Archive for the ‘Mason’ Category

Your Third Birthday

Posted: 20170712 in Mason

Dear Mason,

You turn three-years-old next Thursday. I have no idea where the time went. It seems I have less and less time to do anything now-a-days. I always wake up in the mornings so tired, and I can never go to sleep at night. Today, I went to work from 8:30-5:30. Your mother and I dropped you off at daycare first. Some mornings are better than others for us. Today, you definitely didn’t want me to leave you. It makes me very sad leaving you with basically strangers for 9 hours everyday. It makes me sad and sacred. 

Scared because the world is a fucked up place. Kids get kidnapped from all over. Kids get hurt in all kind of crazy accidents. I just don’t know what I would do if something happened to you. 

Anyway, I worked at Minco all day, came home and gave you a bath, we had dinner and then I went back to Minco to work on your mother’s car a little. I stayed until 10pm, until Mommy texted me impatiently asking me to come home. She always says she has a hard time going to sleep without me home. Honestly, it’s a little aggravating. 

Sometimes in life, it doesn’t matter what you do. You just won’t be able to make everyone happy. It’s not that I don’t make your mom happy, I know she loves me. It’s just that I’m not out partying. I’m hardly making any money at all at Minco. I’m working a second job basically to make KLD work. Currently, it’s nothing. An empty trailer. She wants the extra money just like I do, but she just wants to spend time with me, too. I want to spend time with her and you. I miss you so much everyday. I don’t get to spend enough time with you. You’re hard to manage but I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Jackie makes me feel bad sometimes. I know she doesn’t do it intentionally. She’s upset that I have to work, and she just wants to spend time with me. However, I get the impression that she wishes I wasn’t so ambitious. She gets mad that I “disappear” after dinner, that I want to go work on things after dinner. 

There’s no fucking time in life, Mason. There’s no fucking time to do anything. I can’t read books anymore. I can’t learn a second language. I wake up in the morning and it’s go, go, go. We get you ready. We leave for daycare. I go to work. Jackie goes to work, and it’s busy all day. 30 minutes for lunch. Come home, Jackie spends an hour cooking dinner. You get a bath. Sometimes we put you down first and then eat dinner. Either way, we blink and it’s 8:00pm. Monday through Friday. 

That’s when you can start doing things for yourself – 13 hours after you wake up. It’s 11:44pm now, Jackie’s asleep. I just didn’t accomplish shit today. 

I hope you can understand the importance of time. It’s easily more valuable than anything else on earth. A famous guy (Steve Jobs maybe) once said, “Use money to save time.” I always thought he was talking about being efficient in business. “Time is money” etc. etc. But I spend all my time trying to make money. 

The kicker is – I make shit for money. Again. I’m 33 years old and I feel like I have no fucking idea what I’m doing with my life or how I got here. I basically blinked and went from high school, flew through the Marine Corps like it was nothing, done with college, I’ve been out of the Marines for 6 years and had at least 5 jobs. 

I have no fucking retirement. I have $1900 in savings. (I’ve put all the money you’ve ever got into a savings account for you. It’s got $450 in it.) Your mother and I sold the house and made a bunch of money, just to pay off over $20,000 in credit cards. Somebody should really kick both our asses for that. Honestly, how stupid could we both be? I’ve owed on credit cards for the past 15 years straight. I’m done with them. 

I’ve wasted so much money on dumb shit in my life. The gun company I started is nonexistent. I’ve been thinking about closing it down. I’ve had about 17 vehicles that I’ve wasted no less than $100,000 on – including the piece of shit Dodge Ram that I bought from Louis four months ago and it still doesn’t run. 

Honestly, I’m really disappointed in myself. Mainly because I feel like I’m going backwards physically and mentally. I haven’t worked out in years, and I’m at the same dead end no-paying job I started in 2010. 

The older you get, the less time I have. Sometimes I’m not going to have all the answers and now is one of those times. 

I love you immensely. 



Dear Buddy,

Posted: 20170607 in Mason
Tags: , , , ,

You’re not so little anymore. Today, we were traveling from Tallahassee to Brookhaven to see BJ & Pawpaw. We stopped at a gas station, and mom changed your diaper in the front seat of the truck. I was pumping gas and Granny (my mom) was standing next to me. Jackie left you in the front seat by yourself and came around to open the driver side rear door. I finished pumping the gas and noticed you were now in the driver seat pushing all the buttons. I closed the rear door to open the driver door, and you had locked the doors. You locked yourself inside with all of the phones and keys. 

You didn’t really have a reason to be upset. You didn’t know exactly what was going on but I think you could tell something was off. You listened to directions from your mother and me for over ten minutes. You pressed the buttons we told you to press as best you could. You picked up the bag of chocolate chip cookies about half way through and I think asked if you could have one. I’m sorry for telling you to drop them. I’m pretty sure you thought changing the gear shift would help. You pointed at it for a while and said something and then went over to try it. It would have been comical if your mother and I weren’t about to lose our effin minds. I could tell you were trying to help. I think you’re incredibly smart. 

You surprise me everyday with things you say and do. While we were crossing the train tracks behind the Home Depot in Brookhaven, you said, “Train tracks!” It caught me off guard. 

I promise I’ll write more often. I feel ashamed. We closed on our house a couple weeks ago. It has slowed down a little, but I’m about to ramp it up again. I’ve got Jackie’s cousin Ben helping me build fences. I’m going to buy a trailer and an auger and maybe start advertising. Some days I really want to go overboard with KLD. Some days I just want to close it all down.



Just got to BJ & Pawpaw’s house tonight

Dear little buddy,

Posted: 20160916 in Mason, Rant., Survival

I’m trying to write you more often. It’s already been three months, and I don’t know where the time has gone. Last time I wrote, I promised myself I’d be better about writing. With work and trying to get the house ready to sell, I’m a busy man. In actuality, my mind is much, much busier than my body. Right now, I’m laying in bed unable to go to sleep. The brightness of my phone is giving away my position. Your mother could wake up at any second and nag me about still being awake so late.

Watching you grow up is so incredible, little man. I can’t believe the things you say and do. Your mother and I can’t stop taking pictures and videos. You get very upset, and then very happy, and then very sad sometimes in a short period of time. I was a kid like you once. Then, I was a teenager, and then I started dating your mom. We got married eventually, and now we have you. Nowhere in that timeline was there any kid training. I didn’t read any books on parenting. I didn’t sit through lectures or take classes on what to do. Nobody told me when to spank you and when to not. You don’t listen at all unless I raise my voice and then it brings you to tears. You run crying to mommy like I did more than yell – like I scared you or hurt your feelings. Then, I can’t bring myself to raise my voice for a while. It’s tough sometimes, but only because you have so much energy. I’m 32, your mother is 29, and we are exhausted.

I just want you to know how much we love you. We’ve already made some mistakes. You’re only two years old, but we’re doing the best we can. I know you’ll look back on these one day. I don’t know how old you’ll be. I may hide them from you until you have kids or until we have a rough spot. I just want to say now, to two-year-old you, that you’re my entire life. I may be too old and disgruntled to tell you that when you’re a senior in high school. But I’m saying it now on the record, and I hope you see it.

It’s no secret that my father and I don’t speak. I feel like I don’t know him. That’s why it’s not difficult for me to make the decision to avoid him. I don’t go to my parent’s store. I don’t go to my parent’s house. I don’t go to my grandparent’s house if I know he’s going to be there. I can see how it could be sad and depressing to others, but I don’t feel sad or depressed because he’s like a stranger to me. That’s the sad part. My father is a stranger to me. That’s why I created this blog. I’ll do whatever it takes to keep from becoming my father, and I’ll do whatever it takes to keep you from having to grow up like I did. Sometimes I just want to break down and relieve all my stress but I can’t. I don’t know how – I wish I could catch a break. My mind races all night and day, and I have no outlet. It never stops, there is always something stressful going on.

Sometimes, I get the feeling that I have no fucking idea what I’m doing. Like my job and my side business is just a sham, and I’m doing everything wrong. When I mess up bad, I get super defensive, angry, I make counter accusations. I don’t take criticism well – either constructive or not. It’s just a knee jerk reaction. It’s because I grew up a fuckin loser. Like I’m sure my dad did too. It’s a defense mechanism.

I try to realize what I’m doing and saying. I try to be self aware. I try to realize how people are reacting. I always try to look at things objectively. Whether it’s about me, my ideas, my business or someone else, I try to take a step back and visualize how it’s seen by other people. I feel like that’s the key to a lot in life. It’s working on my timing, tact, tone and phrasing. I’ve read a lot of books on the subject, but they’re terrible at explaining it. It’s an out of body experience really. My father is terrible about being rude to strangers. That’s one of the reasons why I think he’s a piece of shit.

One time, I was at Wendy’s with my dad. It was just him and I. I ordered, and then he ordered. He hates cheese. He said, “A number one with no cheese.” Except he didn’t say it like you just read it. We were having a regular conversation with the girl with normal voices, and then he sounded like a fuckin pyscho saying “no cheese” so slow and loud while directing an orchestra with his pointer finger. And that’s not half of it. His burger arrived with cheese on it. He obviously knew they were too stupid to understand English and hand gestures so he checked his sandwich before he even walked away from the counter – in front of the lady. And when he saw the cheese, he lost what little patience he was born with. “I said no cheese on my burger!” Except he didn’t say it like you just read it. You’d have to meet 40-year-old Dad to get the full effect. In his mind, he just went out of his way to do these stupid poor people’s job for them, and they still messed it up because they’re too stupid to read. It was embarrassing.

It was just the little everyday interactions like that. Does he know how rude he’s being? If yes – he’s being rude on purpose therefore he’s a jerk on a high horse. If no – he’s a crazy old man that has zero self awareness. It wasn’t just a stressful day for him. It happened all the time in different situations. It happened on good days. He just thought he was better than everyone else. That’s probably the reason why he thought rules and laws didn’t apply to him. I mean, that’s why I had so many speeding tickets growing up. I didn’t think the rules applied to me at all. I just went wild, and I had to learn everything in life the hard way. Now, I’m trying to not learn things the hard way.

Your mother just yelled at me for “waking her up” somehow. It’s late. I’ll stop rambling. I love you.


My dearest son Mason,

After my last post, I started thinking about how broke I used to be, and how much better our future looks because I have a better job. It also got me thinking about all the terrible financial decisions I’ve made in my life. However, it’s not what you think. Saying that I’ve made terrible financial decisions makes it seem like I was sitting at a desk and trying to decide where to put my money. I wasn’t sitting at a desk. I wasn’t making large, risky decisions. I wasn’t making decisions at all. I was eating fast food everyday. I was buying t-shirts off the internet. I was spending money I knew I’d never get back out of a piece of crap Suburban. Let me explain.

When you’re poor, every little decision has a big impact on your monthly budget. When I say poor, I mean making minimum wage. Let’s say that you are making $10 every hour and you work 40 hours per work. That’s $400 a week and $1600 every month. Trust me, I know this analogy pretty well. By the time you pay for a car payment and insurance, rent and food and gas, you’ve basically got nothing left. By the time 30 days in a month go by, you’ve spent many nights going to the movies, buying food at restaurants or buying clothes. So if you find yourself with $200 left over at the end of the month, you make the quick decision to spend $50 of it because its been about a month since you’ve bought something for yourself. That’s essentially the worst financial decision you can make in that situation. You’re savings account is $200, and you’re spending 25% of your savings.

It’s hard to explain how hard it is to save money when you’re broke. No matter how much money I made from the time I was 16 to 26, I stayed broke. Not to mention, I lied to myself constantly. When I got paid on Friday, I’d figure out how much money I needed to last me until my next paycheck. That’s how I rationalized spending $20 at the movies on Friday night. Then Saturday night, I’d go out to dinner or do some other activity and spend $20 more. Then two weeks would go by, and I’d be down to $50 left. I’d get paid again, and that’s how I lived for 10 years. I always thought I would be working, and I’d always get a paycheck. I never even attempted to save money. I was such an idiot.

Things got worse. As my friends spent money, I spent money I didn’t have. I got a credit card, and then I maxed it out. Then I called and got the limit raised. Then I maxed it out again. I made minimum payments on that credit card for a decade. Financially speaking, there isn’t anything more shameful or pitiful. How stupid and absentminded could I be? Now that I’m 32, I’m not shameless or prideful. I can admit that I’m still paying that credit card, and others, off. It’s terrible. I’ve increased my income more than three-fold. I’m making tons of money at my new job, and it is great. You know what I’m doing with the majority of my paychecks? Paying off more than $15,000 in credit card debt.

No matter how big my paycheck gets, it all disappears. Eventually, I’ll catch up with my debt, and I can start saving money. However, for the time being, I’m working 65 hours a week and spending nights away from you and your mom just so I can transfer most of my paycheck into a black hole. Instead of having $15,000 in my savings account to do magical things with, I have no money in my checking or savings and my balance on my credit cards is getting smaller. It’s extremely anticlimactic and depressing. You should avoid it at all cost. Basically, I’m trying to make this blog post as anticlimactic and depressing as possible so you’ll come to realize how anticlimactic and depressing it is paying off credit card debt. Let this be your first warning. Avoid it at all costs. Don’t open a credit card for emergencies. That’s ignorant. Your first step should be to hoard $1,000 as an emergency fund. Don’t buy things on credit cards because you think you’ll get cash back or frequent flyer miles. That’s possible to do, but it comes much later. That’s not something to get into immediately. It takes discipline and cash.

Your second step should fly right by. The second step is to snowball your debt. Seeing that you don’t have any debt yet, it should be really easy to fly right by this step. However, for the sake of other readers out there, let’s say that there is some debt. Maybe it is some credit card debt or student loans. The debt snowball is accomplished like this. You pay off the smallest credit card with the highest interest rate first. If there is a $2500 card, a $5000 card and a $10,000 student loan – pay off the $2500 card first, then the $5000 card and then the student loan.

The third step is to grow your emergency fund to 6-months of living expenses. Back in 2009 and 2010, I was collecting unemployment. I got laid off, and times were rough. I had no emergency fund, and I continued to live my life on credit cards. If you are single or married or have a kid or don’t, you need money to pay your bills. If your monthly bills are $1000, you need $6000 in reserves, etc.

These first three steps are crucial. It’ll be the difference between being broke when you’re trying to get married or buy a house and actually having money to spend on the most important things in your life.

That’s enough for now. I just saw that I started this post a long time ago and never published it. I’m really going to try harder to post more often.



Hey Mason!

It is December 18th, 2015, and it’s been a fast year! I usually say that every year, but the last three months have flown by. At the beginning of this year, I was working at Minco like always. Things were pretty uneasy. I didn’t know what was going to become of my legal situation. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to purchase a firearm or get my concealed weapon permit back. I applied to a couple of jobs, one at NDT and one at Alpha, and I waited. Then, I waited. After a couple of months, I waited some more. I was really getting stressed out about my finances. I wasn’t making very much money at Minco, but I had finally finished my degree. I was also waiting very impatiently to get my degree in the mail. I was waiting very impatiently to get my rights back, and I was waiting very impatiently to get a better job! All three things were weighing heavy on my shoulders. All I could do was go to work everyday and wait.

Finally, after six months or so, I received my bachelor degree in business management! Your mother was more excited than I was haha. I’m happy that I got it, but I was more concerned about proving I had a degree. Nobody ever tells you if you need proof or not. When filling out an employment application, the job might require a four year degree…how would they know? I had no idea at the time. Next, I would FINALLY get the go ahead for my new job at NDT. I ended up taking you and your mother down for the Fourth of July this year just to hang out with JR. He got me the job, and that pretty much counted as my first day. Dude, that job was stressful, but not in the way you might think. The job was easy. It really was. The problem was that it was 100% travel. The job was located in Tampa, and we were living in Tallahassee. I would drive down Monday morning and drive home Friday evening. It was easy to do that, but I missed you and your mother terribly. Don’t tell your mother, but I cried myself to sleep one night I was in Tampa by myself. You had just turned one year old, and I was afraid I was going to miss your first steps. You didn’t like it because you had fun with me, but it was hardest on your mother. Honestly, she didn’t deserve it. I felt bad for making her take care of you by herself. She “understood” like she always did, but she wanted me home more than she wanted the money. During my two deployments, she suffered through me being out of town long enough. From day one, I started looking for other jobs in Tallahassee. I took the job because it paid three times as much as I was making at Minco. However, we decided that I would go back to working at Minco if it meant I got to see you guys every night.

In some kind of dream-come-true scenario, a job I applied for in January finally became available in August. I planned the interview for a Monday before I had to drive down for work for the week. I went in and interviewed at Alpha. After just a couple of days, my buddy (again I had a buddy get me a job) called to offer me the job. I’ll never forget. Your mother and I were on vacation with her parents. We were camping out in their pull behind camper at Little Ocmulgee State Park in Georgia. I felt such a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. I knew that the rest of the year was going to be very different. I’ve been at Alpha for four months now, and it is really turning out good.

Next, I aimed for getting my Concealed Weapon License back. My mandatory waiting period had expired, but I was still nervous that I was going to get denied. I called on November 16th to setup an appointment. I went in a couple of days later to get my fingerprints taken and to pay the fee. By November 30th, I had been approved, and they had mailed my license out! Again, I felt like a weight had been lifted off me. I never carried concealed without a license, and it had been five years since I had my license taken. I’ve always had a pistol in close proximity to me, but it feels good to be able to carry concealed again. I never leave home without it. I’m still super happy about getting my CWL back because it really makes me feel like a citizen again.

Lastly, I wanted to get my own Federal Firearms License. Every since working at the indoor shooting range, I wanted to do things my own way. Obviously, I don’t work there anymore, and I’m still not on speaking terms with my dad. I got in really good with an awesome guy named Lee, and he let me take the wheel of his FFL. I ordered some parts and sold some guns to friends, but I really couldn’t do exactly what I wanted. I’ve wanted my own FFL for years. I didn’t want to apply for one until I had my CWL because I was afraid of getting denied. Well, I’ve had my CWL for two weeks now, and I just finished filling out the paperwork for the FFL today. The first half of this year was really stressful, and there was no end in sight. I had no idea what the end of 2015 could possibly have in store. Even this past summer, I didn’t know how long I was going to have to stick it out at NDT. It was a great job with great people, but the travel was very hard. I stayed mission oriented the entire time. I did the best job I could no matter what I was doing – Minco, NDT or Alpha. When the going got tough, I had already prepared myself mentally. I played scenarios out in my mind constantly, and even though I had no idea what was in store for me – I was never surprised when something happened.

In the last few months, things have accelerated faster than I ever could have imagined. Alpha is going great. I’m getting paid well. I haven’t done a fence job for KLD in about a year. Now, all of a sudden, I’ve got three jobs lined up in a months time. One for your mom’s uncle Mitch, one for a buddy, one for a buddy’s boss. I’m creating another company all together and applying for an FFL. I’ve got three really great things going at one time. Just four short months ago, I was travelling to Tampa and back weekly with no idea what was going to happen in the coming weeks. Your mother thinks that you are our good-luck charm. I think you are too. Anyway, I’m not totally enraged at how terrible this year was like I was in 2012 and 2013 (and prior years).

I want to wish you a merry Christmas! Your mother and I are so extremely happy about you. We went to your Christmas play today that daycare put on. I felt such an unusual happiness come over me. I was so proud to be a dad and see your little face – just like I am everyday – but this time it really hit me. It wasn’t just babysitting a kid on the weekends or giving you a bath or taking you around town. It was your first Christmas play, the first time you were in a school type function with teachers and classmates, etc. I felt like a dad. It reminded me a lot of the feelings I got when you were born. A moment that slows down time and really makes you realize what’s happening.

You don’t just jump immediately into being a dad overnight. This was one of those moments that made me feel like I had accomplished something great. It felt like a milestone – like graduating high school or boot camp. Moments that make you feel proud of yourself are rare. I’ve only had a couple that I can remember. It’s very hard to explain, and you won’t know the feeling until you’ve accomplished something great. Moments that make you feel proud of your son – that was a first for me today. It really made me smile.



November 22nd, 2015

Dear Mason,

Holy crap, time flies. Thanksgiving is in a few days. You’re getting so big! You make your mother and me so happy! You are definitely hard to keep up with, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I hope you have enjoy reading these blog posts. Writing them helps me clear my head. It helps me stay on the right path and relieve stress at the same time. I probably won’t be so stressed if I’d write more often. 

A lot has happened since my last post. I don’t see how’s it’s possibly been since early March, but the date doesn’t lie. I applied for a couple of jobs that I thought were promising around that time. I was working at Minco for $12 an hour at the time. As much as I liked working there, I couldn’t support this family on that. However, I was very grateful for the job. I learned a lot about cars and trucks. I’ll have those skills to help me with my hobbies for the rest of my life. This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for that job. It saved me twice – before and after the indoor shooting range. Let me tell you a story about the importance of endurance. 

When I got back from Iraq in 2008, I didn’t have much direction in life. However, that wasn’t anything new. I was basically an idiot. I bought a CTS-V with my deployment money. I rented a house. I starting working part-time at Precision Motorsports and collecting the G.I. Bill. It wasn’t long before I was broke again. Because I didn’t plan for my future at all, I fell on hard times. Again. 

In December of 2008, right around the very end of the year, I got laid off. The economy was getting bad, and I started collecting unemployment. It was $275 a week. I had a hard time paying my car payment and paying my rent. I sold the CTS-V of which I paid $21,000 for $13,000. I sold a couple of my guns to pay my rent. I started working, apparently for free, at a place called Centurion Tactical. That’s another story entirely. The owner of Centurion got arrested later, and I was only there for a couple months. A few months after that, I got arrested and that ended up getting me kicked out of the Marine Corps counterintelligence “DEP” program. That’s yet another story for another day. 

So as you can probably see, 2009 was a super shitty year for me. I did have one saving grace that year. I married your mother. It was “fairy tale,” and your mother and I were very lucky to have such a nice wedding. However, that didn’t change the fact that I was unemployed and on pre-trial release. I continued to go to community college and finally graduated from that stupid place. The GI Bill and unemployment was the only thing that saved me. Without that, I have no idea what I would have done. 

In 2010, my lawyer screwed me. I was put on probation for four years and committed to 180 Sheriff work camp days. I mean, I got royally fucked. So I had to start doing that crap too. I was still talking to my dad at this point, and I came up with the idea of an indoor shooting range. I was writing a business plan for the indoor shooting range pretty much the entire year that year. While that was getting off the ground, I managed to get my first real job in years. I worked full-time for a lawn care company before I got deployed in 2007. So in 2010, I started working for Minco, and that pretty much changed my life for the better. 

I can’t explain how much fun I had at Minco. I learned so much about working on cars and trucks. I was very thankful to get that opportunity. After only about a year and a half of making $12 an hour, I made a giant mistake. I left Minco to work with my dad at the indoor range for $10 an hour. I had been working on getting the indoor shooting range up and running since mid-2009. It was now Black Friday 2011 and my first official day working at the range. It was our grand opening. It was exciting at first. Then, it started to get frustrating. 

I wouldn’t find out how much of a disaster things were until later. The tension between my father and I got worse and worse. My mother told me at one point, Dad didn’t talk to her for about two weeks. He said he felt “alienated” and everybody was against him. What a piece of shit. I walked out on everything I had done – the planning, the writing, the arguing, the designing, the future, the investment. I walked out on my own business idea and on my own father on October 27th, 2013. I haven’t talked to him since. 

Luckily, I walked right back into Minco. I didn’t plan it, but because I had worked hard there previously, the boss was happy to have me back. At this point in time, my endurance was running out. Let me explain. It’s now the end of 2013, and I’ve been completely broke since 2008. I’ve slowly sold most of my stuff. I had nothing but a motorcycle for a long period of time. I had been to jail, probation officer meetings for two years, Sheriff work camp days for two years. I was yet to graduate, but at this point in time, I didn’t see the fucking point. I was mentally ready to give up. 

The year 2014 rolls around. I was working at Minco at age 30, and I think that’s what made me spiral. Just the fact that I was 30 years old and had a kid on the way made me feel like a piece of shit for making $12 an hour. Nothing was making me happy. I’d go to the gym and work and class, and when I got in bed, I’d cry myself to sleep in my head. If it wasn’t for you, and obviously your mother, I wouldn’t be here today. Those were dark days, Mason. I didn’t know how much endurance I truly had. Nobody ever knows. The only thing you can do is keep at it. No matter how bad things seem, they could always be worse. And even if things get worse and worse for so many years that you think you just can’t take it anymore, that you just can’t go on for one more second, stick to it for one more second and prove yourself wrong. Count to ten. Get rid of everything in your mind. Start from scratch on a new plan of attack. Don’t ever give up on yourself, but more importantly, don’t ever fucking give up on the people that love and need you. That includes your future wife, your future son, your future brothers or sisters, your future adopted brothers in the Marine Corps. You may want to quit, but you can’t. Ever. 

I kept working the dead end job at Minco until July of this year. I kept going to night classes until right around the time you were born. I later graduated with a business management degree. I finally got an awesome, well paying job. It’s Thanksgiving 2015, and your mother and I, as of last paycheck, are finally sleeping good at night because we aren’t worried about money. We are far from rich, but at least we have more than $-29 in our checking account. 

Endurance is the mental and physical stamina that is measured by your ability to withstand pain, fatigue, stress, and hardship. For example, enduring pain during a conditioning march in order to improve stamina is crucial in the development of leadership.

Endurance is the mental and physical stamina that is measured by your ability to withstand pain, fatigue, stress, and hardship. It’s ironically the last of the 14 Marine Corps leadership traits. It takes more than just endurance to be a great leader, but you cannot be a great leader without great endurance. 



February 16, 2015

Dear Mason,

Today is your mother’s birthday. I’m sitting in the hospital right this second with her and you. Mommy brought you to the ER because you had a 100.2 degree fever. You’ve got a bad, croopy cough and you’re wheezing a little, and they won’t let you leave just yet. That’s a story for a different day though. This is a great opportunity to write Lesson 4. I haven’t had a lot of time to write these. Why? Because I’ve been working seven days a week. Why? Because your mother and I are broke.

Let me tell you how I got to be broke at age 30 (and your mother at age 28 today, HBD!). When I was a kid, I didn’t pay attention to the way things worked. I didn’t pay for things at stores because my parents did it for me. I was just a kid. When we went grocery shopping, bought gas, or did anything that required money, us kids were just out of the loop. It was grown-up stuff, and my parents were old fashioned. Well, we never transitioned. I got older and older, and I never got a money talk. My parents never told me how things work. Come to find out, they were broke when they got married – and then still when they had me.

So – I just started wingin’ it. When I turned 15, I started bugging my parents to drive. I got my learner’s permit immediately, and started driving my parents from here to there. I didn’t buy gas because I didn’t have a job yet. I didn’t pay for the car payment or the insurance either. I didn’t know those things existed. I didn’t know how much car payments or insurance even costed. I just drove.

When I turned 16, a couple of things changed. I started taking the family minivan and driving to places by myself. It was super exciting at first, but then it leveled off a little. It turned normal and boring quick. I started really becoming independent, and my parents weren’t there to put gas in the tank. So, I got my first job. It was at Super Lube on Capital Circle, and I was making about $5.15 an hour. It was minimum wage, but gas was about $1.25 a gallon at the time. Gas was about the only thing I needed to pay for. The family minivan was already paid off. So when I got my first couple of pay checks, I didn’t have any idea what I needed to do with them. I just spent them on gas and bought “things”. I bought a paintball gun. I bought a new mountain bike at the Tallahassee Mall. My only bill was gas, and I had that well taken care of with a part time job. I just spent the rest because I had no idea I needed to stock pile cash for the future. I was a 16-year-old with no guidance. If you’re 16 reading this, please realize you’re a dumbass. Why? Because you’re going to be exactly like I was when I was 16. Please don’t make the same mistakes I did.

I changed jobs a couple times in high school. I worked at a place called Turtle’s Music with my best friend Sam. I put stickers on CD’s for $6.00 an hour. Then I got a job at Proctor GMC, Hummer, Cadillac when it existed. DCT in high school helped me and Kyle (friend from high school) get jobs there. For some stupid reason they hired two people for the same job and didn’t tell us. We ‘helped’ each other out changing oil on cars. The other guy was a 50-year-old black man, and we didn’t realize we were auditioning for the same job. I got fired shortly after. Kyle worked as a helper to a service writer. He just pulled cars around. He got fired (or quit) shortly after me. Come to find out, his dad owned Golden Corral! After that, we both started waiting tables at GC, and that’s where we both still were working when we joined the Marine Corps. It was a good high school job, and I made cash tips.

From job to job, nothing changed. I didn’t figure anything out. I didn’t know what was going on. For years and years and years, I never saw the big picture. I didn’t save any of my money. I wasn’t career oriented, but no high school kid was. Right? Having crappy jobs and making almost no money wasn’t the worst part. I started 9th grade/high school with $0 in my bank account. (I didn’t have a bank account.) I started cashing pay checks at Publix. By the time I graduated high school four years later, all the money I had to my name was in my pocket – and that was it. Maybe $200. Four years of working, and I had $200 to show for it. All the toys I bought were heavily used at this point. I made probably $10,000 or $12,000 in those couple of years, but where in the hell did that money go? Well, I’ll tell you.

My first car was a 1979 Chevy Camaro Z-28. My dad bought it for me as a surprise. It was $3,000 at a used car lot. I don’t want to hate on my dad too much at this point in the story, but we lived in a half-million dollar house at the time. Seacoast had $1 million in sales annually, and he probably made over $100,000 a year. He had just ordered a brand new Chevy Suburban from the dealership. He could have gotten me a nicer car! Haha. Anyway, I never paid for my first several cars – all Camaros. After somebody (an off-duty police officer) hit me in that car, I got a 1988 Chevy Camaro IROC-Z convertible. It was a horrible decision on Dad’s part. He got $7,000 from the insurance and paid $2,700 for this piece of crap. After it lived in the shop for months, we had over $9,000 in it. I didn’t pay for the new radiator. I didn’t pay for the new tires. I didn’t pay for the new exhaust. I didn’t pay for any of it – and I only briefly overheard how much those things costed to fix.

The first car I was personally responsible for was a 1998 Chevy Camaro V6. It was a great car when I got it. But I would soon turn it into a piece of crap. I found it for sale in the newspaper, and I started working on Dad about it. I had been driving a white Ford F-100 for working with Dad, I think. Anyway, I didn’t have any money, I was 17, and I convinced dad that I could get a loan. I convinced him that I could pay for the car payment, which was probably $150 a month, and the insurance, which was probably about the same for a driver like me. Plus gas. So now I was making $600 or $700 a month, and now I owed more than half of it in bills each month. Horrible mistake on my part. Honestly though, was it more my fault or my dumbass Dad’s for letting me do it?? What smart business man lets their kid get a car loan he can’t afford at all? So if I tell you know about something – this is why.

Regardless, I currently work at Minco Auto & Truck Accessories. My boss here is Louis. He’s five years older than me. He owns the property, the business, everything. Anyway, when he turned 16, he bought his first truck, a Ford Ranger, in cash. He saved up enough money from working at a car race shop. I’m not sure what year it was, but from his stories, it was $10,000. So here you’ve got too completely different kids. One that drug his Dad to the bank and had him co-sign on a $9,500 loan for a car with over 100,000 miles on it, and one that worked from age 14 to save money to buy a new truck. Have you ever heard of a 16-year-old in high school that bought his own truck in cash? Are any of your friends doing that? Are any of your friend’s parents buying them vehicles with no strings attached? Because I see it at Minco on a weekly basis.

This story gets more retarded. When my Dad was 16 (1973?), he walked into the Dodge dealership and bought a new Dodge Dart Sport in cash. He worked for himself for two years doing odd jobs for neighbors. He drove a dump truck at age 15. He told me he saved his money, and after he had enough, he went in and spent $3,000 on a new 1973 Dodge Dart Sport. He’s told me the story a dozen times, but it just doesn’t make any sense. My Dad loved his kids back then. He says, “I wanted you guys to have things – things that I didn’t have when I was a kid” because he grew up poor in 1970’s Crawfordville, Florida. If he knew what he was doing, why in the hell would he subject his oldest kid to almost $10,000 in debt when he was 17? What’s the life lesson there? I don’t understand why he didn’t either A) buy a car in cash and make me pay him back or B) make me save money and do without a car until I could buy one in cash. I wouldn’t find out the answer to this until 2013.

Anyway, I ended up getting that car taken away from me because of speeding tickets too. Dad sold it and paid the loan off. I had probably a dozen speeding tickets at that point. I wasn’t responsible enough for a car because I didn’t have to work to get it. I just nagged Dad and the bank gave it to me. I made some payments, was probably late on my payments here and there – and then it was gone as quickly as it arrived.

The moral of the story is that there is a point to having a job. It isn’t just something to do after school. It isn’t just so you can go to the mall or to the movies. It isn’t so you can buy toys. Having a job is about being independent. Having a job is about financial security. Financial security keeps you safe from all types of things. It buys you lawyers, doctors, car mechanics, and people to fix your house after a hurricane. It buys you guns and ammo, food, water and transportation (see my future post about surviving the zombie apocalypse). Everything in life revolves around having money. You want to invest in new business ideas, you have to pay for college books, you have to pay for health insurance. Everything requires money.

From a young age, my parents would teach me that money doesn’t buy happiness. They would say I could be anything I wanted to be when I grew up. My dad said he hated his job (travelling salesman), and that I needed to go to college so I didn’t have to have his job when I was his age. They said that I should find a hobby that makes me happy, and figure out how I could turn it into a paying job. All lies. Quite possibly the worst advice you could possibly give a teenager.

If I could send my 16 year old self a message, it would sound something like this:

Stop being a dumbass, and think about what you’re doing. You’re taking the rest of your life in your own hands right now. You are at a point in your life where things are transitioning. You are transitioning from being a student to being a member of the American workforce, and you don’t realize that your decisions today effect the rest of your life.

To get a good idea of what you want to be when you grow up – find a mentor. Find somebody that looks like they have things figured out. If you think working at a hospital is an awesome idea – find somebody working at a Hospital to shadow. If you think being a police officer or a lawyer is awesome, find somebody that can answer questions. Ask them questions. Anything and everything you can think of. When you are 30 years old, how much money do you want to be making? $20,000 – $30,000 – $40,000 – $50,000 a year? Do you think its easy to have a wife and kid and own a house making $20,000 a year? Do you think city cops make $50,000 a year? Think again.

If you don’t graduate from high school with good grades, it starts a habit you’ll be in the rest of your life. If you don’t go to college, be prepared to work low wage jobs for a long time. If you get a degree in something retarded, be prepared to find work far from your major. Talk to college grads, talk to as many coaches and teachers and friends and family about their experiences in the job market. See what people are doing and what they’ve learned. You aren’t going to get a job with the City or the State or the CIA or FBI – you aren’t going to be the CEO of a big company – by dropping out of college and working at Burger King. You have to work for it. You have to get an entry level job and work your way up the ladder.

Money buys you happiness. It buys you piece of mind. It buys you a home and food on the table. It buys your baby new clothes and toys. It buys happiness. You can’t be anything you want when you grow up. When I was growing up, all I cared about was racing. I cared about racing my Camaro. How many kids grow up to be professional race car drivers? That’s ridiculous.

My father should have made me work at a lawn care company all through high school and then open my own company after I graduated with a business degree. He should have made me work for a plumber or electrician or a construction company here in town. The work is not glamorous. The work sucks. I worked construction and lawn care for years while I was in the Marine Corps Reserves. However, that’s how you become your own boss. The owner of Tallahassee Landscaping owns a $350,000 boat. The owner of RH Masonry here in town has a different brand new $60,000 truck every month, and several $20,000 four-wheelers. The owners of every construction company in town are millionaires. They all have very expensive pick-up trucks and Corvettes. The owner of M Electric and W Plumbing all have brand new houses, brand new cars and have tons of money in the bank. Not to mention they are their own boss.

How did they get this way?

1. They’ve been in the same industry for 25 years. They know everything there is to know about their business.

2. They didn’t blow their money as soon as they got it.

3. They eventually started their own company instead of working for somebody else their whole life.

4. They put in long hard hours and were smart about their business decisions and money.

A famous pirate once said, “He who has the gold makes the rules.” Famous — as in the movie Pirates of the Caribbean. Anyway, you’ll either grow up working for the man, or you’ll be the man. Getting a job in high school should help teach you about responsibility. Taking responsibility isn’t the easiest thing to teach or learn. It sucks because its hard. It should also teach you about being financially responsible and conservative. Dave Ramsey has some Baby Steps that I’ll introduce to you at a later date. Basically, he says that you have to crawl before you can walk. Save up some money and buy a cheap car. Save up some more money, and buy a nicer car. It helps if you don’t care what other people think about you (being in a trashy car). Always have money to fall back on. Always pay for things in cash because you’ll be servant to the lender if you don’t. Banks get rich by taking people’s money. They call it interest. It’s the price you pay for borrowing money from people for things you can’t afford.

I hope this shows you the importance of money. The entire world revolves around it. I always heard when I was growing up that money can’t buy happiness. That’s a freaking lie. Ever seen someone frown on a jet ski?

Don’t be like me. Don’t move from job to job for 15 years. Don’t look for a job that you think would be super fun. You’ll regret it. High school is the time to be thinking about how much money you want to be making in 10 years and go after it. Don’t think you can be an astronaut or a lawyer or a doctor. That’s not realistic. If you get good grades in school and are very book smart, then it’s realistic. But if you’re like me, you’re street smart. Be a leader. Be decisive. Be responsible and hold yourself to a standard. Some parents hold their kids to a straight A grade standard. I’m going to hold you to a high financial responsibility standard.

I wish my parents would have done that for me.