Sunday, December 31, 2006

I Am 

It is time to welcome the new year, a time which signifies remembering the events of the past year and making resolutions or promises for the new one. We all know that a year is the time it takes for our planet to make its journey around the sun and we place great significance on this passage.

So what is it that we are celebrating exactly? An astronomic event? We celebrate because it marks a passage of time. We need these milestones to keep our lives from being just a jumble of days, one after the next. It isn’t like anything will be hugely different for most of us on January 2nd. Milestones are important. We need them to help us sort the events of our lives and place them in some kind of context.

I’ve had the privilege of marking a fair number of these new years now. I’ve sung the happy songs. I’ve danced the happy dances. I’ve watched the ball thing live from New York. I’ve watched the fireworks shows and the concerts. I’ve gone out and partied and I’ve celebrated quietly in the confines of my own home.

The past year has been both difficult and triumphant for me, celebratory and mournful. But this is the essence of life, is it not? We are born to suffer and to celebrate, to laugh and to cry, to mourn and to rejoice. This is what life gives us and what we give back. What stands out most to me about this past year is the feeling that I really lived it, not just muddled my way through it. One relationship ends and another flowers. A great man is put to rest and a beautiful new life springs forth. Tearful goodbyes are said and a new opportunity lies out there for the taking. A daughter and son suffer the pains of growing up, and yet become more fully formed as a result.

One question that is always asked is, “would you change anything if you had the chance?” The benefits of hindsight and thoughtful reflection will always yield the answer that yes…there are things I wish I’d handled differently, things I wished I would have said or not said, ways I could have demonstrated more grace and thoughtfulness. But in the “big picture” scheme of things, I am genuinely happy with the road that the past year has put me on. I think that is something to celebrate.

I recently watched “Rocky Balboa”. Rocky asks his son, “what’s wrong with standing toe to toe and saying…I am?” That is one of the biggest things to celebrate at the dawn of a new year, the simple fact that we are here yet again to celebrate it. Hopefully we are wiser than we were a year ago, but there is no guarantee of that! But we are here, standing toe to toe, another year of experiences under our belt, and ready to forge ahead.

I look forward to the new year and what it will bring. There is joy over the horizon and there may very well be heartache and sorrow. I’ll be here to celebrate the good times and yes, I may be here to mourn the bad. Like so many of you, I am ready to face it, and it all starts by standing here and saying…

I am.

And so are you.

Happy New Year!


Friday, December 29, 2006

Weekend Roundup 12/29-12/30 

The weekend just doesn't have the same feel to it when you haven't worked all week. Still, I'm looking forward to it!

Welcome to the last weekend roundup of 2006!

Mary Lou reports that a dog and cat can be friends. Rain reports on what she is grateful for.

Leslie has a budding video gamer on her hands. Phoenix has some wishes for the new year.

Breazy talks about finding time to blog. Irina talks about what plagiarism is…and isn’t.

Colleen makes a New Year’s resolution. Mercy makes garbage out of her scale.

Jules is ready for this year to be over. Lime is the brand new owner of a piece of Australia.

Sudie Girl discusses TV watching. Barn Goddess discusses eating cloned food.

Denise shares what she did for the holidays. Janet shares a year in review of her writing.

Ellen celebrates her fifth anniversary. Thomai’s son celebrates his 18th birthday.

Susan has some fun with the photo editor. Jack has some questions for bloggers.

Margaret tells the story behind some of her ornaments.

Bobbie shares some Christmas pictures. T. Marie shares three wishes.

Patrick was visiting Fort Worth. Lisa was plunging herself into WarCraft!

Joan isn’t feeling well. Veda isn’t high on obligatory gifts.

Teresa received a gift from Santa on her front porch. Tara received all kinds of goodies for Christmas.

Snav doesn’t like to say the “d” word. Rachel likes to have closure.

Walker did some “Boxing Day” shopping. Jerry did some work…and it was a company holiday.

Apple received a very techy surprise. Jen received a happy birthday pic from Erin.

Restless Angel is all moved in. New Wave Gurly is off to California.

Laine shares some of her drawings. Redneck Diva shares some of her secrets.

Anne is taking stock of herself as the new year approaches. Roselle is thinking about what she learned in 2006.

Aka Monty blames it on Hallmark. I don’t know what to blame it on, but Trick is single again.

Funky Cowboy had a pretty nice Christmas. Vickie had a talk with an old friend.

I just want to take a moment as this year ends to thank all the bloggers whose words have uplifted, inspired, and motivated me during the past year. This community has helped sustain me through some difficult times and I am very grateful.

Have a wonderful weekend my friends.



Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Midweek Meanderings 

I published this a little later than intended due to my switchover to the "new" blogger. It was supposed to take "a few minutes". It took a few hours.

Instead of writing a post I sat down with Terri and watched "Invincible", the story of Philadelphia native Vince Papale, a native Philly boy who made the Philadelphia Eagles football team in the face of the most daunting odds. The movie was quite good and the soundtrack was excellent!

What is it about these "against all odds" movies that put a lump in my throat every time?

This was not the best time for the city to delay garbage pickup by one day. Our cup...or garbage cans...overfloweth.

I'm very much enjoying my time off while mentally gearing up for a big stretch of work/school obligations in the coming weeks. January promises to be a very busy month.

I was saddened by the death of former president Gerald Ford. By all accounts he was a decent man who presided over this nation in tumultuous times. Goodbye Mr. President.

Ford was also the last surviving member of the Warren Commission that investigated President Kennedy's assassination. A lot of history died with that man today.

I went to the doctor last week to deal with my persistently swollen right elbow. He drained it using a needle that looked like a rather large nail. The next day it was much better but my left elbow suddenly was swollen. Argh!

Someone recently left me a very nice anonymous comment and I was able to discover who the messager was. Thank you very much M, and I hope all is well with you and the gang.

The kids have spent the last of their gift certificates and Christmas cash. It didn't burn a hole for very long! My idea that they should use their Wal Mart gift certificates to help me buy groceries didn't meet with enthusiasm.

Terri is quite fond of affectionately calling me a "smart ass". She even placed this salutation on one of my Christmas presents. I can' t imagine where she gets an idea like that.

Please keep Raven in your prayers. She is Phoenix's niece and is currently undergoing radiation treatments. This is quite an ordeal for a brave young girl.

I just can't get into Celine Dion's cover of AC/DC' "You Shook Me All Night Long". Very few times do I like the cover better than the original. This is definitely not one of those.

Judge for yourself.

So how is YOUR week going?


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Holiday Cheer 

A few vignettes from the Christmas holiday:

I hope everyone's holiday was as full of warmth and joy as mine was!


Sunday, December 24, 2006

Its In The Letter 

I didn't write a Christmas letter this year, but if I had it would've read something like this:

Dear Family and Friends,

I hope you are all enjoying your holiday season with those you love. I also hope that the past year has been good to you and your families and that you are looking forward to the New Year with eager anticipation of what is to come.

This year stands out to me as a transition time. My dad passed away in March, and we are all still getting used to not having him around. My mom told me just the other day, “I see your dad everywhere I turn.” I do too. I see him when I read a good book that I know he would’ve enjoyed. I see him when my daughter swishes a basket that I know he would’ve appreciated. I see him when I’m wrapping presents for the kids, knowing how much he enjoyed the holiday season. I see him in the glow of the Christmas tree lights, thinking of him decorating the tree year after year. I see him when Patrick says something particularly funny and I know dad would’ve roared with laughter had I been able to share the story with him.

But we all do what we must, and we have adapted to this new life circumstance. Mom has moved out of the home she shared with dad in the last phase of their life together. She moved to a small town a short distance away in a move she thought would benefit my niece. Things have worked out well for her there and my niece seems invigorated by the small school environment. I know it is difficult for both of them, but my family has a lot of fortitude flowing through our veins.

My three brothers have continued to improve their lives, succeeding both professionally and in their personal lives. Matt was laid off from his long time job, but instead of bemoaning his fate he formed a company of his own and it seems like he is doing well with it. This year brought Matt his first child, and Daniel is a bundle of joy and energy. Scott’s daughter, Kyra, continues to grow and demonstrate a willfulness and determination that makes my mom say that Scott is now paying for his own childhood with interest. Kerry continues to thrive in his work and seems truly happy in his family life.

Shortly after dad passed away I received word that I had been placed in the principal internship program of my school district and that the district would fund my doctorate in educational administration and leadership. I have plunged into my new job at a high-challenge school and into the doctorate program with enthusiasm. Life is never dull, challenges are many, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I don’t know what the next year will bring professionally, but I am content in knowing that I am improving as an educator almost every day.

My kids? Patrick is now 14 years old and is a freshman in school. Is this hard to believe or what? He continues on his quest to build the perfect “hyper frequency modulator” out of whatever spare parts he can gather around the house. Who knew that mini-blind parts and toilet paper rolls had such a higher purpose? Aubree is in middle school, and is in that stage where life revolves around her friends and all the middle school drama that entails. Both are great kids and I am very proud of them.

We can’t forget my love life. I am involved in a very satisfying relationship with someone I knew in high school. We reconnected and found each other shortly after my dad passed away, and this relationship has blossomed and grown in ways I could not have imagined. The kids and I love Terri very much and look forward to the future with her in our lives.

I’m also blessed by a variety of friends, including many that I have never physically met but have connected with in the online world through my blog. Many of them have been important to me in so many ways and I am grateful for their love, affection, guidance, and friendship. I feel guilty that I have not been better about keeping in touch with some of them. I hope they can forgive me and I hope I can do better.

I don’t know for sure what the next year will bring. We never really do. But I do know that I am at peace, my heart is full of joy, and that I am ready to take whatever life tosses my way with a passion that has eluded me in recent times. A friend of mine reminded me recently that it really is all about the journey.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, and a very Happy New Year to all of you. May this holiday season bring you joy and I wish the best for all of you during the coming year.

I love y'all.



Friday, December 22, 2006

This One's For You 

Many of us will gather together this holiday season with our lives going well, celebrating with friends and family the joy which this season brings to us. We all also know that this is not a holiday of universal happiness and contentment for many. It is to those people that I write today. I decided to write to them instead of doing the customary weekend roundup.

There is a young American man walking patrol in Iraq tonight, far away from his family and friends. He is thinking about his hometown, about the girlfriend he left behind, about what he will do when his tour is over. He is serving in the finest tradition of this country and yes….. this holiday is for him too.

There are people who are in prison as I write these words. I am not minimizing their transgressions or suggesting that they shouldn’t be there, but this holiday is for them too. Don’t forget that almost all of them have family outside that miss them and worry about them. This holiday is most definitely for them.

Somewhere tonight there is a cop driving a beat while the rest of us celebrate. He nurses a cup of coffee as he sees all the holiday lights. Too often he receives little or no thanks. My friend, this holiday is for you too.

There is a married couple whose relationship is strained and frayed. Maybe they will re-connect and re-discover what they once loved about each other. Maybe it is too far gone. Either way, this holiday is for both of them too.

There is someone out there whose heart is still burning with anger or hatred at someone. Maybe it is a family member, an ex-spouse, or a once close friend. Whoever it is, it is someone they once loved and held dear. May they find the peace to finally, at long last, let go. This holiday is for them as well.

Along those same lines, there is someone sitting there tonight wondering if they should pick up the phone and make that call. Part of them really wants to, but pride is such a powerful thing. This holiday is for them too.

There are people out there for whom the last year brought an end to a once-promising relationship. Breaking up really is hard to do, whether you are the one who instigated the breakup or the one on the receiving end. Your heart is still so very sad, yet you know that your future still lies somewhere else that perhaps you could not have imagined before. You could not have imagined this time last year that this season would be this way. My friends, this holiday is so for you.

There is a child out there for whom it doesn’t seem like there is much to celebrate. Perhaps his parents are constantly bickering. Perhaps his parents have divorced. Maybe poverty is gripping his family and the future seems bleak. Maybe he wants to do well in school, but he just can’t find the path to success. Perhaps hope seems ever so elusive. My child, both the future and this holiday belong to you.

There are people who have significant health problems as this holiday approaches. From the single mom who suffers from severe asthma, to the courageous young woman who had a limb removed during surgery, to the young girl who suffers from cancer, to the courageous southern belle who battles her illness on a daily basis, to the beautiful southwestern woman who confronts her illness with peace and dignity, to the woman from the great north who has shown us all what dignity and love are all about, to the young man who doesn’t let a brain tumor slow him down……this holiday is for you too.

Somewhere there is an elderly person for whom simple tasks have become such a great burden. They have seen most of their contemporaries pass away, and yet they are still here with us. The knowledge and experiences they have to share benefit us all. This holiday is still for you too.

There are many out there whose financial situation is not good right now. Perhaps they have been laid off from their job, gone through a difficult divorce, or had unexpected expenses that have made this a difficult time for them. I urge them to look around at the people who love them and remind themselves that this too shall pass. This holiday was not intended to be a commercial one, and it is most definitely for you.

There are those who are just plain lonely at a time we place such a premium on family and friendship. This is a difficult time for anyone to be alone, and the holiday season serves as a poignant reminder of this loneliness. Reach out my friends and know that it doesn’t have to be this way forever. This holiday is for you too.

There is a young teacher out there who has had a difficult time this year. Her love for kids and her passion for teaching are strong, but she is discovering that it is not at all what they taught her in college. She is wondering if it is worth it. I tell her that it is and that this holiday is for her too.

There are many out there for whom this may be the last holiday they are around to celebrate. Some know it and some don’t. To each and every one of you I say…your life has meaning and this holiday is for you.

There are those out there who are celebrating this holiday for the first time without someone who was so dear to them….a father or mother, brother or sister, husband or wife, or a close friend. I am one of you and this holiday is for us too.

There is someone out there who wishes they could just find someone to love, someone that would love them the same way, and that they could share this holiday with. My friend, I know this feeling only too well and I also know that this season echoes with the resounding bells of hope. Keep that hope alive in your heart and know that this holiday is for you.

There is someone out there who just doesn’t know if they can go on, doesn’t know if living this life for another year is worth the pain they feel. I tell them that it is, that redemption and renewal are integral to the human condition, that the springs of hope may not always be abundant, but that they never run dry. Stay with us. This holiday is for you too.

There is a single mother or father out there who is struggling to make ends meet, to raise their children in difficult times, to deal with the frustration, fatigue, and stress that comes from raising children all by yourself. Please know that your kids know of your sacrifices, they see your fatigue, that they love you very much, and that as adults they will always be profoundly grateful for what you did. This holiday is for you.

There is someone out there who wishes they could find faith and receive God’s loving touch. It is not only possible for you if you open your heart, it is assured. This holiday is for you.

There are those out there for whom the difficulty of life has served as an abrasive pad that rubs the joy of the season away. For them, it is just another date on the calendar, another day to work a thankless job, live with an uncaring spouse, or deal with circumstances that just seem so unfair. Take just a few moments to realize that there are those who care about you, people who depend on you, and that even the most difficult of lives has meaning and purpose. Let a smile spread across your face and take some time to celebrate because you see….this holiday is for you.

To all of you I wish peace and joy this holiday and in the coming year.

Have a wonderful weekend my friends.


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Midweek Meanderings 

I'm still getting over the remnants of the flu, but I think I can handle that.....

Flu? What flu? Today was my last day of work until Jan. 3rd. I've got plenty of time to heal up.

I had to call the police earlier this week to report suspected child abuse Bruises and scrapes all over the neck and back. It is so sad.

Our Christmas tree is burgeoning from all the presents underneath. We're almost there!

Patrick keeps trying to negotiate early present opening. His latest gambit? "Dad, I think we should start a new family tradition. We should begin opening presents the week before Christmas." Nice try kid.

I did recover enough to go to Terri's work Christmas party Saturday night. In my younger days I would've been a wallflower in a roomful of people I don't know. But when we headed to the club down the road I was forced to shed off those inhibitions and sing a little karaoke. I went with my old standards...."Turn the Page" by Bob Seger, "Long Haired Country Boy(Brianized into "No Haired Country Boy") by Charlie Daniels, and of course, "Mustang Sally", Wilson Pickett style I also ended up singing the male part of "Love Shack" with a slew of female bank employees doing the female part.

I'm a teacher at heart, thus there is a little bit of a ham always lurking inside these ever-so-proper bones.

Dixie was our waitress. At the end of the night she put her arm across my shoulder, rubbed my back, and told me that I should come back. Unfortunately, she paid no attention and said nothing to Terri sitting beside me. Luckily, Terri is a good sport. Whats a guy to do?

She has to be a good sport because a couple of days later I was singing at the dinner table, "I wish I was in Dixie....."

As I write this a fellow blogger is on his way to my house for dinner. We've met before, but we will be happy to welcome Jerry into our home for dinner.

UPDATE: Jerry just called and he was involved in a wreck on the way to my house. He is ok but he can't say the same for his car. At least he is safe and thats what counts.

So how is YOUR week going?


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Rock Me Baby 

Terri and I just purchased tickets to see Eric Clapton when he visits Oklahoma City in March. Excited? Oh yeah. Terri has never seen him in concert, and this will be my second show.

Eric's brand of blues-infused rock and his stellar guitar playing have been something I have enjoyed for my entire life. The last time I saw him he played for three straight hours without missing a beat. He gave the band a break in the middle of the set and played his "Unplugged" songs.

This got me thinking. What concerts have I been to? Lets see.......

Chicago (twice)
Beach Boys (twice)
Hall and Oates
Hank Williams Jr.
The Rolling Stones
Kansas (once when they were huge and filled 10,000 seats....many years later in a small club, about 1000 people)
Michael Martin Murphey (did he sing anything else other than "Wildfire"?)
The Association
The Turtles
Paul Revere and the Raiders
Natalie Cole (I thought I was in love...)
John Lee Hooker
Barry Manilow
Leon Russell (4 times, the best at the House of Blues in New Orleans)
John Anderson (under protest and just a "Swangin")
Loretta Lynn (with my parents)
James Taylor
Eric Clapton
John Cafferty

and many others that just won't jump to mind right now, but few measure up to Clapton. Not a bad early Christmas present, eh?


Sunday, December 17, 2006

Hard Candy 

My grandfather told me that in his house of thirteen children they felt very lucky at Christmas when they all received a nice big bag of hard candy. It was a treat and they knew that their was sacrifice from their parents to even share this very small token of love. He told that story with a smile on his face, briefly re-living the moment of his brothers and sisters passing around and sharing their candy.

Christmas is a very emotional holiday for many of us for many reasons. Few other days conjure up childhood memories like Christmas does, and the day serves as a sort of milestone in our lives. We’ve lived through another year and now we reflect on what the year has brought and merge it with the past.

Those of us with kids often try to replicate our own experiences for them, or in some cases, to avoid experiences we’d like to forget. We want them to have memories long after we are gone, and we know that Christmas memories are among the stickiest. We want this holiday to be special for them. We need for it to be.

Of course one way we do that is to lavish gifts on them to show our love and to see those smiling faces when they rip open the packages. It is a powerful thing as most parents can tell you. We run to the mall, try to find the latest and greatest gadget or toy, and sit with eager anticipation of the reaction we know the gift will receive. You see, it helps us affirm who we are as parents. We are generous and we do nice things for our kids.

Its not that we don’t want them to know the “reason for the season”. It is not that we don’t talk to them about the joy of giving, the pitfalls of greed, how this holiday is really about celebrating the birth of Christ and sharing our love with family and friends. But there is always that irresistible tug that makes you feel somehow lesser if you don’t at least conjure up a few nice presents. I don’t think we should necessarily feel bad about wanting to give our kids something nice, but we should at least be able to admit to ourselves that it is as much for us as it is for them.

I tried to make this point to Aubree when she made yet another one of her, “Oh dad…now I know what I REALLY want for Christmas” – Version 279.0… pleas. I asked her to please list everything she got for Christmas last year. How about the year before? The year before that? She of course could not, any more than I can list more than a handful of Christmas gifts I received growing up. I remember the pool table. That was kinda hard to forget, taking up a big chunk of our den for a couple of years. I remember the chemistry set. Why the chemistry set? I’d asked for it for years. My parents didn’t think I was old enough or responsible enough to handle the chemicals. When it finally appeared under the tree, it was not only a gift. It was an acknowledgement of their trust in me. THAT was the gift…not the collection of test tubes and beakers. (By the way…is it conceivable now that a set containing various highly toxic acids would be on the toy shelves to be played with by twelve year old kids?)

I’m thinking about my dad a lot during this holiday season. Other than just plain missing his presence and knowing that it won’t be the same without him here, I have smiled to myself several times thinking about dad’s Christmas antics. He prided himself on his creative methods of hiding presents. Sometimes he hid them too good and we would find them weeks or months later. “Oh yeah Brian. That basketball you just found was supposed to have been yours at Christmas!” He had this theory that the best way to hide something was in plain sight. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn’t! I could always tell the gifts my dad picked out as opposed to my mom, even into adulthood. Both sets of gifts came out of love, but dad’s gifts had the unique factor of understanding. He knew what would interest me without me having to circle it in a Sear’s Wish Book. A few years ago he sent me a hardback book for Christmas when I was still living in Washington. When we talked on the phone shortly after Christmas he said, “I read the first chapter standing in the bookstore. I knew this book was for you.” THAT again my friends was the gift….my father understanding me and knowing what I would enjoy.

That gift is what all of us have to offer our kids, our families, and our friends. Our love. Our affection. Our understanding. Our acknowledgement of their uniqueness and the special place they hold in our life. Those are the gifts that stick with you long after the presents fade into oblivion.

Pass the hard candy please.


Friday, December 15, 2006

Weekend Roundup 12-15/12-16 

Here it is the weekend and I’ve missed big chunks of work this week. It doesn’t even feel right to have a weekend when I haven’t put in a good week of work! I’m going a little stir crazy and I’m ready to get out of the house.

This weekend roundup might be the most productive thing I’ve done all week!

Patrick got copies of his newly published novel. I can’t wait to read it. Congrats! Vickie got good news on her heart. I’m so glad.

Roselle doesn’t want to raise a family in the city. Colleen doesn’t want to suffer another week with a cold.

Lime writes about some of her weird things. Breazy writes about being in a slump.

Ellen has someone she can just be herself around. Rain has some holiday eating tips.

Sass remembers her mom. Susan will remember this Christmas party for awhile.

Irina discusses getting past stereotypes. Margaret discusses being ready for Friday.

Jules passed the test. Jerry passed the Christmas card test.

Joan doesn’t do Christmas parties well. Thomai doesn’t buy into a “war on Christmas”.

Teresa wants you to click for cans. Sally wants you to have a Merry Christmas!

Restless Angel bought herself a gift. Sarah gave herself the gift of clarity in understanding what relationships mean in her life.

Barn Goddess enjoyed “Brokeback Mountain”. I’m not sure if Incurable Insomniac enjoyed putting up her Christmas lights.

New Wave Gurly has big changes coming in her life. Phoenix has done a lot of things.

Aka Monty is going to get her Christmas shopping done in one day.

Tara just downloaded her first songs from I-Tunes. Walker just wrote one excellent post on the meaning of Christmas.

Redneck Diva needs a vacation. Babs won’t take a vacation again if she is in the middle of writing a book.

T. Marie is a serious multi-tasker. John is coming right atcha.

Leen knows it will all work out. Jack knows that blogs die for a reason.

Laine has a favorite toy. Leslie’s son has his own space.

Janet has to decide what to tell 3rd graders about Santa Claus. Snav had to describe herself.

There are some really fantastic posts in this group. Please read and let’em know what you think.
Have a wonderful weekend my friends.

P.S. I am concerned by the reports of the windstorm in the Pacific Northwest which left over a million people without power. I have an ex-wife, other family members, and many friends, both real life and online, in that area. My thoughts and prayers go out to all of them.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Who Dat? 

You could see the look on his face.

He had an idea about Santa Claus but there was this familiar voice doing the ho ho ho!

Santa had visited his school and now was here at his grandmother's house.

This was Santa's hat, outfit, and beard. But he knew that voice.

A four year old Patrick reached up and pulled the hat from Santa's head.

Then he knew, and he was delighted.

He put the hat back on and made Dad play Santa for awhile longer.

It was Christmas. 1996. Times were difficult but this was a magical moment.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Midweek Meanderings 

I've been down the past few days with the flu. Ever had a day when you just couldn't get warm no matter how much you bundled up? I had a couple of those.

I'm not much of a one to whine when sick. I generally just wanna be left alone to wallow in my little misery. However, Terri was wonderful, fixing me hot soup and bringing anything I even looked like I desired.

Even with the chills and fever, I went into work this morning to take care of some critical school buiness. I had the PowerPoint presentation and the laptop to present it with. I just wish I had been able to stay for the day.

I received a lovely surprise in the form of a Christmas ornament from a blog friend. Thanks Kyleen! :)

The kids are having to exercise extreme restraint as packages arrive in the mail. Some are things I have ordered for Christmas and others are gifts from relatives or friends. They shake the box and dutifully hand it over.

I hide the packages anyway, very mindful of how I was when I was their age!

I've been reading Barrack Obama's "The Audacity of Hope". Agree or not with his politics, the guy is a natural and he can really, really write! This is a skill not many politicians possess.

When exactly do you know that you are DONE Christmas shopping? There is always one more really cool thing you know he/she would really enjoy.

So how is YOUR week going?


Sunday, December 10, 2006

Going Out 

Terri and I had a wonderful day Saturday. We spent the afternoon shopping and braving the mall crowd. We had a very quiet, romantic, and delicious meal. We then headed out to a local club where we listened to a blues/rock band, most of whose members are older than I am. But the music was excellent, the atmosphere a festive one, and we enjoyed each other's company.

It had been quite awhile since we had gone out for the evening. My weekend classes and a lack of babysitting have combined to keep us at home most weekends. Don't get me wrong....we enjoy spending time at home talking, listening to music, hanging out with the kids, or watching ball games on TV. But it is important sometimes to put it all behind you and get out of the house and spend some time with each other. Most couples know that it is easy to slip into a routine and neglect that connection you had when you were dating and everything was new. We are determined to not let that happen with us. Sometimes you need to re-connect as a romantic couple, not parents, and not just partners who occupy the same living space.

It takes a conscious effort to do so, because sometimes it is easy to let those weeks and months just slip by. One of the really nice things about this relationship is that we talk about things like this. If I've learned anything through all of my relationship travails, it is that communication is the key to the kingdom. I'm glad to have a relationship where I feel free to communicate my needs and to listen to hers. I also love it that we can still go out and be silly like a couple of kids.

So we will continue to have our date nights. If I'm dreaming, I'm thinking an Eric Clapton concert! If you think we were silly last night, I can't imagine what we would do there.


Friday, December 08, 2006

Friday Night Lights 

At last I can finally log into my Blogger account again. Alas, it is now too late in the evening for me to get started on a weekend roundup. Friday night mayhem is just around the corner. I stumped Terri with my playlist last weekend and we'll see if I can do so again tonight!

I'm gearing up for a fun weekend of shopping, celebrating Terri's birthday, with a few good football games mixed in. Next week? An all-day visit/evaluation from all the central office bigwigs to my school. I'm not nervous. Really!

Have a wonderful weekend my friends.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Midweek Meanderings 

We still have ice and snow in our yard and streets, but it is melting off bit by bit.

Two weeks until our holiday break. Exactly two weeks. I think our teachers are more fastidious about counting it down than the kids.

One of the things I see a lot of in middle school is "play fighting" turning into "real fighting". I wish had a dollar for every time I hear, "we were just playing around and then he got mad." I must lecture at least one student on this every day.

A word of advice? Have gas? Feeling flatulent? Flying on a commercial airliner? Don't light matches to cover up the smell like this woman did. I suspect the other passengers would have preferred to deal with fart smell than having a forced security landing.

Do your kids want to open up Christmas presents early? Mine do. I counter with suggesting we open them the day AFTER Christmas to further build the suspense.

Congrats to my sweetie Terri on her new job (daytime instead of evening hours and a raise to boot!) and her upcoming birthday this weekend! I plan on taking her out (we're thinking Steak and Ale) to celebrate.

I love watching the Christmas tree lights. It is relaxing and kind of mesmerizing. I think I might be open to hypnotic suggestions if you catch me in the right moment.

Most of my Christmas cards have gone out. If you sent me your address you should receive one soon. I still have some cards for those procrastinators out there if you want to email me your address.

Please continue to keep Jules and her son in your thoughts in this difficult time.

I was relieved at Karen's report that Vickie's heart is in good shape. Of course, we already knew that.

I smell and hear chicken frying in a cast iron skillet. It is almost time to eat!

So how is YOUR week going?


Monday, December 04, 2006

Small Town Murder 

I've been reading John Grisham's "An Innocent Man", a non-fiction book dealing with a small town murder in a town a couple of hours from here. I was thinking about how a horrific crime can affect a small town, and I thought about my own community. There have been several infamous murders here over the years, somewhat amazing for a small town. The one that has stuck with me the most over all these years jumped into my head.

The man in the picture is four years older than I am and lived a few short blocks from the house I grew up in. I don't recall ever seeing or meeting him, but it is certainly possible that I did. I remember the older kids that hung out near where he lived and I always did my best to steer clear of them.

His name is Andy Bias, and he dropped out of school in his teens. He drank a lot of beer, smoked a lot of dope, and drifted around town with his group of friends. There were a lot of kids like that then, just like there are now. He was once arrested for cursing at a police officer, but the charges were dropped after his parents took him to the police station and he apologized.

What people didn't know was that Andy and his buddies were committing

burglaries at the behest of a local man who was in his 50's. It was small-time stuff, swiping the occasional TV set, jewelry, guns....whatever could be sold quickly. The older man's name was Jess, and his wife was a teacher at the elementary school I attended. He picked out targets and had his teenage gang do the robberies.

In June, 1974 I had just turned thirteen when a terrifying story spread itself across the local newspaper headlines. Someone had brutally murdered an elderly widow just outside of town. Who would do something like that and why?

Apparently, Jess heard that Susan Bush had recently sold some cattle and he was sure she had the cash from the sale in her home. He told five boys (all of them 17-18 years old) to go to her home and rob her. You see, Mrs. Bush knew Jess. He told the gang to knock on her door and for one of them to pretend to be his son having car trouble. Surely she would let Jess' son use the phone to call for help.

Once inside they repeatedly asked her where the money was. She said she didn't have it and she was telling the truth, having already deposited funds from the sale in the bank the day before. They didn't believe her and began to slap her around. When that failed they took her into the bathroom, filled the tub with water, and repeatedly dunked the elderly woman's face into the tub, trying to coerce the location of the money from her. Then one of them brought a knife from the kitchen and found an electrical cord. They bound her wrists and Andy Bias slit her throat. They left the home, went to a gas station, returned, and set her house ablaze to cover up the crime.

A few weeks later Andy and four others were arrested for the crime. Andy was arrested just shy of his 18th birthday. Two of the boys turned state's evidence and were not charged. Andy and Jess were convicted of first degree murder and were given the death penalty. Oklahoma's death penalty law was found unconstitutional and the death sentence was commuted to life in prison. Jess died of natural causes a few years later.

The trial shook this small town. These were all local boys. What could have been inside them that would allow them to commit such a heinous crime? I remember riding my bicycle by his house and feeling a shiver of fear, even knowing that he was in jail.

I looked Andy up on the Department of Corrections website and found the picture above. Gone is the crazy looking teenager I remember from the newspapers, replaced by a rather mousy looking man almost fifty years old. As I looked at the picture I couldn't help but try to find in his eyes the person who did such a terrible thing.

Andy has been in prison every second of his adult life and will probably die there. He is up for parole in 2008, but I am sure it will be denied and I think it should be. I think about that little old lady, how terrified she must have been, and having her life snuffed out by a bunch of young thugs. Andy surrendered his own freedom when he put that knife to her throat.

I also found myself wondering if he still thought about it, if he regretted it other than for simply losing his freedom. Did he think about the pain he brought to her, her family, and our small quiet town? Has he changed or just become more hardened after 31 years of prison life? When he lies on his prison bunk at night, does he ever shed a tear for the life he could have led instead of this one?


Sunday, December 03, 2006

Holiday Thoughts 

This is shaping up to be a very gratifying and memorable holiday season.

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We did go yesterday and select a live tree. Well, the kids did most of the selecting.

We bought some bulbs and lights and set about decorating the tree. I did a trivia contest with Patrick and Aubree to decide who would get to put the star on the tree. Aubree won 2-1.

Divorces and multiple moves take a toll on your holiday decorations.

We dont't have a natural place for a Christmas tree to reside, so we placed it in the only unoccupied corner of the living room. I think it'll look fine there

The kids don't think the new TV should count on their gift allotment. Patrick said, "Dad, that is something YOU buy for our house." Uh huh.

I'm enjoying doing these holiday things with Terri and I look forward to spending Christmas with her and the kids.

Only two weeks until my holiday vacation at work. Two weeks!

A shaded yard is nice in the summer. It is not so nice when you want the snow to melt away. I'm just sayin'.

I feel peace this holiday season and eagerly anticipate the coming new year.

P.S. I'm sending out cards in the next week. If you still want to participate, please email me your address! :)


Friday, December 01, 2006

Weekend Roundup 12-1/12-2 

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We're digging out of our little snowstorm today. This is Oklahoma, remember. Most of us do not have snow shovels or any of the other assorted gear possessed by those who live in colder climes.

Terri, the kids, and I have now had two days of togetherness and the weekend is now here.

Terri and I have something of a tradition on Friday nights. We call it "Friday Night Mayhem." I make mojitos. We drink them. She tries not to stumble. I try not to laugh. We listen to music, a different theme each week. Last week it was the Eagles. The week before? Bands that begin with the letter "B". It was Chicago style blues the week before that. We're thinking we should come up with a different drink for the holidays. I'm open to any and all suggestions. I promise not to drunk dial you...unless you happen to be Jules or Monty. If I do, I'll deny it the next day.

Now for the roundup.....

Tara misses her dad. Jack won’t miss the holiday season when it is over.

Irina has some thoughts on sex offenders. Margaret has some thoughts on being hated or being a responsible mom.

Lime wants to be forgiven. Rhea wants you to know how to beat insomnia.

T. Marie reminds us that there is a line between being festive and tacky. Sudie Girl reminds us that Danny DeVito does have some advantages in life.

Mary Lou shares some beautiful pictures of her island. Andie shares a word.....just one.

Barn Goddess got hit with some snow. Apple got to count her blessings.

Ellen has some beautiful holiday decorations. Thomai has a long list to complete.

Bianca enjoys the cold, snowy weather. Roselle enjoys some simple pleasures.

Carol tells us about threadless t-shirts. Used To Be Me tells us about being mistaken for a prostitute.

Mercy won’t have a Christmas tree this year. Kyleen won’t be having surgery like she did a year ago.

Jerry used to be an audiophile. I could used to eating brownies from this pan Erin is talking about.

Babs wonders if it is possible to have an overactive imagination. Rain wonders if she can resist temptation.

The Fool reminds us that we can’t stop time. Bobo can’t get a song out of her head.

Jules receives some news to be thankful for. Joan needs to receive some horehounds.

Teresa is happy to be home from New York., even though it sounds like she had a good time.

New Wave Gurly has some things to be thankful for. Susan is thankful for winter’s decorations.

Aka Monty has a taste of vindication. Walker has a surprise and a “magical” Christmas memory.

Vickie talks about fear. Leen talks aobut getting used to the silence.

On to the mayhem. Have a wonderful weekend my friends!


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