Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Bush Family Year in Review: Retrospect for the Holiday Season

It's strange, this time of year.

Strange that it's generally the only time of the year when we slow down long enough to take a look at what's transpired, and to pause (even if only briefly) for contemplating what lies ahead.

Who said you HAVE to wait until Christmas to reflect on the days gone by or the ones ahead?

Think about this for a second.

Your past and your future are constantly present.

How's that for a conundrum? And don't try to argue the point, saying that the future is not the past. Because as soon as you try, it already is.

[pause and reflect]

Now that I have you thoroughly distracted, let me make an admission of guilt. Maybe you'll miss it.

We didn't send Christmas cards last year.

It was my fault ... the ball dropped from the juggling act. I vowed to get back on track this year. As we have in the past, I thought it would be nice to send out a note. But as I started reviewing the events of the year, I realized it would fill up pages and pages. Nobody sends a family Christmas BOOK! The traditional media ... a card, photo, or sometimes a letter. And that's good. I love getting them. We all do!

But there's so much to share! Hmm ... a quandary.

Then it hit me (perhaps from a medically-induced fog as I sit here on the 21st of December recovering from the crud) ... "Why not capture the year somewhere online, and just include the link in the letter?"


A stellar collision of the traditional mailed piece, stamped and all, with the efficiency and perpetuity of technology!


So some of you have wandered here because you got a piece of paper in the mail. These days, that's like the winning lottery ticket. Congratulations. Savor it. For it may be your last. (Just kidding.) Well, savor it ... just in case.

If you didn't get the memo, please don't be offended. Even though our network of friends and family has grown larger ... to be honest, if we sent out something to everyone that we'd like to send to, we'd be in the poorhouse! We have so many extended friends through church and on places like Facebook and via other outlets.

It's my hope that this Year in Review provides you with a glimpse into our zany world. So that you feel connected with us ... and that you know we truly do wish you a very Merry Christmas. From our home to yours. And that our prayer for you is a bright and blessed 2015!

So let's get started, shall we?

January, 2014

My car is on the right. Other abandoned vehicles
were scattered along the hill.
Atlanta gets sucker-punched in the face on the 28th during Snowpocalypse. I left work a little before Noon, because I tend to be a little more leery of weather. Leah was stranded within a mile of the high school and had to take shelter at a friend's house. Eight hours later, I left my car abandoned on the wrong side of the road ... on a slippery incline where it just decided it had enough. I walked the last mile. My story was nothing compared to what some went through. Never again, that I can assure you. Never again.

February, 2014

A relatively quiet month, compared to what we experienced in January. I traveled to New Orleans for a IABC event, Leah was gearing up for winterguard season, and Chaz and Amy were rehearsing for Honk! And as usual, Veda was the glue holding us all together. I'll foreshadow this point. She held us together ALL year. I am truly thankful to have her by my side "doing life" together. In addition to keeping the kids in motion, she still works from home and sacrifices for us all. Another batch of snow swung through in February, but a walk in the park compared to January.

March, 2014

Leah's winterguard squad won top honors for their class at Kennesaw Mountain, and were automatically promoted to the next highest class. That was two class promotions in the time she was at Hillgrove, which is amazing. To get a sense of what the retreat (after the awards ceremony) looks like, and the camaraderie of a team that comes together to celebrate their victory, just take a look.

We also enjoyed Amy and her friend Kelly performing at the Kemp Elementary School talent show. What did they sing? "Let It Go" from Frozen, of course!

Wrapping up March was the honors banquet at Hillgrove, including Leah's selection into Who's Who for the senior class. So proud of her accomplishments!

One quarter of the way through ... are you still with me? It just gets better and better. Let's keep going!

April, 2014

First up ... a fantastic family cruise to the Bahamas. It was relaxing and energizing all at the same time, and we truly had a blast.

We were able to "extend" the family and had Mom and Dad Moore with us, along with our "third daughter" Allison!

But we had to get home ... as Amy and Chaz were preparing for their performance of Honk! What a talented cast and crew.

JayBird and Rooster
Amy played JayBird, a very intelligent reporter, and Chaz portrayed one of the best roosters I've ever seen! We had a challenge with allergies, and Chaz eventually had to sit out one performance with strep throat, but it was a fantastic production with our extremely talented neighbor playing the lead role of Ugly (the duckling.)

A few days after Honk! closed ... we let Amy be part of an audience ... at the Fabulous Fox Theater for a showing of The Lion King. Amazing theater. Amazing show. (And a pretty fabulous dinner at Chow Baby before it all got started!)

May, 2014

The countdown begins to graduation. Leah introduced one of the speakers at the baccalaureate service. Then we hosted one of most epic graduation parties in the history of graduation parties ... three families collectively throwing a block party in our cul-de-sac. It was so much fun ... and we only had one real complaint about the noise! I don't have any photos from the party, because I was grilling! And line dancing. Of course! We had yard games, firepits, makings for sundaes and S'mores for dessert, and a photo booth for general craziness. And twinkly lights.

Going to be in 6th grade!
Veda and I attended the year-end recognition for Amy, who was "graduating" from elementary school and moving up to middle school in the fall. This girl is going places, for sure! What a gift she is. At this stage, she was taking piano lessons (there is a YouTube video posted of one of her recitals) and just doing a phenomenal job with her school work. It's hard to believe that a short decade ago, Trudy and I were picking her up in China! And now, she's just a Southern girl at heart. And managing to fit in some of Leah's old clothes. Two words. No. Way. Ummm ... two more words. Yes. Way.

Graduate with (um) some honors!
We wrapped up the month with the Hillgrove High School graduation ceremonies in the convocation center at Kennesaw State University. One down, two to go! Leah is such a joy and a blessing to our family, and we were extremely proud of all she accomplished in high school.

June, 2014

Do we start to slow down yet? Nope. We enjoyed some family outings, such as hiking Kennesaw Mountain and visiting the Etowah Mounds. We're fortunate to be surrounded by some great natural opportunities for getting out and enjoying some activities like these. By mid-June, it was time for Veda, Leah and I to head to Western Carolina for colorguard auditions and for college orientation.

Juney Whank Falls, Deep Creek, NC
Veda and I took the opportunity to explore the area on the day Leah had her audition, and we found a wonderful hiking spot near Bryson City called Deep Creek. COLD water!

We returned that evening to find an exhausted daughter who was not feeling great and had concern about her audition. A trip to a local restaurant got her mind off it ... until we discovered that results had been posted on Facebook and that Leah made it on the Pride of the Mountains Gold Line!

During orientation for the next two days, we met some very nice band families and are still in contact with them to this day. Sticking together ... it's what band families do.

Leah leaving for England
It was only a week or so after that when we took Leah to the airport for her international mission trip to England with our church. Of course, she loved the trip and got to see some amazing things and work with kids to share the Good News. Ask her about it sometime!

With Leah across the pond, Veda and I then took Chaz and Amy to meet Mom and Dad Moore for the start of "Camp GG" for them. We met at the Peach Park near Clanton, AL for the exchange, and had a yummy lunch and took in all things "peach." Leaving there, we savored the brief moment of what "empty nesters" is all about. Some benefits, but you sure do miss them!

Meeting Hudson
We took the opportunity to visit with Veda's nephew and we got the opportunity to meet Hudson Edenfield! Both he and Lila were so much fun that day and we extended our visit so CJ and Carla could have a night to themselves. We wrapped up June with a date night to Shakespeare's Tavern to see our neighbor Bryce Payne in action. Such talent. And that was the first half of 2014! Wake up! No winding down yet!

July, 2014

Nothing says "Happy Birthday, America!" like a trip to the beach! Complete with fireworks over the lagoon at Gulf Shores. I love summer. It was a great visit with Mom and Dad Moore and a chance to pickup Chaz and Amy. Also experienced my first time ever of running out of gas. Car died just as we rolled into a gas station. YIKES! Once we got back, we prepared for Leah to return from her mission trip around the 10th.

Celebrated my 25th anniversary with The Coca-Cola Company in this month as well. Hanging in there!

Jasmine and the Sultan
Chaz and Amy were once again on stage ... this time in the production of Aladdin at Due West Methodist Church. Amy was a stunning Jasmine and Chaz ... her father, the Sultan! Oh, how we laughed at that arrangement.

Believe it or not, that's about it for July. But here comes August ...

August, 2014

Let's start the month with an early back to school for Chaz and Amy around the 4th. Then we have to get Leah up to Western Carolina for band camp around the 7th. We connected once again with the Smiths and the Blades (other freshman band families) during the trip. Honestly, August really just became a blur. But apparently we did it all OK. Kids were in school, and Leah was at college. Now do we get to slow down? Apparently not.

Oh, and a note here ... Amy takes up violin in the school orchestra. Does extremely well.

September, 2014

I opened up the month with a trip to Austin, TX to meet with the new installment of the IABC Southern Region board. What a fun group to work with! It was my first time in Austin, and I learned how to deal with an extreme number of access roads.

Hiking during WCU Family Weekend
This month would also bring about the WCU Family Weekend. It was the first time Amy and Chaz had to visit Leah at her new school. We certainly enjoyed our visit, including the football game surrounded by our WCU families decked out in purple, white and gold. The two younger kids, Veda and I even made the WCU Flickr feed (click to see it, but come right back) ... I guess we had just the right amount of WCU spirit wear going. Or maybe it was the oversided purple finger? It was a beautiful day in the Whee.

And it was SO good to see Leah and spend some time with her. We stayed at a beautiful townhouse in a golf club in nearby Whittier. The kids seemed to have a great time reconnecting with each other. They especially seemed to enjoy watching their Dad fall in Deep Creek while he was trying to cross over to the waterfall on the opposite side. Good times. No photo.

Gabe, Chaz, Will and Diego.
And their chaperone.
At the end of September, I had the opportunity to chaperone the entire fifth grade to Rock Eagle, and was responsible for four young "men" including Chaz for a few days.

It's trips like this one that remind you of how blessed you are and how all kids are different. It was fun to see their strengths and weaknesses and how they played off each other. My little group was like hosting the cast of The Breakfast Club ... they each had a little personality to reckon with.

I hadn't been to Rock Eagle since I was a kid, and my young wards were astonished when I pointed out things that were still there that I could remember. "Dude ... he said this pavilion thingy was around when he was a kid. It must be ancient or something!" Nice, kid.

We made it on the lake!
While we had plenty of activities, my favorite was getting to go canoeing with Chaz. I wasn't sure I'd get him off the shoreline (and he wasn't sure, either) but he dug deep for the courage and ended up having a great time!

Once we were out on the water, he immediately went into triage mode for another kid who was panicking in another boat ... shouting over to him that it was going to be OK ... that they both were going to be OK. Just love his heart!

I'm watching you, Red.
Or is Red watching me?
And I can't wait to go canoeing with him again. It was so peaceful on the lake. We immediately called Mom to puff out our chests just a little at our accomplishment (his and mine!)

October, 2014

Leah was home and we took a family day over to Stone Mountain. It was a little disappointing because the Great Lawn was closed for all the construction to make the ramps, etc. for Snow Mountain. Ah well, we found a spot on the side of the lawn for the laser show. Always fascinated at how they do that. I made a repeat trip to Austin for the Leaders Summit of the IABC Southern Region conference.

Veda and her parents went up to Cullowhee to see Leah in action for one football game, and then I took my parents up the following weekend. Unfortunately, it snowed on "my" weekend, we couldn't get to our rental. Yikes!

A selfie with George Bush. Be jealous.
Dad and I went to the game and sat in 30-degree weather with snow flurries flying by. Not to mention, WCU lost 55-0 that weekend! But at least it was to the eventual conference champs, and WCU did finish with a solid season and tied for second in conference play. And it was nice to spend some time with Leah and introduce our families to her school. My parents and I taught her how to play Rook. That was extremely fun. Three teachers, and one student. You can imagine.

Peter Pan and Humpty Dumpty

November, 2014

It's time for another show! Chaz and Amy were once again on the stage at the Mable House Amphitheater ... this time for the musical production of Shrek. Amy was cast as Humpty Dumpty and Chaz was cast as Peter Pan. It was very entertaining and we thoroughly enjoy watching them sing, dance and act. They are quite the Thespians!

Kempy the Cougar in action!
It was also in November that Chaz was selected for a great honor ... to be Kempy the Cougar mascot at school one morning! During an activity, he was to go about and interact with the students while they were waiting in line, etc. He was supposed to do it with another student and trade off halfway through the morning, but the other student was ill and couldn't make it.

So Chaz did it the entire time, and he was an absolute NATURAL! Giving out hugs, high fives, and posing for pictures. Honestly, he's got the making of a college-level mascot. And if you knew him personally, I think you'd agree. So proud of that young man!

We're still rockin' November, and now it's Thanksgiving. We hosted Veda's family at our home, and crowded around the TV to see if we could spot Leah during the WCU performance in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The 500+ members were chosen to lead the parade! As the opening credits were finishing up ... right after Al Roker's name went by, we saw the tail end of the band as they were a few blocks away from the "NBC Moment" in Herald Square.

And you guessed it ... there was Leah on national TV! A quick glimpse ... but friends sent us still shots from their DVR. She spent the entire week in NYC and had a once-in-a-lifetime blast. We're so happy she has made connections and friends through band and through her classes at school. I'll give you a sneak peak into the end of this year's story ... she's going to be on the Dean's List. Booyah.

December, 2014

Are you still with me? Bully for you! We've made it all the way to the end of 2014.

Maxwell, Dixie, Brother Sam and Alice
For three nights early in the month, I appeared as negative whiner Maxwell Q. Seldon in our church's production of The Christmas Post.

What an extremely fun time we had in our rehearsals and preparations leading up to the show. It's my hope that someone in the audience during those three nights got to understand the truest meaning of Christmas ... that's it's not about the shopping, the gifts or the food ... it's about THE Gift ... the Child who was born to save us all. The fact that we had fun in the production was icing on the cake.

Veda and the kids headed down to Gulf Shores for the merriment and celebration with her family mid-December, while I stayed back recovering from some type of crud (as a precaution not to share it with anyone). Tough decision ... NOBODY wants to miss any of that kind of present-swapping and food-eating! They are a very loving family and I'm blessed to be a part of them, even when I'm apart from them.

So now what? There's no sequel to this yet ... you'll have to wait until next year. Perhaps you'll be thinking of how to chronicle YOUR year in review ... we'd love to read it! Until then, I leave you with one of the best moments in television history:

And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field,
keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them,
and the glory of the Lord shone round about them!
And they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, “Fear not!
For, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy,
which shall be to all my people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David,
a Savior, which is Christ, the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you:
Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes,
lying in a manger.”

And suddenly, there was with the angel
a multitude of the Heavenly Host
praising God, and saying,

“Glory to God in the Highest,
and on Earth peace,
good will toward men."

That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Perfect Storm

So it's been a while ... I started blogging years ago and attempted to constantly have something to say. But then I found myself in a season of life where the quiet introspect was more important than sharing my musings from day to day.

But today, I had a Perfect Storm. And I think it's worthwhile to take the time to write it down and share.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Hobby Lobby and China

Most of you who know me realize I'm not a confrontational person. I grew up hating conflict, and avoided it with a passion.

Listening to the debate team practice in high school was nauseating.

You can imagine what the ongoing bickering in Congress does.

So the latest saga in our country's history brought me back to my blog today. (Facebook wouldn't allow me enough room to post the commentary I found regarding someone's opinion of Hobby Lobby and the fact that most of their inventory is Made in China.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Somebody & Nobody

I've experienced a very weird sensation today as I walked from the Time Warner Center in Manhattan back to my hotel.

Friday, May 25, 2012

School's Out!

So what do adults do on the last day of school?

We put the oldest kids in charge and go out!  (Natch.)

Last night (which was odd to do on a Thursday night because it felt so Friday-nightish) Veda and I joined two other couples who are dear friends of ours (and neighbors to boot) and went out for an evening of serious laughter and good food at Aspens.

It's amazing how much fun you can have when you rid yourself of the parent hat just for an evening and remember the fact that you're a human being.  You remember how much fun it was (and is) to be part of a crowd, and to share stories, commiserate on trials and tribulations, and just laugh to the point that others in the restaurant really wonder what's so funny.

And why they are not part of such a fun crew.

The beauty of it all ... it reminded me of how blessed we are to have friends we trust, we enjoy, and we even vacation together.  That's saying something, considering we have nine kids total amongst the three families!

So here's to a grown-up night out ... may we not wait until next year when school is out to do it again!


Thursday, February 23, 2012

On My Honor

I was a Boy Scout.

Now my favorite thing about being a Boy Scout was not the jamboree.  It wasn't running the timed obstacle course that included either a harrowing rope swing over a real sinkhole or an equally dangerous run around it.  It wasn't the camping in frigid weather, or in the monsoon season.  It wasn't odd skills like making portable salt and pepper carry-alongs by filling straws and melting the ends.  It wasn't knot tying.  Learning to flip pancakes in a frying pan without a spatula.  Cooking in a dutch oven.  It wasn't my canteen, my plate/pan/fork/knife/spoon kit, my compass, or my silver match holder.

Obviously all those things have etched themselves in my mind.  But they remain distant from what I appreciated the most.

Helping people.

At the time, it was various projects for others or at our church, Pinecrest Baptist Church in Cordele, Georgia.  Our troop was 579.  And we had great leaders in Floyde Greene and David Fallin.  (Mr. Greene passed away just this month, so perhaps that's another reason why I have been reminiscing about my days in the troop.)

I don't remember all of the pledge.  I do remember it started out with "On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country."  I remember we were supposed to obey the Scout law.  To help others.  To focus on remaining fit physically, mentally and morally.  I'm paraphrasing ... you can see parts of the real thing in the painting.

Now this will not come as a surprise to anyone who knows me, but I was the Scribe of our troop.  It was my job to take the attendance, take up any money, and keep track of who had earned what.  I had a workbook full of grids and matrices to fill out and keep up with it all.  Best "first job" I ever had.

Today, I was reminded of how rewarding it is to help others.

I've been burned in the attempt to help others before, and it's not pleasant.  Like the late evening I was dropping someone off at the Hampton Inn across from The Coca-Cola Company, and I was approached (in bright lights and in full view of the lobby, Mom) by a gentlemen who said he and his wife were stranded right beyond the North Avenue exit on the 75/85 connector, and he did not have enough cash to pay for a tow.  He was a veteran, offered up phone numbers I could call to verify, and was just trying to get enough cash to get his wife and family towed to the nearest service station.

I can remember how we would help stranded motorists as we drove the many round trips between Cordele and Athens to visit my grandparents.  Obviously, times change.  I was guarded, and would only crack my window the width of a finger.  I gave the man what I had in my wallet, which was a single $20 bill.  He thanked me over and over, and set foot back toward North Avenue.  I pulled out in the other direction, then decided to turn around and take North Avenue to I-75.  Instead, I ended up following this "gentleman" in the dark ... passing him multiple times as I made one loop after another to discover his final destination ... a nearby liquor store.  #goodguybummed

But today, it was for real.  I pulled into a gas station and was the third in a line of three pumps.  The lady in front of me appeared to be helping an older but spry black woman with short, spiky white hair that would put Don King to shame.  They seemed to be working out what was going on, so I went about my business.  As my tank was almost full, the second woman started to get in her car and the first woman was approaching me asking if I could help a "lady in distress."  She was scanning her card and trying to start the pump, and everything was zeroed out, but nothing was happening.  (Again, full daylight, Mom, and out in public view with others pumping gas, so I was game to help.)

Apparently, the pump was simply malfunctioning.  So after trying a couple of things that the original first responder attempted with no success, I suggested we cancel the transaction and she could back up to the pump in front of my car and we could try again.  She smiled and said we could try that, as her grandson was in the back seat proclaiming that perhaps the tank was already full.  Ahh, the wisdom of youth.

So she backed up and I helped get her started.  As she was sliding her card in the pump, she was saying how her husband had just passed and that he always pumped the gas and "did all this stuff."  THAT made my throat swell.  She wasn't too sure of her current zip code as she had just moved to the area, so we worked out that puzzle.  I asked her what part of Alabama she was from, as I noticed her license plate on her Cadillac was from that state.  We talked briefly about her living in Birmingham, and how I knew some places in the city.  She had not lived there long, having transplanted from Chicago.  Her smile was infectious and her spirit affable considering she said she was having to learn so much after the passing of her husband.  Her resolve to "make it on her own" was inspiring, and yet she showed grace and humility during this brief moment when she recognized the need for help.

If it hadn't of been odd and weird, I would have given this sweet lady a hug.

The pump slowed to a stop, and she asked me where the receipt would come from.  I showed her how to get the receipt, and she thanked me for assisting.  I welcomed her to the Marietta area and wished her a good evening.  I got back in my car and watched her wrangle the pump handle back into place, squint at the tiny pump screen, and show a sense of accomplishment as she put her gas cap back on.  As I passed, I rolled down the window and said, "Sometimes the receipt prints slow, so just wait for it.  I hope you have a wonderful upcoming weekend."  She smiled and waved back at me, and raised her hands in apparent amazement as the slip of paper emerged from the machine.

THAT is what being a Boy Scout helped me learn toward being relevant and valuable in this world.  Was I going to get paid for this act?  Was there anything in it for me, as most folks would weigh out before committing to help?  Sure, I got something out of it!

It was an honor to serve.  I made someone smile.  I managed to help someone feel like they were accomplishing something.  I was someone to talk to briefly ... to provide a conversational respite.  To prove that love and kindness crosses genders and colors, and is no stranger in the South!  I hope the Lord continues to provide real and true opportunities like this one.

Even if it's just pumping gas.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Final Score: 30-28

Now today was a nail-biter game.

It was one of those basketball games where the entire time, it was neck and neck.  One score answered by another.  I don't really think the gap was ever more than four to six points!

Chaz has really improved on his basketball skills over the past three years!  He stuck with it through the entire game ... never giving up.  He was going after rebounds, playing great defense and keeping those hands up, and always aiming for the goal, even when he felt overwhelmed and perhaps a little disadvantaged.

I think that's how we should approach life as Christians.  Stick with it throughout the game.  Never give up.  Go after the goal ... the prize ... even when we feel like there's little hope in winning.  The fact of the matter is, we always carry the advantage with God.  And how cool it is to share that advantage and have it accepted by our competitors.

I like it when everyone can win.

But tonight, I was the loser.  And I'm OK.

Really, I'll be fine.  Just give me a second to catch my breath.

(Is that really as low as our basketball goal will go?  Hmm.)