Category Archives: Community Involvement

Don’t Thank Me

Today is Memorial Day, the unofficial first day of summer. A day of great celebration across our country. There will be barbeques and picnics, hours by the lake, or tanning by the pool. Time spent with family and friends.

It’s also a time of remembrance for all those who have sacrificed so much for our freedom. A day when we honor our fallen heroes, those men and women who gave their lives so that we may live in the greatest country on earth.

As many of you may know, I’m a veteran. Once a long time ago, I raised my right hand and swore to protect and defend this country against all enemies foreign and domestic. It’s an oath that never expires and a promise I’ll carry to my grave.

And yet, my time in the Army was as uneventful as it’s possible to be. I never saw combat. I was never deployed to a hostile area. I never faced the nightmares that often come after impossibly stressful decisions are made in a split second of chaos.

I am a very average peacetime veteran who served my time and got out to go onto other things. There are millions of us all across this country. We’re the ones who put on the uniform for a few years and then went on with our lives.

I’m very proud that I made the choice to serve. I learned a lot of difficult lessons. I gained a new confidence I never would have found without the Army. I got to travel to Europe and see places I may never have visited.

But I’m no hero.

I’m just your typical, average one term Vet.

I understand the desire to show appreciation for those who served and I accept those sentiments when they’re offered. But I do so on behalf of my brothers and sisters who gave so much more than I did. I do so for the Seamen who were lost in Pearl Harbor and for the soldiers who never returned from Normandy Beach. I remember those who came back from Iraq draped under a flag covered coffin. I remember the soldiers like my father-in-law who served four tours in Nam.

Those are the people I thank for my freedom. They’re the real heroes who deserve our honor.

So while I appreciate the sentiment behind the gesture, on this Memorial Day, stop and say a quick prayer for those souls we lost along the way. And thank God that they were there for all of us.

But don’t thank me because I stand in awe of those great men and women too.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Memorial Day filled will good health, beautiful weather, family, and friends. And let’s not forget those who gave everything so that we all might enjoy another day of freedom.

God Bless you all and God Bless America!

Best Little Coffee Shop in Georgia!

Victoria Hawkins and Jaimie Miller, Owners of the Best Little Coffee Shop in Georgia!

I’d like to take a moment and introduce you to two very dear friends of mine, Jaimie Miller and Victoria Hawkins, owners of Between Friends Coffee Shop located in Warner Robins, Georgia. A place that I like to call ‘The Best Little Coffee Shop in Georgia.’

That’s an unofficial title, of course, but one that is entirely fitting.

When you first walk in, Between Friends looks just like any other coffee shop. There are plenty of tables and chairs to sit at. There’s a couch in the far corner. You can easily see the large display of pastries available. There’s a table for kids to sit and color while mothers chat about the latest piece of juicy gossip. All the things you’d typically find in a locally owned coffee shop.

But that’s not what sets this little place apart.

No. These two ladies have created an establishment that is far greater than the sum of their parts. If you go there more than twice, you’re one of the family. They know you. In that way, it’s more like Cheers than Starbucks. If you want to go somewhere where everyone knows who you are and are happy to see you, go to Between Friends. If you need to take a break from the stressors in the world, go to Between Friends. If you want to relax and enjoy a good book or maybe laugh until your sides ache, go to Between Friends. Don’t have a book, you can borrow one of their’s from their lending library. They’ve got as many great recommendations for books as they have for coffee.

She said yes!

On any given day, you’re as likely to run into Jaimie’s husband Wes and her two adorable kids as you are a group of people laughing at the booth in the corner. You may get to witness a marriage proposal. It’s hard not to instantly feel better about the world with so much love in the air and you’re staring at a plate sized, homemade cinnamon roll. One of the two is bound to lift your spirits.

I first met Victoria years ago when we were both active in the local fencing club. She was a fierce sparring partner who easily outmatched my limited athletic abilities. (Although I did manage to get in the odd touch from time to time.) We quickly developed a friendship that has continued to this day.

It wasn’t until after the grand opening of Between Friends last August that I met Jaimie. I’m not one to normally make fast friends, but she has a way of disarming even the most cautious of souls to create deep-rooted, meaningful relationships. Our friendship quickly developed and continues to grow.

I’m proud to call both of these ladies my friends and I’m proud of the work they’ve done with their shop.

Cinnamon Rolls fresh from the oven.

Yet I’m not writing this post to merely speak about my friendship with two strong and intelligent women and the wonderful business they’ve created. No, I have ulterior motives for this piece. You see, they are currently in the running for a small business grant from FedEx. The grand prize is $25,000. For a small, independently run coffee shop, that could be life changing.

Too often, we find ourselves visiting the large, chain establishments and overlooking the little guy. But let’s not lose sight of the impact small businesses have on our communities. These establishments are the backbone of our economy. It’s estimated that 60-80% of jobs here in the U.S. are due to small business enterprises. Imagine what would happen if these businesses didn’t exist. The entire U.S. economy would plummet, followed quickly by the global economy. Small businesses provide huge economic growth for the communities they serve. Small businesses just like Between Friends Coffee Shop.

Jaimie Miller (left) and Victoria Hawkins (right)

And so my friends and readers, I’m asking that you take a moment out of your time and offer support to this growing small business endeavor. Please vote for Between Friends Coffee Shop in the FedEx Small Business Grant. Polls are open until April 5, and you can vote daily. Small businesses provide the heart and soul of our communities. Now we have a chance to support them in a big way.

And, if you’re in the Central Georgia area, stop in for your favorite cup of Joe and a fresh hot cinnamon roll. After all, coffee is better Between Friends.

Happy Reading!

The Miracle of the M&Ms!!

img_20160923_205318I’m still trying to wrap my head around the football game I experienced last night. It was quite the conundrum.

Let me first preface this entire story by saying (for those who don’t actually know me) that I am a somewhat passionate football fan. Although I like to watch most sports, football is my favorite. Each year I wait eagerly for fall, not because of the pumpkin flavored everything and cooler weather, but because fall brings football. And what’s better than that?

But I digress.

Last night was a fierce matchup between my son’s high school, Houston County High (HoCo) and Spalding County (the enemy). Incidentally, for those outside the middle Georgia area, that’s pronounced House-Ton, not Hugh’s Ton like they do in Texas.

But I digress again.

This was an away game to be played at Spalding County in which Griffin is the major city. So far, everything with this story seems perfectly normal. And indeed, I had no inclination as I made the hour long drive up to Griffin that adventure of monumental proportion would ensue.

It started when I drove to the campus of Spalding County High looking for a football game and maybe, just maybe a stadium. Their Jaguars and my Bears were nowhere to be seen. There were no towering lights blazing, no fans cheering, no bands playing. In short, there was no stadium to be found.

Hmmmm.

Well, maybe it was around that next corner. No. It wasn’t, but there was a young woman jogging down the road. I stopped and asked her where the stadium was.

She was very nice and helpful. She told me it was near the old Coca-Cola plant. I didn’t know where that was. Then she mentioned some other plant that apparently had also closed. I didn’t know where that one was either.  We finally got down to actual street names which I found a bit more helpful. She mentioned some street named after a guy. She did warn me that parking was a bit tricky. (By the time I’d made the second turn, I’d forgotten the actually street name, but it was definitely guy-ish.)

So off I went in search of this stadium and this guy sounding street name. Once I was back on the main road, I felt pretty confident in my navigational ability. I had after all, driven through Griffin before and was basically familiar with the city layout. It’s not an overly complicated city design. All I had to do was to find this guy-ish named street, make a left, and find this stadium.

And then I started running into street numbers. I found 4th Street. (I’m not sure where the other 3 went.) There was a giant church where 5th Street should have been and then there was 6th Street. This is the area that I noticed all the people. They were footbally type people. They were gathering for something in the area. I must be getting close.

But there was no stadium to be seen. ANYWHERE!

There wasn’t a sign for a stadium. Not even a make shift sign. Nothing. So I drove a little further thinking maybe I was wrong and I should still hunt for this mysterious street named after a guy.

A couple of blocks later, I made the decision to stop into the AutoZone and ask for additional directions. Those two gentlemen were very nice and told me with a fair amount of conviction that there was no stadium anywhere in the city. They suggested I try Griffin High. There was a stadium there.

Hmmmm.

Nope. I think I’m trying my luck with the crowd of people around the church. I’m either going to find a football game or a revival. But I knew miracles awaited in that direction. And so I meandered my way through the traffic, turned down 4th Street, and found (created) a parking space on the side of the road. When I asked one of the parents, she confirmed I was headed to the right area. There was indeed a stadium in the area.

I started walking with the crowd. I could hear the bands playing. I could hear the fans. But I still couldn’t see a stadium. Then, I noticed a scoreboard peeking through the trees. Literally peeking through the trees.  The stadium was up ahead.

That’s odd. The stadium was basically a city block. And you kinda had to walk down to get to it. And the reason parking is a bit odd was because there was NO designated parking area. This stadium was literally boxed into a standard city block. The semi for our band had to double park on the street corner. Our buses were parked on the sidewalk.

Finally, I found the gate for the visitor entrance, reached in my pocket, and no cash. I remembered it was sitting on my counter at home. Didn’t that just make the adventure even better? I walked back down the block to my truck, headed over to the bank (which I passed earlier), drew out some moolah, then headed back to this city block stadium, and tried to find (create) another parking space.img_20160923_205234

Once I finally made it into the stadium, I walked over to the concession stand which looked a bit like an oversized plywood outhouse. My request was simply – peanut M&M’s and a coke.

The gentleman working the stand looked at me and said, “You know, I sold the last one of those last week and forgot to get anymore. But I gotta Snickers.”

Let me pause the story here for a moment to explain that I eat a bag of peanut M&Ms at each of our games and going into this game we were 5-0. Some may say that’s a coincidence, but I’m enough of a seasoned sports fan to know you never challenge something like that.

Back to the story, I repeatedly ask him about the candy selection, but no matter how long I inquired, peanut M&Ms never materialized. What the heck was I supposed to now? These people were seriously trying to put a hex on the whole darn game!

Finally, I settled for a pack of Reece’s and a Coke.img_20160923_194926

Then I got to take a good look at the inside of this stadium. Now, I’ve been to quite a few games over the years and I’ve seen all sorts of stadiums. Some are a lot nicer than others. This stadium was a new one on me. There was no fencing around the perimeter although the trees were pretty thick through there. And those trees were growing right behind the goal posts. I promise you the branches were only a foot or two behind them. There were trees on the other side as well, but I couldn’t see how close those were to those posts.

And behind the tree line, there was the street. I swear after one long PAT, I could hear a car alarm going off in the background.

But I have digressed once again.

When I found a seat in the stands and looked at the scoreboard, I could see it was going to be a long night for my Bears. They were down by a field goal and playing pretty poorly. Our quarterback couldn’t find the broad side of a barn. Both our defensive and offensive lines looked like they’d never played a single game before. They couldn’t block. They couldn’t stop penetration. They were getting walloped.

And I couldn’t help them because I didn’t have any M&Ms.

I never did figure out why a tree was growing between the goal post.

I never did figure out why a tree was growing between the goal post.

I ate the Reece’s cups as quickly as I could but soon discovered Reece’s Cups have absolutely no effect on a football game whatsoever. In fact they may have made things a bit worse.

Things were really starting to look bad toward the end of the 2nd quarter. The enemy was ahead 17-0. I knew I had to take drastic measures to get some good luck M&Ms. I went over to the band leaders and found the parent photographer who agreed to buy some peanut M&Ms from the home concession stand. Only official band people were allowed to go over to the home side.

Now, let me just say that if you ever (as an adult fan) tell other adults that your HS team is losing because you haven’t eaten any peanut M&Ms, they will look at you like you’ve lost your mind. Thankfully, I did not let that detour me from my quest.

As soon as I gave her the money, we scored a TD with a 2 pt conversion. And the half was over. Maybe, just maybe things were looking up. But we still had a long way to go. Did we have enough time for the M&Ms to work their magic?img_20160923_205806

It was the start of the 3rd quarter when I got the bag. There wasn’t a moment to lose. Y’all, I have never eaten a bag of candy so fast in my life. Thank goodness nobody got that event on camera because it was far from ladylike. I’m not even sure I chewed them all.

And miracles started happening on the field. Our QB found a receiver. Then another. The O Line was blocking everybody. HoCo scored a TD. 17-14. We were catching up.

Then the Jags fumbled on the first play after the kickoff. We had the ball on the 25. We scored again. We were up 21-17. The Jags punted with a three and out. Jake Fromm, our wonderful QB ran it in for another TD. We were up by 11. The enemy scored one more TD. (A very questionable one, I might add.) 28-24. All we had to do was run the ball for a 1st down and run out the clock. That last minute was a grueling slugfest pitting warrior against warrior.

And HoCo came out victorious!!

Some people may say that there is a strictly scientific explanation for the drastic turn around HoCo experienced last night. They will say that me eating a bag of M&Ms had nothing whatsoever to do with winning a football game.

Those people are wrong.

It’s all about the M&Ms, baby. And I will continue to support my home team by eating a bag of peanut M&Ms at each game. Next time, I’ll be better prepared with a backup bag just in case the enemy tries to hex us again.

And don’t be surprised if I bring in a 5 pound bag for the Northside game. Lord knows that’ll be a tough one and we’ll need all the peanut miracle power available!

Go Bears!!

 

 

Down With the Dirty Rotten Scoundrels!

I don’t often write posts about blatant criminal activity. Usually, I try to be upbeat and positive in most situations. But it has come to my attention that a new brand of bandit is sweeping the nation and I felt all of you should be made aware. These fiends are causing uproars within their cities. Challenges the very foundations of positive civil establishments.

What new criminal element is this? Is there a new drug sweeping the nation? Vandals, violent gangs, bank robbers? Surely this may be the work of international terrorists.

No. These rebel rousers are far worse than any of that. These people are actually encouraging their neighbors to read!

{Giant gasp!}

Can you imagine the audacity of some people?!?!

And how are these perpetrators organizing such a movement? By constructing ‘Little Lending Libraries’ on their property.library-1220101_1280

You read that correctly. These master minds of the underground are constructing tiny lending libraries and putting on their on property. Then they are filling them with their own books and allowing neighbors to borrow those books any time someone wants a good read. They use subversive slogans like, ‘Need a book, Take a book. Have a book, Give a book.” And they’re doing so without permits from their cities and municipalities.

They’re circumventing the bureaucracy!

Now, granted most cities have policies about buildings and structures. There are rules and regulations. No one wants a building randomly coming down on top of people. Those are good policies to have in place. I personally don’t want a building to fall on me.

But lending libraries are by their very definition little. These structures are about the size of a dollhouse. They’re usually elevated on posts or stands. As of the date of this posting, I personally know of NO physical injuries sustained in conjunction with a little lending library.

Cities such as Los Angeles and Shreveport have begun investigating people who build lending libraries. Citizens have been told they will be required to buy permits, in some cases for several hundred dollars, in order to continue to have the structures. And in Leawood, Kansas a nine year old boy was told to remove his library because it was an illegally detached structure. The city had apparently received a complaint from a neighbor.

Now, I’m not going to suggest that this neighbor probably doesn’t need to be in close proximity to other people. Far be it for me to judge the sanity of a whackadoodle that would find fault in a nine year old giving books away.

But I will call foul on these cities and their so called ‘crack down’ on little lending libraries. Since the movement started several years ago, thousands of these structures have helped bring communities together in a way that is often unheard of in today’s social media based world. Neighbors are actually encouraging their neighbors to get out and meet each other. They’re sharing what they have with one another. They’re talking and socializing. And what’s more, they’re reading.

I’ve been interested in this movement for many years. I’ve always thought it was a brilliant idea. And something I definitely wanted to try. However, I’ve procrastinated. Other things always seem to come up. Now I think it might be time to act. It might be time to become a rebel myself. I think I need to be a bit of further research and figure out how to build one of these. If for no other reason than to stand up to the overwhelming idiocy that seems to stagnate so many areas.

And I encourage you to do the same. How wonderful would it be to see a return of intelligence? So if you have a book then give a book. Let’s encourage reading, thinking, and most of all, some good old common sense.

Happy Reading all you rebels! Go share those books!