Thursday, December 22, 2011

This week's column

A wish for hope and joy this Christmas
Long ago there was a time when a population was ruled by strangers in their own country.
The ruling country was harsh and had an appetite for ruling the world. No talk of any other ruler would be tolerated.
People were heavily taxed, desperate for rest and stressed.
They were frustrated and the gap between rich and poor was vast.
They were waiting on a promise.
Waiting until there were shepherds on a hillside, a star in the sky, wise men on their way and a baby in a manger.
Hope had arrived.
This Christmas, many find themselves in what they see as desperate situations. The economy is bad. Some are living paycheck to paycheck.
People are hurting and lonely. A holiday focusing on family gatherings makes them feel empty instead of warm.
Christmas has become a mad dash for holiday bargains and a long list of unnecessary wants. While others suffer, some fight over a $5 waffle iron in the mad Christmas rush.
We ask, “What are you getting for Christmas?” rather than, “What are you giving for Christmas?”
It’s become a busy array of gatherings that are “fit in” rather than enjoyed. Sometimes the concept of family is lost in the schedule.
We forget about the star that shone over a dirty stable one night. It led to a child, a very important child, not born in a palace but a storage place for hay and animals.
The first to see him were not dignitaries and priests. They were shepherds who may have been out with their sheep for days, smelly and dirty. He came for the poor, the hurting and the lonely, a description that fits most of us at some time in our lives.
We’re an overstressed and over-stimulated society. As a result, we’ve turned Christmas into something dreaded instead of enjoyed. We’ve created the chaos we dread.
We forget about that baby in the manger and who he grew to be. His sacrifice so that others may have joy complete.
Joy is what seems to be missing from the modern celebration of Christmas. We need to stop, breath and smile at the joy of Christmas. The cookies can wait, the presents will get wrapped and the family will get to their gatherings when they can.
Often we feel like Charlie Brown who couldn’t quite figure out Christmas anymore. He even felt depressed. He asked, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”
Then Linus proceeds to tell him the story of that baby in the manger so long ago. Charlie Brown smiled and left the chaos of the play he was struggling to direct. Soon everyone else followed and left the chaos behind.
Like Linus, maybe remembering the story of Christmas may calm the craziness of the season, and like Charlie Brown, we can figure out the joy we’ve missed.
We can think about those shepherds on the hillside, the star in the sky, the wise men who paid tribute and the baby in the manger.
I wish all of you a blessed and joy-filled Christmas.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear ... and watching 'Elf'
One of my favorite things to do during the Christmas season is to watch Christmas movies.
A basket full of them sits by my television all season long. Snoopy, the Griswolds, Santa, various reindeer, George Bailey, some wise men and a Grinch all are included.
But one Christmas movie has trumped all others lately — mainly because it’s full of Christmas cheer, which I hear comes from singing loudly for all to hear.
That’s right, “Elf” is my Christmas favorite. I probably watch it at least 10 times throughout the Christmas season. It’s the movie I pop in while decking the halls with Christmas décor, when I’m wrapping presents, filling out Christmas cards and making Christmas cookies. The movie helps remind me those things are supposed to be joyful and not stressful.
If a 6-foot-tall elf walking around New York isn’t enough to draw you to the film, there’s also a bit of nostalgia in the beginning that reminds viewers of Christmas shows they grew up with. It looks like Rudolph’s world.
I think I like it most because of the childlike innocence Buddy the Elf brings to everyone he comes in contact with.
Remember when Christmas was like that? The excitement building to Christmas morning, the joy of snow and how doing anything Christmas-related made you giddy.
Now Christmas is all about fighting over the best deals in department stores, rushing to get everywhere on time and the stress over finding the right gifts for people you only see once a year. And then there’s the decorating and, even worse, cleaning up afterward.
Buddy sees Christmas through the eyes of a child. His excitement is contagious to all in the film. He’s a reminder that we’ve turned Christmas into chaos when it should be something very sweet.
I wish I could regain that childlike excitement. I tend to put up the décor out of habit and gripe as I walk around the house to plug in everything. A little taste of Buddy the Elf reminds me that singing Christmas songs is cheerful and there’s room for everyone on the nice list, even if they get on my last nerve.
He even has his own holiday now. Dec. 18 is deemed “International Answer the Phone Like Buddy the Elf Day.” I might not ask someone their favorite color when answering the phone myself — odds are I’ll forget anyway — but I’ll laugh if someone else does. Maybe that day I’ll partake in some of the elves’ four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corn and syrup.
Although my mother absolutely hates this movie — mainly because she’s not a Will Ferrell fan — I love it.
Buddy likes everyone, thinks everything is exciting and just wants to give everyone a hug.
So grab the world’s best cup of coffee, sing your favorite Christmas tunes and enjoy this Christmas season. And don’t forget to smile — smiling’s Buddy’s favorite thing to do.
The film focuses on the traditions and not truth of Christmas, but it makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. And, yes, Buddy, it makes me smile.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

This Week's Column

More than thankful
As I look back on 2011, there are many things to be thankful for.
Some of them are the usual suspects: health, food, clothing and all the other basics. Some things I am thankful for are silly, like Diet Coke and Italian food. Some are sweet, like another year with my aging Lab, Boo.
One event in 2011 made saying “I’m thankful” seem almost a trite expression. It was something that made being grateful more than just words expressed. It was a state of being that overwhelmed me to my very core.
In March my dad was in a farming accident. He became trapped in a grain bin filled with corn. Seconds before being pulled completely under the corn stored inside, the mechanism pulling the corn out of the bin into a truck was shut off and rescue crews were sent to free him.
Thankful is an understatement.
My dad is the strongest man I know. He is known as one of the manliest of men to most of my friends. To think of him trapped in that situation was terrifying.
But, the ending was not tragic. It was miraculous. He was freed with barely a scratch. His guardian angels must have been working double time that day.
Our family always will be thankful for those on the farm helping that day — farmers, firefighters and EMS.
We are also thankful to God.
I remember being in the Sunday service that followed his escape and bursting into tears while singing one of the songs in the service. The words “oh, no you never let go, every high and every low,” have brought new meaning. God blessed us with more years with my dad. For that, I was overwhelmed with gratitude.
Life has gone on since then. The norm has returned. Summer has gone and fall is here, planting has turned to harvest and the Wildcats are back on the hardwood.
I know, now more than ever, to never take my family for granted. Sure, they’re not perfect, but both of my parents are the kind of people I’m blessed to know.
So today, while eating turkey and all the fixings, dad and I will watch the Packers take on Detroit and I’ll value our time spent together.Events like that put your thoughts into perspective. New joy, new peace and a new mindset invades.
I love you, Daddy. You are my Superman.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

This week's column

Zombies everywhere

I’m not sure at what point in our nation’s history zombies became cool. They’ve appeared in B horror films for years.
Maybe we can blame Michael Jackson for it. Jackson and his zombie friends danced their way to music history in “Thriller.”
It’s more likely the fault of popular films today with zombie themes or television shows such as “The Walking Dead.”
No matter the reason for their popularity, one question remains. Are you ready for the Zombie Apocalypse? The Centers for Disease Control is. Well sort of.
I ran across a post on Facebook about the CDC’s recommendations on how to prepare for a zombie apocalypse. I thought it was fake but was curious so I clicked on it. Sure enough, it was from the CDC. Somebody in that office is very clever.
The campaign was launched before hurricane season to give advice on how to be prepared for emergencies. To get people’s attention the usually dry government organization got a bit creative.
Laced between the usual yearly advice on first aid kits, emergency supplies and evacuation plans is “research” on zombie lore and what to expect during a zombie apocalypse. “Night of the Living Dead” was used as a source in their research.
They even go as far to say if zombies begin roaming the streets the CDC would investigate like any other disease outbreak and joked about the “disease detectives” who would be first responders to the zombies.
At the launch of the zombie “advice” the CDC’s website went from 3,000 to 30,000 page views and the organization’s Twitter followers went from 12,000 to 1.2 million.
For those of you who at this point are getting your weapons ready for the onslaught, zombies are not real. You know that, right?
Their appearance in folklore probably came from the same source of many of our other monster legends today. Sadly, a skin disease most likely infected a town, everyone got scared and zombies were born.
While I don’t believe in zombies, even though a few teenagers I work with might look the type when expected to be somewhere before 8 a.m. on a Saturday, I do applaud the CDC’s creativity.
They took a normally dry yearly public relations campaign and turned it into an attention getting promotion that even included a bit of useful information.
Their hope seemed to be if people were willing to prepare for a zombie emergency then they’d be prepared for real ones too. They were banking on the assumption that if you say the word “zombie” enough, you’ll get someone’s attention. It seems it worked.
Zombie, zombie, zombie. Let’s see if it works here, too.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

This Week's Column

Lessons from George McFly
A teen forces himself out of bed on Monday morning. A new week at school has begun. He gets dressed and puts on the new jacket his mom bought him over the weekend. She knew something was wrong but he wouldn’t talk about it.

He looks in the mirror, a slight smile on his face hoping today would be better. He grabs his bag and talks himself into stepping out the door.

He walks into school, a small bit of confidence from his new clothes, hoping they won’t noticed it’s the cheaper knock-off version of a popular style. But soon, his spirit is crushes. There they are. Why does their locker have to be near his?

His heart pounds as he walks to his locker and it begins. Before they even open their mouths, he sees a note on his locker. The bullying has begun again and he wonders, “When will this end?”

According to a website devoted to statistics on bullying, 71 percent of students reported in 2010 that bullying was an ongoing problem. The top grades for bullying are fourth and eighth grades and 282,000 students reportedly are attacked in high schools in the United States each month.

Bottom line, this is a problem.

Most of us who are children of the 1980s remember “Back to the Future.” Marty’s dad was bullied by Biff and it created a life of low self-esteem and lack of motivation to be more because he was convinced he couldn’t. When Marty changed the past and his dad stood up to the person he feared, his entire future changed.

When bullying wasn’t a part of his life, he had a new confidence and felt like he could accomplish anything.

While a fictional account, it paints a picture of what many kids who are bullied go through. Bullying creates a pattern of self-doubt, depression and worthlessness that continues throughout their lives, often making them targets of bullying in the workplace or in personal relationships when they get older.

Some might say teens are overreacting, but in case you haven’t noticed, a teenage brain hasn’t always developed coping skills and their first reaction is usually an emotional one. Because of this complex make up of their brains, even the smallest amount of bullying can send them over the edge.

Bullying through words hurts enough, but sometimes bullying goes further, to physical attacks or abuse. It is often an ignored subject or something a child will hide because it hurts their pride or they are afraid the bullying will intensify.

One of the biggest problems is that often bullies thinks they are “cool” for hurting others. They get a rush or puffed up ego from being able to cause someone to fear them. And even worse, they gain followers.

I might not know many things, but one thing I know for sure is bullying is not cool. It’s not even close. Getting joy from the pain of others is nothing to brag about. It’s selfish, cruel and just plain dumb.

What’s cool is the kid who stands up for those being bullied. The person who says enough is enough. If there were more people like that in schools and in the world in general, maybe the statistics would change.

My biggest question is, who will you be?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

This Week's Column

Pinterest: An obsessive new distraction

My mind is fluttering in about 50 different directions. I have so many ideas, but I can’t seem to focus on any of them.

I blame my newest social networking obsession for this. Yes, I’m often on Facebook, I tweet and watch funny videos on YouTube but lately, thanks to a friend, I discovered Pinterest.

Pinterest is a virtual bulletin board for sharing ideas and website links to them. You get to create multiple board topics and “pin” the links and photos of the things you find on those boards. It’s the sophisticated, organized cousin of bookmarking.

Why does this contribute to my lack of focus? Because of the amazing randomness of the ideas and topics to look at while perusing the site.

While this column is not intended to be an endorsement for the site, I feel like I need to explain my obsession.

For example, on the board I titled “Yum” I have virtually “pinned” recipes for delicious looking lasagna cups, cheddar bacon ranch pull-apart bread, mini mac and cheese pies and a fresh tomato mozzarella tart with basil garlic crust. Can you see why the board is called Yum? And then there are dessert ideas — Mini German chocolate cakes, cinnamon rolls on a stick with dipping sauce, and chocolate chip cookie and Oreo brownies, just to name a few.

Most of the time I have no idea who these recipes came from but when I click on them they link me to a website that explains how to make these delectable treats.

And then there are the craft ideas. Christmas decorations, instructions on how to make a gift bag out of newspapers and layered dessert plates made out of dollar store stove burner covers are a few things I’ve discovered.

I’ve also learned how to make a pet bed out of an old suitcase and a kid’s kitchen set out of an old pressed wood desk.

Are you getting the picture? Along with all the things I find and pin, I can see what all my friends are discovering and pinning as well.

The problem I run into is that the site not only has cute ideas for things to make but also offers ideas for my home, kitchen and wardrobe. I want to try them all. This is probably why I haven’t made a single craft or recipe from the site yet.

I’m sure the newness that has me pulled in so many directions will wear off soon, I’ll get focused and I’ll actually attempt to create some of the things found on the site.

But for now, my brain is jumping. Cookies, design ideas, Christmas crafts. Oh, the possibilities.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

This week's column

Duke the fierce and grumpy
Most of the time, most people find themselves cheering on the little guy.

When David faced and defeated Goliath, everyone cheered, “Way to go, Dave.”

When a small band of rebel forces took on the galactic empire in “Star Wars,” we all yelled, “Use the force, Luke.”

When Rocky took on Apollo Creed, we joined the chant and yelled, “Rocky, Rocky, Rocky.”

When the underdog defeats the No. 1 team in any sport, we all suddenly become fans.

When 300 Spartans battled Xerxes’ hordes, many took on the rallying cry of fighting against the odds. OK, well maybe that one is a stretch and the only reason I cheered on the Spartans when I saw “300” was because it starred Gerard Butler who, as I’ve admitted several times, is my celebrity crush.

But back to the little guy, which brings us to the tale of one foot tall Duke the Corgi who might be one little guy who should leave well enough alone.

I took Duke to Glasgow to a Woofstock pet event where my brother’s vet clinic, Animal Clinic of Glasgow, had a booth. Duke and I walked around, got a few treats, signed up for a few games and Duke even got his picture taken.

We tried one game with a pool full of tennis balls. Kind of like a duck pond game. If the dog removed a tennis ball they got a prize. Duke sat down next to the pool and looked at me like he was thinking, “Are you kidding me? This looks too much like a bath.”

Then something strange happened. Little, tiny, squatty Duke ran toward a German shepherd, growling. Everyone around us just stopped and looked down at him.

I think the shepherd was laughing inside at the thought of this tiny challenge.

My first response probably wasn’t very maternal.

“What are you thinking? Do you see the size of that dog? He can eat you,” I said as I looked down at him.

After that point, he decided to be grumpy and growl at every dog that passed, especially the German shepherds. I guess that day proved that Duke is actually a people dog and not a big fan of dogs outside his immediate circle. He’d be a great therapy dog for people but would probably spend the day in the dog house if he went to puppy daycare.

So for the rest of the event, Duke was in my brother’s booth, in time out.

We did win second prize for the dog that traveled the farthest, but I scratched his name out of the Mr. Woofstock competition because he became Mr. Grumpy Britches.

Regardless of Duke’s sudden bad mood, we did have fun visiting my brother and it looked like the rest of the dogs enjoyed themselves.

The moral of Duke’s story is that sometimes when the underdog takes on a giant the story is retold and cheered by many. But sometimes the little guy should just back down before he gets eaten by a German shepherd.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

This week's column

My memories of 9/11

As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 was observed over the weekend, many have recounted where they were or how they felt that day and in the time that followed.

I had recently graduated from Seminary and was about to move home from Louisville. I went to work like any other morning to input data at a library collection agency in Southern Indiana. Some called us the library police.

After the first plane hit, the receptionist told us she received a phone call saying an airplane had hit the World Trade Center. We all thought it was a small plane and was an accident. Then she got a second call about the second plane.

We all huddled in our conference room on a fuzzy television that barely had a signal.

We all stood there, speechless, as the first tower crumbled. Shock would be the best word to describe it.

The days that followed were a bit of a blur. The television stayed on in my apartment, constantly tuned into news coverage to see if anyone survived.

From my apartment I could see planes heading in and out of the airport, but the skies that week were empty, no blinking lights. Except for one night. Any other time it wouldn’t have stood out, but a single plane was flying in the night’s sky. I found out the next morning it was a small plane that had been given permission to fly medical supplies to New York.

I remember seeing the tired and worn rescue workers on the news and wanted to drive to New York and give them a hug or bake them cookies, anything. Most of us will never know what they went though. What they saw, smelled and heard.

The end of that week I was scheduled to move home, commuting to Indiana while trying to find a church job. Home was such a welcome thought. I kept thinking as I watched things unfold on television that I would soon be home. Home seemed like a safe place.

In the years that followed many things changed. We went to war and I encountered people’s lives touched by the results of 9/11. Brave families at home with fear behind their eyes.

I also took my first plane trip in the post 9/11 era. I wasn’t scared of terrorist or crashing. I became paranoid that my suitcase wasn’t packed right or my shoes looked suspicious. A strange kind of paranoia in a post 9/11 world.

The date 9/11 later developed a happier significance for my family. Three years after the attacks my cousin’s twin boys were born on that date. Something like that takes a bit of the edge off the impact of just saying “9/11.”

But on the tenth anniversary, I remembered it all again. The strange feeling of hope through sadness brought the same tears as it did 10 years ago, when bravery wore a uniform or a fireman’s hat or came from ordinary people in a tower, in a government building, on a plane.

Images still shake the heart and stir emotions. It’s hard to watch old footage where the towers can be seen rising in the distant New York skyline. It’s almost haunting.

But for me, in the midst of the hurt of that day, God’s love remains. Many might find that a strange reality, but in the days and weeks following the attacks it’s a comfort to which many ran. The day after the attacks I walked into my little office building in Southern Indiana to find every co-worker holding hands, regardless of where they were in their faith, praying.

It’s a day that will never be forgotten. A day when simple words become a mantra.

“Let’s roll.”

No, I don’t think any of us will ever forget.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

This week's column

Miniature golf and simpler times

Sometimes I experience small flashes of realization about how complicated I make life.

It seems like we live in a society obsessed with being entertained.

Not only being entertained but going to the most hip and expensive place or having the most up-to-date technology that only stays current for a year and then we just have to get the new version.

I realized it more over the weekend. We took my dad out for his birthday and after dinner we played miniature golf and had a blast. It was so simple, a mother and father playing with their two 30-something-year-old children. Well, mom didn’t play, she just kept score. But she still got in on the fun.

We played at Cave City because my brother lives in nearby Glasgow. Being there made me think of simpler times.

Vacations when I was a kid didn’t have to be a big event each year.

Every so often we would venture to Florida or Gatlinburg but most of the time we went camping or took short trips to places in Kentucky.

Do kids even go camping anymore?

I remember going several summers with my grandparents and cousins. It wasn’t fancy. We just camped out in a camper and rode bikes all over the campground, occasionally getting picked on by my older cousin.

Sometimes there was a hayride or horseback riding but no amusement parks or high-tech entertainment.

Another time, my brother and I went to visit our cousins in Louisville. My greatest memory of that trip was making a fort in their basement with what I think were the screens that were supposed to go in their doors and windows in the summer. Maybe I shouldn’t have confessed that one — now remembering we probably shouldn’t have used those things for a fort — but the memory of something simple stands out.

The older I get, the more I miss those things. We make things too complicated these days trying to outdo others or sometimes even ourselves.

I know when I was younger I always wanted to go to the places that had the most things to do or were the coolest places to go. But now, I long for the days of camping, miniature golf and riding bikes.

Why don’t we appreciate those things when we have them? Now, as I run around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to get things done, my mind drifts back even more to those simpler times.

Even my vacation this summer, although at the beach, was kept simple. I lounged about and ate some fish. Nothing fancy. Restful.

I got a good feeling inside last Saturday night as we all played golf together. The air was cool, the atmosphere was fun and we had a great time. As this summer comes to an end, it will probably stand out as one of my greatest memories.

And, I should add, Dad won the game. He usually does. I’m not sure we’ve ever been able to beat him at that game and probably never will.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

This week's column

Walking in another's skin

In the novel “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Atticus Finch tells his daughter: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

In the past several weeks, I had a chance to do a little walking around in another’s skin. A co-worker and I have been working on a series of stories about poverty in Hardin County.

I talked to homeless people, others living in low-income housing and just trying to keep their heads above water.

Miss one or two paychecks and most of us would find ourselves in the same situation. While many have good relationships with family who could help, everyone is not that fortunate. And it’s often hard to ask for help. It can be humiliating.

The most impactful reality: It’s not their need for money but their need for acceptance.

They feel looked down upon. It’s like a dart through the heart. The feeling of worthlessness overcomes them.

Everyone has worth. Everyone wants to contribute. Some people are never given the chance. Others need a second chance or perhaps a third.

How many times have we heard ourselves say, “it’s their own fault.”

Why do we automatically assume that? People cannot always help it if they lose their job. There isn’t always another one waiting for them. If a new job is available, it often pays significantly less these days.

And what about children, the innocent victims of family circumstances? They have done nothing to find themselves living without.

Another group struggling with poverty are simply the victims of longevity. Many seniors do not have family to take care for them. They live in anxious anticipation of the next Social Security payment. Rather than food, they often must spend most of it on a lengthy list of needed medications.

Some fight as hard as they can to get out of poverty and need a helping hand to pull them up.

It’s important to see things from another’s point of view.

For the past several weeks, I’ve caught myself thinking about it a lot. I open a refrigerator full of food and say “there’s nothing to eat” or stand in front of a closet full of clothes and say “I have nothing to wear.” As soon as those phrases leave my mouth, I am struck with the memory of people I have met who truly live without.

I can’t ignore it anymore. I’ve been in the middle of the pain and heartbreak for a few hours. For some of them, it seems like a lifetime.

To truly understand poverty in Hardin County today, spend time with those involved in it. Stop and talk to someone who is homeless. Volunteer or support programs that are knee-deep in helping. I will, too.

Atticus Finch was right. It’s time to walk around a bit in another’s skin. That might be the only way we truly understand one another. That might be the best way to know how to help

This week's column

Walking in another's skin

In the novel “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Atticus Finch tells his daughter: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

In the past several weeks, I had a chance to do a little walking around in another’s skin. A co-worker and I have been working on a series of stories about poverty in Hardin County.

I talked to homeless people, others living in low-income housing and just trying to keep their heads above water.

Miss one or two paychecks and most of us would find ourselves in the same situation. While many have good relationships with family who could help, everyone is not that fortunate. And it’s often hard to ask for help. It can be humiliating.

The most impactful reality: It’s not their need for money but their need for acceptance.

They feel looked down upon. It’s like a dart through the heart. The feeling of worthlessness overcomes them.

Everyone has worth. Everyone wants to contribute. Some people are never given the chance. Others need a second chance or perhaps a third.

How many times have we heard ourselves say, “it’s their own fault.”

Why do we automatically assume that? People cannot always help it if they lose their job. There isn’t always another one waiting for them. If a new job is available, it often pays significantly less these days.

And what about children, the innocent victims of family circumstances? They have done nothing to find themselves living without.

Another group struggling with poverty are simply the victims of longevity. Many seniors do not have family to take care for them. They live in anxious anticipation of the next Social Security payment. Rather than food, they often must spend most of it on a lengthy list of needed medications.

Some fight as hard as they can to get out of poverty and need a helping hand to pull them up.

It’s important to see things from another’s point of view.

For the past several weeks, I’ve caught myself thinking about it a lot. I open a refrigerator full of food and say “there’s nothing to eat” or stand in front of a closet full of clothes and say “I have nothing to wear.” As soon as those phrases leave my mouth, I am struck with the memory of people I have met who truly live without.

I can’t ignore it anymore. I’ve been in the middle of the pain and heartbreak for a few hours. For some of them, it seems like a lifetime.

To truly understand poverty in Hardin County today, spend time with those involved in it. Stop and talk to someone who is homeless. Volunteer or support programs that are knee-deep in helping. I will, too.

Atticus Finch was right. It’s time to walk around a bit in another’s skin. That might be the only way we truly understand one another. That might be the best way to know how to help.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

It was nearly 10 years ago. I can remember standing in the middle of a yard with several Chocolate Labrador puppies scurrying around, except for one. One puppy shivered at my feet on that day in October. That was the one.
He was born on Sept. 2, a small fuzzy thing that looked like a little bear. He was a purebred dog so he had to have three names to register him. As I rode home with this brown fuzzy puppy curled up in my lap, the name just came to me, Baloo Bear (technically Boo Boo Bear Baloo for his registration papers).
By the second or third night, I realized I had been conned. This sweet, shy puppy that shivered at my feet turned out to be the Tasmanian devil. It was about five years before this crazy dog started to calm down. But the strange thing was his nutty antics grew on me. They began to be a part of his personality that became something I liked about him.
He ate most of my pillows and blankets, not to mention the vinyl flooring.
I once bought him a harness to use as a lead instead of his collar. It took him a grand total of ten minutes to destroy the thing. I’ve chased him across the countryside when he’s gotten loose and fished more valuables out of his mouth than I can count.
But as the years wore on he started to calm down a bit, at least for me. He still is way too anxious and hyper when people come over to stay in the guest room without having them leave covered in slobber.His pace has slowed but his mischievous nature remains. In his younger years he would steal the remote for a great chase to begin and I would run around the house to get it away from him. Now he takes it into the bedroom and sits at the end of the bed with it. If I don’t notice he walks through the room a few times so I see he has it. If I still don’t notice he usually lies down next to the remote and falls asleep.
He gets most of his exercise these days chasing Duke the Corgi around the house for a couple laps.
His routine now is to sit at my feet, no matter where I am. In the kitchen he sits on the floor and waits for me to drop something. When I’m at the computer he sits at my feet and huffs until I’m done. He even sits next to the bathtub when I take a shower, the great protector.
Most nights, he can be found curled up on the end of the couch, often one paw stretched across my foot. If he’s not there he’s on the floor next to the couch.
As he’s matured his demure has become sweet and careful. Giving that big dog a hug around the neck is the best therapy anyone can have. They truly do become your best friends. He doesn’t understand a word I’m saying but looks closely at me when I talk, as if he takes in every word.
He’s even a bit famous. When I attended this summer’s Cecilia Days festival at least 30 people asked me what he had been up to.I marvel sometimes about how well Boo fits into my life. About how I put up with his personality probably longer than other owner would have to find the sweet and caring pet inside. Isn’t it amazing how God creates pets to fit so well with their owners, like they were made to be together?
On Sept. 2, Boo turns 10, a great accomplishment for a Labrador. The average life expectancy of a Lab is 10-12 years so each year now is treasured. I’ll get him some presents, and yes he knows what they are and actually rips the paper off himself. He'll have some treats and maybe I'll even take him over to a friend’s house so he can run around in their fenced-in yard.
We’ll do the big 1-0 up right and give this crazy ham all the attention he deserves. He’s earned it. The gray has grown a bit more around his mouth and eyes but the giant puppy spirit remains inside him.I love that silly old dog.
To become a fan of Boo go to!/pages/Boo-and-Duke/109510752432562.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Just a Few of My Thoughts

Since 1981, America has been sending shuttles into space. Sadly, that era ended July 21 when space shuttle Atlantis touched down for the very last time.

Growing up, I wanted to be several things: an archeologist, jet fighter pilot, movie director and astronaut. For me, space is fascinating. Granted, much of what I enjoy about space is probably derived from fiction, namely “Star Wars.” But the actual true and legitimate outer space always has engaged my brain.

One thing that captivates my thoughts is the sure vastness of space. Solar system after solar system, it goes on forever. What an amazing and imaginative creator we have to have come up with the concept of space and all its complexities.

I’ve also always enjoyed reading and studying about the initial “space race” and the astronauts who had the “right stuff” to take those first missions. I think about what it must have been like to be glued to the television set, witnessing the first steps taken on the moon.

When the shuttles first started launching into space I wanted to go with them. After seeing the film “Space Camp” (and yes, many of my childhood dreams were a result of a movie I saw) I wanted to attend a camp. I even went as far as getting information about going to space camp but never went.

But there also was tragedy. I remember the day in 1986 when I was huddled with many in the library at Lynnvalle Elementary School to watch the launch and tragic explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. It’s one of those moments you always will remember where you were and what you saw.

With the grounding of the space shuttle program there will be a large gap of American space exploration. NASA has another project in the works called the Orion MPCV that is supposed to take us further into space than previous methods. It still is in testing phases so it could be years before it is operational.

For me, this gap is sad. With most of the planet earth explored our pioneer spirit only has one other place to search — space. The exploration is limitless. I know the program is expensive and might not have a lot of impact on the human condition. But for me, going into space is exciting, adventurous and down right cool.

And personally, this little hiccup in the program is going to make me have to completely rethink a fiction story I have in my head about a scientific colony on the moon. But that really has no impact in the world in general. It will just make me have to be a bit more creative in thinking about the character’s transportation to the moon.

Overall, I am sad the space shuttle program is over. It was something that began when I was a child and is a part of my own timeline in history.

I hope NASA still is able to send people into space and that we do get to explore strange new worlds and seek out new life and new civilizations. Maybe, just maybe, if the new program is developed we truly will be able to boldly go where no man has gone before.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

This week's column

A Week at Camp
Last week I and other adult counselors, went to church camp at Jonathan Creek Camp in Western Kentucky with about 50 middle school kids.
No, I’m not crazy. Well, maybe a little.
The kids learned a few things, we learned a few things and sleep was not had by all.
One thing I learned is that grown men can revert to a middle-school-age boy in an instant.
All the boys had to do is give them a look and then it was all-out WWE wrestling into a large pile-up. The male counselors dropped their backpacks and piled on in.
Another thing I learned is that the kids hear more than we think.
There was a session each night where the kids talked about what they learned from the day and if they needed to talk about anything in the nightly sermon. The kids sometimes had a lot of questions, which is good because if you don’t ask questions you might never figure out the answers.
One night the sermon was about harboring bitterness and the need to forgive. For middle school girls, this is a big concept and it really sunk in for them. I look forward to seeing how God continues to work in their lives and seeing the people they grow up to be.
I also learned middle school kids are goofy.
Ok, I already knew that, but I’m trying to keep with a theme here.
I say goofy in the most endearing way because many times goofy is fun to be around. I laughed more around these kids than I’ve laughed in months.
Two girls spent a couple days trying to convince me they should be the featured story in Wednesday’s Woman. Their final argument was that they were full of awesomeness.
Their argument didn’t exactly sway me but it did make me laugh. Sorry, Laruen and Kate, you will not make the cover of Wednesday’s Woman yet, but maybe this tiny mention in a column will do.
On the same note, I don’t want to hear the phrase “hey, Becca” again for a really long time.
“Hey, Becca, what do you think of the color blue?”
“Hey, Becca, where are we supposed to be next?”
“Hey, Becca, do you like pillow pets?”
“Hey, Becca … hey, Becca … hey, Becca.” I can even hear it now in my sleep.
And then there were the pranks. From what I understand the boys did this on a daily basis. The girls only tried it once.
Their goal was to prank the girls in my room. It didn’t exactly work the way they planned. They had somehow gotten a hold of about five cell phones that belonged to the girls in my room and set their alarms to go off in 15-minute increments beginning at about 3 a.m.
They failed because none of the girls in the room actually wake up when an alarm goes off. So guess who had to get up five times before the crack of dawn to turn the alarms off? That’s right, yours truly.
This made me and the other adults teach the two girls a lesson in pranking.
The person over the camp helped us out on our prank. Here’s how it went down. First, our youth leader told the two girls security was not happy because of all the noise and disturbance they made with their prank.
Then the head of the camp pulled them aside and told them he needed to speak with them, making them sit at a table to wait for him. The girls couldn’t see but he went to another table with a group of leaders to make a strategy for what he would tell them.
After making them wait he sat down and told them they were really cracking down on pranking and they kicked two kids out of camp for it the day before. The girls had a look of fear in their eyes. He told them since it was the last day he would just make them go wash dishes for an hour and a half for punishment.
He waited until they were in the kitchen to tell them that they weren’t in trouble but this is what they got for pranking a room with an adult leader in it. The lesson dear Anne Alyse and Mallory should have learned is don't mess with the adults — we kick it up a notch for the return prank.
Despite the pranking, wrestling, smelly middle school boys, 100-degree heat index, discussions about Justin Bieber and lack of sleep, I had a great time. And the kids not only had fun but learned some spiritual truths along the way.
Now, if I could only catch up on some sleep.

Monday, July 11, 2011

This week's column

Rescue a dog and watch them crawl right into your heart
I am by no means an animal activist. I enjoy eating a big old chunk of cow in burger or steak form. I set out traps for mice for their destruction, not the catch and release method.
I try to teach my dogs they are not humans and I am in charge, a lesson they have yet to learn.
But I do have a soft spot for some animals; especially those four-legged critters that pitifully watch me leave each day and pop their heads up at the window to happily see me return. If only they could keep more of their hair on their bodies and less on my carpet, clothes and furniture — that would make me happy.
So, yeah, I like dogs.
Recently, I have been following some stories of people who have adopted, or should I say rescued, dogs that have completely warmed their hearts. It has made me even more aware of the importance of taking in a dog from a shelter and the love they give.
Here are a few of their stories. (Why did I hear the “Law & Order tone in my head as I typed that?)
By chance, I ran across Prospect the Dog on Facebook. Prospect was abandoned near a trucking company in the Midwest. Ed the Chauffeur, as his owner is now known, had never thought about having a pet but when he visited the business and Prospect ran out from behind a desk he was hooked.
They now travel around the country posting photos and blogging at Prospect travels the country to help other rescue dog and shelter organizations. As of February he has logged 45,000 miles and visited more than 10 states.
That dog gets around.
When researching a bit about Ryan Reynolds to write a review on “Green Lantern” I discovered his chance encounter with a rescue dog.
People magazine reported that he told ABC News he was looking for a dog for a friend when another dog caught his eye. The dog was staring at Reynolds. He leaned down to whisper “Hey, let’s get the [heck] out of here.”
Baxter jumped up as if he understood Reynolds and has been with the “Sexiest Man Alive” ever since.
Locally the plight of Franklin the Pug got some attention when he was featured in The News-Enterprise. Paralysis in his back legs doesn’t slow him down and his owner is on a quest to get him walking again. After Franklin was hit by three cars, the source of his paralysis, his owner abandoned him.
I recently interviewed another person with a dog named Sadie. Sadie’s back legs are paralyzed but she still tries to protect her family by barking from behind a counter to make sure people know she’s there to protect them. Sadie was adopted from an animal shelter.
Rescue dogs sometimes have a heartbreaking story from their past, sometimes are unwanted and sometimes just fell into bad luck when their owners could no longer keep them. Because of this they make amazing pets that have an enduring way of responding to the people who have rescued them.
Of my two dogs, Duke, is a rescue of sorts. He was left at my brother’s vet clinic and after being there a while found his way to my house. He loves people and thinks everyone’s purpose in life is to adore him.
I purchased Boo but I’m pretty sure if I had not bought him he would have wound up a rescue dog as well because there is no one else on this planet who would have put up with some of his shenanigans. So, if I hadn’t got him as a puppy he would have probably wound up at my house anyway.
I guess the moral to this story is adopt a shelter dog and enjoy the ride. And you might want to get a lint roller while you’re at it for all the pet hair.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

This week's column:

This week I saw a report on “Good Morning America” on body image. It wasn’t through the eyes of a 30-year-old woman or even a teenager.
The story was about a 6-year-old who is already obsessed about her body image. What is frightening is that this was not a unique situation.
GMA reported that a 2009 University of Central Florida study found that nearly half of the 3- to 6-year-old participants said they worried about being fat. This is not about a healthy weight or keeping fit. This is about how they look.
To me, this is sad. Our society has become so obsessed with body image that anything resembling a healthy lifestyle has gone completely out the window and another situation has occurred.
If a girl begins developing a poor self-image at the age of three, what is the hope that she will have a healthy view of herself at 20 or 30? A lifelong discipline of low self-esteem and self-loathing is created.
There is a difference between a healthy body and your body image. A healthy body is linked to a good diet and proper exercise, not your waist size. A poor body image can not only lead to unhealthy practices to keep a certain look but can also lead to mental health problems where a girl associates her self-worth to her perception of what she sees in the mirror every day.
Part of the problem is the women the media throw in girls' faces to define what is beautiful. These are usually overly thin actresses or models who boys seem to adore. Older girls see who their favorite heart throb is currently dating and will go to extremes to look like them.
The GMA report also gave another culprit to the problem. Moms, obsessed with their own self-image, who are always talking about hitting the gym to be thin or dieting.
As a society it’s time to draw the line somewhere. Preschool and elementary age little girls should be having tea parties and playing, now worrying if the pretend tea they are serving will make them fat.
Developing an obsession about the outer persona at such a young age is far from healthy. It doesn’t lead to empowerment and it certainly doesn’t lead to a healthy lifestyle. It can lead to a life of depression and unhealthy eating habits or disorders.
To empower the next generation of women, let’s not enslave them to what an unchecked media says is beautiful. Let’s raise them up healthy and happy with who they are as a person and not how they look.
Societal definitions of what is beautiful change throughout time. In an age when size 2 or 4 seem to be desired, remember that at one time society considered a bit of a curve attractive. Marilyn Monroe’s dress sizes varied from 8 to 12 and men adored her. Rita Hayworth was also adored and she had a few curves herself.
My point in mentioning those two Hollywood divas is to remember that definitions of beautiful change throughout time and a young girl should not base her self-view based on distorted societal norms.
Be healthy, yes. But remember thin does not always equal healthy and it’s about how your body is functioning on the inside and not what it looks like on the outside that defines healthy. Just as it is not healthy to become obese, it’s equally unhealthy to obsess about being thin.
It’s time to raise up a generation of women who have pride in themselves for their accomplishments, inward beauty and character rather than what they look like.
The ever-classy Audrey Hepburn might have said it best.
“The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman is seen in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides. True beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It's the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows and the beauty of a woman only grows with passing years."

Thursday, June 9, 2011

This Week's Column:

Giving up the fear
Everyone is afraid of something. But sometimes what we fear is a bit silly. Anyone agree?
For example, one of my biggest fears is waking up in the middle of a surgery. In reality, what is the likelihood that will actually happen, especially when I’ve only had one surgery during my entire life?
Marionettes also freak me out. They’re just creepy.
Some people are afraid of sharks, which is especially silly if they don’t live by an ocean. Sharks in the ocean, OK, real fear. Sharks inland, not so much.
Some people are afraid of certain numbers. And clowns, who isn’t afraid of clowns?
People like TV’s Monk are afraid of germs.
How many of us are afraid of spiders? When you look at how small the arachnids are related to the size of a human and our ability to smash them, that fear is a bit crazy, too.
Crazy fears like this can often consume people's lives.
But recently I read about real fear. It was a situation I cannot imagine someone living through and I shivered thinking about it.
I was reading Jaycee Dugard’s statement from the trial against her captors. How this young women, kidnapped at age 11, survived 18 years of this torment still impresses me.
She was held captive in a dirty tent in the back yard where she was psychologically manipulated and repeatedly rapped by her captor, Phillip Garrido, eventually leading to a very young Dugard having two children by this man. She had the first child when she was only 14.
How could an 11-year-old even begin to process what was happening to her, or could she?
Equally scary were the times this situation was overlooked by authorities who could have gotten her out of this mess sooner.
To me this is real fear, something extremely horrible. How many times do we — and I include myself in this — overreact to silly fears and frustrations when real horrors are going on in the world, sometimes right under our noses.
She was an 11-year-old girl who for years was paralyzed to change her outcome, surviving horrors none of us want to face. This is a situation much more frightening than a spider, clowns or sharks.
It just serves as a reality check or a check of our reality, whichever is more fitting.
How silly is it of me to be afraid of marionettes when there are people being abused, when children are starving and when nations live in fear of their oppressive governments?
Fear and worry of the little things are often what distract us from hurts and pains that people experience all around us. When we can’t get passed our fear of the irrational, how can we deal with the reality of a friend who’s battling cancer, a child being abused or a family mourning the loss of a soldier?
It reminds me to stop focusing on my selfish irrational fears in life and think about real things people are going trough and the real fears they face. At least I hope I will remember that.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

This week's column

Warning: Read at your own risk, a reality of aging may follow
I was living my life, oblivious to a reality I didn’t want to face. I went through daily life happily in the dark about a milestone that was happening without my knowledge.

This was until this season’s “Dancing with the Stars” and my friend Madge posted a fact I would have rather not known as her Facebook status.

In November, Ralph Macchio turns 50. What? It can’t be.

Then the reality set in. It was undeniable. The people in the posters lining my walls in the 1980s are now getting old.

I tried really hard to deny it and then I did the unthinkable. I went to the cursed Google, the source for the world’s useless knowledge. Google confirmed not only will Macchio be 50 but next month Michael J. Fox turns 50.

“Gasp,” I thought. “It can’t be.”

The posters of these two young men at the time, papered my walls. Forget Bieber and Pattinson of today, Macchio and Fox were two of the heartthrobs of my day.

I was first introduced to Macchio in “The Outsiders.” Ah, the classic tale of the greasers and soces with the heart stabbing ending with the death of my favorite star. Then, oh yes, then he was “The Karate Kid.” Twice we got to see Daniel-san beat the odds and use the famous karate crane move. I have to confess I tried the move several times and in my clumsiness the attempts resulted in many bruises.

Like many of the teens today watching some modern heartthrob, I would watch anything Macchio was in including “Teachers” and “Crossroads.” Years later he appeared in “My Cousin Vinny” and then he kind of dropped out of sight until DWTS.

Through DWTS we saw him complain every week of knee problems and back aches associated with his age.

Then there was Fox. While I watched him on “Family Ties” he showed up on my wall after he appeared as Marty McFly in the “Back to the Future” series. I wasted a lot of time watching many of his movies that followed as well. Yes, even “Teen Wolf,” which I think I at one time owned on VHS.

The same friend who keeps letting me know which stars are hitting the half century mark sent me a link that read “40 things that will make you feel old.” Yes they made me feel old. It included statements like what the kids on shows 20 years ago look like now and how old the guys in all the boy bands are now. Not funny Madge, not funny at all.

So yes, as I celebrated a birthday last week, and no it wasn’t one of the big ones, I thought about how things, including myself, are growing old.

In the words of the great Bilbo Baggins, “I’m old … I know I don’t look it, but I’m beginning to feel it in my heart.”

Another friend posted on Facebook that “Top Gun” was released 25 years ago. Where did the time go? And someone tell me why music from the 1980s is now playing on oldies stations.

What blows my mind most is it will be time for a 20 year high school reunion next year. Really? Seriously? I feel a bit faint.

There’s one solace to this aging story. When I was discussing all the heartthrobs turning 50 a coworker asked, “What about Kirk Cameron?” Don’t worry, Mike, from “Growing Pains,” is not quite as bad. He’s only 40.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

This Week's Column

Redbox killed the video store
Driving on Dixie the other day, I realized another part of my childhood disappeared.
I heard about this kind of thing from my parents. They would lament about the disappearance of record stores and turntables. The “good old days,” you might say.
My lament is the death of the video rental store. Redbox and Netflix might be to blame for this.
As I was driving, I saw an empty and stripped Blockbuster store. Vacant shelves were all that remained in the darkened store. It was the last hold out in Elizabethtown. Hollywood Video and Movie Warehouse both already disappeared.
It made me kind of sad. Without a drive outside of Elizabethtown, I can’t just walk into a video store and rent a movie. Now I have to wait for it to come to a Redbox or arrive via mail.
Gone are the days of just walking in a store and picking up a movie. You might say Internet rental is the answer. It is if you don’t have to wait ten hours for it to download. Not everyone has one of those devices to rent them straight from the TV either.
But I guess it’s just the generation I grew up in. I remember the beginnings of video stores. I go all the way back to the Betamax and VHS.
Before this time, if you wanted to watch a movie again, you either had to wait for it to re-release in the theaters or be shown on television. Instant access to films was unheard of. This might blow some of the young folk’s minds.
I can remember a time when my family didn’t have a VCR. We would go to my cousins’ house to watch movies on their BetaMax machine.My family’s first VCR came around Christmas sometime in the 1980s. It loaded from the top and seemed almost robotic. We thought it was very cool. It had a remote, too. It was attached by a wire to the VCR.
I can even remember the first movies we rented: “The Right Stuff,” an old John Wayne collection and “The Ice Pirates.” Don’t waste your time watching that last one, it’s a running joke in my family. If someone says a movie is bad, we will ask, “Is it as bad as ‘The Ice Pirates’?”
The trip to the video store was different, too. You would take an empty box off the shelf and take it to the counter where they would rummage through drawers and shelves to find the video. They usually handed it to you in an ugly plain case, the cover boxes with the film artwork on the outside were only for the shelves.
I think I still have some of the VHS tapes of films bought at some of these stores. I remember getting excited to pre-order “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” and “E.T.”
But now it’s just another thing of the past. BetaMax and VHS have given way to DVDs just as DVDs will soon give way to Blu-ray and soon online access will get rid of that, too.
When things like this happen, when records turned into 8-tracks and cassettes in my parent’s generation and when Redbox killed the video store in mine, you feel a bit of nostalgia for the past.
Even though, in most cases, the new things bring improvement of the old, the old still lingers in your memory, creating a fondness for the things of the past.
I will miss the video store, especially because I don’t have cable and my internet downloads films slowly. I will miss buying the previously viewed movies at a cheaper cost. I will miss walking through the store and browsing all the movies, carefully choosing which one I want. If I’m suddenly in the mood to see an old classic I don’t own in my collection, I can no longer head to the video store and rent it.I wonder what will go by the wayside next.
I guess it’s time to upgrade my technology before I’m completely out of entertainment options.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

This Week's Column

One freaked out Corgi

The past couple weeks were full of storms and have left me with little sleep. Not because they wake me up, I find sleeping through stormy weather quite soothing.
My lack of sleep is because, for some reason, Duke the Corgi suddenly has become scared of storms. Furthermore he believes when he is scared I have to be awake. Boo, my Chocolate Lab, is quite annoyed by this as he grumbles at Duke and then flops back asleep.
I’m not sure where this new fear of storms came from, but the lack of sleep is beginning to wear on me.
I discovered over the stormy weekend he can now sense when a storm is coming. His heightened canine senses can tell me when a storm is coming before I even hear the thunder. I know this because the poor little thing freaks out.
When the storms rolled in Saturday, he started whining and wouldn’t leave my side. I almost tripped over him several times. I would sit down on the couch and he would run as fast as his little legs could take him to the couch and sit next to me shaking, trying to sit as close to me as possible.
After hearing the tornado warning on television I opened my basement door in case we had to go down in a hurry. Duke didn’t wait for that. I noticed I hadn’t tripped over him for a while and found him sitting in the basement. I called for him, and he wouldn’t leave the basement. He stayed there until the storm rolled through and he was happy.
This would have been fine and dandy if he hadn’t sat right in the middle of a puddle of water that had settled in my basement, tracking said water throughout my house when he emerged from his safe zone.
The worst is at night. The little booger wakes me up and makes me stay awake until the storm has passed and he feels safe again. Early Monday morning I was woken by his barking. It’s kind of funny. It’s almost as if he’s whispering at first but then when I don’t wake and immediately give him attention he gets louder.
Each time it storms, I roll over to the Corgi who is crying in my ear and pat him on the head and say a little “it’s OK, boy” and roll over to try to go back to sleep. This does not satisfy his majesty so he usually starts crawling all over me until I give him satisfactory attention. Again, Boo will grumble and then go back to sleep, annoyed.
Usually, this is the routine during any storm. That morning in particular he added a new part to the routine. He hid under the covers.
I was slightly relieved because I thought maybe if he can hide under the covers he’ll be OK and won’t need me to be awake. Sadly, that was not the case. He would hide and then emerge to make sure I was awake and if I wasn’t he’d wake me up again.
While dogs can often sense things that humans cannot I will never be able to tell if Duke is trying to alert me to danger because he does this with any rumble of thunder, not just the dangerous storms.
So, the past couple weeks I’ve been dealing with a freaked out Corgi. I placate his nervous moments and then tiredly go throughout my day with lots of coffee and little sleep the night before.
I can understand when people have to do this for their children, but Duke is a dog. I try to remind him of that fact, but I’m not sure it’s sinking in.
With more spring storms to come, I will expect many more restless nights ahead. Maybe he’ll get over his fear as quickly as he developed it. Probably not. Boo and I will just have to learn to tolerate him.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

This week's column

Heroes, we can’t help but like them. They can do things that go beyond human expectations. The onslaught of comic book hero movies hitting theaters this summer makes me wonder why we like these characters and, for that matter, who was my favorite superhero growing up. Comic book heroes have been around for a while, but does today’s society latch on to them because it is searching for heroes? When my parents were younger, astronauts were going to the moon for the first time, the cowboys on TV didn’t have shady real-life personas and athletes really were athletes without medicinal assistance. Today, unfortunately, if any supposed “hero” makes his or her way to the public eye the premier is quickly followed by a major crash from the pedestal. And movie superheroes really don’t do much better. They all seem to have a bit of an anti-hero edge to their heroic endeavors. But back to my original question, why do we like superheroes? Maybe it’s because they often come from other planets as Superman did. Or is it because, like Batman and Iron Man, they are ordinary people who find ways to make themselves super? Maybe it’s that an ordinary student can be bitten by spider and suddenly become superhuman. And let’s not forget “The Greatest American Hero,” or at least, we can’t forget the song. “Believe it or not I’m walking on air/I never thought I could feel so free-ee-ee/flying away on a wing and a prayer/Who could it be?/Believe it or not it’s just me.” Sadly, I didn’t even have to look up the lyrics on that one. Regardless, I think we all have our favorites. My brother’s were the man of steel and a masked cowboy. Growing up he loved Superman. He might have even had a pair of Superman Underoos. Anybody else remember Underoos? But I think the Lone Ranger was his all-time favorite. He’s still a big fan of Westerns today. I remember when we took him to see the 1981 film version. He was one excited 4-year-old. Dressed in his cowboy hat and six-shooter on his belt, he sat wide-eyed and excited when the lone crusader turned around with his mask on and the iconic music played in the background. But for me, my hero drove an invisible jet, had a lasso of truth, could deflect bullets with her golden bracelets and had some killer boots. That’s right, Wonder Woman. Imagine 6-year-old little Becca spinning like crazy to turn into Wonder Woman just like Lynda Carter did on the show. This is how it usually went down. I had a specific outfit to wear as her alter ego Diana Prince. It was a plaid skirt with a ruffled blouse, like many outfits I saw her wear on the show. With my hair pulled back and wearing glasses I began my transformation. I would begin to spin and under my outfit I had blue shorts and a red top. I would also wear my mom’s boots which were way too big and hit me above the knees. Then there were the bracelets: the biggest I could find in my mom’s jewelry box. When my hair came out of the pony tail I would put on either a headband or tiara. Also included in the outfit was one of those 1970s-style gold rope ties that would go around the olive green curtains in the living room, for the lasso. I should also tell you this all happened while I was still spinning, creating a very dizzy Wonder Woman when it was all complete. After the transformation was complete I was then ready to hop in my invisible jet and fight the evildoers … often with the Lone Ranger by my side. So yes, I’m a sucker for a good superhero story as well. I’m excited about “Thor,” “Captain America,” a new X-Men flick this summer and the promise of a Justice League and Avengers film in the future. And let’s not forget a new Lone Ranger movie next year. I’m not sure if I’ll ever find the true answer of why we like these films, other than the coolness factor, but I like that kids can still dream of knights, cowboys and caped crusaders. C.S. Lewis may have said it best. “Since it is so likely that (children) will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.”

Thursday, March 31, 2011

These are a few of my favorite things...

I am a complete movie nerd. I have been since I saw my first movie, “The Jungle Book.” I loved them so much my undergraduate degree is in film and television, and I once aspired to be a film screenwriter and director. Last week the inner movie nerd came out once again while watching the “ABC News and People Best in Film: The greatest movies of our time.” For their list go to film/. Some of the top picks I agreed with and some I did not, but it did make me think of my favorites, overall and in specific genres. These might not be the best films ever made, but personal favorites are not always critical favorites. So here are a few of my favorite things, and yes, that’s a bit of foreshadowing. I'll start with a few genres. First, comedy. My favorite in this genre is “The Princess Bride.” I’ll admit, this film had to grow on me, but once it did, it stuck and always makes me giggle. It also contains my favorite movie quote: “I do not think that means what you think it means.” There’s a film that scares me every time I see it. Da dum, da dum ... that’s right “we’re going to need a bigger boat,” for the classic “Jaws.” Spielberg created a cinematic classic with this man-eating shark. The unseen menace beneath the waters creates suspenseful tension that doesn’t go away no matter how many times you see the film. I’m also a sucker for a good Western, and “McLintock!” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” are my favorites. Animated films are not just for kids. Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty” was always my favorite growing up, but I also enjoy “Up!” and “How to Train Your Dragon,” often tearing up when watching them. Some films transcend genres and almost don’t even fit in personal “best of” lists because they are just that good. These films include “Sound of Music,” “Gone with the Wind” and “Ben Hur.” Films are not made like this anymore. If the chariot scene in “Ben Hur” was made today it would be mostly CGI. It’s a scene that can never be topped. For films like this in classic Hollywood, it was go big or go home. Because most of my favorite films are Sci-fi, I do enjoy special effects, but in a industry drowning in computer-generated special effects, watching a old Hollywood studio film shot on location with big sets, costumes and drama is often a refreshing break from the matrix. But my all-time favorites that transcend these genres come with a lot of imagination and, ironically, all come in trilogy form. The first three “Indiana Jones” flicks (“Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Temple of Doom” and “The Last Crusade”) took adventure to another level and created a major, lifelong crush on Harrison Ford. The last of the three is the first film I ever remember standing in a long line for only to find out it was sold out. I do not count the fourth film in this because it was a disaster and great disappointment. The original three films are so good that perfectionist film maker George Lucas couldn’t even find anything he wanted to touch up or recreate when they were released on DVD. Second in my favorite films is “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy (“Fellowship of the Ring,” “The Two Towers” and “Return of the King”). Admittedly my passion for these films began with the books, and I do recommend reading those first. The venture into Middle Earth is only made possible on film by the writings and crazy intense imagination of J.R.R. Tolkien. I look forward to seeing “The Hobbit” on screen sometime next year. But my favorite above all favorites is the original “Star Wars” trilogy. Known today as Episodes 4 through 6, in my day they were simply known as “Star Wars,” “Empire” and “Jedi.” Any true fan of the films will tell you “Empire” is by far the best and will confess great disappointment in Episodes 1 through 3. The first time I saw “Star Wars,” I was hooked and became fascinated with film, wanting to learn how each frame was shot. All six films in the saga are scheduled to be released on Blu-ray in September. Throw in “E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial,” “Witness,” “Braveheart,” “Roman Holiday,” “Rocky,” “Glory” and a little film called “Dear Frankie” and you have most of my favorite films. Even though I think films today are not as good as they used to be, the best still live in my imagination, in the flickering screen of my mind. What’s your favorite film?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

This Week's column

The problem with Gaga
I know some people have gone gaga over Lady Gaga, but I think it’s time to get real here. Despite the dramatic overtones of everything she does, is there any talent there?
I won’t approach this from a moral or ethical standpoint, but there are issues to discuss there. I mean, come on, she did an interview on “Good Morning America” in an outfit she said was inspired by a condom.
I want to look at her from a musical standpoint.
Is her flair for the dramatic masking the fact that she lacks musical talent?
There have been many musicians who have had outrageous productions, but they had the talent to back it up.
John Lennon, for example. In the Yoko years, he seemed to live on another planet at times, but musically he was a genius.
Elton John. The man wore sequence, feathers and platform shoes in the “Crocodile Rock” days. But no one would ever question his talent as a musician.
Prince, or the artist formally known as. He went through some pretty “Let’s Get Crazy” moments himself but the drama didn’t drown out his artistry in music.
And let’s not forget Michael Jackson, the king of weird himself. No matter what he did or how strange it seemed, his music never came into question.
I’m not defending any these individuals, but their musical talent cannot be questioned.
That brings me back to Gaga.
If you take away all the costumes, make up, staging and eggs, is the music good enough to stand up to her hype and does she even live up to her own hype?
Has anyone noticed most of her music has the same backbeat only sped up or slowed down depending on the song? Think about it. “Bad Romance” and “Poker Face” are pretty much the same song with different lyrics.
If she’s supposed to be such an accomplished piano player, why are her songs all electronic pop in sound? It would be nice to see some of her piano skills expressed in her music rather than in short bursts during a Grammy performance.
For some reason she’s being praised for lyrics like “rah rah ah ah ah, roma roma ma, gaga ooh la la.” Seriously? My friend’s 1-year-old can come up with a line like that.
And let’s not forget a lot of what she does is just an act. It’s not coincidence that her behavior has become more and more outlandish since her release of the “Just Dance” single. When her outlandish live productions got some attention, they kept getting crazier. That’s not by accident. She’s using the attention to promote substandard music.
She preaches self-esteem and being who you are, but in reality she lives behind a mask. She’ll don horns, hats and crazy costumes to cover whatever it is she doesn’t like about herself. If she wants people to be themselves so badly, why does she constantly contradict that message by having to recreate herself so often?
I think sometimes we, including me (I did grow up in the 1980s which was full of all sorts of craziness), forgo all sense of musical taste to fall all into something because it’s popular or because it has a beat we can dance to. I think we sometimes should look at things more seriously and evaluate why we like things or if we even should.
In reality, without the costumes, antics and outlandish behavior, Gaga’s music would have just faded into the background of pop music. It’s the image that drives her, not the music.
If you want to hear true musical coolness, check out the “Dueling Cellists Play ’Smooth Criminal’” YouTube video attached to this story on That’s talent.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Rescued from a grain bin

Cecilia farmer Pat Owsley came face to face with a farming danger Thursday. It brought him within seconds of a suffocating death in his own grain bin and he credits God for circumstances that led to an amazing rescue.
He was checking corn in the top of a bin when suddenly he found himself being pulled down in the corn like quicksand.
As he began to sink deeper, he yelled for help. He thought the sound of machinery might swallow his cry. Still sinking, he grabbed a shovel and threw it. It passed through a small opening in the top of the bin.
Mark Williams, who was hauling the corn that day, had started up the ladder when he saw the shovel fly past. He quickly turned off the auger that was loading the corn into the truck. That stopped the vortex of pressure pulling Owsley under.
Owsley calls his ability to get the shovel through on the first try GPS, “God’s Precision Sovereignty.”
Williams went up the ladder to find Owsley stuck in corn up to his armpits. His arms and head were free but the rest of his body was stuck.
Williams dialed 911 and then called neighboring farmer Kerby Grey. After Grey arrived, he knew what to do because he had just attended a farm safety training that reviewed the exact situation.
Rescue workers arrived and the farmers, firefighters and EMTs started to work.
A rope was tied around Owsley and attached to the top of the bin. Then a barrel with both ends cut out was slid over his body and a wet/dry vaccum was used to clear the corn around him. When they cleared enough corn, to a level a little lower than his waist, they were able to pull him out.
Owsley was trapped for a few hours, but surprisingly, even being claustrophobic, he remained calm.
Williams, Grey and a rescue worker stayed with Owsley the entire time. Rescue workers in the bin and on the ground worked tirelessly to free him, even discussing alternate plans if the current one didn’t work.
When Owsley emerged from the top of the bin, he was surprised to see so many people and vehicles on the farm lot. Along with the fire trucks and other rescue vehicles were dozens of pick-up trucks.
Once farmers in the community found out about what had happened, they showed up in force. That’s how farmers are, a community that cares.
Owsley came out of the incident unharmed. He knows how close he was from a triumph becoming a tragedy. Seconds really.
He is grateful for Williams and Grey’s quick thinking and the rescue workers who worked to free him. But most of all he is thankful to God and how he used these people to free him from the corn.
He believes that all the events leading up to the situation — the shovel going through the opening on the first try, his calmness through the entire ordeal and the training Grey had received — was no coincidence. He has seen God working throughout and gives him the credit for coming out of this incident unharmed.
I am grateful too, because this farmer is my dad.
I have lived each day since amazed by how God helped him through it, grateful for those who helped and thankful my dad is safe and able to tell his story.
Words cannot express the joy I felt just being able to stand next to him in church Sunday and the time that has been cherished since Thursday.
Time may pass and the other events will float in and out of our memories but the gravity of the situation of March 3, 2011, and the blessings that followed always will be remembered.

Pat and Linda Owsley would like to thank the emergency personnel who responded so quickly to our emergency on Thursday. Everyone was very calm and professional and sought only to make a bad situation easier for us. We also would like to thank Kerby Grey and Mark Williams for their quick thinking and for using their knowledge and skills in a way that makes us very proud to be farmers in Hardin County.
Thank you to our friends and family who started praying the minute they heard and then called with well wishes and offers of help if we needed it. Praise be to God, for he is good.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

This Week's Column

His Majesty's Birthday
The Pembroke Welsh Corgi is described by the American Kennel Club as “low-set, strong, sturdily built and active, giving an impression of substance and stamina in a small space.”
Their height is between 10 and 12 inches and they don’t have much of a tail.
The AKC goes on to say their outlook is bold but kindly, the expression is intelligent and interested and the Corgi is never shy or vicious.
Translation, these short little guys are friendly and love to be the center of attention. A definition that perfectly describes Duke the Corgi.
I’ve never met a dog so small who thinks he’s so big.
Corgis from Pembrokeshire, Wales, date back to the 1100s. They were officially registered by the AKC in 1934.
They are considered a cattle driving animal or farm dog. Although Duke does try to herd his housemate Boo the Labrador, his temperament seems to have arrived from a more royal usage of the dog.
He must have found out Corgis are fond of pampering because he is often known to demand it. Queen Elizabeth currently has four Corgis, Linnet, Monty, Willow and Holly as well as three Dorgis, a cross between a Dachshund and Corgi.
The queen first met Corgis when her father, King George VI, bought one named Dookie.
Although they have similar names Dookie is no relation to Duke. I was told by Duke’s previous owners he was named after “The Duke’s of Hazard.” Duke, however, refuses to believe his name arrived from the Duke boys and acts as if his name has more regal origins, as if he is the Grand Duke of Rineyville.
The fact that the queen of England has this breed explains a few things about Duke and his desire for pampering. He doesn’t really think he can sit on the floor without cushioning and thinks the best place to sleep at night is on a pillow.
He also demands attention, often barking at guests until they look down at him. As soon as he gets their attention he immediately rolls over for them to scratch his belly.
Duke also has a sixth sense for knowing when something else is getting attention. If I’m petting Boo, Duke somehow knows it from three rooms away and I hear the quickened pace of tinny little legs scurrying over to become the center of attention.
Why, you may ask, am I giving a brief history of the Welsh Corgi and Duke’s goal to be treated as well as the queen’s pets?
Sunday is Duke’s birthday. That’s right, his majesty turns 7.
While Boo and I will try our best to give him adequate attention on his birthday, I’m sure it will not live up to his expectations.
He will remind us that Hillary Swank, Jennifer Aniston and Steven King also own Corgis and he will guess they are pampered far more than he is.
While the Labrador always tops the AKC list for most popular dog, Duke is always quick to remind Boo that Corgis are more regal —after he’s used his air-ninja move on Boo to try to get him to chase him.
Yes, Duke is quite popular and, in a weird sort of way, quite the little celebrity. He’s appeared in the paper after a trip to Dinosaur World and he auditioned for the role of Toto in “The Wizard of Oz.” And yes, he will expect to be treated as a celebrity on Sunday. Actually, he expects to be treated like a celebrity every day.
If you don’t believe me, check out his fan page on Facebook,
In the end, Boo and I usually tolerate this attention ham of a dog because, after all, he is kind of cute.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

This Week's Column

The force is strong with this one
Super Bowl Sunday was a great night for me for a couple of reasons.
First, the Green Bay Packers were triumphant and the Lombardi trophy came home.
Second, one of the commercials brought back many childhood memories. It was probably the most popular commercial aired during the game and has more than 20 million hits on YouTube.
The commercial features a little boy, dressed as Darth Vader from head to toe trying to use the force on everything in his house, including the family dog. Then, thanks to some help from his dad, he starts the family Volkswagen.
My brother and I lived, ate and breathed “Star Wars” growing up. If we were kids today playing outside in the never-ending snow, it’s a sure bet we’d be pretending we were on the ice planet Hoth. We tried the force on everything, hoping that at some point it would work. Pencils, television remotes, toys or whatever might be lying around were all attempts at mastering the force.
And let’s not forget the Jedi mind trick. That never worked either but, boy, it would have come in handy — especially when we got in trouble for something.
As I watched the brief spot during the Super Bowl, I was instantly transported to my childhood and the fun I had with the classic film. It’s neat that “Star Wars” never gets old, becomes lame or goes out of style.
As I googled to find more information about the commercial and the child who played the Darth wannabe, I was equally impressed with his story.
Little Darth is played by 6-year-old actor Max Page, who by the way hasn’t even been able to see “Star Wars” yet. His regular gig is Reed Hellstrom on “The Young and the Restless.”
Max was born with a congenital heart defect and had his first surgery when he was 3 months old. He also has a pacemaker and makes frequent visits to a children’s hospital in Los Angeles.
His mom said in an interview on “The Today Show” she was always glad to see him have the chance to run and play. Now he’s a YouTube and international sensation adored by millions.
The original Darth, James Earl Jones, presented Max with an autographed official Darth Vader helmet. In an interview with “Access Hollywood” Max said he'd probably show it to his dogs first, as any 6-year-old would.
As much as I love the commercial, the story of the child behind the mask is as cool as his commercial. The force may have been what brought him to the world’s attention but once unmasked his story and adorable face warmed hearts and made a lasting impression.
Max, among many other children who deal with medical conditions way too early in their lives, is amazing and special just because of who he is, no Jedi powers needed.
I, however, could still use the extra bonus of the force and have to confess, when I can’t reach something, there’s a part of me that still contemplates its usefulness. But alas, no Jedi powers here…just a lightsaber app on my iPod.
If you haven’t seen this adorable commercial you can see it at
May the force be with you, Max Page.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

This week's column

Have you ever attempted to work from home? Let me rephrase, have you ever had to work from home with a mischievous 9-year-old Chocolate Labrador trying to get your attention?
I did a couple of weeks ago when it snowed. At first it was great.
I threw my hair up in a hair clip, put on my comfy flannel PJ pants, wore my ratty Packers sweatshirt and didn’t even worry about makeup.
My desk was the dining room table with the trusty laptop, planner and various other papers spread out in great order. Donned in comfy clothes and with plenty of room to work, the day looked great. A warm cup of coffee finished the work space and the amazing smell filled the house.
So there I was, ready to work. I started answering emails and noticed I had company. There was Boo, sitting on the floor staring at me. I ignored him at first but then the whining started. I tried to explain to him that even though I was home I was trying to work. As you would expect, he didn’t quite understand. So I ignored him again.
My plan didn’t really work. To the whining he added the nudge to the arm. The nudge turned into a full face on my arm and then the barking started.
I knew he was not going to stop and I really needed to get work done. A compromise was needed. I grabbed a couple of tray tables and set up a workspace by the couch. Not nearly as relaxing and spacious but I made it work. Armed once again with my trusty laptop I began to work.
This plan seemed to have success. Boo was able to sit next to me on the couch while I worked and all was well, until the huffing started. You know, the deep breathing out making a “huff” noise to make sure you know they are there and in need of attention. After that he got up and barked at some cars driving by, and then the whining started back again.
The day pretty much continued in this way. I would work, he would whine.
Throughout the day another phenomenon occurred. Why is it that Boo can be in the house for eight to nine hours during the day when I’m not home and not have to go out, but if I’m home, trying to get something done, he has to go out every hour? It’s a complete mystery to me in the world of dogdom.
I began to see he had a master plan. At one point I got up to get more coffee and when I came back I saw that he took my seat by the laptop so I couldn’t get to it. Or so he thought.
Trying to keep to a normal nine to five day I planned on working until about 5 p.m.
Boo finally settled down but near the end of my “at home workday” until he decided he needed to be as close to me as he could possibly get. For an hour I sat and typed a story while Boo’s head was resting on my shoulder, sometimes in my face.
I did get quite a bit of work done, it was just a bit more challenging than I expected with Boo constantly vying for my attention.
A few days later I saw Boo wallowing on his back on the floor, legs flailing around, tongue half out of his mouth with a goofy expression on his face. The gray around his mouth has grown and while he still thinks he’s a giant puppy his age is beginning to show. He’s working on his tenth year.
In that moment the frustration of trying to work with him the other day disappeared. I sat down next to him and scratched his belly. Sweet old dog.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

This week's column

It’s precious in a way, the community that lives right under our noses. The part of our community that often lives a world away, protecting those they don’t even know.You see them in town and your heart melts with pride. You speak to their spouses and mothers whose voices ring with a proud tone but their eyes are filled with worry, scared to death.They live here, train here or recently were deployed from here.As a community, we have the privilege to live among soldiers and their families stationed at Fort Knox.Stepping on post has a unique feeling. You’re surrounded by soldiers, clad in camouflage, and something inside just makes you smile.It’s like walking into an entirely different world with a different language filled with anachronism I don’t even begin to understand. But even in that world, there’s a welcome familiarity.These are the men and women you see on the news each day. They are the help in times of national or worldwide catastrophe. They are the ones delivering food to those who have none. They are the ones standing in place of us, fighting for our country.Sometimes I think we forget all this. We take for granted how much Fort Knox not only means to our community but to the world in general.Do we truly realize how much they risk? Do we think of the families that are in a constant state of worry until they return? Do we think about them at all?Over the past several weeks, soldiers have been deploying from Fort Knox to places far from home.I cannot begin to express my gratitude for what they do. And to the families that wait with a constant knot in their stomach until their return — thank you, too.I remember the stories from my grandfather about his service in World War II. The pride he had in his country and the soldiers that came behind him. Thanks to all the soldiers that came before the ones serving today who laid the path to what they are able to accomplish now.To the ones on the front lines, in the tanks, coordinating efforts, cooking, healing, instructing, guarding, analyzing, planning and anything else done in the valor of service, gratitude is given.Two simple words don’t seem to be enough, but also are filled with so much appreciation that the simple utterance carries a weight beyond the verbiage.Thank you.

Friday, January 7, 2011

This week's column

An ode to the outgoing chief
Change. Sometimes it’s not a word I’m fond of. Change can bring good things, but it can take aspects out of your life that you’re not sure you want to lose.Change is happening at The News-Enterprise this week. Features Editor Holly Tabor is leaving our comfortable little team to go back to school for a master’s degree to teach high school English. I know, we’ve all told her she’s crazy, but after dealing with the features team, teenagers should be a piece of cake.With this change there will be several things I’ll miss about having her around. I decided to list some of those things in true Letterman style — a top 10 list.
10. We have the same celebrity crushes (Gerard Butler, Matt Damon and that guy from the other movie that I can’t remember). Nobody else is going to get that.
9. Tapjigalogging and various other words made up by the features team.
8. We both know the value of worst case scenario planning. Between the two of us, every possible fire exit strategy has been covered as well as any intruder possibilities.
7. Squint, duck and say, “Please don’t hit me.” It’s an inside joke the rest of the reading public won’t get, but it comes in handy when a piece of tire tread is flying at you on the interstate.
6. She’s our biggest cheerleader, often saying “fabulous” when we come up with an idea … no matter how lame it may be.
5. Mea-isms. I will miss hearing the latest thing her 3-year-old daughter, Mea, has started saying. “It’s freaking me out” and “You’re pulling my leg right off” are among my favorites.
4. Holly is a very talented writer with insight into stories we often miss, and our work has been better for her attention to detail and depth of storytelling.
3. Multiple sneezing. It’s a newsroom fact that Holly never sneezes once, and you have to pause to make sure she is finished before saying “Bless you.”
2. I will miss our random quotes from “The Princess Bride.” Nuff said.
1. It has been a pleasure to come to work every day and know I not only have a great features editor but also the joy to work with one of my dearest friends. I will miss that most of all.
To Holly: We have had many Lucy and Ethel moments in the features department and I am honored to say that I have worked with you and call you my friend.I never will know how you got up at 4 a.m. to work at a daycare, came to the paper and many times stayed until after 5 p.m., and then had energy to go home and be mom to your kids and a wife to Scott. You have strengths I’m not even sure you realize you have.Good luck in school and with those crazy teens. There was a part of me that wanted to say, “Good luck storming the castle,” and I knew you’d know what I meant.And don’t forget we’re going to see “Machine Gun Preacher” and “Coriolanus” starring Gerard Butler. The quality of the film makes no difference because we both sat through “Gamer” and “Timeline” just because he was in them.You will be greatly missed.