IT'S HERE!

The assignment was to read poems and prose about Knoxville and summer. Before long, I realized that neither piece of literature would impress my two students for one’s family roots were buried in Florida and the other’s ran deep in the soil of New York. The importance of words were lost on them. Still, I was hell bent on their reading and understanding just a bit better this season that is fast approaching.
I don’t often preach to parents because the good lord knows how often a goofed with my own children. However, I implore folks to introduce their little ones to the poem “Knoxville” by Nikki Giovanni and the introduction of James Agee’s A Death in the Family. They paint beautiful pictures of summer in our hometown and, at the same time, usher in so many memories of summers from the past.
This wonderful place gives us a summer that exudes contentment. Much of that peace of mind is spiked by the smells that accompany warm weather. Honeysuckle blooms decorate barbed wire
fences and post. The sweet perfume fills the air and causes us to close our eyes, breathe in the fragrance, and allow a smile to spread across our lips and light up our faces and souls. The scent of freshly cut hay from fields far from our homes ride the breezes to reach us. Even the recognizable smell of mowed wild onions spread throughout the neighborhood. They grow in yards, not lawns, for the latter have been fertilized and sprayed to feed grass and kill all other forms of wild green plants.
The light of day is a plentiful commodity in the summer. Daylight sidles up before 6:00 a.m. It lingers with us well into the evening, and at some points, holds on with the last rays until nearly 10 p.m. Our lives seem fuller since those extra hours of daylight are crammed full of a variety of activities such as playing sports, enjoying water activities, or simply mowing the yard. The night delivers the best hours of sleep to weary souls that made the most of each moment of the day.
For us with graying hair, the hot days and warm nights of the season were much different in the previous century. We lay in our beds at night and prayed for the slightest breezes to blow through every opened window in the house and offer just a bit of coolness. A monstrous floor fan sat in the
hallway, and it sounded much like the propeller of a piper cub on a flight to some far away destination. Even with so much power behind it, the fan merely circulated the air without ever cooling it by even one degree.
I’m afraid that some of today’s parents are neglecting their children as far as summer is concerned. They allow young’uns to sit in a air-conditioned houses instead of insisting that they go outside and learn what it feels like to sweat. Weed and feed products and killers keep children from inhaling those sweet scents that come in the summer. I’ve recently discovered that some poor youngsters have never experienced
the first bite of homemade ice cream. How can they fully understand what a “brain freeze” is if such a wonderful treat has never passed their lips? It’s shameful!
Perhaps this piece is more of a hodge-podge of thoughts, but summer excites me so much that keeping them in a logical order is sometimes difficult. I loved my years as a teacher, but I suppose that part of the reason I chose such career is that it offered the chance to be off in the summer. I hope that this year all of us enjoy each and every minute of the season. The memories that we make will stay with us until our time on earth is finished. Get an early start on summer fun. It’s here!



GREAT OR SECOND-RATE

I gave President Trump an “atta boy” for his swift response to the Syrian gassing. That’s the first and only time I’ve done so. The thing is that I’d like for this administration to be successful, but too many
of the decisions already made show too little regard for the good of the country and too much attention toward adding to the fortunes of the wealthy. I worry about what their formulated plan is.

At the State Department, multiple positions remain unfilled. Included are some that are vital to the smooth running of our diplomatic efforts around the world. The halls have been stripped of any photos of past speakers, a move that seems to be an attempt to purge history. Secretary Tillerson only recently stepped out of his office to travel to other countries, unlike past secretaries who spent much of their time meeting and bargaining with leaders of other countries, both friends and foes. Even worse, he refuses to allow even a small press pool to travel with him. Is that because he doesn’t want the American people to know what is going on or is it because he is hiding something?

The EPA is a shell of what it once was. I suppose that some of the regulations that have been imposed might be excessive. However, our planet is being irreparably damaged by man-made emissions and mishandling of the earth. Naysayers proclaim that the evidence of such destruction is questionable. In fact, the new leader of the agency, Scott Pruitt, carried on a crusade against the very organization that he now heads. He doubts scientific data about the effects of greenhouse gases on the environment. If this administration continues with such blind disregard to changing conditions, the president might rue those decisions when his Mar-a-Largo resort slowly sinks into the rising waters of the Atlantic. Of course, by then, any change of mind will be much too late.

The same problem exists at the Department of Education. Sure, plenty of problems are present in today’s educational system. However, appointing Betsy Devos to head the place is the same as sending the fox to guard the hen house. Devos makes no excuses for her dislike of public education. Neither she nor her children have attended such “terrible places” for schooling. She now pushes for charter schools funded by taxpayer dollars. That move will only take more money from public schools and plunge them into more problems. Maybe this administration doesn’t want the citizenry to be educated. An ignorant population allows itself to be ruled by dictators. Besides, the Trump crowd assumes that no education is necessary for individuals whose jobs are creating more wealth for them.

The in-fighting in the White House tells us much about the folks who have been elected to lead us. On one side is Jared Kushner and his merry band. He has been included in all-important areas of our government. At the same time, he still has a fortune from his family’s company from which he should have divested himself. He meets and deals with countries with whom his businesses have dealt. That sounds too much like a conflict of interest to my simple, middle-class mind.

On the other side are Steve Bannon, Steven Miller, and Kellyanne Conway. This radical bunch is determined to tear completely apart the government. In its place, they want a limited one that has little power to direct the country or
states. Bannon and his ilk also want a select few who think as they do to have free reign to do whatever necessary to reach their goals. This group of extremists seeks change through fear tactics and made-up stories. Less government means they can scheme and plot with little fear of reprisal.


Yes, I am hopeful that President Trump will realize what is best for the “entire” country, not just his small group of friends and associates. I would be willing to say that I’ve been wrong about him. The present facts, to the contrary, point to an administration that flies by the seat of its pants and has no direction. We will pick up the pieces of this destructive four years and hope to put America back together again. Whether America remains the same guiding light and leader is questionable. This might well be the beginning of the end for the greatness of our country. Our children will inherit a second-rate homeland that destroyed itself.

BLOSSOMING


I find it interesting how living things start at one point and manage take it to a grander level. It’s a fascinating aspect of all things. A flower starts as a seed or a bulb. Given the right kind of soil and nutrients, those beginnings grow and eventually produce buds. Before we know it, those buds blossom into beautiful flowers that decorate our yards and tables. That blossoming is even more remarkable when it is applied to humans.

One example of blossoming of a person is my friend Mike Graham. Mike joined the band that plays for the first service at our church. He stated that he was excited about the new “gig,” but he questioned his skills and abilities to perform with the group. Mike practiced at home and even put in hours on Saturday nights before next day services.

As each Sunday passed, he became a bit more comfortable playing in the band. Now, he is performing with confidence and has featured solos in many songs. I’ve enjoyed the music, but more than that, I’ve enjoyed watching Mike blossom into a good guitar player.

My dear wife had little confidence in herself as a younger woman. She worried that she couldn’t complete jobs for which she was hired, even though she possessed the skills to do so and proved herself to be a highly intelligent individual. Over the years, Amy has changed jobs when the opportunity to grow presented itself. She worked diligently as she earned her credentials as a certified human resources specialist. In the jobs she held, Amy has led with compassion and competency, and most of the folks with whom she has worked and directed sing her praises. From a shy, unsure person, she has blossomed into a qualified professional with exceptional skills.

My two children have also grown and blossomed. Lacey was always a driven person who knew precisely what kind of work she wanted to pursue. She dived into college with determination, and by the time she graduated, her professor recognized her abilities and rewarded it. In her work life, she has grown from an entry-level person to someone who is well versed in licensing and other legal aspect of the music industry.

Dallas took a slower path. For much of his life, he took an uncommitted approach to school. However, at some point during college, he decided to get serious, and then he made short work of his schooling. He worked part time jobs and took a full time job at the Chattanooga Choo-Choo for a while. Then he found his comfort spot working for a large company. He has worked hard and learned many of the phases of work in his department. Now Dallas is a specialist in that area. He’s ready for a new challenge in a different department when openings arise. His aggressive attitude and dedication to his work is so much different from those earlier years.

That ability to blossom is within each person. It only needs a bit of nurturing to come to the forefront. Once that happens, the opening of the person into a new world or role is unlimited. The determination to seek that newness is stifled by fear sometimes. At other times, the amount of energy necessary to grow and change is more than a person is willing to devote. At any rate, blossoming is something beautiful to behold as it unfolds before our eyes.

ANNOYING HOSPITAL STAYS

I sat in the surgical waiting room as my dear wife undergoes a procedure. None of us look forward to any kind of events that concern medical personnel; they are second in unpopularity only to trips to the dentist. Everything about these journeys is less than pleasant.

One of the annoying things about hospital visits concerns time. Amy and I set the clock to get up at 5:00 a.m., although I lay awake by 4:30. We threw off the covers, took the dog out, and hopped in the car for the ride to the hospital. The receptionist greeted us with a quick smile and instructed us to take a seat. We moved to the waiting area and plopped into chairs a few minutes before our appointment time of 6:00 a.m.

After completing paperwork, an admissions specialist escorted us to a room where Amy unenthusiastically put on her hospital gown. Nurses came in and stuck her with needles; another came in to tell her what would be going on during the procedure. Then, for almost 2 hours, we waited for someone to roll her to surgery.

A woman at the waiting room desk apologized for not letting me know that the doctor began 45 minutes later than expected. How long I would wait in this room was anyone’s guess, but I knew that
when things were finished, I would be called up to take the doctor and then could find a seat once again to wait.

Another problem with this kind of thing was sitting. In the room where Amy got ready for surgery, the chair in which I dropped my behind consisted of a metal frame and some kind of seat that was hard, thin less than form-fitting. A couple of times I stood and walked around in an effort to improve circulation to my “sitter.”

In the waiting room, the chairs were somewhat thicker. However, the pads were still too thin and
eventually caused sharp pains to shoot through bottom flesh and up the spine. A shifting from one side to the other helped only slightly. Just as I set up my computer to complete a little work, the pager, one like restaurants use to call guest to be seated, vibrated and lit up. I walked to the front counter to discover that the procedure is complete. After stuffing things back into my backpack, I followed an attendant to where Amy recovered.

The chair in the room where Amy stayed was more comfortable. It reclined; the seat had collapsed from hours of pressure from the behinds of patient visitors and family members. I flopped into the seat, pushed back, and almost lost consciousness. However, a steady stream of nurses and aides kept me from sleeping for more than a couple of minutes.

Maneuvering on hospital properties was another problem. Because we arrived so early, finding a parking place was easy. I dropped Amy at the front door and parked close to the entrance. After the surgery, I went home to take care of the dog. Upon my return, I discovered that every single parking space on the premises was taken. Three circuits around the lots failed to spy a car leaving, so I decided to park in the employee lot. The trek to the hospital from there was long; at least the weather was dry.

Inside, reaching a destination was not much easier. The bank of elevators was much too small to handle all the traffic. In addition, the things were SLOW, and arriving at the correct floor took what seemed to take forever. I was also amazed at how adverse folks were to exercise. Instead of taking the stairs to one floor above or below, too many people hopped on elevators. Not many of them had limitations that kept them from simply walking up or down the steps.


My dear wife spent one night in the hospital, and I whisked her home the next morning. For her return to good health I am thankful. I’m also grateful that she didn’t have a longer stay at the hospital; my backside and patience couldn’t have stood it.