She Likes the Beatles

Shannon and I went to go see William Clark Green in McKinney the other night, must say I was impressed. He’s the next big thing in Red Dirt Country and puts on a hell of a show.

She burns through money like I burn through smokes
But she says that I need to quit
Cause if I die from cancer in 25 years
She’ll have to pay off the debt
No she don’t think I’m funny she don’t laugh at my jokes
I could care less about all her shoes
My parents both hate her but it evens out
Cause her parents both hate me too

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Waiting on a statement from Bibi Netanyahu

Egypt on Tuesday urged U.S. authorities to exercise restraint in dealing with racially charged demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri – echoing language Washington used to caution Egypt as it cracked down on Islamist protesters last year.

It is unusual for Egypt to criticize such a major donor, and it was not immediately clear why the government would have taken such a step.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/egypt-urges-us-restraint-over-missouri-unrest-2014-8#ixzz3ArjDBnuE

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America’s In a Bad Mood

KISD should take note before pushing this huge new bond program, their chance of success is beyond their control to spin the message. The electorate is in a very bad mood.

Polls from major networks, researchers and newspapers agree: America’s in a bad mood.

In just one week, polls found politicians of all stripes are hitting approval numbers with record lows. The president finds himself roughly as popular as a trip to the dentist. The entire Democratic Party gets the thumbs down. Oh, and so does the Republican Party.

But it doesn’t stop there. Americans are also bummed out about the future in general, especially the economy. Things are so low that even an old favorite, sugar, polled poorly.

Pollsters say it all adds up to a country that feels “everything is terrible,” as one put it, a mood that campaigns should consider as they head into the midterm homestretch, when turnout should be all about enthusiasm — not pessimism.

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Bloody Tuesday

From Maureen Hagan on July 1, to all council members:

Although the council has decided to renew my appointment to the Parks and Recreation Board, I am resigning in protest. The termination of volunteer members without cause and before their terms have expired is most troubling. Council’s swift actions are based on personal preferences and disregard the years of volunteer service given by many of Keller’s citizens.

The realignment with Spring elections could have been done through a gradual and systematic rotation of boards by extending or reducing their service by 6 months. Instead, you arbitrarily obliterated existing boards and appointed those with whom you share political ideologies.

The city council is solely responsible for the direction of any municipality. Boards and commissions act in an advisory capacity and have no vote in city matters. Linking appointment tenures and elections gives a perception of cronyism. Diversity as well as city wide representation on boards should be our goal.

As newcomers to the ranks of elected officials, I think you have shown poor judgment and a lack of transparency in this sudden purge of Keller’s boards and commissions.

Maureen Hagan

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Good Ground

I was born and raised on a dirt farm in Iroquois County Illinois. My dad wasn’t a farmer, but his family and my mom’s family were. They grew corn and soy beans, rows and rows across the flat country of North Central Illinois fill my memories of being a kid. My best friend lived three miles away from our place, and it was nothing for me to ride my bike to his house to hang out even as young as 5 years old. My maternal grandfather lived 5 miles away, and it seemed my brothers and I were at his house all the time. He farmed about 500 acres and we started helping him work on the farm at a very early age. Memories of sitting on my uncle’s lap while we plowed fields is still one of my most vivid memories of my early life.

I remember my mom warning us not to play in the cornfields as we could get lost and not find our way home. I always thought it was silly as the rows were perfect paths back home, and if you went the wrong way, you would just have to turn around and go the ½ mile from the fence line back the other way.

When I was about 8, we moved off the farm and started our journey moving all over the world. When I was back in Illinois for my Grandmother’s funeral, the same thing that always does popped into my mind. What if my mother hadn’t taken the job working for the US Army? What if we had stayed in Iroquois County? What would I be doing today?

It is a very hard question to answer, and what changes the outcome even more is soon after we left the farm my grandfather died. It changed everything in our world, and if we were still living there I don’t know what direction our life would have taken. I wouldn’t change our experiences moving around and seeing the world for anything, and some days I still have that feeling of a nomad pop up.

For years I’ve spent weekends out driving around the country looking at places to buy, some small and some large. There is still that pull to go back to a farm and live the simpler lifestyle but as I age, the realization that I will never again live on a farm becomes more real with every passing day. I’ve become citified. Hell, I pay somebody to mow my grass at my house, let alone take care of a larger place.

Anyways, what brought this on, is I heard a song from about 10 years ago this morning that brought back a lot of memories. When this CD from Montgomery Gentry came out, Nicholas was travelling the nation playing baseball. I still remember driving the down the highways in our Suburban listening to this CD with the truck full of teenagers headed to a tournament somewhere. The first time I heard the song it brought in a flood of emotions about where I grew up. Now when I listen to it, it brings back a flood of memories of those days watching the boys play ball, but it also confirms that I have put my roots down once and for all.

 

 


 

 

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Because My Brother and my Son are much better writers than I am

My Grandmother passed away last weekend and I’ve been in Illinois all week attending to family matters. My brother Rich had this to say the other day about our grandmother:

* My grandma died Sunday night. Grandma had been in a nursing home for several years after it became clear that she wasn’t safe living alone, even with family in the same small town and regular visits from a nurse.

I thought I had prepared myself. She was 93 and had been in hospice for over a year. But something has stuck with me from the phone call I got soon after Grandma died.

Grandma’s breathing was labored for a while, then she took a deep, final breath and tears rolled down her cheeks as she passed away.

* Grandma was a huge music fan and told me once that she saw Glenn Miller and his big band. I was blown away by that. I was just starting to get into that man’s awesome sounds (go watch “Orchestra Wives” and you’ll get a real sense for how the kids went crazy for Miller’s music), and Grandma told me how wild and loud the show was and how everybody was dancing their hearts out.

Grandma drove to Nashville numerous times to soak up performances at the Grand Ole Opry She saw everybody, everywhere. I’m convinced that she attended triple the concerts that I’ve ever seen. Grandma’s brother was a guitar player in a country/bluegrass band in Kankakee back in the day, and I’m pretty sure I get my love for music from her.

She loved to dance. And she could cut a rug with the best of them until well into her 80s. The woman stomped on the terra every day of her life.

* Grandma was constantly on the go and traveled all over the place. She came to my high school graduation in Germany. She visited us when we lived in Utah. She went out to California I don’t know how many times. And if she didn’t have a destination, she’d make one by driving around until she found something to do. Maybe a garage sale. Maybe an old friend.

Grandma traveled regularly to her original home near London, Kentucky to see family and friends. They lived in the hills, and Grandma rode a horse to school when she was growing up. She used to tell stories about wearing a buffalo skin blanket in the back of the family car.

She was an unbelievably good cook. I used to go to her house sometimes just so I could beg her to make me some liver and onions – something nobody else could do as well as her. The first time I ever ate rabbit was when grandma cooked it for me. She’d bought it from a co-worker at the General Foods factory in Kankakee.

Grandma worked hard at that factory, which made dog food. She worked hard her entire life, from Kentucky to Kankakee. But I never heard her complain and she made great friends at that factory. We’d always run into them when we went out on the town together. She was one of those special people who seemed to know everybody and everybody loved her. It was like hanging out with a working class celebrity, I kid you not. She had a real presence that everyone around her could feel. People were naturally attracted to her.

* Grandma loved to go out to the taverns with her friends. She wasn’t against going to the riverboats on occasion, either. She didn’t live in a big house, quite the opposite. She wasn’t into conspicuous consumption, except for making sure she always got her hair done just so.

Instead, she wanted to have fun. And, man, did she ever have fun. I once laughed so hard at one of her stories that I dropped my beer can on her floor, which made her laugh. She didn’t drop her beer, though.

* Grandma treated her 22 grandchildren like they were all her favorites. I was the oldest male grandchild, so maybe I got extra special treatment every once in a while. At least, I felt so.

I’m told I’m the one who came up with the “Gramma Cuz” nickname for her. All her grandkids and great grandkids called her that. She was married briefly after divorcing my grandfather and kept her second husband’s name Cousin for reasons I never really asked about. Some things, you just don’t discuss with a lady.

Grandma taught me how to crochet once. I was spending a Christmas break from college with her and we couldn’t go anywhere because the weather was bad. Some of my friends made fun of me when I told them what I did over break, but, truthfully, it wasn’t about the crocheting. It was about spending time listening to my grandmother tell her stories and feeling as close to her as I’ve ever felt to anybody in my life.

* I think I told you already that Gramma Cuz met John F. Kennedy. I believe it was 1959, and my grandfather was a Teamsters guy. He took Grandma to a union event in Chicago and Kennedy put his arm around Grandma, kissed her on the cheek and told my grandfather that he had a beautiful wife. To the day she died, nobody could ever say a bad word about JFK in front of Grandma. Ever.

* Years ago, we were in her kitchen in West Kankakee and we talked for the first and only time about growing old. Grandma got really angry as she explained how she absolutely hated the idea of slowing down with age. She wanted to grab hold of life by the throat each and every day and and have fun, damnit. No slowing down for her. That just wasn’t her way. Aging was an enemy, something to be fought.

Watching her slowly fade away, first at her house and then in the nursing home, broke my heart. When dementia finally occupied her almost non-stop, I had to force myself to go see her. But she always knew who I was, even at her most distant. Her eyes would light up when I walked in and she’d hold my hand. But she was soon gone again, lost in an incomprehensible world that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

I knew she was suffering. I knew how much she despised the fate that ultimately overcame her. And so it was almost a relief when she passed. At least she will have peace, were my first thoughts.

But I haven’t been able to stop thinking about those tears running down her cheeks at the end. She’d lost her fight. The fun was truly over. No more traveling, no more new experiences, no more children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, no more crazy fun music, no more of life’s simple pleasures and beauties.

I’ve been haunted by those thoughts for days. But Grandma is indeed finally at peace and no longer suffering. So, I’m trying now to focus on how grateful I am for the love she gave her family, for the example she set of hard work and harder play and for always being there for anybody who ever needed her. She was one of the finest storytellers I knew. It’s not so much what she said, but in how she told those stories. I write a lot like she talked. I’ve been blessed to have her genes.

 

And my son Nicholas wrote this:

I received the very unfortunate news that my Great Grandma Cuz passed away yesterday evening, she was 93 years young. There was a time in my life I thought she would live forever–she had more energy than people a fraction of her age well into her 80′s. She had many rare and exceptional qualities, and was a genuinely great person. To know her, was to love her.

Born in 1920 in rural Kentucky, she was blessed with the oral tradition of story telling and always told the greatest stories. But she was also one of the best listeners. As a kid your voice is not always heard, but Grandma Cuz would always want to hear everything going on in my life and ask sincere questions wanting to know every detail while listening intently with a big smile on her face. I think it was also her way of teaching us how to be great story tellers like her.

She also made the best liver and onions ever, and on several occasions I would eat so much I’d upset my stomach to the point of making myself sick. After dinner I would go catch fire flies in her yard to help burn off all that amazing food. Then I would go sit on the floor next to her chair and play with all the cool toys she bought me at garage sales earlier that day while she watched the rodeo on TV. It was always so hard to leave her place, because even with all her grandkids, great grandkids, and great-great grandkids, she always knew how to make you feel loved and special.

Grandma Cuz had a magnetic personality and effected everyone she knew in a positive way. My kid sister, Reagan Lucille, is her namesake, and shares many of her exceptional qualities. While we will miss her, she has left many of her qualities here with us, because she was such an amazing and influential person. There will never be another person like her, but we will all strive to be as much like her as we can…and of course we will always share her stories.

I named my youngest daughter after two of the most influential people in my life, Ronald Reagan and Lucille Cousin, my grandmother. They always had a special bond, and as another brother remarked this week that I had named two of my kids after different grandparents, Nicholas George after my maternal grandfather and Reagan after my paternal grandmother, and both had more than just a few good qualities of the people they are named after. I will miss her terribly, but she is in a better place. It was good to see so many family members, but the circumstances sucked.

 


 

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Grandma and Reagan a few years ago

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On to the future

Tonight was my last official City Council Meeting as I will be at a Conference in Houston on the 20th where we will have a booth at their trade show.

I have enjoyed my time on Council, enjoyed meeting all the great citizens of Keller and helping to make Keller a better and more fiscally conservative town.

I have a lot of people to thank, and I will probably leave off more than I should. First, I would like to thank John Hoffmann, a great friend and guy that taught me a lot in the past 5 years we served together. John will always be a great and close friend.

All the folks I served with on P&Z, especially Jay Brown, Arelyn Cox and Dan Truby. Truby is also a close friend, and always a guy I could call to get a different view on things. Arelyn, what can I say, I gave the guy a key to my house and said fix it after it flooded, walked away trusting him to make my house whole again, and he didn’t disappoint.

The Council Members I served with, Mitch Holmes, Jim Thompson, Ray Brown, Gary Reaves, Tom Cawthra and Pat McGrail, I learned a lot from these guys.

Giovanni, what can I say, he was my mentor and my friend through everything. When I told him during the 2010 election the only thing I wanted in return for all the help on his campaign was to be there when he got sworn in, he remembered it and made sure I was on the floor of the State House in January of 2013 with Reagan at my side to see him take the oath of office. A memory I will take to my grave, don’t think I smiled that much in one day since Reagan was born. I will always be there for him to walk door to door, or work the polls when it’s 105 degrees or listen to him speak 400 miles an hour at 2:00am when he gets back to his condo after a session. It is a privilege to call you my State Rep and my friend.

To Senator Kelly Hancock, Rep Matt Krause, Rep Stephanie Klick and Rep Jonathan Stickland, thanks more than I could ever say for all the work you do and the support. I am proud of all that you do for our area.

The staff at City Hall, Dan O’Leary who I could talk frankly to and get a straight answer. Steve Polasek who came into his own as a great City Manager, who sometimes was a little too hard headed for his own good but would see the light with a little convincing. Chris Fuller, a guy that has such a great future in his business, Keller has no idea what a great employee they have in him, hey, I admitted multiple times on this blog that I had a man crush on him and that still stands today. Chief Hafner, who runs the tightest ship that you can ever imagine. Brenda Slovak who was there when we as a family had an issue that only she could handle with the professionalism that she shows every citizen day to day. Jonathan Phillips was always there to answer my stupid questions and make me laugh when I needed it, Keith Macedo there to talk some sense into me on tech issues and Deanna Reaves to help answer the hard questions on Economic Development. Dona Kinney and her staff for making Keller the preeminent city in the area when it comes to Park and Rec. Especailly thanks to Sheila Stephens, who is the face of Keller. We knew each other long before I got involved in politics, and she is always so positive and it rubs off on people. Stan Lowry, hey, he kept me out of trouble for 5 years, he should put that on his resume. To Tom Elgin and his whole staff, who would scramble at a moments notice to find all the weird historical data that I would ask for at the last minute. All the department heads to the folks mowing the grass, they all make the elected officials in this town look a lot better than we actually are.

To all my supporters and friends who stood by me, even when I seemed to talk way too much during meetings. To Bob Hill and Randy Leake who made writing on this stupid blog fun on days when it seemed like another post was like another job. To Jim Carson that originally talked me into writing for his blog, thanks. To my business partners who understood why I needed to leave the office yet again to attend a City meeting or to look the other way when we passed on a job in Keller that we could have done and made money on.

But especially to my family who put up with me missing choir concerts or birthday celebrations to attend a Council function. My wife has been very supportive over the past five years, and now it’s time that I spend some more time with her and Reagan. I’ve told everybody that wonders, no, I’m not going away. I will still watch meetings, attend when I can and speak when somebody up at City Hall pisses me off. I will also stay involved in the political side, helping local and other candidates and giving money when I can. I do have a knack for reading a political race and giving advice, it’s just hard to get a candidate to listen sometimes

Maybe in the not to distant future I will run again, the last time I stepped away from a Council position it took me 12 years to win another election. Maybe it will be that long again, but then again, there is an election every year in May.

I’ve posted this song more than any other on this blog, maybe because it’s one of my favorites, but maybe because it really speaks to me.

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My Recommendations For This Election

I have been involved in politics my whole adult life, first walking door to door for President Reagan in 1984. I have watched and been involved in local races here in Keller for 15 years, and this current race for Mayor and Council is the nastiest I have ever seen. The opponents have done nothing to explain to the voters how they will make Keller better other than to say they will drive out all developers, residential and commercial. They want Keller to become a town again, to turn back the clock to the 1970’s where we had one flashing light at 1709 and 377. They talk about high density development being a drain on the city, and beautiful communities like Hidden Lakes are nothing but blight to the environment.

They don’t tell you that they are being backed by a former Mayor that oversaw the greatest growth in the City’s history in the 1990’s, one that is a real estate broker that actively sells property for High Density Development. They don’t tell you that they are being backed by a sitting City Councilman that is a developer, one that since his election has used his office to seek tax breaks for his projects. They don’t tell you that their Mayoral candidate once voted to allow a Mobile Home development in Keller.

I have served with Mayor McGrail for three years, and with Councilman Hoffmann for five years on both City Council and Planning and Zoning. I know Ken Lewis as a Commissioner to P&Z and lately as its Vice Chairman. Sure, I don’t agree with them 100% on every issue, but I also don’t agree with my own wife on 100% of issues that came in front of City Council during my term. But what I do know is these gentlemen have one thing in common, they are serving for the right reasons. It is because they love Keller and wish to see Keller prosper into the future and not become like many other nearby suburbs like Haltom City or Richland Hills. Those cities when they approached build out drove away developers, just as the three opponents wish to do.

I recently had a conversation with a political consultant who told me the greatest challenge in this election is that the majority of the citizens are happy and don’t pay attention to local politics. A recent poll done in Keller showed that an overwhelming majority of residents agreed with the direction the city was headed. The only way to stay the course and remain one of the greatest places to live is to make sure you get out to vote, and to vote for Pat McGrail, John Hoffmann and Ken Lewis.

Don’t let Keller close its door to new business. Don’t let Keller turn into a stagnant community like some of our neighbors. The way to do that is to be involved.

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