Mom’s & Mad Dog’s Light Years Apart Holiday Tours of RIchmond

Christmas Memories by Candlelight

“You’re supposed to keep Christmas in your heart all year… for me, the worst part about Christmas being over is taking down the pretty lights. – My daughter, Tovi Laughon Heffron’s response after I asked if blogging about Christmas after Christmas was a good idea.

Part One: Mom’s Holiday Tour of Richmond

Funny, when I think back on my “growing up days” and the family tradition of coming to Richmond, Virginia for Christmas, whether it was from Front Royal, Virginia; Norfolk, Virginia; Orangeburg, South Carolina or Gainesville, Florida, it was the high point of the year for me. It was magical. It was mystical. It was Richmond, Virginia.

It was a candlelight holiday that could warm the coldest of hearts, bringing comfort and joy to everyone who immersed themselves in it.

Our Christmas trips to Richmond were always by car and always with the four of us, Mom, Dad, my sister Nel and me, and always sharing limited space with our suitcases stuffed full, garment bags, presents for all, and delicious goodies … lots of delicious goodies. Where was a rack on top when we needed one?

When we arrived, we always repeated the same rituals and routine. There was a rhythm and rhyme … Nel and I would have it no other way. In fact, no matter how far we had to drive, we talked the entire time about what we wanted to do after we passed the “Welcome to Richmond” sign.  And, with little variation, it was the same things, mapped out the same way, year after year, after year. And, we loved it!

We would always enter the city, just southeast of downtown, take a slight detour to drive a well traveled loop on Church Hill and park in front of St. Johns Church where Patrick Henry delivered his “give me liberty or give me death” speech and where Edgar Allen Poe’s mother was buried.

Church Hill was mom’s cue to take on her “official Richmond tour guide” role and tell us (one more time) all about the importance of Richmond and Virginia and help us focus on the important things we needed to know (translation had to know) in order to be strong American citizens.

After mom’s passionate and inspirational tour kickoff, we drove down the Hill to Tobacco Row where we were reminded about how important tobacco was to Virginia and tobacco manufacturing was to Richmond and what they produced was to the WORLD! It seemed like all the brands in the land were made right here! I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to light up a cigarette made in Virginia and tell all of my friends! Then, I would acknowledge their positive reaction with a  perfectly symmetrical shaped smoke ring!

The next stop was the historic state capitol where we were quizzed on who designed it (hint … our third President who my oldest grandson and I share our name with).

We were reminded that the first, largest and most prosperous of the British colonies in America was (no surprise … starts with a V).

Furthermore, Virginia was home to four of the first five presidents of the United States — eight in all, more than any other state. Who could deny that this was indeed the true center of the universe and that anything and everything  of any importance came from here … the birthplace of the United States of America. What else could you do at this moment other than salute and sing a quick round of God Bless America? We sang it in four part harmony.

How could you not put two and two together and realize, that because we were a family from Virginia (that had roots dating back to the original colonists), we were important, too?

Mom stated it was for certain. Dad would smile and give a positive nod.

To Nel and me, all of this, though important and our ticket to becoming strong American citizens, was merely a grand refresher slowing down our progress  to get to where we really wanted to go … Miller and Rhodes and Thalhimers … the two amazing downtown department stores with even more amazing holiday window displays. Those displays totally captured our attention and imagination. We pressed our noses against every window no matter how cold …  even when it was snowing). Themes would change each year, but one I remember was Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Life-sized mannequins dressed to the nines would electronically come to life and perform just for us, accompanied by music, narration, and twinkling lights. Each window would portray a different scene and we could stay as long as we wanted and we wanted to stay forever!

Every year, Mom would tell us that everything we were witnessing behind those grand display windows came from New York City! That declaration made the experience even more spectacular, more magical, and, yes … more important. This being said, we knew that if you were from New York, you were still a Yankee! But, even so, we had to give those Yankees credit for making incredible department store Christmas window displays.

We would ultimately be gently nudged back to the car (even though Nel and I never wanted to leave) to wind our way from downtown toward the West End. We knew we were heading for Monument Avenue, where Nel and I would be tested on who the statues memorializing Virginian Confederate participants of the Civil War were. We were ready! We passed with flying colors every time. How could we not … we were whispered the answers when we were in the womb.

The Christmas lights in Richmond were different from anywhere else in the world we were told, and we took that as FACT. To our knowledge, there were no multicolor lights in the entire city (except Miller & Rhodes and Thalhimers, and they came from New York City). All the other towns and cities we lived in had lots of multicolor lights, but we never had them in any of our homes, no way! We were always true to our birthplace, Richmond … and folks from Richmond were somehow above that … the city and its homes were all adorned with candles that illuminated every window. These candles were a tradition that dated back to colonial times. Yes, we knew that our new improved candles were plugged in, but this improvement was accepted. Less upkeep and fewer house fires!

Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright. Nothing in this sacred carol suggested multicolor lights… nothing! Case rest.

Whether you were decorating inside or outside your home in Richmond, only real, fresh cut evergreens, holly, magnolia, cedar and pine adorned with cones, fruit, and berries were acceptable. Fake replicas, plastic or other materials were taboo … forbidden in the old Capital City of the South (which would have been the Capital City of the United States of America had we pulled off winning the War Between the States as planned … damn Yankees).

We knew our Holiday Tour of Richmond was coming to an end when we began to drive west down Grove Avenue parallel to the trolley tracks (first trolleys in the United States of America I’ll have you know).  And, where they dead-ended, we would only pause for a minute or two for Nel and I to shout, that’s Pa Pa’s office! The small plaque next the entrance door on the front porch simply read, Dr. B. H. Martin, MD.

I would always shout out, “Are we going to go and get Pa Pa give us a physical?”.

“Not me … Pa Pa is too rough,” Nel said tearing up. “Mom, please, no, please!”

“Scaredy cat, scaredy cat, scaredy cat! Meow!” I shot back not more than a few blocks from Pa Pa’s (a name that was more special and important than a mere grandfather)!

No one said anything else, we all knew we would be stopping by Pa Pa’s office … physical exam was part of every trip to Richmond. A few blocks later, we were turning right on Three Chopt Road … and there it was … the end point of our destination.

To Nel and me, Pa Pa’s home looked like Downton Abby.  And, he was indeed the king of his castle … the Wizard of Oz … and the only real Pa Pa in the universe (if there were others, they had to be pretenders). His peers, subjects and patients called him Dr. Martin (including my dad).

Only the grandkids could call mom’s dad Pa Pa. Nel and I were the oldest, and therefore the most important of the chosen few. He was our Pa Pa first. We may have named him … on second thought, I take that back … since I was the first born of the chosen few … I named him. That’s right … I named the King, Pa Pa. Yep, all by myself. Had to be me … he was already Pa Pa when Nel came along … case closed!

As we walked toward the door of Pa Pa’s castle lugging luggage, presents and goodies, we saw the white candle lights in all the windows  and on the big front door hung a giant reef of real, fresh cut evergreens, holly and magnolia. And garlands of cedar and pine adorned with cones, fruit, and berries hung above every window facing the street. It was beautiful. It was Richmond. It was Pa Pa’s. This was his kingdom and Nel and I were the chosen ones, so it was our kingdom and castle, too.

The door would open to our excited knocks and there he was, standing at attention, and tall enough to touch the sky. His white hair could easily have been mistaken for a cloud … our very own Pa Pa.

I repeat: It was a candlelight holiday that could warm the coldest of hearts, bringing comfort and joy to everyone who immersed themselves in it.

It was Mom’s Holiday Tour, and we never went off the beaten path. There was a wonder filled rhythm and rhyme to it and it and

Part Two: Mad Dog’s Holiday Tour of Richmond

All of this sets the stage for an event that occurred decades later and was conjured up by a handlebar mustache enhanced guy I have crossed paths a couple of times named Barry Gottlieb …  Barry “Mad Dog” Gottlieb.

Mad Dog and Frank Hudak

“Mad Dog” concocted a scheme that was light years away from traditional candles, fresh cut evergreens, holly and magnolia. Garlands of cedar and pine adorned with cones, fruit, and berries weren’t the only way to celebrate the season. Barry was out to stir things up, more than just a little bit. He wanted to broaden and brighten Richmonders’ horizons.

Bottom line … Barry wanted to shake it up and party down!

He said, “There’s a big part of Richmond that’s always been conservative. And they liked their pretty little white lights and their plaid bows. I think these people were a little offended by it. But of course they all got in their cars and went to check out these houses.”

Barry named his choice collection of homes, whose inhabitants  took his challenge as an opportunity to plug in and strut their stuff, the Tacky Xmas Decoration Contest and Grand Highly Illuminated House Tour. With the flick of a switch, fake was in. Real was passé. Tacky was the new normal.

2300 Wistar - Frank Hudak

Started in 1986, this blur of multicolored lights and illuminated Santas quickly grew into a monster.  Dr. Frankenstein has nothing on us. And, although the name has been shortened to the Tacky Lights Tour, the lines cars and tour buses filled with fun loving humans waiting there turn to marvel just get longer and longer every year.

It’s freewheeling, free, open to the public and open to the wildest imaginations of those who accept the challenge of doing whatever it takes to be noticed and admired.

Looking back on it, Barry could have been just saying we needed to just lighten up a bit,  be more inclusive and accepting of other ways to celebrate the holidays … all lights, decorations and traditions could and should live together!

Then again, he was Barry “Mad Dog” Gottlieb … maybe he just want to stir the pot and party!

Tacky Lights Tour

To me, it’s Miller & Rhodes and Thalhimers Christmas display windows on steroids!

One of this year’s featured homes had 90,000 lights! Virginia Power loves them! Another had 792 homemade decorations … count them and you’ll know it’s true. Still another used an 80 foot forklift to hang their lights in giant trees …. all the way to the top.

I can’t wait until drones, pimped up in tacky lights, start darting around high above the homes on tour and then swoop down to our cars to serve up complimentary hot chocolate in twinkling cups. Now, that’s tacky deliciousness at its best (that is if the hot chocolate in twinkling cups is topped with a gooey glob of glow in-the-dark marshmallows).

Tacky House Tour Monument Avenue

The mansions of historic Monument Avenue are not tacky. Not in the least. Here is picture proof of the Tacky Lights Tour’s acceptance and success. It’s a small display, but a stand out never-the-less! It is what I call, “The New Improved Highly Illuminated Monument on Monument Avenue!” General Lee and Traveler would have to surrender again to this new, improved, outrageously tacky way to travel. Sorry, but it makes the other monuments pale in comparison.

“The New Improved Highly Illuminated Monument on Monument Avenue!”, chosen by the public as one of this year’s Tacky Lights Tour Top Five would have been considered heresy … a sacrilege … a crime punishable by public hanging when Nel and I were kids in the candlelit Kingdom of Richmond … real, fresh cut decorations and white candles everywhere.

Part Three: Daddy Daddy (Kind of like Pa Pa, but me) & Melissa’s Put It All In A Blender Holiday RVA Tour

At Christmas, my two daughters, son-in-laws, and six grand kids follow the old family tradition of visiting us for our version of the Richmond Tour. Parts of it are still the same … the history,  sharing of cherished traditions, importance of family and good times! They pile into cars just like we did. They drive from Wilmington, NC, a right good drive, just like we did. They come bearing gifts, luggage and goodies just like we did.

They love mom, just like we did . We all celebrated her birthday … she’s a Christmas baby! This year was her 95th. Her home was built in 1796. She is not the tour guide she once was, but she still brightens up at the mention of Richmond, and can still sing a proud rendition of God Bless America. And, yes, she had candles in every window.

Our home is right next door to mom’s. We have white candles in every window, too. But we also have plenty of twinkling multicolored lights in just about every room inside! We’ve put the past, present and hopefully the future in a blender!

You can blow out those candles of bygone times all you want (and I am right there with you), but you can’t take away the glow generated in me by those Christmas memories accented by pure candlepower.

Check out http://www.richmond.com/holiday/tacky-lights/

After thought: I wonder if Barry, “Mad Dog” Gottlieb was a Yankee?

What Are The Odds?

To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible. Thomas Aquinas

Mom, Me and Cake

I must admit, I was down to the wire when it came to writing and posting my last blog for 2014. I knew I wanted to commemorate mom’s 95th birthday which was on Christmas day, and yet I really didn’t have a concept in mind. The only thing I had going on in my head was the image of Father Time trying to hand off his duties to a mere child. I had to work fast!

TICK TICK TICK was reverberating throughout my entire body. How could anyone write a blog with this much pressure and racket going on?

TICK TICK TICK.

TICK TICK TICK.

My goal … beat Father Time before he beats me and the kid takes over. Stop that damn TICK TICK TICK any way I could became my battle cry. So, I came up with what was a bit of a cop out. It would be down and dirty and hopefully somewhat engaging.

I took mom’s age … added it to mine … subtracted the total from 2014 … and came up with the year 1848. Then, I googled “what happened in the USA in 1848″.

The TICK TICK TICK provided the back-beat as I quickly read Wikipedia’s answers.

Before I share, don’t tune out until you read the last one.

TICK: Discovery of gold prompted the California Gold Rush

TICK: Construction began on the Washington Monument

TICK: Gas lights were installed in the US Capital

TICK: Wisconsin was admitted as the 30th U.S. state

TICK: Zachary Taylor was elected President of the United States

TICK: John Quincy Adams, 6th President of the United States from 1825 till 1829 (born 1767), passed away

TICK: The Shaker song Simple Gifts was written by Joseph Brackett in Alfred, Maine

STOP THE CLOCK!

This last entry wouldn’t even connect with most people, but to me, it meant everything.

What are the odds? The very first blog I wrote on May 22nd, 2011 was titled “A Gift to Be Simple” and featured the lyrics from Simple Gifts.

What are the odds? My mom’s and sister’s favorite song was Simple Gifts. They learned it while cutting silhouettes of Shakers (past and present) in Shaker Village, Pleasant Hill Kentucky. They sang the song all the time … it was not only their favorite song, it was their mantra.

What are the odds? On July 30th, 2011, I wrote another blog titled “By Turning, Turning We Come Round Right” … part of the lyrics to, you guessed it, Simple Gifts.

It featured a video of my mom, sister and me singing Simple Gifts. It is one of my greatest treasures, because my sister passed away of Alzheimer’s at only 64 years old in April of 2011.

What are the odds? This was the last video ever taken of my sister.

What started out as a desperate and arbitrary attempt to beat Father Time at his own game had me weeping.

Without warning, time went into rewind mode.

It was Christmas day. Mom was on the receiving end of her cake. It featured two candles … the numbers 9 and 5.  Mom’s 93rd birthday was the last for individual candles … after that year’s experience, we felt any more candles would be a fire hazard, especially in her house that was built in 1796.

What are the odds? Mom has lived to be 95! But, if you ask her, she’ll say she is six, ten or twenty-two.

What are the odds that mom’s two granddaughters (my daughters), her two son-in-laws, six great grandchildren and my wife and I would all be here … on her actual birthday to celebrate with her?

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Happy birthday, Mom!

Fast forward … Happy New Year, everybody!

 

Hysterical Historical Holiday Solution

Guest blog by my wife, Melissa

Kenzie & Helen

Kenzie & Helen

Every year, we celebrate Christmas with Tom’s daughters (Tovi & Lissi), their husbands (Ty & Chris) and the six grandchildren (Thomas, Patrick, Fisher, Livi, Kenzie & Tyli) between Christmas and New Year’s.  Tom and I really get into the planning and have created some fun traditions for “Christmas RVA” that we know are on the kiddos “must do” list each year.

Every morning starts off with a hidden clue as to the magic the day will hold.  And, once all the kids are awake, they look for the clue, decipher it and announce the day’s plans (ex: outdoor ice-skating downtown, hot chocolate at the Jefferson Hotel, The Tacky Light Tours, etc.)  And, each year, in honor of Helen, the kids help plan a birthday party for her and decorate the cake.  She’ll be 95 this year! As of last year, we had to stop using individual candles as we were awfully close to a fire hazard at the 93rd celebration!

And, each year, we try to continue Helen’s legacy and love of history by sharing some of the experiences we know she would create for her great grandchildren if she could.  Last year, we visited Mount Vernon and the year prior, Monticello.  This year, we were considering Williamsburg (Note: For those of you who know Helen, you can rest assured we haven’t waited this long to share her love of all things colonial …  we all know and love Williamsburg dearly, but not everyone has seen it casting its candlelight spell during the holidays.)

Last year, the stars aligned and we were able to celebrate together for 6 days.  This year, we’ll have to condense our plans into 3 days which we anticipate to be quite the challenge.  So, this past weekend, we drove down to Wilmington to celebrate Lissi’s birthday and help with Tovi’s move, so we decided to do a little research with the kids.  Which activities would make the cut?  Ice skating and opening presents tied for first.  The “historical” trip ranked low (although they all said yes to Williamsburg if we had more time).

On our last night, as we were gathered around a fire at the Heffron’s and were revealing the results of the kids’ poll with Tovi & Lissi, we shared our dilemma.  Tom and I would have to find a way to fit in the historical experience because we knew we had to make Helen proud.

As everyone considered possible solutions, Kenzie (age 9) piped up with a straight face, “Helen’s historical.”

All eleven of us looked over at her and busted out laughing in unison … problem solved!

Get the Picture?

“Family members of someone with dementia grieve not only the loss of the person they know, but ultimately the death of someone they don’t know.”

– Amy Tucci is president and CEO of the Hospice Foundation of America

(No Picture Needed Here)

While skimming the newspaper this morning, I came across an article by Amy Tucci.

Anything and everything about DEMENTIA and ALZHEIMER’S  screams out at me and stops me in my tracks.  So, even knowing I was about to leap headfirst into disturbing territory, I don’t mind telling you, Amy’s opening line caught me totally off guard.

After reading and rereading it, my immediate reflexive reaction was to grab a tissue and use it to soak up the tears that seemed to come out of nowhere. It ended up being a three tissue, crying-up-a-storm, event. I halfway expected a TV weatherman to appear and issue a warning to everyone in the world to take cover.

After what seemed like forever, the dark clouds moved on, and I was able to take the proverbial three deep breaths. The next thing I did was to try and get my arms around why that opening line packed the punch that it did, after all, I am a seasoned caregiver of four plus years. I have had plenty of time to come to grips with thoughts like the one above, not only with my mom, but with my dad and sister, too.

So, as I sat alone, trying to figure out what just happened, a welcome ray of sunlight entered the room, and the tiniest rainbow I have ever seen appeared just beyond the tip of my nose. No joke! It was a real honest to goodness miniature rainbow … just like in the Wizard of Oz, only small, small, small.

Get the picture? Do you hear Judy Garland singing in the background like I did?

Somewhere, over that little rainbow, I saw mom, not as who she was, or who she will inevitably be, but as she is now. OK, so she is not the mom I knew, but you know what, she makes up for that because of who she is!

On any given day, or moment, she will tell you she is six, or ten, or twenty-one, but never, never, ever ninety-four.

When asked, she’ll tell you her hair is green, or orange, or pink. The only thing for certain is that it is not pure white, which it is.

She is determined and passionate about her desire to marry me. She ask me if I will or would all the time. I deftly change the subject by pointing out something shiny.

She refers to me as her boy or her girl. She uses these words interchangeably, but I can live with that.

Whether I am her boy or her girl is of no concern, what matters is she knows I am hers and that her never ending love for me is the undeniable foundation of our relationship.

The best is when arrive with a, “Hey Momma, Momma, and she lights up and ask, “Is that you, Tom Laughon?” That’s a day maker!

She is joyful.

She is funny.

She doesn’t cry.

She sings made up songs like no one I have ever known. And, when I sing, or we sing together, she claps her hands and rocks to the beat.

She holds me so tightly that I have pry myself loose from her hugs. And, if truth be told, there are times I want her to keep me in her grip forever. You can feel the strength and determination that has allowed her to take a leading role her entire life.

See the little rainbow? Hear the music? Feel the beat? Life. Love. Reflection. Refraction. Real. Illusion. Always a continuous spectrum colors.

There is so much to be grateful for that lies between the “Family members of someone with dementia grieve not only the loss of the person they know” part and the, “but ultimately the death of someone they don’t know” part.

The infinite memories and full spectrum of emotions mom triggers, the rainbows she continues to create … fleeting though they may be … are real and are to be treasured.

Somewhere over the rainbow … when sunlight encounters tears …

Get the picture?

A Birthday Name Game

2014-06-13 20.48.51A guest blog post by my wife, Melissa.

One afternoon this week after work, I walk over to visit Helen.

Just before I slide open the glass door on the back porch, I take a long, deep breath.

It’s not that I am apprehensive or feel uncomfortable … I’ve been observing caregiving situations for as long as I can remember.  My parents and grandparents have instilled in me from a very young age a sense of respect and responsibility for elders.

It’s that I need all the energy that I can muster when I’m with Helen.  At 94 (weeks away from 95), I’ve learned that, although at times she thinks that she is 6 and wants to marry my husband (her son), she has the fiercest instincts of anyone I’ve ever met.

She will shut you out or allow you in or lash out at you (accompanied by an occasional bite) in a matter of seconds.  I’m mindful of the energy I bring into most situations, but I am acutely aware of how critical the energy factor is when I’m with Helen. So, as I’m inhaling at the door, I assume the “me” that I have found to be most effective with Helen … it’s the positive (but not perky), the strong (but not threatening), the kind (but not weak), the cautious (but not afraid) and always respectful me that my mother-in-law needs to feel safe.  So, I take a deep breath and I assume that role … for her.

Helen is sitting in her kitchen at a beautiful pine table made by her husband, Fred (that if you don’t put a tablecloth over, she scratches obsessively and there are the indentations to prove it).  The kitchen looks all at once familiar, yet very different, as all around us are the new caregiver’s belongings and ways of organizing … essential and most appreciated, but seemingly out of place at Cheswick, Helen’s historic (circa 1796) home.

I never know when I start a conversation with Helen, whether I’ll encounter the quick witted and all-knowing Helen or the Helen that asks when someone is going to take her home.  But, thanks to a lot of practice, I’ve learned to be quick on my feet and meet her wherever she is.

Me:  Hi, Helen!

Helen:  Hi, girl!

Me (while hugging Helen):  Hi, Helen … it’s Melissa … I’ve dropped by to see you.

Helen:  I love you.  Your hands are cold.  Give me those.  (She proceeds to blow and kiss them until she deems them warm enough to let go of.)

Me:  Well, I have exciting news.

Helen:  What is it? (Helen loves excitement and has more energy at 5:30 p.m. after a full day at the adult day center than I did at 10 a.m. after my second cup of coffee)

Me:

It is officially the Laughon birthday season.  Are you ready for all the birthday celebrations?

Helen:   I am always ready!

Me:  Well, let’s play a game.

Helen:  Ok, I’m ready (she sits up straighter in her chair).

Me: I’m going to give you hints and you’re going to guess who is having a birthday on Sunday.

Helen:  This Sunday? Ok, I’m ready.

Me:  The first is on November 16thand it’s a boy’s birthday.  He’s funny, he’s handsome and he belongs to you.

Helen:  He belongs to me!?!

Me:  Yes, ma’am.  And, he’s a great singer.

Helen:  (says nothing, but closes her eyes in concentration and nods her head slowly)

Me: And his name starts with a “T”.

Helen:  A “T” …  hmmm … (more concentration and I think I see a little smile)

Me:  Do you know who it is or do you want me to tell you? (giving her this option balances out the fun of this game that she consistently finds engaging but gives her an easy out that she will often take if she’s not sure of the answer)

Helen:  I know who it is … can you guess?

Me:  I think it’s Tom.

Helen:  How’d you know! Tom Laughon, my boy!

Me:  Yes, Helen, Tom’s birthday is Sunday.  We should practice singing Happy Birthday!

I start singing “Happy birthday to you” at the exact time that Helen sings “Jesus loves me this I know” and I smile, give her a squeeze and join in “for the Bible tells me so.”  When we finish, I tell her after Tom’s birthday is Lissi’s (her granddaughter).

Helen:  Claps her hands together and says, “I know that girl!”

Me:  And, Ty and Patrick have birthdays in November.  And, after that … the next birthday is on December 25 … who might that be?

Helen:  Hmmm (closes her eyes again in concentration)

Me:  December 25 … Christmas Day

Helen:  Me … Helen Douglas Martin Laughon … my birthday is Christmas Day.

 

Leader of the Brand

 

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Although the exact origins of the phrase “to a T” are unknown, and the fact that “T-shirt” is clearly at least 300 years too late, has no connection with the phrase and can’t be taken as a serious contender, our company’s Catch Your Limit T-shirt fits mom to a T.

TIP: If you read the opening sentence out loud, catch your breath before going any further. We don’t want to lose any readers or followers over this one long winded sentence.

My mom is right there at the top of my list of leaders who guided and helped me grow as a leader.

My dad and sister also share top billing in this regard!

What this means is that I won the Leadership Lottery when the stork decided to drop me off where it did.

I landed in the perfect place, with role models who had the courage to keep me, and the determination teach me the ways to of a true leader.

So, if other brands can have icons, celebrity endorsers, spokespersons, etc., I choose mom for Catch Your Limit. I say, when the shirt fits … wear it!

Unlike Betty Crocker, mom is for real.

Unlike a clown we all know, mom has been around and lasted longer than Ronald McDonald.

Unlike Tony the Tiger, mom’s actions speak louder than words. She didn’t just roar a sugarcoated, ‘They’re g-r-r-r-e-a-t!’  … she did whatever it took to lead people, teams and organizations to become g-r-r-r-e-a-t!.

When it comes to leadership, she still serves as the inspiration, the conscience and the guiding light for me and others who have been fortunate enough to have crossed paths with her.

When it comes to catching your limit, mom is the leader of the brand.

 

 

 

Ooga Booga Boogie

 Three things:

1. To my followers … you have noticed I have not blogged in a while.

Well, I am back in the saddle again, but there have been lots of changes since my last blog that have kept me going everywhere but to my blog.

Mom is doing well!

She has a new “Band of Angels”, full time caregivers, staying at home with her in shifts, and one of them is living there, so I don’t have to leave my home or wife to be with mom at night. The idea of consistently sleeping in our bed at home is like a dream come true.

The “Band of Angels” make sure Mom gets to and from Circle Center Adult Day Care Monday through Saturday … they feed her, dress her, undress her, and spoil her (and me) like you wouldn’t believe. This “Band of Angels” is up for any challenge and are truly a divine blessing for all concerned.  And, shout hallelujah, they get her where she needs to go in their very own chariots of fire, too.

They aren’t Charlie’s Angels … they are Tom’s Angels! They are Melissa’s Angels. They are Mom’s Angels.

Fact is, no matter what you call them, they come when you call … they are simply angels.

Oh, and a dog comes with ‘em … they call him Jovi. Mom calls him Woof Woof.

More about Woof Woof (who loves to nip at me and only me} later … if he last that long. Look for the headline, Man Bites Dog, and you’ll know I have had my revenge.

I’ll keep you posted on all the changes going on, but what I know for certain is mom’s still her incredible, joyful self (as you will see in the video that prompted my/our reappearance). That’s what it’s all about, and we are all so grateful.

2. I made mom’s image in this blog look bigger than life on purpose. She is the star of this video and deserves as big a screen as I can give her.

3. To set the stage, I took this video in one take in mom’s backyard a week or so ago.

I know, I know … why didn’t I take it horizontally?

Because I am stupid. I never remember until it’s too late, and in this case, I was not going to mess with this classic video one little bit … so vertical it is.

You can’t get more spontaneous than this … because, with camera rolling … I impulsively asked mom if she knew what Ooga Booga was and the rest is history in the making! You see, there is no Ooga Booga Boogie … no Ooga Booga song of any kind … that is, until now.

There is a Camp Ooga Booga. I should know, because Melissa and I created it. We made it up a long time ago for one selfish reason … it was a reason for Melissa’s and my six grand-kiddos to come and spend an entire week with us each and every summer, without their parents.

Don’t get me wrong, we love their parents (two of them happen to be my daughters), but to have the kiddos to ourselves was the whole idea!

The fact is Camp Ooga Booga has two one week sessions every summer. One session for the three boys. One session for the three girls. And, for the Official Ooga Booga Counselors, Melissa and Tom, two jam packed weeks of summer fun, laughs, adventures, surprises and love … each and every summer.

Camp Ooga Booga is a memory making machine and the memories stacked on top of each other are taller than the sky!

Camp Ooga Booga has morphed into a wonderful, look-forward-to, wouldn’t-miss-it-for-the-world, summer extravaganza for all involved. We have Ooga Booga t-shirts, Ooga Booga cheers and chants, Ooga Booga picture books … all sorts of Ooga Booga icons and stuff, but no Official Ooga Booga song … that is until now.

To kick start the video, I ask mom if she knows what my favorite camp is? I tell her it’s Ooga Booga. She has absolutely no clue what that is, but like a champ, she takes it from there. She is making everything up while I am trying not to make my camera shake from all the laughter that’s taking place inside my entire being. It’s taking all I’ve got, and then some, to keep from laughing out loud and spoiling this impromptu performance of a lifetime.

So, without further ado, how about a big round of applause for this 94 year old little stick of dynamite’s latest, sure-to-be-a-hit, song … ladies and gentlemen … the Ooga Booga Boogie!

PS – Getting up, standing on your chair and wildly flailing your arms to the beat is perfectly acceptable! Do you thing! Do the Ooga Booga Boogie!

Added Bonus http://my91yearoldmom.com/2011/07/08/lessons-from-camp-ooga-booga/

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