My Daughters Are Growing Up

Jul 10, 2014 by

My daughters are growing up. It’s a daily event, but there seem to be certain waypoints along the way.

These days, my eldest is soon to begin her senior year in high school, while the twins are beginning their sophomore year.

Two of the three now have entered the workforce. Dabbled in it.

One is taking two courses at the local junior college for credit.

The twins turned 15 just Monday. The eldest is ready to turn 18 in December.

Oftentimes, as their Dad, I wonder where the time went. Maybe that’s something of my Myers-Briggs’ INTJ temperament coming thru, but in many ways it isn’t.

As parents we often get so caught up in the daily grind, we don’t notice how the kids are changing, maturing into young ladies and men on their way to being adults. Some parents coddle. INTJs like me want to give them the freedom to figure out what this world is all about, largely on their own, without hovering or “helicoptering.”

My parents raised me similarly. Not sure what Myers-Briggs Mom or Dad are. And while there are additional life lessons I wish they’d not shielded me from, I have to say I got a lot out of my youth in large part thanks to the USAF, which moved us around like ping pong balls on a pool table with no pockets. But I have to say, it worked out the way it should have. God’s way, clearly.

So as the eldest ponders colleges–she wants to get out of the South and go north–like to Indiana University, I keep reminding her that she’s free to go to any college she wants so long as it’s Auburn. I understand the desire to get as far away from home as she can. There should be enough written between the lines on this site to explain.

Typical view of the UP in September of each year.

Typical view of the UP in September of each year.

Many are the days when I wish I could pick up and get out of the South myself. Dreams fill my head at night of returning to the woods of Northern Michigan, where we were stationed three or four times when I was a child. I often drift to sleep with memories of the sounds of the wind racing through the evergreen pines and Birch trees that make up the deep woods of the North. I hear sounds of my footsteps echoing through the wood as I trounce on fallen leaves, step on and snap dead branches, inadvertantly kick rocks, and even the sounds of boots that slip or trudge into the dirt upon each step.

Hidden across our family land are natural springs that bubble up from the forest floor, trickling with an icy cold flow of crystal clear mana one could put a water bottle or soda can in and chill to perfection; no additional ice required.

And during the winter months, wow, do I ever miss snow. Visually, there is so much ugly in this world that I truly think the Lord created snow just to give Northern foke a break from much of it for months at a time each year. Johnny Mathis records have made immortal the sounds of him singing about that “mantle of white shining down from the night” as he’s walking in that Winter Wonderland. Few sights in life beat the shroud of freshly fallen snow, pine boughs weighed down with large clumps of white, and miles of it for as far as one’s eyes can see.

For me, many of those memories remain alive in my heart, much as this child once longed for a Tyco train set at Christmas.

Here in Texas, my daughters only vaguely know of snow and it’s allure. They’ve journeyed into my wooded playgrounds of Michigan once but need to return again. This time for longer. Someday.

September is but around the corner and in it’s third week, the leaves will be changing in the UP of Michigan. Maybe then the four of us, and guests, can once again walk into the woods ablaze with the colors of fire.

For now, I must leave you with these thoughts. My girls grow closer to becoming women each day; each with their powerful names to encourage them to prosper and seek out the best of what this life is all about. I’m proud of each of them, my darlings, Chandler, Reagan and Haley.

As the autumn of my life draws closer each day, late spring blossoms for my children and life races onward with us all ensnared its infinite circle…..

 

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Red Lion Hotels — Thank You!

Jun 8, 2014 by

Red Lion Hotels, thank you.

Red Lion Hotels Corporation

Red Lion Hotels Corporation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For today is my Mom’s 67th birthday and she’s in Portland staying at your airport hotel. That’s basically all the info I had–“red…. something hotel by the airport,” she mentioned as I drove her to DFW yesterday.

So this morning, I got on Google and searched “red hotel airport Portland,” and there you were. I logged on to your website’s chat after checking out the Pacific Grille’s menu. The chat service said to call the hotel. I did.

A wonderful young lady answered at the front desk. I said, “Today is my mom’s 67th birthday, and I believe she’s staying there, and I’d like to have breakfast in bed sent to her room. Can you help me?”

She put me on hold and came back a few seconds later saying that no one was answering the phone in the restaurant, but worse, they normally don’t do room service.

BUT, and this is a big one, “But, I am about to get off work and if you’d like, I’d be happy to take care of this for you.”

What?!

“Sure, I’ll place the order and then take the food to your mom’s room.”

I missed the young lady’s name. When she wanted to know about beverages, I instinctively said, “iced tea.” I didn’t realize that in Portland, OR, that’s not even on the menu. “Hey, I’m from Houston,” she said. “I’d drink iced tea for breakfast on Christmas morning! If I can’t swing tea, what other drink, some OJ maybe?”

We agreed.

So about 15 minutes passed and then in came the texts from my daughter. With photos.

Pancake breakfast from the Pacific Grille, Portland's Red Lion Hotel restaurant.

Pancake breakfast from the Pacific Grille, Portland’s Red Lion Hotel restaurant.

IMG_8317

Pancake breakfast from the Pacific Grille, Portland’s Red Lion Hotel restaurant.

Those have to be the biggest hotel restaurant pancakes I’ve ever seen in my life. I mean, they’re TEXAS BIG pancakes all the way from Oregon.

Nice. So in summary, Red Lion Hotels, the front desk attendant who got off about 7:30 or 8 a.m. your time PST today, Sunday, June 8, 2014, she needs a pat on the back. She went beyond what was called upon in her duties as a front desk clerk to ensure that my mom has a memory from her 67th birthday, she hopefully won’t soon forget. I’d never even heard of Red Lion Hotels, but next time I’m on the Left Coast, well, I’ll find a way to spend the night.

Thank you. Please ensure this post makes its rounds through marketing and upward in the company, to the manager of the Portland Airport hotel, and most especially, the young lady from Houston who made my mom’s 67th birthday breakfast one she won’t forget.

UPDATE: Sunday, PM:  I received a Tweet back from Red Lion Hotels tonight. They’re going to track down the young lady who helped out this morning and give her a reward.

When I sent a text to Mom letting her know of the RLH tweet she sent the following back:

Screen Shot 2014-06-08 at 9.43.23 PM

 

 

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April 27, 2011 in Alabama – One Of The Worst Tornado Outbreaks Ever

Apr 27, 2014 by

April 27, 2011 in Alabama – One Of The Worst Tornado Outbreaks Ever

I was in Huntsville, AL for April 27, 2011, one of the worst tornado outbreaks ever recorded in the state with 247 killed in 62 storms. I never will forget that day as long as I live, for I thought at one point, it was going to be my last.

Smithville Tornado April 27th 2011 095

Smithville Tornado April 27th 2011 095 (Photo credit: Tales from the South)

During the mid 1990s, I worked in the Governor’s Office of Gov. Fob James. His lead bodyguard, State Trooper Tom Taylor, became a life-long friend of mine. It was during the spring of 2011 that I was working with a client in Huntsville, where Tom, wife Karen and the rest of the Taylors returned to after leaving the administration in January 1999. I was staying with them north of Rocket City in a little community called New Market.

That morning, I’d gone into the city to work with friend and colleague, John Hornbuckle. Around 9 a.m. that morning we heard of a tornado warning just northwest of the offices and gave chase, but it was moving too fast to catch up to. We went back to the office. But what I didn’t know was how bad the storm had been when it went over the Taylor’s house. They had downed trees. It was something of a mess.

Now having been in Texas for a decade and away from Montgomery, Alabama where I’d spent almost 20 years of life and 10 of them working in or around the Governor’s Office, I’d grown unfamiliar with Alabama weather. While in office with former Gov. Guy Hunt and Gov. James I remembered the Airport Road deaths from tornadoes at rush hour in the late 1980s and then I still have photos somewhere of me, Gov. James and Trooper Taylor walking through the damages of the F5 tornado that hit west of Birmingham in April 1998, but I had no idea how the rest of the day was going to go.

Here in North Texas, our weather people are good at hyping the weather, they’re just not very good at accuracy. And like most talk in Texas about things being bigger – the rivalry between Texas and OU, the severity of storms, etc. I’d grown accustomed to not getting too serious about dire weather predictions after a decade of blown North Texas forecasts. Usually, like even this morning in DFW, a line of storms comes thru and the event is over.

April 27, 2011

But that didn’t happen in Alabama on April 27. I left John at the office about 11 a.m. to go to the Taylor’s because they had downed trees and I was going to go help. Well, by the time I got there, Tom had already returned, Karen was there, the kids were out of school, (It was a week day) and word was around 12:30 p.m. that we were all headed from there to a shelter close by.

RadarScope App

It was at this time that Tom told me about and shared with me the best app for iPhone I’ve come to use yet–RADARSCOPE. It gives amazingly accurate and up-to-date radar images. Previously I’d been using the WeatherUnderground.com site. In the past few weeks, they have made changes to the site that to me make navigating it a complexity and in times of a storm, I just want to see what the radar looks like, the color in the formations, how fast it’s moving and I don’t need it down to the street level.

To their credit, on Twitter, WeatherUnderground asked me for feedback, but I have to say, I’m not getting anything near with them what I’m getting on my iOS devices in RadarScope.

The Afternoon of April 27, 2011 in Huntsville, AL

We got to Tom’s brother’s house. It had a storm shelter in the basement and a ramp around back where one could seek shelter. Being north of Huntsville in New Market, I had no idea that we had moved further into the path of the storms that would knock out areas to the northeast of Decatur and south of my Dad’s birthplace, Athens.

As I recall that day, we endured SEVEN tornado warnings. One nearly right after the other. It was harrowing.

Around 5 p.m. Karen, Tom and I thought things were going to die down enough for us to get out and go get something to eat. There’s a great Mexican place just across the Tennessee border we’d talked about going to. But before going north, we went back to their house. And then …

The Drive Back To The Bunker

When we realized another ferocious storm was coming, we left Tom and Karen’s house headed the two or three miles back to the bunker we’d been in. But by then the storm was upon us. There were torrential rains. The road ahead at one point headed due west was overflowing with rushing water. We were in a Jeep with a plastic-type lid. It began to hail and every stone that hit the car sounded like a rock in that blinding rain. We made a right turn to go north. More rain. More wind. And when there’s hail, there’s usually something spinning at high speeds, a tornado, around it.

As we drove thru this, I began to pray harder than ever before. Now I’d ridden thru hurricanes coming ashore and that kind of thing with the governor and Tom before, but this was different. We were being tossed and banged. We could barely see and the last thing we needed to do was stop because we surely would have met tragedy.

I could see off to the right of the road from the front passenger seat. Trees were falling to our sides. Trees were falling on the roads.  I just knew we were about to be off to the right of the road in a ditch.

The storm didn’t let up the entire ride over to Tom’s brother’s house. But by the grace of God, we made it.

The Rest of Alabama

That day, 62 tornadoes dropped to the ground in Alabama and 247 people met death’s door, a fate I thought at several points we were certain to join them in.

Because of the storms, the power in Huntsville and most of North Alabama was out for nearly a week. By early morning, Karen, Tom and I had ventured out to see Highway 231 a log jam in both directions. Traffic lights were out. People were seeking food, gas and ice. Miraculously, I found an open gas station about a mile from the Taylor’s house and once topped off, headed to see my Mom in Montgomery until things were restored.

All across the state, people were mourning the loss of family and friends.

I was lucky to have survived that day. I know it was by God’s will that I didn’t die because he had some other mission for me to fulfill. It’s days like today I reflect on whether or not I’m meeting him and his purpose. Today’s sermon in church was about stopping things we shouldn’t be doing and getting focused on God; letting Him take over and putting the things holding us all back onto the Lord and dealing with them, no longer ignoring them.

Finding Your Purpose

Have you found your purpose? Do you know why God has led you to where you are now? More on that to come, but I encourage you today to remember those who perished this day just three years ago. Bless you and bless them.  Radar right now is showing a mass of storms in Mississippi and they’re marching toward Alabama like General Sherman on Atlanta. Let us pray that things go okay today. History doesn’t need a repeat.

 

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W. Cartwright in Mesquite–One of the most dangerous curves in North Texas

Mar 8, 2014 by

W. Cartwright in Mesquite

Another crazy-assed Mesquite driver took out the AT&T phone box on June 22, 2013. A month and five days, it's not been fixed. Now there's a blue tent over it.

Another crazy-assed Mesquite driver took out the AT&T phone box on June 22, 2013. A month and five days, it’s not been fixed. Now there’s a blue tent over it.

–One of the most dangerous curves in North Texas

I’ve been in the Stoneleigh Apartment complex in Mesquite/Balch Springs, Texas for almost four years now. Over that time, there have been multiple single-car accidents at the intersection exiting the complex and into the curve headed toward Belt Line Road.

Most of the accidents clearly have been caused from drivers well exceeding the 40-mile-per-hour speed limit.

In the field just past Stoneleigh to the east, the owners used to have a fence up. After a car would plow thru it, they’d rebuild it.  Last spring, they finally decided they’d spent enough on fencing and replaced it with small pine trees. Some are growing okay, most look like they’re on the edge of death, and frankly, they are–the from the next idiot who comes flying around the curve and loses control of their car.Dec. 5, 2011

Last June, as you will recall, one driver came thru the intersection and flew in between the major light pole and the telephone pole in the intersection and straight into the AT&T phone box there. It took AT&T almost four months to get parts in to replace the box while we got to see that ridiculous looking tarp tent they built. AT&T July 11

There have been other times when whoever hit the telephone pole hit it and it snapped about 15-20 feet up. I knew something had happened that time because at 4 a.m. or so the power went out.

Two weeks ago, a truck was stopped in the right lane of the road just past the intersection because it’s right rear tire had fallen off.

This morning, ANOTHER truck was stopped in almost the same spot and guess what, right rear tire missing.

School Bus Passing

Another frequent illegal event that happens in front of Stoneleigh Apartments on W. Cartwright is the number of drivers in the interior, east-bound lane who patently ignore the flashing RED lights on the school bus about 8:10 a.m. on school days. I’ve seen this happen on at least three occasions in the past month. What makes this even more inexcusable is that these same drivers stopped for the bus when it picked up high schoolers just 100 yards to the west on the road.photo 2

Prediction

Someone is going to get creamed one of these times by one of these people who are exceeding the speed limit and coming around the curve on W. Cartwright in Mesquite. Increasing the odds of this happening are the ridiculous hold times that the light stays green, and for those wanting to turn left out of the apartment complex, having to sit there like dead ducks at the red light.

For a while last year the Mesquite Police Department ran radar in the evenings in front of Stoneleigh to catch some who were headed home a little too fast down Cartwright. But it’s been months since this has been done and the speeds haven’t changed.

Maybe something can be done and done before someone gets hurt, possibly a child waiting for the bus or a mom with a car full of kids trying to leave the apartments and head west toward 635.  Sadly, it looks like it might take something like that for there to be any plausible action taken.

Maybe instead of holding so long, it ought to take less time to sit to come out of the apartment complex and more time for people to sit there at the light going toward the east. The only light previous to the exit at Cartwright is uphill and at the entrance ramp to 635 North.  The next light is at Belt Line and one cannot go from 635 and thru the light at Belt Line without stopping because of the timing. Perhaps a little more red light time on W. Cartwright is the answer. I don’t know, but I wish the Mesquite Police Department and the Mesquite city traffic engineers would consider this before we have a fatality.  Otherwise, it is almost assuredly going to happen.

photo

And in regard to the school bus getting passed while kids are boarding in the morning and the lights are flashing, my daughter tells me that Dallas County Schools has gone to a system where the buses have cameras and take photos of those who drive by illegally. She said it’s somewhere around a $300 fine.

As ticket happy as the city of Mesquite is, you’d figure they’d have been all over this by now. I hope they at least will be very soon.

 

 

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The Super Bowl in Arlington–Gotta Place to Park?

Jan 29, 2011 by

Monday night at 9 p.m. EST/8 p.m. CST I’ve been asked to join with several other tweeps over on Twitter to join in a Twitter Party sponsored by TravelingMom.com and underwritten by the national vendor ParkWhiz, which is the number one online source to find and reserve a guaranteed parking space major sporting venues across the country, and more importantly, providing up to 7,000 spaces at the Super Bowl in Arlington, Texas on Feb. 6, 2011.

Things are wild here in the DFW area already in preparation for the upcoming game with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers. The news media has gone gaga about reporting the events related, and stretched a bit to cover things that aren’t.  Seems to get media attention in DFW right now you have to have two words included in the lead:  Super and Bowl.

But preparations have been ongoing for a good while.  One station aired a report about the preparations local law enforcement have been involved with for the past three years.  They’ve been working hard to keep the area safe, to be ready for all kinds of contingencies, and most importantly, to handle the incredible influx of traffic.

And all of those cars coming into the Arlington area playground of opportunities need somewhere to park.

ParkWhiz has had up to 7,000 parking spots for Super Bowl Sunday.   At this writing, on their site, they say they only have 44 left beginning at $33.  Trust me, that’s still a great price for parking over there, as 1) I can’t imagine those 44 spaces lasting long, and 2) after they are, you probably ought to start considering a form of public transportation and/or have some good walking shoes.  

Parking At Sporting Events

I’ve only been to one Dallas Cowboys game and it was at Texas Stadium.  I’ve been to multiple games at The Ball Park in Arlington, where the Texas Rangers play, Wrigley Field in Chicago, Legion Field in Birmingham, and then I’ve mostly been to football games  at Jordan Hare Stadium, the home of my Auburn Tigers.

When I was in the Governor’s Office in Alabama from 1988 until 1998, I also was able to attend numerous games at various collegiate football venues throughout the Southeast, including Tennessee in Knoxville, games in Oxford and Jackson, Mississippi, and The Swamp down in Gainseville, Florida.

Probably the worst experience was when another driver parked in a Frat lot on the Florida campus.  Auburn got beaten like a drum for that game and lost 48-27 or some horrible number.  When we got back to the parking lot where we’d left the car, it’d been towed and cost the guy about $200 to get his car back.

My Parking Preferences

When I go to a game, I like to park like I’m headed back out of the mix.  I’ve been fortunate to park right across the street at Wrigley next to the McDonald’s.  It was like $20, but that was in the late 1980s.

By far the easiest route to go is to have a parking pass or assigned parking.  You breeze in, you breeze out.  You don’t have the added stress of where you’re going to park.

And that leaves time for more important things…..

Tailgating

Having spent the past 30 years of my life as a fan of an SEC football team, (Did I remind you that Auburn was National Champs this year?) tailgating has become an inspired tradition in my life.  When I was on campus at Auburn, it was hysterical to see alumni arrive in their RVs on Wednesday for the game on Saturday.  They’d leave on Sunday and on Wednesday, they’d be back.

If you walked through their areas on Saturday mornings, you’d best be looking for people who you might know.  Just a “Hey” and a “War Eagle,” was the gateway to the serving line of BBQ, chips, and other Southern delicacies.  Oh yeah, and some sort of cooled beverage.

The smells of the cooking and the prepared food are enough to make anyone hungry.

Monday Night

So Monday night, I’m going to be a part of this group who talks about parking at sporting events.  We’ll talk about tailgating, favorite foods for such, and a discussion about your favorite Super Bowl treats and traditions. Go ahead and follow @KimOrlando, @CindyRichards, @TravelingMoms, @RoleMommy, @ParkWhiz, myself, and @DadaRocks so you can keep up with our party.  Like I said, it begins at 9 p.m. EST/8 p.m. Central and 7 p.m. Pacific.

We want to hear about your ideas for tailgating, and your recommendations about how to park at your sporting venues.   If you’ve got tickets to the Super Bowl you might really want to join in–There are $50 gift cards up for grabs.

Disclosure: I am being compensated for my time Monday and have been asked to write this post in support of Monday’s event.

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Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros Bringing Me Back to Me

Oct 12, 2010 by

I’m 44 years old and I got home this morning at 3:34 a.m.

I had not a drink of alcohol. (I’m not a drinker.)

But last night I began a new chapter in my life, where instead of being a guy whose forgotten what it is to be who he was 20 years ago, I stepped back into the life of adventure and lived a little.

And I’m here to tell other moms and dads, who moved into the responsibility of parenthood a few years ago and thought they had to leave behind living on the edge of adventure, that there is still life out there, if you’re brave enough to go and find it.

EDWARD SHARPE AND THE MAGNETIC ZEROS

As you might know from reading here on DaddyClaxton.com, I came across this band, Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros totally by accident in July when I was in Austin for an event with Gillette. After I got home that night, I downloaded their songs and got hooked. Their debut album, “Up From Below” is a fine collection of tunes and jingles that immerse themselves into your consciousness and refuse to let go.

I play this album frequently, even months after first hearing it.  There are a couple songs on it I’m not real wild about, but the ones I am, well, I’d drive three hours from Dallas to Shreveport to hear them late at night, (Their set began at 10:30 p.m. and ended around midnight.) And so that’s what happened last night.

I’ll write more about the event in the days to come, but I wanted to share this video with you tonight.  And share the great photo I was able to have taken with me and band leader, Alexander.

Yes, I was about five people deep from the stage.  Yes, I sang along with them.  Yes, I was part of this very alive show, and there’s not a thing anyone can do or say to me to regret a single second of it.

But instead of getting into that tonight, here’s the video I shot using my iPhone 4, pulling the video clips into Aperture 3, and then importing them right into Final Cut Express without having to convert them at all.  Then it was just a matter of adding bumpers, some commentary, and I doubled the audio track because it recorded in a mono track.

Enjoy.

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