Thursday, December 8, 2022

A retrospective

Unless something of monumental significance happens between now and December 31st, or I end up with some excess time on my hands (not likely), I plan to close out the year on this blog, as I have done for the past few years, with my fiction and non-fiction reading lists. Before I do that, I thought I would do a quick recap of the year. I'm in a rare pensive mood, so it's appropriate. 

Our fifth grandchild was born in January, a boy, to Daughter and SIL. They have replicated the family in which Daughter grew up -- two boys and a girl, with the girl in the middle. Life is busy for this young family and with them less than two hours away in Huntsville, we delight in seeing them often. 

Younger Son married in April, and we are three-for-three in the in-law department. They plunged into married life, buying their first home and each of them changing jobs within a few months of their wedding. They are two and one-half to three hours away in Birmingham, depending on traffic, so as we often tell them, "We can be there for lunch or dinner!" My company's main offices are there, so I make the occasional trip there and can check in on them. 

Older son and DIL1 continue with their busy lives in Atlanta, with a five-year-old son and two-year-old daughter. They are about four hours away. It's not a terrible drive but, for some unknown reason, traffic in Chattanooga, which is right on the way, sometimes comes to a standstill. 

The boys and I had a great trip to Phoenix in July, marking another MLB park (Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks) off the list. It was a good baseball year for me overall, for that matter. In addition to the trip to Phoenix, I saw the Astros and Nationals play in D.C. in May; the Braves and Marlins in Atlanta later in May; the Braves and Cardinals in St. Louis in August; and of course, the Astros and Phillies in the World Series in Houston in October (oh my goodness, I'll never get over that one). 

Of course a major highlight of the year was our trip to the U.K. and France in September which I recounted here a few installments ago. I'm lucky to be married to someone who takes me to cool places! 

My relationship with the publication where I wrote a column for 11-plus years came to an unfortunate end in August, for reasons that remain unknown to me, at which time I moved it over to Substack. So far, so good, and I'm appreciative of each subscriber. 

Wife and I lost a longtime dear friend, part of our friend group from our years in Little Rock, to cancer in November. He and his family were a demonstration of strength and grace throughout his illness and the way he lived his life will always serve as an example to us. When we went to the memorial service, we saw people we had not seen in many years -- in some cases 25, which is how long ago we moved away -- and we were reminded how blessed we are with the heritage of relationships we have formed over the years. 

I continue to work and have no plans for retirement -- not now, anyway. There are days when I think I would like to be done, but the days I am happy to still be gainfully employed far outnumber them. I have a great gig -- 100 percent remote. I have a great, supportive manager and three competent professionals who report to me. 

Along those lines, when people ask me about working from home, I tell them I would not want to do this if I were 20-30 years younger. But in the sunset of my career? It is pretty close to perfect. 

As I said, I'll be back with my year-end reading lists soon. As usual, the TBR is long and gets longer, but I managed to get to some good ones on the list this year. 

Oh yeah, for longtime readers of this blog who are aware of our international Christmas Eve tradition (although our Christmas Eve is now usually observed December 26th), this year is Canada. I'll try to post some pictures in January. 




Friday, November 11, 2022

Midterms

I lost two subscribers on my Substack site this week after I published an "Election Day Special Edition." 

I guess I should not be that surprised, but I thought I was pretty equal in my disdain for both political parties. But some people don't want to hear and read what they don't want to hear and read, and they certainly have the right to have delivered to their inbox what they prefer, so I'll not lose sleep over it. 

I picked up four new subscribers, so I made a net gain of two. 

I have not decided if I will revisit the topic there next week. I know there are those who would prefer I stay away from politics. But I warned everyone that I would go there on occasion. 

Apparently, a "red wave" had been expected, i.e., the Republicans would make big gains and take over the House and Senate. I guess I missed all that speculation and conjecture. I did not know it had been all but a foregone conclusion that the GOP would mop up the floor, so to speak, with their Democratic opponents in most races.

I suspect this is more spin than anything else -- the Democrats saying "look, we're still strong" (even though the margin will still be razor thin and more gridlock is guaranteed).  President Biden said it was "a good night for democracy." 

I agree, but for a reason different from his. He said it because his party did better than expected. I think it's always a good night for democracy when people have been allowed to have a say in how their government is administered, and all of that happens peaceably -- no matter the outcome. 

Maybe I am mistaken about this, but I believe there are more people like me than the pundits and prognosticators realize. I am an independent voter and I vote for the person I wish to be elected. 

When I voted this time, as I recall, I voted for two Democrats and one Republican.  In one race I abstained because I simply could not bring myself to vote for either candidate. 

On election night, the commentators seemed amazed that, in the Georgia governor's race, incumbent Republican Brian Kemp won decisively over Democrat Stacey Abrams, while in the race for the U.S. Senate in the same state, the margin between Democrat Raphael Warnock and Republican Hershel Walker was so close, with neither receiving 50 percent, that there will be a runoff. 

This did not surprise me at all. Hershel Walker has absolutely no qualifications to be a senator and throughout the campaign had to fight off all kinds of accusations and allegations of impropriety. Had I been voting in Georgia I would have likely done the same thing: voted for Kemp for governor and Warnock for senator (or abstained). 

Had the Republicans had the good sense to nominate someone who had been the least bit qualified, they would probably have easily taken that Senate seat, but for whatever reason, they nominated an ex-football player with a shady past. And a whole bunch of folks in Georgia who might have otherwise leaned toward the GOP decided they just could not swallow that.  

As much as the folks who study and ponder all of this would like to categorize us and put us into neat little boxes, and by doing so predict the outcomes of elections, the fact remains there are those of us who maintain a stubborn independent streak and will not vote along a strict party line. 


Friday, October 28, 2022

World Series

My favorite baseball team, the Houston Astros, is playing in the World Series. I am writing this Friday night during Game 1 of the best-of-seven series against the Philadelphia Phillies, who squeaked into postseason play in the Wild Card position but have played spectacularly since doing so. 

The Astros have become a regular in postseason play and have been to the World Series four of the past six seasons. 

They won it in 2017, but there is a huge virtual asterisk by their name due to a cheating scandal uncovered the following year. That year, 2018, Wife, Younger Son and I went to the ALCS (American League Championship Series) in Houston to see them play the Red Sox, and they lost. That was my first and only time to see postseason play, and it was a lot of fun, even with the loss.

Not long after that, however, all the stuff about the cheating came out and was verified. This broke my heart, and had I known about it beforehand, I would probably not have gone to that game. 

I was bitterly disappointed and angry over the cheating scandal. I had followed the Astros since I was eight years old, and I felt betrayed and robbed. 

They went back to the fall classic in '19 and lost to the Nationals, and in '21 when they lost to the Braves (which pleased everyone in my family except me). 

It took me a couple of years to get over the cheating scandal and fully forgive them. But the truth is I've never been one to hold a grudge. I'm back as a fan. 

I thought the Astros would surely hit the skids as an organization after it was revealed what happened in '17, but thanks to manager Dusty Baker, some key players who stayed around and some others they were able to acquire, they've remained a force to be reckoned with. This year was remarkable as they led the AL West the entire season and won it decisively.

Long story short: I'm boarding a plane for Houston tomorrow (Saturday) morning and will meet my two sons for World Series Game 2. I don't like the term "bucket list" because I think it's an overused buzz phrase, but this definitely fulfills a desire I've had for a long time -- to go to a World Series game. And going to see my favorite team play makes it even sweeter. 

The Phillies just won Game 1, so we're not off to a good start. But tomorrow will be great no matter the outcome. 






Thursday, October 13, 2022

Something new

I have recently referred to the weekly column I have written for a local online publication for the past 11 years and how I suspected that was coming to an end. 

I was correct. My last column posted August 26th. The last one I submitted, a week after that, never ran. That publication is obviously "going in a different direction" (a classic line used when an employer is letting an employee go); they simply never bothered to tell me. 

I was not paid, so I supposed there was no reason to tell me it was over, but I think it would have been the courteous thing to do. 

There was one other columnist, and he was having the same experience I was. He finally got someone to respond to him, and we learned much of the staff dedicated to this publication had been let go. He was told we could continue submitting columns but there was no commitment to running them. Uh, yeah, right. 

That made it a no-brainer for me. I was done. 

That brings me to the next chapter. I will continue to write the column, but now it will be in the form of a newsletter, using the platform Substack. I will post new material there, and subscribers will receive an email when new content is posted. 

I retained all of the emails and comments I have received from readers over the past 11 years. Earlier this week, I sent an email blast to all of those who had communicated with me, explaining my new venture on Substack and giving them the opportunity to subscribe. I've sent a couple of other smaller mass emails to others I thought might be interested, and I have received a positive response. 

I thought about combining this new gig with this blog, but I will not be doing so. The blog, which I began in 2008, has become a place where I communicate with the friends I have made here, and I enjoy it a great deal. I plan to continue the blog in its current form. 

The Substack newsletter will be a continuation of my column -- Everyman life observations, often (but not always) with some emphasis on local issues. I have described it on the welcome page as "Everyman. Life Observations. Occasional Opinions." 

Readers here, of course, are more than welcome to subscribe and I would be thrilled to have you! You may simply skip over the content that is of no interest to you. 

I totally get it if you have no interest in having another email hit your inbox, but if you would like to subscribe, simply click on the link below, or copy and paste it into your browser, and hit Subscribe when you're prompted. You'll receive an email when there is a new post. Wish me luck!  

https://bmac1018.substack.com


 

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Trip Pics - Vol. 2

 More pictures from our trip: 


The Cotswolds

The Cotswolds

The Cotswolds

The Cotswolds

Honfleur, France

D-Day Tour, Normandy

On Omaha Beach, Normandy

Mont St. Michel

Monet's Gardens, Giverny


Monday, October 10, 2022

Trip Pics -- Vol. 1

 As promised, here are some pictures from the recent trip to U.K. and France. I'm going to divide these into two posts. Today's are all from Scotland. 

Old Course at St. Andrews

Highland Cattle

Where we stayed in Portree (pink building)

The ill-fated rental vehicle




Highland Games
 
Glamis Castle
                                                                     
Blair Athol Distillery, Pilochry
                                                        

Iona Abbey
                                                                    
Wife on Staffa Island
                                                              
Seashore along Isle of Skye
                                                            


Tuesday, October 4, 2022

More about the trip

As promised, I am going to share a little more about our recent trip to the U.K. and France. I don't delude myself into thinking you want a play-by-play, so feel free to skim or skip as you see fit. Pictures to come in the next post. 

Our first stop was St. Andrews in Scotland. Our friends W (Mr.) and C (Mrs.) had arrived the day before and got what would become our ill-fated rental car, which was a Ford pickup truck with a camper cover. It was a hideous copper color, and we'll get back to it later. W and C explained it was all the car rental company had to offer (which was pretty lame, since a six-passenger van had been confirmed). It was quite comfortable, however, and all of our bags fit in the back. 

Wife and I took a tram from the Edinburgh airport to downtown Edinburgh (catching a glimpse of Edinburgh Castle), where we caught a train to a small town near St. Andrews where W and C picked us up. We arrived at St. Andrews mid-afternoon and checked into our hotel. 

Wife and I got a quick bite to eat before re-joining W and C for a walk around the "Old Course" which was just steps away from our hotel. I'm not a golfer, but thoroughly enjoyed seeing this famous site. We visited a pro shop where we bought souvenirs for our golf-playing sons and son-in-law and enjoyed drinks in a clubhouse overlooking the course. After a lovely dinner at a restaurant W and P had picked, right on the water, Wife and I slept well as we shook off our jet lag. 

We loaded the truck early the next morning and set out for the town of Pilochry, where a version of the Highland Games was taking place. This is where we spent much of the afternoon, and this was the warmest we were the entire trip. The sun shone brightly and I'm guessing it was about 75 degrees. W and I stood in line for pints while Wife and C got sandwiches and chips (fries) for us from a vendor. All food and drink were from the Scottish equivalent of food trucks.  

The atmosphere was carnival-like as locals and visitors witnessed competitions of hammer throwing, tug-of-war, Scottish dancing, bagpipe playing and relay races, among other games. It was the perfect indoctrination to this wonderful country, and we found the locals warm and friendly, including our bed-and-breakfast innkeeper. 

After the games we visited a local distillery where we got our first taste of authentic Scotch. While my companions were not particularly impressed, I found it quite tasty. (When in Scotland, you know!)

Our destination the next day was the Isle of Skye, the largest island that is part of the "Inner Hebrides archipelago," where we would be for two nights. It is accessible by bridge, and we stayed in the charming seaside town of Portree. The water was only a few steps from the door of our hotel. 

We spent a day driving into the surrounding hills and mountains. The weather was gorgeous (as it was our entire trip) and we experienced only a few drops of rain at one of the higher altitudes. W did a great job driving as Wife helped him navigate the narrow roads. Sheep were in abundance (we were told there were more sheep than people in this area) and I asked W to stop numerous times so I could take pictures to send to the grands. We also saw the quite-interesting Highland cattle. 

Backing up a little, on our way to Skye, we made a stop at Glamis Castle, which was the family home of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and where Queen Elizabeth and her sister Princes Margaret spent much time during their childhood (and where Margaret was born). This was our first exposure to the high esteem in which the Scots held the Queen, and the extent of the grieving that was taking place there and throughout the U.K. following the Queen's death. 

From Skye it was on to the Isle of Mull, the second-largest island (after Skye) of the Inner Hebrides, accessible by ferry from the town of Oban. The copper-colored truck was driven by W right into the bowels of a massive boat. We left the car there and headed upstairs for the ride across. 

Prior to boarding, I had my best meal of the trip at a walk-up fresh seafood counter just steps away from the ferry port. I had fresh shrimp and a crab sandwich that were exquisite. (My second favorite had been at a hole-in-the wall seafood shed on Skye that a cousin of mine recommended, just up the hill from the Talisker Distillery. Fresh steamed scallops and lobster were prepared on site and consumed standing around barrels. This kind of thing speaks my language!)

We were on Mull two nights, and we stayed at a great hotel a few miles from the town of Tobermory where we had dinner in a delightful pub our first night. 

Our big day on Mull was spent taking another ferry that took us to Staffa, an uninhabited island about six miles out, and the Isle of Iona. On Staffa, we left the boat and walked onto the island, which a layperson like me would simply describe as "rock" but which consists largely of columnar basalt and from a distance looks like a cupcake! We walked along the edges, holding onto a guide rope, and it was spectacular. (I hardly do this justice. Look it up on Wikipedia if you would like more information.) 

From Stafford it was on to Iona, a tiny island accessible only by ferry, and inhabited by about 200 people. The main landmark on the island is a beautiful Abbey where we heard the story of the origins of Christianity in Scotland. It is now home of an ecumenical Christian community where pilgrims visit from the world over for periods of time to work and to serve. We had a tour guide who was fantastic and made it all come alive. 

(This all began to sound familiar to me and not long after arriving home, I found a blog post from blog friend Jeff -- Heading to Iona - From a Rocky Hillside -- who visited and served in this very place in 2017. It is now one of my goals to return to Iona and do the same.) 

Our time in Scotland coming to a close, we drove south, crossing the border into England, our destination being Stow-on-the-Wold in the Cotswolds. This was my second visit to this charmingly beautiful area of lush, green rolling hills, lovely streams and picturesque towns and villages. Here we met our friends R (Mr.) and P (Mrs.) who had been in London several days and shared with us their experiences seeing one of the processions when the Queen's body was being moved. 

It was the next day that we would have the problem with the car/truck. My plan that day was to hike a segment of the Cotswold Way, a 102-mile national trail that takes walkers through rolling hills and pastures and by centuries-old landmarks. I had mapped out an eight-mile course my friend R and I would do, and we would take a bus back to Stow. 

Wife and P (R's wife) would take us to the start of the hike in Winchcombe, about 20 miles from Stow. Wife was the driver for the day. C and W were hanging back and doing their own walking and sightseeing during the day. 

I won't go into all the details, but suffice it so say, after we stopped for gas, when Wife commenced to restart the vehicle, it was a no-go. Through consulting with a couple of locals, we learned an additive was required for this diesel-powered truck, a fact of which the folks at the rental company had failed to inform W and C when they first obtained it in Edinburgh. Once the additive was used up, a visit to a Ford dealership for a diagnostic and a reset would be required. We were not interested in doing that. 

So, rather than hiking the Cotswold Way, R and I (and our wives) spent the better part of the day dealing with this. We ended up abandoning the truck and getting another car in a nearby village. This one was procured from that company that says, "We'll pick you up," which they were glad to do, but it was near 5 p.m. before they could do so. R and I ended up hiking about a mile on the Cotswold Way (not what we had in mind!) back and forth into town twice (to join our wives, who had hitched a ride) for lunch, and back to meet the tow truck that would take the truck away. 

(We had been in touch with W and C, in whose name the car was rented, and they spoke with the rental company, telling them we were done. They reported it was not a pleasant exchange, with the company insinuating we should have known about the required additive. In our view, it was time to cut our losses.)

The silver lining of the day was Winchcombe being another charming Cotswold village. We found a great place for lunch and after our walk back to the car, then back into Winchcombe, R and I found a splendid pub where we sat with locals as well as other visitors to the area, enjoying traditional cold beer we Americans are accustomed to, as well as cask ale served at room temperature (an acquired taste, but made enjoyable by the atmosphere we were in). 

The next day was spent with a driver/tour guide who drove us around to various sites and towns. Wife and I had done this on our previous trip to this area and it's well worth the expenditure to be with someone who knows the area. 

The next morning, a Sunday, our friends W and C left us for their second leg of the trip to Ireland. R and I did a modified Cotswold Way hike that morning before the remaining four of us drove to London, with a drive-by in Oxford on the way. 

We turned in our car near Heathrow Airport and took an Uber to a London hotel near St. Pancras Station where the next morning we would take the Eurostar through the "chunnel," the underground train route across the English Channel that would take us to Paris. 

In Paris we picked up our next car, which was a manual transmission Peugeot SUV. Although I can drive a manual, I am not interested in driving in foreign countries. Neither Wife nor P had ever learned to drive a manual, so R was elected driver for the French portion of the trip. He was glad to do it and did a great job. 

We headed north to the beautiful harbor town of Honfleur where we spent the night in a hotel near the water. We had a wonderful dinner there and spent the next morning walking around the town. We left around noon for Bayeux, where we would see the incredible Bayeux Tapestry which chronicles the events leading up to the Battle of Hastings. 

The next day was spent on a D-Day Tour of the Beaches of Normandy and surrounding areas. A French guide wife had met when she was there in 2016 drove the four of us on an all-day journey that ended with a visit to the American military cemetery where nearly 10,000 American soldiers are buried. 

Wife had sung the praises of the guide and this tour for nearly six years, and she said she always wanted to take me. All I can say is I am glad she persisted. It was an emotional experience, thinking of what happened there. 

From Bayeux it was on to Mont-Saint-Michel, a tidal island that is home to the Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey, the main attraction that sits atop the island. The visit here was the only time I felt crowded. The crowdedness is not hard to understand, however, as it is a remarkable site. 

We spent the night on the island and drove the next morning to Giverny, home of Claude Monet's home and gardens. This is another charming village, and the gardens are breathtaking. 

The next morning it was back to Paris and our flight home. 

I have given a very scant summary, leaving out detailed descriptions that would take too long. I covered the high points. Suffice it to say it was another great trip planned by Wife and I am grateful we can occasionally travel like this.  Overseas travel has its challenges and as I said in my previous post, you can count on changes of plans. But for me it is all well worth it. 

We enjoyed traveling with both couples. I've always said there are people you can be friends with and people you can travel with.  These friends are both and I would travel with them again. 


Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Stateside

Wife and I are back safely on this side of the pond after two weeks of traveling in the U.K. and France. We were with two different couples, but all six of us were together only three days in the Cotswolds of England. 

Every time I take a trip like this, I learn new things, or re-learn old things, for example: 

-- When one tries to cut corners to save money, one often gets what one pays for, which on this trip was demonstrated by a rental car abandoned roadside in the Cotswolds, rented from what one might describe as a fly-by-night operation. When I was supposed to be hiking the Cotswold Way, my travel companions and I were dealing with this. But lemonade (or ale, more accurately) was made from lemons as my buddy and I found a splendid little pub in the charming town of Winchcombe to wait things out. 

-- With international travel the way Wife and I do it, making our own way (or the way Wife has planned for us; I could never do it on my own), one must be flexible (see previous reference to abandoned rental car) and expect the unexpected. 100 percent of the time, plans will change. 

-- Wife is an outstanding travel planner. She can drive and navigate, and I am the grateful beneficiary of her skill. 

-- I find the majority of people to be kind and helpful, no matter where they live. That's encouraging. 

-- While Wife and a couple of my friends are capable of driving in a foreign country, including one where driving is done on the side of the road opposite as in the U.S., and roundabouts are the order of the day, I should always be a passenger. I have neither the skill nor the patience, and I am glad I know this about myself. 

-- The people in the U.K. loved their queen! I guess I knew this, but witnessing the outpouring of affection for her, especially in Scotland where she passed away less than 24 hours before we arrived there, was nothing less than awe-inspiring. 

There were more lessons, but these were the main ones that remain top of mind for me. I'll post more about the trip, along with some pictures, in the next few days. 





Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Travel

Wife and I will be taking a trip we have been planning for quite some time. 

I have longed to return to the Cotswolds, the region of beautiful rolling hills in central-southwest England, since visiting there with Wife and Daughter in 2013. I have also wanted to go to Scotland. 

Wife, since going to northern France in 2016, has wanted to take me there, especially to Normandy. 

We will board a plane with our ultimate destination being all of the above. 

We will fly into Edinburgh and get on a train bound for St. Andrews, where we'll join another couple from here who will be a day ahead of us. We'll be in Scotland for about six days before we take a short flight to Birmingham, where we'll rent a car and make the drive to Stow-on-the-Wold, which will be our home base the few days we are in the Cotswolds, with our time there ending with a day trip to Oxford. 

Another couple will join us in Stow and will stay with Wife and me the remainder of our trip. The first couple, the one we will join in St. Andrews, will part company with us after our last day in the Cotswolds, and go to Ireland. 

The remaining four of us will take the Eurostar across the England Channel to Paris and head north.  

As usual, Wife has planned this excursion. I, along with the ones joining us, will be the beneficiary of her organizational skills. 

I'll look forward to sharing some pictures at a later date. 

And in the next 30 days or so, I hope to be making an announcement about my future column writing and blog writing. The newspaper column is very likely coming to an end, but I hope to continue it in another format, possibly combining it with the content of this blog. Still looking into all of that. 


Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Not very mixed feelings

I hinted yesterday I would like to comment on the executive order issued by President Biden that gives certain student loan borrowers up to $10,000 in debt forgiveness (for individual borrowers who make up to $125,000 and married couples who make less than $250,000 annually). 

Not surprisingly, strong opinions have been voiced. What has been surprising, at least to me, is that opposition has come not only from Biden's Republican opponents, but also from his own party. 

Of course, there are those who think this is great news. There are some who don't think the president went far enough and would have been happier if the forgiveness had been more in the 50K neighborhood. 

As for me, I think it was well-meaning but poorly executed. 

First, the fundamental unfairness of it sticks in my craw. What about those of us who did not borrow money for ourselves or our children to go to school? And what about the ones who did, but have already responsibly paid it back? 

The unfairness goes beyond that. I heard a good example yesterday of the lawn guy who does not have a college degree but makes a decent living. Through his taxes he is now responsible for repayment of the loan for the guy or gal whose lawn he cuts. Is that a form of income inequality? 

And I know, I know, life is not fair. It's something every parent has likely said at one time or another. 

But I have a fundamental problem with giving ten thousand dollars to people who signed promissory notes saying they would repay that money. 

More important than that, this plan fails to address the basic problem, which is the cost of higher education. It has gotten completely out of hand, and colleges and university officials make an assumption that students are going to get loans, so what they charge has become ridiculous. They should have to bear some responsibility for this "crisis."

I have no problem with reducing debt for those who render some type of service in return. And I have some sympathy for those who got sucked into for-profit "career college" scams and now have thousands of dollars to pay back for worthless pieces of paper (even though those folks also signed promissory notes and should have understood that money would have to be paid back). 

But again, handing out money to borrowers who knew what they were doing, and putting that responsibility on taxpayers? Sorry, but not sorry. I can't go along with that. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

August whirlwind and Breaking Bad

If you were to go back and read former posts here, you would be likely to find many in which I made some comment about the swift passage of time. 

And I continue to be amazed at that phenomenon. 

Wife and I knew August would be crazy-busy, much more so for her than me. I won't even go into all the places she has been, but suffice it to say she has visited each adult child and respective family -- and then some. I've trailed along with her some, but have mostly kept the home fires burning. 

With the end of August comes a slowdown in all of that, I suppose, at least the travel in which we get in the car and drive. She'll be home this Thursday, Sept. 1st from her latest journey, and one week later we will make our first overseas trip since going to Italy in 2019. This time it's Scotland and the Cotswolds in the U.K., then a trip across the channel to northern France. 

I learned in '19 that I can take two straight weeks of vacation and everything at work go just fine without me, so I've decided to do it again. 

**************************

I'm going to try and post a couple more entries before we leave. I want to comment on some current events, e.g. President Biden's decision to relieve some student-loan borrowers of a portion of their obligations. I won't preview my thoughts on that, so stay tuned. 

But speaking of being tuned in, I will tell you that during Wife's absences, I finished watching "Breaking Bad" on Netflix. Younger Son recommended it to me, and he very transparently said he was not sure if I would like it. 

I am very careful about using the word "amazing" as it is one that is, in my opinion, overused. But I really can't think of another adjective to describe this show that is at times dark, hilarious, brilliantly-acted and, most of all, habit forming! 

Any other Breaking Bad fans out there? It is, in a word, amazing! 

****************************

I continue to have frustrations with the publication for which I allegedly write a weekly column. I say "allegedly" because it's hit-or-miss as to whether and when they post them. Sadly, I think that relationship has about run its course and I'm looking into some other options. Probably more to come on that when I return from the upcoming trip. 




Sunday, July 31, 2022

Weather report

Our yards in the 'burb where I live are a sad, brownish color.  We've had an exceptionally dry summer. 

We generally don't water grass around here because our yards are pretty big (1-plus acre) and it's too expensive. I've lived here 25 years and have found we generally get enough rain to keep the grass green, but when we go through times like this, with draught-like conditions, it starts to turn brown, and we just live with it (as we hope and pray for rain). 

Finally, this week, we have gotten some relief. We had a good soaking rain a couple of days ago, and another one overnight. 

**********************

It has been a hot summer, something to which we are accustomed around here and to which I have been accustomed my entire life. I grew up in south Arkansas, went to college in Louisiana and moved to central Arkansas in my early 20s -- all places with hot summers. I moved to Tennessee in 1997. I would say, in general, it is not as hot here as where I lived in Arkansas, but the difference is only slight. When it's summer, it's hot. 

The only extended relief I have ever had from hot summers occurred in 1980 and 1981. The summers of those years I worked in the mountains of Colorado and the climate was glorious. I loved those summers for many reasons, not the least of which was the pleasant daytime temperatures. 

A lot of folks who are lifelong southerners say they are used to the heat, so it does not bother them. I'm not one of those southerners. I am quite bothered by it. 

I often wonder how I would do with brutal winters where snow is abundant. Younger Son lived in northern Indiana for three years and one of those years he was snowbound for nearly a month, a contributing factor to his desire to move back to the South. 

I don't think I would much like that, either. 

*****************************

I have always maintained that the best consolation for summer heat is food -- the fresh fruit and vegetables we get in summer. Although I don't grow a garden, I patronize the local farmers market and a small produce store. Wife and I have been enjoying scrumptious tomatoes (is there a better sandwich than a BLT?) .I have gotten some good watermelons and cantaloupes (neither of which are favorites of Wife), and we have both enjoyed peaches and blueberries. 

*****************************

Since starting to write this a couple of days ago, we have been blessed with rainfall. I see some of the brown beginning to turn back to green. 




Thursday, July 21, 2022

Good baseball summer

Regular readers here know I am a baseball fan. And this year I have been a lucky one, already having been to four MLB games. 

I posted in May about our weekend in D.C., when I got to see the Nationals play the Astros. 

Memorial Day weekend we went to Atlanta (home of Older Son and family) and saw the Braves play the Miami Marlins. I have a friend who has connections with the Marlins, and he got tickets for us Friday night and Saturday afternoon right next to the Marlins' dugout, on the front row on the third base line. Older Son, Grandson Hank and I went with my buddy Friday night, and Wife, DIL and I went with him Saturday. 

The next weekend, at the invitation of Older Son, I flew to Pittsburgh on Saturday morning and met Older Son and Grandson Hank for a game at PNC Park Saturday afternoon.  Hank, already a baseball enthusiast at age four, played for a team called the Pirates this year, so his dad figured getting us to Pittsburgh to see the grownup Pirates play would be a great way to use some of his frequent flier points. 

And let me tell you, we had a great time. Hank made it all nine innings for the game Saturday and loved every minute -- a great game the Pirates won with a walk-off in the bottom of the ninth. 

The two of them stayed for a game Sunday afternoon. Because my original flight got canceled and I had to connect through Baltimore, I was unable to stay for that one. So it was a quick trip, but incredibly fun. 

A couple of weekends ago, the grownup boys in my family (Older Son, Younger Son, SIL and yours truly) went to Phoenix to add another MLB park to the list of the ones we have visited. This tradition began with Older Son and me when he was eight years old. He has now visited 28 (out of 30) parks and I have visited 25. Younger Son and SIL have some catching up to do, but they're steadily making progress. 

The tentative plan is for me to try and make up  ground by visiting the two Bay Area parks (San Francisco and Oakland) and Miami (the venues Older Son has visited and I have not) sometime over the next two years. We will hopefully do our regular guys' trip next summer and go to L.A. Then we'll have the finale in Seattle the summer of 2024. 

Phoenix was hot as all get-out -- 110 degrees. I've heard the argument about "dry heat," i.e. it's not so bad because it's not humid. I am not impressed with that. It was like an oven when one stepped outside. 110 is 110. (Fortunately, Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, has a retractable roof and was securely in the "covered" position.)

Our host for the weekend was our friend Adam, a young man who was friends with Older Son and SIL at Auburn and has become a good friend to our family. His wife stayed with (or fled to?) her parents nearby for the weekend as we took over their home. Adam was kind enough to have planned indoor activities when we were not at baseball games, including visits to an excellent tap room, a superb authentic Mexican restaurant and the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. 

So yes, I've been a lucky fan this summer. And the fun continues! Wife and I have plans to meet some friends from Little Rock in St. Louis for a couple of Cardinals games at Busch Stadium in late August. 

With Grandson Hank outside PNC Park in Pittsburgh
                                         

Chase Field in Phoenix





Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Dipping my toe in it

 I long ago stopped writing about politics on this blog. My views have changed a bit since I started here in 2008 and I'm embarrassed about some of the things I posted. 

On the other hand, to some extent we all evolve and change (some more than others), so I can live with it. If you were to be so inclined to read some of my very early posts, please be advised I no longer hold some of those views. 

I decided to stop writing about politics because the back-and-forth in the comments tends to get argumentative and I just don't care to encourage that. I know some intelligent, sensible people read this blog who have various opinions, all of which I respect. For whatever reasons, discussions about political and governmental matters cause some strong emotions that lead to the aforementioned arguments. I simply decided I didn't want this blog to be about that. 

I guess today I am making an exception, so please bear with me. 

I'm making that introduction so you can have some context as I write about the Supreme Court decision that overruled Roe v. Wade. 

I read the entire Roe v. Wade decision when I took constitutional law in law school. I remember thinking then that the decision in the case was a bit convoluted, and I found the reasoning of Justice Blackmun, writing for the majority, flawed. 

I found the statements about viability troubling, and I also thought, as I do now, that the U.S. Constitution does not guarantee the right to abortion. I thought, as I do now, it was erroneous to hold that the Due Process Clause provides a fundamental right to privacy that encompasses a woman's right to abort a fetus she is carrying. 

I also believe, as the court ruled in Dobbs vs. Jackson (the decision that overruled Roe v. Wade), abortion should be a matter for state legislatures to address. 

That did not mean I thought Justice Blackmun, or any of the justices joining with the majority, were bad people. Quite the contrary. 

One of the first principles I learned in law school was "reasonable minds differ." It so happened that seven of the nine justices sitting on the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade had opinions different from mine. I don't think the three justices who dissented in the Dobbs case are bad people either. I have the highest respect for them. 

That is not unlike the wonderful people who read this blog who have a different opinion. They are reasonable and I like to think I am. Again, reasonable minds differ, and that's OK. 

As we all know, abortion presents a moral question. I believe life begins at conception and therefore, I tend to lean toward the pro-life camp. Others feel just as strongly that it is a matter between a woman and her doctor, and the state/government has no business getting involved in that. 

And I fully understand that point of view. I simply can't get past my belief that a human being's life, albeit unborn, is involved. 

Then again, there are variables. Certainly, if there is rape or incest, or a woman's life is in danger, those things should be considered. 

And let me say this. If there were ever a vote on some aspect of the matter of abortion, I would look long and hard at the initiative and how it is written, weighing all of the information I might have available, before I make a decision. 

I can think of at least two supposedly pro-life initiatives put to a vote in the past, one in Arkansas where I previously lived and one in Tennessee where I now live, that were manipulative and poorly written and reasoned, and I voted against them. 

With all of that said, here are some of the things that trouble me about the Dobbs decision and all the fallout from it: 

1.     I am offended by Evangelical Christians (or anyone else) who are "celebrating" and posting things saying this is a victory, a step in taking this country back, etc. Fortunately, I am not on social media, so I don't see 99 percent of it, but by reading the news, I've seen enough. I'm immediately put off by people who believe they have the corner on the Christianity market. Reasonable minds differ. 

2.    I am equally offended by those who disagreed with the decision who are making disparaging remarks about the justices. That includes President Biden who is saying this is all because of justices appointed by Trump. Hey, I'm as big a detractor of the former president as they come, but these are  judges who have taken an oath to uphold the law as they see and interpret the law. They are not bad people. 

3.    So many people miss the point. This ruling does not ban or outlaw abortions. Abortions are likely to be prohibited in some states. Those who feel strongly about this should be at their statehouses pushing for laws protecting a woman's right to choose -- not mouthing off, saying things that are not true. 

4.    I have said this for years, but it is especially true now: the extremes want to control the narrative. Why can't we have civil discussions about things? I read about some celebrity who said he would renounce his U.S. citizenship and move abroad because of this decision. And you know what? If that's what he needs to do, that's what he needs to do. But did he think about having a calm discussion with someone who has an opposing view and consider the reasoning of that person? 

5.    I'm not sure pro-life people are all in on life. Pro-life folks need to make sure they are doing everything to preserve life, such as taking care of mothers with crisis pregnancies; adopting or supporting adoptions; and maybe reconsidering their stance on the death penalty. Or maybe even getting the COVID vaccine because they care enough about others to help prevent the spread of something that could be life-threatening. 

I know this is a tough one, folks. But we are still a nation of laws, and you still have a voice. 

Also, this case may or may not have gone your way, but please consider this: the person on the opposing side, who has a different opinion, is probably not a bad person and is not your enemy. 





Sunday, June 19, 2022

Reading Preview

 I generally post an end-of-year list of books I have read throughout the year. I suppose I'll do that again in about six months (can you believe we are almost half-way through 2022?????), but thought I would give you a preview. 

I started running a summer reading list in my column a few years ago, following the lead of other bloggers, columnists, etc. For this one I received a great email from a reader, listing all the books in the Louise Penny Inspector Gamache series, as well as from another series I was unfamiliar with. I guess he wanted to make sure I didn't miss any. 

https://www.williamsonhomepage.com/brentwood/my-2022-summer-reading-list/article_4eb3cf34-e5b7-11ec-9df4-3bf21e8accb3.html

Monday, May 30, 2022

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Good weekend

 I am not sympathetic with folks who go on and on about how busy they are. 

That's mainly because I have found most of them are busy doing things they CHOOSE to do. In my estimation, if you are engaged in elective activities, you don't have grounds to complain. 

You might be tired, and I get it, and if you want to talk about that in simple, everyday conversation, I'm here for you. But complaining, when you have control over your schedule? Not so much. 

So today, since it has been a while since I have posted anything here and I still like to keep at least a small presence, I won't tell you how busy I am. I am tired, yes (although I got good rest last night and feel much better), but it's from doing things I have chosen to do and things I enjoy. I've been busy, but I am not complaining about it. 

Wife and I made a quick trip over the weekend and managed to fit much into a short period. 

We flew into Washington, D.C. early Friday night. We rented a car and drove to Alexandria, VA and attended a small family event hosted by Wife's nephew and his wife. They got married in March in a  small family ceremony in California and chose to celebrate with family and friends this past weekend in the area where they live. 

We had nothing planned during the day Saturday, so drove into D.C. and strolled around the National Mall. I am lucky enough to have visited Washington numerous times, but I never tire of seeing the sites there. We walked around the Washington Monument and took in the views looking one way toward the Capitol, and the other toward the Lincoln Memorial and beyond toward Arlington Cemetery. We also visited the World War II Memorial for the first time.

We had learned it was a free self-guided tour day at Washington National Cathedral, so we visited it in the early afternoon. I only remember going there once during my previous visits to Washington, so it was nice to walk through it again. Its Neo-Gothic architecture is reminiscent of much older structures in Europe. 

The wedding reception was that night at a restaurant back in Alexandria. We had brunch Sunday morning with Wife's sister and niece. 

Sunday afternoon we went to Nationals Park and saw a game between the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros, my favorite MLB team (I might have mentioned this in the past!). It was a great day for being an Astros fan, as they won 8-0 and had four home runs! 

It was an early morning Monday, waking at 4:45 a.m. to get to the airport for a 6:50 departure. With the time change and the flight being on time, we were back in Nashville at 7:45 and I was working at my desk by 9. 

The early morning departure was a killer, especially with my having to start work as soon as I got back. 

So yes, I was tired. I'm still a bit tired (but much better). And this is one of several activities during a particularly busy few weeks. 

But we had a great weekend, and you won't hear me complaining about being too busy. I can cut back if/when I want to. And how often do I get to do this on a Sunday afternoon? 




Monday, April 25, 2022

Plugging along

And just like that it's the last week in April. In a few days the wedding, the event of which I wrote in my last post, will be a month behind us. 

It was a wonderful event, with Younger Son beaming with joy. Our hearts were full, and we were thrilled to have friends and family celebrate with us. We are delighted to have a new daughter-in-law. 

Four of my five grandchildren were in the wedding (the two-month-old sat it out - ha). We had speculated for months as to how they would do, if there would be meltdowns, etc. Well, in addition to being adorable, they were perfect! They marched right down the aisle on cue and uttered not a peep. 

It was decided they would not stand with the wedding party through the ceremony, but two of them sat through it (again, perfectly still and quiet) while two elected to go with grandparents (not us!) on hand to assist, hanging out in a back room. It could not have gone more smoothly. 

Wife and I stayed in Birmingham (site of the wedding) another night, which proved to be a good thing. We didn't have to get up and pack Sunday morning after the event and had time to spend with folks that morning before they left. We took a long walk in the afternoon before having a leisurely dinner that evening.  

From there we spent a couple days with friends at their lake house and came back home mid-week. It was nice to have a little diversion before easing back into daily life. 

*****************************

Wife has been gone a few days, leaving me to my own devices. 

I always choose the times of her absences to get caught up with chores around the house. The list is a long one and I will not have accomplished everything by the time she returns (being gone one week), but I will have made a dent in said list. 

It was a beautiful weekend, so neighbors were in their yards. I had occasion to visit with those on either side of me, learning the couple on the north side has a contract to sell their house. They never even put it on the market.

I almost fainted when Mr. Neighbor told me what they are getting for it, and when I talked to Wife later, I told her maybe it's time to sell. This seller's market won't last forever and look at what a chunk of change we could get, I told her.

Yes, of course, she said, before asking where I would suggest we would go if we were we to sell. If we're staying around here, we are going to buy into the same market into which we would supposedly sell at a premium. 

So, there's that. And I suppose we're staying put. And I guess, with my investments not doing so great these days, the value of the house is helping the personal balance sheet. 

After a trip to the hardware store Saturday morning, visiting with the neighbors and chipping away at the to-do list, I made a late afternoon visit to my favorite craft brewery, with Kindle in hand. I am in the middle of "The Godfather" and decided a crisp, draft beer would go splendidly with an hour or so of reading. And I was right. 

I have also watched some baseball and Netflix while Wife has been gone. I have an independent streak, and I do fine while she is gone, but I do look forward to her return in a couple of days. 

Of course, I still have my day job to fill my weekdays. I am ever more thankful for that, keeping me in a routine of sorts. Although I am sure, if I were retired, I would enjoy the additional time I would have for reading and other hobbies, and although I suppose I would be more productive on the home front (with a shorter to-list, perhaps!), I still very much like the rhythm of my job. 

So I'll keep at it for now. And I'll work on that to-do list as I can. 





Monday, March 28, 2022

A wedding

Weddings take different forms. 

Ours, 38 years ago this August, took place in Wife's parents church, with a reception in the church's fellowship hall where wedding cake, punch and coffee were served. We had friends and family there and it was great fun, as were the months leading up to it.

A couple of years ago, a lady who works for me was getting married and she asked me to be their only witness. We went to the county courthouse, and the ceremony was held in a little gazebo on the lawn.  They had written their own vows and it was lovely. It was the happy couple, the officiating pastor and me. She referred to me as her maid of honor! 

And there are millions of other kinds of weddings. In some countries/cultures, the wedding ceremony and celebration might last for days. Some couples elope. Some have a few friends and family. It's all about what you want and what you're comfortable with. 

The end result is the same: two people stand before someone and, if they are people of faith, God, and profess their commitment to each other. At the end of that, they are married. 

Some people don't much like weddings. I rather enjoy them. I am plus or minus on a big party that might coincide with it, but the part I especially like is witnessing two people commit their lives to each other. Because I am a person of faith, I love the spiritual element and how two people become as one -- the mystical union, if you will. 

If there is music involved, I love that too. I especially like a pipe organ or piano, but if it's a guitar or some other instrument, or even recorded music, that's fine too. It's fine, of course, if there is no music at all, but because I love music, I prefer it. 

In just a few days, Younger Son and his fiancé will stand before all of us and commit to each other. It will be a rather large affair, because they want to celebrate with family and friends. Wife and I will host the rehearsal dinner the night before. 

It will be a fun and joyous time, and I am looking forward to it. 

This is the last of our three children to marry, and we are very happy for him. Our soon to be daughter-in-law has become part of the family, and we love her. Wife and I are lucky in that we are three-for-three in the in-law department. 

Man, does life go fast or what?! Wasn't this little guy just born a few months, or at most a few years, ago? That little caboose on the end of our family's train that is still, to this day, the comic relief in our family? He's old enough to be married????

Plenty old, in fact. He'll turn 30 in October of this year. 

Congratulations to him. 



Friday, March 4, 2022

Lent 2022


For nearly all my adult life, I have been part of a non-denominational church. 

Although over time we have "warmed up" to liturgy, we do not observe the church or liturgical calendar. 

I grew up Methodist, and I would say we were middle of the road as to following the liturgical calendar. I vaguely remember learning about the different church seasons when I went through confirmation but to this day, I could not name them all. 

It seems Advent, the season leading up to Christmas, and Lent, the season leading to Easter, are the most well-known. 

I still love the season of Lent and usually try each year to go through a Lenten devotional. This year's is a splendid little book simply titled "Prayer: Forty Days of Practice."

Although it's not specifically written for Lent, it lends itself well to it since it's 40 days. 

The authors are Justin McRoberts and Scott Erickson, of whom I had never heard until the book was given to me as a Christmas gift. To give you an idea of the book's rhythm, I'll quote from the back cover:

" 'Prayer: Forty Days of Practice' invites you to pray in more authentic and untethered ways. These prayers and images, along with contemplative reflections and suggested practices, are designed to stir and clarify what God is doing in you, which is the heart of prayer." 

The prayer for each day is brief and written in what is called the "jussive mood." I had also never heard of this until I started this book. The prayer for Day 1 is, "May love be stronger in me than the fear of the pain that comes from caring." 

Apparently, the jussive mood is what is used in the Genesis creation account in which God speaks things into being by saying, "Let there be . . . " 

According to introductory narrative in the book, "Praying 'May I . . . ' is a way to enter into the work God is already doing in, around, and through us, according to His will and design."

Woven throughout are six different meditations that serve as transitions among the book's sections, with narratives on spiritual practices such as journaling and fasting. 

There are also sketches -- or "contemplative imagery" -- drawn by Erickson, an accomplished artist. 

As you can see, there is a lot here, and my descriptions hardly do it justice. I think it is just the right Lenten devotional for me this year. 

 

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Peace and freedom

 When I was in elementary school, I assumed I would eventually be drafted into the military and would go to Vietnam.

In our school we had a music teacher, of all people, who would get all the guys worked up over it. She told us there were people watching us in public places (like athletic events) when the pledge of allegiance was said or the national anthem was sung, and if we didn’t stand straight with hands over hearts on such occasions, they would make sure we were on the front lines of combat.

I don’t know where she got her information, who those people were supposed to have been or why they would have wanted seemingly disinterested speakers and singers fighting out front. But I took her admonition to heart and stood straight when the pledge was said or anthem sung, in hopes of having a desk job should I ever have to make that trip to Vietnam.

Imagine my relief when I was in junior high school and the Vietnam war ended. By the time I graduated from high school and went to college, I no longer worried about having to go.

Not that I would have shirked my duty if called upon. But from what I had seen and read about Vietnam at the time, it was not a place I wanted to visit. So yes, I was relieved when I learned I probably would not have to go.

I would transition into my adult life without thinking much about war, as we enjoyed a time of peace post-Vietnam. Even the Cold War eventually ended with the fall of the Iron Curtain.

Then came Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the 90s, and the eventual “war on terrorism” after the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001. With the perpetual military action in Afghanistan (until the recent withdrawal) and all that has happened with Iran and Iraq, it seems there has been something going on “over there” for 30-ish years.

That “over there” refers to the Middle East and it seems there is always some conflict, whether the U.S. is directly involved or not.

But since the end of the Cold War and with the cordial relationship among North American and European allies, the European area has been mostly peaceful. Although the worth of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) created in 1949 has been debated from time to time, it has provided a sense of security to the U.S., Canada and European countries.

And you know where I am going with this. The “over there” where fighting is now taking place seems a little closer and makes us more uncomfortable as Russian President Vladimir Putin directs the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

We have hoped and prayed for months it would not happen. In the February 20th edition of his newsletter “The French Press” (part of The Dispatch news site), David French of Franklin said he was recently asked, “What are you specifically praying for today?”

His immediate answer was, “I’m praying that God turns Vladimir Putin’s heart from war.” I can’t think of a more appropriate prayer.

Although horrified by it, we should not be surprised by Putin’s actions.

A few years ago, I read John McCain’s book “The Restless Wave: Good Times, Just Causes, Great Fights, and Other Appreciations.”

He wrote it when he knew he was likely dying of cancer, saying he had a few more things to say to Americans. It’s a great retrospective on his political life, particularly his time in the Senate and his unsuccessful run for the presidency in 2008.

He also spent some time lambasting Vladimir Putin and warning readers what he was capable of. He was as direct as he could possibly have been, pointedly writing, “Putin’s goal isn’t to defeat a candidate or a party. He means to defeat the West.”

I admit to a chill going down my spine when I re-read those words with the knowledge of what is happening today.

And I would love to think McCain was wrong (although I’m hardly naïve enough to believe he was).

President Biden has joined European leaders in imposing harsh sanctions against Russia, attempting to essentially cripple the economy there. We will experience inevitable repercussions here, with market volatility and even higher gas prices.

Even the most optimistic of pundits say we are in for a bumpy ride as events unfold, while we continue to pray for peace. (We really need to pray.)

Watching footage of Ukrainians fleeing their homes is heartbreaking. It is all too reminiscent of others doing the same in war-torn parts of Europe less than a century ago, folks like the Ukrainians of today who desire nothing more than freedom – but nothing less, either.

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Of reading and writing, part 2

It appears my local column, about which I shared here in my last installment, still lives -- for now. 

I had an email exchange with my editor, and she apologized for missing one I had sent. She said they are changing some things in regard to "who does what," and "it fell through the cracks." I thanked her and decided not to go into all the time this had happened previously. 

Last week's did not run Monday morning, which is my preference, but Tuesday afternoon, and it was not included in morning and afternoon email newsletters. I have a feeling a lot of regular readers didn't even see it. I dared to write about something somewhat controversial and when I do that (which is rare), I usually receive at least a couple of emails. 

I submitted a column Friday (yesterday) and asked that it be posted Monday. We'll see.

Since I think some folks missed this one, I thought I would post it here. Although this is about local and state issues, some of these matters are being discussed across the country. You might even be reading about something similar in your area. 

(I will definitely post something about the heartbreaking situation in Ukraine in the near future. So stay tuned.) 


https://www.williamsonhomepage.com/brentwood/having-faith-in-local-governing-bodies/article_756aef36-93ff-11ec-8ac9-f7f35f0790b8.html



Thursday, February 17, 2022

Of reading and writing

Because a friend had done it and suggested I do the same, I recently wrote my obituary. 

I feel fine, thanks, and hopefully this will not be used for a few more years.

It was an interesting exercise, and it is probably too long (because I am wordy), but I also wrote instructions to whomever is tasked with taking care of my affairs, giving my permission to edit as he/she sees fit. 

And it's not really the point of today's post, but it gives me a good opening. Because in the obituary I wrote, "his favorite hobbies were reading and writing." 

And that is true. 

The writing is done almost entirely on this blog since 2008 and, since 2011, in a column I write for a local publication. I've posted some of those pieces here from time to time. 

I have a column due every week, but here's the thing: I am not employed by this publication, nor do I have anything other than an oral agreement with the founder and editor who has not been there for a number of years now.  

Although I would notify my current editor by email if I were going to skip a week, I don't think she would send an email asking where my column is if I failed to do so. In fact, if I never sent another column, I'm not sure she would wonder about it. 

The person who started the publication (circa 2009) was a former columnist and reporter for our big city newspaper, focusing on the county where she lived (and where I live). 

She got downsized/laid off, after which she started a blog, extending her column from her former employer and covering news around the area. She took on a partner, and the blog morphed into an online newspaper. 

It caught on.  Having previously worked from their homes, they rented office space. They began to sell advertising and they added some local reporters and columnists.

From the time I was a child, I loved columnists, especially the Everyman, observer and humorous types. 

I knew of the person who started the publication, but I did not know her personally. It so happened, however, that her son and my daughter were friends, and had worked together at a local children's gym.

So, I sent her an email and introduced myself, referencing the connection with her son and my daughter. I congratulated her on her new venture and told her I thought her publication was missing one vital component -- me. I told her I thought I would be a good columnist. I referred her to my blog (this one) for a writing sample. 

She soon replied and thanked me for writing, but said she had a full complement of columnists at the time. She said I could submit a guest column from time to time if I so desired and she would consider running them, and if I wanted to cover occasional news, she could possibly give me some assignments if I wanted to do it for the fun of it. (In other words, without pay). 

Because of my day job, covering news was not going to happen, but I took her up on her offer of submitting a guest column.  Over the next two years, I submitted four and she ran all of them.

By the end of those two years, she had lost a couple of columnists. I had never again mentioned to her that I would like to be a regular, but I thought the time was right again. I sent her another email, touting my qualifications and saying she must agree I can competently put words together, since she had run each of the guest pieces I had submitted. 

While her response was a little more positive this time, she told me people were coming out of the woodwork wanting to be columnists. She said thinking I could do it was easy to say, but not as easy to execute. But she said she would keep me in mind. At that point I put it out of my mind and did not submit anymore guest pieces. 

About six months went by, and out of the blue one day, she sent another email and asked if I would like to come see her and talk about the possibility of my writing a column. By this time, as I recall, only one of the regular columnists was still with her. 

I went in for an "interview" and I left with a column to write the following week. That was 11 years ago this June, and neither she nor her partner ever told me to stop, so I started submitting one every week. The rest is history. 

Over the time she was editor, she would give me helpful suggestions and critiques, which I greatly appreciated. After all, she was a veteran newspaper person, and she knew her stuff. She gently suggested my pieces were too long. I took her advice to heart and over time I think my writing became better.

We met in person a couple of times, and she was encouraging. She also complimented me in her own column on occasion. Mostly, though, I would send her my column each week by email, and we rarely spoke. 

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At first, I pretty much engaged in storytelling, similar to some of the things I have written here. I wrote a lot about family life, both the one I was still raising at the time and the one I grew up with. 

Over time I expanded my subject matter to include commentary on local issues, as well as the occasional book review, politics (local, state and national), and some pieces on interesting people. But to this day I also still tell stories, which is what readers seem to enjoy the most. 

I get good feedback from those readers -- not a lot, but enough to keep me going. A few months ago, one of them read my column on the book "The Moviegoer" by Walker Percy, and asked if I would like to meet him and discuss it. 

Turns out he had written his master's thesis on Percy and was thrilled to find another English nerd to discuss him with. We met for a beer and had a great time. 

As I tell anyone who asks, it's a labor of love. I thoroughly enjoy doing it. 

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After two or three years (I can't remember the exact timing), the original editor and founder sold out to her partner. I knew nothing of this until I read about it in the publication. Again, I'm not an employee or even a contractor, so they owe me no advance notice about anything. 

The surviving partner served as my editor for perhaps a year or so, until she assumed the role of publisher. After that, I went through several editors. I received very little feedback and never met any of them personally. I continued to send my column by email on Friday, and it would run on Monday. 

Except when it didn't. Sometimes it would not show up on Monday. I might send an email asking the editor about it, and he/she would apologize, and go ahead and run it, or tell me sorry, we'll run it next week. 

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A couple of years ago, the partner who bought out my original editor sold to a publishing company that owns some other publications in the area. She stayed with them until late last year, when she retired. 

I had the same editor for about two years, but she left about a month ago. For the first three columns I submitted to my latest editor, things ran smoothly. But the column I submitted last Friday was not posted Monday. 

And I decided not to say anything about it. Tomorrow, when I submit my column for this Monday, I'll tell her last week's piece never ran and I would like to know if there is a problem. I'm almost certain there is not, that it was another oversight, but I would like to make my point. 

The fact is, I now write a column for a publication owned by a publishing company. I don't know any of the people and they don't know me. I am not an employee, and we operate, I suppose, under an assumed agreement based on the one I made with the original editor and founder some 11 years ago. 

I say all this not to complain, as nobody owes me anything, but to summarize where things stand. I still enjoy writing the column, but I don't want to spend the time writing it if I can't count on it being posted. 

Sometimes I think I need to establish a more formal arrangement, but I also don't want to call attention to myself and have someone think I'm not worth the trouble. 

It's been a fun ride for nearly 11 years. It's anybody's guess if there are still years to go.