Sunday, December 30, 2018

Happy New Year

After a super busy week and a wonderful Christmas celebration, Wife and I will head to the mountains of Highlands, North Carolina to bring in the new year.

We will drop Younger Son at the airport early tomorrow morning, then will be on our way. It's about a 5-6 hour drive. The weather forecast doesn't look good, but a cabin in the mountains is always good for the soul -- or good for mine, anyway.

I promise to be back soon with my list of favorite books for 2018, as well as a report on -- and photos from -- our Christmas Eve celebration.

In the meantime I'll share one of my recent columns in which I described a true Christmas miracle.

Happy New Year to all!

Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas preparation and a belated report from Thanksgiving

It's almost Christmas Eve. Everyone is in town, although everyone is not at our house at this moment in time.

Older Son, DIL and GS2 are staying at her parents' house after arriving last night. We've seen them a couple of times. They'll be over for our Christmas Eve celebration and will stay with us the night of the 25th and 26th.

Daughter, SIL and GS1 arrived this afternoon and they'll be here through tomorrow night, when they'll leave to go back to Huntsville for Christmas morning at their house and part of the day with SIL's family. They'll be back here the morning of the 26th.

Younger Son flew in from Indiana yesterday and will be here until the morning of New Year's Eve, when he'll fly out to San Antonio to cover a high school All American game. If Notre Dame wins their bowl game on the 29th and gets in the national championship game, he'll go from San Antonio to San Francisco for that game which will be played on January 7th.

Here at the house, Wife and I are preparing for another internationally themed Christmas Eve, this year celebrating the culture and foods of India. It will be a colorful celebration to say the least (Wife and I just got the table set), and it should be as fun (and delicious) as the past ten years have been.

Wife, Younger Son and I will take a breather Christmas Day while the others are celebrating with in-law families. We'll take in a movie and late afternoon meal at a burger place we like that's opening at 5 p.m.

On the 26th everyone will reconvene back here where we'll pretend it's Christmas Day and have breakfast, open gifts and play some games. It will be totally unpredictable with the two grands, and we'll just roll with the punches.

Merry Christmas to all. I hope to be back in a few days with my favorite books of the year, and at some point I'll report back with some photos and reports from our Indian Christmas.


Going back to Thanksgiving, Wife had an unfortunate encounter with a mandolin, and I don 't mean the musical kind, the day before.

On that fateful Wednesday, while I was spending time at the Mission where I volunteer and serve on the board of directors, she managed to slice off a chunk of her thumb with this sharp cutting instrument.

Younger Son had just arrived home and he called and reported the accident to me. I met them at a walk-in clinic, where she was referred to another location where she could get stitches.

Only there was nothing to stitch. She was sent home with a huge bandage, with strict instructions not to get it wet or cook.

That's right, on this day before Thanksgiving, when we would be having 17 people at our home for a meal, she was instructed NOT TO COOK.

So . . . . it was all hands on deck as our family kicked into gear and followed her instructions. Fortunately, Wife had prepared a great deal in advance and with that and her recipes being well organized, we managed to pull off a spectacular Thanksgiving meal scarcely 24 hours after her accident. I was very proud of everyone for pitching in and helping.

As for the mandolin, which she had just purchased a few days prior, it was a "one and done," placed in the trash by its victim as soon as she could get her hands back on it.

I'm happy to report, after a visit to her regular family doctor and a plastic surgeon the following Monday, who opted not to perform a skin graft but to let the thumb heal on its own, Wife is doing much better.

She'll have a permanent scar, but the feeling is returning and she's to the point of just having a couple of small bandages on the wound. And she's been actively preparing for Christmas, being extra careful as she slices or dices anything.

Monday, December 10, 2018

A book and a play

Here is my column from today regarding a book I recently read and a play I recently saw. As I say, it’s not intended to be a review of either,  just some thoughts and my hearty recommendation of both.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

In the minority

There are any number of topics I have wanted to write about here on this blog over the past several weeks, but have not gotten around to getting it on here. While I would love to say I’ll do better next year, I’m not going to make promises I won’t keep.

I will, however, say I’ll try harder and as we head toward the end of the year, I’ll try to get at least a couple of those thoughts memorialized here.

We have had an election since I last posted. Here in Tennessee, we affirmed ourselves as solidly red. We had a hotly contested Senate race. Marsha Blackburn, currently a GOP congresswoman from the district I live in, defeated former Nashville Mayor and former Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen, a moderate Democrat.

I thought Bredesen, who was immensely popular in both of the aforementioned offices, would give Blackburn more of a run for her money but it was not to be. She beat him by more than ten percentage points.

In our governor’s race, political newcomer Bill Lee, a Republican, soundly defeated Democrat Karl Dean, another former Nashville mayor.

I’m not going to comment on how I voted other than to tell you I did not vote a straight party ballot. I am a staunchly independent voter and I find plenty to which I can object from both sides. I find that these days I am drawn toward candidates who say they will work across party lines and represent all citizens.

You may be thinking most candidates at least give lip service to that value, but you would be wrong. Marsha Blackburn hitched her wagon to Donald Trump and plastered the TV with commercials showing them together. He came here on a couple of occasions to campaign for her. She made a broad assumption of what the majority of Tennesseans wanted in a Senator and in the end it appears she was correct.

But she never said a word about representing all of her constituents and working with all of her colleagues in government to attempt to make a government that works better.

And I guess I am in the minority these days when I gravitate toward candidates who will work toward   bipartisanship.

But that’s OK.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018


I don’t care for the term “bucket list,” the overused two-word combination that became a thing after a movie of the same name, starring Morgan Freeman, was popular a few years ago.

It’s supposed to indicate something you want to do before you die - or “kick the bucket,” hence the name. In its overuse, it has become a bit trite, as in “getting my nails done” is on my bucket list this week.

The meaning has become watered down as it has joined the ranks of cliches and buzz words.

BUT ... while I will not participate in a discussion about bucket lists, there are without question places I want to go and things I want to do while I still can.

I got to do one of those last week, on the day that just happened to be my birthday. I went to a postseason major league baseball game. For you non-baseball fans, that’s a playoff game leading to the World Series after the regular season is done.

I won’t go into all the details of how it came together, but last Thursday, Wife, Younger Son (who was home for a week) and I flew to Houston for Game 5 of the American League Championship Series. After Houston, my favorite team since I was eight years old, won the World Series last year, I told Wife I would do my best to go if they were in postseason in 2018. They won their division and they won the division series.

With the way the Boston Red Sox played all year, I knew better than to count on a World Series game for the Astros this year. So we went to Game 5 and, other than the outcome (the Red Sox won, and won the American League pennant), it was everything I hoped  it would be. Tonight as I watch Game 2 of the World Series between the Red Sox and the Dodgers, I’m thinking back on that special night last week.

I’m low key when it comes to birthdays, but this one was special.

Who knows if I'll ever make it to a World Series game, but making it to this one will always be a good memory. .

Tuesday, October 16, 2018


I have been meaning to write something here about the recent Supreme Court nomination. Instead, the subject made it to the weekly column I write for a local publication. Thought I would share that here too:

I received three emails  from readers after this ran Monday, Oct 15.  It’s always surprising to me how people perceive things so differently. One reader said I did myself a disservice and “lost many readers” by accusing the Republicans of staging a political ploy when they stalled the nomination of Merrick Garland in 2016. Another said my analys was fair and reasonable, which she found “refreshing.”

The most detailed email is probably the first hate mail I have ever received. Claiming I had an “obvious (right leaning) political bias” I was “trying to cover up,” he asked if I had “a shred of morality or integrity left.”

Wow — as I told him in my very polite response, I was making some observations and still feel pretty conflicted over it. And I told him morality and integrity are two qualities I strive for.

Oh well. If I put myself out there, I’m bound to have someone take me to task. And I can live with that.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Good people

People who stop by here regularly know that blog friend Kelly and I have been friends for pretty much our entire lives. We grew up together in church and school and have managed to stay in touch lo, these many years.

She and I were texting back and forth recently about different old friends and I commented on what an eclectic group of friends she has. She maintains friendships with folks from her various stages of life, including friends from our childhood and youth who were not necessarily friends with each other.

Truth be told, I'm much the same way. I have been fortunate enough to have relationships from the various times in my life -- childhood, college, law school, two summers in the mountains and various jobs I've had -- and to have maintained a number of those relationships. A number of my friends are not friends with each other, and that's OK.

This doesn't mean I'm in touch with everyone who I was ever friends with. There are some who simply have not reciprocated my efforts to stay in touch and I've accepted that. But for those who appreciate a Christmas card or occasional note, email or text, I enjoy keeping up.

And for those who seem to have dropped of the face of the Earth, I'll be thrilled if they happen to resurface. In fact, just this week I heard from a lady I worked with 20-plus years ago but with whom I had not spoken in years. It was great to talk with her.

I am not on social media, e.g. Facebook, Instagram or any of that, but through this blog I've managed to make a few friends too (as has Kelly). I really enjoy that.

Anyway, I've felt especially fortunate over the past few months to have had personal visits from a few friends from various times in my life. As I think back on those visits, I realize how different those folks are. There was one person who leans waaaaay to the left and another who leans waaaay to the right, and there are some that fall somewhere in between.

I love them all. While I used to get worked up about differences in politics, theology, thoughts on the economy and such, I am finally mature (I hope that's it) enough to not let it bother me anymore. If someone wants to engage in a discussion about any of these things, and I realize we have a difference of opinion, I'm happy to go on with the conversation, but I'm also happy to avoid those topics if things are too awkward and uncomfortable. There are plenty of other things we can talk about.

Fortunately, even with those I disagree, I can usually find some common ground. (Maybe I should run for Congress).

For the most part, if a person is kind, I like that person. Unkindness (is that a word?) is about the only thing for which I have almost no tolerance. I just don't have time for people who are not kind.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Getting around

We have had some busy times since our Colorado vacation. We're either going to Huntsville (where Daughter and family live), Atlanta (where Older Son and family live) or Little Rock (where Wife's parents live).

Fortunately, Younger Son, who lives in northern Indiana, travels a bit with his job so he's able to swing by here on occasion as part of one of his trips. (I didn't want you think we were excluding him).

Wife is definitely part of what is sometimes called the Sandwich Generation with grandchildren and elderly parents.

Those parents just celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary. Wife and her sister went to Little Rock and they had a quiet celebration. We asked people to send them cards and at last count they had received 55.

70 years. That's a long time with the same person.


We celebrated our own anniversary in August (34 years), as well as Wife's birthday (XX years).

We rarely celebrate our annivesary, other than to say "Happy Anniversary" to each other, but this year, since it fell on a Saturday, I suggested we make a weekend out of it. Wife liked that idea just fine.

We both love baseball and we can be at a major league park (Atlanta, St. Louis or Cincinnati) within a few hours, but St. Louis and Atlanta both had away games that weekend and Cincinnati is our least favorite of the three, so we opted against that.

We love the mountains of Western North Carolina and it's not a terrible drive either, but would have required a little more time in the car than we wanted.

We have been through Louisville, Kentucky, about three hours north of us, numerous times on our way to other destinations, but have never stopped. After doing a little research, I learned about the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, which isn't a real trail as such, but a group of distilleries, all in or near Louisville, that have formed a loose affiliation with each other and have tours and tastings at their facilities.

So the Bourbon Trail it would be for our anniversary celebration. We left early Friday afternoon, the 10th, for Lousville.

We stayed in a part of the downtown area that, like so many urban areas across the U.S., is seeing a resurgence. There are great restaurants and interesting places to walk, and one of the distilleries is right down there too, although not one of the ones we visited.

On Saturday morning the 11th, we toured the Jim Beam distillery and purchased a commemorative bottle for our anniversary, which we watched being processed. Later that day we went to Heaven's Hill, which we did not tour, but walked around their museum a bit, and that afternoon we went to Maker's Mark.

The countryside is beautiful and the distilleries were busy, but not overly crowded. The charming little towns, all within an hour of Lousville (Clermont, Bardstown, Loretto and a couple of others we happend upon) are delightful.

Sunday morning after breakfast, we drove a couple of hours east, near Frankfort, and went to Woodford Reserve. It's located in the middle of a beautiful horse farm and is in a breathtaking setting. Because they had expererienced a bad storm the night before with some severe flooding, they were not offering tours of their facility but we were able to walk around a bit, and do a tasting, and it was definitely worth the drive.

So, do I like Bourbon? Honestly, not that much. I'm pretty much a beer and occasional wine guy, and Wife will have an occasional glass of wine and one of those fruity drinks from time to time. But as they say, when in Rome, so we tasted a number of the different offerings, which were generally quarter-ounce samples, so there was no danger of over-imbibing.

I'm still not a huge Bourbon fan, but I warmed to it a bit, and enjoyed learning about the different brands and seeing how it is made. I loved driving around to the different places and we thoroughly enjoyed Louisville.


Over part of Labor Day weekend, we kept GS1 for Daughter and SIL, who were on a beach getaway with Older Son and DIL. We had him from Thursday until Saturday, when we handed him off to his other grandparents in Huntsville. From there, on Sunday we drove to Atlanta and went by to see GS2, who was with his other grandparents. (I'll update you on the grands in a future post).

The main purpose of that excursion, however, was baseball, and we went to see the Braves play later on Sunday and again on Monday. Wife and I do love baseball. We manage to have a pretty full life during these empty nest years.

Two pictures below are from the Bourbon Trail weekend -- one is our bottle in progress, then the finished product (see the etching at the top), which we will probably still have on our 50th anniversary! The bottom photo is outside Suntrust Field, home of the Atlanta Braves.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Colorado in summer

Wife and I love to travel. With her retirement coming up at the end of this year, she will probably travel more, although some of that will be without me. I intend, Lord willing, to keep working about six more years, maybe longer.

Much of her travel will continue to be to Little Rock, where her parents live; to Huntsville, where Daughter, SIL and GS1 reside; and Atlanta, home of Older Son, DIL and GS2. We love to go to Mishawaka, IN, where Younger Son lives, but with the travel he does in his job, he works it out to come to Nashville off and on throughout the year, so we rely more on him to come see us. We had a blast, however, when we went there last fall for a Notre Dame football game, even though he had to work a good bit of the time we were there.

In addition to that travel, we enjoy the more extended and leisurely kind as well. Wife is of the opinion this is the time of life to be marking places off the list. If we want to go there, we need to be making plans -- that's her thought.

I don't necessarily disagree, but again, I still work and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. I can manage a few trips through the year, but work still calls me back.

Anyway, this summer, in addition to the weekend I had with the boys for baseball in Philadelphia, we spent the week of July 4th in Breckenridge, CO. Everyone in the family managed to make it and it was delightful.

I have a particular affinity for Colorado in summer since I spent the summers of 1980 and 1981 there, working in Rocky Mountain National Park. It was idyllic and truly two of the best summers of my life.

Breckenridge is a ski community about 80 miles west of Denver, that converts to a lovely, lush green area in the summer months. We all flew into Denver on Saturday, June 30. Wife, Daughter, SIL, GS1 and I flew from Nashville. Younger Son managed to work in Atlanta the week before we left, so he flew out with Older Son, DIL and GS2. We arrived within about a half hour of each other.

With a total of nine of us, counting the little guys, it took two SUVs to get us from Denver to Breckenridge.

We rented a condo, with a wonderful back porch, on one of the ski slopes and spent the week enjoying the beautiful scenery. There are so many things I love about the Colorado Rockies in summer but what I love most is the weather. It can be plenty hot in Denver, but once you're up in the mountains, humidity is virtually non-existent and the highs might reach mid-70s, maybe an 80 here or there, but hey I'll take it. The nights are cool and crisp and when I'm there, I'm in my happy place.

We spent the week doing fun things like hiking, riding an alpine slide, walking around the lovely town, going to a spectacular July 4th parade and reading on the back porch. The ladies spent a half-day at a spa. The guys, other than me, played golf a couple of times. The guys, including me, went fishing on Lake Dillon one day and caught the most beautiful rainbow trout and salmon (yes, salmon -- the lake is sourced by a river) which we enjoyed for lunch the next day.

Also, everyone indulged me as we took a day trip over to the aforementioned Rocky Mountain National Park, including the town of Grand Lake at the west entrance where I lived those two summers. Everyone was kind and patient as I recounted those glorious days there.

It was a wonderful trip and it was over all too soon. But great memories.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Recent writing

Since I've had a hard time getting around to posting here lately, I thought I would share a couple of my recent columns for the local publication I write for. Promise to be back with more original blogging stuff soon.

Monday, July 16, 2018

About done

It was not my intention to go another month without writing something here, and I guess it has not been an entire month, but I am only a few days shy of it.

I do have a few topics in mind, so maybe I'll hopefully get those addressed in short order and be here more frequently.

I've always found summer to be an odd season. People will ask me, "How is your summer going?"  I don't remember anyone asking me the same about winter, fall or spring. I guess it's because of the school calendar and since most all of us went to school at some point in time, many of us still think of summer as a time of having a break in the routine, or for travel. 

That's beside the point, other than to tell you that just as Wife and I entered the summer season, we found ourselves still in the midst of a house project that we had expected to be done long before.

Late last year we decided that this year we would do a renovation of our master bathroom. Our house was built in the 80s and while our bathroom was a nice size, it had a wall separating one of the sink/vanity areas and the true bathroom -- the area with tub/shower, toilet and another sink. There was also a walk-in closet on the other side of the sink/vanity.

Our vision was to knock out both walls and open it all up. We would reconfigure a bit and have a walk-in shower only rather than a tub with a shower.

We were mostly able to do what we envisioned, but ended up keeping part of the closet, which was a good thing. It  all ended up very nice and we are pleased but oh my, it sure took a long time. Demolition started in February and the finishing touches did not take place until about two weeks ago.

Since I am not handy like my blogger friend Ed who regularly impresses with pictures of his home improvement projects, this was a hired-out job. The folks who did the work were great, but there were a lot of moving parts (and different crews for demolition, tiling, plumbing, etc.) that caused it to take so long. In addition, two fixtures arrived broken and had to be returned and replaced, and the first toilet did not fit. All of that set us back.

I got kind of tired of it along about month four, and when Wife would ask me a question about something like a paint color, I would tell her it did not matter to me, that I had lost interest! That's not entirely true -- I was just frustrated. And I should have been more cooperative when she asked my opinion.

But today we are about there. I say "about" because the bathroom is fully functional, but we're still putting things back in place. I put up shelves in the closet over the weekend and Wife is in the midst of filling them with sheets, linens and miscellaneous items.

Over the 17 years we have lived in this house, we have had a number of such projects. The owners from whom we bought this house would scarcely recognize it today. It definitely has our signature.
When budgeting time and money for such a project, my policy has been to triple the original budget in my mind so I won't go crazy when we only double it (that's an exaggeration but you know what I mean), and to have no expectations about a completion date.

That's easy for me to say, but when the budget is exceeded and deadlines pass, I still become impatient. To be fair, we stayed mostly on budget this time, but I did become a bit antsy when it ended up taking so long.

But now it's done. I just took a lovely shower in there. It was worth the wait.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Ten years

Ten years ago today I made the first entry on this blog.

I'm not going to make a big deal out of that other than to say, as I look back over these past ten years,
it's gone soooooo fast and so much has happened. I gained a daughter-in-law (DIL) and son-in-law (SIL). I made a job change. I chilled out a lot about politics (and please disregard a whole lot of my political commentary in those early years of the blog). Older Son had just graduated from college when I wrote my first entry and since that time Daughter and Younger Son also completed their higher education. Over the past ten years I lost weight, gained weight, and well, we'll see how it goes as I continue to battle that particular demon in my life. I keep saying I'll lose it and keep it off.

I am not nearly as faithful to the blog as I used to be, but I still try to check in here from time to time. As regular stoppers-by know, I write a weekly column for a local publication and sometimes -- much of the time -- that's about all I can manage.

And yet . . .

I still enjoy maintaining this presence here and especially enjoy reading the entries posted by the friends I've made over the years. Thanks to all of you and I hope we continue the relationship.


Older Son, Younger Son, SIL and I made our annual baseball trip a couple of weekends ago. We had a tremendous time and packed a lot, including two games at Citizens Bank Park where the Philadelphia Phillies play, into 48-ish hours. We toured Independence Hall and saw the Liberty Bell, went to Geno's and Pat's, the famous makers of Philly Cheese Steaks that are across the street from each other, and the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, made famous in the "Rocky" movies.

With technology that enables us to book a room (Airbnb), get around (Uber and Lyft) without the necessity of using cash, and find our way around with the GPS app, we are able to maximize our time on these short trips.

Regular visitors here also know I have a love/hate relationship with technology but there is no doubt, over these past ten years, I have bought into the many advantages it affords me.

By the way, with this baseball park visit, Older Son has only three to go in this journey we began when he was eight years old. I am a few behind him and Younger Son is just a hair behind me. SIL was late to this party, but he's gaining ground.

But as Younger Son once eloquently put it, it's not a race. And it's tremendous fun.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Again with the guns

You might have heard about the shooting that took place at a Waffle House in Nashville last weekend.

This is getting a little too close to home.

It's the second occurrence like this in the past year in our area, the other having been in a small church that is not far from the Waffle House where this took place.

It's an area just a little north and east of where I live, probably 10 or so miles away as the crow flies. Again, way too close.

The story on this guy from last week is he was from Illinois and had already been in trouble with the law. He had even been arrested trying to get in the White House. He had worked in his family's construction business back home, and had made his way down here and was doing something similar. Apparently he had been fired from one job here and had gotten another, but never showed up again after going for one day.

The gun he used had been taken away from him and, as I understand it, his license to carry it had been revoked. It had been turned over to his father, who GAVE IT BACK TO HIM.

He took out four people in said Waffle House, and it might have been more if not for the heroic efforts of a young man who pretty much decided "not on my watch." He confronted the shooter and wrestled the gun from his hands.

The culprit was at large for more than 24 hours before authorities found him. He's behind bars now, and I'm guessing he'll be locked up for the rest of his life.

But the damage is done. More folks are dead at the hands of a shooter who had absolutely no business being in the possession of a gun or guns.

No comment here from me. Just the facts.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Good books

It has been my practice to list my favorite books at the end of the year, but I have read a couple lately I wanted to go ahead and write about. I guess it's too early to say they will be on the 2018 favorites list but I can say it's a pretty strong "more than likely."

The two books are by the same author, Doris Kearns Goodwin. I learned about her from a blog post by Sage ( in February 2017, when he reviewed her book, "Wait Till Next Year." It immediately went on my TBR.

It was another of Kearns Goodwin's books, however, that I read first -- "Team of Rivals." It's a very long book, about 900 pages, and I read it on my Kindle. I've learned the electronic reader gives me a false sense of security, in that I fly through the short pages but percentage-wise, I still have a long way to go! In fact, I checked this out through the library website but had to go ahead and buy it since I was only 50 percent done when it came due.

But it was definitely worth the effort -- both in laboring through until the end and in shelling out a few bucks to make the purchase.

"Team of Rivals" is the book on which "Lincoln," the movie from a few years ago that starred Daniel Day Lewis, is based. The movie covers only a portion of the book, mainly the passage of the 13th Amendment. The book covers Lincoln's early years in politics through his rise to the presidency, with emphasis on his cabinet (the team of rivals) and much detail about the Civil War.

I will say this was a book outside the norm for me and I have a modest amount of pride for having finished it. I get distracted at times when reading history, and this was no exception. But I stuck with it, and I'm the better for it. My admiration for Abraham Lincoln only grew stronger. The man was a political genius (as the subtitle to the book suggests) and, while I always knew what a great orator he was, I never realized what an exemplary diplomat he also was. This book left me wanting more.

I realize I am leaving out tons of details but my intention here is not to give a summary, or even a review, but to share how much I enjoyed this book and to suggest that, if you're in the mood for history and/or have the desire to stretch yourself a bit, this is one you might want to try. (Or maybe, for you, it wouldn't even be a stretch).

As for "Wait Till Next Year," I'm glad I finally got to it on the list. This is a memoir by Kearns Goodwin about her growing-up years and her love for baseball, particularly the Brooklyn Dodgers and the special bond she and her dad shared through the team.

I loved this book and as a baseball fan, it was a natural for me. But even if you're not, you might well enjoy this endearing narrative. Her writing is pure and fluid and she tells a great story.

I have a feeling the other books by Doris Kearns Goodwin will be going on my TBR. Thanks Sage!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018


Ever since the horrible shooting in Florida, the debate over guns and gun laws has escalated.

This happens every time one of these unspeakable events happen, but this time it seems to have reached a new level.

By its very nature, it's an emotional issue. Unfortunately, when emotions get high, people sometimes say things that aren't very smart. That has also happened and it has come from both sides.

The fact is nobody has all the answers. I believe bad people are going to do bad things, no matter how we might try to restrict them from doing so. You simply cannot legislate away shooting, bombing and terrorizing.

With that said, I have to believe there are ways to tighten up gun laws a bit while not interfering with anyone's Second Amendment rights. Surely we can make it a little more difficult for guns to get into the hands of the people who misuse them.

I am not a gun owner, nor do I have any interest in shooting guns, but I have absolutely no desire to keep someone from owning one or shooting one if that is his/her wish. When Older Son was in his  first year of college and wanted a gun, I bought one for him for Christmas. I believed he was responsible enough to own one and would be safe and exercise common sense. He now owns two, having bought the next one himself.

Maybe I'm unrealistic about all of this, but I think if there is to be any headway to be made in the gun debate, people are going to have to listen to each other. If you are "pro-gun," are you willing to listen to reason about gun laws that are a little more restrictive than they are now?

I you are "anti-gun," are you also willing to listen to reason and at least to the possibility that responsible armed citizens -- and yes, even teachers -- level the playing field a bit and protect the innocent?

And if you are in either one of these camps, would you be willing to quit pointing fingers and placing blame on the parties you don't like -- whether it's President Trump, the press or the NRA?

A civil conversation is called for. I hope it will happen.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Everything's negotiable

I am a dying breed, one of those people who still subscribes to a daily newspaper, which is delivered to my house each day.

It is part of my heritage. My parents faithfully read the newspapers each day, one state and one local, and if either was not delivered on time, my dad was on the phone with the circulation desk. They worked the Jumble each day and my mother worked the crossword and cryptoquote. They read the comics.

It's weird, but I feel a strange connection with them through the daily newspaper, even though I live in a different town than the one in which I grew up, and take a different paper. But I feel like I'm carrying on an important practice or tradition. I think it also has something to do with studying journalism in college and learning the newspaper business before computers were everywhere.

As everyone knows, the digital age has drastically changed print media and today's print newspaper is drastically different from the ones of a generation ago. That's because news is constantly available online and it's no longer necessary to read news in print.

This is not the first time newspapers have had to adapt to changing times. When radio, and then TV, became prevalent, it was predicted newspapers would become obsolete.

But as you know, newspapers survived and co-existed with the broadcast mediums and to an extent, they complemented d each other. People still wanted the newspaper for the in-depth news and even the aforementioned puzzles and comics.

The computer age has presented a much greater challenge and the only way newspapers are surviving is to have an online presence. Smaller papers across the country have either gone out of business or sold out to the big media companies that have the resources to stay current. Fewer and fewer people have a newspaper delivered their home as I do. And once my generation dies out, I really doubt there will still be daily print papers anymore.

For me, as long as there is a newspaper in print available, I intend to subscribe. Well, that is, if they don't go up in price so much that I can no longer justify the expenditure. Because really, I can get my news online too. My continuing to subscribe has as much to with principle and sentiment as anything else.

That brings me to a recent letter I received which marked the closest I have ever come to becoming a non-newspaper subscriber.

Our local paper is owned by Gannett, the huge media company that owns USA Today and papers across the country. I really don't care for the way they handle news and the way they mass- produce it, but I get it. They are a business and they have to achieve financial goals.

They now own the three largest papers in Tennessee -- The Commercial Appeal in Memphis (which until a couple of years ago was a Scripps Howard publication), The Knoxville News Sentinel and The Tennessean here in Nashville.

By acquiring these three papers, they achieved a certain amount of synergies and efficiencies and, again, I get it. But it has contributed to even more "canned news" which makes these papers have more and more uniform characteristics of USA Today.

I only have to go back to Little Rock, where I used to live, and read a copy of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette to realize the stark difference between a corporately owned paper and a locally owned one. I'll even occasionally go online and read the El Dorado (Arkansas) New Times, my local paper from my growing-up years. There's no comparison.

But now the Gannett publication is the only daily local print newspaper available to me, and I have remained a faithful subscriber.

Back to that letter I received. The writer of same thanked me for being a subscriber, and went on to tell me about an increase in the cost. (They needed my help, he told me). My daily subscription, with full access to print and digital, would go from 53 to 77 dollars  per month. That is bad enough, but I might add that only last August, the cost went up to 53 dollars from 36 dollars.

So over the course of less than a year, the subscription cost more than doubled. I decided I had helped them enough.

And I told Wife that was it. I could no longer justify paying that much for something that has only gotten smaller (in volume and content). I was very sad about this, but enough is enough.

Wife assured me she would be willing for us to continue, knowing how important it is to me. But I told her no, it was time to end it.

So I made the call. A nice guy named Richard answered and I told him, due to the sharp increase in price, I would have to cancel my subscription. I told him a little bit of my story and I admit to laying it on a bit thick.

"Richard," I said, "y'all have priced me out of this."

Richard allowed as to how he would sure hate to lose me as a subscriber after 20 years and I allowed as to how it was breaking my heart too.

He told me to hold on and he would look at some things and see what he might be able to do for me. He even made a bit of small talk as he was looking at whatever it was he was looking at. I had already decided, if they would keep the cost the same, I would keep my subscription.

After a few minutes, he said, "What would you think of 28 dollars a month?"

In as deadpan a voice as I could manage, I told him yes, I thought that would be fine and I could do that. (Remember now, this is LESS than what I was paying when the price increased last August). I told him I would have to have an email confirming this.

The email came and although Richard was unable to promise me the length of time this price would be effective, the first automatic draft just went through and it was about three bucks less than the quoted price!

So for now, I remain a subscriber. If they unreasonably jack up the price again, I plan to call and whine and threaten to cancel again.

Wife was so impressed she said she might let me call the cable and phone company. I told her I'm not that good.

But it just goes to show just about everything is negotiable. My man Richard came through for me.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Christmas in February?

Well in two days it will be Valentine's Day and I am just getting around to writing about our family's annual international Christmas Eve. So Happy Valentine's Day and please bear with me if I take you back to Christmas.

This past Christmas celebration included our tenth annual international Christmas Eve, a tradition that started in 2008 when Wife asked if we wouldn't mind if she dispensed with preparing the traditional Christmas dinner and did something crazy like Mexican food. And if we were agreeable to that, she wondered if we would mind having it Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day.

What are you supposed to say to the person who is preparing a holiday meal for you? No, you simply MUST prepare turkey and dressing, just as you did just a few weeks ago atThanksgiving?!

We all thought the idea of Mexican food on Christmas Eve was splendid, so we heartily said yes. To add a festive element, we strung pepper lights in the dining room and played "Feliz Navidad" on repeat! We enjoyed tacos, rice and beans, and chips and salsa and had a grand time.

And it was such a hit that a new tradition was born. Since that year we have had Christmas Eve dinners with Greek, French, Asian, French, Caribbean, German, British and Brazilian themes.

It has become much more elaborate since that first year, with not only food but decorations in keeping with the theme of the year. Costumes are optional.

Since Christmas Eve 2017 was the tenth year for it, we had a "Festival of Nations" that included favorite menu items from each of the nine international dinners we have had. Wife pulled out decorations from each year and a few pulled together costumes.

Of course this year we had two babies in the mix, which changed the whole dynamic of Christmas itself. We look forward to telling them stories of their first international Christmas Eve.

It was another grand time and it was fun enjoying some of the delicious foods we had over the years. We have not yet decided which country or region will help us start the next decade of Christmas Eve dinners, but I'm sure in a few months Wife will start planning.

Here are a couple of photos from a Festival of Nations, including one of the menu so you can see what we feasted upon. Until next Christmas Eve!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Winter 2018

We were due a cold winter here in middle Tennessee. The past two have been really mild. At Christmas 2016 and 2017 we sat outside on the deck!

Not this past Christmas. It was very cold and until just a few days ago when we finally had some relief, it's been that way ever since.

We had a pretty good snow the early part of last week. Monday was the MLK holiday (remember I'm a banker so I get good holidays) and the snow started early Tuesday morning, so Wife and both stayed home that day. Schools around here closed for the rest of the week so, with the holiday, it's like our students got a week-long break.

I enjoy a good snow, so I'm glad we had one this year, and I've always preferred fall and winter over spring and summer. Not a hot weather guy at all, even though I'm a lifelong southerner. But the older I get, the more I find myself not being so crazy about the cold either. And if I had to deal with snow and ice for several months, I know I wouldn't care for it.

I'm not the weather junkie Wife is, but I do amuse myself at times by listening to the weather folks in media get excited about the different weather events. Here's a link to one of my recent columns in which I discussed it a bit: