You hear it or say it every time this time of year:
I can’t believe how this year has flown by!
I can’t believe it is already December.
Where does the time go?
And my favorite:
The days are long, the years are short.


Yep, all of us are wrapping up another year in the books. What a year it has been for our nation and our world. And, more importantly, for all of us in our own lives because there is where real change, real experience and real connection happens.

I purposefully and pointedly take stock of the last 12 months this time every year.

Sometimes my focus on reflecting drives my wife a bit batty, but it is something my dad taught me growing up and a practice that I believe is vital to everyday life. It is critical to find time to look back and see the goals you reached, the ones you didn’t and how you might improve in the year to come.

It is also a time to look outside of ourselves to see how the people in our lives have changed. Let’s not forget, no one is the same person now they were a year ago.

I didn’t make any major resolutions this year so I can’t tell you what I did and didn’t do. (If that is what you are interested in, read LaTria Garnigan’s column on page 44). But, if you will indulge me, let me share with you a few reflections on 2016:


I’ve been going to the dental practice of Dr. Robert Hoff for almost 17 years. The man, who I once in a column dubbed, ‘Cobb’s Best Dentist,’ has operated out of a nondescript medical building on South Cobb Drive in Smyrna for over 30 years. His suite was the most unique of any medical office I have ever stepped in.

The walls were adorned with his photography including shots of yesteryear Atlanta to picturesque Europe and Africa locales. Relics from the ocean hung from the ceiling. And a huge, gorgeous sunset beach wallpaper covered one of the walls. Talk about a cool way to get your teeth cleaned, right? His office – along with his amazing staff, Fran and Debbie – had a personal touch that reflected the personality of the gentle and wit-filled dentist.

This year, a government entity bought the building and the residents were forced to move. Dr. Hoff moved the office north to an office suite in Kennesaw. I went to see him for a check-up in November. It is a nice building with a neat and orderly waiting room. But something was missing.

I felt like I was in a dream or unhinged. Sometimes it is the little things.

The little things that make us realize that even something as simple as a dentist’s office can be a point of reference, a touchstone you might say to our reality, in this strange world.


In 2015, I founded an independent press, Speckled Leaf Press, and published a book of my selected magazine and newspaper columns, “Letters from Red Clay Country.” It was well-received, in particular, thanks to some outstanding community engagement from readers in Cobb.

I am especially indebted to folks like Dr. Jason Jones at Lithia Springs Pharmacy who hosted an extraordinary book signing for me.

In addition to a powerful promotion, I might have broken ground on a certain item: A drive-thru book signing. Yes, a gent in a truck sitting in the pharmacy drive-thru requested a signed book. I gladly obliged. Major pharmacy chains are ubiquitous and generally have the emotional connection of an ATM.

But Dr. Jones and his staff have a true affinity for their community and promote things local, including regionally-made jams, crafts and books from local authors.

I also want to thank Marietta’s Nelle Purvis. Nelle was kind enough to ask me to have a reading at the Anne Hathaway Garden Club Christmas luncheon last December at the Marietta Country Club. The club members were all very gracious and warm in their reception and support.

My adventures into publishing continued this year.

In October, my first novel, “Alexandria Rising” debuted. An action-adventure novel with a healthy dose of suspense, historical fiction and romantic tension, it has already gained strong reviews and reception from the average reader to fellow authors and literary reviews.

Alexandria Rising” was a project that was over three years in the making and was interrupted numerous times along the way by a bicycle accident that crippled my typing efforts for a few months, family emergencies and the challenge we all deal with: Surviving everyday life.

If you are interested in buying it – both books are available at – I will warn you, it is rated R.

As I reminded and re-reminded my family, this book is fiction. I’ve got to thank all those friends and family who encouraged me with this book, in particularly, on the local front, longtime friend and occasional Cobb Life contributor Allen Bell.


I was blessed this year to have the opportunity to create some poignant family memories.

As I wrote in last month’s Cobb Life, my son, Patrick, and I had great adventures in American history by visiting Washington D.C. and Kings Mountain, N.C. My wife and I also experienced a peaceful getaway to Pine Mountain, Ga. in mid-summer. Then there was the trip my family made with my grandmother, Louise, to the north Georgia mountains.

Grandmother is now 93. A native of Blue Ridge, she wanted to visit the mountains this summer along with two of her many great-grandchildren and we happily loaded up and rented a cabin between Blue Ridge and Blairsville.

My favorite part of our sojourn was going to Lake Vogel. When my sons first dipped their toes into the cool mountain water, I reminded them that they were now at least the fifth generation of our family to do so.

I don’t know if my youngest son understood what I was saying, but my oldest was very proud that day. I think his sense of pride was only eclipsed by my own joy as I watched the boys swim in that lake under the visage of those gentle slopes as their great-grandmother sat on a bench and smiled.


Of course, I can’t look back on another year without writing about what we’ve done here at Cobb Life. We’ve had another year of covering the dynamic world of Cobb County and its unique residents.

Your feedback, story ideas and kind emails are critical to us staying connected to the community.

I’ve been fortunate to have a grand staff to help along the way, including the aforementioned LaTria Garnigan, Erin Gray Cantrell, Kathryn Ingall, Meredith Pruden, Jennifer Carter, Nicole Price and Michael J. Pallerino just to name a few.

Also thanks to my colleagues Wade Stephens and Beth Poirer and their respective staffs for helping make sure each issue is full of our great advertisers and is produced on time.

So how about you? What are your favorite memories of the year? What should you reflect on? Better think about it.

As the saying goes, the year will be over before you know it.

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