I made a run to Costco the week before Christmas. My goal was to pick up a few things that Amy had on her list. I arrived before the place even opened, quick-stepped it through the entrance a few minutes later and arrived back at the car in about 10 minutes. Leaning on the vehicle beside me was folded stroller. As I began to inform the driver, he rolled down the window and told me that his wife was on the phone with their daughter to get instructions on how to open the thing up.
I thought to myself, “How hard can this thing be?” The answer came much too quickly. Two men looked at the stroller for a minute and tugged at the joints and pushed button and pulled knobs, all to no avail. The man shook his head and stated,
“I have two Master’s degrees; you’d think I’d be able to open a stroller!”
It let him know that I had one such degree, and then we chuckled. What else could we do? The next moment I spied a woman putting things in the back of her SUV. “Ah ha!” She looks to be someone who can help. I walked over to her, excused myself for bothering her, and then asked if she could help two men open a stroller. She began laughing and shaking her head.
“I can’t help at all. I’m a grandmother, but I’ll be darned if I can set one of those things up.”
Feeling defeated, I returned to the car. We again looked at the contraption and performed the same actions. Then my hands discovered a lever on one of the side rails. I pulled it and voila, the stroller opened. My compatriot jerked his head up and looked at me to ask what I had just done. I pointed to the lever, and he shook his head. I know that he had the same four-letter word knocking around in his head that I had. His wife opened the car door and informed us that she’d found 2 YouTube videos on how to close the thing but none to open it.
A few years before, we were visiting our grandson in Nashville. He wanted to watch a video, and I popped it in the machine. For a couple of minutes, I punched buttons without ever hitting the right one. Madden got off the couch and walked over to me. He asked, “Can I try it, P?” I handed the remote to him, he hit a couple of buttons, and the video started. The boy never said a word of teasing
or let a snicker pass from his lips. I suppose he knew how dumb I already felt.
I enjoy technical gadgets, and I spend plenty of time on computers as I write, research, and check email. I have a smartphone, not the most recent version but one that does more than I thought possible. However, some functions on these things baffle me. Why are so many steps included in
their use? What kind of language is spoken in regard to use and operation: RAM, byte, app, etc.? Yes, I know what those things mean, but most folks my age don’t speak “technicaleze.” We aren’t mentally challenged. We just don’t get it.
I hope to have several good years left. However, what concerns me is that the world will continue to change and leave me behind. My generation probably feels more obsolete than any past one. Advancement in so many areas occur much faster than in years past. We struggle to keep up, and most of the time, men and women just give up and say “to hell with it.”
As this new year begins, my fellow baby-boomers, enjoy each and every day that you live and every breath that you draw. Don’t worry about not being a pro at using “new-fangled” machines. However, if you have grandchildren and plan to spend time with them, you’d better learn how to open a stroller.

Happy New Year!


Well, it’s here. Little ones thought the time would never come; some adults wished it hadn’t. Either way, Christmas is upon us. The year has been a tough one for us, but in spite of the bad, something magical occurs when this time of year arrives. Our challenges in life are many, but maybe we have a way of dealing with them a bit better.
The weather has made life more than a little unpleasant for millions. Drought in California made
wildfires all the more destructive. Snows along the east coast during the first of the year posed problems for residents, something we who live in the south can’t even imagine. The yearly crop of tornadoes swept across areas of the country and wiped out communities and smashed many dreams.
Guns still continued to cause consternation and polarize people in this country. Approximately 270nd amendment as their battle cry. All the while, more guns are sold, and too often the wrong people get their hands on them and commit unspeakable acts that leave us stunned and confused.
million guns are owned by people in the US. If things keep going, before long we’ll have as many guns as people in the country (319 million in 2014). The fight goes on every time another mass shooting jolts us. One side says the time has come to stop the sales of assault weapons and to demand stricter laws on the possession of firearms. The other side dares anyone to put restrictions on guns and cites the 2
Terrorism has reached new heights of absurdity and brutality. Al Qaeda attacked 15 years ago and scared us as we realized that our country no longer was out of reach of our enemies. Now, ISIS has
reared its satanic head to spread pure evil, along with fear and destruction, in an effort to drag the US into a war. We fret about again sending young men to the desert to fight an enemy whose only goal is to kill as many as possible with whatever weapon they can get their hands on. The smartest bet is to establish a fighting army comprised of soldiers from countries in the immediate area who stand to lose everything to that murdering bunch.
Politics cranked up this year in preparation for the next presidential election. Already the GOP has sponsored several debates, and the Democrats have also held a couple. What seems to be most obvious is that the candidates are long on talk but short on common sense. They’ve managed to whip up emotions with one-liners and promises that they can’t keep. Many individuals already suffer from political fatigue as the never-ending commercials and news reports are dumped on them.
So, Christmas is here, and even in spite of all the bad things that have occurred, it is a time that brings out the best in folks. We’re a little kinder, more patient, and loving. We take deep breaths and just enjoy the company of others and the festivities that come with the time. Families gather for the special day, and more important than the presents or the food is just being together.
I know that some people don’t agree with my take on Christmas and Christianity, and I respect their viewpoints. My heart goes out to those who have no belief in a power higher than themselves. It is faith in God and a belief that we are not alone that makes even the toughest thing easier to bear. During this season, I plan to ask the good Lord to guide us and our leaders so that we can make wise decisions that lead us to safety, security, and peace. We can find comfort in the things that Jesus taught us and asked of us.
I wish you and your families the best Christmas possible. Please say a prayer for the less fortunate and for peace in this world. For those who practice the faith, know that our hope began with the Christmas season and the birth of Emanuel. Let that guide you throughout the years of your life.

Merry Christmas! Thank you for allowing me the chance to write something that might strike a chord with you in some way.


Everyone seems to be piling on in regard to the UT situation and Chancellor Jimmy Cheek’s handling of it. I’ve read the clippings from most of the major players involved, and after having done so, I’m adding my “two-cents worth, whether it’s needed or not.

Folks, we all do dumb things in our lives. Too often, I’ve done something and then wondered wha
t took possession of me and produced such a goofy, moronic idea. I’d say the same thing happened with Chancellor Cheek. He has the best of intentions but put into action some things before thinking them through. I believe the man has the success of UTK at heart, and he wants to make it a top-ranked institution. Cheek also wants the university to be one that draws students from all walks of life. That means that it must actively acknowledge differences in cultures and belief sets of thousands of people. The question is how to do it without creating a firestorm of criticism.

I’d say that the source of the problem might well be in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Vice Chancellor Rickey Hall’s ill-advised approach to Christmas parties has created plenty of angry feelings. The man’s background screams that he is not necessarily an ideal fit for UT. Whether or not
those in power agree, an individual who has spent his time in Minnesota and Iowa is not equipped to deal with the culture of the area. No, I’m not saying that “foreigners” aren’t welcome. I’m just saying that it might be better if Hall had taken time to understand that some ideas have been pushed too hard for people here.

Now, what I won’t do is in any way agree with Scott Desjarlais or Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey. Their knee-jerk reactions are typical from them. “Throw the bums out” is their standard answer. What about working out a compromise instead of threatening to withdraw funding to the university? Oh yeah, they pride themselves on never compromising We know that’s not going to happen; it’s just grandstanding in an attempt to garner support. Some of these folks are quick to condemn, even though they aren’t without their own mistakes.

As for the Christmas dilemma, I am not so sure what diversity proponents are expecting. This is one of the two most special seasons for Christians. The coming of Christ is only surpassed by his resurrection. For the most part, this country is a Christian nation. It has been that way for most of history and has overcome attempts to remove Christmas celebrations. It is absolutely ridiculous to ask the Christians to forego their Christmas celebrations so that others don’t feel excluded. If the Jewish people want to celebrate Hanukah, they have every right to do so. If Muslims want to celebrate Muhammad’s birthday, I encourage them to do so. However, I feel sure that in either case, the groups have no plans to alter their celebrations to include those outside the faiths.

How ridiculous it is to suggest that Christians change their celebrations to include those who don’t want to be part of them. I say all are welcome, but that doesn’t mean traditions and other important parts of our celebrations should be abandoned to please others.

Perhaps what all of us are weary of is the political correctness that is growing like a cancer in the US. Folks are scared that the slightest act will offend some individual or group. We have to use the correct words, act in the correct way, and refrain from anything that might hurt another’s feelings. The fact of the matter is that what makes our country great is the diversity that already exists. We should celebrate the ability to believe what we choose and to act accordingly. My rights end where another person’s begins, but that doesn’t mean that I must change my beliefs to avoid offending someone else. Of course, this doesn’t include acts of racism from any and every group.

Let’s hope that all involved with this latest brouhaha take a few steps back to rethink their positions. Then perhaps they can be more accepting of the other’s views. Otherwise, we’re in for plenty of arguing and demagoguery. As for these suggestions not to disguise Christmas parties, I can only say a
Christmas party is not ever intended to exclude; all are welcome. That message came loud and clear from the sad stories of Jesus’ exclusion by others and his ability to continue forgiving and loving in spite of it.

One last thing: MERRY CHRISTMAS!


Thanksgiving weekend offered most of us the chance to sit back, kick our feet up, and spend the time watching football, eating leftovers, and taking naps. However, that’s not the Rector way. Jim and I had jobs to do and set out to complete the “to-do” list before the work week began. It’s not so different from what we’ve always done.

As boys, Jim and I spent some of our time with jobs our parents meted out. They were afraid that we’d cut our feet off with the lawnmower, but that in no way kept them from giving us pointed clippers with razor-sharp blades and instructing us to cut the high grass and weeds around the house, flower beds, and trees. At other times, Daddy dispatched us to the garden to pull weed from the strawberries. In either case, we worked side-by-side.

Sometimes we undertook projects that required a variety of tools. We’d carry shovels and hoes, along
with wrenches and screwdrivers to the edge of the yard. There Jim and I dug holes or attempted to build “cool” things with a collection of old boards, marbles slabs and assorted items retrieved from the old chicken house.

When we became adults, our commitment to helping each other continued. Most of the time we joined forces to pack U-Haul trucks with possessions for moving. Back then, we substituted skillful packing with strong backs and determination. The work was long, and sometimes our tempers flared, especially when we had different ideas about the best ways to fit everything in a truck that was too small.

When mother fell sick, we took turns staying with her at night. After she passed, we spent time going through a lifetime of collecting to separate the wheat from the chaff of mother’s belongings. Arguments were few, and those that might have occurred came more from grief and loss than from anger.

Neither of us is an expert in things that require the use of hands. Daddy didn’t know much about fixing things, so he didn’t pass along any information to his three sons. Over the years, Jim and I have attempted repairs with our limited skill sets. Too often, the results were so poor that professionals had to come in to fix the messes we had made.

One memorable time, our attention turned to patching sheetrock in a house Jim was going to buy in Powell Valley. We sanded the areas and applied tape and mud. When we finally stopped, that section was so thick with mud that it looked as if something behind the sheetrock were trying to pop out.

Both of us like to mow our yards. Family and friends declare that we cut the grass if it looks as if it might grow. The problem is that neither of us is able to work on mowers, weed eaters, or blowers when they no longer run. If new plugs or clean filters won’t fix the problems, we utter curses and take those items to repair shops.

The arrival of YouTube has been a saving grace. We’ve learned a little about how to correctly do things. That doesn’t mean that our projects aren’t without flaws; it just means that we can do things well enough to get by. Jim can do some simple electrical work, and together we’ve replaced sink fixtures and hung lights.
Thanksgiving weekend, Jim and I built a new ramp for his outdoor building. We managed to use a skill saw without losing fingers and also learned how much better the thing cuts when the blade is tightened. Our attempts to level the thing proved futile due to unexpected problems with the slope of the land from left to right. That kept us from staying completely inside the bubble. After struggling with attaching the supports to the building, we figured out how to cut the right angles to reach success. Eventually finishing that job, which Jim said took much too long to complete, we jumped in his truck and hung Christmas lights on the eaves of his daughter’s house.

Learning how to do things is fun; I only wish I’d have had the nerve to do it earlier in life. The best thing about projects is spending time with my twin brother. He’s the one person who has always been around. I’m glad we can still find way to be together.


Amy and I had the opportunity to see “White Christmas” at the Tennessee Theater not long ago. I’m not much for musicals, but this show is different. The cast and orchestra did a commendable job of presenting one of the most loved shows for the Christmas season. Other sights during the evening
made the event even more enjoyable.

As is the case with many events at the Tennessee Theater, the audience was overpowered by heads of gray hair. Some folks had poured the dye to their heads to hide the gray, but the fact is that most of us “older folks” were the ones who put behinds in the seats.

It’s always interesting to watch senior citizens at an event. Some come in gangs and keep together during the evening. They enjoy the ride to the show as much as the event itself. Many times, the group is dominated by women who must have outlived their husbands; maybe their mates chose not to attend the show, but whatever the reason, women are there in bunches. They seem happier than most others. The secret to that is they have learned to relax and enjoy life more than the rest of us.

The hallways of the theater don’t accommodate many folks at once. Dodging people is necessary to reach the right entrance and seat. Every time I found myself in the foyer, the place was packed. What’s so exasperating is the some just have no regard for others. They dawdle and make no move to get out of the flow of traffic. Groups that decided to meet after the show clogged the traffic flow by standing in the middle of the hallways. They waited in the same place until the last member of their group arrived.

At intermission, two things stood out. First, patrons acted like gunslingers and were quick on the draw to retrieve their phones. They sent texts, checked emails and phone messages, and snapped “selfies” that Amy said helped them to memorialize the show. I can do that by just remembering the evening and letting my mind fill in events any way it wants to.

The second thing I noticed was how many folks yawned. The show began a little after 7 p.m. and ran about 2 ½ hours. I suppose that many were sitting through their bed time as the show ran. I yawned,
and that made Amy yawn, which in turn made me yawn again. By the time we got home, I was well past bed time and dreaded having to rise at 6 a.m. to get ready for work. However, losing a little sleep was a small price to pay for such an enjoyable.

The best thing I saw that evening was my wife. She makes no effort to hide her love of musicals. This one was special to her. Her face lit up with a smile when she heard the orchestra warm up. When the dance numbers began, she changed; the little girl in her came out as she sat mesmerized. Right then, I knew the night had been a success, no matter what else might have been a distraction.

Amy and I enjoyed one of the few nights that we go out for a special event. I admit that during the show I looked for Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Rosemary Clooney. Still, “White Christmas” was a wonderful musical for Knoxville folks. It brought out the holiday spirit a bit early, and more importantly, it brought out the little girl in my wonderful wife. Bravo!