Sunday, January 31, 2010

Happy me

Is it bad etiquette - blogging or otherwise - to wish one's self a happy birthday? Screw it. Even if it is, I'm doing so anyway. So there. Happy freakin' birthday to me.

Recap of fine gifts:
  • Tent & coffee pot from dear ol' Mother (I'm sure my dad was cool with it, but it was all her.)
  • HD camcorder from wife and kids
  • P.F. Chang gift card from sister
  • Amazon gift card from MIL and FIL
  • Wal-Mart gift card from SIL
  • MySpace, e-mail, text, and bulletin board birthday greetings from friends
  • Trip to Vegas in late February for NASCAR races from self

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Helping the Needy of Nashville

Many Saturday nights of my youth were spent at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway watching local racers burn up lap after lap. Because of a series of colossal, mega-failure decisions by the Metro Nashville City Council and the Fair Board over the last two decades, racing at the fairgrounds has been all but silenced now.

Tuesday morning, I returned to the fairgrounds for a different reason than racing entertainment. Tom Henry, a friend of mine and executive director of Feed America First, needed arms and legs to unload ten tractor-trailers of food and other supplies to distribute to about 2,000 needy families in the Nashville area. The fairgrounds was used as the parking, staging, unloading, and delivery area.

The food and supplies were trucked in by Feed The Children out of Oklahoma City, OK. Locally, the event was sponsored by Cumulus Media and its various TV and radio outlets.

It was really cold as we got underway with a stiff wind and flurries in the air. But once we all got rolling, the temps were forgotten (well, maybe not forgotten but at least tolerated for a few hours). Volunteers stepped forward, we worked out a logistical flow to match the needy with a volunteer partner, and folks were given boxes of food, hygiene supplies, HBA items donated by Avon, and a winter coat.

Here is WSMV-TV's video of the event. (Sorry, the site only provided a link. Embedding option wasn't available.)

I have to admit the warmth of the office felt great when returning after lunch. But the morning was really rewarding by pitching in to help needy families, working alongside dozens of other smiling, energetic volunteers, and even having a few moments to visit with friends I hadn't seen in many months.

01-27-2010 Update: More video from NewsChannel 5.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Church Bulletin Fail

This announcement was in today's church bulletin. After a couple of under-the-breath utterances of "what the?", I quickly made a mental note of one word: blog.

Not sure what keeping kids safe has to do with being green. Perhaps the church plans to compost folks whose background checks reveal problems in dealing with children.


Saturday, January 9, 2010


When we first moved back to middle Tennessee, we bought a house in Gallatin. Its a small town about 30 miles northeast of Nashville. Our subdivision was built on what used to be a cattle pasture. Flat as a pancake. In our 7 years there, we had plenty of snowy days. But with flat streets, sledding was pretty much out of the question unless ol' dad here was the mule.

About 6 years ago, we moved to our current house. Unlike Gallatin, this place is on a bit of a hill. Anticipating sledding conditions would be better with the hills, I put a good word into Santa to see if he could bring a sled for their first Christmas in the new digs.

He did - but then an odd thing happened. We've had no measureable snow here in six years. Flurries yes. Bitterly cold temps sure. But a good base of ice followed by a few inches of snow to really rip off a good sled run? Negative.

Because of either pent-up demand for snow, the dread of it actually falling, Nashville-area drivers freaking out over the prospects of driving in it, etc., this area suffers from what I now call a bad case of "parasnowia".

Last weekend, the weathermen were all giddy with their forecast models. We were going to get 4-6" of snow from Wednesday night through Thursday. By Tuesday, the forecast was down to 1-3". By Wednesday, they backed down and said we might get an inch beginning Thursday morning. And when I awoke to dry streets and grassy lawns, the forecast was for only a dusting.

But that didn't keep parasnowia from setting in. Schools closed even before the first flake fell. Our office closed early Thursday afternoon - the first time I can recall that happening in 13 years of employment there. Folks who apparently live life on the edge with empty pantries and refrigerators jammed Wal-Mart and the grocery stores to load-up on the essentials as if they wouldn't see the light of day again until March 1.

Even my kids (as all kids should I guess) are still gullible to get caught up in the hype. Merely the chance of snow is enough to get them keyed up and ready to sled. Unfortunately, as illustrated below, the physics of friction between asphalt and steel runners are too much to overcome without plenty of frozen precipitation between them.

Better luck next time.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Fuzzy Christmas Flashback

Its hard for me to believe, but I've been at this blogging business for about a year now. One of my first posts from late 2008 was the Christmas family tradition of all the females in the house sacking out on whatever couch or loveseat was available. Photographic evidence was provided.

Shortly after I wrote that entry - and got away with it around the house (so far), I committed myself to helping take the tradition to the next level for 2009. In order to do so, I spoke to the jolly old fat guy from the north pole and asked him to hook up all the ladies in the house with a Snuggie.

His response? "Ho, ho, horses**t - even I'm not that stupid. Do it yourself." So I did. A couple of co-workers coached me up by helping me believe it was a good idea, offering color suggestions, and ID'ing names of stores around town who sold them. I had no clue it was going to be so difficult to find these things.

So I loaded up my Dodge Dakota 4x4 sleigh for Christmas Eve and made plans to deliver 5 gift wrapped Snuggies:
  • A blue one for my daughter
  • A green one for the wife
  • A brown one of the ma-in-law (MIL)
  • A pink one for my niece, and
  • A leopard print one for the sister-in-law (SIL)
The first part of the plot went off without a hitch. I bought them and stored them at the office. With gift wrapping help from cheerful, female, co-worker, friends, each was wrapped far neater than any effort I could have made. And each gift had a handwritten name tag in penmanship other than my own.

The second part of the plan - delivery - also went smoothly. Because we took two vehicles to my in-laws (long story - but it gave me an escape plan before the rest of the family was ready to return), I easily transported the Snuggies and even got them to my father-in-law's (FIL) garage without being noticed.

The third phase had just a minor hiccup. I had planned to be the last one to go to bed Christmas Eve - allowing me to put the gifts under the tree without being noticed. What I had not planned was (1) FIL roaming around doing pretty much nothing from 10 PM to midnight and (2) SIL choosing to sleep on the couch in the very room where the tree was. I couldn't possibly begin to explain to FIL what was happening so I reduced it to "you didn't see anything" as if I could hyp-no-tize him. To my SIL, I begged her cooperation but then offered a mild threat that I could withdraw one of the gifts should she give me up on Christmas morn.

The next morning, my niece was the first to find the gifts. That's how it should have gone down anyway. Kids and the wonderment of Christmas - it just doesn't get any better than that does it? In no time, she ripped the paper (delicate "unwrappers" annoy me), had hers out of the box and sported it for all to see. The jig was pretty well up at that point because of the same size gifts addressed only to the females in the house.

My niece was already wearing here before my daughter could even get hers unwrapped.

But once my girl got her blue one unwrapped, the Snuggie faux rock concert was ON!

SIL had to bite her tongue when she unwrapped her leopard one. I'm not sure she was too thrilled with my color choice for her, but she also knew better than to out me lest she get de-snuggied. At least she posed with it for me...sorta.

I snapped a couple of pics of my wife opening and then wearing hers. But with no makeup and a morning bedhead hair-do, I'm like Santa in that I'm not that stupid to post them here for all the world to see.

MIL was the mystery of the bunch. While she said she had quietly wanted one, she discretely took it to her bedroom with other gifts. It did not make a return appearance in the remaining time I was there. Instead, she turned into friggin' Mrs. Peacock from Clue trying to determine who was the mystery Santa. Was it FIL or was it me? She kept this tiresome routine up for most of Christmas night and into Saturday. I was almost at the point of cracking her in the head with a candlestick in the conservatory if it didn't stop.

My original hope was for all of them to find a point during my time at the in-laws for an organized, group nap. It didn't happen Christmas day as we were on the go. The next choice was the day after. As it turned out, however, SIL had to leave on Saturday to get her kids to her ex. So two females down - three to go.

About two hours after SIL's departure, I realized the excitement of my day at the in-laws had pretty well peaked at the moment I opened my eyes that morning. So bored out of mind, tired of accused of being Santa vs. being thanked for Snuggifying everyone, and with nothing else of any substance on the horizon, I packed my gear, loaded the truck, and headed for home. That evening while watching a movie and drinking some Yazoo, I smiled as I read a text from SIL: "we r watching TV on couch w/our Snuggies".

So while I don't have a group Snuggie-sleeping photo to offer this year, I think the experiment was a success nonetheless. And to be honest, I learned a lot as I thought about this whole effort. I now believe the world possesses more Snuggies than I originally believed.

How 'bout you? Post your comments below and/or add your response to the latest poll question here.


Friday, January 1, 2010

Things to do, places to go and people to see

2010? Are you kidding me? Weren't we just talking about the start of 2009 recently? And the whole Y2K thing seems like it was just yesterday rather than 10 years ago. Yet it is indeed a new year - so Happy New Year to everyone.

Historically, I've never been one who's known as much of a goal-setter - much less someone who latches onto a set of New Year's resolutions. I kind of just take things a few days at a time without giving a whole lot of thought about what the long-term holds.

Yet, 2010 seems different. Maybe its because the round number '10' looms before me like some sort of milestone begging for action. For the near term - whether it be 2010 or a year or so later, I'd like to do the following:

Places to go:
  • Washington DC...again. This one is easy. Booked. Family vacation in spring.
  • Vancouver BC/Victoria. I don't want to travel there during Olympic time. But my 20th anniversary is in September, so its an idea that's popped in my head as of late.
  • At least two NASCAR races...hopefully three. I really want to go to Martinsville. I'm in my mid 40s, have followed racing for 75% of those years, and still haven't had a Martinsville hot dog.
  • A TBD trip with my daughter. We had such a big time in Chicago this fall so I may need to do a follow-up in 2010. St. Louis maybe?
  • Toronto - Have never been there, but based on all I've read the city just seems like its one of those great world cities that begs visiting.
  • Seattle and/or Portland - Home of great coffee and beer. Plus, one of my long-term goals is to visit each of the lower 48 states at least once in my life. I still need to hit both Washington and Oregon.
Singers/Bands to see live:
  • John Prine - this one is a book-it. I have tickets to his Nashville show in March.
  • The Tragically Hip - A great Canadian band I've listened to off and on for years yet one that doesn't tour down to my part of the US very often. So I guess their song It Can't Be Nashville Every Night is quite true.

  • Scott Miller & The Commonwealth - plays Nashville fairly regularly. Just seems like every time he's been here, I've had something else on deck. That's got to change.
  • Jeffrey Foucault - His original songwriting is strong enough on its own, but now would be a good time to see him in support of his release of Prine covers. (MP3: One Part Love)
  • Slaid Cleaves - Pandora introduced me to his music - specifically Horseshoe Lounge. And now the more I listen to his songs, the more I'd enjoy the chance to see him live.

  • Rush - I became a Rush geek in high school and stayed one until around age 30. I've followed them from a distance the last 15 years or so. I've got more bootlegs of their shows than any other artist (closing in on 350 shows). Yet I haven't seen them live since around 1984. Should they tour again, I've got to make it a priority to once again see Geddy, Alex, and Neil.
  • Bob Walkenhorst & Jeff Porter - Bob was the frontman of the fantastic 1980s-1990s rockin' Americana band, The Rainmakers. These days, he and Jeff Porter have a standing Wednesday night gig in Kansas City, MO playing their more recent individual and collaborative writings and a healthy dose of Rainmakers revisits. But with a 2009 release, they're hoping to tour a bit outside their home turf. And I'm hoping a Nashville date hits their schedule.

  • Todd Thibaud - With some initial dollars in his pocket by penning some songs for ESPN's college baseball world series, he was then able to branch out to record some full-length releases. I'm not sure Todd tours much. But he is from Boston, and I tend to visit there about every year or two. So, I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

  • Teach my soon-to-be-15-year-old to drive.
  • Help my son earn his Boy Scout Eagle rank.
  • Spend more time getting to know more of the 140 people in my department vs. limiting it to just my team as I've likely been guilty of in the past.
  • Strengthen four key areas of my life - home, spiritual, professional, and physical.