Friday, January 20, 2017

Blank Pages
I have written before about sitting down with a pad and pen or with an empty computer screen in front of me, wracking my brain to find something worthwhile and entertaining to comment on and my mind is blank. My desire is to write something that will interest others and at the same time be cathartic to my soul, so I will try.
Yesterday was the usual day for our writers group to gather. We meet every first and third Thursday of the month at 5:30 p.m. in the Mt. Pleasant Library, but I had a few errands to run beforehand. One of the stops I made was at a local dollar store. I was looking for the large tea bags to make iced tea and spied a bag potato sticks. I hadn’t eaten them in years, but they reminded me of an incident with one of my roommates in the Navy. His name was Tommy Byrd and lived somewhere in Texas.
I often bought snacks at the PX and stored them in our room to eat later. One evening he got out of his bunk, said he was hungry, bought a can of my potato sticks, and ate them. The next morning, he accused me of taking his money. We argued back and forth, until I showed him the empty potato sticks can in his bed. He quieted and finally shared a secret. He walked, talked, and apparently ate in his sleep. Isn’t it strange how one small object can recall so much from where it is stored in the brain?
While I was at the store, I started to talk with the cashiers and as is usual for me now and I handed a few of my writer’s business cards to them. Several years ago, I was almost shy and would have thought twice about promoting this blogspot or my books, now it is second nature. I have to share my cards with them if I am to promote my skills as a writer.
After the meeting, I stopped at Speedy Meedy’s convenience store for milk and began to chat with the people at the counter. I passed out several more of my cards. All in all, it was a most productive day and if you take the time to check my blogspot, thank you to those people who were interested enough to accept my cards.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Calling All 
Monday was one of those days when it seemed necessary for me to make call after telephone call of one sort or another. I am at times a procrastinator, putting things off until it is absolutely necessary for me to do something. I am sure that part of the reason is because as a nursing supervisor at Frick Hospital in Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania, I spent much of my shift on the telephone making and answering calls from staff, doctors, patients, and the patient’s family.
Often when I came home, I would avoid answering the phone. I usually allowed another member of the family to answer its beckoning ring. First, the calls were rarely for me and secondly, I had answered so many at work, it was a blessing not to hold the receiver to my ear.
My first call was to order supplies for my C-pap breathing machine. It had been quite some time since I placed my last order. Because it had been so long, it caused the need for two other telephone calls to get authorization to show my need for the nighttime breathing assistance machine.
Another telephone call was to my computer repairman to clean and update my aps and programs. I am technologically challenged, using my computer for e-mails, Facebook, and as a glorified typewriter. The computer is a marvelous upgrade from the need for paper and typewriters of the past. There are no more erasures or having to use the correction liquid or tapes. Deleting, copying, and cutting have replaced those chores and products and eliminated the hassle.
I also made the call my doctor about my new blood pressure medication and my blood sugar levels. It’s always a joy when each call to her ends up with more medications or further intrusions on my life.

The final call was to my insurance agent. I wanted to firm up an appointment. I was inquiring about purchasing life insurance and an update on my finances. As much as I hate admitting my foibles, all must face the fact that there is an end to each life. Other than the Rapture, there is no other outcome. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Sometimes It’s Just a Small Thing 
What does it take to turn a bad day around? Sometimes all it takes is a small happening to change the way we feel: our outlook, our mood, or the outcome of a situation. Have you ever found a few dollars in a not recently used jacket pocket? Perhaps having someone that we hold dear call our name or say, “I love you.” Coming home, we’re greeted by a wagging tail and a lick of a kiss from our dogs. Many small things like climbing into our cars on a frigid morning and it starts on the first try, a song airs on the radio that opens floodgates of memories, or taking a hot shower, climbing into a pair of soft pajamas, and collapsing into bed at the end of a long day can do wonders for our souls.
How about hearing the song of the first robin of spring or goodbye honks of geese passing high overhead at the end of autumn? What thoughts stir, hearing the whistle of a distant train? What wakens in the brain when we’re assaulted by the aromas in a bakery or a tobacco shop? Is it the excitement of the hunter or the tenderness of an artist that emerge when a deer appears at the edge of a meadow? Does the faint tinkle of a waterfall call us to draw near?

The human psyche is a tender, fragile thing. Yet it is resilient and can be renewed or altered with the smallest of things. Singing a song, saying a prayer, opening a door for someone, these are all small things, but may change our outlook or the direction of someone’s day. A kind word, a word of encouragement, a gentle reproof or correction may have repercussions far beyond what we can see at the time. Be kind, be cheerful, be a friend, we may never know when we become the small thing in someone’s life.

Friday, January 13, 2017

What’s in a Name 
Yesterday, I was thinking of my cousins and their names. My aunt and uncle Cosey and Clyde Brothers had seven children. Because Clyde and Cosey each had five letters in their names, they decided to name each of their children with names that had five letters as well. The choices of names started with Clyde Jr., then came David. Wayne, Linda, Ellen, and Darla were born. I purposefully overlooked one name and that was the name that caused confused my aunt Cosey.
Cosey shared with my mom that she liked the name Deborah, but Deborah had more than the “allowed” five letters. After they talked, my mom Sybil Beck suggested an alternative spelling. That is how Debra brothers got her name.
I know that I’ve shared this story before, but decided that it fit into this theme, so I am including it here. The incident occurred when I was a corpsman in the United States Navy. A pregnant woman came into the hospital in Keflavik, Iceland with pre-eclampsia. Pre-eclampsia is a condition that causes a pregnant mother’s blood pressure to rise dangerously. It can be life threatening to both the mother and the unborn infant. Her condition caused her to be in and out of the hospital frequently, because her abdomen was so large, we would tease her about having twins. She would tell us that her doctor assured her that there was only had one child inside. This was before ultrasounds machines and could be judged by listening for heartbeats with a fetascope.
When she came in, she delivered a set of twin girls on an off shift. The next morning, I went into her room intent on teasing her about actually delivering twins. When I entered her room, my plans shifted immediately. She was crying. I asked why she was she was crying. She explained that she had the name Alice picked out if she had a daughter and now she had two she was afraid, “If I name one of them Alice I think I will love her more than the other.”

I’m not known as a person who is at a loss for words or for ideas, off the top of my head I immediately suggested, “Why not name them with names close to Alice, but not really Alice, like Allison and Alicia?” So I got to name a set of twins and I was invited to their home to babysit them the first time their parents went on a date, post-delivery. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

By the Light of the Silvery Moon 
This was the first line on a song, sung by Doris Day. My mom Sybil Beck would sometimes sing a line or two as was her habit with any song. I don’t know if I am becoming overly sentimental or whether I am just noticing things more acutely, but the moonlight on the snow seems exceptionally beautiful. The shadows cast by a full moon makes silhouettes of the bare tree branches. They somehow appear more hauntingly romantic and ghostly. The limbs dark specters on the silver-blue snow are more impressive than the same shadows painted by the sun.
I also like to see the bright moonlight falling on tree branches coated with snow or ice. The freshly fallen snow is given a glow with a bluish sheen and the icy crystals shine with a silver gleam that appears to come from somewhere deep inside of their clear cold shell.
One of the many general types of winter’s scenes that will entice me to stop, take a second look, and possibly a third happens when the brilliant sheen of the moonlight slides across a pond or lake to create a lustrous pathway. The moon’s rays form a straight road that points its shining fingers back at its creator, the moon.
One specific incident that captured my imagination occurred one night as I drove on Route 130, near the little town of Pleasant Unity, Pennsylvania. The moon was exceptionally bright. I was paying only slight attention to the beauty that lay all around me and I was concentrating on the road and the driving conditions when I was assaulted by an inspiring vision of enchantment.
A small barn that was set back off the road at the edge of a field was bathed in the light of the full moon. It glowed as though it had been built of silver. Its sides were shining even more brightly than the blue snow reflecting the moon’s soft glow that surrounded it. The snow covered roof and cupola were framed by the black velvety sky and the night’s white starred gems. The scene is still firmly lodged in my head, after all of these years. I am trying to share that vision with you, but I feel my words are woefully inadequate to express the awe and beauty that I experienced so many winter nights ago.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Crayon Box 
I was reminded of the colors in a Crayon box as I put away a Christmas gift, a box of colored pencils. Each time I sit in front of my computer or pull out my pad and pen, I open my brain’s Crayon box. Sometimes I stare at the rainbow of waxy tips trying to decide which one I will pull out and begin to draw the picture I see in my mind. What word will I start my tale? Which order will I place the ideas so they make more sense? Can I place them properly so others can share the vision that I see?
Actually, I can physically paint and draw well enough to satisfy my needs, but I am in no way an exemplary artist, so I have reverted to presenting a picture by shaping and designing the tale with my words. Choosing the correctly “colored” word is sometimes a long process, requiring me to erase, change, and intensify a single word to say what I really want to express. I know that they say, “A picture paints a thousand words” so I have my work cut out for me each time I try to share a memory, a vision, or a story. Painting with words, I also expect to use your own thoughts and imagination to fill in the shades of colors between the outline I have drawn. I want to share ideas that resonate with other folks past experiences or that stir their imagination.
Each time I sit to write, I stare at an empty white screen or a clean yellow and blue lined page. I open that box, to allow my thoughts wander before pulling out the first Crayon to make the first stroke. Often my ideas swirl like a kaleidoscope or a maelstrom, waiting for something to fall out, waiting for something to tempt me, to impress me enough to put it down on paper, to share it with you, and attempt to express it deeply enough for you to see my vision.

The cool thing about Crayons is that no matter whether they are old and worn down, they can still be used to create something beautiful. I am often feeling worn down and old, but I do my best to create something beautiful for you all.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Dark and Dreary 
I am wearied from the chore of removing all the ornaments, garland, lights, as well as the tree topper star from the Christmas tree. After, I lugged down all of the bins down from an empty upstairs bedroom, I spread the empty boxes out on a folding table and the sofa. Then I tried to match the specific container with its usual storage space. This year, I tried to be more specific storing them, separating my older ornaments from the “soft” and homemade ones from the granddaughters and the ones given to my wife, Cindy as a teacher from her students over the years.
Only taking an occasional break to watch television, sit, sort, and store various screws and nails into proper receptacles, I spent most of the day tucking Christmas decorations away for another year. The artificial tree limbs were wrapped, tied, and stacked inside of its bathtub sized storage bin. I toted it upstairs and placed in one of my unused bedrooms. It felt almost like dragging a heavy human body to the second story. Smaller bins soon followed. The last traces of the yuletide holiday disappeared into the vacuum cleaner.

I’m sitting in my recliner, staring at the spot vacated by the tree holds an old rocking chair, one I bought for Cindy. Its frame was constructed by the Amish from bent Mountain Laurel. The seat and back of the rocker were made from steam-shaped oak slats. As a girl, she grew up sitting in ones like it on Camp Christian’s Millhouse porch. The bright lights and sparkling of ornaments have given way to the dim memories of the past.