Archive for April, 2016

Last week our Congelese princess asked: “Mom, why aren’t there more black people in movies?”

It is a difficult question.

She, of course, watches kids movies. I’ve seen just about every movie she has. So I racked my brain.

Lucious Best a.k.a. Frozone is just about the only one who comes to mind. He was played by a black man, Samuel L. Jacksom.

Maybe Will Smith had a point.

Aren’t black children, and not just transracially adopted kids, an audience for kids’ movies? Don’t any black filmmakers make movies for kids?

TV shows aren’t too different. I think. My kids don’t watch much TV. If they do it is a show we DVRed or on Netflix.When I am home after lunch- their time to watch- I don’t see many or any black people.

In the shows I watch there aren’t many either. Certainly not representative of our population.

When I was a kid I regularly saw black people on TV. Sesame Street. Different Strokes. The Jeffersons. Good Times. What’s Happening. The Cosby Show. The Fat Albert Show. Not just a random character, but whole casts.

What happened?

In Democracy in Black, Eddie Glaude Jr. discusses the loss of black social structures. With the advent of cable television, some new ones rose. At least for a time. Much of the black programming moved to these less mainstream, edgier networks. They became less mainstream, and I suspect we are all the poorer for it.  Now we are lucky if a show has a black character or (gasp) two.

As a result, my children don’t regularly see people like them in movies or TV.  They are all the poorer because of it. I want them to see an integrated, not a segregated society. I want them to see black families.

Thankfully we have black friends. Our world is mostly white though.

But we may have to plunder TV Land for appropriate shows (probably not Sanford and Son).

So, any movie recommendations?


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Adoptive Parent Paranoia

Last Year’s Rally

Friday is Game Day. Each year the local schools hold a Drug Awareness rally at the same park. It isn’t about making kids aware of drugs, but an attempt to dissuade kids from using them. They bring in lots of law enforcement: helicopters, bomb squad robots, motorcycles etc. The kids love it. I love it except for one thing.

As you may know we have 3 transracially adopted kids. So? They look nothing like me. And I can get paranoid that some well-meaning person will not realize I am the parent of one of them and think I’m some predator. In our paranoid society, I’m paranoid that I’ll be unjustly accused. In a park filled with police officers.

I just don’t want to have to explain, and hope I have a picture of all of us.

Am I the only adoptive parent who struggles with this? Or do I need therapy?

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The Odyessy ended with Ulysses slaying all the suitors for his wife. This one ended with no violence and death. Nor did it end with a fisticuffs with a bona-fide suitor.

This car buying experience was so different for us. What next? Would they show up? Would things be as they said?

Friday we hadn’t heard anything by 3 so Amie called. I understood if it would take a few days to get the work done. But they said the guy was on his way with the car. So it was time to clean out Gold Faithful. Four kids can certainly accumulate a lot of crap in a van. She mentioned something about some Legos finding their way into the “stow and go”. I didn’t see any Legos, but there was a stockpile of pencils, and a whole lot of dead grass and dirt. We thought we got everything out.

The guy arrived, and we signed the paperwork in a few minutes. Very simple and straight forward.

Thankfully I had the title. That was touch and go. When on vacation I had brought the keys to the lockbox to the office. I wasn’t sure where I put them when I got home. I found keys that fit, but wouldn’t turn. Somehow I got it open.

After signing paperwork, I went to double check everything.

  • New clips on the bumper? Check.
  • 4 new tires? Check?
  • New flanges in the cup holder? Check.
  • DVD player installed? Check.
  • Headphones? Only 2. They didn’t have 4, and would send 2 more later.

So far, so good. We are really enjoying the van. We did discover one oversight. I had the radio off during our test drive. I forgot to check it out afterward. It turns out the rear speakers barely work. It is probably covered by the new warranty.

We also discovered that we forgot a few things. We didn’t remove the garage door opener. They realized that and sent it overnight. We also left the new Toby Mac CD in the stereo. At least we have it on iTunes.


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The Blind Prophet
As I noted we decided to take advantage of Eli’s latest orthodontist appointment and both go up and look at some Hodyessys. I’d been thinking too, and preferred them to the Sienna. The night before, the tires on the T&C that needed changing looked different as we sat outside Chuck E. Cheese.  Made me think the belts were separating, and it wouldn’t be wise to drive it to Phoenix. This, I thought, ruled out the possibility of trading it in.
Due to a Honda recall, we didn’t have the CRV available. But we had the rental Grand Cherokee. Unlike the previous evening we got to explore some of the extras, like the sunroof. One thing we noticed is that the navigation wouldn’t work while we were in gear. The passenger seat has a sensor to turn on the air bag, but apparently not the navigation. So we had to resort to my sworn enemy: Siri.
We arrived at the dealership and met the crew. The website was right- this was nothing fancy. It was parked next to a Mexican restaurant, so we continually smelled carne asada, or something like that.
After filling in some info on the iPad for a test drive, we were looking at the van. First we passed the van I had hoped to buy getting prepped for delivery. It had been purchased Tuesday night. The small lot behind the building was filled with cars. Lots of Odysseys and other Hondas, a few Audis, Toyotas and others. We interacted with a few people, including Brad who does lots of the traveling to auctions. He noted that they like to buy in the northeast because people don’t put as many miles on vehicles as they do in the southeast. He noted that they were behind on cleaning up newer vehicles.
As I looked at the van I saw some cosmetic stuff. They now hold bumpers on with plastic clips. Not a good design, and one bumper was missing some. “Yeah, we buy those in bulk. We’ll put new ones in.” There were a few scratches where someone used a paint pen or something- a poorly matching one at that. People returning leases like these probably rush to cover up such things.
The engine compartment looked very clean. The test drive was mostly good. No saleperson as we took it around some city streets and out to the highway. Something felt a little odd at times. I couldn’t tell if it was the road, or the tires. When we got back I walked around it again and noticed it had 4 different tires on it. As did the van next to the one we looked at. But they had one make in common. I figured I’d ask if they could swap one so I’d have two of the same on the front. They said this often happens with rentals: people don’t take care of the tires and then scramble to put non-bald tires on them when trading them in. We would have 4 new tires.
I listened to the engine run, and didn’t notice any unusual noises. Things were looking good. This van didn’t have all the extras like the one from Yuma. I had like the idea of a DVD player for trips, so I asked about getting one installed. I was thinking it would be well over $1,000. I was wrong. For $460 we got it installed and 4 wireless headphones for the kids so we can listen to music instead.
We went inside. There was no negotiating. This van was a little more than I’d wanted to spend but if only had about 40k miles. There was no dog and pony show. No pressure. He started to talk about financing. “We’re paying cash.” So that was one fewer thing to discuss.
I asked about trading in Gold Faithful. He asked a few questions, put answers in the computer. “$2,500.” That was the number I was hoping to get for a private sale. “I was hoping to not put new tires on it.” “Oh, we’ll pick it up when we drop your new van off.” No additional charge by the way. No heading to Discount Tire. No spending $300. And the price I wanted- with no haggling.
He printed out a sheet with the numbers. We agreed to get the 3 year bumper-to-bumper warranty. He noted what needed to be done: bumper clips, flanges for the cup holder, 4 new tires, DVD player.
Amie wrote the check and we got a receipt. “You’ll sign all the paperwork when we drop the van off.” He understood that we needed to get to Eli’s appointment. Eli who was riding a desk chair back and forth. I was more annoyed by it than they seemed to be. We shared some of our adoption story with the main guy. He was adopted too. So we piled into the Grand Cherokee and went to his appointment.
What would happen Friday? Would it all be as they said when they dropped it off? Would they drop it off?

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Lost at Sea

In the midst of this Amie decided to check into the Honda recall notice for the CRV that had been hanging around the house for an undetermined period of time.

“This is kinda serious.”

It was serious enough that Honda would pay for a rental until such time as the air bag is replaced. Initially that could have been months. Currently they were saying if we begin now, it could be mid-April.

Trying to process this. I’ve been driving a “death trap”. Yeah, slightly melodramatic, but that is sort of how I roll and it makes for good story telling.

The plan was to head up to Phoenix to look at minivans on Thursday. The best day to pick up the rental car was Wednesday due to my work schedule. They processed the recalls between 2-4:30. I needed to visit someone in the hospital, but visiting hours were from 3-4. The schedule is getting tighter. We could drive Gold Faithful up to Phoenix and see what they would offer for a trade in.

We needed to provide them with the odometer reading, and keep the CRV off the road. They didn’t want to store it. So a friend went to the hospital with me, and would drop me off at the Honda dealership at 4:20 for our appointment. I drove the CRV home from the office after working on sermon preparation. Took a photo of my odometer and was ready to go at 2:30 wearing my pants that now had chocolate stains near my crotch. “No one will notice”, she says. Grrrrr, I think.

I’m grateful the Honda guy wasn’t on a tight schedule because we didn’t leave the hospital at 4, later than I wanted to, and ended up in some traffic. They were all waiting for me at the dealership. The paperwork was ready for my John Hancock. Amie even had a bag of popcorn ready for me (see, Toyota, this is how you do it!). Though I had an SUV, they were paying for a “full size” car at the Enterprise down the road.

I wasn’t expecting a long line. That was surprising. Were these all Honda recall people? During our seemingly interminable wait the kids were only slightly obnoxious. Actually Micah was well-behaved. Waiting, waiting, waiting. We had plans for a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese on the other side of town at 6 pm. My stress level is slowly increasing.

“We’re out of full size.”


So we weren’t sure what kind of car we were getting, and how long it would take to get it. So we waited and talked with a woman who was enjoying our kids. She was from a large family, and we talked about Amie’s large family too.

Finally the guy arrived to say our vehicle was ready. It was a mostly loaded black Grand Cherokee with leather seats and a whole lot of other bonus features. Jadon hopped in with me, and Amie was going to follow me to Chuck E. Cheese. I thought we could get there in time, even with the traffic. Except I wasn’t exactly where there was. I quickly texted my friend at a stop light and he sent the address.

I liked the Cherokee. I was surprised. It rides higher than the CRV. It also has good acceleration which surprised me. It was one of those keyless models where the fob needs to be in the car. There were two fobs, joined together by a cable. What is the point of that. It formed this gigantic lump in your pocket. Not comfortable.

As we drew closer to the address I realized where it was. “Duh, I know that.” My mind probably experiencing the price for 2 homilies and a sermon over the weekend.  So we pulled into the parking lot and it was closed. Not for the evening. Closed- shuttered- not open for business and for lease.

This wasn’t good. I pulled into a parking space to talk to Amie, and think. As she was talking to me, she was facing the road. “It’s across the street.” Indeed it was. So we pulled back onto the road and pulled a U turn to arrive at the Chuck E. Cheese. I pulled into a parking spot, and she pulled into the one next to me. Backed in, because that is how her father rolls. And she is her father’s daughter.

In the twilight, the front tires on Gold Faithful didn’t look right. We knew we would have to replace them soon, if we kept her. It felt like the belts might be separating. Suddenly we may not be taking her to Phoenix as planned. “Man plans and God laughs.” Suddenly the possibility of trading her in seemed minuscule. “The best laid plans of mice and men…”

Yeah, shipwrecked is a bit of an overstatement. But this was yet another unplanned detour in our quest for a new minivan. The odyssey for the Hodyssey.

We’re going to Phoenix in the Cherokee.

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The Cyclops
That afternoon, after we talked, I figured we ought to compare that van with at least one other. Another Craig’s List Hodyssey was taken, so we went to the local Toyota dealer to look at a 2014 Sienna. “Low pressure” they said. It was a nice Burgandy van on their “internet pricing” program. It was a nice van. Very clean engine. I asked how long it had been parked there (a few weeks) and there were no signs of a leak. The test drive was the customary around the block with the salesman. It seemed to have better acceleration than the Hodyssey. But … the 8th seat, a jump seat, was not flush with the two seats around it like in the Hodyssey. And the rear seat brackets, while covered, extended into the rear storage. I could see that being a problem at some point. While the middle seats could be adjusted, the plastic guard by the track was loose and sticking up. I could see that being far too attractive for the boys, having been one once.
And so began the “dog and pony show” of buying a car. It feels like a struggle to the death. I hate haggling because I always feel like I got taken. The dealer in FL, I knew, gave me his best price. Now there is uncertainty, doubt. Just for kicks, I asked about a trade in. Initial trade in value for “Gold Faithful”: $1,500. Pathetic. We sit down in the make shift office space while they build new and luxurious surroundings. I have a bottle of water, but where’s the free popcorn!
“What will it take…” I tell him I’m not signing anything today. I just want his best offer. I typically regret impulsive decisions, and want to think about the Sienna compared to the Hodyssey, think about the finances since we are talking over $20k.
“What will it take…” Sigh. He left, and came back for a dramatic reveal of … the same exact number. At some point they raised the trade in to $2k. But the manager came in to try and close a deal. Finally Amie said “I’ve been married him for 14 years. The more you push, the less likely he is to do what you want.” We left in our T&C to ponder things. Two hours of our lives flushed. Having been pressured, we feel battered and bruised while standing our ground.
Meanwhile, a friend of Amie’s recommended looking in Phoenix: greater options, lower prices. She found a place with 4-5 Hodysseys for really good prices. Sounded too good to be true.
The next morning she woke up early and did her investigator’s daughter thing. She found reviews. And nearly everyone loved it. We learned they buy leased vehicles at auction. They keep there overhead low- no fancy building. No pressure sales. Could it really be true?

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And so began my odyssey aka my nightmare. First, we didn’t really have the money. We would after getting our tax return. So suddenly we are borrowing some money from my parents until we received the return.
The Siren Call
There was a Hodyssey in Yuma, yes Yuma, that caught her eye. Only a 2014, with lots of extras (leather seats, DVD player …) and low miles. Yuma. 4 hours across the desert, Yuma. The destination of the train in the classic western and its re-make (both are great by the way).
Then there was the question of “what is a rebuilt title”? We learned that this meant a salvaged vehicle. Minivans can be “totaled” if the airbags deploy, since they are that expensive to replace. There had been a front end collision, the vehicle declared totaled, sold at auction, repaired and then sold to the present owner. It all depended on the quality of the repair work. This explained the great price. Rebuilt titles meant they were $4-5k less than Blue Book.
It was worth a look, but Yuma? “Guess what? They are traveling to Phoenix Friday. Can you meet them in Casa Grande?” I’ve been going to Phoenix quite a bit lately for Eli’s orthodontist appointments. And I was heading up on Saturday (the night before Easter, and our “sonrise” service) for the Celtics’ game against the Suns. Sigh. Sure.
I called one of our deacons about the possibility of going with me to have a mechanic’s (albeit airplane mechanic) eyes on it. Turns out he was laid off the day before and had time to head up with me.
Texting back and forth I settled on a nearly deserted outlet mall, thinking it would be easier to find them than in, say, the Sam’s Club parking lot. Then I remembered the “Craig’s List Killer”. Great, they might think some copy cat is setting them up. So I told there was a shed sales company there, and why I wanted to meet there. Turns out he was a police officer and just could have shot me.
Of course, instead of parking by the entrance they parked about 2/3 of the way down the lot. Speed bump #1, speed bump #2, …. Thankfully they did park under the shade of a tree. The inside looked great, and it ran well as I took it onto the highway. In addition to a back-up camera, there was a right blind side camera when the right turn signal was engaged. This thing was loaded. My friend noticed a small leak that may have been either oil or power steering fluid. Perhaps a remnant of the accident. I noticed dried anti-freeze in the engine compartment, including on the radiator (which I imagine would have been replaced after the accident). They didn’t recall it overheating. And the passenger airbag light was on: fuse or a real problem? So, I had some questions needing answers, little red flags in my brain. But I liked the overall feel of the Hodyssey.
Small problem, they were on their way to look at trucks in Phoenix (far more options and lower prices than Yuma). They would ask about a trade-in. Dealers often don’t want the hassle of a rebuilt title. So while I may have liked it, it may not be available, and it may have latent problems. It was off to Buffalo Wild Wings to buy my friend lunch for his time. In case you were wondering … I had the Thai Chili.

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