A Full Day (12/27/16): Farewell to a Princess

“If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day.” Jim Valvano

Today is December 27, 2016, the 362nd day of the year.

On this day in 2002, the movie Chicago, starring Richard Gere and Renee Zellweger, was released. It went on to win the Academy Award for best picture.


A buddy of mine has two tickets for the 2017 Super Bowl. Box seats, plus airfares, accommodations, etc. But he didn’t realize when he bought them that this is going to be on the same day as his wedding, so he can’t go.

If you’re interested and want to go instead of him, it’s at St Peter’s Church in New York City at 5pm. Her name’s Louise. She will be the one in the white dress.

Thanks for your help!



When someone asks you, “A penny for your thoughts,” and you put your two cents in, what happens to the other penny?


For those of my generation, Leia (Carrie Fisher) was THE Princess. Beautiful, smart, desirable. Ok, she was seven years older than I am; as a teen when Star Wars came out, she was, well, quite fetching.  She was nobody to be messed with. She was the sex symbol that would kick your tail.

My daughters saw her as beautiful, smart and nobody to be messed with. For my girls, Leia was one of them: someone to look up to. I’m glad they got to see Fisher in her younger days – someone nearly their age – and as a mature woman, who could still hold a part and could still be someone to look up to as a live-action hero.Honestly, there aren’t many of them.

Not many people get to play larger-than-life characters nearly 40 years apart. In fact, think for a moment – other than Fisher and Harrison Ford’s Han Solo – who got to do that? Miss Fisher did so convincingly and sublimely in a way that will live on as long as Star Wars is a memory.

Farewell Princess Leia.



A Full Day (12/26/16): Washington, Burps and the Unsafe King goes to unsafe places.

“If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day.” Jim Valvano

Today is December 26, 2016, the 361st day of the year. Today is Boxing Day.

Image may contain: meme, cat and text

On this day in 1776, George Washington defeated the Hessians in the Battle of Trenton.


It is Christmas Eve and I am playing the piano during Communion at a worship service. I am playing a piece out of the United Methodist hymnal – No. 235 to be exact – called Rock-a-Bye, My Dear Little Boy. It’s a Czech carol that is a lullaby.

It’s a solemn, peaceful mood, as persons are coming forward to receive Communion. Suddenly, I burp. Not a loud burp, but loud enough that my wife and youngest daughter, who are sitting in the choir loft, both hear it.

I’ll be reminded of this one for a while.


Those who are familiar with C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe from The Chronicles of Narnia series, understand that Lewis uses the character of Aslan, the lion, to represent Jesus. With that in mind, the following quote from the book is certainly appropriate for the Christmas season.

Aslan a man? Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the woods and the son of the great Emperor-beyond-the Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion—the Lion, the great Lion.”

“Ooh!” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”

“That you will, dearie, and make no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver, “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about being safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” (from “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis)

We love the sanitized image of the perfect Baby Jesus, that we can handle and adore and pet and swaddle and cuddle and treat as our personal pet. However, Jesus did not come into the world to  be safe. He came into the world to upset the status quo – to confront what was – and certainly is now – wrong with our world, including the religious… especially the religious.

If we really want to encounter the Christ Child born in Bethlehem so long ago, we best be wary of what He might do.


I am somewhat ashamed that I do not know much of the sad story in Aleppo. That is on me. I celebrate those who work in an unimaginable hell-on-earth.

I came across this tweet. This… this… is more likely the reason why Christ descended to Earth than our Disneyfied Christmas celebrations.


A Full Day (12/23/16): An All-Time Jeopardy Contestant, Washington’s Farewell, True Peace on Earth

“If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day.” Jim Valvano

Today is December 23, 2016, the 358th day of the year. It is the fictional day of Festivus, made famous on an episode of Seinfeld.

On this day in 1783, George Washington resigned his commission as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army. Washington surrendered his commission to the Continental Congress, which had met at the Maryland State House in Annapolis.

Image result for washington surrendered his commission


I couldn’t decide whether to put this here and laugh, or at the end and have a good cry. Monday morning, I’m driving out of Davidson, N.C. when I see a deer that had been hit and killed. The animal was laying across someone’s driveway. For someone, that was not a good way to start a week.



When we say we want “Peace on Earth” we forget that Jesus did not come to give us the peace that we seek. God has something greater in mind than a one-night silent night from which we revert to our regular lives the next day.

When God brings peace, often our normal order needs to be turned over like the tables of the money-changers, and the coins that we hold dear need to fall to the floor.



Cindy Stowell has become one of the more memorable Jeopardy! contestants to ever appear on the venerable game show. Stowell became a six-day champion on the show, winning over $100,000. What was not known by most during the taping of the show in late August and again in mid-September was that Stowell competed while suffering with Stage IV colon cancer.

Image result for cindy stowell

The native of Austin, Texas passed away on December 5, prior to the airing of her shows. All her winnings were donated to cancer research. Stowell found out she had cancer after being selected for the show and worked with the producers to appear on Jeopardy! as soon as possible.

As I read her story, I wondered if I found I was dying in a few months, what once-in-a-lifetime challenge would I set out to do? To direct a challenging, beloved piece such as Johannes Brahms’s Requiem? To interview a favorite baseball player? I don’t know, but it’s certainly a question worth pondering.

Thinking further, why is it that we wait until the winter of life to do those monumental things? For Stowell, she sought out a lifelong ambition and was fortunate to follow through with it despite her terrible circumstances. (And, oh the good she did with it!)

I think one of the things I’d like to pursue over the next year is to pursue is one of those “Life moments”. To seriously consider what do I want to do that means something to me and chase it.



A Full Day (12/22/16): Doctor Zhivago, a Bad Joke, My Christmas Music Edicts and Handel’s Pastoral


“If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day.” Jim Valvano

Today is December 22, 2016, the 357th day of the year.

On this day in 1965, the movie Doctor Zhivago premiered in New York City.



What do you call persons afraid of Santa Claus? Claustrophobic!



Ok, it’s the season of Christmas and because of it, I hear countless hours of Christmas music on the radio. I have decided that if I were emperor for a day, I would enact the following edicts concerning Christmas music:

*Nat King Cole can sing any Christmas song he wishes. This includes O Tannenbaum in German. Heck, if he wanted to sing in Russian, I’d let him.

*Karen Carpenter can sing any Christmas ballad. (Lord, that child died too young)

*No Beatle will have a Christmas song. Nor will the Beach Boys.

*Burl Ives is the only singer of “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas”

*Jimmy Durante is the only singer of “Frosty the Snowman”

*White Christmas and It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas can only be sung by Bing Crosby


*Let It Snow can only be sung by Dean Martin, who can pick any female partner to sing Baby It’s Cold Outside.

*Michael Buble needs to stop singing other people’s songs and find his own.

*Amy Grant can only sing “Breath of Heaven”

*More Mannheim Steamroller please.

*Perry Como, wait, no grown man should sing  the word “Mommy”

*Santa Baby must be sung by Eartha Kitt.

*While it would be proper for The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire) to be sung by Nat King Cole, Mel Torme would be acceptable also, since he was a co-writer.

*Only Gene Autry can sing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

*LeAnn Rimes should be ashamed for putting out a version of “I Want a Hippopotamus” and will be imprisoned for such a crime.

*Sleigh Ride should be instrumental only and the percussionists should be paid double in royalties.



For me, it’s one of the most moving pieces I hear during the Christmas season: Pastoral Symphony from George Frederick Handel’s Messiah. The chorus has just sung the movement “For Unto Us a Child Is Born” complete with all manner of fugues and trumpets and timpani and double-dotted rhythms portraying the King of Kings.

The chorus then sits and this simple string movement begins. The bass plays a series of long, sustained notes over which the violins, violas and cellos set this musical setting of a serene Nativity scene. It played well, one can imagine a cloudless, star-filled night with an occasional trill by the violins that portray the neighing of the horses of the bleating of the sheep.

Each time I hear it, I am placed at the manger scene and my thoughts turn to what I imagine there – and I weep tears of joy.

A Full Day (12/21/16): Sherman ends the march, a Innkeeper Changes the Script, Gift-Giving, A Homecoming

Today is December 21, 2016, the 356th day of the year. Winter began at 5:44 a.m.

On this day in 1864, William Tecumseh Sherman conquers Savannah, GA. The following day, Sherman would wire Lincoln, “I beg to present you, as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with 150 heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, and also about 25,000 bales of cotton.”

Image result for sherman's telegram to lincoln


The scene was a children’s Christmas play at a local church and poor William was a kind soul with a problem. You see, William was chosen to be the innkeeper. William didn’t want to be the innkeeper. “The innkeeper was the one that wouldn’t let Mary and Joseph stay,” said the youngster. “I don’t think he was very nice at all. I don’t want to play such a mean man.” But William’s mother convinced him that the play wasn’t for real, but the innkeeper was an important part of telling what happened on that night so long ago.

So, the night of the play came and William was going to do his best to play the innkeeper. But when Mary and Joseph showed up looking for room at the inn, William just couldn’t go through with it. “Mary, Joseph, look, it’s not much, but I’ve got a small room upstairs that you can have for the night.”

Taken by surprise at William’s changing of the script, the little boy playing Joseph said, “I wouldn’t stay in this dump if you paid me.”


If you could take back one gift you have given someone, what would it be? Why?



Notre Dame point guard Matt Farrell’s brother Bo, who was stationed in Afghanistan, surprised Matt and their parents with a surprise homecoming after Notre Dame’s win Monday night. These never get old.

A Full Day (12/20/16): Elvis, Uber Argument, and Muddling Through a Merry Christmas

Today is December 20, 2016, the 355th day of the year.

On this day in 1957, Elvis Presley received his draft notice from Selective Service.


I actually had a couple in my car arguing over whether Uber drivers should be able to see where Uber passengers are. It was 2 a.m.



Have you ever thought of how the “War on Christmas” started? More on this later in the week.



I know the story. Within the pages of the Gospel of Matthew and Luke, I read of the birth of Jesus Christ  into the world and it is worth as a joyous celebration as it can muster. I love the story of an unlikely teenaged girl chosen to become the mother of the Incarnate Word of God, the betrothed man who put aside his ego to care for them both, the angels who appeared to announce to the stinky, smelly shepherds the news of the birth of Jesus, and in turn they become the first evangelists. I know the story and the promised, everlasting joy it brings. As a Christian, that story is the beginning of what brings me hope.

However, some 2016 or so years later, as we turn the calendar pages to December and prepare to celebrate that event, there are times when the joy I am supposed to feel seems out of reach.


*In early December 1993, I traveled from Lakewood, CA to the small town of Cairo, GA to interview for a youth director position at a church there. It would be coming closer to home for me, but potentially, it was to be a huge move for our family. My wife would be leaving her home of 31 years. We’d be moving our 3-year-old. Two weeks after the interview, the uncle who raised me died suddenly a week before Christmas.

*In 2002, I had lost a job I loved and our then-family of four had moved to a new community at Columbus, GA that fall where I started a new job. A couple of weeks before Christmas, amidst all the stress and newness, my wife and I found out we were going to have a child. She was not planned.

*In 2004, I had been out of work for 9 months. The bills piled up and on top of it, I was depressed. Soon, I would start a new job, but things got worse as the owners of the house we were renting decided to sell. How would we find a house to rent in our circumstances?

*In 2015, I was four months removed from a shocking job loss. I had begun Uber driving and was playing for a church in Hudson. But, I was hurting as we entered the Christmas season.


The 1944 movie “Meet Me in St. Louis: featured the song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blaine. In the movie, Judy Garland’s character sings the song to her 5-year-old sister during a scene set during the Christmas season, as the father prepared to move himself – and later the family – to New York from St. Louis prior to the arrival of the long-awaited 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis.


The song ends with the stanza:

Through the years we all will be together, if the Fates allow

Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow.

So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.


Frank Sinatra recorded the song for his 1957 album A Jolly Christmas. He is reported to have asked Martin to change the line Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow to something more “jolly”. Thus, the line, Hang a shining star upon the highest bough was conceived. However, I am one of those drawn to the original line, especially given the time of the movie’s release during World War II. It is said that a live performance by Garland brought WW II soldiers to tears.

There are fellow Christians that can’t fathom how a believer in Jesus Christ can “muddle through somehow” given the story of Christmas. And perhaps they are right. All I know is there are years I muddled through. I knew the story, but I still hurt. I still had pain. I still had uncertainty. I still had all the worries of a darkened soul. While those wintry seasons filled my being during a time when the world celebrated, I think God was okay with that.

The birth of Jesus Christ does bring joy, but more importantly, it has and continues to bring hope.

For Mary, I’m sure she worried about raising this child, but she knew of the hope her child would bring.

For Joseph, he faced the challenges of a poor carpenter, and I’m sure he had questions as to what was. But he knew of the hope Yeshua , God Saves, would bring.

For the Shepherds, they would return to the smelly, unrewarding job of tending sheep, but they rejoiced in the hope the angels proclaimed and saw with their own eyes the hope that lay in the manger.

Christmas is not about pretending all is right with our world. Christmas is not about pretending we don’t have scars and bruises. However, Christ’s birth, and our celebration of that event, reminds us we have one in which we can look for hope to overcome our circumstances.

We may muddle through somehow, but we can hope in the One who got in the mud with us when He came as a Child.

A full day: the Lost Passenger, Organic Smoking, and 6 minutes of Happy Dogs

Today is December 18, 2016, the 353rd day of the year.

On this day in 1892, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s ballet “Nutcracker Suite” premieres in St. Petersburg, Russia.



I pick up a passenger Friday night, 2 a.m. in Hickory. He was a male in his late 20s.

Guy: How far is Greensboro from here?

Me: About an hour and a half.

Guy: What town is this?


Later in the trip, the guy wants to stop at a fast food place. The only thing open where we are on Hwy 70 is McDonald’s. So, we pull up to the drive through.

Guy ordering: I want a hot and spicy.

McDs lady: A what?

Guy: I want a hot and spicy.

McDs lady: We don’t have a hot and spicy. What is it you want?

Guy: I’ll have a crispy chicken sandwich…. Two $1 menu McDoubles… and a Sausage McGriddle.

(Yep, hot and spicy)


We arrive at his destination, which was listed at the Fairfield:

Guy: I’m at the next hotel.

Me: Ok, so you’re staying at the Hampton?

Guy: Yeah.

We pull up at the Hampton

Guy: This isn’t it either.

I finally had him pull out his hotel key. It was for the Courtyard.

That had to be a tough Saturday morning wakeup



I’m still trying to figure out the logic of pushing organic, whole food, eat healthy, etc. etc. from folks who smoke. I suppose it’s different if you smoke organic tobacco.




If humans could be half this happy to see their friends as dogs are to see their humans. Here is over six minutes of dogs welcoming home their masters.


A Full Day: Kitty Hawk, P.D.Q. Bach Christmas, Absolute Power, A Dog Farewell

Today is December 17, 2016, the 352nd day of the year.

On this day in 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright made the first motorized flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C.



One of the more, ahem, unique composers is Peter Schickele, a.k.a. PDQ Bach. Schickele was a master of classical music parody in a variety of genres, including opera, symphonic works, choral writings. If the musical style has been conceived, Schickele made fun of it in some way. That includes the Christmas carol.

Peter Schickele

P.D.Q Bach wrote three Christmas Carols. Of all the works Bach wrote, these three are certainly three of them.

For your listening torture we have:

O Little Town of Hackensack 

O little town of Hackensack, How still we hear thee snore;

The snow-deck’d streets that reindeer feets Will soon be prancing o’re

Thy winsome children wond’ring if Old Santa Claus will show;

They need not fear;  methinks I hear His endless ho, ho, ho.

O little town of Hackensack, How yet we see thee lie;

St. Nick hath gone, by now he’s on His way to Tenafly.

Then gifts galore to Peapack and Secaucus will he bring;

He toucheth down in ev’ry town He doeth now his thing.


O little town of Hackensack, At last the dawn doth glow;

The sky is clear, no longer hear We Santa’s ho ho ho.

Wake up!  ’tis time to check out all The things you got, and then

To drink thy fill and eat until You’re back to sleep again.


Throw the Yule Log on Uncle John  

Throw the yule log on, Uncle John

Throw the yule log on Uncle John



Put the pickle down, Uncle John

Put the pickle down Uncle John



Ten o’clock on Christmas morn and all the guests are coming to the door;

Ten o’clock on Christmas morn and Uncle John’s already on the floor.

Though the weather’s bitter cold there’s not a frown to mar the festive mood;

Wait ’til they discover that old Uncle John has eaten all the food.

Hear the hall clock strike, Uncle John

Hear the hall clock strike Uncle John


Please, will you come to Uncle John?

Gather around poor Uncle John.

Please, will you come to Uncle John (the no-good good-for-nothing),

Oh, when will you come to Uncle John?

Oh, when will you come to, Uncle John?


Good King Kong 

Good King Kong looked out on his feet

And he saw that they were large.

“Ho, ho,” he said, “we go,” he said,

“To make some tracks in the snow,

Forsooth our feet are very large.”

Squinch, squinch, squinch.


Good King Kong looked out on his nose

And he saw that it was flat.

“Oh, no,” he said, “when we blow,” he said,

“The pitch must not be too low,

The royal nose must not be flat.”

Honk, honk, honk.


Good King Kong looked out on his ears

And his ears he could not see.

“Oh, dear,” he said, “it’s clear,” he said,

“We must see if we can hear,

Because our ears we cannot see.”

Hear, hear, hear.


Good King Kong looked up in the sky

And he saw St. Nick’s red sleigh;

“Ho, ho,” he said, “whadd’ya know,” he said,

“Will you look at that old guy go,” he said,

“Uh, oh, whoa, past us please do not go.

“Yell yells,” he said, “Ring the bells,” he said,

“Though a couple don’t work very well,

Let’s welcome St. Nick and his sleigh.”

Ding, dong, clunk.



There is much wailing and gnashing of teeth over the North Carolina General Assembly’s decision to enact laws that limit the power of governor-elect Roy Cooper to make appointments without the Assembly’s approval.

Honestly, I don’t know the particulars of the bill and I know sometimes these things get a bit blown out of proportion, depending on your political leanings. However, from what little I do know, I think back to the old adage: Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

I do wonder how wise it is for the Republican party to essentially block out all dissenting voices.



Many of you have seen the footage of a dog bidding farewell to its owner, as the man lay dying in his hospital bed. Here’s hoping other hospitals will follow suit in similar cases in the future.

A Full Day: Castro and the Flinstone House, A Grandpa Learns English

Today is December 16, 2016, the 351st day of the year.

On this day in 1971, Don McLean’s American Pie is released. At 8 ½ minutes, it is the longest single ever to reach the top spot on the pop charts.



This made the rounds of the internet the other day. The burial of Fidel Castro’s ashes took place at Fred Flintstone’s house.



A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)

In our current political climate, how true is this.



A man from Poland learns English. In this ad called “English for beginners”, you’ll see the reason why it’s such a tear-jerker.(One NSFW word used that he learns from the movies.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tU5Rnd-HM6A

A Full Day: Fernwood Remembered, Merry Christmas, (Darling)

“If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day.” Jim Valvano


Today is December 15, 2016, the 349th day of the year.

On this day in 1973, the ride Pirates of the Caribbean opens at Disneyland.



In reading the biography of Alan Thicke, who passed away Tuesday, I came across a personal golden nugget. Back in 1977, there was a spinoff from the rather odd, soap opera parody Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, which was set in the fictional town of Fernwood, Ohio. In fact there is a real Fernwood, Ohio, but this is not it.

Anyway, the spinoff was a talk show called Fernwood 2 Night. It, too, was a parody, this one of late night talk shows. The host was Barth Gimble (played by comedian Martin Mull), who while wanting to bring the big time to Fernwood, was often embarrassed by the odd collection of acts and guests that turned up. The Ed McMahon to Gimble’s Johnny Carson was Jerry Hubbard (Fred Willard). Hubbard was a bit of an airhead and often, um…. insensitive (telling an 8-year-old black, female, dancer how much the mini-series Roots did her people proud).

Barth Gimble (left, played by Martin Mull) and Jerry Hubbard (Fred Willard) on the set of Fernwood 2 Night

The house band was Happy Kyne (played by longtime big band leader and film score composer Frank De Vol) and the Mirth Makers – a group made up of an accordionist, guitar, bass and drummer. They often played the latest and hippest music on the current scene, including Boogie Fever and Disco Duck.

Growing up, I think I was the only one in my house watching the show, and I remembered roaring with tears coming down my cheeks at the humor. I tried to never miss a show that summer and fall of 1977.  The humor was irreverent and, by today’s standards, quite politically incorrect.

So, for those who are reading this, I’ve linked to four scenes from the show.

The Trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rm48gbC-NpI

The Burger Juggler and a rather unique School Integration plan (This was edgy stuff for 1977) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vaalILRLoKs

UFO Alien Abduction/ Comedienne Fannie Flagg plays a Fernwood resident who claims she was violated by an aliem https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tCBOfj9iA6I

Happy Kyne sings Shake Your Booty: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zae9GJ387kY



Others do not need to tell me to have a Merry Christmas in order for me to have one. That is on me.



Every year I hear Karen Carpenter’s voice singing Christmas song, l just sit back and marvel at the soulful, soothing voice that came from that small woman. And then, I get sad and the torture she had within her that ultimately took her life.

Here is Carpenter singing Merry Christmas, Darling