We Need To Talk

In 2005 while dating long distance, we met for a day trip to hike and hang out in Blairsville, GA. It was the geographic center of our relationship, about a 3 hour drive from both Jacqueline’s childhood home and my place in Middle Tennessee.

It was a magical day, and we capped it off watching the sunset before parting for the long drive back to our respective homes. We planned (of course) to talk on the phone for much of the trip, when she hit me with what felt like an out-of-left-field “we need to talk.”

Those four dreaded syllables turned out to be the last thing I heard before entering the Nantahala National Forest (while she simultaneously entered the Chattahoochee National Forest) where cell phone reception goes to die. I feverishly tried to dial and drive for 10 minutes before giving up.

I spent the next 45 minutes (in reality I have no clue how long it was, but it felt like about a day) stewing over what I could possibly have done wrong to get “we need to talk”ed. This was not my first time being broken up with, but I at least saw it coming a _little_ bit in the past.

“It’s got to be the long distance thing” I fussed (aloud to the empty seat beside me). I rehearsed a very long list of the reasons that we should continue trying this long distance thing. I resolved (aloud to the empty seat beside me) to drive the whole distance between us next time, or to pay (with money I decidedly did not have) for her to take a flight so that she didn’t have to make the journey by car. We could defy the odds, and make long distance work.

We had to make long distance work. Of all the things I was certain about (my mid twenties were a time of great certainty, for better or worse) I was 10 times more certain that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with this woman.

So I really let the empty passenger seat have it. I channeled my inner defense attorney and made lists of the things I’d be willing to give up and do if she’d reconsider breaking up with me. I made promises to that empty seat that I knew I couldn’t keep. Our relationship was only months old, so promising lavish things would tip me over from “romantic” to “a red flag” and I knew it.

By the time the cell phone bars showed up, I had resigned to just take it like a man.

When we got back on the phone, me chugging through Chattanooga and her passing through Anderson, she said something like “we need to talk… I am really starting to enjoy where our relationship is going, and I just need to make sure that you are serious before I let my heart really get serious.”

(cue triumphant music)

It’s funny: I went to bed last night thinking “It’ll be the first birthday in our new house.” But it’s only a first for me. She’s had lots of birthdays here.

I couldn’t be happier to spend my first “Jacqueline’s Birthday” here.

Happy Birthday, my love.

Four rings (I lost one in the ocean), three kids, and lots of years later: I still also really enjoy where our relationship is going.

Teaching remotely? Here are some tips.

Every single school that is offering any sort of virtual option should take time NOW to learn how to motivate and manage people remotely.

I am a remote team leader since before COVID, and here are some top-of-the-dome thoughts:

Don’t measure or seek to regulate “time in front of screen.”

It may feel like you’re keeping kids honest. In reality, you’re motivating them to game the system. Instead, measure something directly related to the outcome you are desiring. Making a kid sit on a zoom call doesn’t make them any smarter or prepared for a test or prepared for life.

Asynchronous communication is critical.

If a meeting can be an email (or a video), it absolutely should be. This goes for parents and students. You can have ways of determining that they consumed the content of the “meeting” without staring at their glazed-over eyes on a screen.

Don’t reinvent the wheel.

There are already great educational resources out there on YouTube and elsewhere. Use those for “lecture time” and spend your energy applying the concepts to your specific students by interacting with them to see what they are missing.

Cut yourself some slack.

This is different than what you trained for, and remote teaching/learning is tough. You can’t just apply the same techniques for keeping kids engaged that you could in the classroom. But you can be creative and flexible.

Think through “cameras on” policies.

“Cameras on” meetings run the risk of every student being distracted by their own face on the screen. And they may be embarrassed to turn on microphone or camera because their home is loud or messy.

Teaching remotely? Here are 5 quick tips from a remote team leader that will save your semester. Share on X

I’m more than happy to speak to or answer questions on a Zoom call of educators at my kid’s schools (Greenwood County District 52) or others.

Contact me here:

Memories new and old on Todd Quarter Road

28 years ago, (give or take 6 months) I rode a borrowed bike from my Grandmother’s house down a nearly-dirt road about 5 miles to a tiny little convenience store beside a tiny little bridge over Lake Greenwood.

I don’t remember much about the store… other than how great a Cheerwine tasted at about 2:45PM at 90 degrees and 98% humidity, but I remember much about the bridge there on Todd Quarter Road.

My memory is tainted both by time and the glamorization of being in South Carolina–a place so magical that you could pee in the yard (which is a fairly big deal to an 11-year old boy), but it was not a fully one-lane bridge, while also not necessarily wide enough to fit two cars across at high speed.

It was the kind of bridge years later as I learned to drive I’d watch my knuckles whiten as I reminded myself to breathe when a truck passed me.

Todd Quarter bridge is where I learned to fish.

My cousin Michael (who was from around here) would take me and my older brother, the city boys from North Carolina, to sit underneath the bridge and fish for crappie, brim, and the occasional bass.

In those magical days before cell phones, we’d leave the house mid-morning with the instructions to be home before it got dark.

We never cut it close to it getting dark. The thought of riding a bike down that road at dusk was enough to break through even a pre-teen’s illusions of invincibility.

Hours later with a stringer full of fish flapping from the handlebars of whoever had the best ability to ride while being fish-slapped for 5 miles, we’d pull back in and start cleaning the fish for dinner.

This morning I woke up to the sound of my 9-year-old who was too excited to sleep past 5 AM. He’d been promised fishing with dad and a cousin.

Now that we live right on the other side of the lake from that house I’d spend a week in each summer, I thought it fitting to go and check out how the fish were biting on Todd Quarter Road.

The bridge is much nicer these days. The placard on one edge reads 1999, my sophomore year of college. Don’t tell that 11-year-old, but now you can actually fish from the bridge, with a dedicated spot to stand out of the way of traffic.

That convenience store isn’t there any more (can’t tell what they’ve turned that building into… looks like a guest house or something).

The fish weren’t biting, but oh what a full circle this little morning trip to the lake was!

I told myself it was to avoid a sunburn that I opted to do my fishing from under the bridge. But once I sat down on that red clay (redder than I remembered, even… but maybe that’s this new-fangled 20-year-old bridge construction) I got a little emotional.

I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and realized…

…I’m home.

We Are Moving To South Carolina!

There’s a long backstory to our move. Ever since Jacqueline was diagnosed with Adult Onset Type 1 Diabetes (now more than 2 years ago), we’ve had a plan to get closer to her family in South Carolina. Lots of things needed to fall into place, but it turns out a global pandemic that shuts down everything is the final kick-in-the-britches that’s pushing us out the door.

If you had asked me in December for the timeline, it would have sounded like “as soon as the foster toddler’s adoption is final, we’ll start the process.”

If you had asked me in Late January for the timeline, it changed to “because of some extenuating circumstances in the family, we’re moving before the adoption is final, which just means more paperwork, but we need to get down there after the kids are out of school in June.”

If you had asked me in February for the timeline, it changed to “because of some school-related things in SC, we are going to bump up the move to April over Spring Break”

If you had asked me three days ago, that would have still been the plan.

But then moving companies started closing because of the virus. And state governments started mandating that businesses close.

So, if you asked me for the plan as of last night, we’re now moving on Monday.

To call it a whirlwind is an understatement. I’m not sure which part of my overwhelm is coming from COVID-19 and which part is coming from managing/thinking about the constantly-changing logistics of the move.

The weirdness of moving when you can’t grab coffee to say goodbye to friends is terrible. I just keep reminding myself that we’ll come back once the virus stuff blows over to say a proper goodbye.

We’re very excited to get down there, but definitely didn’t want it to go down this way!

I’ve Got POCKETS: Lessons learned from a 2.5-year-old.

As I type this, my toddler is resting against his favorite new naptime accessory, a stuffed horse that is serving as a pillow. Before he nodded off to sleep, he exclaimed “I’ve got pockets!” and shoved his little hands into them, and promptly began snoring softly.

an emoji heart obscures the face of a young boy laying on a stuffed horse with both hands stuffed in his pockets.
Foster Baby asleep with his horse and his pockets.

A few years ago, I had the proper perspective on these moments, and slowly but surely it’s returning to me.

I’ve not liked being quiet lately, because I’ve erroneously thought that it is my job to provide for my family, and when I am quiet and alone, I’m terrified by my own inner monologue:

What are you doing resting? Don’t you know that there are more things you could be doing right now? Why haven’t you learned a new marketable skill today? What if someone else does, and passes you up? You need to be hustling!

Me, on repeat

Here’s the truth: chasing vocational peace is like running to the candy aisle at the store to feel full.

Candy is not supposed to do that. My job is also not supposed to do that.

Heck, my family is not supposed to bring me peace. Placing that weight on my job or my kids or my wife will crush them.

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked.

2 Corinthians 5: 1-3

The heavenly dwelling I long for is mine already, in Christ. The peace that I hope that “one more thing” I learn or do vocationally will bring me is already mine, in Christ.

I once had a pastor tell me that the whole of the Christian life is a process of realizing “I remember forgetting that before.” This is one of the things I had forgotten: Life and ultimate peace is found by discovering that Jesus is in control. He doesn’t expect me to rescue myself.

If you’ll excuse me, I am going to go stuff my hands in my newly-discovered pockets, and rest.