A Story about Humor: The Best Kind of Barometer (for Anything That Matters)

Is there really any better yardstick than humor for measuring, I don’t know, intelligence? Depth of character? General amiability in a person? I think not. I can recall several occasions where I forgot about this important metric when I was making an important decision that would palpably affect my life, and lived to regret it. … Continue reading A Story about Humor: The Best Kind of Barometer (for Anything That Matters)

Live Your Life: A Mother’s Reflection

Live your life, live your life, live your life.—Maurice Sendak It’s Mother’s Day, a Hallmark-y holiday. Flowers will be dispensed, brunches eaten, and everywhere priests will stand at the pulpit and spin out sermons on the importance of mothers for the umpteenth time; they’ll repeat them next month but insert the word “fathers.” I had … Continue reading Live Your Life: A Mother’s Reflection

You Can’t Sit With Us: Reflections on a “Mean Girls” National Policy

Find someone who looks like they need a friend, and be that person's friend: it was my mama's mandate to me on the first day of third grade, a tall order for an eight-year-old kid at a new school, but the outcome for me that year was a tight friendship with a sweet, third-generation Scot. It … Continue reading You Can’t Sit With Us: Reflections on a “Mean Girls” National Policy

Hope and the Human Spirit: Postcard from Home

Knoxville’s downtown Market Square once held an imposing masonry building that served as a center for thriving commerce, including a beloved farmer’s market that purveyed meat, poultry, dairy, produce, and flowers trucked in from the city’s rural outskirts. A 14-year-old boy set it ablaze lighting a cigarette in the late 1950s, goes the story, gutting … Continue reading Hope and the Human Spirit: Postcard from Home

Tail of the Dog, in Which Warden Prepares to Play the Wrong Piano Concerto

In 1999 the Portuguese virtuosa Maria Joao Pires famously sat at the piano with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, conductor Riccardo Chailly  at the podium, awaiting the first bar of the piano concerto she expected to play for this lunchtime concert. Imagine her surprise when the orchestra began playing a different piece of music—the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor—instead … Continue reading Tail of the Dog, in Which Warden Prepares to Play the Wrong Piano Concerto