Thursday, February 07, 2013

Home and ten acres for sale (Hartsburg address)

For sale by owner: Ten heavily wooded acres, very secluded location, three miles from Ashland. Approximately 2000 sq. ft. Four bed, two bath, good heat & AC, large laundry room. Fireplace, three stall shop, three decks, great neighbors with fishing ponds, abundant wildlife, SoBoCo schools. Asking $219,000. You won't find a nicer four bedroom house on ten gorgeous acres in Southern Boone County for less! Will pay 3% buyer's agent commission. Sorry, no owner financing. (Not yet listed on MLS.) Call Travis @ 573-657-0061 for a viewing.
Front in winter

Front and party porch in summer

Back in winter

side and shop in winter
party porch

party porch decorated

front in summer

back in summer

eat-in kitchen, newer appliances

laminate floor in living room

fireplace in living room

master bed with attached bath

36'x24' shop/garage with electricity


limestone outcroppings

scenic hiking trails

glade trail used by deer and other wildlife

south side of house

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A letter to my fifteen year old self

Originally published: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 in the Boone County Journal
Dear Travis,

Happy 15th birthday, my young friend. So you’re in the ninth grade now, is that right? Of course you know that this will be your last year of junior high, but in many ways it will also be the last year of your childhood. You won’t believe the changes in store for you over the next few years. I’m going to give you some unsolicited advice right now, which I fully expect you to ignore even though you’re a great kid. As intelligent as you are, when it comes to heeding the words of wisdom from your elders, you’re an idiot.

First of all, you really need to lighten up on your dad’s girlfriend. It’s perfectly natural for a child of divorced parents to harbor a little resentment for a parent’s new love interest, but you have been acting like a real ass lately. Seriously, refusing to have a civil conversation or to make eye contact for well over a year with the woman your father loves? Who does that? What you need to realize is that despite your best efforts to sabotage their relationship, your dad and Susan will be getting married in a couple years. As a result of this lifetime commitment, you will have a new baby sister and brother, who in turn will grow up to become wonderful people who you will be proud to call your siblings.

Next year, after you begin high school, you will fall in love with a girl. You will lose your virginity to this girl. You will become 100% convinced that the two of you will be together for the rest of your lives. Then she will break your heart. You will live, although you’ll doubt it. Sure, you’ll harbor a lot of resentment and say things about her that you’ll later regret, but one day you’ll realize that that young lady taught you a great deal about love and relationships and you’ll be able to apply those lessons to future relationships. Years later, you’ll even come to call her your friend again.

During your junior year, you’ll give in to peer pressure and drown your heartbreak in alcohol. I know you don’t believe me now, but it’s true. This decision will alter your future in ways you cannot imagine. You will turn your back on many of your childhood friends who were smart enough to “just say no.” You will lie to your parents with alarming frequency. Your younger brother will eventually lose nearly all respect for you but will still try to help you by pointing out how you are wasting your potential. You will get drunk and verbally abuse him for saying so. It will take years for your family relationships to fully recover. Gradually your drinking habits will have a greater influence on you than your study habits and you will nearly flunk out of college. You will take awful risks while under the influence. You will drink and drive. You will use drugs. You will cheat death many, many times. You will become the virtual opposite of the innocent, positive person you are today. You will grow to despise the man looking back at you in the mirror. You will be miserable.

As difficult as things get, don’t give up on yourself. There will come a time when you realize how foolish you’ve been behaving and how lucky you are to be alive. You will fall in love with a woman who your friends will say is too good for you. She will help you heal yourself and show you how wonderful life can be. You will become a father, and you will rely on your life-experiences and remaining brain cells to impart valuable lessons to your son. You will stand on the Great Wall of China not once but twice and bring back two beautiful children as “souvenirs.” You’ll rediscover your gift for writing and touch people’s lives through your words. At the age of forty-one, you’ll realize that you have everything you want and need in life and that you are truly happy. And when you look in the mirror, for perhaps the first time since you were fifteen, you will like the person you see.

Take care of yourself/myself, my young friend. Enjoy being fifteen.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Dream House Hustle

Last night I dreamt that my wife unilaterally made the decision to adopt another child, bringing our total number of children to four. It wasn’t the fact that she acted without consulting me that bothered me, nor was I put off by the idea of having another child. Instead, in the dream, I was angry at Bethany for her ulterior motive for the adoption. Knowing six of us would not fit comfortably in our current, four bedroom house, Dream-Bethany was making a power-play which would force me to agree to buy a bigger house to accommodate our growing family. Even while sleeping, that woman is an evil genius.

I needn’t bother delving into a Freudian analysis of my dream to discover its meaning. For some time now, Bethany has been grumbling about outgrowing our current accommodations. When we bought our house in 1999, we were a family of two. Half of our rooms sat empty and unused for the first year we lived here. But now there are five of us sharing this space, and despite owning ten-acres of Heaven on Earth, our spacious spread doesn’t feel so spacious anymore. Realizing, but not fully admitting, that my evil genius wife was right, I relented and told her that I would consent to buying a bigger house under two conditions: The new house must be in the SoBoCo school district, and Bethany has to be willing to listen to me whine about not wanting to hassle with packing and moving everything we own, not wanting to fill out change of address forms, not wanting to call the satellite people about setting up service in the new house, not wanting to clean our current house from top to bottom in order to make it presentable for selling, not wanting to go into debt again to get a new mortgage, not wanting to rent a car trailer for the rusting hulk of an Impala that’s been parked in our pole barn for the past three years, not wanting to trap our two semi-wild barn cats and moving them, not wanting to say goodbye to the party porch I built with my own two hands, and not wanting to deal with all the unpacking and settling in to a new house. She said, “Deal!” without hesitation. I should have held out for an increase in my beer money allowance. Evil. Genius.

So the house hunt has begun, and I am already starting to whine. I know people pack up and move all the time, but I haven’t had to move in almost fourteen years, and as anyone who knows me at all will tell you, I hate moving. From the day I was born through the day we bought this house, I moved over two-dozen times. When Bethany and I bought this place, our real estate agent predicted that we would move within five years. I told her she was dead wrong and that I never planned on moving again as long as I lived. She laughed and said, “Wait till you start having kids. You’ll see.” Well, as anyone who knows me will also tell you, I can be quite stubborn. I swore a blood oath right then and there to never move, no matter how crowded our house got, just to prove our realtor wrong. “I’ll show her,” I said. Well, I nearly tripled the number of years she thought we would live here, so I guess Madame Smarty Pants Suit’s crystal ball must have been on the blink that day. “You really showed her, babe,” my wife says, in an “if-I-feed-his-ego-he’ll-give-me-what-I-want” sort of way. Well played, evil genius. Well played.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Where y'all from?

(Originally published in Boone County Journal: Wednesday, September 5)
My children aren’t altogether sure how to answer when people ask them where they’re from. They usually cite Ashland as their hometown because they ride through there on the way to and from our house, they go to school there, and they eat pizza there. (Home is where the pizza is.)

Technically, we have a Hartsburg address, but our house is actually situated somewhere in-between Ashland, Wilton, and Hartsburg. I reckon quite a few other SoBoCo residents have the same quandary as my kids when it comes to identifying their hometown. Or maybe not. What’s the protocol in this situation? If they identify with Ashland, then shouldn’t they call Ashland home despite their address? Would that be an affront to Hartsburg? Shouldn’t we consider Wilton’s feelings, too?

I don’t have the answers to these questions because I’m not originally from this area. But does that fact make Ashland/Hartsburg/Wilton any less my Home? Am I not a full-fledged, card carrying member of the SoBoCo community just because I’m not indigenous? No, I wasn’t born or raised in Southern Boone County. Instead, I moved to this area—on purpose. My wife and I chose to live here, raise a family here, and grow old here. Ever since I saw the movie Doc Hollywood, starring Michael J. Fox, I wanted to move to a small town full of friendly folks and quirky characters who would accept me, an egocentric outsider, as one of their own. Ashland is that town. Since 1999, we have called the greater Ashland metropolitan area Home. And we’ve never regretted it for a second.

When Bethany and I first moved here we felt slightly removed from the community, and rightly so. We didn’t know a soul. But no one “from here” ever made us feel like we weren’t really “Ashland people.” No one treated us like outsiders. People were always friendly and quick to return a wave. I think our new area neighbors were just giving us our space, which we appreciated. As our kids entered school, we became much more in touch with the fine folks of Southern Boone County. We made lots of friends and realized just how kind, generous, and accepting the people around here truly are.
Something has been troubling me lately, however. In the aftermath of the recent school board scandal, I overheard some grumblings that suggested the problems were because of people living around here who weren’t really “Ashland people.” While I won’t weigh in on the facts/rumors flying around in the post-Deffenbaugh Letter era, I think equating non-natives with problems in our community is a dangerous precedent to set.

SoBoCo is a microcosm of America. It is a melting pot. With the possible exception of any Ashland-area Native Americans who may still be living here, the overwhelming majority of area families migrated here from somewhere else. People with a dream of making a better life for their children and for themselves continue to be welcomed to our community year after year. Folks from all walks of life are making our small town a diverse and enlightened one. While uninhibited growth can present problems, Ashland is one of the few towns in Missouri (and possibly the nation) that continues to build new homes, businesses, schools, libraries, and infrastructure despite the national economic downturn, while still maintaining its down-home, farming-community feel.

The reason for Ashland’s success: the people. Farmers and entrepreneurs. Young and old. Black, White, Asian, and Hispanic. Life-long residents and recent transplants. We are all “Ashland people” and I am proud to call Ashland/Hartsburg/Wilton my hometown(s).

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Truman's First Bus Ride

(Originally published in the 8-22-12 edition of the Boone County Journal)

Dear Bus Bullies,

Thank you for apologizing to my son Truman for the way you treated him on the school bus last week. Although your apology only came after school officials confronted you about your behavior, I will assume that you are genuinely remorseful following your insensitive actions. I would like to think that because you are so young yourselves, you did not know how hurtful your comments were to my young child. I am grateful to the staff at your school for addressing this situation immediately, and I am hopeful that you will never treat another person in this manner again.

I feel that it is very important to let you know a little more about the person you were being so mean to that day. Truman is five years old, and the day you teased him was only his second day of kindergarten. Having picked him up at school the previous day, Thursday afternoon was his first-ever ride on a school bus. He had been looking forward to that ride for a long time—ever since he first saw his big brother Alex step off that big yellow bus nearly four years ago. Imagine how upset I was when I greeted Truman at the bus stop and asked him how he liked his first bus ride and he said, “Some kids made fun of my hand.”

I am not na├»ve. I know that kids sometimes tease people who are different. I expected this situation to present itself at some point. I just didn’t expect it on Truman’s first-ever bus ride. It breaks my heart to know that what should have been a wonderful and fun memory will be forever tainted by your unfortunate choice to make my son feel bad about himself. From what I understand, you loudly proclaimed that Truman’s left hand was gross. You yelled, “Ew!” when you saw that he only has three fingers instead of five. I could excuse your reaction if you had immediately stopped drawing attention to Truman’s deformity and apologized, but witnesses claim that you continued to make a big deal about it even after several of your peers told you to cut it out. In other words, you knew what you were doing was wrong and that it could hurt Truman’s feelings, but you continued anyway. Shame on you.

You should know a few things about the little boy you bullied that day. Truman was born in China almost six years ago. A day or so later, he was found on a sidewalk in a big city after being abandoned by his biological parents. No one knows for sure why he was abandoned, but our best guess is because of his deformed left hand and foot. In some cultures, birth defects are considered a curse against a family and the innocent baby is often abandoned—or worse. Truman was lucky, because someone found him on the sidewalk and brought him to an orphanage before it was too late. My wife and I were lucky, too, because we were able to adopt him when he was two years old and bring him home to live with us here in Ashland.

Have you ever seen the movie “Finding Nemo”? It is about a young fish who was lucky enough to survive an attack by a barracuda that left him with a deformed fin which he and his dad called his “lucky fin.” Well, we call Truman’s left hand his “lucky hand” because it was likely what started the chain of events that brought us together. He is proud of his lucky hand and has never felt self-conscious about it for a single moment. It is just a part of who he is, and he is a wonderful human being. Truman is a lively, happy, funny, and positive kid. His spirit shines so brightly that he makes everyone around him feel glad just to know him. And yet, you tried to make him feel bad about his hand. You tried to make him feel bad about who he is. How would you feel if someone tried to make you feel that way?

I tend to believe the best about people, so I choose to believe that you are good kids who just made a bad choice. Learn from your mistakes and grow as people. And get to know my Truman. You’ll be glad you did.