Welcome to my Blog - What Is A Blog?

A blog is a personal diary. A daily pulpit. A collaborative space. ... Your blog is whatever you want it to be.

For many years I have kept a journal, which I don't write in as much as I once did. I have an inner yearning to communicate with the world through writing and pictures Part of my motivation is to leave something behind to a world that has given me so much - a mom, dad, brother, grandparents, a loving wife, high spirited and gifted sons, close friends and loyal customers. Most of us have had some help along the way to get where we are. In my 12 step program, step 12 is about giving back to others. I hope there are posts here that will warm your heart, make you smile and make you think. That is what my blog is all about. I hope you enjoy it. Ken

Friday, May 21, 2010


As Sam’s behavior gets more unmanageable, it’s harder and harder to be around people. I’m embarrassed my kid isn’t perfect (like everyone else).

I belong to the local Rotary Club in Excelsior, MN. At the time I join, my intentions are to meet new people in the community and do service work. Rotary International is a great organization and does a lot to help disadvantaged people around the world. I volunteer to lead the community service group. On several occasions we prepare meals and bring them to the Ronald McDonald house to serve meals to the kids and their parents who stay there while undergoing medical treatment. Jack, another member with a daughter Sam’s age asks if he can carpool over to the RM House. I say sure. We become friendly acquaintances. Sam is a big help. He is a sensitive kid with a big heart and shows a lot of compassion towards special needs kids. He’s there, he is present and is a big help. I’m proud of him!

One of the Rotarians is Peter Dennis, superintendent of the Minnetonka School system. He knows who Sam is. As Sam gets into more and more trouble I’m having a hard time facing people. I go to the Rotary meetings at 7 am on Wednesdays. Some members know I’m having big challenges with Sam and ask how he is doing. I’m getting edgy. Things start to bother me. There is a pledge and prayer before every Rotary meeting. Oftentimes members end the prayer by saying “in his name, our Lord and savior . . ..” It bothers me. I start thinking how Rotary is supposed to be an International organization that embraces diversity. Ending a prayer like that doesn’t feel very inclusive and I am beginning to feel out of place (the story of my life). It bothers me to the point that I voice my concerns to the president of the club. He smiles, gives me the "Minnesota Nice" treatment and says he will take care of it but things don’t change. At home and school, Sam’s deviant behavior is revving up like a spinning top.

My “mentor” and motivation for joining Rotary was the president of the bank. I’m a customer. My good friend and fellow AA member, Bill W. works at the Bank of Berlin. The president, Klaus Schmidt, bald, with a tight-trimmed mustache runs the bank like a dictator. He makes sure everyone working there has blonde hair and blue eyes. Klaus's bank runs on Swiss time.

I'm thinking maybe I can learn some things to help me run our business more efficiently, by getting to know Klaus. He is one of the founding members of the local Rotary Club. Rotary starts out pretty good but as Sam’s downward slide progresses it gets harder and harder for me to show up at the meetings.

Three significant events cause me to re-think my affiliation with Rotary: First: Sam takes one of his savings bonds without our permission. Sam, only fifteen, walks into Bank of Berlin and the teller cheerfully cashes the savings bond without thinking to call me. We would have never found out about this but the teller makes a mistake and gives Sam too much money. The bank calls to tell us what happened. They need him to come in and return the extra money.

Besides being furious that Sam took the savings bond what really frosts my nuts is the bank cashing a savings bond presented by a fifteen year old kid. Now that I know what’s transpired, I get in my car and drive around to the places I think Sam will be. I find him at the Super America next to the skateboard park. He’s just finished buying pop and candy for his friends. “Sam, get in the car.” We drive to the bank. Sam hands over what’s left of the money I redeposit it into his savings account after paying them the extra money they gave him by mistake. From here forward, I become a signer on his account. This means Sam will not be able to draw money without our knowing about it. I’m super pissed-off that the bank would cash the check without calling us.

I pick up the phone and call Klaus on his direct line. I get his voice mail – his message ends by says “and remember to keep smiling.” Soon the phone rings – it’s Klaus. “Klaus,” I ask him “why in the world would your staff cash a savings bond to a minor without first calling my wife or me?” Expecting an apology from him, he says, in a non-emotional and cold tone that “they had acted within the laws of the State of Minnesota.” I couldn’t believe it. That was the first straw.

The second incident was at a Rotary meeting. There are two Jews in the club, me and Rich Levine. Rotary has an invocation program where new members get up and talk about where they grew up, life experience, and what they do for a living. Rich is introduced by the president and walks up to the podium to make his speech. As he began speaking, Jack gets up to leave the meeting. Rich kiddingly asks Jack “Don’t you want to hear my talk?” Jack “jokingly” says “no, I don’t like Jews.” I do a double take – did Jack say he doesn’t like Jews? I must have heard wrong. But my suspicion is confirmed when I see and hear Klaus lean over to one of his buddies: He’s laughing and thinks it’s funny. Still, it takes me a few more minutes to connect the dots but when I realize what has just transpired I’m in shock. This is the same guy I let in my car to go to the Ronald McDonald event.

The last straw: Sam is attacked by three boys who ride over to our house in a golf cart from the neighboring Stone Bridge development. One of his former friends is angry with him – I can guess it must have been over drugs and money that’s owned – just a guess. They’ve come over to “kick his ass.” Zach calls me on my cell phone to tell me to come home. I’m on my way to see a customer. I make a u-turn, call the client to cancel and hurry home to try to intervene. But I’m too late.

The finale is one of the boys picks up a baseball bat and takes a swing right on Sam’s right knee. When I get home I chase the kids off our property and call 911. The police quickly catch up with the boys who are charged with assault with a deadly weapon, which is a felony. Channa takes Sam to the ER where he gets X-Rays and treated.

We have to appear in court to press charges. At the courthouse I’m surprised to see fellow Rotarian, Jack, the lawyer (who doesn’t like Jews). With an outreached hand, he says hello. I don’t take his hand. In a few moments I see he’s talking with the boys parents who assaulted Sam. My fellow Rotarian has been hired to defend the boy who had assaulted my son. Isn’t that nice!

The Bank of Berlin was also one of our customers. Our company provided them with their promotional merchandise. Klaus didn’t have a clue about how livid I was. My impulse was to resign from Rotary but instead, I decided to take a leave of absence. Meanwhile, Klaus is calling me at work and putting the squeeze on me to come back to Rotary. He tells me many of his vendors are members of Rotary. I get defensive and quickly remind him that I’m also a customer of his bank.

He keeps calling and harassing me. He keeps pressuring for me to come back to Rotary. Finally, I boil over. I tell him that I don’t appreciate the lack of inclusiveness Rotary. I tell him I didn’t appreciate the anti-Semitic remarks Jack had made to Rich and how he (Klaus) thought that it was funny. Finally, I tell him that I learned a long time ago that if I don’t stand up for what I believe in, that I’ll fall down for anything.

“Klaus, do you understand where I’m coming from?” He says, “I hear you.” And that was the last of my relationship with Klaus Schmidt, The Bank of Berlin and Rotary. He can take his advertising pens and shove ‘em up his ass. I’m done with him. Thank God, I don’t need his business and I sure don't need or want his abuse.

I have bigger fish to fry!

1 comment:

  1. Yes, you do!

    Cheers for you!

    You have me on the edge of me seat reading your heartfelt story.