God ~ Thank You For My Enemies


I have four other articles for you waiting to be published. This week was to be the first in a two part series on Southern words. But…..

I awoke in the wee dark hours of the morning, just moments before an Instagram friend, Ayman, made a post.

I say Instagram friend, but I really don’t know her. I do not even remember how we ended up following each other. One of us probably made a comment the other liked on a mutual “friends” post and hit follow. Then the other did the polite thing and returned the follow. Life in our social media culture. But, it doesn’t matter. I am glad we follow each other, I do like her posts. Anyway…..

I awoke in a contemplative mood (writerly mood some say). Moments later she made a post that dove-tailed my thoughts, and here they are.

I love my enemies.

Not because any religion or God says I should or must. No I love my enemies in the Blackfoot way.

Once many years ago I met a man who was Blackfoot. In our short conversation he taught me much about the Blackfoot. Though I have forgotten most of his words and even what he looked like, I have remembered two things he taught me.

First, the Blackfoot are not a tribe, but a confederation of seven tribes.

Second, the Blackfoot measure the greatness of a man by the greatness of his enemies. At the time I did not understand just how profound that truly is.

Now I am not talking about someone who believes every bad rumor about you and gleefully passes it along. That person, for one reason or another, is jealous of you. They want to see your downfall because they feel that somehow it will increase their own stature or stop their own feeling of inadequacy.

I am also not talking about the person who has decided you are now persona non grata because you called them on their bullshit. That person has underestimated your intelligence, your worth, or both.

Neither of those people really KNOW you, and they never will. They can’t. They only know you as a reflection of themselves. Only those things in you that directly impact their self-image are even noticed by them. It is nothing personal.

Actually, the low regard both of those people have for you, has nothing to do with you. So get over it, it is not personal. Both of these people are convinced they know you like the back of their hand. They don’t. Which is why you surprise them (though they would never admit it), with your words and deeds from time to time.

So who am I talking about?

I am talking about a person who really, truly, knows you. They get you. They know your core beliefs, your core values, they see you. Not just your public image most people get. When you do or say something, they are not surprised. If truth be told, they probably could have predicted it.

It is those core principals of yours that they don’t like. They dislike you because of what they stand for.

Those last two sentences? Means they have core values and principals that guide them as well. It also means your core values clash with their core values someplace on the list.

There are only two people in this world who will ever surprise you. Those you see as family & friends, and a principled enemy.

Those who are close to you are the only ones who can betray you. Their betrayal, if it happens, will surprise you and hurt you deeply.

So…..

How can a principled enemy surprise you?

A principled enemy will surprise you at those moments when they defend you!

What?!?

Defend you? Not going to happen! They are an enemy, they will never defend you!

Au contraire my friend!

We are not talking about someone who is jealous of you, nor are we talking about someone who is upset because you caught them on and called them on their bullshit. No, we are talking about a principled enemy who dislikes you because your values clash with their values.

Those petty people? They will take any victory over you they can, and if it includes things that are not true. Then so much the better.

Ah, but the principled enemy. It matters a great deal to them. Yes, they want to defeat you, yes they oppose you. But they want to defeat you on their principles vs. your principles. So, when the situation has played you false. The principled enemy will watch and wait. When no one else comes to your defense, your principled enemy will. No, you are not friends now. Yes, they still want to defeat you. But they want to defeat you fair and square, they want to defeat you because somewhere on the list your core values clash, and because you are preventing them from their goals, they are preventing you from your goals, or both.

A principled enemy is worth your respect. Principled enemies are also rare. Only a principled enemy will push, make you reflect on your core beliefs. Only the principled enemy will make you stronger and teach you WHY your values are your values. The principled enemy will challenge you right down to the very foundations of what you believe. They will force you to know what you believe and why. A principled enemy will force you to stand on your convictions or change them, even if you do so alone.

Now….

You know….

Why the Blackfoot measure the greatness of a man by the greatness of his enemies.

Have a good day my friend.

And may all your enemies be great men (or women).

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Learn a Foreign Language ~ Speak Southern


We are starting a series on the Southern language. Yes, it really is like another language.

For those of you who live in other parts of the country you will see words that are used where you live also. However, those words, when you trace them back to their origins, came from the South.

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Accents, We All Have One (or do we?)


Actually, no, not everyone has an accent. However, I am getting ahead of myself again.

One night when insomnia and I were looking to occupy our time, I landed on PBS. Another college professor droning on about his topic. Blah, blah, blah. Linguistics. He was talking about regional accents and I was ready to switch to the shopping channel when he said something that caught my attention.

Ohio does not have a regional accent. How can anyone not have an accent of some sort. Next he moved to the South.

Okay now my Yorkie, Sam, and I were reaching for popcorn not the remote.

I grew up in the South. I have tramped all over Dixie. I know Southern accents, and I know the subtle differences. Tennessee, Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina, NORTH Florida (that area South of Georgia East of Tallahassee, and North of Ocala. The panhandle is the panhandle not North Florida) each just slightly different.

To Yankees we all sound alike, except Louisiana, even Yankees can tell that difference. But the professor was explaining the “why’s and wherefore’s”and as much as I hated to admit it, he made a lot of sense.

He used a map to show the historical migration across the country. Then he showed a map that traced linguistical migration across the country. He even explained when certain groups migrated to certain areas (like Southerners to Missouri or Kansas) based on the commonalities of speech in the old are (South) and the new are (Missouri and Kansas).

If you come across that show sometime, watch it. He really did make it seem interesting. Who knew a college professor could actually be interesting. Turns out Ohio isn’t accent poor. Ohioans just have the most neutral accent. He also explained the closest accent in America to the British accent is the Southern accent. The main difference is the ending sound of words. One slides up and the other slides down. Look up the show, you’ll see what I am talking about.

Anyway…. back to our story.

I do know a lot about accents though. And any Southern boy or girl that has moved to the land of Yankees does too. First thing you learn as a Southern Expatriate is — you have a Southern accent, you are stupid.

You work for a multi-national company in the engineering department. You have a master’s degrees in engineering and business administration. That’s nice. The janitor is going to talk down to you, get used to it, you have a Southern accent you are stupid.

Also, you will have people walk right up to you, look you in the eye, and say to you, “Say something.”

Yankees think we “sound cute” too. So you are entertaining, cute, and not very bright.

Obviously my first order of business after moving to this foreign land was not finding a new place to live, new friends, or even the nearest post office. Nope. I had to ditch the Southern accent.

My daughter Elizabeth taught me something about that. But, we’ll get to it later.

It was hard, but I finally managed to tone down the accent enough to fit in. It worked too. No longer was I entertaining, stupid, or cute every time I asked a question. People stopped walking up to me just to say, “Say something.”

Now flash forward two decades. I’m a proud dad, my daughter is ten years old, and my ex-wife has let me take our daughter on a road trip for the first time (thank you Marina).

Now maybe I didn’t want to sound Southern, but just like Herschel Walker, I am proud of my Southern roots. So naturally, after a visit to Missouri to see family, I took my daughter on a tour of the South.

We went through Arkansas, stayed the night in Chattanooga, Tennessee, through Georgia to South Carolina. We visited the Columbia Zoo thanks to one of my childhood friends. Then we went to Charleston and toured the city (I stocked up on yellow stone washed grits while I was there. Yankee grocery stores just don’t have good grits).

We did ghost walks, saw the Confederate submarine HL Hunley, walked the battery, met another childhood friend (awful lot of Floridians living in the Carolinas now that Yankees are taking over Florida), and generally had a great time before taking Elizabeth back to her mother in Ohio.

Now for the lesson on accents from my then 10 year old daughter. At her request, as we were driving around Charleston, I was explaining the history of Charleston and some of the places we were driving past.

As we were closing in on the battery I was in mid-sentence when my daughter started laughing hysterically.

“What is it Pumpkin?” I said.

“Daddy you sound just like them.”

There you have it. Two decades of learning about accents from friends, co-workers, PBS; but the most profound thing I learned about accents came from my daughter after just 3 days in Charleston. Art was right, kids do say the damndest things.

It seems you can intentional change your accent. But after just a few days in “the mother-land” your original accent will start to sneak up on you.

You can take the Southerner out of the South, but you can never take the South out of the Southerner.

Y’all have a good day.

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How Rose Evelyn Became GG


I had my story for you today (you will get it another Sunday), but such are plans of mice and men.

You see I promised to tell someone very dear to me the story of GG. The more I thought about the more I realized you might like this story too. But let me start with Evelyn.

She was born Rose Evelyn McDermit, though she went by Evelyn until 1967. A fiery red head of Irish immigrants. A dark red which she kept colored as a brunette even when she was in her eighth decade.

She married Bernerd E. Goodykoontz (yes Bernerd not Bernard). They had a daughter and three grandsons. When this story took place though the youngest, Jason was still five years in the future. Joe was 5 and Jeff was 3 years old.

One Sunday afternoon the two boys were deep in conversation on the back seat of a little red, two door Chevette. Dad driving and mom in the front passenger seat.

The family was on its way from Bellefontaine to Milford Center. They had just spent the afternoon visiting Evelyn and Bernerd.

It was this visit the spurred the delimma the boys were attempting to resolve. As Joe pointed out the boys had two grandmothers and two grandfather’s. There were tome when the boys were in deep discussion that this created confusion as to which set of grandparents they were talking about.

Not surprisingly this was a very serious problem, particularly for boys ages 3 and 5. It the entire trip for them to arrive at the solution.

The grandfathers were easy. Grandfather Combs was just over six feet tall and grandfather Goodykoontz was about six inches shorter. The solution was simple.

They would call grandfather Combs Big Pa and grandfather Goodykoontz Little Pa. Half of the problem solved in record time.

The grandmothers were not going to be as simple to separate though. They were both about five foot two inches. What were they to do? They long ride was almost over and the two boys had still not solved the problem.

Then just before they arrived home Joe had an idea. He had learned his letters and some words already. He realized that both grandmother and Goodykoontz started with the letter G.

Joe gave his idea to Jeff. Jeff did not know all his letters yet, but he trusted his brother and loved the idea. Working together they had solved the recognition problem with their grandparents. From now on they would be known as Big Pa, Little Pa, Grandma, and ….. GG.

Over the next forty years the names Big Pa and Little Pa faded. But GG took on a life of its own. People who did not know Evelyn had grandchildren knew her not as Evelyn, but as GG.

No one ever asked how she came to be called GG. When Jason was born Joe and Jeff made certain Jason knew who their grandmother Goodykoontz was.

Neighbors, co-workers, friends, relatives, even Evelyn’s own siblings all called her GG.

You see two little boys ages 3 and 5 just wanted a way to not be confused when the two of them talked between themselves about their grandparents. They never realized that what they decided together on the backseat of that little red car would have far reaching effects on people, some of whom they would never meet, for more than 40 years.

Your life is very much the same way. You just don’t realize it. There are people in this world who remember something about you from years ago. A kindness you did, or a way you made them feel. My grandmother has been gone ten years and my brother Jeff just seven months.

But Jason and I remember GG AND Jeff. More important than their names, we remember how they made us feel.

There is a John Wayne line in the movie The Cowboys that goes like this.

“It’s not how you’re buried that counts. It’s how they remember you.”

How will people remember you?

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The Love Letter


Let’s start with what is on the world wide web about love letters.

You will find out that as rare as letters are in the 21st century love letters are even more rare. That is true. If you ask women you know if they have ever received a love letter I would wager you will not find one who has. But that is not what this article is about.

On the web you will find a step-by-step process to writing a love letter. Just follow the instructions of the author and bam you have written a love letter. But that is not what this article is about.

The articles you find will also tell you a love letter is a good way to win a woman’s heart. But that is not what this article is about.

This article is for the man whose heart has already been won by a woman. That is what this article is about.

When you look into her eyes you don’t just see beautiful blue eyes (although you see that too). You see her. You see past, present, and future.

In the past you see the pain and hurt others have caused her. You would give anything if you could take all of that away. But this is also the conflict within you as well. Because you know that if you change those things, you change this amazing woman that you love. And though she is not perfect (She might snore, get moody, pout, roll her eyes, or whatever), she is perfect for you. All the good, all the bad, every bit of this unbelievable woman you love like no one you have ever loved before. Perfect? No, far from it. Perfect for you? Yes, thank God, yes!

In the present? You see an amazing woman. I mean how could she love you right? Let’s face it brother you are far from perfect, and you know that better than anyone. I mean we could list all your flaws and bad habits, but let’s not and say we did. In the present though, you just can’t get enough of this woman. You hold yourself back so you don’t scare her off. (And you need to stop that because she thinks it means you are not interested in her.) You don’t let a day go by without talking or messaging her. You tried a couple times because, once again, you were afraid of chasing her off. But it didn’t work did it? When it comes to conversations you don’t care what you two talk about. You just like hearing her voice and learing what her likes, dislikes, and passions are. You really don’t care where you eat or where you go as long as you are with her. (You need to start making those decisions though. When you leave it up to her she feels like you really don’t care about her.)

The future you see in her eyes is everything. Every thought, every image in your future she is there right by your side. You don’t even want to imagine a future without her, you can’t.

That first time you looked at her and realized you love her? Burned into your memory. You probably remember what she was wearing, what you two were doing and where you were at.

Here is something else brother. She does not see herself like you see her. And she thinks everyone sees her the way she sees herself. She doesn’t think she’s pretty enough, she sees wrinkles and grey hairs no one else sees. She certainly doesn’t think she is at the right weight. And – She remembers every dumb thing she ever did since she pushed little Johnny down on the playground in kindergarten. You need her to see herself the way you see her. The only way that will happen is if you constantly remind her. Telling her in person is a must. Telling her in a love letter you wrote let’s her go back and read your words over and over. With your spoken words and your love letters to reread, eventually, slowly, she will begin to believe you are sincere, though she won’t understand why or how you feel about her like that (she’s still focused on her faults, real and imagined). She will believe, eventually.

I could go on and on. I think you are starting to get the idea though. Tell her! Tell her how you feel. Tell her what you think. Tell her what you see when you look at her. Tell her what she means to you. Tell her about your romantic memories together. Tell her of the future you see with her. Tell her about the times when you thought, “damn I wish she were here right now.” And tell her why you wish she had been there with you. Tell her how often you think of her every day, every hour, every minute. TELL HER!!! Tell her everything that is special to you about her. Tell her why you love her and what you love about her.

Okay, now comes your excuses for why you can’t.

“But, Joe, no one can read my handwriting. It looks like chicken scratch.”

If she can’t read your handwriting in a love letter you wrote to her, she will hire someone who can read chicken scratch just to read HER love letter YOU wrote to her. Believe me.

“But Joe, I’m not good with words. I’m not a writer. I can barely write my name.”

She knows that. You think she doesn’t know that? That is exactly why it will mean so very much to her. She never expected in a million years to get a love letter from you. That chicken scratch handwriting and the time and struggle you put into writing your feelings for her will mean more to her than a diamond ring.

Your great-grandkids will read that letter. Your woman will keep it all the days of her life and pass it on to her daughter or daughter-in-law.

Let’s face it. You are one lucky bastard to have her. The one person perfect just the way she is for you. As rare as a Sandpiper. Brother you write the letter.

You BOTH will be glad you did.

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