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Tuesday, January 13th, began as any other normal day, and seemed to continue as such. My son, Jose, returned home from school at 3:15pm, having taken his 7th period final semester exam. I began teaching at 2:00pm, and was thoroughly enjoying the afternoon’s lessons. My 5:00pm lesson arrived and we entered my study.

The telephone rang and I saw the name of my friends, Hetzer, appear on the screen. I assumed it was Bill calling to remind me about breakfast as we had discussed, or Kay to set up our annual get-together dinner in January. I would call them back when I finished teaching in an hour.

But then, I heard Bill’s voice… “Darin… Bill & Kay… we need to talk to you… please, please give us a call.”

Bill’s voice sounded peculiar… strained, urgent.  I picked up the telephone, but Bill had already hung up.

I looked at my student and she said, “You better call them now.” Normally, I would not make a personal call during lessons, but this message just seemed to yield something of a very different nature, beyond odd. I told my student, “Something has happened to their one son.”

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Bill & Kay Hetzer

I met Bill & Kay Hetzer, and their two teenage sons, Brian and Andy, in 1996 when I first became director of music at Normandy United Methodist Church. They were a family like so many other wonderful families at this church, but there was something about the Hetzer family that was not like the other families. After thirteen years, I still cannot place my finger on it.

Kay sang in the choir, and played in the bell choir, while Bill and the boys ran the television cameras during service. I quickly connected with this energetic, and spirited family, teasing their younger son, Andy, mercilessly. Andy shared the same sense of humor, and could be a goofball like my brother, Destin, and my Uncle Ron. Brian was more quiet, and reserved, but always genuinely friendly.

Kay was the ultimate Kool-Aid mom, and the type of person whose radiant personality entered the room long before she did. Her descending giggles were infectious, and when singing, her smile was sincere, and quite captivating. While many people wore their hearts on their sleeve, Kay wore her joy in her face. It is one thing to be happy… but happiness is fleeting. Joy is what really matters. And joy is what Kay possessed. Her joy was solid.

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Andy & Brian in Germany as young boys.

And Bill… Bill, a former captain in the Army, always had a twinkle in his eye, something funny ready to share, and prepared for a chance to laugh at my jokes or comments. He was everything you would want in an older brother, or uncle. My Uncle Ron killed himself in 1987, and when I met Bill & Kay, I still had not healed from that dreadful tragedy. It was 1999 before I finally returned to Virginia, and the Outer Banks – favorite vacation sites closely associated with my uncle who lived in Virginia Beach while serving in the United States’ Navy. My uncle was twelve years older than me, a little younger than Bill, and I believe this is why we connected so easily.

Bill and Kay were an adorable, attractive couple, and along with the boys, created the refreshing, delightful image of a well-loved Norman Rockwell painting about “family.”

Mother’s Day, 1998, I sat at Normandy’s piano, prepared to play for the children’s musical. The minister’s opening announcements stated one of our families had suffered a major tragedy. He explained that a young teen had been in an automobile accident the night before.  “Andy”…. there was a slight pause. I thought he was going to say the last name of another teenager named Andy… “Hetzer.” (Actually, the minister said, “Hetzler” which is still a running joke to this day!). I barely remember hearing the minister say, “he is still on life support but his family are at the hospital working on donating his organs.”

While seated at my computer the night before, I heard sirens blaring. My worriscope surfaced, hoping it was not one of my many students attending Centerville High School’s prom. I even considered calling several parents but did not wish to alarm them. At one point, I almost drove to where the nearby sirens were clawing  through the gentle air of that lovely spring night.

Those few days leading up to Wednesday’s funeral were a blur, and still are. Bill & Kay asked me to take care of the music. I remember sitting in their family room, feeling the weighted sadness of this boy’s loss. It just seemed surreal. I expected Andy to come bounding into the room at any moment, waking us from a bad dream. 

Tuesday afternoon, Andy’s casket arrived at Normandy, and was prepared for the visitation. The minister, the church’s secretary, Nancy Winslow, Carolyn Bendrick, and I gathered around the casket, joined hands, and listened to the minister’s prayer. I stood there looking at Andy, unbelieving. He looked as though he was ready to tell another joke, or join me in an escapade at Edler-Beerman pretending to be sales associates (and we were good!).

That night, after hundreds upon hundreds had passed by the casket, the staff and volunteers of the church threw themselves into the vast preparations for the following morning. I don’t believe there has ever been an evening that so touched, and so impressed me. Tom Sellars, the genius lighting and sound director, and a dear friend, joined me in the pew near the casket. We both agreed we could not let Andy be alone the rest of the night. The pews were reasonably comfortable for sitting, but were intolerable as make-shift beds.

The funeral, as expected, overflowed the sanctuary’s capacity by several hundred, and spilled into the narthex, hallways, and circle drive of the beautiful manor house connected to the church. The opening hymn was “Come, Christians, Join To Sing”, shares the same melody of the beloved, and practically sacred, “Carmen Ohio” of The Ohio State University. The service was very moving, but tremendously agonizing. 

CARMEN OHIO (music & lyrics)  http://www.scarletandgray.info/osu/songs/carmen_ohio.html

The next Monday, Bill called to see if I would join him for breakfast. And thus began the historic breakfasts and lunches that we were to share for the next twelve years. Many of the meals were barely eaten as we sat talking about Andy, life, religion, family, and crying often. There just seemed to be no magic button to the grief. By the end of May, we began finding other topics, and discovered that laughter was so healing. And since we yearned to heal more, while not keep laughing? It was the perfect solution.

Normandy was yearning for something new, and it was decided that the church would embark on a new ministry project, musical theatre. This was quite easy for me, but I knew I needed someone to oversee everything – a producer. Tom  Sellars and I were eating lunch one afternoon, and he said, “You know, we need to find something for Bill to do with the musical – something to get him refocused.”

Bingo!

We set up a lunch meeting at the nearby Bob Evans. We approached Bill about being the producer for Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Bill’s eyes grew large as he began to protest. “I don’t know anything about producing. Yeh, I was an Army captain and told a bunch of klunkheads what to do…” I assured him there was not much difference – theatre had its share of klunkheads, too. His argumentative pleas fell on mine and Tom’s deaf ears.

Finally, tiring of Bill’s arguments, I leaned forward, and said the magic words, “Bill, I really need you.”

Again… Bingo!

Of course, having Bill and I both engaged in this production required even more lunches! Sitting in a Chinese restaurant, listening to One Hundred and One Strings performing the best of ABBA… ah… it is no wonder why eating establishments flip their “Closed” signs around when they see us in the parking lot!

The musical was a resounding success, and Bill and Kay threw themselves wholeheartedly into the production. And on the last day, I threw my self into the production – as Pharaoh. Just because the production was over did not mean our breakfast and lunch sessions were over. They were about to launch an entirely new journey.

The following spring, Bill and I were eating lunch at Yankee Trace. I had been toying with the idea of adoption, but had only mentioned it to my mother. I thought I would share the idea with Bill to see his reaction. So I told him my idea. Bill leaned forward.

“You know, Kay and I have been tossing around the idea. We are just not finished being parents.”

And thus began the adoption journeys for both our families.

Separately, we both approached Montgomery County Children’s Services. I was told that I was not the type of adoption material they preferred. The lady smiled, and turned her back on me. Bill was told, by the same lady, “You are only trying to replace your dead son.” And with that, she hung up on Bill.

Several weeks later Bill dropped by my townhouse to show me information on a private adoption agency in North Dayton – ACTION Adoption. That afternoon I first heard the name, Pat Hill. Bill explained, “She is a really, really neat lady, and she has adopted twenty kids.”  The next morning at Miami Valley School, Kay and I, in our routine chat spot, discussed ACTION. Finally, I saw a glimmer of the Kay’s former self return. Though she had maintained her bright spirit following the tragedy, there was a piece missing. Brian was now an adult, and living on his own, so the house on Meadowview Drive seemed terribly empty. Kay really missed being a mom.

One Saturday night in February, 2000, I sat at the Normandy piano, preparing for the start of a musical tribute I had written to the previous century’s music, Spectacular 2000. A little blond headed boy walked up to me with a bag of Valentine cookies, and thrust them at me.

“Here. These are for you.”

I thanked the boy, and asked who he was.

“Joey.”

“Do I know you?”

“No. I am here with him.” Joey turned, and pointed to Bill, seated with his sister, Linda, and her husband, Ray.

JOEY! In the wake of the production I had forgotten Joey was coming to spend a long weekend with his prospective new parents. And he was here! After the show, I spent time with the Hetzers, and Joey seemed to fit right in.

And before we knew it, the following spring of 2001, Chris had arrived.

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 Chris & Joey, 2001, during our trip to the Air Force Museum.

With Brian off on his young adult adventures, the Hetzer family seemed complete again. Bill was once again hauling boys off to soccer and football practices, and Kay was doing all the thrilling, enjoyable “mom stuff” that she had done with Andy and Brian when they were young. But this time, I don’t think she dressed the boys in lederhosen and Alpine hats!

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Finalization Day! Bill & Kay with their sons, Chris, Brian and Joey.

Bill & Kay asked me to watch the boys one night while they attended a wedding. I love being Uncle Darin, and gladly charged into this occasion with a full schedule – dinner, Borders Books & Music, Maggie Moo’s for ice cream, and a movie at home.

During our trip to Border’s, I found a Wright Brothers’ book in the children’s section, and sat on the floor with Joey and Chris on either side. As I read, Joey laid his head on my shoulder.

I knew, then, it was my turn to fully begin my adoption journey.

May 1, 2002, I walked through ACTION’s door. A nice lady named Mary Tarlano handed me the initial packet and explained a few things. I drove over to the Wendy’s on Main Street, near Needmore Road, grabbed some lunch, and let Flyer play in an open field while I sat filling out the forms… and forms… and forms…

I returned with the completed packet, and handed everything over to another lady, Sheila Jenkins. She looked through my information, and stopped on one page. “Just one minute, please.” Sheila left the front desk and walked over to an office door. Her whisper, more like a childlike squeal, informed someone, “The Hetzers’ friend is here.”

Immediately I was escorted into an office to meet Patricia Hill.

July 25, 2002, I met my first son. The following spring a second boy arrived. In 2004, my son, Jose, arrived. In between, and after, were also some boys whose adoptions had been disrupted, and they joined our home, some for several months, for long term respite. I also found my self teaching some preservice training classes, and representing the agency at an Orlando conference for adoptive parent support groups. Currently, I continue to teach classes, join the ACTION team for adoption fairs, and serve as the agency’s president of the board of directors.

Joey and Chris began taking piano lessons with me the fall of 2002. Chris quickly developed a natural talent for the piano, quickly followed by a passion. Chris would complete his assigned lesson, and then work ahead. It was not long until he was experimenting with familiar melodies, and figuring out the complimenting chords.

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Chris & Joey at a piano lesson, 2003.

One particular melody was “Going Home,” based on “Largo” from Dvorak’s New World Symphony. I explained the history of the song to Chris, and showed him some photos on the internet. He was taken with the image of the Marine playing his accordion as President Franklin Roosevelt’s casket was loaded onto the train at Warm Springs, Georgia, bound for Washington, DC.

A year later, we were working on Billy Joel’s “Piano Man.” Chris absorbed all music – the classics, pop music, Disney tunes – he seemed to love it all.

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Bill, Brian & Kay at Brian’s wedding.

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The years grew busier as our sons grew older. The few minutes after lessons with Bill and Kay just never seemed to be enough time for catching up. We tried to make as many of Joey and Chris’ sporting events as possible, but we too were blessed with numerous music concerts, show choir rehearsals and performances, and musicals. Still, the Hetzer and the Haas familes managed trips to the Hetzer property along the Ohio River, pumpkin hunting at Brumbaugh’s Farm near Arcanum, dinners out, dinners in, shows, movies, sporting events, music events, and other family activities.

As I experienced serious issues with an older son, Bill and Kay, along with my family, and many friends, were always by my side. So many great parenting techniques I had borrowed from Bill and Kay through the years seemed to be powerless for the behavioral issues with which I was confronted. Bill and Kay never altered their undying faith in my parenting, nor their support of what I was trying to do for my son. Those of us closely involved all agreed my son was battling overwhelming emotional and mental scars buried deep within before he ever came to our home. Those hideous scars that the best psychological treatments, the best doctors, the best schools, the best support, and the best love a family can offer are simply not enough, sometimes. 

While our hearts rebounding thrill
With joy which death alone can still
Summer’s heat or winter’s cold
The seasons pass the years will roll
Time and change will surely (truly) show
How firm thy friendship …

Last Spring, Chris began emailing me, and chatting with me online in Face Book and MySpace. He was always thrilled to share with me new piano music he had discovered, or improved grades, or anything he felt compelled to share.

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Chris & Joe at the beach, 2008.

Monday night, January 12, 2009, I was finishing up a lesson with a Centerville High School student when Chris messaged me. I told him I would be right back. I asked this student if she knew Chris Hetzer. The name sounded familiar, but she did not know him.

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I returned to my computer, and chatted Chris. He was elated about returning to school full time. Chris had only been attending in the mornings, as there had been some issues through which he was working. Over the past year, Chris had been exhibiting similar behaviors as my one older son – very similar pre-adoption issues. That Monday night, Chris and I talked about school. I also reminded Chris to check with his Dad about breakfast. He asked when we were coming over for our annual January night at the Hetzer House, and  Chris said he would remind his mom. After another five minutes or so of chatting, Chris said he had to get off the computer since it was a school night. “Have a good night. I miss you guys. Love, Chris.”

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I fumbled hitting the redial button. My student stood by the piano, watching intently.

The phone was answered.

Before I could utter any words, Bill tried to talk.

He stopped.

Tried again…

Silence.

Finally, through a choked throat, Bill managed to say, “Chris killed himself this afternoon…”

Somehow, I managed to find the piano bench.

I proceded with the lesson, and somehow managed to teach a following lesson. Before the last lesson, I pulled Jose into my bedroom and sat him down. Telling my son that a dear family friend had commited suicide seemed to be a measure of torture the eve of my son’s seventeenth birthday. As he returned to the basement I could hear his sobs. I wanted to release my own sobs, but I had a lesson to teach.

That night, I sat in the Hetzer family room – practically in the same spot I sat in May 1998 after learning the news of Andy’s death. Surreal is the only word that can describe it. I kept expecting Chris to saunter into the room, calling my name, and rushing up to give me a hug. As I sat there absorbing the horror of that Tuesday night, my eyes rested on the piano in the adjoining living room… Chris’ music was still in place, scattered everywhere. It was obvious he had been working on his music. Bill said that after Chris’ recent shoulder surgery, he still managed to find a way to play, despite the very limiting brace.

Suddenly, I felt a peace float over me, and settle. Chris had his love for music. That had been my gift to him. It had been something we shared as student and teacher, as pseudo-uncle and nephew. Even when not discussing concepts and skills, music was a passion we both shared. Somehow I knew, that very evening, that Chris’ spirit, now on a new journey, was still filled with music. Although he decided to depart this life on his own terms, I will never allow myself to believe the music ever departed him.

Bill and Kay were fantastic parents for Chris, and I know, despite the grim hauntings of pre-adoptive wounds from which he could never completely escape, Chris loved his parents, his brothers, his family, and knew he was loved by us all. As adoptive parents, we can try as we might to fix those dreadful hurts of the past, but some wounds are simply too deep for us to heal, or attempt to soothe with loving salve. There are no magic buttons.

The following Saturday morning, I once again, sat at the Normandy piano. The medley I arranged for Chris was my gift to the young soul who will forever remain in my mind, and heart, “The Piano Man.” “Going Home” was played, but I decided the last several non-harmonized tones would not be resolved with the final note… the unfinished song represented an unfinished life.

This coming Tuesday, January 27th, Chris would have celebrated his 18th birthday. At some point in the day, a candle will be lit, and I will seat my self at the piano, and play the medley from the service. As the hurt, the anger, and all the levels of grief merge, they will be set aside for the music.

“Sing us a song, you’re the piano man;
Sing us a song tonight.
Well, we’re all in the mood for a melody
And you’ve got us feelin’ alright.”

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Christopher Allen Hetzer

January 27, 1991 – January 13, 2009 

Last night I saw the stage musical, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and began wondering if the Sherman Brothers had penned some of the new songs. Yes, indeed! They are still living, and still writing music!

Sherman Brothers are Academy Award-winning American songwriters who specialize in musical films. They are Robert B. Sherman (born December 19, 1925) and Richard M. Sherman (born June 12, 1928).

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The Sherman Brothers wrote more motion-picture musical song scores than any other songwriting team in film history,[1] working for Walt Disney during the last six years of his life. Film scores of the Sherman Brothers include Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Jungle Book and The Aristocats.

Robert and Richard Sherman began writing songs together in 1951 on a challenge from their father, Tin Pan Alley songwriter Al Sherman. The brothers wrote together and with different songwriting partners throughout the rest of the decade.

In 1958, Robert founded the music publishing company Music World Corporation, which later enjoyed a landmark relationship with Disney’s BMI-affiliated publishing arm, Wonderland Music Company. That same year, the Sherman Brothers had their first top-ten hit with “Tall Paul,” sung by Mouseketeer Judy Harriet on the Surf Records label and then covered by Mouseketeer Annette Funicello. The success of this song yielded the attention of Walt Disney, who eventually hired the Sherman Brothers as Staff Songwriters for Walt Disney Studios. The first song they wrote on personal assignment by Walt Disney was “Strummin’ Song” in 1961. It was used in the Annette Funicello made-for-television movie called The Horsemasters.

While at Disney, the Sherman Brothers wrote more motion-picture musical scores than any other songwriters in the history of film. They also wrote what is perhaps their best-known song, “It’s a Small World (after all)” for the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Since then, some have claimed that this has become the most translated and performed song on Earth, although this is largely justified by the fact that it is played continuously at Disney’s leisure park rides of the same name.[2]

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In 1965, the Sherman Brothers won two Academy Awards for Mary Poppins, which includes the songs “Feed The Birds,” “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” and the Oscar-winning “Chim Chim Cher-ee.” Since Mary Poppins’ premiere, the Shermans have subsequently earned nine Academy Award nominations, two Grammy Awards, four Grammy Award nominations, and an incredible 23 gold- and platinum-certified albums.

Robert and Richard Sherman worked directly for Walt Disney, completing the scores for the live-action musical films The Happiest Millionaire and The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band until Disney’s death in 1966. Since leaving the company, the brothers have worked freelance as songwriters on scores of motion pictures, television shows, theme-park exhibits, and stage musicals.

Their first non-Disney assignment came with Albert R. Broccoli‘s motion picture production Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in 1968, which garnered the brothers their third Academy Award Nomination.

In 1970, the Shermans returned to Disney for a brief stint where they completed work on The Aristocats and Bedknobs & Broomsticks. The latter film garnered the brothers their fourth and fifth Oscar Nominations, respectively. 1972 saw the release of Snoopy Come Home, for which the brothers received a Grammy nomination.

In 1973, the Sherman Brothers also made history by becoming the only Americans ever to win First Prize at the Moscow Film Festival for Tom Sawyer, for which they also authored the screenplay.

In 1976, “The Slipper and the Rose” was picked to be the Royal Command Performance of the year. The performance was attended by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. A modern musical adaptation of the classic Cinderella story, “Slipper”, also featured songs, score, and screenplay by the Sherman Brothers. Two further Academy Award nominations were garnered by the brothers for the film. That same year the Sherman Brothers received their star on the Hollywood “Walk of Fame” directly across from Grauman’s Chinese Theater.

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The Sherman Brothers’ numerous other Disney and non-Disney top box office film credits include The Jungle Book (1967), The Aristocats (1970), The Parent Trap (1961), The Parent Trap (1998), Charlotte’s Web (1973) , The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh (1977), Snoopy, Come Home (1972), Bedknobs & Broomsticks (1971), and Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland (1992).

Outside the motion-picture realm, their Tony Award-nominated smash hit Over Here! (1974) was the biggest-grossing original Broadway musical of that year. The Sherman Brothers have also written numerous top selling songs including “You’re Sixteen,” which holds the distinction of reaching Billboard’s #1 spot twice: first with Johnny Burnette in 1960 and then with Ringo Starr fourteen years later. Other top-ten hits include “Pineapple Princess,” “Let’s Get Together,” and more.

In 2000, the Sherman Brothers wrote the song score for the Disney film The Tigger Movie. This film marked the brothers’ first major motion picture for the Disney company in over 28t years.

In 2002, Chitty hit the London stage, receiving rave revues. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is currently the most successful stage show ever produced at the London Palladium, boasting the longest run in that century-old theater’s history. On April 28, 2005, a second Chitty company premiered on Broadway (New York City) at the Hilton Theatre. The Sherman Brothers wrote an additional six songs specifically for the new stage productions. A successful third company of Chitty is currently touring throughout the United Kingdom.

In 2003, four Sherman Brothers’ musicals ranked in the Top 10 Favorite Children’s Films of All Time in a British nationwide poll reported by the BBC. The Jungle Book (1967) ranked at #7, Mary Poppins (1964) ranked at #8, The Aristocats (1970) ranked at #9, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) topped the list at #1.

In recent years, with Robert’s move to London, England, United Kingdom, the brothers have written many new songs for the stage musical presentations of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Mary Poppins, produced collaboratively by Disney and Cameron Mackintosh.

For their contributions to the motion picture industry, the Sherman brothers have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6918 Hollywood Blvd. and were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame on June 9, 2005. On November 16, 2006, Mary Poppins premiered at the New Amsterdam Theatre on Broadway.

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On Saturday, October 4, 2008, Richard Sherman appeared as a surprise guest on stage at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles during The Swell Season‘s’ sold-out concert and performed “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” with the band.

The Sherman Brothers receive the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor bestowed upon artists from the United States Government. (left to right Robert B. Sherman, Richard M. Sherman and U.S. President George W. Bush at The White House, November 17, 2008.

  • In 2000, the Sherman Brothers wrote the award winning score to The Tigger Movie which achieved number-one status in both theatrical box office and video sales.
  • The Sherman Brothers’ classic motion picture Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was adapted into a London West End Musical in 2002 and premiered at the London Palladium on April 16, 2002, featuring many new songs and a reworked score by both Sherman Brothers. It was nominated for a 2003 Laurence Olivier Theatre Award for Best New Musical. The Sherman Brothers each received the Musical Theatre Award from the Variety Club of Great Britain that year as well for Chitty, which finished a record breaking three-and-a-half-year run at the Palladium, becoming the longest running show in the theater’s century long history. In 2004, the premiere of Mary Poppins arrived on the stage. In 2005, Poppins was nominated for nine Olivier Awards. In 2005, Chitty went to Broadway and was nominated for nine Tonys and also began its nationwide (UK) tour.

Since 2002, Robert Sherman has lived in London, England. He moved from Beverly Hills, while Richard Sherman remained in California. Surprisingly, however, the separation did not impede the brothers’ collaborative process; they have credited this to the technological advents of fax machines, e-mail and low-cost international telephone service. Also, both brothers travel between Los Angeles, New York, and London frequently, which also facilitates their work. Since Robert’s move, the brothers have continued to collaborate on various musical plays as well as a feature-length animated film musical that incorporates an original story, song score and screenplay[4].

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IT WAS TRULY SCRUMPTIOUS!

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“It was more than spectacular – to use the vernacular – it’s wizard, it’s smashing, it’s keen.”

Forty years ago, I opened a Christmas present, and to my delight was a cast iron model of the car from the newest musical motion picture, CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG starring Dick Van Dyke.

Tonight, my dear friends, Bill & Ann Impson, and I went to see the musical stage version of CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG at Dayton’s Schuster Center of the Performing Arts. This production was “phantasmagorical!” The new songs were blended well, and though the story’s plot was slightly different than the beloved movie, it was still “uncategorical.”

It was fun!

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It was not a heady, deep thinking show – but one that returned me to the age of four or five, when life was so innocent and splendid. Though the car was barely warmed up by the time I returned home from the seven minute drive, it made no difference because my mind and mouth were focused on the music of the title song – not the temperature of 14 degrees!

The songs are still whirling through my head. 

And the car lifted into the air, turned, tilted toward the audience, and landed… although I figured out the mechanics of the hydraulic wench, it was still magical.

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I had the best time with Bill & Ann, and am so glad I could share a moment of one of my favorite musicals, and cherished childhood memories.

“You’re sleek as a thoroughbred.
Your seats are a feather bed.
You’ll turn everybody’s head today.
We’ll glide on our motor trip
With pride in our ownership
The envy of all we survey.

It’s uncategorical,

A fuel burning oracle,

A phantasmagorical machine.

It’s more than spectacular,

To use the vernacular,

It’s wizard, it’s smashing, it’s keen.”

 

I heard the recording of the Bush twins reading their letter on The Today Show… it was beautiful. What great young women these lovely gals have turned out to be.

CNN) — Jenna and Barbara Bush know a lot about growing up in the White House.

The Bush twins told Sasha and Malia Obama to “remember who your dad really is.”

The Bush twins told Sasha and Malia Obama to "remember who your dad really is."

The twin daughters of former President Bush were 7 when their grandfather, former President George H.W. Bush, was inaugurated, and 20 when their father became president.

Like their dad, who left a note for President Barack Obama, Jenna and Barbara Bush wrote Tuesday to Obama’s daughters about what to expect in the weeks and months ahead.

“We also first saw the White House through the innocent, optimistic eyes of children,” the twins wrote in an open letter published in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal.

The twins reminisce in the letter about important events and historic moments they were able to be part of in a presidential family.

But the Bushes also tried to prepare Sasha and Malia for some sobering truths.

“Although it’s an honor and full of so many extraordinary opportunities, it isn’t always easy being a member of the club you are about to join,” they said. “Our dad, like yours, is a man of great integrity and love; a man who always put us first. We still see him now as we did when we were 7: as our loving daddy.”

But as their father was increasingly criticized in the media and mocked by late night comedians, the twins said they learned a lesson.

“He is our father, not the sketch in a paper or part of a skit on TV,” they wrote. “Many people will think they know him, but they have no idea how he felt the day you were born, the pride he felt on your first day of school, or how much you both love being his daughters. So here is our most important piece of advice: Remember who your dad really is.”

It helps, wrote the Bushes, to surround yourself with loyal friends.

The rest of the letter was more lighthearted, with the twins sharing some of their favorite memories of living in the White House, including playing house and hide-and-seek in what many children would consider to be the ultimate playground.

“When we played house, we sat behind the East Sitting Room’s massive curtains as the light poured in illuminating her yellow walls,” the girls said. “Our 7-year-old imaginations soared as we played in the enormous, beautiful rooms; our dreams, our games, as romantic as her surroundings. At night, the house sang us quiet songs through the chimneys as we fell asleep.”

They also told the Obama girls to embrace any opportunity they had: “When your dad throws out the first pitch for the Yankees, go to the game.”

“In fact, go to anything and everything you possibly can: the Kennedy Center for theater, state dinners, Christmas parties (the White House staff party is our favorite!), museum openings, arrival ceremonies, and walks around the monuments.”

“Just go,” they wrote.

The twins also reminded Sasha and Malia to be themselves — kids — saying even if they travel over holidays like Halloween, the girls should dress up and trick-or-treat down a plane aisle.

“Slide down the banister of the solarium, go to T-ball games, have swimming parties, and play Sardines on the White House lawn,” the Bush girls said. “Have fun and enjoy your childhood in such a magical place to live and play.”

Jenna and Barbara Bush told the girls to cherish the pet that their father so publicly promised them.

“Sometimes you’ll need the quiet comfort that only animals can provide,” they said.

“Four years goes by so fast,” they wrote. “So absorb it all, enjoy it all!”

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It is 9:11am, Tuesday, January 20th, 2009.

I have been awake since 7:00am watching the beginning of the inaugural festivities. It is my tenth inaugural ceremonies to observe, but my eleventh swearing in of a president. I was in Myrtle Beach, vacationing with my family, when President Ford was sworn in on August 9th, 1974.

My first inauguration was January 20th, 1973, when President Richard Nixon raised his hand for the second time before the American people. Thirty-six years later, I am prepared to watch Barak Obama become the 44th president.

Last night I hung the red, white and blue banners on the front fence, and my neighbor lady placed her American flag at her front door. Despite the 9 degree weather, blanketing the outside with a heavy fog, there is a good deal of warmth, and energy in the air.

Jose is hoping his final exam will get out early so he can be home to watch the ceremonies with me on television.

Right now, the Bush family is bidding farewell to their White House staff, and soon, the Obama family will leave St. John’s Episcopal Church, and motorcade across the avenue to the front portico of the White House. The Bushes will greet them at the steps, and escort them inside for coffee before leaving for the Capital Building.

President Bush has written the traditional “last letter” to his successor, and placed it in the top drawer of the Oval Office desk.

The great American transition has begun….

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I got the first season DVD of THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES and watched at least three epsiodes last night. First off, the familiar theme song that opens the sitcom was not written yet. The opening montage  –  Jed shootin’ food, seein’ the bubblin’ brood, grabbin’ Granny in the cabin and headin’ for Beverly – Hills, that is – is underscored with guitars and a fiddle. About episode three, the main theme is introduced.

I laughed out loud, and heartily, a number of times per episode. They were hilarious.

My favorite part is every time they hear the door chimes, they look around trying to find out from where the music is coming – and then, there is always a knock at the door. Too funny.

If you get a chance, grab the first season DVD of THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES – truly a 1960’s classic!

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I have always been a fan of Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, and of course, Dr. Robert Schuller. As a boy my grandfather introduced me to these two incredible individuals, and I have since read, and studied their work from about the age of twelve. What is amazing to me is how similar their teachings are to the concepts we read in THE SECRET. The major difference is packaging. In THE SECRET, I feel as though I am watching an info-mercial. THE SECRET’s book is more exciting to read, for me, than watching the movie.

This morning I opened my on-line Guidepost, and discovered an article by Norman Vincent Peale. When I was in high school my grandmother always brought me her Guideposts once she was finished reading. When I went to college, I began receiving a subscription each month, a gift from my grandmother. I still love reading Guidepost.

 

Define Your Goals

Two principles that can ensure success

By Norman Vincent Peale

What’s your goal in life?

It’s important to constantly ask, “Why was I born? For what purpose did I come into this world? What am I supposed to do here?” Answers to these questions will shape your life goal, which will bring meaning to your life.

But, you may ask, how do you reach your goal? By the application of twin principles: to will and to believe. Will power is the process by which you tap the enormous force that’s in you. Believing is the process by which you surrender yourself to the power of God. So “to will” means to bring out your personal power; “to believe” means to bring out God’s power. If you really begin to practice these principles, you’ll find that your achievements can be astonishing.

A friend of mine told me a story about a young California couple. Things were difficult, but they had a goal: They wanted to have a home that would be filled with love and beauty. They talked about the house they wanted. It was the big goal in their early life.

One night the wife sat down and drew a picture of the house—a complete floor plan, upstairs and down—and mapped out a garden. She showed it to her husband and said, “This is my dream house.”

Though the couple had little money, he said, “Let’s hold to our dream and to the belief that one day we’ll have that house.” They looked everywhere trying to find such a home. Real estate agents showed them one house after another, but they did not find it. So they sat down and prayed about it and visualized themselves being led to it.

One night they were talking with friends about their dream house. One of the friends said, “Why, the house you are describing is well known to me; it belongs to a Mr. Davies. His wife died, but he continues to live there. He has turned down offers for three times its price. He won’t sell it until he finds a couple who will love the house as he and his wife did.”

“Please take us there,” the couple said. When they saw the house, the man and his wife were overwhelmed. It was exactly as it had been pictured in their diagram. Mr. Davies, a kind man, saw the love for this house in the eyes of this young couple. “I’ve turned down everyone else, waiting for the couple to come along for whom this house was intended,” he said.

They were thrilled. But they had to face reality; it was beyond their means.

“Some things are more important than money,” said Mr. Davies. “This is your dream house, isn’t it? All right, you write your own terms, and I will help you to have this house.” The contract was drawn. This couple had practiced the great law: Belief is visualization, dreaming, conviction and will. As a result, they reached their cherished goal.

Believe, dream, will—and put it all in the hands of God. Work, struggle, visualize! These are the great principles bound up in the text, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” Get it into your mind and get going, and you will reach your greatest goals.

If these techniques fail, as they sometimes will, ask yourself: “Have I failed because I have some ‘dirt’ in the mind?” By “dirt” I mean wrongdoing. Something that clogs, accumulates, creates “carbon” in the mental processes and corrodes the soul.

A young salesman once came up to me and said, “I’m worried that I don’t succeed because something is wrong with me personally. I wish you’d talk with me and see if you can get at it.” Well, the fellow’s conversation was filled with profanity. It was clear that his drinking was out of control. And he told me he was “mixed up with a couple of women.”

It so happened I had a quotation in my pocket that I had copied from an advertisement for motor oil. It may have just been a coincidence that I had it with me, but God works in coincidences, so I handed the young man the slip of paper. On it was written: “A clean engine delivers power.” I could tell from the look on his face that he got the message.

Whatever your goal, if it is a good and honorable one, you have it in you to attain it. If you’re specific about your goal, if you clarify it and blueprint it, and if it is within God’s righteousness, you can attain it. This I sincerely believe.

I have been blessed with numerous cousins on both sides of my family. Due to where I was born in the mix, most of my cousins are either older or younger, and growing up, I never felt as though I had cousins who were considered playmates. My great-grandparents, grandparents and parents were mostly elder children, and their siblings seemed to trail behind them. Therefore, my parents’ first cousins were mostly a little older than myself. Those 2nd and 3rd cousins who were my age always seemed to live far away.

Now, at 44, I have begun to know a number of my cousins, and communicate with them fairly regularly. One cousin, in particular, is Dana Barmes Kleumke. Dana’s father, Uncle Danny, is my great-uncle – the younger brother of my grandfather. Uncle Danny andmy mother are nine months apart in age; therefore, he was more like a brother to my mother. Dana is about four years behind me in age, and seems to me, one of the most remarkable individuals. Her blog wears me out as she escorts us on her journey each day as a stay-at-home mom who home-schools her two sons, Mat and Joey. I know Dana’s mother, my Aunt Bonnie, has always been resourceful, but Dana make’s Martha Stewart and all the great names of resourcefulness appear shabby and lazy. I am busy in my own way, and I can appreciate the differences of our lives – but there are some mornings when I shake my head at all she has accomplished by the time I have taken my sugar, used the bathroom, fed the dog and cat, and prepared my cup of tea. Her blog is definitely worth reading.

I have a number of cousins who are Mother’s age who were/are teachers. Judy Smith-Hallett, her husband, Jerry Hallett, and Stan Daugherty were always so appealing to me because they were teachers. I was always interested in Judy, but we only managed to see one another at weddings and funerals where lengthy conversations were difficult, at best. After my grandfather died in June 2004, I have gotten to know Judy more, and love how she always has a seeming calmness about her.

Stan Daugherty was a well-known basketball coach in Central Indiana, and was at Elwood Community High School for several years. Fortunately, he was there my last three years of high school and was my Algebra teacher. Stan was later to become an invaluable role model as he was great at providing 2-3 different options to approach problem solving so that each student would understand. Today, as a teacher, I will keep finding the right path for each student until the mission is accomplished.

My other cousins – Janice Smith-Kleyla and Susan Hughes-Cleaver, from Mother’s side, were my bubbly cousins. Though I do not see them often, I always feel as though no time has elapsed.

My grandmother, Donna Clary-Barmes, had a much younger sister, Joyce Clary-Riser. Aunt Joyce, who lives in Alexandria, Indiana, has two daughters, Kim, 42 (lives in Florida), and Debbie, who will be 39 this June. Since Kim lives in Florida there is no contact, but I do have email contact with Debbie. Although they are my mother’s first cousins, they always seemed like my first cousins, and I always enjoy any time with them, as well as Aunt Joyce.

The sad part is – all of us are busy with our families – children, and for a good number, grandchildren. Debbie has children a little younger than mine, and Dana, as well as her two siblings, Daniel and Dama, are busy with their little ones. I wish we would all make a pact that at least one day each summer we could all come together for a picnic. I did have a Barmes Family reunion several years ago, and due to the  hecticness of some trying family issues, I was forced to abandon the planning of a second reunion. Hopefully this can be done, soon.

When Mother was born, one of the first relatives to see her was Uncle Raymond andAunt Betty (Church) Daugherty. Uncle Raymond was actually my Grandpa Leroy’s uncle, despite the fact Raymond was four months older than Grandpa. Grandma Donna and Aunt Betty had grown up together near Summitville, Indiana. Two best friends married an uncle and nephew. When I was born, according to my baby book, one of my first visits was from my great-great uncle andaunt, Raymond and Betty, andtheir sixteen year old son, Steve. When I adopted my first son, who was from Texas, I called Uncle Raymond and arranged to visit them in Spring, Texas, where they were living – and still are – with Steve. So, they had the honor of welcoming a third generation of our family’s line.

When I was little, Steve was at Ball State, along with Letterman, Jane Pauley, and Joyce DeWitt. He moved on to radio and television, popularly known in Indiana as Steve Michaels. Whenever we would see him at community events I was always so excited, and proud, that the well-known radio and television personality was my cousin. At one point, Steve had his own television show that aired early every morning. I rose, a good 45 minutes before I had to get up for school, and eat my breakfast while watching Steve on television. I know the content of the interviews was beyond my understanding, but all that mattered was the fact my cousin was on television.

As I grew older, I realized that Steve’s accomplishments were well within my grasp, and it hit home when I was hired to appear in a television special, FRED WARING’S AMERICA. I had no idea who Fred Waring was, and could not understand why my grandparents were so thrilled. They had always rejoiced in my accomplishments, but the idea of their grandson appearing on a Fred Waring program was monumental. One comment stuck with me. Grandma was telling one of her friends about the impending program, and said, “Oh, he’s just like our cousin, Steve Daugherty, who was on television.”

The fact I was going to be on television in a Fred Waring special did not mean nearly as much as being compared to my cousin, Steve.

Since visiting Steve, andhis parents, I have been in weekly, almost daily contact with Steve – personal emails, family history, fond remembrances, and always, a healthy plethora of (naughty) jokes! Thank God my sense of humor matches Steve’s.

I had received several emails these past few months regarding the health of Uncle Raymond and Aunt Betty, and it is sad to learn that, Aunt Betty espepcially, are not in the best of shape. While tending to his parents, Steve was also battling health issues.

Earlier this week, Steve wrote and shared he has pancreatic cancer.

Upon receiving the news, I pushed it to the back of my mind. While working through my health issues with heart-related items, it just seemed impossible that this sentence would be given to Steve. This morning, during our weekly Sunday chat, I could tell Mother is quite upset, though, as always, she maintains her typical calmness. She knew more about Steve’s condition, and began sharing the details. I was all too familiar with the life expectancy of those who battle pancreatic cancer, but in my mind these past few days, I could not connect it with Steve. Mother said Steve reported to her that it would be six months to a year.

It was a struggle for me to continue the remainder of our conversation because my mind descended into a fog. After hanging up, I sat at my desk and sobbed. After a few minutes, I decided to write Steve, reminding him to be courageous, and strong, for at the age of 44, I still looked to him as a hero, and a role model. Steve responded with a grateful note, and some words I shall always cherish. I do fear that this will bring down the already deteriorating health of Uncle Raymond and Aunt Betty.

As children, our heroes are unconquerable in life, and it is a struggle when we realize they are human. Despite the fact I have rejoiced in Steve’s human qualities, it is still agonizing for me to be reminded of the body’s finite, and sometimes, frail nature. Even knowing the unconquerable power of the spirit, I still wish pain and discomfort could be avoided for Steve. I am certain that this new chapter, this new journey – though wholly unexpected and undesired – will be one of growth, and appreciation, serving as a purpose for more than what any of us can immediately fathom… one of the beautiful, and great mysteries of life.

 

The evening of New Year’s Eve, I received an email from a friend I’ve never met in person. We actually met on-line in an Internet group to which we both belong. This particular email resounded with me, as it seemed to justify some of my thoughts, and release some of my angst.

“There comes a point in your life when you realize
who matters…
who never did…
who won’t anymore…
and who always will…
So, don’t worry about people from your past, there’s a reason why they didn’t make it to your future.”

There are times when others slip out of your life for various reasons. There were fellow parents I knew from the middle school years when our sons were in the same activities, and once our sons arrived at the high school we parents moved in different directions with our sons. Of course, I began meeting new parents, especially those associated with marching band.

And then there are people in your life who really should not be there, for whatever reason. There have been times I have unconsciously moved away from someone, later realizing the positive impact. And, there have been those times when I decidedly moved away from individuals, or even groups, because I realized their attitudes, or behaviors, were unhealthy to my mind, my spirit, and a few times, my reputation (personal and professional).

In 2008, I found myself faced with the realization I had to move away from several individuals as I was discovering unhealthy characteristics, or actions, that were draining, or affecting me. At first, when I met certain people, I had no idea how gently around me their web of deception, or masked behaviors, were capturing me. One individual happens to be related to me, but due to choices made which greatly affect the well being of others, I decided I was not going to involve, nor support these behaviors.

This past year, my son, Jose, also had to move away from several good friends who were involving themselves in various negative behaviors. It was difficult for him to do, but he knew he was making the healthiest choices when he took a new path for himself.

Until I reread the above quote earlier this week, I did not realize just how freeing several of my decisions were. One or two individuals I miss, only because they were connected to those who were more infectious, but on the whole, life has moved on in a more positive direction. I always find it amazing how we meet some individuals and later discover how we were sucked into a vacuum of their attempts to dominate, or their masked negativity.

I have always held dear, a comment made by a dear friend, Valerie Lockhart. I knew her sister’s family long before I knew Valerie, having met them in 1991. Her sister’s children always referred to me as “Uncle Darin.” After the Lockharts came into my life around 2001, Sophie and Jackson began calling me, “Uncle Darin,” too. Valerie and I were talking about this one day, and she said, “I totally believe families are made and you don’t have to be blood related to be considered family.”

As an adoptive parent, this is so true. And in other areas of my life, close friends have become as dear as family. And some family have diminished in their relationship to me – and that is fine. I do strongly believe in family ties, and bonds, but not if they are unhealthy, or damaging to others. Valerie has, somehow, become more like an older sister to me, as has Christi Salchak. Jeff Carter, who is a godfather to my sons, is definitely my older brother. I find my self going to these three for advice, so much like a younger sibling, and I value, and respect these three, greatly.

There are always reasons for making healthy choices, and moving on, but bless those who remain with us!

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