Category Archives: Uncategorized

Last Stop Before the Razor!

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Danger Pessimist Ahead

I have had a variety of nicknames throughout my life. Obviously with a last name like “Wham,” every group I ever met, every class I ever taught, every chat room where I was stupid enough to use my real name, some joker would say “Wham? Wham! Bam! Thank you ma’am!” like I’d never heard that before. Then I had my other nicknames. Stay-Puft was a popular one after Ghostbusters came out at the movies. Before that, I was The Great White Marshmallow. Unfortunately, both of these monikers draw attention to my status as The Man The Sun Forgot as well as my rather large girth. It didn’t help that Mama had a propensity for dressing me in horizontal stripes in grade school so Michelin Man was another of my nome de plumes.

My most ironic nickname, however, is one that I’m not the least bit proud of — Last Stop Before the Razor. Here’s the story in brief. I am not an optimist. I really, really want to be an optimist, but it’s just not in my DNA. I am the scion of a lengthy lineage of pessimists. Not just pessimists, FATALISTIC pessimists. We never met a bad situation that we couldn’t make worse by pointing out the utter hopelessness of success, rescue, resolution, etc. Definitely not the lives of the parties.

Now, I got my unfortunate nickname from a colleague I was talking to about her love life. She was having man trouble and we’d spent a good deal of time and lunches hashing out this problem or that problem when I made the statement that branded me The Last Stop Before the Razor. I said, after listening to another twenty minute tale of woe, “Well, considering your luck with men in the past, maybe you just aren’t meant to have a husband or a long term boyfriend.” My buddy sat there stunned. Clueless as usual to my conversational gaffes, I just looked at her and said, “What?” That’s when she said, “If I ever want to kill myself, I’m coming to you first and laying out all my misery and sorrow so you can say ‘maybe it’s just meant to be’ and then I can go slit my wrists. You are the last stop before the razor.”

As the Lord Above is my witness, I really wasn’t trying to be mean. I was trying to help. I just looked at the situation in a full and honest light and gave what I thought was an accurate assessment of the situation. Later, I was relating the conversation to Budge and when I told her what I’d said she blurted out, “You said WHAT? Why didn’t you just tell the girl she was fat, old, and ugly and be done with it?” (for the record, the girl in question is not fat, old, or ugly. Budge has a tendency to hyperbole.” She reiterated what my buddy had already said, “Honey, remind me never to come to you for comfort when I’m depressed.”

I’ve tried to get better and more tactful, but I still have a bad habit of blurting out the unvarnished truth that, while truthful, isn’t always well received. So, Budge spends a lot of time prefacing her statements with “what he means is . . . ” while I remain The Last Stop Before the Razor.

Love y’all. Keep those feet clean.

Fight!

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Budge came home from work yesterday completely wiped out. She’s been doing PASS testing all week and that had taken its toll, but what really had her in high dudgeon was having to break up her first fight in her entire seven years of teaching. As she described it, I realized this wasn’t just an ordinary fight. One boy really meant to hurt the other one. She told how the one boy had knocked the other boy to the ground and then, instead of backing off, the aggressor had begun kicking the other child, resulting in some huge knots on the poor defender’s body. I told her, as a former boy, that wasn’t cool. I don’t know about everywhere else in the world, but when I was growing up, such a display wouldn’t have been tolerated. As tweens and adolescents, we had our own informal code duello that a boy ignored at his peril. Girls fighting girls had their own rules to which we males were not privy, but they seemed to involve copious hair pulling and disrobing.

Rule #1 was you always fought your own size. Now a brave and tenacious little chihuahua of a boy might take on a big ole’ country boy, but a larger boy would be ostracized for starting a fight with someone smaller. Same thing for girls. Generally, girls were NOT to be hit; however, where I come from and in a couple of the places I taught, some girls walked the halls with boys hurrying to get out of their way. The rule was the same. You could not, in good honor, strike a girl for any reason. You couldn’t even retaliate against a girl who struck you. BUT, all things have their limits and a girl who drew back for the fourth or fifth time was putting herself in a man’s place and thereby bringing herself under a man’s rules, so caveat emptor.  Now, if the boy was the significant other of the girl doing the assaulting and she was doing said assaulting because of information she’d found out about said boy’s activity the previous night . . . well, he was honor bound to stand there, protect his face (and nether regions), and take it like a man. He earned it.

The second inviolate rule of our fights was if someone was knocked down, the combatant standing was obliged to either stand back and let the fallen regain his feet or to go to the ground with him. Under no circumstances was it kosher to kick a person who was down while you were standing. See, when you are punching someone or wrestling with someone, you get hurt too. You feel the pain and that encourages you to moderate your blows so no one is permanently injured. When you kick someone though, especially if you’re wearing shoes or, gods forbid, boots, you don’t feel a thing and one wrong kick to the head or kidney can result in more than just a lecture from Mom or the principal.

Finally, the fight continued until honor was satisfied. I’ve seen boys knocked cold by a roundhouse right, I’ve seen boys choked out by a rear naked choke on the ground, and I’ve seen — more than once — two boys just stop and walk away or shake hands and pat each other on the back. Fights were for pecking order, attracting the attentions of a girl, and settling disputes or matters of honor. We were not out to really hurt each other. When one person stopped resisting, the fight was over.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I saw more than one fight that was a blood rage because of the taking of a girlfriend or some unbearable insult to family. Those fights were much more brutal and it was highly unlikely the combatants were going to be friends ever again, if they ever were. Still, despite what the pugilists might scream at each other before battle was joined, I only saw a bare handful of times when one boy truly saw red to the point that he meant to cause serious, irreparable damage to the other boy and on those rare occasions, it was up to those of us watching to keep one from the hospital (or worse) and the other from prison. Those fights were thankfully few and very far between.

Today though, the rules are out the window. We would never have considered using a knife in a fight, much less a gun. A boy who pulled a weapon would immediately be branded a coward and a pariah. After all, no shame was meted out for losing a fair fight. Students today, however, fueled by the violence of the culture surrounding us all have developed precious little respect for the sanctity of life. I have looked into the eyes of two, and only two, students I parted during a fight and knew in an instant that if they had the means at hand, they would kill me right then and there without hesitation or remorse.

Of course, we fought for different reasons and it was seldom deeply personal. The papers today are full of reports of students killing each other over the smallest affronts, real or imagined. Also, boys today fight for territory, for drugs, and for sheer rage and rebellion. Today, many fights that break out in the halls or on the playground could very well be “for keeps.”

That is sad to me. I suppose it is a sign of the times as the “old folks” say. Still it hurts my heart to look at young boys so willing to deal out death or dismemberment — often for little reason if any at all.

Take care, everyone. Stay out of harm’s way. Keep your left up, lead with your jab, and wash your feet!

Love y’all 🙂

Take Me Out To The Ball Game!

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I GOT IT!!!

Budge likes to support her children when she knows they play a sport so tonight we trekked out to Heritage Park to see one of her fourth graders pitch. Now, Heritage Park is a beautiful facility with six regulation fields that have excellent seating, backstops, and dugouts. The infields are manicured and the outfields are free of yellow dandelion heads. These facilities are parsecs away from the diamonds of my youth.

The players haven’t changed quite as much though.

First of all, the group we were watching was the first year kid pitcher threw the ball at kid batter instead of some tee or coach providing the target. That in and of itself is one scary proposition. I mean, they’re fourth graders. Ask any of them and they’ll all assure you they can be the next Nolan Ryan or Greg Maddux. Well, they can’t. If a coach can find a kid who can throw the ball across the plate about belt high roughly four out of five times, he has an ace. If the kid happens to be left handed, he’s got a shot at the championship! Of course, it’s always funny to see a team facing their first lefty. Once when I was watching a similar age group much earlier in the season, the first batter to face the fielding team’s left-hander shouted to his coach, “Hey, Coach! What do I do? He’s standing on the wrong side of the pitcher’s mound!!”

Just as an aside, if Budge and I are ever blessed with a son (doubtful at this point, but hope does spring eternal), I have already decided that I’m going to duct tape a baseball into his LEFT hand and superglue a glove onto his right hand as soon as he can toddle then pray that he takes after his maternal grandfather and makes 6′ 2″ tall. That’s pretty much my retirement plan because if you know anything about baseball, you know the Majors are woefully short on southpaw pitchers.

Watching the boys play tonight reminded me of the two fitful seasons I attempted to be a baseball player. It was not a pleasant recollection. First of all, I was short, but I made up for it by being fat. Plus, I ran slower than a three legged turtle crossing a glacier in January. Finally, I had the hand-eye coordination of a blind rhesus monkey with cerebral palsy. In short, I was the model tee-ball right fielder. For those of you who don’t know, no one in tee-ball hits to right field. You have to be left handed and get the ball past the first baseman. Both are rarities in tee-ball leagues. Right field is pretty much the Vice-Presidency of a tee-ball team. If a little league coach is faced with where to play a complete non-athlete, right field is first choice every time.

It was so bad, I was known to not come in for our side’s at bats. I’d often just stay out in right field with the opposing team’s short, dumpy, clumsy clone of me. Made a lot of friends that way. Picked a lot of dandelions too. Once, while I was in the midst of a daydream, I even got hit in the head with a fly ball. I was so excited to actually be so close to an actual ball that I picked it up and chucked it into the infield. That’s when I found out it was foul ball from the adjacent field.

I hung up my glove and cleats after tee-ball though. I wasn’t nearly brave enough to stand at the plate with nothing between me and that hurtling ball but my skill with a bat. I was a coward, but I was an unbruised coward.

Tonight’s game, however, was a bloodless affair. Only one batsman was hit by a pitch. Both pitchers were fairly capable and overall, it was a fun event to watch. Of course, one of the most precious moments was watching both right fielders. Both were paragons of intensity, coiled steel waiting to unleash their skills on the first ball to come their way. I couldn’t help but smile and think, “It’s okay, kid. I saw a lefty or two in the batting order. Just be patient.”

Love y’all. Keep those feet clean!

Serious Question on Education

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The news is rife with tales of funding woes all over the state of South Carolina. My wife’s district is the largest in the state. Two years ago, they hired around 550 teachers. Last year, the number was down to 220. This year, with all the cuts projected and the increases in class sizes, speculation is NO teachers will be hired. Folks will just get moved around until things work as best they can.

One neighboring district is reducing the teacher force by 115 positions. Another district, and a small one at that, is cutting 65 jobs. My former district told every first and second year teacher and every retired teacher back in March that none of them would get a contract for the upcoming year and at least ten or twenty of the remaining handful of positions are being eliminated.

It is so bad that even here in the depths of the football crazy South, talk has turned to eliminating sports and other extracurricular activities in a last ditch attempt to make ends meet. Folks, when the wild eyed Southern boys start talking about doing away with football, you can say that the Apocalypse surely draweth nigh.

Every edition of the local paper speaks to teacher layoffs and teacher pay cuts and the increasingly dire situation of the classrooms. Of course, the comments and letters sections are also full of people saying their taxes are too high and teachers need to quit crying and be thankful they have a job at all.

To top matters off, all projections for the state revenue stream point to matters getting WORSE next year. A colleague of mine from my former district has been in every position from classroom teacher to district superintendent since he entered education in 1962. He is now the CFO for the district more or less part time. According to his long memory, this current “slump” is the worst he has EVER seen. If funding levels were restored tonight, he thinks it would take at least four to five years for the damage to BEGIN to be undone.

So that’s the preamble. Here’s the question: What is the worst case scenario in education?

I mean, what happens once there is no money in any pots to pay for anything including teacher salary, light bills, paper, etc? It looks to be headed that way in this state right now at a rapid pace. Does anyone out there know of what happens when a state’s educational funding goes belly up? Do schools shut down? CAN schools shut down?

If anyone out there has any knowledge of what can or maybe has happened in the past, please leave a comment and please pass this on the educational grapevine. Are other states anywhere near this bad of shape? I know Kansas City (one of them anyway) shut half the schools down and consolidated students. Is anything else like that going on under the national radar? I don’t think the nation has any idea just how bad the situation is South Carolina. I’m trying to get the word out to see if there is any hope.

If you know anything . . . please tell me so I can pass the word along. I’ve got a LOT of scared people around me.

Love y’all.

No Theme is Developing, I Promise

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The last safe ride out of what was left of Saigon leaves from the roof of the American Embassy on April 30, 1975.

Thirty five years ago today the United States of America abandoned its embassy in Saigon as the North Vietnamese — soon to be just “Vietnamese” — Army tanks crashed the gates. The vast majority of US personnel had left much earlier, but hundreds of residents of the area formally known as South Vietnam were still trying to get rides on helicopters out to American carriers in the South China Sea.  They had backed the wrong horse after all and it was time to get out of Dodge or there would be Hell to pay. As you can see from the picture, all those people on that roof are not going to fit on that UH-1 so I can only imagine the amount of Hell paying in store for those left behind.

10,000 days; 153,452 wounded, 1,740 missing; and — most damning of all — 58,236 dead Americans later we were leaving Vietnam in a whole lot worse shape than how we found it.

Now Wham blood has been spilled in every American conflict from the Revolutionary War through the present “War on Terror” in all its forms. I say that so that the four or five of you who read this will understand how I feel about America’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines. If you disrespect a soldier in uniform in front of me, one of us is going to tote a butt-whipping. It may very well be me, but you’ll know I was there. I am passionate about the men and women who serve my country. Every drop of their blood is immeasurably precious to me and so I take exception to those who send our men and women off to where that blood may be spilled to no mighty purpose. Vietnam was one of those places and I believe a special circle of Hell awaits men like JFK, LBJ, and Robert McNamara because they spent the blood of our nation’s pride and I challenge anyone to point out ONE positive thing the United States of America received in return.

You may wonder why I am so hung up on Vietnam so I’ll give you the simple answer. The Vietnam War robbed me of any chance I may have had at a good, meaningful relationship with my Daddy. The chubby, blonde 17 year old boy who married Mama before leaving for Southeast Asia never returned. In his place was a stranger plagued by nightmares and flashbacks of day after day of Hell on Earth. In the boy’s place was a man who no longer loved my mother because he no longer loved himself. The boy, who had hardly ever taken an aspirin for a headache, was now a man who, thirty years later, depends on a windowsill full of pill bottles to get him through each day in some semblance of normalcy.

And so help me God above I am proud to be his son. Our relationship may stay in the toilet. We may go months without speaking and he may possess the ability to make me so angry I cannot see straight, but in the midst of it all burns a pride no one can really understand but me because you see, my Daddy went and fought. My friends’ fathers got deferments or used connections to join the National Guard and stay safe from the war . . . like a former President I could name. Not my Daddy. It wasn’t Omaha Beach where Papa waded ashore to free the world from Hitler, but it didn’t matter. He didn’t ask if it was a just war or a stupid war, he just went and did his duty. Whether we can ever talk rationally to each other or not, the fact remains that I AM PROUD OF MY FATHER for going off to war when he could have gotten out of it. My daddy can be difficult for me to like sometimes, but he has always been easy for me to love.

Thirty-five years have come and gone since Vietnam ended, taking a great deal of American pride with it. I wonder if some far future historian might not someday look back at 1965 as the high water mark of the United States, the point at which we began a decline to a country that can send fighting men off where they have no reason to be, but can’t afford to educate and feed its children. I don’t know. I just know that we are in a war now that threatens to rob more boys and girls of their fathers, either by the grave or by the memories.

I don’t have the answer. Love and clean feet can’t solve everything.

ANZAC Day 2010

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Please, if you are a regular reader, pass this post on if you’ve never passed any of my other writings along. It’s about a subject that means a great deal to me — war and young men dying.

This post is a little late, mainly because it’s taken me this long to gather the strength to write it. Sunday past was ANZAC Day in Australia and New Zealand. If you want to know more particulars about this most sacred of Down Under holidays, I invite you to check out what the ubiquitous Wikipedia article has to say . . . if you are hypocritical enough to use a source most of you school librarians out there won’t let your students use.

The short summary is ANZAC Day is analogous to Memorial Day here in the United States. Like its American counterpart, ANZAC Day is a day of remembering far too many brave men and, nowadays, women, who went off to wars they didn’t want for governments they may or may not have supported to die far from home in a foreign land at the hands of people with whom they had no quarrel. If you can’t tell, I don’t like war. A war cost me a relationship with my father. I realize that war is sometimes necessary, but this world hasn’t seen a Hitler in 60 years and yet we still find a reason to pull out our deadly toys and kill each other.

This ANZAC Day was unique. It marked the first time since the inception of the holiday that no veteran of WWI, the “Diggers” as the Aussies called them, was alive to mark the occasion. In the whole world, less than five men, all centenarians, still live for whom the barbed wire and the blood and mud and mire of the trenches is not second hand information, but real, in color memory. When those precious few are gone, the world will have lost the first hand accounts of the Great War that was to end all wars, the war that — more than any before or since — changed the world as we would come to know it, and that all for the worse.

The last Aussie Digger has passed on as has the last British Tommie and the final German Hun. America still has a doughboy tucked away in the hills of West Virginia and our Canadian allies still have one or possibly two souls who were in a trench the day the guns fell silent on the Western Front. Soon, as always happens once living memory is dead, the forgetting will begin in earnest. I hate to see that happen because when it does, we will forget why The Band Played Waltzing Matilda and the dying and killing will go on and the reasons will get no better.

Love y’all. Pray for our boys and girls fighting and dying please . . . for me.

Clarification of Terms

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Um, yes, you DID leave me.

Sometimes I hear people using terms and phrases and, as Inigo Montoya puts it so aptly in The Princess Bride, “you keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Today’s post is an effort to clarify one such phrase. The phrase that needs clarification is “I left your mother (or your father), but I didn’t leave you.” Now, I’ve heard this little chestnut all my life and it’s always used for one parent to justify the crushed soul of his or her child following a divorce. Please allow me to clarify this term.

“I didn’t leave you” is a baldfaced lie. It’s quite simple and children understand even when adults do not. As a child, if I am sleeping in MY bed and Mommy (or Daddy) is sleeping in her bed and you are sleeping in some other person’s bed then, by definition, you have left me. If two people are in the same location and you walk, drive, fly, or camelback ride away from that location, you leave them both. You cannot leave one without the other.

Now, I realize that you might be feeling guilty and have some inner need to assuage the guilt you have accumulated by ignoring your marriage vows or, in the case of the new unmarried “modern arrangements”, ignoring your parental responsibility, but please don’t confuse a five year old by saying, “I’m not leaving you, I’m leaving X.”

Children aren’t stupid. If you aren’t here and they are, YOU LEFT THEM, and they are very unlikely to ever forget it and it is going to color their experiences throughout life, especially their relationships with the opposite sex, FOREVER. Now, if you can live with that, fine. If not, find some other way to explain away your extramarital dalliance to your children.

Sorry to be so harsh, beloved. Must be the pollen. Yes, that’s it . . . pollen.

So wash those green toes and remember who loves y’all.

It’s (sniff) Springtime (sniff) O Joy! (snniiifff)

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Ah Daffodils, the surest sign of spring.

It’s (sniff) springtime (sniff) and so (sniff) time to (sniff) begin my (sniff) love / hate (honk, blow, hack) relationship (sniff) with that (sniff) lovely stuff (sniff, honk) POLLEN (wipe, sniff)!!

All kidding aside, I do love springtime. Daffodils are one of my favorite flowers of all and a square foot of the delicious yellow blossoms still bloom every spring about this time next to the stone steps at Papa and Granny’s (now Aunt Cathy’s) just where Papa and I planted them some thirty years ago. The sky is blue as the bluest eye and the Final Four have been announced. It is spring!

Of course, that means it is hay fever season for me. I do not have allergies. That would be too easy. No, I have demon possessed nasal passages that twinge with the slightest micron of plant matter on the air. To put it simply, if it is green or has a bloom, I’m probably allergic to it. Violently, sickeningly, head-splittingly allergic to it.

From now until the first cold snap in October, my days will consist of bleary eyes and a runny nose. If you want some sound financial advice, invest in facial tissue. I predict a spike in the price of the good stuff as soon as I can get to the store. Budge mowed the yard tonight for the first time this year and I was picking up fallen limbs and other vegetable detritus of winter. We were outside probably ninety minutes at the absolute most. That was about three hours ago and one shower, two Claritin, and four Sudafed (the REAL meth-making stuff; not that knock of crap) later and I can finally sit still long enough to type a blog post. Of course, I have hypertension and Sudafed and Claritin do wonders for raising blood pressure so I’ll have a nice little raging headache for the next few weeks until my body adjusts its chemical soup for the change in seasons.

Of course, I am wildly overjoyed at the wonderful array of pharmaceuticals available to me and my fellow sufferers today. As a child, I had no such balm in my particular Gilead. Nothing then existed to blunt the misery of the spring, summer, and fall allergy season. The only medicine of any effectiveness was Benadryl. Now that is some wonderful stuff, but I had a choice — take Benadryl and spend summer in a coma, or take nothing and let my eyes swell shut and my nose become so raw it would literally ulcerate in some places. I tried to play outside with the other kids, but to be totally honest, I don’t do misery well, so I spent a lot of time indoors or in a Benadryl haze.

My horrible allergies deserve the most credit for all my academic achievements and the most blame for all my athletic failures. I’ve always been told I had a football player’s build, but it’s hard to block someone when your eyes are running rivers and you have to sneeze every fifteen seconds. (Just as an aside, you ever sneeze in a football helmet, you won’t forget it) On the contrary, I’m strangely not allergic to dust (mold is another story) so the dusty stacks of the local library branch were a respite from the yellow swirling air outside. The library was air conditioned as well, which was a nice bonus for a fat kid like me.

So, thanks to hay fever, I graduated second in my class in high school having never been able to play a game of football or baseball in my life. I love baseball. ***sigh***

Well, I’ve got to go blow my nose . . . again. So, y’all keep those feet clean and those pollen masks on and remember I love y’all and we’ll talk at you later.

Lick a Rock, Scare a Dragon

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Two things by way of explanation and the title will make a lot more sense. First, I like rocks. Specifically, I like pretty rocks, preferably carved and polished into smooth spheres. I have several on my fantasy shelf of my bookcase in my home office. They once adorned the bookcase and desk in my library office back when I had a job, but I digress. So, I like pretty, smooth, spherical rocks.

Second, I am a Christian by faith. It’s the way I was raised and I’ve had no great epiphanies that have lead me to change. Now, I am not nearly as rabid a Christian as I once was since I have drifted (or more precisely, sailed at full steam) away from my very Fundamentalist childhood. The church I attend now would not be considered liberal by any means, but it’s definitely Christian. Now, if you happen to be one of those odious individuals who feel the need to send a scathing comment blasting me for believing in a bunch of fairy tales written in a highly doubted book, let me just save you some time and say I won’t publish your comment and as soon as I realize you are a troll, into the gmail trash folder you go. You get to sleep or not however you want to and I’ll continue to hug Pascal’s Wager closely to my heart. In the end, we’ll all find out one way or another . . . or we won’t. So just go and pee on someone else’s cocoa puffs.

Having said I am a Christian, please don’t assume I have an instinctive dislike for other religions. I make every attempt possible to respect the faith of people I meet. I realize that they were most likely raised in their faith just like I was in mine; therefore, attacking a person’s faith can be construed as attacking family. I have been friends with Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, several stripes of pagans, three or four branches of Wiccans, and a handful of atheists just to name a few. Of course we don’t discuss religion much, but we still get along fairly well. It’s a little like being a Red Sox fan who is friends with a Yankee fan. You have every reason to believe your friend is daft, but you like having him as a friend and it’s worth just not discussing baseball to keep him around. So, I told you all that to tell you this: I generally don’t belittle or make fun of other people’s religions. I did say generally because I have my limits and I ran smack into one of those limits tonight on eBay.

Okay, so remember way up at  the top where I said I like pretty, round rocks? Turns out eBay has a whole sub-category devoted to pretty rocks and if you search correctly — as I learned to do in my MLIS program — you may find many round rocks among the pretty ones. Some of these are beautiful, but wildly expensive. Just for example, if anyone wants to buy me a medium sized malachite sphere or a similar sized lapis lazuli egg, I won’t turn the $300 gift down and I’ll even dance at your wedding.

I was cruising through the listings tonight and marveling at the usual suspects like reptilian jasper and a beautiful hematite – pyrite mix when I saw a pink agate. Now pink agate is not unusual, though I suspect some unscrupulous dealers are selling nothing more than marbles. No, what gave me pause was the description. “Protects from dragons.”

DRAGONS. Fire, lightning, acid, cone-of-cold, cloud-of-panic  breathing giant lizards.

I put the car in park on that one. Upon further examination the description said that this particular type of pink agate, when used in the practice of some obscure Wicca spellcraft, will banish any dragons from your vicinity. It also promotes healing and mental well being. All that for only $9.99 plus shipping and handling. I fully expected it to have “but wait, there’s more” at the bottom followed by slices, dices, and juliennes fries.”

I have a good buddy who is a Wiccan priestess and in all our conversations on lots and lots of stuff, I have never heard her mention the word “dragon” one time, much less try to convince me that a pink marble on a stand would protect me from one. I’m sorry, but if your “religion” involves banishing giant fire, lightning, acid, cone-of-cold, cloud-of-panic  breathing lizards by throwing pink marbles at them, I am going to make fun of you. I can believe a lot of things. I fully agree with Hamlet when he says, “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio.” Unfortunately, my willing suspense of disbelief stops with throwing pink marbles at dragons. I love everybody and I really don’t want to have offended anyone . . . but if a giant fire, lightning, acid, cone-of-cold, cloud-of-panic  breathing lizard shows up in my yard, I can guarantee you two things: I’ll need to change my shorts and I’m not going to stand there and throw a pink marble at it. A +5 arrow of dragon slaying, maybe, but not a pink marble.

If you know more about fighting dragons with pink marbles, I’d love to hear from you, but until then, know that I love y’all and keep your feet clean!

My Cognitive Dissonance

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My step-nephew had his birthday party yesterday. It was pretty much an awesome event with 25 friends from his private school, soccer, and tennis clubs in attendance at a very nice sports training facility. I watched from the sidelines as members of my wife’s family — my inlaws — interacted.

Budge’s father met his second wife in the waiting room of the ICU where her husband lay dying of the same pancreatitis that was taking the life of Budge’s mother. After both spouses passed within days of each other, Dad and Sandy began dating. They married the November after Budge and I married in August.

Dad married up.

Budge’s stepsister, who loves Budge very much, married up even further. My step-brother-in-law, who I adore, is the son of the man who started the first real telecommunications firm in this neck of the woods. Chuck’s dad then sold that company for several (many several) millions of dollars. Budge’s blood related older brother spent 20 years in the US Navy and made some very wise investments during that time. Since his retirement from the Navy, he’s gotten a job doing what he did in the Navy, but now as a civilian contractor for the same US government that famously paid $10K for a hammer. That’s in addition to his service retirement check and his service related disability check.

Let me sum up. My inlaws are freaking loaded down with dough. Chuck’s father’s sole concession to the recession was selling the family’s private Leer jet. Times are hard when you have to sell the plane.

Now, I want all two of my readers to understand something. I love these people. I would fight to my last breath and give the last drop of blood in my body to each of them is they needed it. They are to a person kind, sweet, and loving people. My two step-nephews are two of the finest children you will ever meet.

BUT, and you know there would be a but, my life experiences and education have not prepared me to interact on equal footing with these people. I grew up in a 15′ x 50′ single wide trailer with faulty wiring and no heat. My childhood home, my present home, my elementary school, AND the church I attended as a child could fit in my brother and sister-in-law’s house . . . with room to spare. They drive a new Land Rover. Chuck’s dad owns a TOWN in coastal Alabama. A TOWN.

No matter how much I care about them, I have no frame of reference for dealing with these people.

Just a for instance, yesterday after the extravagant-by-my-standards-but-par-for-the-course-by-their-standards birthday party, “the family” decided to go eat at one of the most expensive restaurants in town. Budge and I were therefore more or less obligated to attend. This is a swanky place where Chuck and Melissa eat on a regular basis. Have I mentioned that I don’t have a job at the moment?

Anyway, by eating salad and the free bread and ordering the cheapest items on the menu, Budge and I managed to get out of there without washing dishes. The rest of the family was ordering bottles of ten year old wines. I saw two of their bills. It was more than I spend in a month on groceries. A MONTH.

I love my wife’s family, but I don’t understand them. To make matters worse, they don’t understand me either. It’s never been said or overtly implied, but I get the strong impression that Budge marrying a schoolteacher at 18 wasn’t part of the plan Dad and Sandy had for her life. She was supposed to go to a “good” college, get into a fun sorority, have a wonderful college experience, then get her Mrs. degree. Instead, she fell in love with me and we got married.

So, for 14 years I’ve tried to understand people who have never had to worry about lights being turned off, who’ve never had to price shop, and who will never know what an empty fridge looks like once its out of the showroom. For the most part, we do just fine. We look at each other and scratch our heads a lot, but I don’t feel hated or anything.

Simply put, I just don’t understand them and they just don’t understand me.