This is how we Halloween

On Friday night, the last night we have all of the kids together until Halloween, we had a spooky family night. It began with dinner: toxic mac'n'cheese with cryptic ham-steaks.

The cheese even stained the kids' tongues green.

For dessert: dirt and worms.

Then it was pumpkin carving time. While I was in charge of the big knife, the kids did all of their own carving - except for Joylyn who had a little help.

If you ask me, they did a great job with their jack-o'-lanterns.

Finally, those who were old enough to stay up late watched a scary movie.

Annie and I had so much fun setting up this special night for the kids. We are already making plans for next year.


We Need a Hero

Some of the greatest stories told by humanity have featured corrupt rulers defeated by simple, humble, and righteous people. We've made heroes of figures who speak truth to power. We crave those tales where good triumphs - especially when the odds are never in their favor. When the abusive nature of despots thrives in the real world, we long for reminders that evil's reign is only temporary.

True stories of moral victors find a treasured place in history, like the band of rebels who rejected the tyranny of King George and the British Empire. Names like George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Alexander Hamilton are American icons, the honorable heroes who won the war against corrupt foreign rulers.

Biblical tradition speaks of Moses, who delivered the nation of Israel from the corruption of Pharaoh’s Egypt. Queen Esther outwitted the corrupt Grand Vizier Haman. Jesus often spoke against the depravity and hypocrisy found among the religious elites, legal scholars, and government officials of first century Palestine. When it came to corruption, chasing people with whips and flipping tables were acceptable options for Jesus.

El Greco's 'Christ Driving the Money Changers from the Temple

In Greek mythology, Nemesis was the goddess of retribution, the avenger of crime whose wrath focused on those guilty of hubris. She, along with Aidos the goddess of modesty and respect were the final good spirits on earth before the corruption of the age of mankind.

Legends of King Arthur tell of the king overcoming Morganna, a powerful sorceress corrupted by evil. Elsewhere in English folklore, Robin Hood is the hero who subverted the illegitimate king, Prince John, and his henchman the Sheriff of Nottingham. And Shakespeare wrote a play about a Danish prince seeking revenge against his uncle the king for murdering his father.

The advent of cinema continued this tradition. Dorothy saved the land of Oz from the corrupt Wicked Witch. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, the Empire was controlled by the corrupted Emperor Palpatine and his enforcer, Darth Vader until they were defeated by a farm boy, an old wizard, a princess, a smuggler, a Wookie, and a pair of quirky robots. Every Mission: Impossible movie finds Ethan Hunt exposing the corrupt government that betrayed him. A young LAPD officer survived a day with the corrupting influence of a dirty cop named Alonzo Harris in Training Day. And Captain America stood his ground after discovering S.H.I.E.L.D. had been corrupted by sleeper agents of Hydra.

image courtesy of Marvel Studios

When storytellers, novelists, and filmmakers need a villain, they mirror the lives of politicians, law enforcement officers, corporate CEOs, and religious leaders whose lust for power, wealth, and control have led them down darkened paths. Art imitates life.

We long for these heroes. We idolize them. Lionize them. Honor and respect them. And we desperately need them again. We need people who will stand in humility and do the right thing. We need righteous people who will rise and fight against modern tyranny. And you can be that hero.

Election Day approaches. The current president is the most corrupt president to occupy the White House during my lifetime. He has defiled the office. He has abandoned every concept of decency and the decorum expected of a world leader. He is vulgar, reprehensible, dishonest, impetuous, and morally bankrupt. His arrogance is limitless. He is a fear-mongering con-artist. He is adored by white supremacists. And he has somehow wooed the evangelical community while acting completely adversarial to the basic tenets of their faith.

I won't tell you that November 6th might be the last free and fair election or that we're about to witness the death of democracy. I don't believe those statements are true, and those who espouse them have sunk to the same level of scare tactics the president employs. I’m not clairvoyant so can't tell you what will happen after the election. However, I can tell you what is happening right here, right now. We have a president that is using the office to enrich his family. We have a president that is alienating American allies while befriending cruel, murderous, and inhumane dictators. We have a president that is fully indifferent to the rule of law, who blatantly lies, whose disregard for facts only grows more brazen the longer he is in office. We have a president who gathered the most incompetent set of fools to serve on his cabinet, who have in turn indulged in their own corruptions. Finally, we have a Congress who refuses to do a damn thing about it.

This is where you come in. This is your bitten by a radioactive spider moment. This is when you become the hero America deserves. Your vote is your superpower. We have the opportunity to get rid of the gutless Congress and replace them with civil servants who will stand up against the corruption of the Trump administration. When you fill out the ballot, vote for the candidate Trump doesn't want to win. Vote for the candidate most likely to inspire a Trumpian Twitter meltdown. Vote for the candidate with a spine. Vote for the candidate who believes in human dignity. Maybe then, we can actually make America great.


I believed them

My brother and I always wanted a younger sister but our parents didn't want a third child.

the Casey boys

Since a biologically related sister wasn't an option, Aaron and I had to find our own through bonds formed by choice rather than blood. I met my little sister during my junior year of high school. She had just moved to the area and we formed an easy friendship. By the time I graduated high school, she was one of my best friends. We never developed a romantic interest and we were able to confide in each other as if we were siblings. Even today, I still occasionally call her sis.

hello, 1997

in the spring of 1996, she told me about a guy from school who kept calling her phone; if she answered, he'd say something creepy or leave annoying messages if she didn’t answer. He followed her on campus; she often caught him leering at her. While he had not touched her, she always felt unsafe if he was present. A couple weeks later, she joined me and two other guys to post promotional posters for the drama club's production of Neil Simon's Rumors. Mike ran inside the library while she and I sat in the cab of his truck, and Damien sat in the back. We were in the middle of conversation when she froze.

"Oh, my god, it's him."
"Who?" I asked.
"Remember me telling you about that guy who was stalking me? That's him."

The kid was walking toward us along the sidewalk. I started hollering to get his attention. "Hey, hey!"

He walked toward the open passenger window of Mike's truck. "You talking to me?"

I pointed to next to me and asked him if he recognized my friend. He denied it. "Are you sure?" I asked. "I don't believe you." His expression changed from oblivion to annoyance. I continued with instruction. I told him he was to leave her alone, stop calling her, not to speak to her, not to look at her. If I ever heard he was not following those guidelines, he would regret it.

By the time I stopped talking, his bothered look gave way to pure anger. "What are you going to do about it?" he asked.

Honestly, nothing. He was bigger and tougher. I wouldn't be able to hurt him if I tried. Thankfully, Damien was still in the back of the truck. Despite a teddy bear personality, Damien could be intimidating. Damien stood in the bed of the truck, crossed his arms, and said, "Or you'll have to deal with me." The kid's face changed once again, from anger to fear. He took a couple steps backward, confirmed he understood my demands, then turned and walked away as fast as he could. My friend never complained about him again.

During the fall of my senior year, I had a huge crush on a girl named Alexis. She was in an engineering class the same time I was studying architecture. The two classes were taught by the same teacher in a shared classroom. The kid who previously harassed my best friend was enrolled engineering with Alexis. She often came by my desk to talk when there was downtime. I was one of the few guys that was nice to her, most of the others shunned her on the belief that girls didn't belong in in tech classes. One day, while she was at my desk, the kid walked by. He didn't say anything, but Alexis cringed. I asked her what was wrong and she explained how that boy was a creep. He wouldn't leave her alone, frequently made lewd or demeaning comments, failed attempts to flirt with her, and often followed her to her next class. I let her know I would take care of it.

After class, the kid walked out the door next to Alexis and tried talking to her. Before he could follow her further, I ran beside of him, placed my arm around his shoulder, and steered him a different direction. I told him I really liked that girl and gave him the same instruction as before: leave her alone, don't call her, don't talk to her, don't look at her. He took me seriously and the next day in class, he avoided both of us. A week later, Alexis told me she doesn't know what I did but she was grateful.

Months, he showed up at a youth group event, invited by Kay, one of the girls I'd known since kindergarten. It was at church, so I took a softer approach. I let him know I was glad he was there and hoped he would stick around. I said I'd known Kay for a very long time and that I cared about her. I told him it was OK if the two of them dated with one big caveat: "Don't even think about hurting her." That was the last I saw him for a long time.

Two years after high school, I moved to Boise and completely forgot about the kid who made my friends feel violated. In the summer of 2001, I took a road trip with some friends to see the Poor Old Lu reunion concert in Seattle. While back in my home town for a couple days, we stopped by Safeway to pick up snacks. In the chips isle, a stranger walked around the corner. It took me a second before I recognized him. It was that jerk, the creeper, four years older than the last time I had seen him. As soon as he recognized me, he panicked. I saw his bottom lip quiver for a second before he turned around and ran away. He dropped his shopping basket as he left, abandoning whatever he was shopping for.

It was the first time I could remember anyone fearing me. At the time, I wasn't anyone to be afraid of - a short skinny wimp whose friends were all cooler and tougher than me. But this kid was genuinely terrified. Perhaps it wasn't me that frightened him - instead it was what I represented that scared him. I think he was a sketchy dude who knew the way he treated women was wrong and he was petrified I would hold him accountable for his actions. See, guys like him, abusers and assaulters, they don't want to answer for their deeds. Today, in a world where more women are speaking up and speaking out against people who hurt them, these are the men who believe "it's a scary time for young men in America." They believe it because they have reason to be afraid.

I'm glad my little sister spoke up when she did and that Alexis felt safe enough around me to say something. Sure, they disclosed the facts of their assailant to me, but I know they never involved the police or school administration. I have no idea if they ever told their parents about the creepy kid at school who was stalking and harassing them. But they did tell me, and I believed them. If that kid (now in his 30s) ever ran for political office, I'm sure multiple girls from his past would oppose him. They would shine a spotlight on the traumas they experienced because of him. They would do everything they could to prevent him from holding any position to govern others. Unfortunately, I don't think anyone currently leading our nation would believe them.

That makes me sad.