Monday, August 10, 2009

Everyone Works the 12 Steps

Everyone Works the 12 Steps

People occasionally ask me, “Why do those poor people have to go to all those (AA/NA) meetings?” I guess I can understand that, considering when I was young I thought AAA (a sticker on a car) meant Alcoholics Anonymous Association. I thought alcoholics and their meetings were everywhere. I figured they must have needed lots of help.

Most people, (alcoholics/addicts and family members and friends) find a recovery program thrust upon them for various reasons, work, family or the law or whatever, (you know the drill). Somebody eventually recommends a 12-step program of recovery. What to do, what to do. People ask themselves “what is this 12-step program going to be like”?

Very few people outside a recovering community understand how the 12-steps works. Recovery from an addiction is not as bad as it seems. Actually, an addiction to anything is a gift to a new way of life. The 12-steps are a lifestyle, which leads toward a well-balanced life. Recovery is just a process we all go through from whatever is affecting us. Everybody has life challenges. You name it; I bet there is a 12-step community recovering from it.

Recovery makes us better people, period. “Practicing all these principals on all our affairs”. The 12-steps is a great way of life.

I now understand AA/NA as a community of people living and working together toward a common purpose. Stay sober and get better.

We all live in communities; however, adding a new community can be disconcerting (think of moving across the country to a new town and trying to find where the good coffee and donuts can be had).

While I thought of this question I wanted to come up with an answer that would be understandable to most people. I thought of 3 different communities: one in which we live, like a town or a neighborhood, one where people worship, and the 12-step community where recovery from addiction takes place.

What follows is a 12-step experience I think we can all appreciate.

I thought about the town where I live and all the times I’ve gone to the doctor’s office and everybody in the place had the flu. We shared a common illness and sought relief.

1. We all were admitting we were powerless over the flu, and our lives had become unmanageable. (Unmanageable is an understatement when you have a bad flu).

2. We came to believe a Doctor and the prescribed treatment plan could restore us to health.

3. We were willing to follow the treatment plan to restore our health. (Anything to make the flu stop).

4. We made a clear list of our particular symptoms. (Know what I mean)?

5. We tell the Doctor or Nurse our symptoms.

6. The Doctor or Nurse gives us a diagnosis of exactly which flu we have that needs to be treated.

7. The Doctor gives us a prescription and/or a list of treatment instructions.

8. We get the script filled at the Pharmacy. (No point in getting a script if you don’t fill it).

9. We follow the script (take the pills) and the treatment instructions the Doctor or Nurse gave us.

10. Not wanting to suffer the flu again we monitor our health and if there are any new flu like symptoms on a daily basis.

11. We sought through any resource available how to prevent from getting the flu again. (Similar to preventive medicine).

12. Having sufficiently recovered from the flu and knowing some preventive tips we told others to wash their hands and stuff and if we saw someone else suffering from the flu we told them to go to the Doctor.

The steps we follow to deal with the flu (which we are all susceptible to get) are the same 12-steps in the recovering community. Now it’s not so difficult to understand why people go to those meetings. It’s just part of a process of staying sober and getting better, the same way we all want to be better when we have the flu. As one integrates into a recovering community, with a sponsor and a home group one is more likely to stay sober.

As we all are a members of the community in which we live, we can choose to join a recovering community as well. Today, choose a recovering community.

Do not be afraid!

Came to believe a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Scott M. Banford

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Fred and the Dream



The Beginning

I was sitting at home being househusband.  I had put my two beautiful daughters to bed and was cleaning the kitchen and wondering where I would get a job now I had my Masters in Social Work--and the phone rang.  It was Fred Hood.  He told me he was married to Mary Cowles, a psychiatrist I worked with (and greatly admired) at Charter Ridge Hospital on the Adolescent Psychiatry unit and would I be interested in applying for the job of Executive Director of a non-profit called Shepherd's House.  As an aside, he mentioned that we both went to Good Shepherd Episcopal church in Lexington, Kentucky.  I said it was maybe a conflict of interest if we were in the same church.  Fred replied that a member of the Shepherd’s House Board had told him this could be an advantage since we could talk about work on Sundays.  I thought, this hurdle down, I was in.  (Later, we were both in the choir, and Fred and I talked after practice as well.)  I recall asking a few folks about whether I should take the job, and some said, “NO.”  There hadn't been a halfway house for Lexington for 10 years and the city was still standing.  If the funding was even there, it would dry up and the house would fail.  I thought, “Can't be done.  I'll do it.”

Fred likes to talk about how low the salary was at the time but I thought it was enough.  To me the resources were enormous.  I had a commitment from Good Shepherd to support the agency, a house courtesy of the University of Kentucky Medical School, a HUD grant for the rehab of the house, and my salary paid in a grant from the United Way of the Bluegrass.  The United Way had never before given any funding to an agency that did not exist.  I sensed a serious commitment from the community. What else could a man ask for?  The Board even gave me a two-page description of how the program should work.  The Board had worked on this document for years and had the description honed down to a fine point.  The Board had also provided stacks of other documents to review, which they had used in their research.  The Board knew what they wanted from the start.  I liked the effort they had invested and the vision.  I didn't think about it at the time, but lots of people (not just Board members) were working in the background to make Shepherd's House a reality.  These people fulfilled the dream.  I couldn't have failed if I tried.  I will always be indebted to them, anonymous though they may remain.

In my career thus far I had worked for seven years in adolescent in-patient psychiatry as an aide, an intake coordinator and a family therapist, among other things.  I was frightened about starting a Substance Abuse Program for men because I knew nothing about substance abuse or men.  I had only worked with adolescents, and besides, I was only a kid myself at the time.  


I asked Dr. Vernon Stillner, a founding Board member and the smartest person I knew, what I should do to learn.  I was waiting for him to tell me what book to read, but he said, “Go to one hundred open AA meetings and maybe, if you're lucky, you will begin to get an idea of what recovery is like.”  I did so.  I also started to read the sports section of the Herald-Leader in order to talk sports.  I was thinking, “Men like sports, right?”  


It took me a year to make a hundred AA meetings, and when I was done, I wanted what those people had.  I saw the promises of the program come true in their lives (read “How it Works”) and I wanted them too.  I joined Alanon and stayed for 10 years.  I still consider myself a friend of Lois's (matriarch of Alanon and Bill W.’s wife).  I never really got the sports thing because I never watched the games I read about.

My instructions from Fred and the Board were to get the house open in 12-18 months (I think).  I worked at home for the first three months.  I read over all the materials the Board had provided me, and I thought a lot.  Not 40 hours a week mind you.  I watched some daytime TV occasionally.  I recall during this time refinishing an old desk given to me from Good Shepherd and calling people to get grants.  I wrote a bunch of grants, and I got everything I asked for.  (I don't think I was good at writing grants so much as I had those great people in the background looking after the interests of Shepherd's House.  I just told myself I was a good grant writer.)  Shepherd's House soon had a survivable budget--just enough to get by the first year.

I spent a week with the great Donnie Brown of MARR in Atlanta learning how to run a program.  I still didn't know what I was doing, but I didn't know I didn't know, so all was well.  He gave me a poster from MARR that I had him autograph, “Window to Recovery.”  My friend Skip framed it for me.  The poster was an important inspiration in my drive to make the house a home.  I cherished that poster.  I wonder if it’s still there.


The house opened 5 months after I started, way earlier than projected.  If I had been smarter I could have watched a lot more daytime TV and refinished a few more pieces of furniture.  Well, hindsight is 20-20.


Once I moved into the house office I met my neighbor Skip who let me park in his lot for free.  Skip and I got to be friends after his house caught fire.  He and I spent the day afterward covering his book collection with plastic and cleaning up.  To me it was just another day at Shepherd's House.  To Skip, as he told me later, our day together was the most unconditionally loving experience he ever had, and he eventually became a volunteer.  He is the best friend I ever had in the neighborhood.  I used to visit him often and just chat.  What a great guy.  Always there for us.  Always ready to help in any way.  He donated the basketball hoop and frame, which was used a lot.  Anna, my assistant used to get the guys to play “Horse” with her when they were upset.  She usually beat them, though.  The basketball set-up was so well constructed I bet it will be there for another 20 years.  I cherish those kinds of friends. No one could have asked for any better.

I had a lot of mundane tasks before we opened.  Hooking up the two phone lines was one.  I needed one for the residents and one for the office. I was getting good at sniveling and whining to get stuff free or whatever the house needed and I called the local phone company to get the new phone lines.  Please note: good executive directors are not necessarily brilliant people, just really good at begging and stuff.  I was talking to a phone company representative and I told her I would like numbers that would be easy to remember.  (Fred told me this was important for newly sober fellows.)  She asked me whom I was representing.  I told her about Shepherd's House, and she told me she was a friend of Lois's.  She must have been a “black belt.”  She told me AA was started in 1935 and the Big Book was published in 1939 and both phone number suffixes were available.  I took them both, and I am happy to report that I pounded those dates and their meaning into every resident who ever lived there while I was Director.

Before the house opened and I was going to advertise for staff, I asked a friend how Shepherd's House could be the best halfway house ever.  He said, “Hire for character, not the resume.”  Somehow I got an ad in the paper for free (you never know who is working in the background) and started interviewing.  I got a gazillion resumes for the positions.  I needed a social worker to guide the men and do groups, a House Manager and a Weekend Manager.  Everybody wanted to work at an unproven agency with a low salary and little prospect of success.  What a country.

We all got together before the House opened and came up with the structure and rules.  The Board had suggested a big bunch of rules, but I said “Nope, keep it to one page, and the shorter the better.”  KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) was my mantra.  I wanted the men to have clear rules and be able to remember them.  We got together every year thereafter for a day I called the “shake-down cruise” to identify what worked and refine what wasn't.  We all remained responsive on an ongoing basis throughout the year and made adjustments as needed.  I like proactive management rather than reactive.  The strategy seemed to work well.  We rarely had a serious crisis because we all usually knew what to do.


I recall Denise Jackson, Shepherd’s House first social worker.  She and I spent the first summer studying the spiritual part of the program and had many great talks about how to make Shepherd's House a great treatment facility rather than the typical half-way house, in keeping with the Board’s vision.  I sure learned a lot from her.  


Barbara Jefferson was the therapist and the best one I ever saw.  She was so good with the men, they always wanted to talk.  A brilliant feat, I must say. S he is Dr. Jackson now, having earned her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology while working at the House.  


Clay Hall was House Manager and was eventually the best shopper I ever knew.  He was great at supplying the men with food and supplies within budget.   He always had a really small car, and every week he packed it to the roof with everything we needed.  


John Smallwood eventually replaced Clay as House Manager.  He was the standard others should aspire to—a compassionate man with a problem solving mindset.  I never worried about the house when he was on duty.  John, however, never seemed to know how good he was.


And a particular favorite, Mark Ross, Weekend Manager.  Mark came to the interview stating he had no place to live.  I thought “OK, nice guy.  Just what I am looking for.”  I bought a rollaway bed and let him live in my office for nine months until he could get on his feet.  He would wait for me to go home at whatever hour, and then he would roll the bed out and be at home.  IBM donated one of the first personal computers made to Shepherd's House, and I told Mark he was in charge of it.  He later learned the PC trade from a resident and went on to get a job as a programmer.  He got married, bought a house and had a better car than me.  Now, that is an outcome I bet the Board never intended.  


The staff used the resources of the house to advance themselves.  Most of the staff ended up better off than me and more advanced in their careers or personal lives.  Most halfway houses measured the tenure of their staff in months.  I was blessed to measure them in years.  They were a most devoted bunch.  I could not have been happier.  


I was also bringing in as many students as I could from the University of Kentucky.  Typically, non-profits only take university students from disciplines their supervisors have degrees in.  I didn't care if there was a rule or not, so I asked several programs if they would like to place their students with Shepherd's House.  I got both bachelor’s and master’s students from the College of Social Work.  I also trolled the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation for students.  I became particularly fond of the practice of test-driving any future hires this way.  Two of my students eventually became executive directors, David Hollingsworth, and Gray Manis.  (If they did a good job I take all the credit.)

Dr. Stillner was instrumental in having third-year medical students spend a half-day with me to see a non-medical substance abuse facility and learn about the disease of alcoholism.  I loved giving the lectures and answering their questions.  In partnership, for several years the Department of Psychiatry and Charter Ridge Hospital had a part-time placement at Shepherd's House, as a component of the psychiatry rotation.  These doctors did all the psychiatry evaluations and treated any disorders at hand.  I recall two of them saying that, because of their experiences at Shepherd's House, they wanted to specialize in addictions.  One wonderful young man became a strong (and coveted) financial supporter.  


Tag Heister, a board member and staff member in the medical school, made all the arrangements with the students.  I used to love going to see her about this.  She was one of the most pleasant people I ever worked with.  I can't say this with certainty but back in 1990 this may have been the only medical school training program in the United States in a halfway house.  Right after I was hired I recall Dr. Vern Stillner telling me I could be named an unpaid member of the faculty of the Department of Psychiatry.  I was so shy I said no, but now I am so proud of my work with the doctors I wish I had said yes.

Fred worked like a man with his hair on fire to get the house open.  He conscripted me into the hardest work of my life, digging ditches and pouring concrete and stuff.  I loved every minute of it.  There were eventually plenty of physical signs of the friends Shepherd's House had in AA.  Key improvements like the driveway and parking lot (not HUD financed) came into being.  Furniture and restaurant-quality pots and pans appeared.  If you go to Bonnie Brae, look at the iron railing over the front door--shepherd's crooks and everything.  One of Fred's friends made it.  As the opening of the house was getting close I drove up one day to see 20 people in the yard planting flowers and cleaning up the house.  I was stunned--after spending so many hours sweating with Fred or alone in the house, I forgot there was a recovering community cheering us on.


Eventually with everything put into place in July of 1989, Shepherd's House opened.  Everybody was happy.  We had a ribbon cutting and a “house blessing.”  The Mayor, Scotty Baesler, the Reverend Tim Scott of Good Shepherd church, other distinguished guests and the press were in attendance.  Shepherd's House got a story in the Herald-Leader with a nice picture of us all at the front door.  I was so young in those days (twenty-eight!) and I now look at that picture and wonder who that squirt is.  Must be the valet parking guy.

John and Mike were the first residents. We all became fast friends.  We ate together, laughed together and struggled together.  As soon as you could say “Jack Robinson,” Shepherd's House had a waiting list.


About a year later I heard of a new loan program to help start Oxford Houses. I went to a meeting to learn more and met Paul Molloy one of the founders of the Oxford House loan program.  An Oxford House, he told me, is a self-run house modeled after a fraternity (with no booze).  I thought that was so cool, and Paul and I talked on the phone several times to figure out a strategy of opening one or more in Lexington.  The State Division of Substance Abuse was the administrator of the loans, and a friend in the division showed me how to make it work.  John (our first resident) and I got the first Oxford House going.  I met the prospective landlord and assuaged concerns about an Animal House in the neighborhood, and the first Oxford House in Kentucky eventually opened two doors down from Shepherd's House on Bonnie Brae.  


John had a cat named Althea whom he begged me to let him keep at Shepherd's House until he could move to the Oxford House, despite our no-pets rule.  After some argument—he pointed out that I had myself brought in a fish tank—I relented, and Althea moved in.  Unfortunately, after they moved, she didn't take to the Oxford House and kept coming “home” for food and fellowship.  Althea was the most devoted member of the staff, the best clinician, and worked for sand and kibbles.  Most of the men loved her and would boast if she chose them to sleep on at night.

Eventually there were six new Oxford houses in Lexington, all started by residents of Shepherd's House.  Lexington had gone from no beds for suffering alcoholic men to around 40 in two years.  A new Oxford House needed 4 people to start.  In one particular house one of the “starters” moved out or was kicked out for relapsing.  The remaining three stayed--a doctor, a camera salesman and a security guard.  They had never liked any of the other “roommates.”  They decided to buy the house and had a contract drawn up that stipulated each could live in the house the rest of their lives with ownership passing to the remaining resident.  I occasionally would visit them, as they were now my friends, and I was awed by their commitment to each other.  They had become close at Shepherd's House, and they wanted to stay sober together to the end of their days.  I have rarely seen such commitment.  The camera salesman's mother was a matriarch of Alanon, and she told me her son, who had been in treatment several times, had never stayed sober before Shepherd's House.  She said she was so grateful.   Fred's dream had come true again.

The Middle

I don't remember when the pandemonium struck (about two years after the house opened), but I do recall that the pieces of Shepherd’s House were all falling into place, and I didn't have to think too much or work 60 hours a week any more to keep the house going.  And then Fred showed up one day to ask me if I was ready to open another house.  He had been making noises about the idea for a long time, but still I almost fell out of my chair.  This time he wanted to start a 3/4-way house with no house, no money, no staff and no program.  I said, “Can't be done!  Let's do it”!  I had come to rely on Fred's vision so much.  He was the best boss I ever worked for and I trusted him.

Fred went to work on finding a house, and some friends and I looked for money.  We found a condemned building on Linden Walk with a bunch of UK students living in it and bought it.  

The house on Linden Walk was built in 1909 and eventually divided into efficiency apartments.  The previous owner had let a few maintenance items go by the wayside.  Fred said we could whip the house into shape in no time if we worked together.  

During the planning phase, I can't recall exactly, but either I said I needed an assistant or Fred said I needed an assistant.  Fred told me he wanted me to interview a young lady who had never held a job for more than a few months and would be great.  I hired Anna part time.  She refused full time work and benefits as she didn't want to be tied down.  Every month or so, I would talk to her about increasing her hours and taking benefits.  Gradually she was encouraged to do so. She would eventually become the linchpin of Shepherd's House and my good friend.  She became the recreation therapist during the last year of my term with her own budget and everything.


Fred and I went to work on rehabbing the house at Linden Walk.  We spent a lot of quality time together. We met during the week at Shepherd’s House to plan and to eat “Shepherd's Burgers.”  (Fred liked having lunch with me because it was all comfort food all the time.)  Denise Jackson and I had come up with a “house” burger with grilled mushrooms and onions with Swiss cheese.  If Fred's wife Mary had known I was feeding him such junk I am sure I would have gotten a phone call.

On Saturdays, Fred and I would meet at Linden Walk and work on the house all day.  Sometimes we had help but mostly it was Fred and I.  Fred wanted efficiency apartments with a common room (like a dorm) where the men could socialize, and if annoyed at a roommate could take a “time out.”  We painted, caulked, cleaned and sweated a lot.  After we got one apartment done, Fred brought in his friend Ron to live there and to work with Fred and me on the rest of the house.  I had one of my best lunches with them one day.  The three of us took a break and went to Ron's apartment, and he opened the fridge and got out a 10-pound roll of baloney, a loaf of white bread and a jar of yellow mustard.  Ron said, “Make yourself a sandwich.”  I took the knife and sliced off one-and-a-half inches of baloney and made myself a sandwich.  That was one of the best meals I ever ate.   We had such a good time.

We had friends from AA do the carpets, plumbing and all the electrical work.   There was a long punch list from the building inspector of items needing done in order to take the house off the “condemned list.”  One of the items was tuck-pointing the brick.  Ron and Fred built the scaffolds and went to work.  I asked Fred one day how they were getting on because the scaffold didn't seem to go to the highest point on the house and he told me, “Not bad—you know, all you have to do is tuck point up to where the inspector can see and we are done.”  We passed the inspection.

Then a stunner.  Fred had a heart attack.  I felt so ashamed that I had worked him so hard, and that we had had so many non-heart-healthy meals together.  We had a visit in the hospital that day which was emotional for me, but he didn't seem to care much and told me to get back to work on the house.  Make it so.


Enter Anna.  She and I worked every Tuesday and any other time we could get to finish the house.  I enlisted some of the Shepherd’s House residents too.  They were all proud to be working on a house they or their friends might live in one day.  We all did our best and kept Fred and his family in our prayers.

Using my growing knowledge of how to put a house together, I recalled a conversation with Donnie Brown of MARR in Atlanta.  He told me whenever he wanted to open a new residence, his volunteers would hit the garage sales until he had all he needed to open the place.  I had Anna take the petty cash every Friday morning, and she went to garage sales and did just that.  I think she even bought her pick-up just to make the job easier.  She was the best.  She bought furniture, silverware and all the kitchen stuff you could ever want.  She even made several purchases for the new Oxford Houses as they continued to open.  She loved having a paid job going to garage sales!  

Fred would come over from time to time to give instructions and criticize my construction skills.  I thought I was getting good at this rehab work.  Fred told me if I worked for him building houses I wouldn't make it to lunch.  I was such a slow painter, he would fire me two hours into the job.  He did tell me I was not a bad social worker, and thank God for higher education.  I liked that a lot.  However, a few years later the bathroom ceiling at Bonnie Brae gave out and I plastered it myself just before the Christmas party.  Fred came over, and I asked him how I did, and he said A-minus.  That compliment meant more to me than any I have ever gotten on any of my work ever, even unto this day.

I was frequently at Shepherd's House during the Linden Walk rehab doing my executive director job in my construction clothes—a ripped pair of jeans and a United Way T-shirt, both covered in caulk and paint.  New residents would ask what room I was in or ask where the director was. I would go along for a while, enjoying anonymity for a moment.  They would treat me as one of the guys for a few minutes and chat till somebody would ruin it by asking me some administrative question.  I always wanted to be one of the guys.  I loved them all so much.  I never for a moment wanted to be looked at like an authority figure.  


Fred taught me this humility too.  I recall once introducing Fred to a “distinguished” visitor when he and another friend Tom Mix were laying ceramic tile.  The guest looked down his nose at Fred and I said, “This is our Board President, Dr. Fred Hood.  He has five Ph.D.s and a bunch of Master's degrees from Princeton.”  I really couldn't remember how many degrees Fred had, but I'm sure it is a bunch.  Fred is a really smart guy.  The poor fellow didn't blink but I sensed his embarrassment.  Be careful who you look down your nose at.  I enjoyed Fred’s composure.  Fred told me he was honored not to greet my guest, but to be on his knees serving others when he did.

Eventually the Linden Walk house opened.  I guess I'll just call it the Hood House.  I don't recall the public fanfare that there was when Shepherd House opened, but it was a big day for Fred and me. The house looked great; we had put in many improvements.  All of the furniture was donated, and I had gotten a grant for new appliances.

The men who “graduated” into the Hood from Shepherd’s House loved the increasing independence and treated the house like their own.  Some of the men had a lot to learn about housekeeping, fine points like doing the dishes and picking up their stuff, but that’s just life in a 3/4-way house. Shepherd's House supplied all the cleaning supplies and a lawn mower.  The men were responsible for the rest of their needs, including food shopping.  Occasionally some of the men would drift back to Shepherd's House, usually around dinnertime, for a “visit.”  It soon became clear they were having difficulty with budgeting.  The staff and I started meeting with the men to lay out modest financial plans, and they soon got back on track.  


One of the goals of the house was to empower the men to live independently—the theory being, the men would have a stronger recovery plan if they didn't have the fear of a looming financial crisis.  That and getting integrated into the recovering community were the two most important goals for the men, I thought.  I felt if they could achieve those two, they had a good chance at long-term sobriety.  One objective was for the men to have a job that would pay sufficiently for them to live on their own, to have a sponsor and a home group, and friends in AA they could turn to in time of need.

The Hood House men would come once a week for their own group therapy sessions at Shepherd's House.  I decided I wanted them to interact more with the men just starting out in Shepherd's House, and had them start coming for dinner that night too.  I wanted the men who were earlier in treatment to see they could make it.  I also wanted the men at the Hood House to maintain their close bonds and have an opportunity to learn how to “carry the message to others.”  Those were some big dinners.  24 residents and staff all eating and talking together (no TV during meals).  We sure had a lot of fun on those nights.   After group The Hood House men would take some of the newer men to AA meetings.


The End

Eventually things seemed to simmer down and both houses were running about as well as could be expected.  When the house first opened I spent 60 hours or more a week.  Now I was at a steady 40 hours and sometimes got in a round golf on Fridays.  My duties revolved mainly around operations, keeping everything running smoothly.  I had lots of funders to keep satisfied, making sure they knew that they had made a good investment in Shepherd's House.  I kept up with the fund raising and was getting pretty good at it.  I kept learning more and more about management and leadership at every opportunity.  But Fred hadn't come by with any new outlandish project to start.  I think I began to miss those days.  Most of the core staff I started with had all moved on to “bigger and better” things.

Inevitably, Fred stepped down as Board President and Allan Rhodes took over.  I liked Allan a lot.  He was wise and gentle.  I could also sense in him the passion for Shepherd's House that Fred and I had shared all these years.  I knew he was what the House needed.  It was time to strengthen the financial foundation of the agency to ensure its sustainability for the future.  But while I knew the task at hand would test all the skills I had acquired, it seemed to lack the excitement of the start-up process I had come to love.  


Then, a struggling agency called and asked if I could come in and turn it around.  I thought, “Can't be done!  I'll do it”!  I decided (rationalized?) that Allan would be better off with his “own” director to continue the work of the Board.  I don't know if this was the right decision on my part.  I think I was being selfish and missed Fred terribly.  Perhaps I had become too close to Fred and couldn't continue without him.  We still went to the same church and sang in the choir, but it wasn’t the same.

I have missed Shepherd’s House ever since.  My time there was the best experience of my life.  I started as a naive newly minted social worker and learned to become a manager.  I made lots of new friends and learned lots of new skills.  How many people with a master’s degree have post-graduate training in building a parking lot?  I have taken all of my experiences I had there and have shared the principles with everyone I have worked with since.


Shepherd's House made me.  Fred and my friends there taught me so much about life and about being a man.  My father, John Banford, was so proud of my work he carried my business card around in his wallet and showed it to his friends.  My father taught me values; Fred showed me how to apply my values in my vocation and my life.  When my father died in 1990, I looked to Fred to be my primary support and he, perhaps unknowingly, filled the void extremely well.


I'll tell you one important thing that I learned:  if ever Fred wants to start a new project, I'm in.  It would be an adventure not to be forgotten.
Scott M. Banford, LCSW
Friend of Fred J. Hood


Thursday, April 9, 2009

Time to Stop Whining and Start Living!

Hi all,

Anybody ever watch "The Matrix Reloaded"?  Remember when the hero goes onto the freeway and says "I was told to stay away from the Freeway, it's suicide" or something like that.  
Well I drive the GSP (Garden State Parkway) in NJ every day.  Same thing.  No ghost programs firing machine guns and creating traffic havoc but lots of weary drivers trying to get home after a long days work.  Sometimes these drivers make minor errors that have major consequences

The speed limit is 55 mph, but nobody goes that slow.  I usually go with the flow, between 60 and 65 mph.  

On this particular day I am in the center lane of the 5 lane highway heading north on the GSP toward 78 East, then NYC.  On the far left, a big older car passes me going maybe 65 mph.  Then in the near left lane a car races by going I guess 75 mph.  When the far left car decides to give up the fast lane for the benefit of the other speeders and the 75 mph car is trying to pass him on the right (never a good idea) he clips her front bumper.  I think "mph " is an important abbreviation here.  I like typing it too.  MPH.

Both spun out and the 75 mph lady hit the concrete barrier head on and spins to a stop directly in front of me.  

Bummer.  I was hoping to get home to a nice salad for dinner.  Everything unfolded like a slow-mo movie clip from the "Matrix".   Cool movie by the way.  

I thought for a few seconds "everybody driving behind me is now stunned witnessing the crash, hanging back in case there is worse to come and I could easily get in front and drive off".  No, my conscience said "you are really good in a crisis, go help".  So I leaped out and ran to my new friend dazed and confused in her car.

I checked her wounds (not severe but gross) and she was fine till the ambulance arrived.  I coordinated the traffic and all the other Samaritans who came to help.  It seemed like everybody who came to help needed some emotional nurturing, the wounded and the rescuers.  Everybody was a little panicked.  I eventually talked and comforted everybody including the 65 mph driver who was just trying to change lanes (no injuries) and I gave him a big hug.  He was a great guy.  He kept saying "I didn't see her, she was in my blind spot".  "I knew I would be OK cause I have a big car, but is she OK?"  He was right about his car, an old Lincoln, not a scratch.  

A good soul with volunteer fire fighter emergency lights said he would stay to direct the rest of the traffic till the State Troopers arrived.  

Everyone was where they needed to be and doing what they needed to do.  I guess my job was to help everyone nurture each other as they could and not panic.  That's what I did.  After the paramedics arrived and took over, I went on my way home.  

What is the moral of the story?  I just reacted to people in need and did my best to help.  I believe we all have an opportunity to help others.  Just don't let the opportunity get away.  The accident was a very positive experience for us all.

When you can, reach out to people in need and be your best.  Helping is truly living.

Don't be afraid.

Scottie Dog


Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hi anybody still looking!

I haven't written in a long time.  

I am considering several things.  I just don't know what the right thing to do is.
I have my mother to deal with.  Assisted living is so expensive.  I do want her well taken care of. 

Increasing income or cutting expenses.  Starting a new business to sell.  Make an industrial video about the 12 Steps to sell or just taking another part time job to make ends meet.  

Not that we have no money, but Mom is draining her resources pretty fast as her Alzhemers advances.

What to do, what to do.

I need to think about it all.

Scottie Dog.

I love my name given me by my lovely daughter Sylvia.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Time to Blog again

I guess I will start working on a new blog.  I've been gone too long but I have a lot to think about.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Oops, Life Just Kicked Me in the Butt

Hi all,

I haven't posted in a long time.  I know why too.  I'm just too tired to think too much.  I am not sure why I'm posting now other than to say "I'm still alive".  

My Mom's Alzheimer's is getting much worse and fast.  I wish I could get a few encouraging words.  

I feel so inadequate sometimes.


Monday, January 5, 2009

Happy New Year

And... Happy New Year to Y'all!