I have decided to join in the time honored (and ridiculed) tradition of compiling a top ten list to close out 2008. The following is my Top Ten Events Of 2008 That Affected Me. Read on and enjoy the memories (unless you had no idea any of this happened in which they would not be a memory but more like an announcement which you can still enjoy just not as a memory). The list is in chronological order.

  1. I followed through with an idea I had toyed with for a long time and self-published a book of stories, blurbs and drawings. Digital technology finally allowed me to design and produce my own tome, sold ridiculously cheap (Shameless Plug Alert) here. Although it was self published, there was a sense of fulfillment that accompanied the process and I was happy with the end product.
  2. In February I was informed by my dermatologist that I had a cancerous melanoma on my right calf. It was caught in the early stages and, after surgery, all traces were removed. Having the word cancer and your name riding the same sentence together is disconcerting, no matter how reassuring the doctors were when describing it to me.
  3. Our family took two trips in the summer and both were memorable. In late May the whole family flew to California to attend Laura’s graduation from Calvary Chapel Bible College. My brother and his family joined us and we spent a long weekend touring, eating and laughing. (Pictures are here.) At the end of the summer we all attended my parents 50th wedding anniversary celebration in Tennessee. Over 50 family members from all over the U.S. attended and we had a great time. We capped off the visit with a memorial service for my grandmother who had passed away in the spring just a few days shy of her 103rd birthday. (Pictures from that week are here.)
  4. In June, Florida State sent their baseball team to the College World Series for the first time in several years. Although the team didn’t last long in Omaha, it was fun to follow them during the year and finally be rewarded for a great season.
  5. In July I left Taproot Creative and took a job with the state as a designer for The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. After toiling in the private sector it was a bit of a shock to the system to lurch back into the public sector side of life. It was not the easiest decision I ever made but, ultimately, it was the right one. I am still an emotional part of Taproot and was rewarded with the traditional Taproot shirt this past week. That made me feel good.
  6. I discovered Twitter. Come, follow me and join the inanity of the next social media “App of the Week.” For some reason I enjoy sending out the tweets and reading other folks short bursts of blab.
  7. Hope’s mother passed away in September after a lengthy battle with a number of health issues. Hope was her primary care giver and was a marvelous example of being a daughter to the end. (I wrote about it here.)
  8. Thanks to my friend Ron, I discovered the fun of trail riding on bikes this past fall. He allowed me to use his old bike and I have really enjoyed our weekend rides on the various trails around Tallahassee. I was even inspired to ride home from work on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It has been nice to discover a way to get off the sofa that does not involve a gym membership.
  9. My youngest son had his first solo gig as a singer/songwriter this past November when he was asked to perform at Ilations, a Friday night gathering sponsored by one of the local churches. He sang five original songs and I was chief videographer (results here) and proud dad. The second part of that was a lot easier than the first. More to come, I am sure.
  10. The year closed out with the engagement of our oldest son to his girlfriend two days before Christmas. It was a very special night that I was thrilled to be a part. I chronicled it in detail here, including a video of the event.

As you wave goodbye to 2008, fasten your seat belt for 2009 and prepare to enjoy...


When Civilizations Collide

Something that has always interested me is the dynamic of relationships. How and why we get along (or don’t), acknowledging the baggage that each of us brings into every relationship and situation and trying to understand how that colors every conversation. I have no answers, just increasingly complicated questions about how all of this works (or doesn’t). I know the dynamic exists and I try to allow that to color my response to people but that type of effort can get complicated really quick, mainly because I have my own baggage to deal with. Sure, I am trying to get past all of that, trying to grow up and out of the old skin but, once the old is sloughed off, I assume another fresh layer is added, dictated by what I went through last year or last week (or yesterday). Are we ever baggage free? Is all baggage bad? Discuss amongst yourselves...

The following paragraph is from the book “Gilead” by Marilynne Robinson. The story is marvelous, one that deserves a slow read because practically every sentence is worth your time. This snippet jumped out at me and is a nice capper to my thoughts about relationships. Again, no answers, just some grist to mentally grind.

“Every single one of us is a little civilization built on the ruins of any number of preceding civilizations, but with our own variants of notions of what is beautiful and what is acceptable—which, I hasten to add, we generally do not satisfy and by which we struggle to live. We take fortuitous resemblances among us to be actual likeness, because those around us have also fallen heir to the same customs, trade in the same coin, acknowledge, more or less, the same notions of decency and sanity. But all that really allows us to coexist with the inviolable, untraversable, and utterly vast spaces between us.”



A Very Special Christmas

Last night was ground breaking in the Colle home. My oldest child asked his girlfriend to marry him in front of over 30 family and friends. Before you view the video (below) it is worth a few minutes of back story...

Jul and William have been talking about getting married for a few months (and have even been looking at rings) but wanted to wait to get engaged until January or February to let the holidays pass and to keep the engagement short, hopefully around one year. William decided to jump the gun and surprise her so a ring was purchased. The only thing left was to plan the proposal. Jul's desire was to include all of their friends and family when they got engaged so that was all the opening we needed. (Okay, "we" is somewhat of a stretch. Let's be honest and say it was all the opening Hope needed. She and William dealt with the details and came up with a wonderful plan—wonderful because it worked!) The final plan was to have a big party on December 22 and include both families, friends and celebrate not only the season but also to welcome our daughter home from a semester in Italy. During the party we would conduct a gift exchange and make sure Jul got "the" gift in the midst of the proceedings. Everyone invited was let in on the real purpose of the night which was a little dangerous but ensured 100% participation. The one person not informed was Jul’s mom only because it would have put too much pressure on her to not insist that Jul get her nail’s done or question her outfit for the evening--subtle “mom clues” that may have planted a seed in Jul’s mind that something was up. All indications were that Jul had no idea what was afoot so everyone did their best job of acting the part of casual party guest all the while nervously waiting for the big moment.

As guests arrived, I handed them a number (and made sure Jul got #5), took their gifts and stacked them on the floor. When everyone had arrived I made a production out of randomly numbering the gifts and made sure “the gift” was labeled with a five. Then the gift exchange began. Numbers one through four went smoothly and then...


Story Interruption

The week of Christmas would not be complete without at least one reference to one of the top Christmas movies of all time, Christmas Vacation. Enjoy...

Clark: Since this is Aunt Bethany's 80th Christmas, I think she should lead us in the saying of Grace.
Aunt Bethany: [turns to Lewis] What, dear?
Nora Griswold: Grace!
Aunt Bethany: Grace? She passed away thirty years ago.
Uncle Lewis: They want you to say Grace.
[Bethany shakes her head in confusion]
Uncle Lewis: The BLESSING!
Aunt Bethany: [they all pose for prayer] I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands/ One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Clark: Amen.


Oh, Tanner Baum (Pt. 5 of 5)

Note: Call me lazy (I can take it) but I have decided to re-post the Christmas story I wrote a few years ago. Yes, it ran on this blog before and, even though I am loathe to re-post old material, I like this story and thought it was worth another spin around the digital block. Today (Sunday) is the first chapter and the story will conclude on Christmas Day. Enjoy...

“Right side, spin!” The kids holding the tree on the right spun their tree one-quarter around. This was followed by a moment of silence before daddy barked, “Left side, spin!” The kids on the left quickly obeyed. “Left side, spin!” They turned it once again. When daddy told the kids on the right to spin their tree back to its original position, daddy’s plan became crystal clear. It was like the heavens opened up and a big angel choir started singing one of those fancy church songs. Even the Man Scout muttered, “Well I’ll be…” Without being told the kids holding each tree moved toward each other, stopping as their two trunks met. The result was one of the most beautiful, full trees any of us had ever seen in our lives. Daddy had found two perfect halves to make a glorious whole and his reputation as a blessed genius was forever seared in our minds.

After a few moments of respectful silence, daddy grabbed the saw and twine from the Man Scout and instructed the kids not to move. He started snipping and hacking, ridding each tree of its bad parts until the two orphans fit together like Siamese twins. Then he grabbed the twine and united the two at the top, middle and bottom, securing them so tightly that no man would ever put them asunder. When daddy was through, the Man Scout offered to hold the tree (it was one now) and let the whole Baum crew inspect Daddy’s work. “Spin!” we all shouted at once and repeated it until we had seen the tree from every angle. It was perfect, probably the best-looking Christmas tree we had ever found. Then I had an idea that, weirdly, seemed to strike all of us kids at once, because we all grabbed hands and let out the biggest silent scream we had ever mustered. Daddy laughed but the Man Scout lost his smile briefly. I believe he happened to be looking at Hootie and, if you’re not ready for it, his silent scream can disturb you.

As we piled into the van, Oleta remembered Bart and wished out loud that he could have witnessed our Christmas miracle. Cecil said he believed the Man Scout would be telling that story for a lot of years to come so he was sure Bart would hear about it. Then everybody started talking at the same time and, for once, Daddy didn’t try to shut us up. It was a very special night indeed.

© 2008 Jay Colle

Oh, Tanner Baum (Pt. 4 of 5)

Note: Call me lazy (I can take it) but I have decided to re-post the Christmas story I wrote a few years ago. Yes, it ran on this blog before and, even though I am loathe to re-post old material, I like this story and thought it was worth another spin around the digital block. Today (Sunday) is the first chapter and the story will conclude on Christmas Day. Enjoy...

As we started running toward the tree Bart was holding, we all stopped at the same time and stared. The tree was pathetic. The trunk was crooked and the left side of it looked like it had survived a hurricane, limbs curled back over themselves and needles sticking every way but right. There was no way daddy would accept a tree in that condition and he proved me right by telling Bart to get that one out of his site and grab another. The next one Daddy pointed to got displayed a lot quicker because all of the kids were helping. We couldn’t help the way the tree looked, though. It was possibly more wretched than the first one. It was so bad that daddy didn’t even have us spin it, not even once. Daddy decided to change his luck by trying another row of trees, but each one we pulled out to show him was pitiful. They were either really thin or had giant holes in them big enough for baby Cephus to hide in. Daddy was spinning and pointing that stick so fast he looked like a wizard casting spells, except he would have to be from the Minnesota Wizard Clan where they are more accepting of flannel and lace-up boots.

Whatever he was trying to conjure up with that stick it wasn’t working. Every single tree we hauled in front of him was useless. I was starting to get scared and, by the amount of fingernail chewing being conducted by my brothers and sisters, they were too. Bart had to go home when his momma came to pick him up an hour into our hunt. He looked relieved. As we all gathered around the latest choice, Daddy told me to run get one of the adult Boy Scouts because he had some questions for him. I grabbed the first dude I found and we hurried to the back of the lot to talk to Daddy.

Daddy didn’t give the Man Scout a chance to introduce himself before he barked, “Sir, your allotment of trees this season is deplorable. What say you?”

“I’m afraid you’re right, Mr. Baum. Seems we tried a different supplier this year and what they sent us has been a bit disappointing.”

“Disappointing? That, my man, is a gross understatement. These trees should be burned!” I admit I would love to see a whole Christmas tree lot set on fire but I know what Daddy was getting at. So did the Man Scout.

“I tell you what I can do, Mr. Baum. If you can find something in here you can work with, I’ll sell it to you half price.” When daddy heard that offer, he softened up a little. If coupons are big in the Baum family then half-off deals are huge. The Man Scout was speaking Daddy’s language.

Daddy placed both his hands behind his back and took on a serious look. He stared at the Man Scout and said, “I will take that offer under advisement and let you know in a reasonable time what my decision will be.”

“As long as a reasonable time is within fifteen minutes because we close at nine.”

Daddy turned away from him and started to pace. This was a good sign because when daddy paced it seemed to charge up the part of his brain where The Genius lives. Some near miracles have occurred from Daddy’s hands once he has spent a little time pondering. The kids knew to let him be and work through it on his own time. After ten minutes the Man Scout got tired of waiting and he walked back to the front to begin the process of shutting down the lot for the night. In all my years of hunting the tree, we have never come home empty handed, proving that when Daddy got the special feeling, great things happened. I could not imagine tonight would be different but just as a little seedling of despair started to germinate in my gut, daddy stopped, turned to face us and pointed the measuring stick at me.

“Tanner, go find the man in charge and tell him to bring me a saw and a ball of twine and meet us in aisle two. The rest of you, follow me. There is work to be done.” I ran off to find the Man Scout. Daddy was getting us a Christmas tree.

By the time we found Daddy and the kids, they had pulled two nasty trees out of the stack and had them lying on the ground right next to each other. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what daddy had planned but I was in no position to doubt him. He instructed my brothers and sisters to stand the trees straight up and hold them side-by-side. When that was done, he stepped back, setting one end of the measuring stick on the ground, holding it out from his body, looking like Moses before he parted the Red Sea. Since I wasn’t a participant at that particular miracle, what followed next will have to suffice as my Children of Israel moment. Daddy started barking out instructions, simple and clear, and that’s when we all knew daddy was either a genius or a saint.

© 2008 Jay Colle

Oh, Tanner Baum (Pt. 3 of 5)

Note: Call me lazy (I can take it) but I have decided to re-post the Christmas story I wrote a few years ago. Yes, it ran on this blog before and, even though I am loathe to re-post old material, I like this story and thought it was worth another spin around the digital block. Today (Sunday) is the first chapter and the story will conclude on Christmas Day. Enjoy...

As we approached the entrance the smell of pines buckled my knees--caused by my stomach’s memory of that afternoon--but I recovered by taking a swig of ginger ale from Cecil’s flask. He was always getting car sick so he had special permission to carry carbonated soda with him every time he rode in the car, no matter how short the trip. Fortunately, since ginger ale lacked caffeine, it didn’t interfere with his Ritalin. Since I had to hesitate in the parking lot to settle my stomach, I got left behind. By the time I caught up, Daddy had already grabbed a measuring pole and was marching into the first row of trees. Boy Scout Troup 1412 always ran this particular tree lot and we kept coming back every year because they gave returning customers $5.00 off the purchase of a tree. Coupons are a big deal to the Baum family. I found daddy and the crew halfway down aisle one, being led by one of Troup 1412’s finest, a little dude with buckteeth sporting his Scout shirt, scarf, khaki shorts and what looked like size twelve white sneakers. He looked nervous and I was guessing he was probably new. No one ever waited on Daddy twice. As I got closer I could hear Daddy getting ready to explain why.

“What was your name again, son?”

“Bart, sir.”

“Okay, Bart, here are my expectations for the evening. If you want to sell me a Christmas tree, you will need to follow these rules. One, I point to a tree I am interested in with the measuring stick. You will then pull it into the aisle and hold it straight. Two, I will measure for height, which will determine its price, which will determine whether it is in our price range. If it qualifies, we will proceed to three, which will require you to spin the tree one-quarter turns when I say the word ‘spin.’ I will say the word four times and you will spin the tree four times until I have inspected the tree from every angle. Understood?”

“Yes, sir.” Bart’s response was barely a whisper and his hand was shaking as he mindlessly raised it, holding up three fingers like he was going to start reciting the Boy Scout pledge. Daddy smiled and then made everyone jump by spinning 90 degrees and pointing the measuring stick toward his first evergreen subject, shouting “That one!” Bart recovered and ran over to Daddy’s choice, pulled it out of the stack and dragged it to the middle of the aisle. We all watched silently as he struggled to gain enough leverage to pull it upright. He was so little that it took him a long time to get it balanced perpendicular to the ground. By the time he succeeded, he was sweating through his shirt and his hair was starting to stick to the sides of his face.

“Good Lord, man!” Daddy shouted. “If you’re that slow with all of these trees we’ll need to order breakfast!” Bart was deflated and right before he started to cry, Daddy told us kids to help him with the trees, which was what we were waiting to hear. Humiliating a Boy Scout is part of the Baum family tree buying tradition, at least for Daddy.

© 2008 Jay Colle

Oh, Tanner Baum (Pt. 2 of 5)

Note: Call me lazy (I can take it) but I have decided to re-post the Christmas story I wrote a few years ago. Yes, it ran on this blog before and, even though I am loathe to re-post old material, I like this story and thought it was worth another spin around the digital block. Today (Sunday) is the first chapter and the story will conclude on Christmas Day. Enjoy...

When Daddy’s car pulled into the carport every one of us was dressed and ready to go. As he walked through the family room and passed in front of all of us sitting lined up on the sofa, he nodded approvingly and told us he needed to change clothes and then we would leave. When he left the room we all grabbed hands and simultaneously contorted our faces into silent screams. I kept my eye on Hootie during the scream because he always made the best faces due to his lazy eye and his current transition between baby teeth and permanent.

My father is shaped like a box. He is as wide and tall as he is thick. If he ever had a visible neck it was long gone before any pictures were taken of him. He has great posture but he is as wide as a door jam and he walks with tiny, bouncy steps that make it look like he is skipping everywhere he goes. I guess he’s kind of funny looking but we never laugh about it because we’re used to it. He’s not the snazziest dresser but the one day Daddy can be counted on to look fine is the day we get our Christmas tree. This time he put on a crisp pair of blue jeans held up by plain brown suspenders that overlapped his favorite green and red plaid flannel shirt. He always rolled up the sleeves, one turn each, because it gave him some breathing room when he needed to slide on his gloves. The rugged, manly, leather gloves hung exactly halfway out of his right back pocket, thumbs lined up, far enough away not to be a nuisance but close enough to grab when needed. On his feet were a pair of boots purchased over ten years ago that were still as shiny as the day he bought them. They were brown to match his suspenders and they were cut high, climbing midway to his knees, which gave him ample room to tuck his jeans into the top before he laced them, tight and secure, tied with a double knot. The whole fashion package was topped off with a bright orange John Deere baseball hat. Daddy liked wearing it really high on his head. I think he thought it made him look taller but it really just looked like he needed a bigger hat.

When he walked out of the bedroom and stood framed in the doorway, he was the coolest daddy that any of us had ever seen. I had witnessed the transformation for 12 years and the initial sensation of pride never faded. Our daddy was going to get us a Christmas tree and we were going to help.

The only person in the house not allowed to go with us was Momma. Daddy liked having her stay back at the house to make sure the tree lights were functioning and all the ornament boxes were open and ready to be raided. Whenever Daddy kissed her goodbye she would salute and thank him in advance for the task he was about to undertake. The way Momma smiled when she said it made me wonder if she was talking about getting the tree or the fact that Daddy was taking all five kids out of the house at once by himself. Either way, I liked the salute and I think he did too. We all piled into the mini-van and once Daddy was sure we were all buckled in, he got us on the road, heading out to find our tree.

The Methodist Church was only five blocks away but it felt like eight. It always seems to take longer to get some place than it does to get back. Daddy found a parking space right near the front of the tree lot and, before he turned off the van and unlocked the doors, he turned in his seat, as much as his body would let him, and went over the rules just like he does every year. “Number one: don’t act like little hooligans when we get out of the car. You represent our family and its good name while you’re in public. Number two: Help me with this one… Who makes the final decision about which tree we buy?”

We all shouted, “Daddy!” And with that we were released.

© 2008 Jay Colle

Oh, Tanner Baum (Pt. 1 of 5)

Note: Call me lazy (I can take it) but I have decided to re-post the Christmas story I wrote a few years ago. Yes, it ran on this blog before and, even though I am loathe to re-post old material, I like this story and thought it was worth another spin around the digital block. Today (Sunday) is the first chapter and the story will conclude on Christmas Day. Enjoy...

My daddy set his fork down, placed his elbows on the either side of his plate, laced his fingers almost directly in front of his face and cleared his throat. The rest of us occupying the rim of the breakfast table swallowed whatever we were chewing, sat up straight and quickly shut up.

“When I get home from work tonight, we are going out to get our Christmas tree. Everyone be ready at six p.m. sharp. We will depart at 6:01.” The buzz surging around the table was strong enough to reheat momma’s burnt biscuits. In other households picking out the Christmas tree may be seen as mundane or even a chore but in the Baum home, there was no bigger event. For us, it marked the official beginning of the holiday season and was an activity that involved the entire family. Six o’clock couldn’t get here fast enough and everyone would be ready. Tardiness would not be an issue.

I’m the second child in a string of five, all of us tow headed and thin. Too thin, according to my grandmother, but I think it’s because my momma refuses to get glasses and she tends to burn half our dinner because she can’t read directions or the numbers on the stove. Even though a diet of charcoal isn’t very filling, the plus side is we all have very pleasant breath. Since I’m almost the oldest, I have experienced the Christmas tree gathering almost more than any of the other kids. Momma told me it wasn’t as big a deal when it was just she and Daddy but something came over him when she birthed my older sister. Momma said he jumped from not caring too much about the tree to caring way too much, but she likes this way better even if he does take it too seriously. I’m glad he does because our trees are always the best in the neighborhood every year, and daddy says that doesn’t happen by accident. “Planning, preparation and perfect timing” are the three “P’s” Daddy lives by, and we don’t go get our tree until he says it’s time. I guess he woke up this morning and could sense today was the day because he wouldn’t have made the announcement unless he felt it deep in his spirit. And he sounded mighty sure this morning, like he had a special feeling, more special than other years.

I couldn’t concentrate in any of my classes at school knowing what was waiting for me when I got home. I got called out by three different teachers for not hearing a question or just staring out the window. I snuck one of Momma’s pine scented air fresheners into my locker at school to serve as a pungent reminder of the upcoming event but after lunch I almost messed up everything by getting sick to my stomach from sniffing my math book. Daddy doesn’t take the weak and infirmed on the tree hunt and that includes children with queasy stomachs. For the last fifteen minutes of my final class I just stared at the clock, watching the second hand spin toward three o’clock. If I was given an assignment during that time I have no idea what it was because I was paying zero attention to my teacher. I ran all the way home, which was pretty stupid since we live three miles away and all of my siblings had already finished their snack before I got home because they rode the bus. I put up with the laughing and the name calling from my brothers and sisters because it was such a special day, although I will remember to get back at Oleta for continuing to chant “treetarded” long after everyone had agreed it wasn’t very funny.

© 2008 Jay Colle


Room of Rest

In the short alcove leading to the men’s bathroom near my office is a door that, behind it’s coded lock, holds an ice maker. Apparently, quite a few people know the combination because I often see people walking away from the area when I am headed to use the facilities. It is a little disconcerting seeing women walking out of the space and it makes me check the sign on the wall to make sure I am walking into the proper restroom. Every mistaken trip through the wrong door from my past gurgles up and makes me pause and double check. That reminds me of a story...

I began struggling through the Wednesday night service approximately five minutes after the teaching started. My need to urinate was a small blip before church started so I ignored it and again during the break after worship. The urge began to surge from distant to immediate as our pastor was winding up his teaching and I decided I would slip out during the final prayer and deal with the situation before having to battle the crush of people at the end of the service. As soon as everyone settled into their prayer stance, I quietly and slowly walked out through the door in the back of the church and then broke into the familiar “I have got to pee really, really bad but if I run too fast I will regret it” trot. I turned the corner, pushed through the door and walked straight to a stall. Relief was immediate and, not surprisingly, interminable which was punctuated by the band in the sanctuary (pumped through the speakers in the bathroom) playing the song “Everlasting.” I smiled, appreciating the irony.

As things were winding down, the door to the bathroom flew open and a group of boys came rushing in, loud and frenetic. My wife and I had been leading the music for children’s church for several months so I had a feeling that I knew the trouble makers, even though I had no visual verification since I was still in the stall. To scare them I put on my deepest, manly voice and said, “Settle down in here!” It was greeted with dead silence. I chuckled as I zipped my pants and opened the stall door. What greeted me was the wide eyes of five young girls, all cowering in a row, lined up by the sink. I was confused. “What are you all doing in here?” I asked. One of them scrapped up enough courage to whisper, “This is the girl’s bathroom.” The immediate hot flush of humiliation flooded my face as, for the first time, I noticed there were no urinals and I was, in fact, standing in the ladies restroom, looking down on the same faces I saw every Sunday morning. Only now they were not smiling and singing, they were scared.

I muttered an apology and quickly left the bathroom, almost knocking over another lady who was entering. As I fought through the mass of people in the lobby, a small thought began fighting through my embarrassment: “What are those girls going to tell their parents? And what happens after that? This could turn into a huge nightmare of misunderstanding, quick.” I knew I was going to have to explain myself to a number of people, a preemptive confession to, hopefully, hold the outraged parents at bay. I sought out the lady in charge of the children’s ministry and explained what had happened and, fortunately, she thought it was hilarious. I then sought out each parent of the girls and discovered that every one of them already knew, courtesy of their daughters. Some smiled, some laughed, some looked at me a little critically but all gave their forgiveness and the benefit of the doubt. The one concession I made was that I placed a moratorium on the song “I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me” at Children’s Church for at least four months. Oddly enough, no one has requested it since.


Tuesday Twaddle

If I had to choose which of my five senses I could live without, I choose smell. When I take into account the plusses and minuses of this quandary (albeit a fake quandary—and aren’t those the best kind?) I gravitate to smell because the postives outweight the negatives. Sure, it would be a drag to not catch a whiff of your wife’s perfume or a great meal being prepared but there are plenty of things out there that I would be happy to never smell again. I’ll take those odds.

I have a slight fear of going blind. It isn’t consuming or debilitating but it is something I think about every time my eyes start giving me trouble. I have even attempted to learn to touch type (more times than I care to admit) just in case I lose my sight and still have a desire to write. If I was to be analyzed—please, don’t—it makes sense that I would be worried about going blind. My whole career is based on the visual arts so it is a need buried deep inside me. But I assume I could adapt. Many before me have although I’d rather not find out first hand.

I have discovered that what music I have on my iPod is almost as important as tire pressure when I am riding my bike home from work. I own an old school iPod Shuffle, the one shaped like a Vienna Finger cookie, so it is perfect for my hour-long ride. Currently I am listening to a combination of Elbow, Toy Matinee and Glen Phillips and it is a nice contrast to the large, fast moving automobiles screaming by me at uncomfortable distances. It quells my potential road rage.

I have been dealing a lot with truth lately. At least the idea of truth. I write that because the more I think about truth, I realize it is much closer to a concept than a fact. We say we want the truth from everyone and I have no doubt we think we do. It is defnitely a noble concept and something we all assume we should aspire to. But, and this is going to sound cliche and silly, what is truth? Every one of us brings into every situation a lot of baggage, some of it light but most of it pretty hefty. I am no psychologist, but this baggage has to color what we think truth looks like. Combine our individual baggage with that fact that there is no such thing as a “normal” situation (normal according to who?) and we have the makings of unlimited versions of truth with a lot of different people thinking they own the most accurate version. So is it still true that 95% true is still a lie? According to who?


Friday Freebie

sad, yet confident.

© 2008 Jay Colle


Planning It, Old School

Yesterday the office manager stuck her head into my office and asked me if I wanted a planner for the next year. Someone had ordered refills and the company had sent a brand new leather folio along with a starter kit of inserts and she did not want to send it back. My first thought was “How very 1990’s of us to be using analog daily planners in this digital age.” Then I remembered that this was the same office that included a box of brand new 3.25” floppy disks (1.44 mb capacity!) as part of my welcome package--four months ago. My second thought (or would that be the third?) was “Heck yeah, I’ll take it” and I actually said that out loud. For some reason, the idea of having a new planner, analog or not, inspired me. There is something intoxicating about notebooks, potential creativity and (possibly) a new pen that I cannot resist.

After she brought it to me and I unwrapped all of the inserts, it dawned on me that, regardless my excitement, I was not going to go back to the Luddite way of conducting my life, adding phone numbers and daily tasks to a notebook when I already had a pretty good system within my digital world (like most people in the working world... outside The State Offices, that is). But the folio smelled good (Mmmm, leather) and it seemed like a waste to stick it in a drawer or on a shelf and forget about it. So I went online to see what FranklinCovey offered in the way of insert options, hoping to be inspired (or re-inspired) to use my new leather planner. Lo, on yonder home page blared the weekly special: 100 sheets of simply lined paper for the Classic planner (mine) for $5.00. I ordered two and decided I could use the folio as a writing notebook. A very fancy writing notebook. And I could add it to the other four, very plain, writing notebooks I have sitting strategically around the house and in my briefcase. And I already have my defense ready when my wife finds it in a random place (and she will) and she asks why I needed another notebook--albeit a fancy notebook--when I already have several that still have empty pages. I’ll ask her, “Have you smelled that notebook?” I’m pretty sure that will work.


Pancho Gato

© 2008 Jay Colle


Monday Ruminations

The national championship game between Florida and Oklahoma should be a lot of fun to watch. I am just grateful that a slow, Big Ten team is not being sacrificed in the final game this year. We had enough of that over the last few seasons. To be reminded how painful that is to watch, be sure to tune in when Penn State takes on USC in the Rose Bowl.

I cannot thank my wife enough for her house decorating skills this time of year. Her tasteful transformation of our home into a Winter Wonderland makes me want to just sit in the living room every night and enjoy.

Speaking of Christmas, we dropped off all of the Christmas cards into the mail on Saturday morning. I enjoy concepting, creating and pulling them together but it is a tangible relief when they are all in the mail.

It is getting harder and harder to secure a “religous” themed stamp for the Christmas cards. I went with nutcrackers this year. Potential metaphors abound but don’t spend too much time connecting the dots; there really is nothing there. (Or is there?)

Two weeks from today my wife and I drive to Atlanta to pick up our daughter who will be returning from a semester in Italy. All indications are she will be home for a little while, not returning for the spring semester. Fine with me. I miss her.


Fabulous Friday Factoid

Roughly 70 percent of Americans who go to college do it just to make more money.


Emu-tional Moments

I have filled several 3-ring binders with drawings I have created over the years. Most of the drawings are projects I gave myself to pass the time, sort of like a hobby. The remaining are either paid jobs or not-paid jobs. In other words, I drew them with every intention of being paid but the project either fizzled or I never heard from the "client" ever again. This also includes the people, too numerous to count, who suckered me into doing a freebie with the prospects of "more paying work in the future." (Uhm, yeah.) Today I share with you one of the members of the latter category. Someone was going to market and sell emu oil for medicinal purposes and they approached me with the great idea of creating a cartoon character as the "spokesperson" which was an emu dressed as a doctor (or is that a doctor masquerading as an emu?). Regardless, I provided the artwork and for some reason the project never left the ground. (Irony Alert: Emu's can't fly!) Enjoy this one from the archives.


End of Weekend Randomness

For absolutely no reason at all:


Happy Thanksgiving

I leave you with a drawing from a series I created many moons ago. I attempted to give turkeys some ideas on how to hide at Thanksgiving. This was one of my favorites. Enjoy but enjoy tomorrow even more...


Tuesday Tracking

In October, Dave Fiore encouraged me to apply the Google Analytics code to this blog. I entered this phase of my blogging “career” with more than a little trepidation. The whole purpose of this blog is to give me an outlet to rant, share and create, regardless of who reads it. To actually see the hard numbers of the traffic on the site was potentially intimidating. Sort of. Since Oct. 16 (when I installed the software), the results are about what I expected in terms of total visits (445) with 84 unique visitors. I have had a high of 19 visits on several days and have never experienced a day with no one showing up. (Thanks for that mom and dad; keep up the good work!) What has been the most fascinating aspect of the reporting is that I have had visits from nine different countries. Having a daughter in Italy helped with that stat as well as my insistence that she check my site when she visited Norway. Some of the other countries are more puzzling. Iran, Brazil, and Poland all have one visit and the United Kingdom and Germany check in with two visits each. Canada is the other lone “single digit” country with four visits. Since the first group visited but never returned I will surmise they showed up by mistake but it is still pretty cool to see the countries listed. (No, the thought that my site did not interest them never crossed my mind. Why do you ask?) I promise I will not bore you with this information on a regular basis but I thought one report of the report wouldn’t hurt. Who knows, it might entice my new friend from Tehran to visit again.

Tuesday Trivial Tableau


Friday Musings

I rode the bike home from work again yesterday. Without a headwind and armed with some familiarity of the route, I arrived at the house five minutes earlier than Tuesday. Okay, five minutes is no record savings but it was an improvement. One thing that I am excited about is I am able to use my honed “whispered greeting” skills as I ride the bike, thanking the cars that do not pull out in front of me with a wave and a mouthed “thank you.” The circle of life continues.

I could not find the television remote last night. Nothing can make you feel more foolish than envisioning how you look as you crawl around the floor looking under chairs and cushions for the lost device. It is a powerful little machine, not only in its control of your TV but, maybe more so, in its control over the user. Unfortunately, the new TVs are practically useless without a remote control (which is what every person searching for one swears is a fact) so finding it was paramount to my plans for later in the evening (see the next paragraph). It was finally located but in a very odd, but explainable, place. Apparently it had been swept up inside a blanket that was stored in its proper place under the coffee table. The odd part was it had somehow made its way inside the blanket—a handmade quilt—so I had to sit on the sofa and push it around the edges until I found the hole it entered from. The things we do for love.

Last night I spent some quality time on the Man Porch. My wife was off at a meeting and the boys were not home so I ran the double-double. The TV in the house (visible from a chair on the porch) was displaying the Thursday night college football game and the TV on the porch was showing the FSU/Stetson basketball game. I burned a Sancho Panza, ate some plain M&M’s and enjoyed the cool weather. Although outcomes are not critical to Man Porch success, both teams I was pulling for won. Another stellar night at home.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to watch sports with no emotional attachment to the outcome. To simply watch a game and admire the quality (or not) of play. It will never happen—it is too late—and it could be what makes the games so enjoyable is the emotional investment. I think you could still appreciate a good play or lament a mistake but, at the end of the game, still be able to say, “Good game” and not care who won. Would that be a refreshing experience? Or an empty exercise and a waste of time? Discuss amongst yourselves.

This morning I discovered that the difference between a cheese and veggie omelette purchased from the cafeteria is onions. The letter of the law was not in my favor.

Stay warm and enjoy your Friday and your weekend.


Alternate History Through Doodling

Below is a flow chart I created during a teaching at church. I am not sure when this was, it is not dated, but it is a fascinating (or not) glimpse into what can happen when I hear an Old Testament word that makes me chuckle and I decide to rewrite history. In this case, there were several chuckle words and the following chart was the result. Any true Bible scholars may want to check my accuracy (or not) but I suggest you just let it ride. I will only blame the research interns and they are so easily replaced. After the chart I have offered a synopsis in case you cannot decipher my handwriting. When the ideas are flowing I cannot be expected to practice excellent penmanship. Besides, it’s hard to write neatly when you are trying to hide what you are doing from the nosy parishioners sitting around you (as well as your wife).

The Evil Line of Babylon
It all starts with Japheth. He sired four children: Gomer, Magog, Tubal and Meshach. At this point, the evil begins in earnest (who was a distant cousin and did not make an appearance on this chart).

Gomer married Lou Ann Poovey (this is good) but then had an alleged affair with Sgt. Carter (this is bad). (Bad=Evil.)

Magog begat Eggnog who begat Agog (an emotional, shocked leader) who begat Gag (this is bad). (Bad=Evil.)

Tubal begat Two balls who begat Three Balls (the first juggler) who begat Mimes (this is bad). (Bad=Evil.)

Meshach begat Youshach who begat All God’s Chillin’ Gotta’ Shack who begat Shaquille O’Neill (who is bad because he dumped the Magic for the Lakers). (Bad=Evil.)


Random Thoughts from the Weekend

I have noticed a rash of commercials using text as the main graphic device, popping it on the screen in the rhythm of the speech cadence. Add a few graphic elements and music to jazz it up and they can be fairly effective. We used to do these type of vignettes using Flash more than a few years ago. We would place them in online educational Web sites. I loved to storyboard them and they were pretty effective in their use of animated text to tell the story. If I was cynical I would suggest this is yet another time I was about seven years ahead of my time but I’m not so that thought never crossed my mind.

After our trail ride on Sunday I have decided that I enjoy the more technical trails with a lot of tight fits between trees and cutbacks that rely less on speed and more concentration and control. This could all be based on my bike which is, to put it politely lest it somehow read this and get its feelings hurt, built for things other than speed. Yesterday was a beautiful fall day, the temperatures in the 60’s, clear sky and the trails were pretty clear despite the two days of hard rains last week. I also have started noticing, finally, that I am getting a bit more acclimated to the hills. I know this because I have moved beyond the desire to lay down and take a nap after a particularly hard climb. Now I just want to rest my head on a tree. Progress.

Another note about the bike ride yesterday: I wore the skeleton shirt my brother and sister-in-law bought me for my birthday and received another “nice shirt” on the trail by someone I crossed paths with. So far, all but one comment has been by a female. I don’t know what to make of that but I will try not to read too much into it. Let’s keep this away from the scientific research realm and just accept the compliments, okay?

I have one comment about the FSU debacle on Saturday: When the punter is the leading rusher, things did not go as planned.

Once again I was reminded how incredible technology is when it is used for good. Like allowing me to talk to my daughter in Italy as if she is just around the block and especially when we can hook up video chat and can see her in real time. It tends to melt the distance somewhat. Now when they come up with a virtual hug that feels real, it would complete the process. Or it will mean we are on the fast track to Creepy Town. I’ll have to decide when we get there.

I am going to attempt to ride the bike home from work on Tuesday. I have treated this like a military maneuver, mapping out the safest route, solidifying plans with Hope to drop my bike and me off at work in the morning, buying a lock and an outrageously bright orange vest to wear for visibility reasons. I realize I am not breaking new ground and there is a distinct possibility that I will never want to do it again after 6 p.m. Tuesday. But I must give it a try. Pray I avoid any interaction with automobiles and that I make it home before it gets completely dark. Updates to come.


Hand Made

I am currently working on the family Christmas card, trying to get it in some semblance of ready before Thanksgiving. That has been my personal deadline for years so thus it shall be in 2008. I enjoy creating the card, trying to come up with something different that I can pull off with as little outlay of cash as possible, so I am not complaining. I created my first Christmas cards on a “mass” scale in 1981. I’m sure I was trying to impress my fiance with something creative and 27 years later I am still trying to impress her (but now she has been my wife for 26.5 years). Trying to stay thrifty usually means it will be designed so that it can be copied onto card stock or bond paper and assembled by hand. Not quite at the level of using a letter press but practically the modern equivalent. (In fact, if I had a letter press you can believe I would be using it.) I like the idea that each card has been touched by my hands—minimally messaged, folded and stuffed in an envelope—and I have refused to go the route of laser generated labels in lieu of handwriting the address on each envelope. Combine that with the randomness of the placement of the stamp and postal ink and I am assured that every person on our list is receiving a unique card. What I regret is what I am doing is almost a lost art. Heck, I’m still using technology to the point that I’m hard pressed to refer to the cards as “hand made” in the traditional sense, but there is still some art in the process along with the manual labor (not ignoring that we send out over 100 cards every year which makes me appreciate the little technology I use). I find the entire process very satisfying.

I wish I could make money doing this kind of thing but I am afraid that would necessitate moving to some mountain town and getting in good with the local shops so they will display my wares for the tourists to buy. And when the visitors ask the proprietor’s who created the collateral they can talk about the crazy man on the mountain and they can all laugh. Nervously. The man on the mountain may very well be crazy but he’d be happy.


Quick Hit

I found it humorous to read of all the worry and gnashing of teeth in regards to how awkward the first meeting between the Bush and Obama families was going to play out at the White House. President Bush has survived and risen above eight years of ridiculous name calling and having a sit down with someone who only called him a failure was not going to bother him very much. I am sure W was gracious and professional, just as he has always been, and that the meeting was not awkward at all. Besides, if anyone knows how clueless President-elect Obama is, it would have to be George W. Bush. He was in the exact same situation eight years ago.


Brush With Greatness

Watching some of the celebration and documentary style remembrances for Bobby Bowden’s 79th birthday I was reminded that I have an Ann Bowden story. Yes, it would be much cooler if I had a Bobby Bowden story instead of a story about his wife, but it’s all I have so everyone will have to deal with the almost-meeting-famous-people-but-usually-meeting-their-spouse life. One day several years ago my mother-in-law called me and asked if I could do her a favor. I dutifully agreed and she informed me she had a friend who owned a rowing machine that she was tired of and had promised to another friend. The issue was they had no way to get it from point A to B and thought, since I owned a truck, I could help them out. (Anyone that owns a truck has heard this spiel more than once.) I agreed to help, got the address of friend A, convinced a buddy to help me and we made our way to the house to pick up the rowing machine.

When we arrived, we found out the machine was upstairs and had to be maneuvered down the narrowest set of stairs ever designed by an architect. The task was made more difficult by the 100 framed pictures lining the wall of the stairwell. Once we finally had it in the truck, the previous owner of the machine informed us that the new owner was only two houses down the block. I did some mental calculations and realized we were delivering the rowing machine to Bobby Bowden’s house. Pushing aside the ridiculous notion that the Bowden’s could not afford to buy a new rowing machine (and pay someone to deliver it to their house) I got excited. We followed owner A to the new owner’s house where we were greeted warmly by Ann Bowden, Bobby’s wife, at the front door. My friend and I carried the machine into the house and were told we needed to deposit it upstairs (of course, although her staircase was wider). Once we had the machine in place, Mrs. Bowden asked me to show her how to use it. I reluctantly climbed in the seat and showed her the few things I knew but quickly got up, feeling a little awkward.

As soon as I was standing, Mrs.Bowden jumped on the machine and decided to see if I had taught her anything. She eventually got everything moving in synch and seemed quite pleased with herself. The rest of us stood around and watched, slowly wishing we were elsewhere. When she finally finished her impromptu workout, she looked up at me and said, “This is going to be great, especially for my legs.” At this moment she reached down to her shorts-clad legs and grabbed the inside of each thigh with her hands and started shaking the loose skin. “As you can see, I have some work to do in this area.” Horrified, I found I couldn’t move which was a shame because I suddenly had a desire to leave. Instead we all chuckled uncomfortably as she cackled and then I helped her up out of the machine. We quickly said our goodbyes and accepted her thanks. Once outside, sitting in the truck, I looked straight ahead and told my friend, “We must never speak of what we witnessed today.” He agreed but, since I cannot remember who it was that was with me, I decided to break the vow. Thus ends my brush with greatness.


The Day After

I voted for John McCain. That is probably not a mind expanding revelation to anyone who knows me, but I wanted that out of the way before I say what I have to say. I am disappointed with the results but the historical gravity of the election is not lost on me. Forty years ago a man of Barak Obama’s race was using a separate water fountain and restroom; today he is president of the United States of America. No matter your preference of candidate, that is a pretty remarkable thing. I can take some pride in that as an American.

Barak Obama is an enigma, one of the least vetted candidates in the history of our elections, so that makes it really difficult to anticipate what is next for him and for our country. So that means I will pray. For him, his decision making, his safety, his family and that he has Divine wisdom for however long he is president. I will also pray against the nastiness of the last eight years and that he does not have to endure the vile hatred that engulfed George W. Bush throughout his eight years in office. The natural response from the right will be to jump into the fray and “pay back” the left, applying the new rules they invented, and gloat when the inevitable mistakes are made. It was ugly and uncalled for then and turning the tables makes it no less wrong. I pray mature, sane people will start making the rules and learn to enforce them.

And I will also pray that all Christians—regardless of denomination or race—will never rely on anything but God for their security and peace. Never a government, leader or idea. Man and his schemes will inevitably disappoint us but God can’t and won’t; there is no greater anchor. So take the time to refocus, carve out time to read your Bible every day and listen for direction and Godly wisdom. And then follow it. And do not lose focus on the simple guide for living that Jesus gave us: Love God and love people.

The times are always interesting but for some reason I think they are getting ready to take a very interesting turn. We cannot always control the outside forces but we can make choices about the inside. Be ready by being secure in what you believe. Then enjoy the ride, peacefully.


The Day Before

Words of wisdom to bear in mind over the next 48 hours (and forever).

The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the LORD.
Proverbs 16:33


Friday Story

Leading up to this Friday (today!) I thought I would share a section of the first novel I wrote. Yesterday was part three (pan down). Today is part four, the final installment.

The “dads,” as the girls referred to us, were required to stay on the sidewalk and not interfere in any way with the comings and goings of our three rodents. The dads were happy to comply. As we slowly traipsed his neighborhood, Wally and I had a chance to talk about the mundane things guys discuss. Football, refinancing and family topped the list but other subjects crept in and out of the conversation as well. It was nice for me because I had been conducting my life at such a dead run the last few weeks I had forgotten how pleasant it was to merely stroll and chat, even if I was talking to a large block of cheddar. The girls started to lose their steam after an hour so we manipulated their path to head them back toward home. As we walked the final block, Wally inquired if he could ask me something personal. The last time he made that request was in his car during my interview and it was followed with a question about church. I gave him permission but I also activated my defense shields.

“I don’t know if you remember this, but back when you were interviewing with us I asked if you attended church anywhere and you answered ‘not any more.’ Since you seem to get all jumpy when there is any reference to religion or faith during conversations, I was wondering if there’s a story behind that answer. Is there?”

I didn’t want to get into a long drawn out explanation at that moment, especially since we were almost back to his house. If our friendship progressed it would be unavoidable but that would come in time. I took a deep breath and offered up the abridged version, hoping it would suffice. “Yes, there is a story but it’s not that interesting. Let’s just say I tried it but it wasn’t for me.”

“And that answer did nothing but make me even more curious, but I won’t pry. I can tell it’s not something you want to talk about. Let’s get the girls home and I’ll grill us some real food. You hungry?”

“For some reason I am craving queso…”

“Don’t look at me like that. I’m a married man.”


Thursday Story

Leading up to this Friday I thought I would share a section of the first novel I wrote. Yesterday was part two (pan down). Today is part three.

Wally and his family lived in a fairly new housing development complete with sidewalks, generous street lighting and nearly identical looking houses. It appeared the variety of design ended with the architect flipping the house plans and alternating between four color choices. Every house had two-stories, lap siding, a two-car garage and well-groomed yards. No cars were parked on the road and there were no visible boats or sheds to disrupt the clean lines of the neighborhood. Based on those observations, I assumed they lived under the totalitarian rule of a strong homeowners association. Wally’s house had the minor distinguishing characteristics of a basketball goal right off the driveway and a flag jutting from the front door frame. I was pleased to see the flag proudly displayed a cartoon, appliqué vampire. Dad would have been proud.

Rochelle greeted me warmly as we entered the house and was kind enough to anticipate my need for a glass of wine after my first foray into Atlanta traffic. As we talked in the family room while Wally changed clothes, I was introduced to the Barnes offspring, all decked out in homemade costumes, ready to hit the road. Vanessa, Patty and Sondra were dressed as three blind mice, complete with big mouse ears and long tails. At eight, five and three they were each suffering from a different aspect of their getup. Vanessa, the oldest, hated how the hood with ears attached interfered with her curly hair. She was not happy that her locks were covered and kept trying to pull the headpiece further back on her head to allow everyone to at least see her bangs. Patty was fascinated with her tail and kept bending over and looking through her legs to see what it was doing behind her. Sondra was just not happy. Rochelle explained she wanted to be Cinderella and could not understand why she had to dress like a “wat.” I tried to console her by explaining she was a “cute little wodent” but she just wrinkled her nose and continued to whine. Just as we approached a mutinous level of despair, Wally emerged from his bedroom and rescued us all from near anarchy. I’m not sure who talked him into it but Wally had agreed to dress up like a big block of cheese. At least I thought that’s what it was. He was wearing a matching yellow sweatshirt and pants, standing in a cardboard “wedge”—painted to match his clothes—which was hanging around his waist, held up by suspenders. Upon his grand entrance, his daughters squealed and jumped up and down with delight. Costume issues were quickly forgotten.

“Who’s ready to go trick or treatin’?” Wally yelled above the din. The girls screamed, “We are!” and put on their sunglasses and grabbed their canes. We headed out into the cool, Atlanta night, joining a surprising number of kids and chaperones already criss-crossing the well-lit neighborhood. Rochelle stayed behind to man the door and dispense treats.

(Part Four will be posted on Friday)


Wednesday Story

Leading up to this Friday I thought I would share a section of the first novel I wrote. Yesterday was part one (pan down). Today is part two.

I spent my lunch hour on the phone, talking to the hotel about continuing my stay with them and calling the realtor to find out if she could help me find a temporary dwelling. I wanted to find an apartment over the weekend and keep my stay in the hotel to only one more week. Yvonne was happy to help and we made plans to meet in the office parking lot on Saturday morning.

At 3:30, Wally called and asked what my plans were for the weekend. When I told him I was staying in town he insisted I join him and his family that night as they walked the neighborhood with their children. He promised if I survived that portion of the evening he would reward me with a quality meal afterwards. I was hesitant and told him I would let him know by five whether I could go or not. The idea of helping supervise strange children as they walked through unfamiliar territory was not all that appealing. I held out hope that a better offer would pop up in the next hour and a half.

By 4:45 the depressing thought of spending another night in the hotel room eating takeout overcame my reservations about spending an evening in suburbia so I let Wally know I was up for the challenge. He met me in the lobby at five and gave me a brief overview of where we were heading. He lived in Kennesaw, which was straight up I-75 but at that time of day, on a Friday no less, it would be slow going. Before we left the parking lot we exchanged cell phone numbers in case we got separated. I didn’t realize how slim the chances were for that since the majority of our trip to his house was spent traveling 20 miles per hour. By the time we pulled into Wally’s driveway it was 6:30 and I was a wreck. Ninety minutes of bumper-to-bumper traffic had inched its way through every nerve and hair follicle in my body and I was reduced to a sensitive and sore mess. As I sat in my car trying to compose myself, he bounded up to my door sporting a huge smile, rejoicing in how fast we made it to his house.

(Part Three will be posted on Thursday)


Tuesday Story

Leading up to this Friday I thought I would share a section of the first novel I wrote. (No, it hasn't been published but I still wrote it which doesn’t change the fact that it is still a novel. Or does it?) The excerpt takes place on a Friday night that just happens to be Halloween. What a coincidence. A little back story is in order: The story is about a “Christian from birth” who, at middle age, decides to turn his back on his faith. He assumes everything else in his life will stay the same—the loving wife, the wonderful kids—but then he lands a “dream job” in Atlanta and things at home do not go as planned. The story picks up soon after starting his new job, waiting for his old house to sell and for his family to join him. Wally is a new friend he has made since arriving in the big city.

When I walked into the offices Friday morning I was stunned to see the receptionist dressed like Cruella DeVille from the 101 Dalmatians movies. When I asked what was the point of the outfit she politely reminded me that it was Halloween. I couldn’t believe a major holiday had snuck up on me but my current situation away from family and living in a hotel didn’t offer a lot of reminders. Halloween was one of the holidays the church had decided to ruin, trying to pay back the world for screwing up Christmas and Easter. It used to be about candy and costumes. Now the preachers have turned it into Satan worship and the fear of baby sacrifices. When I was a kid, Halloween may have been the most fun holiday in my house. My dad would channel his inner thespian and create elaborate costumes and devise various ways to scare all of the little trick-or-treaters who knocked on our door. My favorite memory was the year dad dressed up as Dracula. Our house had a set of stairs that began their climb up as you entered the front door, offering the perfect angle to rest a cardboard coffin. When kids would ring the doorbell and scream “trick or treat,” mom would stay hidden behind the door and open it very slow. As the kids stood there facing a dark entryway, unsure of what to do, my dad would dramatically rise out of the coffin to a sitting position, shining a flashlight up from under his chin. He would then say “ Goot Eve-ah-ning” with all the clichéd inflections of a vampire, or at least what the movies had taught us. If the kids hung around through that mini-drama, mom would load them up with candy and tell them to warn their friends. Inevitably we would get a call from a concerned parent and I would have to pull sentry duty, signaling to mom and dad if the kids were old enough to get the full treatment or just receive their candy from a kindler, gentler vampire. In the climate of today, when Halloween has been replaced with Fall Festivals and parades through the mall, my pastor/father would get called up before the Southern Baptist Convention on heresy charges if he pulled any of those stunts now. Too bad. He was a great vampire AND a great pastor.

(Part Two will be posted on Wednesday)


Say Hello to My Little Friends

Several years ago I created a couple of characters called Christian Man and Dogma. Initially, they were strictly to star in some tracts I had envisioned (and eventually wrote and drew). Once again, I was digging through some old notebooks and came across my original drawing of Christian Man and Dogma. I thought it was an interesting contrast from the early drawing to what they morphed into in their debut in My Life as a Sailor, the first tract in which they were the “stars.” File this under FWIW. It’s definitely not as inspiring as the early Simpsons characters on the Tracey Ullman show, but, then again, Christian Man is no Homer...

Christian Man and Dogma, the early years.

Christian Man and Dogma, posing for their first tract, My Life as a Sailor.


Book Club

I read a lot. I don’t read very fast and am constantly amazed when I see people blow through a book (or more) per week. Maybe it has more to do with the type of books I read which lean toward “literary” rather than “contemporary” fiction. I tend to read and savor instead of plow through stories. Besides, I’m in no hurry; there is no competition. I think my reading taste also has to do with the type of fiction I like to write (or maybe it is the other way around). Writing literary fiction is not the fast track to publication but I won’t let that deter me from either reading or writing it. Besides, it is a built-in excuse and I like to think it might be genetic and I can’t fight DNA. (Don't tell me different. Keep hope—and justification— alive!)

One of my favorite writers (and someone whose style, approach and technique I wish I could emulate in even a small way) is Flannery O’Connor. She died young but left an impressive body of work that was very spiritual but, thankfully, not always in an obvious way. If you have not read anything by her I would suggest one of her short stories and my favorite (by far) is a story titled Revelation. It is included in Everything That Rises Must Converge, one of her impressive story collections. And once you have read it you can spend hours on the internet reading the hundreds of term papers and analysis that are posted by every doctoral student that dipped a toe into “southern literature.” (Just kidding. Not about the information on the internet, it is there, but about reading all of that stuff. Don’t over analyze; just read it and enjoy.) It ain’t Grisham but, then again, it’s not 250 pages long.


My Daughter's Journey

Laura just returned from a week in Norway. She and a few folks from the Bible College in Italy spent time hanging out at a Christian boarding school, ministering, praying with and getting to know 150 Norwegian high school kids. She has posted some pictures here and will probably update her blog this week (so check on it periodically).

BTW: My oldest son has started a blog as well. I will shill for him with pride as well. He is trying to update on Mondays and he shares his heart on worship and whatever else is occupying his mind. Check him out as well.

I Rant Because I Can’t

(Yet one more entry in the never ending chronicle of middle age and embracing my inner crankiness.)

This morning I rode to work and I ate my concoction of strawberry flavored carb control yogurt mixed with Kashi granola, washing it all down with a Fresca. Sitting at a red light I came to the realization that I was a prisoner to my body and its needs. Or maybe I am a prisoner to the fear of what my body will become if I do not feed it fake food (and, yes, that is what it is. Compare real sour cream and fat free sour cream—one is obviously fake!). I often threaten to give up the battle and just let it go, to test the unproven theory that I will balloon to an unwieldy girth if I eat what I want without any mental and emotional filters. To explore the world of sweat pants and XXL shirts. But I won’t; I am way too narcissistic to go down without a fight. Some call it discipline. I call it fear. Oh sure, I balance it all with a stated desire to be healthy and “take care of myself,” but it has more to do with vanity; health is a convenient cover.

One of my fantasies is I will be afforded a two or three month warning of my impending death and I will then eat any and everything I want with zero reservations. That only comes into play if heaven is not equipped with an incredible all-you-can-eat buffet with no need for digestive enzymes when you are done. What’s that? Why, yes, that is a shallow interpretation of heaven but, since I cannot seem to wrap my small, human brain around the few descriptions in the Bible, I have to use what I know and I know that I want to eat a hamburger, not a Bocca Burger. I want to eat real ice cream, not Healthy Choice white something shaped into blocks to resemble an ice cream sandwich. I want a calzone, not a chef salad with a meatball on the side. I want blue cheese dressing, not balsamic vinaigrette. I want a baked potato with butter and (real) sour cream as well as cheese, not a sweet potato with Butter Buds and Splenda. And I want it all without guilt or indigestion. And that, to me, would be, well... heaven.


Post-Grease Report

I have just returned from the fish fry and I wanted to share with all three of my readers how it went. Basically, it was all I expected it to be. There were three kinds of fish provided—catfish, brim and mullet—as well as baked beans and hush puppies (also referred to as "dough boys"). I believe the cheese grits were made by melting several pounds of cheese, waving a bag of grits over the pot and calling it even. There was also cole slaw and a random Greek salad that looked sad and lonely and was hardly touched. We washed it all down with either sweet tea or lemonade (or a mixture of both) and then had a choice of so many desserts that they required their own table. The result? I ate enough fish and dough boys to have adequately lubricated my internal organs and enough cheese "grits" to keep me constipated until next weekend. All in all a successful fish fry.

The bubbling nector of the Fry Gods preparing for its sacrifice.

I was fascinated by this "dough boy" tool but the old-timers mocked my fascination.


Friday Foolishness

I am going to a fish fry tomorrow afternoon. This is my idea of a mid-life crisis since my aversion to grease has been consuming for many years. I am not sure how my body will react to the product that will be served. But I will partake and I will be fierce. And I will eat an extra hush puppy dipped in cheese grits for everyone that promises to pray for me. It is that sort of twisted logic that has me mentally repeating "Get Big or Stay Home" every time I think about what I am about to do to myself. But if you are going to shave some years off your life with food I'd much rather do it with fried grouper than a Snickers. Now, if they are going to fry the Snickers, that is a whole 'nother situation...


Themeless Thursday

Posted without comment.



I have started three blog posts over the last few days but they were lame so I didn’t finish them. For that, you should thank me. I always start writing with the best of intentions, thinking I actually have something to say, but it doesn't take long to figure out that the idea was not as strong as I had hoped and the moment passes. Like gas, only I don’t feel better after it’s gone. So, yeah, this is a blog post to let you know I have nothing to say. Is that more ironic or sad?


Casual Friday Sketchiness

Note to Sean D: Just trying to get some closure...


A Waddling We Will Go

I don’t know if it can be strictly attributed to age or if it is a genetic propensity for extra skin, but I have developed a waddle. I am not referring to walking like a duck but to the expansion of flesh that balloons beneath your chin and covers the front of your neck. (I think it was the show “Ally McBeal” that made the term synonymous with skin and not transportation.) Even though it is somewhat subtle, I am disturbed by this recent development.

Most of my life I have not been very concerned with getting my picture taken. Posing or only wanting my “good side” captured has never been an issue. I will admit that the last few years have seen me sucking in my stomach when I knew there was a camera around but there have been enough “candid” shots taken that even that became a waste of time (or is that “waist”?).

But this year, the waddle has brought a whole new issue to deal with in regards to photographs. I have actually had pictures retaken (and the insulting ones deleted) because my neck looks inflated. (PTL for digital cameras.) Yes, it is vain--so what?--but I’d like to think I can still rail against the visual signs I am getting older. The problem is there is no good way to hide a waddle. If I tuck in my chin even slightly it bloats out and I look like one of those lizards looking for a mate. I have tried to extend my neck right before the picture is snapped but that has proved to be a bad enough idea that no one will pose with me because I am being “weird” and I always look like I am straining for a high note. At this point I can only allow my picture to be taken if I am standing up and using perfect posture (with my chin tilted up ever so slightly). Are there exercises to reduce waddles? Not that I would do them; I’m just curious. It could be one of those “toothpaste is already out of the tube” issues that is impossible to reverse. One day I’ll relax and cease the fight, but it won’t be today. And I pray that ascots make a comeback.


Entry One Hundred Seven: Adam Mahoney, You Just Won!

[This entry is the current story I am working on. This is thirty-seven of who knows how many will be posted. Enjoy it while it lasts...]

One evening, a few weeks into his new hobby, he came up with a solution, more out of necessity than anything noble. He had just returned from the gym, walked through the front door and stopped. He had to; there was nowhere to place his foot for another step. His living room looked like a floor exercise for a major war game, only in The Battle of Adam’s House, tanks and planes were accompanied by Mustangs and monster trucks. Instead of pushing anything aside to make a path to his bedroom, he went back out the front door and walked to the garage, found a large cardboard box and entered the house through the kitchen door. He started at the edge of the plastic mélange, then began carefully lifting models off the floor and placing them on the bottom of the box. When he had safely secured all the container could handle, he left through the kitchen door and walked across the street to the Broughton’s house and strolled through their front door. He headed straight to the credenza in their living room, a large, cherry sideboard, its flat surface covered with framed photographs of the nuclear and extended family of the home’s former occupants. He set the box of models aside, began removing all of the pictures and stacking them on the floor. After the top of the furniture was cleared he began arranging his models in their place.

The placement started randomly but soon Adam began assembling the miniature replicas in more aesthetic groupings. World War II planes formed one group, desert tanks another. He completed the credenza display and had used all of the models he had carried in the box so he packed the box with the framed photographs, returned to his house, dumped the contents in the trash and filled the box again with his creations. He returned to the Broughton’s, seeking out any nook or flat surface that held a photograph and replaced them with the models. Bookshelves, dressers and china cabinets soon displayed Adam’s work, cars and tanks replacing the reminders of the past. In place of photos on walls he dangled model planes, using fishing line tied to an eyehook he screwed into the ceiling. After four trips there were no visual reminders of the Broughton’s anywhere in the house. As he perused his work, Adam felt some better, the chasm feeling less empty, yet sad that his outlook improved only by diminishing something—someone—else. “But if that’s what it takes. For the first time ever, it really is all about me.”

Adam continued with his replacement plan, eventually reworking all of the houses surrounding his own, the houses whose lawns he had mowed and whose earlier visits had disturbed him so. With each completed redesign, his soul grew a little stronger, for what reasons he couldn’t say. Maybe it was the symbolism of throwing away the memories of his neighbors or maybe it was the small rush of executing another project, creating mini-museums of his handiwork, on display for no one. It didn’t matter; at minimum he could move in and out of the houses without having to deal with the creeping feeling of abandonment he had experienced when he first entered the abodes. It expanded his world, his kingdom, and with it his comfort zone which was no small matter for the last man standing on the face of the earth.

All words and images ©2007/J. Colle


Moleskins out of Mountains

One of the adjustments that my wife had to make when we got married was my proclivity to never throw anything away. Over the years I have gotten a lot better dealing with this sad fixation which is a positive aspect of marrying an opposite who has the added benefit of being kind and flexible and believes in taking her time in bending me to her will instead of the instant slap down. If I had married someone like me we would have ended up on one of those horrifying shows on HGTV where they come in and force couples to clean out a room (or maybe the whole house) piled high with stuff.

One of the biggest hurdles I had to overcome was writing things on little scraps of paper and then building little hills of scrap paper on my dresser. In way of explanation, my mind is annoying in that it rarely sits still. I am constantly churning on several things, most random, some with a chance to evolve into a more concrete idea. I will admit that 99.5% of the things I mentally chew on are worthless but I can’t risk losing that rare .5% so I write a lot of thoughts and ideas down. Back in the early days of our marriage, I would tear a corner off a piece of paper, jot down the words or sketch out something and then cram the scrap into my pocket. At the end of the day, I might have assembled several of these and I would deposit them on top of my dresser. I always went back through them and, if remotely valid, would record it in a sketchbook or notebook but that was rarely in a timely fashion. I swear I tried to get to them within a week. Or two. Hope threw out more than one of those little piles before she fully grasped the concept that she was tossing out parts of my brain in the process and compromises were worked out.

Time and technology have helped me in this area. Sketchbooks got smaller and more portable, Moleskin came out with a tiny notebook that I can keep in my back pocket and the little scraps of paper disappeared. Well, not entirely. They have now morphed into blank books of all sizes, some filled with my ramblings, most only partially complete. They chronicle a lot of really bad ideas and doodles and it is an historical record of little consequence to anyone but me. At least they can fit on a bookshelf (or a box in the attic). I’m not saying that’s where they are, I’m just saying they could be. I said I was better, not good.



Cool things that happened on my birthday:
  1. I woke up still full from the sushi binge the night before. Even my coffee was finding it hard to find room;
  2. My wife was awake a full hour before she remembered it was my birthday. I have to admit her Diet Coke was a little flat so she had an excuse;
  3. My daughter traveled by train from Venice, Italy to Austria for the week. Hey! Whose birthday is this?
  4. My office gave me a cake and a card at noon which meant I was able to eat my dessert before my lunch which is a very birthday thing to do;
  5. I received many three word greetings via Facebook;
  6. My brother celebrated my big day by getting a colonoscopy;
  7. All but one of the birthday cards I received had chimps on them. I have no idea what that means or what people are trying to tell me but my kids suggested it has something to do with the ears;
  8. Both of my sons sent me the same text message: “Happy Birthday, old man.” (Although I doubt there was punctuation or any capital letters in the actual text messages);
  9. My youngest son hand wrote me a birthday card with a green marker that I was able to decipher without much help. And it was very sweet (if I can say that about a 17 year old);
  10. My family gave me a new grill for my birthday and my oldest son put it together for me. And he let me watch;
  11. My wife cooked my favorite meal for all of us tonight: Mexican steak and rice with green chiles and jack cheese. She had to learn how to cook that from my mom before I agreed to marry her;
  12. My parents called and sang the traditional birthday song but this year it was peppy and the ending had a nice two-part harmony. If I feel old they must really feel old;
  13. We ended the night with razzleberry pie a la mode. I anticipate being full when I wake up tomorrow morning;
  14. And just like every year, as I looked at myself in the mirror while brushing my teeth, I promised I would start exercising again. Tomorrow.


Random Fridayness

All words and images ©2008/J. Colle



I, William Jacob Colle III, having witnessed yet another gridiron performance by my alleged “home team,” and having found it to be wretched, and, during which, was reminded of the many emotional assaults I have subjected myself to in previous years—and yea, they were many—has made a judgment and do proclaim it publicly.

I will hereby not willingly or knowingly subject myself for an extended period of time to the extensive planning for and participation in watching football games of the aforementioned “home team.” Weekend--and occasional Thursday night--activities will now consist of reading, writing and spending copious amounts of time with my life partner until she deems it annoying and necessary to have her own space to which I shall respond by going for a walk. Or I shall participate in a ride on a two wheeled transport, enjoying glorious autumn temperatures and smells. Or I shall sit on my porch and burn a non-inhalable dowel-like object and relish the peace I feel in my spirit. My options in regard to activities are limitless but, despite the activity in which I am engaged, I shall not watch “the game.” Any and all communication with me during the gridiron engagement will be greeted with a grunt, if greeted at all. Thus say I. Thus may it be.

Proclaimed this day, twenty-five September, the year of our Lord, two-thousand oh-eight.


Wednesday Sketchy Sketchbook Sketch of the Day

Submitted without comment. Discuss amongst yourselves...

All words and images ©2008/J. Colle


Speaking of Transitions...

Funerals are strange events. There are so many traditional aspects of it that are accepted practices, regardless if they make sense or not. Between the viewing, funeral arrangements, programs, flowers and lots of food, the whole few days are an orchestrated dance of customs and awkwardness. I understand the need to work through grief and providing a waiting period after the death and before burial seems to help that process. Evelyn’s funeral was very nice and seemed to provide some closure for most everyone who attended. It was a success.

Living through the last few days I have had ample opportunity to think about my own funeral and how I would like to see it transpire. What I came up with is most assuredly illegal but I can dream and plan without getting arrested. I would like a good old-fashioned Viking funeral. The ceremony would take place at dusk and everyone would gather on the side of a lake. Pile a raft with dead, dry tree limbs and then strap my body on top of it. Ring the outside edge of the raft with buckets of gasoline and then shove me out from the edges of the lake. Then, with everyone on the bank singing a song--something upbeat, not a dirge--signal the hired archer to send the first flaming arrow toward the raft and set the whole thing on fire (hopefully within a couple of shots). Visually, it would be stunning and quite memorable. Granted, there are a lot of details that would have to be worked out but it seems like such a grand way to exit the planet. Now I just need to live the rest of my days like a Viking so I can earn that sendoff. I hope it is not too late.