Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Pro-cras-ti-na-thon.....and how I have mastered it.

It took a former exchange student to wake me up. His reminder came in an e-mail from France back around Thanksgiving and it has taken me almost to Christmas to get around to actually getting the motivation to get back in the habit of writing.
I have always enjoyed writing. I submitted a zillion contributions to magazines like Readers Digest and gained a zillion rejection forms. But later there was a bit more success particularly in inspirational newspaper columns. Part of the success was that newspaper editors were happy when a columnist met deadlines. Every week - month after month - year after year - without a break the columns appeared and I enjoyed the challenge. Later, as we moved to other locations, newspaper opportunities became scarce and I started writing blogs instead. Most every week, in fact. 206 blogs thus far -
mostly thoughts of the day - a lot of memories.

But in August of this year the blogs stopped for no real reason. The siesta became easier and easier to live with and so, now, in December, I've decided to try to redeem myself.  No more blaming old age.No more blaming health situations. No more saying I'm too busy. No more just making excuses.

I can remember how an uncle kept saying he wanted put together a book of humorous sayings. He had a huge scrapbook of the items but just never got around to putting the book together.  And I put together the story of my life in three volumes - my life up to 2003 when we moved to Michigan. I suppose I need to put together "the rest of the story" as relates to a bit over the ten very busy years since 2003.  Someday.

I've often said that a common motto often applies: "Don't bother doing today what's easier to put off until tomorrow." Not good. Perhaps in the last few days I've begun to see the light - Life's too short - enjoy it while you can and forget about living out your days in that comfy living room rocker with heat and massage modes.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

just rare back and snooze

Never thought I'd be singing the song "Old Rockin' Chairs Got Me" but I guess it may be true. Only thing is, it's not a rocker but it does almost everything else. It rares back, and it lifts up. Not an ejection seat, thank goodness, but it sure makes it a lot easier to get out of. It vibrates, sometimes easy, sometimes it shimmies and shakes. It even provides heat where a pain might be.

What more can an old coot want when his exercises leave extremities sore? Only thing is: I sometimes have to argue with the cat as to whose chair it is - but if someone is in the chair the cat still claims it.

Oh, yes, it's placed by a window where I can see the outside world move by.

So, I want to offer a humongous vote of thanks to my good half for this special gift which make my up-and-down days really up and down complete with heat and massage. What could a guy ask for other than to wish he was really young again?

Friday, June 28, 2013

New Kit on the Block

Like many families we have had a lot of pets over the years. I suppose my first was Petunia, a New Hampshire Red rooster. I have no idea what ever happened to him and I don't want to dwell on him other than that he won a blue ribbon in a 1930's county fair. The next pet was a Collie puppy given to me for my graduation from high school, was named 'Velvet' after the movie, National Velvet,  but I think my mother wanted a collie and Velvet stayed with her when I left home shortly after graduation.

Over the years we have provided housing and food to a Heinz-57 variety of critters - dogs - birds - cats and one gerbil that escaped into a heating duct and died. Since we had no idea where the remains were we just had to tough the smell out over a period of time.

There were a few noteworthy pets, though. There was 'Punkin Puss' - a yellow or orange cat who came home one Hallowe'en night missing its tail. Not the kindest trick or treat we've ever seen. For years - and several moves - there was 'Carolina Candy', our own Collie, who provided us with a litter or two of puppies. 'Candy' was a beloved pet and it was devastating when serious canine 
afflictions necessitated her being consigned to doggie heaven. I swore up and down I never wanted to get that attached to a dog again.

There was a cat named, for the lack of a  better nom de plume, 'Kitty Kat', and there was another cat, 'Abigail' a calico, that was part of the family 'forever'.At least, it seemed forever, and like 'Candy', it was a horrible experience when she departed. In fact, we had been becoming more and more an empty nest with children going on to their own lives and losing 'Abbie' was almost like one of the children - at least to me. I vowed 'never more' for pets. And it remained that way for a long time.

However, that didn't take away my enjoyment of pets. There were Amy and Vic's black labs, and nowadays 'Pippa'. There are 'Maxwell' and 'Pugsley' and a  number of others including Lisa's menagerie. They are great - so long as I don't get personally attached.

Until now.

We've  known 'Isabel' for years. Every visit to daughter  Lisa has meant visits from 'Izzie', another calico, who is almost overly friendly. In a downsizing of pets, 'Izzie' became vulnerable to relocation. Since granddaughter Rachel is involved with a Petsmart store,she was going to provide us with a new cat or kitten. I must admit I was not too sure about that idea (remember, I had said years ago 'never again' for a pet because I get too attached to them)

But then it was suggested that we consider 'Izzie' since we already knew her, she knew us, and she was probably going to be relocated anyway. So, in early June she cried all the way from Indiana to northern Michigan to immediately hide under a bed. Despite competition from Amy's small dog who was visiting , and getting used to a new environment, 'Izzie' has settled in and has become a joy in our house. A genuine purring, playing, lap-loving member of the family. And I guess I'm just a sentimental old guy who still loves a pet and  dreads the day that pet is no longer around.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Off We Go...


 Cal it what you want -  Valiant - Vibrator - I've even heard it called the Vomiter. No matter, it's official designation was the Vultee BT-13. It was a World War Two basic trainer (BT) in both the Air Corps and the Navy. When the war ended a zillion of these planes were a dime a dozen on the surplus market. Well, not quite that cheap, but you could get one for a very few hundred dollars and that how I came to fly in one right after the war  And my father was furious  when he found out I had done it.

I was working for a local news paper and the editor was looking for some special way to recognize our fallen veterans in some special way. There was always a parade. There was always the eleven o-clock Legion salute at the village flagpole. What would be  different but appropriate way to celebrate Memorial Day?

About that time one of our Air Corps vterans came into the newspaper office and the editor rose out of his chair and said, "Eureka - I know what we can do -- we can have a flyover above the cemetery."  It so happened that the vet had just taken delivery of -- you guessed it, a BT-13 and was flying out of local strip.
Then a second light came - let's drop flowers over the cemetery. Since the plane had a rear seat, with a canopy that could be slidopen when flying. Guess who was volunteered to occupy the back seat with a basket (or lap) full of cut flowers.
Memorial Day dawned perfect and we finally bounced into the air and headed for town. Lower and lower we flew heading for the cemetery. Finally the pilot called over the intercom for me to get ready to drop the flowers. With never having done anything like this before, and no bombsight at hand, the drop turned out to be a by-guess and by-golly experience with cut lilacs en doneup all over town - probably everywhere except the cemetery.
Duty done, we hedge-hopped toward where I lived. What an opportunity to give the family athrill  as we buzzed my house on the way back to the airstrip. Landing we connected with the ground
with three resounding bounces. Needless to say, the runway was extremely rough and it had a significant dip half way down.
Savoring my first flying experience I got home to find my father ranting and raging about that crazy flyer who "almost took of our roof" and my mother still quivering with fear.  You can imagine the  reaction when I announced that I was in the plane. It ended up with Dad pronouncing that I was never to fly in that airplane, from that airstrip again with that pilot again.
But it was a Memorial Day experience that still lives in my memory bank.

Saturday, May 25, 2013


Many  many years ago, back in the past century, I worked in an office with a lot of other people and there was only one rest room. A unisex  bathroom if you want to call it that. It was an invitation to trouble.

People were supposed to use a sign signifying which sex was using it. But one day two people decided to do their business at the same time.  Yep, you guessed - one male and one female. The lady made her entry first and took possession of the furthest stall. A few moments later, ignoring the occupancy sign (more likely not even seeing it), the gent made took over the other stall.

Understand, please, that this man was one of the nicest people in the office and was very modest and reserved which raised the question of what to do when recognizing, under the wall, the feet  of a goodlooking secretary. She became aware of her male neighbor at the same time and they both began a waiting game. Who dares to leave first?

Meanwhile, some of the staff had noticed what had happened and whispers went around the office that two people - two sexes - had finally made the fateful mistake. I don't recall how long before the lady dared to depart but it was quite a while and she left to cheers by most of the other staff. A while later the man slinked out of the rest room to resounding laughter by his coworkers. The unthinkable had finally happened.

But this was not the last error by the man. He not only was modest and reserved, he also was somewhat absent minded. Several times he came in wearing different shoes. One black - one brown. Two different styles. Or he more often came in with different socks. Especially different colors.
Which today makes me wonder what one of our daughters was implying when she gave me the above socks for Christmas. Have I gotten so old that  I need to be reminded about the difference between right and left?

Thank goodness we have two bathrooms in the house. Essentially one  for him and one for her. No need for a sign on the the door. Oh, wait, maybe we need one for the tub/shower. Here's my reservation to go first tonight - after all, I like  hot water.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Round and Round the wheel goes.....

......and where it stops, nobody knows. So went the introduction to
 an old-time game show on radio (remember when?) and later on television. It seems to me that it involved a popular band and led to a phone call to some lucky person who would (if they answered) win the monstrous fortune of ten or fifty or so silver dollars. Wheel of Fortune it wasn't but it was a different time and age.
But the wheel in the picture was from another time as well.On the surface it might look like something a World War II pilot or aircraft navigator might use. It's not that - but it came out of the Korean Conflict era and was my treasure at the time. It's a circular slide  rule.
However, it  was a 'no-no' in college math classes in the late 1960's - I know because I tried to use it and the professor glared at me and said I needed to use a straight 'slip-stick' or none at all. This, of course was before the day of the hand-held calculator which was verboten as well. With the professorial admonition tattooed to my brain I managed to fail the course.
How things have changed. The old circular slide rule, with so many ways to calculate basic math and trig functions has been relegated to a memory  in my antique dresser. For some reason, it worked like magic for me and I could never get the same accuracy out of even the best straight slide rule. I finally graduated to  a basic calculator, and as they graduated to more and more capabilities I got used to them - up to a point. I'll leave the fancy engineering calculators to someone more inclined to someone who is into higher mathematics. I'm still happy with my 1970's basic unit.
Meanwhile, the old circular slide rule remains in the memory drawer. Like a lot of things, it has become the subject of children's sermons and show-and-tell sessions. The kids who see it say that it sure looks old - but then, again, so do I.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Lord Giveth, and the Wife Taketh Away

Well, the Lord gave me the ability to drag pictures into my blogs but apparently someone has taken that gift away. That ought to be tomorrow's challenge.

I meant to include a picture of my good half working in the yard this morning - and thinking about that intent, maybe she has found a way to spook the computer. Just for spite, I may put it on a wider
distribution - Facebook - because it's an interesting picture.

Several years ago she saw an advertisement for mail order trees. The catalog showed a lot of beautiful trees and the prices were amazing. We'd been looking for Mediterranean Poplars and so
the order was placed.  In a few days a package arrived marked 'perishable'. Opening it we found eight or ten spindly twigs and we proceeded to plant them.  And they grew, and grew, and grew. Not tall and stately like we had expected but bushy - but with branches heading in every direction. We asked ourselves, 'What have we done to our back yard?'. But then we thought, at least they were green so we just let them grow whatever way they chose to go.

But time flies, and as successive Springs came around the calendar bringing an unwelcome discovery each year. One by one these anticipated beauties started losing leaves. A closer look revealed that the trunks were beginning to have rotten places and major limbs were dying. In time the entire trees died one by one and each year one or another was converted to waste wood.

And that was the picture I saw early this morning out the back door. Another of the trees was being converted into bits and pieces. Now, looking into the back yard one more tree had been transformed into kindling and we don't even have a fireplace. Alas, only two of the trees remain and their future looks pretty. I will say that Joyce did a really good job as a lady lumberperson.

Meanwhile we'll keep our tree purchases in our local friendly nursery. And to top this whole exercise off, I think the trees we meant to get were Mediterranean CYPRESS, not poplar. Oh, well, live and learn.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Behold, the Beast

It's a picture of one of our backyard bird feeders.  With an unwelcome customer.

One of Joyce's great hopes when we came back from Indianapolis was to see a reincarnation of the flower beds. In the two years we were gone they deteriorated to weed patches and in the dreariness of winter she would look out the window and make plans for spring. In the meantime, she turned her attention to the one big bird feeder outside the dining room window. We loaded it up with sunflower seeds and hoped for the best.

Turned out the best we could do was to attract a few blue jays and fewer cardinals who didn't have sense enough to go south for the winter. But man, oh, man, did that big feeder attract squirrels.
Big ones. Small ones. gray ones. black ones. You name it - we had it. They loved \the sunflower seeds.

They would shinney up the pole the feeder was on. They would jump from the deck railing. I think some might have just fallen from the sky along with snow flakes. Reminded me of that song back in the hoot nanny days of that cat that came back - again and again - "that very same night".

Well winter struggled to an end and she put out another feeder. One with thistle seed for pretty little yellow birds. Another one with suet. And another. And another. and said, Let's just let the sunflower seed feeder empty out and we'll be rid of the squirrels. But we still wanted cardinals so she bought another sunflower seed feeder. That one was hung on a metal stake pole in the middle of the back yard. We saw a squirrel checking us out and we grinned at each other said, "Take that, you miserable critter."

I swear, that squirrel grinned  back at us. And it wasn't any time that he/she had mastered climbing a skinny steel pole. The picture proves the squirrel was able to do anything it set its mind to. Meanwhile, more and more feeders went up. Guess what? You're right: the squirrel found them and somehow let all the other squirrels in the neighborhood know. And once in a while 9they would let a bird take a bite or two. (Or would that be a beak-full or two?)

We tried baffles: no solution. We tried sticky fly paper. not sticky enough. One of our daughters suggested putting motor oil or grease on the pole. That wasn't any better.

Finally I found some deer/rabbit repellent in the garage. Desperate, I sprayed some of that around the big feeders. Voila: I haven't seen a squirrel in the past ten minutes. Maybe that solved the problem. However, I think there is another problem: the back yard stinks so bad that we can't spend much time sitting on the deck. Oh, well, you win a few and lose a few.
Here's looking atcha!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Which way to go?

I took this picture months ago thinking it would work for a blog - someday.And I guess today is that someday. I can't explain why it took so long. Sometimes I just wasn't in the mood. Then I tried another blog program I have liked and found it wouldn't accept my input. Another time I blamed it on acknowledgment that I'm getting old. Still another would be that I simply wasn't in the mood. A realistic reason would be to blame it on the heart attack. Finally I got to the point that if I needed to blame someone or something it was that we have had a dismal winter in Michigan that doesn't want to let up. And I've been cooped up in the house.
When I went back through the potential blog pictures I found a lot that offered possibilities. However, the one above really seemed to fit the bill for today. They are footprints of our mailman Warren as he headed up the street  to the next house. It was a really foggy day and the other houses were clouded in mist. I thought that the footprints were something like life.  They left an imprint of where a person had been. The past. Their indelibility lasting at least for a while remains for the present.  As you can see, they fade off in the distance and you end up wondering where they will end up.
Maybe that's how life is. I know I've had a lot of times in the last weeks where I reflected on some of the stuff I've said or done or wished over the years. Some of the memories were warm and fuzzy and positive. Some were things I wished I hadn't said or done. I think I have gone through some real downers and saw no really positives ahead - just live - or survive - one day at a time. I think a dismal - gray - misty - moisture laden winter - has fed that. I know that I have questioned just what lay ahead - and haven't been very positive about much of anything.
This probably doesn't reveal a very positive picture of a retired pastor but maybe the word retired is part of the problem. Maybe I've been focussing on the wrong thing. I suspect a lot of people go through this at times. Maybe I should listen to God rather than turn off my spiritual hearing aids. And maybe I should heed what Joyce said this morning: Friday - and next week are supposed to be warm and pretty days. Slushy footprints in the snow will disappear and lawns will get green again and spring flowers and tree buds will emerge and put a different light on life. Like old-time comedian Joe Penner said years ago:  "I hope, I hope, I hope....."

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Very Special Man

Anyone recognize the man with a cigarette in his mouth offering a smoke to a buddy?

Nobody I ever met, but a man thousands of World War Two veterans knew and had deep appreciation for. His name was Ernie Pyle, and his newspaper articles about the average GI told
an amazing story of privation, courage, and sacrifice. He didn't spend time extolling the greatness of senior level commanders - instead he shared foxholes with everyday fighters for freedom. In the end,
like so many heroes of the fighting fields, ashore and at sea, he lost his life in a far-off battlefield..

Ernie Pyle was an extraordinary everyday kind of a person. A Hoosier from eastern Indiana, he had the gift of writing about the guy down the street who responded to the call of his country and did it to reflect the sacrifice of ordinary men in extraordinary circumstances.

One thing I never knew about Ernie Pyle was that before the war he wrote newspaper columns about everyday Americans. Like John Steinbeck in 'Travels With Charlie', Ernie traveled all over the United States. His company, rather than a canine, was his wife who was called, for lack of a better description, "That Girl." Actually, her name was Jerry, but we all have our pet names for our mates.

Ernie's travels have been locked into book form in a volume titled "Home Country" which I found in
a shop selling clothes, furniture, electronics, old 33 RPM records, and yes, a lot of cast-off books.
Looking at the flyleaf of "Home Country", I see printing dates between 1935 and 1940. So, what could this book have to do with our life in the twenty-first century?

First, it reflects a potpourri of history as it was. Built around everyday people of the time, it colorfully reveals life back in the thirties. But at the same time, in a lot of ways, it reflects life today. In a very positive way it reveals human nature in a variety of situations. And it expresses the life of both ordinary and extraordinary people in a way that tugs at the heartstrings and at the same time reflects the beauty of our nation as well as the humorous side of people. In short, I loved the book may well keep it to read again and again.

Interestingly enough, it's not just a book out of someones closet or attic --  it is still available in different printings, even a reprint in the 1980's, from Amazon. I thoroughly enjoyed it - and commend it to your bookshelf. It goes to show that an ordinary guy from Indiana has had an enduring ability to not only put himself in the shoes of men called to battle, but also in the shoes of everyday people whose lives have not faded away but live on in many ways today.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Flying High

It has always been traditional for dad to get shirts and ties and sweaters  for Christmas.I couldn't believe, this past Christmas that there wasn't the usual emphasis on clothes. Not that I didn't need apparel - I can always use things like socks and skivvies - but this year was different. Lots of goodies, and, unfortunately, not a lot that fit the diabetes regime - but that worked out well for others - what wasn't necessarily good for me was good for them.  But the most unique gift was a radio control helicopter (shown above).
Now, at age 85 I don't often get toys for Christmas - but it did not take long for me to learn that this was not a toy - it did not want to respond to my commands. Oh, it hopped around a bit, and it skittered across the floor to crash into one piece of furniture or another. It seemed to have a mind of its own - and, to say the least, it did not take long for me to begin to wonder why anyone would give a helicopter - supposedly controllable, to an octogenarian who had lost a lot of coordination. So the helicopter remained as shown, on a living room table.
Some three weeks later I ended up at Tawas St. Joseph Hospital with what was diagnosed as a heart attack, and which involved transfer to the cardiac ICU at St. Mary's Hospital in Saginaw. Dosed up with morphine, I was advised at first that I would go by ambulance for an hour and half ride - and then minds changed and they said I would go by - you guessed it - helicopter. My past experience of not getting my model off the ground went through my mind and I became a little concerned. I even asked the pilot how long ago he had gotten his 'drivers' license. Loaded aboard, off we went and I was afforded great care and a nice nighttime view out the real clamshell windows of the Lake Huron shoreline, Bay City, and eventually, Saginaw.
During the time in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit I underwent EKGs, Xrays, echocardiograms and a heart catheterization and got visited by medicopter crew members. During these visits I mentioned my Christmas helicopter gift and my inability to get my copter off the ground. They laughed and told me about actual helicopter pilots (including a U.S. Marine Corp pilot) who had the same problem with radio control models like mine. I was relieved to know I wasn't alone.
Once past my medical crisis, I was released and took a much longer ride back home. Almost as soon
as I got home I tried my R C copter out again and would you believe, it FLEW! Up to the ceiling and back down. Amazing. I could make it go up and down. But I couldn't make it go left or right, forward or back. But it flew. And thankfully, so did the medicopter that took me to Saginaw.
As for me, I'm feeling great - in fact,flying high. And thankful for today's blessings. At least till the bills start coming in.