Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christmas Carols

Do you have most and least favorite Christmas carols?

I do. My favorites are “The Christmas Carol” and “O Holy Night.” I never tire of hearing these songs, regardless of who performs them. Carrie Underwood did a version of O Hoy Night in her Christmas album that is fantastic. I also like the song “Santa Baby,” but I’m particular about the artist. I always thought after hearing the Eartha Kitt version that it should have been retired. Macy Gray changed my mind on that. There are also songs I don’t like. “Last Christmas” grates on me. I also don’t like Toyland, but that was because I always thought it sad. I never understood what it meant until I grew up.

My wife is fond of particular artists. She really likes Carrie Underwood and also the latest Christmas music from Glee. As for songs, The First Noel holds a special place in her heart. We were at my aunt’s in North Carolina and my wife saw a decoration or garnet and gold with the four letters: E-L-O-N. As it was Christmas, she rearranged the letters to spell “N-O-E-L.” My aunt laughed and then reminded my wife of her longtime association with Elon University and that the school’s colors are garnet and gold.

There’s a new song that got my goat over the weekend. It’s “Christmas Is” by Run DMC. My boys first heard the song in the movie “Jingle All The Way.” (It’s the background music that plays when Schwarzenegger goes into a back alley warehouse or bad Santas and hot children toys. It is a funny movie. How many movies do you know that pair Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sinbad?) I have the song on one of the Christmas CDs that I play in my car. The kids like the music.

However, my eight-year old has started picking up some of the lyrics.

I don’t have anything against Run DMC. And the lyrics aren’t dirty. It’s just that he now walks around the house rapping “Give up the dough. Give up the dough. Give up the dough on Christmas Yo.”

So I ask the same question as I started with.

What are your most and least favorite Christmas carols? I’d love to know.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Auburn vs. Alabama Recap

It’s a shame for a writer to say this, but I’m still at a loss for words.

I can’t find any superlatives that adequately describe Auburn’s win over Alabama.

I don’t know if I ever will.

When the game opened with Alabama scoring a TD, I thought it was business as usual. When Auburn went three-and-out, I thought about last year’s game when Auburn had opened up 14-0 lead early. In that game, Auburn stopped Alabama a second time and started with acceptable field position. Then Chris Todd missed two wide open receivers and allowed Alabama to catch its breath.

The same thing essentially happened here. Alabama faced a 4th-and 19 after a sack of McElroy.

And then the most bogus celebration penalty in the history of college football, designed to send Nick Fairley a message. The “message” resulted in another Alabama TD and a 21-0 first quarter score.

From there, I started thinking about another game, the one where Auburn jumped out with four straight scores and then cruised to victory. (The post-game quote from Brody Croyle was that Alabama won the final three quarters, still one of the stupidest post-game comments I’ve eve heard.)

But with Auburn having no first downs and Alabama continuing to drive, I actually had doubts.

It’s the reason I’m still in shock.

Prior to today, Auburn had come back from double digit deficits. Each time, though, they trailed at home. Today, they were down 24-0 in Bryant-Denny stadium to last year’s national champion, a team coached by the one of the best coaches in the game.

And Auburn could have folded. Two Alabama fumbles in the red zone took away probable Alabama scores.

After making it a 24-21 game and getting a crucial stop, Auburn could have lost it when Quindarius Carr fumbled after not calling for the fair catch. They held Alabama to a field goal and kept it down to one score difference. And then Auburn finally took the lead after that.

I was on the proverbial pins-and-needles after that. I kept hoping we’d get another score and get up eight points like we were against South Carolina. I knew we were one busted play from an Alabama FG. And, on the 25th anniversary of what is known as the kick, I didn’t want that.

And as the final whistle sounded, and with it an Auburn victory, I breathed a sigh and realized that the kick may be a good metaphor. For this win was a dagger that stabbed our arch rival.

But converting on 4th and 16 with less than a minute to go is a lot easier than coming back from 24-0.

This was simply the biggest Auburn Iron Bowl victory ever.
-> More important than Punt Bama Punt
-> More important than 1989.
-> More important than the 14-13 upset in 1949 after losing 55-0 the previous season and coming into the game a huge underdog.

Given the 24-0 deficit with what was on the line, no other Iron Bowl victory compares to this one for Auburn.

However, it could all be for naught.

Throughout 2010, Auburn has been good at finishing the game.

Now Auburn needs to finish the season.

War Eagle!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Scooter's Tale

We tossed out my 8-year old’s scooter last Tuesday.

It was a sad but necessary event, precipitated by a dark evening, a long commute, and a Dad’s one-time failure to see what toys were laying in the driveway on said dark evening.

So how could I miss a scooter you might be asking? Well, our driveway and garage are at an acute angle and my wife’s car is already in the garage when I get home. Given that it’s a tight turn and fit, I’ve always found it easier to back in via the driveway when I get home to park quickly in my spot in the garage.

Back to the now damaged scooter.

I brought my son outside to show him what happened, then reminded him of how often I’d warned him about leaving stuff in the driveway and that I’d run over something someday. Mad as I feared the car might have been damaged, I banished him to his room after dinner was over.

I examined the car and found it to be okay. No scratches that I could see and the tire hadn’t hit anything sharp. I then turned my attention to the scooter. It really was wrecked. The scooter’s platform was now at a worse angle than our driveway and garage. As I examined the scooter further, I wondered if its destruction wasn’t punishment enough.

The scooter had lived a good life. It had belonged to my older son and then passed to my younger one when my older son outgrew it. However, over a year ago it fell apart. (Two boys back-to-back. What toy stands a chance?) After leaving the pieces in the garage for several months, I received an ultimatum from my DW. Fix it or toss it.

I chose to fix it.

And my younger son was a happy boy. He rode it to the pool all summer, to his friends houses in the neighborhood, and always took it to the park when his brother had a baseball game. He especially liked taking it up a small hill in a cul-de-sac in our neighborhood, coming down as fast as he could. And yes there were a few mishaps and scrapes along the way. Fortunately, nothing broken.

So, with those memories in mind, I considered repairing it again. My wife delivered another ultimatum. Either fix it or throw it by the next time the garbage is picked up. She didn’t want to see the pieces sitting in the garage again for several more months.

I thought about ways to repair it but eventually concluded bending metal was a bit beyond me and the tools I had. I placed it out with the garbage Monday evening to be taken away on Tuesday morning.

On Tuesday morning, I took my son to school. The scooter was gone when I returned.

I went in the house and told my wife. “The scooter’s gone.”

“Of course, the trash people picked it up.”
“No, the scooter’s gone. The trash hasn’t been picked up yet. Someone with the ability to fix that thing took it.”
“Oh. Good. I’d rather somebody use it than it get tossed into a landfill.”

I agreed.

And I smiled at the thought of another little boy getting as much joy out of that scooter as my sons had.

So has anyone reading this ever had similar incidents to the above? Have you run over a treasured toy? Has someone taken stuff from your garbage because they could use it? I’d love to hear about it.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

When Love and Football Collide

I normally try to keep my posts here and my posts on my football blog separate. The two don’t intersect too often

This past weekend was the exception.

Having turned my kids into Auburn fans, I need to take them to an Auburn game when the chance arises. On this most recent Saturday, it did. The boys were excited. It was their first time to attend a game since the contest against Washington State in 2006.

They weren’t disappointed.

Neither was I

We arrived in Auburn on a Friday evening and headed to the massive tailgate across from the art museum. My cousin Katherine had an RV set up amongst the sea of RVs near campus and planned to hang out there for the weekend with her son and some good friends. We gorged ourselves on hot dogs and chips before calling it, heading out to my cousin’s place where we spent the night. It took awhile for my kids to finally relax. (My cousin has a pool table. There was no way they weren’t going to play a couple of games.) Finally, they nodded off to sleep and allowed my wife and me to do the same.

As Saturday unfolded, I admit I had more on my mind than just the game. (There’s the scandal involving Auburn’s QB that has kept my attention.) However, none of it came close to just being able to watch a game with my boys. We headed to the tailgate where my wife would spend the afternoon with my cousin and her friends. (My cousin had no plans to attend the game. She just likes tailgating.) And when kickoff became two and a half hours away, I knew it was time for the boys and I to go.

Now I know that sounds like a long time. We were only a thirty minute walk from the stadium at best. But, it’s one thing to go to a game. It’s another to soak in the atmosphere.

One particular tradition I wanted to share with my boys was Tiger Walk. Approximately two hours prior to the game, the football team walks from the athletic dorm to the stadium. The cheerleaders are there. A subset of the band is there. And thousands of fans line the path. My younger son in particular wanted to see two people: Aubie (the Auburn mascot) and Cam Newton.

He got to do both. As the picture below shows, he got to meet Aubie.

And, as the players walked through the crowd, he low-fived Cam Newton, the man whose smile will one day grace toothpaste commercials on all the networks.

From there, we headed to Toomer’s Drugs for lemonade, another Auburn tradition. Though a souvenir shop now, it was a pharmacy for many years. Inside the place, I took them to the back of the store and showed them the picture on the wall of their great-great uncle, Mac Lipscomb, who bought the business from Mr. Toomer himself and ran it for decades before retiring.

And then we went to the game.
When it comes to college football, the only thing better than watching a big game is watching it with your children. To enjoy their fascination as the eagle flies out and lands at mid-field, to enjoy their anticipation as the band takes the field, and then enjoy their amazement as jets do a flyover during the National Anthem.

“Dad, that was loud,” my son said.

“I could only smile back and agree.

With a victory, we celebrated and then headed back to the park to meet my wife and head home to Atlanta. For the second time in two nights, I tried to get the kids to get over their excitement and get some sleep. And for the second time in two nights, I failed miserably.

I know my kids won’t forget this trip.

Neither will I.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Auburn vs. Georgia Recap

Posting later than usual today. It was a late night. Instead of watching the game on TV, I traveled with the fam to Auburn to see the team in person, taking my excited boys to their first Auburn game in awhile.

They weren’t disappointed.

Neither was I

We arrived Friday evening and headed to the massive tailgate across from the art museum. My cousin Katherine had an RV set up amongst the sea of RVs and planned to hang out there for the weekend with her son and some good friends. We gorged ourselves on hot dogs and chips before calling it, heading out to my cousin’s place where we spent the night.

Of course, while I was there, I followed the latest news on the Cam Newton saga. Supposedly, a source claimed that Cecil admitted to talking with Mississippi State about money. Another unnamed source. Another story with accusations. Everybody claims their source is reliable. The problem is you don’t know who to believe anymore.

But as Saturday unfolded, I was reminded of, as the creed goes, why I believe in Auburn and love it.

From taking my son’s to Tiger Walk where they high-fived with Aubie and low-fived with Cam to a Toomer’s lemonade where I showed them the picture on the wall of their great-great uncle, Mac Lipscomb, who bought the business from Mr. Toomer himself and ran it for decades before retiring. I re-introduced my sons to the Auburn I loved.

And then we went to the game.

When it comes to college football, the only thing better than watching a big game is watching it with your children. To enjoy their fascination as the eagle flies out and lands at mid-field, to enjoy their anticipation as the band takes the field, and then enjoy their amazement as jets do a flyover during the National Anthem.

“Dad, that was loud,” my son said.

“I could only smile back and agree.

The first drive opened as we expected with an opening TD, but nothing seemed to go right after that. The dropped pass on a sure TD that would have tied the game at 14-all showed how badly we were out of sorts. I could almost CBS announcers talking about the Newton saga and how it must be getting to Auburn. But with two scores in the second quarter, to tie it up, I counted my blessings and said to my kids, “I hope that was the bad half.”

I was relieved when Chizik’s gamble worked to open the second half. And fromt here, the momentum finally seemed to shift Auburn’s way. I finally relaxed when Georgia kicked a field goal. I knew we’d have the game in the bag once we got up two scores. And when Georgia took a knee to end it, I celebrated. Our first SEC Western Division championship in six years was a reality. We still have higher things to play for, but we can relax and enjoy the moment, punctuated by memories of Michael Dyer breaking Bo Jackson’s freshman rushing record and watching Bo Jackson congratulate him on the big screen when it was announced.

But there were some negatives.

Our defense still has a lot of trouble stopping anyone, though admittedly they only allowed only 10 points after the first quarter. You can’t blame them for the interception that was returned to the Auburn 9. However, you can blame them for having UGA third and 16 in the third quarter and allowing a first down. You can also blame them for having UGA 4th and 1 and allowing a huge TD pass.

Our punting team still needs work. On what had to be the best punt of the year, Auburn could have pinned UGA at the 1. Instead, our players lost the ball and allowed it to slip into the end zone. Georgia went on to score on that drive.

TV timeouts are really long when you’re in the stadium. It’s almost a momentum killer.

Reviews are frustrating when you can’t see all the camera angles that are provided on TV. I don’t know what the official rules are, but Auburn doesn’t show a replay on the Jumbotron until the ruling on the field is confirmed or overturned.

Auburn did allow some of its frustrations to show, as evidenced by the taunting from the Georgia players. Taunting that was visible to everyone except the referees, allowed Auburn to get hit with a personal foul for responding to it. And then Auburn got two players tossed at the end. Those players will have to miss the first half of the Alabama game. I’m thankful to Mark Richt for taking a knee at the end. We couldn’t afford to lose another defender.

With the game over, I enjoyed the jubilation, took the kids to McDonald’s, and then we all headed home to Atlanta. On the way home, I tried to get my kids to take a nap. I also tried to explain the NCAA to my wife. I was successful at neither.

All I can say is. War Cam Eagle. Nothing is proven. If the NCAA finds Cam ineligible and decides to vacate Auburn’s season, let Auburn’s record for the season be 0-0.

And everyone will know who was the best.

I end today with a picture of the sunset. No reason. It just looked nice.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

An Unanswered Prayer

Part II

I lied a bit last week.

I told my younger son last week that we don’t pray for wins in sporting events.

I’m a parent. I want to see my kids succeed. I want to see their teams succeed.

Last week, I talked about my younger son’s team losing in playoffs.

This week, it’s my older son.

On the same day that my younger son’s team lost in the playoffs in football, my older son’s team lost in the playoffs in baseball. Seeded #4, they led the #1 seed in the final inning by a score of 3-1. I was praying hard. Praying that they’d pull it out. But the good play and bit of luck that had taken them this far dropped off at the end and they lost the game 4-3 to end the season

And it had been a difficult season for my teenager.

Moving up to the next league had been a bigger challenge than he thought. Heavier bat. Bigger field. Yet still blessed with the same unathletic genes of his father. Like every kid he likes to hit. Every time he steps up to the plate, I hope that he does

A long time ago, I developed a habit. Every time my one of my kids goes to bat, I cross myself like any good Catholic. I try not to be overt about it, though my wife has noticed it on occasion.

With my son’s struggles early on in pony, I think my fingers were working OT. Still, he struck out often. For the first four games, he got one foul ball and put one ball into play. He also got one walk.

He was depressed about his performance. He hates not hitting. Even more, he hates losing. Both were happening.

As the season continued, things got a little better. More foul balls. More balls in play. The team won a couple.

But still no hits. Yet, he kept trying.

Somewhere late, he finally put aluminum on the ball and made it to first. I was ecstatic for him. More foul balls and a couple more hits. His team finished fourth in the league out of five teams.

With the playoffs, my son’s team opened on a Friday night against the #5 team. Entering the last inning, they were down 3-2. My son came up second in the last inning with a man on first. He got his second hit of the night. His first hit had given them an RBI. Three batters later, he would cross home plate with the winning run. It was his first two-hit game of the season. He received the game ball.

So, when they lost to the #1 seed the following day, I was as heartbroken then as euphoric the night before. My prayers for one more game had gone unanswered.

With the game over, the two teams lined up for the customary awarding of the season t-shirt to the team whose season was over. Each kid gets his name called and the coach says something nice. When it got to my son’s turn, the coach called out “And to the hero of last night’s game…”

My prayers for winning that day had gone unanswered. However, my prayers all season had finally been met.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Scandal Promotes Book Release

This week, given that Auburn was playing Chattanooga and the W was never in doubt, I’d planned to post a funny Top Ten list related to Cam Newton.

Then the scandal broke and it seemed out of place.

In trying to look at this objectively, I concentrated on what few facts are known publicly.

FACT: The NCAA knew about this in January.
FACT: Auburn was told of this in July.
FACT: The Newtons turned over all financial and phone records to Auburn.

So what can we take from the above?

Auburn had time to investigate and it let Cam Newton play.

This story has been known to Auburn, the SEC, and the NCAA since before the season started.

The only impropriety is that two former Mississippi State players were somehow involved in trying to sell Cameron Newton’s services to Mississippi State. And Mississippi State did the right thing in reporting. No one can link the agents to Auburn or to Cam Newton’s recruitment to Auburn.

It may be that Cam Newton wanted to go to Mississippi State, but the hint of impropriety led Newton to Auburn.

But nothing else.

If Auburn knew anything, Newton wouldn’t have stepped on the field. Auburn is too anal otherwise.

So what does this have to do with a book release?

Well, in honor of the lying agents who created this scandal, I’d like to tell you about a new book being released by my good friend and debut author, Amy Atwell.

The book, which can be bought in any e-book format, is appropriately called, Lying Eyes.

A cover and blurb are below,

No-nonsense jewelry designer Iris Fortune yearns for a normal life. But life as Vegas magician Cosmo Fortune's daughter is anything but normal, especially since dear old Dad is also a scam artist. When Cosmo's latest scheme goes awry and he pulls a real-life disappearing act, Iris is left holding the bag.

Now Iris must be a master of illusion—play the poised partner to her politician fiancĂ© while trying to save her father and stay out of reach of Mickey Kincaid, the sexy thief who claims he's only after her jewels.

Detective Kincaid is deep undercover and seeks Iris out because of her connection to Cosmo—he never expected to be so drawn to her. While working with Iris to find the elusive con man, Mickey learns a killer has Iris in his sights, and he must do everything he can to save her, without blowing his cover.

Mickey's put his life on the line before, but never his heart—and now he's not sure which is more dangerous...

So, don’t buy the crap that the lying agents are spewing.

Do buy the book Lying Eyes.

And click here to be taken to Amy’s website.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

An Unanswered Prayer?

Part One.

“Daddy, the blessing didn’t get answered.”

My younger son’s tears continued to flow as we sat on the couch. His football season was over. In the second round of the playoffs, his team, the 8-year old Mill Creek Hawks* lost to the top seed team in the tourney, Parkview, 39-6. The loss dropped the team to 7-3 on the season.

His reference to the “blessing” referred to the previous Sunday. He’d worn his football jersey to church on Sunday, the day after his team won in the first round of the playoffs. Knowing he was facing the #1 seed, he wanted to show his team spirit and get a little extra help. After the service was over, we went up to the priest and explained the situation. He provided a blessing and also blessed my older son as well, whose team was also going to the playoffs last week. (My son’s team was the Phillies. There was no way he wearing a Phillies jersey into church.)

“Yes, it did,” I told my son. “The prayer was answered.”

“Dad, we lost.”

“I didn’t ask for you to win. I asked for a blessing for safety. The priest added one for sportsmanship.”

“What do you mean?”

I looked into his eyes. What was coming wasn’t an easy lesson. “You don’t ask God to help you win. You ask God to keep you and all the other players safe. You ask God to allow you to play your best.”

My son looked back at me. He was still sad but didn’t say anything. I knew that I needed to explain further. “Football is a dangerous sport but you wanted to play. People get hurt playing football. You don’t want see it happen but it’s a fact of the game.”

“I hurt my knee.”

“Do you want some ice for it?”

He thought for a second. “No.”

“Then you didn’t hurt it that badly. Listen to me. Did you have a good time this season?”

The answer came without hesitation. “Yes.”

“Do you want to play football next year?”

Again no hesitation. “Yes.”

“Then that’s all that matters. You’re safe. You had fun.”

My son’s tears had finally dried up, yet he still hadn’t quite understood what I said. And I don’t know if a couple of days perspective has helped. Maybe one day he will.

At the same time, I knew it was the truth. My two biggest concerns were that he have fun and that he be safe. And even though it was towards the end of the season when I asked for the blessing for him, I knew I’d been saying it every time he stepped onto the field.

And I admit I still wanted him to win.

But my prayers had been answered.

* There are actually three 8-year old teams in the Mill Creek area. All three are called the Mill Creek Hawks.