Yes, I know that Thanksgiving is still three more days away, but I wanted to get a jump on it and make my list of all the things for which I am thankful and for the blessings poured out to me.

I’m thankful for the job I have. The previous one that I had for 1 ½ years gave me the opportunity to
make friends that I think about almost every day. My new job is ripe with the same opportunities, and I have already developed good relationships with at least some of my new cohorts. Best of all, I’m back with one of my two best friends. Billy Hayes is the person in charge of the department and the one who asked me if I’d like to work there. Billy and I coached our sons in baseball for years; only the two boys growing up and going their ways stopped the meetings under my carport that Billy after most ball games.  A bonus to this new job is that Billy’s son William runs another department, so I see him regularly as well.

I’m blessed beyond words with a wonderful family. My two children are grown now; they’ve built lives that seem to bring them happiness. A grandson who has been a marvel every day is another blessing. However, family doesn’t stop there. My twin brother Jim and his family live close by, and the two of us manage to stay in touch and spend time completing projects or swatting at golf balls. My late older brother’s wife lives in Nashville, and although we don’t stay in touch as often as we should, our love for each other spans fifty years. How wonderful it is that so many folks are a part of my life and mean so much.

I’m also thankful for a group of writers with whom I’ve stayed in touch over the years. Lucy, Mary Anne, and Bob were classmates in a writing class taught by Don Williams. We read our prose and poetry each week in that setting and then moved to a restaurant off the Strip to share more personal parts of our lives. I know that they encouraged me to keep writing when all those rejection letters came in the mail. For their support and friendship, I am grateful.

Most of all, I am blessed to have shared the largest part of my life with Amy. I still don’t know how I was lucky enough to win her affections; I’m thankful that she did say “yes.” Over the years we’ve shared plenty of events that have made this life full and rich and good. A couple of years ago, the acts of some people left us on the outside looking in. Amy lost her job, I went to work part time, and Amy found a new job. Over this time, we have grown closer, more so than I could ever imagine. I’m thankful each day for home and for spending evenings with my girlfriend.

Last, but in no way last, I am thankful for the Knoxville Focus. The paper is the first place that accepted my musings. Charmin Foth  and Steve Hunley gave me a chance to ramble about all sorts of topics. Now, Marianne Dedmon and Rose King take my pieces and somehow find places for them in the paper. I dare say no one is luckier or more blessed to have been associated with such kind folks.

Along with the paper, I am forever indebted to those people who take time in their busy lives to read my weekly take on things. I’m flattered that you do so. I fully believe that God has given the ability to write, no matter how good or bad it is, and it’s been up to me to develop it. I know that in some small way I have done so when you read and comment. Thank you! You’re the best!

I hope you enjoy your Thanksgiving. No, you don’t have to post the things for which you are grateful on some social media website. However, take a couple of minutes to think about the good things in your life, and then utter a “thank-you” to the creator who from whom all things flow. 


I listened to the Democratic Debate a couple of weeks ago. No, it didn’t have the flair for dramatics that came from the earlier GOP gatherings, but some of the answers that the Dems gave for questions were every bit as frustrating as Republican comments.
Over the years, I’ve heard plenty of solutions for the poverty and disadvantages of so many in our country.  The 2014 federal education budget skyrocketed to 85.8 billion dollars. That doesn’t include the mountain of money spent on other things such as school nutrition programs or education tax expenditures for individuals. The entire budget of $141 billion represents 4% of the total US budget. That is dwarfed by the defense budget for the same year, which was a whopping $520 billion. The defense budget took 14.85% of the budget. Does that say to where our country’s priorities are aimed? Maybe so, but this isn’t about education versus defense.
According to, 7000 teenagers drop out every school day. In addition, 26% percent of students don’t graduate on time. That sounds pretty much like an educational crisis. In any other business, such numbers would lead to restructuring, downsizing, or bankruptcy. However, two difference can be found with education. First, schools deal with people. By the way, students are NOT  products that can be molded and consistently reproduced with a predictable standard deviation. Second, we cannot allow the education of our children to fail as we might let happen to a poorly run business.
The leaders of our educational system have decided to institute “rigorous” curricula that spend more time on testing with asinine methods than learning. Teacher morale is at an all-time low as pressure to meet arbitrary goals increases. Students not only have to come up with 2 + 2= 4 but also have to explain “why” that answer  is true. HUH? Any time a “bean counter” is in charge, the bottom line of success is measured in some kind of number. Forget what kids learn.
Democratic presidential candidates urged that more money be designated to education. They declare that the best way to find success in education is to invest more cash in programs, regardless of their effectiveness. In 2011-2012, a total of $12,042 was spent on each US child in elementary and high school.  That’s already a bundle of money.
No, not every child is going to college. In fact, college is NOT for every person. However, each student needs to learn and to develop a skill that will help him or her to earn a living. We need to commit to academic and vocational education to meet the needs of all students. Doing so might prevent some of the dropouts from leaving school.
The best way to address the problems of education and the performance of students is much simpler than what the “big dogs” would have us believe. It’s as simple as developing a family approach to education. That has several steps. First, parents demand excellence from their children. That means that parents demand, not beg or ask, that children GO TO SCHOOL, perform at school, and complete homework in the evening. The might place limits on the use of phones, iPads, Xboxes, and televisions so that more important things can be accomplished, things like reading or art or simple conversation.
Moms and dads can bring about dramatic improvements if they place as much interest in their child’s classroom room performance as they do in their athletic endeavors. That means encouraging them, getting them extra coaching from some source for difficult subjects, and visiting school when parent meetings are held. Involvement is the key to the woes of education for many families. Parents need to parent and not allow children to quit education. Any child who drops out of school is dooming himself to a life of poverty and struggle.

Right now, the U.S. does have a crisis in education. It’s only cure will come when parents recognize the value of education, whether it be academically or vocationally centered. Even if a parent himself was a dropout, he owes it to the future of his children to demand that they complete school and go on to develop skills that will lead to brighter futures. Let’s start at home first in our efforts to improve education before spending piles of money or offering voucher programs that won’t guarantee any more success.


Walt Whitman, one of my favorite poets, said, “Do anything, but let it produce joy.” I can only wish following that advice has been easy, but the opposite is true. It’s the way I’m turned. Heredity probably has much to do with it as well. Whatever the cause, too often my view of the world has been gray.
Both of my grandmothers spent plenty of time wringing their hands and expecting the world to bring about the worst possible events. One toted her bible with her and darkened the doorway of Valley Grove Baptist Church if even a hint that they might open came around. During the day, she listened to gospel music and “air-sucking” preachers who railed against people and predicted the end of the world was at hand. That was in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s; she would never believe that this world is still in one piece today.
I don’t recall ever seeing this grandmother smiling. She was a serious person who seemed to think that fun and laughter were best left for others. I suppose I loved her; after all, she was family, but she would cast a pall over every event or visit that we made to her house.
The other Mamaw loved company. She sat in her favorite chair and held court whenever we dropped by. Beside her chair sat a gallon can into which she deposited dark brown liquids colored by the dip of Bruton that was ever-present in her mouth. Sundays served as the day when we visited her.
The one thing that the entire family knew to avoid was the following question: “How are you, Mamaw?” When one of us forgot and uttered those words, a cloud of doom settled in the room as she began to vocalize every ache and pain and trouble in her life. All we could do was get comfortable and allow our minds to wander; otherwise, we’d have been too depressed to go on. If we did a good job and watched what we said during a visit, Daddy might stop to buy ice cream cones at Well’s on Clinton Highway.
Daddy, too, was a gloom-and-doomer. He worried about money and about groceries and about the future. As it turned out, he saw into the future that he would not be with us long. His life was spent trying to make provisions for us after he was gone. Many times he’d sit at the kitchen table and “figure” on paper. He might softly hum “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” or take deep drags from his Winston and chase it with a swallow of black-as-coal coffee.
I have too long been a pessimist. Behind every cloud isn’t a silver lining; a raging storm is coming. My wife says that I deflate even the grandest plans or events with such words as “but,” “if,” “maybe.” I use them to qualify statements that are made. To my way of thinking, qualifying things prevents disappointment should events occur or be less than pleasing.
It’s a habit that includes worrying. Even when we completely plan something, I worry that events or others will in some way ruin it. To tell the truth, I even worry when I have nothing about which to worry. Not only is the glass half empty, what’s in it is probably unfit for consumption.
I am working to stop my lousy outlook on things. My age has mellowed me in many ways; Amy also helps by pointing out my constant negativity. Whenever I begin spreading a blanket of gloom and worry, she pulls out her razor-sharp wit and makes fun of me until I lighten up. Her most effective tactic is to say,

“STOP AWFULIZING!!!!” It’s not a real word, but I know its meaning. My advice to all pessimistic folks is to enjoy life and quit AWFULIZING! I’ve discovered that existence is much nicer with a better attitude.


I don’t know about the rest of you, but the WHO’s latest proclamation turned out to be one big bummer for
me. Processed meats, those wonderful things like bologna, ham, sausage, and bacon, are now declared

cancer causing. Are you kidding?
For years I’ve known that eating hotdogs and bologna and other meats in this group weren’t especially good for me. Still, I grew up eating this stuff, as did my grandparents and parents. It’s part of what the lower middle class and middle class have eaten for years. My mother fried bologna and Spam for supper on more than one occasion. Cub Scout gatherings, as well as picnics and cookouts, always served up hotdogs and hamburgers. Chili was available for those who wanted to douse a dog with something other than mustard. The processing of those foods certainly helped make them tasty and become favorites for millions of folks. Now, we’re told that eating the stuff increases our chances of developing cancer.
Before this, we were warned about the dangers of red meat. It will choke the life from us as it clogs arteries and causes heart attacks and other threatening conditions. The ones who know what’s best for us implored us to turn our backs on red meat in favor of chicken, turkey, and fish. Hey, I love all those as well, but at some point I swore that if I ate one more piece of chicken that I’d start spitting feathers.
How in the world are people supposed to patch together a diet without a pound of hamburger? Meatloaf was a once-a-week meal when we grew up. Spaghetti with meat sauce still is a favorite in our house. I guarantee you that I am not a fan of pasta topped only with tomato sauce. Nope, just give me hamburger mixed with garlic, cumin, chili powder, and tomato sauce crowning my plate of noodles. Too, a weekly menu without hamburgers and tater tots violates my sense of what is right, what’s normal.
I understand that the WHO and all medical groups are trying to make recommendations that will help our lives to be healthier. Yes, we must watch for too much cholesterol-laden foods that might adversely affect our blood pressure, hearts, and arteries. At the same time, I remember at one point such groups warned of the dangers of eating chocolate. Then, they cautioned us that coffee would kill us. Not long after those announcements, professionals changed their minds and told us that the two things were okay to consume.
It seems that if the medical community had its way, we’d all live on a diet of leaves and twigs. If something
tastes good, it’s bad for us and will kill us. I don’t eat all the right foods, but I do try to make some right decisions. With this new report out, I will cut back on the bologna sandwiches that I eat for lunch each day. Hey, I offset the sandwich with a baggie of raw carrots, and I eat apple sauce or an apple as well. Seaweed and artichoke hearts and Brussel sprouts are NOT claiming space in my diet. Instead, I’ll eat cooked cabbage, broccoli, and fresh asparagus. Isn’t that a good compromise?
Before long, other studies will come out that tell us that the evils of processed meat are not so grave. I doubt already that these foods are as bad as cigarettes, something that the WHO stated and which immediately discredited much of what they claim. Moderation might creep into my consumption of these new taboo foods, but I’m not giving them up completely. I gave up cigarettes several years ago; I’m not about to give up hamburgers. What’s that old saying:  “live well, eat healthy, and die anyway?” To this latest report, all I can say is “Baloney!”