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