Monday, March 30, 2015

Winter Wondeland

It has been a cold winter, one frigid blast after another. So far, spring hasn’t been much better. It is time to stab Old Man Winter in the heart with an icicle as well as telling the Global Warming Alarmists where to shove an icicle as well.
I am ready for spring. Ready for the sun to shine more warmly and for the earth to send new grass shoots. I am ready to see color, other than black and white, the greens of new leaves, the rainbow of diverse colors in blossoms and flowers. I want to smell new-mown grass, the fragrance of blossoming new life. I want to smell the rich earth turned by a spade and feel it in my fingers.
I am ready to feel grass between my toes, ready to pack away the heavy coats, toboggan hats, and long muffler scarves, and ready to gather the flotsam that has collected over the cold and snowy months. I am ready to see the bees in the hive behind my house flying about collecting nectar for their honey.
I can remember as a kid swimming before the end of April in the cold stream below my parent’s home. It was fed by underground springs and the last of the melting snow and ice. Its course wound in the shadows huge trees, only tickled by occasional rays of the sun, remaining almost the same temperature as when it emerged from its underground sanctuary. I’m too old for this and it’s too cold for this now.
I’m ready for the warm days when we used to play softball, wearing only shorts and T shirts. I guess what I am missing most is my youth. Then I would laugh and play in the cold, relishing the “snow days” that kept me home from school. I reminisce about breaking off an icicle and sucking on it to quench my thirst, not minding that it occasionally tasted of the smoke from coal fired furnaces. I think of the days of youth that sped by like the feeling of careless abandon riding a sled down a steep hill.

Although I can still relish the snowy days of past winter, I am now looking forward to the warmer days of spring.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Hard Work

I have been hard at work on my third book of short stories from Tommy Two Shoes memory. He is reminded of and reminisces about cases that he helped to solve as a homicide detective. As his newly formed family settles in to celebrate the Christmas seasons, certain phrases or actions pushes his thoughts to past Christmases that weren’t so joyous or happy.
They were times of stress at home with a wife wanting more time with him and his new promotion to the homicide squad demanding more of his life. When the murders interfered with the holiday season, it became even more severe until his wife divorced him and now only an empty apartment greeted him after a long day at work.
With his reminisces, he recalls the slow introduction and actual meeting with the spirit of his deceased Uncle Aidan LeClerc.

Each story so far revolves around the Christmas holiday. All are homicides that he and his partner Duffy are called to solve. He is introduced as the new guy on the detective squad to Duffy. They make a good team, solving the crimes together, each of them bringing their talents to the table. Tommy had the secret weapon in his uncle Aidan.
The first mystery Tommy has to solve is the identity of an abandoned infant, left on his doorstep. The rest of the stories fan out from that.
I was hoping that Cora his wife, would become a stronger character, but so far in this book, she recedes a little, becoming a mother and a care giver to her elderly mother. I am not sure when her flower will bloom, but I have a feeling that when Tommy actually opens his private eye business, she will start to shine. She has already pointed out things that have helped him track down the child’s heritage.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


I was reading a book titled Haunted Foothills that was co-written by two of my author friends, Mary Ann Mogus and Ed Kelemen. It is a compilation of stories that have uninvited guests from the nether world as characters in the short stories. All are recollections of friends or relatives of visits from these spirits.

The dreams that I mentioned in the title were those of my grandmother Rebecca Miner. The two that I will share, I remember most vividly. The first would be more like a premonition type dream. When I was a child, she told me that she had dreamed that there was a snake in her flower garden. After the dream, she tucked it away and forgot about it.
One morning as she waited for my granddad to return from working the nightshift in the coal mines, she thought that she would weed her flower bed. As she reached down, she had a flashback to the dream. Using her hoe she parted the flowers and weeds to discover there was a snake, coiled and ready to strike. She never said what type of snake it was, but quickly dispatched it with the hoe that she had in her hands.
The second dream seemed a bit more bizarre. One night, she dreamed that a car drove down their farm lane and the driver had no head. It seemed ridiculous and she tucked it away.
Then came a night when she heard someone driving a car down their lane. The lane ended at their barn with a turnaround at the barn. The vehicle drove by their farmhouse and she got up to investigate. She watched from her upstairs bedroom window as the car drove into the turnaround and began to come back down the drive.
The front porch light had been left on and as the car passed, the light cast a shadow into the car. The darkness of the shadow fell across the driver’s shoulder and made him look as though he was headless. I’m sure that there more dreams and stories that my grandparents told me, but I can’t remember them unless my brain is jogged. I want to save and pass along as many as I can before I shuffle off this mortal coil to my family. I don’t want them to be ignorant of their family’s heritage.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Month of March

As a child, the month of March was a good month. Not much different than the others, but it held the day of my birth and the first day of spring. St. Patrick’s Day was there, but we did little more to wear something green to celebrate.
On my birthday, Mom would bake my favorite cake. It changed from year to year, so she would always ask. As she grew older, the cake firmly entrenched in her mind was a carrot cake with maple icing. It was a cake that I liked, so no problem. I believe that it was the earliest onset of her Alzheimer’s disease, because several years later, she would bake an angel food cake and top it with chocolate icing. That was my brother, Ken’s favorite. At first, I tried to correct her, but once it reoccurred for several years I gave up and my brother got two cakes a year. Angel food is one of my least favorite cakes to this day.
My feelings to the month of March progressed from the happiness of celebrating spring and my birthday to a skeptical wariness. I no longer looked forward to celebrating a date that made me age. Other things occurred that made March a month to avoid. My wife, Cindy and I were married for 27 years.
She was suffering through “another upper respiratory” ailment. At least once per year, she had a case of cold symptoms and laryngitis. This time it became much worse and I forced her to go to the hospital. When the tests came back, it was thought that she had leukemia because of her high white blood cell count. She was transferred to a larger hospital for evaluation.
She was still short of breath and couldn’t lay flat for the CT, so she was intubated. She never came off the machine. The scan showed that cancer had invaded nearly every organ in her body. The doctors decided to transfer her to Pittsburgh. The invasion had gone too far. From the time I took her to be seen in the emergency room until she died, was ten days. She never complained of pain, because ovarian cancer was and still is “the silent killer.” March 24 was the day of her passing.

By this time, my mom had to be put into a nursing home. Her Alzheimer’s had progressed. She threatened my dad with a serving fork when he tried to help her bathe. She was always a clean person, but now tried to avoid such things. We kids were still working and it soon became too much for Dad to handle. We would visit her, but it got to the point that she didn’t recognize us progressing to a time where she refused to eat. She died on the third anniversary of my wife’s passing, March 24.

Tomorrow will be the thirteenth anniversary of her death and the tenth year for my mom. We all still miss you.

Thursday, March 19, 2015


Let me apologize for not posting yesterday. I was busy with being a taxi cab driver and Wednesday night prayer service at our church. I have a friend who was in an auto accident and needs to visit a doctor for injections to ease her pain and to facilitate her walking, driving, etc. Yesterday was the day. She couldn’t drive because her truck was in the garage for repairs. One thing was a ball joint. The appointment for the work at the garage was at 8:30 and her doctor’s appointment was at 9:30.We’ve been friends from children up. She’s done favors for me and I have done the same for her. It was natural for her to call me. I was free and became the designated driver. After the appointment, we ate together, waiting for the call that her truck was finished. No call came, so she asked me to drop her off at the garage and she would wait for them to finish.

When I got home, my granddaughter was here. My daughter was babysitting for her niece. That in itself explains a lot. When there is an active 4 year old in the house, not much else can get done, reading stories and playing with blocks, dolls, or whatever. We even had a sword fight.
She left at 5:30 p.m. and it was time to start to make supper and get ready for Wednesday night services. A quick clean up of toys and myself, I ate and dressed. I was at church just before 7 p.m. and was surprised when I was asked to drive and older man home afterwards. The gentleman has trouble seeing in the dark and will often catch a ride to church in the evening and someone takes him home. Last night, it was my turn. He lives just outside of Scottdale, so it isn’t a major inconvenience, but getting home after 9 p.m. and such a busy day, I ran out of energy. I missed posting my thoughts. I guess I could have gone to the vaults, but I don’t like to do that too often.
So, here it is, one day late and nothing exciting, but that is my life.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Treating the Family

When I first started my nursing career, children under thirteen years of age and pets were not permitted to visit in the hospital. The separation from their children for the family was often more stressful than the illness itself.
Knowing that a mother or a father was ill and in the hospital, children would imagine the worst things. In their minds, even a minor illness or injury that necessitated the hospitalization of a parent grew to be an enormous and serious issue. The separation expanded into stress filled days and sleepless nights. If they could not see what was actually was happening they imagined the worst. No matter how much reassurance was given to them, there was that chance they were being told a lie.
Now children of any age can be brought into the hospital, even when they are new born babies. This causes me concern. Though you try to explain to parents the dangers of the diseases found in a hospital, some still allow their children to crawl and play on the floors. Our housekeepers do a great job keeping patient rooms clean, once someone walks over that recently mopped floor; it becomes contaminated with germ, bacteria, and viruses once again. I never understood why a parent would allow it.
Pets were definitely taboo in the hospital. Even a “seeing eye dog” caused quite a stir. Many pet owners stressed over their pets while they were confined in the hospital and the pets were going through separation anxiety at home as well.
June was a dog lover. She had a woman who was admitted to the critical care unit and begged her family to let her go home to her dog. She was fretting that her dog wasn’t being cared for and she was not getting the rest she needed to get well. She was in a constant state of agitation. June heard about the woman and decided it was time to make some changes.
June went to the administrators and pleaded the old woman’s case. She finally got permission “if the dog was clean and was up to date on its shots.”
I don’t know who was more overjoyed by the reunion, the patient, her dog, or June. After the visit, the woman’s condition improved considerably and was discharged almost a week later.
June got her policy change. Animals were now permitted if they were clean, up to date on their immunizations, and were quiet.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Managing Skills I've Learned
Several truths I learned over the years that I tried to pass along to anyone who oriented to the supervising position. One of the first and foremost was “never let someone see that they have upset you. Excuse yourself and go somewhere private. (Like our office, it was separate from most of the hospital.)
“Go inside and close the door. Then you can scream, cry, or kick the furniture, but do it in private. If they see what buttons to push to upset you, they will repeatedly do it just to frustrate and anger you,” I explained.

The other was not to get comfortable either at lunch, on break, or with the job of supervising in general.
It never seemed to fail; I would no sooner get my lunch heated and sit down ready to eat, than I would get a page or a telephone call. Many of the times it would mean leaving my food and going somewhere to handle a problem or situation.
I would return later to cold, dried out food or because the situation took so much time, putting it away to take home. (Have you ever tried to eat Tater Tots after they had been reheated three times?) I even got distracted once and heated my salad. That was a disaster.
The other part about getting comfortable was thinking you knew all there was to being a supervisor. Nothing could be further from the truth. Almost every day the supervisor was called upon to do something new. They could involve complaints, staffing, bed assignments, or those things that fall outside of the normal policies and procedures.
Believe me, after twenty-eight years supervising and dealing with complaints, call offs, and unusual happenings, I was happy to hang up my spurs before I poked a hole in the water bed.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Back to the vaults, dredging thoughts that I had before I made the decision to retire.

Retirement was not an easy decision to make. I had agonized over it for months before I finally chose to call it quits. I was almost thirty-seven years at the same place. I made tentative moves to retire about six months earlier. So many decisions had to be made. What type of health insurance? How much would it cost? I had tried to apply for Veteran’s health care, but was making too much money. Should I find private insurance or because of pre-existing health problems, should I continue under COBRA?
What should I do with my 403 B? When should I apply for my Social Security benefits? How should I select the payments for my retirement pension? It was a frustratingly slow process. If I had a question, I would ask human relations office. They answered my questions, but offered no real guidance.
When you are driving, how do you know what direction to go? Either someone tells you or you have a map.  This was what I had been thinking as I went for my exit interview. Near the end of my interview, I was asked if I had any suggestions.
I said, “You now give new employees months of orientation and shadowing. You give employees who move from one area of the hospital to another and extended orientation period. Why doesn’t the hospital offer a day of “orientation” for employees who are nearing retirement age?”
“It would be optional. You could have representatives from the different health care companies, from Social Security office, Veteran’s Affairs, financial planners, legal advisors, retirement communities, activity groups, volunteer organizations, health clubs, etc. The representatives should be able to do or schedule appointments for one on one consultation.” (I specifically did not include A.A.R.P. They claim to look out for the well-being of the senior citizen population, but they whole heartedly supported national health care. I feel they did it to make millions more by selling supplemental health care insurance.)
I continued, “If management feels it was important and necessary for each employee to have a thorough and extensive orientation, shouldn’t they think it’s important to help their valued and often long time employees to make one of the most important choices in their lives? This will be the last orientation class that management would be giving us. Shouldn’t it be a good one? Shouldn’t the employee leave with a great perception of their work place?”
My interviewer agreed with me and wrote my comments for others to read.


Monday, March 9, 2015

Birthdays and Blessings

Birthdays are a mixed bag of blessings and curses. The curses are wrapped up in an aging body, a physique that doesn’t respond as quickly to insult and injury. My fall on the ice and the recent bouts of frequent shoveling of snow, have made my back, knees, and hips ache. I carry the snow across the road to decrease the size of drifts on my side of the road. Aleve, Ben Gay, and a heating pad become your best friends. Walking on ice and snow can almost be as dangerous as crossing a minefield interspaced with punji sticks.
So far my memory hasn’t escaped the cranial vault where I store them, although remembering the combination to open the strong box sometimes gets mixed. I worry because my mother and her five sisters succumbed to the dreaded disease of Alzheimer’s disease. I have said the only difference between Satan and Alzheimer’s is that Alzheimer’s only claims the body, souls, and mind until the person dies while Satan controls for eternity.
Birthday blessings come when I reach another yearly milestone … alive. The best blessings are found in my family and friends. Being so visible at the hospital for so many years, I have made many friends and acquaintances, some good and some bad, but managing for twenty-six years, it happens.
Then I have all my Facebook friends. Many, I have never met, but they have been there to make me laugh, make me cry, and supported my through so much.
Then I have my writing friends from four different groups. This includes the Beanery, the Ligonier Writer’s group, CAW the collective of writers and artists, and the Mount Pleasant Library group. Some months, it really keeps me busy just attending meetings. I am glad that the weather is breaking and I can attend. It is such a lift to be with likeminded people.
I have my friends at church who have been there for me during thick and thin. At the death of my wife, the birth of my children, and the death of my mom and dad; they have lifted me and shared the joy and sadness. Only my family is closer.
Now I share the best blessing, my family, my firstborn Amanda Yoder, Eric Yoder her husband, Andrew Beck, my son, his wife Renee Largent Beck, and my baby Anna Beck. I have three beautiful granddaughters, Celine Beck, Moriah Beck and Hannah Yoder. The almost newest is my daughter Anna’s fiancĂ©, James Prinkey.
Thank you all, each and everyone for the times that we have had together and for wishing me a happy birthday.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Today’s Post

I think that today I am going to post several unrelated thoughts that have cross wired in my brain. I accomplished so many things by nine a.m. I was outside and shoveled some more of my driveway and can finally get my car out onto the road, if I so desire. That includes the nightly deposit across the entrance from the Penn Dot plow workers. God bless them for the jobs that they do, but why does it seem they always know when I finally get it cleared. I think they pay someone to sit on a nearby hill and notify them to make their next run when I finish.
I thought that my back would complain more today after the shoveling that I did yesterday. Not so, but I do have a knee and two hips that are fussing and aching. I am thankful that my doctors cleared me to take more than Tylenol. The Tylenol just wasn’t cutting it. I am more comfortable now that I can take Aleve. When I came inside, I emptied the trash and replaced the garbage bag. I washed a load of dishes and a load of towels. The towels are drying now and the dishes waiting to be put away.

Finally, I called U.P.M.C. to correct a bill I received for nearly $1,300.00. They had only my Medicare insurance listed as my coverage. I had to call and correct them. I told the woman who took my information that I was surprised that someone hadn’t clarified it with me before my discharge. Working in health care for over forty years that is the first thing hospitals want clarified.
While at my desk, I paid several bills. The same ones that had conspired with an icy drive to put me in the hospital after causing a subdural and a subarachnoid bleed as well as a large hematoma and concussion.
I had an odd “been here and done this before” feeling as I pulled on my coat and walked outside, across the drive, and up the road to the mail box. It intensified as I made my way to the box. Gingerly I came back down the road and traversed the field of ice in my drive. Safe inside, I relaxed and breathed a sigh of relief.
One last thing in my ramble, do the boxes “Amount paid” on a bill annoy anyone else. If they want me to put an amount in and become their bookkeeper, they should at least offer to pay me. I understand it is for those who only pay partial amounts, but to me it is irritating.

Monday, March 2, 2015

The waking Dead

I am back among the living and I am able to drive my car again. Not being confined to the house or begging for a ride is a major blessing and it improves my outlook on life immeasurably. The drive into Pittsburgh is always stressful for me. City driving, even as a passenger is not for me. Born and raised in the country, I am more used to back roads.
The Pennsylvania turnpike is okay, but I never liked narrow bridges or the tunnels. To me it is like there is no place to go, if someone decides to direct their car into your lane. There is no place to evade the other driver.
Driving through larger towns was easier for me to do when my wife, Cindy was alive. She was a great navigator and GPS, keeping me updated and on course. Only one time in all of the years we were married did she misdirect me. We were in the Philadelphia area and the road branched. We took the wrong one and drove through a Puerto Rican neighborhood. It seemed that the people were on their porch stoops playing dominoes.
On the trips out west, she was a faithful copilot, even though she had fallen off Festus, a mule assigned to her for a breakfast ride at camp. I’ve talked about the trip out west before. Seven adults, seventeen teenaged kids, were tenting for seventeen days. It was a wonderful trip and I saw things that I will never have the chance to see again.
Now, that I can drive again, I hope that the weather cooperates. Coming back from the doctor’s office today, we stopped for a few groceries. Arriving home, the Penn Dot plows had our drive filled with huge chunks of snow and ice. Slick ice had formed in the driveway and I had to take care walking as I helped to unload the car.
Anna knew that I couldn’t shovel snow today, my back was still hurting from the last few storms She took it as a personal insult that our drive was filled with the flotsam of snow. Hurrying into the basement, she attacked the piles with fury, stacking the offensive white stuff along the road below the drive where the plows would push it away.
I was left to traverse the treacherous ice slickened drive and carry in the groceries. After three massive trips that probably should have taken six to unload, it was finished. We were home safe and sound, waiting for the next storm to come, but I’d rather have spring.