Farewell 2014, Hello 2015

Candice and David celebrate their 32nd anniversary in Copenhagen, March 20, 2014The end of 2014…time for reflection.

As in the past, I’m taking to More to Come… to think about the year that is rapidly coming to a close, to be thankful for the wonder in my life, and to resolve to improve.

The national and international issues seem almost overwhelming. Many commentators have focused on all the bad things that happened in 2014, and there were no shortages of options for those who take that approach.  Ferguson. Ebola. ISIS. I can’t breathe. Disappearing airplanes. Michael Brown. Eric Garner. Putin. Ukraine. Income inequality. Cynical politicians. Criminal politicians. Torture. Mid-term elections. Right wing fundamentalists posing as Christians. Robin Williams. Endless war in the Middle East. Those are just for starters.

And then there was Dave Barry.

I was tempted to lead with this photo of Claire and her friend Jason, with the title 2014: It’s Done – Stick a Fork in this Turkey!

Claire and Jason prepare the turkey

But then I recalled this picture I’ve used before in More to Come… and decided to follow this piece of advice.

Say No to Negativity

Nationally,  you won’t hear much from the media about the good things that have occurred in 2014. Such as the fact that 10 million+ Americans who were uninsured now have health insurance. Or, that the U.S. is finally ending a failed 50-year policy of sanctions against a tiny island nation with a total GNP that rivals what, Omaha?  (Actually, since Omaha is home to Warren Buffett, perhaps I’m not giving enough credit to Omaha.) After strong government action averted what was shaping up as a second Great Depression in 2008, the U.S. has rebounded (albeit slowly) to a point where our economic growth and job creation are higher than during the first years of this century. Marriage equality had a great year in 2014, as the tipping point was reached and politicians got out-of-the-way of people who simply wanted to express their love for each other.

But national policies and politics are not my focus on  this blog.  I try and look to the personal.

2014 was a time when my perspective – thanks to an extensive personal and professional travel schedule – was widened. I have written about these experiences on More to Come… over the course of the year. I have much for which to be thankful. Like celebrating my 32nd anniversary with Candice in Copenhagen (shown at the top of the post). My father suffered a serious health scare earlier this month, but he’s recovered and I am fortunate to still have my father and my mother-in-law who are active into their 80s. After having spent the past two days on a personal family journey with Candice and the twins, I was reminded (for about the 365th time this year) as to how much I love and admire my wife and children. I have great colleagues and a job that challenges and inspires.

In my 2013 year-end post, I outlined seven rules for the next third of my life. All year, I’ve looked at them on my computer wallpaper as I’ve logged on in the morning. Colleagues have seen them and made comments. The family (and especially Candice) was supportive. So…how did I do the first year?  Let’s reflect.

1.  Exercise six days a week for the rest of your life.  Well…I didn’t keep this rule consistently.  No, let’s be truthful…I didn’t keep this rule. There were times when exercise was built into my schedule. I did maintain a weekly appointment with a personal trainer, but there were a few weeks when that was my only real exercise. The fall was an especially bad time. Late in the year I focused on finding more ways than just going to the gym to exercise, with a bit of success. I also bought a new Fitbit to replace the one I lost about 9 months ago, and that has helped as well.  Year-end result:  Yikes! Instead of being 15 pounds lighter than January 1, 2014, I am about 10 pounds heavier. First chance to use my new favorite family line: “Well, this is certainly a revolting development.”  I need to remember the caption from a cartoon I saw this fall, where an overweight guy listens to his doctor say, “What fits your busy schedule better, exercising one hour a day or being dead 24 hours a day?”

2.  Listen more than you talk. Since I’ve added this to my rules, I’ve been much more conscious of the need to allow for others to enter into my conversations. I’ve asked for assessments from a couple of folks who would know how well I’ve done and would be honest. Year-end result: So far, I’m making progress (but let me know if you see times where I can improve…if you can get a word in edgewise.)

3.  Spend less than you make. This is one area where I’ve made a conscious effort and have seen good progress. Year-end result: Okay, but keep improving.

Arcadia Farm Field Dinner June 2014

4. Quit eating crap!  Eat less of everything else. Eleven months out of the year, I’ll follow this rule six days out of seven. Candice and I tend to find good options when we eat out – such as at the Arcadia Farm Field Dinner with Andrew last summer. When I fail, it is usually the french fries or ice cream that call out. Or the holidays for the entire month of December! I’m going to see a nutritionist early next year, who may have some strategies for staying out of the bad zone. Year-end result: Still work to do.  I will repeat 50 times, “I do love brussels sprouts. I do love brussels sprouts.”

5.  Play music. I am about on the same level of playing that I was a year ago.  Given the hectic nature of 2014, that’s probably not too bad.  Year-end result:  I’m going to declare success…and work to find even more time to play and keep working on that alternating thumb pattern of picking.

6.  Connect and commit. I’ve made serious efforts this year to keep this goal to reach beyond myself. Candice and I are seeing friends on a regular basis, and we’re getting ready to develop a monthly schedule for social outreach in 2015. Year-end result:  Okay, but I can always improve, especially in helping those who are less fortunate.

7.  Don’t be a Grumpy Old Man.  Enjoy life! My boss laughed when she saw this one and promised to let me know if I was being a grumpy old man.  She also said she saw no evidence of that so far! Anyone who has read More to Come… this year can see that I’ve had a lot of life to enjoy.  Year-end result:  Enjoyable!

As I said last year, feel free to call me when I come up short.  Also, feel free to take one or more of these goals for your own and modify them as you wish. I’ll keep you posted…but let’s hope you start seeing more pictures of a smiling, slimmer DJB playing more music! Better yet, let’s hope you are with me, enjoying the food, music, wine, and company.

More to come…


Observations from Home (The Year-End Edition)

Brown Family  December 28, 2014 When posting while on travel, I’ll often string together several unrelated thoughts and title them Observations From the Road  (see, for instance, the Jeez, Montana is a Big State edition from this summer.) So, I have two or three unrelated items that have been rattling around in my head while at home for the Christmas break, and have decided to title this post Observations from Home (The Year-End Edition).

Here are my observations – take ’em or leave ’em.

We would never have a family picture if it weren’t for John Thorne – When we were assembling our group of pictures for 2014, I commented to Candice that we didn’t have one that included all four of us. Then I realized that our friend John Thorne hadn’t been with us when he had his camera and all four of us were in the same room.  Luckily (with three days to spare!) we now have our 2014 family photo.  John came up to us at church this morning and asked if he could take a family photo. We quickly agreed. The best photos we’ve had of our family in recent years are due to John and his talent with the camera.  You’ll see the results for 2014 at the top of the post.

Andrew and Claire, December 28, 2014John also took a great photo of the twins this morning, using his neat new filter to get those sparkling stars in the candles. I’ve noticed that John likes to try out his new toys, which I strongly support.  (Keep buying those new lenses and cameras, John, we’ll be your willing subjects.)  For our 2013 photo, it was the black and white look.

Brown Family, December 22, 2013

The first family photos John took for us…and the ones that made us hope he’d ask each year…were in 2012.  Candice was bouncing back from her fall and concussion (not to mention a hip replacement) and we were thrilled to have a photo of the twins early in their college careers, with Candice on the road to recovery.  Then we visited John and Sara at High Brewster in the fall of the year, and John captured two people who had been through a lot over the past twelve months…but were clearly pleased to be on the other side.

The Brown Family, 2012

Candice and David on Cape Cod at High Brewster, September 2012

Thank  you, John!  What a gift you’ve given us during these past few years.

John’s photos also capture my weight gain, weight loss, weight gain… The careful observer will note that my weight ballooned up in 2012 (I used the stresses of being a serious care-giver as an excuse), then fell off in 2013, and then in 2014…well, you can see that I haven’t quite kept that New Year’s resolution from early this year.  (More to come on that in a later post).  I’m going to push for an odd year weight loss in 2015 – and one that I can maintain!

Candice is a pretty good photographer as well – On Christmas morning, the twins and I were just trying to stand upright and not spill our coffee.  Candice, however, was on top of her game – including getting a photo of our stockings before we opened our gifts.


Christmas 2014

Best napkin ring ever – Candice started collecting antique silver napkin rings a few years ago, beginning with the one monogrammed I.A.H. that her mother took to school with her.  (Hey, I have a modest collection of guitars, so she has a long way to go before we have to worry about the amount of money we have locked up in napkin rings!)  Whenever  a small box shows up via UPS, I don’t have to open it to know that she’s found a new treasure on e-Bay.

Candice's Napkin Rings

So I didn’t pay particular attention when I saw a new one around my napkin a few weeks ago.  That is, I didn’t pay attention until Candice asked if I had looked at the inscription.

Daddy Napkin Ring

Oh my – the Daddy napkin ring.  One that identifies the Paterfamilias(Knowing that O Brother, Where Art Thou? is one of my two favorite movies, careful readers will know where the “I am the damn paterfamilias” quote comes from….others can watch the clip below, around the 2 minute mark.)

Let me say this simply.  Best. Napkin. Ring. Ever.

Thank you, love!

More to come…



A Revolting Development

Rutherford County CourthouseEarly last week I received an email from a colleague that said, “Hi David. I wanted you to know that I am in your hometown of Murfreesboro tonight (for a work-related dinner)…What a wonderful place!”

She’s right about the last point.  I’ve written about the wonders of growing up in Murfreesboro before on More to Come….

I suspect she had driven past the Rutherford County Courthouse all decked out for the Christmas holidays on the town square (picture at the top of the post), and I suggested she drive by 407 E. Main Street to see “the old home place.” (Photo below – our old home is the one on the right.)

Little did I know that I’d be driving by those same sites in just a few days. But life has a way of intruding on the best-laid of plans.  (So who cares if I haven’t bought the first Christmas present?)

The Old Home Place

On Thursday, my phone lit up at work as both my sister and brother called multiple times within about ten minutes and I feared something was wrong. I soon learned.  My 89-year-old father was in the hospital after suffering shortness of breath – not something you want to hear about a loved one who had a heart attack three years ago in the same week that Candice had her hip replacement.  He again had heart issues and anemia. I quickly made the call to fly to Tennessee for the weekend.

When I walked into St. Thomas Rutherford Hospital’s ICU unit, my father – surprised to see me – used a line that he told others who asked how he was doing.

“Well, this is certainly a revolting development!”

My sister Debbie posted that line on her Facebook page (the modern-day mother who keeps everyone up-to-date on the family goings-on).  Various cousins responded that their parents or aunts or uncles had used the same language. Must be a hand-me-down through the Bearden-Brown family.  I’ll think I’ll use it myself in the future.

I’m glad I was able to come for multiple reasons. First, I’ve seen Daddy improve each day.  The doctors say they will release him tomorrow and we’re making arrangements for his transition home. He did have some damage to his heart, but nothing that he can’t handle.

Secondly, my three siblings – Debbie, Carol, and Joe – were carrying the entire load of watching my father, being his advocate with the hospital, and trying to keep their own responsibilities during a very busy season. I was able to come and stay at the hospital for 12 hours on Saturday, and felt I was giving all these wonderful people a bit of a break. I don’t thank them – and my in-laws and nieces and nephews – enough for all they do for Daddy on a regular basis, much less when he has a health scare. This was a small way of saying thanks.

Then, I stayed at Dad’s house when I wasn’t at the hospital, which gave me some space to come down after hours at the hospital.  While there, Candice sent a text asking me to “look around and see if you can find something he needs for Christmas.”

New suspenders?  Nope.

Daddy's Suspenders

Books?  Well, maybe…he obviously enjoys them and he always reads what I send him. But this is just one room of books in his house.  There are others.

Daddy's Books

I think we’ll have to keep working on that question.

Most importantly, I’m glad I came because I got to be with my father.  He’s hard-of-hearing, so conversations tend to be short and loud, but this morning we pulled out our various newspapers and Daddy – the unreconstructed Southern liberal – came out.

We talked about the immigration debate after he read one of his favorite local columnistsSaritha Prabhu – in the Nashville Tennessean. He talked about how he was helping out a “working poor” family here in Murfreesboro, and we discussed the problems they are facing. When we talked about how corporations were driving so much of the agenda in America these days, he said, “I’d hate to be some of those people on the Judgment Day.”

Then we talked about my mother – the love of his life – in an unusual way.  He was reading an article called Four Rules of Business You Can’t Afford to Forget, and he said, “This is Helen.”  The rules?

  • Be on time, every time
  • Do what you say you will do
  • Finish what you start
  • Say, and mean, “Please” and “Thank You”

He said mother always pushed us to finish what we started.  She wouldn’t let us drop something if we said we were going to do it.  And she was adamant about saying “please” and “thank you.”  In fact, when Daddy turned to Debbie yesterday and said to her, “Open this packet” I said, “Has ‘please’ dropped out of  your vocabulary?” Debbie responded, “If mother was here he would certainly say ‘please’ more often!”  At age 89 perhaps you get the occasional pass, but I was reminded of my rule “don’t be a grumpy old man.”

Finally, we were able to be together on Pearl Harbor Day.

U.S.S. Arizona in Pearl Harbor on Memorial Day Weekend

When the nurse came in this morning, she couldn’t remember the date to write on the board in his room.  Daddy told her, “It is Pearl Harbor Day.” He then proceeded to tell us that he and his sister – my Aunt Mary Dixie – were at Peabody listening to a performance of Messiah. When they came out, they learned about the attack at Pearl Harbor and their lives were changed forever. Both were WWII veterans by the end of the decade.

I enjoyed sharing an article with Daddy that was in today’s New York Times as part of a series about why Giants and Jets fans should skip today’s football games (something I’ve done for the past year without missing a beat). Tom Coffey, a staff editor in the sports department, suggested that fans use the time to “remember.”  I loved his last line:

Sunday afternoon seems like a good time to think about the sacrifices made by the men and women who died that day, and to reflect upon the wisdom of a statement that originated with Marv Levy, the longtime Buffalo Bills coach, that is still uttered in the sports world, albeit far too infrequently:  No game is a must-win.  World War II was a must-win.

While I never want my father to face additional heart issues and wind up in the hospital, there is so much for which to give thanks this weekend – especially for the supportive thoughts and prayers from family and friends.

More to come…