We Are Okay!

Happy October 16th, y’all! We are okay! I just wanted to let you know, the Barber household is okay.

You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.” 

Margaret Thatcher

It occurred to me, the other day, that I hadn’t really given any kind of worthy update since, like, April. Let me assure that we are okay. The number one big thing today is that it is Melissa’s birthday! We’ll not discuss exactly which birthday, but a birthday, nevertheless. Happy birthday, Baby!

One big things going on right now is that I started toward my MBA. I am only taking one class this semester and it is kicking my butt. Financial Management 6020. My degree is through Tennessee Tech, so that’s pretty cool. Suffice to say, there a reason I don’t manage my household finances.

A couple of other, educational-related, things are that Taylor will be graduating UTC this December and John should be graduating Tennessee Tech in May 2021. Within seven months, I will have had all three of my children graduate college. It, truly, doesn’t seem like it has been that long since they graduated high school. I could not be more proud.

You know… despite 2020 consistently throwing us curveballs…. with the virus, the working from home, economy problems, election craziness and everything else going on, I am happy to say that, for the most part, my family is doing pretty well.

Mom did have a not-so-little health scare a while back, but seems to be recovering nicely. Dad and Nancy are doing pretty good and getting out some. Overall, not so bad.

This weekend, the Lodge is having our annual Car Show, to benefit special needs children in Harrison-area schools. This thing has been postponed since May, so I’ll be glad to get it done.

Elections at the Lodge will be coming up in the first week of December and I will be in the running for Worshipful Master of Harrison Lodge No. 114 F&AM. I’m a little nervous about the whole thing, but excited too. Assuming I am elected, it’ll be a big responsibility. I just hope I can lead those men in a positive way and accomplish some good things in my year. I hate that Robert, our current Master, had to do it in 2020. He had big plans and didn’t get to do many of them. I hope I can make good on some of his stuff and add some of my own.

Lately, I have been working on getting this website SEO-ready. I am learning a lot! This includes making my post a little longer than I normally do, as you might be able to tell. I hope this was a sufficient update. More later!

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Why Not Me?

In my older years, I consistently wonder why I was never bullied when I was younger… why not me? I see a lot, these days, about kids my age who were bullied back then and are now enduring the effects of PTSD and the like. Or, on a darker note, people who were kids back then and are now dead, having committed suicide either recently or way back then, when the bullying was fresh.

Why not me? Being a small guy back then, I was ripe for the picking! When I was in seventh grade, I was 4′ 9″ and 95 pounds. I played in one football game, as a middle schooler, because I broke my nose in the very first game of the season. This was when I was in seventh grade too. In eighth grade, I was the football team manager. I wasn’t doing that again.

In eighth grade, I was still small. Not yet five feet tall. By ninth grade, I was 5′ 2″… a growth spurt! My goodness! I’m going to be a giant! Just kidding… fast forward to today and I made it all the way to 5′ 7″. Obviously, not much of an improvement.

So far, in this post, you may have noticed that I have only been referring to my size. The fact is that I was also an athlete. Additionally, I was very smart. By the end of eighth grade, I had made the All-County soccer team twice, Star Honor Roll (All A’s) and was headed to one of the best private high schools in the Southeast. This high school, The Baylor School, in addition to being academically rigorous, has one of the best high school athletic programs in the entire United States… just ask the writer of our Sports Illustrated article.

Over the years, I have though a lot about this issue of suicide, among teens, bullying, etc. Surely this is not as simple as just getting your kids into sports. Some people are just not athletically gifted. Others might have been athletes and still get bullied. What’s the magic sauce?

I have come to believe there is no magic sauce. It’s random. Middle schoolers and High schoolers are random. Think about it…. hormones raging… parents aren’t at school to vent on… find the very next kid I see and pick on him! Just for clarification… I didn’t bully anyone. I was too busy preparing for when the hammer dropped on me, as I knew I was a potential target. Though random, it make sense.

Although it makes sense, it’s also messy. Random is messy and chaotic and doesn’t make the kid being bullied feel any better. Many of my friends today, who have been my friends my whole life, were bullied and I never knew. Suffered from things like PTSD, depression and various other conditions, as a result of bullying. I feel like an idiot for not seeing it. That being said, I didn’t see a lot back then. I was definitely an idiot.

Sadly, I don’t have much of a conclusion, other than to say be nice to one another and teach your kids to do the same thing.

Below is the link and number to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Please use it.

1-800-273-8255

Photo from @800273TALK on Facebook on National Suicide Prevention Lifeline '1-800-273-TALK (8255)' at 3/29/19 at 11:48AM
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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 www.willisfuneralhomedalton.com. 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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