Dear Commissioners of Hamblen County, TN

commissionersMy email to 13 of the 14 Commissioners.  One does not have an email address listed.  Makes you wonder though.

Dear Gentlemen,


    1. What does the oath of office say? Who are you obligated to represent?  And does it say anything about keeping your own personal or religious beliefs out of politics and not forcing them onto the public in general?
    2. Have you read:
      1. The Constitution.  Specifically, it says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”


  • The Declaration of Independence.  “The most important assertion in this document is that “to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Note that the power of government is derived not from any god but from the people. No appeal is made in this document to a god for authority of any kind. In no case are any powers given to religion in the affairs of man.


    1. The Federalist Papers.  “As with the Constitution, at no time is a god ever mentioned in the Federalist Papers. At no time is Christianity every mentioned. Religion is only discussed in the context of keeping matters of faith separate from concerns of governance, and of keeping religion free from government interference.”
  1. Have you read this?
  2. Have you explored the website for the Patriot’s Brigade of Tennessee?  Who created it? And what is their purpose?  Notice it hasn’t been updated in over a year.  Their purpose is in direct violation of the Constitution.  
  3. The Equal Protection Clause is located at the end of Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment: All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. [emphasis added]
  4. Have you taken the time to consult with our county or city attorney regarding the validity and soundness of the resolution.  
  5. Have you bothered to read the resolution and all?  Here it is.
  6. What purpose does this resolution have, and what do you predict will be the consequences.  What have been the consequences for other regions that pass resolutions discriminating against a particular segment of their voters.  

I eagerly look forward to your response.


Rev. Richard Tidyman



House lights!

There-is-no-real-ending.-Its-just-the-place-where-you-stop-the-story.-Frank-Herbert1Disappearing art.  Music, sand sculptures, Burning Man, and our play, “A Christmas Carol” are temporary.  Last night was the last of six performances.  I’m happy to say, it was our best.  I would have been disappointed if I continued to drop lines for every show. When I did, another actor would help, or we’d recover and for the most part, the audience didn’t notice or not care. But last night we all nailed it tight, with more emotion, playfulness, and heart than any of us had risked before.   It is community theatre with a cast of amateurs, with about 16 high school and middle school kids, and three adults and several behind the scenes volunteers.

24991034_10215523582431128_7110640036250297304_nI had been warned that the last show  could be an emotional one.  With earlier shows, I felt more anxiety about remembering lines.  After Friday night’s performance, and then the Saturday matinee, I felt mostly confidence for the first time, and wanting to go out there and give it my all, and I knew everyone else would.  As a result, I had less to worry about and more space for other emotions, e.g., fun, appreciation, joy, relief, camaraderie, and anticipation.  

Before each show, we circle up for something of a pep talk but it is different than an athletic team circle up.  It is not about bravado, or competition.  It is a moment to reassure ourselves that we have worked hard, and to let ourselves relax and let it flow.  Joe reminds us on occasion how theatre changes lives and would share examples.  Once example included a young teen, who reluctantly tried out, and encouraged to accept a small part.  She went on to play larger rolls, and her confidence in theatre as well as career and the rest of her life grew.  Her children became involved, and now many years later, her grandchildren do theater. As he talks, we ponder to ourselves how theater has changed us for the better, and wonder where it will lead us.

24862401_10156038489944374_4818703090969898350_n.jpgThe circle up includes a chance for anyone to state a line from the play that sticks with them.  On Friday I was inspired to to share one of mine.  “Wherever you go, you bring them cheer.  You give them hope.”  And that is what our goal is.  Not just to give ourselves cheer and hope, but to share it with an audience, offer them a gift.  Each person uses the gift to suit their own needs.  For some, a respite from an otherwise difficult day.  For others, a walk down memory lane, of past Christmases. And for some, a reminder to reflect on their own life.  I was a little emotional, with watery eyes sharing this one.  A few others got teary eyed as well, and a greatly appreciated group hug of those closest to me affirmed the sentiment was felt by others.

The three shows on the weekend of December 15th and 16th were especially sweet.  On Friday, five friends traveled from Boone to see the Friday p.m. show, and spent the night here at our house.  Friday afternoon and Saturday a.m. gave us lots of time to catch up.  These are people that don’t lie.  They are truth tellers.  And they thought the show was great.  They have watched me grow over the years and remind me of life in earlier times as compared to now, and together, we wonder what the future holds.

For Saturday’s show, another friend drove over from Boone, which I expected, and then quite unexpected, Danielle’s son and his family showed up.  Danielle knew they were coming but kept it a secret from me.  It was so sweet seeing them and knowing they drove up from Asheville, despite their son feeling under the weather.  

The matinee itself was pretty good but not perfect.  I dropped some lines and scrambled but those in attendance seemed to enjoy it.  Matinee crowds are usually a little less enthusiastic for some reason.  Time of day, older crowd usually, maybe they haven’t had the dinner out with a few drinks, and therefore not as inclined to laugh.  But there was at least one discernible laughter coming from the audience.  I told Joe Powell, the artistic director about her.  After we came out,  I positioned myself closer to the exit than the stage, to make sure I could thank people for coming and supporting us.  A young woman, maybe in her 20’s, who had Down’s Syndrome came up to me beaming.  She loved the show. Joe had seen her during the show, enjoying it with glee.  We chatted and then without hesitation gave me one of the longest and warmest hugs I had received all day.  Scrooge it seems was not so scary after all.

Closing night was the awesome in many ways.  Despite a few flaws in all the other shows, I felt confident that we would do well, that the lines would come, and in the event they didn’t, we could recover.  Our last circle up was charged with emotion.  Ready to give our best performance, and sad that it was coming to an end.  Just an hour before, we laughed and exchanged Christmas gifts, white elephant style.  Except for the lady that got an ugly sweater kit, I think all were pleased.  She took it with good humor though.  

In our circle, Joe reminded us about the power of theatre, how it can change lives.  It changes lives for those in the theatre as well as the audience.  He gave examples of people who have changed for the long haul, and he gave an example from the matinee, the woman who hugged me so warmly.  When asked for a favorite line from the show, I didn’t hesitate.  My insides were already trembling with emotion, and the others could see my eyes watering up.  I finally pushed it out.  “It is the last thing I say in this play, and I feel it for all of you.  I suspect you also feel the same way.  It is this.  “You were very, very good.”  We are good.  We are.  Everyone.  An even larger group hug, complete with visible tears and audible sniffles.  Theatre is magical.  All of it. For everyone.

The Challenge of Adulting

I hate to see people in their adult lives struggling to make sense out of things. I’d like to make it easier but I know it is their struggle in most cases. Life is hard.


On one hand, I do think it is harder nowadays for young adults to get established.  Incomes have not kept up with expenses.  The cost of everything, cars, apartments, food, fuel is higher, much higher than when I wa sin my 20’s.  Complaining won’t change any of that though.  And I understand it is easy to get discouraged.  

What concerns me more are the adults who are lost spiritually. I don’t understand, but maybe I’ll get some constructive feedback   No one is holding us back from reading, thinking, talking, exploring ideas, or making oneself more knowledgeable of the world around us or knowledge of self.  In fact, there has never been a time when learning about self and the world was so accessible. Schools will not give you the information you need however. It is up to you.


I will spare you the joke about walking to school in winter, but when I was your age, we had to do things like go to libraries, bookstores, and buy or borrow cassette tapes to play in the car or the boom box.  So with the ever increasing accessibility of so much information, why aren’t more people motivated to assume responsibility for the information in their heads, and build on it.  

Folks that are interested in learning more about a hobby can figure it out with all the magazines, books, videos, etc. that are available. There are magazines on just about every topic imaginable.  Don’t believe me?  Google weird magazines.  Who knew?  Our society is quick to tell you what it wants you to know and what is important.  Look at the classes and activities offered in schools.  And which ones are being unfunded.  I recently retired after 27 years.  Funding for my Career and Tech Ed program dwindled year after year, and if not for several grants, I wouldn’t have been able to do a lot of things that we did.  Just last year, in Watauga County, the art teacher and media center (aka librarian but now so much more) got next to nothing, but somehow expected supposed to teach?  If not for many teacher’s  grant writing expertise, the kids would suffer.  I don’t know enough about music, drama, etc. but I’m sure those suffer too.  


IMHO, society wants you to learn enough to recite the standard rules, follow them, without question.  Learn to read, follow instructions, be able to write a little bit so you can fill out your insurance application, and function in the neighborhood.  But Social Studies, understanding how our society works gets short shrift where I come from.  And one thing you will never see taught explicitly in a public school classroom?  How to be happy.  

What helped me.  Childhood and adolescence, and into my 20’s, I was somewhat lost, putting on a good face in public, but overall numb, enduring what I thought was temporary but unpleasant growing up with an alcoholic dad, and codependent mom, oppressive Catholic school for the first nine years, searching for relief. I rejected Catholicism at the near end of my ninth grade.  I tried regular flavored Christianity from my senior year until about age 2, complete with prayer meetings, bible studies and occasional fits of evangelicalism.  The contradictions and lack of “joy, joy, joy down in my heart” convinced me it wasn’t for me.


Right or wrong, I did carry a belief inside me “I’m here for a reasons.”  Aren’t there scientific principles that say that.  Everything happens for a reason, and I’m not talking about the details of conception on one cold November night in 1953.  As I looked around, and saw folks that were a whole lot happier than I, I wanted to know what they were doing differently than I was.  And why.

wise-words-so-trueHaving rejected formal Christianity as a guiding principle, I was feeling pretty lost. I did not lose my sense that there is something bigger than us.  I intuitively believe that we are spiritual beings having a physical experience, but the details are a little sketchy how that works.  Personally, I also felt awkward and unsure of myself in just about every situation, aka low self esteem, except when I settled into a work situation.  It was there I excelled.  Tell me what to do and how to do it and I’m on it like white on rice.  A poor source of self esteem but it was all I had.

The next steps were not easy, but necessary.  I read books, listened to audiotapes, and got into counselling. The books gave me information about the world, while maybe not perfect, it was better than the beliefs I had grown up with.  The counselling gave me the chance to process the emotions that were holding me back.  

Books and tapes included topics on how to make friends, etiquette, how to study, memory techniques,  principles of success, overcoming fears, etc.  I also read books to help me define my philosophy and spirituality.  They included books that explored parapsychology, and authors included Jane Roberts, Ruth Montgomery, Marianne Williamson and Edgar Casey. Nearing the end of my 20’s, I had formed a new philosophy (some would say spirituality) about life, why we are here and answers to those pesky questions that religion tries to answer.  Perfect and complete?  No, but better than any previous explanations I had heard in previous years. And it was enough to know in my mind, that I was, in fact, here for a reason.  That hardships/challenges/obstacles are here for a reason as well, and can make us stronger. Basically, people are good, and when they are not, they are operating out of fear.  And that love is the answer.  

As the need or inspiration struck me, I’ve continued to read and grow.  In the last several years, I’ve read a few books that bring all the pieces together that help me to understand how to have a satisfying and will lived life.  If anyone were to ask me, “How do I learn to be happy.”  I’d say study happiness.  Start with “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown.  Read Martin Seligman’s “Flourish”.   The book “Mindset” is good too but “Daring Greatly” makes it even more understandable. And listen to your intuition; some say it is God’s/Spirit’s way of talking to us. Also great how to books, are “The Power of Ted” and “Non-Violent Communication”.

Some of us have the luxury of time and resources to make our lives better.  If you do, go for it. No regrets.


Why didn’t I do this when younger?


We just moved to a new town, specifically, Morristown, TN. My sweetie is starting a new job, and I retired in anticipation of doing chores and getting ready to sell our house. Now, after three months, I’m still trying to find my way around town and have a long list of honey-do’s to check off.  What would possess me  to try out for a play put on by the local community theatre group, the play being “A Christmas Story”.  Yes, the story of Scrooge.  The same story, over 150 years old, a holiday tradition for many to watch on TV, and maybe even a live performance.  And honestly, I’m not even into Christmas.  Bah Humbug suits me fine.


I had no idea what I was getting into.  I had done a few bit parts with the Richmond Community Theater back in the early 80’s.  It was my salvation in many ways, where I taught for two years, in a small town, hot, and very limited social opportunities for a secular humanist with liberal democratic/socialist leanings.  At the tryouts for A Christmas Carol,  there were a few other adults, but I was clearly the most senior by a long shot.  Most were high school kids, most of which seemed to know each other.  I read a few different pieces.  On my application, I said happy to help wherever, such as tech, lights, sound, bit parts, build scenery.  Little did I know that I would be offered the part of Scrooge, not exactly a small part. I found out later, I was the only one to try out that fit the part age and gender wise.  Chosen out of a pool of one.  Still, I am the best man for the job.


Little did I know how hard it would be to learn my lines.  And even when I think I know my lines, a senior moment, or a distraction, and the line melts away, out of my head, on the floor and out the door, like a meatball falling from a pile of spaghetti.  No matter.  Maybe another actor will save me.  Maybe I’ll save myself.  This whole thing is an exercise in trust.  Like going on a trip with a bunch of other passengers, most well traveled, with a tour guide, and me, green as the day is long. I am learning to trust them though, as they have good advice and good intentions.  They have saved me when I drop a line, and I save them once in awhile.  I have no choice but to trust my brain to deliver the lines I’ve read and recited hundreds of times.  And for the most part, it delivers.  

great crew

Everything I know about teaching and learning comes into play.  A growth mindset accepts challenges, accepts mistakes as part of the process, accepts feedback, and cares little about the naysayers.  It is not about perfection, it is about process.

Everything I have learned from Brene Brown’s writing about vulnerability, risk, resilience and being brave comes into play.  This is probably one of the more courageous things I’ve done, risking total humiliation if I can’t act well enough, letting down the cast, and making a fool of myself being the “new guy” in town that ruined the Christmas play.  But without risk, life is pretty boring.   Life is not a spectator sport, and if it is, it isn’t that much fun. I have dropped lines, and been saved by others quick thinking.  Brene Brown talks about people developing the sense of self worth, which is the foundation of risk taking, resilience and courage.  Her often used words are “Good enough.”  So I approach this play, with an ever increasing attitude I have about life’s adventures.  I may not be the best.  I may fall short of other expectations.  There is a chance that I will fall on my face.  I may have to ask for forgiveness when I mess up.  But in this case, you selected me.  You thought I would be the best man for the job.  Not perfect, but good enough.  So I accept my imperfect effort and final product…the show.  I hope you do too.

Finally (for this entry), this show is not about me, the cast or anyone in particular.  This is about our giving a gift to those that show up. Honoring a great piece of work. It is about rekindling pleasant memories.  It is a reminder that we can’t go back in time, but from today on, “I will live to be a new man” and to “bring cheer wherever you go, bring them joy.” And the last two lines are ones I hope to repeat to all those in my life regularly.  “You were very, very good” and “Thank you.”


Say it now.

Two of my dearest friends passed a few weeks ago.  They were the parents I chose after mom died.  I met them in 1994.  Both lived into their early 90’s, beautiful, humble and  loving folks.  They died with 16 hours of each other, in beds push together so could hold hands  when they wanted.
Danielle and I visited them about a week before they passed.  John was clearly failings.  Mary, though almost blind and mostly deaf was her chipper self.  They were together for almost 72 years.  John proposed after only two weeks of dating.  She turned him down at first but a few weeks later, changed her mind and accepted.
I got a call a week later, saying they were leaving us, Mary, already in a comatose state, John had quit eating and not able to talk.  When John quit eating, their daughter explained to Mary that he wanted to leave this world.  Mary said, “I want to go with him.”  She had a massive heart attack that night and never really woke up from it.
So we went for a final visit.  Mary was unresponsive, just breathing. John tried to open his eyes when he heard my voice, raised his hand.  He couldn’t talk but I made sure he knew how much I appreciated him and loved him.  He died that night.  Sixteen hours later, Mary passed.
I get pretty emotional in my old age.  I was afraid I might not get to share with John how I felt about him, so several months earlier I wrote him a letter.  I also knew that I would be hard pressed to express those thoughts face to face without breaking down.  He called me a few weeks later and told me how much the letter had meant to him.
Here it is:

Dear John,

One of the many things that I try to teach my students is the importance of  appreciating people, telling them, and letting them know your thoughts and feelings.  I figured this might be as good a time as any to tell you how grateful I am that you are in my life.

We met back in 1994.  My wife and I were splitting up, and I needed a place to stay and much more.  Your daughter Carol called you and based on her recommendation alone, you allowed me to move into your house in Tenn.  How incredibly trusting of you.  You knew nothing about me but you trusted her judgement.  Then it turns out what a small world it is. You worked for my brother’s father in law. I spent the winter living in the newer, nicer white house, and then, you two returned from Florida and I moved into the old farmhouse. Those were two of the best years of my life.

Before long, I viewed the two of you as grandparents.  I’m not a very good judge of age  because as it turned out, you are my parents age.  I had been looking for a surrogate father figure and, John, you fit the bill perfectly.

Your kindness over the years, your generosity, doing projects together have meant so much to me.  John, you were the first and only person to ever show me how to skin a deer.  Our evenings playing cards was greatly anticipated and savored for several years. Your meticulous record keeping was met with much laughter. When there was time, we played ping pong but mostly billiards.  We even had several rounds of racquet ball until you discovered your had issues with your heart.  I borrowed books and tools, some of which I probably still have and have lost track of.  Sorry about that.

In the 22 years that I’ve known you, I have never heard you say a mean thing about anyone.  You are truly one of the kindest men I have ever known.  There were plenty of times I’m sure that you could have gotten mad at me but you didn’t.  One time, to work off my ten hours of “hard labor” as you called it, you sent me down the road to spray roundup on the kudzu.  One particular vine of kudzu worked its way up into branches of a tree.  Not thinking about it, I sprayed the leaves I best I could, including the leaves of the tree.  I think ultimately the tree barely survived but for that summer, it had no clothes.

There were probably many more mistakes I made while living at your old farm house, and throughout our friendship. Fortunately, I can’t remember them now, which tells me you took them all in stride.  With your patient instruction, I learned so much.

Not only did I learn to do some things, but you were teaching me directly and indirectly how to live.

I remember one conversation in particular.  I was faced with a challenge that had a  pretty steep learning curve.  I asked you with all your years in industry “What did you do when you didn’t think you could solve a problem.”  Your response was, “It didn’t occur to me we couldn’t solve it.  I always knew there was a solution.”  Wow.

I loved coming over for visits, and being single for many of those years, you two would insist that I stay and eat dinner, even if you didn’t really prepare enough.  Bread and butter was always on the table and filled my hollow leg that my own mother said I must have had.

You listened to my ideas about teaching, my relationship woes at the time, and the challenges of being a parent.  You hired me for many projects, building a banister or two, cutting the grass once in awhile, and more.  Do you remember the deer we butchered on the pool table?  It was a small deer that got hit by a car on my way home from work.  I called you and you said bring it over and we’ll butcher it.  I also remember that you put the head in the compost pile which scared Mary when she went out there and found it by accident.

Lucky for me, that your own children were older than I, and well on their on their own, so you had time to take in a forty year old orphan like me.   Call it serendipity, luck or fate, I feel so blessed to have you two in my life for the last 22 years.

I could not have asked for a better pair of friends, when I so needed an older, and much wiser couple to discuss life with. You set for me an example in so many ways. You are in so many ways a mentor to me.

I don’t know if you can imagine how significant you are to me.  My father died when I was 16, and due to his problems and issues, wasn’t really much of a father to me at all even when he was alive.  In many ways you filled those shoes.  Whether you like it or not, you have become the most important father figure in my life.  You mean so much to mean. I am a better man for knowing you. I will carry you in my heart forever.



Good Times at BUUF

This post is especially geared towards my friends, come and gone, that I’ve met at BUUF, aka, the Boone Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.

Videos I’ve made over the years can be found here.

BUUF at the holidays in 2006.

BUUF summer pics.

History of BUUF in pics.

Laughing your Way to Grace with Connie Green and Richard Tidyman.

Dwight B. Miller Memorial

And all of my content from the last 20 years, including family, friends, teaching and more can be found here. 

I started attending BUUF back in 1984 when I moved to Boone to go to ASU.  It was a small group, mostly old farts, or at my tender age of 30, they seemed old.  Now I am the old fart.  Those were the days when all we had was the Founder’s Home.  At some point, the home was purchased through the kindness and generosity of the founding fathers and members.  Back then, we met in what is now the larger room. We would set up chairs and on a good day, some folks couldn’t see around the corner (where the buffet table is.  If you look close, you can see where the wall was torn down and a different kind of hardwood was inserted in the floor.  Yep, that room was once two or three rooms.

BUUF became my home, where I was accepted and my beliefs were mine and no one wanted to argue or convert me.  It was all about love and social justice.  It was more academic in those days but that is due to the make up of those in power, mostly academics.

I met some wonderful people. I went to a picnic one day after church at Ben and Shirlee Edward’s house.  Shirlee must have liked me because at the next church service, she introduced me to Sally Royce Gaines, her youngest daughter. We fell in love, moved in together, and later, were married, for ten years total, before parting way.  Ben performed the wedding at Holy Cross Episcopal Church in Valle Crucis with many UU’s in attendance.  The reception, a pot luck was at the apple barn.  To their credit, even after Sally and I amicably split up, the Edwards always invited me to every holiday meal and gathering.

A side note, at that time in 1984, Sally was the shelter manager for Oasis, the shelter for battered women, which was housed on the second floor of the Founder’s Home.  One year, we even had a garden where the current sanctuary now sits.

Picnics were always fun.  Back then, we’d travel south of Blowing Rock to Pat (???) and Warren Plicta’s house.  Over the years, we’d go to the various parks, Alice and Earl’s home, and many others.

What makes a church a home is not the place, the structure or even the rituals.  It is first and most, the people.  I always felt welcome there.  Most do andeI was a little more outgoing than most, and willing to attend social events, oftentimes alone, and found a group of intelligent, liberal (sometimes opinionated) good hearted people.  I’d say the only folks that had a hard time with us were those rigid in their beliefs and republicans.  I only know of one or two republicans who were able to tolerate the overwhelming vocal liberals.

I have found so many of the services and presentations interesting and many inspiring as well.  Some are boring.  Some times, and I’m not alone here, I’d check to see what was being talked about and who was delivering the talk and then weigh my own feelings.  Other times I’d go no matter what.  I’d go to socialize and support whatever speaker there was, as it is the closest thing I had to a community.  I’d suggest going no matter what if you have the time and energy.

If there was any advice I’d give, continue to make the fellowship welcoming.  People may be looking for inspiration but I think it is more likely people are looking for connection with other loving human beings.  Err on the side of kindness.  Say hi first, get to know them.  Invite them to lunch, even if they are a different age. We do after all, call ourselves inter-generational.

I’ve been in many of your homes, and I appreciated the chance to socialize and share a meal with you all.  In other cases, I was hired as a handyman.  I dropped out of teaching after four years, tried selling insurance and eventually did handyman work to make ends meet.  I hope no one’s house has burned down since.  I am not an expert at anything, but I do know just enough to be dangerous.

I’m grateful that you all tolerated my sharing of joys and concerns and even a few presentations.  My first presentation, and probably the worst was on globalization.  I’ve also done one with Richard Anderson of father’s day.  Connie and I did one on “Laughing your way to Grace”.  Most recently, I presented “Lessons Learned from 27 years of Teaching public school.”  I think it was pretty good.  In fact, I sometimes wonder if I should just pull together half dozen presentations on different topics and become a UU circuit rider.  What do you think?

Despite everything, you have always made me feel welcome.  You were there when we adopted our daughter, Hannah Marie Tidyman, and you were supportive as well when her son, my grandson, Sean Rohnan Tidyman (now Brooks) was born.

I’ve met lots and lots of wonderful people.  Most important are the men in my men’s group, many of which are UU members.  Big thanks to UU for letting us use the space for not only one but now two men’s groups. I’d rank my participation in those groups as some of the worthwhile opportunity to grow and learn from elders and youngsters.

I’ve seen many come and go.  Some move, some die.  I’m moving.  I’ll die later.  If case you missed the headlines, Danielle, the love of my life, who I first met at UU several years ago are moving.  She has a great job lined up, and I retired.  I’ll be holding down the fort, which includes a horse, two cats, two dogs, and chickens.  I’ll find some work, including that of a wedding officiant. There are lakes, and parks so I hope to take up fishing, bike riding, and tooling around on my scooter to learn my way around.  Maybe handyman work again. Hopefully there will be a niche for a liberal minister in the conservative  Hamlen County.    I know they have a democratic organization there, so I’ll check them out.  Hopefully, they do more than meet at Hardee’s for coffee.  But I’m good at that too.

I will be back to visit all the wonderful folks here at BUUF. We have two houses we need to sell, and it looks like I’ll have to rent mine rather than sell.

Wish you the very best and thanks for the memories.





Remembering Robert aka Hercules

John Robert and Richard in aug 1970

I’m asking for help from my siblings on this one.  But I will get the ball rolling.  Today, July 28, 2017 would have been Robert’s 73rd birthday.  Almost exactly ten years older than I am.  And in a few days, my brother John will have a birthday as well on August 2.  I only bring that up because of stories I’ve heard about the two competing on who could give the other the most extraordinary birthday present.  I can only remember one but in involved a call to Robert and said, your and your woman be home at 10:00.  Dress comfortable.  A little after that time, a limousine showed up, with a picnic basket full of delightful food and a bottle of wine, glasses, etc.

We are a family of  story tellers.  And there are some doozies out there.  any one of his siblings could talk for hours, if allowed about the talents that Robert developed over the years, his curiosity, his courage, and love for his family, both siblings as well as his own family, including three of the finest men you would ever find anywhere.  They are grown now,all graduated from college, two are married, and one expecting his second child.  Robert loved, encouraged and supported these boys in all the best ways.

Robert and boys

I don’t know how Robert became so wise so young.  Maybe it was the fact that he was an English major, and along the way, studied philosophy.  Stoic is a term that fits him.  He had every right to be outraged but I never saw him lose it.  I never saw or even heard of a time when he verbally or physically hurt anyone.  Many men resort to intimidation or humiliation, in dealing with others.  Not him, not that I know of.  Despite his strong left leaning beliefs and political views, he never got ugly or berated a right wing peer, of which there were many at the Ohio Veteran’s Home where he spent the last few years of his life.

I lived with him, as did other siblings at various times in our adult lives, and I’ve made my mistakes, sometimes at his expense.  Once giving the okay to monogram bath towels he was buying for everyone for Christmas.  They were great towels but the monogram added a huge cost to the bill, that he was not up for.  Belk’s called and I assumed incorrectly he would want to monogram.  A nice big “T” I suspect.  He got the bill, and I heard in the other room “Jesus Christ!!!  Richard, come here.”  After the initial jolt to his pocketbook, he calmed down, and like so many other times, accepted it, and moved on. The list is long of events that within a short period of time, a temporary crisis was resolved with an attitude of acceptance.

The most obvious example of Robert’s stoicism is his diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, and the years of decline until his early death at age 68.  After his divorce, he lived alone, in an apartment near his office, where he created dynamic resumes.  He would schedule transportation, roll down in his wheelchair, and make his way there.  He would rave about how lucky he was in so many ways, and raved about the public transportation he could access. I remember his words, even in the Ohio Veterans’ Home, he contemplated his fate, half joking, about living out his days under a bridge, but instead, was so fortunate to to live at the VA home.

Even at the VA home, he continued to write resumes for his clients, and served on the board, representing other patients.  He was loved by the care givers, and he showed his appreciation often, even creating a video for you-tube honoring those that took care of the clients. Appreciate, grateful, lucky.  These were all words he used often to describe himself.

I invite my family and Robert’s friends to share your stories, short or long about Robert. I’ll compile them and make sure they are shared with those that loved him. It is important for his children and grandchildren to know what a fine man Robert was. We are who we are thanks to the influence of those that came before. What a gift it may be to more deeply understand the powerful influence that Robert had.




When Friends Die

If you get an inkling to contact a long lost friend, by all means, listen.  Pick up the phone, do an internet search, touch base, and reconnect.  I’ve done that with a few friends and it is incredible what it does to my heart.


I was daydreaming yesterday about people who had a significant impact on my life and of course I thought about Bob. After Bob and Toni  moved to the flat lands, I lost track of him. I planned to find him today and tell him how much I appreciated our friendship back in the 80’s. He passed away a little over two years ago.  I think he suffered some pain in that final phase.  I wish I could have caught up with him before he died.  Besides catching up on all of life, I would have thanked him for all that he taught me.  He would have modestly  made light of it, I’m sure.  But he’d know.  I would have told him told him I loved him like a brother.

I met Bob first when I was taking classes at Appalachian State. He taught Power and Energy. Bob to me was the ultimate Renaissance man. there was no problem he wouldn’t tackle, and would help when needed but would encourage me to do all I could do first. I had an old Mazda pick up truck with a rotary engine that seized up. At his suggestions, I bought an old Ford Courier Pick up and he helped, and in fact, did most of the work, of transferring the engine, including building new motor mounts, and then got the thing running. What to do with the old truck? He taught me how to use a cutting torch. I literally cut the whole truck up and we threw it in the dumpster.
Bob and I became friends that year. I’m not sure how he felt but I felt like I found the big brother I never had. I wanted to learn how to do stuff, and Bob could do stuff. Geez, it seemed like there was nothing he couldn’t do. His generosity was beyond what I had ever experienced. He loved teaching others how to do stuff.  That explains his long career in teaching, and when he wasn’t teaching, he was still teaching.
Bob taught me about spirituality. He taught me about listening to one’s intuition, being open, trusting. I don’t remember his explaining the details about the actual philosophy but he showed it in his daily life. Hard working, embracing challenges, seeing opportunities and hardships as lessons to be learned, love of family, love of life, caring, sharing, giving, non-judgement.
One thing Bob taught me was to listen to my heart. He told me the story of how he met Toni, both walking their dogs on the beach. In no time it seems, they knew and were married. I listen more now, and as a result, my life and relationships are better.

While I regret loosing track of Bob, I can’t thank him enough for being there when I so needed a brother, someone to look up to, to talk to, to ask questions, to learn from.

Thanks Bob, where ever you are. Just wanted you to know how much you mean to me. Now, I think, you know. I’ll see you on the other side.When Friends

Stop Monkeying Around

Stop Monkeying Around

Picture 051.jpg

I have a friend named Earl, who in many ways is like a big brother to me.  Our experiences are profoundly different.  It is not just age.  His life has followed a path that I would never nor could ever follow.  He is a cherub of a man, round and bald, but sweet, kind and funny.  He is full of stories from earlier days of hardship, of fighting, of harsh words, of pain, and resilience.  He is a man that has done what he must.  He is also generous.  He writes poetry, will print it out, frame it and give it as gifts.  And he will buy books that he thinks you will like and write sweet encouraging words on the inside cover.  I was the recipient of poetry and books.  Recently, he gave me “The Daily Stoic” 366 Meditations on wisdom, perseverance and the art of living.  I am a fan of Brene Brown.  He is not.  He says everything she says was written down years ago by wise men, thus the book.  

Copy (2) of on the bikert+on+scooter+2

Picture taken before enlightenment.  And After enlightenment.

For every day of the year, there is a quotation and then commentary by the editors.  Here is the quote from July 8th, my birthday.  “Enough of this miserable, whining life.  Stop monkeying around.  Why are you troubled?  What’s so confounding? The one responsible?  Take a good look.  Or just the matter itself?  Then look at that.  There’s nothing else to look at.  And as far as gods go, by now you could try being more straightforward and kind.  It’s the same, whether you’ve examined these things for a hundred years, or only three.”  –Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 9.37

The editors go on to say that “Character,” Joan Didion would write in one of her best essays “ the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life –is the source from which self-respect springs.”  


In my dealings with students in my 27 year long career in education, with people I encounter, there seems to be those that have pain and suffer, and others that have pain and deal with it.  Some even work to derive benefit from from hardship.  There are those that seem confused as to the origin of their pain, and others that accept that where they are today, is a result and consequence of a life of decisions, that put them in the place they are in.  Some make decisions based on what is easy, and pain relieving, while others are willing to tolerate the discomfort and pain for a great good or greater gain.  Consistently, those that have a long range perspective tend to do better, or seem to have an easier life.

I am fortunate to having had some good mentors along the way, and made few choices that damaged me too much.  Oh, sure, some metal in my hip from a car wreck, my fault for not wearing a seat belt.  I would be more financially stable if not for withdrawing money from my retirement too early, and I would be slimmer and fitter if not for the desire for immediate satisfaction of that creamy doughnut washed down with some hot sweet coffee.  Since my mid twenties, I’ve been searching for answers, little by little, unsatisfied with the fantasy that traditional religions provides.  

What mistakes in judgement I’ve made along the way, I attribute to lack of discipline, or laziness at times.  Other mistakes, were well intentioned, and these are often in the area of relationships.  My marriage of ten years was not wasted time, but it was not easy.  Like kayaking down a river with class four rapids, with only class 2 skills, it was rocky to say the least.  But many valuable lessons were learned the hard way.  I can relate to the saying “The man that carries the cat by the tail can learn the lesson no other way.”

For those that seem to be doing things that I find irrational, unproductive, or even destined to make life even more difficult, I try to remind myself “Not my monkey, not my circus.” or “the man that carries the cat by the tail can learn the lesson no other way”, or from my Al Anon days, “I didn’t create it, can’t control it, can’t cure it.” And finally “Bless them, heal me.”  

Who am I with my limited perspective to think I know what someone else should do with their life?  It is not my place to figure it out for someone else.  All the resources are available for most anyone looking to make their life better, or so it seems.  But maybe not.  I’ve not had it as bad as some folks.  I was spared the genetics that lead to addictions, or mental illness.  I was blessed with good schools, and came up in the 70’s when the economy was more rewarding. I escaped the horrors of war, being too young for the draft. A college education was cheap, and I had the benefit of being strong and healthy.

So I ask, what is missing from my perspective?  I’ve open to your insights.

rt n dd after kayaking June 2016


My current challenge: Discipline.


to do listNow that I’m retired, I don’t have to do much.  There are things to do, but I get to choose the time and the speed with which I do things.  This poses a problem.  I am not in the habit of being disciplined, and therefore, have not created habits of behavior that are beneficial on a grand scale.  I know I’m not looking at this clearly because someone outside looking in might say I have good habits.  I don’t drink to excess, don’t smoke, don’t tune out in front of the TV, I stay busy with chores and worthwhile endeavors.  I brush twice a day and floss most days.

But I still see lots of areas that I want to manage better.  So I ask myself this question. What do I need to do on a daily basis that would become a habit, that would make a difference, and satisfy the primary needs for connection, purpose and fun? Stephen Covey suggested asking yourself this question.  “What is one thing you can do on a regular basis that would significantly improve the overall quality of your life?”

key-stretch-04-sitting-hamstring-stretch the more you fill up on healthy food





  1. Cardio and stretch.  I have lower back problems that, if I don’t stretch often, can get problematic.  If I can get that going regularly, then I’ll move on to weight training.
  2. Eat right.  Smaller portions, healthier choices, avoid the sugary and carb snacks that are so seemingly satisfying. Keep the sweets out of the house.
  3. Do something, make something, fix something.  I need a sense of accomplishment.  At the end of the day, I want to be able to look back and say I accomplished something today.Clip Art Illustration of a Boy Mowing the Lawn Right now, that means repairs and tidying up our two properties, getting them ready to sell.  Not sure what that will look like after moving.
  4. Regularly, if not daily, spend time with friends and family. Friendship-old-friends-old-men Even if this means a phone call, if not in person.
  5. Write. I have a need to leave some thoughts behind for my family and friends to remember me by, or maybe even learn something.  I probably won’t get around to writing a book.  But a blog?  With regular entries?  Or my journal.  About all kinds of thoughts?  That is doable.  John Grisham, in an interview on PBS gave advice to would be writers.  “Write a page a day.”  Would be writers that are unwilling to do that, including myself, just aren’t serious about writing.  And there is a journal for ideas that I’m still working on.


What’s on your daily list? What have you done that allows you now to reap a harvest of good results.  What do you need to change, to avoid the consequences of missed opportunities?