Welcome to What I've Learned So Far...

Guitar MikeWelcome to the online home of Erma Bombeck award-winning humorist Mike Ball. Mike's column is a syndicated weekly feature that pops up in newspspers all over the United States. If your local paper doesn't carry What I've Learned So Far... call or email the editors, give them a link to this site, and tell them to get with it! We also have readers from around the world who subscribe online. Join them - it's free! 

And if you want to meet Mike, check out the Schedule Of Appearances for a book signing, concert by Dr. Mike and the Sea Monkeys, or writer's workshop near you.

USA TodayIn another life, Mike is the founder of Lost Voices, a nonprofit group founded to bring creative writing and roots music programs to incarcerated and at-risk kids. He was recently named USA Today Kindness Community Hero for this work.

Banjos, Boats & Butt Dialing on TV

Fox 2 Detroit had me on the air to promote the new book. Check it out!

Lost Voices at Vista Maria

We don't know their stories, but each girl has one. They are tall and short, thin and not-so-thin, brash and reserved. Some of them show a sadness in their eyes deeper than you want to imagine, and others wear a mask that most of the world will never penetrate.


And they are children.


These are the young women living at Vista Maria, a foster care facility for at-risk girls in Dearborn Heights, Michigan. Most of them are there to escape lives of abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Some of them were rescued from human trafficking operations – which is a twenty-first century euphemism for slavery. They range in age from eleven to eighteen, but the average is about fourteen. 


Let's put that into perspective. When I was fourteen years old, the girl I liked "went out" with me on our first "real" date. Her mom dropped us off at a theater to see a movie. I think it was The Great Race, because we were not allowed to go to the racy new Bond film, Thunderball. Then her dad picked us up and sat by himself at another table while I bought her a root beer float at A&W. 


Sadly, these girls have lived in a very different world. And now they find themselves in the sanctuary of Vista Maria, getting the help they need as they try to rebuild lives that should be way too new and pure to need rebuilding. Last week, thanks to funding from NorthRidge Church in Plymouth, MI, my Lost Voices team had the incredible privilege to join in that effort. 

The Nana Factor

I started writing this on Mother's Day, a holiday dedicated to all the moms in the world. The way it works is that our moms give birth to us, then they do a twenty-year stretch of washing our laundry, saving us from malnutrition, and keeping us from killing or being killed by our siblings. 


In return for all that, we set aside one day a year to give them a pancake breakfast, a basket of flowers, and a cheesy card. The amazing thing is, they seem to like it.


So when my son gave us a Mother's Day FaceTime call, the apparent purpose of which was to let our granddaughter, fresh from her bath, flash Nana and Papa a full holiday moon, it was all a normal part of the plan. Then I got to thinking about how all the grandmothers of the the world fit into the lives of kids. 

The Zen of Summer Camp

As we Americans work our way through Summer in this great land, a time marked by metric tons of bratwurst, watermelon, beer, and tepid potato salad, our children are facing a terror that most of us adults have blissfully forgotten. This is because we have spent years trying to methodically stamp out all memory of it.

I am, of course, talking about Summer Camp. In case you grew up on one of the moons of Jupiter, Summer Camp is a place your parents send you when they figure it's about time for you to learn how to braid plastic lanyards and cry yourself to sleep. 


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