Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Youthful Snow-filled Memories

            As I drove from my home just outside of the village of White, Pennsylvania to my sister’s home in Indian Head for Christmas, I began to recall the many times I had driven it in the snow. The twisting road called Poplar Run was always beautiful. The snow hanging heavy on the bare branches of beech, oak, and maple, making lacey patterns that often glistened in the sunlight and even in the headlights of the car. The most beautiful sight of all was the young pines that had been planted on a steep slope. It was as though they had horded much of the snow and wrapped themselves in a thick white quilt. They are now old and sparsely needled, but then, they were in their prime, full and heavily covered in their dark green needles. They would pop into view as I would make the turn and suddenly, they were there, a feast for the eyes. It was beauty almost beyond belief, the darkness of the needles contrasting with the new-fallen snow.
            It was a sight I always enjoyed, even as a child, riding in the back seat of my parent’s car. My view was sometimes hampered by my position in the backseat, but it was always enjoyable. Other roads that my dad, Carl would drive on allowed different memories. I can recall having to press my face against the car’s window and look upward to see the sky over the top of the drifted and plowed snow.
            My dad hated to be late. One morning we tried three different roadways to get to church during a snow storm. The roads were slippery and snow covered. When we pulled into the parking lot of the white clapboard Clinton Church of God, they music was playing and the congregation was singing a hymn. Dad told us to get back into the car and he drove us all home. I’m sure that God wouldn’t have minded, but Dad was a stickler for being punctual.
            This year, snow has been scarce and almost nonexistent, so to play in the snow, I must revel in my memories of snow ball battles, sled riding, and the cold wintertime beauty that remain in my mind.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Endless Supply of Characters

            After thirty-five years of working as a nurse, I have obtained a nearly endless supply of characters and plots for stories. I write fiction about a retired homicide detective from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but none of his dealings come close to the memories that have accumulated inside my head over those years on the job. The thing that aimed my thoughts back to those memories is a necktie.
            It was given to me by a fellow worker named Nancy. Nancy manned the switchboard. She was a buxomly blonde, pleasant and well-spoken. The switchboard was centrally located and was in an area that was nearly devoid of phones. It was easier for me to answer calls in the switchboard itself than for me to move to another area to find a phone. I became friends with all of the operators, but this memory and the tie was from Nancy.
            When I entered the “communications room” one evening, I mentioned that the blouse that she was wearing was nice. It was black with splotches of colors in a deep yellow, a dark green and violet. The darkness of it enhanced the blondeness of her coif. When I complimented the blouse, she replied, “This old thing. I hate it.”
            I said, “It looks very nice on you.”
            Again she snarled, “I’m going home and throw it away.”
            “Why? It’s a pretty blouse.”
            “”If you think it is so pretty, I’ll go home, wash it and you can give it to your wife,” she replied.
            I knew that I wasn’t going to get anywhere arguing, so I made the call and Shot as I departed, “I still think it’s a nice blouse,” and hurried away.
            It was Christmas and I always bought a small gift for the different operators, especially once I knew their likes. I can’t remember what I got Nancy that year, but when I came into the switchboard, she scooted her chair back and pulled out a long thin box, covered in bright wrapping paper and a large bow.
            “”Here, this is for you,” she said. Her face was transformed by a sly smile. She watched, the smirk growing larger as she watched me unwrap it. It was a tie made out of the material of that blouse. As a nursing supervisor, I wore a tie for the many occasions. The patients, families, and staff seemed to like it and I have nearly one hundred ties still in my arsenal.
            When I wore it for the first time and Nancy saw it, she swore and said, “It makes a nicer tie than it did as that old blouse.”
            Nancy is dead now and I only pull that old blouse tie out once a year to wear it in memory of her and the story. I usually wear it on New Year’s Eve. I wore it to church yesterday, to celebrate the upcoming New Year. That was for you, Nancy.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Silence Isn’t Always Golden
            When I woke this morning still tucked beneath my blankets and warm and I lay there in the darkness, the house seemed unnaturally quiet. It was Christmas morning and there were no children and no wife to chase the silence away with laughter and excitement. It was just me and the cat, Willow.
            When my wife Cindy was alive, she was so much more eager to get at the presents that were wrapped and were circling the Christmas tree, like pioneers’ wagons warding off an Indian attack. Many times we’d gotten to bed after wrapping those gifts only a few hours before, but that didn’t matter. She was more excited that the kids. If they hadn’t wakened by five a.m., she’d sing and bang into walls or find some way to make loud noises to arouse the sleeping children.
            It wouldn’t be long until the squeals of delight of our kids saying, “It’s Christmas. It’s Christmas,” would join with ours. Amanda, Andrew, and Anna would head into the living room to find that the Christmas tree lights were lit and many times, there would be some kind of Christmas music playing.
            The first things to be emptied were the stockings. Every small gift inside had to be wrapped in bright paper. It was a flurry of paper bits until every treasure had been discovered. Once that was accomplished, Cindy would distribute the gifts until each child had a stack of gifts piled beside them. It was time to unwrap. Again the blizzard of shredded paper filled the air.
            One thing that we did learn was to place all wrapped clothing into large white trash bags secured with a bow. When the kids finished opening toys and other gifts and the discarded paper wrapping was gathered, they could open their bags of clothing to see what was lurking inside. It was easier and safer to do this with the “unexciting” clothes than to search the mountain of paper bits looking for socks or underwear.
            This morning, the tree is lit and gifts still surround the tree, but the silent anticipation of the family coming to my house has replaced the explosion of excitement of Christmas morning.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas Remembrances

            While I was wrapping some gifts that I had bought in Christmas paper, I became hungry for Kentucky Fried Chicken. I am not sure if I had a yearning for it or thought of Christmastime for my grandparents Edson and Anna Beck. They were in their mid-eighties by this time and what to get them for the holiday became a problem for my wife Cindy and me. Mom said when she helped Grandma clean their bedrooms they still had clothing in their cellophane wrappings from the stores, tucked into the dresser drawers.
            They reached the age when Grandma didn’t decorate the house for Christmas any longer. Gift buying for them became more and more difficult, until I learned that they liked Col. Sanders’ secret recipe. After that, it was easy. I would go the Connellsville, Pennsylvania restaurant and buy a bucket of chicken with all of the fixings about a week before Christmas day. It was a gift that they enjoyed and that they used. Because they ate so little, they dined on it for entire week. We never found any chicken tucked away in cellophane in any drawers.
            We also began to buy a Christmas tree for them. Not one of the large ones, but the ones that were about fourteen inches high and sold with a few decorative bulbs already on it. That would be their Christmas display. Granddad would water it and keep it in the basement after the holiday and when spring arrived, he would plant it in their back yard.
            My brother-in-law bought my grandparents house when they died and has remodeled it. He occasionally complains about the pines in the back yard. There must be ten of them that have grown to be quite large and overshadow his garden.
            In another posting, I may share the Nativity set that I bought for them. Grandma kept it up all year and claimed the coveted spot on top of their T.V.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Nothing to Sneeze about

            I woke this morning with a stuffy head and sneezing. It reminded me of my grandfather Raymond Miner and his distinctive sneeze. The sound of his sneezing was almost as quiet as he was, but it would sound like he said “Er-rassole.”  My brother and I were always amused hearing him. I can’t remember my grandmother sneezing, but I guess it is the unusual ones that we remembered.
            Sybil, my mom’s wasn’t unusual, but she tried to stifle it and would sneeze into the cleavage of the blouse or dress that she was wearing.  I guess that I sneeze much the same way, only I sneeze into my elbow bend or into my shirt front. Some people have told me that stifling a sneeze is dangerous and that I could collapse a lung. I tell them, when I feel a sneeze coming on, I push all of the breath out of my lungs, so there is nothing for the sneeze to force out.
            I am a three sneeze person. Each time that the urge hits me, I know that the first one will be followed by two more. Most people I know sneeze twice. A rare person will sneeze once. My granddad Miner was a solo sneezer, but memorable because of the sound.
            Walking hand in hand with sneezing are those who blow their nose. Some just give a soft zephyr sound while a few others would put the angel Gabriel to shame. My uncle Dale was a person who would pull out his dark blue, work handkerchief and honk loudly into it.
            I’ve know ladies who have carried lace edged or embroidered, dainty-looking handkerchiefs. They were scented and were used to ward off offensive odors by daubing at their noses. Their kerchiefs were pulled from pockets, purses, or from the edge of a long sleeve and put into service. Much of that has gone the way of the Dodo and today they are replaced by boring white Kleenex or other brand names. The manufacturers market the tissues in “designer” boxes, but once they are pulled out, they are just softer, plain pieces of paper; toilet tissue on a “more refined” level. Once these tissues are used, they're tossed into the garbage or wadded into a ball and stuck into a pocket, to later shred in the washing machine. No longer are our handkerchiefs treasured, washed, ironed, and used when we sneeze. No longer are these lovely items passed from one generation to the next as memories of our passed loved ones.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Wear and Tear

            I babysat my granddaughter Hannah yesterday. She was wound up and wanted to do everything at once. Watch the television, building with the giant Leggo blocks, playing with Barbie dolls, look at the “Eye Spy” book, and eating. That kid has to have a hollow leg. An apple, a cookie, a toaster pastry, a cheese stick, several pineapple rings, and a beef stick followed each other into her gullet.
            While this was going on, the Everdry workmen were in the basement, trying to correct one last wet area in my cellar. Their jack hammer had the cat in hiding and Hannah clingy and staying close to my side. The workers finished their job, just before noon. I didn’t feel like cooking, so Hannah and I hit McDonald’s. She had the McNugget happy meal and I ate two fish sandwiches. I think that she was finally filled, because she didn’t eat her yogurt and we took that with us.
            I made a stop at my insurance agent to ask a question. Hannah saw their lollipop tree and had to have one. Lollipops must be like Jell-O, there’s always room for some.
            Although her belly was full, she was still wound up, and each time I used my phone, even though I don’t like using one, she would start to jabber and try to talk to me at the same time. I wanted to pull at my dwindling hair supply. I may sound like I don’t like sitting with Hannah, but that’s not true. I love her dearly. Sometimes it can be stressful.
            After her dad came home, I headed to a friend’s apartment to help her put a hook in her ceiling. She has a “hanging” Christmas tree and couldn’t attach the hook into the plastered ceiling. Mission accomplished, now onto the rest of my day. I attended the Mt. Pleasant Writers group meeting. It is a chance to learn a bit more about writing and share our labors.
            The Mt. Pleasant Library allows us to meet and to display our short stories in their lobby. Our writings are there for all who care to come in and read memories and poetry from and about the Christmas season. A late night meal and finally back home to plug in my Christmas lights and to start a fire in the wood burner before bedtime.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Ring Those Bells, Just Not in My Ears

            For twenty-six of the thirty-six years of my nursing career, I was a nursing supervisor. In the small hospital where I worked, I wasn’t only responsible for the nursing problems of staffing, complaints from staff, patients, and families, bed assignments, and problems with physicians, but all issues that occurred in the hospital. Every issue that impacted the patient became my concern and fell on my shoulders to resolve.
            One of the major irritations was the barrage of telephone calls. I have always hated talking on the telephone and will often put off making calls until I can no longer wait. It was almost a constant necessity that I use the phone. I would have to call for extra staff, cancel staff, or pass on information to patients about their next day surgeries. I would have to field calls of complaints, questions about medical problems, or taking phone orders from physicians for admissions or outpatient testing.
            Many times, I would walk through the hospital to talk with a person face-to-face instead of making the dreaded phone call. Part of it was the desire not to use the phone and the other part; I enjoyed the interaction with another person.
            All of these memories were stirred because of several calls that I need to make today. The reminders are on the desk in front of me and I am thinking, “Are there any that can wait, one more day?” I know that I am very much the opposite of those people today, who would almost die if they didn’t have their cell phones to their ears, but that is me.
            I never liked my voice on a tape recorder and that may be part of it. I don’t take a lot of selfies. I’ve never considered myself “poster-worthy.” Who wants to look at a Bizzaro world, Col. Sand

Monday, December 14, 2015

Just a short post today.

It’s Been a Busy Day

I was awakened by cramps in my feet at three-thirty a.m., finally deciding to get out of bed at five-thirty. I’ve been moving ever since. I posted my usual Christmas card on FaceBook and checked my e-mail. Messaging a friend, I made arrangements to meet Him and sell one of my books to him. I forgot until now, to post on my blogspot. Once I ate breakfast, I went to the basement to wash a load of clothes, empty the freezer to defrost it, and began to sweep and clean the basement. I thought that while I was downstairs washing and defrosting, I might as well clean the cellar. I’m taking a break and my daughter is visiting. I plan to get back downstairs and finish with cleaning for today.

Yesterday, I went to church, then I drove to the art museum in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. It was another good meeting doing critiques on other writer’s works. In gentle and sometimes humorous prodding, we try to improve the presentation suggesting word changes, punctuation, or change in order of paragraphs to create a better work. We greeted a new member and hopefully made her welcome.
In the evening, I drove to my daughter’s church. It was the Christmas program for my granddaughter Hannah. She dressed like a Christmas gift as a part of the play, sang with the junior choir, and spore a recitation. All in all, it was a good day.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Work, Work, Work

            So many tasks have been pulling in every direction. Each time I think I am getting somewhere I find another chore that needs done. The kitchen floor needed swept and mopped, so I did it. I think that the cat causes all of the dirt. She and I are the only ones at home and I certainly didn’t make all of that mess. Well, it’s done for now. While I cleaned the floor, I washed and dried the rugs. Now, that room is done for a little while.
            Yesterday, I packaged and stored the first batch of venison jerky and put the second on to dry. I waited for the first batch so that I could send some to my son and his family in Amarillo, Texas. I wrapped all of their gifts, took them to Going Postal, and mailed them out. I made a stop at Brown’s Candy Kitchen To send a box of chocolates to some friends. The price of the candy wasn’t cheap, but the postage was almost two thirds of the price of the chocolates.
            I burned the paper trash and hung out the venison cornucopia for the birds and wild critters around my house. Each year, I hang the rib cage of my deer in a tree at my side yard after filling it with scraps of tallow, unusable meat bits, and fat from the butchered venison. It helps the feathered and furred critters survive the winter.
            Today is much the same sweeping and dusting the living room and doing the bathrooms. I might even make my bed. I really should change the flannels. They don't smell fresh anymore.
            I have to make some food to take to a Christmas party. It is a little difficult when the host suggests that you bring desserts, but no sugar. Maybe I’ll take a bag of lemons. Just kidding Sally, I do have something in mind.
            I need to hit the barber shop sometime today. My hair looks so shaggy and long when I first get up, I look like the wild man of Borneo. I wonder how I can be so busy and retired. When I was working I had a wife and kids to do some of the chores inside the house and I took care or the chores outside. Now, like a brazier, I do double duty.


Monday, December 7, 2015

Grinchly Day

            Yesterday, when I woke I was in a bit of a down day. I had a sore stiff neck because of a pulled muscle. After brushing my teeth and shaving, I moved to my closet to choose a tie to wear to church. It was the beginning of December and I wanted to wear one of my Christmas tie, but wasn’t really in the mood. Flipping through the selection, I found a tie with the Grinch wearing his Santa hat and coat. That would do and placed it on the ironing board.
            I woke about four thirty a.m. and went to the kitchen to start the barbecue meatballs for the meal at a writers meeting later in the day. Into the Crockpot went the bags of preformed meatballs, the bottle of sauce, and to doctor it up, I added about twenty-five restaurant packages of sauces brought home from Abby’s, Wendy’s KFC, and local Chinese eateries.
            As I sat in church, that Grinchly feeling began to ease, even though the sore neck remained fairly constant. I was less crabby by the time I left the service.
            I stopped at a local bake shop to buy a loaf of fresh bread for the Christmas party to go with the meatballs. While I was there, I was my usual pleasant, convivial self as I handed out business cards to the customers and the cashier. I explained that I was a writer and had three books published, sharing that they were mysteries and that I had a BlogSpot. They both seemed interested. As I placed my bread in the car, I noticed my book bag in the back seat. I pulled out all three to show them what they looked like. I sold and signed the three different books to one lady and the cashier, six books total.
            After the meal, many of us read short stories or poetry, sharing our thoughts with the other writers. It was a time for me to mingle, sharing smiles among friends and talented people. More of my grumpy attitude slid away.
            I made it home in time to brush my teeth and drive to the evening services at church. Again, I was blessed with a scriptural sermon and an evening to relax with fellow friends and Christians. By the time I got home and settled for the night, the grump had nearly disappeared. How blessed I am to have those wonderful people in my life.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Remarkable! I stopped at a local bake shop to buy a loaf of fresh bread for a Christmas party/ writers meeting/ pot luck meal. While I was there, I was my usual pleasant, convivial self when I handed out my business cards to the customers and the cashier. I explained that I was a writer and had three books published, sharing that they were mysteries and that I had a BlogSpot. They both seemed interested. As I placed my bread in the car, I noticed my book bag in the back seat. I pulled out all three to show them what they looked like and made sales. I sold and signed the three different books to one lady and the cashier, six books total.

Friday, December 4, 2015

When What to My Wandering Eyes

There was a time in history when a person could go out into a field where pine trees grew wild. They would cut one to bring it into their homes. It wasn’t quite stealing, but close. The trees were always fresher and cheaper than going to a lot to buy one. A friend was doing just that, accompanied by his wife to get an evergreen tree. Once he and his axe were clear of the car, she drove away, planning to return later to collect him and the newly acquired tree. So that the friend would recognize it was his wife, she was planning to flash the headlights of the car, then he would hurry back to the road with his prize and quickly load it into the car. The trunks of cars were larger back then and unless the tree was huge, it would fit in the car’s trunk with only the tip of the pine peeking out from a tied down lid. If the limbs were too large, the tree could be tied to the car’s sturdy steel roof for the short transport back home.
            It was cold that winter’s day and the man was warmly dressed in his red and black Woolrich pants, coat, and hat. Thick Woolrich clothing was the accepted winter and hunting clothing of that time period. Having cut the tree, he squatted on a bank above the road to watch for the return of his wife. When the headlights of an oncoming car flashed, he hopped down onto the roadway only to find that it wasn't his wife. The oncoming car had rolled over a bump in the road and the headlights only appeared to flash. He told me that the surprise on the driver's face was stupendous when he suddenly leaped into the road. Can you imagine driving along and seeing a man clad from head to foot in red at Christmastime, carrying an evergreen tree hop into view?
          When my wife, Cindy and I started our own home and our own tradition of Christmas and trees, one thing she insisted on was that the star topper had to touch the ceiling of our mobile home. Our mobile home had a vaulted roof in the living room in front of the windows. One of the live trees I brought home had a full bottom. It did reach the eight foot ceiling. The problem with the tree occurred because the bottom limbs filled more than half of the width of the trailer. All season long, while the tree was up, we had to skirt those limbs to move through the mobile home, but the star brushed the ceiling.
It was the last live tree that we had. Up until that point, my uncle Ted and I went together to get the tree for Grandma Miner and one for Cindy and me. When he died, Christmas wasn’t the same and I had no desire to drive to the grove of pines and cut a tree. That was the year we bought an artificial


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Double Your Pleasure

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of going out to hunt and later to visit PNC Park. The day started at four a.m. when I finally decided to get out of bed. All night long I was afraid that I’d sleep in and woke to check the time every two hours. At five a.m. my brother called and said he’d made a mistake. He changed the time to meet at his house by six fifteen. So I wrote my BlogSpot post, put my postcard on Facebook, ate breakfast, and got dressed with plenty of time to spare.
I made it to my tree stand by six forty-five, was settled in, and waited in the predawn light. When my eyes adjusted, I could see glowing in the moonlight some slender bare tree trunks looking every bit like skeletal remains rising from the darkness. Patches of lichen flickered blue-green. As the daylight grew, the titmice around me began their single note serenade, soon to be joined by the chickadees. The strength of the wind made the thick poplar at my back begin to sway, pressing against me like a lover seeking to cuddle and get warm. It was a bit disconcerting to feel the seat beneath me move as well.
Watching the area for movement, I could see the circular green briar leaves beneath me shaking and nearby pines swaying. Several branches near me began to make music like the bow of one branch drawing across the strings of another. Silently, two does strolled into view, partially concealed by tall weeds and partly camouflaged by their coloration. Because it was buck season, I allowed them to disappear into the thick brush.
I was constrained by time and left early to go home, shower, and get dressed to visit PNC Park with some friends. I dressed in my Col. Sanders attire and we made it in time. We were early and some of us walked around the outside until it was time for the tour. A lovely woman named Holly and her tall handsome male counterpart named Brice met us. They greeted us and took us through many of the behind the scene parts of the stadium: the service level, suite level, and club levels. Two parts of the tour that really impressed me and that I enjoyed were sitting in the Pirates bullpen and standing in the press box area looking out over the field. The views of Pittsburgh were tremendous from both areas. That is why the Pirates bullpen is on the third base line and not the first base side like the home teams in other parks. It was an impressive tour, ending up in the spacious and splendid club house of the park. Outdoor seats surrounded balconies where attendees could eat and watch the games from these lofty aeries
Our two tour guides were knowledgeable and courteous, although my one friend who is an avid Pirate’s fan did hit them with a few unexpected questions and one question for which they didn’t have an answer.
Once the tour was finished, we decided to stop to eat. We hadn’t eaten. On the return trip we stopped to eat at the Cracker Barrel. It was almost five thirty by the time I settled back into my house. It had been a long day. I was glad to be home after a long and wonderfully enjoyable day.

Monday, November 30, 2015

When What to My Wandering Eyes

            Yesterday, when my brother Ken and I were looking for the place for me to wait to see if I can get a buck for deer season, we were on an unused road in an overgrown area of an old farm, when we heard a small silver gray car coming along the road. From the condition on the road I’d seen I was surprised to see it maneuvering along. Rocks, water-worn channels, and ridges made me think the driver didn’t know where he was going or didn’t care what condition his low-slung vehicle was in when he finished the trail. My brother shook his head as well.

            The driver had entered on the opposite entrance of the road than we had. What I had already seen, the driver was in for more surprises than he’d already seen. Ken said that there were large waterholes and muddy tracks to drive on with high ridges in the center of the tracks. He said he didn’t know how the guy in the driver’s seat managed to get as far as he did.
            My brother has a four wheel drive pickup truck and said, “When we leave, we’ll go out the way he came in and you can see the road.”

            As the car drove by us, I could hear the shock absorbers or struts rattle. It was a wonder that they were still on the car. When we finished deciding on the spot for me to hunt, we started the drive out. What we’d already driven on was rough and pockmarked with large stones and gullies, but what awaited us was even worse. There were a lot of water puddles, but one was almost six foot in diameter and almost axle deep on the truck. The road became a set of tracks with a high center. In many areas, drag marks on the muddy, rocky center left a signature of the little car’s passing.
            The car's descent to where we were was rutted and muddy. It was slow going for Ken’s truck and jostled us from side to side, slipping into the depressions caused by water creating the channels. High spots of rocks raised their heads and had to be edged around. There was one particularly rough spot where we saw the chrome ring from a wheel, probably left behind by the silver car. Once out on the township maintained road, I could only marvel on the stamina of the car and the stupidity of the driver.

Friday, November 27, 2015


            I woke this morning with a headache and a still neck. It’s not that uncommon for me. I’ve had headaches off and on for most of my adult life. The fall that I took this past February, hitting my head, hasn’t helped either the headaches or certainly not the arthritis in my neck. The aging of the body does lend itself to increasing function failure and general wear of the parts.
            I looked out my back window this morning and the grass that looked like a dull gray mat with its frosty coating yesterday, now had a golden glow to it. The frost chased away some of the underlying green changing many of the blades to brown. As the sun crept over the eastern horizon, its orange rays brushed its fingers the lawn and turned it into a rich looking tapestry. I hurried to the front of my house to see the sunrise. It was fabulous. Striations of light, sun-tinged clouds, and small streaks of blue sky greeted me. It was like looking at a multi-layered desert for my eyes.

            Thanksgiving feast at my sister, Kathy and her husband, Doug’s home was so nice. It was a time for our family to gather, eat, share stories, and be generally thankful for the things in our lives. Turkey, ham, potatoes, both sweet and mashed, stuffing, noodles, corn, gravy and rolls graced the kitchen. It would be too hard to have all on a table, and we trooped through the kitchen, loading our plates before we sat down to eat after Doug said the blessing.
            We found some more photos and postcards and went through them after the meal, allowing the food to settle. The pictures that our dad kept from WW II were found, stuck in a closet. He never spoke much of the things that he saw in the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, and other places. He gave a short biography of his life to me to type up for him and I found that he visited Hiroshima. He wouldn’t talk about it. I assume that it was after the bomb was dropped. He did tell a few stories to us when we found the black and white photos, but of the people and very little else.
            Since I am sharing my Thanksgiving, I want to express my thankfulness to all of the veterans, whether alive or dead, inactive or active duty, no matter where they are for your service in keeping the United States free to celebrate another Thanksgiving Day.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Frosty Frosting

            Looking out my windows this morning, the grass is covered in a thick coating of frost. The light of the sun hasn’t reached it yet. It looks like a dull, fuzzy gray mat, dead and lifeless. Very soon, the fingers of the warming luminary will touch this thick carpet and make it blaze and glisten as though my yard has been strewn with millions of miniscule diamonds. The dull mat will suddenly explode into a breathtaking, eye catching, mind boggling display. So often we miss seeing the beauty around us. We forget to anticipate miracles that occur daily, because we don’t take the time to look or to listen.
            Yesterday, I was listening to the wind in the pines. It wasn’t a gentle breeze that is said to whisper in the pines, but it was stronger. It actually made the several evergreens around me sing. Their needled branches swayed and kept time with the music. I stopped to listen for a few minutes. Their voices rose and fell in intensity, coinciding with the strength of the wind.
            I can remember as a child at my grandmother Miner’s home, I would escape the hustle and noise of a large family get together, by going outside onto the front porch. It was sheltered by three tall pines and a hemlock tree. The wind always moved through their dark needles. It was a comforting sound.
            Grandma always kept old carpet runners on the green painted Adirondack loveseat to cover her plants in the cold weather. Most of the gatherings happened at Thanksgiving and Christmas, so the air outside was chilly. My oasis from the noise and confusion inside was to roll up in those carpets and listen to the chorus of evergreens singing a winter song. Snug and warm in the carpet cocoon, I would relax in a world of my own thoughts, enticed by the song of the wind and the pines.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Nothing to Sneeze At

I’m a little late posting today. I wanted to wait until my computer repairman came and did a clean out of all the insults and problems that I managed to get into and onto my computer. He just left. In preparation to his visit, I straightened up the clutter in my writing room. Today, just before the appointment, I wiped down my desk and both keyboards with a Lysol disposable wipe and sprayed the air with Citrus Lysol. I woke today with sneezing and a runny nose. I’m not sure if it is an allergy or whether it will turn out to be a full-fledged upper respiratory tract infection. If it is an infection, there is no reason for me to share it.
The spraying of the Lysol caused Willow the cat to run from room to room, afraid and agitated at the canister’s hissing sound. She also hates the sound of the vacuum and ran when I swept the carpet.
Both computers are Windows 2008 and he was able to set both desk tops as twin screens, making it easier for me to maneuver through my computers. He gave instructions how to us the malware and antivirus options more thoroughly.
My computer had been steadily running more slowly, like the sludge that builds up in a pipe limits the flow of water, any viruses, spyware, and other problems do the same to the efficiency of the computer. Things are much better now that he has worked his magic.
While he sorted things out and cleared the mess I made over the years since I last called him, we talked. It was four plus years when he last made a house call to service my computer. As programs ran, we shared things that happened over the intervening years. I retired, fell and had bleeds to my brain, the marriage of my daughter, Anna and my summer trip through Pennsylvania. He shared that his son is following his footsteps and repairing computers and that his wife likes to read. I showed him my books and gave him my business card. It was almost like getting reacquainted with an old friend, someone that I enjoyed talking with. He is so amicable and friendly, it doesn’t seem like a business transaction. Thank you, Tom.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Gray Ghosts of Pennsylvania

            I was reminded of these ghostly creatures as I drove home from my daughter Amanda’s home after eating a wonderful evening meal of roast beef, whipped potatoes, and corn.  There are several ways I could have driven, but I prefer to take the one less traveled. At night, headlights from oncoming cars, especially those new bright-white ones, play havoc with my vision.
            As I drove along a straight-away that was forested on one side and scattered homes on the other, suddenly one of those ghosts appeared in my headlights, moving at breakneck speed, barely missing the front end of my car. One second it was there and the next, it had disappeared into the darkness outside the beams of my headlights.
            My second reminder of these wraith-like creatures came last evening as I drove home after a meeting with friends, fellow writers, and a meal. I was again reminded of them by the sudden appearance and almost immediate disappearance of these woodland wraiths, twice on my journey home. Their reminders occurred at different, separate wooded areas.
            By now, you’ve probably guessed the identity of these beasts to be the Pennsylvania whitetail deer. A gentle creature in most folks eyes, but a beast that can wreak havoc with a vehicle, destroy a summer garden, or browse into oblivion the landscaping around homes. Almost silent, these herbivores wander through the forests and suburbs with equal ease.
            I do hunt, harvest, butcher, and eat their meat, actually preferring to do that that to purchase what is offered at the neighborhood stores. Their almost silent stealth-mode sometimes makes it difficult to locate them in the brown, leaf strewn woods. Their coloration camouflages them makes them difficult to see in the clutter and debris of the trees. Sleek and slender, juicy and tender, these are the gray ghosts of Pennsylvania.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Sentimental Journey

            Saturday, while I was driving from Normalville, Pennsylvania to Ohiopyle, I began to have nudges of sentimentality that edged on nostalgia. It all began as I neared the old metal truss bridge that spanned Indian Creek. It was no longer there. The new span is simply a two lane road with the bridge hidden beneath the roadway. There is no longer the feeling of crossing the stream on a bridge. It is nice, but the feeling of nostalgia began to ooze into my brain. There was a feeling of loss of something familiar; some memory of my childhood had passed.
            No longer would there be difficulties with two large trucks passing on it. There would be less of a chance that the metal overhead structure would be struck by a truck bed that was accidentally raised or by a too tall vehicle or one with a high load. The superstructure was now gone and carted away.
            I have driven this road many times, but that day everything seemed more intense and impending. I could almost feel each tree pressing close on both sides of the winding road. Oak, beech, maple, and then pines and hemlock sped past my car windows, peering in at me. The hardwood trees were mostly bare, their dark limbs were a stark reminder that winter is hovering near, just over the horizon. The evergreens darkened and deepened the mood.
            Winter has never been a season that I enjoyed. Part of it was the having to clear my drive to go to work and then be on the road with people who have no idea how to slow down and maneuver on an icy or snow covered surface. The cold was another factor. I don’t believe I was created to live in frigid weather with winds whipping around me and through my clothing.
            Last year, I tried to embrace my least favorite season and purchased a set of cross country skis, poles, and boots. I made several circuits of my yard over several days before the ice in my drive put an end to all of that. I guess it was winter’s retaliation. I slipped and fell, hitting my head. I have no recollection of the fall or most of the following five hours. My visit to the emergency room, all of the tests, scans, and x-rays are buried somewhere in my brain. What they did reveal was that I had two bleeds in my brain, a subdural and a subarachnoid. That put a stop on my skiing.
            This winter, I may venture out and try to cross country ski again, bundled and warm for sure. I do tend to be a couch potato in the cold months and could use the fresh air and exercise.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Books My Fun Between the Covers

            When I as a kid at home, if I wasn’t outside playing, I had a book in my hands reading. My mother, Sybil Beck complained because I would be reading two or three books at a time. She would fuss saying that I had a book open on the arms of the couch and the chairs. She couldn’t understand how I could do it. I tried to explain that school teaches students to do that. The teachers don’t make us read through the math book before we go on to geography or English books.
            I get the love of books from her. She liked to read and often she would read to us kids. One time in particular, I can remember that we begged for one more story. She relented and began to read about Mr. Partridge and her family. Several paragraphs in, she accidentally said Mrs. Fartridge and became flustered. She never finished that tale, but sent us to bed.
            As the disease of Alzheimer’s claimed more and more of her faculties, she complained that her vision got worse and worse. She went for eye exams and got new glasses, but to no avail. In reality, she forgot how to read. That was difficult for me to watch.
            My kids haven’t caught the bug to read, but my sister, Kathy Basinger and her daughter, Becky Ritenour have inherited that trait and love books. Because Becky is an English teacher, she doesn’t want to read books that I’ve written with her critical eye and that’s okay, my sister likes them.
            Reading books weren’t enough for me. I enjoy writing and have reams of poetry and scribbled words stacked beside my desk. I love to play with words and like to insert words that have a double meaning to tease my readers. Sometimes it will be a name of the positioning of words.
            I now have written and had published three books about a retired homicide cop with the nickname of Tommy Two Shoes, from Pittsburgh who solves mysteries. I picture him to look like the solid actor William Bendix. My editor calls the stories cozy mysteries. My last book, The Twelve Murders of Christmas does have Tommy remembering murders that he and his partner solved before he retired. All of the murders occurred between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. They are still cozy mysteries. I don’t like to put a lot of violence, blood, gore, and guts in the books. There is enough of that in the world. I just like to put easy reading mysteries for folks to enjoy.
            Saturday, November 14, 2015 I will be reading and offering my books for sale at the Latrobe Art Center from eleven a.m. until two p.m. for anyone who might be in the area and can stop in.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veteran’s Day
            Today is the day that the United States has chosen to honor those men and women who have selflessly served, fought, and sometimes died to preserve the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution. In peacetime and in our wars, men and women went where the Commander-in-Chief and the Congress has asked them to go and to do what was asked of them to keep the borders and their families secure. It is to honor those people who have diligently completed those tasks and their stories were often written in their own blood.
            My father, Edson Carl Beck, served in the Army during World War II. He was in the Philippines driving truck and assisting the chaplain there. Later, I found that he had visited Hiroshima in Japan. Like many soldiers, he didn’t talk about what he saw, but occasionally showed us a piece of shrapnel that injured him from an exploding bomb.
            My father-in-law, Elmer “Bud” Morrison, serve d in the Army as well, during World War II. His battle station was in Germany and because of his skills, helped to build the Can-Am Highway, connecting the state of Washington with the state of Alaska through Canada. Because of the dedication of these workers, it was finished in record time.
            I want to remember and honor the many friends and relatives who served, but I won’t mention them by name lest I forget one and make them think that I don’t respect them and what they did.
            Although I served as a Naval Corpsman during the Vietnam War, I did want to remember one young man among the many who died there. Dewayne Barkley. As I grew up, he would visit his grandparents and we would play together as kids and became good friends. One thing left in my bucket list is to visit Washington D.C. and locate his name on the wall of the Vietnam Memorial.
            Last Friday, I went to a service prepared and presented by Mt Carmel Christian School. It was remarkably well done, poignant, and represented each war the United States was involved in and honored each branch of our military. They also honored each service member in the audience by calling their name and personally thanking them.
            I wish I could do the same and thank each and every member of the armed forces who are still on active duty, each one who have served who are living, and for those who have died. God bless each and every one of you.

Monday, November 9, 2015

My Weekend

            My fabulous weekend started on Friday when I attended a Veteran’s Day event at Mt. Carmel Christian School just outside of Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania. The faculty worked with the young men and women to present a program that truly honored those people who have served in the military to protect and preserve the freedoms that we still enjoy in the United States of America. The presentation by these students was remarkable. The older classes were dressed in military uniforms and did all of the recitations, while the younger grades dressed in red, white, and blue clothing.
             Prayer and patriotic songs were woven into a sensitive tribute to those who served so diligently to protect our country and its heritage. The flag representing each branch of the military, including the Coast guard were carried down the center aisle and placed on stands at the front of the auditorium.
            Memorized stories from soldiers, sailors, airmen, and wives at home had been memorized and shared it a very dramatic and heart-stirring presentations. The names of the men and women veterans were called. These patriots stood and were recognized and thanked.
            There was a listing and recitation of the many wars that our men women fought from the French and Indian Wars through our present day struggle in Afghanistan. The hymns from each branch of the service were played on the piano. Many times my throat tightened and the misting of my eyes intruded on my thoughts. One specific moment was when Taps was played by a bugler. It brings back memories of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for God, country, families, and for the freedom that we all enjoy. I give a special thanks to all of the students and staff for all of the hard work and their dedication to make it so memorable.
            There was a time afterward to eat, talk and mingle with others. There was plenty of food and it was delicious.

            Saturday, at Mt. Zion Community Church at the top of Kreinbrook Hill Road, I joined about twelve other people to assemble the Scripture of Romans and John booklets. They were printed in the Portuguese language and were being sent to missionaries in Portugal at their request. The printing is done by a church in Ohio. Their mission is to print and have other churches to assemble these books to keep costs down and make more Scripture available to those countries that have a need.
            All in all, we assembled five thousand four hundred and fifty-five of the John and Romans sections of the Bible. Bearing Precious Seed is an outreach worth others investigating and possibly inviting into your congregation to present their desire to place Bibles in the hands of every person in the world. We were told that for on the average, every book we assembled, would be read by seven people and out of the seven, one would receive Christ and salvation.

Friday, November 6, 2015


            I think that I’ve become spoiled. First the time change came into effect and made waking up more tolerable in the semidarkness and not into a pitch black room. I know that it has correspondingly gotten darker earlier and make me want to head for bed, but that is slightly better. Why doesn’t the government decide to split the difference with a half hour, permanent change and the public wouldn’t have to reset their clocks and it would be a no fuss situation. But when has the government done anything that makes less paperwork and easier, unless we are talking about the immigration and no- I.D. voter registration.
            Enough of my political ranting and on to my next point that I wanted to write about. Today there is rain in the forecast and after several unusually warm and bright days of November, it is sort of a letdown. I would have liked it to continue for a few more days. T shirts and short weather would have been nice.
            While the weather was nice, I cleaned my chimney. My brother, Ken, the rusty steel wool haired brother helped so much. My kids don’t like me to be on the roof since my slip and fall on the ice last February that caused two bleeds in my head. Of course, I don’t listen, but it was nice to have the extra muscle cleaning it.
            My new books were delivered Wednesday afternoon and I have sold several. I have others asking where they can buy them. My editor has made them available on Amazon. She has even arranged for a package deal of all three in E-book form. The new book The Twelve Murders of Christmas, like the others, has a photo of a scene from somewhere in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This cover is more colorful and has a photo of the downtown Christmas tree and a large red bow.
            I also got a book that my editor put together. She collected several thriller submissions and I have a submission in it as well. It’s called Disturbance. Eight authors are represented, from Oregon and California to the east coast.
            The only other thing that has cast a slight pall on my exuberance is that my washing machine has stopped spinning out the water from my clothing. I will need to see if I can find a repairman or buy a new one. This washer has to be at least twenty years old and has lasted through a wife, three children, and of course myself.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Saving Grace

I woke today, thinking about those people who are service minded and are the reason that I am able to survive in this world: nurses, doctors, firemen, police, EMTs, paramedics, 9-1-1 operators, and the military. Most are not doing what they do for the financial reward, but are paid so that they can afford to continue and give of themselves to others.
As a nurse and once was a pre-hospital emergency response person, I can tell you that there were many situations that I would have liked to avoid. It wasn’t always the hardness of the problem or the magnitude of the incident, but handling people was more often the difficult part of the equation. People in stress often respond in harsh ways, making the situation much worse. Their reaction can magnify the problem and I had to try to calm things on multiple fronts, separating and quieting each to find a solution.
I was a supervisor for almost twenty-eight years. As middle management, I was responsible to handle anything that occurred, whether it involved staffing, bed assignments, irate families, codes, infrastructure failures, and any other need that arose. It was always the human factor that created the biggest variable and was the most difficult to handle.
As a manager, I was responsible to present any changes made by the hospital’s senior managers and to see that these changes were carried out. Many were not the most palatable, but I tried to ease them in by making the changes interesting and minimally intrusive. I was responsible to institute the changes and would be held accountable if they weren’t.
Often the decisions I made had never been addressed before and my on-the-fly choices needed to be spot on. I believe that my training as a naval corpsman and pre-hospital emergency responder helped me to find answers quickly and more often or not, correct.
I started this post as a thank you to those who daily provide twenty-four hour service to those in need, but I wanted to hail and salute the men and women in the military. They serve and provide protection while they are thousands of miles from their homes and their families.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Called to Task

            A schoolmate has called me to task for a remark that I posted on Facebook. It was a post that I shared of our President and a chimpanzee. He said that my post “hit below the belt.” Then yesterday, I was hit a second time by the sermon on respect of those in authority. They were put there by God and not by my vote or anyone else’s vote. Even though I dislike the man’s policies, his stand on so many things, and his deportment, it has carried over into disrespect of his office as President.
            I will still stand firm against the things he does, when it runs contrary to God’s Word, but I will be less caustic against him personally in my posts and my comments. I apologize to any people that I have offended with my remarks about him and will try to curtail my insults. I have been chastised and will try to be less complaining because I have edged closer to denigrating the office of Commander-in-Chief. My apology extends President Obama and to Governor Tom Wolf.
            My toes were tramped on by our Pastor yesterday morning when he spoke on the disrespect for authority in our country today and I readily agreed with him, but when I examined myself in the mirror of God's Word, I was as guilty as many others. I had respect for my parents, our teachers, our veterans, our military, our police, but fell short when I disparaged the men God allowed to be elected into office. My disparaging attitude and the disrespect of others have created a generation of young men and women who dishonor and have become insolent to our laws and authority.
            It may be nearing a time when God stops blessing America and starts to judge the United States. When a country turns its back on the Creator, spurns His laws, and disrespects Him as the ultimate authority, He has no option but to judge it. These leaders may be the way that He uses to destroy this nation. The sins of abortion, continued attacks on God-given freedoms, same sex marriage, and the suppression and opposition of Christians in our country rise as a stink to Heaven. Our country is teetering on the brink of destruction and unless there are people who will stand firm against sins against God, not Allah, we will continue to slide into the pit called Hell.
            To be honest, I have not been praying as much as I should for our leaders and I will attempt to do more, praying that God will change their hearts and that God will lead them.

            “Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.” Acts 23:5

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Doctor Delay

            Yesterday, I went with a friend to her doctor’s appointment in Monroeville. It was her first visit to the doctor and to the facility, so we were unsure of exactly where on the campus that she was supposed to be. She was told to arrive fifteen minutes early and was concerned that we wouldn’t be there in time. Her appointment time was eleven a.m. and we just made it inside the waiting area at eleven. By the time she gave the receptionist all of the information, it was twenty minutes later. She sat beside me to finish her medical history form.
            She needn’t have worried. The doctor was running late. He was detained in surgery, either by an emergency or a more complicated case than he thought. The small waiting area became crowded and restless. I wrote a few things on my pad that I carry, but soon that became tiring and I began to talk to others around me. The gentleman and his wife who sat closest were from Monroeville, Pennsylvania and had a business selling items to gift shops. As we talked I mentioned I was a writer and author, giving him my business card. He noticed that I had a BlogSpot and began to read some of my entries. When I told him that I’d written three books, he asked and I wrote their titles on the back of the card.
            Once they were called in to see the physician, I began to chat with others. An older woman worked at a business located in Scottdale, Pennsylvania. Another group of women drove from Somerset, Pennsylvania, and a younger man drove from Ohio.
            A woman and her niece who had surgery and Muscular Dystrophy entered and sat beside of us. As we talked, the niece was a nurse as I was. I found that the aunt was being treated by a physician with whom I worked at Frick Hospital many years age. He worked the emergency department there, but had since struck out on his own as an acupuncturist. I gave her two of my cards and asked her to give the doctor one at her next visit.
            Soon, the patients in the waiting area thinned and by one p.m. my friend made her way into the physician. When she came back, she had some good news. She wouldn’t need surgery, but that also carried some bad news. There was no immediate relief from her back pain. She would need to try something else.
            By the time we left the office, I had depleted all of my business cards, and hope that I gained a few more readers.

Monday, October 26, 2015


            I am exhausted after spending three days reading and rereading my last manuscript for editing. I spent a minimum of five hours per day looking for misspellings, missed words, missed of deletions of punctuation, and changes of wording to clarify what I actually wanted to say. Each time I do this, I am given more respect to English teachers and the “Grammar Nazis” out there, especially my niece, Becky Ritenour. God bless you all. Now, if one of you don’t have enough to do and want to volunteer to help me with editing…. Just kidding, I have a small inkling of the amount of work that you do.
            I have sore legs and a sore shoulder from hunching over my desk and the computer keyboard. I may try to do a last mowing of my yard today to walk out the inactivity with which I have abused my body in the past four days.

            Every time that I think I will have some time to relax, read, or write, something always intrudes. Either a friend needs some help, meetings, or other “necessary” events pop up or have been scheduled in the past. I hold my planner close because my mind could never remember all of the information tucked inside and I still miss things because I forget to peruse its pages.
            I forget birthdays and anniversaries on a regular basis, but then again, I was never good about sending cards. My wife handled all of that when she was alive and the head of social events. She also handled our money. (I almost typed, my money, but there are those who would not appreciate yours, mine, and ours in a marriage, unless I am talking about underwear. I don’t do lace very well.)

            I will keep this post short. I am tired of sitting and looking at mu computer screen. Take care all.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Late Blog

            I am so sorry that I am late posting on my blog spot. I couldn’t stand sitting at my computer any longer. I needed some fresh air. My bivouac on my computer started yesterday when my editor sent me the entire book to proof read, correct, and make any revisions that I felt necessary before it was sent to the publisher.
            My first attempt was to correct the stories that I had already written and then sent them back to her. It wasn’t what she wanted. My next attempt was to make comments on computer driven post-it notes in the margin of the text. I probably spent almost ten hours trying both projects, but when I tried to send the posted corrections, the computer told me that an unknown error had occurred and that I was unable to send the manuscript. I tried several times before the open screen of text went blank and I became too frustrated to even think of doing any more and went to bed, shortly thereafter.
            I emailed my editor and she suggested that I go line by line, marking page number and line number as well as spelling out the corrections needed. This involved another labor intensive search and correct of misspells, omitted words, errors in dialogue, or and word changes that I felt were necessary.
            I spent eight hours yesterday, only to be thwarted and five hours today. Back at home, after going out for some groceries, I found an e-mail from my publisher. Thank God that she said it was something that she could use.

            I have another book in the making. It is almost halfway written, but after the last two days, I am not sure if I want to continue. I’m going to put it on the back burner for awhile and concentrate on some poetry and shorter stories.

            The writers of the Mount Pleasant Writers Group that meets in the Mt. Pleasant Library every first and third Thursday evening at five thirty p.m. have placed on display in the library’s lobby several Halloween stories for the patrons to enjoy. Stop by to read our submissions and drop in on our meetings for writers, wanna-be writers, and for those who like to see what we are all about.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


            I post things on my blog and on my Facebook account because I want to share many of my thoughts. Some of these are of memories, some are political, and some are of patriotism. If I offend anyone, please excuse my sharing of what I deem correct or funny. I don’t do this because I hate anyone. I do it because I want to share my opinion only. I don’t speak for God, because I fall woefully short and am only a sinner, saved by grace. I don’t speak for the people who are in office. I only try to remind them why they are there. Not to rule me, but to represent those people who placed them there. Not to pilfer and waste the hard earned monies of the tax payers.

            I try to point out things that I find offensive, because the freedom of speech hasn’t been entirely found null and void, although, everyday it is being infringed upon. I want to see out troops and veterans treated with the respect and honor that they deserve. I want to see the Supreme Court and the Commander-in-Chief become strong entities, standing up for America and not disassembling it by tearing out the foundation of the Constitution.
            It offends me that the freedom of religion, unless it is Islam, is being pulled apart and disrespected in all areas of America. Schools, the military, even in the churches, there are those who feel God is passé and not worthy of respect and praise. Like those people who turned their back on God, including His chosen people of Israel, He will tolerate only so much, then rain down judgment. If you don’t believe this, read the Bible.

            I am rambling and my thoughts are jumbled as to why I am writing this certain blog. So I will close for now, hoping that you can glean some of the things I am trying to share and why the things tumble out of my warped mind.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Approaching the Finish Line

The end of the book is nearing. I have been working feverishly with my editor to review and prepare my last set of stories for publication. It is another collection of tales written from the viewpoint of the retired Pittsburgh homicide detective and past cases that he and his partner solved around the Christmas holidays. It will be titled The Twelve Murders of Christmas.
The theme of Christmas stories came from the first tale that I wrote. Tommy and his wife, Cora are older and never had children. The prospect of ever having children, shy of a miracle, was poor. They were awakened by an odd sound and found an abandoned baby on their porch. It was a long journey, but Tommy and Cora decided to try to adopt the baby. That is where the story’s name was realized and the decision to write the rest of the book with murders that occurred between Thanksgiving and the New Year celebrations. The name of the tale is What Child is This? All of the following titles have names like Jingle Belles, Murder Under the Mistletoe, and Grandma Got Run Over…
There are a total of thirteen stories, twelve of which are the murders that he and his old partner Duffy solved. The crimes occurred around the holidays over their years of working together and the tales describe the clues that they followed to find the motive for the deaths and names of the murderers.
I am still struggling on the dedication. I have already named my parents, my children, and my editor. I am very much tempted to dedicate this new book to all of my teachers and not just to my English teachers, but to all, from kindergarten through my years of college.
I do want to relay an amusing story that occurred last week. I went inside of my local bank. One of the employees asked about new book. I thought that she was talking about this new release. When I started to describe it, she said, “Not that book, what happened to Tommy’s brother?”
 I sold my first book to them. In it, Tommy’s younger brother was abducted from their home. It wasn’t purposefully written that way, but apparently they wanted to know the answer. While I was writing my second book, Tommy addressed and solved the disappearance, nearly fifty years later. Their prodding caused me to write the ending to the kidnapping. I hadn’t mentioned that book was published and now they wanted it. The teller said the entire bank enjoyed, read my book, and passed it on to another bank. I said that I had the sequel in my car. They bought it, immediately.

Friday, October 16, 2015

In the Darkness

At times I am affected by the extended darkness of the winter season. It seems to be worse as I age. When I was a kid, darkness was just an interruption of daylight and playtime. Daylight was a time to go to school, a time to meet with friends, and a time to ride bikes and sleds. Daylight seemed too short, but the darkness of nighttime was a chance to recharge the batteries, rest, and sleep. If the darkness wasn’t welcomed, it was accepted as a respite of a busy day.
Later in my life, as I worked as a nurse in a local hospital, the darkness of the night shift became interminably long. Weariness and lack of sleep often made the night shift more and more intrusive on my psyche. The biggest insult was when I worked the afternoon shift and my relief called in sick. When I couldn’t find someone to relieve me, (Ha ha) as a supervisor, I was forced to do a double through the night. There were times that I was awake from seven a.m. until the next day. Often it was eight a.m. by the time I drove home and got into bed. A short sleep and then back in for the next afternoon shift. That intrusion would wear me out.
Waking up in the darkness, now that I am older can be depressing. Not enough that I would consider killing myself, but it does start the day on a down feeling. When I was stationed in Iceland, their winter nighttime and darkness lasted over twenty hours. The suicide rate and alcohol consumption would rise dramatically. Mankind was not made to live in darkness. Men were designed to live in the light. Now I will explain the opposite side of the coin. When I was in Iceland, summertime, daylight lasted almost 24 hours. People with kids would put aluminum foil on the bedroom windows so the children would sleep. Often, we would talk or play cards, not paying attention and it would be 3 a.m. before we hit the sack. We needed to get up at 5:30 to get ready for work and that would wear on the body as well. Daylight, all of the time can also create problems, I just wish I could wake up with a bit of light peeping in my bedroom window.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Things Change

Yesterday, as I was changing the cotton sheets and bedding over to the flannels I began to think about the changes of the season. Outside, the leaves are changing from their summer greens to the bright hues of autumn: gold, red, yellow, orange, and crimson. They become stained glass in appearance at a distance. The skies above change from clear cerulean blue to gray and blaze as if on fire as the sun rises and sets. Clouds scoot across sky’s canvass in fluffy to wispy clusters or can collect, hide, and cover the heavens with their constantly changing shapes.
When I wake, I notice the changes in my body. A joke I heard reflects the way I feel many mornings. “I don’t have a problem rolling out of bed every morning, but getting up off the floor is definitely a problem.” Sometimes I feel the aches and pains that appear from sleeping in an odd position or from the work the day before. Disease entities also have limited what I can do and how I feel. Diseases change the image of my body, too.
One day is sunny, one day is gray. Soon, white flakes will change the appearance of the area. Icy lace and snow turbans will change the bare trees that have been stripped of their brown leaves, into a land of fairy castles and white walled forts.
Even things that are dead change. They decay, rot, and return to the earth. They become nutrients for the growing things in the coming spring. Buds turn into leaves and flowers. Blossoms turn into fruit. Bees change the nectar into honey.
There are more changes to come in my life, even if it isn’t here on Earth, but in the great beyond. This old body will fall away and all of the worldly concerns will be no more. Pain and sorrows will no longer be remembered. Joy and happiness will be the fare for eternity. One thing that has not and will not change is God’s love.