Friday, January 30, 2015

Now That’s Love

I just watched a short video on the love of Jesus. It caused me to think about who Jesus loved and for who he died. It wasn’t just for his disciples and followers. It wasn’t for his mother, Mary. It wasn’t for his half brothers and sisters, it was for everyone from the point of his death and into the future. There was not one person excluded from his love.

He loved the Sadducees and Pharisees who dogged him and tried to find cause to destroy him. His love extended to the High Priests, Herod, and Pontius Pilate who accused, judged and sentenced him to the cross. He loved the Roman soldiers who flogged and flayed him with a cat-o-nine tail whip and drove the sharp crown of thorns on his head. Crowds spat on him, hit him, mocked him, and plucked out his beard, and yet he loved them.

His love was offered to the Roman soldiers even as they drove the spikes deep into the cross through his wrists and his feet. He loved the man who betrayed him with a kiss on the cheek for twenty pieces of silver, Judas Iscariot. If Judas hadn’t departed and killed himself, I am sure that Jesus would have forgiven him.

Jesus would even now, open his arms in love to all mankind: Moslem, Buddhist, Jew, Hindu, Atheist, Communist, or Agnostic. Jesus is the epitome of love. He died to destroy the sin of each and every person on the earth. He allowed himself a death on the cross to have men set free from their bondage of sin. Jesus could have called ten thousand angels to lift him off the cross and to lovingly minister to his wounds. He could have had ten thousand more to destroy those who sought his death if he chose to call them.

Yet, he willingly bore the pain, agony, and shame of dying like a criminal on the cross to save you and I from the punishment of Hell that we have earned. If that isn’t love, I don’t know what it is.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Entranced by the Snow

This morning, as I cleared the light cover of fluffy snow from my drive and walkway, I was able to enjoy the time with gently drifting snowflakes falling down around me. The air was cold, but it did little to distract my eyes from the beauty that surrounded me. Tree branches and evergreen needles had collected the flakes and the limbs drooped under the added weight. The dark green of the hemlocks were enhanced by the whiteness tipping their boughs. Bare and interlaced tree limbs turn to intricate lace patterns. While I shoveled, the sun began to brighten the clouds, but had not made an appearance from behind the overcast curtain, yet.

I went outside early this morning and the traffic on the roadway was light. Flakes of snow hissed softly as they made landings on the piles of snow and drifts around me. The serenity of the time alone was relaxing and although it was work, it was soon changed to pleasure. The only thing that kept me grounded was the coldness that reached inside of my gloves and nipped my fingers. The snow was light and I would only pause long enough to do slap of my hands against my thighs to warm them. Outside for less than hour, I was glad to get back inside to chase the tingling from my fingertips, holding them near the basement wood burner.

My son, Andrew, lives in Amarillo, Texas. The other day, they got eleven inches of snow overnight. He told his wife, Renee, that he enjoyed shoveling snow. If he is like me, it isn’t always that a person likes the exercise it is the time of quiet and solitude that a person enjoys. It is a time for reflection. The body is kept busy and the mind is free to explore.

As I shoveled and carried off the snow, my mind was free and began to create the following Haiku poem.

Clouds in small pieces

Fall as light, fluffy snowflakes

And drift on the wind.

Monday, January 26, 2015

A Special Friend

When I bought a pair of skis, poles, and boots at a yard sale for $5.00, little did I know that I had access to a medal winning athlete. I met Sally at one of my writers meetings. She is a vigorous eighty year old woman who has competed in many of the Senior Olympics and brought home gold. A fit, top athlete in so many sports; bicycling, triathlon, swimming, skiing, and probably many more that I am forgetting. She has biked around the world, Europe, Asia, and many of the Islands.

Her long time husband and photographer passed away over a year ago and as a group, we have rallied around her for support. This Christmas, she invited her writer friends and a few close friends to a party. It seemed to be a turning point in her grieving. She had been very down and since the party, she is more like the woman that we knew while Chuck was alive.

Sally has written several books and is a fitness guru, while I am an inveterate couch potato. Sharing that I bought skis seemed to spark more interest from her and she gave me a few pointers. Even though she is going through several heath issues at present, she stopped at my house to drop off the photo and article that was in the Mt. Pleasant Journal that had been written about another writers group to which I belong. Our group has had seven authors published in the past year.
Sally told me to do another loop in my yard, pointing out things that would help me in my attempts to hold my own against the snow, my weight, and hypertension in my life. I am grateful for her help and her friendship.

P.S. she is an avid reader of my Tommy Two Shoes detective series. Thanks Sally.


Friday, January 23, 2015

Stilts and Skis

When we were kids, we tried to make skis, sleds, and stilts from scraps at out neighbor’s house. Pieces of wood, held together by straightened and reused nails, were the starting point for any project. The stilts were lengths of two by fours with smaller pieces as the foot rests. Bits of leather strapping helped the user to keep his feet on the perches.
The sleds were for the most part bobsled Frankenstein creations with automobile steering wheels and chrome strips fastened to wide board runners and a plank body. They were heavy and didn’t go very fast, but they were sleds that could be guided. It took several kids to pull the monster back up the hill for the next ride.
Skis were attempted once and they were an unmitigated failure. The wood was too thick and unyielding. Chrome strips did slide fairly well, but would bend and not support weight. On top of that, how were we going to keep them on our feet?
Now that I am grown, I bought a pair. I am still not adventurous enough to try downhill skiing, but purchased an entire ensemble of cross country skis, poles, and boots for $5.00 at a yard sale. Behind my home and across the road are fields, fairly level that would be my safe practice areas. I am sixty-five and bones are more easily broken.
Until yesterday, there hadn’t been enough snow to try them out. Bravely, I wore the boots down the stairs into the basement and gathered everything near the garage door, chair, skis, and poles. I had enough foresight to lift the garage door about six inches to allow me to approach it and open it with the tips of the skis passing under it.
Skis snapped in place, I lifted the door and emerged a novice and cautious. Skis made turning awkward, but I closed the door behind me. I was surprised to find the skis were less stable than I thought they would be. I could feel the gravel chunks making one of the skis tilt to one side. Poles in hand I scooted up the drive and into the wilds of my yard.
The snow was wet and occasionally stuck to the bottom of one ski or the other. Sometimes lifting and stepping and sometimes sliding along, I got comfortable with the feel of the boards strapped to my feet. The mail was in and I scooted across my yard and the next-door neighbor’s yard to the mailbox. All that greeted me were advertisements. I circled the posts that upheld the boxes and headed back to my house, ads wadded up in my back pocket.
I made one more circuit of my yard and put the old fire horse back into the barn. I hadn’t fallen, although there were several, “Whoops, that was slippery.” Safe inside I removed the gear and leaned them against the wall until the urge and snow drew me outside again.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

At the Point

Have you ever arrived at a point in life or a point in a task and you ask yourself, “What am I doing? Am I doing this task well enough, am I doing the job correctly, or have I become familiar and can’t tell the difference anymore?

Sometimes when I try to write the next stories in the Tommy Two Shoes series, I am concerned about the writing, not the plots. The plots are good, but am I being too wordy? Am I explaining and sharing my thoughts well enough for my readers?

I try to share what my characters are thinking, what they are seeing, and their emotions. My editor helps me to eliminate some of the extraneous thoughts, but occasionally, it shallows the person and lessens the emotional connection with the character. Oh, well, my editor doesn’t always have the last say. I don’t mind when it streamlines the story by eliminating unnecessary rabbit trails and cuts out the tangents that occur when I write.

The next series of stories center about and around the time of Christmas holidays. It will open with an addition to the family. Then there will be stories of Tommy when he was still on the Pittsburgh police force as a part of the homicide squad. The recollections will fall under the titles of Christmas carols or songs.

The first story in the book will have the title of What Child is This if the position of the story meets with my editor. We collaborate as to wording, position of stories, and titles of each story. When it is finished, we hope that the final product is interesting and entertaining.

I will continue to write, hoping and praying that I can create something that is an enjoyable mystery with a touch of humor tossed in to prevent boredom.

Monday, January 19, 2015

To Curl or Not to Curl

On Face Book this morning, Deb, one of the women from Frick Hospital where I worked posted a photograph of her daughter with a permanent. The young girl didn’t look happy and her dad was chiding her. When I made my usual amusing comment, she messaged me and told me the story behind the photo.
Deb said that she had permanents since she was a little girl and thought although that her daughter’s hair was curly, it had more body and looked better with a perm. Her daughter hated it and fussed so, that the daughter’s dad had to step in to settle things.
We messaged back and forth. I shared that my wife Cindy, had baby fine hair and would convince herself that she needed a perm every so often. Her hair wouldn’t hold a perm and the smell lasted longer than the curls. Two days and no more curls, but the odor lasted for a week. Trying to sleep at night downwind from a chemical factory would have been no less toxic. My requests to never ever get another perm, but my pleas fell on deaf ears and about twice per year I would do the husbandly thing and curl up beside her as she slept.

I also shared with her that my dad forced me to get a crew cut twice in my life. One haircut happened when I was very young and didn’t know how ridiculous I looked and the other just before I went to Camp Conestoga Boy Scout Camp. I was older then and managed to cover my embarrassment with a knit stocking cap or my Boy Scout cap.
I was forced to wear a crew cut and it was the shortest of all. On arrival at boot camp for the United States Navy at the Great Lakes Naval Station, my head was shorn as short as the plush on a teddy bear. That is the feeling that I got when I rubbed my hand over my nearly bald pate. I have photos from that ordeal, but they are hidden on the book shelves at my home beneath my high school yearbooks.
Every once in a while, one of my kids will pull the photos out of their hiding place and show them to an unwary visitor just to embarrass me and to entertain the unfortunate guest.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Visiting a Widow
When my wife Cindy was alive and we went shopping together at Pechin’s we would buy some extra fruit for a friend who lived along the route home. We knew the woman before she lost her husband and would sometimes we would stop to visit for about half an hour.
I knew them as a child from the old clapboard, one room church in Clinton Pennsylvania. They were good friends with my dad and mom. As I grew from childhood, they became my friends as well. He was a thin man with a ready smile and she was a sweet woman who laughed easily.
Because they lived along the Springfield Pike, it became natural for us to stop when my wife and I saw them on their porch and from those visits, my wife and children grew to know them as well. We were always welcome and they seemed to enjoy our children. Our children became comfortable with them, almost as much as with their grandparents.
It was hard to explain when her husband died. We didn’t take them to the funeral home. We didn’t think it was appropriate for them and would have been a distraction to other mourners. It was difficult to stop at her home, but we needed for her to believe we hadn’t abandoned her. It was more awkward for my wife and me, but our children continued where they were before her husband’s death, climbing onto her lap and playing.
It slowly evolved for us to buy some extra fruit: a bunch of bananas and a container or two of whatever fruit that looked good. That might be a bag of apples, a tray of oranges or a container of pears or tangerines.
She never said that she needed the fruit, but was always thankful. Cindy and I knew that she could use it, because after her husband’s demise, she took on jobs cleaning other people’s homes and became a sitter for sick clients at night.
When we moved, we didn’t drive by her home nearly as often, but we would occasionally make the detour so we could visit. She slowly aged and her family moved her to the same nursing home as my dad. We could visit more often. She remembered and called me Tommy when I would stop and talk to her. She and my father are gone now, but their memories linger.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A Day in the Sun

There are quiet days in the sun, fishing with my granddad Beck Sometimes it would be in a state park and sometimes it would be on one of the small pay lakes near his home. These times of solitude with him speak loudly from the recesses of my mind. Each day seemed to last forever, but in reality, passed in a flash leaving a bright memory, a spot like the flash of sunlight on a wavelet or the sheen of light on a fish as it splashed. Those instances have become frozen in time. A treasure that has been stored for use at anytime I want to see it.
When I retrieve each coin from my brain bank, I can feel the warmth of the summer’s day sunshine, tempered by a light breeze. Shadows of leave and clouds dance over me, sharing the joy of the moment. I relax on the bank with the soft lapping of the water at my feet. In the distance, I can hear red birds calling to one another. On the lake surface, a red and white bobber rises and falls with the waves’ movements. It all becomes hypnotic.
The coolness of the grass covered earth beneath me reaches through my jeans and shirt to caress my skin. I wait expectantly; the line on my pole is slack, stirred by the breeze.
On one side of me is my brother, Ken, with a line almost parallel to mine, his red hair shining coppery in the warming sunlight.
On the other side of me sits my grandfather Edson Thomas Beck, white hair glistening like snow on an aged mountain peak. His line cast a bit farther out into the pond. Even when the fish weren’t biting, it was a serene and peaceful.
These outings achieved what my grandfather intended. It was a time out from the routine. It was a time of sharing and bonding. It was a time of peace, even if I had to spend the afternoon with an irritating kid brother. Now, it has become a cherished memory.
It is strange how such an uneventful time in my life can etch so deeply, that it can be recalled over a half century later.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Wet and Slushy

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say or write today, until I say my daughter-in-law’s response to a post of my morning of shoveling snow. She said that my son, Andrew, told her he enjoyed shoveling the snow, after doing their drive and the neighbor’s. I almost always enjoyed the solitude of removing the snow from our driveway and walks as long as the cold wasn’t bitter and the wind wasn’t lazy. A lazy wind is a wind that goes through you instead of around you.

Many late evenings, I would go outside and remove the snow. When it was later, there was only a little traffic. The snow was drifting down with a soft, hissing sound. The flakes made a constantly shifting curtain that gave me a feeling of solitude and peace. It is difficult to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it. Slow and easy when I could, shovelful after another, scooped, lifted, and tossed to the side, it produces and almost euphoric state. I think that runners and athletes go into this feeling or I can’t imagine that they would punish their bodies otherwise.

When my family had to get out in the morning, I didn’t want the job to be any harder to open the drive for them to leave, so I would shovel in the evening and then get up again while they were dressing and eating to be sure they could get out of the drive. I couldn’t do anything about the road way, they were in God’s hands after they left the house.
Sometimes the snow would drift and with the limited time to open the drive, I would clean out the width of a  shovel around the car and then that wide and maybe a bit wider I would clean the path the car would have to be driven to the highway.

I would come back inside, cold, tired, and sleepy as they family finished dressing and piled into the car and wait until they would leave. I waited until they were out of the drive, because...there were times I would have to go back outside.
I would get so frustrated. when my wife, Cindy, would somehow manage to drive the car into the deep snow on one side of the car or the other and I would have to go back outside to dig the snow out from under and around the car, so they could get to school. I still can’t understand how she passed her driver’s exam and couldn’t drive straight ahead.
Later in the day, I would finish cleaning the drive. It was often a constant battle with the drifting snow and a back and forth duel with the snow plow trucks, but that is another story.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Pussy Willow

I was up and down all night watching the wood burner, stirring the logs and adding more wood to be sure that the house stayed warm. I close off the bedrooms and sleep downstairs. When I am nasally congested, I usually sit in a wing chair to sleep. It is easier to breathe that way and I can slip into the kitchen for a sip of water when I am dry.
The door to the basement is also only a few steps away. I have to go up and down one set of steps instead of two and with one arthritic knee, it’s easier on me. My sleep was interrupted and our cat Willow was restless too.
Willow was a stray that was a drop off onto our porch. My daughter, Anna, claimed her and had her spayed. That was a story in itself, and I wrote about the trials of that. Willow would walk around the house each time I went to the basement.
Knowing where the furniture was, I didn’t turn on the lights. After throwing on some wood, I reclaimed my chair, but Willow had settled on it first. I didn’t smash her, but lifted her and made nice with her. After I knew I hadn’t hurt her, I put her down.
Willow is a white cat with black markings. Anna was trying to decide what to name her, when I noticed that one black marking looked like a large letter “W” on her side. Anna toyed with several names that began with “W”, but nothing seemed to fit. She hit on the name Willow and liked it.
It was several weeks later when my creative mind added Pussy to the Willow, making her a Pussywillow.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

So sorry I didn't post yesterday. A friend was ill and spent the morning with her, taking her from one doctor to another. She hadn't eaten breakfast and we stopped on the way home. Then spent most of the afternoon shoveling the driveway and hauling in wheelbarrows of wood for the wood burner. I was so tired and uninspired that I missed posting yesterday. So sorry.
Snow in the Moonlight

When I woke about 2:30 a.m. this morning, I looked outside. Everything was still at that instant and the skies were clear. The moon was full and bright. Its light cast a bright blue tint across the frozen surface of the snow. If it hadn’t been so cold, I might have gone outside to enjoy its calmness and beauty.
It reminded me of one winter’s evening and I was driving home. The moon was full and the snow was fresh, very much like this morning. There is a certain old barn that was painted a gray-blue. It seemed drab and it blended into the scenery most days, but in the light of the full moon and the reflected light from the snow, it glowed silver and looked like a barn in a fairy tale. It actually glowed. I wish I would have had a camera, but how do you capture the magic of the moment. A photograph never quite does justice to the magic of the moment.

Another thought of a snowy, foggy night driving home came to mind as I am writing. It was about 1130 p.m. and as I got higher from Mt. Pleasant to White, Pennsylvania. By the time I got to the side road, it was quite thick. The new fallen snow had no tire tracks. The fog pressed heavily and even with the low beams on my headlights, I could barely decide where the road was located.
I wasn’t doing too badly, until I came to a small hill. Going up the hill was okay. The beams kept close to the surface, but when I reached the crest, it was another story. The road made a slight turn to the left. With the light beams aimed in the air and no tracks or landmarks to guide me, I slowed even more and inched along. The only saving grace was a slightly higher snow bank at the right edge of the roadway. When I drove too close to the edge of the road, I could see it and headed back, more to the center of the highway.
I was so glad to get home three miles later and pull into my driveway. The fog was still thick and wrapped around my home, but the welcoming light of my house was such a relief.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Moving Slow

The only thing moving fast is the drainage from my nose. My nostrils are sore and red from wiping and the runny nose form my head cold only started yesterday in the middle of the sermon. I was in a quandary as what to do. I knew the only box of tissues was behind the altar at the front of the church and I didn’t want to be a distraction, so I sniffled and snorted, managing to last until the end.
I hurried to the front of the sanctuary and grabbed a handful, tooting my nasal horn, like the angel Gabriel before an announcement. I sniffled my way through Sunday school before saying to my daughter Anna, “I don’t feel like cooking. How about we go out for lunch?”
We went to a local restaurant and ordered. The longer we sat at our table, it seemed the colder it got. I mentioned it to a waitress and she said she would see what she could do. She also said that the cold could be coming from the windows.
I put on my jacket and my daughter wrapped her legs with her coat. Just before we finished eating, I remembered that it was warmer outside than inside, so the cold had to be the internal temperature and not from the outside.
I don’t blame the waitress, I know that the corporation had done a remodel and has set guidelines. Our writers group meets there almost every other Thursday and complained about a few other things. We refuse to be sat at the one remodeled area with tall stools instead of regular chairs. I told the hostess, “The last time I sat in a high chair was when I was two years old and outgrew it. I didn’t plan on going back to a high chair now.”
The other corporate edict that made little sense was to turn the lights down low at eight p.m. It was another faux pas. We would gather to eat after our meeting and many of us are older people. We couldn’t read the menus. The manager did raise the brightness for us, that evening. I am sure that the corporate wanted to create a more intimate, club-like atmosphere, but micromanaging like that with broad, general, all-encompassing rules does not work. Each restaurant has to cater to its specific patrons or lose business.
The excursion to eat and pick up a few groceries wore me out, and I was glad to get home. Back at church for the Sunday evening services, I deposited several boxes of tissues throughout the church for easier retrieval.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Basement Blues

I’ve been working fairly consistently in my basement to clean and rid it of accumulated items from the past twenty years or so. Things that weren’t worn enough to toss have now been tossed. Things that haven’t been used, tossed. Things that have been stored for others, I gave options and some of those got tossed. There were plastic shopping bags of newspapers. I imagine nearly twenty in all and most of them were incinerated.
I burned a coffee table and two end tables that had become scarred and wobbly. Some small scraps of wood joined the pile and helped to bring on the global warming that scientists have lied about. An old plastic cooler minus its lid sent a smoke signal to be saved, so I tossed on two foam rubber pillows from an old couch, but to no avail. They ascended into the heavens on dark billows.
Old pieces of warped plywood became part of the funeral pyre, as did some magazines, a few rags, and other odds and ends. My daughter, Anna and her boyfriend, James, said that they got a call from NASA saying they could see my signal. It was bright that evening they commented, but I thought it was more like the rubbish heap outside of Jerusalem, called Gehenna; the place of eternal fire.
I certainly made a blaze that I fed over several days as I uncovered more and more things that had lost their usefulness.
The reason for the sudden urge to rid the basement of some of the unnecessary things, and believe me there is still a lot left, is that my basement has always been a wet basement. A slow trickle of water slides across one side of the basement. I decided that I wanted to dry it out and have a usable basement.
I hired a well known company to come in on a contingency plan. If an opening came up, they would give me a week’s notice to get everything away from the walls, so the workers can open a channel on the inside floor to arrange all seepage into a sump area and be pumped outside. The men would need a workspace of three to four feet of room to maneuver. It is basically done, except for some home canned goods in the cold cellar. It has been a strain on my old body, but I have the space opened and I am waiting for the call.
The only problem is, I won’t know where to look for any of my tools or other things. I even filled my “chicken coop” looking shed with hand tools; hoes, rakes, and spades. I managed to put some old windows, two old bikes, and some wood I wanted to keep.