Thursday, December 30, 2010

The End is the Beginning...or 2011 - The Year of Opportunity

2011 is a mere 36 hours away. 

Time to put the best and worst of 2010 behind. 

Time to make resolutions (and stick to 'em!).

A little something we should all do in 2011...

We are going to open a book.
It's pages are BLANK.
We are going to put our own words on those pages.
The book is called "OPPORTUNITY".
And it's first page is New Year's Day.

From me and mine, to you and yours...Have a Happy, Healthy, & Prosperous New Year.

Until next time...

Friday, December 24, 2010

An Angel Went Home Today

So this is a blog I wish I never had to write.  I wish the Mayo Jar was truly gonna be my last blog of 2010. 

The Man Upstairs had other plans, though.

Ten years ago, I met my future cousin-in-law Alyssa.  She was 9.  She was wearing a soccer uniform...her jersey was red.

She had amazing brown eyes.  Those big brown eyes that drew you in, and would make you give her anything she wanted...another minute of playtime...another scoop of ice cream...another few minutes before having to come inside for the day.

She had the brightest smile I'd probably ever seen. 

And she had a laughter that was contagious...heartwarming...and pure.

She was beautiful...stunning...both inside and out.  I joked to her mom and dad that she should go into modeling.

She grew up to be a wonderful young girl, and into a beautiful young woman. 

She babysat our children; they loved her, and she loved them.

She sometimes was dealt a pretty crappy hand, but she didn't fold.  She kept her poker face on and stayed in the game...even when it seemed like there was nothing good that was going to come from the proverbial cards she was holding.

She had character.

She had heart.

She had a love for life, and life loved her back.

Everyone that met Alyssa loved her. 

You couldn't help but not to. 

She had "it".

But, for whatever reason, God thought it was time for her to come home at 3am this morning (12/24/10). 

She would have been 20 on Monday.

The Lord works in mysterious ways.  Sometimes so mysterious, that we say to ourselves, "What the heck are you trying to tell me, Lord, because this isn't the way I need to hear it!"

Today is one of those days for me.

I got to see her and hang with her for a bit at Cheeseburger in Paradise last night...she was planning on coming over to the house on Christmas Day after dinner to see the kids and spend some time with us because it had been awhile...the whole hustle-and-bustle had caught up with her and with us.

The last thing she said to me as she was heading out to meet up with some of her friends was , "I'll see you tomorrow"...

I fall back on something my Grandmother said to me after my Mom and Dad passed away a few years back...Mom-Mom said, "Matt, one day this will all make sense...maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but one day, you will know why it happened the way it did".

I pass those words on to Gary, Kitty, Holly, Christie, Ryan, and all of the Bennett' all of Alyssa's friends and family.

One day, it will all make sense.

Just not today.

She was the little sister I never had.

She was a bright light in a dark sky.

She was an angel.

And she went home today.

Rest in Peace, Alyssa.  We love you and always will. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Mayo Jar...or 2010's Final Blog

Dateline:  Monday, 12/20/10, 7:07am

Barring any major new story that I have a rant about, this is probably my last blog of the year, considering how hectic the next 11 days are sure to be with Christmas and New Year's and all of the hustle and bustle associated with each...and that very hustle and bustle always reminds me of a story a professor told his college class...a great lesson here....ENJOY!

Wishing you and yours a Verry Happy Christmas, and an equally Merry New Year.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him.  When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.  He then asked the students if the jar was full.

They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar.  He shook the jar lightly.  The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.  He then asked the students again if the jar was full.

They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar.  Of course, the sand filled up everything else.  He asked once more if the jar was full.

The students responded with an emphatic "yes."

The professor then produced two bottles of beer from under the table and poured them both into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand.  The students laughed.

"Now," said the professor as the laughter subsided, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life."

"The golf balls are the important things.  Your family, your children, your faith, your health, your friends, and your favorite passions...things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full."

"The pebbles are the other things that matter.  Your job, your house, and your car."

"The sand is everything else.  The small stuff."

"If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls.  The same goes for life.  If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you."

"Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.  Play with your children.  Take time to get medical checkups.  Take your partner out to dinner.  Play another 18.  There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal.  Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter.  Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."

One of the students raised their hand and asked what the beer represented.

The professor smiled and said, "I'm glad you asked.  It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of beers with a friend."

See y'all in 2011...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

What Christmas is All About...

Happy Saturday, Beatdowners!

A quick one again...I watched Charlie Brown's Christmas this week with the Littleheads, and had completely forgotten about the scene above.

Linus delivers the mother-of-all monologues telling Charlie Brown what Christmas is all about.

Thank you, Charles Schultz for this. In the trite and commercialized quagmire that the Christmas Season has become, you have the balls to drop some knowledge on why we celebrate Christmas to begin with...yes, it's awesome to get all festive about the fat, jolly old elf, Santa Claus, and Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, and Frosty the's great to hear the songs about Jingle Bells, Sleigh Rides, and the Holly Jolly time of year...but that's all just the pretty paper on what Christmas TRULY is - the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the King of Kings.

I'm shocked the ACLU hasn't deemed this unfit to air on TV and sued know, in their spirit of the season.

The symbolism in this scene is pretty epic as well. In any and all of the Peanuts cartoons, Linus is ALWAYS scene holding his security blanket. ALWAYS.

Yet in the scene above, he drops the blanket when saying this verse from the Gospel of Luke (Chapter 2):
For behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angels a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men.

Pretty significant, don't you think?

Celebrate the Reason for the Season.

Until next time...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Food Court Hallelujah Chorus

This is simply stunning. Worth the 5 minutes of your time. And again, perfect for the Season.

Damn shame this couldn't happen in the USofA without fear of reprecussions from the ACLU.

Until next time, Beatdowners...

The Almighty has done great things and Holy is His name,
He has sold strength with His arm,
He has scattered the proud,
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich He has sent away empty,
He has brought down rulers from their thrones,
And has exhaulted those who were humble...

And He shall reign for ever and ever...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Worth Sharing...or Something All Parents Should Read

Happy Thursday, Beatdowners!

My buddy Pete sent me a link to a story on CNN that I HAVE to share...the article is written by Jamie Gumbrecht...text below (link -

(CNN) -- Katie Goldman's universe extends from her home to her first-grade classroom. She is a big sister to Annie Rose and Cleo, a piano player, a Spanish student, a wearer of glasses. She loathes the patch she has to wear for one lazy eye. She loves magic and princesses and "Star Wars," an obsession she picked up from her dad.

The 7-year-old carried a "Star Wars" water bottle to school in Evanston, Illinois, every day, at least until a few weeks ago, when Katie suddenly asked to take an old pink one instead. The request surprised Katie's mom, Carrie Goldman. It didn't make any sense. Why would her little sci-fi fan make such a quick turn?

Goldman kept pressing for an answer. She wasn't expecting Katie's tears.

Kids at school insisted that "Star Wars" was only for boys, her daughter wailed. She was different enough already -- the only one who was adopted, who's Jewish, who wears glasses, who needs a patch. If sacrificing Yoda for the color pink would make her fit in again, so be it.

Goldman's heart sank.

These weren't nameless, faceless bullies who taunted her daughter. They were good kids Katie ran around with on the playground. They were getting older, though, and starting to see what made people the same -- and different.

Now, it was about "Star Wars," but Goldman wondered what lunchroom teasing would progress to in middle school, high school or college.

"Is this how it starts?" Goldman wrote in her blog, Portrait of an Adoption. "Do kids find someone who does something differently and start to beat it out of her, first with words and sneers? Must my daughter conform to be accepted?"


A few days later, in Orlando, Jen Yates clicked on a link that led to Goldman's blog. Yates couldn't shake Katie's image when it flashed across the screen -- a little girl with long blonde hair, no front teeth, square-rimmed glasses.

"When you hear about bullying, it's like an abstract concept," Yates said. "When you put a face on it, an adorable little girl's face, with glasses, it brings it home."

Yates remembered the isolation of being the weird kid at her high school. She was the teen who hit "Star Trek" conventions on weekends and got snide comments about it the rest of the week. She was the lone geek girl among her friends, mostly geeky boys.

Bullying tragedies dominated headlines this year after a spate of suicides. Studies revealed how deeply the bullies at school, home or online can traumatize kids. The federal government laid out new anti-bullying guidelines for educators trying to combat the issue.

It's tough to lay out anti-bullying rules for kids so young, but tougher still to know how to protect the bully's perennial target: geeks, nerds and anybody whose interests stray from the norm. Whole genres of pop culture are devoted to ridiculing them and Yates knew that Katie's story was how it starts.

"We've all had those kinds of experiences, if you call yourself a geek," Yates said. "It was about Katie, but it was about every girl out there, every geek out there. It transcended gender, it transcended age.

"I know a Katie. I was Katie."

So Yates did what any geek would -- she went back to her computer.

"My fellow geeks," she wrote on her blog,, "I need your help."


Later that day, in yet another time zone, Catherine Taber clicked Yates' post about a little girl and her "Star Wars" water bottle -- Katie.

Taber grew up on science fiction and fantasy, from Stephen King to "Star Wars," but she wasn't bullied. She was an Army brat, always the new kid at school. With each new place, her parents reminded her to be whatever she wanted, and be proud to share it with the world.

Catherine Taber, who voices Padme Amidala, saw Katie's story, and shared it with her castmates."I immediately had to say something," Taber said. "The whole theme of the 'Star Wars' universe is an anti-bullying theme. It's good versus evil, standing side by side with your friends, doing what's right. One of the most important things to stopping bullies in their tracks is to empower kids to stand up for themselves."

Taber found Katie's mom's blog, sent it to everyone she knew, and left a comment she hoped would help.

"I am [the] actress who has the great honor of being Padme Amidala on 'Star Wars: the Clone Wars!' I just wanted to tell Katie that she is in VERY good company being a female Star Wars fans," Taber wrote. "I know that Padme would tell you to be proud of who YOU are and know that you are not ALONE!

"THE FORCE is with you Katie!"


Back in Evanston, Carrie Goldman was feeling good. Since she had written about the water bottle incident, other parents at Katie's school had talked to their kids. School leaders were supportive, and working on an anti-bullying program.

Something else was happening, too: Traffic on Goldman's blog was exploding.

Some 1,200 people had left messages there for Katie. Readers were coming from Yates' blog, where more than 3,000 more comments stacked up. There were links from "Star Wars" message boards, parenting blogs, tech sites. A Twitter hashtag, #maytheforcebewithkatie, streaked across social media.

Guys and gals of all ages wrote about how they'd been bullied, and how life had gotten so much better since then. They shared that they loved "Star Wars," that they wore glasses, that they were adopted -- just like Luke, just like Leia, just like Katie.

ThinkGeek, a nerdy online retailer, sent Katie a lightsaber. Artist Scott Zirkel sent a cartoon of Katie as a Jedi, glasses and all. A first-grade class in California sent letters to Katie as a show of support.

Taber and the rest of the cast of "Star Wars: The Clone Wars," sent "Star Wars" merch. Ashley Eckstein, who voices the female Jedi Ahsoka Tano, sent Her Universe clothes tailored for girls. Tom Kane, who voices Yoda, escorted the Goldmans to a screening near their home.

Ashley Eckstein, center, the voice of Ahsoka on "Star Wars: The Clone Wars," sent Katie some girl-friendly gear.The thousands of comments left online will be bound into a book for Katie to read whenever she needs it. To keep a sense of normality at home, the family reads just a few every night.

Katie, and her parents, have learned that the universe is so much bigger than the first grade.

"You realize how, if you want someone who has something in common, all you have to do is reach out," Goldman said. "It feels really, really good. What we want is for it to feel good for other people."

Katie is donating many of the books and toys to other kids.

A fan created a Facebook event suggesting that people wear "Star Wars" gear on December 10 to support Katie. The Goldmans also asked participants to donate Star Wars toys to charities for the holidays. About 20,000 people have signed up.

"What strikes me is how these individuals who were once so isolated are now part of a very tight community," Goldman wrote on her blog this month. "They have found each other; they are plugged into each other, and they have each other's backs. Now they have Katie's back, too."

Katie isn't doing any more interviews. There are scales to practice, Spanish words to memorize, baby sisters to play with. She still has to wear the dreaded eye patch, and eat lunch with the kids in her class. She is very busy being 7.

But on December 10, her school will host Proud To Be Me Day. Kids will be encouraged to wear something that shows what they're interested in, whether it's princesses, sports, animals and anime.

Katie will have the force of thousands behind her, and a "Star Wars" water bottle.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Gift...

Worth 10 minutes of your time to view the video...

We are each given a gift.

What gift will you give this Christmas Season?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Holiday Blog...or The Season of Giving

Happy Thursday, Beatdowners! The Christmas Season is alive and kickin' in the Stone household...I hope you and yours are well on your way to having a very Happy Holiday Season, regardless of which one you celebrate!
So last year, I saw the movie Fred Clause for the first time.

Loved it.

Definitely one of my favorite Christmas movies.

This (above) is one of the better scenes in any Christmas movie - the elves gather around the snow globe and watch all the children open their presents on Christmas Day, while Sinead O'Connor's beautiful rendition of Silent Night plays in the background.

I gotta admit, the first time I saw it I got a little choked up.

Anyhow, there is a line in the movie where Fred says, "There's no naughty kids...every kid deserves a present on Christmas".

I couldn't agree more.

Times are tough. The economy still is shaky at best. Spending has been reeled in a bit, probably from almost everyone.  And giving to charities has, generally speaking, been put aside as every penny counts a lot more than it used to.

But I ask a favor, of anyone that reads this blog...forward this message to anyone and everyone you know.

Go out and spend a few dollars on a new, unopened toy and donate it to Toys For Tots, your local Church, the Salvation Army, Santa Claus Anonymous, any children's home/orphanage, or any other charity you believe in supporting.

It doesn't have to be a Xbox. It doesn't have to be the latest and greatest tech gadget.

It just has to be something that lets a child know that there is hope.

It just has to be something that lets a child know there is joy and happiness.

It just has to be something that lets a child know there is good out there, and something that lets them smile.

It just has to be something that lets a child know there is a reason to believe.

Because when you sit down and think about it, "there are no naughty kids...every kid deserves a present on Christmas".

Until next time...