2020 – Coming Into Focus

a5649117efe5e16222a72001a4b11a73As I write this, we are just hours from a new year, a new decade.

With the dawn of a new year, comes the opportunity to look back on what has come before and to look ahead to the endless possibilities just around the corner.

Like most of you, the past year was a mixed bag, I had highs and lows, some of them had a greater impact than others.  Some of my own creation and some that I had no control over, that’s life, it will happen again in 2020 and every year that we are blessed to walk this earth.

What I have learned through the years is, I can’t always control the situation, but I can control how I react.  For 2020, my hope is that I don’t sweat the small stuff, but concentrate on the things that matter, the things that will have impact on my life and those around me.

I pray that I never lose my sense of adventure, to dream big and step into new challenges.  Some of my best decisions have been those cockamamie choices I have made that from the outside make no sense, but in my heart are the only viable direction.

For our nation, I pray that we never forget who we are, we are America, the greatest nation to ever inhabit this planet, a nation that provides hope and opportunity to anyone willing to invest in the American dream.

Moving into 2020, my greatest fear is for our country.  We have become a polarized nation unwilling to work together for the common good.  I pray that this year, we think more before we react, we learn to look beyond our own interests and to what is best for all and I pray that above all else we learn to work together once again, our nation’s future depends on it.

I pray that our world finds long-lasting and true peace.

For each of you, I pray that your dreams will come true in 2020.  I hope that all of your goals and aspirations fall into place and that your days are filled with love, laughter and health.

Above all else, for 2020, I pray that we all find grace, hope and community. I pray that we overcome the hard times with the help of others and that we celebrate our joys together.

For 2020, I will pray for you all and ask the same in return.  For 2020, my goal is to be a little kinder, a bit more joyful, more present and understanding…. for 2020, my goal is simple, just to try and be a bit better every day.

Happy New Year friends, may God bless you in 2020!

Coach

CroweSometimes words flow easily for me, other times it’s hard… this is one of those times.

Coach Gail Crowe passed away yesterday.  December 24, 2019.  Coach Crowe had suffered from Parkinson’s Disease for several years and while we all knew she was failing, her death came like a punch to the gut, especially on Christmas Eve.

Over the next days and weeks, many accolades will be said in honor of Coach Crowe and they will all be richly deserved.  She was a teacher, coach, and mentor for students of Rabun County for decades.

As the coach of our Ladie’s Basketball team, she turned Rabun County into a powerhouse and made legends of young women like Pat McKay, LuAnn Craft, Dawn Dixon, Kim Cody and countless others.  She coached her teams to championships, but more importantly she turned her Lady Cats into winners both on and off the court.

Over the years, she taught PE, coached Basketball, was the trainer for the football team and much more, she was a permanent fixture at all games, long after her retirement.

I was thinking today, I don’t think I ever had Coach Crowe as a teacher, the lessons I learned from Coach had nothing to do with basketball, football or any other school function, the lessons I learned from Coach Crowe were from life.

For me, Crowe signified a quiet dignity for life that I embraced.  She taught me how to live in my truth, without words or gestures, she just lived.  I learned from Coach Crowe that in being a decent person, people would accept and love you.  I learned that often times our differences were more similar than anyone could imagine.  From Crowe, I learned pride and honor in who I am.

Through all the honors and accolades Coach Crowe received over the years for her time on the basketball court and in the classroom, I am sure she realized how important she was…. I just hope that in some way, she knew how important her life was for kids like me.

Coach Crowe was tough, she was a competitor, she lived to win and she let every kid she ever encountered know they were loved.  Coach Crowe lived a life of dignified grace and for that all of us were blessed by knowing her.

I will always remember Crowe and appreciate the lady that she was.  She was one of a kind, one of the best, and a legend in Rabun County, for more reasons than she probably ever knew.

Rest peacefully Coach, you were loved and will be missed.

 

 

Let Spicey Dance.

So, I was reading this morning where people are calling for a boycott of this season’s Dancing with the Stars because former White House Spokesman, Sean Spicer is one of the contestants.  REALLY?  Come on people don’t we have more important things to worry about than this?

I mean the real travesty here is that we have now gone through 28 seasons of a show and they actually call these people stars.  But that’s not the purpose of this post, I digress.

At some point we as Americans have got to stop getting butt-hurt over silliness like this.  The political left preaches inclusiveness, that is until someone who disagrees with them speaks out or gets recognized or God forbid dances on a silly TV show.

It’s all good and nice to tout how inclusive you are, but if you are going to talk the talk, at some point you have to walk the walk and understand not everyone sees things the same way you do….. and either accept it or get over it but stop the cry-baby crap and move on!

If we as Americans are going to really be inclusive, we have got to start accepting differing viewpoints, it doesn’t always have to be our way or no way.  That isn’t what our country was built on, but it certainly is what our country is being torn apart by.

And you folks on the right, don’t get all puffed chest because I called out the left on this one.  You are just as bad, you will boycott a brand, burn an album and turn your back on one of your own so fast it will make one’s head swim.  All it takes is a simple disagreement with what you believe at the moment and BAM, they are dead to you.  (Ironically, sometimes the folks you turn against really are dead.)

Do we not all see the lunacy of this?  We have become a nation of butt-hurt folks walking around just looking to be offended by the next person who speaks out, has a differing opinion or heaven forbid straps on a pair of dancing shoes.

It’s time we started acting like Americans again, not political parties.  Grow up, understand that we are at our best when we work together and LISTEN to each other.

There isn’t anything wrong with having a difference of opinion, what IS wrong is when we won’t even allow the other side to express it.  Who know’s maybe if we listened more and got offended less we might all find solutions to the issues in our world that really matter.

And that my friends is the end of my tantrum…. y’all go back to pouting now!

Bye Nike.

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I usually stay out of the political debate, except with those I am closest to.  I find I am not going to change anyone’s mind and mine is rarely changed on an issue, through debate with people I don’t know.

With that said, here I go.

Nike, I gave you the benefit of the doubt when you hired Colin Kaepernick as a spokesman.  Our views about America, our history and respect for the greatest democracy in human history don’t align, but it is your right to hire whomever you want. Afterall, he isn’t the first washed up athlete to be given a second career hocking tennis shoes and work-out apparel.

I didn’t get rid of any of my Nike, I just didn’t buy anymore.  If I wanted to throw on a hoodie or pair of socks with the familiar “swoosh” on it, I did.

That changed this week, when you decided that Kaepernick’s hurt feelings were more important than the first flag that flew as a sign of Independence for the greatest country in the history of man.

The same flag that flew over America that allowed Mr. Kaepernick to get his feelings hurt over a tennis shoe design.

I understand that there are parts of the history of our country that are shameful, but to try and erase the parts of our history that has led up to the progress we see in America today is just plain stupid.

Nike has decided that the voice of a multi-million-dollar endorsement hack is worth more than the history of our county, they have the right to support their spokesman, and I also have the right not to buy their crap.

I realize I’m not the target market for Nike, that’s cool, I just hope that for the sake of the brand, the bed wetting snowflakes who get offended by a tennis shoe design will be able to give the brand the longevity that the object of Mr. Kaepernick’s hurt feelings have given.

As a business owner, I try not to piss off anyone (except the University of Alabama and the Florida Gators, I hate them both and they can be pissed off), I may not like what you want on a t-shirt, but I’m not going to turn your business away because we have differing viewpoints, it’s just not good business.  Nike on the other hand has chosen to piss off millions of Americans by allowing an overpaid past his prime athlete to get his feelings hurt over a shoe that celebrates the history of our country.

Mr. Kaepernick obviously has issues with the United States of America, maybe he should run over to North Korea or Russia and see what they think of his “hurt feelings.”

I love my country; I love what it stands for and I even love that idiots like Nike and Kaepernick can raise their voices in dissent.  What I don’t love is people trying to erase the history of America that has brought us to where we are today.

When you erase the ugly parts of our history, people forget, and we are more apt to repeat the mistakes of the past.  We still haven’t succeeded in getting to that “more perfect union,” but we are a hell of a lot closer than we used to be.

Mr. Kaepernick is entitled to his hurt feelings; Nike is entitled to turn their backs on millions of potential customers, and I am entitled to walk away from the brand.

But what they are NOT entitled to do is erase the history of America, the good, the bad and the ugly.

 

She Put Music In My Heart

Ann AlfordToday I told a friend that I write when I grieve, there may not be enough words for this one.

Ann Alford has finished her concerto and now she has gone home to play for the Lord.

I was at the dentist office this morning waiting to be called to the back.  As I scrolled through Facebook, I saw a post from my friend Von, about Ms A passing.  I hoped it was someone else, but once I got back to my office I looked further and found out indeed it was her.

My heart immediately broke and I had to take a few minutes outside to myself, all I could think about was how much she loved us, all of us.

We were her band kids, a mis-matched group of high-school students that she challenged, rode hard, and saw reach our potential, all under her watchful eye.

I had quit band in the eight grade, too cool to be a band geek; that is until my 10th grade year when Ms. Alford told me I WOULD be in the symphonic band.  I didn’t argue with her, I just signed up.

I wasn’t a very good trumpet player and years away from the horn made me even worse.  I sat last seat, but she made me know I was where I belonged.  She pushed me and eventually I started to get better.

By the time marching season rolled around in the Fall, I was no longer last seat, I had graduated all the way up to third from last.

Ms. Alford drove us to be our best.  When we screwed up, we ran laps, when we didn’t live up to our potential, she had a steely gaze that could melt the toughest exterior, but we never doubted she loved us.

We were her kids and nothing made her prouder than when we did well.  As she flailed her arms to the beat, that wicked smile would sneak in and the twinkle in her eyes let us know we had it.

One year, as we were preparing for Marching Festival we had been a mess, it seemed like nothing we did was coming together to the standards Ms. Alford had set for us, not to mention the standards we had set for ourselves.

Thursday afternoon before Festival on Saturday, when it was time for rehearsal, we were instructed to meet Ms. Alford at the practice field and leave our instruments in the band room.

This couldn’t be good.

As we approached the field, I think we all expected to be running laps and marching drills, but when we arrived, cupcakes and drinks awaited us.

We got a pep talk that day about how good we were and how if we just put it all on the field, there was nothing or no one that could beat us.  Needless to say, we pulled all Superiors on Saturday beating much larger bands in the process.

Going into Symphonic Band Season, our end of season Festival would be the competition that would prove just how good we were.  Symphonic season wasn’t like football season, it was all about technique and skill, not putting on a great show.

On the first day of Symphonic Season, Ms. Alford put two pieces of music in front of us that had more sharps, tempo-changes and notes than most of us had ever seen before.

If I remember correctly the music was “Firebird” and a piece called “Mosque.” (Feel free to correct me if I am wrong.)

As we struggled through those pieces of music, Ms. Alford wouldn’t let us be defeated.  We were challenged in ways we never imagined and finally the notes started to fall into place, the tempos came and all those sharps didn’t seem so difficult any longer.

By the time Festival rolled around, we knew we were good, we knew we had it and so did she.  We walked onto that stage knowing we were about to blow the roof off and we did.

The smile on Ms. Alford’s face when we finished will always be etched on my heart.  Once again we ranked all Superiors and got a standing ovation from the crowd when we hit our last notes.

Ms. Alford knew our potential and she knew how to pull it out of us.

After symphonic season, we began planning for our Spring Concert, my favorite concert of the year.

The Spring Concert featured more familiar songs, ones that we could have fun with.  Not long before the spring concert season began, I had been chosen to participate in a regional competition in voice.

One of the pieces of music we would be playing that year during the Spring Concert was selections from the Broadway musical “A Chorus Line.”

Ms. Alford had an idea, I would sing “What I Did for Love,” the big solo number featured in the musical, I would be accompanied by the band.  YIKES, nothing like some pressure.

True to form, Ms. Alford coached me through it and on the day of our performance, I stepped to the microphone and did it, I sang accompanied by my fellow band members.

For all the years that I knew her, she was ill, but she never, ever let her illness affect her dedication to us.

She showed up every day, she challenged us and challenged her body to keep going.  She was dedicated to us and we were dedicated to her.

The last time I saw Ms. Alford was about eight years ago at my nephew’s High School graduation.

I had spotted her in the crowd shortly after we took our seats and she spotted me about the same time.  She smiled, I smiled and I mouthed “I love you.”  She smiled brighter.

After the ceremony was over, I made my way over to where she was, “Ken Rumsey, get over here and give me a hug,” she said and I did.  I hugged her with all my might and she hugged me right back.

She wanted to know about me and when I asked about how she was, in true Ann Alford form she never complained, she just laughed and said “old and mean.”  She was neither,  in my eyes and heart, she was still the loving woman who challenged me to be my best.

Ann Alford was more than a teacher.  She was an inspiration to a lot of kids that needed it, myself included.  She taught us to never settle for anything but our best.

Ms. Alford has now passed, I wish I had gotten to tell her one more time how much she meant to me and how much I loved her, but I suspect she knew that.

We all loved her and when the music fills my heart and my spirit soars, I know she is there, counting the beat and striking up the band.

Thanks Ms. Alford, this band geek owes you more than words can ever express and grieves more at your passing that one blog post can ever relay.