Life’s Playlist…..Rise by Katy Perry

For all my friends and loved ones in Florida in the cross-hairs of Irma…. be strong, we will be there for you when the storm subsides and you will RISE!

If you are staying put, PLEASE hunker down and be safe, don’t try to be a hero.  For those evacuating, be strong!

Love to all!

One Nation…..

Usually when I sit down to write my Sunday post, I have an outline in my head about what I am going to write, that is not the case today.

I had planned on writing a light-hearted post about the Eclipse; unfortunately the circumstances of the last eight days does not allow me to do that.

For the last week I have battled myself as to whether or not I even wanted to write this post.  I try to stay non-political, but I know if I am going to be honest with myself and the people who honor me with reading what I write, I have to write this post…… if only I knew what to say.

I think like many of you, I have no idea how to even address the issues that face our nation when it comes to race, but why should we, our nation has battled this issue for the last 200 years and we still can’t get it right, so I am just going to jump in, share my thoughts and let them lie.

I have a feeling what I say won’t be popular with either side, but here goes, as I sit here in front of my keyboard I still don’t know what to say.

Like many of you I have been shocked by the comments and actions we have seen played out on our television screens over the last week.  How have we gotten the issue of race in America so wrong for over two centuries and we still don’t have any end in sight to what tears us apart as a nation?

I am a son of the South, I grew up in rural Georgia, moved to Atlanta after college and then on to south-Florida and back home again just two short years ago.

During my time on this earth I have been fortunate to live and work in some of the most vibrant multi-cultural cities in our nation.  Atlanta;  West Palm Beach, Florida;  Lake Park, Florida;  Orlando, Philadelphia, Richmond, Va and my home Clayton, GA.  In each and every one of these communities I have worked with, laughed with, cried with and loved people of all races.

I deplore racism on every front, but I deplore racism on ALL sides.  In my life I have found just as many white people as black people who disgust me in their actions and beliefs.

I am a white middle-aged man, I do not think I am better or worse than any other person on this planet.  I was taught to respect my fellow-man and honor them for the character they create, their actions and their work-ethic, not their past, their heritage or the political affiliation they identify with.

Some say, as a white man I have privilege, I don’t.  I have worked for everything I have ever gotten in my life and I am proud of the life I have built for myself through hard-work and dedication.

We have all seen racism and bigotry played out through the history of our nation, it’s despicable.  Allow me to relate two stories that happened to me during the 1980’s, both still disgust me today.

When I was in college one of my best friends was a black woman named Lisa.  We shared a Major and became friends through group projects, club affiliations and studies.

Our college was in a small town in south-Georgia.  One Saturday, Lisa and I were working on a project and needed to run into town to pick up some supplies.

As we walked down the Main Street of the town, a small group of KKK members were assembled in front of us.  Obviously Lisa was nervous, but steadfast that we needed to get where we were going.  We walked directly towards the small group of hate when one of the members of the group approached me and said “boy, what are you doing with that?”  THAT!?!?

I was with a young woman of grace, dignity and intelligence who was working towards a college degree, a young woman who would make an impact on the world.

While I wanted to share my feelings with this pig who had spewed his hate on us, I didn’t.  I didn’t because Lisa continued to look forward, stood tall and kept walking.  I learned a lesson that day, when hate is ignored it is silenced.

When we finished our errand, Lisa walked back towards the group, there were no comments thrown our way, only silenced haters by a young woman who showed what character is made of.

The second incident occurred in the late 80’s in Atlanta.  As the annual Martin Luther King Day Celebration was approaching, my friends Greg and David and I decided we would attend the parade to honor Dr. King and the vision of an America free of hate that he dreamed of.

On the day of the parade, the three of us boarded a MARTA train headed into downtown to participate in the festivities.

During the short train ride to the parade route we heard a few comments from others on the train, it was uncomfortable but we knew it would be OK once we got to Peachtree Street.

It wasn’t.

During that afternoon we were ridiculed and shouted at, it was made clear to us that three white guys were not welcome and instead of showing our support for Dr. King’s Dream, we left before the parade could even begin.

Certainly we all have stories we can relate regarding race, these are just two, but they exemplify the problem we have as a country…. BOTH sides have people who stand in their corner who do more damage than good, BOTH sides have a long way to move before we can truly be the UNITED States of America and BOTH sides need to listen and talk more than stepping up on their soapbox in an effort to prove their misguided point.

In my soul I know that these bigots, racists and hate groups are a very small minority, but let us be clear they stand on both sides of the argument.

President Donald Trump hurt the conversation this week with his comments, and as many of you, I was repulsed by what he said; however, if you are repulsed by the President’s comments and not equally repulsed when Missouri State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal publicly stated she hopes the President is assassinated you have a problem.

This week, Democratic House Leader, Nancy Pelosi said the statues of Confederates in the US Capitol have always been offensive and called on Speaker of the House Ryan to have them removed.

My question for Ms. Pelosi is, if they have ALWAYS been offensive why didn’t she call for their removal when she was Speaker of the House?

The hypocrisy of our elected leaders is offensive to the constituents they represent.  At some point we as Americans have to tackle this issue on our own and stop allowing the grand-standers who live off the public dole to set the agenda.  These elected individuals are not who should be changing the hearts and minds of Americans, that is our job, they should be working on creating jobs, the economy, our nation’s safety and stop trying to shirk their responsibilities as elected officials to govern.

There are those who now call for the removal of all Confederate monuments around the country, if and when they are removed what happens next?  Will we remove monuments of our Jewish leaders, Hispanic, Black, Gay, Italian, Christian, when we cover up our history we don’t have a chance to learn from the mistakes of the past and grow towards a more perfect union.

I have been blessed to know and love people of all races, creeds and sexual orientations.  I have known very few people in my life who are not accepting of others, because I choose not to allow that type of bigotry to infiltrate my life.

Thankfully I know our nation is filled with people like me, it’s now time we put the hate groups in the trash where they belong and work as a nation to stitch together this great divide created by a few.

Love always wins, it’s time we the majority, those who truly love our land and it’s people, prove it!

Company’s Coming

Over the past few weeks I have had several friends visit God’s Country.   It is always great to see my friends from around the country and great to catch up with them and where they are in their lives.

When company visits, it is also a way for me to show off God’s Country, the beauty of the nature and the magnificent people.  They usually always tell me, “now I know why you call it God’s Country.”

The same happened in reverse when I lived in south Florida.  My friends and family would visit and I would show off the ocean views, the manicured lawns and introduce them to my friends.

When I lived in south Florida I referred to it as paradise, another fitting moniker.

One of the things I love most about company coming to town is the opportunity to re-appreciate many of the sites of our community I may not often see as a resident.

It is ironic that we live in these special spots on our globe and our day-to-day lives sometimes keep us from being able to appreciate them to the full effect.

Over the last weeks I have had time to dine in restaurants I don’t get to enough and shop in small boutiques and specialty shops that sometimes fall off my radar.

A couple of weeks ago, I was able to hike Pickens Nose.  A beautiful mountaintop overlook that makes me feel as close to God as anywhere I have ever visited.

I get to Pickens Nose once or twice a year, but each time I walk out on that rock and overlook God’s creation I am humbled.  One day (hopefully many years from now,) my family will make that trek with my ashes and return me to the land from where I came and the spot where I feel closest to heaven.

Guests ensure me a visit to Black Rock Mountain and Tallulah Gorge where I tell the story of watching Karl Wallenda walk across a tight-rope and standing on his head twice when I was a young boy.

These visits from friends allow me to showcase our lakes and sometimes when the timing is perfect, attend the Georgia Mountain Fair reliving the history of my Appalachian home.

I look forward to visits from friends, just as I did when I lived in Florida.

Being able to showcase the land I call home is a pleasure, I take pride in my little corner of God’s Country and appreciate having the opportunity to re-visit the places I treasure most.

I fight an internal battle that I don’t visit these spaces often enough, just because.  And then I realize, being able to experience them through fresh eyes keeps these special places all the more awesome when I return.

Y’all come to the mountains, I’ll be happy to play tour guide!

Small Town Values

I grew up in a small town in the mountains of North Georgia.  The community was close-knit and in my youth, that close-knit feel is one of the things I hated most.

As a youngster, my mind equated those small town values with everyone knowing your business and getting into it.

In the summer of 1982, just after graduating High School, I left and didn’t look back.  My dream was to get as far away from that small town as possible and set a course for my own life.

I wanted to live in a large metropolitan city that would give me anonymity and allow me to explore who I was without the watchful eyes of a community “knowing my business.”

After college, I made my way to that large metropolitan community.  I made my way and slipped into the anonymity I thought was so great.

I made mistakes, I had successes and unbeknownst to me, I began to create my own community, that ironically mirrored those small town values that I had not yet learned to appreciate.

After 10 years in the city, I ventured out again.  This time to a transient community in south Florida that embraced the melting pot that people from around the world could create.

When I decided it was time to come home, back to my small town roots, I embraced those Small Town Values wholeheartedly, but quickly realized, they had been with me, and in evidence all along.

Small town values epitomize, faith, family, friendship, hard-work, love of country and taking care of your fellow-man.

As a child I was taught these cornerstones of life were what leads to success and happiness; those values are found not only in small town America, but in the small communities we create for ourselves in cities large and small, urban environments, suburbs and in the workplace.

FAITH – My parents instilled a faith in me that has carried through my life.  While in my early 20’s, I did what many people my age do.  I abandoned my faith and decided I knew what was best and I could forge my own path.  I soon realized I was wrong.  Once I found a faith community, within a large city, I quickly realized that this small community would lead me through life.

The community of faith, allows one to plug into a group of people who like myself, had grown up with this road map.

FAMILY – I have a strong family unit.  From an early child my father tattooed on the forehead of my brother’s and I “don’t ever do anything to embarrass your mama.”  I think if more of us held this as a family motto, we may be better off.

While my family, like most has our ups and downs, I know that when it comes down to it, we will come together and be one.  The family bond that I hold with those I love most is what brought me home, the place where I could find arms to hold me, celebrate my joys, and shoulders to cry on.

Love of family is a small town value that we all can relate to.  No matter the size of the town, or the distance we find ourselves separated by, this constant is one of life’s most precious gifts.

FRIENDSHIP – I have been blessed by friends at every stage of my life who have made me a better man.  Many of these friends, I equate to family.  Chosen family, establish bonds that support you during the good and bad times of life.

Friendships of community are the people who clean your house, replant your flower beds and make sure you come home to a place filled with love when your mom dies 500 miles away.  These are the people who gather on your front lawn on Friday evenings just to enjoy fellowship together and create silly memes for your birthday.  These friendships move far beyond a small town sensibility, if we are lucky, they incorporate every aspect of our lives!

HARD-WORK –  I don’t pretend the think the work I do is difficult.  In no way does my work equate to those who go out on a daily basis and put their lives on the line or develop callouses so deep that their touch feels like sandpaper.  What I do compared to others is easy, but I work hard at it and I learned this work ethic that has carried me through my career as a child.  I watched others dedication to their craft and knew that this was a key to success.

I haven’t always succeeded in my career.  As a City Commissioner for the Town of Lake Park, FL; I allowed petty differences to hold us back, this is my biggest regret during my time there.  We let the people down and I will always feel remorse for those years that we could have moved forward but remained stagnant.

Success however, has been with me through most of my career.  I learned to work hard and go above and beyond what was expected, this has allowed me to build a firm foundation that I am proud of.

LOVE OF COUNTRY – For much of my life our country has been at odds with itself.  I date this back to Watergate, but over the past 12 years the schism seems to have gotten larger.  Good intentioned people work to lead and unfortunately get so engrossed in idealism that the good of the country often times falls short.

We are a melting pot of humanity that sometimes erupts in ways that isn’t helpful.  However, when pushed America comes together.  No greater time in my life did I see this than when our nation was attacked, small town America and larger communities all came together to support our own.  This is the America that we all love, hopefully one day that same pride and patriotism will be a daily norm and not just an ideal found when we are broken by tragedy.

CARE FOR OUR FELLOW MAN – I learned early that when someone suffers, community rallies to support them.  When my brother died, our family was picked up and carried through our grief. I witnessed this when a friend’s young son passed away as a result of pancreatic cancer, and again when a young girl recently died in our community as a result of a horrific accident.

We are a good people and we take care of each other.  This care and compassion is what makes us great.  In our larger, yet shrinking world we find this through social media outreach when prayer circles or support pages pop up for people we don’t even know.  We care, we support and we love each other in ways that we learned from childhood through our adult life.

I was fortunate to be raised with small town values.  These values have carried me through my life, around the country and back home again.

The small town values of our lives make us who we are and I am proud to know that I have now embraced these full-force and in all aspects of my life.

Cricks and Cracks and Aches and Pains

Mama and Daddy used to complain about their aches and pains.  When I would ask why something hurt they would say, “I don’t know, it just hurts.”

Daddy would sometimes laugh and say “you will find out, it just comes with age.”

As usual my daddy was right.

Every morning when I roll over in bed and put my feet on the floor a new “ailment” seems to hit.  Cricks and cracks and aches and pains.

All winter my left knee bothered me, it would swell and throb, nothing major just an annoying pain.

This past week my right knee decided to get in on the fun and has been a constant nuisance.  It catches, it hurts, it makes me limp….. OK, I get it, I am old!

Sometimes I will get an ache in my shoulder or for no known reason a rib may hurt, it’s always something.  Nothing major, just a crick or a crack or an ache or a pain.

As I quickly race towards my date with morphine and a pain pump, I have decided what is wrong with me and quite frankly, these cricks and cracks and aches and pains are more of a blessing than a curse.

I have decided that the pains of being 50-something are much more about the joys of a fulfilled life than they are about a body that is catching up to too much weight and stress on joints.

The pain in my left knee that caused me to gimp around for large parts of the winter, I have decided that was caused by carefree days of summers past.

When I was a teenager, I spent most everyday on Lake Rabun, being pulled by my friend’s boat as we waterskied from one end to the other.

This nag in my knee has to be a way of reminding me of those carefree days being pulled and spraying and falling and jumping behind a boat being cheered on by friends and creating memories of sun-kissed skin on a scenic lake filled with glimpses in time.

If my left knee is about summers on the lake, it is only fitting that the pain in my right is a result of winters at Sky Valley, racing down hills of snow on skis that would give me a sense of freedom unlike anything else I had ever imagined.

Why would my neck hurt from time to time?  Of course that was caused by the endless hours of laughter spent with friends in Lake Park, Florida.

Those countless days with friends like Jorge and Leigh and Alyson, Donna, Dick, Joy and Sam, so many of us together, just spending time enjoying life,  throwing our heads back in laughter and celebration of lifelong friendships.

What’s a little neck pain, when it was caused by the joy of a chosen family that enriched my life in ways I can’t even imagine.

Could my backache be from the day Sam and Chelsea, Zack and I jumped from a plane fulfilling an item we all shared on our Bucket List?

If so, bring that pain on, it was worth the amazing feeling of floating through the air suspended in time as a parachute guided me towards land.

Those wrist aches….. dancing until dawn in Atlanta with friends who were learning about themselves the same way I was at the time.

My thigh, yes my thighs hurt sometimes too.  Oh, but the joy of holding countless babies on my lap and cherishing those newborn dreams.

Life gives us cricks and cracks and aches and pains, but it also gives us joy and laughter and love and friends.

I think it’s all worth it and next time my eyelash hurts or my grip fails, I’ll just look back at the blessings I received along the way that caused those cricks and cracks and aches and pains to bring me such joy.