Monday, September 25, 2017

Taking a Knee, Respectfully.

I have come around on the Take A Knee thing. I might choose a different way to protest but I especially appreciate those who take a knee while placing a hand on their heart. To me that is a solemn statement of sad recognition that we are not living up to the sacrifices of those revered heroes who have gone before:
• when people are killed because of the color of their skin,
• when a president condemns Americans who stand or kneel for their beliefs but laughs with and downright grovels toward Russians who tried (and succeeded IMO) in subverting our republic.

Taking a knee with hand (or cap) on heart, is opposite of disrespectful it seems to me. How can that be read as disrepectful? It is peaceful. It is quiet. It is, in fact, respectful in every way. It seems a cry of sorrow that our nation is not living up to its heritage, to our noble founding tenets. Anyone who considers "Taking A Knee" as being disrespectful to our "..flag... and the republic for which it stands" isn't paying attention. And I like that the second player, not comfortable with kneeling himself, places his hand on his teammates shoulder to support the right of his friend to express his beliefs.

Given the controversy, I'd prefer these folks find a different way to protest. But I also realize that this brings great attention to their cause, and it is an issue that needs great attention.

CPR for my out-dated iPhone...

Please excuse my rant:

I have been aggravated about my iPhone for weeks. It has slowly discharged and inconsistently charged. At times, do what I would, it would not charge. I lost service altogether for hours. I tried every charging option I have access to with inconsistent results.

When I took it to the Verison store where I bought it, the guy expressed shock that I still tried to get by with an old model (iPhone 6plus) and tried to sell me a new one. Sorry, but I expect my phone to last longer than two years. I even suggested that maybe the port just needed cleaning? He said I needed to wipe the memory and restore the phone to its original settings.

Today I took it to CPR (Cell Phone Repair) on Shorter Ave at Elizabeth St. The guy took about 30 seconds to diagnose the problem and returned it to proper order within a minute or so and charged me absolutely nothing. It is charging as we speak at full tilt.

The problem: pocket lint in the port.

Granted, you'd think at 70 I'd have enough common sense to keep a can of compressed air and blow out the dadgum port myself every now and then. But give me a break, Verison. You are so intent on selling new phones you can't check for lint in the port before you recommend trashing the phone and upgrading?

So: I highly commend for your consideration CPR for cellphone repair. Verison? Not so much.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Yes to Development

A year ago we were in a battle to preserve a full 80 acres of city-owned parkland.

I lead a group of children and parents on a tour of the wetlands and the "Duck Pond."

One child marches through what was, till the recent drought, a beaver pond.

These kids fought with us adults to save the beloved "Duck Pond" area from development. 

We gathered for the walk at the city amphitheater directly across little Dogwood Road from the area slated for a strip mall.

In that fight we had to fend off accusations of being "tree-huggers" who oppose all development. That has never been true. Barring an international disaster, Rome WILL be further developed. Everyone knows that. The question is whether that development will be haphazard and led by profiteers or led by city leaders with eyes for posterity, what I like to call "Hundred Year Eyes".

These wildflowers will be buried under many feet of fill material needed to raise the "Duck Pond" area slated to be completely filled to bring it to the level of Riverside Parkway.

Well, we lost the "Duck Pond" but we managed to preserve 70 acres of the property for our kids and grandkids under a permanent land bank agreement. Eventually that greenspace will be crossed with trails and boardwalks connecting our Jackson Hill Park with our Ridge Ferry Park and making, at least de facto, the Central Park we have dreamed of.

The children examine the hoof prints of deer in the dried mud of the "Duck Pond". This area will be buried under 20 feet or more of fill.

Now we have an opportunity to put our votes behind some sensible development. The 2017 Splost and E-Splost votes deserve your support. They do NOT infringe significantly on floodplain, but instead provide city and county support to responsible development AND preservation.

Walking through the beaver pond area.

For an example: the North Fifth Avenue section of downtown is , let's face it, in real need of a facelift. By the city extending the Streetscape from the river to Avenue A will make that biut of downtown much more attractive for citizens and visitors, and encourage responsible and attractive business growth.

The dried up "Duck Pond".

In a hundred years, when our eyes are closed, our foresight will be recognised by the cititizens of a much larger Rome. Like we praise the Nobles for building that controversial City Clocktower, and Daniel Mitchell for making our center thoroughfare TWO chains wide earing it the right to be a truly Broad Street", and Max Meyerhardt and others for planting a big library in the heart of town, and Casey Hine and others for reviving a "ghost town" downtown with the Streetscape program.

The idea of what the Fifth Avenue enhancements might look like.

The whole group.

One of the entrances to the beaver lodge.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Our Two-Cents Worth

Our Two-Cents Worth
The penny we and our county's visitors pay toward upgrading educational facilities is a great bargain. I have watched that penny build critically needed classrooms onto my beloved fourth-grade wing at Armuchee Elementary School. I taught in one of those added classrooms for a dozen years. I try to remember every time I pay that penny on each dollar: what a bargain I'm getting.
Local Option Sales Taxes are a vital way for local communities to fund the public facilities the community itself chooses as important. In November we have the opportunity to continue the sales tax at the current level. The sales tax is paid not only by you and me the proud citizens of Floyd, but also by every customer of Floyd County businesses who comes here from Chattooga or Walker or Gordon or Bartow or Polk or Cherokee (AL) to enjoy paddling our rivers, eating at our restaurants, or visiting our symphony or theater or rock or sports or festival events. So I am pleased to support BOTH the Education AND the regular SPLOST for renewal. Those two cents are a pretty doggone painless way to fund some very important projects.
Rome and Floyd County are found regularly on lists of great places to live. Attractive and effective school facilities, parks, kayak and boat launches, good water and sewage treatment facilities, well-equipped police and fire departments, and even riverwalks, golf courses, tennis centers, all contribute to that. They bring jobs and economic development to our community every year. 
As a teacher in the Armuchee community for many years I have seen the need to upgrade our high school facility. It is past time. The penny we and visitors pay in sales tax for education purposes is a great bargain. The penny we and visitors pay for other public projects is also a great bargain.
Keep sales taxes right where they are for continued progress, jobs, and responsible economic growth in Rome and Floyd County. Vote yes, twice!
That's our two-cents worth.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

August 4, 1983

I was busy trying to finish painting to get the upstairs ready for the carpet layers the next morning when I heard Sheila call me down. She said we'd better start timing contractions and get ready to head to the hospital.
I remember like yesterday, a little later, driving down Cedar Avenue in the dark, my beautiful courageous Sheila hissing through another contraction beside me, and thinking: “Our lives are about to be forever changed.” We pulled off of Second Avenue/Martha Berry (what do you call that little section of road) to park at the emergency entrance to Floyd Hospital. We made our way across the parking lot, pausing often for Sheila to hug a car hood while she dealt with the next contraction. 
Once into the labor and delivery rooms I witnessed the sweet bravery of Sheila Matthews Shaw as she worked to birth a baby, a process correctly labelled "labor". Brannon Shaw was born at 3:31 the next morning. I was privileged to hold her and bathe her with warm water. 
I slept on the floor for a couple of hours once we got into a room, then had to rise and leave my beloved new baby and Sheila, to drive along city streets blurred by tears of joy, wonder, and exhaustion to meet our dear friend Cotton Franklin at the house, so we could finally get that upstairs straight enough for the carpet layers to do their job bright and early of the fourth of August 1983. (Thank you Cotton wherever you are!) 
On this special day, 34 years later, Brannon is sharing a honeymoon, camping in the Rockies, with the son she has now joined to our little family, John Carlin
What a blessing to our lives Brannon has been.
Happy Birthday and unending love to our first baby, Brannon Ruth Shaw Carlin.
(This slide show is a decade old now!)
Miscellaneous pictures from the Life of Brannon Shaw born 24 years ago tonight.

Judgment, Decision, Promise

A friend asked:

What words changed your life-for the better or the worse?

There is a clear frontrunner for the single quote that most immediately changed my life for the better.

I'd been wrestling with "What is love?" Earlier that year I had been dating a girl who wanted me to make up my mind. She was sweet and smart and attractive, but so were others! What makes it "true" love?

Then I read these words in 1970. They struck a chord with my heart.

“Love is a decision, it is a judgment, it is a promise. If love were only a feeling, there would be no basis for the promise to love each other forever. A feeling comes and it may go. How can I judge that it will stay forever, when my act does not involve judgment and decision.”
― Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving

Love is a decision!

Of course there must be attraction -- physical, emotional, intellectual -- but, given that, we have some say about it.

So I sat down and made a list. (I learned that from my eldest sister.)

Lo, and behold, Sheila Ann Matthews of the long blond hair, sweet smile, brilliant mind, unending kindness, and very nice other features migrated to the top of that list.

So I asked her out. And she replied with the other important quote in my life:

"Okay, but you'd better be serious about it this time."

I was.

The rest is glorious and ongoing, and mostly blissful, history. The decision/promise/vow carries us through the less-than-blissful parts.  

Here is a post on the topic from over a decade ago:

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Among American Presidents There Are the First 44 and Then There's Trump

Washington at Valley Forge

George Washington, as much as we all admire him, was far from perfect. He made major blunders as a general. At Valley Forge he stayed mighty comfortable while his men were suffering. Lordy, the man kept many of his fellow human beings in bondage. And among his successors there are 43 other flawed men counting flawed Cleveland twice. 
Jackson was downright homicidal. 
Jackson betrayed the Cherokee, defied the Supreme Court, and caused the infamous Trail of Tears.
Several were horribly unfaithful to their wives. 
FDR & Lucy Mercer
Andrew Johnson drank too much and was sometimes less than stable. 
I believe both Nixon and Reagan rationalized near, if not outright, treason. 

But I trust presidents 1 through 44 each and every one loved his country and wanted what was best for it. 
I have no such trust in #45.

The Washington Post is reporting tonight that #45 has his legal team investigating whether he can pardon himself, his family, and staff members. According to the Supreme Court (Burdick vs. US, 1915) “a pardon, to be effective, must be accepted [because it] carries an imputation of guilt; acceptance a confession of it.”
Donald Trump's psychological disabilities put him in a class that is not reasonably comparable, in my settled opinion, with Nixon in Watergate, Reagan in Iran-Contra, or Clinton's or JFK's or Ike's or FDR's or Harding's marital infidelity, etc.

Donald John Trump is sick and dangerous. 
That is fact and I have no need to reargue the obvious.

Many experts use the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, to diagnose mental conditions. This manual is also used by insurance companies to reimburse for treatment.
DSM-5 criteria for narcissistic personality disorder include these features:
  • Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
  • Exaggerating your achievements and talents
  • Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
  • Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people
  • Requiring constant admiration
  • Having a sense of entitlement
  • Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectations
  • Taking advantage of others to get what you want
  • Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
  • Being envious of others and believing others envy you
  • Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner
Although some features of narcissistic personality disorder may seem like having confidence, it's not the same. Narcissistic personality disorder crosses the border of healthy confidence into thinking so highly of yourself that you put yourself on a pedestal and value yourself more than you value others.
That's your right and that's fine. Write about it elsewhere. 
I love my friends and family who disagree, and admire each in many ways, but at seventy I just do not care to countenance in this speace equating the evil of Donald John Trump with the run-of-the-mill human frailties of previous presidents. That argument is over on this wall and has been for two years (or maybe thirty).
I am not interested in relitigating the clear fact that #45 is mentally, morally, ethically, psychologically, in a whole 'nother universe from numbers 1-44. Here and on my Facebook page I will continue to remind folks of Trump's evil. And I will work in every moral and ethical and legal way I can come up with to stymie, impeach, and/or convict him till I die or Trump is out of the office he is currently profaning. As of January 20, 2017 evil is occupying our unitary executive. 
Patriots must resist.

And to boot...

For the moment...
...forget his history of fraud,
...let slide the abysmal ignorance
...overlook his spying on naked girls,
...never mind his sexual predation,
...dismiss his debts and bankruptcies,
...forgive his unending lies,
...excuse the broken promises,
...think no more of the birther business,
...condone his bromance with the Murderer of Moscow,
...ignore Junior's treason and the daughter's business conflicts,
...minimize his small-hands insecurities,
...let pass the petty tweets.
The healthcare fiasco of the last week makes palpable and indisputable what most Americans have known since the early days of the transition: this is easily the least competent president in our nation's history.

Thursday, June 22, 2017


A picture on Facebook this morning reminded me of someone else, Sarah Colley.

Sarah Colley used to travel around the country to help communities put on shows starring the children and other folks of the town.  She had graduated with a degree in theater and dance from the prestigious Tennessee school now called Belmont University and now she was putting that learning to use. In the early thirties Bibb Manufacturing brought her to Porterdale, Georgia, their mill town and home of little Sarah Ruth Baird. Quiet little Ruth was somehow coaxed to play the part of "Rita, the Bold Senorita" in the show that resulted. 

Half a century later, Larisa Johnston (now Featherstone), one of Ruth's granddaughters, became part of the confirmation group at Brentwood United Methodist Church. Sarah Colley Cannon, was now a seventy- or eighty-something, and an active and highly respected member of that congregation in the suburbs of Nashville.

Sarah became Larisa's "Friend in Faith". If I remember correctly Larisa's confirmation mentor and prayer partner not only prayed for her and sent little notes of encouragement, but also arranged for her backstage tours of Nashville's Grand Ole Opry. (see comment from Larisa's mom, below.)

Of course, there is more to the story. 

In between those two events involving Ruth and Larisa, Sarah Cannon, a smart, cultured, serious, and dignified person in her personal and church life became world-famous for hanging price tags on her hat, hollering "How-deeeee!" and pretending to be brash and plain. 

As part of her theatrical efforts Sarah developed a comedy act filled with characters distilled from her Tennessee neighbors. She renamed her hometown "Grinder's Switch" after a tiny neighboring community, and she peopled it with lovingly lampooned "hillbillies" including her own alter ego: Minnie Pearl.

Others look at the pictures above and see a famous rube. I think also of a loving Christian, who faced terrible illness (breast cancer, double mastectomy, and stroke) and left a cancer-fighting legacy at the Sarah Cannon Research Institute, and also left an impact on the lives of two people "I love... so much it hurts!" 

Do you suppose her work with the introverted preteen who would become my mother might have helped Ruth Baird Shaw, at least a little, to build the self-confidence that would later allow her to face widowhood, the horrible pain of trigeminal neuralgia, and aging, with the determination and dedication needed to build a new career as a pastor?

Do you suppose her willingness to mentor a young Christian helped my beloved little niece explore her faith and, perhaps, build the strength with which she would face, later in life, with heartbreak but dogged determination and great courage, the reality of her young daughter's battle with leukemia? (And Larisa with her daughter Lily and other family members and friends would build their own legacy by establishing Lily's Garden.)

I love Minnie Pearl, but there was a lot more to Sarah Colley Cannon than a dangling pricetag and that cheery "How-deeeee!" and tagline: "I love you so much it hurts!"  

Friday, May 05, 2017

Healthcare: What does your heart say?

Some of my former students from our years at Nature's Classroom on Lookout Mountain will fondly remember the many wonderful camp field-group leaders there. Those who were lucky enough to be assigned to the field group led by D.J. will always remember him. He's the guy splayed out at the bottom of the steps in front of the group. 

The staff at NC was always outstanding but none were better loved than D.J. The kids were thrilled to find that D.J. was engaged to beautiful fellow staffer Sarah!

Well now Sarah and DJ are still doing outdoor education (as am I!) and happily sharing their commingled lives with two daughters.

But the journey of the last decade has not been an easy ride. Read D.J.'s story as he wrote it today on his Facebook page.

What does your heart say?
by Darrell Fedchak (alias DJ)

I'm going to tell you a story only a few people know. I've kept my silence until now, and recent events have led me to believe this story might open people's eyes.
In February 2007, I stood in an office and had an insurance rep look me dead in the eye and tell me I was denied health insurance based on a pre-existing condition.
I remember asking him why. He replied that since my condition "sometimes required surgery," I was ineligible for benefits. Benefits that would make it affordable to get the medication that would let me avoid surgery. I told him this, and he responded (and I'll never forget this exchange as long as I live): "Doesn't matter, it's your problem."
I was diagnosed with advanced stage ulcerative colitis is 2006. Short version: every so often my body would decide to bleed internally. I nearly died several times over the next three years.
"Doesn't matter, it's your problem."

In 2009, it got so bad I could barely get out of bed. I couldn't work. The meds I needed would have cost me over $300 A WEEK. People don't pay that much in rent. But I couldn't work, and my family couldn't afford that kind of cost. I was too old to go back on my parent's insurance, even though I heard them on the phone a few times, fighting to get me covered.
It never worked out.
I got lucky. I qualified for a clinic that helped people in my situation. They helped me get Medicaid, and then helped me find a doctor and a surgeon who helped me with the initial surgeries. I needed three because I almost died in the hospital while recovering from the first one. I was in Buffalo General for a month. A MONTH.
Three years, eight surgeries, and a whole lot of good Samaritans later, I walked out with a clean bill of health. It was the hardest time of my life, and not just for me, but for my family and friends as well. There are still complications, still hardships, everyday. But I'm alive.

Today, the House of Representatives voted to remove Obama Era protections for those with pre-existing conditions. They voted to allow insurance companies to charge sick people more for their coverage, coverage they may no longer be able to afford. Coverage that could keep them alive and able to contribute to society.
I almost died because a man who did not know me denied me access to medication that would have allowed me to keep working, to keep contributing to society. I picked up $30k in medical debt just to stay alive; I'm still paying it off. I pray every single day that this condition isn't genetic; I'm deathly afraid that I may have passed this hardship onto my daughters.
It's too late for me to change what happened to me, but I can try to make things better for my kids. I can try to help build a world where they can get help if they need it. Not for me, for them.

"There are still complications, still hardships, everyday.
But I'm alive."

Put your politics aside for a moment and ask yourself this: 
"If I were sick, how would I feel about this new legislation?" 
"If it was my child, would they be able to get care?"

What does your heart say?


Terrell's Amen

The 24 million folks who may lose insurance because of the repeal of the Affordable Care Act are actually individual people like Darrell. Each has a bloved child, a wife, a husband, a sweetheart, daughters, sons, jobs, churches or synagogues or mosques, favorite walks, hometown teams they support, best friends, favorite pets, songs they love, pet peeves, aggravating faults, great skills, and/or any of the plethora of abilities, disabilities, loves and hates that you and I have seen in our acquaintances. I will be thrilled for my taxes to go toward the healthcare of all my fellow citizens, even Klan members and Brietbart staffers.

Universal healthcare will:
-save lives
-lessen pain
-reduce suffering
-reduce costs

Call your Senators and Representatives.
Tell them you support the ACA.
Tell them you want Medicare and Medicaid protected and expanded.
Tell them you want Social Security protected.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Renaissance Man

A friend reminded me of this favorite quote from Robert Heinlein:
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

How close have you come to his ideal? Here's my record...

• change a diaper
I learned to sort of almost enjoy changing diapers in a way. After watching the courage and labor of Sheila in delivering our precious little rugrats and then nursing them, and mothering them, it felt good to know there was a necessary unpleasantness that I could do efficiently to make things better.
• plan an invasion
Of play forts in the woods, plastic soldiers in the dirt, and then there's Statego and Chess?
• butcher a hog
Not really, but I was there at about eight with my buddy to watch the process... and step on the bladder to see the dead pig urinate. Strange child.
• conn a ship
Kayaks, canoes, and jon-boats with that old 5 h.p. Johnson motor.
• design a building
Does a small shed count? And worked at a lot of renovation/remodeling of our own homes.
• write a sonnet
In eleventh grade, a poetic plea to the student teacher to get me out of the teacher's class. A a couple of others since.
• balance accounts
• build a wall
• set a bone
No, but a terrifying memory is helping the doc try to pull a bone back into place.
• comfort the dying
I hope. I've tried.
• take orders
A challenge but I've done it.
• give orders
Brief executive experience.
• cooperate
Best work I've ever done.
• act alone
Proudest moment.
• solve equations
• analyze a new problem
• pitch manure
Literally and figuratively. A favorite time was when Kathy Fincher (now Wilson) allowed me to shovel out her stable for the manure which fed the biggest garden I ever raised... out at Chubbtown.
• program a computer
I taught my elementary kids to do exciting stuff like drawing a rectangle with BASIC. Ha!
• cook a tasty meal
Absolutely! I'm pretty good at pantry/frig soup... concocting a palatable combination of items that happen to be in the house at the moment.
• fight efficiently
I've had few opportunities. The highlight of fifth grade was when Mrs. Anderson broke up the fight just at the moment I happen to have rolled on top. Yay!
• die gallantly
Y'all will have to judge that when the time comes. I'm shooting for three digits, but I think I'll be as ready as most if it happens tomorrow.