Friday, December 31, 2004

2004: A New Reality

Well, it's 10:15pm New Year's Eve as I begin this jaunt back 366 days (thanks February 29th)....there will be no "specific" format to my year in review, it'll be streaming thought, which, for anyone who knows me, understands that that concept could be significantly dangerous. :)

EVENT OF THE YEAR: There's no comparison. As of this writing, as many people have died due to the earthquake and subsequent tsunamis in Southeast Asia than would have died in fifty 9/11's. Fifty of them. I'm not comparing the two events at all, just helping myself still, after almost a week, try to grasp the enormity of it all. And to think there are those with no heart taking this event to make political potshots against our country and our president. Even Bush's opponents in the U.S. should be appalled. God bless the survivors.

Honorable Mention: 2004 Election, Advent of Bloggers, Russia School Terrorist Nightmare, Florida: Hurricane Alley

SPORTS EVENT OF THE YEAR: I am not a Boston Red Sox fan, but I was one for two weeks in October. You see, my dad has loved the Sox since his childhood, and saw Ted Williams hit a home run in Fenway Park many years ago. Since his aneurysm 20 years ago, his interest in sports has basically disappeared, so I don't even know if he followed or cared the Red Sox's magical ride, but I caught part of the wave, and for me, personally, the following call goes down in broadcast history with "Do you believe in miracles?" and "The Giants win the pennant!"

Joe Buck: "Back to Foulke. Red Sox have longed to hear it. The Boston Red Sox are World Champions."

I still get chills when I watch the video online. Eight wins in a row, including a 3-0 comeback against the team you lose to every time, a sweep in the World Series. No one in Hollywood had this one on the drawing table.

Honorable Mention: Incredible Super Bowl 4th Quarter with the Proehl/Vinatieri repeat of 2002 (how weird); Va Tech joins....and wins the ACC; where did hockey go?; the Richmond Braves will not play in August due to water; and the only thing I truly cared about during the Olympics was watching Misty May.

LOCAL EVENT OF THE YEAR: Hands down, Monday August 30th. It began with a "chance of rain, heavy at times, maybe as much as two inches" as the remnants of Tropical Storm Gaston prepared to come through. No one foresaw the hours of 1 to 10pm. 10 to 14 inches of rain, Shockoe Bottom became one huge rapid, and I didn't think I'd get home that night.

Honorable Mention: Sheriff, I mean, Marshall, I mean Mayor-Elect Wilder comes to clean town....the mysterious "booms" of northside, thanks to a teenager....288 finally is completed, so Richmond's "beltway that doesn't connect" is finally finished. ONLY in Richmond.....


January: USC gets robbed of its national title....Carolina beats the Rams!! Wait, they just beat the Eagles, too!! Carolina in the Super Bowl??....yep, we're gonna do the first ever Silent Auction at Longdale, and the solicitation begins......and I spend one heckuva interesting evening at a packed Echo Lake Elementary School listening to Glen Allen residents plead to the School Board that they not "break up their community" by using Mountain Road as the boundary for the new middle school. They were defeated, and I'm so glad. Two reasons: 1) There's a definite air of superiority among the residents of Mountain Road west of the railroad tracks (I live east of them, therefore I live on, you guessed it, "the wrong side of the tracks"..hee hee...), and 2) they never acknowledged, as I did in a letter that was published in the Times-Dispatch, that their "community" was already being split apart at the elementary level with the building of Greenwood. They all just wanted to be at a new school, which burned me up, because Brookland is a fine school, and brick and mortar doth not a school make.....guess I'll never be elected to the School Board from this district (ha!), not that I'd ever try.

February: What a Super Bowl! (Well, the 2nd half, and thank God I was upstairs, at a friend's house, playing pool with a bunch of kids, during the stupid "wardrobe malfunction")....spent the next two days sick in bed.....finally got the Annual Church Meeting in, only to have it cut short as the snow began falling, and we ended up in a real "snow-storm" around the airport coming home.....Rachel turned 7 where she turned 6, at the bowling alley (Fred and Barney would be so proud)....I went on my final Longdale field trip (w/Rachel's 1st grade class to the Science Museum, where my group of kids were known as "The Dream Team", as we behaved the best and had the most fun.) On a sidenote, I didn't know one of my kids didn't ever do much talking or interaction, and Miss Wright, Rachel's teacher, told me later on that she had never seen him more animated than on the field trip. That's one of the best compliments I've ever received, and I didn't even know I was doing anything at the time. You know, those are the best ones......then there was me, taking a 1/2 day off to see, on opening day, "The Passion of The Christ". When did you start bawling when you saw it? For me, it was when Mary flashed back to Jesus as an eight year old falling, going to get him, and then coming back to reality, knowing she couldn't go rescue her son as He went up the Via Dolorosa. That tore me up. The following Saturday I took a church group to the film.

March: One word: MADNESS!! Gotta have my 5" Black and White TV in the office for some NCAA Tourney action (ACC tournament first, though...)...NC State made it to round two and promptly choked; VCU almost knocked off Wake Forest, and I picked UConn to win it all (I had never picked correctly before.....hmmm);
plus the one year anniversary of the Iraq War, another lost weekend in bed sick (ACC Tournament weekend), and issues at work (what else is new??)

April: UConn wins the National Title (I FINALLY got it right, and won my ESPN fantasy game against 99 other competitors, and was in the 98.6% percentile for the whole game!)
We celebrated Easter (w/more rain, again....), and I missed my absolute favorite service of the year (and I don't even conduct it!), that's Maundy Thursday services at my great buddy Wayne's church. Singing "Ah Holy Jesus" in candlelight after Communion is, well, few things are better than that feeling of awe and reverance.
I had to bow out of preaching the Lenten series there in '04 due to my continual health issues....and that stunk.....The Spring Fling and Silent Auction at Longdale was April 16th and was a great success, as we raised $2500 in our first attempt at an auction. It was LOTS of fun.

--April 29th, Robbie turned 12 by going to school, then an evening of putt-putt and presents. It was a watershed day for me, for many reasons.....

May: I begin May, where else, in bed Saturday May 1st, missing the PTO Yard Sale. The next day was church, followed by our annual pilgrimage for 24 to 48 hours to Virginia Beach in the springtime, before ALL the tourists go down there. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate, as I did walk down Atlantic Avenue Sunday night buying food and Diet Mountain Dew to take back to the hotel for dinner, but I never did get to walk on the beach. We watched the first half of the mini-series "10.5" as the kids went night-night. The next day, in the rain, we checkout, get some grub, find a place to park, and RUN in the pouring rain into Flipper McCoy's, the best arcade I've been to in a LONG year-long crusade at Longdale to make sure a new foundation of PTO leadership would arise for the following year came to a reality as a new Board was elected. Six of the seven board members last year were rezoned to the new elementary school (ourselves included). I'm happy to report their PTO is going great guns this year with new ideas and lots of energy and success. You don't know how happy that makes me. :)

Oh, and goodbye to my only two TV faves, 24 and Alias, til January??!!??

June: Some guy named Ken Jennings came on Jeopardy; I picked up his journey at about game 14. A very emotional week began Friday June 4th in the rain and mud of Innsbrook After Hours, where the show did go on. I saw the Moody Blues live for the second time in my life, and had the time of my life; very emotional, very reflective, and pretty wet. The next day, we lost Ronald Reagan. The week of mourning coincided with our final week at Longdale Elementary School. After 7 years as part of that community, we hated to have to go; we loved that place so much. Friday June 11th was our last day at Longdale, and the Reagan funeral, as I bawled watching the sunset burial that night, at his loss, the loss of a community, and the emotions of my new reality.

Then came a defining '04 moment: why, oh why did I go up the street to play softball the night of June 14th??? One swing, one trip (literally) out of the batter's box, one stumble halfway down to first base, one fall on the right shoulder, one severely separated right shoulder. Not being able to contact Bonnie on the phone, I had to drive myself back home so I could "seek medical attention". The absolute worst pain I've ever experienced in my life was when I thought I could use the hurt arm to put my Cougar in gear to leave the ballpark. It's a wonder people in Nova Scotia didn't hear my scream.

Off to Patient First for the night, then an appointment with my new best friend, Dr. Goradia (and his GREAT nurse, Terri), with hopes of natural healing. The family trip (without me, as I had to work) to Virginia Beach was not cancelled, and I spent my 37th birthday alone, going to work, coming home, in a sling, and going to bed at 715pm. Yep, 715. Sleep apnea strikes again. I'm such a party animal!

Then, while visiting some church members two Sundays later, I felt something move up in my shoulder. Sure enough, the bone had come up, and now surgery was mandatory.

July: Happy holiday, consisting of Bonnie's birthday (7/3), complete with a trip to the Diamond for a Braves game and the fireworks that followed (spectacular display, I cried, of course....), the 4th of July, a day off on Monday the 5th, and, to wind up the festivities, surgery on July 9th (Friday). Day surgery, followed by night and next day of hell in bed (what pain!). Out of work 'til the following Wednesday, then, much to Bonnie's dismay, back at it. I look back and still cannot believe I typed with one hand for 10 weeks and didn't fall behind on my work (that's called grace in action!)

August: First week was our "vacation"; travel cut short due to the family is really tired of taking Daddy to work and picking him up every day. The annual church picnic was very enjoyable, even with one arm, and Vacation Bible School was very successful (you go, Pat!). On August 24th, D-Day at the doctors, and finally, the divorce with the sling. What a weird feeling, but it sure was nice. Then, six days later, Gaston (see earlier in this novel). Oh, and I started a blog.....

September: We begin the new era at Greenwood Elementary; great start, then a grinding halt, as our meeting to determine whether to form our parent-teacher group as a PTA (like Glen Allen) or a PTO (like Longdale) set the stage for a first semester of complete frustration in this department. September 10th saw the return of PH football on the radio, plus POF returned for the 8th season.

Also, thank God for Zell Miller!!! What a speech....:)

October: More PH football, a very politically-charged PTO formation meeting which led to my departure from the process for awhile, the odyssey of the Red Sox, more battles with my illnesses, play practice begins, the debates, and more late nights at work. Also, our almost year-long odyssey at church through "The Purpose-Driven Life" came to an end. We were to go to North Carolina Columbus Day weekend, but my fear of leaving home forced us to cancel, so we treated the kids to Finding Nemo on Ice to help make up for their disappointment. And, on October 28th, a very emotional early morning trip to say happy birthday to Mama at her gravesite in Louisa.

November: Thank God for Ohio; Bush wins. The New York Giants begin their freefall; and I witnessed the greatest high school football game of my life, the Hermitage-Patrick Henry overtime epic. Then, the next week, an absolute travesty, as Henrico County, because of advanced ticket sales for a battle of unbeatens, does not postpone Friday games in spite of monsoon conditions, so PH plays their final game at JR Tucker, and their senior night is ruined. No one, I mean no one, is there, save the teams, those of us in the press box, senior members of the band and cheerleader squad, and their parents, who ruined nice shoes to be honored before the game (players) and at halftime (cheerleaders and band members); oh, and let's remember the empty bleachers which stood and cheered their achievements and dedication to their school. It was an absolute farce.

Thanksgiving was MUCH better this year (my nose didn't hurt!); and play practice continued.

December: My fantasy football team makes the playoffs in POF for the 4th time in 8 years (the previous 3 times, I won the championship), only to lose my first round game (my first playoff loss ever) my own wife. By one point. How crushing.
Went through a rough week in early December between my sleep issues and a vicious attack of my OCD symptoms, led me to an abyss I'd never seen before. I'm glad to be out of that funk. We made it through the play, lost a great man of faith in Johnny Oates, enjoyed Christmas, and welcomed in the Carolina relatives for the New Year (Aunt Tammy is playing Uno tonight with Bonnie and the kids, Uncle Frank watched the Peach Bowl and is now asleep on the couch to my right, and I'm blogging.)


--anything Yu-Gi-Oh
--"hard work" (Bush)
--"I have a plan" (Kerry)
--"spitballs??" (Zell Miller)
--Luke, Rachel's first boyfriend who didn't know he was her boyfriend (did you follow that??)
--"DAD!!" (every time I pull Rachel's leg)
--Howard Dean's scream, I saw it live. What a riot!
--the advent of satellite radio (and how does it affect people like me who work in terrestrial radio)
--"Hold up, hold up, stop the music, stop the music. You better go to I One Mobile and get me a cell phone, or you ain't gonna get none of these goodies tonight. Beliee' dat!"
--Peyton Manning's MasterCard commercial (Cut that meat!!)
--All the roads Gaston washed away....
--the little bell I rang when I needed help after surgery
--Minute Maid Juice Bars
--Donald and the octagonal window
--hitting the 3,000 hour mark on my C-PAP machine
--Kiss-Key-Ak (where you buy things in the center of a mall)
--Blue (our latest fish)
--"are you doin ok?"
--The return of Letterman to our nightly lineup (thanks to no paper route!)
--Waking up to Fox and Friends and not the radio....
--Never making it into our swimming pool this summer...
--the night of May 21st....
--Jib Jab/This Land is Your Land
--being forced to listen to country music against my will at work.
--Wearing shorts all year long
--the attempt to rebuild my music collection (off to a good start!)
--meds in the morning, meds in the evening....
--a summer at Wendy's (Double, plain)
--"yoga man"; what nurse Terri called me as I sat, legs crossed, on the examining table waiting on Dr. Goradia.
--Dr. Goradia also did surgery on Nadia Comaneci (her autographed picture was in his exam room)
--The story of the van that would not fix, and those we drove in its absence.
--Robbie's bike stolen.
--Ken Jennings
--Welcome, NFL Network.
--"Less is More"
--Fat Albert, The Movie
--The Passion of The Christ

And we said goodbye.....

Jack Paar
Captain Kangaroo
Julia Child
Ann Miller
Tug McGraw
Paul Winfield
Sir Peter Ustinov
Alistair Cooke
Pat Tillman
Estee Lauder
Tony Randall
Alan King
Darrell Johnson
Ronald Reagan
Ray Charles
Rick James
Marlon Brando
Red Adair
Fay Wray
Janet Leigh
Rodney Dangerfield
Christopher Reeve
Robert Merrill
Jerry Orbach
Artie Shaw
Reggie White
Johnny Oates

and finally, at 1142pm as my medicine takes effect and I really want to go to sleep.....:)


5) Gaston's storm, August 30th
4) The Moody Blues Concert, June 4th
3) Saying Goodbye to Longdale, June 11th
2) The shoulder injury, June 14th, and surgery, July 9th
1) My new reality; encompassing where I am healthwise and emotionally, and some very personal issues, one of which came from completely out of the blue; I didn't know the emotions and their gravity were still alive.

So, after three consecutive trying years, from sleep apnea, to Mama's death from cancer; from depression to being overworked; from fear of traveling to feeling ridiculously inferior trying to preach on Sunday, I'm ready for a good year.

Thanks to my family, of course, my friends, especially the gang at work (who I see more than my own family); special thanks to Kim, she's the best and keeps me from going insane, literally. To the bloggers I've met this year, to supportive church members, to my old family at Longdale, and even to enemies, thanks for a very interesting 2004.

What'll be in store in 2005?

--38th birthday
--I promised to preach from Revelation (LOTS of study ahead)
--My 20 (ugh!) year high school reunion
--My 30th anniversary of salvation (November 16th), and baptism (November 30th)
--Maybe another 3000 hours on my machine
--and I really, really, really hope the Moody Blues return and play live with a symphony orchestra. I will NOT miss it! :)

It's almost midnight, so, I leave to drink Mountain Dew (OF COURSE) at midnight, say hello to 2005, and head straight for the CPAP machine.

Happy New Year!


Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Sleep Apnea? Don't Wait!!!!

If you read nothing else on my blog, PLEASE read the following:

If you are constantly tired, especially after waking up from a night of "sleep" (at least you think you slept), fall asleep easy watching TV or reading, feel excessively sleepy in the daytime, have decrease sex drive, have gained weight, have symptoms of depression, and most likely, if you are told you snore and snore rather loudly, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of asking your doctor for a referral to a sleep disorders center for a sleep study.

In light of Reggie White's death, there are several schools of thought as to how his sleep apnea did or did not contribute to his death. No matter, if you have all, or even some, of the symptoms listed above, see your doctor...NOW.

I did in 2002, had a sleep study, and discovered I was "waking up" 33 times an hour (40 plus is considered severe). I have a CPAP machine, and after lots of trials with it, I'm happy to say I've worn it nightly for most of this year. In fact, it's approaching the 3,000 hour mark in time used. :)

For more information, click here, then follow the link in the article to the sleep apnea web site.

90 percent of sleep apnea sufferers do NOT know they have the problem. Don't be one of those who stay unaware of the potentially dangerous problem.

Monday, December 27, 2004

My second blog!

No, I'm not being unfaithful to my original "blog love"...hee hee...

I just created a new blog for the church I pastor as of tonight. It's a great way to bring updated information to the church and the world at large, share prayer needs, articles of interest, commentary and more.
And the church's web site, updated as of tonight:

I'm on computers so much now, I expect to wake up one day, look in the mirror, and see my head has morphed into a 17" monitor.

Year in Review, Witham Style coming later this week. Something tells me I'll be "blogging in the New Year"......:)

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Johnny Oates: 1946-2004 Posted by Hello

Johnny Oates: Thanks for your faith

An incredible testimony of God's grace and love came to a triumphant end around 2am Christmas Eve in downtown Richmond at MCV Hospital. Johnny Oates, once a figure on a baseball card I liked because he once played for my favorite team, the Baltimore Orioles, but in recent years, one who had become an embodiment of trust in God that few people attain, went home to spend Christmas with Jesus.

Johnny grew up in Prince George County where I pastor, and one of his best friends was Wayne Collins, one of our church members, and the first person I ever spoke to from the church when they first asked me to fill their pulpit in spring 1996 for a few Sundays when they were without a pastor. They played ball together, and kept in touch for 40 years, even though Johnny spent the bulk of it away from home, first, playing for several teams, then, in the early 1980's, turning to managing.

Wayne and his wife Greta (our Christmas play director extraordinaire), were great friends with Johnny and his wife, Gloria. Wayne coached ball at his alma mater for years, then left to become a successful insurance salesman, and continues to be to this day. His company would hold a conference yearly in Dallas, so, of course, when Johnny managed the Rangers, that meant a chance to catch up with his friend.

It also gave me a connection two years later. I went to our denomination's annual conference, held that year in Minneapolis, and it just so happened that, the weekend I arrived, the Texas Rangers were in town to play the Minnesota Twins. So thanks to a phone call from the Collins' to a certain man named Oates, there was a ticket waiting for me at the Sunday afternoon game.

I'll never forget walking through downtown Minneapolis (it's beautiful), past the big hotels, near the Target Center, right past the Pillsbury headquarters, winding up at the Metrodome. I'd never been in a dome before. I got my ticket at will call, and arrived early enough to watch batting practice.

Why? 'Cuz that was my chance to see and thank Johnny. I was so far from the field, I was to yell "Prince George" to get his attention, and before they headed to the dugout, I went over and yelled the aforementioned signal. He saw me and I thanked him. Unfortunately, the Rangers lost that day. :(

Then during the 2001 World Series, Johnny was doing a live radio interview at his home when he suddenly fell ill and had to quit the interview. He was taken to MCV, where the initial brain cancer diagnosis was found.

I won't attempt to recreate the last three years, his own story does it much better. I recommend the following article, and I also urge you to go to a search engine and type in "Johnny Oates Cancer" and I'm sure you'll find stories of the most important part of his three year fight, his faith.

I only saw him twice after the diagnosis; first when I conducted the funeral of Wayne's father, Glenn, only 3 months after the diagnosis. Despite his ailment, he was there for his longtime friend.

Then, when our church participated in the Relay For Life for the American Cancer Society in Petersburg in June, 2003, Johnny came out and made it around the track for one lap with other cancer survivors.

He wanted to see his daughter marry, and got to walk her down the aisle. He wanted to spend time with his wife and family, and did, and I'm sure he packed more living in three years than alot of people do in 30.

Most of all, his testimony of faith in Jesus in spite of the current and the inevitable, was incredible. Johnny won't know the full impact of his faith until we all get to heaven; I can't wait to see the fruit. :)

Not bad for a guy who only hit 14 homers, and said himself he couldn't run or throw.

The title of this blog is now on the message sign at our church. Coming through Prince George heading to church last night, I thought I'd see a sign, or maybe a flag at half-staff, and didn't. I wanted to make sure he received a tribute quickly (and that's not a criticism; I'm sure the holiday had something to do with it). So, with our Christmas play over, we took that announcement down to pay tribute not to a native son, or a ballplayer or successful manager, but to a man and his faith, a faith that God rewarded here, and now, at home.

Bet he runs and throws pretty well now......

PS---Gloria, his widow, reports there is no "one" concerted effort to donate specific funds for brain cancer research. She has started a fund in memory of Johnny, and, after losing my mother to brain cancer at age 64 (Johnny was only 58), I want to back that 100 percent. Gloria also wants to raise funds to even better the Palliative Care Unit at MCV Hospital.

Make a donation to the following:

The Johnny Oates Memorial Fund
for brain tumor research and patient care
% The Bank of McKenney
PO Box 370
McKenney, Virginia 23872

Christmas 2004: Hey, Hey, Hey!!

Well, another December 25th is winding down, and this one will go down in history for several things....

1) Another year I wasn't awakened at 5am (yes!). The kids spent Christmas Eve night with Nana Norma, so they didn't even arrive at the house until 930am. Yeah, I know, by 930am, some kids have already broken Christmas toys.....go figure!

2) For Robbie, a Yu-Gi-Oh! Christmas. Big surprise (sarcasm duly noted). Duel disk, the DVD, and Egyptian God Card, packs, a puzzle, and a box of Yu-Gi-Oh! Hamburger Helper....(just kidding on the last one....)

3) For Rachel, music, fashion, and the final piece of her dog family puzzle. She got her first keyboard, lots of clothes and jewelery, an Icee maker (yum!), and Shirley, wife of Silas, and mother to Isaac and Mocha. The family is now complete.

4) And for me....the first season of the Flintstones on DVD!! :)

Then, after an early afternoon nap, it was off to the traditional Christmas event.....

....Fat Albert, The Movie!

For once, a TV show made into a movie that made some sense. Go in with a "nostalgic" mindset, and you won't be disappointed. In fact, you might even cry near the end (I won't spoil it), I know I did....but if you've read this blog for any length of time, you'll know that, lately, I cry when someone finds the "Daily Double" on Jeopardy.....

Great family movie, almost NO cussing; glad I went. So, in 2004, I went to see two movies: The Passion of The Christ, and Fat Albert. Now that's diversity!!!

Memorable Christmases for me......

1972-74: The Christmas mornings I can remember the original family of five together before my parents split. On Christmas Eve I spent the night sick on the couch, really wanting to have "TV Magic Cards", which sent my Dad (bless his heart) all the way from Beaverdam to the only Peoples Drug left open in Richmond (at Boulevard and Broad) to find them.

1983: A tough Christmas; my brother never made it to the house Christmas Eve because his vehicle died in horrificly cold weather (I believe he was walking down the road in single digits, and sub-zero wind chill). Somehow there was an argument Christmas morning at home (I don't even remember why), so, it being a Sunday, we didn't even touch presents until after church. Weird day.

1984: My last Christmas (unbeknownst to me) in Beaverdam, and a cherished Christmas since Dad almost didn't live to see it.

1985: an Richmond. Huh? Enough said.

1987: Woke up at the Regency Inn, where I worked (and was manager in charge Christmas week while my boss was on vacation); we finished checkout, I drove the maids home downtown so they wouldn't have to deal with the bus, and went home to Mechanicsville to make sure I had actually proposed marriage the night before (no, it wasn't a dream....)

1988: First married Christmas, a foretaste of years to come: how do I spend Christmas morning? Working!! Sunday paper route, followed by nap; we didn't even open our few presents until early afternoon, and it was the only year so far we had a real live tree.

1990-91: I elected to spend Christmas morning working at the radio station because my morning man became a dad in '90, and I felt it important to be home with his son. Besides, I hoped for the same when I became a Dad.

1992: Quite possibly the best one ever: Mama was there when I got home from work, I went to bed while baby Robbie stayed up with Nana and Nana Norma past midnight doing Christmas stuff in the great room (which we have archived on video). That morning, we opened presents, Robbie headed up to Nana's for fun, and I went to work for three hours that afternoon.

(Editors Note: Every year I would do the paper route before "tree time", and it was one holiday (unless it fell on a Sunday) that I didn't mind newspaper delivery. Sometimes, I'd even see lights come on people's living rooms and once in a great moon, family members outside checking out a gift...kinda neat!)

1993: Quite possibly the worst Christmas ever. Late Christmas Eve night, Robbie gets sick, catching a bug from his babysitter's house. The next day (12/26), Dad gets sick at work, and that afternoon, Mom gets sick at home. Brutal 24 hour bug, couldn't come at a worse time.

1994: A rough one for me as I was in the middle of a six-week "mysterious illness", that, in hindsight, I think was my initial bout with acid reflux disease with exhaustion thrown in there for good measure. Plus working Christmas Eve 6p-midnight, doing the paper route, and going back to work noon to 6pm Christmas Day didn't help matters either (that's what happens when you're short employees....)

1997: First Christmas with Rachel; she had a cold, and, as Robbie did at his first Christmas, loved paper and boxes and stuff.

2000: The Charlie Brown Christmas Tree: it began to die shortly before Christmas and was actually leaning in the corner of the great room on Christmas morning. We loved it just the same and put it out of its misery shortly thereafter. :)

2002: It began with trying to rest in a "cot" in Mama's hospital room; leaving the hospital after 6am, stopped at Wawa for a snack, and, still in my suit from Christmas Eve service the night before, walked in the house just in time to see the kids open presents. Then, while Mom took the kids to her Dad's house across town, I took a nap, then proceeded to work from 3pm to 11pm at the radio station, getting ahead on my work so I could spend time at the hospital the next day with my brother and his family, who were coming back from North Carolina after being up here the week before when Mama was admitted. I kept in contact with the hospital to make sure nothing happened to Mama and just worked away. Working is sometimes a wonderful release for me...kinda sad, huh? :)

I proceeded to spend Christmas night at the hospital, too, in the same old "cot". It's a wonder my snoring didn't take Mama out of her coma.....

So, now, Christmas #38 has come and gone. Most of all, whether good memories, tough times, or Christmases so "bland" I don't remember many details, I'm thankful for why there is a Christmas. And, in a society that, no matter what others may say, there is a definitive push on by some to make Christmas irrelevant in the public square save it be the best push for retail sales of the year, I'm proud to say, as my daughter did after we received our gifts this morning..."Happy Birthday Jesus."

Those three words say it all.

Merry Christmas everyone.


Thursday, December 23, 2004

Oh dear....halfway to 75??!!??

The thought hit me earlier's December 23rd, 6 months past my birthday, so that makes me....37 1/2.

Well, double that and you get....GULP.....75. I think of CBS being 75, or my grandparents when I was younger, it was never relevant to me! Well, age is nothing but a number anyway, so I'm movin' on. I do wonder, though, where there's a sale on JointRitis.....

Well, to celebrate that milestone halfway point....I....of course, worked all day. I never left the building between, what, 8:50am and 10:18pm, frantically getting spots ready for the holiday weekend, heck, even helping to get a spot ready to air in Orlando, Florida (a last-minute train wreck averted...).

I also really, really wanted to get a little ahead for next week, since it's, again, a four-day week, and, being the 13th month, so to speak, it's the week that salespeople are gone (YAY!!!) and we can do things like, throw out the '03 files, and get ready for the 05's (sounds like a car commercial...AND PASS THE SAVINGS ON TO YOU! AND WE'LL PAY OFF YOUR CURRENT LEASE OR LOAN NO MATTER HOW MUCH YOU OWE!!!!!!!)

It helps to hit the New Year in some semblance of order. You oughta see my desk right now....enough papers to represent 12 trees, plus the monitor, the speakers, the keyboard, the phone, and, of course, the box of Honey Comb cereal.......

I handed out Christmas gifts today to most of the crew (I'm still 2 short). Rodney got a kick out of getting the entire 14-episode life of "Greg The Bunny" on DVD, and, Gina likes her decanter that allows her to drink 5 beers in one sitting...yep, I saw that, and thought of her....:) Kim, of course, immediately started playing the Toby Keith CD.....

And so, the weekend ahead:

Tomorrow: Got an errand or two to run, then the kids head to Nana Norma's for the night, their first visit in 2 years (since Nana passed away). They're excited, and it really makes me happy. I'll probably drive 'em up there, and they'll return at some point Christmas morning (trust me, they aren't usually in a hurry to leave there!). Then, must get back to town to head to Prince George and Christmas Eve Candlelight Service, which, over the years, has become one of my favorite services (Maundy Thursday at Wayne's church being my absolute favorite).

Saturday: Open presents, eat cold cuts (why cook a huge dinner when only two of the four of us would eat??), and probably go see Fat Albert. Hey hey hey!!!

Sunday: Church in AM, revel in the glory that is "No Play Practice", come home and watch some football, and I gotta run to the station to appease my paranoia and make sure all commercials are in the computer and ready to air Monday.

And, heck, yes, I'll get a nap in somehow. :)

I was HORRIBLE this year regarding cards; I didn't do any. Time just didn't allow it (neither did my workload). So, I'll probably do what I did last year; do a "New Year" letter to family and friends with updates on the year past and yadda yadda yadda. I promise that this year's letter will be more uplifting than last year's funeral dirge. After reading the letter last year, no one would have wanted to live with us!! :)

So, that's my project for the weekend and beyond...that and planning strategy for losing 36 pounds in 2005. I've gained some weight lately (I think a new medicine did it and I've come off it), but I also know I'm in need of more water, less Mountain Dew, more salad, and more walking trips up and down Tavern Way.

3 pounds per month seems reasonable. It would put me down 27 pounds from now at the high school reunion next October (not that I'm vain or anything, but I would like to go without a "wide load" sign hanging from behind me), and 36 for the year.

Being back to under 200 next Christmas sounds good to me. I don't ever plan on returning to a 32 waist....but a 38 to 40 would do well at this point.

Is this too personal for public consumption? I guess not; I mean, take one look at me and you'll know a size 38 or 40 would suffocate me...hee hee.....

And it's all in the flippin' belly. Arms and legs? Fine. Fatter face? Yep, but that'll go. The stupid belly. I declare WAR on the stupid belly.....after the holidays of course. :)


REO Speedwagon: The Hits----just arrived in the mail the other day (my most recent EBay purchase to continue my quest to recover my old 80's music)....enjoying "Don't Let Him Go", and "Roll With the Changes", among others....


December 23, 2002: The night I was mad at cancer. After working, I went to the hospital to check on Mama, and that night's emotion was anger. If cancer had been a 7 foot, 500 pound monster outside the hospital room door, I would have beaten the living crap out of it.

December 23, 1987: "Am I really about to do this???" I was 24 hours away from proposing. Maybe tomorrow night on the Christmas Eve edition of Witham history, I'll give you the Reader's Digest version of my "proposal plot".

December 23, 1989--1996: Getting ready to, or starting, the dreaded 15 minute music blocks of holiday favorites, sponsored by whomever. My eight years of programming an "all-Christmas music format" (long before it became the rage in radio), pretty much killed my affection for most Christmas music. Chipmunks? Charlie Brown? Waitresses? Silent Night on Christmas Eve? Yep. Bing Crosby? Rockin Around the Christmas Tree? FORGET IT.

And whatever happened to Good King Wenceslas anyway?

This time tomorrow night, Santa will be in the Catskills, and I pray I'm either a) blogging, or b) snoring. :)

Good night!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

T-Minus 3 Days....

...Christmas is still Saturday, right? I've been in such a zone of work that I don't feel so "Christmas-ey", even after doing the Christmas play at church last night.

Oh, by the way, the play went well....very few gaffes, we were all happy. Thank God the public didn't see the 5:30 run-through, it was a disaster. I felt like I missed almost as many lines as I nailed. ARRGHH!

Okay, I'm past that....

Now, it's get all the work at the station done in order to "enjoy" a three-day weekend.....

Then, it's the kids off to see Nana Norma on Christmas Eve, then back in town to change and head to church for 6pm service. Oh, yeah, need a sermonette for that one, too. Check.

Then, it's Christmas, and we'll wait for the kids to get home to open presents, then, maybe some rest...especially after church Sunday. Football!!!!

What is today anyway? Oh, yeah, December 22nd....


December 22, 1986: I moved home. After almost 16 event-filled and historic months (beginning of radio career) in Lenox, Massachusetts, I returned to Richmond (and not Beaverdam....) and got used to apartment life and contemplated what in the heck I would do next, besides try to find a radio job! :)

December 22, 1999: Things (and commercial production) were winding down on Church Hill as we wrapped up work before the holiday at WRVA.

December 22, 2000: Things (like commercial production) were winding down on Basie Road as we wrapped up work before the holiday for all six stations and VNN.

December 22, 2002: My last "conversation" with Mama. I stopped by after running the paper route (what ended up being my final route delivery) to the hospital, left a newspaper, checked on her. She responded when I told her I had to go to church. I returned in the evening, she recognized my voice when I talked to Bonnie on the phone, and I helped her with a sip of water. That was our last conscious contact. I believe her last word to me was "uh-huh", as she affirmatively said she wanted a sip of water. And this day began the final week of Mama's life.

Okay---work like a dog Thursday, ship out kids and have church Friday, Christmas at home Saturday (with maybe a trip to see Fat Albert), church Sunday, and a nice long nap with football on the TV Sunday afternoon! :)

Night, folks!

Monday, December 20, 2004

T-Minus 5 Days 'til.....

Various thoughts pouring onto a keyboard on this December 20th:

--I haven't broken out my Christmas CD yet to enjoy my favorite "non-Bethlehem" Christmas tune, Christmas Wrapping by the Waitresses. I had no idea until watching a VH1 show several months ago that Patty Donahue had died of cancer at the young age of 40. This song places me right back in high school, the days of counting down 'til Christmas break! Heh heh, those days are gone.....that's where I live now....

--Our play practice marathon went, I thought, pretty well, considering how far behind the curve I was and the horror stories I had heard about practices the previous Sunday and Thursday. The 2nd run-through went much better....if we can survive scene six, we'll be just fine. So, tomorrow night is the's a look at how another church did the play we did in '03.....yep, we done good enough last year to do us what dey call a see-quill.....:)

--The kids are over with day one of Christmas Break (we don't call it "winter break" 'round here!), and Robbie was the first to declare boredom around 1pm today. That was not a smart move....

--Bonnie and the kids went to see "National Treasure" and raved about it, especially the kids. Robbie wants to see that Lemony thing....while I, honestly, want to see Fat Albert. Casting Kenan Thompson as Fat Albert is perfect, and it's cool that Cosby in it, too. I don't go to many movies, but this is one that captures my interest. Hope I'm not disappointed.

--My fantasy football team was eliminated from the playoffs last none other than MY WIFE! 56-55, the final score. She goes on to the semi-finals, while my all-time playoff record finally has a blemish. I'd never lost a playoff game, until this one.....but did it have to be to HER? (hee hee....)

--NICE SNOW! I had been in a "thunder-snow" one other time, on the newspaper route early one morning in 1996. One of the rarer and stranger weather events you'll experience. Last night reminded me of it. We see the lightning in the distance on the Varina-Enon bridge on I-295, comment on it, and move on, rolling at 65 mph toward home in our SECOND loaner van (that's another story....), when, right after the I-64/Airport exit, the wall hit...literally.

I realized quickly I've got to slow down and FAST! I went off cruise, from 65, down to 50, and within probably a minute, down to 15 mph, and the road, during that time, had disappeared. Thus began a crawl through some of the heaviest snow you'll see, or, should I say, not see through. Visibility was horrible. After about five to seven miles, things got better, but it was still snowing very well, and the wind had picked up significantly, so 35-40 mph was the choice of the moment.

We ended up with an inch of snow, some icy roads this morning, and some cold temperatures. Heck, I even wore long pants and a coat to work today! :)

Time for: This date in Witham History!

December 20, 1986: My next to last day in Massachusetts, and I met a dream girl. Honest! I was up late all the time, either working at the radio station, or talking with my friend Mike, the overnight guy, so I'd listen to the radio lots after midnight, and I fell in love with the voice of FLY-92's overnight girl, Mary Sinclair. She sounded awesome. Finally, one night, Mike, Brett (another DJ friend), and I actually got on three extensions at the station and we called her. Had a wonderful conversation, and set a date for breakfast. So the three of us pile into the Chevette and headed to Albany, meeting Mary for breakfast. It was a wonderful time; I was glad to get to meet her before I moved back south....

December 20, 2002: The last time I would see Mama in lucid conversation. This was a Friday. She spent Saturday unconscious and I last spoke to her Sunday. Six days later, she left us. My brother and I, and the kids, took a break from the dread by taking in a Richmond Renegades game in the evening.

So this day brings good and bad memories....don't they all?

Good night. :)

Friday, December 17, 2004


The first-ever NCAA Football title of any kind to come to the Old Dominion belongs to the Dukes of James Madison University, taking out Montana tonight, 31-21, in the Division I-AA title game (you know, a Division where they determine the champion ON the field and still have time to take exams....)



No, CBS News is NOT culpable here....

They re-ran Rudolph tonight (great move!), until....the end.

They CUT OFF Sam The Snowman in favor of some "tribute" video over credits on the side of the screen with what looked like Claymation figures of Destiny's Child.


No Santa Claus with "Merry Christmas!!" at the end.

I shake my head at CBS; another poor decision.

Do you honestly think they'll make the right call with the anchor chair?

I've got it.....HERMIE! Evening News and dental tips!

Besides....liberal leaning news wonks would be easier to take if they at least helped me floss better....


What is up with this???

The top story on the 6pm news in Richmond tonight is the possibility of FLURRIES on Sunday night, over 48 hours away!!


Let's see....Governor proposing raises for state workers and teachers, Mayor-elect Wilder going off on City Council, major high school football recruit suffers 3rd degree burns, and we lead off the newscast with....


When I was a kid, they only talked about snow if it was REALLY going to snow.

This is nuts. But that's life in the "Doppler Five Million" world of 2004-05.....

Wednesday, December 15, 2004


Been a few days, so a few quick thoughts to let the world know I'm alive.....

--You know it's not an exceptional week when a haircut is the highlight...up to this point. (Though I commend the lady who gave me the 1 1/2 all the way tonight, I can feel the cold air on my scalp, it's great!)

--The kids are READY for school to let out for Winter, ah, scrap that, CHRISTMAS vacation. Mom's ready, too. :)

--The best TV show of the season was on tonight: Santa Claus Is Coming To Town!!!

--The van is STILL on repair to a Ford dealer (Ford....should have known!!!) We get our second loaner tomorrow. Hope it's not a Geo Prism.


Moody Blues: Long Distance Voyager


Margaret Becker: Falling Forward

Will be listening to Margaret soon, easily one of the best, and most prolific singer/songwriters anywhere.


December 15, 1989: Shoveling, picking, digging.....out of a major ice and snow storm. It was so cold that December that the snow and ice remained on the ground quite awhile. Made for an interesting paper route for quite some time, but it sure made it feel more like Christmas (the 1st Christmas in our 2nd apartment!)

Peace be unto you! No, not peas....peace!

Friday, December 10, 2004

Who wears shorts? I wear shorts!!

I finally realized something today....since I'm one of probably only 12 people (other than football coaches) in the Richmond area to still be wearing shorts daily, I should pay more attention to the looks I get while I'm in public, say, at the grocery store.

I'm in Ukrop's this AM after taking the kids to school, quickly getting Rachel's lunch to take back to Greenwood, and as I'm leaving, I saw a lady look at me strangely. Could be because of the blue "lunch bag" I still use to hold my stuff (first out of habit, now because my shoulder condition has worsened), but I predict it has more to do with my fashion.

God gave me a furnace and a half when He made me. Not hot-tempered, I'm talkin' physical temperature. I'm always warm, always. In our office at work, which I share with three wonderful ladies (they have to be wonderful to put up with me!), they are constantly cold, using jackets, coats, even blankets! I, every day, start my morning in the office by....turning on my fan. I'm sure I would adore attending the Late Show with David Letterman, since he purportedly has his studio kept at a balmy 56 degrees. :)

So, as long as it's over 40 degrees when I leave in the morning (known as the "over 40" rule), the shorts go with me. It's nice to be able to be comfortable after years of shirts and ties.

The "thunderstorm" I referenced last night (or earlier this morning actually) was wild! One thunder clap shook the house, and I cannot believe no one woke up in this house! So, I enjoyed it, and, as I went to bed around 2am, I listened to the fading storm as the sleep apnea machine took over the audibility (is that a word??)

And on this date.....

December 10, 1999---I celebrated one month at WRVA on historic Church Hill by working my rear off getting more and more Christmas commercials ready for the final push!

December 10, 1986---(Historian's note: I believe 12/10 to be the date, as I believe this was done on a Wednesday...)

Continuing my edict of "spend as much time with my college friends as possible", Sharon Gathings and I had dinner together at the steakhouse between Pittsfield and Lenox, that, I understand, later burned down. Sharon was the sweetest lady (she was from North Carolina, what did you expect??); she let me use her car several times to get to the radio station for work, she was so caring and down to earth. I have no idea where she is today, but I look forward to hearing her story when we're reunited in the Kingdom. Whoever chose her for a wife was blessed.

December 10, 1983---The final performance of "A Christmas Carol", my junior year at PHHS. This would be the one time I'd attend a post-wrap party that was not handled by the Drama Director or another responsible adult. I actually wasn't planning to go; I took my girlfriend at the time home after we ate, and someone came into the restaurant looking for a friend of ours. I ended up stopping by the party before going home to look for aforementioned person....yikes. Can you say lots of booze? Oh, and there's so and so and so and so making out in the next room with the window shade wide open so I can see them from the outside! Party! Heh, heh....I remember someone was recording the main conversation and asked me if I wanted to I would do to a one-way ticket to Siberia, I declined.

I'm very glad I didn't get caught up in that scene in high school. NO, I wasn't perfect and had plenty of behavior faults, but did successfully navigate around the "pre-frat party" scene.

Well, off to the weekend...first sleep! Then visitors, and a long day at church on Sunday (Sunday School, church, go get lunch, Bonnie goes to ladies cookie swap while I hope to visit a shut-in parshioner and share communion) then back to church by 530 for play practice, where I hope I know at least two lines.....

And I hear a rumor that there's football on Sunday....I'll catch up on that late Sunday night.....

December 9 Musings early on December 10th...

Well, that's what happens when the best laid plans of mice and men go awry...

Rather than pull the long day at work straight through, I had to stop, pick up the kids, and take Robbie to his choral concert at Brookland tonight. Mom was the designated taker, but she's sick now! Three out of four of us, and I do NOT have time to be sick, so that's that!

So, back to the office at 845pm, out at 1240am, and it's now December 10th....

....but about December 9th....

Each year, growing up, I arbitrarily, in my head, determined December 9th was the perfect day to put up the Christmas tree. We never did the "grab the tree as soon as the turkey dinner is over on Thanksgiving" charade.

16 days 'til Christmas, enough time to enjoy the tree, not enough time to grow weary of it. Most years the night can be set aside to focus solely on the tree (and of course, stringing the lights around my bedroom window...)

Now, the real question here......why December 9th?

After many years to reflect (though I didn't), I can only come up with one possible answer....

I have absolutely no idea.


Ah, a thunderstorm has just arrived in Glen Allen--there's nothing like going to sleep to the sound of thunder rumbling...and, in my case, accompanied by a sleep apnea machine and two fans.

You're right...I hate trying to sleep in complete silence.

Speaking of sleep, I gotta get up in 5 1/2 hours.


PS---I forgot to mention two songs on my list from last night's ride home...

Your Wildest Dreams and I Know You're Out There Somewhere, both from, of course, the Moody Blues.

Why do I keeping saying Genesis is my favorite band? Couldn't tell from these latest posts.....

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Rupert and the Railroad Track

This post is about as "inside" as inside gets. I doubt anyone in the world reading this will "get it", (especially the title) but it's worth noting nonetheless.

Just to say I made it through an anniversary today, and I'm still ticking! :)

My thanks to the following songs which made the drive home from prayer group at church tonight memorable:

Good For Me and I Will Remember You--Amy Grant

Go Now, Tuesday Afternoon, Nights in White Satin, Story in Your Eyes---Moody Blues

Way Late and Wishes---Out of the Grey

I'm Just A Singer in a Rock 'n Roll Band---Moody Blues

Now that's a 50 minute jam to go home by!

Tomorrow....why was December 9th a good day to put up a tree??

Monday, December 06, 2004

This week...way back when! :)

Busy times of year will inevitably bring up other busy years at this same time, and the events which took place....

1994: We're a week and a half into the "mysterious illness" of 94-95...starting Thanksgiving night and continuing almost every night 'til just after New Years, I'd feel sick, and never got sick.
Each day was the same; get up, do papers, go to work, get off the air at 6pm, and either on the way home or after getting home, I'd start to feel sick. Many evenings were spent not with my 2 year old, but sitting at the feet of the porcelain...well, you know...just waiting for the inevitable (and anyone who knows me can tell you, I'm pertrified of three things, snakes, bodies of water, and throwing up, and not necessarily in that order!)

...yet it would never happen. Looking back, I think acid reflux was beginning to rear its ugly head then, combined with exhaustion (we were several people short on staff at the radio station. I remember working Christmas Eve night, Christmas afternoon, and New Years Eve night that year. As January got underway, I got better, happy to say! :)

1986: I had made my decision weeks earlier to return to Virginia, even before my college announced its closing. So I did not take a class in December, and spent those last few weeks in Massachusetts spending time with friends I may never see again (and in almost all cases so far, I was right). Beth, a senior that year (thankfully the college made arrangements to finish out their year), and I headed out to see Fievel in "An American Tail", and of course, in a pre-cursor to the blubbery tub of emotional goo I've apparently become, I cry at "Somewhere Out There". It was because that song precisely described my fears about leaving Massachusetts, all my friends, and an incredible first radio job, and coming home to complete uncertainty as to future direction....well, that, and the usual 19 year old's wondering of relationships to come, and what would become of my life in that arena, too.

By the way, I still cry at "Somewhere Out There". Of course, I'm not surprised the theme to "Hannity and Colmes" hasn't brought me to tears by now....:)

1984: As mentioned last night, night one of my first senior year drama production, "Our Town". It was drama that really "broke me through" in high school. I never wanted to be "popular", but respected certainly was appreciated, and after doing "The 1940's Radio Hour" in 1983, people who usually had no interest in me were suddenly complimenting my performance, while other people who I didn't think would be my friend were becoming so. It wasn't because I was some great actor (yeah, right!)...I certainly hope it was I was found to be consistent, somewhat transparent, and halfway decent to be around. Like I said, popularity was never my bag (neither were trends, fashion or otherwise...I wanted to kill every Izod Alligator with my bare hands..), but I'm the type of person who can never have enough friends. I just love to know people.

So, that's one reason why I look back on drama in high school so fondly. It helped me w/self-esteem and socially, too. And by the way, being the "Manager" in Our Town, that meant TONS of lines, which, I never totally learned (I had a script backstage all 3 nights, the sheer number of lines were brutal!!)

1981: 9th grade and full of angst over why I couldn't win over the girl of my dreams.....when would I ever learn?? :)

This pursuit was almost a year old now. We ended up never dating, but now, 23 years later, we're like brother and sister, I performed her marriage ceremony, and she remains one of my few contacts from back in my school days. Ginny, you rock! :)

And a year ago today, being a Saturday....I was probably napping.

Why am I like Sherman and Peabody in the way-back machine?? We'll just see where we go.....


I must make a public confession. I actually enjoy a Hillary Duff song. There. I said it. I can't deny it. I feel better.

"Party Over" is the song; I think it's from Metamorphosis, which Rachel proudly owns. It's got a good guitar lick, fine hook, and great chant-along lines of "nah-nahs". Right down bubble gum alley, and you know, a bubble gum tune ain't so bad once in a while...(right, Toni Basil??)

Sunday, December 05, 2004

October 28, 2004, early in the morning

Tonight, before heading to bed, is a good time to reflect upon my first-ever solo trip to Mama's gravesite I've mentioned a few times, on her 66th birthday.

Any other time I had gone there since the funeral, my kids were with me (normally it was a Saturday morning when Mom was at work). I, this time, really wanted to go myself, experience it myself, and have time alone.

So, I left the house just after 630am, cut the back way to just west of Ashland, and headed up 54/33 for Louisa. As poetic justice would have it, just as I passed Cuckoo (where Mama lived), I got behind, you guessed it, a Louisa County school bus. Mama drove a bus in Louisa for the better part of 30 years. Needless to say I did not mind following it. When it did turn off 33, it was onto 605, a road that was part of Mama's route for years. Thus commenced the first round of tears. The irony was overwhelming, and appreciated.

It was "after" sunrise upon my arrival at graveside, and I got out and walked to the site. Thus commenced the second round of tears, as Mama and I held a conversation, did what I would do when she was here on Earth, which was, tell her 'bout the battles I was facing and how life had been, was, and maybe would be. I distinctly remember rubbing the tombstone with my thumb. On the top, the rock was so rough, with tiny peaks and valleys, even positions of sharpness. Then, on the front, protected by a sheet of material, it was as smooth as silk. It reminded me of the ups and downs of our 35 year mother-son relationship, and it reminds me now of the ups and downs of life circa late 2004; questions unanswered, struggles continuing, victories enjoyed, and even some "Why nows?", as opposed to the more popular "Why?".

It was funny, actually; two workers were pulling out the tractors for a morning of lawn work, and I think they stopped when they saw me there, out of respect. So, about that time, I figured I'd better be going, so they could work, and I could head back to Richmond and the work ahead of me that day. I left a drawing Rachel made of two of her favorite dogs; Clifford and Blue, inside a birthday wreath previously placed there.

And that was it.....

Of course, a trip that far northwest had to be complimented by a swing through the old homestead, so we go "the back way" out of Mineral, through Fredericks Hall, Buckner and Bumpass (it's funny, some parts of that trip look different now, while other parts look as if time has stood still from 27 years ago, when I took that road to spend weekends with Mama), and eventually into good ol' Beaverdam. I passed the old Francisco store feeling sympathy for his family, knowing Mr. Francisco had just passed away recently. I passed the old parsonage, noticing that the new owners had indeed begun working on repairing the place, and had even placed a big shed around about where home plate used to be in the back yard.

They also had a "Bush-Cheney '04" sign in the front yard, so now you know I'm their fans! :)

Eventually we wound our way back into Ashland, and the traditional back way (Route One? Nah!!!) to today's home, Glen Allen. Switch cars, and me and the Cougar head off to work. Lots done on that day, and it was before 10am!

That will most likely be an annual pilgrimage for as long as I can manage it. Mother's Day is hard, because there are presently living mothers to celebrate and it's on a Sunday (kind of a busy day for me!). So, I look to October 28th and December 28th now in a way I never did until 2002. And on those days, until I pass, I will specially remember the woman who did more to shape me into who I am today than anyone else by far and away.....Mama.

And trust me, no day goes by without her on my mind, and, I feel, in my presence. And that's a good thing.....

This week upcoming holds special significance for me looking back on dates in my personal history, etc, as I am wont to do. I can't remember a name worth two cents, but there's a good chance I could tell you what I was doing, say, 20 years ago today. That would have been December 5, 1984, a Wednesday, the final dress rehearsal for the fall production of my senior year, Thornton Wilder's "Our Town". I'll look back on some here, some others privately, wonder where in the world the time has gone, wonder how those events helped make me who I am today, and maybe even what I can be doing now, so, with God's blessings, 20 years from now, I can look back on December 5, 2004 with good memories, too....

....except for the fact that I REALLY NEED to learn my lines for our church Christmas play. My brain completely shut down during practice tonight; it was embarrassing. :(

Thanks for listening, exit to your left, and come back soon for more blogging from Glen Allen, Va. Night! :)

Saturday, December 04, 2004

6 months since the Moody Blues? Already?

Took the kids down to church this morning so they could take part in putting up the Christmas tree (they love doing that!), while I took the time to spend over an hour studying my Christmas play lines, then spent the rest of my time cleaning (there's way too much "junk" in the building...and I thought I was a packrat!)

By the way, after Mom put up our tree, the kids did all the decorating last evening.....:)

Anyway, while at church today, I realized it's already been six months since I spent the evening in the mud, muck and rain enjoying the music of the Moody Blues live for the second time. The first time was in October, 1986 at the Civic Center in Springfield, Mass.
I was a sophomore in college at the time, got tickets through the radio station I worked for, and a friend of mine from college (who, at 36, could remember the Moody's whole career, as opposed to me, who got into their work with 1981's Long Distance Voyager), and I climbed into my vintage '79 Chevette (yes, I typed "vintage", stop snickering...) and headed on the Mass Pike east.

Great show, with one glaring exception. That night they had a group of, I think, 3 back-up girl singers. They were "too much a part" of the show. And the guys weren't hitting their notes well, either, prompting me to think, " that's why the ladies are there, to prop them up..."

No such thing in 2004. 18 years later, and they sounded incredible! One member has retired, so a young lady has joined them doing some back-up singing, and playing the flute (which she did brilliantly). On their opening song, "Lovely To See You Again", she added to the song with her wonderful voice; a complete 180 from the distraction of the women's group back in Springfield.

I didn't mind sitting with an umbrella over my head all night trying to find a place with 4 blades of grass remaining. They did almost every one of my favorites, and, in a surprise, I didn't cry the entire concert. I've cried so much the last several months over events, things, people in my life, it makes me wonder if I've invented some sort of continuous male PMS or something.....

In a word---WOW. The Moody Blues were awesome, 35 plus years since their debut. And, trust me, if they come back near Richmond one more time, I'll be there, especially if they do a full concert with a symphony orchestra. They have combined with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra of Norfolk to do concerts in Virginia Beach. I'm hoping they'll do it one more time...'cuz if they do, wild horses will NOT keep me from being there. I cannot imagine hearing "Nights In White Satin" live and with a full orchestra. I'll melt, I just know I will.


There. I feel better now.

From that aforementioned "Long Distance Voyager" project, I leave you with part of the chorus of track six....

"22,000 days....22,000 days....'s not's all you got....
22,000 this time feel the flow...
and get it right."

I'm glad I invested this day kids had a blast, I made the church look a little more presentable, I thought of dear friends, shed a tear, ate a great meal at a favorite restaurant, and got to blog.

All that, AND Virginia Tech won the ACC. Good Saturday, indeed!

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Live Coverage: Rudolph!

I'm back...finally!!! A great time to blog, as I enjoy Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The kids just don't understand why Dad has to watch Rudolph when it comes on TV when we have the video.


They didn't grow up with four channels, no VCR and ONE chance a year to see the show (and I was RIPPED when we had the Christmas program at school the same night Rudolph came on.)

By the way, all that being said: my 3 favorite Christmas Shows:

3) Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
2) A Charlie Brown Christmas
1) Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

(and yes, it's true---when I was young, I had a crush for Jessica, the schoolteacher, who, of course later became Mrs. Claus, and did the same thing I did after marrying...we both...ah, became more robust.)

UPDATE: 815pm: We Are Santa's Elves in Elf Practice. Santa gives it two thumbs down and hurries out of room.

What's been going on since my last post (embarrassingly two weeks ago..)? Well, we made it through Thanksgiving without a scratch. The dinner was at Bonnie's sister's house in Mechanicsville, with Bonnie and both her sisters, their hubbies, Bonnie's Mom (the dreaded mother-in-law) and all 8 kids. I focused on eating turkey and watching Peyton Manning.

UPDATE: 817pm: Hermie's busted!! "Why weren't you at elf practice?!?"

Friday was, well, sleep the morning away, then the kids and I went to brave the cold and the crowd at the Division 6 Regional High School Football Championship between Robbie's future high school, Hermitage, and the defending champs, LC Bird. Let's see, we get in one LONG line, only to get close to the gate and find out that line was only for ticketholders. Of course, we DID NOT have tickets yet, so to the back of another line to buy tickets, then into a third line to get in. I'm thinking, they'll be no seats, who wants to watch the game sitting on the ground? (They have no visitors bleachers at this stadium).

When we finally got in, there were some seats at the very bottom of the bleachers--not conducive to watching the game (HEY, you second stringers on the sideline! Sit down--I can't see the action!!).
Robbie, though, got a big thrill when he saw his "first girlfriend". Quick explanation: when in kindergarten...


UPDATE: 821pm---The secret's out. On the next Montel: Rudolph Exposed!!--And why should his dad be ashamed?? Anyway....

Robbie, in kindergarten, had a crush on the 5th grade safety guard in the hallway at school outside his classroom door. Her name was Valerie. We even took a picture of them at the end of the year, and the next year, on her birthday, Robbie took a rose to her house (it was so cute...). So, now,

UPDATE: 822pm: WORST song of the show appears. We'll survive and live to see Yukon shortly....

So, now, Robbie's in middle school, and guess who's one of the conductors of the school band? Yep, Valerie, now a senior. So before we left, Robbie got her attention--it took her a second, then she recognized him; they talked a minute and he was very happy.
Now he's "moved on" to a girl named Emily that he talks to in the cafeteria in the AM before the first bell rings. He's even "mousseing" his hair every morning. Gosh, I never did that. Of course, I didn't have many steadys, either.....(any correlation?)

UPDATE: 825pm:
What do say we both be independent together!!
---Hermie, the classic dentist-to-be. Now, a song CUT OUT of the show for many years---actually, part of it aired, now they air the whole song. About time!

Rachel is sick. Yesterday she told Mom
It's boring being sick
. Her cough is horrible. She tried school today, and got picked up about 10am. Gotta hand it to her, she loves school and it takes alot for her to miss it. Hope she stays that way!!!

We've been a van short for three days, and don't begin to ask about the wonderful (tongue-in-cheek) job CarMax has done, what with apathetic personnel and people who can't seem to order the right part....and it's still in the shop, so the Cougar has been spotted everywhere! Schools, work, the orthodontist, you name it. I'm proud of my baby!

Let me go back to high school football a minute: Patrick Henry finished their season at 7-3 for the 3rd straight year (will they go 7-3 every year I broadcast their games??), finishing in a disgusting quagmire at JR Tucker November 5th. Let me set the scene:

RAIN, RAIN, RAIN---all day long. Usually a no-brainer, Henrico postpones Friday football. But THIS week, there's a game pitting two 9-0 teams on the last week of the season; they've already sold out the 4,000 tickets to the game, and I guess they were bound and determined to play that game. The rule in Henrico is, one school can't cancel something, either the county does, or the games/events go on.

UPDATE: 831pm: YUKON APPEARS!!! SILVER AND GOLD!!!!---I miss Burl Ives, great voice.

So, Henrico doesn't cancel games, the big battle in the east end goes on, but so does two other games in the West End, including Patrick Henry and JR Tucker. Now, it's senior night at Tucker, and it's POURING rain. Honestly, the ONLY people at the field that night were those of us in the press box, police, the ticket takers, the teams, the seniors in the band and cheerleaders, and the parents of seniors. That's it. Period.

So, JR Tucker gets the shaft--since most of a school's athletic budget money is collected at their five home football games. Low ticket sales, hardly any concession sales, I'm sure. Programs? Forget it.....

Douglas Freeman had the same problem with their senior night against Deep Run.

Let it be known how UNFAIR it was for the County to play that night just because of one game, ruining the senior nights of dozens of kids and their families at two other schools in the process.

Now, for IRONY: the home team in that "big game" won, thereby winning their District title and a home game in the first round of the playoffs. One problem, though. By the following Wednesday, they realized their football field had been torn up so horribly in the rain game, they couldn't play the playoff game on it on Friday.
So, they move the game to Lee-Davis High, which isn't even in Henrico County! Varina plays all year to win a title, and get home field advantage in the playoffs. One decision causes them to lose home field, and, you guessed it---they lost on the neutral field.

UPDATE: 836pm: Charlie in the house!!!! These misfits should have been in my Sears Wish Book years ago; I'd have played with a Charlie in the Box!!

So, props to Robbie's school for an 11-1 season, to PH for coming so close (they score in OT against Hermitage, and PH could have been in the playoffs instead of Hermitage), and to my broadcast partner Stubby Price, who continues his career foundation-building at the Herald-Progress. He's great to work with, and an NC State fan. What more could I ask for? Free Mountain Dew, maybe, but other than that....

UPDATE: 838pm: Watch out for the shooting jelly!!!

Moving is work. Church is church. Interesting developments at both places, and of course, a blog is no place to expound upon them.....:)

My shoulder---yikes. The past day or so it's felt like the bone has moved. My "bump" seems to have grown to "two bumps" side-by-side. So, I'm back to Dr. Goradia next Tuesday to see what's up (pardon the pun). I can't do another surgery....AAHHH!!!!!

On the elementary school front, we helped Rachel's teacher make it to the "Turkey Pageant Court" at school. They did a can drive for Thanksgiving, and the teacher whose class collected the most in each grade got on the Court. Then the top three teachers moved to the "finals", a la Miss America, then the "Turkey Queen" was crowned. It was a wonderful event! Mrs Smith (our principal) said it had been done at her former school for years--I'm glad she brought it to Greenwood. By the way, a first-year school collected 2,821 cans of food. I was impressed!

ALTERNATE UPDATE: 843pm: Fat Albert on the Big Screen---Kenan was a great choice.

And, we're still "out" of PTO festivities, choosing to volunteer in the classroom (me) and in the office (Bonnie). It's so sad when politics and personal agendas ruin things like a simple parent-teacher group. Enough said.

UPDATE: 845pm: Rudolph's voice!! What happened? Puberty took less than 45 minutes!!

I will blog on my trip to Mama's gravesite on her birthday (as promised) but in a separate post, for respect purposes. It would diminish her a bit to do it here, although, ironically, my last real conversation with Mama took place Friday night, December 13th, 2002, shortly after Rudolph aired on TV that year. Why do I remember bits and details of information like that? I'll never know....and I'm horrible with names to boot!

Ken Jennings----he quit. How do you NOT know H&R Block??? I didn't know Fed Ex let their drivers operate without white-collar executives 8 months a year....anyway, my theory is: 75 was a round number, 2.5 million was, too, and his wife wanted him home. Most people at work thought the same thing.

I'm sorry Nancy turned around and lost tonight; she was a cool winner

Tom Brokaw---he steps down. I watched it (as I watched Cronkite's final broadcast March 6, 1981) and he left gracefully, focusing on people that obviously has profoundly affected him, and should affect all of us, too. Liberal, yeah, but his was a very classy exit.

UPDATE: 850pm: Hermie gets first appointment, Yukon returns, and bumbles bounce!!!!!" Santa finds his needed 47 pounds in the closet, rues the day he allowed the elf union to get permission to let them sing, and now reluctantly cancels Christmas...well, at least the last point will change....

Next, Dan Rather. Good riddance. Ironically, if I'm at work and am gonna "listen" to one of the big 3 news shows, it's CBS. Don't know why, maybe it's because CBS is on Channel 6 here in Richmond, so its audio is also available on 87.7 FM.

If CBS was smart (and I wouldn't count Moonves out here from doing something this radical), they would hire to people under age 40, one man, one woman---they'd ditch the "desk" for an "ET" type studio (except more stately for news coverage, as opposed to glitz coverage), make the music theme very contemporary, and go after my generation and younger. Another 47 year old white guy anchoring in the same room as his predecessor won't cut it. NBC just did it, ABC's holding on to its French-Canadian view of the news fronted by Peter Jennings, so why not take the chance to re-invent the tiring format of evening news so 25-49 year olds might care about it. One reason why Fox News is so popular, I believe, is their fast pace and "fast-looking" presentation (watch Shep on the Fox Report and you'll see what I mean).

Shepard Smith and Allison Stewart?

How about Shepard Smith and Soledad O'Brien?

UPDATE: 856pm: Another crushing Christmas Eve on the island of Misfit Toys (they weren't cast in "Lost", either...), but WAIT, WAIT!!! Stop dreaming about next year, Charlie!! IT SURE IS!! IT'S SANTA!!! Life will never be the same (I hear Charlie, sadly, ended up in Sid's house from Toy Story....)

Final thought: Santa's "Merry Christmas" at the end of this always gave me a good shiver; like a "make-me-cry" shiver. Gee, like I need to cry any more than I do.....

Back to the dream teams:

Russ Mitchell and Julie Chen (if they want to keep it in the CBS family--except Julie's Big Brother ties probably rule her out)

Russ Mitchell and Lara Logan (Lara--easy on the eyes, and LOVE the accent!)

People NOT to consider:

---Anyone over 50
---John Roberts (too vanilla)
---Lester Holt (he sounds like he's yelling all the time)
---Tim Russert (why is he a popular choice? He's NOT an anchorman, he's precisely where his skills fit him at Meet the Press and with political analysis.)
---Anderson Cooper
---Aaron Brown


--Andrea Koppel (CNN)
--Liz Cho (formerly ABC, now on local news in New York)
--Campbell Brown (NBC--Richmond TV alumnus)
--the ghost of Edward Murrow (he'd work cheap and he's already in the building, according to Dan....)

Don't bring anyone from 60 Minutes over. I'd rather see Bob Schieffer take it over for a few years than a 60 Minutes retread or another 47 year-old white guy. Honest. Did you compare CBS' Election Night Coverage with the other networks? Here's my take on that night:

CBS: catered to 65-to-grave demographic; could have run truck through conversation and analysis; broadcast would have been 1984.

ABC: were they on timeout for being too loud or something? Seemed subdued (maybe they knew the inevitable was coming), and, actually, a little graphic-starved in the studio.

NBC: WOW! They knew what to do--get out with the people; hire guys to change electoral vote numbers to higher floors of a building; use the ice rink; heck, even Tim got a hi-tech white board. Far and away the best technical coverage. Poor Tom Brokaw, though; sounded like he was announcing a funeral when he called Ohio for Bush. :)

CNN: TOO MANY graphics. Seemed like CNBC, not CNN (and not because they were at NASDAQ). Then, they went completely the other way, from loud graphics and too much "stuff" to CBS-like commentary from the likes of Larry King (why was he even there???)

FOX: Brit, your time has come...and gone. Brit is NOT an anchor, period. Never has been. Good host for a program like the one he has nightly, but he should NOT anchor election night coverage. He stammered all night, and the Fox News coverage was very "un-Fox like". No energy at all. Meanwhile, on the Fox Network, there's Shepard Smith (who SHOULD have been Fox News' anchor). If you're only going to do 2 hours of coverage on FOX stations, just simulcast FNC for heaven's sake!

PMSNBC: Boards? Graphics? Ah, did they spend their election night budget on Jesse Ventura and Deborah Norville? Looked like another Hardball on the Road to me, though Joe Scarborough was on target throughout the night. Andrea Mitchell probably sobbed openly the next day in private, and Dee Dee Myers saw her return to Washington postponed another four years.

So, there. Can't give you a better reason for CBS News to re-invent themselves, beginning with 630pm. 60 Minutes is left for the die-hards (and their staff is going to be going away, one way or another, very soon), and they can build on the new-ness, and in the meantime, make Brian Williams look like a Tom Brokaw wanna-be, and NBC's news look "so 90's".

Okay. Rudolph's over...I'll let you digest this one, and I'll be back later. Out!