One Year Down and Life to Go

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20130825_111222I don’t know how I can hurt this much and not die. I’ve asked psychiatrists, psychologists, and internalists, but none of them can give me an answer. So I go on.

A year ago this evening, Mama died. Death did what no psychotic girlfriend, no commitment-shy boyfriend, no divorce or distance could do — split up Mama and me. Despite my protestations, my howlings to the deaf heavens, and my insistence that surely some fundamental law of the universe has been violated, the world still turns; the Sun comes up and it goes down. Life goes on whether I want it to or not because, as a midwestern singer so eloquently put it thirty years and three name changes ago, “Oh yeah, life goes on long after the thrill of living is gone.”

The grief is mine to shoulder alone now. My beloved psychiatrist warned me people — even closest friends — generally give a person three weeks to a month of good, quality support before life intervenes. After that, it’s just you, four walls, and memories. Oh, and “firsts” lots and lots of firsts — first white carnation Mother’s Day, first Thanksgiving without her, first Christmas without her, and probably the worst for me . . . my first birthday without getting a call at 6:19 AM telling me she loved me and wishing me Happy Birthday.

I swear to Buddha I will projectile vomit upon the next person — well-meaning or no — who tells me “time heals all wounds.” I’m here to say it doesn’t or if it does, a year is nowhere near enough time. While I’m on the subject, I’d also like to go back in time and cold-cock one idiotic Prussian philosopher by the name of Friedrich Nietzsche right square in his gloriously mustachioed mouth. If you don’t know, he’s the moron who penned the sadistic little phrase “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” Bullpucky. Mama’s dying may not have killed me, but it damn sure hasn’t made me stronger.

I wish I could say more, but even though people have told me I am good with words, I just don’t have the vocabulary to explain the abject loneliness I feel every morning I wake up and remember Mama’s not with me (and please, if you are my friend or just want me to think of you as a decent human being, spare me the “she’s always with you in spirit” drivel. “Spirit hugs” if they even exist, are about as useless as a milk bucket under a bull.) I can’t describe the emotional crash I get every time something tremendously noteworthy – to me at least – happens and I immediately pull out my phone to call Mama and tell her . . . only to realize I’ve deleted her contact information just so I won’t do such a stupid thing.

My reality is, Mama’s dead and that’s thrown all my puzzle pieces into the air in disarray and one year later, I’m afraid I don’t have the emotional strength to even start looking for the edge pieces.

And so it goes.

Love you all, love you Mama; I still miss you.

 

Tommy John Is Not a Doctor!

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Dr. Frank Jobe  1925-2014 The Surgeon

Dr. Frank Jobe
1925-2014
The Surgeon

I was reading through the sports pages on MSN today and amidst all the bracketology talk and bubble predictions about the upcoming NCAA tournament, I saw an article stating Frank Wilson Jobe had passed away March 6th at the age of 88. I figure only the most diehard baseball fans would know that name, but Frank Jobe, in my opinion, should go into the Baseball Hall of Fame on a special ballot even though he never played baseball at any level, never threw a pitch, or fielded a grounder. Instead, DOCTOR Frank Jobe developed a procedure which altered the way injured pitchers looked at their futures and to date has saved the careers of some of baseball’s most noted pitchers including players like Chris Carpenter, John Smoltz, Ben Sheets, and quite recently Stephen Strasbourg. The procedure is properly termed “ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction” but baseball fans everywhere refer to it by the name of its first recipient — then Los Angeles Dodgers left-handed pitcher Tommy John.

Tommy John was a pitching star in the Dodger organization when he blew his elbow out in 1974. At that time, John’s injury was considered career ending. In fact, the fantastic career of another Dodger – legendary Sandy Koufax – had been truncated in 1966 by the same injury John was facing. Tommy John, however, refused to accept such a bleak diagnosis and approached the team’s orthopedist, Dr. Jobe, about ANY possible fixes. Dr. Jobe had a colleague who had used ligament harvesting to treat polio patients’ paralysis and the two doctors mulled over the idea of using a similar technique to replace the ruined ligaments in John’s throwing elbow. From the start, Dr. Jobe was bluntly honest with Tommy John. In an interview I heard on ESPN radio Tommy John recalled, “I asked Dr. Jobe what would happen if I didn’t have the surgery and he said, ‘You’ll never pitch major league baseball again.’ So I asked him what would happen if I did have the surgery and he said, ‘You’ll PROBABLY never pitch major league baseball again.’”

The Guinea Pig Tommy John in 1975,  his rehab year.

The Guinea Pig
Tommy John in 1975,
his rehab year.

But the surgery was a success beyond anything Dr. Jobe could have hoped for. After a complete year of rehabilitation – a practice still followed today — Tommy John returned for the 1976 season and went 10 – 10, which was considered completely miraculous at the time. He also showcased the durability of the reconstruction by pitching fourteen more seasons before he finally retired in 1989. Today, estimates vary, but most hover at around one-third of all major league pitchers have (or will have) some degree of Tommy John Surgery. Thanks to a pitcher who wasn’t ready to throw in the towel and a doctor who was willing to try something entirely untested to put him back on the mound, a blown out pitching elbow no longer means an end to a career, but for many pitchers – the original recipient among them – it signals the beginning of even better performance.

Hopefully, Cooperstown will think the same way I do and eventually, Dr. Frank Jobe will have a bronze bust in the special wing of the Hall of Fame to honor the man whose procedure saved the careers of nearly 100 major league pitching stars even if the non-baseball public continues to think Tommy John was the surgeon and not the patient!

Love y’all and keep those feet clean.

Freefallin’

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im-falling

It’s not the fall;
It’s the sudden stop at the bottom.

I get a sick feeling when life goes well for more than a day or two at a stretch. I see good times as a pair of steel shoes resting on the ground and as the good days stretch out, one shoe sits while the other begins to rise and gain size; the longer the good stretch lasts, the higher and heavier the shoe gets, right up to the point when the next crisis strikes and “the other shoe drops” — literally screams down at 9.80665m/sec² — thus the higher and heavier it’s gotten (ie. the longer and better the stretch of life has been) the more destruction it causes when it hits ground.

Things have been going entirely too well lately and the other shoe had gotten much too far and fat for my liking. Even though I know it’s just a construct of my imagination, I still picture it up there — waiting, looming — and I cringe as the days pile up without incident because what goes up is going to come down and the farther up it goes, the worse it’s going to be. Well, my small group leader ended the waiting and ruined supper by announcing after four great years together, our group will cease to exist come May. That sound you hear is the wind whistling through the eyelets of a gargantuan steel Air Jordan streaking earthward like the comet that killed the dinosaurs.

As I sat staring into my empty plate like a poor dumb T-Rex on the prehistoric Yucatan Peninsula all I could think of was, “It’s happening AGAIN.” What is happening again is my abandonment mechanism is going off. If you don’t suffer from abandonment issues, get on your knees right now and thank Jesus, Buddha, Ganesha, or Shiva (or Darwin for the atheists in the crowd) because of all the agonies of Borderline Personality Disorder, the one I would least wish on anyone (except Hitler, Stalin, or Mao — you know, the only three people going to Hell) is Abandonment Issues.

When I was five, Mama and Daddy started having “trouble.” By the time I was seven, they had separated; by eight, divorced. I see Daddy’s blue stepside Chevy truck driving off and me waving desperately from the front porch of the trailer as clearly today as almost forty years ago. Two key things I’ve learned at great financial and emotional cost in seven years of therapy are 1) children with single digit ages have limited ability to process emotional nuances that cause adults problems and 2) when you experience a devastating trauma at a young age, a part of you emotionally never gets any older. So, while the 43-year-old man I am knows Daddy and Mama had issues and it was best they divorce, the seven-year old still inside me just sees daddies aren’t supposed to leave, but Daddy left ME. I want to be crystal clear about something right now — this is not a “beat up Daddy” post. This is a “why I am what I am” post and the fact is, Mama and Daddy’s divorce planted the seed of abandonment in my seven-year old soul and, dear God, has it grown over the years.

For several years after the divorce, I could not stand for Mama to leave me as she might decided not to return too. I tolerated her going to work to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table only because I got to stay with my beloved Papa and Granny Wham. Otherwise, if Mama wasn’t at work and I wasn’t at school, I was welded to her hip. Naturally, this caused some problems. I smothered the life out of Mama. My mother was a drop dead gorgeous woman and she was single again at 25, but she couldn’t date because I would throw a royal fit if she left me at night. I remember one time in particular, several women she worked with begged her to go to Myrtle Beach with them for a long weekend and she finally agreed, but she knew how I’d take it so she didn’t tell me. Instead, I went to Granny and Papa’s as usual but instead of getting up at midnight to go home, I woke up on Saturday morning next to Papa Wham.

To put it mildly (and seriously, I’m not even going into the details) I FLIPPED THE HELL OUT! I screamed, cried, and thrashed but most of all, I kept repeating over and over, “She left me, she left me . . . ” I was so distraught I made myself vomit from crying and screaming. It scared Granny to death. It didn’t do me a lot of good either, especially because I had no idea where Mama was, when she was coming back, but most of all what was wrong with me. I literally COULD NOT calm down. Mama never went anywhere again without me. I sucked a huge portion of life out of my precious Mama because I couldn’t bear for her to leave me.

Through the years, that feeling of being abandoned has flared up with angry intensity on more occasions than I’d care to admit. When I was in sixth grade, the first little girl I ever had a crush on moved. That would be tough on lots of kids. I was sick in bed for a week. When I was a junior in high school, the first girl I ever was truly, madly in love with went out with another boy. Wreck. Later, when we were seniors, we went through another rough patch and ended up calling it quits for good when she said, and I’ll never forget it, “I’ve got some good news and some bad news for you and the good news is IT’S NOT YOURS now I guess you know the bad news too.” That one was the first time I ever made out a bona fide suicide plan and would have carried it out if Duane Craddock had not defied his parents to come to my house and take me to Amy Mims’ house at midnight so the two of them could talk me down off the ledge so to speak.

I’ve got more, but this post has already run over my 1000 word target so I’m going to wrap this one up. Maybe, if enough of you decide you’d like to hear the rest of the story, I’ll do a part two about how abandonment issues have pretty much crippled my life for years now.

In any event, know that I love y’all and keep those feet clean!

Cauliflowers to Canteloupes

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Michael-Sam-Jason-CollinsTwo days ago, Jason Collins became the first openly gay player to participate in an NBA basketball game. Michael Sams, a linebacker from the University of Missouri, stands to become the first openly gay player to be drafted by an NFL team at some point during the upcoming Draft. Both of these men are obviously making waves in their respective sports and driving conversation throughout the country about civil rights, inclusion, and tolerance in locker rooms and beyond. Collins’ and Sams’ sagas are a mirror of the current state of American society. Seventeen states have already legalized same-sex marriage and others have legislation pending. No doubt the times they are a changin’ to quote Dylan.

That’s great. I don’t have a problem with same-sex marriages or gay players in pro sports (or college, high school, rec leagues, and intramural), or two guys holding hands or two girls kissing. Live your life as you want to live it. I take flack from some devout Christian friends, but I’m okay with that. My religious views and views on civil rights do not interfere with each other. In many ways, I have a “wall of separation” between my religion and my politics.  Having said all that, I do have one serious problem with the rash of Sam and Collins supporters — especially sportswriters and sports announcers who should know better — I’m tired of hearing these two guys compared to Jackie Robinson. Let me be clear, what Sam and Collins are doing is vitally important, but THEY ARE NOT JACKIE ROBINSON and putting them with Jackie is comparing cauliflowers with cantaloupes.

First off, neither is the talent Robinson was. Collins is an eight-team journeyman player who had been out of basketball nearly a year before the also-ran Brooklyn Nets signed him to a ten-day contract. Sam is an unknown commodity yet to play in the NFL, but it’s not like he set the world on fire at Mizzou. Jackie Robinson was a six-time All-Star. He was the Major League Rookie of the Year in 1947. He won the 1949 batting title and was twice the stolen bases champion. Doesn’t matter that he broke the color barrier as well — he had the goods on the field too.  Jackie broke the color barrier, not because he was a black player, but because he was the BEST black player. He might have been many things, but Jackie Robinson wasn’t a gimmick. I may be proven wrong, but neither Collins nor Sam is likely to have their jersey number retired by an entire league.

Secondly, neither Sam nor Collins have had to endure ANYTHING approaching the abuse Robinson faced in his early MLB career and they NEVER will. It’s a different country now and people would go to jail for Federal hate crimes if they talked the way crowds spoke to Robinson. When Sam takes the field for whatever team drafts him, no one — especially an opposing manager — is going to yell out “Faggot! Get back to the gay clubs,” but a Philadelphia Phillie manager screamed at Jackie to “get [his] nigger ass back to the cotton fields!” Any team Sam or Collins plays for will not have to choose between sleeping in a hotel without them or sleeping as a team on the bus with them the way the Brooklyn Dodgers sometimes had to choose on their road trips. Perhaps people’s feelings about those who are different from them haven’t changed, but today’s bigots can’t hide behind badges and laws  . . . at least in America — in Uganda or Saudi Arabia, you’ll have to take your chances.

Also, a rabid bigot may see gays and lesbians everywhere, but demographic experts put the HIGHEST number of gays at 10% of the American population while a reputable Gay and Lesbian think tank put the numbers between 5% to 8%. By contrast, 15% of Americans are Black and that doesn’t include the further people the census say identify as “other race.” Sam and Collins are representing a sometimes vocal community, but Jackie Robinson had the hopes of an entire PEOPLE on his broad shoulders, and those people were in constant danger just for being themselves. According to the Tuskegee Law Institute, 3445 black men were lynched –  murdered without trial — in the United States from 1882-1968. 240px-JrobinsonSure, gay people have endured violence, but nowhere near the scale black people faced. A black child could be murdered WITHOUT PENALTY in parts of the US as late as the 1950s just for “talking fresh” to a white woman. Don’t think so? Google Emmitt Till. That is the kind of vitriol Jackie Robinson faced when he was out on the playing field.

Finally, and this won’t be popular, but all Sam and Collins had to do to live quiet normal lives was simply to keep their mouths shut. They chose to come out; no one twisted their arms. I realize no one should have to hide being gay to play his chosen sport much less live a regular life. I agree, I understand the argument, and sooner or later it’s not going to be that way, but the fact remains, a gay person can hide being gay, but a black person has ZERO chance of hiding being black. People are arguing both ways about homosexuality — is it birth or is it choice? The jury may be out on what makes people gay, but no one is debating what makes a person black. White people are born white; black people are born BLACK. You have more chance of hiding a golf ball in a glass of spring water than being a “closeted black man.”

So, Michael Sam and Jason Collins are definitely moving the conversation on equality of sexuality in this country forward, but to put them into the same mold of Number 42 is a poor comparison at best and cauliflowers to cantaloupes at worst.

Hope I didn’t make anyone too mad, but if I did, it’s like a bridge . . . you’ll get over it. In any event, love y’all and keep those feet clean.

Missionary Position

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boys fightingOnce upon a time, I was a new Christian determined to win the world for Jesus. I thought everyone should go to Heaven and I was the one to show them the way. I had ALL the answers to anything anyone could ever ask me about faith. Then, eight years ago, Papa John died and I didn’t have answers for MY questions, and when I finally had those pieces of life somewhat reorganized, Mama died and dumped my apple cart again. I went to a seriously dark place emotionally and mentally and almost gave up on everything.

A year later, I’m still recovering, but I’m a different person. I still believe Jesus is our savior, sacrifice, lord and the ONLY means of salvation and eternal life. (Wonder how many followers THAT lost me?) I still want to go to Heaven . . . especially if it means I’ll see Mama again. I’m still “on the firing line” as the old gospel song says, but . . . BUT, I understand a few things differently now. For instance, everyone doesn’t WANT to go to Heaven. Lots of people could care less about Heaven or Jesus too for that matter. I know there’s a difference between civil rights and religious teachings. I’m different and I’m scarred now, and because of that, I have a better missionary position than before.

I’ve developed my position around three critical ideas: a perceived interest, a perceived need, and/or an established relationship. First, I have a willingness to discuss the story of my faith in Christ and what He’s done for me with anyone who shows even the remotest interest. I believe all Christians should be willing and able to do the same because we are admonished to “always be ready to give a defense or reason for the hope we have in us.” I also think it’s important to pay attention to the person I’m talking to. If I see the reptilian haze begin to fuzz over their eyes or they seem to bristle at the name of Jesus, then it’s time to talk about the weather or football or — God forbid — politics.

Second, I’m willing to start a conversation about Christ and faith with anyone (even a stranger) who seems to be in a state of physical or emotional turmoil or pain. Some people might see that approach as intrusive or offensive, but I see such a conversation in the same light as a compassionate nurse or doctor checking on someone he saw take a tumble or having a little trouble breathing. I like to help people; I want everyone to go to Heaven, and I have the skill set for such a conversation. If they seem open, I go as far as inviting them to church one Saturday night or Sunday morning; if I sense pushback, fine – it’s a perfectly legitimate choice on their part and we’ll just leave it at that. It never hurts to care about people, though.Finally, I’ll initiate faith discussions – often intense ones – with non-believers I have an established relationship with. The key is ESTABLISHED. I’m not going to ask a person if he’s a Christian on our first meeting unless he brings it up. Football is much safer for a conversation starter. I’m talking about people I’ve known and interacted with over a lengthy period of time. It could be a friend, but I’ve also had these faith discussions with my regular waitress at restaurants I frequent. These are people who know a decent amount about me. Hopefully, they can tell I’m a Christian before I even bring it up; if they can’t, I’ve got a bigger problem because my life isn’t a reflection of Whom I serve.

Discussions like these, however, are YEARS forming and they are not without hazards – I’ve lost touch with a couple of people I considered good friends over tension between our beliefs, but such is the risk anyone who wants to point people towards God’s Kingdom must be willing to take. It doesn’t feel great and it certainly doesn’t make me some sort of martyr to lose a friend over my faith, but if you put yourself out there, it’s likely to happen at some point. In the end, all I can do is show the way; I can’t walk the path for them. My grandmother-in-law had a saying I think of often: “We must let people go to Hell in their own way.”

Now just as I have three key ideas I live by for sharing my faith, I also have three things I avoid. For one, I will NOT “debate” religion in a comments section of a website or in posts on Facebook. Text is a poor way to debate ideas because so much communication and meaning relies on non-verbal cues. It is extremely difficult to gauge someone’s state of mind or read his intent on a message board. I see online religious “discussions” as THE fastest way to obtain proof of Godwin’s Law, Poe’s Law, and – most profoundly – John Gabriel’s Greater Internet Theory, often all in a single comment or post. Remember, don’t feed the trolls.

The second thing I will not do is participate in any sort of mass “direct evangelism.” For those who didn’t grow up in the South, direct evangelism is going door to door in neighborhoods, trailer parks, and shopping malls to ask random people to sit down and discuss their salvation. This kind of missionary position is not the exclusive domain of Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons, but they’ve made it famous; however, I know of several “regular” churches where one night per week is “visitation night” or “outreach night.” I know this human faith wave has produced fruit, but I also know it’s created more bad press for Christians than good. No one wants to deal with telemarketers, even if the product is salvation, and knocking on the wrong doors these days is a quick way to meet Jesus in person via a 9 mm slug to the head.

My final taboo is “Christian merchandising.” My cars do not sport chrome fish or any other Christian device. I do not own a Christian t-shirt. I don’t carry a reference or study bible with me wherever I go. None of this is due to my shame at being a Christian; it’s the polar opposite. Before chrome fish, we didn’t have chrome fish with feet, chrome fish eating chrome fish with feet or vice versa, or chrome flying spaghetti monsters. Also, I know how I drive and ESPECIALLY how my Budge drives. I don’t want to embarrass Christ with our road rage. I can’t think of a worse witness for Jesus than cutting someone off with a huge chrome fish on your bumper THEN giving them the finger when they blow their horns at you.

So, that’s my take on sharing my faith. I want everyone to go to Heaven, but I’m not naïve enough to believe everyone will make it in. Hell, some days (LOTS of days) I have serious doubts about myself! Love y’all; keep those feet clean.

2013 in review

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 19,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Those Who Can, Do; Those Who CARE, Teach

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Atlanta school snow“Teachers get paid entirely too much!”

“Teachers only work half as much as everyone else!”

“It must be nice having summers off!”

“Teachers couldn’t handle a REAL job!”

“Education students couldn’t handle a REAL major!”

I spent fifteen years in public education as a high school teacher and a middle school librarian; my wife is currently in her 11th year as a fourth grade teacher, and statements like these are just some of the hurtful barbs I’ve had hurled at us over the years. Public school teachers make wonderful policy whipping boys. Regardless of what is wrong with the country, be it a stale economy, high crime, unemployment, or any other issue — regardless of how tangentially the connection may be — blaming education and teachers is a sure fire way for a talking head to get some applause.

It doesn’t matter what the problem is. It doesn’t matter many decisions by people who last saw a classroom when Ancient History was Current Events. The song remains the same — if it’s broken, blame the teachers. The Left takes potshots at us as being too conservative and teaching “ignorance” like Intelligent Design, even though WE didn’t elect the people who passed the law. The Right blasts us for being in the pockets of the “radical ____ agenda” and filling their children’s heads with all kinds of socialist, communist drivel. You can put whatever you want in that blank as well. I’ve heard “anti-family,” “pro-abortion,” “homosexual” and others I can’t put in here even if Mama isn’t around to read my blog anymore.

But we teachers are still here and we’re still teaching (well, not me anymore, but anyway.)

When Winter Storm Leon (one quick tangent — whose the idiot who thought naming winter storms like we do hurricanes was thing? And they say TEACHERS waste taxpayer dollars!) slammed into Atlanta — totally by surprise OR after many unheeded warnings, depending on who you want to believe, nothing short of chaos ensued. All over the city, people stranded in cars took off hiking home. Some sheltered in the stores of compassionate managers and owners. Many, many teachers were not among those. They had work to do.

Once it became obvious the storm was getting worse and the traffic was hopeless, principals and teachers realized many of their pupils wouldn’t be getting home that day. With no prior preparation, schools all over Atlanta became de facto Hotel 6′s as educators prepared to take care of “their” children for the night. Many of these teachers had children of their own who needed attended to, but duty was calling louder than even motherly (and fatherly) instincts. A storm was raging and Atlanta’s educators rose to meet the monster with gym mats and cafeteria food, stage curtain blankets and bedtime stories from principals.

Just for a moment, please put yourself in the shoes of a child in K4 and yes, we do send them to school THAT little these days. Mommy put you on the bus this morning like she always did and told you she’d see you at home in the evening. You’ve never spent a night away from home; you haven’t had a sleepover yet that didn’t involve grandparents. Now, it’s getting dark. The bus you got on you thought was going to take you home has taken you back to school and you are just about to go into K4 meltdown mode.

Then, you see her — it’s Mizziz Smif’. This woman and her steadfast aide beside her have watched over you for the last 100 days as if you were their own. You are still terrified and most likely hungry, but you feel a little better. The lady from the office who usually terrifies you takes you out of a line of your classmates and puts a phone in your hand. Mommy is on the line. “Sweetheart,” she says, “You are staying at school tonight! Won’t that be fun?” Well, you don’t know about “fun” but now you know two things: 1) Mommy knows where you are and that’s a BIG HONKING DEAL to a four-year old and 2) you are somewhere the people know you and have done everything but swear oaths to take care of you. This may be scary, but you think it may turn out alright.

Stories have come in from all over Atlanta of teachers reading bedtime stories to children, of principals organizing early morning snowball fights to take the children’s minds off the gravity of the situation, of cafeteria workers staying to make sure the children had hot food to eat.

In. Loco. Parentis. Yes, it’s a legal term dripping with all the crap an army of lawyers can hang on it, but at the heart it means exactly what it says — “In the place of a parent.” It’s what every teacher worthy of the title holds closest to his or her heart whenever he looks at the young lives in his or her charge. For the 8 to 10 hours a day these children are with their teachers, their teachers ARE their parents and most of the time consequences be damned. People who think teaching is about 7 to 3 with summers off have no clue. The teachers in Atlanta who did not sleep so their children could weren’t thinking about the summer vacation. Teaching is more than that.

Happily, the debacle in Atlanta has passed with no children harmed . . . except maybe from a snowball to the nose, but teachers everywhere have stood in the place of parents and given the last full measure of devotion with no worry about what was to come.

Victoria Soto wasn’t worried about Common Core when she put her own body between a madman and her precious Sandy Hook first graders — taking bullets meant for them. Professor Liviu Librescu wasn’t thinking about his tenure hearing as he held the door of his Virginia Tech classroom shut even as the deranged gunman fired shot after shot through the door and into the Holocaust survivor’s body. The Sisters of Charity who taught at St. Mary’s Orphanage in Galveston, TX were not champing at the bit to get home on that dark September day in 1900 when all ten perished — each with her portion of the 90 children in her charge tied to their waists with clothesline as The Great Galveston Hurricane drowned the island.

All teachers. In loco parentis.

Love y’all and keep those feet clean.

 

Howdy, I’m a Parasite!

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chd_tick_engorgedFor most of my life, I’ve believed myself to be a person.  Apparently, I was wrong.

I’ve recently become privy to the fact that I am, instead of human, a parasite. Specifically, I am a life-draining, blood-sucking, economy wrecking, nation dooming species of parasite. Apparently, I became a parasite a few years ago when I started drawing Social Security Disability checks. According to various authorities on arthropodology, among them Conservative talk radio hosts (Rash Limburger springs to mind), some more strident members of the faction of the GOP ironically called the TEA Party, and certain friends and family members who are unaware of my source of income, I am a parasite and if me and my kind could be eradicated from the face of the Earth, this planet (or at least the portion occupied by the United States) would be a much healthier, safer, economically sounder, and altogether more wholesome place where the “American Dream” could flourish as Providence, the Founding Fathers, and John Boehner intended it to be.

To make my personal lowly state even worse, I know now that I’ve been in various stages of parasitism for years. In my larval stage, I was one of the hideous brood known as the “unemployed.” As such, I partook of life giving substances like SC Unemployment Insurance. I was even crass enough to draw unemployment for longer than the 26 weeks this tremendously progressive state allows people out of work to find another job. Yes, gentle readers, when my SCUI ran out, I latched on — leech that I am — to the Federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation. I was lucky on that account. The exterminators up on Capital Hill have done yeoman’s work eradicating the parasites still clinging to EUC; I managed to metamorphize into my current form as a “disabled worker” before EUC dried up.

I hate it for all the now-hungry critters who were living so high on the hog on those massive $276 per week EUC payments. Lord knows I sure liked my payments so much more than I liked going to the job of my dreams every day as a school librarian (this is back when I was human, of course) and earning ten times that amount per month. It was nice to pare down and simplify life. People were really helpful too when they’d look away quickly before telling you they weren’t hiring. I REALLY enjoyed going on interviews 90 minutes from home just to be told the position was already filled. That was the highlight of my day!

I hope my fellow larval parasites manage to find a McJob before their nests get foreclosed on. If they are lucky, maybe they can take the advice on the old McDonald’s employee website and get TWO McJobs. Then they might actually be able to afford to choose whether or not to buy gas, food, or medicine. Who knows? With that kind of newly disposable income floating around, the country should be back on track in no time! Then maybe it wouldn’t be so hard to pay the soldier parasites their full pensions for fighting our wars for us.

As for me, I love my life as a parasite. Nothing’s grander than staring out the window at a sunshiny day and only seeing rain. Yeah, I’m THAT kind of “disabled.” I’ve got one of those “conditions” no one can see so it probably doesn’t exist. After all, who’s ever heard of Borderline Personality Disorder or Severe Dysthymic Disorder or even the elusive Generalized Anxiety Disorder? Can’t see it; must not be real. Shoot, that’s a terrific argument. Atheists have been using it for YEARS!

Oh and the things people say to us parasites — trying to be helpful, of course. Things like, “with all that free time you have, you should do X, Y, or Z!” Sure thing! I’ll get right on that as soon as the anti-anxiety meds kick in so I can go out in public alone for about an hour. Have to make sure to take extra or get home before they wear off. People tend to get really uncomfortable when they see grown male parasites with tears streaming down their faces for no apparent reason trying to find a short checkout line so they can get through and hurry back to the nest.

So, to all you hardworking humans out there, this parasite would like to apologize. I’m sorry for slurping up your tax money, ruining the future of the country, and generally just dashing all your dreams. I promise I’ll try hard not to flaunt my overly extravagant lifestyle in your faces as I drive by in my old truck on the way home to my singlewide trailer-nest. Who knows? Maybe some day I’ll even work up the courage to step in front of a bus or something and there’ll be one less blood-sucking mouth for everyone and Congress to worry about.Freshly pressed

For the rest of y’all, I really do love y’all. You keep me going. So keep those feet clean and watch were you step, we parasites are everywhere.

First You Say It, Then You Do It

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wheels-falling-offI almost died Christmas Eve, and I’m told it would have put a damper on the holidays.

Christmas Eve fell on a Tuesday so, like every Tuesday, I went to Clinton to National Health Care to check on Granny Ima and see if she would let me clean and polish her nails. Now Mama and I used to go to Columbia to spend every Christmas Eve with Granny when I was a child so in some ways, I found the whole trip ironic. Granny was happy and she smiled and said a few words, which was the best Christmas present she could give me, but she didn’t want her nails messed with, so I sat and talked to her until her CNA came to get her for lunch. Then, I kissed her goodbye, got in my truck, and headed home to get ready to go to Rob’s for Christmas Eve supper.

I bought my 1994 Ford F-150 with a little of Mama’s insurance money so it’s extremely special to me.  Anyway, as I was leaving Clinton on State 308, I called my great-Aunt Pearl (Ima’s oldest sister) to apprise her of Granny’s condition and state of mind. We were talking as I merged onto I-385 and when I gave the old girl some gas, I felt a pronounced thump. I told Aunt Pearl I’d have to call her back, hung up and concentrated on the sound.

It was an intermittent noise, which is aggravating to diagnose, and I’m not an accomplished mechanic, but I was pretty convinced it was a universal joint needing replacing or maybe an exhaust hanger had popped loose when a woman in a PT Cruiser had tapped me in the rear end in downtown Clinton that morning. I sped up to 85 mph and the noise went away. I gently applied the brakes and the noise didn’t come back. So I turned the radio back up, passed a few slow-moving cars, and continued on my way.

When I went under the State Road 92 bridge, the thump became a clunk. I had tons of ideas running through my head and all of them centered on how I was going to pay to fix whatever u-joint or exhaust hanger needed attention. I also considered the motor might be going and just about cried. I call her “Mama’s Final Gift” and I’ve become seriously attached, but all the gauges read okay so I kept on and the sound stopped eventually.

I exited I-385 and turned left onto State Highway 418 about 23 miles later and when I hit 60 mph, the noise came back. I was almost home though, so I just started the “c’mon, baby, hold together” Han Solo talk. Then, quite literally, the wheels fell off the apple cart. I slowed down to a crawl to turn right onto the road to home and saw a tire and wheel pass me. My brain had just enough time to register the thought of “that’s strange; someone’s wheel is rolling down the road,” before the left front end of the truck slammed into the pavement and the truck jolted up and down with enough force to knock my head smartly on the roof of the cab. Then an awful grinding noise filled the air and I realized the wheel in question was mine. I drove on the brake rotor about ten yards until my brain finally got the message to my foot that it was still pressing the gas instead of the brake and I stopped. Then, it hit me.

My wheel fell off my truck!

I just lost my freaking wheel!

I followed my first instinct when something crazy like that happens to me and started to call Mama, realizing just in time my long distance plan wasn’t quite that good. So I switched gears and called Budge six times and she didn’t answer the phone. It didn’t bother me though; I think I was still in shock because, you know — wheel fell off and all. In fact, some primitive part of my brain still functioning correctly posed a very good question: what was Budge supposed to do if I DID talk to her? Raise the truck with telekinesis? Realizing I had not, in fact, married Carrie White, I called Rob, my stepdad, just as he was pulling into the yard from work. I explained my predicament and he said to sit tight, he’d get Baby Huey (my 6’6″, 375 lbs “baby” stepbrother Travis) and he’d be right on.

By then, Budge had finished her shower and called me back. I think all she heard was “wheel fell off.” Ten minutes later she found me sitting on the lowered tailgate of my truck having spoken to a few friends I’d called just to pass the time. It was while sitting there calmly drinking a bottle of water the reality and gravity of the situation. The noise I’d heard coming out of Clinton was the wheel wobbling as one or more lug nuts decided to take a vacation. The second noise was the exodus of even more of these vital little hunks of metal. The terrible vibration I felt on the off ramp and 418 was the wheel wobbling on the studs devoid of attachments.

I started to shake a little. As slow as I was going as I turned onto the road, the wheel leaving still caused a bad jolt. Now, imagine for a moment: What would have happened if that same wheel had flown off while I was on I-385? wheel

I KNOW what would have happened because I’ve seen it happen during NASCAR races. The rotor would have dug into the asphalt, Newton’s First Law of Motion would have taken over and I’d have started either flipping end over end or doing some sweet barrel rolls down the highway. Since I wasn’t wearing my seat belt (they are under the seat cover) I’d have been ejected through the shattered windshield or the shattered side window, the truck would have hit me or the care behind would have run me over, I would have died on Christmas Eve 2013 and that would have sucked.

I don’t know why the wheel stayed on until I was going slow enough to survive the results. I know a lot of people would call it a neat coincidence. I don’t. See, as I was putting the wheel back on the truck, I asked myself why the lug holes in the rim were threaded while the studs were smooth. That’s when I realized the rim had ridden on the studs long enough to smooth them out while cutting threads into the rim. That’s not all; when I borrowed a lug nut from the other wheels, I discovered every lug nut was loose. Y’all skeptics think what you want and call me whatever you please, but I think Jesus and Mama were watching out for me one more time and I’m certainly thankful they were.

Love y’all and hope the new year is off to a great start! Keep those feet clean!

What’s Going On With Me

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Hello everyone out there. I suppose y’all’ve noticed I haven’t written much lately. I don’t think I’ve updated GB&GSF since Thanksgiving and that’s NOT how I like to do things. It’s not been a matter of not enough to write. I’ve had plenty of ideas . . . I just can’t get them down on the screen. This has caused me no little amount of consternation especially when several times during the day I get a message telling me I have a new follower for the blog. Now I realize some of those followers are probably generated by bots or spider searchers, but some of them aren’t and I feel an obligation to produce good posts to give back to those who’ve taken the time to stop by this little blog. Because of all this swirling morass of feeling, I felt an explanation is in order. Here’s my explanation . . .

Life is kicking my ass — pardon the French.

My grief at facing the holidays without Mama has grown each day and now it IS an elephant in the room. I’ve tried to bear up, do the brave thing, keep calm and carry on . . . and I’ve failed completely. Over the next two weeks I have to face Mama’s favorite holiday, then two days later her birthday, then New Years, and finally my first birthday without getting a call at 6:19 AM and hearing “happy birthday, Little Man; Mommy loves you.” It’s a lot to take in over a short time frame. The fact is, I miss my mama and the nice facade I’ve built to try coping with it is crumbling.

That grief alone would be enough to cripple me, but it’s not all I’ve been hit with. I recently found out one of my best friends and former work colleagues has a cancerous mass on her kidney and another in her lower colon. This young lady has been like a baby sister to me for over a decade. When I was cashiered from my first teaching job, she was the only person to speak in my defense. She is also a triathlete, having competed in nine Ironman races. She’s also an agnostic who leans more atheist than not.

Even THAT doesn’t complete the tableau. A week ago today, Baby Eli was born . . . took two breaths . . . and died. He was the fourth child of a couple at our church. They found out in late September that the pregnancy had hit a developmental crisis. Eli’s little kidneys for some reason failed to develop and the way it was explained to me, when a baby’s kidneys don’t develop, his lungs don’t develop either, and no amniotic fluid gets produced. According to the doctors, little Eli never had a chance and their suggestion to the couple was a second trimester abortion which the couple refused. From the time I first found out about little Eli, I was seized by a concern I can’t really explain. See, I serve the God who formed us all in our mothers’ wombs and I knew if He chose to, He could repair little Eli’s body and make liars out of the doctors. So I prayed harder for little Eli than I’ve prayed for anyone in a long time . . . even Mama. I went so far as to ask God to take my life for Eli’s. I’ve lived already . . . at least it would give the baby a chance, but in the end, Eli died . . . God’s ways are not man’s ways; man’s ways are not God’s ways. That may be truth, but it still hit me harder than I expected.

Then, my stepdad called me. He is extremely sick. He’s got the flu the doctor says, but for some reason the congestion in his lungs won’t break up in response to medicine this time . . . much like Mama. As much as losing Mama has hurt me, my grief pales in comparison to Rob’s. Mama was literally his world. He cared for her needs even more than I did. Now he is a grief-stricken, broken man, and I’m having to convince him to keep fighting when all he really wants to do is join Mama and I’m afraid if something doesn’t change, he may do just that before this sickness turns.

Then, my aunt, my cousin, and my dad have decided to sell my homeplace. It doesn’t mean much to any of the three of them, but it represents what could have been to me. Daddy is going to give me his share so Rob and my stepbrother’s family won’t have to move away, but home won’t be home anymore. It’s just a hunk of land, a source of money, to them . . . but it’s always been home to me and there’s no earthly way I could get the funds together to buy the other two out.

That’s because there’s NEVER enough funds. My life is a constant borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. Someone always gets left out of the paid bills stack. I always have to figure out some way to make ends meet. It’s sad, but it’s been the story of my life. Mama and I never had enough money to breathe easy. Ruin and bankruptcy has always been just around the corner and once or twice, it’s even turned that corner. No one who hasn’t lived under constant financial stress has any idea what it’s like to constantly worry about the heat pump or the car engine or some other thing because there’s no money so if the heat pump goes out . . . well, we’ll just be cold. The saddest part, though, is I know it’s my own fault. Mama made poor decisions with money and I’ve managed to carry on the family tradition. It doesn’t make it any less stressful though.

So that’s what’s going on with me . . . at least the highlights. There’s more little things, but this post already looks like I’m whining. I hope none of you think I’m being maudlin because that’s certainly not my intent. I just want my growing number of readers to know what’s happened to the content lately.

What I’ve decided to do is stop obsessing over not updating. My plan is to get through the first full week in January, past my birthday, and then start back with a renewed sense of purpose in my writing. I could slap some stuff together, but it wouldn’t be up to my standards so I’d rather get through the end of the year and try to start over. Look for newer, more consistent posts beginning in January. I hope y’all understand.

You know I love y’all. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and keep those feet clean.