Category Archives: Personal

A Season of New Beginnings

They say the first of the year is a time for new beginnings. Well, for me, that day seems to be today. There are so many new things happening, it is difficult to wrap my head around it, but it is a season of incredible opportunities.

I’m teaching, again

Daniel sitting with his cat, Donnie, on his chest.
This is my first day of class picture. I never thought I’d be teaching in a t-shirt, but that’s the joy of online learning. Also, my teaching assistant, Donnie, insisted on being in the shot.

First, I am officially an assistant professor again. I had taught for Georgia Military College for six years prior to having to step down in March of 2016. And while I still am not able to teach in person, today is the first day of my class for GMC Online. It is very different, but I am also very excited.

It’s quite a time to be teaching an intro to American government course. For the third time in history, the President is facing a Senate trial following an impeachment. The powder keg that is the middle east is a little more explosive than normal. Not to mention, the presidential election is heating with the primaries starting in the next few weeks. Not to mention since I’m in Georgia, it’s the second Monday in January.

Georgia General Assembly

Northern corner of the Georgia State Capitol with a statue of John Brown Gordon, a Civil War General, on horseback in the foreground.
The Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta. Statues on this side of the building include Gen. Gordon, seen on horseback, and President Jimmy Carter, near the building wall.

At 10 o’clock this morning, the Georgia General Assembly was gaveled into session. For the next 40 legislative days, they will decide the state’s budget and hundreds of other bills and resolutions. It’s organized chaos, and I miss it terribly. They have some big issues this year.

The anticipated revenue is down, so budget cuts will be necessary. Obviously, these are always unwelcome. Some state agencies have already instituted hiring freezes in preparation. One way they are looking at improving revenue is the expansion of gambling in the state. This will have strong opposition I’m sure, just as the state lottery did when it was authorized in the early 1990s.

Beyond the budget, the AJC also predicts there will be a push for a change in seat belt requirements (currently, they are not required for adults in the back seat). Healthcare and education are always huge issues. Governor Kemp’s campaign pledge to increase teacher pay will be at odds with up to a 6% cut in the rest of the budget. And of course, there will be plenty of partisan grandstanding.

It’s an election year, so both sides will be playing to their base. SB 281 was pre-filed for the session and bans semi-automatic weapons and magazines that hold more than ten rounds. Meanwhile, SB 224 removes places of worship from the prohibited places list for concealed carry. It also changes the language regarding carrying in courthouses and courtrooms. Likewise, there are bills to ban transgender youth from participating in sports as their presenting gender and that make it a felony for a physician to perform gender reassignment therapies or surgery. Yet, HB 426 is awaiting action in the Senate, which would include gender and sexual orientation as criteria for hate crime enhancements.

A new opportunity

Finally, and perhaps the biggest thing for me personally, is something that I have wanted to do for years, but always seemed a bit beyond reach. But I’m proud to say, it has finally happened. Over the weekend, I accepted a position as a board member for a new charter school. There will be more details forthcoming, but it is an amazing opportunity to be able to influence the education of multitudes of students in the coming years. Lifelong learning has always been important to me, but my work has always focused on college and adult learning. Now, I will be able to be involved with K-12 education as well.

Needless to say, the future is looking bright. I am still dealing with the effects of cancer, but this is a chance for me to be involved and make a hopefully huge impact on future generations.

So are we purple, or…

We’ve reached the end of election week, and basically everyone is disappointed. Republicans lost the house. Democrats failed to get the Senate. Here in Georgia, Republicans lost seats in both the State House and the State Senate, but maintained control. Meanwhile, there are two statewide seats going to a runoff and the not so simple matter of the governorship.

Yes, THAT race. The one where the Brian Kemp (R) has declared victory and that Stacy Abrams (D) is vowing to take to court to make sure every vote is counted. The one that is less than 13,000 votes from needing a runoff. That’s 0.33% of the vote total. It doesn’t get much closer than that. I’m having flashbacks to Bush v. Gore in 2000.

But the question remains, “Where do we go from here?” I had friends working on both sides. I have concurrently been mocked for being both conservative and liberal. In an era where people are more divided than ever, how do we function in a divided government?

To any elected official who may be reading this… Remember that you were elected to govern. Don’t let good ideas die because they came from the other side of the aisle. Represent your district, not your party. Work together on areas where there is common ground to get needed changes made. Immigration is more than just building a wall. Healthcare is more than the Affordable Care Act. We have rural areas of this state without basic infrastructure like high speed internet which is the key to education, technology, and being able to start a small business. Not to mention hospitals closing throughout the rural areas. I’m lucky to live near a hospital now. But people in the surrounding counties aren’t so lucky. Work to address these issues in a practical, achievable way.  And don’t forget about south Georgia, Florida, Puerto Rico, and everywhere else IN THIS COUNTRY that are struggling to rebuild after major natural disasters.

To my friends who were fired up and working for this election: do not despair if your candidate lost. To the victors, don’t gloat. Your victory means nothing if your candidate makes a fool of themselves in office, or if the government is in worse condition at the end of their term than when they took office. Be an activist. Lobby for your views. Make sure your elected officials (and their staff) know your name. You don’t have to agree with them, but you can still let them know your views in a rational and professional manner.

But even more importantly, do YOUR part to make your community a better place. Volunteer for different projects. Locally, I’ll be happy to put you in touch with different non-profits who would love some extra help. You drove people to the polls? How about driving cancer patients to treatment? Instead of asking people to vote, get a group together and clean up a park on weekend. Don’t leave it to the elected officials. Do your part to make your community better.

We have at least two years of divided government. During that time, let’s start identifying as Georgians and Americans again instead of Republicans and Democrats.

Photos from Jekyll Island

Here’s some photos from our recent visit to Jekyll Island.

I have seen the Promised Land

I've been to the mountaintop... and I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land.

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
April 3, 1968

It’s hard to explain. We call it a funk, or depression, or a million other things. And often times, we think we deserve it. We think it is a punishment. We are told it’s because our walk with God is weak, or because we are out from under authority.

Mental health is one of those things that’s not talked about, especially in the church community. But it is very real, and yes it affects Christians. If David, a man after God’s own heart, could write, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? O my God, I cry in the day time, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.” (Psalm 22:1-2), how are we to say that it is because we are out of fellowship? 

It is a serious thing. It is a dark and lonely thing. But while you pour yourself into the scriptures, fill your heart with songs and spiritual songs, and pray without ceasing, it is still okay to ask for help.

So here it is. I am on medications for depression and anxiety. I meet with a therapist on a regular basis. I have a wife who is understanding and supportive. And I have friends that encourage me. And I encourage them as well. You see, we all experience it. It is a part of life. It is not something we should be ashamed about.

I’ve not been suicidal, but I’ve been close before. Most people assume it started with the cancer, but it’s been around for years before that. It just took me until recent years to get to the place where I would ask for help. And I am so glad I did.

It gets better. It may get worse again after that, but the hope of it getting better is what can keep you going. I have seen the Promised Land. There are two of them: one that will last for eternity and one mortal one that can be life after cancer, depression, whatever you’re going through.  And I know that I will be there again one day. I decided long ago to keep pushing for the good days. There are good days and they are my (mortal) promised land. When the valley is deep and the shadows long, I remember the mountain and the beauty of the promised land. When I have an allergic reaction to the meds and my skin burns like fire, I think about the promised land. When I’m facing down a syringe that I know will cause my body to ache for days, I remember the mountain, and I think of the promised land.

We all work for something. A cure. Being able to go back to work. Being able to start a family. That vision is your promised land. Focus on your promised land. But like the civil rights movement from which I borrow the quote, you’re not going to get there overnight. It’s even more difficult alone. So if you need help, ask for it.

Talk to your doctor. Talk to your friends. Talk to your religious leader. Use the contact page and talk to me. As a friend posted earlier, “If you need help, look for it. It’s there. People want to help you, myself included. You ARE important. You DO matter. This time WILL pass. Depression isn’t a joke and shouldn’t be taken lightly.” You’re not alone. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about.

Waiting on the LORD

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

This was done for me by my good friend and multi-talented Claire Sanders Calligraphy.

Isaiah 40:31 has long been my favorite verse. From the eagle imagery to the promise we can run and not be weary and walk and not faint, has always spoken and ministered to me. But these promises come with a condition. I can’t go out, register for a marathon, and then claim that I will not grow weary and take off running. Continue reading

On history, memories, and things you’d rather forget

I’ve undertaken a project of late: digitizing and tagging my parents’ old photo albums. Part of it is quite the walk down memory lane. But with all the smiles, laughter, and fond recollections, some of them have a dark shadow too. We live in an era of omnipresent selfies, snapshots, and video streams. These images are curated and often manipulated into a false perception of reality for public consumption. The outtakes are deleted, leaving the illusion of perfection. But perfect was a bit more fleeting during the days of film. You had to wait and see what you had, and hope some of them were worth sharing. Continue reading

Traditions, tiny hamburgers, and a drive through the country

Many years ago, a Dublin Irish football player would leave practice to head downtown for some 10¢ hamburgers. I’ve never been told how many teammates accompanied him, but I can’t imagine there were many. There simply isn’t room in the establishment. These burgers, what we would today call sliders, were as small as the building that begat them. But these are not normal sliders, burgers, or even as some have called them  knock off Krystals. This delicacy of steamed beef and bread evolved from a snack for a hungry high schooler to become inextricably linked to what it means to be a part of my family. Continue reading

D-Day + Two Years

Diagnosis day, it’s here again. Some days reach the level you don’t even have to say what it is. Birthdays. Holidays. Anniversaries. But not all of those anniversaries are good things. Some of them are reminders of the world turning upside down. Realizing that nothing would ever be the same. A total change in your perspective, in your life. Continue reading

Thoughts on Charlottesville

It has taken me a while to write this. My heart hurts with what has happened, and it is difficult for me to find words. However, I know I cannot be silent.

I am a Christian. I am male. I am southern. I am descended from ancestors who were primarily Anglican and Celtic. I am proud to be each of these, and I should be. They are who I am. They are what made me.

But, I am also angry. No, I am outraged. How DARE these perversions of everything I hold dear openly proclaim the direct antithesis of these values while claiming to operate under their banner?

My faith tells me God created all things, and all of humankind is in his likeness. We are all descended from one man and one woman. Scripture never mentions race. It talks about tribes and nations, but those are political and cultural differences.

More than being a man, I strive to be a gentleman. This means I treat everyone with civility and respect regardless of background, social standing, and or potential benefit to me. Even more than that, I am a southern gentleman. I say y’all, sir, and ma’am. I can brew the best sweet tea you have ever tasted and put away fried chicken with the best of them.

As I research my ancestors, I find men who fought with honor. Unfortunately, through the lens of history we see that their causes all had blemishes. Slavery during the Civil War is at the forefront, but the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, treatment of the Native-Americans during the westward expansion, and the allowance of slavery in the first place are all dark blemishes on our collective past. But, as painful as reminders of these can be, it is important to keep them at the forefront of our memory.

The memory of this nation is short. We need the reminders. We need to be shocked. We need to experience the pain of what we have done. Only through that will be always be on our guard to never let it happen again.

We cannot rewrite history. We must celebrate the accomplishments of the past while recognizing the failures of the same men we herald. There is no historical figure who was perfect, and neither are we. It is up to us to do the very best we can to strive towards the ideal of liberty and equality espoused in our founding documents. We will never be perfect, but we can be better. We must be better. We will be better.

That being said, there is no place in the political conversation for those who wish to eliminate or segregate all those who disagree with them. The foundation of our political system is discourse, not violence. Until we return to civility with each other, the nature of our republic itself is in jeopardy.

Violence has no place in the discussion, from either side. If you feel the need to resort to violence, you should re-evaluate your argument. White supremacists who defend your arguments with scripture, try reading it for yourself for a change. Don’t call yourself Christian until you start behaving like a follower of Christ. Don’t claim your racism represents southern heritage until you embrace how many aspects of southern culture came from Africa.

We are one nation. This nation was built on the idea that ALL men (and women) are created equal. They share the same rights, responsibilities, and struggles. We are all in it together. Let’s act like it.