i love a parade!!

As much as I would have enjoyed the extra sleep, there was no way I was going to miss the parade this morning. I don't remember the first time I saw it, but I'm thinking I became a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade junkie early on in my childhood, and I've made it my Thanksgiving Day kickoff ritual ever since.

To me it's magic. The bands, the balloons, the music, the faces, the floats, even the commercials between the bands, balloons, music... It does something for me that is both nostalgic and happy. I love a parade, especially one that requires thousands of prep hours, at least that many staffers, an unlimited panorama of color, the rerouting of a major thoroughfare, and three hours of national television time. It's a pretty impressive display if you ask me, and to think, it's all built around the one day our nation has set aside simply to say thanks.

If all of the things I should thank God for were placed on wheels and paraded through town for everyone to view, I'm fairly certain that some would feel my life is way too sheltered. But wouldn't it be really cool if each of us could make a float that displayed all of the things we had to be thankful for, and then have a REAL Thanksgiving parade?

A close friend of mine survived her own bout with breast cancer this year. She'd most certainly build her float with pink ribbons and celebration tunes. A family I know spent several anxious hours waiting to hear if their son made it through a terribly violent attack in Iraq. They fell to their knees and rejoiced when the good news of his survival finally arrived. What an awesome float that would make. Just two days ago a nineteen year old kid who was running from the law violently crashed his car in my parents' front yard. Mom said it looked bad. The police said he may not live. The last report says he did. I'm sure his family would like to spank his butt, then put him on parade.

Most of us have big, big things to be thankful for. We could build some pretty impressive floats. It's always easier to stop the rush and offer genuine gratitude when we've just come through a major tempest, but paid mortgages, supplied cupboards, steady paychecks, healthy loved ones, and everyday blessings are no insignificant matters either. If it were possible to see the hand of God in all of our dealings we'd probably feel compelled to put on a parade everyday. We'd have to just to keep up.

I'm both impressed and embarrassed by my list. Some of the things I'm grateful for sorta seem selfish and self-centered. But I see everything that is good in my life as a blessing, a gift from a good God. Gifts are added blessings. He's not obligated to give them really. Just like a bonus is not a part of the paycheck, His gifts are His way of adding graciousness to obligation.

Matt, Meredith and Al are about to cut the ribbon and turn the parade loose onto Broadway. It's raining in New York today, but the faces are bright, the instruments are tuned, the dancers are huddled, the balloons are ready, the clowns are giddy and somewhere back there at the end of the line there's a guy in a red suit who's gonna introduce us to the gift giving season. As happy as I always am to see him, to me he's a little late. I've been receiving good gifts from a great God all year long.


today it's her birthday...

"Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States!" (Roll Hail to the Chief.) In walks the nation's first female president - Casie Rachelle Bishop. Then I wake up.

It's a really cool dream. My first-born, my daughter as a mover and shaker, a decision maker, a doer of good, right and noble deeds. Casie is all of those - and she's only eighteen. Even if she has no aspirations to be the leader of the free world, or does not seek a spotlight or a place in history, my baby girl has the power of influence and the ability to make my days at least the most beautiful and perfect in the world.

Mine wasn't the only baby born on November 10th 1988. As a matter of fact, one of Casie's best friends today was born that same day in that same hospital. They laid next to each other and started their lifelong-so-far friendship even before they left the nurse's care. Today both of them are beautiful, smart and ambitious young ladies.

That's the thing I'm trying to get used to. My baby girl, the once completely naive, curious and not-a-care-in-the-world infant is now a young lady. She's "legal." For the past several months we've been discussing colleges and majors and life's decisions and her place in the world. Privately I've been contemplating MY place in HER world. Even if she does seek my input, I know that her decisions now will have less to do with me and more to do with herself and others. That's as it should be.

Not one single twenty-four hour period goes by that I don't think of her. I often look back at pictures of her in more playful, less serious times. I relive tea parties, games of tag and Candyland, and pushing her on the playground swing. I remember her Easter Sunday dresses, her nervous lines in the church plays, her very softly sung school choir solos, her recitals, her tantrums and her face as our bus pulled away for another singing trip. I remember her first birthday...

We're going to New York to celebrate this monumental day in my little girl's life. I want this occasion to be one she'll never forget. Even if my motivations are partly to make more memories with one of the most precious humans in my life, I'm gonna let the daughter I couldn't imagine not having, loving or holding know that her place in my heart, in my life was only created when she came into it.


ugly politics

My work at the state capitol here in Kentucky is at least somewhat political by nature. Even though I engage in political conversations with many of my friends on both sides of the ideological and political spectrum, I usually try to avoid a great deal of the subject here. However, this day after one of the most unsettling (some would say) and exciting (others would say) election days to come along in a while allows me an opportunity to weigh in and share some thoughts of my own.

I've worked through the middle of some pretty violent campaign storms and harsh political battles - almost constantly since coming off the singing road several years ago. But this one was especially ugly to me. It seemed like an intensely bitter election cycle, and I don't know if we're any better for it today or not.

I will say this, despite what some idealists would like to assume, ugly and not-so-dignified political campaigning has gone on for a long, long time. Take the time to study world and American political history and you'll find that mud slinging and whisper campaigns have been a regular part of the strategy as far back as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln - probably even before. Accusations and deceptions in campaigns are not new lows.

That doesn't stop me from being frustrated and disillusioned by today's tactics though. The people who ask for our votes and expect reverential respect once they are elected are the same ones who allow their party headquarters to run not-so-honest accusation campaigns that distort histories, mislead consumers and damage humans and their families. What's noble about that?

I can't agree that the end justifies the means if the means that is questionable is supposed to lead to us trusting the victor. If we're not told the entire truth by the guy or gal asking for our vote, why should we expect he/she won't hide a detail here or there to keep his/her job? I want to vote for someone who is honorable in his tactics and approach. I want to know that I've granted a sacred trust to someone who earned it with their integrity and refusal to kneel to misleading statements and accusations.

I was recently involved in a major political campaign that was brutal, but never really got personally ugly. Our opposition research uncovered some pretty damaging things about our opponent. But because leaking the information to the public or the media would have done great personal damage to our opponent's family and future, we decided it was not worth releasing. For once, dignity, respect and concern for another person's well being was more important than winning the most votes.