Breakfast with Oz

 – Journey to Excellence

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Christmas 23

Twas actually Christmas, twenty and 23. At my sole daughters home, where the party would be.

Great Grandmother Crossley and her husband of old, were the first to arrive, just as had been foretold.

So now there was Russell, and Amber and Rye, and Zoey and Lily, and some other guy. What? No other guy? Well there were animals, but mostly hidden away.

Anyway, Troy came along, the longest trek made, and Nicholas came too, sharing his birthday.

Soon Dillon appeared with a tiny reindeer, and… What? He did have a small reindeer of some sort. He left it in the car because the animals were all hidden.

Bass and friend Cass were the next to appear, but an influx of others were already near.

Derek and Susan, Logan, and Miles, Sophia and Belle, who knows how many cars.

And I haven’t forgotten my first son’s first born. Naomi has gone off and joined the Stevenson family. But she was here, along with her fine husband Danny and their two little ones; Indy and Remi. I was struck by little Remi’s walking. At first I thought he was making fun of me, but then I realized the learning process looks a lot like the remembering process.

Poor Belle was ill and spent her time resting, I hope comfortably. Hopefully the joy of those around her was a comfort.

There was another Riley(sp)  there, a friend of Miles. We put her to work as the photographer in charge of the master shot, and so unfortunately, she is not included in the photograph she composed. There was way too much food and a lot went to waste. That was the sad part of the day.

 

So 20+ people all together at the best time of the year. 4 generations. For me, it was a great and deeply personal treasure. I know the labors of making such an event happen and I am so glad for everyone’s participation. The giving of time, money, and effort to try to ensure everyone will have an enjoyable time. No part of such an event is easy and truly only love overcomes all the obstacles. I thank everyone. I am especially thankful to Amber and Russell for hosting and by association, accepting the greatest of the burdens. I had an awesome time.

After the party Nicholas had promised to play a few Christmas songs on the violin. I wish he had done so at the party but I expect, having only first picked up a violin a couple months ago, the venue was a bit crowded. But he played them at Dillon’s (my home) along with Dillon on guitar and Troy on Bass. It was remarkable and I have edited together a bit of the video I captured.

NOTE THAT THERE ARE A FEW INSTANCES OF LANGUAGE THAT ARE NOT SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN.

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This second video closed the show. After being encouraged by his brothers to just experiment, in this song Nick dared go off script and hit a note so sweet that we all got choked up. He was so overcome (and sore) that he called it a night for playing. Troy and Dillon finished us off with a superb bit of playing. As a note, I officially fell in love with the bass after hearing this.

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Last but not least. A few of the photos I took.

Quickie Quotes

I sometimes have these little “poems” or what I think are clever snatches and I’m always at a loss as to where to put them. Generally they are far too short and/or insignificant to create a post and so ultimately they mostly are quickly lost and forgotten. So this post is all about replies. I figured why not just creat a post that I could quickly add a reply to? Thus is born this quickie Quotes post. Feel free to add your own replies. Using quotes from someone else is ok I guess, but be sure to give attribution. Mostly, this is for little spontaneous thoughts you might think funny or creative or interesting. All such quotes and remarks are assumed to be the creation of the poster unless specifically attributed.

Thanksgiving Reflections 2020

It’s going to be a very peculiar Thanksgiving this year;in many respects just another day hanging around the house. Our son Nicholas will make it for dinner hopefully, but that’s the only family we’ll have the chance to actually be with. Our hearts and thoughts will certainly include all our family, and many others as well. Adversity is the greatest gift never sought, and this year has been a blessing of challenges. They are the energy of growth, the fuel that can carry us to greater appreciation and gratitude for the blessings in our lives. I love my family, my life, and my savior Jesus Christ, and I am so grateful for the countless blessings, lessons, opportunities, and challenges in my life.

I have shared a few video links below and I can assure you they are not the heartfelt Hallmark sort, but may bring a smile if taken in the spirit offered. I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving. Not everyone will of course, so please do what you can to lift the burdens of others. Trust me when I tell you, the blessings you may give come back many times over.

I saved my favorite for last in these videos.

Don’t know how many may remember WKRP but it was a funny show. This, from a Thanksgiving episode still makes me crack up.

Barney. Dead on Thanksgiving day. Murdered? or a victim of the wind?

A couple SNL classics. What need be said.

A COVID Thanksgiving

Could be our new puppy.

A commercial I think, but awesome funny IMHO.

Four Generations

Despite getting started early, I thought I would never make it! I mean, I always figured I would eventually be a great grandfather, but I didn’t know if I’d make it long enough to see a great grandchild born in my time. But I have! A handsome young son born to my granddaughter Naomi and her awesome husband Danny.

Congratulations!

Indiana Jay Stevenson

11/18/2020

8 lbs. 8 oz. 20 inches.

I wanted a picture like this, with 4 generations together, but I had to imagineer it.

Olly Olly Nip fer free

So this is Olliver. He’s a hot mess of energy in short bursts that seem to drag on for hours. The rest of the time he’s an unbelievably soft and gentle cuddle bug. Fearless. Maybe even senseless. He certainly believes he’s  indestructible.

Olly is a mix between a Burnese Mountain dog papa and a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel mama. He was born on June 5th this year (2020) and has been with us about a month now. He seems to be very intelligent, quickly learning a number of ‘tricks’.

 

I’ll be honest. Since my friend Murphy passed I haven’t much wanted to even think about having another dog. Alice did, and so we compromised and got a dog. Olly, like Murphy, is her dog and she has very quickly found herself able to love him. This despite cleaning pee stains, dealing with a puppy’s desire to bite everything, and the almost constant attention he takes to prevent large scale damages to home and family. She spent the first week covered in bites and bruises. As for me, I mostly ignore him and grumble about what a pain in the ass he is and how old people should not even be allowed to have puppies.

That said, we may become friends, if either of us lasts long enough.

Zombody gets a facelift and review

“Zombody to Love is a new idea with its own lore on zombie “life” and reason. Well worth your time.”

Kurt Marquart – HorrorGeeklifecom

Finally, an actual published review. It’s a hard thing, writing a book and putting it out there for the masses to poke at. A humbling experience. Lest you think Kurt’s summary above is the only good thing about it, I suggest you click the link and check it out. He didn’t like everything though.

He also says “The worst I can say about this audio-book that found its way to my ears is that I don’t like the cover, and I don’t like the title.” I can’t do anything about the title at this point, but I did spurge for a professional cover at long last. Check it out on the kindle version below.

There are still a few free codes to get the audiobook, where Paul Burt tells the story with great passion. Both Paul and Kurt ‘get it’, which is what I really hoped for in writing it. Thanks to the both of them.

Goad… A preview

Tucker slows the old mustang as the massive ornate gate looms larger. He rolls to a stop, the engine rumbling down to the familiar throaty idle the brand has made famous. He stares at the bronze plate on the gatepost. It reads simply;

“Shepard Institution”

He can imagine the old sign. It likely said lunatic hospital or residence of the crazy or criminally insane. But that wouldn’t do anymore. Bat shit crazy still existed of course. Nobody knew that better than Tucker, or Tuck as he was more often called. This wasn’t because he preferred it. He suspected it was simply that most people couldn’t be bothered with two syllable names. Wasted time that would cut into television watching or social media scrolling. He wondered for a moment if he was too damn cynical to be a psychiatrist. It wasn’t what he had imagined in his youth. It was what he needed though. If only to understand himself.

There is no visible camera, no button on the gate or for drive up use, but Tuck is certain that someone knows he is here. It’s not a pleasant feeling, knowing that somewhere, someone is watching you, evaluating you, inspecting you from some hidden observation point. They are in fact analyzing you to determine if you are worthy of entry. If he were strapped down in the back of an ambulance they would no doubt have already swung the gates wide, but since Tuck is here in his own vehicle, of his own accord, he must be subjected to inspection. One mustn’t allow unregistered crazies access.

Tuck sweats, the back of his neck bristling. He is suddenly aware of every movement of every part of his body. He shifts slightly in the seat and wrestles for control of his senses. He shouldn’t have hit the bong at the roadside stop he made for gas. He thought he was farther away and would have plenty of time to discard any associated paranoia. Indeed, it had made the drive on the winding road through the fantasy like forest an adventure he appreciated, but now, as he came so close to the interview that might change the entire trajectory of his life, he would much prefer the dull wit of normalcy.

 

The sudden creaking as the heavy metal gate begins it’s cumbersome withdrawal startles him. The gate splits in the center and rumbles to the left and right, seemingly being eaten by the trees that form a fence stretching around the entirety of the property. Tuck eases the car forward, then stops abruptly, stricken by the idea that as soon as he moves between the massive gate panels they will switch direction and crush him. He curses his irrational fear and mashes the gas, sprinting through the gate with a squeal of tires.

Here, on the other side, Tuck feels like Dorothy breaking from the woods and into the poppy fields, her destination gleaming in the distance. He reminds himself that Dorothy falls asleep trying to make it across the fields, and only the asbestos snow effects are able to wake her. But the sun shines bright on rolling fields of green, almost as if some heavenly artist had made a dramatic stroke of the brush to limit the tree line. Dark, almost suffocating forest, to immense swaths of green rolling field, all separated by a single imposing gate. Tuck thinks again how easily that gate might have crushed him. He shakes the thoughts away.

The drive ahead descends in long graceful turns into a valley, and the sunshine burns away his sense of dread. Tuck unconsciously hums as he descends the hill.

“You’re out of the woods, you’re out of the dark, you’re out of the night,
Step into the sun, step into the light.”

Almost five minutes later, Tuck exits a long slow curve and finds himself gazing down at the institution. It is much larger than he expected; as big as a large state run facility. The drive begins a loop at the bottom of the hill, running one way around a bright blue pond that reflects the upper portion of the buildings’ soaring center tower. The grounds landscaping is dramatic and impressive and at present is being meticulously groomed. Gardeners tend to an array of bushes, shrubs, and flower beds. A teenager rides a small mower around the immense lawn. Tuck sees no others mowing and the enormity of the task strikes him as impossibly odd. The young man would surely be in perpetual motion to maintain the large property with this single piece of equipment, and yet the lawns were immaculate.

Tuck is unsure where he might be expected to park. Two small lanes lead off from the circle and wend their way to the back of the building on either side. The available parking in the small lot between the lake and the buildings portico seems painfully small for such a large facility. His question is answered as he follows the curve around to the front of the building and spots a well dressed man smiling and waving him on, indicating he should simply park under the archway. Tuck wonders if this might be the very person who inspected him unseen as he sat at the gate. For some inexplicable reason, the man makes him nervous. “You’re a trained fucking professional for fuck sake.”, he mumbles to himself. “You can do this.” Nevertheless, he ignores the mans direction, passing under the portico and turning into the small lot next to the lake. He takes the only open space there, relieved there is no sign of it being reserved for the handicapped or otherwise. He faces the building entrance from this spot and notices the man that had waved him in is quickly walking toward him. Tucker takes a deep breath, counts to 3, and lets it out slowly. He gets out of the car and stretches his legs.

The approaching man looks to be in his mid fifties Tuck guesses. He’s a slim man with a wispy weak mustache that goes well with his thinning hair. He is smiling broadly but Tuck suspects the smile is the result of some barely contained nervous energy. The man seems to almost vibrate. He holds a file in his left hand and extends his right hand to Tuck while still a dozen paces off, approaching rapidly. “Dale Nichols” he says, his hand almost comically stretching even further. “You must be Mister Tucker.”

“Maxwell” Tucker replies, “Tucker Maxwell”. He firmly grips Dale’s hand and gives it a firm shake.

Dale frowns, releases Tuck’s hand and looks at his file in confusion. His mind races. He had seen the name. Shit, he had been reviewing the file for the umpteenth time even while waiting for the car to arrive from the gate. He needed this to go right. He could feel that terrible sense of spinning already starting deep in his stomach. He knew it began as soon as the man had ignored his parking instruction. Tuck’s voice cut through the building fog of his thoughts and stopped his descent.

“Tucker is my given name. Maxwell is my surname.” Tucker had found his sweet spot and his voice was firm, calm, and natural. As always happened, his fears and doubts fell away when he was engaged in whatever the source of trepidation had been. He wonders for a moment if this is the man he is supposed to interview with or an escaped patient that managed to steal his file.

Dale’s worry disappears with the confident and assuring voice. His face lights with delight. All is well in his world again and his eyes practically beam. “Ah, so Tuck, is it?”

“To my friends.”

“Friends, yes, of course!” Dale replies. “I certainly hope we can become that. Friends, I mean.” Dale gestures for Tuck to follow and sets off back toward the building at a much more relaxed pace. “I was starting to worry you wouldn’t get here today. There’s a bugger of a storm moving in.”

Tuck glances at the sky and is surprised to see it has darkened considerably. Heavy dark clouds roll closer from the east. Normally very much aware of any change to his surroundings, he mentally chastises himself for his inattention.

“Did you have any problems finding us?” Dale asks, turning his head slightly to peer at Tuck, to his right and a step or two behind.

“None at all. I used Waze.”

“Waze?”

“It’s a GPS app that gives directions.”

“Ahh, I see. I don’t use those. Too many horror stories about those things leading people into lakes.”

Tuck smiles. It’s a slightly crooked smile that women in particular have found deviously charming. “I don’t close my eyes when using it.”

“Well, no, of course not.” Dale replies, obviously missing the gist of the answer. “That would make it even more prone to accident wouldn’t it?”

Tuck made a mental note that Dale was just the sort of person who would in fact drive into a lake because a device instructed him to.

Making their way under the portico and approaching the deep set doors, Tuck is again impressed by the scale and architecture of the building. He suspects the clientele, or their families, are likely in the ‘upper crust’ of society; that is to say, rich. Tuck had already completed almost 3 years as an intern in two different New York institutions, one public and one private. He knew Shepard was a privately funded facility and expected it to be nicer than the sardine processing plants that passed for public facilities, but this was much grander than expected. He imagined most patients here were seeking rest and relaxation more than therapy. The thing is, in such cases, the rest and relaxation is for the one paying for the treatment, rather than the one receiving it. What better way to deal with a problematic relation than soothing your own conscience by providing the best of care for them. The irony of becoming a psychiatric doctor was not lost on him when he had these thoughts.

The doors slid open before them with a swift whoosh as they approached. Dale glanced over his shoulder to make sure Tuck was still following. He shared a quick grin and subtly nodded toward a hallway veering left from the entrance lobby. “Follow me and we’ll get you situated.”

Dale increases his speed, as if the floors somehow energized his feet. Tuck had to quicken his own pace to keep up. He wished he could take in more of his surroundings. The lobby looked like that of a grand hotel rather than a medical facility. Two young women manned the circular front desk and Tuck saw both of them checking him out carefully. Behind them a floor length window overlooked an exposed court with a pool and tropical landscaping. The feeling he was at an exclusive resort intensified. Dale had begun to again examine the file he carried, his eyes focused on the papers within. Be careful not to drive into a pond, Tuck thought.

On this floor at least, there were few doors. Instead there were wide hallways and in places, archways into larger areas. Tuck managed to identify a library area, a game room, and a gym area as they passed by quickly. Replaying the proceedings thus far, Tuck wondered exactly what getting situated might mean. It sounded like he already had
the job. He had never been invited to ‘get situated’ at an interview
before and for just an instant he thought maybe Dale was a patient here.

“Eight years in special forces!” Dale said, stopping abruptly and looking back at Tuck with questioning eyes that ran over him as if to discover if this was a possibility he had only just discovered. Tuck stops short, narrowly avoiding a collision. It is unlikely we will ever become good friends, he thinks.

“Anger issues” Tuck says simply.

“Resolved I hope” Dale responds, a note of suspicion in his voice.

“Mostly.” Tuck deadpans. Dale, unsure, studies Tuck’s face for a long moment before smiling and turning to the first real door they have encountered along the hallway. “Mostly” he repeats quietly. “That’s a good one.” He opens the door and enters.

Tuck follows him inside the massive office, noting the signage engraved on the door; “Dale Nichols “, and below that, “Administrator”

 

Murphy

In the spring of 2004 Alice (my wife) decided she wanted a dog. What kind of dog should it be she wondered. It couldn’t be a large dog, or a dog that sheds, or a dog that makes allergies flare up. There was a lot it couldn’t be. So she went on to the internuts and found a site where she could go through a massive checklist of desirable attributes and answer a bunch of questions about our lifestyle, etc., and ultimately the magic fortune teller would spit out the answer.

A Coton de’ Tulear is what it spat out. A lap dog. A small dog that sounded bigger than it was, had long hair that looked like cotton and concealed its eyes more often than not. It was everything she wanted and promised to have a great personality. It was a very expensive dog for us at the time (or anytime for that matter) and it lived in California. We lived in Virginia. It flew out to us and we anxiously (and worriedly) picked it up at Dulles airport. We stopped at the first spot that had green grass and let little Murphy out of the car to do his business. 

He was a hit. Everyone loved him.

Truthfully, he didn’t do much. He was no hunter, and certainly couldn’t be depended on for protection, although he would have done his best I’m sure. He sure wasn’t a working dog, although he might have qualified as a lap dancer. He barked whenever someone came to the door, but would then assault them with kisses once they came inside. He was always playful, inquisitive, and funny. He was easy to house train but not particularly interested in learning tricks. He wasn’t going to be bringing anyone their slippers, but if the trick benefited him (like silently pleading with those puppy eyes for a treat) he wasn’t too proud to participate. While technically (and actually) my wife’s dog, he had room in his little heart for everyone.

For the next 16 years I would never be far from a loyal friend. Ever.

Alice and I, given the lifestyle of our youth, our health challenges, and the relatively short lifespan of our parents, thought we would never have to say goodbye to Murphy. That separation and loss would need to be born by him, but he would have the kids to care for, and to care for him.
 
Murphy had a stroke sometime last year and his health declined ever since then. For the most part, he didn’t seem to suffer, and on many days he was the joyous puppy he had been his whole life.
 
I know that not everyone believes in God, and those that do have many different beliefs. I am a believer and a christian. Sometimes I am quiet about it because I just don’t want to deal with the flak from non believers. I don’t want to be scorned or laughed at. That is one of my many weaknesses. But I am actually more than a believer. I know that God lives and that Jesus is Christ, His living son. That makes my weakness all the more painful to admit. 
 
I bring it up here only because today we had to say goodbye to Murphy. I had been praying for him to be healed. Later, when I knew he must surely be suffering and his life here had run its course, I prayed the Lord would take him.
 
Finally, with counsel from others and the spirit of the Lord, I knew it was not to be so easy. Alice and I would have to let him go. We would need to make that decision that we so dreaded.
 
There was never a more loyal, faithful companion. Today we spent the last moments of his earthly life with him. It hurts.
 

Tapper has arrived on Audible.com!

Some of you may know I wrote a screenplay called “Zombody to Love” some years ago. It was experimental. I wanted to create a character that totally sucked and nobody could root for, and then see if I could make people root for him. It really was an exercise kind of project, but boy did I have fun, especially making him a jerk.

Anyway, I later used this experiment to see if I could convert the story to a short novel and publish it through Amazon. I did, although I have yet to ‘experiment’ with how to market it or make a decent cover. So now, after having tried recording it myself but realizing even though I had the passion I don’t know how to keep ‘voices’ in order or meet the technical demands, the story is finally on Audible.com! An amazing artist by the name of Paul Burt did a great job bringing it to life.

I have a few codes for free copies. Check it out here!