Monday, December 28, 2009

Rise and Shine --- Remember the good

Good Morning and welcome to the last week of the aughts!

Well, it certainly has been an intersting decade. Fear at the start (Y2K), fear in the middle (terrorism, war), fear at the end (economy, health care). Sure there have been far greater good things than bad, but we, for whatever reason, like to focus on the bad.
Maybe it makes us feel better about any other situation, but, for the last week of the decade, let's all just focus on the good.
Remember the great things that happened in our lives. I have more than a few and that's what I am going to remember this week.
When it comes down to it, the 2000s have treated most of us pretty well. Let's remember the good things, there will be plenty of time for the other stuff next week.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Rise and Shine --- No Bah, No Humbug

Good Morning and welcome to the most hectic day of the year!

Here's hoping the U.S. Senate gives us all a Christmas gift by voting for some measure of health care reform today. When the system is so broken, even a watered-down vote would be better than none.

So, to get you in the mood, here we go:


Finally ...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Rise and Shine --- Crunch time

Good Morning and welcome to the right time to start your holiday shopping!

Doesn't it seem the holiday season comes quicker and quicker every year. Maybe it's just here, but, for some reason, there hasn't been nearly enough time to get everything done this year.
It's time to pull a couple of the college all-nighters. Well, maybe not the same, but how about holiday all-nighters.
Fill up with 'Christmas Cheer,' get out the rolls of funny looking paper, tape, scissors and get to work.
By the way, why do we spend money on wrapping paper? People really don't look at the stuff. Never mind, it looks nice under the tree for about an hour.
Now, I'm sure most out there already have the gifts wrapped, the tree decorated, the house cleaned, the laundry folded (and put away), dinners planned and your children have been going to bed early every night in preparation of Christmas morning.
For the rest of us in the real world, none of that is done (in fact, through a flu-riddled brain, I'm looking at two boxes of Christmas decorations right now).
Somehow, though, we'll pull it all together. It always happens, even if we would like a few more days if only so we could procrastinate a little longer.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Rise and Shine --- Treats

Good Morning and welcome to a flu-riddled Tuesday!

There are plenty of treats this time of year. You have cookies (we luck out with plenty of them in our house), cakes, pies and anything else with sugar.
It gives everybody a chance to indulge their sweet tooth.
There is another kind of treat, though, and it comes from, of all places, the television.
After a long day of shoveling and getting pelted by snowballs Sunday, it figured to be a good time to unwind in front of the 'idiot box' before going to bed.
I figured it would be another night of flipping around cable and stumbling upon nothing before just turning it off and going to bed.
Then, the opening music for 'The Grinch Who Stole Christmas' started (not the scary Jim Carrey version, the original cartoon). Now, it might not be the best holiday show of the season, but it was great Sunday because it was unexpected.
Sometimes, it's the little things that make the world better.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Rise and Shine --- That four-letter word

Good Morning and welcome to winter (for real now)!

After all these years of warnings about big snowfalls only to see it turn into rain, Saturday's storm was at least as advertised.
Yeah, it was cold and windy, but, when the potential number of inches kept going up, there was only one thing to do: Grab the shovel.
So, around 11 a.m. we made our first venture into the winter wonderland. Shoveling that first batch wasn't so bad. It moved easily and cleared nicely.
Two hours later, the snow seemed a little heavier, but still moved.
Two hours later, it wasn't the snow that caused a delay.
I dutifully picked up the shovel to move what seemed like the same amount I have all day. Then it came, THUMP. Then another, THUMP. Then a third, THUMP.
That's when the laughter kicked in. It appears while I was trying to stay ahead on the driveway and sidewalk, there was a plot being hatched.
About 100 snowballs were made and at the ready.
'We got him! Good Shot!'
Great. Target practice. Well, at least it was enjoyable.
I'll take the snowballs over having to drive around in the mess Saturday. While we were shoveling (and trying unsuccessfully to plot revenge), Mom was out working. She slid through the morning, then slid on the way home.
Better than the laughter was when the car pulled safely into the driveway.
That made the snow not so bad.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Rise and Shine --- Take this snow and shovel it

Good Morning and welcome to the last Friday of Fall!

Yeah, yeah, yeah, there's some kind of weather event coming.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, it's going to be a mess.
Sure, sure, sure, the roads won't be cleared enough.
Sure, sure, sure, the children will be happy to see it falling.
OK. Now, let's regroup a bit.
It's December.
It's cold.
It's close to Christmas.
Hey, it's snow.
Remember back when snow wasn't such a big deal. It's only been the last few years where snow has become an EVENT.
We haven't had much the last couple of winters, so it all gets blown out of proportion these days.
I've gone back and forth over the last few years.
Hated snow when I had to drive 35 miles to get to work. Loved snow when it came on an off day.
Hated snow when it was mostly ice. Loved snow when you could make a kick-ass snowman on the front lawn.
This one? We'll see. All I know is I got this comment yesterday:
'Dad, can I ask you something.'
Sure, Brendan.
'Is it going to snow.'
That's what the weatherman says.
'Is it going to be 100 inches.'
You never know.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Rise and Shine --- Making a run

Good Morning and welcome to the week before Christmas!

Now, the fun begins.
That's right, now is the time to get that holiday shopping done.
Sure, some people probably have it finished by now. Some actually have it finished a year in advance (or at least six months).
Then there are the rest of us. A week to go and it's time to get serious.
Now, we can pinpoint what everybody needs (wants?). Now, we can find the best sales as retailers are trying to make their overinflated sales goals (thanks corporate America!).
Ready. Set. Go.
The last few years, I've waited until Dec. 24th to get it all finished. It might not take as long this year. Then again, with work, school, work, dinner, lunch, breakfast ... man, the day gets filled up quickly. Add in a terrible head cold and the last thought may be of holiday shopping.
Then again, there's nothing like deadline pressure (thanks newspapers). The parties start this weekend, so it's finally time to get it done.
Now, what was I supposed to get for everybody?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Rise and Shine --- Baby, it's cold outside

Good Morning and welcome a dark, cold Wednesday!

Now, is there anything that would be more entertaining than an Arnold Schwarzenegger/Sarah Palin debate? Apparently, the Republicans are sparring over global warming.
Schwarzenegger, who really has been a laugh-a-minute as California governor (Governator?), has been on the forefront of environmental issues. His overall politics may be a little questionable, but at least he has tried to get something done.
Palin, on the other hand, seems to be of the opinion there's no such thing as climate change because, hey, it's still cold in Alaska.
For those who don't believe in the global warming debate should think about that the next time we have a 70 degree day this winter (it will come).
Unfortunately, those people programmed by the Rush's of the world, only look at one aspect of the changes in the weather.
As long as it's cold in the winter and warm in the summer, everything is hunky dory. Never mind the major storms that get stronger every year or the Tsunamis that knock out whole cities.
Of course, that's made up, just like the moon landing.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Rise and Shine --- Pass the tissue

Good Morning and watch where you sneeze!

Everything sounds like it's being filtered through an echo chamber. Can't smell a thing. All food tastes like uncooked Tofu (no taste at all). The heat is turned up, but the chills are still there.
Yep, it's officially cold season.
Somehow, we've been able to avoid the cold cycle this season. Usually, it starts out with one, then spreads to the next and so on until the first one gets it back again.
Most winters, the circle continues and continues and continues.
Luckily, everyone else has been able to stay healthy. Now, it's my job to stay away from everybody to keep the germs from spreading.
At least for another week.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Rise and Shine --- Entering the Princess world

Good Morning and welcome to a brand-new week!

Having a 5-year old daughter means anytime anything happens with a Disney princess, you have to get on board.
With the new movie 'The Princess and the Frog' coming out, the princess world was amped up.
Everything was Princess Tiana, Princess Tiana, Princess Tiana. The girls in school talked about it all day. There were trips to the store (it really doesn't matter which in this over-saturated world) where the Princess, the Frog and everybody else in the movie was highlighted.
Heck, there is even 'Princess and The Frog' Spaghetti O's.
Still, it's fun. It's nice to see children excited. Sure, this time of year they are always excited, but that seems a little different.
Anyway, we were dutifully at the movie theater Friday night (along with about 10,000 other little girls and their families).
I was expecting the usual Disney stuff. We'd have a princess, a prince, they'd dance and everything would work out perfectly.
To my shock, though, it was a rather entertaining movie. The music was well done, the story was actually a little out of the Disney box and the characters actually seemed like real people.
The final test was the opinion of the 5-year old's brothers.
Their reaction: Two thumbs up.
Now I have to find prince material.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Rise and Shine --- Up Next

Good Morning and Happy Hanukkah!

Most days, the time after school is so intense there isn't a minute to breath.
Pick up the boys and get home by 3:30 p.m. Get out the books and start homework.
While homework is still being done, get dinner ready.
Get them back focused on homework.
Set the table.
Get them focused again on homework.
Put out glasses.
Get them back to the homework table.
Try to get the homework done by dinner (mostly failing miserbably).
Yesterday, though, the intensity was OK.
As a surprise, we went out and picked up a tree. This year, we thought we would go with a small one, but the holiday spirit touched down and we ended up with one bigger than ever.
It was cold and muddy, but it was nice to just drop all the pressures of everyday life and pick one out.
It was fun. We all laughed. We all sang.
Now, since every holiday around the world should be celebrated, we will break out the Menorah and Dreidels tonight. We will decorate the tree.
Can't get much better than that.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Rise and Shine --- Holiday music

Good Morning and welcome to the No Tiger Woods Zone!

It doesn't take much to get me in the holiday spirit. I fight it, but when those decorations show up in September, I have to take a look.
Sure, I would rather wait until Thanksgiving, but it appears that's no longer allowed.
Last night was all about the holiday season.
The Upper Darby School District gets a bum rap (much of it deserved) mostly because of the large classes. The school year is more about testing and reaching those state scores than it is about learning and challenging. Of course, that's probably the case in most public schools these days (Thanks, GWB, that 'No Child Left Behind' is a stroke of genius).
The Upper Darby music program, though, is second to none. The teachers really seem to to care about the students. They get the children involved in music in first grade and keep it going through the years.
After taking in our fourth Winter Music Festival at Garrettford Elementary Wednesday night, I was more impressed with the music program than ever.
Several students were able to carry solos, be it violin, flute or whatever. The holiday songs crossed all lines from classical, to hanukkah, to the standards.
The stereotype of children banging on musical instruments to smiling parents is not the case in Upper Darby. These students really can play, from the front of the room to the back.
Teachers too often get a bad rap, but here's a big thumb's up to music teachers Martin Hyde and Linda Pennington.
It almost makes me wish I was back in grade school.
Well, except for the tests.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Rise and Shine --- Cupcakes

Good Morning and welcome to the middle of the week!

Have you ever noticed just how perfect is a cupcake?
It's compact, so you can carry it out the door in the morning. It's small enough to satisfy and you don't feel bad about having a second (or third). Most of all, it's fun.
Who doesn't think of smiling and laughing while eating a cupcake?
I've lucked out having an expert baker in the house who likes to experiment with different things. We've had peanut-butter cookies, oatmeal-peanut butter cookies, chocolate cakes, vanilla cakes, german chocolate cakes, peppermint cakes, name it, we've eaten it (and eaten it and eaten it).
Now, it's on to cupcakes. Just this week, we've been treated to vanilla with buttercream frosting and lidsor tort with jelly in the middle and chocolate ganache on top.
Needless to say, they didn't last a day. Now there is a promise of new ones tonight.
It can't get here fast enough.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Rise and Shine --- Ideas

Good Morning and welcome to Tuesday!

Sometimes while driving around I'll flip around the radio. Most of the time it's music stations, but once in a while I'll venture into the world of AM. It's a place where opinions flow (and more often than not 'hate' is the key word).
Most of the time when I hit that station, it's good for a laugh. The radio hosts bemoan the fact that their people are no longer at the head of the government. No matter what this new administration does, it's wrong.
Somebody actually said it was ironic that yesterday was 'Pearl Harbor Day' because we were under attack in this country again.
Whatever. Everybody, I guess, has their right to an opinion (no matter how off base it might be). We have been taught through the years this country gives us the right to throw our opinions out there. You have to respect that.
When it starts getting too much, I can quickly change the channel and forget the vitriol.
This morning, there were television reports about a gay marriage proposal in New Jersey. It's headed to the Governor's desk.
Once again, this is getting some loud mouth people up in arms. One person actually said it will damage their children if gay marriage becomes law in the state.
For the life of me, I don't see how that is possible.
No matter where you stand on the issue, how does it really affect you. Just because two people of the same gender want to be married, shouldn't really matter. If they want to do it, it is their God-given right.
If two people love each other and want to get married, they should be allowed. Those who protest this need to find something else to yell about.
We have also been taught through the years to treat people as we would want to be treated.
Opinions are just voices. Throw it out there and more on. If you don't like something, that doesn't mean it's wrong.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Rise and Shine --- It doesn't take long

Good Morning and welcome to a brand-new week!

The best thing about celebrities getting into trouble is how quickly the jokes and parodies start.
Before Tiger Woods even got out of that smashed SUV last week, they were already staring. Here are a couple of the best:
Tiger Woods is so rich that he owns lots of expensive cars. Now he has a hole in one.
What's the difference between a car and a golf ball? Tiger can drive a ball 400 yards.
Now, though, it's not just jokes. Now, there are full-fledged videos and songs about Tiger Woods.
Heard this one on the way home late Friday night:

Finally, sometimes Saturday Night Live is still relevent:

Friday, December 4, 2009

Rise and Shine --- Jobs

Good Morning and welcome to Friday!

The big talk yesterday was about jobs. The government is trying to find a way to spur job growth. People out on the street need jobs.
If we can't work, how will the economy ever get better?
The problem is, at least the view from this corner of the world, is companies have found out they can survive with less workers.
Those who have jobs are happy to have them and take on increased workload to keep the job. Companies make money by cutting salaries, health care, people.
Now, an expert I know says job growth is always the final thing to come back after a recession. Hopefully, that can happen quicker.
People need to work. Companies need to see they are a part of the community and need to let people work.
For the most part, workers want to get the job done. They want to do the best they possibly can to not only survive with a paycheck but get a sense of accomplishment.
All the talk is great, but until there is some kind of forceful push for hiring, the circle will continue.
It needs to happen now.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Rise and Shine --- That red-nosed reindeer

Good Morning and welcome to a good day to fly a kite!

It used to be an event when those holiday shows came on television.
As it got closer to the end of the year, you could count on singing along with the Grinch or getting sad when Yukon Cornelius fell over the cliff. Even though those shows are now available on DVD, you can pop them in any time and laugh at the Miser brothers.
Even with the technology, though, there is something special when they pop up on the small screen.
So, even though Wednesday's are all about running around, at 8 last night it was time to sit down with Rudolph, the dentist and a Bumble. Thankfully, there were some fresh-baked cookies to enhance the show.
Even after all these years, the quality of these shows still hold up. The stop-motion animation is so unlike everything else that it's almost like there really are talking reindeer.
The key to quality, though, is how it holds the interest of its target audience.
If three children sit quietly during the show, it's pretty good. If they start throwing things, jumping around or bothering each other, well, it stinks.
There are a million cartoons out there now thanks to the ever-expanding television universe. Somehow, though, gathering for an hour with Frosty and Friends is still pretty cool.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Rise and Shine --- Tiny dancer

Good Morning and welcome back to another day!

There is a little girl I know who can't stop dancing. It doesn't matter the type of music (or if there is any music at all), she just keeps moving.
She picks up her dolls and has them dance. She dances in the car. She dances in the living room. She dances in the kitchen. She dances during dinner. She dances at school. She dances at the supermarket. She wants to dance with Mom. She wants to dance with Dad.
It is pretty amazing, really.
While the boys would rather wrestle or have Star Wars battles, the little girl just dances away.
She puts on shows for the family. She makes sure everybody is watching.
With all the problems in this wide, wide world, it's nice to have that in your life.
While her Dad may have two left feet and couldn't hold a rhythm if his life depended on it, this tiny dancer is turning us all into ballroom fans.
So, I just wanted to say thanks.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Rise and Shine --- Help

Good Morning and welcome to a real December day!

Well, since it is Dec. 1, it has to be a real December day, right?
Anyway, I've been thinking a lot over the last few months (smell something burning?). For too many years I haven't thought about everybody else.
With the holiday season here, that tendency seems to permeate through everybody. We want, we need, we buy. There are too many out there, though, who don't have anything.
They are just happy to have a place to live or a people to call loved ones.
That's the most important thing in the world. It doesn't matter how much money you have. It doesn't matter how much 'stuff' you have. You have to tighten the circle and try to help out those closest to you.
When you get down to it, that's what makes life worth living.