Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Those Are the Brakes

Several days ago, I heard the “crickets” start to chirp on my front brakes. My mechanic was on vacation until Monday. His first opening was yesterday. I drove my car to his garage and left it for him to work into his schedule. My daughter, Anna picked me up and after breakfast, we went shopping.

Breakfast at Brady’s Restaurant is a pleasant experience. The food is good, the view of a small pond and ducks relax you, and the prices are reasonable. I had a normal meal of breakfast food and Anna had the sweet potato pancakes and sausage. I sampled hers. It was delicious.

In the afternoon, Anna drove me to the garage. He was finished, but still needed to take it for the after-repair drive. While he was on the drive, I talked to a woman who was 88 years old. She knew my parents and grandparents. It was nice to chat with her until my car returned.

I followed the owner of the garage. He said, “Here’s the good news. The work is done.” Then he said, “The bad news is that you needed brake pads on all four wheels….” He paused and then said, “And all four rotors too. The winter salt damaged and pitted the rotors.”

What can I say? The fall on the ice at the beginning of February, the two bleeds in my head, and having my car sit from February until March was taking another toll. I wasn’t particularly happy, but I needed my car.

 My Malibu does drive nicely, no chirping of the crickets, but my wallet is a whole lot lighter.

Monday, April 27, 2015

I just finished writing the last story for my new book. I just have to review it before sending it to the editor. I tried to think of something to write, came up with nothing and decided to write about that feeling of blankness.
Burned Out and Bare

My brain is frizzled and fried

Creativity is gone

New ideas, void inside

I’m bored and stifle a yawn.

Waiting for a spark to ignite

Looking in an empty bin

For an idea to spark

But there is nothing within.

Can this be called writer’s block

Or burn out, ending a book

Will my treasury unlock

To find new thoughts when I look?

Like Mother Hubbard’s cupboard

Shelves in my brain remain bare.

Looking, there is nothing stored

Yet, I study and stare.

Relax, ideas will bloom

Fountains will once again flow

New thoughts will rise from the tomb

Flowers grow from seeds we sow.

A small light in the shadow

Grows brighter as we draw near

Enlightened by its soft glow

Stories will come, do not fear.

Friday, April 24, 2015

After several warm days, I became used to the warm, near-summer temperatures. I was lulled into a relaxed feeling of winter weather is past. I stored the winter coats and was thinking about pulling off the flannel sheets washing and storing them. Wednesday God showed me that my assumption was flawed. He hadn’t. The morning was chilly, rainy, and dreary. The temperature dropped and it began to snow.
At other times in the year, it would have looked beautiful. It might even have been welcomed with open arms, but after being teased by the warmth and sunshine of a hoped-for spring, it was an unwelcome surprise.
The snow started slowly, then as the morning progressed, the snow became heavier and thicker. The flakes fell faster and grew larger. It was a heavy snow that compressed on itself piling up until there was an inch on the car and the grass.
My recently blooming flowers were covered with the thick white blanket. The only good thing that I could see from it was at night the temperature dropped below freezing and the coverlet of snow protected them. The tender blooms, warm beneath the snowy blanket.
I was used to going outside and dealing with an icy wind and frigid temperatures, but I was spoiled and cringe about the thought of going outside until the sun has warmed the air and invited me to come outside and play. I’ve been spoiled.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Finishing Up

I’m finishing my last reviews of the stories in my newest book. I am torn between allowing it to stand as it is or to try for another murder in it. The themes for the stories are for the most part, recollections of murder mysteries that happened while Tommy Two Shoes was a homicide detective for the Pittsburgh police.

Each story is fictitious as is the character Tommy, but in my fertile, creative mind he exists and solves the crimes with his partner Duffy and his help from the deceased Uncle Aidan LeClerc.

He is retired and cannot be involved in murders now, but each recollection of an odd crime scene or odd death is triggered by something that happened at home.

His newly acquired family is snug at home. It is nearing the Christmas season. The home is decorated for his wife Cora, his mother-in-law, Anna, and newly adopted son, Johnny. The tree is up and the mistletoe is hung. Little Johnny’s stocking is on the fireplace. Everything is ready for the arrival of…past recollections of the murders.

His partner, Duffy and Tommy solve them by following clues they find or by obtuse clues shared with them by Uncle Aidan. Each crime gets a holiday title because of the warped sense of humor that Duffy has.

Tommy’s divorce from his first wife leaves him despondent during some of these crimes. The pressure from the job and the demands of his first wife were what caused the divorce. Tommy had to choose and his dedication to his profession won out.

These were all memories. Now, he has a new family. Retired he has time for them and is just starting to do some writing of his memoirs and beginning private eye work to keep himself busy.

Monday, April 20, 2015

America’s Sins

There was a time in America's history that it was a God fearing country. The first men and women came to our shores seeking religious freedom, searching for the ability to worship God without interference from a king or government.  The foundation of the Constitution was based on biblical principles that God almighty decreed in His Word. The Constitution of the United States is the document that separates a freedom loving people from the peoples from the rest of the world.
America has been blessed and the face of God has looked favorably on our nation and helped our country to become a powerful entity. God has allowed our country to intervene when evil dictators attempted to rule the world. America has given the lives of its men and women to secure liberty for those who were being oppressed.
Year after year, Americans have turned their backs on God and year after year, God has been saying, “I love you. Come back to me.” The government has been straying from the principles on which our nation was created. Too many politicians have come to rely on their strength and wisdom instead of seeking the face of God, the source of all wisdom and strength.
Morality is on the decline and depravity is on the rise. Governmental legislated morality changes nothing. If the heart is not changed, laws will do little to restrain evil or to limit its effects.
God has been showing His displeasure by increasing the frequency of earthquakes and weather disasters. When mankind is unwilling to recognize the Creator of the Earth and the weather and gives credit to “Mother Nature” or “Climate Change” it will only increase. When men do not give Him the credit for His Creation nor do they see it as a pronouncement of judgment, God will continue to judge those people or will allow that nation to be brought down in defeat.
History shows that when a country removes God from its daily life, other than to think of Him as a servant; only to be called on when something is needed, that country fails. God will use the same hands that He delivered the years of blessings to also deliver the wrath of His judgment to the people of that nation.
It is time for Americans to be less proud and more humble. God is the only strength and refuge in times of trouble and fear. He is our buckler and our sword. God can bless America again if only we turn to Him and seek his forgiveness and face.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The grand finale to Pocket Change

A sly smile crept across Norman’s face “It all starts when you find the right stone. Some of them are magic.”
But before Norm could say anything more or before Frank could ask any more questions, they heard Aunt Rose calling, “Frank! It’s time to go.”
“I’m coming Mom,” Frank turned and began to walk along the stream. Norman watched as Frank would take a few steps, bend over and pick something up, before taking a few more and bending over again.
Trixie and Norman followed behind. By the time they caught up with Frank, he was standing beside his mom at the car. When Norman saw that both of Frank’s pants pockets were full and bulging with stone, he could hardly keep from laughing.
“All right, let’s get in the car. It’s time to go,” Aunt Rose leaned over to hug and kiss Norman. “We’ll be back soon, I promise.”
As Frank started to climb into the car, he stopped and grabbed at his pockets. Aunt Rose just picked him up and sat him on the passenger seat.
Norman waved as they drove off. Trixie chased the car down the driveway.
There in the dust, was a small pile of “Lucky stones.” Norman picked up one that had rolled almost next to his feet. He looked at it and broke out with a big grin. “Frank picked up so many rocks that they must have poked a hole in his pocket.” Norman thought. The smile became a soft chuckle. I think I finally impressed Frank.”
“What are you smiling about Norman and what is that in your hand?” she asked.
“Just some pocket change, Mom. Just some pocket change.”
I hope you enjoyed one of the children's stories.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Pocket Change Part 2

The barn was filled with sweet smelling hay. In seconds, the two boys had climbed into the hay loft. Trixie began to whine at being left behind. “Trixie, be quiet. You can’t come up and you don’t need to see the kittens.” They crawled farther into the mow and peeked into the nest. Frank lifted his hand and started to reach toward the nest.
 “Don’t touch,” Norman cautioned.
“I’m just counting them,” Frank pouted, then began to count, “One, two, three… uhm, I see six kittens.”
They watched for a few minutes until Muffy came back and hissed at the two of them. They backed away, slid down from the hay loft, and sped away in search of other things to do with Trixie close on their heels.
Norman showed Frank the other animals; the cows, the pigs, and the chickens. He didn’t seem to be impressed with anything. Soon the heat chased them into the cooling shade of the nearby woods. Just at the edge of the trees, along the bank of the stream, Norman saw a round black stone. Kids called these smooth rocks “lucky stones” and this one seemed to shine in the sun. Norman bent over and picked it up. The smooth stone felt hot on the palm of his hand.
Frank pressed close and asked, “What did you find?”
Opening his hand, Norman showed Frank the smooth, dark stone.
“It’s nothing but an old rock,” Frank said. It hurt Norman’s feelings.
Nothing that Norman had said or done seemed to please his cousin, because Frank said, “He was a city boy and there was nothing a country boy could do that would impress him.”
Norman stuffed the stone deep into the left pocket of his overalls. The stone clicked on something that was already in the pocket. He slipped his fingers deeper to see what he had in there. When he pulled his hand out and opened it, there was a bright red marble on his palm.
“How did you do that?” Frank gasped in surprise. His eyes opened wide as he stared at the marble.
“Do what?” Norm asked, not sure exactly what he had done.
“How did you change the color of that rock?” Frank said as he pointed to the marble.
It was almost the same shape and size as the rock. Norm chuckled as he remembered something he had in his right hand pocket. “Watch this.” He dropped the marble into his pocket, delving deeper to pull out a large steel ball bearing. Norman opened his hand and when Frank saw the shining, silver ball bearing, he pointed and cried, “That’s magic. How did you do that?”
Once again Norman remembered something he kept in the back pocket of his jeans. “That’s nothing. Watch this.” He slipped his hand into his back pocket and released the ball bearing. When his hand reappeared, the ball bearing was gone and in its place was a bright, shiny quarter.
“Wow, Norman, that’s great. Tell me how you do that,” Frank pleaded.
“I can’t tell you, it’s a secret,” Norm whispered, his eyes twinkling with mischief. He moved the quarter to his other hand and thrust it into the front left pocket. He allowed the quarter to slip from his fingers and grasped the smooth black stone that had started it all. When Frank saw the stone, he begged, “Come on Norm. We’re cousins. You can tell me. Show me how, please.”

Today is the first post in a three part story. I wrote it
Pocket Change
                Norman was a curly haired, rosy cheeked boy who lived on a small farm with his mom and dad. His dad raised chickens, pigs, and a few cows. There was never a time on the farm when there were no cats around the barn and Norman had a dog. Trixie was his canine companion and followed him everywhere, helping with the chores.
                The farm had a small orchard and large garden. It was Norman’s job to keep the weeds out of the garden and it was Trixie’s job to keep the animals out. Although Norman spent a lot of time on chores, he did have some free time. That is when he and Trixie would explore the open fields and nearby wooded glen. They found secret places to play among the rocks and trees. They splashed in a little stream that tumbled through the woods and raced across the fields.
“Norman, Norman Lee,” he heard his mom’s voice calling. Norman had been in the barn looking for Muffy, one of the barn cats. She had a litter of kittens and he had just found her nest. He slid down out of the hay mow.
“Coming Mom. I’ll be right there,” he yelled as he hurried from the barn.
Parked in the driveway was a shiny black car. His mom and another lady were standing beside it. The other lady looked a lot like his mom. Drawing closer, he could see a boy about his own age standing with them. His hair was so blond; it looked almost white in the bright summer sun.
Trixie ran ahead and stopped by Norman’s mom. She absent-mindedly scratched Trixie’s head while they waited for Norman to catch up.
“This is your aunt Rose and your cousin Frank. You haven’t seen them since you were just a baby. They are visiting for a few hours. You two boys can play together while I visit with your aunt Rose. Show him around the farm and have some fun.”
“Great Mom,” Norman said as he grabbed Frank’s hand and shook it. Trixie ran around the two of them barking. She seemed to know that they were going exploring.
“Come on Frank. Let me show you something that I just found.” They started walking toward the barn.
“I just found Muffy’s new kittens. We have to be quiet and we can’t touch them yet. They are too young.” Norman was glad to have someone his own age to play with and to share some of the secrets of the farm.
for a good friend. I will share it in three parts.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Today Begins

Today begins the clean up in the aftermath of the work to dry out my basement and from the debris from my firewood. The workmen had to dig all around my house and out into my yard in many places. There are mound of upturned sod and exposed rock all along the ditching.

Today I will try to gather and dispose of the rock and push the sod back into place. I want it closer to the way it was, so that I can mow when the grass gets a little longer. I don’t want to throw the rocks with the blades or destroy the mowing blades.

I want to open up the depression at the entrance of my driveway. It allows the rainwater to flow past my drive instead of coming back in and down my drive. It used to go into my basement when the rain fell heavily. Now, because of the sump pump, I don’t have to worry as much, but I want to eliminate the potential for any flooding.

Spring cleaning will have to wait until I can get the outside done or the grass will be naval high. The supervisor of the work crew said, “I don’t know how you can grow grass here. There is so many rocks and so much clay, I don’t know how grass can take root.”

It is what it is. The area all around the spot where my house was built had been strip mined and it was erected on the edge of the mining activity. I am sure that there were trailings stored where my house sits now.

Friday, April 10, 2015


So much through the night and rain today and yet no water running into my basement from my driveway. The outside sump pump is doing its job. The water is being channeled outside of the door and into a pit that the crew dug. The pump situated inside diverts the water through piping and out and away from the house. The crew also diverted water from the down spouts out into the yard or into a nearby drainage ditch.
The humidity in the basement is still high and will be until the concrete dries completely. The water will evaporate into the air until it cures. I feel blessed that the water is staying out of my cellar, although it has made a hole in my wallet.

A wet winter and a wet spring, is this a forerunner for a wet summer? I hope not. The last two years, my garden was ankle deep in mud and very little grew other than weeds. I couldn’t remove the weeds and they overtook my cultivated plants.
I usually overplant tomatoes. I make my own salsa and can it. I prefer it to store bought brands. It has a sharper more acid taste than theirs. It is fresher and adjusted to my taste. Alas, there is none left. I used the last quart last year, even though I tried to stretch it as far as possible.

I am looking for a banner year of tomatoes, banana peppers, and green peppers that I add to enhance the flavor. Onions, some dried hot peppers, and packages of Mrs. Wage’s Salsa flavor with added vinegar are dumped and cooked until hot, that placed into jars to be cold packed and then stored until needed.
My mouth waters thinking of it. Storage now in my dry cold cellar and basement is something I look forward to doing this year.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Day Number Three

Today is the third day of the workers in my basement. They are telling me that there is at least one more day of work. Yesterday, they did more trenching around the outside of my house and carried out the debris that was jack hammered loose on the inside. It wasn’t a warm day, but it was humid and the guys were sweating like crazy as they loaded and dumped the waste concrete.
Their next chore was to hand dig the trench around the inside wall of the basement. The ditch is almost twelve inches wide and I am not sure how deep it will be. There will be an interconnecting drainage pipes that will deliver the influx of water to collection pots. Inside the collection pots are sump pumps that will push the water up and out.
In my cold cellar, a small room at the back of my basement, they will install beams that should remedy a bulge in the block wall. It will stabilize it and keep it from advancing and collapsing. The drainage ditch also runs the inside perimeter of that room as well.
The soil beneath the concrete was heavy with rocks and clay. Bucket after bucket was carried out and dumped, to make way for the drainage pipe.
They are to seal any cracks or holes in the cinder block walls as part of the process of waterproofing. On the outside, the trenching will be dug below the frost line. They will give the exposed wall a plastic coating and membrane, lining the bottom of the ditch with a “J” panel to redirect any water. Water from the downspouts is directed away from the house.
On the outside corner, they are digging another pit and installing another pot and sump pump for hauling away any water from the outside. Water has a tendency to run down my drive in a heavy rain and into my basement. With extremely heavy rains, I have had water, ankle deep in the cellar. Two smaller sump pumps couldn’t keep up with the influx. I used a third outside and would redirect the outside water out into the yard, away from the garage door.
Tomorrow they are to install an air circulating system. It is to remove more water from the air than two normal dehumidifiers. The target for me, is to have a dry basement where I can store things without worry of mold, mildew, or rust.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Here’s to a Dry Basement

Ever since my wife, Cindy and I bought our house about thirty years ago, we have had a damp basement and in the rainy seasons, there has been a small trickle of water across the floor. Of course, when we bought the house, it was at the end of a dry summer, and the stream had dried up.
Even with a dehumidifier, the basement has been damp, allowing iron and steel to rust and some items to have mold grow on them. It has been a battle to store things in the cellar and keep them functional.
When the rain is heavy, the water sometimes flows down the drive and because it overwhelms the drainage pipe, it can flow into the basement. There have been times that the water becomes ankle deep. So much water cannot be removed by the two sump pumps and I have to enlist the aid of a third to overcome the influx of water.

Hopefully, today is the beginning of the end of a wet basement. I hired a company to come in and redo the French ditching around the outside of the house, to brace a bulging wall in my cold cellar, and to retrench the inside of the foundation, installing larger sump pumps and a ventilation system. The claim is the retrenching will channel the ground water into the pumps. The new ventilation system will remove more moisture than two regular dehumidifiers.
It wasn’t an easy choice. Their fees were tremendous, but I don’t plan to live here forever and I won’t think about selling it with the wet cellar that I bought.

Friday, April 3, 2015

It’s Finally Spring

It seems that it has been a long time in coming, but I think that it has finally arrived. I am sure that there will still be a few temperature potholes ahead, a few frosty bumps, and maybe even a snowflake or two, but there promises that spring is bursting forth.

I can see the swelling of buds on the tips of the trees. Several of my crocuses have pokes their beautiful blooms above the soil, purple and golden. The miniature tulips are pushing out their leaves. Soon they will be blooming.
The tulip stalks on these plants only grow to a height of about 6 or 7 inches high with the flowers that are 2 inches in length. I didn’t know that tulips were that small until mine grew the first year. I was used to seeing the much taller plants.
The Coltsfoot plants have shot up overnight, flowering with their sunny yellow blossoms. They make way for their leaves to emerge later.
After attending one of my writers meetings last evening, I arrived home to be serenaded by a chorus of peepers. The peepers are a colony of small frogs that inhabit a swampy area behind my home. Their regaling and singing says it’s springtime and mating season. Several tart the process, but later, I can hardly sleep with a window open, their songs swell to a constant barrage of peeps, trying to outdo each other.
Yesterday when I rained, it had the smell of summer dust being settled by the falling drops. That held the memories of summers past and the promise of the summer to come.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Aches and Pains

When I woke in the middle of the night with the old man’s curse of having to use the restroom, my right shoulder ached. I slept with it out from under the blankets. It was a deep down ache: an ache that filled the muscle to the bone. It wasn’t in the shoulder joint, but in the muscle itself.
It caused me to think of my mother, Sybil. Often she would sit with her upper arm and shoulder wrapped in a sweater, even when the weather was warm. She said, “It’s my bursitis.” I don’t think that she was ever diagnosed by a physician; it was a self diagnosed disease.

I know that the one malady that she actually developed was insidious, one that she didn’t recognize and one that we didn’t realize and understand until it was too late. We had small inklings of the disease Alzheimer’s was starting in her brain, but she put on such a good front that her doctor didn’t believe us.
She talked and seemed to make sense, but the memories of her past slowly trickled through her fingers and blew away. The present and the past met. She no longer understood what had happened and not what was happening. The world swirled around her and she was locked inside the prison that Alzheimer’s had forged for her.
At first she complained that she couldn’t read with her glasses, when in reality, she forgot how. She kept payroll for several companies, did taxes, was a treasurer for church, loving to work with numbers. She finally gave that up when each attempt became a struggle. That was heart wrenching to see. The recognition of family disappeared behind the veil of that disease. She couldn’t leave her house for more than an hour, without becoming distressed and restless.
Slowly she was lowered into that well of Alzheimer’s until nothing was recognizable. She threatened her husband and my dad with a meat fork. She didn’t want to keep herself clean, even with his help. He could no longer handle the person that she became. It was a difficult decision for him, but decided to place her in a nearby personal care facility.
Eventually it seemed as though Alzheimer’s turned out the light on all of her senses. She refused to eat. It may have been that the illness subdued the very desire to eat, took away the basest of human drives, that of needing food and drink. What a cruel taskmaster, Alzheimer’s.