Friday, December 30, 2016

Would I Have Had the Courage
As I was driving in my car, listening to a talk radio station, the announcer was talking about the young men, barely out of puberty unstinting volunteering to go to war. They were brave and patriotic, knowing full well that they might be cut down during the invasions of Europe and the South Pacific, and yet they went. Many were naïve, barely off the farm and yet they came in droves to fight for the freedom of other countries, trying to save them from the evil of the Nazi despots or the Oriental emperor.
They couldn’t have imagined the horrors of war and the pain from the wounds, the cold of winters, the heat, humidity, and insects of the jungle. Bad water and lack of food would further weaken them, but on they fought, because it was what their country expected of them. My father-in-law Elmer “Bud” Morrison fought in Germany, as well as the struggle with other GIs to complete the Alcan Highway. My father Edson Carl Beck, fought in the Philippines, was in Australia, and visited Hiroshima, Japan. His visit to Hiroshima must have been after the dropping of the A-bomb. It was something I didn’t know about him until later in his life.
I marvel at the courage of my father and my father-in-law as well as the thousands of others who flocked to the recruiting stations to report for duty, long before the draft boards called them. All throughout the history of the United States, we have had men and women who have put the love of home and country above their own lives.

It made me think. Would I have had that much courage? I think I might. While the conflict in Vietnam was in full swing, I volunteered, not for the Marines. I wanted to keep people alive and decided to be a corpsman in the Navy. Later, I found out that the Navy provided the medical help for the Marines. If I would have been asked to report to Vietnam, I believe that I would have gone, not happily, but I would have followed orders.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

I Have a Plan
I made plans to visit with some other graduates from Connellsville High School for lunch, but as usual, my plans were changed. Some dear friends were visiting the area and it was more important to visit with them before they returned to North Carolina. I had every intention to visit them the day before, but another friend who was going with me was ill. I had to postpone the visit which changed my plans to meet the graduates. My son Andrew and his family are visiting from Texas, so it has been difficult juggling time and getting the balance right.
Each year, those Carolinian friends come back to this area to renew friendships, visit family, and to rest and recharge from their demanding jobs. They are remarkable people and it was imperative that I kept that friendship alive. They rent a cabin in one of the nearby parks and “hold court,” not really, but it allows others to visit them as schedules allow.
The drive yesterday to Keystone State Park was enjoyable. No snow or ice to contend with, but seeing green seemed out of place for Christmas celebrations. Sorry to my Floridian friends, you have no idea what I’m talking about.

They had several of their children and grandchildren at the cabin. It was great to meet them all. Some I knew and was impressed with how much they had grown. Of course, my changes in the bathroom mirror are more gradual. I saw some photos of myself and was astounded of how much I reminded myself of my GRANDFATHER.  Have I actually grown that old? Surely not, but photos don’t lie unless they are photo shopped. My body doesn’t lie and it says I’m no longer a youngster. SIGH.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Going Home for Christmas
As I grew older, there was nothing so wonderful and good as to be home for Christmas. It was the place where I grew up. This was the home place where I learned to walk, talk, and play. It was the house where me, my brother, Kenneth, and my sister, Kathy were raised. It was the place where we were nurtured and loved.
When my father, Edson Carl bought the land is had a small cottage covered in brown Inselbrick tar paper. Inside, there were two tiny bedrooms, a kitchen, and a living room that surrounded a covered porch in a U shape. The House had a half basement and half crawl space. I didn’t forget to include an indoor bathroom, because there wasn’t one. There was an outhouse to the rear of the yard.
It expanded over the years to include a full basement, another bedroom, and indoor plumbing. It became a home filled with love where life was celebrated, routine days, birthdays, and of course the holidays. My favorite celebrations were Christmas and Thanksgiving where everyone gathered and shared our lives with our parents and each other sitting, talking, and eating.
When my parents died, my sister held many of the family gatherings, but this year, I opened my house for Christmas. Since I am widowed, it meant more than usual cleaning and providing an extra table and chairs, but it was worth it. I made ready my home for my kids, the house where they learned to walk, talk, and play. It was the house where they were raised, a home where they were nurtured and loved. They came home to celebrate Christmas.

My grandchildren were here and hopefully the memories of love and a home will be passed on to another generation. Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Every year during the holidays, but especially at Christmas, sweet things magically appear then disappear into the mouths of friends, family, and have been eaten by the creator of the confections. These cakes, cookies, candies, popcorn balls, and even Jell-o salads made for festive get togethers. My grandmother Rebecca Miner always made orange Jell-o with sliced bananas imbedded in it. My mother-in-law, Retha Morrison made a delicious cranberry and nut Jell-o salad. My mom, Sybil Beck made mini nut rolls and iced cinnamon crescents.
My grandmother Miner also made pink candied popcorn with butternuts. Sometimes she would shape them into popcorn balls. I thought that the butternuts were strong tasting and gave the popcorn an odd flavor, but Grandma made them, so we ate them.
My grandmother Anna Beck would make pies. I can remember one year when she made pumpkin pies. There was a small amount of the pumpkin filling left. Being the thrifty, never waste anything person that she was, she made enough egg custard to mix with the pumpkin for another pie. It was delicious with a mild pumpkin flavor and the smoothness of custard.
This year, my sweet offering for the Christmas season is various types of brittle. Some were for home consumption and some were for gifts. I made several batches. Because after “sampling” them, I had to make double batches.
The types of brittle that I made were peanut, pecan, almond, English walnut, cashew, and sunflower seed. I tried the sunflower brittle because the person who wrote the recipe said it was her favorite. I thought that the sunflower seed brittle was just okay. I was much more enamored with the pecan and the peanut candies. I just made another batch of peanut brittle last evening because I managed to “sample” most of the supply I had made for visitors.

Sweet wishes for a Merry Christmas to all of my friends and readers.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Spray Paint
The older I get, the more worn I get by wrapping gifts. Each year, I get closer and closer to carrying the gifts out into the front yard, then spray painting them. I’d choose a different color for each child and for each grandchild, then I’d go at it. I would imagine if there’s snow on the ground and if I’d use a latex based paint, there should be no problem with pollution. But my kids have already nixed that idea, and I still have a heap of gifts waiting for me, SIGH.
When I was young and still living at home, somehow I ended up wrapping most of the gifts. Mom would keep my presents hidden and pull out the gifts for my grandparents, my dad, my brother, and my sister. She’d gather the wrapping paper, ribbons, tags, and Scotch tape. The one thing that made the task more miserable was the lick and stick name tags. The glue tasted terrible and they made my mouth dry after wetting so many.
The brightly colored paper was different back then. There was no shiny, metallic looking paper. Many of the colors were beautiful, but the designs were either very simple or extremely lavish. Then the paper was thicker and I am sure the ink that colored the paper came from metals; because as I burned the trash and tossed the wadded paper into the fire one at a time, the flames of the fire would change colors: blue, green, and sometimes orange. It was necessary to carefully check the trash to be sure that no stray sock or lost underwear had gotten into the discarded paper and burned.
My wife Cindy was fanatic about wrapping gifts. Everything had to be wrapped. If she bought a nail clipper as a stocking stuffer, she concealed it in paper. Any gifts that I bought for her had to be wrapped as well.

She snooped, shaking and feeling the presents once they were wrapped. She wouldn’t allow herself to peek in bags or boxes before they were paper clad. She considered them off limits; that is until they were wrapped. It was my mission to camouflage them so she couldn’t guess the contents until Christmas.

Monday, December 19, 2016

A Tale of Two Stories
My grandfather, Thomas Edson Beck was a Squire in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. He did legal work for the residents, completed deeds, wrote wills, and worked with state and federal taxes; as well as other routine bookkeeping for two multi-million dollar firms. My mom, Sybil Miner Beck, started to help him in the office soon after marrying my dad, Edson Carl Beck and continued doing taxes long after my grandfather retired. She also did bookkeeping for two large firms and helped local farmers with their taxes, notary work, and with Social Security payments.
Now comes the second part of the tale and I will attempt to connect the two. While I was picking my granddaughter up from her Mt Pleasant, Pennsylvania school, after her hard day in kindergarten, I saw a vanity plate on a SUV. I’d seen it several times before. It had my mind churning about the name and the driver. The name on the license plate was the same last name as one of a local farmer who passed away several years ago. I knew that this farmer was someone that my mom did taxes for and helped him with the large amount of government paperwork generated from the farm. It took me several times just talking with the driver before I worked up enough courage to ask her about the last name on the vanity plate.
When she said, “Yes, that’s my last name,” I asked her, “Are you related to Mr. So and So?”
She said, “Yes. That was my father.”
When I shared my name and told her my mom’s name, I said, “I think she did taxes for him.”
She said, “I am so thankful for your mother helping my dad. If she hadn’t helped with taxes and to set up a Social Security account, my mom would have nothing to live on.”

After talking a bit more, I felt so good, knowing that the good things my mom had done still resonated in the community.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Baby, It’s Cold Outside
I can remember my mom Sybil Miner Beck singing that song on cold mornings. With the temperature at 4 degrees Fahrenheit and a wind chill of minus 7 degrees Fahrenheit, it is plenty cold for me. In my youth, school schedules were never delayed just because it was cold and I can remember walking to an unheated wooden bus stop, huddling inside, and waiting for a long yellow behemoth to arrive, trailing a plume of steam and fumes. The brakes would squeal as it stopped and it opened its maw. I would hurry to be swallowed up by it and join fellow students in the ride to school, happy for the small but welcome warmth inside.
My mom had a quirky trait of singing a chorus of a song when it matched something one of us kids would say. The song always had some tie in with what we had just said. She only did it at home for us, so I’ve always thought that it was special for the family. If she would have tried it in public, people probably would have thought her crazy. I must have thought that it was special, because I picked up her unusual trait and will often sing a few lines from a song, but I have added telling a story or sharing a joke that mimics some word in something that was said. I did this when I supervised at Frick Hospital in Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania. I’m not sure if anyone thought I should be wearing a straight jacket or not, but most of the time, it did bring a smile. Hopefully, I made a fellow employee’s day go a bit better.
I decided my New Year’s resolution much earlier this year and have been practicing, so it will be easier for me to keep. That promise I made is “If I am grumpy, I won’t leave home. No one wants to deal with a grumpy old man.” So far, I’ve been able to keep it. It makes people smile when I share my resolution with them. Those who enjoy it more are the cashiers at stores where I shop. They particularly enjoy it and will sometimes share a horror story of a rude, nasty or irate customer.

So, to my friends and readers, I challenge you to adopt the same New Year’s resolution. Smile and pass on the Christmas spirit.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Unusual Day
I was glad that I hadn’t planned to do anything exciting today. The snow made me housebound with no desire to venture outside, except for the chores. Early, I hauled out the ashes from my wood burner and hauled in a load of firewood on my wooden wheelbarrow. The snow was falling, but had scarcely had put down a coating. That was my outside work for the day.
I put off making peanut brittle until today. I made several batches last year without a hitch, but I wasn’t so fortunate this year. The microwave seems to be of a higher wattage and scorched the first two batches; the first filled the house with a burnt sugar smell. The second had improved, but the color was still too dark and had a slightly bitter taste. I eventually made several types of brittle: peanut, almond, cashew, and pecan. They are cooling on my built-in back porch. Tomorrow, I will break them into pieces and store them in bags.
I spent part of the day looking for the water bill. I know that I got it several days ago. I remember taking it out of the mailbox, but where I placed it I don’t know. Maybe I left it in the car. No, it wasn’t there, but I learned not to walk in the snow with crocs. It was no fun with my feet in the air and my elbow and fanny on the ground. Later, I even searched the trash cans with no luck. I may just go to their office tomorrow and pay it there.

When I looked at the sales circulars, I saw one store had women’s underwear on sale and I became nostalgic. No, I don’t wear them, but shortly after Cindy and I were married, she walked by me with the material separated from the elastic waist band. I said, “Can’t we afford new ones?” She said, “They’re still good.” When she walked by me again, I tore them and said, “Now they’re not.” Complaining, she said, “Now you can buy me some new ones” and I did, every Christmas after that. It became a tradition. I wish I could do it again this year.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Decorating the Christmas Tree
I can’t remember my mom, Sybil Beck ever saying that she helped her mom, Rebecca Miner, decorate the Christmas tree in their huge farm house in Indian Head, Pennsylvania. But my mom always allowed us kids to decorate at home. Each of had one favorite ornament that was the culminating experience to our frenzied excitement. Later, I am sure Mom allowed us to put on the layer after layer of silver icicles, because the tedious work involved. It was a long and arduous event.
My wife Cindy and I carried the tradition into our own home, allowing our kids to help. The icicles were a thing of the past, but each and every Christmas each child got a new ornament to add to their collection. It was their responsibility to hang, remove, and store them safely at each holiday.
As our kids got married and left the nest, they took their bundle of handmade and bought ornaments with them to use for their first Christmas in their newly established homes. Sentimental, perhaps, but I liked to think that a part of their old home was being transferred and established in their new home, making the transition to married life just a little bit easier.

Now, at home, it’s just the cat, Willow and me. She doesn’t do much to decorate, but will be induced to attack some wooly or fuzzy looking ornament if it is hung low enough on the tree. I have had to rescue a poor white yarn lamb several times this year. Otherwise, she is content to make a bed on the thick fuzzy tree skirting and nap.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Wondering What to Share
Old age has advantages and disadvantages. For example, in my youth, I didn’t have the wearing down of some of my body parts that make my shoulder, wrist, and knees ache today in this cold weather of winter, but in my advancing age, I can draw on a much wider selection of memories and experiences to write about. Right now, both seem to be failing me, but to write I must, so I write.
This past week, I finished butchering the venison, freezing some, making deer baloney from other, and from the last orts, I made jerky. I prefer to cut up my own venison. I don’t have to worry about the conditions in the butcher shop, what kind of treatment the meat will get, and whether I will get the same deer that I sent to be processed. By doing it myself, I know who to blame if I find a hair and I don’t have to worry about bone shards from cutting the deer on a band saw.

But I have paid the price. The ache in my right shoulder has begun again. It is the shoulder that I’ve injured three times before in my past. From the continued movement, my left wrist has flared up and I will probably have to have surgery to release my carpal tunnel as I did to my right wrist, about twenty years ago. Ah, yes, the joys of an aging body, while tales and wisdom abound in my brain. I do worry about that as well. My mother Sybil Beck and her five sisters all developed Alzheimer’s disease and my mom’s father Ray Miner had hardening of the arteries or Dementia. Are these a vision into my future? I pray not. Both diseases steal the brain and eventually the body away while trapping the soul inside.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Odds and Ends
Early, the other morning I was driving my car to Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania and as I came to the top of the steep part of Kreinbrook Hill, I could see the sunlight reflecting from the buildings in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The distance was approximately fifty miles. The clouds opened for a short time and with the leaves gone, the air had minimal humidity, and the sun poured through to make the windows of the buildings glisten.  Although the view is not quite as spectacular, it almost rivals coming out of the Fort Pitt Tunnel from the airport and having the night lights of Pittsburgh catch you off guard.
My mother-in-law, Retha Morrison had friends in Sheraden, Pennsylvania. She would ask us to drive her down to visit for a week or so. The Auel family, Conrad and Dorothy, were wonderful people. My major problem with them is when we visited, they would take us to different places, but when we returned, they would drive a completely different direction. They figured, if we didn’t know the way, we would be back to travel with them, and it worked. This was a time before GPS and maps of Pittsburgh are confusing, especially with the hills and one way streets.
At Christmas time, Connie would set the Christmas tree, the village, and the train set on a large platform that took up nearly half of their living room. It was always a live tree and the room kept the fragrant aroma of pine. They decorated the tree with faded construction paper chains saved from Christmases past and old ornaments, some hand made by their kids.

My mother-in-law and the Auels have since gone to heaven, but I’ll bet they still enjoy Christmas together and each other’s friendship.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Another Day of Constant Movement
All through my sleep time during Saturday night and Sunday morning hours, my left hand would wake me. It was feeling numb. Once during the several nights of unrest, my fingers felt like sticks and no longer part of my hand. I am sure that it is my carpal tunnel. I had similar symptoms in my right hand before I had the release of the carpal tunnel surgery on it nearly twenty years ago.
Yesterday, I went to church and had a great time of singing and fellowshipping with my church family. When I came home, I quickly changed clothing gathered the things I needed to go to my brother’s house to grind several pounds of my deer meat to make several rolls of venison baloney. Once the pieces were ground, we added the spices and honey to begin the marinating process, then cleaned the grinder and sausage press.
Back home, I hurried to get my clothes changed and load the food for a Christmas party. It was for the Ligonier Valley Writers Group’s annual Christmas event is held at St. Michael’s Church, in Rector, Pennsylvania. It proved to be a great time with a variety of food and good fellowship. The food was as usual was pot luck dinner with the writers sharing their creativity in food and desserts. Once we were thoroughly sated and in reality wanting a nap, we were asked to share something that we’d written. I read my hunting blog while others read excerpts from their books, their poetry, or their memories of Christmases past. Door prizes of books and other items rounded out the afternoon.

I helped to return the furniture of the rectory back to its original order before hurrying home to feed the wood burner, haul in a load of wood, then to church for evening services. All in all, it was just another busy day in the life of a retiree.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Busy, Busy, Busy
With meetings and holiday meals, my schedule is becoming ever fuller. There is so much to be accomplished yet. The Christmas tree stands half decorated, but then again not everyone has box after box of ornaments to hang on their trees. The lights and garland are on as well as several smaller boxes of ornaments. Most of the ornaments bring to mind a special person or a special memory. There are ornaments from my parents, Carl and Sybil Beck. Some are from my mother-in-law and father-in-law, Bud and Retha Morrison. There are tender memories of ornaments that I or my kids bought or my wife, Cindy and some are ornaments bought for me by her or the kids. Let me slow down for a minute and reflect.
The buying of Christmas ornaments went back to a decision Cindy and I mad long ago, buying an ornament each Yuletide Season for each child. As they grew, each kid was responsible for choosing a spot to hang it on the tree to hang it. For years, the bottom of the tree was overdosed with ornaments, but that was okay. It was their tree and their ornaments. The decorations grew year after year. Some were things that the kids made to hang on the tree and some were gifts from others.

The randomness of these thoughts is reflected in the randomness of their placement on the tree. Each year, claiming a new perch for the holiday. Sometimes, one ornament speaks more loudly than it has in the past, bringing to mind a smile or a tear, but isn’t that what a Christmas becomes; good memories and sad memories of past Christmases and of things that have become imbedded in our hearts and minds?

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Hunting I Will Go
Monday morning, the first day of buck season, I went to my brother’s place for a day in the woods. It was a chilly twenty-one degrees. We were to hunt in opposite directions, but I needed to use his four wheeled ATV to get to the area to watch. The spot I wanted was about a mile back an old logging road filled with ruts, some of which were water filled. After parking it, I had to walk the last quarter of a mile to stand at the crest of a hill overlooking a flat bottom area with a promising area behind.
The sun was the first to greet me, peeking over the horizon with the promise of warmth in its coral glow. A frisky gray squirrel soon clambered down a tree, chirred and twerked its tail before scurrying down some fallen trees and disappearing in to the trees below me. Later, as I surveyed the woods, I saw a movement. It was one of the gray wraiths of Pennsylvania. A small doe was moving almost silently, no antlers. In a short period of time, two more ambled, browsing along the same path.
A hawk swooped up from the valley below, and settled in a tree in front of me. It surveyed the vale before flying on. Several crows flew overhead with their raucous calling. The woods quieted and I moved slightly to see behind a bit easier. I decided to sit on a wide, moss covered tree for a rest. After I settled, I saw movement again. Two more does, but they were moving in the opposite direction from the first three. Ambling ever closer, I scarcely dared to breathe. They took a few steps, then glanced around before nibbling at some plant. They walked past my perch only twelve yards away, before wandering off in another direction.
Later a spot of white caught my eye. It hadn’t been there earlier. My brother said there was an albino doe and that is what it was. There was also a buck travelling with her. I could hear him snort every so often. Today, she was protecting him as much as she was him. Each time they came into an open area, he was on her far side. When he wandered ahead of her, the brush was too thick to risk a shot. Slowly they meandered off.

Later, I got my buck. I think my brother chased it out as he came to check on me. Six points, but it was quite a haul to get it out. The hills were rocky, slippery, wet leaf covered and steep. Thank goodness, another logging road wasn’t too far away and the “impossible” journey was made just a bit easier.

Monday, November 28, 2016

This morning as hunters go off on their quests to bag a buck, I thought that I’d share this piece I wrote  several years ago.
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 ones 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. It was almost as though I’d imagined it, but my racing heart told me otherwise.
            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.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

An advertisement on television shared the information that this year, The Grinch That Stole Christmas special would be celebrating its fiftieth anniversary of airing on the television. It is so hard to believe that this wonderful Dr. Seuss Christmas classic has been around as a part of the holiday season for that long. I can remember my kids spellbound and growing up to the message of the Grinch’s attempt to steal the joy of Christmas. He, of course failed, and finally joined the residents of Whoville, realizing the true spirit of Christmas. When the Grinch saw that Christmas was a celebration separate from the gifts, food, and decorations, he returned all the outward trappings that he had stolen, mistakenly thinking that they were the essence of the season.
One central character was named Cindy Lou Who. She was a major reason for the changing of the Grinch’s mind about the holiday. Her innocence did much to change the Grinch’s view of Christmas and for him to return the roast beast, the wreaths, and the assorted toys and gifts.
My wife’s name was Cynthia, but preferred to be called Cindy. Each Christmas she would get the additional moniker of Cindy Lou Who and it lasted until the last Jing Tingler, Flu Flooper, Who Hoover, Gar Ginker, and Trum Trumpet were unwrapped and enjoyed by the children.

Cindy Lou Who was put away after each Christmas and was resurrected as soon as The Grinch That Stole Christmas would march across the television set. Happy fiftieth anniversary to the Grinch, to Max his dog, and to Cindy Lou Who.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Food Storage
The memories of how my grandparents canned and stored food was sparked when I posted that I’d made three pies and a cranberry Jell-o salad. Someone asked, “How would I keep them fresh?” I explained that I have them stored on an unheated, closed in back porch. I recall that unheated parts of the older generations often used parts of their houses as refrigerators during the winter months: an unused stair well landing could be closed off, a back porch, or a room in the basement. Cold cellars and root cellars would keep things from spoiling for months.
Smoking meats was another way of storing meats. Sometimes salt and pepper was applied to the outside of hams, bacon, or ribs and hung in the smokehouse to be infused with the rich down-to-earth flavors of cherry or hickory smoke. The fumes of a smoldering fire were directed into a shack filled with the curing meats.
Bits and pieces of the butchered hogs were cut from the bones or collected orts of flesh too small to be part of a meal by themselves were processed through a meat grinder. The ground up pork was seasoned, mixed, then stuffed into the animal’s casing to make link sausage. Grandma would cut and fill mason jars with sausage links, then can them. She didn’t use canning lids like we do today, but topped the jars with zinc lids and a thick layer of lard. I can still remember seeing the pale grease about an inch thick covering the juicy sausage inside.
Later, when Grandma bought a freezer, everything changed. The farm’s harvested pork, beef and chickens were wrapped and frozen until they were needed. The smokehouse was repurposed for storage and the glass jars were used to can fruits and vegetables. The meat grinder was still kept busy making hamburger and sausage. The ground beef and sausage were made into patties and frozen.

The memories and flavors as well as the texture and richness of the canned sausage were lost. But that was the trade off for modern conveniences. Much of the cutting and saving the meat was hard work. Even as a youth, I can recall helping where I could. It was necessary for all to help to have food available for the family, only buying things that were an absolute necessity.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

It’s That Time of Year Again
Now that I am older, snow is just another four letter word. It’s appearing after such a long run of sunny warm days is an insult to my system. Some people despise the word, while others love it. Me, I just tolerate it, but not caring for the cold winds that accompanies it. It does seem strange that when we were children, the snow didn’t bother s nearly as much and we even looked forward to its return. The snow provided all the materials that we needed to build snowmen, snow forts, igloos, snow caves, have snowball fights and of course hours of sledding. Our play outfits were layer after layer of normal clothes almost to the point that they restricted breathing and limited movement.
When I was a kid, we didn’t own skis or snow boards. Sleds were a necessity. We were proud of our Flexible Flyers, but weren’t always satisfied, often trying to build toboggans from pieces of wood, straightened, used nails, and scraps of metal. The first toboggan I can recall helping to build started with a wide plank, a car’s steering wheel, and the chrome trim from several scrapped vehicles for runners. Constructing it was a formidable accomplishment. The bulky contraption did slide fairly well downhill, but it took all of us to tug and drag it back up the hill because of its weight. The toboggan wasn’t very pretty to look at and was of the Little Rascal, piecemeal design.
The second toboggan that we made several years later was much lighter. It was a ten feet long sheet of corrugated metal roofing. Curling back the one end, it made an almost perfect toboggan, light and speedy.

As kids, we would wake up to a snow storm and would huddle around the black and white television set, hoping and praying for a school cancelation. The anticipated announcement would give us a twenty-four hour reprieve from teachers, books, and homework. It allowed another day for us to revel in the winter wonderland.

Friday, November 18, 2016

A Teenager Remembers
I shared a postcard today of Daytona Beach, Florida. It was bought the first time that we visited my uncle Amos Jacob and my aunt Helen Irene Stahl after the family moves from Indian Head, Pennsylvania to Orlando, Florida. Jake was a cement mason and with a family of six, it was difficult to make ends meet with seasonal work. My parents kept one daughter, Anna Gail here until she graduated her senior year from high school, but back to the story.
Back then, driving and parking on Daytona Beach was permitted. After visiting my uncle on Mercado Avenue, my dad decided that it was time to drive to the beach to see the ocean. My brother, Ken, my sister Kathy, and I were ecstatic, wearing our swim suits under our regular clothing and clutching towels in our arms. There were no seat belts to curb our enthusiasm and we would often sit forward in the back seat to look out of the windshield to look for our first glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean.
After what seemed like hours, we were at the beach. Dad drove the car down onto the packed sand. As we started down the slope to the beach, what to my wandering eyes should appear….no not Santa, but I did see a dear. She was shapely and clad in a bikini, the first I’d ever seen. The bottom was just a swathe of cloth and the top seemed little more than bottle caps covering the tips of her breasts. It was a jarring sight for a teenage boy. At the beach, it became just another part of the beautiful scenery as other walked around similarly clad.

It wasn’t all fun and games. The day was overcast and being pale people of the north, I soon had a second degree sunburn covering my upper back. It actually made me ill and ruined the rest of the visit. On our way back to Pennsylvania, it did earn me a front seat where I could lean forward away from the seat and the torture of a brother and sister. In the back seat, my mom Sybil wasn’t a happy camper either, wedged between two kids and earned my dad, Carl, the nickname Zoom-zoom.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Rush Towards Madness
The rush toward madness continues this week. The past few weeks have been a jumble of rushing here and there with appointments for doctors and meetings with friends and fellows writers. I did share a few events but didn’t include the luncheon with fellow retired Frick Hospital nurses or the myriad of tests, doctor visits, and return to pick up medications for the deficiencies that some of my tests revealed. If I get much busier, I will sell my home and spend the time on the road and living out of my car. Sometimes that almost seems like a better alternative than trying to sort through the accumulated things in my home, deciding what to throw out, and what to keep and clean around.
Almost a month ago, I ordered a new couch and chair. My old one was in fair shape, but it embarrassed me. The furniture store from which I purchased it promised me the material would wear like iron. That wasn’t true. I complained and they sent a repairman out to do repairs that didn’t last after first accusing me that a pet had done the damage. I didn’t have a pet at the time.

Saturday, I coaxed my son-in-law James to help me pick up and haul the new couch and chair to my house. The furniture was still in protective cardboard boxes and was even more bulky, but for the ride, we kept them on to be safe. At home, we opened and carried in the recliner chair. Now, comes the fun part. Opening one end of the couch’s container, we slid it out. I was too close to my porch steps and it overbalanced me, causing me to tip backwards, striking a butt cheek on the stair tread with the 300 pound couch sitting in my lap. I sat that way until the Charlie horse pain eased, then we wrestled it into the house. I guess I will have a permanent attachment to the couch, because the cat Willow has claimed the chair and branded it with a puked hairball.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Remembering When
Now, to finish the explanation of the wearying week of activities, last Friday, early in the morning, I had an MRI to help to evaluate a persistent pain I’ve been having in my right shoulder. It is no wonder that shoulder should cause me trouble; it is the location of many injuries, starting in 1976 or 1977. I was helping to lower a mobile home onto new piers when it slid sideways and dropped about eighteen inches. The impact folded me double and I had a dislocation and spontaneous relocation. Several other times, there has been trauma to it from trips and falls. Monday, I have a follow up to discuss the findings.
In the afternoon, I was invited to attend the annual Veteran’s Day celebration at Mt. Carmel Christian School. The young men and women students memorize poignant recitations of veterans that have sacrificed much to keep America free. Attired in uniforms from each branch of the service, they sing anthems, carry the flags of the different branches of the military, and single out each attending veteran by calling their name and honoring them. Such a tribute to us is refreshing where patriotism, honor, and loyalty have been cast aside and trampled in the mud.

There was a meal that followed and it was an impressive spread. It was also a time for fellow veterans to mingle and to talk. I helped to persuade a fellow veteran to attend for the first time this year. He too was impressed. It was an emotional pageant. I told him if any person walked away without a lump in their throat or a tear in the eye, they were a cold hearted soul.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Now the Election is Over
Now that the election is over and people on opposite sides with the candidates, I want to finish sharing my wonderfully tiring times I had last week. I’ve already shared the Eagle Scout ordination Saturday evening. I will share more of Saturday morning. I picked up a fellow writer to sell our books at the Mount Pleasant Ladies Auxiliary’s craft show. She has six types of books to sell; two coloring book, child book combinations, three poetry books, and a book that her cat wrote. She brought along a few of her framed photographs as well. We split the cost and shared a table.
I had my three Tommy Two Shoes Mysteries books for sale. All around us were other vendors: Avon, Mary Kay, several jewelry sales people from the handmade to the brand names. One lady hand painted flowers and scenes on glassware and bottles. A gentleman was selling solid wood cutting boards, toys, and other handcrafted items. Two ladies were selling warm, soft tights, another vendor offered women’s clothing, and two other entrepreneurs had a station to wash hands and to try their creams and potions. It was a myriad of people and products.
The nice thing about having two people at our table was that when one got tired of sitting, we could get up and move around the building while the other manned the table and our books. I slipped into my drummer role, attracting folks to our table to look at our writings and to accept our business cards. I want to thank the people for buying eight of my books and I hope that they will enjoy reading them. I know the plots of each of the series of short stories are readable. Many have told me that they are page turners.

I am hoping to have more people read these blogs as well. Thank you all again.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Eagle Has Landed
This has been a remarkable but tiring week. It has been enough for several posts, so I will start with the last event. I was blessed to be invited to attend the ordination of a new Eagle Scout into that honored and respected tradition of obtaining the highest rank in Boy Scouts, the Eagle Scout status. It is obtained only after years of diligence and hard work; the giving of self to his fellow scouts, to the community, and to God.
Slowly over the years, a series of achievements and merit badges map the trail that each scout has traveled to achieve this much sought after goal. It is lined with the struggles of time, self discipline, and endurance.
I was blessed to see the culmination of all of these things this past Saturday evening. The one thing that made this achievement so powerful and poignant was his father was recently killed in a motorcycle accident and yet he persevered and accomplished his goal. His father was Dan Baranski and this young man was Lucas Baranski. Congratulations.
Let me take you back several years. Dan became the foster son of my brother-in-law, Kevin Morrison and his wife Beverly. They took into their home older boys that were often overlooked by the system and helped to redirect the young men into different paths. Dan aged out of the system and chose to become a Marine. Finished with his enlistment, he married TaShawna and had three beautiful children.

Kevin and Beverly were at the ceremony for Lucas. Beverly as usual with her generous ways, was the hostess and prepared the wonderful meal that preceded the award ceremony. I watched as TaShawna went forward to join Lucas and receive a pin honoring her, but I was wonderfully surprised to hear Lucas call out the name of the recipient for the “mentor” pin. It was Kevin Morrison, a man who helped to redirect Dan’s footsteps and made Dan the man that was Lucas’s father.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Pennsylvania Traditions
While I attended a luncheon for the retired nurses who worked at Frick Hospital in Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania, one of the subjects we talked about was the wedding, to be more specific, the reception after the wedding. There is one tradition that seems to be a trademark of western Pennsylvania that seems less prevalent or completely absent elsewhere in the country, even in the eastern part of the state. The food served elsewhere is often finger sandwiches, cheese and relish trays, and little tea and crumpet type cookies that do little more than to whet an appetite.
While here in western Pennsylvania, basically a full meal is served. Anything may be served from a sit down dinner to a buffet line. Chicken, pork, beef, shrimp, fish might be on the serving line. Some of the staples that are often are rigatoni, halushki, halupkis salads, perogies, potatoes, and string beans.
Usually there are tables of hors d’oeuvres trays of cheeses, crackers, and pepperoni to assuage the appetites of the attendees until the bridal party completes their photography session. Other tables are laden with cookies of myriad shapes and flavors, all baked by generous relatives.
When the ladies at my table hit this part of the discussion, they paused long enough to share the trials and tribulations of baking and some cookie recipes.
The newlywed bride and groom sit with the wedding party in front of the crowd and subjected to calls for the couple to kiss, by the attendees either pounding on the tables, tapping their glasses with eating utensils, or the “new” old tradition of ringing bells.

Some receptions have an open bar, and if the couple is lucky enough, no fights, no arguments, and no need for the police to intercede. Finally, there is the cake cutting ceremony and a time of reflection, should we or should we not smear cake in each other’s face. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Elections and Commercials
I have to go to the Laurel Highlands Cable Company tomorrow. From the multiple assaults on my psyche from the immature and idiotic commercials and the outrageous mudslinging and outright lies of the advertisements of the political hacks, I have worn out the return button on my channel changer. Many of the commercials insult the intelligence of the viewer. I cannot believe that they will sit through an entire offensive promotion of a product without changing the channel or at least using the mute button.
Toomey and McGinty must be sweating bullets. Their ads seem to be on between every program and Hillary’s almost constant barrage of her advertisements show just how worried she is that the polls aren’t true or that the FBI and the law will catch her and jail her before November 8th.
I wish a company wouldn’t put the same commercial on time after time. Why not make two and switch them. I have to turn the channel when the woman with the burgundy sweater with the television for Deal Dash dot Com comes on. I am so tired of hearing her nasal whiney voice. The two jerks in the car at Sonic are another pair of rubes that rub me the wrong way. AARP and UPMC also get the switcheroo. I finally had to threaten AARP and UPMC with legal action to get them to cease and desist from an assault with flyers in the mail.
AARP I detest, because they supported Obama care so they could sell supplemental insurance, in opposition of supporting the elderly. I don’t like UPMC because of several incidents. When my wife died on the 24th of March, I had her bill in the mail, before the second week in April. UPMC also lost my father, not his records, but him. Thirdly, UPMC tried to kill me running a potassium drip in at a higher rate than it should have been running.

Enough ranting, tomorrow; I will have my new television scepter and shall again rule my castle from my comfortable throne.

Monday, October 31, 2016

It’s for the Kids
This past Saturday, I went to the annual masquerade party that is hosted by a young couple who have several wonderfully mischievous boys. Many of their relatives have younger children as well. It’s a party to replace the usual Halloween trick or treat scenario. The food is provided as a potluck affair with  games and prizes for everyone who might attend. Many of the adults dress up in costumes as well as the children. It’s remarkable at the creativity that is displayed. One woman came dressed in sliver sparkle with a silver topper for a hat. She was the Lord’ Stanley’s Cup and her husband had a Pittsburgh Penguin hockey player. Because of my beard, I chose to dress as an Amish gentleman with a straw hat and black suspenders.
One couple came as the Walking Dead. We even had a newborn that was dressed as Batbaby with a miniature cape. Some of the kids wore princess costumes and some boys were dressed as military in camouflage fatigues. There was even a clown. Star Wars characters, a few people wore scary masks, and some folk just wore Halloween inspired T shirts.

A wide range of desserts and all sorts of other foodstuffs covered two large tables. The variety was a vast smorgasbord. There was something for everyone’s palate. I made a double batch of the broccoli/ cauliflower/ onion/ cheese/ and chopped bacon salad and took it in a clean, bright orange child’s sand bucket. I thought of using a kid’s sand shovel to serve the salad, but the handle was so very short and the bucket was deep. Instead, I took a long handled serving spoon. Yesterday in the evening as I was putting food into my refrigerator, what did I spy but that darn shovel? How I missed seeing it earlier in the day I’ll never know, but I’m about ready to sign the papers for my stay at the funny farm.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Peppered with Assaults
With election time drawing nearer and nearer, the television and radio seem to be a constant bombardment of political advertisements. It is a barrage on nearly non-stop attacks and mud-slinging. The messages mirror the entire realm of the media. It was once said, “Good news doesn’t sell newspapers” and the political attempts to capture the attention of potential voters prove that. It makes me glad that I have a remote control for the television set. Then I am just as likely to switch to another political ad or to some of the idiotic commercials that seem aged at the feeble minded or children’s level of understanding.
Slowly, the boob tube wears away at intelligence and seems intent on reducing us all into “sheeple.” They want people that will follow and not lead.  They are desirous to create a culture that cannot make up their own minds. People who will rush out to vote or to buy the product touted in the commercial.
People, we need to teach our youth responsibility as well as their God given rights. Unless becoming serfs or slaves of the government is what we desire, we must be on the alert for those who wish to trade away our freedoms for a few trinkets that further enslave us; things that make us dependent on the government and the whims of the leader at that time. Like Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of beans, will we trade the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution away for free phones, free food, and free housing.

These things aren’t free. The government must take the money to pay for these things from those who work and pay taxes to distribute it to those who don’t work. It is the reason that Socialism has never worked. Capitalism may not be perfect, but it was the foundation on which our great nation was built. Remove that and we too shall collapse.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Repairs Done
With the recent wind and rain storms, I had some damage to my house. It was nothing as severe as those who had a tree fall onto their homes or had flooding, but it did pry loose two sheets of the vinyl siding. I would have tried to repair it myself, except that the loosened pieces were near the peak of my house on the “high” side, which is nearly three stories to the damaged area. I do have some ladders, but none of them were long enough to reach that high. Home owner’s insurance would have laughed at me, had I called them to report it.
Yesterday, I had a young man and his dad bring their ladder and to do the repair. Because they had the ladder long enough to reach the project, they were finished in about twenty minutes, loaded the ladder back onto the truck, and they were gone. The repair was done. The wayward siding had been nailed back into place and the cracks caused in the siding were caulked to prevent any further damage by rain water leaking in.
I had a few small pieces of siding left over from the time my wife Cindy and I had the siding put on. It was to replace the pale sickly green color on the house originally, with a sandy-gray siding. I got the left over pieces out in case they would be needed to patch any damaged areas of the vinyl. I was surprised at the difference in the color. The weathered siding was a paler. Its hue was whitened when compared to the pieces that had been stored away from the weather.

It made me think. We humans are much like that. We get weathered from day to day storms and sunshine. We age and become more brittle than when we were born. Storms and yes, even the sunshine wear at our bodies and sometimes at our minds. But there is hope. One day we can toss this old, patched body away and receive a new one in heaven.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Never Land
What I can’t understand are those people who say, “I will never vote for----.” This bothers me on many levels. The first is that is not just a right to vote, but it is a responsibility for all citizens to cast ballots for the persons that they feel will give them the government that is necessary for law and order and for the life they want to live.
The second types are those who say I will never vote for either candidate, yet in comments or other means of posts and always slant their remarks, post, memes, etc. slighting one candidate or another. Thus they tacitly support one candidate over the other, lending an intentional confirmation of one candidate, while ignoring the evils of the other person.
The third types are those who waiver between the candidates, not really supporting nor opposing either candidate, even going so far as to support unknowns who have more of a chance at becoming president than by winning the lottery or by being struck by lightning. (I had an aunt who was struck by lightning three times, lucky her.)

Some candidates have done criminal deeds that disqualify a run for office, some have said things that are very tasteless and mean, and some have just come out from under the woodwork to run for office. Put the media hype aside, pray about it and listen to your heart. What I am saying is please get out and vote. Don’t belly ache after it is over. Your vote may have sweng the pendulum the other way. Thanks.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Out of Power
Last night, when I got home from my writer’s meeting, everything was dark after the storm. Rain, wind, and lightning all around, some even had trees and limbs broken, but here only the electrical power was off and I came home to a dark house. I lit candles and an oil lamp. The lighting of the oil lamp reminded me of a winter storm in my youth that knocked the power out for days.
My mom and dad had an oil heater and we couldn’t heat our house, but we could allow the water from the gravity fed spring water to trickle and prevent the pipes from freezing, but not the people. SO, they packed us up and moved in with my grandmother Rebecca Miner who still had and used a coal furnace in the basement and a wood stove to cook on in the kitchen. What she didn’t have was water. It was brought up to the house with an electric pump.
My dad, my uncle Ted, and I carried water in buckets from the springhouse to drink, wash, and to flush the commode. By this time, the outhouse was used in an emergency only. We had a great time. It was the longest amount of time that I’d ever spent at my grandmother’s. Oil lamps provided the light at the dining room table to play Parcheesi, dominoes, and sometimes to just talk. The warmth of the kitchen wood stove seemed to radiate into that room, creating a cozy nest. Somehow, the food tasted better, cooked on the cast iron monster and grandma’s recipes always had a better flavor.

It was almost with a sad heart when we returned home after the power was restored. Soon after that, Dad installed a wood burning fireplace and we never were “forced” to stay at Grandma Miner’s huge farmhouse.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A Rant Day
It gets to be so frustrating when Yahoo or any other company sticks pop-up ads on their sites. It interferes with reading a message, sending a message, or even getting into the e-mails. It is so very frustrating to have the constant barrage of advertisers throwing their wares into my face. I have decided to avoid any and all of the products and services these offensive and intrusive they have to offer.
The most irritating thought was one ad I saw was from Yahoo saying they would eliminate this barrage of advertisements for a fee. They not only wanted to accept money from the advertisers, but then wanted me to pay them to stop the storm of solicitations. Remarkable, now, this is what I call a greedy, capitalistic company. Thank-you Yahoo, I’m not against Capitalism, when there is something of value being produced, that actually benefits the consumer.
Let’s move on to television ads. They have become longer and more asinine. Stupidity now reigns king. There are a few that still are able to impress, but most appeal to a weak-minded first grade student. The actors that they use most times nauseate me. Choosing hare brained individuals to be their spokespersons, like the Sonic idiots in the car, the talking dog commercials, or the Farmers Insurance scenarios. Can’t they just share the quality of their products without the “entertainment?”
Another television intrusion is the repeated bombardment of the campaign ads, McGinty vs Toomey and Hillary’s constantly frustrating “improvements” on her stance for women and minorities or Trump’s plans for his vision of America. Although, I must say, Trump’s ads are fewer, while Hillary’s, because there are so many more of them, are a constant grating on the nerves.

The infomercials: how many people actually sit and watch them for the half hour advertisement of health insurance, skillets, rotisseries, exercise DVDs, vacuums, and so many others. I would have to be completely out of my mind either before or after I watched them. Arrgghhh!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Worn and Weary
When I rolled out of bed this morning, I felt my age with aching in my hands and legs. It was the result of two days standing on my feet, leaning over hot griddles, and frying sausage. I have volunteered at the Ohiopyle Fire Department, for almost forty years, working my way up from hand washing dished, through frying buckwheat and pancakes, to frying potatoes, and finally to frying sausage. The griddles are not the kind that people have at home, but rather large sheets of iron measuring thirty inches by twenty-two inches. Each griddle holds up to forty-eight sausage patties. There are two lines of griddles, six to a side. One side starts the frying process until there are spaces on the finishing griddles to accept and complete the cooking process.
Finished sausages are places in large roasters as soon as the meat patties are cooked through. There they are kept at an even temperature until they are whisked away to be served in the two serving areas. The two serving areas have people who bake the buckwheat cakes and the pancakes and the home fry potatoes for that group of diners.

The people come through in such steady streams, that those why fry the cakes can barely keep up, their eight griddles are always hot and in constant use. As soon as the cakes are fried, women plate them with the sausage and send them out by others who carry the food to the eagerly waiting customers. Syrup, applesauce, and bread and butter pickles are already on the tables. Soon, a steaming bowl of the home fries join the fare. Attentive wait persons keep plates full of cakes until the person is filled with food. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Weight of Waiting
If you can recall your anticipation as a child, waiting for Christmas morning to arrive, you can understand my title, The Weight of Waiting. Feeling the burden that you as a child carried as days seemed to drag when you could finally see what was wrapped and tucked beneath the Christmas tree. That is feeling that I am going through right now.
Over the last several days, I have read and reread the proof for my next book as I tried to eliminate any and all errors. The mistakes can be missed or misplaced punctuation, skipped words, or even improper spacing. I eliminated the ones that I found. Sometimes I change words to further clarify what I am trying to share with my readers. It isn’t an easy task to have you see what I actually see in my mind, then write it down to fully convey that vision to you. I spent most of the past two days adjusting the proof and rewriting it to get the bulk of the work done before submitting it again.
With design help for the cover, I changed the front cover presentation to have a black border and a black colored spine with white lettering. It isn’t exactly what I wanted, but neither was the cover for my last book, the Christmas series of Tommy Two Shoes Mysteries. My editor had the first two books done in subdued hues with the mismatched shoes as the identifying brand, the familiar recognizable trademark for the series. My editor decided to do the Christmas cover in bright colors. That in itself didn’t bother me, but she changed the mismatched brown shoes to a pair of brightly colored, mismatched bedroom slippers. She completely disappointed me, making the change without consulting me.
Because of that, I decided to try my hand at self publication. It means more work for me and possibly more mistakes in grammar etc. but the stories are still very entertaining and hopefully pleasurable for you to read. I’m also trying to keep costs down so my readers can afford it. That wasn’t happening with my other books. The price that I pay seemed to climb each time I ordered through her, that cut into the little profit that I made on each book.

So, this is my first attempt to publish on my own without the middle man, or should I say middle woman? I resubmitted my finished book to Create Space this morning. Now, I have to wait as they review it and let me know if it is fit for publication and when it will be ready for me to sell.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Retired and Busier Than Ever
When I looked forward to retirement, I thought that it would be a time of relaxation and for the past ten years or more I collected books that I thought I would enjoy. I would take my tile and be able to read them. It hasn’t worked out that way. With an empty house, except for the cat, I always have something that needs to be done, cooking, washing clothes, vacuuming, or dusting. Then there are the three writers groups and meetings twice a month for both. I have this blog spot and have been working on a compendium of stories for my newest book, Partners for Life. It is another in the Tommy Two Shoes Mystery series. I am working to read and make any changes in the proof, before it goes to the printers.
I am also busy writing new stories as they pop into my head. Sometimes they come in bits and sometimes in larger sections. As I see things that inspire me, I write Haiku. I am self taught and probably don’t adhere to the strictest of the Haiku rules, but I really like to share what I see in that form.
I had one person comment on a story I wrote about a gambler turned into a reluctant sleuth, that I should write travel brochures. It is because I want the persons reading my words to see what my mind’s eye sees, so I am very descriptive.
I have meals once a month with the retired nurses of Frick and the occasional luncheons with the retirees of Frick. I manage to squeeze in some volunteer work as well as doctors appointments and shopping. This weekend, I will spend some time in Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania at the Sausage, Pancake, and Buckwheat Cake festival to support their volunteer fire department, October 14, 15, and 16.

I think I’ll get a job and retire from retirement.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Just One of Those Mornings
Yesterday was a very busy day and I am feeling it this morning. I was deprived of my usual nap time and was busy almost all day. When I first got awake, sometimes a struggle in itself, I perused my Facebook page to check on friends and family who have been near or in the path of Hurricane Matthew. My thoughts and prayers are still concentrated on you all. After spit-polishing my old body, I found the least wrinkled shirt hanging in my closet, then a pair of pants to match, Still looking for minimal wrinkles: breakfast, teeth brushing, shaving, and finally running a brush through my hair before heading off to church.
The Seedline Ministry families were still there with the 5,210 books of Romans and John which we’d assembled on Saturday morning. These booklets of the Gospel will probably end up in Mexico City. We were told that seven people; will on average read each and one of those seven will get saved.
After the church service, Sunday school then I hurried to get ready for the picnic at Rector for the Laurel Valley Writers Group. There was a myriad of potluck foods. Even sampling a small spoonful of each, I came away wishing that it was winter so I could find a place to hibernate. After the meal, many read excerpts from their writings or new books. It was time to drive home, dropping off a friend.
I barely had time to unload my car and store the leftovers of my turkey rice casserole and my caramel apple crumble before it was off to Sunday evening services. Finally home again, I planned on going to bed, but was lured into watching the debate. I was up until the end and the most exciting thing was when an innocent fly descended from heaven to land on Hillary’s forehead.

Today, I am sore and have had a plethora of phantom smells assaulting me. The phantom smells are the aftermath of my fall in 2015 and the two bleeds in my head. It seems as though the strong, hot plastic smell is in the lead so far.

Friday, October 7, 2016

I Want Proof
Yesterday, I received in the mail the proof book from Create Space. I am trying to self-publish my newest collection of stories that have sprung from my brain about the retired Pittsburgh police homicide detective, Tommy Two Shoes. The proof is the initial publication that a writer purchases so the he or she can review it for any mistakes in the writings like missed words, repeated words, spacing, and extra or missed punctuation. Believe me, I have just started and have found quite a few changes that need made already and have just started to check the second story. Some of the changes just clarify the sentence, some are replacement words that better tell what you are trying to say, and others are added thoughts. I am also able to see the front and back covers and will decide whether or not I want to make any changes there.

A lot of work has already gone into the books that I’ve written and by doing the self edit, I am hoping to keep the costs low for those who want to buy my books, but I can see the amount of work my former editor has done to produce a print worthy copy to publish.I definitely salute her.

I wouldn’t be as far along as I am without the help of two writing friends, Patricia Slye and Jan McLaughlin. Pat has several “life event” books sharing the wisdom that she’s earned over her lifetime of facing pain and happiness. Jan writes books of “how to” poetry, sharing the rules of creating prose, rhyme, and beauty. The rules were gathered after many hours of research. Even Jan’s cat has a book out. I wish my cat was that smart.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

I am trying to write a scary story for the October display at the  public library in Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania. I do mysteries but not horror. This is what I wrote, but I'm not sure if I'll use it. What do you think?
Older and Wiser
Widowed and aged, she feared tonight’s visit from the Druid priests. They would soon be at her door demanding food, drink, and tribute. It was their usual fees for their intervention with the Celtic gods. If their requests were not met, they would find a way to exact payment in some way or some form. They were not easily deterred nor were their memories of imagined slights easily forgotten.
For hours, they would gather in a nearby oak grove with thick masses of mistletoe clinging to the oak’s ancient branches. At the center clearing of the grove, they would build a large fire and chant as they danced, preparing for the darkness of night. Beating on human skin drums and playing eerie tunes on ivory hued flutes made of men’s leg bones, they directed their worship to Anextiomarus, the protector god, to Ankou, the god of death, and to the goddess of fertility and abundance, Rosmerta.
It was rumored that the instruments they used in their worship ceremonies came from victims of the priests wrath and the candles that they used were made from the tallow and fat of those who failed to pay tribute for that protection. The priests always arrived on All Hallows Eve carrying the candles. Their hooded faces would be dark and lost in the shadows of the candles’ reflectors.
This year, the old woman’s pantry was especially sparse. She would have barely enough food to survive the winter. How could she keep the little provisions that she had?
She sat to think as her small barley cake baked in the hot coals of her fire. The cake almost burned as she was lost, seeking an answer to her problem. The room darkened as the night drew nearer, Was there a way to save her food?
“Berries,” she exclaimed. “I have a few dried red strawberries yet.” Quickly, she ground them and added water. She must hurry. Surely they would be at her door soon. She barely finished with her plan when there was a loud pounding on her door. She lifted the latch and offered them the small barley cake from her hearth.
The priest closest to her moved nearer to see the proffered item. The flickering light from the candle fell on the old woman’s face and hands. He backed away. “Pox!” he shrilled. “The old woman has the pox.”
When they’d gone, she closed the door, and laughed. Wiping the berries from her face and hands, she smeared the berries on her cake. “This will be a sweet treat for me tonight.”

Monday, October 3, 2016

Awake, Now to Write
I was wakened this morning by the electric hiccough of my digital alarm clock. You know, the soft sound the alarm makes right before it blares “good morning” even when the alarm isn’t set. I lifted my head, glared across my pillows and saw “6:45” staring back at me in its angry red numerals. Maybe it’s upset that I didn’t turn the alarm on or it may be upset that I may decide to ignore it and go back to sleep for a few more minutes. I’ll never know, because I don’t really care.
I don’t think I’ll be going out today unless my outlook on life changes. I’m not in a particularly grouchy mood, but I had a restless night, mouth breathing and waking several times for the old man emptying of my bladder and a desert dry mouth. I try not to leave the house when have a grumpy, ungrateful attitude. I’ve decided that no one likes dealing with a grumpy old man. So you may approach me if you see me out on the street or shopping at Wal-Mart, because I’m at least in a tolerable mood.
Today is my daughter Anna and her husband James first wedding anniversary. Yes, I did remember after looking on the calendar to see everything else that occurs in late September and early October. So, they have their card before the event actually occurs.  I missed my other daughter Amanda’s wedding anniversary, but did get a card in her hand afterward. At the same time I gave her the card for her husband Eric’s birthday and for their daughter Hannah’s birthday before the actual event.

I looked at my calendar and am cowering at my schedule for the next few weeks. Doctor’s appointments, meetings, and volunteer work at the Ohiopyle Fire Department’s Sausage, Buckwheat, and Pancake Festival. It is an event that I love to hate. I am worn out after frying sausage for two days, hanging over a hot griddle for nearly ten hours each day. I have served in some capacity at this event for nearly forty years. My father-in-law cajoled me into it as I stared to date his daughter, Cindy. Sge’s now a memory, but the work continues.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Is It Just Me
When summer makes its departure and autumn begins its journey, do you think that the sky takes on a different color. Much of the time, summer skies have a skim milk color, a see through white with a bluish cast. Even when it is blue, the sun seems to warm it. The clouds are either white or stormy black and float across the heavens in a myriad of shapes: fluffy fleeced gamboling sheep, wispy feather dusters, or flat, like they were spread out with a palette knife. The storm clouds are massive and wear black capes or cloaks of greenish gray.
When autumn comes, the heavens seem more cerulean or cobalt, deeper and richer hues than summer’s sun washed skies. It almost seems as if they are laying out road maps for the Canadian geese and the swans that will be winging their way high overhead. I always love to hear their honking, although it does leave me feeling a bit sad and lonesome. If I am outside, I always pause and watch their v-shaped formations wing their way to warmer climes.
The rain clouds today caused me to think of the heavy gray veils that spread over my house. The winds that pushed them into place and their color reminded me that it was definitely fall. The sounds of the wind and the hues of the clouds somehow seem different than the breezes and clouds of summer. They aren’t actually any more menacing than those of summer, but seem to be the harbingers of frost and snow that are sure to follow.

I shouldn’t complain or worry about the chill. Without the frost, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the wonderful displays of autumn leaves in the rolling hills of Pennsylvania as the foliage changes from summer’s green and explodes into orange, crimson, yellow, and gold.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Autumn Chill
The bright sunny days of summer have somehow almost completely slipped away, yielding to slightly cooler days and even chillier nights. An extra blanket feels more comfortable when the window is cracked open in an otherwise stuffy bedroom. I haven’t yet decided to bring out the flannel sheets, but perhaps soon. Yesterday, I washed and dried my king sized, hand sewn patchwork quilt. It is in the tumbling block pattern and the material is of old double knit fabric. Almost every diamond shaped piece has a family story attached to it. Someone’s skirt, pants, shirt or blouse is recognizable by its color or the print pattern. Each block inspires a page in a book of memories.
The apples on the trees in the back yard need picked yet. I really don’t want to make applesauce, apple butter, or apple schnitz, but I’ve offered them to my kids and I have no takers. I may have to gather them in store the better ones and pare, slice and freeze some. It seems every time I try to downsize, I am compelled to collect and store something. Who says that a person can’t take something with them to the grave? I’m sure that I’ll find a way.
I have one room in my house that I say is decorated in the early depression style. There are old tools and enamel pots and pans hanging on the walls that are too good to throw away, but not the best or easiest to use for cooking or for work. I have several old photographs interspaced to keep that room from looking like a hoarder’s hideaway.
I have my firewood stacked and waiting to be hauled in and burned, but the chill hasn’t deepened enough yet. Soon the leaves will turn and it will be time to fry sausage for the Ohiopyle Volunteer Fire Department’s Sausage and Buckwheat Festival. This year it will be held October, 14, 15, and 16. This will be the fortieth year I’ve helped, working my way up from dishwasher, to cake fryer, and finally to frying sausage.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Rights Without Responsibility
Through all of the generations of American history, her children have been blessed with inalienable rights. These rights that have been translated from the words and ideas found in the Bible and have been incorporated in the Constitution of the United States. Those rights and freedoms have been termed as God given rights, not rights that have conditions hung on them by mankind or governments.
Inalienable means something that is not transferable and that cannot be rightfully taken away and yet the government is ever increasingly attempting to whittle away at our Constitutional inalienable, God given rights. One of the reasons that they are doing this is many Americans over the years have accepted those rights and have not accepted the responsibilities that go along with those freedoms. They have accepted payoffs allowing the government to insidiously steal those rights from us. Like the Native Americans who sold the land that God gave them for a few trinkets: blankets, knives, axes, beads, pots, and mirrors, we are trading away our blessings for public housing, public welfare, and public perception instead of standing firm.

With rights comes responsibility which is more often than not in today’s society shirked. How can those rights be protected without our nation having a secure border, a national culture, a national language, or a strong military? How can we have safe zones when we are unwilling to protest them and keep them safe? How can we have our streets and homes as a refuge to raise our families when we constantly deride those who try to protect them and are at our beck and call when needed? How can we have a strong military when the government weakens them by cutting their salaries and limits their ability by imposing extreme laws of engagement? How can a government that continues to tax its citizens turn around and give that money to our enemies or line their own pockets by subterfuge or outright stealing? How can the younger generation hold out their hands for more and more free things and trading away the freedoms that allow them to speak, travel, and choose their life path, and yet not be willing to accept the responsibility to make the system better and to keep those freedoms intact?

Friday, September 23, 2016

Yesterday was the last day of summer and the first day of autumn. Those thoughts inspired me to write the following.

Made & Fade
Springtime pries green from winter’s frigid grip.
Snowy winter’s memories grow cold.
White blankets fade, expose brown patches,
Create crystal freshets and lush carpets.
Blossoms scent the path to summer seasons:
Picnics, fireworks, and pools entice.

The last day of summer
Teases with a sunny smile,
The gentle touch of warming breeze,
And the lingering fragrance of new-mown grass
Still linger as pleasantries of passing days.

Daylight grows shorter
The nighttime becomes cooler.
Morning’s dew changes to light hoary frost
Hints of seasons to come.

Foliage dulls and changes hues:
Green to reds, yellows and oranges.
Trees blaze in autumn garments.

Frost thickens, leaves stop holding hands
Then brown and brittle, they fall to earth.

Snow clad branches remain. Summer memories fade and grow cold.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

End Times
For years, I have heard people of the church saying, “The end times are near” and I have always thought that the United States would somehow be a bastion of freedom for the world until the end of times, but I believe America is farther down the line than I ever could have imagined. Our politicians have lost all common sense and have tried to legislate morality while allowing the morals of our country to decline to the point that the good things are now bad and vice versa.
Isaiah says, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” Isaiah 5:20. It seems each day, I see more and more of this coming to fruition. There are misinterpretation of laws, judgments passed down by the courts, rules in our schools, and a moving away from biblical principles in our churches. I see America leaning on man’s “wisdom” and a shunning of God’s laws and wisdom. I see the educated elite striving for broad mindedness until they have become close to flat-headedness.
What has sent me down this road was the unveiling of the “Arch of Baal” in New York City. The worship of Baal, Bel, and Moloch were an ancient “religion” that included the sacrifice of children by the thousands and the lowest forms of debauchery imaginable. It was wanton depravity and libidinousness to the nth degree. This is the form of creature carnality and corruptness these “Enlightened ones” have erected and brought into a country founded on Christian principles.

Some folks in New York City complained about seeing a cross of melted and twisted beams found in the rubble at the site of the destroyed twin towers have now erected this heinous edifice to Baal with plans of creating statues of this god and placing them at the entrance of the arch. God help us. His judgment and punishment cannot be far off. With all of the floods, droughts, and earthquakes, I believe God is no longer blessing America and we are about to taste His wrath.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Recently, I have been very concerned and upset with the candidates running for the Presidency of the United States of America. I have clashed heads with my friends because I find one candidate more repulsive than the other. I have wasted time sharing my views that have been turned aside by the concerns of the world and not focused on prayer.
I know that God is in control and whether or not I like it, He will choose the next President of America. God has raised up rulers and removed them. He has raised up countries and has laid waste to them. Proverbs 8:15 says, “By me kings reign, and princes decree justice.
In Daniel 2:21 the Bible says, “And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding:
All throughout the Word of God, the LORD shows the reasons for placing some rulers or keeping rulers in office. Sometimes it is to bless those who call on His name and sometimes it is to punish those who have Ignored Him. My time and energy has been focused on something I in my own strength can’t change. I have been ignoring my responsibility of praying for God’s will to be done and haven’t been concerned about my friends and neighbors need to understand their need to have an intimate knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. I need to share God in His love sent His Son to earth to carry each of our sins to the cross and to bear the pain and agony of the punishment for the sins we’ve committed.
Let this be my message to you, if I am less vocal and seemingly less concerned with the outcome of the election, it will be true; It will be replaced with concern about and prayers for my friends.

Friday, September 16, 2016

At our writers meeting at the Mt. Pleasant Public library, our first fifteen minutes or so, The leader of our group, Dr. Fred Adams usually will share some knowledge to make our writing better or to think in different ways as we write. Tonight, he spoke about one of the five senses that is often overlooked in the story lines. That is the sense of smell: aromas, scents, odors, or fragrances.
We shared thoughts on smells remind us of the different seasons, good smells, bad smells, and smells that conjure up images in our minds when we catch a whiff of them. We talked of unusual smells that we often overlook. The scent of rain when it hits a hot pavement or dusty a field, wood smoke or coal smoke, or the smell of hot brakes, diesel fumes, or car exhausts,
The talk about smells took a nostalgic turn when we mentioned the scent of the alcohol based ink from school and the mimeograph or the ditto machines, churning out the purple inked copies of schoolwork, tests, or information to take home to our parents. And in the same time era, the white mucilage based paste that made the tongue seem to go numb when it was tasted. I reminded them of the ozone smell of the “bumper cars” at the amusement parks and someone else shared the same smell from the old streetcars.
We were reminded of the smells of damp basements, dry dusty attics, and some of the foodstuffs as it cooked our homes. One gal even said she liked to smell snowflakes. Odors we didn’t like were newly laid asphalt, burned flesh, and garbage trucks in the summer.
We shared of how the smells of when we enter a doctor’s office or the hospital now, has changed from an pungent aroma of alcohol, antiseptic and medication to an area of almost no smell at all.

This season of autumn elicited scented thoughts of leaves, wet or burning, or turkeys roasting in the ovens, the spicy aromas of apple and pumpkin pies baking, and the mouthwatering aromas of soups simmering and waiting for families to come in out of the cold.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Blood Brothers

Christian men gather
Christ’s death and resurrection
make them blood brothers.

Last Friday evening and Saturday I was able to attend a weekend retreat for men. It was held as a way for men to gather and worship God and separate ourselves from the hustle and bustle of the world. It was a time to have fellowship with other like minded men and to rejuvenate and refresh away from the pressures of work and home life and to refocus on the worship and praise of the LORD Jehovah and his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Nearly seventy men gathered at the camp, seventeen were from our church or invited as friends.
The Servant’s Heart Camp Ministries is located in Ramey, Pennsylvania. The camp uses a small part of its 215 acre area with plans to expand and offer more in the future. The lodgings are well constructed cabins and comfortable beds. After we unpacked, we were oriented to the grounds and the activities that were available. There were times for shooting trap, handgun and 22 rifle shooting range, fishing, archery, hiking trails, and shooting a flintlock rifle. There was a chariot from which spears were tossed at targets, air cannons that shot tennis balls, and a blow gun target area. There was an obstacle course, bungee run, and by controlling a back hoe, the lifting of balls from posts without losing them. As always at camp, there was the campfire.
Mr. Alton Beal was the speaker at each session. His challenges presented to us were “being humble before God,” “Talking face to face with God,” and the “true worship of God.” His inspirational messages challenged us to do more in our lives to draw closer to God.
There were ladies there who spent most of the days in the trailer kitchen creating truly inspired meals with plenty for seconds. They even made rounds to the tables offering second helpings, thank you ladies for making the visit even more memorable.
The entire staff worked hard to make the stay a pleasant and challenging event. I listed many of the activities, but not all. Unless I would describe the rules and layout of the game, like OcDoBall, it would make no sense. I want to thank all for your concern for spreading the gospel with grace and generosity.