The Devine Ms. Janice

 

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Through the years, I have made many friends in the television industry. Although we tend to live all over the place, we still find ourselves thrown together in any given city in any given state, all working to get a broadcast on the air and then we hop back in our cars and planes and go home. We never really having the chance to tell one another what a pleasure it is to work together. As “tv people”, we can find a lot of negative in the jobs we do….but secretly….we love it and can’t even consider any other options. And we love those that we work with.

My dear friend & co-worker, Janice Devine, passed away yesterday. It was a complete surprise to me. Having heard only the weekend prior that she had been ill for over a year and that she was in hospice, I didn’t know how far along she was or what the situation was. I have known Janice since the beginning of my career. She was often one of the graphics operators I was paired up with when I first started working for CBS and she and I, through the years, often found ourselves working together for other companies as well. When I heard that she wasn’t doing well and wasn’t taking calls, emails or texts, I realized it must be urgent. But I didn’t realize HOW urgent until the word came of her passing on Sunday, January 14th. I was at work in Bloomington, Indiana, working a basketball game, and the word was like a punch in my stomach.

Here’s the thing…for as long as I knew Janice (which was probably 17 years or so), I never really got the chance to tell her how much I enjoyed our time together. She was a genuine, bright, shiny light in this world. A woman who was ALWAYS smiling on the outside, even if things around her weren’t so shiny. I can’t recall ever hearing her speak badly about anyone (which would be a first in the television industry), I never saw her upset and I don’t remember there ever being a time where she was down or unhappy. She was always on…and she was always happy…and she was an excellent friend & co-worker.

I know she died of ovarian cancer, I know she fought for over a year and I know she kept it quiet. A lot of people on social media were surprised to hear that she had fallen ill. I wish I had even a couple minutes just to tell her what a pleasure it was knowing her and being her friend. It has been almost 6 years since she & I worked together. I recall chatting with her on Facebook a couple times since the London Olympics but they were usually short conversations. It saddens me that I didn’t have the time to chat with her more. She was truly a diamond in the rough.

Rest in Peace Janice. Thank you for being such a great friend and mentor. This world is a sadder place with your passing. You will be missed greatly and you will always be in my heart.

Love,

Alan

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Another State Championship!

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Winning a state football title ain’t easy. And winning it twice in 2 consecutive years is almost impossible. But this year’s Beechwood team did it, blowing out their opponent, Raceland, 41-0 in Lexington, KY. Christopher was more of a part of the team this year, seeing action in the state semifinal game but not in the championship. Even though he didn’t get a chance to get on the field, he made me proud the season, playing quarterback for not only the JV team, but also with the froshmore team and then backing up the starter for the varsity. He got a LOT of good experience and hopefully this will lead him into a position to take the Beechwood Tigers into next season with the same state championship aspirations that they had this season!

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Thanksgiving 2017 & A New Tradition?

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This year was another stellar Layton family get-together! As usual, we spent time hanging out with Mom & Dad, crashed at Uncle Frank’s home in the woods and had Thanksgiving dinner at Aunt Mandy’s house. Everyone got their fill (including Dad, who didn’t break his record speed for time spent eating dinner but still put in a good effort) and we played some card games, watched football and watched AJ show his older cousins how to play Madden 2018.

Although we didn’t get to go to a movie this year, Frank and I DID manage to watch a little bit of the underground classic, “The Room”, which is, without a doubt, one of the most ridiculous movies I’ve ever seen and I didn’t even get a chance to finish it! We also watched “Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets”, which wasn’t as bad as critics seemed to make it out to be. Actually…I kind of enjoyed it.

 

Also this year, Frank & I had the opportunity to play in our high school alumni basketball game! Even though we were on separate teams and had to play against each other, it was probably the most fun I’ve had playing basketball in a long time! Just wish I had played better. I had 4 points but also managed a couple bad airballs (mostly because I was sucking wind most of the game) and let Frank push me around a couple times on the baseline. Gonna have to fix that for next year!

 

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St. Lucia 2017

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This summer, I thought it would be fun to vote for our summer vacation getaway. So on a random afternoon, we picked our spot from 6 locations: Hawaii, Seattle, Los Angeles, Montana, Ft. Myers, FL, and the Caribbean. In a unanimous vote, we chose the Caribbean to be our destination! But that left me with some research to do because the Caribbean consists of several little islands and I didn’t have a lot of time. So…after doing a Google search on the world wide web, I discovered a great family resort on the same little island where Stephanie and I went for our honeymoon! St. Lucia is a tiny island on the southern part of the Caribbean. It’s beautiful there and so we were happy to return…although this time with out 2 kids along for the ride. The resort, Coconut Bay, is on the Atlantic side of the island and only a few minutes from the airport. The resort itself is awesome! Very relaxing, all-inclusive and a perfect spot for a family getaway. We did a lot of relaxing, a lot of swimming and made a couple trips away from the resort for fun! Here are some pictures from our trip! And if you are ever looking for a great family vacation spot….I recommend St. Lucia & Coconut Bay!

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Monkey Hits Her Teens

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Well…here we go. Ava turned 13 yesterday. It wasn’t a surprise and it wasn’t like it crept up on us. To be perfectly honest…sometimes I forgot that she WASN’T in her teens already. The girl is more mature (at times) than some adults I know…including myself. Not saying she doesn’t have her goofy side…because she does. But I attribute that to my genes and she can’t help herself.

As the years fly by, in MY mind, Ava will always be my baby girl, scooting across the kitchen floor (she never did learn to crawl), binky in her mouth and giving lean-in hugs (hey…she liked her personal space). I can’t believe how fast she’s grown and she surprises me every day. Now she’s on her school’s golf team, is quick with a quip or funny response and has a unique perspective on life that makes me proud to be her dad. She is a friend to everyone and, as far as I know, doesn’t have a mean bone in her body. She loves binge-watching Netflix shows and dabbles on the ChatSnap from time to time. Oh…and she MIGHT just like LUSH products. I could be wrong about that but…I’m pretty sure she hooked…

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She’s growing into a beautiful young woman and as silly as she can be at times, she is more level-headed and more mature than I ever was at her age. She’s growing into her own and I couldn’t possibly be more proud of her.  She enters the 8th grade here in less than a month and I’m hoping this year will be filled with as many laughs and amazing memories as she can cram into 365 days!

Love you Monkey!!!

Your Father

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Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. II

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It’s been a long time since I reviewed a movie. There are a few reasons for that. Firstly…I’ve been busy and if I’m gonna write…I’d prefer to write about something important about my family or friends or something. Secondly…there haven’t been a lot of movies that I really care to write about. Thirdly…well…that’s really about it. I love movies and for me to take the time to write about them they better be WORTH the time…ya know?

Which brings me to THIS film. Going on record here…I, like a gazillion other moviegoers, LOVED the original GOTG. It was everything you want in a scifi, Marvel event movie. It had action. It had romance (kinda). It had humor. It was everything a popcorn movie should be and it was magnificent!

Cut to a couple years later and now you have the sequel. Look…we all know the rulebook says the second one should NEVER be as good as the first one…right? Well…except for “Aliens.” And “Terminator 2.” Oh…and “The Empire Strikes Back.” Well…THAT one is arguable. Aaaaanyway…I am so VERY happy to report that the sequel to GOTG isn’t just a return to the original. It expands and enhances. It’s hysterically funny in places. It’s action-packed! It has awesome new characters and it has storylines that blend well together, never leaving a character behind (which is difficult to do in a movie with 5 or 6 “main” characters). I left the theater feeling enthralled, exasperated, exhilerated and, above all the other “E” adjectives…entertained! This was EXACTLY what I needed to kick off this upcoming summer of blockbusters! Seriously…it was the most fun I’ve had at a movie since….well…the first one probably.

I’m not giving anything away here. It’s not what I do. But I will do this….here is a list of my favorite characters in THIS installment of the GOTG universe…

  1. Yondu (Michael Rooker) takes his character to a new level in this one. I won’t say why but just know…he’s back and better than the first.
  2. Baby Groot. Seriously…the opening sequence is worth the price of admission.
  3. Ego The Living Planet (Kurt Russell) is, without a doubt, the biggest surprise of this movie.
  4. Drax (Dave Bautista) steals the entire first half of this movie. He’s HYSTERICAL!
  5. Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) & Gamora (Zoe Saldana) are the heart of this franchise and they don’t let us down here.
  6. Rocket. Seriously…you forget he’s a CGI character. He’s the Han Solo of this franchise and he makes every scene he’s in better.
  7. The 80’s references come fast & furious. Don’t blink! You might miss something!

Now…a few critical notes…

NONE.

This movie is awesome! Go see it in a theater. Make it as BIG a screen as you can. Get some popcorn, a soda, maybe some candy, whatever and prepare yourself for over 2 hours of entertainment. Also…a quick note…this movie may be the most colorful movie I have seen since “The Wizard Of Oz.” An entire spectrum of color is thrown at the screen at all times and it is FANTASTIC! Kudos to the art & CGI department at Marvel. It is magnificent to look at!

Overall Rating: A+. An awesome start to the summer! Way to go Marvel!!!

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People Are People

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“People are people so why should it be
You and I should get along so awfully.
So we’re different colors
And we’re different creeds
And different people have different needs.
It’s obvious you hate me 
Though I’ve done nothing wrong
I never even met you
So what could I have done.
I can’t understand
What makes a man
Hate another man.
Help me understand.”
This song was written and produced back in March, 1984 by Depeche Mode founder, Martin Gore. I’ve always liked this song and its lyrics mostly because, quite honestly, I don’t understand either. What is it in the human nature that makes us so judgmental of others? Why do we care so much what anyone else does in their own home? Why do we care who someone else loves? I don’t get it.
With the advent of our new administration and the seemingly unending task that this administration seems to have for tearing down what its predecessors put into place, I have kept my tongue quiet up until now. It’s been a while since I’ve written simply because I have been mostly in a bad place in my head. What is happening around our country has made me skeptical of the direction I THOUGHT we were going in. The lyrics of “People Are People” are from over 30 years ago. For years, I have been thinking we were getting past the hate, the discrimination and the animosity that has been a part of the history of our country. I was dead wrong. With the election of Donald Trump as our President, our country has now been given the go-ahead to revert back to what it once was…and that is horrifying to me. It’s amazing to me to see what is happening in our country right now. One of the things that has set me to write today is something that could be considered small by some people…but for others? It’s a pretty big deal. And honestly…it’s one of MANY things I am concerned with.
Within the last couple of days, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin signed a law (Senate Bill 17 or the “Charlie Brown Law”) that would allow student groups at colleges, universities, and high schools to discriminate against LGBTQ students. Of course, the way the bill is written, it doesn’t SAY it’s SUPPOSED to do is this. The following is a copy & paste of what this bill SAYS it’s supposed to do…
“…permit students to voluntarily express religious or political viewpoints in school assignments free from discrimination; require local boards of education to ensure that the selection of student speakers is made in a viewpoint-neutral manner, the student’s prepared remarks are not altered before delivery without student’s consent, religious and political organizations are allowed equal access to public forums on the same basis as nonreligious and nonpolitical organizations, and no recognized religious or political student organization is discriminated against in the ordering of its internal affairs; allow students to display religious messages on items of clothing, access public school facilities during noninstructional time as a religious student organization, use school media to announce student religious meetings, and meet as a religious student group during noninstructional time and before and after school to the same extent as students undertaking such actions in a nonreligious manner; permit public schools to sponsor artistic or theatrical programs that advance students’ knowledge of society’s cultural and religious heritage; create a new section of KRS Chapter 158 to allow a teacher to teach about religion with the use of the Bible or other scripture without providing religious instruction, and to teach about religious holidays in a secular manner; amend KRS 158.186 to require annual notification to local school boards, school-based decision making councils, and certified employees of statutes pertaining to religious freedom and expression in schools; create a new section of KRS Chapter 164 to require public postsecondary education institution governing boards to ensure that students are permitted to voluntarily express religious or political viewpoints in assignments free from discrimination, the selection of student speakers is made in a viewpoint-neutral manner, the student’s prepared remarks are not altered before delivery without the student’s consent, religious and political organizations are allowed equal access to public forums on the same basis as nonreligious and nonpolitical organizations, no recognized religious or political student organization is discriminated against in the ordering of its internal affairs, and there are no restrictions on speech that occurs outdoors on campus and is protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, except for restrictions that are reasonable, justified without reference to speech content, narrowly tailored to serve governmental interest, and limited to provide alternative options for the communication of the information.”
What is this long, run-on sentence I just copied and pasted from THIS  site? Well…it’s legalese that supposedly says that it prevents school officials from regulating student organizations, including the selection of members and “doctrines and principles.” What it is effectively doing is allowing student groups at colleges, universities, and high schools to discriminate against LGBTQ students OR anyone else for that matter with no recourse from the institutions. So…we could effectively be thrust BACK to the 1950’s on college campuses where certain groups aren’t allowed to participate in certain organizations because of their sexual preference, their skin color, their religious background, etc.
Question. Do I think this will happen?
There is a part of me that WANTS to believe ‘no’. I want to believe that we have moved on and are understanding that not everyone has the same DNA. I WANT to believe that we  all understand that we can’t all be white, heterosexual and middle to upper class. I wanted to believe that we were on a path to end racism, end hatred towards those who are of different sexualities, end religious hypocrisy. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. So…yes. I believe it can and will happen with the passing of this law. Our kids are a product of who WE are. All this time I thought we had been teaching them that people are different. I wanted to believe in change. What I see now is that there are people who do NOT believe that we can all live together in harmony. Apparently it is ok to be judge and jury when it comes to race, religion and sexuality. I’m from a family that taught me that we are all different in many ways. My parents raised me to be respectful of ALL people. I understand that not everyone was raised that same way but I wanted to think that MY generation was working to rid our planet of all of this hate and misunderstanding. I was wrong.
For the record, I think it’s a shame that we even have to concern ourselves with laws such as this one. Why do we, as a people, continue to discriminate? The other day I saw a commercial on television. I don’t recall what the product was however in a brief few seconds of this commercial, there was a male couple in their bedroom. One had awakened and was getting ready for his day and the other lay sleeping in bed. It was only a second. But it occurred to me that it’s THAT kind of world that we should be striving for. Where it doesn’t matter who is in whose bed. It doesn’t matter what your skin color is. It doesn’t matter whether you are male, female or transgender. Seriously…IT DOESN’T MATTER. In the end, we all will be put to rest, our bodies will become carbon and we will be gone! Why spend so much of your time worrying about others and what they do behind closed doors? It’s RIDICULOUS. And if you are a part of this apparently large group of people…you should be ashamed of yourself.
So many people want to quote scripture when it comes to this sort of discrimination. The “Lord’s Word” is what they will shout. They will march with signs and protest equality and say they are following God’s Word but they are all liars. Aside from the 10 Commandments, which I feel are strong rules to live by…all you have to do is flip to Matthew 7:12. If you visit Biblehub.com, you will find a wide variety of versions of this particular passage. It is commonly known as The Golden Rule.
“DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO YOU.”
Live it. Don’t question it. Believe in it. You will be a better person for it.
And for the love of all that’s holy…just stay out of everyone else’s business. Mind your own home. THAT is your business. And if you go around throwing stones at glass houses…you never know. Yours could be next.
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