Thursday, June 11, 2020

Nigerian in the House

The following is my opinion and remembrance of a racist event.

I grew up with educated parents who worked for the Federal Govt., State Govt., and County Govt.  My dad, a geneticist with a Master’s Degree in Animal Husbandry from the University of Florida was the Superintendent of the Beef Cattle Research Station north of Brooksville Florida.  It was a cooperative with the USDA and the State of Florida. My mom worked in the County Govt. as an Administrative Asst.  

The USDA hosted a tour by a prominent Nigerian, who held a doctorate in Animal Husbandry.  His tour of the cattle industry in Central Florida was hosted by my dad, W.C. Burns.  My dad had booked a room at the only motel in town months in advance.  When he attempted to check in this highly educated man from Nigeria, the desk clerk informed my dad that only whites were allowed to stay at the hotel.  My first real experience with racism was a topic of discussion that night at our dinner table, where my parents hosted our Nigerian guest.  Our guest slept in one of our beds, ate at our table, bathed in our bathtub, urinated and defecated in our toilets and sat in our living room.  My parents were from Texas and New Mexico and didn’t have the same racist roots as we would come to discover in our small town. 

My dad would never again book any guest into the El Motel, and instead, he always kicked one of his boys out of their bed and hosted them himself.  It was a treat for us to experience conversations with the leading agricultural minds of that era.  Mom and dad spoke of the ostracism they experienced for allowing an African to stay in our house.  He and mom expressed with deep profanity, how they didn’t give a shift what so and so said, and it didn’t bother them a hair on a rat’s ask what anyone thought about them.  They told us who had ostracized them and gave us lessons on white hypocrisy and banned us from racism and from befriending the socially elite racists in our little town.  Mom and dad had a strong Western Cultured independence and did not cower to the racist in our town.  Mom and dad were active in the civic affairs in our town and were popular among the people that mattered most.  They had tons of friends and taught us by example to be true to your convictions no matter the cost.

Fast forward a few years when I began my campaign to be the Student Council President in 1971/72.  I was mentored by David Sasser and my brother Walter, as I had been elected on the Student Councils, they were president of in 1969/70 and 70/71.  The heir apparent to serve as my vice president was a son of a prominent doctor in our town, but instead, another candidate is who I asked to be my running mate.  He was a great athlete and popular with everyone and hosted a huge Afro.  Jimmy Baylor was a powerful fullback and was very likable.  Burns and Baylor for President and Vice-President was our simple ticket.  I can remember distinctly the socially elite ostracism I experienced from the friends of the Doctor’s family.  To this day, I can remember the tightening of my stomach and the resolve of my mind to not bow down to the racists of our community manifested by the young man who had assumed he would be my vice president.  We were elected by a huge majority and after high school I have lost touch with Jimmy Baylor.

Now that I am an adult, it grieves me to groan in non-verbal utterances the absolute sinfulness of racism among the white elite and the not so elite.   As a licensed Realtor with Keller Williams it is an honor to follow Fair Housing laws, and not engage in racist practices like Redlining and Blockbusting.  I am proud to stand side by side those of African heritage and to serve as teammates and be an agent of people of all ethnicities.

It would be an honor to serve any and all real estate needs and wants.  Through the international referral network of Keller Williams with the Redux Group, I can assist people worldwide. You can find us on Facebook at

Monday, May 25, 2020

Coach Vacenovsky: Not a selfie kind of guy

Dennis Vacenovsky and Jake Varn were my Jr. High Football coaches.  Life was good under their coaching and we went undefeated that year with high hopes that they would be our coaches throughout our time in school.  Jake was from an old school Brooksville, Florida family and would later transition from education into a very successful law career.  Dennis was from a Czechoslovakian immigrant family who, along with others settled north of Brooksville in Masaryktown.

Growing up with an immigrant community nearby was normal for us.   The young men were great athletes, demonstrated excellent sportsmanship, leadership and were hard workers.  The young women were beautiful, talented, intelligent and also hard workers.  They made egg production with chicken farming look easy.  (It wasn’t).  My dad built a chicken farm, populated it with a few thousand chickens, put his boys to work, and my admiration of the kids of Masaryktown grew exponentially. 

It was the 8th grade, I was 13 and the year was 1968 and the nightly news carried the news of Vietnam into every living room.  Coach Vacenovsky answered the call and left coaching to serve our country.  I can’t remember the exact timing, but I can remember the emotional loss when our community heard the news that he was killed in action when a mine exploded under his jeep. 

Here is a link if you want to know more of this amazing man.

Memorial Day for me is a time to reflect on my favorite coach. 

The immigrant community that produced this fine young man wouldn’t embrace selfies and the fascination of self or the adoration of narcissi.  On Memorial Day in an agriculturally based economy in rural Florida it would be a workday for the kids, especially the children of egg producers.  As I perused Facebook on Sunday, I noticed a huge number of selfies, with little focus on Memorial Day and the focus of self.  Today, I prefer abstaining from selfies and at least for a brief period of time to remember Coach Vacenovsky and others who gave themselves so we may live life in freedom from the addiction to self and the domination of tyranny.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Chipmunks and Trouble

The day after my PET scan and PSA blood work was hill training day.  Running up hills improves form while increasing stamina and is a huge part of training for an ultramarathon.  About halfway up the hill a dark, small animal crossed under foot from right to left.  When the spots on the fur came into focus, and as it passed underfoot, the tell-tale sight and sound of a chipmunk came into clarity. 

The chipmunk was probably more startled than I and expressed a high-pitched squeak as it passed underneath me.

Surprises come randomly and unexpectedly.  Some are fairly tame, like the chipmunk, and others not so much.

Just one day in a life can be a paradoxical day of surprises.  Here is just a few in my life.

Another Covid 19 Death.
Another conflict avoided due to learning relational skills.
Another church home group in which we all grew in the Lord.
Another great meal.
Another friend learning, they can’t see their elderly parent in a nursing home.
Another friend losing their mom without being able to be with them.
Another storm in India/Bangladesh.
Another new client.
Another conversation with children/grandchildren that is very positive.
Another client goes with another realtor.
Another client signs with me.
Another friend trusts me with their real estate.
Another friend doesn’t trust me with their real estate.
Another deep connection and positive communication with a loved one.
Another good report of no prostate cancer.
Another not so good report that indolent lymphoma remains.

Surprises are normal, positive and not so positive.  Just as it was taking a little discipline to not freak out and to keep moving onward up the hill while a chipmunk ran underfoot, let’s all re-calibrate no matter the daily surprise and keep moving onward in this life. Chipmunks and troubles can pass underfoot and disappear as we stay focused on living, moving forward and becoming.

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Monday, May 18, 2020

PET Scan

A PET scan is a positron emission tomography that allows my oncologist to check on updates in the growth or disappearance of indolent lymphoma.  The scan uses a special dye containing radioactive tracers. These tracers were injected this morning in the DC Kaiser Permanente Facility.

So far, no cats, no dogs, no fish, no ferrets or any other pets have been detected.  If so, I would be charging some serious pet deposits for taking up residence in the bod. 

The nurses are wound up tight and when I showed up in a line for blood work, they asked what I needed and told them, “the receptionist sent me back here for free kisses”.  It was like they had not joked in so long, even my bad joke got some serious laughing.  We had a brief interlude from the very serious Covid 19 pandemic.

Covid 19 delayed the test for a few months.   Arriving early, I didn’t run into too many people and physical distancing was easy, and everything went smoothly.  The George Washington Memorial Highway is a delightful travel route and a stressful moment wasn’t.

My days are always interesting, and today started at 4:30 a.m. with writing an offer on a home for parents wanting to invest in a home for their daughter while she is in college.   In the afternoon a friend called and wanted help finding a new commercial location for his business.  A recently widowed friend wants a rental and this morning the owner told me he didn’t want cats.  When I gave her the information, we joked and I said, no worries I will find you a "cat house".  She hadn't laughed in weeks. 

My recent widowed client as well as the nurses briefly enjoyed a little brevity in the midst of some serious stuff.

A friend found a very funny video a few weeks ago and after laughing very hard, she found herself also crying afterwards.  It is like our emotions have been on hold, that we are not laughing or crying very much, and one releases the other.

As a coach/realtor/pastor, it is joys and sorrows and all in between.

If you need a coach/realtor/pastor to share your joys, sorrows and all the in betweenness it will be an honor to serve.