Friday, December 31, 2010

As I was About to Say...

When it comes to New Year's Eve I tend to reflect back through the past year for special events in the past year. I thought this New Year's Eve I'd go almost 40 or so years back. I was led to this decision by a book by a former pastor - a Baptist - who had a knack of seeing humor in what some see as a profession with few things funny. But things happen - even in the most serious professions.

For instance, my first appointment in my first church. Within a day or so someone in the church passed away and I had never conducted a funeral. I told the funeral director I didn't have any experience in funerals and he replied, "Don't worry, we've trained a lot of pastors and haven't lost one yet." With the Pastor's handy dandy funeral guide - and smiles from the funeral director - it worked out fine - the first of many. Another funeral went well until the interment at a small country cemetery. It was on a hillside and there had been rain. As the casket was moved into place a voice came out of the grave, "Don't worry, I'm fine." One of the attendants
had slipped on mud and had fallen into the hole. We retrieved him just before the family and friends arrived.

There was another surprising event early on in the pastorate.I was deep into an early part of a sermon when a cat came in through an open window behind the choir, and scooted over choir member shoulders, across the chancel, and down a flight of stairs. The choir was unnerved, and the congregation was amused. And there was a time when I offered a spirited altar call hoping for some seeking soul to come forward to accept Christ. I knew I was in trouble when I saw a tail wagging in back of a pew and our collie came down the center aisle, sat down at the communion rail,
and smiled. Yes, I can assure you, dogs do smile! And there was the day I offered a profound prayer aand asked the congregation to join in the Lord's Prayer (the Our Father in a Catholic Church). Just as we concluded this prayer, the public address system sounded out: "That's a big 10-4, good buddy!" A neigbor of the church was a hardline CB'er and his strong signal somehow was received through the PA system.

Then there was the time one of the matriarchs of the church grabbed my arm after service and said, "Come with me, Preacher!" She may have been little but she was strong and she dragged me out to a courtyard, where she pointed up. There, on the ridgepole of the church, was our youngest son who grinned and shouted down,"Hey Dad, c'mon up - I can even see barges going through the river lock." I just looked at the leading church lady and she looked at me, and she said "You need to talk to that boy." I did - after I crawled up the ladder and had a look for myself - on Monday.

One time, in a large Florida church, it was my birthday and we were in a staff meeting. Suddenly one of the secretaries came in with a gift for me. A live, wriggling, squealing piglet. The meeting broke up into hysterical laughter and I quickly relinquished the baby pig to the secretary who had rented the animal for the day. Buty the story didn't end there - after the piglet was shown at preschool show-and-tell, it wriggled loose and ran all over the church yard. The sight was beyond belief with a large church staff running around calling, "Here piggy-piggy; Here piggy-piggy!" The event ended up happily ever after and the piglet ended up back home on the farm with no injuries. Oh, there was another pig-related event - a children's sermon about the three little pigs. Everything when according to plan until I asked the children what happened when the big,bad wolf tried to blow down the brick house. Out of the congregation a tiny voice came saying the "the wolf blew down the whole thing." I quickly found an object lesson about houses built of rotten bricks.

In almost 40 years in the pastorate there were more funny or poignant events that I can remember. But as we approach a new year I wonder what new and funny things will happen in 2011. I suppose the old saying, "Seek and ye shall find" applies. We just need to expect and rejoice in the happy things of life.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

You better be good...

To me, the main focus of Christmas is the spiritual one - celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. We need to be reminded - forcefully - despite the efforts of unbelievers - that Christmas is not just a holiday but a holy day. In this day and age that holy day has become more a secular day off and less focused on a relationship with God. I am too much a traditionalist to see things that way and so I recognize Christmas as a most gift of God - a day all too easy to relegate to just another day off - and by the way, a day to spend money on gifts. Money we sometimes can't really afford. But I treasure Jesus as the amazing gift of God.

Not to say I haven't appreciated other gifts I've gotten in the past. From the third grade I remember a model airplane kit at a church Christmas party - a model too complex for a third grader. I remember a small printing press a few years later that opened the door to my love of publications and printing. Once there was a gift from FAO Schwartz (the fantastic toy store in mid-town New York City) of a kit to build a brick structure using tiny clay bricks glued together with strips of cardboard simulating mortar. There was a Christmas in the Depression years in which my father made a flock of buildings and bridges to go with a second-hand electric train set. There was the time I got a Meccano kit to build machines (we couldn't afford the Erector sets). There was a time when I got a chemistry set - a forerunner of my unappreciated experiments in the high school chemistry lab. Following almost a year of cruising on the USS Enterprise, I received another model -a very large kit to make a scale replica of the ship I had worked on as a technical advisor.

But the most wonderful gift I ever received was a small golden band - a wedding ring - since we had not had money enough to buy one for our wedding ceremony a few days earlier (it was 57 years ago on December 19th). Maybe I should correct myself -the greatest gift was the one who gave me the ring. I have always said that the Air Force was very important in helping me to set good priorities in life, but Joyce was a wonderful gift of God who has celebrated and struggled with life at my side for all these years.

So, I say, 'Thank you, Lord, for Jesus and all He represents within our lives'.
And 'Thank you, Lord for Joyce and the children'. Thank you more than any Nieman Marcus or Nordstrom or Macy's gift, of any amount, could equal.

Have a wonderful, blessed Christmas and treasure God's gifts this season.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Let Your Light So Shine....

When I was little I would count the number of houses that had outside Christmas lighting in December. We, at one point, lived about 30 miles away from my maternal grandparent's house and it became a ritual to check out Christmas lights on the way.In the 1930's outside Christmas lighting was just simple strings of colored lights but they were pretty just then same, and there were lots of homes decorated that way.

It seems different nowadays. It doesn't seem as though there are that many homes with outside lighting. Maybe it's just me, but somehow a little of the spirit of Christmas has faded away. Maybe it's the economy. Maybe it's because I'm old and am tradition bound but in some ways it doesn't seem quite the same.

Then there are those "small cells" in places like Winter Park and Port Orange Florida that are masterpieces of creative lighting art. Whole neighborhoods lit
up by animated lighting systems complete with computer generated music. It's amazing where technology has taken us.

But still the focus remains in many homes and hearts of scenes of stables with a family with a newborn baby and shepherds in a stable. Even wise men - some of the wisest of the time - making a long trip to worship a newborn child, the Son of God. So the light continues to shine forth at Christmas - the light of God's love and hope for humanity.

When you live in an apartment there isn't a lot one can do in a reflection of God's love. We try a little with lights in our apartment window. Hopefully, and more importantly, we hope our lives reflect some of God's love. We try, the best we can to share care and concern for our neighbors upstairs, downstairs, and down the hall. And we hope the lights of our apartment window reflect a bit of the goodness of the season - not simply of decorations and secular gifts, but of the love God has shared with us in Christ.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas in the City

On second thought, The Christmas Spirit is alive and well in the city. At least in Indianapolis. Last night daughter Lisa took us to a Christmas concert at Butler University and it was great. Great to be with a daughter who has just recovered from a bad bout of bronchitis, and great in the performance of Christmas music. Some secular, but most traditional. At the end of the concert we heard the Messiah - marvelous. But then they auctioned off directing rights to a second rendition of the Messiah and bids came from all over the audience in Clowes Hall. The final bid -the WINNING bid - came after spirited bidding and the money pledged was to go to a fund to help Butler University choral groups present music programs in Europe in the year ahead.

Not only music by college groups - some very large - but the Indianapolis Childrens Choir as well. Our granddaughter Jill sang in that choir some time ago before she went to college. What a wonderful collection of young people and even more when they sang jointly with with the Butler University Choir. It was a night to rfemember and I am grateful to Lisa for taking us.

On another side of town - close to where we live - there is Old Bethel United Methodist Church. It is where we have been attending worship and it is an amazingly warm, friendly, and caring congregation. The other picture above is of the fellowship hall yesterday afternoon. The entire hall was filled with food boxes and christmas packages for the needy at Christmas. Over 300 families are being given gifts of Christmas. I thought to myself, Christmas is a gift of God, and what better way to share the love of Christ with people in need, especially in times like now with so many people suffering unemployment. I'm sure there are many other churches and benevolent organizations that share love at Christmas with care packages and gifts for children, but in all my years I have never seen such an expression of what Christmas is all about without expection of some kind of return.

But there IS a return - it's the knowledge that people who might not have much will be able to eat turkey, and fruit and basic foods. It is the knowledge of smiles from children who might not have anything to celebrate. So, if my last blog focused too much on a secular season, we should be reminded that the true spirit of Christmas is more alive than we might think. Not just in little country churches - but in the city as well. Thank you, Indianapolis, for reminding me.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Clear the Way!

Winter is not what it used to be. Especially winter life in the city.

I think back to days in my life like the picture above. I'm reminded of the small 300 population village I lived in for years. As I wrote a year ago, we would go out in the woods - not a tree farm - to find our tree. We'd haul it back to the car on a hand-pulled sled and once in the house we would trim it with hand-me-down old ornaments or ornaments we made ourselves. Some were made out of colored paper; others were strings of popcorn and cranberries. No lights - after all, the wonderful world of REA electricity had not reached our house. We had pot-belly stoves and a wood-burning cooking range and it was still cold. We had lots of snow and we would use snowshoes to get to town at times.

I had a pair of skis with primitive bindings. I could ski on a hill across the creek from the house (it was before I planted hundreds of evergreen trees) (Norway Spruce and Scotch Pine)on that same slope. Or I would go behind a neighbor's house. It was always easier to go down than ski herringbone style back up the hill to home. Even more fun was using a home-made six-person bobsled that we steered with ropes. No steering wheel - no brakes - we just hoped that the clothesline ropes would not break before we got to the bottom of the hill. It was a winding road that almost never got cleared before spring and we frequently ended up going off the road into the snow-filled ditch. It was miraculous that no one ever got really hurt because that primitive bobsled sure did move down the hill.

I remember Christmas eve in that village. The Presbyterian church was like the ones you see in Vermont calendars. We'd make it to town and the stars were beautifully bright. Then we'd approach the church which was lit with candles. I marvel at times that it did not burn down from all the candles but it still exists to this day. I like to think of that church and houses as the perfect Christmas village and I miss that scene every Christmas. Sparkling snow on the ground - the sound of Christmas carols filtering through the darkness of night - and candles in the windows of the church.

Like many others, I am sad at Christmas in some ways. I resent the efforts of the entertainment world and media as they try to downplay the word "Christmas" and simply relate a holy time to a mere holiday. I'm getting along in years and I miss some of the old days. To be sure, there were a lot of hard times in the decades of yesteryear - but times were simpler, less strident, and faith was strong. Miracles still undergirded Christmas and the love of God was central to every-day life.

John Denver once sang...."Take me home, country roads..." and I wish I could. But like our eldest son has said to me, "Dad, you're old fashioned - times have changed - you don't understand.." But I do - and still I cling to memories that centered on faith and simplicity. I'm not ready to send the Spirit of Christmas to the landfill.
MERRY CHRISTMAS - and a very happy new year!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Beginning or the End?

I've always loved this picture. It causes me to reflect on the negatives and positives of life. When was it taken? Where was it taken? Is it sunrise? Or is it sunset? Is there a message in it?

It could be sunset. It could be the downer side of life. It could be the darkness that is in the future - the darkness of tough decisions or of discouragement and maybe even fear of what tomorrow might bring. That's common in life today - questions of security, or health, or simply the unknown. Or maybe the possible ending of a lifestyle or of life itself. I've had my moments when I was bogged down with depression and maybe most of us have moments like that.

It could be sunrise - the dawn of a new day filled with new choices and new opportunities. The darkness is behind and we have the brilliance of the new day ahead. It brings light to the decisions we have to make, or opens doors to new opportunities - new hope from the darkness of indecision, hurt, fear, or frustration.

There have been so many times we've faced those moments. I prefer to look at life as a series of doors opening. Not closing. In all the church appointments I've ever served, I have never focused on what has been left behind. I'd rather look at changes like these as opportunities to do new things, meet new people, experience something exciting ahead, Yes, I have always regretted leaving people behind. Some people are always hard to leave. Some ministries were just beginning to be productive when we had to move somewhere else. And I've never forgotten those people or ministries. But like the person looking out from the beach at the sun low on the horizon I like to look to the possibilities ahead and the brightness of the new day.
If it's a sunset, let it be the opportunity to reflect on what is behind - and to
let the frustrations, fears and hurts of the past be absorbed in darkness. If it's a sunrise it is the dawn of fresh new life, new possibilities, and hope for the future.

This may all sound naive - simplistic. But I can say from experience that being bogged down in anger and fear and frustration isn't the solution. Like the lady looking out over the Gulf of Mexico from Bradenton Beach - there's something good out there just waiting to be found. Maybe a door opening to something new and positive just waiting to lift up your heart with hope and inner peace.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thanksgiving? Not quite!

Yes, it is a seafood dinner. But the picture was taken in Florida in January. Or was it February? It is a perfect example of gluttony - and I'm the guilty one. But how I love seafood - and yes, I ate the whole assortment of crab, and oysters, and clams, and who knows what else.

But I think back to some thanksgivings as well. Like the time we were stationed briefly at Niagara Falls AFB. We lived in a motel - one room with a kitchenette.
No oven - just a cooktop. So what do you do when a friend brings you a pheasant for Thanksgiving? You pluck it and clean it - and then fry the pheasant. Sacrilege, you say? I can think of people who didn't even have that kind of opportunity.

Like us a couple or three years later. We were at a base in Illinois and it was the end of the month. We'd run out of money and I took my precious bowling ball to the local pawn shop. If memory serves correctly, I got five dollars, enough for franks and beans --- our thanksgiving feast for the year.

Then there was the time I drove to Detroit Thanksgiving weekend not long before we were married. I knew that Joyce's fmily was large but I never thought they would have to eat in shifts. First shift was the younger children (and me); second shift was mainly for people when they got home from work. It was wonderful and even more amazing that a family that large could truly celebrate Thanksgiving - so many people then could not - and do not even today.

Another thanksgiving was when I was overseas in Italy. The food in Italy was truly wonderful but we had to teach the cooks in our hotel how to cook American style. What a wonderful sharing experience we had with laughter, and fellowship, and joy
together, even with our differences in language and customs.

There was another time of separation - a time of great tension - over Thanksgiving.
Joyce and the children were at home feeling a sense of fear and I was on an aircraft carrier patrolling the seas south of Cuba during the Cuban Blockade. We are well fed aboard ship - Navy food is good, especially at Thanksgiving. But it was also a time when our hearts turned homeward, thinking of family, and wondering how they were faring with such separation and concern about the days ahead.

I think of Thanksgiving for our service personnel overseas - so many in harms way.
I think of our Army grandson who is looking toward shipment overseas sometime in the future. A second overseas assignment for him; he spent some time in Iraq and gained a purple heart award in the process. And I think of other families whose sons or daughters serve our country - especially families who have lost loved ones in their service. And I look back at the picture above and think how lucky I am - how thankful I am that we have soldiers, and Marines, and sailors, and airmen who care enough about their country that they give of themselves for you and me.

Let this be not just a time to eat - but a time to reflect on the blessings we have
and to share our wealth and health with others.

Just like the friend who brought a pheasant to our motel room so we would have a Thanksgiving meal - even when it ended up being fried.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A week of celebrating

I should have called this Veterans Day -Part Two.

It seems as if I've been involved in something special most every day. And it hasn't stopped yet.

A while back our youngest - Lisa - said she had called to set up a free bed and breakfast stay on Veteran's Day Eve. It was to be at a Bed and Breakfast in Muncie, some fifty miles north of here. I thought at first that she was kidding but then I looked the B & B up on the internet and sure enough, it was listed and looked really nice. So, we called them and confirmed that we did, indeed, have a welcome opportunity and the offer to Veterans was real. The inkeeper, Jane McDowell, assured me that it was and I said we really appreciated the offer and we would welcome the opportunity.

It's been a long time since we were in Muncie (we went to a Gaither concert at Ball State University in the '70's) and it was great to get back. But the B & B was the best part of all. We found that B and B's all over the country were offering this to veterans as a recognition of their service. Arriving in Muncie, we had a great seafood dinner, and found a Books a Million - which we love and haven't been to in a long time. Lisa said to us - "Have a good honeymoon" It was a few years late for that but hey, it could have been.

Anyway, Jane's Bed and Breakfast is shown in the picture above. It was the house she had grown up in and has been upgraded into a beautiful place to stay. There were two other couples that stayed that night and they were a joy to meet. And breakfast -
I'm ready to come up with a grin like Rachel Rae in her TV show about Jane's breakfast. Nothing commercial about it - it was wonderful. I have a hunch we might go back there someday and I can't say enough about how enjoyable the stay was.

But the day wasn't over. When we left the B & B, we went to a museum of model aircraft. I didn't know how it would settle with Joyce since I overdo airplane museums - but this was something she really enjoyed. While there we saw a good friends name on a plaque there, a long-time friend from Florida who we knew in Florida and was a model aircraft enthusiast.

But the day wasn't over. We took back roads back home and managed to get lost a couple of times in areas we thought we knew about. Then it was to the supermarket
to get a good-size turkey for thanksgiving. And, because Some of the major restaurants were offering free meals to veterans, we went out to dinner. I don't think Joyce was real happy about that since she was still full from breakfast (it had been a long time since breakfast - but men get hungry sooner than the ladies - at least I think it's that way.).

But it's not over - tonight Lisa and Dan want to take us out to dinner. Diet is not a word I have been able to focus on this week. But if I go, I'm going to go happy.
And look at a few more free meals for veterans.

Meanwhile, our deep appreciation to all those who made this year's Veteran's Day and my birthday very special. Thanks - and God bless!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Time Long Ago

I have an unusual service background.

Two years of National Guard service Company I (Infantry, 104th Battalion, 26th (Yankee) Division. I was in the National Guard when the Korean Conflict began and almost immediately we were alerted that we stood likelihood of being sent to Korea in June or July 1950. It didn't happen that way and when I moved to Florida I became
vulnerable to the draft. Rather than that, I chose to enlist in the Air Force where I served from October 1951 to May of 1961. The picture with this blog reflect some events during that time.

I went to work for McDonnell Aircraft in 1961 and in August was assigned to the Navy
at NAS Oceana Virgina as an advisor to Squadron VF-102 as they received their brand new F-4 Phantoms. While at Oceana I rode both the USS Independence and brand new CVAN-65 USS Enterprise. We deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and to the Mediteranean
Sea. The biggest surprise was a deployment off Cuba during the Cuban Blockade. As a civilian.

Again as a civilian advisor, I was transferred in January 1963 to the Marines at MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina. I deployed with a Marine Squadron a couple of times to Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico and was on orders in 1967 to go with the squadron to DaNang, South Vietnam. At the last minute I was sent back to St. Louis
instead, and that ended my military/naval active duty.

That makes me a veteran of duty with the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines. The reason I never went to the Coast Guard was that they never bought any McDonnell fighter aircraft. I presume I can be listed accurately as a veteran.

So, I think back over the years with a sense of pride. I hope my contributions to military and naval/Marines contributed to our United States well being. I am proud of all those years of service, whether active military or as a technical advisor

However, I cannot reflect those years without deep love and appreciation to my wife for the months she spent raising the children and keeping things going. We can recognize our veterans - but at the same time, we should recognize the commitment and concessions made by wives and children who serve in their own ways behind the scenes. In many ways they are heros/heroine in their own ways. Thank YOU on Veterans Day - your contributions are more than we ever give adequate recognition.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Election Daze

It was 1950 and I was working in radio. In fact, I had the hallowed responsibility of News Director - Copy Writer - Disc Jockey -and a few other less significant tasks. But for the moment, let's address the night I was doing a remote election broadcast away from the studios and was based in the newsroom of a major weekly newspaper.

So far so good. No problems. On occasion the folks in the studio would switch from location to location. One moment it would be from the south part of the county. The next it would be from the County Seat. Another time it would be somewhere up north.
And I would get my turn to provide interviews and tabulations from the most important R.........n newspaper in our whole area of the state. (Understand, the newspaper owner and his editor son were leading political figures at the time and thus earned a major media focus.

The polls closed and the round-robin reporting went off without a hitch. From north, south, east and west the numbers came in. The newsroom was filled with smiling faces
and cheers. Obviously the results were good in terms of the folks in the newsroom.

Finally, as the evening broadcast began to wind down, the broadcast was switched to me for the final summary and closing interviews. Interviews completed I began to do a county-wide wrap-up of statistics. I checked my watch for this was to be a ten-minute segment. However, it began to get tiresome but the time on my watch was within limits. I kept on summarizing fearing that I would run out of material. But the time was still within limits.

Then came the phone call from the studio. The transmitter had been closed down half an hour before the call. The station was closing its doors. My segment, supposedly
to have been ten minutes in length had become an over 45 minute marathon.

My watch had stopped.

Now you know why most churches had two clocks running when I did my ministry sermons. Somebody must have been in the newsroom the night I did the longest election summary in the history of that county. By the way, I don't remember ever being asked to do another election program. Oh, well...nobody is perfect!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I'm Confused

Indeed, yes, I AM confused. I thought caterpillars were a way to forecast how bad a winter is going to be. Now I'm beginning to wonder.

Turns out the caterpillars that are suppposed to reveal a forecast are brown and you foresee the winter ahead by the size of the dark rings. It was that way in Missouri 30 years ago.I'd drive across the countryside north of Mexico in October and there were zillions of brown critters to be seen around and on the highways. As a matter of fact Iprobably slaughtered a significantnumber crossing the main roads going north out of Mexico. Which causes me to wonder, Why does a brown caterpillar cross the road in October? Perhaps to see if the forecast is better on the other side?

What prompted this dilemma was a hike in Harrison State Park couple of weeks ago. I saw a WHITE caterpillar crossing a trail and wondered if the size of its black stripe down its back had any bearing on the winter forecast. I thought the internet might answer my question or at least clarify my question.I saw pictures of white caterpillars just like the one above but could not find reference to weather forecasting. Only about brown caterpillars. So, my questiom remains unanswered.

I guess I better go out and get my copy of the Farmers Almanac. Or just take the weather as it comes. Which has not been nice in Indy today. Oh, well, such is life - you take the bad with the good and remember - it's been a long and pretty autumn in Indiana and every day is a day closer to Spring.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Meanwhile, The Rest of the Story

Back in September - the 24th of September to be more specific, I wrote about a challenge we had with a squirrel taking up residence in a large bird feeder at our house. It consumed large quantities of birdseed - especially sunflower seeds that were direct from the field of a dear friend of ours. I said that there was a continuation of the story that I would pass on later. So, here is the rest of the story.

Our bird feeders at another location attracted squirrels as well. They had a challenging time getting at the bird feed as well because of the design of the feeder. About the only way they could get the feed was to hang by their back feet and even then they weren't always successful. Occasionally their grasp would slip
and they would end up doing a backflip before they hit the ground. But that never seemed to discourage them - given a few minutes recovery time, they'd climb the tree,run out on the limb from which the feeder hung, and get back to the meal in the feeder. Sometimes they were successful - sometimes they'd fall and go through the exercise again. And again. We really didn't need television for entertainment - there was more action in the front yard and more laughs as well.

But it didn't end with the squirrels - we'd have deer visit with the same quest in mind. The picture above shows that and it happened right outside our front picture window. We'd watch them congregate on the far side of a corn field across the road.
They'd slowly make their way closer and closer to the three houses at our end of the street. Then they would have an appetizer in the apple orchard next door to our place. They then would cross a driveway and work on our bird feeders. Talk about spectator sport - we had it - and the deer seemed to have little if any fear.

I can't say that we have that sort of thing close by here,after all, now we are living in the city. But we may have deer yet - deer that have lost their way. We keep watching - stranger things have happened - maybe it will be a bear at the complex dumpster. You just never know. And, as I said, we'll be watching.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

You Remind Me of Someone I Knew

When you look in a mirror, who do you see? Probably what you expect to see and sometimes what you would prefer NOT to see. And there are the times you see something you'd rather not see. Me, for instance. The mirror today shows me as I am - warts and all when I sometimes wish I looked like I did thirty or forty years ago. Then I figure the mirror picture is not too bad for my age - and that's okay.

But sometimes it's interesting to see ourselves through other peoples eyes. The picture this time was done by a midway cartoonist on Chicago's Navy Pier. I'm not sure what he really saw but when all was said and done, I had to laugh - but at myself. There's a lot of things reflected in that picture, not the least being the look of suspicion on Joyce's face and a look of 'oops' on mine. At first I couldn't figure out what the cartoonist was seeing in us - that is, until I caught the bit of lipstick on my forehead. That wasn't there when I went into the Navy Pier; moreover Joyce and I are not exhibitionists. Not much smooching in public, that is.

We tried that just once at our fiftieth anniversary bash and it didn't work - she said "Let's do a dip" and kiss, our legs didn't want to bend, and I just about dropped her in the process. But that's another story.

How are we seen by others? Are we seen as we really are, or do we wear a mask covering our inner being? How about the times when there is a husband/wife disagreement just before going to a party or other function where we don't want to let about problems back at the ranch? You see a lot of put-on with Hollywood personalities who are there because they have to be - but who have battles royal backstate. Maybe that happens more that we like to think.

I think back to when I was in high school. My nickname was 'Rana' which is Spanish
for (green)'Frog(ggie)' Why did they call me that? Because I had goggle-like glasses at the time? Because my voice was changing and sometimes croaked? I'll never know what my school friends really saw me as -- and maybe I should be just as glad.

So then, the picture makes me laugh because the artist may have seen me as more of a Lothario, and Joyce as a good gal who had some justified suspicians. Who will ever know? And how do we see our neighbor - as if through an artists eyes?

In the meantime, the lipstick stays and I'll never tell where it came from.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Cool It, Buddy!

What does one do if they don't have air conditioning - or central heating for that matter?

What does one do if they don't have electricity or plumbing in a house?

I guess you do the best you can. That's what we did in our family - and others close by did as well back in the thirties. No radio. No television (not many people even thought of that back then). Heat with a coal-craving pot-belly stove or two. And food cooked on a big wood-burning black cast iron stove. No running water - There was a hand-operated water pump outside under the porch winter or summer. Toilets? You gotta be kidding - there was a pot under the bed - or you can make a run for the outhouse at the perimeter of the yard.

Want a bath or a shower? Either a big tin tub in the kitchen/family/dining room
with hot water coming off the wood stove in kettles. Or, if the weather was smiling on us, we could go swimming in the back yard. Better yet, we could take showers at the waterfall a little bit down the road. I loved - and still love - that waterfall. Sadly, it doesn't seem as big or high it was when I was in grade school but it remains today looking just as it did 75 or more years ago. Moreover, it was not just for us - we just took our turn with the others who lived the same and came to the same falls as did for the same reasons we did.

There came a day that REA ran electricity up the hill to our house. We built a new kitchen with new appliances. We threw away the chamber pots and burned down the outhouse. And took our showers in the bathroom of the house.

The memory lingers - I've never been in a shower since to compare with the water pressure of the waterfall - nor has there ever been a shower with such cold water. I loved it and it is one of God's special beautiful places even today.

I can't help thinking that there are those who live that way today. Humbles one to think how much we take for granted - there are still the 'haves' and 'have-nots' in the world today. They'll probably be around forever. For instance, the slums of the city or the real backwoods in our own country. Sometimes we need to think of how blessed we are and thank God for our blessings. Agree?

Monday, October 4, 2010

We're Not in Kansas Any More

Well, actually, we're not in Michigan anymore. But if memory serves correctly, Indiana has it's pretty moments in the fall as well. It's just that it's not quite time for the colors here; well, there's a little here and there but not like it was in Oscoda. Yet.

I rememember how, in Florida, I used to look forward to the two or three weeks after Christmas when we had some fall colors there. The colors came out on Highway 50 between Orlando and Titusville for a little while and then as soon as they were there they were gone. Not like 'up north' where they linger a while. Autumn and winter lasted only a month or so between summer and summer.

When I was little - maybe even into high school years - the northeast flaunted fall colors as early as the end of September. The air was crisp - the sunshine had a fall look to it - and we would go into the woods to gather hickory nuts for wintertime cooking. Not pecans or exotic ones like cashews for us - but there were butternuts and hazel nuts as well and we didn't know any difference. Nuts are nuts, we used to say and they all seemed to be good in pumpkin bread. Unless you found a nut with a worm in it.

So it just seemed right to use some fall color pictures this week. Esp'ecially when we will be facing the black and whites all to soon. But, you know, there is a beauty to winter. I've got some pictures of snow on trees that are classics. And spring has a beauty of its own when the first tiny flowers creep up through the dead leaves in a forest.

I love summer but when you think about it, summer can get pretty drab when you have a summer like we've had this year when the rains didn't come and grass died out. So, I hope this blog has lightened up the scene for the moment. Autumn is a special time and I love its beauty. Treasure it now since it won't last forever.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

A lot of plywood

Back in the last century - 1946 to be precise - back before the days of Interstate highways - I had a real treat: a cross-country trip from New York State to California with friends. It was a chance to visit with grandparents in Long Beach, and one of the things they took me to see was a huge seaplane that was tied up at Terminal Island. Reportedly, it was the biggest plane ever built and was the brainchild of Howard Hughes. Officially it was called the Hercules, had six huge engines and flew only once - but not in my sight. Over the years it has gained another name - the Spruce Goose - and it still exists although it never flew again after Howard Hughes proved that it could and would get off the ground. Or water if you look at it realistically.

Last year, on our trip out West, we got to see this humongous aircraft up close. Not only close up, we got inside it and yes, it is huge.

It spent a lot of years on display in a special domed building in Long Beach. Fact is, the famed ocean liner Queen Mary (the first) ended up being tied up adjacent to the liner. Over the years the plane fell on hard times and eventually it ended up being bought by Oregon's Evergreen Air Museum, between Portland and Lincoln City on the Pacific coast. If I thought it looked big in 1946 I had no idea just how big it actually was. Most amazing of all, the plane was built out of plywood. With aluminum being in short supply during World War Two, Howard Hughes believed that plywood offered a positive alternative. Even more amazing was the fact that the structure has endured for almost 60 years with several moves and is in remarkably good condition.

Howard Hughes was a remarkable man. Eccentric to say the least, but a genius in other ways. I never had the faintest idea in 1946 that in ten years I would be teaching electronics systems - the ultimate weapon system of the day - that were produced by Hughes Aircraft Company. Over the years I've been blessed in seeing a lot of unique things - not the least being a Spruce Goose that most people never thought would get off the water. But it did!

Friday, September 24, 2010

We've been invaded!

Well, actually it happened a couple of years ago. However, we've never forgotten the event, and maybe, just maybe, you may have been exposed to a similar situation.

When we left our last church appointment a little over two years ago the folks in Whittemore gave us a really nice farewell/retirement party. Among the gifts were a beautiful eagle plaque which rests on the top of my desk at this moment. Another gift had to be left behind when we moved to Indianapolis -- a beautiful, very large, bird feeder. We put it in the yard outside one of the back windows of our house and loaded it up with really good bird seed. For a while we had what seemed like every bird in twenty counties at the feeder. It was a sight to behold - just what the lady of the house had dreamed about for months. Until.........

The squirrel moved in. Not just to munch on the bird seed but to take up occupancy.
It no longer was an exotic bird feeder - now it became a luxury squirrel condo. Fully
equipped with tender vittles enough to last through a winter. Well not really - that squirrel made short order of the birdseed - and had the audacity to sit on the feeder porch and glare at us for not filling the feeder back up. (See picture for a glare stare you have to look closely)

I don't think the feeder has seen a full load of feed for quite a while. No sense in tempting the squirrel to come back. The feeder looks great behind the house but now it's not a squirrel glare to contend with - it's stares from hungry birds who can't understand why the cupboard is bare. Well part of the situation is that there's no feed in the shed - moreover, we don't live there any more.

Well, there's another chapter in the bird saga - the story of a deer and bird feeders. I'll have to hold off on that tale until I can find the CD with those pictures. Meanwhile, old photos leave good memories of pleasant days. And yes, we are both for the birds. If you know what I mean.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

On a Wanted List?

Joyce and I just got our Indiana driver's licenses - but it wasn't easy. If I remember correctly, it was a much easier task in Michigan, and much more challenging in Florida and I'm really glad the process is over with. But it isn't altogether over - I have to live with this photo for at least the next three years hoping that the actual license picture is better than this.

In fact, I think the camera person came from a police department job taking photos of out and out criminals. Can't you see the evil in my eyes? And she has missed the top of my head and shows more of my shirt. Yes, there is a definite criminal aspect to the photo.

As I remember, a person didn't have to take a written test or driving test in Michigan if you already had a license from another state. In Florida I needed both even if one had thirty or more accident/violation free years behind them. I got the impression Florida didn't want any more drivers than was necessary. Michigan seemed to welcome drivers from other states. Indiana splits the difference -- they have a fifty question written test you have to pass before you can even apply for a license. Of those questions, at least 20 were recognizing highway signs.

The first day at the Beech Grove BMV office Joyce had everything she needed relative to identity. I didn't - somehow I had misplaced my Social Security card and even if I had a letter from Social Security with my name, old address, and new address, I was rejected from even applying. Joyce at least got to take the test which she failed relative to street signs.

The next day she passed the test and got her temporary license. Having found my Social Security card, I was allowed to apply and managed to fail the written test.
I missed by one sign and the reason I failed was that, although I knew the answer, I put the mark in the wrong box. My fault? Yep, but I still fussed and fumed all day about the injustice of it all. Joyce was much better than I about it.

Day three to Beech Grove: I passed the test -- aced the signboard portion and missed only a couple of the questions. Thus, I could proceed to get my temporary license and have the dubious privilege of living with this picture for months on end. Maybe I'll be blessed and not have to show the picture to any other person. Meanwhile, I'll be checking every post office bulletin board to see if it shows up there Meanwhile, I no longer have my wonderful 45 dollar enhanced Michigan drivers license but will enjoy my 11 dollar Indiana Secure license.

Am I on a wanted list? I hope so, as long as it is limited to family and friends.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

From the Memory Bank

We have had the privilege of sailing in and out of New York City's harbor several times and it has always been an impressive experience. My first was when I was in the Air Force returning from a tour of duty in Europe. That particular time I was sailing First Class on the famed liner United States. In First Class I was like a fish out of water - I was not comfortable sailing with notables like movie star Robert Taylor and the Lord Mayor of London. But as we entered New York harbor, like so many GI's from the past, I got goose bumps when I saw the Statue of Liberty. I knew I was home and proud to be an American.

In the mid-nineties I sailed out of and back into New York harbor again, this time on a seven day cruise to Canada and back. I felt the same way about Lady Liberty, but I was also impressed with the New York Skyline near Battery Park. As we left the view was very similar to the picture with this blog with the sun setting in the west and the World Trade Center reflecting a rosy glow. A beautiful and impressive sight and, on our return a week later,had an equally beautiful view as morning dawned over the city that never sleeps.

In May of 2001 we sailed through lifting fog into New York Harbor, this time halfway through a cruise from Port Canaveral, Florida to Montreal, Canada. The Trade Center towers loomed high over the city, and again it was a sight to behold. This time we were in New York long enough to take a tour through the city and in the process we passed by the Woolworth Building where my father had worked at one time, and right under the soaring towers of the Trade Center. Later, well into the evening, we sailed back out of the harbor passing by the same towers lit brilliantly with lights on all floors. Who could have known - who would have imagined - that in just a few short months those towers would be gone, replaced by ugly clouds of smoke and piles of debris and the remains of thousands of people.

I hope the nation never forgets what happened September 11, 2001. In many ways we will never think or live quite the same as before that date. I know it is a very special memory for me and worthy of a lot of special prayers for lives lost and lives that have to go on with that loss. I pray we never forget what happened that morning nine years ago.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

A Good Guy

The picture shows some of Joyce's family a couple of years ago. From left to right you can see Wilbur Welsh (brother-in-law), Jim Lakin (Joyce's brother), Jim's wife Sandra, my wife Joyce, and Willie's wife, Joan, one of my wife's sisters.

Willie passed away last week after a horrible bout with cancer. I thought to myself, why is it that good guys sometimes suffer the worst. Of course, Joan went through it right along with Willie and it had to be terrible for her to see Willie suffer and have his life slowly ebb away. Unless one has been through something like that it is hard for others to really understand the struggle people go through. The Bible talks about 'fighting the good fight' and Willie did just that.

I have a lot of good memories of Willie. Sometimes I remember him working on cars in his back yard. He was a wizard shade-tree mechanic. His real job was at Ford's Mercury Division in the Detroit area. He worked hard, studied hard, and eventually became highly skilled in machine set-up processes. At one time he and Joan came and stayed with us when he thought about changing jobs. Eventually he retired and Willie and Joan settled in a lovely home in north-central Michigan. When we moved to Michigan from Florida we got help from Willie and for that I was extremely grateful. They lived about two hours west of us when we lived in Michigan, and we always enjoyed going to their house.

He and Joan also had a remote bit of land (40 acres) that they called Willieland. He loved it there. It was peaceful - away from the pressures of life and I think the happiest I ever saw him was when he would hike around his land, do target shooting, and just feel a part of nature.

Willie was a very private person. Very quiet spoken. But he had a strong sense of values that I agreed with and I felt at peace with life when I was with him. We talked about his service with Army artillery during the Korean conflict. He had a lot of stories about his army days and would grin when he said his Army specialty was 'polishing big guns.'

Last Friday the family celebrated his life. I would like to think that Willie would have been happy with the way it was done. No big hoorahs. No big speeches. Nothing false - just a recognition that the world had lost a really good guy. I appreciated our daughter Lisa driving up andback from Michigan -- it meant a lot to us to be there. And, yes, Willie will be missed -- a lot. He was a special friend.

Friday, August 27, 2010

What a Week it has Been

In 1961, after ten busy and happy years, I left the Air Force as a Tech Sergeant to become a Field Engineer with McDonnell Aircraft Company. I really didn't want to leave the Air Force but service pay was not very good when you had a family of seven. Ironically, not long after I left the Air Force the government came up with a lot of improvements in the support of enlisted personnel and a month after I got out I heard that I had been on the promotion list to Master Sergeant. However, all of this was too late for me to go back.

I loved my years and work at McDonnell and the people I worked with were some of the greatest co-workers a person could work with. I'm not going to say our work was easy because it was long hours, hard, work and there were a lot of painful family separations, like cruises with the Navy and deployments with the Marines. I went on a carrier qualification cruise off the Virginia coast with a hectic flight and maintenance schedule. That was on the USS Independence and our accomodations were far enough forward that we had a catapult right over our head. I can assure you that there was no sleep from 5:30 in the morning until well into the night.

Then there was the shakedown cruise of the brand new (then) nuclear carrier Enterprise in the Caribbean working out of Guantanamo, Cuba. Two weeks after Lisa was born we were off on a cruise (several months) to the Mediterranean Sea. Three or four days after we got back to Norfolk in October we were off again for a couple of months on the Cuban Blockade with no days in port. It was nerve-wracking with long hours and hard work and by the time I got back home I probably looked a lot like the picture (a classic sketch from the old days of what a Field Service Engineer looked like - I have no idea who drew it but it IS a classic.

Meanwhile, my wife was holding down the homefront and I will never be able to repay her for all she did. She watched over five very young children. She endured all kinds of trials in the process and I cannot express my deep love for her enough for all she put up with.

Likewise, it taught me a lesson on the the trials and tribulations service families go through and fills me with pride in our Armed Forces families. I learned what they go through and I salute them.

Well, I looked in the mirror over the weekend, at the height of our moving experience and suddenly I saw a figure that really reminded me of this ancient picture.I can assure you,
I was no budding beauty when we were at the most challenging time of the move. At the moment I'm looking less like the cartoon - but a lot older and I hope a bit wiser.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Remember When?

Remember these people?

They make up the cast of one of my favorite TV shows from yesterday - and I've never seen rerun CD's advertised. The program: "WKRP in Cincinnati"

I think most people would remember the show as one of those clever comedy shows from way back. For me, it became personal because it reminded me of radio stations I worked for WAY WAY WAY back. Every station I worked for had at least one of the WKRP cast members and some of them had several. One station had a remarkable receptionists - but definitely NOT a Loni Anderson. She wore huge glasses, was crosseyed, and stumbled over her own feet. I can't describe her telephone voice - but Ma Kettle had a mellow voice compared to this girl. However, she was a very nice person and was the General Manager's daughter. What more could one ask for?

I think Herb was the salesman for WKRP and he had a counterpart at a station I worked for. Wore loud jackets and was a local swinger - always after the ladies. And one of the announcers was a bitter old man who was known to tear up a commercial script on the air if there was one typographical error on it. I had to retype a lot of scripts -- I was lousy typist - and it was a challenge because we used carbon copies - we had no copy machines in those days.

At another station the announcing staff played tricks on other announcers while they were on the air doing news. Things like balancing a large recording on the announcers head while he's got his hands full of scripts. Or setting scripts on fire five minutes before the end of a show so that the last few minutes were ad libbed. Or tying shoe laces locking shoes together in the middle of a newscast so he has to fight terrible knots when the show was over.

The picture above, one way or another represents real people I have known and worked with in my radio years. And who was I?

Probably Les Nesman - The WKRP news/weatherman who was so often the victim of staff shenanigans. And had so many off the wall failures of special events. Naive? Yep.Fall guy? Yep. But as a memory I wouldn't have it any other way.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


I asked her, "Do you know where the (fill in the blank) is?" Her answer: "It's in one of the boxes." "What box?" I asked, "and is it in the condo or the house?" The response: "Can't say for sure but it's around here somewhere"

Sort of reminds me of Joyce's sister who made a move a few miles down the road a bit a couple of months ago. It went pretty well except that one or two things couldn't be found.
Finally only one thing was still missing - a package of cheese. Maybe it will get ripe enough a few months from now that they'll find it. But isn't that normal for a move -- even with the best laid plans something is always missing when the move is over. Wonder what ours will be.

Seems like that is a question every person asks one time or another when they are going through a move. We have had more than our share -- and here we go again. We're heading for 'true' retirement in Indianapolis and I would say that it's the last move we'll ever make but that's been a cliche with us for decades. If my calculations are correct, we've made 46 moves in almost 57 years of married life, most of which we had no real control over. In our first 9 years of marriage there were 23 moves because of Air force transfers. A few of these were moves from one trailer to another but a move is a move and challenging any way you do it. The moves kept up through the ministry years as well. And as I said, after 1997
I swore up and down that each move was the last one we'd make.

So here we are, surrounded by boxes, things we can't find because they are packed, and moving day is still a week off. Fortunately, we are agreeable with each other - when you've made as many moves as we have we've learned how to shrug our shoulders and say, "It'll be over in a week or two". We believe. We hope. We pray.

Keep us in your thoughts and prayers. And this is the last move. (Sure!)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Life Is Short

One of my very special friends is a retired pastor who still serves a church in Montgomery, Alabama. Let me correct myself - a pastor AND HIS WIFE, for both of them have influenced my life in many ways for forty years. They will never know how grateful I am for their friendship.

They both are prolific writers and he has written a new book, "Life is Short.....So Laugh Often, Live Fully, and Love Deeply." Likewise, his wife has written a new book, "The Yellow Butterfly....and other Nuggets of Faith in Prose and Poetry." I heartily recommend both of these.

I've had a number of opportunities to visit and work with Walter over the years. However, I don't think I've realized how much our lives have paralleled. I grew up in a farming community in New York and he grew up in a farming community in Alabama (and I believe he still lives where he grew up). He and Dean have lived through a lot of the joys, frustrations, victories and losses, hurts and healings, that Joyce and I have gone through. And survived. Even flourished.

I started reading his book one afternoon and only set it down for supper - and then I was back to reading again. I nodded my head in agreement time and time again, and I will treasure the books - they're the kind I will go back and read again - and again. His admonition that life is short is true - when you think about it there are a lot of memories in ages seventy and eighty. But if one is optimistic, there are still dreams to dream and paths to follow. Walter helps one to find the way - even when there are stumbling blocks down the road. His wife Dean has a gift of poetry - a lot of it comes across as prayers and maybe confessions on the reality of life.

So, I want to commend both of these books to everyone I can. They will make your life richer, bring peace into a troubled soul, and encouragement for your future life. If you'd like their address, let me know by comment or on Facebook. Better yet, you can get them through

As a last thought - Walter has written several other books. One of my favorites over the years is one titled, "If You Want To Walk on Water, "You Have to Get Out of Your Boat" Think about that when you have doubts of what to do in life.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A Friend Reminded Me....

I just took a walk down memory lane with a dear friend of mine. It was by way of a book he wrote which will be the subject of one of my blogs in a week or so.

I was reminded in one his chapters of the days before huge round bales of hay we see all over the fields in the summer. To be true, these round bales are practical - probably much easier to reap and much easier to store. However, that being said, some of the joy I remember in farming is gone.

When I was growing up we got hay just like the picture above. I'd go down the hill to our valley neighbors and hop on the wagon along with three or four others to ride out to a nearby hayfield. Someone had already mowed the grass (for the lack of a better word) and after it had been cured and dried for a bit it would be raked into rows using a big horsedrawn hay rake which took a strong leg to kick the release when we dumped the hay.

Then came the wagon. No balers - no machine to load the hay. It took strong arms to pitch the hay onto the wagon - and it was especially hard for some of us young'uns when the hay got high in the wagon. I guess I was lucky because I usually rode on the wagon to balance the hay load. When the hay was all aboard, everybody climbed on top and we rode to pitch the hay into the haymow (no fancy hooks or devices to mechanically transfer the hay into the barn).

The reward was a few small coins from the farmer but more importantly was the opportunity to play hide and go seek or slide down a chute from the haymow to the main floor. We'd go home saturated with hay and seeds and so I guess we really lived up to the old nickname of "just another country hick hayseed".

So, as we drove north to Alpena yesterday we went through modern hayfields replete with huge round bales ready to be hauled back to a storage area - but not to a hayloft. And I thought,
times have changed - and farming with it. But I'm glad for my memories.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

It Was a Challenging Time

Nothing in my memory compares with life during the early 1940's during World War Two. We think we have a handle on war now - and how it was during the Vietnam conflict but the fact is, neither of those conflicts compared in intensity AT HOME with WWII.

Point taken: We lived with rationing - shoes - meat - butter - tires - and lot's more. Most people had an allowance of 3 gallons of gasoline a week. Tires were scarce as hen's teeth. We'd put patches on patches - use retreads until there was nothing for a retread to hold on to. And as children we would buy 10 or twenty-five cent savings stamps that eventually could be converted for savings bonds. In 1947 and '48 I was working at General Electric earning $18.75 a week and the reason I remember that is $18.75 was the price of a savings bond I bought each month by withholding enough pay each week to get a bond at the end of the month. It was a time where everyone was sensitive and reactive to the needs of the time.

Then there were the scrap drives - iron - aluminum (even tinfoil from chewing gun wrappers) -remains of cooking oil - silk stockings from the ladies --- and paper. That's what the picture above is all about. Apparently a school worth of children built up a huge collection of scrap paper for the war effort.

Which reminds me of a paper drive in our school in the fall of 1944. A few of us had cars - a few had access to parents cars - or farm trucks. We made a covenant to exceed every other classes contributions and we did it. As I recall, we brought in 7 tons of paper in one week
and dumped it all on the school gymnasium floor. What a mess - and even worse, The school had to postpone basketball games for a couple of weeks until the gym floor could be cleared.One neds to be aware that we lived in a small town in the country which meant we had to cover a lot of ground.)I think our class record still stands. My father wondered for quite some time why the ceiling lining in our car got torn, and one of the rear springs got broken. We were serious about supporting our country in a time of dire need.

I wonder if we could approach national security today as we did back in WWII. I think the whole idea of patriotism and national pride has changed. Radically. And continues to change.
Will we ever recover our pride in America and our spiritual faith? I hope so - and I wish it could be in my lifetime - but for me, life grows short.

Personally, I am thankful for our American heritage. Are you?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Additions to the Family

Back in the 70's we had a huge house which looked like something right out of the Adams Family TV show. With two of us adults and five children, we still rumbled around in the huge house. So what does one do? Open the family up to an exchange student. Well, actually, several exchange students each one from a different country. Not all at the same time, mind you, but there was a time when we had a few at the same time.

Our first student came for almost a year from Finland. He was a very interesting individual - very reserved but he fit in well. He spent much of his time with other students from other countries - Germany and Yugoslavia as I recall. It was more challenging for our boys. When his visit ended and he went back to Finland he let us know that he wished he had not spent so much time with Europeans and had spent more time experiencing our culture. But it was a good year and we have tried to keep in touch with him. It's thirty years now and the last we heard he was involved with the national office of communications in Finland. He sent us a picture of him, his son, and his boat and he looked well and happy.

Not long after he went home we got a boy from Mexico (he had grown up in Cuba but his family moved to Mexico). He was temporary - a lot of fun - and went to another family in our town. In the meantime we got a boy from Ecuador and he was a sketch. Never a bad word - but a lot of mischief. He would slip bottles of wine onto our shopping cart and when Joyce would tell him to put them back on the shelf he would cuddle up to her and say (with a sly grin), "but Mom......." And he'd put the wine back and bring back several bottles of hot sauce like Tabasco. He was irrepressable and full of fun. We've lost touch with him be we watch television news to see if his name might come up in some unlikely event in Ecuador.

Then there was the boy from Belgium who was dropped off at out front door one day. (the family he was assigned to said he was unsociable) He was anything but - he fit into the family circle perfectly - he and Amy played violin together. It was very hard to see Leonardo and Paul go home - they were a delight and became a close part of our family. By the way, Leonardo volunteered our home to a boy from Iran and that did not work out well at all. The picture above is of Paul a year ago. He has come to see us a couple of times over the years and today he is a doctor serving in Afghanistan. He;s been there off and on for many years and in some other countries as well. A number of years ago we visited his family in Antwerp, Belgium and they were a delight.

Our last student (they stayed for a year) was from Japan. She was a lot of fun as well. She played the piano along with Amy and fit in very well. One time she gave us Japanese clothes and we created quite a scene when we went into a nearby restaurant dressed in our outfits. Again, it was very hard to see her go home.

IN short, these were some of the really rich moments in our lives. We learned about other cultures - and they experienced a reasonably normal American family for a year.
We can truthfully say, 'thanks for the memories.'

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Hot Hot Hot

This month brings back a lot of memories from last July when we made our humonguss trip to the west coast and back. Last year it seemed cold the entire three weeks (except in the southwest desert areas). This year, in Oscoda, it has been much more normal -- hot amd humid. Cloudy and muggy. So I went back to the trip last year and found a photo from Snoqualmie, Washington -- a picture that shows winter in July. Or at least reminds us that there WILL be a winter again.

Our area of Michigan is sometimes a little strange weatherwise. We miss a lot of the really bad weather. The bad stuff is mostly to the south of us, a swath from Kalamazoo, Battle Creek to Flint and Saginaw and across the Thumb. Makes no difference the season - the worst stuff almost always goes that route and seems almost consistently bad across the Thumb. Maybe it's because the Thumb has Saginaw Bay to the West and Lake Huron to the North and East.

Anyway, it's been a challenging summer and it will be nice to see the weather cool down as we approach autumn. At least the photo is reminder of cooler weather. And yes, we WILL watch out for the yellow snow.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Good Old Days

It's July and for a lot of people in this area, it's head north fromb Detroit, or Flint or Saginaw to the cabin "up north". Back in the 1930's we did the same thing = we were eager to get out of the heat and humidity of New York City suburbs and so we headed for "Stone House". Well, actually the village name (and I'm not sure it was big enough to be called a village) was West Pauling in Dutchess County of New York. The picture above is of our house. In the lower right hand corner you can clearly see my brother and I am almost out of sight in the bright area. I think I was four or so at the time.

There was no electricity - no TV - no radio - no refrigerator - though there was an old-fashioned ice box that used real honest to goodness ice from an an old fashioned
ice house down the road a piece. We used the rain barrel for water to wash with - and had a hand pump for drinking water. No bathrooms - an outhouse in the woods
which were scary for a little kid. (You know, 'lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my")
Each of the bedrooms had a pitcher of water (from the rain barrel) and a washbowl.
After use, the water was tossed over the second story railing. Under the washstand in each bedroom was a chamber pot which saved a trip out back into the woods at night. (No, the chamber pot was not dumped over the porch railing - the residue in the pot was discretely and carefully disposed of in the proper place the next day.) Oh, I forgot to mention that the outhouse was the home of bees, wasps, and hornets
just to make things a bit more interesting. And yes, as the story goes, we had a few Sears ROEBUCK and Company catalogs in the outhouse. Not just for reading, of course.

Our kitchen was extremely primitive - just the bare essentials - and cooking was on a huge cast iron wood-burning stove. It was a wonderful way to spend a summer - even if my father severely cut my leg with a scythe and I ended up with a scar I bear to this day. By the way, I think the picture may have been taken around 1935. Anyesy, time and lifestyle's have changed a lot since then. Believe it or not, the old house was refurbished and upgraded - in the seventies we drove by it and the house was beautiful. The man of the house actually was out in the yard using a power mower on the yard. And the house even had a TV antenna on the roof.

For some reason, I like the old house better the way it used to be. Yep, it was a primitive way of life - but it was simple and happy - and it makes for a great memory. And I guess that we were really fortunate in those terrible depression years to have a place like it with all the pain and suffering that many others endured during those years.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

All in the Family

I thought this picture was/is a classic. Like the title says (all in the family) it represents four generations of our family. It represent four generations as we share a lighter and very special moment.

On the right is Great Grandma Joyce. On the left is Grandma Amy. Next to Amy is
Amy's daughter Rebecca and between Rebecca and Joyce is Amy's daughter Elizabeth's Madison who is holding Rebecca's daughter Ella.

Times like this don't happen often -- our family is scattered all over the country and that is a real challenge. Once in a long while we see our children and their offspring's. When Iwas growing up the world seemed smaller - We remained close to grandparents on my mothers side but we were on oppositesides of the country from paternal grandparents. Welived on the East Coast - they lived in California and visits were it is today with Daughter Linda in upper Minnesota, son Jeff and his children (and grand children)in Arlington, Washington (except Keith in the Armyin Hawaii). Amy has lived in Chicago for a while and will be living near Washington, DC within a month. Son Greg and family live in South Lake Tahoe, and youngest daughter Lisa lives in Indianapolis.

I have always envied some of the farm families we have known who continued to live close to each other. But the world is different nowadays. Families are fragmented and often disconnected. That's why moments like those shown in the photo above are moments we treasure. Maybe it's the aging process - the older we get the more we
cling to familiy memories and wish we had all been able to stay together. But life as it is means going our own ways - living our own lives - doing our own things.

At any rate, we treasure family and all the memories we have of times and things we have shared over the years.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

In the Eyes of the Beholder

Sometimes we seem only to focus on the obvious. On the things that stand out. Sometimes good things -- sometimes not so good.

Someone does something stupid and people remember that stupid move forever. For instance, I can think of some people who told me they would never go back to a specific church because an individual had hurt their feelings. It makes no difference that the insult or slight happened twenty years ago and the perpetrator
died fifteen years ago. To the person who suffered the hurt, it was the fault of the church or the pastor who is currently there and never had an inkling of what transpired twenty years ago. Call it the eternal grudge if you wish. Ot even may involve a person going across the street to avoid having to meet someone on the street. It involves people who have no intent or desire to forgive and forget.

Maybe we get so busy in life that we don't see things that are beautiful. Or we miss warning signs and walk into a challenging situation. Or we say we can handle a difficult situation on our own - "Don't bug me - I can handle the situation on my own". A little like the Sinatra song that says "I Did It My Way" when "my" way might not be the best way.

I often am reminded of the character in the "Little Abner" comic strip "Joe Brzdltec" or something like that. Wherever he went a dark cloud followed him and bad stuff happened. Nothing good happened around old Joe - but maybe that was because be built a reputation and people never looked for any good arould him. However, I venture to say there was SOMETHING good - It's just that no one looked for the good.

I think way back to days when someone in school was called the dumbest or ugliest student in town. Every person has a gift but you have to look for it and build on it. Every person has a beauty - not necessarily in appearance but they may have an inner beauty or kindness that is not obvious but is there just the same.

That's why I used the picture above. It looks like a pretty sunset. But if you
look to the right of the power pole and a little up you may see a face. At least I did, and I would like to think it represented God looking down at us and saying, "Love thy neighbor and forget about the negatives in life". There is a lot of beauty and goodness in life if you simply take the time to look for it.

I'm not always successful, but I try. How about you?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Real Men Don't Sew

That's what my Oscoda brother-in-law says. But I beg to differ. I enjoy doing crewel. It's not cross-stitch - I am incapable of clean x's - but I can sew a
reasonably straight line.

I start out with a photo. The attached illustration is of Yellowstone falls taken last July. The I transfered the picture to Aida cloth and then start doing the sewing. It took a while - four or five days, I guess - but it is fun to do. I have a zillion skeins of emroidery floss and I try to match colors with the picture.
As I say, it's challenging but a lot of fun.

Just goes to show that there are still a few things I can do and I like to think there is nothing wrong with men doing crewel or cross-stitch. If it was good enough for a football great like Rosie Greer it's good enough for me.

So, there Jim -- take that and chew on it for a while.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

I Remember

Back in 1962 I was assigned as a Field Engineer to a Navy fighter squadron aboard the then brand new USS Enterprise. In that role I spent several months at sea in the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. When we got back we almot immediately went to sea again to participate in the Cuban blockade.

Carrier life is unique and you find yourself becoming part of a family. Navy flyers are a great group and I can remember a number of pilots and Radar Intercept Officers. People like Ensign Brian Homer who got all kinds of odd jobs - like being movie officer. (One time he forget to connect the film to the take-up reel and ended up with a hundred or more feet of film coiled around his feet before he caught the error of his ways. Bruce McCandless who later became an astronaught. Gerry O'Roarke (commanding officer) who wrote at least one good book on F-4 Phantom aircraft history. And there was Tom Sitek, pictured above. Tom was from North Tonawanda, New York and he played all kinds of music on the accordian. He always had a smile for people around him and was one of God's good guys/

Tom was shot down over Viet-Nam - probably never knew the missile was coming. He spent many years as Missing in Action (MIA) but finally around the year 2001 they found his remains in the wreckage of his plane. His name is on the Viet-Nam wall and I got the chance to make a rubbing of his name on the Moving Wall (pictured above)which was in Oscoda in 2005. I sent the rubbing and a bunch of pictures to his daughter who worked so hard to get information about Tom.

Then there is a grave in Holland - one of Joyce's brothers who was killed during World War Two. A few years ago we visited William's grave and if you have never been in one of our National Cemeteries make a point to spend some time there. Even
of you haven't lost ssomeone close, keep in mind that these people died for you and me - and for the freedom of our country and in the service of our nation. Memorial Day is for memories of ultimate sacrifice. We should care.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

At the Side of the Road

A couple of years ago I thought seriously of doing a photo spread for a magazine published by the Bay City news paper. I really enjoyed the magazine because it reflected the area of Michigan in which we live. Unfortunately, the economics of the time laid the magazine to rest but my interest in the potential of a photo spread has not disappeared.

I saw a lot of roadside residence signs in Florida and I see it a lot here in Michigan. When we drive along the shores of Lake Huron many of the homes have signs out front indicating who lives there. But not all signs have names - many of them are symbolic and I've been left wondering about what kind of a family lives there. One sign says 'Changing Latitude' and I've asked myself, 'Where did they live before they changed latitude?'. (We live at an interesting latitude here - almost exactly half way between the Equator and the North Pole And there is sign specifying that alongside the road between here and Alpena to the north.)

There's another sign a little south of town. It's a very large letter 'C'. I know about that house - it's the home of a former pastor in Oscoda (his wife is a local school teacher) and the C represents the first letter of their last name. Another aign along highway 23 says "Fishbones." I know about that one too - the sign is in front of my friendly car salesman's house. Sadly, it used to have a fish skeleton under it but twice the skelton has disappeared. Why would someone rip off a fish skeleton?

Yet another sign is half way south between Oscoda and East Tawas. Heading north it reads 'HA HA'. If you are heading south it reads 'Ah Ah. I don't know why but I always seem to look for that sign on the way home. And I wonder what the sign is really saying.

Then there are signs for resorts all the way along highway 23. This is one of Michigan's treasures - lakeshore fun and frolic and is a great place to be especially if you come from downstate - Bay City, Saginaw, Flint and Detroit. Somes times even Lansing or Midland. And it is a great place to be year round even in winter when there are lot of activities like cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. My wife does not share my feelings about winter - she does not like cold and wind even when our lakeshore temperatures are not as bad as cen parts of Mchigan.

Finally, look closely at the illustration. It's a work of art which adds to the scenic value of our highway traveling. It opens up questions of who lives there, where they came from, what the family is like, and things like that. Maybe I'm just nosy, but nevertheless, the signs along the road make the trip more pleasant. Now that I think of it, I miss the Burma Shave signs from the thirties
and forties. Anybody remember them?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Use It Or Lose It

Every so often I'll see someone on television or in the paper who has been able to use their gifts far longer than one would expect. I've never stopped marveling at people who, despite old age, continue to run in marathon races, or take to the ski slopes in their seventies and even eighties (and maybe beyond). Former President George H.W. Bush (the elder one who flew a Navy plane in World War Two) was in the news a while back because he took a parachute jump on his birthday and he has a lot of years behind him. If I were to take a parachute jump at my age I would probably not do well -- admittedly I'm well past my physical prime. However, I don't want to dwell on that - but at 82 and a half years of age, there are things I can't do any more. For instance, I don't hit the stairs at two or three steps at a time. I hung up my skis quite a while ago - but that wasn't to be accused of mental instability there are a lot of older people who don't want to be considered over the hill. At the same time, I must admit that in my case it is not a lack of interest but a lack of hills to ski on and the physical stamina and training to use them. I don't run much any more - but I DO like to walk. There's an old fitness trail not far from our condo and Joyce and I walk that when the weather allows (which has not been as much as I'd like this spring). We use the stairs most of the time even if there is a nice elevator at the end of the hall. And I use exercise equipment in the condo fitness room fairly often. I guess I can say I use my physical abilities as best I can.

But I also have tried to use my mind as best I can. I read a lot. I enjoy creating arts and crafts especially embroidery and crewel. Before some one says that sewing is girly stuff, I want to remind you that 'Rosie' Grier, a big hulking football player turned personal guard for President Kennedy was known to do embroidry I also really enjoy crossword puzzles. I/m not a champ at that but I hold my own - probably falling in the intermediate category. I'm not one to do the New York Times hard puzzles - but I don't enjoy the easy easy ones either.

I think that there is something to the old saying, 'use it or lose it'. If you don't continue to use a physical gift, chances are you'll lose it. Same thing with your brain - use it or lose it. That's why I enjoy artsy-craftsy stuff and why I enjoy writing. It keeps me mentally alert and keeps things like demensia and alzheimers disease at bay for as long as possible. I'd like to think that keeping the brain alive and well is one of the most important tasks we have in life. I've seen a lot of people who suffered physical limitations and still had a productive and enjoyable life because they continued to nurture and use their brain. So let me leave this blog with a reminder - that in life one needs to "use it - the brain - or lose it" Life is too short not to.

well, I don't want to be considered over the hill