Release the Hounds!

Okay y’all. I’ve been working, for a week or so, to optimize this website and have also enabled comments on new posts. I would love it if everyone played nice and refrained from anything I might deem inappropriate for my blog. The decision lies, solely, with me. I will be the judge, jury, and executioner.

These posts are, generally, from the heart. I put time and brain cells toward them which I could use to be doing something more destructive. I look at them as a form of therapy, so be nice.

DO NOT post any comments about politics or you will be summarily removed. My household and immediate family have differing views on such things and we have learned to be civil to one another. Please consider doing the same when commenting. Also, this is my blog. I reserve the right to post my opinions as I deem fit. That might include politics, it might not… probably not. That being said, it’s not a double-standard, its about ownership. I own the blog and its contents. I do what I want here.

I love that you have taken time out of your day to read my stuff. Sometimes its a little, sometimes its a lot. Sometimes its deep and other times, it isn’t. Sometimes, you may disagree. If you do, that’s fine… just keep it civil. Love y’all! -Andy

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Don’t Be Flaky

Recently, my alma mater, The Baylor School, announced the retirement of the Headmaster, Scott Wilson. Scott was the Admissions Director when I entered Baylor, as a freshman. He is a great man and was a great Headmaster for Baylor for 12 years. I wish Scott all the best in his retirement.

Simultaneously, Baylor announced that Scott would be replaced by another familiar face, Chris Angel. As Scott was a graduate of Baylor, Chris was also part of the class of 1989. I was a member of the class of 1992, so Chris and I were there together, at Baylor, for a brief period. We weren’t buddies, but I remember Chris and the great running back he was. I also remember him being admired by many. I respected him…. still do.

As is the case with many of my posts, this chain of recent events triggered some personal feelings and reflections of my time at Baylor and brought to light some revelations as an adult. Albeit, in a very round-about way.

As an eighth-grader, having already been accepted into Baylor, I was convinced by one of my best friends to join the football team. I attended summer football camp and began playing games on the freshman team. I was a running back and defensive back. I was pretty good. I had one touchdown. I have no idea what my stats were, but I like to think I issued more punishment than I endured.

My sophomore year, I became a member of the varsity team, but did not start. I played in some junior varsity games. It was fairly uneventful. I recall one game when I was injured… an oddly dislocated shoulder that plagues me to this day. I’ve had that shoulder operated on twice and am probably due for one more.

That sophomore year, I began to have second thoughts about playing football. I also played soccer and was much better at soccer, so it made sense to focus on that. I had aspirations of becoming a professional soccer player. I did not have any idea about how difficult that truly was, but ignorance is bliss, I guess. I ended up quitting the football team. A decision I would later come to regret.

I was also a cheerleader and was pretty good at that too. I cheered on the varsity team all four years of high school and two years in college. As such, I still got to come to the football games and be down in the action… sort of, so no big deal.

Flash forward to the end of my junior year and I noticed the team was getting better. Having already felt some regret for quitting, I thought I might like to make some sort of contribution to that promising team as a senior, so I asked for a meeting with Coach Hubbs. He granted me the meeting, where I asked to rejoin the team. The meeting was short and Coach Hubbs told me no. My heart sunk. For whatever reason, I thought he would say yes. I was a good athlete and it simply never occurred to me I would be denied. Such is the life of someone who grew up never wanting or being denied much of anything. I was an idiot then and, unfortunately, remained one for some time.

My senior year was the first year in a long time that we beat both Red Bank and McCallie. It was a great year. I was still a cheerleader, I was still a soccer player and I still had a great senior year. I have so many great memories from high school.

Years later, as my youngest son started playing football in middle school, the lesson Coach Hubbs taught me started to sink in. Very sad that it took over two decades. Simply, Coach Hubbs was wanting people on his team upon whom he could rely. At the time, I was not that person. I was flaky. He saw that and didn’t want that flakiness to be on his team.

As that lesson started to sink in, I recall having a conversation with my youngest about him wanting to quit the team. In short, we wouldn’t let him. He had made a commitment to that team and he was going to fulfill that commitment. You give someone your word they can rely on you and you follow through on that word. End of story.

I have thought about writing about it for some time, but couldn’t figure out how until thoughts started swirling about Mr. Wilson’s retirement. That kind of brought it together. Oddly, Coach Hubbs and I never interacted much during high school. He was a middle school teacher and I didn’t go to Baylor in middle school. He was the varsity football coach and my activities as a varsity football player were limited, to say the least. All that being said, he saw an opportunity… maybe on purpose, maybe not… to teach me something. Although it took years, it finally sunk in.

I want to take this opportunity to publicly thank Coach Hubbs for teaching that lesson. This is the great thing about teachers and coaches. Some are good enough to teach something without even knowing.

Coach Hubbs, thank you for that lesson. My parents tried to teach it, but as I said, I was an idiot back then. Because you and they taught me that lesson, I passed it onto my kids. It may sound simple, but I think it just goes to show how one small act in a single person’s life can have a positive effect on generations to come.

Thank you, Coach Hubbs, for driving home the lesson my parents started. I’m sorry for being flaky.

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Hello 2020!

Okay, so 2018 and 2019 sucked pretty bad. In 2020, I have resolved to stop being a victim of circumstances… personal and professional.

On the personal side, there was the aforementioned “Event” from back in 2018. So many emotions attached to that particular item… I have cycled through them all. I’ve settled on defiance. I’m going to stare it in the face, do what I can and be patient until I can do more. It may be many years before anything actionable presents itself, but that’s what I’m gonna do.

On the professional side, I’ve been a little frustrated. Back in 2014, I left my job as a Systems Administrator and became a member of, what was at that time, the Disaster Recovery team, as a Disaster Recovery Analyst 2. A couple of years later, that team became the Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery team and I still did what I was doing with disaster recovery. Then there was a little shake up in department leadership. The new boss more fully integrated the two parts of the team and everyone began to do what everyone else was doing… cross-training. I don’t have a problem with cross-training, but doing things on the DR side of the house became less and less of my focus. I don’t like it. I tried to like it, but I don’t. A few title changes, now a Business Resiliency Analyst, and a reduction in salary grade later, here I am. Oh, apparently, I can’t be promoted until another person on the team retires. I don’t like not being in control of my professional advancement.

I think, from a professional standpoint, I need to seek pleasure elsewhere. Since I’m not leaving my current job, the pay is still very good, I think my choice is to take one something else away from my “day-job”. I have resolved to become a Certified Professional Genealogist. It takes some time, but if I’m doing something I like, I might as well get paid for it. Hang on! It’s gonna be a bumpy ride!

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Inward vs. Outward

So, for a little over a year now, I’ve been dealing with a thing that has me feeling pretty dark about certain areas of my life. Initially, I thought I was dealing fairly well and that time would be all that it took to get past it.

A few months ago, I resolved that time would not be the only solution, so I elected to partake in a benefit offered by my employer to seek professional help. Specific to the professional I sought help from, I wasn’t that impressed. She was nice and listened well, but I question some of the advice she gave. As it turned out, however, it wasn’t her advice that I found most helpful in this exercise. It was simply the ability to vent to someone who was not family or a close friend. She gave me a few suggestions which I took with a grain of salt, but they led me to some other means of dealing with my issue.

As such, I began journaling. Nothing heavy and I didn’t start a diary or anything, but it was more a means or organizing my thoughts, to-dos, etc… basically, a brain dump onto paper. In doing do, my mind cleared a little and allowed me some “room” to think about other things I hadn’t thought of in a while or things that were completely new.

Some of these things were rekindling an old desire to do calligraphy. A new thing is grilling. Along with these things to do that occupy my mind, I also discovered, through a series of unrelated thoughts, that I had a deeper appreciation for things I had always liked, but things in which I had never really invested myself… music, movies, a good story, cute animals… simple things.

More to the point of this post, and through another series of unrelated thoughts, it brought me to consider inward vs. outward. I tend to look for patterns or, in this case, tendencies in things… all things. I will look at the same thing over and over again and usually, find some sort of pattern or tendency. My take on it is that its just the natural order of things, in general. The design of God.

The tendency I discovered was that I, as of late, had become more moved by these things of old that I had rediscovered… especially music and movies. Things that had not previously moved me emotionally, were now bringing a tear or eliciting some sort of stronger-than-normal emotional response. Maybe, I’m just getting older… or wiser… softer. Who knows? What I do know is that I appreciate things, in general, now more than I used to. In hindsight, I realize… and I’ve told this to people… that I just didn’t “get it” when I was younger. I believe that more every day. Back to the point… I realized that, lately, I am getting more emotional pleasure out of life by looking outwardly versus inwardly. At 45 years old, more songs give me goose bumps. More movies or videos bring a tear. Sunrises and sunsets are more relaxing. The touch of my wife is warmer. Whiskey tastes a little smoother. 🙂 I have found that by looking outward and appreciating those things in the World I had never appreciated before or for a long time, it made me feel better on the inside.

Finally the point… When I was first looking inward, I wasn’t finding much to be happy about. But, by appreciating the World God has provided us and really taking in the wonders He created, inward peace and love for myself became a happy by-product. Its a process, but I think I’m doing better.

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Heavy Heart

At the behest of the wife of a close friend of mine, I joined a Facebook group related to the town in which I grew up. It was for entertainment purposes. She got a kick out of some of the pretentious arguments and subject that presented themselves on the group. I thought that sounded like fun, so I joined.

I was not expecting to get a little reality check from my past… thus the title of this post. This young man… he’s a year or two younger than me I think… wrote a response to post about bullying that broke my heart.

The Cliff’s Notes of the original post was a woman who was upset about some kids who were bullying her kids. The implication was that it was the culture of the town that contributed to this activity. I cannot say that is a far-fetched notion. The young man, whom I knew from growing up there, posted his response and my heart sunk.

He seemed to agree with the sentiment of the original poster, that it was a systemic problem. He indicated that he was “tortured” as a child growing up there and that is why he didn’t move back until his children were grown.

This compelled me to reach out to him and apologize. I don’t remember any instances of me doing anything to him, but what I do remember is me not doing anything about what I did see be done to him. Maybe it was because I was small back then. Maybe it was because I wasn’t bullied as a child, so it wasn’t my problem.

It’s hard to say for sure, but it made me feel bad for him, nevertheless. He seems to have recovered from that childhood trauma, but indicated to me that he still has periodic nightmares about it. One thing I am realizing, as an adult, is that when I was a kid, I just didn’t get it. Whatever “it” may have been on any given day, I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand that I needed to step in on behalf of this poor kid who was being bullied. I’m glad that I finally got it as an adult. I got in time for me to pass some pearls of wisdom to my kids so that, for my part, the cycle was broken. I consider myself part of that cycle because I didn’t do anything for that kid. This is what gives me a heavy heart. I can’t change what happened in the past, but I can and have changed what is possible for me to change now.

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RIP Carolyn

At approximately 7:15pm, on Friday evening, June 28, 2019, my ex-mother-in-law, Carolyn Foley Varnell, passed away from cardiac complications resulting, likely, from years of smoking. Here’s her obituary:

Obituary for Carolyn [Jane] Foley Varnell

MRS. CAROLYN [JANE] FOLEY VARNELL- AGE 69, – of Chattanooga, Tennessee passed away Friday, June 28, 2019. She was born on February 18, 1950 to the late Louis R[ichard] Foley and Laura Davis Barnwell in Clinton, Tennessee. She was also preceded in death by her brother, Johnny Davis and sister, Linda Louallen.

She is survived by her husband, Howard D[ouglas] Varnell; son, Richard (Jennifer) Varnell; daughter, Rebecca [Ann] (Kevin) Morrell of Chattanooga, Tennessee; grandchildren, Lane, Logan, and Landon Varnell, Taylor and John Barber, Thomas and Kayla Morrell; sister, Willie Mae Butler; a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, other relatives, and friends.

Funeral service will be held Tuesday, July 2, 2019 at 1:30 P. M. at Faith Baptist Church, 8834 North Hickory Valley Road, Chattanooga, Tennessee with Pastor Tracy Daniel[s] officiating. The family will receive friends at the church from 11:00 A. M. until the funeral hour. Interment will be at Lakewood Memorial Gardens. Please share your thoughts and memories of Mrs. Carolyn Foley Varnell at Arrangements by Willis Funeral Home, Inc., Dalton, Georgia.

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Lots of Emotions

I have a lot of emotions going right now. It’s probably because I just got done watching a sad movie… A Star is Born. I’m out of town, missing my family. Also, our oldest dog, Callie, passed away the day before yesterday.

Back to the movie… obviously, the ending is sad, but the message is sweet…ish. Plus, I love the soundtrack!

I think the moral of that story is that if you can’t be a positive force in the lives of the ones you love, then probably best to not be there at all.

I like to think I’m a relatively positive guy. I definitely try to see the best in people… sometimes to a fault. I try to provide for my family and contribute to worthy, helpful causes where I can and where it doesn’t interfere with providing for my family. Amending my previous statement, I don’t just try to see the good in people; I’m not sure that’s enough. I try not to see the bad in people.

I think everyone has some good and some bad in them, thus, the nature of mankind. It’s a matter of what you spend time thinking about, what you spend time doing and who you spend it with and what you do with them.

I plan to spend my life continuing to see the good in people and not the bad. People sure do make it hard sometimes. I plan to try and be a positive force in the lives of the people with whom I come into contact. I plan to not be a negative force in the lives of people. I hope my kids have learned something good from me. I hope I will continue to be a positive influence on them and their kids… and maybe even their kids’ kids. I hope to be a positive influence in Melissa’s life. I want to support her in whatever it is that she wants to do. I think she’s had a tough few years too. After all, what is life for except for us humans… interacting, and doing for each other… good or bad. I hope I never get to the point where I can’t do good for someone. If I get to that point, I hope God brings me on Home.

About three years ago, at the behest of my new boss, I did a thing called Strengths Finder v2.0. It asks a bunch of questions and gives you your strengths. My number one strength is “Context.”

Here’s what it says about “Context”:

“People exceptionally talented in the Context theme enjoy thinking about the past. They understand the present by researching its history.”

I think “enjoy” is a strong word when some pieces of the past aren’t as pleasant as others. All this positivity has been difficult for me the last couple of years. Nevertheless, I hope to continue to be a student of my past and learn from it… also teach from it; so the people I influence don’t make the same mistakes I made or make the same mistakes that were made at my expense.

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A New Start

I have read that when one gets goose bumps while listening to music, it is actually the body’s “fight or flight” response due to the intense emotion brought on by said music.

There are a lot of songs that generally give me goose bumps. The Star Spangled Banner is just one example. I love music. I’m not a groupie and I have only been to a few concerts, but I love quality music. I love musicals and I love these new live-action movie musicals.

The fact is that I have not gotten goose bumps listening to music in some time, however. Maybe its because I haven’t been to a football game, a soccer game, a Broadway show or a band concert in a long time. Maybe it’s just because today’s music generally sucks. I think it is because 2018 sucked and I could not be more glad that 2019 is here.

Recently, I saw the movie The Greatest Showman. I absolutely love that soundtrack! I especially love the song from that soundtrack called A Million Dreams. Goosebumps all over the place!

More than the music, though, I love the story. I’ve been to a Ringling Brothers Circus as a child and had a ball. Until recently, I didn’t know the story of P.T. Barnum. What a fascinating man!

This movie makes me more happy than sad, but it does bring back memories from long ago that I have let go… memories that are sad, but make me look forward to the future. More specifically, it makes me look forward to the future of my kids.

Once upon a time, I wanted to be just like my dad and own my own service station. As time passed, I wanted to be a doctor and a Navy officer. Later still, I settled on being a Chemical Engineer. When I was unable to go to the Naval Academy or the University of Arkansas (for Chemical Engineering), I ended up going to UT Chattanooga as a Chemistry major. I was planning to major in Chemistry and become a doctor. Life and partying happened and my grades were not conducive to medical school. About two years into college, I discovered computers. Since then, I have not looked back, but periodically, those old memories of what could have been creep in.

At first, I’m sad at the thought, but quickly, the thought passes and I think of what has resulted in my life that simply would not have happened had my plan worked out.

I would not have met my children’s mother and therefore, no children… at least, not the ones I have now. It is possible that I would not have been saved. I can credit my children’s mother with that too.

Almost 21 years after my first child, I have acquired one more through my second marriage. He’s out of college and pursuing his dream job. My oldest is in college and is already working in her desired career of sales and marketing. The third is in college and pursuing his career in athletic training. I think it is safe to say that God had a different plan for me. For that, I could not imagine a better life. Sure, 2018 sucked, but there is always 2019 and the year after that and so on.

Thus far, I think I’ve done a pretty good job at not using my children in an attempt to make my own dreams come true. What I know, as a parent, is that no matter what plans or dreams I had or have, every parent’s dream is to see their children succeed. How my life has twisted and turned has allowed that to happen. In addition, I want to let God’s plan transpire. Sure, there are things on my own bucket list, but they genuinely pale in comparison to the validation of raising viable human beings and realize they are now in a position to make themselves viable adults and let God’s plan happen for themselves.

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Busy, Great, and Crappy Year

This year started off pretty good. In January, Christopher had his 23rd birthday and I received the Royal Arch degree in the York Rite. That was a very nice degree. February was pretty uneventful.

In March, I attended the annual communication of the Grand Lodge of Tennessee. Pretty cool stuff going on. I also began attending the Chattanooga Police Department’s Citizens’ Police Academy. That was and eight week event. Lots of interesting things going on at CPD.

In April, Taylor and John had their 20th and 19th birthdays, respectively. On April 6th, I had the honor and privilege of initiating John into Kappa Sigma. That was a true proud daddy moment. Four months of memorizing the ceremony and it went off without a hitch. One of, if not the best, initiation I’ve been a part of.

In May, things started to go a bit South. I had my 44th birthday. At least I had another one. 🙂 I also received the Order of the Temple Degree. That was a very nice degree. On May 25th, Melissa’s mom, Cheri, passed away after an 11 month battle with pancreatic cancer. I’m not going to expound on that here. There is a whole other post on it. The annual car show, for the lodge, was postponed until July. Turns out, it didn’t even rain on the original date. Father’s day was the redeeming thing in May. I could not be more proud of my kids. 🙂

In June, I traveled to Chicago to the BCAB conference. That will probably be the last one we attend. Our BC/DR program is just outgrowing the usefulness of that conference. Melissa started getting ready for her shoulder surgery to take place at the end of the month.

July was full of physical therapy for Melissa and Dad’s 75th birthday. On the 27th, I learned some life-altering information which I am still not at liberty to discuss publicly. This information is not related to Melissa or the kids if those reading this are wondering.

August was better, sort of. More physical therapy and Cathy’s 48th birthday. Wow, she’s old. 🙂 Love ya, Sis! We ended the month with a trip to St. Louis for my cousin’s wedding and then to Memphis for some time with Melissa’s family. Great trip! We returned to Dad having a serious heart event. Not an attack, but we did discover that pretty much every artery in his heart was significantly blocked, along with one of his carotid arteries. Triple bypass is in his immediate future. Very scary.

In September, After one day of rest from the St. Louis/Memphis trip, I traveled to Raleigh, NC to move a data center to the IBM facility there. It went very well. More physical therapy. We also had our annual Friends and Family Night at the Lodge. We gave more to the special education programs of Harrison-area schools than we ever have. I’m still in a funk from the July news. Our scheduled disaster recovery exercise was postponed until December.

Mom’s 73rd birthday was in October and Melissa and I went on a much needed trip to Destin. The weeks leading up to the anniversary of her Granddaddy’s death, in 2010, are usually where Melissa’s yearly funk begins. This year is especially hard leading into the holidays after her mom’s passing. The Lodge’s annual Trunk or Treat went very well this year.

On November 1st, I was formally inducted into the Sons of the American Revolution. That was a very nice night. Thanksgiving went pretty well. Everyone came to our house and there were no major breakdowns.

December has blown by. The month started with a disaster recovery exercise that went well. It was our first exercise in the new IBM facility. Heavy on my mind is the news from July. Other events going on outside my family and on social media keep bringing it to mind. I think I’m handling it pretty well, considering the gravity of the information. I think this is one of those things that only time will heal and I have to keep telling myself that there is absolutely nothing that can ever be done about it.

As I am sitting here, it is officially Christmas Eve. I am looking forward to everyone being here. I’m a little curious about why dad originally didn’t want to come. He’ll be here, but he gave totally different stories to Cathy and I.

One thing is for certain, I am ready for 2018 to end so I can start 2019 with a clean slate.

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