Monday, January 3, 2011

Do something cool this year

I’ve got big plans for the new year.
I am going to do something cool.
I haven’t decided what cool thing I am going to do yet, but rest assured, it will be cool. In years past, I have always told myself to do something specific like go to the gym, not go to the gym or try to talk in a pirate voice for an entire year — but I was only a young child for that last one....OK, I was 23.
Either way, they never worked out. Therefore, I am going broad this year. I am going to do something cool. At the end of the year, I will surely be able to pick out something and qualify it as cool. I may learn to do a backflip or get really good at wheelchair racing when I break my back trying to do a backflip.
That is the great thing about saying something broad. If one thing doesn’t work out, another thing is sure to present itself as a viable replacement.
I know what you are thinking. “Why am I still reading this? And, Luke, you already do so many cool things all the time. Isn’t this sort of a cop out?”
Well, I appreciate the support, but there is always more to be done. There are mountains to hike and arguments to have with my wife about why I don’t hike up mountains.
While I hope to do something cool that people can see and point at saying, “Wow, that is so cool.” I also hope I can do something cool for people behind the scenes.
I recently discovered a secret about a member of my parents church. He is well-known in the church for blowing his nose loudly during the service and always wearing his suspenders. However, he does a lot more than that during the week.
My parents church has a large number of African refugees who have escaped almost sure death to come to America. When they get here, they often don’t have a place to live, food to eat or a job to earn money.
Enter loud-nose-blower-wearing-suspenders guy. This retired man finds jobs and homes for these families and helps them get settled in a new place. He doesn’t tell a lot of people, unless he is asking for them to donate something to one of these families.
Most people will only ever know the man because his nose-blowing has made them chuckle during the church service. But there is a group of people out there who will always know him as the man who changed their lives and helped them in a foreign land after they knew nothing but fear and danger.
That is a cool guy.
I hope I can do something for someone this year that makes their life a little better. I don’t need any credit or kudos — I just need to have the feeling that I helped someone’s life.
That will be pretty cool.

Luke Harris is the editor of the Burleson Star. He hiked up a mountain once. It was pretty cool, but not cool enough to warrant a near heart attack. He can be reached at

Gift giving in the family

A few hours after writing this, I am going to be boarding a flight to Oregon to spend Christmas with my wife’s family.
While many people may not be excited to go see their in-laws for the holidays, it is always a very happy time of year for me and Sarah. I was fortunate to marry into a family with lots of children and a similar dynamic to my own family.
I come from a family of three children and she comes from a family of five so dinner goes about the same in both families — people speaking over each other and a lot of laughter. There are, however, some differences in the various Christmas activities.
For example, I am of the thought that if you want something, you should tell me so I get it.
When I married Sarah in the summer of 2007, I was of the thought that when it came time for presents — birthday, Christmas and anniversary — she would tell me what she wants and that is what I would get her. In my experience, me guessing what people want had turned out well only a small amount times.
My mother is one of those who enjoys guessing what people want and she is pretty good at it, but there have been a few times where it backfired on her. One year she bought my uncle lots of candy — only to find out he is diabetic. The next year, she bought the same uncle a scented candle — only to realize he had lost his sense of smell in a motorcycle accident.
So you tell me, and I will get it for you. Sarah and her siblings, however, have always guessed what the other ones wanted and have been successful, but I am still warry of the whole idea.
On my first birthday while dating Sarah, she told me she was thinking of getting me running shoes. I then asked her if she had met me and it would probably be better to buy me something like a Lazy Boy or a movie. We have, however, found a compromise. She will guess on some of my gifts and get others that I ask for and I will choose from a wide variety of shoes she has looked at on Amazon.
The other great thing about the Oregon Christmas is the weather. Growing up in Texas, we didn’t get many white Christmases, but in Oregon, you get it all the time. Not only do you get it, but you get to see all the snow on all the beautiful landscapes in the northwest portion of our nation.
It is gorgeous. I sometimes just sit and stare at the snow for minutes on end (I don’t have hours to waste staring outside so I have to take it down to minutes). Then I get to relax by the fire and that is always a good time because I am also a slight pyromaniac.
One thing both families do is go see a movie on Christmas day. It is something my family has always done and it combines two of my favorite things: movies and spending time with my family. It is going to be a good Christmas in Oregon and I can’t wait to breathe in that Oregon air.

Luke Harris is the editor of the Burleson Star. If he were to ever move out of the best state on earth (Texas, for those of you who don’t know) he would probably move to Oregon because it is pretty. But who would ever leave Texas? He can be reached at

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Angles and ICE: A Harris Christmas

As you may have gathered from other columns I have written, I come from a tradition-heavy family. And Christmas is a tradition-heavy holiday.
Unfortunately, because my siblings and I have grown older, some of our traditions have fallen by the wayside. We have been lucky, however, to have a mother who is determined to keep tradition alive — even if it is a new tradition.
For example, in the past five years we have started a tradition of going to ICE, an ice-scupture spectacle in the Gaylord Hotel in Grapevine. We go to the hotel, my dad complains about the wait (even though we go when the wait is about five minutes long) and we bundle up to look at some ice.
We always pose for a family photo in front of the green screen at the entrance to ICE. Later, the people at the event put in a background and you can purchase a copy. We always end up buying a copy, but my mother also always insists that we get a photo with our own camera.
If you aren’t following, don’t worry, neither is my mother. The photo we buy has a beautiful winter wonderland behind it, but the one my mother takes just has a giant green blanket. We’ve tried to explain it to her, but she doesn’t seem to care. Who knows? Maybe she just likes the color green.
Our other tradition is to decorate our family Christmas tree. At our parents house, you may walk in to see a giant, beautifully-decorated tree in the foyer. It is a fake tree that my mother decorates herself with a decorator friend. Walk into the living room, however, and you will see our family Christmas tree.
It is a real tree that we cut down ourselves every year and decorate as a family. In a family, it would be the cousin you lock in an attic when company comes over. It just really isn’t something for the eyes of people who don’t understand it.
You would think with age, we would have learned how to make something look pretty, but no, we just like putting up the ornaments. We each have certain ornaments that only we can put up — my first Christmas, the ornament I made when I was in first grade and one with Superman.
Again, we are lucky to have a mother who is able to remember all of the various ornaments and who gets to put them up. Sometimes we forget, but she always remembers. Once all of the ornaments have been placed, one person gets to put the angel on the top of the tree.
As children, this was a coveted treat. It meant we got to get on my dad’s shoulders and rise above everyone else in the house and put the finishing touch on Christmas. One year when I was a child, however, it all went terribly wrong.
I was terrified to let the angel go all night long because I thought someone would take it from me, scurry up on my dad’s shoulders and put the angel on the tree before I could stop them. Therefore, I had a death grip on that angel for the rest of the night.
I even took it to the bathroom with me — yeah, you see where this is going. I was excited because it was almost time to put the angel on the tree, but in my excitement I was running and while running, the angel slipped out of my hands. For a moment, the angel was flying through its air in all of its majesty — before it came crashing down to earth and right into the toilet bowl.
There were many tears and hugs, but we got the angel dried off and I still got to put it on the tree, but every year it is my turn to put the angel on the tree I still hear about the drop heard round the world. We don’t get to climb on my dad’s shoulders anymore because my brother and I weigh as much as him (because of all of our muscles, of course), but the tradition lives on and that is the great thing about Christmas.

Luke Harris is the editor of the Burleson Star. His other favorite thing about Christmas is Christmas cookies. Anyone reading this can take that information and do what they will. He can be reached at

Monday, December 13, 2010

I'm a cool guy.

I am a cold weather kind of guy.
I have always enjoyed cooler weather because I am “fluffier” than the average person. I have a small little furnace underneath my chest in the form of a small basketball ­— OK, a regular-size basketball. Either way, I am constantly warmer than those around me.
I am the guy who is the only person to say “no” when someone asks, “Is everyone cold?” Then the fan goes off and I start to sweat. As the comedian Kevin James said, “You don’t need a reason to sweat when you are a big guy,” and turning off the cool air in the room never helped anyone like me.
Good looking people can get away with sweating and people call it “glistening.” The rest of us just sweat. Glistening people can get hugs from people while sweating, but most of us just get a pat on the dry part of our shirt.
I am getting back into the shape, thankfully, and I have lost a few inches off the old belt. But I still like the cold. As the temperature recently dropped in the area, I got giddy. I stood outside at night and just felt the cool breeze.
I told my wife it may be fun to sleep outside in the cool weather and she told me to tell her how it was when I decide to do that. The cold weather is a good opportunity to start a fire and cuddle next to the person you love.
Unfortunately for my wife, my maximum cuddle time at any given moment is about three minutes. When you are a warm-natured person, cuddling with someone is like snuggling next to a little fireball. Despite always being cold, smaller people sure do give off an insane amount of heat.
I inherited this warm nature from my dad. He wears shorts whenever possible. Even in the winter. If you ever hear, “What kind of idiot is wearing shorts in this weather?” it’s probably my father.
People always ask me, “Are you sure you don’t need a coat?” Sometimes, I give in and decide to take one, but then immediately regret it because I am hot and — in most places — you can’t just set your jacket off to the side. So, I either have to tie it around my neck or around my waist. Either way, I look like a yuppy college student from an early-90s comedy.
Ironically, I am a life-long Texan and my wife is from Oregon. These are the fun and crazy twists of fate that make life great. I don’t like the heat, she doesn’t like the cold, but we sure do like each other. So I don’t mind snuggling up with a little fireball every now and again and she doesn’t mind letting me run the fan while she hides under all the blankets in the house.
It’s going to be a good few months of cold weather before the sun comes back out to make me start sweating again. But who knows? Maybe by then my trips to the gym will have paid off and allow me to “glisten” instead of sweat.

Luke Harris is the editor of the Burleson Star. At the time of writing this column, it was 46 degrees outside and he had a little fan going at his desk. He can be reached at

Monday, November 22, 2010

I am thankful for tradition

I am a big fan of Thanksgiving.
My family is one of those that has traditions for almost every holiday. However, no holiday has more traditions than Thanksgiving.
For almost all of my life, we leave the Metroplex and travel to Tyler, Texas to a camp called Pine Cove. It is a family camp that offers a break from the world with no television, no computers and no running water. OK, there is running water and electricity, but other than that it is a refuge hidden in the woods of East Texas.
It is hard to believe that I am happy about a lack of television because it is one of my favorite things in the world. But there is usually nothing good on anyway, so it is easier to pry me away from my couch. I also get to play board games with my family — something rare in the days of movies, television and texting.
There are several families who travel to Pine Cove for Thanksgiving and we have developed friendships with many of them. We can find out about each other’s year and who is going to school, who is getting married and who is having a baby.
We also get to stuff our faces full of great food. The great thing about going to a camp for Thanksgiving is the amount of food. They are trying to feed a lot of people and they are always preparing more food than they actually need. That means I can get seconds — and 110ths. That works well for me.
We have always had a tradition of going into Tyler, finding the local bookstore and picking out a book. Everyone is allowed to pick one book and my father pays for them. Every year, however, I manage to find the one book my dad doesn’t want to pay for. It might be because he thinks it looks “weird” or “stupid” or say “that’s not a book, its a coloring book and you are married.”
Dads. They say the darndest things.
One of the best parts of the weekend is when we all start to travel back home. We always stop on Interstate 20 at a little Christmas tree farm and pick out which one will go home with us. Now, we cut down three trees for the three households — my parents, my brother and myself. In past years, however, it was just one tree and three saws.
Yes, that’s right, we cut down our own tree. In the past, the guys would trade off on cutting duties while everyone else critiqued them or told them to pull up their pants. Somehow, for about three years, every time the tree would finally give would be when I was on the opposite side saying, “Just a little more, you’re almost there.”
Then the tree would fall on my head.
Luckily, the tree was not that big, I am a pretty tough guy and there isn’t much in my head. Now, the tradition is for me to stand by the tree when it is about to fall and we take a photo mocking my past injuries. We then get hot chocolate, strap our trees to our cars and head home.
I can’t wait to do it again this year and years down the road, when I’ve got kids of my own to throw trees onto.

Luke Harris is the editor of the Burleson Star. The doctors said the only effect from the tree falling on him would be slight memory loss — he thinks. Something like that. He can be reached at

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Childhood games and block parties

I felt pretty happy with my life the other day.
I recently attended a block party in my neighborhood in Burleson. It was wonderful to get to meet and visit with several of my neighbors and see children actually playing outside and enjoying each other’s company.
All to often today I see kids who are staying in their house all day playing video games or watching a talking sponge on television. As an adult I do pretty much the same thing, but I earned it after years of not being able to watch television in the afternoons.
My parents were strict about our TV time, and I am happy they were. After a dose of Disney afternoon — complete with Tailspin, Darkwing Duck and DuckTales — I was not allowed to watch television, so my siblings and I were forced to play outside with the neighborhood children.
When you have to play outside every day, you have to try new games in order to entertain yourself or you will just end up scoring drugs and becoming a 8-year-old repeat offender.
One of the games discovered by my young compatriots and myself involved a large dirt mound on a construction site near the house. As a church-going youth, many of the games we played were Bible-based.
On this particular occasion, we looked at the large dirt mound and decided to play “David and Goliath.” Well, all of my friends and myself were of regular height, but Josh towered above us with the height of a middle-schooler.
It was quickly decided he would be Goliath. The goal of the game became Josh would try and climb the dirt mound while we stood on top and deterred him from doing so by throwing rocks at his head.
Needless to say, after about two minutes blood was shed and we had to go home. Also needless to say, Josh was more than happy to show me the pain he went through during the game.
My brother wasn’t the only sibling that had a hard time with the games of the neighborhood children. No, that title belonged to my little sister.
In one particularly not-nice game, we tied my little sister to a lightpole near our house and instructed her that it was her job to get free and come find us. My friend then offered to let us go to his house to play Sega, so off we went.
I would like to say we forgot about my sister, but we didn’t. We just figured she would eventually get out of her bindings and find her way home.
Well, she didn’t.
At our friend’s house, we heard the doorbell ring and his parents told us to come to the door. There stood my dad with my red-faced sister. Apparently, it is very hard to get yourself untied from a pole, but screaming your head off will bring a lot of attention from neighbors and, thus, gain your freedom.
My father then walked us home and I am fairly certain his belt was off before we were in the front door. We did not sit right for about a month.
Those are just a dose of the mischief we got into as children, but we have great memories because of those days on our street with the other neighborhood kids. I am glad I live in a neighborhood that has children playing with other children instead of video games.
I am glad I live in a city that makes people feel safe enough to allow their children to play on the neighborhood streets because people care about one another and watch out for each other. I am glad I live in Burleson and I am pretty happy with my life.

Luke Harris is the editor of the Burleson Star. In case you were feeling bad for his sister, she once hit him in the head with a baseball bat during a game. He had to get stitches. He can be reached at

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Review for Red

If you just had an action movie with a bunch of retired spies, it would be a pretty stupid movie.
Add a dash of comedy, however, and you’ve got yourself a winner.
Red takes the best of both the action and comedy genre. The best person to put a action/comedy?
Bruce Willis.
Add in Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a fun time.
Frank (Willis), Joe (Morgan Freeman), Marvin (Malkovich) and Victoria (Mirren) used to be the CIAs top agents but the secrets they know have now made them targets for the government they once served.
Now framed for assassination, they have to “get the band back together” and use their old-school techniques to clear their name and blow stuff up.
Like I said, it sounds like an action movie and it kind of is, but it also knows not to take itself seriously. There is a great balance of laughs and gunfights. No one believes anyone can do the things the characters do, but if someone could, it would be Willis and his pals.
The only thing unbelievable about the movie is the romantic relationship between Willis and Mary Louise-Parker. Louise-Parker is about half his age and is for lack of a better term — weird. The only reason the audience puts up with her is because Willis’ character likes her.
Because the Willis essentially vouches for her, you don’t get too annoyed and hope they end up together. If not for him, however, Louise-Parker would just be an annoying nuisance (which she sort of is anyway.)
The movie’s action is a bit over-the-top, which seems to be a draw in movies now-a-days. People don’t believe it if a movie tries to make the action realistic, but if you make it grossly over-the-top, people love it. I can’t explain it, but I’m on board with it.
Movies are a magic place where people can do anything. If a movie allows that to happen, audience members can let go of reality and have a good time. This is the perfect example of an opportunity to let yourself go and have a fun movie-going experience.
Willis is a pro at action/comedy and audience members are used to seeing him in that role. Freeman and Mirren, however, are both mostly known for their serious roles. It adds an extra layer of enjoyment to see them cut loose and play a silly part.
For the most part, the whole family can enjoy the movie. Younger audiences will enjoy it, as will older audiences. Kids might not find it as entertaining or get bored (it is a little long at just under two hours), but it’s not like there are many films you can take your whole family to watch these days.

Luke Harris is the movie reviewer for the Star Group Newspapers. He often wonders how he would be as a spy. Then he remembers that he gets winded packing for a trip and would probably not do so well. He can be reached at