Friday, July 30, 2004

random stuff

They say (and who am I to question them) that the key to better golf is consistency.  However, I'm sure they didn't mean to consistently 3-PUTT ALMOST EVERY GREEN.  But I could be wrong.  After all, they are them.....
Kudos to Coach Phillip Fulmer for his "fire-in-the-belly" speach at yesterday's SEC Media Days.  Hopefully this will set the tone for the UT football team.

Thanks to former-Miami Dolphin Ricky Williams for my favorite sports quote of the year:

"I didn't quit football because I failed a drug test," he told the Herald. "I failed a drug test because I was ready to quit football."

Mr. Williams went on to say that he was not addicted to marijuana.

Today's a fun day for Susie and Sara.  While Meg is helping a friend paint the friend's room (I've asked for before-and-after photos, and have asked the mother of the friend to sign a waiver releasing us from all possible damages), Susie and Sara are having lunch at Subway, taking in Cinderella Story, then going to the Brentwood Library and visiting Ken and Hattie.  Next week, Susie has promised to take Meg shopping.  It's good for them to have mother-daughter days.  And again, I'm reminded of how thankful I am to God to have these three beautiful ladies in my life.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

who, me? speak to soon? never.....

Last Friday, I stated that turning 40 was a piece of cake, or something along those lines.  Evidently, there's a delayed reaction to it.  The past three days, I've felt much older.
I thought I had succombed to another sinus infection, and probably did.  However, there was a fever along with it, so I probably had some kind of virus to go along with it.  I told Susie Monday that as good as I felt Friday when the Moffitts were in town, that the way I felt was 180 degrees in the opposite direction. 
It's rare that I get sick.  Even with sinus infections, I get a z-pack from my doctor and keep on plugging.  Not this time.  This thing knocked me on my butt, called me names and taunted me for about 48 hours.  I'm operating at about 60% today, with the fever gone but energy lacking.  But a little better is better than how I was feeling.

Meg made me a great poster-sized collage of pictures from my first 40 years, and put a song lyric caption with each picture or group of pictures.  My favorite one was from Tim Mcgraw.  And while I'm not too fond of country music, I'll have to admit that the lyrics were very appropriate.  Here they are:
My Next Thirty Years - Tim McGraw

I think I’ll take a moment, celebrate my age
The ending of an era and the turning of a page
Now it’s time to focus in on where I go from here
Lord have mercy on my next thirty years

Hey my next thirty years I’m gonna have some fun
Try to forget about all the crazy things I’ve done
Maybe now I’ve conquered all my adolescent fears
And I’ll do it better in my next thirty years

My next thirty years I’m gonna settle all the scores
Cry a little less, laugh a little more
Find a world of happiness without the hate and fear
Figure out just what I’m doing here In my next thirty years

My next thirty years will be the best years of my life
Raise a little family and hang out with my wife
Spend precious moments with the ones that I hold dear
Make up for lost time here, In my next thirty years
In my next thirty years

Thanks, Tim.  Couldn't have said it better myself.....

Sunday, July 25, 2004

that's it, it's settled

Not that I didn't know this already, but let me just say that I must have the most thoughtful, sweet, loving wife in the world.  She planned a surprise for my birthday that was absolutely wonderful.  And the fact that she pulled it off is amazing.  See, there's a reason you'll never see Susie on the show "World Series of Poker".  She has no poker face.  Susie can't hide what she's feeling or thinking.
Susie made reservations for us at Sportsman's Lodge, where Chris, Kathy, Landon and Kaitlyn Moffitt were waiting for us.  Chris, as you may know, is the best friend I've ever had.  We met in Miss Hebb's 5th grade class, and have been friends for 30 years now.  They live in Kingsport, and traveled 300 miles just to be here for the weekend.  We had a great time together, and came back to the house for dessert.  Turns out that Kathy asked Susie while we were on vacation about what she was doing for my 40th.  Kathy said that they wanted to be here for it, regardless of what she planned on doing.  Having them there was probably the best present Susie could have gotten me.  That was surprise #1. 
The next day, Susie arranged for Shelby (her uncle) and Mark (her cousin Jennifer's husband) to take Chris and me to play golf.  This is the first time I've played golf on a Saturday in about 4 years.  We played at Pine Creek, and while it was a slow round, I managed to shoot an 80, which is my best score ever.  Sure, I could go on and on (as I did Saturday night) about how I royally botched up the 18th hole and missed breaking 80 for the first time in my life, but I won't.  Just being able to play on the weekend, and scoring that low (especially since I haven't touched my clubs in 2 months) were both great.  That was surprise #2.
Later that night, several family members and the Moffitts came over for a birthday party.  We all had a great time, swapping age jabs and things like that.  The yard was decorated with "over the hill" signs and such.  Very creative, I have to admit.  That was surprise #3.  
I've said this before, but I know that I've been truly blessed with a wife like Susie.  It's an amazing thing to have someone care about you so much that they would do something like this.  I don't know what I've done to deserve her, and I'm glad she's in my life.  I do love you, Susie.  However, there's one problem.  As nice as you were to me on my 40th, I've got my work cut out for next March 17......

Friday, July 23, 2004

so far, so good.....

So I got up out of bed at 5 this morning, no problem.  Got dressed, didn't have trouble tying my shoes or anything.  Actually ran about twice as much as normal.  This "turning 40" thing is a bunch of you-know-what.....
As soon as I cleared the front door, I saw it.  My car was covered with "police tape" with the phrase "caution: old zone" written on it.  Several signs and various objects proclaiming my age.  I noticed about 3 dozen black balloons in the trees, and about a dozen more on the mailbox.  As I got in the shower, an index card with "caution: old person, 40" was perched beside the shampoo bottle.  On my way out of Forrest Crossing, signs announced this milestone to my neighbors.  I'm sitting amidst streamers, balloons and signs here in my office.  It's nice to know that my employees are evidently so secure in their jobs......just kidding!  Many thanks go to Devonna and Meg for their work on my car, the yard and the signs in the neighborhood.  Also to my lovely wife, Susie, for getting up early to fix bacon and eggs.  And to my employees for the decorations and lunch to be had later on.  I do need to mention that among all the "fun" signs, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the sweet notes left for me by my 3 girls. 
When I was growing up, preachers seemed to talk about the second coming alot more than they do now.  It used to bother me that Christ would come back before I could drive and date, or get married and have a family, and various other things that I looked forward to.  It's 30 years later, and I've been able to do all that stuff.  It's been all I thought it would be, and then some.  Has it been perfect?  Of course not, but I have noticed that it does keep getting better all the time.  So I'm thankful for my first 40's to the next 40.....

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

from bad to good

Ever have those times in your life where you're convinced God has a magnifying glass, it's a sunny day, and you're the bug?  That's how the first few months of this year were for me.  Susie and I would talk about it, and she would try to assure me that everything was going to be alright.  I'd pray, but it was more like a one-sided argument, with yours truly doing the arguing.  Why do we sometimes seem to forget that God's always there, regardless of what's going on?
Life is cyclical.  (Believe me, I understand the concept of cycles - I live with my beautiful wife, 1 female-teen-woman-wanna-be, and 1 young lady who's in the bullpen warming up to be a teenager.)  I think the problem is that we can't always see the big picture.  Looking back, I can see where God was working in my life through things I didn't necessarily like at the time.  That's where faith comes in.  And we build up that faith every time we meet and conquer a new challenge through Christ. 
In Hebrews 13:5 it says, "God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."  Isn't it a true blessing to know that God isn't sitting in heaven with a checklist, waiting to disinheret us?  If you ever have doubts about that, just sit down and read the 8th chapter of Romans.  It's amazing to know just how much we're loved by the creator of the universe!

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

the early bird gets.....less sleep

Getting up early just isn't my thing; never has been.  However, when I started my current job almost 5 years ago, I started coming into work by 7:00 every morning.  For 13 years, I had worked "normal" 8-5 hours like most people.  When we moved to Franklin, 15 miles further from my job, it meant I had to get up even earlier.  And over time, I've begun coming to work even earlier to avoid traffic, so I usually leave home around 6:15 and get into the office by 6:40.  I've been doing this for almost 5 years, and I still haven't gotten use to it.  The upside to this is that I usually leave work around 4, so it's not all bad.
Most of you know that a little over 2 years ago I lost 28 pounds.  Well, I've picked up 12 of those pounds and they've got to come off.  The ol' pants are getting much too tight.  So I decided that in order for me to run every day on a consistent basis, I need to do it first thing in the morning.  The problem?  Getting up about 25 minutes earlier. 

I went out the front door at a little after 5, and walked the first 2/10 of a mile.  When I started running, my feet felt like lead.  I'm thinking, "I must be an idiot getting up this early!  This is ridiculous!"  So between running and walking, I did the mile in about 13 minutes.  No land speed record, that's for sure.  But I've got to start somewhere, and hopefully this time will get better.  At least I had time to fix bacon and eggs, so that was good.

I've heard people say that exercising first thing in the morning helps start their day off right and gives them energy.  Maybe that will eventually be the case for me.  But it's not even 7 yet, and I'm ready for a nap. 

Friday, July 16, 2004

it's just a clay pot

We're back to full force now at home.  Both Meg and Sara are back home and glad to be there.  Meg said she was glad to be home and clean.  She's not too big on public showers.
Have you ever met or known someone with a terminal illness, and you notice that they have a better outlook on life than most other people you know?  I know of a lady through a work associate who is basically dying with cancer.  She's going through all these experimental treatments and it's wearing her out.  But rather than sitting around feeling sorry for herself, she's thinking of others.  She's helping train a labrador retriever to work with the elderly.  And through it all, she's giving God the glory.  Simply amazing.  Maybe God gives his children who are in desperate situations an extra measure of grace and understanding during this time.  Maybe this is what Paul is talking about in II Corinthians 4: 7-12, "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you."  She's living out that verse and saying, "it's not about me, it's about You; because I'm nothing without You."  Again, simply amazing.
Looking forward to a great weekend at home.  It's been a busy, hectic week.  Not that I'm complaining......

Thursday, July 15, 2004

summertime, and the upstairs is hot again

Ever had to have a central air conditioning unit repaired? For those of you who haven't, it's highly overrated. We've had ours repaired twice in the past couple of weeks. Turns out it's nearing death, so the husband of a work associate is coming out to give us an estimate on a new one. That's two-and-a-half tons of fun, baby, yeah!

Sara arrived home safely from camp yesterday around noon. The two things she said she missed most? Bottled water and television. When I got home, she met me at the door and hugged me. And she kept on hugging me for about 30 seconds. It's nice to be missed by my daughter. Sara had a great time at camp, making new friends and hanging out with old friends. (She's only nine, how old can they be?)

We played the game Life last night. When did this change so drastically? I remember you used to get your car, get married, have a few kids and spin the wheel. That was about it. I didn't have the game at home, so I remember always wanting to play it when I went to visit my cousin, Mark. Even when he didn't want to play it, I'd play by myself. So we start playing last night, and you start right off with a change - you have to choose from two paths: college or career. If you choose college, it costs $100k, and you have to borrow the money. For every $20k you borrow, you pay back $25k. There are career cards that you draw to choose your job. You have salary cards that you pick and choose from. Your tax rate is about 40%. You have the option to buy a house. There's homeowner's insurance, car insurance, stocks to be purchased. Maybe next time we play, I'll appreciate it more. I just wasn't prepared to read the directions after each spin.

Meg comes home this afternoon. Susie, Jennifer and Ken have been painting and redecorating her room this week, and it looks wonderful. That's what she wanted for her birthday, so she found a comforter at Ralph Lauren while on vacation, and they planned the color scheme around it. Three walls light green mist, one wall coral/rose. Pretty cool looking. The crew did a fantastic job!

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

dating my wife

I do love my daughters. They've brought me so much happiness as a father over the past 14 years. But their mom has a special place in my heart.

I've had the opportunity to date my wife over the past couple of days, and I'm loving it! We met at Thoroughbred Theaters last night to see The Terminal. The movie started at 4:30, so I left work right at 4:00. At 4:18, as I was about to pull into the parking lot, Susie called and said she was stuck in the paint store, and would be there as soon as possible. Normally, this would set me off, because one thing I despise is walking into a movie theater before the previews start. Instead, I found myself simply waiting for her. I had been waiting anxiously the entire day to go to a movie with my wife, so something kicked in and told me that it wasn't that big of a deal. I saw her van pull into a space, so I went out and met her half-way. I'm not sure that I can describe the feeling that I had when I took her hand. It was just too cool. We walked into the movie with the previews running, and I was OK with it.

We both loved the movie. Tom Hanks does a great job, very believable. Afterwards, we ate at TGI Fridays, then dropped off picture CD's from the wedding at Susie's parents' house and Mike and Paula's house. Overall, a very nice evening.

Susie, I've so enjoyed these past few days of having you all to myself. Sara comes home tomorrow, then Meg comes home on Thursday. The phone will be back to ringing constantly, and we'll hear "I'm bored" several times a day. Even when this happens, let's make sure we still take time out for each other. Because from what I've been able to gather, it just keeps getting better......

Monday, July 12, 2004

i hope you dance

OK, I'll admit that the song may have gotten way too much air-time on the radio, but the words are fitting here.

Ellen Elizabeth Shinnick became Mrs. Jeffery Harris Flannery, Jr. this past Saturday night. Jeff and Ellen both looked wonderful, and the entire wedding was beautiful. The rehearsal dinner was at Walking Horse Farm in Franklin, and it was great. Both funny and moving stories were told about the couple after dinner. It's obvious to those close to Jeff and Ellen that they're sincere, real, honest-to-goodness lovers of Christ. Ellen is a "prototype" of what a Christian young lady should be, and she's a great example for Meg and Sara.

The most fun part of the whole wedding was the wedding reception at The Factory. I served as the announcer for the evening and introduced the newlyweds. They had their first dance, followed by the father/daughter and mother/son dances.

The dancing by the wedding guests was limited at first. I danced with Sara, then went over to look at the song list. When I saw that James Taylor's "How Sweet It Is" was the song after next, I told Susie to get ready to dance. You see, even though I'm not very much of a dancer, Susie's even less of a dancer than me. But I got her out there and we thoroughly enjoyed our dance together. We even got back out on the dance floor for about 5 more songs, some of them fast songs, which Susie HATES dancing to. Before long, the dance floor was full. The dancing brought back alot of memories from college days, going to mixers at the different girls' dorms on campus at ETSU.

Seems that I try to find a life lesson in everything lately, so here goes: life's alot like the dance Saturday night. You may not be the best, but you've got to get out on the floor. And if you've got a partner, doing the dance together makes it that much better. It doesn't matter how skilled you are, just get out there and enjoy. You never know how much you're going to enjoy yourself until you do.

In closing, Susie and I sent both daughters off to camp yesterday. Sara got on a bus at church with Sydney and Amanda, and all three were full of smiles. We drove Meg to Linden, TN to meet up with the youth group from church. This was WAY back off the beaten path. Maybe it was just me, but I swear that I heard "Dueling Banjos" playing on the way there. Sara comes back Wednesday at noon, and Meg will be back at 4 PM Thursday. What does this mean for me? I get my wife ALL TO MYSELF until then! So if you call and we don't answer, I hope you'll understand that it's not personal. Because just like Jeff, I've been blessed by God with the wonderful gift of a precious wife who I find irresistable. And any time that I can spend with just her is another gift. So pardon us while we dance......

Friday, July 09, 2004

take me out to the ball game

Sara and I spent the evening at the ballpark watching the Nashville Sounds with her softball team. Her teammates were all given achievement certificates, and Sara won the "Mickey Mantle Award" for best outstanding overall play for the season. Since she was #7, the coach and I agreed this would be appropriate for her. She was a leader in fielding and hitting, at least tied for most home runs, and a leader in most grand slams for the season. She and her teammates can't wait for next season to start as they move to the next age division.

Susie and Meg spent the evening helping prepare the programs for Ellen's and Jeff's wedding this weekend with Susie's family. She had no desire to be all the ballpark, it's just not her thing. But Sara absolutely loved it! She and I could spend several nights a week at any ballpark. I was amazed at how she followed the game. We had access to the party deck during the game, but she said she couldn't see the game very well from there and wanted to go back to our seats. We stayed for the entire game, and enjoyed the rally the Sounds manufactured in the 9th. And even though they lost 5-3, it was great being there.

The weekend will be a busy one. Susie, Meg and Sara will be attending the bridesmaids' lunch around noon. Meg and Sara are both junior bridesmaids, and they're both very excited about the wedding. And, of course, they look beautiful in their dresses! Tonight is the rehearsal, followed by dinner at Walking Horse Farms. Susie and the girls have to be at church at 2:30, and I'll show up around 3:30. Mom and Dad should be in town by around 2:00; Mom made Sara's dress and wanted to see both granddaughters in the wedding. The wedding is at 6:00, followed by the reception at The Factory at 7:30. My sole responsibility is to officially introduce Ellen and Jeff for the first time at the reception. I think Susie's the only one nervous about this. I have no idea why......

I'll never forget meeting my then-soon-to-be-niece Ellen over 17 years ago. It was my first time to meet everyone in Susie's family, and it was also my then-soon-to-be-nephew's (Will) first birthday party. Ellen was completely adorable, and we hit it off right away. She had these beautiful green eyes, and I told Susie, "this child is going to be a knock-out when she gets older." She's 22 now, and I was right, as is always the case; I just have a knack for being right about things (yeah, right). I've seen her grow into a young woman who not only possesses outward beauty but also, more importantly, inner beauty. Her walk with God has always been obvious. I'm thankful that she and Jeff have found each other, and I pray that they would have an unbelievably happy marriage.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

government dictionary needed

Isn't it amazing how some words have different meanings to different people? Take, for example, the word "express." Merriam-Webster Online defines the word as "traveling at high speed; specifically : traveling with few or no stops along the way." This word takes on a new meaning when you step into the realm of the department of motor vehicles.

I chose to go to the "express" location for two reasons: first, because it's just a couple of blocks from my office, and second, because I thought "express" implied that it would be fast. I was correct with the first assumption - it was only two blocks from my office. The "fast" assumption was blown to bits. And I knew it wouldn't be fast because not only did they have one of those "take a number" machines, but also by the looks on the faces of everyone in the room. When I first walked in, I saw one person standing at the desk, so I thought "this will be a breeze!" Then I looked to my right and saw about 20 people sitting in government-issued chairs, looking a bit like detainees in a refugee camp. (Seinfeld once said that the DMV was a leper colony, and his description is not too far off.) There's a bit of community going on, because everyone's in the same boat. When someone's number is called, you can see the relief on their face. That relief can sometimes change to disgust when the guy behind the counter says "we don't do that here" after they've waited for over an hour. One lady even asked for the name of the guy's supervisor. Like that's gonna' do any good! So I sat with everyone there for about an hour and ten minutes. One of my fellow "waiters" there said this was nothing, that another office in Nashville had wait times of three and a half hours. I thought, "they've gotten to him and brainwashed him into thinking this is really fast!"

70 minutes after walking in the door, the number 25 was called. My time at the desk, including the "photo shoot", was less than 4 minutes. They didn't have that much to work with, but my photo was actually decent. When compared to my last drivers license, it looks like I'd been to Olan Mills. My last license looked as if the photo had been taken after someone had broken wind and I was the first recipient of the "gift" as it wafted through the air.

The good news is that I've gotten this adventure out of the way, and that I don't have to go back for another ten years. By then, I'll be almost 50. Maybe I'll be more patient then, I don't know. Maybe I or some other member of my family will have won the lottery and I'll be retired by then, and I'll have plenty of spare time to wait. Or maybe the state will have figured out a way to speed the process along. Yeah, right.....I think the lottery thing has a better chance of happening.....

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

did you know?

that two 14-year-old boys, when running down a flight of steps, can make it sound like your house is crumbling beneath your feet?

Last night, Meg had a birthday party and invited about 12 friends over, and a good time was had by one and all. The highlights of the party were two gifts: a cowboy set, complete with cap rifle, holster and cap pistol; and a Woody cell phone (not a real cell phone, just one that plays recorded messages from Toy Story's Woody). Sara was completely fascinated with the cap guns, having never seen one before. The smell of slight gunpowder after firing the cap pistol brought back memories of running around, chasing friends and "shooting" each other when I was very young.

Why a cowboy set? It's a long story that started with two friends, Meg and Megan, working at Megan's mom's tanning salon. It was grand opening day at Planet Beach in Franklin (highway 96 near Freedom Middle School, right beside the new Walgreens), and the girls were bored. They went to Walgreens, bought a set of small, plastic cowboy figures, and played with them most of the morning. Taylor heard about this, so he and Chad decided to purchase the cap pistol set.

Isn't it funny how 14-year-olds want to have all this freedom and want to be considered "adults" because they feel so responsible and mature? Then they play with plastic cowboy sets and want Buzz Lightyear figurines on their birthday cake, and wonder why they don't have more priviledges than they do. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. She can play with all the kiddy toys she wants to as far as I'm concerned. At 14, there's alot worse things she could be doing. So I'll take this reversion to early childhood and run with it as long as I can.

Monday, July 05, 2004

things i learned on my summer vacation.....

What a great week! We were in North Myrtle Beach by about 2:45 PM on Saturday the 26th. The drive, including lunch and bathroom breaks, was right at 7 hours from Johnson City. Checked into the realty center, got our keys, pool pass bands and parking permits, and headed up the beach 15 blocks to Ocean Bay Club. Very nice accomodations. In fact, we all wish we were still there....

The waves were great! Meg and I both had our boogie boards snapped while riding some of the bigger ones. The weather was very nice, with temperatures topping out in the mid-to-upper 80's, and the humidity wasn't too awfully high. It rained Wednesday afternoon, but that was Landon's birthday and we had planned on going to the movies anyway. Chris and I played at Carolina Shores on Tuesday and Bay Tree/gold course on Friday. The scores weren't much to tell about, but it was great getting out to play. All in all, a great week!

Here are some highlights of things that I learned:

There's a difference between the 22 bypass and the 17 bypass. Both bypass snarled 4-lanes on 17, but they don't both exactly go the same way.

Kaityn's my hero. Watching her in the ocean on a raft was a sight to behold. Whenever the waves took her under, she came up smiling. That's a good analogy for life.

It's good to be a 12-year-old boy. While waiting outside for a table at Preston's, one of the hostesses came outside to call a number. Landon's eyes fixed and his jaw seemed to drop ever so slightly. My guess was that she was about 20, and it was obvious to him and everyone else that she was blond, tan and cute. When I asked him about her, he grinned and blushed.

It's not necessary to wear a watch all the time. When we got to our condo, I took my watch off and didn't put it back on until we left. Even the clock in the den of the condo had a blank white face, with all the numbers in a jumble at the bottom. On the middle of the face were the words "Who cares?"

Here's a formula to remember: Eat all the time + eat really good sweet stuff + run on the beach just once = weight gain. I've got my work cut out for me.....

Old friends are the best kind. Chris and I have known each other for over 30 years, and he's probably the best friend I've ever had.

I learned that I like to read. Before leaving, I stopped by the Brentwood Library and checked out two books, both by Steve Martin. Susie laughed that I got two books, because I really don't like to read. But over the week, I found myself reading when I would normally watch TV. There were 5 TV's in the condo, so it wasn't like I didn't have access. But I read them both, Shopgirl and The Pleasure of My Company. I may have to start doing more of this reading thing.....

It can be scary to identify with characters in a book. In The Pleasure of My Company, Daniel Cambridge is an obsessive compulsive. Now, I don't do everything he did, like requiring that the total wattage of light bulbs be at precisely 1,125 at all times. But there were things he did that reminded me of myself. I won't get into them now; that's a topic for a whole other blog......

So, here I am, back in reality again. And speaking of reality, nothing brings you back so quickly as having your upstairs air conditioning unit go out on a holiday. So before I sweat any more, I'll retire to the downstairs......