Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Good News!

June 30, 2010

A couple of weeks ago I wrote that Danielle had an extreme day at the water park resulting in a severe sunburn and dehydration. Late that night, she experienced her second seizure in a year, prompting us to check in with her doctor to see if there was something more than a reaction to overexposure to the sun that caused her episode.

After two weeks of blood tests (anemia, thyroid, electrolytes, blood sugar), a CAT scan of her head, an EEG to measure brain waves, and an EKG to measure heart rate, I am happy to say that all tests came back normal. According to the neurologist she was referred to, Danielle did, in fact, have an extreme reaction to the heat and dehydration; she might just be a little more sensitive to that sort of thing than other people are. Although we'll watch her carefully to make sure she protects herself in the scorching summer heat, I'm thankful to know that there doesn't appear to be a larger (and more frightening) underlying health threat.

Danielle, being a good sport as she is hooked up to the EEG monitor.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Welcome to the Family

June 29, 2010

On the 26th of June, my niece Tiffany brought her beautiful baby girl into the world. Graci Raelynn McCloud weighed in at 6 lbs., 5 oz., and was 21 inches long. It's hard to believe that I am now a great-aunt! Welcome baby Graci; you will be one loved little girl!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

What a Football Stadium Means To Me

June 26, 2010

For most people, a football stadium is all about the thrill of the game, practice brought to fruition through sweet victory, and rivals defeated through dedication and teamwork. Well, it's that for me, too, but it has nothing to do with football. For me (and a lot of other people I know) it's all about the half-time and the pageantry of marching band and drum corps.

The 1980s was the heyday of marching band in Clovis Unified, and Clovis High's Golden Cougar Marching Band was sitting on the top of the throne. We were powerful, formidable, and an awesome force to be reckoned with. And yet, we were kids--probably kids who didn't realize in the moment what a lasting effect our experiences would have on us, and how nearly tangible some of the memories we were building would become. These experiences and memories were dreamed and willed into being by our director, the incomparable Mel Stratton.

Mel touched many lives in his years at Clovis High, in ways he couldn't have known. Take, for example, the extraordinary numbers of his former students from those days who are now successful band directors in their own right. But he lived, both before and after those days, as a fixture in the Drum Corps world as well. As a matter of fact, several of us from Clovis High and many surrounding schools had the privilege of marching under his direction in the corps he and his wife Patty founded, The California Dons. The Dons were a short-lived corps with the fire and fight of the underdog, and it played the part of the training ground to send many young musicians and guard members off to prestigious corps like The Blue Devils and Santa Clara Vanguard, among others, when the Dons closed their doors.

Last night our city hosted a drum corps show, and Mel and Patty opened their homes up for a pre-show open house for his marching band and corps alumni. We watched old video footage and looked at pictures, many of which most of us had never seen. Mostly, though, we reminisced. There was a lot of, "Remember when we the bus broke down and we had to get out and push?" "Remember the show when we arrived so late that we had to jump right off the buses and onto the field?" "Remember the feeling when we walked off the field at Nationals?" "Remember...." And yes, we did. We all remembered. There was so much to remember, and so many people to remember. We made some amazing friends in those organizations. (Being in such close quarters for so many weeks or months or years will do that.) We also got to travel and see things most of us, myself included, would never have had the opportunity to see or do at that age without being involved in those organizations. And most of us got to experience for the first time a real sense of family and community outside the families we were born into. Sure, there were squabbles every now and again, and there was a lot of hard work, but the family came first, and we were all working toward a common goal--one that we were successful at reaching, much more often than not.

At the Drum Corps show, after having spent the afternoon reliving fond memories, I was instantly transported back to the days that made my high school experience such formative time in my life. It's amazing how seeing those shows can bring you back to the exhilaration of performing and the euphoria of hearing the hard-earned cheers from the crowds. You remember, but with fondness, the sweat, frustration, exhaustion, and yes, even tears that go into building those shows. You also think, "Yeah, but it was all worth it." We were learning so much that wasn't just about music or dance or flags or even marching. We were learning that if the goal is worth reaching, it's worth working hard for. We were learning discipline, including self-discipline, and responsibility. There is no faking it if two hundred other people are depending on you to be in your spot and know your job. We were learning respect, not only for those in charge, but even more importantly, for ourselves. And most important of all, we were learning that we were capable of so much more than we thought we were capable of before we began. We were learning to believe in ourselves. We were becoming young men and women; we were growing up.

Thank you again, Mel and Patty, for all that you did for me, and for all that you did for all of us.

Mel and Patty and Me
Jeanne Butler, Danny Pena, and Jennifer Cole Hernandez
Danny and Me
Shawn, Judy, and Marty
Tony Bernal and Me
Brad Riley with the Dons uniform (not quite his size)
Jennifer Cole Hernandez, Steve Sprague, Jeanne Butler
Mel and Danny
Michele Falk and Pat Murray
Stacey Reece King, Kelley Young, Jenny Howell Eastman
Mel and Randy Guill

Santa Clara Vanguard
Blue Devils

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Joys of Summer

June 23, 2010

Last summer, our pool--our whole backyard--was virtually uninhabitable. It was sad and pathetic, and beyond our energy and resources to repair. But finally, after a lot of money and a lot of hard work (especially by Doug and our nephew Justin and his buddy), we have reclaimed our backyard and made it a place we all want to be to swim, bar-b-que, entertain, and just relax. I'd love to say our children never squabble anymore and that puppies and kittens smile and brighten the yard, but that's not entirely true. The picture below of Nicholas and Danielle was probably taken just before he dragged her under in an impulsive mischievous mood swing. But still, since there's more room to spread out, the kids are a little less in each others' hair this summer. Also, I'm pretty sure our cat Kelly does smile every now and again at all the fun being had, so there's that, too. Regardless, Doug and I are pretty proud of all we accomplished out there, and we love hearing the kids ask if they can have friends over to swim. Hooray for summer!

My Baby Girl Is Seventeen

June 23, 2010

Seventeen? Already? I'm not sure how it happened, but my baby girl turned seventeen this past Sunday. Her arrival was her father's first Father's Day gift, at 6:01 a.m. on an already-hot Sunday morning. She was a petite little newborn with a sweet pixie face, weighing in at 6 lbs., 13 oz. She was just perfect.

Flash forward to Father's Day, June 20, 2010. My baby girl is a beautiful young woman with senior year on the horizon and her future at her feet. She has chosen to surround herself with some pretty great friends--people who are genuine and honest and loving, and who make pretty good choices about how to spend their time. Brianna's a pretty smart girl like that--she gravitates towards the kind of people who are positive and protective of the kinds of futures they'd like to see for themselves. And they do it with enthusiasm and JOY. I love her group of friends!

We celebrated this year by renting out the clubhouse near her Aunt Julie's condo. It has a complete indoor sitting and dining area, and it also gave us free access to a pretty spectacular swimming pool and beach volleyball court. We had music, food, sports, and a lot of laughing and giggling. Oh--and pictures, of course. It was, I would say, a very good night!

Sarah Mayo and Melissa Lewis
Mallory Lewis and Bree
My Baby and Me
Austin, Paolina, and Mary
Sarah, Amber, Bree, and Austin

Bree and Shelby Jett

Thursday, June 17, 2010

In Which an English Teacher Finds Out Science and Math Can Be Fun, Too

June 17, 2010

I have a little time on my hands now that it's summer, so I've been doing a little web-surfing. I came across and found some pretty awesome and hilarious answers students have submitted on tests. A small sampling: