Saturday, January 29, 2005

#143 - Celebrities Can Be Very Trying

Michael King (Rambling's Journal) opines that Michael Jackson needs to be given a long-term vacation at the nearest pedophilia rest home. One with bars that prevents dangling small children out of windows.

Celebrity trials have always presented a problem for me. Once upon a time I confess to being fascinated by the spectacle. Any time a headliner ended up in court, especially for more heinous crimes, I was just as sucked in as the media wanted me to be.

Until OJ, that is.

Dave Barry once stated that he expected the OJ trial industry to keep him busy for at least a year following the trial. If you took OJ out of the formula and substituted the word "celebrity," you'd have a lifetime supply of article fodder.

On one level I can understand the hype. Public figures have celebrity because they've done something at some point in their lives to make them famous. Movies, sports, politics. All have their iconic figures, and the public (assisted ably by the MSM) are constantly aware of their activities.

The OJ trial was the first one I paid much attention to, if only because it pointed out a few glaring inconsistencies in our woeful need for "hero" worship. Understand: I'm not saying hero worship is bad, so long as you're picking true heros to emulate. Unfortunately, most of the people branded as heros by their adoring fans are not so much worthy of worship as they are needful of serious counselling or intervention. Most of them are downright weird.

In OJ's case it was the idea that a man (a black man, to be honest) who had been a tremendous athlete, and had subsequently made a successful media life for himself could be somehow capable of such a heinous crime. We began to see how a life of celebrity began to unravel by stages. A man who had begun to buy into his own legend, a trophy wife, petty jealousies that escalated into violence. It was, and remains, a sad statement. Today the man lives in a fishbowl, hounded by a scandal-hungry public (assisted, again quite ably, by the MSM).

Michael Jackson is even more fascinating. Here was a man who, as a kid, had tremendous talent. There was no doubt the kid could sing. Then, mysteriously, he somehow missed that part of puberty where the voice changes. For years after most of us suffered through come-and-go Exorcist/PeeWee Herman voices, MJ still sounded like a twelve year old. As his music and celebrity continued to evolve, we watched him literally become a caricature of himself. His nose became pointy. His skin took on a bleached hue. His public antics and eccentricities were well documented. Then there was Neverland.

Rumors of sexual ambiguity and tales of children having "sleep overs." Young boys. Questions.

I had long since tuned it out.

The media-choreographed circus that was the OJ trial had finally cured me of my obsession with celebrity of any kind. As I watched his multi-million dollar legal defense team spin and conjure for the world to see, I became disgusted with the whole thing. With OJ. With his "dream team." With the drooling, fawning public who spurred the whole thing on.

Want to know the truth? I could care less whether Jackson is guilty of this crime. Let the justice system work its process quietly and efficiently. Close those doors and let the witnesses testify. Let the jury make their decision without becoming fodder for every media legal "expert" who doesn't have a real job in this country. Then let Jackson take the consequences of his actions. Let his empire crumble around him. He's had the spotlight long enough... probably far longer than he ever really deserved.

At the end of the day it will boil down to the same arguments. If he's convicted, it will be decried as character assassination. Jackson Senior is already playing the racism card. If he's acquitted, it will be seen as another celebrity "buying" his freedom.

Either way, it will make little difference in my own life. Except for not having to see his mutated image splashed in front of me every day. That, I can live with.

Friday, January 28, 2005

#142 - Blogger Returns from Bermuda Triangle

Wonders why there's been no progress on this planet

Cameron free-associates his work day (night? shift? I hate retail). Hilarious stuff, but you'll want to skip quickly past that cover of Li'l Kim. Or maybe you won't. Ya reads Cam, ya takes yer chances.

I've returned to the blogging yoke, with a piece of family history. Lighter fare if you need a break. Me? More CSI tonight and the new show "NUMB3RS." I like it. Appeals to my inner Geek.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

#141 - Meme? What Meme?

Just a quick scan of Drudge tonight to see if there's anything fisk-worthy out there. Lessee now... hmm... D.C. is in "lockdown" mode for the inauguration tomorrow... wow, they've even got missile launchers deployed. Must be serious about this... Ok, Boxer insults Rice. Big Whoopin' Surprise there... Singer curses at youth inaugural concert. Look for an "I toldja so" from Malkin... Brits have their own hands full with Abu Ghraib abuses. Heh, join the club, fellas... Another UN alarmist predicts death and destruction for major cities. Big deal. Bible's been doing that for centuries, but will we listen? Noooo... Another Big Chill in Woebegon Land. More fodder for Moonbat Keillor, I suppo... Wait! What's this??


Not a scandal at KRISPY KREME!!??

It can't be, it just can't! Better check the link. Maybe Drudge is jumping the gun on this one... he's done that before...

Federal investigation... CEO with the intelligence of cottage cheese... accounting irregularities... stock plunges...

Oh, great. Now what'll I do on Breakfast Club days? Krispy Kremes are the only things I actually look forward to on Wednesdays! Danged low-carb diets, anyway.

Oh, wait. That makes it at least partly my fault. I'm guilty by association. Great.


Better hang up my bloggin' spurs. There ain't no joy no more.

#140 - Condi v. Senate

The hearings continue. I have little doubt that very little substantive debate regarding U. S. foreign policy will actually take place. It's always more of an opportunity for politicians who oppose the sitting president's policies to make their political hash in a forum where potential voters may actually be listening.

My only question is:

How difficult is it for multi-millionaire white males to have to question a woman who happens to be waaaaaay smarter than they are?

Just askin'.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

#139 - Remind Me Why We Need Public Schools

Every time I find myself vacillating even a little about our decision to homeschool, something like this comes along. Joanne Jacobs points us to an article in the Mercury News about a middle school in Palo Alto, California who invited a rather, er, colorful speaker to their Career Day.

Assuming the salient talking points of the article to be true, I'm not sure which distresses me more: the idea that this fool was invited in the first place, or the fact that the kids thought he was the best speaker of the day.

Understanding that I'm putting myself squarely in opposition to all the ACLU bulemics who may wish to wave First Amendment arguments in my face, let me point out that anyone's right to freely express his or herself only serves to strengthen the argument that I should be allowed to control anything and everything to which my children are exposed. This becomes the essence of why Mrs. Woody and I choose to homeschool. There is no possible way that I or any relatively small group of like-minded people can significantly influence the academic agendas of any given school district to ensure that my children will be taught only those things of which I approve. This assumes, of course, that I tacitly approve of such things as math, history, English, science, and so forth. I draw the line, however, at moral issues.

So far as I can tell, modern schools, in concert with today's popular culture, have a lousy track record where teaching (or even encouraging) morality, integrity, or character are concerned. I see it as the height of irresponsibility to even suggest to any young person that by artificially increasing your natural anatomy you could make a fortune by exposing yourself to an addictive, destructive industry, no matter how legal it may be.

In fact, reading between the lines, the message shifts subtly: You don't necessarily have to work hard to make your way in this world. No one will think less of you for becoming a professional hedonist. Shucks, what do your parents know, anyway? If they nag, just leave. Go find someone who will become your enabler in life, so you can rationalize every dumb decision you seem determined to make.

The Principal, Joe DiSalvo, seems to have wonderful hindsight regarding the decision to hire this "management consultant" (now, there's a frightening thought!) as a Career Day speaker. Such a man would be allowed back if he were paired with a "strong teacher" and his materials were edited in advance. I guess that's why he's the principal, hm? To make those tough decisions and protect the kids, right?

If I were a Palo Alto parent and one of my children were in attendance at that event, Mr. DiSalvo wouldn't be taking quite so cavalier an attitude about it. He would find himself facing one hellatious fight at the District level with repeated demands that he step aside and let someone run that school who actually cares about the futures of the kids. There would be demands for a complete disclosure of every single event taking place at that school, and alternatives provided for activities where parents felt it inappropriate to have their kids attend.

Unfortunately, I'm sure Mr. DiSalvo's job is safe. Parents may be angry over the incident, but few, if any, will demand that level of accountability from their local educators. This has been the trend through most of the last century. Parents continue to abdicate their responsibilities to the schools. We've been conditioned to believe somehow that we are incapable of understanding what's best for our kids' educations. The unions can't see beyond the money they claim to need, administrators feel that only they have enough education themselves to be able to teach our youngsters, and the politicians can't stand the thought of anyone but themselves having control over the entire affair.

To those who do avail themselves of the public education system I say: Stay involved. Don't ever assume that your school is a "safe" haven for your kids. Question everything. Accept only the best. As for me...

Public schools long ago ran out of compelling arguments for why, exactly, I should submit my children to their tender mercies.

UPDATE: It's late Sunday evening, and this post has generated - by far - the most comment traffic I've ever seen on this blog. Between comments posted below, and those on my brother's site, I've been encouraged by the breadth of the discussion. Perhaps I can make more than an occasional ripple in the blogpond. Thanks to all who have commented. Even where we disagree, I have found the discussion to be both enlightening and stimulating.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

#138 - Of Storms and Men

The recent winter storms that have pounded California have left me looking somewhat like a prune lately. While my eyes readjust to sunlight, I can take time now to ponder the fate of those who, like the recent tsunami victims, have been called upon to sacrifice seemingly without cause.

Most heart-wrenching (for me, anyway) are two stories. Obviously, the landslide at La Conchita is an extreme tragedy. We Woodys pass by this little community every time we drive up to Santa Barbara to visit family. It always amazed me that people would be plucky enough to build homes in a spot where that cliff had given way at least once before. It amazes me still that people there are already talking about rebuilding.

Another story that made the local news was of a mother in the Antelope Valley, north of Los Angeles, who had driven around a flood barricade and gotten stuck. She managed to get herself and three children out of the vehicle and onto the roof to await rescue workers. A helicopter got her two older children, then began to lift her while she held onto her two old. Part way up, the woman's grip slipped and the child plummeted back into the raging water below. They found the child's body downstream a few hours later.

These are incidents that I cannot possibly imagine having to live through.

There are lessons here to be learned, of course. Now, however, is not the time to expound them. Now is the time for compassion and action on behalf of the victims. We can save the debate for why these things happened for a later day.

So, what to do? Many, many people have already banded together to give assistance, whether physical or financial, to victims of storm damage. Some of us, unfortunately, are not in a position to offer that kind of assistance. But there are still ways we can contribute.

If your physical faculties are limited and money is tight, you can always give blood. Back in October, I posted about having visited the "friendly vampires" of the American Red Cross. I'd do so now, but have to wait for this dratted flu bug to pass. In the meantime, let me recap what I'd written in that post:

Being close to Halloween, I visited the vampires the other day. It's been awhile and I had some extra blood that was just laying around looking bored, so I gave it something to do. Years ago, this would never have happened without heavy sedation.

<Ensuing long-winded story about my unreasonable childhood fear of needles and how I overcame it.>

The "vampires" are, of course, the friendly American Red Cross volunteers who work blood drives throughout the world. I've been on the receiving end of their services, and I'm grateful they were there. I've not been a consistent donor over the years, but I always feel good when I do. I always feel like I'm making a real contribution to society, as opposed to this incredibly self-serving blog stuff I write.

The Red Cross gave me a donor's card last year, and it says "Type O Hero" right on it. Given my history with needles, I feel a little like a hero.

Please donate. Call 1-800-GIVELIFE to find out where and how.

Please donate. I will, once I'm safe again.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

#137 - Is CBS Worth Redeeming?

I simply do not have time to get into a deeper analysis of the CBS investigation, and I'm perfectly content to trust those who have torn the report limb from limb elsewhere. Cases can be made for all opinions I've read so far. CBS did take some serious collateral damage from Thornburgh's team, but still managed to neatly side-step the more basic issue of whether they displayed "political bias" in their Bush/TANG smear campaign. (Oopsie... did I just let my own bias show? Silly me!)

For my part, I really don't care about the report. Unlike many bloggers, I simply have not been holding my breath waiting to hear from some respected yahoo as to whether CBS poked itself in it's own Black Eye. The real question for me is whether CBS (or any of the "legacy" media) is worth the effort it would take to rebuild.

CBS (as well as every other long-established news organization) touts itself as a reliable, respected source for news and information deemed important to our lives. Never mind that we seem to spend copious amounts of time listening to "important" reports of celebrity trials, athlete arrests of the day, and "in depth" reports consisting of 5 minutes' worth of heavily filtered material. The fact that this pablum comes from organizations like CBS somehow makes it "respectable."

Once upon a time the news orgs held sway over the world of information. They were able to keep us well informed because we lacked the abilities, energies, or resources to learn otherwise. Dissenting voices were drowned out as they lacked the infrastructure to make themselves heard over the din of nightly newscasts.

Enter the Internet, and the instantaneous exchange of information from around the world. Not by "seasoned" professional reporters, but by human observers of all kinds in every nation. People not only "on the ground," but intimately involved with the events that shape our perceptions. We were given streaming video of images from the tsunami within hours of that event, making those images superfluous when shown later in the day on any given network. Before I ever heard a news anchor talk about relief efforts, the 'Net was abuzz with multiple ways to donate and contribute to those efforts. I didn't need another talking head in an empty suit bravely standing under a 30 foot wall of water to tell me how bad it was.

I already knew. (Do I even need to mention how quickly the blogosphere reacted to the tragedy?)

For my money (or lack thereof), CBS can go the way of the dodo. Their brains have already been sucked out through their noses. Let's just finish the embalming job and bury them in the nearest pyramid.

Who knows? In another 1,000 years or so, even CBS may be worth something.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

#136 - The Woundup Evolves... Again

You may notice that I have new addition to my blogroll. In view of previous posts defining the direction I wanted to take, I decided that rather than give the Woundup a face lift, I needed to start a new blog. I call it "The Inner Dad," and it will be my forum for describing my journey through Dadhood.

I may have mentioned before (or possibly not... hard to remember what I've told to whom!) that I wrote a book a couple of years ago. Oh, it's never been published. I'm too chicken to go through the traumatic experience of finding an agent and publisher that might be interested in the topic. Some day, perhaps. But it has given me that sense of accomplishment for having written an actual book all the same.

The original title of the book was "The Dad Within," but I have since decided to call it "The Inner Dad." I have always felt that there was a community out there of men like myself, trying to get through life with a decent career, a family, and kids that weren't trying to out-attitude each other. The book actually addresses those who are contemplating becoming a dad at some point in their lives.

The new blog is my mirror to that book, and will host my various essays on Dadhood, its challenges, its rewards, and the general hilarity that typically ensues.

So, what about the Woundup? Well, in shifting paradigms I felt like there were folks who had added me to their rolls who expected me to continue with my rants about socio-political hotspots of the day. The Woundup will continue, then, to live up to its original charter, while The Inner Dad will be my kinder, gentler offering.

I think of it not so much as schizophrenia as multi-tasking. Any mom will snort and say it ain't possible.

I'd like to think it is.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

#135 - Help! I'm Being Oppressed!

I am what might be considered a double minority.

That probably sounds pretty funny coming from a white middle-aged male. Even a republican white male. But it's true nonetheless.

Among conservatives, I am considered "right wing" because of my religious beliefs and the fact that those beliefs drive my political thinking (and, by extension, my votes). I have no problem with the "right wing" moniker, and it is certainly less offensive than what many liberals tend to call us under certain uncontrolled circumstances.

Christians still claim to hold a majority in this country. Our detractors may be noisier, but we still seem to have the edge in numbers. Among Christians, however, Latter-day Saints are a definite minority. No problem. I've dealt with this perception all my life.

I also am a dedicated homeschooler. Minority number two.

Based on the mounds of scurilous reports from various sources over the past few years, one might get the idea that I am a persecuted minority. Probably true, but it hasn't affected me directly just yet.

In fact, being a homeschooler today just puts me on par with being an incumbent republican president up for re-election. Liberals and media will pull out all the stops to manufacture the idea that I am somehow untrustworthy and must be destroyed. In the face of an overwhelming lack of evidence, media has joined itself to one of the largest and most powerful unions in this country - the NEA - for the purpose of discrediting the homeschooling movement in the United States.

Now, I'll grant you, the idea that the NEA is behind all of the negative reports is terribly circumstantial. It's really just my mathematics: I've put two and two together and come up with a not unreasonable supposition. Having said that, let me explain a few things to those who read (and, worse, believe) reports like the one currently being fisked by JunkYardBlog:

1. Child abusers and killers use a variety of disguises including, but not limited to, homeschooler, banker, public school teacher, NASA engineer, actor/actress, United Nations delegate, elected public official, and (not to leave anyone out) minister. Pick your flavor.

2. Granted, an alarming number of children who have been abused or killed come from alleged homeschooling families. Please understand that I consider "one or more" to be an alarming number. Please also understand that whatever the real number may be, it still represents a very small percentage of homeschooling families.

3. Liberal (and some misguided moderate) politicians, public education officials, and any member of the unions supporting education in this country cannot abide homeschoolers. It's pathological. The idea that someone, somewhere, may be providing a child a substantial education without their express consent or control just galls them.

4. These same politicians and educators seem not to understand that I am just as interested as they are in preparing my child for success in their future world. In fact, I am fully prepared to do whatever it takes to prepare my children for success in college and beyond, and I will do so without the support of these people if need be.

5. I have also mentioned before that I not only believe that homeschooling is not for everyone, but I further do not support voucher initiatives, or any other initiative that would divert taxes that I pay toward public education for any other purpose. I firmly believe it is my civic duty to support a public education that is freely available to those who need it. I also believe that my children do not need it. If you can't figure out a better way to allocate my tax money to the children that are in school, that's not my problem. Hire better administrators and politicians. Be prepared to pay for them.

I think you get the idea. I do worry that politicians, driven by the unions and supported by the media, will begin another jihad against homeschoolers. But they will fail. We are better organized than we've been in years past, and our grassroots support is growing. Also, the best thing educators can do for the homeschool movement is to continue to fail to educate and protect our children.

That sounds cynical, but you should hear them talk about us.

UPDATE: Oh, yeah. I really want my kids exposed to this environment. (HT: Drudge)

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

#134 - Epiphany

I figured it out today. I've been searching for a good explanation for this blog for a while now (even if none has ever been requested of me), and I finally hit on it this afternoon during my homeward commute.

This is a blog by, for, and about Dadhood.

Not a unique idea, by any means. Even my brother-in-law does that. But there are particular reasons why this blog, at least, evolved from being just another voice in the political maelstrom to becoming a window to the world of an average dad. More than that, a dad who does not conform to the popular image of a dad in today's world.

Take a few moments, if you'd like, and surf around for various TV shows depicting what Hollywood believes to be the "average dad." Go ahead, I'll wait...

All done? Right. Now, which of the following statements best describes the dads you found?

1. Buffoon. Incapable of concurrent thought and anything requiring fine motor skills. Tolerated by his wife and berated by his children. Learns his lessons if applied with a 2x4.

2. Arrogant Pig. Epitome of the chauvinist. Makes Archie Bunker look like John Paul III. Wife is either long-suffering type, or clueless, or both. Kids are also arrogant pigs, and the boys are worse.

3. Dysfunctional. Cannot move without fear of offending someone. Incredibly sensitive to the point of neurosis. Wife is usually neurotic herself, on the verge of being institutionalized. Kids ran away years ago because dad embarrassed them.

Quite a crowd, hm?

As a sometime actor (strictly community theatre!) I used to bemoan the fact that I would never be a romantic lead in anything. I skipped over romantic lead and went directly from gawky, skinny kid to rotund character actor. Hollywood, seemingly in control of family characterizations, can only portray capable dads if they also happen to be major studs. Oh, they tried the sensitive-in-a-goofy-way route with Gerard Depardieu a while back, but it never caught on.

Just once I'd like to see a film where the dad is respected by his kids, loved by his wife, in control of most facets of his life, and looks... well... average. But of course that would never sell tickets.

So, think of this blog as an homage to all those average looking guys who happen to be - in my humble estimation - better than average dads. My essays tell of life from that perspective. I can talk about kids who do wonderful things, even as they exasperate me for repeating everything a jillion times until I turn purple and command them to cease and desist. I will continue to show my own feet of clay, and hopefully help you laugh along with me, because I'm certain I'm not the only one like me "out there."

If you want politics, visit Ed, or Hugh, or Michelle. If you want "do it all for you" men and dads, try Lileks. Want to visit with an average Joe?

I'm sure I can scrounge something.

UPDATE: I lied. See this post for details about my new blog. Posts like this now belong there.

#133 - Technique Is as Technique Does

Cam apologizes for his writing technique, or lack thereof.

No need.

Blogs are mere reflections of the mood(s) of the blogger. Cam is one that tends to write like he talks (to a degree... I rarely hear him use the actual word "furshlugginer" in real conversation).

I can and sometimes do write that way, but I actually find it more of a chore to write conversationally. When I write these essays, I feel more at home writing the way I've learned over time in various writing classes. Like my mother before me, I think better at a keyboard. At least, I feel like I do, and that counts.

Of course, Cam understates his ability by quite a bit. When the Muse is upon him, he can orate with the best of them. Which is, in my estimation, what will ultimately make him a terrific instructor. He has a passion for the form that even I don't possess, and for which I confess occasional jealousy. Particularly his poetry... I will be sorely disappointed if I don't see some Cam-inspired couplets from future students become standard fare on the 'Net.

If there is coarseness in some of his missives, they're really just windows into his personality. This is my brother, after all. The middle child. The seemingly fearless, happy-go-lucky child. The one who can still, at any given family get-together, crack us up with a single well-placed zinger.

Go get 'em, Tiger.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

#132 - Self Portraits

I have a real problem with photographs of myself. The one you see on this blog is my current favorite, but it stands out more for being the exception rather than the rule.

I have never photographed well. Oh, my wife and mother may disagree, but probably well over ninety-nine percent of the photos I've seen of myself over the years have nothing to do with my self image. I believe I can count on one hand the photos of me that I've actually liked. One or two of them are from my infancy. I was a strawberry blonde in those days, and undeniably cute. From the time I began losing teeth, however, I've only had a couple of photos taken that I felt captured the "real" me.

One such photo was taken by a student working for my high school year book. It was a publicity shot for our production of "The Mikado" in which I starred that spring. It was a calm shot. Black and white. Smiling but not showing teeth. I believe I had on a striped tee shirt and a sweater. But the expression on my face was calm. Funny thing is, I don't remember being calm during my hormone storm years. Of course, it dawns on me that I'm remembering this photo from a distance: I haven't seen it for years and years. It occurs to me that, probably, what that photo captured was confidence.

No, I wasn't altogether a confident person during high school, either. Except for my talents. I was very active in both theater and choral music in high school, and was (yes, I do say so) good at it. Very good. Award-winning good. That's what I remember being captured in that photo. A kid who was scared to death of life in general being photographed to record the one thing he was good at: performing. I had my game face on. In a world dominated by testosterone-based uniform-wearing life forms, I was good at something they weren't. I had (some) confidence.

Most photos of me taken in my adult life merely show an out-of-shape middle-aged male. Except for the photo I chose for this blog.

This photo was taken last year in a candid moment. Mrs. Woody had the camera out, probably to document something my two adorable - highly photogenic - daughters were doing. I was doing what I've done a lot in the last six months: blogging. She asked me to look her way for a shot, and I did.

So, what does this look tell me?

There's confidence again in that look. Not the arrogance of belief that I am, somehow, the greatest blogger who ever put finger to keyboard. Nope. Don't even pretend to that. But there's confidence there, all the same. Here's a list of things that I feel pretty confident about these days:

- I am a happy, middle-aged man.
- I am very happily married, and have four wonderful children, plus a wonderful granddaughter.
- I'm still a better-than-decent actor and singer, even if I don't get to do either too often these days.
- I'm not a bad programmer, either, as evidenced by more than twenty years working for (essentially) the same company.
- Most important of all, however, is that I know who I am. I have a very comfortable sense of where I fit in the eternal scheme of things, even if I don't always know what I'm doing or why I'm doing it. I have a sense of perspective that I never had as a teenager.

I guess pictures really are worth a thousand words. Or at least, in this case, six hundred and fifteen.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

#131 - Happy 2005!

It's not exactly live-blogging, but here in the Woody household we just celebrated a first: the first ever stay-up-all-the-way-past-midnight New Year's Eve celebration for our two youngest Woody-ettes.

Even at this moment, Mrs. Woody has them perched on either arm of her big, comfy recliner, and is singing them to sleep. Moments before, however, they were two small wild women; standing on our front porch, banging on pot lids and blowing tiny horns I picked up in Nawlins at the convention. I have it all on video tape in case the local gendarmes wish to question us. At least I can honestly say we weren't the ones setting off the illegal fireworks tonight. And while I never heard any gunfire, I did hear a few pops shortly before, during, and a little after the ball dropped on our front porch. Can't blame those on us, either.

A toast to the new year with sparkling apple/cranberry cider, followed by a special family prayer for the coming year. Much to look forward with anticipation. Probably a few unexpected challenges along the way, too.

Either way, this branch of the Woody family tree is as ready as we'll ever be. May this coming year be fraught with opportunity for you, too.