Category Archives: Family

No Father, No Problem

I was three or four when my mom left my biological father. My memories of those early years were surprisingly vivid. I remember my father arguing with my mom and hitting her on a regular basis. I remember throwing marbles and green army men at his back in a feeble attempt to intervene. I remember when he caught me urinating in the neighbor’s garden and slapped me full-force across the face, nearly knocking me off my little feet and leaving my left ear ringing like a gun had exploded near my head.

Me at about 2

Although we were still very poor, things improved when my mom left him. She got a job as a secretary at the elementary school I attended and we lived in a trailer on my grandparents’ property. Food was scarce, new clothes even scarcer, and luxuries such as toys, treats and sodas almost nonexistent.

My mom joined this church that attempted to control every aspect of our lives. We couldn’t go to doctors, or associate with people of other religions, or watch television, etc. When I was in second grade, the preacher started his own school and we all had to enroll. My mom left her job and began working as a monitor for the church’s school, which believed in corporal punishment. When we’d do something wrong, the principal would make us bend over and grab our ankles while he hit us with a large wooden paddle. I often let go of my ankles and grabbed the floor to keep from falling over—that’s how hard he hit us.

My mom made me stay with the principal several times while she attended religious retreats. On one occasion, he made me wash his van, and then beat me because I left streaks. Well, the first three strikes were for leaving the streaks—the next nine strikes were because I refused to cry. And there was the time he and another member of the church tied me up and dunked my head in his toilet repeatedly, because I didn’t use the “correct” language when asking for rolls at dinner, and then I doggedly refused to apologize.

Private School Banquet (Literature Award)

The abuse at the hand of this principal lasted two years. I had just finished fourth grade when the preacher shut down the school and told the parents they had to teach their children at home. My mom got a job as the church’s secretary—the pay was meager—and this allowed her to work from home while “teaching” us.

When I was around twelve, I convinced my mom to let me go to work on a full-time basis, promising to do schoolwork at night. I worked as a carpenter’s helper for a man from her church, and it allowed me to help her pay bills and put food on the table. I didn’t do much schoolwork after that, but I did start reading…a lot. I eventually discovered an author who would change the course of my life forever.

Thirty-one years later, I found myself happily divorced, the father of two amazing children, and in a new relationship with Amanda, a single mom and a psychologist. As Amanda and I got to know each other, we exchanged stories about our lives. She looked at me one day and said, “I’m surprised you’re not messed up.” I laughed it off, but she went on to explain how lots of children would have been scarred from some of my experiences. She said she was surprised I’d been so successful, considering the scant opportunities I’d been afforded and the seemingly insurmountable obstacles I’d faced.

I’d never reflected poorly on my childhood. It hadn’t mattered that the principal beat me, or that we were poor, or that I didn’t have a dad. I’d rolled with those punches and remained a happy kid, growing stronger with each challenge I faced. However, Amanda’s words prompted me to consider my past. Statistically speaking, I’d been destined to fail. My brother, who grew up right beside me, was scarred by our past and had turned to alcohol and drugs to cope, essentially ruining his life. So, then, how was it that I was able to work my way from police cadet to chief investigator? Or develop and command a successful police sniper team? Or become a traditionally published novelist? Or achieve my dream of being a professional boxer? Or publish my own magazine?

Me as Sniper Leader, Pro Boxer, Published Author

As I pondered this, I suddenly realized all of my successes could be directly attributed to one activity: READING. Every time I’d wanted to learn a skill or embark upon a new endeavor, I turned to books to be my guide along the path of knowledge. While I owe a debt of gratitude to the authors of the many instructional books I’ve studied over the years, the one author who has influenced me the most is Louis L’Amour.

My Current Louis L’Amour Collection

I tell everyone who’ll listen that Louis L’Amour raised me. During those impressionable years of my youth, I learned more about real life from his fiction than from anywhere else. I learned how to treat a woman with respect, to persevere even in the bleakest of circumstances, and to be courageous in the face of grave danger. I learned to be loyal to my family and friends, and to “ride for the brand”. I even learned to stand on my own and achieve my goals through hard work and dedication, and to never give up on my dreams.

Later, as a father, I would always encourage my children, Brandon and Grace, to read…a lot. At worst, I knew they might discover an alternative means of entertainment. At best, I knew they might partake in an activity that would enrich their lives and change them for the better (I’ve witnessed the latter). One thing is certain; had I not started reading as a young boy, I would’ve been a statistic—the one that suggests fatherless, uneducated boys who come from poor households almost never succeed in life.

The Five of Us

BJ Bourg is the author of JAMES 516 (Amber Quill Press, 2014), THE SEVENTH TAKING (Amber Quill Press, 2015), BUT NOT FORGOTTEN (Amber Quill Press, 2015), and HOLLOW CRIB (Five Star-Gale-Cengage, 2016).
© 2015 BJ Bourg

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Our First Year of Marriage: It’s All About the Kids


This past year has been a great one for Amanda and me as parents. Blending our families has been a fun, exciting, and busy adventure, to say the least, and it all started at the base of Abrams Falls in Cades Cove, where I dropped to one knee for the very first time in my life and proposed to Amanda (that video and story coming soon).
 
Me and Amanda at the very spot I dropped to one knee and proposed.
I’d like to share a few successes and highlights from each of our children as we close out our first full year as a family.
 
Brandon returned from studying abroad last summer (I wonder if he learned much about her) and then hit the ground running for his third year of college. In addition to his academic successes, he recently had a short story accepted for publication in his college’s literary journal and he’s got a few other stories under consideration in different places. He is a previously published writer, having had a nonfiction piece placed in Writer’s Post Journal at the tender age of 12 and two flash fiction pieces published later in Flashshots.
 
Brandon in Poland
Brandon at the Peak of Ben Nevis in Scotland
 
American food again…YES!!! (Brandon home after one month in Europe)
 
When not in class, Brandon works, and he recently started a new job—after working at a local funeral home since graduating high school—and he’s reigniting his boxing career, which means he stays quite busy. He first started boxing when he was a junior in high school and had two fights before being sidelined by a broken back. Unbeknownst to any of us, he broke his back earlier in his junior year of high school (he recalled the incident, but thought his back had merely cracked) and had been playing football and fighting with the injury. He was forced to take a year off and wear a back brace, but it eventually healed. Here’s a compilation of mitt work from back then when he was secretly training through the pain:
 
 
Having fully recovered from his injury, he is bigger, stronger, and hits much harder nowadays. Mothers sacrifice their bodies for their children when they’re born…fathers sacrifice their bodies for them later in life. Here are a series of clips from a present-day workout, where Brandon is using me as a human punching bag:

 

 
Grace had a busy summer with band, but she got to go to California with her mom and came with us to Gatlinburg, TN. She loves to surf and climb, so the two vacations offered the best of both worlds for her. Here’s a split-screen picture of her surfing in San Diego:
 
Grace in San Diego, CA, Summer of 2014
It’s a band life, but somebody’s got to live it, right? Grace first began playing trumpet in the fifth grade and she continued playing into high school. She’s wrapping up her sophomore year of high school and it’s been an award-winning year for her band. In addition to competing locally, her marching band traveled as far away as Houston, TX to compete, and they made it to finals there, finishing tenth overall. They definitely left their mark on the Lone Star State and it was good practice for Showcase, which was one month later. Click on the following link to view a video of the performance that put them into finals at Showcase (they finished the year as Reserve Grand Champions):
 
 
 
After marching season, Grace signed up for winter band and, in addition to local competitions, got to travel to Dayton, OH with her band to compete in WGI World Championships. They won “Fan Favorite” and came out second place in the competition, with only 1/10thof a point separating them from first place. While in Ohio, Grace met members of the Cavaliers drum line and she got to hold one of their bass drums. Little did she know, this picture was a sign of things to come:
 
Grace at WGI World Championships, Dayton, OH 2015
Grace at her Awards Banquet for Band
After six years of playing the trumpet and never having played a bass drum in her life, Grace was determined to play the drums for her band. She devoted lots of time and energy into learning to play the bass drum and—much to her delight—she earned a spot on the bass drum line and is extremely excited about the upcoming marching season. While her band keeps her very busy, Grace finds time to do some rock climbing here and there, bake cookies and brownies for the family (our only complaint is about our waistlines), and—inspired by Ronda Rousey—she has taken up fighting as a sport.
 
Grace at Wolf Rock Cave, near Fort Polk, LA
Kate has had an exciting summer and, during our first summer vacation together, we traveled to the Smoky Mountains, where she got to see her first black bear—it was wild and roaming free in its natural habitat. She also gutted out a three-mile moderate hike to Grotto Falls, and jumped into a wild river for the first time.
 
Kate under Grotto Falls, 2014
Kate has had a very productive year in elementary school and is looking forward to attending middle school next year. To wrap up the year, she took home an armful of trophies and medals during the end-of-school academic awards ceremony. She earned the Accelerated Math trophy for completing the 4th Grade Math Library, the Honor Roll trophy, the KidBiz Achievement trophy, the Accelerated Reader medal, and the French class award pin. She had so much bling in her arms and around her neck that she looked like a pro boxer who had just unified five championship belts.
 
It sounded like the “Kate Show”!
Kate has nicknamed herself The Math Magician, and it might have had something to do with her recent performance at the school’s talent show. She practiced her performance nearly every night until she memorized every line and perfected every move. When it was go time, she got the crowd laughing and cheering as she pulled a rabbit out of a hat and made a handkerchief change colors. Here’s a link to the video of that performance:
 
 

Kate pulling a rabbit out of a hat…and the crowd erupts!
Kate also learned to sew with her grandmother and enjoys reading, hiding out in her room, and candy. She aspires to follow in the footsteps of her family by going into her first year of band to study percussion.
 
As Amanda and I leave tomorrow morning to celebrate our first wedding anniversary aboard the Carnival Elation, we couldn’t be happier for all the blessings this past year has brought us and we feel so lucky to be able to share our lives with the best children any parents could hope for: Brandon, Grace, and Kate.
Here’s to many more happy years…
 
Thanks for reading!
BJ Bourg is the author of JAMES 516 (Amber Quill Press, 2014), THE SEVENTH TAKING (Amber Quill Press, 2015), and HOLLOW CRIB (Five Star-Gale-Cengage, 2016).
 
© 2015 BJ Bourg
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A Beary Clean Video

Did any of you parents ever spend countless hours filming your kids while they were sleeping or eating or doing any number of other boring activities? I know I did…and I’ve got the videos to prove it.

On one of my many trips to the Smoky Mountains, I rented a cabin from Mountain Laurel Chalets that was called Squirrel Hill. Every evening we’d get a visit from this one bear and it would just sit there and clean itself. We had ringside seats from up on the high balcony and I found myself getting lost watching it. I’d break out my camcorder and just sit there filming, as though it were one of my kids back when they were young. It was a peaceful time and was amazing to watch this wild animal chilling out in the backyard without a care in the world. It didn’t have a job to rush back to or grass to cut or a book to write or a workout to labor through…my idea of vacation.
To a lesser extent, when I was watching that bear, I felt like I did when I’d just sit there and film my kids drooling at the mouth and bumping into walls. It didn’t matter what they were doing at the time…I knew there was no place I’d rather be. 
There is no greater blessing than to have kids and I thank God every day for Brandon and Grace. Nowadays, they’re much more independent and they barely sit still long enough for me to photograph, much less film, but it’s a joy to be able to have meaningful conversations with them and watch them mature into responsible and successful young adults.

Thanks for reading.

BJ Bourg is the author of JAMES 516 (Amber Quill Press, 2014), THE SEVENTH TAKING (Amber Quill Press, 2015), and HOLLOW CRIB (Five Star-Gale-Cengage, 2016).
 
© 2015 BJ Bourg

My Favorite Title is “Dad”


As a parent, isn’t it the best feeling in the world to be able to put a smile on your child’s face? I believe in putting the needs and wants of my children above those of my own, as I’m sure most parents do. Loving a child means we’re going to be happy when they’re happy, sad when they’re sad, hurt when they hurt, and wish we could take on their pain when they’re sick or injured.

Well, I was very happy with Grace’s reaction when I texted her the screenshot of an order confirmation for Ronda Rousey’s upcoming book, MY FIGHT/YOUR FIGHT. She texted me one day saying we HAD to get the book. She mentioned it again later and it was the most excited I’ve ever seen her over a book. I casually brushed her off, because I wanted to surprise her by preordering the book. After ordering it without her knowing, I sent her a random text one day after school showing the order confirmation. She’ll only text in all caps when she’s super excited, and here’s her response to the screenshot:

I’ve been begging Grace for years to let me teach her to defend herself, but she was never interested. After watching some of Ronda Rousey’s fights, as well as some of the other female fighters in action, she has developed a strong interest in the sport. I’ve been working with her on developing her striking skills while my son, Brandon, has been working with her on her ground game. It makes my heart swell with pride to see how hard they both train to grow physically and mentally strong.

Grace and me in Gatlinburg, TN 2005

I love that my once “baby girl” is turning into a strong and independent young lady who can take care of herself. It’s bitter sweet to watch her grow up, because I know she’ll soon be joining her brother out in the college world and I’ll be seeing less of her, but I’m very proud of her and I will support her every endeavor, as I do with Brandon.

Grace and me in Kisatchie National Forest, 2015

Grace told me just this past weekend that she hates riding in the car with me when my country songs about dads and daughters come on, because it makes her sad thinking she’ll be going off on her own and leaving me behind. I had to assure her that I’ll be fine and, while I might feel a little sorry for myself, I’ll be very excited to watch her grow up and start a life of her own, just like I’m enjoying watching my son do the same.

Grace and Brandon 2014

 The hardest thing about raising kids? When they learn to fly. :-(

BJ Bourg is the author of JAMES 516 (Amber Quill Press, 2014), THE SEVENTH TAKING (Amber Quill Press, 2015), and HOLLOW CRIB (Five Star-Gale-Cengage, 2016).
 
© 2015 BJ Bourg

My Son’s Golden Birthday

Twenty-one years ago, on the 21st day of March, Brandon was born. One year later he got his first taste of birthday cake–my, how things have changed!

With his arrival came the best titled I’ve ever held…”Dad”. That was the first happiest day of my life (the second came when Grace was born) and he’s brought me nothing but good times and happy memories. Sure, there were worrisome times–like when he had severe asthma as a child and when he broke his back in high school–but we came out the other side stronger and closer.
 

Brandon has always been the best son a father could ask for and, when Grace Bourg arrived, he became the best big brother a sister could ask for. (I’m amazed at how well Brandon and Grace got along all of these years–considering I had siblings–a true testament to their good character.) He remains both to this day.

 


Brandon has developed into an amazing young man and he continues to grow every day, pushing himself to be the best that he can be in every facet of his life. Due to his hard work, dedication and commitment to excellence, I know the future holds great things for him. I look forward to watching him mature into an amazing “old” man and being there to cheer him on the entire way.



Happy Birthday, Buddy. I will always love you, support you, and wish you the very best.

P.S. You’re like a son to me.

BJ Bourg is the author of JAMES 516 (Amber Quill Press, 2014), THE SEVENTH TAKING (Amber Quill Press, 2015), and HOLLOW CRIB (Five Star-Gale-Cengage, 2016).
 
© 2015 BJ Bourg

Imagine how horrible it would be if…


Imagine you decide to take your daughter hiking in the wilderness area of the Kisatchie National Forest and the last time you had cell service was about twenty miles back. You hike for an hour, or so, without a care in the world. The sun is going down, so you decide to go back to the parking area to make the long drive back to Leesville, LA.



Imagine you get to your dark blue Tahoe and stick your hand in your pocket, but your keys are gone. You realize instantly that the ULL lanyard that had been hanging from your pocket must’ve been ripped away by some tree branch you brushed against somewhere deep in the woods. You don’t have a flashlight and your cell phone is locked in the Tahoe, so you can’t use the flashlight feature on it, and the sun will go down before you can find your keys.



Imagine you start calculating the costs and chances of getting a ride to an area with cell service and finding a GMC dealer on a Sunday evening who can cut a key and bring it out to you. You realize that won’t happen and you know the only way your daughter will not have to sleep outside in the cold wilderness with no shelter is if you find those keys. You set out to backtrack the thousands of steps y’all took through the dense wilderness, although knowing it’s futile and night will fall while y’all are deep in the backcountry. There’s no doubt in your mind y’all will be wandering aimlessly in the dark, trying to remain on the trail while feeling blindly around for the keys.


Imagine you and your daughter get about two hundred yards down the trail, rushing to beat the sunset, when you see a hiker from Lake Charles named Dominic Doucet walking toward y’all. You open your mouth to ask if he’s seen a set of keys, knowing it’s a long shot, but he smiles and raises his hand—and your keys are dangling from the ULL lanyard he’s clutching.


I didn’t have to imagine that scenario. It was very real. It happened when I took Grace to climb the only outdoor bouldering rock in Louisiana, Wolf Rock Cave, which is located near Fort Polk, LA. 



After climbing all morning and exploring the narrow cave, we decided to head north to the Kisatchie National Forest. The last time we were there, Grace was about five, and it was cool to show her the area again—especially the very spot on the beach where she was hit in the face with a football.


In any event, I want to publicly extend my thanks to Dominic Doucet. As I told him that day, he was truly a Godsend and saved me a lot of money and trouble.

What a difference 10 years can make…

 
BJ Bourg
www.bjbourg.com