There IS Goodness In This World

Given the constant bombardment of “bad” news we all get (some of which comes from me talking about dumb education policy, etc.) it is understandable that sometimes we want to turn off the TV, put down the newspaper and throw our I pad in the trash.

But honest, there is a lot of good in the world around us.  If you don’t think so, just visit a school and see the excitement in a teacher’s face as they tell you about the light “coming on” for one of their students.

And here is an amazing story from the Washington Post that tells us about Deborah Fellman in  Richmond, VA.  Known by all as Debs, she  is a balloon artist.  One of those gifted people who twists and shapes balloons into amazing shapes and sculptures.

Unfortunately she learned just last November that she has a rapidly spreading cancer and her life expectancy went from years to weeks.  As this news became known the nation’s tight-knit family of balloon twisters put a plan quickly in place..  At least 50 of them descended on Richmond to honor Debs by creating a giant balloon sculpture in a local mall.  They came from as far away as Los Angeles and Seattle to express their love and admiration for their friend.

It is well  worth your time to read the article.

The Joke Is On Me

Laughter is the best medicine.  At least that is what The Reader’s Digest once told us.  And few enjoy a laugh any more than I do.  (Though I quickly admit that I sometimes get very intense and passionate, especially when I see some of the dumb things we do under the guise of helping education.)

I may have inherited the love of laughter from my grandpa Lee who had a great  sense of humor and an infectious, hearty laugh..

Plus, you need to know that since I am retired I am a threat to take an afternoon nap, probably just because I can.  I grab a book and within a few minutes I am sound asleep.  And so it was the afternoon.  But it was a very late afternoon nap.  And as usual, my trusty flip phone was on the nightstand.  (You heard right, vintage flip phone that does not take pictures, open the garage door or turn on the dishwasher.)

So I am dead to the world when about 6 p.m. the phone rings.  I wake immediately and notice that it is dark outside,  The call was from my great and dear friend Martha  Peek, soon-to-retire Mobile County superintendent.

She called to talk about a money issue we had been discussing by email.  She said she was at the office and one of her staff was with her.  My first thought was, what in the devil is she doing at work at 6 in the morning?  And why is a staff  member with her at that time?

Then it dawned on me that I was napping and it was  6 in the evening–not the morning.  But by this time I had already said to her, “It sure  is early to be calling.”

Coming to my senses, I told her what was going on, which was met by great laugher on her end, as well as a comment that she wondered why I told her it was early.

I could only shake my head and join in her mirth.  Yep, the joke was on me.  And not for the first  time, or the last I’m sure.


The Birthday I Have Been Dreading

75.  Seven decades and half of another one.  Half a century plus a quarter of a century.  Fourteen presidents.  It becomes official on Jan. 21.

How in the world did this happen?  Why it was just a few days ago I had a full head of hair, wore pants with a much smaller waist size and ran in 10 K races.

Honest, I have never been all that concerned about birthdays coming and going.  However, I do recall that becoming 30 seemed a bit of a jolt.  Suddenly the 20’s were gone and I was plunging headlong into middle age.  Then 60 got my attention a bit.  What I remember most about that one was hosting a birthday party for friends from all over the south.  That was great fun.  One friend said he came because he could not believe I was footing the bill.

But 75?  Dad gum.  I am much older than my grandpa was when I first met him.  And he was the oldest man on earth.

However, I am not complaining about getting here.  Just glad I made it.  Too many friends and colleagues did not have this good fortune.  But this does not prevent you from spending time wondering how it happened.  And where did all the days go?  How did I end at this point where I have many more yesterdays than tomorrows.

And I of course reflect on so many good times and am grateful for all the kindnesses I’ve been shown along my life’s path.  I am especially grateful for so many new friends I have found during my venture into blogland.  People who have been willing to join me in my wee little effort to bring attention to our educators in public schools and all their contributions to our way of life.  People who have stepped forward when I’ve asked for emails to the governor, or state school board members or legislators.

I will always be thankful for you.

And for anyone so inclined, I direct your attention to the little place on this home page where you can support the cause by using PayPal.  In honor of the occasion, may I suggest $7.50.

Editor’s note:  While I appreciate the friend who suggested that 75 is really the new 74, not sure I am yet convinced.

If Christmas Is On Monday, Don’t Drive Through Atlanta The Friday Before

A list of my top 1,000 things to do would not include driving through Atlanta.  If at all possible, I avoid getting anywhere near the mecca of Peachtree streets.  But since it is very inconvenient to get from south of Atlanta to north of it without passing through, some times you just have to take the plunge.

And so it was on Friday, Dec. 22 when son Kevin and I were returning from Lake Lure, NC to Montgomery.  We figured our best bet would be to try some time between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.  As I normally do, I bypassed the 285 bypass and headed down I-85 toward the heart of town

About one mile inside 285 we saw one of those traffic signs telling us it was 35 minutes to midtown.  This was no surprise as we were already going from zero to 15 mph and then repeating.  Since Kevin was with me, we qualified to ride along in the HOV lane.  It was no faster, but at least I didn’t have to worry about someone on my left side since I was in the extreme left lane.  Off to my right stretched about 40 lanes also creeping along.

Now I am not a patient person.  Except when I realize the deck is totally stacked against me and getting exasperated is pointless.  So I crept and crept and crept.  But somewhere south of the Varsity and before midtown there was an exit for Williams Street right there beckoning for wayward travelers in the HOV lane to escape.

I had no idea where Williams Street went.  Nor did I care.  I just knew I would be free of I 85-75 and off I sped.

Basically, this street heads straight into the heart of downtown in a north-south direction.  That was all I cared about.  Soon a sign said I had to go left or right because Williams suddenly became one-lane.  And not in the direction I was going.  So we hung a right and within two blocks were looking dead at Centennial Park.  A left here and a giant Ferris wheel appeared.  Then the gleaming new Mercedes-Benz stadium where Auburn plays in the Peach Bowl Jan. 1.

There was little traffic and my tried and true sense of direction told me Montgomery was somewhere over the distant horizon.  I have no clue what street we were on.  And didn’t care.  We were moving faster than 15 mph and that was all that mattered.  We passed Fort McPherson and soon were in College Park.

We knew we were near the airport because planes kept zooming across the road.  Kevin spied a sign showing the way to I-85 and we followed its instructions.  Kevin said to look at the cars on the interstate and see if I recognized any of them from the parking lot we left miles earlier.  He thought it was funny.  I did not laugh.

But we survived.  Did we actually save any time?  I have no way of knowing.  But I have now seen parts of Atlanta I’d never seen before and I would rather drive 40 mph and stop for red lights than drive 15 mph and stop every time the tail lights in front of me get brighter.

Here’s hoping Santa did make it to your house earlier today.  But in case he did not, you might look for him somewhere on the interstate in Atlanta.

The Season Of Giving

To me, Christmas has long seemed more about giving thanks than anything else.  It’s when I look around and consider the true wealth and great fortune that have come my way.  It is definitely not about what gifts I might receive wrapped in bright paper and curly ribbons.

So I spend time reflecting on what is really important, about those who came before me and made my today possible and about those who will take up my journey once I am gone.

For reasons I know nothing about, I was blessed to be born in this country.  A place, though while far from perfect, offers the hope of freedom that most on this planet do not comprehend.  I do not live in fear that tomorrow I may not have enough to eat, or good water to drink, or a warm place to sleep.

It was the search for such freedom that long ago prompted unknown ancestors to herd onto small boats to risk a dangerous trip to a new land.  I simply can not relate to the hardships these people endured, even as recently as my own mother and daddy, that led me to Christmas Eve 2017.  I will forever give thanks to them for doing so.

I give profound thanks for the untold numbers of friends I have acquired in the last seven decades.  Many I acquired before I ever graduated high school.  We shared a special time together and therefore are forever joined.  And thanks to computers and social media, we still rejoice with one another, pray for one another, and hurt for one another.

I especially give thanks to the very special people who give their daily lives to working with children and budding teens and those who magically reach 17 and suddenly are the wisest people in the world.  Of all the vocations I know about, educators hold a very special spot.  One that, unfortunately, is too often not given the credit it truly deserves.

They touch our future each day they go to work.  They set the examples that shape values.  They comfort and cajole and encourage and hug.  Once upon a time some inner voice called them to their work.  Thank God for that.

As I write this, my little house is quiet.  No big meal graced my table at lunch.  Santa will not be coming down my chimney tonight.  My phone is silent.  It’s just me and my thoughts.

A grand time of reflection.  And for giving thanks to all those who have so richly blessed my life.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday.

The Most Amazing Person In Alabama

At this point you are probably expecting a drum roll.  Sorry to disappoint you.  Though I’m sure the person I am about to tell you about would appreciate it.

My longtime friend Ron Gilbert is my nominee for the Most Amazing Person in Alabama.

Ron who you ask?

The guy who does the email Arise Daily News Digest WITHOUT FAIL every time the sun comes up.  Christmas Day, the Fourth of July, Confederate Memorial Day, his own birthday.  Doesn’t matter.  At some point early in the morning Ron scans newspapers across Alabama, as well as across the country, finds articles of interest and edits his daily epistle with links to each and every story he has found.

In real life Ron is retired from the Alabama Department of Human Resources and runs the Community Action Association of Alabama.  The digest is sponsored by Alabama Arise.

And if you want to subscribe, you need to go here.

If you don’t get this every day, you should.  I signed up years ago and if it failed to be in my inbox a single time since, I do not remember it happening.

I am not a morning person.  Thankfully Ron Is.  And I appreciate him for it.