Sunday, November 30, 2014

to campbell, on your 3rd birthday

Dear Campbell,

Celebrate! Today you are three, count 'em, three years old! Your Mom and I were just saying to each other a few minutes ago how we can't believe that three years have gone by since the day you were born. 

So, let's talk about the last year, since I wrote you a note for your 2nd birthday... movies? My favorites of the year are, as typical as it may seem, superhero films, like "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "Captain American: the Winter Soldier" and Disney's "Big Hero 6". Christopher Nolan directed this grand space epic called "Interstellar", and it looks awesome and is in fact, just average. A little seen movie came out this summer called "Snowpiercer" that I recommend you find and watch... it's pretty amazing. And of course, "The LEGO Movie". There might be five of them by now, but the original is pretty great.

The music that really hit big, for me anyway, was the Cuban rapper named Pitbull, who had a song called "Fireball", which made me smile all year. This chick named Jessie J teamed up with this other chick named Ariana Grande and made this rockin' pop song called "Bang Bang", which I'm addicted to. Neither me nor your mom like the Nicki Minaj part... and honestly, when you do read this, I wont be surprised if you have no clue who Jessie J, Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj are, because nowadays, musicians come and go quickly. Even the ones thought to have had staying power fizzle fast--Lady Gaga, anyone?

You, getting ready for school
Back to music, Meghan Trainor had this catchy little ditty called "All About that Bass", but do me a favor, either find my iPod or head to YouTube and look up the version by Scott Bradley and the Postmodern Jukebox, featuring Kate Davis. If you appreciate this version even more than the original, I'll know I raised you right.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention a little album called "1989" by Taylor Swift, featuring what is sure to be a classic called "Shake It Off". Enjoy.

We've seen you grow a lot this year, Monkey Butt. We've gotten you involved in more therapy and group sessions, and you are signing like crazy now... you have the sign for "more" down pat, and you use it without restraint when it comes time to eat. More. More. More. And on and on.

You have learned how to sign "open" as well, and frankly, its adorable. I think you are on the verge of actually jumping up and down, but you aren't quite there yet. No, you aren't talking just yet... but you babble incessantly. On one hand, its incredibly cute and encouraging... on the other hand, sometimes at 6am, it's a little much for me to deal with. I wish you'd pick your times more selectively about when you decide to loudly start talking your language. 

You rode your first roller coaster this year... in fact, a few weeks ago. It was all kinds of amazing, by the way. When we were in Disney World at the beginning of November... and can I say, you've just had your second Disney World haircut already--you've been to WDW three times and Disneyland once, which is about four times more than many people go in their lives.

Anyway, you were just tall enough to ride The Barnstormer, a small kids coaster in Storybook Circus in New Fantasyland. Your mom, Pops and myself were a little nervous taking you on, but you sat with Mommy, and as the coaster car slowly made it's way up the hill, I could hear you. You were giggling, you were squealing, you were laughing and having the time of your life. I wiped away tears, as my smile nearly broke my face.

The Cast Members then let you ride again, this time with me. I heard your laughter and delight up close this time, and felt you pat my arms in excitement, and watching your face and you smile and laughed, looking around at the bright lights of the Disney World night, staring in wonder. And the Cast Members, one of them almost crying herself when she heard our little story of who you were and how this was your first coaster, let us ride twice more. This time you rode with Pops and you couldn't get enough.

You laughed at the teacups, and you even recognized some characters, as you smiled big when you saw Tigger bouncing on The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh ride. This was a huge thing for all of us, but especially for you.

Campbell, you are our son, and we love you so much. And you are loved not just by your Mom and Dad, or your Pops and GG or aunts and uncles or your Granny and PawPaw, but by so many other friends and people, some of whom have never even met you, but only seen your picture and heard the amusing stories and the funny stories and the heartbreaking stories. 

The teacups... I love spinning you around, kiddo.
You are prayed for more than you will ever realize, by so many people. My first and foremost prayer, even in front of you coming through the autism that hinders you, is that you will find Christ one day, and know He is your Savior. Everything else is just blessings under the bridge. Though I do pray that what keeps you held back--you are three today, but still at around a 15 month level developmentally--will just fade away. I am positive it will, I am positive you'll catch up to everyone and positive that you will live the life that He has for you.

I just hope you can look back where you are as you read this and know that your Mom did all she could for you and that I tried as hard as I could as well.

You are handsome, you are strong, you are a whiz (anyone who has seen you move two chairs into position so you can properly climb them in order to reach a cell phone hidden in the middle of the dining room table will attest to this) and you are a mischievous little boy, just like all other three year olds.   By the way, your fascination with phones and tablets is a little crazy... hopefully, by now, you've learned that just because you see a phone, that doesn't mean it's yours. 

But you know your way around one... it's funny to watch you play with one, swiping and moving things around.  And for whatever reason, the stocks app fascinates you.   Oh, and this year, you also learned to paint... "He takes his time with the brush," says your teacher.

Told you that you were smart. 

Three years old looks great on you, Campbell Dollar. 

Love you, Monkey Butt

--your Dad

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

hey thanks

It's Thanksgiving time once again! From outta nowhere, the holidays are bearing down on our faces, because for some reason, Christmas is in December this year. Doesn't it feel like 2014 just barely got started? I'm not sure I'm finished with 2013 yet, and all of sudden, I have to deal with 2014 going away forever.

So here's something I've never done and thought it might be fun to do... give thanks. I've given thanks before here and there, but I figured I'd go big or go home... 100 thanks in a single post. Let's go!

First, let's get the big ones out of the way... my Savior, Jesus Christ (1), for whom it's all for. I hope my words encourage in a way that pleases Him. The Lovely Steph Leann (2), the best helpmate I could ever ask for, because she gave us Campbell Isaiah (3), who is a pretty special kid--he turns 3 in a week! What!

My job is secure (4) and that's a big deal. And it's not hard work either (5), which means when I go home, work stays at work (6) which makes for very low stress. And of course, there is my other job, being a Disney Travel Planner, and I am so excited to put more time into doing it! (7). Cause I'm good at it.

Here's a few things/people to be thankful for this year...
I mean, there is so much to be thankful for, so many blessings all poured into my own life. Things are looking up (8) more than ever... Campbell is making great strides in his development (9). No, he's not talking yet, but he's in a solid Mother's Day Out program at CASA (10) and in a great therapy program at Mitchell's Place (11). Insurance is covering much of the cost (12), so that's a huge answered prayer for us. He's signing more (13), and he is much more directional than he used to be (14), like when he leads me to the recliner, then pushes me to sit down, just so he can sit in my lap. That's worthy of a thanks (15).
We paid our car off this year (16) so that helps our budget tremendously, and it's one piece that's helping us form our plan for me to go full time with Disney Travel Planning (17). But I'll get into that later.

Got a new phone this fall (18), bumped up to an iPhone 5, which is nice. I love voice texting (19) though autocorrect is a bit of a hassle sometimes.

The San Antonio Spurs won the NBA title (20) for the fifth time, and the Baltimore Orioles made it into the baseball postseason (21). Can't say I have much thanks for the Florida Gators OR the Troy Trojans for the way they have played this year, but both Florida (22) and Troy (23) are looking at new coaches next season, so it's time for a re-start. Overall, though, the college football season has been incredible (24) and anyone who thought this four-team playoff would ruin the regular season is crazy, because it's done nothing but heighten the importance of dozens of games (25) that by now, wouldn't mean much except for bowl positions. And, of course, even though I didn't make the playoffs of The DFC, the football pick'em that I've run for now its 15th season, its still be a great season (26). Congrats to Big Eddy McBroom and Steven Ray for making DeuceBowl XV, set for this weekend.
I can also give thanks for the movies (27) and most notably, The Deucecast Movie Show--we are on a digital network now, Shotglass Digital (28) which is like being picked up for syndication. Pretty exciting... new episode dropped today (Tuesday) and is all about our own movie thanks. We owe a big thanks to the hosts of the TechnoRetro Dads podcast, especially one of the hosts who calls himself Shaz (29), and I am very thankful for my own co-hosts Mikey (30) and Pinky (31) and the rest of the Deucecast team, like Tommy Mac, Shawn and our endless rotating guests (32).

The blog is going strong (33), by the way, for which I'm thankful for. I successfully made it through the entire month of October, blogging every day (and some extra) and made it like, 32 days straight (34)... which, if you've followed this blog long, you'll know I've tried similar challenges and have failed miserably. My friend Corie Clark (35) really pushed me on this, along with a few others, so thanks for that. Corie, by the way, wrote a fabulous book about making life simple, called "The Simplicity Project". Full disclosure, I have't read all of it yet. But I've followed along on the challenges online, and will have it read and impletmented by years end.

If I get on the subject of friends, I could be here forever... but I'll tell ya, there are a few people who have really made me a better version of d$. Remodeling Clay host Clay Shaver (36) is a solid guy, as is Writer Chris Holmes (37) (who has his own book, mind you). A fellow named David Mike (38) is an extremely good encourager in all that I, and others, do, and his story is pretty incredible.

Thanks to Rachel Mayo (39) for being awesome--and extremely photogenic. No kidding, that chick can look great in an Instagram picture. May Bohon (40) likes to check in on me, which I appreciate, and Angie Buchanan (41) has also been pretty gracious to me and the family this year as well. And Amy Campbell (42), master of LinkedIn and owner of a resume company called the Red Checker, has also been pretty great to me this year.

I always have thanks for My Best Mate Wookiee (43)... I have been able to chat again with my friend Nikki (44) and my friend Laura (45)... and funnily enough, doing Disney Travel has helped me reconnect with my long lost friend Rebecca (46). I get a kick out of reading my friend Missi's (47) posts (she's one of my favorite people on social media.  and gorgeous)... I'm thankful for the new friends in our lives, like the Kilgores (48) and the Rileys (49) that we haven't gotten to know... for the returning friends, like the Tucks (50) who returned to our lives... long time friends like DeNick & DeLisa (51) who are always helpful and generous... and the friends who have been here all the time, like the Rays (52), and Hurricane Rhett and Amarilys by Morning (up from San Antone) (53) and all the other families that we love (and love us) at Valleydale Church (an sbc fellowship) (54). 

Also, I've planned trips for three different women that I dated in college (and their families). I wasn't saying "hey thanks" for that, I just thought it was worth a mention.

So thankful for Taylor Swift's new CD "1989" (55) and of course, "Shake It Off" which is my Song of the Year thusfar. Then again, it comes out just ahead of Pitbull's "Fireball" (56), which I blast everytime it comes on. But lest we forget Colbie Caillet's new CD (57), which is marvelous in it's own right. And Garth Brooks is back (58) and better than ever. Thanks Garth. You are the man.

My friend Teri Mo (59) made one of the best comments (60) I've ever had bestowed upon me, saying (paraphrasing), "I think d$ is great at getting his political points across, he's never disrespectful, he tries to stick to facts and I appreciate that." Fabulous comment.

We discovered a new place to eat this year, Urban Cookhouse (61), which is awesome. It's up at the Summit, and we frequent it about once per month. And to top it off, we are pretty fond of Steel City Pops popsicles (62), which The Lovely Steph Leann and I have probably had about 300 each so far this year. Addiction is a bad thing, kiddies.

You know what else I'm thankful for? Whataburger Patty Melts (63) without the onions. It's so, so good.

I'm still very thankful for Walt Disney World (64) and all the dreams and opportunities it holds. Campbell rode his very first roller coaster there, The Barnstormer (65) and it was truly magical, as he laughed and giggled and squealed the whole time. We went a few weeks back with The Lovely Steph Leann's parents, Big Daddy Ron and Mama Ruthless (66), and had a pretty great time. I'm thankful our room wasn't that expensive and was pretty large in size, and it was comfortable... I had stayed in Art of Animation (67) before, but everyone else was enjoying it for the first time.

The food is always great, as the Epcot Food & Wine Festival was going on, but the best part was the Captain's Grille (68) at the Yacht Club, likely my favorite meal of them all.

I'm thankful for my friend Aimee Sale (69), a fellow travel agent, who has been willing to help answer questions on the fly when needed, as well as my own agency owner, Frances (70), who has been an amazing travel agency lead.

My friend McQ (71) got married (72) this fall! It was a long time coming, I think, for her and her boo Jason, and it's so great to see them so happy... and I was honored they asked me to help announce (73) and I was thankful to be a part of the festivities.

The Republicans won the Senate in a landslide election (74). I'll say that I'm thankful for that, but I'll hold off on any further apprecation until I see what they will do... or won't do. You know what, they make me nervous (-74). I'll say I'm thankful that we live in a country where we can elect our leaders (74).
Survivor (75) is good this season. And The Lovely Steph Leann has got me watching HGTV, and I'm kinda hooked on "Flip or Flop" (76).

I'll always be thankful for my iPod (77) which helps me get through the day. From Adam Carolla (78) to Alison Rosen (79) to Rush Limbaugh (80) to the bevy of Disney World Podcasts (81) I listen to, I'm thankful I have it here. (82) also is owed a thanks. I've been a customer for years, and this year have been able to pick up gems like the memoir of one of my favorite, Judy Greer (83), and listen to Stephen King's "Mr. Mercedes" (84), which is excellent. The Harry Potter audiobooks (85) will always be some of my favorites because of the masterful performance by Jim Dale (sadly, not on Audible--I had to get them from the library).

I'm thankful that my home is less than one and a half miles from my office (86)

I'm thankful that I was able to give up three months of no sodas, called the #NoSoda30 (87). I drink some Coke now, but I've curbed my consumption.

I'm thankful my mama still loves me (88).

I'm thankful for my extended family, both with Randy & Angie, my bro/sis-in-law, and kids (89) and my other bro/sis in law, Tyler & Brynn (90).

I'm thankful that yesterday I spilled a little grease from an Arby's cheese stick on my pants and got juice from some squash on my shirt... and that was the extent of my Monday worries (91)

I'm thankful I can still afford to splurge a little and frequent Kingdom Comics (92)

I'm thankful that I got to spend a weekend at the Alabama Phoenix Festival (93) downtown, a nerd convention that I actually sat on discussion panels for.

I'm thankful for Sharpies (94). They rule.

I'm thankful for the WWE Network (95), allowing me to watch every Pay Per View without the expensive price--and the fact that Sting (96) showed up at Sunday's Survivor Series.

I'm thankful for Doug Benson's Doug Loves Movie podcast (97), perhaps my favorite podcast. Oh and for Serial (98), which is an amazing podcast experience. 

I'm thankful that another year is almost over--not for the time has gone by, but that life is good (99).

And I'm thankful for you (100), for reading this blog as much as you do.  You don't have to, yet you keep coming back, and I appreciate it more than you know.  You fulfill the "writer" part of my "writer/blogger/podcaster/travel specialist" bio.

Finally... if you read this, and you wonder "Where am I?" (like my friend Katie (101), who is likely to text me and say "Where am I?"), then consider this number-- 102 -- that you are in.  Thank you. 

And Happy Thanksgiving.

Update... I completely forgot to mention this, and realized it a day after I posted this column... thank you to the men & women in the armed forces who are protecting us right now... thank you to the police, emergency and fire department workers who are keeping us safe as well... and thank you to those behind the retail counters, either being forced to work because of a crap schedule or because you need the money badly... thanks for doing it.

Monday, November 03, 2014

ole miss losses, auburn wins and florida still sucks

This is a few days late from my normal round-up, but here’s what I saw from this past weekend’s college football extravaganza

Their star receiver has the ball, running in the end zone with less than a minute to put Ole Miss ahead, forcing Auburn to have to score a touchdown in the remaining 20 seconds or so. It was perfect, as Auburn would suffer it’s second defeat of the season, likely being eliminated from the Football Final Four. Ole Miss would show the nation that it can rebound from an upset loss last week to an improving LSU, and even moreso, make the Egg Bowl, vs Mississippi State, later this season a monumental bout.

And yet, not only did Laquon Treadwell fumble the ball, he fumbled it as a result of his ankle being caught under a tackling Auburn player, an ankle that snapped, while his head gets clocked from the affronting tackler, and another flying Auburn guy coming in at the last second.

Auburn holds on, and are forced to subdue their celebration. It’s a brutal way to lose a game… because not only did they lose a hard fought, up-until-then excellent game against a top five opponent, a de facto elimination game, they lost it on a mistake made by a star player who was taken out of not just the game, but the season.

Like it or hate it, the Auburn Tigers roll on. They are a great team, perhaps the best team in the country… sure, they lost to Mississippi State, but if they play on a neutral field, I’d put my money on Auburn. I believe that Auburn wins out, including a win over Alabama, because they have played the most rugged schedule of anyone. And that Kansas State win, in Kansas, looks really good right about now.

They beat Ole Miss. It was a crazy ending, a heartbreaking ending, but they won the game. And move on.

Maybe their defense doesn’t look all that good, but they figure, heck, we’ll just score more points than you and win it that way. Texas Christian is going to win out, as the Big XII front loads their hard games. If they can get past Kansas State this weekend, and I think they will, an 11-1 Big XII Champ that scores like, 187 points per game will be hard to ignore come playoff time.

Like, every year until this year, State was that team that was always pretty good, but not really good, and most teams like Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, LSU and the like would be favored against… but if you weren’t prepared for them, they’d beat you and ruin your season. Well, now that Hail State has moved up into the echelon of top SEC teams—for now, anyway—Arkansas has fallen into that role. They almost beat Alabama. They were a play away from beating Georgia. They lost to State by a touchdown. And in two weeks, they’ll likely lose to LSU, but will make them work for it.

Like Arkansas is this year, and Hail State usually is, it’s the Mountaineers of West Virginia that cause the damage. Beating Baylor, taking TCU down to the final few minutes, they are the fly in the ointment of everyone who comes to Morgantown.

Sure, they beat Georgia. But let’s be clear… had they beaten Alabama, there would be cause for celebration. Had the Gators knocked off Ole Miss, or Auburn, then let’s tear the goal posts down. If they beat Florida State, especially in a blowout, then heck, it’ll be insane. But… they beat Georgia. Don’t get me wrong, Georgia is a good team and all, but everyone expects Georgia to lose one, maybe two games they are supposed to win. They already lost to South Carolina (that’s one) and then to Florida (that’s two). They’ll likely lose to Auburn at home, and still back into the SEC title game.

Freakin’ Will Muschamp. He was supposed to lose and all but guarantee his dismissal by the end of the year. And now? He has an outside shot to keep his job, especially if they back into the SEC East title and the conference championship. He can’t even get fired correctly.

We can all admit that at the least, the SEC West is a good division. I’ve been on message boards recently, and people are not bashing the power of the West, they are bashing ESPN’s eternal coverage of it. I can see that, but honestly, you are fooling yourself if you don’t put the West at the top in terms of “best divisions in college football”. What divisions will you put ahead of it? Exactly. Sure, you can argue for Florida State being the only thing that matters in the ACC Coastal Atlantic Leaders East or whatever division they are in (does it matter? No one cares about the ACC except for FSU, Miami, sometimes Clemson and VA Tech every third year), but the only people really defending FSU’s dominance are Florida State fans and that’s it.

The SEC West is four teams—and if you count LSU as the powerhouse spoiler, five—battling for supremacy. The SEC East? Like, what? Vandy sucks, Tennessee, though improving, won’t stop sucking til at least next year, Florida is all over the place, Kentucky continues to give you hope only to let you down after Week 6, South Carolina is nothing more than Spurrier’s hobby at the point, and that leaves Georgia and Missouri.. Mizzou has a shot at the title, but Georgia still leads the division… but Florida could still get in? It’s like, no one wants to win this division at all… which makes sense, because it’s a little like the play-in game in March Madness—hype and hoopla and celebration to win a game that puts you in another game, where you’ll be slaughtered by whatever the #1 seed is.

Either Georgia, Florida or Missouri is fighting to not be the team that loses by 27 to Alabama, Miss State or Auburn.

1. Mississippi State
2. Auburn
3. Alabama
4. TCU
5. Florida State
6. Oregon
7. Georgia
8. Ole Miss
9. Arizona State
10. Michigan State

1) Mississippi State… 2) Florida State… 3) Auburn… 4) TCU