As a young boy growing up in a very difficult environment, I often wondered, "Who am I?" I had a stepfather who was ill equipped to fulfill the responsibilities as the head of the house and serve as male role model to those in his care. Alcoholism and other demons controlled his life, leaving little time to cultivate a relationship and invest in others, though I desperately longed for a dad to be my hero.
It's hard to believe that the first quarter of 2021 is already in the books, and it has been as unpredictable as last year. The stock market is acting like a child's yo-yo, experiencing all-time highs followed by record one-day lows. In late February, an unprecedented ice storm hit Texas, causing more than 4 million customers to lose electricity and more than 90 people to lose their lives.
Back when my daughter, Faith, was nine years old, she was a strong-willed child, but she was mostly compliant, which sometimes made it hard for me to say "no" to her. For some time, she begged my wife and me for a dog. "If only I had a puppy to love, play with, and care for…" became a common utterance. After much discussion, we surprised Faith with a miniature dachshund, Bella, that Christmas.
Many years ago, several friends described the beauty of Seattle, Washington, and encouraged me to visit. That February, I was invited to participate in a weeklong conference held in that area. I was excited to see the Space Needle, the incredible architectural buildings, and Mount St. Helens. As a kid, I remember when Mount St. Helens spewed ash all over the Pacific Northwest, clear into my home state of Montana.
My contractor friend and I recently traveled to my beach home in Florida to assess some of the damage from the 2020 storm season, which was brutal. There was a record-breaking 30 named storms and 13 hurricanes, and the state's Forgotten Coast was not immune to the effects. The house had a few leaks, a couple of wall cracks from being shaken, and a deck that required some cosmetic attention, but nothing beyond surface damage occurred.
It has been said that communication is the foundation of healthy relationships. If you love being a dad as much as I do, learning to communicate with your children is a work in progress. Just when you think you have arrived, you discover the destination has been moved. When your children are little, you learn that not every cry or whimper means the same thing. As they mature, it only becomes more complicated — or does it?
Life in 2020 dramatically changed the business landscape, especially for restaurant and dining establishments. When restrictions were originally implemented, those who were able to adapt found survival was within their grasp, but those unwilling or unable faced an uncertain future.
Each day, we are faced with making decisions and choices that impact our lives and the lives of those around us. Sometimes, these choices are mundane and innocuous, but other times, they are quite challenging and can easily be destructive. Often, the poor choices we make cause us to question our value to society or our ability to be a contributor, but God's word provides us with an abundance of examples of redemption from the worst of mistakes.
Have you ever had one of those weeks when you wonder what gives? Recently, I was traveling back from the Capitol after attending Gov. Kemp’s signing of a bill I wrote, and the weather was miserable. It was raining very hard, so I decided to pull into a Starbucks to offer my passengers a nice treat. Being a creature of habit, I ordered an extra hot venti caramel macchiato. Usually, I pour the coffee into my Yeti cup to keep it hot and to keep from spilling it, but it was not in my truck, so I just drank from the one that was provided.
As we traveled up the interstate, the lid came off my coffee, and the scorching liquid landed in my lap. One of my passengers pointed out that my pants were “smoking.” While I was certainly distracted, I knew it was important that I avoid an accident by maintaining my lane under these unpleasant conditions.
Back in 2017, a dear friend of mine and I pooled our resources to attend Super Bowl LI, featuring the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots. Once our early morning flight landed in Houston, we grabbed an Uber and rushed to the hotel. The day was chaotic and a little stressful, as we attempted to take in all the festivities of this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Once we were in our seats, reality set in about how rare this opportunity was. Let’s be honest; seeing the Falcons in the Super Bowl is unfamiliar territory, and we were pretty sure our wives were not going to sign off on another road trip like this one, so my friend and I absorbed the moment.
As you can imagine, the first half of the game was pure enjoyment, as we watched the dirty birds move the ball down the field and score three times, ending the first two quarters up 21-3. When the third quarter began, the Falcons got another touchdown, running the score up to 28-3. The excitement that Atlanta may, at last, bring home the trophy started to set in!
So far, this year has been a trying time for our nation. COVID-19 continues to illicit fear in many because of all the conflicting medical information. If you don’t like the opinion you just heard about whether masks help or not, just change your television to another channel for a different opinion. Can the coronavirus live two hours, two days, or two weeks on surfaces? Will there be another wave this fall, or have we been able to minimize its effects and contain it?
Also, in past months, many of us were horrified to see video of the brutal killing of two men – Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia, and George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota – and wondered how this could happen in 2020. Throughout the country, we watched peaceful protests get hijacked and quickly become harmful and destructive riots, which deviated from the original cause and led to more police clashes.
It is hard to believe we are nearly halfway through the year, and 2020 has already been quite the year. During recent time with my family, I asked if everyone felt like things had returned to normal, and to my surprise, I quickly received a unified response that “there is nothing normal about 2020!” OK then!
I decided to do a little social experiment by asking each family member what they learned during the monthlong shelter in place back in April.
Many of us start our days by exercising at home or by heading off to the gym. Of course, the number of “us” is very high in early January and gradually diminishes after a few months, but the intention is still the same. People either want to get in shape or stay in shape, so they can live a healthy life.
Nearly 2 million Georgians are 55+ and approaching retirement in the next 10 years. Most of them lack confidence that Social Security will be around, so they have been self-funding retirement accounts, investing in real estate, and saving cash.
The metro Atlanta area is notorious for heavy traffic. Cherokee County added over 8,000 new residents in 2019, and that trend is not expected to end in the near future, so traffic stresses are not likely to decrease any time soon.
Although there is talk that autonomous vehicles will one day dominate the highways, providing constant speeds, maintained lanes, and strategic spacing, that day may have been delayed with the recent Tesla crashes. In the meantime, most everyone can improve upon driving etiquette as well as follow traffic laws.
Losing a close friend or loved one is one of the most painful things many of us will have to go through. Those who believe in a higher power understand that we are not the giver of life, and our part in choosing the end is also limited. But that certainly doesn’t diminish the deep sadness we feel when we lose someone very special.
Sometimes, the loss comes after a family member has struggled with an illness for a long time. Brenda K., my childhood classmate, fought cancer like a champion boxer until it knocked her down for the final time at the young age of 13.
Each Sunday afternoon, my family meets in our living room to discuss what we learned from the sermon we heard earlier in the day. One Sunday, our pastor preached on the Ten Commandments and stealing. That afternoon, my family’s discussion got quite interesting. My 14-year-old said that stealing could include working too much and not allowing enough time for the family. He went on to say that stolen objects can be replaced, but time cannot.
When I was a young boy, I could not wait for the Christmas season to arrive. Since we didn’t have much, my excitement was not based upon what gift I might receive but rather on the incredible array of lights and holiday displays. Some houses would put up a simply decorated Christmas tree while others went all out with animated outdoor lights and manger scenes. In my opinion, there can never be too many lights. The more the house looked like the Griswolds’ house in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, the happier I was.When the Salvation Army representative began ringing the bell at Kmart and Christmas carols were being played on the radio, everyone’s mood seemed to improve, and complete strangers would even greet one another with “Merry Christmas.”
Have you ever glanced through the newspaper, only to find your eyes fixated on a picture in front of you? Your heart sinks. You can’t believe what you see. Your friend of many years has his mugshot right there in the newspaper. Two questions storm through your mind: “What in the world? How did this happen?”This recently happened to me. A friend of nearly 15 years made a terrible decision, and now his world is crumbling.
I once read a book that had the quote, “Integrity: Don’t leave home without it!” The author revealed that if you want to make a difference in the world, the single most important trait is not intelligence, passion, or even perseverance – it’s integrity.
If your home is anything like mine, most mornings are filled with the question, “Are you ready?” to which “one more minute” can be heard in reply. If you can avoid the crossfire, the entire scene can be rather predictable but amusing. Almost like clockwork, the front door will open at 6:45am, and I will hear the garage door go up. Next, the breezeway door will open, and my wife will repeat, “Come on son. We are going to be late.” This request eventually becomes a plea just before the authoritative, “Let’s go now!” arrives. It’s hard to convince my 14-year-old that if you desire to avoid this, simply get everything in order the night before. He isn’t disorganized, but he’s definitely stuck in first gear.A few years ago, when our daughter Faith was still in high school, the same conversation could be heard, except the cause of her delay was having to navigate the jungle in her bedroom to get to the hallway that led to the door. She could organize her room every day, but a tornado seemed to hit it every night around 9:00pm, and the aftermath created chaos each morning. “Mom, have you seen my shirt? Dad, is my laptop next to yours?” That chaos would escalate into another storm of a different proportion if not kept in check. Eventually, she would make it to the car and be on her way, amazingly never arriving late to school. Sometimes, I could hear a muffled, “I can’t wait until I’m an adult and don’t have to hear ‘Are you ready?’ anymore.”
My grandmother used to say, you can learn a lot about a person in an hour of unaware observation. Recently, my family took a seven-day cruise with friends, and since I equate lying next to the pool in the hot sun to being a slab of bacon cooking in a hot pan, I opted to use most of my spare time people watching.On the first day, we headed to the dining hall for the dinner buffet. It was easy to be overwhelmed by all the options, but some people must have believed food rationing was about to occur. On this particular evening, I noticed many had loaded their plates as high as possible while nudging each other in line to get more. Others strategically positioned themselves at the carving/seafood stations to sample as they meandered around.