Robert Mueller’s Day Off: We’re Waiting for the Movie, But All We’re Getting Is a Reality Show


Its official title is the Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election, but everyone knows it as The Mueller Report.

It may as well be called Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, because few people who really need to read it are doing so or likely ever will. I’m talking about the good evangelical Christian folks who value Truth, Justice and the American Way but still voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and, here’s the important part, will vote to re-elect him in 2020, no matter who runs against him. I’m not talking about intelligent, sensible Americans who can face facts now and admit they made a grievous error in judgement three years ago. Continue reading Robert Mueller’s Day Off: We’re Waiting for the Movie, But All We’re Getting Is a Reality Show

‘Enemy of the People’ Wins the Battle, Maybe the Whole War

MY SENIOR YEARBOOK PHOTO from Lenoir Hibriten High School’s Class of 1977. I was a part-time tear-sheet boy but a full-time Beatlemaniac. Can you spot any clues?


This past Sunday I finally took out my white flag — actually, my credit card — and paid for a digital subscription to one of my hometown newspapers. Even though President Trump calls the news media the “enemy of the people,” I decided that since I couldn’t beat ’em, I might as well join ’em — “them” being the Lenoir News-Topic’s army of subscribers.

In one regard Trump was right: The newspaper’s wall — firewall, that is — was just too “big and beautiful,” from the News-Topic circulation department’s perspective, anyway, for me to get past. Time and again, I’ve tried to dash onto the paper’s website to read an article, column or obituary, only to be reminded that I was an undocumented visitor at and that my paperwork needed to be on file to enjoy the benefits of subscribership.

Continue reading ‘Enemy of the People’ Wins the Battle, Maybe the Whole War

About Bart Starr, Charles Russell Fleming and Other Connections


We were sitting at a table in Ham’s Restaurant this past Sunday afternoon when the sad news scrolled across the bottom of the Carolina baseball game on ESPN.

“Oh, man,” Rodney said after a sip of tea. “Bart Starr died.”

“Really?” I said, putting down my sandwich and turning to look at the screen. It was true, even though our heroes aren’t supposed to die.

The waitress came about then to refill our water glasses, bringing our reminiscence to an abrupt end. At that point, the restaurant’s pledge of “Food – Sports – Spirits – Fun” was only three-quarters true at best.

Continue reading About Bart Starr, Charles Russell Fleming and Other Connections

A Rose By Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet … But What About Duke’s Mayo?


All my life I’ve been told that Duke’s Mayonnaise is the only real mayonnaise. But the other day I cast caution to the wind and bought Food Lion’s store brand—also labeled as Real Mayonnaise, no less—and I liked it just fine. So I saved money and kept that mayo-slathered monkey on my back.

Timberley warned me, though, that once tomato season arrives, we will not have anything but Duke’s in our house. No Kraft Mayo, no Blue Plate, no Hellmann’s and—not even if it’s the only jar of mayo-like spread left on the shelf—absitively, posolutely no Miracle Whip Salad Dressing.

Whenever I read anything by or about Henry David Thoreau, my favorite philosopher, I start looking for ways to simplify our lives—or to economize, at least. Right now we’re reading aloud our friend Jeff Cramer’s book Solid Seasons, about Thoreau’s friendship with his mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson. Only about 50 pages into the book, we’ll probably need a week to finish it, because we pause every page or two to discuss an issue that we can apply to our own lives or relationships. That’s a good thing. Continue reading A Rose By Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet … But What About Duke’s Mayo?

Reading Out Loud Gives Us Pause

OF THESE EIGHT BOOKS, Sheila Kay Adams’s My Old True Love (upper left) was the most fun to read aloud.


It all started when we both wanted to read the same book but didn’t want to wait our turn. So to keep the peace, I read it out loud. What we learned was that we enjoyed doing that.

Through the years I’ve always read portions of books aloud to Timberley, particularly back when we were working on our young-adult novel Night Lights and the other unpublished manuscripts in that series. Back then it was a regular practice for me to rise early, write several pages or maybe a chapter, and then read it to Timberley later in the morning for her feedback. That’s how we co-wrote all those Kindred Spirits Adventure books.

Before the first Hunger Games movie came out in 2012, we started reading all the novels in Suzanne Collins’s series about Katniss Everdeen and her dystopian world. After the first book, we were hooked and couldn’t wait to read the next one. Around the same time, we also read Kaui Hart Hemmings’s The Descendants out loud before seeing its film version starring George Clooney. That book, in particular, is much better than the movie, though Timberley would rather look at George than listen to me.

Continue reading Reading Out Loud Gives Us Pause

To Everything There Is a Season

THE OLDEST METHODIST CHURCH in Burke County, N.C., is Gilboa Church, built on the site of a meeting place visited by Methodist Bishop Francis Asbury in 1793. This building was constructed in 1879. Some of my maternal ancestors are buried there.


I’m starting this column on March 28, 2019, so who knows what will happen between now and when it’s posted—or if it’s ever posted? No one, right? Life can be good, bad or indifferent.

But it’s Opening Day in Major League baseball, when hope, if not optimism, springs eternal, and when grass, except here in Boone, is green again. So here’s what I’m thinking about right now.

It has been that kind of retirement so far for Timberley and me. We retired from public school teaching in August 2016 because the demands of working full-time and helping care for two elderly, seriously-ill parents had become too great. Then, after saying good-bye to the daily grind of teaching—and three-quarters of our annual income—both of us encountered health problems of our own that far overshadowed mere worries about financial security.

Fortunately, as of this writing, we both have realized “new normals” in response to our medical challenges. Timberley has been able to continue teaching part-time at Appalachian State University during three of the past four semesters since her cancer surgery, and last fall I started working there, too, as a part-time consultant in the University Writing Center, my first real job since my back surgery one year ago this week. For those opportunities, we’re grateful.

Continue reading To Everything There Is a Season

Life’s Simple Pleasures Are The Best


Way back in the 1970s, my favorite TV commercial was one featuring the jingle that began, “Simple pleasures are the best….”

Do you remember the product being sold? Nah, me neither.

That was ages ago when everything was so much different from now. Back then, we had Nixon, Watergate and the war in Vietnam. The Soviet Union was our enemy. And we lived under the threat of nuclear war. Sounds like the Dark Ages, huh?

So in the spirit of modern times, I’m typing this column with my thumbs, one eye on my phone’s battery level. Why so careful? Because I intend to type more than 280 characters, and I don’t want my phone to launch or flush my thoughts unilaterally. It has an evil mind of its own sometimes. Continue reading Life’s Simple Pleasures Are The Best

Update: Thursday, June 22, 2017


Timberley sports her new hospital band she now must wear until surgery next week.
Timberley sports her new hospital band that she now must wear until surgery next week.

As I write this column, we’re getting ready for the start—the real start—of a challenging summer, one that will require courage, patience and, above all, love.

Yesterday, the first day of summer, we touched all the bases—Boone, Morganton and Charlotte—on our own personal Field of Dreams in hopes of finally being safe at home when this is over. Yesterday it was mainly prep work looking toward Timberley’s surgery next week, not just medical stuff like having blood typed and matched, but also getting various things in order in Boone and Morganton. Continue reading Update: Thursday, June 22, 2017

Update: Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Timberley (pre-haircut) poses with our van, Nola the Gray Goose.
Timberley, before her haircut, poses with our new van, Nola, also known as the Gray Goose.


This morning after arriving at Carolinas Medical Center
Early this morning at Carolinas Medical Center

As Timberley posted earlier today on Facebook, the past week has been difficult for her family. Her uncle Larry Brittian and her stepfather Vernon McKee both passed away after long bouts with cancer.

We extend our condolences to Larry’s and Vernon’s families; and our love especially to Timberley’s aunt Brenda and cousins Chris and Leslie, and, above all, to Timberley’s mother, Ruth. Continue reading Update: Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Weekend Update: Sunday, May 20, 2017


Timberley before her appointment last week in Charlotte
Timberley before our appointment last week in Charlotte

What you’re about to read certainly wasn’t what Timberley and I had envisioned for this column last September when I started writing it. We wanted it to be about the ordinary lives of two recent retirees from public education—our own attempt at “half-fast living” after years of watching our working lives fly by largely out of our control.

That was our intent. Instead, there is nothing half-fast about what’s been happening to us for the past eight weeks. For the foreseeable future, this space will be used hopefully—and I use that adverb there deliberately—to keep our friends and extended family members as informed as they wish to be about a serious situation involving Timberley’s health. Continue reading Weekend Update: Sunday, May 20, 2017