Oh, soccer...I will learn to love you

AddySoccer I have had a real love-hate relationship with soccer going all the way back to my youth.

I never really played the sport. Not that I can remember at least. In our old neighborhood, we grew up with a baseball glove and ball, a basketball and a bike. If there was a soccer ball around, we didn't do much with it.

Sometime in junior high, The Kansas City Comets appeared on my radar. I don't remember the first game I went to at Kemper Arena, but I remember I had to go back. Maybe it was the light show before the game. Or the pure energy of a few thousand people (never any more than that as I recall) shrieking as the players were announced and ran onto the indoor soccer field.

They made entrances as if they were the most popular and famous athletes on the planet. And, at the time, they were to us. They had names like Jan Goossens, Alan Mayer, Ed Gettemeier and Gino Schiraldi.

The days of the Comets faded and I turned to the world of sports writing. Some time in 1996, I covered my first high school soccer game. Not long after, I covered my first high school girls' soccer game, an epic 0-0 tie that went four overtimes and had no end in sight.

I think that's when I started mildly mocking the sport. Although I did, and still do, openly acknowledge that the soccer players are often some of the best athletes in the schools.

So, I knew the day was coming when Addy would want to hit the soccer field. She started asking for a soccer ball last fall and, once the purple wonder was purchased and brought home, she started asking to take it outside and "play" a game against me.

When it came time for a soccer "team" then, Addy was ready. Well, sort of.

First, she requested she play on an "all girls" team.

"Yeah, that's probably not going to happen, girlie," I told her. Of course, I am not all that disappointed that Addy wants to steer clear of the boys right now. But, at her age, the boys and girls play on the same team, I explained.

That earned me an eye roll. I'm used to it now.

Addy's mom and I decided the Itty Bitty Soccer program through the Lee's Summit Parks and Recreation would be the best way to go to start our kiddo off on the right foot.

Of course, I had to wrap my head around my kiddo playing soccer. Yes, I realize millions of kids play it. Yes, I get that she's not going to be mired in some four-hour-long tie game (God I hope).

At this age, soccer is more about the fundamentals of the game - passing, dribbling, teamwork and learning that the game isn't 45 minutes of constant shooting the ball into the goal. Sometimes you have to, you know, be the goalie. Addy had a hard time with that.

The great part of Itty Bitty Soccer is that the parents are right there the whole time. And I mean right there. On the field.

Each parent is out there dribbling, passing, shooting and instructing with a slew of kiddos knocking a much smaller version of a soccer ball around.

And that's where I renewed my appreciation for the sport. Right there, on the field with Addy. Observing the very beginnings of her learning to kick and interact and play the game.

I still haven't been a Sporting Kansas City game, though. So, if you want to throw some tickets my way to convince me, please do.

Otherwise, I will be out at Miller J. Field on Saturday mornings watching and "coaching" my daughter and the other kids. For that brief moment in time, they are the stars of the show.

Rolling Stone adds to our heartache

I've been a Rolling Stone reader, off and on, for decades. Mainly, it was for the music, profiles and features on the musicians. Whether or not I cared for the political banter, I never gave it much attention. It wasn't what Rolling Stone was about, for me at least.

Nearly every issue, too, they would have a hard-hitting, investigative piece. Those were always intriguing, especially to a life-long journalist.

I would find myself in the midst of a criminal piece, surrounded by a murder-mystery or uncovering an injustice in a way that was actually going to matter and affect change, and I would be insanely jealous that the reporter was given the time and latitude to work on such an enterprise piece.

Reading newspapers and magazines used to come with all the confidence of the highest order of the Fourth Estate. It wasn't Meet the Press. It wasn't The McLaughlin Group. Print journalism was pure and good and right.

And, in a lot of ways, it still is. But man, this Rolling Stone debacle sure hurts. In fact, the retraction and scathing Columbia University report on litany of missteps made by numerous staffers of the magazine not only does damage to an already struggling industry, it will surely hurt in the realm of reporting sexual assaults.

And it could have all been avoided.

Reading through the highlights of the Columbia School of Journalism's report on Rolling Stone's "A Rape on Campus" account of an alleged attack at the University of Virginia last November, it's shocking to me that the most basic tenants of writing, reporting, editing and, most importantly, verifying, were completely and utterly disregarded.

And that it was happening at such an institute of journalism is supremely disappointing.

When I first heard Rolling Stone was completely walking away from its reporting of "Jackie" and her story of a gang rape at a fraternity party in 2012, I immediately went where others - current and former - go when we bemoan this type of bad press about the press. I went to the current state of our industry, where somehow "doing more with less" (even though, as a former publisher I can tell you those are the most idiotic words ever uttered) and we think we are still going to deliver quality journalism as we continue to slash and burn through our newsrooms.

We aren't. But that's not where Rolling Stone failed.

They simply didn't follow the rules. It's maddening now to read this report and realize it wasn't budget cuts or staffing that led to this shoddy storytelling. It was lazy work from the top to the bottom - the editors, writers and fact-checkers. Hell, that Rolling Stone still has fact checkers is a testament to its commitment to journalistic excellence. Except in this case.

Recently I spoke on a panel with two other journalists about our experiences in covering the racial tensions, riots and after-effects of the officer-involved shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. With a room full of journalists and student-journalists, I decided to take the opportunity to opine a bit on what I believe students should be learning and what they may or may not be getting in the classroom as they head into the real world.

This report from Columbia on the failing of a respected magazine should move to the top of the list in every journalism classroom.

The next generation of journalists are going to be held just as responsible as every writer that has come before them. And they will have to perform those tasks under a larger microscope than we could have ever imagined. Social media is just one of the many weights on their shoulders.

Young journalists must demand that accuracy is still the single biggest burden in their lives. They have to feel it every moment of their existence and demand that those that work above them hold it so sacred that we can never, ever, let "A Rape on Campus" go to press with such storytelling holes looming over the piece and with so many unanswered questions and doubts haunting the writer.

I've had enough of being disappointed when these travesties hit journalism. I'm done making excuses for writers that don't respect the industry or continually use it for personal gain and not the greater good.

My saving grace is knowing there are still plenty of good journalists doing plenty of good journalism. But it's not easy. It shouldn't be. And the instant we let our guard down, we will lose our way, our credibility and our proud profession.

The show must (and did) go on

Taking a 4-year-old to a high school play, or any activity over an hour, takes a little bit of planning. On top of knowing where the closest restrooms are located, you have to be ready for just about anything from a sudden illness to random tears.

On this particular day, though, Addy was feeling great and on some of her best behavior. Of course, it was Valentine's Day.

After a scrumptious dinner at Summit Grill, the girl and I headed to Lee's Summit West High School to catch the musical "Cinderella." It wasn't Addy's first time at a theater performance, having seen her old man in a cameo role at "Godspell" last fall.

We arrived to a packed house in the West theater and found a few seats near the back where Addy had a good line of sight to the stage. The house lights when down, the curtain separated away and Addy giggled with excitement as the production began.

As the carriage whisked away Cinderella (played by West senior Jasmin Robinson, her first lead role, where she was simply amazing), Addy and I made a mad dash to beat the intermission-crowd to the restroom.

Turns out, we shouldn't have been in a hurry.

Little did we know that, at some point, some of the high school orchestra got stuck in the elevator. After a few minutes turned into 20 or more, Addy started to get impatient.

We had restroom trip checked off. Bottled water handy. Snacks close by. But I hadn't planned for "orchestra in the elevator" delays with her.

As we chatted about what she enjoyed about the first act, I explained that "Cinderella" had a real name and it was "Jasmin." I shouldn't have even walked down that road, because the kiddo was really confused about that. Thankfully, the booming voice from the sky saved me with an announcement that there was a minor technical difficulty (although I am sure he had a different phrase for it) and that the production would be resuming shortly. A few minutes later, we learned Act II would be resuming sans a few members of the orchestra.

I almost lost Addy during the delay. A few members of the audience had already shuffled out and it was getting late. Thankfully, the house lights went down and we got rolling again. And I am thrilled we stayed.

The players at West didn't let the adversity shake them a bit. If it did, they didn't show it one bit.

When they came out to take a bow, Addy was clapping and cheering like she had just seen the biggest production of her life.

And you know, she probably just had.

Bravo to theater director Brad Rackers and the West Side Stage players. The show had to go on and they made sure everyone had a special Valentine's evening.

How do we make a difference?

Many people want the complete community experience where they live. Safety. Recreation. Education. Art. Eating. Entertainment. Opportunity.

Author Richard Florida contends in his book, "Who's Your City?" that where we choose to live is as important a decision as who we choose to spend our life with and what we choose to do for a living.

While I have friends all across our fruited plain, for this example I will focus on Lee's Summit.

Why do we live here? Are we happy here? If not, what are we doing to improve our community?

Some join a social club. Others give back through service. Our greatest gifts are likely as simple as our gift of time. We know that talk is cheap. Actions show our resolve to help, assist and give back. If it's at a thrift store, an elementary school or a nonprofit organization, we make a difference simply by showing up.

In Lee's Summit, it really is just that easy.

A small, and sometimes vocal, minority like to bat around terms like "insiders" and similar phrases to describe those that are involved around town. Like any community, Lee's Summit isn't immune to the "most of the work falls on just a few" routine. But it doesn't have to be like that. It is easy to be involved in Lee's Summit. Making a difference is as effortless as picking up trash, reading to a kid or volunteering on a committee. Some of the strongest leaders in Lee's Summit do it very quietly.

I will use the example of a young man named Mike Ekey who, after a little persistence, was appointed to the Lee's Summit Arts Council and later the Planning Commission. Mike has been in town just a few years.

From our parks to our downtown, HOA's to private schools, it takes an abundance of volunteerism and that gift of time to keep things moving. I know there are countless parents out there putting in that time when they barely have it.

Others, though, don't bring anything to the table other than blustering and complaining. And social media has helped feed that ability to gripe unfettered and offer no real solutions.

When you listen to this loud minority, you would think Lee's Summit is on the verge of falling to pieces. But we need to remind them that they chose Lee's Summit. And if things aren't great, what are they doing to make it better?

Florida sums it up nicely here:

"Finding the right place is as important as—if not more important than— finding the right job or partner because it not only influences those choices but also determines how easy or hard it will be to correct mistakes made along the way. Still, few of us actually look at a place that way. Perhaps it’s because so few of us have the understanding or mental framework necessary to make informed choices about our location."

So, that's the challenge. Finding your place means you've taken everything into consideration. Happiness isn't about where you live, but you do live somewhere that should make you happy. If it doesn't, change it.

Another great nugget from Florida:

"The place we choose to live affects every aspect of our being. It can determine the income we earn, the people we meet, the friends we make, the partners we choose, and the options available to our children and families. People are not equally happy everywhere, and some places do a better job of providing a high quality of life than others. Some places offer us more vibrant labor markets, better career prospects, higher real estate appreciation, and stronger investment and earnings opportunities. Some places offer more promising mating markets. Others are better environments for raising children."

Can you read that paragraph and not think of Lee's Summit? I can't.

Now, go make a difference. We're a better city and a stronger community when you do.

The poetry of music lyrics

My recent fascination with Hozier's haunting "Take Me to Church" got me thinking about the power of music lyrics. When Hozier laments that he will "tell you my sins so you can sharpen your knife," among other obvious religion-themed verses, the song takes on a new meaning to some.

To others, it's just a song.

Of course, the messaging of music is nothing new in pop culture. For as long as music has been around, there are those that feel compelled to break down and understand the true meanings behind our favorite songs.

The theologians had a heyday with R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion," probably due to as much of the visual images of that video as the lyrics itself. My theology-minded brother, Dr. Thomas More, even weighed in on that topic during a VH1 special.

And like R.E.M., Hozier encourages the religious discussion and our natural tendency to break down the music. With lines like "I'll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies," how can we not wonder aloud?

It does diminish the music or dampen the integrity of the art to discuss lyrics. Still, we sometimes go a little overboard.

Bell Biv Devoe didn't literally mean that girl was "Poison," did they?

Women, love and heartache-filled-angst has made the best music over the years. And some of that we can take quite literally.

Jefferson Starship told us all about "Sarah." KISS introduced us to "Beth." The Police filled us in on "Roxanne." Toto's famous ode to Rosanna Arquette was popular in the 80s. And Prince told us way more than we may have needed to know about a good friend named "Nikki."

Hozier offers an explanation of "Take Me to Church" on a YouTube video. My initial take was you can't riddle you song with faith-related phrases and then tell us the song isn't about that at all. I've changed my tune a bit now, though, as I think back to many great songs.

The Band had us believing they "pulled into Nazareth, was feelin' about half past dead..." Really? Either way, can't argue with the song. That tune is still killer after all these years.

Songs that dare to dip into religion will always draw the ire of some. Others, like Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" (no, he's not singing "hold me close my Tony Danza...") will live in interpretive infamy forever. Deliberate or implied symbolism makes for great discussion points, especially when we look at some of the great songs of Pink Floyd or The Doors.

As one of my friends put it recently on a Facebook discussion, in his mind, the song is just the song. It's good music. Maybe that's all we need say.

That a topic, a woman, a loss or a love can inspire deep and meaningful music is still what drives me to listen.

If music moves you, allow it to happen.

The dream should include love

Tony In the midst of a racially charged time in our society, we pause today to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King and his vision of peace, love, justice and fellowship.

Dr. King's dream was celebrated tonight in Lee's Summit, in Kansas City and throughout the United States via these types of events, speeches, vigils and remembrances.

I got a glimpse of King's dream while traveling to Memphis last summer. During my annual guys' trip, I finally detoured off Beale Street and found the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel. While touring, reading, listening and visualizing all that King had preached regarding civil rights and civil disobedience, I was struck by one thing in particular - his age. King was just 39 when he was gunned down by coward James Earl Ray. At 40, I was walking through and seeing this tremendous affect he had on our country and culture in such a short amount of time.

And while race relations are never seemingly at an even keel, since that trip to Memphis, it has gotten exponentially worse.

Eric Garner, a 43-year-old New York man, died July 17, 2014 after officer Daniel Pantaleo performed what some consider an illegal choke hold. Why Pantaleo took such drastic measures against Garner is beyond me. Still, it happened. And a flurry of race-related riots followed after Pantaleo wasn't charged in his death.

On Aug. 9, 2014, Michael Brown died in Ferguson, Missouri - an event that prompted me to head to the St. Louis suburb and find some sort of humanity among a racially-fueled and angry community.

Since that Grand Jury released its findings, we know now what transpired between officer Darren Wilson and Brown on that fateful day. That situation and the fate of Eric Garner are starkly different. We know that now.

But the results are the same. Race is in the headlines, used in the news as a flash point of controversy and talking points and, months later when we celebrate the work of Dr. King, relived again as we discuss where we have been and where we are heading as a country still dealing with racial issues.

On this day, though, I thought more about my brother-in-law, Tony, who passed away a year ago this month.

Tony was a proud black man. A preacher. A helper. A wonderful husband to my sister, a friend, brother and mentor to many.

Tony and I rarely had the "big" racial discussion. We didn't break down Dr. King's "I've Been to the Mountaintop" or "I Have a Dream" speeches.

Mostly, Tony talked about love. Loving your neighbor. Love for your family. Loving God. Showing love, sharing love, offering love. Over the years, I tried to better embrace and understand that message. I know that Tony and my sister Ann practiced that message of love. And saw it given back a thousand times over during Tony's service.

King's messages during his life resonate well after his death. He was willing to say the hard things about race that we sometimes don't want to talk about.

I believe we have many hard conversations still ahead.

But if we have them with a dose of patience, reverence and, of course, love, I think we could actually get somewhere.

The meaningful gifts

It's mid-January, which means my daughter has pretty much moved on from any gifts she got at Christmas. The new coloring books are half used. The slippers are somewhere in her room. God only knows where her purple pony is.

And the damn flying fairy is broken. Irrevocably busted.

The only saving grace is the Light Brite that hasn't left the box yet. Yes, I guess the Light Brite has made a reappearance in the toy world.

My kiddo doesn't seem to take notice when some of her toys disappear into the night. I've gotten her in the habit of trying to think of still-new toys she can give away to kids that maybe don't have as much. She's been largely supportive, and has even brought up that a particular new toy could go to another girl some time.

I did face a little of the 4-year-old wrath when I gave away her Lalaloopsy doll. She's still bringing that up to me from time to time.

As kids, I know toys are king. When we rip into the wrapping paper on our birthdays or Christmas and find socks or a sweater awaiting, those are pretty quickly tossed aside, hoping the next box or bag will hold the promise of something we had seen on TV recently.

As an adult, a new softball glove or old Nintendo game might be nice, but the gifts that really resonate are the ones where, the second you open them, you say, "this person really gets me."

A shirt you know you are going to love isn't discarded at all as an adult. A pair of copper mugs to make your favorite drink in is met with a smile every time they are used. Or simply a box of pencils made from recycled newspaper. A gesture that not gives a nod to my newspaper past, but shows an understanding of what I might truly appreciate.

Of course, I don't expect these things out of my daughter just yet. Gift giving to her will, I hope, for years to come be about something that she will open, scream with joy about, and play with. Even if for only 17 minutes or so. (The fairy didn't last long).

And, perhaps, the really meaningful gifts come at a time when no gift is anticipated at all. I've noticed on Facebook some people committing to doing something for five friends throughout the course of the year. Each year I see a few more of my friends doing this. I've never asked if they follow through. I want to believe they will.

In a world that is quite mad and violent, I can believe in little gestures of kindness and compassion, whether that is in the form of gifts, words, a gentle touch, shoulder to cry on or in simply being there for our loved ones.

I hope to provide all of that to my friends, family and loved ones.

And if it happens to come with a little something wrapped up with a bow on top, I hope that I, too, can always find that most meaningful gift to them.

2015 goals...for the 4-year-old

1115 If our children made New Year's resolutions and goals like we do as adults, I would imagine they would look as ridiculous as ours a few months into the year.

Not because they are unattainable or irrational. They come each year with good intentions, each of us promising and striving and yearning to achieve something we didn't in the previous year; to leave something behind that may have been negative and hope beyond hope that the New Year will bring only positive growth and outcomes.

As I entered the 2015 with Addy, I started to think about what this crazy kid is going to be "resolving" to do in the future. Not that I want to think about her teenage years...but I know it's coming. Lord, before I know it, she will be on Facebook. If there is such a thing. And then I will have to answer for all those photos I posted.

So what does my 4-year-old want to accomplish in 2015?

Addy would like to eat less veggies. A lot less. Like, none, would be a great start.

She would like me to stop eating anything green, too, as witnessed by her incessant need to always inform me that she would, indeed, "not eat" whatever she deems undesirable on my plate.

And, like any 4-year old girl, Addy would resolve to: play more, sleep less, watch Frozen, watch Strawberry Shortcake, go to grandma's house more often, dance daily, eat cookies, eat cake, eat ice cream, eat pancakes, play nonstop.

But here's the thing: Addy's goals are real. They're worthy and honest.

While I want to challenge myself to do more one-on-one volunteerism, be a better father and friend and hit the gym more often, things we "want" to do in the next 365 days should perhaps be a better place to start on Dec. 31 or Jan. 1. When we shoot for "what I should become" or "I wish I could have the courage to do this" we set ourselves up for failure.

When I asked Addy what is one thing she would like to get done this year, she said, "Go to Paradise Park."

Simplicity. You have to appreciate that.

My kiddo isn't hard on herself. She doesn't linger on the negative. She's either always happy or looking for something that she can laugh about.

Perhaps, then, my outlook for 2015 is simple: take more lessons from someone that's be alive less time than I spent in college.

Oh, and write more. You'll be hearing a lot from me in 2015.

From rough to rational to respect

When I was 22, I had a bit of a problem. I thought I knew it all.

While that's not uncommon for type-A folks, it sure didn't bode well for my entry into the workforce.

At this point in my life, I was (I thought) an accomplished collegiate and semi-pro writer, professional student, waiter, bartender and known cynic.

On my first day at The Examiner newspaper, I met my match.

Dick Puhr didn't care what I had written. Or who I knew. Or what I thought was interesting. He knew stats. He knew copy. He knew infinitely more than I did. Sadly, it took me years to realize that.

As the days turned into weeks and weeks into months, any newspaper team worth its salt will start to work better as a unit. That happened at The Examiner, certainly.

As we transitioned away from longtime sports editor Huey Counts to the new boss on the block, Karl Zinke, we had to learn styles, quarks and strengths. A sports writing team that ranged from creative features to award-winning game coverage and compelling column writing became the norm around Eastern Jackson County. We did it better than anyone. And, without always acknowledging it, we did it that good because Dick Puhr was a walking encyclopedia of high school and prep sports knowledge.

As I learned to better pick my battles and do more listening than talking, I started to hear things from Dick that I hadn't ever processed before.

Connections between coaches and schools. Records and historical data. And just the off-the-wall stories that rattled around in his head that he would, quite randomly, throw out. I caught myself more than once asking to hear a Dick story about a coach that got booted from a high school basketball game or an athlete's inspiring performance in the face of adversity.

As my role at The Examiner changed over the years, I heard less and less stories and that familiar pecking of the typewriter at the desk right next to me. Still, when Dick was in the office, you knew it. He was a proud Rotarian. A staunch stat keeper. A fair journalist.

When I left for Iowa, Dick flat out asked me if I was ready for this new role as a newspaper publisher. That stopped me in my tracks. And I remember we ended up just sitting at our adjacent desks and talking about it for a while.

Years later, when I returned to run the Lee's Summit Journal, Dick called to welcome me back. And to tell me about an error that was on my sports page. In fact, that turned into a routine. And really, I didn't mind at all. It was good to hear from him and getting that still-stern "correction" from him all these years later just made me smile.

The last few conversations this year with Dick helped solidify the respect I have for him. First, he called to congratulate me on hiring a former colleague of his, Dave McQueen, to the sports editor position at my papers. Months later, he called to wish me well after he had heard I was laid off from the newspaper industry. That meant far more than I could have even communicated to him.

Dick is an example of why we should tell people they appreciate them in their living years.

I began this column around 8:30 on Nov. 22, a few hours after getting home from visiting Dick in hospice care. I was able to tell him about my new job, my 4-year old daughter Addy, read him some of his cards and just talk to him. I woke up around 3 a.m. Nov. 23 to the news that he had passed away around 11 p.m.

So, I finish this column after his passing. Thank you for a half-century of sports coverage Dick.

Some use the "there will never be another" adage here. In all honesty, there cannot be.

What Dick did in all those years and weeks of hours of journalism is, though, thankfully recorded for all to read for the next 50 years and beyond. He was as much a historian as a writer.

That contribution is timeless.

The speed of truth

What happened on the streets of the Canfield-Green Apartments in Ferguson or during a recent car stop in Independence has been the product of much debate. And rightfully so.

In an age where we can find out the population of Greenland in 1944 or the latest Iggy Azalea video with JLo with just the push of a few buttons, it somehow vexes us that we don't know exactly what happened, blow by blow, second by second, with the events in Ferguson or the car-stop turned Taser incident in Independence.

I am wondering why the hell we feel so entitled to know these things immediately?

While the truth is an ever-unfolding process, what happened between Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson and Michael Brown truly should not be a topic of ongoing debate. Just because we don't know every moment of that encounter doesn't make the event itself any less truthful or real. And it doesn't lessen the gravity of either event, or any police encounter that comes into question, when we don't have instant access to every moment of it.

Instant gratification has obviously spoiled us beyond recognition.

And caught up in our irrational need to know immediately and our rush to judgment, frankly, the truth. As well as the lives that we are putting under the microscope.

I will defend the media all day, it seems. I always tell people news is news. We don't get to decide what is news and what is not. Sometimes there is bad news. Somethings people kill other people, houses catch on fire and elderly are scammed out of their life savings.

The media, in all its forms, still largely distributes information in a responsible way. Yes, outlets strive to be first. But there is always an eye on being accurate. The media may be seen as dangerous to some. But the flood of speculation that follows is far more threatening.

With every acknowledgement that I am a part of the media, and having done a little coverage in Ferguson and of police activity for many years in Independence, I can speak with a little knowledge on the subject.

First, the car stop where Tim Runnels, an Independence officer, found himself in a situation where he deployed a Taser to Bryce Masters.

Short of all of standing right there when it happened, this immediate call to investigate the police is as asinine as condemning Masters.

And that logic goes in Ferguson, too.

Asking for an immediate trial of Wilson for the Brown shooting makes no sense. It may satisfy some in the short term, but it as irresponsible as calling Brown a "thug."

I think much of this comes down to one simple thing: we are all highly impatient. We want and expect answers.

The phones and the web have increased that anxiety on all of us.

The truth is out there. We can surely set out to seek it. Patiently.

It is just as brave to be cautious and controlled, willing to let the facts unfold before rushing to judgment.

Hope, forgiveness, dancing and the carnival

AddyPaperHat The time spent with my nearly-4-year-old becomes more and more important to me. For whatever reason, I seem to make constant note of it now.

Perhaps that's a symptom of being a single dad. Or that I incessantly hear from others to "enjoy the time now because it flies by." That's a truth I am still learning.

My daughter is a very "scheduled" individual. And, again, part of that is growing up in two different households. If she could write (or had a iPhone) I could very well see her taking down her social, school and grandma schedules throughout the day. She often asks me, multiple times, where we are headed, what we are doing and whom we might see along the way.

On the particular Saturday, her social father had set a rigorous schedule - the Lee's Summit Farmers Market for pumpkins, Blue Springs Fall Fun Fest and then to New Longview for the art festival. One of those events, in Blue Springs, included the word "carnival." So, of course, that was the topic of the week leading up to Saturday.

Sept. 13 was an absolutely gorgeous day to be outside doing anything. That I got to spend it with a kiddo that, at the mere mention of games and rides goes berserk, made it even better.

Of course, as with any 3-turning-4-year-old, there are challenges. For her and for me.

Listening in a big crowd is secondary to just darting off and looking at the next shiny, new thing in front of you. Oh to be that age and mesmerized so easily again. I should learn to embrace that rather than be as much of a helicopter dad.

A few minutes (or more like 15 or better) in the bouncy house cures a lot of father-daughter ills, however. Addy went in like a tornado and held her own against the older boys. She even stopped occasionally to press her face against the mesh, call out for my attention, and tell me she loved me. I don't know how long I get to have those moments with her, but I will take every single one.

A few rides and games of popping balloons with dull darts later, and we were off to our next stop in New Longview.

Taking a child to an art fair is probably not on the top of the list for some parents, but the music and creativity are always something I want to expose Addy to.

Before we could take it in, she spotted the Poppy's Ice Cream truck. So, three bucks later, she had her chocolate scoop on a cone. As she devoured her treat, A.J. Young was entertaining the sparse crowd with some catchy jams. As soon as the ice cream disappeared, the music took over Addy's soul.

"Dada, dance with me. Dance with me!"

Her pleas fell on deaf ears for a minute or two. As I was talking to Summit Theatre Group President Ben Martin, I was content with watching Addy dance while the adults sat by and watched. But I couldn't say no for long.

Addy dragged me to the area in front of the stage and we proceeded to incorporate some of my best moves, twirls, leg kicks and other "dancing" arrangements.

What's amazing about my daughter, and in watching the other children, was that they simply didn't care. The music moved them, so they moved back. I just love that about her. Her spirit. Her ability to be carefree.

I began to feel like my irritation with some of the petty things I called her on throughout the day just melt away. How do I balance being a dad, having fun and still parenting with a purpose?

I'm still a work in progress in that regard.

And my Addy, she just loves me unconditionally. She gives me hope that I will always take her hand to dance and always be able to be her protector and her guardian.

Even through the time-outs, stern talks and a few tears, she reaches out to hug me and asks if I am OK.

She gives me hope like no other. Through carnival smiles, public displays of dancing and simple gestures of love.

My Adaline Sophia turns 4 next week. Happy birthday. You've given me 2,190 days of of adventure and I can't wait to see what is to come.

All that's different since 9/11

I often think of how we would have looked at the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on our country had we been immersed with social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others. Information, right, wrong or speculative, certainly would have been in front of us in a much quicker fashion. We would have most likely had many more angles of the planes hitting the towers and probably even better footage of Flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon. With that flow of information, however, would have come even more images that were agonizing for many of us.

Even with the flow of information that day, we were mostly sparred the really graphic images of those caught up in the carnage. Today, it would likely be a lot different. What we consumed on a tragedy of that scale would be 10-fold today. And it would be even tougher to erase those images from our conscious.

How we record history is just one of many ways we look at the world differently after 9/11.

Tall buildings, air travel, security - all of it took on a completely different meaning in our minds from Sept. 12, 2001 through today and beyond.

I went to Facebook this week to ask people what has changed in their worlds and I got some fascinating responses.

Briefly, for me, travelling by air has been the toughest change of all for me.

My anxiety regarding flying the friendly skies has skyrocketed since 9/11.

Katy Kelly Lautzenhiser can relate: "Today, I get extremely anxious flying, to the point of taking Dramamine before boarding to escape sickness-induced fear. Simply approaching TSA Security evokes a panic of harassment, or unjustified guilt."

The little things annoy us - TSA, liquid containers, longer lines, pat-downs.

And then there are those things we are not supposed to openly discuss or question, things that make us uneasy at the airport, or on the plane, or, quite simply, just a vibe we get.

Every person that stands up during a flight is looked at a little longer. Every interaction with a fellow passenger a little less cordial.

The change in air travel procedures ranked on many lists as a big post-9/11 change.

"Even 13 years later, every day air travelers are impacted by the increased security measures that took effect due to 9/11, whether it be the shoes you choose to wear because you'll have to take them off, the liquids/lotions in your suitcase, whether you put something in a carry-on bag or in checked baggage, etc., not to mention the TSA agents, the random bag checking, earlier check-in, increased emphasis on correct documentation ... " - Darla Hall

Referencing Martha Boyd, a trauma expert with TMC-Lakewood Counseling Services in Lee's Summit, Lee's Summit resident Sage Norbury agreed the visual trauma has stuck with us, noting: "I believe that we are suffering from 'societal PTSD.' Our subconscious minds couldn't tell the difference between the first time the plane hit the building and the 389th time (when we incessantly watched the replays). I see trauma signs in the majority of my patients, but most of them never even think of it like that."

Friend and fellow journalist James Dornbrook, a reporter with the Kansas City Business Journal, noted his increased appreciation for what our fire and police do on a daily basis. A wise observation amid the travel talk.

Chris Drake, a childhood friend, said: "I am even more cautious of my surroundings than I ever was no matter the date, time or area. Always on alert. It occasionally gets tiresome but I refuse to be a victim or caught off guard. Can't let evil win. I have people who depend on me."

Another childhood friend, Jim McCollum, noted his caution when he sees a plane overhead, wondering if that aircraft is in control and will it land. I would have thought that unreasonable pre-9/11. Not now.

I was particularly moved by this statement from Pat Larkin from Blue Springs. Pat really brings it back to what is important, saying: "Coming from New Jersey, right across the river, I think of my family more and more. I now never end a conversation without saying I love you. It was a scary day for all of us, had one nephew ready to get on a plane to California, friends in NY. I grew up watching those towers being built, it broke my heart to see them go down."

A fellow journalism peer and now a fantastic teacher of future journalists, Christina Paulsell Geabhart brought an interesting point of view on the history of 9/11 and her students: "For my seniors, it was their sophomore year, some saw it classrooms. For others, It happened during their upper elementary and middle school years. They watched that news unfold uncensored by parents oftentimes.
Now students don't seem to grasp the magnitude. They were infants or toddlers and never knew it happened between Elmo and Dora. It's just another note in the history books for them."

And mirroring that love for her family, my friend Shannan Godley Cunniffe had a particularly astute look at it: "Our lives are so fragile - they could turn on a dime in an instant. I think about my children, and how as their steward - their protector - it is my duty to shelter them as much as possible, to let them know they are loved unconditionally, to try as much as possible to give them the kind of childhood that I had - filled with innocence and joy and laughter - not the worry and stress and horror that comes with an event like 9/11. Who would have ever imagined? How could we have?"

Amen Shann. And thank you all for sharing.

I believe that in that sharing, we all continue to heal.

9/11 coverage probably keeps the wounds open

[polldaddy poll=8301102] Everyone recognizes the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on our country in different ways. The emotions run the gamut.

Some hit the gym. Others go about their work day with some notice of the news. And a few of us watch the re-broadcast of the day "as it happened" on MSNBC and subsequent 9/11 specials on The History Channel and NatGeo.

The commercial airplanes, Flights 11 and 175, careening into the towers, over, and over, and over, and over. Then the towers crumbling into lower Manhattan. The Pentagon. Americans with no options left, above the impact zones, jumping to their deaths 90 stories below.

I began to ask myself, "why do I put myself through this every year?"

The story was powerful to me, as it was to all Americans, in the minutes, hours and days after those two planes purposefully flew into the World Trade Center. As a journalist parading around as an advertising representative for the Blue Springs Examiner, there was no bigger story I would ever cover, even if it was from thousands of miles away.

Watching on a small television in our conference room, I saw the second plane hit and both towers fall as these events unfolded. My reactions were raw, powerful, emotional. And as we gathered as a journalism organization, many of us knew this was a story for the ages. Something we would carry for a lifetime.

The problem is, some people have carried it for 13 years, the images viewed over and over never going away. Imagining the pain and suffering of ravenous fires inside a building, life-and-death decisions and hearing the voices filled with anguish on the voice mail of loved ones.

Martha Boyd, a clinical supervisor and trauma recovery therapy expert at TMC-Lakewood Counseling Services in Lee's Summit, can relate. Unlike many of us covering the story from the Midwest, Boyd knew someone in the towers that day. Her association to 9/11 had a face. A name.

Boyd and her friend, whom she'd worked with on non-profit projects for many years, had just attended a Chiefs game the Sunday prior to Sept. 11, 2001. On Monday, her friend got on a plane for New York.

On Tuesday, she died in Tower 2.

Boyd says the "multiple exposures" we all take in from that day leads to stress and strain.

“People didn't have to be in New York. They become traumatized by the exposure and the continued exposure of this horrific event. The reason everyone gets re-triggered, our minds were not capable of processing it, so our minds get stuck.”

There was never a trace of Boyd's friend recovered from Ground Zero. No closure. But Boyd doesn't dwell on that. While seeing the images on the anniversary and throughout the years can trigger emotional and other traumas, Boyd chooses to focus on the positive memories of her friend.

From a professional point of view, immersing in the images of 9/11 isn't a healthy habit. For me, talking to Boyd gave me an even greater perspective on the residual effects of what I was viewing on TV - that my daughter Addy, even in the midst of playing with her dolls and toys, was taking it in, too.

I found myself giving her a very small portion of information about planes hitting buildings, thinking that I was sharing information about a crucial piece of our nation's history. Addy began to ask questions about people in the towers, how long ago it happened and about her cousin Mimi, who, today in 2014, lives outside of New York City. I explained that this happened long before Mimi lived in New York and, clearly cognizant of her acute awareness of the gravity of what was on TV, changed the station and let her know that many people got out of the buildings OK and went home to see their families.

Over the last few days, Addy has asked again about the buildings and the airplanes.

Boyd's message was heard loud and clear: “Parents need to be mindful and not have children watching it. It will traumatize them.”

Some day, I will show Addy the newspapers from Sept. 12, 2001.

And my hope is there is a time when many of us can break away from the images. While I realize there is a journalistic responsibility to airing the coverage, I also know there is a human responsibility many of us have not to be consumed and continually affected by it.

Not a Billy Goat bluff

billygoat [polldaddy poll=8294563]

Part of any successful local, county or regional economic development plan focuses on many aspects of recruitment and retention.

The latter tends to be under-appreciated. But my goodness is it vital.

Recently, it came to light that Billy Goat Industries - a professional lawn care manufacturer that has called Lee's Summit home for 45 years and is locally owned by Will Coates - had retained a consulting firm to look at its best options for a future home and warehouse location.

Even a rudimentary look at that simple fact tells us immediately that, at the very least, the company is exploring options for leaving town. With 100 employees and plans to add up to 10 a year for the next five years, that's the kind of thing that gets on the radar of city leaders real quickly.

Billy Goat is located on South 291 past the U.S. 50 interchange.

Reportedly, other municipalities, including Pleasant Hill, have offered economic incentives to get Billy Goat to pick up and leave. And while those are always tempting offers for companies (see the ongoing border war between Kansas and Missouri) it is always a lengthy process and long road down that path from "interest" to actual "moving" for a company.

Picking up and moving any large operation or manufacturing facility takes an investment of time, money and, surely, patience.

Specifically for Billy Goat, Lee's Summit, possibly Cass County and neighboring cities that would want to boast housing a known commodity in worldwide lawn care, the prospects of gaining or losing a company of this magnitude become immediately clear.

Pleasant Hill, which houses its economic development department under the city, gains a tax base and jobs, not to mention the build out on the new warehouse, while reportedly offering some Enterprise Enhancement Zone incentives to get them to move. Remember, too, Lee's Summit balked at approving EEZ measures previously.

If Lee's Summit gets them to stay, it preserves 100-plus jobs, keeps a tax base of over $100,000 (total for all municipalities) and adds another $110,000, approximately, in new tax revenue.

Discussions on incentives include Chapter 100 bonds and a 75 percent tax abatement over 10 years, not to mention improves on Jefferson Street around the Billy Goat complex.

The Lee's Summit City Council voiced support at the Sept. 4 meeting for keeping Billy Goat in town and vowed to look at all plans to make that work at its Oct. 2 meeting. They also heard directly from Coates and the new President of the Lee's Summit Economic Development Council, Rick McDowell. McDowell, only on the job for 30 days, reiterated what many in the council chambers already knew - that keeping Billy Goat in Lee's Summit should be considered at the top of their priority list.

In the meantime, in the competitive environment of economic development, it will be interesting to see what Pleasant Hill or others come up to to try and lure the manufacturer away.

Stay tuned.

Rotating chiefs

[polldaddy poll=8284828] Moving pieces at city hall, no matter where the city or what situation predicated the moves, are always a work in progress.

In that regard, Lee's Summit is just as normal as any other town.

In the last week, we've seen the transition in and transition out of two major roles in our police and fire departments. And while shakeups like that can sometimes make a Richter Scale movement in the foundation of a city government, in Lee's Summit we assume, and rightfully so, that services and business as usual move on smoothly.

We spent many, many months with Maj. Scott Lyons acting in the role of interim chief with Joe Piccinini retiring in January of 2014 after 30 years with the Lee's Summit Police Department.

And although the national search for Piccinini's replacement didn't ultimately fall to Lyons, police services, community policing and the business of protecting and serving moved on throughout the streets and neighborhoods of Lee's Summit. And Lyons should be lauded for his past and continued service to the LSPD and his leadership during that transition.

On Sept. 2, Travis Forbes took the helm of the LSPD, bringing a wealth of policing, tactical, drug enforcement and criminal justice experience to a town nearly the population of the one he just left, Independence.

From his start in 1992 to 2006 with Independence, Forbes worked his way through the ranks from street cop to sergeant, captain and major. In 2013, he was named the deputy chief in Independence.

What Forbes brings to Lee's Summit is a knowledge of working crime, dealing with criminals and managing a large force. Independence, while boasting roughly 20,000 more residents, has far more instances of crimes like domestic violence and burglary than Lee's Summit has on a year-to-year basis.

That's not an indictment of any police action or leadership, obviously, but more a symptom of the socio-economic aspects of both towns.

Forbes ascended through the ranks in Independence for a reason, and more than one officer in that town has told me his loss from the Queen City of the Trails is the gain for Yours Truly in Lee's Summit.

He leaves an area where community policing was ever present to one that expects a strong, visible police presence and understands the values of law enforcement as it relates to our environment. And he walks into a situation where he has the expertise of Lyons and three other majors, John Boenker, Curt Mansell and Mark Taylor - all with over 100 years of police experience under their collective belts.

And down Douglas Street to the FD HQ, the firemen can safely say the same.

Keith Martin will hang up his hat and boots on Sept. 22 after 38 years with the LSFD and hand it, for the time being, to Rick Poeschl, one of many capable and reliable assistant chiefs on the department. And Poeschl will do what Lyons did in the interim - run the department and maintain the level of service we expect.

So, like many towns around that 100,000, we find ourselves in occasional transition.

In the case of Lee's Summit, though, we are fortunate.

Services to our community in the most crucial areas never take a break due to leadership changes and we commit ourselves to finding the absolute best to lead our forces.

Birthday madness

[polldaddy poll=8271149]AddyBday Perhaps the most amusing part of throwing outlandish birthdays for our children is that we openly complain about the majesty of it all to any adults within earshot throughout the course of the event.

"Can you believe we do this?" we will ask one another. "Back in our day..."

Indeed, back in our day...

Birthdays are, of course, awesome as kids, no matter how titanic or low-key the party.

Cake. Gifts. Friends. Games. I mean, come on, it's built in fun.

My most memorable birthday as a child was the surprise I had when my mom drove me to one of the greatest places, at the time, a kid could get lucky enough to enjoy - Showbiz Pizza Place. Inside were a dozen of my best friends, my siblings and family. Oh, and wall-to-wall video games (this was the 80s so it was nonstop Mrs. Pac-Man, Moon Patrol and Donkey Kong for me), pizza and those creepy bears and other assorted animals that played in a band behind the curtain.

As an adult, now, we seemingly look for the most outrageous ways to say "happy birthday" to our children. And maybe outrageous isn't the correct word. Certainly, though, we can agree that our parents and grandparents are most likely snickering at the massive events we are throwing today.

Addy loves a good birthday party. And a good wedding. She's like her dad in that regard.

In the last few weeks, she's been fortunate enough to be invited to a "princess party" for a friend's daughter and a 1-year old extravaganza out at Legacy Park in Lee's Summit.

The princess party, if I can look at that through the eyes of the 4-, 5-, 6-year olds, had to have been just spectacular to them. The fact that you can "rent" princesses is something that I chalked up to "things John didn't know." But these two ladies had captivated the room the entire time, telling stories, doing activities and giving the little girls makeovers.

Since the 1-year old wasn't quite ready for that, the party at the park was a little more subdued, if not outright fun, still. These parents opted to entertain the adults as well as the kids, offering food and drinks and the built-in bonus of having right there in a park.

When Addy turned 2, we hit up the birthday party wonderland, Paradise Park, for that occasion.

At 3, it was a bouncy castle in my backyard and catered food from Hy-Vee East in Lee's Summit.

Just around the corner now is 4. I am sure Addy's mom has some fun plans up her sleeve. And it will probably involve ponies.

I am certainly not bemoaning the new world of birthdays and kiddos. I am sure this isn't a fad that just started a few years ago. It's just all over my radar now with a child of my own.

I told Addy recently that one of her birthdays was just going to be cake and games at the house.

She asked, "Can my friends come?"

A gentle reminder about what really matters most to them.

School's out ... past summer

FergusonSchool [polldaddy poll=8256736]

Hundreds of kids are getting an extended summer break in Ferguson, Missouri.

It's not a break they want.

While teenagers in other communities may openly scoff at the notion that Ferguson has yet to come off of summer break, the sentiment among most kids here is that, indeed, they are ready to go back to school.

Allisha and A'Nais, both 9, attend Johnson Wabash Elementary School in the Ferguson-Florissant School District.

Both took advantage of the open library time this week made available when school officials felt compelled to cancel classes until at least next week due to the unrest in Ferguson connected to the officer-involved shooting of Michael Brown. Brown died during an altercation with Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson.

School was actually supposed to start the week before. But was pushed back. And back. And back again.

And while the adults outside of the library work to calm the community, the children inside have a simple message - open school back up.

"Sitting at home is boring," Allisha said, the room around her buzzing with creative and artistic energy.

Added A'Nais, "I hate it. I would rather be in school to learn."

These are canned answers during a media blitz interview, either. These are the most candid of thoughts from the residents of Ferguson and surrounding areas that are the most affected by the turmoil.

"I went to a rally and it's not as bad as it looks on the news," Allisha said. "This is not a bad town. They have parties for us to go to."

Indeed, Ferguson does much to encourage health play and children's activities.

The city has been named to the Playful City USA program - four times, more than any other city in Missouri. The awards go to cities that take bold steps to ensure that children have easy access to a balance of active play in their communities.

Amairis, 11, is having a blast at the library on this particular day, making braids and bracelets. But she, too, misses school. And she has a most poignant message for those out on the streets.

"I want them to sit down and talk it out," she said, a smile replaced on her face with seriousness.

Teachers and parents alike would like nothing more. Dr. Gloria and Laura, who helped bring kids in from the street corner to the library, said there is a definite void in the community with school out. And it reaches other communities, too, as the Ferguson-Florissant School District reaches into Berkeley, Florissant and touches other areas.

"We're confused, sad, kind of resigned," said Laura, a 24-year resident in North County and a 13-year teacher in the district. Gloria said not being in school is "disorienting."

"The dialogue needs to start and healing needs to begin," Laura said. "Public opinion is overriding the process."

This is Ferguson ... right here

[polldaddy poll=8255793][polldaddy poll=8255793] Janeatha Evans and her daughter used to live in the Canfield Green Apartments.

She's lived in Ferguson, Missouri, for five years now, having moved from another location in North County.

And on this day, she joins a dozen parents, grandparents, teachers and more than 60 children at the Ferguson Municipal Public Library to bring some normalcy to their lives.

Evans, like many in Ferguson, are adamant about what their community is. And what it is not.

"It's not this," Evans said, quickly adding, "This is Ferguson ... right here."

Evans moves her hands about as if to encompass the entire room of education and opportunity. And in every way, she's right. Ferguson, at a little over 21,000 residents, may be two-thirds black. And it may have a disproportionate amount of white-to-black police officers. But on this day, in this library, everyone colors, plays, talks and sits side-by-side while anger brews a mile away.

Evans worries about her daughter and her future in the community, as it relates to police, specifically.

"She's scared of cops; I don't want her to be," Evans said.

Outside influences have hampered so many parts of this process that those dug into the community feel like their sense of themselves is slipping away.

Many news outlets, including Fox News, are reporting that of the 78 people arrested Aug. 18 during protests on W. Florissant Ave. in Ferguson, only four were from that town, with many showing IDs from Illinois and Texas.

Dr. Gloria has been a teacher in the area for 50 years, many as a vocal instructor in the Ferguson-Florissant School District. She and a fellow teacher helping at the library, Laura, were out front ushering in neighborhood kids to a learning environment graciously offered up by the public library and organized by Carrie Pace and many volunteers.

Gloria says there is too much outside influence.

"President Obama, now Eric Holder is coming...it's too much," she said. "Has it really come to that?"

Added, Laura, "All of the sudden we don't know how to handle ourselves?"

Sandy Jablonski, a Ferg-Flor aide in attendance with her granddaughter, Grace, has lived in Ferguson since 1981, with all four kids going through the schools.

"We've been through tornadoes and picked up, cleaned up after that," she said.

Evans is ready to take back her city.

"It's not a thing about black and white," she says. "This is a community thing."

The library of solace

The kids have names. Identities. All of them. They miss school. They know what's going on outside, perhaps not the gravity of it all. But they know one thing: school isn't in session and something is awry in the community.

Bearing name tags that read Allisha, Jorge, Bobby, A'Nais, Holly and Jarvon, each sits at an 8-foot table, piecing together jewelry from beads and glitter, or doing science projects with balloons, or quietly putting together a 250-piece puzzle.

Inside the Ferguson Municipal Public Library, things make much more sense than they do a few blocks away.

Here, at 35 North Florissant, learning is the norm, respect is wagered at each table and West Florissant seems a world away.

Just as it should.

If I've learned anything about educators during my many years of education, it's this: they will not stand for complacency.

School's called off for another week in the Ferguson-Florissant School District? Fine. Let's move them to the library, says Mrs. Carrie Pace.

Pace is a fourth year, K-6 Art teacher at Walnut Grove Elementary.

When chaos took over several streets in a town she teachers, she countered with calmness.

And, admittedly, a few tears.

"I went to the library and, maybe, got one sentence out and I was in tears," Pace said through a wide smile. "And he said, 'Absolutely.'"

"He" was Scott Bonner, the library administrator, who gracefully handed over a large conference room for use for all children, no matter where they are from, to use and learn in until life - at least for the residents 6-18 years old, their parents and all educators - gets back to some sense of normalcy.

Pace, all 5-foot of her, is a force in the room. She bounces from table to table, helping with projects, answer questions and taking in a steady stream of media that have finally found the story outside of the riotous streets.

Through the district's Facebook page, Parents For Peace pages and social media tags and right down to teachers holding signs on the streets, Pace was determined to get kids in Ferg-Flor out of their houses and into an educational environment.

The community is richer for people like Pace, Bonner and the kids that are taking the time to do something with their spare time.

And when the school bell rings again, they will be ready to get back to that setting as well.

Oh, God ... I'm acting?

[polldaddy poll=8248577][polldaddy poll=8248577]Godspell I've always enjoyed and appreciated the Biblical musical Godspell.

The music is ingrained in my head as much as so many childhood memories of playing baseball, hide-and-seek, playing tag or the incredibly long summer days.

Believe it or not, I remember the 8-track days. My parents had a console as big as a bookshelf laid horizontally. We would cram the 8-track into place and out would roar "Light of the World," "Turn Back, O Man," "Prepare Ye" and every other track from this brilliant 1971 musical.

I really don't know when it started, why we listened to it so often or when we may have outgrown listening to it. I just know that when I hear a tune from Godspell, I am launched back into the late 70s and early 80s as a child, one of four siblings, living in a small four-plex and surrounding myself (for the little time I was actually inside the house) with music ranging from the Godspell soundtrack to The Police to Styx.

I let Godspell go from my memory for quite a while until I saw a production in the 1990s, the memories and music flooding back to those days, not long ago, tapping my feet to every song and audibly singing "LET'S HAVE SOME WINE!" I am sure those around me appreciated that.

Bearing witness to the finale, for the first time live, was quite an emotional experience. As someone that had only imagined the majesty of the musical though the sounds of an 8-track, seeing the lively and lovely performance live was uplifting, living up to and, indeed, exceeding all I had imagined.

Of course, I had no idea how we closed this play. Coming off of "Beautiful City" things get pretty raw with the crucifying of Jesus, sorrowful wails of "Oh God, I'm dying," and "Long live God."  It's draining, in only a way art through theater can be.

I was honored to be a small part of the Godspell cast during the Summit Theatre Group's summer musical at Lee's Summit Christian Church last week.

I doubt I could live up to the role of Lazarus, or even act my way out of a box, for that matter, but it was grand to be back on the stage. And even grander to see the passion for the music from this talented cast.

This is my second STG production, having starred alongside Trisha Drape in last fall's production of Love Letters. Apparently, former journalists make great stage actors.

My first time on stage, under the direction of Kim Hayes, was at William Chrisman High School in 1991 or so in The Mystery of the Black Abbott. I didn't even have to utter a word, and, boom, "on-stage" points. A few years later, I would appear as an English Bobby in Angel Street.

Yep, another part with no lines.

I do have a soft spot for theater, the time, effort and talents that put in by our high school students, college performers and those around the community, to maintain and mingle in the many benefits we find when we promote and encourage the arts.

Bravo to Ben Martin, his board, the directors (including Miss Phyllis Balagna, who led the charge on Godspell) and all those that have revived community theater in Lee's Summit and for the supporters that help keep it funded.