Featured Post

Book Blogger - Submit a book for review!

  Are you an author? Would you like your book promoted on my blog? and website? Would you like to have your book reviewed? If so, please con...

Monday, September 30, 2019

Can Fire Drills Save The President?

Image result for fire drills

Image from: https://sourcemaking.com/antipatterns/fire-drill

So for those who don't know, I teach Middle School.  And one of my favorite things is the Fire Drill.  It is a chance to get up, go outside, and take a break from class.

 I'm less fond of the tornado drill where you have to go into a small enclosed space with 50 other people and crawl against the wall.

I did work at one school where they used the same warning bell for both fire and tornado drills.  That was very confusing.  Do I run into the tornado or go bury myself in the basement as the building is consumed by flames?  All the bell really told you was there was some sort of impending doom and you should either leave the building or never leave the building.  Unsurprisingly, that school did not succeed and is now closed.

But I digress.  The fire drill has it all.  Fresh air, sunshine (who would do a fire drill in the rain?), and some bonus time off of work.  You count your students then hold up a little green card.  There is always one student who chooses to go to the bathroom or his locker and holds everyone up.  Or maybe that is his way of giving back to his teachers?  Either way, what is suppose to take a few minutes often turns into a longer event.

For what it is worth, I believe fires can actually happen anywhere.  With that in mind, why don't we do fire drills other places?  Boring meeting? Fire Drill.  To many emails in the inbox and dozing off? Fire Drill.  Just got done hanging sheet rock and need a water break? Fire Drill.  About to be impeached? Fire Drill.

Donald Trump
In fact, this could be the answer to the president's current problems.  As I understand it, the head administrator is the one who determines the need for a fire drill and assigns the time to do it.  So there you have it President Trump, another possible solution to ongoing troubles. 

Image from:

Friday, September 27, 2019

Merica Made

Now don't get me wrong.  I'm pro-America.  I have been blessed and have traveled through much of the world.  I have been to several parts of Africa, the ex Soviet block, Western Europe (I even remember being there before the Euro!), South America, and a handful of islands.  I've loved the opportunities to help refugees, teach in a communist university, backpack Europe, build homes, visit pubs, and drink beverages with little umbrellas in them while basking on the beach.  But I always am thankful to return home.

And while I am not an extremist, I do look for "Made in America" products in my home country.  I purchase them when I can.  But when I say, "I look for Made in America products,"  I am referring to things like tools, t-shirts, cars, or perhaps farm equipment.  What I did not know until this week, is we are apparently now importing entire buildings from out of country!  

You see, I drive by a construction site daily.  It is what looks to be a 400-500 unit apartment complex.  I've watched them build it.  What I haven't seen until recently is the construction company's sign: 

Yes, that is right.  "made in the USA." It even has the flag to solidify the deal.  Now why would a construction company make such a statement?  And not only make it, but apart from their name and contact info it is the ONLY thing they want you to know about who they are.

There can be only one reason... other construction companies are secretly, probably under the cover of night, building entire buildings in Canada or Zimbabwe where materials and labor are cheaper.  Then they are barging these pre-built structures over, or perhaps they are tying them to large helicopters, or hot air balloons?  Yes, I think the hot air balloons make the most sense for the degree of stealth necessary.  Then, when you are not looking, they are swapping what you think is an American made building for the cheap, foreign imitation.

Image result for made in americaBe careful out there reader.  Maybe the very building you are in is nothing more than a flimsy knock-off.  You think just because you see construction workers at the site everyday, watch trucks with construction materials drive in, and see the building on American soil that the building is made here.  Be weary.  And look for the Made in America stamp to be sure.

In my research, I have found there is much debate regarding "made in America" and "Assembled in America."

I for one am now very suspicious.  But I am also an entrepreneur.  What other service fields have pure "American made" companies not yet entered?  Are our educators made in America?  What about my lawn service?  Are my local police force made in America or are they part of a vast conspiracy to outsource?  I know my bank is moving off shore as I now have to speak to computers with Middle Eastern accents.  

But enough complaining.  I'm considering getting into the game myself.  Some of you know I am licensed in Tennessee to perform weddings.  How does a couple know that their wedding ceremony is "Made in America?"  If this apartment complex construction is any indication, you can no longer rely on simple location.  The evolve company is right, we must make clear on all fronts our patriotism.

Just because you got married in a decorative barn in American countryside does not mean your marriage is on home soil.  So if you want to make sure your wedding is "Made in America" call me and I will ensure that I, the location, and all certifications are American Made.  After all, we can't be too sure and who wants to find out their nuptials were somehow outsourced to Uzbekistan? 

Monday, September 23, 2019

Peaches and used wood planks.

The Peach Truck 

So we all occasionally give in to the hype. For me it was this summer.  Imagine it.  It is Sunday in mid July in the south, I'm on my porch with a cold drink and a fan.  A few steps away I had access to a big screen tv, netflix, and a couch to nap on.

My wife says, "Wouldn't it be great to have some fresh peaches?"

Me: "I hate peaches."

My wife: "There is nothing like a really fresh peach.  You know the peach truck is coming today?"

Me: "Peach truck?"

Image result for peaches
My wife: "Oh, they make everyone stand on hot asphalt for hours, pull up in an eighteen wheeler with large boxes of peaches, you wait in line, pay exorbitant prices, and leave with 150 peaches... 148 more than we will ever eat...."

Me: "That sounds awesome!  I'm in!"

My Wife: "Ehhh... I'm taking a nap."

So there I went to the Georgia Peach Truck.
I was, I think, somewhere around 134th in line.

While waiting for the truck to arrive there was a flurry of activity.  One of the dogs on Paw Patrol was running around hugging children.  It was a good reminder that as miserable as we were standing in the large parking lot, it could be worse.  We could be in the parking lot in a large, furry dog costume being chased by toddlers.  

Then there were a bunch of vendors.  It probably should've been a warning to me as I looked over their wares.  You go to Disney World and they sell Mickey Mouse hats, you go to the beach and they sell sunscreen and surf boards, you go snow skiing in Colorado and they sell ski bibs, goggles, and marijuana.  At the Hixson, TN Peach Truck delivery... there were vendors selling... I'm not making this up.... Old Wood.

Image result for weathered wood for sale

"Come and get it!  Old Wood! Below Market Prices!  Only $30 per stick!"

Another vendor had broken windows and broken door frames.  Another had "authentically weathered" street signs.  "These signs were outside!  That's why you can barely read what they say!"

One guy was just standing by the nearby dumpster and charging people to go dumpster diving.

I should've seen teh connection between the peach truck and used wood sellers... dumb customers... but I wa too into the hype at this point.

That is till the truck pulled up and began giving us the options.  A guy who looked like he belonged on the cover of a harlequin romance novel stood on the open rear door of the eighteen wheeler.

"Attention all!  These peaches are fresh! "  He holds one up, "This peach's name is Fred.  he was on a tree about three hours ago!"

We all oooed and awed.  Well, I think most of oooed over the peach but some ladies looked like they were about to stick $1 bills in the peach truck driver's levis.

So then he descends and other similar cut young men start handing out boxes.
Image result for cowboy farmer sexy free use
Mr. Harlequin starts walking down the line.

"We have two deals!  A box for $80 or 2 boxes for $160! Cash only! No Checks, No Cards!" He then flexed his biceps.

"How many are in a box," I asked the lady in front of me.  She looked like a regular.

She stopped waving $1 bills at Mr. Harlequin: "Isn't he handsome!" she said...

"A regular Channing Tatum" I offered.
"How many peaches are in a box?"
 "Oh, .. there are like 40 in a box."

"I'm not a math genius, but that's like $2 a box?" I inquired.

Lady: "I know!  What a deal!"

I then realized she was holding a plank of wood with a $30 price tag on it.

The lady behind me was more reasonable.  She was prepared to buy two but really only wanted one and a half.  So I offered to go in with her.  She asked how many I wanted and I said two.

Her: "Two boxes?"

Me: "No. Two Peaches."

Her: "You can't do that."

I knew this but I was too deep now.  We negotiated I would buy 1/2 of a box for $40.  At the truck, I made the mistake of asking for an extra box.  I thought I had a moment to do this because the lady who had been in front of me was taking her picture with the shirtless 20-something worker.  But apparently questions were not allowable... only selfies...."Boxes cost money," the shirtless man said.  Make a decision."

So I gave the woman my $20 and helped her carry the two boxes to her car.  Well... I carried one box and another young farmhand carried the other.  I took the lid and placed fifteen or so peaches in it, thanked the lady, and headed to my truck.

On my way I was accosted by another member of the peach truck with the final sell.

Farm hand:  "You have a lot of peaches there!  Need a cookbook?  100 peach recipes?  Otherwise you'll have to throw them away."

Me: "No thank you.  I don't like peaches."

Farm hand taking a selfie with a lady who just ordered eight boxes:  "OK Sir.  Oh, by the way, you should know that these peaches are fresh.  You should put them on your counter for like 4 to 5 days before eating them."

That was the last we spoke as I got into my car and watched him be attacked by a lady with eight boxes, two used windows, a paw patrol picture, and something she bought from the dumpster.  I hope he made it out alive.  But at the peach truck, its every man for himself.

I took them home and dutifully laid them out on my counter.  Two days later I and my bride got on a plane to go on vacation.  She tried one before we left and announced that it was not ripe.  I chose not to try one because (1) I had been warned to wait the full 5 days and (2) I hate peaches.  And I have to admit, as one who doesn't like peaches, not eating that one may have been the best decision I could've made.

If you want to have the experience:

Climate Justice, Jesus Camps, and Kids Named Isotope

All Pictures taken from https://apple.news/Aqk7nOxuORVySHDOYWk4pdQ

So the briefest description of the Big Bang theory I could find on the web goes like this:

Our whole universe was in a hot, dense state
Then nearly fourteen billion years ago expansion started, wait
The earth began to cool, the autotrophs began to drool
Neanderthals developed tools
We built a wall (we built the pyramids)
Math, science, history, unraveling the mysteries
That all started with the big bang! Hey!
Since the dawn of man is really not that long
As every galaxy was formed in less time than it takes to sing this song
A fraction of a second and the elements were made
The bipeds stood up straight, the dinosaurs all met their fate
They tried to leap but they were late
And they all died (they froze their asses off)
The oceans and Pangea, see ya wouldn't wanna be ya
Set in motion by the same big bang!
It all started with the big bang!
It's expanding ever outward but one day
It will cause the stars to go the other way
Collapsing ever inward, we won't be here, it won't be hurt
Our best and brightest figure that it'll make an even bigger bang!
Australopithecus would really have been sick of us
Debating how we're here, they're catching deer (we're catching viruses)
Religion or astronomy (Descartes or Deuteronomy)
It all started with the big bang!
Music and mythology, Einstein and astrology
It all started with the big bang!
It all started with the big bang!

Thanks Bare Naked Ladies. So as I understand it, our modern creation story is that we all started from some
Particle, it exploded, and after a lot of time my grandmother was here with a corncob pipe, a coal burning stove, 8oz bottled cokes, moth balls in her closet, and a King James Bible.

Now, I’m told that we are doomed. 

Apparently this is new news.  It was my understanding that this was the point of the Big Bang theory and evolution.  I have for a long time known I wasn't the "fittest."  I've had opportunity to see in person orca whales, cougars, lions, and even rabid possums.  All of them I am pretty sure could take me in a fight.

But it seems our society has been alerted to the fact that unless we seek "climate justice" we are all doomed.  In the fascinating article at  https://apple.news/Aqk7nOxuORVySHDOYWk4pdQ we hear from several teens:

 "I'm afraid of missing out on natural land and seeing our land filled with landfill."

"Everything.  I'm only 17, I haven't lived. It's scary."

Erin is afraid most of losing "My family and Hawaii."

And perhaps the one I most resonated with: "My family, my forest, my land - therefore I will lose my life.  We have to resist to exist."

It is good to know the young person named Avery has already been economically successful enough to own her own forest.  

But I am afraid she and others have forgotten the half the story where everything that exploded contracts and we all die.

But I understand that our goal in these "climate strikes" is not necessarily to avoid doom. Rather it is a desire to change our lifestyle so we can be a little less doomed. I mean, it’s that or master intergalactic space travel and find a new planet where dinosaurs were kind enough to die in lava pits... or in ice... or by being hit by meteors... I forget.

And let me say for the record that I'm not against preserving our planet.  But I am worried about the method.

So here is my point. As a kid I was always told to be weary of religious people. They take you to youth rallies and camps and indoctrinate you with their peculiar religious beliefs by using fear tactics. Such people should be avoided at all costs, even if they have candy in their van.

Well, this week I saw in our modern day religion of agnosticism, atheism, humanism, camefromanapeism, or other sister groups a massive rally (and sometimes camp depending on the location) to indoctrinate children by fear.

They held a rally and told kids they were dying because the tenants of their faith tell us we are not faithful to the doctrine of recycling, the abstinence of gas engines, plastic, and because your mother uses too much  aqua net hairspray. They must leave their parent’s evil ways and follow the ways of the church of Climate Justice.

Of course, grandma sent me to Vacation Bible School where I learned from felt stickers cut out in the shape of Jesus that I was a sinner and in big trouble.  But my grand-mom ("granny" to us) also told me that if I loved Jesus I could go to heaven and it would all be okay.  There was doom, but also hope.  And there were also  ice cold bottled cokes, some homemade cookies, and some Mac n cheese she made on her coal burning stove.

Today I was told my only hope is to “de-progress," and if I and everyone else does it then maybe,  just maybe, my grandkids can come to my house and enjoy some rice cakes and chemically treated water with some sort of gluten free kale snack.  

To those weary of "climate justice," be aware they are using the same camp and rally tricks on the youth they once condemned the church for using.  For those of you who are all on board, let me give you some next-steps advice.  

Church people also indoctrinated their children by giving them names.  These names reflected their values and were another encouragement to the child to follow the guardian's beliefs.  Names like "Faith," "Hope," "Grace," or "Joy" can be found in schools across the country.  And more subtle names from the Bible like "Matthew," "Isaac," "Paul," or maybe "Malachi."

Perhaps it is time for those climate justice activists to start naming their children?  "Come here my little Isotope."  "Isn't Recycle so cute?"  "Can you believe Ozone is already two?"

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Saturday Night Lights

There is a magic you forget about when you age.  That moment when the whole world shrinks to the what is directly around you.  When nothing seems to matter except what your leader has to say.  You look around and you see your friends, your peers, and your adult leaders.

In that moment you have it all.  

Maybe for you it was a sport.  Maybe it was the scouts, an academic club, a church youth group, or if it was a tad later a fraternity or sorority.  For my son last week, it was the band.  They had an exhibition (a competition without trophies so to speak).

He and 150+ of his school peers worked all day on a performance they have already logged a month of the summer and two months of afternoons working on.  

We talk about kids today not wanting to work, not wanting to be outside, not willing to commit to anything, not being respectful, etc... Well, there are 150 + band and color guard students who sat in a parking lot at 9:30pm after 12 hours of working outside in the hottest fall on record.  They had a two hour bus ride home and another hour of unpacking the four buses and four, yes four, penske trucks full of equipment.  And I did not see a one of them who wanted to be anywhere else.

I am thankful for their band director.  He is truly someone who isn't complaining about the rising generation, but building that generation into men and women who can succeed.

I think of the line in the Karate Kid, 

"Man who can catch a fly with a chopstick can do anything."  

Well, the man who can carry a tuba (ok... a contra...) all day in the hot sun and not forget his music or field marching locations can do anything.  

I hope you had your Saturday Night Lights.  I hope you had your moment around the bus with your coach, teacher, youth pastor, scoutmaster, or some variation.  And I hope you are helping to provide such an opportunity for the next generation.  

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Landmark Court Case Could Change Everything

Landmark court cases.  You know the ones I'm talking about. 

1893 Nix v Hedden deciding once for all that the Tomato is a vegetable, not a fruit.

1946 The United States vs Causby clarifying that if a government plane flies over your house and causes your chickens to commit suicide the government is not responsible to buy you new chickens.

Image result for chickens running into a barn

1954 Brown v Board of Education stating segregation is illegal.

1972 Yoder v Wisconsin where the Supreme Court decided that if you were drab clothing, ride in horse drawn carriages,  and make wood furniture you don't have to educate your children past 8th grade.

1973 Roe v. Wade regarding a woman's right to have an abortion.  It is also a great testimony to due process as the decision came three years after it was filed... Roe's baby had already made it past the terrible twos at that point.

1993 Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. Hialeah determining you can not sacrifice animals without eating them also.  This really can be a set back to new cult groups trying to edge into the American market.

These cases not only cemented important political precedent, but they also changed our daily lives.  And today, my friends, I heard of a new one on the horizon.  

2019 Prisk v Brown

In this lawsuit, Dr. Victor Prisk is suing Antonio "I keep getting in trouble but I play for the Patriots so it is okay" Brown.  The lawsuit claims an unpaid debt of $11,000.... boring.... 

The game changer is the additional filing (yes, actually filed as part of the court case) that Antonio Brown repeatedly farted in Dr. Prisk's face.  Dr. Prisk was administering an exam on Brown and was unable to evacuate the premise.

There is incontrovertible evidence as Antonio had a friend film the escapade.



The question is, of course, whether the court will decide in favor of Dr. Prisk.  If they do, this will be a game changer for American Law.  How many of us are trapped in cubicles, work rooms, on job sites, in cars, airplanes, and other closed air systems with perpetrators of flatulents.  We sufferers who have hid our nose in the thin layer of cotton our shirt provides, set down our lunch never to eat it again, or in panic have waved our hand in front of our face only creating a vortex of odor.  We must be unite and strike back at those who would have us beaten down by their gas.

I will be watching this case closely.  I for one am a teacher and must not leave my classroom while students are in attendence.  Thus, I might be entitled to a wonderful tort settlement should America decided farting in front of a captive audience is a crime.

Some free reading:



Monday, September 16, 2019

Moonshine Marketing at the Mercedes Dealership

So recently I had the opportunity to visit the Smoky Mountains. The newest and "bestest" attraction seems not to be go-carts or a Dolly Parton themed ride but moonshine testing stores.  

The idea is simple. You enter and sign a waiver. Then you are given samples of moonshine. They start with things like “Original"  and "Cinnamon."  Then they move on to more exoticc flavors like "bubblegum,” “candy apple,” or “”Pickle.” Pickle is "the real dill" and comes with actual pickles.  Our group went wile when we heard this.  Many were about to pass out with joy... or intoxication... when we learned one was called "carrot cake."

"I love carrot cake and moonshine!   I can get those together!"

Then the host rolls out a three minute rally on patriotism.  "We are about to try "Old Red, White, and Blue!  That's right!  Moonshine to celebrate your freedom!  Freedom for what?  That's right! To drink more Shine!!  Whose in?"

Image result for patriotic moonshine

After five or six samples the visitor doesn’t really care about the names or subtle nuances anymore. 
“This next one," the pretty girl behind the counter says raising a bottle of shine to fill taster's shot glasses,  "we call “raccoon in a trash can”

“Yes please!”

“Then we have a new one we are trying!  We call ‘diesel fuel and armpit hair.”

“I’ll buy the whole case!” someone will shout.  It is more than just a shine tasting.  We have formed a community of shine lovers.  We love our country, our momma, our hostess, our neighbors, and above all, our Shine!  

Overall, it was a happy place to visit. The staff seem to enjoy their job selling moonshine to drunk people and the drunk people seem to appreciate being extorted.

No surprise, the more you sample, the more you buy.  But here is where I had an “ah-ha” moment!  On our way out, perhaps with a patriotic tear and four pints of Freedom Shine or maybe with a warm heart and a pint of Grandma's Apple Pie Shine, we walk directly through the store. Not the moonshine store, but just a regular souvenir store.

Those of us who didn’t partake or stopped at flavors like “strawberry” or “apple cider” were able to run the gauntlet with ease.  However, those carrying 5 pints of “morning dog breath” were goners.

And I have to ask myself, is this legal? Because if it is I think other marketing agencies ought to jump on board. "Whiskey tasting this Saturday at the Mercedes’s Benz dealership. Free whiskey samples in our showroom!  Easy financing!"  A realtor could have a “show of homes that won’t sell and free beer tasting.”  Or maybe even the big chains could offer you a free vodka shot before perusing the electronics aisle?   Of course, it would mean a surge in the need for uber drivers and many might wonder how to fit their new 120" tv into their convertible Mercedes.  But at least they will have a new fixer-upper to go home to.  The possibilities are limitless.

Image result for moonshine pickles

Friday, September 13, 2019

Driving in Tennessee: Sleeping is the New Texting?

Image result for Tennessee law no text

So I get it.  Tennessee has passed a law that as of July 1st, 2019 no one is allowed to have any cellular device in their hand while driving.  No texting, no calling, no minesweeper.  Nada.  For those with new, fancy cars like my bride this is an easy transition.  Her car comes equipped with Bluetooth and she can pipe in her Pandora music, call a child, or even ask Siri a question without missing a beat.

For me, in my 1999 Ford Ranger, it means putting my phone in the visor strap and if someone calls I risk criminal jail time by hitting the green "accept button."

Then, throwing all caution to the wind and in utter rebellion to Johnny Law, I hit "speaker" to turn my phone into a hands free device. T

A side note, my wife now tells me she can't understand a word I'm saying and usually ends the call saying, "I'll just tell you when you get home."

So there you go Tennessee.  You have effectively hampered marital communication across the state.

But today I saw a driver of an old Honda Civic who hand conquered this problem.

In order to create more time at home for marital communication, this person had put a dream-catcher on their rear-view mirror.

Image result for dreamcatcher in car
Image taken from https://www.amazon.com/LAVAY-Interior-Rearview-Handmade-Accessories/dp/B07NYWJD73

Now, my understanding of the dream-catcher is it is a circle symbolizing the circle of life.  The feathers, beads, or other sundries help remind us of spider webs.  Spiders are  always something I want to associate with my dreams.  The idea is that the dream-catcher traps the bad dreams and holds them until daylight.  How exactly it knows which dreams are bad and which are good is part of the mystery, much like my Yeti mug knows whether to keep something hot or cold.

Now, this is a fascinating idea.  And I want to be clear, if the dream-catcher helps you get a good night sleep I'm 100% on your side.

But, should we have devices in our car that publicly proclaim, "I intend to fall into a deep comma like sleep while driving!"

Think about it.  Consider the plight of the Tennessean who can no longer talk to his wife on his cell phone because his car doesn't have Bluetooth.  He is tired, staying up too late catching up on her day.  And now, he has installed a dream-catcher in his car so as he motors down the highway at 80mph he can have peaceful dreams?

Not wanting to live in fear without research, I turned to amazon.com.  This is what they have to say about the vehicular dream-catcher:

  •  Cute Size: Diameter of Circle: 2.8"/ 7cm, Total length: 15"/ 38cm.
  • ➹ High Quality Material: Handmade yarn grids, natural feathers, bead, retro accessories. This car pendant is fully assembled. No DIY required.
  • ➹ 100% Handmade: Each dream catcher is handmade, and it has passed strict quality control to ensure that it is harmless to the human body and pollution-free environment.
  • ➹ Perfect Decor: This small dream catcher is great as an exquisite decor for car rear-view mirror hanging, car charm pendant, kids bedroom, home, dorm room, living room, wedding party.
  • ➹ Beautiful Legend- Nightmare pass through the dream catcher holes and out of the window; the good dreams are trapped in the web, slide down the feathers to the sleeping person.

So there we have it.  A beautiful legend in your car, made of high quality material, allowing you the peaceful sleep you need.  It reminds me of the quote by Will Rogers:

"When I die, I want to die like my grandfather who died peacefully in his sleep.  Not screaming like all the passengers in his car."

My fellow Tennesseans... we have battled drunk driving, driving under influence of narcotics, teenage driving past curfew, and texting while driving.... now we must prepare ourselves for the next challenge.... sleeping while driving.  And to those who like to skirt the law, get your car dream-catchers now before they are outlawed.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

We can all be Dorothy

So like many my age, 9/11 brings back some very vivid memories.  I recall exactly where I was and how the day unfolded.  September 11th is my birthday and I was at work.  I at first thought my fellow staff telling me I had to come see the tv (my pager didn't have internet or news updates!) was a ploy for a party.  Once I realized what I was seeing on tv was real, my world changed.  I spent the evening at Buffalo Wild Wings with family and friends as planned.  We almost cancelled but chose to continue not to celebrate my birthday but rather to watch the coverage on their numerous big screen televisions.  So we sat there for hours on $.50 wing night in an almost empty restaurant watching the footage we had all already seen.  Waiters and cooks joined us.

We were Americans and we knew our world had just changed.

Here I am in 2019 and I can barely remember what I had for dinner a fortnight ago.  Yet, I remember the sauce I chose for my hot wings (honey bbq), I remember how my potato wedges looked in the food boat (why do we call it a boat!?), and I remember the scrolling screen saver on the Daytona racing game I would look at to take a break from the news channels.

Science tells us the difference is dopamine.  There is a chemical in our brain that alerts us that something has happened and we need to pay attention.  For sure, 9/11 was such an event.

My brain was screaming, "Pay attention!  Your world is changing!"

And it did change.  I watched my country deal with terrorism.  I saw how airport travel changed, saw people's prejudices harden, and saw people live differently.  My kids began having terrorist shooting drills in their schools, my work developed an evacuation plan, and on the home front I stepped away from a ministry I had been volunteering with that worked in Rwanda.

Image result for 9/11

After the initial shock I had opportunity to visit the memorial in New York.  I became captivated by shows such as Rescue Me.  My son and I even joined a local volunteer fire department where I still serve.  I don't know that 9/11 is "the" reason I joined, but it was definitely a significant factor.  9/11 became part of the ever playing soundtrack in the background of my life.

So, Dorothy.

What if your 9/11 event was not nation wide?  What if the event that traumatized you was local?  Maybe in your home?  And maybe you were too young to even process what was happening, but you will forever remember the flavor of the hot wings, the texture of the potato wedges, and the screen saver on the racing game?  Or maybe for you it is the taste of a grilled cheese, the slamming of a door, or the cartoon that was playing on a tv.

I became involved several years back with a few people who work with children who have reactive attachment disorder.  They put on camps to help not just the kid, but the entire family (often adoptive parents or foster parents but not always) "reset."

RAD means a child has barriers to building relationships.

 In fact, they push back when someone loves them.  The more you love, the more they push.  The more you love, the more aggressive their push becomes even to the point of violence.  Then, when the one who loves them finally has a weak moment the child can say, "See, you never really loved me." 

It is a horrible cycle.  The belief is "no one can love me and I'll prove it."  It breaks my heart.  But after 9/11 I remember thinking, "I'll never be safe again."  Intellectually, I knew that was false.  But in my emotions I was forever changed.

At the end of each camp we put on a play as the staff.  A version of the Wizard of Oz.

And yes, that is me in the dress.  

The lead would go through the skit seeking a brain (gotta know what is happening to make you scared), courage (gotta be willing to risk change), and a heart (love is the answer).

I know because I am a history nerd that the original Wizard of Oz was about a political election.  It was great satire.  However, I can't help but feel the camp's production of the Wizard of Oz was a perfect modern update.

On this anniversary of 9/11 I would challenge us to look for those around us who we can help.  We can help by teaching, by encouraging, and by loving.  And you don't even have to wear a dress.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Falcons First Week Loss And Other Lessons In Psychology

Image result for atlanta falcons

So week one has ended and my beloved Falcons are 0-1.  Yes, there are many pontiffs flexing their sports analysis muscles today.  And I am sure there is a great deal of speculation about Julio Jones' contract negotiation, who is calling the offense, Matt Ryan's uncharacteristic turnovers, lost opportunities in the end zone, missed tackles, and many other items.  Thankfully, the Cleveland Browns and Miami are around to share the negative publicity.

I easily become absorbed in such sports minutia... especially since my home state Tennessee Vols have seemingly already decided to hold out any hopes of victory until basketball season.  As a Falcon's fan there is plenty to worry about.  But I would like today to analyze me, the fan.  What draws me to the game?  Why do I, who almost never watch television, claim the couch twenty or so Sundays a year?  What makes me stay till the final score is posted even though I have long been aware that the game is actually over.

To punctuate, my beautiful bride was still holding out hope as the third quarter ended.  I knew that a four touchdown deficit, with two timeouts, and an opponent who could run half the remaining time off the clock  equaled a no-win situation.  As the quarter rolled on, my prediction came to fruition.  My bride was happy the Falcons scored something and was ready to move on to the next Sunday afternoon event.  She felt the token touchdown would assuage the player's feelings and help lift spirits.  I, however,  watched till the final seconds.  I did not watch in hope of a miracle victory, but in allegiance to my team.

They suffer, I suffer.  They win, I win.
Image result for atlanta lose vikings

When I lived in Nashville, I had opportunity to become a Titans fan.  I held two PSL (personal seat license) tickets up in good old 333.  The nose bleeds.  But I had my own rhythm for finding parking, where to pre-game, and my favorite food stands.  Hot August pre-season and snowing December games.  I loved attending the games and being in Nashville to watch Steve McNair and then Vince Young.  I remember jumping up and down with all my neighbors as Eddie George powered through the line for a short yardage first down.  I recall feeling like I had been blessed to see a King or Queen when I sat for the Music City Miracle.  But I NEVER, I repeat NEVER, gave up my first spot of loyalty.  Falcons for life.

We laugh at the commercial with the man thinking his weird hat, eating a hot dog, or beer ritual helps the team.  And yet, I have a favorite seat on the couch, favorite t-shirts, and my family even has a special meal we call "super bowl foods."  And yes, we have it much more often than once a year.  But to call it "Super Bowl Foods" I think reflects the gravitas of what football means.  "Game foods" are regulated to snacks I take to my daughter's rec league games.  But "Super Bowl foods" demand respect.  And there is no doubt, as we line up a table filled with nachos, pigs in a blanket, chips and dip, a veggie tray, cookies, brownies, and whatever other finger foods we can conjure from our fridge,  we feel as if we are part of what is going on hundreds of miles away.

On this note, this week we celebrated my birthday and I was unable to be in my seat at kickoff.

  I'm really sorry to Matt Ryan, as I'm pretty sure I'm to blame for not doing my part.  I let the team down.

The team.  I talk to one of my best friends who is a Tampa Bay fanatic.  In pre-season we talk about what the year will look like, in early season we talk about our hopes for a turn-around, and in late season we talk about playoff contentions.  In the off season we discuss trades, draft picks, and there is usually like one day in mid-June we ask how each other's families are doing.  Kidding, but only slightly.  I say things like, "We really had a lot of penalties last week."  He will comment, "We need to tackle better."  It never occurs to either of us that we are not actually employed by our perspective teams.  As far as we are concerned, we are there, on the field, and part of whatever happens.

Image result for atlanta falconsAnd the action does happen!  Football - perhaps any sport - is not something to be watched on-demand.  No one binge watches the 2017 season of a team that has never won the super bowl (my friend would tell you here his team has in fact won, it is just the Falcons who have not). Football must be watched in the NOW.  Any fan can tell you the agony of having to record a game.  You walk around with eyes shielded in case the score might flash by.  And there are friendships broken over being told too early what happened.

Being "present" whether in the stadium, virtually watching on my coach, sharing the moment at a friend's house, or taunting the other team's fans at a bar, is not only fun but a core human need.  I need relationships.

I need to be part of something greater than myself. 

I am a fan not because I need to be a winner, but because I need to belong.

And maybe that is it?  I attend church regularly.  There is something I feel at a Falcons game that I find amiss at a church.  There, I have said it.  There is a reason I sometimes find it difficult to crawl out of bed on a Sunday morning, but always find the energy to stay up past midnight for a Monday Night game.

At church and in spiritual communities, I feel I am always being told that real connectivity with God is found in "circles, not rows."  I understand this mantra and don't disagree with its intention.  There is value in making meaningful relationships and living life with others.  But we should not discount the feeling of 90,000 fans joining together to watch a football game.  There is something awe inspiring about being a  part of something so much bigger than yourself.  And truly, I am not just a spectator.  I have, as they say, "skin in the game."

And there are legends of old, legends in the making, statistics, stories behind the players, conspiracies, and great "pastors" (they go by names such as "John Madden" or "Chris Berman" and they tell us how to interpret the "texts").  There are  rules, allegiances, and all the things that make Sunday afternoon (or Saturday if you are a college pursuant) great.

I have experienced these feelings elsewhere. Large conferences, rallies, and other sports events.  I remember once being in London when England beat France in a world cup game.  The city exploded in excitement.  But I knew even as I enjoyed the moment that I was an outsider.  I was welcomed to the celebration but it would never have the depth for me it did for so many around me as we climbed London statues and waded into London fountains with our flags.

You see, not only do I desire to be part of something greater than myself, I must also invest the time to become part of that something.  In truth, I think I have spent more of my lifetime with the Falcons than any other relationship apart from my mother.  My father passed away in 1996.  I feel closer to him when I watch a game.  Sometimes I can even remember his laugh or his smile.  I love my wife and would definitely choose her over football.  She knows this, but she also knew coming into the marriage that the Falcons would be supported veraciously. 

I watch for a lot of reasons, but perhaps the largest is because my dad taught me to.

My dad taught me that great things are worth great effort.

We used to watch the Falcons play on a small 13" tv in our kitchen.  If the game wasn't televised, we would go to his workshop and play the broadcast on the radio.  Once a year he would take me and a friend to a game, usually against Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49'ers.  We would eat a stadium hot dog, drink to many overpriced sodas, maybe have a funnel cake, and enjoy the fans around us.  I hated the drive, the traffic, the crowds, and always thought I could watch the game better on a tv, but I loved going with my dad.

Today, as I watch I do so with my cell phone beside me.  I know a great play or a really horrible play will illicit a text or call from my oldest son. You see, we not only rejoice in being part of something great but we also know you have to invest in that greater thing.

It is perhaps a lesson for me to apply to my church attendance, my job, my marriage, and my friendships.  Perhaps the issue is not that they are lesser things?  Perhaps the issue is the gravitas I lend to them?

Friday, September 6, 2019

I Want You or Warriors Wanted?

The iconic picture of Uncle Sam (WWI) pointing at you to join the army can be found in almost any bin of vintage posters, usually beside Rosie the Riveter from WWII.

One night a week I teach a psychology class at a local college.  I tell everyone it is my hobby that just happens to pay.  Last night in discussing cultural psychology and in particular the impact of individualism on a culture we took a look at arm recruitment posters.

Uncle Sam.  He is family, He is America. He is part of what makes you who you are and he needs you.  Rosie (the famous poster was not the first imaging of Rosie so I have read) has the great tag line over her head, "We can do it!"  There is a sense of belonging. A sense of greater purpose, of being a part of something larger than yourself.

I grew up in the 1970's and 80's.  We had a different poster:

And a very different message.  "YOU," not "WE."  Very existential.  The army will help you  rather than you help it... and it is an it now..?  Where as it used to be my good old Uncle Sam...?

My kids born in the late 90's and early 2000's received an even more individualistic message.  Not making this up, you can check out Wikipedia which NEVER lies!


My children grew up with the following recruitment:


 No lie.  A century long move from collectivism to individualism.  I'm not writing this as a political post to talk about this politician or that one, nor to bash this party or ridicule that one.  I am writing because it seems that we have lost our sense of collective identity.  Maybe that is why the current Army Slogan is simply....


See the source image

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Does Detention (or ISS) work?

Image result for kids in detention
image taken from www.teachreal.wordpress.com

So among other things in my life, I am a middle school teacher.  I have cafeteria duty, bus duty, car line duty, detention duty, dance chaperone duty, gate-keeping duty, and all the other add-ons that the profession provides.  One I have picked up this year either because I was deemed qualified or more likely, because I was standing near an administrator the day the decision was made, is half an our of ISS duty.

My hunch is the smarter, wiser teachers knew not to be voluntold for this one.

  But in a desire to change hearts and minds (more on that in a later post) I was approached and readily agreed.  The vision is to offer someone other than the ISS director access to the student during their time of "In School Suspension."  Hopefully, some encouragement and wisdom can be communicated that will inspire the young student to greater heights... or at least to not be in ISS again.

Today, as I watched seven such souls for my half an hour I realized more than half of them have spent as much time in ISS (or OSS - out of school suspension) as they have in a regular classroom this year.  That is a frightening thing since the semester is only four weeks old.

That got me wondering whether ISS or its after-school partner "detention," actually work?

I reached out to my friend google and read (scanned really) three posts.  So now I am an expert.  If you are reading this, perhaps you too are on a similar quest.  Or perhaps, you have already made up your mind and are just searching for some validation.


The case that it is effective I think is threefold:
     a. It removes the student from the classroom to allow other students to excel.
     b. For students not normally in trouble it can serve as  a wake-up call for their errant behavior
     c. For an actively concerned parent it provides a documented road map for discussion / repercussions at home.  Detention especially inconveniences a parent who must make arrangements to pick up a student who can not ride the bus home.


     a. Students are removed from verbal instruction in the classroom, left to sort through assignments on their own.  Often failing, students make little progress and can often become frustrated with learning.
     b. Students are surrounded often with their friends (sometimes they are even serving due to the same infraction) which they celebrate or with a nemesis which makes them focus on their anger rather than correction.
    c. The student is labeled when they return to the general populace.

There are other reasons for or against.  i would love to hear your thoughts?  And moreso, I would love to hear solutions?  How can students perpetually misbehaving be corrected in a way that supports them, the teacher, the administration, and their peers?

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

First Post

So I am stepping into the world of blogging.  I've been reading them for years, but have never had one myself.  But three years ago I made a decision to start writing.  I took a teaching job providing me ample vacation time including summers off to focus on writing.  I also joined a writing group called "Crazy Buffet."  They have published one book of short stories with another on the way.  Over the past two years I have written several short stories and have a working draft of a Middle Grade novel.

One of the things I have learned is many writers have blogs to generate interest in their work, develop an online media presence, and to also work out on the printed page details in things they are writing.  I've also read that many writers start blogging only to metaphorically walk away from the effort after a brief while.  I suppose time will tell!