Saturday, June 27, 2015

Moving On

(This is a post I wrote over several days in the last week or two before Jude, the boys and I moved from old house on Elliott Avenue to our new house on Linden Avenue).

In many ways, this is the one blog post I never thought I would write.

A little more than 12 years ago, a month or two shy of our wedding, Jude and I bought our house at 1906 Elliott Avenue, just south of downtown Nashville.  Because she's a good Catholic girl, Jude moved in first and I didn't join her until after we were married.  Jude sold her house in East Nashville and I sold my house in Franklin.  Having never lived outside of Williamson County ("God's Country" I had always called it), it was with some trepidation that I moved into what my closest friends not so affectionately described as "the 'Hood."  

Truth be told, in those days - the salad days of our marriage - our neighborhood was in many ways "the 'Hood."  Jude's bicycle was stolen off our back porch the first week after we moved into our house.  Someone stole a potted plant off our front porch the weekend of our wedding.  When the original chain link fence was removed and our back yard was without a fence for one day while the posts for our privacy fence were being set, someone unchained my lawnmower from the back porch and stole it.  

Worst of all, over the second or third Easter weekend there, someone cut and stole from out garden in the front yard the beautiful tulips Jude had planted the year before.  Enraged, I went to Office Depot and bought poster board and magic markers.  I made a large sign and stuck it in the garden in our front yard, right next to the sidewalk.  It said, "Happy Easter to the jackass who stole our tulips!"  The Easter Sunday churchgoers at Mt. Gilled Baptist Church, across the street, just stared at the sign in silence as they got our of their cars to walk into church.

The large windows in the front room of the house are original (probably 85 or 90 years old).  They have no screens and we never had any window treatments installed, because we couldn't find anything that looked good to us.  Plus, we loved the look of the old fashioned, smoky glass and the pulleys used to raise and lower the windows.  There are no screens on the windows, so the cats (oh, man, those three damned cats - Punk (RIP), NC and Mini-T) would hop up and outside, then hop up and come back inside at will on nice fall or spring days.  

One fall day, long before J.P. was born, Jude and I were watching a UT-Florida football game in the den, with the windows open, when Jude suddenly shrieked.  NC had jumped up into the window from outside, then jumped onto the floor of the den, with a small garter snake in her mouth.  Jude screamed (she's terrified of all snakes) and I laughed hysterically.  I took the snake outside and let it go in the tall, thick hedge row that separated our front yard from "Neighbor Jamie's" front yard (although this was probably before he moved in next door).  

Anyway, in the early days after we moved into the house, it seemed to me that every person who walked by our house was looking directly into our den.  It was as weird feeling.  At night, especially, when we were watching television, I would stand up and look outside every time someone walked by our house on the sidewalk or a car drove by more slowly than normal.  I quickly realized I wasn't living in suburbia in Williamson County anymore.  

And somehow, someway, that's what I grew to love about our house and neighborhood more than anything.  It wasn't Williamson County, far from it.  It seemed more real.  A little dangerous, yes, but more alive.

Initially, it was a little unsettling to me to me out in the neighborhood at night.  Hard to believe, I know, because now it's nothing for me to go for a run or walk to Bongo Java or Edley's after the boys are in bed.  That wasn't the case in the early days.  I can recall being a little uncomfortable going for my first run or two at night.  I distinctly remember feeling a little nervous walking down Acklen Avenue, toward home, after a run not too long after I joined Jude in the house after we were married. 

Fast forward to the two or three months after Joe was born, when to keep with "the schedule," I would take him for a walk at 9 or 9:30 p.m., while Jude napped before feeding him again at 11 p.m.  Joe and I routinely strolled to Boulevard on Belmont Boulevard, where a I had a glass or two of wine and read books on my Kindle.  Sometimes, as we strolled back home, I laughed to myself as I crossed 12th Avenue, near 11 p.m.  I found it funny that if someone had told me, 20 years ago, that I would be 44 years old,  strolling a sleeping infant across 12th Avenue near downtown Nashville, I would have said they were insane.  

Man plans, God laughs, right?  Right.

One night several years ago as I was walking down Caldwell avenue, returning home with coffee from Bongo Java after ending a run there, I sensed someone walking behind me.  I turned around, started, and saw a fit, well dressed, middle aged black man a few feet away.  We exchanged greetings, struck up a conversation, and I learned his name was Alan McCrary and he lived around the corner from me on Acklen Avenue in a house his family had owned for decades.  I also learned he was a Los Angeles Laker fan, as am I, and since that night we have had many, many conversations about NBA basketball, music, family and life (his and mine).  

I subsequently did some legal work for Alan and in thanks, he gave me a gospel CD his sisters had self-released.  I planned to listen to to it once, just to be nice, then throw it way,  because in Nashville, everyone has a CD.  Unbeknownst to me, Alan's father was one of the original Fairfield Four, a world renowned gospel group.  Suffice to say, the McCrary Sisters' CD - their first one - was amazing.  I was blown away by it, and I no nothing about gospel music.  J.P. and I absolutely wore it out listening to it in my truck on the way to school, running errands, etc.  J.P.'s first "concert" was a McCrary Sisters' show at 3rd and Lindsley, where he was by far the youngest person in attendance.  One of Alan's sisters dedicated a song (J.P.'s favorite on the CD) to him and he was thrilled.  We also saw Alan perform a jaw dropping rendition of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On?"  

Only in Nashville, and only in my neighborhood in Nashville, could something like this originate from a chance meeting on a walk home at night from Bongo Java after a run.  At least, that's how it seems to me.  That chance meeting led to a relationship with someone and memories I'll treasure forever.

Other than our boys, the greatest gift Jude has given me during out time together has been leading me down a path that ended in a place totally and completely out of my comfort zone.  Leaving the confines of Williamson County "bubble" to live in "the 'Hood" is probably the best example of that.  My life has been enriched in so many ways, large and small, by living in our house on Elliott Avenue and the surrounding neighborhood.  I have met people and formed friendships that I hope will last a lifetime, all because we decided to take a chance and buy this house in 2003, much to the chagrin of many of our friends and family.

In the early days, we got a lot of mail fro Jessie and Amy Plaster, the people who owned the house before us and renovated it.  On several occasions when we met someone from the neighborhood for the first time, they would look at us wistfully, nod their heads, and say something like "you bought Jessie and Amy's house.  They're so great."  It got to be a joke to Jude and me, since it happened so often.  We were just Jude and Phil, the slackers that bought Jessie and Amy's house.

Well, a funny thing happened over the last 12+ years.  In many ways, Jude and I became Jessie and Amy Plaster, or so it seems, as our lives became woven into the fabric of the neighborhood.  J.P and Joe played a large part in that, for sure.  After all, babies are a great conversation starter and conversation piece.  Many times as I strolled J.P., then later Joe, through the neighborhood, I stopped to talk to a neighbor I hadn't met yet, who wanted to take a peek inside the stroller (the magic City Elite, by Baby Jogger, that I've written about many times). Now, as our departure is imminent, those same neighbors who extolled the virtues of Jessie and Amy Plaster when we moved into the house look at us, shake their heads sadly, and tell us they wish we weren't leaving.  On many levels, I feel the same way.

A quick aside about Jessie and Amy Plaster is in order.  When we initially moved into the house, we noticed a black and white cat sitting on the window sill, outside, staring at us as we watched television in the den.  When we walked into the kitchen to make dinner, the same cat appeared like an apparition in the kitchen window, staring balefully inside at us.  Downstairs bedroom?  Same thing.  The black and white cat appeared in that window, as well.  We were puzzled, until I mentioned to Jude that the cat looked a lot like a black and white cat we had seen sleeping in a closet in the house when we looked at it before buying it.  We called our realtor, Reid, and he confirmed that Jessie and Amy Plaster, those paragons of neighborhood virtue, moved to North Carolina and left their cat at the house.  I guess it was their housewarming gift to us.

I'm tempted to leave NC at the house for the new owner, but of course, I can't do that.  She'll travel to our new house on Linden Avenue, where she will undoubtedly pee on the floor, just as she has done for more than a decade at our house on Elliott Avenue.  I could, and probably should, write a separate post about NC, because she truly has lived nine lives since we took her in as part of our family.  Another time, perhaps.

It's difficult to recall with any sense of detail our lives at the Elliott Avenue house before the boys were born.  For me, it's a collage of out of town travel for ultimate frisbee tournaments and Tennessee football games, tailgating for Titans' games, the occasional ultimate frisbee party (the Valentine's Day Soup Party, the Old School Ultimate Frisbee Party and the Ultimate Frisbee Christmas party come to mind), a succession of neighborhood boys mowing our grass (Anthony and Cameron), me cooking a lot for Jude, softball games in the City and Law leagues, countless runs through the neighborhood and really, just living a no pressure, freedom filled life without children.

It didn't take long for me to fall in love with "city life," in part because it was different from the life of so many of my friends were living, and different from the life I had previously lived.  On a certain level, I enjoyed traveling down a different path by living in the 'hood, where life had a little bit of grittiness to it.  For me, it was fun to be little different.

Especially in the early days, it wasn't unusual to hear what I quickly grew to recognize as gunshots nearby, followed by the police helicopter flying over our block searching for a suspect.  Jude and I returned home from a Predators' game one night and saw several police cars, an ambulance and a couple of fire trucks at the corner in the intersection of Elliott Avenue and Benton Avenue.  We later learned a man had been shot inside a van in a drug deal gone bad, after which he was dumped in the street in front of our neighbors' house.  Evidently, he staggered up to their front porch and banged on the front door, desperately seeking help as he bled profusely from a gunshot wound to his leg.

One spring afternoon 6 or 7 years ago, there was a shooting during a domestic disturbance at a house on Acklen Avenue, maybe a tenth of a mile away from our house.  A teenage girl was taken to Vanderbilt with a gunshot wound.  Fortunately, she wasn't seriously injured.

Another evening, 2 or 3 years ago, I returned home from work one summer evening to see several police cars and a television news truck parked at the intersection of Wedgewood Avenue and Acklen Avenue.  Onlookers were milling around, behind a large white sheet that had been erected.  I talked to a neighbor and learned a man had been shot during a drug deal in the housing project on 12th Avenue.  The wounded man had driven his car to the parking lot Hubcap Annie's on Wedgwood Avenue (a Nashville "institution" since my youth, recently closed), where he apparently died.

Another night, after we were in bed, I was awakened by the sound of the police helicopter seemingly hovering directly over our house.  When I called the non-emergency telephone number of the Metro Police Department to find out what was going on, I was told the police were looking for a man who had been involved in a armed robbery and later was spotted walking through the neighborhood with no shirt on, carrying a rifle.

Yep, that was my 'hood, at least in the early years.  Gritty, a little dangerous and with a definite edge to it.

Sure, it wasn't Baltimore or New Orleans, but this was "the city" for me.  Scary and a little intimidating to me at first, but I grew to love it.  It became home.  I learned to recognize the sound of gunshots and to distinguish them form the sound of fireworks in June and July.  It was part of the soundtrack of living in the 'hood.  At one point, I remarked to Jude, a bit ruefully, that I wasn't sure what was more concerning - that I was living in a neighborhood where I could hear gunshots on a regular basis or that hearing gunshots didn't bother me anymore.

Speaking of fireworks, one of the pleasant discoveries we made about our house after we moved in was that we could see them over the tops of the trees in our backyard from Greer Stadium on Friday and Saturday nights during the spring and summer when the Sounds finished home games with a fireworks display.  We could see and hear them, actually.  Many times, after J.P. was born, he would sit in Jude's lap and look out her window at the fireworks, smiling sleepily the whole time.

Also, when the stock cars were racing at Fairgrounds Speedway, if the wind was blowing just right, it sounded like the stock cars were racing in a continuous loop around our front and back yards.  With the windows closed.  It was loud, and I loved it.  It was just part of living in the city.

Over the years we lived in our house on Elliott Avenue, we watched our next door neighbors' son, Greg, grow from a boy into a young man, seemingly overnight.  When when we moved in, Greg was 11 or 12 years old.  He progressed from incessantly practicing lacrosse in the back yard ("thwack!  thwack!  thwack!") to hosting parties and shooting fireworks with friends in the back yard when his parents were out of town.  On two or three occasions, I walked next door, let myself in with my key, and asked Greg and his friends to tone it down during a party.  I also helped Greg out on a couple of occasions with traffic tickets.  And now, he's grown up, graduated from college and off to make his way in the world.

Of course, when J.P. was born, it changed everything.  Overnight, our house became a home, if that makes sense.  I vividly recall Jude, seven or eight months pregnant, painting navy blue stars on the light green ceiling of the nursery (J.P.'s room) with a stencil she had ordered on-line (the stars are still there, actually).  So many nights - almost every night - I checked on J.P. when I went to bed (first in his crib, then in his converted toddler bed, now in his single bed) and said a silent prayer as I stood over him sleeping peacefully before I went to bed.  I remember setting him down in his infant carrier, in the middle of the den floor when we brought him home from the hospital for the first time.  I was terrified.  Suddenly, our house had become a home that was filled with baby bottles, nipples, diapers, toys (lots of toys), baby clothes, etc.  And I had grown up, or so it seemed.

Many mornings I woke up to bright sunlight streaming through the line of windows down one wall of our bedroom and looked over at Jude, as she breast fed J.P., and later, Joe.  There was something special, almost magical, about the natural light in the master bedroom in the mornings.  Some of the best photographs I have ever taken were taken of Jude and the boys in our master bedroom, smiling in the morning sunlight.

I met our friend, Anne Marie (and her daughter, Ayden) while I was strolling with J.P. in the neighborhood one weekend afternoon.  She was strolling with Ayden, we struck up a conversation and a family friendship was born.  We were saddened when Anne Marie, Rob and Ayden moved into the suburbs because we knew it wouldn't be the same, and it wasn't.  We lost touch with them, other than the occasional telephone call.  The friendship we forged in the 'hood, albeit brief in the scheme of things, was special.

J.P. crawled for the first time on a blanket with me on a spring Sunday afternoon in our front yard, underneath out stately 75 + year old Maple tree.  I frantically telephoned Jude on my cell phone and she poked her head outside on the upstairs porch, overlooking the front yard, to watch him crawl.  We laughed together at the joy of it all.  I was, and am, in awe of the very idea of J.P. and the fact that God had blessed us with a healthy, active son.  J.P.

J.P. walked for the first time, wearing his "BASKETBALL" t-shit, on the small deck in our back yard.  He tottered diagonally across the deck, from Jude to me and back again, hands raised above his head staggering like a drunken sailor.  He smiled the entire time and our hearts soared as we bore witness to such an amazing moment.

Sadly, I sobbed on J.P.'s shoulder in the nursery when he was six months old, as I held him close, after learning my close friend Benton's daughter, Elizabeth, had died.  I remember thinking he was supposed to cry on my shoulder, not the other way around.  That Saturday morning, though, J.P. comforted me - comforted my soul, really - in a way that's hard to put into words.  I clung to him desperately as I cried and cried.

There was a time in J.P.'s young life when I wasn't sure if he was going to be a big sports fan, like his old man.  When he was three years old, other than quilt on is wall that had a baseball and bat on it, there were no indications the room belonged to a boy who loved sports.  I was okay with that (at least I think I was), because he loved music and I knew we would find other areas of common interests.  However, when J.P. turned four, it was like someone flipped the sports switch.  By the time he turned five, every inch of the wall above his bed was covered in sports posters - Nashville Predators, Belmont basketball, Vanderbilt basketball, baseball and football, Tennessee Titans.  It was crazy how quickly he got bitten by the sports bug.

As we were decluttering and getting our house ready to sell, Jude took down all of the sports posters. It's so strange, now, to look at the bank wall above his bed, where all of his sports posters had hung.

And then, along came Joe.









Monday, June 15, 2015

Bonnaroo 2015

From its inception in 2002, I've always wanted to go to Bonnaroo.  Last year, in year 13, I finally made it to "the Farm" in Manchester on Friday for a day of music, beer and sunshine.  I immediately began to plot my return in 2015, for year 14 of Bonnaroo.  This year, I was lucky enough to go Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

And man, oh man, it was a beautiful thing.

It's kind of hard to put into words why attending Bonnaroo is such a meaningful thing to me.  What I can say, though, is that both years I've returned home on such high, so happy to be alive.  Today, I woke up smiling, in a great mood and I stayed that way all day long.  I felt energized.  Spending the weekend at Bonnaroo, with 3 friends, listening to amazing music all day and all night, having a beer or two and just walking around outside somehow transformed me into this shining, happy, carefree spirit.  Last year, I jokingly called it the "Bonnaroo high."

On a certain level, as I get older I think it's important to me to continue to try new and different things, to continue to test myself, live a little unconventionally and, really, just experience life.  That's part of it, I guess.  Also, music is such an important part of my life that it means a great deal to me to be able to see so much of it in one place in a few days' time.  Discovering new music is amazing and mind expanding for me, so I really thrive on seeing so many diverse musical acts for the first and maybe only time.  And it all happens outside, on "the Farm."  And everyone there is so happy.  As I said, it's a beautiful thing.


Friday, early afternoon, I drove down to Manchester by myself.  Once I navigated traffic and a long line to get in, I walked around with a smile on my face, taking it all in.  I had a beer at the craft beer tent (craft beers from all around the country) and browsed the vendors' tents.  I was drawn to a stage nearby when I heard music playing.  I walked up and began listening to Against Me!, a punk rock band with a transgender lead singer.  And they were amazing.  That, in essence, is Bonnaroo.

Later, I saw Moon Taxi and and Kaci Musgraves.  Both from Nashville and both pretty good.

Saturday morning, I rushed around to get Jude and the boys off to Cheekwood, so I could meet my friends and drive down to Manchester again.  I stopped by Bongo Java for quick cup of coffee and was crestfallen when I walked in and saw a long line.  As I gave up and walked outside, I stopped to talk to a couple of friends.  Suddenly, A.C. popped outside with a "Mood Elevator" in her hand, for me.  She had seen my in line and thought I looked like I needed a cup of coffee, so she made it for me and brought it outside.  It made my morning and started my weekend on the right note, for sure.

We drove to Holiday Marina, which is 20 minutes or so from Bonnaroo, and checked into to our motel rooms.  Nothing to write home about, but perfect for us to stay in on Saturday night.  We ate lunch at the Marina, then piled in my truck and drove to "the Farm."  Once we got inside, it was music, music and more music, from 2 p.m. to 1 a.m.  By the time we left, we all were exhausted.  But we saw some great stuff - Son Little, Catfish and the Bottlemen (really good), Songhoy Blues, Trampled by Turtles (fabulous, as always), Bahamas, Bleachers (also really good), Sturgill Simpson, X Ambassador, Slayer (one of the most terrifying experiences of my life) and All Them Witches.  Then, it was back to the Marina, where we crashed.

Sunday was a day of days.  Epic.  We ate breakfast, packed and arrived about noon.  First, we saw Shakey Graves (awesome), then Hurray for the Riff Raff (very good), Madisen Ward and Mama Bear, His Golden Messenger and Bela Fleck/Abigail Washburn.  That's when it got really interesting. I was prepared to go watch Jerry Douglas and his new band, when my friend, Derrick, suggested we go catch something different, something we wouldn't normally see in Nashville.

We wandered over to the "This" tent to watch an African band called The Very Best.  And we were blown away by a show so good that I would have paid full price at Bonnaroo just to see them play.  We were drawn into the middle of the crowd, up front, and we danced and danced and danced.  Again, that's Bonnaroo, for me, anyway.  Wandering up to see a band I've never heard of play a show I'll never forget.  Amazing.

 
The Very Best, rocking the house.

Next, Derek and I stopped into "the Silent Disco," where a couple hundred people at a time don headphones and dance while a DJ spins the records that no one outside the tent can hear.  From the outside looking in, it's kind of eerie to see all of these people dancing to a beat only they can hear through their headphones.

Later, we saw Mo and Rudimental.  Then we packed it up and headed home.

And I'm already planning my trip to Bonnaroo next year.

The motley crew.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Epilogue for Elliott Avenue

It's approaching midnight, and I'm sitting on the back deck of my new house on Linden Avenue, listening to the siren on a fire engine - probably Engine No. 8 - in the distance (some things never change about city life).  I left our house on Elliott Avenue for the last time about a half hour ago.

Today, Jude and I swept and mopped the floors at our old house (how strange to call it our "old" house).  I cleaned out the refrigerator and freezer.  Jude did several loads of laundry, as there is no washer and dryer in our new house.  The moving crew - who were great - moved the remaining items they couldn't find room for on the truck yesterday.  Duane mowed the grass, trimmed the yard and generally cleaned it up nicely.  He also removed the sandbox from the back yard.  Much to Joe's chagrin, it had rotted and couldn't be moved to the new house.  Duane also took another load of junk to the landfill.

Tonight, after dinner, Jude and I took J.P. and Joe to our old house for one last look around, and to pick up our cats, N.C. and Mini-T.  I smiled sadly when J.P. said to no one in particular, as he walked into Joe's empty bedroom downstairs, "I wish we could stay here just one more day."  Me, too, J.P., I thought, me, too.

The boys wandered around a bit, upstairs, then downstairs.  It was cute, as they were already in their pajamas.  It appeared that, like us, they already had said their goodbyes to our old house.

Earlier in the afternoon, when Jude and I were sweeping and mopping the empty rooms, I literally felt a dull ache in my stomach and chest.  It's strange, I know, but I felt so sad to know we were leaving and that I would never live in that house again.  My heart felt so heavy.  It's hard to explain, because I don't think I've felt that way before, but I felt this overwhelming, palpable sense of sadness.  I almost had to stop and sit down to collect myself and my emotions.

The boys were worn out when we left our old house with the cats, so we moved straight into our bedtime routine when we got back to the new house.  My tentative plan, at that point, was to put the boys in bed, then return to our old house.  I was going to go for a final run, finish at Bongo Java, get a "Mood Elevator, " then walk home like I have so many times over the last 12 + years.  Of course, it didn't quite work out that way.  It took longer to get the boys in bed than I had hoped, so I skipped the run, drove over to Bongo Java, and drank a "Mood Elevator" there.  Then, I went to our old house to finish cleaning, take out the trash and pick up the odds and ends that were still there.

I had planned to end the night by sitting on the front porch, drinking a beer and writing a blog post about how I felt, in the moment, to be leaving our old house once and for all.  Much to my surprise, though, I got busy cleaning and loading my truck, and by the time I was done, I just wanted to get home, and be with my family, even though they would probably all be asleep.  And that's when it hit me.  Home wasn't on Elliott Avenue any longer, it was in our new house on Linden Avenue.  I felt a sense of relief, as I locked the front door for the last time and took my key off my keychain and left it in the mailbox.  Finally, at long last, I was ready to move on, to my new home.

Jude and I, and later, the boys, got as much out of our house on Elliott Avenue as we possibly could over the last 12 + years.  As I told Duane when we were standing in the front yard talking today, the Elliott Avenue house wasn't perfect, but it was perfect for us.

It's funny, but this afternoon while we were cleaning, Jude reminded me of something we had said when we were deciding whether to buy the house in 2002.  As we looked at it with my cousin, Alice, we wondered if we were really cool enough to own that house.  In the city, exposed brick on the inside, giant maple tree in the front yard, gorgeous mantle over the fireplace, original hardwood floors throughout and original old, smoky glass windows.  No driveway and no garage, just parking on the street and living in the 'hood!  Well, it turns out, we were plenty cool enough to own that house.  And we were plenty cool enough to have two boys who lived in that house with us.

And so, as I turned off all the lights inside for the last time, as I turned off the front porch lights and locked the front door, then dropped the keys in the mailbox, there were no tears or prolonged sighs or remembrances of times passed.

The end was just the end.  And that's as it should be.



     

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Dodgers!


The Dodgers, after winning the end of season tournament in the Willie Mays Division of the Rookie League at the West Nashville Sports League.  From left to right, Hank, Davis, Winn, Wes, Jaxyn, Cyrus, J.P., Cooper, Jonathan, Brennan and Aidan.

This afternoon at Harpeth Hills Church of Christ, my Dodgers won the end of season tournament by beating the Nationals, 8-7.  It was a great, close game, and I was so proud of my boys for hanging in there and getting the win.  They played tough in the field in the top of the 6th inning, gave up one run, but managed to hold on for the win after Jaxyn made a couple of nice plays at pitcher.  Winn, Brennan and Cyrus hit well.  Cooper made a nice play at 3rd, after which he gunned the runner at 1st base.  J.P. made a great play at 2nd, when he went far to his right to field a ball, kept his glove down and threw a strike to Winn at 1st base.

Winning was fun, for sure, but what I pleased me the most was how well the boys got along with each other, how much fun they had, how much they improved over the course of the season and how much they learned.  It's such a great group of boys.  I love every one of them.  It's so rewarding to connect with each boy in a slightly different way.  What I'm hoping to do is keep the team together in baseball over the years, so they can grow together as players and boys.

The boys' parents are fantastic, as well.  Jude and I have made so many good friends through J.P.'s sports, especially baseball.  That's been a real treat.

What a great season!  Now, let's do it again this fall!


Hank, J.P. and Winn.


Randy and Jonathan.


Chris and Wes.


One more team photo.

Summer is Here!


J.P., on the front porch before the last day of kindergarten.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Stop Moving My Cheese

I don't handle change well.  Never have, probably never will.  And right now, there's a maelstrom of change in my life.

This morning at breakfast, J.P. reminded me it was his second to last full day of kindergarten.  His first year of school, gone in a flash.  Mind boggling.  Although he tells me the school year has gone by quickly for him, I guarantee it hasn't gone by as quickly for him as it has for me.  His first summer as a school aged child is upon us, which means it time for camps, camps and more camps.

Yesterday before I took Joe to play school at West End United Methodist Church, we watched an episode of "Super Why" on PBS.  He's moved on, almost completely, from "Sid the Science Kid" (my all time favorite) and seems to be losing a bit of interest in "Curious George," previously a morning television staple of his.  I had yet to watch "Super Why" with him, so when I did, it brought back vivid memories of watching "Super Why" with J.P.  As Yogi Berra once said, it was "deja vu all over again."  It makes me a little sad to see Joe moving on from "Sid the Science Kid" and "Curious George," only because it's a sign of how quickly he's changing and growing up.  Having been through this with J.P., I know how fast things change and how powerless I am to stop it.

Then, of course, there's the inexorable march toward May 30, when we leave our Elliott Avenue house forever.  We closed the sale of house on Friday, so technically we're not the owners anymore.  I'm ignoring that salient fact, however, and trying to enjoy the last, lingering days we'll spend there.  It's the end of an era, for sure, and the end of such an important and special time in my life.

As I walked up the street approaching the house last night, having just completed a 4 mile run, I was struck by how beautiful the tree - my favorite stately old maple tree - dominating the front yard - is this spring.  Thanks to all of the rain we've had this spring, the tree has exploded with large, green leaves.  The house is almost completely hidden from the street by the low hanging branches of the tree, which we always liked.  Strangely, it gives the house a secluded feel, especially at night.

It will be a banner fall for the Leaf Party - a party we're not going to be able to host at our Elliott Avenue house, after more than a decade of doing so.  And that makes me sad, too.






Friday, May 15, 2015

Freaky Friday

I just dropped J.P. off at school for his last Friday of the year.  As we drove to USN, he and I marveled at how quickly his kindergarten year had passed by.  I was glad to have a last chance to take him to school this morning, because Jude normally drops him off.  I feel more connected to USN when I take him to school every now and then.

He's a great first year at USN.  Great teacher, great friends and most importantly, great learning.  One day, early on, he came home and starting reading to Jude and me.  I realize he already was reading some, but it just sort of happened that all of a sudden, he was reading.  On of the true pleasures, for me, of his kindergarten year has been listening to him read a book to me each night, then signing the sheet in his book folder as the "lucky listener."  Lucky indeed.

This year marked the Centennial Celebration at USN, the school's 100th birthday.  There have a been a variety of events we have attended with J.P. and Joe.  Still, I haven't felt as connected as I am sure I will be in years to come.  I think it's because Jude normally takes him to school and picks him up, as well.  Also, I've been so busy with other volunteer activities and boards (Children's House and 21st Drug Court) that I haven't found the time to get involved at USN.  My style, though, is too ease into these types of things, so I suspect I'll get more involved next year and in the years to come.

When school ends next week, J.P will head off to a variety of camps throughout the summer.  Sports camps at USN and MBA, Zoo camp and Camp Whippoorwill.  It makes me a little sad, sometimes, to see him shuffled off to so many camps every summer, although it's unavoidable given Jude's and my work schedules.  I seem to remember my summers were lazier and longer lasting, made up of backyard playing, fort building in the woods, Monopoly marathons and trips to Opryland.  J.P. doesn't have that luxury, unfortunately.  

I could sit here at Bongo Java forever on such a beautiful spring morning, but I can't.  It's off to work (mediation) and then, hopefully, to the closing of the sale of our house on Elliott Avenue later this morning.  Big day.

J.P. and his kindergarten buddy, Cecil, at USN.