Tuesday, October 8, 2013


I am so tired it's not even funny.

I'm not even tired for any good reason (bar the extreme vitamin deficiencies I'm working hard to correct). It was a normal work day (not even a death threat!!!), an organized Cattle Baron's meeting, soccer practice, dinner (which I'd prepped last night and thrown in the slow cooker this morning), and the usual evening routine of checking homework, signing agendas, etc...

The boys rallied. They'd completed their homework, folded their laundry and brought in the trash can and mail by the time I got home. Awesomeness.

But I still lamented the lack of time and energy in the few minutes between arriving home and leaving for soccer practice.

"I wish there were a few more hours in today," I said.

"Don't worry, Mom," Luke replied, "it'll all get done. As long as we have each other, it will all work out."

Luke wins.

I've got nothing. Except a better perspective on what I need to be doing after 5:30 p.m. 'Cause really, what else makes life worth living?

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Thing About Hurricanes

I couldn't sleep last night, so I was scrolling through old photo albums on Facebook. I came across "Hurricane Ike, September 2008" and realized it's been just over five years since that storm cut its fierce swath from Africa, over Cuba and made a direct hit on the Texas Gulf Coast, where I was living at the time.

Hurricanes are wicked and unpredictable. The only thing you can count on, for sure, is that when they strike, what you fear most will come to fruition.

No matter how well you get ready for the storm, by battening down the proverbial hatches, boarding up your windows, stockpiling water and  non-perishable foods, powering up your generator and finding what you think is a safe spot to ride out the storm,  nothing ever prepares you for the complete and utter devastation and destruction that awaits when the winds have dulled from a roar to a whisper and you peer out into the first light.

Like death and taxes, the only thing guaranteed is that your world will be turned upside down.

Friday, September 13, 2013

The "Dog" Ate My Homework

The other night, I threw my son's homework away.

Can you imagine him going to school with that excuse? "I'm sorry, Mrs. H., my mom threw my homework away."

Yeah. Right.

But it's true. I did.

We were going through the seven folders in his accordion file for each of his seven classes and separating the papers that I needed to sign, or the ones that needed to be returned to school, from the ones that had already been graded and returned. Paper tends to accumulate quickly in his accordion file.

In my quest to keep him organized, I fell quite short myself. I picked up the wrong stack of papers from the table and tossed them into the kitchen trash can, a fact we did not discover until after the remains of the tomato-based soup we had for dinner were scraped out of bowls on top of the aforementioned homework.

In years past, this would have caused a meltdown of epic proportions. But in his newfound middle school maturity, he simply got a dish towel, wiped chunks of tomato and cannelloni beans off of the college-ruled notebook paper, and recopied his work onto pristine paper.

We've worked so hard this year to get him organized. Each folder in the accordion file is color coded to correspond to a class. He carries his agenda with homework assignments written out for each class period. His school supplies are in a box in his backpack and workbooks and school papers are filed into the accordion folder with their folders under individual subjects. At home, there's a designated space to do homework. There's a place to keep backpacks, school uniforms, school shoes and lunch supplies. Today he gets assigned his locker at school so he doesn't have to carry as much around with him.

Now perhaps I need a better filing system. Trashcan notwithstanding.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

'Area journalists recall events of 9/11/01'

 As seen in the Jacksonville Daily Progress, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013

Editor’s Note: This article was compiled by Cristin Reece of the Palestine Herald-Press in memory of the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

By staff of the Jacksonville Daily Progress and Palestine Herald Press

Most would agree — for better or worse, the events that occurred in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001, irrevocably changed this country and its citizens’ lives.
The terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center buildings, damaged the Pentagon and killed 2,977 people —including more than 400 police officers and fire fighters. Many Americans can tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing during that 102 minutes. Jacksonville Daily Progress current and former staff members remember the day with crystal clarity.
“Several things stand out in my memory when talk turns to ‘where were you on 9/11,’” JDP reporter Jo Anne Embleton said. “Driving the few miles from my house to the Catholic Chancery in Tyler, where I worked as a reporter for Catholic East Texas, I was amazed at how gorgeous the day was turning out to be, and it was only 8 a.m. The skies were a beautiful shade of blue, the air wasn’t quite crisp, but definitely cooler than the summer heat we were accustomed to. I actually debated calling my boss to let him know I was taking a last-minute vacation day … then my cellphone rang.
“And before I could answer “hello,” my husband urged me to turn on the radio, because “World War III just started.
“The drive from our apartment to the chancery was less than 10 minutes, and it was surreal hearing the reports of a plane flying into the Twin Towers in NYC,” Embleton continued. “I remember reading about how, when “War of the Worlds” first aired on the radio, the programmers continually reminded people that it was a fictional story — that the world really wasn’t under attack by aliens from outer space. I think a part of me was seriously hoping that the reports were something similar, but the look on my editor’s face when I went into his office only confirmed the horrible reality of what had just happened.
“About an hour later, one of the secretaries came around to each of the offices to say the school’s superintendent, Deacon Vic Bonnaffee, was leading a prayer service in our chapel at 10 a.m. for the victims of that tragedy. I remember being grateful that Vic acted so quickly, because it gave us great comfort knowing that in our own little way, our little staff in East Texas were joined in solidarity with the rest of the country as we remembered those killed in that attack.”
Daily Progress Editor Amy Brocato Pearson was the Features Editor at the Beaumont Enterprise at the time, and — besides the news aspect of the day, has another, more personal reason she remembers so many details of the day.
“I was on my way into work on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, when I heard the news on the radio,” she remembers. “The first of the planes had struck the World Trade Center. I was usually one of the first people to work in the newsroom each morning. Sure enough, when I walked in, only the business editor and I were there. He already had the television on and was tuned into the devastation playing out right in front of us.
“We watched in silent disbelief as the second plane crash into the iconic tower. My brain was going in a million different directions at once. How did this impact Beaumont, Texas? Was this an accident? My friend, Lisa, worked in World Trade 7, was she OK? (Her office was destroyed that day, but she’d stopped to vote on the way to work that morning and was not at her desk at her usual time. It saved her.)
“I grabbed a reporter’s notebook and decided to run over to the Federal Building, just a few blocks away.
“Now when I say “run,” I was about six months pregnant at the time with my first child,” she said. “I can tell you what I was wearing that day— a periwinkle maternity shirt, a black skirt and the most comfortable sandals I owned. Not easy to run in, let me tell you. Clutching belly in one hand, cell phone, pen and notebook in the other, I wobbled over to the Federal Building and ran up the marble steps. I zipped through the double doors and cleared security just as the announcement came over the loudspeaker that the building was locking down. Security guards rushed into action, barring the doors. I did a few interviews with officials too discombobulated to talk before the building was completely evacuated as a precaution.
“By the time I got back to the newsroom, the Pentagon had been hit and the last plane had crashed in a Pennsylvania field.
“My son likes to hear the story of how he was “in my belly” on 9/11. It was only in the aftermath of the attacks that it occurred to me to think, “What kind of a world am I bringing a child into?” The child who was “in my belly” on Sept. 11, 2001, is about to turn 12. He’s mildly autistic and went through a phase where he was fascinated with everything 9/11. He’ll recite facts and tell me about things he’s read and I sometimes remind him that I watched it all unfold, albeit from news wire service reports.
“I really don’t remember many more details after the sharp clarity of the morning, but I do know we were operating on pure adrenaline. Even though the events of the day were happening thousands of miles away, the impact of those planes changed the lives of everyone in our coverage area forever.”
That’s the part of 9/11 that stuck with former JDP Assistant Editor Cristin Reece, now a news writer for the Palestine Herald Press.
“We were just ready to put that day’s Progress to bed — I mean, literally, finishing up the last page of the day’s paper,” she said. “I remember exactly where I was standing, right next to the printer waiting on proofs to print so we could make the last edits and corrections when my fellow reporter, Stephanie Little, blurted out ‘omigosh!” I looked up at the newsroom’s TV just in time to see the second plane hit the building. For one single instant, it seemed, everything and everyone just stopped. I don’t think the phones even rang in that one moment.
“And then we redid the front page,” Reece said with a laugh. “The way our deadline fell at the time, we were an afternoon paper — I think probably lots of local, small papers were — and it just so happened the JDP was one of the few newspapers of the day that actually had coverage of 9/11 on the front page that day. Lots of the big papers that come out in the mornings and the afternoons had it in their second run, of course, but we were one of the first with front page coverage. I was a brand new reporter, so I was a little impressed at that.
“It also made me realize the very scope of my job was changing right before my eyes,” Reece continued. “The world became much, much smaller that day, at least as far as the newsroom was concerned. That day, a cub reporter in Jacksonville, Texas, was scrambling to cover an event that didn’t even occur in the same time zone. Rather than just bringing readers the story of what happened — which we certainly did, thanks to the Associated Press and our sister papers — we also covered the impact those events had on our hometown. It really underlined that invisible link we all have with one another, no matter how far away we might be from each other.”
The day is now observed as the National Day of Service and Remembrance (previously Patriot Day). Initially, the day was called the Prayer and Remembrance for the Victims of the Terrorist Attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. When the new name was proposed, it received opposition from Massachusetts, which already had a Patriots' Day.
On this day, federal officials request the American flag be flown at half-staff at individual American homes, at the White House, and on all U.S. government buildings and establishments, home and abroad. The President also asks Americans to observe a moment of silence beginning at 8:46 A.M. (Eastern Daylight Time), the time the first plane struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Sixth Grade So Far

We've almost come to the end of the third week of the sixth grade and all I can say is, IT'S BEEN AWESOME.

A few of you know how much I stressed out about the sixth grade. Sixth grade owns a third of my gray hairs, along with the Curt-grays and the Constant Deadline-grays. (Luke gets one or two...when he does things like speculate on whether or not he can hit the pool jumping from the second floor balcony of his dad's house.)

Sixth grade started giving me gray hair more than a year ago. I didn't have any kind of peace about where Curt should go to school.

We visited the magnet program at one local middle school. It's a great program, but there were just...seething masses of sixth graders everywhere...it didn't feel right. Curt was only mildly enthused. We visited the campus we're zoned to attend. That DEFINITELY did not feel right. It's not a bad school and I'd trust both of those amazing counselors there with my son's life, but I knew that campus was not the right fit for him. Private schools were out too. In addition to being cost prohibitive (although I'd have made it work if I felt that was the RIGHT place for him), private schools are not required by law to accommodate his special needs. One even told me, flat out, they would not work with him (and I dare most people to even IDENTIFY his 'special need,' let alone refuse to "work with him.")

I prayed. A lot. I prayed for peace. I prayed for the right place for him.

God answers prayers.

We visited Cumberland Academy. As soon as we walked it, I knew it was "right." When we left, I had that peace. Not to mention, Curt LOVED it. A charter school with a brand-spanking-new middle school program, we had to apply through a lottery to get in. I'd been assured that it "wouldn't be a problem" for any of the new sixth or seventh graders to get a slot, but I worried anyway. Because that's what I do. And I prayed.

Curt got a slot in the sixth grade class. We went to the first parent information meeting. The principal announced that there was an extended school day for extra learning. Curt, who has no verbal filter or voice modulator, cried out, "SCORE," to the amusement of the faculty and staff and the chagrin of his new classmates. THEN she announced there would be DOUBLE math periods each day. Curt's response? "DOUBLE SCORE!" One kid nearby rolled his eyes, but Curt was in HEAVEN. The icing on the cake? The cherry on the sundae? "Each student will receive an iPad for their schoolwork."

"TRIPLE SCORE! THIS SCHOOL ROCKS." I think the entire assembly erupted into laughter.

I still worried all summer. We amassed uniforms and school supplies (enough to pay for at least a semester of college!). I worried. I worried he wouldn't stay organized. I worried he wouldn't make friends. I worried he wouldn't make it between classes on time, would trip and fall down the stairs or would fixate on the elevator and never make it to homeroom.

Then I found out one of his teachers was a calm, cool, collected, kind, PATIENT and warm friend from my Sunday School class.  Yet another was a vivacious, positive, upbeat, sharp, funny,  PATIENT friend of mine, his dad's and his step-mom's. Peace started to settle in.

So it's week three and so far, so good. No, so great.

Ok, so he did have lunch detention the third day of school, but his teacher was right to nip his excessive talking in the bud (I did mention he has little impulse control, right?). And she handled it SO WELL that he didn't even spiral into the dark realms of "I'm so dumb" that he's prone to.

We've had some organizational difficulties, but so has every sixth grader I've heard of so far. It's a learning curve. A steep learning curve.

And so far, he's handled it like a champ.

Did I mention God answers prayers?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Happy 10th Birthday, Luke Steven.

Dear Luke,

You turned 10 approximately 2 minutes ago (yes, the time is VERY important in our family) and I can't believe how time has flown over the past decade. I know it's cliche to say that, but I don't know a parent who wouldn't agree the same phenomenon takes place in their lives. How on earth did you reach double digits already?

I remember the weeks leading up to your birth. We knew you were a boy and we knew I would deliver you by scheduled c-section, so our doctor asked whether we wanted to have you before September 1, so you'd start school earlier, or after that date, so you'd get an extra year to mature and develop. We chose to wait and we scheduled your birth for Sept. 4.

Also in those weeks, we found out you were breech, that is, turned head up. With as big as the doctor thought you were and as short-waisted as I am, the doctor thought you'd be stuck in that position for the birth. He scheduled a sonogram for the Monday before you were born (you were born on a Thursday). Sure enough, you had your head firmly planted between my ribs and I'm pretty sure you were stretching by pushing between the bones of my pelvis and my ribs. It hurt!!! The day or two before your scheduled birthday, you turned. Trust me, I felt it. When we went in to deliver you, I told the doctor you were not in breech position any longer. "Impossible," he said. "There was no room for him to turn." I insisted you had. Sure enough, when you were delivered, you presented head down. You were a rule-follower from the get-go.

When you were born, I expected a dark-haired baby with an olive complexion, just like your older brother. You surprised me with your blond hair and fair skin, which was scratched from your very, very long fingernails (to this day we have to cut your nails at least once every three to four days). My friend Allison trimmed your nails for me the first night of your life. You had/have! the most marvelous freckles.

You never slept. You never stopped eating. I could never put you down. And how we cuddled and bonded and loved those first months. It was almost like I never gave birth, we were still so attached to each other.

I'm embarrassing you, I know, so I'll wrap this up.

In 10 years, I've watched you turn into a strong, smart, kind boy. I thank God for you daily. You are a natural leader and can organize and motivate a group of people like I've seen in very few people your age. You have such a big heart, organizing the fundraiser for the people in Japan after the tsunami and always, always befriending the kid standing alone on the playground. Your imagination is magnificent and I love how you can turn any object into a toy. I can watch the wheels of your mind turning when you're playing with a stick, a paperclip and a Matchbox car quietly on the kitchen table. I'm proud of how hard you play soccer and how good you've gotten, Luke. You have such natural ability but, more importantly, you've developed amazing sportsmanship. It makes me proud to see you're always the first to offer help, or take a knee, when one of your teammates gets hurt during play. You've got it interesting, Luke, having a brother with special needs. I know you don't see him that way, you just see Curt, and I know God blessed me with a son whose heart and mind is bigger than any diagnosis. I love you, sweet boy, and may the next several decades be as blessed as the first.


Saturday, April 27, 2013

It only takes a near-death experience...

to snap you back into the harshest reality there is.

No, it wasn't MY near-death experience, but when one of your BFF's (and I don't mean BFF in text speak, slang or modern-lingo) I mean "BFF" like this-woman-is-part-of-my-heart,  has a massive heart attack at age 42, it brings things into focus.

I haven't written anything in over a month. Because life was been happening at warp-speed. 
But the heart attack slowed everything down (everything but work, which is an entirely different story). And brought things into focus.

It was a Thursday afternoon, just like any Thursday afternoon. It was going to be Girl's Night Out, as all Thursdays were. A little sushi, a little live music, maybe some Mac-N-Cheese at our favorite place, Cork. Then I get the call from L, who asked, in panicked voice, "Have you heard from K?"

I hadn't.

All L could make out was "ETMC" and K's daughter's name. A check of the day care confirmed little K was still at her after school program. So it had to be big K at ETMC.

There's never a better plan executed then when three best friends put things into action.

L went to the hospital. I met L at the hospital to pick up her baby. C picked up little K at daycare and I met them at church to take possession of both little girls for the night.

We didn't know until about 2 hours later than K had a massive heart attack while she was driving between work and the daycare. Luckily, thank you, Lord Jesus Christ, she was near ETMC at the time and turned in to the parking lot, and was immediately helped by medics on a nearby ambulance, the parking lot attendant and the amazing staff in the ER.

Life started playing in slow motion that night. I had baby S and little K at my house. Somewhere, through the fog, I realized I didn't have any extra diapers. Soooooo....someone offered to go get them for me (no, didn't "offer," per se, told me he was taking care of it for me), left his house, bought the diapers and dropped them off. Is it cliche to say, "He had me at 'diapers?'

K recovered. She IS recovering. It will be a lifelong journey now. At age 42. Two years older than me.

She said that she doesn't remember much about arriving at the hospital. She says she remembers screaming, "I can't die. I have a 6-year-old."

She had 99 percent blockage in an artery. She now has two stents. She regaining strength and vitality day by day, because that's what you do when you're mega-strong like her.

I had to think about things. Things that were happening in my life. Amazingly. Beautifully. 

The week before this happened, my silly Sunday school teacher had talked about "trusting."

"We trust God in work, our finances, our children, our homes, our bills and everything but our relationships," she said. "We try to control those but we have to....trust...abide...."

Now because I'm the type to always do what the teacher says, I listened. And gave it up. And that's when the diapers happened. It's all her fault. That's all I'm sayin.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Little Trees That Could

Last year, which was a really, really, really, really, really, really long time ago (it seems), we went to the Main Street Flower Market at the Goodman-LaGrand house.

It was a beautiful day to shop for flowers and support the city of Tyler.

In addition to our purchases that day, kids were able to plant their OWN seedling tree, courtesy of the city.

March 2012

The boys planted little Mexican plum trees in what seemed like a VERY BIG bucket for such a small plant.

Our instructions were to leave it in the pot until January 2013, a really, really, really, really, really, really long time.

So we did, watering and feeding as necessary. They grew about two feet each, and started to sprout pretty green leaves.

Yesterday, we planted them in the front yard (yes, I know it's MARCH, I was waiting until, uh, the ground was softer. Or something like that).

March 2013

And we can't wait to watch them grow for many more years.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Incredible, Shrinking Suitcase

How is it that I packed an ENTIRE WEEK'S worth of clothes into this suitcase for vacation last summer, but I can't begin to get Curt's belongings for three days of camp into the same vessel?

I'm going to blame the fact that it was summer and the clothes are smaller. And that he didn't need two bath towels, a rain jacket and fleece pajama pants on vacation at the beach.

Scary thing is, I haven't even packed the three pairs of pants, three shirts and a jacket that the checklist calls for yet.

And while we're talking about camp, I will readily admit I'm not liking the idea very much.

I mean, it's a GREAT OPPORTUNITY for Curt and he's going to love it. The entire fifth grade gets to go to the Camp Tyler Outdoor School for three days this time of year. Don't worry - they go by classes. The camp isn't overrun with a thousand stinky, hormonal fifth graders at the same time (bless their hearts).

Curt's class goes Wednesday and comes back Friday. Two nights and three days.

Two VERY LONG nights and three days, I might add.

He's going to love it.

Remind me of this Wednesday night.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Week in Review - Jan 27, 2013

I'm tired.

And feeling lazy.

And I'll be honest: I don't want to get up and iron. Or vacuum. Both of those things have to be accomplished before my head hits the pillow tonight.

So I was just sitting here thinking about the week - how busy - and how GREAT - it was.

It started last Sunday, with a baby shower for a very special friend.

I get to be there when baby Stella is born. I've never gotten to see a baby born (my own do not count) and I've always wanted to. It's on my bucket list. And the fact that this baby's mama is very special to me makes it all the better. I can't wait! I'm so excited. I've offered to take all the middle of the night feedings. Oh wait...

 I took Monday off. The boys had the day off of school *AND* it was Curt's birthday. WIN/WIN. We didn't do a whole lot (my idea of going to Tyler State Park to hike the bike trails and grill a picnic lunch was immediately shot down after the Birthday Boy received a certain electronic he was blown away by) but we still had a great day. Where, oh where, did 11 years go?

Then we got our new couch for the freshly dubbed "Family Room." I love that they call it that. It's where we go after dinner to read (and use electronics). But point being, we all pile onto the couch. Together.

One of these kids didn't want their picture taken.

Tuesday and Wednesday passed in the usual flurry of work deadlines, a few extra special sections and karate.

On Thursday, the school nurse called, just as I'd gotten settled into my desk, some 24 miles away from school.

Thank you to the Brookshire's pharmacist who suggested the allergy meds on Day 2 of the Crud. We didn't even need the cough medicine, which I'm leery of to begin with. Curt is feeling much, much, MUCH better and he doesn't sound like we need to check him into the first sanitorium we encounter.

Saturday was GIRL POWER. Our second event of the year, Girl Power promotes positive self-esteem, a healthy lifestyle, leadership and volunteerism among 6th grade girls in Smith County. Let me just tell you: 6th grade girls squeal. A. LOT. But I'm glad they had plenty to squeal about. Kids in the Kitchen facilitated the morning's festivities. The girls talked about topics from exercise to puberty to acne and nutrition, made healthy snacks, did zumba and yoga and squealed. A. LOT. The highlight of the event is always The Meg Show. Thank God for women like Meghan Goade, the middle school girls' minister at Green Acres Baptist Church. The girls. LOVE. HER. Hey girl. 

At the end of the rainy day, it was good to come home to the boys, some homemade chicken noodle soup (I was determined to kick the crud's butt and I won!) and the Family Room.

It was a most excellent, and exhausting, week.


Monday, January 21, 2013


January 21, 2002

8:31 p.m.

7 pounds 15 ounces

Infinite love.

Happy birthday, Curt T.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

'No Good Deed Goes Unpunished' - A News Story Deconstructed

I wanted to run "WE WERE DUPED" jam capped in a 72-point headline.

Because Charlie Boothe has made me angry.

Not only because he lied to us for his own pathetic gain, but because he put me, and all my co-workers, in danger. When he gets out of jail, he'll probably do it again somewhere else.

And I'm angry that I felt BAD for calling the police on this pathetic excuse for an individual, hoping he'd get to sleep off his stinking, ranting, threatening drunk in the Jacksonville jail, and if he was really lucky, get a psych eval and a three-day stay in Behavioral Health in Tyler. The JPD explained that because he was not a danger to himself, he didn't qualify for a psych eval, but he'd be released from jail the next morning, when he was sober.

BUT THEN they found out about his violent past. And arrests for violent crimes in at least six other states.

We did our due diligence with the story. Newspapers don't typically run background checks on everyone they write about. He was known to the local Marine Corps League Det. 1381 (who were trying to help him get housing at the local Travis Towers). The certification papers for his dog were legitimate. There was no way of knowing that they didn't actually belong to this dog and the papers were stolen. And sometimes,  you just WANT TO TAKE PEOPLE AT THEIR WORD. We get lambasted regularly for running what the public perceives as "negative" news, so when a feel-good story comes along, we tend to jump on it. Not all of us are cynical and jaded, although I feel that way today (the Lance Armstrong confession isn't helping my cynicism).

I didn't write the follow up article, after Mr. Boothe's arrest. At that point, I was PART of the story, and as I'm sure you can tell from above, not fair and impartial in the least.

You see, because when he came back to our offices Friday, he only wanted to talk to me. I was called back from lunch out with a friend and I NEVER, EVER leave for lunch (so it was a special treat). And I sat out in front of the building (after he'd been kicked out of the lobby for vulgar and abusive language) listening to his lies, which included being sent to Vietnam when he was 14 years old. "I was a baby killing babies," he said, with tears streaming down his face. He said he was a platoon mate of guitarist Carlos Santana (turns out he may or may not have a second dog named Carlos Santana). He said his job in the military was highly classified. He said he had previously threatened to blow up the White House, which is why the CIA had been looking for him. Then he started talking about his love of the AK-47. This is when I texted the co-worker to call the police. But the whole time, we all felt bad for this man, who clearly, lies or not, has emotional and mental problems. We felt bad his dog was taken away again. We felt bad that somehow, somewhere, a system has let him down.

But he lied. He had a calculated plan to extract money and sympathy from the community.

And THAT makes me angry.

'Missing dog' story turns out to be hoax



What started out as a "feel-good" story about a homeless man who lost, then recovered, his service dog with the help of Jacksonville's good Samaritans last week has turned out to be a  hoax.

Charles Lee Boothe, 54, is described by Jacksonville police as a "drifter-grifter" with multiple violence-related convictions in seven states.

Authorities believe he lied to a Jacksonville Daily Progress reporter, claiming he had lost what he claimed was a “service animal.” By getting the reporter to write about the alleged incident, Boothe was hoping to receive resources and money from sympathetic area residents, police believe.

But something was very wrong with Boothe on Friday. He showed up at the offices of the newspaper, drunk and muttering conspiracy theories along with angry expletives. In the process, he troubled nearly every member of the newspaper staff.

"If he hadn't come back into our offices in the throes of a meltdown, we might not have ever known that something was wrong, very wrong, with his version of events," Editor Amy Brocato Pearson said. "I feel bad for all the people who tried to help him."

After the staff tried to talk to Boothe several times, Pearson determined that police should be called.

After Boothe was arrested on a charge of public intoxication, officers searched his belongings and found a stolen birth certificate – the theft of which is punishable as a state jail felony – and also determined paperwork Boothe showed the reporter when claiming his black-mouth cur Fuzzy as a service dog was legitimate, but actually belonged to someone else.

Police have taken Fuzzy to the city pound, where authorities will determine to whom he will be released.

Also, Jacksonville Daily Progress officials have filed a charge of criminal trespassing, a Class B Misdemeanor, against Boothe.

"It appears he is going to be in jail for awhile,"  Jacksonville Police Sgt. Jason Price said.

During the newspaper visit that led to his incarceration, Boothe disclosed that a reporter with a Tyler newspaper had upset him. But Sgt. Price said it's a fair bet Booth actually was angry because he knew he was attracting too much attention to his scam. During his ill-fated visit, Boothe claimed that the CIA could now pinpoint his location because of details disclosed in news articles, and that he was a target of the CIA because he had previously threatened to blow up the White House.

While interviewing with the Progress, Boothe claimed he was a veteran of the United States Marines – going so far as to allege he lied his way into the service at age 14. However, a Social Security number check by the Marine Corps League Det. 1381 could not locate a service record for Boothe whatsoever.

Following is the sequence of events:

• Boothe approached the paper about the allegedly missing animal on Monday;

• The first story ran on Tuesday.

• Fuzzy was found Tuesday afternoon.

• The second story ran on Wednesday.

• The final, ill-fated, visit to the newspaper took place Friday.

What is bothersome to Pearson is how many good-hearted members of the community became involved in this search. During the search for Fuzzy, the Daily Progress received numerous phone calls with Fuzzy sightings Tuesday morning. One resident apparently found Fuzzy and brought her to the Klein Animal Shelter. Another woman, who was physically unable to assist in the search, offered funding to put up 'lost dog' flyers in the area. When she learned Fuzzy was returned to Boothe, she said she would just buy dog food and drop it off near the location where Booth was living. Even on the day Fuzzy was returned, a customer who had stopped by the Jacksonville Daily Progress offices during Boothe's and Fuzzy's visit handed him a folded $20 bill.

"God bless," Boothe told her.

The "missing dog" scam is one Boothe had tried at least once before. According to information recovered by Jacksonville Police, Boothe circulated "lost dog" flyers in Palestine as well as penning a letter to the editor of the Palestine Herald Press.

In the flyers, Boothe referred to a missing service animal who answered only to "Lil Brother" or "Hey Stupid."

"Please return him," Boothe wrote in the Palestine newspaper. "I just want my baby back."

That was the exact same phrase he used with the Jacksonville paper.

The details were slightly different from the Jacksonville case, but for the most part it was the same basic scam, police believe.

Officers initially had just planned to take Boothe into custody overnight because he was drunk, but that changed after they discovered the stolen birth certificate,

Officers looked into his background and discovered his extensive criminal record, which ranges from aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in Texas; to disorderly conduct in Florida; robbery and burglary out of California; and further charges in New Hampshire, Georgia, and Tennessee.

He had been living behind a local florist shop near Highway 79. In addition to Fuzzy, he also cared for a small black dog. That other dog's status was not immediately available Monday.

Ultimately, when Boothe gets out of jail, authorities hope he drifts on to another area.

Editor Pearson said she refuses to allow this incident to blind her to the mission of the newspaper.

"They say 'no good deed goes unpunished' and this could very well fall under that category," Pearson said. "However, just because Mr. Boothe fooled us into believing his trumped-up tale doesn't mean we still won't rally behind residents of Cherokee County who have a compelling story or who need the community's help in the future.

"As a newspaper, we did our due diligence in confirming as much of Mr. Boothe's story as we were able to at the time."

Sunday, January 13, 2013


I knew it was coming.

But no matter how much I told myself it was coming, I wasn't ready.

I had a pretty good inkling after the Great Car Line Incident of 2012. You see, Curt was too embarrassed to get out of the BACK SEAT of the car in the drop off line one morning at school. Apparently only BABIES ride in the back seat. So he refused. to. get. out. of. the. car. He was too EMBARRASSED.

Guess what is even MORE EMBARRASSING than riding in the back seat? 

When MOM gets out of the car and opens your door for you, in the drop off line at school.

Lesson learned.

Oh there were tears (because it's embarrassing to ride in the back seat of the car, but not to walk into school crying???) and I pretty much felt like mom-crap all day, but the sheer ridiculousness of his blatant refusal to get out of the car exasperated me beyond belief.

So I had a pretty good idea that embarrassment + tears = hormones and puberty.

Ack. I said the "p" word.

Fast forward to last night.

The boys were sitting on the sofa, happily eating a small dish of ice cream for dessert after dinner.

The next door neighbor boy knocked on the door to see the boys.

Curt FLIES into the kitchen, tears streaming down his face, moaning, "Why did you give me that bowl? Why did you give me that bowl?"

I had NO. IDEA. what he was talking about, until he practically threw his bowl of ice cream into the sink.

"It's a BABY BOWL," he cried.


Alas, it was. Probably bought at Target in the dollar bin for a Valentine's Day in a year when he didn't think that cutesy bowls were BABY. It still hangs around because it's a good portion size for a single scoop of ice cream, and the like.

And he was SO EMBARRASSED to be caught eating from a BABY BOWL in front of a buddy.

Lesson learned.

Hello, Puberty. I hope we make it.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The News Business Is Like A Box of Chocolates...

...You never know what you're going to get.

There is no "average" day in the news business. I was telling someone yesterday that my morning was going well so far, but you never know what kind of turn it could take thoughout the day. It was raining, so the probability of traffic accidents was high. It was a Monday, so there might have been murders over the weekend that we hadn't heard about until the cops reporter made his rounds. We did hear about a tragic suicide, but we don't report on those.

No, yesterday's news took the kind of serendipitous turn that makes building a front page fun in a man-loses-dog kind of way.

At first blush, a man losing a dog doesn't sound like a happy-happy-joy-joy kind of story. But this one was.

A man came in off the street. Literally. He lives in a horse trailer behind a floral shop down the street from the paper. He had his back pack and his winter hat and a special service dog vest. That no dog was wearing. His service dog, Fluffy, had been missing since Saturday. Mr. Booth, a homeless veteran, was beside himself. His "baby," as he called her, helped him with physical and mental issues he didn't like to talk about. In his extensive lamentations, all he wanted was his dog back.

Veteran searches for missing dog

JACKSONVILLE — A self-described homeless Jacksonville veteran is anxiously awaiting the return of his missing service dog, Fuzzy.

Fuzzy, a black-mouth cur, has been missing since early Saturday afternoon, said her owner, Charlie Booth.

The 1-year-old, golden-colored dog stands about a foot-and-a-half high and has a black spot on her tongue, Booth said.

Booth, who lives behind Cindy's Floral, has had Fuzzy for about nine months. He trained her himself and she's certified as a service animal through Gold Star German Shepherds: All Breed Dog Training & Service Dogs, a company out of Nevada. According to the Americans With Disabilities Act, service dogs are not required to have a federal certification, although state requirements vary from place to place. In Texas, assistance animals must be trained by "organizations generally recognized as reputable and competent by agencies involved in rehabilitation of people with disabilities." Booth has all papers regarding Fuzzy's certification and had just received her vest, designating her as an assistance dog, in the mail on Monday.

"She's my baby, I just want her back," Booth said. "People know me and Fuzzy are together. We go together."

Booth, who suffers from what he describes as partial paralyzation and equilibrium problems, among other things, said Fuzzy helps him get up and down and helps him maintain his balance. On his "lazy days," when standing is too difficult, "she lays in the driveway by me and watches the world go by," he said.

"She helps me mentally and emotionally and physically," he said. She helps him so much, in fact, that the first thing Booth does when he receives his disability check is buy Fuzzy a steak.

Booth has visited the police and the animal shelter in Jacksonville looking for Fuzzy, but doesn't have the financial resources or transportation to launch a larger-scale effort to find his beloved dog.

Booth, who doesn't like to talk about his service in the military, has also sought aid from the local Marine Corps League Det. 1381, confirmed Commandant Chuck Bones.

"Just bring her back," he pleaded. "I don't want to meet you, I don't want to see you, I just want my dog."

If you find Fuzzy, please return her to Booth in the area behind Cindy's Floral on East Rusk Street or call the Jacksonville Daily Progress at 903-586-2236.

Fast forward to this morning: calls came in with alleged Fuzzy sightings. At lunch time, I went out to investigate. In the rain and fog we drove around Jacksonville, slowly driving down the streets where Fuzzy was supposedly seen.

No luck.

We finally stopped by the animal shelter.

"Oh, Mr. Charlie? He's got his dog back," the official there was happy to tell us.

I decided to pay Mr. Booth a visit. Sadly, he wasn't there. I came back to the office, beating the heaviest rain storm of the day by a mere matter of minutes.

Moments later, I was paged over the interoffice intercom to come to the front lobby.

I went up front and there was Mr. Booth. AND FUZZY.


JACKSONVILLE — It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a small city to find a lost dog.

But that's exactly what Jacksonville did.

Fuzzy, the black-mouth cur belonging to veteran Charlie Booth, who went missing Saturday afternoon, was safe in his owner's arms Tuesday.

"You're goofy, you're just a goofy girl," obviously jubilant Booth said, when he visited the offices of the Jacksonville Daily Progress to share the good news.

Meanwhile, Fuzzy, who definitely lives up to her name with a thick, luxurious golden coat, laid at her master's feet and obeyed his every command.

The Daily Progress received numerous phone calls Tuesday morning with Fuzzy sightings, but it was one resident, a man only identified as living on Brown Street, who apparently found Fuzzy and brought her to the Klein Animal Shelter.

"Then Mr. Roy and Ms. Jennifer went and got her and brought her back," Booth said.

'Roy' and 'Jennifer' (Booth insisted on first-names only) are the owner and employee of CJ's Quick Stop on East Rusk Street.

"They were helping me," Booth said.

Booth wants to thank the Marine Corps League Det. 1381, the Jacksonville Police Department, the Klein Animal Shelter, 'Ms. Micky' at the Clothes Closet, Jacksonville Animal Control officers, the USPS mail carrier in the area of Cindy's Florals on East Rusk Street, 'Mr. Roy,' 'Ms. Jennifer and her husband, Scott, and everyone else who assisted in the search, which includes an 86-year-old reader of our newspaper who was unable to physically help search, but offered financial assistance for flyers to help find Fuzzy.

Fuzzy, who was missing the collar and tags she was wearing when she disappeared, will turn 1 year old on Jan. 22.

Did I mention I love my job?