Friday, June 14, 2013

The Gift

I left a gift at school today 
The school was GMC
The gift I left meant everything 
Everything to me

As I watched her take her leave 
I waved a sad goodbye 
My tears dried fast though, When I saw 
The twinkle in her eye

This girl I left, unmolded clay 
Looked back as if to say 
Just turn me loose and watch me fly
I must be on my way! 

As she went, this gift of mine 
To challenges unknown 
I marveled at her confidence 
And how much she had grown 

It seemed like only yesterday 
We'd brought her home to stay 
A baby wrapped in tiny clothes 
Asleep most of the day 

And as I watched her take her place 
Among her friends to be 
I realized my gift was safe 
She'd entered GMC 

Still Sitting on the Board

My wife and I were married around 32 years ago and that was also the last time I sat in a barber's chair. It wasn't that I couldn't afford a barbershop haircut, although it was close. Shucks, I'd been getting barbershop haircuts since I was old enough to sit on the board Mr. Ennis would put across the arms of the barber's chair at the Cove Barber Shop in 1956.
I still remember Mr. Ennis pumping that chair up with me on the board so his back wouldn't spasm during the procedure. You want to talk about self-esteem? Try getting pumped up on a barbershop board in front of 10 patrons. But, I must say, the Cove Barber Shop was also the place where you could improve on your prepubescent vocabulary by listening carefully to the guys who didn't have to sit on the board.

I always felt like I had a lot less hair, but a lot more flare when I left Ennis barbershop. Yes, 32 years ago we were in love and I'd learned about all I could from sitting on the board, which was a lot because I was small and had been sitting on that thing for awhile.

Well, she was also in love with my hair. I suppose she saw it as something that was temporary and therefore needed to be loved and cherished. Of course there's always the possibility she saw the value in saving on haircuts. I figure we've saved around $3,00 during these last 32 years.

I haven't actually seen any of that money, but her closet is full of shoes and very few pairs are flip-flops. She's always been smarter than I when it comes into turning a shortfall into an excess. But that's another story.

What woman, if given the chance, wouldn't convert her husband's haircut money into shoes? Sure, there's labor involved here, but I bought the scissors. Plus, it used to take her about 30 minutes to get the job done. Now we're done in the time it takes a squirrel to eat a nut. I know this because I watch them as she cuts my hair on the deck. Have you ever watched a squirrel eat a nut? Don't blink. Well, these days she fakes it in an effort to make me think she's still having to put forth maximum effort in the trimming - and of course still cherishes these "weeds" that resemble hair.

I hear ridiculous comments like, "Oh my, there's a new one up here" or "It appears to be growing faster on the starboard side than port!" Sure. Like this stuff is coming back and Katie bar the door, buy some big boy clippers and pomade. Will you please?! Can we not just slip away in dignity? Head slick as wick and if not for eyebrows extending to the forehead, there would not be a shred of forestation near the peak. Not to mention the fact that she cannot wait to see it blown off the deck and into the backyard, which bothers me just a bit.

How times change. And yes, some days I feel as though I'm 10 and still sitting on the board in Mr. Ennis' barber's chair as she takes this opportunity to inform me of everything wrong in our lives and the lives of everyone we've ever known or read about.

She subscribes to People magazine and that's a lot folk. You'd think she'd be spending her time collecting what's left of my "gray" matter, or at the least, sucking it into a vacuum cleaner for some future display on a mantle.

I learn a lot sitting on that board and for sure, nothing lasts forever. But looking on the bright side, in dog years I'm still only around 10, still sitting on that board on Mr. Ennis' barber's chair.

Published in the Macon Telegraph, Wednesday, October 3, 2012.

A Tribute to a Born Leader

Georgia Military College paid tribute to the man who made it all possible this past weekend with two events honoring retired Maj. Gen. Peter Boylan. 
I was privileged to attend the Saturday Atlanta Pops performance to honor the President of GMC, and it was very patriotic, as befits the man - and very entertaining. 
In a time when we see so few true heroes, men who have given their lives for country or cause, there we were within a few feet of the genuine article. And although I've been in his presence for over 20 years, I am still awed when he comes around.

This West Point graduate and former Commandant of Cadets at the service academy is a true American hero, cut from the mold of those we call the Greatest Generation, although he came although during the Vietnam era.
The sacrifices he has made for America and the town of Milledgeville will one day be legendary. In fact, had the south had him during the War Between the States, Grant may have surrendered to Lee. Just kidding, he's from Wisconsin and would most likely have fought for the North. But I digress.

Leaders come from all walks of life, but they all have a few things in common and one trait would be the ability to get people to do something they may not want to do. In war it becomes more important from a personal point of view, for if you're asked to charge a hill there has to be that still small voice asking, "Do I really need to do this?" But you're under orders and so you charge the hill.
There was quite a "hill" to charge when Boylan came to Georgia Military College and no one was under "orders" which makes what he did all the more remarkable, in fact miraculous. We were indeed "floundering" when he came.

He began by walking the halls and just looking around. As a teacher, I can tell you we all knew where he was looking at any given time and whether or not he would be in an area where we might need to pay attention.
He would make a habit of sitting in your class for however long it took for you to begin to sweat and then politely and quietly leave, never saying a word. It was, I suppose, the military equivalent of a reconnaissance mission. He had this presence, an expectation he put forth that only a genuine leader has. He made you think about whether you were doing all you could to be the best teacher you could be.
He would tell us in faculty and staff meetings, "I don't worry about what you are doing to accomplish our mission, I expect you to be doing what we all are about, inculcating our students with a sense of duty, honor, and country."

What I learned from this man, among many other things, was that our students' duty at this time in their lives was to become the best students they could be and that our duty as teachers was to help them accomplish that goal; that we were all to honor our country and ourselves by being patriotic and giving something back to our community, becoming a productive member of society. And, that love of country needed to be encouraged and nurtured.

He created an environment where this was allowed to take place. He did it by honoring veterans at parades, insisting that those wonderful songs we cherish as a people, "America," "The Star Spangled Banner," and yes, the "Army Song," among others, were played loudly and often.
There were other incidences, too many to mention where he taught us how to be better in all ways. Suffice to say, he did it all with a touch of class, as we watched him dance, heard him sing, and loved him as only a leader can be loved. May God bless him. And we thank God for sending him our way.

Published Wednesday, June 12, 2013 in the Macon Telegraph
A thought hit me this morning while I was putting up the dishes, dusting, cleaning the bathroom, and vacuuming the kitchen. I seem to be losing control of what once was, or so I was led to believe, my domain, my castle, my stronghold; where I relax, drink cool beverages and control the flicker. John Huston (The Ten Commandments) came from nowhere and said, "WHAT are YOU doing?" When I heard myself say, "vacuuming," the light came on. Not the kitchen light, the one in my head. Anyway, after hours of staring into this light, I think I've found the answer to "WHAT are YOU doing?"

It began with the birth of a daughter 14 years ago. She hasn't always been 14. That's a recent "blessing". But along with the daughter came something called "family meetings". Now the family meeting is a very useful tool for managing a family. You agree to come together at a certain time and discuss whatever comes to mind. No subject is off limits, and it gives everyone an opportunity to be heard and hear how the other members of the family feel about different subjects. Our family meetings started when she (the daughter) began to talk. This could be where things started getting political. Now there were two of "them" talking and only one of me.

My first reaction was to get something else male into the house. I jumped at the chance to get Tom, a male cat, at least for a few days anyway. THEY had him "fixed," and, while I'm all for animal population control, it seems to have affected his ability to talk. Tom's pushing 10 now and hasn't said a word since that trip to the vet's. So, I bought Deuce, a dog that cost so much money he HAD to eventually be able to talk- no such luck. In fact, he came into the world with a genetic hair loss problem (but that's another story), which keeps him from even barking at Tom, feeling inferior and all that. So, you see, over the course of the last few years, family meetings have come to mean that Tom, Deuce, and I get to hear how our lives are going to go for the next week or so. Even though he can't talk, sometimes Tom looks at me as though I should be eating cat food. Deuce, on the other hand, is content with his chewie and blanket, knowing that he's just a dog who also has this hair problem. All of which automatically puts him at a disadvantage, even if he could say what was on his mind. 

So, the meetings are a bit one-sided, with me voting once and the girls voting twice. I win when I give myself stuff to do around the house. They win when I give myself stuff to do around the house. If you've never tried the family meeting method, think of it as being similar to the U.S. Senate where one party is the majority, and the other party just votes. All voices are heard, but we pretty much know beforehand how things are going to go.

That's how I ended up staring into this light. Although I heartily recommend the family meeting method of management to anyone raising a family, make sure your cat's brand of cat food is to your liking.

A Wife of Noble Character

A pilot's wife in another life 
A teacher, mother, friend
Blackberry fields out on the farm
That seemed to never end

She asked no more of me and you
Than she would gladly give 
Her life inspired, demonstrating
How we ought to live 

She shared her gifts among us all
We're better having spent 
Some time around this special one 
That heaven surely sent. 

And somewhere out there we believe 
The future's in our hands
Tho' sometimes things don't go our way 
For He has other plans

And so it was with this dear one 
A clarion in our midst
One that challenged each of us 
To always be our best 

We felt the anger when she left 
With so much still to do 
Unfinished works were all around 
In forms like me and you 

The pilot's wife looks on us now 
Her future is secure 
And feels our pain and sorrow as 
Her absence we endure

A smile extends across her face
As clouds obscure her view 
She knows, as we do, that one day 
Our frienship we'll renew 

 This poem was written in memory of Helen Moore, Director of Georgia Military's Extension Programs from July 1,1994 until her death on October 6, 1997.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Grilled Cheese

We went on another health spree around here bout’ three years ago and it became evident to me that if starvation was to be avoided I had to master the art of the grilled cheese sandwich. I did some extensive reading on the subject from cookbooks that had a lot of butter in the recipes, most of which have been purged from the kitchen as we try to eat healthier by eating things that taste more like the packaging than the food.

I suppose the object here is to live as long as one can without actually enjoying the living. I will say this. Once you’ve had cardboard for about a month the taste buds seem to go away and then, when actual food is re-introduced to the tongue, it brings tears to the eyes as one remembers what one has been missing. But I digress. Over the course of the last three years I have made the grilled cheese in any number of ways, all of them bad for you but, very filling. I’ve discovered that the grilled cheese can be made from a variety of breads, most of which can be found at the “Pig” (short for Piggly Wiggly which, when you think about it, is a really weird name for a grocery store).

The bread ranges from white to black and if it stays on the counter for an extended period, you may see a little gray. Some breads have bird seed stuck to them but those can be picked off prior to grilling. When preparing the stove top for grilling I like to set the temperature to maximum heat. Sometimes this might be a number or perhaps a letter. Matters not, simply turning the knob all the way to the left solves the problem. Or, I might go just one click to the right. This ensures partial burning of the half stick of butter, (margarine if you’re a health nut) into the bread at maximum efficiency, leaving the bread slightly hardened and dark in color. This is especially helpful when using week old bread. The type of cheese used is not an issue as you’re only going to taste the bread and butter once the thing comes off the grill. I suggest using the cheese as filler.

The grilled cheese requires little equipment unless one wants to feel like a gourmet cook and if that’s the case, simply put on a hat when grilling and wear an apron with a slogan. “Bon appetite” comes to mind. That’s French for “I am starving”. The hat can set the mood for the sandwich. For instance, if you want to stay with the French motif, wear a beret and eat it in the afternoon with tea. Put a picture of the Eiffel Tower on the counter top and you’re dining in France. No decent grilled cheese presentation is complete without the added color of the dill pickle.  The pickle comes in rounds, slices and spears and can be placed strategically on the plate to illicit maximum saliva production. Be careful however to not allow the grilled cheese to become ensconced in the pickle juice for that would render it soggy and it is a rarity when one finds someone who likes soggy grilled cheese.

Slicing the sandwich into halves or quarters will make it easier for you to place it on the side of the plate and avoid the juice altogether. The quarter slice can be easily devoured in just two bites. If your health is still a concern, simply toss the sandwich in the nearest receptacle and eat the pickle. The rest of you may top off the meal with some chips and a coke and you have the perfect imperfect meal for the imperfect person. That would be me. Enjoy!