Tuesday, June 23, 2015

READING: One Fatherless Boy's Key to Success



I was three or four when my mom left my biological father. My memories of those early years were surprisingly vivid. I remember my father arguing with my mom and hitting her on a regular basis. I remember throwing marbles and green army men at his back in a feeble attempt to intervene. I remember when he caught me urinating in the neighbor’s garden and slapped me full-force across the face, nearly knocking me off my little feet and leaving my left ear ringing like a gun had exploded near my head.
Me at about 2
Although we were still very poor, things improved when my mom left him. She got a job as a secretary at the elementary school I attended and we lived in a trailer on my grandparents’ property. Food was scarce, new clothes even scarcer, and luxuries such as toys, treats and sodas nonexistent.

My mom joined this church that attempted to control every aspect of our lives. We could only read Christian books and listen to Christian music, couldn't associate with people of other religions, couldn't watch television, etc. When I was in second grade, the preacher started his own school and we had to enroll. My mom left her job and began working as a monitor for the church’s school, which believed in corporal punishment.
When any of the boys in the school would do something wrong, the principal would make us bend over and grab our ankles while he hit us with a large wooden paddle. I was often forced to let go of my ankles and grab the floor to keep from falling over—that’s how hard he hit us.
Outside of school, my mom had me and my brother stay with the principal several times while she attended religious retreats. On one occasion, he made me wash his van, and then beat me because I left streaks. Well, the first three strikes were for leaving the streaks—the next nine strikes were because I refused to cry. And there was the time he and another member of the church tied me up and dunked my head in his toilet repeatedly, because I didn’t use the “correct” language when asking for rolls at dinner and then I refused to apologize.
Private School Banquet (Literature Award)
The whippings at the hand of this principal lasted about two years. I had just finished the fourth grade when the preacher shut down the school and told the parents they had to teach their children at home. My mom got a job as the church’s secretary—the pay was meager—and this allowed her to work from home while “teaching” us.

When I was about twelve, I convinced my mom to let me go to work on a full-time basis, promising to do schoolwork at night. I worked as a carpenter’s helper for a man from her church, and it allowed me to help her pay bills and put food on the table. I didn’t do much schoolwork after that, but I did start reading…a lot. I eventually discovered an author who would change the course of my life forever.

Thirty-one years later, I found myself happily divorced, the father of two amazing children (Brandon and Grace), and in a new relationship with Amanda, a single mom and a psychologist. As Amanda and I got to know each other, we exchanged stories about our lives. She looked at me one day and said, “I’m surprised you’re not messed up.” I laughed it off, but she went on to explain how lots of children would’ve been scarred from some of my experiences. She said she was surprised I’d been so successful, considering the scant opportunities I’d been afforded and the seemingly insurmountable obstacles I’d faced.

I’d never reflected poorly on my childhood. It hadn’t mattered that the principal beat me, or that we were poor, or that I didn’t have a dad. I’d rolled with those punches and remained a happy kid, growing stronger with each challenge I faced. I never looked back and I never harbored any ill feelings toward my father, the principal, or anyone.
Amanda’s words prompted me to consider my past. Statistically speaking, I’d been destined to fail. My brother, who grew up right beside me, had mentioned several times that he had been scarred by our past. I'd brushed him off and told him to get over it...that adversity only made us stronger. However, he eventually turned to alcohol and drugs to cope, and lost a successful business, a wife, and his children in the process. Essentially, it had ruined his life. 
So, then, how was it that I was able to work my way from police cadet to chief investigator? Develop and command a successful police sniper team? Become a traditionally published novelist? Achieve my dream of being a professional boxer?
Me as Sniper Leader, Pro Boxer, Published Author
As I pondered this, I suddenly realized all of my successes could be directly attributed to one activity: READING. Every time I’d wanted to learn a skill or embark upon a new endeavor, I turned to books to be my guide along the path of knowledge. While I owe a debt of gratitude to the authors of the many instructional books I’ve studied over the years, the one author who has influenced me the most, especially during the most critical years of my boyhood, is Louis L’Amour.
My Current Louis L'Amour Collection
I tell everyone who’ll listen that Louis L’Amour raised me. During those impressionable years of my youth, I learned more about real life from his fiction than from anywhere else. I learned how to treat a woman with respect, to persevere even in the bleakest of circumstances, and to be courageous in the face of grave danger. I learned to be loyal to my family and friends, and to “ride for the brand”. I even learned to stand on my own and achieve my goals through hard work and dedication, and to never give up on my dreams.

Later, as a father, I would always encourage my children to read…a lot. At worst, I knew they might discover an alternative means of entertainment. However, I hoped reading would enrich their lives, and assist them in achieving their goals and realizing their dreams. Thankfully, I’m witnessing the latter. One thing is certain; had I not started reading as a young boy, I would’ve been a statistic—the one that suggests fatherless, uneducated boys who come from poor households almost never succeed in life.

BJ Bourg is the author of JAMES 516 (Amber Quill Press, 2014), THE SEVENTH TAKING (Amber Quill Press, 2015), and HOLLOW CRIB (Five Star-Gale-Cengage, 2016).
 
© 2015 BJ Bourg

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Date Nights for a Healthy Marriage by Amanda Bourg

Lets's face it, keeping a house and family running is a job. Fortunately, BJ and I both agree it is the most rewarding and worthwhile "job" of our lifetime. It's not our day jobs that we'll count as the greatest blessing in our lives. Raising a family will be our legacy.


Meanwhile, we have a marriage to nurture, which is quite different from nurturing our family. We have multiple roles in life as person, parent, and spouse. As parents, we relate as partners. We make decisions, compromises, and maintain responsibility for the "whole" family. As a spouse, we relate as a part of a couple.


That's why we made it a goal to give ourselves opportunities to be a couple by taking date nights or even overnight date-aways. Do you remember when you first met your spouse and could dedicate your undivided attention to that person? We have tried to keep that alive. It's like taking a day off from the job as parents. We give ourselves permission to be somewhat less responsible and share more of the private things that will only be shared with that one most intimate person. 


While I'm certain this would help any marriage, it is especially important for us in a second marriage, or what we call a blended family. We married at a time when we each already had children. The instant family situation didn't leave much time for courtship as a couple. We were still learning each other when we introduced our children into the picture and were all learning each other. It's like trying to catch a train that's moving.


We have averaged one date night per month (and sometimes more). That's close to the time off accrued at most jobs, lol. Joking aside, my dates with my husband have been wonderful. He is playful and funny, typical of him really, but even more so when we are alone together. His eyes are on me rather than acting as the shepherd and guardian of the family. My attention is on him and being completely relaxed that I have nothing else to tend to as the gatherer and nurturer of the family.


We support each others' interests, complete bucket list activities, and explore things that we have both said we've always wanted to do.


We've had date-aways as close as 12 miles from home for a writing conference and as far away as Jamaica for our honeymoon. Each getaway is equally important quality time spent together. Of course, we worried about how the children will accept us taking time away, but they have been extremely supportive and encouraging. Overall, the hope is that they reap the benefits of us returning as a stronger couple. (While we miss them tremendously when we're gone and can't wait to see them again, leaving Jamaica was hard!)


We talk about shared interests, and flatter each other with words and attention. This has strengthened our young marriage (we just celebrated our one year wedding anniversary) and pushed us through the hurdle of that first year adjustment. It gives us a chance to balance the adjustment by exercising the role that we have as simply husband and wife. That is why we decided to make it part of our lifestyle.


video


© 2015 Amanda Bourg

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Crescent Connection Bridge Run 2015

Amanda loves to run and I love Amanda, so it's been easy for her to check running goals off of her bucket list. One of those dreams was to run the Allstate Sugar Bowl Crescent Connection Bridge Run, which was set to begin on the West Bank of New Orleans and cross the Mississippi River via the Crescent City Connection Bridge. I'd already started enjoying our "run-aways" for a night here and there, so I hadn't hesitated many weeks ago when she asked if I wanted to do the Bridge Run, which was set for June 6, 2015 at 7:00 PM.

Fast-forward to yesterday and we're packing to head to New Orleans for the event. We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn on South Peters and checked in around three. The first thing we noticed when we explored our room was that our window faced the Port of New Orleans. (We woke up this morning to see The Carnival Dream docked directly across from us. We got married on The Dream last year, so this was a special treat.)

The Carnival Dream
After we unpacked our stuff, we walked to Wolfe's Restaurant at the Marriott (the address is 859 Convention Blvd., but we entered off of Fulton St.) and had an early dinner. Amanda is allergic to black pepper (which means she can't eat anything cooked in Louisiana:-), and she asked the waitress if they could accommodate her condition. The waitress made two or three trips to the kitchen and back, promising to "figure it out". Well, she did, and the chef made Amanda a great fried shrimp salad that was tasty, but didn't hurt her stomach. The chef even came to our table to ask if the meal was acceptable. (I told Amanda he just HAD to see this "creature" who couldn't eat Louisiana seasoning. He'd probably never heard of such blasphemy.)

Wolfe's at the Marriott
After eating, we got dressed for the run, walked to the pick-up point, and took a bus to the West Bank, where we retrieved my bib (Amanda had her bib shipped to the house) and waited for the race to start.


When the race gun fired, Amanda and I ran to the front of the line, passing up thousands of people, and made it across the bridge in record time. We received a hero's welcome on the other side, were interviewed by national news media crews, given the keys to the city...


Wait a minute...none of that happened. Instead, we took our spots somewhere toward the middle of the line and walked/jogged to the other side. Along the way, we stopped a dozen times to take pictures (Amanda shot a nice sunset) and we even changed lanes multiple times. We didn't care what the sign said...we're outlaws.




Sun setting over New Orleans, LA
The run distance was four miles and it rose to more than three hundred feet over the Mississippi River. It was amazing to be up there in the warm evening air as traffic whisked by just several feet to our right. It was especially cool to stand over the grating and look down at the water so far below.




video

Along the way, we saw some interesting sights and witnessed people of all ages participating in the event. We passed a man and his son who each had a Go Pro attached to their heads. They looked excited to be doing the event. A little later, we stopped to take a few pictures and they passed us...they no longer looked excited to be there. The boy had "Go Pro hair", but his Go Pro was gone. He was dragging his feet and staring at the ground, probably wondering why in the heck he had agreed to do it. His dad was trudging along, probably wondering why he hadn't stayed home and cut grass instead. Another boy told his father, "Daaaaad! My feet are numb! They're asleeeeeeep!" We saw several people stopping to stretch their legs or vomit, and at least two people fell out along the way. (I hope they're okay. It was definitely hot, so anyone not accustomed to exercise and being out in the heat might have struggled somewhat.)


All in all, it was a beautiful day and a nice event. While I still don't like to run, I do very much enjoy our "run-away" stay-cations.

Thanks for reading!


BJ Bourg is the author of JAMES 516 (Amber Quill Press, 2014), THE SEVENTH TAKING (Amber Quill Press, 2015), and HOLLOW CRIB (Five Star-Gale-Cengage, 2016).
 
© 2015 BJ Bourg