Thursday, December 18, 2008

Conversation With a 9 Yr-Old

Here's Graham and me killing time. Notice the perpetual dirty fingernails. I honestly don't know how he does it.

video

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

It's Beginning To Look a Lot Like Christmas

I love Christmas! I admit it. I love everything that goes with it. Well, except for people getting trampled in stores. That part stinks. But I've been in the Christmas spirit since about October because I've been getting Christmas scripts ready for the website I manage (http://www.skitguys.com/). It's just easier to do that with Christmas music playing in the background.


Anyway, here are some of the fun stuff we've been doing this season.

Here we are at the mall in the food court after Rachel's choir concert.
Here's Rachel's honor choir that she's in. They did such a great job!

We are really lucky because our city's Christmas parade is right down the street from us. This is Christmas Texas style with a Cowboy Church. I love Cowboy Churches. The people are so great.

This is our Christmas tree. Well...one of them.

Here's Rachel and Graham with their buddy and our neighbor Sammy...oh sorry, Samuel...at the Christmas parade.

Our church does an outreach every year called "Three Trees". We had about 350 families come through and receive gifts for the children. I don't think I've ever said "Feliz Navidad" so much in my life. It was great!

This is the family we got to host during Three Trees, Jose and his mother Rosa. Rosa did not speak an ounce of English, but thank goodness Jose did. Rosa was hilarious, though.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Our Dog Rosie

We've had Rosie for about 5 years now and she is some of the best entertainment we've ever invested in. She just oozes personality with her little tail wagging and her smile. Yes, she smiles. It's not pretty, but it's really sweet.

We came home from church on Sunday and let her out in the backyard. Just a few minutes later we got a call from the neighbor saying he thought he saw Rosie and it looked like she almost got hit by a car. We ran out to the front of our house and sure enough, there came Rosie limping up the front walk. Her back left leg was dangling and I knew she probably broke it. We decided it was best to get her to an animal hospital.

It was worse than I could have imagined. She broke it in three places and needed surgery fairly soon. The doctor said that there was a good chance that she would lose her tail. I was devastated because that's just about my favorite part about her. However, she came through it all just fine, but has to remain still for the next 10 weeks and has to wear this cone for the next two until her stitches come out. She got to keep her tail too!

We wrestled with what we should do because surgery is not cheap. But Randy told me from the beginning that we were going to be fine and this was the right thing to do. He sent me the Proverbs for today, chapter 11 verse 10 says "a righteous man cares for the needs of his animal, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel."

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

From Rachel

Thanksgiving

Hi I’m Rachel (Carrie & Randy’s daughter.) You’ve probably heard a lot of stories of me from my mom. Yes all those stories are true about me, but I don’t like to go around saying did you know that I’m the president? That’s something I’m thankful for though. I know God gave me all these gifts and I’m very happy he did too!

As you know next week is Thanksgiving, and for my family we’re going to My Nene & Papa’s house (grandparents) also on Tuesday at school we have Colonial day for the 5th graders. So For that day the 5th graders dress up as pilgrims/puritans, but that’s not all after recess/lunch (about 12:30) fr the rest of the day we get to do all sorts of things like make candles, quilting, making applesauce, I think even making jam! At my Nene & Papa’s house Graham and I finally get to go down to the pond all by ourselves! We built a fort last time we were there at thanksgiving.

Most of all I’m thankful for God, my parents, my friends (especially Shelby, hoping she will get better from the whooping cough), and things I have been given or blessed with.

What are you thankful for?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I Can Die Happy Now

There are moments in my life that I'm convinced that God looks over at the angels, grins and says "hey watch this".

Randy and I have had tickets to see Coldplay at American Airlines Center in Dallas since last June. The second they went on sale I bought them. Last night was the big night and we were so excited. However, I must have been due to be rear-ended in rush hour traffic because it had been a while since the last time. But of all nights for it to happen, this couldn't be worse. I was terrified I was going to miss the concert. Fortunately, the car drove fine after I exchanged information with the 19 year-old kid (who wasn't paying attention).

We made it in plenty of time to wish that the opening artist was on his last song and that Coldplay would take the stage. I sat there in my seat, wishing I was closer to the stage and being a little jealous of all the radio contest winners who were on the front row. It was as if God thunked me on the head and I realized I should really just be thankful that I was there in the first place.

The concert finally started and it was amazing. We kept reading reviews that if you were going to see a concert, this would be the one to see. And boy was it. They were amazing.

About half way through I turned around and noticed that about three rows behind us and a little to the left, there was a microphone and three guitar stands set up. I turned around to Randy and said "no way!" Sure enough after a couple more songs, they came down the ramp and up the stairs and this is what we got.



I pretty much wept. We couldn't believe it! Out of all the thousands and thousands of people there and all of the hundreds of places they could have gone in the stadium, they stood right behind us. Randy is convinced that Chris Martin was looking at him. They sang "The Scientist" and a couple of other songs. It was the most unbelievable thing and I barely slept all night.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

This Will Ruin Your Day

So don't look! You won't get anything done.

Cute Puppies!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Things You Might Not Know

My friend Michele had this up on her blog and it looked like fun, so I stole this from her. Thanks, Michele!

WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE?
Yes, I was named after my mom’s grandmother.
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED?
Oh, it was probably in church last Sunday after Randy had just done a lesson on prophecy and how it’s really impossible that Jesus not be God’s son, then we sang “You Are God Alone” in worship. Got me choked up.
DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING?
Nope.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT?
Turkey.
DO YOU HAVE KIDS?
Yes! I have three- I’m just married to one of ‘em.
IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU?
I don’t really know. I think I’m too weird. I try to be a good friend, but I'm really bad about calling people back. I don't like to talk on the phone, I'd rather talk over a piece of cake.
DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT?
No, not really.
DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS?
Yes.
WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP?
Oh my, no.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL?
This is like asking me which of my children I like the most! If I had to choose it’d be Cocoa Puffs. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF?
If I’m wearing shoes that have shoestrings, then yes.
DO YOU THINK YOU’RE STRONG?
I think I can be. It depends on the situation. Although when I’m at my fitness class, I am humbly reminded just how very weak I am.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM?
I love, love the Peanut Butter Lover’s at Cold Stone. In fact, that sounds really good. I may have that for dinner.
WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE?
Clothes. That’s’ really superficial, I know.
RED OR PINK?
Pink
WHAT IS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF?
I’m not very well-spoken. I say the dumbest things. When I saw my friend that’s in my fitness class at Bible Study the other night I told her it’s weird seeing her with her clothes on. Of course, everyone turned around to stare and I had to explain. Sheesh. My friend Melinda taught me a phrase when we went to Mexico that I still use today: Yo estoy idiota.
WHAT COLOR PANTS AND SHOES ARE YOU WEARING?
I have on blue jeans and no shoes.
WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE?
I ate these little graham crackers called Bug Bites. They’re really good. I love graham crackers. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW?
Coldplay
IF YOU WERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE?
Purple
FAVORITE SMELLS?
Coffee- I can’t stand the taste, but when I was a kid my mom would have me fill her cup in the morning and it makes me think of that.
WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE?
Eddie James
FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH?
My son play soccer. He is soooo fast and a joy to watch.
HAIR COLOR?
Blonde, although I have a little help.
EYE COLOR?
blue
DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS?
No, I can’t stand things poking at my eyeballs. I’d rather get a shot than go to the eye doctor. FAVORITE FOOD?
I’d have to say pasta. I could honestly eat it everyday.
SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS
Happy endings. I hate scary movies.
LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED?
Pam and I took Rachel to see HSM3. We just watched Kung Foo Panda on video too.
SUMMER OR WINTER?
Winter
FAVORITE DESSERT?
cake- any kind of cake, although birthday cake is my favorite cake
WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW?
I’m having trouble settling on one. I really, really tried to read Sense and Sensibility but just couldn’t do it (sorry Stacey!).
WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD?
Nothing. It’s just blue.
WHAT DID YOU WATCH ON TV LATE LAST NIGHT?
We watched Chuck and then we watched Kung Foo Panda.
FAVORITE SOUND
My kids belly laughing at each other.
My husband saying “I’ll do the dishes”
My kids saying “yes ma’am”
ROLLING STONES OR BEATLES?
Oooh Beatles. I am in love with the movie Across the Universe right now.
WHAT IS THE FARTHEST YOU HAVE BEEN FROM HOME?
I’m not sure. We went to see our friends Scott and Michele in Seattle, but we’ve also been to Cancun. Not sure which is farther.
WHERE WERE YOU BORN?
North Little Rock, AR

Thursday, October 23, 2008

No Matter Where You Roam...

Randy has been working like crazy lately. The company he works for has been in “crunch” mode. That’s when you have a deadline and you stay at the office until it’s finished, pretty much. So the last two weeks he’s worked 10am to midnight and sometimes even later.

Now he and I sat down a couple of months ago and talked all this out. He knew this was probably coming, but we can do anything for 2 months.

We were travelling along just fine. Randy was free on the weekends so we made sure we maximized our time. The last three weekends, however, he’s had to go into work. This last weekend he practically lived there.

The deadline was this past Monday, so for better or for worse, the product was shipped. Randy was free to take the rest of this week off, so I’ve had him home all this week. He’s gotten to go to the dentist and even get a haircut!

We went to the kids’ school yesterday to eat lunch with them. They have back to back lunches, so they each had a turn with mom and dad. I ran into Graham’s teacher on the way out and we discussed his “signature” that he received for not turning in his homework. She said that Tuesday he didn’t bring his math book back to school so she had assigned him 5 extra pages of work (I know, Pam).

She also told me that Graham melted into a pile of tears right there in the middle of class. In front of soccer buddies and cute little girl that sits next to him that he’s had a bit of a crush on and everything. He cried and said, “But my dad is home! If I have to do all this work I won’t get to play with him!” The teacher felt bad for him and let him off…this time.

Part of me is thinking “well played young Jedi, well played”. But the look on his face when he gets home and his dad is there has been priceless. He runs in the house and whooshes past me with a “hi-mom-where’s-Dad-is-he-still-here-can-you-get-me-a-snack?”

Randy and I always try to make sure that when we’re with our kids, we’re with our kids. I’m so grateful that I have a family that loves to be together…that needs to be together. My prayer is that I always have a home that they can’t wait to get back to. My mom had a sign in our house when I was growing up that said "No matter where you may roam, the best part is coming home."

Graham was sitting on the couch with me the other day and wouldn’t stop hugging and kissing on me. He’s a lovin’ kid and sometimes it gets to be a little much. He wouldn’t detach from me so finally I had to say “okay, that’s enough.” He very wisely got in my face and said “enjoy it now, Mom, this isn’t going to last forever.”

I know. I know all to well.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Rachel's Birthday Week

So it couldn't have been a better week and weekend for Miss Rachel. She won Student Council President, got a lead role in her musical at church, and this morning I found out that she was chosen as "Student of the Month" by her teachers.
On top of all that, Tuesday is her 11th birthday. Pam and I took her to The Galleria to get her ears pierced. It was a huge deal. She was so nervous!

But she did it!

After that, we went to The American Girl Store where we found out that you can have your doll's ears pierced too! Fortunately, Rachel brought her "Just Like Me" AG doll (a doll that you order to have your features).

We had a snack in the AG Bistro. I think Aunt Pam likes American Girl more than anybody.

Happy Birthday Rachel!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

If McCain Would Only Wear the Hat!

Now I have to brag on my girl.

Rachel ran for Student Council President this year. It was a tough campaign. Her platform was opposing socialized healthcare and pushing for offshore drilling. I'm just kidding. Really it was to have pajama day at school in a warmer month. Here is her speech!

video

She won! How can you not win with that hat? She also auditioned for the kids musical at church and got a lead role! We have one more audition coming up tomorrow for Plano Children's Choir. We'll see if she can do a three-peat.

Can you peak in the 5th grade?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Graham vs. The Titan

I have to brag on my boy.

We decided that this year we'd get season passes to Six Flags. We (Randy, Rachel, Pam and I) love riding roller coasters and thought it'd be great to go whenever we wanted to ride. Graham, however, was on the "I-don't-think-that's-such-a-great-idea" side. To his credit, if you take one look at our favorite coaster- The Titan- it's pretty intimidating.

We were at Six Flags yesterday and all but begged him to try the Titan at least one time (okay we did beg). It took some convincing, but after lots and lots of encouragement (and $7 between Pam and me) he finally decided to do it. That kid will do anything for a buck.

He rode with me the first time and I have to say I was a little nervous for him. Whereas the bar fits snugly to my lap, there was lots of room between him and his bar. I kept a big smile on my face and chanted in my head all the way up the first hill "science says he stays in, science says he stays in".

The first drop is always a doozy and I think it kind of knocked the breath out of him, but by the third drop he was yelling at the top of his lungs "this is awesome, this is awesome"! He rode 3 more times and can't wait to get back on it.

There's nothing like a 25 and a half story drop and 85mph spirals (Mommy blacks out a little) to bring a family together.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Back to School



I'm sitting here at my desk at 7:46am on Monday morning, the earliest I've been up in many weeks. I actually got up at 6:15. The house is quiet with the exception of Matt Lauer quietly in the background and the hum of the air conditioner. Peace.I just got back from dropping the kids off at school.


First day. New backpacks, new outfits, new pencils, new outlooks. Fresh haircuts, milk money and a whole list of things mom forgot to get for this very important day. First time parents dropping off their kindergartners wiping away tears with video cameras glued to their eye sockets. I laugh quietly as the fathers in their business suits drag away the moms as she's waving "bye bye" to her little precious one. The little precious one is literally rolling his eyes and waving "bye bye" over his shoulder as he spots a soccer buddy. Good luck finding a parking space, because this is the one day that most parents walk into the classroom with their child.


Anticipation. Excitement. All kinds of activities to do. But then that's just me. I think I may have hurt some feelings this morning with how over-the-top chipper I was. I have been waiting for this day for the past month. A whole month filled with "I'm bored" "she hit me" "it's too hot" "I'm hungry" "I'm bored". I piled my kids in the car and dropped them off at the front door of the school wishing them well and trying to embarass them as much as possible yelling out "I love you!" and "Make good choices!" They run.


There are two different parents- the good ones that make this day a special one for their child and walk them into their classes and make sure they find their lockers and desks okay. And then there's us- the vets- the ones doing the happy dance in our cars as we barely hit the brakes to let the kids out.


The ones with days already planned of projects we didn't get to all summer and lunches with friends we haven't seen for weeks. The ones snickering at those other parents... because it wasn't long ago that we were wiping away tears and sending them off to another day of firsts.
Happy first day of school Rachel and Graham.
Originally posted 8-07.

Monday, July 7, 2008

It's For Real!

After several months of planning and praying and having such good intentions, Skitzy Chicks finally has a website... and a checking account! Randy says, though, that it'll be more real-er when there's money in that account.

http://www.skitzychicks.com/

Be sure to bookmark us and tell your churches about us!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Rachel's Recital

video

Rachel had her piano recital last week. This is a short clip of her performance.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

He Makes Me Play With Sticks

My son likes sticks. Sometimes I get worried that computer and video games are sucking out his imagination and he’s going to be void of any sort of creativity. But give the boy a stick and you’ve given him the world.

Sticks to him are an afternoon of slaying dragons or defending his territory from ninjas. Nana’s house has the best sticks according to him. He refuses to take any swords to her house…’cause her yard’s got great sticks. Just the other day I went to pick him up from school, only to see him halfway home rounding a corner on the sidewalk. Not running. Not walking. But gallivanting. Horseback style. With a stick. He was saving the world from something, I’m sure.

Another time I stepped out onto our front porch to watch for him coming home from school. This was a day after my husband had spent the whole day before picking up sticks in our front yard and breaking them into little pieces and stuffing them in a leaf bag. I finally saw Graham in the distance. Not with a stick- but a large tree branch. About three times his size. It took a feat of strength just to drag it down the sidewalk. He left a trail of small twigs and leaves as he walked. He was determined. His expression was deep in thought as he prioritized his plans for his new treasure. I couldn’t help but laugh.

Once he reached the house I told him that it would be in his best interest to go take it back to where it came from before his dad got home. His face fell and he let out a huge sigh not only because he really wanted the stick/small tree, but because this thing was so massive that it really needed about three more of him to get it back to it’s origins. I saw the light and his plans for world domination fade from his eyes and told him that if he and his friend would make sure that it ended up on our curb with the other leaf bags by the time they had to come inside, they could keep it for the rest of the afternoon. Victory!

Such a simple thing. A stick. They’re everywhere and always accessible. It could be used for anything, but usually it’s a sword. When someone asks me what Graham’s into, they usually expect me to answer “Lego’s” or “dinosaurs” or “Pokemon”. Nope. Sticks.

Now I should qualify all of this brilliant creativity with the fact that he’s grounded. Indefinitely. Graham has some self-control issues at school (talking-he’d describe it as fellowshipping) and so we’ve had to take away his computer and video game privileges.

There’s a routine that follows after a grounding. We go through a couple of days of “what can I do?” and “I’m bored”. They quickly learn not to ask these questions because the answer always involves hard labor. I double-dog-dare them to ask me. Once they’ve realized that they’re going to have to fend for themselves and come up with something to do, the things they come up with are inspiring.

I started thinking that my most creative moments happen that way too. When I’ve taken away all distractions and have checked off everything in my brain that needs to be done I begin to start thinking about one simple thing. That usually leads to something bigger and before I know it I’ve written our church’s whole Christmas pageant! All of this typically happens in my car on long drives. I have nothing else to do but keep myself company.

I was reading the 23rd Psalm. Randy’s hooked me on looking up original Greek and Hebrew, so there was one word that really intrigued me. I have a New Century Version that says something completely different than every other translation and it changed the whole concept. I looked up the word and confirmed what the majority of translations say.

It’s the word “make” from Psalm 23:2- “He makes me lie down in green pastures”. I think that sometimes I get so caught up in everything that I’m supposed to do that sometimes God presses His hand on my back and causes me to lie down and enjoy His beauty. To get back to basics. To sit and be simple.

I love that about God. It’s like when my kids were babies and I put them down to sleep and they didn’t want to go to sleep. I knew they were tired, but they would protest the whole time, especially Rachel. My mom would take Rachel as a baby and hold her tight and cover her up with her blanket. She’d get right in her ear and while Rachel would be screaming at the top of her lungs mom would rock her as she sang “Jesus Loves Me”. Eventually Rachel would succumb and fall asleep. Worked every time.

He makes me lie down.

He leads me beside still waters.

God wants to bless me, sometimes against my own volition. Once I realize that what He’s doing for me is good, I wonder why I ever resisted in the first place. I get to experience Him and He feeds me His word.

And then, I get to share it with others.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I Like Mike

I'm faced with a bit of a dilemma this political season. For the last three or four years, I've found myself growing less and less interested in politics. Routinely, I waiver somewhere between all-consuming indifference and self-righteous fury; tossed from media circus to media circus, buoyed by self-proclaimed citadels of truth and right-ness. I've watched entertainers become reporters, reporters become entertainers, and nice old women become fearsome mud-slingers as they openly slander their politically disliked, portraying the opposition party with horns and glowing eyes in gleefully emailed photos.

Yes, grandma. You got it just right. They're the devil.

Strangely, though, this all brings me to the issue of Mike.

The entity known as "they" says that it's easy to be apathetic about an issue until it affects you directly. There's a lot of truth there. I didn't care about my garbage until our collectors missed a week, and suddenly I was out of space for smelly trash. I didn't care about toll roads until I had to pay $7 per day for the privilege of driving to and from work. And I didn't care about Brittany Spears until...well...I still don't.

I'm starting to care about politics again, though.

And it's all Mike's fault. Mike Huckabee, that is.

Now, before you get all uptight thinking I'm about to write some gushy email about how Mike is the Savior of Mankind and that he's some kind of Moses among politicians...don't worry. I'm not. Nor am I about to list or debate his various political views. He has them. Some I like. Some I don't. Just like every other token in the political Pog match.

What I would like to share are some fond memories of the times I spent with Mike and his family.

Somewhere around the time I was eight or nine, Mike became pastor of our church in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. My parents always comment that he was young for the time (mid-twenties and newly married I believe) but from my perspective, Mike has always been the same age; that vague "older than me" category reserved for people who aren't your playmates, but aren't your parents either. For whatever reason, Mike and Janet became close friends with my parents, and while he was pastor of our church, their family and ours spent a number of evenings eating sandwiches and chatting about stuff. We vacationed several times with the Huckabees, and I even lived with and worked for Mike one summer in Texarkana.

The last experience I had directly with Mike was when he performed the wedding for mme and my wife. He was Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas at the time. Given Mike's political and religious credentials, I think we're about as married as any couple could be!

Here are some other scenes and impressions that stick out from a couple of decades of knowing Mike Huckabee. Some are mine. Some are family legend. All are Mike.

~--==========--~

Varnell / Huckabee vacations were always at Bull Shoals lake in Northern Arkansas. We would rent cabins and spend a week together fishing, swimming, skiing and cooking out. I'll never forget Trivial Pursuit, though. I was about eleven when I developed the distinct impression that Mike was the smartest person I would ever meet.

On those vacations, my dad and Mike would team up against Janet and my mom at Trivial Pursuit. I was a cocky little nerd, so I insinuated myself into the women's team to help give them what little boost I could. Mostly, I answered easy science questions. Mike was unmatchable at trivia, though. I'm not sure where he picked up that headful of facts, but we simply couldn't beat him at the game. While my dad, the professional engineer, would occasionally jump in with a science fact or two, Mike ruled the board, easily answering questions about history, culture, sports, news...you name it!

One of the many times Mike cruised his full pie to the center square, mom, Janet and I pored over the questions to pick one we thought Mike couldn't answer. Brown (Literature) was always my favorite to try and snag him, and my heart raced with excitement as I found a question I was sure would stump even Mike. "What famous work was penned by Harriet Beecher Stowe?" It took less than a second for my hopes to be crushed by Mikes sing-songy answer: "Uncle Tom's Cabin!"

I can still hear his voice in my head. (Mike, I never missed that question on a history test!)

~--==========--~

One of those trips, I saw a protective side of Mike. We were coming in from fishing when his son David--probably only six or seven--fell off the boat dock into the lake. Before I could turn around and raise my voice, Mike had jumped in the lake with David and was pulling him out. It didn't matter that Mike wasn't dressed for swimming, that he soaked his wallet, or that he mussed his hair. Mike saw his son in danger and he acted quickly and decisively to help.

~--==========--~

I remember Mike as a brilliant speaker. As my pastor, I heard him every Sunday, 52 times a year, for five or six years. Mike never got old, though. I can name dozens or hundreds of other teachers, speakers and professors whom I have measured by Mike's standard. None of them measure up to his wit and raw oratory. I have a stack of spiral notebooks full of things Mike said I thought worth remembering as I grew up. In contrast, I think I might be able to recall one or two pithy expressions from the last three presidents. If I try really hard. And use Google.

~--==========--~

One remarkable thing about Mike: when he was with you he was WITH you. Have you ever waited in line to shake hands with a celebrity or to meet someone at a wedding or party, and while they're shaking your hand they look over your shoulder to see if someone more important was behind you? Well, Mike doesn't do that. You watch any video or see any photo of Mike interacting with people and you'll notice two things: he smiles warmly and often, and his eyes are always focused on the person with whom he is interacting.

With Mike, it doesn't matter if your four or one-hundred-and-four; if you're John Grisham or John Doe. When Mike talks to you, he talks TO you. Mike loves people, and you always feel like you're one of his favorites when you speak with him. With Mike, you and your moment are the most important thing he has going on.

~--==========--~

I remember his drum kit. It was in the living room of his home in Texarkana, not far from the old spinet piano he had. The summer I lived with Mike and Janet, I would often sit down at the piano after dinner and play a bit. If Mike heard me playing, he would almost always wander in from another room and join in. I wasn't very good at playing with other musicians at the time--twelve years of Beethoven hadn't prepared me for a blues jam. But Mike's enthusiasm was infectious. Every couple of days we'd play together for half-an-hour or more, Mike calling suggestions for songs and encouraging me as I struggled to do something musical with him.

~--==========--~

Mike's kids were something else. I hear John Mark, David, and Sarah are all grown up now. I've seen pictures, even. In my head, those three will always be somewhere between six and twelve. Mike's kids were...energetic, to put it lightly. With two children of my own now, I can better appreciate how difficult it is to be a public leader when your children are constantly viyying for your undivided attention. However, through all those odd events and kid-initiated mini-catastrophes, I remember Mike as a firm and gentle father, correcting the kids sternly and logically when they were out of line, but also having fun with them as 'dad'.

There was a small pool in their backyard, and Mike loved to swim with his family, splashing and playing until the warm Arkanasas sun faded below the treeline and we would all go in to eat homemade ice cream and drink Diet Pepsi. I'll never quite understand the Diet Pepsi part, Mike. After all, this is the south, where all drinks are Coke.

~--==========--~

Warmth and sincerity, though, is what I' will always remember most about Mike. Of all the mental pictures in my head of Mike Huckabee, the image that remains most vividly is Mike with bright eyes and a broad smile accented by that deep dimple on his right cheek. I can't remember many frowns from Mike. I can remember his passion, and occasional sternness. I can hear that lilt in his rich voice, as if he were just about to reveal a witty punch line of some great joke; a chuckle in his throat and a wink in his eye that drew you into his confidence. I like Mike's smiles.

~--==========--~

I don't know where Mike is going, in the long run. And sure, if he's elected to some office in Washington, I'm pretty sure I'll play a "remember me" card and see if I can squeeze into his calendar. I'm not sure if Mike has all the answers for America. I don't know if he's got the right solutions for border control, war, or taxes. These days, I'm cynical enough to think that no politician will be able to affect any change for our country as long as we're a nation of prejudiced, spoiled whiners consumed by one-issue stances and a love affair with labeling each other.

But I can say this...

I like Mike.

Always have. Always will.

And nothing anyone can say will change that.