One blog post that’s been 489 days in the making

“If you are going through hell, keep going.” — Winston Churchill

I’ve been wanting to write this blog post for the past 489 days.  One year and four months; 42,249,600 seconds; 704,160 minutes; 11,736 hours; 69 weeks (rounded down).  Give or take a few.

English: Programmer
English: Programmer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was one year and four months ago today that I was laid off from my last computer programming job.  How ironic is it, then, that I was officially offered another permanent, full-time job as a computer programmer this morning, 489 days later?  One year and four months later … to the day?

It goes without saying that I accepted the offer.

It’s a good, secure job that should last as long as I’m doing it well … and I’m going to do it well.  It has nothing at all to do with a corporation looking to ship jobs overseas to improve its bottom line, nothing at all to do with a venture capital company looking to make millions more than they already are and laying off people like so many faceless numbers in the process while they’re suddenly left to wonder what’s going to happen to them and their families in the days, weeks, perhaps years to come.

A Utah Transit Authority Trax light rail vehic...
A Utah Transit Authority Trax light rail vehicle traveling south on the green line in downtown Salt Lake City. The LRV is a Siemens S70. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s a job that’s much closer to home than my last programming job, which involved a two-hour round trip with some of the most harrowing freeway driving in Utah on a daily basis.  I could hop on a TRAX train nearby and get to and from work once a sparkling new station is opened just a couple of blocks from my new office.  It would take one transfer each way — from a Red Line to a Green Line, Green Line to Red Line.

The job starts March 13.  I can’t wait to get started.  I’ve given two weeks’ notice at the customer service job I was in training for since mid-January, said farewell to some good people there.  Once I’m done taking a drug test and taking care of some new hire paperwork on Friday, I can start to relax even more — kind of like a much-needed vacation for the next week and a half.

I’ll be taking some time learning how to breathe again. For the first time in 489 days, my whole family can really start feeling like it can breathe again.

In that time, I’ll also be reflecting a bit on what we’ve been through for the past 489 days …

Cutting expenses to the bone without giving up the things that would break our hearts …

Having to shop for a majority of the groceries at Wal-Mart in order to make our dollars stretch more, knowing that we’re supporting a piss-poor business model, ethically speaking, in the process …

Having to go to one more dental appointment with the entire family before benefits run out completely, having the dentist tell me I’ll need a root canal at some point in the next year, wondering if that will be possible in the next year, and here it is well over a year later and I’m still dealing with the effects of a bad tooth while getting in the habit of doing a majority of my chewing on the left side of my mouth to avoid the pain …

Wondering how much longer we’re going to be able to stay in our home …

Losing sleep …

Going out to a Salt Lake City park in the dead of winter to help the homeless, and wondering if it could be us out there in the cold at some point in the future …

I know what it’s like to live out of a car for a night.  It’s an experience I didn’t want my family to go through.  It came down to determination …

Having that first jobless Christmas turn into one of the best we’ve ever had, thanks to the generosity of friends and relatives …

Having that second jobless Christmas turn into one of the best we’ve ever had, thanks to the generosity of friends and relatives …

Wiping out retirement savings just to survive for another few months …

Living off of tax refund money, and when that’s depleted …

Wondering how much longer we’re going to be able to stay in our home …

Losing sleep …

Getting really tired of having people think that those who collect unemployment genuinely enjoy that “lifestyle” and that they’re not determined enough to get off the unemployment line …

Searching relentlessly, all across the country, for any programming job that fits my skill set … applying like crazy … usually hearing nothing … getting phone calls from recruiters that sound promising at first … then, usually hearing nothing … interviewing … nothing …

Dealing with collection agencies …

Making payments out of our own pocket on major medical bills, $10 at a time …

Knowing our once-sparkling credit rating is starting to erode …

Having good friends and loving relatives pitch in to help us financially, because they’ve felt that God wants them to do it …

Wondering how we could ever repay good friends and loving relatives pitching in to help us financially, because they’ve felt that God wants them to do it …

Avoiding food stamps …

Avoiding Medicaid …

Avoiding bankruptcy …

One step at a time … one hour at a time … one day at a time … one week at a time … one month at a time …

Comforting each other … reassuring each other … telling each other to “hang in there” … putting horses up for sale, with no takers, and wondering if they might actually be “part of the plan” …

Holding on for dear life …

Holding on to faith …

Holding on to hope …

One step at a time … one hour at a time … one day at a time … one week at a time … one month at a time …

Holding on …

Taking a car sales job, selling a brand new vehicle on my first day of selling, yet realizing it’s a job that isn’t going to be the answer to our problems, quickly giving me an ulcer and driving me toward a breakdown … taking a TRAX train back home on my last day doing car sales, and at one stop along the way seeing a metal sculpture of Jesus Christ with a crown of thorns on his head being blown by the wind outside to point directly at me … perhaps realizing then that I was “on the right track” …

Getting back on unemployment, but it paid better than car sales …

Holding on …

Having a Thanksgiving meal with the immediate family at home, making the most of it on a skin-tight budget …

Wondering how much longer we’re going to be able to stay in our home …

Losing sleep …

Going out to a Salt Lake City park in the dead of winter to help the homeless, and wondering if it could be us out there in the cold at some point in the future …

Knowing that possibility is getting closer by the day …

Losing sleep …

Crying our eyes out …

Holding on …

Finally, a job interview in December, for a dream job, a secure job, and handling the interview pretty well despite some intense nervousness, knowing that my family’s future is riding on it … the pressure …

Not getting that job … yet … staying in contact with the manager, thanking him for the opportunity to be interviewed, expressing interest in any future openings …

Interviewing for a customer service job at a job fair as Christmas approaches, going through skills assessments, being offered a job all in the same go-round in the same afternoon …

Being the “old man” in the crowd when the job starts in mid-January, knowing I’m old enough to be the master trainer’s father, surprising him with my willingness, enthusiasm, and work ethic to do my best at a customer service job that pays less than unemployment with a bit of stress involved …

Praying for miracles when it becomes obvious that this is a job, but it’s still not the answer to my family’s survival …

Wondering how much longer we’re going to be able to stay in our home …

Losing sleep …

Going out to a Salt Lake City park in the dead of winter to help the homeless, and wondering if it could be us out there in the cold at some point in the future …

Knowing that possibility is getting closer by the day …

Making one more (late) interest-only house payment to keep a roof over our heads for another month, seeing what’s left in our bank account before the house payment even goes through and what still needs to be paid for with so little money and so much time before the next paycheck, experiencing that feeling of terror …

Losing sleep …

Leaving the house last Monday morning, knowing the dire situation we’re facing as I get ready to go off to work for the day, and before going out the door advising my lovely wife to say a special prayer that a job similar to the dream one in December is opened to me in some way, asking our heavenly father to open up the hearts and minds of those who are in a position to hold my family’s future in their hands, giving me a chance, giving us a chance to survive …

The miracle kicked in about five hours later with a phone call from the hiring manager of that dream job from December, the one I’d followed up with despite being denied a job earlier.  He expressed sincere interest in me, asked me about salary requirements so he could nail down a possible job offer …

Around that same time, I had a voice message from our church secretary letting me know there was an envelope with my name on it waiting for me at her office.  Inside the envelope was a gift that would help us to survive for a while, even without a job or unemployment payments …

Miracles do happen … prayer pays off … daily “conversations” with a Supreme Being are answered …

I was driving around this morning around 8:30 after dropping our daughter off at school, on my way to a store to pick up a few groceries, listening to K-Love on the radio and having that usual “conversation.”  The announcer gave the scripture for the day, one that my family has lived by for weeks … months …

Worry about nothing; pray about everything.  — Philippians 4:6

So I prayed, in that “conversational way,” just like I’d done through all those hours, days, weeks, months, over a span of 489 days … one year and four months after losing my last secure job … one year and four months, right down to the day …

Then, the call came on my cell phone.  The caller ID showed that it was the hiring manager from my “dream job.”  He was letting me know that he’d just sent me an email with an official job offer.

“Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.”
A.A. Milne, “Winnie-the-Pooh”

“There are times to stay put, and what you want will come to you, and there are times to go out into the world and find such a thing for yourself.”
Lemony Snicket, “Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid”

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”
Maya Angelou

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s getting rather late on this Thursday evening and it’s been a rather exciting day.  Yet, before I can go to sleep, I have forms to print and fill out so I can return them to my next employers and get this ball rolling.

I’ve got a job to do.

Never give up.  Never ever give up.

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Special thanks going out for a special birthday card

Someone knew that it was my birthday last Sunday, and they decided to do something special for me and my family.

Birthday Card made with Iris Folding
Birthday Card made with Iris Folding (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A special birthday card arrived in the mail Wednesday.  It appears to be homemade, made out of construction paper with stickers decorating it inside and out.  It’s a nice card, something that took a bit of time to create.

What makes it even nicer was what was inside the card.  It contained three separate gift cards — one to help pay for bills, food, living expenses, whatever is needed; one from a well-known Italian restaurant to go toward a meal for my lovely wife and me; and one to a favorite ice cream shop of ours, for dessert.

What makes it even more touching were the words written inside the card, plus the fact that I have no idea who sent such a fabulous card and gift to us.  It was sent anonymously, from an address in Salt Lake City.  Maybe it’s someone in our church (we’ve had friends from our church do things like this before), maybe it’s a Facebook friend, maybe it’s an old friend from as far back as high school days who lives in the area — a popular local writer in her own right who’s offered help to us before, maybe it’s a relative stranger, I honestly don’t know.

To whomever it was that sent the card and the wonderful gifts … we thank you, it was a totally complete and pleasant surprise, a terrific pick-me-up at a time we could really use it.

The card reads as follows:

John,

I follow your blog often, and your Valentine’s Day post really touched me.  You are right — we don’t need to show our love to each other in “stuff,” but in kindness and actions and words.

I pray for a great job for you each week.  In the meantime, please use these gifts to pay any bills/purchase groceries, and the rest to take Amy out for a lovely Valentine’s Day dinner (complete with dessert, of course!).  It is so encouraging to me to see your love for your wife, and her support & encouragement to you.

Keep blogging, keep fighting, keep looking up.

Happy belated birthday — and may this year bring you all the blessings you and your family deserve.

Your friend

This was a gesture with sentiments that brought tears to my eyes.  Gestures like these are always greatly appreciated by us.  We only wish that we weren’t in a position where gestures like these were needed, and it makes us that much more determined to work toward making things better for ourselves, praying harder for things to improve in our lives to where we can provide for ourselves more and “pay it forward.”  It’s gestures like these from this anonymous friend that keep hope alive for us.

It brings to mind a blog article that I meant to write last weekend and never got around to actually writing.  It was my birthday last Sunday, but it was also Amy’s birthday two days before that, the day after Valentine’s Day.

We have dreams.  I have dreams of the kinds of things I’d like to provide for Amy, as a “gift” for the both of us.  I dream of giving her that horse property that she’s always wanted, ever since the earliest days of our marriage.  I dream of tooling around on that horse property myself, on a horse or an ATV, checking fences and irrigation ditches, or just sitting propped up next to a fence post and watching the horses graze or run around.  I dream of sharing times on that ranch with my lovely wife.

We dream of living comfortably enough — not richly, mind you — to where we can give to those in need more than we’re already doing now.  We dream of going on mission trips together, to Haiti or Africa or South America or wherever it’s needed, not to mention our own little corner of the world.

We know what it’s like to be in need, and we want to help in the worst way.  Our dreams aren’t the selfish kind.

These are the kinds of gifts I dream about when I think about what I’d like to give my lovely wife.  They’re dreams we can enjoy together, dreams we can be rewarded by together.  They’re dreams I’d love to give her, dreams I’d love to see come true.

It’s gifts like the one we received on Wednesday from the anonymous friend that keep us pushing forward, even when it seems like the odds are against us.

It’s gifts like the one we received on Wednesday from the anonymous friend that keep me saying a particular prayer, over and over, whenever I begin to feel even a twinge of doubt or fear.

“Lord, carry me.”

Thank you, my friend.

From the “preaching to the choir” department …

There are a lot of things I don’t agree with Joe Scarborough on.  The former Florida Republican congressman has a way about him that grates on my nerves.  I’ve seen it very often through the past few years, whether he’s appearing on NBC’s “Meet The Press” or his own “Morning Joe” show on MSNBC or other places.

Joe Scarborough, Conservative Fruitcake
Joe Scarborough, Conservative Fruitcake (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

Joe — at least to me — seems just a bit too … well, full of himself.  He can take a bit of a disagreement with something he says and turn it into a full-blown personal insult, doing his best to make the person who’s disagreed with him look and feel like a worm.

When it happens, you can see some odd sense of pride building up inside of him.  It can be a bit disgusting.

Lately, though, Scarborough has been saying some things that have left me a bit troubled — troubled because I’ve found myself agreeing with him.

Like on gun control.  After the Newtown, Connecticut, shootings in December, Scarborough — who was a darling of the National Rifle Association while in the U.S. House and is a card-carrying NRA member himself — had a major change of heart on gun control and actually turned on the NRA’s leadership a bit.

This morning, Scarborough laid it on the line even more in terms of solidifying his growing rep of becoming a R(epublican) I(n) N(ame) O(nly).  He dared to say that Rush Limbaugh and Fox News have not been good for the Republican Party.

MORNING JOE:  Fox News, Rush Limbaugh have not been good for GOP

“Just for conservatives that think they have to stay in their own little media world, since Rush Limbaugh went on the air and became a national figure, Republicans have lost five out of the last six presidential elections in the popular vote,” Scarborough said. “Since Fox News went on the air in 1996, Republicans have lost four out of the five last —”

“Please keep doing what you’re doing,” co-host Mika Brzezinski joked.

“When Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon had to go up against a media culture that absolutely hated them … and there were no conservative outlets, they won 49 states,” Scarborough continued. He said that he turns to conservative outlets as well as mainstream media, but added, “for people who think they have to stay in the little box, I got bad news for you: it’s not working.”

The sad thing is, Joe Scarborough is largely preaching to the choir on this one.  Despite Rush’s pomposity and Fox News’ slow but steady decline in ratings, there are still many conservatives who will pooh-pooh such a notion.  I know, because I have my share of conservative friends out there who’ve been brushing aside any similar statements made by me as so much cat litter that needs to be swept under the nearest rug.

But Scarborough — bless his pompous heart — spoke the truth.  It’s just too bad he’ll still largely end up preaching to the choir.  In the modern conservative world where the spirit of Andrew Breitbart is worshiped at the altar, the facts of the matter don’t fly all that far.

Celebrating Valentine’s Day, on a skin-tight budget

The truth remains, we’re struggling here.  On one of the more costly holidays outside of Christmas, our budget is so tight we can’t afford to buy cards, candy, flowers, a dinner date or an outing to a romantic movie, any of that stuff for Valentine’s Day.

Scan of a Valentine greeting card dated 1909.
Scan of a Valentine greeting card dated 1909. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our main focus is still on trying to keep a roof over our heads, heat blowing through the vents, healthy food in our bellies, power to keep the lights glowing at night, water to drink and wash and flush with, gas in our vehicles (one of the scarier propositions these days) … all that stuff.

There are no frills here.  This is about surviving from day to day, hoping and praying as each day goes by that things start looking up more, and very soon.

Our Valentine’s Day consists of hugs, kisses, holding each other tight, and exchanging spoken words of love.  A special Valentine’s Day blog article doesn’t hurt either.

I did call my mother today to wish her a happy day and to give her my love.  Seeing as how I haven’t seen her in over a year, that’s a special thing.

To all our relatives, we love and miss you all.

To our sons in Washington, D.C., and Idaho, we love and miss you deeply and we are so proud of you.

To our lovely daughter, we are blessed to still have you at home so we can share our love for you and our time with you in person.

To my lovely wife, a special song.  We may be fighting through tough times together, but our hearts are strong.  God genuinely gave her to me, and for that I’m eternally grateful.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

AMY’S ANGLE: A new form of entertainment

By Amy Kathleen Miller

For a while now, I have been working very hard to teach our two horses a new program to help them and my growth in horse communication and try to work toward earning some money as a trainer.  I am excited to tell you more about Pat Parelli’s program on horse psychology, learning more about how to do things with horses in a more horse-friendly way.

Head of an Arabian filly
Head of an Arabian filly (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have been searching for a couple of years now for a program to teach me to have harmony with my horses and yet be able to enjoy them and still ride without the horses feeling trapped and not expressing their feelings because the rider would suppress their “voices” by punishing them for expressing discomfort or whatever.  Instead, we learn how to communicate through their language and become more of a team working together on total unity between horse and human.

I like this because my horses seem happier and they are not pushed beyond their threshholds, but we work through their threshholds by working them through their limits calmly and slowly.  The horses have a tendency to relax and trust me more.  Also, most of the problems horses develop are because of wrong signals that they get from people who don’t give the signals properly or the same every time.

For instance, if I am telling a horse to go forward but I am pulling back on the reigns, digging my spurs into the horse’s sides, plus I am a load of tension on its back, the horse is going to have to try and figure out what I am trying to say.  But if the horse tries to complain, then the rider might punish the horse because they don’t understand what we are asking.  Next time, the horse will begin to worry more and then we dig harder and punish more extremely.  Poor horse, no wonder the next time the horse reacts they way they do.

Pat Parelli is a very necessary experience for my horses and me.  Second, I am still working hard at building Cheyenne up on her tricks.  But the tricks I have been working with to gain a lot of ground in is Cheyenne painting and her being able to play a tune on the big floor piano, now on a table where she can hit the keys with her nose.  Since I have been working Cheyenne on this project for a while now, I am starting to be able to teach her to play a tune.  I actually heard more of that tune that I have been trying to work towards teaching her up to now.  I am excited to see where it goes with us with the music part and whether or not I should try to bring Gypsy into this little musical number.  Hmmmm, I do have some ideas on how I could accomplish that.

A painting done by Cheyenne  (Photo By Amy K. Miller)
A painting done by Cheyenne (Photo By Amy K. Miller)

Another thing we have been working on for the past seven months is Cheyenne’s ability to paint.  I can tell you she is now beginning to really grasp the idea in her mind of what it takes to grab a paint brush and do some strokes without dropping the brush.  I just need to continue working with Cheyenne to hopefully be able to dip her brush in the water as well as the new paint on the the side.  But for now, I dip the brush but all the painting is what she does on her own.  Is there anyone willing to buy a horse’s painting so she doesn’t become a starving artist?

I am working toward an opportunity to show off Cheyenne’s skills to people who would welcome her talents into their hearts to allow us to entertain you.  I am planning on doing one show at a local horse expo March 15.  I welcome the opportunity to meet new enthusiasts for Cheyenne, Gypsy, and my new form of entertainment.

With one eye on the jobs front, an appreciation for appreciation

I’m entering the fifth week of a new job, doing something that I was never previously trained to do in a formal manner, something for which I never earned a college degree nor a near-4.0 grade point average in college nor a dean’s list honor like I did in computer programming.

The Careers Day poster they rejected
The Careers Day poster they rejected (Photo credit: Alun Salt)

Computer programming was “starting over” career-wise for me way back then, about 19 1/2 years ago.  It was a college education which helped that “new starting point” to bear some decent fruit, financially speaking.  It was at a time when the “Year 2000” was looming, and mainframe programmers were a hot ticket.

It was a fresh, new starting point after 16 years as a newspaper journalist where I learned — mostly on the job and through hard knocks, through observing some of the real journalistic pros of the day and developing my own style through them — enough to work my way up from a sports stringer’s job to a reporter to a sports editor to a managing editor of a small daily paper.  I worked very hard, took pride in my craft, and advanced as far as I could at the time without the benefit of a college degree.  The pay wasn’t great, but I was doing something I enjoyed, something that was honest and that served in the public’s interest.

I worked hard in the newspaper business.  I worked hard as a computer programmer.  Except for the last five years of the latter career, I earned some praise for my work and I have the performance reviews to prove it.  Those last five years … well, let’s just say my performance didn’t slack off, and there are bosses in this world who could learn a few things about how to motivate their people without resorting to ridicule and intimidation.

So, now, here I am, only five weeks into yet another career change and the “rewards” are closer to where they were in the old days when everything cost less.  But even now, I’m still working hard, putting in my absolute best effort, trying to learn as much as I can as quickly as I can, taking some pride in what I do.

And it’s being recognized.

Here I am, only five weeks into a new career in customer service, and I’m already in line to possibly move up from an agent’s position to a trainer’s position, where I can put some previous training and coaching and motivational experience to good use.

That’s what can happen when you put in your best effort, and you’re working for and with people who recognize and appreciate it.

After five years spent mostly going without that recognition and appreciation, leading up to over one year of being unemployed, it feels good.

The non-motivational ones still have a thing or two to learn, I’d imagine.

I’m still keeping an eye on the jobs front, still watching what happens as our lawmakers squabble over the non-jobs business without really getting down to the heart of what could help turn this economy around — creating jobs; creating decent-paying jobs that keep people housed properly, fed properly, clothed properly, cared for properly.

I’ll still be keeping an eye on what comes out of the mouth of President Obama Tuesday night in his State of the Union speech when it comes to the jobs front, and an eye on any action or inaction that follows on the jobs front.

I’m still very much like a lot of people out there these days, just struggling to survive despite busting my butt, thinking it’d take a second full-time job to do it and not even being sure that’s a sure thing.

It gets tiresome.

A happy 14th birthday gift for “my Cinderella”

I want to give our daughter Alicia everything that she desires.  She wants braces to fix her teeth in the worst way, but right now we don’t have the means to give them to her.

Her smile is still beautiful.

Even with me working a full-time job now at a third of what I used to earn, there are many things she wants and needs.  It takes all the strength inside of me to say, “No, we can’t afford that.”

She doesn’t complain … at least, not as much as she probably could or wants to.

Alicia’s celebrating her 14th birthday today.  There is one family tradition we started when our sons were around that age themselves — their mother would take them out for a special time together, and she would give them a symbol as a gift to show that she wanted them to commit their hearts to her until they found the right lady to give their hearts to as men.  Today was the day for me as a father to do the same for my daughter … my “Cinderella.”

Alicia’s brother Grant made a special trip back home from Idaho for the weekend to celebrate her birthday, and after he gave her a much-appreciated gift, I gave Alicia a symbol that we hope she will cherish.  It’s a symbol from her father, to let her know that I want her to commit her heart to me as she enters some very formative years, that she will give her heart to her father alone, until she finds the man who will love her the way her father does and more.

I want her to find someone who will love her for the beautiful young lady that she is becoming, before our very eyes — someone who will love her the way she is, not the person he wants her to be which would force her to change her character in some way; someone who won’t expect her to change to suit his style; someone who will appreciate the person she’s become by the way she was raised.

If that man gives his heart to her with sincerity — the man she gives her heart to beyond her earthly father — the way I have, that man will be very lucky indeed.  He will be getting a very gentle, fun-loving, sensitive, caring girl to share his life with.  He will be getting a beautiful young lady, both inside and out.

He will be a very lucky young man.

That’s what our gift to Alicia means to us, and to her.  I placed that gift on her ring finger tonight.  As her father, I pray that she takes this gift to heart.

ring

Super Bowl XLVII: Offense and defense and ads, OH MY!!! (A live blog post)

Here it is — another year, another Super Bowl, and my second live Super Bowl blog post as I watch the XLVIIth edition of the National Football League’s championship game named after a kids’ toy from years ago (the “Super Ball” … do they still make those?).

super bowlThis year, it’s the San Francisco 49ers in their “Quest For Six” Super Bowl titles, going against the Baltimore Ravens with star linebacker Ray Lewis trying to close out his career by claiming a second championship ring.

I’ve already predicted today that the 49ers would take it, 21-17, in a game largely decided by defense with just enough offense from San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick, Frank Gore and Vernon Davis to make the difference.

I’ll be starting updates here sometime between 4 p.m. (Mountain Time) and kickoff.  Feel free to keep it here and click the “Refresh” button on your browser as the game goes along for thoughts from this longtime NFL fan, right up through the end of the game and possibly then some.

For now, I’m off to start cooking some baked Ranch Doritos chicken breasts with turkey bacon and Swiss cheese on top, along with some taters, so my lovely but hungry wife will stop scowling at me (just kidding, honey!).

Enjoy the game!!!

*****

4:20 p.m. — Sandy Hook Elementary School Chorus sings to an audience of millions.  That’s cool!  As for Alicia Keys and the National Anthem … I like you, Alicia, but could you pick up the pace a bit?  A little like this …

4:40 p.m. — Baltimore’s Anquan Boldin, the man with the hands.  Ravens take the lead, 7-0.  There’s a lot of game left to play.

4:54 p.m. — Utah’s Paul Krrrruuuuuuugerrrrrrrrr!!!!  GRRRRRRRR!!!!  David Akers hits a field goal to make it 7-3.  And aside from  the first Doritos ad, I’m wondering if they make Super Bowl ads as good as they used to.  GoDaddy used to be sexy.  Now they’ve gone to gross?

4:59 p.m. — Okay, that Oreos fight in the library gives some hope for the ads.

5:22 p.m. — I did say that San Francisco has a top-flight defense, right?  They’re not exactly showing it yet.  BYU alum Dennis Pitta catches a TD pass to put the Ravens up 14-3, and the Salt Lake City media will have more to report on from the game.

5:36 p.m. — Get that fake stuff outta here, Baltimore!  Time for the Niners to wake up.

5:45 p.m. — Can we get an offensive pass interference call against the Ravens here?  Oh well.  Pull your heads out, Niners!

5:46 p.m. — Aaaah, finally another very good and funny ad, this time with a guy in Skechers running shoes hog-tying a cheetah about to chase down a gazelle.  Good one!

5:49 p.m. — Jacoby Jones, amazing catch and run for another Baltimore TD.  A 21-3 game for the Ravens.  Yikes!

5:58 p.m. — David Akers field goal for San Fran, 21-6 margin.  Maybe Beyonce can sing some excitement into the 49ers at halftime.  If San Francisco can’t get something going on offense and defense early in the second half … well, it could be a long second half.

6:32 p.m. — Jacoby Jones, 109-yard kickoff return for a TD, a new record.  And the San Francisco 49ers say politely, “Oh, shoot!”  It’s suddenly a 28-6 game.

6:41 p.m. — A power outage at the Super Bowl.  Can it get any stranger?  A power outage!  Kind of reminds you of the 49ers’ effort so far, doesn’t it?  [RIMSHOT]

Airplane Jonny Plug (1)6:50 p.m. — Seen on Facebook, with the caption “Oops!”  Brilliant timing with what’s going on at the Superdome.  I take it the guy who pulled the plug’s a Niners fan.

7:03 p.m. — After nearly a half-hour delay due to the power outage, Baltimore coach John Harbaugh can be seen on the sideline chewing out a guy in a suit explaining the situation.  The threat of losing momentum can do crazy things to coaches.

7:10 p.m. — And we’re going again, after a 35-minute delay.  That’s about how long it took Alicia Keys to sing the National Anthem.  (Yeah, I know, that was awful of me to say that.)

7:24 p.m. — Also seen on Facebook, just before Colin Kaepernick connects with Michael Crabtree on a TD pass to cap an 80-yard drive to make it 28-13 … finally.  I think San Fran must have sent up an emergency signal to a superhero.

superdome

7:32 p.m. — Frank Gore runs it in for a score.  Suddenly, it’s a 28-19 game with the conversion try to come.

7:35 p.m. — And now it’s 28-20, a one-score game.  Momentum’s a crazy thing.

7:42 p.m. — San Fran recovers a Baltimore fumble at the Ravens’ 24.  It turns into a 39-yard field goal try that goes wide, but there’s a Baltimore penalty for running into the kicker.  David Akers gets a 34-yard try, and it’s good.  Baltimore, 28-23, and it’s 17 points from the 49ers in a span of 4 minutes and 10 seconds.  Wow!  Just … wow!

7:51 p.m. — In the world of Super Bowl ads, Deion Sanders as “Leon Sandcastle.”  Fan-TASTIC!  Deion comes back again!  LOL!  We have a winner!

7:57 p.m. — Baltimore kicks a gimme field goal, and it’s 31-23.

7:58 p.m. — “God made a farmer” ad for Dodge trucks with the voice of Paul Harvey.  Classy.  I can relate.

8:04 p.m. — Oh, yeah, Colin Kaepernick can run with the ball.  TD 49ers from 15 yards 0ut, and the 2-point try fails.  Two-point game, 31-29 Baltimore.  What a difference a power outage makes.

8:21 p.m. — For my lovely horse-crazy wife …

… and Baltimore is now up by five after a field goal, 34-29.  Time for a “Montana Miracle.”

8:28 p.m. — Can my heart take this?  First and goal Niners from just over 7 yards away.  Two minutes to go.

8:34 p.m. — 4th and goal from the 5 … incomplete pass to Crabtree in the end zone, and no call on contact.  There may not be a “Montana Miracle” this time.

8:42 p.m. — Baltimore goes for a safety on a punt from the end zone, makes it 34-31 with four seconds left.  Ran down time on the clock.  Strategy between the Harbaugh brothers.  Man oh man!

8:45 p.m. — Game over.  Baltimore is the new world champion of professional football.  Joe Flacco is the MVP.  What a second half!

Goodnight, y’all!!!

My Super Bowl XLVII prediction: Leaving you hanging ’til the end

Will Ray Lewis send young Colin Kaepernick “back to school” in Lewis’ final appearance as a player in the NFL, or will Kaepernick — the young, athletic San Francisco 49ers quarterback — make it appear that it is indeed time for the Baltimore Ravens’ longtime star middle linebacker to hang up his cleats?

Who will claim the trophy in this edition of “HarBowl,” the battle between brothers as head coaches — John Harbaugh with the Ravens, or Jim Harbaugh with the 49ers?

These are just a couple of the bigger questions surrounding Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans today.  I’m going to hold off on my prediction on who’s going to take it until the very end of this article, and do it in a musical way.  But I’ll give this for a final score:  21-17.

Ray Lewis
Ray Lewis (Photo credit: Keith Allison)

To me, the Kaepernick vs. Lewis matchup is the most intriguing of this Super Bowl.  Here we have Lewis — one of the more dominant, feared, intense linebackers to play his position in this generation — against Kaepernick, the do-everything young quarterback out of Nevada who was thrown into San Francisco’s coveted starting role mid-season thanks to a concussion suffered by previous starter Alex Smith, and Kaepernick hasn’t looked back ever since.

It’ll be intriguing to see if Lewis still has the wheels to keep up with a player like Kaepernick, or whether Lewis’ veteran instincts will give him an edge.  If Lewis can put some fear into Kaepernick, the tide could turn in Baltimore’s favor.

Colin Kaepernick | San Francisco 49ers
Colin Kaepernick | San Francisco 49ers (Photo credit: Football Schedule)

Kaepernick is part of the reason the Niners had the fourth-best rushing attack in the NFL this season.  His legs are capable of doing very good things when he takes off, and it’s his versatility that can keep defenses reeling.  When he’s not a threat to run the ball himself, he can throw it with great accuracy to some very good targets, or he can simply hand it off to workhorse running backs like Frank Gore to pound out yardage.

When Baltimore’s on offense, running back Ray Rice is the guy typically making things run more smoothly.  Joe Flacco can toss the ball a country mile, and he can move around a bit in the pocket.

For both teams, excellent offensive line play will be a must.  When you’ve got guys like Lewis and San Francisco’s corps of strong linebackers led by NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Lewis manning the middle along with some strong outside rushers for both teams, it can wreak havoc.

Defensively, San Francisco is in its prime right now.  The 49ers were third-best in the league defensively in total yards (Baltimore was 17th), fourth against the run (Baltimore was 20th), and fourth against the pass (the Ravens were 17th).

What it comes down to more often than not in Super Bowls is one of two things, or a combination thereof:  defense and controlling time of possession.  I see one team having a pretty clear edge in both categories.

The Ravens once had one of the most feared defenses in the history of the NFL, and it was players like Lewis and safety Ed Reed who helped make it that way.  Now, Lewis is in his final game, and if Reed continues to play beyond today it might not be with Baltimore.  It’s been the leadership of Lewis that’s helped to carry the Ravens this far this season, and it’ll be the intensity and leadership of Lewis that will help to make today’s game a close one.

In the end, I see the Lombardi Trophy going in this direction …