It’s Not Easy Being Green

We all hope that our kids will choose great role models.  When it comes to this…I may have hit the jackpot.  My 5 year old, Zakary, worships the

Dapper Dans of Disneyland.

Dapper Dans and Zakary

They sing and dance and perform like the professionals they are, on the main street of the most popular amusement park in the world.  No pressure, right?  While maintaining perfect harmonies, cracking silly jokes and tap dancing, they can be faced with all kinds of unpredictable scenarios.

 walking with Dans

One of the benefits of being a Dapper Dan is the gaggle of swooning girls that follow them.  These guys are handsome, and don’t take themselves too seriously, making them incredibly attractive to fans of all ages.  They are nice to tourists, nice to children, they dance with moms and cajole with dads.  They are kind to the strangest of people, even when they are misbehaving and interrupting their performance.  Street performing comes with the challenge of not having the barrier of a traditional stage and seats.  This kind of work is not for the faint of heart.  My son is fascinated by their ability to adapt, and through his eyes, they are super heroes.

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While most 5 year old boys want to leave the house with a cape or a sword, mine now prefers a skimmer hat, some tap shoes, a striped vest and bow tie.  He has learned these duds make the REAL princesses melt, strangers happy, and most of all, he gets to spend a few minutes with the guys looking just like them.  To him, the word Dapper is defined as:  gentlemen who are handsome, powerful, talented and very nice super heroes who can sing and dance, and play this really cool chime thing.

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Did I mention he thinks they are super heroes?

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He loves them all, and doesn’t like to say he has a favorite, but on most days, he will say there is one that he thinks is “just like him.”  Usually this guy is dressed in yellow, sings tenor, and isn’t quite as tall as the other guys.  Zakary noticed this right away, and told me he is just like him.  “Mom, I’m a little bit smaller in my class but I can do everything all the taller boys can, just like the yellow Dapper Dan.”  I’ve had the great pleasure of sharing some of Zakary’s thoughts with this tenor, and he listens like a friend would.  I did share with him we would be coming on a particular day, and that Zakary had requested a photo with just the two of them.

After most sets, the guys take a moment and take pictures with their fans like this one with the lead singer that Zakary is also very fond of.

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What happened next brought so much joy to our family.  While waiting for the Dapper Dans to do one of their shows, I see unprecedented glee come over my child.  My eyes welled up as I see that the “usually in yellow” tenor, was dressed in green, JUST.LIKE.ZAK.  He couldn’t believe his eyes, and I could barely see through mine.


It is one thing to have your child love something so much.  It is completely another when you see that love returned.

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I think it is pretty obvious what is good about this.  What a blessing.

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Is Busy Better?


adjective, bus·i·er, bus·i·est.

1. actively and attentively engaged in work or a pastime: busy with her work.

2. at leisure; otherwise engaged: He couldn’t see any visitors because he was busy.

3. full of or characterized by activity: a busy life.

4. (of a telephone line) in use by a party or parties and not immediately accessible.

5. officious; meddlesome; prying.

People ask me how I am and I often say, “I’m well.  We are crazy busy.”  Today is the day I remove this phrase from my vocabulary.  I have been using it the wrong way.  It seems when we say we are “busy” we are otherwise engaged?  It suggests we are full of activity, not immediately accessible, and meddlesome or prying???  No, no people…I am not busy.

Military wives know the phrase, “Busy is Better.”  This is a motto that helps families survive deployments.  The suggestion is made that if you keep your calendar full and your days and nights packed with work, play and socializing, the time will go quickly until your spouse comes home.  It’s true.  It works.  I have done it.  At that time busy was, indeed, “better.”

I’m still losing this word.  Yesterday was a perfect example of, “Wow you guys are crazy busy!”  The day started with an 8:00am tee ball game.  My husband is the coach, so we cannot roll in at 7:59.  We were up and at them early, and by 9:00 were cheering 2-4-6-8…!  We returned home to make sure all 6 of us were bathed, dressed and packed for the rest of the day.  We stopped for gas, and headed to the Pacific Palisades for a special luncheon recognizing my daughter and some other great young ladies.  Beach traffic can be a bear, and there was an emergency on the way, so we were in the car for an hour.  That hour allowed us to sing the “Happy”song out loud, laugh at my son singing Frozen songs at the top of his lungs with his headphones on, and more than once, I heard my two teenagers actually talking and laughing together.  The lunch was pleasant, photos taken, and we headed out.  Our next place was to Orange County.  Here we dropped off oldest daughter and five year old for a few hours of Disneyland.   He had written a book for the Dapper Dans and wanted to deliver it.  This worked as we also had 4 free tickets to a nearby arena football game.  In usual big family fashion, we divided and conquered. While 2 went off to the happy place, 4 of us experienced the new LA Kiss scene. It was something to see (once). After the game, we put the baby in his pj’s.  When we arrived back to Disneyland to pick up the other two kids, we were informed of a delay. So, husband went to pick up some dinner while I took the baby inside to Disneyland. In his pj’s, baby was able to have a few moments of mouse magic and I was able to see one of my daughter’s best friends being “friends with Minnie.”  Priceless.  We then piled in the car and headed home, snarfing some tacos, talking, and yes, the “Happy” song came on again. We all danced and sang it out, mini-van style.

Some of you are exhausted just reading this.  I may need a nap after writing it.  The point is that is wasn’t a “busy” day.  It was a day full of family, love, photos, car rides, laughs, cheers, questions, answers, hugs, kisses, dancing, singing, and LIVING.

I’m not crazy busy.  I’m crazy living.  This, my friends, is a good thing.


Malodorous Motherhood

Motherhood is rarely glamorous.  I don’t think anyone is under the impression that it is.  I look back on myself pre-motherhood and I see make up on my face, great outfits, and great shoes.  I remember starting to scale down the make-up when I had my first child, nearly 17 years ago.  I didn’t like when I snuggled her and make-up would smudge on her.  So, I saved make-up for date nights or outings or work.  It’s been a long time, and I’ve become completely comfortable and secure in choosing when I do, and do not, want to get my glam on.

All of these years later I am able to get through my day without frustration that I couldn’t bathe, or maybe didn’t have time to wash my hair.  I have my routines that keep all fresh and rosy, and some days that just has to do.

The other day I changed a mahonga of a dirty diaper.  It was the kind that you just kept thinking, wow.  How does all of THAT come out of this precious little person?  I cleaned it up and got him on his way.  He’s in that squirmy stage, so diaper changes can be like a cage match.  After I was done,  I kept sniffing, smelling that unfortunate smell long after I should.  I emptied and Lysol’d the diaper pail.  I checked my fingernails (parents know what I’m talking about) and I washed my hands more than once.  Still…linger.  I pulled the cover off the changing pad, through all of his laundry in the wash, and sprayed some air freshener.  I was stumped.  Nothing was touching the power of this particular poo.

I started to have an overwhelming moment and was completely in despair of the lack of glamour in my life.  I went upstairs to put on a face scrub that tends to be my one second of sanity in my day.  I puttered around and did a few things first.  I’m still scrambling and looking to see if maybe the dog made a mess?  Is a toilet clogged?  What the heck?

Then, with scrub in hand I look in the mirror.  Never, in my life, have I ever felt MORE like a mother.  The mystery was solved as I discovered the source of the lingering smell, right on the tip of my nose.  I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

I chose to laugh.  It is a small price to pay for the love and joy these children bring to me.

Yes, I let my face scrub stay on just a wee bit longer this time, and exfoliated… twice!


Save It For a Rainy Day

As I write this, it is pouring down rain.  The window is glistening with crystal-like raindrops, the tree leaves are swinging to-and-fro, and the sky is an unfamiliar shade of white.  Living in Southern California, we are strangers to weather.  It jolts us, overwhelms us, and makes us drive badly.  We suck at rain.

This has been an especially harsh winter for most of our country.  I have family members on the East Coast desperate to get out of sub-zero temperatures and more snow than I could ever begin to comprehend.  Their daily struggles include things like school being closed, cars not starting, propane not delivered and the pile up of many children and animals in small quarters with no escape.

I’ve learned to consider these things when our STORM WATCH starts here in Los Angeles.  Yes, trees fall down and block roads.  Yes, no one remembers to clean their gutters and everything backs up.  Yes, the roads are super slick because they have been dry with oil all year.  No, we can’t find our umbrellas or our rain slickers. Those wellies we bought last year on sale at Target are cracked and have holes in them because we used them all summer to garden or pick up dog doo.

Today I woke up early to drive to three schools (usually two take the bus) and try to keep the kids dry.  As I descended my street, I noticed the street gutters rushing with water.  It was coming down hard, and I got drenched simply by walking from the driveway to my porch.

I stood and thought how badly we needed this water to fall from the sky and how grateful I am for it.  I know half the city is frustrated beyond belief.  I just feel like this.


Dapper Delight

My dad and I did some cool things together when I was a kid.  He used to take me to interesting things like the Scottish Highland Games. We spent many early mornings at Motocross tracks. If our family wasn’t on Soccer fields, ballet class or some other outdoor adventure, we might be found watching some Saturday morning television.  I remember some unique things on the television, as well.  My mom would come downstairs to find us watching Professional Bowling, or one of my favorites, the National Barbershop Quartet competition. I think my dad sang in his youth, and he loves the sound of an old-fashioned quartet.

Never in my dreams did I imagine I would be spending so much time with a quartet.  My 5 year old son is in love with a pretty famous one.  The Dapper Dans of Disneyland can be found on Main Street, USA every day entertaining and bringing joy to those wandering or stopping to hear them sing.  They had Zak at hello, and a friend of my daughter was so impressed with his youthful, honest love for them that he made him his very own Dapper Dan outfit.  It is supremely authentic and is quite the crowd pleaser.

The sweetest thing is that it isn’t a typical child having affection for a character.  True, Zak loves Peter Pan, Pirates, Super Heroes and all things boy.  There is something about the Dans that speaks to Zakary’s heart.  Last week, after they performed one of their sets, they said their good-byes and as the dapper quartet walked away, Zak said, “Mom, those are the coolest guys…ever.” 

Zak has learned that being a little Dapper Dan, or as he is known on the internet, #dapperzak, comes with some responsibility.  People stop him for photos constantly.  The Dapper Dan’s are gentleman, and Zakary is doing his best to emulate. While most kids are whining, picking their noses, annoying their siblings or pouting while waiting in line for a ride, Zak may be posing for photos with squealing girls, sweet old ladies and serious Disney fans.

We knew yesterday would be a big deal, as it was one of the official “Dapper Days” at the park.  Hundreds of people were strolling into the park in their stepping out clothes and looking mighty dapper.  Zak was asked for photos at least 50 times, and he obliged ever.single.time.  Never have we seen such big crowds at the Dapper Dan sets and after each set, people would ask the quartet for a photo, and then they would make a second stop, to ask for one with Zak.  It was surreal.

Now you can’t work a 5 year old like a circus monkey without some fun and rewards.  We managed the precious Matterhorn, and got fast passes for Star Tours and Space Mountain, saw some princesses and parades and usual Disney magic.

When I woke this morning, I looked in his eyes and got misty. He asked me why my eyes were watering and I told him how much I loved him and how proud I was of him yesterday.  He told me how much fun he had, and that he was excited to do it again.  I asked him if he realized how much happiness he brought to so many people.  He said, “No. Why did I bring people happiness?”  I said, “People really like the Dapper Dans buddy.  It makes them really happy to see such a young fan.”  He said, “Oh, ok. Well, I’m Dapper Zak, and I’m just being myself.”  I smiled, kissed him, and thought to myself, “Exactly.” 




photo credit: Maya Novicki

Dapper Zak pictured with the Dapper Dans of Disneyland, and Nam Mai, our friend who hand made the costume. 

Pinky’s and Ears and Teeth OH MY!

Sometimes we all need a gratitude check.  I feel like I’m sinking a bit.  I have so much on my to-do list today along with regular everyday life that I had to stop and breathe.  When your daily life spans from buying diapers to registering for SAT’s, it’s complicated.  I’ve never been afraid of the complication, but this week (it’s only Tuesday) has me a little overwhelmed.

I think it really started last week, or the week before that.  Honestly, maybe somewhere in the holiday it all became a big blur.  I’m dealing with some physical pain of my own, and that’s boring, but waiting for next step with doc etc.  While managing my own pain, my husband decides it is a GREAT time to get the jacked up flu that is wreaking havoc on everyone.  Oh, and of course, he took this crazy production job for a few weeks, so that coincides beautifully.  He leaves at wee hours of the am, comes home completely wrecked and goes straight to bed.  He feels horrible, physically, and even worse that he cannot help me with our vida loca.

What is so crazy?  Let’s start with child number one breaking her pinky finger over holiday break.   It’s just a pinky how bad can it be?  A cast from her fingers to her elbow has put a huge dent in “Maya do the dishes!  Maya can you grab the baby for me?”  Don’t get me wrong we have a few things she can still help out with and she does.  She is usually the one who needs no assistance, and suddenly is someone else in the house requiring care.  “Mom can you help me button this, Mom can you wash my hair for me, Mom can you…”  Deep breath.

Yesterday my five year old calls me from school crying in pain.  Ear. Urgent Care. Infection.  Awesome.

Now all of this is usually a day in the life but genius me had another baby so while ALL of this is going on, I’m dealing with the orangutan-like nature of a 9 month old baby.  He is cutting his top two teeth.  Obviously every moment of sleep is precious gold for both of us. We can’t sleep upstairs in our bedroom because daddy is so sick we don’t want to be too close and we wake up every time he coughs. So, we have been sleeping downstairs on the couch and in the swing, for the last 10 days!  Every night when everyone else retires one at a time to the upstairs bedrooms, I brace myself for the night to come in our downstairs babydom.

I’ve been grumpy about this…until today.  I woke up feeling like I may have got an hour or two more sleep.  I think my husband and big kids left out the back door this morning, so that they didn’t risk waking me or the baby up?  Or was I just sleeping that hard?  I don’t know.  All I know is I didn’t hear them leave.  I’m not rushing to and from school today.  I’m not sure I will leave the house at all.  Instead, I’m making sure everyone, including myself, gets a little rest and relaxation.  This has allowed me to let the gratitude in, and the frustration out.

I realize how much of a gift a little pain or illness can be.  I certainly realize how grateful I am for my daughter and how much she really does help with her little brothers. I’m grateful that the one really healthy kid, my 14 year old, is always willing to lend a hand, and cares.   I’m more grateful for my husband than ever.  I didn’t realize how much he contributed at home until he couldn’t contribute at all.  This leads me to gratitude for all of our health.  These little hiccups are temporary, and I needed the reminder that above all, to be deeply grateful for the health and well-being of our little family.

I would be even more grateful if I could get some sleep in my own bed.  We will work on that 😉

101 Year Dash

This week, we lost my 101 year old Grandmother, aka Nanny.  She was the matriarch of a large and still growing family, and it seems now like it is the end of an era.  She was the mother of five beautiful women, Joan, Diana, Gilberta (my mom), Linda and Eddie.  Each family extends quite far, some to five generations. 

My cousin delivered a eulogy at the service that resonated in the most beautiful way.  She asked, “How do you live your dash?”  1912-2013, your life is that dash.  How do you live it?  How do you spend it?  With whom do you spend it with? 

My Nanny taught my mom, and my mom taught me, the value of being present.  I have accomplished a few things in this life, but the most important to me is that of being present for those I love.  I learned that this doesn’t always have to be a physical presence, either.  Caring for others and being there for them in any way I can is the value her dash taught me.

I have fond memories of her taking my two closest cousins and me to Traveland, a place that used to sell RV’s and trailers, but had a playground and ice cream.  She made us oatmeal, laughed with us, and rarely got angry.  The clink of her candy dish is something even my own children got to know and love.  There was nothing she wanted more than kisses from babies.  Her 101 year old wisdom reminded me what was most important.  She probably wanted a fancier house, a nicer car, more jewelry, to have traveled more and more money to leave to her five girls.  What her own dash taught her was that she had it ALL.  She had what money could not buy.  She had all of us. 

My grandfather, her husband known as Pa, died in 1988.  Most elderly people don’t live long once they lose their spouse.  Nanny lived twenty-five years past her spouse!!!  How is that even possible?  I believe it was her legacy of being present.  She was there for us for as long as she could be.  That became all of us being there for her.  I will admit her genetics and good health played a huge part in that longevity.  I think we all know how much our minds can control how healthy we can be, and she was a perfect example.  She had a great deal to live for, so she chose to live.  She LIVED until her poor little heart and brain just couldn’t tick any more.

In honor of Nanny and her five wonderful girls, I ask you…how will you live your dash?

I, like in this photo my beautiful daughter took, will attempt to be a reflection of her.  


The Way I See It…

I have become quite fascinated by the idea that we all see things so differently.  It is my observation that we are most hard on ourselves.  On a daily basis I have someone in my home putting themself down, me trying to encourage them to see it differently, which is usually met by rolling eyes or a big, fat whatever.  Then there is my own criticism of everything me.  That is met with others throwing my positive outlook right back at me.  It’s hilarious.  


This is a photo my mother took moments after my fourth child was born.  We thought it was a beautiful slice of life moment, and I sent it to a company to put it on canvas.  When the canvas arrived I was shocked at how large it actually was, and I hesitated to hang it up.  With encouragement, I went ahead and hung it on our stairwell in a beautiful frame under its own light.  Total commitment.  The first couple times walking by I was startled.  My husband and I kept laughing and saying, “It is really big.” I then admitted when I walked by all I saw was my big, huge, triple chin.  He shook his head and said, “I don’t see that. I see all of my gray hair.”  Then my best friend walked in, and I asked her what she saw.  “Love.  A really happy family, in love with a precious, perfect baby.”   Go figure.  

Then it came up again.  My husband recently shot a commercial where he knew he was a cast as someone handsome, a little overweight and running to get back in shape.

When he saw this on our 60 inch television he gasped.  All he could see was the size he looked while running.  Funny, all I could see (read with a school girl giggle) was my hot hunky husband got a big close up and looked super handsome.  

Potato, potaaato.  

My best friend is the same.  She has been through hell and back with breast cancer and her chest is a serious science project.  The struggle and journey deserves its own blog, but I’ll tell you this.  She posted this picture on Facebook and moved many people.  I know her well, and I know when she looks at this picture she sees the scar from one of her two mastectomys. That isn’t what we see.  We see her beautiful eyes that tell her story of courage, bravery, sadness, frustration, hope, light and love, loving hands holding her, and the photo invokes so much beauty it’s hard handle.  A wounded warrior…not a “scar.”   



Then there is my incredibly self-conscious has no idea how beautiful she really is daughter.  She loves Disneyland and all things Disney and has a crew of friends she hangs out with there.  They love her, and see how wonderful and beautiful she is.  For Halloween she dressed up as Belle from Beauty and the Beast.  When she sees these girls who play the princesses, she sees perfection in their button noses and bowtie lips.  (Many of them look exactly the same.  They are lovely, but the same.) She explained to me she would NEVER be cast as a princess, and then gestured to her nose.  I know she hates her nose, it’s the same one I hated when I was her age, and she’s not going to hear me if I say, “It is a nice nose, and unless you plan to be a super model, the nose will not hold you back from a single thing in life.  No one thinks you have a big nose except you.” She would not hear it, she wouldn’t get it.  Then she goes and has a photo taken that looks like this.   


I wish for just one day everyone I know would be kinder to themselves.  Look in the mirror and decide what is good about it, and focus on that.  I’ll try it if you will, too. 


Photo credits:  Best Friend:  Lori Fusaro, Marisa O’Brien;  Belle:  Nam Mai, Maya Novicki


Just Smile

My four year old son was recently diagnosed with a fairly common, but incredibly sensitive problem.  He had a Meatal Stenosis, which required a procedure called Meatoplasty.  He was in pain for a long time, and we were grateful to finally be able to have it taken care of after several pediatrician and specialist visits.  I don’t think my husband or I slept more than an hour or so the night before.  We had the typical parent-worried-sick thing going on.  In the dark hours of the morning, we woke to Zakary being very excited.  I couldn’t comprehend that he was happy.  You would have thought we were heading to Disneyland.  He knew things were a big deal, as Grammie walked in the door at 7am to help us with baby brother.  We were off to Children’s Hospital, and we were going to do this thing.

As you can imagine, there was a great deal of hurry up and wait.  We arrived and checked in and then sat with several other parents and kids who were scheduled at the Ambulatory Surgery Center.  Disney Jr. was on the tv, daddy and I were quiet and nervous, and Zak looked like this.


We finally get called to Pre-Op and he is super excited to find Tiger themed pajamas waiting for him.  He enthusiastically changed into them and cooperated with nurses and doctors and vitals and taking a drink to “relax” him.  Then, we read some books.  We knew the moment they would take him was growing closer, daddy and I got more quiet and more stressed. We kept that worry to ourselves. We smiled, so, he smiled…


In a matter of minutes they came to take him. To date, I’m pretty sure it was super high on the “most difficult moments of my life” list.  As I watched a surgical nurse and anesthesiologist wheel him one way, we got directed another.  We walked down the hallway to the parent waiting room and I couldn’t breathe. I had to stop and think about all of the other parents who walked the same walk, and most of them with far more serious procedures.  When we arrived we were met with a few more sets of worried parent faces, and it was then I realized we would all continue to smile, for each other.  There was an amazing system and screen updating us on the procedure every step of the way, and less than 30 minutes later, the Dr. walked in and gave us the high sign that all went well.  Overwhelmed with relief, we still kept smiling. There were other parents in there after all, and they hadn’t received their thumbs up yet.  We were called to recovery, and our smiles were met with this.

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These are the moments that chill you to the bone.   It was in this moment that no matter how much we all smiled, we knew this was serious business and he had been through something.  As I held back my tears, I didn’t look my husband in the eye as I knew then I wouldn’t be able to hold it together. Moments later, he woke up.  We smiled at him, and we were met with this face.

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It was if he knew that we were super worried, and he knew he had this handled all along.  He was smiling for us instead of the other way around.  He continued his recovery without a tear or a complaint.  The delicate procedure has some delicate follow up, and most kids would scream every time we had to deal with it.  He takes a deep breath, says it “stings” a little, and then…he smiles again.

Before we knew it we were headed to Super Grammie and Aunt Ri who had it all handled at home.  It was a true gratitude day.  Especially for him.  He got tipsy, TWO popsicles and a wheel chair ride…and all before noon!

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Whales don’t eat Clownfish, they eat Krill

My son had quite the challenge with a freshman football team this week.  Let me say…it took everything I had to hold back and not unleash the beast  to some football coaches.  This mama knows better, and knew I had to let him work it out.  He unloaded some serious emotion on the way home from practice the other day, and my mind and heart were racing. 

I admired the fact that he wanted to play football.  I love football, and I relate to the game.  Anyone I talk to is completely shocked that he is playing.  He is the smart kid, not the jock kid.  Well, he wants to be an everything kid, and I really dig that about him. 

When he came to me venting frustration about racism within the team (the reverse kind) I had to just zip my lip and listen.  He is the intelligent, skinny, white kid on a nearly all African-American football team.  We knew it would be a rocky road for him, and at first it was going well.  Then he had to miss hell week practice due to an important family wedding.  This set him back.  Suddenly, he felt coaches were ignoring him, players were making fun of him, and being called “Sunshine” or “Snowflake” was wearing thin. 

At Kindergarten drop off today, a teacher asked how my older son was doing.  She loves him, and was excited to hear how he was handling his vigorous academic load with grace and straight A’s.  I told her he was also playing football and she seemed stunned.  When I told her he had some frustrations with it, she reminded me of something so poignant it stopped me dead in my tracks.  She said, “I used to pray so hard for all my students in high school that nothing bad happened to them and they didn’t have bad experiences.  Then I realized how silly that was.  If nothing ever happened to them, how would they learn and grow?” 

I was immediately transcended to one of my favorite movies of all time. 

Marlin: “I have to find Nemo.  I promised him I’d never let anything happen to him.”

Dory: “That’s a funny thing to promise.  Well, you can’t never let anything happen to him, then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun for little Harpo.” 



Dory was right.  Harpo is fine.  Apparently coach DID know his name, he DID get to play, the team came together as a TEAM come game time, and I will not have to take a trip down the EAC.  

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