When I was in labor with Lex, eighteen years ago, my brother Granger came to town. He picked up Mary and Jack from the elementary school and brought them to the hospital. But on the way, he stopped at a fairly shady hotel/motel. He ran into a room for just a few minutes, then got the kids some ice cream and came on up to the hospital. Yes, Granger had to take care of a little business, it was just a tiny drug deal, before coming up to the hospital. But that was Granger, brilliant, magical but undeterred by the constraints of society or the laws of the land. This picture is from that day, in the hospital.
I lost years, on and off, being mad or offended by Granger. He always said the wrong things, I thought. He told me to ask his ex-wife how to get rid of my crows feet, he showed up two hours late for Thanksgiving dinner, he showed up two days late for Christmas. He told me our family was “redneck white trash perfection”. And teased me for being uninformed because I didn’t listen to NPR. When I was ten he left me in his apartment with his dog and a loaded gun and told me not to answer the door. He fought with my mom (back then I didn’t know why, now I kinda get it).
I lost time with him because he made me mad because he didn’t act the way I thought he should. Instead he was Granger. I never doubted he loved me, but he hurt my feelings and made me furious.
Last night I was watching a twenty year old video of my daughter Mary, and his daughter Faith playing fooz-ball in our living room. They were probably eight. I heard Granger talking in the background. Just a couple of sentences but his voice was so deep and musical. He was talking about getting a tiger cub.
Hearing his voice broke my heart and made me so happy because I miss him desperately. Why didn’t I turn the camera on him for just a few seconds.
Children of mine, do not waste time, valuable and precious time being mad at each. Children of mine, don’t lose a day of love being offended by some off handed comment, oversight or ignorant stance. It’s not worth it. Just love and accept each other, as you are. Because you are all perfect in your weird, quirky, selfish, lovely way.
It’ll be a few years, I hope, before I get to see my brother, Granger, again, but I promise you, when I do see him I won’t waste a precious second of our time together.
PS If you know any publishers or literary agents…help me out. I need one. Thanks
Tags: Alexis Hampo, brothers and sisters, family, I Granger McDaniel, jack hampo, Mary Hampo, Sandor Hampo
Andy and my daughter, Mary, talk about “love languages” all the time. I don’t have a clue what that means. But I do know different people say, “I love you” in entirely different ways. Sometimes, it’s not what we want or need, but it’s what they have to give.
When Alex and I first started dating Jack and Mary were three and four. They adored him but he didn’t know how to act around kids. He’d never been near children and I suspect was never actually a child himself. I think he went from infant to surly 13 year old and skipped all the fun stuff in between.
Jack and Mary wanted to hold his hand when we walked. He was painfully awkard. They said,”I love you,” to him and he’d say something like,”yeah, goodnight,” and pat them on the back. At 32 the only contact Alex was comfortable with was letting them sit on his back while he did push-ups in front of me.
But there was something there; we all sensed it. He seemed lost, awkward and dark…but we knew there was something there.
Alex and I had been dating four or five months but we weren’t living together when our first August blurred into September. I was panicked because it was time for back to school shopping and I was so broke. I had a small magazine, “The Springs,” and was paying myself just enough to pay for rent and food. I took a second job working as a waitress at Rocky’s Corner, but it still wasn’t enough to pay for back to school supplies, tuition and clothes for the kids.
Then Alex did something unimaginable. He pawned his 9mm pistol for $105 dollars so I could take care of my children. He didn’t know how to hug them but he knew how to help. It was his love language.
A few weeks ago Mary called to brag on Andy. They’d gone to a party and stayed too late. When they got home Andy tucked Mary into bed and the next morning got up at two am to handle their paper route alone. Then, despite being sleepless and I suspect hungover, they came to visit and Andy played in the creek with 12 year old Sandor. That’s an entire love language conversation.
And in return Mary does the most remarkable things for Andy. She spends weeks shopping for his birthday and finds gifts so remarkable thoughtful and perfect…so Andy will be happy.
When it comes to being a boyfriend my oldest son, Jack, is a rock star. Every Christmas and birthday he’s blows it out of the water. It’s hard to compete. But his girlfriend Kristin recently out did him. He returned from a two month trip to France and Morocco and found Kristen had not only taken his old truck to be serviced. She had the blown out air bags and seat belts replaced. Now that’s a love language.
So, when we are wondering if he’s a good boyfriend, when we’re asking ourselves “does she really care”. Make sure you translate their love language. Maybe it’s not the same as yours but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful or heartfelt.
PS Here’s a random idea. Somebody find me a publisher or agent. Thanks.
Tags: boy friend, girlfriend, love language
I first listened to John Prine almost forty years ago. I was riding in a beat up pick up truck with my brother Jack. I was in 9th grade and he was in college. He was a big grubby forest guy and I thought he was the coolest dude on the planet. So I listened to John Prine, his first album. I memorized every word to every song. I thought if I liked it Jack would like me more.
Two years later Jack and my dad were dead. They died within two weeks of each other. John Prine became the soundtrack for my life. Songs like “That’s The Way the World Goes Round” and” Where Oh Where Is My Sleepy Eyed Boy” kept me alive.
My highschool friends, who were all listening to Bob Seger and The Police, didn’t share or understand or appreciate my love affair with John Prine so I listened alone. I can still hear and see my best friend Pam Block’s sighs and eye rolls. There was something wrong with me.
When I got to college, in upstate New York, I took a journalism class. We were supposed to interview someone. John Prine was playing in Ottowa Canada, one hundred miles from my college. I was going to interview my idol and the man I considered one of my best friends.
I made all the arrangements. The press was allowed to visit with him before the concert. I had my pass. We all convened in the locker room of a hockey rink/concert venue. There were probably fifteen reporters there and John Prine stood in front of us, joking and laughing. Every body started asking questions. I had a list but was absolutely unable to speak. My mouth would not form words. I had a list but I couldn’t read it. I was rendered mute by his presence. I was the only one who didn’t ask a question and he finally looked at me. “You got any questions?” All I could do was shake my head.
Finally, I was able to stand and stumble out of the locker room as they all shook hands. The tears didn’t’ start until I was alone. I sat down in the front row of the concert venue and wondered what the hell just happened. I was miserable and devastated. Then a young woman sat down next to me. She was whisper thin blonde. She was either a back up singer or his girlfriend. I can’t remember now. But they were friends and I ended up talking to her for almost an hour. After the concert I drove back to school listening to Bruised Orange.
I wrote my paper about my conversation with her and the things she told me about John Prine. I got an A on the paper and everybody thought the story was hilarious, but they didn’t know the back story and how heart broken I was.
I continued to buy John Prine albums and sing his songs for the next twenty years. I raised my kids on his music.
When Jack was in college he and his best friend Eddie, treated me to a John Prine concert in beautiful Robinson Auditorium in Little Rock. After the show we waited at the stage door. I really thought he would magically be drawn to us. But nothing ever happened. Still it was a magical night.
And then it happened. A few years ago John Prine was scheduled to appear at a songwriters festival, organized by Keith Sykes, right here in my home town of Hot Springs, Arkansas, in the majestic Arlington Resort, a hotel I’d grown up in. He was gonna be on my turf. It was going to happen. Once again Eddie and Jack got my tickets. They were excited for me too. As we waited for him to appear on stage, drunk Eddie actually bought him a drink down in the bar!
He’s an old man now. When we first met, forty years ago in my brother’s pick-up, he was a young man. I cried when I saw him.
During intermission we all mingled and then we him, just kind of standing around. My daughter Lexie and I approached, actually she cut in front of me. I felt like I was about to see a dear friend I hadn’t seen in years. I wanted to hug him and say,”There you are, I’ve been waiting for you.” Lex stuck her hand out, introduced herself and instead of shaking her hand they did a little dance and I got a picture. And then he looked at me and said, “Hey, do you know where the bathroom is. I’ve really gotta pee.” I pointed and he was gone.
I haven’t given up yet. Maybe we’ll meet some day and visit for a few minutes like old friends. And I’ll tell him it’s been great knowing him all these years.
“Well, It took me years to get those souvenirs and I don’t know how they slipped away from me.” John Prine
Tags: Arlington Resort, John Prine, Keith Sykes
When he emerged from the office he was sobbing and collapsed into his father’s hug.
Before I tell you what happend let me tell you a little about my son sandor. He’s an A B honor roll student, he’s in Beta Club and the Gifted and Talented program. He’s great trumpet player in the sixth grade band. At ome he plays the drums and guitar too. In six years he’s never been called into the principal’s office. I’m spoiled because I’ve become accustomed to teachers writing things like “Sandor is such a smart boy and a pleasure to have in class. He has great manners.” Sandor has been training in Taekwondo since he was three and is a legitimate second degree black belt. And he’s really really goofy and silly. You get the idea…he’s a really good kid.
Here’s what happened that day in school. A sixth grade girl who was a very good friend of his started bragging first thing that morning that she had some pot. She told Sandor she got it from a kid who had a reputation of being a troublemaker. Sandor did not tell anyone.
A few hours latter, during recess or on the way to PE, sandor and the girl were walking together. She said something like, “I really do have pot, look.” He stuck out his hand and she put a tiny pit of pot in his palm. He didn’t believe it was actually marijuana and threw it on the ground.
After that the girl did basically the same thing to two other boys with tiny amounts of her pot. They are both great kids.
The girl who was friends with our “pot girl” heard this entire story and told a teacher.
As a result Sandor, the two other boys, the pot girl and the bad kid who gave her the pot were called into the principals office. When questioned the boys confessed immediately, told the principals what they already knew and wrote statements confessing.
I learned latter all this was confirmedby the school’s video cameras.
Sandor and all the other kids were suspended tor two weeks. They would not be allowed to make up any of their missed school work.
That was bad, really bad. Then, two days latter we received a letter from the school. Sandor had been recommended for expulsion for “drug possession.”
I pulled out our student hand book, something I signed without even reading a single page at the beginning of the year. It was all murky and convoluted but the school had the right to expel my son for what they deemed as ‘drug possession.”
Two weeks later after countless conversations with the administration, tears, anger, frustration, lawyers and letters I was able to negotiate a deal with the school principals that I felt was fair and the school could live with. And I got to make a little speech to the School Board where I basically said….”Is this the kid you really want to kick out? When I first heard she handed him pot and he threw it on the ground I was relieved and proud. If I had to pick three responses, throwing it on the ground would be in the top three. But you want to expel him.”
I’ll tell you what I told them that evening. Zero Tolerance for drugs on school campuses sounds great…. in theory and on paper. It’ll scare the kids, make them all realize the institution is serious. No drugs will be tolerated….ever.
All drugs, in any amount, any form, any circumstances are unacceptable and all students will be expelled. (This part is important.) And a student’s past performance, gpa, attitude do not matter. No matter how much good stuff you’ve done in six years, how many teachers and students you’ve tried to help, none of that matters….ever. Every single student will be recommended for expulsion. Including Sandor.
Thank God, thank you Lord, our judicial system doesn’t follow that thought process. Judges judge and measure each defendant seprately. Have they got a questionalbe past, are they repeat offenders, are they sorry, did they try to get away from the evil or did they encourage it? A judge weighs all these things then makes a decision. The world and hisor her decisions are not black and white, they are all different shades of gray.
Here’s what Sandor and I decided to learn from all this. Little mistakes can turn into monumental problems. Sandor’s mistake was sticking his hand out and letting the girl put the pot in his hand. That was a mistake. He should not have done that. And because he made a bad decision lots and lots of really bad thing happend. In the end, it’s his fault. He was tested and failed. Next time I think he’ll do better. That’s what we learned from this story.
What I actually learned is Zero Tolerance is a great “idea” but terribly flawed and an abysmal failure. thankfully American courts and judges don’t operate by the same standards. If they did a kid with a joint and a dude with a kilo of cocaine would get the same ten years. That kind of sounds like the ISIS style of justice. But most judges are wise and realize stealing an apple is not the same as robbing a bank. Our school administrators need to take a lesson from our court systems. They need to be wise and thoughtful.
A Zero Tolerance system is thoughtless and lazy, like spanking a child instead of thinking of a creative punishment that’s truly effective. All crimes and all kids are not the same. And that’s not how we should raise our children or what we should be teaching them. Period. The schools and decision makers thought they were doing a good thing but it’s bad and short sighted. Good behavious is not rewarded and bad behaviour is all the same.
By the way, after all was said and done, the pot was tested. It wasn’t actually pot. It was something like Bermuda grass. And all tthe kids, the ones who sold it, the ones who gave it to her friends and the ones who threw it on the ground are all back in school, having received the EXACT same punishment.
What do you think.
Tags: pot, school policy, zero tolerence
My friend LR told me more than once, “when you let folks “borrow” it’s best not to expect to get it back.” He always goes on to explain the same holds true for everything from money to lawnmowers. And when you do somebody a favor do it with an open heart, don’t ever expect them to pay you back. That way you’ll never loose a friend or get mad.
Generally I’m pretty good with this rule and it always works out for the best. But this morning, as I was driving to work in a fifteen year old pick up truck the Devil opened up the passenger door and climbed right into my head. He reminded me that a few months ago I gave my cousin a car, a crappy car, but a car none the less. I convinced my husband that it was better to give it away than sell it for eight hundred bucks cause we were really helping him.
After a couple of phone calls I never heard from my cousin again. It’s been six months and there’s only radio silence…. The Devil laughed when he reminded me of this.
Recently, a student I hadn’t seen in seven or eight years called me needing rent money so he and his wife and baby wouldn’t get evicted. I sent him a check and haven’t heard a word since. I didn’t even tell Alex cause I knew he’d be annoyed. The Devil shook his head when he reminded me of this incident and said, “Man, Hampo you are such a sucker. You’ll never see that cash again.”
Just a few months ago we decided to sell my daughters old SUV. It wasn’t pretty but it ran well. I convinced Alex we should sell it to a young friend who really needed transportation and let him just make little payments on it each week. For a month or so things were great then the SUV somehow ended up stuck in the mud down by a creek. They couldn’t get it out until a tow company hauled it away. Nobody told us this story for a couple of weeks and the impound fees were staggering, six or seven hundred dollars. So the SUV was lost. And we haven’t heard from our young friend since.
None of these situations bothered me in the least, I actually hadn’t even thought about them all together, until the Devil rode to work with me this morning and stole my joy. Please, If you’re reading this, don’t tell me to pray about everything and find peace. I’m already giving myself the same lecture. I just hate that the Devil could turn my brain around in just four miles. Before this morning I literally found joy because I thought I helped them a little. Now I’m annoyed and feel used. Why the Hell didn’t I lock the passenger door and just keep on driving.
But I know what I need to do. I have to start all over, remember LR’s advice, pray and hope Alex doesn’t actually read this blog.
Tags: devil, giving, joy
My father, I. Granger McDaniel was a true hero and legend in WWII. I planned on writing about a letter he wrote to his mom, after being shot down over the North Sea.
But there’s another story I heard over and over again, and even as a little girl, I thought it was really funny.
Dad left high school and ran off, from Hot Springs, Arkansas, to join the war effort when he was just 17, before the United States was in the fight. Because he had some flying experience ended up in England as a piolit for the RAF (Royal Air Forcer) at the ridicuolsy young age of 17. Dad was captain of a Short Sterling, a massive bomber with a seven or eight man crew.
When Dad wasn’t flying, he was in London, and spent a great deal of time in the RAF Officers Club. Every night, when the bar closed all the officers would stand as the band played God Save the King.
One night, after hours of drinking, Dad stood up to address the gentlemen in the club. Imagine a brash teen aged pilot, surrounded by older British officers, drunk but determined and sincere. He told the band director they should play his national anthem as well as God Save The King. He was fighting for their country, America should be recognized. The band leader acquiesced and agreed to play the United State’s national anthem before God Save the King.
Then has asked Dad to sing the song, to refresh his memory. Dad was young and drunk, he thought for a moment then started humming Dixie. “I wish I were in Dixie, away away.”
Aaahhhh yes, the band leader recognized the tune.
The next night all the RAF officers stood in reverence as the band played Dixie, then God Save th King.
The following morning Dad walked out of his room and was immediately arrested. The charge was Treason against the King. Dad’s superiors thought he was mocking the British Monarchy when he asked the band to play Dixie and claimed it was the USA’s national anthem.
A barrister was assigned to represent Daddy in court. He was a smart, fat, sweaty man. And when he heard the details of the situation he came up with an idea for a defense almost immediately.
Just a few days latter they stood in front of a judge to plead Dad’s case. Remember, all of England was under attack as the Nazis stormed across Europe. The country was under siege and desperate. So the smart sweaty barrister explained, with elaborate detail, that Daddy’s family was not only from America, they were from”The South”. When the South tried to succeed from the Union, Dad’s family fought in the Civil War valiantly, with heart and soul. Cousins, brothers and fathers died in The War of The States. According to Dad, and the sweaty barrister, our family never surrendered to the North, never acknowledge the losse to the north and in Daddy’s heart, “The South” was still his nation, therefore Dixie was in fact, his national anthem.
Obviously my father, the arrogant and brilliant teen aged pilot was of more use the England bombing Nazis then he was behind bars. So the judge accepted his transparent explanation and he was cleared of treason charges.
Six months latter he was shot down over the North Sea and spent four years in POW camps. But that’s a story for another day. Have a wonderful Memorial Day and thank you to all our men and women in the armed forces.
Comments OffTags: Dixie, I Granger McDaniel, RAF, WWII
When I was sixteen years old my dad and my brother Jack, who was around 21, died within two weeks of each other in the month of May. I was shattered. In an effort to save me from absolute despair that summer my mom, Ann Stell, found a counselor/therapist for me here in Hot Springs. Martien Carroll.
I would sit in a bean bag chair in his office for hours and he would listen and try to save me.
I recently found a letter he wrote me in August of that year and I as moved by his wisdom and kindness. And the words he wrote to a broken sixteen year old girl are still just as true and powerful today, for all of us.
The letter reads,
Loneliness is both positive and negative. Thought is both positive and negative – your choice!
I also morn for the killing of the whales, oil spills, starvation ,injustices and know that on a large scale karma, life and rebirth are all the result and responsibility of ourselves. No matter how you work it out the final judge, jury and sentence comes from the self. Good returns Good – Evil returns Evil in gradations of 10- (Both experience and the master teachers say so)
Hey, you’re not the first person to recognize how you/they put up a front- I too-can-but choose not to do it with everyone- my closest friends-network of people supports…hear, respond, return. We are always alone (locked up with our own perceptions) This is true even surrounded by our closest friends.
Have joy that you can perceive the world, many can never see nor know why they must be reborn again.
Money is just a vehicle – a game- a device-a medium-a process of learning how to reach the top. Being able to establish the flow by giving it back to the life source is the real exchange.
Love yourself enough to be responsible for every act influencing yourself. Ann Stell must undergo her pain to move forward just as you undergo your pain to grow forward. However it us up to each individual to grow Positively or Negatively.
Write-Write-Write-Rewrite- your depth amazes me, yet how old are we really -chronologically-metaphysically?
Utilize your talents -Be the best wherever you are-whoever you are-whenever you are- whatever-however….The only thing you can lose is yourself. But Thank God you can play the game over and over, even when you lose. Unfortunately, you must play it till you win…till we all win…We (the Whole universe) are all related and joined by cohesion-magnetism-gravity-electricity-life force- I didn’t ask for it nor did you-It’s just a part of growing up, awareness, recognition, and love
Love, Peace, Freedom to Be,
P.S. You’re a teacher too – you know but don’t know that you know.
Some of Martien’s views might have changed but he is still a wonderful, brilliant and loving man. But I wanted to write his words down as a way of thanking him for loving me but pushing me at the same time. I also wanted to share these ideas with my own children because they are important and true.
Tags: letter, martien carroll
Today Sandor, who is suspended from school, and I went to Movie Magic, the video store here in Ft. Lake. That’s right Fountain Lake, a little rural redneck community out side Hot Springs, Arkansas still has a video store. The closest Red Box is eight miles away, infront of the Wal-Mart, so an actual video store is really useful. I think there’s only one other video store in the county of 100,000.
I love Movie Magic for a lot of reasons. Sure, we have Netflix and that strange Amazon Fire Stick thing, but Movie Magic has other attributes. First, Pat and Amy save me a ton of money. Yes Red Box is cheaper per night but I’m bad about returning videos. Really bad. When I walked in today Pat reminded me I had not returned “Get On Up” a movie about James Brown…..in three weeks!. He charged me less than ten dollars in late fees, cause he knows how the Hampos are. If I’d rented that movie from Red Box my late fees would be right around sixty five dollars. My debit card would have kept on getting dinged, no one would have called me and I’d be screwed.
Lot’s of times, when we go in the guys at Movie Magic make recommendations of movies they think I might like. They know I like weird stuff compared to other folks in Fountain Lake. Movie magic tries to help, Red box never does.
Movie Magic knows I’m pretty strict about the content I let my kids watch so they always give me the heads up if I’m renting something they suspect I won’t like. Red Box doesn’t care what I rent!
And finally Movie Magic has real people who know my name when I walk in! They take my checks, they ask me how the kids are and they buy stupid fundraiser stuff from us for band or basketball or quiz bowl. They have weird hours,close early and sometimes don’t have the movies we want but Movie Magic is is part of Fountain Lake, part of what makes us a little backwards, a little different and a little awesome.
So go on out and rent a movie tonight, just to support Movie Magic, because we want to keep them around. Oh wait, you can’t, it’s eight o’clock. Well tomorrow, go rent a move.
Tags: movie magic, video stores
He said, “Yes ma’am” and rolled away with the buggy full of food.
The lady behind us, in line said, “Good Lord how do you get your kid to act like that?”
She was serious. I actually get this question quite a bit. It’s not that I’m some magical mom, my kids are not saints. But I did do something with them starting about age three. A long time ago I implemented the “yes for a yes” program. At a very young age I explained to all of them that the more they say yes when asked to do things, the more I would say yes when they asked for something. As soon as they said “no” to me or whined about doing a chore… I stopped saying yes to fun stuff. And I kept on saying, “it’s a yes for a yes,” until they were brain washed.
Early examples: “Mom, can I have ice cream?” “Sure you can, if you make your bed.”
“Mom, can Sam come over?” “Sure, if you’ll rake the leaves for me. It’s a yes for a yes”
“Mom, can I have some gas money?” “Sure, if you’ll give me 45 minutes for a game of Apples to Apples with your little sister. It’s a yes for a yes”
The key is you never have to raise your voice or sound mean. it’s always friendly,even when they start testing the limits. “Mom, can we go pick up James to spend the night?” “Sure, if you rake the leaves for me.” “But I did that already this week.” “I know, but it’s Fall, there are new leaves. It’s your call. Yes for a yes.”
It takes a while but kids are smart and they are opportunists. They figure the system out pretty quickly.
By the time the kids are 8 or 9 they fully understand the system. Even their friends get it. So they say yes to me all the time, without thinking, and I’m generally the mom that takes them to the movies. Sandor is twelve now and “yes for a yes” is so ingrained in his brain he knows without being told that I said yes to Hot Pockets and ice cream so he says yes to dealing with the groceries.
The system works but I promise you, all kids, even the very best, make stupid decisions and screw. As I’m writing this, Sandor is home, raking leaves, instead of in school because he messed up and got suspended. Latter today he’s going to work at the Jackson House, a local homeless shelter and food pantry.
Be patient, consistent, smile at your kids a lot and have fun. It’ll work out.
The Yoda part of my brain realized something yesterday. We are what we are. But we are also who we choose to be.
It was raining this morning. Sandor got in the truck with his backpack and I said, “Hey, I want you to think about something. You can look at every member of our family and pick and choose the qualities you want to have. Your Dad has the most extraordinary work ethic, he works harder than any man I’ve ever known. That’s a good quality. But he smokes, you don’t need that. You understand what I’m saying?”
“So what are Mary’s best qualities you’d want to have?”
Sandor fiddled with the radio knobs then said, “She’s really fun and pushy so she gets things done and she still plays. I always want to play like that.” I knew exactly what he was talking about. At twenty six Mary is the person most likely to tackle you in the yard when you are watering the garden or lie down right on top of you while you’re trying to watch the news. She’s really fun and affectionate.
I continued with my high minded thoughts as I handed him a ten dollar bill for his field trip. “So you can always pick and choose the qualities you want to have. Don’t let anybody tell you that you’re born the way you are and that’s it. You are what you are….a little bit. But what’s even bigger is you are what you decide to make your self. You get to decide what kind of person you’re gonna be. And this goes on for the rest of your life. Even after your grown up you can still pick and choose qualities you admire and make them your own.”
I stopped in front of his school. The rain was coming down in sheets so Sandor pulled his hoodie over his head.
I looked him dead in the eye. “You have any questions?”
“Yeah, if it keeps raining today can I go over to James’ house and practice riding my dirt bike in the mud? It’s the perfect day.”
I nodded my head, “Sure you can.”