Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Nice guys finish last, but winning isn't everything: My tribute to former Chicago Bears coach Dick Jauron 

I'm not a sports writer. I'm not a sports authority. I am, however, my father's daughter and a product of his enthusiasm for sports. I enjoy watching sports and following teams. Make that some sports and some teams.

Take the Chicago Bears, for example. I came to know the Bears during the Mike Ditka years. (It took awhile, but Ditka did grow on me. Gotta love 'im!) When we moved to northwest Indiana, part and parcel of the Chicagoland area, in 1987, Bears hysteria was alive and thriving two years after the team's Super Bowl win of 1985. And over the next few years, "da Bears" found fame outside of the NFL with regular Saturday Night Live skits about them.

In my nearly 17 years in "da region," the Bears have had three coaches: Ditka (1982-1992, 112-68), Dave Wannstedt (1993-1998, 41-57), and Dick Jauron (1999-Dec. 29, 2003, 35-46). I didn't like anything about Wannstedt and actually lost interest in the Bears during his years. Then there's Dick Jauron.

I tend to be a fair-weathered fan, a term I first heard in my youth when Dad called me one, when at age 11, I shifted my loyalty from the Cleveland Indians to the New York Yankees as Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris made homerun history. I eagerly awaited the afternoon newspaper to read the stories and review their statistics. Shoot, I can't even remember any Cleveland players from that time. All I knew then, really, was that Maris was cute, and Mantle wasn't too bad, either!

I'm far from being a die-hard Bears fan, but I'm not a fair-weathered Bears fan either. Nah. But when the team's not doing so well, watching every game is, well, hard for me to do. However, because I listen to a Chicago news radio station on my way to and from work and watch late afternoon/early evening and sometimes late-night news programs, I keep abreast of wins, losses, players, injuries, records, and all the scoop. I see and hear Dick Jauron regularly on tv and radio.

I have a great deal of respect for Jauron because that's what he has for everyone and everything. On my way to work on Monday mornings during the NFL season, Coach Jauron has been interviewed at 6:45 on the radio station I listen to. Never did I hear him make a negative comment about anything having to do with the previous day's game--which was often a loss, the players or the coaches or the opposing team's players or coaches or the officiating. Never. That's Dick Jauron. A class act.

He is well-liked and respected by the players. Kordell Stewart, not one of my favorite quarterbacks, said, "Coach Jauron is a real man. Most people would love to blame someone else, would love to say that it was someone else's fault. Instead, he took it and put it on his shoulders. When you have a guy who is as loyal and as passionate towards the game and his players and the people around him as he is, you have to commend a man like that."

Free agent and wide receiver Dez White put the team's role and the game into perspective: "I think everybody's disappointed because we know it was in our control to play well enough to keep him here and we just didn't get the job done. Everybody wishes he would still be here for another year. But that's the business part of the game."

(I'm beginning to sound like a sports writer!)

Jauron ended his remarks at the press conference yesterday with this: "I stood here a number of years ago and, quite frankly, I have much more control today than I did then because I don't have to answer your questions. [Much laughter.] So that's where we end it. I have now said everything that I intend to say and I've thought about it a great deal, so I'll just end it and tell you thank you very much; I have loved every moment of it. I certainly wish it could have turned out better, but I am not looking back, I am definitely looking forward. So thank you very much, all of you."

Dick Jauron, one hell of a nice guy. Nice guys don't always win games, but they win in other, more important ways. Coach Jauron, you've made a difference in the lives of many people--the players and the fans. I wish you the best.


While checking the Ditka era years, I found BearsHistory.com--"Where Da Bears are Still DABEARS." It's an awesome site, so check it out.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Allow me to introduce blah hog 

This is my blog: blah hog.

The first time I'd heard of "blogging" was this past summer. When visiting a favorite message board, a thread entitled "Do you blog?" caught my attention. I checked out some of the posters' blogs and thought how nice but not for me.

A few months later the topic surfaced on another board, a spin-off of the above referenced one, and this time I thought differently: why not? So I set up blah hog intending to keep it private yet eventually sharing it with family members. However, as I read others' blogs and wrote in mine, I began to think, yeah, I want to make this public. Is this not, after all, what I've always wanted--to be a published writer? Ah, well, this public publication of my blog suffices for now.

blah hog. Clever? I think so, but while it wasn't my first choice, it is my best choice! My first choice was "blah, blah blog," which was already taken, and my second and third choices were variations on the first, and they each were taken. Why so determined to use "blah?" When I talk, in particular when I attempt to relate an incident to someone, I tend to go on and on, as I've been told by those who love me most! My writing is of similar substance and length, which is why I wanted something along the lines of "blah, blah, blah." Apparently, others before me had similar thoughts. On my fourth attempt to name my blog something clever, "blah hog" just popped into my head, and I liked the sound of it! Say blah hog fast: blog! Eureka! It's mine! And, to boot, the name serves double duty: I am Blah Hog!

I'm a perfectionist. Well, in some regards, at least. Don't ever come into my house, or if you do, you are not allowed to enter my inner sanctum, also known as "the den" where sits this computer and myriad piles of accumulated garbage (somewhat literal), certainly embarrassing and fodder for another post, but I digress. Once I decided to put my blog "out there," I had to fine tune it. Being a language arts teacher and lover of our language, I've proofed and revised entries time and again. I wish my students had a fraction of my propensity for correctness in their writing. Disclaimer: As much as I have proofread and edited, I am still capable of erring. So please refrain from pointing out grammar, usage, and mechanics errors. I may be a perfectionist, but I'm not perfect.

If you're still reading this, I thank you! If you'd like to read more, let me suggest going to my first entry written on Sunday, Oct. 19, and read forward. I have only ten entries total, including this one. You can access previous months' posts by using the Archives links on the right. Tell me what you think. After each entry is a Comment button. Be forewarned that your comment is there for anyone to read. And novices that some of you may be (family and relatives), please don't use your full name, or even your real first name, for that matter. As you read through other entries of my blog, family and relatives, you'll see that I'm using only first initials of people I write about for the purpose of anonymity. I, too, want to be anonymous, so I hope you'll respect that.

If you'd like to contact me personally, or if you'd like to have your blog linked here, my email address is blahhog@comcast.net.

Enjoy the ride!

Monday, December 22, 2003

The Floridians' Homecoming 

L and R moved back to the area today after 15 months of living in Florida. Yea! They and friends J and R, who came with them, unloaded the truck before any of us knew they were in town. As word spread, we (she and her parents and sisters, he and his parents and brother, her friend, and J and R) gathered at our favorite downtown bar just a block east and a block south of their house. Isn't that cool? Having them here in town is going to be so wonderful. I just have watch that I don't over-annoy them.

Tomorrow is B and my 31st anniversary. Over the years, I had occasionally regretted choosing that date. Being so close to Christmas, our anniversary was almost always overlooked. But now that we don't do Christmas like we've always done (topic for another post another day), I want the 23rd to be the day that our family gathers for celebrating. What better reason to celebrate than the anniversary of parents who conceived, gave birth to, raised, cherished, and continue to love three wonderful daughters. But it's not going to happen that way this year. L and R's original plan to arrive here on the 23rd prompted Ky to take a shift then. So as of right now, we're not sure when the seven of us can get together, but we will.

Sunday, December 14, 2003


I can't tell you how many hours I've spent this weekend in stores pseudo-shopping and getting really irritated because merchants have so much merchandise that you can't push a cart around in some areas, and while most shoppers are polite, the few who aren't just really piss me off like the woman at Bed, Bath, and Beyond who just had to bring her cart down the eight-foot-long aisle I was in with my cart, and who didn't say, "Excuse me," but did say, "Can you move your cart back just a little?" without a "Please" as she forced her cart past mine which was there first. So I did and said under my breath, but I really did want to say it loud enough for her to hear, "Why don't you leave your cart at the end of the aisle and walk down it without the cart like I do!"

I'm frustrated because I don't know what to get the few people I should get something for, so I pick up and look at hundreds of possibilities only to put them back, thinking the person I have in mind doesn't really need it or won't really like it like I do. So then I keep finding things I want or need but avoid the temptation by telling myself I can come back after Christmas and after my next pay to get it but know I will forget all about it, or if I do remember the thing, I won't remember where I saw it, so I guess I don't really need it after all.

I really don't have to buy much as we don't do the whole holiday thing like we once did, but I still get a little something for B, Ka and Ky, L and R, and A, and a few others. And I have to find gifts for two work gift exchanges, both of whom are men and like sports. Argh! I haven't been able to find something that pleases me enough to give to them.

So this is what the "pseudo-shopping" is that I mentioned above. I go out, spend (waste so much) time looking, and don't buy anything, and I'm back where I started with gifts still to buy and less time in which to do it. So I've decided to give money to the girls and their SOs hoping they'll appreciate that more than useless gifts they'd pretend to like and feel obligated to keep or have to go to the trouble of returning. See? I'm doing them a big favor. And I am really okay with it.

Oh, and the music in the stores this time of year drives me crazy. At the end of my outing today, I was at the Hallmark store to buy a few cards. While I was looking around for gifts before beginning my search for cards, I was aware of two things: the music was pleasant--no Christmas carols, and the clerk was counting money, signaling that the store was about to close. I wanted to thank the employees for the nice music, but when I realized I wouldn't have time to find cards, I just left.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Lost in Menards 

I lost my temper at Menards tonight. Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration. I lost B, and he was the reason for my anger.

The root cause of this incident at Menards can be traced back to June when K moved out. That's when the days are longest. This time of year, darkness falls about 4:30, 5:00. Sometimes I don't get home until 5, 5:30, 6 after staying late at work or running errands or shopping or otherwise spending time away from the house.

As I turn the bend on our street, I look to see if B's come home from work before me. Darkness. That's all I see as I peer across the widths of the two yards before mine. For weeks, B's been working 10 to 12 hours a day, so I'm not surprised that he's not home. Now depending on the phases of the moon and the moods of the neighbors (whether or not their outside lights are on), I often drive into the black void of the driveway which is only briefly illuminated by the car's lights.

Then, because I refuse to make more than one trip into the house, all 20 steps from car to front door, I gather all my belongings and whatever else I've accumulated throughout the day from the front and back seats by the dim glow of the dome light. I amaze myself sometimes with such balancing skills, feats of strength, and determination. Other times I irritate myself because I foolishly overestimate the same. What is truly amazing and horrifying about this weekday, late afternoon routine is that I do it all in the dark.

With foresight, before I do anything else after I've taken the key out of the ignition, I make sure I have the house key turned in the proper direction in my right hand. When I reach the stoop and manage to open the storm door--well, it's still the screen door even now in December, I, ladened with bundles, aim the key for the keyhole. Uh, I could use a little light here. Um, he-ere. Dammit! I can't find the damn keyhole! (A few weeks ago, I bought one of those skinny little flashlights to put on my key ring for the purpose of lighting the keyhole. Problem is, I don't have enough free fingers to finagle it.)

Now this scenario is entirely new for me. For the first time in almost 28 years, B and I are empty-nesters. Until last June when K moved out, someone was almost always home before me and would turn the outside light on at dusk. But no more. And so this is why we shopped at Menards tonight. I wanted a motion-sensored light or timer or something that would enable me to safely find my way from my car in the driveway to the front door.

So it's still early enough in December and late enough on a Saturday evening that too many holiday shoppers wouldn't be out there to annoy me. Or so I thought. But, wait, I can't put the blame for my irritability tonight on the shoppers. Oh, no, no, no! B, who hates shopping by the way--until we're in Menards, that is, was the cause of my irritation.

Here's how it went: First of all, I intended this to be a quick stop--in and out. We go into the store and head for the lighting section. When I see B start to browse, I said, "Let's find someone to ask where they have the motion-sensor lighting," and off I go to look. After walking several feet, I turn to see that he's not following me. He's going to find this on his own, I think. I'm going to have to keep my eye out for him so I don't lose him, I think, because I don't want to be here all night. I find an associate, ask, and head back to tell B where they've got this lighting.

Together we walk to the end of this department, several aisles down, and I turn right, where the clerk told me, and B turns left. Actually, this type of lighting was all along the back wall. He finds something. I find something else. He finds yet another product, and I do, too. We consider the options. This takes many minutes. We decide on one and put it in the cart. So far, so good. We're going to be out of here real soon.

On the way to the check-out, he makes a right turn, still in the lighting section. I stop the cart, back up, and turn to follow him. This is the actual beginning of my irritation because I thought we were done, but I see that he's found yet another option, one that I had actually been thinking of instead of replacing the whole light fixture because, after all, that one was new in the summer of 2002 when he painted the house. Here he found timers. I wasn't sure timers were available to put on wall fixtures like they have for plug-in lamps and such. And this is what I was really wanting, so I looked with interest. We debated over the types and decided on one. So, okay, we're done and outtahere!

Wait! I remembered that we need lightbulbs, so I tell B that I'm going into the next aisle to get lightbulbs. Pushing the cart down this aisle, I see a couple who is taking up space at the very spot where I want to look, and they are blocking my way in getting out of the store in short order. I'm getting edgier now. So I turn the cart around, go to the end of the aisle, down the next, and up the one where my lightbulbs await me. Ah! Got them! I turn the cart around because the couple was still blocking my movement and retraced my steps to reach a main aisle where I figured B'd be waiting.

But oh, no. He's nowhere in sight. My hopes of leaving the store shortly were dashed when I looked this way and that without moving too far from what I assumed he'd understood to be our rendezvous point. But no B. What to do? Stay and wait and hope he'd return shortly? Go in search of him? But where to start?

I waited in that general vicinity a few minutes before thinking that he may have gone to the check-out, knowing we were done. So I walked over to that area and looked in each check-out lane and in the immediate area but no B. The edginess grows. On my way back to the lighting section, I scanned each aisle I passed. No B. As I reached the entrance to the lighting section, I stopped and glanced over the tops of all the aisles in my range. No B. Pushing the cart, I pace. No B. I think if only he had a cell phone, I'd call him to see where in the hell he is. Then I think that he might have his pager on him. Still pushing the cart and pacing aimlessly, I reach into my purse for my cell phone, look in the phone book for his pager number, and there he is! Ten feet from me.

Where have you been, I demanded harshly in a whisper. He said, right here, looking at these...

Time elapsed in Menards: 45 minutes. We left with a digital wall switch timer with 42 weekly on/off settings and some lightbulbs.

Moral: Don't expect any trip to Menards with B to be short.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Bill Attack! 

This afternoon I experienced a major anxiety attack. Then Margarita and I chilled.

Today is the fifth day in a row that I've been home. I called off today, Monday, after the four-day Thanksgiving weekend because I didn't get done what I wanted to do, what I knew I had to do: pay bills--medical bills, specifically. Now family members, and a few others, know that I am a major procrastinator. MAJOR! I have piles of this and that everywhere waiting to be organized. But I won't go any further at this time with that scenario.

This most recent ordeal--paying medical bills after two surgeries this summer--I had put off for weeks. Back on October 8 (I know the date because I wisely took notes!), I actually (I use this word to illustrate my dreaded disdain for making phone calls) called the insurance company and spoke with a rep who assured me that all claims had been paid. The surgery center, however, kept sending me bills that showed I owed the whole amount--$7000--with friendly--at first--reminders that the insurance company refused to pay. A couple of weeks ago, I answered a call from a woman at the surgery center telling me that the center had still not received payment from the insurance company and that I would have to start paying the bill. I sent $50 the next day and made a mental note to follow up with the insurance company--someday. Ugh! and Hmph!

Luckily for me, I received additional money last payday, an expected "bonus" of sorts. I had entertained several ideas about how to use this money and finally decided to put most of it towards my medical bills, which after insurance, total about $1100. So the money was available to pay bills, right? So one would think, "No problem. Money's there. Pay the bills," right? Whoa! Not so easy, though.

After speaking with the insurance rep on October 8, I had received several (10) "Explanation(s) of Benefits" that I just set aside to look at later. Yeah, right! In the meantime, the various medical businesses continued to send statements that I continued to put aside to deal with later. It's not as if I was thinking, "I won't pay them." I thought, "Someday I'll get around to taking care of all these claims and bills." I had piles of insurance letters and piles of medical bills, so all I had to do was match them up to check for correctness, right?

Sure, that's easy for the structured, organized, energetic person to say. Not so for me, Procrastinator Supreme, Adult ADDer. I had Thursday free--because our family's Thanksgiving dinner was Wednesday night, so I could start matching claims and bills. But, no. My thinking was, "No sense doing this now. If I need to call business offices, I can't because they'll be closed on a holiday, so I'll do it tomorrow." On Friday, I just could not move myself to do this job! I simply wasted my time away, mostly aimlessly on the computer.

This whiling away of my time was not without guilt. Also weighing heavily on my mind were the tons of papers I have to grade before progress reports go out on Wednesday this week. But I could not, simply could NOT approach the paper-grading hurdle until the bill-paying hurdle was cleared. I just had that mindset. So all weekend I obsessed over not getting to the papers.

By mid-Sunday afternoon, I came to the realization that I wouldn't get the bill-paying chore done this weekend and that I HAD to grade papers. So I set aside the claims and bills and hauled out the papers and made a half-hearted attempt to grade them. At about 6 pm, I decided I needed one more day, a day to start afresh, a business day in case I needed to call the insurance and medical offices, so I placed a phone call to the sub line and called off sick for today. I felt an immediate sense of relief. I had the power to grant myself one more day, and I did. I didn't feel guilty at all about calling off because this mess was --literally--making me sick!

So this morning I spread the claims and bills out on the dining room table once again. Now this may sound like a load of crap to most people, but I swear this ordeal has caused much more anxiety than I am comfortable with, and even trying to relate the process here exhausts me. So I leave it at that.

I am happy to report that many medical bills have been paid today. Now after this deserving break, I'll move on to grading papers. I feel so good right now, and it's not because of Margarita. I've had a major load lifted from my chest. Walk in my shoes...

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