Saturday, July 31, 2010

Filled With the Spirit of New Life

(Austin, TX) - Our infant nephew has found his running legs and was using them to his advantage most of the morning. That is, until he was corralled by his mommy’s loving arms and brought into the embrace of baptism on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

Seriously, he was running laps in the church, even while our old friend The Priest spent some time with the family reinforcing the meaning of baptism. In a moving prologue to the sacrament itself, Father reminded us that it is scientifically proven that there is a finite amount of water on Earth and that it has never changed. It is water that unites us with one another as well as with history. Water flows, evaporates, freezes, precipitates, but always recycles. With water, we are cleansed.

Hey, it got my attention, but not the nephew’s.
Up the aisle, down the aisle, through the pews he scampered with his older sister giving constant chase. It impacted the reverence of the proceedings ever so slightly. That’s okay; it was his day. While the deeper meaning was clearly not on his one-year-old mind, he somehow realized he was the center of attention.
When it came time for the business of baptism, there was an amazing transformation. The boy became quite still and quiet. There was an appropriate solemnity to the moment.

The not-so-churched in the crowd expressed amazement at the turn of events. I invoked the Holy Spirit. Bottom line, there is a new Christian among us and that’s something to celebrate. We all vowed to do everything in our power to support this young man as he grows in Christ.

Foremost among those making the promise was my son, his cousin, who had bestowed upon him the honor of being the boy’s Godfather. Even though he has fallen away from the Church, my son seemed to take the responsibility seriously. I wasn’t listening carefully, but I’m pretty sure he fully participated in the baptism, giving all the appropriate responses proscribed by the prayer book.
I know his mama was proud to have him in church again, even if it was a one-shot special occasion on a Saturday. Maybe it was a baby step toward some kind of spiritual reconciliation. As we found out first-hand, baby steps in a church can evolve into running in the blink of an eye.

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Feeling Froggier by the Day

Our daughter has made it home safely from Colorado, battered and bruised but pleased as punch. Her week-long “Frog Camp” experience left her exhilarated and exhausted. I’m not sure what she was most eager to talk about. Whitewater rafting was high on the list.
The scrapes and bruises came from rock climbing.
It was a physical week, to be sure. There were zip lines, ropes courses and other team building exercises. The idea was to meet fellow incoming TCU freshmen and form fast friendships before school starts. Based on the smiles we see in the photos, things seem to have worked out.
This was an experience focused on the freshmen who did not know one another before Frog Camp, Now they know one another well. Naively, I did not even think about the gender mix when she signed up for this. Somehow, seeing photos my daughter posing with a bunch of guys I haven't met caused me to raise my eyebrows a little.
There were TCU faculty members there, as well as some upperclassmen and they hit it off well. Or, as our daughter put it, “It was awesome!! I met the coolest people.”
So, mission accomplished, I suppose. That late-summer trepidation she has been feeling seems to have been washed away by the healing waters of the roaring rapids, with the help of a few camp fires and smores.
Now, she can hardly wait to start school. I guess this trip was good preparation for her parents, too. We need to learn to love hearing her stories from far away.

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Opera, Show Tunes and Tears

(Austin, TX) – I am spending the weekend embedded among the in-laws, fraught with family festivities. Our absurdly talented niece, soon bound for college on a performing arts scholarship, put together a farewell recital that thrilled those assembled in the worship space of her home church.
She artfully blended classical offerings from the likes of Mozart, Faure and Schubert with Broadway tunes from shows such as “Phantom of the Opera” and “Wicked.”
Her rendition of “Ave Maria” was emotional. (To watch it, click here).

Her staunchly Episopalian grandmother, who doubles as my sweet mother-in-law, was riveted, even to the decidely non-Episcopalian tribute to the Virgin Mother. Moreover, she was caught up in what the whole evening meant. It was billed as a “good-bye recital,” meaning our niece is saying so long to high school and home, as well as childhood. It can make a grandma misty.

It was a moving evening, to be sure. The performance was brave and daring on its own merits. Given the context of it, I’m kind of amazed and impressed that she made it through without even a little breakdown.
She said she was trying her best to surrender to the music and not think about the technicalities or the ramifications of the recital. That says something about her growth as an artist.
Once she makes the leap to college life, she will be on her way. I suspect we’ll be hearing great things from her in short order. I know her mother, her aunt and her grandmother will continue to beam with pride along the way.
Here's a little something from Mozart's Don Giovanni:

Gabriel Faure:

To close, fittingly, "For Good," from Wicked:

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Go Back to the Woods

My wife and I crossed paths with our son's boss and he told us he had given the guy a day off so he could go on a camping trip. I knew there was a trip, but camping? It was a four-day weekend trek to the woodlands of southeastern Oklahoma. That's about all I knew until the photos of the "camp" emerged.

That's my boy, 'cause that's my kind of camping.
Heck, yeah. That's what I'm talking about.

Ever the man of mystery, my son runs with a crew I've never met. The pictures I've seen, combined with the stories I hear, paint a picture of a nice group of folks. There is a family central to the proceedings. They share a love of music, garage band-related activities and a taste for high-end lodging, even in the woods. This merry band of modern minstrels has apparently accepted him into the collective, showing great generosity along the way. What I'm saying here is I don't think he had to pay to stay and this is not the first time something like this has come along. The man in the photo, whose name I do not know, has obviously taken a shine to my kid.

I'm not complaining. He's an adult and he certainly can have friends. I mean, how terrible would it be if he didn't? These folks are exposing him to new things, and that's positive. They're keeping him entertained and well fed.

If we can add "grooming" to the package, then I really will be grateful.

Somewhere in the middle with respect to the hair would make me happy.
Okay, whatever makes him happy is much more important at this stage of the game; and from what I can see he's keeping good company these days.

I might not know his friends, but I do know the guy who signs his paycheck. I won't reveal the dark "camping" secret, I promise. Sometimes an air of mystery can work to a guy's advantage.

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Monday, July 26, 2010

There She Goes Again

Time is starting to compress on the family as move-in day for our daughter at Texas Christian University draws near. She made her college decision early and has exuded calm confidence about it from the start. Now, reality seems to be setting in. She and her friends have been comparing schedules and have come to the sobering realization that the actual number of days they have to spend together is alarmingly small. She has been closely-knit with many girls since middle school, and the inevitable unraveling of that long-established support system has become unsettling.
The days are diminished by their late-summer travel schedules. My daughter boarded a flight this morning to participate in an official TCU function dubbed “Frog Camp.”
She’s traveling alone to Colorado for an “Alpine” experience with more than a dozen people she does not know. That’s the idea: twelve incoming freshmen, a couple of upperclassmen and a faculty member spend several days together in intense togetherness. The plan is to create a support group before you arrive on campus. It seems like a great idea, and we are told the program has a long history of achieving its goals.
She had many Frog Camp options and chose Colorado for reasons of her own. I suspect a chance to escape the heat had something to do with it. As her mother drove her to the airport, she felt confident about the camp but a little nervous about close connections. The double meaning there is quite intentional. What will she do in the Colorado wilderness if her bag doesn’t make the transition from one plane to another? What kind of people will she meet when she arrives? How will this week affect the course of her life? Perhaps profoundly, maybe not at all.
She certainly will know more about herself when she gets home. The thing is, she will only be home for a couple of weeks before she’s off again, this time for a fresh start in a whole new world. Hopefully there, time will begin to expand for her once again.

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Brushes With Celebrity, Gaga Style

My daughter is safely home from what proved to be a star-studded trip to Dallas-Ft. Worth, the centerpiece of which was a concert by the white-hot singer/ songwriter/ performance artist who calls herself Lady Gaga. (Concert photo by Shawn P. Cox)

The show lived up to her expectations, and the hours leading up to it exceeded them in a way that could not have been foreseen. She and one of her friends, an early Gaga devotee, designed and wore Lady Gaga costumes to the show, which is part of the "Moster Ball" tour.
The "Little Monsters," as the entertainer calls her fans, reacted with amazement and amusement to the costumes. She said from the moment they stepped out of the car, they couldn't take ten steps without groups of people asking to have photos made with them.

At one time, she tells us, there was a line of at least twenty people or groups waiting to pose for photos with them. Among them, one of the stars of the MTV show "My Life as Liz," Taylor Terry. (This is billed as a reality show, but my cursory research into it indicates that there's not much reality involved. Still, it's a real show on a popular cable network).
Some of her friends kept a loose count of the number of times they were stopped for photos. They lost track somewhere north of 300. She said, "I felt so free and confident. I was wearing a wig and big sunglasses. Nobody knew who we were. We just stood there and posed for pictures. For about four hours, I felt like a celebrity."

That's saying something, considering what happened earlier in the day. Do you know about The Jonas Brothers?
They're a pop music band who rose to fame on The Disney Channel. They have a squeaky-clean image and some young female fans swoon over them. As my daughter was shopping in the Galleria, she stepped out of a dressing room and saw Kevin Jonas.

That's Mrs. Jonas graciously posing with him for the photo, alongside the Gaga girls (pre-costume).
Twenty-four hours after all the excitement, my daughter is still feeling the thrill. For the first time in her young life, she was on the road on her own. With three friends in tow, they did Dallas-Ft. Worth up right, living a young woman's adventure with an ever-expanding zest for life. Late in the evening, she summed it up by offering "today quite possibly has been the best day of my life."
There are many more days to come. With the start of college just three weeks away, her star is on the rise.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Going Gaga

Don't ask me to explain it, just understand that I accept it. Lady Gaga is coming to Dallas this week and my daughter couldn't be more fired up about it. She has assembled a costume to wear to the show. She put this outfit together with her own time, talent and materials.
She and several of her friends will make the trip together, joining with others in the Dallas - Ft. Worth area to attend the most highly-anticipated entertainment event of her young lifetime.
All this for an artist who has yet to release two full albums. Lady Gaga is a phenomenon and this photo of my daughter as a "Little Monster" (which is what Lady Gaga calls her fans) says it all.
All I know is I had to sit in front of my computer the very second those tickets went on sale and I was something of a hero when I got them. The arena sold out in less than ten minutes. It's the hottest ticket in North America.
I have nothing to say. I've been this way about football games. I just hope the show lives up to everybody's expectations. Given the level of anticipation around the house, that will take some doing.
She just might go Gaga.

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Leftovers From the Party

I hoped, as the big Five-Oh party percolated in people’s brains for a while, that stories would emerge. I have not been disappointed.
The early favorite comes from a couple with whom we’ve been friends for many years. I did not know that a few weeks ago, he fell in the shower and bit his tongue. He has been recovering from a deep, painful laceration. His wife told me, “We were having a great time but we had to leave earlier than we otherwise would have. He was talking so much, his tongue was throbbing.”

Another back story comes from those now-legendary “My Face is my Present” tee shirts. One of the wives phoned in the order for the shirts well in advance. When she did it, she had a Crest Whitestrip on her teeth, apparently creating a temporary lisp. So, when they went to pick up the shirts, they said “My Faith is my present.” A nice sentiment, no doubt; but it was hardly in keeping with the theme of the evening. Fortunately for the sake of the joke, they were able to turn around "face" shirts quickly.
There were plenty of cameras at the party and photos are emerging at a rapid clip. In fact, there is now indisputable evidence that my sweet, apparently camera shy, mother-in law was there with a friend in tow.
And, if you want verification of how I suffered during the gentle roasting by some of my buddies, you need see nothing more than this:
The reviews have been glowing as people regale us with tales of wonderful “worlds collide” moments.
One attendee ran into the ex-husband of a friend. She knew who he was but he did not know her. When he introduced himself, she was reluctant to give her last name. Apparently, she had been complicit in some divorce-related shenanigans several years ago. Fortunately, the statute of limitations had long since passed, as had the man’s anger. Ultimately, they were able to get a good laugh out of it.

People are raving about the band we hired.
And they can't stop talking about the cupcakes. There were several varieties including lemon and red velvet; but the ones that have people smacking their lips had chocolate icing, white chocolate chips and cookie dough in the middle.
Arguably the highest compliment my wife was paid came in the form of a question: “who catered these cupcakes? They’re fantastic.” Every one of them was homemade by the cupcake committee.
They were decorative as well as delicious and the staff at the venue did a great job of keeping the towers stacked with fresh cupcakes. Here's the pre-party set-up:
My wife spent months planning this event. She had a decorating team, a couple of guys to do the heavy lifting and lots of other folks pitching in.
It’s a great tribute to her that she was able to bring so many people together to pull it off and that it was, by all accounts, a rousing success.
The weekend I turned 50 will be a cherished memory thanks to hundreds of friends who were a part of it.
There’s no way I can thank everyone enough.
Now, there’s pressure. See, my wife is just a year and a half younger than me. How can I top all this?

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Finally Fifty

So, today I turned 50. I didn’t realize that people brought stuff to the party a few nights ago. My family conspired to keep all the cards and gifts from me until my actual birthday. So, this evening I was swamped with gifts.
Given the sheer volume of wine I received, people must think that I need help easing into my new demographic category; or, as my daughter put it, “that’s just the civilized adult gift.”
I also received several books, as well as lots of gift cards to download books to my Kindle. I guess my affection for my e-reader is widely known. Given the amount of reading material now available to me, I suppose my friends believe I am about to lapse into a sedentary lifestyle. This thing is, that may actually happen.
The gifts indicate that people know me well, because there was also a generous array of restaurant gift cards. I’ll be eating, drinking and reading well into winter. They are the gifts that keep on giving.
In the wake of the lively festivities which ushered in my birthday weekend, we were ready to scale things down a bit; so, just the wife and the kids went with me to one of our fanciest restaurants for a special birthday dinner.
People showed up, brought cards and gifts and gave generously of their time. It’s been a fabulous birthday event. It’s great to have friends. Thanks, everybody.

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Saturday, July 17, 2010

A Party for the Aged

Somebody decided it would be a good idea to throw a party to draw attention to the fact that I’m turning 50. Getting to half-a-hundred is no accomplishment; it just means I’m still breathing. We decided to ask people to come together so I could thank those who have helped me along the way. The invitations were mailed and/ or e-mailed and people showed up.
The theme was “worlds collide.” Family, friends, co-workers from media and healthcare, folks from the church and a couple of crashers all mingled essentially without incident. There was intrigue, hazing, hilarity and a good dose of dancing. There were no fights and nobody got arrested, so I guess we can say the evening was a success.
Did I say “hazing?” A long time ago, when I was a TV sportscaster, I was on my way to cover a ball game when someone asked me if I had the proper credential. Joking, I said “My face is my pass.” As you can imagine, this phrase has been permanently attached to me. My friends will not let it die. In fact, several of them showed up at the party in tee shirts that said “My face is my present.”
Since worlds were colliding, at least half the people in the room didn’t get the joke. So, naturally somebody had to grab a microphone and tell (er, wildly embellish) the story. This led to a series of alarmingly exaggerated tales of my misdeeds. Finally, I just had to say, “Hey, a lot of these people don’t know about my former scorched-earth philosophies.”

There were some great reunions. The four-person KTBS sports staff from the early 1980’s was together for the first time in a quarter-century.

Embedded in the tee shirt group are five guys who in various combinations worked together in the KTAL sports department in the 1990’s and some who worked together at KSLA and some who worked together at KTBS. (There was a lot of moving around in local TV).Almost everybody was there.
At one point, we tried to assemble an all-inclusive group of people who had worked with me in local TV. There were sportscasters, anchors, producers, a PM Magazine host, a feature reporter and more.
Two former general managers showed up. (One who had replaced the other. Worlds collide!)Somehow, they missed the photo, as did one of our oldest friends, who was a local anchor for a couple of decades. She hung out, though.
There were radio people: a very popular local morning show host and a veteran newswoman were among those who were there to celebrate.
There was even a network television sports anchor there to spice things up.
My dentist was there! (He was my freind before he was my dentist).
So was my insurance agent and his spectacular wife, who have been great friends to us for 25 years.
Many of my young friends arrived early. Some of them stayed late.The neighborhood was represented, too. The fine folks from across the street were all smiles.
My father showed up, stayed late and held court with many visitors.
Somehow,my sweet mother-in-law avoided the camera. But, she was there looking lovely.
My son was fascinated with the band, particularly the fetching lead singer; and who can blame him?
I got to dance with my girls, although I can’t say for sure whether my wife or I had a more difficult time letting go and relaxing. We were, after all, hosting a party and there’s pressure involved in all that.
My daughter, who arrived only hours earlier from a mission trip to Mexico, kept things lively and partied all night and into the morning. Consider it college prep, I guess.
Talk about party pressure: There were several people in attendance who have the ability to fire me in the blink of an eye, including my company’s CEO.
The bosses and their spouses were fully engaged, several of them even dancing with the birthday boy.
Yes, I danced. If you can’t dance at 50, when can you dance?

The lifelong best friend, one of his brothers and one of his sisters were there with spouses in tow. He has more stories to tell than anybody, but God bless him; he never grabbed a microphone.
With the party successfully behind us, I’m sitting back waiting for stories to emerge.
The worlds collided without cataclism and now I can once again concentrate on the center of my universe:
Happy birthday to me.

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