Child's prey: I just finished reading Alan Prendergast's "Catch-16," in the December 8 issue, and I feel sorry for this girl's parents. I find children like Kaeleigh (and, yes, she's a child) annoying and disrespectful. Kaeleigh claims she's more "mature" than her peers. Quite the contrary, Kaeleigh has proven she needs constant attention, just like a toddler. "To be completely honest," Kaeleigh, my five-year-old son has more sense and maturity than you do! How dare you steal from your parents and cause them so much turmoil?
I understand Kaeleigh may have had post-traumatic stress disorder from her days in North Carolina; however, this does not excuse her behavior. She says she feels like she was being smothered by her parents, and what, her "boyfriend" leaves her alone?! Kaeleigh says she doesn't feel like she "has to" do things around her boyfriend's parents' house but that she just does them! We all have chores, Kaeleigh; this is a fact of life!
This child also states that if she were blond and pretty and popular, things would have been different! Give me a break. Kaeleigh chose to do the things she did, and she can't blame anybody but herself. The schools have thousands of students to care for and educate, and, quite frankly, these kids need to take some initiative of their own to succeed. I would like to pass on a message to Kaeleigh and all of the other self-indulgent, self-obsessed teenagers out there: You have to go to school; school is not a choice. All of us parents have to work to support you, and if you have any hope for your future, get your act together and do the one simple task of attending class and listening. Take some responsibility and have the initiative to succeed. Continuing to blame others for your downfall will get you nowhere.
Kaeleigh claims her parents shouldn't be punished for her bad choices! Well, here's a clue, Kaeleigh: Don't continue to make bad choices and your parents won't have to pay for them.
Words to live by: I read Alan Prendergast's article about the Altvater family and wanted to write a few words of solace for the parents, being a former teenager much like their daughter. I know that it is presumptuous to think that I have anything helpful to say, and it probably won't change their feelings, but I know that my mother would have liked to hear that all hope was not lost when she was dealing with me.
Dear Chris and DeEtte: Fifteen years ago I was exactly like your daughter. Many of the things that she said in the article are exactly the things that I said when I was in her situation. I started running away from home at the age of fifteen, became wildly defiant, and dropped out of high school. Like Kaeleigh, I was bored, didn't feel challenged, and thought that it was a waste of my time. My mother would try to impose a curfew -- I would sneak out. She would try to force me to go to school -- I stopped going entirely. She threatened to ground me from my things -- I would scream at and intimidate her. Hopefully unlike your daughter, I developed a drug habit and started hanging around with the wrong people. My mother tried counselors, tough love, you name it. Eventually, I ended up being sixteen years old with no skills, living on my own.
After my mother stopped trying to help me, I started trying to help myself. After a few years of working menial jobs, I realized that I wanted more. I got my GED and went to college. After all of these years, I have two bachelor's degrees and I am getting ready to start work on my second master's. I have a good job and a great relationship with my mom.
I just want you to know that she is not lost; she just has to do things her own way. I know that if my mother had tried to tell me to drink water in the desert, I would have died of dehydration just to show her that no one tells me what to do! The best thing that she ever did was tell me that I was on my own and I could do with my life what I saw fit. Not only did it make me think that I was doing things for myself, rather than for her, but it also allowed her to get on with her own life, rather than wasting all of her energy trying to deal with me. It sounds like Kaeleigh is a very smart girl. She will tire of mediocrity once it is her choice to dwell in it.
I am not trying to shove advice down your throat; I am sure that you have received plenty. I just want you to know that there is life on the other side. I wish the best for your family.
Name withheld on request
Hard time: I was fascinated comparing the family situations in Alan Prendergast's "Catch-16" and Jessica Centers's "Focus on the Family," which appeared just a week earlier, in the December 1 issue. DeEtte and Chris Altvater are trying so hard to raise Kaeleigh right -- and they're paying the price. It's just not that easy in the best of circumstances. If only the courts and social-service agencies put the same amount of effort into dealing with teenagers as they do into dealing with infants!
I hope their efforts pay off with the McAdam family. I just don't think I would be so forgiving -- ever -- of a woman who smoked meth while she was pregnant, then gave birth to a baby who had to go through withdrawal. As I said, being a parent is not that easy in the best of circumstances, and this sounds like close to the worst.
Addicted to love: Jessica Centers's "Focus on the Family" was a well-written piece. The sad part is that it reminds me of my sister's current situation and an addict's lack of understanding when it comes to his or her actions. My sister can only see her older daughter two times a month. Since my sister lives in Colorado Springs and her daughter lives in Fort Collins, my wife and I have to drive down from Denver to pick her up and drive her all the way up to Fort Collins. And the whole time, she complains that it's so unfair that she can't see her oldest child more when she's been clean for a whole year.
I'm proud of my sister's sobriety, but I can't forget the times I went to her apartment to find her passed out and her eight-year-old daughter trying to find food for my four-year-old nephew. I can't forget the money that she stole from family members and the promises broken. She doesn't like it, but I tell her that a year isn't enough and that there are dues to be paid before getting full rights to her daughter.
Now my sister just had her third child, whom she lives with in a home for mothers in her situation. Her two other kids are with their respective fathers until she gains the full confidence of the courts. I guess my point is this: We can't feel sorry for these addicts. The burden of proof is on their shoulders, and it takes more than twelve months of sobriety and "trying really hard" to do so. I love my sister and her kids. I want them to be together. But if we don't focus mainly on her kids' needs, we're just creating another generation of people with problems, problems that they'll try to turn into excuses for their drug use.
Name withheld on request
Paving the past: Regarding Luke Turf's "My Way for the Highway," in the November 24 issue:
Every time I drive on the I-70 viaduct, heading west from Colorado Boulevard and toward downtown, I look down at all those interesting little streets and old houses. How typical that in the '50s and '60s, when the government thought the future was all about big cars on fast highways, they would intentionally divide a historic neighborhood and pave over our past.
I hope that when I-70 is rebuilt, these neighborhoods are reunited and allowed to come back together as a community that all of us can enjoy. Send I-70 to Adams County!
Tunnel vision: Luke Turf's enjoyable article in your Thanksgiving issue was also historically informative. While it is nice to be shown in a favorable light, he was way too kind to the Colorado Department of Transportation.
Mr. Cline's death "bed," "kitchen" and "toilet" were not part of a low-income housing plan. They were provided by CDOT's ignoring Denver's six-inch-weed common code and providing a six-foot-weed camouflage for Mr. Cline's indiscretions, as well as for many before him and still.
While CDOT over-promotes massive new projects, they bury the deprived both literally and figuratively. There could be another investigative story here, as to how CDOT adjusts budgets so they pay thousands of dollars in bonuses to overpaid consultants while depriving citizens of just a few hundred dollars for what should be normal maintenance.
For more than three years, CDOT has been challenged to clean up this mess. Our "civil servants" are simply breaking the law with self-styled immunity. This confirms what the underside of any extensive elevated highway structures they build through neighborhoods in the future will suffer.
Wake up and smell the coffee: Afire from reading about the Louisiana goodness of Lucile's (Jason Sheehan's "Party On," December 1), I went directly to the new Denver outpost, which just happens to be in my neighborhood. We went on Saturday morning, were seated quickly and were treated with efficient friendliness by the entire staff. As each dish and condiment appeared, I became more emotional and effusive. Luckily, in the boisterous atmosphere of Lucile's, no one appeared to notice. I nearly cried over the biscuits (like little fluffy clouds), homemade sausage and apple butter. The words "It's like angels came down from heaven" were used. My friend and I went back that same afternoon, but Lucile's was closed. So we went back in the morning for Sunday breakfast. Bliss!
Thanks for getting the word out. Now Denver has a source for beignets and chicory coffee, and I plan to make it a Sunday tradition.
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Sense and sensibility: For twenty years, I have labored to spread the essence of Lucile's. When folks pass by, I ask, "Are you having a good time?" instead of "How is your pickled okra?" I ask the staff, "Are you having fun today?" I remind all that a restaurant is about all five senses -- touch (the napkins, hug old people sometimes -- they may need the feel), sight (the old house, your uniforms, your face, the dirty carpet), sound (Creole music, not rap right now), smell (the spice tea: I had to go up on the roof in Denver to block out the Chipotle exhaust from our HVAC -- not that it's bad, it's just not Lucile's exhaust) and, last but not least (but for some folks maybe the least), taste. Food may not be truly authentic, but damn it, it's always fun, flavorful and healthy.
Jason Sheehan, after all these years, you are the only one to get it! Leastways, you are the only one able to so superbly put the geist into words. Your review brought tears to my eyes (honest), and my wife claimed the same, but you know how wives are. My kids are too young, but they sure smiled. Jason, you made all these years of hard work much more meaningful. Keep up the awesome writing.