S. Timothy Glasscock

I’ve been thinking. . .

• We were sent home in the middle of March. This gives us the opportunity to begin gardening activities early and to ignite interest in spending more time at leisure and getting away on weekends.
• The increase of virtual teaching and removal from our usual work environment has forced us to make clear delineation between home life and work life. We are becoming experts at putting aside one to preserve the other.
• Restaurants are closed or limited and grocery stores are complicated—so we are forced to cook and eat at home, using more garden produce and farmers market produce and meat. We’ve been experimenting w new techniques and ingredients & the outcomes are very rewarding. When we plan carefully, the opportunity to eat more healthily and control calories is enhanced.
• We are locked behind masks and consequently separated by an imaginary barrier that squelches our usual sense of intimacy and human connection. The lack of comforting feedback we experience by observing facial responses and smiles in return for our interaction make us uncertain of how we are being received. Faced with this lack of the body language we are intimately accustomed to, we have been forced to look within ourselves for reassurance. . . What a novel concept.
Home / work balance. . . Time for ourselves and our family. . . Gardening. . . Cooking at home. . . And. . . Looking within for gauging our self worth.
Things we needed to do so badly all along.

Top Ten Reasons to “Keep the Faith” 

10. The nature of change. Things suck pretty bad right now, but things have sucked before—fairly drastically—and they got better. WWII sucked, the Jim Crow era was brutal, segregation, Vietnam, and Watergate—all have come and gone. We will move to better place if for no other reason than “This, too, shall pass.”

9. We are all in the same boat. While not everyone is as upset with the current president as you are, the social unrest he’s created has just about every citizen longing for peaceful times and less stress. Sometimes, the very people who decide a certain ne’er-do-well is in their best interest to employ, decide that he’s outlasted his usefulness and give him the old heave-ho. When they say “Every dog will have his day,” that’s what they mean.

8. The constitution. It has held up through war, social unrest, devious criminals, gerrymandering, Supreme Court shenanigans, assassinations, civil war, and is still standing strong. While numerous political factions have tried to manipulate its precepts, and lawmakers and lawbreakers alike have defied it, the protections, checks, and balances laid out in that precious document have held fast and kept a million awful things from happening. And it still is.

7. The uncertainty principle. (Not the one by Heisenberg) Robert Burns wrote “The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft a-gley.” And what he means (I think) is that those who think they’ve got it all figured out, rarely do. Yeah, it seems like a great party to throw all rules and established procedures for running a government out the window and do things “off the cuff,” until the very crises and dilemmas for which these procedures were created crop up and BAM! Suddenly you’re the laughing stock of the world. No matter how the current kakistocracy tries to spin the Covid-19 pandemic and resultant economic crash, there’s no way to escape their culpability in our downfall. Trump OWNS this mess and everyone knows it.

6. The tendency for markets to crave stability. Yep, the hedge fund managers and off-shore money hoarders dream about having a hard core anti-regulation guy in charge. But just like 2007 and the mortgage crisis, bad policies eventually wreak havoc and investors can only tolerate chaos for so long. Why do you think Wal-Mart zillionaires and scions of the Murdock empire are backing Joe Biden? Do you think they’re not making money! LOL They’re making busloads! But they also know that the markets can only hold together through so much insanity and then they’ll sink right along with us peasants. The markets want peace and predictability.

5. The March of Time. Everybody ages, everybody dies. The giant pack of kooks and criminals running things right now are not getting any younger—and neither are the folks who voted for them. At least 14 million new voters have been added to the rolls since 2016, and they are, largely, NOT fans of this government. Add to that the maturation of so many who formerly just didn’t vote, or thought “my vote doesn’t matter,” and then they saw what a few votes meant in 2016 to very key battleground states, and you’ve got the possibility of “A While New World” voting in November 2020. Abraham Lincoln said “Time is a great thickener of things.” He was right.

4. Karma. It’s real! You’ve seen it in action yourself—remember that creep who intimidated you in high school, and how he ended up triple divorced and unable to hold a basic job? Karma. History isn’t kind to bullies. Hitler (I apologize for the 9 millionth invocation of Der Fuhrer), Mussolini, Joseph McCarthy, George Wallace, J.Edgar Hoover— all these guys were brought down eventually—and their reputations didn’t wear well. . . There’s a bully in charge in the US right now and Karma’s calling. . .

3. Society’s slow trudge toward progress. Martin Luther King, Jr. said “The arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice!” All over our planet, societies have eliminated unjust working laws, made provision for retirement benefits and healthcare for all citizens, struck down established racial inequality, brought down tyrannical governments, and righted historical wrongs on a continuous basis. There is no reason, for me at least, to believe this long-term historical trend will cease. The United States of America can’t resist this trend indefinitely. We will rejoin the arc of history.

2. People. Now I know some will laugh at me for this, because I know there’s no better argument for hopelessness than the ignorance and stupidity of some people. But they are not the majority. Yes, I know one quick trip to Wal-Mart at any given time of day might make me think about changing my mind, but I’m not looking for anecdotal evidence, I’m talking about life-long, person-to-person experience with human beings over your life. No one forced that dirt-poor, dog-tired manual laborer to stop on the expressway and help you fix your tire. No one held a gun to the heads of those underpaid but compassionate souls who routinely give thousands to “GoFundMe” pages for unfortunate souls in need every day. There’s no rule that makes people hold open the door, or mow an elderly person’s yard, or donate to the food pantry, or take a name off the “Angel Tree” at Christmas. People. People do those things because most of them are damn decent. I’ll fight you on this one.

1.This latest generation.What?!?! Did I hear you right?!?! Young people? Seriously?!? You’re damn right. The pioneer generation came to the continent with the shirts on heir backs and tamed the wilderness—they did a few things we can criticize, but they were tougher than nails. The Revolutionary generation liberated our country from English rule—they wimped out on slavery but they started us on the road to equality. The post revolutionary generations made this country into something truly unique upon the earth—a country where, at least in principle, your background didn’t hold you back from making something of yourself. The civil war generation fought to keep our union and abolished slavery, making good on a check written a hundred years earlier by the founding parents. And each generation since then has brought their own progress to the table. Each one accomplishing at least a thing or two of note. But this generation has shown itself wiling to take on all the fights that our most recent (and even earlier) generations have been unwilling to do. Sexism, homophobia, inequality, mistreatment of indigenous people, and even the remnants of our country’s darkest, deepest, and evidently dearest original sin—racism and the legacy of slavery. Statues of racists, slavers, and white supremacists all over the country have been brought down—right under the noses of the most repressive, regressive, and racist administration in two generations! These “kids” are serious, and they’re not kidding around. People, the Confederate battle flag was removed from the state flag of MISSISSIPPI. Yes, I spelled that right, and yes, Mississippi. These people are not stopping and I think they are going to save us all. As a wise person once said “A new broom sweeps clean,” and we are about to see some clean.

Keep the faith! The best is yet to come!
So it’s Independence Day! What are you going to declare your independence from?

The original 13 colonies were tired of a government in England that taxed them and controlled them from afar and have them no input into their own destinies. I’m betting that’s not dissimilar from what you feel at times?

Aren’t there things that are taxing your strength and controlling your thoughts that you could do without?

Here are a few things I’m declaring my independence from:

1.   Negative people. There are those who know the “cost of everything and the value of nothing.” They complain when things don’t go their way and even when they do get their way they complain if their own decisions cause them to suffer. You can see it in the Twitter rants Trump posts where he gripes about Coronavirus restrictions (that he, as president, was in charge of enforcing) and then complains that the pandemic continues and states don’t open up as quickly as he likes. You see, it doesn’t matter how things go, some folks can find something negative in everything!

2.   Pessimism. Yes, things are tough. No, we are not goin right back to normal anytime soon. But. . . In the meantime, we have friends, and social media contacts, and cell phones, and TikTok, and a million other ways to keep ourselves from descending into dark thoughts and attitudes. Nothing lasts forever and change can be good. My new mantra.

3.   Unhealthy habits. Did the Coronavirus catastrophe send you into an eating frenzy? Did you fall down on your exercise regimen? Start over. I’m starting anew. Join me? 

4.   Boring routines. I could have predicted my every evening and meal before Covid. On this night I eat X and on this night I go home to sit in my chair and stare at tv. And. . . You know what? No more! There is no telling what we might start doing when we return to work. I’m planning on cooking every night and trying new things (and things I’ve learned over the quarantine) and doing more take out, and having dinner w friends more often. We’re going to walk to restaurants and parks and get out of the house whenever possible.
5.   Worrying. I am a worry wart. I obsess about bills and bank accounts and credit ratings and what people think and . . . And. . . No more. NO. MORE. If there’s nothing you can do about it, forget it. If there is. . . THEN CHANGE IT. But either way, stop worrying. Have you been keeping up with Tabitha Brown on TikTok. I have, because “that’s my bizzznisss!” 

6.   Constantly being serious. Have some fun! Do it because why not? Do it because you thought about it! Do whatever will lighten your mood. Watch Leslie Jordan on TikTok! He’s a hoot! LAUGH!!! I have a friend who I’ve known for 30 years—when I call him and ask how he is, he just laughs and says “Well, you can laugh or cry. Which are YOU gonna choose?” 

7.   Concern over what other people think. Whooooo! I could go on about this forever. First, nobody’s thinking about you, you’re not that interesting. Second, if they’re not paying your bills or making your life better in any discernible way, who CARES what they think? And Third, I promise, if you look honestly at these people whose approval you crave, you’ll see they’re NOT WORTH IT. They have at least as many flaws and idiosyncrasies as you, and should be picking about their OWN LIVES. Not. Yours. 

There, now!

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people need to occasionally declare their own personal independence from various people and things, and that they are endowed by the fact of being human with certain intrinsic abilities. That among these are: the ability to get through just about anything, the ability to start over if they screw up, the ability to do anything necessary to be reasonably happy, the ability to be kind to others and themselves, and the ability to forgive themselves should any of these abilities not be utilized effectively at any given time!

Happy Independence Day!

Handling Sin by Michael Malone

What makes us read? What compels us to keep going, page after page? Is it realism? Character development? A topic we’re already interested in? A well-crafted turn of phrase, perhaps?

Well, all these virtues and more are effortlessly displayed in elegant polish in Michael Malone’s “Handling Sin.” At once, a book of vibrant characters, picturesque scenery, and action-packed forward motion, this novel grabs your attention in an instant and drags you helplessly, frantically, happily onward through chapter upon chapter. Malone’s cast of characters is more than believable, they’re so real you feel sad that you know it’s fiction—you want to meet them, join their adventures, attend their family reunions! It’s a real let down when the book finally has to end. But, oh, is it worth the ride!

I’ve never been a fan of fiction. I never had time for made-up stories. In a way, much like Raleigh Hayes, the “hero of our story,” as he’s often labeled wryly throughout the book, I was always too serious and concerned with the “real world” to take time to read about worlds someone had dreamed up. There were too many facts about history, current events, and how-to for me to just chuck it aside for frivolous fiction! Oh sure, I’d step into far-off kingdoms of make-believe for a two-hour movie, or maybe even the occasional mini series. But devote the hours and days necessary to finish a novel? Fat chance! I had been lured into assignations with fiction by the off-hand masterpiece like “A Confederacy of Dunces,” by John Kennedy Toole, but that and the few other books I had devoted the time to were “ought to know” books like “Little Women,” and “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and most of these ended up being at least slight disappointments. 

I was drawn to comedy (which was the appeal of the Toole book), and I guess I told myself “If I’m going to know it’s fiction, it might as well make me laugh!” Well, “Handling Sin” does just that. It’s not just the way Malone playfully wheedles his main protagonist and his friends’ foibles and shortcomings, it’s also about how relates them to our own. The insights into human nature that are revealed when this author psychoanalyses his cast prove that this writer KNOWS PEOPLE. He’s studied them and has at least an arguably firm grasp of what makes them “tick.” 

Are there stereotypes? Yes. Are there places where a particular character or characters could be fleshed out further? Sure. But it’s a novel, not a series of novels and you have to give a writer some leeway to decide what’s important and what can slide. This Michael Malone does beautifully. Raleigh Hayes is serious, responsible, fair, diligent, hard-working—but above all, he’s let his life go by in a blur of work and no-nonsense living that have robbed him of, well, LIVING! Thermopylae, North Carolina is a backwater, utterly passed over by progress, commerce, and modernity. The inhabitants of this town and Raleigh’s family are flawed, difficult, even insufferable—but their universality and humanity are displayed lovingly and with tenderness, leaving the reader room to be interested in what happens to each of them and, ultimately, to care about them. 

Raleigh’s journey is our journey. A journey from responsible, closed-off, insular, careful oblivion, to vulnerable, messy, involved, giving existence as a whole person. Raleigh discovers that those who he thought of as “having it all together” are hopeless tragedies and those he saw as foolish, profligate, irresponsible ne’er-do-wells are actually experiencing parts of life he never knew existed—and likely never would have, had his aging father not skipped town unexpectedly and left him with a madcap odyssey of tasks and travels to complete in order to bring him home and settle his family estate. Expect characters with dark humor, irreverent invective, exposed casual racism, and more fun than you can imagine til you just go out and get this book!

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Renewal and Revolution

We are always in the act of renewal. Just getting out of bed in the morning says you are willing to renew your efforts to have a successful day. Renewal. Getting in the car (or on the computer) to go to work is a renewal of your commitment to your employment. Stepping on the scale, taking that morning walk, putting down the bag of chips— all signs of a renewed willingness to put or to keep your health in check. We make meaningful statements with our actions, but we are doing nothing new. If we possess any amount of self-regard or personal self-worth, we are continuing on a usual and healthy path. 

But other actions are revolutionary. The act of going out of your way to comfort another human being, to build them up, to turn away from your own needs for the sake of someone else’s. Revolution. It’s a “turning around” of something from the way it was to a “new normal.” Humans, as a rule, tend to their own needs (to say it another way, they are selfish) so when they forsake that norm,  it is remarkable, revolutionary, and should not go unnoticed. 

Every day of this pandemic, thousands of people, hundreds of thousands, even millions of people are spending their days helping others. And while doctors, nurses, police, fire fighters and teachers are always helping others in the course of their work, it is no less extraordinary. Because at present, the act of leaving the house, and proceeding to put others before self, is not just a selfless act, it is one which actually endangers the self. It is self-sacrifice at its heart. How much more revolutionary can you get?

So what are you doing? How are you participating in renewal, and what about your actions are revolutionary? Is revolution only for a chosen few? Can we not participate in our own salvation from despair and ruin while endeavoring to save others? Isn’t that a conservation of energy? Getting “two birds with one stone,” so to speak? 

I have vowed to turn the despair I see and feel into something less negative, to transform what I can of the darkness into light. And I want to do it for more than just myself. The reason I am led to engage in defying the darkness, initially, is “self-preservational,” it is necessary to my own need for light and positivity. But I desire a greater impact. I want to help others to see the brightness of transformation that comes when you defy darkness and seek the better angels of our nature. 

Weve got to look for the right answers to the wrong questions being asked every day. The questions are always “whose fault is this?” Or “why didn’t things go differently?” These are the absolute wrong questions. One of the reasons our current president is so good at gaslighting us and spinning the news in a negative direction, is that he focuses on providing us with wrong questions and hopes we’ll focus on answering them— and the answers he seeks always lead to division and distraction. 

The right answers are:
  1. Being focused on actions that make things better 
  2. Letting blamers chase blame, and haters chase hate—you chase hope.
  3. Going out of your way to find the good things happening around you, and making them more consequential.
  4. Create beauty while others point out the ugly. Overwhelm the menu of suck with an order of awesome.   
  5. Give love to others in the form of small acts of kindness. Enough of this revolutionary behavior really can change the world. 
  6. Calm yourself. Stabilize the emotion, then calm others. 
Keep up the renewal. But seek to increase the revolution. 

Memorial Day celebrates revolutionary acts. 

Vive la Revolution! 

Morning After

“Well, here we are. . . I saw an almost humorous post on Facebook where they showed Olympia Dukakis as Morticia Addams and the caption read ‘To all you people who said you’d rather die than vote for Hillary Clinton. . . Well, here we are. . . ‘

I call this almost humorous because people are dying — and as a direct result of our having allowed an unfit person to ascend to the presidency. We’ve all witnessed the Trump administration’s criminally inept handling of the Covid-19 pandemic response and there can be no denying that enormous change is needed.

I began writing my book “A Trump Diary” immediately after the 2016 election— certain that something horrible was about to happen, but obviously not remotely able to foresee how MANY horrors we would truly witness. Our country has been through wrenching racial divisions, not seen since the 1960s. We’ve seen the re-emergence of white supremacist and hate groups nationwide. Women’s rights, lgbtq+ rights, immigrant rights, minority rights, HUMAN rights in general have all been set back at least 30 years as far as jurisprudence is concerned. While Donald Trump has ranted, tweeted, and demoralized the public, quietly and seditiously, Mitch McConnell has packed our nations federal courts with “judges” who, not ten years ago, would have been laughed out of a Senate confirmation hearing (in truth, no one would have had the temerity to even suggest most of them). Two virulently right-wing Supreme Court justices have been confirmed to our nations highest and most consequential court, assuring the difficulty of securing anything resembling justice for another 30 years. Our international standing is at a lower place than anytime since Watergate, immigrants have completely lost faith in the US as a haven for the oppressed since political sanctuary is virtually extinct, our environmental laws are decimated, enforcement of financial and workplace safety laws are nearly non-existent, our tax regulations have been tilted irreparably toward favoring the 1%, and now, due to this charlatan’s neglect, our entire economy and safety net are threatened.

Where do we go from here?

Even in the eye of a storm, the self remains. The center holds as long as YOU do.

When the blitzkrieg was raging outside, Londoners held onto their faith and kept a “stiff upper lip,” not because they didn’t know how bad it was. They knew. But they persevered because they knew there would be a “morning after.” There would be a time when the powers that were wreaking havoc over humanity would lose their grip and decent people would seize back control of the world. Well, our “morning after” is coming.

November 2020 needs to be a house cleaning like nothing yet seen. If good people vote, change can come. And yes, it is likely a President Biden will need to spend most of the next four years struggling to repair what Trump has destroyed. But we, and many other countries, have been there before. Keep your head up, keep your health strong and FIGHT for a return to common sense and human kindness, in our country and everywhere else!

I hope you get to read “A Trump Diary.” I still believe all that I wrote back then, and I’m even more committed to seeing good come out if the evil and chaos we’ve seen this past four years. Peace. “

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In The Garden

There is no place on earth like a garden. The smell of humus, the feel of the soil in your hands, the way the tiny plants bend toward the light—all this and more bring my heart out of hibernation when I am in the garden.

I started growing a garden specifically for tomatoes. I am a hopeless tomato addict. I love them raw, on a sandwich, in a salad, cooked in stews and soups, sliced thin and served with a vinaigrette. There is just no wrong way to eat a good tomato. But my favorite way to eat a tomato is on a tomato sandwich. No frills, white bread (forgive me), mayo, sliced tomatoes, salt and pepper. Oh, JOY! You can add a piece of good cheese if you need to gild the lily, but the foregoing is all you really need for true perfection.

From tomatoes, I graduated to peppers and from there to squash and cucumbers. After we built our cabin in the country (rural Kentucky), I started thinking about trees and bushes and flowers and then it was a full blown obsession. We have magnolia trees, redbuds, cypress trees, lilac bushes, blueberries, rose of Sharon, and thanks to another old gardening buddy, we have recently added bulb plants. Irises, tulips, tiger lilies—you name it, we got it! 

In the garden you learn the secrets of the universe. You learn that plants and people are not so different. We can both get by on the meagerest of materials, but do our best growing when someone tends us with great attention. Both plants and people need the light and water. Both plants and people have natural allies and natural enemies. Both plants and people are beautiful in the eye of the beholder. One man’s weed is another man’s orchid. But perhaps the greatest similarity between us is the fact that we start out tiny and helpless and grow into muscular beings that can take much more than you would have ever guessed. And the fruits we produce will be greatly dependent on how much someone believes in us and allows us to thrive in an atmosphere of freedom. 

My grandmother Ruth used to run what can only be described as a plant hospital—nothing official, mind you—but my mother and aunts and neighbors would bring her plants that they had unwittingly basically killed and she would bring them back to life! She was a plant “resurrectionist!” When I started teaching, I found I had the same talent with small humans. I could see the potential that other teachers either could not see or refused to look for. I eventually began to think of myself as a “small human resurrectionist.“ I found myself taking in students who had been told that they were untalented, undisciplined, and unworthy, and did my best to turn them into thriving, growing, glowing little enthusiasm engines. I don’t know if my grandmother’s horticultural skills had anything to do with my teaching abilities, but I’d like to think that they are related. 

Now, after teaching for over 30 years, I have turned to the garden. I’m not done teaching, but I’m ready to test the universality of my theory. That plants and people are very much alike, and that care and love can create life and beauty in things that look as though they might have died only days ago. Peace, people.

Tim's Book...

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