You are reading my 1672nd column. That is, unless you quit reading right here and don’t get to the end. In which case, I’ll save you some time and give you the final sentence right now:

“Strawberries and empty bladders.”

You probably wonder how I’m going to work a ridiculous phrase like that into a column. Well, it looks like you’ll never know, will you? Because you’re in such a hurry, Mister Big Shot.

To tell you the truth, I wasn’t sure if this day would ever come. Throughout the lifetime of this blog-column thingy, there were many moments when I wasn’t even sure I would survive the night.

Mainly, I am talking about hurricanes.

I live in Northwest Florida, where the Panhandle rubs Alabama’s underbelly. We get hurricanes upwards of four hundred times per year. Some of these storms are catastrophic (Opal, Ivan, and Michael). Some aren’t bad at all.

So you never know with hurricanes, that’s the scary thing about them. They can either kill you, or they can cause mass confusion at Walmart while people stock up on milk and bread.

I don’t know why milk and bread are so important during deadly weather, but people go NUTS about it.

You cannot visit a store without seeing crazed citizens running around Piggly Wiggly pushing carts that are filled with stolen Colonial bread and 2% milk jugs. These people are often screaming passages from the book of Revelation aloud, and their children have Kool-Aid mustaches.

The reason I tell you about hurricanes is because I have done a lot of writing during actual hurricanes.

One time I wrote you during Hurricane Irma. I was in my garage with my wife and mother-in-law. We were all wearing bicycle helmets—my wife insists on wearing hurricane helmets.

At the time, my mother-in-law was asleep in the cot next to me with her CPAP machine going. My dog was below us, emitting repulsive smells. The storm was raging. My laptop was open, and I was writing you.

That’s how much you mean to me.

Over the course of the last five years, I have written to you from thirty different states. And I have even written you from exotic foreign countries where nobody speaks English or follows basic civilized customs. By this of course, I am referring to New York City.

I have written about happy things. Sad things. Serious things. I have written about my colossal failures, and minor triumphs. I have told you things I’ve never told anyone.

About how I was a high-school dropout. About how I earned a college degree as a grown man. And about how I believe that after I die I might be reincarnated as a squirrel.

I have written about ear hair, tomatoes, homemade ice cream, the death of good dogs, heroes, cancer survivors, orphans, and Cracker Barrels.

I have written about people with bad breath, Willie Nelson, Baptists, Methodists, Episcopalians, the Lawrence Welk Show, Ernest T. Bass, and Minnie Pearl.

And I have given a lot of speeches in small-town places. At first, I had no idea what I was doing, public speaking. But after these past several years, I am pleased to report that I still have absolutely no freaking clue what I am doing.

But I have learned one thing. I have learned that people are alike. I mean A LOT alike.

And that all people need cheerfulness. In fact, we need cheerfulness like the basic food groups. Which you will recall are: Vegetables, fruits, meat, Colonial bread, and 2% milk.

We need hugs. Lots of them. And we need to laugh.

I have learned a lot since this column started. I’ve learned that people are not always what you think they are. I’ve learned that nobody wants to be invisible. I’ve learned that a high-school librarian in Shelby County, Alabama, can change the world.

I’ve learned that everybody loves Andy Griffith. And I’ve learned that I’m not the only person whose childhood was blackened by suicide. I’ve learned that pain is not meant to be private, but shared. So is joy.

I’ve learned that anyone who doesn’t believe in you is small.

When I first began writing, naysayers came out of the woodwork. I don’t know why. The first person who comes to mind was a columnist who gave me a bit of advice. This person said:

“Sean, if you want my honest opinion, I don’t think your little stories are ever going to be taken seriously.”

And I’ll never forget how crummy I felt after that. Because deep in my heart, I knew this person was probably right. I’m not the brightest bulb in the box. I have no credentials. There are lots of people who are more qualified than I am to write columns, blogs, or whatever you call this.

But it’s okay. Because I have grown up some since then. I have learned things. I have lived through hurricanes with nothing but a helmet and a woman wearing a CPAP apparatus.

I have known the love of strangers. And I have made friends with people who make me want to be a better human being.

And as of right now, I can say something else about my life:

There are 1672 columns in it.

Strawberries and empty bladders.

59 comments

  1. Jerry - August 9, 2019 7:05 am

    You’re amazing!!

    Reply
  2. Kathryn Arnold - August 9, 2019 8:05 am

    It’s 3:55am. Insomnia’s got me again. Except for a fan that rattles and squeaks, it’s quiet. Nobody here but me (and that mouse i saw a few moments ago when i got up to do a little restless puttering). The last thing i expected was to break the silence with a sound like a hen producing breakfast but there you have it. Even though I’m tired and peeved at lack of sleep, you pulled something between a guffaw and a cackle out of me with that deadpan last line ploy. You’re a hoot, Mr. Sean. Thank you.

    Reply
  3. Joe Townsend - August 9, 2019 8:47 am

    You are a great writer. I have always claimed that the best lessons of life can be learned by watching Andy Griffith. Being a NC boy, and living in Chapel Hill, I appreciate the tribute.

    Reply
  4. Paul W. Chappell - August 9, 2019 10:05 am

    You inspired me to start blogging. The guy that said your stories were crummy was wrong. Thought you should know. Thanks.

    Reply
  5. Charles Browning - August 9, 2019 10:11 am

    “We get hurricanes upwards of four hundred times per year.” ??

    Since I saw you perform at Carriage House Vineyard’s in Auburn, KY, in my mind I can see you saying this as a joke, otherwise I would say it was a typo. ☺

    Reply
  6. Jimbo White - August 9, 2019 10:22 am

    Congrats sir. In this 57 year old Mobile product’s humble opinion you are our modern day Lewis Grizzard. Thanks you for the joy you give us.

    Reply
  7. Jean - August 9, 2019 10:24 am

    You make my day….every day.

    Reply
  8. Elizabeth - August 9, 2019 10:38 am

    Oh, that’s a good one, you got me!!!

    Reply
  9. Sarah - August 9, 2019 10:46 am

    I hope there are 5000 more!!! You start my day with a smile and a good feeling everyday!!! Don’t stop writing!!

    Reply
  10. Melissa Armstrong - August 9, 2019 11:03 am

    Keep writing them…please. I’ll keep enjoying them.

    Reply
  11. Jo Ann - August 9, 2019 11:14 am

    Yes, Sean, you’re right. We need cheerfulness, hugs, & to laugh. Keep on writing, there are lots of us out here who read your blog every day. We need you, Sean. Thank you.

    Reply
  12. William Prall - August 9, 2019 11:30 am

    I started my march through puberty in NJ, listening to Jean Shepard from WOR in NYC on my transistor radio tucked under my pillow every night. When I should have been sleeping. I was captivated by his words that painted the pictures of his youth while he was growing up in Gary Indiana.
    Now, in my “Golden years”, I find myself fascinated by the written words of some bearded guy named Sean. Having moved to the South 45 years ago, I can really understand this guy and look forward to what adventure of words he will write for me today.
    Thanks Sean, keep’um coming.

    Reply
  13. Keith - August 9, 2019 11:40 am

    Ok knew you had nothing for the strawberries. After our years of traveling I’m sure we learned the same thing “Never miss an opportunity to empty the other thing “

    Reply
  14. Alan - August 9, 2019 11:53 am

    You never disappoint. I look forward to reading your new post every day.

    Reply
  15. John Swingle - August 9, 2019 12:01 pm

    Sean, i’m A firm believer that you should laugh every day, especially when you don’t feel like it.

    Reply
  16. LMBS - August 9, 2019 12:01 pm

    You’ve caused me to laugh out loud, wipe my eyes, consider another point of view, and forgive. Please keep it up!

    Reply
  17. Alice Roose - August 9, 2019 12:02 pm

    I love to read all your stories Sean they make my day!i am so Blessed to have met you God Bless you❤️❤️

    Reply
  18. Melia - August 9, 2019 12:20 pm

    ❤️ Thank you for not giving up, Sean.

    Reply
  19. Jackye Thompson - August 9, 2019 12:33 pm

    Thank you for your words.I look forward every morning to reading your blog.Younare kind of a 21st century Mark Twain .love back,Jackye

    Reply
  20. Janie F. - August 9, 2019 12:35 pm

    You, my friend, were born to do what you do! That’s the only explanation for why you do it so well. It’s called having God given talent Sean. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.😎

    Reply
  21. Mary Burns - August 9, 2019 12:36 pm

    LIKE!

    Reply
  22. Allyn Holladay - August 9, 2019 12:42 pm

    I look forward to you every morning, thank you…for your sharing your sadness, joys and hugs.

    Reply
  23. Connie Havard Ryland - August 9, 2019 12:42 pm

    Keep on doing what you’re doing. I think you’ve found your calling. You brighten me day every day. I’m always smiling or crying when I finish your column, but I’m FEELING, and that’s a good way to start any day. Thank you. And big hugs to Jamie for supporting your dream.

    Reply
  24. Kathy Daum - August 9, 2019 12:46 pm

    Thank you for mentioning Steve Lathem. He did change lives. And so do you. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Evelyn Blake - August 10, 2019 7:36 pm

      Steve Latham was the first person who came to my mind when I read the comment about a librarian in Shelby County who changed the world. Steve truly loved students and his work with them. I am sure he made a difference in many lives.

      Reply
  25. Jan - August 9, 2019 12:57 pm

    Thank you, Sean!

    Reply
  26. Andy Haygood, aka "Just Andy" - August 9, 2019 1:03 pm

    Keep writing, Sean…don’t let the [naysayers] get you down. Every morning, I get a blessing: your blog, column, post — whatever YOU want to call it! Wednesday, when I didn’t get your daily email, I got worried and prayed that you and Jamie were all right. WHEW!

    Reply
  27. Jean Sullivan - August 9, 2019 1:10 pm

    I just recently came across your blog and strangely, I feel like I have made a new friend. Looking forward to 1673 😊

    Reply
  28. Kate - August 9, 2019 1:19 pm

    Sean, I don’t see you as an ordinary man, not at all. You are such a blessing to us all for showing us in every piece you write not to miss the beauty in the simple things in life. I am an ordinary woman that feels special because of your work. THANK YOU!

    Reply
  29. Alan Clearman - August 9, 2019 1:33 pm

    You are so inspirational and a joy to start my day. A true daily devotional, thanks.

    Reply
  30. georgedu - August 9, 2019 1:49 pm

    Just discovered your column through a friend. You’re not a squirrel but you may be Lewis Grizzard reincarnated.

    Reply
  31. Shelton A. - August 9, 2019 1:56 pm

    Here’s to 1672 more!

    Reply
  32. Gwen - August 9, 2019 2:03 pm

    I’m so happy to share 1672 with you!! The New York thing….😂 A few years back, we lost our common sense and took a vacation to New York City. The very 1st night I was wishing with all my heart that I was back in Alabama, on the couch watching Gun Smoke. Some people love it. But it’s too crazy for us. We do enjoy your writings. Read one every morning after our daily devotion. Don’t ever stop. ❤️

    Reply
  33. James e inman - August 9, 2019 2:16 pm

    Thanks for the 1672, they have told me I am not alone in my ordinary life among extraordinary people. Keep em coming friend

    Reply
  34. Rebecca Cotney - August 9, 2019 2:31 pm

    Thank you for all 1672 & here’s to at least 1672 more. Pleas don’t ever stop we all look forward to your post everyday. You are a great writer & awesome musician.

    Reply
  35. Dee Thompson - August 9, 2019 2:44 pm

    Awesome blog, as usual. I love the image of you hunkered down in the garage wearing a bike helmet, waiting out the hurricane. My uncle who lived in Myrtle Beach for years liked to sit on his porch and put a pot of coffee on the camp stove and watch the hurricane go by. It never damaged his house – the house he built himself.. // I started writing my blog The Crab Chronicles in 2005, to keep everyone up to date on how my little family was coping with adoption and me going thru huge life changes. Now the kids are grown and it’s changed course. I still write, but I do not have the discipline to write every day like you do. Your blogs are my favorite way to start my day. They are honest, straightforward, often funny, and thought-provoking. Occasionally someone will ask me how to be a good writer, and the only advice I give is this: just write. Even if it’s not “literary” or perfect. Just write. Everyone has stories in them worth telling. Thanks for writing, Sean. [Oh, and if you are looking for a good book, check out my novel Ghosts in the Garden City, available on Amazon…]

    Reply
  36. angie5804 - August 9, 2019 3:11 pm

    We were in Alabama when Irma hit, but my brother-in-law lost nearly everything he had, just a few weeks after his mom, my mother-in-law, died. I grew up in FL and know a bit about hurricanes. Now I’m a substitute teacher in Shelby County, AL and would love to know which librarian you referred to. There are a lot of good ones out there.

    Reply
  37. Bill - August 9, 2019 3:14 pm

    Sean, After reading the comments today, and every day, it is clear you have created a monster! You are stuck, ole buddy. You have to keep on writing your column, article, blog, whatever thingy, forever…well, for a much longer time than the little 1672 times you warmed up with. We are all addicted.. Did you see the reaction when we did not find your post a few days ago?!! Your web site was down, and we all were in panic mode! Just relax and keep on writing. You and Jamie and all the dogs can grow old with all of us!

    Reply
  38. Rick Bell - August 9, 2019 3:14 pm

    Well you did it again…another one of your “little stories” that I take seriously. Thanks Sean.

    Reply
  39. Linda Moon - August 9, 2019 4:08 pm

    Ms. Big Shot here would never quit reading each of your columns ’til the end. Many of those 1672 columns have held me up on days when I might have fallen down. Thank you for thinking of me and all us readers as you were hunkered down in survival mode. When we get tornado warnings in my area (not hurricanes) I prefer running around the store for life-saving items at Piggly Wiggly. I would choose NUTS over milk and bread. Nuts, Strawberries, and Empty Bladders are good things!

    Reply
  40. Courtney Roberts - August 9, 2019 4:28 pm

    Reading your column always fills a little homesick spot inside me; a shot in the arm—i too am from NW FL and i still have family there. i was visiting there last October when you had to cancel your show in Pensacola because Michael invited himself to the panhandle. One day i will meet you and have the pleasure of hearing your stories on stage, until then….. keep up the good work, Sean.

    Reply
  41. Gloria Rose - August 9, 2019 5:20 pm

    Thanks for 1672 letters (however, I didn’t find you until two years ago but I haven’t started a day without you since then). People may call what you do a blog but for me it is a personal letter letting me know that there are good, kind, loving people in this world and even though I may not meet them personally, they are there. When I go out I look for them and smile and say hello to everyone just in case they are that person. Thanks for giving me that gift.

    Reply
  42. karanb13 - August 9, 2019 7:00 pm

    Thank you, Sean, for your commitment to writing “us” everyday. I’m one of your everyday readers whose morning starts with your good views of humanity– something sorely missing in the rest of life sometimes. You’ve taught me so much about listening and watching for goodness, everywhere in every human. Thanks for the love.

    Reply
  43. Sondra - August 9, 2019 7:04 pm

    Some days you make me laugh and some days you make me cry. But everyday you make me glad that I take the time to read this column. Thank you for the 1672 times you have made me glad.

    Reply
  44. Ann - August 9, 2019 7:17 pm

    Well, this is only my first dozen or so of your 1672….a friend of a friend introduced you to me and I am so grateful. I love your insight and humor….thanks for many chuckles and out loud laughs.
    It’s so refreshing…..nice to meet you 😁

    Reply
  45. susanogden624 - August 9, 2019 7:56 pm

    OK…I may be late but I got to read this today and I want to thank you for the fun! I am taking care of my 4.5 month old teething granddaughter and she is as moody as a teenager today! it’s ok…I have lived through three of those already and one to two more will not matter!

    I SO enjoy your musings and wanted to tell you that I live a stones throw from Andy Griffiths summer place and I guess the home he went to when he decided not to play Andy anymore! It is on the little island between the island I am on and the mainland of Coastal North Carolina. I would love to see it but there are a lot of trees and it is fenced…not that a fence usually stops me, but my daughter lives over there on that island and she would be mortified if I were to get buckshot in my butt or arrested trying to get photographs…I am sure it is beautiful, right along the sound…

    Thanks for all the smiles!

    Susan

    Reply
  46. Gene - August 9, 2019 8:37 pm

    I don’t wish any more hurricanes on FL in order to get more of your blogs, but if they come, you are welcome to come write on our porch here in TN.

    Reply
  47. Linda - August 9, 2019 8:46 pm

    He just didn’t understand. They were not little stories at all.

    Reply
  48. Anthony - August 9, 2019 9:19 pm

    Instant success and fame would not have been good for you or us. Enjoy the journey. We are. Thank you for being you.

    Reply
  49. Tawanah Bagwell - August 9, 2019 9:41 pm

    I hope you write many, many more of these articles. They always touch me and make me both smile and sometimes cry. You have a real talent. Thank you for sharing it with us.

    Reply
  50. JANICE R TAKASHIMA - August 9, 2019 10:00 pm

    Yeay! If there is a person who doesn’t like an empty bladder, I hope that person isn’t running around loose. Lately your letters have seemed like what I write to myself when I’m trying to keep my own spirits up. Being grateful and writing it down always works for me. I’ve only been doing it for ten years or so and I don’t know how I got to be 65 without it. Now I’m 75 and happy to give out of my overflowing. The bad days always give me the best material for being grateful. Thank you for sharing your thoughts as a loving, Southern man. I wish there were more like you.

    Reply
  51. That's jack - August 9, 2019 11:45 pm

    I am so sorry you missed it. something in the water perhaps. But It was Apricots and empty bladders. I am sure of it.
    Anyway it was a fun read, I thought for awhile 1672 was the year Clayton Delany died.My bad
    Sherry & jack

    Reply
  52. Susan Kennedy - August 10, 2019 12:40 am

    I don’t have a clue who that so called “columnist” is, but I know you because your writing speaks clearly to my heart. And your “little stories” are amazing. 💙

    Reply
  53. Nancy - August 10, 2019 1:32 am

    Holding my breath for 1673!

    Reply
  54. Ann Fyfe - August 10, 2019 2:41 pm

    I’m so glad that you found your way to sharing yourself with all your readers. I came to hear you at Mosley High School a couple of years ago (Pre- Michael- the way we in Bay County now remember things) and my friends and I laughed and cried. Keep on using your talent and gifts to make the world a better place! P.S. I’d like to hear some musings about us Presbyterians! 😊😊

    Reply
  55. Clonnie Kujawa - August 10, 2019 3:56 pm

    Congratulations Sean!! I love your stories and read one every morning to start my day. I have been writing my own little stories for years but have never considered sharing them. Bravo to you for your courage to share your life stories with the rest of us. PS: Apparently I live in the same general area as you and hope to attend one of your events. Ruthh

    Reply
  56. Maxine - August 10, 2019 11:54 pm

    Thank you for this hug, Sean, since I figure each one of your articles is a hug from you because either you needed one or one of your readers does.
    I love the way you observe!! Nothing too big nor too small. We are all God’s people and we have issues.
    You help us work through so much with a smile.
    Keep writing as many hugs and smiles as you find them every where.

    Reply
  57. David Feder - August 11, 2019 9:35 pm

    I’m a late-comer to your blog, which I enjoy immensely, and I just read 1672. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been a professional journalist for 32 years but the part that struck me with the most poignancy was regarding the columnist who was so ugly to you. I am deeply pleased you did not let him crush your spirit and want to tell you personally that the majority of such slugs in journalism are projecting their own inadequacies, fear, and self-loathing to the point where you can damn near bet that if they tell you something like that it’s because they recognize that you are way more talented than they ever will be and they do not want the competition. For real.
    Keep writing, brother. I’ll keep reading.

    Reply
  58. Laurie Reichenbach - August 14, 2019 6:31 pm

    You probably won’t see this comment. It’s way down the line. But I wanted you to know that I call your writings “Love Letters…for Humanity”. We need everyone you send out so keep them coming.

    Reply

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