Tag Archives: Family

You Know You are Old When . . . .

I had given little thought to growing old until recently at a kid’s sporting event my grown daughter turned to give me a helping hand down the bleachers.  In that moment, she unintentionally shattered any delusions of immortality I might have held.  Like everyone, I have little aches and pains from time to time, but other than needing a full-length mirror to see my toes and getting winded if I walk further than my recliner to the kitchen table, I felt reasonably fit and young for my age.   That is – until my goody-good daughter interfered with my fantasy world.  In a reversal of roles, the little girl I once carried up and down those same bleachers had become the protector of her old decrepit father.  Of course, she had no ill-intent, but her kind, respectful gesture was an eye opener – a reality check for me. 

I was polite and joked with her that the first sign of old age was reaching for the handrail on the stairs, but underneath, I was having none of it.   My virility – my manhood – had been questioned!  I rushed home moving faster than I have become accustomed, ignored my wife’s wise advice to rest in my recliner when I arrived, crawled up the stairs, and gasping for breath, pulled myself off my knees to the bathroom vanity to face the mirror.  I was horrified!  The blinders were gone.  The rose-colored glasses shattered.  The veil shielding my eyes from the mirror’s reality had been lifted.  I was old, and all the king’s men and all the king’s horses couldn’t put young Jack together again.  I wanted to cry but forgot why.

It took a day or two, but I forgave my daughter.  Although I would have preferred to stay in the dark a bit longer, it felt good to know she was so loving and concerned.  She could have just as easily pushed as offered her hand, but her mama taught her better.  I thank her and her mama – old fat men do not fall gracefully.  But, children – regardless of their good intentions – should be extra careful when exposing parents to the fact they are no longer young.  Most parents are way over the hill before they are willing to accept aging as a reality, and then it is only after years of incontinence, losing a tooth or three in their cereal bowl, living in a house smelling of mothballs and cheese, and leaving the thermostat set at 90 degrees year-round that they realize they are neck deep in their golden years.  Of course, there are parents who hold desperately to the illusion of youth – grandmothers who insist on dressing like their teen granddaughters, and grandfathers who wear sleeveless t-shirts with drooping lightning bolts tattooed on their upper arms.  Those poor souls may never wake to reality, but for the rest of us there are reminders of our mortality all around us.  For those of us with a thread of self-respect and dignity, it is paramount we recognize the signs of old age before someone, like our daughters, shock the hell out of us with pity, disguised as love, and an attitude of unsolicited “ah, the poor thing needs help.”

So, my advice to old decrepit hangers-on is take a deep breath and own up to the fact that over the years your children and life have simply worn you out.  If we are lucky and live long enough, old age happens to all of us, but . . . no one wants to be blind-sided by it!   Learn to recognize the many signs you have outlived your usefulness in a youth-oriented society.  Be prepared, don’t let your declining years sneak up on you!  Read the signs of advancing years printed below carefully and memorize them.  If, like me, that is easier said than done, print the list and put it under your hat or in your shoe for safe keeping, but if you are afraid you won’t remember where you stashed the list, stick it on the refrigerator – even us old fogies remember where to find the refrigerator.  Educate yourself to the signs of old age, and then celebrate you made it this far.

 You know you are old. . . .

1.     When you immediately reach for the handrail when climbing stairs;

2.     When your gut hangs lower than your butt;

3.     When you hear “booty call” and your first thought is adult diapers;

4.     When it takes Preparation H to shrink the wrinkles under your eyes;

5.     When you can remember using a rotary dial telephone;

6.     When you are thankful for your remaining tooth;

7.     When the perfect evening is being left alone;

8.     When you remember buying two hamburgers, fries, and a Coke for a dollar at McDonalds and getting change;

9.     When you see a pretty girl in a bikini and wonder if she’s wearing enough sunblock;

10.  When people around you mistake patience for don’t give a damn;

11.  When gas is a routine punctuation during conversations;

12.  When something always hurts or smells;

13.  When “getting lucky” means you slept through the night without getting up to go to the john;

14.  When you can’t put two sentences back to back without forgetting what you want to say; and

15.  When bending or squatting is likely to result in a pop followed by an unpleasant odor;

Remember, you know you are old when you finally have time to sit back and enjoy the little things in life that really matter like daughters watching out for you when you walk down bleachers.  Old age is not a disease to be feared, so enjoy life – at least what you have left of it.

JL

©Jack Linton, November 19, 2018

Saturated and Burned Out

The congregation squirms uneasily, but not so much from the preacher’s words as a tired tailbone.  Including announcements, offering, prayers, music, and the ongoing blistering sermon, the Sunday morning service is approaching ninety minutes.  Brother David has made his point at least six times and has started on round seven.  Hungry stomachs are growling.  Exhausted brains are begging, “Please shoot me – enough is enough.”  It is time to stick a fork in the congregation, they are done!

Unless you have been chastised relentlessly by an ordained Southern fire thrower waxed in the glow of the Holy Spirit, you know nothing of long-winded preaching.  If your eyeballs have not bobbed and surfed the tides of the second Great Flood in hour two of a Southern sermon, you know little of praying for deliverance.   Unless you have the t-shirt, Saturated and Burned Out, you are not a survivor of a soul cleansing hell, fire, and brimstone tongue lashing.  I grew up in a Southern Baptist Church – I have the t-shirt!

Why does it take preachers so long, especially in the South, to say God loves you and if you can’t accept that, prepare for an eternity in a rotisserie oven?  Why does the preacher feel compelled to make his point multiple times when once maybe twice should be enough?  The answer is simple – once or twice is not enough!  Southern DNA makes massive doses of overkill a necessity.  No one – not the preacher or Jesus Christ can tell a blue-blood Southerner what to do and expect to get it done – at least not the first or second time.

Growing up in Mississippi, my family was in church every time the doors opened: Sunday School, Sunday morning service, Sunday evening worship, Monday evening Royal Ambassadors, Wednesday night Training Union, two weeks of summer Vacation Bible School, and two weeks of fall revival meetings.  My pastor, a devout man, preached long fiery sermons with a vengeance against the evil he saw in the world or he inferred from the scriptures.  Like his sermons, he was intense, unwavering in his crusade against Satan and his followers.  His prayers, he called them mini-sermons, were rhythmic sing-song dances of thanksgiving laced with healthy doses of pleas for mercy culminating with skin-curling warnings of fire and damnation for anyone not walking the walk of Jesus Christ.  In a church of maybe one-hundred members with regular attendance of sixty or seventy, people walked the walk, or at least, we did around Brother David.

Before cable and Internet, there was little to compete with church on Sunday.  People literally had nothing better to do than go to church.  So, it didn’t matter if Brother David raged from the pulpit for two hours or Deacon John’s prayer bounced here and there for twenty minutes before he asked for God’s mercy and healing and said “Amen.”  It was the best show in town – take it or leave it, and if you lived at home with mama and daddy, there was no choice but to take it.  The only negative was church ran long – really long – and lay waste to the best made plans for Sunday lunch.  As a boy, I often witnessed parking lot grumblings and short straw lotteries to decide who would tell Brother David to buy a watch, but to my knowledge, no one ever said a word to him.

Brother David did not need a watch.  He was determined to convert every soul in his congregation to Christianity, and to that end, a watch did little but get in his way.  He understood there are only two ways to convince a Southerner to do something: you convince him it is his idea, or you scare him into doing it.  Both take time – a lot of it!  A Southerner is inherently born with the notion that everything is his idea, so convincing him an idea outside his own is his idea is extremely difficult.  In his mind, he is the center of the universe, and the only worthwhile thoughts or ideas are his own, so why listen to anyone else?  Therefore, most preachers opt for scary motivation.  To bring their people to the Lord on their knees, they scare the living hell out of them.

In the South, preachers who dwell on death, graves, and things that go bump in the night usually have little trouble preaching to full houses.  Southern boys and girls are as brave as they come but talk about something dead they didn’t shoot while hunting, especially if that something is them, and they get creeped out.  A smart preacher uses this to his advantage.  To keep his flock coming to church regularly and dropping a few bucks in the offering plate periodically, he cultivates fearful uneasy souls.  The only drawback is such a process is time consuming, especially with laidback Southern temperaments.

For this reason, Brother David set the pews on fire.  He ignited a flame of urgency under his people fueled by hell, fire, and brimstone.  “The fires of hell are full of Christians who do not go to church and tithe regularly,” he scolded his congregation Sunday after Sunday.  He brewed a pot of fear seasoned with doom and gloom.  He pounded the podium and walked the pews warning of human barbecues while teasing his congregation with firefly bits of hope he promised would grow if they attended church regularly and tithed generously.  He scared the hell out of his flock, and he did not care how much time it took to do so.

Brother David has long departed this world, and his brand of hard-ball preaching has given way to holy roller spectacles and preaching almost exclusively the love of God rather than offend or upset anyone with the rage of a jealous God.  However, to this day, his practice of battering congregations into holy submission is alive and well in many churches across the South.  Many pastors still tend to be long winded with little concern for rumbling stomachs, but is it necessary?  Why can’t they say what they need to say, and be done with it?  Why must they repeat themselves at least seven times before they give up the ghost and take a seat?  The reason boils down to Southern DNA and the Rule of Seven.

There is a pinch of a boiled peanut shell in Southern DNA that makes good ole boys and girls a tad thickheaded, or maybe, decades of wearing tight fitting baseball caps twenty-four hours a day has resulted in hardening of the skull.  Whichever it might be, a preacher best repeat himself often if he wants to get a point through dense Southerner heads.  The more a Southerner hears something the better the chances it will sink in and the more likely he will believe it.  Researchers in Atlanta, Georgia have found there is a direct correlation between Southerners reacting positively and badgering.  They discovered if you tell a Southerner something once, he might not hear you; tell him twice and he might think you are talking to someone else; tell him three times and he will try to tune you out; tell him four times and he will think you are trying to cause trouble or mess with him; tell him five times and it agitates him; tell him six times and he becomes passively interested; but if you tell him seven times, the chances are good he will not only remember it but believe it as well.  This process known as the Pester into Slow Submission Technique or PISS Technique is a strategy used by Southern women for countless decades to manipulate their men, and with the assistance of WMU (Woman Missionary Union) groups, early Southern preachers learned to use this same badgering or nagging technique to get through to their congregations.

In the Twentieth Century, the marketing world adopted the PISS Technique and called it the Rule of Seven, which is nothing more than a modern makeover of the old Southern recipe.  The Rule of Seven states people, especially men, must hear something at least seven times before they remember it, accept it, or engage in it.  It works great; however, if the preacher is not careful, a disgruntled congregation is capable of mutiny, especially if the Methodists and Catholics are regularly beating them to Mary’s Cafe or KFC for Sunday fried chicken.

The real danger though occurs when desperate preachers, experiencing a decline in attendance and tithing, change the rule to the Rule of Seven X 3.  This well intentioned though controversial practice means sermons and prayers include three times the number of repetitive keywords and phrases than the standard Rule of Seven.   According to the medical community, such an overload can be unhealthy for church-goers.  Doctors specializing in Devout Hypertension Syndrome warn that such practice can result in compulsive absenteeism and static tithing as the result of Repetitive Sensory Overload (RSO).

There are people who will argue that within the fleeting time continuum of life none of this really matters, and maybe, they are right.  A Southern prayer may be as long as a television sitcom, and a Southern sermon as long-winded as a two-day hurricane, but what if they are?  Do Christians have more important things than church on Sunday?   A prayer or sermon in the hands of a well-trained articulate Southern stump jumper can be an artistic marvel of rhetoric steeped in the juice of bread and butter pickles and sweet tea; isn’t that worth a tired tailbone or a table with a window at Cracker Barrel?  But, I admit, at times I also grow weary and impatient.  Sometimes, I wish there was an off switch under the front lip of the pew to push to let the preacher know the time has arrived to shut up and go home.

Saturated and Burned Out!

JL

©Jack Linton, September 16, 2018

To Have a Great Day, Do these 10 Things

Everyone wakes up hoping to have a great day, but unfortunately, too many people do not have a clue how to make it happen.  The quality of their day is left to chance, luck, or placed in someone else’s hands.  Fortunately, having a great day, every day, is not difficult, especially, if you take responsibility for your happiness and DO the following:

  1. START your day by looking in the mirror. Take a deep breath, stick out your tongue at what you see, wink at who you see, wiggle your ears, laugh at what you see, but most of all, thank God you have eyes to see, a tongue to stick out, ears to wiggle, and a chance to breathe another day.  Do not despair about yourself – you are the best you have;
  2. DRESS like you are proud to be alive: wear deodorant, wear clean clothes, comb your hair, and brush your teeth before you leave your house;
  3. RELAX and take the day as it comes.  Do not try to conform the day to your desires.  Slow down!  There are no instant replays or do overs in life, so make the best of every moment, and do not take your one shot at living for granted;
  4. READ at least thirty minutes; seek to learn something new;
  5. COMMIT to three good turns – one for family, one for someone you don’t know, and one for yourself;
  6. DO at least one thing you don’t want to do;
  7. BE silly!  Do something completely off the wall and different for you.  Do not be afraid to be happy and enjoy life; you have earned it, and deserve it!  Laugh!  God did not put you on earth to be sad and create gloom.  He put you here because he believed you make the world a better place to live;
  8. TELL at least one person you love him/her;
  9. TREAT yourself! At the end of the day, if you have accomplished everything on this list, treat yourself to your favorite ice cream and toppings in front of the mirror, if you completed at least six items on the list, smile in the mirror and give yourself thumbs up, if you accomplished less than six, but gave it your best, stand in front of the mirror and pat yourself on the back.  Why stand in front of the mirror to treat yourself?  So, you get accustomed to what a happy person looks like!
  10. GIVE thanks! At the end of the day, thank God for his blessings, and before you sign-off, do not forget to tell God you are ready for tomorrow if he is willing and will walk with you.

For those willing to take responsibility for their happiness, post this list on your bathroom mirror and on the refrigerator.  Use the list daily!  Your happiness begins with you, so give yourself permission to be happy, and see what happens.  Put yesterday to bed, and before you worry about tomorrow, live the life out of today;

JL

©Jack Linton, October 19, 2017

The Trip of a Lifetime

After six months of planning and preparation, the time has finally arrived.  My wife and I are taking a long awaited get-a-way; she calls it The Trip of a Lifetime.  Our travel trailer and truck are serviced and packed, the house sitters are in place, people to take care of the pool and lawn have been secured, and the bank account has been depleted.  Our kids think we are too old and feeble to completely comprehend the magnitude of the trip we are undertaking, and the grandkids cannot understand why we are not taking them.  Although we have assured our children repeatedly we are not too decrepit to take a two-month camping excursion, they roll their eyes and say, “Dad, have you thought this through?  Sometimes people your age do crazy things;” “Mom, ya’ll don’t have a clue how to use an ATM;” or “We’re sure the two of you will have a great time, but where’s the will just in case?”

They are right; we may be a dime short of crazy and clueless about an ATM, but I am confident the great explorers Lewis and Clark also did not have a clue about an ATM and were called crazy when they set out to explore the northwest.  Like those trailblazers, this will be our first trip to the northwest United States, and like them, every turn will represent a new adventure for us.  If all goes well, our trip will take us north to the Black Hills of South Dakota, the Big Sky country of Montana, to Calgary, Canada, northwest to Banff National Park, back south to Glacier National Park, and Yellowstone National Park.  That is just the first 3,500 miles.  Where we go beyond Yellowstone, we haven’t a clue.  We may head southeast through Colorado and Kansas, or we may chase rainbows and UFOs to Roswell, New Mexico and beyond.  The only thing we are sure about is, the good Lord willing, we will come home eventually.  As for a will, the kids are being a little presumptuous in my opinion, besides we sank everything we own into this trip.

I have waited for this trip for fifty-three years.  When I was ten years old, I remember a school friend, Rocky, telling the class about his summer camping trip to Yellowstone National Park.   He talked to us about boiling water that shot hundreds of feet into the air, a grizzly bear studying him from the trees bordering his campsite, buffalo that stopped traffic for an hour, and mountains capped by snow in mid-summer.  Hooked, I told my parents, being careful to leave out the boiling water and grizzly bear, about this fantastic place Rocky had visited.  I did my best to sell them on friendly buffalo and mountains with snow cone peaks, and I believe my father was hooked and ready to go, but my mother said, “No!  We cannot afford it.”  Desperate, I blurted, “Tents don’t cost much.  We could camp like Rocky and his family.”  That was maybe the greatest blunder of my youth.  My mother was a beautiful lady – prim and proper – and although she worked hard, she had never dropped a bead of sweat in her life, and she was not about to do so camping in a tent.  “Over my dead body,” she said, and that was the end of the camping discussion and as it turned out the Yellowstone discussion as well.  I have often wondered if things may have been different if I had kept my mouth shut about camping.  The closest I got to Yellowstone after that was National Geographic and pictures of grizzly bears and buffalo my teacher gave us to color in class.  At the time, I despised her; I felt she was intentionally trying to rub salt in my wounds.

This trip is my wife’s dream as well.  I don’t know if there was a Rocky in her life to inspire her, but regardless, I have never seen her more energized and excited.  She has taken on the persona of a “town crier” excitedly sharing with anyone who will listen every detail of the trip.  By now, all our children, grandkids, and friends know the color of every outfit she plans to bring and wear, know the menu by heart for each meal, know the locations by city, state, latitude and longitude of every picture she plans to take, and know how many times per week she plans to do laundry.  As for me, one pair of shorts and jeans as well as a couple of t-shirts and pairs of underwear are all I need; you waste less time if you wash a t-shirt and a pair of underwear in the sink and dry them on the back of the camper as you travel.  Fortunately for me, stately and dignified was not high on the compatibility list when we married.

For years, we talked about this trip, but always found an excuse to put it off to next year.  Of course, life has a funny way of pushing by several “next years” before you know it.  Finally, we woke up one morning, not as young as we once were, and realized the possibility of running out of “next years” was too close to home for comfort.  We had some decisions to make.  We could hang around the house and help our kids plan how to make our home of thirty years more elderly friendly and accessible when we were no longer capable of climbing the stairs, we could practice for the retirement home, or we could thumb our nose at age, get off our butts, and take the flipping trip we should have taken years ago.  We decided to take the trip!

Once we decided the trip was a go, my wife started planning, packing, and talking.  She told everyone where we were going, until one day, she mentioned it to some good friends who decided to join us.  They had recently bought a new travel trailer and truck and were anxious to get on the road.  We were absolutely thrilled to have them join us on the trip.  Since our kids had stopped coming to see us for fear of having to listen to their mother talk about the latest trip menu or “ooh” and “aww” at the latest gadget I had purchased or built for the truck and camper, it was good to finally have some likeminded geriatric souls (seniors only in the eyes of our kids) to talk to about the trip.

The only downside was our planning became competitive.  In a very short time, the trip wardrobes for both wives doubled.  Heaven forbid they would ever be caught wearing the same color, style, or brand of shoes or clothing at the same time.  As a result, the bunk area of both campers had to be re-purposed to provide space for their wardrobes.  However, to be fair, I must admit my good friend and I became a little competitive ourselves.  When he bought a gadget for his truck, I one-upped him with a bigger gadget for my truck, and of course, he would counter with a fancier gadget for his truck, which in turn led me to reciprocate with another blockbuster gadget for my truck.  The dashboards of our trucks now look like the cockpit of the space shuttle.  There are monitors for the GPS, monitors for dashcams, monitors for rear view cameras, monitors for the monitors, and wires so thick it looks as if the dashboard is overgrown with black vines.

But, all is okay; all is better than good.  Before we leave, we may be forced to have a fire sale to lighten the camper and truck load, but if I must put a harness and blinders on my wife to help pull the camper, we are going on this trip.  Next year has finally come for our Trip of a Lifetime.  The family thinks we are crazy, but they are behind us one-hundred percent, and we are living and sharing the dream with good friends who we pray are still good friends by the end of the journey.  We are blessed with a family, friends, the means, and the health to make such a trip possible – life is good.  In a few days we will head north, so keep us in your prayers, we’ll see you somewhere along the six or seven-thousand-mile mark.

JL

©Jack Linton, July 5, 2017

To Our Grandchildren – The Secret of Before Time Started

When I grew up (my oldest granddaughter says, “before time started”) communities were less diverse than today.  Before time started, you could walk house to house, farm to farm, and not find an ounce of difference in the values people held dear to their hearts.  The values held in the home were reinforced down the street at Uncle Elmer’s house, Mrs. Cotton’s house, Lott’s Grocery, or in the public library.  The only diversity was some ate salt on their watermelon and some did not.  Values were taught in the home and reinforced up and down the street, church to school, and from the courthouse to the local bank.  Unfortunately, that is seldom true anymore.

Today, more often than not, we do not know our neighbors down the street; therefore, we can no longer be sure the person three doors down has the same values as we do, or has values at all.  It is a sad commentary on our society, but we can no longer trust our children to the neighbourhood for safe keeping – physically or morally.  We have grown too isolated and distant for such trust.  On top of that, time has become an issue.   Regardless of the makeup of the neighbourhood, it is ultimately the responsibility of parents and grandparents to make time to instill and reinforce family values.  However, we live in a society where the best intentions are often hogtied by a rush rush world.  Everyone is in such a hurry – work, ball games, dance, school activities, etc. – that there is little room for quality family time.  It becomes increasingly difficult to consistently reinforce the family values we hold so dear.  Values become the little things we push aside or overlook “just this time” for the sake of speeding to the next event in our busy lives.  Time gets away from us, and before we know it our children are grown and out on their own.  All that is left is our prayers that the values we taught them were enough, and nothing important was overlooked.  You never know, and it can drive you crazy wondering, especially if you are a grandparent where time has begun to speed by faster and faster.

Chasing time is fruitless; you can never win, but you can slow it down.  I slow it down by imagining a time warp in which my grandchildren are sitting around my table.  Except in this time warp, there is not a video game, cell phone, or television to cut into our time.  In my time warp, we conduct ourselves like families did before time started; we talk, laugh, and share one another.  I know that sounds crazy, and I realize this is not cool in the eyes of my grandchildren, but their definition of “cool” came along after time started, so it does not apply to grandfathers, like me, who think of water bubbling from a spring when the word is used.

Oh, yes, here they come!  Come in Nate, Kalyn, Mya, Kayden, Collier, and Pace, and sit with Mawmaw and me.  We are going on a journey.  No, not Disney World, but a journey much more important.  We are going back to a place before time started – a place where values and wisdom were handed down from parents and grandparents and reinforced daily in the community.  We are going back to a time when children ran and played, and parents prayed they did not grow up too fast.  No, Kalyn, we did not ride in horse drawn buggies, but I have on a special occasion or two.  Yes, we had electricity and running water, but most of all we had time for each other.

Yes, Nate, I understand it is stuff nobody wants to hear, yet, it is more relevant than Facebook, Snapchat, or video games.  Yes, Kalyn, “before time started” people actually talked to each other about such things as right and wrong, good manners, and proper etiquette.  No, Mya, they did not text; they used their fingers and hands to hold up one another.  Did they dance?  Oh my, yes, Kayden, they danced, and they sang, and you won’t believe this, but they did so in their homes – as a family.  Were there trees back then?  Yes, Collier, there were trees – great, strong trees.  Trees that gave their limbs to cradles, and one tree that carried a lamb on its shoulders at a place called Galilee.  Why?  Pace, I am so glad you asked.  The answer is so simple – love.  You see, the one thing we have in common with God is love, and before time started, people loved one another, and they didn’t care if someone thought that was cool or not.

Before time started, family was the coolest thing in the world; it was the world.  There was no escaping it; you were inundated with it at the dinner and supper table, reminded of it when working on rooftops or in the fields, and bathed in it every minute and hour of the day.  The wisdom and values conveyed through family was the only road map people needed to find happiness if they were wise enough to follow it.  Like today, life did not come with an instruction book, but way back before time started, it began with a family, and for those who listened and worked at it, that was all they needed.

So, boys and girls, listen close!  Mawmaw and Pawpaw are going to take you on a trip.  We are going to whisper to you the secrets of the place called Before Time Started.  A place where all cool parents and grandparents made time to teach boys and girls how to be good people.  A place where boys and girls were taught values that turned boys into gentlemen and girls into ladies.  So, everyone close your eyes and grab a hand, and we will travel to Before Time Started to learn the secret so many have forgotten.

The Secret of Before Time Started

The greatest influence on the world is what we teach our children at home:

  1. Hold the door open for others to enter a building – especially for ladies and the elderly;
  2. Say “Thank you” when given a compliment, gift, or an act of kindness;
  3. Say “Yes, mam” or “No, mam,” and “Yes, sir” or “No, sir – especially to your parents and elders, or as a sign of respect for anyone deserving. No, you do not have to do this, but it is the right thing to do;
  4. Granddaughters, be confident in yourself. You are as good, smart, and capable as any man.  Never sell yourself short because you are a woman or to please a man;
  5. Grandsons, stand and offer a lady or the elderly your seat on a crowded bus or in a crowded room;
  6. Learn to see, listen, and respect people through the eyes and ears of a blind man;
  7. Never talk down to people. It is rude and makes you appear arrogant and a fool;
  8. Granddaughters, always act like a lady. A woman is God’s symbol of beauty and pose in the world.  It is a daunting task at best, but in his eyes and the eyes of the world be deserving and carry yourself above the reproach of others;
  9. Grandsons, treating women, children, or animals with cruelty is never okay;
  10. If invited to dinner or supper, always compliment the food; if you don’t like the food, keep it to yourself;
  11. Never talk over someone during a conversation. The rule is simple:  I listen when you talk – you listen when I talk;
  12. Surround yourself with people of character with greater skills than your own;
  13. Be a leader, but remember sometimes it takes more courage to follow;
  14. Always leave the trail behind you better than you found it;
  15. Granddaughters, smile often. God made a woman’s smile to heal the world.  Her smile is intended to melt the hearts of men, reassure her children, and light the darkest day;
  16. Grandsons, to become a man, know your heart, put the needs of others before yours, trust in family, and have faith in God – everything else you need will fall into place;
  17. Don’t procrastinate, but take your time when making important decisions;
  18. Not everybody will like you. That is their problem; don’t make it yours;
  19. Embrace those less fortunate. Not everyone is dealt the same cards in life;
  20. Find a hobby! Find something you enjoy in life and do it – don’t worry about being good or bad – just do it!
  21. Being there for others is important, but do not forget yourself. Take time to do the things that are important to you;
  22. Public profanity or profanity as a part of your everyday language is never acceptable. It hurts the ears of ladies and children.  It instills a sense of false bravado.  It demeans your value;
  23. Your word is your honor. Guard your words closely.  Once your integrity is compromised, there is no going back;
  24. If you agree to work for a man for a dollar, give him your best. Work for him as though he was paying you double;
  25. There is nothing wrong with wanting more, but first, always be thankful for what you have;
  26. Granddaughters, walk beside your husband, but never compete with him;
  27. Grandsons, love and be proud of your wife. She is your backbone;
  28. Eat, drink, and have a blast in life, but take care not to lose your soul, waste your mind, or wreck your body in the process. Moderation is the key;
  29. Admit it when you are wrong. Everybody knows it, so own up and move on.  Sometimes saying “I am sorry” is your best play;
  30. Do not take yourself too seriously. Start and end your day by looking in the mirror and having a good laugh;
  31. Read at least thirty minutes every day;
  32. Look for the good in all men, but choose carefully to whom you expose your back;
  33. Good manners, kindness, and treating others the way you want to be treated as well as the way God intended people to treat each other is the greatest of God’s commandments – never take it lightly or for granted! Practice it daily!

Finally, the best advice I can offer is this:  bathe daily, use deodorant after you shower, brush your teeth after you eat, wear fresh clothes daily, respect your mama and daddy, treat everyone with kindness, talk gibberish to babies and animals, pray daily for strength and courage, leave judgement to God, be your own person, and be humble.  To be a man or a woman, you must stand for what you believe, fight for what you love, and treat with kindness all that falls under the spread of your wings.

Children, these are the secrets people knew and lived by before time started – secrets that enable us to live together and respect one another.  Before time started, these truths and values were passed from generation to generation until somehow, they became lost along the way.  In each of you is the light to bring these simple truths and values back to the world.  It is our prayer you will not keep these secrets to yourself, but will live by them and pass them to your children and grandchildren who in their time will pass them to theirs until a day comes when how to live together in peace and respect for one another is no longer a secret, and the world is turned upright once again.

Our love and prayers always, Mawmaw and Pawpaw.

Jl

©Jack Linton, June 12, 2017

Lessons We Learned from Our Kids

Parents teach their children valuable lessons to take with them through life.  Lessons about family and building relationships usually top the list, and countless hours are spent teaching, modelling, and reinforcing those lessons until they become embedded in the child.  Many parents turn to articles and books to guide them through the parenting maze, but even then, raising children is trial and error at best.  Teaching lessons that will carry children to success throughout their lives is not an easy task, but with perseverance, most parents succeed in giving their children the foundation and confidence they need to be successful in life.

However, life lessons are not just for kids.  Kids are quite adept at teaching their parents a few lessons of their own.  The first lesson, which parents are often oblivious to until too late, is kids are always in control.  Parents may think otherwise, but they are only deceiving themselves.  They are under the thumb of their children, and they remain there for a lifetime.  From an early age, kids sell the idea that “kids come first,” and “the world revolves around them.”  Since parents are more eager to please their children than their children are to please them, they buy into the “kids first” mentality hook, line, and sinker.  As a result, they are defenseless against being brainwashed.  They are at the mercy of master manipulators – their children.

My wife and I are no different; we were thoroughly brainwashed, manipulated, and trained by our three children.  They made us unwavering disciples of “our kids come first” and “our world revolves around our kids.”  In our home, there has never been any doubt who “ruled the roost” – the kids!   Our two sons and daughter taught us how to run errands for them at the drop of a hat and cater to their every need.  Their dear old mom slaved over a stove and oven eight hours a day to cook their favorite meals, and what did she get?  Turned up noses and squeals of “Ewww, there’s an onion in my potato salad;” “Gross there’s tomato pieces in the spaghetti sauce;” and “I’m not eating anything green.”  How that poor woman made it through the child bearing years only to be bushwhacked by kids with the palate of a McDonald’s junky, I will never know!  Nevertheless, like most parents, we were and are bound within a system of labor (service to our kids) for a fixed period of time (from birth to forever) in which our lives are exclusively the property of our children.  In fact, we have been named “Indentured Servants” of the year more than once since the births of our children.  However, if you ask my wife, she will tell you we would not have it any other way, especially now that our children are parents.

We are having the time of our lives watching our grandkids wrap our daughter and sons around their sticky little fingers.  Like us, our kids have become “Indentured Servants” to their children – baseball, softball, football, golf, cheerleading, band, show choir, church youth events, sleepovers, cooking their meals with special attention to personal diets and preferences, washing their clothes, money for movies, keys to the car, and waiting to 11:00 a.m. to cut the grass on Saturday morning so as not to interrupt the little darlings’ sleep are just a few of the concessions they along with countless other parents make for their children!  It’s all fun though, and when their children are thirty, our kids will most likely agree as well.  Our kids keep us smiling and young, and my wife and I would not change any of it for any treasure in this world. The good news is we are confident the lessons are not over.  With six grandchildren, we still have a lot to learn, but the grandkids will have to work hard if they expect to top the following list of lessons their parents taught us.

 Lessons We Learned from Our Three Kids

  • It is not wise to jump out of a swing backwards;
  • Dancing can break bones;
  • You really don’t want to know what the odor in your sons’ bedroom is;
  • Towel capes cannot make you fly, but they are good for cleaning up the blood before mom gets home;
  • One daughter is more than a match for two sons;
  • Sharpies will write on anything including floors, walls, and ceilings as well as act as the perfect touch-up paint for everything that does not need painting;
  • A clothes dryer does not make a good hamster’s wheel – RIP Herman;
  • Lost underpants during potty training means ransacking the house to find those underpants;
  • Boiled Easter eggs will spoil if kept under the bed until the following Easter;
  • Parents should be extra suspicious when their children are quite;
  • Do not drink after your kids;
  • “Uh oh” after the toilet flushes means “watch out,” but it is probably too late.

JL

©Jack Linton, April 20, 2017

The One I Took for Granted

Yesterday, I watched a leaf dressed in orange, red, and yellow let go its hold of the mother tree and spin lazily to the ground.  A leaf,when green, I barely noticed.  Watching its descent, I marveled at the grace frozen in that simple moment.  No struggle, no effort to delay the journey, the leaf simply let go.  The green leaves whispered goodbyes as it danced downward pass them limb to limb before breaking free beneath the canopy.  It spun, dipped, and hovered over color clad siblings waiting in loose piles; piles until now I had barely noticed.  Settling, it lent its color to the harvest hues of others, and there it lay stirred only by the slowly dissipating murmurs of its brothers and sisters turned brown at the edges.  The leaf, when green, I barely noticed – the one I took for granted – closed its eyes and slept.

Today, I chose to stay glued to my cell phone while visiting with family.  There was nothing they were saying we wouldn’t talk about later.  Whatever special memories I might have made today could be made up tomorrow.  My family, I took for granted.  Today, I chose to go fishing with buddies and miss my daughter’s recital.  There would always be another I could go to later.  Whatever special memories I might have made today could be made up tomorrow.  My daughter, I took for granted.  Today, I failed to call my parents just to say I love you.  It was nothing I had not said a million times that I could not say later.  Whatever special memories I might have made today could be made up tomorrow.  My parents, I took for granted.  Today, I chose to be miserable and unthankful.  I felt like wallowing in self-pity; I could be thankful later.  Whatever special memories I might have made today could be made up tomorrow.  My life, I took for granted.  Unlike the leaf sleeping at journey’s end, I chose sleep as my journey.

Life is at its fullest when we live to make memories with those that matter.   When the leaf was green and full of life, I barely noticed it at all.  I missed it budding, the first time it celebrated the warmth of sunlight, its first taste of rain, and the spider that wove its web from its stem to the branch.  I took it for granted.  Not until, by chance, I caught the leaf’s last dance did I understand the finality of waiting for tomorrow – tomorrow can never replace the warmth and joy of the present.  The time to embrace family, friends, and even a leaf is before each becomes a memory.  It’s sad. but candles often burn out before tomorrow.

JL

©Jack Linton, October 31, 2016

The One I Took for Granted

Yesterday, I watched a leaf dressed in orange, red, and yellow let go its hold of the mother tree and spin lazily to the ground.  A leaf,when green, I barely noticed.  Watching its descent, I marveled at the grace frozen in that simple moment.  No struggle, no effort to delay the journey, the leaf simply let go.  The green leaves whispered goodbyes as it danced downward pass them limb to limb before breaking free beneath the canopy.  It spun, dipped, and hovered over color clad siblings waiting in loose piles; piles until now I had barely noticed.  Settling, it lent its color to the harvest hues of others, and there it lay stirred only by the slowly dissipating murmurs of its brothers and sisters turned brown at the edges.  The leaf, when green, I barely noticed – the one I took for granted – closed its eyes and slept.

Today, I chose to stay glued to my cell phone while visiting with family.  There was nothing they were saying we wouldn’t talk about later.  Whatever special memories I might have made today could be made up tomorrow.  My family, I took for granted.  Today, I chose to go fishing with buddies and miss my daughter’s recital.  There would always be another I could go to later.  Whatever special memories I might have made today could be made up tomorrow.  My daughter, I took for granted.  Today, I failed to call my parents just to say I love you.  It was nothing I had not said a million times that I could not say later.  Whatever special memories I might have made today could be made up tomorrow.  My parents, I took for granted.  Today, I chose to be miserable and unthankful.  I felt like wallowing in self-pity; I could be thankful later.  Whatever special memories I might have made today could be made up tomorrow.  My life, I took for granted.  Unlike the leaf sleeping at journey’s end, I chose sleep as my journey.

Life is at its fullest when we live to make memories with those that matter.   When the leaf was green and full of life, I barely noticed it at all.  I missed it budding, the first time it celebrated the warmth of sunlight, its first taste of rain, and the spider that wove its web from its stem to the branch.  I took it for granted.  Not until, by chance, I caught the leaf’s last dance did I understand the finality of waiting for tomorrow – tomorrow can never replace the warmth and joy of the present.  The time to embrace family, friends, and even a leaf is before each becomes a memory.  As sad as it may be, candles often burn out before tomorrow.

JL

©Jack Linton, October 31, 2016

Riding Tall in the Saddle

As a young principal, I wish someone had sat me down, unscrewed the top of my hard head, and poured some common sense into my empty skull.  I would have been a much better leader if they had.  I learned about leading through trial and error with, unfortunately, more error than I would like to admit.  I now realize what many of my colleagues and staff could have told me years ago if I had been more inclined to listen – I blew it as often as I got it right.  Looking back at those early years, I thank the good Lord in heaven for having a sense of humor and allowing me to continue to learn and grow – heaven knows I didn’t always deserve it.   However, leadership is a journey, and learning from your mistakes is as much a part of the journey as getting it right – maybe even more so.

I learned the hard way that leading people is basically the same whether you are motivating a class full of middle school or high school students, coaching an athletic team, or involved in leading an organization with hundreds of employees.  Leadership is about being prepared to lead, establishing and building a foundation or platform from which to lead, and sustaining a clear focus on the cornerstones that lead to success.  Leadership is about knowing when to build fences and when to tear them down.  Leadership is about leading, not controlling, and most of all, it is about understanding THERE IS NOTHING SACRED ABOUT LEADERSHIP.  It is a people thing that will and should change to some degree as often as the people may change.  However, this takes time to learn, and although I wish I could say otherwise, I was a slow learner.

Being a leader is hard sometimes rewarding work, but more often frustrating and tedious work.  It is never ending, and it is all consuming.  It is unfortunate, but when you take a leadership role, such as principal, more often than not everything else takes a secondary role in your life.  That is why it is so important to have a spouse and family who understand the commitment and sacrifices leadership demands.  A supportive spouse and family are a must, especially if they understand the rank order of family and work are more often blurred than concise.  Family should always take precedence over work, but there are times when for a leader to function effectively, his job may briefly take priority.  The leader, on the other hand, must guard against such moments of necessity becoming the norm; he must always remember relationships are about balance, and he must do whatever it takes to maintain the balance between work and family.

Although I never did it well, I learned balancing relationships is crucial to successful leadership.  It is difficult to move an organization forward if relationships are rocky at work or at home.  Leadership is the art of moving people toward a common goal, and that cannot be accomplished effectively without strong relationships both at home and on the job.  Although there may be nothing sacred about leadership, relationships are the glue that holds everyone and everything together and enables the leader to focus on leading.  Relationships are critical and must be nurtured and cared for carefully as well as tenderly.

Relationships can be scary, especially for a first-time leader.  Relationships take trust, and at first, trusting anyone other than yourself is hard to do.  Therefore, the young inexperienced leader tends to read, research, and pray – pray a lot – for a secret formula or magical spell that makes his job easy.  In the beginning, I knew such formulas and magic had to exist.  Everywhere I turned, I saw people in leadership roles that carried themselves with such confidence that I knew there was something I was missing.  They possessed a confidence to ride tall in the saddle that was magical almost majestic.   I wanted what they had!  Fortunately, after years of trial and error, I finally discovered that great leadership is the result of an uncompromising work ethic, perseverance, getting up when you are knocked down, and luck as well as maintaining relationships that cushion the falls and brush you off when you climb back to your feet.  It wasn’t magical at all!

As my experiences grew, I learned through osmosis and hard-knocks when it was okay to bend and break the rules, when to stand alone, how to pick my battles, and when to challenge and cross over established boundaries.  It probably took too long, but I finally learned the secret to leadership lies in the ability of people in leadership roles to do whatever it takes to make positive things happen around them.  Leaders make things happen even when it is not popular, and they do not compromise success by taking a wait and see approach; they are proactive.  In other words, leaders learn to do two things: they learn to build relationships with others and they learn to build a relationship with themselves.  They do that by developing an inner confidence and trust as well as confidence and trust in others.  It is that trust that gives a leader the courage and confidence to ride tall in the saddle.

JL

©Jack Linton, October 23, 2016

What are Reeves and His Buddies in Jackson Smoking?

This past week Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves once again expressed his objection to the amount of money school districts spend on central office administrators and school principals. Apparently, he believes if districts spent less money on administration the need for fully funding education would be far less urgent since money spent on administrators could be funneled into the classroom. That is all well and good if it was not just another political smokescreen designed to confuse and divide. Honestly with all the smoke coming out of Jackson lately, I am beginning to wonder what they are smoking up there. I am not saying that administrative costs do not need to be looked at, but if Reeves would spend some time in the shoes of school administrators or at least talk to them, he might at least change the filter on whatever it is he and his Republican buddies are puffing.

If there are school districts that are top heavy with administrators as Reeves claims, those districts are the exception to the rule. Most school districts in Mississippi operate with minimum administrative support. At the school level there are many schools that operate with one school principal and maybe one assistant principal, and if the school is an elementary school, the odds are there is only a principal and no assistant principal. Of course Mr. Reeves would argue that is the way it should be, but he has never tried to manage a school on his own or be an instructional leader, arbitrate faculty /staff disagreements, be a fair and consistent disciplinarian, offer counsel and guidance to kids, be a psychologist, function as a surrogate parent, act as school test coordinator, be the school technology guru, mediate faculty/parent conferences, direct after school programs, attend special school events/extra-curricular activities, and maintain some semblance of balance with his own family all in the space of one day. I am not saying he is not a busy man, but I am saying few people understand what busy means until they have spent time as a school principal.

Most principals arrive at school between 6:00 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. and put in 10 to 12 hour days before they can even think about going home to their families. If they are a high school principal or high school assistant principal, they usually do not get home until somewhere between 10:00 p.m. and midnight five nights out of every week due to supervising sports, concerts, academic events, and other after school activities. If Reeves has his way and the number of administrators is cut, who will work all those extra hours that are necessary to provide a quality educational experience for children? It is not humanly possible for one administrator to adequately fulfill all the expectations placed on a school administrator by the school, the district, the state, the teachers, the students, the parents, and the community! My guess is that Reeves and his buddies think any administrative responsibilities that one principal cannot get to during the school day can be dumped on teachers who are already maxed out to their limits? You can only pile so much on school administrators and teachers before they break and tell the state to take the job and stick it where the sun does not shine. I am not so sure Mr. Reeves understands that, but again, maybe he does.

Another thing Reeves and his buddies in Jackson fail to understand is that every time they pass a piece of education legislation adding a new program or policy because it sounds like a good idea to them or they are delivering on a favor, they are creating a need for additional administrators to monitor compliance. Monitoring compliance just about always falls directly on the shoulders of the busiest people in the school district – the school principal or the assistant principal if the school is lucky enough to have one. When additional duties are added to the table and nothing is taken off the table, it stands to reason there will be a greater need for additional administrators. The Lieutenant Governor can look at the bulging bureaucracy of state government and see that is true. So, if he wants fewer school administrators, he should do everything within his power to steer legislators away from legislation that will create a need for additional administrative help.

Also, if Mr. Reeves is truly concerned about overly excessive administrative costs in the state, maybe he and the Governor should take a long hard look at the excess in their own backyards. How many hundreds or thousands of state government administrators are currently sucking Mississippi dry? While pointing fingers at school districts as being administratively top heavy, Reeves has at least six administrative positions on his personal staff, and the Governor has at least thirty administrators and administrative assistants on his staff.  Attorney General, Jim Hood heads up 31 divisions all with directors and various other administrative positions. Secretary of State, Delbert Hosemann, has a staff of 110+; State Auditor, Stacey Pickering, has a staff of 125+; and State Treasurer, Lynn Fitch, has a staff of at least 40. These examples packaged with other state elected and appointed administrative positions and their administrative support staffs as well as affiliated local bureaus and commissions provide a clearer picture of where administrative excess actually lies in Mississippi. Not counting elected positions, there are 136 state government agencies in Jackson which are manned by directors, commissioners, assistant directors, deputy directors, assistant commissioners, deputy commissioners, administrative support staff, and clerical support staff. I believe I am safe when I say few if any of them are called on daily to be a mama or daddy to another person’s child, a mentor, an academic leader, a minister, a friend, a believer, a hall and restroom monitor, a janitor, a cheerleader, a bureaucratic paper pusher, a punching bag for political gain, a passive crap dump for abusive parents, a chauffeur when there is no one to take a child home after a game, as well as a mama, daddy, and husband/wife to their own family, and all of that in a twenty-four hour day.

The only thing that may be top heavy about school administrators are the hearts beating in their chests – hearts that like the hearts of teachers do not deserve to be stepped on and ground in the dirt by power hungry politicians who have shown little support or compassion for Mississippi public school educators during the 2015 Mississippi State Legislative session. Unfortunately, as long as smoke boils from the war pipes of state legislators, state educators will continue to suffer. Who knows what they are smoking in those pipes or why, but whatever it is it is not good for the future of Mississippi. I would say “shame on you” to state legislators for what they are doing to public education in Mississippi, but it seems shame is a badge too many of them are wearing with pride these days.

JL

©Jack Linton, February 8, 2015