Local Winston-Salem Difference Makers: Michelle Butt

In addition to celebrating Winston-Salem natives that have moved on to do significant things outside of Winston, this blog will also celebrate local people who make a difference currently in Winston-Salem. 

In early 2015, Michelle Butt was named president and general manager of WXII-TV, the NBC affiliate serving the Greensboro/Winston-Salem/High Point, N.C. television market. She returned to Winston after spending time as the news director at WXII from March of 2000 until September of 2003.

Michelle left Winston with her family (Richard-husband, Jackson-son, Peyton-daughter) to run the newsroom at WBAL-TV in Baltimore, Maryland in September of 2003.  Michelle ran two newsrooms there; the first was the TV newsroom at WBAL-TV and then she added the WBAL-AM (news/talk/sports station) to her duties in 2012. When she left Baltimore, Michelle had nearly the same number of direct reports as she does now at WXII.

Richard continues to work for KCI, a full-service engineering firm he worked for in Baltimore. Peyton (or Peanut as the family still calls her) is a freshman and a new Pi Phi at Auburn in Alabama.

My family has a special relationship with Jackson. My mom was his speech therapist for three years at Jefferson Elementary. I also worked in his classroom for two years just after I graduated college. I spent a lot of time at their house with Peyton and Jackson in the early 2000’s. Even at a young age you could tell that Peyton was going to be an excellent little sister to her very special brother. Jackson is one of the few people in the world that it is impossible for anybody not to like.

This is how I remember Jackson and Peyton, when I worked with them in the early 2000’s.

Winston-Salem Questions:

Which Winston-Salem streets have you lived on?
We first lived on Fox Hall Drive, then we moved just up the street to Green Valley Road, which is right off of Robinhood. This time, we are living on Fox Lake Court in Greenbrier Farms.

What are some of the reasons that you were excited to come back to Winston-Salem for a second time?
It’s a wonderfully easy place to live and at this natural transition time in our lives, it was a good fit. We also love being back at Wake Forest so often;  even though Richard is the only alumnus, it holds a special place in all of our hearts. And finally, good, good folks and a burgeoning and tasty food scene.

What different Winston-Salem schools did Jackson go to?
Jackson attended Old Town Elementary for one semester of Pre-K. He attended Jefferson Elementary starting in kindergarten. He went to Beck’s Baptist Church for after-school and summer care and loved both. He just started at ABC of NC in February and is loving it.


Who were some of Jackson’s favorite teachers in Winston-Salem?
Your mom (Barbara Callahan) was his absolute favorite the first time around.  Barbara was very important to Jackson and remains very special to all of us.  Richard and I always thought a lot of Jefferson principal Nora Baker.  The principal sets tempo for a school and we loved Jefferson. I’m not sure if Jackson has a favorite at ABC yet, but so far, everyone has made him feel welcome.

What are your favorite restaurants in Winston? What about Jackson’s favorites?
We all love The Honey Pot and Mozelle’s, both on 4th for a night out. The bar at River Birch Lodge is a family fave when we want a quick, quality bite. And I can’t forget Little Richards! I love to take job candidates and corporate visitors to Mary’s Diner to show off our quirckiness!
Jackson has a thing for the Fried Chicken and gravy at Mama Zoe Michael’s.  It’s where we head after church on Sundays.

Are you more of a Hanes Mall or Thruway fan?

Thruway.  It has a little of everything.

If you were on a stranded island and could just have one breakfast for the rest of your life, which would you choose: Moravian Sugar Cake, Bojangles Biscuits, or Krispy Kreme Doughnuts?
While all three are heavenly, I’ve been a Krispy Kreme girl my whole life!  Nothing like a hot, glazed. Selling them helped pay for my summer cheerleading camps so KKD has a special place in my heart.

What are some of Jackson’s favorite places to go in Winston-Salem?
Jackson loves Old Salem; he enjoys a Saturday morning at the farmer’s market and a pastry from Camino and then walking around the village and college. And it doesn’t matter if it’s an on-campus game (like Field Hockey) or Grove Stadium or the Joel, Jackson loves Wake Forest athletics and time on campus.

 What is your favorite North Carolina Beach? Does Jackson have a favorite thing to do at the beach?
We are all partial to the Outer Banks; Kitty Hawk is our favorite beach.  It is the family’s “happy place”! Jackson is a big body surfer. He is in the water from the time we get to the beach in the morning until we leave at dinner time.


Where is your favorite place to visit in the mountains of North Carolina?
We’ve not spent as much time in the mountains as we should have; the beach is more of our place. However, Grandfather Mountain is one of my favorites; it was a family destination when I was a kid!

 Who is your favorite ACC Team?
Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Richard is a 1989 grad; I’m class of 1991 (the year we got married). We also pull for NC State, since Richard completed his Engineering degree there in 1996, when Jackson was a year old. I have a great picture of him in red overalls and white shirt at his dad’s graduation.

Local Winston-Salem Difference Makers:Bobby Muuss

Winston-Salem doesn’t offer a professional team, but we have the next best thing with Wake Forest being in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The men’s soccer program (Team Website) is the most exciting and most successful men’s program currently at Wake. Bobby Muuss, a Long Island, NY native, was hired as the head coach of the program in January of 2015. In just one year, Muuss has the program back on top as one of the most successful collegiate programs in the country.

In just his first year, Muuss was honored as the ACC Coach of the Year (he won the award three times at the University of Denver). Wake was the number one team in the nation (NCAA DI) in the Rating Index Percentage (RPI) throughout the year. The team won the ACC Atlantic Division and went into the NCAA National Tournament as the number one overall seed. The Demon Deacons made it to the NCAA Elite Eight, where they lost in a 2-1 overtime battle to the eventual national champions from Stanford. Muuss finished his first season as head coach at Wake with an impressive 17-3-2 overall record. (Team Facebook Page)


Along with the quality of soccer on the field, Wake also brings an excellent fan base. These fans aren’t just WFU students, but there is also a large contingent from the Winston-Salem community, including “The Congregation” supporters club. Spry Stadium was regularly jam packed with fans, and the Demon Deacons led the country in attendance. They broke single season and single game records for the program during the 2015 season.

The 2015 season wasn’t the first go-round for Muuss as a coach at Wake Forest. After a successful playing career at Southern Connecticut State, Muuss was a four year assistant at the University of Connecticut. UCONN won the national championship in 2000, his final season working there. In 2001, Muuss was hired by Jay Vidovich as an assistant at Wake, and it was his first time to Winston-Salem. During his seven years as an assistant for WFU, Muuss helped the team to the 2006 Final Four.

He was hired as the head coach at the University of Denver in 2007, where he would remain for the next eight seasons. Muuss took the Pioneers to the NCAA Championships four times during his stint there. During his coaching career, he has now coached thirty-six players that have gone on to play professionally, including three from this past year’s Major League Soccer draft. Jack Harrison (Wake) was selected as the number one overall draft pick by the New York City Football Club. Michael Gamble (Wake) was selected by the New England Revolution, and Jordan Schweitzer (Denver) was selected by the Seattle Sounders. (2015 Season Highlight Video)

As well as coaching in Denver, Muuss also met his wife, Melodie, a Denver native. Along with his ten-year-old daughter (Camryn), Muuss now has a seventeen month old (Blayklee) and they are expecting a new-born boy next month.


Winston-Salem Questions:

What is the number one thing you missed about Winston while you were in Denver?
The sense of community that you get here in Winston. My wife had never been here before, and it was eye opening to her to see our crowds at games. Everything I did here during my time as an assistant was based around Wake. I love how the community embraces the program. When you do something, no matter how selfless you are, it is important to be appreciated. I am fortunate to be a part of this program. In Denver, we had strong programs, but we weren’t really embraced as a soccer program there. With all of the professional teams and it being such a big city, you don’t get the same sort of community feel as here. I am excited to see the program continue to grow.

Which Winston-Salem neighborhoods have you lived in?
We currently live off of Shattalon Road.

What are your top three Winston-Salem restaurants of all time?
The soccer coaching staff really likes The Village Tavern right near campus. My wife and I really enjoy going to The Porch downtown together. River Birch is another favorite, especially since it is really close to our house.

The team on a recent trip to the Estadio Bernabeu in Madrid, Spain
Are you more of a Hanes Mall or Thruway fan?
Thruway. We like just going there and walking up and down the strip.

Where is your favorite day trip outside of Winston?
To be honest, I haven’t had a bunch of time to get out. Melodie really enjoys going to Asheville and the mountains, since it feels closer to Denver. We also really enjoyed a trip to Blowing Rock.

If you were on a stranded island and could just have one breakfast for the rest of your life, which would you choose: Moravian sugar cookies, Bojangles biscuits, or Krispy Kreme doughnuts?
Bojangles biscuits. If you threw in an ultimate bacon biscuit from Biscuitville, I would be set for life.


Carolina Panthers or Denver Broncos?
Actually, the New York Giants. I love the Giants, but I support the Broncos. My wife is a huge fan of the Broncos, and I have to do what she tells me to do.



My First Gatorade Bath-Why I Coach

Gatorade baths to coaches are like walking into a surprise birthday party or getting your first kiss. They are a very American way of celebrating an important victory in sports. Chicago Bears Hall of Fame Coach Mike Ditka was the first known coach to get doused with the sports drink in 1984. Gatorade dumps are sacred moments that some coaches never get to experience. I was lucky enough to experience my first orange bath in just my second month of coaching.

Like many college graduates of the past couple decades, I really had no idea what I wanted to do when I graduated. I had just finished with a journalism degree from West Virginia University and didn’t really want to use it at the age of twenty-two. In spring of 2002, I moved back to Winston-Salem and I was living in an apartment with my friend, Graham Lyles, near Hanes Park.

We slept in late, frequented bars like Black Bear and The West End Opera House, and we held off becoming adults as long as possible. Graham was interning at Baptist Hospital and applying to medical schools and had his life figured out. I had no idea what I wanted to do with mine. I had my first two jobs fall in my lap and they both would alter my course.

I was living my lazy life that summer and I ran into Coach James Williams, my high school soccer coach at R.J. Reynolds. He told me that he had a friend that was just hired as the varsity boys soccer coach at North Forsyth High School. He was looking for an assistant coach and junior varsity head coach. I agreed at the time just so I could say that I had a job, even though it was just part-time.

I had to get more work so I substitute taught in the school system. After two weeks, I subbed in an autistic classroom at Jefferson Elementary, and luckily for me, a position opened and I was hired in that classroom the following week. Coaching high school requires you to have a job that gives you afternoons off, so this job at Jefferson was perfect. Working with autistic kids for two years was something I won’t ever forget, but that is for a different blog.

North Forsyth was a decent program when I was in school four years earlier. The dynamic of the team and the diversity of the school had changed substantially in just four years. The school had a much larger Hispanic population and the soccer program went significantly downhill due to a decrease in talent-level, but more importantly not being able to keep good coaches around.


Being twenty-two, I really didn’t research the coaching position like I would research a job nowadays. North Forsyth’s J.V. Boy’s Program didn’t win a game the year before. They not only didn’t win a game, they didn’t score a goal!

My first day was the first day of tryouts. The j.v. pool was eighty percent Hispanic, ten percent country, and ten percent from the travel team crowd that I grew up playing with. There were Hispanic players around when I grew up, but they wouldn’t try out for their high school teams for various reasons.

I was twenty-two at the time, but I looked sixteen at most. I could have easily been one of the players in the eyes of the parents and other players walking down to tryouts that first day. Tryouts were easy since the varsity coach put them together. All I had to do was evaluate the players I wanted, which was also simple since there weren’t enough for me to make any cuts. I was going to get what the varsity coach didn’t want.

There were two freshmen wearing Twin City Soccer Club shirts that I really wanted on my team. They had grown up playing in the same club I played on and you could tell. They were as talented as the juniors and seniors out there. It was all up to the varsity coach. Did he want to keep 18 or 20 players and give me 16 or 18. He decided to take the two players, and put me on the back-foot of my first coaching job right off the bat.

My goalie was on the larger side of the scale. Some of the Hispanic players didn’t speak English, so I had to designate two of the players as team translators. The Hispanic players were my most technical players, but they also didn’t have any history of playing for an organized team. I had a couple players that had played organized club soccer and a couple players that had just a couple years of recreational soccer under their belts.

It was a rag-tag group of players, with a young coach with absolutely no coaching experience playing in a conference with schools with much more soccer history and soccer talent. The cream of the crop in the conference that year and many years before was Mt. Tabor High School. Their varsity team ended up winning the North Carolina 4A State Championships that year.

I knew a lot about Mt. Tabor, because they were my high school’s rivals for four years. Unfortunately for the first three years, it wasn’t much of a rivalry. Thanks to a long goal by my good friend, Daniel Eggers, we beat them just one time in at least eight attempts my freshmen through junior year. My senior year, they not only were more talented than my team at Reynolds, they were also more talented than most teams in the country. They were ranked in national high school polls and first in the state. My senior year, I learned that you could beat the talent of Mt. Tabor with heart and brains. We ended up beating them twice that year and winning the conference title for Reynolds for the first time in over a decade.


Their junior varsity team was more talented than the varsity team at North Forsyth. We did okay the first couple of weeks of games. We actually had a couple ties and had scored some goals. Then we had to play Mt. Tabor. The game was at home and there was a large crowd filtering in to the stadium in anticipation of the varsity game with the top team in the state.

They scored two goals in the first five minutes, and that was all she wrote. They were up by six at half, and cruised to an 8-0 win on our field. An 8-0 soccer win is equivalent to a 56-0 football win or forty to fifty point blowout in basketball. When a team starts to play keep away from your team, it is very embarrassing as both a player and a coach. Mt. Tabor played keep away from us for the majority of the second half. In losses, coaches look for bright spots to move forward. There were no bright spots except for when the referee finally blew the whistle to end the game.

The week didn’t get much better as we went to powerhouse Greensboro Page and they beat us 10-1. Conference play didn’t get off to a great start to say the least. Over the past twelve years, I have learned a lot about coaching soccer technically and tactically. No matter how much I learn about systems of play or the newest moves, it still won’t compare to as much as I learned that following week about coaching from the heart.

The week before we traveled to Mt. Tabor I made practices more fun. We still had our fair share of fitness, which is still important to me as a coach, but for the most part the team left every practice happy even though we were coming off two atrocious games.

During that first slaughter with Mt. Tabor, I also learned how important it is to really get to know your competition. I paid close attention to Mt. Tabor’s strengths and weaknesses. In their 8-0 win, there were a lot more strengths on my list than weaknesses.

We got off to a good start to the re-match week with our first win of the past two seasons and it was a conference win. There was a spark in the team that week that I didn’t see before and they actually believed they could win at Mt. Tabor. Though I didn’t have the same confidence, I did feel that we would have a better showing that the 8-0 drubbing from the first game.

Just like most j.v. games in high school sports, nobody really shows up until the second half to get ready for the varsity game. This played into my plan. My players didn’t have much to be nervous over since nobody was there, and the Tabor players didn’t really have anybody to impress on their side.

In sports it is hard to get psyched up for a re-match after you killed the team the first time around. I knew that the first ten minutes of the eighty minute game would set the tone for both teams. I constantly repeated to the team that week to not let them score the first ten minutes. If we held them the first ten, we would have a shot for the whole game. We not only held them off the scoreboard, we knocked in a goal. The first game we didn’t have a shot all game, and the second game we already had a goal in the first ten minutes.

We woke a sleeping giant after that goal and they pounded on us the rest of the half. My large goalie was diving left and right and playing out of his mind. He was “in the zone.” I also had a budding star emerge. He was by far my smallest player, probably no taller than five feet and around a hundred pounds. He was very similar to my size when I was a freshman at Reynolds. He also spoke very little English. That day at Mt. Tabor, he came out of his shell. He was dribbling circles around the much larger and stronger Tabor players, who were wearing the navy and white striped hand-me-down jerseys from the varsity team that I played against when I was in high school. He provided the first assist on a beautiful pass and he was our only real offensive force in the first half.

At half time, the team was as excited as a team could be and I had to tamper down their excitement a little bit. The stands were starting to fill for the varsity game and I knew that it would be hard to repeat our first half performance, especially with Tabor now having a reason to play. Once again, I emphasized the first ten minutes of the half. “Hold them again and we can maybe beat them,” I repeated over and over.

Miraculously, once again against the run of play, we scored and shockingly took a 2-0 advantage. They threw the kitchen sink at us for the final thirty minutes. As each minute passed, I pushed my team further and further into our defensive end and made as many time-killing substitutions as I possibly could. With about ten minutes left our line of defense cracked and Mt. Tabor struck a goal to cut our lead to 2-1.

Fortunately, they never really had any good chances over the last ten minutes.Our parents were standing and cheering and our varsity team bypassed their warm-ups to cheer us on for the final minutes. With a final couple clearances of our defensive area, we held Tabor off and the ref blew that final whistle, which is music to a coach’s ears when he or she is winning a close game.

My team stormed the field, which is very rare at that level, and to my surprise I had the chilling relief of the Gatorade bucket dumped on my back by a couple players on the bench. Freezing ice being poured over your head on an already chilly day might not sound like fun, but it is one of the greatest thrills a person can experience. I spent the next ten minutes shaking hands of parents and even the varsity coaches from Tabor. That whole time I could hear and see our old, white activity bus shaking with cheers and jumps while I was more than fifty yards away. The ten-minute ride back to North was filled with songs like “We Are the Champions,” and even some Spanish songs where I had no idea what they were singing.

The game also didn’t end up being a fluke. Later in the season, we played Page at home and after their 10-1 slaughter at their place, we played them to a 2-2 tie at home. We finished the season with five wins and three ties from a team that didn’t win the year before. Though the Mt. Tabor win was just a junior varsity level win, it meant much more to me. It was the moment that I found out what I wanted to do with my life.


Men Aren’t Strong Enough to be Teachers

Thank you to all female teachers. The male gender should thank you daily for taking care of one of the most important professions to ever exist. Thank you to women like my mom, who spent over thirty-years making the world a better place for children of all races and backgrounds.

As a former male teacher, I can tell you that men are not as mentally strong as women. We might be faster on the playing fields and stronger in the gyms, but there is a good reason that around seventy-five percent of public school teachers are women. Men can’t handle the job.

LeBron James might be the best basketball player in the world, but let’s see how he does teaching summer school in the off-season. Bill Gates might be one of the smartest men of this generation, but let’s see how he handles a classroom full of third-graders. Instead of presidential contenders spending millions of dollars this year politicking around the country, just put them in a kindergarten classroom and see who can handle it the longest. The open-mindedness and life inexperience of a kindergarten classroom would fit for a perfect poll of the candidates.

Some people actually believe that teachers are paid too much. People say teachers are just glorified babysitters that get way too much vacation time. Presidential candidate, Chris Christie of New Jersey, went as far as saying that “teachers are paid too much, and bankrupting the system.” Christie actually cut New Jersey subsidized meals. Looking at his size, Christie probably just wanted more food for himself.

There is a reason that the percentage of male principals is much higher than the percentage of male teachers. Men as a species can’t handle a classroom. We can’t handle getting up early and always having a smile on our face. We can’t handle making lesson plans everyday. We can’t handle countless phone calls, emails,  and drop-ins from worried parents. We can’t handle disciplining twenty children daily. We can’t handle a kid throwing up on our shoes or needing a shoulder to cry on.


This is not to say that there aren’t great male teachers and there aren’t bad female teachers. There are plenty of both kinds. I don’t think I was an awful teacher in my five years in the school system. I just wasn’t nearly as good as a lot of my female co-workers. I loved working with the kids! I hated having to set up meetings with parents. I strongly disliked getting up early and having to type up lesson plan after lesson plan. I hated all of the meetings.

I wasn’t strong enough to teach for a lifetime. I honestly think that the male genes, for the most part, just can’t handle teaching. There is something implanted in the brain of a female when they are born that gives them the intelligence, creativity, sustenance, and patience to teach for thirty-plus years that men don’t have.

It is a complete mockery that teachers in my home state of North Carolina average a salary of just over $47, 000, which ranks 42nd in the United States. This has been a problem for both Democrat and Republican governors in North Carolina, and it is blasphemy. It needs to be fixed. Teachers deserve more compensation for their work in our state. If men made up seventy-five percent of teachers, I can guarantee that teachers would average a much higher salary.

In a recent study, among the study’s findings, North Carolina ranked 51st in ten-year change in teacher salary; 48th in public school funding per student; 47th in median annual salary;  and 43rd in teachers’ wage disparity. We finished in dead last in a category. This is unacceptable! Our teachers deserve more.

When I was student teaching, I was very lucky that my great teaching mentor, Mary Ann Davis, placed me with Susan Reeve. Susan was a second grade teacher at Jefferson Elementary in Winston-Salem. Her husband is a strength coach at Wake Forest University, but he gets all of the strength he needs at home from his wife. Not only was she a highly entertaining teacher to learn under, she also is a breast cancer survivor. Women like Susan are as tough as any football or basketball player and they are just as good as a role model to our youth.

It is time teachers are appreciated the way they should be. It is time that men realize that we don’t teach by choice, but that we don’t teach because we aren’t strong enough to do it.


Byron Hill: Famous Winston-Salemites

Winston-Salem is one of the greatest small cities in the world. Famous Winston-Salemites will feature some accomplished people that lived in Winston-Salem and now have moved on to do great things. All of the questions will be about their time in the Twin City.
Byron Hill’s family moved to Winston-Salem in 1953. His mother was a public school teaching assistant and his father was a technical illustrator. In 1978, he moved to Nashville and became a ten-time American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) award winner and has thirty-two U.S. and Canadian top-ten chart hits. His songs have generated more than 700 recordings and seventy-seven Radio Industry Association of America (RIAA) gold and platinum awards.
Hill has written songs for eleven artists who have gone on to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame perform his songs. Performers of his songs have included artists like Ray Charles, Alabama, Brooks & Dunn,George Strait, Reba McEntire, George Jones, Randy Travis, Jason Aldean, and Kenny Rogers. His songs have been recorded by artists from twelve different countries over his four decades of writing music. Hill is currently a staff writer at Dan Hodges LLC and serves on the Board of Directors of the Nashville Songwriters Association International. He currently lives in Nashville and is married and has one daughter.
Follow Hill at his website: http://www.byronhillmusic.com/. Below Hill answers questions about his time in Winston-Salem and his favorite things about our city:

Winston-Salem Questions:

When all have you lived in Winston-Salem?
I lived in Winston-Salem from 1953 until 1978. My family still lives there. I have three younger siblings.

Which Winston-Salem streets have you lived on?
As a very young child, we lived in Cloverdale Apartments, then moved to the South Fork area when I was 5. We lived on Kyle Road in Gordon Manor. After I returned from college at Appalachain State University, I lived on Sunset Blvd., Crafton Street, and West End.  My family remained in the South Fork area until the mid-1990’s. My mother now lives near Ardmore and I have a brother in Clemmons.


What different Winston-Salem schools did you go to?
South Fork Elementary, Southwest Junior High, and West Forsyth High School.

Who were your favorite teachers?
Many, but my sixth grade teacher was Mr. Richard Snyder and he encouraged me to be creative with my writing. My band teacher at Southwest was Richard Conklin. He was great. There were many others at junior high and high school…too many good ones to name.

What got you interested in music?
My father played guitar and I started playing when I was ten.  My influences were The Carter Family, Bluegrass, Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, and especially Kris Kristofferson. I started writing songs when I was sixteen.


Who all in your family are musicians?
Just my father. He played guitar and Harmonica


Where all did you have jobs in Winston-Salem?
My first job was mowing lawns and picking blackberries. Then I worked for Dr. Eubanks (a veterinarian in South Fork), at Club Haven Pharmacy, for O’Hanlon-Watson, at Baptist Hospital Pharmacy, a part-time job at Cheap Joe’s Jeans, a part-time job at a wine distributor, also Hanes Dye & Finishing (a summer job that turned into a year), Ridgetop Records, Hunter Publishing Company, and my favorite job was at Dixie Music Co. (where I taught guitar for 3 years before moving to Nashville).

What are your top three local Winston-Salem restaurants of all-time?
Way back it was Staley’s. A longtime fave has always been Vincenzo’s, and now my fave is West End Café.


What is your favorite place to go in Winston?
Downtown Fourth Street.

What is your favorite North Carolina Beach?
My family rarely went to the NC beaches, so I’ve never been an expert on where to go, but I really do like Southport and the Outer Banks in general.

Where is your favorite place in the mountains in North Carolina?
That would be the Boone/Blowing Rock area, but I also like Black Mountain.




Birth:A Father’s Perspective-My Birth

This is the story of giving birth from a father’s harebrained outlook. I have two wonderful children, McKinley and Hudson. My wife, Katie, did 99.9% of the birthing work. Here is the story of child-rearing from my point of view:

The History of My Birdbrain Birth Genetics

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree or in this case from the birth. I’m very lucky to have Rence and Barbara Callahan as parents. I have the best parents anyone could ask for in this world. Seriously. But in this case, my empty-head on the idea of birth came from one place: genetics. It didn’t come from my mom either; just my dad.

Just like Katie, my mom did 99.9 of the work on the birth of my sister, Lawren, and I. When I say work, I mean a nearly impossible endeavor. Pushing out a Callahan-sized head is no easy task!

On March 31, 1980, President Jimmy Carter deregulated the banking industry. Pink Floyd and Blondie had the top songs on the charts. The World Boxing Association Heavy-Weight Title between “Big” John Tate and Mike “Hercules” Weaver was fought that night. And Jay Callahan was born at Forsyth County Hospital in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

I can’t claim to remember my birth, but I have heard stories over the years. Some of these stories might be somewhat embellished from my own imagination.

There was some rain and fog on the early spring day and it was a cool 63 degrees in Winston. My parents had just moved to Winston from the sprawling metropolis of Gastonia via Charlottesville, VA via West Virginia/Pennsylvania. Lawren was three and a half-years-old and chomping at the bit to have a little brother that would never-ever get on her nerves. My parents were living in the West End Neighborhood, where I would spend my entire childhood.

My dad really wanted my mom to hold off until April 1st to give birth. Not because April 1st is April Fool’s Day, even though that day would be fitting for my birthday. Instead, he wanted me to share a birthday with my grandfather, “Daddy Tut” Callahan. I can imagine him telling my mom she wasn’t ready to go to the hospital quite yet, and to not do any Lamaze breathes once she was at the hospital. “Just hold off a little while longer!” I made it to 9:00 pm, but my mom could not wait any longer.

Just like me, my dad is a huge sports fan. In 1980, you could watch boxing on regular television and you didn’t have to fork out a lot of money to watch on pay-per-view. Along with the Tate vs. Weaver fight, Larry Holmes and Sugar Ray Leonard also fought that night. There was no such thing as televisions in the hospital rooms back then, so you had to go out into the lobby to watch the tube.

There is a good chance that the doctor that delivered me also delivered you if you were born around the same time in Winston-Salem. My mom’s doctor, Dr. Harold Pollard, just so happened to be the father of my junior prom date, Nell. It was a little awkward going into the Pollard’s house to pick up Nell, knowing that her dad was the first person ever to see me. That is a different story.

I can picture the scenario. My dad trying to sneak back and forth from the birthing room to the lobby for the fight. Between rounds, he would go back to the room to ask my mom to slow down, and just hold-off a little while longer.

Tate was the current champion and the heavy favorite in the fight. Weaver was just a journey-man fighter and was much older and smaller than Tate. For the first eleven rounds, the champion had the edge. Each round my dad would sneak back out, and each round my mom would get a little closer to my birth.

I can picture my dad being stopped in the hallway by Dr. Pollard around round 12 and the doctor telling him that it was close to time. I can see my dad going back into the lobby to check-in on the fight one more time, before he had to stay in the room, and realizing I wasn’t going to make it until April 1st. I picture several people smoking in the lobby, and it having a very “Mad Men” feel.

The last round my dad witnessed was the 12th where things started to shift in the fight. Weaver miraculously started to take control, but my dad realized he had to get back to the room

As my mom pushed harder and harder, Weaver fought stronger and stronger against the champ. I can imagine that my dad was standing at the top of the bed, avoiding all of the things most guys don’t like to see during the birthing process as my mom continued her battle.  “Hercules” Weaver knew he had one last round to knockout the champion in the 15th and final round.

With just a minute left in the fight, Weaver hit Tate with a hard right and then a hard left as my mom pushed with all of her might. As Dr. Pollard reached his hands out to grab me, the champ “Big” John Tate had his back against the ropes. As my watermelon-sized noggin popped out, Weaver swung the hardest left hook of his life crushing the champ in his jaw and knocking him out and unconscious.

I can picture my dad and Weaver simultaneously throwing their fists up in the air in joy and disbelief. I can imagine Weaver dancing around the ring and my dad dancing around the hospital room. A new champ and a new Callahan!



Birth: A Father’s Perpective

This is the story of giving birth from a father’s harebrained outlook. I have two wonderful children, McKinley and Hudson. My wife, Katie, did 99.9% of the birthing work. Here is the story of child-rearing from my point of view:

Part I-The Pregnancy Stick (McKinley Edition)

Fathers have been going through the joy of finding out their significant others are pregnant since the beginning of the human race. Katie and I continued the time-honored exuberant tradition of finding out we were having a baby in late 2009.

The National Institute of Health states pregnancy tests started as early as 1350 B.C. The Ancient Egyptians urinated on wheat and barley seeds. If the wheat grew it meant there was a girl baby and if the barley grew they thought it was a boy. If neither grew, the Egyptians decided the woman wasn’t pregnant. Katie and I didn’t attempt the wheat and barley test.

In the Middle Ages, there were actually people known as piss-prophets that claimed they could diagnose different diseases and conditions like pregnancy by the color of a woman’s urine. If it was a “clear lemon color and cloudy on the surface,” they declared that you were pregnant. Katie and I did not use a piss-prophet.

During the 1920’s, doctors injected women’s urine into rats to test for pregnancy. If the woman wasn’t pregnant, there wouldn’t be a reaction by the rat. If she was pregnant, the rat would react like it was in heat. We didn’t inject Katie’s urine into any rats.

In the 1970’s, pregnancy tests first became available to be purchased and tried at home. The home pregnancy test allowed women to take the test in the privacy of their own residence, while taking an active role in their own health care. Katie and I went this route. In fact, Katie took several do-it-yourself pregnancy tests that winter of 2009.

Katie and I were married in October of 2008 and spent most of 2009 trying to get pregnant. There were ovulation calendars. There was rushing home because ovulation was at its highest rate. If Katie was having a Mittelschmerz, I knew I better get home to perform my duty. Ovulation felt more like matriculation to me as the year wore on.

Thanksgiving of 2009 had passed and Christmas was drawing closer and we had no luck so far. One day Katie called me home from work. We had tried some cheap, generic drug-store pregnancy tests in previous months, but they all came back with one negative line.

Katie rushed me into the bathroom of our old house in the Ardmore neighborhood of Winston-Salem. She spent the next three hours in that bathroom. Luckily, we had just renovated it from a very tiny bathroom to a much more spacious area, so she was more comfortable in her frenzied state of mind.

With shaky hands and tears in her eyes, Katie showed me the generic pregnancy stick. I looked at it, but I could only see one line. There was the possibility of a second line but it was very faint. Katie said, “No! There are definitely two lines there!” We went back and forth like this and then she took the other test in the box. It looked the same to me, and Katie now had her own doubts.

She sent me to get her a full glass of water and then to CVS to get another pregnancy test. While I was gone, Katie drank several glasses of water. I had no idea what box to get, so I ended up picking out one that showed pink for positive and blue for negative. I got home and Katie was ready to go. She went and tears swelled up her eyes when she saw the result. Unfortunately for me, I am color blind. I really could not tell if it was pink or blue.

After some more arguing about the color, I went back to the drug store. This time, I was too embarrassed to go back to CVS, so I went to Walgreen’s. I just started throwing different boxes into the basket. I am pretty sure there were boxes of all sorts including: First Response, Clearblue, E.P.T., UPS, DMX, KFC and many more.

When I got home, Katie tried them all. There was water chugging, peeing, water chugging, peeing, repeat. I am a bit of a germophobe, so having to repeatedly handle the pregnancy sticks made me a bit uncomfortable. Our bathroom sink counter was filled with tests of all different shapes and sizes. The good thing was they all showed two lines, or pink, or a plus sign and Katie was definitely pregnant.

That day Katie drank several gallons of water and either peed or cried it all out. We spent over a hundred dollars on pregnancy tests to prove that we would be having our first child. Less than nine months later, Katie gave birth to McKinley on August 22, 2010.

Next Edition: The Pregnancy Stick (Hudson Edition)




If I Painted Your House in 1997:SORRY!

Moral: Don’t bully your workers, you could really need them in the future.

In 1997, I was seventeen and looking for a summer job. Looking back on my seventeen-year-old self, I can honestly say nobody should have ever hired me. I would never hire that version of Jay Callahan for a manual labor job. I was an awful sandwich maker, maker of honey baked hams, and I was the worst house painter.

My friends, Graham and Yates, and I were all looking for jobs for that summer to make some extra cash and get our parents off of our backs. We came across a sign in a front yard of a house in Buena Vista that said Collegiate Painters. We were rising seniors in high school so we gave them a call.

The boss of our region was named Scott and was a rising senior at Wake Forest University. He was in charge of a crew that painted mainly middle to upper class houses in the Buena Vista and Sherwood Forest neighborhoods. Rob hired all of his painters from Wake, except for the three of us. We later figured out why he needed three high school kids and it was not a good reason, it was to give us the areas nobody else wanted to paint.

Eight dollars an hour was a great paying job back then, so we were pumped about all the Dave Matthews and Blues Traveler CD’s we could afford with all of that money. Most of the painters from Wake were looking for some extra cash, while staying on campus and taking summer school.

Graham took a three week bike trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway, so Yates and I had a head start on filling our pockets. Our first house was a large, two story brick house with a lot of trim that needed painting. From the start, we were picked on by Rob. He gave us the worst areas of the houses to paint and was never nice about it.

Yates was tall, so he made Yates paint places like the pipes on the roofs and underneath the roof. I was short so I had to paint low windows and the areas behind bushes. If you ever wonder who gets the job of painting behind bushes right up against the house, it is most likely a seventeen-year-old. At one point, I had to crawl underneath a row of prickly bushes and spend a day painting with thorns poking all over me. Rob would order pizzas for lunch. He would make Yates and I keep working until everybody else was done eating, and then give us a lunch break of cold pizza. We would purposely paint windows shut by the second week, just so Rob would have to go back over them and pry them open.

Rob and his friend, John, enjoyed watching us suffer and were what the French would call le stupide. John was a track star at Wake, and was one of those guys that thought he was better than the rest of the world. I guess it was popular back in those days for college students to get Chinese symbol tattoos. John had a big fat one on his ankle. I am not positive what it meant, but I am pretty sure it was the symbol for jackass.

By the third week, Yates and I were over it. Graham was set to return in a couple days so we stuck it out. Graham was dating the step-daughter of the President of Wake Forest at the time. He made sure to let all of the painters realize this on his first day. They must have assumed that Graham could help hook them up with new scholarships or better grades with his connection, because they were kissing his butt right away. While I was rolling around on my stomach trying to not mix paint and dirt on the bottom of the house and Yates was shaking a mile in the air, Graham was basically getting massages. We had the cold pizza and he was getting a big fat filet.

After about two weeks of Graham being back in town, Yates and I were done. Yates picked us all up one morning. On the way to get Graham, we decided we weren’t going back to paint ever again. We just weren’t going to show up at the next house. We told Graham it was okay if he kept going, but there was no way the two of us would be with him. Graham probably enjoyed making good money while being fawned over, but he was a loyal friend so he stayed with us.

That morning we went to Toys ‘R’ Us and tried on roller blades and played roller hockey in the aisles until we were kicked out. Then we went and got free smoothies from girls we knew that worked at the Juice Shop. We spent the rest of the day at Forsyth Country Club pool, where none of us were members. We knew several members and we even had codes to get free lunches on friend’s accounts. We were living the high life.

For the next three weeks until it was time for soccer tryouts, we got into a new routine (sorry mom and dad). We would wake up and put on swim trunks and put on old paint clothes over-top of them. We would act like we were off to paint houses, and instead we would go play roller hockey at Toys ‘R’ Us, get free smoothies, and hang out at the pool all day. We even got a paint can and would put some paint on our clothes to make it look really official that we were working.

Two weeks into our summer job vacation, we were at a party and all three of us got pages from Rob. Back then, if you looked at your beeper and there was a 911 beside the number, it was very important. We knew it was Rob’s number and we made Graham call him after several other pages. He put the phone at the house on speaker and we listened in to the call. Rob asked what happened to us and sounded like he was about to cry. Apparently, several other painters quit, and it was down to him and John. He really needed us to help him complete two big jobs that week.

After listening to Rob beg for a while, we finally told him that we would try to show up at the address he gave us the next morning. We woke up that morning, put our paint clothes over our swim trunks and went to play roller hockey, get free smoothies, and go to the pool; while ignoring pages from Rob.

If you had a house in one of those neighborhoods in the late nineties, I am sorry about the poor paint job at the bottom of your house. Also, if you ever have high school employees, don’t be mean to them just because they are young. It might come back to bite you!


The Last Blind Date Ever

I like to think that my first and only blind date happened to be the last blind date of all time. You hear horror stories of blind dates all of the time. I can’t say that my blind date was horrible since nobody was bodily harmed. I made a clumsy mistake during the introductory portion of the date, and there was no looking back from there.

The year of the date was 2005 and the internet was getting past the horrific dial-up phase of AOL and moving into the fast life of smartphones, wi-fi, social media, and Google.

Even in 2015, I am sure there could still be blind dates in the far reaches of Siberia or with indigenous tribes in Australia, but I can’t see them being possible anymore in the social media age of the United States.

Of course, there could be new relationships set up by friends or family. People meet all of the time off of sites like Match.Com, EHarmony, or the hundreds of other “single and wanting to mingle” sites, and go on dates without ever officially meeting each other in person.

The dictionary defines a blind date as, “a social engagement between two persons who have not previously met, usually arranged by a mutual acquaintance.” I personally don’t think it can be considered “blind” if you have ever seen the other person, even in a photograph.

In 2005, I just bought my first condominium, started my first year coaching college soccer, and I was teaching school. My student’s mother told me she had somebody she really wanted me to meet who was new to Winston-Salem. I agreed after the second or third time she asked me and she set everything up.

I didn’t look my age of twenty-five. I could have easily passed as fifteen. Until recently, I always looked a lot younger than my actual age. I didn’t lose all of my baby teeth until I was in ninth grade. I didn’t start growing until tenth grade.

At various points in my life I questioned if my parents lied to me about my age. I felt similar to when William Miller asks his mom, Elaine, how old he really is in the backseat of their station wagon in the movie, Almost Famous. Elaine, played by Frances McDormand, turns around and confesses that she skipped William two grades without telling him and he was really two years younger than he thought. When his mom finally tells him how old he really is, he puts his head back against the seat and says, “this explains so much!” (Click for link to scene).

My blind date and I decided to meet at an eating establishment on Fourth Street. It was probably in both of our minds that we wanted to have our cars with us just in case.

I was worried about being late, so I got there way too early. I had no idea if I was supposed to wait out front or get a table. I mistakenly picked the second option and got a table. The hostess, perhaps sensing my nervousness, decided to put the table right in the middle of the entire restaurant.

I was sitting there at the table for close to fifteen minutes, and with each passing second, I became more and more nervous. The waiter decided to make it worse by constantly coming back to check on me. He was one of “those” waiters.

Finally, my blind date arrived. She was attractive, but more of a Jennifer Aniston in Camp Cuckamonga than Jennifer Aniston in We’re the Millers (I am not insinuating that I could go on a date of any kind with Jennifer Aniston, just a difference of her attractiveness levels). I won’t get into much detail about my date, because I really don’t remember much about her.

This date was pretty much over before it began. Sitting there, palms sweating, I really had no idea what to do as she recognized that I was obviously the fifteen-year-old looking guy she was meeting, considering that I was sitting there by myself and looking very nervous.

For some reason my feet were underneath the spindle bar that goes across the bottom of some chairs. I decided to stand up and shake her hand when she got to the table. In what felt like slow motion, the spindle was under my heels and as I stood up the chair  flipped over and crashed emphatically to the ground.

The restaurant was packed. I vividly remember a table of middle-aged women that watched the whole event happen. I heard some “ah’s” and some chuckles from around the restaurant. Not knowing what to do, I tried to shake her hand while still bending over to pick up the chair with my left hand. This plan did not work as I somehow let go of the chair and, once again, it went crashing to the ground.

By then the whole restaurant was watching. I am sure I was as red as a a matador’s cape as I finally picked the chair up. By this point I hadn’t shaken her hand yet and I don’t think we ever did. We sat down as we both probably just wanted people to stop looking at our table.

At some point I must have redeemed myself during the rest of the dinner, because she suggested going to a movie. She also asked me to call her again after the movie, but I could never get the chair drops out of my mind.

It would make a fitting end if the last blind date ever ended up being Katie, my wife (who I do think is more attractive than Jennifer Aniston). That is not the case. After we each got in our own cars, I never saw my only blind date again. I am sure she remembers me as that guy that never shook her hand on our blind date.