Monthly Archives: March 2009

My lousy neighbor

I’m all-fired mad at my neighbor. I don’t necessarily mean the one living immediately next door to me, but even the person across the street is considered my neighbor, right?

Neighbors are supposed to be those folks you depend on…like a second (or third) family. Often, our church family is our second family and then the neighbors are our third family. Granted, often first, second and third families intermix and mingle: families attend the same church and even live nearby—especially in the South—so that puts them in more than one family category…sometimes, though very rarely, in all three categories.

But neighbors are supposed to be the ones you call on to feed your dog when you go on an extended trip, or get your paper and mail (even though the post office will hold for you) so that it doesn’t pile up in the drive and mailbox. They’re the ones who, like recently happened to me, will let you come into their homes at 8 a.m. and call your wife at the office because she locked the door and you were outside working in the yard…and when you went to go back inside discovered that the door was locked and your keys were inside.

They’re the ones who, when a loved one has an emergency that requires an immediate departure, watch the young’uns and sees to it that they catch the school bus or otherwise get to school.

They’re the ones who, when your dog gets out, run all over the neighborhood with you trying to bring it back home.

They’re the ones who, when strangers come near your home, walk over and ask if they can be of any service and gladly take messages.

They’re the ones who bring you treats from their garden because they can’t eat it all. And when they discover that you’re fond of tomatoes, are sure to bring some each time.

But sometimes it’s not all peaches and cream like we expect. The most famous feuding neighbors would have to be the Hatfields and McCoys (I’ve known some from both of those families and can understand why they feud!). Of course, the Hatfields and McCoys fought mostly over land…which is what it seems can be a common problem.

That and noisy barking dogs who constantly bark all through the night next to your bedroom window and on the opposite side of your neighbor’s bedroom window so that they don’t hear it at all.

So now you’re asking…just what in the world has my neighbor done to make me so mad?

He cut his grass.

It’s only March…and he cut his grass.

Now, MY grass looks knee high…which means I’m going to have to cut mine now!



Filed under Columns

School shootings: let them fight

In the last dozen years, our nation has seen a spat of school shooting. While each one is a little different in nature, every parent cringes when they hear something about school shootings. We expect our schools to be a safe haven for our kids so that they can learn; after all, that’s why we send them to school.

Since 1996, there have been 34 school shootings in the United States alone. ( Bear in mind these are reported shootings only.

So, how safe are our schools?

The truth of the matter is that no matter what we do, if someone is determined, they’ll find a way to make it happen; Even if the school uses a concrete wall and barbed wire. One principal I talked to suggested that the consistent thing about the violence is that there has been an oddity, something out of routine before it all happened.

But I got to thinking…we never worried about that sort of stuff when I was a kid. Neither have I ever heard my parents or aunts and uncles ever talk about that. Neither, did we ever see anyone waving a gun around in school on Little House on the Prairie.

So what changed?

Thanks for asking–I’ll tell you what I think it is. We’ve pushed the issues of tolerance and bullying and many schools now expel kids for nearly looking at another one cross-eyed. I say, let them fight…but don’t send them home for the entire year for doing so!

When I was in school, if you fought, you went home for 3 days. A fistfight didn’t ruin your entire educational year, and it relieved a lot of stress. I recall, also, many times teachers and coaches would hold back…just for a minute or two, enough to let each of the combatants get in a lick or two. And then they’d break it up.

The combatants could blow off some steam. Maybe get a bloody nose and a black eye in the process and neither of them really get the “win.” Teachers, coaches, principals, administration and parents then all used the experience as an educational process—a teaching moment. They can’t take teaching moments if they are ducking and running for cover from bullets.

Where I went to school, you could probably have found several guns in the cars of the students on any given day. It was a rural school and many of the boys were avid hunters, shotguns on gunracks in the back of their trucks. No telling how many were there at the start of hunting season.

But we never worried about someone bringing a gun to school with the purpose of shooting someone.

Granted, I’m not a psychologist, nor do I play one on TV…but it seems like that could be a possible solution to SOME of the ills at school…yes?


Filed under Columns

Driving while under

I’ve only once been in a position that required me to do a lot of driving. That particular drive supplied me with a cellphone (the only time I’ve ever had one) and I spent a lot of time on it, mostly calling folks that I was going to visit. Yes, yes, in essence, I was the modern traveling salesman, traveling through Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas.

It didn’t last very long.

But not because of me. At least that’s what they said.

Early on in my driving, I loved to drive. BJ and I drove out to California together (she flew back to finish school) when I took the job with Malibu. Then when Marvel fired everyone, we drove back together, detouring through Utah, Montana, S. Dakota and other states we thought we might never get to again. Driving never really bothered me.

But in the last handful of years, long distance driving (oh, an hour or more!) generally makes me very sleepy. I don’t know whether it is age or whether it is different sleep patterns or whether it is 2 kids or whether it is whatever it is…but I get sleepy.

A recent bout with the driving while under the sleep influence made the think about it. I’ve tried many many different strategies to stay away: one, I got from Dad—buy a very large bag of the hardest Doritos they make and crunch them loudly one at a time very slowly. The crunching rattles the brain (and the jaw) and helps keep the driver—and everyone else…awake.

I’ve tried drinking mucho caffeine. This was back before the recent surrender of Coke products (we’re boycotting Pepsi—but that’s another blog for another day) and I’d buy the biggest one available at the Stop-N-Rob. The only thing that really succeeded in doing was making me have to go to the bathroom.

But then I used that as a strategy: have to go the bathroom so bad that I had to stay away or flood the car.

I’ve used the “dog-in-the-pickup-truck” strategy; y’know, roll down the window when it’s freezing cold and stick my face out into the cold air. The just succeeded in freezing my eyelids shut. I did the reverse, too, and ran the heater full blast. I think the heat just increased my sleepiness.

I’ve pinched and slapped my face before. But because I knew I was doing it to myself, I went easy on myself and didn’t hit or pinch hard…so it was as ineffective as the other ways.

One of the most effective ways I found—but was difficult to find—was listening to the radio…at extremely loud volumes. The hard part was finding something that could hold my attention. Like most people, I have the first 3-4 buttons programmed to the stations I often listen to…most of the time they play very upbeat music. Why is it, though, when I want something fast and loud and upbeat, they’re playing songs to put the baby to sleep? The best channels? Talk radio.

Yeah, sounds silly, doesn’t it? However, I find myself intently listening and either calling the speakers whackos, or Amening them over and over.

Whatever it is, driving while sleepy is probably nearly as bad as driving while talking on the cellphone.



Filed under Columns