SOMEONE IN THE MIDDLE


The simple truth is that the crowded field of Democratic presidential hopefuls must thin soon. Too many folks are vying for a job that requires special skills. Not everyone who declares for the presidential race possesses those skills, nor will he or she be able to pull off a victory or lead in a way that turns the country from the struggles that it faces.
Too many of the candidates are simply too far left to be appealing to the country. They can’t be elected because their views are too alien to the majority of voters. Many people bought into the promises that candidates made in the last presidential election. They didn’t come to fruition, and now the country’s survival depends upon voters not making the same mistake. An adage applies here: “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”
What makes several Democratic candidates unappealing is their ideology. It’s every bit as skewed to one side as the stuff that their rivals spout now. The only difference is that the left is rabid against the rich, the status quo, and governmental roles. Such inane talking points as taxing those who make $10 million or more with a 70% rate scare folks. It destroys any newcomers’ ambitions of being successfully elected.
Free everything doesn’t work either. Oh, it sounds wonderful, but the sticking point is that the money to pay for such “pie in the sky” ideas isn’t available. We already have a $21 trillion deficit. How much more will be added to the national debt by giving away the store? By some estimates, $32 trillion dollars a year will be needed to fund Medicare for all, with only a savings of some $20 trillion. We can’t afford the debt we’ve already incurred, and adding such a huge sum will be oppressive for generations to come.
Some candidates say that free college education for all is essential. The raw truth is that not everyone wants to go to college. Many would rather learn a skill that provides a quality life. Someone once stated that people hold dear those things for which they work. That applies to a college education. Too many individuals will use free school as “party time” until they flunk out. With the tidal wave of new students, universities will need even more money to hire faculty and staff and erect more facilities to meet the needs of the population. From where do funds for those things come?
Others say that student loans should be forgiven. What kind of sound economic thinking comes up with that? Sure, it’s easy to just write off $1.5 trillion in debts. Isn’t that what we do with all our bills? The average student loan is equal to $37,172. Doing such a ridiculous thing will bankrupt businesses and displace thousands of employees. Perhaps refinancing those loans is a necessary solution; however, holding individuals responsible for the debts they incur is a step in ending the idea that even those who do nothing get a trophy or the belief that anything that is too hard to achieve can simply be abandoned.
What this country needs in a contender is a person in the middle. That means he or she understands what is needed in the country. Yes, healthcare problems must be addressed before none but the richest are able to receive quality care. Education is important, but it must be aimed at meeting the skills, talents, and interests of students. Their investments of time and money help to ensure that they work hard to learn and complete courses of study.
Diamond Rio recorded the song “Meet in the Middle.” The lyrics stated,
“I’d start walking your way; you’d start walking mine. We’d meet in the middle ‘neath that old Georgia pine. We’d gain a lot of ground cause we both gave a little. Ain’t no road too long if we meet in the middle.”
In so many vital areas to our country, that sounds like solid advice for our leaders both now and in the future.



HE'S BACK AND WE'RE GLAD


Our son Dallas moved back to Knoxville in September. He moved to Chattanooga to attend college and then began his career. After 15 years, he decided to make a change in jobs that led him back here. He’s been living with us until he can sell his place in Chattanooga and secure a new residence. He won’t be with us much longer, but just having him around for the last bit brings back memories of when this man was a small fry.
Dallas was the easy child. Lacey was a bit fussier and more volatile; in other words, she was more like her father. Dallas was laid back. That didn’t mean he sat around and did nothing. It just meant his personality was much more like his mother’s.
Sometimes, my son did things that concerned me. One of the first acts was putting his forehead onto the carpet in the living room and zipping around the room as fast as possible on his hands and knees. When he finished, his forehead was covered with a bright red spot from the friction. He smiled and then realized how painful the rug burn was and began to cry. I laughed too hard to offer him much sympathy.
His stoic personality also included a stubborn streak, another characteristic he inherited from his mother. If his actions required punishments, and yes, that meant spankings, he would receive them without shedding a single tear. When I left his room, he would cry, but if I opened the door, he would immediately stop any tears that might fall. It was his way of showing me that he wasn’t about to give in to my demands.
We quickly decided that “time-out” was a more effective discipline for this boy. We placed him in our bedroom in our bed at the back of the house. He continually sneaked to the doorway to ask if he could come out. His toes touched the entrance to the room so he never technically left the room, and Dallas yelled, “Mama,” and begged to be released from the prison. His mother insisted that he return to the bed, and only after several redirections did he eventually serve his punishment and secure release.
Dallas hated school and cried from August until April during his kindergarten year. However, the boy was always curious. He and friends set out on adventures in the creek below the house. On one occasion, a neighbor’s son poked a stick down a hole and ignited an attack by of yellow jackets. The three boys in the group were covered with the swarm and came running back home with whoops and cries that could be heard for miles.
Dallas and neighbor Josh decide to make potato guns. It was something I’d never heard about. They purchased PVC pipes and joined them with plumber’s glue. Also included were several other parts which, to this day, I don’t understand. In the end, they stood in the back yard, stuffed a potato down the barrel of this gun, shot some hair spray into the thing, and lit a match. “Bam!” A potato flew across the yard and into the woods behind our house. I never understood the rationale behind making something that would shoot a potato, but those two boys were smart enough to assemble and fire the weapon.
My son left for college a boy, but he’s returned a man. I’m so proud of all he’s accomplished. Yes, he took his own path to where he’s arrived, but he is a solid man who has a good heart and a good mind. He will find success in this life. He’s back, and we’re glad. Seeing him more often than every couple of months is a blessing. It’s nice to have a pal with whom to watch ball games, mow grass, and rake leaves. Life is always a bit better when a child is around, even if he is 34. 

HERE TO HELP


We’re already well into the new year, but some folks haven’t yet declared resolutions for the coming months. Sometimes these individuals work so hard that they fail to get around to setting new personal goals. Other people believe themselves to be perfect and, therefore, see no reason to change. For those without direction for the coming year, I want to be of service; following are some suggestions for self-improvement work. No one needs to thank me for compiling the list because I know how appreciative he or she will be.
First, folks might choose to work on correctly using the pronouns of the English language. As I’ve preached before, the use of “I” after a preposition is a sure sign that a person is deficient in his

understanding of the English language. Some might ask, “What is a preposition?” Such words as “for,” “between,” “with,” and “from” are examples of that part of speech. During the use of a prepositional phrase, I can give an easy way to decide when to use “I” or “me.” In the sentence, “The other students can eat after you and I,” determine if the “I” is correct by using it by itself: “The other students can eat after I.” Try another one: “The gifts were for you and I.” Does it sound correct to say, “The gift was for I?” If the answer is “no,” replace “I” with “me.” See how simple choosing and using the correct pronoun can be?
I suggest that some drivers work on their skills. Perhaps some folks who pilot cars along the Interstates will choose to drive a bit closer to the speed limit. The rest of us who share the highway
will feel safer if speeders refrain from hitting 90 mph. A few drivers might work on their driving manners. That means they don’t tailgate others who are driving the speed limit; it also might mean they stop zooming down the right lane and then swerving in front of a line of cars in the passing lane.
Here’s another suggestion for a goal. Let’s have people resolve from now on to cover their mouths when they sneeze or cough. I’ve seen plenty of high school students lean back and then sneeze in the classroom. They make no effort to cover the sneeze, and it rockets plenty of yucky stuff into the air. Others cough as if they are ill with distemper. These ill ones rarely cover their mouths, so any terrible things are aimed at the closest individuals. Before long, an entire office or classroom is filled with sick folks. Simple acts can prevent others from being infected.
I watched a commercial on television the other night. A dad and daughter were on a camping trip, and for breakfast, the dad was eating a bowl of cereal. That seemed odd in itself, but what I noticed most was the way the man ate. He held his spoon and shoveled the food into his mouth. Too many
people use spoons and forks in a similar way. If I’d tried to “shovel” my food during a meal when I was a child, my mother would have corrected such an action with kick in the pants or smack to the side of my head. Maybe folks could visit YouTube to learn the proper way to hold a fork, spoon, and knife.
These are just a few suggestions for folks who haven’t had time to develop resolutions. They are simple ones to work on and require minimal effort. Not only will individuals feel a sense of accomplishment but others also will appreciate the change in behaviors. As I said earlier, no one needs to thank me for making these recommendations; it’s the least I can do to help others with whom I share this world. I’m here to help.

WHOLE LOT OF CHANGES GOING ON


I’m sometimes awed by the differences that exist in this world compared to the one that existed just ten years ago. That’s how long ago it has been since I retired from the teaching.  I swore when I left that I would never return, another instance where I’ve had to eat my words. So much has changed in the world in which we live, and sometimes I feel as if I don’t belong.
Cell phones are like cockroaches. They are everywhere, but unlike the bugs, kids can’t keep their hands off them. Even when I give instructions to put them away, students sneak them out. The new earbuds can be hidden behind long hair so that students can listen to music. Their thumbs glide across the screen as they send text messages to fellow students, parents, or sweethearts.

The last year I taught, few students had phones. They weren’t allowed to be out during school, and if they were, teachers confiscated them and turned them into the office. On the second offense, parents had to come to school to pick up the phones from the office. Continued violations could lead to the phones being taken for the rest of the term. Students have tablets now. They are streamlined and lightweight; kids can easily carry them in book packs. Unlimited space is available for storing documents, videos, and games, and simple thumb drives offer more space than older computers ever had. Smart boards are used in classrooms and can project notes from a teacher, videos, and sound.
When I left teaching, computers were bulky. The towers sat on the floors or on desk tops. The
machine took up most of the desk. Only the most fortunate people owned laptops. As for teaching, classrooms were just being equipped with whiteboards to replace chalkboards. Perhaps one or two special teachers had primitive smart boards. Projecting things required an overhead projector, and the bulb blinded teachers and burned out quickly. Grades were stored in gradebooks and then transferred to computer programs that demanded too much work.
Doors are locked everywhere in schools. Security is tight with good reason. Too many attacks on children occur each year, and those who would do harm many times come from the outside. Schools practice lockdowns, and students know exactly what to do during those dry runs.
We had a couple of fire drills and a tornado drill each year. The windows shades were opened, and
the classroom doors were unlocked. School wasn’t the first choice to visit daily for kids, but at least is was a safer environment. Sure, fist fights occurred, and every so often, classrooms were under lockdown as the police brought in dogs to search locker bays and cars for drugs. However, the daily fear of an attack didn’t exist.
What does console me is the fact that high school students haven’t changed all that much. They still enjoy the time they have with friends. Many of them arrive at school half asleep and grunt at each other or parents who drop them off at the front door. The snarls on their faces remain as they enter classrooms. Teens still roll their eyes at adults when they tell corny jokes or come up with clever puns. During class breaks and lunches, those sleepy-eyed, ill-tempered beings transform into happy, energetic folks who seem to thrive off contact with their peers.
I still don’t miss the routine of teaching. Burn out came after 30 years, and I’m just not interested in going back to the daily grind. Still, I can enjoy reacting with kids in small amounts. Their excitement, energy, and love of life always make me feel a little younger and livelier.  I only wish I understood the new things that they consider parts of daily life.