Binge Watching HBO’s The Newsroom – A Lesson In Character Development

THE NEWSROOM

Several of my friends posted on my Facebook wall Saturday p.m. about how distraught I must have been about Auburn losing to Texas A&M.  I really was not.

Truth is, I didn’t even watch the game, and for that matter, haven’t sat beginning to end for an entire collegiate game all season.

I’ve had other things going on.

Namely, I’ve continued to use every available moment to work on my first novel project, what I’m calling, The Privacy Patriots.

So what was I doing most of Friday evening, nearly all day Saturday and three hours on Sunday?

My homework, prescribed by Author Suzanne Frank from Southern Methodist University.

I was binge watching, the HBO series, The Newsroom. Yes, from about 1:30 p.m. Friday until 10 a.m. Sunday, I watched all 19 episodes of Season 1 and 2, and then at 8 p.m Sunday night, watched the first episode of Season 3.

WHY THE NEWSROOM?

I’d never heard of the show before Thursday night’s class at SMU with Suzanne.PS newsroom

As class was beginning, she handed back 36 pages of 12 scenes involving my lead character, Kip Rippin. The exercise was designed to learn about what 12 major events had shaped him before the book begins. We were supposed to develop things that made him weak, strong, wounded, needing to change; the guy he is when we meet him on Oct. 13, 2016 in the newsroom of the fictional media blend of TV, radio and print called The Washington Broadcaster.

On the cover page of my submission was a note from Suzanne: “PS: you need to watch ‘The Newsroom’ especially this final season.”

Suzanne cautioned me about binge watching. “Every show is so intense.”

And is it ever. From the beginning scenes you’re sucked into an emotional roller coaster with multiple character archetypes and storylines.

Twenty hours of viewing later, I’m a much different person than I was Friday morning. I’m a much different budding author and writer, too, as I’ve seen some excellent examples of what I need to be planning and revising in my own characters. Not to make them like Will, Mac, Maggie, Jim, Don, Sloan (BTW, how in the hell does Aaron Rogers from the Packers wind up with a girl like that?) Charlie, and Neal, but to give them places to grow and develop in the pages I have yet to compose and then revise a dozen times before they hopefully appear printed before your eyes.

HBO

HBO has a great show on its hands. Regrettably, there are only five more episodes to go before the series is over and the character arcs are completed. The important thing about this new season is that Neal, one of the techies in the show, is now entangled in a mess with an Edward Snowden type of character, much like my Kip Rippin is in The Privacy Patriots. Naturally, my storyline isn’t going to be like the Newsroom and the premises between the show and my work are completely different, aside from involving whistleblowers. The richer experience for me, no matter how the Whistleblower storyline goes, is an example on making characters come to life, play off each other, and live rich lives in the conflict that’s created in their tiny world of a cable newsroom in New York City.

I can’t wait to see how the next five episodes go. But more importantly, I can’t wait to see where my own characters go because of the experience of watching excellent storytelling on TV.

 

 

 

 

Oct 11, 2014 - Featured, Geeky, Get A Mac, Product Reviews, Thank You, The Real Me    Comments Off

It’s My Seven Year Appleversary! #Mac #Apple

It’s My Seven Year Appleversary! 

On Oct. 11, 2007, I made the second most important conversion of my life–I bought my first Mac.

Today, I own an iMac, my second MacBook Pro in that time, and a MacBook Air. I also have the iPad Air and an iPhone Six Plus. During my time of evangelism, I’ve also brought more than a dozen others to the fold–family, friends, maybe an enemy or two.

appleversary

There are many blessings that come from being a Mac. I don’t have to run Norton and slow my processes down.  I’ve not ever had a Blue Screen of Death from Windoze. I’ve NEVER had an issue with a virus. And with Apple Care, if anything has ever happened to go wrong, Apple has fixed it in less than three days time.

One-on-One Training

In 2007 I also bought a year’s worth of One-on-One training that Apple provides. You get to basically go to the Apple Store of your choice every week for a year and sit with an Apple expert and they teach you how to use your new machine. Adolpho Cantu taught me Aperture, Final Cut Express, and then we dabbled in ways to move things out of Photoshop into my video projects, which seven years ago, were sophisticatedly primitive given the level of video equipment I had at the time.

But that $99 a year and the curiosity to learn has made a tremendous difference from where I was then and where I am now. Eric is another of the trainers at the Apple Store at Northpark Mall in Dallas. I visited with him recently and he’s still teaching. Many thanks were tendered during our conversation. I then showed him what we’ve been doing with books for the iPad and it made his day. Neither of us could have imagined anything like that would have even become possible in October 2007.

The Price Threshold

I often hear people talk about how expensive Apple products are and how they can get a cheaper: computer/tablet/phone with another company that runs Windoze or Droid. Yeah, you can.  But with them come headaches you don’t get with Apple products. That’s not to say Apple is perfect, because there are issues in the Mac World as well, but nothing near as problematic as I was experiencing when I had a PC.  My point is, you pay a little more for peace of mind and it’s worth every penny.

My Apple World in 2014

I’m running the beta version 5 of Yosemite on two of my work machines now. For the big machine, it’s still running Mavericks. There still are a couple of crucial things for my work that aren’t jiving so well in Yosemite so I can’t make the complete change over. But it is cool to see the things that are coming soon from Apple–ways to make the iPhone, iPad and Macs all share the same information seamlessly without even having to do anything to make that happen.

And this part may surprise some of you, but I have the iPhone Six Plus and I have to say, I wish more and more that I had gone with the smaller iPhone Six. No, I’ve not bent it like six other people apparently have done out of millions of them sold already, but I just find the whole experience with it to be a little wonky–a little like a return to the Droid/Microsuck World, if you will. There have been times when the screen on my iPhone Six Plus has gotten stuck upside down. A time or two when I couldn’t start the video in horizontal position, and had to turn it sideways and then back to horizontal to shoot wide and not shallow. And then when I’m out walking the dog and I want to start MapMy Walk or take a picture while I’m walking and holding the leash in the other hand with a 45-pound dog yanking in the other, it just feels like I’m a flicker away from dropping the massive thing. In other words, it’s just a little too big, even for someone with big hands.

The other thing I wish Apple had done was better timed the coordinated release of iOS 8 for the iPhones and iPads with the commercial release of Yosemite. We have all this functionality sitting there on the iOS devices that really doesn’t work to its full potential right now and I’m certain most people are going to miss out on some of that when Yosemite finally does go live.

Happy Appleversary! 

Regardless of those quirks, I have no regrets for being a Mac. Having Apple products in my life has changed my world and work dramatically in seven year’s time.  I’m now a much better photographer, graphic artist, video producer, video editor, sound editor, music producer, book for iPad producer, movie-maker, 3D graphics designer, photo editor, web designer, and even educator because of what I’ve been able to learn in the Mac World since.

Thinking of making the conversion?  I encourage it whole-heartedly. It will change your world in ways that only you can imagine. Thanks Apple, Steve Jobs and Tim Cook. Oh, and War Eagle. We need to beat Mississippi State today….

 

Sep 30, 2014 - America In Ruins, Family, Family--Parenting, Featured    Comments Off

Ebola Is Now In Dallas

Ebola is in Dallas now. The CDC confirmed it today, just 23 days after President Obama went on Meet the Press and said he didn’t think it’d spread to the US.

So much for that thought.

Now that it’s here, there of course are a thousand million questions to run thru every American and more particularly, every parent’s mind.

FAQs

It’s time for someone to step forward and lead in America and tell us really what this is all about. I don’t need to hear anything else from anyone else at the White House or the Congress. I never put much stock in anything that came out of this president and now that he’s been proven wrong again in only 23 days, I certainly don’t want to hear any more out of him.

What are the real dangers? An NBC Dallas reporter was just on TV saying he’s not worried about standing outside the hospital where the unidentified patient has been quarantined.

But WHAT ABOUT THE PEOPLE EXPOSED TO THIS PERSON before they went into the hospital?

Does this person have any schoolchildren?  Have they been tested?  Have they been exposed to who ever has contracted the deadly disease? Are they going to be allowed to go to school with other children whose parent(s) haven’t just gotten back from Africa and now are in a hospital sick in Dallas.

It’s foolish to think the identity of the patient is going to remain a secret. So what happens when it’s out? What obligation does the news media have to report on the identity of the sickened person?  Our government already has done a crap job of telling us this wasn’t going to come to America when in reality, it was just a matter of time.

So what to do now?

How do we combat Ebola in America?

The Mayo Clinic offers these suggestions:

Which include “avoiding areas of known outbreaks.” Does Dallas now qualify as an area to avoid? The Chamber of Commerce will be fighting against anyone saying that.

Wash your hands frequently is another tip.

Avoid contact with infected people. And see, this is where it goes downhill and fast.  If this person who is in a Dallas hospital flew over from Africa, that means there are a couple hundred people who were on a plane next to him or her. That means also there could be family here in Dallas who also have been exposed, who now have a two to 21-day incubation period before the CDC can tell if they’re sick or not. So can you contain them?

They say now is a time to keep calm and think rationally. So, please do so.

But someone has some questions that need answering and fast.

One would hope that the Obama White House, which 23 days ago said this wouldn’t reach America has been spending some long days and nights somewhere figuring out an actual strategy for this now that it’s a real problem and not something flippantly dismissed by the president on Meet the Press.

But faith has waned so badly in the effectiveness of this “leader” in the White House. Why would we come to expect anything like that now?

 

Aug 31, 2014 - Featured, Novel Writing, Product Reviews, The Real Me    Comments Off

The Writer’s Journey

The Writer’s Journey

For much of my life I have been in love with writing. If you jump over to TraverseAdventures.com, you’ll see a reference to the window at 208 Fortress Street on what was KI Sawyer AFB, in Gwinn, Michigan. From that window of opportunity,  I would sit at my kidney bean desk and a children’s typewriter and construct stories.

Admittedly, I long have had a problem in my writing. I like people and dislike controversy so much, I found it hard to create characters who I began to care for and then needed to throw every sort of imaginable adversity in their way to make a compelling tale. As I told the class I was in at SMU over the summer, “I hated to skewer my characters.” Essentially, however, that’s what makes a good story; one worth reading, one that has something to say.

My life has changed drastically over the past four years. I have had a lot of bad things happen to me emotionally, physically and any other kind of -ly you can come up with to where I’ve been able to punch through what I didn’t have in me before. I’ve experienced how bad things happen to people that shouldn’t, how nutty and dishonest people can wreck one’s life. I’ve witnessed how mean and disingenuous people really can be. Disillusioned now, I have seen how the truth has so little to do with what goes on in court rooms, and how jealous, greedy and evil some people really can be. I’ve seen what demise the use of meth can bring about to a person and their family. Ultimately, I’ve learned to put new value in the simpler things in life.

Christopher Vogler‘s The Writer’s Journey

The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler

The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler

There are two upcoming classes at SMU I look forward to beginning the next two weeks. One is called Story, a five-week class that features the book The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler. The second is a class called, “Stakes,” which is a two-session class designed to help writers “raise the stakes” their characters will endure in a work.

I’ve begun reading Vogler’s work, which also led me to Barnes and Noble yesterday to purchase Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With A Thousand Faces. Vogler wraps a lot of what he has to stay around the works of Campbell, which are largely based on premises of Freud and Jung–and as much as modern psychology has undone the concepts they put forward years and years ago, I have to wonder about some of what Campbell says–but I’m enjoying the aspects of what Vogler has put forward. But Campbell also dissects the essential elements of what stories have been about for thousands of years of recorded human history, largely through myths. Volger and Campbell’s contention is that stories, even today, are still deeply rooted in the tales of yesteryear and will be until the end of time.

At this writing, I’ve only ingested the first part of the book but it has been exceedingly insightful into the essential elements of the characters a successful work theoretically should contain.

Of course, a story needs a hero. But then there are certain other foke that a hero must get help from, or be opposed by, to make a good story work.  I highly recommend this book already. Yes, I’m still a fan of Bob McKee’s STORY, but Vogler is able to say things in some ways that are simpler to comprehend than McKee.

The Privacy Patriots Progress Update

For the Stakes class, yesterday, each of us in class were to have sent in two chapters of our work, and a 12-point plan for our “hero’s journey.” That’s a dynamic spelled out in the Vogler book where the progress of a story is broken down into 12 logical steps from setting the stage of the hero’s ordinary world, getting called to go on an adventure, refusing to go, meeting with a mentor, crossing the first threshold or point of no return, going through tests, meeting allies and fending off enemies, to approaching the lair of the biggest enemy, the ordeal, getting the reward or seizing the sword, the road back, the resurrection or climax, and then the return with the elixir.

Essentially, any good tale is going to have all of those elements, not necessarily in that order, but they will be contained in the work to make it compelling to read or watch.

In some ways, it almost ruins the reading or watching of books or movies, because instead of concentrating on the content of the story, I’m now more mindful of which element is in play and where. The trick of all writers though is to make the tale so compelling, that while one might be aware of those elements, the reader is still captivated.

So I’ve begun the process of writing the book. The two chapters I sent in were a prologue–which many books argue is out of fashion today, but if you go to the book store and pick up a book, it’s still likely to have one–and then blocks of what’s theoretically going to happen in establishing the “ordinary world” of my primary characters.

This past summer, along with massive client projects, I’ve managed to build some in-depth character profiles for each person in my book. And now, almost as if I were a character in a story about writing a book, I’ve been given my call to adventure (START WRITING IT WILL YA?!)  and in part, answered it metaphorically with, “I’m not ready.”

My two instructors over the next six weeks are going to be the “meetings with the mentors” to get me further down the road with this tale I so desire to tell. It’s time to skewer some characters and make them hurt before helping them emerge on the other side, stronger, better and more human because of it. Much like the last four years has done to me.

 

 

Aug 23, 2014 - Featured, Product Reviews, Thank You, Travel    Comments Off

Ask for Mia at Hilton Garden Inn Merrillville, IN

Ask for Mia During Breakfast at Hilton Garden Inn Merrillville, IN

Headed through Merrillville, Indiana?  Need a comfortable place to stay that includes breakfast?

I’m not talking about the microwaved sausages and eggs that some places serve. This is cooked food, like omelets, bacon, sausage links, waffles, and country potatoes.

What’s better than that?

The service.

Mia

This past week I was in Merrillville for my grandmother’s funeral in Hobart. (That’s pronounced Ho-bert BTW).

I got up to go down for breakfast expecting traditional hotel chain food. When I got to my table, a young lady named Mia approached me.

I wanted iced tea.

“I’ll get some fresh made for you. What would you like to eat?  Can I get you an omelet or something?”

And within a few minutes, I had hot food on the plate in front of me and a big glass of iced tea.

Mia kept checking on me and when other members of the family came down. She tended to them the same way.  It was nice.

The next morning the treatment was the same.

The morning after the funeral and we were all coming and going at different times to get ready to leave for our return flights, Mia was the calm in a storm. She always wore a big smile and delivered kind, friendly service.

If you ever have the chance to stay there, don’t go over to IHOP for breakfast.  Stay at the hotel and ask for Mia.  You’ll be glad you did.

 

Aug 23, 2014 - Featured, Product Reviews    Comments Off

Southwest Airlines and Early-Bird Check-In

Southwest Airlines and Early-Bird Check-in

As I said in the previous post, I LUV to fly Southwest Airlines. I have friends who work there, too, and the culture is admirable. But I have an issue with the whole Early-Bird Check-In scheme they’re running. To me it’s below the cultural integrity established long ago by the Low Fare Airline.

A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700 (N235WN) t...

A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700 (N235WN) takes to the skies above San Jose International Airport, San Jose, California, United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Early-Bird Check-In

If you don’t know, there is no assigned seating on Southwest. That can be a good thing or a bad depending on when you get a boarding pass. Or it used to be based on when you got a boarding pass. Now I frankly can’t explain to you what the deal is.

Those who fly all the time or pay Business Select for a flight get access to A-list boarding passes, usually they’re the first 15 people to get on the plane, which means they get the best seats.  Now you can make the stupid statement that “we’re all going to the same place,” but when you get a window seat, and are sitting on the tarmac at Midway MDW in Chicago like I was on Thursday on Flight 745 with a bigger guy than me sitting in the middle seat and the ground crew screwing around with “putting more fuel in the plane because we’re taking a longer route down to Houston” it becomes a big deal.

At 2:50:02 p.m. on Wednesday I checked in for my flight home. I got B-03 for my boarding pass in Chicago and B-17 for a flight no one in Houston could check in for another three hours and 10 minutes. Now if they can’t even check in, how is it I’m getting in line behind so many people?

Paying For Early-Bird Check-In

Here’s the racket part.  Southwest will let you pay an extra $10 or so for each flight to get “Early-Bird Check-In.” If I’d not done that, no telling how much further back I would have boarded.  With EBCI, they’re supposed to hold you a place in line even before the non EBCI people get to check in 24 hours before, like 36 hours before.

SOUTHWEST, this system is broken.

After the cluster F in Chicago–now why would we have needed more gas to get to HOU from MDW?  Does that mean the plane is running on near fumes normally to get to HOU?–they dicked around up front, loaded us all onto a hot plane, the AC was barely working, and we finally got to Houston at 6:35 and I’d missed my 6 p.m connection to DAL.  Not really an issue because they fly from Houston to Dallas every 10 minutes it seems, however, here’s the part that ticks me.

I got a B-11 boarding pass and they gave it to me at 6:45 p.m. when I got off the plane from MDW and said from gate 42 that we were taking off from gate 21 at Hobby at 7:15 p.m

It was a full flight, too.

Now with a room full of people all going to DAL on a Thursday p.m. and people had had 24 hours to check in for this flight how could I possibly have wound up with a B-11 boarding pass?  It seems to me that my boarding pass should have been back in the Cs, which would have really hacked me, but clearly, my point is, SWA is playing games with the boarding passes.  We’re paying to get on early, and they’re shuffling the deck so that it’s all but impossible to get a good boarding pass unless you’ve forked over a ton more money. That kind of system’s not what Southwest Airlines was built on.

I don’t like this.

I LUV SWA and I’m so ready for the stupid Wright Amendment to be dropped so one can fly anywhere from Dallas, but SWA really needs to make it so you don’t have to pay for something you’re not getting in Early-Bird Check-In.

And someone in Chicago needs a reaming for the BS they pulled at gate B1 on Wednesday afternoon.  It was the worst experience I’ve had in flying on SWA in the past 13 years.  Worst. And I’ve been nice about it.

Aug 23, 2014 - Featured    Comments Off

How Southwest Lost Business from BHM to US Airways

How Southwest Lost Business from BHM to US Airways

I Luv to fly Southwest, but there are some things that they do that I just can’t explain and in this post I’m going to cover one of them.

Last week my last grandparent died. Grandma Claxton lived to 90 years and two days. The funeral was this past Wednesday and my brother Richard, a hard-working man, needed to get from Montgomery, AL to Northern Indiana without losing a lot of time from work.

On Sunday we thought it might be a good idea for him to just drive to Birmingham and fly to Midway in Chicago on Southwest. Well, it was going to be about $330 each way, meaning $660 plus taxes for a direct flight. I understand so close to a travel date the price being that high.  However.

With that being the price on Southwest, we checked on Expedia and sure enough, US Airways also flies out of BHM. Yes, they had to go to Charlotte before going to O’Hare, but the price was $360. Roundtrip.

Now how can it be cheaper to fly from Birmingham, Alabama to Charlotte, North Carolina, land, change planes and then fly from Charlotte to O’Hare in Chicago? Screen Shot 2014-08-23 at 6.35.35 AM

In this case, the “low fare airline” was anything but that. And there have been multiple times I’ve tried/wanted to fly SWA and found the fares to be much higher than what was being offered on Expedia Now maybe it’s a volume thing, I just don’t know, but it’s frustrating because I’d much rather fly SWA than see my brother, who doesn’t like flying as it is, on US Airways.  Some might jokingly say I don’t love my little brother very much to let him fly US Airways, but in the end, it worked out well for him.

There were even weather problems at ORD on Thursesday. My brother got a text at 8:06 a.m. and he immediately called me in a semi-panic.  “My flight has been cancelled.”  I called the 800 number for US Airways and by 8:13 a.m he was slated to fly out at 1:55 p.m. instead of 12:05 p.m.  You really can’t beat that.

And that’s how Southwest lost out on some business this week.

Aug 22, 2014 - Family--Parenting, Featured, The Real Me    Comments Off

Thoughts On Death And Dying

Thoughts On Death And Dying

Time most certainly is running out. For all of us.

That message couldn’t have come home more true to me than any other over the past week or so with the passing of my last grandparent.

I’m going to be 49 in a few months and it’s amazing to think that nearly a half century has passed with me in it. For those of you younger reading this, trust me, it will go by fast for you, too.

We just don’t realize when we’re younger how fast time is whizzing past us. It’s like having a big pot of money and not understanding that at some point, it’s going to run out if we don’t put more in it. The only thing is, we can’t add more life to our frail bodies.

My grandma was a Christian. I am, too, so I firmly believe that now she is in Heaven with our Lord. There is comfort in that thought.

Funerals have a funny way of making everyone who attends one start thinking about their coming end.

Below I’ve added Neil Diamond’s song, Done Too Soon, from Taproot Manuscript.  He lists off dozens of names of people who lived life to it’s fullest only to realize at the end, that it’d come to an end way before they were ready.  Done too soon…. Think about that.

Bucket Lists and Such

I’ve never gotten into the idea of creating a bucket list. My Uncle Jon, who died about three months ago now, apparently had rented the movie the Saturday before they found him deceased on a Monday.

It appears he got to that film a little too late to make it happen in real life for him, so maybe he decided he’d live vicariously through the film as he knew he was passing from us.

We’ll never know.

What To Learn From Grandma’s Passing? 

My grandma had been fading down the path the Alzheimers for several years now. My dad and aunts moved her out of her house and into an aunt’s house a couple years back. They sold grandma’s house and she’d faded enough to where it never occurred to her. She went into a nursing home shortly there after.

Maybe that’s a good way to go, part of God’s kindness. Grandma’s BP the night before she died had dropped to 90/40. She weighed about 85 lbs. And if I’d been there even a week before, I’m told she wouldn’t even have known who I was.

I had a line I wanted to use in my eulogy–don’t ever let a dentist pull all of your teeth. Apparently they’d prematurely allowed a dentist to pull some of my grandpa’s teeth and put him in dentures. Grandma said that had been a huge mistake.

At breakfast Wednesday a.m. while I was testing some of the things I was going to say on my toughest life-long critic, my mom, she said a dentist once told her that “when you start having teeth pulled, that’s when you start dying.”

Yikes.

I don’t know how true that is, but it makes one think.

Growing up, I have made flossing every morning a habit. I hate leaving the bed room without having flossed and it’s made a difference. But jeez.

Eulogy

I wasn’t sure I could keep it together to talk during grandma’s eulogy, but I found comfort in looking at her body there the night before and telling myself the body they had there really didn’t look like the person who had made me homemade play dough once upon a time. It wasn’t the person who had given me such a love for music. I told one of my aunts today that it felt like I was talking about my grandma at someone else’s funeral.

Maybe that was God’s way of being as kind to me as he had to grandma in her fading slowly away from us. When I finished, two of my cousins came up to me and genuinely said that I’d represented well what they wished they could have said about her, too. You don’t know how much that meant to me. One of them got extra years with our grandma because he’s never really left Northern Indiana. The other had traveled the globe like a gypsy, her father/my uncle in the Army. I’d not seen her since we were in the third grade before they went to Germany, but I heard about her from time-to-time in talking to grandma regularly through the years. To have both of them say I’d said what needed to be said and to genuinely have meant it was satisfying.

Rough Week

It’s been a rough week. Life didn’t stop just because grandma’s heart did. Clients have needed things throughout the whole family gathering. My range of emotions have been clouded because of the demands of work. I need to shut down and be still for awhile but can’t seem to find such peace. I know the need for to do so is there. But so is the responsibility to keep going.

My dad said when my brothers and I were young he saw a strength in each of us that made him proud; that he knew we were Claxton boys. You see, we all ran like the wind. Like our dad.

One of the extra joys of this week was getting to hear him and others talk about the younger days.

In talks with Dad, he apparently still holds the Indiana state record for the mile among eighth graders. He set it more than 50 years ago.

Now I did not have my dad’s speed at that age/any age, but I had a love for running when I was younger. With that came a determination to not give up when things got tough.

That fire is still there even though this aged body could barely run to the car if I needed to at this point.

I’m praying that tomorrow is going to be a better day. I have lots of work to get done and maybe after a good night’s sleep my brain will be ready to keep going.

Some day I’m going to find the rest that both my grandmas and grandpas have found.  I hope my daughters and their kids will be able to find a similar peace.

 

Aug 21, 2014 - Family, Family--Parenting, Featured, Thank You, The Real Me    Comments Off

Eulogy For Grandma Claxton

The following are portions of my eulogy for my grandma, Retha Jackson Claxton, delivered at Rees Funeral Home in Hobart, IN, Aug. 20, 2014. The passing of grandma marked the last of my living grandparents. 

Eulogy For Grandma Claxton

This morning I will attempt to deliver a eulogy the last time as the eldest grandchild in my maternal and paternal families. And do it without losing my composure.

It’s not done out of expectation or obligation but out of what my Grandma Claxton would see as an appreciation. My hope is to add honor to her memory.Grandma Claxton

I’ve been by the old Claxton house our family inhabited for decades and I’ve seen the body that used to be that of my grandma’s. She’s no longer at home in either.

This room last night was filled with laughs, jokes, love and fond memories. Only periodically were there tear-dimmed eyes and that’s just how she would have wanted it to be. A celebration of sorts. And relief that one of God’s servants finally has gone home.

What she taught me to enjoy in life: The tastes of good foods and the practice of having something good to feed others when they come to your house. Not necessarily healthy food, but gosh-dog it tasted good. For her that was:

  • Chicken and dumplings
  • Cinnamon toast

When my brothers and sister and I all lived in the same town, our house became the family dinner spot. My answer to “what should we bring?” became “only your smiles.”

Grandma loved to laugh. Maybe that’s one of the things that kept her young for so long.

The eve of Grandpa Claxton’s funeral, piled around her dinner table for snacks, I’d brought Mrs. Renfroe’s Habanero salsa. When people started dipping in I said Habanero means “Damned Hot” in Spanish. Grandma stood in her kitchen laughing. She thought it was hot, too, but that’s how Claxton’s roll.

She emphasized a love for music.  She once gave me an Englebert Humperdink album. There also were albums from Abba, and in kindergarten she gave me an album with Alvin and the ChipmunksAll I want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth.

Her least favorite Christmas song: Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer.

She talked constantly about how she loved the trip to Germany to see my Aunt Patsy and Uncle Mike when they were stationed there in the Army. She loved the colors of the trees in Northern Michigan in mid-September. Yosemite in California. She and grandpa rode the Alabama Reunion Train with Gov. Hunt from Auburn to Montgomery in 1990. And they both went to a Cubs game with me and my friend Tim Cobbs in 1993.

When traveling home after wedding in December 1995, Tim was checking her bags in BHM and greeted her with, “Hey, I know you, I’ve been to your house.” It made her feel good to be so far away from home and have someone tell her they knew who she was and had been excited about being at her home.

Words of Advice:

She loved the quilts she made. If you have one, take great pride in your possession of it. There’s a story in the fabric. Her heart and soul still lives on in every stitch.

Even as you age, don’t ever let a dentist take out all of your teeth.

Work the tense situations in life like you were working a puzzle. Put the straight-edged pieces together first then go about filling in the middle part. In time, you’ll start to see the bigger picture.

True love doesn’t have age restrictions. This is the girl who eloped all the way from Athens, down to Decatur, AL—about 10 miles or so—with a man six or seven years older than her when she was 16, and she stayed married to him to the day he died 61 years later. These days we’d put a guy in jail for doing that. Where would you be right now if they hadn’t run off and gotten married at such young ages?

If you’ve been struggling over a puzzle too long, take a break. Go to the bathroom. Go for a walk. Come back in 10 minutes and the answer/puzzle piece probably will be the first one you find.

Read. Every night. Keep the phone by your bed and stop reading when your grandkids call you. They may be keeping you from your reading, but you’re giving them a lifetime of joy in every conversation. And if you can answer it before it rings, well, then you’re faster in their minds than the gunslingers you’re reading about.

Why go to the store and buy Playdough when you can make your own. Even if it was white and didn’t last, the story that you made it with your grandkids will endure for the next 40 years or more. The point is, time with little ones count. It’s not the big things, like trips to Disney World, that count the most. But making Playdough in your kitchen does. Trips to the store to buy things they really don’t need is pretty cool, too, though.

When your family is coming and going to and fro and the Air Force makes them feel like they don’t really have a home, let them know that no matter where they travel, your home is their’s, no matter how big or small it is.

Life can be difficult and families can be hard on each other. Love harder. No matter how mad you are or frustrated you are with someone else in the family, never close your door to them. Life’s too short.

Love music.

Love God. But not being at church every Sunday doesn’t mean you don’t love the Lord.

If you’re sitting there sad about her passing I ask you to stop. She wouldn’t want that. She wouldn’t want tears. Just like in the old hymn Where the Soul of Man Never Dies … she would want no tear dimmed eyes today. She’d want us all to be happy, to tell a joke or two, to find Mike Feltman and get him to say something about “Mama” that would make her laugh. She’d want us all to find a way to get along … life’s too short to be mad at each other over differences of opinion or doctrinal interpretation. I heard so many times from her over the years the heartache she had over the fissures that were there between brothers and sisters. Life’s too short, she would say.

And it is. Forty-three years after I really came to understand who this woman was, it seems like it only was yesterday. Life has raced by with all it’s pains, sufferings, temptations, high points, celebrations, births, successes, and tragedies.

Grandma believed she was going to Heaven. When Grandpa died, her last words to him were “Grab hold of Charlotte and I’ll see you soon.”  She lost a child who was age five and until these recent shadowy years, never forgot Charlotte had left so early to be in God’s arms.

Now she, Grandpa and Charlotte are reunited again and in the words of Grandma, we’ll all be seeing them soon.  In Heaven.

Do not pain the loss of this great, loving woman. She’s dancing with angels now, and out of pain.

In 1973 she brought me a 45 of Paul Simon’s Loves Me Like A Rock. For all her four children, the 10 grandchildren and 22 grandchildren, really, anyone she knew, that was how she loved us one and all.

Thank you.

 

Aug 16, 2014 - Family--Parenting, Featured, Great Pyrenees, The Real Me    Comments Off

“Leader Chain,” The PC Way Of Saying “Choke Collar”

“Leader Chain,” The PC Way Of Saying “Choke Collar” 

We took Maycee, our 12-week-old Great Pyrenees to the vet this week and I mentioned to him that our pup, when we go for walks, tends to make the first portion a drag. Literally.

And so he started talking about harnesses, which he said aren’t effective, and then he said something about a contraption over the mouth and back of the head, and then he started talking about a “leader chain.”

He said you put the chain around their neck and when they don’t do what you want, it tightens in on them.  It doesn’t take long for them to learn that when you tug, that’s where they’re going. And he kept talking about leader chains, the harnesses, and the other contraption and finally I interrupted and said, ‘Leader chain?  Isn’t that a choke collar?”  And he kinda twitched and then said, “Yeah, but we don’t use the word ‘choke’ any longer for PC reasons.”

Even in the dog’s world, PC has taken the place for good, old fashion, easy to understand tools.

Maycee at 12 WeeksMaycee 25 lbs

Our pup weighed in at 25 pounds.  In another four weeks we’ll weigh her again. The vet says that at that point, he’ll double her weight, saying that’s the best predictor of how much she’s going to weigh when she becomes an adult.  Right now, given her rate of growth, she’s going to be about 75 lbs.

Lessons Learned From Our Other Great Pyr

I told the vet that we learned a lot from how we raised Molly, my first Great Pyr.

Most importantly, the 42-inch crate we use for Maycee we didn’t get for Molly until we’d had her for a month or so.  By that time, that ship had sailed. It freaked Molly out and she wound up tearing up metal sides of the crate.

With Maycee, Amazon Prime assured that her crate got her on Day Two of her being with us. That has been so good for all of us.

For one, it’s now Day 13 since Maycee had an accident of any sort inside. If she needs to go, she goes to the door and whimpers.  And that’s usually every two to three hours during the day, mostly to pee.

We’re to the point, also, where if I open the door of the crate at night, turn on this wave music off iTunes she has going near her, and I turn off the lights, she pretty much gets up and walks into the crate without my even having to say, “Kennel.” Even with that, I still give her two treats as rewards.

Car Rides

Maycee enjoys going for rides in the car. It used to scare Molly.  In fact, there were a couple of times when she pooped on the fabric seats of the Armada I had at the time.

Maycee gets up in the seat and watches the world. When we stop somewhere, she wants to come across me to say “Hi” to the dry cleaning people, etc. She also enjoys the spot right in front of the AC vents.

Ice

Some say ice for dogs isn’t good, but I’ve seen on the Internet that that’s a wive’s tale.  It’s to the point now though that if we open the freezer and even rustle one piece of ice, when we close the door, there are two black eyes and a fur ball sitting in front of us waiting for a two-piece treat.  Ice is cheaper than Milk Bone treats, too.

Tricks

This past week Chandler taught Maycee how to do “High Fives.”  I didn’t believe it till I saw it, but she actually does turn her paw flat so that you can high five her. Then she gets a treat.

She also now will do sit, shake, down and fetch with a tennis ball.

Wave Music

I make sure when she’s in her crate or especially at night, that there is wave music playing near her.  White noise stuff, but the thing about Great Pyrs is they tend to like to bark at night with the comings and going that human ears barely can hear.  With the soothing sounds of the ocean, we’re largely blocking that out and she’s sleeping through the night.

Speaking of, she can now get in the crate about 10 p.m. and sleep until 6:30 a.m.  It was for a while that she needed to get up and go pee about 5:30 a.m. and then would go back to her crate and sleep another hour, but with a bigger dog and a bigger bladder, that’s getting better, too.

Leader Chain

We got a choke collar, I mean, leader chain last night. It made a huge difference in our walk today.  The vet said prettied colored collars only should be for show right now.  At least until she’s learned to go where I say, when I say….

My Hopes

I hope if you have a Great Pyr pup or are considering getting one, some of these things will help you.

Maycee has been a different dog than Molly. We’ve been better at ensuring training started from the beginning. We’ve been getting in our walks and we make sure we spend plenty of time each day rolling around in the floor with her playing with her toys and loving on her. So far, it’s had a tremendous impact.

 

 

 

 

 

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