their jobs. They didn’t even care. And there I was, unemployed. I was in a daze, utterly and hopelessly disoriented. For the second time in my life I began a job search while unemployed. I had a nice, solid resume that showed constant forward progress in my career from buyer to merchandise director to general manager. But trust me, companies don’t hire people who happen to be unemployed. Little did I know what was in store for me six months later. That’s when I found my wife of 23 years dead in the shower.

★★★★★

What happens on a day like today, when it feels like you hit rock bottom? Well, you don’t bounce back up. You crawl back, fighting every step of the way. You take it one day at a time. Every day seems like there are setbacks. If there is one thing I learned from failure it’s this: You can waste your energy ruminating on things you can’t control. You can ruminate over what’s happening in the outside world. You can ruminate over what other people do, over what they think of you. You can ruminate over what happened in the past. But it will only lead to mental ruin. Human beings are unique creatures. Millions of years of evolution have blessed our minds with a special capacity, something no other animal has. Animals rely on instinct, not cognitive thinking, to survive. We alone can freely chose our what we do next, our actions. Only we can make things happen for ourselves. Only I can chose the lines I color in. That is the gift of Free Will. Choose wisely.

An Open Letter to Karen Velie

Courtesy of The Rock

Authored by Paul Embry

I ask you to remember the story of Solomon and the two women who claimed to be the mother of one baby. Solomon suggested that they cut the baby in half, so that the women could split the benefit the baby brought. Only one of the women was satisfied with this arrangement and she, of course, was plainly not the actual mother because she thought of her own well-being before that of the child.

You must look to the children here, and only to the children.

It is they who are being harmed by the separation from their family, whether the removal was justified or not. The usurpation of the situation for leverage in your County /CAPSLO mud-feud is just another slimy stone on the sickening road you and your enemies have built. You are all responsible for the condition of the children at the moment, and instead of thinking of them you and your selfish, self-absorbed group have elected to take your troubles to the streets. Those of us who are not committed to either side ache only for these kids. Those of us who are familiar with CWS are astounded with your hubris, and wonder why, when the CWS nosed into OUR lives – justly or otherwise – it wasn’t news. No amount of bully pulpit invective, whether published on a blog masquerading as a newspaper or broadcast countywide on the local Winchell’s AM Radio segment, is going to help the kids. Claims of conspiracy or collusion will keep your name on people’s lips even as depression and lactose ruin the kids. Smearing your enemies (without substantiation) amid this personal debacle serves only your historic agenda, and tells the world that you have priority issues while these three children go dirty and disheveled to school and reap derision and bullying from their classmates.

Bringing this mess before the general public creates sympathy for you and the kids, yes, but the least amount of forethought from the viewpoint of the children would’ve made you consider that you’ve just given motivation and ammunition to those schoolmates who are teasing and bullying them. Your self-serving nature has outed you and you should be ashamed.

For the sake of your grandchildren I will offer you some advice, but first I will tell you why I think I’m qualified to do so.

The existence of my daughter was announced to me by a CWS social worker, who also informed me that they had taken the child from her mother at birth. For the better part of a year I lived the action plans, classes, unwarranted drug testing, surprise inspections of my home, and all manner of inconvenience and indignity – all because I had committed, in the legalese of the machine, a “failure to protect” the child from the abuses of the mother. Never mind that Roe v. Wade says that what someone does with the baby inside them is nobody’s business; never mind that I had no documented drug or alcohol problem; never mind the lies lawyers and social workers told me. Never mind anything.

They had my child and they had all the power in the world.

I had no news outlet from which to raise the hue and cry; Dave Congalton did not postpone his gallstone surgery to lend me an hour and a half of his soapbox time. Additionally, I worked nights in a bar and lived in a rented room. My life was not adapted to the addition of a baby, and it was all common knowledge to the people at Social Services.

Eight months later, I was given a knowing nod from the judge who had just ordered my child into my custody and CWS out of my life. That nod said to me that she respected my handling of a terrible, terrible situation. I made sure that everyone in the courtroom heard me tell my one-year-old daughter that I don’t intend to buy her another “courtroom dress” until after she has passed the bar. I’m also certain that I’m a better father because of the things I learned complying with my action plan than I would’ve been without having done so.

I’m not saying this to aggrandize myself. I’m telling you why you should listen to me. Further, I have no love of CWS, CAPSLO, lawyers in general, or politicians in totality. If I have a bias in this whatsoever, it is the disdain I have for the blank spot where your blog’s ethics should be, and the fact that I think you must have been sick the day they taught journalism at journalism school.

To begin: I am personally acquainted with a grandmother who just last year was deemed unfit for placement on the grounds of a DUI conviction that had been adjudicated over a decade ago. So it is something that is done. It may or may not be a matter of policy, but it is certainly a matter which enjoys precedent, and thereby cannot be something “cooked-up” to be used solely against you. To claim otherwise is to convolute the process and harm the children.

You may truly believe that they are holding your job against you, but I suggest it is the way in which you do your job that rankles. Perhaps not the crusade itself, precisely, but possibly the fact that you’ve gone crazy, shining the light of the free press on all of the few detractors and left in darkness any who honestly praise and thank CAPSLO. It makes you look self-serving and – if not dishonest – ignorant of the tenets of your profession.

You may truly believe that the mention of the word “attorney” to your grandchild is the reason that your personal contact with them has been suspended, but I suggest it is the introduction of complex concepts and mature matters to young minds that are already distressed.

Confusion is not going to calm anyone, nor is confrontationalism. You should have been explaining to the kids that everything was going to be okay; that they should make the best of a bad situation in the knowledge that the situation won’t last forever. I’m betting that keeping your children up to speed on the hiring or firing of legal staff is not a policy invented just for you. Perhaps it promotes an adversarial feeling between the children and the temporary caregivers. Fool.

When you take to the airwaves and say “I just want to know how they can do this,” you’re not serving anyone’s needs. The switchboard will light up, and the craziness begins. Anyone at social services who might have been moved by sympathy for your kids will be too busy manning the siege engines to do anything else. A real reporter who had a similar question might check the Welfare and Institutions laws that regulate such bodies, as well as the civil, criminal and family codes which pertain to the removal of children and the processes thereafter. Such research, done in time, would’ve enabled your daughter to get her story before the judge in counterpoint to the claims against her; clued you all in to the subtleties of language used by social workers and lawyers and entitled you to any advantage such understanding may provide; removed the mystery surrounding the machinations and protocols of the CWS/Court experience; and provided insight into the rules and guidelines which apply to CWS caseworkers and foster-parents.

This way you could’ve fought wisely. Crowing willy-nilly about perfectly legal “injustices” you’ve suffered doesn’t help you reunite with the children; it merely illustrates that you neglected to fact check before speaking publicly.

You must realize that the Social Worker assigned to your case has great leeway in what she may permit or deny, and that it is his or her recommendations that carry the most weight with the judge. That is because the caseworker is employed to see beyond lie and performance in order to require (by way of the action plan) those things that are genuinely needed by the family – not only for reunification, but also for permanent resolution. It is their job to detect and ignore nonsense; they are the judge’s eyes and ears in your world. Everything they permit or deny must be justifiable and defensible, and if they have a reason to dislike you it’s because you gave them one.

Remember that this agency exists to deal primarily with the worst kind of people, people who will go to great lengths to conceal truths about themselves and their living situations. The caseworker who is not skeptical of everything is either new or not a very good one. If you’re going to allow your cronies to spill her name to the public and make all kinds of specious and scurrilous accusations against her, don’t be surprised when she tells the judge that you seem to be more willing to fight the process than to take the necessary steps for reunification. Don’t be surprised when the judge believes her, especially if she heard it with her own ears along with the rest of us.

You may also believe that your daughter failed her action plan because she couldn’t leave work for a doctor’s appointment, and that could indeed bear some part in it. It’s entirely more likely that some conversation surrounding the missed appointment reflected a continuing oppositional attitude toward the process. Nobody at CWS is going to tell the judge that the circumstances, which led the children into state custody, are changing (or are likely to change) when the principals are participating only grudgingly and seem still inclined to resistance.

These people have already determined that change is necessary in the home. The best thing you can do is maintain an earnest demeanor and ardently comply with their requirements. The caseworker is required to help in any number of ways once you turn the corner and embrace the reunification plan, but most people never figure that out. They, like you, would rather fight the system, inflate themselves, and leave the kids twisting in the wind.

Get a clue, lady, and help your daughter get her kids back. Foster care that is good is very good, and foster care that is bad is often incurable. I encourage you to forget all the craziness you’ve filled your life with and dedicate your time and intentions to your daughter and her re-unification plan. If you’ve a shred of humanity, you should already loathe yourself for the ways you’ve both marginalized and exacerbated the plight of your grandkids and hijacked sympathies intended for them to feed your own demons. Atone.

And the guy on the radio who offered the gift cards who you blew off? He was trying to eliminate any excuse a foster may have for forcing cow’s milk on the child. If the alternative to milk were free, what objection could be raised? He could drop those gift cards off at any social services office with the name of the child and a bit of written explanation and the issue of lactose intolerance would be solved. That this escaped you is representative of the situation as a whole.

Selfish, selfish woman.

Get off your high-horse and urge your daughter to comply. Gleefully. While she’s at it, she could try to get something out of the classes and counseling and therapy. It wouldn’t be such a crime to bring the kids back into a better home than the one they left, would it?

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, “Desiderata”

Positively 4th Street

positively-4th-street

My theme song of the day. Maybe the week. Oh heck, why not the whole month.

You gotta lot of nerve to say that you are my friend
When I was down, you just stood there grinning

You got a lotta nerve to say you gotta hurt to live
You just want to be on the side that’s winning

You say I let you down, you know it’s not like that
If you’re so hurt why then don’t you show it?

You say you lost your faith but that’s not where it’s at
You had no faith to lose and you know it

I know the reason that you talk behind my back
I used to be among the crowd you’re in with

Do you take me for such a fool to think I’d make contact
With the one who tries to hide what he don’t know to begin with?

You see me on the street, you always act surprised
You say, How are you? Good luck, but you don’t mean it

When you know as well as me you’d rather see me paralyzed
Why don’t you just come out once and scream it?

No, I do not feel that good when I see the heartbreaks you embrace
If I was a master thief perhaps I’d rob them

And now I know you’re dissatisfied with your position and your place
Don’t you understand, it’s not my problem

I wish that for just one time you could stand inside my shoes
And just for that one moment, I could be you

Yes, I wish that for just one time, you could stand inside my shoes
You know what a drag it is to see you

Bob Dylan

That felt good. I think I’ll stop here. Peace and Love.

(Unforgiven Pt. 2)

unforgiven-pt-2

Three years ago I discovered my wife, the mother of my three wonderful children, dead in the shower. The whole thing was a mess. Somehow I made peace with the death of my ill wife. Friends and family tell me I handled it with grace. My children have exceeded my expectations and are thriving. Alexandra is a wonderful soulmate. I am in a good place.

There are a handful of people who did all things possible to make her death difficult for any decent human being to handle with decency and dignity. They went above and beyond their way to write comments that were so vile, so untrue and shockingly disgusting. Their comments were posted anonymously. That made it twice as painful for me. Who were these people. Did I know any of them? Why didn’t they talk to me instead of stabbing me in the back. What did I do to deserve their hate? What if these anonymous cowards had regular contact with my children. What if it was someone that I considered a friend? Could I could trust anyone? After reading this?:

ANONYMOUS COMMENTS FROM SLOTRIBUNE.COM

Posted by stoptheinsanity

Feb 24, 2012 – 1:36 PM

A word of caution, SLO Kenny. Anyone caught up in the circumstances that you experienced, needs to practice anger management or you’re going to find Child Protective Services on your doorstep.

Feb 24, 2012 – 2:06 PM

A word to the wise, SLO Kenny.  For someone caught up in your circumstances, you need to practice anger management. You are not a victim of CCN. No one will ever consider you a victim. Get over it and provide a nice life for your kids.

Posted by fedup

Feb 24, 2012 – 8:50 AM

Crawl back under your rock in Santa Margarita, Ken. You don’t already have enough enemies after what happened almost 2 years ago?

ANONYMOUS COMMENTS FROM CALCOASNEWS.COM

Posted by Chris Volbrecht aka as sportmom

June 19, 2010 – 4:17 PM

No disrespect Easymoney because I do feel for this family, especially the children.

However you are painting a slanted picture here- the investigation is still ongoing, while the coroner released the Body and has been flown back to Ohio for funeral services, this case is far from over and those kids are not safe if they return to the area with their father.

The coroner only released the body because he was done with his part and only a few causes have been completely ruled out at this point. Toxicology is not complete nor are other tests. I do not want to believe he did it, but the thought is still in the back of my mind.

If you do know them like you say you do- then this is a known fact to you. Most of us while greiving(sic) over the loss of our dear friend, fear for those kids even if the father is found to have nothing to do with this.

His mental problems and verbal abuse alone have those children terrified of him.

My prayers go out to them, but we as Janet’s friends must step forward and do what we can to protect those children. Many of us have given statements to the police about what we have been told by Janet or have witnessed, so any of you out there that have knowledge about this- I urge your to report it to the lead investigator on this case. He already has many letters and statements so you will not be alone in your testimony nor will you have to fear that “he” will find out what you said and why.

Please do the right thing for these kids…please!

July 1, 2010 – 9:39 AM

Sorry you feel this way. Anyone who knows Janet will know these facts- this is not a secret or insider knowledge. I did not state here what any of us discussed with the police- not sure where you got that from?

I am merely making a plea for the childrens(sic) safety in this very sad and dangerous situation! The more of us who come forward – the better off the children will be- in this instance I don’t feel this is gossip for a blog- it is real and the children need to be protected from their father whether or not he did anything to Janet- if you knew what some of us know you would be reaching out in every way possible.

July 2, 2010 – 12:50 PM

I did step into help many times- I will protect the kids from Ken anyway I can- her letters and texts and emails are all turned into the detectives now. If you all were Janet’s friends you would know this and know that verbal abuse is just as bad- if not worse than physical abuse which I myself and many others witnessed on numerous occaisons(sic). I will stand by every word I have written here!

Even if Ken was not the cause of Janets(sic) death- the kids are in danger of returning to California with their father. Janet was running away for more than one reason. I adored her and her children and would never do anything to harm them- I suggest you all do the same and protect them.

July 30, 2010 – 1:40 PM

fattynskinny I am not sure where this information came from regarding the children only with their grandparents for a total of 3 hours since coming to Ohio? They have been with grandparents and other relatives most of the time they have spent there time in Ohio, and not with the father! I can assure you that what PaulJones states above is more accurate than what you have heard.

Posted by Karen Velie aka as pauljones

June 17, 2010 – 10:07 PM

I’ve got to wonder who or what easymoney is really trying to protect?

June 18, 2010 – 9:35 AM

I noticed that a concerned neighbor stopped by to let us know that you are down playing the facts and that you’re also playing the roll of a self appointed hallway monitor. This appears to be something that is a concern to some people who are neighbors. This situation sounds like something that frequently spilled out into the streets and wasn’t so private as you suggest.

July 23, 2010 – 3:40 PM

It’s my understanding that the McCarthy children are all currently physically safe in the arm’s of their loving grandparents in Ohio. All three children opted to continue with their original plans to travel to Ohio preceding the passing of their mother less to 2 hours prior to their scheduled departure. All 3 children had been in the home during the fight that had ensued at 4AM that morning between Kenny and Janet. It was nothing new for them. Actions speak louder than word’s. Those were the actions of the children while Kenny immediately “lawyered up”.

Just the fact folks………….

July 23, 2010 – 3:50 PM

and the toxicology testing portion, looking for the strange cause of death, continues……………

Posted by Cindy Sasur aka as cindy

June 14, 2010 – 12:37 AM

“Janet Lucille McCarthy had planned to take flight from a tumultuous marriage” This is a bit different than I read in the Tribune today. They mentioned that she had suffered from health issues but if they were talking about the fact that “McCarthy had recently won a battle against breast cancer,” I would hardly consider this a possibility as the cause of her sudden death.

“we cannot rule anything out at this point, in an abundance of caution, we have chosen to fully process the scene,” said San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Investigations Commander”

Well oh, gee, I should hope the Sheriffs Dept would fully process the scene! What the heck sort of statement is that?

The Sheriffs make the statement that ““There is some medical history with the decedent” but fails to mention a recent “tumultuous marriage” where she was on her way back to visit her parents with her children in tow, only to be found dead the morning of her departure.

June 15, 2010 – 11:58 AM

I posted the facts over at the Tribune letting people know that something here sounded very fishy. If some people didn’t like it, of well! I stand by my post and don’t believe I shouldn’t have alerted people.

June 15, 2010 – 12:00 PM

I find that doubtful. It’s a known fact that she was having troubles in her marriage and that she was on her way to Ohio with her children for a while. There is nothing here that wasn’t known to the neighbors, family and friends.

June 16, 2010 – 11:18 AM

I agree with you, the catalyst driving my post was/is the following:

“in an abundance of caution, we have chosen to fully process the scene,” said San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Investigations Commander”, I was incredulous upon seeing that statement and but for that statement would not have said anything here or over at the Tribune.

The facts behind this story carries some rather clear oddities. I, like others would prefer to wait and see what comes of an investigation particularly for the sake of the three children. I can not and will not make any apologies for having noted that this was a “high alert” case. Especially since I know someone who knew this family and I can tell you that there is far more than has been discussed or mentioned in these articles or posts.

June 16, 2010 – 3:37 PM

I suggest that go back and read my post again. This has nothing to do with what he said – she said. It’s obvious that this needed to be investigated, as well as, all deaths that occur under these circumstances. Sorry that you seem to have a problem with that. Maybe your grieving and aren’t thinking straight or can’t comprehend what you read, I don’t know but you sure seem hell bent on keeping it all hush, hush, rather than noting the nonchalant position that the Sheriff’ expressed.

Like I said, go back and read my post and by the way you “are hiding” when you post here unless your name is easymoney.

ANONYMOUS COMMENTS FROM SLOKENNY.COM

Posted by the Tomko Family aka as a_long_silent_witness

Sep 3, 2011 – 3:47 PM

How do you put this last bit of pain away? Reflect on the things you did and the things you didn’t do and then pray for forgiveness. If you happen to find someone else as wonderful as Janet to share your live with, history will repeat itself unless you learn from it.

★★★★★

Love and Hate are two sides of the same coin. Love can be intensely intoxicating, your thoughts become consumed with thoughts of that person(s). Hate behaves the same way. They are powerful emotions that if you chose to, can consume your thoughts and actions.

I cannot forgive those who have vilified me. That would take an act of love on my part. Anonymous cowards don’t deserve my love. They don’t deserve to share my thoughts of love that I have for everyone else.

Nor can allow myself to hate them for that would consume my thoughts and emotions just as love does. The way I look at it, I don’t have room in my mind for hate. I tell myself these people don’t deserve to be a part of my mind. They are not important to me.

We have only so much room in our mind for our emotions. I consciously choose to fill that space with love, with Savannah, Courtney, Douglas, Alexandra, my family and friends. This is how I am able to put this in the past.

Last year one of my fellow Tumblr bloggers gave me some advice. He wrote “Just don’t let negative people bring you down and I’m sure you and your kids will be just fine.”

Unforgiven

unforgiven

What is forgiveness? As a devout Roman Catholic in my formative years I was taught that forgiveness was necessary to heal when someone hurts you. The act of forgiveness was to lift the burden of resentment, anger and thoughts of revenge. The past couple of years have taught me otherwise.

June 13th, 2010. It was the day after my wife passed away. Karen Velie posted Questions Surround Santa Margarita Woman’s Death on her website. The article implied that I had something to do with my wife’s death.

The aftermath of the article was swift and painful. The story and some of the unmoderated comments posted contain false statements. These statements have caused great harm to my family and me. These statements were made without adequate consideration as to the truthfulness of the story/comments. It took a toll on me. I lost eighteen pounds that week.

I met with Karen Velie on March 11, 2011 at the Black Horse on Higuera. My purpose was multi-faceted: to have a retraction article published that clarified that there was no foul play in my wife’s death; to ascertain the identity of several of the slanderous posters in order to protect my children from those who had personal vendettas; to identify the positive supporters on the site so I could express my personal gratitude to those who stood up for my family, and to open back up the comments so that my supporters could defend me. (The comments were disabled soon after the coroner released the report absolving me of any foul play. What a coincidence!)

Karen was thirty minutes late for our meeting. I offered her a cup of coffee, she declined. I spent the next thirty minutes rebutting a litany of libelous, untrue accusations about me. It took my grief-wracked mind a while to realize Karen was there just to get an “incriminating” statement to run with on her site. What was weird was I was the one who initiated the meeting, only to see it descend into a fury of verbal abuse and accusations. I ended the meeting saying “we have nothing more to talk about”.

Several weeks ago Karen was arrested on a DUI charge. She ran a story on her site that cherry picked the facts and allegations on her arrest. She got called on it. First by The Rock a bastion of journalism. The City of San Luis Obispo chimed in with a Press Release rebutting Karen’s version of her arrest. The New Times published an article and a column taking down Karen Velie. I’m amused there are people who vehemently defend her in this affair. They are stupid.

That’s her mug shot above. She looks like a drunk. She doesn’t have a face for TV. She doesn’t have a pleasant voice for radio. Karen has no journalistic chops. She doesn’t make any attempt to get both sides of the story. Her entire basis for the hatchet job she did on my family was one sole disgruntled neighbor. She tried prying my friends for anything derogatory. My friends read her the riot act. She made zero attempt to get my side, violating the #1 rule of journalistic integrity. She bragged that she had “confidential sources” in the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s department regarding the investigation into my wife’s death, a flat-out lie.

She’s in love with her self-portrayed image as a “crusader for the truth”. She’s arrogant, envious, and exploitive. She sees herself as perfect and projects shame on others.

Forgiveness is not about releasing others. You need to separate raw emotions from feelings, if you don’t the emotions will consume you. Feelings are about one’s self. Realizing your feelings clarifies everything. My feelings are me.

My emotions about her are not ambivalent. She hurt my family. That I know, and that I leave behind. I learned my feelings are about how I see the world and others and myself. My feelings allow me to separate that offensive act from my emotions, to let go of the anger. My feelings protect my precious self. My feelings bring me life.

It all boils down to this: there is no penance Karen Velie can act upon to rectify the harm she has purposely inflicted onto my family. She is a vile piece of shit. And with that, I’ll leave it there. Peace.

Death of a Thousand Cuts

death-of-a-thousand-cuts

Six years ago my neighbor offered to sell me his Ducati for $1,300, a steal. I wanted it. I had the cash. Janet said no. I acquiesced.

Why did I cave in?

I don’t understand what attracted me to her.

I don’t understand what she saw in me.

I don’t understand why I married her.

I don’t understand why I stayed married to her.

I don’t understand why I didn’t do more to protect my children from that darkness.

I don’t understand why I gave up on my dreams.

The SeaBees

the-seabees

The SeaBees are a construction battalion, tasked to build bases, roads, airstrips and docks during wartime. SeaBees were often on the front lines, fighting and building. Sometimes the SeaBees went behind enemy lines, at great risk, to build stuff.

I remember Grandpa talking about the War. He saw a lot of action and he told me some stories that I’d rather not share. Shell Shock became Battle Fatigue and then PTSD. It’s a serious problem for our returning Vets. I think about the price our servicemen are paying in Afghanistan and Iraq. I think about the toll it takes on them and the families it impacted. I think about what if there wasn’t any war, how these families, mine included, would have been different. Then there is this.

It’s a photo of Grandpa Frank’s SeaBee Company on Guadalcanal. Grandpa is in the front row on the far right, next to the CO and 1st Officer. Of the 32 men pictured, only 5 of them made it out alive. Grandpa was one of the lucky ones, if you want to call it that. A bit of him died back there in the South Pacific.