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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Know you are loved…

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!

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

Read the article here:  Heartlines Fall 2011

 

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

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

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

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

“Logan is fine. She’s in heat.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Know you are loved…

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!

 

 

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!

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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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

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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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Beam me up, Scotty!”

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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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!

Technically, Jose’s last day of school was yesterday when he finished his science exam. However, the remainder of Kettering’s schools are dismissed today. Beavercreek and Centerville students have an additional week – and I have heard the grumbling and groaning from those students when they learn Fairmont seniors have been out for two weeks.

Tonight is Fairmont’s graduation and I will be heading out there to watch a portion of that.

Right now, I am waiting on my first student for the day, and frantically typing to finish this blog posting. The skies have darkened to a bluish grey, and a rain shower, or thunderstorm seems to be upon us. Last evening brought us torrential rains, and much cooler weather. Right now we have 75-degrees, and it is just comfortable.

This morning, the announcement of Rue MacClanahan’s death arrived, and immediately her loss was felt by many. It is funny how we are so shocked at the death of a celebrity, myself included, as though we expect them to be invincible. I watched an interview from two years ago, and I was so surprised to see how Ms. MacClanahan had aged so drastically. She and the other darling ladies of GOLDEN GIRLS certainly brought us many hours of laughter – and continue to do so.

This has been a relaxing day. I have been swamped the past few weeks, and today just seemed to be the right time to take a deep breath. Jose slept in until 11:00am, having played XBox most the night, I am sure. I almost called him on the intercom at 7:15am to ask if he was awake for school… I thought against it knowing he will have ample time to play a return favor to me as a practical joke.

Some of my SBC emails are not arriving speedily, or if they are, they tend to hit the SPAM file. I need to start searching for another provider as I have tired of SBC’s poor product.

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):

I am certain my great-grandmother, Belle Jones Clary (1897-1968), had a sense of humor, but it was surely eclipsed by the orneriness of her younger brothers, Alphie and Harry. I can only imagine the laughter, and many pranks in the Jones family home.

In 1973, my great-great uncle, Alphie Jones, died on his mother’s birthday.

Although Belle married the slightly witty, John William “Garrett” Clary (1898-1997), I don’t recall Grandpa Garrett being as much of a prankster as he was the target of so many pranks. His two daughters, Donna (1924-1992), my grandmother, and Aunt Joyce (1932) were forever creating a plethora of hilarious stories that still keep our family howling to this day. Poor Grandpa Garrett never knew whether he would find his shirt sleeves buttoned to other shirts, or his bed short-sheeted or filled with corn flakes. His standard response was a comical growl, “Those damned girls!” That phrase continued clear through the years when Donna and Joyce were grandmothers, themselves!

My Grandma Donna and Grandpa Leroy Barmes (1921-2004) maintained the legacy of humor, instilling it in their own three children: Diana, my mother, Uncle Ron (1952-1987) and Uncle Tom (1954). Grandpa Leroy came from a long line of practical jokers, as well, and the stories of my great-grandfather, Virgil Barmes (1900-1971), could fill a book! Grandpa Virgil, along with his brother-in-law, Harry Daugherty and some of the other Daugherty brothers, filled a completely separate treasure chest with memorable stories!

One of my most treasured impressions of my grandparents will always be their sense of humor. As a little boy, my earliest memories are filled with family laughter, mostly stemming from my grandparents. I often tell, and retell the hilarious moments that accompanied me through the years. Although my grandparents are no longer living, their spark of humor and laughter is eternal.

The one thing I have so enjoyed as a father is laughing often, and heartily! Fortunately, Jose has an incredible sense of humor, and there is scarcely a day that is not filled with three-fourths laughter. We have our serious moments, but we continually find them merged with chuckles, or outright laughter.

I am so grateful that part of my DNA has included a sense of humor. I do hope I will one day be remembered by my grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren for my sense of humor, and pranks!

Having gone to bed at 3:00am Sunday morning, I was up, and moving right along by 7:ooam.

12:30pm, Jose and I headed to Delco Park in Kettering for the first event – Jill Cordonnier’s graduation party. It was great to see her parents, Mike & Joan Cordonnier, as well as Jill’s boyfriends, one of my favorite theatre tech geniuses,  Jackson “Jack” Gallagher.

After approximately thirty minutes, we departed for our next event and arrived home by 1:45pm to head next door for the cookout.

As always, it was an absolute thrill to be in the company of some of the most wonderful neighbors in the world. I was blessed with wonderful neighbors (Herndons, Fortners and others) while growing up in Elwood, Indiana, and I have been more than blessed with the kindest, most hilarious neighbors here in Kettering. Kay Moore, and her family Don, Laura, Jozi and Kelley Parker, and the Stephensons – Bob, Chris, Henry and Frank and I sat around the table and howled.

Jose left with Branden Witten to go to a grad party while I remained next door. Due to crossed-wires, we got off to a late start for Old River Park and Carillon Park; therefore, we postponed the canoeing, and went straight to Carillon Park for the concert and fireworks.

Man, oh man! I was not prepared for the enormous line of cars!

I got to see a ton of people, and had a nice, long conversation with Myra Michaels. The Pollocks arrived, missing the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra’s SOUTH PACIFIC medley. We sat behind the Kress family, and enjoyed the fireworks, and the light show and bell music from the carillon.

SPECTACULAR!

You really should read this Dayton Daily News article: Carillon’s Heritage Festival makes history by featuring new bell system.

When the fireworks ended, I chatted a bit with Amy Kress, and her parents. The Pollocks, Brandon, Jose and I walked all the way back to the NCR parking lot where we stood talking for a good thirty minutes.

Now, I sitting up in bed with my laptop, cooled off from the refreshing shower. Jose is spending the night with Brandon.

I am finally ready to sleep!

But what a WONDERFUL day this was! Many thanks to all those wonderful friends who contributed to making this a fantastic day!

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I finished teaching this evening and asked Jose if he would like to go to Hothead Burrito for supper – of course, this met with a resounding, “yes!”

On the way, Jose commented that he needed to get his hair cut. I suggested that since it was a little before 8:00pm, the styling salon next to where were heading for supper might be open. And it was.

A tall, voluptuous blond, resembling the lovely Kristen Chenoweth, came to the counter to take Jose’s information. She was adorable.

Jose returned to where we were seated in the waiting room while the steaming stylist went to sweep up her area. Jose looked at me and said, “Wow! She’s nice. But she is pretty old for me.”

“Well,” I said, “maybe she is a coyote.”

Jose looked at me, puzzled, and asked me what I said. I repeated it.

And then, I knew I had screwed up. Jose began to explode with laughter… “You mean, COUGAR! Not coyote.”

Yes… that was the term I had heard before… cougar.

Why is it that we parents… ah… never mind…

What a fun evening Jose and I shared at Old River Park and Deeds Point.

At 6:00pm we pulled into Old River Park. The park first opened on June 3, 1939, for NCR employees and their families under the leadership of then-Chairman of the Board, Colonel Edward Deeds. Now, the wonderful family setting is under the management of Dayton History.

Old River Park features include:
•    Miniature golf course
•    Oversized checker boards
•    Shuffle board
•    Croquet
•    Horseshoe pits
•    Volleyball
•    Kids’ playground
•    Two miles of walking paths
•    Stone cooking grills
•    Concession stand
•    Boat rentals for use in the 1.5 mile scenic, historic lagoon
•    Early 20th century themed music piped throughout the Park

Thanks to a very generous Christmas gift from a student’s family – a two year membership to Dayton’s Carillon Park and Dayton History – our admission to the park was free (canoe rental was $5).

Jose and I immediately hopped into a canoe, and had the best 45 minute time on the lagoon!

Now, 35 years ago my Little League Baseball team won the city tournament, and Rick Kendall’s dad sponsored a canoe trip for the entire team and all family members at Turkey Run State Park. I was in a canoe with my mother and birth father, and let’s say it was an adventure! Sugar Creek was up due to heavy rains, and it was a while before we could set off in the canoes.

As the Jolliff canoe moved swiftly in the rapid current we saw a HUGE boulder in the river with word, “DANGER”, spray-painted in large letters. I can still remember seeing preceding canoes dodging the boulder. Not us! We took the boulder head on – up and over. That was our first family-float-session. We managed to finally swim over to the shore to hop back in the canoe.

Later… not much later… I encouraged my birth father to steer our canoe under low hanging limbs. To a ten year old boy, it was all a part of the adventure. As we maneuvered under the huge limbs, we neared the end of the obstacle course. I ducked under the last limb. My mother ducked. My father did not.

Once again, we floated.

Back to 2010.

I was a bit apprehensive for the first few minutes in our canoe. My weight seemed to give the canoe a some unsteady moments. However, after about ten minutes, I relaxed and enjoyed the remainder of the 45 minute ride along the lagoon – but I always had my eye on the shore!

At one point I spied about five large turtles sunning themselves on a huge tree that had fallen into the lagoon. We edged the canoe gently toward the tree, but the turtles all escaped upon our arrival. And boy, did they move fast. As I was steadying my camera, Jose was steadying the canoe – right into the tree! Fortunately, we did not have a recreation of 1975!

The remainder of the ride was peaceful, and enjoyable, with many laughs that often accompany anything Jose and I do. I did manage to capture a photo of one obliging terrapin resting on a fallen tree.

Following the canoe ride we walked around the park and played a little miniature golf.

At the bridge, we watched a mama turtle and a VERY tiny baby turtle. At one point, to the gasps, and shrieks of several children watching, a very large carp came up to the baby turtle and gulped the little creature whole! However, within seconds the little fellow was spit right back out.

Jose and I traveled down Brown Street through the little village near the University of Dayton, stopping to eat at Five Guys Burgers & Fries.

Since it was still nice and bright outside at 8:15pm, we drove over to historic Deeds Point where the Mad and Great Miami Rivers converge, directly across from downtown Dayton. The last time I was here was for the 2003 Centennial of Flight celebration. While we were there, Jose posed cheerfully with the life-size statues of Wilbur & Orville Wright.

Before turning south to return to Kettering, we drove through McPhearson District to see where I first lived when I moved to Dayton twenty years ago.

My first place was an old Victorian townhouse at 120 McPhearson.

18 months later I moved right around the corner to 18 Floral Avenue. The upstairs bathroom had once been a bedroom, and the wide plank floors were beautiful. The shutters opened to reveal a picturesque view of the Dayton Art Institute!

We took our time winding through various streets, finally arriving home around 9:15pm.

What an enjoyable three hours my son and I had!

Below are more photos of Old River Park and Deeds Point, as well as information about Old River Park!

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Entry to Old River Park is free to Dayton History members. Others can enjoy Old River and Carillon Historical Park for one regular Dayton History admission price ($8 per adult (18-59), $7 per senior (60+), $5 per student, and children under 3 free). Admission can be purchased at either Carillon Historical Park or Old River Park.

For more information, please call 937.293.2841 or visit Carillon Historical Park, 1000 Carillon Blvd., Dayton Ohio, 45409.

Yesterday was quite nice.

It began at 2:30am when I woke after three hours of sleep – something I have experienced for several weeks. I returned to sleep around 5:00am and barely remember Jose coming in to tell me he was heading to school.

I went for my doctor’s appointment, and the news was good:

  • He was very pleased with my blood work and some of the tests, especially as a diabetic – he said he felt I was in very good shape, health-wise
  • The triglycerides and good cholesterol are good – yes, the triglycerides are slightly above normal but he said that is still very good for a diabetic and that he doesn’t treat the triglycerides until they are over 500
  • The only concern was with my LDL (bad cholesterol) – diet and exercise for the time being
  • The endocrinologist had my A1C @ 7.2, and the doctor’s was 7.4 – he said he would like to aim for low 6’s by the end of summer
  • I am being scheduled for more tests – an EMG and an X-ray – on the nervous system due to the tingling in the arms, shoulders, neck and head
  • We discussed waking up in the middle of the night, and he thinks it might be something with hypoglycemia – my sugar has been low several times in the morning – between 64 and 80. So he said that when I wake up he wants me to check my sugar and to eat a snack and see if that helps.
  • Other than that, I am to exercise more upper body, keep walking 10,000+ steps a day, and keep up with the diet.

Good stuff, I’d say!

Whew!

I returned home, took a nap (my reward for a healthy report), taught some fantastic lessons, had a bite to eat with Jose who brought home a container with fish and potatoes. The previous evening he brought home some ham load which was delicious.

We ran a few errands, and then settled in for the evening – me watching GLEE, and Jose watching something else, all the while joking that he, too, was watching GLEE.

By 11:30pm the Haasienda was shutting down – a little early for us. However, I woke twice (that I recall), but readily went back to sleep.

This morning I was wide awake at 6:30am, feeling somewhat refreshed.

At Noon, Mary Tarlano will visit for an update on my home study.

I hope to get some writing in, as well as an arrangement for a student’s upcoming baccalaureate.

By 3:00pm I will be teaching, and will have late dinner. Hopefully, this evening I will be able to walk around the neighborhood as there is an evening event in Trent Arena that will close the walking track.

Despite the grey skies, the birds are joining in a cheerful chorus!

Last night sleep was not easy to come by last night. Prom nights always seem to keep me awake since I heard those hideous sirens in May 1998. I always have my worry-scope up and running during this time of year with great concern for our young folk.

I woke often throughout the night but was lulled back to sleep with the gentle music of the wind chimes above the deck outside my bedroom window.

This morning at 7:30am I rallied from bed to accomplish some items around the house. By 10:00am, I heard my neighbor, Don, outside mowing, and hopped into a higher gear. I hate to begin any loud yard work until I know the neighbors next door are up, and moving (at least the adults). I am always certain that my neighbor, Bob, who lives directly behind me is always up before the sun rises, waiting to pounce on the first blade of wayward grass that is courageous enough to rise above other blades nearby. Bob The Lawn Guy (his own company) is my inspiration in lawn care. I do not posses the talent, nor degree of passion as Bob, but I have grown through the years. Now that no privacy fences separates our yards, I find myself struggling to keep the yard even in better condition, and I still fall short.

I trimmed areas of the front yard with the weed eater, edged the sidewalk, and then used the blower to clean up. That took a good hour or so. Jose will hopefully get the yard mowed before the rains hit.

The day is dull, slightly chilly, and rain looks as though it could begin dropping at any moment.

I have laundry and sweeping to do on my list, as well as some writing and gym time pushed into into what I am still attempting to maintain as a relaxing day. I am certain Flyer would love to take a jaunt around the neighborhood so that she can take in some of the recently sprayed shrubs, light/telephone poles, fire hydrants, etc.. She wears herself out just in the first quarter of our walks as she dodges from scent to scent, and before long her enthusiasm and energy have both waned; her tongue drags on the ground, and her ears seldom pop up with each unfamiliar sound.

The wind has increased, and the wind chimes are now sounding an impromptu score.

Jose has ventured out to the yard to start the mower, and hopefully the clouds will hold on a little tighter to the impending droplets.

I had every full intention of being more productive today but it clearly was not meant to be.

Last night, Jose and I attended a “Poor White Trash Birthday Party” for our friend, Christi Salchak. It was a riot. The guests were invited to dress in their finest white trash attire. I was more reluctant than my son who wore his tight “Little Hottie” shirt he bought from Kings Island, a painted on mustache, hiking boots, and a ball cap… he looked the part. The Salchak kids were appropriately dressed for this, as was their mother who appeared in the front yard to greet us wearing a halter top, ratty shorts, a pink bathrobe, leopard print slippers, and curlers in her hair.

jose carrie

The hosts provided hot dogs and boxes of moon pies, and the guests were to bring something. We brought a large bowl filled with individual pudding cups, cheap fruit pies, and plastic spoons sticking up amongst the pudding and pie arrangement. To top it off, which had everyone howling, we plopped down a bucket of Lee’s chicken on the table. We roasted our own hot dogs, and enjoyed a pleasant fair and terrific conversation.

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Later we played “Butt Charades” and “Toss The Underwear Over The Bar” – and the door prizes were items from a laundry basket of garage sale items. While the teenagers played hide and seek on the vast, wooded, stream-lined property, the adults, and one of my former students (now in college), sat and talked around the campfire.

By 11:30pm, Jose and I were pulling into the Haasienda.

This morning I was wide awake after another fitful night’s sleep. I just could not get comfortable, and the light headache I had endured all of Saturday was much more apparent. I read a little between dozing, and finally roused at 8:00am to feed the animals, eat breakfast, check sugar, take morning meds, and prep for the walk.

While on the walk I smoked my pipe, blew a kiss to the neighbor lady who drove by, and laughed at Flyer trying to catch squirrels. Upon the return home I:

  • checked items on the computer
  • endured some Obama bashing on Face Book from some piece of work from my hometown (not the Whack Job who hounded and stalked me all last fall during the election)
  • watched some coverage of Senator Kennedy’s funeral
  • blew the leaves in the front yard
  • waved to the neighbor mowing his yard
  • took out some weeds
  • putzed around the backyard
  • planned to go to the deck to work – but too chilly
  • cleaned my study
  • re-covered the material on my piano bench
  • used the extra material, along with some Magic Stitch, to make a cover for the top of my piano
  • rehung my windchimes – which have failed to chime this summer
  • chatted with Jose – and laughed

Now, Jose is off to work. I shall call Mother for our weekly recap, relax, and then pick up Jose from work for the last part of youth group (SIGNS). I look over my laundry list of today’s activities and I still feel as though little was accomplished…

 

Late afternoon Friday the skies began turning gray, and rain threatened the Miami Valley. Just as Jose was leaving to report to the band room, the splotches of wetness began appearing on the sidewalk. Within minutes the deluge had begun. At 6:30pm, the rain had stopped and I stepped into the heavy, steamy air to walk to the high school to take photos of STEP-OFF.

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STEP-OFF is one of my favorite traditions to observe with a Fairmont football game. The marching band and guard assembles in front of the school (actually, the performing arts’ wing) and begins the march over to the stadium, winding down Delaine through approximately five blocks of the neighborhood. When the band reaches the opposite side of the school, students and adults who are tailgating before the game, fall in behind the band. Home owners along Delaine are often hosting cookouts, or just standing on their porches, in their yards, to cheer on the Marching Firebirds. As the band moves beneath the rich, overhang of leaves, the too bright stadium’s lights begin filtering through the specks of openings in the green arch. The excitement always mounts as each section of the band, accompanied by the funky rhythms of the percussion, begins a choreographed movement with their instruments – the best being the sousaphones! Once the band arrives at the stadium there is an even greater sense of excitement when the 204 members march through the tunnel beneath the gigantic stadium, drums pounding harder, and louder, creating a fantastic vibration on the seats above. It is a wonderful tradition that I enjoy each home game.

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I took photos as the band started STEP-OFF, and then hurried over to the corner of Lincoln Park Blvd. & Delaine to catch them as they made their first turn into the neighborhood. After the band passed, I walked over to Lincoln Park and the Fraze Pavilion to take photographs. As I walked the park it occurred to me that the recorded music heard floating over the neighborhood from the stadium was not yielding to the band’s pre-game music. I later learned the game’s start had been held due to lightning.

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Jose arrived home, chattering away about the events of the night, and then the deluge began, again… and the rains came… forty days and forty nights…

This morning I woke at 6:15am and pressed the On/Off button on the television’s remote control. There was a video showing the White House silhouetted against the rising sun… but the flag was lowered to half-mast.

Within seconds my racing mind was informed….

Senator Edward Kennedy, 1932-2009.

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When I traveled to Washington, DC with my brother’s 8th graders in 2000, we sat in the senate gallery and amidst the sea of dark suits, the white, silvery hair of Senator Kennedy stood out. My brother, Destin, also a presidential history enthusiast, leaned forward over the gallery rail, staring down at the iconic figure. It was a moment where we got to see a great performer on the stage of American history.

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It is strange to think of our country without a Kennedy, from the Camelot generation, not at the helm of our government. While the media personalities are expressing their opinion that the next generation of Kennedys are not as powerful as their parents, I believe it is too soon to call the play on this generation. After all, they were overshadowed by their father, and uncle.

This morning, I am not as taken with Senator Kennedy’s politics, nor his successes, or mistakes as I am with Ted Kennedy the family man – especially, Uncle Ted. This morning I think of the nieces, and nephews who have lost a cherished uncle.

I was born the day the Warren Commission released its report on President Kennedy’s assassination. In June 1968, two months following Senator Robert Kennedy’s visit to my hometown of Elwood, Indiana, I sat with my parents watching his funeral at Arlington Cemetery.

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Uncle Ted was the Kennedy of that generation with whom I was the most familiar. My Uncle Ron was my version of an “Uncle Ted,” and had he lived, I have no doubt he would be the revered uncle. However, my brother and I are now the uncles, and we each believe in our obligation to uphold this grand title. I love being a father, but there is something enchanting about being an uncle. There is a mutual adoration, and affection, that is strikingly different with nieces and nephews.

My grandfather loathed the Kennedy’s – a loathing he adopted from his father that sprang back to an episode during The Great Depression. However, I think my grandfather would join me in agreeing that Ted Kennedy appeared to be a much loved uncle. My grandfather seemed to be the favored uncle for his nieces and nephews, and throughout their lives I witnessed his pride, and joy in their accomplishments, and the agony springing from their tragedies. I always marveled at his adoration of his grandchildren, but there was always that “uncle element” in his being that I cherish still to this day. My grandfather, and Uncle Ron were great role models for this uncle, and I can only hope, and trust, that I shall follow in their footsteps as a great uncle.

Jacqueline-Bouvier-Kennedy-Onassis

 

Sunday, May 17th, we held auditions for SOUTH PACIFIC.

I was so impressed with so many of the teenagers, and there were a few that blew me away – I had not seen that level of performance from them.

I have been tearing into all the preparation on the schedule, and all the fun things that accompany it. I have also been doing the customary research that makes me happier than anything else in the world.

I wake around 5:30am, read; at 7:00am I sleep until Jose comes in at 7:45am to leave for school; I feed the animals, water plants, take sugar count, eat my breakfast (on the deck in nice weather), check email, and then generally do house work or yard work… today I mowed, trimmed, and planted flowers… then, I am seated at my desk at 9:00am to work until Noon when I take lunch on the deck; at 1:00, I lounge in my bed, reading and researching; at 2:00pm, I break for an hour of BEWITCHED, and then get ready to teach lessons. Somewhere in this time, I also manage a 20 minute walk, and play time with Flyer. After teaching, Jose and I often run errands, and then I am in bed with my laptop at 10:00pm until after midnight…

I love this life!

The music of Rodgers & Hammerstein is always with me. I seldom need to turn it on because it is always going through my brain.

This week has also been filled with concerts, breakfast with dear friends, and more concerts. Friday, if Jose goes to play sand volleyball with some friends, I will elect to have dinner with some of my friends. I also plan on taking Jose to see NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM which comes out this week. Last week we saw th 12:01am showing of ANGELS & DEMONS, and it was incredible. It did make for an extra long Friday since we had the Fairmont choral concert, but it was so worth it!

I would also like to try to see TITANIC this weekend.

My neighbors always have a Memorial Day cookout, but I have not heard anything about it, yet. If it is still on, it is one of my all time favorite gatherings… I love this cookout!

It is May 10th, 2009…

Mother’s Day – a day, in our family when we planted flowers. Mother’s Day – a day, in our family when we planted flowers. It is a day we celebrate our mothers, grandmothers, and all the women in our lives. While I am thrilled I got to spend some time with my own mother this day, I know several friends are mourning the loss of their own mothers, and grandmothers.

This year, May 10th, though joyous for the celebration of my wonderful mother, and remembering many friends and family on this day, it feels heavy.

A former student’s grandmother passed away last month. Mimi was a delightful lady who was always there to cheer on her grandchildren, Jeff and Danielle, at all the Kettering Fairmont music events, as well as their post college careers. Today, Candy, Jeff and Danielle’s mother, is celebrating her first Mother’s Day without her mother…

Last summer, the mother of my dear friend, Duneen DeVore passed away suddenly, and this past Friday, the angels sang Grandma Dora to her rest. Grandma Dora was a member of Normandy United Methodist Church where I was director of music, and I cannot imagine a more beautiful lady. Today, Duneen, Erick and Nick have a double emptiness this Mother’s Day…

An all-time favorite of mine was Peggy Straughen, a choir member of Normandy. I wrote an earlier post on Peggy when she died unexpectedly last summer. Today, I also think of her daughter, Heidi (my all time favorite costumer in the whole world), and her children, and family…

One of the most incredible actresses I know, Katie Pfister Musick, lost both her mother, and her father within six months. Last July her mother died suddenly, and on Christmas Eve, her father slipped away to join his wife.

Last summer, Duneen, Heidi and Katie all lost their mother’s within four days of one another…

Many other friends, and family, also spend this day celebrating mothers and grandmothers who have been sung to their rest by the angels.

For my family, it is no different.

In 1992, my own beloved grandmother departed this world. Grandma Donna, the most beautiful of ladies, is still with me, but oh how I wish she could have enjoyed the great-grandchildren.

I got to spend the weekend with my own mother, for whom I owe so much. Therefore, I am so much more grateful for time spent with my mother knowing that a number of friends are experiencing their first Mother’s Day without their own beloved mothers…

And for my dear friend, Kay Hetzer, this is the eleventhanniversary of her son’s death. At about this time, 11 years ago, I learned that Bill & Kay’s son, Andy, had died in a tragic car accident. Their hearts are even heavier this year due to the loss of a second son…

Today, while celebrating our mothers, let’s all remember those who no longer have their mothers to share this day, and to those mother’s who have lost children…

And on a wonderful note, this arrived from my friend, Debbie Allen:

Darin, thank you. And back to you. Because gender has nothing to do with mothering. You play both parts well.
 Love,
Debbie

Sunday afternoon, the production of THE PAJAMA GAME at Beavercreek High School ended.

I am generally a little teary-eyed following a production, but this time I was relieved.

April 14th, the orchestra conductor was fired and I was handed the position, along with the current duties of vocal director.

Suzanne, the director, and I had so many storms to weather throughout this production – Suzanne more so than myself. Mine was very confined to a week or so, where hers was on-going. My predecessor had 57 students sign up for the orchestra – students thinking I was to conduct (I thought I was to do it, originally, as well). Within 30 minutes, over 30 students had walked out on his first meeting.

Monday morning I had not orchestra. Thanks to the band director, and several of my music friends, I had one of the best orchestras BHS has had – and was told so by MANY faculty and parents, and those who have known the program for many years. I heard the video the other evening and I was so proud of the sound coming from the pit.

We had 3 rehearsals, a sitz probe, and two tech rehearsals before the shows began – and those orchestra members plowed through the difficult score as though they were each born to play a musical theatre score.

I spent most of Monday and Tuesday trying to bring as much normalcy back to life as I could. I had a yard to mow, flowers to plant, yard to clean up, laundry, and tons of other things. Jose had done a tremendous job of helping me while I was in production, but there were so many things that I prefer to do – and all was waiting for me.

Monday and Tuesday nights were heavy with teaching – and a number of make-up lessons. Wednesday night was the cast party, and Thursday was a four hour class for part of my teaching licensure.

While wading through all the above, I was also launching the production of SOUTH PACIFIC for this summer.

Auditions are May 17th @ 5:00pm.

The audition announcements are out, and I am swamped in preparation. I think this is when I am happiest – preparing for, and directing a show. The performances are always somewhat dull for me – my heaven, and haven is being in a rehearsal.

I am hoping to write more on preparations for SOUTH PACIFIC… I am in heaven, despite some of the garbage already pouring from some of the preceding issues at the school.

This afternoon, Mother will arrive to spend the weekend with us. At 5:15pm we will head to Beavercreek High School to watch the Friend’s Show Choir’s FINALE – a very moving evening to celebrate the end of the year.

I feel as though I am finally catching my breath for the first time in a month.

Where do I begin?

Well, I am vocal director for Beavercreek High School’s production, The Pajama Game. The director and I are up against a few “waves” to pull this production off. Due to some items beyond our control, the students’ morale was been sinking. Finally, two weeks ago, I began vocal rehearsals, and I managed to bring the cast up in spirits, as well as song.

I have also been working WGI (Winter Guard Internationals) and MEPA (Mid-Eastern Performance Association) competitions. For the hours we work, money is applied to our child’s band fees. By the time I have finished with this season, I believe I shall be slightly over what I owe.

Last summer, Jose was not planning on doing marching band, and therefore, I did not attend the processing day. A bill was never sent to me, and it was not until Rita was doing my taxes that she inquired about last year’s marching band fees. There was a balance of $397, and then I knew I would have $415 for this coming season’s fees.

I have actually had a blast working with the different band parents. For three different MEPA competitions I worked at Centerville High School selling T-shirts and raffles for a Yamaha marching snare. I took my lap top, and plenty to work on, and actually accomplished a good bit of writing and editing. These were fun events.

On top of this, I have been working on the Wright Brothers’ musical, and after sending it off to a local director who expressed interest in reading it for a possible production, I pulled out the musical I began writing in 1986, Love Is Eternal – Mary Todd & Abraham Lincoln.

I have truly enjoyed working on these two musicals. I have always loved the musical on Mrs. Lincoln, and am enjoying bringing it back to life.

This past Sunday, after leaving Centerville High School, I hurried to Yellow Springs to meet the Lockharts and their family at Young’s Dairy to celebrate Mike and Valerie’s 25th anniversary. It was such a wonderful time with my adoptive Ohio family.

So, today was actually the first day of spring break. I fell asleep last night by 11:30pm, and was wide awake at 4:00am. I watched an episode of Little House on the Prairie, and then fell back asleep until 7:00am. I fed the pets, took my sugar, ate breakfast, swept the first floor, did a load of laundry, cleaned the kitchen and my desk tops – and was settled at my desk by 9:00am to write on the Lincoln musical.

By 1:30pm I was drained. I thought I’d take a quick power nap so I could watch Bewitchedat 2:00pm. However, I slept until 4:00pm. Jose went to work, and I worked. Flyer and I walked over to One Lincoln Park and walked home with Jose where the neighbor boy was waiting on Jose. Since they were playing XBox, I worked some more.

Tomorrow, I shall teach for four hours, and plan on taking Jose and his friend, Michael, to see a movie at Danburry.

Wednesday I have the entire day off but Jose works – so that shot any chance of us going out of town.

Thursday and Friday I will work at Trent Arena from 6:45am – 11:00pm for the WGI contest. Ugh! But it is a ton of money towards Jose’s band fees.

Saturday morning we will drive to Indiana to meet up with other family for Mother’s birthday dinner. We will spend the night at Mother’s and return home so Jose can work.

Then, Monday, April 6th (Mother’s birthday), I will hit everything full speed – The Pajama Game vocals, writing and editing on Love Is Eternal, perhaps some work on The Bird Let Loose, teaching, and trying to find extra time to spend with Jose during this very busy period. I suppose my weekends will be taken up with rehearsals for Beavercreek’s musical, with the exception of mid-April when I will work one last WGI competition. The production goes up the first weekend of May, and then it is on to all the concerts and events that pile into the last four weeks of the school year.

Ahh… time to rest and enjoy some television…

Another busy week behind us…

Beginning last Monday I was not feeling well, and my temperature hovered around 100-101 degrees. My sister-in-law, Stacia, had been taken ill with strep last weekend, and then my brother, Destin, got it this week. Their boys, Parker and Fred, have been up and down with this winter’s crud.

Some of my activities:

  1. finishing touches on ACTION Adoption’s display board for adoption fair
  2. taught lessons
  3. helped Jose with homework (he particularly asks me to help him study for history because, “Dad gives me a ton more information and makes it fun.”)
  4. helped Beavercreek show choir on Tuesday
  5. got cable installed Thursday (ugh… I hate addictions)

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Friday morning, I woke to discover the television still on The History Channel. So, at 6:00am, I watched MARRIED WITH CHILDREN, followed by a great History Channel documentary on The Declaration of Independence. I ran a few errands and got my hair cut, returning to my desk by 10:00am where I worked on the Wright Brothers’ musical for five hours while watching THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, BEWITCHED, and THE WEST WING.

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Ahhh….  

Friday night, after I taught lessons, we drove to ACTION where Jose gave a remarkable presentation about his birth family’s experiences, foster care life, and being adopted. I am so proud of my son, and especially, his public speaking skills. Although it was somewhat informal, he was stellar! One family had been in a private meeting and entered about five minutes late; Jose paused while they got situated, smiling at the family the entire time. Then, he briefly introduced himself, and explained his topic. Brilliant, and so very considerate.

Upon our return, Jose hit his XBox, and I hit The History Channel for “The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln” and “Stealing Lincoln’s Body.” By 3:00am, I was asleep.

At 6:30am Saturday I was wide awake watching CNN… yes!

8:30am I was at the adoption fair setting up the display.

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At 10:30am I left the adoption fair and hurried to Fairmont’s Trent Arena where I worked the admission’s table for the WGI percussion competition. I got to work with Steve & Lorie Lamb, again, and a new couple that I also a new couple whose daughter will be a freshman next year. That certainly made my scheduled time of 11:00am- 7:00pm o fast.

While the contest was starting, bad weather had begun moving in from the north. Many parents from Toledo and Michigan had rough drives down to Kettering. When I left at 7:00pm, the driveway was iced, as were my car’s windows.

Jose and I went to supper at a Chinese buffet. I was still feeling uncomfortable, still. I returned to my bedroom with NOW, VOYAGER (1942) with Bette Davis. My grandmother always loved Bette Davis, and I remembered her telling me this was one of her favorite movies. It was very good, and of course, it was scored by one of my two favorite film composers, Max Steiner, who scored GONE WITH THE WIND (my other favorite is John Williams).

This morning I woke with CNN, and waited for a telephone call to see if I would be needed for the finals round of the percussion competition. While fixing an egg white omelet, Jose came downstairs, feeling miserable. I took his temperature and he had a 102 fever. He retreated to the basement with a half gallon of orange juice, after taking some meds. I had him call his manager at One Lincoln Park, and instructed him to drink the OJ and tons of water.

My head is congested, but the Mucinex is keeping it flowing… yuk!

I am propped up in bed, listening to Robert Schuller, ready to work on the Wright Brothers’ musical. Flyer is snuggled next to me (she pulls down the sham and pillows on the passenger side, and props her head up to watch television), and Logan is on my lap, curled up under the hospital table on which my laptop is situated… this hospital table was one of my best purchases – allowing me to work from my bed late at night or early in the morning – or on lazy Sunday mornings.

 I have three students this afternoon beginning at 4:00pm. And I hope to spend the evening resting with… well, cable.

 

Last night I told my son that I was officially a part of the Twentieth Century.

“But, Dad, this is the Twenty-first Century.”

Yes. That is true. But, I finally did a very Twentieth Century thing – I finally got cable television.

With the digital transition, I figured this was the time to investigate. I could have gone with just the converter boxes, but decided to give cable a shot. So, I set up Dish with AT&T. I paid them $99 for set-up and they sent the worker out. When he saw the line of trees bordering the easement between my yard and the high school’s property, he quickly assessed there was no way we could do satellite. The worker made a call into the company, and assured me there would be a supervisor coming shortly to validate this worker’s assessment. Three days later, there was still no visit from a supervisor.

On top of this, $40 was reapplied to my banking account. $59 was not returned from AT&T. This only tops the list of numerous grievances I have with this company.

So, I contacted Time-Warner. My God! Sales people can be vultures!

This cable – dish – anything fairly technical stuff – is very foreign to me. In fact, when I was investigating it a month ago, I sent a note to four different friends (and my brother) because I knew they would address my questions in layman’s terms, and in a manner I could comprehend. The vultures at Time-Warner, though not outwardly pushy, just could not seem to hone in on my needs, and could not assist me thinking through the process. It was always, “With what you described, you should probably go with this….” – always something that I knew was not what I wanted as I had the information pulled up in front of me on the computer screen.

My neighbor lady’s niece is in the customer service department at Time-Warner, and we set it up so she could contact me. Trying to get to Joyce through Time-Warner was more difficult than walking into the White House from off the street with no appointment. Finally, it was accomplished, and Joyce was wonderful.

So, last night, my home entered the Twentieth Century.

I never felt the need for cable, especially since I work so much from home. I did not want to become addicted to television. Now that WEST WING is no longer a weekly ritual, I stick mostly to TWO AND A HALF MEN, FAMILY GUY, and documentaries on PBS. That is pretty much my television line-up, aside from my Netflix documentaries and biographies. When I visit Mother in Indiana, I will stay up most of the night watching The History Channel – always returning to Ohio exhausted.

The cable guy had an easy installment since the house was already set up for cable, and the lines ran to every room but the kitchen.
 
After he left, I realized there was no menu indicating the new channels/stations. I heard Jose in the basement playing XBox, so I knew that he would not know the channels. I searched on line, and could find nothing. About 20 minutes into my search, Jose comes upstairs and says, “I bet you are loving channel 52.”  I asked what was on 52… “The History Channel.”  He then proceeded to identify me about 15-20 channels from memory! I asked how he knew them considering he was on XBox, and he said he just ran through the channels and memorized them.
 
Now, if he could only memorize his German, items from English and biology….
I decided I needed to get some work accomplished and I turned back to my monitor… within a few minutes I was channel surfing. Ugh… too many sports channels and why in the heck are there shopping channels?
I decided to delete some of unnecessary channels. It was rather easy to navigate. The televisions in my study and bedroom (from where I often work, as well) are identical, so they were simply. The living room’s television had the cable entering into the television; however, I placed it into the DVD/video machine so that the entire stereo system would also be connected. Wonderful!
I returned to my study, pleased with myself.
At age 44, I had adjusted the cable channels on three televisions, reattached the living room cable into the DVD/video machine… all without the assistance of my teenage son!

There are some days when I just don’t see myself being old enough to be a father. And other days, I feel as though I am the age of a great-grandparent. Being a father is certainly an experience – and more often than not, a delightful one. My life as a parent is not without the typical stress shared by most parents, but on the whole, I have been blessed.

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My youngest son, Jose, is seventeen, and is adorable as they come. We never sit down to a meal where he does not say, “Thank you.” I can probably count on one hand the times he has not said, “thank you” for seeing a movie, getting ice cream, going to an event, etc.. Jose is a very grateful child.

The best part is that Jose has a terrific sense of humor. He may not look like me, but he is, most definitely, my son! He never knows when he will open the front storm door and a bag of water will drop… or a piece of napkin shoved into his straw when we are out to eat (he often takes his straw with him when he leaves the table at a buffet).

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Not only is he great about being the recipient of jokes, or pranks, he also knows how to dole them out as well.

One day we were getting into the car, and I made some remark to him, and he responded with, “eine was für stumme Scheiße” (German: “What a dumb shit!”)

“Jose, you just called me a ‘dumb shit.’ I know enough German you stumme Scheiße!”

One night we were at Wal-Mart just after I had finished painting the kitchen during winter break. I was explaining how I wanted to do something on the cabinet doors – decals, or something decorative. I said that even something with wooden letters would work. Jose left my side and grabbed several wooden letters, laying them out in front of me: G A Y.

At Meijers I was trying to explain to an associate I was searching for Stitch Witchery – a glue tape that cements fabric. As I told the associate my intended use of making a valance for my kitchen, and some shelf drapes, I said, “It is the best thing since sliced bread.” Jose walked by me, and under his breath said, “My dad’s such a fag!”

Too often, when in public, we are forced to not look at one another when someone else says, or does something that tickles us. Jose and I are generally on the same page!

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I had the same relationship with my own mother, and my grandmother. In church, Mother would frown upon Grandma and I sitting next to one another because we often could not behave ourselves.

In a few years, the house will be quiet as Jose moves on to college. By the time he graduates, I will have only had him eleven years, and though I anticipate a wonderful relationship throughout his adult years, I know I will miss the daily humor we share.

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The long week is over, and the weekend is upon us.

Most of the week was spent in writing on the Wright Brothers’ musical, teaching, helping Jose with homework, prepping students for college auditions, cleaning the kitchen, doing laundry, building a display unit for ACTION Adoption, and assisting Sharon Busch with the Beavercreek High School show choir.

It was a good week, and one that was very productive and energized.

Thursday, the 200th birthday of President Abraham Lincoln, I received many “birthday wishes” on behalf of the president. One student’s family even called to see if there would be birthday cake… of course!

Thursday night Jose and I watched SCHINDLER’S LIST since he is studying WWII in history. Beautifully written, directed, acted and filmed… but man, so depressing. But, it made me appreciate so many things I have in my life, and raised my awareness of the atrocities endured by millions just 65 years ago.

At 1:00am Jose went to the basement with his XBox360, and I crawled into bed, tired from the week. I began watching the DVD, THE FIVE PEOPLE YOU MEET IN HEAVEN, and fell asleep. Right now, I am watching the rest of it this morning, sitting up in bed at my laptop with Flyer snuggled beside me.

It is an interesting, and deep movie. The description of the book reads:

The Five People You Meet in Heaven is a novel by Mitch Albom. It recounts the life and death of a simple yet dignified old man, Eddie. After dying in a freak accident, Eddie finds himself in heaven where he encounters five people who have significantly affected his life, whether he realized it at the time or not. Each imparts a divine piece of wisdom unto him, instilling a deeper comprehension regarding the most intimate facets of life. In the beginning he dedicates the book to his uncleEdward Beitchman. He says that he wants people like his uncle who felt unimportant here on earth to realize, finally, how much they mattered and how they were loved.

Albom’s first novel, The Five People You Meet in Heaven was published in 2003 by Hyperion, and remained on the New York Times Best Seller list for 95 weeks. It was the bestselling first time novel ever written.

For lunch, Jose and I will head to our favorite Chinese buffet downtown, and run some errands. I will write until it is time to head to ACTION Adoption.

The weekend? Well, I will finish the display frame for ACTION, write, grab some movies with Jose, and maybe doing something fun. I am sure Jose will want to spend as much time with his XBox. Since he has displayed so much effort, and hard work towards his grades, he deserves a relaxing weekend.

 

Jose’s youth group had an interesting discussion on how “doubt” is often crucial to faith.

The youth were asked that upon waking this morning, count your blessings, and to walk through the next few days in a state of gratitude. My friend, Jeff Carter, sometimes will list on his blog items for which he feels blessed.

I am going to start a practice on our kitchen dry-erase board – and each evening, Jose and I will list one or two items for which we feel blessed. 

This morning, to start this process, I am providing my own list:

  1. My son
  2. Music… Theatre….
  3. My family
  4. Music… Theatre….
  5. My friends
  6. Music… Theatre….
  7. My students and their families
  8. Music… Theatre….
  9. Abraham Lincoln (remember, his 200th birthday is this Thursday!)
  10. Music… Theatre….
  11. Wilbur, Orville & Katharine Wright
  12. Music… Theatre….
  13. Education
  14. Music… Theatre….
  15. My co-writers, Gail Whipple & Leslie Merry
  16. Music… Theatre….
  17. Flyer & Logan
  18. Music… Theatre….
  19. Teachers – former, current and future
  20. Music… Theatre….
  21. Our home & neighbors
  22. Music… Theatre….
  23. Having Diabetes – learning how to understand, believe in, appreciate, and love my health
  24. Music… Theatre….
  25. Having my spirituality
  26. Music… Theatre….
  27. Knowing that I am loved
  28. Music… Theatre….
  29. My wonderful career which affords me the opportunity to work with so many wonderful people
  30. Music… Theatre….
I cannot believe Friday is upon us, yet, I am so thrilled it is here.
 
Last Friday I had breakfast/lunch with Bill Hetzer, and taught the remainder of the afternoon. After teaching, I went in to watch TWO AND A HALF MEN, and the next thing I know Jose was waking me for a telephone call.
 
Saturday and Sunday were relaxing days with DVD’s, some errands, a movie (GRAND TORINO – which I strongly recommend!), dinner at Roosters, and more DVD’s.
 
This week has been swamped with slipping students in to every available slot – auditions for high school musicals, and college music/musical theatre programs. I have taught early, and very late.
 
There were several students, not in audition mode, who graciously traded with seniors, or gave up fifteen minutes of their own lesson time so another auditioning student could spend 15 minutes with me. It was so neat to see the studio working together. I have several saxophone students who received scholarships from Bowling Green State University, as well as two voice students at the same school. One of my top dogs received a full ride academic scholarship at Miami University, as well as a fantastic music scholarship.
 
Jose was accepted into the digital design program – a three hour class – for next year. It is a pretty competitive class, and I have had a number of students go through that program. It is really a great opportunity.
 
Friday evening I will meet with some good friends from Beavercreek at Mama DiSalvos. It has become a favorite haunt for the four of us. .
 
Saturday and Sunday I will be living at the high school’s Trent Arena for the percussion ensemble contest. I will be working the admissions table, and the hours I work will go towards Jose’s marching band fees. I will be there Saturday from 9:00am-9:00pm, and Sunday from 7:00am-6:00pm. The lady in charge of assembling the work crew is a parent of one of my students, and she is so much fun… she asked if I would work the entire weekend. If Jose also comes over to work, we might have close to $200 of his band fees paid off. I believe I am scheduled to work another weekend, as well. It will be a LONG weekend, but the end result of band fees being paid off is wonderful.
 
The coming week holds more college auditions. So, more late nights, and more days running to one or two schools to grab extra time with students during their choir or band classes.
 
Thursday, February 12th, is President Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday celebration. I would give anything to be in Springfield, Illinois, or even in Hodgenville, Kentucky where he was born. I will hopefully have time to make cupcakes for students on that day. Some already have it figured out that Mr. Haas will probably have good stuff that day and have asked to reschedule!
 
Jose is preparing for a speaking engagement. Several months ago, I brought him in for a few minutes to speak to one of my adoption training classes at ACTION, and he brought the house down. The parents loved him. He was asked to speak to the on-going training in the larger room. I know it pays between $75 and $150 to the guest speakers we bring in, and ACTION will pay him for this. He will have approximately 2 hours to speak and answer questions. Jose does a remarkable job when speaking on adoption issues – birth family, foster family, and the transition into adoptive life. I think they will probably tape it, and I may take my video recorder to take him. One of the neatest things was last summer, after he had spent a month with Destin & Stacia, and their sons, in Fowler, Indiana… one of the parents in my training class asked him, “What can we do to make sure we are good parents?” Jose, without missing a beat, said, “Well, if you could be like my Aunt Stacia, you would be perfect.” And he proceeded to describe some of her parenting techniques. I am excited that he has this opportunity to keep sharing his story.
 
Right now, I am going to watch a movie with Jose. I had an hour break this evening, so we grabbed our bowls of spaghetti and watched some movies on German concentration camps. Jose is studying WWII, and we have been doing extra movies and Internet research – he really digs this era. Tonight, we are watching SCHINDLER’S LIST – a movie I have not seen.

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

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

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

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

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

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Bill & Kay Hetzer

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

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

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

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Andy & Brian in Germany as young boys.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bingo!

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

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

Again… Bingo!

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

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

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

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

And thus began the adoption journeys for both our families.

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

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

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

“Here. These are for you.”

I thanked the boy, and asked who he was.

“Joey.”

“Do I know you?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Chris & Joey at a piano lesson, 2003.

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

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

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Bill, Brian & Kay at Brian’s wedding.

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

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

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

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

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Chris & Joe at the beach, 2008.

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

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

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

The phone was answered.

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

He stopped.

Tried again…

Silence.

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

Somehow, I managed to find the piano bench.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Christopher Allen Hetzer

January 27, 1991 – January 13, 2009 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Just go,” they wrote.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday morning I drove to Columbus to attend the funeral mass of a friend’s father. I met Katie Pfister-Musick in the late 1980’s and absolutely fell in love with this incredible actress. Despite the various moves between the two of us, and me losing my address book, I managed to reconnect with Katie, and her husband, Mike, via Internet research. I found them living in the Kansas City, Kansas area, and have enjoyed communicating with them the past several years – and that includes a hiatus where my email addresses were wiped out.

friends-musick-katie

Last summer, I received a note that Katie’s mother had suddenly passed away. Katie had been sharing with me that her father was seriously ill with cancer and was not expected to live much longer. Her mother’s death was quite a surprise.

I attended her mother’s funeral and was overjoyed to see Katie and Mike, again. She is still just as beautiful as she was when she was a girl (and you know what, Lincoln said that about his wife when they were living in the White House! “My wife is just as lovely as she was when she was young. I fell in love with her then, and what is more, I have never fallen out.”)

Christmas night, I received message from Mike that Katie’s father had left in time to spend Christmas with his wife. 

Wednesday morning, December 31st., the last day of 2008, I drove to Columbus to share in the fond farewell with Katie and her family. I arrived at St. Christopher’s and was struck by the beauty and warmth of the church, decorated for the Christmas season. The candles, the nativity, the poinsettias and greenery was absolutely beautiful. As I was washing my hands in the rest room, I stopped… my chest began swelling with excitement.

I could hear Katie singing!

I walked back into the sanctuary, and immediately teared up… Katie was singing a responsive psalmody.  Her voice is still as beautiful as I remember it from when I heard her in the role of Anna Leonowens in THE KING & I.

I found a seat, and just absorbed the beauty, and the passion of each note she offered up – a musician offering up glorious beauty, a daughter bidding farewell to her father in song.

The service was beautiful. The violinist provided a beautiful prelude with “Amazing Grace,” and it set the mood – touching, but with great rejoicing for a life lived fully by this particular Irishman. The description of Don’s life, by both the priest and family, made me proud of my Clary & Daugherty clans! What truly touched me was that his children each offered something, and I can think of no greater tribute than to hear words and music from one’s own children at their funeral.

The closing hymn that accompanied the pall covered casket down the aisle was “Silent Night.” When I read prepped my hymnal before the service (that’s my German-Irish grandfather in me!), I first thought the final hymn to be too mild to send off this larger than life Irishman that I had never actually met. However, by the time the gentle strains of the introduction began, I knew just how fitting this tune was. It seemed to pull together not only the love for Don from his  family and friends, but it reminded me how much I missed, and still loved so many of my own family members who are no longer with us – especially my grandparents.

As the casket was wheeled past me, an elderly gentleman across the aisle saluted, the tears streaming down his face. I don’t know the relationship this gentleman had to Don, but for me, it was one of the most touching moments from the service. A tribute. A farewell. A salute. Only a soldier and a former drum-major can know the sanctity of a salute.

As the second verse of “Silent Night” began, the church bells began pealing. And throughout the song, they continued.

Bells have always held a special place for me. IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE has one of the most tender scenes when the bell on the tree rings at the end – an angel received its wings. Also, my grandmother collected bells, and I now possess all the bells I gave her, some from Greece, Cyprus, Crete, Germany, Austria, and of course, New York City. And the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem, “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day,” also one of my favorite carols, has always been a favorite.

And here, on the last day of 2008, while singing “Silent Night,” the world resonated with the ringing of bells.

I bid farewell to Katie and Mike, and walked outside into the brisk December morning. The bells were much louder outside. One elderly lady covered her ears and looked up towards the sound of the bells. I stood for a moment, watching my breath swirl away from me, and hearing the bells.

Don had probably just received his wings…

My grandmother told me that she was still with me…

And the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow reminded me that “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep…”

I got into my car. I could still hear the muffled bells. I rolled down the window and listened, thinking they would not ring much longer. As I drove away, I could still hear the bells. I turned on to Grandview Avenue, moving away from the church. Finally, around 3rd Street, the bells began to fade – but only in sound.

Those bells were not pealing “farewell.”

The ringing of the bells were an announcement, and reminder of God’s love.

The ringing of the bells were a fanfare of the blessings to come for 2009.

The ringing of the bells were a reminder that it is, indeed, a most wonderful life!

What a wonderful Christmas this was!

Wednesday morning Jose and I left for Elwood at 9:30am. We had planned leaving Tuesday night, but due to the ice storm Mother encouraged us not to risk it. The drive to Elwood was simple and uneventful, but right at 2.5 hours.

After getting settled in, Jose and I went to get him a haircut, and run errands. Later that evening, Mother took Jose shopping so he could pick out some Christmas clothes himself. And on to the Chinese restaurant for our annual Christmas Eve dinner. This tradition began in 2000, the first year in 16 that I was not directing a church music program. Mother and I found ourselves sitting at home on Christmas Eve and decided to go out for dinner. Nothing in Elwood was open (and Jim Dandy was still alive and kicking/cooking!), so we ventured on to Noblesville where we found a Chinese buffet. We have continued to do so every year, only the past few years we have ventured to Muncie.

Thursday morning we were on the road at 6:00am for Fowler, Indiana, where my brother’s family lives. We made a quick stop at Village Pantry to buy donuts for Parker (my nephew), and I grabbed some coffee. Northern Indiana was hit with ice the night before, and we were wondering if the emergency level ban would be lifted – and it was. No ice en route, except a nasty patch on the road leading to the Haasienda of Fowler.

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(L/R) Stacia & Fred; Jose & Parker; Parker & Mother

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Fred, my youngest nephew and godson.

Stacia’s mother, Norma, arrived with a breakfast casserole, and we had a great breakfast. I was seated between my adorable nephews, Parker, 3.5, and Fred, 1. After breakfast, we opened gifts. My gift to my nephews each year is a basket/crate of books. This year, I added more classics of Tom Sawyer, Swiss Family Robinson, etc., and began their collection of the Hardy Boys series. For Fred, my godson, I added to special gifts – one book belonging to Ronald Monroe Clary, the brother of my grandmother, and a book belonging to Harry Jones, the brother of my great-grandmother.

After visiting a while, Mother, Jose and I headed back to Elwood where we enjoyed a delicious turkey dinner. Mother made macaroni and cheese like my great-grandmother, Mary Belle Jones, and though she will be gone forty years this January 28, I am very sentimental over those little touches.

Friday, we dawdled around the house a bit, took Mother’s decorations and tree down, and then went to lunch. We stopped in the public library to visit our dear friend, Nancy Sumner, and she gave us a personal tour of the Indiana Room which houses some of the Wendell Willkie collection on which I worked when I was in high school.

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The Carnegie Library where I worked in high school. Mother & our family friend, Nancy Sumner.

The remainder of the day was spent visiting, and enjoying time together.

Saturday morning we packed, showered, and then spent a delight three hours with my Aunt Joyce. Joyce is the younger sister of my grandmother, Donna Clary-Barmes. We had the best time laughing, and reminiscing. There were a few times when I had to fight back the tears, especially when discussing my grandmother.

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Mother & Aunt Joyce.

Jose and I were on the road at 5:00pm, and arrived in Dayton at 7:35pm after one pit stop for all three of the car’s occupants.

Jose and I went to Wal-Mart and I used my Christmas gift card to purchase paint for my kitchen. Thank you, Mother!

Tomorrow I will take down decorations, prep the kitchen, and begin painting.

Monday morning I will go to the doctor for my blood sugar, return home and finish the kitchen. Later that night is a birthday party for Sophie Lockhart, and my goal is to be finished painting by Monday afternoon.

Wednesday is the funeral for the father of my dear friend, Katie Pfister-Musick. Katie’s father passed away Christmas night after a long battle with cancer. Sadly, I attended the funeral of her mother this past summer.

So ends a wonderful Christmas holiday spent with family, and friends. A great Christmas, indeed!

What a past few weeks – confined mostly to bed for rest, and battling a nasty sinus infection. My asthma kicked in and since it settles in my throat, I have been robbed of my voice. Finally, the end of this week I could talk for more than ten minutes without the hoarseness coming on. The voice tires quickly, tiring me in the process.

Thursday night was a concert at Fairmont. Tuesday was scheduled for the choirs and orchestras, followed by the Rutter REQUIEM. However, the ice storm canceled that concert. So, Thursday, the bands performed, followed by the Rutter REQUIEM which was outstanding. 250 orchestra and choir students for this performance! Wonderful!

After the concert, the Lockhart and Haas families met at Friendlys and as always, it was the best time. I always enjoy my time with the Lockharts as they are as much family as my blood relations. Jackson and Jose are both sophomores, and Sophie is in 7th grade… so our days for after-concert celebrations are numbered. The kiddies are growing up fast!

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Jackson, Jose & Sophie

Friday I breakfasted with my neighbors, Kay Moore, and her daughter, Laura Parker. We try to work in a breakfast every month or so, and it seems we grab the Friday before winter break begins as our one set date. As always, it was a treat of complete laughter.

I went to The Bird’s Nest – the school operated store inside the Trent Arena next door – to buy some items for Jose. Five items and I only spent thirty dollars.

I taught a few lessons, and after Jose returned from work at 7:30pm, we ran to ACTION Adoption for a Christmas get-together with other adoptive families and the staff.

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My friend, Bill

This morning I busied myself with some projects, and then showered. Bill Impson arrived and we headed downtown to Uno’s for lunch, and then to the 2:00pm performance of RAIN at the Victoria Theatre.  http://www.raintribute.com/   It was a fantastic tribute to The Beatles! A friend gave me the tickets, and I cannot begin to tell how much I was delighted by this concert. The visuals on the screens were incredible, and you certainly relived history.

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After the show, Bill and I came back here and talked for about 90 minutes. Jose left for work, and I am trying to get some laundry completed.

Jose gets home around 7:45pm from work, and we will run a few errands, and then I will rest. I am hoping to catch Robert Schuller’s HOUR OF POWER this evening so I can sleep in, or rest more tomorrow.

Sunday, I will rest, teach a few lessons, take Jose to Youth Group for their annual scavenger hunt – which is a riot! Jose loves this event!

cleavers

I have been laid up this past week with a terrible sinus infection, including a dreadful sore throat. While convelescing, I have been enjoying Netflix instant viewing, and got caught up in episodes of LEAVE IT TO BEAVER.

The main cast included:

ward

Hugh Beaumont, born in 1909, Lawrence, Kansas, died in 1992 at the age of 73. Once BEAVER ceased production, his career was pretty lousing and he was forced into community theatre productions.

mathers

Jerry Mathers is no longer in television, but has remained a familiar face on talk shows throughout the years. Jerry is also very involved in a number of issues:

Psoriasis

Mathers is a spokesperson for the National Psoriasis Foundation to raise awareness of psoriasis, educate the public about new biologic therapies, and generate hope for people with this serious, lifelong disease.

Diabetes

Mathers was diagnosed with diabetes in 1996. He took preventative action, lost 45 pounds and became one of the leading lecturers on living with and dealing with diabetes. Mathers has partnered with diverse organizations to bring awareness of this epidemic to the public and is currently the national spokesperson for Johnson and Johnson’s OneTouch Ultra2 System blood glucose monitoring system.

Other careers

Current

  • Frank Bank, who played Clarence “Lumpy” Rutherford on the Beaver show, is now Mathers’s investment adviser.
  • Mathers, who is an FCC licensed broadcaster, often guest hosts on national talk-radio programs and is trained in radio satellite broadcasting.
  • Mathers has also had recurring spots on The Tonight Show with host Jay Leno.
  • He is currently a speaker at business conventions, where he addresses the emotional state of the American family and the effects of television on society today, using the fabled Cleavers from his early television career.

tony-dow-1-sized

Tony Dow, born 1945, has remained active in television and motion pictures.

Dow was born to John Stevens, a designer and general contractor, and Muriel Virginia Dow (nee Montrose), a stunt woman in early westerns and Clara Bow‘s movie double in Hollywood, California. In his youth, Dow was a Junior Olympics diving champion.  He won the role of Wally Cleaver in a casting call with almost no previous acting experience.

Dow remained on the series until it ended in 1963. After the run of Leave It to Beaver, he appeared on My Three Sons, Dr. Kildare, Mr. Novak, and Never Too Young. In 1965, Dow briefly stopped acting and joined the National Guard. Dow left the National Guard in 1968[4] and returned to acting with guest starring roles in Adam-12, Love, American Style, The Mod Squad, The Greatest Show on Earth, The Hardy Boys, and Emergency!.

During the 1970s, he continued acting while working in the construction business and studying journalism and filmmaking. Dow’s most recent onscreen appearance was in the 2003 film Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star. Dow also served as the visual effects supervisor for Babylon 5. In 1996, he provided visual effects for the FOX TVM Doctor Who.

In the 1990s, Dow revealed that he has struggled and was eventually diagnosed with clinical depression. He has since starred in self-help videos chronicling his battle with depression.  He has been quite open about discussing it, even appearing in videos discussing his personal battle with depression, including Beating the Blues (1998), which Dow hosted and in which he talked about his personal struggle with depression.

Dow has become a serious, respected amateur sculptor, creating abstract bronze sculptures. In his artist statement, he says the following about his work: “The figures are abstract and not meant to represent reality but rather the truth of the interactions as I see and feel them. I find the wood in the hills of Topanga Canyon and each piece evolves from my subconscious. I produce limited editions of nine bronzes using the lost wax process from molds of the original burl sculpture.” One of his bronze pieces is on display in the backyard garden of Barbara Billingsley, who played his mother in Leave It to Beaver. Dow was chosen as one of three sculptors to show at the Societe Nationale Des Beaux Arts exhibition in the Louvre in Paris in December of 2008, representing the United States delegation comprising artists from the Karen Lynne Gallery. The sculpture that will be shown at the Louvre is titled “Unarmed Warrior,” which is a bronze figure of a woman holding a shield.

barbara-billingsley

Barbara Billingsley, born in 1915, has also kept an active career in motion pictures and television, often portraying her “June Cleaver” personna.

With a year at Los Angeles Junior College behind her, Billingsley traveled to Broadway when Straw Hat, a revue in which she was appearing, attracted enough attention to send it to New York. When, after five days, the show closed, she took an apartment on 57th Street and went to work as a $60-a-week fashion model.

As an actress on the silver screen, she had usually uncredited roles in major motion picture productions in the 1940s. These roles continued into the first half of the 1950s with The Bad and the Beautiful as well as the sci-fi story Invaders from Mars (1953). Her film experience led to roles on the sitcoms Professional Father and The Brothers and an appearance with David Niven on his anthology series Four Star Playhouse.

Billingsley became best known for her role in the 1950s and 1960s television series Leave It to Beaver as June Cleaver, wife of Ward Cleaver (Hugh Beaumont) and the mother of Wally (Tony Dow) and Beaver Cleaver (Jerry Mathers). The Cleaver household became iconic in its representation of an archetypal suburban lifestyle associated with 1950s America. In the show, Billingsley often could be seen doing household chores wearing pearls and earrings. The pearls were her idea. The actress had an unsightly surgical scar on her neck and thought that wearing a strand of pearls could cover it up for the cameras. In later seasons of the show she also started wearing high heels to compensate for the fact that the actors who played her sons were getting taller than her. [1] The sitcom show ran from 1957 to 1963 and proved to be very lucrative for Billingsley.

When production of the show ended in 1963, Billingsley became typecast as saccharine sweet and had trouble obtaining acting jobs for years. She traveled extensively abroad until the late 1970s. After an absence of 17 years from the public eye (other than appearing in two episodes of The F.B.I. in 1971), Billingsley spoofed her wholesome image with a brief appearance in the comedy Airplane! (1980), as a passenger who could “speak jive.”

She became the voice of “Nanny” and “The Little Train” on Muppet Babies from 1984 to 1991.

Billingsley appeared in a Leave It to Beaver reunion television movie entitled Still the Beaver in 1983, a year after her on-screen husband during the six-year original run of the series, Hugh Beaumont, died of a heart attack. She also appeared in the subsequent revival television series, The New Leave It to Beaver (1985-1989). In the 1997 film version of Leave It to Beaver, Billingsley played the character “Aunt Martha”.

Now in her 90s, Billingsley recently completed a role on NBC’s sitcom My Name Is Earl.

On May 6, 2008, she was one of the panelists at the Academy Leonard Goldenson Theatre in North Hollywood, California, where the Academy of Television Arts & Science presented, “A Salute to TV Moms.” Besides Billingsley, other TV moms attended the party, such as: Marjorie Lord, Bonnie Franklin, Vicki Lawrence, Cloris Leachman, Doris Roberts, Diahann Carroll, Catherine Hicks and Meredith Baxter.

Billingsley was born Barbara Lillian Combes in Los Angeles, California. She and her first husband, Glenn Billingsley, a successful restaurateur, had two sons, Drew and Glenn, Jr. Since 1974, Drew and Glenn have owned and operated Billingsley’s Restaurant in West Los Angeles, in the tradition of their father, and their great uncle, Sherman Billingsley, founder of New York City‘s very fashionable 1940s-era nightclub, The Stork Club. Billingsley divorced Glenn Billingsley, but kept his surname professionally, and later married Roy Kellino, a director. After Kellino’s death, she married Dr. William Mortenson, who died in 1981.

Billingsley is related by marriage to actor/producer Peter Billingsley, known for his starring role as Ralphie in the seasonal classic A Christmas Story. First husband Glenn’s cousin is Peter’s mother, Gail Billingsley.

Film roles (credited)

  • The Argyle Secrets (1948)
  • Valiant Hombre (1948)
  • Prejudice (1949)
  • I Cheated the Law (1949)
  • Air Hostess (1949)
  • Shadow on the Wall (1950)
  • Trial Without Jury (1950)
  • Pretty Baby (1950)
  • Three Guys Named Mike (1951)
  • Inside Straight (1951)
  • Two Dollar Bettor (1951)
  • The Bad and the Beautiful (1952)
  • Young Man with Ideas (1952)
  • Woman in the Dark (1952)
  • The Lady Wants Mink (1953)
  • The Careless Years (1957)
  • Airplane! (1980)
  • Still the Beaver (1983) (TV)
  • Leave It to Beaver (1997)
  • Secret Santa (2003) (TV)

Television shows

And here are the Cleavers today. Barbara Billingsley is seated between her on-screen sons, Jerry Mathers and Tony Dow. Standing behind them are Frank Banks “Lumpy Rutherford” and Ken Osmond “Eddie Haskell”.

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This morning, I read this post on Elwood’s internet site. This particular post read:
 
In response to Obama’s complaint that FOX News doesn’t show enough Black and Hispanic people on their network, FOX Network has announced that they will now air ‘America ‘s Most Wanted’ TWICE a week.
What hit me, perhaps for the first time, is that my son will probably have to deal with certain profilings once he leaves the comfort of Kettering where the name Jolliffe-Haas is unknown.
 
I wrote the individual who posted the first comment:
 
Hello,
I was reading segments of Willkie’s Pride and ran across a an item you had posted regarding FOX News.
 
I grew up in Elwood, Indiana, and like so many when I ventured beyond Elwood’s borders, was always trying to shed the stereotypical beliefs about Elwood’s racism. Throughout college, Black students I’d meet would always act hesitant at first, and eventually ask me about my views, mostly in regard to the Ku Klux Klan.
 
In 2004, I adopted a 12 year old Hispanic boy, Jose. Today, at nearly 17 years, my handsome young son is:
  • a good student,
  • a member of the percussion ensemble,
  • a member of this past season’s marching band – in which he had a featured percussion moment/solo,
  • sings in the high school’s concert choir,
  • attends church,
  • is a member of a fantastic youth group,
  • and works in the dining service of a very posh retirement community where he has become respected and loved by a number of the retirees – several of which are retired band directors and my friends.

Jose is adored by his teachers, youth leaders, employers and many other adults who praise his wonderful personality, good manners and courtesy, his kind and thoughtful nature, and his tremendous sense of humor.

Normally, I am not a sensitive individual, nor am I without humor.

However, this morning’s post regarding Hispanic’s and African Americans seemed to smack at the very principles many of us from Elwood have tried to uphold throughout the years regarding Elwood’s racist mentality. I, for one, do not always yield to the current phrase of “political correctness” as it has – in my opinion – gone a bit too far at times. But this morning, I realized I was no longer a former citizen of Elwood fighting stereotypes. This morning I discovered I am the proud father of a young Hispanic son who will probably always battle racial profiling.

This morning I discovered just how sensitive I was to a post that indicated Hispanics were common fodder for “America’s Most Wanted.” I am not ignorant to the various ethnicities and the problems that plague so many. I am also not ignorant of the fact that in Elwood, most of the heinous crimes (murder, rape, child molest) are conducted by mostly Caucasian individuals.

Due to the fact that my son shares the same ethnicity indicated in your post, I have come to understand the great uphill battle that lies before me as a parent.

My biggest battle as the parent of a teenage Hispanic son is not against drugs.

My biggest battle as the parent of a teenage Hispanic son is not against tobacco use.

My biggest battle as the parent of a teenage Hispanic son is not against alcohol.

My biggest battle as the parent of a teenage Hispanic son is not against sex.

My biggest battle as the parent of a teenage Hispanic son is not against gangs.

My biggest battle as the parent of a teenage Hispanic son is with people – even from my own home town – and elsewhere throughout our nation – that do not see the harm in racial profiling. Because my son is Hispanic, he is relegated to third, or fourth, or fifth class status as an American citizen.

Your post this morning opened my eyes a great deal to the work in education that must be accomplished, both for my son, and for individuals who cannot comprehend sensitivity for other nationalities, or ethnicities. My son, no longer in a neglectful birth-family home, and no longer a responsibility of the child welfare system, has a marvelous life that most 16 year old boys would love to have. As his parent, I will see to it that he continues to grow and mature, understanding how to rise above, and beyond, the tremendous wall of unkind, racist views that will probably confront him throughout his adult life simply because he was born of a race that is not Caucasian.

Since I apparently am not equipped to educate my son fully in these areas, I forwarded today’s post Re: FOX News to the NAACP and several Hispanic organizations, asking advice on how I, as a parent of a young Hispanic boy, can better educate my son on the racial profiling that will  certainly haunt him throughout his life.

Until this morning, I simply thought I was the proud father of a great young man. Tonight, I realize I am the proud father of a son who will be categorized a failure, even a criminal in the minds of many — simply because he had the great misfortune to be born of a race so different from mine, and that of a community in which I grew up.

Sincerely…

 
This makes me want to push Jose even harder at being an even stronger student and invidual.
 
 

Yesterday, Jose wanted to hike through historic Woodland Cemetery. We grabbed Flyer, the camera and set off on the 5 minute ride.

A beautiful day, and tons of gorgeous photos!

At 12:05am the five buses carrying the marching band passed in front of the house. I was standing on the front steps smoking my pipe and letting Flyer explore the symphony of smells in the front yard when they passed. Bringing up the rear was Mike Berning, the band director, and his family, honking as they passed.

This week was just incredibly busy. I worked my butt off, but always seemed to be behind in accomplishing all I wished. My email is backed up a mile long, but the study and rest of the house is organized and efficient.

Today I woke after a semi-restful sleep, and plowed right into writing and researching on the Wright Brothers’ musical. I took some time out during lunch to read up on the economy and some of the boiling political issues. At 2:00pm my first student arrived, and at 5:15pm my last student was leaving – an early night with one student ill, and another on a college visit.

I ate some rice, broccoli and cheese casserole, and green beans, and relaxed with two episodes of TWO AND A HALF MEN – one of my favorite shows.

At 8:00pm I dove into the musical writing, and edited a good deal. 11:15pm, I was trying to tackle one particular scene with no success. An email from my lyricist, Gail, who now lives in California, arrived, offering some suggestions to the very scene that had been giving me fits for over an hour. With a few more emails, I knew which direction we should take and by midnight I was sending off the latest draft through the miracle of the internet.

Gail Whipple – another Oscar Hammerstein II

Around 12:20am I walked Flyer over to the performing arts wing and met up with Jose. It is a beautiful evening, just a little chilly – but still nice.

Tomorrow we will run some errands and try to find something fun to do together until it is time to head over to the stadium for the marching band invitational hosted by Fairmont. We will probably be tripping in after midnight.

In two weeks the marching band season will conclude, and Jose and I shall hopefully have more time together. I so enjoy my time with him, and his humor and cheery disposition is a great comfort. In a few years, it will just be me, Flyer and Logan, unless I adopt more sons.

Today is Eleanor Roosevelt’s birthday… what a great lady! Even Jose has one of her quotes posted above his bed.

It is 11:35pm on a Wednesday night and I am finally winding down after a full, productive day. After thinking through all I have accomplished I feel like I have competed with my cousin, Dana, who seems to cram four days into one.

This was my Wednesday:

6:00am     Woke up on my own; began reading my daily newsletters from BeliefNet and theatre groups

6:30am     Cleaned living room ceiling fan, mirrors, dishes

7:00am     Dusted living room, study and bedroom; washed dishes

7:30am     Berry green tea, Cheerios (heart healthy); put chicken thighs on to boil; folded two baskets of laundry

8:00am     At desk writing on Wright Bros’ musical, while watching a DVD on Wrights

11:30am   Deboned chicken; made salad; watched a Netflix DVD on Anthony Robbins

12:30pm   Reorganized the closet in my study, brought down a book case from Jose’s room for my study; reorganized some of my book cases in my study

1:00pm     Took a nap

1:30pm     Afternoon Emails and newsletters

2:30pm     Started spaghetti and sauce; showered & dressed

2:45pm    Finished spaghetti; cleaned the bathroom

3:15pm    Talked to Jose

3:30pm    Began teaching

4:00pm    Had an unscheduled break – watched OPRAH…

Today’s show was on ways to save money during this economic crises. One family described how they cut down their electric bill from $150 per month to $50 each month by unplugging unnecessary items. Hmm… good idea. During this break I reconfigured the living room so that the entertainment unit and all but the torch lamps are on a timer from 2:30pm-8:30pm each day. I may change this so that I just unplug it so that it is off on the weekends, too.

5:00pm    Resumed teaching

8:30pm    Finished last student; grabbed some spaghetti while chatting with Jose just home from work

9:00pm    Began reconfiguring my study’s electrical items; only computer remains plugged in 24/7 and monitor is turned off when not in use (generally do this); Jose and I redid the basement and kitchen

10:00pm  Jose and I sat and talked in the study; his girlfriend called and he chatted with her while I redid the electric items in my bedroom

11:00pm  Jose took care of electrics in his room; I finished some late nite items with business, washed more dishes and cleaned the counters

And the day is done… I feel invigorated, and slightly tired; however, the mind is still going strong. Flyer is snuggled next to me on the passenger side of the bed, and Logan is on my legs while I type on my laptop which is situated on a hospital table. I had to turn up the television volume to hear Letterman’s Top Ten because Flyer is snoring loudly.

Tomorrow, Thursday, is an exceptionally busy day:

  • I will connect with my co-writers
  • hopefully accomplish a good deal of writing
  • start teaching at 1:00pm-6:00pm (my shortest day)
  • run some errands
  • relax until Jose returns home from marching band around 9:30pm

We spend most of our evenings chatting, not even watching television. It is a wonderful relationship, and we enjoy one another’s company tremendously.

When you finish reading this, you must read my friend’s blog… Jeff Carter had a fun time at his own license branch.

Saturday I searched in vain on the internet to find the DMV’s hours. I could not even locate a telephone number for the Centerville branch. I arrived at 2:01pm – they closed at 2:00pm.

This morning, I left the house after Jose headed off to school, arriving at 7:53am. I sat in the parking lot and at 7:58am seven cars zoomed in – and I mean ZOOMED. The parking spaces around me filled up and immediately, people were out of their cars. I brought the average age in the parking lot down to 80 years. I am certain a few actually remembered starting the car with the crank! These people were in the building before I even got out of my car, and one lady was on a walker.

Inside, everything moved fast and by 8:04am I was having my photo taken. I asked the lady if the DMV had a special where you could have Christmas card photos made from your license photo… no.

I sat down to wait with four others who just had their photos taken. The lady on the walker was complaining because they were taking so long! The two men on either side of her agreed. I sat there smiling to myself. The gentleman next to me began chatting and I learned he grew up in Alexandria, Indiana which is about seven miles from where I grew up.

In less than a minute they called my name. The three complainers were aggrevated that I already had mine. As the lady handed me mine I heard her say, “Oh, no! A malfunction.”

The walker lady bellowed, “Why did he get his before we got ours?”

The lady tried to explain, and then apologized for the malfunction. I started past the lady and she asked, “Why did you get yours first?”

I smiled and said, “There’s not as many wrinkles to touch on my photo.”

All four were slapping their legs and howling.

I pulled out of the DMV and headed to the National City Bank. I had lived in this particular Centerville neighborhood for eight years and could not believe how much it had grown with all the new businesses. It was mostly open fields from 1995-2002. I waited in line, looking for the ATM. I decided I would just do the window.

I pulled up to the window, noticing there were no machines to suck the money into the bank. The window opened and the lady, dressed in a cute shirt and sun viser asked, “How may I help you?”

I said I wanted to make a deposit… her face contorted, and then she began howling.

“This is Starbucks, now.”

I drove off without getting an order…

At 9:00am my neighbor lady, Kay, took me to breakfast to celebrate my birthday at First Watch. We had a delightful time and then walked over to Tuesday Morning.

Tonight, I will head up to Wayne High School to join Loretta Henderson and her daughter, Mara, for the Wayne vs. Fairmont game. Her oldest daughter, Kayla, is the team manager, but I am sure I will see her. Uncle Darin always seems to be a hit with these two darlings. Loretta and I were at KMS together, and she is now a principal in Tipp City.

Saturday is a tailgate picnic for the band, and then a contest at the OSU stadium in Columbus. I have never been to this sacred site, and am excited to do so.

Another enjoyable week.

Monday I reunited with a former student with whom I lost contact 20 years ago. His family was wonderful to me during my Muncie days, and Nathan was always one of my favorite former students. In short, his mother has been the Lutheran pastor in my hometown (which I did not know), and Nathan has lived around the corner from me for eight years.

Friday night, Nathan joined me for the Fairmont vs. Beavercreek game, and we had a great time catching up. We actually started with the wonderful Fairmont Firebird tradition of STEP OFF. The band lines up in front of the school’s performing arts department, marching around the school, and through the neighborhood to the stadium. Once at the stadium they march under the stadium, pounding the drums and chanting. It is a thrill to watch. The game was actually kind of fun – but I was also seated behind Jill & John Chabut. The bands were wonderful.

After the game, Nathan joined Jose and me as we drove Jose’s friend, Matt, back to his house to pack some clothes for over night. The band was to leave at 6:30am for contest in Massillon, Ohio which is approximately three hours from Dayton, and I told Matt he was welcome to stay so his parents would not have to get up so early. Once back home, Nathan and I sat up until 5:30am chatting – and I think there was some dozing.

Jose’s friend, Matt

Saturday I taught two Beavercreek students until 12:30am, enjoyed a brief visit from Christi and Carrie Salchak, and then ran some errands. I took a nap, and then showered and dressed. Nathan came over and we watched the delightful Disney movie, ENCHANTED.

Jose and Matt burst through the door at 3:30am, tired, but thrilled from the long adventure. The band made it into the night finals and placed 9th.

Sunday, I chatted with Mother, learning that my younger sister was to be married this evening. Not surprising, but events leading up to this evening’s nuptials have me concerned for my nephews – their future, as well as their safety. Life and choices… but not my problem, nor will I allow it to concern me.

Jose and I went to a Mexican lunch after Matt left with his mother, and then we grabbed a few items from Meijers. I worked on the musical while Jose watched movies before he headed to work. Jeff Carter and I chatted on the telephone, and I resumed work on The Wright Brothers project.

People are always asking me to describe what I mean when I mention, “Daily Briefs.”

In the Haasienda, the Daily Brief is our communication system for each day. I am generally teaching when Jose arrives home from school, and this allows me to share information – chore (1 or 2 items), dinner, quote of the day, upcoming events, and my own thoughts. The headings are now in German so Jose can learn a little more for class.

 Here is what a DB looks like in the Haasienda….

 

 

Mittwoch, den 17. September

 

…Helfen Sie bitte Vati mit dem folgenden…

(ENGLISH: “Please help Dad with the following…”)

1.  Laundry

 

…Abendessen…

(ENGLISH: “Dinner…”)

Grab some fruit before you head to work.

 

…Anführungsstrich des Tages…

(ENGLISH: “Quote of the day…”)

    Just do it.” ~ Nike

… Gedanken vom Vati…

 

(ENGLISH: “Thoughts from Dad…”)

I found this and thought it was great… 9 Tips for Being a Successful Student…


… PAY ATTENTION & PARTICIPATING IN CLASS

… MAKE AN EFFORT TO KNOW THE TEACHER

… GET ENOUGH SLEEP

… EAT BREAKFAST EVERY DAY (Let’s try this for one week)

… HAVE GOOD NUTRITION HABITS ALL DAY & TAKE VITAMINS

… HAVE AN ORGANIZATION SYSTEM THAT WORKS

… HAVE A REGULAR TIME AND PLACE FOR HOMEWORK

… ARE ACCOUNTABLE TO SOMEONE AT HOME (we already do this)

…SET GOALS FOR ACHIEVEMENT

Despite the heaviness of knowing many of our dear friends and neighbors, literally several houses away, are without power, I am going to continue celebrating the day. It is a beautiful day here in Kettering, Ohio, and the schools are closed again. For lunch, I am taking Jose to eat downtown to celebrate GOTCHA DAY. Four years ago today, Jose, then 12 years old, arrived from Oregon to live with us.

Jose is an amazing young man with great potential for a fantastic future. I am really proud of all he has accomplished, and for maintaining such a gratfeful attitude about life. Unlike other children who endured birth family horrors and the foster care system, Jose is still positive and joyful on the inside.

Here are a few photographs, beginning with the day he arrived.

Ironically, in the first photo of the day Jose arrived, behind Jose and myself is a portrait of my own birth father who abandoned my family when I was about Jose’s age… I just noticed this today…

 

What a busy, and then exciting weekend…
 
FRIDAY
Jose was with the marching band for the game against Lebanon, and we won. He got home around 11:30pm. I ran some errands and worked on writing for a few hours.
 
SATURDAY
I kept busy with errands around the house, and some writing. Worried about my family in the Houston area but have since learned they are doing just fine.
 
Jose left for band practice at 12:30pm, and I ran some errands for groceries, and got sandwiches from Subway. Came home and finished some more chores, made 36 cupcakes, and packed up for the tailgate party back behind the house on the baseball diamond where the band rehearses. Had so much fun with the parents, and watched the band show. Ate lunch with the kids, and headed home.
 
Band contest was in Tipp City. I got to see four of my drum-major students on the field, and was proud of all my kids. Fairmont has a great show, and I thought they did better than where they placed. I took a number of photos but my night time photos for band just do not turn out.
 
I drove home, arriving about 30 minutes prior to the band buses and trailer.
SUNDAY
I thought I slept pretty good but kept waking up throughout the night. Finally at 8:00am, I finally gave up trying to wrestle time for more sleep. I got up and piddled around the house a bit. Worked at my desk for a while as Jose played the piano. Around 10:30am I mowed the yard and used the leaf blower, taking advantage of the semi- strong winds.
 
Jose and I ran to the mall after showering, and on the way, the wind advisory of which we had been warned, came true. We went to Game Stop so Jose could exchange a game, ate Chinese, and walked out to winds so strong we could barely make it back to the car. En route back to Kettering, we saw trees down and tons of branches and limbs.
 
At home, we walked into a house with cabinet doors open, items blown around, and pictures hanging crooked. The dark clouds began taunting us, but no solid rain…
 
And then the winds hit HARD AND FURIOUS. The power went out around 1:30pm.
 
The winds reportedly got up to 75mph. I walked next door to see the HUGE limbs that fell between the Moore-Parker and Stephenson houses. Fortunately, both families had moved their vehicles just moments before the limbs fell. The streets looked like a war zone.
 
Neighbors began reporting trees down on the next street over… wow! It was incredible.
 
I spent a lot of time talking to the Moore-Parker and Stephenson families as we watched nature lash out around us. At 4:45pm I got ready to drive Jose to work as I was afraid of limbs falling on him – and I heard a loud crack and thud. A tree in the easement between our fence and the high school broke in half – a HUGE tree. Fortunately it missed the fence, falling directly in the easement. Had it fallen the other way it would have crashed through our privacy fence, and maybe on to the deck. As we drove around the corner to work, one of the huge trees in front of the high school was broken at the base.
 
After dropping Jose off at One Lincoln Park, I drove on down Shroyer, over to Stroop, across Far Hills and back in that neighborhood… WOW! I stopped counting at 38 trees completely broken at the base, and hundreds more split in two… snow plows were pushing debris through the streets just to clear a path. It looked like a war zone or a tornado’s path.
 
I took a nap and by 6:00pm, the winds had calmed down.
 
I went out back and raked the deck and back yard, and then the front. The Stephensons were in their back yard using the twigs and branches for a fire.
 
The report is that over 200,000 customers are without power.
 
Kettering City Schools are closed for Monday.
 
What an eventful day… but, as always, it was so much fun to spend time with my neighbors who border my yard.
At 10:00pm….
Jose and I drove to Kroger so he could get a movie, and I a few groceries…. Kroger and all that area was black. We drove – cautiously down Stroop with trees still protruding onto the street and no lights anywhere. On Southern the hospital was lit up, but everything else dark.
 
At Wal-Mart on Dorothy Lane, there were the restaurants – packed! Wal-Mart was black and most of the area. Jose got  several  movies  from McDonalds, and the lines inside and in the drive-thru were endless. As I waited for Jose there was one family who pulled up in the business across the way, and there was a father and his teenage son who went into McD’s. The mother and the baby stayed in the car and we chatted. They had been without power since 1:00pm, and finally came out at 10:30pm to get some food.
 
I called the Lockharts and Jackson said they were still without power. I invited them to come to our house, and wish they were here. God knows there is plenty of sleeping space.
 
The fire crews are still running. They were busy putting out electrical fires and downed wires.
 
We drove through Kettering to the Kroger on the opposite end of town. There was a sign out front: No flashlights, no batteries, no ice. Bottled water was gone, as was gallons of water.
 
Some parts are also without water. Most of Wilmington Pike was black.
 
We have been asked to stay inside due to the downed lines and debris.
 
The big concern now is that the trees have been weakened and future winds, rain, snow and ice could still cause further problems.
 
200,000 homes are without power in the Dayton area. 628,000 homes in the Cincinnati area are without power.
 
The news has these hideous sites of trees crashing through roofs, roofs gone, awnings gone… one Shell Station overhead crashed to the ground. And I am sure there are more items.
 
It is sad.
 
And of course, Houston and other parts are dealing with flooding.

What a short, but long week.

Recovery from a three day weekend is always a little tough, but this year was a little easier. I set up a new system with my private teaching studio: if there are five Mondays and Tuesdays in the month, I only teach four. So, Monday and Tuesday were my days off for September. I did not accomplish as much as I hoped, but I did catch up on some much needed rest.

Wednesday and Thursday flew by, and though our schedules are packed in the evening, I did get to spend time with Jose, and worked with him on German and social studies. His teachers report a great deal of effort, so far.

Friday I hit the Wright Brothers’ musical pretty hard, trying to tackle one particular song that has been a struggle.

I taught for four hours, and then headed to ACTION Adoption since Jose was with the marching band at an away game at Lakota West High School, just north of Cincinnati.

I thought it would be a night in the big room with support group, but Cissie, one of the staff, asked if I would please teach an independent study to one of my favorite couples. I almost did not go to ACTION, but am so glad I did. Bill & Ann Impson are the neatest couple, and I love every minute I get to spend with these two. They are finishing up their home study, and I cannot wait until they are deeply involved in the search for children. These two just make my day.

Saturday, Jose will have band from 9:00am to 3:00pm, and I am hoping to write as much as I can. In the evening, I will take Jose to dinner, and then maybe grab a movie.

Sunday, nothing until the early evening when I teach two lessons.

Not much to report…

What a wonderful, wonderful weekend!

Saturday morning, the house was all cleaned, and smelling fresh, the yard looked great, and the fence was adorned with red, white and blue bunting banners – a gift from my darling neighbor, Kay. I began prepping food and preparing a fresh peach cobbler while Mother and I chatted.

Mother, Jose and I ate lunch on the deck, and then ran some errands. When we returned, Destin, Stacia, Parker and Fred were at the house.

We went to Indian Riffle Park off of Stroop Road where we chatted, ate peach cobbler, and watched Parker and Jose play.

Then, we journeyed on to Young’s Jersey Dairy outside Yellow Springs. We petted goats, took pictures and chatted more. Stacia, Parker, Jose and Fred road the tractor train.

While we waited to be seated, Destin and Jose went to the driving range, and I believe they hit the walls of the shelter more than the golf balls. There were hilarious tales of how they were also experiencing near misses from one another. I am filled with so much delight when I watch Jose with his Uncle Destin, and always recall the wonderful times spent with my own uncles.

We enjoyed a delicious meal at the main restaurant. Unfortunately, Parker became ill as we were preparing to leave, and the projectile vomit was Olympian in proportion, and distance. However, poor Stacia caught most of it down her front, her back… while Destin was gagging out in the parking lot from the stench, Stacia, bore it, and wore it with her typical good humor, and grace. In the car, poor, tired Fred began wailing. At one point, Stacia, who could have been overwhelming stressed, leaned up to Jose and said, “So have you had your fill of birth control this evening?”

We lost it!

After prepping the bedrooms, getting the boys to bed, we hit the deck with the tikki torches lit – what a beautiful site the yard was with the torches illuminating the yard. Destin and I were the last to close down the deck chat – and I believe we covered all the issues of education in an hour.

Sunday morning, I was up at 7:00am, and joined Mother on the deck for coffee before showering and making breakfast. We dined on the deck with eggs, pancakes (even chocolate chip), frappes, bagels, etc..

We spent more time on the deck while others were showering.

At 1:00pm, we all walked over to Lincoln Park for the Holiday At Home festival. What a neat thing to have in your own back yard! I love this weekend! We walked through the festival, grabbed some lemon shake-ups, and Mother purchased candles.

As we began our trek through the park, Jose asked if he could push Fred in the stroller. Stacia asked, “Jose, do you think the stroller is a chick-magnet?”

We lost it again. Destin, of course, came up with several scenarios of what Jose could tell the ladies.

At 2:00pm we were back on my deck for taco salad, topped with Stacia’s home-made salsa which is the best I have ever eaten. I have tried her recipe and cannot hit it on the mark.

At 3:00pm, the cars were packed and this leg of the weekend had come to an end. Waving good bye from the porch, a family “must do,” was difficult. I was still sniffling a little as I put away the food from lunch.

I chatted with my neighbor lady, Kay, and invited her family over for supper since I had SO much left over for taco salad. We agreed on 7:00pm. Jose went to work and I took a 45 minute nap.

At 7:00pm, Kay and her daughter, Laura, were dining with me on taco salad. Laura’s husband, Don, was not feeling well, and the kids were off doing their own thing. Time spent with Kay and Laura are always a blast, and there is always tons of laughter. I was blessed with wonderful neighbors growing up in Elwood, wonderful neighbors during my college years in Muncie, and although I enjoyed my neighbors in Centerville, my Kettering neighbors have been an absolute blessing and delight. The Moore-Parker house next door, and the Stephenson house (Bob, Chris, Henry and Frank) behind us are the best neighbors one could possibly have.

Jose returned from work and joined us on the deck with his supper he brought home from One Lincoln Park.

At 9:00pm, all was quiet at the Haasienda.

Tomorrow morning at 10:00am, I will be on the other side of the high school’s campus to join thousands for the Holiday At Home parade, one of the largest in the state. Hopefully I will sit with the Lockharts.

I will also be the proud teacher as several students pass by, leading their bands as drum-major. And I will be the proud pappa as Jose marches by with the Marching Firebirds.

What a wonderful Labor Day weekend, and it isn’t over. I doubt that tomorrow will top the sheer joy I have experienced these past few days with family and neighbors/friends.

This is a message I posted on one of my hometown’s websites, WILLKIE’S PRIDE.

This morning, my sixteen year old son came into my study before leaving for school and said he was really frustrated with something in marching band. The percussion section leader yells all the time at the end of rehearsal when the other members are not moving instruments and equipment along, especially when there’s a lull in the activity. I asked if she provided the section with a schedule/list, outlining the order of items to be moved on to the trailer, as well as an assignment list to move the equipment.

No. There was not.

“What can you do to help this situation?” I asked.

“There’s nothing I can do.”

With that, he knew he had said the wrong thing as I smiled, peering over my reading glasses.

My son nodded his head. “I can suggest to her that we come up with a schedule or list of what needs to be done and who needs to do it.”

I then asked, “Are you and other percussion members standing around, complaining?”

He nodded.

My son got the message. One of the rules in our home is: “Don’t complain, get in there and help fix it.”

As I read various websites of both published and guest entries the election, I read a ton of complaining, side-line-recliner coaching, but what I am not reading, or hearing is, “How can I help fix this?”

We all know that we will be fixing something, one way or another, just by voting this November.

But is that enough?

What more, as a citizen of the United States of American, can I do to help improve what needs to be improved?

The last election of 2004, I took my sons to see both vice- presidential candidates when they appeared in the Dayton area. We also attended several rallies, and information sessions for each candidate (and we do this for local elections, as well). As a parent, I lead my family in discussion of these issues, reminding
them that the votes cast this November can, and will affect their children and grandchildren.

“How is that possible?” one son asked.

I explained: in 1860 the country elected Lincoln, and today, we still thrive as one union. In 1904, when Theodore Roosevelt was elected in his own right (he succeeded the assassinated William McKinley in
1901) he promoted conservation of various natural landmarks that eventually led to the National Parks’ system. A number of FDR’s programs are still with us, as are programs from the administrations
of Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton. When social security began, my great-grandparents, and maybe my grandparents had voted in an election that brought FDR to the White House. And my fourth great-grandfather fought in the Union cavalry to hold the country together.

The actions, and even inactions of my parents, grandparents (and so on) during election seasons have resulted – both directly, and indirectly to the country in which I live.
 
As a young boy of ten, I campaigned heavily for Congressman Hillis, and even Senator Lugar. There was even a photograph in the Elwood Call-Leader of Congressman Hillis standing with my family.

At that rally, I believe in the building which now houses the chamber of commerce, something Congressman Hillis said in 1974, has remained with me for thirty-four years.

Paraphrased: “You are all here because you believe in making a difference. You are out here working to better your community, your county, your district, your state and your country.”

During the question & answer portion of his campaign, Congressman Hillis was asked about the recent horrors of Watergate, and what he thought of President Ford’s pardon for President Nixon (who was a
Republican).

Congressman Hillis then stressed how important it was for us as Americans (United States’ citizens) to move ahead, and beyond the past, and if we all worked together with a positive attitude we could accomplish do much more.

One gentlemen referred to Nixon as “a thief.” Congressman Hillis smiled, and politely suggested that we not resort to name calling. He then encouraged us to be more positive in our thoughts, comments, and
actions and to continue to work together no matter to what political party we belong.

That advice has been one of my mantras when leading bands, choirs, productions, classrooms, and volunteers organizations. One of the rules for the classroom or rehearsals – “Leave the drama and negative
attitudes outside.”

Last week, a fellow classmate of mine posted something from a national newspaper that pounced on President Bush. Immediately, there were follow-up comments of “Bush Bashing” and ridicule for the author
and newspaper as though a hideous felony was committed.

As the DNC Convention began, the negative mudslinging came out in full force, especially comments about Senator Kennedy and the Chappaquiddick incident. And naturally, from recent years, recalls of Monica Lewinsky.

When the GOP Convention airs, will we also be reminded that President Harding (R) had numerous affairs, fathered a child or two, and died as his administration was ready to erupt in scandal?

Will we remember the alleged affair General Eisenhower (R) had with his military driver?

Will we recall the horrors of witnessing one of our nation’s most severe testing throughout the Watergate scandal which brought down a Republican President?

Will we be reminded that President Reagan (R), one of the most beloved presidents in recent years, did, or did not know about the Iran-Contra trades?

Will people target First Lady Laura Bush with reminders that she too killed someone in an automobile accident by running a stop sign? (And, yes, I know this is miles apart from the controversy surrounding Ted Kennedy’s scandal at the Edgartown Bridge.)

As I was skimming through some of this morning’s posts on Willkies Pride, I caught sight of one member reminding us there are bigger fish to fry than picking apart the opposition, or any candidate for that matter.

And how I applaud that poster!

Echoing Congressman Hillis… what can each of us do to work towards a better community, a better county, a better state, a better country?

I occasionally read the one website dedicated purely to Elwood, and if all the complaints are true (which some are clearly skeptical) there appears to be plenty to do in the community of Elwood. Instead, on that particular site, a majority of the posters are there to complain. I brought forth numerous suggestions of taking the lead and making things happen by working together, because that’s what I remember most about Elwood when I was growing up. I remember neighbors helping one another; I remember the streets packed with people during parades (and I marched in enough of them to know); I remember citizens flocking to events…

But what is more, I remember fine people of a fine community who practiced a strong sense of community, a strong sense of commitment, a strong sense of pride, and a strong sense of working together to make a difference.

At church, one day, a lady who is a little older than my parents, commented on an upcoming “church cleaning day.”

“That’s for the young folks. I am going to sit back and enjoy life. I did my share.” And then she began berating all that was not right with the church, and some of the people.

I did not say anything, but my down cast eyes alerted her to the fact I disagreed. Finally, she said, “OK, Darin. I know you are thinking something.”

With that invitation, I cheerfully thanked her for her many contributions to the church. I then reminded her how her former positive attitude had been one of the elements in getting others involved in years now past. Then I asked if her work was truly completed? She thought for a minute. Finally, she looked up, smiled,
and said, “Heavens no! I am still alive.”

Sure enough, she was one who joined us for the spring cleaning day. And better yet, she convinced at least a dozen others to participate because they were a part of the church as well, and that it was up to each of them to participate, to help… to be.

This also applies to each of us with our schools, our communities, our state and our country. We each know someone of advanced years who died at their post – whether it was at work, or volunteering for a cause. This is what I desire – I don’t want to retire, sit at my computer desk (which I currently do as a playwright), and run down the beliefs or comments of others. Rather than complain about the items needing improvements, I hope and pray that I am healthy enough to be offering assistance, or volunteering… somehow, still making a
difference.

I hate to echo a Democrat, but there was once this brilliant phrase that resounded throughout the country in 1961: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

We have, somehow, evolved into a society of “wanters” with less emphasis on being “doers” or “givers.” We have become complacent.

Think of our parents and grandparents who lived through the Great Depression and WWII… I was so blessed to know many from this generation, and there are still many from this era that are in their 70’s and 80’s and are still vital contributors to their schools, communities, churches and state. We are fortunate to have a
presidential candidate, and now a vice-presidential candidate from this generation!

In our home, we have an expectation of ten (10) volunteer hours each month. My contribution is to teach pre-adoption courses at the agency through which I adopted my sons, or to lead the parent support group,
or represent the agency at local adoption affairs. I am also a band booster, a choir booster, and active with other community/school related activities. My youngest son volunteers by raking leaves, shoveling snow (all without pay), or assisting with the children’s program at the adoption agency.

I have one friend who is 83, and she volunteers at an elementary school as an aide in various areas. She has also encouraged many of her “widow friends” to do the same, or volunteer in other areas.

Once our children leave home, do we cease being their parent? No. Obviously, the roles change, but we never cease being their parent. And, although I am 43 years old, I am still the son of Diana Haas, and David Haas (and a genetic link to my birth father).

As citizens of a wonderful community, as citizens of a wonderful state, as citizens of a wonderful country, how can each of us make a difference?

How can each of us continue to work towards bettering our city, state and country, not just for our own lives, but for our children and grandchildren, as well?

Do we better ourselves, or improve our conditions with name calling, or dirt digging, or chastising another for their beliefs?

Did Michael Phelps win eight gold medals with a negative attitude? How many times did he say, “Neh, I’m not hitting the pool today; I just don’t feel like it.”?

Did our own recent grand champion of the swimming pool stop working towards her own goal to be in the Olympics?

If you cannot think of a reason to involve your self in some way to make a difference, think of someone like Mary Beth Dunnichay. How can we make each of our own children, or children in Elwood reach out
actively for their goals and dreams? How can we work with the schools or community and church organizations to instill in youth the self- esteem and confidence to be gold medal winners in their own lives,
and future careers?

Shouldn’t this be our initial inheritance to our children and grandchildren?

What better inheritance, or legacy can we leave future generations?

How can we teach them not to simply reach for the stars, but to be one?

We do not need to reach the national and international stages as Wendell L. Willkie, or Mary Beth Dunnichay in order to make a difference. There is so much each of us can do alone, or TOGETHER, to make a difference.

Flying your flag each day can make a difference.

For those of us who can do so, parking further away in a parking lot can make the difference for those who truly need to park closer to stores (handicap, senior citizens and mommies with children).

Leaving your quarter in the cart contraption at Aldis for someone else who truly needs it can make a difference. (And I have seen too many seniors who count down to the last penny!) And you can also buy
extra Aldis bags for five cents and tell the cashier to give them to someone who needs them.

Even complimenting a young child who demonstrates courtesy or good manners can make a difference (and don’t forget to thank their  parents for teaching them the difference!).

When I die, I do not wish to have a grave stone, a monument to a life lived. I hope, and pray that the work I do, and that the lives I touch will be my monument, and my legacy to my children, nephews, and their children. Each of us can provide living monuments – let’s do it.

After 9/11 we began flying our flags daily, and then it dwindled.

Why not fly our flags every day, rather than when our nation is in crises?

Can we celebrate our pride, our unity, our faith in our nation by flying our flags each day?

We united immediately after 9/11, and still continue to do so for memorial services each year.

Can we do this each day?

Make a difference in whatever way you can, but in a positive manner. That can also be a legacy to leave your children, and grandchildren.

And I close with words from one of Elwood’s own…

“In no direction that we turn do we find ease or comfort. If we are honest and if we have the will to win we find only danger, hard work and iron resolution.”

“It is from weakness that people reach for dictators and concentrated government power. Only the strong can be free. And only the productive can be strong.”

May God bless the United States of America.

When I was a teenager in high school, and throughout college, I did listen to rock music, but preferred the music of the late 1960’s and early to mid-1970’s. There was some incredible music written during that era. I was never one to listen to a good deal of the current hits, but in the mid 1980’s I did occasionally listen to Journey, Air Supply, Chicago and a number of individual solo artists.

This past week, I spent one of the most enjoyable weeks working with the Beavercreek High School Friend’s Show Choir. Awesome! Sharon Busch is an incredible director, and she runs a brilliant program. The students were warm, welcoming and a delightful bunch of teenagers. I could work with them forever.

While working with the camp I became exposed to Nate James’ “The Message” and two hits from a medley of Bon Jovi, “It’s My Life” and “Living On A Prayer.”

Friday night was the parents’ show of what the show choir had accomplished. Sharon Busch grabbed a piano, and man, can she jam! I was conducting the show choir instrumentalists, nearly dancing while conducting, and Sharon was even more energetic than me. Bon Jovi’s music can really grab you!

The lyrics to “It’s My Life” have fastened themselves to my brain:

This ain’t a song for the broken-hearted
A silent prayer for faith-departed
I ain’t gonna be just a face in the crowd
You’re gonna hear my voice when I shout it out aloud

It’s my life
If it’s now or never
And I ain’t gonna live forever
I just want to live while I’m alive
(It’s my life)
My heart is like an open highway
Like Frankie said, “I did it my way.”
I just wanna live while I’m alive
It’s my life

This is for the ones who stood their ground
For Tommy and Gina who never backed down
Tomorrow’s getting harder make no mistake
Luck ain’t even lucky got to make your own breaks

It’s my life
And it’s now or never
I ain’t gonna live forever
I just want to live while I’m alive
(It’s my life)
My heart is like an open highway
Like Frankie said
I did it my way
I just want to live while I’m alive
‘Cause it’s my life

Better stand tall when they’re calling you out
Don’t bend, don’t break, baby, don’t back down

It’s my life
And it’s now or never
‘Cause I ain’t gonna live forever
I just want to live while I’m alive
(It’s my life)
My heart is like an open highway
Like Frankie said
I did it my way
I just want to live while I’m alive

This afternoon, Jose returned from a six hour marching band rehearsal, and while getting ready to go to his job at One Lincoln Park, I asked if he could help me figure out how to download several songs onto my MP3 player. He happily agreed, enjoying the moment to assist his semi-technologically-challenged father.

Jose moved the cursor onto one of the songs and jumped back, laughing. “What the hell is this?”

I looked up at Jose. “It’s Bon Jovi. He was really big in the 1980’s and…”

“I know who Bon Jovi is. Why are you listening to him?” Jose asked as though he was a father catching his twelve year old son listening to Gangsta Rap.

“Well… I like it. Bon Jovi is just a little older than me.”

“You like this kind of music?”

“YES I DO.”

“That’s just out there.”

“When I was young, ‘far out’ was a popular little quip.”

“No, Dad, this is just funny to know you listen to rock music.”

“You’ve heard me listen to rock music before.”

“Yeh, but WICKED and hits from THE WEDDING SINGER [Broadway version] don’t count.”

“Jose, I listen to rock music, too.”

“But this is a little heavier rock than some of the shit I’ve heard you listen to.”

“I also like Meatloaf. The rock artist and not the…”

“I know who Meatloaf is…”

“Why is it so crazy that your father would like heavier rock?”

“You play Beethoven, Bach and Broadway. You don’t play Bon Jovi.”

“But I am at least still versatile in my musical tastes.”

A look of concern spread across his furrowed brow. “Are you attempting to be cool?”

“Cool? Excuse me???” I sat back in my chair on the deck and folded my arms. “Why can a 16 year old Mexican son be cool but a 42 year old Caucasian dad cannot?”

“You’re 43…”

“I know how old I am and I am cool, too!”

Jose gave me a tight-lipped grin, and nodded his head.

“Dad, it’s like this… it’s just messed up. My generation is into the coll rock music and guys your age want to listen to our music.”

“This is not YOUR music. Your grandmother listened to Rock-N-Roll when she was younger, and I can remember Mother listening to rock music when I was a teenager. She knew Air Supply and some of the other top bands. And another thing, when I went to pick up Molly Crouch for her lesson Thursday, I was telling Mrs. Crouch about Beavercreek’s show and when I said we were doing a Bon Jovi medley she said, ‘I bet one is LIVING ON A PRAYER.’ Mrs. Crouch is about four to five years older than me. Mrs. Branson even knew the songs and she use to like some of the heavier rock bands in the 1970’s. You make it sound like it is a sin for my generation to appreciate quality rock music.”

The tight-lipped grin appeared, accompanied by the chin extending from the neck in the familiar nod. Jose turned on his heal and went inside.

My MP3 player was loaded.

Around 6:00pm, I decided to go to Kroger to get some cucumbers to make some cucumber salad like my sister-in-law, Stacia, made the previous weekend (of course, the recipe from the internet was nothing like hers…). I plugged my MP3 player into the stereo, and as I backed out on to Shroyer Road, “Living On A Prayer” started. I nudged the volume a bit.

The song was still too soft.

The volume was pumped a little more.

At the stoplight at Lincoln Blvd a car pulled up beside me.

I was not paying attention. The music was a little loud.

Oh… I realized someone was shouting to me from the neighboring car.

“Mr. Haas!” screamed a former student. “When the hell did you start listening to Bon Jovi?”

“I’ve always liked rock music – and why is everyone saying ‘hell’ today?”

He laughed and abruptly left my side as the light changed to green.

I turned into the Kroger parking lot at Eichleberger Plaza, and as I slowly turned into a parking space, there was a gentleman approximately my age – his head began bouncing. I thought it was a seizure but then realized his head was pulsating to the music from my car.

“Wow! This i