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A ton of work goes into this huge undertaking, and it is always so exciting to see the process pay off.

I was responsible for ordering the trophies, and pulling together the awards ceremony for the fifth year, and each year I have more and more fun with this component.

On the other side of the field, near the visitor’s concession building, I managed approximately 20 adults and about 13 student ambassadors who were busy checking-in band directors and serving as host/ambassadors to guide the bands to their warm-up stations, and finally, to the gate for performance.  It ran smoothly, and I am indebted to the diligence and pride of these wonderful parents and students.

I love the awards ceremony.  The seniors and several sponsor identified presenters gather for a brief training, and these students are always so pleasant, pumped, primed and proud for the duty that awaits them.  Their enthusiasm is always such a high-point to the conclusion of an event that involves weeks of planning, countless emails swapped, scratching well-laid plans and creating new plans – even at the last minute, enduring a few minor headaches, walking more in one day than I do in – well, let’s just say a week, greeting bands and directors, and feeling that flood of very slight let-down when the event is off and running. The awards ceremony is the icing on the cake.

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This Saturday morning had a nice little twist to it.  We were up, showered, dressed, and out of the house by 9:45am, and eating breakfast at Panera in downtown Centerville where we were joined by Amy Kress, and her youngest daughter, Sarah, 6.  We moved next door to Town Hall Theatre to watch an 11:00am production of Disney’s adorable stage musical, LITTLE MERMAID, starring my piano student, Katie Kress, as Scuttle.  Katie was hilarious, cute, and did an amazing job with her terribly wordy patter song, “Human Stuff.”  Many other stage performers around could learn a thing or two about perfect diction from this 10 year old!  She rocked her consonants!

Quintin and I did the meet and greet following the show, and then hurried to the newly opened Mernards on OH-741, South of the Dayton Mall  where the original Walmart once stood.  It was incredible, but horribly crowded.  We loaded up on a few things and checked out.

At 2:00pm I attended a funeral of a student’s grandmother.  I will probably have two more this week: the grandfather of a student, and the mother of a former student who has been moved to Hospice.

I managed a quick nap upon my return home, and then we were out the door again.  We grabbed dinner at China Buffet, a shower curtain from Big Lots, and then purchased movie tickets at The Greene for FINDING NEMO in 3D.

With time to kill before the movie, we ventured over to Books & Company.  I quickly found a book on President Lincoln, LOOKING FOR LINCOLN: THE MAKING OF AN AMERICAN ICON.  Despite finding two errors in the book within five minutes, I still decided to purchase the photo-filled book.

FINDING NEMO was a delight!  Quintin and I laughed, and laughed a lot.  We marveled at the beauty of the 3-D effects, and were caught up in the journey of a father searching for his son.  Very neat.

The movie was followed with some ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery.

This day was absolutely perfect!  Quintin and I laughed so hard throughout the day, and by dinner our conversation incorporated our Russian accents.  There were times when we were both doubled over with laughter, and tears filling our eyes.  This reminded me of when I was 17, and all the fun times I had, and still have, with my own mother, and my grandparents.  Humor, and even plain silliness is a great form of glue!

It was a swimmingly good day!

Quinny checking out the new Justin Bieber calendar.

 

Quinny sporting his new hat from Menards.

GFYJG

This is really neat…

1.  My life is likely to last 10 to 15 years.  Any separation from you will be painful: remember that before you get me.

2.  Give me time to understand what you want of me.

3.  Place your trust in me- it is crucial to my well being.

4.  Do not be angry at me for long, and do not lock me up as punishment.

5.  You have your work, your entertainment, and your friends. I only have you.

6.  Talk to me sometimes. Even if I don’t understands your words, I understand your voice when it is speaking to me.

7.  Be aware that how ever you treat me, I will never forget.

8.  Remember before you hit me that I have teeth that could easily hurt you, but I choose not to bite you because I love you.

9.  Before you scold me for being uncooperative, obstinate, or lazy, ask yourself if something might be bothering me. Perhaps I might not be getting the right food, or I have been out too long, or my heart is getting to old and weak.

10.  Take care of me when I get old; you too will grow old.  Go with me on difficult journeys.  Never say: “I cannot bear to watch” or “Let it happen in my absence.”  Everything is easier for me if you are there, even my death.

Remember that I love you.

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In 1997, my brother, Destin, moved to Fowler, Indiana to teach middle school social studies.  Over the years, through my infrequent visits, I have fallen in love with this picturesque community that is so neighborly.

Here are some photos I took this weekend.

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Fowler is a town in Center TownshipBenton CountyIndianaUnited States. The population was 2,415 at the 2000 census. It is part of the Lafayette, Indiana Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Fowler was platted by Moses Fowler and his wife on October 26, 1872, and originally consisted of 583 lots, though a re-platting on April 8, 1875, expanded it to 1,602 lots and 20 blocks. Several more additions were made to the town over subsequent years.

The town’s first home was erected in March 1871 by Scott Shipman, and its first business opened in June of that year, a small general store run by Henry D. Clark. Many more businesses followed over the next few years, including the Henry Jacobs & Son grocery, grain elevators built by L. Templeton, and blacksmith John E. Mitchell, who was also the town’s first postmaster (succeeded by grocer Henry Jacobs). In 1874, Fowler became the county seat, which until that time had occupied nearby Oxford.

The town was incorporated in 1875, and its rapid growth is clear from the following list, printed in an 1883 history of Benton County:

“In September, 1875, the town of Fowler contained ten lawyers, one minister, three doctors, one dentist, one baker, two barber shops, three billiard saloons, two blacksmith shops, one wagon shop, three boot and shoe stores, one grain elevator, two dry goods stores, twenty carpenters, one furniture store, two stove and tin stores, one hardware store, one hotel, three restaurants, two drug stores, three millinery establishments, two saloons, two livery stables, three retail groceries, one clothing store, one merchant tailor, one graded school, two printing offices, two lumber yards, two churches and about 1,200 inhabitants.”[3]

Fowler is home to the Fowler Ridge Wind Farm.

The sun has set, on this, our last day in Fowler.  The two day respite was much needed, and greatly appreciated.

It began as a surprise for Mother whose birthday we celebrated Friday, April 6th.  Destin presented Mother with a reason to come up to Fowler on Friday, and found himself making up reasons for her to remain through the weekend.  He succeeded.

The pets, Quintin, and I were loaded into the car at 12:05pm, Friday, and we pulled into Benton Central Jr-Sr High School’s parking lot at 3:00pm.  We saw several friends in the main office, and spent a few minutes with the band director, Mike Richardson.

Mother was, indeed, surprised to see Quintin and I walk into Destin & Stacia’s house.

The nephews and niece are as adorable as ever, and I took plenty of photos.  I also captured a number of photos of Fowler, a community with which I have fallen in love.

Mother showed us her new house which will be ready by Memorial Day. In a few months, our family will no longer be residents of Elwood, Indiana after nearly 150 years, and Madison County for 201 years. Still, my heart will remain with my beloved community.

We spent time gathered around the table for meals, and laughter… an Easter egg hunt for the community… me chasing Navi and Chief away from Wallpe cousins’ ducks… me watching Navi and Chief romping in the meadow and creek near the pond… driving around the area to take pictures… and capturing many family moments on the camera…

The weekend has passed by too swiftly.  However, I am relaxed, refreshed, and revived. Destin & Stacia’s home in the country is my spiritual retreat, and I looked forward to the too few times I get to visit.  I sleep like a baby in the one bedroom I always claim, and Stacia’s cooking is always food for my body, and soul.

Tomorrow morning we shall pack up, load the dogs into the car, and return to Ohio.

What a wonderful weekend…

 

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I think I could count this weekend as a relaxing, refreshing success, and one I enjoyed immensely.

With the last few glimmers of Friday’s evening light, I managed to mow the front lawn, trim, and blow debris within 45 minutes. The next morning, the rising sun illuminated the previous evening’s progress, and I was pleased.

Saturday morning, I finished up a rescheduled lesson, and then Quintin and I set out for Woodland Cemetery for a photo-hike. As we passed the outer edges of the University of Dayton, the sidewalks, lawns, porches and restaurant fronts were filled with students garbed in Kelly-green T-shirts, and a drink in hand. Despite the fact I knew there is a ton of alcohol present along this familiar route, I loved seeing the students taking breaks from studies, and enjoying St. Patrick’s Day.

Woodland Cemetery is one of the most beautiful locations in Dayton.  Despite the fact I am in the minority with the living when hiking the stone bedecked hills, I am always rejuvenated after time spent there. Quintin and I covered a different path, this time, and saw new tombstones we’d not before seen. We also got to go into the old chapel which is covered with original Tiffany stained-glass windows, and mosaic-tiled floors.

At five o’clock, father and son went separate ways – son to percussion rehearsal, and father to dinner with his very dear friend, Suzanne Grote. Dr. Suz and I spent three hours of chatting away merrily about life, but mostly, theatre. She had recently seen her former student, Daniel Jenkins in the newly directed, David Doyle production, MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG, by Stephen Sondheim.  Daniel left Yellow Springs, Ohio, venturing on to a Broadway hit, BIG RIVER: THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN, in which he played Huck.  Daniel returned to the Broadway revival, several years back, to do the role of Mark Twain, and the voice of Huck. Daniel’s other Broadway shows: BIG: THE MUSICAL, MARY POPPINS and BILLY ELLIOT.

Sunday morning was overcast, and a sleepy one for me. At Noon, we took off for lunch at Frische’s, and returned home for more yard work.  The dogs have been enjoying the weather, and exploring the wonders of Spring.

The afternoon has been quiet, relaxing, and some time getting my nerd-on watching some documentaries.

Although I enjoy my weeks of teaching, I do enjoy these less hectic times on the home-front.

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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!

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.

Patti, Kristen & Greg King

Last night I learned the tragic news of Rev. Greg King’s death.  He and his wife, Patti, were involved in a car wreck in South Dakota where they’d recently moved for a new parish.  Greg died at the scene, and Patti was in critical condition.

Their son, Greg, was one of my piano and voice students, and portrayed a very stalkerish, creepy “Jud” in OKLAHOMA! Their youngest child, daughter Kristen, was in marching band and good friends with my older son.

One of my favorite moments for senior night at the football games was seeing all the other parents bundled up in winter coats, and seeing Greg & Patti escorting their senior band child across the field wearing crowns and red royal robes/capes!  What a fun family!

The King family is terribly close, and has always served as a wonderful family-model.  They deeply love one another, and always seem to radiate the joy they share as a family.

The King Family - Jim & Patti, back row, surrounded by their children

I woke this morning, not remembering the news I’d heard less than twelve hours before. When I  was reminded, the dull ache from Wednesday night returned, flooding my mind, and soul.

When horrible things happen, we always tend to ask, “Why?”

Why do terrible things happen to good people?  When we truly analyze this question, we recognize that terrible things happen to good, and bad, alike.  There is no clear-cut answer as to why terrible things happen.  This is simply one of the items that accompanies us on our journeys.

Four grieving children are making their way to South Dakota.  My heart is heavy knowing these four vibrant, beautiful souls are making such a hideous journey.  All that awaits them is their mother, resting in critical condition, and now a widow.

Still, I know there is great beauty in this day.  Through the strength of the King family, and their solid vitality, humor, and joy in living, many of us will surely be touched beyond measure, beyond belief.  Though their hearts will deeply ache, I am confident their joy will conquer this moment, reminding us that life, despite its darkest night, will always be bright, and beautiful.

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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Several folks have asked me if I’ve ever had a pet die. Yes, I have; however, my first dog, an American Eskimo, died when I was about two or three years old, and my second dog, Pokey, died my senior year of high school. It was winter, and Grandpa took care of burying Pokey, so there was no official, ‘good bye.’

In September 1970, I was walking home from Washington Elementary School and stopped to look in the large plate glass window at Burger’s Dairy Mart (Linders or Taylors to the younger Elwood folks). I noticed a little puppy standing on the step of the store. It had no collar, and seemed excited to see me – a typical puppy trait I was to ignore forty years later when I first met Navi and Chief. I waited a few minutes to see if anyone would claim him. Mary, the stout, authoritarian who worked behind the counter stepped out with a dish of water. Mary’s burly frame, dressed in a white work dress that resembled a nurse’s uniform, bent down to give the dog some water. Her chestnut hair, bunned up tightly, reminding me of the Burl Ives Snowman in RUDOLPH, never moved an inch as she bent over and rose again.

“He’s been out here all afternoon. Probably a stray.” She watched the pup lapping up the water, seeming to speak to herself more than to me.

Once Mary returned inside the store, I picked up the puppy and walked the remaining block and a half to 825 Main Street – the tall white house on the corner, and on one of the largest hills in Elwood. Once I got to Dick & Betsy’s hedge that separate our yard from the Herndon’s yard, I set the dog down, and coaxed him to the steps. Since he could barely make the ten steps that cut into the hill, he quickly figured out he could just run up the hill.

I do recall walking through the front door with the dog, and greeting Mother. I know, according to Mother, that I elected to go with the story that the puppy had followed me home.

Mother said she could tell he was a stray, and placed an advertisement in The Elwood Call-Leader. If no one claimed the dog within two weeks, he could stay with us.

Two weeks passed, and the Alpo eating pup became a fixture at the Jolliff home.

In honor of my good kindergarten friend, Debbie Poynter, who lived one block over between the Mangas and LaPierre families, I named the dog, Pokey, which was Debbie’s nickname. Now, the older Poynter sisters claimed the nickname was prompted by Debbie’s slow nursing habits. Naming my new pup after Debbie, who was jokingly nicknamed ‘John’ by my grandfather, was a compliment to my childhood friend.

Pokey was a young boy’s true pal. He slept with me, went on walks with me, protected me, went nuts if I got a spanking, and was always at my side, much like Flyer, Navi, Chief, and Logan have been. Whenever we’d leave the house for an extended amount of time, we’d return to find Pokey sleeping on my footie pajamas he’d pulled from beneath my pillow. Of course, we would also return to find chewed up gloves, shoes, gnawed table legs, and other articles we’d not planned to abandon so soon. One particular item was a young member of my Johnny West action figures who lost his feet to Pokey’s boredom. From that point on, Jeff West was simply known as “Crip.”

After about two years, a neighbor’s huge German shepherd, Lance, began coming into our yard and attacking Pokey, once biting into his neck. Poor Pokey, when going on walks, was terrified. After those attacks, Pokey was afraid of all strangers, and nipped at the mailman. Grandpa hated seeing Pokey chained up in the yard, and offered to keep him out at their home in the country.

Off Pokey went to live two miles north of Lapel. And there he remained for the next ten years. Since we spent so much time with Grandpa and Grandma, Pokey was not missed.

My senior year of high school I could not return to the country as often due to marching band. By this time, Pokey had become quite aged, and he could barely walk. Grandpa built him a deluxe dog house with so much insulation you could feel the warmth in the coldest weather. By Thanksgiving 1982, Grandpa or Grandma had to lift Pokey off the porch so he could go potty.

When I arrived to Grandpa and Grandma’s for Thanksgiving dinner, Pokey spied me getting out of the car at the end of the drive. With great energy, and determination, Pokey rose to his feet, and carefully walked down the steps, and out to the car to greet me. I will never forget that moment of dedication shown me by a beloved pet. It was the truest affection, and devotion.

Later, it was time for my senior musical, OKLAHOMA!. I returned home for opening night to grab a bite to eat before returning to the high school for make-up and to get my hair curled. As we sat down to the table, my 8 year old brother, Destin, and I got into a quibble. Without dropping a beat, Destin said, “Your dog’s dead.” Mother, to this day, claims she will never forget the look on my face as I turned to her for confirmation. “Grandma found him in the garage this morning. He was dead.”

Mother, while trying to offer sympathies to me, was also trying to shut up Destin who seemed to thrive in the one-upmanship of his 18 year old brother.

Grandma Donna had entered the garage that morning to find her dog, Duchess, cuddling Pokey’s warm body. Duchess was crying out as she wrapped her paws around the dog that had gotten grumpier with her the past year.

That moment in 1993, punctuated with “your dog’s dead,” has become a family staple in our cupboard of humorous, memorable family moments.

This afternoon, I prepare for the departure of another pet – or rather, a fury family member – my wonderful cat of seventeen years, Logan. The day has practically shut down with this tender, loving vigil of farewell, and I am so grateful to the many, many friends who are sharing in this moment, reminding me that they, too, think of their pets as members of the family.
Pokey saw me age six to eighteen, and Logan was with me from age twenty-nine to forty-seven. All together, I’ve had pets over half my years living, and I cannot think of a more wonderful companion, or gift.

Continue to rest in peace, dear Pokey. Thank you for being a boy’s best friend…

And thank you, Debbie Poynter, for graciously allowing me to borrow your childhood nickname!

 

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!

If you have never been to a Fairmont High School football game, you are missing some pretty neat traditions.

The high school and football stadium, one of the nicest in the area, are several blocks apart.  At first I thought this was logistically impractical; however, now I see it as one of the neatest, most exciting moments one can experience.

At 6:45pm, in front of the performing arts wing, the entire band lines up for what is called, Step Off.  The band moves around the high school’s Southern campus inviting tailgaters and other fans to fall in behind the band.  The Marching Firebirds and trailing fans wind through a picturesque neighborhood filled with more cheering fans enjoying barbecue parties, fans waiting from their parked cars to join the procession, and fans who simply stand on their front porches to watch the band go by.

I mean, how neat is that?  Six Fridays each fall you have a 200+ marching band pass by your house.

While this is going on, there is a growing momentum at the stadium.  This particular night, I hurried to the stadium to catch the band’s entrance – clearly a major moment for Firebird football/band fans.

The announcer brings stadium attention to the marching band as it rounds the corner from the neighborhood, and this is often accompanied with cheers.  The band winds through the parking lot, through a gate, and then proceeds under the stadium seating which is heralded by the pounding of percussion.  The stands vibrate and shake while the fans go nuts.

Last night, as the marching band moved beneath the stadium, the announcer referred to the band as “the Pride of Kettering.”  Yes… it is!

It really is a neat tradition that rivals many college traditions, and if you live in The Miami Valley, it is worth the time to swing by and watch.

In fact, stay for the game and watch the pre-game production which offers another incredible moment when the marching band spells out a script “BIRDS.”

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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!

On May 25, 1910 at Huffman Prairie, just outside Dayton, Orville Wright piloted two unique flights.

First, he took off on a six-minute flight with Wilbur as his passenger, the only time the Wright brothers ever flew together. They received permission from their father, Bishop Milton Wright, to make this flight. They had always promised their father that they would never fly together to avoid the chance of a double tragedy and to ensure one brother would remain to continue their experiments.

Next, Orville took his 82-year old father on a nearly seven-minute flight, the first and one of Milton Wright’s life. The

airplane rose to about 350 feet while the elderly Wright called to his son, “Higher, Orville… higher!”

And that’s how I felt today while being one of the first to ride the new carousel – the new gem of Dayton’s Carillon Park.

After lunch I rode with several Wright brothers enthusiasts to the site of the Wright family home on Hawthorn Street, just off Third Street in West Dayton. August 19th, 1871, Orville Wright was born in the front second floor bedroom. Three years later Katharine Wright was born on the same day, in the same room. We spent some time in the Wright brother’s bicycle shop on Williams Street, and then the aviation center across the plaza.

We stopped by Woodland Cemetery to pay our respects to the Wright family, and passed by Hawthorn Hill, the gorgeous mansion crowning a gigantic hill in Oakwood.

I retrieved Quintin from home so we could attend the Carillon Park/Dayton History annual meeting. I was slightly miserable from the heat and decided I would show Quintin the same things I visited earlier that afternoon. While at the cemetery, a couple from Oklahoma City approached and asked if I knew much about the Wright family.

It was nearing 5:00pm, and I knew I should be at the meeting. However, with a passion for history, I believe there is a duty as an ambassador to share Dayton’s history with others. By 5:20pm we were heading over to Carillon Park.

We stood in the back of the tent, catching the last 10 minutes or so of Brady Kress’ speech.

Brady Kress…

Dayton was so lucky to be blessed with the likes of Wilbur & Orville Wright, Charles Kettering, Col. Deeds, John Patterson, and countless others, but we are equally blessed with Brady Kress who is equal as a visionary to the Wrights, Kettering, Patterson, and Deeds combined! As local news media maestro, Jim Bucher, claimed, “Brady is Dayton’s own version of Walt Disney!”

Bucher is so right on target!

As Brady concluded the annual meeting, he encouraged everyone to check beneath the seats of their chairs. Thirty-three lucky people would find, taped to the bottom, a gold carousel coin honoring them with the first ride. I was a bit disappointed that I was not seated in one of the several open chairs and even considered making a mad dash for several.

As Quintin and I turned to head to the ribbon cutting ceremony, I saw Amy Kress, Brady’s wife, and her father coming towards us. Her father, Mr. Schwartz handed me the gold coin taped beneath his chair. He had already ridden the carousel during his granddaughter’s birthday party, and Amy said I would probably be thrilled to ride it. Of course, all week long Amy has endured my emails of childish glee – but she did start it several years ago when she first told me of the carousel’s unique design. Two of the special designs were to be Orville Wright’s Saint Bernard, Scipio, and Wilbur Wright’s dog, Flyer. I even loaned Brady one of my books that contained a photo of the original Flyer.

I know Mr. Schwartz was talking to me about something as we walked to the ribbon cutting, but honestly, I was not even close to earth as I held tightly to that gold coin. Being one of the lucky 33 ranked right up there with

  • getting to hold Mary Todd Lincoln’s gloves
  • holding the small portrait of Mary Todd Lincoln’s father, Robert Todd
  • thumbing through Bishop Wright’s family Bible and holding his spectacles (thanks to Melba Hunt)
  • holding Orville Wright’s white dinner jacket which he wore to a White House dinner in 1942 (again, thanks to Melba)
  • meeting Vice-President Gerald Ford in July 1974
  • singing “The National Anthem” as the first actual performance at The Schuster Center for the Hard Hat Concert
  • standing a few feet from John Glenn and Neil Armstrong during the closing ceremonies of the 2003 flight centennial

I am sure there have been other major highlights like these – and beyond the arrival of a new son, or the birth of one my brother’s children. Today was one of those exciting, magical moments for me.

After the ribbon cutting, Quintin and I joined the crowd of 450+ and strolled into the building. The exhibits were great, but to be truthful, I was aiming for the carousel. We can return any time to enjoy the wonderful new exhibits.

We entered the carousel pavilion, and I heard workers calling for folks with the golden coin. I barreled through the bodies with out causing casualty to anyone and presented my golden coin. Willy Wonka, here I come!

I got to Flyer before a kindly looking woman who was eyeing this ride. She just thought it was an ordinary dog displayed on the carousel. Poor thing got a quick history lesson right there, and then. When I told her my dog was named Flyer she backed off and found another ride. One friend asked, “What if Amanda Wright Lane [the great grandniece of the Wright brothers] had been the lady and had wanted to be the first to ride Flyer?” Well, there was a cute little bi-plane representing her uncles and it would have only been fitting for her squat her rights on it!

I am hoping to head to Carillon Park Sunday afternoon to take in the exhibits.

Dayton – thank you for supporting our community’s rich history, and thank you, even more, for entrusting it to Brady Kress.

“Believe and act as if it were impossible to fail.”
Charles Kettering

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.

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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  I don’t know when I have had a more wonderful Christmas!

Very early Friday morning, the boys, Flyer and I headed westward, arriving in Elwood at 11:00am. Jose and Mother followed Quintin and I, and by 12:30pm we were pulling in to Destin & Stacia’s.

An hour or so later I drove to the church to practice the organ in preparation for the Christmas Eve service. By this time, the snow was falling heavily, and bounding down with a purpose of making travel difficult.

A highlight of the weekend was the most delicious dinner at Norma’s, Stacia’s mother. Norma moved from the farm where Destin & Stacia live, and bought a historical landmark in Fowler, about one block from her church. The home was once owned by the town’s dairy man and was part of a huge dairy farm. Norma has decorated it beautifully, and the landscaping is quite fetching (we need to bring this word back!).

Norma sets an exquisite table, and yet, it is most comfortable. The littlest touch does not seem to escape her!

The dinner was incredible. Stacia made white chili – my first time to sample it. Wonderful!

We finished dinner and it was time to head to church. The service was very nice, and nothing is more beautiful than to leave Christmas Eve services with snow falling!

Back at Norma’s home we enjoyed hot chocolate (kindly made with Splenda for the diabetics), and a nice sampling of desserts. My sons were such great cousins and playmates for my nephews, Parker (5) and Freddie (3), and they all enjoyed themselves.

It was so nice to sit up talking to Destin for a good deal of time. So often, when we are together, any time to sit and talk is sapped by the events. However, after the entire Haashold began settling down, we had some chat time which made my day.

Christmas morning began on a quiet note as Mother and I sat at the kitchen table talking. Stacia was the first to rouse, and then the smaller peeps began adding momentum to the day with their unrivaled energy. The stockings came down with much excitement. The family breakfast was eaten and then it was back to the Christmas tree for the unwrapping of gifts. I held my beautiful three-month old niece, Carolyne throughout the flutter and crackle of wrapping paper and gift bags.

At some point, I fell asleep with Carolyne lodged securely in my arms. When I woke, she was also asleep.

At 12:30pm, Mother and Quintin followed Jose and I back to Elwood. The roads were clear, and very safe.

Since we did not have our traditional Chinese dinner on Christmas Eve, we maintained the tradition Christmas night.

Sunday morning, we took down Mother’s tree, packed up, showered, and went to Richard’s for lunch. After an enjoyable lunch, we hit the road for another two hours, returning to Kettering by 3:00pm.

When Jose returned from work, we sat down to creamy tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches – the right combo for a cold Christmas night. We opened a bottle of sparking apple juice, and with my seldom used wine glasses, we toasted our new family… to sons, to brothers, and to family.

A beautiful, memorable coda to two months of zipping along an incredible rollercoaster.

 

 

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

I think I passed three of the most enjoyable days of my summer!

Thursday morning, I had a two hour lesson with one of my graduated seniors, Ryan Crouch, and as always, it was a great time – and tons of laughter.

Shortly after Ryan departed, Mother arrived from Indiana. She took two days off work from the police department to come see Jose’s band show a the end of band camp. She and I went to Mongolian Grill, and after a brief rest at home, we headed out to Wright State University where the Fairmont marching band has practiced all week.

We enjoyed the pre-game presentation, and especially the first completed movement of the 2010 competition. The percussion ensemble also played their feature which was already sounding great.

At the end of camp, two of my former students, Torrey Cowan and Chris Taylor, arrived. Chris’ apartment is just across from where our band practiced. Torrey was one of my field commanders, and served Springboro High School’s marching band last year, and did a superb job. I met the Taylor family in 1999 when Chris was eight years old. His older brother, Joe, and his older sister, Rebecca, were also piano students. Joe went on to play trumpet for SHS, and Rebecca began on flute, and switched to French horn her junior year – doing a remarkable job. Chris started on piano, and in fifth grade, at age 10, started saxophone lessons. By the end of his freshman year we were working hard on field commander preparations. Chris served as the saxophone section leader, and as field commander throughout his high school career. So, I had the Taylor family for ten years in lessons. Rebecca is working on her masters at WSU, Joe just graduated from WSU, and Chris will be a sophomore this fall at WSU.

It was so great to see these two former students.

After leaving camp, we had a traditional post-camp supper, this year at Steak N Shake.

Friday morning I prepared an egg casserole, and pancakes, and we enjoyed a great breakfast out on the deck where, for the first time in weeks, it was actually comfortable!

At 2:00pm Jose had his upper wisdom teeth removed. He was a brave little soldier, and handled it just fine. In fact, he is still doing fine, having bounced back with no problems.

We got Jose’s prescription for his pain medication (he has only taken one pill as of Saturday morning), and returned home where I prepared a spaghetti & meat balls dinner in the crock pot.

Mother and I drove to the beautiful Smith Gardens of Oakwood. We met my wonderful neighbor lady, Kay, who walked with us through the very beautiful grounds. While we were chatting, we saw a judge enter the garden, followed by a bride and groom, and two witnesses. At first I thought they were looking for a location to shoot some photos, however, I learned that they were actually performing the very private ceremony there. I offered to take photos for them throughout the ceremony, and several after. It was really great to be a part of their cherished moments, even if they were complete strangers.

We left the gardens, and bid farewell to Kay who was off to a birthday party.

Mother and I drove through Oakwood, down past Carillon Park and Old River Park – I even drove her to the former NCR headquarters so she could see the lagoon where Jose and I often canoe. We then headed to Big Lots for some odds and ends. While there, the executive director from ACTION Adoption Services contacted me to see if I could come in to teach the pre-adoptive class since the scheduled trainer was held up at work. I agreed to do it, and Mother went with me.

It was fun having Mother in on this class, which was about “Discipline,” as Mother participated, and shared some of her own parenting experiences, especially supplementing the fact that each child is very different, and not every child can be parented the same, exact way. It was a fun evening.

We arrived home, and had a bowl of spaghetti out on the deck.

This morning it was English muffins, cereal, sugar-free angel food cake with strawberries (what we would have eaten for desert had I not taught class), and coffee.

Sophie Lockhart arrived for her saxophone and voice lesson, and Mother really enjoyed getting to hear Sophie play. We also got to chat with Mike Lockhart for a few minutes.

After the Lockharts left, Mother returned to Indiana. Jose and I are now plotting the rest of our day.

This was just a super, super few days, and what a way to springboard into Beavercreek High School’s show choir for which I will be teaching this week.

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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….

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.


 

RED RIVER VALLEY
 arranged and adapted by Arlo Guthrie


From this valley they say you are going

We will miss your bright eyes and sweet smile 

For they say you are taking the sunshine 

That has brightened our pathways awhile

Come and sit by my side, if you love me 

Do not hasten to bid me adieu 

Just remember the Red River Valley 

And the cowboy who loved you so true

I've been thinking a long time, my darling 

Of the sweet words you never would say 

Now, alas, must my fond hopes all vanish 

For they say you are gong away

Do you think of the valley you're leaving 

O how lonely and how dreary it will be 

And do you think of the kind hearts you're breaking 

And the pain you are causing to me

Come and sit by my side, if you love me 

Do not hasten to bid me adieu 

Just remember the Red River Valley 

And the cowboy who loved you so true

They will bury me where you have wandered 

Near the hills where the daffodils grow 

When you're gone from the Red River Valley 

For I can't live without you I know

Come and sit by my side, if you love me 

Do not hasten to bid me adieu 

Just remember the Red River Valley 

And the cowboy who loved you so true
 



 
DONNA MAE CLARY-BARMES
May 8, 1924 - June 27, 1992

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.

The deck, at 1:15pm this Thursday afternoon, is cool, breezy, and filled with the irregular musical tones of the wind chimes. My lunch is finished, and I am now set to blogging, and working on other projects.

This has been a rather ordinary week here at the Haasienda del Shroyer. Not much to report. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday was filled with lessons, thunderstorms, and various mundane tasks.

Yesterday’s heat and humidity made the day most uncomfortable. By 2:00pm, I had the air conditioning on, and due to the sun’s placement, my study was an oven the entire afternoon. Fans did nothing to alleviate the discomfort.

Most of my spare time has either been napping, from continuous fatigue, to watching a neat series of on-going documentaries, DIGGING FOR THE TRUTH. I love archeology, and any book or documentary that searches all types of history. This show is absolutely fascinating, and I have learned an incredible amount of history that has escaped me, especially the Lost Tribes of Israel! I do not know how I missed this topic all these years. So far I have watched, and enjoyed:

  1. Who Built Egypt’s Pyramids?
  2. Hunt for the Lost Ark
  3. The Iceman Cometh
  4. The Lost Tribe of Israel
  5. Secrets of the Nazca Lines
  6. Mystery of the Anasazi

Here is a video of the episode about The Lost Ark of the Covenant:

Other interests this week have been listening reports, and reading about the controversy between President Obama and General McChrystral. It is difficult to know which news program to watch as I am never certain as to certain affiliations. Oh, how the days of Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather are so far removed from us!

My friend, Bill Hetzer, a retired army brass, did introduce me to war correspondent, Michael Yon, and I am truly enjoying his perspective – non-political!

My gut reaction to this entire affair: the general was wrong. I know it is not a written rule, but militarily, it is the unspoken golden rule involving the chain of command… “thou shalt not publicly speak out against thy commanders.”

Some of the succeeding commentaries from “locals” on DAYTON DAILY NEWS are absurd, and sometimes offensive. I cannot believe the lack of intelligence, and sheer stupidity displayed by some of the readers! It is one thing to be uninformed. It is another to be just downright stupid. Some of the comments are so far-fetched, and it is often tasteless to know some of these people are permitted a driver’s license, and the freedom to walk amongst other human beings.

Quite often, however, I believe some prefer to stir up an excessive amount of drama while hiding behind the fake names.

A growing number of posters are claiming this is the first time in US history where a commander has been relieved of his responsibilities during a time of war… ummm…. wrong…

A number of presidents have traded, or dismissed commanding officers. Lincoln did it a number of times during the Civil War, even dismissing the ever popular George McClellan. President Truman fired another popular general, Douglas MacArthur. President Bush, I believe, changed military leadership once or twice (however, I am not as knowledgeable on this).

If you want a good laugh, an opportunity to groan, or attempting to relieve constipation, scan through some of the comments… they will either leave you howling, scowling or boweling!

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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16 years ago today, I got my cat, Logan. I don’t know why this date has stuck with me, but perhaps it is because Logan was the first pet I acquired as an adult. At first, she was Mr. Logan, named for biggest idol in life, legendary director-producer-playwright, Joshua Logan. However, upon learning that she was, indeed, a female, I simply shortened it to Logan.

She has been a delightful little pal, often traveling with me to Indiana and New York City, going on walks (she has a leash), riding in my backpack as I rode my bicycle, and snuggling with me at night as I read before bedtime. In her early days, she could be seen riding the float with the Centerville Community Band – wearing a little straw hat with red and blue ribbons, straddling my shoulders as we attended Stubbs Park concerts, and sitting in the lap of little Benjamin Gross as he took piano lessons.

One morning I woke to a screeching cry, and jumped out of bed to find Logan dragging her backside down the hall. She was not quite a year, and I feared something had fallen on her, crushing her back end. I threw on sweats and a ball cap, wrapped her in a bath towel, and drove her to the vet who was open to accept early arrivals for surgeries. I explained something had fallen on her, and just then, Logan repeated the painful experience.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Haas, but there is nothing we can do for her.”

I asked if we had to put her down….

“No, Logan is in heat.”

I replaced my ball cap, tucked Logan under my arm, and left the office with all the dignity I could muster.

For the past 16 years, Logan has been a delightful pet, and companion. Age has not slowed her down, and she frequents the neighbors, as well as the nearby Fraze Pavilion when there is a concert. She has sauntered across the stage, several times, during a famous artist’s performance, generally scoping the audience to see if there is anyone she knows. Upon finding a familiar face, or inviting lap, Logan will enjoy the concert, often encouraging those near her to see just how soft her fur is.

Thank you, Logan, for a wonderful 16 years together.

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!

At Noon, Jose and I set out for the six mile jaunt to Cox Gardens & Arboretum on 741/Springboro Pike just north of the Dayton Mall. It is one of the many lovely metro parks throughout the Miami Valley, and perhaps, my favorite. Before adopting, I spent many hours hiking through the gardens, as well as the lengthy wooded pathways. In the Spring, prom goers, and wedding parties crowd the expansive landscape, posing in the endless photographic spots.

I forgot to take my pedometer, so I have no idea how far we hiked, but we were on the trails a little over two hours, stopping often to take in scenery, and capture some of it on film. Jose has a natural photographer’s eye, and does a superb job with the camera I got him for Christmas.

As we began the hike towards the woods, a park vehicle passed us, and the passenger was wearing all orange. I joked to Jose that the young guy probably did not realize he looked like he was wearing a prison jumpsuit. Jose and I approached the clearing where the superintendent’s house stands, and to our surprise, there was a guard, and about 15 men wearing orange jumpsuits! The door of the van read, “Montgomery County Adult Probation.” It was a peculiar feeling walking amongst the tribe of orange clad gentlemen who looked every inch the role you would see in prison movies. Lots of ink on flesh!

The remainder of the hike was up hill, down hill, walking past the lake and lake house, and then returning to the main park.

While on the trail Jose said, “This is great. I get to hike and spend time with my Dad. A great way to spend a day!”

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Finally, the steamy, sticky, humidity has temporarily taken leave of The Miami Valley. Last evening’s thunderstorms, with a brilliant light show surrounding the entire Miami Valley, set the cooling-off into motion, and today we are blessed with a continue cool, breeze, and this with a temperature reading of 82-degrees at almost 4:00pm.

I have begun my summer teaching schedule, and due to several students at camps, or on vacations, I have had several long spells to relax. Well, nap, actually. I am still finding the energy completely drained. Last night I finished teaching and nearly fell into bed, too tired to lift my head. Around 10:00pm, Jose and I walked to Speedway as the storm approached. The sky looked as though fireworks were being set off miles away as the skies were filled with many colors from the heat lightning. It reminded me of conducting the Centerville Community Band one summer at Stubb’s Park. We had just begun playing our final piece, Phantom of the Opera, when the heat lightning began accompanying the medley. It was quite spectacular, and so fitting for that particular number.

Within minutes of returning home, the heaven’s unleashed its wet fury!

I opened the windows to allow the cool winds and fresh air to fill the house. Rather than fall asleep, I remained awake until 2:00am – something that generally happens during the summer months.

During the summers, I only teach on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, freeing up my Thursdays and Fridays for writing, additional business, yard work, and time with Jose. This time next year, he will be in basic training, and the house will be quiet… and most lonely. So, I will try to find something fun for us to do on Thursday, or Friday – hiking, photography at various places, Carillon Park, Old River Park… anything fun.

Friday night I have on-going training for adoption-life, and then will teach a six hour course on Saturday for training.

The blog I posted this morning regarding Touchdown Jesus received a nice comment from the Word Press editor, and placed on the Freshly Pressed page for the system. I have received many responses – varying in their opinions.

It is nearing time to teach for another three hours. The days of teaching are longer, but I have scheduled breaks throughout to assist with pacing, and energy.

4:00am found me wide awake this morning, but I managed to return to two more hours of sleep.

After feeding Logan and Flyer, I settled down to write the morning’s entry on this blog site, and by 9:30am I was finally preparing my presentation on Robert Todd Lincoln for the Lincoln Society of Dayton. For several weeks I had been storing away items in my brain but had not committed any notes to paper. Everything flowed easily, and within an hour I had the entire presentation completed.

I was amazed at how easy it all fell together, but then, I have been studying the Lincoln family for nearly forty years.

At 1:00pm Bob & Sarah Koogler arrived, and after a few minutes of conversation in the house, we set out for the Patterson Family Homestead near the University of Dayton.

I was excited to spend time with Bob & Sarah, and was equally surprised to see Bill & Kay Hetzer, and Geary & Jennifer Biggs.

The crowd was very kind, enthusiastic, and surprisingly eager to learn about Robert Todd Lincoln! The presentation went smoothly, even when I said “Robert Lincoln became a captain in the army under General Lee” – instead of General Grant! The audience roared even more when I tossed the comment off with “I guess I am rewriting history.”

The question/answer segment was filled with some great questions and comments.

After the presentation, the Kooglers, Hetzers, Biggs and I drove over to Ben & Jerry’s for some ice cream, and had the best time laughing.

The Kooglers dropped me off, and I hurried over to pick up Sophie Lockhart for her lesson. I spent a good hour talking to Valerie and Sophie before heading back home for Soph’s lesson.

Jose and I grabbed Subway for dinner (I deserved to have someone else prepare food today), and ate dinner. I settled down in my bedroom to type, and watch The Tony Awards. Slightly uneventful… and disappointing with some of the performances.

The evening is slowing down nicely, and with some relaxation after the whirlwind weekend.

Friday morning at 9:30am, Jose, Flyer and I left Kettering, and aimed westward for Indiana. We took the scenic route, and enjoyed it so much more. Jose and I had the best conversations on the way, and I was so glad that a teenager opted to share a lengthy conversation rather than plug his ears with his favorite tunes.

My cousin, Dana, and her family lives near Lynn, Indiana, and for some reason, I thought it was south of Richmond, Indiana. To my surprise, it is approximately ten miles north of Richmond. Nice little community – as well all those lovely towns along Highways 27, 1, 32 and 28. Winchester, Lynn, Fountain City and Farmland are exceptionally quaint little communities, still thriving with many hometown, downtown businesses. Jose was highly interested in the fact that these communities still maintained so much of their former charm – a charm I knew so well in nearly every city as a child.

One site that caught our attention, and interest on SR-32, just west of Winchester, was the stone entry to the former orphanage, long abandoned. The entrance had the words “Orphans Home” engraved, and the long drive led back to a circle of trees where the building once stood. It was a lovely area, but also one that seemed rich in history, and many sad stories.

We stopped at a Dollar General to buy a water dish for Flyer, and as I stepped out of the car in Albany, Indiana, I looked up and there was Rivar’s! Rivar’s is a dance/show apparel shop, built by former Ball State University Singers alumni. The Rivar sisters have a huge, competitive business that is known throughout the nation.

We pulled into Elwood around 1:00pm, and took Mother to lunch at Richards, one of our favorite haunts.

Back at Mother’s, I saw a tall, elderly gentleman looking at my car. Finally, he came to the door and spoke to Mother who eventually called me out. The neighbor was backing his truck out and rammed into the back end of the car which was parked off the street, and on the grass since there is no curb. He had already called the police out to make a report, and I filled out all the pertinent  information. The gentleman repeatedly mentioned something about a law about vehicles needing to be 18 inches off the street – however, Mother, who has been with the police department for nearly thirty years, and Diane at State Farm Insurance had never heard of this ordinance. I will go have an estimate made, and then send it to State Farm.

After a running a few errands, cutting up vegetables, and chatting endlessly, it was time for supper. We went to the local Chinese Restaurant, greeted by the VERY loud hostess.

The remainder of the evening was relaxing.

The following morning we left the house at 8:00am for Fowler, Indiana where my brother and his family lives. Fowler is one of my favorite spots in the world – it is just so relaxing, and I always seem to return refreshed, and energized. One of my favorite things is seeing the tall, futuristic-looking wind turbines

We arrived shortly before 10:30am and watched my nephew, Parker, play soccer. It was so hilarious watching those little peeps on the field!

Out at the Fowler Haasienda, lunch was prepped while I snapped photos of my nephews at play. Freddie, who is two and a half years, and my Godson, is a riot to watch in action. He is an exhausting little fellow to watch, but quite hilarious, and adventurous.

As always, lunch was delicious. My sister-in-law, Stacia, and her mother, Norma, always fix some of the tastiest dishes.

Just as lunch was finishing up, the guests for Parker’s birthday party began arriving.

Stacia and Destin led them through games, and other fun activities that captivated the lively little crew. While this was going on, Freddie was soaking himself, and Jose, with water from the kiddie water trough in the side yard.

Presents and cake were on the screened in porch – one of the neatest features of the farm… so relaxing, even in the 90-degree heat, and 1,000% humidity that bathed us. Eventually, a thunderstorm arrived, temporarily cooling off the temperature, but before long the steam began rising throughout the countryside sauna.

We left Fowler around 3:45pm, and arrived in Elwood at 5:30pm. We loaded the car, and were pulling out of Mother’s drive at 6:00pm. We retraced our Friday path, and enjoyed the little towns along the way, with more accompaniment of great conversation. We pulled into our own drive at 8:30pm, unloaded the car, went to Family Video so Jose could get a game, and then grabbed a Hot-N-Ready $5 pizza from Little Caesars. Finally, at 11:00pm, I was crawling into bed as a thunderstorm began raging.

A brief, but enjoyable trip.

And Monday, the official summer teaching schedule begins!

In 1986, while a student at Ball State University, I began writing a choral project on President Lincoln. Having been a fan of the 16th president since first grade this was a project I thoroughly enjoyed. For some reason, I had not read much on his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln. The precious little information I had obtained led me to follow the belief that she was a hysterical shrew, and hell-cat as described by some of her less flattering contemporaries.

One movement in this proposed choral piece was entitled, “Love Is Eternal,” based on the inscription on Mrs. Lincoln’s Etruscan gold wedding band given to her on the day she married Mr. Lincoln, November 4, 1842. This movement was more a sarcastic treatment rather than one about true love. I began this portion thinking, “Oh, poor Mr. Lincoln, married to Mary Todd… how sad.”

My MTL Research Journey journey began with Ruth Painter Randall’s 1953 biography, Mary Lincoln: Biography of a Marriage. I was soon scratching my head, and wondering why so many from her generation thought of her with such acidity. I began believing, “Oh, poor Mary Todd, married to Mr. Lincoln!”

A friend introduced me to Irving Stone’s, Love Is Eternal: Mary Todd Lincoln. Although I had some minor issues with Mr. Stone’s research, I enjoyed a year of correspondence between the famed historical fiction author, and his lovely wife, Jean. Mr. Stone’s sympathetic portrayal of Mary Todd Lincoln was, to me, quite enchanting, and terribly romantic.

Weighed with the enormous works of Ms. Randall and Mr. Stone, I soon began scouring Springfield, Illinois, and Lexington, Kentucky where Mrs. Lincoln was born, and lived the first score of her life.

In Springfield, I became friends with a darling lady, Charlotte Oglesby, the grand-daughter of former Governor Richard Oglesby, a friend of President Lincoln, and one of the two gentlemen to see him into the carriage as he and Mrs. Lincoln drove away to Ford’s Theatre, April 14, 1865.

I was also fortunate to meet Lou Holden, the director of The Mary Todd Lincoln House in Lexington, Kentucky – the first home preserved to honor a first lady. I was delighted to get to know Ms. Holden, and the other staff members of the MTLH, and to further my research.

I also became acquainted with Carol Massey of Lexington – but this story shall wait for another time! It is quite interesting, and very…. well, we shall leave it at “interesting.”

I also became a frequent telephone pal with Samuel A. Schreiner, Jr., author of the 1987 non-fictional, The Trials Of Mrs. Lincoln, a thorough account of the insanity trial, and the former first lady’s clever plot to legally restore her sanity.

Throughout those four years, I became obsessed with MTL’s story, and even worked with a BSU professor who was experienced in Victorian prose, and a local OBGyn who assisted me with the Nineteenth Century’s knowledge of gynecology, uncovering some of the claims made against Mrs. Lincoln.

Around 1988, I met, and fell in love with the phenomenal actress/vocalist, Kathleen “Katie” Pfister-Musick (photo at right). I knew immediately Katie was the right one to portray Mrs. Lincoln on stage, and after 24 years, I still believe she is perfect for the role.

When I moved to Dayton, Ohio the summer of 1990, I put aside my script and score on Love Is Eternal, and absorbed myself in teaching, directing, conducting, traveling back and forth between Dayton and New York with various projects, and by 2000, adopting sons.

Now that life has slowed down a tad (no pun intended, of course), I began looking over the Lincoln musical, again.

Ironically, via Google Alerts, and Facebook, I became E-cquainted with a Mary Lincoln scholar, and actress, Donna D. McCreary, from Indiana. I was quick to learn she is also friends with a dear college friend, and exceptionally talented actor, J.R. Stuart.

The past few days, my new Mary Todd Lincoln E-friend and I have shared several interesting, amusing letters, and my laid-aside interest in Mrs. Lincoln is resurfacing.

1986-1990 took me on a fascinating journey with Mrs. Lincoln, and this coming Sunday I shall re-enter the ring as I present to the Dayton Lincoln Historical Society, a presentation on Robert Todd Lincoln, and his relationship with his mother.

June 3, 2004, on a Thursday morning at 10:55am, my grandfather, Leroy Barmes, passed away.

Grandpa loved nothing more than to make people laugh.  In fact, it was his gift to us.  Of course, it goes without saying that he had an element of performance that often made him the center of attention and I’ve always said that Grandpa liked to be the bride at every wedding, the corpse at every funeral and the baby at every christening.

Sometimes, he was simply larger than life.

By the time I was able to walk and talk as a toddler I was Papaw Leroy’s little companion. It seemed as though I went everywhere with Grandpa, and one of my greatest joys was riding in the police car with him. I loved spending time with him, and remember him whistling, playing his harmonica, or humming “The Whiffenpoof Song.”

One day, after my Grandma Donna had taken me to watch the Panter Band practice at the old T-Way parking lot for the Indiana State Fair contest, I was marching around their front porch with a pretend trumpet. Grandpa asked, “Are you honkin’?” At the age of three I suppose I thought I meant “is your name ‘Honkin'”? So, when asked my name, I replied, “Darin Honkin’ Jolliff.”

Thus, Grandpa dubbed me with the nickname, “Honkin’” or simply, “Honk.”  He was the only one who ever called me, this and most of my cards, or letters, for nearly forty years were addressed to “Honkin’.

One of my earliest memories of my grandfather is not one most grandchildren would have.  We were having a church picnic out at Elwood’s Calloway Park and I, at age three, climbed to the top of a twenty foot slide.  For whatever reason, I looked over the side and lost my balance.  To this day, I can still clearly remember falling head first and seeing the ground begin to blur into a mass of solid green.  The image of my forty-six year old grandfather running towards me with outstretched arms is forever etched in my mind.  Grandpa caught me that afternoon.

As a young boy, Grandpa convinced me he had grown up with Abraham Lincoln. At Lincoln’s Indiana boyhood home, he pointed out a section of split rails that formed a fence, “Now, me and Abe chopped all those rails.”

I learned how Grandpa taught Lincoln how to play football, what good cooks Nancy Hanks and Mary Todd Lincoln were, how Grandpa assisted Lincoln with radio transmissions during the Civil War to follow Confederate lines, and how he and Grandma helped babysit the Lincoln sons. The history books have never described how the Lincoln funeral train was rerouted from Indianapolis through Elwood because Grandpa Leroy could not get off work from the police department.

In 1975, I entered the 5th grade at Washington Elementary School, and my teacher was the oft acerbic, yet terribly witty, Garnetta Brugger who had taught Mother and my uncles and cousins. On the first day of class, Mrs. Brugger was taking attendance and sharing tidbits about each student she knew. When she got to me, she explained to the class that she had taught my mother, and that she had known my grandparents since they were young. I was excited, and burst out with, “Oh, so you knew Abraham Lincoln, too!”

Mrs. Brugger, who could be quite intimidating, threw back her head as though struck with a blunt object, and grabbed her hair. “Honey child, I might look old, but I am not THAT old. Your grandday’s been telling you some whoppers.”

That evening, I looked in our encyclopedia. President Lincoln had died in 1865. Grandpa Leroy was born in 1921!

For over sixty years Grandpa kept jars filled with newspaper clippings on which he always wrote the date.  As a child I learned a good deal about our family’s history and of major events in the lives of our family friends through yellowed newspaper clippings.

One huge cookie jar contained clippings regarding the tragic loss of his uncle, Glenard Daugherty who was killed on Iwo Jima in 1945, obituaries of his Grandpa and Grandma Daugherty, his own new job at the Elwood Police Department in 1952, birth announcements of my mother, Diana, and uncles, Ron and Tommy, engagement and wedding announcements of his nieces, Judy and Jan Smith, a TV Guide page with a photograph of his cousin, Steve Daugherty announcing his new talk show on channel 13, an article of his cousin Stan Daugherty’s appointment as Elwood’s head basketball coach in 1980, and countless clippings about athletic or personal successes of family, neighbors and church friends.  Even in his 80’s and as his health began to decline, he still maintained this last jar of clippings.

These jars were not filled with yellowed, crumbling keepsakes.  These clippings were his gifts to us, reminding each of us the importance of family, and friends.  These clippings symbolize our family’s rich heritage throughout the years.  They encouraged us to never quit until we have crossed the finish line, to urge his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews and cousins – all of us who follow his generation – to stay connected to one another and to always keep our family together.

But above all, those clippings were gifts to never let us forget just how dearly Leroy Barmes loved and cherished his family and friends.

Six years ago I bid farewell to not only my grandfather, but to the man who stepped in to fill the role of “substitute dad” when our natural father abandoned us early in life.  Grandpa was the one who taught each of us how to throw, field and bat baseballs, and how to do so many of the other things that only a dad can truly teach his young children.  He, along with our mother, and our Grandma Donna, insisted that we do our best, always, and to rise above each and every adversity that attempted to barricade our lives.

Not only was Grandpa a roll model as a father figure, he was a roll model as an uncle.  I was blessed with wonderful uncles in Ron and Tom (and my Uncle Gary Jolliff), as well as our great uncles and even great-great-uncles, but I was very fortunate to observe Grandpa as “Uncle Roggie” or “Uncle Leroy.”  I hope that one day, my own niece and nephews will think of me with the adoration summed up by my cousin, Tanya, when she wrote her fondest memory of her Uncle Roggie, “He’s my uncle.  What more is there?”

All through my school years Grandpa never missed school programs, music concerts, marching band contests, college choir concerts, University Singers Spectaculars – no matter how far away from home.  Even as an adult, the year before he passed away, he was sitting in the front row at the Elwood Variety Show when I was invited back to perform. Later that fall he was up in the bleachers to watch my brother, Destin, coach his football team in a game against the Tipton Blue Devils.

Six years ago, with heartfelt gratitude and deep affection, and a treasury of many wonderful memories, I concluded a chapter in a tremendous book that is far from being finished.

For the past six years, I’ve not been addressed as “Honkin’.” And it is only fitting that the former nickname has been laid aside. Despite the fact that Grandpa had died, I knew, even then, that he would always be with me… and with me he has been. My humor, passion for living, love of being a father and uncle, and love for God are all remnants of my beloved grandfather.

“Auf wiedersehn” – “until we meet again.”

Today, June 2nd, would have been my great-great grandmother’s birthday. Anna Greenlee Jones, the daughter of Andrew Taylor Greenlee and Prudence Anna Ball, was born in 1875 in Boone Township, Madison County, Indiana.

As young girls, Anna and her sisters, Carrie, Mary and Esther, were quite a tribe of pranksters and, in some ways, holy terrors. The stories passed down from my grandmother about her own grandmother were generally quite funny, but also somewhat unbelievable.

One story was of a young Anna and her sisters taking darning needles and piercing one another’s ears. They took a piece of straw to stick through the new openings. However, Anna’s ear became infected. Now, in 1890, this was serious, but Grandmother Greenlee (my third great-grandmother) took the opportunity to gently box Anna’s ear when she got out of line.

Anna was fortunate to marry a jokester, and prank-loving man, Joel Monroe Jones (1873-1946). Together, Anna and Joel were a fun-loving, jovial couple that instilled an incredible sense of humor in their own three children: Mary Bell, my great-grandmother, and her younger brothers, Alphie and Harry. Their brother, Henry, died at age two.

As a grown woman, Anna was known to have thrown buckets of water on unsuspecting farm-hands walking around a barn’s corner, or stringing a line of tin cans from the front screen door and up the staircase only to come crashing down on a timid maid coming home late in the evening from a date.

When my great-grandmother was a teenager, she held a Sunday school party at her home, the Vinson-Jones farm just south of Forrestville Cemetery, and down the road from the Greenlee farm in Boone Township. All the teenagers arrived in their horse and buggies – the kind where the wheels in the rear were larger than the wheels in the front. While the party was going on, Joel kept himself, and several farm hands busy reversing each buggy’s wheels. Considering the amount of work to change these wheels, it had to be an incredible task! So, when the party disbanded, the teenagers were forced to drive home barely able to see over the dash of their buggies! The funny thing is, Grandpa Jones was very stern looking, and the photos taken of him do not reveal his wit, and devilish humor.

Photos of Grandma Jones (1875-1950):