“Good for the body is the work of the body, good for the soul the work of the soul and good for either the work of the other.” (Henry David Thoreau)

So, it turns out, I suck at something most people think of as their greatest achievement, early retirement. Mine lasted four days. The first day I was just tired. On the second day, I was just tired all over again so I guess that’s the definition of retired. By the third day, I was not looking forward to being retired anymore. It was more like panic at the realization that retirement was the antithesis of everything I had ever done.

As I pondered my fate, I wondered if retirement was good for me. I started working when I was ten. I looked forward to going to work for every day of my life. Having something important to do has made me happy and hopeful even when life was hard. I don’t believe God put me here to do anything less than whatever I can. I exist to serve others because to do any less would be a wasted life. Then I prayed. All I said was, “Show me the way Lord and I will follow.”

My prayer was answered by two old friends who both needed help with their small businesses. Now I’m busy five or six days a week cleaning houses and mowing lawns. Some of you might be wondering why someone of my age would ever want to do those jobs but to me all work has meaning. It’s not what we do that matters, it’s how we do it. I take great pride in cleaning things like refrigerators and stoves or trimming a nice lawn. The importance of hard work as it applies to my self-esteem is immeasurable. I spent nine years working with foster children and I have virtually nothing tangible to show for it except my own conviction that I did all that I could.

I work for myself and everything I do has value. It doesn’t matter to me whether anyone else ever recognizes it. If that makes me the odd man out then so be it but conformity has never been high on my list of goals. This blog has value to me even though it has never generated one penny of profit. I write to inspire myself and to push my brain to keep expanding.  If I didn’t go out every day and experience the world firsthand, I wouldn’t have much to write about and then retirement would be a death sentence of monotony. I fear boredom more than a heart attack.

Jesus only lived thirty-three years and every minute of His existence was spent serving others. He had no real possessions but every word He spoke has been cherished a million times over. He left an inheritance that far outweighs all the billionaires who ever existed. He had nothing but He gave everything. He is the standard that I live by and why I keep working. When I breath my last breath, then my work will be done. Between now and then, there are a whole lot of stoves that need my help.

I just have one great failing and I’m sorry Jesus but I don’t do feet.

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  



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“Seen my share of broken halos…” (Chris Stapleton)

Nine years, six months and twenty-two days. That’s how long my career in foster care lasted, but it ended yesterday. It hurts to admit it, but I gave up. The light at the end of the tunnel, that I fervently believed in for so many years, never got any bigger or closer and the darkness defeated me. I don’t know for sure that I achieved anything except moments of temporary relief for thousands of kids. That’s not nearly enough for someone like me.

My goal was to make a difference for kids who were given a very bad deal in the game of life. I wanted to be the one they could turn to when it was really sad and everything was going against them. I thought it was going to be my next mission in life and a great way to spend my later years. I have some wonderful memories to take with me but my mission never had a chance. I was trying to bail out the boat with a teaspoon while in the middle of a hurricane. I kept bailing for nine years. Only Noah would understand.

Now I’m left with regret but not remorse. I gave it all I ever had but I failed to complete my mission. I can live with that reality because nobody ever tried harder to help these kids. Some times it’s the effort that counts, not the outcome. And yes, I know positively there are some kids walking around today because my driving skills actually saved their lives. You don’t want to know those stories and I’m still trying to forget how close we came to a tragic ending.

After all the emotional turmoil I went through on my last day with the organization I was blessed to have my granddaughter to turn to for comic relief. I spent the evening with her and she always makes me laugh. When I told her I brought her favorite chocolate chip cookies she got very excited and said, “That’s great but can we hide them from mom and dad?” I assured her that we had plenty and I could always make more. She had a huge smile on her face when she said, “You’re the best, grandpa.”

I’m never going to give up on my mission to help children. In fact, I’m lobbying the state legislature to change the judicial system so that these kids can use video chat to make their court appearances whenever possible. Taking children all over the state so they can be reminded how little they matter when their parents don’t bother to show up is not a good practice and I’m the guy who is going to fight the system to get that changed. I’m going to keep asking that question until the legislator’s ears bleed. We already do this with adult criminals so somebody needs to find out why our innocent children aren’t given the same treatment. That would be me.

Here’s the summation of all that I learned from foster care. Thousands of kids are desperate for OUR help. Every state government is overwhelmed with too many kids and too few resources. It’s a Band-Aid, for a gaping wound, approach. WE ALL have to do more. WE should ALL be ashamed to call ourselves mature adults if WE allow this travesty to continue unabated. OUR money and OUR time are absolutely critical to the mission of foster care and broken families. WE have a choice to make and the deadline is looming. WE can either rise to the occasion and help these kids or WE can start building more prisons and shelters for the future when the tsunami hits because WE didn’t do enough now. WE live in America. WE always rise to the occasion. WE can do this.

I think I feel better now.

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  


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“Help me if you can, I’m feeling down…” (Lennon & McCartney)

In all my years on this planet, there is one thing I am absolutely certain has never happened. No one has ever used the word extrovert to describe me. Writing this blog is the most extroverted thing I have ever done and it still surprises me how much I enjoy it. On the other hand, I’m not really introverted either because I love to talk to people. Maybe I should clarify that statement. I love to talk to strangers.

How this happened is still a mystery to me but I could offer a theory. As the youngest of three children in my family, I was the low man on the totem pole when it came to family discussions around the dinner table and I was competing for time with two older sisters who were extremely bright and communicative. If that wasn’t bad enough, my sister Karen took it upon herself to see that I never uttered an opinion that wasn’t tested for its validity and usefulness to the family. I quickly learned that fewer words were better around the queen of speech. It just wasn’t worth the effort to defend every last word against the monarchy. I’m just glad flogging was outlawed in the nineteenth century.

I think my parents were smart enough to see that this family dynamic wasn’t particularly good for my development and they looked for ways to encourage me outside the family circle. When I turned sixteen, my dad gave me the keys to the car and told me to go make deliveries for his printing business. I was getting paid to drive so I jumped at the chance but the hardest part was meeting new people every day. He sent me to all the clients offices and expected me to keep every customer happy with my winning personality and his good work. His work was way better than my personality but I slowly improved with a lot of encouragement from some very nice customers, who were mostly women as it happens. The one I remember the best was Jean Jones at Dodson Insurance. She was the office manager and the office was filled with women who were all moving papers from one side of the desk to the other. The first time I walked into this huge room full of females, they all stopped and stared at me like I was a lost puppy. As I recall, the only word that seemed totally appropriate for that moment was, “Help?” They all laughed and returned to their typewriters with big smiles. Jean came over immediately and shook my hand like she had known me all her life. She walked with me and introduced me to all the people who might need me in the future and everybody made me feel better about my choice of words. The lesson learned was that one well-chosen word is better than a long speech any day. That made a lasting impression on me and I will always be thankful to Jean Jones for her kindness in my most desperate moment.

As I think back on the thousands of meetings I have attended and strangers I have had to connect with, I am struck by the friendliness people have shown me. The wonderful people far outnumber the disagreeable ones and most of those initial greetings turned into friendships. I realize now that I was blessed with the ability to find the right words for the moment more often than not. That has certainly helped me develop the creative writing skills needed to blog with any degree of success. I’m not famous by any stretch of the imagination but people keep coming here every day and I keep finding new thoughts to share with a worldwide audience. I’m lucky to have finally found my voice.

I am concerned, however, that really good communication skills aren’t being taught any longer anywhere. Social media feels like an oxymoron to me because it’s anything but social. Internet enabled anonymity is antithetical to good communication and frankly it seems anti-social. I meet kids in foster care every week who are suffering from hurtful comments that someone they don’t know made about them. When I suggest they look elsewhere for validation and affirmation they just shrug their shoulders in resignation. Social media has become an addiction for these kids and the negative side effects are beyond my imagination. The worst day I ever had as a child pales in comparison to every day these kids suffer through.

In ten years of working with foster kids I have come to the realization that human contact is the most critical aspect of positive childhood development. Those of us who belong to the older generation owe it to the younger generation to reach out to them any way we can. Every kid that spends time with me gets my full attention and my ability to find the right words. They see my face and hear the tone in my voice and they know I care about them. Words on a screen can’t do that. Facebook algorithms are great at making people money but they are lousy at making people happy. Nothing can replace the human heart when it comes to real humanity. All of the effort we put into keystrokes needs to be replaced with an equal number of touches on the souls of children. There is no greater need in the world today than to help children grow into loving and kind adults. So the next time you get the chance to engage in conversation with a child please try to remember these great lyrics from John Lennon and Paul McCartney….

 Help me if you can, I’m feeling down

And I do appreciate you being round
Help me, get my feet back on the ground
Won’t you please, please help me

This is how every child alive today feels and only you can be the help they need so much. Just put down your phone and smile at every child you meet. I promise, you will be amazed by how many likes you receive.

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.      


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“Kindness can become its own motive. We are made kind by being kind.” (Eric Hoffer)

In my work with foster children I spend most of my day dealing with people who aren’t happy and that’s putting it nicely. The system exists to help children and their dysfunctional families but achieving that goal is a painful process for all concerned. I’m not part of the case management side but I am directly involved in the pain mitigation aspect of foster care. I get to deal with children at their lowest point in life. It’s tough.

Yesterday, I was scheduled to take a teenage boy to court two hours away for his probation hearing. I took him to his last court date and it was a long drive home that required my best counseling skills to keep him from making it even worse. Yesterday was much better for him and for me. He’s in a much better place now and we had a good day together, all things considered.

The part I want to focus on in today’s blog is the amazing person I met yesterday. Her name is Kim and she works at the local high school where I picked up the boy. I’m not going to give out any other information about her because I don’t want her to be overwhelmed with people trying to become her friend. She’s too valuable just the way she is and I wouldn’t want her to have to change anything about her life because I happened to make her famous. If you know her already, you know why I’m trying to protect her. She’s one in a billion.

In my fifty years of work experience I have encountered literally thousands of people who could be called receptionists, if that’s still an acceptable description. Kim is the best one I have ever met. If there was a Receptionist Hall of Fame she would get my vote. This woman has more positive people skills than anyone I can think of and she made me feel great on our very first encounter. The boy I was with confirmed everything I thought was true and he said she’s that way with everybody all the time. That’s amazing.

Meeting people for the first time requires a high degree of emotional intelligence. I always look for clues about that person that might help me start a conversation. Things like family photos on their desk, their speech pattern, the way they dress and other trivial information is important to me because I may need their help and I want to earn their faith in me. Kim and I instantly connected. Her smile was all the information I needed to reassure me that I was with the right person. We just started talking like long lost friends and fifteen minutes later we were still sharing. I can count on one hand the number of people in my life who have had that experience with me. I even married one of them.

The most important thing I want my readers to realize about Kim and all the other wonderful people out there in the real world is this – she makes herself happy by putting others first and her kindness is contagious. That’s a choice she makes every day. It’s not an act, it’s her belief system and she genuinely cares about everyone she meets. Her positive nature is reflected back to her by the many positive reactions she gets in return. That’s the simplest formula for a wonderful life, just smile and be nice. She made my day and now she gets to be added to the Grhgraph Hall of Fame. Congratulations Kim, I hope we meet again and soon.

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.      

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“The best servant does his work unseen.” (Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.)

In my work with foster children I occasionally team up with police officers. My part usually starts long after the 9-1-1 call was made that instigated the police presence. I’m called on to take children away from the scene of the crime and help them begin their journey through the foster care system. From my perspective, law enforcement officers have the toughest job on the planet and I have nothing but respect for everything they do. We should all be grateful that these kind people exist to help the rest of us.

I can barely imagine what it’s like to do a job that is a disaster waiting to happen. Every day, these men and women put their own lives in harm’s way for the chance to help someone they don’t even know. They experience everyone else’s pain on a level that would make most of us run the other way and for their efforts they get threatened, spat upon and vilified by people who have no firsthand experience with the world they work in. The underworld of criminal behavior is a terrifying place filled with people who reject every rule and do whatever they want without regard for consequences. And the scariest part, for me at least, is that these bad people have children.

Police officers who deal with domestic abuse have to be deeply affected by the crimes against children that are becoming more and more common. I have never been to the scene of the crime but I’ve heard their stories about the conditions the children were dealing with at home. I don’t ever want to see that. I couldn’t handle that much brutal reality and I don’t know how they process those emotions, especially when it comes to their own children. Working in foster care for ten years has weighed me down emotionally more than any other experience I have ever had in my life but nothing I have done compares to the daily horrors of police work. I couldn’t do that job.

I try to put myself in their shoes when I hear the stories but it always hurts too much. Law enforcement is an occupation that requires dedication, extreme perseverance and emotional neutrality like nothing else. That’s a balancing act on the head of a pin and occasionally they fail to live up to our standards. The sad part is the reality that 99% of the time they do their jobs so well that we never hear about them because they actually prevent a lot of crimes from happening. If nothing bad happens because law enforcement did their job perfectly, that’s not the news the media wants to report but when they fail it’s all over the headlines. How would you like that kind of job? You do your job extremely well for years and get no recognition but on your worst day, when circumstances overwhelmed you, you get lit up like a Roman candle on the 4th of July.

The expectations the public places on law enforcement are beyond ridiculous. Perfection doesn’t exist in any occupation anywhere but these people are expected to get as close as possible every single day in a world where nobody else is playing by the rules. Criminals hate the laws of this country and they spend their days looking for ways to break the rules no matter what the penalties might be for their crimes. So, on the one hand we have a group of people who have zero interest in behaving in acceptable ways and another group who has to manage their bad choices with total perfection. The probability of that ending badly is off the charts. And then the rest of us get to voice our uniformed opinions of how it went down, after the fact. What other job comes close to that level of impossibility?

Every time there’s another school shooting or tragedy where law enforcement looks bad in retrospect and the media is interviewing some bystander who did something heroic, I’m always dumbfounded by the inevitable question they ask the latest hero, “Why did you do it?” Just once I would like one of these instant heroes to give credit where credit its due by saying something along these lines, “I only did what had to be done. I am not a hero in the truest sense of the word. I did something heroic one time. All of these police officers are heroic every single day. Maybe we should ask them why they do it? But the real question to ask is this. Why are there so few people like them who are willing to sacrifice everything they have to help others and so many people like the rest of us who aren’t willing to sacrifice much at all? That should be your headline.”

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.      



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“We work to become, not to acquire.” (Elbert Hubbard)

I was going to write about having a 64th birthday today but then I realized the bigger news is that I have been gainfully employed now for 50 years. That’s a milestone that deserves a few thoughts.

I started going to work with my dad when I was just 10 but he just wanted me to watch. I wasn’t even close to being able to do any real work but I still learned a lot. I learned that really talented people are fun to watch. I learned that keeping quiet while other people are concentrating is very important. I learned that there are no stupid questions but you only get to ask them once. Asking twice is the epitome of stupid. I also learned that work is good for you. I learned to love going to work and I still do.

In 1968, my dad built a new building and we moved in that fall. I was there for all of the moving in part and that was really the beginning of my apprenticeship. By then I was old enough to do the manual labor, limited skills type work. I cleaned all day because photography required everything to be spotless. I have used more bottles of Windex than any human alive. Every piece of equipment we used had a large flat glass surface that had to be cleaned every time it was used. One tiny speck of dust was all it took to ruin our work so the pressure that was on me was intense. It was a great way to learn the importance of perfection. I took great pride in my cleaning skills and I still do.

During high school and college, I worked whenever school was out and by then I was doing higher order thinking. We measured, calculated, planned and scheduled every last thing we did. The math skills I acquired there will be with me always. My dad even developed a one question interview for potential employees. He would just ask, “How many eighths are there in an inch?” You wouldn’t believe how many people failed to pass that simple test. Even the ones who passed that quiz often stumbled over the meaning of the word deadline. For some, hearing that word a dozen times a day was more than they could handle and they didn’t stick around too long. I was instilled with competitive instincts so that word just inspired me and it still does.

After college, I headed off for a year and a half to New York City and Houston for more training. I’m sure my dad wanted me to improve my people skills and he knew NYC would be just the place to humble me. He was right again and I learned coping skills that could be more accurately described as survival skills. It was all I could do to keep up with the pace of work in NYC. I also learned that drinking and thinking are incompatible. In 1976 the three martini lunch was alive and well but not for me. I never could drink my lunch with the other salespeople and the customers who expected it. We had a company dinner one night that included so much booze the VP had to use two credit cards to pay for it all. He got off easy with me and I got extra credit for being the only one who remembered his speech the next day. It really didn’t change much when they sent me to Houston for my first sales territory. The very first day in the Houston office was spent with a bunch of hungover salesmen who had just gotten back from Mardi Gras in New Orleans. That was not a productive meeting. The lesson I learned was to work first and play later and I still do it that way.

When I finally came home in 1978, to start a new business with my dad, I was just 24 but I already had a lot of experience under my belt. It was a crash course in things that college could never teach. It was real world experience that was terrifying at times and exhilarating at other times. Everybody likes to talk about leading edge technology but the stuff we were doing was really bleeding edge technology so I learned to adapt to each new situation as quickly as I could and to make decisions on the run. Most of the deadlines we had in the printing business were less than 24 hours from start to finish. I had a desk but I hardly ever sat down until I locked the doors after 5 o’clock. There was always something that required my attention and decision-making skills. There was no time for mistakes or indecision. My ability to meet deadlines made me very popular with my clients and they paid me well. Between my dad and I, we made a small family business last 50 years. It will always be the greatest experience of my life and gave me all the skills I still use today.

After we closed the business in 2004, I took some time off for personal reasons and to take a break from the stress I had endured for the previous 25+ years. I tried working for a few other printing companies but I never agreed with their business practices so I kept looking for a new challenge. Working in foster care took care of that. All of my coping skills are used daily to survive the systemic mess that exists in every foster care agency. I spend copious amounts of energy fixing potential problems before they become life-changing issues for these kids. And frequently my diligence is not well received by my employer. In my mind at least, I work for the kids not the state. If I step on some toes along the way but the kids are better off, I will always take that chance. If they want to fire me for caring too much, then I don’t really want to work there anyway. Somebody has to care for these kids and I always will.

As I reflect on my 50 years of hard work, I realize I wouldn’t change a minute of it. It was an adventure filled with discovery, joy, heartache and determination to overcome all obstacles that made me who I am today, a much better man than I was at 14. I figure I’ve got at least 10 more years to go before I will even think about retiring because work is what I do best. The really good news I got today was from my son, Thomas. As of yesterday, the doctor has confirmed that they will be bringing home my first grandson this August. That’s the best birthday present I have ever gotten. I can’t wait to start working with my grandson. I have high hopes for him. I’m thinking either rodeo clown or President of the US of A. It’s pretty much the same skill set and right up my alley. It’s good to have a mission in life and I always find a new one.

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.        


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“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” (Abraham Lincoln)

I was born in the fifties, which means I’m on my 12th president. After dozens of presidential speeches, I think I’m entitled to share a few observations about the state of the union. Politicians are great at telling us what their plan is, but they are lousy at telling us how their plan is going to work. That’s the dirty little secret of politics that I have observed for more than half a century. I was born in Missouri, the Show Me State, so I need proof. Just once before I die, I want to hear from a president who has a plan and moreover has a clue for making it work.

Here’s the absolute truth that no politician will ever admit, we the people make it work. The Show Me part happens every day out here in the hinterlands where real people go to work helping each other, building things, growing food and sharing the burdens of life. We get dirty from doing tough jobs that no politician would ever want to do or in reality could do because tough jobs require actions not words. We don’t have time for talk because there’s only 24 hours in a day and we need all of it to keep the country running. And we do this in spite of the government. We have to navigate around bureaucratic nonsense and a ruling class who has never gotten dirty even once in their lives. I will take a good plumber over a politician any day of the week. They need us more than we need them.

The other part of political speeches I abhor is the two party system of childish retribution on display at every event in Washington. Third graders get along better than these duly elected brats. We could just substitute the dance at the gym with the Jets and Sharks from West Side Story and it would be more fun to watch. At least Tony and Maria got together. I’m absolutely certain Paul Ryan and Nancy Pelosi are never going to dance with each other. Out here in the real world we don’t get away with that crap. We have to make it work with each other because if we don’t, the country falls apart. Out here, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done and we’re the only ones who know how to do it. That’s the great thing about plumbers, they don’t give speeches.

The other common theme in politics is division, the us vs. them mentality. You want to be on our side because we’re the good guys and those guys over there are bad, so don’t listen to them. I have some news for you Congress, we don’t care. We have so much to do, just to keep the wheels turning, that we need all the help we can get. And we don’t care if you’re black, white, brown or green. If you have two good hands and your heart is in the right place, we want you. Anybody who wants to sweat and get dirty with me is my best friend, no matter who they voted for or where they came from. Suits and ties aren’t worth much but that plumber’s crack is a thing of beauty.

As I listened to the State of the Union address tonight I started wondering if there has ever been a good speech. I had to go all the way back to Lincoln to find one. In his first inaugural address he spoke the greatest truth about America of all time when he said this, “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies.” Then he followed that up with his Gettysburg Address wherein he reminded us why America is the greatest country, “…that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the Earth.” I think Lincoln was the greatest president of all time for the simple reason that he didn’t mind getting dirty splitting wood. He rolled up his sleeves and did what needed to be done and we the people have him to thank for our freedom. We are the UNITED States of America after all.

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.        

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