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Growing up, my family could best be described as "casual Catholics." My mother attended Catholic school as a child and completed all of the sacraments, so my siblings and I were naturally christened Catholic. We attended mass sporadically, recited Catholic grace at meal times and lined up for forehead smears on Ash Wednesday. Besides abstaining from a pleasure during Lent, eating fish on Fridays and always attending mass on Christmas and Easter, we weren't cloaked in Catholicism.

Occasionally, my non-Catholic dad attended Christmas eve midnight mass at the white parish in our neighborhood, but usually he did not. I'm not sure if my dad disliked being one of the few black families in church or if he just didn't dig mass. I think it was a swirl of the two. There weren't that many blacks at our suburban school, and the few that were there weren't Catholic. As black Catholics, we were definitely different, but we were welcomed into the Catholic fold. 

In college, I started attending mass at the on-campus Catholic center. In order to better endure the academic rigors of Northwestern University, I knew that I needed to dialogue with God on a regular basis. Without my mother's order of service prompting and cues, I found the mass ritual a tad mysterious at first. A quick study, and a disciplined student, I followed along and knelt when others did, memorized the Nicene and Apostolic creed, and worshiped on my merry, Catholic way.

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"I'm going to see my talking doctor this afternoon," Ryan shared with confidence. "Well, we'd better get you home so you're not late," I replied as we walked home from my house. At 15, I was Ryan's babysitter. A good kid, Ryan was known to throw the occasional temper tantrum. If I refused to allow him to eat popsicles before dinner or if I insisted that he tidy up his room before bedtime, I would prepare for a Ryan meltdown. An only child, Ryan enjoyed coming over to our home to interact with my brothers and our dog. Distracted by the testosterone in the room and our family pet, Ryan never had tantrums on these excursions. Frankly, the tantrums he threw in his home never bothered me much. I always ignored him until he calmed down, and he always did. Like depriving a fire of oxygen, a child throwing an unacknowledged tantrum eventually settles down. Once home, Ryan asked his mother if he could get a treat before his "talking doctor" appointment. Like any paid helper, I pretended that I was invisible as his mom fumbled in her purse to pay me for my time.  Without prompting, his mom casually explained (albeit, unnecessarily) that the talking doctor was his psychiatrist. "He's having a tough time with the divorce," she continued matter-of-factly. Caucasian with platinum blonde hair and piercing blue eyes, Ryan was 7 years old, and he had a talking doctor. 

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     Scripture reads that lessons were often taught in parables because people were unable to understand messages any other way.  Think the prodigal son, mustard seed, and camel squeezing through the eye of a needle.  Not familiar?  A quick Google search will bring you up to speed. 

     -The Green Juice and Privileged Billionaire Parable - 

     On a shopping excursion with her children, a mom parked her vehicle far away from other vehicles to prevent door dings and embrace walking a bit further as a way to get easy exercise.  The vehicle was parked near a cart corral for ease of unloading her bounty.  Upon exiting the vehicle, one of her children noticed that a large Naked brand Green juice had been left in one of the carts.  It was the same Naked brand juice that was on the mom's grocery list.  Without hesitation, the woman hoisted her young son into a cart and carted the naked juice into the store.  Smiling, she bypassed the return line, walked over to the customer service desk and explained that the juice had been left in a parking lot cart, so she was turning it in just in case the purchaser returned to the store to claim it.  The woman purchased her long list of items, including a Naked green juice.  Although her children never questioned her action, she explained that 'someone would probably realize that they left the juice in the cart and return to the store to retrieve it. And when they did, the customer service attendant would know that they were telling the truth. They may not have enough money to buy another Naked juice. We are blessed and can buy our own Naked juice,' the woman finished.  Similarly, while shopping in a clothing store, she would often encourage her children to hang up an item that had slipped from a hanger as one of their 'random acts of kindness' for the day.  The children would often do this without prompting. The family's definition of integrity was simple:  try to always do the right thing even when no one is watching.

     Far away, in a gold plated penthouse, atop a major metropolis, lived a billionaire real estate mogul, business person and reality television star. Raised by a wealthy real estate tycoon, the father of 5 children by 3 different women, the billionaire openly cheated on his first wife, married his mistress, divorced her and married his third wife, an immigrant who managed to obtain a coveted green card based on her "special" modeling skills.  Exceedingly wealthy, the billionaire boasted that he and his family had never lived in a property that did not bear his name.  He owned commercial and residential real estate properties in the most expensive cities in the United States.  He also owned golf course resorts and five star hotels.  Active litigation confirmed that the billionaire had a history of repeatedly bullying small business owners and service providers by breaching contracts and paying a portion of what he owed for goods and services.  Cocky and brazen, the billionaire knew that the small business owners did not have the resources to fight his vast legal machine.  Far away from the billionaire's wealthy holdings, nestled in middle America, lived poor people who lost their jobs when the steel and auto manufacturing plants and coal mines that provided honest work for their families closed. 

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Offer + Acceptance + Consideration = a Contract.  This is the basic contract definition that every first year law student learns and then spends two semesters trying to understand.  On its face, it appears very 1+1 = 2; however, contained in this simple formula is a Rubik's cube of complexity.  One person makes an offer to another person.  The person making the offer gives the other party something.  That "something" is called consideration.  To qualify as consideration, there must be a bargained for detriment.  Something is being relinquished or the promisee must rely on something to his/her detriment. If there is mutual assent, then a contract exists. And if there's no contract, you can make a promissory estoppel argument that one party reasonably relied on the promise made by another, and that reliance is the consideration or bargained for detriment.  Confused?  Watch the movie "The Paper Chase" and then you'll be really confused by promissory estoppel.  And on and on the complex contracts hamster wheel turns.  Contract law is extremely nuanced and complicated.

At its core, marriage is a very complicated contract. Two people promise/pledge their eternal love for one another in front of at least two witnesses.  Because it's impossible to pledge your eternal, enduring love unless it is witnessed by at least two people.  One person might lie, but two witnesses make the pledge real.  Even Vegas marriages must be witnessed by two people, but I think the justice of the peace dressed as Elvis and his wife holding the Bible suffice.

Frankly, I was never a fan of the Brangelina coupling.  I've always thought that Angelina was just weird.  She's altruistic, generous, talented and beautiful. But in my opinion, she's beautifully odd and far too eleven year old girl thin.  Before you slam me with hate posts, I will acknowledge that she may have a health reason (i.e. a thyroid condition) that explains why her body weight rivals that of a skeletal frame.  To me, she looks like she needs to eat a double helping of quinoa and kale and pack some weight on those presumably organic only, vegan bones.  But skeletal thin works well on the red carpet as evidenced by the top designers clamoring to dress her.  No, I did not dislike the Brad & Angie pairing because of Angie's weirdness or frame.  I wasn't a Brangelina fan because I did not respect how Brad chose to uncouple from Jennifer Aniston. 

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     I live in a city with an amazing cultural scene: opera, theatre, fine dining, live music, comedy, concerts, world class museums, architecture, sports teams in every sport and a host of tourist attractions that fuel the city’s thriving convention and tourism industry. It’s an exhausting list of things to do. If you think about doing it, you can find it to do here.

     Every summer, the city attracts thousands of tourists to its lakefront events, many of them free, including outdoor dance lessons, yoga and movies in the park. The event planners routinely book talent to draw a crowd, and the larger festivals include top musical talent. A supporter of the Arts, I treat myself to a theatrical experience at least once each quarter. I usually take in a Tony Award winning musical, play or visit the Opera. When I attend the theatre, my goal is to be seated on the first floor orchestra-center, close enough to the stage to observe the microphones taped beneath the performers’ wigs. This means that my preferred seating preference is no further back than row 15. If I can’t source “good seats” I don’t attend. Some might call me a theatre snob. Yes, my seating preference carries a premium ticket purchase price; however, since my schedule only allows me to indulge my theatre appetite once each quarter, I don’t mind paying the premium ticket price. My theatre and concert seating preference has been transferred to my children, because when I purchase tickets for family excursions, I follow my “good seat” rule, so my children have never sat further back than row 15.

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A few years ago, a friend, with a body mass index (BMI) in the morbidly obese range, broke a chair. Moments after consuming a very rich, decadent dessert, she decided to sample another rich, decadent dessert. It should be noted that this was not an “I just want to taste it” sample slice of dessert. The second dessert was an ample girl, I wear a size 3X, slice of cake. Almost immediately after snuggling into the chair, and before she’d placed the plate on the table, the chair collapsed under her weight. She crashed to the ground, but expertly managed to lift her arm into the air to protect the plate holding the cake, as though she had performed this maneuver previously. The chair remained suctioned to her backside.

As people rushed to her aide, her first response was, “Take the cake!” It was a scene straight out of a Saturday Night Live episode. She braced herself on a nearby chair, and flipped to her knees as the suctioned chair was wrestled from her frame. Once she realized that she was not injured, she proceeded to sit down and enjoy the cake like nothing happened. Her parents blamed the chair.

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I just read an online CNN article about the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and how it’s likely that the USSC might gut it like a fish. In the article, the reporter wrote that Clarence Thomas will most likely side with the conservative justices who believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman. No surprise there. Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and Stephen Breyer, are the justices who tend to vote on the liberal side while Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Chief Justice John Roberts are the conservative justices who believe that marriage should remain between a man and a woman. Anthony Kennedy usually carries the all important tie breaker swing vote.

In the article, the reporter wrote: “Three of the more conservative justices seemed aligned with the view that marriage should only be between a man and a woman, and it's likely they'd be joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, who doesn't speak at arguments.” I paused and re-read that sentence. “He doesn’t speak at arguments?” I asked myself. It was written as a statement of accepted fact. Is he not allowed to speak at arguments? Is he mute? What the hell is that about? How can you sit as a justice on the United States Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, and not speak? While the other justices are harassing and hazing the skilled attorneys who will now be able to boast that they’ve argued before the USSC, Clarence Thomas is watching the performance like a spectator. I remember reading that Clarence Thomas seldom (almost never) wrote majority opinions or even dissenting opinions, but I didn’t realize that his tongue was also paralyzed.

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The scripture that he read was instantly familiar. The last verse in the 4th chapter a personal memory verse in my Bible.



16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away,
yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17For our light and
momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory
that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes
not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since
what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
5:1 For we know that if the earthly tent we live
in is destroyed, we have a building from God,
an eternal house in heaven,
not built by human hands.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 5:1 NIV


I don’t recall him quoting the scripture reference, but as soon as I heard the words, I flipped open my Bible and read along. In my quest for spiritual maturity, I’ve made a commitment to implant God’s word on my heart. For me, it’s a ‘slow and steady wins the raise’ type of process, almost a turtle crawl.

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Face it, you’re either a reader or a talker, but you’re not both. When traveling, most of us carry some type of reading material that we use like a shield to repel even the threat of conversation from the strangers seated next to us. In some travel situations I’m a talker, and in others, I’m a reader. As a fiction author, I routinely chat up cab drivers in the hopes of learning something new that I can use in my writing, so in a taxi, I’m a seat belt wearing talker. But when traveling on an airplane, I’m generally a polite reader. I prefer window seats, so I smile warmly as my row companion settles in and before the flight attendant entertains us with the required safety dog and pony show. I usually chuckle when he advises that in a water landing the seat cushion can be used as a flotation device wondering how many people have actually survived a twenty thousand foot plunge into the ocean or lake due to their seat cushion flotation device. Before my seat companion has fully settled in, while clutching my reading material firmly in one hand and a pack of gum in the other, I usually smile and ask the same three questions in this order: “Would you like a piece of gum? Are you from (insert the place we’ve just left)? I hope the weather is as good or better than the weather here.” After they’ve replied I smile and lower my head into my book, feeling eternally bonded to my row companion. You see, I’m really not trying to make a new friend on the airplane, I’m just trying to break the ice so that if the pilot announces an emergency landing, and we start plummeting fast, I can quickly clamor into this person’s lap as I pray that their girth will cushion my frame on impact. So far, I haven’t had to test this gum tax strategy, but serving as my emergency landing cushion seems like the least they can do to thank me for the piece of gum that I generously offered.

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Our lives are shaped or altered by our decisions and choices. You decide or choose where you are going to go to school, your major, your city and your mate. Had you chosen not to attend your friend’s birthday party, you may not have met the person who would later introduce you to the person that is now your biggest source of joy or sorrow. As we mature, the decisions that we are forced to make become more difficult and the choices more complex. Sometimes we make good decisions based on the choices available to us, and other times we make bad decisions given the same choices, but each day we are faced with choices and decisions: what to eat, what to wear, what to say and what to do.

I just completed a four hour, online defensive driving class because I chose to drive a few miles over the speed limit, and I got caught. It was my first ever moving violation, and in my own defense, I “thought” that I was only driving four miles over the posted speed limit, a range that has kept me ticket free for over three decades of safe driving. Here’s what happened.

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Growing up, my family could best be described as "casual Catholics." My mother attended Catholic school as a child and completed all of the sacraments, so my siblings and I were naturally christened Catholic. We attended mass sporadically, recited Catholic grace at meal times and lined up for forehead smears on Ash Wednesday. Besides abstaining from a pleasure during Lent, eating fish on Fridays and always attending mass on Christmas and Easter, we weren't cloaked in Catholicism.

Occasionally, my non-Catholic dad attended Christmas eve midnight mass at the white parish in our neighborhood, but usually he did not. I'm not sure if my dad disliked being one of the few black families in church or if he just didn't dig mass. I think it was a swirl of the two. There weren't that many blacks at our suburban school, and the few that were there weren't Catholic. As black Catholics, we were definitely different, but we were welcomed into the Catholic fold. 

In college, I started attending mass at the on-campus Catholic center. In order to better endure the academic rigors of Northwestern University, I knew that I needed to dialogue with God on a regular basis. Without my mother's order of service prompting and cues, I found the mass ritual a tad mysterious at first. A quick study, and a disciplined student, I followed along and knelt when others did, memorized the Nicene and Apostolic creed, and worshiped on my merry, Catholic way.

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"I'm going to see my talking doctor this afternoon," Ryan shared with confidence. "Well, we'd better get you home so you're not late," I replied as we walked home from my house. At 15, I was Ryan's babysitter. A good kid, Ryan was known to throw the occasional temper tantrum. If I refused to allow him to eat popsicles before dinner or if I insisted that he tidy up his room before bedtime, I would prepare for a Ryan meltdown. An only child, Ryan enjoyed coming over to our home to interact with my brothers and our dog. Distracted by the testosterone in the room and our family pet, Ryan never had tantrums on these excursions. Frankly, the tantrums he threw in his home never bothered me much. I always ignored him until he calmed down, and he always did. Like depriving a fire of oxygen, a child throwing an unacknowledged tantrum eventually settles down. Once home, Ryan asked his mother if he could get a treat before his "talking doctor" appointment. Like any paid helper, I pretended that I was invisible as his mom fumbled in her purse to pay me for my time.  Without prompting, his mom casually explained (albeit, unnecessarily) that the talking doctor was his psychiatrist. "He's having a tough time with the divorce," she continued matter-of-factly. Caucasian with platinum blonde hair and piercing blue eyes, Ryan was 7 years old, and he had a talking doctor. 

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     Scripture reads that lessons were often taught in parables because people were unable to understand messages any other way.  Think the prodigal son, mustard seed, and camel squeezing through the eye of a needle.  Not familiar?  A quick Google search will bring you up to speed. 

     -The Green Juice and Privileged Billionaire Parable - 

     On a shopping excursion with her children, a mom parked her vehicle far away from other vehicles to prevent door dings and embrace walking a bit further as a way to get easy exercise.  The vehicle was parked near a cart corral for ease of unloading her bounty.  Upon exiting the vehicle, one of her children noticed that a large Naked brand Green juice had been left in one of the carts.  It was the same Naked brand juice that was on the mom's grocery list.  Without hesitation, the woman hoisted her young son into a cart and carted the naked juice into the store.  Smiling, she bypassed the return line, walked over to the customer service desk and explained that the juice had been left in a parking lot cart, so she was turning it in just in case the purchaser returned to the store to claim it.  The woman purchased her long list of items, including a Naked green juice.  Although her children never questioned her action, she explained that 'someone would probably realize that they left the juice in the cart and return to the store to retrieve it. And when they did, the customer service attendant would know that they were telling the truth. They may not have enough money to buy another Naked juice. We are blessed and can buy our own Naked juice,' the woman finished.  Similarly, while shopping in a clothing store, she would often encourage her children to hang up an item that had slipped from a hanger as one of their 'random acts of kindness' for the day.  The children would often do this without prompting. The family's definition of integrity was simple:  try to always do the right thing even when no one is watching.

     Far away, in a gold plated penthouse, atop a major metropolis, lived a billionaire real estate mogul, business person and reality television star. Raised by a wealthy real estate tycoon, the father of 5 children by 3 different women, the billionaire openly cheated on his first wife, married his mistress, divorced her and married his third wife, an immigrant who managed to obtain a coveted green card based on her "special" modeling skills.  Exceedingly wealthy, the billionaire boasted that he and his family had never lived in a property that did not bear his name.  He owned commercial and residential real estate properties in the most expensive cities in the United States.  He also owned golf course resorts and five star hotels.  Active litigation confirmed that the billionaire had a history of repeatedly bullying small business owners and service providers by breaching contracts and paying a portion of what he owed for goods and services.  Cocky and brazen, the billionaire knew that the small business owners did not have the resources to fight his vast legal machine.  Far away from the billionaire's wealthy holdings, nestled in middle America, lived poor people who lost their jobs when the steel and auto manufacturing plants and coal mines that provided honest work for their families closed. 

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Offer + Acceptance + Consideration = a Contract.  This is the basic contract definition that every first year law student learns and then spends two semesters trying to understand.  On its face, it appears very 1+1 = 2; however, contained in this simple formula is a Rubik's cube of complexity.  One person makes an offer to another person.  The person making the offer gives the other party something.  That "something" is called consideration.  To qualify as consideration, there must be a bargained for detriment.  Something is being relinquished or the promisee must rely on something to his/her detriment. If there is mutual assent, then a contract exists. And if there's no contract, you can make a promissory estoppel argument that one party reasonably relied on the promise made by another, and that reliance is the consideration or bargained for detriment.  Confused?  Watch the movie "The Paper Chase" and then you'll be really confused by promissory estoppel.  And on and on the complex contracts hamster wheel turns.  Contract law is extremely nuanced and complicated.

At its core, marriage is a very complicated contract. Two people promise/pledge their eternal love for one another in front of at least two witnesses.  Because it's impossible to pledge your eternal, enduring love unless it is witnessed by at least two people.  One person might lie, but two witnesses make the pledge real.  Even Vegas marriages must be witnessed by two people, but I think the justice of the peace dressed as Elvis and his wife holding the Bible suffice.

Frankly, I was never a fan of the Brangelina coupling.  I've always thought that Angelina was just weird.  She's altruistic, generous, talented and beautiful. But in my opinion, she's beautifully odd and far too eleven year old girl thin.  Before you slam me with hate posts, I will acknowledge that she may have a health reason (i.e. a thyroid condition) that explains why her body weight rivals that of a skeletal frame.  To me, she looks like she needs to eat a double helping of quinoa and kale and pack some weight on those presumably organic only, vegan bones.  But skeletal thin works well on the red carpet as evidenced by the top designers clamoring to dress her.  No, I did not dislike the Brad & Angie pairing because of Angie's weirdness or frame.  I wasn't a Brangelina fan because I did not respect how Brad chose to uncouple from Jennifer Aniston. 

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     I live in a city with an amazing cultural scene: opera, theatre, fine dining, live music, comedy, concerts, world class museums, architecture, sports teams in every sport and a host of tourist attractions that fuel the city’s thriving convention and tourism industry. It’s an exhausting list of things to do. If you think about doing it, you can find it to do here.

     Every summer, the city attracts thousands of tourists to its lakefront events, many of them free, including outdoor dance lessons, yoga and movies in the park. The event planners routinely book talent to draw a crowd, and the larger festivals include top musical talent. A supporter of the Arts, I treat myself to a theatrical experience at least once each quarter. I usually take in a Tony Award winning musical, play or visit the Opera. When I attend the theatre, my goal is to be seated on the first floor orchestra-center, close enough to the stage to observe the microphones taped beneath the performers’ wigs. This means that my preferred seating preference is no further back than row 15. If I can’t source “good seats” I don’t attend. Some might call me a theatre snob. Yes, my seating preference carries a premium ticket purchase price; however, since my schedule only allows me to indulge my theatre appetite once each quarter, I don’t mind paying the premium ticket price. My theatre and concert seating preference has been transferred to my children, because when I purchase tickets for family excursions, I follow my “good seat” rule, so my children have never sat further back than row 15.

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A few years ago, a friend, with a body mass index (BMI) in the morbidly obese range, broke a chair. Moments after consuming a very rich, decadent dessert, she decided to sample another rich, decadent dessert. It should be noted that this was not an “I just want to taste it” sample slice of dessert. The second dessert was an ample girl, I wear a size 3X, slice of cake. Almost immediately after snuggling into the chair, and before she’d placed the plate on the table, the chair collapsed under her weight. She crashed to the ground, but expertly managed to lift her arm into the air to protect the plate holding the cake, as though she had performed this maneuver previously. The chair remained suctioned to her backside.

As people rushed to her aide, her first response was, “Take the cake!” It was a scene straight out of a Saturday Night Live episode. She braced herself on a nearby chair, and flipped to her knees as the suctioned chair was wrestled from her frame. Once she realized that she was not injured, she proceeded to sit down and enjoy the cake like nothing happened. Her parents blamed the chair.

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I just read an online CNN article about the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and how it’s likely that the USSC might gut it like a fish. In the article, the reporter wrote that Clarence Thomas will most likely side with the conservative justices who believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman. No surprise there. Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and Stephen Breyer, are the justices who tend to vote on the liberal side while Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Chief Justice John Roberts are the conservative justices who believe that marriage should remain between a man and a woman. Anthony Kennedy usually carries the all important tie breaker swing vote.

In the article, the reporter wrote: “Three of the more conservative justices seemed aligned with the view that marriage should only be between a man and a woman, and it's likely they'd be joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, who doesn't speak at arguments.” I paused and re-read that sentence. “He doesn’t speak at arguments?” I asked myself. It was written as a statement of accepted fact. Is he not allowed to speak at arguments? Is he mute? What the hell is that about? How can you sit as a justice on the United States Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, and not speak? While the other justices are harassing and hazing the skilled attorneys who will now be able to boast that they’ve argued before the USSC, Clarence Thomas is watching the performance like a spectator. I remember reading that Clarence Thomas seldom (almost never) wrote majority opinions or even dissenting opinions, but I didn’t realize that his tongue was also paralyzed.

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The scripture that he read was instantly familiar. The last verse in the 4th chapter a personal memory verse in my Bible.



16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away,
yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17For our light and
momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory
that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes
not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since
what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
5:1 For we know that if the earthly tent we live
in is destroyed, we have a building from God,
an eternal house in heaven,
not built by human hands.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 5:1 NIV


I don’t recall him quoting the scripture reference, but as soon as I heard the words, I flipped open my Bible and read along. In my quest for spiritual maturity, I’ve made a commitment to implant God’s word on my heart. For me, it’s a ‘slow and steady wins the raise’ type of process, almost a turtle crawl.

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Face it, you’re either a reader or a talker, but you’re not both. When traveling, most of us carry some type of reading material that we use like a shield to repel even the threat of conversation from the strangers seated next to us. In some travel situations I’m a talker, and in others, I’m a reader. As a fiction author, I routinely chat up cab drivers in the hopes of learning something new that I can use in my writing, so in a taxi, I’m a seat belt wearing talker. But when traveling on an airplane, I’m generally a polite reader. I prefer window seats, so I smile warmly as my row companion settles in and before the flight attendant entertains us with the required safety dog and pony show. I usually chuckle when he advises that in a water landing the seat cushion can be used as a flotation device wondering how many people have actually survived a twenty thousand foot plunge into the ocean or lake due to their seat cushion flotation device. Before my seat companion has fully settled in, while clutching my reading material firmly in one hand and a pack of gum in the other, I usually smile and ask the same three questions in this order: “Would you like a piece of gum? Are you from (insert the place we’ve just left)? I hope the weather is as good or better than the weather here.” After they’ve replied I smile and lower my head into my book, feeling eternally bonded to my row companion. You see, I’m really not trying to make a new friend on the airplane, I’m just trying to break the ice so that if the pilot announces an emergency landing, and we start plummeting fast, I can quickly clamor into this person’s lap as I pray that their girth will cushion my frame on impact. So far, I haven’t had to test this gum tax strategy, but serving as my emergency landing cushion seems like the least they can do to thank me for the piece of gum that I generously offered.

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Our lives are shaped or altered by our decisions and choices. You decide or choose where you are going to go to school, your major, your city and your mate. Had you chosen not to attend your friend’s birthday party, you may not have met the person who would later introduce you to the person that is now your biggest source of joy or sorrow. As we mature, the decisions that we are forced to make become more difficult and the choices more complex. Sometimes we make good decisions based on the choices available to us, and other times we make bad decisions given the same choices, but each day we are faced with choices and decisions: what to eat, what to wear, what to say and what to do.

I just completed a four hour, online defensive driving class because I chose to drive a few miles over the speed limit, and I got caught. It was my first ever moving violation, and in my own defense, I “thought” that I was only driving four miles over the posted speed limit, a range that has kept me ticket free for over three decades of safe driving. Here’s what happened.