Formerly known as "Cruzers in Korea"

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Flashback Friday - Boo to Boot Camp

Thursday, July 28, 2011 0
As I'm writing today's flashback, Flannigan is nuzzling his wet nose under my elbow.  Even after a year of being with Flannigan, I still call him Fred by mistake.  I have to stop doing that.  

And then there's Boo.  Or Kookookashmoo.  But I should stop using those names too.  After all, the cute little boy in this picture isn't a little boy anymore.  Brandon is a grown man now and only a couple of days away from shipping off to Army boot camp.  We're all so proud that he's chosen to serve his country like his uncles and grandfather.

And Brandon, we all know you'll serve well.  You might have other things on your mind right now.  Who wouldn't?  But I know that you'll be focused, determined and strong at boot camp.  In other words, it's your turn to show that TCD - Total Cruz Domination.  Go get em Boo!  I mean, Brandon!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Flashback Friday - 13 Years Ago

Sunday, July 24, 2011 1
So I'm a little late for Flashback Friday.  Details.  

For this post, I'm rolling back the clock 13 years, when CJ first somersaulted out of the cramped quarters of Carol's belly and into this great big world of ours - with a full head of hair standing on its end that would've made a pencil-sitting troll beam with pride. 

Like most babies, he was a PECS machine - poop, eat, cry, sleep.  That's all they do for those first couple of months.  He had the "C" part down extremely well.  Because of his maximum capacity lungs and the above average crying ability that went with them, the nurses nicknamed him, "Pavarotti."

That's Alice Cagnina who delivered CJ at the Naval Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida.  Although the actual delivery was more complicated than expected, the entire experience at the hospital, especially Alice's personal attention, was really great.

Those first couple of days were surreal.  We weren't sure whether we were coming or going.  Thank goodness for all of the help from family and friends.  Fred wasn't sure what to make of our new addition.  They soon become fast friends though.  Until CJ learned that he could stick his fingers into certain places that is.  That's another story.  

 Our intent was for CJ to breast feed.  I say "our" as if I'm the one with the boobs.  He was having a hard time latching on at first so we gave him a bottle every now and then at the hospital just to make sure he was getting enough to eat.  Little did we know that giving a baby a bottle would result in the full wrath of the La Leche League and their fanatic cultdom philosophy of world domination through breast feeding.  I believe their weapons department has recently developed a laser that instantly disintegrates baby bottle nipples upon initial detection.  Maybe it was just this one La Leche League lady that was off her kilter, but dang.  I get it.  Breast milk is good.  But don't throw us in the hole with Charles Manson just yet cause we wanted to give our kid a bottle for a whole quarter ounce of milk.  CJ did get the hang of the breast feeding thing.  Good thing too.  I would've hated to be on the LLL's black list.  BTW, if you see these whopper-sized kids still breast feeding - I'm talking 4 and 5 year olds with a full set of teeth and size 9 Skechers on - that's just wrong.  I'm sure the LLL had a little something to do with that.  If your feet are hitting the ground while feeding, it's well beyond time to stop with the booby.  I digress.

And now we have a teenager!  Weened and all.  Let the Parenting Olympics begin! 

Carol and I are extremely blessed to have such a fine young man.  I salute you CJ!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

US Navy - #9 Most Blissful Place to Work

Saturday, July 16, 2011 1

With zero sarcasm in my typing, I'm pretty blissful.  Check out the article:

CSmonitor article link

Military Outranks Disney, Microsoft As Happy Place To Work 
(CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR 25 OCT 10) ... Brian Anthony Hernandez

Disney owns the "Happiest Place on Earth," but it doesn't employ the happiest workers in the U.S., according to a new survey that identified the most "blissful places to work." The list reveals all four major branches of the military and the National Guard rank higher than Disney and other well-known companies such as Microsoft and Johnson & Johnson.
Despite lengthy deployments and lower salaries, for example, the Army and National Guard ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the career advancement category, beating out Google for the top spots. The military also ranked high in growth opportunity, benefits and job security. 
"Corporate America could learn from our military's unique programs. The bottom line is that when a company provides opportunities to grow and tools to improve skills, it creates a happier work environment," said Rick Wainschel, vice president of online career-guidance tool CareerBliss.
CareerBliss used independent reviews to evaluate companies based on opportunities for growth, compensation, benefits, work-life balance, career advancement, senior management, job security and whether the employee would recommend the company to others.
In a review from the more than one thousand appraisals written by military members in 2010, an Army administrator in Georgia wrote, "Serving in the Army offered the ultimate job security, not to mention an unmatched benefits package. It was also a good source of gaining valuable technical and real-life experience."
Bradley Brummel, a psychology professor at University of Tulsa in Oklahoma weighed in why the military has happy workers.
"Despite challenges that may occur when serving our country, including the possibility of going to war, the military provides many of the essential elements to finding happiness at work, including having a meaningful impact on the world, having true camaraderie with your co-workers and having the opportunities to develop skills," Brummel said.
Top 10 blissful places to work, according to CareerBliss:
1. Google 
2. 3M 
4. DTE Energy 
5. Air Force 
6. Qualcomm 
7. Army National Guard 
8. Marines 
9. Navy 
10. LSI Logic 
The Army ranked No. 11, ahead of Johnson & Johnson (16), Cisco Systems (21), General Electric (30), Microsoft (39) and Disney (41).
"It was interesting to see how well the military ranked relative to many top-tier corporations. After reviewing the comments from hundreds of reviews, it was clear our military service members not only take pride in serving and protecting our country but find a deep sense of personal accomplishment in the important work that they do," wrote Wainschel in a statement.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Flashback Friday - Ike!

Friday, July 15, 2011 0

My best guess is 1977 or 1978 for this picture.  From left to right is Lee, Darby Alan, me in the blue and red shirt, Beanie and of course Mom sitting in the Monte Carlo.  Here we are at the Naval base in Norfolk, Virginia in front of Dad's ship, the USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER (CVN-69), affectionately known as Ike.  I know the picture isn't from 1976 because the ship was commissioned in 1977.  

Beanie is rocking his Happy Days "Fonzie" t-shirt, complete with the word "Aaayyy!" emblazoned across his chest and Henry Winkler with his signature leather jacket, white t-shirt and two big thumbs up.  I'm pretty sure Mom made at least one or two pieces of clothing that you see in this picture.  She's always been quite the seamstress.

Our dark blue Monte Carlo is almost brand new in this picture.  A young enlisted sailor with five kids buying a brand new car?  Well, I probably would've advised against that as a Division Officer but it worked out okay for Petty Officer Alfredo Cruz.  Lots of memories in this car to include several bouts of carsickness; my brother taking the car for a non-approved joy ride with no driver's license and getting into an accident with a pregnant lady; and a trip to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia that resulted in the fire department busting the car window to put out a fire inside the car.  The last thing you expect to hear after riding the Loch Ness Monster roller coaster is your name being paged over a loudspeaker.

The A-7 Corsair on the left has long since been decommissioned, just like the attack jet that replaced it, the venerable A-6 Intruder.  On the top right is the E-2 Hawkeye and it's huge round radar, or as I used to tell the kiddies while giving tours on the flight deck, the in-flight helicopter landing pad.  The Hawkeyes are still going strong unlike my beloved S-3B Viking.  Hey, times change.  And that's a good thing.

Dad served as an MS, or Mess Specialist aboard the Ike.  They've since changed the name to CS for Culinary Specialist.  Basically, he was a cook for the Navy.  Very tough work feeding 5,000 people three hots a day.  When my dad joined the Navy, the reality back then was that if you were black or filipino, you were going to be a cook.  That's just the way things were.  There certainly weren't any black or filipino commanding officers during the early part of my dad's career.  He served 23 years as an MS.  It wasn't an easy career but he did what he had to do not only to feed the 5,000 aboard the carrier, but also the five kids at home.

Today, sailors have the opportunity to do whatever they want if they work hard enough.  They can be jet engine mechanics, musicians, intelligence specialists, logisticians, special forces, search and rescue aircrew - almost anything you can think of.  I'm extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to fly jets, lead some great sailors, be the commanding officer of MSCO Korea and most importantly, serve my country.  Carol and I are planning a trip to San Diego so we can see our good friend take over as commanding officer of a US Navy warship.  BTW, he's African American.  Hey, times change.  And that's a good thing.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

F-111 Belly Landing

Thursday, July 14, 2011 0

The dreaded barber pole.  In my airplane, during the landing checklist that you perform every time the landing gear go to the down position, you visually check the three landing gear indicators on the instrument panel.  If you're looking at a couple of tilted stripes (like what you see on a barber pole), then your wheels aren't 100% down and locked.  This means that your landing gear could be only partially down, not down at all or a number of other problems.  Trouble.  

That's when you break out your handy dandy pocket checklist (PCL) and thumb to the proper emergency procedure.  Once you get to the correct section in the PCL, you start executing the steps in order like it's a recipe in a Betty Crocker cookbook.  Easy, peezy, Japaneezy.  Well, not quite.  Especially when you've gotta get back aboard the aircraft carrier that's getting tossed around the ocean like it's a little rubber ducky in a bathtub full of rowdy kids.  Did I mention you gotta do this at night?  Speaking of recipes, here's one for you.  What do you get when you take a complicated emergency at night, sprinkle in a rookie pilot, sauté it with a jet that's running on fumes and add a dash of pitching deck?  You get a highly puckered sphincter capable of  crocheting some nice doilies into your ejection seat.  That's what.

This was an outstanding job dealing with this emergency by this F-111 crew.  But I am reminded of the main differences between carrier aviation and those landlubbers that have the good fortune of landing on a nice long runway.  Us tailhookers drop our hooks every time and perform a controlled crash aboard that postage stamp of a landing strip - while it's moving.  And you know what?  I wouldn't have it any other way.

Go Navy!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Making Dreams Come True

Monday, July 11, 2011 3
After growing up as a military brat, attending one of the most spartan military schools in the world and serving 20 years and counting in the US Navy, I consider myself to be a pretty organized and attention-to-detail kind of guy.  It used to be that the checking account was balanced and reconciled monthly down to the last penny.  Mail and papers were filed expeditiously and with precision.  Each clothes hanger in my closet faced the same direction with the exact spacing of two finger widths, just like the way we did it at the Virginia Military Institute.  My car was washed and waxed on a regular basis, boasting a sense of pride.  And checklists galore for every evolution.  Oh yeah, I was one together dude.

But after 17 years of marriage, two boys, pets and the daily grind of family life, the order of magnitude of my meticulous ways (read anal tendencies) has dropped a notch or two.  And that's a good thing.  Now, I'm totally okay with piles of clothes on the floor, stacks of unfiled papers all over the house, an unmade bed and a lawn that's not edged.  Don't get me wrong, I still try to get to these things, but if I don't, I won't have a conniption like I would in the past.  I'll admit it, Carol has worn me down.  I've joined the Dark Side of the organization world - and I like it.  There's a sense of joy and liberation over not stressing over the little things that really don't matter.  No longer does every second of every day of vacation need to be planned.  It took a little bit of letting go.  But it's the right thing to do.  And I'm liking it.

There are certain things in the organization arena that I still think are pretty important though.  Like being on time - especially for church.  If you're going to make time for God, then be on time for God.  But as a family, we've been pretty bad about getting to church on time for whatever reason.

And so a couple of weeks ago, Carol went down to Alabama for a surprise 40th birthday party for her good friend, Heather.  I was Mr. Mom for a couple of days.  The boys and I had some good bonding time.  On Sunday, we got up, had breakfast, got showered and dressed and bam, we were on time for church.  Not a big deal.  It just kind of happened that way.  When Carol came home, I casually told her about how things went with the boys and mentioned how we managed to get to church on time.

Well.  Did I ever strike a nerve.  I haven't had the pleasure of visiting Yellowstone Park but I could've sworn Old Faithful was catapulting highly pressurized water right there in my kitchen.  Carol's reaction was energized and comedic.  I haven't heard octaves that high in a while.  Now it was crystal clear.  Surely Carol was the weighted anchor that kept dragging down "my dream" of getting to church on time.  It's all Carol's fault!  Good thing she was gone for a few days so I could experience the ecstasy of promptness.  My lovely wife's profuse (and highly sarcastic) apologies for crushing my dreams of butts in pews on time was pretty dang funny.  I honestly wasn't trying to rub it in her face.  But she was giving it to me good.  It was a lungbuster of a laugh.  I'm sure that if I was drinking something at the time, it would've came shooting out of my nose.  I am very happy she was only joking.

And yet, like the verbal diarrhea that spews from the mouths of the inebriated, sometimes a little bit of truth escapes.  For the last couple of weeks, "my dream" has come true.  I didn't ask Carol to change a thing.  And yet we've been getting to church on time on a regular basis.

The boys making a beeline for the car.  Gotta get to Bellevue Baptist on time!  CJ's job is to grab the Bibles.  Jake's job is to not spill anything on his shirt.

And there she is, making Daddy's dream come true.

We did have a glitch this past Sunday though.  Our garage door opener broke that morning.  I had to manually pull the door open and stand on a ladder while supporting the open door while Carol drove the cars out of the garage.  And so we were just a tad late.  Dream crushed.

To be clear, I really wasn't making any fuss at all about being late for church.  It's nice if we're on time but I'm not gonna get in a bad mood or lose sleep over it.  I do appreciate the family's extra effort in being more timely for this one thing though.  You see, Carol does so much for me and the boys already.  I've got zero to complain about.  Absolutely nothing.  She still makes my dreams come true - and I'm not talking about being on time.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Top Gun - How It Should Have Ended

Saturday, July 9, 2011 0
Here's a follow up to my recent Top Gun post:

Friday, July 8, 2011

Flashback Friday - CJ and Jena

Friday, July 8, 2011 0
So after a week of vacation in Miami, we surprised CJ with a stowaway visitor.  Jena would be driving back to Tennessee with us so she could hang out with us in Memphis, go down to the lake house in Alabama and also celebrate the 4th of July in the country with Carol's family.  Or as my brother Beanie put it, experience bonus happiness.

So in honor of the extra Jena time, here's this week's submission for Flashback Friday:

 CJ and Jena at about a year old.  Back then it was all about the Teletubbies.

Jena and CJ four days ago at the big 4th of July celebration in Alabama.  Now it's all about Axe shampoo, Old Spice Swagger body wash, animals, Bass Pro Shops and technology.  One big difference between the two is one is crazy about fishing and the other lives off of air.  Other than that, they're two peas in a pod.  They've been known to talk on the phone for hours on end.

As great as our experience was in Korea, it really is nice to be around family again.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Chinese Top Gun?

Thursday, July 7, 2011 0

Family, military, humor, Korea and Tennessee - those are the main focus areas of this blog.  At least until we move again.  With that in mind, you'll see me posting more stuff on these five areas.

So here's one that hits on two of those areas - military and humor.  At least I thought it was funny.

Article on Chinese Air Force Drills

BTW, the rumors are true.  There will be a Top Gun 2.  If TV Guide said it, then it's happening:

Top Gun 2 article in TV Guide

4th of July

I was amazed the first time I experienced the 4th of July with Carol's family in Alabama.  Many years later, I'm still amazed.  Check out this video made by Carol's cousin, Leenie.  It'll give you a good peek into how Independence Day should be celebrated.  Thanks Leenie for the video!

Jake had a little attitude problem before the festivities began so he needed a little alone time in the corner.  I'm glad I didn't need to break out the fireworks for Jake to turn things around.

 That's Carol's mom on the left.

Nothing like dipping in the pool on a warm day.

The cousins finally meet.  CJ, Jena and Andrea got to hang out at the lake prior to the big 4th of July celebration.  They got along great.

More cousins - Angela and Carol.  They get along okay too.

 Aunt Annie and some of her grandkids.

The veterans get called up to the front by Uncle David (on the right).  The flag belongs to Carol's dad who served in the Army in the Korean War.  He passed away when Carol was 18. 

The O'Neals

 Passing out the balloons.

Getting ready to release the balloons in honor of Grandmother and Grandfather.  The 4th of July was their favorite holiday.

And away they go!  Quite the sight.

Time for the parade around the pool.

Aunt Charlie and Aunt Joy jumping in after the parade.

You know it's a hot day when they jump into the pool.

And that's how you do the 4th of July in Alabama.  God bless America!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Miami Vacation - Part 2

Tuesday, July 5, 2011 1
It was just too much to put in one blog entry.  And so, like the crusty uncle that bores you to death with a projector full of vacation picture slides, I present to you more Miami pics.

Like Jake, this shark in front of the Bass Pro Shops lost one of his teeth.  Without the toothless area, CJ wouldn't be able to perform this fine impersonation of a human hors d'oeuvre.

Darby and Ariel at the Fort Lauderdale Riverwalk.

Alan and Danita


Too often, we leave the kids to their devices.  Literally.  Even the six year old has to have his fingers on the laptop, iPad, iTouch or iPhone.  Not only that, it's gotta be hooked up to the internet.  Steve Jobs - you're a witch!  If there was even a micro spare moment during the vacation, you'd see these little boogers scrambling to be connected - Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, Facebooking, texting, emailing... it was ridiculous.  Like little crack addicts.  Jake is less than two seconds out of bed in this picture and he's needing his internet hit bad.  What have we created?

Carol and I got to visit my good friend Edisa at the new US Southern Command Headquarters.  Edisa and I worked together a few years back.  Although the job was extremely challenging, spending time with Edisa was the best.  I really miss her.  Got to see some of the old gang too.  The new place was really nice.  Might have to find my way back to Miami.

Saw a couple of these guys basking in the sun.

It was all smiles on our 4 hour fishing trip aboard the Flamingo.  Couldn't beat the scenery.

CJ the hood ornament


The pose while cruising through Fort Lauderdale, the Venice of America.

Rigged and ready to catch some fish.

That's Darryl the deck hand on the left.  It was obvious he had been on the high seas for quite a while.  I think he was growing barnacles.  He had to be one of the grumpiest and vilest human beings I've ever met in my life.  I'm convinced he's eaten a child or two.  "I told you we shouldn't have done a drop rig!  Filth, flarn, filth!"  Note:  actual language replaced because this is a family blog.  "Those kids are gonna be bored out of their minds in a few minutes!"   Loud burp right after he removes a remora suctioned to his backside.  "Who put this squid on the railing?!?  That's gonna jack up the boat!"  Juicy fart.  "Argh, look at this tangle!  That's gonna be 30 minutes of no fishing!  I told you so!"  Silent fart followed by seagull poop hitting the deck.  Although he reeked of pessimism, his gloom and doom disposition rang true as soon as we left calm waters...

No more smiles for the cousin trio.  Our young fishermen were not amused by the steady rocking of the Flamingo.  Queasy and green is no way to go through life.  While it didn't stop them from feeling horrible, CJ's suggestion of going horizontal helped the cousins to avoid the dreaded technicolor yawn - unlike the rowdy teens who were loudly chumming the waters over the side of the boat with their violent vomit comets.  I was proud that CJ, Jena and Ariel didn't hurl.  They were troopers.  I believe this type of experience is a major reason why Jena's brother Joel will be doing Army or Air Force ROTC at VMI vice Navy ROTC.  Darn shame.

I should be fair.  I'm exaggerating with Darryl's personality.  He was keeping it real and was very helpful.  I don't think we could've gotten a harder worker.  There's not much he hasn't seen.  I could've sworn we brought four kids on the boat though.

Catching a couple of tilefish.

Josh getting in on the action.

CJ feeling a little better.

Staged picture only.  No actual hurling, unlike the group of teens that kept yelling for their friend Ralph.  "Ralph!  Ralph!"  CJ now knows that if he's disrespecting Mom or Dad or isn't doing his chores, he just might get the dreaded punishment of an all day deep sea adventure with Dad.  That'll keep him on the straight and narrow.

Alan enjoying the ride.

The tourists on this Duck Tour boat gave us a couple of loud quacks as we sailed by.

What recession?

One good thing about Fort Lauderdale fishing trips is that even if you don't catch anything, you'll still take in some fantastic scenery.  You know you have a big boat when you need a small boat to get to your big boat.

Believe it or not, after having a bad experience during the deep sea fishing trip, later that same day, Jena and Ariel wanted to go to the lake and do some freshwater fishing.  They just had to catch some fish.  Reminds me of my brother Lee when he gets skunked on a fishing outing.  He goes out and eats some revenge sushi.  Jena caught this little one without a fishing pole.  She used a stick and some line just for kicks.  Show off!

Speaking of showing off, here's Jake showing off his new Jake-O-Lantern smile.  Always the negotiator, Jake let it be known that he thought the Tooth Fairy should leave him more money than usual because 1) he's on vacation 2) it's one of his big teeth 3) it's right after losing the other big tooth.

Carol on the balcony of our resort.

Jake enjoying the big sauna tub with some of the members of Jena's duck collection.

Super Mario Smash Brothers (or something like that) was the Wii game of choice.  Those darn devices again.

Every time the elevator went by the 3rd floor, a strange rumbling noise would emanate from under the elevator.  We were convinced it was the cables grinding past the forgotten bones of the elevator repair man that was sent to investigate the original noise many moons ago.

We walked around the Hard Rock complex for a bit.  That place has gotten really big.

Too bad Hooters didn't get the memo on the big theme.  For those that can't read lips, Jena is saying, "Where's the beef?"  At least we got to see Prince's purple jacket, Slash's top hat, Elton John's crazy outfits (compete with boa) and listen to some good live music.  There was also plenty of silicone that evening, even outside of Hooters.

This Cuban meal was definitely better than Jena's burger.  La Granja is such a simple place but so dang good.

Although we played plenty of games, we didn't do a full blown Cruz Olympics this time.  We were playing Yahtzee this night.

Taboo was the best though.

 Jena keeping a close eye on the timer.

Of course the Cruz's had to spice things up with the game of Taboo.  Hasbro, take note.  We introduced this plastic horn - the Vuvuzela - as an added punishment if you made three or more mistakes or only got two correct words during your turn.  The Vuvuzela, or Zaboomafoo or whatever it's called, was made famous during the 2010 World Cup.  Imagine an entire stadium full of soccer hooligans blowing into these horns at the top of their lungs to support their team.  If you didn't perform up to standards during your turn at Taboo, the punishment was to place your hands behind your back and take the full brunt of a loud Vuvuzela being blown into your face.  If small pieces of undigested pork or a damp mist of black bean aroma unintentionally smacked your face during the trumpeting of the horn, so be it. More motivation to perform better next time.  Here's Joel doling out the punishment of the Vuvuzela on Brandon.

Darby was fortunate during this punishment.  Her son was being lenient and did not blow at point blank range.  Still deafening though.

Usually a solid player at Taboo, this punishment will remind me not to let my guard down.  After being water boarded at Survival/Evasion/Resistance/Escape (SERE) school years ago and now experiencing the Vuvuzela punishment, I believe the Vuvuzela should be banned by the Geneva Convention.  I can live with the water boarding.

Another fun (and very simple) game was "Four Eyes."  You sit in a circle where you have eye contact with everyone in the group.  Everyone puts their head down.  Someone then says, "head up!" All you have to do is stare at one person and one person only.  Just randomly pick someone.  If that same person is staring back at you, you're both out.  You can't look at the same person two times in a row until you get down to four people.  When it gets down to two people, you have a staring contest to determine the champion.  If it's an odd number of people, you won't need to do the staring contest.

And so the champion of Four Eyes was Jake!  He won it fair and square.  The big prize was Ric Flair.  Josh won Ric Flair at the first Cruz Olympics.  Jena won it last year at the Outer Banks.  And now, Jake gets to take home the prize.  Ric Flair is his until the next big Cruz get together.  For those that can't read lips, Jake is saying, "Woooh!!!!!" in his best Nature Boy voice.


The farewell pose.

The girls get into the act too.

Can I simply say that I love my family?  During the blessing for Alan and Brandon's surprise graduation party dinner, my brother Beanie reminded us all that God has really blessed the Cruz kids in that we WANT to see each other and WANT to spend time with each other.  I don't take that for granted.  Some of my friends don't keep in touch with their mother, father, brother or sister.  The issues that sometimes get in the way are money, kids, favoritism or some rift that seems too big to overcome.  I'm telling you, whatever the issue is, it isn't too big to overcome.  It's simply a matter of letting it go.    

Don't think  that we didn't have our issues.  We fought like cats and dogs as kids and would've been great entertainment on Jerry Springer in our hey day.  Heck, there's stuff happening right now but we're all trying to work through it.

A lot of us expend so much energy putting up these walls of anger, guilt, shame or pride with our own family.  Instead of piling on to those negative walls, be reminded of the Good Book and specifically, the Greatest Commandment - which tells us to love God and love each other.  Remember that this is a COMMANDMENT.  It's not a suggestion or a polite request to follow only if we feel like it.  I'll get off my soapbox (or pulpit) now.

I like to think that we're following this commandment when we get together like we do.  I hope my kids and my nephews and nieces remember and learn from these times together so that they can carry it on with their families when they get older.  

The games, movies, fishing, sightseeing, meals, silliness, shopping, sharing a pew at church, Cruz Olympics, laughs, tears, Ric Flair, loud horns and all of the time together with family - it just brings a huge smile to my face and a tear to my eye.  That's good stuff right there.

Cathy and Lee - we missed you guys.  Until next time.  Woooh!!!!

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