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“If no one responds to the ad in the paper, you can keep him.”

I am sure I was not the only boy in the country to hear those words from his mother.  I heard those words in September 1970.

My description of the meeting was that the dog was at Burger’s Dairy Store after school, and followed me home.

Almost…

I did find the discarded puppy on the raised slab of concrete leading into the store, right next to the soda vending machines.  The little Manchester dog looked up, wagged his tail excitedly, and somehow, wiggled into my arms.  I carried him down the block, carefully setting him down at the tall hedge that separated our yard from Dick & Betsy Herndon’s yard.  Fortunately, he followed me to the long, stone steps that led up to our wrap-around porch on the top of the big hill at Ninth & Main streets.

No one claimed the dog, and he became a semi-permanent fixture in our home.

In 1970, one of my good friends was Debbie Poynter, a neighbor, and a fellow kindergarten student at the nearby Washington Elementary School.  Debbie’s nickname was “Pokey.”  According to her older sister, Julie, the nickname was bestowed on Debbie because she was so “pokey” while feeding as a baby.

So, in honor of Debbie (my grandfather also nicknamed her, “John”), I named this new dog, Pokey.

It was the idyllic “boy and his dog” story… Pokey followed me everywhere… he slept at the foot of my

Pokey 1982

Pokey 1982

bed… gathered up my belongings when I was away for the day… chewed up one of Mother’s shoes and gloves… chewed the feet off of one of my action figures from Johnny West’s Best of the West… and the best, was always so happy to see me.

Due to several vicious attacks by a neighbor’s German Shepherd, Pokey became fearful, and anxious.  the scars on his neck healed, but he nipped, and even bit at strangers.  My grandfather could not bear seeing Pokey chained up in our backyard, and asked if he could keep Pokey out at the farm.

The last ten years at Grandpa & Grandma’s were truly wonderful years for Pokey.  I don’t believe any dog had a more spacious, warmer dog house with loads of installation installed for the winter months.

Every weekend we ventured the thirteen miles South of Elwood to my grandparents’ home, we were always excitedly greeted by Pokey who still followed me about.

In 1982, I had not seen Pokey in months due to marching band.  Grandpa told me Pokey had really slowed down, and was having difficultly getting around. It had gotten to the point that they had to set Pokey down off the porch for his potty-breaks; he was too infirm to walk down the steps.

Darin with Pokey & Duchess 1982

Darin with Pokey & Duchess 1982

Thanksgiving morning, we arrived for dinner at my grandparents’ house, and Pokey recognized the car. With great effort, and tremendous difficulty, Pokey rose, walked down the three steps, and met me in the middle of the driveway.  He was still the ever devoted companion, and still excited to see me.

Christmas morning was a repeat – Pokey rose to greet me in the driveway.

That was the last I saw my wonderful pal.  The next month, Grandma Donna found him in the garage.  Her dog, Duchess, was laying with her paws wrapped around Pokey, and crying.

It’s been thirty years since my little Pal died, and since then, I have been blessed with three other wonderful pals – Flyer, Chief and Navi.  Still, I will always remember Pokey’s companionship, and his constant devotion, so often echoed by Flyer’s own devotion – and more so, that of Navi and Chief.

NOTE:  I could not tell the Story of Pokey without including this tidbit which has become legend in our family stories.  I was in the high school musical, OKLAHOMA! when Pokey died. Mother decided it best not to tell me of Pokey’s passing until after the musical closed that weekend. I hurried home for supper that evening before returning to the high school. While eating, my brother, ten years younger, and I got into a squabble. His final thrust was, “Your dog’s dead! Grandma found him in the garage this morning. He’s dead.”  I looked with horror to my mother for confirmation. She nodded. I can still remember the shock, but even more so, the look on Mother’s face that alternated between 1) sympathy for me, 2) aggravation with Destin for spilling the beans, and 3) biting her lip to keep from chuckling.

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Last night, Quintin and I enjoyed a late dinner at The Noodle Company located in The Greene.  Afterwards, we grabbed some videos since he did not have to be at school Friday until 11:30am due to the on-going OGT (Ohio Graduation Test) for sophomores, only.  We settled down with Adam Sandler’s JACK & JILL, and though I am not a true Adam Sandler fan, I did laugh a good deal.

After the movie, I began the process of preparing my taxes, and remained at the job until 2:30am.  I slept, off and on, until 7:45am, at which time, I rose to get the morning chores completed – feeding dogs, taking my meds, sugar checks, breakfast.  The taxes were completed in less than three hours, thanks to continued preparation throughout the year.

In a few hours I will teach my regular lesson load, as well as some additional make-up lessons. Quintin has percussion rehearsal until 8:00pm, and I should be finishing up teaching.  Hopefully, we can grab another movie.

Saturday morning will bring several more make-up lessons, and then some fun time of hiking in Woodland Cemetery, or Carillon Park, until Quintin’s 5:00pm-9:00pm percussion rehearsal.

Sunday, I believe, is a completely free day… absolutely nothing on the agenda. It would be nice to trip down to Cincy to the zoo, or aquarium, but I’ve not made arrangements for the dogs.

Friday afternoon, I ventured to over to the middle school down the street to watch Fairmont’s PM-Concert Band in the OMEA (Ohio Music Educators Association) perform their contest literature.  They received a II-Division rating.  Quintin worked as a judge’s assistant later in the evening.

Saturday, Quintin worked in the main office from 8:30am-Noon.  I was mentally, and physically, exhausted from a very long week, and remained in my bed/sitting room the remainder of the day, reading, napping and watching some movies.

Saturday night, after a quick bite to eat at Panera, we attended the production, CHILDREN OF EDEN, written by Stephen Schwartz. The production was beautifully sung – when you could hear it. The orchestra, which was very good, over-powered the entire production.  The only time I could hear the lush beauty of the music was during the few moments when the cast sang a capella. Even the dialogue underscoring was drowned.

Sunday morning was a flurry of activity: Quintin was up showered, fed, and at the high school for a 7:00am rehearsal call, preparing for their 11:38am performance at the MEPA contest in Centerville. I rose after Quint was gone – having slept three hours – and hurried to the National Museum of the United States Air Force to secure three tickets for the Presidential Gallery. Unfortunately, all parties needed to be present to present their identification.

At 10:15am, our dear family friend, and member of the god-parent team, Jeffrey Carter, arrived. Jeff, currently a resident of St. Louis, Missouri, judged a show choir competition in Fort Wayne on Saturday, and stopped by for a visit prior to heading on down to Cincinnati to see MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG.

After chatting, and playing with the fury trio, we moved on to Centerville High School to watch Fairmont perform at MEPA. Uncle Jeff finally got to meet Quintin, following the contest, and they hit it off beautifully. We left CHS, and headed immediately to the Air Force Museum where we spent several hours.

Following dinner at Milano’s, we spent some time chatting at The Haasienda before Jeff traveled on to Cincy. It was such a nice visit, and we both look forward to seeing Jeff again this summer.

It was a busy, yet, very relaxing weekend!

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[Hit the play button on HOUNDS OF SPRING; listen as you read, and then, sit back and enjoy this fantastic piece of band literature by Alfred Reed.]

A beautiful day it is!  It is only 50-degrees this tenth day of March, but you could not ask for a more glorious day of sunshine, and Spring in the air. And tomorrow, those of us who get to set our clocks forward one hour will get to enjoy even more lovely days such as this.

Quintin was out the door to work in the office for the OMEA site until Noon. I satisfied any cravings shared by the office workers with a box of Bill’s Donuts.

I returned home to work in the front yard with the weed trimmer, and the leaf blower! Their electrifying sounds were music to my ears. How I love time to work in the yard, and that season is rapidly moving upon us.

I relaxed the afternoon away, watching some television, reading, and napping. I will now do some house work, and then get ready to go see CHILDREN OF EDEN with Quintin at the very close Playhouse South.

Tomorrow is percussion with MEPA at Centerville High School, and the arrival of Jeffrey Carter, friend/godfather, who will pass through Dayton for a few hours before heading to Cincinnati to see MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG, starring Daniel Jenkins.

I am sitting in my study, as I do four days a week, writing.  Each afternoon through mid-evening I teach private lessons. But prior to teaching, I have three-scheduled hours of writing time, cheerfully followed by errands, and household chores. I am fortunate to spend my mornings, somewhat leisurely, writing, simply because one lady told me I could write, and then, she showed me how to write.

Darren Paquin

Although my younger siblings cringed when Darren Paquin pulled out my high school essays, written nearly a decade earlier, they also expressed some pride that their eldest brother was still remembered in the classrooms, and hallways, of Elwood Community High School. They often razzed me for my writing skills, but they never realized how much effort, time, and work, I put into writing, and especially, depending on the topic, research, and outlining.

Since the fall of 1982, I have continually used the “rock of writing” learned in Mrs. Paquin’s classroom: an outline. I can remember the encouragement, and insistence, that was her daily mantra, “Outline.” I always knew, when I ran into writing issues, the first question I would be asked, “Where’s your outline?”

One day, Mrs. Paquin hovered over my shoulder as I struggled with a particular paragraph in an essay. “Let me take a look at your outline.” It was such a casual request, yet one I was dreading that morning. I had no outline. I admitted that I had skipped a procedure in the very thing I now promote as a teacher: PROCESS. Mrs. Paquin straightened, looked down, and just stood there with a ‘are-you-kidding-me-? smile. For several seconds, she said nothing. Finally, using her red flair-tipped editing pen, she tapped me on the shoulder, and said, “You know I expect more from you.” And with that, she moved on to the next student, but turned to reaffirm her statement with a smile, punctuated with a wink.

For my sons, former students, and current students, who are reading this, I am sure there is a breeze, accompanied by the sound of a flock of fleeing birds, as they shake their heads, and roll their eyes. “I expect more from you,” an oft used phrase in The Haasienda, runs a close second to our family motto: “Always do your best – always!” That morning in Mrs. Paquin’s advanced composition class seemed to add a new element to my life’s journey, and future career. Through the years, the phrase became ingrained in my soul as a constant marker, reminding me to continually challenge myself to do better in all areas of my life.

My favorite photo of Mrs. & Mr. Paquin

Several years after I graduated from high school, Mrs. Paquin began a new chapter of living as she began her own process of survival. Her heart specialists prescribed an outline for living, and this outline included a transplant from a heart donor. As you can see from the posted video below, she kept to the outline.

I always tell my sons that I will never be their friend, nor they, mine. I explain that my mother will never be my friend.  She is my mother. Yes, we have had a wonderful relationship for the past 47 years, but I could never reduce her status as anything other than the very reverent title,  Mother. The same holds for Mrs. Paquin, and several other Elwood teachers who have had a tremendous impact on my life. Yes, in many ways, Mrs. Paquin, has been a valued friend, but as she was thirty years ago, she still is, today, my beloved Teacher.

I continue to learn from this wonderful lady through the inspiration of faith, hope, and perseverance she demonstrates. I am so grateful that when God was designing Mrs. Paquin’s life-outline, I was included as one of the many subheadings.

And I must be honest… I did not create an outline for this particular blog-post. Sometimes, the heart has it’s own outline.

Mrs. Paquin, know you are loved…

25 Years of Heart Transplant at St.Vincent Heart Center

Note:  Mr. Gordon Paquin was my high school principal, and one of the best role models for a fatherless teenager. Mr. & Mrs. Paquin have two children, Dawn and Derek, who attended high school with me. 

I am finishing up the writing of a musical on the Wright Brothers, and in one particular scene, I recreate the concept of the hobble skirt when a modesty cord is tied around a young lady’s long, voluminous skirts prior to a flight with Wilbur Wright. A fashion designer happened to be in the crowd, watching these famed flights of 1909, and captured a new fashion design when the lady scooted away from the areoplane with the modesty cord still in place. In my research, I discovered the young designer was from Paris’ famed, The House of Paquin. You can bet The House of Paquin is mentioned in the musical!

Navi, Chief and Flyer were not about to rouse themselves at 5:00am when The Haasienda began stirring as Quintin showered, and readied himself for a 6:00am rehearsal prior to the MEPA/Bellbrook HS competition.

After Quintin left, Mother and I talked most of the morning away over coffee, and enjoying the antics of the dogs who seemed to enjoy having a new audience for which to perform.

Fairmont’s percussion line did an exceptionally good job this morning, and walked away with a win in their newly elevated class.

Not too long after arriving home, Quintin was back, and we ventured to Hibachi Grill for dinner.

We lounged in my bed/sitting room watching episodes of THE MIDDLE, as well as Jerry Lewis’ WHO’S MINDING THE STORE, another movie, and now the end of The 2012 Academy Awards.

It’s been such a pleasurable weekend, and here are some photos to remember Mother’s visit…

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Man is a dog’s idea of what God should be.  ~Holbrook Jackson

The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not man’s.  ~Mark Twain, letter to W.D. Howells, 2 April 1899

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My alarm went off at 5:10am.  I squinted through very eye-lids to see the bathroom door closed, and heard the sound of water smacking against the bathtub… whew… Quintin was awake, and showering.  I smelled coffee I knew Mother was awake.  Chief was stretched out, lengthwise, against me.  Navi was curled up in the chair, and Flyer in her usual spot by the closet door.

By 5:55am, Quintin came in to give me a hug before leaving, and I decided to rise.  The sun had not even come up, and the dogs were not their usual peppy selves.

Mother and I grabbed cups of coffee, and are now watching some television.  Shortly, we will get ready and head to Bellbrook High School for the winter percussion competition.

I could stand a few more hours of sleep, and am forecasting a nap this afternoon following lunch.

 

The dogs are all bathed for their presentation for Queen Grandma who will visit this weekend.

The last time I bathed the pups, they were not thrilled, and I figured I would have a chore on my hands getting them into the tub.  However, I started with Flyer who, even though blind, went right to the bathroom, and hopped into the tub. Navi and Chief watched this process, and when it came time for their individual baths, performed beautifully.

After baths were completed, the pups followed Flyer to the kitchen, and took their positions near the treat jar!  Amazing!  Flyer is such a trooper, and a dear, wonderful dog, and a leader for the pups – even though she probably does not realize it.

When I shouted out, “Let’s take pictures of our baths!” Flyer went right to the bathroom, hopped in the tub.  Then I remembered – the last several times she took a bath, I took a picture of her inside the tub! And she waited patiently until I got the camera, and snapped her picture.  Chief situated himself in his usual regal, studly pose, and Navi hid under the bed.

They do make life a tad bit fun!

While going through several boxes of items belonging to family, especially my grandparents, Leroy & Donna Barmes, I came across the jewelry box containing some neat items….

The locket contains two photos I’ve never seen.  The top photo is of my Grandmother’s brother, Ronald Monroe Clary, who was killed at age 15, in 1936. The bottom photo is of my grandfather, Leroy Barmes, 1921-2004.

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Quintin has been enjoying his time with the Fairmont Winter Percussion ensemble, which has been sweeping up contests, left and right.

Here is a glimpse of Quintin’s primary love at the moment.  Several of the photographs are courtesy of Patti Rogers.

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The pure, the bright, the beautiful
that stirred our hearts in youth
The impulses to wordless prayer
The streams of love and truth
The longing after something lost
The spirit’s longing cry
The striving after better hopes
These things can never die

“I just have to do something,” said Rev. Bob Smitley, interrupting his own closure to his brilliant homily for Rev. Greg King’s service of celebration. “When we go to a great show what do we always do at the end to show we loved the show?”

The applause began immediately, and the enormous crowd, nearly filling the large cavernous Ascension Catholic Church of Kettering to capacity, rose to its feet.

While the celebration induced the activation of the tear ducts, the heartache was continually battled by the superior force of laughter.  I don’t believe I’ve ever laughed so much, and so hard, throughout a “celebration of life” service than the one offered in the memory of Rev. Greg King.

To know the King family is to know God’s truer message… love one another, and for crying out loud, laugh as much as you can.  I’ve been fortunate to know Greg’s beautiful wife, Patti, and two of his equally beautiful four children, Greg and Kristen.  I mostly saw Rev. Greg at band concerts, band contests, musicals, and at the church for a production of GODSPELL, directed by his wife.  I did not know him as well as Patti, but upon each meeting I was greeted with a deep warmth, and joy, that always re-ignited my own inner joy. He definitely had “a way” with people… with life.

Within twenty minutes of the service honoring Rev. King, I was thinking, “I wish I could have known him.”

The timid hand stretched forth to aid
A brother in his need;
A kindly word in grief’s dark hour
That proves a friend indeed;
The plea for mercy softly breathed,
When justice threatens high
The sorrow of a contrite heart
These things shall never die

The tributes from two of his children, son Greg’s through song, as well as his brother, sister, nephew, and nieces, were moving, inspiring, filled with hilarious anecdotes, and so much love, and magnificent affection.  It was one of those rare moments when I realized that this is the type of man I aspire to be.  Greg King is my role model.

I was overjoyed when I learned that he, too, wrote notes to his children all the time. I believe this, as a dad/parent, is vital.  Mother has written me notes, and sent cards, since I was a tiny fellow, and I believe I have nearly every one in my collection.  As a dad, I write little notes, and letters, to my sons.  I always believed I would find them tossed in the waste basket, but they are always tucked away in a special place.

Had I not attended the service, I would never have known just how much life was lived by this man, and just how much fun he had with life.  I felt so reassured that a father can joke, tease, wrestle, play practical jokes, sing silly songs, act crazy, elect to spend time with his children, be creative with parenting and discipline, talk to his children, throw food, and clown around with his children.  I always felt out of place in the parent-world because I am quite unorthodox as a single dad. I cannot wait for those moments to do things with sons – especially, laugh, and have fun. These are the same memories I want my sons to cherish – so many like the ones I know the four King children will always cherish. The stories from Rev. Greg’s family supplemented my belief that I am on the right track, and that I should proceed, full speed, ahead.

Once we become adults, we tend to let go of heroes, role models, and fellow teachers.  I love moments when my path crosses that of another who offers hope, confidence, and an opportunity for me to “look up” to someone.  Greg King has become that person for this chapter of my life.  Since childhood my number one hero has been Abraham Lincoln, and it only seems ironically appropriate that I write of Rev. King on President Lincoln’s birthday.

Let nothing pass, for every hand
Must find some work to do
Lose not a chance to waken love
Be firm and just and true
So shall a light that cannot fade
Beam on thee from on high
And angel voices say to thee
“These things shall never die.”

I heard the word, legacy, mentioned several times.  And what a legacy Rev. Greg King has with those who who loved him, and knew him best.  It is the kind of legacy we often dream of leaving… Greg King’s legacy is one we should all leave.

The King, as in Greg King, has left this earthly building; however, the spirit of the man – the husband, the father, the son, the brother, the uncle, the minister, the neighbor, the friend, the counselor, the mediator, the organizer, the worker, the leader, the follower, the instigator of pranks, the laugher, the clown, and the ultimate servant with a great servant’s heart – remains.  He shared with the world his own personal recipe for life.  Sadly, so many of us seldom realize that the same ingredients are also within our own reach until we are reminded by great men like Greg King. I am so grateful that I have been reminded that this same recipe is imprinted in my own spirit, in my own mind, and on my own heart.

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Photos I obtained/stole from Patti’s Facebook site.

** THINGS THAT NEVER DIE, by Charles Dickens, and inserted throughout the blog.

This morning, my brother, Destin, and I received an email from Mother: As of February 3rd, I am retired from the Elwood Police Department.

Despite the fact Mother had expressed some consideration along this topic, we were not aware that she was actually setting the process into motion, and so abruptly.  The new administrative changes throughout the city’s leadership were becoming quite stressful, and the air of low-morale, and consistent uncertainty were affecting Mother’s health.  When she initially broached the subject over Christmas, I thought it a bit premature since the elected-changes had not yet occurred.  However, as she began experiencing the health issues, I was somewhat relieved, yet still surprised, by her announcement.

I was sixteen, and a sophomore in high school, when we became a part of the police family.  I suddenly had about 15 police-uncles, several police-aunts, and a ton of police-cousins.  I knew that I always had folks looking after my family.  This was especially comforting when I left for college.

The police department was like any other family – the good times, the not-so-good times, celebrations of weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, births, graduations, and successes.  The family came together at those less celebratory moments, especially when death shrouded a family unit.  The worst was the loss of officers’ children who were teenagers with me.

For the past thirty-one years, I’ve seen Mother joyfully embrace her work with the Band of Blue, and even during the more stressful moments, I never knew her to waiver in her dedication.  Mother was often a big sister, a confidant, a friend, and whether appreciated, or not, always honest with requested advice.  One of her most incredible talents is her ability to organize, and produce.  I am so grateful I received this genetic component from Mother!

I am proud to be the son of this woman who gave so much of her self to her career.  I am relieved that her retirement from the police department is not a retirement from being Mother/Mama to my self, and Destin. The retirement from the EPD will allow her more time for her Grandma-responsibilities!

My grandfather, Leroy ‘Red’ Barmes, joined the department in 1952.  Sixty years later, our immediate family’s connection to the Elwood Police Department has finally come to a close.  I must admit, it is a tad bittersweet.

Mother: Congratulations on 31 years of such fine service to the department, and the community; and, congratulations on your well-deserved retirement.  I am so grateful for, and proud of your career, and so happy (and a little tearful) to know this chapter has now moved on to the next.

Know you are loved…


1. You will receive a body

Make peace with your body
 ~ Accept its imperfections and respect what your body needs to runs its optimum performance

2. You will be presented with lessons

As you travel through life, you will encounter lessons unique to you. Be open to those lessons and chose actions that align with your true path

3. There are no mistakes, only lessons


View mistakes as opportunities to learn. Be compassionate, learn to forgive, live your life ethically and keep a sense of humor

4. A lesson is repeated until learned


Do you find yourself repeating the same patterns in your life? Learn to recognise the patterns and the lessons that they offer

5. Learning does not end

If you are alive, there are lessons to be learned. Embrace your role as a perpetual student of life

6. “There” is no better than “Here”


Live in the present. Dance the fine line between living in the here and now while holding in your heart the fondest dreams and aspirations for the future

7. Others are only mirrors of you


You cannot Love or hate something about another person unless it reflects something you Love or hate about yourself

8. What you make of your life is up to you


Every person creates his or her own reality. Imagine yourself at 90 years of age, looking back at your life. What do you want to see?

9. Your answers lie inside of you


All you need to do is look inside, listen and trust yourself

10. You will forget all of this at birth


Somewhere along your journey from the spiritual world to the physical one, you simply forgot these ten rules!

 

 

The weekend was a delightful world-wind of activity, all centered around music and friends!

Friday evening after teaching, Quintin and I headed for Beavercreek High School where I served as a judge for the show choir’s invitational.  Friday was middle school show choir night.  Five competing show choirs and two exhibition show choirs from Beavercreek.

Saturday morning at 8:30am I was heading back to Beavercreek High School where I spent sixteen hours judging soloists, judging show choirs, eating a delicious lunch and supper, and catching up with colleagues, fellow judges, show choir parents, and friends.  I always enjoy Beavercreek’s weekend, but this seemed to be an exceptionally fun year.

Sunday morning was filled with house-activity of playing catch-up with items.  At 12:10pm we were out the door to UNO’s pizza downtown before heading next door to The Victoria Theatre to see Muse Machine’s production, THE WIZARD OF OZ.

I was seated next to three adorable elderly sisters who could easily have been USO girls during The War Between The States – they had me howling!  As I nestled into my seat I looked at my neighbor, and said, “I can tell you are gonna be trouble the whole time.”  She slapped her knee, and said to her companions, “He’s already got my number!”  The one sister had brought her fellow octogenarians to see her granddaughter perform, and each time the young performer was located in the mass of young folks on stage, they pointed, and without whispering, loudly exclaimed, and explained to one another where the girl was.  At one point, the lady next to me (who was slightly deaf) asked, “Are you enjoying this?”  I smiled, nodded.  She responded to my silent response with, “I am, too.  I saw the movie as a girl.”  She then turned to her sisters, and loudly said, “He likes the show, too,” accompanied by more verbal interaction.

Normally, I am usually irritated by loud talking during a show, but these ladies were so adorable that I did not mind.

After the show, we burst through the crowd to hurry home for three evening lessons – just making it in time.

Quintin and I closed out the weekend with a meal at Taco Bell, and spent a good 45 minutes chatting about life.

Back at home, I finished up some items and was sound asleep by 10:00pm.

A wonderful, wonderful weekend!

Since childhood I have always sensed energizing, protective, and unseen guiding presences in my life.  For several years a lovely lady visited me regularly during my sleep – or at least, what I thought was my sleep.  Today, at age forty-seven, I can still vividly recall this kindly woman’s moments shared with me from the age of four years until I was nearing junior high.  Often, these meetings included singing without any concern for waking my parents.  Other times, stories were told, Bible stories about the heroes were read, poems recited, or general small talk shared.  It was a year or so into junior high school that I realized the sweet lady had not paid a visit.  It seemed, however, she had been replaced by other motivators in my life, mainly music.

One day, perhaps around my sophomore or junior year of high school, my grandmother pulled out old family photos.  Many, many Sundays were spent going through the treasure trove of our family’s history told through photographs, but this particular Sunday, there was a different box, one I didn’t recognize.  Grandma Donna handed me some photos and after thumbing through several I recognized the sweet lady who visited me as a child.  It was my great-grandmother, Thelma Daugherty Barmes.

Sadly, seven years before my birth, Grandma Thelma was involved in a fatal automobile-train accident, expiring the following evening, January 16th, 1957, at 5:05pm.

Grandma Thelma was a wonderful musician; a pianist and vocalist.  One of my first vocal lessons came from my Grandpa Leroy as he relayed watching his mother teach a voice lesson when he was a small boy – Grandma Thelma instructed the student to keep the tongue down, and to sing towards the teeth.

In college, I became fascinated with the possibility of angels.  Several professor friends recounted personal anecdotes related to angelic activities in their own lives, prompting me to wonder if the visits from great-grandmother were – well, angelic visitations.

There are so many arenas dedicated to the study of angels.  I’ve scoured the topics, the varying beliefs, and the Biblical history of angelic beings, and I finally decided that since there will never be one consistent consensus on the topic, it would be my choice to accept the fact angels exist, knowing they had personally appeared throughout my life.  Today, I still believe I have an angel team that assists me in a variety of activities throughout my life-journey.  I have no idea who they are, or whether or not the same ones continually accompany me. Quite simply, I do not doubt their presence, and I trust them.

Over the past twenty years, or so, I have also come to recognize that fellow humans also serve a similar purpose just as the unseen-beings on my “angel team.”  I have countless experiences of brief encounters where someone, or some unexplained incident, has briefly, even momentarily, appeared alongside me on my life-journey to offer guidance, encouragement, or specific information I needed at that moment.

Coincidence?  Perhaps.

God acting anonymously?  Perhaps.

I do believe these positive beings are off-shoots, working on behalf of The Great Spirit.

Regardless who they are, what they are, from where they came, whether they are winged or wear halos, they simply exist in my life.  And how damned lucky I am for these special moments!

Last summer I was terribly ill, and it took me through mid-Autumn to fully recover my strength, and stamina.  My spirits sagged because I just did not have the mind-effort to write on the Wright Brothers musical.  I would open the file.  I would look at the words that suddenly appeared foreign and click shut the file.  It seemed as though my great-passion for this particular craft had died a sudden, unexplainable death.  I began searching for answers to the questions I proposed:

Does this musical suck? (Considering the combined talents of my wonderful, patient co-writers, Gail & Leslie, I knew the lyrics and music elevated my work)

Am I suppose to even be doing this?

Is something trying to tell me I should do something else?

It was a frustrating Autumn, and early Winter.  The most infuriating thing is that I have the ideal life as a writer, something not often afforded my friends and acquaintances who have been published, or produced.  I have my mornings and early afternoons free, and teach private lessons from approximately 3:00pm until 8:00pm.  One day a week I am at a middle school.  Since my sons have always been involved in extra-curricular music activities that often keeps them busy on Saturdays – another full, free day of writing.

My life is ideally set to fully, and passionately embrace this craft.  However, from the end of July, before I discovered my illness, to early winter, I felt absolutely dead inside.  I coasted through the holidays, and my post-Christmas vacation still found me emotionally uninvested, and dealing with the same illness, again.

This past Saturday morning I was reminded by my calendar text that there was a Writing Workshop set for Sunday at 2:30pm.  The workshop was geared for middle grade/young adult audiences, nothing actually to do with playwrighting.  I dismissed it.

Sunday morning something caught my eye while scrolling down Facebook. A terrific author, and inspiring personality, Katrina Kittle posted:

“Dayton Area Writers – TODAY (Sunday) at Books & Co from 2-3:30pm, hosting a free mini-writers’ workshop, taught by myself and the lovely Kristina McBride. The topic: Writing for Middle Grade and Young Adult Audiences.”

Meh.

I sort of dismissed it.

The sun, despite doing its thing on the opposite side of my house, was filling my bed/sitting room with a glowing radiance.  It seemed to beckon me for a hike with my teenage son and the three dogs. For several days I’d been dealing with a nasty situation involving an individual who felt compelled to self-appoint a mythical reign over a project for which I was serving as coordinator. That morning, after two nights of minimal sleep, pulsating pressure in the head, and the inability to fix the situation, I stepped back and handed over the reins.

Freedom.

A renewed energy quickly flooded my brain, my entire being.

Katrina Kittle’s reminder of the writer’s workshop reappeared on a later Facebook scroll.  For the first time in over six months I actually felt life creeping back into my soul.  I remember how invigorated I was when I heard Katrina speak about her novel, THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS, during one of our ACTION Adoption Service training sessions.  I had also attended several theatrical performances where Katrina played a psychologist assisting a patient through the horrors experienced both during the London Blitz of WWII, and years later on 9/11.  Katrina’s voice is captivating, and her spirit is invigorating, and infectious.

At this point I knew that my angel team was kicking in a God-wink.  Quintin and I discovered a movie he wanted to see (I did not) was at the same time, so we killed two birds with one stone. He hit the cinema, and I hit Books & Company.

As I grabbed my keys, preparing to leave the house, a song – one of my favorite songs – on Spotify began playing.  I sat down, and absorbed the message.

When a thing is wick, it has a life about it.
Now, maybe not a life like you and me.
But somewhere there’s a single streak of green inside it.
Come, and let me show you what I mean.

When a think is wick, it has a light around it.
Maybe not a light that you can see.
But hiding down below a spark’s asleep inside it,
Waiting for the right time to be seen.

You clear away the dead parts,
So the tender buds can form,
Loosen up the earth and
Let the roots get warm,
Let the roots get warm.

~ ~ ~

And all through the darkest nighttime,
It’s waiting for the right time.
When a thing is wick, it will grow!

The words to “Wick,” from THE SECRET GARDEN, was another God-wink for the day.

The workshop, led by Katrina Kittle and Kristina McBride, was my final remedy.  Within minutes of the workshop beginning, I realized the dead parts encasing my spirit were breaking through the earth.  That spark, as lyricist Marsha Norman explained in THE SECRET GARDEN, had been hiding down below, sleeping within… It was the right time.

After a meeting with a good friend I respect and admire, and another fun dinner with Quintin, I quickly returned home with the joy of the workshop’s reassurance beating within.  I opened my laptop, clicked on the file titled THE BIRD LET LOOSE, and opened the script.  Everything was familiar once again. There seemed to be a chorus of voices calling out from the pages, thrilled that I had returned. A reunion began.

It seems my angel team had led me, at the right time, to Sunday, January 8th, 2012.  Were Katrina and Kristina serving as angels?

Who can say.

For whatever reason, these two lovely ladies, as countless others throughout my life, were a piece of the puzzle that has continually courted me on this wonderful journey.  Perhaps some people, much like my family and teachers have always been, are the golden bricks that pave my own personal yellow bricked-road.

The passion is restored.  I am acknowledging, appreciating, and adoring my apprenticeship once again.

Can I say life is wonderful, and that I am so blessed?

You betcha!

“The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.” – Vince Lombardi

Well, in 45 minutes the curtain will come down on 2011 and promptly raise on 2012.

2011 was an interesting year. I read so many Facebook posts stating, “I’m so glad 2011 is almost over” or “2011 was such a bad year.” And on they go.

I honestly cannot say one year is any worse than another. It is what it is. It’s a year. It’s all about living, all about attitude, all about choices, and all about loving. I don’t see 2011 with any regrets. There were choices made based on facts presented, and actions taken. Life moved on through various scenarios, and the results were pretty much as calculated.

I kept busy as a dad, as a teacher, as a pet-dad, as a band parent, as a gardener and landscaper, as a musician, and as a person. It was a full year, and one on which I can look back upon with pride.

Several family members and friends passed on, and though saddened by their passing, I celebrate the time spent with them during my life’s journey. One particular departure saddened me greatly… my darling little Logan, my cat of 17.5 years. I miscalculated how deeply I would feel her passing, and miss her greatly.

Some new folks merged onto the Haasienda Highway this year, and I have thoroughly enjoyed their presence. Primarily, Navi and Chief, who joined us February 20th. Though exasperating as they travel merrily through puppyhood, they have already proved to be devoted, fun companions, as Flyer continues to remain.

Some folks elected to move on to other paths which I believe to be standard patterns in life… not everyone is meant to remain with us.  A few left prematurely, perhaps, but I respect their choices. And then there were some I disconnected their journey from mine, and I have no regrets. Some folks just need to be on a different path, just as I need to be on my own path. The ones I removed I celebrate as a blessing upon my path as I discovered they were poison leaking onto my path, just as they poisoned the journey of others.  I made the correct choice.

“We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

All in all, life is beautiful. The journey continues in this, my 48th year, and I am making plans for new ways to make the coming year(s) more exciting, turning the journey into an even more thrilling course.

Fifteen minutes remain of 2011. I am grateful for this past year of learning, living, and loving, and for all the many blessings rolled into many facts of life.

It was a very good year.

“With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

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This morning I happened to view Matt Lauer’s TODAY SHOW interview/reunion with the actors portraying the family from THE WALTONS.  It was refreshing and uplifting to see these familiar, albeit, older faces.  I found myself smiling throughout the interview as though the seven children and Mama Walton were seated right before me.

What a wonderful gift they offered this morning.

As I strolled through my well-rehearsed morning events of letting dogs out to potty, feeding dogs, giving a dog an insulin shot, pouring my coffee, reading my emails, etc., I kept thinking about THE WALTONS.  When I was a child there were two to three television programs on every night that I could not wait to see.  Forty years later, I generally find myself eager to watch ONCE UPON A TIME on Sunday evenings, and THE MIDDLE and MODERN FAMILY on Wednesdays.  That is it.  Nothing else really appeals to me.  Grant it, that allows more time to spend with my son doing homework, or other time-quality items, but I am still a little sad that my son cannot enjoy television the way I did in my youth.

What is more, we watched these television programs as a family.  This is how we do it in The Haasienda, as well.  As noted this morning by Matt Lauer to the WALTONS actors, “You sat down to dinner together.”  And yes, we sit down to dinner together in this house.

My mother did it that way, as did her parents.

Ma & Pa Ingalls did it that way.

Mama & Daddy Walton did it that way.

Mom & Dad Brady did it that way (but, damned if they didn’t have a maid serving their dinners!)

What was good enough for Mother, the Ingalls, the Waltons, the Bradys and countless other TV families is good enough for my family!

The families of the 1970’s had their own share of dysfunction, but it was all about the way they minimaliszed their dysfunction rather than highlighting it.  Grant it, there were those wonderful sitcoms, ALL IN THE FAMILY and THE JEFFERSONS, along with others, that highlighted their dysfunction, but in the end, their values always surfaced.  They also primed their dysfunction to be the comedic focus for each episode.  With the hideous reality programs, which I deplore, there is little resolution but plenty of notification that more sophomoric drama is to come.

I feel blessed to have grown up in an era where television was more value-centered, and less dysfunction-driven.  Those episodes, scenes, characters and theme songs are still with me today.

Why else would I take the time to blog about them when I should be cleaning the bathroom, doing laundry, mopping puppy-tracked floors, etc.?

Quintin was featured in HEARTLINES, the national newsletter for The Adoption Exchange.

Read the article here:  Heartlines Fall 2011

 

THE BEACON - Fairmont Firebird 2011 Marching Band Show

One of my favorite weekends is returning to Indianapolis for the BOA (Bands of America) Super Regionals held at Lucas Oil Stadium.  For the past four years, Kettering Fairmont High School’s Marching Band has competed in this competition, and it is always a nice opportunity for Mother, even my brother, and his family, to attend this event.

Returning to Indianapolis is always special for me.  From the time I was small, traveling thirty miles South to Indy was always a big treat, and an experience.  Even at 47 I am excited to visit this beautiful city, especially the familiar sites along Meridian Street.

I decided to forgo getting up too early to meet up with several Ball State University friends, and left Kettering by 9:00am.  I drove Westward on OH-725, which turns into IN-44, enjoying, and taking in all the fall colors along the highway.  Of course, there is even more pleasure passing through the wonderful little communities of Germantown, Camden, Liberty and Rushville.

Just outside Rushville, I stopped to pay my respects, and snap some photos of Wendell L. Willkie’s grave site.  Mr. Willkie was born, and grew up in my hometown of Elwood, Indiana where both his parents served as attorneys.  Mr. Willkie later moved to Rushville, and was nominated by the Republican Party to compete against President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1940.  Willkie returned to Elwood in August 1940 to officially accept the nomination.

Despite missing IN-52 that would have taken me directly to downtown Indy, I managed to pulled into the parking lot of Shapiro’s Deli, immediately behind Mother, who had been delayed due to a marathon on the Northside.

Shapiro’s Deli is one of my favorite eateries.  It has become our traditional lunch-site each BOA Saturday.  While eating, we ran into Dr. Joe & Mavis Barnett from Elwood, as well as several tables filled with parents from our fine neighbors from Centerville High School.

At Lucas Oil Stadium we had an hour before Fairmont’s scheduled performance.  I am glad we got to see Center Grove High School’s marching band.  My cousins, Kari Hallett Miller, and Eric Hallett, are alums of this outstanding band program.  Kari & Eric’s parents, Judy & Jerry, also taught at Center Grove for many years.  The entire Hallett family would have been proud of their marching band!  Outstanding performance.

Fairmont Firebirds took the field with what was, perhaps, their best performance of the season.  The process of evolving into the complete BOA-concept can be rather tedious, but Fairmont is making strong steady gains each year.  Breaking into the BOA album of yearly competitors is tough.

Quintin spent some time with Mother and I as we watched Avon High School Marching Band – always a treat – and our guest collegiate band in exhibition, The Purdue University Marching Band.  What a spectacular performance by 360 non-music majors.

The preliminary competition ended, and I drove Mother through most of the downtown Indy congestion to the Indiana War Memorial.  There I bid Mother a safe trip home, and then strolled down Meridian Street with my camera snapping away.  The sun was just preparing its final descent on the day, and what a nice touch nature added to the photographs.

With this annual visit to Indianapolis the marching band season officially comes to a close.  I am glad that we move on from the season, but I am always so grateful, and thrilled, that my sons experience one of the greatest highlights as did I when I was in high school.

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As I write this while sitting up in bed at my hospital table used for working mostly late into the night, Logan snuggles next to me. This is a familiar sight, and the warmth of her fur next to me is even more comfortable. When I pet her, I faintly hear that familiar purr that has always been a comfort, much like listening to the ocean’s waves crashing against the shore. It’s been familiar for the past seventeen years.

In June 1994, I decided it was time to get a pet. Since I traveled a good deal between Dayton and New York City, a dog would not have been practical. So, June 19th, I went to the home of a Centerville marching band family and selected the most energetic little male cat. In honor of my beloved mentor, Joshua Logan, I named the kitten “Mister Logan.”

For the first two months, while I waited to see if he would survive better than my indoor/outdoor plants, I took him to the veterinarian who convinced me I should probably just call the kitten, “Logan.” Mister Logan, as it turned out, was a girl. He asked for her birth date, and all I could remember was that she was born mid-April. “Pick a date,” he encouraged. So, I selected April 13th – Thomas Jefferson’s birthday.

Several months later I rushed through the door of the vet’s office, carrying Logan wrapped in a towel. Something had fallen on her that morning; she was crying loudly, and dragging her backside. “There’s nothing we can do for her, Mr. Haas.”   The tears began flowing down my cheek. When I asked if we should put her to sleep, the vet assistants, trying their best to stifle chuckles, assured me there was no need to put her down.

“Logan is fine. She’s in heat.”

I thanked the ladies, and then tucked Logan under my arm, walking out of the building with all the dignity I could muster.

Logan has always been popular with my students, and their families. When Benjamin Gross played the piano as a young 6 year old, Logan would lay across his lap, or stand to hug him. For some reason, Benjamin was Logan’s favorite.  When anyone sits in the living room, their laps are generally filled, for Logan has always hated to see an empty lap. When I work in my study, Logan loves to lay on the side of the L-shaped desk to keep me company, and when writing in my bedroom/sitting room, Logan is always by my side.

This morning, it is different. Logan, after seventeen years, and one day short of six months, is slipping away. She is comfortable, but her breathing has become a little more shallow. I lifted Flyer, who has been blind nearly a year, onto the bed to say, “good bye.” Flyer sniffed at Logan without a hissed rebuttal, and laid down on the bed by Logan. Navi and Chief sniffed Logan and seem to comprehend something is different this morning. Even the extra-playful Navi is subdued this morning, curled at the foot of the bed keeping watch.

August 2010, I was a mess as we prepared to put down Flyer who was suffering with pancreatitis, and assured by the vet she would not survive. Fortunately, Flyer did survive. The outpouring of affection for this dog was incredible. This morning it seems to be the same for Logan. Many have experienced her personality and antics for years, thus making her quite the popular cat.

At Stubbs Park and The Fraze Pavilion, Logan was a familiar presence during concerts, basking in the attention, and gobbling up any food offered her. On airplane travels to and from NYC, Logan always rested comfortably in my backpack stored under the seat in front of me. While Mother sat on my back patio drinking her morning coffee, she solved the mystery of Logan’s escapes from the townhouse: Logan opened the sliding screen-door, and closed it herself! While walking through a festival with Logan on my shoulder – a typical perch in her younger years – I heard a lady let out a light scream. I turned to see Logan eating her elephant ear which she was holding up as she walked through the crowd.

I had to purchase voice mail when it first came out because Logan knew how to press the correct buttons on my answering machine, thus erasing new messages. A year later, I had to remove numbers from the novelty of speed dialing on my new phone because Logan would press the speaker button and then hit a speed dial button to carry on a conversation with whomever answered. Several students got to witness Logan’s phone conversations, especially the Nienaber family.

The fond, memorable stories of Logan are countless. For seventeen years, I have been blessed with an incredible, fuzzy-faced companion, who will always hold a special place in my heart. Through the course of this blog’s post, she has continued to snuggled closer. I am sure she knows she is loved, and that she has been loved dearly for many years, and by many folks.

It’s been a great life for Logan, and for me. We have had wonderful times together – times that have turned into beautiful memories.

As one friend wrote on my Facebook page, “They are not just pets, they are family.”

And very shortly, the Jolliffe-Haas family will bid farewell to one whom I’ve jokingly referred to as “my first child.”

Good bye, little Pal… my beloved little Fuzzy Face.

Know you are loved…

This morning when I woke, I was greeted by another two dozen well-wishers.  Facbook’s new format cannot be too difficult, or too hateful, as I received over 700 birthday greetings.  I was so touched by the greetings, and some of the special comments that made the day all the more happy.  I am humbled by the enormous wave of affection that greeted me on my birthday.

Thank you!

This is a “listen” for all of us…

Derek Clark shared with Family By Design his triumphant life through 13 years of foster care and being declared mentally challenged to living the life of his dreams.  Derek now inspires and motivates foster youth, foster/adoptive parents, foster/adoption professionals, youth groups and business leaders all over the US.

Listen to Derek’s interview by clicking on this link: Interview with Derek Clark

I will be honest.

I only attend football games for the marching band.  Yes, I am now in my fifth year as a marching band parent so there is an incentive to get me to the games.  For me, I am paying $7 for a ticket to watch pre-game and half-time.  Later in the season, I will go to the game after half-time so I don’t have to pay $7 to watch the band’s post-game show.

I love baseball games and soccer games, but sadly, they generally do not have marching bands performing pre-game and half-time shows.

It’s not about the money.  It’s about – what is for me, personally – a waste of time.  I am one who likes to keep busy, and sitting through something that does not hold my attention is draining.  When I go to medical appointments or any place where I might find my self waiting, I have a book to read, or something to work on.  A football game is no different.  However, during a football game I generally go over to sit on the steps of the nearby school corporation’s administrative building to read or work.

Last night was an interesting night of football.

After the normal pre-pregame festivities of Step-Off, Entering the Stadium, and… (I guess that was it) I settled into my blue seat with a back next to a lovely lady and her trio of well-behaved, very polite daughters.  After a bit of chit-chat it was time for one of the most exciting (for me) parts of the evening.

The marching band took the field for pregame, and it was a special night because my son, Quintin, carrying two large cymbals, was marching for the first time.

My absolute favorite part of pregame is something that has become a tradition since it’s 2008 (I think) introduction: Script BIRDS.  The marching band moves to the backfield (visitor’s side for football folks) and winds its way out of a tightly packed blocked to spell out B I R D S in script formation.  This marching event was borrowed from The Ohio State University Marching Band’s Script OHIO and has become Fairmont’s crown jewel of the pregame excitement.

As I filmed the letters of BIRDS carefully connecting smoothly, out the corner of my eye I saw something that seemed to be caught somewhere between an impending disaster, and a video from America’s Funniest Videos: the Fairmont football team was plowing across the field at full force, heading directly toward the marching band just as it was completing the ‘D’ and preparing to move on to the ‘S’.  You could feel the fear wrap through the stands as the charging teammates barreled across the field seemingly blind to 200+ band members blocking their way.

Fortunately, the football players stopped within feet (possibly inches) at the edge of the ‘D’, dancing in place as they tried to figure this new formation.  The marching band continued moving through the team to form the ‘S’, and eventually, the football players realized they were in the way and moved to the sidelines while one player remained imprisoned by the forming ‘S’ (OK, that part was actually funny).

While this scene was playing out around the 30, over on the 50 the opposing team’s players had run onto the field but with a less crushing charge.  They hovered in the middle of BIRDS, bringing out a nasty chorus of “Boos” from the Fairmont stands.  Finally, the players were motioned off the field by zebra-striped officials.

Despite this game being the hottest competition of each opening season, the hottest topic was pregame’s near disaster.

For me, personally, the situation was over.  Thankfully, no one was injured (later in the game there was a band injury).  It was the first time since the band began doing Script BIRDS that there was ever an incident on the field – to my knowledge.  However, there was widespread grumbling in the stands, and beneath the stands, and not just from current, and former band parents.

The pre-speculation was to blame the football team for “being so stupid.”

Now, anyone who is mildly acquainted with well-practiced athletic teams and marching bands know that someone had to give the order to move.  I honestly could not see the team deliberately charging its own marching band.  I am sure this happens in some schools, but from my vantage point, the Fairmont directors and coaches have always appeared to have a mutual respect for one another, and this has always seemed the case with the students in both organizations.

Then, the blame was being sourced out to the coaches of both teams – but mainly to our coach whose players could have caused the most harm.

All I cared about, up to half-time, was heading home to rest, and download my photos for my mother to see (she is always proud of her grandsons).

While getting my popcorn, more out of boredom than hunger, one former band parent asked what I thought caused the near-onslaught of our band members.  My first reaction, kept to my self, was, “Why does my opinion even matter?  This is just part of your drama-ensued nature, Lady.” (You’d have to know this lady!)  Instead, I said that I was glad all was well, and turned to give my order – and thankfully, the parent followed my dismissal.

The next band parent, following me up the stadium ramp and stairs, asked, “What do you think caused the pregame incident?”

“Obama,” I tossed back over my shoulder.  “Everything seems to be his fault these days.  I say it’s Obama’s fault our kids nearly got crushed.”

He laughed and went to his seat.   I went to mine.

Later, on a Facebook post, the band director did note that it was the head official’s (ref) decision to send the football team in too soon.  

The score board indicated the first quarter was not over… one more quarter and then it would be half-time.

A gentleman seated two rows behind me must have been the same guy who sits with a group of drunk pals at Elsa’s restaurant in Kettering whenever there is a game playing on the large screen.  He is THAT guy that has the loudest, most penetrating voice, and is THAT guy who knows everything about the coach’s job.  Most are referred to as “arm chair quarterbacks.”  I simply refer to them as ‘loud-mouth, drunken asses.”  The LMDA behind me did not sound intoxicated, but was certainly loud and obnoxious.

However, he did something that makes me want to turn, and create a Jerry Springer moment in public.  He belittled players when they did not succeed with a play on the field.  This bullying behavior from spectators is wrong in any venue, but I find it severely inappropriate behavior when teenagers, or younger, are playing the game.  This kind of behavior should be always be removed from any game.  Finally, one of the folks across the aisle rose to say something privately to the LMDA.

The cutest moment was listening to the elderly couple directly behind me.

The visiting team’s band was attempting to perform their half-time presentation, but were held up by technical difficulties (electricity to their keyboard).  The couple suddenly became Howard Cosells with play-by-play commentary which cracked me up.  The seriousness invested in their comments made it all the more rich.

“I’ve still got that extension cord in the truck.  Should I go get it and offer it to them?”

“You mean the cord you used when you went to fix Helma’s porch light?”

“Hmm Hmm.  She just needed a new light.”

“Why didn’t you bring it in?”

“I forgot.”

The visiting band began their show, but directed it to their fans, and not to the Fairmont side.

“I’ve never seen a band march with the backs to the crowd.”

“Something new I suppose.”

“Why do they have lamp posts on the field?”

“Maybe some school football bleachers don’t have good lighting.”

“But they are not lit.”

“I should have gotten my extension cord.  Could’ve lit at least one or two of their lamps.”

Finally, it was Fairmont’s turn to take the field.  At the close of their presentation, the marching band moved towards the stands playing the fight song.  The lady behind me, having apparently forgotten about the lighting situation from the previous band, says, “I don’t like it when those one horns slide up.”

“They’re slide trombones, for Christ’s sake.”

And with that chuckle, I slid down the steps to make my retreat home.

An eventful game, indeed.

This note to band parents just arrived from the band director:

A few items “for the record”

  • The Band did a great job – Congratulations!
  • The Head Referee told our football players they had to take the field, however his timing was not in alignment with the planned game schedule the FHS athletic dept had published
  • The Alter football team was instructed to NOT go to center field but to angle over to the sideline
  • Band Student name withheld, who was tackled during the drum line 3rd quarter was checked out by the EMT at the game and is OK. He is here for donation day today.  This was an unfortunate accident and we will take measures to correct this for next week.
  • Thanks to all students, parents, and staff for a “memorable” first game!

It was so cool this morning and this afternoon that I set a box fan just outside my study so it would push in some cool air.

Chief kept walking in front of the fan, nudging his nose in the air toward the fan when he would return to the deck where he snores away much of his outdoor time.

This afternoon I realized I was receiving no air from the box fan and discovered it was turned around.

I re-positioned it and Chief whined a little (now remember, this is the same big lug that threw himself on the floor with whimpers when he thought he was not getting a treat one evening).

I returned to my desk, and out the corner of my eye I see Chief rise, saunter over to the fan like he was Merv Griffin entering the studio, nudge it with his nose until he turned it back towards where he chose to lay.

I am still sitting here howling!

Chief is also aware that there is a ton of activity happening on the other side of the privacy fence now that school has resumed. He simply lifts him self onto the glass top table on the deck to sit and observe.

A year ago we were in the process of bidding farewell to Flyer… she’s had a semi-difficult year, but she’s still just as sweet, and full of love!

Garry “Todd” Jolliff

Jan. 30, 1964 — July 2, 2011

The Herald Bulletin

ALEXANDRIA, Ind. — Garry “Todd” Jolliff, 47 of Alexandria, died July 2, 2011, at St. John’s Medical Center in Anderson. He was born Jan. 30, 1964, in Elwood.

On Sept. 9, 1984, he married Laurie A. Lundy.

He worked at Borg-Warner Company in Muncie for 10 years; retiring in 1994.

Todd attended Elwood Community High School, Hinds Vocational School and Ivy Tech College.

He was a member of the National Rifle Association, Alexandria Eagles Lodge and U.A.W. He was an avid gun, knife, and coin collector. Todd enjoyed fishing and spending time with his immediate family and his grandchildren.

Survivors include his wife, Laurie A. (Lundy) Jolliff of Alexandria; mother, Judy (Everling) and husband, Terry Shepard of Fairmount; two daughters, Collette (Nathan) Watson and Jacklyn Jolliff (companion, Brian Peyton), all of Alexandria; two sons, Garry L. Jolliff (companion, Carrie Jones) and Austin R. Jolliff, all of Alexandria; sister, Traci (Wayne) Harrell of Marion; seven grandchildren; great-grandmother, Arlene Everling of Greentown; and two nephews.

Todd was preceded in death by his father, Garry D. Jolliff; grandmother, Rosemary Bateman; and grandfathers, Adam Mroz, James Bateman and Pete Everling.

Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Copher-Fesler-May Funeral Home, 415 S. Anderson St., Elwood, officiated by Pastor Todd Bryant. Burial will take place at Knox Chapel Cemetery, Fairmount.

Visitation 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday at the funeral home.

Memorial contributions may be made, through the funeral home, to: Austin Jolliff’s College Fund.

Post online condolences at: copherfeslermay.com.

July 4th, 2007, Jose and I were present for the naturalization ceremony that took place on the expansive lawn of Monticello, the mountaintop plantation of President Thomas Jefferson.  It was a poignant moment for me since this was also the dual-death anniversary of two American icons – Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.

That morning, following the swearing-in ceremony, motion picture and television great, Sam Waterston gave the address.  I found it incredibly moving, and it has stayed with me to this day.

Tonight, Jose is working on an essay for his US Government class: What Makes A Good Citizen?

It came to us that a good starting point for his essay would be to read Mr. Waterston’s remarks from nearly four years ago.

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Sam Waterston’s Remarks at Monticello, July 4th, 2007

It’s wonderful to be here and a privilege, indeed, to congratulate you, the heroes of the moment in the great work of making and sustaining a government that derives its authority from individual liberty.

My father came to this country from Scotland via England, and became a citizen. He knew beforehand that the ceremony was going to be a significant event. Even so, he wasn’t prepared for the emotional power it had for him. He became a citizen in a group like this, neither very large nor very small. The ceremony’s power multiplied with their numbers. Everyone in his batch of new citizens was moved for themselves, my father included, but they were all overwhelmed by each other, new members of a centuries old tide of migration here to the ’empire of liberty’. It lifted them out of what we mistakenly call ordinary life into the realization that properly understood, life is grand opera, as one is sometimes made aware by a wedding, or the birth of a child.

Something like that, momentous and every-day, is afoot here. Brand new Americans are being made, and I’m delighted to be here to celebrate my father’s becoming an American citizen through your becoming American citizens, and your becoming American citizens through celebrating him, and through all of you, the rest of us, who were lucky to be given what you reached for and took. It’s delightful. We are all lucky, the old citizens in what we got for free, and you, the ones, in knowing what it’s worth. We have a lot to tell one another. Congratulations. Bravo. Yay. The conversation begins now.

Monticello is a beautiful spot for this, full as it is of the spirit that animated this country’s foundation: boldness, vision, improvisation, practicality, inventiveness and imagination, the kind of cheekiness that only comes with free-thinking and faith in an individual’s ability to change the face of the world — it’s easy to imagine Jefferson saying to himself, “So what if I’ve never designed a building before? If I want to, I will.”) — to make something brand new out of the elements of an old culture, be it English Common Law or Palladian Architecture. With its slave quarters and history, it’s also a healthy reminder that our old country, your new country, for all its glory, has always had feet of clay, and work that needed doing.

So it’s good that you’ve come, fresh troops and reinforcement. We old citizens could use some help.

It’s a glorious day, making allowances for the heat. It’s the Fourth of July, the 181st Anniversary of the deaths of the second and third Presidents of the United States, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson, the individual who impertinently designed this house. It’s a double birthday, of the country, and of your citizenship. A great American Supreme Court Judge, Oliver Wendell Holmes, describing a similar day, said that it looked as if “God had just spit on his sleeve and polished up the universe till you could almost see your face reflected in it.”

We know all the beauty of this day wasn’t arranged exclusively for those of us gathered here, we’re reasonable people, but you who are about to become citizens here, are within your rights to look at it all and see your own faces reflected there, as Justice Holmes said, because it really is a place and time made for you. You’re joining a country already in motion that looks for your effect on it, so that it can better know what it needs to become, for tomorrow.

Welcome. We need you. There’s much to be done.

My talk is, effectively, your graduation address, and every good graduation address begins with a call to the graduates to help the world they are entering discover its future. Consider yourselves called. And if the sea that’s America looks large in comparison to the size of your ship, don’t be dismayed. Let Thomas Jefferson be our example:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”. The words are so familiar, so potent, so important, so grand and fine, it’s hard to believe that a person, any single person, actually wrote them, picked up a pen, dipped it in ink, and, on a blank white sheet, made appear for the first time what had never before existed in the whole history of the world. By scratching away at the page, he called a country into being, knowing as he wrote that the country was no more than an idea, and the idea might, at any instant, be erased and destroyed, and the United States of America become just another sorry footnote in the history of suppressed rebellions against tyranny…. And went on writing. You can’t help but be impressed by all that that one person, and the small group of individuals around him, not much larger than your group of new citizens, won for so many.

I guess you can see where I’m headed.

Abraham Lincoln called ours “Government of the people, by the people, for the people.” I claim that the word ‘people’, as used there, stands for a great many individuals, rather than for a collective. It wasn’t a mob, but individuals acting in a group that made this country up out of whole cloth. These are just the sort of people the country needs now, individuals acting together for the common good.

How apt, how opportune, that you should come to join us just now.

Theodore Roosevelt said, “The foundation stone of national life is, and ever must be, the high individual character of the average citizen.” That understates the case: the United States — a participatory democracy is one way political scientists describe it — counts on its citizens turning out to be above average, like all the students in Lake Woebegone.

And that’s where you come in.

Thomas Jefferson’s fragile idea looks pretty solid now, with all the history and highways and airports, and webs of all kinds tying us together. But for all the building and bulldozing, the wealth, and the resources, the United States is still a contract among individuals around an idea. If the saying is, ‘contracts are made to be broken’, we want this one to hold, which requires all hands to be on deck.

That’s where you come in. You come in from Togo; Bosnia-Herzegovina; Canada and Peru; Afghanistan, India, and Mexico; China, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom; Croatia, El Salvador, Ghana, the Philippines, and Vietnam; Argentina, Bangladesh, Belgium, Chile, Colombia, Congo, Guatemala, Iran, Italy, Jamaica, Poland, Romania, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, and Turkey — The names themselves a poem about all the migrating peoples who come here. The United States may seem like a fixed star, but it isn’t. It is a relationship between citizens and an idea, and, like all relationships, it changes with the people in it. Its past is always up for reargument; its present is constantly unfolding, complex, a continuum of surprises; and the future is yet to be written. A country is alive, or it’s history. As long as this country endures, it will always be in search of how to understand itself and where to go from here.

That’s where you come in. That’s where we come in.

We all need to exercise our lungs in the discussion: what does our past mean, what are we to do now, and what will be our future? This is not a job just for the talking heads on TV and the politicians. Nor for moneyed interests, nor for single-issue movements. As the WWI recruiting poster said, “Uncle Sam needs you”, needs us.

You just heard John Charles recite the three cardinal rights that no one may take from us, to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”. As newly minted citizens, they were already familiar.

But my question is for the rest of us, the ones who are citizens already. In the midst of the interests and pressures of our own lives, don’t we leave a good deal of Life and Liberty to the Government to attend to, so we may concentrate full-time on the Pursuit of Happiness?

Don’t we too often think of our part as being to vote, occasionally, not in very great numbers, and only if there’s time and inclination, to keep up with the news, if it’s amusing and entertaining, but, like the man in the song who was hardly ever sick at see, never, never, well, hardly ever interfere, as individuals, with the work of the politicians?

But if this be so, or partly so, would that be a reason to be concerned? History shows that America is the all-time greatest self-correcting nation. It almost seems to be both a perpetual motion machine and a self-righting machine. Why would any sensible citizen and patriot want to throw a wrench in the works, or try to fix what isn’t broken?

I would like to suggest that if we think this way even a little, we have the wrong idea. We are greatly mistaken to think sharing our views with the television set and our husbands and wives, and voting a little, is enough. Don’t you who are new pick up these bad habits from us.

America has been marvelously able to correct its course in the past because the founding idea — of individual freedom expressed through direct representation — has stirred its citizens to participate, and interfere. Information from the people makes the government smarter. Insufficient information from us makes it dumber. Or, as Abraham Lincoln more elegantly expressed it, ” Why should there not be a patient confidence in the ultimate justice of the people? Is there any better or equal hope in the world?” Leaders, if they are wise, will be patient. But we mustn’t try their patience too much. For us, finding that ultimate justice means thinking and talking until we reach it, and continuing to speak until the politicians understand it.

We may not leave it to the three branches of government to sort things out, to bring us the right questions for decision, to make the right decisions themselves.

Never has that statement been truer than now. Our national politics have stalled over a quarter of a century over very large issues, including immigration, social security, health care, and especially, since it affects the countries you’ve left, the country you’re joining, and all the countries in between, the health of the planet. War has both parties running to extremes.

If you think the problems are not any more urgent, or the discord any worse, than normal, then, well, I disagree, but my point remains: in our country, things are ‘normal’ only when your voices are clearly heard. The old model of our citizenly relation to politics was of a group of people under a tree, taking turns on the stump all day, discussing the issues of the time. The old model was the town meeting where every citizen can have their say. Old citizens like me hope that between you and the Internet the old model will get a new lease on life.

Whether you work within the Democratic or Republican parties, or join in supporting a bi-partisan ticket for 2008 as I have, in an effort to drive the parties to work together and to show them how it’s done, do do something.

From your first breath as an American citizen, make it known what matters to you.

We can’t let ourselves become mere units of statistical analysis. It appears to be so, that if you ask any 1000 Americans their views on anything, you’ll have a pretty good idea what all Americans think. You might almost conclude that individuals didn’t matter at all anymore.

But then here you come in, and prove the opposite.

By individual choice and individual effort, you traveled the miles, and did the work required, to arrive here today to join the country whose whole monumental structure rests on personal freedom. Will you make yourselves content to become a mere grain of sand in a vast statistical ocean?

Don’t be discouraged by the odds. It isn’t all determinism and the tide of history. An individual can up-end what is determined, and speed or reverse the tide. The man on whose estate we stand, by pushing his pen across a blank page, proved that.

Besides, the science of statistics has another aspect. It appears that the most reliable way to know who will win the next election or whether the stock market will go up or down is to ask as many people as possible to make a bet about it. Their bets often tell more than all the opinions of the pundits and economists, politicos and market watchers. It turns out Lincoln was right about the ‘ultimate wisdom of the people’. But here’s the catch: if you don’t make yourself heard, your bet can’t be counted.

“Men may be trusted to govern themselves without a master,” as Jefferson predicted. But will we, by our silence, indifference, or inaction, give the trust away, cede it to the wealthy, present it to the entrenched, hand it off to the government, entrust it to any process or procedure that excludes our voices? It could happen.

“As a nation of freemen,” Abraham Lincoln said, “we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”

That’s where we all come in.

As graduating citizens, you will know how the government is set up: the justly familiar separation of powers, the well-known system of checks and balances, and the famous three branches of government: the executive branch, the judicial branch, and the legislative branch.

If these are the branches, what is the tree? Do not think it’s the government.

We are the tree from which the government springs and spreads into its three branches. Every citizen is part of the root system, part of the trunk, no mere twig or leaf. Help our government never to forget it.

We have to bring energy, action, participation, and money to the three branches, or they get no nourishment, and nothing will prevent them from becoming brittle and dry, and unfruitful.

I hope you don’t waste all the time I have in figuring out how a citizen should relate to his government. Talk to it. Tell it what you like. Tell it what you don’t like. Vote, of course. Think about what you want our future to look like. Let the government know. Roll up your sleeves, stick out your chin, sharpen your elbows, get in the middle of things, make them different.

You will be bound to get a lot of things wrong. That’s what we do. But the possibility of error is no excuse for being quiet, and I say this on the good authority of past Presidents:

“Man was never intended to become an oyster.”

That’s Theodore Roosevelt talking.

“Get action. Seize the moment,” he said, and he also said, “The credit belongs to the man…. who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who… spends himself for a worthy cause”

And President Thomas Jefferson wrote,

“The evils flowing from the duperies of the people [— that is, the ignorant errors of folks like you and me —] are less injurious than those from the egoism of their agents [ — that is, the arrogant errors of those who speak and act for us].”

So it turns out citizenship isn’t just a great privilege and opportunity, though it is all that, it’s also a job. I’m sorry to be the one to bring you this news, so late in the process. But don’t worry, it’s a great job. Everything that happens within this country politically, and everywhere in the world its influence is felt, falls within its province. It’s a job with a lot of scope. You’ll never be able to complain again about being bored at work. As we multiply our individual voices, we multiply the chances for our country’s success.

Which is where we all come in.

May your initiation here be a reminder to us all to put the participation back into ‘participatory democracy’.

May all our citizenship be individual, unflagging, and vocal, and may our old country, your new country, so prosper.

There’s lots to do. All hands on deck. Members of the class of 2007: Congratulations. God bless you. Let us hear from you.

Without going into detail, I can honestly say, “I am glad last week is behind me.”

I truly value my younger brother, Destin, all the more, as a shining example of what our nation’s education needs in the leadership arena. Had it not been for my brother’s guidance, and encouraging coaching, I could have been hopelessly frustrated dealing with less than prompt communication, and condescending administrators who inferred I did not know “my shit.” Oh, well… at least those with whom I will be closely working were far more satisfactory and enthusiastic in their approach.

Of course, I am baffled that my older son’s high school counselor can be utterly ineffective, and a piss poor example of educational counseling at its finest! Thank heavens for counselor-friends who came to our aide these past six months.

Destin is a gem in every sense of the word. I am so delighted his school corporation, his community, other Hoosier administrators, and state officials recognize his knowledge, talent, and leadership skills. Destin is gifted, and understands his duty of sharing these gifts where they are needed. His photo seems to appear frequently in newspapers for his fine work, and the letters from parents, students, teachers and other administrators I have been fortunate to read are thrilling. The respect, affection and adoration is impressive. While others know him as teacher, principal, superintendent, chairperson, board member, son, husband, daddy, son-in-law, brother-in-law, uncle, cousin, Mr. Haas, Moose, Moosie, Coach, friend, pal, cut-up, class clown, the only senior to take 30+ college days without visiting one college, student… I feel as though I have one of the most honored connections to this towering figure… he’s my brother.

My students were also a blessing this week! I could lay aside the exasperation of dealing with individuals, and corporations, while studying up on IDEA and other federal education guidelines, and simply immerse my self in the music of my students. And then, this was often followed by fun times with my sons at dinner, and doing other things together.

Friday afternoon, my students seemed to relax me even more. And of course, it was the official start of the weekend.

Quintin and I drove to ACTION Adoption Services. En route, I finally had a chance to call Mother and spend some time with her on the phone. Upon arriving at ACTION, Quintin sat in the front hallway entertaining other adopted children with his guitar, while I taught a class of prospective adoptive parents. The topic was “Cultural Diversity.” It does seem to be an appropriate class for me, and a fun topic I am beginning to enjoy, more and more. Last night’s class was particularly fun, and the thoughts shared by the class was quite exhilarating. Interestingly, we had an African American couple of mixed races, and a woman from Cambodia. This certainly made the class’s sharing all the more meaningful as we were all reaching within to share our thoughts, beliefs, ideas, and hopes about bringing other races, ethnicities and cultures closer together.

Even more exciting is when I see my sons with other adopted children from ACTION families – Now, this is true cultural diversity!

Today, I am taking Quintin, who is becoming more affectionately known as “Kitten” by all, to a guitar audition at church for one of the bands. I am excited for Quintin to begin his first actual step into music.

This week was exasperating, yet so refreshing in a number of ways. I learned that I can continue to be resilient, and that I still have much capacity to learn new things – even topics (educational law) that are not as thrilling to my interests of history and music. I think we all benefit from remembering the story of David & Goliath when confronted with issues that may appear overwhelming, and even unobtainable. Attitude. It all stems from “attitude.”

And, of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a kid brother who is “Kick Ass” in every possible way!

Photos:

  • My brother, Destin, and his beautiful wife, Stacia
  • Quintin & Jose with friends from ACTION Adoption Services

Everything has its season
Everything has its time
Show me a reason and I’ll soon show you a rhyme
Cats fit on the windowsill
Children fit in the snow
Why do I feel I don’t fit in anywhere I go?

December 31st is always a day for reflection, and this day seems particularly meaningful… several additions to our family… several farewells… wonderful students and their families… several students moving on to college while many former students moved to New York City or into teaching positions… and always, more personal growth.

Rivers belong where they can ramble
Eagles belong where they can fly
I’ve got to be where my spirit can run free
Got to find my corner of the sky

The first four months of 2010 were difficult.

Just a few days into the new year a dear cousin, who had been somewhat of a hero throughout my childhood, passed away with pancreatic cancer. Steve Daughterty was an incredible individual, and is sadly missed.

Life brings on a natural drama, but often, people prefer to create drama.  Those are the individuals with whom I can do without, and through the course of this year, I have distanced my self, and my family, from those who prefer to infest their poor life choices and hideous personal drama into my family’s life.   The events of the first four months strengthened us as a family, and secured the understanding that our family does come first.  And life has been grand!  However, we were greatly aided last April by several loving, caring, and dedicated family friends.

Every man has his daydreams
Every man has his goal
People like the way dreams have
Of sticking to the soul
Thunderclouds have their lightning
Nightingales have their song
And don’t you see I want my life to be
Something more than long….

Sadly, I cannot remember much about this past Spring and Summer.  I know we had a ton of fun going to musicals, concerts, visiting family in Indiana, spending time with family friends here in Dayton, and kicking off Jose’s fourth, and final year of marching band.  We enjoyed visits to  Carillon Park, as well as many hours of hiking, and canoeing at Old River Park.

Rivers belong where they can ramble
Eagles belong where they can fly
I’ve got to be where my spirit can run free
Got to find my corner of the sky

June and July were somewhat busy with graduated students prepping for college.  I was also updating my home study through ACTION Adoption, half-heartedly, as I was not as hopeful of finding the right son to adopt.  Those roads seemed hopelessly closed.

The first of August I delivered Jose to his final marching band camp.  It was a tad bit wistful, but I also knew that the fall would bring on several more endings… so this was just the first.  Mother drove over to Dayton to celebrate the end of band camp with the parents’ show.

Then tragedy struck… August 24th, our beloved dog, Flyer, became gravely ill, and was suffering from pancreatitis.  We were told she would only have a few days with us, but through combined determination from our family, dear family friends and students, and tons of nursing, Flyer pulled through it.  By Labor Day she was acting as though nothing had ever happened.

The annual Labor Day Haasienda Celebration had adjustments due to my sister-in-law having three weeks remaining in her pregnancy.  Still, Mother made the trip, and Monday we enjoyed the parade and what has become our traditional potluck at the Lockharts’ home afterward.

With the start of school, the marching band season kicked into full gear. There were football games on Fridays and competitions on Saturdays through November.

The highlight of September came on the 21st and the 24th.

September 21st, my sister-in-law, Stacia, gave birth to a beautiful niece, Carolyne. Fortunately, that Saturday, my 46th birthday, was marching band contest-free, so Jose, Mother and I spent the day in Fowler with Destin, Stacia, Parker, Freddie and Carolyne.

September 24th, I spoke with a case worker from New Mexico who wanted to consider the prospects of matching me with a 15 year old Navajo boy on whom I had sent an interest form.

So many men seem destined
To settle for something small
But I won’t rest until I know I’ll have it all
So don’t ask where I’m going
Just listen when I’m gone
And far away you’ll hear me singing
Softly to the dawn:

Marching band and adoption took over my life throughout October and November.  As marching band began to wind down, the adoption process began to wind up.

October 22nd, Jose and I, along with several other matching band parents of senior members, walked across the football field for senior night.  Two Fridays later, I was fully matched with Quintin, and two hours later, with my full support, Jose was enlisted with the Ohio National Guard.

Life was changing, and what blessings these changes were becoming.  A new son was joining our family, and Jose was establishing the start of a childhood dream – to be in the military.

The following week, Jose performed in his last marching band competition at Lucas Oil Stadium, and completed his last band concert.  Thanksgiving was spent with Mother, and then on to Fowler for Freddie’s birthday celebration.

Within five days, Jose and I flew to Albuquerque, New Mexico to meet Quintin, his foster family, and the wonderful folks at Red Mountain Family Services.  We had one of the most remarkable, and memorable trips.

December 10th, Quintin and his foster dad, Jun, joined us in Dayton for the weekend.

And then December 20th finally arrived… Mother, Jose and I drove to Dayton International Airport to bring Quintin home.  We had a beautiful candle lighting ceremony led by New Mexico worker, Janis Melendez, witnessed by family and members of our god-parent team.

The past eleven days have been so fulfilling with the arrival of Quintin, many kindnesses shown our family by my students and their families, Christmas in Indiana, fun times with family friends here in the Miami Valley, and now, our final day of 2010.

Our family is finding its own corner of the sky as we journey into 2011.  I am thrilled for the prospects of this coming year, and am eager to get it started.  I have my own personal goals, and corners of the sky I will establish, and will continue to assist my sons in establishing their own corners.  Jose will graduate and leave for basic and advanced training with the military.  Quintin will start a new life entirely with many promises of new adventures.

Rivers belong where they can ramble
Eagles belong where they can fly
I’ve got to be where my spirit can run free
Got to find my corner of the sky

So here is to a new year… a continued journey with many opportunities and thrilling adventures… the continuation of my family… the continuation of my brother’s family… and many more wonderful experiences – those anticipated, and those unexpected.

Many blessings to all our wonderful family and friends…

Love,

Darin, Jose & Quintin

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It is 14-degrees, and the air has a brutal, bitter bite. I delivered Jose to his National Guard drill at 7:30am, and the sky was heavy with frost.

Last night I taught a pre-adoption class at ACTION Adoption Services, and it dealt “grief, loss and separation.” It’s a tough topic to teach, and one of my least favorites because of it’s heavy nature.

On the way to ACTION, Jose and I were talking, and we discussed some of his own past, and how he is still dealing with certain things. As we continued our way to the agency, it occurred to me that my own life was not far removed from my son’s.

My own birth father was an alcoholic, and abandoned my family when I was eleven. I don’t think that sense of abandonment from a parent ever truly leaves one. Despite having a fantastic grandfather (Leroy Barmes) and uncles (Garry Jolliff, Ron & Tom Barmes) who often stepped in to fill this empty role in my life, I was still missing having a real dad of my own.

Perhaps that is why my sons are adopted around the same age I was when we were abandoned. Whatever the reason, at least I get to be the dad I never had, and for this I am so blessed.

We arrived at the agency and as I was signing in, it dawned on me that it was the 26th anniversary of my birth father’s death… almost to the minute.

Twenty-six years ago there was little consideration for the loss. Mother had just remarried, I was making great strides in college, and the events that dropped before me in 1984 were opportunities to start life over again. A fresh new start with renewed hope built upon the foundation established by my mother.

And a fresh start it was…

The topic of last night’s class dealt with how we work with hurt children, and how we offer them fresh start’s. When we discussed birth parents, I explained to the prospective adoptive parents that so often, the birth parents are not necessarily bad people – they have just made bad choices. My birth father had a number of good qualities, but he just did not have all the tools he needed in life due to his own childhood, and the alcoholism that preceded his own generation.

Twenty-six years later, even after moving on to wonderful careers and sharing life with our wonderful families, my brother, Destin, and I have changed the course of our paternal history. We possess many traits of our birth father, and rightfully so. I do recall the affection, and tenderness he generously shared when I was young, and I see that component shining through Destin, and myself. Destin and I have a deep passion for history, and that, too, was something our birth father dearly loved.

Monday, my newest son arrives. While being “Dad,” I also have the responsibility of assisting Quintin on his own journey of moving on. Sometimes this is easy, and other times it is a challenge. Quintin is chomping at the bit to move on, and desperately wants this new start at life. I am sure my sons look at me, never believing that I was once in their shoes. It will, once again, be my turn to share life tools with a new son, and the opportunity to fortify, even rebuild if necessary, his own foundation.

I am so grateful that I was afforded the opportunity to move on in my own life. Even more, I am grateful and blessed to assist my own sons in their journeys of moving on.

Everything happens for a reason. Of this, I am quite certain.

Once upon a time I was a part of The Pepsi Generation.

Now, honestly, I have no idea what that meant, but as a young child, the commercials told me I belonged to this exclusive fraternity of young, vibrant individuals. Even before Michael Jackson added his own twist to the New Pepsi Generation, I generally had a ‘Pepsi Day’ because I was hip.

At forty-six, I still consider myself a member of The Pepsi Generation, knowing that in several decades I will probably be a part of The Poligrip Generation. God knows I often have Metamucil Moments in the middle of Kroger.

As a forty-six year old, hip, vibrant dad, I am sadly removed from The Texting Generation. In fact, I don’t know that I wish to be a part of this generation as I am just finding it somewhat rude.

Last night, while attending a wonderful holiday concert at the high school, I looked around where I was seated and eleven students had their phones out, texting away, while their fellow students/musicians were performing. They may as well have been talking openly during the music (and some were).

First of all, the lights from the cell phones were distracting, especially when the phones were whipped out. It was like a field of fire-flies!

Last month, my eldest son encouraged me to get unlimited texting on our family plan since he generally had to pay hefty fees back to Dad for extensive texting. I have tried to encourage more “voice time” rather than texting, but I am clearly non-texting/voicing to a stone wall. I am not trying to lead a revolt against texting, mind you, but I do hope to instill a strong sense of etiquette, especially when in public.

I, like so many other parents, see the cell phone slide out of the hoodie pocket, and under the table as though it is not noticeable. With a second teenage son arriving in two days, I will be addressing the new Cell Phone Generation at the Haasienda. I did express to my teenage private students that cell phones are forbidden in lessons, and now, it is time to address it on the home-front.

I have some trepidations about enforcing cell phone etiquette because so many adults abuse it, as well. I think texting is a fantastic means of communication for short messages providing it is completed in the right place.

One of my favorite examples is my friend, Valerie Lockhart. Through marching band season, I was Darin Jolliffe-Haas-Lockhart, and was always seated next to Mike & Val at games and contests. If I was arriving after they had selected seats, Val would text me to let me know where they were. Even last night at the Holiday Concert, Val sent me a text to let me know where they were seated. How convenient is texting for these moments when it would be impossible to talk over several hundred people!

What has been irritating lately is how insensitive, and even rude some of my son’s friends are when they know we are sharing family moments. While in New Mexico visiting my new son, the current son’s cell phone was whipped out of his pocket like watching gun-slingers in an old John Wayne movie. These teenagers knew we were on an important family mission, yet it did not matter. I suggested, several times, that my son remind his friends that we were trying to enjoy some family time and that his friends could wait… but it fell on deaf ears. I would look around at other families in the restaurants, and their teens (even the parents) were glued to their cell phones.

This may be acceptable for some families, but I have decided that for the Jolliffe-Haas family, we need to adopt cell/texting etiquette. After all, cell phones are a privilege, and do not fit in with the guidelines of what we, as parents, must provide our children: food, shelter, education, medical care, and love.

This morning, I looked up cell/texting etiquette, and discovered I am not alone. Here are some of the suggestions from fellow parents:

  • Common courtesy still rules.
    • Contrary to popular belief, composing an SMS while you’re in a face-to-face conversation with someone is just about as rude as taking a voice call.
  • Teens (and adults) need to understand that they should never, ever, text one friend while they are spending time with another.
    • That’s rude and can make for hurt feelings.
    • Text messaging and cell phone etiquette requires teens to think about how their actions make other people feel.
  • No texting while in:
    • class
    • church
    • a movie
    • a concert/show
    • funeral
    • wedding
    • public dining out (or home, for that matter – a family dinner is a social event and not an ingestion event)
    • public setting where one’s attention should be focused on others
  • Texting should be for simple, quick messages to provide information – not to be engaging in full conversations.
    • If that’s the case – call the other person and have a conversation.
  • Along with cells, IPods will be addressed, as well.
    • During face-to-face conversations, or in family/public gatherings, the IPods are turned off and earphones removed from both ears… no single earphone wedged into one ear while the other dangles down the chest.

Well…

I know this all sounds great on paper, but I am sure will be a slight revolt from the teenage sons… and maybe not.

I just keep reminding myself of something my mother said to a friend who complimented my two older sons and nephews when they were eating at a local hometown restaurant. The friend told Mother how polite, and well-mannered her four grandsons were. Mother smiled, and said, “Thank you. I raised their parents.”

The adventure began at 9:00am this morning as we crossed to northwest Albuquerque to hike through Petroglyph National Park – a dead volcano with 6000 year old Native American drawings on the rocks. The two hours of hiking was so enjoyable, and breathtaking. Looking out over the canyon, and seeing mountains in the distance was a terrific.

As we got ready to get into the car, Jose turned to Quintin, and asked, “Hey Kitten, you want to ride shot gun with the Old Man?”

So, all day long Jose called Quintin “New Guy,” or “Kitten” – but mostly, “Kitten.”

We left Petroglyph National Park and drove a mile over to Quintin’s middle school – wow! Impressive!

We drove over to Old Town – the historic section of Albuquerque, settled in 1706.

We went into the old cathedral that was filled with beautiful artwork, and then walked to a great tiny diner that was in the rear of an art/jewelry store. One of the neatest things was that one of the resident artists was a student of famed glass artist, Dale Chihuly. The hot dog I ate was filled with green chili and dill pickle spears – quite tasty!

We moved right on to the zoo which we thoroughly enjoyed. We spent a good deal of time taking photos, and just simply enjoying the sites while spending great quality time together. As the afternoon continued, it was apparent that Jose and Quintin ARE brothers.

We returned to the hotel for about 90 minutes to unwind, and freshen up.

As we drove to Nina & Jun’s, Jose and Quintin talked on the telephone to Mother. I was quite surprised how talkative Quintin was. I think he was more talkative with Mother than he was with me on the telephone for the first time.

And then we arrived at the Campo home!

I got to spend a good deal of time talking with Jun & Nina, and the more time I spent with them, the more and more I loved them. We were brought together for Quintin, and I think our families shall be close for many years.

After dinner, which included the adorable Red Mountain Family Service treatment coordinator, Valerie, the four adults sat at the table for several hours talking. One of those magical moments when hearts are joined together for a common purpose…

We took photos, and then it was time to say the farewells. My new son clung to me in a tight hug, for several minutes, not allowing me to go. He was happy, and smiling, but nonetheless, he was hanging on. He looked up and said, “I know – it is part of the process…” (he catches on quickly).

After dinner, Jun drove me to the top of the western ridge where you can see all of Albuquerque at night. It was indescribable…

I had far more difficulty saying farewell to Jun & Nina, and their 6 yo son, Neal. I know we shall see one another again, but what an incredible experience to come together via Quintin.

So, our Albuquerque adventure has come to an end. Jose and I fly out tomorrow at 3:45pm Sunday afternoon. I will miss Nina, Jun, and all those fabulous people at Red Mountain Family Services!

But I know I shall return… I now have family in New Mexico!

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By the time I finished blogging, and uploading photos, it was 12:30am here in New Mexico. However, I was wide awake at 4:30am Ohio time (2:30am NM time).

Around 9:00am Jose and I were fully stirring, and planning the day. We decided to check out the Sadina Tram since Sandy Focht recommended it.

What a fantastic time!

The drive was about 45 minutes through gorgeous countryside – sand, wonderful architecture.

We hopped on the tram which took us 10,300 feet up to the top of Mount Sadina in 15 minutes. Great ride up, and the beauty of the mountain range was breathtaking.

After taking more photos at the top, we decided to hike 1.5 miles up to Kiwanis Cabin – a cabin made entirely of stone by the Civilian Corps in 1930. The hike was over rocks – both smooth and jagged, ice, snow, and dirt – and through a forest that matched a Bavarian fortress from ancient tales. We arrived at an open area where the wind was fierce, and biting. We decided, due to time, to not proceed up to the stone cabin which, even after a 45 minute hike, was still quite a distance.

Jose and I had a light lunch of green chili stew and the best chips and salsa I have tasted. The green chili soup was delicious, and was so soothing after the hike.

The tram returned us down the mountain, and we set off for the party in Quintin’s honor.

I am in awe of the people who are with Red Mountain – the staff, the foster parents I met, and the children who were there for services. It was definitely not a clinical feeling, but always one of warmth, welcome, and a passion for helping one another. Even the foster parents were so warm to one another, and the entire atmosphere is focused on family.

We had a great selection of tasty pizza. With the large crowd, Quintin was quiet. He brought his acoustic guitar, and I was very impressed! He is self taught, but he really played beautifully, and musically.

Quintin left for a school Christmas dance – his first! Until recently, he never invested in some of the social fun with classmates.

Jose and I spent time talking with some of the staff, and I truly hated bidding farewell to these fine folks. They have been such an inspiration, and I am greatly honored to have known them.

Jose and I drove along Unser Drive to take in the sparkling spread of Albuquerque from the ridge. We found a Dollar General Store near the UNM, and then stopped for some donuts.

The neat part was that we were driving on Route 66. We remembered walking on the slab of Route 66 at the Smithsonian in 2006.

Tomorrow morning, I will meet Quintin across the street when his foster mom heads to a morning prayer meeting. I will spend the entire day with Jose and Quintin, checking out Old Town, and the Petroglyph National Park. Later in the afternoon, we will return to the foster home for dinner.  I love this foster family, and am so looking forward to spending time with them.

Another wonderful day. I was so glad to share the hike toward the mountaintop with Jose for two reasons. It seemed somewhat symbolic of our own adoption/father-son journey, as well as Jose’s own personal journey. And it was one of our last moments together before Quintin officially joins us.

Now I can say that I hiked toward the top of a mountain with one of my sons… and what a memorable hike it shall always be.

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Since my days at Ball State University, I have always marveled at the many individual journeys that meet at particular crossroads throughout our lives.

Crossroads are exciting!

We never know when certain fellow travelers will cross our own path, joining us on our own journey. Sometimes we travel together for the remainder of our earthly journey, while understanding that some paths are joined for a certain length of time.

Over the past few months I have neglected to recognize my own fantastic journey, and just how blessed I am with so many I know from this journey. The world of Facebook certainly allows me to connect, reconnect, and meet many wonderful fellow travelers. As the world becomes smaller through technology, our personal lives are enriched beyond measure.

As Jose and I entered the lobby of Red Mountain Family Services, where we were to meet Quintin for the first time, Cindy, the director of the agency, stepped forward with a warm, generous smile to say, “We know who you are.”

Immediately, there was a new person joining my own journey. And within minutes of walking through the door, the world of the Haasienda grew extensively as we met Valerie, Dr. Davison, and several other staff members of Red Mountain. This is just not an ordinary staff of people who come to work in a building. It is very clear that Red Mountain is an ensemble of heaven’s earthly angels sharing their affection with all who cross the threshold, and giving their heartfelt devotion to countless children who struggle not only with life, but in finding hope to continue their own journey.

I don’t know how anyone could read the great teachings of Christ, and countless other teachers, or prophets, and not recognize that Red Mountain, like ACTION Adoption Services (from Dayton), is living proof that The Great Spirit, God, Allah, Jehovah, Creator of the Universe, the Supreme Composer is not only very real, but very much a part of each of us.

I wish I could bring Red Mountain and ACTION Adoption Services (from Dayton) together. I see the magic, the beauty of families formed all the time at ACTION; however, Thursday afternoon, I walked into an incredible world that offered me a glimpse of those who believe in others, and in this case, those who prepared a 15 year old boy to become part of my own family.

To me – this is magic! This is the stuff from which dreams are made!

When we believe our journey is one of solitude we have failed to recognize that The Great Spirit – or whatever title – is not only next to us – but inside us. So often we fail to recognize we are not simply followers, or students/disciples on our journey when we have actually been trained to be leaders. I cannot see how the ancient teachings could be interpreted differently.

Right now, I am at, yet, another wonderful crossroad on this fantastic journey. Several folks from New Mexico – the staff of Red Mountain, and Quintin’s beautiful foster family, Jun & Nina – have met Jose and I at this beautiful moment of our intertwined paths. I know we shall maintain contact once our individual journeys move in various directions to continue our missions, but oh, what a moment.

And of course, my new son, Quintin, is the reason for all these paths to merge. At 15, he probably doesn’t recognize how his own life has impacted so many others at this particular crossroad.

Peace to all….

 

At 3:45pm – Albuquerque time – I met my newest son, and Jose met his new brother.

It is so amazing how three people – complete strangers – immediately merged as one family. Jose, Valerie (the adoption worker), and I were on the patio when Quintin and his foster dad, Jun (pronounced “June”), stepped out.

After a round of hugs, and introductions, there were no awkward moments… we simply stepped into the roles of the Jolliffe-Haas family. Jose and Quintin already act as though they have been brothers since birth; they eased into their relationship without missing a beat.

We spent some time with the staff, and Jose and I were treated like celebrities. Red Mountain Youth Services is outstanding, and I fell in love with these people.

Finally, Quintin, Jose and I met with Quintin’s therapist, Dr. Davison, and this guy is outstanding. I can see why Quintin improved so quickly – he not only had Red Mountain, but Dr. Davison, and two wonderful foster parents, Jun & Nina.

At 5:00pm, we were ready to go our separate ways and Quintin became very quiet. Finally, he spoke up and asked, “Can I spend the rest of the evening with them?”

The minute his foster dad said, “Well, sure,” the biggest smile spread across his face and within minutes we were in the car heading through some of the most beautiful countryside I have ever seen. As we drove along a high ridge of the valley, we could look out over the beautiful city of Albuquerque and the mountains beyond… breathtaking!

As always, the first meal with any new son was eaten together at Wendy’s in honor of Wendy’s founder, and adoption philanthropist, Dave Thomas. I am sure the guests of Wendy’s was wondering why I was snapping photos – but this was a big moment.

We had the best time, and it took very little time for Quintin to begin tossing in the wit, and throwing it right back at me – like Jose. We laughed, shared some serious conversation, and laughed even more.

Since Jose and I are in a nice efficiency room, we decided to stop by Walmart for some breakfast food. As a father, I had the best time shopping with my two sons! Quintin quickly learned that Dad does not lay things in the cart – he throws them to each son.

As we stood in the produce department, I turned to Jose and asked if he would please go grab a basket. In true Jose-fashion, he snapped his finger at Quintin, and said, “Hey! New guy!” and directed Quintin to the carts!

Again, it amazed me at just how much we seemed like a family who has been together for years.

We drove Quintin to his foster parents’ home, only to discover they had gone to church. Jun said it was fine that we go ahead and drop Quintin off at church since it was right by the airport… well, their church happened to be across the street from our hotel!

We sat in the lobby waiting for church to let out, and had even more fun chatting. By this time, Quintin was acting as though he has been my son all fifteen years of his life.

I got to meet Nina, and she is just darling. Nina’s parents were there, as well, and they were both so thrilled that Quintin was being adopted. Many of the church members greeted us, as did their pastor who was a swell guy. The neat thing was that Quintin was introducing Jose and I as his dad and brother.

Quintin began sinking in spirit as we began our good-byes for the evening. When I asked what he was thinking, he looked up said, “I don’t want to leave you.”

I explained that he had school Friday, and we would be getting together after school at Red Mountain for a catered luncheon they are throwing for this celebration. He nodded, but was still down.

So… my family has grown, again. I simply cannot put into words this entire experience. Perhaps I truly understand Mary, the mother of Christ, when “she pondered these things in her heart.”

While sitting in the office of Dr. Davison, Quintin announced that he wanted to be sure I was OK with him changing his last name to Jolliffe-Haas. “Is that OK with you?”

I assumed this would be the course, but he is an older child and could have kept his birth name.

So, Quintin Jolliffe-Haas it is.

Jose seems excited, even thrilled with his role as the older brother, and I saw him bump it up a notch today.

Tonight, I will close, echoing the words of baseball hero, Lou Gehrig: “Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”

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Today, the snow is gently falling here in Kettering for the first time. It seems as though the weather has officially changed into winter.

This particular change seems in keeping with life in the Haasienda. Tomorrow morning at 0715 hours, Jose and I will begin our journey west, landing in Albuquerque, New Mexico by 1115 hours.  A few hours later, we will meet my new son, and Jose’s new brother, Quintin.

The chain of change began in October as the marching season began to close. With the end of marching band I knew it was officially the true end of Jose’s high school career as marching band was truly his major love.

November 5th, at 1030am, I officially learned that Quintin’s adoption was official.

November 6th, Mother, Valerie Lockhart and I sat in Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium to watch The Marching Firebirds in the last performance. It was a little wistful watching Jose with the band for the final time, but I knew that his future was beginning to take on a new beginning.

Change is often good, but we seldom realize it at the moment.

Ninety minutes later Jose returned from the national guard recruiting station (with my blessing) to announce he would be heading to basic and advanced training on June 14th, 2011. Then, he said sometime after September he would be deployed to Afghanistan.

I was ready for the change of Jose entering the Ohio National Guard, but was not mentally prepared for a deployment in the near future.

November 12th, Jose was sworn into the military.

Within the next few days he had a very nice workout suit, and his army uniform.

One night we were walking the indoor track of Trent Arena. As we were walking and talking together, Jose took his jacket off, and laid it over mine. For some reason, the sight of his jacket over mine tugged at my heart.

A week ago, Jose and I got to talk to Quintin for the first time. He seems to be a delightful chap.

Last week we hurried to Indiana for Thanksgiving, and on up to Fowler to celebrate my nephew’s birthday. My two nephews are growing up, and their new little sister, my beautiful niece, Carolyne, is already two months old.

More changes…

Sunday was taken up with ACTION Adoption’s National Adoption Month Celebration – something to which we look forward every year. I am generally behind a camera, but manage to mingle with old friends of the adoption world – many whom I have trained. It is so wonderful to see all these families, and to see how their own children have grown over the year.

Tomorrow is the major change. At 3:45pm in New Mexico, I will greet my newest son.

I am not nervous, nor am I overly eager. It just seems to be a natural part of life. Quintin’s arrival on December 20th seems as though he is merely returning from a camp. Already, he feels as though he is already my son.

Change is exhausting at times, but when we can appreciate the wonderful results of any change, it is a damned fantastic feeling!

 

 

What an unusual, yet exciting year!

I have received so many blessings this year, and I hope, as an individual, and fellow traveler on Planet Earth, that I have been able to be a blessing to others, as well.

My  blessings do not come in the way of material things, but through individuals who have touched my life, and the life of my family.

First, and foremost, there will always be my mother, Diana, who is counted as one of my best blessings in this life.

Right alongside Mother, is my son, Jose, almost 19 years, and a senior in high school. Last week, Jose became Private Jolliffe-Haas with the Ohio National Guard. The past six years since Jose came to live with me, I have watched him grow, mature, and become an incredible young man.

Next week, I shall meet, for the first time, my newest son, Quintin, 15, currently living in New Mexico. By December 20th, he will be a full-time resident in the Haasienda.

Another blessing is my brother, Destin, my sister-in-law, Stacia, and their three beautiful children, Parker, 5, Freddie, 3, and Carolyne, 2 months. I am also grateful for the many blessings Destin has received this year with the birth of Carolyne, and his new position as superintendent of schools. Of course, he is blessed daily with Stacia, as well as Parker and Freddie.

Our home in Kettering is doubly blessed with two fuzzy-faced family members – Flyer, 9, and Logan 16.

I am also blessed for my many uncles and aunts, cousins, and extended family.

Throughout my life, I have been so fortunate to have many wonderful neighbors and friends. From my roots in Elwood, Indiana to my current home in Kettering, Ohio, THANK YOU to all my neighbors, and friends for your constant love and support.

For twenty-six years I have been blessed with many, many fantastic students, parents, and colleagues… bless you!

Improved health, and so many other things, often taken for granted, have encouraged me to realize even more, just how blessed I am this day.

Thank you, to so many of you, family/friends, near and far, or even on Facebook, for being such a blessing in my life.

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All the morning news programs are offering a good deal of their segments to the topic of bullying. The past few weeks bullying has come to the forefront following the rash of suicides of young individuals who have endured bullying in various manners, but with the same results.

This morning there were the following segments:

  • the Rutgers student who jumped off a NYC bridge
  • the 10yo boy from Arkansas who committed suicide from bullying at school
  • the father of a 12yo who killed himself because of bullying is traveling all over the country to educate parents and students on bullying
  • the government’s newly appointed director on bullying was actually bullied as a young boy
  • protests at military funerals
  • a father of a bullied special needs daughter who got on the bus to speak with the driver but, instead, took on the bulliers
  • university dean who bullied students into running errands and cleaning her house
  • the mother of the young girl who took her life because girls from school were bullying her over the internet
  • the mother of a middle school girl who took her life because the mother of the girl’s friend was bullying her over the internet
  • bullying in the work place

Many of these stories are interconnected not only in theme, but by the tragic consequences of bullying.

The thing that I have learned this morning is that bullying comes in so many different packages – some of which I would have never even considered bullying.

Definitions of bullying:

  • the act of intimidating a weaker person to make them do something
  • noisily domineering; tending to browbeat others
  • Bullying is a form of abuse. It comprises repeated acts over time that involves a real or perceived imbalance of power with the more powerful individual or group abusing those who are less powerful. The power imbalance may be social power and/or physical power. …
  • includes behaviors and actions that are verbal, physical and/or anti-social, such as exclusion, gossip and non-verbal body language. It can occur at school or in transit between school and home.
  • Workplace bullying is the ‘repeated less favourable treatment of a person by another or others, which may be considered unreasonable and inappropriate workplace practice’. Workplace bullying is behaviour that can intimidate, offend, degrade or humiliate an employee.
  • Deliberate action or behaviour directed towards another person which may take many forms and can often occur over a long period of time…

What is ironic is the manner in which adult bullies express the reason for their actions. From domestic violence, to bullying in the classroom by teachers, to bullying in the workplace – the theme seems to be the same: “I do it to assist the other to become the best they can possibly be” or “to be helpful” for other reasons, or “because I care.”

The bully always attempts to put a positive spin on their actions for bullying others. And this weekend, many of us have seen how one particular bully has attempted to back-peddle their previous behavior towards many others.

Sadly… very sadly, the victim of the bully, and even those nearest the victim, fall for this ever so cleverly disguised MANIPULATION! These manipulators seem to be craftsmen when it comes to manipulation. And if you have the opportunity to watch a bully, or manipulator in action, their patterns are always predictable. Unfortunately, too many observers are swayed by the manipulative devices and actually begin to agree with the bully’s explanation, or excuses. When the bully can side-step their own abusiveness to place blame for their actions elsewhere, or in a manner that makes their behaviors appear to be in the best interest of the victim(s), they tend to pull of an incredible, dastardly charade.

I have known those who have endured domestic violence – either physical, mental, or emotional. We currently have an on-going episode of domestic violence in our own family, but the hands of all the family are tied.

I had some friends who seemed to have significant marriage problems, and it was not until after their divorce that I began realizing it was emotional domestic abuse. Sadly, the bully in this marriage portrayed himself the victim, garnering tons of sympathy from friends, and colleagues.

On a side note: Sometimes, when a person goes from one abusive relationship to another, I strongly question whether or not they somehow thrive on the abuse, or perhaps, the drama. Some individuals do seem to encourage others to bully them to receive attention… but this is entirely different than uninvited bullying.

Rev. Fred Phelps, who I consider sheer evil, is plowing through his bully tactics using the First Amendment.

Today, the Supreme Court is in session, and their first cases involve freedom of speech, and the fine line of bullying. This should be an interesting turn of events in this vital, yet oft abused freedom.

I read a post this morning where one individual said that everyone is bullied at some point in their life, and he seemed to accept that it is OK. He also went as far to say that some people are just destined to be bullied.

Some people just seem to be magnets for bullies because they are special needs, smare aller stature, are somehow different than the perceived ‘norm’, appear weaker. And, it always seems to point to CONTROL.

What is it in a bully’s life that makes them adopt the need to control another so vigorously, and cruelly?

The first time I encountered bullying was when I became drum-major for the marching band as a freshman. The first few months were a nightmare.

My predecessor’s younger brother, David T., often pushed me into lockers; Troy G., a percussionist, sat behind me on the bus to Kings Island and continually flicked my ear with his finger; pizzas were sent to our home frequently, and some we got to keep; and then, the scariest moment was when the flute section leader, Stephanie K. tried to run me down in the school’s parking lot with her car. Fortunately, the band director and principal witnessed that moment, and her days in band were abruptly ended.

Other than that, in high school, Todd McG., Steve M., and my first co-drum-major were the only ones who exhibited bullying behaviors toward me. Fortunately, thanks to my mother, and her parents, as well as the support from wonderful teachers and administrators, I had a strong sense of self, and rode the wave of bullying.

Sadly, I witnessed others who endured bullying by others at school, and their stories were not quite so happy in the end.

Right now, only 40+ plus states have bullying legislation; however, the states are each different, and there are no government regulations on bullying. All the parents I have seen interviewed the past week claimed to have alerted the schools, numerous times; however, the schools all claim to know nothing about the bullying where the end results were suicides. There are no regulations requiring  schools to document complaints of bullying; therefore, the schools can easily claim they have no documentation of the student being bullied.

So, how do we stand up to the bullies?

One Florida dad got on the school bus and ripped into the students who were bullying his daughter, who has cerebral palsy, because the school was taking no action.

He stood up to the bullies, but he also had to pay the consequences for his actions.

As parents, we want to be assured that when we send our children off to school they are not being bullied – on their way to school, on their way home from school, and most especially, while they are in school. We also don’t want our children bullied by teachers in schools where administrators turn a deaf ear to numerous complaints by parents.

So, what can parents do?

In some ways it seems as though parents’ hands are tied.

One boy, who was always small in stature, received years of bullying at school, even in front of teachers who joked along with the bullies. The parents made numerous reports to the school, but they were not addressed (and, of course, the school had no record of the parent meetings). One day, the young boy turned and swung at a student who was bullying him, and was expelled from school. The boy, a strong student, was so humiliated he tied a rope around his neck and jumped off the staircase in his home.

And what about those who are bullied in their homes by spouses, or significant others?

What those who are bullied in the workplace?

What about those who are bullied in other arenas, amazingly enough, in churches?

I wish I had answers. There are numerous websites regarding bullying, and how to deal with them, especially those concerning school bullies. Those are great, but if schools are not required to document, or are not addressing bullying, then these websites, though helpful, are somewhat pointless.

Here is a website from CNN where many have shared their stories of being bullied: CNN Bullying Blogs

This week has been saddened by, yet, several more youth suicides due to bullying.

Regardless the struggling youth’s issues, we adults – parents, teachers, neighbors, coaches, directors, youth leaders, etc. – need to take the lead in this universal epidemic to help our youth.

We cannot afford to stand by, waiting for the guy next to us to act; each of us must act, and act NOW to prevent this from happening again.

We cannot afford to wait for the symptoms to present themselves to us; we must try to be ahead of the symptoms.

I have raised teenagers, and taught and directed countless teens, and I am always like a blood hound when it comes to watching for any hints of teen depression, or overwhelming life issues . One year, I noticed a dozen students with what I believed to be teen depression. I contacted their parents and presented my observations, and documentation. Eleven out of the twelve were diagnosed with depression.

This rash of bullying-induced suicides is becoming alarming. Too alarming.

Tonight, my son and I discussed the different levels of bullying. As we chatted, I was startled to realize the varying degrees of bullying. It is all around us, and in areas I had never even considered.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper has really been pounding away at Michigan’s assistant attorney general who is bullying a student at the University of Michigan!

How insane is this?

The state’s assistant attorney general is bullying a college student right before our eyes, and yet our officials all sit back watching, and waiting for unfolding events! I feel like we are all glued to our televisions watching a white Bronco move along a California free-way!

Right now, I just heard Dr. Phil, in an interview, say, “It is tough on the students who are bullied who don’t have sports or music…” I have to chuckle, and disagree with Dr. Phil as there is bullying everywhere – even in sports, and music! I know of a section leader who is a terrible bully in band; one student is in sports and has related different stories about some bullying against a teammate in soccer; and there is even a music teacher who has a long track record of bullying students.

Sadly, the bullies are not just in the lives of the young. Many of us adults deal with bullies in our personal lives, and careers. I, myself, have endured bullying, and harassment by a colleague for several years. I know of several other adults who have had issues with colleagues bullying them in the workplace.

Domestic abuse falls under many of the same criteria – it all goes back to control, and domination.

Right now, we are trapped in election fever with a month remaining. We see bullying in various media advertisements, interviews, debates, etc.. We are told what unpleasant things will happen to us if we do not vote the way the politician directs.

Why do we always fall prey to threats during campaigns? Aren’t the voters the ones who are to be in charge? Yet, somehow, we have allowed our leaders to be the tail that wags us.

Bullying is another form of terrorism. Terrorists instill fear, desiring to wear down our strength, and courage. And this is exactly what a bully does – attempts, and often succeeds, in wearing down the individual they deem weaker. It is is much like “raping the soul, or spirit” as it is nothing but control, and domination.

How do we help our children to conquer these bullies?

How do we protect our children from these bullies?

How do we, ourselves, deal with adult bullies?

No one should be bullied.

No one should allow another person to control, or dominate over them, nor feel threatened by another person.

No one should live under the haunting shadows of fear.

I wish I had answers…

I do, however, have hope, and confidence that these young folks – and thousands more before them – who were hounded by cruel individuals, have not died in vain. I pray their lives are memorialized, serving as a rallying cry for all of us to ban against bullies… terrorists!

It is Monday night, and the wonderful pet with whom we were prepared to bid farewell is an entirely different creature than the one from last Wednesday through Friday.

When we brought her home Friday afternoon, both Jose and I assumed we would be spending our last few moments with Flyer; however, she decided to call her own shots! And call them, she did.

Friday evening, I pulled her in a wagon, supplied by the Salchak Family, over to watch Jose in the traditional home-game “step-off” when the marching band leaves the high school and marches the several block up Delaine to the football stadium. As we neared the corner of the band room, a musician blew on his horn, and Flyer’s ears perked up. Before I knew it, Flyer had jumped out of the wagon and was rolling on the grass!

We rounded the corner and eventually Flyer spied Jose coming over to us.

Friday night I gave Flyer an insulin shot, and she was fantastic – not a sign of even feeling it.

Saturday morning she seemed to be even more herself, and the improvement continued throughout the day. The Carter family, and Joanie & Brian Pollock came over at separate times, and they could not believe this was the same dog who seemed near death on Wednesday.

All day Sunday, Flyer continued to improve, and her appetite grew even stronger.

Sunday and Monday, as I rearranged and cleaned the basement, Flyer followed me up and down the stairs numerous times, as well as from room to room – just like pre-illness Flyer.

Over on the front lawn of the high school she has even trotted a hundred feet or so, and was delighted to be chasing, and then chewing sticks.

The boniness that suddenly overtook her body last week is now rounded out with more flesh, and she once again looks healthy.

Flyer is still in critical condition as the pancreatitis clears up, and hopefully this will cure the diabetes which has been out of control.

Jose and I so appreciate the tremendous support and love our family has received the past several days – the prayers, the emails, the Facebook support, the visits, and the phone calls. What a wonderful group of people we have surrounding us!

Thank you!

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Photos of Flyer the past several years…

There may be some hope!

Conversation with Dr. Adam, from Far Hills Animal Clinic, Thursday morning, 8:30am:

  • Acute pancreatitis
    • Amylase (twice normal)
    • lipase (greater than a 1000 – system was not calibrated to read higher)
    • if pancreatitis is healed, then blood sugar may not be an issue
    • will be difficult to cure with uterine infection
  • would like to start treatment to stabilize her pancreas and hypoglycemia
  • however, she may flounder with treatments since she is so ill
  • Dr. Adam suggested aggressive treatment where she would be hospitalized $$
    • IV
    • catheter
    • hospitalization would be $250-350 per day
    • later surgery for spay
  • A conservative treatment – which worries him due to her high counts – would be as an outpatient
    • blood sugar check
    • antibiotic fluid under the skin
    • around $150 per day for outpatient treatment
  • Dr. Adam doesn’t think she will pull through without the aggressive treatment

This is what I know so far, I told Dr. Adam I would call him back around 11:00am to let him know.

Thank you, to everyone, for the prayers, visits, emails, etc.!!!

Darin

Normally, I try to steer clear of posting particular personal frustrations, but this one has been particularly aggravating, and consuming a good deal of my time this week.

In short, someone backed into my automobile, and I continue to receive “the run-around” from the gentleman’s insurance company, State Farm Insurance, as well as the estimate quotes not matching up from Carl’s Body Shop of Dayton.

I have never had to present a claim before, and this is all entirely new to me. If anyone has any further suggestions, please feel free to share them. I am not saying I am on “the right” in this – I am still researching, and gathering facts before I proceed.

Details of the accident, as well as the dealings with Carl’s Body Shop and State Farm

Police Report filed for the accident (names of individuals, other than myself, are left blank)

Car Estimate from Carl’s Body Shop & Towing in Dayton, Ohio

State Farm letter received today, 07/29/2010, indicating all repairs to the damaged vehicle will be covered

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Similar reports regarding State Farm Insurance:

Michael of Butler, KY July 31, 2009

My vehicle was damaged by another driver having State Farm Insurance as his provider. At first all was going along well and vehicle was repaired and returned to me in near perfect condition. Then, 3 weeks later, I get a call telling me that my car is totaled and needs to be signed over to State Farm to be scrapped. This is my main transportation and only vehicle that my family will fit in (6). I tried to negotiate with them, but they would not communicate and had no intentions working something out.

I have now been driving the car to work everyday without problems for the last 2 months. They are now harrassing me to sign the paperwork to release the title to them. I did not have gap insurance and now I will be stuck paying for a car I do not own.

Chris of Adamsville, AL May 21, 2009

I was involved in an accident with on of their insured. The accident was ruled their insured’s fault. It took over 2 months just for them to settle on my truck despite it not meeting their percentage requirement they insisted on totaling my truck and gave me way less than I had in the vehicle. Since then I have not heard a single word from the adjuster.

This is continuing to cost me initially I lost one new contract (towing) since I was unable to work without a wrecker. It also cost me a fortune in lost wages/income and continues to cost me in co-payments, doctors and physical therapy cost for my wife, who has not worked since the accident.

Nina of Des Plaines, IL April 15, 2009

The side of my vehicle was hit at a four way stop by their insured. The car was able to get back home, but was not safe to drive. The officer who arrived on the scene wrote their insured a ticket, and on the police report stated clearly that she hit me, and that the approximate cause of this could only be by failure her failure to yield. (I was going westbound, she was going south, I had to completely cross over the northbound lane of traffic before she hit me.) I had done everything in my power to prevent the accident i.e. horned. She told me that she was denying liability because her insured told her that we arrived at the stop at the same time, and that I had made a recorded statement(Please keep in mind I speak three languages, and english is not my first) also that she told me that if I did not make the recorded statement I would be violating my duty to cooperate and she would have grounds to terminate my claim without further investigation.

I was left without a vehicle through the winter (we live in Chicago) including christmas. I have four children. Yosvany (2 years old) with a serious congenital condition who was unable to attend vital doctors appointments due to the lack of a vehicle and unable to take public transportation due to severe weather, a three week old baby (at the time of the accident) and a five, and seven year old children who missed so much school (we were not eligible for free bus services) that they are now in mandatory preventative tutoring classes, my husband was forced to take a taxi to and from work for a month and a half(50.00 per day) until in late February we were able to save up for a car. Also, as a result I was unable to return to work after my maternity leave, and consequently lost my job.

Theresa of Cheektowaga, NY March 30, 2009

I was rear-ended by a state farm client. I was rushed through the entire process and harassed through the entire process. I was called every day I had the rented car which was three days total. They did not want to provide the rented car for the time needed. There estimate guy did not show up until friday at 4:30. They expected me to take there word for it

I was made to feel like I was the one that ran into someone

Paul of Yuma, AZ March 4, 2009

My vehicle was rearended six months ago by a State Farm 18 year old insured. I also have State Farm. My car was hit at 50 mph, while I was at a stop light. The adjuster for State Farm has made me feel terrible. She has questioned everything I have said and she even suggested I get an attorney. I only had 2,000 in medical bills I wanted paid, and 600 in lost wages. She offered me 1500, this does not even give me enough money to pay the medical bills.

This is outragous. why isn’t someone monitoring what they do? This is bad faith, and now I totally have more respect for those ambulance chasing attorneys. I would suggest to everyone dealing with State Farm, HIRE AN ATTORNEY. There are attorneys who do not charge until it is over with, and if they do not recover for you, no fee is charged. State Farm is awful!

O, Yescas of Clovis, CA February 20, 2009

An elderly gentleman ran a stop sign and hit me Dec 21, 2008. He admitted fault. The parts are on back order. The older man was cover by State Farm. And I have Triple A or California State Auto Association. Well, I was given the option of either my insurance or State Farm to handle my case. A woman named Trish called me. Instead of seeing me as the victim, she harassed me on the phone. Demanding why I was in that part of town at the time of the accident. And then inferring that I knew the two witnesses who saw the elderly gentleman run the stop sign at 40 mph. She asked me if I knew one of the witnesses phone numbers. I said how should I know that? And then making fun of my hip injury, calling it weird after I described the pain around my hip. After that I decided to let my insurance company handle the claim.

Also, she wanted to know my profession. Things that had nothing to do with the accident. And I had a very difficult time getting a rental car. It’s coming to 30 days now since I’ve had the rental. And the shop is waiting on parts. State Farm, Trish, sent me a medical form for me to fill out, and they gave me two years to settle with them. But I don’t trust them. I made a mistake of telling them that I was on disability. And what I had. I’m afraid they will use that against me. Even though it was the older man’s fault who is covered by State Farm. It is a difficult task they are asking me to do. I’m fairly young and am covered by medicare and medical for the disabled. They want all sorts of forms for my doctor and medical and medicare to fill out. It is too time consuming, and I feel it’s not worth pursuing. Since my disability benefits may drop if pursue a claim for my hip injury. They say that medical medicare will put a lien on whatever they give me. I don’t know if I believe them after the questions I was asked by phone.

I really need transportation right now. The van has electrical damage right now. And the fender hasn’t even been fixed yet. My insurance covers up to 750.00 for a rental car. My insurance company said they will go after State Farm for the money, not just rental. My question is that I don’t know State Farm’s maximum on a rental. And the maximum for Triple A is almost up. I need transportation for me and my family.

Deborah of Federal Way, WA February 16, 2009

My son was pedestrian and struck by a State Farm driver. In trying to discuss the liability of this situation with their rep A. Burk (she said they do not feel they are really all that responsible) with the adjuster, she continually interrupted me and would not allow me to speak and I felt she was trying to bully me into accepting the liability percentage and said that I should just get an attorney. I don’t know if it is just this adjuster or the company’s standard operating procedure but I felt that she was trying to push me into retaining legal counsel and turning a situation that should have been easily settled into a long drawn out mess.

I am also an adjuster for another company and we try hard to work with our customers to settle claims. There is really no need for dragging out a claim and retaining attornies if the claims handling was done in fair and professional manner. With claims handling like I am experiencing – no wonder insurance premiums are so high and attornies are getting rich suing them! Still ongoing.

Jeniffer of Miami, FL February 9, 2009

Ok, I was involved in a car accident on November 18th 2008. The person who hit me was given the ticket and she was found to be at fault for the accident. My car was taken to All Pro Collision, Miami, Fl 33142. The adjuster for State Farm went out and gave the final estimate on my car on November 24th. The body shop workers began working on my car and according to the shop manager, Hector, they worked 4 hours a day, Monday through Friday, excluding holidays and weekends.

The month approved as per State Farm should have ended in mid January, in which at that point, they were given an additional two weeks to complete the work whoch should have been completed on January 31st. At that time, the car was fully assembled but Nissan did not have the seat belt retractor in stock needed as the final part to be installed in my car. The part was then placed on back order and it is arriving tomorrow morning meaning my car can be picked up tomorrow, February 10th.

The issue at hand is State Farm is trying to make me pay for the balance of the rental of the car which is coming out to approximatly 700.00. This was not my fault , not the accident, nor the time it took for my car to be repaired and I feel it is unfair that they are making me pay for this balance. I need to know what can be done in order for this debt be paid.

Ronald of Forest Grove, OR February 8, 2009

a truck hit our 2007 mustang when i was in a store and my wife was in the car. i went to mike h’s office to report it and they told me to take care of it myself, they told me to go to the guys insurance that hit us and file a claim. i thought that is what i paid them for so i did not have to deal with all the footwork. we have been with state farm for 25 years. i tries to find a website for their coorporate headquarters to file a complaint but came up blank.

damage to our 2007 mustang, my wife has strained mussels in her neck and i am going in for back surgury on 2/16/09 so it is hard for me to do all this footwork (because it is hard for me to walk)

Lorna B Abbott of Chillicothe, OH January 29, 2009

My 2004 Chevrolet Malibu was parked legally in front of my house. The street was covered with black ice. The driver of a 1999 Ford Ranger Truck slipped on the ice and hit the front of my car. His auto insurance, State Farm, paid for a rental car for 40 days and paid 5,338.10 in body repairs, including replacing the radiator. However, when it came time to pay 527.18 to replace the steering shaft and the gear shifter, they refused.

The reason given was that these parts in the 2004 Chevrolet Malibu have a history of wearing out prematurely. I was told that I could have the car torn down at a cost of 212 so that the damage from the accident could be seen. I was amazed to think that they could pay for a rental car for 40 days, pay 5,338.19 in body work and not expect that there would probably be some damage to the working components of the car.

I cannot afford the 527.18 to replace the steering shaft and the gear shift. I bought this car as a GM Certified Used Vehicle on August 2, 2007 from Plaza Chevrolet in Chillicothe, Ohio. Their service department is the one who made the estimate. The car had 31,720 miles on it when I bought it and 34,517 miles at the time of the accident, a difference of 2,797 miles. The car ran fine before the accident. I think people should know that State Farm Auto Insurance will not pay for certain components on the 2004 Chevrolet Malibu.

Genevieve of Dallas, TX December 31, 2008

On 8-13-08 I was involved in a car accident. The client represented by State Farm was on the cell phone caused a 3 car collision. She hit a car without even breaking in which that car hit my car. I had just purchased my car on 8-4-08 Rio LX 2008. Mileage at the time of accident 338.0. I have attempted to get compensated for demised value.I was required by State Farm reps. to get a demised quote from car dealer. I obtained the first quote as instructed. Car Max valued it at 6500. Total expense repair was approx. 3200.

And on 10-31-08 State Farm Rep. Kim agree to a demised value of 1500. I informed her I could not agree to such a low amount. I was instructed to get a second I got the second from Toyota at 6500. I have sent in my sticker itemized price I paid for the car 14400. and the two quotes. I have researched the Kelly Blue book quote range is 13748.00 to 14166.00 I have spent time & research to come to a fair and justifiable demised value without success. My faxes and request to State Farm is that we resolve this issue before the end of this year.

Now we are approaching the new year of 2009. Not only am I loosing value in the car but will not be able to get the value now nor in 3 yrs for a justifiable amount of trade in, and bank payments will not be adjusted.It has come to this level of requiring an outside source to solve this issue. Please feel free to contact me if you require any documentation you may need I have all the repair, quotes, faxes and dates if you should need them. Thank you for your assistance in the matter.

Driver side bumper, tire, grill, light and door damage 3200

Read more: http://www.consumeraffairs.com/insurance/statefarm_auto_p6.html#ixzz0v6M4V5vJ

Ugh… I was not completely keen on going to Wal-mart for glasses; however, my vision plan included the optometrist from the nearby Wal-mart. Some of the other optometrists were in Centerville, Beavercreek, and Vandalia.

I was being lazy.

However, when I met the doctor, he was fantastic. He had a number of Wittenburg University music teachers as patients, and was telling me about how he had worked with quite few who needed certain prescriptions for playing piano, reading from a music stand, and conducting. I was thrilled because I was in good hands. And he was very personable.

From the examining room to the frame selection. I had already picked out my frames, so now it was just writing up the order.

The agreed items:

  1. The trifocal for reading piano music and my computer screen would be at the top of the lens
  2. The middle section would be for distance
  3. The bifocal, at the very bottom, would be identical to my previous glasses since that is where I read, and use for conducting – and my previous prescription for the past 3 years has been awesome – for any one who has conducted, you know how wonderful it is to be able to see your music from the stand

I do not wish to change glasses when I need to do basic things and then play the piano or work from the computer. The optometrist assured me this is what could be done.

Sunday, I learned my glasses were in. Jose and I trotted off to get them.

The trifocal was in the middle. The bifocal prescription was completely different, and I could only read when the material was 0′-5″-0′-7″ away from my face! I could not read anything past a foot away. With my old pair of bifocals, I could see up to a good 8′-” to 10′-0″.

When I tried to explain to the sales associate she was clueless. I understood that this was probably a bit more tedious than most requests, so I was patient.

Today I get a call to speak with the optical manager.

Now, I am told that there is no way the trifocal can be placed at the top, and that if I wanted my bifocal prescription changed, I would have to see the doctor again to have it changed!

I kept my cool, but I let her know I am extremely disappointed in the promised service that obviously failed. The associate said, “Well, it sounds like there was just some miscommunication.”

So, if I wish to see the optometrist again, it is from my own wallet!

I bit my tongue, and told her I would have to think about continuing with their services before setting up an appointment.

Wal-mart Optical = FAIL.

This has been an amusing several days for news.

  • Lindsay Lohan is sentenced to jail and rehab…
  • Mel Gibson has been acting up, again…
  • Touch Down Jesus will be rebuilt – full body from Indiana limestone…
  • The Barefoot Bandit has alluded authorities several times this past week…
  • And the big item this week… Lebron James…

Hmmm….

First off, I had no idea who Miss Lohan was. In fact, I almost thought they were talking about J-Lo (Jennifer Lopez). I did a quick search and found out she was a supermodel, an actress and a singer. OK… cool.

For several days I read, or heard about this mysterious announcement to be made by Lebron James. Since I do not follow sports, and only half listen to television news I figured someone was getting ready to announce their candidacy for the 2012 Presidential Election. I mean, isn’t it about time for the campaigning to begin?

The comments on Facebook, and Twitter, are downright hilarious to me! You would have thought this young guy was discovered to be one of the ten spies returned to Russia yesterday. It reminded me of the night the Baltimore Colts were whisked away in a bus to Indianapolis – fans appeared furious that a sports team leaving their community! You would have thought Michigan and Ohio State University had switched fight songs (if you are from Ohio, you would understand the blasphemy, and severity of such an action!).

The Barefoot Bandit, whose real name is Colton Harris-Moore, now has his own Wikipedia site, and has 55,587 followers (as of this Saturday afternoon) on Facebook. Darling Facebook fan, Eddie Smith of England, who could probably stand to gain from a basic grammar class, writes, “Man your a legend, your story is everywhere in England… Everyone thinks your great!….. Keep going man never let them catch you!!!”

These items seem to be plastering the media landscape, and I have to scratch my head, and ask, “Why the hell should any of this really, and truly matter?”

People are furious with Lebron James for switching to tennis, or marrying Tiger Woods future ex-wife, or trying to steal Morgan Freeman’s contract for the upcoming Broadway production, DRIVING MISS DAISY, or whatever it is he does (yes, I know he is a basketball star from Ohio).

I don’t know why THE TODAY SHOW was so concerned with talking to doctor’s, psychologists, lawyers, and fellow celebrities to dissect Ms. Lohan’s ordeal. Are ya serious, Meredith Viero? An Oregon boy is missing, we have a major oil spill, people are suffering from the heat wave hitting the East Coast, and so many other items of greater importance – and yet the focus is on a celebrity’s legal battles. So what else is new?

When it was announced in The Dayton Daily News that Touchdown Jesus would be rebuilt with Indiana limestone, the critical, even cruel, comments began pouring in! People are furious that Solid Rock Church is spending their OWN money for a blasphemous structure (like cathedrals throughout Europe and here) to glorify God.  “But we don’t even know what Jesus looks like?” wrote one complaining comment. Well, neither did Leonardo da Vinci nor Michaelangelo, or so many other great artists. Should we paint over their masterpieces, or chisel away at the sculptures? I am certain the complainers have

  1. attended, or still attend churches with Christian icons, or set dressing
  2. never attempted to do as much for charity as the parishioners of Solid Rock Church
  3. have no church affiliation, or
  4. a new GPS so they no longer need TDJ as a landmark to tell them when they are closer to Traders World or Kings Island

Why are these particular topics so valued by the masses?

Why is the nineteen year old Barefoot Bandit more an international focus and Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda groupies are not?

While waiting to put some groceries on the conveyor belt at Kroger last night, I glanced over at the Rag Mags, and learned:

  • Laura Bush is divorcing George W. Bush because he is having an affair with Joan Rivers
  • Justin Bieber really has begun puberty
  • Billy Ray Cyrus is a much better actor than many believe, and will be cast in the title role of HAMLET in a command performance for Queen Elizabeth
  • Will Prince Charles have to pin back his ears to wear the royal crown when he becomes king?
  • Television’s Sister Angelica is secretly carrying Pope Benedict’s love child
  • Donna Summer has been cast to play Michael Jackson in the television rock-u-drama about his life?
  • Broadway’s newest production of LES MISERABLES welcomes Great Britain’s star, Susan Doyle, to play Young Cosette

OK, those were actually headlines I made up, but we all know that those do seem to be genuine from the Rag Mags on shopping store racks.

I wonder how many readers will read the above items and take them to be true?

The deck is damp from last night’s rain showers, but the air is crisp, and cool at 68-degrees. The morning is beckoning those of us who have been besieged by the overwhelming heat and humidity of last week to come outside and enjoy the kaleidescope and symphony of nature.

Charlie Cardinal is belching out a fine tune this morning, alternating with the two precious mourning doves (christened The MD’s) that were hatched on the limb that hangs over the deck. They appeared mid-August last year, and have remained a part of our family, now joined by Harvey the White Squirrel.

So often the two doves greet the morning, and bid farewell to the day with the gentle lament, a simple melody laden with no excitement.

Last night I spent another evening prepping for my quiz over “Introduction to Empty Nesting: 101” as Jose spent the second entire day and evening with brothers Brandon and Justin. The boys all seem to enjoy one another’s company, and have a good time, for which I am grateful. I cooked out on the grill, and ate alone on the deck while Flyer and Logan competed in a stare-down with my fork as it made food disappear. Most of the day had been sheeted with rain, and the evening turned out to be quite nice once the mugginess vanished. Only moments after leaving the deck, another shower poked its head into perfect evening.

Now, other birds have created a polyphonic chorus, accompanying Charlie & The MD’s. I hope to work from the deck for a few more hours on business and family items, and then will figure out something fun to do – perhaps a canoe trip is in store at Old River Park.

The MD's (Mourning Doves) Labor Day, 2009

The MD's on their same perch last February 2010

Charlie Cardinal

Harvey the White Squirrel

This morning had me hopping – doctor appointments, pick up prescriptions, and rush back home to teach a 10:30am lesson! Began the day with tons of energy, and by Noon, I was alternating between reading and napping.

The heat, even at 7:30am, was unbearable. Walking from my car into the doctor’s office had me drenched. Around 5:00pm the signs of a rain shower spread across the Miami Valley, and I stepped onto the deck to feel a cool breeze. I opened all the windows (finally), and let the curtains bounce. The rain showers came, and were over by 8:00pm. I hurried off to Kroger, and upon leaving the store was smacked with steam!

Back at home, I waited for Jose to finish marching band percussion practice at 9:00pm. We walked to Speedway for a slushy, and laughed in the kitchen for a while.

Tomorrow is a double dentist appointment – Jose and myself – at our new dentist. Jose aged out of his pediatrician dentist, and mine moved.

Jose has finished the first coat of paint on his room. I have not checked it yet.

This afternoon I looked through You Tube to find videos of Bess Truman, Senator Dole speaking at President Nixon’s funeral, and some other historical tidbits.

Now, I am sitting up in bed with my lap top, researching new diabetic medication I will be starting in a few weeks.

Other than that, it has been a somewhat calm day at the Haasienda.

This afternoon while sitting on my deck writing, I saw something move out the corner of my eye. As I looked over by the wooden privacy fence, I saw a black mouse-like creature move under a hosta plant. It retreated back under the fence, and then came out to the next hosta.

I sent my neighbor an email, figuring Bob “the lawn guy” would know what it was. And he did!

Small rodents often confused for mice, except with shorter tails and beady eyes, voles live throughout the Northern Hemisphere and are often considered agricultural pests because they eat vegetation.

It is Monday, 1:00pm. The end of the restful, and enjoyable holiday weekend is creeping upon us.  Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were the most perfect days we’ve had in weeks. Saturday was a bit steamy, but not too hateful. Sunday, however, returned with the higher temperatures, and humidity. Today is becoming its evil twin with highs expected to be in the lower 90’s. Tuesday through Thursday we are supposed to be in the mid-90’s.

Friday and Saturday were somewhat peaceful, and relaxing. Jose and I went to see ROBIN HOOD – quite good, and Saturday, Kelley, our delightful neighbor boy next door, joined us for the downtown Dayton fireworks. Several years ago we took a city bus down to watch the fireworks – and it was so simple! We walked out our front door, hopped on the bus, got off the bus downtown, walked several blocks to the river, watched fireworks, walked back to the bus, got off the bus right in front of our house. No traffic. No parking issues.

In 2001, I found a nifty parking place behind the United Methodist headquarters (commonly known as The God Box) next to the Masonic Temple. We were the only ones to park there! I could not believe it. Most years we have been on vacation over this holiday, and I figured our secret parking area would have been discovered by countless others. Nope! We arrived around 9:30pm, parked, walked a few hundred yards to the Masonic Temple’s hill (I always feel as though I am at the Custis-Lee Mansion at Arlington Cemetery), and watched a splended firework display over the river.

Sunday morning, Jose was out the door for work until 3:00pm. I made a cake, and chatted with Mother on the phone.

Cake: yellow cake mix with some lemon extract. Poured some of the batter into the pan and then scattered thinly sliced strawberries; added the remainder of the batter; backed; more strawberry slices, a packet of white icing mix with some almond extract added, along with some liquefied strawberry jam.

At 2:00pm, the cake and I headed next door for a cookout.

As always, the hours escaped me, and it was nearly 6:00pm when I returned home. I love spending time with my neighbors, who have become more like family. Since the crowd was not as large this time, I actually got to spend time chatting with Don who is usually kept busy at the grill, non-stop.

I came home, and began watching some television programs. At 9:00pm, The American Experience on PBS aired the conclusion of HARRY TRUMAN.

Ahhh…. what a unique politician, a giant of a man, and an incredible American was Harry S. Truman. He, along with President Lincoln, is one of my heroes.

This morning I was wide awake, as usual, around 4:00am. By 6:00am, I was retreating back to some sort of sleep, and lingered in bed to watch a great movie, WHITE SQUALL, based on a true story. Great movie!

Now, I am settled on the deck with my laptop. Flyer rests under my chair, and Logan is stretched out under another table across the deck. Jose is swimming with Brandon Tener.

What a great weekend….

I belong to a home-town on-line group. The original premise of the group was to keep alumni connected, and to share stories about life in our little Hoosier community.

Since the 2008 presidential election I have contributed little to the message board. Once upon a time the group was quite enjoyable, and tended to transport readers down the beloved memory lane.  However, during the election, the group seemed to adopt a hideous a tone, and though I attempted to placate the agitated, and the agitators, it became a pointless effort. The hatred, and vicious venom that poured from responses were sad. Anyone of a Liberal persuasion was attacked mercilessly, and often with deep hurt. Those who considered themselves Conservative, especially those repeated The Pledge of Allegiance seemed to place their Bibles over their hearts rather than their right hand.

I finally began posting my items on my blog alone, avoiding any contact with some of the particular folks. This did not, however, prevent several of those critters from harassing me on this blog site. One gal, whom several of us refer to as “SRB” (“Self Righteous Bitch”) even accused me of being a murderer because I supported then-Senator Obama’s Pro-Choice stance. This individual is, to quote a good friend, “a religions zealot that knows everything and respects no one but her own.”

Since the 2008 election, I have paid the site little heed, and only read the group email that arrives each morning. However, this week, one of the moderators, responding to some incredible photos from Afghanistan, simply questioned what we were still doing in that country.

It seemed that most dismissed the question. But SRB was right there on the attack referring to “Barry” and those hideous Liberals.

Now, throughout the 2008 election, when anyone would simply “W” for President Bush, or refer to him in any other manner, this lady would go off on them, even running some favorite submitters away from the site. However, it was, and still is perfectly fine for her to disrespect the office, and the president by referring to President Obama as “Barry.”

This past week SRB went on the Liberal attack as though the Liberals are the only ones questioning why our country is still involved in Afghanistan. I have listened to many Conservatives, and religious leaders from many parts of the country, also question the current purpose, and longevity of this war.

Reading SRB’s comments would not be horrible if she just did not come off in such a self-righteous, omnipotent manner. She is definitely one who spares no room for views that do not match up with hers, and quite often responds to challenging responses with a flippant sarcasm, or pettiness.

Several days ago, I posted the news of Senator Byrd’s passing on my Facebook and Twitter accounts. I was familiar with Senator Byrd, but simply took his passing as the end of a long career of service to our country.

Within minutes I was receiving private comments questioning how I could support such an individual who one had ties to the KKK. I simply posted the announcement of his death without writing any commentary. I honestly don’t know all the details of Senator Byrd’s past, nor do I truly care. His constituents in West Virginia must have cared deeply to return him as a representative for nearly 60 years.

Thursday morning I posted an article regarding his memorial service today. Again, the private comments were pouring in. Several responded to the link on my Facebook page, but the ones in private were so petty, ill-informed, and downright sophomoric.

One poster on my page did mention that Senator Byrd had apologized. There you go! The senator apologized. I don’t know why the ones who sent me private messages, most of whom profess to be strong Christians could not accept the apology.

There seems to be a continuing theme of “shoot-to-kill.” I read it, hear it everywhere. It is “hate.” And the hate comes from so many who claim to be weighed in a religion that promotes peace, forgiveness, kindness and understanding. Their ridiculing tongues spit words like poisoned darts, and they hurl verbal stones unlike Jesus who offered forgiveness, understanding, and love.

I have many wonderful Christian friends (Christi, Sue, Val, Duneen and many others) who demonstrate Christ’s teachings, and I appreciate them all the more because they never – at least within my hearing – “shoot to kill.” It is so refreshing to have them in my family’s life because they present such a different picture of what is generally portrayed by so many who prefer to abandon the teachings of Christ by engaging in hate.

One friend, in particular, is Kristen Z. We met Kristen at church, and Ms. Z is such a breath of fresh air. Like several friends mentioned above, I am confident that Kristen lives the life that would make Jesus jump up and down, cheer, and slap some high-fives!

Earlier this week, Kristen posted a very moving article on her Facebook, written by Tim Schraeder, entitled A Very Different Kind of Christian Demonstration at Gay Pride.

Now, I am not necessarily a supporter of Gay Rights. I don’t support Civil Rights, nor Equal Rights for Women. I am all for HUMAN RIGHTS. When I study the Great Teachers – Jesus Christ, Buddha and several others, there seems to always be a steady diet of acceptance, understanding, kindness, and love. I could never see any of them turning their backs on others, or turning them away.

I often wonder, and have for many years, why so many profess their solid beliefs in the various religions, and God, would be so filled with hate for others.

Is it fear?

Is it a projection of self-hatred?

Is it ignorance?

Is it self righteousness (like SRB)?

I don’t have any answers; I am merely thinking out loud…

One day, I hope to find a church that has engraved above its altar, “Love your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength… and love your neighbors.”

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

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I fell asleep at 11:30pm last night, exhausted from seven straight hours of labor – not bearing a child kind of labor – yard labor. I was wide awake at 1:30am when my son’s video game blasted something away. I toggled frequently between being awake and sleeping until 5:30am, rising several times to work out a Charlie horse in my right leg.

Currently I am sitting in the cool breezes of the deck, Harvey (the white squirrel) dances about the trees in the easement that separates our yard and the high school parking lot, and Flyer is keeping an ever watchful eye on Harvey. Harvey is friendly, and like the beautiful cardinal that sits in the window of my study while I work, will play on the branches above me (I talk to him frequently), or when Flyer is absent, venture to the deck’s rail to keep my company.

Thursday Noon, Jose and I went to Lowe’s (one of my favorite haunts) to look at stones to go in front of the shrubs on the Shroyer side of the Haasienda. I think I found what I want, but they are $2.45 per stone, and it shall take quite a few. After buying an edger, and a pressure cap to replace the broken one on the weed eater, I now have $67 remaining on my gift card.

Upon returning home, I had to try out my new edger. It did the job but it was labor intensive. I thought it would be fairly easy – and it was in some areas of the front sidewalk – but it took some time. But when it was completed – WOW! What a look.

While I hit the front yard, Jose stripped the paper border in his room, preparing for his paint session. The last room in the house to receive a fresh look. I was thinking the “lait au cafe” (coffee with cream) which is the base for the downstairs, but Jose seems to like the almond. So, maybe the lait au cafe can be a trim, or on one wall. He will figure it out.

By 3:00pm I began reworking some of the bricks around the corner fence – I had one side lining the outside of one end-post, and the second line was within the the other post. I also brought the back side lines out beyond the post so that we will never need to trim right up next to the posts. Where the two lines of brick come together I brought them out at an angle so we needn’t trim up near the clematis.

I pulled out the weed eater and hedge trimmer and tackled both the front and back yards. With a ton of energy remaining, I decided to mow the front lawn, leaving the back for Jose.  By 7:30pm I had the blower turned on the yard and walks, and looked around, quite pleased with my efforts. Until I pulled out the leaf blower, Flyer had enjoyed the entire afternoon, napping in the wonderfully shaded front yard, or carefully eying the traffic, cyclists or pedestrians that passed on her street. The City of Kettering should consider renaming the street, Flyer Road, since she seems to think she owns the sidewalk! Flyer was a great companion yesterday while I worked, and I am sure passersby wondered why I was talking to myself since most probably did not notice Flyer.

I showered quickly and hurried to Dollar General to buy a hose to replace the leaking one in the front yard, and then to Kroger for the necessities. In semi-dark I replaced the hose and watered all the front yard plants, and headed inside at 10:00pm to fix a sandwich for supper.

This morning, as I rose at 7:00am, my legs ached with each step, and my arms, back and shoulders seemed to have tender spots I had not recognized the previous day.

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Teaching only three days in the summer means long days on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday; however, having the additional two week-days – plus the weekend – to work around the house, write, and spend time with my are wonderful.

This morning I was wide-awake at 5:45am – which seems to be my inner alarm wake-up call – and decided to go ahead and water the plants on the deck. I did my morning routine, and decided that at 7:15am it was way too early to pull out the hedge trimmer. So, I read some emails, watched some of THE TODAY SHOW, followed by WILL & GRACE, and about fifteen minutes of ALL IN THE FAMILY. At 8:00am I was restless, so I tackled some indoor items, and ate breakfast.

I just finished watering the plants in front, greatly increased in their beauty thanks to Valerie Lockhart’s gifts the past two weeks. I cleaned the front door and mailbox – having painted the fence yesterday morning. The mail box may need some painting, too.

I have a full schedule of what I wish to accomplish today, mostly having to do with the yard. Jose has a work meeting at 1:00pm, and then works from 4:45pm-8:00pm, so I will plan my writing time in those chunks.

The weather was beautiful yesterday, and promises to be even more so today. The cool, non-humidity nights, so rare for the end of June in Ohio, were a welcome relief after the sufferings of the past several weeks. The rains came in torrents, briefly cooling off the air, but soon were followed by the steam.

This weekend promises to be fantastic for the July Fourth festivities – which are many here in The Miami Valley. I am sure we will canoe several times, maybe catch one or two firework shows, a parade, and hopefully time with some friends.

Other than that, there is just not much to report.

I started my day by teaching two three-hour pre-adoptive classes at A.C.T.I.O.N. Adoption Services from 9:00am-4:00pm.

I ran home, took a nap, and then drove the three of us up to Old River Park near the University of Dayton campus. The one hour canoe ride was warm, but so relaxing – and invigorating! I had a canoe all to myself while Jose and Kelley paddled their own.

What an enjoyable evening.

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As TOY STORY 3 neared its premiere, I chuckled at the Facebook group, started by older teens, “get out of my way little kids… I’ve waited 11 years to see this movie.”

The first two movies were incredible, and I could watch them over and over. I remember taking children of friends to see the movie a number of times so that I could see each release repeatedly. The animation was incredible, and the story plots were entertaining, and captivating – even to a grown kid.

I have to admit that I was ager to see this movie, as well. I grew up in an era where imagination still ruled our play time, and the main toy-technology seemed to be our race car tracks, train tracks, and my portable Snoopy record player. Or was it Pluto?

My favorite toys were King Arthur’s Castle (a huge monstrosity), Johnny West Best of The West dolls (the cowboy version of GI Joe), my Magic Disney Castle (complete with a magnitude of hand-painted characters), my North & South Civil War set, and The White House – a plastic molded structure with 37 statues of presidents (Nixon was president). They required no batteries, no electricity, no television… just my imagination.

The TOY STORY series always delighted me because the main character, the boy Andy, had these incredible toys that were so much like mine… OK, so he did not have the nerdy Civil War or White House sets, but he had the toys that required imagination!

Jose and I went to see TOY STORY 3 Friday afternoon, and I was thoroughly delighted, and moved. Hearing actors Tim Allen and Tom Hanks reunited as Woody and Buzz was music to my ears, as were the talents of Don Rickles, Joan Cusack, Ned Beatty, Michael Keaton, Estelle Harris, Laurie Metcalf, Timothy Dalton, and Bonnie Hunt.

The end of the movie is Andy leaving for college. I must admit, I was slightly choked up as mother and son had a few moments together. I remember how difficult it was for my mother when I, the eldest child, left home for Ball State University, and I was always contemplating next June when Jose graduates and leaves for basic training. I soon realized that I was one of the few in the crowded theater not sniffling, blowing his nose, or crying.

As we crossed the parking lot, Jose said, “I am not gonna lie; I was kind of choked up at the end of the movie thinking about having to say ‘good bye’ to you next summer when I leave for training.

Jose joined me on the deck for some chat and chuckles, and immediately, Flyer was at his feet, and Logan was under his chair. The minute I pulled out the camera, Logan hopped up on Jose’s lap and was ready to pose.

At 9:30am this morning, we were out the door and on our way to the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens. With a stop at Dollar General for sun tan lotion and Gator Aide, we were walking into the zoo at 11:00am. En route, we had a great time chatting about a variety of things.

We were slightly disappointed that the gorillas were not as entertaining as they normally are, but with the heat, I was surprised they were even outside their caves. In fact, most of the animals looked as though they were miserable.

What always amazes me, and Jose generally comments on the same thing, is how so many of the animals remind us of our cat and dog, Logan and Flyer. They all seem to have very similar behaviors, movements, reactions, and characteristics. So neat to watch!

There were two sets of monkeys swinging from their fabricated jungle gym, and they were squawking, and bellowing to near ear piercing decibels. Jose and I were howling with laughter because they actually sounded like humans screaming at one another.

Other than tremendous heat wearing us down, there is not too much to report. We left the zoo around 4:00am, and headed back north, enjoying several great conversation topics.

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Jose and I just returned from seeing CLASH OF THE TITANS (2010). A very good movie, indeed.

I can remember seeing the original in 1981 when I was a sophomore in high school. I recall very little of that movie, but seemed to be fairly accurate when leaning over to Jose and sharing upcoming moments. So much of what I remembered came directly from my high school Latin teacher, Diana Garner. Mrs. Garner was one of the most fascinating teachers I have known, and I cannot believe how much of her teachings are still with me in my professional life, as well as in every day life. Generally, I tend to rely on so many skills taught by Mrs. Garner, and my advanced composition teacher, Darren Paquin.

On the drive home, Jose and I discussed the many connections between mythology, and Christianity, and even some of the connectedness to STAR WARS. We discussed some of the similarities between the birth of Christ, and how it was very similar to various aspects of mythologies preceding his birth. Very interesting conversation, and good reading material for comparisons.

I thought the movie was well cast with Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Jason Flemyng, Gemma Arterton, and Alexa Davalos. However, accompanying Harry Hamlin in the 1981 version was a plethora of screen giants, some who were near the end of their careers, and lives, with the exception of Maggie Smith and Claire Bloom who are both still active in their profession, Flora Robson, Burgess Meredith, and Sir Laurence Olivier gave the movie a LOVE BOAT quality since the cheerful television show revisited so many aging stars.

The movie was good, predictable (naturally), and epic in many ways. I am always impressed, and amazed at how quickly technology has changed from my teen years to the generation of my son’s. I now liken my self to my great-grandfather on whose lap I sat as we watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. Grandpa Garrett was only 6 years old when the Wrights first flew at Kitty Hawk, and at age 16 he bought his first horse and buggy. When he began farming, it was with a horse and plow. When Grandpa Garrett retired from farming in 1966, he sold his tractors, combines, tillers, and all other farm machinery. When he was born, the first telephone was installed in the White House. When he died in his 100th year, I received an email telling me he had passed away in the night.

One day, I hope to marvel with my grandchildren, and great-grandchildren in the continued advancement of technology, reminding them that when I was a teen we did not have computers, cell phones, internet, IPods… hell, by the time my great-grandchildren are born, these current technological thrills will be extinct!

“Beam me up, Scotty!”

I cannot determine if people are becoming more inconsiderate, even rude, when operating shopping carts in Kroger, driving automobiles, or using their turn signals.

This evening, while shopping in Kroger at Towne & Country, there seemed to be an air of “get the hell out of my way.”

I am always amazed, even appalled at those who walk in pairs down a shopping aisle, shoulder to shoulder, seemingly unaware that they are blocking others coming toward them. Some even become offended that they must budge when I am standing patiently, waiting for them to pass. I have always wondered what would happen if I refused to budge. Would they move? Would they risk having a grocery cart rammed into their thigh or hip?

My mother taught me to say, “excuse me” if I needed to pass in front of someone. At 45, I still excuse myself when walking in front of a fellow customer who is weighing a purchase selection. Tonight I was standing in my favorite aisle, surrounded by the breads, peanut butters, and jellies and jams. As I was looking at peanut butters, this lady stepped right in front of me – not passing in front of me, mind you – she stepped in front of me, stopped, and completely blocked my view of the peanut butters with her backside that looked like two buses trying to pass one another. There was no, “excuse me,” nor any indication that she had rudely stepped directly in front of me. I stood, somewhat impatiently, waiting for her to make a decision, wishing I could simply say, “Hey! Ms. Rudeness 2010, I was standing here trying to make a selection when you rudely stepped in front of me.” She walked away. I continued with my perusing, and as I leaned forward to reach for a particular jar, the same woman stepped right in front of me, pushing my arm out of the way. “Excuse me,” I said, with some uncharacteristic terseness. The woman looked at me, swapped her jars, and walked away.

I sauntered back through the meat department, heading towards the potato chip aisle, and a lady was pushing her cart alongside me, aimed in the same direction. When I arrived at my designated turn, I paused, allowing her to move on, which she did. I stepped into my aisle and the lady jerked her cart around, and cut in front of me, causing me to lose my footing. There was no acknowledgement, but she could not have missed the fact that had I not clumsily bolted out of her way she would have plowed me over.

Throughout the store, the majority of customers appeared to be anxious, even aggravated over the least little thing. I even checked to see if we were in a full moon cycle!

In the parking lot, I cautiously pulled out of my space, aware that a group of twenty-something ladies had just piled into their car. As I edged forward, the driver began backing out without turning to check her left side. Had I not honked, she would have rammed right into me. With the alert, she slammed on her brakes, turned and began waving her middle finger at me as though she had just received her Hogwarts’ acceptance letter!

As I drove the short distance from the Eichelberger Shopping Plaza (where Kroger is located) to the PNC Bank in Towne & Country Shopping Plaza (across the street – most people believe Kroger is actually a part of Towne & Country), I observed people caught in the steady flow of the post-work traffic. Some were courteous, allowing others to wedge into the traffic, but for the most part, it was an atmosphere as determined at getting ahead as any NASCAR event.

Now, I have to admit, I am the Turn-Signal-Nazi. Rarely do I miss the opportunity to use my turn signal, and generally do so with a little extra warning.  I even use the turn signal in parking lots – not just as a courtesy, but because it is also the law.

The code for Ohio Laws & Rules even specifies:

(A) No person shall turn a vehicle or trackless trolley or move right or left upon a highway unless and until such person has exercised due care to ascertain that the movement can be made with reasonable safety nor without giving an appropriate signal in the manner hereinafter provided.

When required, a signal of intention to turn or move right or left shall be given continuously during not less than the last one hundred feet traveled by the vehicle or trackless trolley before turning…

(B) Except as otherwise provided in this division, whoever violates this section is guilty of a minor misdemeanor. If, within one year of the offense, the offender previously has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to one predicate motor vehicle or traffic offense, whoever violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the fourth degree. If, within one year of the offense, the offender previously has been convicted of two or more predicate motor vehicle or traffic offenses, whoever violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the third degree.

Effective Date: 01-01-2004; 09-21-2006

Very few drivers engaged their turn signals this evening – even when cutting between myself and the car two-car-lengths ahead! As usual, there were no cars behind me, and the impatient cutter could not wait for one more car to pass.

Then you have the gentleman driving west past Steinmart, refusing to stop as I am moving north with Marion’s Pizza just off to my left (I know all you Kettering folks can picture this). I completed my full stop, and proceeded through the intersection, and this gentleman, who merely made a rolling stop, attempted to cut me off. Instead, he was forced to screech to a halt, honking and cursing me. Once I was past, he raced through the dangerously narrow parking strip between PNC Bank and Marion’s Pizza (which is an area where it is difficult to see people exiting from between parked cars, or cars pulling out).

As I drove in front of Fairmont High School, with cars immediately behind me, I executed my intended left turn, in my usual place, toward the middle of East Unit – giving those following me ample time to prepare for my turn.

It is really simple. However, courtesy, even when it a traffic law, seems lost on so many. Whenever a young child utilizes courtesy, or good manners, I always reinforce their courtesy with a compliment – and one for the parents, as well!

So, good parents, continue teaching your children about courtesy, good manners, and how to use their turn signals!

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