Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A 4-D Experience

Saturdays for those of us in the Havens household have settled into a pattern that plays out in two ways. One of them is a day where Paula and I stay home to relax, do chores or possibly work on some of our on-going "home improvement " projects. 

The other "story line" for Saturday involves spending the majority of the day out with friends or family. It could be going to the movies; out for dinner, shopping, or to see a live entertainment event.

This past weekend we had one of those "day out" Saturdays. 

At the invitation of our son and daughter-in-law, Michael and Heather, we went to the Opry Mills Mall in Nashville. We were headed to the I-Max 3D version of the new Thor movie. 

For it being the opening weekend the 4:15PM showing at the I-Max was not crowded at all. By visual estimate the theater was barely 1/2 full. But that was most likely an anomaly. From the reports I read today the follow up to "The Avengers" was # 1 at the box office for the weekend. Believe it or not it out earned the next 15 movies earnings COMBINED!!! 

The movie comes through with action but the story was a bit difficult for me to follow. Still I got the general idea. I enjoyed it as yet another terrific Marvel film. 

After the movie the four of us walked through the mall to the food court. While Michael and I waited for a table at the Chilli's restaurant; Paula and Heather went shopping for clothes.  

By the time we finished out dinner it was after 8 o'clock; less than an hour until the mall closed. But we wanted to do more shopping. We went to the Disney Outlet store, first. 

Paula bought a new Minnie Mouse cup for Aria and a couple of Christmas gifts for her as well. I found a Goofy figure to add to my Goofy collection. It was "clearance" priced @ $5. As part of the store's weekend sale we got a 25% discount on everything we bought. 

Of course, I can't go to the Opry Mills without going to the Lego store. That was our final stop of the night. I had not planned on getting anything more than their featured bubble pack for the month; a Thanksgiving theme scene. 

But because of a discovery made by Paula, I bought more. She pointed out to me, something that I'm very excited about. It's a brand new Lego version of the Delorean time machine from the movie "Back To The Future." 

Both Michael and I got very excited about this model. We each got one. Although Paula is going to hold mine back to give me as a Christmas present (I promised to act surprised). 

As we finished up in the Lego store the announcement that the mall was closing came over the PA system. We made out way back down the mall's concourse back to the entrance near the movie theater and out to our car. Our day out with the "kids" was over but for the ride home. 

It was great spending time with them; yet another memory made and lot of fun. I continue to be amazed that our children actually enjoy to spending time with us. Days like this are what I live for. 

We talked about a lot of things over the course of the day. The most important discussion for me was about the possibility of the whole family taking Aria to Walt Disney World, for the first time, near the end of next year. But that's still just one of my crazy ideas and no where near for certain. 

There you have my "4-D experience". It was a day that involved a demigod (Thor), a Dinner, a Disney store, and a cool Delorean. 

One of the best and memorable days of 2013. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

"I, Saul" One Of My Favorite Authors

Jerry B. Jenkins

Last night I had the opportunity to hear one of my favorite authors speak at an event sponsored by our local library. 

Jerry B. Jenkins is a best selling Christian fiction author. He's written 181 books including the popular "Left Behind" series. 

Because I have read all 16 "Left Behind" books; I've read more of his books than any other author. Michael Creichton is a distant 2nd. I've read six of his books.  

Mr. Jenkins' latest "I, Saul" is based on the life of the Apostle Paul before his infamous life changing encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus. 

The event was nothing spectacular. It was a group of about 100 people listening to an author discuss the details of his new book. But it was kind of cool to also hear Mr. Jenkins talk about his personal history, career, and favorite titles among those he's written.  

During the subsequent 30 minute Q&A session; I had the opportunity to ask him a question I've wondered about for quite a while. 

I asked him how he came up with the name "Nicolae Carpathia" for the anti-Christ character in "Left Behind." 

I was curious to know if it had anything to do with the ship named "Carpathia" that rescued the survivors of the Titanic disaster in April 1912.

He said the character's first name is a common one in Romania (where the character lives and initially rises to political power) and his last name is the same as a mountain range in that country. 

However, he did bring up the fact that he was very happy to see the name of his "Left Behind" antagonist scrolling across the theater screen on the hull of a ship at the conclusion of the 1997 James Cameron movie. He said,"I thought, 'Hey there's some free publicity for my books.' when I saw it." 

After about an hour the event ended and Mr. Jenkins sat down at a table to start signing books for the guests. I didn't have a book so the night was over for me. 

It was a fun night and a pleasure to meet one of my favorite authors in person. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Where Have I Seen That Name Before?

About a month ago while watching the cable anthology show "Mysteries at the Museum"; I saw a segment on the 2009 hijacking of the cargo ship MV Maersk Alabama in ocean off the coast of Ely,Somalia, Africa. It's the story that serves as the basis for the recently released Tom Hanks movie, "Captain Phillips".

The reason for the segment on a show about museum artifacts is that the orange bullet-marked 5-ton fiberglass lifeboat that the pirates used in their attempt to escape is on display at the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce, Florida.   

At the time I saw the show the name "Maersk" looked familiar to me. But I dismissed it as just a type of "Deja Vu." 

Then last weekend when I went to see "Captain Phillips" seeing "Maersk" on the big screen it's familiarity was once again confounding. I couldn't make the connection. 

Then this past Thursday while working on my Lego VW model I looked in the back of the instruction booklet. That's where the Lego company usually puts pictures of other sets that may be of interest to their customers. 

That's where I realized where I had seen the name before. It was in a picture of Lego play set #10219.

See the logo of the Maersk Shipping Line Inc. on the train and cargo trailers?

I like the train its really cool but the set's retired. The selling price on E-bay starts at $200. Don't like it that much. 

Anyway, personal mystery solved. Now I can move on to finding out why I recognize the star of the new Fox show "Almost Human." 

Building Brick Update

 About 3 weeks ago I posted about my Lego VW bus kit. When I wrote that post I had every intention of starting to build it that same week. Unfortunately, other things in my life have prevented me from doing that. 

Returning to work after knee surgery and writing a Christmas play for the children in my church are at the top of the list.

But just because I haven't started on the "big project" doesn't mean that I haven't been working with plastic building bricks. 

After my recent trip to the Lego store in Nashville, I know have enough Legos to make "Merry Christmas" in block letters to display this season. 

Now I know I did this last year but it was multicolored bricks borrowed from some of my sets to complete the sign. 

This year the sign will be made from only red and green bricks; and along with some mini figures from the Lego Series 11.  When I put it together and set it up on the shelf in our living room I'll post a picture so you can see it. 

Speaking of Mini-Figure Series 11; I completed my collection of the 16 figure set on October 15. I also discovered that Lego actually makes a cool way to show them off. 

I also put together the "fall scene" mini-kit offered at the Lego store last month. 

My favorite "build" over the last 20 days is the model I got during my trip to Dollywood the first week of September. 

It's a miniature locomotive made by a toy company called "Wange" (rhymes with "range").

I like it because it reminds me of the fun train ride we took while at Dollywood and the overall good time we had with our friends in Pigeon Forge, TN. 

One other note about this model. Because of the confusing way the instructions were illustrated I had difficulty putting it together. I had to start from "step 1" several times. I think the what turned it around was some advice I got from my friend, Mark. 

He and his wife, Patty, were about to leave after spending the evening hanging with us. Seeing my slight frustration with the model he humorously reminded me: "The wheels go on the bottom". 

Soon after he left I realize what I was doing wrong and completed the train. Believe it or not it had something to do with the wheels. 

This brings me to today. I finally decided that it was time to start working on "the bus". I put our card table and a folding chair up in our living room and spread the bags of pieces out.

I only completed 9 of the 115 assembly steps but it's a start. I'm already excited about the experience of putting this cool model together. 

For those of you who were lying awake at night wondering; there you have an update on my activity for October (so far) with Legos.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

I Miss My Doggie

Three months ago today our family had to say "good-bye" to of one of our beloved pets: our dog, Dory. 

She was very sick and we didn't want her to suffer any more. It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do in my life. 

I am still heart broken. Although I mentioned it on Facebook at the time I didn't write anything about her on this blog. 

I've healed a little over these last 90 days but there are still plenty of times when I miss her so much. I picture her in my mind and my heart once again overflows with grief. 

The sorrow fill my eyes; blurring my vision and all I can say to Paula is: "I miss my doggie." 

For 9 years Dory was a loyal and loving companion. She was my exercise partner, a creature of comfort and a very sweet dog. She was a very special part of the family Everybody loved Dory. 

She loved walks, eating chicken, doing tricks for snacks, and sleeping on her pillow in the corner of the living room. 

I don't want to come across as a weepy over sensitive girly man but I really DO miss her. 

As a tribute to my beloved "grinning beagle" I am writing a children's story about a dog with the same name who is adopted from an animal shelter by a loving family. Just like Dory was. 

These past 3 months have gone so fast it seems like only yesterday that she was still sleeping in the corner, eyes open (that was kind of creepy) with her tongue sticking out. 

Since she was such a important part of my life and now she's gone; I simply have to mention Dory on my blog. 

Let me end this post by simply saying one more time: "I miss my Dory girl."

Monday, October 14, 2013

How Disney Makes Magic

Time to make a case for one of the many reasons I'm a Disney geek. It's the way the staff and management treat their guest at Walt Disney World. 

This is not my story. It's an experience of my pastor, Tim, and his family during their fall break this past week. 

While in Florida on vacation Tim made plans to preach on Sunday, October 7 at a church, just outside of Orlando.  

A kind church member, who was a cast member at Disney's Magic Kingdom offered to get them into the park for free that Tuesday. 

After the morning church service, he and his family went to check in and spend a few days at the "Little Mermaid" section of the new "Art of Animation" resort in Walt Disney World.

When the family arrived at Animation Hall, it was packed full of other guests in line to check in as well. The wait was over 2 1/2 hours. 

The reason for the long lines was that the reservations computers throughout the entire Walt Disney World resort were offline. 

As they got in line for the long wait a resort manager came by. He sincerely apologized and explained the reason for the wait. He gave those in line a free one day park pass with the park hopper encouraging them to go use their pass and come back later when the issue was resolved. 

Tim decided to wait for as long as he could before he had to leave to go back to the church to fulfill his obligation to preach at the evening service. 

His wait was in vein. By the time he had to leave he had still not gotten his room key. 

Because this is a lengthy post, I'll make a long story short. Thanks to the go-the-extra-mile attitudes of 3 Disney cast members (2 resort managers and a check-in agent) by the time Tim and his family were checked in that Sunday night they had been given 12 free one-day park hopper park passes. 

Add that to the free admission because they were the personal guests of the church member, Pastor Tim, his wife, his son, and daughter were able to spend 4 days in the Walt Disney World parks. That's close to a $1500 value FOR FREE!!!! It changed their vacation from fun to magical.

Tim told me he still can't believe that his family could be that lucky. Ultimately it could be considered a blessing from God. But it was facilitated by handful of people who are part of a culture of outstanding customer service: Walt Disney World cast members. The company's devotion to raising the level of their guest's experience is legendary.  

The degree of enjoyment and the memories that is the result of Disney cast members going the "extra mile" for guest is what has become known to Walt Disney World fans all over the world as "Disney Magic." It's what sets the Disney parks apart from ordinary amusement parks. 

Each week I explore a plethora of Disney focused podcasts, emails and newsletters. I read about dozens of examples of acts of kindness by Disney World employees that transform the vacation experiences of resort guests.

Although they were relatively small, I experienced some of Disney magic during my 2010 birthday trip to "The World."

Being allowed to sit up front on thrill rides like: Expedition Everest, Space Mountain, and Thunder Mountain Railroad and having dozens of cast members wish me a "Happy Birthday" made for some special memories of my 50th birthday for me. 

My pastor's story is one of the best "Magic Moments" I've ever heard. What makes it particularly special is that it happened to someone I know very well. I'm happy that it happened for the sake of Tim's family. But as a Disney fanatic I'm totally jealous. 

By the way, I'm not easily setting aside the idea that Tim's experience was mostly a blessing from God. 

You see, in October our church celebrates Pastor Appreciation month. Church members are encouraged to show our pastoral staff what they mean to us by blessing them in some way. Perhaps the Disney thing was God's way of participating. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

In Pre-Production

What's the last thing you crossed off your "Life Goal" aka "Bucket" list?

Today I reached the first major step in the process of crossing off one of mine. 

I finished writing the Christmas play that's going to be presented by the children of our church this year. 

It's been about 2 years since I decided that I wanted to write a script that could be presented as our annual kids' Christmas program. 

At the beginning of this year, I came up with an idea for a story that revolved around a retired ventriloquist and his memories about a special Christmas show when he worked at a local TV station. 

I had written a few pages but had a bout of writer's block and set the project aside. 

Less than 3 weeks ago I was asked by the church leadership to come up with an idea for this year's play and help with the production. 

That's when I offered to use my idea and write this play. 

This is the first two-act play that I've every written. Though I wouldn't call it a "musical" there is music in it. Since I'm not a song writer I will use classic Christmas carols to help move the story along. 

Over the writing process I've lost the ventriloquist character but have kept most of my original ideas. 

The plot revolves around a small town television station, a local children's choir, and a Christmas Eve snowstorm. 

Not only am I the writer of this play; I'm going to team up with the church associate pastor, who is also one of my best friends, to direct and produce "Christmas On The Air." 

Now that the script is finished I have a lot of work to do: casting, set design, staging, finding costumes and props, creating choreography, and rehearsals. 

The date of the performance is Sunday, December 15. That's just 10 weeks away. 

Although I have helped with several of our children's Christmas musicals in the past I've never taken on this much responsibility. It's going to be a challenge. 

But when all is said and done I be able to cross "write a Christmas play" off of my life "to do" list. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

1300 Piece Challenge

As I get closer to marking the 1 year anniversary of becoming a Legos enthusiast, I am advancing even deeper into the hobby. 

The next project I work on is going to be one I'm going to like and be very proud of when it's finished. 

I picked out the "expert" level Lego Creator kit myself at the Lego Store in Nashville back in July. But it was "officially" a birthday gift from my wife. She allowed me to get it early so she was sure I would get the one I wanted. 

This is the kit: A vintage Volkswagen Bus Camper.

Because this promises to be the most difficult projects I've worked on, I'm going to be changing where and how I work on it. 

Since most of the 1300+ pieces are very small they could very easily be lost. 

Therefore I'm only going to build it at home. I will not be taking it back and forth to work on it at my desk in the call center. I will work on only at home. 

I will be at a table and not on the couch in the living room as I have other Lego projects. This will make it easier to keep track of all 1330 bits of molded plastic. 

I'm going to take my time with this VW Bus so I make sure it's built right. There are 115 assembly steps and that does not include the many sub-assemblies within those instructions. That's a lot more than any other kit I've built. 

My goal is to have it completed by the Thanksgiving or at the latest Christmas. I will be posting pictures and updates from time to time. So if you're interested in seeing keeping up with my progress, make sure you keep checking back. 

Who knows when I'm finished I may just find some "hippie" mini-figures to go with it.  

Friday, September 27, 2013

Wacky Packages

Just a quick supplement to my last post in regard to my past purchases of products in blind packs. 

One of the most unique card sets I collected when I was a kid was called "Wacky Packages." They first appeared in 1967 and also included stickers. 

The best way to describe them is that they were parodies of products found at the grocery store but with an artistic style and satirical humor similar to that only found at the time in "MAD" magazine. They were created and sold by the Topps company. The target demographic was kids. 

I was 7 when they first came out. As you can tell from the pictures below they are rather juvenile.   To anyone over the age of 10 they may not be funny but you have to admit they do have a bit of cleverness to them. 

I can remember buying the blind pack for 10 or 15 cents each. Of course I would only buy them if I had money left after purchasing a 2 or 3 day supply of my favorite penny candy. 

But after my parents discovered that I had decided to make the back of my bedroom door and twin bed head board my personal Wacky Packs sticker galleries; I was no longer allowed to buy them. 

Wacky Packages were so popular after their late 60's debut they have been updated and reissued every 3 0r 4 years since. You can still buy them today. 

So there you have another of my "blind pack" buying experiences. I'm sure there were others but after baseball cards,Wacky Packages" was probably my favorite

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Buying Blind

There's a way of marketing products that's very popular in the toy and collectibles market called "blind packaging."

This method is implemented by some toy companies when a product with multiple components is sold in packages that prevent the consumer from being able to identify the contents. 

There are thousands of products sold this way. Just look and count how many you see next time you visit a Toys R US or your local store that sells sports cards or role playing card games. 

Most recently, this type of packaging has expanded to include video game accessories and miniature character figures. It is very successful with these products. 

Up to this point in my life my main experience with blind packs has been baseball cards. 

The appeal of blind packs is that it comes with something no other type of packaging gives the buyer: the illusion of being lucky. 

Take if from me, when you open a blind pack and are looking for a favorite item or the one or two of the series you need to complete your collection and you find it there's only one thing to say, "Jackpot!" 

The disappointment of finding an item you already have is momentary and you quickly look ahead to the next time you get the chance to open yet another pack. The anticipation of finding something you really want is very compelling. It's your own personal treasure hunt. It can be very  addictive. 

Now that I think about it, there was probably no reason to explain in that much detail. If you grew up in the United States anytime in the last 75 years you've had at least one "blind package" experience. 

But I had to make sure you understood where I was coming from in one of the most interesting consumer experiences in a while. 

The world of Legos includes mini-figures. They're a series of characters that can enhance your original Lego "builds" or inspire you to create them based on the figure's character. 

The Lego mini-figures are released in a series of 16 and they come in blind packs. 

At the start of the month Lego released the 11th series of mini-figures. After completing my series 10 collection in early August, I was anxious to start buying series 11. 

But I didn't want to repeat what happened when I collected Series 10. I just kept continuously buying random blind packs hoping to complete the set. 

After opening quite a few "doubles" and even "triples" of some figures, I finished the set by purchasing those I needed from E-bay. 

With series 11, I was going to find a way to get an advantage. I found it thanks to other Lego fans, who are higher up on the "Lego geek scale" than I am. 

I found an online article describing how to search a series 11 mini-figure  package from the outside in order to have a better chance of finding those you need. The author pointed out how each figure, in parts and unassembled inside the pack, is different from the others and how to tactically identify it's unique design. This allows you to not buy duplicates of those you already have.   

Armed with this information I headed to my local Target store. Back in the toy department on an endcap I found a display of Series 11 packs. 
With the hints I had copied down I began inspecting the packs from the outside; trying to find some of the 8 figures I needed for Series 11. 

After about 15 minutes of searching, I decided that I had identified 4 that I needed. I also stopped because I got a little paranoid. I felt as if people were looking at me, a 50 year old man standing in a department store aisle manipulating foil packages, with concern. 

I was sure that at any minute the store security guard would show up and ask me what I was doing. 

My contingency plan was to tell the security guard that I was blind and was reading the braille on the package. Fortunately I didn't have to use that story. 

Upon deciding that I didn't want to press any more packs nor my luck; I headed for the checkout. 

As soon as I got into the car I opened the packs to reveal the results of my first series 11"fishing expedition". 

I had gotten lucky with 3 of my 4 purchases. These are the new mini-figures I found. From left to right they are: 
  • Grandma: Identified by the feel of the pliable basket to the her right.
  • Yeti: Found because of the unique shape of the popcicle that fits in his hand. 
  • Lady Robot: The square head and wind-up key (not pictured) on her back were the vital clues to finding her. 
I'm very pleased with the results of my sealed package search; a 75% success.  
With these "finds" I am down to needing just 5 to complete the set. I will wait a few weeks to go back and search again. 

But I'm anxious to return to the blind pack experience now that I seem to have moved the odds more into my favor. This time around I will be more confident about buying blind. 

Before I close out this post I wanted to give a "shout out" to my friend Mark N. 

Recently saw him while leaving Sam's Club. He mentioned that he reads this blog. 

Thanks Mark, I appreciate you taking time to peek through the "RH Factors" window to see what's going on in my life. 

That statement of gratitude goes out to anyone else who is reading this right now as well. 

Thank ya'll. Come back again soon. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

There are good days and there are bad days. If over the course of a calendar year I have at least a month's worth of good days (30 or more) and less than a month's worth of bad days it's been a good year. 

No, there is no spread sheet where I keep track of the good and bad days. (although I don't blame you for thinking there is) I just tally them from memory.

This past Wednesday, September 18, was one for the "good days" list. Here's why: 

The day started out with an appointment with my orthopedic surgeon. My stitches were removed, got a prescription for some physical therapy sessions, and I got the doctor's approval to return to work a month earlier than initially thought. 

The other great thing about going to the doctor was that my daughter-in-law, Brandi and granddaughter,Aria gave me a ride. After the appointment, we went to IHOP for breakfast. 
Aria had fun coloring on the place mat with the crayons the waitress gave her. I found out that the way to my daughter-in-law's heart is through a good breakfast; her favorite meal of the day. 

As if that wasn't fun enough before we left Bowling Green we went to Toys R Us. I pushed Aria around in a shopping cart for the first time. 

I bought a Lego set with the gift card I got for my birthday from Michael & Heather. 

We also looked at a battery powered Minnie Mouse themed kiddie car that Brandi wants to get Aria for her next birthday. 

I showed Aria some stuffed animals from the special FAO Schwartz line. She wanted nothing to do with them. When I encouraged her to give the ostrich, owl, or tiger a hug she emphatically shook her head "no" and pushed them away. 

About 11AM Brandi took me home. As a result of taking some pain medication I spent the afternoon watching TV in between naps.

Later that evening, about dinner time, James, Brandi, and Aria came to the house. They had supper for us from Wendy's and a very very big surprise. 

James and Brandi's birthday gift to me (which Brandi had been teasing me about for a few weeks) was a replica of a Lego brick for storing my Lego collection. The lid is completely removable and can be flipped over to reveal a flat surface on the other side to use as an assembly table.

It's painted in my favorite color (a shade of teal. The picture above doesn't display the color exactly). Here's a shot I took that shows the color a bit better.

The box measures 36Lx18Wx11H. Its completely handmade and solidly built. Brandi's cousin, Jackie; Brandi, James, and even Aria all had a part in making it. Here's some pictures from Brandi's Facebook page that shows some of the way my granddaughter helped. 


But wait, there's more! On the bottom of the inside of the box is another aspect of this gift that makes it, not only priceless, but a future family heirloom. It's a very special contribution by my granddaughter...

Aria's hand prints and the year the box was made.

They also gave me some Lego bubble pack sets to put together. 

I have never ever been given something so unique as my Lego box. Knowing the work my family put into this project makes it very special.

I must tell you. When I saw this gift for the first time as James was bringing it into the house, I got really emotional inside but did my best to hold back my "close to tears" reaction and turned it into surprise and amazement. 

When I saw Aria's hand prints inside I nearly lost it again. I wanted to hug all of them but knew I wouldn't be able to "hold it together" if I did. 

We spent the rest of the evening with our children and granddaughter. We even made it more of a birthday celebration by having brownies and vanilla ice cream for desert. 

About 9:30PM they had leave because James had to go to work. I thanked them again for my special present.

So there you have the multiple reasons that I consider September 18, a very good day. 

James and Brandi and Aria were a significant part of the good day I had on my actual birthday, September 9th. 

They blessed me again a little over a week later with another very very good day. 

Thank you again. James, Brandi, and Aria. I Love Y'all very much. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

My "Bill Anderson" Music Project

I'm done, finished. One of the best feelings I get in my life is that moment when I've completed something on my "to do" list and I can cross it off. I find myself with this sense of accomplishment on a daily, weekly and "long term" basis. 

The daily items are things like washing the dishes, feeding the dog or running a series of errands in Bowling Green.

Weekly tasks include: setting out the can with the recyclable materials or mowing the yard. 

Reorganizing my music collection, creating a "Rewind" program script, or completing the children's story I'm writing; fall into the "long term" column. The degree of satisfaction I feel is in direct proportion to the amount of time it takes to complete a task. 

This past Tuesday I finished a "long term" item; something I've worked on all summer. I'll call it my "Bill Anderson" music project. It included downloading digital versions of over 500 songs, importing them over to I-Tunes, rearranging them into specific categorized albums, and adding the song title information onto my music collection spreadsheet. 

The reason for this lengthy, detailed oriented project is that the songs are an emotional connection to two of the many important relationships that helped make me who I am today. 

The music of country singer Bill Anderson was an integral part of the "soundtrack" of my family life when I was growing up. He was my mom's favorite country singer and his albums played frequently in our home. 

His songs bring back specific memories. When I was about 8 or 9 years old, I remember, holding his "Still" album cover in my hand and waiting in the crowd at the right side of the outdoor stage of Ontelaunee (pronounced "aw-tuh-lawn-ee) Park in New Tripoli, Pennsylvania. That's where I asked Mr. Anderson to sign the cover for my mom. 

Bill Anderson's songs are part of the fabric in my blanket of memories about my parents; both as individuals and as a married couple. They're also tied to memories of the four of us (my parents, my little sister and I) just spending time together as a family. 

Bill Anderson music was also a big part of the friendship I had with my cousin, Gary, especially during our "best buddy" days before we discovered girls. 

Because both sets of our parents listened to country music;  we collaterally became fans as well Eddy Arnold and Bill Anderson were our favorites. 

We would sit around singing their songs anytime we were together. Some of our Bill Anderson favorites were: Still, Restless, When I Loved Her, The Reverend Mr. Black, and Molly. 

Now that you know some of the history behind the significance of Bill Anderson's music, for me, let's get to the story of the project. 

Back in May, Gary emailed me a digital file with everything Bill Anderson recorded from 1965 to 2005. There were 47 albums and more than 500 songs. However my interest in this collection was very specific. I only imported about 20% of them into my collection

I've already mentioned the basic process I used to complete the project. In I-Tunes I recreated 3 albums exactly as they were originally released on vinyl back in the 60's and early 70's. 

Their covers are pictured below:Bill and Jan or Jan and Bill, an album of duets with fellow Grand Ole' Opry member,Jan Howard; Always Remember; and probably my favorite, Still.

I also made up other albums: one of, what I consider, his greatest hits (except those from the 3 albums I just mentioned); an album of traditional hymns and one of Christmas songs. There's also an album of some of my favorite "album cuts" that I enjoy but only because they're sung by Bill Anderson.

But my favorite is the compilation album of cover songs. It's Anderson's version of a few country music standards (Rocky Top, Good Old Mountain Dew, and 500 Miles Away From Home) along with some very strange covers of pop songs.

Some of them are: The Chi-Lites "Have You Seen Her?", The Comodores' Three Times A Lady, and the strangest of all, "Kiss You All Over" by INXS.  That one you've gotta hear to believe it. 

So anyway, after a concentrated effort, I've whittled the 500 song "Whisperin Bill" collection to my 105 favorites. Now with just a few touches on my I-Pod I can musically travel back and revisit my childhood. 

The project is done and I'm crossing it off my "to do" List. Now on to the next big thing. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

My 53rd Birthday Party

In the 10 weeks since my last post a lot of things have happened; some of them were life changing. They include: repurposing a pair of rooms in the house; saying "good-bye" to a very ill dog and a very old cat; getting a new work schedule; and having arthroscopic knee surgery. 

Other events worth mentioning from the last half of summer are: A 4-day visit from my sister, Shari, and her family; a weekend getaway to Pigeon Forge, TN with our two best friends to visit Dollywood for the first time.

I know those are very general but I wanted to tell you about them without getting caught up in catching up that I'm not keeping you informed about what's current with me. The best thing for me to do is keep moving forward. 

With that said let me share the details from my birthday celebration from this past Sunday. 

As a family we celebrate birthdays one of two ways. We either go out to dinner at local restaurant or we get together for dinner at my house. 

On the menu is usually something my wife cooks or, as become a convention with us, steaks cooked on our grill. This is of course followed by cake for desert and opening of birthday gifts. 

For my 53rd birthday, this past Sunday, we decided to do the "at the house" option because of my limited mobility after my knee surgery. 

Our guests were: my sons; their wives; the light of my life, my granddaughter; my sister-in-law, and our friends, Mark and Patty. 

Dinner consisted of my wife's chicken and dumpling, slow cooked pork ribs, carrots, and peas. All were delicious. 

Desert was a choice of yellow cake with strawberry icing or delicious German Chocolate cake (made earlier in the week for me by Patty on my actual birthday, September 9th). 

As always I really enjoy spending time with everyone and this time was no different. Being with those whom I love and I know love me is the greatest blessing in my life. 

But that doesn't get them off the hook for birthday gifts. Here's what I was given this year. 

This Volkswagen Bus Lego Set has been on my "want list" since the first time I saw it. My wife was kind enough to give it to me for my birthday.

The next two pictures are gifts from my sister-in-law. They are a pair of Lego kits and an a 2009 NCAA Woman's Basketball Tournament ticket stub signed by former University of Tennessee coach, Pat Garrett.

Last but not least are the two things Michael and Heather gave me. A 35th anniversary edition of the original "Muppet Movie" on Blu Ray and a $20 gift card to Toys R Us. I plan on buying more Legos. 

Mark and Patty a Lego Mini-Figure of New York Yankees shortstop, Derek Jeter while we were on our trip to Dollywood. 

What I got from James and Brandi is a promise that in the near future I will get a gift that I'll really like. I can't wait to see it. 

So there you have a report on my 53rd birthday party. The first post of the new RH Factors 2013 fall season.  I'm still recuperating from my surgery so I got lots of time to write. Keep checking back for more.