Friday, December 31, 2004

goodbye, farewell and amen.....

That's the title to the last episode of one of my favorite TV shows of all time, MASH. (It's tied with Seinfeld for #1; can't put one in front of the other.) And it's a fitting title for today as we say goodbye to 2004.

As you look back on 2004, remember the good things that happened. Sometimes the memories from bad and unfortunate times seem to overshadow the good times; I'm guilty of that myself. Even if 2004 wasn't a particularly great year, I'm sure a few good things happened to you. Here's my brief list:

From a personal standpoint, my favorite memories are the family gatherings we had, the holidays and our vacation with the Moffitts.

I've seen our daughters grow more beautiful over the past 12 months.

I started blogging.

I started reading for pleasure.

My business year started out slow, but ended up much better than anticipated.

So Happy New Year to you! May 2005 bring you many blessings.....

Thursday, December 30, 2004

ice is nice, but don't see unless it's free.....

We saw "Ice" at Opryland last night. Here's the summary - one million pounds of ice is sculpted into shapes ranging from snowmen to a life-size nativity scene, and it's kept in 16 degree rooms. Very impressive, but it's so cold (even with the lovely BellSouth parkas they provide at the door) that you don't want to stay too long. We were in there between 8-10 minutes. Had the tickets not been free, we would have spent $70 for the tickets, or roughly $1.45 per minute per person. There were 6 of us - the bride, Meg, Cole (that boy), Sara, Chloe (a.k.a. Charley, Chauncey, Clovis, Shallow, etc.) and myself. We all took at least one turn on the ice slides, my favorite part. I think we actually spent more time in the gift shop than we did in the ice exhibit.

Once we got outside, we had a decision to make - do we go see the lights in Opryland Hotel, or do we go shopping at Opry Mills? It was unanimous - we hit the mall. Yes, we're good Americans, attempting to help the economy any way we can.

Following the mall excursion, we decided to get a snack. We went into one of the nastiest McDonald's I'd ever seen. Had there not been a cheerleader competition at Opryland, and all of them hadn't been clogging up the lines in the food court, we would have gotten something to eat there. However, we were sort of stuck. The average service time on the register said 59 seconds - I think it should have been 59 minutes. When we did finally get our food, we all had a good time. McDonalds fries with a hot fudge sundae really hit the spot.

My opinion is that if you live in the Nashville area and can get free tickets for "Ice", it can't hurt to go. However, if you just have to go, be prepared to shell out $14 for adult tickets and $7 for kids under 12 (maybe 10). Also, if you want your outfit to coordinate with the parkas (not that anyone in our family was concerned, wink-wink), wear something that works well with electric blue.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

good to know.....

Ever feel a certain way about something and feel like you're the only one who feels that way? (Yeah, too many feels, but you're not having to pay for this, so what do you care?) And when you express yourself on that topic or subject, people look at you like you belong in a mental institution? Every once in awhile you find someone who feels the same way you do about this particular subject, and you realize that it's not just you.

We have a dog at our house, and his name is Wally. Notice, I said that we have a dog at our house, not "I have a dog." I used to think that I was a dog-lover. I'd see other people with a dog, and they'd look so happy to have a faithful companion. The owner would throw a ball or a stick, and the dog would retrieve it, tail wagging and ready to do it all over again. Seeing things like this, it makes you want a dog. Growing up, I had very bad alergies and therefore could never have a pet (other than fish), and I really thought I was missing out on something.

When I moved to Nashville, I really wanted a dog. But because I was on the road about 1-2 weeks a month, it just wasn't going to work out. So I got a cat. They're more self-reliant, and I thought it would be a good alternative. Bad idea. The first one I had ended up running away (a little too self-reliant), and the other one developed lukemia and died right after the bride and I met.

When we were first married, we lived in a 560-square-foot apartment - much too small for an animal, right? One day, the lady who cut our hair mentioned that a friend had a pure-bred English Bulldog who just had puppies, and was giving them away. What a deal! I'd ALWAYS wanted an English Bulldog, but they were always so expensive, so this was the perfect opportunity for us! We picked him up, brought him home and named him Radar (after Gary Burghoff's character on MASH). He had the Bulldog scrunched-up face, just like his mother. The father was obviously not a Bulldog, but probably something like a horse, because his legs grew about three inches in two weeks. When we left for work every morning, we had to pin him in the kitchen by propping our kithen table over the doorway to the kitchen. He liked to go to the bathroom at 2:00 AM, and I had to take him out. He liked to grab the bride's nightgown and tug at it as she walked through the house. He peed on the bride's pillow one night. That might have been the final nail in the coffin.

In 1999, after much begging from our daughters, we did a little more research before getting a dog this time. We decided that since we had a fenced back yard, we'd get a bigger dog. We told the girls that we'd get a dog when we got back from vacation. As we got off the interstate to go to our house, Sara, who was 4 at the time, said "Can we go get our dog tomorrow?" We ended up with a chocolate Lab, Coco, and brought her home when she was about 8 weeks old. She was a beautiful dog, and very playful. As a very young (and small) puppy, we all had alot of fun with her. However, as Coco grew, she somehow believed that she was a lap dog. At 8 months old, she weighed 53 pounds and would place her paws on the bride's shoulders whenever she went outside. All dogs, especially Labs, need alot of human interaction. Our girls are more inside-types, and because Coco was an outside dog, she didn't get the attention she needed, so she found things to do. She chewed off corners of our utility shed. She chewed through the cable wiring on the outside of the house. She liked to knock Sara down in the snow since Sara was about eye-level to her. I had to play the villain and find a new home for Coco. I wasn't too popular with my daughters for some time. We found a guy who owns a 150-acre farm with plenty of creeks and ponds about 35 east of Nashville, and now Coco is a duck hunting dog. And probably much happier, too.

This brings us to Wally. I told the girls that since our new house would have a smaller yard, we'd get them a dog after we moved, and it would be an inside dog. We decided that we'd get a dog from a local shelter, one that would obviously need a home. After several weeks of looking at dogs on the shelter's web site, we found Wally. He had been picked up wandering the streets of Clarksville, and was 1/2 Beagle and 1/2 Bassett. When we picked him up, he seemed to be the perfect dog. We brought him home, and he didn't bark at all the first 36 hours. He hasn't stopped barking and howling for the past three years. On his first trip upstairs, he toppled over a ficus tree and spread the wood chips, so we got a baby gate for the stairs. A couple of days later, he left a "present" for me behind my recliner. We finally had an invisible fence installed about 9 months later, and he's now an outside dog. As dogs go, he's probably a great one. The girls love him, and he loves them. He's very gentle and loves attention. But again, I've learned I'm not a dog person.

So I was talking to a vendor yesterday, and we got on the subject of having a dog. He said that he liked dogs, and liked to play with other people's dogs, but he didn't like having one himself. A light went off inside my head. "What's this? Another kindred spirit? Someone else who feels the same way about dog ownership as me?" He said he gave into his wife and daughter and they bought a dog. After 6 months, he told his wife that he just couldn't take it any more with the dog. And, as if on cue, he started naming off the reasons he didn't like owning a dog: the day-to-day care and responsibility, the smell, the hair, etc. As he's saying this, I'm checking things off the list, like I used to do when I collected baseball cards as a kid. I told him that I thought I was the only person on the planet who didn't want to own a dog.

It's good to know that I'm not alone when it comes to my feelings on dog ownership. Am I getting rid our Wally? No, he'll be around for awhile. But I seriously doubt that there will EVER be another dog at our house. In fact, I've given the bride SPECIFIC instructions on what to do to me if I even think about getting another dog. Let's just say that it would be very painful for me. Would she follow through with it? Probably not, but there have been days that she wouldn't have a problem with doing it.....

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

'twas 3 days after Christmas.....

Once again this year, another great Christmas! I love taking time off and just hanging out around the house, spending time with the bride and the girls. Here's a summary of the past couple of weeks:

We left for Mom and Dad's on Saturday the 18th. We'd actually planned to leave around 9:30 but didn't hit the road until 12:45 because of a HUGE problem with AT&T Wireless. Long story short - we ordered a phone for Meg for Christmas, checked it out and it was broken. We spent OVER FOUR HOURS on the phone, and finally went to pick up a new one at a local retail outlet. The bride logged most of this time. She's one of the most docile people I've ever met, but when she sternly told the rep (one of the 17 we talked two over two days) that "your customer service STINKS", I could have sworn I saw small wisps of smoke come from her ears. We had a great meal that night (fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans - my favorite) and enjoyed spending time with Mom and Dad.

On Sunday night we went to Chris and Kathy's and had dinner at their house. Seems that we always pick right up when we left off with them, like we just saw them the day before rather than months ago. The kids all love being with each other. We all watched "Desperate Housewives" together, and this was Chris' first time to see it. (I think he's hooked.) Too bad we live 300 miles from each other, or we'd get to see more of them.

The Monday before Christmas we went to Mamaw's to spend time with her. She'll be 84 in May, and still lives by herself. She doesn't cook much any more, and was excited that she had ordered a big Subway platter of sandwiches for us all. We went to pick it up, and she asked us if Subway was the kind of place where you could go in and eat. Mamaw is a very giving person, and she especially loves to give at Christmas. This year, we all went in and bought her a 32" television, and she was thrilled. Now she can really enjoy her "stories" (soap operas) in full view.

On Tuesday, we spent the morning running errands and returning things at the mall. That afternoon, we went ice skating in Bristol. This is the second or third year that the racetrack has done this. It's a small rink, and they were having problems with the ice that day. The zamboni was a John Deere lawn tractor with a zamboni attachment, and it took the guy over 30 minutes to clean the ice. However, out of the three (Meg, Sara, and myself) there was only one fall. Surprisingly enough, it wasn't me. Of course I didn't set any land speed records on the ice, either.

We left Wednesday morning drove back in rain most of the way, but we made it back before the nasty weather kicked in. Ice and snow, and we didn't even get it that bad. I really felt for the people stuck on the interstates and in the airport terminals. Thursday was spent wrapping presents and doing some around-the-house kinds of things.

Friday afternoon, I got the urge to go out and get "just one more thing" for my three girls. The whole time I'm venturing into the Cool Springs area, I'm thinking, "you're an idiot for getting into this mess at 2:30 in the afternoon on Christmas Eve!" but it wasn't too bad. I went to 4 different places before getting everything, then got back at about 4:00. We changed clothes and then went to church for the Christmas Eve service. Because of everyone's schedules this year, we didn't go to the bride's parents' house on Christmas Eve as usual, so this was our first Christmas Eve service at church since we had been married. It was nothing short of spectacular. We're so blessed to be living in this area with all the musical talent surrounding us. We found out that the guy who regularly plays keyboards on Sunday morning used to tour with Air Supply and Cher. And Billy Ray Cyrus, a fellow Peoples Church member, sang to close out the service.

So we got home after church and watched "Elf" again. Great movie. The girls got in bed, and we waited up a little before putting the Santa presents out. Meg's phone had been fully charged. We turned it on and hid it under the couch for the next morning.

While opening Santa presents, we could tell that Meg was beginning to wonder about the inequity of things. When Sara opened her aquarium, the look on Meg's face was bordering on funny. At a little before 8:00, the cell phone rang. I looked at the bride and said, "Honey what's your phone doing under the couch?" I reached under the couch and pulled it out. I said, "This isn't yours!" Meg realized it was hers and immediately squealed. The bride said, "Meg, aren't you going to answer it?" We got a few good pictures of the shock. Classic.

On Sunday we went to church that morning and then on to the bride's parents' house that evening. Jeff and Ellen have a new puppy, and Will brought Caity. Everyone ate to excess and had a great time together. It was an old tradition with a new date, and it worked out just fine.

Yesterday, my last day of vacation before coming back to work, we got Sara some fish at "Fins" in Franklin. She's really excited about her new pets - an angelfish, a mated pair of swordtails, and a molly. Last night, Sara went to a friend's house to spend the night, and the bride, Meg and I went to the mall to return some things. The crowds weren't as bad as I had anticipated, and we were able to do the exchanges.

Now it's back to normal for me. The week should be pretty laid back, so it's a good chance to clean out some files and stuff. It's good to be able to come back to work and not dread the job. It's one of the many things for which I'm very thankful. However, I'm more thankful for my family, and to be able to spend time with people I love and to have them love me back.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Merry Christmas to all.....

To all who might have wandered this way, Merry Christmas! May you find the true meaning of Christmas this season.....

Thursday, December 23, 2004

it's gotta be the east tennessee mountain air.....

My pants seem a bit tight after coming back from Mom and Dad's house. I'm not quite sure what it could be. Maybe my jeans shrunk in the washing machine and dryer. I'm sure it didn't have anything to do with the following:

chocolate covered peanut butter balls
chocolate covered coconut balls
peanut butter fudge
milk chocolate fudge
dard chocolate fudge
chex mix
m&m trail mix
chocolate covered marshmallows
moose tracks ice cream
homemade apple turnovers
sausage pinwheels
ham biscuits
potato chips
fried chicken
pecan pie
white chocolate macadamia nut cookies

No, it probably doesn't have anything to do with that stuff.....

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Merry Christmas from The Stapletons!

favorite Christmas memories.....

It seems that every Christmas instantly becomes my favorite Christmas with every passing year. With the girls growing older, every year brings something new. This year, the "mystery" has been solved by everyone in the house. Santa will still come, but it'll be different.

I love surprises at Christmas, and I especially like being the one who does the surprising. Seeing the look on someone's face when they get something they want and don't know they're getting it? Priceless.

Here's some of my favorite Christmas memories:

When I was 4, we went to my grandmother's house in Virginia on Christmas day, just like we always did when I was growing up. The great thing about Christmas in East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia is that there's a good chance for a white Christmas every year. I guess this would have been 1968. I was allowed to bring one toy on the trip with me that Santa had delivered to our house. I remember bringing this huge farm set. You remember the kind - vinyl-wrapped cardboard barn, equipped with dozens of plastic farm animals, a tractor and other stuff. The snowflakes were huge, and the snow was sticking to everything. I got out of the car, and the snow was up to my knees. True, I was four, so how high could that have been? (Even now, at my current height, how bad would that be?) We had to park up the road from my grandmother's house because we weren't sure we could get out of the driveway if we parked there. I remember having to make each step really high, while carrying my farm set by the handle in one hand and holding either Mom's or Dad's hand. I remember smiling the whole way, excited to see all this snow.

The next Christmas, all I wanted was the new Billy Blastoff toy and accessories. It was 1969, and the US had landed on the moon a few months before, so alot of the toys were space-related. I remember getting the Billy Blastoff, two different moon vehicles, and a small monitor that plugged into Billy's backpack. I took it to kingergarten and showed everyone when we got back to school.

One year, when I was about 18, my mom wrapped a big "family" present and put it under the tree. We tried to get her to give us a hint about what was in this huge package, but she wouldn't. My sisters and I were convinced that it was a computer, probably a Commodore 64. (I've got more computing power in my 3 1/2 year old Handspring Visor Platinum handheld than that computer ever thought of having.) For weeks, we anticipated playing games on our computer on Christmas morning. What was it really? An ottoman. An ugly, brown, vinyl ottoman. Have I ever mentioned that my mom can sometimes have a sick sense of humor? Yeah, we were disappointed, but it actually was funny.

There are so many more of these memories, but time won't allow me to write them all down at once. Anyone else out there have any great Christmas memories they'd like to share?

Tuesday, December 14, 2004


Meg's facing her first mid-terms as a high school student today. Algebra I and physical science. I don't envy her at all. I honestly don't remember having mid-terms in high school. Since I never did drugs, it's not that I "forgot" about ever having them; I just don't think they were required at my high school. Tests, although necessary, were never my strong suit back then. And I froze whenever I had to take them, therefore I hated them. And my parents suffered through the tests with me, mainly when the results were posted. That was always alot of fun.....

Teenagers can cause you headaches at times. The bride and I were watching one of our favorite shows, "Still Standing", last night. Bill and Judy were concerned that their 15-year-old daughter and her boyfriend were getting a little too familiar with each other. They called the other parents over to discuss the situation because they found a hickey on their daughter's neck. Turns out she and a friend gave them to each other with a vacuum cleaner so that kids at school would quit making fun of them. Yes, peer pressure can make you do weird things with household appliances.

As much as we parents think that our teenagers can be a challenge to us, can you imagine how Mary's parents felt over 2,000 years ago? I don't know this for sure, but they probably had a meeting with Joseph's parents to discuss the situation. Even after they were "clued-in" to what was about to take place, I can imagine that they still had doubts about everything. Plus, how would they handle all the gossip from their neighbors? Back then, Joseph had every right to turn his back and walk away from the whole ordeal, but he didn't. Sure, he had an angel fill him in on everything, but he still could have run off. He didn't. And what about Mary? She'd never done anything to have anyone question her morals, and now this happens.

Like so many things that happen to us in our own lives, God had a plan. I've known people who lost their job, only to have an even better one come along. Sometimes the most incredible things occur from bizarre circumstances. If you need help remembering this, just go back a couple of thousand years. But it didn't stop there. From His unusual birth all the way to His unjust death, God had a plan for His son. That plan? To get to know you, and for you to get to know Him.....

Monday, December 13, 2004

gearing up to wind down.....

You can see it on people's faces. Everyone's trying to rush to get things done before Christmas so that they can finally relax. Vendors in our industry know that almost no one buys products during the month of December, so their "sales calls" become either chat sessions or a time to drop off a Christmas gift. Our back office has all kinds of nuts, cookies and other types of food that vendors have dropped off. (We got a letter from one of our vendors that said a donation was made in our name to their company's scholarship fund. Remember George Costanza and the Human Fund? Yeah, I think so too......)

It's like there's some invisible "finish line" that people are waiting to cross. I'm no different. I'm on the last leg of the race, and almost looking over my shoulder because the most hectic part is over for me. When I leave the office Thursday afternoon, I won't be back until the 28th. And even when I get back, the office is usally pretty dead that week, so I can get caught up on things and work on getting ready for 2005.

I guess out of all the professions there are, I feel the most sorry for school teachers during this time of the year. Especially elementary school teachers. Kids aren't that focused to begin with, so when you add the anticipation of Christmas into the mix, it gets even worse.

Three more days of work after today. I can see the finish line from here.....

Friday, December 10, 2004

helpful people, they're the worst.....

Any time you're talking to someone and they start off a sentence with "I'm not trying to tell you how to do your job or anything.....", get ready to have that person tell you how to do your job.

This happened to me recently. Thankfully, this person wasn't talking to me about the job for which I get paid, but rather a job that I volunteer for at church. I called to talk about a question he had regarding this thing I volunteer for, and I explained my logic for setting things up the way I did. I knew it was coming, even though this was a phone conversation and not face-to-face. I could just feel it. Like when a quarterback tips the play at the line, looking at his primary receiver. The defense knows what's about to happen, and they adjust. So did I. When he told me that he wasn't trying to tell me how to do my job, I simply told him I'd look at everything and get back with him and everyone else involved this Sunday. Mind you, no one else has said anything else about this project.

Church staffs wonder why their church members won't volunteer for things at church. The scenario I mentioned has alot to do with it. Me? I'm thick-skinned when it comes to stuff like this, so it doesn't bother me. But some would take this as harsh criticism and vow to never volunteer again because they don't like getting their feelings hurt. Here's a clue - if you never want your feelings hurt, all you have to do it isolate yourself from the real world. The problem with isolation is that you're taking an even bigger risk - the risk that you might miss out on doing something you really enjoy......

Thursday, December 09, 2004

now it's time for Christmas.....

Our company helps sponsor LifeWay's Christmas show at the Ryman for downtown businesses every year. Susie and I always attend, and it's always a great show. This year, the show was a drama/musical called "Heirlooms", and it followed a family for four generations around Christmastime each year. Again, it was very good. Alot of great Christmas music over the past 60 years.

Following the show, the bride and I had lunch at Merchants downtown. Not at all crowded, we were able to sit upstairs at a window overlooking Broadway. Nice place for a romantic lunch or dinner. And the company was exceptionally nice. At least that's what the bride said.....(just kidding, dear....)

My morning started with a huge rain storm. Nothing quite like balancing a 60" golf umbrella while trying to open car doors and holding several items in your hands. I recommend everyone should try it at least once. We had our board meeting at 7:30 beginning with breakfast. Everything went well. By the time I got back to the office, the bride was waiting for me to meet her for our Ryman trip. It's been a busy day, to say the least.....

Now that the LifeWay show is over, I'm very ready for Christmas. Just five more workdays, and I'll be out of the office for 11 days. Oh, yeah, I'm ready for that, too.....

Tuesday, December 07, 2004


I'm not an idiot. I graduated from both high school and college. I have the college degree on the wall here in my office to prove it. I handle peoples' money for a living. It's what I'm paid to do. I work with numbers day in and day out. Not to brag, but I've been pretty successful at it for over 18 years, if I do say so myself. But 9th grade Algebra I is kicking my butt.....

I can solve for one "x" by just looking at the problem. I can usually solve for both "x's" on both sides of the equation by just looking at the problem. But lately, I get confused when I help Meg with her homework. And she's coming to me for help, and I'm not doing her any good. Very frustrating and humbling at the same time. Although I did find a web site that lets me input the equation and it spits out the answer. It even goes step-by-step, showing you how the problem is solved. This should make the homework a little easier, but I don't want to get ahead of myself and claim victory yet.

Here's my personality - I'm a problem-solver. Bring me your problem, I'll solve it. My biggest frustrations in life come from not being able to solve problems. Add to that things over which I have no control when trying to solve problems, and I'm a basket case. There, I admit it. So when I can't help my children with their homework, that frustrates me. When I can't take care of something for someone, I get frustrated. Oh, well, I guess this is all a part of growing up, even when you're 40.

Maybe that's the problem - age. I used to be able to do this stuff. Maybe some of the brain cells that I used for Algebra before have been burned off to make room for things like remembering how to change diapers or how to mix up baby formula. Yeah, that's it, that's what the problem is.....

Monday, December 06, 2004

a good day for sleeping.....

It's raining, the ol' sinuses are acting up, and I'm at work. As far as I'm concerned, this would be a great day to stay in bed and sleep. No such luck, however. There's work to be done.....

Ever have those times when you're awake but you feel like you're actually dreaming? Everything is sort of "fuzzy" and seemingly in slow-motion. When people talk to you, you're about 2-3 seconds behind on your response time. You try to concentrate on things, but the harder you try the worse it gets. That's me today. At least I think that's where I am today; maybe I actually am dreaming all of this.

We went to the children's Christmas program last night at church. It's amazing how talented kids are in the Nashville area. I remember Christmas programs in East Tennessee, and most of the kids were scared to death to be on stage. In Nashville and Franklin, it's like they all fight to see who can get closest to the microphones and center stage.

Busy week this week. Staff Christmas lunch tomorrow, board pre-meeting and my annual review on Wednesday. Thursday starts off with a breakfast/board meeting, followed by the LifeWay Christmas show at the Ryman at 10:00. The bride will be joining me for the show, and we'll head out for a nice lunch date following the program. Next week will be a 4-day week for me, as my vacation starts on Friday the 17th. I won't be back in the office until the 28th, and that will be very nice.

If anyone calls me today and I sound strange, just remember my dream-like state. I'm not being rude, I'm just not on top of my game today. Guess I'm glad I don't work around nuclear products on a day like this.....

Saturday, December 04, 2004

so close.....

I thought they might pull it out and win. The bride said that if they'd just played the first half like they did in the second half, they might have won. A couple of mistakes, a couple of calls made by the refs that shouldn't have been made. The turning point of the game? Auburn's got 3rd and 11, and we stop them with a great play by Rashaun Fellows. Only problem was we were flagged with pass interference. Horrible call! I came unglued. The next play, touchdown Auburn. So instead of UT getting the ball back on a punt, we gave up 7 points. 14-point swing. The only good thing that came out of that play was that Sara said I provided she and the bride quite a bit of entertainment. I guess I was a little vocal and animated, I don't know.

I'll have to say that UT showed up in a big way tonight. No one gave them a chance, but they stayed in it. Win or lose, I'm a Vol fan for life. I'm proud of their effort tonight.

Looks like UT will play Texas in the Cotton Bowl on New Years Day. At least it's an early game. I won't have to wait all day for it!

Got alot done today. Ran some errands, picked up a new vacuum. Raked leaves, mulched them, then mowed. All in all a good day. But then, any day I get to spend with my three girls is a good day.....

Friday, December 03, 2004

wonderful vacation day.....

I need a vacation day like yesterday about every three months. One that I can just hang out with the bride and enjoy being married to a beautiful woman. Not only were we able to finish about 85-90% of our Christmas shopping, but we also got to enjoy each other's company.

We dropped Sara off at school at 8:00, did a little shopping in the Cool Springs area, then headed out to Opry Mills for the bulk of our shopping. I refuse to go to Opry Mills on the weekend. They've been working on Briley Parkway for what seems to be 34 years now, and traffic has been horrible out that way. I've heard horror stories of hour-long waits on Briley Parkway, just to get to Opry Mills. I don't mind shopping, but I don't want to take forever to get there. Anyway, the shopping was good, several great deals. Lots of tour buses filled with senior citizens at the mall. It's tough getting stuck behind an elderly person when you've got serious shopping to do.

Well, it's been another fast and furious day. I'd better get a few things done before calling it a day in a couple of hours........

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

running on ice.....

Ever have one of those days where you just can't seem to get enough done? Yeah, I know, wah, wah, wah. But it's just been one of those days.

I was barely conscious when I left the house this morning. I got in bed at regular time, but I can't remember being so tired after a night's sleep. Got into the office, did my morning routine, then it was time for staff meeting. Nothing like "leading the troops" when you're half-asleep when you need to energize the crowd. Faked my way through the meeting, did some other stuff, then sat through 75 minutes of software compliance. Talk about performances they ought to charge for admission! The electricity in the room was like the Beatles had reunited, even George, for a one-time concert! In all fairness to the facilitator, it was the material and not his presentation. But there's nothing like hearing about corporations being sued for millions because their employees copied software illegally. Came back from the meeting, and I've been behind ever since. How a 75-minute meeting can make you 3 hours behind in your work is beyond me. That's why I'm blogging now as I eat lunch (a bag of tuna) and install some perfectly legal software.

Tomorrow's supposed to be a vacation day, with the bride and I doing some Christmas shopping. However, due to a roof leak, that may or may not happen. I had first said I'd just work tomorrow if the repair guy can't come until tomorrow, but I may actually just stay home and wait for them there. If we can't do our shopping tomorrow, we'll be forced to do it at night after work and on the weekends, and that's what we're trying to avoid. Oh, well, we'll do what we have to do and go from there.

24 more shopping days.....

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

a tale of two trees.....

Growing up I remember my dad and I going to the different tree lots the first or second week of December. You didn't want to buy one too early because it would get dry. I remember the smell of the tree inside the house. The smell was strongest when Dad and I would cut and trim the tree in the garage. We'd get the sap all over our hands, but that was just part of it. Every year we'd say that it was the prettiest Christmas tree we'd ever had. When I moved to Nashville, I refused to have anything but a real Christmas tree for the first 3-4 years.

We put up two Christmas trees in our house now, and both are artificial. The one downstairs is a beautiful pre-lit tree. There a three sections to the tree, so assembly is simple. The bride picked out all the ornaments for it, and coordinated them nicely. Everything matches. Again, it's a beautiful tree. The one upstairs is about 10 years old. It's not pre-lit. I string the lights as I put each row of limbs on. Every year, another strand or two of lights goes out. More and more needles fall off each year. It's not like Charlie Brown's tree yet, but it's getting that way.

What I like about the upstairs tree the most are the memories associated with the ornaments. There are ornaments from different places we've visited - Hawaii, San Francisco, Kansas City, Myrtle Beach, etc. Some from when the bride was a baby, with pictures of her in front of her parents' fireplace. We've made a few over the years with ginger bread. The big orange T is one my favorites. Several ornaments were made at church or at school when the girls were both younger. Many have pictures of the girls when they were small. It makes me want to travel back in time and hold them at that age again. Around the tree skirt sits a Marx train set that my dad got for Christmas 52 years ago. My grandmother cleaned out her attic about 10 years ago and gave it to me. It doesn't run, but the locomotive and cars look so cool. I can just see my dad at 10 years of age playing with his new train set on Christmas morning.

Everyone has childhood memories from Christmas. Maybe they weren't always pleasant, but I'm sure there were a few that were for everyone. As my daughters grow up, I want their Christmas memories to be pleasant. Sure, I'd like for them to have as much "stuff" as possible under the tree, but I hope that I work more towards building memories for them......

Monday, November 29, 2004

holiday shopping.....

I mentioned Friday that I had to do some shopping the day after Thanksgiving. I ran into K-Mart to pick up a few things I needed for the outside Christmas lights. Not only were the lines long (10 lines, but only 5 were open - common K-Mart problem), but the three ladies in front of me committed a busy-shopping-day faux paux - they all wrote checks!

Here's my stance on writing checks - I HATE TO WRITE CHECKS! My handwriting has deteriorated drastically over the years. I can make anything look great on a computer, but put a pen in my hand and I'm lost. I can sign my name fairly legibly, but that's about it. I print everything except for my signature. If I can/want to take my time, my printing is very neat and nice, but that rarely happens. Plus, we pay almost everything online, so that cuts down the need to write checks.

So there I was, standing in line with the items in hand. 5 lines, anywhere from 3 to 8 people deep in each one. I got in the shortest line (ALWAYS a bad idea), and thought I'd move right along. BUT NO! All three women used their checkbooks to pay! And not only that, but they all waited until all the items had been scanned, THEN they reached into their Glad-Hefty-bag-sized purses to pull out their checkbooks! If they had started writing their checks while the cashier scanned the items, it would have moved the line along much faster. But I guess that would make too much sense.

I love Christmas, and I even love Christmas shopping, so don't accuse me of being a grinch. Christmas shopping is difficult enough without adding extra time to the shopping process by writing checks. Use a debit card or a credit card. Ever notice how quickly those people get through the lines?

I also did something yesterday that I try to avoid as much as possible - the bride and I visited the evil empire, Wal Mart. Yes, I'm one of those people who can't stand Wal Mart. Not only do I not like their business practices, but I can't stand a place where I feel like I'm being herded rather than waited on. Yesterday, the line we got into wasn't very long (again, ALWAYS a bad idea; why do I keep falling for that?), but the ladies in front of us (and the cashier) were very slow. Then, one of the purchases was tax-exempt. Once I heard this, I loaded things back into the cart and switched lines. Good thing, because the cashier didn't know how to do tax-exempt purchases.

While I was off, I started growing a goatee. Unfortunately, the hair on my face has the same density as the hair on the top of my head. The good thing about that is that small insects can be found if they attempt to hide in my hair. The bad thing is that my goatee starts out strong after a couple of days, then ends up looking like I've fogotten to wash my chin and upper lip after bobbing for apples in chocolate milk. Yeah, pretty picture indeed. I guess the thing that bothers me the most is the "clever" comments people come up with when they notice the new growth. "Are you in a Christmas play, or is this just a new look?" My favorite? "Hey, you growing a goatee?" No, I just bobbed for apples in chocolate milk and forgot to wash my chin and upper lip. Makes me think of Bill Engvall's line - "here's your sign."

Only 26 shopping days left until Christmas.....

Saturday, November 27, 2004


It was great being with my family today in Cookeville. We usually have everyone down here, but since Dale and Julie moved into a new house last month they wanted to have it up there. Not a bad drive, about an hour and forty minutes, although the hard rain on the way back made it seem longer. The house is very nice, great open floorplan.

We got there just a few minutes before the UT/Kentucky kickoff. We were able to watch the first quarter before lunch started, and then watched the second quarter while eating. The food was very good, especially the smoked turkey. Mom's dressing and green beans were great. Julie made a peanut butter pie with a chocolate topping. I wanted some of the bride's pumpkin pie at lunch, but opted for the pb pie. I made up for it, because I just ate some pumpkin pie a few minutes ago. (There's not been much dieting this week, especially not at night.)

While the bride and Julie took the three girls to get their picture made together, the rest of us stayed behind and watched the rest of the ballgame. Dale loves UT football, but isn't quite as animated as the rest of us. When UT got behind, we were yelling at the screen. After a few more such plays, Dale had enough and went upstairs to play video games. UT went ahead for good with just 39 seconds remaining, but it was way too close for comfort. I almost dread the SEC Championship game next week against Auburn. It could get ugly......

Another short week coming up for me, just 4 working days. Last year the bride said she wished I had taken a day off during the week for us to get some Christmas shopping done, so that's what I'll be doing on Thursday. I've actually only got one full 5-day week the rest of the year.

So tomorrow ends our Thanksgiving weekend. Again, I've got so very much to be thankful for; so many things I take for granted. I mean, I'm sitting in the den in my leather recliner, watching two football games at once, blogging with a notebook in my lap, with a Christmas tree directly in front of me and a roaring fire about 10 feet from me. The bride is to my right on the couch reading a book. The girls are upstairs - Meg's both on the phone and on the computer IM'ing friends; Sara's on the PS2 playing Sims. We're all healthy, clean, and warm with full stomachs. For me or anyone in our family to ever complain about anything is ridiculous.....

Friday, November 26, 2004

i love vacation days.....

Yep, I could get used to days like this. Sleep until I want to get up, rather than having the alarm wake me. Eat breakfast when I want, and read the paper at a leisurely pace. I actually had to go out and pick up a few things this morning, and the crowds weren't too bad out here. I assume all the crowds were in and around the mall, but there was no way I was going to get near the Cool Springs area today.

The bride's family came over tonight. Instead of having Thanksgiving Day leftovers, we opted for Santa Fe soup. It's like chili, but it's got other stuff in it. It was a great change from yesterday's food, even though I loved yesterday's menu. We'll have more Thanksgiving food tomorrow at Julie's in Cookeville. I think the men will be close to a television; at least I hope we will be. The UT/Kentucky game kicks off at 11:30, and we're supposed to eat at noon. After the game, I'm supposed to play Chutes and Ladders with Grace. I know, you're jealous...... I'm looking forward to seeing everyone tomorrow, especially Mom and Dad. We haven't seen them since Labor Day weekend. We'll be back home tomorrow evening.

When I think about it, being able to celebrate Thanksgiving for three straight days is a big blessing. That's just one of many blessings for which I'm thankful this year.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

happy thanksgiving!

Hope everyone's having a great Thanksgiving! Been a busy past 24 hours. I've gotten both Christmas trees up and the outside lights done, so that's a good thing. The bride baked an apple pie and dressing this morning to take for lunch, and the house smells wonderful. It's making me hungry.

I get so excited being off work that I tend to get on everyone's nerves here in the house. It's not intentional, it just happens. I'm alot like Buddy from the movie Elf, only I'm about 6 inches shorter. We all watched that last night, and I really enjoyed it. We also saw Christmas With The Kranks yesterday afternoon. It's not a cinematic masterpiece, but still very enjoyable. It's a good family movie. There were a couple of things added/taken out, but it stayed pretty consisten to the book for the most part.

Well, time to take a shower and get ready to leave in an hour or so. Take time to enjoy your families today. Even if you can't be home with them, spend some time on the phone with them. Heck, how else are you going to use all those extra cell phone minutes?

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

that's what it's all about.....

Those were Scooter's words to me as we got in his car to go home last night. (This made me think of a line Kramer used on Seinfeld, when Kramer took Llyod Braun under his wing after Lloyd had spent time in a mental facility. "Now see, this is what the holidays are all about. Three buddies sitting around, chewing gum.") Nine friends, who haven't worked together in years, all came together to catch up with each other last night. And it was like we still see each other every day.....

Nine out of the ten were there. Little E, the only absent one, has been duly threatened with having her yard rolled if she misses the next get-together. Yeah, we range in age from 40 to mid-60's (not including E, who's just 29), but we could still roll a mean yard if we needed to do so. We talked about things that happened when we worked together. Stories from conventions that we attended seemed to create the most laughter, and they should have. Most of the stories have been told over and over, but they never seem to lose their punch. Of the ten, 3 of us are still in the financial industry; one has retired; one started his own business; one is a homemaker; one was recently downsized and is looking for a job; one is waiting for the right job; and the other is in advertising. We're all busy, taking care of jobs and families, so it's not always convenient to keep in touch. But after last night, it's obvious that we'd love to do this kind of thing more often.

Friends and family become center-stage for most of us at this time of year. But Scooter was right, that's what it's all about. Spending time with people you care about. Laughing and telling old stories. The older I get, the more I enjoy Thanksgiving. Christmas is still my favorite time of the year, and always will be, but Thanksgiving is much more intimate. There are no presents to worry about. The gift that we give at Thanksgiving is that of ourselves. We spend something more valuable than money; we spend our time, and we spend it with those we care about.

Sometimes we take this time for granted. I saw a man in the office a few minutes ago who lost his 16-year-old daughter this past summer, and I wondered how this holiday season would feel to him. What kind of void has he felt, and how would he deal with it over the next 6 weeks? It makes we want to go home and hold my three girls tight, and tell them they're loved, even though they hear it from me every day. Sounds like a good idea, I may just have to do that.....

Monday, November 22, 2004

thankful for what?

Last year, our family of four did something new for Thanksgiving. We each kept a Thanksgiving journal of sort. Every day, beginning on Thanksgiving day and continuing through Christmas Eve, we would each write down something we were thankful for. On Christmas Day (or maybe New Years Day, I don't recall) we shared our lists with each other. I think we'll do that again this year.

Living in Williamson County, one of the top ten wealthiest counties in the country, tends to desensitize kids. It sometimes does the same thing to adults. (Before I go any further, let me just state that our family IS NOT ONE OF THE REASONS Williamson County is on this list. We're just here enjoying the benefits from those who earn the big bucks.) When you write down things for which you're thankful, it makes you realize how good you have it.

One thing I'm thankful for is that UT is in the SEC Championship Game after beating Vanderbilt. I know, that's not very deep, but they almost blew it Saturday. That would have been embarassing! But they're a young team, and sometimes forget they have to play four quarters instead of just two.

I'm also thankful for long-time friends. I'm meeting about 10 of them tonight after work to just hang out and catch up. I've known most of them for over 15 years, and we all used to work together just down the road. We've all since left this other place of employment, and I think everyone has been able to better themselves. We don't keep in touch like we promised we would, but that's pretty normal. I think it's been 3 years since some of us have seen each other. On the other hand, one of the guys is one of my closest friends and we talk 3-4 times a week. It's a good group of people. None of us has a core group of friends like this in our new jobs. I think you run into situations like this once in your life, and when it's gone you usually don't find it again.

Think about ways to be thankful this week. Your situation in life may not be all you dreamed it would be, but whose is? Nothing's perfect. There are no perfect neighborhoods with perfect families. (Hey, have you ever watched Desperate Housewives?) Everyone has their problems. But for every problem you have, try to come up with a blessing. You'll be surprised just how long your list will be.....

Friday, November 19, 2004

it's hard to tell where you're going if you don't remember where you've been.....

I was going through some files on my notebook computer yesterday, and I came across a journal that I started writing back in March. I haven't added anything to it since back in June, mainly because I write in this blog on an almost-daily basis. But one thing I noticed from my journal was that it is much more personal than this blog. I got down to the nitty-gritty with some work struggles, and mentioned stuff that I'd never post on-line.

Looking back at stuff I wrote in March, I can see where things have improved immensely. When I read the early entries, I sound alot like Job, and I did a bunch of whining and complaining, almost to the point of begging God to just do something. As time progressed, I went from droning on and on to expressing thankfulness. Circumstances were changed, and efforts were rewarded.

I wish I could say that I consistently stuck to my hope that things would improve. There were days that I wasn't really sure. But thankfully, I didn't give up. Something inside me made me stay determined.

Things aren't perfect, by any means, but they're getting much better. And I have no doubt that there will be other obstacles down the line. But being able to look back, view past problems from "overhead", and seeing how I was able to overcome those obstacles, it's encouraging.

Knowing the terrain when you travel is extremely helpful. The bride and I stayed lost in Los Angeles years ago because we had no idea where we were 95% of the time. By the end of the week, we finally figured the road system out. At least, we figured out which exit to take for our hotel. It had to do with experience. Same goes for life. Once you've been somewhere, it's easier to know how to get there......AND how to get back......

Thursday, November 18, 2004


Board meeting's over, everything went well. I used to work at a place where the president dreaded the monthly board meetings. Her relationship with the board was so much more adversarial. Now I'm in that position, and it's not that way at all for me. I figure we both want to succeed, so why not work together to achieve the best results? If they question things, it's not an attack on me - that's their job. The funny thing is that when I looked at next year's budget, I saw potential questions that they might have and prepared myself for them. The questions they asked had nothing to do with what I thought might be concerns. Two different perspectives, both valid. I had the answers, and they seemed to be satisfied with them. Anyway.....

Choir practice went well last night. My buddy, Kimmy, talked me into going. I had this fear that she'd stand me up, but she did show. She talked to the worship minister, told him that she and I used to sing at OC, and he wants us to audition for the Praise Team. Pretty cool!

The house still has a bit of a smell, but it's getting better. Our home will be bombarded with teenagers tomorrow night, about a dozen of them. Sara says she's going to spy on them. That might come in handy.

Mom's ultrasound didn't reveal any instant answers. They're going to compare it with the CT scan sometime next week and go from there.

I really want to go Christmas shopping, but I'm not sure what to buy for my girls yet. I guess I'm a bit unusual for a guy because I like to shop. I like going to malls and walking around. I like having something to look for and finally finding it, especially if I get a good deal on it. I've found a new place for bargains called Essex Technology Group here in Nashville. They buy close-outs, factory returns and stuff like that, then sell it to the public. No big warranties, but very good prices if you're willing to take a chance. I saw some big screen tv's for under $500. I'd LOVE to find an inexpensive dvd recorder with a hard drive over there. Wish I still believed in Santa Claus, maybe he'd bring me one......

Time to get ready for an employee meeting. Have I mentioned how much fun those are?

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

the glass is half-full.....

I didn't make it to my meeting after work yesterday. I was sitting at my desk, cleaning out my in-box, when the phone rang. The caller ID indicated that it was my bride. I picked up the phone, and knew immediately that something was wrong. Her voice was shaky. "I just about burned the house down....." After asking if she was alright, I packed up and headed home.

The bride had taken Meg to a doctor's appointment. While in the waiting room, she remembered that she had put a pot of black eyed peas or purple hull peas (some sort of nasty vegetable) on the stove a few minutes before leaving the house. About 10 minutes into the appointment, she realized that she forgot to turn the stove off. Driving "like a maniac" across Franklin, she arrived home and smelled smoke. Luckily, there was no fire to accompany the smoke.....just alot of smoke.

About five minutes into my commute home, the bride called and said she was doing better. I kept thinking about a friend of mine who had been through a similar situation recently. I can't remember all the details, but I believe it was a grease fire. On his way home, he actually heard about the "house fire" during the traffic report on a local radio station. Talk about scary! They ended up having to have a fire restoration team come into their home and do some major work. They even had to move out for a week, staying in an extended-stay hotel - with 2 children under 5. Whee!

There was no real damage done to the house. The smell of smoke lingers heavily, almost a cross between cigar smoke and burned microwave popcorn.

I'm not always a "the glass is half-full" kind of person. I guess it's my contingent-thinking mind, always playing out different scenarios, both good and bad, when things occur. I do it at work all the time, and sometimes it bleeds over into my personal life. But here's why the glass is half-full:

1. No one was hurt. We're still a family of four, and no one came away with any injuries.
2. The house is still intact. Stinky, but still intact.
3. The bride wasn't injured while driving home. Turns out she may have a career in NASCAR.

In closing, please keep Mom in your prayers. We found out today that she's having an ultrasound done in the morning. During a doctor's visit last week because of some abdominal pain, a cat scan revealed a small, low-density cyst in her liver. Tomorrow's ultrasound will give them a better look at the situation. She's pretty calm about it. I asked if the ultrasound was actually needed because she and dad were about to give me a baby brother, and she promised me that wasn't the case at all. Whew.......

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

7 days and counting

Seven days from now, I'll be looking at five straight days off and I'm ready for it. Actually, after a big meeting on Thursday, I should be able to start gearing down for the rest of the year. That will be nice, too. Not that I'll be able to just sit and read at work, but the work should be less urgent and stressful.

Thanksgiving is just 9 days away, and I'm looking forward to it. We'll stay in and around town this year. We alternate with both sets of parents - one year in East Tennessee, the next here. So Thanksgiving day, the bride's family will be over. On Friday, we'll start decorating the house for Christmas. Then on Saturday, we'll head up to Cookeville and spend the day with my family. Mom and Dad are coming down to Cookeville for the weekend, so we'll get to spend some time with them. We haven't seen them since Labor Day weekend, so this will be nice. Oh, and next Wednesday, the bride, the daughters and I will all go to see Christmas with The Kranks. I'm really looking forward to that.

I went into TJ Maxx at lunch today and heard some Christmas music. When I got back in my office, I decided to put on some Christmas jazz. I listened to about 4 songs and had to stop. I just am not ready for it yet. My thing has always been that I don't listen to Christmas music until the day after Thanksgiving, so it just seems a bit early for me. I'm in the Christmas mood, but the music-listening just isn't there yet.

I've got a meeting after work today, so I'll be late getting home. This is a regular monthly meeting that takes place, but I only participate about twice a year. Same people, same issues every month, so twice a year is about all I need. Then tomorrow night, I'm going to try choir practice at church. I miss doing that. I miss singing on the Praise Team at Otter Creek. I haven't done anything like that for over two years, so I'm looking forward to doing this even if it doesn't lead to anything else in the future.

Well, I've got an employee meeting here in a few minutes. Loads of fun......

Monday, November 15, 2004

busy (but good) weekend

Meg and I had a date Friday night. We went to the Mellow Mushroom in downtown Franklin for dinner. Very cool place. After dinner, we ran some errands and just spent time together. Yep, my firstborn is growing up. She's turning into a beautiful young lady, and I'm very proud of her. And even though she reminds me of myself at that age every now and then, I STILL love her!

Susie picked up the Christmas cards Friday afternoon from Sam's. I took it upon myself Thursday afternoon to decide on the picture and card design, and just place the order. Last year, we waited until the week after Thanksgiving, and it took over a week to get them. This year, we're on the ball, ordered early, and we got them in less than 24 hours. Plus, there was a little controversy concerning which picture to use. I've known since July which one, but no everyone agreed with me. However, they turned out great, and everyone's pleased.

Saturday I came into work for a few hours, trying to get caught up on a few things. After my board meeting Thurdsday, things should start to slow down a bit for the rest of the year. I left work, and did a little browsing and Christmas shopping. I worked on a shelf/cubby hole thing for Sara's classroom the rest of the day. (When I checked on how it would fit into the planned space, I found that it was about 1/16" too wide, but I think I fixed that problem last night.)

Sunday was church and Sunday School, then lunch, cubby work and mowing. I went upstairs around 7:00 and laid on the couch. I almost fell asleep within 5 minutes. I'm getting old, guys. I'm finding that weekends need to have some downtime in there for me to recharge my batteries. This past weekend, there just wasn't enough time for that.

Here it is again, Monday morning. I'd love to shut my door and sleep until lunch, but that's just not possible. However, if you call me this morning and there's no answer, just leave a message. I'll get back with you when I wake up.....I mean, after I get out of my meeting. Yeah, that's it, my meeting.....

Friday, November 12, 2004

fashion before comfort.....

That's the motto of the Stapleton women in Franklin, Tennessee. It doesn't matter what else happens in the world around them, fashion will always win out over comfort. Listed below are three recent examples:

Meg - At her homecoming dance in October, she looked wonderful. However, the shoes that matched the dress were a bit uncomfortable. When she got home that night, she told the bride that her feet were killing her. The bride asked why she just didn't take her shoes off and dance barefoot. "Mom, fashion before comfort....."

Sara - The students at Moore Elementary marched in yesterday's Veteran's Day Parade in downtown Franklin. Because rain was in forecast, one of the mothers in Sara's class purchased inexpensive rain ponchos for all the kids to wear. Sara came home with hers still in the package. She said it was ugly and didn't want to wear it. Besides, she liked walking in the rain, and she could use the poncho later as a costume for a play in the garage. Fashion before comfort.....

The bride - Last night at about 7:30, I decided to go on a walk. I asked the bride to accompany me, and she asked "Is it still raining?" I told her that it had stopped, so she came along. About half-way into the walk, it started to sprinkle. You would have thought that fire and brimstone was being hurled down from the skies. "It's raining! You said it wasn't raining!" In my defense, it WASN'T raining when we left. "I can't believe this! Look at my hair!" She was so concerned about her hair getting wet that we did something together for the very first time - we jogged together, although that didn't last for too long. Once we got back, the old hair dryer was cranked up and order was restored to the bride's hair. Fashion before comfort.....

Remember Billy's Crystal's character, Fernando, on Saturday Night Live in the 80's? His motto was "It is better to look good than to feel good." Twenty years later, I'm living with three female versions of Fernando.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

i need to learn to play golf again.....

Before I get to the subject at hand, let me just start out by saying that if you listen to Ray Charles' song "Mess Around" first thing in the morning, you can't help but be in a good mood. Try it sometime! (For you movie buffs, "Mess Around" is the song John Candy lip-syncs/plays air piano to in the movie Trains, Planes and Automobiles when Steve Martin is asleep in the car.)

They say that a bad day on the golf course beats a good day in the office. I've started to doubt that lately, because my game has just about completely left me. My last good round was the day after my 40th birthday, when I shot an 80. Since then, I've only played my own ball twice, and I've been in the 90's both times. The other couple of times I've played have been in scrambles, and I'm not contributing to the team all that often. That tends to get embarrassing after a little while.

The frustrating thing is that I've got new clubs, and they're not helping at all. They were exactly what I had wanted, and I got them for less than 1/2 price on e-bay. And I'm so cheap that I hate to spend money if whatever I spend money on doesn't help accomplish some kind of goal. It's as if I've wasted the money. But it's not the clubs, it's my swing. Nothing is consistent. I get over the ball, and it's like I've never struck a golf ball in my life. The times that I do hit the ball well, I can't remember what I did right so that I can repeat it on my next shot.

So if anyone out there in the Nashville area is willing to give me golf lessons, I'm willing. I'd rather not pay money, but would instead like to work out a trade. Let's say 10 lessons for me, and a wonderful 1/2 Bassett-1/2 Beagle dog for you. As the new owner of Wally, it will be just like what Cousin Eddie told Clark in Christmas Vacation when Clark received the "jelly of the month club" membership from his boss: "'s the gift that keeps on givin' the whole year through, Clark." I dare you to even try to put a price on that.....

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

country music has changed.....

For a while, back in the late 80's and early 90's, the bride and I listened to country music. After that, we sort of got away from it. I've never been that big of a fan, having always preferred classic rock over country. For some reason, Meg has really been into country the past 2-3 years. I'm sure it has nothing to do with guys like Keith Urban and Kenny Chesney.....

Last night, after a birthday dinner with my sister, we sat down to watch the CMA's. At some point in the show, the bride said, "This sure doesn't sound like country music." I think Big & Rich were playing, and we were being amused by their midget "dancing" on stage. So I replied, "You're right, but I sort of like it." And I wasn't kidding. I like the new kind of country much better. Yeah, they'll throw in an annoying (to me) steel guitar every now and then, but I can overlook that.

The best performance of the night was done by Martina McBride. She's always so classy and nails her performances. I'd never heard the song she did, but it was beautifully written. Big & Rich were both entertaining. The Brad Paisley/Allison Krause song was very good. Sure, Shania was lip-syncing, but I don't really care. Newcomer Gretchen Wilson, who still looks a bit rough, did a great job on her song. I remember seeing pictures of her about a year ago in the local paper, and she looked like she'd just rolled out of a trailer park. She's come a long way in 12 months. Brooks and Dunn did a decent job, but they weren't nearly as good as Vince Gill.

Yep, country music is changing. But for me, that's not a bad thing. And the older I get, the less offensive it sounds......

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

34 years ago today.....

That's the way my mom started off her conversation with my sister this morning. She does that with all of us on our birthdays.

Remember the movie City Slickers, when Mitch's (Billy Crystal) mom called him on his 39th birthday? He knew what the conversation was going to be, so he mouthed the words as his mom spoke them. Mitch told his wife that his mom talked about his age in months rather than years, like he was still a toddler. At 39 years of age, he was actually 468 months old to his mother. Moms and dads are like that as a general rule.

I remember being in first grade and knowing that I was going to have a little sister. I was excited, but I didn't really know what to expect. I'd been an only child for almost 6 1/2 years, so it was just me and the parents. I know some kids resent giving up the status of being an only child, but I never did. I had always done my own thing, playing with kids in the neighborhood, so it wasn't like I was always hanging around the house seeking parental approval. So this red-headed, 10-pound baby came into our family, and I had a sister. As she grew up she was terrorized, along with our other sister who came around 16 months later, by her older brother. Hey, it's in the rule book, go read it. That's my job! I would have been derelict in my duties had I not been mean (but in a loving way) to my younger sisters.

So here's to Devonna! I hope you have a wonderful birthday, and we'll see you tonight!

Monday, November 08, 2004

from frustration to elation

So there I am, in my recliner, on Saturday afternoon at about 4:05 PM. I've been pretty well behaved throughout the first half. UT's up by 3 over Notre Dame, and they got the ball back with about 42 seconds left in the first half. First and ten, we run a draw and pick up two yards. Looks like we'll have to run one more play before the half, so I'm figuring that we'll either take a knee or run it. We're up 3, so don't risk anything, just go into the locker room. That's the Fulmer mentality. I look, and to my amazement they're in shotgun formation again. The snap is low (backup center in the game), and the QB is actually reading the safeties when it arrives. In the midst of the scramble, I'm in complete confustion. When Ainge hit the turf, I yelled, "Oh, no! Oh, no!" The bride comes yells from the kitchen, "What's wrong?!?!" I knew when he went down that he'd be out the rest of the game, if not for the season. UT played the second half with their third-string QB, and his ill-advised throw in their second possession turned into an interception for a touchdown. That was the difference in the game.

"Randy Sanders ought to be fired for that call!", I said at halftime. To which the bride responded, "You say that every week!" She's right, I do. But this week, I think I'm right. And so do alot of other UT faithful. That one call cost us dearly. We not only fell in the polls, but he's also endangered the remainder of the season. Vanderbilt and Kentucky are the bottom-dwellers in the SEC, but with a third-string QB (and an offensive line that can't block), who knows if we can even beat them now? And even if we do win both games, what will Auburn do to UT in the SEC Championship game? One busted play, one horrible call. Funny how quickly a season can change.

OK, that was the frustration portion of today's program. Now for the other half.....

Our family is hooked on Extreme Makeover - Home Edition. Anyone who watched last night's show and didn't shed a tear or two hundred is obviously dead. I mean, there have been deserving families on there before, but this one was the most deserving. Both parents, who have known each other since they were four, are deaf. They have two sons. Their youngest son is not only blind but also autistic. The oldest son is basically the caretaker and interpreter for the whole family. The design team and contractors incorporated so many things into the home to make their lives easier: fire alarms that flashed lights, tracking devices for their younger son who likes to roam, video monitors. Plus, at the end of the show, they presented the oldest son with a $50,000 college scholarship. What struck me was the way the father reacted to everything. It was obvious that he was not the kind of guy who cried alot. He tried to talk aloud, but his talking sounded more like groaning. I was moved, to say the least. He and his wife communicated beautifully. How many non-deaf couples can claim that? The whole program was so very touching. It made me not only happy for this family, but it also made me appreciate so much the blessings our family possesses.

So, yeah, I'm still upset over Saturday's game. But watching Extreme Makeover helped me put things in perspective a little better.....

Friday, November 05, 2004

still amusing.....

My direct number at work is evidently very similar to that of the Department of Human Services here in Nashville. About once or twice a month I'll get a call from someone wanting to speak with someone from DHS.

Aside from the DHS calls, I usually get (on average) another call a month from someone whose fingers just didn't go where they were supposed to go on the keypad. (How did these people survive when they had to use an actual dial?) Since I've got caller ID on my phone, there are times when I conveniently let calls go to voice mail when I know it's a vendor I don't want to do business with. If they want to talk with me bad enough, they'll leave a message. If not, they'll eventually figure out they're being dodged.

So I'm at my desk, and the phone rings.

Voice: "Andy?!?!"

Me: "I'm sorry, who?"

Voice: "Andy! Wait, I might have the wrong number."

Me: "What number were you calling?"

Voice: "Uh, 251-xxxxx?" (Must be an intergalactic call; extra phone digit in there.)

Me: "No, this is 251-xxxx."

Here it comes, I'm waiting for it; like a hitter sits on a fastball with a 3-0 count......

Voice: "Are you sure?????"

Me: "Uh, yes sir, I'm very sure."

Voice: "Oh, OK then....."

I hang up my phone and laugh out loud.....

I'll admit that there are times when I'll mess with people. I'll make up things just to see them cock their head to the side and look at me funny. But whenever someone calls me at work with a wrong number, I'm pretty much straight-laced. Yes, I'm sure that my phone number is just as I told you.

It's good to start off a Friday morning with a laugh.....

Thursday, November 04, 2004

just some random stuff

No real topic today, just some random stuff:

Ever notice how personal information to a nosy, meddlesome person is like food to other people? It's as if their very existence depends upon how much trivial information they know about other people.

I've noticed that seems to be much faster today. All the political pontifications were clogging up the pipes, thereby slowing down the traffic.

Meg's been sick for the past couple of days. I think her social energy meter is running pretty low. Hopefully she'll start to feel better today.

The bride and I may actually have another date night this weekend! Sara's going to a sleepover, and Meg can pretty much fend for herself, so we'll do something. I had first suggested a movie followed by dinner, but the funds in the checking account may not be sufficient to do both. Then I remembered the UT/Notre Dame game Saturday afternoon. It won't be over until 5:30 or 6:00, and since we only go to the cheap-ticket movies before 5:30, it'll have to just be dinner somewhere. Maybe somewhere with a coupon!

Have you ever clicked on the "Next Blog" button on sites? Man, there are some interesting people blogging out there. Some are pretty entertaining, and I've got a few I read on a regular basis. But there are a few whackos out there. Oh, well, there are probably a few people who say that about my blog.

I may have ticked my youngest sister off yesterday. I called her husband about a '65 Mustang that I saw in the classified section of the company newsletter. Dale just sold his '68, and I think Julie was glad it was gone. Hey, what are older brothers for, anyway?

The OC and North Shore season premiers are tonight, and the bride and I are pumped! It (getting hooked on teen-based dramas) all began for us with Beverly Hills, 90210 several years ago. When it went off the air, we got hooked on Dawson's Creek. We're ready for the new episodes of The OC and North Shore. The cool thing about The OC is that they've been able to successfully blend the teen stories in with their parents' stories. Personally, I really like Desperate Housewives. I think it's the best new show of the season.

Heard about Latrelle Sprewell's latest ignorant statement? Sprewell is looking for a contract extension with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He's set to make $14.6 million this season. When asked about why he wanted the contract extension, he said, "I've got my family to feed." Dude, that's weak. How many families could take your money from this year and live out the rest of their lives? Tell you what, if things get tight, just sell your $5m yacht in the off-season. That should get you through the end of 2005......

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

i broke my promise

Yesterday, I said that I wouldn't watch any election results until 10:00 PM. That was shot down right after supper, because Sara's homework was to track the states and electoral votes for each candidate. So I did a combination of watching election results, watching the Miami/Toledo football game, and reading. But even when I wasn't watching FoxNews or MSNBC, I wanted to know what was going on with the election. We're so used to instant results in our country that it seems odd that we can't decide on a winner for president in an equally expeditious manner.

I'm reading John Grisham's The Street Lawyer, and I'm having a hard time with it. The book is well-written, so it's not that. It's just that the concept of what the main character does with his life is pretty foreign to anything I'd ever do. Michael's an up-and-coming lawyer who works for a top firm in the D.C. area. A partnership is 2-3 years away. His income is already 6 digits, and a partership would mean 7 digits. One day, he and 8 other attorneys are held hostage by a homeless person in their own firm. Everyone but the homeless person survives, and this leaves Michael wondering about his shallow existense. He decides to work as an advocate for the homeless, to be a street lawyer. His income is cut by 75%, all because he wants to feel alive and "do the right thing." His new "mission" in life, although in the same field, is completely foreign to anything he's ever known, but he does it anyway. Friends and family members think he's lost his mind. I tend to side with his friends and family, although I applaud his efforts. Plus, it would have made for a boring book. Anyway, I just can't see giving all that up. I've always been of the opinion that if you're not moving forward or up, you're going backwards. I guess I'm pretty shallow, I don't know.

Well, I started this post almost 5 hours ago. Since then, Kerry has conceded the election to Bush. I have never cared for Kerry, but at least he did the right thing by not stringing this thing out any longer. Thanks, John, for not being like Al Gore......

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

signs, signs, everywhere there's signs.....

Like most people I know, regardless of their political views, I'm ready for the election process to be over with. So many ads on television, it's ridiculous! I mean, I'm used to seeing a commercial during every break, and they've almost been non-existent lately! I'm sure that guy in the television set costume has seen his income decrease drastically.

On Saturday, our next door neighbor learned that one of our other neighbors HATES political yard signs. He has definite political ties, but he HATES yard signs. So when the sign-hater went to dinner that night, our next door neighbor retrieved all the political yard signs on the cul-de-sac and put them in Steve's front yard. He actually found it amusing, but he brought my Bush/Cheney sign back around lunchtime on Sunday.

So the polls are open today, and they're predicting record turnouts. The bride and I voted early; it took her 5 minutes one day, it took me 15 minutes the following Saturday. Some people in the Nashville area waited as long as 2 hours to vote early. I'm glad I've got my voting out of the way. Now I can go home after work and ignore the news until about 10:00 PM. Not that they'll have a winner determined by then. My guess is that it will take a few weeks to declare the winner. Both sides will call for fouls, even after the winner is announced.

Anyway, you've probably heard this a million times, but make sure you vote today if you haven't already done so. We have a choice when it comes to our leadership. That's one of the things that makes our country great. That, and Halle Berry. What a country!

Monday, November 01, 2004

where'd it go?

If we "gained" an hour this past weekend, why do I feel like I lost time? I feel like I haven't slept for days, yet I've slept like a log the past two nights. Enough whining.....

Very good weekend. Started Friday at noon, with lunch and golf at The Governor's Club. Unbelievably beautiful course! And the houses - minimum square footage is 5,000, but there was one on the 18th fairway that HAD to be 10,000-12,000 square feet. Won't be moving into that neighborhood anytime soon! An old friend of mine from Otter Creek, Steve Speake, was in the foursome, and that was a nice surprise. My game was pretty pitiful, but it was fun. The course doesn't drain too well, so unless you picked the ball clean off the turf, you got a face-full of mud. I washed some mud out of my hair when I got home.

The bride and I had our date, and ate at Green Hills Grille in Cool Springs. We even ate on the patio since the temperature was about 75. Very nice evening. Went to the Galleria Mall after supper and walked around. There's a Christmas tree/decoration store set up, and I could have spent a couple of hours in there. I'm ready for Christmas......

Saturday was nice. Didn't have to get up too early. Watched the first quarter of the UT/SC game. Left for Pumpkinfest at the start of the second quarter, which was probably for the best. The old bp was climbing fast, as UT got off to a horrible start. I taped it and watched it when I got back. The bride likes it better when I watch the game after I know the outcome. I kept up with the score all afternoon on my cell phone and by asking men who had headphones on. We manned the putt-putt booth for about 45 minutes, and it was at times dangerous. Michael, one of the other volunteers at the booth, almost got hit several times. We weren't aware that men were to bring athletic cups, but there were times when they were needed. After our stint at the booth, we walked around downtown Franklin. Perfect weather for the event, although some thought it was too warm.

Sunday was pretty much a lazy day. Church, lunch, then the Titans game on TV. First home win of the season! Did some stuff in the yard, then we handed out candy for Halloween. Sort of a low turnout this year. Alot of cute kids, though. My favorite costume this year was the Dorothy costume from The Wizard of Oz. Tons of them out there at Pumpkinfest! I love messing with kids, telling them that I'm trading candy instead of giving it out. Alot of funny looks on their faces. I guess most kids have boring fathers....

Hard to believe it's November already. Thanksgiving is in 24 days, and Christmas is only 54 days away. Funny how time is relative. Kids think their birthdays take forever to come around, and adults can't believe how fast their birthdays arrive. "When's it coming?" vs. "Where'd it go?"