Things I Learned in 2008

For the life of me I cannot remember who first told me that, a good measure of what kind of day you had is to ask yourself, "What did I learn today?" but it has stuck with me because at the end of most every day for as long as I can remember, I lay in bed and try to recall something new that I learned. Some days, especially when I was younger, it was easy-- and others I would struggle to come up with anything significant but, even then, I learned that you can't learn something new every day. 

Here, at the end of 2008, I thought it would be interesting to, similarly, think about the things I learned in the year to determine if we can consider it a success. Obviously, I will not be able to include all 300-some-odd things that I learned every day throughout the year, but after careful consideration, I have been able to categorize most all of those individual things into one or more of three basic themes:

You can teach an old dog new tricks-

When you lose the ability to do so much, as I did when I had the stroke, it is very easy to see the whole learning process. I had a new found understanding of how we learn new things that opened my eyes to what my two-year-old Son was going through.

I was very lucky that the brain attack had little-to-no effect on any of my cognitive abilities. Even the challenges with speech that I had were, mainly, motor problems in my face, mouth and tongue. My mental capacity was not affected so I didn't have to re-learn anything I knew and I could concentrate on re-learning how to do things like walking, talking, writing, typing, driving and anything else that we take for granted every day.

Stuff that I had seemed simple to master decades before, like juggling, were way too complex and, even though, my brain knew how to do it my body just couldn't pull it off. Most of that stuff did come back as I practiced and re-taught myself to do it, however not everything has been that easy as I found out at my niece's Birthday Party. I have roller skated very well since I was seven or eight years old, even playing on roller hockey leagues growing up, but when I strapped on the skates and stepped on to that familiar wooden floor, I was painfully reminded about the laws of gravity. I thought, for sure that would come back to me but, for some bizarre reason, I just couldn't get the whole balance thing down and I looked like Cox or a first-time four-year-old out there.

It was like a new experience all of the time for a while-- I had a lot of good days because I was learning so much and seeing, at least, some improvement every day. This inspired me to seek out other ways to gain enlightenment and learn about as much as I could. I think of myself as pretty smart, to begin with, but I really dug in to research things that I was interested in by reading books, searching the Web and talking with people. Having a, somewhat, obsessive personality anyway, it wasn't hard for me to get seriously into subjects like the brain, strokes, anxiety, health, religion and many others.

Feeling that spending too much time with these endeavors would be unhealthy I also set out to find some more creative outlets. What started out as trying to sell some of my designs in the SkeetzTeez cafepress shop turned into me getting involved with and learning about many other Internet applications. Squidoo, Twitter and Facebook taught me about social networking, guerrilla marketing and even some basic Web design and html and this blog has taught me that writing can be fun and I am not too terribly bad at it.

If there is a lesson I can say that can be learned from this it is: we are never too old to learn. I thought that I was, but when thrown into a situation that I was required to use my brain again, I liked it-- and even thrived on it. I can't help to think that many of the older folks that I saw struggling in rehab with me would have had a better time with it if they embraced the learning experience a little more.

Make what's important... important-

You are, probably, thinking-- just like I used to... "Oh yes, I do that. I have all of my priorities all ironed out and I'm sure that I would never second-guess myself." 

I hope that you never find yourself in the predicament, but until you are in a situation that you are sure you are going to lose everything you have... you can not, truly, appreciate it. As you can probably tell from reading this blog, I am quite the idealist--I am very opinionated and am not afraid to tell you what I think of anything. Whereas this has been true for most of my adult life and did not change when I had the stroke, the same cannot be said about the message that I was preaching.

I used to proclaim things like, "Work hard-- Play hard!", "Don't be a Wimp!" and "Nice Guys Finish Last!" but, now, I am singing a different tune. I have written about my feelings on this subject on several occasions but it is very important to me so it is worth repeating... tell the people that you love that you love them-- be so very thankful that you have them in your life.

There was a time when work was the most important thing in my life. Even after I was married and had a family there were times-- even if it was only a few minutes-- that work or a TV show, video game, sleep or one of a hundred other stupid little things were more important than the things that were supposed to be important. Even now that I have been through that experience when I knew I could have lost them, as a selfish person, there are still times that I make the wrong choice about what is important.

I don't feel like I need to drive this point home because almost everyone knows what is truly important and I think that they also know that they probably don't do a good enough job of making the important things most important. Most, however, could use a gentle reminder now-and-then to counter the effects of the things that make it hard for us to do-- selfishness, pride, greed, anxiety and shame, to name a few... I know that I can.

You are not in control-

This is, by far, the most important thing that I learned this year. It, too, was a lesson learned as result of my brain attack, but this lesson is what all the other ones are based on, the reason for such a remarkable recovery and why I am a stronger and, just all-around, better person from the whole experience.

I originally learned this lesson in Sunday School in first- or second-grade and it is the basic theme of what you are taught in church most weeks and everything we read in the Bible. I was listening to the lesson most every time I heard it but I was convinced being a strong, intelligent, experienced man, that I had at least some control of my life. It took a stroke to, literally, take all of that control away, for me to realize that God is in control.

Not only is God in control, but we have to embrace the fact that He is because it is only going to be harder for us if we do not accept it. I learned this, first-hand, when I finally realized that nothing I did was going to make my recovery faster or more complete-- not working harder or longer, any amount of money, worry, medication or treatment. No one else could do anything to help me either... except God.

I was given a second chance at, exactly, that moment-- a second chance to live and a second chance to take what I had learned from the lesson and apply it to my life. I took that chance (What other option did I have?) and I am still learning from it. Why, just last week, at church I learned that God has a plan for all of us and there is no way for us to change that plan or even find out what it is. All we can do is seek Him through His Son, Jesus, and He will meet us and change our lives. 

Trust Him. I have seen it happen!

Here's wishing that you and yours have a happy New Year and that you learn a lot in 2009! Peace.


What A Long, Strange Trip: 2008

I suppose, now that I have a blog, I am not going to be able to get through 2008 without doing some kind of Year In Review type of article. I thought I would be excited to put this one together but, for some reason, I can't seem to get in the right mood. I have started writing several times only to abandon the story partially done or scrapping the whole thing and starting over.

Most of the reason that I don't want to write a 2008 Review is that everybody does one-- not only bloggers but all kinds of Internet, print and broadcast sources will produce their lists of the most, least, best, worst and biggest person, places and things of the year. In addition, I want my articles to be real... but not too real. Not that I am lying to anyone out there but I don't feel the need to tell complete strangers (and some other acquaintances) my most intimate thoughts and every personal feeling. I am, however, enjoying that I get to write about interesting topics, funny stories and a important cause or two and get a kick out of the fact that, at least some, other people are reading the stuff.

Therefore, I am going to try, again, to do my 2008 Year In Review and, maybe, by Wednesday, I will have something ready that I am comfortable enough sharing with the rest of the world... or the very small number of individuals that find it.

2008 started out at home for us. We are not really a big party-type of family anyway and, with a two-year old running the house, we like to be as close to home as possible most of the time, but especially on amateur night. It was fun! We invited some friends (and their kids) over, played video games, ate munchies and enjoyed each others' company.

Having had a stroke just five-weeks earlier and, basically, being paralyzed on the right half of my body, it was amazing that I was able to do that much. I was in therapy every day I could get it from November 28 through the end of the year. We had to get as many visits in 2007 as possible to submit to the insurance companies and they couldn't work me hard enough as I figured that was the only way I was going to improve. We did see some improvement almost every day! It wasn't always dramatic progress, but it was almost every day.

By Christmas I could walk well enough to get around without the cane or any other aides. I could hold a drumstick with a modified grip on New Years but it was very difficult to keep up with my friends on Rock Band. MLW talked all of our guests into writing down their resolutions so she could mail them as a reminder in six-months but I was just starting to be able to write and it wasn't very legible so I just kept mine to myself.

I had already made a remarkable recovery and wanted my resolution to be a tribute to that. Without going into too much detail, then, I can tell you that I promised myself to do everything I could to be a better man than I was before the stroke. I wanted to work hard to be stronger physically, but it meant much more to me than that. I can get a little more into this later but, for now, let's leave it with... I wanted to be sure that what should be important was more important than what wasn't and I didn't want to waste my time with things that were unimportant.

There was a tremendous amount of progress made in the month of February. My therapists started dropping me, starting with my PT and then, although I was still having a difficult time speaking, my speech therapist. Most of my large motor skills had returned and, while I worked by myself to build strength in them, I still visited my OT for couple of hours a day, several days a week to work on my small motor skills. I was extremely anxious to be released to drive again because, although I was not looking forward to getting back to the daily grind, I had to get out of the house.

The first week in March I finally passed my drivers' test and was able to do exactly that, followed by going back to work at the beginning of the third week. Looking back, this was probably two-to-four weeks early as I was having a very hard time getting back into the swing of things. I did, however, begin to rid myself of some of the worthlessness that I had been feeling in the previous 13-weeks as I was a little less of a burden on my family and friends-- especially my wife, who was incredibly gracious, helpful, merciful, kind and understanding through the whole ordeal.

I made such a remarkable recovery that the doctors said I could only use the stroke as an excuse for a year. I used every last minute of that time but, for the sake of this blog post, we will leave off of it here in April. I think I am still recovering a little bit every day. I notice it most in my speech and endurance-- the two things that are effected most by the severe fatigue I was feeling as my brain shut down all other bodily functions in order to save energy so that it could heal faster. 

I had said from the beginning, part in jest-- part for real, that I only wanted to recover 99% so that I would always have a reminder of the event and the important lessons that I learned from it. I don't really find it odd, therefore, that the only real pain that I ever had was in my pinkie finger, of all things, and if you didn't know that I had a stroke, I'm sure that you couldn't tell, but that finger still hurts like it did the first day. Be careful what you wish for.

In May things started heating up... and I am not talking about the weather. MLW and I celebrated our our forth Anniversary with a date night. I really can't say enough good things about my wife. Before we met, I couldn't imagine me being married and having a family-- now, I can't even start to imagine what my life would be like if I wasn't lucky enough to have her-- but trust me... it would not be pretty. I am saying all of these things right now because she is so kind that she is one of the few people that regularly read my blog even though she doesn't always like it and I don't tell her (or show her) how much she means to me often enough.

This was also the month that I made some decisions about my life, the direction that it was going, and the goals that we wanted to achieve. Here, again, without getting into a lot of detail this is not going to make a lot of sense and I am not going to get into a lot of detail but let me say this... for now-- you have to have goals.

Some of my goals had to do with getting back to my roots-- doing art for arts' sake and because it was fun like I did when I was young. So in June I set out on a quest to find a more creative outlet than the corporate (par-done mi French) crap that I had to knock out at the office every day. I found this outlet in SkeetzTeez-- a cafepress shop featuring T-shirts and other gift items with unique, custom designs imprinted on them. Although this was filling that creative void that I was feeling, at least to some point, there was still something missing but all that would have to wait because...

I don't know if it was the date night or not but on the Forth of July, M2S got to tell all of our family his secret, "Mamma's got a baby in her tummy"! The rest of the world found out shortly after that because I was just so excited that I couldn't keep it a secret. In fact, this was the subject of my second blog post on the 17th of the month. I started the blog to help promote the SkeetzTeez shop and also created several lenses on Squidoo for the same purpose. If you have followed the blog, you already know more detail than I am going to be able to give you in this review but, please, feel free to continue through the rest of the year.

In August, our two-year-old Son became M3S. That kid means so much to me! He really is my best friend, my inspiration for doing everything that I have to do and my joy just to carry on. I don't know if it is just his age, that I got to spend a lot more quality time with him since I was not working, or that I usually have to sleep with him in his bed because Mamma's pregnant, but we have become so much closer this year. Not to get into the stroke thing again but, just to let you know how the recovery was going, at his birthday party, I climbed up on the roof and held up a 35-pound pinata in a pirate costume (me not the pinata) so a bunch of delinquents could beat on it with a Wiffleball bat.

I also wrote about auditioning for the church worship group in this month. Update: I made it! I have been singing at least once a month since then. I really, really like this church because I feel like we are all contributing to the community and we have been accepted into it. There are several changes that are upcoming that, I hope, will make the group stronger rather than weaker in the next year.

Most of September was spent on the Internet trying to learn all of the tricks of the trade to promote T-shirt sales. Overall, I think I did pretty good. In addition to the blog and Squidoo, I got involved with other social networking applications like Twitter and, eventually, Facebook. Besides getting somewhat proficient at most of the programs, I also got involved with and even lead a few groups to cross-promote members' cafepress shops. The way I look at it: if someone is going to buy someone else's stuff over mine, they would have probably done it any way. We might as well team up so every potential customer sees as many different designs as possible. Some shopkeepers agree with that philosophy-- others think I'm nuts.

October was a big month as I celebrated my 43rd Birthday, that I honestly thought that I would never see by learning that our second-(and probably last)born was going to be a son (Gabriel, I think). This brought about mixed feelings, as I wrote about at the time, but in the long run, I am so happy that I could just (par-done mi French, again) dance! This is also about the time that I started my crusade to inform everyone I could about the dangers of chiropractic stroke. I know... your tired of hearing about it, so I won't get into it... just remember... read this!

The presidential election took place in November-- finally! After three-and-a-half years of campaigning with such a disappointing outcome, I'm sick and tired about talking politics. I had more important things to address! With the Anniversary of my brain attack looming, I was reminded by my pinkie, of my resolution. Although, my attention had shifted to the probability of it being caused by chiropractic manipulation, I was still letting myself down by not fulfilling the promises that I made myself. Time to, among other things, get back to the gym and get a better overall attitude.

I have been doing better in December, but there is still much room for improvement and I am looking forward to 2009. I intentionally left my resolution a little vague last year and that is against all of the rules for goal making. I need to be more specific next year. Overall, though, I think this year has been a great one and, more importantly, I have made it through the 2008 Year In Review. Reading back through it, I don't like it but... I'm still going to publish because I took all of this time to write it.

I'm about halfway through with another one from a different angle, however. Maybe tomorrow I will try to finish that one up and post it: Things I Learned in 2008? If not... write to you next year! In the mean time... Happy New Year. Read this. Buy T-shirts. Peace.


Monday Morning Quarterback 1.14

As I was going through my notes from the weekend, I noticed that almost anything I had to say today was related, in some way, to the Holidays so I am going to save those couple of other things for another day and make this a special Christmas edition of the Monday Morning Quarterback:

• I have thought that I was done shopping now three times only to have to go out again-- each time to a more hostile environment.

• Last night, on what I thought was my last time out, I picked up our Christmas Cards. We, not only, waited until the very last minute to send the cards, we didn't shoot the picture until yesterday afternoon. Thank God for one hour photo cards.

• I think I made my last Christmas gift sale on SkeetzTeez yesterday, too, as it will be too late to guarantee shipments before the 24th. I will put together a full report when the month is up but, overall, I did pretty good and I think the sales I made will generate a lot of additional traffic in the coming months.

• I was also getting a lot of visits directly from my blog posting on The Twelve Days of Christmas Specials and the article on My Top 14 Christmas Song Performances was getting enough hits that I put together a Americas Top 40: Christmas lens.

• We had a extended family member that we used to make fun of some 25-30 years ago because they would send out an update on what everybody was up to in a typewritten photo-copied family newsletter in the Christmas Cards that we received every year. The joke is on us as they were way ahead of their time and that is more of the norm than the exception now.

• When are we going to finally give in and go with Christmas e-cards? They are faster, easier and more eco-friendly than the traditional method.

• I don't want to come off sounding like a Scrooge here because, really, I'm not! I love Christmas and I love the holidays. I think it is for sincere reasons that I like to give rather than receive gifts-- and not that I don't like what people give me. I get the best feeling from someone (usually a child, because you know that they aren't faking it) opening the present that I picked-out for them and their face filling with joy.

• Some people, however, I absolutely dread shopping for because no matter how much effort you put in or how much money you spend, you can't pick a winner. You know the type... you may get an insincere, "Oh, it's just what I wanted!" or "Coooool" and then it's tossed off to the side with the other stuff while the ungrateful bastage looks for the next box to unwrap... but I digress...

• I have heard a lot of people saying that they are cutting back this year because of the economy. Let me be perfectly clear when I say, "I think this is a good thing", because I think we all do (and spend) way too much around the holidays. We should spend less money at Christmas and more time with friends and family and thinking about the true meaning of the blessed day. If you do have two nickels to rub together, though, this is the time to spend your money for three reasons:
  1. There are some great deals out there because of the law of supply and demand. Manufacturers and Retailers are slashing prices because people aren't spending as much. The pie is, therefore, smaller and businesses are being aggressive to be sure to get their piece.
  2. It will help the economy. Capitalism is like a machine-- with many moving parts. If one of those parts stop working, the rest of the machine breaks-down. We, as consumers, are part of that machine and our job, as consumers, is to consume or buy things. 
  3. Invest in the future. There are three possibilities of what the economy is going to do in the next twelve months-- get worse, get better, or stay the same. If you have a job now, you should enjoy yourself because we don't know what things are going to be like next year. Don't get me wrong... You should be responsible with your money (save for a rainy day and stuff like that) but don't worry about things you can't control.
• On a similar note. Give. The tough economy will hurt the people that it are already hurting more than the people who are not in trouble. One of the first things in the budget that is cut when things get rough is charitable contributions so the organizations that help the individuals in need-- need your help. I have three reasons for this, too, but I should'nt have to and I won't elaborate: It's the right thing to do, it could someday be you, it will make you feel good.

• I was so mad at my parents when they told me the big news about Christmas and everything that I believed. They lied to me for so long and I was naive enough to fall for their bogus fables (this was worse than my Dad's "square-needle in the left-nut" stories) and, what made it harder to deal with is, every adult that I knew was in on the conspiracy and was aware that I was that incredibly, gullible. That is why I felt so horrible when I had to use the old, "now be a good boy or Santa won't bring you any presents", line with M3S this weekend. It felt so cruel that I couldn't think of a reply when he asked, "How does Santa see us?" and I had to defer to MLW... I still want to believe...

• After several years of over-politically-correctness by the general public, many people that I have run into this year are again wishing others a Merry Christmas. I, honestly, don't mind when someone says Happy Holidays to me; I wouldn't be offended if someone would tell me to have a Happy Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Ramadan, for that matter; however I prefer Merry Christmas. Here's what I don't understand, though-- What's the big deal? Why are there lawsuits about what Holiday decorations can or cannot be displayed in public places? How can wars be waged for decades and people die by the thousands for no better reason than differing beliefs?

I am no theologian and I have not extensively studied any religion or culture other than my own-- Christian but, from what I understand, all of these and most other cultural beliefs in the history of the modern world are based on the Golden Rule-- Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Seriously--check it out!

Although I may say Happy Holidays or Happy Hanakkah to any Jewish person I know, I usually greet others with Merry Christmas around this time of year because I am a Christian, therefore I celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Others may be celebrating or observing different things, but all of us could certainly use as many well wishes as we can get in this crazy, mixed-up world that we live in. I sincerely hope that I don't offend thee with any Holiday Greeting that I give you because, when it really comes down to it, I am just wishing upon you all of the peace, love, joy and all of the other good things that we all deserve so much.

Merry Christmas.


Let's Roll! 1.09

I've got two or three articles in the works that I have not been able to finish-up or publish, for one reason or another this week, including my Designs We Like blog exchange review that was supposed to go out the third Wednesday of the month. 

That's, probably, the biggest challenge in being a Mac user in a PC-Internet-sales-world. There are some really cool applications-- such as this one-- that are not fully-functioning on this platform. In this case I trade-off the ability to paste text from another source in order to be able to key-command bullets. (See ••••?) I would much rather be allowed to paste because then I would be able to copy and drop-in the blog exchange information and get that posted so they don't throw me out of the group. I promise, guys, that I will do it as soon as I can get access to a PC!

In the mean time I have, again, run across some pretty cool stuff in the past week so... Let's Roll...

I usually try to avoid listing another blog in this one-- especially if I don't know the author-- because there are just too many sickos out there. This one, however, I couldn't pass up. It features people trying to break eight world records and have their name recorded in the famous Guinness Book. Most of them are your typical half-wits who forget to check what the record was, if someone else had broken it recently or how to do some dangerous stunt like fire-walking, before attempting the feat. Then there is the group trying to break the world domino toppling record and killed an endangered bird that flew into the building before it knocked everything down only to be invaded by animal rights protesters aiming to sabotage the effort. 

Nothing, though, beats the guy trying break coconuts with his bare hands! I have watched this video several times and it only raises more questions each time. Is this some kind of ninja stunt because it looks like he is wearing martial arts gear and a black belt? Had he ever tried to break a coconut with his bear hands before? Does he break any with his karate chops? Did he just miss those coconuts, altogether? And most strange to me, why does he move on to the next one if he doesn't get the first one? Does he think his miss wasn't caught on film?

I don't get this guy but, even though it is in another language, you don't need sub-titles to tell the reporter is thinking, "This guy's a tool!" If you don't do anything else with this article, check out this video and tell me what you think is going through this dude's head besides... oww!... oww!... ouch!... boy that hurts!... oww!...

The kid's know more about the Internet and the computer than the adults anyway so they probably already know about this one. NORAD has been tracking Santa for many years now because they are pretty bored since the end of the Cold War. There is a countdown clock for the big day, an activity page for the kids and this year, starting on Christmas Eve, you can use Google Maps to track Santa in 3-D! I don't know what, exactly, that is but anything to occupy M3S until he is worn out enough to crash is good for me.

Built for the little ones but there are plenty of tools here for Mom and Dad too. Visit Santa's Secret Village to read stories, play games and activities, cook-up a Christmas treat or even check out the weather at the North Pole. In the Mailroom you can write to Santa or send e-cards to friends and family and in the Workshop you will be able to search special toy collections and find online resources. Maybe too late for this year but you can bookmark the page for '09.

Similar to the previous site, this one one has a much slicker graphic interface but that may be contributing to the lag I was experiencing. It has a lot of the same games, songs and activities, a Santa Tracker of it's own and, as it looks, the real North Pole weather forecast but this has an option for a telephone call from Santa, as well as the letter. I am a little unsure who sponsors either Website, but this one interrupts some of the activities and such with ads and the other one asks for donations so I'm sure the Claus clan is not behind either.

Hey-- it might be a little late for this year-- but remember there are specials on last-minute, express shipping and you can always give gifts after Christmas-- SkeetzTeez has the coolest, pop-culture T-shirts and gifts you can find just about anywhere!

I better say Merry Christmas now in case I don't get a chance to write again in the next six-days... Merry Christmas. Read this. Buy T-shirts. Peace.


Designs We Like 1.02

The December blog exchange features The Copy Editor-- All About Style. To be completely honest, I have never been overly fond of Copy Editors in my professional life. I have always thought that they thought to much of words while, as an artist, I know that the picture was more important.

The same holds true for this cafepress shop but, although the designs offered here are lacking in the graphics department, it more than makes up for it with some of the funniest stuff I have seen on the Internet. The category named headline bloopers features product with real headlines found in national or international newspapers. It may sound simple, but with double entendres such as Police: Crack Found in Man's Buttocks, One-Arm Man Applauds the Kindness of Strangers and Iraqi Head Seeks Arms as well as over a dozen other hilarious clunkers you have to wonder if these headline writers didn't know exactly what they were doing.

This shop is full of other fun stuff in categories like Language at Large, Unsung Heroes, Journos, The Copy Desk and Dept. of Corrections with lots of cool products to choose from including T-shirts, bags, caps and desk accessories, as well as a large selection of value Tees. Overall... a lot of neat designs that you should make it a point to check out as soon as possible.


Only Nine More Shopping Days 'Til Christmas

How can I be so ready for Christmas and so not ready for Christmas at the same time? There comes a point in the holiday season when that Christmas Spirit just kicks in-- everyone is a little more joyous and friendly and everything is a little more laid back and easy going-- but I haven't felt that change happen yet this year. It has begun to look like Christmas, but I just don't feel it.

It can't be because of the weather as we have been having sort of the classic Mid-West Winter with periods of ice, snow and frigid temperatures. Anyone that has spent a Holiday Season North of the Mason-Dixon line knows that the beautiful, starlit, snow-covered landscape that is found on Christmas Cards and December calendar pages is all a fantasy. In reality, those scenes only last 15-minutes until the plows come by and spread melting chemical and turn everything into a dirty, gray slush that splatters everywhere and sticks and freezes to everything.

Maybe it's because of the economy. Not that people are not shopping, because it truly is a nightmare out there at the malls... and even worse at the discount stores. I think WalMart is trying to cut expenses by manning only a small percentage of checkout lanes for all of those manic shoppers looking for the ultimate deal. They have increased the number of Self-Checkout lanes, though, but that doesn't do much good if you are stuck in line behind anyone that was born before the invention of bar codes-- they don't know what they are, how they work, or were to find them on the package. That is why they are at the store shopping instead of doing the smart thing and getting all of their gifts at SkeetzTeez.

Target seems to be in the same boat. I don't think there are more shoppers but the lines are, certainly, longer. I witnessed a poor girl working in electronics loose her mind over the weekend. She was huddled in the center of the island-like service desk, desperately trying to flag down some help on her walkie-talkie, while being bombarded with requests and questions from all directions. After several rejections from the automatic switchboard operator she threw up her arms, unlocked and opened all of the glass display cases containing the expensive cameras and video games, and left. I felt sorry for her as she abandoned her post but then I had to laugh as several of the shoppers followed her, grabbing the kids and pushing their carts full of bargain merchandise and trying to keep up with the escaping attendant.

Maybe it is because of work. Last year I was out of work-- in rehab because of the stroke-- and it felt like Christmas from Thanksgiving. Yesterday I was talking with a couple of co-workers at lunch and they agreed, too-- we can't wait for December 24! When you really think about it, work is all about the things that Christmas is not about-- the bottom line, making the sale, money (Okay, work is about things that Christmas is not supposed to be about). I know that some companies try to endorse Christmas Spirit but, in this economy, that's hard and businesses are tightening their belts and cutting the fat.

I truly hope that I can teach M3S about what Christmas is all about. He is so smart that he is at a stage that he is asking and learning about things that I am not ready for him to know. Because of that, I think we have to start teaching him what we want him to learn now-- before he picks it up on his own. MLW and I often find ourselves asking each other, "Where did he learn that?" Most of it is good so we can assume we are doing well or, at least, surrounding him with good people that are doing well, but we have to be careful and stay on top of things.

He took part in his first Christmas program at church last week. It was only a few songs in the chorus, but at three-years-old what do you expect? He really did a great job, too, when he wasn't playing air guitar or laying on the ground. As I was standing in the back of church trying to hold the video camera still and as high as I could to avoid a frame full of the the back of people's heads, a lady noticed M3S's shenanigans and said, "Oh, he's so cute!" Yes-- it's cute now, but just wait three or four years. I'm willing to bet if he is still pulling those stunts then she's going to have some other four-letter words for him besides "cute".

The whole production was written by a lady at church and told the Christmas Story through a candy cane, of all things. She really did a great job because it taught M3S that we give gifts at Christmas because the three "wise guys" (Greg, Frankenstein and Merv) brought gifts to the baby Jesus. When I let him loose in the store to pick out a present for his Mama he kept grabbing stuff and asking, "Is this in the Bible?"

I worry that he is going to be a good boy when he grows up but, with comments like that, I find it hard to believe that he will be anything but good. His little brother, however, I know is going to be another story. I have a strong feeling that we are going to be in big trouble with him because people say siblings are often on different ends of the personality spectrum. I have no complaints about this one so I bet the second is going to be a handful.

I've still got a few months to prepare but there are only nine more shopping days to Christmas! I have to quit writing now and do a little last-minute e-shopping at SkeetzTeez.

Merry Christmas. Read this. Buy T-shirts. Peace.


America's Top 40: Christmas

I promised, earlier in the week, that I was going to do a follow-up to my Top Twelve Days of Christmas Specials and List my favorite Christmas songs. I don't really have 40 but I have been working to narrow down the list to 10-12 for several days now and I just can't get there so I am going to go with my Top 14 Christmas Songs...

First the ground rules: All the songs are going to be Christmas songs. I'm as PC as the next guy but I wanted to pick my favorite holiday songs, I would. I celebrate Christmas, though, and I don't think Adam Sandler's, Hanukkah Song, would've broken the top 15, anyway, so I am going to stick with saying, "Merry Christmas". Note: I tried very, very hard to find some way to make the Counting Crow's, A Long December, a Christmas song but couldn't find even a remote reference to anything to do with the Winter Holiday so I had to leave it out which is a real shame because I love that tune.

Other ground rules include that we are not really judging the song, itself, but rather the specific performance of a song. Many of the entries are classic tunes that many artists have covered over the years and I am rating them on a single recorded version. In addition, to get the list down to a reasonable size, I had to eliminate songs that where written for a special Christmas program. Although many of the works have been included in Holiday TV shows or movies so this will eliminate some great classics like I'm Mister Heat Miser, Put One Foot in Front of the Other, and Christmastime Is Here or any of the other pieces composed by the great jazz musician, Vince Guaraldi.

Most of these songs also make this list of The Pop Top 100 Christmas Songs and you can see more detail and more fun stuff about this list at my Squidoo Lens: The Top 14 Pop Christmas Song Performances:

14. Wonderful Christmas Time- Paul McCartney (1979)- John Lennon was right when he said since McCartney went solo all that he does is silly love songs. That is, exactly, what this is but it made the list and Lennon's, Happy Christmas (War Is Over) didn't... What's wrong with that?

13. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)- U2 (1987)- This song was originally done by Darlene Love on the 1963 Album, A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector and she provided backing vocals when U2 recorded it for the compilation album A Very Special Christmas. I really never knew it was Bono singing but, when I hear it, I always find myself singing along in a baritone voice... Christmas... Christmas...

12. Sleigh Ride- Ella Fitgerald (1960)- This is the first of a few classic Christmas songs that I could of pick one of many performances as over 65 artist have recorded it including the Spice Girls, the Squirrel Nut Zippers, the Muppets and Clay Aiken. I choose this version because it has gained popularity recently by being featured in the Will Ferrell, soon to be Holiday classic, Elf, and my dad always like Ella.

11. Merry Christmas Baby- Bruce Springsteen (1987)- Originally a Beach Boys release, the more popular Springsteen version was recorded live at an earlier Jersey Holiday Concert and also featured on the A Very Special Christmas album. The boss does it better than the even more popular, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, which I have mentioned before, no grown man should be recording.

10. It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas- Johnny Mathis (1986)- Written in 1951, I thought Mathis did his version way before '86 as I thought I remember hearing it as a kid. My mom loved Johnny Mathis and the Andrew Sisters- who also did this song and I could have just as easily included here but Johnny has an awesome voice. I do remember, however, singing this song and The Holly and the Ivory in a Junior High Choir Competition. I wonder, what ever happened to Ms. Davis?

9. Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree- Brenda Lee (1958)- I find it interesting that over 30 artists have recorded this song but, still, the most air-play goes to this original. I remember doing a grade school program to this one! There are some really cool guitar licks in this song.

8. The Christmas Song- Nat King Cole (1946)- Written by Mel Torme, Cole recorded the tune four times between '46 and '61. It has been covered by other artists over 100 times-- none of them me, but it is my favorite classic.

7. Do They Know It's Christmas?- Band Aid (1984)- I think my dad camped out at a record store to get this for me for Christmas. Written by Bob Geldof the song was recorded by 40-some-odd 80s superstars on November 24, 1984 and released by Band Aid four-days later to raise money for the famine in Ethiopia.

6. Christmas Is A Time to Say I Love You- Billy Squire (1982)- MTV was young and rock singer Billy Squier was at his peak of popularity when this cheery holiday song was filmed as sort of an office party singalong. It is just plain fun.

5. Christmas Wrapping- The Waitresses (1981)- One of the best bass lines-- not only in a Christmas song, but in any song. Arguably, the obscure, Kent, Ohio, punk band's biggest hit, along with I Know What Boys Like and Square Pegs the theme song to the TV series of the same name starring a young Sarah Jessica Parker.

4. 2000 Miles- The Pretenders (1983)- This dark, seasonal song was released as a B-side to "Middle of the Road" and was a major hit in the UK. Although Crissie Hynde may be one of the least attractive women in music, she has a beautiful voice that resonates straight to your soul in this song.

3. All I Want for Christmas is You- Mariah Carey (1994)- You may think it a bit odd, with all of the rock-type music in my top-15, that I would include a Mariah Carey tune, consider that this original is the diva's most successful song worldwide and it is in the top ten most downloaded ring-tones of all time. I just like it because it reminds me of the music that the old Motown girl groups used to do.

2. Easier Said Than Done- Jon Anderson (1985)- This was the first and only single released from Yes front-man, Jon Anderson's solo Christmas album, Three Ships. It got a little air-time in the late 80s, but I haven't heard it in years and I have worn out my LP.

1. Celebrate Me Home- Kenny Loggins (1976)-
Celebrate Me Home was on Kenny Loggins' debut solo album of the same name. Although not released as a single, it evolved into one of Loggins' better-known songs, especially as it became a popular staple of radio stations' play-lists during the holiday season. I don't know exactly why, but when I hear this song and I am alone, it touches me in a way that I have a heard time holding back my emotions. That is why I rank it as number one.

Have a Merry Christmas or a Happy Holiday. Read this. Buy T-shirts. Peace.


SkeetzTeez Holiday Special

I took a day of vacation on Monday to accompany MLW to her doctor appointment. I am in awe each time we have an ultrasound done. Just to see that little baby inside Mama's tummy is amazing! Not to get into this discussion right now but, the whole miracle of life thing is so... delicate, so precise and perfect, that I don't see how anyone can say that it is all just a freak accident, or nature taking it's course with evolution of the species and stuff. 


It's also amazing how you take one day off work and there is three days worth of work for you when you come back. I will have to post the Top Ten Amazing Things That I Don't Understand but Can Always Count On sometime after the holidays. I have been working on a few articles including a follow-up to last week's The Twelve Days of Christmas Specials, The Twelve Days of Christmas Songs, but haven't had the time to make them presentable. In addition, we are in the peak of the Shopping Season and I haven't done a lot to push my cafepress shop, SkeetzTeez, lately so I thought I would do a little update.

Sales have been much like other shopkeepers told me to expect and, to my delight and surprise, the hot items this month have been the cool designs that I thought would do well, but have not up to this point. Although the Big Brother and Big Sister kid's stuff is still going along at the same pace, their numbers have been dwarfed by other merchandise imprinted with other designs. 

Suck It Trebeck, Smallville Athletics Department and the Schweddy Balls art is flying off the shelves. It is not only T-shirts that are selling, either, as sweatshirts and hoodies are especially popular this time of year and the shop has also sold a BBQ apron and a notebook journal. The thing that is really cool though is I think I have sold at least one of every design except for Schmidts and I kind of thought that I might have a problem with that one.

Even obscure concepts like Airplane, MXC, Bunch of Carp, Man on First, Ta-Daaaaaa and All You Need is Love have sold, as well as the first shirt from my Old Time Sports Collection and a I Survived a Major Brain Injury and All I Got Was This Lousy T-shirt, of all things! In addition, the Charlestown Chiefs, Shermer High School, Land of the Lost, and several of the maternity ware are still moving and even a few of the newest addition, Cotton-headed Ninny-Muggins, from my favorite new Christmas Classic, Elf, starring Will Ferrell have been purchased.

All-in-all, I can't complain a bit on how, what started as an experiment and turned into a part-time job, has turned out. I mean-- I can always wish for more sales but, I think that will come with time. Already I have seen an increase in volume every month and, even more importantly, I have seen a larger percentage of sales coming directly from the shop instead of through the marketplace, as of late. In the first ten-days of December, I have already had more sales than in all of November, and about 20% of those have made the purchase through the shop-- which will lead to a bonus for me at the end of the month.

Another benefit to the increased exposure to SkeetzTeez is more exposure for my other projects including this blog and my Squidoo Lenses. This has become increasingly important to me as I have developed a lens to spread the word about my campaign to inform people about the risks of stroke from chiropractic treatment. 

Which, by the way, will not cost you a dime to contribute to this cause! If you would like to help me, please visit the sight. If you like it you can help further by linking and bookmarking to it and visiting frequently, favoriting it, giving it a high rating, leaving a comment on the message board and forwarding it to friends and asking them to do the same. You can go one more step by building your own lens for a cause that is important to you. (All the proceeds from my lens go to the Stroke Network and, yes-- even regular visits will contribute a small amount to the charity.) I know it is a lot to ask but it would really be appreciated! Do it on Friday... nobody really works on Friday afternoon.

Alright-- this was a really boring post, but it is something. I will try to do better later in the week. In the mean time... Read This. (The reason I started the campaign I talked about.) Buy T-shirts. (There are only a few more internet shopping days left until Christmas.) Peace.


Let's Roll! 1.08

I figured I would go ahead and do a special edition Let's Roll for the holidays now because there is so much cool stuff that I run across on the internet this time of year and I don't know if or when I'm going to have another shot to get it all in. I have included a wide variety of links with everything from ideas the get your shopping list going and tools to make shopping easier to places to shop online and fun stuff that is used to entice you to shop at a certain store. I'm sure glad that shopping... I mean Christmas, hasn't become commercialized. Let's Roll!

ElfYourself- If you have been sent this via email in the past, there is a good chance that you deleted it as spam, an e-chain letter or just another annoying e-greeting card that you wish no one would send because then you feel obligated to remember to send them one on their birthday. This one is actually pretty cool, however, and may be worth a few minutes of screwing with. It's free to elf yourself and send the short movie to your friends, though, it'll run you $4.99 to download the dance and more if you want to buy product with your elf pic imprinted on it.

PaperSnowflakes- Ever make paper snowflakes as a kid? This site is titled Paper Snowflakes for Children but I cut one for a project at work and it took me 45-minutes and I have take college courses on how to cut paper. It provides folding and cutting instructions as well as patterns to make about 600 different designs and tips and tricks from the pros (do you believe that there are professional snowflake cutters?) that will soon have you on the level of Will Ferrell in Elf.

2008 Christmas Specials TV Schedule- I made mention of this site in a posting earlier in the week, The Twelve Days of Christmas Specials: My Top Twelve Holiday Programs, but it is worth another plug. It has an extensive list of movies, special presentations and even regular programming holiday episodes by date with times and channels. Be sure to check out some of the old reruns of shows like Three's Company, Green Acres and The Beverly Hillbillies, to name a few, Christmas shows on TVLand.

Amazon.com- is one of the biggest e-retailers in the world so it wouldn't be surprising if you had heard of them or even made a purchase from the Website in the past but, until I was laid up last year and did all my shopping online, I was unaware of the many member features that the industry leader offers. Gift and wish lists based on your buying and searching habits are pretty common now but Amazon takes it a step or two further with special Gold Box discounts on merchandise on your list in addition to the Deal of the Day and Lightening Deals up to 66% off regular pricing.

Also when you are shopping at Amazon or similar sites, check the More Buying Choices sections. You can often find the same item in a new or like-new condition for a fraction of the price. When purchasing merchandise with this option, though, be sure to look over reviews of the seller and read things like the shipping policies to make sure you know what your getting into.

SkeetzTeez- If you are reading this blog because you enjoy it and not just because you're my wife's second-cousin, you feel sorry for me, or you owe me money-- I absolutely, positively guarantee that there is something that you or someone on your holiday shopping list (probably someone that is usually very hard to buy a gift for) is going to really dig at SkeetzTeez! I am still adding new designs almost every day but there is a ton of cool stuff to choose from, including the new seasonal stuff featuring Will Ferrell's Elf- Cotton-Headed Ninny-Muggins and Pete Schweddy's Balls shirts. Other popular items this holiday season include TV's Smallville and Suck It Trebeck, movie's Shermer H.S. Bulldogs and Slapshot's Charlestown Chiefs, the Old Time sports collection as well as some really smart, cool fashion designs.

SkeetzTeez has all kinds of T-shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies, hats, office accessories, drinkware and other fun items for adults and kids, men and women, boys and girls, babies, expectant moms and even something for the dog. You certainly won't regret giving these unique, custom holiday gift items this year-- and if your are my wife's second cousin, you feel sorry for me or you owe me money... you might even find something you like.

Read this. Peace.


The Twelve Days of Christmas Specials

I haven't gone the way of Top 10 Lists of Whatever on this blog because I think it is way overdone. I don't know what makes those people who do post such lists an authority on the subject-- including even the "professional" critics who claim to be an authority so they can make a living from their lists of the best or worst, giving something a certain number of stars or a thumbs-up or or thumbs-down. I figure that I have been around for a pretty long time now, seen enough movies multiple times to make a fair judgement to give my opinion about them and have this blog as my vehicle to deliver my message. Besides, I couldn't think of anything else to write about.

Let me go over the ground rules. I only included Christmas movies and made-for-television programs in my list. Films that were set during the holidays but did not focus on Christmas were not included. This eliminated some decent flicks including Edward Scissorhands, Trading Places, Gremlins, Die Hard and Planes, Trains and Automobiles not to mention Home Alone, which was a huge hit but wouldn't be on my list anyway. 

It is a shame that I am not going to include any Music or Variety Specials on my list either because the Saturday Night Live skit featuring Alec Baldwin as Pete Schweddy and his Holiday Schweddy Balls would be near the top.  We'll have to save it for another list or two in the future.

Oh, and one more thing-- all of these specials have been on TV and are scheduled to be featured on TV this holiday season. If you would like details of when to catch your favorite Christmas Special, there is a pretty comprehensive list available on Wikipedia.

So without further ado, here is my list of the Top Twelve Christmas Specials:

12. Polar Express (2004)- Although the story's message is about how the wonder of life never fades for those who believe and the imagery of the train trip to the North Pole is remarkable, there were many parts of this film that reminded me of a nightmare-- dark and spooky. The computer generated animation techniques developed for this production are innovative, even by today's standards, and the way the digital characters movement and emotions are driven by real actors, mainly Tom Hanks, is pretty amazing in itself.

11. A Christmas Carol (1951)- Talk about Spooky? There are several dozen film adaptations of Charles Dickens' novel including everything from musicals to Muppets but the black-and-white English production with Alastair Sim playing Ebeneezer Scrooge is considered the definitive movie version. We pulled off a much smaller scaled translation for the CYC Christmas show in High School that wasn't too, too bad. I played Bob Cratchit and my sister was Tiny Tim because, if I remember correctly, she was on crutches at the time for a real injury. Brian Leriche beat me out of the part of Scrooge but he did a great job.

10. Scrooged (1988)- Based on the same story but different enough to earn it's own spot on the list. Bill Murray is Frank cross, the wealthy, cold-hearted TV executive Scrooge-like character in this modern-day edition. It delivers the same feel-good message, but the ghosts are not as scary as in the original and, although it's no Caddyshack, it's still pretty funny, so it settles one place higher on my list.

9. Santa Claus is Coming to Town (1970)- This is one of my earliest Christmas memories-- watching this claymation classic on our plaid vinyl couch in our new 70s add-on family room. This special was way before it's time as it took the format of a psychedelic, Behind the Music 25-years before VH-1... if Santa was in a band. Love the story... hate the song. Why do grown musicians still try to record this thing?

8. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)- Were all the kids-film-makers from the 60s and 70s on dope? All of the fine Dr. Seuss' stuff seems that way. Boris Karloff as the narrator gives this show a tone that no other voice man could ever pull off. You want to do something crazy? Wait until the hottest day of the year and pop this DVD in. I bet you shiver before you reach the halfway mark.

What? What's that you say? Jim Carrey who? Message to all directors and producers in Hollywood. Stop trying to re-make Dr. Suess movies!

7. Miracle on 34th Street (1947, 1994)- Unlike with A Christmas Carol, I am going to list both versions of this film together because they are basically the same but they have some merit of their own. The original, starring Maureen O'Hara, Edmund Gwenn and Natalie Wood was awarded three Oscars and the latter, with Elizabeth Perkins, Richard Attenborrough and Mara Wilson was just as charming. Out of all the feel-goods on my list, this is the one that oozes the most Christmas cheer.

6. The Year Without A Santa Claus (1974)- The second Rankin/Bass production on my list could have just about a dozen other similar animated specials including Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer or a Very Brady Christmas except for four-words that put this one over the top... I'm Mister Heat Miser...

OK, It's been easy up to this point but, to tell you the truth, I am having a hard time with the top five as any one of them could have been number one. Who decided that I should do this, anyway?

5. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)- What can I really say about this holiday standard? If The Polar Express is on the top of the technical effects pile Charlie Brown Christmas would be buried deep on the bottom. The first Peanuts program to make it to TV was done on a shoestring budget which resulted in a primitive, choppy animation style, poor sound quality and editing blunders but it has aired, unchanged, annually, every year since and, more recently several times a year. The first airing was a critical and commercial hit with half of all the TVs in the nation tuned in and it was honored with both an Emmy and Peabody award. The season was not quite complete for me as a kid until we plopped down in front of the tube to watch the Dolly Madison sponsored classic with the smooth jazz composition of Vince Guaraldi and Linus' reading of the Gospel of Luke 2:8-14 exclaiming the true meaning of Christmas to the gang.

4. A Christmas Story (1983)- This film makes it to number one on a lot of the lists that I have seen but, maybe because of overexposure, can only top out at four on my list. The low-budget flick, set in 1940 in a fictional Indiana town, follows nine-year-old Ralphie Parker and his family on his quest for the one thing he wants for Christmas-- an official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle BB gun. Although it takes you back to a simpler time when Dad was "the Old Man", having your mouth washed out with soap and no red-blooded American Boy would turn down a Double-Dirty-Dog-Dare, it is really timeless in that I could relate to many of the characters and situations in the plot and multiple sub-plots. Overall a really fun and enjoyable way to spend 94-minutes during the holidays. I like to catch it as I help Santa assemble all the gifts during the 24-hour marathon on TNT.

3. It's A Wonderful Life (1946)- From a film set in the 40s to one that was made then. Frank Cappra's masterpiece based on the short story, The Greatest Gift, takes place in a fictional town called Bedford Falls shortly after WWII and features Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey, a man who is about to commit suicide when he is visited by his guardian angel, Clarence, shows him what the town, and all the people in it would be like without him. Feel-good, almost to the point of sappy, the film, because of production expense and competition at the box office, was originally considered a flop. It was nominated for five Academy Awards but won none, however it has been named as The American Film Institute's List of Top 100 movies at number 11 and AFI's List of Top 100 Inspirational Movies at number 1, as well as many other honors over the last 60-years. If you haven't seen any movies on the list, this is the one to rent this month.

2. Elf (2003)- I know! I didn't think that I could include this one but it cleared the ground rules. Then I thought I shouldn't include it because it was your traditional "classic" Christmas flick, but I think it is quickly becoming one. My wife and I happened to see this movie on opening night and, even with a broken nose that I got when she tried to pull a quick move and get her arm around me for some PDA and a sore neck because we arrived late and had to sit in the front row, we had the best time with this fun little film. Will Ferrell can make almost anything he does fun but his over-the-top, child-like, clumsy comedy is perfect for the part of Buddy-- the human raised by Santa's elves who travels from the North Pole, through the candy cane forest... to New York to find his Dad and gets into all kinds of hilarious mischief. All-in-all just good clean fun! Anyone that sincerely cannot say they had a good time watching this, must be a Cotton-Headed Ninny-Muggin!

1. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)- Second best in the vacation series and this is no Caddyshack either, but still enough to pull off the top spot on my list. Chevy Chase, as Clark, and the rest of the Griswald clan hit way to close to home when they explore the best and worst part of the holiday season-- the family gathering. Although there are better feel-gooders on the list, bigger productions on the list and funnier scripts on the list, Christmas Vacation is a good mix of all of all of those things and everyone can relate with the situations that come up when we celebrate with loved ones.

That's my list of The Twelve Days of Christmas Specials. We'll have to review again next year because I'm sure it will change by then. In the mean time... Merry Christmas. Read this. Buy T-shirts. Peace.


Monday Morning Quarterback 1.12

Cyber-Monday Morning Quarterback this week. I really don't know what all of the big hub-bub was about though. I haven't seen any increase in sales at SkeetzTeez at all! I'm still hoping that we will see some kind of sales increase before the holidays. If you think  about it, the designs in my shop are going to appeal, mostly, to people that fall into a demographic as mine... impulse buyers that often wait until the last minute. So there is nothing to worry about yet.

I've been off for the last four-days in observance of Thanksgiving and I haven't posted anything in five- or six-days so I have a lot to get caught up on and only a half-hour left on my lunch so let's get to my notes from the weekend:

• Ever notice that the Jewish community usually observes holidays while most others celebrate holidays? It's like one big party when you're thirteen and then no more fun until you get married or die.
• Did you hear of the tragic story of the Wal-Mart employee that was trampled to death by 2,000 Black Friday shoppers? I don't blame the store because they did not do anything different than thousands of other retail outlets across the nation but what does that have to say about our society?
• I went shopping for a short time on Friday and it was enough to turn me off for the entire holiday season. Besides being, literally, run into by a rude, fat man in one of those electric carts and having some DVDs taken out of my cart, I don't think I saw even one act of Christmas spirit in the three stores I was at. I'm doing the rest of my shopping online.
• We've had our first snowfall of the year. It was just a dusting but I'm surprised we've made it through alive. I left 30-minutes early for work this morning and still arrived 30-minutes late. This is surprising as I thought everyone would be at the grocery stores stocking up on milk and bread like they were going to be trapped at home for a week, instead of on the highways freaking out on black ice in the middle of my path downtown.
• More than several years ago a roommate of mine took a loaf of bread from a woman's cart that was stocking up for a big storm. She had a cartload and we just wanted to make a sandwich.
• We may have a new family tradition for Thanksgiving. We avoided the stress of visiting both sides of the family and went to the Holiday Parade and followed it with a family movie matinee (we were the only three in the theater) and an afternoon nap. May be the best Thanksgiving we had since being married because there were no fights!
• We have another tradition on my side of the family that we have been doing for several years now. I don't know who's idea it was but I think it is brilliant. My dad, brother, brother-in-law and I meet in the morning the day or two after Thanksgiving and help each other string up our Christmas lights followed by a leftover feast at Mimi's.
• Although I like white lights on the house, this year we are going green. The new LED lights cost three-times as much but they supposedly use much less electricity. In addition, they are more durable, so we may be able to use them more than one year and they are about 10x as bright. The traditional white lights look like yellow next to them.
• Watch later this week for my Top Ten List of Holiday Movies. I don't know what makes me an authority of the subject but, honestly, what makes anyone else an expert either?
• I noticed on Yahoo that today is World AIDS Day. Remember when we new very little about AIDS and it was all over the news? Now that we have been convinced that it is not a real threat to the average American we rarely think about it but it is still killing millions of people in the third-world.
• Those of you that follow my blog know that I was planning on sharing my post, From the Bottom of My Heart, at a special Thanksgiving service at church. I wasn't sure how I felt about opening up in front of all of those people but I am glad I did and I hope others got as much out of hearing my story as I got out of sharing it.
• Our pastor printed and handed out copies of my blog post on Sunday so my secret may be out and members of NC3 may be regular readers now. If you are... Welcome. I will have to be sure to keep it clean.
Weighed in today at 186!
Happy Birthday Asher! Just in case she ever checks in on the blog. I doubt it though since she is a big-shot college student.
• The one year mark of my stroke came and went without much fanfare. I have tried to write about it several times but just can't find the time to gather all of my thoughts into something worthwhile. I will try to get something done on it this week but here is the story summed up in a quick note. Good news: Remarkable recovery of close to 100% and I am probably in the best shape in the last 20-years. Bad news: No one cares to hear that I had a major brain injury except insurance companies and since it has been a year, I promised MLW that I would stop using it as an excuse for my incompetence. I guess I will have to go back to blaming my incompetence on being a male.
• Although many are tired about hearing my story, I am still on a mission to tell everyone I can reach about the risks involved in chiropractic treatment. If you or a loved one put your well-being in the hands of a chiropractor, you must check out my Squidoo lens Sroke-Chiropractor.



From the Bottom of My Heart

I am looking forward to the special sharing service at our church tonight. There will be two worship sets of four songs each, with an open mic opportunity for individuals to stand before the congregation and say what they are thankful for. 

In past years, there would be little chance that I would even be there, much less, opening up publicly in front of all those people. Not because it is one of the biggest party nights of the year, because I haven't really partied in years, but because it would be an understatement to say that I don't feel comfortable speaking in front of large groups of people (although I am OK singing in front of crowds, but that story is for another day).

This year, however, I feel compelled to give praise where praise is do and try to pass on the understanding and enlightenment that I have learned from my experiences over the past year to anyone else who will listen. I see it going something like this:

I am thankful that I had a stroke. I know that may sound a little strange as I could be thankful for so many other things like that I have had such a remarkable recovery and, although it was hard, I am here and I can walk and talk and do most anything that I could do before. I could be thankful that I have such an wonderful wife and awesome son or that we are going to have another little miracle in February and we are all happy and healthy for the most part. I could be thankful that I have family and so many, many friends that love and care for us and a decent enough job in these tough economic times that we can have all that we need and most of what we want. I could be thankful, as well, for hundreds of other things as little as the ability to play RockBand and as big as the giant hugs from my best buddy in the whole world.

Don't get me wrong... I am so very thankful for all of these things, no matter how big or small, but if it wasn't for that short time last November that I was sure that I had lost so many of the things that we daily take for granted, I wouldn't be up here thanking God for all that he has given me. To be perfectly honest, I would be sitting out there half-listening to someone else share and partly thinking about why turkey makes you so sleepy or what tight-end to start on my fantasy football team tomorrow or where I am going to find a Wii before Christmas.

I know this because last year I had just as much, if not more, to be thankful for. As far as I knew, I was on top of the world and everything was going great until a minuscule little piece of plaque became lodged in a blood vessel in my brain. I discovered that everything I had learned about control in my life was wrong because, before that moment, I thought that I was in control. From that point on, however, I didn't matter how strong I was, how smart I was, how determined I was or even how lucky I was, I knew that I was in control of nothing. 

Nothing I did made a difference of how quickly I was going to be able to do all those things I had been taking for granted for so long-- and I tried just about everything. Although we saw a little bit of progress with the rehabilitation almost every day, there were a few weeks of frustration before, with a broken spirit, I gave up on myself and gave it all to God. 

What took me so long? Stubbornness, pride, ignorance... all of the things that I had thought made me tough and gave me good character. I don't know for sure but I suppose I liked myself pretty much before the event and, honestly, didn't know that I was going about a lot of things in the wrong way.

I know that God doesn't give us anything we cannot handle. I know that what doesn't kills us will make us stronger. I know that God loves us, wants the best for us and that we should give all of our problems to Him. I know, even though I do not totally understand how, His grace transcends all worldly things. It just took a massive brain injury for me to truly understand what all of this meant-- God is in control and the more we fight that fact or try to take control from Him, the harder and more painful it is going to be.

I would not wish what I went through an anyone else but I think it was the most sincere learning experience in my whole life and I am truly a better person for it as I have three new Ps-- new perspective, new priorities and new passion. I hope that you too can find your little stroke that helps you see what we should be thankful for.

Be Thankful. Read This. Buy T-shirts. Peace.