By Christie Pool
It started on Thanksgiving Day with turkey and dressing, pecan pie, pineapple casserole, sausage balls, homemade fudge and stuff that I have forgotten that I ate. It continued with the SEC Championship game which, of course, called for party food like wings, buffalo chicken dip, and bear chili. And then it went downhill (and I’m not just talking about the game itself!)
Late November and December are a minefield for anyone prone to gluttony. Even non-overeater’s are seriously tested to forsake yogurt and salad for visions of sugar plums dancing in your head.
What’s a person to do with the likes of white chocolate peanut butter Ritz cracker cookies, M&M Christmas cookie bars, perfectly frosted sugar cookies, peanut brittle, and Christmas Oreo Pops making their way around the office? Every day leading up to Christmas, someone would graciously stop by our office with a sweet and sugary treat. It was wonderful, yet tragic for those of us - me - with zero willpower when it comes to sweets.
According to WebMd, Americans average about 20 teaspoons of added sugars per day (surely it’s higher in the month of December). The recommended amount is just six teaspoons for women and nine teaspoons for men.
Sugar tastes so good but negatively affects our bodies. WebMd says we get slammed with a huge surge of the feel-good chemical dopamine when we munch on sugar-laden treats. It’s easy to get addicted to that feeling of having extra dopamine swirling around in our brains, especially around two in the afternoon.
Candy and cookies give us a quick burst of energy by raising our blood sugar levels fast. But when our levels drop, according to WebMd, as our cells absorb the sugar we can feel jittery and anxious - a.k.a. the dreaded “sugar crash.”
Along with giving us cavities, eating lots of sweets has been shown to worsen joint pain because of the inflammation they cause. Studies show that sugar consumption can increase our risk of rheumatoid arthritis.
WebMd also says it makes our skin age faster.
Teeth, joints, and skin. The list goes on and on. From liver damage to heart damage, pancreas and kidney damage, sugar’s effects are not sweet.
The one negative we mostly notice, however, is weight. After the Thanksgiving through December onslaught of awesome -yet-horrible-for-us treats, lots of us promise to eat better and stay away from the bad stuff our body doesn’t like (even if our taste buds do).
Unfortunately, 92 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail. Whether we are trying to lose weight, quit smoking or promise ourselves to go for a jog every day, only eight percent of us actually will, according to Forbes. Each new year, most of us, according to Patch.com, say we want to: stay fit and healthy (37 percent), lose weight (32 percent), enjoy life to the fullest (28 percent), spend less and save more (25 percent) and spend more time with family and friends (19 percent).
So, while the likelihood of us doing any of those things long term is small, we should try. We need to pay the piper - at least for a little while - for our wretched December habits.
We have no crystal ball and even if we did, we wouldn’t count on many of the following. But, what the heck, this is a time of wonder and magic and maybe a couple of our desires for the county in 2019 might come true. An editor can dream.
• Parks, parks, parks – For years we have begged for more recreational opportunities. The county’s own master plan for recreation from 2005 plainly calls for a whole new park. The community center in Roper Park is the only significant advance in parks and rec. this county has made in 25 years and it opened in 2011 at a cost of $3 million; that’s not very recent and well shy of what the people of this county deserve. Our county ranks horribly among other counties (both smaller and larger) in park facilities. Maybe 2019 will see a change, but we won’t hold our breath.
• Incentives to attract desirable businesses – Any salesman will say you must have an incentive -- something to sweeten the pot so to speak. Neither Jasper nor Pickens County have any enticements – no tax abatements or special perks with fees or permits that might help solidify a deal with a new company. If someone shows up interested in bringing a new manufacturing operation to town or will fill a recognized need (a microbrewery/steakhouse in the old NAPA building) at the very least, we need something to offer.
•Someone to negotiate with the above enticements - Our city/county operated without an economic developer for most of 2018, so it’s hard to guess exactly who would conduct negotiations on the public’s behalf with a potential new company. Maybe we didn’t miss any opportunities during the past year. We certainly aren’t advocating hiring an economic developer just to say we have one. This county needs a plan first or at least some discussion on economic development efforts. If there are no incentives or plans, then filling the position is of no significant benefit.
• A city manager to bring order to the Force – By the time you read this, the city of Jasper may have filled their first openly-advertised city manager job position. Working with paid consultants to find the right person, they attracted 39 applicants. Let’s hope whoever is hired can restore order to the Force, as they say in Star Wars, at least the Force that is city hall. If he/she is indeed a professional and experienced civic manager, we ask that the mayor and city council give their top person some breathing room. No reason to hire someone if the person is micro-managed and caught in a crossfire from day one.
• Separate the cows, chickens, rock concerts and wedding chapels – It’s time for the county to re-think their land use codes, particularly the practice of using agricultural zonings as a catch-all category for everything from concert venues to wedding facilities. Common sense dictates that ag should be the most restrictive of zonings – quiet farm life. In the past year, we have seen planned public venues directed to the ag zoning and had a former planning director interpret the provisions so that shops of most any nature are legitimate in property identified as farm land. Neither dance floors nor tree house hotels come to mind when you think farms. It’s time to take a serious look at what constitutes agriculture or agro-tourism and where venues for wedding or concerts really belong.
• Let’s roll out a replacement for the Marble Festival – Not as a complaint about the Marble Festivals past, but looking to the future, let’s try something new. Shake things up, roll out new ideas/themes. For reasons no one can ever put their finger on, the county’s largest festival has never really grown, especially compared to festivals in other north Georgia towns. Instead of further gradual tinkering, it’s time to shake those stones.
As we head into a vacation hibernation, we’ll take a mostly objective look at how Pickens County fared in 2018.
Looking back over what we wanted for 2018 [presented in this space about this time last year], it appears the status quo is hard to dislodge. Yet, there seems to be a lot of forces lining up, so change may be afoot and coming in 2019.
Grading our 2018 wish list:
• More parks – Nope. The mountain bike park at Talking Rock keeps drawing more users and expanding. Thanks to this private Southeastern Trust for Parks and Land, our outdoor recreation has expanded. But, absolutely no thanks to the city of Jasper or Pickens County.
• Chattahoochee Tech playing a vital role – Not yet, but making progress. The technical college and high school are working together closely for the first time in years. And after enough citizens got angry at the always-empty parking lot, the tech school is making solid efforts by expanding their welding lab, beginning a carpentry program and assessing other needs. We rate this one going in the right direction.
• Fill the Buildings – We mentioned three prime commercial spots sitting empty in our 2018 wish list back in January. The former Hallmark store now contains the stylish Designs on Main. But the old NAPA building on the corner of downtown and the former Lawson Chevrolet site on Hwy. 515 are still not producing commercial spots. We get a 33 percent success rate here.
However, it can’t be ignored that two massive mixed-use developments on Highway 515, plus a 96-unit apartment complex near Walmart, are moving along. We’d rate this one - didn’t get it in 2018 but may get all we can handle in 2019.
Other items sought in 2018:
• National championship for the Dawgs – best not discussed.
•Pickens schools to improve system-wide test scores. A mixed bag here. It is refreshing to see the schools are very candid about shortcomings, an honest attitude we have not seen from educators before, but unfortunately they have problem areas to discuss in the first place.
A few other points to ponder.
It’s hard to tell how these bits of news may play out, but as Gandalf tells the Hobbits they may yet have a role to play in our future.
• By February of last year, the city found itself with a “historic power shift” at city hall with the mayor and city manager jobs being cleaved apart. Maybe this laid groundwork for improvement, maybe only rudderless. It’s hard to see any benefit so far.
• The county/city parted ways with their economic developer in February and thus far haven’t shown interest in filling that position. Commission Chair Rob Jones said Pickens is the only county in the area without a single person to direct economic development calls to, but he wasn’t sure what the economic development councils/board wanted to do. Maybe we don’t need one.
• We were surprised when owners/developers of Potts Mountain (a 1,378 acre tract across the road from Big Canoe) decided to turn that area, once slated for additional phases of Big Canoe including a commercial area, into conservation property that will never be developed. While greenspace is always nice, we lament the loss of a future commercial area to capitalize off the successful gated community.
• Luckily for young couples they won’t have to wait to tie the knot until our county planning commission decides how to handle special event/wedding venues. Despite members of the commission acknowledging they need set guidelines and guidance, it’s still anyone’s guess how rezonings for venues will go.
•Kudos to Pickens County for landing a big one – water source that is. 2019 should see them filling water lines with 330,000 daily gallons from Grandview Lake. Finally a dedicated water source for the county system.
With last-minute Christmas shopping in full swing it can be easy to lose sight of what’s important. We asked our readers and Facebook followers to tell us what makes Christmas special for them.
Jacque O’Terry Nowell – Jasper
“Christmas is a magical, meaningful experience of God’s goodness!”
Tia Howard – Jasper
“Having God as our father and savior and how He gave His only son so that our sins may be forgiven so we can live our eternal life with him. Christmas is all about Him, in Jesus’ name Amen.”
Pat Haldeman – Jasper
“Growing up, I always loved the Christmas plays at church, and celebrating Jesus’ birthday. Then going home mom would let us open our stocking on Christmas Eve.”
Sami Kapela Jackson – Ball Ground
“Christmas is all about the birth of love…it is the perfect time to remember we are made in that image..and therefore we are love too. And….I get to unapologetically hug everyone!”
Laura Rizk - Talking Rock
“I love the Christmas holiday because, despite the question of the exact date, we remember the birth of Jesus, the light of the world, at the darkest time of year. Christmas is also a time we open our hearts, to be with our loved ones and to enjoy special traditions that have been passed down from different cultures and generations, which we now get to experience every holiday season.”
Kirk Raffield - Jasper
“I love the time spent with loved ones and the unity we experience as a community. May we always remember how blessed we are in this community.”
Robert VanHoose – Talking Rock
“I always enjoyed Christmas because it’s a time to spend with the people you love and have a chance to reflect on the year that has passed. As a kid my mom and dad put so much effort into making Christmas great for us kids and it always was!”
Marlene Loyd Garner - Covington
“Spending time with my family.”
Nichole Childers - Canton
“Family and board games. It’s a full day of spending time with the whole family. Way too much yummy food.”
Kathe Hall - Jasper
“The magic of wonder and excitement children show about Santa Claus.”
Tammy Brown - Jasper
“I love everything about the Christmas season. I love decorating my home and having friends and family visit. I love riding around looking at Christmas lights. I love singing Christmas carols, especially this year I get to sing them to my new granddaughter Lillyana Joy. This will be a very special Christmas for our family having a baby in the family. The most important thing to remember is Christmas is a celebration of Jesus’ birth. I am thankful and truly blessed.”
Delane Lewis - Marble Hill
“I treasure the hush that comes after Eucharist on Christmas Eve -- when all the shopping and festivities are done, and it is time to joyously reflect on God's gift of His Son and the true miracle of His birth. Merry Christmas.”
Allison Priest - Jasper
“Christmas for me is always about family. The greatest gift for me is visiting with my parents, my brother and sister, my nieces and nephews, and cousins. There is no greater bond than the one filled with love.”
Jacquelyn Bolton – Jasper
“The story of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem is called the Nativity. There would be no Christmas without Christ. God sent his only son to die on the cross, to take all our past, present and future sins upon Him so we could be forgiven. He wants a relationship with us. All we have to do is say yes, I want to follow Jesus. Turn away from our sins and we will be forgiven. Then put God the Father in the center of everything we do. Merry Christmas.”
Merry Christmas from the Progress!
The elder president George Bush who died Friday at age 94, will be mourned widely this week (with mail service even being suspended Wednesday). His passing is an opportune time to reflect not only on what he accomplished but on how he achieved political success – through chivalry, civil behavior and willingness to compromise.
In many of the memoriams already published, he was hailed as one of the greatest single-term presidents in American history primarily for navigating the world through the collapse of the Soviet Union. As one television commentator remarked, the collapse unfolded while Ronald Reagan was president and George Herbert Walker Bush was vice president, but it took Bush four more years as president “to land the plane.”
Where we may draw lessons from the life of the 41st president for all levels of politics, from the biggest international decision down to our city council, is seeing the effectiveness and tone of the diplomacy he used. Bush was a true public servant and a good man, both behind the scenes and in the image presented to the world.
Congressman Doug Collins this week offered the following praise for him, “I’ll always remember President George H.W. Bush as a servant leader dedicated to America’s role as an agent of good in a complex world. He was a man of many titles, but what strikes me most are his humanity and his belief that his greatest titles were husband and father.”
Bush, who flew numerous combat missions in World War II (the last president we’ll have from the Greatest Generation) was no wimp – a term some unfairly criticized him with for not being more partisan.
The 41st president recognized different viewpoints, treated those who held them with respect and forged working relationships. Inside his own party with the beginning of the more conservative strains, Bush was able to hold a solid center.
And across party lines, Bush and his successor Bill Clinton went on to work together on numerous projects and by most accounts, they truly cooperated in public and private.
Bush’s temperament has often been characterized by two words from his inaugural address in 1989 when he referenced the need for a “kinder” and “gentler” America. Less than 50 years later, the actual lines in his address before the Capitol would seem not only old-fashioned but absolutely in contrast to the bombast today. “America is never wholly herself unless she is engaged in high moral principle. We as a people have such purpose today. It is to make kinder the face of the nation and gentler the face of the world,” he said.
Contrast Bush’s studied restraint, a role model of gentlemanly behavior, to constant chest-beating which passes for political discussion today.
Perhaps the clearest explanation of the restraint and reserve that Bush modeled came from the final note he left in the White House for incoming President Bill Clinton – a man who had just beaten him in the election.
Bush opened by wishing him and his family well. Bush wrote hundreds of personal notes while in office to express gratitude, congratulations or sympathy.
He then closed his note to Clinton by stating, “Your success now is our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you.”
That one sentiment, after the election is over we all need to work together, is strikingly absent in politics today.
As the nation mourns the 41st president, let’s also hold up the role model of George Herbert Walker Bush’s kinder and gentler America.