Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Family Traits

I believe that I have shared in the past the one trait that my mother, Sybil Miner Beck had for as long as I can remember. If one of her kids would say something, often it would remind her of a chorus or a line in a song and she’d sing it. We may something about the kitchen and she would sing Katy, beautiful Katy, I’ll be waiting at the Katy-k-kitchen door. It was just a natural thing and we all grew up around it.
I believe that I was the one who picked up the trait, only it just was a chorus of a song, but I included a joke or a story that ran with the theme. There are still times that I still do it today. I believe that is why I write so much to share with my friends and my family. I don’t want these things to be lost when I am gone.
My sister’s daughter had a wonderful imagination and pretended to be a movie star. She would stand in the bow window and push aside the curtains to sing, dance, and entertain.( I won’t mention her name to protect me from assault or the movie star she pretended to be.)
I just wrote a post of how my son Andrew pranked me. Although he enjoys a good story or joke, he doesn’t pop out the pranks or stories quite as often as I do.
My sister Kathy Basinger reminded of Mom’s special talent, so I’m writing about it. The trait of using songs, reminded me of my daughters Amanda Yoder and Anna Prinkey. This gene or trait must have been passed to them, especially as young children. When they were playing, they would often sing as they played. Whether they were swinging on a swing or dressing their dolls and asked a question, there would be no break in the flow of their words or a change in the melody, but they would sing out the answer. It was almost as if their response was the next stanza in their tune. Because it was so odd, many people commented when they heard it.
I’m not sure if it has been passed to my two granddaughters in Amarillo, Texas or if my granddaughter in Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania has caught the bug. I guess I will wait and see, it may just be latent and pop out at a later time, like it did with my mom.

Monday, August 29, 2016


I love a good joke. I’ve shared some of them before on my blog and my posts. Many I have committed against others while others have been done to me. As long as the jokes are not offensive or if a joke doesn’t hurt someone, especially me, I am in for it. My son has now followed is his father’s footsteps and I am shocked that he learned so well at my knee.
During the past week, I’ve had a message left on my answering machine that I’d won The Publishers Clearing House prize. Both calls had a slow paced male voice, sharing the joyous information that I had won. Each time the voice had a slight accent that was more pronounced on certain words. A major reason the calls went to the answering machine was I was in my bedroom, listening to the television, and trying to stay cool with a fan blowing in my ears.
The first caller stated that all I needed to do to claim my prize was to call back and give them my Social Security number. They needed it to transfer the monies into my bank account. I thought it was a bit unusual they caller left no return number, but with most folks having caller I.D. on home phones, I didn’t think too much of it.
Several days later, I had the second call. It went to the answering machine for the same reason that the first call ended up there. The male voice on the machine had the same cadence, but a little deeper this time. The sales pitch was almost word for word the same as the first. I was convinced that it was a person reading the spiel from a script. But this time there was one change. The voice asked for my credit card number instead of my Social Security number. Again, he asked me to return the call and left no return telephone number.
This morning while getting ready for church, the house phone rang. It was my son, Andrew from Amarillo, Texas. We talked in generalities until his conscience got the best of him and he confessed. He said he saw my post on the Publishers Clearing House. I think his wife Renee, read it and told him he needed to call and come clean or I’d have gone on believing there was a scammer out there somewhere gunning for me. I'd been pranked.
I was so surprised I forgot to ask him what the prize I’d won was.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Past Battlefields

When I look back into my past, I see some of the battlefields in my life. Like any sailor or soldier, I see bodies, strewn about. Many have been wounded or maimed by things that I’ve said or done. Many times things were done in jest or jokingly, but they’ve been wounded nonetheless. I’m sure that they carry scars that were never intended to be. In retrospect, I can see a few, but I am sure the body count is much higher. I can even recall a note passed to me, asked to hold it, and not to read it. The guy accidentally took an overdose of drugs that didn’t kill him. When he recovered, he asked me to destroy it. I did without reading it. A promise kept, but later he committed suicide. If I would have seen it as a cry for help and read the letter, he might be alive today.

That is but one of the ghosts that haunt my past and move through my mind’s battlegrounds. Too often we ignore the past and march steadfastly on, not caring about what is still left uncared for, not mindful of the havoc we’ve wrought. Too often apologies were never uttered. Too often we have become numb to things of the past.
I am not saying we should live in the past, dwell on things we cannot change, but I am saying if we can judge the present and future by examining the mistakes of the past, perhaps our battles will be fewer and less littered with regret.


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Spam, Not in a Can

Each morning and throughout the day, I am bombarded by spam in my emails. Every day I have to skim read their titles to be sure nothing of importance has slipped in with them and then delete them all. I imagine that during the day, I delete over one hundred spam emails, anything from Russian and Asian brides to a gal visiting the area who wants to meet up. Others want me to have a breast lift or sell me purple rhino to increase my stamina. Several dating sites, insurance sites, or sites that want to read my fortune are scattered in the mix. River cruises, ocean voyages, and tours of Texas magically appear. Cheap rates on insurance, medications, or tires are often found. Most are repeats from the day before or even a few hours earlier. If I haven’t fallen for their pitches after months of deletes, what makes them think I will jump at the next chance of their offers?
Tonight, I missed a phone call and it was a spammer. There was no way I could confuse this call as a legitimate business man. The person only had a slight accent, but read the scripted text so slowly, that I thought he had a learning disability. The stumbling spiel went something like this, “Hi this is oh. This is Publisher’s Clearing House and you have won. All you have to do is to call us back and give us your social security number so we can deposit the money into your account. Thank you and bye”
Duh! I know a lot of people who like to fish, but this type of phishing, everyone can do without. I just can’t believe that anyone would fall for this obvious and blatant attempt to finagle money from a person’s bank account, possibly open new credit cards, and to bleed a person dry of all finances.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Boo-Boos and Broken Bones

When my son Andrew was about three years old, he and his sister Amanda were playing in the bedroom, jumping from the dresser onto the bed. Andrew of course thought that he could do whatever big sister could do. So he strapped on his super hero cape and made the leap. He didn’t quite make it and broke his forearm and dislocated the elbow. I made a splint of a magazine wrapped around the arm. My wife Cindy and I bundled his sister and took her to my mom’s house on the way to the hospital.
When the x-rays revealed the problem, the orthopedist came in to repair the problem because of the possible nerve involvement of the dislocation.  It was a stressful night. Once the “surgery” and casting was over and Andrew was returned to pediatrics, Cindy and I went home to catch some sleep.
Andrew was wound up and was climbing the caged crib, but the nursing supervisor, Mrs. Joan Richards told the nurses not to call us in, to give him the Tylenol, and let him settle down. Everything worked out well and other than a slight bump in his forearm, he’s recovered.
Now, it’s his daughter, Moriah’s turn. She fell while skating yesterday and hurt her arm. When Andrew called last evening, I advised to give her something for pain, cold packs, and if she continued to have pain or swelling to have her seen and get x-rays. She did well overnight, but when she wakened and tried to use her swollen wrist, she had pain. At the emergency clinic, the x-rays revealed she had a buckle fracture, just above the wrist. She’s in a splint and sling. Tomorrow she’ll get a cast. At least she waited until she was seven almost eight to break her arm.

Friday, August 19, 2016


This morning I would like to thank two of my close friends and fellow writers for the support and professional assistance they are giving to me as I try to edit and self my next book in The Tommy Two Shoes Mysteries.”  Without their expertise and guidance, I would be more foolish than I am at present.
The first is my dear friend, Patricia Slye, who writes under the name Ageless Sage. She has written several books, sharing the wisdom and knowledge she has lived and gathered in the years God has allowed her to be here on the Earth. I can’t tell you her age, because a gentleman shouldn’t share a woman’s age once she hits eighteen. Pat writes of the tragedies in her life and gives insight as how to survive and to flourish, even in the face of adversities. Her several, self published books share these insights in a series of vignettes that cause the reader to think, smile, and sometimes share her tears. She has mastery of the English language and manages to wring so much meaning out of each word, phrase, and sentence.
Other than my own editing, Pat is my proofreader and editor. Thank you so very much.
My second friend and confidant is Janice McLaughlin. She also has self published several books, some whimsical and others that require hours of research. Jan loves poetry and her efforts have a tendency to lean in that direction, as several of her books will attest. Her other talents include photography and she has stepped into book cover designs. Jan has designed the front and reverse covers for my new attempt. She is also guiding me through the maze of self publishing. Jan’s range of books wanders into children’s books, coloring books, books she helped her cat to write, and of course, her love of poetry: how to do and Haiku.
This is a special thank you to these talented and wonderful women. I am blessed to have met them and can call them friends.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Feeling Sketchy

I’m not sure why I am not sleeping well at night and having the feeling of wanting to nap during the day, but it sure is annoying. Part of it has to be allergies and the pressure of a full head. During the daylight hours, one side or the other of my nostrils seem plugged and at night, I can’t sleep on my back and that causes me to toss and turn seeking a position of comfort and allows me to breathe freely. My old man bladder causes me to trek to the bathroom several times on some nights.
I am trying to review and correct any mistakes that I find in the writing for my next book, Partners for Life. Because I want to offer my books at a more reasonable price and not go through an editor and publishing company, it is taking me longer to do so. The creativity and choosing the correct words are just the tips of the iceberg when you hold a book in your hands. There is so very much more.
Not only am I composing and compiling the stories for this book, I have been rewriting my feeble attempts at Haiku poetry. As I began that task, I started to sketch thumbnail drawings to match some of the verses. When I’m finished with the next in the series of Tommy Two Shoes Mysteries, my next project is to put the sketches, one to a page, and surrounding it with three Haiku poems. I would like the reader to be drawn to the sketch, then read my thoughts. Sometimes when I read poetry, unless it is exceptionally good, the words often times seem dry and difficult to understand exactly what the author is trying to say. My mind wanders outside of the words, instead of sharing the author’s imaginings.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Works of Art

The coins and currency of the United States were once works of art. They captured the imagination and history of our nation in beautiful and magnificent bas-relief. Coins at one time were fashioned from rare metals like silver and gold. Master artists designed the images for our currency and skilled engravers worked diligently to reproduce the inspiration of the artist’s original vision. The skills of artists and engravers were put on display for the public to enjoy on a daily basis. These images stamped on the money captivated and elevated the common man, even if it was only for a moment as currency changed hands in daily transactions.
Just like the masterpieces created by Monet, Van Gogh, or Michelangelo, these coins are now sought after for their beauty and artistic composition.  Just as serious art collectors, coin collectors understand the time, skill, and work that was necessary to fashion these miniature treasures.
The value of the coins isn’t necessarily found in the metal from which they were struck, but also on the rarity and condition of the image. Like the classic paintings, wear and damage affect the value of these treasures, the same happens with our coins.
Today, as I emptied my pockets and saw the metal discs that came tumbling out, I was ashamed to think that the same agency that one time selected the beautiful images of the rare old metal coins of our past, have now selected the images that cover our baser metal minted change.
I find the image on the new nickels extremely appalling. The unfinished look of George Washington is stamped without the framing edge on the coin. Even the much regaled state designed quarters have a coarse, bedraggled, and inconsistent look, with none of the grace or finesse of our old coins. I don’t think I will ever see a time when collectors will ooh and aah over these misrepresentations of the greatness that was once found in the history of our money.
I am also sure that much of our coins and currency are still printed and struck on the presses of old, but even the old machinery and crafts cannot infuse beauty without beauty and inspiration being engraved on the plates.

Friday, August 12, 2016

I was trying to decide which story to share for a flash fiction contest about the number thirteen as Halloween tale. This is one I didn't share.
In Thirteen Days
I have lived with the same woman for thirteen years--- thirteen long, grueling years. Thirteen years of being in the same house with a harridan: one thousand and five miserable days, twenty-four thousand, one hundred and twenty ghastly hours. Exactly how much more can I take?
I’m not afraid of the number thirteen, but, in thirteen days, thirteen hours, thirteen minutes, and fourteen, thirteen, twelve minutes I will be retiring. Do I need to say anything more? I will be living with her twenty-four hours each day. I could scream.
Divorce? No way. She’d still stick to me like a leech and try to suck me dry of everything I’d earned.
Just drop everything, run away, and start a new life? In all of my life, I’d never run away and hid from anyone or anything. I wasn’t about to start now.
Kill her? Hmmm, now that’s an idea. Shut her loud mouth once and for all, and silence her grating voice for eternity. All I had to do now was to decide in the next thirteen days of how to kill her. Some were too messy, poisoning was sure to be discovered in an autopsy. I could make it look like a suicide, but too many clues to trip me up. I had thirteen days to decide on how to kill her and thirteen days to decide how to dispose of her body. I should have started to think on this much earlier, but in thirteen days, it would be over.
I decided I would stun her with the baseball bat I got as a gift on my thirteenth birthday. How appropriate. After all she was an old bat too. I would drive her unconscious body to a cemetery thirteen miles away and bury her there. At the graveside I could finally kill her and dump her into an open grave. All I needed to do was to deepen the hole, cover her, and after the funeral, the grave diggers would do the rest and she would rest beneath a stranger’s coffin. Let her harass them for eternity.
It was time. I loaded her unconscious, tarp-wrapped body into my trunk with the spade and made the journey. At the grave I was surprised. There was an empty burial vault already in the hole. I would need to change my plans. The concrete vault was too heavy for me to move. I thought that I could scoop out the soil at its side and hide her there under the replaced dirt. I began my task. When I enlarged the hole to accommodate her body, I tossed the spade out of the hole, planning on using it to finish her off. I would hide her beneath the dirt until the deceased was interred. I would be free of her and all of the clues in one fell swoop.
As I climbed from the hole, I knew Hell hath no fury when I was hit in the face with the spade and tumbled back into the grave. I felt her tucking the tarp tightly around me and heard dirt pelting down on the tarp. Thirteen years and at last I’d be free of her.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

All Wrong

Being self-taught, what I thought was Haiku did not follow all of the rules and a friend and fellow writer pointed out my errors. I knew the syllable count of five for the first, seven for the second, and five for the third line and that is the way I wrote. My friend Jan McLaughlin writes books on the how to’s of poetry and has done hours of research on the different types.
Jan is trying to help me with my next book in the Tommy Two Shoes Mysteries Series. She has designed the front and back covers and is helping me put my stories into Create Space, a self publishing company. It’s not that I didn’t like my former editor; it is the matter of costs. Any cost that I have, is passed along to the reader and increases the price to the point, some cannot buy it. I did donate one copy of each book to the Mount Pleasant Library, so the stories were available to anyone who would care to read them.
But back to the point of Haiku, I am reviewing and rewriting all of them, and there are hundreds. She explained that I cannot use prepositions nor can I use words ending in ing. I would like to publish a book of Haiku poetry when I publish Partners for Life, the next book in the Tommy Two Shoes Mysteries Series. The reason I am concentrating on the Haiku book is I have so very many and I already started to draw thumbnail sketches to accompany every couple of the poems. I do like to read poetry, but when the pages are filled with only words sometimes my mind wanders from the words. I thought pictures would help to show my vision of the words. Jan says that the pictures actually take it from Haiku to another brand of Japanese poetry, but I will cross that bridge when I come to it.
So I have been extremely busy this week so far: dentist Monday, doctor’s appointment Tuesday, babysitting and church today, meeting on Friday, church and meeting and Sunday. I managed to squeeze in time to mow and wash one load of clothing on Tuesday.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Glorious Sunrise

I was up early to have blood drawn for my doctor’s appointment later in the week. I was greeted by one of the most beautiful and glorious sunrises I’d ever seen. It almost made the blood draw seem pleasant. The sunrise only got more beautiful as I drove. It was difficult for me to keep my eyes on the road, especially when the clouds to the west were alight with the vibrant pinks from the rising sun to the east. I looked at the sky as gaps in the foliage appeared; first to my left then to my right, the panorama of colored clouds went on and on.
The vibrant pinks of the clouds seemed to have their own life, separate from the fiery orange that blazed at the horizon as the sun rose. It was impressive. A constantly changing exuberance of colors and shapes dominated the morning sky.
I noticed that other folk thought the same thing. Several people stopped and were taking pictures with cell phones and tablets.
After my blood work was drawn and I was driving home, I was amazed that the sky was still filled with colored clouds. Even though they were less intense, they were still beautiful none the less. The contrails of passing jets crisscrossed the pale blue sky and for some reason they remained white adding another layer of color to the kaleidoscope of this morning’s sky.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Munching with the Oldies

One of my retired nurse friends called and asked if I would like to join some of the other retired Frick Hospital Nurses. They meet once a month for a luncheon. It is held at different restaurants with different venues. I was told that their preference is a place with a salad bar. Wednesday, I joined them at Grille 31 in Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania.
I got to hug quite a few of my old friends and talk about some old times and get caught up on some of the new things in our lives. I passed out my business cards and remind them that I had three books written and am in the process of publishing my fourth. I know that retirees often don’t have a lot of cash to spread around, so I told them that they could borrow my books from the Mt. Pleasant Public Library. I was able to sell a complete set of my three books to one of my friends.
I was able to talk with some who I scarcely met. They retired either before I started to work or shortly after. One of the women worked in the old Frick Hospital that had been located on Main Street. She confirmed that in an emergency to get nurses on another floor’s attention, someone would hurl a metal bedpan down the stairs to summon help.
Nurses from our ICU, CCU, Obstetrics, Emergency Department, the Operating Room, the IV team, and I’m sure I am missing some of the work areas, but it was a pleasurable experience and may just join them in August when they visit Sand Hill Berries.
To all of my friends, I usually try to use an eye catching title. You all aren’t old, you’re just getting worn in.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

I keep seeing posts on Facebook where someone asks if you have ever used one of these and show the picture of an outhouse. I hope this post tells them all they want to know.

The Outhouse

The unpainted wood of the outhouse at the Miner farm weathered on the exterior of the privy, but it was special, having two holes. When Granddad built it he made the seat wide, cutting one larger hole for adults and a smaller one for kids. He didn’t want to lose a child into the putrid pit below.
Grandma didn’t buy or believe in the luxury of toilet paper for the john. Oh, no, old outdated catalogues filled the purpose. The whole way to the toilet, I would pray that there were still some dull pages left. No one wanted the shiny ones. Those pages made sharp, hard edges when crinkled for use and if they weren’t crinkled, the smooth slick, surface was little more than useless. The dull surfaced pages would soften when they were balled up and smoothed out and became tolerable, if not comfortable.
In the winter, I would put off the trip to the john until my eyes and my bladder bulged or I was about to lose control on the puckering string. I could cross the splinter laden back porch. My winter boots kept my feet safe from the splinters, but no I had to face the danger of descending a full dozen of snow and ice-covered, concrete stairs. Quite a few cousins chipped a tooth, cut a lip, or earned a goose egg on their scalp in a headlong rush down those stairs. There was only a raised block lip to the steps, but no railing to hang onto or steady anyone in their trip through no man’s land.
Bravery got me to the toilet. I had to remove the lid for the hole. Frigid winter winds blasted through the wind tunnel that I had just created. It took real courage for me to unfasten my pants, push them down into a crumpled heap around my ankles, then tentatively place my unwilling bare flesh as a partial stopper for the wailing gusts of the storm.
The board seat was frigid. I was glad that it was wood and not metal or I would have been frozen to the seat, stuck until the spring thaw. The wind always found a way to squeeze through the hole between the cold seat and my warm flesh. It discovered a way to slip its icy fingers beneath my coat and caress my chest and back. Goosebumps appeared on top of goose bumps and I would start to shiver. I knew I needed to finish before my teeth began to chatter and send out distress signals in Morse code.
I leafed through the diminished catalogue pages, searching for the cherished dull paper. I was at a point of panic, thinking of the torture of the shiny page. Frantically, desperately, I flipped the leaves of advertisement, passing over the tantalizing panty and brassiere. Pictures, that on a normal day would cause boys to linger, were cast aside in the search for just one dull sheet of paper.
Aha, I was saved; one lone, dull page. It was in the catalogue’s index directing the inquisitive mind to where men’s shoes, suits, and ties could be found. A hasty tearing, the quick crush, and the smoothing of the paper was the prelude to the actual swipe of the derriere.
The return of the pants to the point they could be cinched around my waist was welcome warmth. I was hoping that the return trip to the warmth of Grandma’s house would be uneventful as I jogged up the Everest of the back porch steps.


Monday, August 1, 2016

College Days

Going to Penn State oh so many years ago, I made a lot of new friends and met many people. The teachers were only human and as such, there were all sorts. Some on the most pompous and egotistical people were the professors. One in particular couldn’t be bound by the scheduled time allotted to him by the administration. His words were too important and it was necessary for him to share his infinite wisdom during the class time. He scheduled his tests on completely different evenings and in a different time slot. If you couldn’t take the matching and true false test at that time, he would give you a very difficult essay test.
I tried it only once. The test time always conflicted with my nursing classes and felt that since I was there for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, I should attend the nursing class. I found out just how hard his essays were. The course he taught was psychology and one of the essay questions he asked was to “list all of the attributes of a three year old according to Piaget.” Now I’d read Piaget, but I surely didn’t memorize such a miniscule section of the reading assignment. I barely answered enough to get by with the skin of my teeth. After that, I skipped my nursing class to take his tests. Today, I would have gone to the school administrators and had them rein in this selfish jackass.
Some professors were easy to read. Listening where their thoughts were coming from, I could discern where he or she wanted us to go and would search for words that would mirror their ideas. By blowing smoke, it was easy to walk with them among the stars.
Another professor I met got roped into teaching logic. She spent the first fifteen minutes complaining how she was abused by the administration and forced to teach logic. I am not a logical person and had great difficulty in this class. I passed, but not by much. The things I understood and actually pointed out mistakes to her weren’t on the tests. I could have wept. I tried to take the class pass/fail, but was one day late. If I subtracted the time she complained and didn’t teach, I would have been within the time window.