I guess you’ve noticed these blogs are getting shorter and shorter as they near the 12th day of my Christmas time. The last few days have really been fast moving at a slow pace. The hustle and bustle of Christmas has set in and blog time has been muscled out by sleep. I woke up this morning around 6:30, got up, walked around, thought of my promise to give you the 12 days, and went back to bed. I was just too tired to tackle the blog and the Facebook and the Twitter and the world; so I chose to sleep.

Now I’m up again and taking my coffee and Diana’s taking phone calls, the restaurant is open, the coffee pot is empty, and here I sit, in a prison I created for myself, by committing to a long term blog. I do this kinda thing to myself all the time and I say to myself, “I will never try to do this kinda thing again”. And then I do.

So now it’s a goal, just to finish these 12 days and when I set a goal and keep my eyes on the goal line, I usually get there. So, on the 9th day I give you…… Goals.

Football is nothing without a goal line, goal post, a goal. Life is that way with me. I have to set goals to move forward in my world. I have many goals, probably too many, and this blog may be one of the too many. But I think not. In the quest of my goal to be a good person, this blog has made me examine myself and my beliefs and habits. I guess if I was asked, “what would you like to have said about you and how would you like to be thought of you when you die?”, I would answer by saying that I hope I was a good father.

If nothing else, a good father. Being a good father is my goal and one simple gauge I use to measure my success at reaching this goal is…. How good I am at loving my children’s mother. I believe no better example can be given them, than the example shown through me loving her.

It is not to our credit or fault if our children “succeed” or excel, or fall down, and deep. As a parent, our only fault would be not to have loved each other. I love looking at my kids, now all grown, and knowing they know love. And each was raised the same, but turned out different individuals.

As a child, being a preacher’s kid, I always felt “pressure”… to be this way, do this, don’t do that, all of it seemed to much as a kid. So I didn’t want my kids to feel any of that kinda pressure, so I let them choose what sport or activity they wanted and helped them with that. And when my son decided not to play sports, I was selfishly saddened, but I supported him in his choices. Odyssey of the Mind, Skills USA National Competition… no touchdowns, but passing the goal line in his chosen dimensions and fields of interest.

my son nick... smart, kind, funny, now grown up.

nick with his momma - they have a special bond

Our rule was simple. You make all A’s and there are no rules. The child made the rules if they made all As. And they did excel. Ashley Salutatorian and National Rotary Scholar winner – her winning essay made her the first person from this part of the country to win this national scholarship. Christen played Lady Tiger Softball and was the editor of the school paper and through her love of art, was nominated for the Governor’s School of Art. She was a member of the National Art Honor Society. Jessica was on the first Tiger Motion Dance Team and was brilliant at learning and performing the routines. All different, all smart, all loved without conditions.

Ashley's Senior pic from the HCB Wall of Fame

Christen on her 19th birthday. She was in her pink hair phase. We also saw green, purple and lots of other colors.

First born daughter Jessica - I was visiting her in Ohio

And their mother? Well she was loved too. And with each passing year, I look back on our love and I see that I sure could have done better some years, at loving their mother. We have many goals, Diana and I, but the number one goal is to love each other and that fulfills a lot of other goals.

We dream of a house in Costa Rica on our mountain top… that is a goal. We dream of selling our restaurant someday and retiring to each other’s love, wherever we are. We dream of spending weeks on end at the cabin on Indian Creek…. kayaking, swimming, spending time in nature with our grandkids. And since these things are goals, I just bet we reach them. I sure hope we do. We work hard every day, doing what we can to make these goals our reality.

Nick, Boo, Max - at the creek - Indian Creek

Montana Lote - Costa Rica

I have many goals. I wish I could share all of them with you, but it would be of no use. So I ask you instead, to examine your goals and identify them and categorize them. Then put the family goals first. Is that where it already was? I sense it was so, cause I know most of the folk who will read this.

So the goal of putting out 12 blogs in 12 days and say something of me and my ideals is weighing heavy on me. You might not understand how serious words are. I do understand this and each word written is history and I want to be able to look back and read these words and feel something real, honest, and true…. so it is a challenge and a risk and revealing and imprisoning. I am captive to my commitment. And I feel the pressure of the next few days. And it’s Christmas time too. So I promise you, I will never commit to the 12 Days of Christmas blog again. This is it. And it’s got to be good and lasting. The words will never go away and I am sensitive to that fact.

You may read these blogs and think, “oh, what a good guy this is” or “this dude is so full of bull” or who really knows what you think? I only know what I think. I sense that others know these same things. Sometimes we just have to relearn what we already know. In my case, I should have known better than to commit to the 12 blogs, but 9 days ago, it seemed like the thing to do. So I said I would do it and I am and this is part of it.

I see my family react to these blogs and so I keep them in mind in nearly every writing. That is one of my goals and I can see the goal post. Christmas of today will never again be the Christmas of back then. No matter how hard we try to make Christmas like it was when “Big Daddy” Ralph Barker gathered his flock and it was absolutely the best day of the year, “Christmas Eve”. All the family and cousins and uncles and it was heaven. That’s what it was and that’s when it will be the same as it used to be… when we all get to heaven.

I can see Big Daddy, with Aunt Willie and Uncle Granville, Uncle Max, Momma and others, with all of us together again. And I can see the Christmas past when I would wake up at Momma Vera’s with my sisters and mom and dad, amazed now at my dad’s commitment of love for his mother (Momma Vera). And to know that now, it is up to me to give my family good memories of Christmas with me as PaPa and Daddy.

This year the kids are coming to our house and wait for ole Santa to show up. And Santa will come see the grand kids at Papa and Nana’s house. Little Amy Lu insists she has to be here, at our house, because we have the chimney for Santa. And Enzi asks, “But how will Santa know we are here and not at our house Papa?” It’s magic, we say, he’s watching… and then we remember when the magic was simply the love of mom and dad. Kids still love the magic of Christmas and I do too, magically different. My goal is to make this Christmas everything they dream of… that’s my dream and my goal. So off to help Santa I must go, to fill each stocking with the joys of Christmas.

me and enzi decorating the tree

lu lu and enzi decorating cookies

santa came! papa and lulu playing....

The goal of this blog began as a goal just to get it done, and have it finished. Then my thoughts reminded me how special this time is for children… my children and grandchildren and all children. My goal is to make sure my grand kids remember Christmas time at Papa Jay’s…. with joy unmatched.

I hope this blog will help you look at your goals for the future and today and may you prioritize them with family foremost, always. My goal is to help you reach your goal. Remember you are going to be a memory someday. How do you want to be remembered? I want to be remembered as a good dad and that means I must be a good husband… cause a good dad loves his children’s Momma madly, if he’s a good dad.
Diana, I love you madly and Merry Christmas my dear. I go shopping just for her every Christmas Eve and it’s still the happiest day of my year… Christmas Eve. She makes my days…. so special. I never know what I will buy her cause all the other gifts are bought first and then we see if any funds are left and I use that little bit and seek out something that might show my love the best. Whatever it is, this year it will not cost much but will mean a lot and my time looking for it is priceless. I love Christmas Eve like a kid, with anticipation of Christmas Day fluttering in my heart.

I hope your goals are in order and that you reach every one of them. And today one of my goals is reached….my blog is done…. and Diana hands me the phone and it’s Judie and she’s crying and packing to leave unexpectedly for Alexandria Virginia to be with Ron’s dad. He is dying fast and requested to see his family… so my goal now is to go comfort Ron and Judie before they depart in the early morning. Things happen… goals change, but the order of my goals stay the same….. Family First.

Pray for them if you pray, hope for them if you hope, and I will hope for you and yours … a “family first” Christmas. However it may turn out, one thing is for sure, it will someday be someone’s memory.