4 years of writing, still not an expert on parenting

“Because I Said So” column for The Commercial Appeal

April 12, 2012

Four years ago this week, I began writing the “Because I Said So” column. In more than 100 columns, somewhere in the ballpark of 50,000 words, I’ve written about anything from holidays to school days, from newborns to puberty to middle age. I’ve written about Memphis, movies, music, time travel, books and matters of familial and national security.

What have we learned?

Probably nothing. This isn’t an advice column. Oh, please don’t seek advice from me. I have been a parent for more than 14 years and have four children, yet every morning when I wake from blissful slumber to a world strewn with dirty socks and baby dolls, I wonder if I’ll be able to do it again; if I have the will to delude myself into the fantasy of being in charge for even one more day.

What I have expected on any of those days is for one of my children, most likely 5-year-old Genevieve, to turn her large brown eyes on me and say, “Do you even know what you’re doing?”

Of course I don’t. I know how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and I knew once how to hook up the Wii game console to the television and remove training wheels (and then put them back on for just a few more weeks). As a first-time father, however, I knew nothing at all of comforting a child late at night, colic and rashes, where Waldo was (or who Harry Potter was, for that matter), why bad things happen to good people, and explaining how the Internet, the Electoral College and combustion engines work.

As a father of 14 years, I still have only a cursory knowledge of very little, or any, of this, but what I have learned over the four years of writing this column is that neither do any of you. The common denominator in parenthood seems to be a sense of being overwhelmed much of the time and exhausted the rest. I’ve been stopped by readers in restaurants or the grocery store and told that their daughter also loses her mind when the seam of her sock rubs her toes the wrong way or that their son subsisted for three years on little more than frozen pizza and chocolate milk as well.

Are we bad parents? No, we’re just tired. Do we have difficult children? Mostly, yes, especially that little girl with such sensitive toes. But we’re doing our best to raise up children into adults who will have children who make them crazy.

I can attest that one of the biggest fans of this column is my own mother, who has gotten to see her revenge played out in public every two weeks for a hundred weeks running. This column is dedicated to her, and to the mother of my own children, and to all the parents out there who struggle and scream, encourage and laugh, day in and day out.

Four years goes by in the blink of an eye, just as childhoods will. Write down the funny stuff, remember the sad, and share it all with your children for years to come.

Link to original


‘Zero to a hundred': Cyclist adapts regimens to unique demands of clients’ lifestyles, abilities

Health & Fitness feature story for The Commercial Appeal

April 9, 2012

Leanna Tedford was athletic growing up in Clarksdale, Miss., where she played four sports in high school. In college, however, those active ways were pushed to the side and the weight gain that goes along with more sedentary days became inevitable and, seemingly, a way of life.

But then she began talking with personal trainer Clark Butcher.

Butcher, owner of Propel Endurance Training and co-owner of Victory Bicycle Studio, has been a competitive cyclist since he was 16. He’s been coaching for a dozen years, having gone into the business while a student at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., at age 18 when he was finally eligible for liability insurance.

The Cordova High School graduate has raced competitively in the United States, Canada and Europe, and is a certified USA Cycling coach (USA Cycling is the governing body of all cycling events in the country).

Butcher worked with Tedford to develop an exercise and diet program that would benefit her overall health while not being too obtrusive to the late-night lifestyle of the popular Memphis bartender for Jim’s Place East. He noted that “the idea came about over beers and fries at the Hi-Tone.” … (read more)



Rollin’ on the River

Cover story & photos for The Downtowner Magazine

April 2012

From the 21st floor of Downtown’s One Commerce Square, many of Memphis’s iconic structures are visible. To the north stand Morgan Keegan Tower, the Hernando-DeSoto “M” bridge, and The Pyramid beyond. To the south, there’s The Peabody hotel and Peabody Place office towers. And just across Main Street, where the trolleys rattle and clang, is historic Brinkley Plaza.

In mid April, a new icon begins working its way upriver from New Orleans to dock near the historic cobblestones at our city’s front door, changing the landscape, resetting the scene of when our ancestors arrived, and reminding us how we got here.

On April 26, the steamer American Queen, the signature ship of Great American Steamboat Co., will arrive for ceremonies befitting royalty … (read more)


April 2012


Family has advantages in dystopian sci-fi future

“Because I Said So” column for The Commercial Appeal

March 29, 2012

I’m in the minority in my house in that I don’t read young adult fiction. The kids read it. My wife, an English teacher at Central High School, reads it. I think I can’t get into it for a couple of reasons. First, I’m a not-young adult. Second, I don’t really go in for fantasy and science fiction and the lot. This may put me in the minority of all of today’s readers, come to think of it, but I need the action to take place in real cities and countries; I need the plot to twist on something other than time travel, wizardry or the backs of sparkly vampires.

Regardless of my views on young adult literature, there is no escaping the latest craze, “The Hunger Games.” There are more than 20 million books in print, and the film adaptation opened last weekend with a record-breaking box office. Well played, author Suzanne Collins.

It seems that quite a bit of such books has to do with a postapocalyptic world, a dystopian future where a person relies on wits and cunning to survive against roving bands of marauders, dictatorial and all-seeing governments, or zombies. My family wouldn’t make it very far in such a world. I hope they’re learning survival skills by reading these books and watching these films, but if it comes down to who can get to the dwindling food supplies first, we’ll starve waiting for 5-year-old Genevieve to find her shoes so we can leave the house … (read more)


A chronicle of Memphis’ past, Don Newman photo collection now available online

“Hidden Memphis” feature for The Commercial Appeal

March 25, 2012

Memphis has a soul, and if you can hear it in the music and taste it in the food, then you can certainly see it in the photography of Don Newman.

Images that date back to the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s give us a glimpse of the city in her heyday, when Downtown was the focal point of shopping, commerce and entertainment.

Pick a street scene — Main Street, Madison Avenue, Union Avenue — and witness the men and women bustling from here to there. Stare into one, and you can almost hear their footsteps and feel the breeze as they walk past on their way to Goldsmith’s Department Store, Britling’s Cafeteria or the Warner Theater.

Though the sites themselves may be gone, their images live on and online at memphisheritage.org, where since January, the public can click on the Newman Collection portfolio and choose a print to view or purchase.

Newman, who passed away in 1994, was born in Memphis in 1919, and his interest in photography was fostered at an early age by an uncle in Meridian, Miss., who owned Hammond Photography Studio. After attending Tech High School, Newman was offered a job with George Haley, a well-known commercial photographer at the time.

His work with Haley began a career that would last a lifetime. “He thought maybe he would go on to college, but he took this job because he was interested in it and he never left; he stayed in photography because he loved it,” said Newman’s widow, Bertha Newman … (read more)


Hayes survives, thrives even in housing slump

Feature story for Emphasis on Residential Real Estate in The Memphis Daily News

March 19, 2012

As a child, Michelle Hayes dreamed of owning her own hotel. Instead of going toe to toe with Hilton and Marriott, however, the Whitehaven native and LeMoyne-Owen College graduate instead entered into the world of real estate in 1998.

“I woke up one morning and decided I was going to real estate school,” she said with a laugh.

She went to work for Willoughby Realtors after school, but the daughter of entrepreneur Charles Hayes, owner of Hayes Body Shop, wasn’t content to work for others.

While working as a real estate agent with another company, she opened a home improvement company. In 2001 she added a real estate division to the company and then formed her own realty firm, Michelle Hayes Homes and Realty Inc., at the age of 23 … (read more)


‘Hunger’ fever: Young adult novel of dystopian future headed to screen as next ‘Twilight’

Feature lifestyle story for The Commercial Appeal

March 15, 2012

When “The Hunger Games,” the film adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ best-selling young adult novel, is released on March 23, 16-year-old Destiny Crump is sure to be one of the first in a theater seat.

The junior at Central High School read the book as a summer reading assignment last year, but was caught up in the suspense and drama regardless of the homework label attached to it.

“I didn’t think I would like it at first, but it turned out to be really, really good and interesting,” she said. “It put me in a different mindset, like it could possibly happen.”

Jimmie Tashie is excited about the movie as well. The vice president and general manager for Malco Theatres Inc. said his company is “happy to have another series coming out; they’re talking about this like perhaps it’s another ‘Twilight’-type series. With the end of ‘Harry Potter’ and some of the long-running sequels, the idea of a new one coming along is pretty exciting, because it usually means there’ll be as many movies as there are books.”

The Hollywood Reporter reported last month that anticipation for the movie set a new record for advance ticket sales previously held by “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” in May 2010. Malco Theatres is planning for a huge weekend of sales and is beginning it as early as possible, with 12:01 a.m. showings at a number of theaters around the area on March 23.

In the dystopian future of the novel, with more than 23 million copies in print, Collins has woven a tale of class struggle, dictatorial government, survival of the fittest, the human instinct toward fight or flight, and fierce familial loyalty … (read more)


Big family can reward with peaceful little society

“Because I Said So” column for The Commercial Appeal

March 15, 2012

What we create with a large family, other than a large mess and a lot of noise, is our own little society within a society. It has its own rules to be broken and its own hierarchy to be either respected or usurped. It has its own ways of operating to ensure that the machinery of family and home run smoothly.

The best way to keep things operating evenly, of course, is for all of the cogs in the machine to work together, for these brothers and sisters to come together and work as a team, all with the same goal of cleaning the kitchen, agreeing on what will be watched on television or simply passing the potatoes down the table at dinner.

When there is discord, factions develop, and strife becomes the norm; war breaks out over an otherwise peaceful land, and no one is happy. Happiness, and quiet, are the overarching goals every day.

I’ve been reading “The Saturdays” by Elizabeth Enright to my 9-year-old daughter at bedtime. It’s the story of the Melendy family with four children that mirror my own — two boys, two girls — living in a Manhattan contemporary to the time of the book’s first publication in 1941. Lamenting not having enough money to do what each really wants, the siblings agree to pool their weekly allowance (a total of $1.60) and take turns privately doing what each likes on Saturdays. By the end, they realize they don’t want to go off on their own for a day, but decide instead that it will be more fun to have their adventures as a group. It’s the story of working together for a mutual cause and respecting each others’ wants and dreams … (read more)


Cushing’s day gig for “betterment of humanity”

Feature story in Emphasis on Healthcare issue for The Memphis Daily News

March 5, 2012

In February, senior research assistant Richard Cushing began working with the Pathology Department of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in the Tissue Services Core and Repository.

The repository is a warehouse of more than 3 million pieces of human tissue from hearts, lungs, kidneys and livers, as well as biopsies of various types of tumors. The samples are available to doctors, researchers and students to conduct studies on and compare to those of a patient’s.

“I’m facilitating, not just one professor, but anyone who needs it, a wide variety of different tissue types and samples for them to do research with or cure people’s diseases,” said Cushing, who will prepare and stain slides, or core the tissue samples, to be sent to those who requested it … (read more)


It’s not about who wins — oh, who are we fooling?

“Because I Said So” column for The Commercial Appeal

March 1, 2012

It isn’t about winning and losing.

I have a child who comes home from school each day, tackles his homework (always homework first!), and then it’s straight to the computer or the Wii for an afternoon of video games. Within a half-hour, I can hear his anguished cries of defeat and near, so very near, expletives.

It’s an addiction, the video games. I can see the sweat beading on his forehead when he’s away from it too long, the trembling in his thumbs. On Saturday mornings, he’s the first one up and standing in front of the television playing whatever his current obsession might be. These days, it’s one featuring an elf who may or may not be riding on a seahorse and wielding a large butter knife. I’m awakened by the vocal frustrations of his losing a round to a gnome riding a starfish, or something.

The blips and bright lights of this simulated world are all too real for him, the losses far too personal, and this is an issue.

So we stick with the tried-and-true mantra — it isn’t about winning or losing; it’s about enjoying the challenge itself. This, of course, falls on deaf ears, or ears too stimulated by the bells and whistles of the game.

I know of what I speak. I should admit to you that I’ve stopped writing this column no fewer than three times to check on the seven different games of “Words With Friends” that I have going at the moment. I’m happy to say that I’m winning five of them. This makes for a good afternoon regardless of what we, as parents, insist … (read more)