Thursday, January 22, 2009

Rosie's Black Hat

Dear Family & Friends,

Thanks for honoring our requests for no calls, for allowing us a much needed time-out to try to absorb the devastating news that we are losing Celia to a hideous disease. There are times now when I can talk about it, and times when I'd rather not. Rod was wise enough to tell his colleagues, “Please, let’s do us both a favor and just don’t say anything.” Our wonderful ministers & spiritual friends have jumped down in the hole with us (instead of just offering some infuriating nonsense about “God’s plan” and walking by, but that’s another story.) All your patience & kindness & prayers are appreciated.

Jenni, Andy & Celia joined us for dinner this evening, and after dinner (while Celia watched Moose A. Moose) I told the story of my black hat. As a young teacher I kept a black hat in my classroom. For the most part, the hat stayed on its hook in the corner, but my students knew that if I put that hat on my head, they were not to approach me for anything short of a real emergency. In the fall of 1974, as Dad was slipping away, I wore the hat more than usual – but never long, and not often. I remember one day I was seated at my desk, trying to get hold of myself, hat brim dipping over my face, when our principal walked through the classroom door. Some of my students, who had been working quietly, rushed up to him saying, “Sorry, Mr. Harmon, you can’t talk to her now unless it’s an emergency -- she’s wearing the hat. You’ll have to come back later.” And he did!

I tell the story here because we all need a black hat from time to time. [A student taught me that by asking to borrow my hat one day. From that day on, my students and I shared the hat – and no one ever abused it.] Figuratively speaking, I’ve put the hat back on its hook tonight, knowing I’ll need it again, but who knows when? We need your love and support and prayers as well -- and I’ve felt those despite my recent reluctance to communicate – so please don’t rush to the phone – let’s just know that we’ll email & talk again sometime soon.

Celia wore a black bow in her beautiful red hair tonight… and she has several, fetching hats from which to choose!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Night Santa Came To Town

We moved to our new home in 2005, when our streets were unpaved and muddy, and MapQuest had no idea we existed as a little community, called Old Trail #9, in the hilly farmlands south of Pittsburgh. It was common to find delivery trucks wandering up and down our streets looking for a particular family, repair men knocking on doors asking for directions, and folks who knew each other by lot number instead of street address. As Christmas 2005 loomed before us, the kids in the 'hood were deeply troubled. How would Santa find us if FedEx can't? Mothers sent emails to the North Pole, with specific travel directions, but the absence of street signs to guide Santa's way was a persistent topic of conversation and concern. As children of all ages pondered this dilemma, an idea began to take hold: what if there was a Santa Sighting in the distant hills and fields, demonstrating Santa's commitment to make sure he knew where everyone lived? And who better to play this part than Chip Stevers? No kids in the house to bust his cover, and since we were all still getting to know one another, the kids in the 'hood would surely not recognize him from afar! In December of 2005, the first Santa Sighting in Old Trail #9 was born.

Our plans were great, on paper. Santa would tromp around in the snow, a safe distance from the houses, and the kids would be alerted by the sound of sleigh bells (with the added protection of cell phones ringing). Santa was so hugely effective that the completely unexpected occurred: little people in bare feet and pajamas were running out their front doors, following Santa as he tried to make an escape. The Pied Piper in Red. Sounds of clapping, shouting, running and laughing filled the air. Mothers and fathers scurrying behind, snatching up the littlest and slowest. Poor Santa slipping and sliding down the back hills, trying to get away without losing his pants or his beard.

We had to make some changes in subsequent years. Now parents are on-guard for escapees, but Santa actually knocks on front doors. He's accompanied by Rudolph, who helps him remember kid's names and distribute chocolate-covered pretzel rods made by Mrs. Claus. The 4th Annual Santa Visit occurred on December 22, 2008, and was a huge success: what started as a visit to less than 25 children for not more than 30 minutes has expanded to visiting close to 100 children in a period of about 2.5 hours. The shouts of glee and absolute delight on little faces is truly a sight to behold, creating a feeling of Christmas in the air that can practically be touched with your fingers.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Hey Herberts!

I just wanted to write you all a quick note now that I'm at Al Udeid AB, Qatar. I've been here just under a day, and will be staying the next 4 months, thru the middle of May '09. Fortunately, I was able to get back to Covina and the family for Christmas, and spend the New Year with good friends in Seattle before I left.

While I'm out here I'll be working in the Combined Air Operations Center, which controls all allied airspace/planes for both, a pretty important thing if you ask me ;) My contribution will be as part of a 2-man team coordinating the diplomatic clearances of US mobility (cargo) aircraft as they overfly other countries enroute to/from Iraq and Afghanistan. It shouldn't be too difficult as many countries have already pre-approved most overflights, but there will certainly be some short-notice taskings that aren't quite as vanilla. Good-times for sure. The biggest bummer is that I won't get to fly at all while I'm out here.

Anyway, I hope you all had a great holiday season...though we still have one day left of Christmas, so make the 12th day great...get those 12 drummers to drum! haha. I plan on enjoying the relatively chilly weather since it's going to get really hot and humid here in a few months. I miss you all and hope to hear from you soon. I'll post my mailing address here as soon as I get it, and feel free to send me an email or post some great stuff here to the blog to let me (and everyone else) know what you're up to.

Take care!