Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Say Good-bye to the Tooth Fairy

Lost Teeth
Kayla lost her last baby tooth last night. (Kayla lost her upper left canine)

Shayna had lost a tooth on Monday (lower left) and we were so exhausted from our trip to Cleveland, we forgot to notify the Tooth Fairy to come. As we tried to make excuses for her yesterday, Shayna would have none of it. The Tooth Fairy must come and we had to notify her that her duty was to be there last night. Kayla insisted that the Tooth Fairy visit her as well.

The girls still have extremely vivid imaginations. They can sit and play "voices" for hours where one will play several characters and the other several characters. They also play "Kayla hand" and "Shayna" hand where their hands are the characters. But, don't care call them "hand puppets". They get absolutely indignant when you do that. They are not puppets. They are Kayla hand and Shayna hand.

It was a sad moment for me when Kayla lost her last baby tooth. Our "baby", who at 11 is a towering 5'8", is officially no longer a baby. According to the tradition in the Kirstie Alley movie "Toothless", she is no longer able to see the Tooth Fairy. Both girls got a visit from the Tooth Fairy last night. For Kayla, this will be the last.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

My Birthday Weekend


My birthday always falls around Memorial Day. This year it fell on Memorial Day. Uncle Ronnie plays in a golf tournament for Marion Motley's scholarship fund every Memorial Day weekend and has invited Brent and I to play before. This year our schedules allowed us to make the trip up.

So, in spite of my reluctance to travel (especially on holiday weekends), we headed for the two hour trip to Columbus on Sunday. We got to Brent's house in the late afternoon and the kids enjoyed a day of playing Wii and we even kicked them out of the house in to the great big "outside" for a while. The other day when I tried to force Kayla and Shayna to go outside, you would have thought I had asked them to spend a year in a gulag. They absolutely refused to go and asked me why we keep insisting they go play outside where there is "nothing to do".

After arriving in Columbus, I asked Brent for a few details about the tournament. Since the invitation from Uncle Ronnie had come through Brent, I thought perhaps they had done something like, well you know, talked about it. Bad assumption on my part. It wasn't until Aaron left a voicemail on Saturday that I found out our tee time was AM instead of PM. That was actually a relief for me because I planned to drive up from Columbus to Cleveland on Monday morning and all the way back to Cincy on Monday night. It's hard to be out of the office especially after a three day weekend and I did not want to spend this morning (the Tuesday after the holiday) driving back. Anyway, Brent knew nothing (and I mean nothing) about the tournament. Brent is a "need to know" kind of guy. He needed to know the day, the time and the location and that's all he knew. I spent about half a hour trying to find some info on Google. But to no avail. I wanted to know things like -what type of course is it? Are there prizes? Is there breakfast/lunch? Sponsors? You know. Just general information. Something to kind of set the expectations for the day. After all, in addition to the Marion Motley Memorial Scholarship Fund Tournament, in a sense, this was the Brian Smith Birthday Tournament.

Driving up to Cleveland turned out to be quite a challenge for my goal of radical acceptance and of living in the moment. The weather sucked. I got up around 5am for a 6am departure. The trip up was Googled at 2 hours and 15 minutes and we had no idea what traffic would be like (and there's always the possibility of construction). I hate being late and with 9am SHOTGUN start, you can't be late. If you're late, you don't play. So, we hoped to get to the course around 8-8:30. The closer we got to Cleveland, the more dense the clouds. Then, about 5 minutes from the course we saw our first flashes of lightning. Then, as we pulled into the parking lot, it began to pour. I had brought no rain gear because the forecast was for mid-80s and all my raingear (the one jacket) is warm weather. Plus, Uncle Ronnie doesn't play in the rain and if he hears thunder, he is the first one back in the clubhouse. I just knew there would be no golf today. But, we had to stick around to say hi to Uncle Ronnie. OK. So, it's a holiday weekend and I'm driving hours and hours through holiday traffic to play golf in the cold and rain. These are all things I do not do and on my birthday no less.

Brent and I grabbed some breakfast (I had grits which everyone else frowned at). As 9 o'clock approached and no one had checked us in and we hadn't even gotten our clubs from the car or put our shoes on, I asked Uncle Ronnie "Shouldn't we do something?" He said "Like what?" "Like putting on our shoes. Getting our clubs." To make a long story a little shorter, now I know why the lack of concern about the 9 o'clock hour approaching. We didn't tee off until after 10!

Uncle Ronnie was in his element. He was like Norm in Cheers. The tournament was full of long-time golf buddies, ex-Cleveland Browns and people who are both. Uncle Ronnie knew every guy in the place and he took the time to introduce us to each and every one of them as we passed them. D'art (my cousin and his son) joined us for the day. Uncle Ronnie took up golf in his 30s. He is a self-taught, golf nut. He plays several times a week, always has his clubs in his car and has played all over the country as he drives to various family functions and to appointments for work. He coulda/shoulda gone pro on the senior tour. But, he only tried to qualify once and missed the cut because it started to rain and he picked up his ball before the horn blew. He cared more about getting his son back to safety than making the cut. Anyway, it's a joy to watch him play golf because he has a really interesting, very compact, very functional swing. He's about 6'2" and very lean. He could have been a power hitter. But, he's a student of the game. While all of his buddies were trying to pound the ball and spraying it all over the place, he learned to take a very short, controlled swing and put the ball exactly where he wants it to be. His view of golf is it's not about making great shots, it's about making the least amount of mistakes. And, because of that, he beats nearly everybody he plays. The young guys and the big hitters get frustrated because his swing is so efficient he can nearly drive out there with them. He hits the ball perfectly every time. His short game is amazing. So, while he's probably not going to hit the green in two on many par fives, he rarely makes a bogey and he makes enough birdies to beat just about everybody.

Another really cool thing about yesterday is D'art (amazingly) was on the golf course playing with Uncle Ronnie for the first time ever. How you grow up in a household with a semi-pro golfer (Uncle Ronnie doesn't pay for golf or for equipment- he wins his green fees back and more and he wins equipment in tournaments) and not ever go out with him astounds me. But, D'art had a great time. It was funny as he compared real golf to Wii golf or PlayStation golf. He thought it would be just like that. Watching D'arts highs (as he managed to pull off a 200 yard drive) and his lows (as he missed the ball three times in a row) was interesting. He finally got how difficult golf is and how it's not as easy as it looks on TV. Each and every put is a different speed and breaks a different way (especially at Highland Golf Club). Highland is not a modern or fancy club by any means. It's a municipal course in Cleveland. The amenities are kind of run down. And it looks easy. That is until you realize how tiny the greens are and how every single putt we had outside of 5' yesterday was a speed putt. We didn't have single birdie putt all day that you could put in the front of the hole. Everything had to be dropped in from the side. It was cool to see D'art get an appreciation for the game and an appreciation for just how good Uncle Ronnie is.

Uncle Ronnie is very special to me. Ty called him the glue that holds the family together. I don't agree with that assessment. But, he's only about 18 years older than I am. So, I remember him when he was young and single. Since grandbaby (his mother) lived with us, he came to visit a lot (and he was single and there was always a good meal to be had). He was there for a lot of holidays and never missed one of our graduations and other life events. Uncle Ronnie has done the same with all his nieces and nephews. He doesn't fly. So, he drives everywhere. Want to go to Florida? Call Uncle Ronnie, he'll give you a ride down, play golf while you do your thing, then drive you back. He's a talker, a story teller and he used to be a great tall tale teller (he's backed off of the tall tales as he now has real life experiences to share). My mother had six brothers. Uncle Michael (murdered several years ago) was really close to me. But, Uncle Ronnie is the Uncle I physically resemble most. As I get older, I can him in me more and more. I just wish I could play golf half as well as he does.

We finished up the tournament at 4 under. Not great. I played like I had never seen a golf club before (just barely better than D'art). But, I hadn't touched a club since September other than a trip to Pebble Creek the week before last and a quick trip to the driving range on Friday. We even had a bogey, which is absurd in that format.

We got back last night and I was so exhausted I couldn't sleep. Up at 5am, playing 18 holes of golf, then another 5 hours on the road coming back was a lot on this 47 year old body. But, it was a great day spent with family. It was fun watching Uncle Ronnie in his element where he is a master. It was cool watching him bond with D'art. Even though I was embarrassed by the way I played (Uncle Ronnie taught me golf over 20 years ago and I'm not much better now than I was then), it was a great birthday- one of the best ever.

Monday, March 31, 2008

My Tribute to Dad



My Tribute to Dad
(as delivered at Dad’s 70th Birthday party- Easton Hilton, Columbus, OH- March 29, 2008)

When I sat down to think about this talk today, I knew I had to start somewhere. For those of you who haven’t done this, this is not an easy thing. How do you sum up the life of a man in a few short words? People are complex. Relationships are varied. Each of us relates to another in a slightly different way. We are all someone’s father or mother, brother or sister, husband or wife, friend, uncle or aunt. In each of those relationships we behave slightly differently or very differently. All of your know some aspect of my father that I don’t. And I know some aspect of him that you don’t. Even within our family, Brent’s relationship with Dad is not the same as mine. Brandon’s is different from Bridget’s. What can I say about the man that all of you can relate to? Given just a few minutes to speak, I had to pick one thing. I could write a book about my father. Maybe one day I will. But, I don’t think you’d want me to stand here and read it to you. I decided the one thing I could talk about was his commitment to duty, his unfailing willingness to do the right thing.

Duty. What comes to your mind when you hear the word? I’d say for many it’s patiotism. What you would do for your country. For many duty sounds like drudgery. Duty is something you have that makes you do what you don’t want to do. But, duty isn’t always drudgery. When I think of Dad, I think of a person who is a highly developed sense of duty. The sense of duty my father has is born out of love. Love for his family and love for his God. That type of duty is not drudgery.


As human beings we all take things for granted. It’s in our nature. To truly appreciate something, you have to have its opposite to compare it to. You cannot appreciate being warm unless you’ve been cold. You cannot appreciate having food unless you’ve been hungry. And, you cannot appreciate the things a father does for you unless you’ve seen a father who doesn’t do those things. You cannot appreciate a man who sacrifices until you’ve seen one who looks out for number one. To appreciate a dutiful person, you must compare him to someone who is, shall we say, not so dutiful.

Truly appreciating a man like my father is a little more difficult for those of us in this room. We have been born into a very special family. We see our mothers and fathers doing the things they need to do without question and without complaint. And, we take it for granted that all mothers and fathers are like that. As a child, I didn’t think of my family or my father as anything special. I thought all dads were perfect, just like my dad. It wasn’t until I was grown that I was able to truly see the other examples around me and to understand just how fortunate I was to have my father.

If we can use our imaginations, we can make those comparisons that allow us to appreciate what we have without actually going through another childhood. To recognize the value of what my father did for me doesn’t require me to be born to another father and experience his neglect. It just requires me to look around a little bit. And, having become a parent myself helps a great deal.

When I think of my father, I think of someone who was always there for me and for his family. He was always there for his church and for his God, too. Always. No hesitation. No exceptions. I’ll give you just a few quick examples.

My father taught me the importance of family togetherness and of being a part of a larger whole. Here is an example that on the surface might seem small. But, in reality it is larger than most people can even fathom. I remember my father being home for dinner every night. Right on time. We knew almost to the minute when he would walk through the door. Dad would get up early, get to work early, put his nose to the grindstone and get his tasks done so he could plan on leaving there and being home for us. Now, I compare that to families I see where they hardly ever share a meal. As Ty and I did premarital counseling, we’d tell our couples about the importance of something as simple as sharing that evening meal together. We were amazed at how many didn’t have that experience. Dinner, for us, was the time of day where everyone would come together and talk about their days- their challenges and their triumphs. Dad not only provided the food for the meal. And, many father think that is enough. He was there for it and for us. What seemed like such a simple thing to me then, a thing I took completely for granted, I now know is something of vital importance when it comes to building a family. After talking to dozens of couples over the years about this simple ritual I realize how many people missed out on this and how deeply it impacts their sense of being connected in a family. I pushed this hard in our counseling sessions. Every couple we counseled committed to try to make this a part of their lives even if it hadn’t been in their childhood. They could see how important it had been to me. I am grateful to Dad for putting us first all of those years. I’m sure he could have traveled more and done more things to get “promoted”. But, he always put family first. I saw this same value in myself when I worked in the corporate world and I have him to thank for that.

My father taught me about loyalty to my wife. In their, soon to be, 50 years of marriage, I never had a moment’s doubt that my father and mother would stay together. I’m sure they had their ups and downs. And, it’s not like I never heard a cross word between them. But, we just knew about my father’s commitment to those vows he had taken all of those years before. And we knew that, if it was humanly possible, he was going to stick with them. Growing up in a stable home was a blessing that a lot of people don’t have. I’m not saying he did it all on his own. He was blessed with a woman who took her duty just as seriously. And, as a result, they have been able to have a marriage that most people would envy and that anyone should be proud of. I’m happy to report that Ty and I are off to a good start with almost 18 years under our belts. And, I see the same sense of loyalty in my brothers. We have our father’s sense of duty to thank for that.

My father taught me about the importance of trust in God. I’ll never forget when they were about to wheel him back to his open heart surgery and the poor surgeon thought he had just a “regular Joe” on the gurney. He starts asking all the standard questions. But, then he asks Dad if he has any concerns. Who wouldn’t? He was just about to have his heart stopped and placed into the hands of a stranger. When you have your heart stopped, there’s always the chance it won’t start again. Any normal person would at least be concerned, have some fear. But, Dad said he knew that his fate was in not in the surgeon’s hands, it was in God’s hands. He had no fear. I watched him carefully as he spoke. I think the surgeon was just stunned. The surgeon and I both knew people say these things. They’re supposed to say these things. But, I could tell, and I think the surgeon could too, that with Dad the faith was true. It was sincere. Dad has an unwavering faith that God will take care of him. I’ve seen it play out time and time again.

My father taught me about the importance of serving something outside of your self. When I think about my father, one thing that always quickly comes to mind is how much work he has done for the church and for the schools he has volunteered with over the years. As a layperson, he has worked for the church harder than most people on the payroll. He has given his time and his money selflessly and consistently ever since I can remember. I find myself doing the same types of things. I blog to help people who are struggling like I did (do). I commit time to my church, Ty and I volunteer. Sometimes people ask me why I do it. I don’t really see it as a choice. Commitment to others Is just part of being human, to me. But, when I really think about it, I know that I have my father to thank for passing that along to me, too.

My father taught me the importance of being able to say “no” to your children. Wow., was Dad good at saying “no”. I remember growing up and thinking how mean my parents were. We didn’t get the BB gun we wanted. We didn’t get the mini-bike. My parents made me transfer schools when I just wanted to hang out with my friends. I distinctly remember them saying “no” and not making any excuses. They didn’t tell me we couldn’t afford it. They’d say “We can afford to buy you that. But, we don’t think it’s best for you.” They wanted me to learn the value of a dollar, the value of hard work and to know that in life you don’t always get everything you want. They also wanted me to learn that not everything I wanted was good for me. Now, I look back at what happened to the kids around me who got everything they wanted handed to them and where they ended up. I see how they never learned to work for things or save for things. I see how they never learned to respect the authority that we all have to live under at some point in our lives and struggle to hold a job or to advance in an organization that inevitably requires you to respect authority at some point.

My father’s sense of duty is a legacy he passed on to me almost silently and without my awareness. From my perspective, my father is a man of few words. Some of you may know another side of him. He didn’t sit down and lecture me on these things I’ve spoken about today. He just showed me. Whether he did it consciously or subconsciously I don’t know and it doesn’t matter. He lived them out.

I began reading Bill Cosby’s book “Come On People”. In case you haven’t read it, in the book, Bill is lecturing black people about what all of us in this room take to be “common sense”- staying out of jail, staying with your wife, taking care of your kids. Sadly, it’s much needed in our black community. And, it’s not just needed in the black community. Ty and I live in the ‘burbs of Cincinnati. We are constantly amazed at how people who should know better are raising their children. They give them everything they want. They don’t know the meaning of the word “no” (they being the children and the parents). The parents want to be their children’s best buddies. They travel constantly trying to “get ahead” while all their children really want is time with them. They don’t eat together because both the parents and the kids are overcommitted. Their children are turning out to be spoiled little brats who refuse to work, who can’t commit to anything for more than a week and who don’t have a clue what it means to sacrifice.

All of the things I’ve talked about so far seem to me like “common sense”. The older I get, the more I realize that “common sense” isn’t so common. What we so lightly refer to as common sense has to come from somewhere. Whenever, I find myself judging someone, I try to remember to look to their past. Where did they get their common sense? In many cases, you can trace their dysfunction right back to their home life. In my case, you can trace any success I’ve had in my career, with my family, in my community, or in my marriage right back to my father.

Cosby’s book is a good book. But, about half way through, I put the book down. I don’t need it. I know everything in that book and I knew it decades ago. I didn’t need a book to teach it to me, I had my father. Thanks for being there for us, Dad.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

I Eulogized Dad Yesterday


Tomorrow is Dad’s 70th birthday. To celebrate the occasion, he and Uncle Robert decided to throw themselves a birthday party. In his inimitable style, Uncle Robert pretty much took over the planning assisted by Mom. The party turned out to be almost 150 people for lunch at the Hilton in Easton. The “agenda” (can you believe an agenda for a birthday party?) included two songs-one by Steve Wicker one by Uncle Jack’s girls, a photographic review of Dad’s and Uncle Robert’s life, a tribute to Uncle Robert by Robin and a tribute to Dad by myself. So, I got to eulogize Dad while he is healthy and vibrant. Not an opportunity many people get. But, one that everyone should have a chance at.

Mom called me and asked me to give the tribute. I dutifully said “yes’. I was supposed to seek input from Brandon, Brent and Bridget. I learned the plan had been hatched by Uncle Robert who wanted Robin his eldest) to give a tribute to him. If Robin was going to give a tribute to Uncle Robert, then, of course, I had to give a tribute to Dad. I have to admit I viewed giving a tribute to Dad as a major challenge. It’s not like we have a tight relationship. What kind of ”mush“ was I going to put together to tell what a great man he is when I struggle with my relationship with him. When I finally got around to asking Brent, Brandon and Bridget for input, I got a ”hell no“ from Bridget (different words, same sentiment), a ”Brandon will say something“ from Brandon (yes, he referred to himself in the third person) and no reply at all from Brent. I did not hear anything else from Brandon. So, I proceeded on my own.

I called Robin up to see what she was going to say. If she was going to put together some grandiose ”This Is Your life“ type of thing, I couldn’t just slap something together. I had to tiptoe around this whole thing though. I didn’t know how Robin had taken being asked to give a tribute. Would she think it had been an honor or would she view it was being as awkward as I did. Surprisingly, Robin and I had a really good talk even thought we hadn’t talked in years. Her relationship with Uncle Robert is not entirely different than my relationship with Dad. We just speak different languages than our fathers. Robin was clueless about what she was going to do. But, I was reassured that it shouldn’t be anything that would embarrass me because I would pale in comparison. She was struggling with her assignment just as much as I was struggling with mine.

Robin gave me some very valuable advice. What we realized was that we were both putting way too much pressure on ourselves. We were projecting our expectations onto our fathers. Robin suggested we keep it simple and stick to the facts, not emotions. They were there for us. They were home. They had stable marriages. They had been faithful to their churches. They had no idea that we wanted so much more from our relationships. And, of course, the ”Tribute’ was no place to bring it up.

On Friday, the day before the party, I put together a talk that was very nice. I was actually quite surprised at how easily it flowed once I got started. There was nothing I had to lie about. I admire my father in so many ways (the ways I outlined in the talk). As I’ve been reading Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth”, I’ve realized a couple of problems in our relationship. My father is way too stuck in roles. I don’t think it’s just in his role as father. But, that is the only role I can really evaluate because whenever he’s round me, he’s right in that character. One very telling thing he used to say when I was little was “I’m not your friend, I’m your father.” Truer words could never be spoken. In his zeal to not try to become my best buddy (something no parent should do) and to not neglect his duties as a father, he overcorrected and decided he could not have friendship with me at all. We’ve never been friends and now I realize we never will be. My problem with the relationship has been to expect him to be something he is not. He’s just a human being. The facts that he was born before I was and he is my parent doesn’t give him any special wisdom or insight nor does it mean that he has to be better at this relationship than I am. I want and expect him to do more than he is capable of doing. Learning to let that go (which I’m still working on) has reduced my anxiety and stress levels tremendously. Now I can relax and just allow him to be himself without trying to make him into something else.

Secretly, in spite of my protestations, I was glad to have the opportunity to sit Dad down and say some things to him I was afraid that I would never have the chance to say. This was the opportunity of a lifetime. But, what I realized is that I had to protest as part of my “role” as a stoic Smith. It’s a role I play all too well. I know that because when Ty’ mistakes my role for my true identity it upsets me. She always says that Brandon is different from Brent, Bridget and me, lumping me in with Brent and Bridget. Her take is that Brandon is the only one who would have stepped up and given the talk, voluntarily. The truth is probably too complex for her to understand and I should not be upset with her when she misreads me. The truth is I wanted to give that talk. I wished that there wasn’t a dry eye in the house when I was done and that some sort of dam between Dad and I would break and it would be the beginning of a new relationship between the two of us. But, I knew that wouldn’t happen and I could not get my hopes up. Robin encouraged me to give the talk for myself with no expectations of what would come of it and I tried to do that. But, it’s hard not to hope just a little.

The reality is when I gave the talk, it went over pretty well. I got a lot of head nods, a few laughs and some “Amens”. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get through it without breaking down in tears myself. But, right up until the last sentence, i was rock-steady. I did start to well up then, but then it was over. As I walked across the room to Dad, I didn’t really think about it. But, I hugged him. For the first time in my life (adult life?) I hugged my father. It was a quick embrace. People afterwards were amazed that the Brian they know gave the talk he gave. Not many people in that room (maybe no one in that room) knew I had it in me. If they only knew how much more is in me. I had started to well up several times earlier during the “program”. But, in the Smith family, that’s not allowed. During the entire “service” (yes, it resemble a funeral service more than birthday party), I saw no sign of emotion from my mother, my father or my siblings.

Mom told me a couple of times yesterday how grateful and proud she was that I said what I said. Twice while Dad was right there. But, what did I get from him? Not a word. Not unexpected mind you. But, disappointing. The way I’ve got to look at it is I can only control my own behavior. I said the things I wanted to say. So, now I can have no regrets no matter what happens. In that sense, it was a real opportunity and one I’m glad I took advantage of.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Obama

I'm not a very political guy. I am deeply concerned about social justice. That does require some involvement in politics. But, I've never campaigned for a candidate, contributed to a candidate's campaign or so much as worn a t-shirt for a candidate. That is, until this year.

I am inspired by Barack Obama. Not because he's the smartest person who has ever run for President (though he's certainly smarter than what we've had recently). Not because he has the most experience. Not because he's got the best policies (he and Hillary are not nearly as far apart as their campaigning requires they try to portray themselves to be). It's because he's the most hopeful candidate we've had in my memory. It's because he represents the opportunity to put someone in the White House who still believes we can do things differently. Also, I think he's the most compassionate candidate to come along in a long time.

I haven't read "The Audacity of Hope", although now that I have decided to back Obama, I will. I haven't read his detailed position papers, although the one on health care is sitting here printed out and ready for me to wade through. But, I've heard enough about his positions on the issues to know we fundamentally agree. And, I know enough about his history to believe he will genuinely try to do the best he can for all of the American people, not just the rich and privileged.

Here I am in my first campaign t-shirt:

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Treasured Locks Milestone

Normally, our email blast gets us a little bump in orders. We might go from an average of 30-35 orders/day to a peak of around 50. But, Wednesday of this week, the email blast brought us 83 orders in one day. That beat our previous record by over 20 orders. Here's the pile we had for DHL on Friday (they missed Thursday's pickup due to weather).

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Valentine's Day

Kayla decided she wanted to make dinner for us in honor of Valentine's Day (then she wanted us to retire to the basement to watch a "chick flick"). Since she can only make breakfast food, she decided to make pancakes, eggs and sausages for us. Shayna wanted to help since she had not bought a present for us for Valentine's Day. But, she had basketball practice.

Kayla needed supervision and a little help. But, she did a great job with the dinner and I could tell she was very proud of herself. She and Shayna are so thoughtful, it's really amazing for two young girls. After dinner instead of watching a romantic movie, we all watched Shayna's First Year DVD together. I'll never get tired of the scene where Kayla meets Shayna for the first time. It's priceless.IMG_2746.JPG

The Nicest Thing Anyone Has Ever Said to Me

The other night we were driving home from dinner. Tywana and I were talking about a friend of a friend who is in the reserves and has just been called up to serve 15 months in Iraq.  He's in his mid-40s.  Kayla piped up from the back seat "Daddy, you aren't going to join the reserves.  Are you?"  I explained to her that I was too old to join the reserves. She said "Good.  I need you here.".  Then, she seemed to start to correct herself but said "I want you here, too.".  Shayna joined in and said "Daddy, we do need you here.  But, we want you here, too."

Made my day...

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Living in White Chester


There was a line in Hairspray that I thought was hilarious. Queen Latifah's character speaking about all the White people coming into her establishment said something like "If we get any more White people in here, we'll have a suburb." A couple of days ago someone sent a link to me about a website called Zip Skinny which gives a bunch of detailed data on the demographics of your zip code. Here's mine. I knew there were many of "us" out here in what some affectionately call "White Chester". But, I was surprised to see more Asians than Blacks. No point to this post. Just an observation.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Tywana's Singing Career

Tywana did her second solo at Nexus on Sunday. As I write these posts about Tywana, Kayla and Shayna stepping up, it's funny because there is a common theme. Tywana, while always pushing the girls, has been reluctant to take her place on center stage. Chip had to beg and plead with her to sing the solo. After pushing Kayla to step up in drama and Shayna in basketball, she did not want to draw too much attention to herself on stage.

She did a great job with it. I told Chip at dinner on Saturday that she really wants to be pushed (and she does). So, my guess is she'll be doing more of the same in the future.

Shayna the Basketball Star

Shayna was the high scorer of Upward on Saturday. She put in 4 baskets. I think the team's total was about 25 (it was definitely less than 30). Not bad considering she only gets to play half the game.

Shayna is so funny. At home, she's the center of attention. Always singing, always dancing (she loves her hip hop class). But, in public, she's a different person. Even though she's doing great at basketball, she doesn't celebrate when she makes a great play. She's extremely reserved in public. Not quite as shy as Kayla but, almost. With her eye-hand coordination, I expect her to be a very good basketball player. It'll be fun to see how she behaves on the court then.

Kayla's Math

Kayla has really been coming along with her math. She's doing what they call pre-algebra. But, they're sneaking a lot of algebra in there. She gets really nervous when we have what she considers big "tests" and last week we had a unit assessment. A unit consists of about 15 lessons. So, it's probably close a month's worth of work that she's being assessed on. With over 20 problems, it was almost inevitable she'd make an arithmetic error. She gets the concepts very well now. But, she'll think one number and write another. But, this time, she got a perfect score. She aced her unit assessment. She was thrilled.

I'm hoping this will help improve her self-confidence. In a lot of things, Kayla struggles because she's simply not assertive enough. It shows up in everything from her sewing, to her math, to simple things like a couple of weeks ago when she walked into a bathroom (by herself) that had a second door after you opened the first one. Instead of pushing through the second door, she thought it was a closet. She came back to where we were sitting and didn't say a word. Then, when I went to the bathroom, she followed me (unbeknownst to me) and stood outside. When I came out, she asked me where the women's bathroom was. When I showed her the door she had been in she said "That's just a closet.". I opened the door and showed her how she had to push the second door. That was a pretty good metaphor for the way Kayla approaches things. I keep telling her to push just a little harder. She's so very much like me at her age, I can completely relate to exactly how she feels. I'm really glad that I'm here to be her math teacher. We have a semester assessment this week. I expect her to do very well.

Treasured Locks Milestone

In just a couple of days, we crossed two milestones. First was reaching 1,000,000 page views for the last 120 days (a rolling stat that Yahoo keeps). Then, we finished January at 1,040 orders, the first time we had more than 1,000. We had been playing around the 1,000 mark for the last few months with the Christmas "rush". Revenue wise, we were actually down a couple of hundred dollars from December to January. But, the total number of orders was up.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Treasured Locks Milestone

Our traffic has been steadily increasing. I've been watching anxiously as we approached the 1 million page view mark. Yahoo's running graph shows the last 120 days of page views and as we've edged up, I wondered if, after the holidays, we'd creep over the 1M mark or fall back down. Well, a couple of days ago, we made it. 1 Million pages viewed on Treasured Locks in the past 4 months.

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Pic of Ty and Kayla

I just like this shot. Got a few more at the game that are pretty good, too.

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Shayna's Basketball

The 2008 season has begun. Shayna's team is 2-0. They've had two very competitive games. The level of play is way above what it was last year. They've started to call traveling, double dribble and three seconds more strictly. So, the girls are getting a better feel for the game. The ref this last week though did something nice (and different). When he called an infraction on a team, he would stop them, explain what they did wrong and give them the ball back. I really like that idea for a learning league. By stopping them, he was giving them incentive to improve. But, the game would be full of turnovers (discouraging the girls) if they actually turned the ball over every time.

Shayna has scored 4 points in each game. She's not as aggressive on the court as we would expect her to be, on offense that is. On defense, she shuts her man down. But, she's just getting comfortable with handling the ball.

Lots of shots at her from the game on Flickr. Here's one:

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Hazel & Tango

Kayla has been begging for a guinea pig for two or three years now. Every spare moment has been spent on the internet researching guinea pigs. She's checked out books from the library. We've gently but firmly said "not now" for the last couple of years. But, she would not give up.

Finally, a couple of "free" guinea pigs became available from a friend of a friend who breeds them. The girls spotted their opportunity. They agreed to pay for the initial costs (cage, water bottle, etc.) if we'd agree to the on-going maintenance of the guinea pigs (see where this is going?). So, with each of them committing to forego their allowance for the next couple of months we headed over to the pet store to get the needed supplies. $45 for a cage, $10 for food, $6 for a bowl. The "free" guinea pigs cost us a mere $110 out the door.

We were told that guinea pigs are social creatures. So, getting two would be better than getting one. The older guinea pig (Hazel) had a daughter (Tango).

After we got all the stuff home, the girls were ready to go pick up the pigs. When they got there, the friend told them she was getting out of the business. Suddenly, their $70 investment dropped to a mere $20. So, Shayna was already paid up with leftover birthday money. The girls have agreed to all of the care of the guinea pigs. We'll see...

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Shayna's Actual Birthday

We don't have birth days. We have birth weekends or birth weeks. Shayna's celebration started out with friends over on Friday night. Then it was Red Robin for the free birthday burger on Saturday. Finally, it wrapped up with the actual day today (Sunday, January 13th). Shayna insisted all day long that she was not yet 8 since she wasn't born until almost 11pm. I tried to wake her up at 10:45 to tell her she was 8. But, she was zonked.

Unfortunately, she did not get a birthday dinner on the day of her birthday. After having pizza on Friday night and a cheeseburger on Saturday, we decided to return to some sanity and we had a chicken thigh concoction I whipped up on her birthday. But, she did have some sparkling apple cider in a champagne glass.

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Shayna's Birthday Party

Last night Shayna had her 8th birthday party. For some reason, she was content with keeping it small only inviting three friends over and she opted out of having a sleepover. They played Wii and foosball. Unfortunately, Shayna hasn't learned to take it easy on people in Wii yet (she has said so herself) and she is the best in the house at it. So, she pretty much killed her friends at Golf, Tennis, etc. but they had a great time. Kayla slept over at Megan's. So, Shayna was sad when she was leaving (she hates to be here without Kayla).

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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Spring in January

Yesterday, the temperature hit a record high of 69 or 70 degrees. It was partly sunny and just absolutely beautiful. It was so warm I just had to pull out the grill and fire it up for a good thick steak. I only like steaks grilled and since we don't have a hood, we can't grill inside. I had some ribeyes I picked up a couple of months ago. Mine must have been about 3 inches thick. I got the grill as hot as possible and cooked it for exactly 3 minutes per side. Perfection! It was a great prelude to a not-so-great Ohio State game.

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This one I took without a flash, just to see what it would look like.

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We Almost Stole a National Championship

Before this season began the Buckeyes were ranked no higher than 10 by anyone in the country. This was supposed to be a rebuilding season for us. After graduating (and losing early) an unusually high number of players everyone expected our team to be devastated on both sides of the ball. But, we kept winning game after game and when we crept up to number one in the rankings, I thought we might actually have a chance to sneak in a National Championship during this "off season". After the loss to Illinois and our precipitous drop with so few weeks of the season left, I just knew we were done. We needed for six teams ahead of us to lose in just three weeks of playing time. And you know what? They did. Suddenly, we found ourselves in the National Championship game for the third time in just six seasons.

There are those who would say we didn't deserve to be there. Ohio State plays a weak schedule. And considering we were chosen to finish 3rd in the Big 10, it was amazing that we were there. But, we were. Unfortunately, we looked rusty again last night. And, uncharacteristically sloppy and undiscplined. Turnovers, in-fighting and personal fouls cost us the game, even after a fast 10-0 start kicked off by a 60+ yard run by Beanie Wells and a monster stiff arm on another play that seemed to set the tone that the Buckeyes were going to get physical with LSU.

It was a weird year. The Bengals were expected to make the playoffs and did not (didn't even come close). The Buckeyes who were not expected to even make the Rose Bowl proved they are a great team by going to the big game for the third time since 2002. And, all indicators are they might be able to get back there again next year. But, for now, football season is over (except the NFL Playoffs) and I'm looking forward to some golf.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

New Nexus Band

We have a new Nexus Band. Chuck Wiggins who led us for our first year and did a great job of choosing and performing music that was spiritual without being religious has moved on. It was cool doing Todd Rundgren in church. But, everything must change.

Chip Bramlage has taken over and made his debut on Sunday. I caught a little of the first song on video. But, Chip was having some technical difficulties with the mixing board, and I lost battery power. So, the video is not really representative of how the rest of the singing went. Ty's loving being in the band and is looking forward to performing more since it looks like she, Bekka and Cydney will be performing together.

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