More Jackson County Opinions...

DECEMBER 4, 2002


Column
By:Virgil Adams
The Jackson Herald
December 4, 2002

Christmas is here already
When I was a kid of 5 or 6, it took about two years - almost 24 months - for Christmas to get here.
Looking back, I don’t think it was Christmas that I anxiously and longingly waited for. It was Santa Claus.
I’m sure Mama tried to teach me the real meaning of Christmas, but at that young age, visions of sugarplums, stick candy, an assortment of fruit and nuts, and a simple toy got in the way.
Granny (that’s what we called Mama after the grandkids started coming along) died on Feb. 21, 1988, at the age of 97. I’m pushing 80, and some of her teachings are just now beginning to sink in. I would be a better man today if I had paid attention earlier. (Listen to your mamas, kids.)
Anyway, now that I am older - a lot older - Christmas gets here in less than a year. It’s only December 4, and it’s here already.
In fact, Christmas comes so early, and stays so late, that we have Christmas permanently, perpetually and in perpetuity.
Now, this would be a good thing if all our mamas had taught us the true meaning of Christmas, and if their teachings had borne fruit. Having the real Christmas spirit the year ‘round would make us, our families and our world a lot better.
I’m afraid the true Christmas spirit has not been imbedded in our psyches. So it has lost its sparkle and its influence. That happens when shallow Christmas celebrating begins too soon and lasts too long.
There is plenty of evidence that the Christmas season is with us permanently, year in and year out. Several families around town don’t have to put up outside decorations this year; they’ve been up since last year. There is a pasture fence not far from here that has been adorned with those tacky icicle lights for two years.
Shop early? Some folks take that to extreme. They shopped the after Christmas sales in 2001 for gifts they’ll give in 2002 and 2003. Nothing like getting one- and two-year-old stuff, huh?
And it doesn’t end - or begin - after the after-Christmas sales. Christmas shopping in America is as close to perpetual motion as anything I know.
The malls, Toys R Us, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Sam’s Club, K-Mart, Wal-Mart, Target - all the big box stores - love it.
Once upon a time, Christmas shopping started after Thanksgiving. Then it moved to Halloween. Now we do our patriotic duty, buy a few things on July 4th, build consumer confidence, and boost the economy.
Shopping for a new Easter outfit is a great time to pick up a little something to wear at the office Christmas party.
New Year’s Day is a great day to celebrate and start recycling the cycle.
And where is Santa Claus all this time? He is lost in the hustle, bustle, frenzy and perpetual motion of everyday Christmas. Like the season itself, Santa has lost his sparkle and his influence.
But he’s there everyday. He comes home bearing gifts. You can count on him. He is very familiar and very predictable.
He is so familiar and predictable that the kids take him for granted. (But not so familiar that he breeds contempt. God forbid!)
He brings instant gratification. He has made waiting outmoded. Alas, there is nothing to anticipate. The excitement is gone. It is so dull.
And so Christmas is just another day filled with good things to eat and drink, just like the things we eat and drink everyday, and gifts of things we already have, stuffed unused in over-stuffed dresser drawers.
New toys are fun for a day, then tossed in the closet with old toys that were fun for a day.
Before this old Grinch completely ruins your Christmas, let’s see if we can’t come up with something that will save the day. (Be positive, Virgil.)
OK, there are 20 days left before Christmas. For the next 18 days, don’t do anymore shopping or preparation. Instead, spend these days getting in shape. You will be glad that you did.
If you are a couch potato, get off the couch and start walking. If you are walking, start jogging. Go to the gym. Get on the treadmill. Lift weights.
If you are fat, eat less. If you are skinny, eat more.
Now you are ready, willing and able to tackle two days of frantic shopping and party planning before Christmas day.
I like to do my shopping even later, on Christmas Eve. There are two advantages. One, everything has been picked over, thus making for easy choices. Two, there’s nobody in the store but you and one cashier, and she can check you out promptly.
Here’s another good idea: During these 20 days before Christmas, don’t give your kids anything but three nutritious meals a day and lots of love - at home. Don’t go to any movies. Block out all channels on the TV except Public Broadcasting. Shut down the computer.
Yes, of course, the kids will miss the perks, goodies, toys, Tommy Hilfiger outfits and other trash that they are accustomed to. But doing without for 20 days will cause them to appreciate you and the material blessings you provide.
They will learn that waiting is not all that bad. They will discover the thrill of anticipating.
On Christmas morning, when all their stuff is restored, they will be the happiest kids on the block.
Even ol’ Santa Claus will come out of hiding and start to live again.
Oh, one more thing: Since the whole family will be spending more time at home, with not a whole lot to do, read the story. Find the Book (it’s around there somewhere) and begin reading at Luke, Chapter 2.
Virgil Adams is the former owner and editor of The Jackson Herald.

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Column
By: Rochelle Beckstine
The Jackson Herald
December 4, 2002

New threat closes schools across the nation
Students won’t be praying for snow or ice this winter. They’ll be praying for something else entirely. Something that can close schools for a month or more. Something so insidious it may already be in our schools and we don’t know about it yet. It’s not a smallpox outbreak or a freak tornado; it’s mold. While most of the 100,000 species of mold are not hazardous, some types cause headaches, fatigue and serious respiratory problems. Serious enough to give Tennessee’s Bristol High School students are four-week hiatus when black mold was found in several classrooms. In fact, across the state in Memphis, the death of one seventeen-year-old student on November 16 is currently being investigated by the Environmental Protection Agency while all 600 of his classmates are screened for similar problems. The school board has also hired an environmental consultant.
According to an article by the Associated Press printed Sunday in Nashville, schools nationwide are finding allergy-inducing mold on walls, in carpets, in porous ceiling tiles and in ventilation systems. The mold has forced schools to shut down for weeks while repairs costing upwards of one million dollars are made. Students and staff in Florida filed suit last week against the school board claiming moldy buildings have caused long-term health problems. Currently, there are no federal mandates on testing air quality in schools or even fixing problems that arise. The EPA’s website says it has no regulatory or enforcement authority regarding general indoor air quality in schools. But it does provide a free kit and instructional video on testing and improving air quality before the repair bills total the million dollar mark.
Alarmingly, the EPA website reports most of the problems with indoor mold are in the southeast because the southern humidity and warmth provide ideal conditions for the mold to fester. But any amount of water can cause microbial growth. Condensation on cold water pipes or small leaks that aren’t completely sealed can produce enough mold long term to cost schools millions.
Unfortunately mold problems usually go unnoticed until people become ill, when the mold is out of control. The Associated Press article mentions no schools in Georgia with problems, but we’ve all seen the special reports on the Atlanta news of homes being abandoned because the mold is out of control and the entire family is gravely ill. And no one at the EPA can say which kind of building is worse: an old, dilapidated school or the newer schools made with Gypsum wallboard and carpeted floors which retain moisture and which allow for little natural ventilation. It states only that schools should be well ventilated with relative humidity below 60 percent during warm weather. And that air quality should be monitored and maintained.
The districts hit the hardest seem to be those who delay maintenance and patch leaks.
Last week, Tennessee’s state education department emailed school administrators directing them to the EPA website where they can download information on improving air quality and get the air quality kits and video.
Why don’t we stay one step ahead of the Volunteers?
The agency’s kit and video are free to schools that request the kit by calling 1-800-438-4318. The webpage pertaining to school’s air quality and mold is: www.epa.gov/iag/schools/scfaqs.html.

Rochelle Beckstine is a columnist for MainStreet Newspapers.


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