On the Road Again

Last month’s Notes were just a mess. Awful. I didn’t have it. Not sure where it went but it clearly vacated my possession. In fact, a lot of my writing has been spotty garbage for the better part of a year. There were some good articles, I like what I did with the foster care and deportation article, but the rest has hidden whatever talent I have. It happens. Peaks and valleys. This is the life of a writer. It’s about the balance I’ve been lacking. It’s about changes of scenery. It’s about inspiration. I’ve been lacking most of these, especially the balance. When it isn’t working, you need to everything, anything you can to get it back. So that’s what I’m going to do. I searched for answers all year and I finally stumbled upon it.

I found the missing piece to me doing the best job I can do; road trip!

It started out innocently enough; I was feeling off, couldn’t get right, then the phone rang. On the line was a woman representing a group bringing together business owners and foster youth in Los Angeles to raise money for a foster care agency on the west coast. She asked if I’d be interested in coming to speak at the event. It’s well documented that I rarely speak in public and when I do it’s for friends I’ve made or for former foster youth. Nothing against talking, I just rarely have anything to add to the conversation. In life, I talk my ass off. In business, I’m a lot more introverted. Maybe it’s the GED but even though I run a national magazine with moderate success, I still feel like the odd man out.

But like I mentioned, I’ve been feeling off for a while and a change of scenery couldn’t hurt. So, I waived the bulk of my speaking fee (I’ve done this before, I get yelled at a lot for it, takes money to run a business, but if kids are involved I’m an easy get. I’ve since taken up with a Speaker’s Bureau, to keep me from telling anyone yes or no.) and agreed to come back out to the west coast. The mag is big out there even though I’m on the other side of the country. Lots of the Foster Focus Contributors and Columnists come from out that way. Many reasons to go.

I have some health issues. No need to go into it further than that. I dread the idea of being stuck in that metal tube the rest of you call an airplane, yet I’m more than comfortable driving for one hundred miles. I’m a complex man. Not really, I just need the ability to completely control my travel. My wife hates this. Just hates it. Not flying is a bit more expense. Not by much mind you. After flights, rentals and rooms, it costs about the just a bit more than driving yourself. Time is the difference. Spending X amount of dollars to fly gets the job done in about half the time driving out takes. But it’s worth it to me to spend a few extra days on a trip in my car than passing over the country in a plane. Can’t see the people from a plane and people are the whole reason I do this.

In a very cynical world, I may be one of the last people around who stands in awe of us. I have a genuine love of all people. I’m constantly impressed with what we can do, what we can create, what we can dream up and then make reality. I’ve got a childlike wonder for people and places and I can’t experience either with any enjoyment from a plane. You know what I remember on a trip? It’s not the cool things I get to do or the movie locations I wander off to check out. It’s the little old lady sweeping her sidewalk in little town Nebraska. Or the guy on the bench in a park I drive by in Topeka. The plateaus and the houses near them in Texas. Why do they live so close to that rock formation? Do they dig the look or do they know something I don’t? The dirt roads that shoot off the main roads to reveal houses and ranches in Oklahoma. I like the onion fields in California. The tobacco farmers tending to their crops in Kentucky. I love all that stuff. As I drive I imagine their lives. Ironically, I think very little about the magazine or foster care when I drive on these voyages; it’s all about the people and the towns they’ve built. I prefer backroads to highways and driving behind a horse and buggy as opposed to sitting in traffic. Bottom line; I can’t enjoy travel in a plane, my mind and body won’t allow it. So, I drive.

This time it’s 47 hours to California and 56 back. That’s a lot, huh? Not to me. I dot this country with intentions. Intentions of seeing people to learn their foster care stories. Intentions to nab new subscribers and advertisers. Intentions to grow Foster Focus (slow and steady so I can contain it) into a household name. Not just foster care households, all households. If I agree to come across the country to talk, you can bet your bottom dollar I’m coming home with more subscribers, advertisers and stories than I left with.

Like I said, my wife isn’t a big fan of the way I travel but this magazine, for better or worse, grows through me. This ugly mug needs to be in front of people to explain the worth of this mag. My awkward (often adorable) demeanor is what creates the relationships that lead to ads and connections. Every ad you see in this mag is the result of meeting a decisionmaker, becoming friends, that person seeing my work ethic and intent and investing their money in what I do. That’s how it happens. Rarely does a cold call work, mainly because I lack the time to attack the phones the way you need to, and though people come to me to advertise, they need to feel taken care of and looked after, foster care never really advertised before me apart from conferences or a classified ad in the local paper. This stuff take time I don’t have.

But on these long road trips, I get time. I talk into my recorder, things I could say to potential advertisers or pre-write an article as I drive. I get to think of ways to grow or improve the mag while a book on tape plays. In the rush to put out a quality product, I don’t get the chance to think beyond the task at hand. The road gives me that chance. Not to mention the boost to my spirits, but I think I’ll write about that when I get back.

For now, I’ll give you a snapshot of the itinerary for the trip. I’ll start in western PA visiting a potential location for a future village designated for victims of human trafficking. Then, it’s deep into West Virginia to check out a future college for kids from care. Next is Santa Cruz to see the Foster Youth Museum, a travelling display, in person with the curator. Then to San Jose, California to learn about an incredible new way to look at care. I’ll meet some of those folks that run care for one of the richest counties in the nation while I’m there. I’m interested to see how an affluent county that boasts Silicon Valley as one of its service areas, fares in the world of care. My hunch is that it’s similar to the rest of the country, but I’ll find out. That’s why we make the trip. From San Jose, it’s off to LA to speak at that event, meet with some Columnists and do a little Karate Kid sightseeing.

I’ve been invited by the A Sense of Home folks to watch them create furnished rooms in a warehouse that will then be recreated in the new living space for a former foster kid. Looking forward to that one. Can I fit in a stop at the world-famous Comedy Store on the Sunset Strip? I can and I will.

I run back up to northern Cali to see family before making the turn east to go home. But there are people and places to see on the way home too. I’ll make stop in Nebraska to see how the Foster Care Closet expansion is going and then to Oklahoma to check in on a 100 year old foster care community.

And then I come back home to my office, put together the September issue and share all my adventures with you.

Should be a great trip to refresh the soul and lead to great future issues of the mag. And THAT is why I drive.

Enjoy the issue. I think you’re really going to like.

See you when I come back with a tan and a ton of stories. Be safe out there.