Thursday, August 25, 2005

What I’m Reading: Roaring Lambs

Okay. I did quite a bit of reading while we were in California. I went entirely through a book on "cherished American myths and fables" (I don't remember the exact name but there's tons of similar books out there). Very interesting what we’re willing to believe and what was, in fact, truth.

I read the myths book mostly as diversion. It was a quick read and easily jumped into and out of. It was also completely shallow.

So I picked up “Roaring Lambs.” I had actually purchased this book years ago because it seemed like something I could sink my teeth in to. But I had never had a chance to read it.

The book is by Bob Briner, who has since left us. It’s basically his manifesto on how Christians can change the world through the arts, an area that Christians and churches have basically abdicated, leaving “the world” to dominate in movies, film, writing, music, and the visual arts. Rather than boycott these things when they postulate non-Christian values, Briner’s solution is to offer up something that’s just as good that glorifies God. He proposes that lighting even one candle is better than cursing the darkness. To that end, he espouses the need for Christian writers and artists operating in mainstream America. Each chapter covers a different area of the arts and in this way it the book starts getting repetitive. His solutions are the same for every area, we need more Christians doing these things.

Still, overall, I like the book. Not in the same ways that I like Eldredge’s “Wild At Heart” or “Waking The Dead” (it’s not all that deep) but it’s solid reasoning and he’s saying things I’ve said for years. If you agree with the sentiments in the above paragraph, you might want to pick up “Roaring Lambs.”

Or maybe I just like to find folks who agree with me, even if they’re no longer with us.

Perhaps I’m the only one saying these things anymore.

Let’s hope not folks.

And The Walls Came Tumbling Down

On Friday last week, once work was over and everything became still, I finally turned my thoughts to what I had been through over the past month or so.

Thoughts about my mom and dad flooded back over me and I found myself laying in bed bawling, Lori holding me while I sobbed.

That continued for an hour or so and then I started to chill. Literally. A fever set in. I took a hot shower but I couldn’t seem to get warm enough. Lori gave me some medicine and ended up taking care of me for the rest of the weekend.

Finally, on Sunday (we had to skip church), I got over most of it. I did, however, have some difficulty swallowing until yesterday.

When I got up for work on Monday morning, Lori had the same thing I had. I don’t have a lot of vacation days left at work so I had to take care of her at lunch. When I got home from work, I sent her straight to bed and took care of Melody myself. Thankfully, Lori was well enough on Tuesday to take care of Melody during the day but she wasn’t really “all better” until yesterday.

All this just goes to show what can happen to you if you go full steam ahead for too long without taking care of yourself.

So, take care of yourselves.


Thursday, August 18, 2005

Remembering Mike Carhart

July 24, 1939 – August 7, 2005

"Your hero should always be tall, you know."
– Mike Carhart, 1958

It’s been longer than I would have liked since I posted to this blog. Moreover, I wish it were happier circumstances that had kept me away. Instead, a complicated set of events transpired that included my dad passing away, getting the family out to California and not only attending his funeral but helping with the planning and speaking at the service.

Only now am I even approaching recovery.

So, before the whole thing turns into a blur, I wanted to document this time.

My dad had been fighting a rare case of cancer that had attacked him in his jaw. The prescribed treatment included cutting open his face, grinding out part of his jaw and grafting bone from his leg into his jaw. This surgery was followed by radiation treatment, which was meant to finish off the cancer.

At first it had seemed successful. But the cancer came back. The wound on his face from the surgery, to my knowledge, never really healed and he found himself back in and out of the hospital over the course of a year. This past summer, he started chemo.

On July 13, he tried to stand and could not. My mom and brother-in-law called the paramedics and he went to the hospital. He was diagnosed with some big sounding name that basically meant his muscles had become mushy. They put him in a nursing facility to allow him to get stronger before his next chemo treatment.

A week or two later, his heart rate was down to 40 and he was sent back to the hospital, this time into ICU. It was determined that the chemo wasn’t working and that they were not going to continue the treatment. On Friday night, August 5, my sister called me with the news that the doctors had given my dad two weeks to two months to live.

All along, my dad had wanted to be kept in the loop. He didn’t want people talking behind his back or lying to him. So my sister told my dad the prognosis.

The next day, the nurses were unable to wake him. He had slipped into a coma. Lori and I started packing our suitcases. On Sunday morning, August 7, just as we were loading up the car, my sister called with the news that my dad had passed away.

Other than the fact that I didn’t get to see my dad before he passed away, it really didn’t change anything. We put Melody in the car seat, loaded up the back and made the drive from Colorado Springs to Long Beach, California in record time (we left on Sunday around 3 pm and arrived around 8 pm on Monday). When we arrived, Jim and Cheryl (one of my brothers and my sister) showed me pictures they’d found and things he had written in the hospital room. Chief among them was his will. Although probably not legally binding, this simple piece of paper attached to a clipboard detailed what he wanted his best friend to have and to divide up his knife and gun collection among his children. It was signed “James Carhart.” No one will dispute its authenticity. He knew his time was up. He had made his peace.

The next day, we were meeting with Jeb at Forest Lawn.

Things move quickly with funerals. So quickly that you never really have a chance to take stock of what has occurred until well after your loved one is in the ground.

The funeral was Friday, August 12, at noon. We thought that high noon was fitting for someone who loved the Old West as much as my dad did. Dad’s best friend, Allen Gonzales, picked out his favorite cowboy attire, including his hat, to have him dressed in.

Many of us decided to put something in the casket with him. Before he had gone in the hospital (and had been so heavily medicated), I had sent my dad a personalized copy of "One of the Girls," my latest book. Unfortunately, due to the medication, he never read it. It was that book, with the inscription, “Dad, hope you enjoy it,” that I had put into his casket.

Note that I said I had it "put into his casket." I, perhaps selfishly, chose not to view his body. Instead, I want to remember him playing catch with me in the street... or riding motorcycles together... or playing ping-pong with me after school... or drawing pictures for me after dinner... or working on my truck with me... or any other memory I have of him while he was with us. So Allen -- or maybe Jim -- put it in the casket for me. I don't know. I wasn't there.

Before the funeral, Pastor Nick Kerns (my mom’s pastor) told me that he had spoke with my dad about Jesus and they had prayed together. He assured me that my dad had come to the Lord. It was a great comfort to me. It is one thing to know that he no longer has to live with the pain he had been suffering. To know that he will live forever and that I’ll seem him again was a blessing.

At the funeral chapel service, my sister Cheryl sang. It fell to me, perhaps because I am the writer in the family or perhaps because I am the oldest sibling, to present a sort of chronology of milestones in my dad’s life. I present that chronology now.
James Micheal Carhart was born to Paul William and Vonnie Leona Carhart in Mt. Vernon, Ohio on July 24, 1939. Since a very early age, he was known as Mike and he was always tall.

The Carhart family lived in Millwood, Ohio where Mike spent his childhood with his older sister, Carol.

Mike exhibited artistic abilities at a young age. He would also watch the serials at the local movie theater. His hero was John Wayne.

Mike attended Howard High School where he participated in both sports and the arts. He played baseball, basketball and was involved in chorus and drama. In his freshman year, he was the football manager. He was also on student council for two years and was on the yearbook staff. He graduated in 1958.

In 1959, Mike came to California with two high school friends. He attended Imperial Valley College in El Centro for two years.

In 1961 Mike moved to Long Beach, California and took a job at Pacific Valves where he played on the company basketball and baseball teams. It was with this company, now part of Crane Valve, that he continued to support his family until he retired in 2004. Nearly 43 years!

Mike worked with Jack Bridges. One day Jack showed Mike a picture that had his wife’s sister, Bobbie Fredricks in it. Bobbie had just come out from Kentucky and Mike was determined to meet her.

Mike was confident to show up at the Bridges house alone (with no support), while they were moving nonetheless, to meet Bobbie. Upon his arrival, she thought he was “strikingly handsome.”

For their first date, Mike took Bobbie to the Lions Drag Strip in Long Beach.

About a week later, Mike took Bobbie to El Patio. It was her first experience with Mexican food. The restaurant was a family staple until it closed in 2003.

It was around this time that Mike purchased a blue 1965 Pontiac GTO and had it customized to his liking. It was his favorite car. Selling it was perhaps his only regret. Indeed, the GTO and pictures he took of it was a popular topic of conversation for the rest of his life.

On November 20, 1965, Mike and Bobbie were married at The Little Chapel of the Flowers in Las Vegas, Nevada. At the time of his passing, they had been married for almost 40 years.

In early 1966, they bought their first house at 3349 Gondar in Long Beach.

On May 19, 1968, Mike and Bobbie gave birth to their first son, Paul Michael Carhart (named after Mike’s father as well as Mike).

Bobbie had a dream one night that Paul had run into the street and had been killed by a car. So Mike built a white picket fence around the yard. Bobbie, clad in a bikini, helped to paint it.

On March 21, 1970, Mike and Bobbie welcomed James Alan Carhart into the world (again, named partially for Mike).

In 1973, on July 13, the family welcomed their only daughter (Cheryl Ann) into the world.

The house on Gondar was now full so the family moved to a larger house at 3123 San Anseline in Long Beach. Although extensively altered, it is still the family residence.

In 1975, the family welcomed Brian Matthew into the world.

Growing up, the Carhart children were treated to John Wayne movies at home, Disney films at the drive-in, after-dinner time with Mike drawing cartoons for the children and summer weekends riding motorcycles and shooting cans in the dessert. The years were also peppered with occasional visits to Disneyland and summer road trips back east to visit family.

Although Mike always made a distinction from his daily job and his creative pursuits, he passed on many artistic traits to his children. He was proud of their accomplishments.

Mike was good with his hands. He would make necklaces and carve trinkets for his children and was good at fixing things. Mike would often scour garage sales for used guns and pick up bicycle parts. Mike started building bicycles from scratch. All the kids in the neighborhood would come to the Carhart house to ride the bikes that Mike built.

Throughout his life, Mike loved the time of the Old West and he studied it extensively.

One of his favorite things to do was to frequent the gun shows. Mike’s trademark cowboy hat could often be found towering over the aisles. He collected knives and guns and crafted his own custom pistol handles, knife handles and leather goods.

Mike loved racing. In November, 2003, before he fell ill, he delighted in fulfilling a lifelong dream of driving a NASCAR by completing the Racing Adventure 2 program with his son-in-law, Joe Benitez, at Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield, California.

Today, Mike is survived by his wife, all of his children and two grandchildren (Violet Benitez and Melody Carhart).

Over the years, Mike shared his love of all-things-western with a few select friends. His longest friendship was with Allen Gonzales.
That’s when Allen came up, dressed in full cowboy regalia, and shared his friendship with my dad. After a brief message from the pastor, it was time to go outside.

The pallbearers consisted of myself, my brother Jim, my brother Brian, my brother-in-law Joe, Allen and Bill Reynolds (another of my dad’s friends). With the help of a cart, we took my dad’s casket out to the grave site. We had a short graveside service where Bill spoke briefly.

After the service, there was what I can only call a reception (it wasn’t exactly a wake) at my brother Jim’s house where he had set up photo albums, a book of my dad’s drawings as well as some of his favorite guns and western wear. It was a fitting tribute.

Then we made the journey back.

Melody didn’t take well to the road. The drive was replete with scowls from the back seat. When we got home, she ran around the living room and then hugged Lori’s legs. As for Lori (who has stood by my side the whole time) and I, we are both emotionally, mentally and physically drained.

And yet, life goes on.

Groceries must be bought. Paychecks must be earned. And time with family, more relevant to me now than ever, must not be squandered.

I would like to take just a moment to thank everyone who sent a card, an e-mail or called us on the phone as well as everyone who has offered their thoughts and prayers both to my dad while he was in the hospital as well as to my family. We appreciate your support.

But, sad as it is that we all go, I know my dad would have rather that we buried him than he had to bury any of his kids. Children should outlive their parents. So, although his time perhaps came too soon and I will miss my dad, things are, at least in this one way, as they should be.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Now Available: One of the Girls

Okay. This is perhaps a little self-serving. However, I thought I’d just put up a quick little note that my new young adult superhero fantasy novel, One of the Girls, is now available in limited distribution from my website:

What? You want to know what it's about before you buy it? Very well. The blurb from the back of the book:

When sixteen-year-old Jana Swain discovers flying rocks coming to her rescue while fleeing bullies after school,she knows her life has changed forever. But she could have never guessed what would come next. With the help of her popular cheerleader twin sister Jeni, her comic book-obsessed younger brother and her neighbors from across the street, Jana seeks to get to the bottom of her strange encounter. What she discovers is that she's somehow received, in her brother's words, "super hero powers." She can move things with her mind!

With coaching from her siblings, Jana reluctantly takes the guise of PsyChick™,haphazardly using her abilities to fight crime. But she's in over her head and only her sister has what it takes to rescue the hero.

Indeed, powers or not, only by acting together can Jana and Jeni become the hero that neither could have been as long as they both emained merely one of the girls.

If you order the book from, I’ll sign it and personalize it for anyone you want (it doesn't have to be for you). The ordering process is through PayPal and there is a personalization field in the ordering process (so please use it). The price ($12.50) includes U.S. shipping.

So check out my latest novel before it goes into wide release and get it signed and personalized while you’re at it.

As always, thanks for your support!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

What I’m Reading 2

Moved on from “Faith, Form, And Time,” which made some pretty good points about why the theory of evolution is actually not the way the earth was created. When it’s all said and done, I'm not sure it really matters a whole lot but it was interesting nevertheless. And I do have an idea for a story in which the Young Age Creationism theories from that book could come into play... but that’ll have to wait until I finish the current novel I’m writing.

In the meantime, I’ve moved on to "The Search For Significance" by Robert S. McGee. I read it once about ten years ago (it was recommended by my pastor at the time) and found it to be great. But I’m in a different place now (married with child) so I thought I’d approach it again and see if I've grown any.

The tagline to the title is "We can build our self-worth on our ability to please others, or on the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ." It’s a pretty brisk read and it makes a lot of sense. The copy I'm reading has a 1990 copyright on it but I know a new edition was put out in 2003. If you’re self-worth is defined by a combination of your performance and other people’s opinions (and let’s face it, most of us have fallen into this trap at some point), I encourage you to give the book a read.

Of course all this nonfiction I’ve been reading has been taking a toll on my fiction reading.

But more on that another time.

Monday, August 01, 2005


What better need for a vent than excessive amounts of smoke?

Okay. So we went to the drive-in on Friday night. Both films were good in different ways and we enjoyed the family time together.


You knew there was a “but” in there, didn’t you?

What’s up with these people who must smoke in public? And I’m not just talking about one cigarette. I’m talking about the constant chain of multiple people lighting up.

Last week I was all excited to go to the drive-in and I encouraged the rest of you to join me. Now I suggest, if you go, you may want to bring a gas mask.

To our right was pick-up truck backed in for optimal viewing from the truck bed. There were probably eight people in this truck and at least three of them were lit up at any given time. Despite the fact that it was an extremely hot night in Pueblo, I spent most of both films with my window up. And it was a good thing too because, for some reason, whoever the driver was had decided to go to the movies but spend the entire time in the front seat on the cellphone with the window down. And he was even in a bigger cloud of smoke. He was like Pig-Pen from the Peanuts cartoons. I wish I were exagerating.

When I made a comment about it between films, Lori tells me that it’s been the same way on her side. To punctuate her remark, the guy in the car over there starts coughing up a lung. And the amazing thing is that he continued to take long drags from his cigarette… the only time, I might add , that he wasn’t coughing.

And his wife, in complete solidarity with him, was toking out too. Now that's love! I guess she didn’t like the idea of him dying first so she’s just going to “stand by her man” and they’ll go out together like one big Viking funeral pyre. Wait 'til the gas tank ignites!

Anyway, this coupled with how beat we were all day on the Saturday following will probably contribute to this being our last drive-in trip. It was fun while it lasted but I don’t smoke. Lori doesn’t smoke. We don’t want to smoke. And we don’t want Melody to have to breathe it either.

Guess it’s time to join Netflix.