Saturday, June 30, 2007

heightened sense of calling

Tonight I had an overwhelming sense of my agent calling. Like maybe the CEO had contacted me for the first time in months, if not years and said, "you're on the right track. Keep going and step it up a little".

We were at another Sanford BBQ party. In the summer months, these come about every other weekend. Tonight's occasion was that it was both Frieda and her daughter Jessie's birthday. Or it had been their birthdays recently. Or somebody's birthday.

There was a new friend of Frieda's present - Fran. I've never seen or met Fran before. But Frieda and Fran claim that they've known each other since 1991.

Fran looked about 75 years old. But she was probably 60 or less and had just lived a hard and fast life. All of Frieda's friends and family are like that.

I over heard Fran tell Agent Wife that she had a son and a daughter. And her daughter died at age 16. All she knows was that her daughter was anonymously dropped off at a local emergency room all doped up and brutally raped. And later, she died at the hospital. I assume that means she was murdered.

Fran was having a rough and emotional night. My young son and daughter were making her cry some. She knows she has a granddaughter somewhere she never met as she's lost all contact with her son. Fran was more than a little drunk and needed lots of attention. I think Agent Wife attended to her while I bathed and bedded our kids.

And somehow before all of this took place, I felt this extreme heightened sense of my calling. Like for the first time, I felt that maybe this agent schtick of mine isn't some bullshit facade that I made up for the internet. Or maybe there's more to my life than I feel on days I'm mowing grass and trimming trees.

So at that moment, I felt the urge to pray silently for the CEO's spirit to be around us all tonight.

I don't usually get super spiritual at our neighbor's BBQs...

Thursday, June 28, 2007

kiss the ass that feeds you, Part III

Why should a missionary have to manipulate people (ie: support letters, partner meetings, etc) as a means of the CEO providing?

I flinch every time I receive a newsletter of some sort. These newsletters are the epitome of our westernized faith culture: American product marketing meets reliance upon the CEO in some sort of bastardized way. Much like the churches in North America, each missionary newsletter tries to “wow” the reader into liking their product. A missionary’s mission must be hyped, pimped, and sold.

Also, NOT ALL, but many of these newsletters contain details and pictures of the missionaries “doing good things”. This seems to oppose Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:1-4. So much for announcing our good works before man.

If the CEO has called you to a task, he will provide. And he will assign you a situation that you have the ability to handle. Things may look a little messy and scary for a while, if not for the duration of your life. But it’s OK, so don’t panic. I know – easier said than done.

The CEO provides far better than any guilt-ridden humans with twisted arms. Uncle George may not be a model for everyone to follow, but I think he's worth a look.

This has been a difficult series to write. It has exposed my own heart in ways I didn’t realize needed exposing. And I’ve feared that I may be stepping on the hearts of my missionary friends. Hopefully, none of them take these reports as a finger-pointing at them as much as they’ve been a pointing at myself. But if these reports have made even one missionary stop and think about the CEO’s provision versus some sort of guilt-ing means, then maybe this series was not too big of a waste.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

adios, Lamont

Obi-Wan’s estranged son, Lamont, left the fair mother city today for California. He’s off to visit his sister and I assume he will never come back here.

Lamont has been in town since February. That’s about when his father was in the hospital getting his leg removed.

I have been friends with Obi-Wan since we moved to this undisclosed location we call home about four years ago. He was 86 then and still mowed his own yard, cooked and etc. Now he’s 90, wheelchair bound, and in need of assistance for everything.

Earlier this year Obi-Wan’s niece from Waco arranged for some home health care workers to care for him 24/7. At $6 and hour, 24 hours a day, all week, that came to over $1000 a week. He makes about $850 a month with social security, so this care arrangement was very short lived.

The niece convinced Obi-Wan’s son Lamont to come and care for him.

Lamont lived in Houston and had his own life. Not to mention, Obi-Wan and Lamont were never close. Obi-Wan never raised him in the first place and he still treats his son like dirt and refers to him as “that boy”, even though Lamont’s almost 60. But Lamont moved to the fair mother city anyway.

Lamont and I seemingly had a rough relationship at first. But somehow we got to know each other and I soon realized that he himself was in desperate need for “an ear to listen”.

Lamont’s life at Obi-Wan’s was hell: he couldn’t do anything right. Obi-Wan criticized his every move, even when that move was blatantly helping his father. Lamont was trying is best to assist his dad and give him a decent quality of life in his own home, but Obi-Wan's stubbornness fought him, insulted him, and belittled Lamont every step of the way.

This has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever been involved in. Obi-Wan is my friend and that will never change. But I’m watching him make foolish and harsh decisions based on ill family relations, emotions and independence. Agent Wife and I have been caught in the cross fire of Obi-Wan and Lamont more than once. And he (like anybody) doesn't want our unsolicited advice.

So, Lamont is gone. And honestly, I can’t blame him as a person can only take so much abuse. I told Lamont that I’m convinced he did the right thing: he sacrificed all he had in Houston and came to care for his father. A father who hated him. And he gave it his best try.

Somehow, I’m convinced that this will not go unrewarded by the CEO. All the best to you, Lamont. We’ll miss you here in the neighborhood and I hope our paths cross again someday.

Friday, June 22, 2007

surf's up

Growing up in Houston, the beach was a 45-minute drive. And there were always some kids at my school who tried to convince everyone that they were surfers.

Take note: all Texas beaches suck. The waves are worse than pathetic. If a Texan ever tells you that they’re a surfer, they truly are a poser.

I wish I knew some real surfers. The super, hard-core kind. There seems like such intense dedication in surfers. It doesn’t matter what life activities they have planned for the day. If the surf’s up and the waves are excellent, they surf. Because those waves might be gone in the next ten minutes.

The kingdom of the CEO is like being a surfer. If you set agendas, fine. But be flexible enough to bend or abandon them.

Because some door that the CEO opens might be shut ten minutes later.

(Thanks to the organic guy for reminding me of this)

kiss the ass that feeds you, Part II

*Disclaimer - The following report is kept as it was written a week ago or so, thus reflecting how I feel about missionaries and their support networks at that time. I am currently in the process of rethinking some things based on conversations I've had with my friend Miller both on this blog and face to face. It is good to know that there are supporters that have no expectation from the missionary and give freely. However, I'm still convinced there is always some degree of ass-kissing in order to receive money, even if it's a very small scale dog-n-pony show.

Agent B

(a work in progress)


In “mission work”, the ultimate “boss” is (or should be) the CEO of the universe.

However, most missionaries that fall under #1 & 2 (listed in the previous post) have human bosses. These bosses eventually call the shots. If you don’t believe me, try being a Baptist missionary that wants to have an occasional beer. Or a church of christ (coc) missionary in Africa whose congregation decides to worship with drums. Your support will be gone faster than Oprah on a baked ham.

For several years I have been highly critical of missionaries who fall under options #1 or 2, primarily due to their desire for financial security as opposed to what the CEO might have for them. Thus, they must dance to the tune or follow the whims of their employer/supporters rather than the calling of the CEO. It’s an issue of security vs. faith.

I felt justified in this judging these missionaries because I have myself been a missionary under all three options and felt like I had earned the right to criticize what would appear to be “lack of faith” and good ole ass-kissing.

Ass-kissing, as in, gotta please “the boss”. “These people pay me. I’ve got to do what they want.” Makes sense. In any employment situation, who would honestly pay you money to do whatever the hell YOU wanted?

Somehow, I think Acts 5:29 can be inserted into this conversation without too much of a stretch: “we must obey god rather than men”. These “men” could possibly be a missionaries supporters, or maybe a church.

My human fallacy was to judge others for not doing “mission work” the way I do. And that, I confess, is wrong of me. If the CEO can speak through Balaam’s ass (or an ass like me), then why couldn’t he use a fear-ridden missionary who is trying to pay his or her bills.

So, this is not to be a statement that missionaries raising support are not of the CEO or etc.

But, seriously: if the CEO of the universe has called you to be a missionary, would he not provide? Would he not put you in a situation that you could handle? Why bother dancing to the whims of humans who support you today, and tomorrow could flip you off?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

pruning boy #008: Ensign Ricky

Several years ago, some buddies of mine use to refer to themselves as “Ensign Ricky” whenever they felt unnoticeable or unwanted. This was meant to be a humorous, self-degrading term based on the Star Trek writing practice of needing a disposable character to kill off. “Ensign Ricky” would die within like ten seconds after being introduced.

I think I could call myself an Ensign Ricky at my job with Son & Dad Tree Service, Inc. I mean, my official title is “worker”. And although to my face, my boss calls me by name, to anyone else he refers to me as “worker”, even if I’m standing right in front of him. It’s funny, humbling, and probably necessary. Even in the boss’ cell phone I’m listed alphabetically under “W”.

Believe me, I’m not upset about this. Throughout the history of this company, all workers are just “workers”. My boss likes to tell heroic tree tales of yesteryear. “Back in ’98, Dad and I...and the worker...were pulling down a tree...”

It’s probably good that the ever-revolving role of “worker” is always some nameless person.

Some of my favorite prophets, Sly and the Family Stone, use to sing “Everybody is a Star”. Sly always has great wisdom.

“I love you for who you are. Not the one you feel you need to be”

I have no desire to be a lead role in Dad & Son Tree Service, Inc. And although my boss loves me, I take the title as “worker” to mean someone who won’t be around forever. That makes me happy. Especially when the doldrums of tree service life hits and I’m wondering if I’m still a secret agent and if the CEO exists anymore.

Monday, June 18, 2007

kiss the ass that feeds you, Part I

Few people would call me a missionary. And that’s fine because I would probably never call myself one. At least, not in public. But, mentally I consider myself one. It’s a paradox, I know.

In this part one of this three part series, I hope to explore what it means to be a missionary AND to fund the financial realities of that particular mission work including the personal needs of those doing the mission work (ie: food, shelter, clothing, and hey..."those limos out back ain’t free"*).

There are three options:

1) Be employed - by some organization (like say...a church) to BE their missionary. Thus draw a paycheck of some sort from said organization. Doing the mission is exchanged for currency just like any other employment: the boss (organization) says to do X, Y, and Z (in that order) for $X amount per year. The required faith level on a scale of 1-10 (10 is highest): 1-3**.

2) “Raise support” - from various organizations and/or individuals. Thus operating exactly like #1, but with more headaches and much less financial stability. Support from any individual could end without warning. This mode seems more difficult, because instead of having just ONE “boss”, there are many “bosses”. However, these “bosses” did not establish the mission. They came in AFTER the mission was established. They found something they agreed with and chose to support it, as opposed to option #1 where a mission (job) is established and “we’ll hire you to do it”. Faith level: 4-6.

3) Support yourself - via any means necessary (employment PT or FT, investments, hustling for a buck, faith that the CEO will provide fresh manna, or all of the above). Of course, becoming employed in a job outside the original mission work always, there runs the risk of lacking time to DO the mission work, thus getting sidetracked. Experience in time juggling and prioritizing is necessary. Needed faith level:7-10+

And, of course, a mixture of all three options is a possibility. Like being part-time employed by a church and making up the rest of one’s income needs via support letters, outside work, or faith.

*Krusty the Clown from the Simpsons episode about the kid who fell in the well.

**This “faith level” thing is my personal opinion and best guess from having operated within all three options. No scientific data exists here. Also, This is not a “ranking” as to who is the better, more spiritual and faithful follower of the CEO. Just my random opinion and experience.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Tiger event of the century

This weekend The Tiger turned 18.

You would have thought he was the prince of Wales turning 21. It was a huge ass party that started Friday morning at 5:30a and is continuing as of this report.

Friday morning he borrowed a friend's big smoker trailer. Sometimes I wish I had welding experience. I'd go into business inventing new designs for maximum mobile cooking capacity.

The Tiger started smoking two briskets, some steaks and some chickens that morning. It just snow-balled from there. So basically, ever since Friday, I've been snacking on smoked meats. I had lunch over there yesterday and today.

Then tonight was the real fiesta. The car port was cleared out. The 3/4 sized garage-sale pool table was out in the driveway, getting rained on occasionally. My family was there. Obi-Wan's son Lamont was there. The former homeless 17-year old was there. All of the Sanford party friend regulars were there. And a huge group of The Tigers friends I've never seen were there.

The music was loud and mostly Spanish. I was surprised the cops didn't show up. But I guess all the close-by neighbors were there, so who would bother calling the law.

I found this old photo of The Tiger from 7 years ago at the old izzy group ministry days, back when he was a little fat punk.
BTW, that's my arm in the background, hugging his brother. We made a card with this photo on it saying something like "you've come a long way, baby".

We're nice folks like that.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

discipline of inconvenience

One of the many people I met on my Boston trip, Mother Beverly, spoke at The Gathering's Sunday meeting last week.

The message was on inconvenience, and it can be heard HERE.

This message is right-on. And thank god it's only 20 minutes I'm highly inconvenienced by wordy, verbose nonsense...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

dream report #005

Calling all (so called) dream interpreters. Help me out here, please.

I had another recurring nightmare last night. “Recurring” as in, I had it before on February 22nd of this year, as well as many other undocumented times. “Nightmare” as in, this dream involves me working at my first job out of college.

I was a Master Control operator at a local TV station. MC is in charge punching in various commercials and running programs, all by watching a digital clock and performing at the precise second. Basically, MC is in charge of what gets aired at the very moment you watch TV. Much like a radio DJ, but without being an “on-air” personality. It involved many levels of multi-tasking, long nurse-like shifts, being alone in a small dark and extremely cold room (all equipment had to be 68-72 degrees), very low pay, incompetent and bossy coworkers, and...watching 40+ hours of network programming a week.

It’s basically my personal description of hell. I did it for three years. It’s the last job on earth I’d ever want to do again. So anyway:

I was on the job for the first day pulling a 12 hour shift at a local TV station (not the same one I was employed at 10 years ago). Nobody trained me. I was left alone to work. I knew exactly what needed to be done, but I didn’t have a freaking clue on how to do it since it’s been 10 years, plus the technology has changed. Along the way I kept figuring out little bits of the job, all the while screwing up on the air programming...big time. Towards the end I was getting fairly good. But then I remembered that I was supposed to have been logging everything down on paper by hand. Whoops.

That’s it.

My guess is something to do with having a task, knowing what needs to be done, and not knowing how to do it.


Monday, June 11, 2007

bike pump

One of the many secrets of the agent craft is this: if you want your house to be popular with every kid in the neighborhood, get a bike pump.

Every kid has a bike. None of them have a pump.

Which is funny because we have no bikes, but we got a pump.

Yup, summer is in full swing. Kids out riding all day and ringing our door. Our place is the indy 500 pit stop.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

June issue: Next Wave

I was asked to contribute to the June issue of Next Wave: What I Learned From Being Kicked Out of Church.

Many thanks to the Portland Seminarian for including me: the guy who made C minuses in both high school and college English classes...

Friday, June 08, 2007

encourage is full of ups and downs. So it goes. My brief down cycle lasted a couple of days. I should be good to go for another month or so.

That was supposed to be funny.

It’s all too easy to be self-centered and naval gaze during moments like that, wondering what the hell I’m doing in life as I’m in my mid thirties and I’m not doing what I had hoped to do in life.

It’s even easier to forget how just a month ago I was enjoying myself for 5 days in the Boston area on a dream come true travel event. Opportunities like that don’t come often for undercover workers. My, how I soon forget.

But many thanks to those who offer me words of truth during dark times. Truth lights up every room.


In 1985 I was a high school freshman playing French horn in the school marching band. If you know anything about the French horn, it’s an odd shaped brass instrument. The bell (where the sound comes from) is out to the side almost pointing down to the ground as opposed to straight out in front like a trumpet or trombone.

My marching band gave all the horn players these bastardized versions of French horns to use on the field. It was like a French horn in a trumpet’s body. It had a large horn-like bell that pointed frontward and had trumpet valves. It was also crafted into a smaller tubing length thus making it a different key and thus, the fingerings were different from what jr. high band taught me. It was a terrible instrument.

I was an awkward 14 year-old freshman learning a whole new instrument while trying to move on a football field.

And oh yeah...upper classmen were always yelling at me as it was their job to let freshmen know they suck. Nothing like a little pressure from all angles.

That same year, I was in a beginner level art class. I took a history class over the summer so that I could take Art I, the prerequisite for Photo II – IV. My goal was to get on the fast track into photography, which I did. I regret that I’ve had little opportunity to mess with photography since high school graduation.

In Art I, I sat at a table with a senior named Dickie Hammontree. Dickie, #23, was the star running back on the football team. Later that season, he helped bring the school all the way to the state semi-finals where we lost to Odessa-Permian (of “Friday Night Lights” fame) at Texas Stadium where the Dallas Cowboys play. December 1985...look it up.

Dickie was a very charismatic kind of guy. He was a fun-loving black guy with an all-teeth smile and something funny to say at every moment. He had kind of a Cuba Gooding, Jr type personality.

For some odd reason, Dickie took a real liking to me. We’re talking me here: the tall, awkward, white, skinny, 120 lbs. (I’ve never weighed much more than that), with a bad hair cut that was a compromise between my desire to look like Van Halen and my mom’s desire for me to look like Mr. Rogers. I think the kids these days call that hairstyle a “mullet”. Back then it was just called “long in the back”. Hell, I’d still wear a mullet if I could find a damn barber in the fair mother city to give me one. My Hair Cut Lady refuses. Maybe it’s for my own good.

Anyway, Dickie always offered to defend me if anyone ever gave me problems. At first, I thought he offered this because of some stoner guy in our class that was picking on me once. And I think Dickie was looking for any reason to kick this guy’s ass. But over time, Dickie’s friendship to me and his big brother-type of loyalty turned out to be legit. And I never knew why he liked me.

So one Friday night both Dickie and I were in our respective roles representing our school: Dickie in his #23 jersey out on the field and me, in my sergent pepper outfit carrying the French horn from hell getting ready to take the field with the band.

I was a high school dork. The upper classmen in my horn section went out of their way to remind me of that every minute.

And there we were on the sidelines. And #23, Dickie Hammontree, who just scored some touchdowns and other amazing plays, walks right by me and somehow recognized me under my Funky Winkerbean hat.

And in front of everybody, football players, brow-beating band upperclassmen and all, Dickie yells, “Hey! There’s AGENT B...the super-star French horn player!”. And he slaps me a high five.

No one in the world saw that coming. Certainly not me.

Encouragement is always sweet.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

pruning boy #007: heart exposure

On the job recently, I ran into the most unlikely person. Perhaps all of life’s encounters are predestined or part of some great big “plan”. I don’t know. But this one was very weird for me, and thus the last person on earth I’d expect to see while pruning trees in the fair mother city.

The tree business I work for was out checking on a couple of tree trimming jobs for a local church. This church owns several houses across town and uses them to house missionaries on furlough.

It turned out that the jobs were way too big for us to do as we lacked specialized equipment and man-power. But anyway, in one of these house’s was Mandy Key.

Mandy and her husband Jack go way WAY back with Agent Wife and I at the very start of our missionary/secret agent journey via the izzy group eight years ago. We studied through Ruby Payne’s “Framework For Understanding Poverty” together with The Bossman and his wife and another family.

The Keys ended up going one route in their missionary lives and we went another: the exact opposite of each other.

I was shocked to see her since last I had heard they were on the other side of the world in some kind of over seas mission role. She says they’ve been here for several months and were flying back next week. I had hoped we could all get together for dinner or something and thus, handed her a card with my phone number. She in turn grabbed a bunch of newsletters, photo CD, and what I’d consider missionary sales packet info and handed it to me.

I don’t know what to make of anything anymore.

I mean...I’ve long been critical of missionaries who live like this. I am a huge proponent against: 1) having a home/support church that you have to kiss ass to just to do your work and financially survive. 2) newsletters, with fun little write-ups and cute pictures of yourself doing “good works” (which is the antithesis of Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:1-4) and 3) being the home-town missionary heroes out on “the field”.

But really, who the hell am I to criticize anyone’s method of sharing the gospel?

Heart exposed. Today has been a lousy day. Encouragement needed please.

I don’t know anything anymore. Things seem to be going well for the Keys. And they deserve that because they had a desert experience of their own for years. I wish them the best. Forgive my cynicism and misunderstandings, CEO.

I guess I should continue ahead, wearing my uniform hat and shirt made out of some material that feels almost like burlap, and prune trees.

Yet I know I am supposed to be doing this. I had a dream on February 26 that Mr. Mackey (neighbor across the street who is a carpenter) was building some doors on my house for me “to go through”.

Two hours later that morning Mr. Mackey was standing on my porch ringing my doorbell with his friend The Son (my current boss). He wanted to introduce us since The Son was looking for help with his tree business.

Weird coincidence maybe. But the CEO has often communicated to me through dreams over the years. Or so indicates my dream journal I’ve kept since 1992. I don’t ever change the course of my life based on a dream. But this tree gig just sort of came up and I needed it.

CEO – I’d love a new direction or a new door to enter through. Or maybe a new dream.

Monday, June 04, 2007

don't blow your cover (gasket)

Or, "The Exposing of My Flesh Through The Poverty Culture, Chapter 89"

Somehow or another, the whole undercover role with the poverty culture has been easy for me. Maybe even a joke.

And it is a joke, really. It's not as if we're starving with some bushman village in West Africa or living with violence in the Watts district of LA. It's the fair mother city (Abilene, Texas). Poor people are pretty nice and easy going. And relatively safe.

I like to think I have long abandoned all aspects of my suburban upbringing. All but one.

I still like mowing the lawn. It was always assumed while growing up that people who didn't mow their lawns were lazy and/or trashy. Whatever...but I like a manicured yard anyway.

The first couple of years here in this undisclosed neighborhood we call home, keeping my yard neat was not a problem. We acquired a 17 year old Honda mower (el primo, but old) and I bought some $69 weed eater (minor get what you pay for).

Two years ago the mower went out. I had it repaired but the repairman said that it wouldn't be worth repairing again, if possible. Then it went out again last summer. So, I've been borrowing various neighbor's mowers ever since.

My weed eater quit that same year. When the repairman saw it, he laughed and said it would be cheaper for me to buy a new one just like it than to pay his hourly rate. But The Tiger later fixed it using some parts he found in his yard. He's fixed it several times. Now it's beyond The Tiger's repair. And nobody in the neighborhood has one to borrow. They don't trim or edge their yard anyway.

Yeah, I know. In this emergent, neo-monastic, purpose-driven, "community" bullshit society everybody's promoting lately, borrowing stuff is suppose to be cool. You know, less consumerism and less ownership, more "community" and all that.

The truth is, borrowing stuff sucks. Especially lawn mowers.

The Sanford's and us have long had a sharing relationship. We go into each other's backyard and get what we need when we need it. We still give a courteous "ask" even though one tells the other not to ask and just go get it.

The Sanford's always have mowers. Usually they're $5 specials from garage sales. This year they actually had the nicest mower they ever owned...until the handle went all wobbly because a bolt fell loose and was lost. I've rigged it with the best I could find, but the handle still sucks. Now, it's so bad it's impossible to use

Then they got another mower: an old rear bagger model that worked great. While I was using it for the first time, I thanked the CEO under my breath for letting me use a mower that was halfway decent. And before I finished that half-assed prayer, the back wheel broke in half and fell off.


Obi-Wan has two mowers. Both are real old and crappy, but work somehow. I used them to maintain his yard until his son Lamont took over that chore. The last time I used his mowers, one of them just quit and wouldn't work anymore.

With both of my tillers out, my mower, weed eater, and now Obi-Wan's mower, he thinks I'm too rough on power equipment. the time I get hold of most lawn equipment it's like...20 freaking years old and shitty. I work with power equipment for a living. I blow dry air filters by hand every day...

All this to say...I'm learning to live with a yard that's not always primo or immaculate. I know, I know. It's not the end of the freaking world. 2000 people starve to death daily. North Korea kills their citizens for not worshiping a photo of their leader. Who the hell cares if my lawn gets long and crappy? It'll blend in with everyone else's on my street anyway.

Lawn mowing is a stupid topic, but it's the last suburban quality in me. It's hard to let go...

Saturday, June 02, 2007


For the four years that I've lived next door to the Sanfords, I've known of Rodrick. He is the grandson of Frieda's sickly cousin Laverne.

Occasionally, Rodrick appears at various Sanford family events. He's more or less a young cousin to Frieda's children Jessie, The Bulldog, and The Tiger.

Frieda has taken in Rodrick while Laverne was in the hospital for the last several months. Laverne is back home now, but Frieda is allowing her cousin to rest by keeping Rodrick throughout the summer.

Rodrick tags along Frieda and family to all of their daily activities: garage sales, family parties, etc

In our hyper-sensitive, over-emphasized racial culture of the southern US, Rodrick doesn't visually fit in any of these surroundings. He's black. His wheelchair-bound, oxygen-masked sickly grandmother is white. And Frieda's family is mostly hispanic and Spanish-speaking.

I don't know the story of Rodrick's parents. I think his real dad is the boyfriend of Laverne's daughter. And for some reason they can't or won't raise him. So Laverne has legal custody. And now Laverne's health is failing fast so the Sanford's are his surogate family.

I've only been able to talk to Rodrick a few times. He's very withdrawn and spends a lot of time alone. Painfully shy, he's one of the most brilliant sounding kids ever.

Last night I was watering some flower beds in the front yard while the Sanford's were hosting a small, bud-light gathering out front. He came over to show me some new thumb-sized toy handcuffs that accompany his wrist-sized ones I inquired about a few nights ago.

I was trying to explain to him some of my plants by using dumbed-down language. Rodrick responded by using large words like "photosynthesis" and such.

So, he's obviously smarter than me.

Rodrick's going into the sixth grade this fall. He hopes to either join band and play trombone (because you can make it sound like a race car) or join orchestra since he really doesn't want to play a wind instrument.

I really feel for Rodrick.

Here's a crazy idea: If the CEO was to open the door for some sort of "big brother" type relationship with him, I may just go for it. I've always avoided those things as I never saw myself as a kid person (although, having my own kids have changed that). But Rodrick is about my pace and level of interaction. He's pretty subdued and quiet.

I can't imagine what it's like to be tossed off from a set of parents to a grandmother, then to a quasi-functional distant relative. He must feel real unwanted.

I'd hate to be unwanted.