Monday, January 22, 2007

Where are your favorite places to dine?

I can't put this in any order, other than the order they popped into my mind. I'll probably think of more after I post this...

1. Dreamland, Tuscaloosa (Best sauce)

2. Big Bob Gibson BBQ, Decatur (Best ribs and loaded potatoes)

2. City Cafe, Northport (my second home when attending UA...awesome blue plate)

3. Rosie's Mexican Cantina, Huntsville (favotite Mexican, hands down)

4. Diorgano's Pizza, Chicago (Can't beat the best Chicago style pizza you can get)

5. Whitt's BBQ, Decatur (Best sandwiches)

6. Terry's Pizza Huntsville (owner died but brand is coming back...awesome thin crust pizza)

7. Original Oyster House, Mobile and Gulf Shores (seafood lovers will not be disappointed)

8. Lambert's Cafe, Foley (fun and good food...hey how can it be bad when they throw the rolls?!)

9. Arthur Bryant's BBQ, Kansas City (ranks right up there with Dreamland and Gibson's)

10. Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, Birmingham (one of the best steaks you will find, at a price)

11. Bob Baumhower's Wings (my favorite wings since I was a student at Bama in the 80's). I had a friend who worked at the one on the strip who used to bring the biggest wings home and we we would pig out late at night when i was a UA student.

On the Menu

We had a couple of really good meals this weekend. Friday night we did our grocery shopping and the boys said they wanted to have tacos. David and Matt preferred soft tacos and Joe wanted hard shell tacos. So we got one of those packs with six of each type of shell. We got our ground chuck, taco seasoning mix, salsa, shredded cheese, and sliced chilies. David wanted jalapenos so we got those too. We already had a tomato at home and I decided we would do without the lettuce.

Matt was my kitchen assistant. Mostly he made trips back and forth to the refrigerator and to the garbage can for me. In between those tasks he kept me entertained with his stories. During the past several weeks it seems like he is really bonding with me stronger than ever before. Not that we haven't always been close, but as he grows older he seems to really be more attentive.

We were talking about hair color for some reason and Matt said that he wished his hair was brown. I told him that I really liked his blonde hair and that most people would rather have naturally blonde hair like his. Then I said that most girls probably think he looks cute with that blonde hair. He said matter-of-factly, and I quote, "Yeah. I already figured that out." I said, "How did you figure that out?" He informed me that was why so many girls at Vinemont were always trying to be his girlfriend. He told me that at his new school he hasn't had that problem yet and he seemed glad about it. I told him that was ok. He didn't need to worry about any of that now!

Anyway, I have digressed. We all thoroughly enjoyed the tacos. The boys made comments on how much better they are when they are homemade. After I cleaned up the mess, I put David and Joe in charge of baking cookies. Chocolate chip cookies right out of the oven with a glass of cold milk is an awesome treat! Then we settled in for the movie. It was a great night.

Saturday after the game in Tuscaloosa, we went to the Alabama Bookstore on the Strip. The boys and I like to look at the souvenirs and sometimes they buy something with their own money. David bought an Alabama glass and Joe bought a cap. Matt really wanted a football and a headband. I told him that he couldn't get anything.

I asked David and Joe to distract Matt while I bought something for him. Matt, being sneaky himself, figured that I was up to something. He was "expecting" when we got to the car that I was going to "surprise" him with something. He couldn't stop grinning. On the way to the car, I actually hid the headband in my coat so that I could give it to him in the car. Since he figured it out, I informed him that he was wrong and that there was no surprise.

Matt chose Cracker Barrel as the restaurant for his birthday dinner so we stopped at the one on the east side of Tuscaloosa. After he got out of the car I put the headband on his seat so that he would see it when he got back to the car.

David had the blueberry pancakes. Matt and Joe both had the french toast. I had my usual choice, the "Uncle Herschel" breakfast (two scrambled egg whites, country ham, hash brown casserole, biscuits and gravy, and grits). I traded my grits to David for part of one of his pancakes. I also asked the waitress if they did anything for birthdays (for Matt) and she asked me in a whisper if he could eat chocolate and I said yes.

Matt seemed a bit taken aback by the attention showered on him when the staff came out and serenaded him with "Happy Birthday". He really enjoyed the chocolate fudge brownie with ice cream too. When I asked the waitress about that Matt acted like he didn't notice what I was doing. Later he told me that he heard the whole thing. You just can't put anything past that kid.

And he really liked the headband he found on his seat when we got back to the car!

Sunday, January 21, 2007


The boys and I watched this movie Friday night. We ordered it via pay per view and enjoyed it thoroughly. There were a few parts that I wished were not in it in terms of adult themes and language, but we really enjoyed it. If I cry and laugh in the same movie, it's usually a good sign. Along the way there was some pretty funny stuff, even if it was on the crude side.

It reinforced the lesson that family should come first. It also illustrated how we humans try to "fast forward" through the times of our life that actually might be the best if we have more acceptance with regard to things that are out of our control. It reminds me of the Biblical idea that we should give thanks in all things.

I like movies that make me laugh, cry, and think in the space of two hours, without putting me to sleep. Thumbs up!

Bama Basketball

Yesterday the boys and I drove to Tuscaloosa to attend the Alabama versus Georgia basketball game. We got there in time for the boys to get the Jermareo Davidson growth chart that they were giving out free to the first 1,00o in attendence.

The game started off as bad as I've ever seen Alabama start in a basketball game. We were down 15-0 and after four minutes we were losing 18-2. I remember commenting to the boys that if Georgia kept up that pace they would beat us 180-20. Fortunately for us and 15,000 other Tide fans in attendance, that did not happen.

Things got worse before they got better, though. Alabama fell behind by 19 points later in the first half. It seemed like the 16 game home winning streak was over. The boys never lost faith though.

The main problem was defense. Alabama's shots finally began to fall later in the first half, but the defensive intensity just wasn't there. I made comments that there is no way to catch up without doing it defensively first.

Georgia was up 50-35 at the half. We just couldn't make a sustained run because of the poor defensive play.

At halftime a group of kids called (I think) the Hoover Dribblers kept us entertained. At that point I thought that might be the best part of the game for Alabama fans. I was wrong.

Down by 15 at the half, we still didn't make much of a run throughout most of the second half. We were still down by 11 points with four minutes remaining in the game.

(I must give some credit to David here. Late in the game he commented that it would be so cool if Alabama was losing or tied and scored the winning basket at the buzzer. Little did I know...)

Things began to change rapidly at that point. The team magicaly found an intensity level that could have helped them defeat any team in the country. The fans were also intense and loud as Alabama went on a 16-3 run to close the game.

Steele tied the game at 76 on a three pointer with 54 seconds to go. On Georgia's next posession, one of the officials blew a whistle against Georgia for a 35 second shot clock violation. After the play the referees debated amongst themselves whether Georgia truly violated the 35 second shot clock. The whole issue boiled down to whether the shot hit the rim or not.

It was finally decided that the whistle was blown in error because the ball did in fact hit the rim before the shot clock expired. It was explained after the game that at the time the whistle was blown the ball became "dead".

Since neither team had posession of the ball, Alabama gained posession because the alternating posession arrow pointed to them as Georgia had posession the last time Alabama forced a tie up.

That gave the ball to Alabama just seconds left to play. All-American guard Ronald Steele was closely guarded by the Georgia defender and was not able get an open shot. At the very last second he pivoted around the defender and took an off-balance shot that fell in literally at the buzzer to give Alabama its 17th consecutive home victory.

The crowd went wild. The boys and I were jumping around screaming and giving out high fives. David asked me on the way home if that was the most exciting basketball game I had ever seen in person. Well, I'm getting older and have probably forgotten way more than I remember, but that had to be at least the most exciting last minute I have seen. It would be very hard to top that last minute!

Roll Tide!

Tide Steele’s a Victory, Cecil Hurt, Tuscaloosa News

CECIL HURT: In the final minutes, we saw the real Steele Tuscaloosa News


Photo from the Tuscaloosa News of Steele preparing for the game winning shot:


The boys and I have had some really good times during the past few days. However, I had some major respect, obedience, and compliance issues with one of my children (who shall remain nameless on this blog) on Saturday morning that resulted in a lot of tears and hurt feelings for both of us.

I try to be patient, but there are times, in my opinion, that a parent needs to "draw a line in the sand" and warn a child that there will be consequences for crossing that line. I am also of the opinion that our standards as Christian parents should be fairly high when it comes to expectations about respect, obedience, and honor.

Furthermore, once consequences are clearly communicated, they must be carried out or there is no point in having any expectations in the first place. These issues can be especially difficult for those of us who are single parents.

Well, that is what happened yesterday morning. The child in question was either unable or unwilling to accept responsibility for his own actions. He blamed his punishment on me saying that I was showing favoritism to his brothers. At another point he claimed that it occured because he thought that I "liked" doing it.

It would have been clear to anyone, except him, that I did not like doing it at all. If I made a mistake, it was that I was too patient in that I kept pushing the line of expectations back. I should have issued a warning sooner regarding consequences and carried them out earlier. Part of the reason I didn't do that is that I do NOT like punishing my children! Like any good parent, I want them to be happy and blessed.

I also want to debunk the idea that I like (or love) any of them more than the other. Once again, I find that impossible to do. I go out of my way to avoid that being not only a reality, but also a perception. It may sound like a cliche', but they are all unique, special, and lovable in their own ways. No, I don't like everything they do and say, but I love them all the same.

I think that the reason he blamed his punishment on me is that he did not want to face up to his own issues. He did not want to admit to himself, much less me, that he was in the wrong. There is nothing too unusual about that.

I think we all as humans are born with a difficulty in accepting that we are at fault and deserving of consequences for our actions. Those who learn the importance of that type of humility and develop it will find the balanced and honest views of ourselves that will allow us to be in a position to be blessed.

As a matter of fact, that is the whole basis of Christianity; admitting that we are sinners in need of a savior. I pray for my childrent that they will all grow and develop in this area of Godly humility. For that matter, I hope to grow in that as well!

The good news was that we all overcame the difficulties. We prayed, read some Bible verses, and enjoyed a great Saturday together. And when the day was over, there was plenty of love, hugs, and kisses to go around.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

It doesn't cost anything to be nice...

"Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant - Be Nice to People"

At a TD Club meeting many years before his death, Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant told the following story, which was typical of the way he operated.

"I had just been named the new head coach at Alabama and was off in my old car down in South Alabama recruiting a prospect who was supposed to have been a pretty good player, and I was havin' trouble finding the place.

Getting hungry, I spied an old cinder block building with a small sign out front that simply said 'Restaurant.' I pull up, go in and every head in the place turns to stare at me. Seems I'm the only white 'fella' in the place. But the food smelled good, so I skip a table and go up to a cement bar and sit. A big ole man in a tee shirt and cap comes over and says, 'What do you need?' I told him I needed lunch and what did they have today? He says, 'You probably won't like it here, today we're having chitlins, collard greens and black eyed peas with cornbread. I'll bet you don't even know what chitlins are, do you?' I looked him square in the eye and said, 'I'm from Arkansas. I've probably eaten a mile of them. Sounds like I'm in the right place.' They all smiled as he left to serve me up a big plate.

When he comes back he says, 'You ain't from around here, then?' And, I explain I'm the new football coach up in Tuscaloosa at the University and I'm here to find whatever that boy's name was, and he says, 'Yeah I've heard of him, he's supposed to be pretty good.' And, he gives me directions to the school so I can meet him and his coach.

As I'm paying up to leave, I remember my manners and leave a tip, not too big to be flashy, but a good one, and he told me lunch was on him, but I told him for a lunch that good, I felt I should pay.

The big man asked me if I had a photograph or something he could hang up to show I'd been there. I was so new that I didn't have any yet. It really wasn't that big a thing back then to be asked for, but I took a napkin and wrote his name and address on it and told him I'd get him one.

I met the kid I was lookin' for later that afternoon, and I don't remember his name but do remember I didn't think much of him when I met him. I had wasted a day, or so I thought.

When I got back to Tuscaloosa late that night, I took that napkin from my shirt pocket and put it under my keys so I wouldn't forget it. Heck, back then I was excited that anybody would want a picture of me. And, the next day we found a picture, and I wrote on it, 'Thanks for the best lunch I've ever had, Paul Bear Bryant.'

Now, let's go a whole buncha' years down the road. Now we have black players at Alabama, and I'm back down in that part of the country scouting an offensive lineman we sure needed. Y'all remember (and I forget the name, but it's not important to the story), well, anyway, he's got two friends going to Auburn, and he tells me he's got his heart set on Auburn, too, so I leave empty handed and go on to see some others while I'm down there.

Two days later, I'm in my office in Tuscaloosa, and the phone rings, and it's this kid who just turned me down, and he says, 'Coach, do you still want me at Alabama?' And, I said, 'Yes, I sure do.' And, he says, o.k., he'll come. And, I say, 'Well, son, what changed your mind?' And, he said, 'When my grandpa found out that I had a chance to play for you and said no, he pitched a fit and told me I wasn't going nowhere but Alabama and wasn't playing for nobody but you. He thinks a lot of you and has ever since y'all met.'

Well, I didn't know his granddad from Adam's housecat so I asked him who his granddaddy was, and he said, 'You probly don't remember him, but you ate in his restaurant your first year at Alabama, and you sent him a picture that he's had hung in that place ever since. That picture's his pride and joy, and he still tells everybody about the day that Bear Bryant came in and had chitlins with him. My grandpa said that when you left there, he never expected you to remember him or to send him that picture, but you kept your word to him, and to Grandpa, that's everything. He said you could teach me more than football and I had to play for a man like you, so I guess I'm going to.'

I was floored. But, I learned that the lessons my mama taught me were always right. It don't cost nuthin' to be nice. It don't cost nuthin' to do the right thing most of the time, and it costs a lot to lose your good name by breakin' your word to someone. When I went back to sign that boy, I looked up his Grandpa, and he's still running that place, but it looks a lot better now, and he didn't have chitlins that day, but he had some ribs that woulda' made Dreamland proud, and I made sure I posed for a lot of pictures; and don't think I didn't leave some new ones for him, too, along with a signed football. I made it clear to all my assistants to keep this story and these lessons in mind when they're out on the road. And, if you remember anything else from me, remember this - It really doesn't cost anything to be nice, and the rewards can be unimaginable."

Coach Bryant was in the presence of these few gentlemen for only minutes, and he defined himself for life, to these gentlemen, as a nice man.

Regardless of our profession, we do define ourselves by how we treat others and how we behave in the presence of others, and, most of the time, we have only minutes or seconds to leave a lasting impression - we can be rude, crude, arrogant, cantankerous, or we can be nice. Nice is always a better choice.

I like what Stephen Grellet, French/American religious leader (1773-1855), said, "I expect to pass through the world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do, or any kindness I can show to any creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer it, for I shall not pass this way again."

Sunday, January 07, 2007

A Matthew Story

Last night Matt (my eight year old) did something that just amazed me. We were sitting on the couch together playing a game. He paused the game and said, "Dad are you sad?" I said, "No, why?" He said, "I just thought you looked sad." I reassured him that I was fine and I wondered why he thought that, but mostly I was just proud of him for being so sensitive, considerate, and empathetic. It made me feel so proud of him.

And if all that wasn't enough, just a moment later he said, "I love you, Dad."


Fun Times...

I really enjoyed the times with the boys since Thursday night. That night I gave them the autographed football that Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson signed earlier in the day for me. I also gave them each the collector's edition of the Tuscaloosa News about the hiring of Coach Nick Saban. They played their new drums for the first time and watched some of the sports news with me. We had ham and blackeyed peas for supper.

Friday night I gave them each the Ronald Steele backpack that I was able to get when I visited the University on Thursday. I brought home two little Caesar's pizzas for supper which were enjoyed by all. We played drums, Xbox, wrestled, and generally had a good time.

Saturday we practiced baseball over at the Vinemont ball field, watched some of the Alabama basketball team's loss to Arkansas, burned branches in the backyard in our burn pile, and did some grocery shopping. After the shopping, David and Joe attempted to make sausage and pancakes for supper. The sausage turned out fine, but they ended up asking for my help with the pancakes. We learned that it's impossible to make an edible pancake if the batter is only slightly thicker than water.

Saturday night we watched the movie, "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" on VH1. The boys had not seen it before. They enjoyed watching this bit of 1980's fun every bit as much as I did. We started to watch M*A*S*H, but about an hour into the show, around midnight, I realized that we were watching the final episode that was over two hours long. They were disappointed, but I made the decision that we needed to get to bed or we wouldn't feel like getting up in time for church in the morning.

Today we did get up in time for church and went to the 10:45 a.m. service at Northbrook. We stopped at Wendy's for a burger for lunch. We drove home in the middle of a torrential downpour. We played Xbox games such as bowling, baseball, racing, and basketball. The boys drummed and David played his CD's and Joe shot his bb gun out in the yard after the rain ended. As usual, I think I did a pretty good job spending focused time with all three boys as well as some quality on-on-one time.

Since I don't have them all of the time plus the fact that these days pass so quickly and will never come again, I try to really focus on them and appreciate these moments in time.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

President Gerald R. Ford

Former President Ford, our 38th President, died a week ago at age 93. Today he was eulogized by President Bush, Former President Bush, Former secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw. He was also eulogized by Vice President Cheney during the "State Funeral" last weekend. All of these were insightful and interesting.

Here are the transcripts:

George H.W. Bush

President Bush

Tom Brokaw

Henry Kissinger

This summer my boys and I were in Grand Rapids the day after Ford's 93rd birthday. We visited and were impressed with the Ford Museum.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Got the tee-shirt...

My sister treated me to a little taste of Alabama in Chicago on Saturday December 23, 2006. We ate at the Houndstooth Saloon. I had the buffalo wings, which were superb. I also sampled my sister's pulled pork barbecue sandwich and fried potatoes, which were also good, but definitely prepared in the midwestern style. We discussed the possibility of me flying up next year to watch a Bama game with her there. If you are a Tide fan who finds yourself in Chicago, it is just a few blocks south of Wrigley Field on Clark Street.

Christmas and Living Like You are Dying

My three sons, my parents, and my sister all spent Christmas and the following days together in Huntsville. As always we had a tremendous time together. Christmas evening Mom made the traditional meal: turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, fruit salad, and cake. After supper we exchanged gifts.

My sister was in Huntsville until Thursday, so all six of us were together Monday through Thursday. I can probably count on one hand the number of days each year that our entire family is together in one place at one time. Because of that, this is definitely one of the best times of the year. My parents are 76 and 74. The last few years I have started thinking quite a bit about the possibility that they could pass away at any time.

It is so easy to get caught in the trap of thinking that things "will always be this way". I have celebrated Christmas with my parents 41 years in a row; 35 of those have been in the same house in Northeast Huntsville, at the foot of Monte Sano. It is only natural to think this will continue. The reality we all must face, though, is that it will certainly not always be like this.

I may never see either of my parents alive again. The same can be said, though perhaps it is less likely, regarding my sister or my sons. It is also possible that they may never see me again. I am not trying to sound overly maudlin or pessimistic. It's just that we need to consider these realities in order to live better quality lives.

If someone out there happens to read this post, my hope is that you pause and think about these things in your own life. These thoughts, in and of themselves, are most unpleasant and not something that should be dwelt upon. Nevertheless, they are real and we need to reach out more to those we love.

Here's a song by Tim McGraw that sums it all up...

Live Like You Weere Dying

He said I was in my early forties
with a lot of life before me
when a moment came that stopped me on a dime
and I spent most of the next days
looking at the x-rays
Talking bout the options
and talking bout sweet time
I asked him when it sank in
that this might really be the real end
how's it hit you when you get that kinda news
man what'd you do

and he said
I went sky diving
I went Rocky Mountain climbing
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named FuManchu
and I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter
and I gave forgiveness I'd been denying
and he said someday I hope you get the chance
to live like you were dying.

He said I was finally the husband
that most the time I wasn't
and I became a friend a friend would like to have
and all the sudden going fishin
wasn't such an imposition
and I went three times that year I lost my dad
well I finally read the good book
and I took a good long hard look
at what I'd do if I could do it all again

and then
I went sky diving
I went Rocky Mountain climbing
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named FuManchu
and I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter
and I gave forgiveness I'd been denying
and he said someday I hope you get the chance
to live like you were dying.

Like tomorrow was a gift and you got eternity to think about
what'd you do with it what did you do with it
what did I do with it
what would I do with it'

Sky diving
I went Rocky Mountain climbing
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named FuManchu
and then I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter
and I watched an eagle as it was flying
and he said someday I hope you get the chance
to live like you were dying.
To live like you were dying
To live like you were dying
To live like you were dying
To live like you were dying