Wednesday, December 29

WILLINGHAM -- BAH HUMBUG!

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish left their fight and something more in South Bend, as they fell to Oregon State last night, losing their seventh consecutive bowl game in a fashion that exemplied their entire season -- you just never knew which Irish team was going to show up and you invariably got the sinking feeling that the Irish coaching staff didn't know either. "Win one for Willingham" turned out to be a hollow commitment and came as close to mirroring the legendary "Win one for the Gipper!," as have many other elements of Irish lore during this now long-suffering, ignominious stretch of also-ran seasons. Team speed remained an issue, as did one of the most porous secondaries in college football. But worse were the moments of glaring ineptitude that spoke volumes about Willingham, his staff, and their collective inability to prepare and execute a worthy gameplan and to make the necessary adjustments at halftime to win. I don't know how any Irish fan could watch last night's debacle and continue to participate in the handwringing over Tyrone Willingham's ouster. Willingham may not have been walking the sideline last night, but that was his team out on the field looking so mismatched against an inspired and aggressive Oregon State team. Notre Dame no longer keeps Christmas well (nor New Year's Day, for that matter). They're never in the hunt for the National Championship and even when they land a no-name bowl bid, they can't muster the wherewithal to win. It is good, therefore, that the incoming president of the university was visited by three spirits in recent weeks: the Ghost of Christmas Past (the powerful alumni); the Ghost of Christmas Present (frustrated Irish fans); and the Ghost of Christmas Future (the promise of Charlie Weis to restore the lore and luster of a once inimitable football program).

Monday, December 27

NEITHER RAIN, SLEET, SNOW, NOR ICE ...

My wife Cathy and I left our home in southeastern Texas early Wednesday morning, December 22nd, bound for northcentral Kentucky not only for a Christmastime family get-together with our two sons, two grandsons, daughter-in-law and my wife's mother, but to see for the first time ever our new grandson, two week old Austin Burgess Higgins. The good news was we opted to travel in my wife's Jeep 4x4, rather than my sedan. Had we not, we never would have made it. The bad news was from Texarkana, TX, on through the balance of our two day journey (more like a bad dream), we encountered the worst weather conditions I have ever driven through in my lifetime. In a trip that should take 18 - 19 hours of pure driving, I drove 18 hours on Day #1 of our "adventure," getting as far as the eastside of Memphis, TN, and another 13 hours on Day #2. To say we were intrepid travelers is understatement. Some could fairly argue that we were nuts to keep going. It was eminently unsafe out there on the Interstates. However, conditions were such that once we were caught up in the nasty winter weather, we were committed. Arkansas was far and away the worst portion of the trip. It was that state's worst snow and ice storm since 1990 and we caught the brunt of it. The Little Rock to Memphis leg of the trip should have taken 2 1/2 hours maximum. We hit the southern edge of Little Rock at 3:30pm CST and didn't reach the bridge over the Mississippi River into Memphis, TN until midnight. And all along the way, through Arkansas, Tennessee and into Kentucky, all we saw (and oftentimes witnessed firsthand) were cars, pick-trucks and tractor-trailer combinations down in the medians or off either side of the Interstates -- victims of black ice and, I suspect, poor driver judgement. There were interminable delays, as emergency responders tried futiley to clear the backlog of accidents and drag jacknifed big rigs from deep, snowy culverts. What an absolute mess. But, we made it. Many, I'm sure, did not. Passenger cars and pick-ups could not get traction on the upgrades, their tires spinning fitfully on the slick, ice-covered pavement. It was a scary proposition, but once we were a captive of the severe winter weather, turning around and heading back didn't seem any safer an option than continuing on. So, on (and on) we went. If we weren't at dead stops, oftentimes traffic wasn't moving any faster than 20 - 25 miles per hour. But we weren't stranded at an airport and we were never separated from our luggage. And now our first trip to visit our grandchildren may well become the stuff of legends -- a part of family lore. At least in our own minds, anyway!

Tuesday, December 21

FOLLOW THE BOUNCING BALL (NOT QUITE)

If you, family members and friends will be gathered around the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and are of a mind to sing Christmas carols a cappella or with instrumental accompaniment (is there a pianist in the house?), it's bad enough if some among you cannot carry a tune, but worse to muck up the lyrics! Here's a website that can come to the rescue. You can look up any number of popular carols and print off the song lyrics to distribute to your amateur choir. Don't forget to spike the eggnog, as it'll help Aunt Em' hit those high notes.

Monday, December 20

A SOLDIER'S CHRISTMAS

The American Thinker has kindly published an inspirational poem entitled "The Soldier's Christmas," written by a U.S. Marine, who has requested that it be circulated wide and far this holiday season in honor of the many sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform. It's far too easy to get caught up in the traditions and festivities of the season and to forget that our troops are enduring hardship and homesickness, and the anxiety and turmoil of combat. This Marine has done a good thing. Take the time to read his words and reflect upon them. Count your blessings. Pray for the troops.

To honor him, his comrades in arms, our armed forces everywhere, and their loved ones, I print below the powerfully patriotic lyrics of country music artist Toby Keith's American Soldier:

I'm just tryin' to be a father, raise a daughter and a son
Be a lover to their mother, everythin' to everyone

Up and at 'em bright and early, I'm all business in my suit
Yeah I'm dressed up for success, from my head down to my boots
I don't do it for money, there's bills that I can't pay
I don't do it for glory, I just do it anyway
Providing for our future's, my responsibility
Yeah I'm real good under pressure, being all that I can be

And I can't call in sick on Mondays when the weekend's been too strong
I just work straight through the holidays, and sometimes all night long
You can bet that I stand ready, when the wolf growls at the door
Hey I'm solid, hey I'm steady, hey I'm true down to the core.

And I will always do my duty no matter what the price
I've counted up the cost, I know the sacrifice
Oh and I don't want to die for you, but if dyin's asked of me
I'll bear that cross with honor, cause freedom don't come free.

I'm an American Soldier an American
Beside my brothers and my sisters, I will proudly take a stand
When liberty's in jeopardy, I will always do what's right

I'm out here on the front lines, sleep in peace tonight
American Soldier, I'm an American, Soldier.

An American Soldier an American
Beside my brothers and my sisters, I will proudly take a stand
When liberty's in jeopardy, I will always do what's right
I'm out here on the front lines, sleep in peace tonight
American Soldier, I'm an American, an American, an American, Soldier.

(lyrics by Toby Keith)


Sunday, December 19

'TIS THE SEASON: FRUITCAKE ANYONE?

If you've not yet seen the bawdy, irrepressible, 93-year-old Marie Rudisill on NBC's JAY LENO SHOW, then let me help you cure what's ever ailing you. You're in for more than a few chuckles, I promise you. You may have to see your internist about the onset of acute stomach spasms following your bout of gut-wrenching laughter, as this geriatric, dubbed The Fruitcake Lady, dispenses with her own special twist on television's equivalent of an advice column.

The pull-no-punches Floridian cuts straight to the chase when the unwary pose a question or personal dilemma to her. If your feathers get ruffled by some off-color language, albeit from a woman who could be your great grandmother, then don't link; but, if you'll just let your hair down (and get the youngsters away from the computer screen), you'll be in for a bushel basket of laughs. Personally, I think Ms. Rudisill ought to be retained as Special Counsel to Donald Rumsfeld. She'd cut through the red tape and get armor on those Humvees. Trust me, your stomachs may need armor plating before this is over!

MAGIC MOMENTS


Mother and Son ... priceless!


Cathy put a nice frame around this beautiful shot of our daughter-in-law Krissy holding Austin Burgess. Krissy's hubby, my younger son Joe, took this photograph with his new Nikon Coolpix 8800 digital camera. Of course, he had unquestionably superb subjects to photograph, but I must applaud him nonetheless for getting up-to-speed so quickly on his new toy. I'm still an old fuddy-duddy film guy, but my wife has already become a convert to digital. Do you think Ansel Adams would have eschewed film for digital technology had he the choice early in his career? There's a romance in dealing with the vagaries of film (e.g., blocking your shots with different F-stops) while fussing over a camera, tripod and cable release, as the light changes and the ineffable beauty of a scene dissolves into plainness in a matter of heartbeats. Years ago, when our boys were young, I took a memorable photograph of them sitting side-by-side in a meadow of tall grass on the floor of Yosemite Valley. It wasn't until the slides were developed that I knew I had the shot I wanted. If Joe ever gets there with Krissy and Austin, he'll know immediately whether he has framed his shot properly and captured the moment. Ansel Adams didn't know he had done inimitable justice to Half Dome until he got back to the dark room. I suppose it's all in your "frame" of reference!

THE NATION'S "FIRST DOG" -- BARNEY

If you're a dog lover, then DO NOT PASS GO -- check out the Barneycam at the White House website. Just click on his photo by the Christmas tree under the heading, Where In The White House Is Miss Beazley? The video runs a tad long, but it's masterfully produced and on the heels of a nasty election campaign, in which the bloodletting was over the top, it's nice to get back down to earth and enjoy a mundane glimpse of the pet (soon to be joined by a second of the same breed) that brings joy to our President and First Lady.

WHAT ARE THE PARENTS THINKING?

Okay, I'm all for the rights of the accused to be "innocent until proven guilty in a court of law"; but, what must the parents of these children be thinking in allowing them to go to the Neverland Ranch given the charges filed against The Gloved One? Where's the parental oversight and discretion? What provokes a parent to run such a risk? Is this simply the height of naivette or, worse, the endless search for freebies and ineluctable desire (forgive the expression) to rub up against a celebrity? There are things in this world that boggle the mind and trouble the soul. At least the story makes no reference to "Jesus Juice" hand-outs.

TIMES' "PERSON OF THE YEAR"

Kudos to President George W. Bush for being named Time magazine's "Person of the Year" for 2004 (see the story in CNN) for his stunning victory over Teresa's second husband and erstwhile heir to her/his prenuptual agreement, which will keep him in catsup, pickles and designer wet suits for the rest of his life, but not necessarily his Senate seat. It's good to see the Liberal-biased MSM (mainstream media) begrudgingly saluting the president's political dexterity and resilience in the face of whithering attacks. Whoopie must be beside herself. Can anybody tell me when Chevy Chase last got a cover story in Time?

VISIONS OF BLUE AND GOLD DANCE IN HIS HEAD


Dreaming about new Head Coach Charlie Weis and whether Notre Dame football will experience a resurgence ...


There's a nice NYT's write-up linked in Notre Dame Nation on The Irish's new Head Football Coach Charlie Weis (see: Weis Made His Luck On Way To ND), who will come to South Bend having served as a well-regarded (some say "brilliant") Offensive Coordinator for the Super Bowl Champions' New England Patriots. This is a good site to bookmark if you're into "Blue and Gold" football, as am I, my two sons, and the older of my two grandsons (Matthew). Our newest addition to the family, newborn Austin, will no doubt become a football junkie like his father and follow the family tradition of cheering on Notre Dame through thick and thin. With Charlie Weis now at the helm, this writer fervently hopes that the "thin" years are behind us and that the "thick" years loom on the not too distant horizon. Weis should become in no time an inspiration to the troops, as he's a dyed-in-the-wool over-achiever, inveterate workaholic and true lover of sports. And for good measure, he's a Notre Dame alum! Weis has trained at the feet of the masters -- Parcells and Belichick -- and has earned his bones with a reputation as a "sponge" and, the hyperbole notwithstanding, an "offensive genius."

Saturday, December 18

PENSIVE, CURIOUS, WISTFUL ... CONTENT


"Wonder when Grandpa will be here to hold me and tell me how handsome I am?"

MORE BABY PICTURES HAVE ARRIVED

Joe forwarded some nice digital photographs of his son (my grandson!) this afternoon and this is Cathy's ("Granny's") favorite of the bunch (see above). Austin is becoming more expressive now and you can look into those eyes (will they remain blue?) and see the gears turning. So much to take in, so much for the senses to ferret out and begin making sense of -- the "little man" appears alert, healthy and, if I may say so, serenely cerebral. There's an umistakable curiosity staring back. Isn't a new life magical? He's just now in the very early stages of mentally writing what will become in time a voluminous autobiography. Where will life take him, what will he become, who will he touch and who will touch him, and what will his mark be? The world awaits Austin Burgess Higgins and he will assuredly leave an imprint. For now, however, let's just cuddle him and kiss him, and thank the Good Lord for creating life and giving us someone new in the family to love. What a wonderful Christmas present. Thank you, Krissy and Joe.

Sunday, December 12

MITTENS AND CAP: AUSTIN'S READY FOR A SNOW FIGHT


SIMPLY TOO CUTE!

AN EXPRESSION WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS


CAN THERE BE A HAPPIER FATHER?

OLDER BROTHER WITH NEWBORN "PAPA JOE" (1978)


Brothers Jim (3+ yrs) & Joe (7 days)

AUSTIN'S FATHER (JOE) AT COMPARABLE AGE


New Pappa Joe (10 days old in 1978)

UNCLE JIM AT COMPARABLE AGE OF NEWBORN AUSTIN


"Uncle Jim" (5 days old in 1974)

Saturday, December 11

DEDICATED TO MY LOVELY DAUGHTER-IN-LAW


NEW MOMMY ... KRISSY


My Baby Boy and Me

It's 3:00am and Joe's asleep
and no one here to see.
We glider rock back and forth
my Baby Boy and me.

His little head is feather light
tucked up against my chin.
I hold his tiny hand in mine
and stroke his baby skin.

The house about us creaks and groans;
the clock hands creep around.
He snuggles closer to me still
and makes his baby sounds.

I love these quiet hours so much
and cherish every one,
store memories up inside my heart
for lonely nights to come.

All too soon he'll be grown;
his need for Mama gone.
But until then I still have time
for kisses and for song.

Time for quiet hours like this
with him cuddled in my arms,
where I wish he'd always stay
protected safe and warm.

And yet I know the day will come
when this tiny little hand
will be much bigger than my own,
he'll grow to be a man.

But until then he's mine to love
with no one here to see,
as we glide slowly back and forth
my Baby Boy and me.

-Jane Triplett-
(with minor variations from the original)


"Sweet dreams, Baby (!) ... how long must I dream?"


"Sweet Dreams, Austin Burgess Higgins!"


Mom (Krissy), Dad (Joe) and newborn (Austin Burgess) are all home from the hospital, having gone home yesterday afternoon. The three of them are settling in now as a "family" and Austin is busy getting his parents on a schedule and establishing the ground rules for what he expects from each of them over the course of the next few weeks and months!

Friday, December 10

LEST THE OLDER GRANDSON GET LOST IN THE GLOW OF HIS NEWBORN COUSIN


The writer's older grandson, James Matthew


THE LITTLE CHAP WHO FOLLOWS ME

A careful man I ought to be;
A little fellow follows me;
I do not dare to go astray
For fear he'll go the self-same way.

I must not madly step aside,
Where pleasure's paths are too smooth and wide,
And join in wine's red revelry --
A little fellow follows me.

I cannot once escape his eyes:
Whate'er he sees me do he tries --
Like me, he says, he's going to be;
The little chap who follows me.

He thinks that I am good and fine,
Believes in every word of mine;
The base in me he must not see,
The little chap who follows me.

I must remember as I go,
Through summer's sun and winter's snow,
I'm building for the years to be,
A little fellow follows me.

-Author Unknown-



"THE STORY OF LIFE"


Austin Burgess Higgins At Birth


THE STORY OF LIFE

Say! what is life? 'Tis to be born
A hapless babe; to greet the light
With a sharp wail, as if the morn
Foretold a cloudy morn and night;
To weep, to sleep and weep again,
With sunny smiles between; and then; --

And then apace the infant grows
To be a laughing, sprightly boy,
Happy despite his little woes;
Were he but conscious of his joy,
To be, in short, from two to ten,
A merry, moody child; and then; --

And then, in coat and trousers clad,
To learn to say the decalogue;
And break it -- an unthinking lad,
With mirth and mischief all agog,
A truant oft; by field and fen
To capture butterflies; and then; --

And then, increased in strength and size,
To be anon, a youth, full grown,
A hero in his mother's eyes;
A young Apollo in his own,
To imitate the ways of men
In fashionable sins; and then; --

And then, at last, to be a man;
To fall in love, too woo, to wed;
With seething brain to scheme and plan;
To gather gold, or toil for bread;
To sue for fame, with tongue or pen;
To gain or lose the prize; and then; --

And then in gray and wrinkled eld,
To mourn the speed of life's decline;
To praise the scenes his youth beheld,
And dwell in memory of Lang Syne;
To dream awhile with darkened ken,
Then drop into his grave; and then; --

(John G. Saxe)

WE, TOO, ONCE TOOK HOME A PRECIOUS BABY BOY

I'm sure family members over the next several weeks will want to compare and contrast the baby features of Joe (Austin's father) and of Krissy (Austin's mother) with their firstborn, Austin Burgess. My wife Cathy took a digital photograph of a standard print (from our family picture album) of our youngest son, Joe, at approximately the age of one month (or perhaps just a tad older). Everyone can take a look and see if they see much of Joe in his son Austin at this point. Cathy and I see more of our daughter-in-law's Krissy's features, but then we haven't seen a photo of her at one month. Regardless, Joe was a cutie and, as "Amma" Davis writes, "Austin is gorgeous." One thing we know for sure: Joe had dimples in his shoulders when he was born and so does his son Austin!



"Grandpa" to Austin Burgess now, but way back then "Father" to infant Joe and pre-schooler, Jim. Joe, at only a couple weeks of age and having lost the hair on his head he was born with, joined Dad, Mom and brother Jim on a camping trip to Sequoia.


The writer's wife, Cathy (over 26 years ago), caressing newborn Austin's father, our youngest son, Joe!


The writer with youngest son, Joe (over 26 years ago), who became the father of newborn Austin this week!


Austin's "Daddy" at one month old (1978)

THE GENESIS OF "A CERTAIN SLANT OF LIGHT" BLOG


"There's a certain Slant of light, Winter Afternoons ..." (Emily Dickinson)


The name of my new Blog is taken from the New England poet Emily Dickinson's lyric poem, "There's a certain Slant of light," written in 1861. It is among her most popular and well-crafted works and is found in most anthologies of American poetry. Because, as Donald E. Thackrey observed, the poem is "unquestionably beautiful in its sound, and striking in its imagery, yet resists definition in terms of a logical, comprehensive statement ...," I purposefully selected it, so I could ascribe my own interpretation to it.

My Blog, of course, was created just days ago in the winter month of December (2004), although arguably here in southeast Texas a case can be made that the landscape remains in the firm grip of Fall, the leaves of the deciduous trees just now reaching their full color and beginning to spiral to the ground. So, too, was Emily Dickinson's inspiration for her lovely poem derived from the refracted afternoon light of a day in the New England winter -- a time of day in which one plainly sees the sunbeams themselves and not simply what the slant of light illuminates in the landscape. Donald Thackrey opined that this time of day, and the special qualities of the Sun's rays during those hours, symbolized for Emily Dickinson the "sublimity of nature" and "the ultimate realization of truth and beauty."

While most sense that the poet was in a depressed, sorrowful state of mind when she wrote "There's a certain Slant of light," I've revisited the poem at a time in my life when the doldrums of the winter months have been given the light of a Spring day by the birth of a new grandson (Austin Burgess) and the ongoing, ineluctable love I have for a second (James Matthew); and, to be sure, by a highly anticipated trip to visit both during the Christmas holidays.

For me, Dickinson's poem points to the special aspects of light falling on the landscape during the afternoon of any day of the year. The window of my Study has a western exposure and a lake view, and the light of day experiences dramatic changes through the waning afternoon hours, and on towards dusk; and that light, and all of its ephemeral qualities, play on the lake's surface like brushstrokes from an artist above, changing not only the colors of the water, but the moods of its inspired onlookers. Truly, it is a certain Slant of light that provides, as Paula Bennett wrote, "the lens through which the world is seen ... through which its 'meanings' are understood."

Accordingly, my Blog and the thoughts I memorialize in it, will mirror the prism -- the set of filters -- through which I see and comprehend those things precious and of infinite interest to me: my family, my country, my spirituality, and the politics and current events (and their historical antecedents) that shape, buttress, or threaten them.

As you read my posts in the days, weeks and months ahead, ask yourselves the question: "What certain slant of light is this?"

More often than not, you'll find that slant of light grounded in traditional values and a fundamental, unwavering conservatism. Emily may have been overcome by melancholy sitting by her window on a harsh New England afternoon, but I choose to think in terms of that sublime light that shines on the special blessings of a new birth, that brightens the optimism of a new day (regardless the season of the year), and that casts its lustrous glow on what Ronald Reagan described as "that shining City on a hill." It is in that "City" that I wish for my grandchildren to grow strong, to spread their wings, to seek truth, to know and to give love, and to find and fulfill their hearts' desire.

TELL ME ABOUT HIS NAME ...

Austin Burgess Higgins. So much name for someone so little -- an infant only a little more than three days old and just tipping the scales at a mere 7+ pounds.
He's hardly ready to enter law school, run for office or become a judge! My goodness, the little man's name could just as easily be a law firm: Austin, Burgess & Higgins. Indeed, so much name for this little bundle of joy to wield about.

But what does the name mean, apart from heralding the fact that this baby boy's first name is his Grandpa Higgins' middle name (and his Great Grandpa Cotie's first name); and that his middle name was his Grandpa Davis' first name?

The name Austin is Latin for "majestic dignity."

The name Burgess is Celtic for "citizen."

The name Higgins is Irish through and through, and is derived from native Gaelic Septs, who adopted it as the Anglicized version of their name. Indeed, the name Higgins is an ancient one and has been given two historical meanings. The first is "knowledge"; the second is "viking." The Higgins' clan eventually occupied what are today the counties of Sligo and Mayo in Ireland. Even today, the name Higgins is among the 100 most commonly found in all of Ireland.

As the story goes in our family, Patrick James O'Higgins (resided in Ireland) gave birth to James Patrick O'Higgins, who subsequently migrated to America. Once here and once married, his German wife prevailed upon him to drop the "O" and for reasons that are not clear. James Patrick Higgins (with the "O" no longer in his name) gave birth to Bernard William Higgins. Bernard William Higgins gave birth to Bernard William Higgins, Jr. (the writer's father). Bernard William Higgins, Jr. gave birth to Bernard Austin Higgins (the writer). Bernard Austin Higgins gave birth to Joseph William Higgins (the writer's youngest son). And now (drum roll, please) Joseph William Higgins has given birth to his firstborn, Austin Burgess Higgins.

Interesting, it is, that the name Higgins means "viking." Young Austin's mother, Krissy, is first generation American. Her mother, Hilda, is from Iceland. She was born to Jon Sig Gudmundsson, Sr. and Sesselja Gudmundsson. The Vikings discovered "The Land of Fire and Ice" -- Iceland -- in about 860 AD. Predating their arrival was the arrival of Irish monks. The monks fled the country after the arrival of the Vikings, who themselves were fleeing the harsh, oppressive rule of the Norwegian king, Haraldur Harfagri. The Vikings were a fearsome people, but also a keenly intelligent civilization. Indeed, the Vikings established in Iceland in 930 AD what is regarded to be the world's oldest parliament -- the Alpingi -- as well as a constitutional code designed to secure peace and stability throughout the land. In around 1000 AD the Vikings of Iceland were converted to Christianity.

Which all comes to suggest that our newest lad in the family, Austin Burgess Higgins, is predominantly of Irish and Viking stock.


Thursday, December 9

GRANDMA ("AMMA") DAVIS COMMENTS ON NEWBORN, AUSTIN BURGESS HIGGINS


"Amma" (Hilda Davis) holding Austin Burgess


Because "Yours Truly" has been unable, as a neophyte "blogger," to get the "Comments" feature working, I feel obliged to publish three nice e-mails I have received from Krissy's mother, Hilda Davis, who has proudly signed those messages as "Amma," which is the word for "Grandmother" in the Icelandic language. Hilda has dual citizenship, both here in the United States and in her homeland of birth, the beautiful country of Iceland.

Here, expressed so beautifully, are a collection of Hilda's thoughts on the arrival into all of our lives of Austin Burgess Higgins:

Austin is so beautiful and it is such an amazing feeling looking at him and realizing that he is made up of little bits of so many generations -- Higginses, Walkers, Davises and Gudmundssons. He is calm, content and feels so good to hold.

We all LOVE his name and feel it is so special that he is named after both grandfathers. It seems fitting -- you (Bernie) were named after your maternal grandfather (Austin Cotie), Burgess was named after his maternal grandfather and now Austin Burgess is named after both of his grandfathers. I love it! Your initials are BAH, Burgess' were BAD and now Austin is ABH. Too cute!

Krissy and Joe look so calm, happy and content -- as though they are at total peace with life. They are so cute with Austin and he also seems calm, content and at peace. They are a beautiful little family. He is definitely a wonderful blend of both of them. He makes all kinds of little noises while he sleeps and is always making little faces with his mouth. It is really difficult to part from him each evening. Just wait until you see him. He is a doll and so alert. It will be fun to see how his personality develops.

Austin is a gorgeous, alert baby and very content. He certainly knows the voices of his Mommy and Daddy. Krissy, Joe and Austin are a beautiful family.


"Uncle Jim" holding "Austin Burgess Higgins"


New mother (Krissy) resting comfortably!


New father with firstborn ("Austin Burgess") at hospital.

WORDS OF PATERNAL ADVICE FOR NEWBIE FATHER, JOE, FROM "THE COZ"

On the joyous occasion of Austin Burgess Higgins' birth, I found myself pulling from the bookshelf in my library a small tome entitled, "Fatherhood," by one of America's favorite humorists, Bill Cosby. It was published in 1986 by Doubleday & Company, Inc., and that year just happens to be the year when our family moved from southern California to the Dallas, Texas area -- Trophy Club, to be precise. Our newly-minted father, my son Joe, was but 8 years old then, and his older brother, Jim, was just 10. My fuzzy memory is such that I cannot recall if the book was a gift (there is no inscription inside the cover to indicate that) or if I had purchased it. That said, in re-reading "The Coz," I'm finding such delightful pearls of wisdom and insights that I cannot help but share them with two of my sons (Jim being the proud father of a 5 1/2 year old and Joe, of course, being just a "rookie" at this fathering business). So here goes, Fellas!

  • Poets have said the reason to have children is to give yourself immortality; and I must admit I did ask God to give me a son because I wanted someone to carry on the family name. Well, God did just that and I now confess that there are times when I've told my son not to reveal who he is!
  • Immortality? Now that I have five children, my only hope is that they all are out of the house before I die.
  • In spite of six thousand manuals on child raising in the bookstores, child raising is still a dark continent and no one really knows anything. You just need a lot of love and luck -- and, of course, courage, because you'll be spending many years in fear of your kids.
  • There is something about babyness that brings out the softness in people and makes them want to hug and protect this small thing that moves and dribbles and produces what we poetically call poopoo. Even that becomes precious, for the arrival of a baby coincides with the departure of our minds.
  • There is no wisdom I can give you fathers more profound than: you are NOT the boss of this house that you want the children out of within thirty years and you are NOT allowed to give them permission for anything. When one of them comes to you and says, "Dad, can I go explore the Upper Nile?" your answer must be, "Go ask your mother."
  • Having a child is surely the most beautifully irrational act that two people in love can commit.
  • Raising children is an incredibly hard and risky business in which no cumulative wisdom is gained: each generation repeats the mistakes the previous one made.
  • So you've decided to have a child. You've decided to turn your sofas into trampolines, and to abandon the joys of leisurely contemplating reproductions of great art for the joys of frantically coping with reproductions of yourselves.
  • Even though all the millions of births are pretty much alike, what will set your child apart from the others is its name. Always end the name of your child with a vowel, so that when you yell, the name will carry. If you must put consonants in your child's name, put them in the middle ... as long as there's a vowel at the end. My own father violated this rule by giving me a name that ended in "t." He called me "Jesus Christ." My brother also had a name that ended in a consonant: "Lookdammit."

Wednesday, December 8


"A baby is God's opinion that the world should go on."
- Carl Sandburg -

NEW FAMILY ADDITION: MEET AUSTIN BURGESS HIGGINS

Here's the first digital photograph of the new addition to the "Higgins Family," compliments of the parents, Krissy Davis Higgins and Joseph William Higgins. This second grandson of mine, Austin Burgess Higgins, is named for me (my middle name is Austin and it was the first name of my maternal grandfather) and my daughter-in-law's father (whose first name was Burgess). Joe is the youngest of my three sons and this is his and Krissy's first child. My wife and I are thrilled, as we're now the proud grandparents of our son's (Jim's) boy, James Matthew ("Matthew") -- an irrepressible 5 1/2 year old -- and, of course, of newborn Austin Burgess.


Precious newborn Austin Burgess Higgins

Tuesday, December 7

INAUGURAL POST (A BLESSED EVENT)

The inception of this blog is proudly timed with the birth of my second grandchild, Austin Burgess Higgins, who entered the world today at 4:04am EST in Louisville, KY. He weighs 7 pounds and 3 ounces, is 20 inches in length, and has dark brown hair and his grandfather's (and father's) hands. Both baby and mother (my daughter-in-law, Krissy) are doing fine and the youngest of my three sons, Joe -- the proud father -- is beaming.

Austin is Krissy's and Joe's firstborn.

The fates have decreed, based upon the Dallas Cowboys' improbable upset of the Seattle Seahawks in the waning minutes of last night's "Monday Night Football" game, that Austin will grow up to be a diehard fan of "America's Team." Similarly, and owing to the Cowboys' rookie running back Julius Jones' stellar performance (Jones hails from Notre Dame) with 198 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns on the night, including the game-winner as the clock ran out, that Baby Higgins will become, in time, a devotee of The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame (a Higgins' family tradition).

So, we know we have a football fan in the making and, who knows, perhaps a player in the offing down the road. Besides, it's certainly within the province of a proud grandfather to speculate on such matters of import. And, since newborn Austin is a newly-minted "Sagitarius," honesty, truth and integrity will surely be important to him, so it follows, as night the day, that Major League Baseball cannot be an option!

What do I wish for this grandson of mine, this "little man" named Austin, who is my immortality (as are my sons, Jim and Joe, and my other grandson, Matthew)?

May I recall for him words once offered to the President and First Lady by Ireland's Ambassador on the birth of their son, John F. Kennedy, Jr.:

We wish to the new child,
A heart beguiled,
By a flower,
That the wind lifts,
As it passes.

If the storms break for him,
May the trees shake for him,
Their blossoms down.

In the night that he is troubled,
May a friend wake for him,
So that his time be doubled,

And at the end of all loving and love
May the Man above
Give him a crown."