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Saying Farewell to A Dog and His Blanket.

Last Thursday evening I had to make the painfully difficult decision to let Charlie go meet God. His last month has been a real struggle and in the end his organs were failing him. That happens with thirteen year old dogs. Maybe he just thought he needed to go be with Maddie up in Heaven after last Saturday since he knew she was always anxious about being alone. My heart is broken. It is devastating.
I remember when I first met Charlie four years ago. He was the barkiest dog in the kennel. He was “Cage Crazy”. He was also already nine years old –so he was well through the better part of his life already. Old dogs are not a big hit in shelters. Several weeks later Bonnie from the Humane Society asked if I would foster him as his time was up and they had exhausted all other avenues. He was the last of several dozen rescued from a hoarder situation that had not been picked. It was the absolute worst day possible for me to take him since Residence Hall opening was the next day. I agreed…
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Final Ride for a Princess

Last night when I got the phone call that we were going to have to say goodbye forever to Maddie I cried. Twelve years ago we saved her just moments before she was going to be put down. Her shelter name was Sally. I remember how incredibly happy we were. We had gone to go look at another dog and it just didn’t work out when we were told about this sweet girl that was in the very last kennel in the back. I remember how scared she was then. Her tail was tucked between her legs and she was anxious. She got a long with Max so we began our adventure together. It was one of the happiest days of my life.
Since then Maddie has been an integral part of our life. Anyone that owns dogs knows they are family. The funny part was I was the one that really wanted a second dog as a companion to Max but when we brought Maddie home she instantly formed and unbreakable bond with her human mom. They have been inseparable ever since.
Before getting old she loved play fighting with Max and swimming in t…

JB's Second Annual "Airing of the Grievance" List

It is that time of year again for the annual “Airing of the Grievances” Festivus blog. So much material, so little time. I will try not to get too political and stick to things that have come up in everyday life or over the the past calendar year. Though I will no doubt wander off course at some point. I may even throw in a couple of personal ‘annoyances” that don't rise to the level of a full on grievance. So let’s get this party started. As always a big thanks to the “Founder of our Feast”----Frank Costanza, without whom we wouldn’t have this glorious holiday.
First up the NFL. I know it is a shock that there is something happening with the League that would make this list. Count me among the guys that will be on the front porch when I am eighty yelling at the paper boy. I am a true curmudgeon, so in that vein I am sick and tired of the pre-choreographed end zone celebrations that have exploded all over the NFL this year. Feel free to make me President of the No Fun League club…

Remembering George H.W. Bush since the Journey of my First Vote: Thoughts on Family, Friendship, Loyalty, Service, and Community.

I have done a great deal of contemplating since George H.W. Bush passed on to another world this past week. When he ran for President in 1988 it was the first election I had the privilege to vote in, having just turned eighteen a few months earlier.My Grandfather had been in elected office for my entire life so walking in parades, wearing buttons, and placing political yard signs was second nature. That fall I had just gone off to college at Eastern Illinois University and was experiencing all the transition that come from being away from home for the first time.
It was announced that the Bush/Quayle ticket would be making a campaign stop in Charleston. I remember skipping class to attend. There is nothing quite like seeing the political process up close and personal. I cast my first ever Presidential vote for candidate George Herbert Walker Bush. I felt like I was a real grown up by performing my civic duty for the first time. Time has flown by since then and so have many elections,…

There is No Place Like Home

Tomorrow is the annual “Town and Gown Celebration that takes place each year between Macomb and Western Illinois University. It is a great event that highlights the importance of how much each of our successes are intertwined with one another as a city and university. The last several years have been challenging to say the least. The failure to get a state budget for Higher Education has starved institutions across the state, of which WIU and Macomb were not spared. Amidst all the financial craziness, it has given me pause to reflect on all the good things that have taken place through these challenging times for our community.
Until one really sits down and looks back on things, it is easy to forget all the great happenings taking place all around us every day, as well as all the ways we have come together as a community. Like any family we have our quarrels and do our share of bickering. In fact, we just came out of a very tough local election cycle where there was tremendous pass…

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: A Case for Norine Hammond

No good deed goes unpunished. Norine Hammond’s punishment is getting “primaried” by her own party because she didn’t fall into lock step with the Governor this past summer when she voted her “district” and supported a budget that would stem the tide of starvation taking place in Higher Education across the state. She had little choice but to do so (as did her colleagues in other university towns)  since Western Illinois University is in the center of her district and has a tremendous economic and cultural impact on the region as a whole.
It never ceases to amaze me that voters pretend to want Representatives to vote their districts while using common sense and not always toeing the party line. Then you get someone that does just that and she is rewarded by having her pathway to re-election made more difficult. Worse yet, the guy they brought in to be at the end of the “Chicago Puppet Strings” doesn’t even invest in himself. Ninety-five percent of his campaign money has come from a Poli…

JB's Inaugural Festivus "Airing of Grievances" List

Twenty years ago on December 18th 1997 the world was first exposed to the holiday of Festivus. It was invented on a Seinfeld episode titled “The Strike”. In the show George and Frank Constanza introduce us to their unorthodox celebration of Christmas---which occurs every December 23rd. My Brother and Sisters have gathered together on this day for several years now. Festivus has a traditional meal but then includes such activities as “Feats of Strength” and “Airing of Grievances” ---all around an aluminum Festivus pole. It has become very much part of the “Pop Culture” here in this country.
In that vein I have decided to publish my inaugural “Air of Grievances” list. I will limit myself to a limited amount of topics so as not to alienate all of society.  So tonight I would like to thank George and Frank Constanza for giving us a very fun way to celebrate the holiday. I wish you all a Happy Festivus and New Year. Enjoy the list--- but remember I have a lot of problems with you people”

"Last Call" for Higgins Hall

Tomorrow morning Higgins Hall will cast a shadow for the last time on the skyline of Western Illinois University’s west side of campus. After standing tall for fifty years as the tallest building in McDonough County, it is time to lay her to rest after a life served well.  Built in 1967, Higgins was made to hold 1200 residents with twenty floors including a penthouse dining hall on the nineteenth floor. Tens of thousands of students and fifty years later it will get its “Last Call” when the bell tolls nine in the morning.
When Higgins opened its doors Lyndon Johnson was the Time “Man of the Year’.  Songs like Aretha Franklin’s “Respect”, “To Sir with Love” by Lulu, and “The Letter” by the Box Tops were topping the Billboard charts. “The Graduate”, “Cool Hand Luke”, and the “Dirty Dozen” were popular at the movies. Doritos made its entrance onto the world stage. “Andy Griffin”, “The Lucy Show”, and “Gunsmoke” were smash television hits. Civil unrest wasn’t far away in 1968 with assass…

Saying Goodbye to the Barrister

C. Don Weston Eulogy
There is an old Mark Twain quote that goes---“Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry”----That quote has never been more true than today. This past week the world lost a Husband, a Father, a Grandfather, a Brother, and a Dear Friend---and Macomb lost a True Treasure. C. Don Weston was an iconic presence in this town. Always out and about at a game, banquet, or event. There are some folks you meet in life that are just good people. He was one of those guys.  He represents a great era that is fading away from us far too quickly. An old school guy whose life bridged over four generations.
When you think about the span of his lifetime and think about what he lived though and what he saw from a historical standpoint it makes you stop and think. He was born in February of 1933 which was the worst year of the depression, when unemployment was at all time high of 25%. The Dow Jones is over 20,000 as we sit here today. He live…

I Have Never Gone to a Funeral Like Today's

I have been to a lot of funerals (I spent some time living in a funeral home when I was young) but I have never gone to a funeral like today. I watched all my grandparents buried and have lost several classmates over the years but I have never gone to a funeral like today. I have never been to a funeral where at the end the widow walks out with a flag and her two young sons walk out with an ax and their Dad’s fire helmet. I have never been at a funeral where the recession was led by a bag pipe player---and I have certainly never been at a funeral where the local Fire House Call Center patches in one last “Call” through the church sound system (I still have chills sitting here typing this thinking about it). I have never heard a more heart felt letter written by a grieving wife and I have never been to a funeral where my poker buddy was laying in the casket. I have also never been to a funeral where my friend decided to take his own life.
Many knew Andy much better than I did, but as…

A Blond Bombshell that Stole and Broke my Heart

Editors Note: I penned this blog a year ago and for lots of personal reasons have not shared it until now. The day I went and picked up Missy I met my current dog Charlie---who I adopted three weeks after Missy's last big weekend adventure. I thought he was too "barky"  at the time when I  first saw him. Little did I know that he was just cage crazy form the shelter. Now he is more of a roommate than a pet. Good things can come from bad situations. 
I have always been a sucker for a pretty woman. A weakness I will probably always suffer. This past week seemed to reinforce that when I was introduced to a beautiful blond bombshell with long legs and a killer personality.  She was the kind of girl that you are lucky enough to cross paths with once or twice in and lifetime if you are lucky and causes you to fall in love at first sight.  She stole my heart immediately. The aforementioned starlet with movie star looks happened to be a gorgeous German Shepherd named Missy.  One…

Returning Home 25 Yeas Later: A Lavender Graduation Commencement Speech

Editors note: The following is a speech recently delivered at Eastern Illinois University or Lavender Graduation by my dear friend Danny Mueller, who was a Resident Assistant at the same time as I was at EIU in the early nineties. He was an excellent RA then and has gone on to become a fantastic educator, winning Teacher of the Year at the elementary school where he teaches at in St.Louis. Danny gave me permission to post his speech on this blog so others could share in his message. I am proud to do so.

Good Evening Everyone
I would first like to begin by thanking Brad Green for having the confidence in my speaking abilities to ask me to speak to you this year and also to Jody Stone for finding me a place to stay on campus this evening when there wasn’t a hotel room for miles around.  I would also like to thank Benjamin Wilburn, who through many Facebook conversations, helped me decide what to wear.  When dealing with someone like me, it really does take a village.
Before I get too far i…