Archive for August, 2010

A Troubling Question

Henry Louis Granju was checked into a Knoxville hospital on April 27th, 2010 due to complications stemming from a brutal assault coupled with a drug overdose. He was the eighteen-year-old son of my close friend Katie Allison Granju and Chris Granju, who graduated from my high school a year before me (in Lovie’s class). He was the step son of two supportive and loving step parents. He was an idolized big brother to three born children, as well as to the one unborn child in Katie’s womb. He was a beloved grandson. He was an incredible cousin. He was a friend to countless. He was a gifted musician. He was bright, charming, sensitive, irreverent, kind, gentle, and funny. He was also addicted to drugs.

And now, he’s dead.

Katie and I were emailing back and forth one morning, but our flurry was interrupted by a meeting I had. After the meeting, I texted her to see if she had time to finish our exchange via a brief phone call. She responded with “I’m in the ER. Please pray for my son. He’s been beaten up and is on life support.”

So quite literally, from moment one, I’ve read each and every single word of her horrific account as it’s unfolded and have given each and every imaginable element of this tragedy great thought. I’ve stood in awe of Katie’s candor and bravery and watched with great pride as she used her enormous platform to share her story, in hopes of preventing other families from living the hellish nightmare which befell hers.

And I’ve watched with great frustration an investigation that seems impotent at best, a charade at worst. I’ve also watched with great anger how some of the media as well as some of my city’s high-ranking civic employees have portrayed her. As a nuisance. A pest. As a unjustified squeaky wheel.

But all I’ve ever seen is a mom who loves her son.

Katie has posed a question for her readers today on her blog. A troubling question. I’d like very much for you to click on the link below and read that question. And then ask yourself what you would do if you were Katie. Would you be as brave as she’s been? Would you open yourself up to great criticism, to controversy? Would you continue to mother your child in death? Because that’s what she’s doing.

And it fills my eyes with tears. For countless reasons.

I have a feeling this local story will one day become a national one.

Katie, our family continues to hold you and yours extremely close in both thought and prayer. Don’t give up, girl. I’m on your side. And I’ll do anything humanly possible to help you and your family.


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Happy Anniversary, Lovie

lovie and me moments after arriving at our reception.

Exactly four years ago from today, Lovie and I stood at the alter in front of Dr. William Barron in a small chapel inside Sequoyah Presbyterian Church and made a solemn oath before God and fifty of our closest friends and family members. To love, honor and cherish one another for the rest of our lives. With only Alli by our side, the three of us became one that day, completely unaware that we’d double the size of our family in thirteen scant months thanks to a triple blessing which no one could have ever predicted.

Simply put, I’m incredibly in love with my beautiful wife and my four wonderful children. I’m also genuinely humbled by the good fortune bestowed upon me and so thankful to have the opportunity to be the patriarch of our unique clan. None of it would have ever come to pass had the love of my life not uttered those two magical words while holding my sweaty hands and looking directly into my eyes with her beautiful, bright blue ones.

To pay homage, a quick recap of our marriage by the numbers:

13 — years of parenting. (9 w/ the trips and 4 with Pookie)
12 — total pounds of babies Lovie birthed on 9/29/07. (actually 12.4375, but I rounded down.)
11 — total weeks of bedrest.
10 — times per day I annoy Lovie.
9 — times per day I annoy myself.
8 — individual shoes our children require.
7 — times Lovie will ask me why I uploaded such a lame picture of us for this post.
6 — times I’ll tell her it was the only wedding pic I had on this computer. (I’ll be asleep the seventh time she asks me, therefore unable to respond.)
5 — weeks of hospitalized bedrest.
4 — gallons of milk we go through per week.
3 — glorious births.
2 — houses owned.
1 — crazy-ass dog.
0 — percentage chance we’ll ever get divorced.

Happy anniversary, Lovie! I love you so much!

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Pookie may not ever win any penmanship awards, but that doesn’t detract from the beauty of her writing. Within the past year or so, she’s taken to leaving her mother and me notes, usually in the kitchen to prohibit us from various sweets she’s classified as hers and hers only. Whenever I run across one of her communiques, I know I’m in for a treat, even if the note’s purpose is to actually deny me one.

Accordingly, I was tickled pink when I found one of her sloppily written doctrines the other night. But my delight quickly disappeared as I read the downward-tilting and crooked verse of her scribblings. It was the lyrics to Katie Perry’s California Gurls — more specifically, Snoop Dogg’s part.

Color me old school, but no little girl should ever write all that ass, hangin’ out. Ever. Speaking of hangin’, y’all hang tight. I gotta puke real quick.

K. I’m back. *wipes mouth with Kleenex.* Where was I?

I’ll tell you where I was — smack dab in the middle of a crisis. One which I can no longer ignore. Pookie’s been asking me for months to download various (and morally questionable) songs on her iPod, California Gurls among them. And maybe I’m just a big prude, but I’ve found it difficult to give my pony-tail-sporting daughter unfettered access to tunes such as Jerimiah’s Birthday Sex. So I’ve been putting her off.

But truth be told, I’m split right down the middle on this one. On the one hand, many of today’s popular songs contain lyrics dripping with age-inappropriate themes. And while I realize that Pook probably isn’t catching the double entendre when Katie belts out Sun-kissed skin so hot, we’ll melt your popsicle, I’d still rather she not be exposed to veiled fellatio references (or is it coitus?), thank you very much. Hell, I’m having a hard enough time with her John Stamos obsession. (Damn you, Nikelodeon.)

But on the other hand, songs containing sexually explicit themes, misogynistic lyrics, and drug references are hardly anything new. Recently, Elise LeQuire White shared with me a comical essay she once wrote about super-cheesy songs. One of those referenced was a tune I’d not thought of in years — Sammy John’s Chevy Van. Reading Elise’s cleverly penned column reminded me just how much I loved that song when I was in kindergarten. Its premise? Sammy is driving around one day in his Chevy van when he stops to pick up some random-ass, hitch-hiking chick who naps innocently for a bit in his front seat. Before waking up, that is, at which point she grabs the singer “by the hand.” Next thing you know it, ol’ Sammy’s relentlessly banging this nomadic nymphomaniac in the back of his (presumably disgusting and pimped out) vehicle. Hardly an appropriate song for a five-year-old to know by heart, yet I turned out okay, right?


My point? Just as I was during the seventies, Pookie’s getting plenty of exposure to today’s pop culture regardless of what I do. Her bio dad’s girlfriend has much older children. Each and every time she returns from his house, she’s learned something new, most likely from one of these older kids whom she idolizes. Not that I’m blaming her dad (or his girlfriend) at all. I was the youngest of five, so I get it. You think I discovered Chevy Van all by myself? So if Pookie is going to stumble upon the very things I’m trying to shield her from in the first place, why even bother?

* * *

The other day, I read a wonderful post by one of my fellow speakers at next month’s M3 Summit in Atlanta, Jason Falls. His topic was a controversial one — the proposed thirteen-story Manhattan Islamic community center just two blocks from ground zero. Jason’s take was as succinct as it was clear. “Religious zealots,” he writes, “are to blame for the events of Sept. 11, 2001. They were extremists of their religion. Religious zealots were to blame for the events of Nov. 18, 1978. (the Jonestown Massacre) They were extremists of their religion. Blaming 9/11 on Muslims is like blaming Jonestown on Methodists. You’re generalizing and stereotyping and dividing our country. And you’re helping the cause not of Muslims, but of the extremists.”

I couldn’t agree with Jason any more. The day our country decides where various places of worship belong and where they do not will be a sad one, indeed. For it will mean that our government will have imposed the power of censorship on its citizens, thus rendering the first amendment — the right to gather and convene, as well as freedom of speech — impotent. And I don’t mean to get all John Milton on you, but his appeal to Parliament in 1644 to rescind government-sanctioned censorship, Areopagitica, is widely regarded as the best argument ever made against censorship of any kind. I was required to read excerpts from it for one of my high school English classes. It struck a chord with me then, and it still strikes a chord with me now.

Why? Because I’m all about freedom of speech. So given that, I can’t help but wonder why I’m all undone about a few age-inappropriate lyrics my nine-year-old probably doesn’t even understand just yet.

The answer is a simple one. I don’t want my little girl to grow up mistaking misogynistic sentiments as healthy ones. I don’t want her goal in life to be a sought-after piece of scantily-clad ass. I don’t want her to aspire to be the momentary apple of someone like Snoop Dogg’s eye when, in California Gurls, he raps kiss her, touch her, squeeze her buns. (By the way Snoop, buns? Really?)

* * *

So what should I do? Pull a Tipper Gore and censor everything my daughter listens to? Even though I know she’ll easily gain access to it regardless of my efforts? Because that’s essentially what I’ve been doing by putting her off, censoring, that is, and it obviously isn’t working. Thanks to the internet, she’s mere keystrokes away from pulling up any number of vulgar things, no matter how many safety features we employ on our computer. (By the way, does anyone else find it ironic that the queen of censorship was married to the guy who invented the anything-but-censored internet?)

So censorship? No. If I object to it in Manhattan, why should I employ it in my home? Instead, I think I’ll take off my Hypocrite Panties and allow my daughter access to the media she’s hell-bent on accessing anyway. Will I keep my eye on her? You bet. Will I impose limits on her? Of course. But will I censor her? No. Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows that I’m a man of faith. So I’ll lean heavily on it and trust that the strength of our family and the direction it provides will be sufficient enough to preclude Pookie from the miswired legions of her generation who will eventually get swept away in a sea of pop culture superficiality. I’ll stay as plugged in as I can to the things she likes, enough, at least, to be able to chime in with my two cents each and every time the opportunity presents itself.

By doing so, I’ll be a bigger part of her life than I would be if I were to simply deny her access to any and everything that doesn’t completely jive with the values I’m hoping she’ll one day embrace. By doing so, I’ll be better plugged in to her and the issues she’ll face as she creeps ever closer toward adolescence. By doing so, I’ll likely be able to keep an even closer eye on her as she won’t be forced to go behind my back to sneak a forbidden cookie from the alluring jar.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some songs to download. And while I’m not necessarily thrilled about it, at least there’s a silver lining.

None of them are sung by Justin Bieber. That kid gives me the creeps.

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Pookie’s already back in school. So are the trips, for that matter. Yesterday was their first day. Ever.

It’s hard to believe, but in mere weeks we’ll be referring to the beautiful season that just slipped through our fingers as last summer.

Only I’m not quite ready to let it go yet. So I paid homage to it. In part so I could relive it whenever I felt the urge to do so. If you’ve got three minutes, I hope you’ll relive it with me.

It was a good summer, y’all. I’m gonna miss it.


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Mother, mother ocean,

I have heard you call.

Wanted to sail upon your waters

Since I was three feet tall.

This pirate's look at 40?

No complaints, y'all.


Here’s a quick slide-show from the rest of our vacation which includes these pics as well as a few others.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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My Interview With Lovie

Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows how charming and feisty Lovie is. From my words, at least.

But don’t you think it’s about time you saw for yourself? Watch this video and tell me she’s not priceless. You may need to keep your volume up, though. She’s kinda hard to hear, but well worth the effort…

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Talkin’ With Pook

pook at the beach

Today is a special day. It’s Pookie’s ninth birthday. I’ve had the good fortune of being her step dad for nearly four years now. All told, I’ve known her for two thirds of her life.

And I’ve loved her every minute of it.

While Caroline was carrying the triplets, countless well intentioned people would say something along these lines: “Just wait til you have your own children.”

“I’m sure. I’ve got Alli, so I know what you mean.”

“Yeah, but just wait. You’ll see.”

The insinuation, of course, was that I didn’t know what they meant and that I wouldn’t until I had my own biological children. And I understand what those people meant. The best day of my life (aside from my wedding day) was the one when the wee threesome began their reign of planet Earth. But that said, I don’t love Alli any differently than I do A, B, or C, except, perhaps, for the fact that I love her like a parent loves his or her first child.

My point? The fact that she’s not “mine” has never made a difference. And it never will.

When I proposed to Lovie, it was important to me that Pookie be part of the process. So after I sought permission from Lovie’s mom (her dad is deceased), I sought the same thing from Pook. Here’s how it went down.

“Pookie, I got something very important I wanna talk to you about. So pick anywhere in the whole house where you want to have a serious chat.”

Oddly, she chose the very corner of her momma’s bedroom where we sat Indian style facing one another. Perhaps odder still, my hands were damp with anxiety.

Deep breath.

“You know I love you, right?” I began.

“Yeeeessss,” she answered coyly.

“Did you know I love your mommy, too?”

“I thought you loved her!” She wore a grin that stretched from one ear to another.

“Well you’re right. In fact, I love your mommy so much that I wanna marry her.”

A look of genuine disappointment came across Pookie’s face. “But Mommy’s already married,” she said while looking down at the planks of the hardwood floor, her finger tracing an imaginary pattern.

Understandable confusion for sure. After all, Pookie was only four, and divorce is anything but black and white. A less prepared man might have been derailed by such confusion. But luckily, I had anticipated this stumbling block.

“Oh, honey, your mommy’s actually not married to your daddy any more. That’s why you live in this house,” I said, making a sweeping gesture with my arm. “Remember that book It’s Not Your Fault Koko Bear?”

Of course she did. She and her mom read it together all the time. I had even read it to her a time or two.

“Well, it’s just like Koko Bear’s Mommy and Daddy. They were all grumpy and grumbly when they lived together so they decided not to be married any more and moved into different homes. So, just like Koko Bear, you have two homes now.”

“Well, if you married Mommy, where would you live?”

“I’d move in with y’all.”

Pook’s face lit up like a Christmas tree. “Would Briggs come, too?”

Hmmm. The downside seemed to be that the prospect of living with my dog was more appealing than that of living with me. But the upside? I had a trump card. So I laid it down like Phil Ivey.

“He sure would, honey.”

Excitement turned to flat-out jubilation. “You better bring his food!”

“I will, honey. I will. So whaddya say?”

Permission granted.

Pookie, thank you for letting me marry your mom. And thank you, also, for being such a wonderful daughter. I can’t believe you’re nine, already! You’re becoming such a big girl, and I want you to know how proud I am of you! Happy Birthday, sweetheart! I love you SO VERY MUCH!

pookie always makes a splash in whatever she does!

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Katie Allison Granju

Through the years, there have been many influential people who have encouraged me to pursue my writing. But none more so than my friend Katie Allison Granju. Though there’s no way I could ever possibly repay her for all the support and help she’s given me, I jump at any chance I get to show her my gratitude.

That’s why I’m so pumped to tell to tell y’all that Katie’s been nominated for the Knoxville News Sentinel’s annual “Best Of” poll in the “Best Blogger” category. And rightfully so. Any of her umpteen trillion followers will tell you, Katie’s the real deal, a true blogger who’s stood the test of time. She’s been on-line for well over a decade, folks, yet in all her years, never has she been more brilliant than during the past few months while chronicling the tragic story of her son, Henry, with uncommon candor, bravery, and beauty. She’s using her platform to make a difference, reaching tens of thousands of people all over the world in hopes that her family’s nightmare can prevent another family from a similar fate.

So go check out Katie’s blog now! And once you do, make sure you vote for her as Best Blogger in East TN. Because she’s just that. And more.

Congratulations, Katie! I’m so proud of you. This honor is well-deserved!

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Dear Random-Ass Lotto Junkies,

Do you have to scratch off your lotto tickets on the convenient store counter? Hmmm? Do you? Because there’s nothing worse than standing ten deep in a line that’s being held up by one of the many in your pathetic legion. Thankfully, most (if not all) establishments no longer tolerate such behavior. I suspect it’s because ownership finally realized that the spasmodic, wrist-vibrating motion you employ to confirm the wasted status of the dollar you just spent strongly resembles rodent masturbation, which, it turns out, is bad for business.

portrait of two junkies

So what did you clowns do? You took your addiction ten feet away, where you may not be holding up any more lines, but where you are still in clear sight of the convenient store patrons thanks to the glass, outer walls which frame such establishments. It’s there where you now conduct your ugly business atop a foul-smelling waste receptacle.

Hast thou no shame, oh shameful ones?

Forget for a moment that the very sight of you is disturbing. Think, instead, of how unfair it would be for other patrons to follow your very lead. Namely that of consuming their product mere seconds after purchase. It’d be anarchy.

How would you like it if college kids busted out a funnel and started throwing down their beers on the store sidewalk?

You don’t see rolling-paper patrons twisting up a quick doobie atop the door-side garbage can, do you?

The folks who walk out with Tide under their arm don’t bust out a quick load of laundry, do they?

I bet you can’t recall a single time that someone made a parking lot sandwich with the lunchmeat and loaf of bread they just bought, can you?

And speaking of loaves, have you ever seen someone walk out of the store and immediately pinch one just so they could use the Charmin they snagged on aisle three?

And do I even need to ask you about all those who’ve purchased condoms or feminine hygiene products? Because it’s glaringly obvious that in each of these cases, folks have the common decency to wait until the appropriate time before using the product they just purchased.

So why can’t you? Hmmm?


John Cave Osborne

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