My how times change. Older folks said this in past years, but I never thought that I’d utter those words. In my observations, the changes that surprise me deal with education.
Not so long ago, teachers began to require that students complete summer reading assignments. They were also required to produce papers on those books. We who were high school students in the last century scoff at that kind of requirement. We walked out the doors of school on the last day of the term and gave little, if any, thoughts of spending summer time completing a school assignment. The
break from school refreshed us, and not requiring that work made sure that none of us began the year with a bad grade. We’d achieve that when school opened again.
The ending of teaching cursive writing is a shock. Those of us who are old remember the beginnings of learning to write our letters. For hours, we traced them and then tried to correctly construct them
on paper with a top and bottom line, as well as a dotted line in the middle. We toiled to perfect our ABC’s.
In what seemed to be the blink of an eye, teachers demanded that we learn a new style of writing. Gone were the straight- line letters; they were replaced with all sorts of curves and loops in letters. Cursive writing tried our patience and led to stress as we continued to make mistakes. Eventually, all of us created at least acceptable cursive writing. It was our individual style, but the letters met the requirements of the teacher.
In composition classes, I demanded that all students use cursive writing. I placed the ABC’s in cursive above the board and had students write them five times at the beginning of each class. Students complained but complied. They eventually became skilled in handwriting that was readable.
Another thing that amazes me is the use of the computer. Teachers post homework assignments on a program called Canvas. Students can complete their work and then submit it to the teacher on the same program. Teachers can also post notes and instructional material so that students who miss school can easily stay current in work or can make up missing assignments.
Teachers also use technology to send messages on phones or computers. They can explain  
assignments to students, add more work, and keep in touch with parents about student grades, attendance, and behavior. Grades are posted on line, and parents are able to access them on a site so that they can see what their children’s efforts look like. Of course, the leaders of classrooms and parents at home or work must be savvy enough with computers and cell phones to be able to accomplish these things.
These days, folks don’t need to listen to the radio or television to discover whether or not schools are closed for inclement weather. The system is able to call interested individuals with that information. The only problem that still exists is the decision-making process that occurs in the system’s administrative offices on the subject.
School seems too difficult these days. Yes, we have plenty of folks who sit in offices and determine what is necessary for students. I’m a firm believer in face-to-face contact with students and parents. I also am sure that the more a student handwrites material, the better he recalls it. Summer work puts school in the same boat as athletics: both are becoming year-round things that wear down young people. Maybe a few old practices might improve the situation without endangering the education of children. It’s a tough world out there. Let’s let kids be kids for just a while.


Well, the latest installment of the absurd occurred today. Sports teams have banned the playing of music and removed the statues of the performer for racist actions. Before you stone me for such insensitivity, realize that the performer is Kate Smith and what “sins” she committed took place in the 1930’s.
Smith recorded “That’s Why Darkies Were Born” in 1931 and “Pickaninny” 1933. The first verse of
the first song is offensive if it is taken alone. In totality, the first verse tells of the terrible conditions of slaves. However, other verses laud the strength of those same folks and declare that they are the ones who lead the rest of us to the promised land. These individuals are to be held up in places of honor, not looked at as second-class humans.
The second song can be much more offensive in its language and references. Still, In the movie “Hello, Everybody,” the song is presented to black orphans. It is a song that offers hope for poor children who face along, hard, and poverty-ridden lives. It also says that the mothers of those children who were taken by the Lord will be waiting for them with open arms.
No, we don’t accept such comments or references in today’s world. We’ve learned a different way; we know the equality of all God’s children is our goal. However, the absurdity comes when today’s folks place the same standards on a culture and population that lived 90 years ago. The plain truth is that segregation and inequality were rampant in the 1930’s. Civil Rights marches and equality demands didn’t exist. At that time, those two songs that Smith sang offered a kind of hope that was otherwise not a reality.
So, Kate Smith sang songs written by others. She was a performer. She didn’t write the lyrics. Let’s forget the part she played during World War II. Let’s overlook the fact that she helped to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for the war effort. Don’t give a passing thought to the fact that she was held in high enough esteem to have been awarded The Presidential Medal of Freedom by Ronald Reagan for her artistic and patriotic contributions. Tear down her statues and never again play her rendition of “God Bless America.” We can’t have a racist like that receiving any kind of credit, right?
No, that’s not right. This country’s population might do well to tackle two major problems that face us. One is to stop wearing our feelings on our shoulders. Quit looking for something offensive. Live life with joy and commitment each day. Second, stop looking backward for injustice. Instead turn toward today and tomorrow and work to make sure that racial bias ends and that hate groups that promote it are dissolved.
By constantly looking in the rear-view mirror, we will one day say that we didn’t see the truckload of present-day problems that crashed into us. Accept that times were different; recognize people for the good that they’ve done. That is the best way to wipe out unfairness in the future.


I’m from another generation, another time, and another planet. I must be an alien because so many things in this life baffle me. From social media to television programming, nothing makes sense to a member of the “Baby-Boom” generation.
I have a Facebook account. In times past, I used it to share photos, updates, and political arguments. I
also kept up with selected people and organizations on Twitter. Those, however, have been the extent of my ventures into social media, and even on them I’ve limited my involvement. Instagram and Snap Chat are beyond my understanding. Young people are involved with all of them. They’ve mastered communication with thumbs that move so quickly they become blurs. Mine are stiff with arthritis, and I correct mistakes as soon as possible; they come with nearly every word that is typed.
I substituted the other day, and in one class, an entire table of students sat with their heads buried in their phones. I asked one boy how much he knew about the girl next to him. I gave him half a dozen things he might have learned about her during the semester, but he said he knew none of them. He added, “She’s just been sitting beside me for two weeks.” That’s plenty of time to discover basic information about another person, but these young folks are too “zoned out” of life to know the slightest things about their friends.
I’ve always enjoyed watching television, but the shows I can enjoy have dwindled over the years. Much of it has to do with the simple fact that I don’t understand most of them. So-called reality
shows hold not fascination to me. I couldn’t care less which bachelor a girl chooses, and I’m not too interested in watching people “survive” on an island after self-imposed, greed-ridden ventures.
Someone needs to explain to me what is so grand about sitting in a room and playing a video game. We old people enjoyed playing outside. We made up our own situations and then plotted how to get out of tough situations, such as being trapped in the middle of a war or being encircled by Indians. Our entire bodies were sometimes sore from the play, not just our thumbs and behinds.
For sure, I don’t understand fashion. A quick scan of the Internet shows jeans with rips in the front legs. Females will pay from $45 to $225 for pairs of them. Guys wear tight-legged jeans with t-shirts
to work. How’s that allowed? Some males still wear their pants on their hip bones and walk with one hand holding up those britches. Untied shoes that flop on their feet are also in vogue. I’d break an ankle or some other body part as I tripped on such wardrobe choices.
 The “grubby look” is also all right. The best-looking men’s faces sport stubble. It used to be that walking around with whiskers that hadn’t been shaved for a few days was an immediate turn-off for women. Hair that is matted or standing straight up like when a person just crawled out of bed is a popular look. Why is that so appealing?
I looked in my closet yesterday and realized that most of my shoes are several years old. My clothes are casual, but neat and clean. My music preferences come from artists who performed during the last century. Yes, I’m old and set in my ways. The main reason for that is I just don’t understand the world in which I live these days. I’m sure that’s been said by generations since the beginning of man’s existence.


Going out in public is good for me. My wife has told me for years. She implores me to venture out passed the boundaries of Ball Camp to see what’s on the other side of life. I do so on occasion, but after those trips, I wind up wondering what I was doing by leaving the confines of my home.  
I’d like to know when it became all right for folks to take their dogs with them to any and every public area. Don’t get me wrong; I am a dog lover. Sadie is as close to family as a pet can get. Still, I
don’t load her up for trips to most places. Too many people allow their dogs to tag along with them to malls and other stores. On more than one occasion, a canine has slipped up behind me and checked out my personality with an all too familiar sniff. Such surprising things caused me to jump and spin around ready to fight.
Others take their pets to sporting events. They bring them in stadiums and then allow them to walk around off leash. I’m usually ready to offer a pat to a pooch, but not when I’m watching a ball game.
The last thing I want is to miss a key play because a dog needs some attention. Some pet chaperones allow animals to “do their business” but fail to clean the messes up. That can lead to someone wearing some dog offerings home on the soles of their shoes.
Along the same lines, I wonder how it is good parenting
to turn a small child loose in public areas. I like young’uns, but like some people don’t care for dogs, others aren’t overly fond of “rug rats.” I lose patience when small folks run roughshod through seating areas. Especially bothersome is a small, dirty hand grabbing hold of mine. Too, no adult can abide having a strange child come up and begin touching personal belongings. Neither do grown-ups want to spend time answering a storm of questions from a small child.
While we’re at it, can someone explain to me the reasoning for someone taking up two spaces in a parking lot? Recently, I attended an event at a high school. Because the county middle schools were also holding a track meet at the same time, parking was at a premium. I searched for a space and eventually found one. However, when I pulled up to it, I discovered that the driver had parked his giant SUV so that the tires on the right side were positioned
in the adjacent space. No one could pull in unless he were driving something as small as an electric car. Another person parked across two spaces in an effort to protect his shiny vehicle. Other angry patrons might have felt justified if they’d have walked close to those vehicles with keys in hand. One frustrated driver couldn’t find a space and decided to park his car on the edge of the sidewalk directly behind the baseball field backstop. When a foul ball zeroed in on the top of the BMW and, no doubt, dented it, folks shook their heads and made comments about karma.
Yes, Amy is right that I should get out more. However, I’m not sure that doing so is that healthy. By the time I arrive home, my nerves are rattled, my patience is shot, and something on the bottom of my shoe is sticking like Velcro. Public places can tests even the savviest social creature.


Former Vice President Joe Biden was taken to the woodshed for allegedly having placed is hands on a woman’s shoulders, smelled her hair, and kissed her head. The outrage came swiftly, yet some

women came to his defense to declare the man was not a sexual abuser or predator.
We’re in a world where too much sexual abuse does occur. Men, and women, on rare occasions, take advantage others in their lives. They treat them like possessions instead of humans. The pain that they inflict lasts lifetimes. We have no place for that kind of thing in our world. I am the first to denounce such vile behavior by individuals.
What I wonder is when did acceptable become unacceptable? It appears that our world has lost all semblance of common sense. The slightest show of affection is considered intrusive and abusive. Joe Biden has not been a sexual abuser during his life. Yes, he’s been a “hugger,” something that didn’t used to be improper. For years, men were accused of being incapable of showing any emotions or affection. During those years, males were encouraged to let go of the “macho” image and to become sensitive, to be in touch with their feelings. Women wanted them to be able to cry or to physically show affection with hugs or pats.
Fast forward to today. Men who display those kinds of things now are abusers. Accusers claim males are overstepping their boundaries. Women feel uncomfortable when a man gives a quick hug or kiss on the cheek. The “Me Too Movement” has achieved great things by making the world aware of the sexual assaults from years ago. However, some folks have taken things too far by stereotyping all men as gropers and predators.
I blame much of this overreaction to the politically correct turn our society has taken. One group decides what is appropriate behavior and then damns anyone who doesn’t act as they like. Here’s a newsflash: most men aren’t the terrible life forms that some label them. Yes, some men take advantage of women, and they should be called out. The rest of us are attracted to women, love their company, and search for a partner with whom to share their lives. We are visual creatures who appreciate beauty. Women know this because they spend time, effort, and money to look nice. Yet, some cry foul when a man acknowledges that beauty by smiling, looking, or touching an arm, shoulder, or hand.
I hope that this world doesn’t go back to that time when a man had to ask permission to hold a woman’s hand, to put his arm around her shoulder, or hug or kiss her. Most guys already are nervous when they attempt these things with dates and don’t need to be scared to even bump into a female.
I know things are much different than they were when I was a young man. Women are equal partners in all phases of life. We men must respect them and their wishes. Any man who makes unwanted sexual advances toward a woman should be dealt with harshly. At the same time, women must realize that not every hug or kiss can be considered a sexual assault. What is important is that we don’t become so rigid in our thinking that all kindness and affection become suspect.
I will offer a couple of comments on the Lucy Flores interview. She managed to comment on how she believed that other Democratic presidential candidates would be better representatives in light of her accusations. In a single line, she managed to make an accusation look more like a political move than a complaint. At the same time, a photo later revealed that she had her arm draped around the neck of Bill Clinton. Is she committing the same act for which she condemns Joe Biden?


I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted. The last two years have been filled with reports, lies, indictments, and now, exoneration. My head is spinning from it all. What lies ahead?
I didn’t vote for this president, and to be honest, I don’t like him. I was sure that he was dead-dog guilty of collusion with the Russian government in the election. According to the Mueller report, he
wasn’t. I take this report at its word because I respect the man behind it.
For so long, I’ve kept up with this entire situation, and because I’m such a political junkie, too many hours of my life have been spent in front of the television screen. I now can identify many individuals who report the news but whom I never even heard of before this process began. I also know almost every angle of this investigation from both sides of the aisle.
So, now the report is in the hands of the head of the Department of Justice. He will decide how much of it is released to the congress and to the public. Some parts are certainly to be redacted because they might violate the laws concerning grand jury testimony. The White House will claim executive privilege on other parts. My suspicion is that the American people, whose tax dollars paid for this investigation, will never be able to view the entire report. To be honest, most folks won’t look at any form of it and make their own decisions; instead, they’ll tune in to television or check their social media platforms to discover what is included.
The fact is that this affair is over. The time is here for the representatives of our government to get busy with running the country. We have plenty of concerns: climate change, infrastructure, rising healthcare costs, rising debt, and immigration reform. I am much more concerned about the fight over
building a wall for which Mexico will pay and the right-to-life debate. I want our leaders to maintain our alliances with countries with whom we hold similar values and to explain for our foes what is and is not acceptable conduct from them.
Many people on one side cry that Robert Mueller let them down and allowed Trump to survive. The fact is that our system is what is responsible for this and other presidents. The popular vote turned one way, but the electoral college ushered in Trump. This president was elected because he tapped into millions who felt that they’d been abandoned.
Whether or not his policies have helped or hurt his constituents has yet to be decided. Yes, the economy is running well now; let’s hope a slow down or recession isn’t on the way. His tax policies
helped spike the economy, and all want that spike to continue. Time will tell.
To those who are unhappy with the results of the Mueller probe, I say you must not be sore losers. Sure, many investigations are still ongoing, and perhaps the president, his family, and his cronies will face juries of their peers in the future. However, Donald Trump is president. If those against him are unhappy, you have the chance to oust him in two years. You can simply present a candidate who better appeals to the voters of this nation, someone who energizes folks to such a degree that they get off their lazy butts and take part in the process. That candidate can’t be someone who is the polar opposite of the president. It must be an individual who appeals to the moderate majority in this country.
If folks don’t like the situation, they can change it. If they refuse to participate, I say it’s time for them to sit down and shut up.


Many of us spend much of our time wringing hands and wondering “what if.” We dream about how our lives might have been different if we’d made different choices. Most of the time, we see our
situations having improved if we’d only made a different choice.
I have a different look at things these days. Instead of wondering what might have been, I look in the rear view mirror of my life and realize what has occurred “in spite of.”
The first in spite of deals with my existence. Mother’s doctor didn’t realize that she was pregnant with twins. He fussed at her for excessive weight gain and put her on a diet. When we arrived, the doctor yelled down the hall to the waiting room for my dad to come to see what he had done. In spite of that, my brother Jim and I thrived. We grew into chubby children who played hard and lived life to the fullest each and every day.
The first day of our eighth-grade year, our dad died from lung cancer. We felt empty and missed the man who’d been so serious and gruff, yet loving and kind. In spite of having lost our dad, another male role model rescued us. We discovered that our older brother Dallas was a person to whom we could turn for direction. With his help, we made it through some tough years.
My mother has remained someone to whom I look up. She was left with three teenaged boys to guide through the roughest years of their lives. She worked as an elementary teacher and managed to provide a solid life for her family. In spite of being a single parent, she persevered and did without in order to give to us.
Amy and I have been married for nearly 45 years. Life with me hasn’t always been easy. My teaching job never paid much, but I loved the work. Amy worked during college and slowly developed her skills so that she was a valuable employee to her companies. We started a family and made some unwise financial decisions. In spite of those mistakes, we worked to pay off bills and set up a budget to make sure we didn’t fall into the same traps.
I retired a few years ago and set out to become a full-time writer. However, one year while we were on vacation, Amy’s employer called to say that she was being let go. With no warning, our main source of income was gone. After the shock wore off, we set out to re-invent our lives. In spite of losing our income and way of life, we made a new life that did without some of the extra stuff that we didn’t need. What Amy and I discovered is that a simpler life is a much happier life. It also is one where work takes a proper place in the scheme of things. I returned to the workforce and drove vehicles for a rental company and moved cars for a dealership service department. I still work part-time jobs that help. Life is good.
During the time we worried about our financial security, my faith faltered. I didn’t understand why things had happened and  struggled with why Amy couldn’t find a job that utilized her professional skills. Plenty of anger toward those who’d put us in the situation brewed deep inside. I fussed at God and questioned His presence in our lives. In spite of my weakness, the good Lord took care of us. He helped us to grow closer as a couple, learn to trust in Him more, and find comfort in our simple existence. In His time, Amy found a position with a company that has given her the joy and freedom she always wanted.
It’s easy to wonder and dream “what if” as we grow. However, only after we’ve experienced life can we think about the “in spite of” moments. I’ve discovered that my “in spite of” experiences are much more rewarding and satisfying.  


Even though we spend the majority of our lives with special loved ones, sometimes they do things that simply amaze us and remind us just how lucky we are and how much better our lives are because of them. That’s the way it is with my wife. Amy is my hero; more than that, I have been reminded that she is a real bulldog.
Amy didn’t appear that way when we first began dating in 1973. I was a senior in college, and she
was a freshman. Thanks to Rev. Bill Menees’ persistence, I asked her out on a date. She was a sweet, quiet, gracious girl who knocked my socks off. I asked her out at the end of the first date, and she told me she’d think about it. Dejected and more than a little embarrassed, I turned to leave. After taking a few steps she said, “I’ve thought about it. Yes, I’ll go out again.” From that moment on, I decided she was the one for whom I’d been looking.
We’ve spent a lifetime together, and much of it has run smoothly. However, some situations have been just the least bit bumpy. I admit that I’m an impulsive person who is known to make decisions and purchases in an instant. Amy has been the rudder that guides our ship, even when I do things that steer us off course. Regardless how much I gripe and complain, she has made financial decisions that have made our live better.
We stopped buying new cars years ago. The prices for them were too steep for our modest budget. When a new vehicle is needed, I go with my dear wife to the car dealership. My jobs during these trips are to sign on dotted lines and be absolutely quiet. Amy is the negotiator for us. She has researched all aspects of the vehicle in which we are interested. Then she sits down to talk with the salesman and immediately lets him know that we aren’t going to play games. Then my spouse states the amount that we are willing to pay for the car, and that price includes everything. Of course, the salesman plays the game about the price being too low and that he’ll have to get the manager to sign off on it. Even when the manager enters the office to squabble about the price, Amy kindly tells the man what we are willing to pay. If he says he can’t sell the car at our price, she thanks him as we rise and walk out. Eventually, we find a vehicle at the price we will pay, not what the dealer wants.
Only a couple of weeks ago, Amy once again worked her magic. My iPhone 7 had never worked correctly. I made multiple trips to the Verizon store and one to the Apple store, all to no avail. On a Saturday evening, my wife placed a call to customer service. For the next one hour and fifty-seven minutes, she talked to three different persons, each one higher up than the last.
Amy refused to allow the representatives to hang up on her. At the same time, she wouldn’t allow them to recite the information on the screens in front of them. One woman told her that I would need to go to the place where I had no service in order to check out the problem. My wife mentioned that I couldn’t call the company because the phone didn’t work there; she also pointed out that I couldn’t spend multiple hours on another phone while I was at work. Amy told the woman that what we expected was a “practical solution.” In the end, the company replaced the phone, which was a defective when they sold it to me. Amy simply wouldn’t give in and give up.
My wife has also helped my son deal with areas involved in his buying a new home. Things have worked out simply because Amy refuses to let people blow her off. That determination is something that most companies don’t count on. They think that if customers are put through too much stuff, they will simply hang up and give up on solving the problem. In our case, those businesses are dead wrong. They discover that error when Amy is on the other end of a conversation.
I’m blessed to have a loving wife. Additionally, I am lucky to have in my life a person who so doggedly works to keep companies from taking advantage of us. She is strong, smart, and wise. Yes, I know just how lucky I am to have her in my life.


Knox County Schools opened the doors once again on Thursday, February 21. For three days, students and teachers received an unofficial vacation as custodial staffs slaved away in efforts to scrub away the flu that had afflicted scores of folks.
Without a doubt, many parents were incensed that schools closed. They were inconvenienced with that decision. Arriving to work became an almost impossible task for some. One parent had to stay home to watch over younger children. To complicate the problem, most daycare centers run on the same schedule as the schools. Moms and dads decided who would stay with children, or they divided the chore so that neither lost too many days of personal leave.
The complaints of parents is normal; however, they might need to understand the problems that arise at such times. The most obvious is the one that deals with the illness itself. Students arrive at school not feeling particularly well. Within a few hours, they are fever-ridden; some sneeze and cough, acts that spread the virus across surfaces. Perhaps the outbreak would have been held in check if more parents made sure children received flu vaccines, but these days, immunizations are too often viewed as “suggestions” instead of necessities.
Another reason for shutting the doors of schools involves teachers. When teachers are ill, they have no business going to work. No instructor can effectively run a class when she is ill. Besides, ill teachers also spread “bugs.” A sick adult is asking for trouble when he sits in a class and runs the risk that a serious problem arises. Sapped of strength, the individual finds actively intervening in bad
situations is impossible.
At the same time, a shortage of teachers sometimes leads to classes being combined. Not much teaching can be achieved when one person is overseeing his students, as well as those of another teacher. Of course, jamming even more students together in a room only increases the chances of spreading the flu.
Another determining factor concerns substitute teachers. They, too, fall ill to the viruses that invade a school. Those people are the last line of defense. When a shortage of subs hits and scads of teachers are ill, no one is available to cover any classes.
With all of those things working together, the only action for schools to take is the closing of buildings. Doing so causes problems for parents. At the same time, however, teachers are pressured to cover materials that are included in year-end testing. They fret that student scores will be lowered because they haven’t learned materials, and teachers also know that their own performance evaluations are influenced by their students’ scores.
Students might like the break, but they also miss out on participation in school sports and other activities. When schools are closed, things associated with the school are supposed to be suspended. At the same time, it takes little time for students to grow bored by being stuck at home. They are social creatures and enjoy the interactions with friends, but that is interrupted when the doors are closed.
I feel for parents who have to hustle to find ways to make their lives run smoothly, both at home and at work. I was lucky to have taught school and to have been on the same schedule as my children. Let’s hope that moms and dads understand the decisions of schools when they close in order to safeguard their children.
Now it appears that the floods around Knoxville will cause more inconveniences for families. However, this time, many folks will stay home together since the waters are so high they can’t leave their subdivisions. All can take deep breaths and try to make the best of an unusual situation. Try to enjoy the together and know that this, too, shall pass.


The world is a cold place. Well, this globe and nature aren’t necessarily that way; neither cares one whit about humanity. However, it’s we who are supposed to be the masters of all other species who are so hardened. That’s proved itself once again recently.
Now, to begin with, let me assure everyone who might even briefly glance at this piece that I am not a racist. I believe in equal rights for all people. I recognize that for too much of our nation’s history that black people have been treated unfairly. I also understand that the solution to the immigration problem is not separating children from their families or building a wall.
With all that said, I’ve heard enough of the shock and disgust about the actions of Virginia governor
Ralph Northam. His appearance in a photo where one individual is clad in a KKK uniform and the another’s face is painted black has swamped the news, The man first apologized for being one of those persons in the photo, but a day later, he denied he was even in the picture. The main problem is that he can’t get his story straight. Perhaps that speaks about his ability to lead the state.
What I take exception to in this whole situation is the lack of understanding by people. Was painting his face black a dumb mistake? DUH! Of course, it was. However, the incident occurred 35 years ago. The man was 25 years old. Additionally, he was in medical school, a college boy.
None of those things makes his painting his face black all right. However, they all go together to explain why he did what is now a disgraceful thing: the man was a young, stupid, goofy, college kid. Those who have spent any time on a college campus have witnessed plenty of moronic acts by students.
I remember during my years in college that “streaking” found its fame. Drunk guys stripped and ran across the main quad during evening
hours. I seem to recall that UT students ran buck-naked down Cumberland Avenue.
I also recall hordes of male students marching to the girls’ dormitories. They stood in the parking lot and chanted for females to throw out their windows panties and bras. Some more brazen males attempted to sneak into dorms and steal those items.
I don’t know Northam’s intentions, but I suspect they were more the result of stupidity than evil. Is that a reason to damn the man 35 years later? If so, then each of us should tremble with fear that our youthful indiscretions and poor choices will at some point be held against us.
Folks, do you think this man, or any other person, who has ambitions to serve in an elected office would ever knowingly pull such a stunt? An even more important question is this: are we to be held accountable for the bone-headed things that we do as teens or young adults? Heaven forbid if that happens.
None of us, regardless of color, is without fault. I remember something in the good book that says, “judge not, lest ye be judged.” I also recall the line, “Let ye who is without sin cast the first stone.” Our hyper-sensitive world today has become intolerant of any mistakes.
I don’t know much about the governor of Virginia. He might be the worst governor in the state’s history. However, he shouldn’t be forced to resign for a stupid act from 35 years ago. If he is run out of office, then every person should be ready to suffer the harshest consequences of his or her misdeeds from during their youth.
We have lost our way. We are too sensitive. I’m not prejudiced against any group of people, but I don’t believe a person’s youthful mistakes should haunt him forever.


Those of us who are old enough know the effects of age on our lives. From our endurance during yard work or hiking to walking into a room and trying to remember what our purpose for doing so is, we find that the adding years deplete our energy and memory. That aging also changes sleep requirements.
When I was a child, I hated to go to bed. Something on television always seemed to be calling me. On weekends, our parents sometimes allowed us to stay up passed out bed times, but we still had to
crawl out of the sack to get ready for church the next morning. Only after a long, hard day of playing or during an illness did I give into sleep at an early hour.
During my high school and college years, I could survive with little sleep. Late nights were normal, and the thought of going to bed before 11:00 p.m. was embarrassing.
Curfew was midnight during high school, but that didn’t mean I went to bed. Instead, I watched television until the channels went off the air, or I’d listen to music. If a friend spent the night, we’d stay up until the wee hours of the morning to talk and laugh about all sorts of topics.
In college, I put in plenty of late nights. Studying was always easier after most of the residents in the dorm had turned in for the night. I had to put in the work to make up for the lack of effort I gave during high school. During final exams, I pulled “all-nighters.” I could trick my body into believing that I’d slept enough by lying down for half an hour and setting the alarm to ring every ten minutes.
Back in that time, I could stay up all night, but I made up for it the next day. On more than one occasion, I’d crawl out of the bed around noon. The rest of the day was little more than a fog as my internal clock went haywire.
I even could adjust my sleeping when the children were little. Crying babies and sick toddlers destroyed sleep-filled nights. I arrived home late from attending high school football, basketball, and baseball games in support of some of my students, but still managed to rise the next mornings on the way to school or for other activities.
These days, sleep is on my mind. I look forward to going to bed but have no good feelings about getting up. Staying up late is replaced with shamefully early ends of the days. My internal clock still rings between 6:00-6:30 each morning. For some reason, I fatigue early in the evening and find
myself ignoring favorite programs in favor of lying in the bed. The television plays on even though I have fallen asleep hours earlier. Of course, sleeping through the night doesn’t happen…ever. Aches and pains in joints and trips to the bathroom take turns awakening me at least half a dozen times in an eight-hour period.
Someone once told me that I would require less sleep as I grew older. I’m still waiting for that to begin. Even if I don’t make it to bed early, I fall asleep in my recliner. The only good thing about that is my wife Amy and the dog consistently fall into a state of unconsciousness long before I do. Maybe when we both no longer work, we’ll be able to stay up like we used to. For now, I’ll just snooze early and often.


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.


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. 


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.


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.


Everyone is wary of monopolies. They set the rules by which we must play, and if we don’t like it, that’s tough. The larger the bite from the consumer pie a corporation takes, the less power customers have to combat poor service or outrageous pricing. I had another run in with one of those businesses the week before Christmas.
Amy and I had decided to have an Internet connection installed in our condo in Gallatin. I contacted customer service to set up an appointment. As soon as the phone call went through, troubles began. I  
spoke with an individual who lived in another country. The woman struggled with the English language, and that caused the entire situation to last twice as long.
I explained to the woman that we would not be at the condo until the following Saturday. She replied that she’d checked the address already and that it was pre—wired and the signal was strong there. She further told me that I could purchase my own modem and install it myself, thereby avoiding an installation fee.
I thought that all was settled until the next day when I received notice from UPS that a package was to be delivered at the condo by Thursday. Immediately, I called Comcast to have them stop the shipment since no one would be there to accept it until Saturday. Another representative who also spoke only broken English argued with me about the delivery until I told her that that I wanted to speak with a supervisor. She told me that I would have to wait up to an hour, so I hung up.

Upon arrival at our place in Gallatin, I discovered that our neighbor had taken the UPS package in because it was left leaning on a locked gate on the patio. I began the process of installation and followed the instructions given. Then, I called Comcast and gave the confirmation number that would have the Internet connected. After several tries, a third person from customer service, yes yet another individual who struggled with the English language, told me that a problem existed and that I would need to schedule a service technician’s call. He then told me that not only was the first available appointment on December 31 but that Comcast also would charge me $60.00. I asked what the charge was for, and he told me that it was for a “failed self-installation.”
That angered me, especially since I relied on the information from the company that the signal was up and running and ready for installation. After more arguing, I told the individual on the other end of the phone to cancel the appointment and order. He informed me that a charge would be placed for doing that. I exploded,
“You are charging me for cancelling service on an order where no service was provided!”
I eventually spoke with supervisor who was polite but offered no relief. So, we spent the holidays with no Internet nor cable. Oh, we survived, but that’s not the point. I placed an order with a company
and expected to receive the services for which I’d contracted. Instead, I received no services, no assistance, and no remedy. Comcast will try to charge me for something; I’m sure of that much. However, I will not pay that bill. What is even sadder to me is the fact that I’ve been a Comcast customer for more than 20 years.
I would drop Comcast and the services it provides right now except that changing my email address will be an impossible task. I am waiting for Verizon to complete its fiber optics installation, and then I will tell Comcast that they can forever kiss my…foot! Until then, I’ll take books to Gallatin or find some restaurant that airs games. Still, I’m so disgusted with dealing with companies that don’t care and customer service reps who can’t provide help because they don’t speak the language well enough.


The New Year is here. I have listened to talk show hosts spout their resolutions for the coming months. I’ve read plenty of the same thing on social media sites. Well, I’m not promising anything to myself. Instead, I’m going to follow the lead Reverend Larry Dial presented during his sermon on Sunday. My goal is to try to remember what I’ve learned over the past year.
First, I learned that I can once again live in the same house with someone other than my dear wife. My son Dallas returned to Knoxville after 15 years in Chattanooga. He decided a job change was in order and found a position and opportunity with an excellent company.
For now, he’s living with us. Little by little, Dallas is emptying his condo in Chattanooga, and before long, the place will be ready for the market. Dallas will then find his own new home. Until then, he will stay here with his dog Harvey. I am working on patience and flexibility, although my son might say I’m more invested in griping and demanding.
Another lesson deals with Amy’s job. The last few years have been a roller coaster for her. She’s worked temporary jobs and permanent ones, but until now, they’ve been poor fits for her. Now she is with a company that values her skills and experience. I’ve witnessed just how much life’s pressures ease when Amy is comfortable in her work. She is a happier and more grateful person. I know now just how important it is to me that my best friend’s life is in good shape.
I’ve also learned to adapt to my own work situation. For a year and a half, I taught English at a vocational school. The job ended when those in charge axed the program. So, I returned to substitute teaching. Yes, I know at one time I declared I’d never take such a job, but I’ve found many advantages. Among them are the abilities to set my own work schedule and work sites. The best thing about the job is that I’ve made new friends at the schools where I work. In fact, they’ve welcomed me and made me feel as if I were one of them.
In 2018, I learned a hard lesson. I’m not able to do what I used to do. That means I can’t work outside all day without being exhausted. Now, I’m good for about a half a day before places start to ache rest is required. Projects take much longer to complete, and I’m not nearly so “picky” about the little things involved in them. Of more interest are such things as sitting by the pool, reading a book, or zoning out while watching the television.
One thing I have re-learned is that God is certainly good. Through all the ups and downs of life, He is there just waiting for relationship. The good lord has led Amy and me through some of the toughest times in our 44-year marriage. On occasion, I’ve been madder than a hornet with Him, but that hasn’t kept God from keeping me safe and leading me in the direction that is best for my life. I realize even more than before that the more faith I have, the more my life aligns itself with positive things and experiences. It’s comforting.
I am curious what this year will teach me. My job is to be alert and receptive to those lessons and to understand the importance of them. I suppose I’m saying that all of life is filled with teaching moments, but they click only when we open our minds and hearts to them.


With the Christmas presents opened, decorations placed safely back in containers, and the chaos of the holiday in the rearview mirror, the time to look forward comes. No, this isn’t so much about making resolutions that will more than likely be dropped within weeks; instead, I’m thinking about what kinds of directions people will choose for their lives.
First off, high school students keep coming to mind. I’d left them for so long when I finished my teaching career years ago, but since I’ve begun substituting, they’re right back with me. I see so many
teens who have no drive. Yes, I goofed off in high school and did as little as possible to get by. However, I made sure I produced enough to make it to college where I had to hit the books extra hard to make up for my failings in the years before.
Too many young people today are just plain lazy. My mother would call them “trifling.” They are the students who show up at school but have no intentions of working in classes. They spend their time causing problems in class and keeping others students from being able to learn. Discipline is weak in too many schools due to restrictions placed by the systems. Overcrowded classes have several of these disrupters that thwart teaching efforts.
My advice to them is to discover a passion toward which they can turn their attention. No, college isn’t for everyone. Plenty of trades need skilled workers, and that fact offers more opportunities to young people. Whatever the path, each of these persons needs to educate himself to be able to make a living wage.
If they refuse to take charge, many of them will face lives of minimum wage jobs that are long on
work hours and short on money. Even if a person makes $10 an hour and works a 40-hour week, 52 weeks a year, his gross income will be $29,120. If a person makes the federal minimum wage of $7.25, that income drops to $15, 080.
Folks in the workforce must face the fact that retirement will be difficult if plans aren’t made now. That means that every person must set aside some money, even if it’s no more than $5 per pay period, and invest it in some program that will earn profits. The more a person can put away now, the better off he will be later, and he won’t have to worry about whether or not Social Security is available. No one should count on it surviving. If a person wants to retire at some point, he simply must invest in his future. Belt-tightening now will prevent future financial uncertainties or working forever to make ends meet.
If a parent wants his children to have money for college, she must save now. Teens should also be encouraged to work to save for education as well. Borrowing money should be kept to a minimum. That means a student might have to take advantage of free tuition at community colleges for two
years and then attend an in-state university where costs are much less. After a student earns a degree and secures a job, he can then go after an advanced degree.
I hope that folks take some time to think about the future and their financial security. This new year can be the turning point in the way young people view education and career choices. People in the workforce can take steps to secure a better future. Doing these things requires hard work, but in the end, a happier future will shine brightly.
Happy New Year!  I hope your lives are filled with joy in the days ahead. Peace be with you.


So, it’s here again. Christmas will arrive on the same day as always, but the speed at which it comes seems to increase with each passing year. I used to dislike it when people said such a thing, but now I realize that with age, everything speeds up. What is important also changes as the years roll along.
As children, we spent hours thumbing through Spiegel, Sears, and General Products catalogs. Every toy we saw was added to our Christmas lists. Our parents rarely had any idea what we actually wanted Santa to bring. Eventually, they finally made “executive decisions” as to what to buy. I never
remember being disappointed on Christmas mornings; Mother and Daddy possessed those special powers that led to their picking just the perfect presents for us boys.
When my children arrived, I worried about choosing the right things for them, and after they’d opened those presents, I always tormented them with questions about how satisfied they were with the items they’d received. I continually asked them if they were all right until the question was met with furrowed brows and laser stares.
These days, I still hope we choose things that our children and grandson like. Of course, saving the receipts helps, and then they always appreciate some Christmas money. Amy declares that it is “always the right color and the right size.”
For me, the presents aren’t so important now. Sure, I want to be remembered, but I have no special items in mind for my own gifts. I have everything I need, and unless someone is interested in giving me a new truck or a leaf vacuum for my mower, I don’t think I require much of anything else.
I’m more about spending time with family during Christmas. Having a few days with my grown children, son-in-law Nick, and grandson is a much bigger joy. We pile in on each other and celebrate the season. Sometimes, a person needs a bit of a respite from the noise and commotion, so he retreats to his bedroom. Before long, he returns for another round of chaos. By the time he holidays are finished, all of us are ready for a return to the normal life that is free of so much hubbub. It’s not that we don’t love each other; it’s that too much closeness grates on anyone’s nerves.
Soaking in the season and all that comes with it is a blessing. The truth is everyone loves receiving gifts and spending time with loved ones. At some point during the holidays, I’ll grow a bit moody and even teary-eyed. It happens when I think about those people whom I loved and are now gone.
I look at myself in the mirror sometimes and wonder how in the world I grew so old. My mind is still that of a young man, but the body that houses that mind is filled with aches and pains. I am at that place where my parents and grandparents were in years gone by. What I most need to do now is live in the moment and love my wife and children and grandson as much as possible. At some point they will have to continue Christmas without me. It would be nice if they remember me fondly and even have a few laughs at the goofy things I contributed to the season.
I hope you have the opportunity to spend times with the ones most dear to you this Christmas. Make sure you give them extra hugs and kisses and “I love you’s.” Most of all, bow your head and give a word of thanks to God for giving you these wonderful people. They are the presents that are most important.
Merry Christmas!