Pets, Heart Disease, and Bedazzled Racism

“Dr. Fulks, you know I’d do anything in the world for my Belle,” Mrs. Arrington offers with a solemn expression.  As if on cue, the little Teacup Yorkie on the exam table dances up on two legs to receive a hefty dose of ear scratches and muzzle kisses from her owner.

“I know you would,” my wife, the vet, smiles as she hands Mrs. Arrington a rather expensive heart medication.  “You always have.”  Laura gives Belle a loving pat on the rear.  “This sweet little thing is lucky to have you.”

And she is, too.

Without a doubt, that animal receives better care, love and attention than most humans I know.  Diagnosed with a sneaky heart condition several months ago, Belle is now doing great, and her heart seems to be responding well to Laura’s veterinary care.

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How to Navigate the American Heart of Darkness

Dad died three months ago.

A few days before he passed, I got to spend some precious time alone with him; it was a hard, painful, beautiful day of reckoning and reconnecting.  For the first time ever, Dad was fully transparent with me about his joys, regrets, hopes, doubts, and his many fears.

I drove home at the end of that day, sat in my truck and sobbed like a wounded child.

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Why We Can’t Talk About Dead Kids

My father-in-law once convinced his young bride that she was a terrible cook.  She was so inept in the kitchen, she couldn’t even make Jell-O.  After mixing up a batch, she’d stick it in the fridge and later discover a panful of colored water.

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The Shocking Truth About That Jerk Online (#CoffeeWithTheEnemy)

“You’re going to get shot at your coffee meeting,” my oldest son, Ben, texts me.

“Maybe,” I reply.

He’s been following my dialogue with a stranger on Twitter.  I fired off a snarky comment about a local news story that was getting national attention, and this guy challenged my knowledge of the situation.

“This is my hometown,” I shot back at him.  “I know everyone.”

He immediately returned my volley (like any dehumanized bot).  “Mine too, big deal.”

At that point, I had him.  He couldn’t be a local—I just knew it!—so I called his bluff.

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When Lin-Manuel Miranda Called Me Racist

My family is rich with the world’s beauty.  Among my loved ones, you’ll find that Native America, Europe (East and West), Asia, Africa, Central and South America are all well represented.  And I LOVE that.

That’s why I was taken aback when Lin-Manuel Miranda called me out for my racism.  He didn’t realize it (he wouldn’t know me from any other subway stranger), but that’s exactly what he did.

The worst part?  He was right.

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Shootings Have Increased with More Gun Laws, but… #ReaganWasRight

After 2017’s Las Vegas shooting, my 20-year-old son texted me: “If your generation doesn’t do something about this, we never will.  You guys still freak out every time there’s a shooting, but this is normalcy for us.”

His words shot me down.

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Racism’s Revenge

I had a high school history teacher who was a Vietnam vet.  He once informed us, “Just so you know, I did tours in ‘Nam.  Tick me off and I might pull a gun and kill every one of you.  And I’d get away with it, too.  Just shrug and say, ‘Sorry.  Flashback.  I thought they were a bunch of gooks.’”  His head bobbed up and down when he spoke as if pounding the words in like nails.  A matter-of-fact expression on his face.  Left eye pinched into a half-wink.  Just like someone taking aim through rifle sights. Continue reading

Why Teachers Suck …

A friend and I were grousing about ignorance run amok.

“Americans get their information from internet memes,” I laughed.  “And in the true spirit of democracy, dullards who have never cracked a book will cancel the votes of people who actually have a clue. What could go wrong?”

“You know what the problem is?” Tim challenged.  “Our country’s a mess because teachers suck.”

teacher2I bristled.

Although I’ve been out of the classroom for a number of years, once a teacher, always a teacher.  Plus, I have family and friends still slugging it out in the trenches.  I know their battles and the wounds they carry.

“Dude, do you know what teachers endure on a daily basis?” I asked Tim.  I found that, no, he didn’t.  I fear most Americans might be as clueless.

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Hey, Church! You’re Losing the War!

David is dead.

If I could write that with more poetic flair, I would, but it would be no less piercing to his mother.

His obituary celebrates a theatrical whirling dervish who “loved all he met, cheered on the underdog,” and brightened the world with “an incredible smile, an infectious laugh,” and “the best bear hugs of anyone.”

On the scorecard, however, David is just another tally mark in the Overdose column.  We say that addiction killed him, but that’s not true.  The drugs, like most addictions, were just self-medication for deeper wounds.  They always are.  I heard someone say that we live in a world at war, and nobody gets out of here unscathed.

Anyway, David is dead.  As Dickens proclaims, that must be acknowledged should anything wonderful come of this tale.

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Make America Grateful Again

I want to share a painting that hangs on the wall where I do most of my work.  When I look up from my desk, this is what I see:

shipwreck

Study the picture for a few minutes.  (Okay, give it ten seconds.  I know—you’re busy.  We all are.)

Now tell me, what happened here?  What’s the story?

Whatever yarn you spin will reveal nothing about the painting, but it will suggest a lot about your life, your place in the world, and the impact you’ll have on others.

Friends, is yours a story of destruction and despair, or one of beauty and adventure?

More importantly, how thankful are you for the story you’re living? Continue reading