THINGS MY MAMA TAUGHT ME

October 11, 2017
THINGS MY MAMA TAUGHT ME
It is a sad fact of life that, all too often, we become so bogged down with the minutiae and infinitia of everyday life that we find ourselves accidentally forgetting the really important stuff.

That almost happened to me this week. I got so busy tackling what was required of me while working on this week’s issue of the Capital-Democrat that it almost - almost - slipped my mind that today (Wednesday, Oct. 11) would have been my mother’s 75th birthday.

It’s hard to believe that it has almost been six months since she passed away. The pain has subsided some since then; the grief has not, and I fully expect that it never completely will. To some degree I’ve made my peace with that. I read somewhere once that grief is part of the fire which fuels the crucible that forges our lives; so if the things that make me cry help make me who I am, who am I to fight it?

Besides, to paraphrase something another person once so famously said in one of my favorite science fiction movies, she’s not really gone as long as I remember her.  And the memories I have of my mother are ones that I will cherish for the rest of my own life.

Like the smell of her chocolate pecan pie at Thanksgiving.

Or the way she bragged to everyone she saw when I published my first book.

The way she would play solitaire with as many as 10 decks of cards at one time.

Or even those moments which drove me nuts at the time they occurred. Like the way she used to fuss at me for mischief my two younger brothers would get into when I wasn’t even home. One time when I was in high school I came home and was met at the door my Mom, who greeted me with a swat across the behind.

“What was that for?” I protested.

“That’s for being their brother,” she snapped, still frazzled from whatever it was they had done in the first place.

“Well, heck, you can’t blame me for that,” I shot back sarcastically. “I wanted a puppy, but you and Dad kept bringing those things home instead.” Years later we would both laugh any time she remembered that particular exchange, but all it got me at the time was another swat across the behind…

She was the first one who realized that Melissa and I were destined to be together when we started dating in high school. She was also the first one to smack me on the back of the head and tell me what a jerk I was for briefly breaking up with Melissa during a weird period in my life a couple of years later; and the first one (well, after Melissa, that is) to express happiness when we got back together just a week after that.

Mom could be my harshest critic, but she was also my most vocal supporter. She was also my first - and in so many ways my best - teacher, one whose lessons have held me in good stead my entire life.

Mom was the one who taught me to treat everyone the way I would want to be treated, regardless of the color of their skin or the church they belonged to (if any) or the condiment they preferred on their hamburger.

She was the one who taught me how to read and, along with my father, gave me an appreciation for the written word that proved to be the best gift they ever gave me, the one that enabled ed me to find the right path for my life.

Mom was the one who taught me that I should never hit a girl. “Unless she hits you first - then you go right ahead and hit her back. Don’t be a bully, but don’t let yourself be bullied, either.”

She taught me to stand up for what I believe in, even if I’m standing alone. But she also taught to respect the beliefs of others, even if I do not share them.

She taught me to take responsibility for my actions, and to take whatever punishment that might result like a man.

She taught me that it was okay to be that geek that reads comic books and watches Star Trek and Star Wars. Because, every now and then, the geek wins the day, gets the girl and has the last laugh.

She taught me that vacations are about the trip, not the destination.

She taught me to be a good friend to my friends… and that the best friend is quite often the one who just sits quietly and listens.

She taught me that there is a world of difference between earned loyalty and blind obedience to someone or something undeserving. And that true patriotism is something far more than simply wrapping one’s self up in the flag and singing “God Bless America.”

She taught me the importance of being able to cook and fend for myself. But she also taught me that, yes, there was someone for me out there somewhere. And, boy, was she right…

She taught me to take joy in the little things in life. Like the clean smell of a springtime rain. Or the sound of a child’s laugh. Or the happiness to be found in a simple bag of penny candy…

Most importantly, she taught me the importance of trying to live each day of one’s life as if it was the last. Because, one day, it will be. It will be those memories that will remain to comfort those we leave behind.

Happy birthday, Mom.

I love you.

(Copyright 2017 by John Allen Small)
 

HOLMES AND WATSON: THE NEXT GENERATION

October 6, 2017
Last night I finished reading Brittany Cavallaro’s A Study In Charlotte, the first book in a trilogy about Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson - the great-great-great-granddaughter and great-great-great-grandson of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. The story is set in the modern day at a prep school in Connecticut, where both protagonists have been sent by their respective families for different reasons and who meet quite by accident (or so we are first led to believe).

Jamie is a rugby player ...

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A CLASSIC SONG RECONSIDERED...

September 7, 2017
“Eleanor Rigby” is one of the most popular of the hundreds of songs written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney and recorded by the Beatles. It is also one of the best examples of their growing maturity as lyricists at the time, a song containing poetic qualities not found in such earlier works as “She Loves You” or “I Want To Hold Your Hand.”

Unlike so many of those earlier compositions, which for all their energy were merely variations of the traditional love song, “Eleanor Rigby...

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THOUGHTS ON CHARLOTTESVILLE...

August 16, 2017

My wife Melissa, son Joshua and I were in Monroe, Louisiana, sitting in the living room of our dear friends Win and Lisa Eckert last Saturday, talking about any number of things - most of them far removed from this place we (sometimes grudgingly) refer to as “the Real World” - when we got the news about the act of domestic terrorism perpetrated by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Like so many others - like anyone with even a trace of human decency in their soul an...


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ERB MOVIES OF THE 1970s

June 19, 2017

As Phillip R. Burger pointed out in an essay included in the 2005 Bison Books reissue of Richard Lupoff’s Master Of Adventure, 1975 was a particularly good year to be a fan of Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs.

For one thing, it was the centennial of ERB’s birth, which meant that much attention was being paid to the author and his works. As part of the centennial celebration, Irwin Porges finally published his long-anticipated (and definitive) ERB biography, Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Man...
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THE TARZAN NOVELS IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER

June 16, 2017

This project grew out of my son Joshua’s stated desire to read the entire run of the authorized Tarzan novels - the original series by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and those ERB Inc.-sanctioned novels by Fritz Leiber, Philip José Farmer, Joe Lansdale, Will Murray and Michael S. Sanford - more or less in the order in which they take place. When Josh announced his intent, I decided to compile this chronology for the purpose of helping him and other fans who might be considering a similar reading pr...


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A NOTE FOR MY MOTHER...

May 3, 2017

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… Me and my mother, Romania Sue Small, circa 1963-64.



I am told that a certain member of my family apparently did not appreciate my sharing the following story at my mother’s funeral last Friday. 


I have to admit to having been somewhat baffled by this response. Certain things being what they are, certain people being who they are, perhaps I shouldn’t have been. I don’t know. 


Everyone else seemed to appreciate the story, and had nothing b...


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31 YEARS AND COUNTING...

April 6, 2017
APRIL 5, 1986, Kankakee First Church of the Nazarene, Kankakee Illinois.


Once upon a time, a boy and a girl from opposite sides of town met and fell in love…

The year was 1978. Jimmy Carter was president; Styx and the Electric Light Orchestra were two of the biggest rock groups in the country; and nearly a year after its release, Star Wars was STILL the numbest popular movie in America.

One Sunday evening in late April of that year, a teenage boy met the girl of his dreams at church. He was a ...

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JUST A RANDOM THOUGHT...

February 22, 2017


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AN EXPERIMENT IN AUTOBIOGRAPHY...

February 17, 2017



Faster than a speeding bullet? 


Ha!! Hardly… 


More powerful than a locomotive? 


Nope. Guess again. 


Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound? 


Not even on my best days back when I was young and thin and full of energy – and even if I could, I'd most likely crash on the way back down. So, wrong again - but thanks for playing.


Who am I?


This is not a question which can be answered simply, for I have worn many hats within the space of what seems to have been a relatively short sp...


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About Me


John Allen Small John A. Small is an award-winning newspaper journalist, columnist and broadcaster whose work has been honored by the Oklahoma Press Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Associated Press, the National Newspaper Association, and the Oklahoma Education Association. He and his wife Melissa were married in 1986; they have two sons, Joshua Orrin (born 1991) and William Ian (born 1996). Mr. Small is the News Editor and columnist for the Johnston County Capital-Democrat, a weekly newspaper headquartered in Tishomingo, OK. He obtained his nickname, "Bard of the Lesser Boulevards," from a journalism colleague - the late Phil Byrum - in recognition of the success of his popular newspaper column, "Small Talk." (In addition to the many awards the column itself has received over the years, a radio version of "Small Talk" earned an award for "Best Small Market Commentary" from the Society of Professional Journalists in 1998.) John was born in Oklahoma City in 1963; lived in the Bradley-Bourbonnais-Kankakee area of Illinois for most of the next 28 years (with brief sojourns in Texas and Athens, Greece, thrown in to break up the monotony); then returned to his native state in 1991, where he currently resides in the Tishomingo/Ravia area. He graduated from Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School in 1981, and received his bachelor's degree in journalism from Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais in 1991. The years between high school and college were a period frought with numerous exploits and misadventures, some of which have become the stuff of legend; nobody was hurt along the way, however, which should count for something. In addition to his professional career as a journalist he has published two short story collections: "Days Gone By: Legends And Tales Of Sipokni West" (2007), a collection of western stories; and "Something In The Air" (2011), a more eclectic collection. He was also a contributor to the 2005 Locus Award-nominated science fiction anthology "Myths For The Modern Age: Philip Jose Farmer's Wold Newton Universe," edited by Win Scott Eckert. In additon he has written a stage play and a self-published cookbook; served as project editor for a book about the JFK assassination entitled "The Men On The Sixth Floor"; and has either published or posted on the Internet a number of essays, stories and poems. He has also won writing awards from the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the National Library of Poetry. He is a past president of the Johnston County Chamber of Commerce in Tishomingo; was a charter member and past president of the Johnston County Reading Council, the local literacy advocacy and "friends of the library" organization; served as Johnston County's first-ever Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator in 1994-95; served two terms as chairman of the Johnston County (OK) Democratic Party; and has taught journalism classes for local Boy Scout Merit Badge Fairs. He is a member of the New Wold Newton Meteorics Society.
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