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.”