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!