Author Archives: G. S. Feet

Veterans’ Day 2020

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At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the guns fell silent on the Western Front. The armistice ending The War to End All Wars went into effect. Thus was born Armistice Day which was celebrated up until World War Two proved war was alive and well. After World War Two, Armistice Day became a day to honor veterans of all branches and all conflicts, and the name was changed to Veterans’ Day. This day out of the year we celebrate our surviving veterans. Over the years, people have begun to celebrate the living and the dead on Veterans’ Day, but those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom are more properly honored on Memorial Day. It doesn’t really matter as long as honor is given to these brave men and women.

I live with a lot of regrets. I’ve made many poor choices in my life, but one of the ones that hurts me the most is that I never put on a uniform and joined the military. Many of the men in my family served with honor and distinction. I regret I have not joined their numbers. When I was in high school I had a dream of attending the US Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland. I had the required grades and my SAT score was excellent, but what is enough to get one into a regular college is not good enough for the Naval Academy.

To get into the Academy, you have to be appointed. I didn’t understand politics enough at the time to know what to do in order to get an appointment from a congressman or senator. So I didn’t get into the Naval Academy and my senior year stayed on its downward trajectory.

I was aimless after graduation. I enrolled at a local community college, but it was like high school all over again. At the time though, I was working at Advance Auto Parts with a guy named Moose. Of course that wasn’t his given name, but it’s all anyone ever called him. Moose had been in the Marine Corps and he had stories galore. He didn’t want to get out when he did but he was injured and had no choice. Moose convinced me I should enlist in the Marine Corps. I talked to a recruiter and took the ASVAB. My score caused the recruiters eyes to light up. It looked like I was on my way to enlistment. Before I could join though, I had to attend MEPS, which was the Medical Examination and Processing Station. Things went wrong there.

See, when I was near the end of my tenth grade year, I was in a car wreck that put a jeep bumper made of wood deep into my left thigh. The injury got infected and swelled up into a huge hemotoma that had to be cut out. I didn’t affect my daily life much, but I had a divot on my left thigh that was about a centimeter deep. It was fine as long as I left it alone, but if I touched it wrong, pain would shoot through my leg and I’d almost vomit.

Well, guess what the examiner at Fort Jackson did as soon as he saw the scar? Yep, he stuck his finger right in the middle of it. I crumpled and he asked me if it hurt. I assured him it did. He said I would have to get it fixed before I could enlist because they couldn’t have a marine with a built in torture spot on his body. I didn’t know how to get it fixed and I was too stupid to ask, so that was the end of my shot at enlistment. Had I gone in, I probably would have fought in Operation Desert Storm.

So, I never got to wear the uniform. I regret it every time I see our soldiers on the news or see an enlistment ad on TV. Still, I am quick to thank all those who did join and have served so faithfully all these years and to them I say Happy Veterans’ Day!

Love y’all and keep those feet clean.

#TBT: 10 Years or a Lifetime? Some Nights I Don’t Know.

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I wrote this post on the tenth anniversary of my being fired from my beloved teaching job. Tomorrow is the eighteenth anniversary. I haven’t forgotten and it still hurts as much today as it did then.

I was on my way to being very chipper and upbeat this morning until I looked at the calendar and saw the date was October 23. I had almost forgotten . . . the key being ALMOST.

Ten years ago this afternoon, at 1:00 PM to be precise, life handed me the mother of all lemons. Actually, that’s a little too “cutesy.” The long story is ten years ago this morning I took one of the Magnificent 7, which is my euphemism for the seven events that radically changed my life for the worse. Each of the seven were hammer blows against my emotional well-being and each of the seven — in seven different ways — shattered me mentally and emotionally as easily as a cinder block dropped from a highway overpass will shatter a vehicle’s windshield and with about as much warning. Ten years ago today, following a short and slanderous hearing at 301 Camperdown Way, I was summarily and officially dismissed from my teaching post at Woodmont High School.

The short story is I was lied to and about, publicly humiliated, then fired from teaching. I’d been exiled from the one place where I’d normally felt safest, happiest, and strongest. For the first time in my life, I had been kicked out of school.

I plan to post all the documents I still have from the hearing and the aftermath. When I do, you can read them for yourselves. I don’t have the mental energy to type out that story here. (I never bothered. It wouldn’t matter anyway) I love this blog. It’s not much, but it’s mine and I’ve tried to steer clear of controversy and painful memories, but to deny the scars is to deny the events which caused them and any event that makes you seriously question whether or not you really want to go on living in a world where things like this can happen to you is much too important to be ignored.

I haven’t had many things happen to me that have affected me as much or as long as getting fired did. It was two years before I was able to get back into teaching for good and I wouldn’t have gotten a break then except my alma mater needed an English teacher and the assistant principal had been my Geometry teacher and the principal had student taught my senior class in something or other. They knew me personally so they didn’t really look at anything from “The File.”

It wasn’t the same though. For one thing, Thomas Wolfe was absolutely right when he said, “You can’t go home again.” Teaching in what had been my AP English classroom in my senior year forced me every day for 180 straight days to confront ANOTHER one of the Magnificent 7 so when a library job opened up one district over, I took it.

So, it’s been ten years and the pain is just as fresh in my mind now as it was then. I can still taste the metallic tang of pure adrenaline fueled fear in my mouth when I think about the hearing. I can still see the faces of the “witnesses.” More than anything though, I can still hear the thunderous silence of the people I had called friends and colleagues for almost nine years. I had helped these people in more ways than I can imagine. I’d tried to be there for them, but when I was strung up and dangling, none of them . . . NOT A SINGLE ONE bothered to vouch for my character.

I remember leaving the district office with Budge in tears and Mama in a rage like I hadn’t seen on her face since I was a third grader and Ray Bates’ mother (God rest her soul) grabbed me by the collar and shook me because I had finally stood up to Ray’s bullying. People have asked me if I was angry and I always tell them I was too concerned with keeping Mama and Budge from getting locked up to be angry. I just wanted to get home.

Thirty minutes after leaving the pillory, I went back to the school and to the room I’d called home for so long. It was a mess because the string of subs who had kept the class during my six weeks suspension while I awaited a hearing hadn’t been able to control my hellions or my brilliant AP History students. While I was gathering my things, the assistant principal who had been the main “detective / witch hunter” for my case came into the room and asked me “So how’d things go?” I still thank God and 300 mg of Effexor CR for not decking her in her smug little mouth right then. As it was, I snatched my posters from the wall, took a few folders from my filing cabinet, and collected my most prized belongings from my beautiful desk that my friend Brian Ashley had helped me restore five summers before , then I walked out.

I’ve never been back.

Now as a sorry excuse for a Christian, I do not believe in karma, but sometimes it is tempting when I consider this. None of the three students whose complaints against me triggered the whole debacle ever graduated from high school. The principal who threw me under the bus didn’t make it through the year herself but was dismissed in disgrace partly because parents complained to the district office about her attending home football games about “two and a half sheets to the wind” as we say in the country. The superintendent who was such a jerk over the entire thing was fired by the school board within a year, partly over allegations of misconduct with a couple of female principals and partly for just basically being an ass of the 33rd degree. Finally, the district lawyer who prosecuted my case was fired and arrested a few years later after a district computer technician found alleged child pornography on the computer in the lawyer’s office. The child porn charges were eventually dropped because no one could prove the boys were underage, but the computer crimes stuck and he may still go to jail.

Coincidence or karma? You decide.

Love y’all. Keep the faith and the feet clean.

Lasts

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On May 25, 1935, at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Babe Ruth hit a home run, As he trotted around the bases just as he had 713 times before, he didn’t know it then but it was the last home run of his career.

December 17, 1972, Eugene Cernan stepped off the Moon’s surface to prepare for the ride home. Three more missions to the Moon were planned, but NASA cancelled them unexpectedly. Cernan didn’t know at the time, but he would be the last man, for now at least, to stand on the Moon.

Lasts are mysterious things. Sometimes we see them from afar and plan for them with great ceremony. Those are the big Lasts: retirements, graduations, business closings, things like those. Other Lasts take us by surprise and other Lasts pass without our notice, until we look back.

My friends and I growing up had dirt bikes we rode everywhere from the time we were twelve or thirteen. We stayed with each other most of the time because it was easy to get together. Then Scott got a car. Slowly we put the dirt bikes away. I don’t even remember our last ride together. My bike was stolen when I was fifteen or so, but by then, I had my own car.

What I really want to say is we let things go by sometimes and we don’t even know it. How different would breakfast have been on September 11, 2001 for the thousands of people who were eating their last meals with their loved ones?

Mama and I never parted angry. The last words I said to her whenever I walked out the door were “I love you and I’ll see you in a little while.” I had it drummed into my head that no one is promised tomorrow. We might be here; we might not. My wife will tell you because she was standing there, the last words I ever said to my mama were, “I love you, and I’ll see you in a little while.”

Budge doesn’t leave the house without a kiss and an I love you even if she is just going up the road to a friend’s house because you never know what might happen. Around 25 years ago I spent the day with one of the best friends I’ve ever had. When the day was over, I gave her a big hug before I left to come home and we talked about doing it again soon. It wasn’t soon enough though — her cancer came back with a vengeance. I never saw her again. Just like that.

I worry because I see my daddy usually five times a year: Easter, Father’s Day, his birthday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. I haven’t seen him this year since Christmas because of COVID-19. I talked to him for thirty seconds on the phone on his birthday. He and I do not have a good relationship. It’s very complicated but I know one day I’m going to get that call and it’s going to be too late to say all the unsaid things. I live with that fear every day. Two unbending wills always leads to tragedy.

So what I want you to do is think about lasts. If you need to make a call, make a call. If you need to get in the car and drive to someone’s house, do it. Get on an airplane if you have to, but say what needs to be said to who needs to hear it.

We aren’t promised tomorrow.

Love y’all and keep your feet clean.

#TBT: Boy, Was I Wrong

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https://grocerystorefeet.files.wordpress.com/2016/06/3167f-1450882930373.pngIt’s election time again and I wanted to rerun the post I wrote about Donald and Hillary. No one gave him a chance to beat Hillary and no one is giving him a chance to beat Biden. Time will tell, but I stand by what I said before; I miss the country I grew up in.

Several months ago now I wrote a post wherein I confidently, perhaps even arrogantly, prognosticated the results of the upcoming election for our next POTUS. Specifically, I stated categorically Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump had about as much chance of actually obtaining the respective Democratic and Republican nominations as the proverbial snowball in the proverbial Hell.

Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa.

Good old white haired Bernie made the Democratic side a whole lot closer run thing than he had any reason to believe he’d do. Ultimately, Hillary won out, but even in defeat, Bernie remains plucky, vowing to fight on until and during the Democratic National Convention later this year. I’m not certain how much influence over events he’ll ultimately have, but he will certainly keep things stirred up. It must be nice to have so much money you can keep on running a failed campaign just to be a pain in the other person’s ass. I think I like this guy.

On the other side of the aisle, I was CERTAIN “The Donald” would say something so outrageous, so over the top, people would castigate him, cut ties with him, and flee from him like the plague. Well, turns out I was right about two out of three. Trump has not disappointed in the area of issuing outlandish statements. So much insanity has spewed forth from his mouth it has lowered the collective IQ of the nation by at least ten points. He has said, and is still saying, things which would have torpedoed the candidacy of ANY other politician. Far from slowing him down, the more crass references he makes to his “male anatomy,” the more he issues personal name calling attacks on people he perceives as enemies, the STRONGER HE POLLS!

One by one, he sent the other candidates packing. Bush, Rubio, Cruz, and finally Kasich all ultimately bowed out before the force that is Hurricane Donald. None of them could touch him. Logic didn’t work, reasoned arguments didn’t work, and when several of them finally decided to fight fire with name-calling and personal attacking fire, they just sunk to His Hairness’s level and he crushed them with experience. Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee. We are in completely uncharted waters now, folks, and — as the old maps used to say — here there be dragons.

What concerns me most is how we got here as a country. Where did things take such a sharp turn that a man who says the things Trump says not only wins his party’s nomination, he wins it in spite of the party elite’s best efforts to stop him. Make no mistake, Trump has the Republican establishment soiling their collective britches. How can someone, in this error of unprecedented political correctness, say the things Trump says without walking anything back and forge ahead?

I think that’s where the rub lies. Trump is the political correctness giant slayer. He does and says what so many people WISH they and their leaders could and would say. He wants a wall to keep out the filthy raping, murdering Mexican masses (nevermind most undocumented aliens are some flavor of Asian extraction). He says we should take out the families and friends of terrorists, no matter what the cost to the nation in terms of world opinion. He basically has said, in not so many words, F*** world opinion of us.

In doing all he’s done and saying all he’s said, a sobering fact has emerged about our country. Not only is the middle class as an economic entity dying, but the middle moderate political view is also dying as well. America is split cleanly down the middle and — here’s where it’s scary — each side HATES the other side.

If you want to see just how polarized America is, read the comments section of any news article. You won’t find a middle ground. Reasoned, civil public discourse in the marketplace of ideas has given way to two camps with torches and pitchforks staring across an impassable gulf of ideology. Looking back through the history of our country, I can’t find a single time when sheer unadulterated hatred for the other political side is as great since the days leading up to the War Between the States. Like it or not, Americans hate each other.

Into that kind of charged atmosphere comes Trump and Hillary. Never have two candidates been more polar opposites in their views. Pick a wedge issue, any wedge issue: abortion, gun control, immigration . . . it doesn’t matter because the two have no common ground. If one is “pro X” you can bet the farm the other is VIOLENTLY “anti X.” Hillary has shown increasing signs of anger in her camp while Trump has full-scale melees break out whenever he has a rally. Two angry people are leading two increasingly angry factions.https://grocerystorefeet.files.wordpress.com/2016/06/eeaf9-howardbeale.jpg

Where is it going to lead us as a country? Well, I think the average person today is pissed off. To borrow the line from Network, everyone is “Mad as Hell and not going to take it anymore.” So what’s going to happen is either way this thing goes in November, the half that loses is going to be boiling over with anger. What’s that going to cost the country? I know some friends in the tinfoil hat crowd who are certain a repeat of 9/11 is bound to happen not long after the inauguration in January 2017 because it’s going to take something that awful to bring some semblance of unity to the country again.

I don’t know. I do know I miss the country I was born in and I’m not sure exactly what happened to her. I’m also sure of one other thing; regardless of who wins in November — Hillary or Donald — we will have a well-qualified person at the helm to pilot this rapidly speeding up handbag.

Love y’all. Keep those feet clean.

Of Spring Lizards

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It has been brutally hot here the last couple of weeks and the heat wave has me thinking of my childhood in the country and how I spent the long summer days back then. First of all, it is a myth that it “wasn’t as hot back then.” Ninety-five degrees is ninety-five degrees no matter what. Also, it’s always been humid as heck around here so it was just as blazing hot; the main difference was we were younger and didn’t care as much — well, I did because I was relatively as fat then as now and summer is a skinny kid’s game — and we didn’t have the choice of staying in the house and playing video games mainly because most video games hadn’t been invented yet so we had to get outside and get used to it and as an old proverb states, you can get used to anything.

So come early morning, we were up and moving outside. Lots of days in the summer, I stayed with the Willis brothers: Scott, Jamie, and later on Timothy. They had a stream of running water behind their house snaking its way through the woods and it was a young boy’s dream place to play. It was barely ankle deep in most places, except where we managed to dam it up enough to reach the awesome depth of mid-shin. The plan was to create a bona fide swimming hole but our materials and equipment did not match our enthusiasm.

We called it a creek, but that was actually stretching it. It was a good solid stream and throughout our childhoods it never ran dry. We would go down to it in our summer gear of shorts, t-shirts, and canvas Nikes and look to see what we could find. One of our favorite pastimes was to hunt for spring lizards.

Spring lizards are not reptiles as “lizard” might suggest. Spring lizard is what we called them. I couldn’t begin to guess what a scientist might call them. They were about as long as our childish index fingers, slim, with four legs and a tail and they looked like tiny lizards. I realize now they were some kind of salamander or newt or something else amphibian that enjoyed the water.

Hunting them went as follows. One would stand still in the stream in order to let the water clear. Then Scott would bend down and cup his hands around a likely rock in the water and wait for me to slowly pick the rock up trying desperately not to muddy the water. Scott would then close up his hands into a cup and if we’d guessed right, he’d be cupping a bit of sand, a splash of water, and a spring lizard!

That was the point where we would put the spring lizard in a quart mason jar filled with a couple of rocks and spring water so we could keep count of how many we caught in the day. We always let the first one go however because we always forgot the quart mason jar. Always. In our excitement to get to the stream, we left the jar sitting on the counter every time.

What followed the inevitable recognition of having left the jar was a sibling display that made me quite happy I was still an only child in those days. Scott was older than me by eleven months. Jaime was a couple of years younger than us both. As the youngest, of course, it was his responsibility to remember the jar and since he was the one who forgot it, he was the one who had to go back and get it. Unhappily and never voluntarily. Scott, as older brothers will, always used a threat of violence to goad Jaime into making the trek back to the house and get the jar while we waited.

In our latter years of hunting, the baby Wills brother, Timothy would join us at the insistence of Mrs. Jane, the boys’ mother. He was several years younger than us and slowed us down but he would cry if he was left behind. I remember when he accompanied us the first time and we, per usual, forgot the jar. Jaime smiled an evil smile when Scott looked at him and Jaime turned to Tim and informed him that, as the baby, it was now HIS responsibility to go back to the house and get the jar. Poor Jamie. He’d waited all his life to no longer be on the bottom of the brotherly totem pole and now was his chance except Timothy did something Jaime never would have done.

He sat down in the middle of the stream and started bawling like a baby!

Scott and Jaime both looked at him. They looked at me but all I could do was shrug because I knew what they both knew. Timothy was Mrs. Jane’s baby boy with all the baggage AND all the protections that went along with it. All three of us knew if we made him — somehow — go back to the house and get the jar looking all bedraggled from sitting in the stream and with a tearstreaked face, our lives would be forfeit to the crown.

I knew I wouldn’t escape either because even though I was TECHNICALLY company and by convention should have been immune to the consequences of brotherly spats, the actual truth was I ate more meals at the Willis house in the summer and slept more nights there than I did at my own. I was family in all but the blood and in point of fact, we were all something like third cousins once removed, so I didn’t even have that thin veneer shielding me from Mrs. Jane’s wrath.

So we got Timothy back on his feet and got his crying stopped. I think an ice cream sandwich may or may not have been promised to dry the final few tears. Scott, me, and Jamie looked at each other and gave a final shrug. After all these years of having to make the trek Jaime wasn’t about to budge and Scott didn’t blame him. Fair was fair. Timothy had cheated using baby sibling perogatives. So that day we didn’t keep the spring lizards we caught and we never forgot the jar again. Jaime made sure of it.

I don’t remember the last time we went hunting spring lizards. I guess we were tweens and had our motorcycles then so we could go more places and do more things than being confined to a yard. One day we went down to the stream not realizing it was the last time we would ever do it. Funny how life is like that.

I still remember hunting spring lizards as one of the few things I truly enjoyed doing outside when I was a child. Maybe it was the surroundings, maybe it was the activity, or maybe it was the company. I guess it could have been all three.

Love y’all and keep those feet clean!

PS. You may have noticed my last couple of posts have been sans pictures. WordPress changed the editor and I can’t for the life of me figure out how to insert pictures anymore! If any one can tell me how to do it, I’d be forever grateful.

Messages from Quarantine

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Things haven’t changed much here in the last month. One thing though that I’ve started wanting badly is to go to a movie! I just want to go to see a movie. I want to sit in the icy dark of the theater with my $40 bucket of popcorn and my drink that could float an aircraft carrier and spend two hours of pure escapism.

Not bloody likely I’m afraid. Our governor opened bowling alleys a few weeks ago but no word on movie theaters. Truthfully, I can’t imagine them opening theaters any time soon. Skipping lanes can get pretty good distancing in a bowling alley, but a movie theater is nothing more than a petri dish no matter how they stagger the seats. I wonder sometimes if they’ll ever open again. It seems that bleak at times.

We have ventured out to eat at three of our favorite restaurants. Each time we went at an off hour so the place was least crowded. Everyone is being careful, but it just spooks me. I hate to admit it but I feel safer with takeout and drive-thrus. It’s the masks. I just have this phobia of people wearing masks. It just is creepy to me.

Now I don’t have anything against orders to wear masks or people wanting to wear masks. I’ve never seen so much vitriol over anything as I have over these masks. People are downright unreasonable both ways when it comes to wearing them. Like so much during this pandemic the issue ends up politicized and that’s a real shame. Things are crazy enough as it is.

Our biggest wonder here is what’s going to happen with schools opening in the fall. Budge can’t talk about it for very long without getting a panic attack. The uncertainty is palpable. At the moment, the district has six possible plans to use for restarting in the fall. They could decide to use one of those plans, a combination of plans, or some other totally different plan altogether. It just comes to no one knows. At this point, it’s almost a guarantee though that some form of distance elearning is going to figure into the fall.

So that’s what’s going down around here. Hope it’s safe where you are. Take care, love y’all, and keep those feet clean!

#TBT: Of Birds, Bees, and Frogs

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Amsterdam, Paris, Vegas . . . they got nothing on the Country Walk Lane Froggy Bordello.

I originally ran this article in April 2011, I think. Well, I’m back at the same spot now as I was then. Much as I hate it, a day of doom is coming for the frogs.

I am a pimp. Not in the “how I dress flamboyantly” sense of the word (but with all my purple, who knows?), but in the “male who handles prostitutes” term. I am running a brothel for frogs. My backyard and pool have become a red-light district for amphibians.

Even as I am typing this, outside my living room window, the sounds of illicit frog romance is filling the night. If I were to gently pad to the back door, ease out onto my deck, pick up my spotlight, then flip it on and point the beam at the pool’s surface, I would witness a veritable tsunami as forty or fifty froggy “johns” dive into the green water to escape the penetrating light of “the authorities.”

I did not intend to be the owner of such a den of amphibian iniquity and vice. Unfortunately, I failed to buy a cover for my above ground pool and its new liner at the end of the last swimming season. I wasn’t overly worried about debris because I don’t have many trees in the back and none of them overhang the pool. All winter, the pool weathered the weather like a champ. Once or twice I took some GI Joes I found in the front yard (courtesy of the hellions next door) and sent them ice skating on the coldest days. (Okay, I’m from a small town in the sticks, it doesn’t take much to entertain me)

Another satisfied customer waiting for the party to crank back up.

Then came the spring. As the weather warmed, the pool greened. Since my deck doesn’t circumnavigate the pool, I cannot clean it with the vacuum until the water warms enough to get in it. Unfortunately, it’s plenty warm enough for the diatoms, euglenas, and algaes long before I feel comfortable subjecting my mammalian nether regions to the water. As a result, I don’t have a pool so much as I have a wonderfully symmetrical pond — probably for the next month or so. Then the fun part starts.

Not only do I have to get the pool chemically balanced, vacuumed, and cleaned out, but I also have to find a way to clean up the Times Square of the anura order. Maybe I can get Rudy Gulliani to come down and “clean up” around here?

Anyway, if you know how to encourage these wonderfully cacaphonic bufoae and anurae to look for love in some other places, please let me know! Otherwise, I’m afraid that the chlorine from the pool cleaning in a few weeks is going to cause a massive infanticide among the nascent tadpole population. Ah, such is life. The parents do all the loose living and the children bear the brunt of the punishment.

Circle of life, indeed!

Love y’all and keep those feet clean!

Life in the Pandemic

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indexBudge and I were talking the other night about how most people who live through a historical event don’t necessarily realize it’s a historical event at the time. Now I remember 9-11-2001 and thinking, “This is history in the making. This will be in textbooks one day.” Since then, not too much I feel is earth shaking history has taken place.

Well, Covid-19 has changed all that. We’re entering our sixth week or so on shutdown here in sunny South Carolina and people are just about fed up with stay at home orders. Still, it’s going to be in a lot of history books one day: history textbooks, sociology textbooks, and probably economics textbooks. This thing, regardless of what side of the debate over precautions you may be on, has become a big deal.

What I mean by the debate is the massively polarizing debate around just what Covid-19 is and what we should have / should be doing about it. One the one had you have a group who sees this as nothing less than a hoax made up to serve as a way for the government to grab power from the people and usher us to a more 1984 type existence. They have a point.

On the other hand, you have the people who think Covid-19 is the second coming of the Black Death from the 1300s and it’s going to wipe out great swathes of the world’s population. They are the ones who will give you ugly looks beneath their masks and shame anyone who goes outside as being someone who “wants people to die.”

Then there are the conspiracy theorists who are having a grand old time with this pandemic. I’ve heard everything from it being a time released bioweapon designed by the Chinese to cripple the west to it being extraterrestrial in origin — the advance attack of a UFO fleet. The tinfoil hats have thought up plenty of ideas in between those extremes.

I’m somewhere in the middle. I know people who have or have had Covid-19. I realize it can kill people and I think it can kill people outside the “target vulnerable groups.” I also know if we don’t get the economy opened back up and going sooner rather than later, we’re going to have sections, maybe big sections, of that economy that never opens back up because they’ve gone out of business.

I don’t know what to think most of the time. Too many voices are out there clamoring for attention. Politicians say one thing, health care workers say something else, and general people say all kinds of things. So, who do you believe? I don’t think anyone has THE Answer yet. That won’t happen until a reliable vaccine comes along and THAT could be a long way off — a lot longer than I think most people think.

I also think this is going to be around a long time precisely because we DO have to get the economy going. It would be great to follow old Bill Gates’ desire to social distance and stay on lockdown for ten months. If we were all multi-billionaires like him we could easily do it too, but we aren’t. I think the virus is going to hang around because we’re going to come out of lockdown before it’s died down enough and start gathering in large groups again and cases are going to spike.

What are we going to do then? Go back into lockdown? Budge is a fourth grade teacher and this attempt at elearning is driving her nuts. It has shown the vast gap in the home lives of her children she teaches. Some have a parent at home who takes an interest in the work her child is supposed to do daily and others send Budge emails like she got today saying, “My life is too stressful right now please stop sending me messages about K’Shequa’s work because it is stressing me out too much.” K’Shequa hasn’t done an assignment in six weeks. It’s bad.

Day to day, I haven’t been affected all that much realistically. It’s not like I went a lot of places before the virus. Budge and I are staying up later and getting up later, but we still eat lunch when it’s lunchtime and we usually go out to get take away from one of the small local restaurants to try helping them with their bottom line. I can only imagine with horror though what would have happened if this had occurred twenty years ago. I think people would have melted down much worse by now.

As it is, we’re all still plugging along. I know two things: one, when this is over I’m going to camp out at my barbershop because my hair is way too long and two, I will probably have to be physically removed from Olive Garden by security or SWAT. I am stressed over not getting my allowance of chicken Alfredo and tiramisu.

So hang in there everyone. It’s got to end sometime. Love y’all and keep your feet clean.

#TBT: Great War Wednesday: 1918 Flu Pandemic

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Flu_viruaI published this a mere two years ago, BUT considering what’s going on, I thought it deserved a rerun sooner rather than later. Stay safe everyone.

The Great War provided a plethora of ways a man could meet his Maker; some were even quite novel. He could take a rifle bullet to the vitals from across No Man’s Land, or even be riddled with rifle bullets from one of the new machine guns as he charged across the broken way. He could disappear into a fine red mist if an artillery shell landed in the midst of him and his buddies. A sudden gas shell attack could dissolve his lungs in his chest. Given the right terrain and weather, he could drown in sticky, soupy mud. He could even fall out of the sky, burning like a candle, in one of the new airplanes if his enemy got behind him or the ground fire was accurate enough.

Novelty is fine and all, but for sheer staggering numbers of piled up corpses, it’s hard to beat the old black horse from St. John’s Book of Revelation — Pestilence. From the dawn of time until the Russo-Japanese War of 1905, disease killed more men in war than stones, swords, and shells. That was the first war where combat caused more casualties than disease, but in 1918, a plague fell over the entire world which would try to rethrone pestilence. The great killer was the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic.

First, though, we need to clear up a little nomenclature. This outbreak has come down through history bearing the name of the “Spanish Flu.” Because of the name, many people believe the flu originated in Spain. This is patently false. The disease picked up the name of Spanish Flu because of Spain’s neutral stance in World War One. In countries where men were off at war, military censors cut, redacted, or at least downplayed the outbreak. Because Spain was neutral, her press was free to report whatever about the flu. Since most of the early reports of the disease came from Spanish media sources, people assumed Spain was the epicenter of the flu when in fact, it was a matter of reporting. Spain suffered a proportionate number of flu deaths, but no more than any other nation.

In fact, the flu first appeared in the United States in early March 1918 at a military installation called Camp Funston in Fort Reilly, Kansas. Several men reported to sick call with normal flu-like symptoms. From these humble beginnings, the pandemic exploded, especially when American troops landed in Europe to fight in the Great War.

The disease traveled across oceans and through mountain passes. India was devastated as was China. Unlike many diseases, isolation and distance did not slow this strain. Millions of cases broke out across Australia, New Zealand, and even reached remote Pacific outposts like Fiji and the Christmas Islands. It truly was a global killer. Estimates of total number of individuals infected stand at fully one-third of the world population. This exceeded even the infamous Black Death in 15th Century Europe.

Death was widespread as well. The most conservative number is 20 million fatalities, while at the other end of the spectrum, people have put forth a chilling 100 million deaths. Exact counts are difficult because of the sheer scale of the outbreak, but if the upper number is close to the truth, the Spanish Flu of 1918-1919 killed more people than both world wars combined. What scientists are still trying to figure out and debating, however, is what exactly made the Spanish Flu H1N1 strain such a killer, and so much deadlier than other previous and subsequent flus.

We know the Spanish Flu was an avian flu of the H1N1 strain. If that sounds familiar it’s because a similar H1N1 strain known as “The Bird Flu” broke out in China several years ago and threatened to break out into a pandemic that fortunately was averted. It killed the typical targets flu usually takes, the very young and the elderly, but what made this flu unique is how hard it hit the 20 – 40 year-old demographic. These are usually healthy adults whose immune systems generally shake off the flu after a few sick days.

This flu wouldn’t shake, however. It attacked the lungs with a vengeance, causing air space to fill with fluid. Deprived of oxygen, many people died and those who did more often than not developed pneumonia as a secondary infection and without even penicillin or sulfa antibiotics, those with pneumonia perished more than recovered.

The pandemic reached its peak killing capacity around December 1918. Contributing to the deaths was the sheer number of cases. Even in the most developed countries and cities, healthcare systems were overwhelmed. Hospitals pulled in people beyond their capacity. The number of deaths swamped funeral homes. At the height of the outbreak, people lost the luxury of single family funerals. Instead, many of the dead were interred in mass graves even in America.

By the spring of 1919, the Spanish Flu seemed to have shot its shot. Total number of cases tapered off and the strain on healthcare eases enough to allow for better treatment and proper quarantines. The world wide killer had passed on.

Today, we are still under threats of an outbreak of a disease like Spanish Flu. Thankfully, modern antibiotics — though not the panacea they once were — and better overall hygiene help keep outbreaks manageable, but the same flu strain that killed so many people is still out there. The CDC and a few other labs around the world have samples of flu-infected tissues taken from bodies in colder regions. The Spanish Flu lives on in captivity, but could it ever break free and ravage the world again? Only time will tell.

Love y’all and keep your feet clean!

#TBT: World of Nursery Craft

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I originally wrote this about five or so years ago. The twins are grown and married with children of their own now, and we’ve moved to a new building, but I’m still rocking babies every Sunday from 11:00 to 12:25.

I am an exceedingly odd duck — and not for the reason most longtime readers of my work are thinking of right now.  I am a male nursery worker whose wife doesn’t work in the nursery with him.  To my knowledge, and the knowledge of everyone I’ve discussed this with, I am the only member of my kind.  I serve in the Snails class at our church.  This class is the pre-Sunday School of Sunday School and encompassed ages from “walking steadily without help” down to “mama finally has the courage to leave her bundle with a semi-stranger.”  I serve because I enjoy babies — spit up, dirty diapers, and all.  I should note, however, that my church has a policy forbidding males to change any baby’s diaper.

It’s one of those particular rules which runs its fingernails down the chalkboard of my anti-authoritarianism because I resent the implication implicit in the policy, but I make it a point of honor to tell my co-servers I am forbidden by statute, not a weak stomach, from changing diapers.  After all, I am a veteran of three Samples children from my former church nursery.  Those little tykes — who are now in high school grown and married and middle school in college– were fearsome in what they could pack in a Pamper. Their mom didn’t bring Wet Wipes, she packed Bounty paper towels and a shop-vac.  On more than one occasion, I have held a Samples child beneath a running faucet to expedite the removal of “material” from his back and it is not unknown for a nursery worker to resort to shampooing hair to complete a full diaper change. After Logan, Riley, and Emily, nothing in a Huggies can deter me. Stun me for a moment, maybe, but not deter.

But I digress.

This past Sunday morn, I was on the schedule to serve with the Salon twins.  They have never served with me before and when they arrived and I was already in the room, I got the usual “well, he’s going to be useless” look.  Most of the time, I take women by surprise because of having Shannon for a first name.  I love and miss Mama, but regardless of the fact she swore to her dying day it’s a unisex name, I never got to have a bicycle tag or a book bag tag because all the Shannon’s were pink and not blue. But I’m not bitter. Anyway, these two are in college and are six-year veterans of nursery work and babysitting and I could tell they figured on carrying me for the day. crying-baby-cartoon

Oh thee of little faith.

When the first song of the service started, we had three charges: Jackie, who is the chunkiest little boy you’d ever want to meet and adorable besides; Madeline, a darling little girl who isn’t long for Snails since she is up on two legs and motoring well; and Oakes, another little girl but she is a tee-tiny newborn and her mom was leaving her in the nursery for the first time. Three babies; three workers.  Easy-Peasey, right? No.

To understand what happened next, you have to understand a little about church.  Service starts at 9:15 AM.  That means the first song cranks up then.  Most people seem to live in some other time zone, though, because THEIR 9:15 is much closer to OUR 9:25 — 9:30.  It never amazes me how the same parents who can get multiple children out the door to school and day care so they can get to WORK on time have such an awful record of getting those same children to CHURCH on time.

Same goes for those scheduled to serve — a man or woman who may have a seven-year running record of perfect attendance at his or her employment doesn’t think twice about calling the staffing coach to say they “just can’t make it today.”  Now that it’s football season, it’ll get exponentially worse.  A guy can stay out until midnight on Monday or Thursday at the sports club watching football and still manage to get to work on time or even a little early, but for some reason he just can’t get up the day after tailgating and watching a NOON game at the ol’ alma mater forty-five minutes away.

Anyway, having three bambinos at 9:15 means nothing.

By 9:30, we had EIGHT.  Madeline was our best walker, Jackie our fastest crawler, and Oakes had another member of the “car carrier club” situated next to her in the teensy person of Lyndsey.  Our other four were Osteen, Mae, Benjie, and Sidney. Only Maddie was fully mobile so it looked like we were off to a good start . . . for five whole minutes.  Then, for some reason we never did determine, Mae decided to see if she could hit E flat over Middle C.  For those of you who’ve never worked with babies en masse, it’s the funniest thing — when ONE of them goes ballistic, they ALL go ballistic! By 9:45, we had an eight piece choir making a not-so-joyful noise.  The three of us looked at each other with a gaze that must have been reminiscent of the look the troopers of the 7th Calvary gave Custer when all those Sioux and Cheyenne rose up out of the grass at the Little Bighorn.

We petted and rocked and patted and replaced binkies which were promptly spit right back out.  I know a lot of you are wondering why we didn’t just cork the kids with a nice warm bottle? No such luck. The majority of women at our church are nursers and while I am capable and willing to do a lot of things traditionally considered “woman’s work,” breast-feeding is something God in His infinite wisdom thankfully did not equip me to do.  We were swimming upstream against an Amazonian current.  At one point, I had a baby on each thigh hugging and rocking them while simultaneously rocking Lyndsey’s car carrier with my foot.  The twins, veterans that they were, had two and sometimes three little ones, walking them around the room, trying to interest them in a ball or a rattle or something.  Then we had to make sure Jackie and Madeline — our two mobile mites — didn’t get into something dangerous. It was nothing short of pandemonium.

Just in time for Mom and Dad to pick up and take home.

Just in time for Mom and Dad to pick up and take home.

Now we have a system for paging parents to come get their children if we can’t get them settled, so why didn’t we?  Well, that’s the heart and soul of nursery work.  For a lot of these moms, this is baby number two or three . . . and sometimes four.  These are really busy women and even though they would be down at the nursery seconds after seeing their child’s number flash on the pager, all most of us who serve in the nursery realize this hour is the only time many of these moms have a chance to THINK.  We hold out as long as we possibly can, then hang on just a bit longer so the moms can have some time to themselves to worship and thank God for the precious little baby who is even now screaming his head off a mere twenty feet beneath her seat!

It’s not pride. It’s service and that why I do it and why most of the ladies I serve with do to.  As for this past Sunday, mercifully the whole group began to nod off into sound slumber — literally “sleeping like babies” — a whole five minutes before the first parent came down to pick up at the end of the service!  Nothing like having service end right at morning nap time! Oh, and the girls know I can hold my own in the nursery now!

Love y’all, keep those feet clean!