Dashed hopes

IMG1We dropped off our companions at the end of a whirlwind trip to Seattle. Just so they feel safe, I’m not showing their faces. Anderson Cooper wanted to interview them but they declined as they don’t want their image made public. I don’t blame them.

They are a great family having a rough time they don’t deserve. After getting death threats and beat up by the Taliban because he helped the US Army for 11 years, the father brought his family to the United States to be safe. The authorities here are trying to send him back to be killed. Here’s the unbelievable LA Times story about the family we spent the last two days with…

http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-ln-afghan-family-detained-20170306-story.html

They have nothing. They are given barely enough to live on while they go to school to learn English and look for a job. These families had never seen frost before, let alone the long and snowy winter they slid into upon arriving in the Tri-Cities. Our first task was rounding up some warm clothing, gloves and boots for them along with a few other necessary items. Many people in the area were generous with their help and donations.

Since last fall we have gotten quite close to these folks. I even know their names. This is a tremendous feat since I usually can’t even remember my own kids’ names. Far different than most of my work, it’s been a rewarding assignment.

The father of one family is in his thirties and has never driven a car. I could tell that someday he would like to own one. He asked how much cars cost after riding in our 2000 vintage Honda van. “Do they cost like…three million dollars?” he asked. I told him if he could find somebody to buy our van for that amount, I’d give them a 33% discount but I had to have it in cash.

I hope he is successful in this car selling venture. If he is, I’ll give every one of my friends a hundred dollar bill. (That means it’ll cost me three or four hundred dollars. It’s lucky I don’t have more friends.)

They are a sweet and humble people. They have seen immediate family members gunned down by rebels right in front of them. They are missing fathers, mothers, husbands, brothers and sisters. We have seen great sadness in their faces when they speak of departed loved ones.

What an experience it has been so far! We sing a song in church called “Count Your Blessings”. The song has taken on new meaning.

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We got word last week the support group we work with that helps these refugees needed someone to haul a family that was from Afghanistan to Seattle for a couple of days. They needed to meet with an attorney named Talia and have a court hearing so they could stay in America. That’s all we were told.

We volunteered since we had already been approved by the support group to drive refugees around in my high-priced roadster from Japan. I really had other stuff to do and didn’t much feel like driving to Seattle. However, I knew somebody needed to help them. I told Michele to offer our services if no one else volunteered. Now I’m glad they didn’t and we did.

I gotta say here that I voted for Trump. I like some of the stuff he is doing. I have a few concerns about some of the other things he is up to but that discussion is for another day. Anyway, suffice it to say since the Donald has taken over, being a new-comer in this land of amber waves of grain is becoming more difficult.

This particular family is Muslim and being a newcomer to this fresh set of circumstances, I was a little wary as we traveled to pick them up at their apartment. I didn’t want to end up with my throat slit before we got home from Seattle.

My concerns were unwarranted. Vastly. Like many Americans, I’ve had great concerns for years about radical Muslims and their agenda. We didn’t know this family’s story until we started driving down the road with them. And then, WOW!

In a nutshell, here’s what we learned:

  • The couple are in their 30s and they have three little boys.
  • The father worked for the the US Army for 11 years as a translator and information source.
  • His life is at risk from ISIS the Taliban. He and his family are dead if returned to Afghanistan.
  • He had several friends in his same situation move to the US on recommendation from the Army. No problem. They and their families are here, settled and happy.
  • A month ago, this family flew in to LAX. The cops at the airport handcuffed and shackled him, stamped ON PAROLE on his passport and threw him in jail for three days.
  • No law enforcement person could give a reason why. When this guy asked them why he was being jailed, they all said “I don’t know, that’s not my job.” They told him they were going to send his wife and kids to a detention camp in Texas. A judge ended up taking the wife and kids to a law office where they lived and slept until the father was released. This is a guy who risked his own life and had helped US forces for the last 11 years.
  • It appears that with Trump’s hard line on immigration and the way most  government minions toe the line, anyone from the Middle East is toast, whether they be friend or foe.

So a nice immigration attorney named Talia from LA flew up yesterday to help this family. While we helped babysit the kids, Talia spent several hours with him to review everything she needed to know. Later that afternoon, they got word the feds were asking for a continuance on the court date that was scheduled for the next day.

I suspect employing continuances is a legal ploy to extend the agony of the victim, justify their job and drum up a little more pocket change for the lawyers and judges.

We spent the night with the family, hoping the judge wouldn’t accept the request but like all things (namely common sense) seem to turn out in the legal world, it was not to be. We walked out in the Seattle rain, got in my three million dollar Honda van (No, it hasn’t sold yet) and drove home.

The attorney headed for the airport to fly back to LA. I guess we’ll be doing the same exercise next week including her flying back up. Hopefully, this will be the last legal hearing in the matter. I’m not sure how many more trips to Seattle our worn-out van has in her.

This is a sweet family. The boys, a nine month old, a six year old and a seven year old, were friendly, content and cute. Throughout the entire sojourn, they were perfectly behaved. Heck, my wife and I wouldn’t mind adopting them. We might have to if their mom and dad get sent back to the war zone.

The only time I saw them even look a little cross was when we took them to Red Robin and Michele tried to get them to order hot dogs for the kids. I guess she wasn’t aware of the Muslim’s stance on eating pork. They ended up eating veggie burgers.

I’ve got to admit that I have seen the other side of the refugee crisis in the last few months. It’s easy to have a hard-line attitude of indifference concerning everyone outside and even inside our borders. But most of these people are innocent and simply trying to survive in this world. Again, I count my blessings. There but for the grace of God go I (and you).

http://abcnews.go.com/US/afghan-family-visas-held-california-attorneys/story?id=45936736

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“Hey Dawg #2, I’m Dawg #1. This is MY territory. Now scram!”

Dogs are great unless you end up on the incisored and business end of a K-9 unit. They’re man’s best friend until Fido mistakes your pant leg for a tire that he wants to mark. They’re fun to have around until they get a taste of blood and start attacking 40 or 50 of a guy’s uninsured baby calves. I’ve endured two of the three experiences listed. Which would you guess?

I’m a cowboy who learned the hard way. Trying to chase down a pack of blood-thirsty mongrels with a 12-guage shotgun while hobbling along on crutches and a full-length leg cast is something shared in the book that I never want to experience again.

So what’s your other guess?

A blog is so much easier to deal with than a cop and his growling German Shepard, a wet pant leg or expensive and primo livestock getting torn up by rabid dogs.

Unlike all the other enterprises I’ve tried, if people don’t like what I blog, I don’t have to grovel and apologize. The customer is no longer king. Free at last!

Blogging is different. N0w, I don’t have to give my readers their money back when they’re not completely happy! I just press the post button and walk away.

A blog? You run it. A business? It runs you.

I plugged away at the tire business for 25 + years. Running your own tire business had some positives but the down side was always present in spades. At least the way I did it.

Admittedly, a few of these problems were my own fault…Ok, most of them were my fault. I guess the basic problem was the fact that I am just not all that good of a manager. I’m more of an idea guy and just don’t have the organization skills to keep all the loose ends tied up. We all have our pros and cons. I do much better now that I’m out of the tire store.

I haven’t even talked about the biggest problem of all when working on tires. And I don’t think I should take any of the blame for this one. What is it?

It’s the dreaded marking of each tire on  every vehicle that rolled down the road and into my tire store parking lot. The problem is so out of sight, out of mind, most folks have never considered this aspect.

Millions of tires are marked daily. Again and again. It is dogkind’s way of paying us back for making them eat table scraps and always ride in the back of the pickup.

Among other things, a tire guy’s gig requires him to check air pressures, rotate, change, balance and repair a literal ton of customer tires each day.  In the span of my tire life, I have probably rubbed up against a hundred thousand or more tires, usually with a customer-friendly smile on my face since the customer is always king.

But looking back, if I had really thought about this at the time, I wouldn’t be smiling. Busy and multi-tasking, I invariably forgot about the fact that approximately 100% of the tires I was airing, changing, and repairing had been peed on by multiple dogs trying to mark and remark their territory. Unmarked tires became extinct the moment Henry Ford pulled his first Model A out of the garage and parked next to the dog house.

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“Can you rotate my tires before you go to lunch please?”

I had a lot of pressure and stress back in those days. The workload often caused me to skip meals or eat on the run. Consumed by the job, I often forgot or didn’t have time to wash my hands before devouring lunch. Therefore, portions of Lassie and her friend’s liquid relievings rubbed off on my contaminated digits which were then transferred directly to my vittles during chow time. Perhaps this is why I often found myself barking at my employees.

For some reason, as soon as I got out of the tire-handling business, Michele’s sandwiches began tasting different. They were almost kinda bland, like she had forgotten something.

Easing into Ben’s Tire in 1977, trying to ease out of Ben’s Tire at the beginning of 2004 and finally terminating it with a bang and a whimper at the end of that same year, I haven’t touched a tire since.

There are pro’s and con’s to my situation. Lunch is not as tasty as it once was. My hands seem less yellow. My wife doesn’t recoil every time I get around her now. (In fact, in retrospect, it’s pretty amazing that we had 6 kids, all while I was in the tire business.) The old immune system doesn’t have to work nearly as hard as it did back in the days when Fido was putting his two cents on every GR78x15 I sold. One last effect I’ve noticed: I no longer feel like barking at every stranger I meet.

So now I do nothing but write. My hands are clean and my sandwiches are basically blase’.

Speaking of former nasty meals, I had a once-in-a-lifetime mouse doo-doo snack attack a few years back. It’s recounted in the book if you want documentation. And because of this singular event, I always enjoy the following video that might entertain you with a click on the pic…

This vid is especially great at the 1:13 mark.

Animal, Mouse, Nager, Case, Mousetrap

My goal with this blog is to be more brief and succinct. That’s all for today. Michele is calling me for lunch. Woof Woof!

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Supermarine Spitfire. A British single-seat World War 2 fighter plane.

In case you fall asleep, pass out or drop dead before you finally get to the bottom of this page, let me know so I can spice things up in future posts. If you do nothing else today, watch the video (Spitfire 944) at the bottom of the page. It is a rewarding clip.

This morning a friend sent me the video link. It’s about a World War 2 pilot that had some fun stuff happen to him during the war and later in life.

I’ve always been intrigued by World War 2 planes. Spitfires, Mustangs, P-40’s, P-48’s, etc. As I watched the vid, it reminded me of my father who was a paratrooper in Japan right after the war ended. He chose the paratrooper job as the Army gave him an extra ten or fifteen bucks a month for the added danger of jumping out of an airplane.

Dad was never a dare-devil so apparently he must have been hard-up for cash at the time.

He was raised in Heber Valley, UT. I remember him telling me that one of the guys he grew up with in the same little country burg of Daniels was named Russ McDonald. Russ was in the war but I’m not sure where he served. I’d heard that much later after he came home he acquired a P-51 Mustang and kept it hangered in Heber.

Around the year 2000, our family was at a 4th of July parade in Provo which is about 30 miles south of Heber. That same P-51 with McDonald at the controls made several low passes over the parade route, bopping along at a respectable 450 mph .  It was breathtaking for me. The speed, power and noise made my day.

After getting the Spitfire link today, I watched it and quickly shifted into my fighter plane mode. I  thought about Russ McDonald. Since I didn’t know much about him, I looked up some online info on Mr. McDonald just to see if he’s still flying. I soon happened upon his obituary which gave me a strong indication that he had probably quit flying.

Then I noticed something very intriguing. He was born the same year as my dad (1927), they went to Wasatch High School together and…they both died on December 18, 2004. The same day!

They each lived over 28,000 days and they picked the same day to die. I was vaguely aware they knew each other but had no idea they were that connected.

It reminded me of my grand daughter Jo who was born the same minute on the same day in the same year that my mother, also named Jo, died. How do things like this happen? Is it by accident or something more ethereal? To be straight up, grand daughter’s name is JOcelyn and mom’s was JOan.

Back to the P-51 guy.

After reading his obit, I tracked down his sister Zona in Orem, UT and called her just to say hi. I’d never heard of this lady before today. Orem is 600+ miles away from my home.

We had a lot of connections in common which blew me away. The most shocking was the fact that after she heard my last name and found out who my dad was, she stated her mother  was a sister to my grandpa Joe Casper. Another Jo!

Russ and my dad died on the same day. Russ and my dad were first cousins!

She asked if I had ever heard of Glade, Joe’s son who was killed in an car accident in 1953. Interestingly enough, my middle name is Glade. I was named after him. He was my dad’s older brother. Like Wally Disney once said (or sang), It’s a Small World After All.

The picture below is Russ’s plane. Zona’s husband told me after Russ died they sold it to a guy named John Bagley in Rexburg ID for a million bucks. There’s a good chance that Russ was in the pilot’s seat back in the day this picture was taken.

P-51 Mustang Survivors

P-51 Survivor 67-22579 N551BJ

 History of Russ’s plane/ Previous Identities:

1967: Cavalier Aircraft Corp., Sarasota FL, New Cavalier F-51D
1967: Bolivian AF, FAB 519
1977: C-GXRG, Arny Carnegie, Edmonton Alberta Canada
1978: C-GXRG, Neil McClain, Strathmore Alberta Canada
1985: Sep, N52BH, Robert Hester, Bladenboro NC
1992: Apr 16, N251RM, Russell McDonald, Park City UT, “FF-579”
2006: Aug 24, N551BJ, John Bagley, Rexburg ID
2006: December – forced landing on highway median in Rexburg ID., engine quit. John Bagley walked away with minor injuries from a very damaged P-51. Glad to hear that John is OK, sorry to hear about his new P-51.
2009: June – repairs are done and aircraft is airworthy again as “Mormon Mustang”

From: MustangsMustangs.com

So I did some more research on Russ’s “Mormon Mustang” plane and here’s what I found…

http://www.sltrib.com/home/3093842-155/roland-wright-pilot-of-the-mormon

Even though Russ’s plane was in the war and is now called the Mormon Mustang, I don’t think it was the original “Mormon Mustang”.

Russ’s plane is now owned by John Bagley. Here’s some footage of him and that same plane, courtesy of the LDS church. ( Skip it if you’re so inclined but you must watch the video that follows at the bottom. It’s the reason I made this post.)

https://www.lds.org/youth/video/mormon-mustang?lang=eng

As the years go by, these venerable and valuable World War 2 planes are experiencing rapid attrition, mostly from wrecks. They fly so fast a pilot can get in major trouble in the blink of an eye. There’s only a finite number of planes from that era. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.

The following video won an award at the Sundance Film Festival which is located just a few miles between Heber and Provo. This clip is long (15 minutes) but very cool. The old pilot lives in Seattle and even mentions just about getting in a fight in Moses Lake which is just a hop, skip and a jump from Basin City, my hometown.

It gets especially good at the end as the old pilot learns some new facts. Almost a tear-jerker for me. Here’s the story:

The film crew made that guy’s day!

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None of the following pictures were planned or posed.

I have somewhere around 50 or 60 nieces and nephews. One of them reminds me of me. Both of us are extremely fashion conscious.

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This little guy is named Calvin. Take careful notice as this is probably the only time you’ll ever see him with matching shoes on the right feet.

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This is the real Calvin. Always has one shoe on for athletics and one thong on for the beach. (At least that’s how we would have described him 40 years ago.)

I feel bad for him because he IS so much like me. We both like hanging around where the action is. As you can see, he’s not well grounded. His shoes are on the wrong feet. They’re also untied. I deal with these same problems to this day. He’s probably safer being suspended by his overall straps than tripping around on his shoelaces.

We both grew up in the same house. We’re both still growing up. Calvin’s got a year or two left before he’s fully grown. I’ve got a couple of weeks before I hit maturation. Just ask my wife.

We both learned to drive at four years of age. The only difference is my dad wasn’t in the truck when I first started. He was bucking hay bales onto the back of the truck. Calvin’s first drive was 2016. Mine was 1959. I’m sorry about the great camera work.

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On the plus side, we both love the heck out of life as Cal is demonstrating here. We both enjoy wearing creative footwear when attending church. We both cry when my brother Brent wants to hold our hand.

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It’s probably lucky that neither of us has a good sense of smell.

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Last year Calvin’s mom hid their TV remote up high on the door chime box. Five minutes later she caught Calvin retrieving the remote. All on his own. That kid is going to go places.

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Calvin’s sister went on a mission for her church. I guess they lock them up so they can’t change their mind later. Calvin wanted to see her one last time. So he did. This picture was taken after the gate keeper told him to get lost.

Calvin’s a kidder and is teaching me the same trait. It takes a long time to pick it up since it’s not in my natural nature. But day by day, as Calvin the Kidder patiently extends helpful pointers and gives me homework, I think I’m slowly grasping his art. What I picked up from Calvin is included in my book.

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We got to Dallas, at least Dallas airspace, around 10 pm. It was still as light as at noon day, at least most of the time. Lightning flashed every few seconds with the storm clouds below us reflecting and increasing the lumens. We drove around in the sky for a while, looking for an opportunity to park our rig.

It never happened. Conditions at Dallas/Ft Worth were still intense with lightning and wind shear. Finally, the pilot announced that he and his crew had worked a long day and couldn’t legally hang around in the sky much longer. They were down on hours and in the same boat with the jet fuel gauge. As passengers, we had been up as long as they and were getting also getting tired of being high.

Finally, the pilot headed for Austin, a half-hour drive away. We landed without fanfare and noticed the weather was calm. American Airlines was flying a crew in from LA to ferry us to Dallas as soon as the storm let up. We vegetated in an empty and unrelaxing terminal for three hours until the new crew arrived and got the plane revved back up.

We taxied out to the runway in the middle of the night and the middle of the storm that had just arrived from Dallas. The pilot said he had clearance to take off but basically was chicken to hit the throttle. I didn’t blame him. The rain was pounding and the lightning brilliant and often. The wind was blowing in a good 50 mile an hour gale and as we sat waiting on the tarmac, I could see we were probably in a permanent stationary jam.

Two business guys were among our fellow travelers. One was the boss of the other. I’ll call him Boss. He was in his forties. He sat in the window seat with Michele sitting next to him in the middle. The other was a duck who sat in the aisle seat across from me. I’ll call him Duck. He was in his thirties.

After we had parked and sat waiting for a break in the storm, Duck got up and left. Boss stayed put and played video games on his phone. Every once in a while as everyone else was attempting to doze off to pass the time, Boss would open wide his mouth and yawn. As he did this, he would emit a foghorn-style sound emission to accompany his yawn. The only difference between his horn and a tugboat’s is his was much louder.

Everyone in his general vicinity would jump from the sudden loud blast. Because his mouth was as open as the mouth of a cobra while trying to swallow a large hyena, I think his ear drums were stopped off and he had no idea how loud his yawn was. I mentioned that everyone in his vicinity would jump. This included especially the dozing passenger seated next to him, my dear wife Michele.

She had a couple of seconds worth of a grand mal seizure every time he enunciated his yawn. Her entire body tried to shoot out of her seat even though her seat belt was still snugly buckled around her. Watching Michele and Boss interact were the only times through the entire night that I cracked a smile. It made the Boss racket worthwhile.

Duck was gone for hours. I asked Boss where his partner had gone so he got up between yawns and searched the plane. He returned with no clue as to Duck’s whereabouts. I began to worry that Duck had accidentally hit the high-powered airliner flush button while still sitting on the commode and was now swimming around in the dark, trying to keep his head above water in the black-water tank of the airplane.

We sat and sat some more in the cramped quarters. Eventually the pilot announced that his crew were now out of hours and illegal. We had been in Austin so long I figured the first crew would have caught enough zzz’s that they could get back on board and relieve the present crew. Duck reappeared just as we were getting ready to exit. His feathers were still dry so he  must have luckily just fallen asleep in one of the bidets instead of hitting the flush button. We deplaned and decomposed for the next few hours in the hostage terminal surroundings.

As passengers, we were getting a little agitated. The airline gave us no help or advice and little refreshment. The food shops were closed for the night. Most of us were starving. I wasn’t quite as hungry as the rest since it hadn’t been that long since I had snarfed down my smuggled soggy sandwich and electrolytic fluid.

Finally, the airline generously brought us some much-needed groceries. It must have cost them at least ten bucks, no more than fifteen. What we, the 160 or so passengers got was 60 little bags of goldfish crackers, 40 tiny plastic bottles of water and a few small token helpings of Gardetto’s, a poor man’s trail mix. The pigs in the group got enough nourishment to whet their appetite. The more polite majority got squat.

In the interest of keeping my own public image as polished as possible, I won’t divulge what I obtained and ingested in the hour of need.

Finally morning arrived. More incidents of airline ineptitude occurred but I’ll save the airline criticism for the next time I get bumped. Since our flight was cancelled, we had to go clear back down to baggage claim and retrieve our bags. Then visit the ticket counter to get rebooked as standby’s on already crowded flights for the new day headed to Dallas.

The next step involved going back through the Homeland Security drama…one bad penny after another. In the course of our journey, we met a nice lady probably ten years younger than ourselves. I managed to slip in a pitch concerning my book and she said she’d check it out on Amazon and order one. I thought “Sure, that’s what everyone says just to get me off their back.”

Later, up at the gate, we ran into her again. Her name was Laura. She had lost her phone downstairs and was pretty frantic. She said she had the app Find Lost Phone on it but didn’t have another phone to track it down. I gave her mine and told her good luck.

Three seconds after she disappeared into the crowd, I started wondering if I would ever see my phone again. I should have installed Find Stolen Phone on it before turning it over to a lady who looked nice on the outside but most likely had two or three hundred stolen phones piled on the shelves of her closet at home.

All the forgotten passengers from the stormy flight were congregated in the area, hoping for their name to be called since we were on standby status. The counter lady called out Boss’s name several times. Duck heard his boss’s name and started screaming for him without any reservations whatsoever. He must have yelled his name ten times. Duck’s yell was almost as loud as Boss’s yawn.

All of a sudden, Boss woke up from sleeping in a corner on the floor and looked totally confused. Duck yelled at him again and Boss took off running across the waiting area, carrying a suitcase and dragging his coat by one sleeve with the rest of it cleaning the floor. It was funny stuff!

Boss finally got to the ticket counter but the ticket lady had gone to the next name, ushered the passenger into the passageway, and slammed the door. Boss was not happy with the lady and let her know all about it. Duck walked over to where his boss was venting and began yelling at Boss while pounding on the counter. “You are STUPID, STUPID, STUPID! You are STUPID, STUPID, STUPID!”

I couldn’t believe the sight. It was hilarious. Both guys releasing their pent-up tensions in front of a crowd of bone-tired, way-late spectators. Boss didn’t act like he could hear his underling Duck. He was still cussing out the airplane lady.

During this time, I had been sitting with Michele keeping an eye on her phone that was charging on her hot pink wired charger plugged into the wall 20 feet away from us. Duck’s and Boss’s antics were keeping me amused enough that I stood up and walked over to where I could get a better view of their act. After they finished, I walked back and sat down by Michele.

I looked over to make sure Mitch’s phone was still secure. It wasn’t. All I could see was a teenage black kid bending down and blocking my view of Michele’s hot pink phone cord. I knew immediately that this young punk was absconding with Michele’s phone, using Duck’s and Boss’s comedy act as a diversion.

I sprinted for the culprit, roughly grabbed his arm that was so very obviously unplugging and heisting Michele’s phone. “What do you think you’re doing?!!!!” I demanded. A couple of seconds later, I noticed that there was no hot pink phone cord in his fingers. As he was saying something about just plugging his phone in, Michele called out to me that she had already retrieved her phone.

I belatedly realized this kid had just been innocently plugging his phone in. I muttered an embarrassed apology, released my grip on his arm and slunk back to my seat. I chalked it up my paradigm of the world, created by many years and vast experiences of regularly getting ripped off.

Another hour passed. Laura reappeared with a big smile. My stolen phone without the app Find Stolen Phone had returned. Once in a while it just works out.

My phone had tracked down her phone. She was so happy. I didn’t have to track her down. I was so happy.

She offered to buy us cups of coffee in repayment. I mentioned we were Mormon and politely declined. She then asked what she could do for us so I said she could buy my book which would dramatically boost sales.

She immediately set about finding Recovering Idiot on Amazon. I was later surprised to find she had ordered two. We finally caught a plane to Dallas. It had been a long and sleepless ordeal, not soon to be forgotten.

A couple of weeks later, I received the following message from Laura:

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“Through the 1st chapter and loving it. Can totally hear your voice as I read it.”
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