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.