Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Not Again
It started yesterday and it is still here this morning. My right elbow may have the beginnings of cellulitis. My first bout started while I was in high school. It was in my left knee The original injury to my knee happened when I was standing on a wooden well cover and one of the boards broke. My leg slid through until the narrow opening pinched my knee; scraping the skin off and making my knee swell from the trauma. It scabbed over and healed without any problems.
Several years later I was shinnying up an apple tree and my aunt Violet’s place, with my legs pressed tightly to make the climb. The next day, the spot of the old injury began to swell, get hot, and turn red. It eventually got as large as half of a softball. I was taken to visit a doctor and was immediately sent to Connellsville hospital to be admitted for care and treatment.
The range of antibiotics was much more limited in my youth. There were few if any effective oral antibiotics and the intravenous ones were even rarer. That meant injectable penicillin. The nurses gave to me injections twice a day. As a young person, the daily looming presence of those fat large-bore needles necessary to push the thick, white liquid into a butt cheek was torture. The thick viscosity of the penicillin was increased because it was stored in a refrigerator until it was needed.
I wasn’t allowed out of bed during the entire stay, except for the trips to the necessary room. Youthful energy trapped in a bed filled chamber of horrors is what my young creative mind thought. Soon the pain in my derriere overcame the pain in my knee and the edema and redness began to disappear. As I began to feel better and the days of incarceration grew longer, I was ready for the pardon. It couldn’t come too soon. My restlessness increased.
Feeling more and more like an imprisoned pincushion, I sent a note on my empty breakfast tray, “I’m being held prisoner in room…” I’ve forgotten the room number, but you get the idea. I don’t know if it helped, but I was discharged later that day.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Walworth Valve Company
During the first few years of my life, my father Edson Carl Beck worked in the coal mines located in Melcroft, Pennsylvania. The coal veins underground in this area were low, thin seams and the miners worked bent over to gig with pick and shovel to extract the black mineral, then to haul it to the surface. Because of the low ceiling, he had a dark tattoo on his forehead earned by bumping his head on a low overhang and it wasn’t properly washed out at the time.
He next worked at a factory called The Walworth Valve Company in South Greensburg, Pennsylvania. The company made valves from casting to shaping and selling. There was a foundry where the men poured the hot molten metal into molds shaping the bodies of the valves, the wedge gates, and the ball stoppers. The metals used were brass, iron, and stainless steel. The choice of the different metals was determined by the type of valve requested for the valves. I believe the smallest valves were brass with a 2.5 inch diameter opening and the largest valves were steel or stainless steel and were 3.5 feet in diameter.
Walworth was an old, wood-block floored factory. It was started in 1888. The machines were powered by a belt/ pulley system. A second floor line of pulleys on a long shaft spun leather belts that reached down to the machines on the first floor transferring the motion to each individual machine.
My father’s job was to run a large overhead drill press. His expertise on the machine often caused him to actually earn less money than those less qualified. Let me explain. Other men were assigned smaller, multiple pieces in a run. Once they were set up, they could drill out the valves in a short time, earning piece work. That meant if they finished more pieces that the average, they got higher wages.
However, my dad would have to set up his machine to do only one, two, or maybe three valves. The set up time for the drill between orders was lost of productivity and he only earned a straight salary compared to many of the other men doing piecework. His knowledge hindered his wages instead of helping him.
I worked there for a nearly a year before joining the United States Navy in 1968, but my father continued to work there until 1975 when management decided to fold up their tents and move the entire operation to Mexico. One of the original buildings from the factory is still standing. It is the white, stucco-looking medical building situated behind Hoss’s Restaurant in South Greensburg just off Rt. 119.

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Aftermath (Classes)
I was asked to give a brief summary of my life after nursing school, my uniform, hat, and place that I worked.. The following is what I wrote and I wili use it today as my post. After I graduated from Connellsville Senior High School in 1967, I worked at a valve-making factory in Greensburg, Pennsylvania called Walworth until I joined the Navy in 1068. Basic training, corps school, stationed in Orlando, Florida, then in Keflavik, Iceland before discharge. I Got “early outs” to attend Pennsylvania State University in the nursing program, knocking off the four year BSN degree in three years, graduating in 1976.
The uniforms for the men were navy blue slacks and a white uniform top with the initials PSU embroidered on the pocket. Men didn’t have a cap to wear, but the women’s cap looked like a Melita coffee filter with a navy blue ribbon band, however that did not stop the females from harassing me. One day in clinical, they women revolted, went to the kitchen and attached an industrial sized coffee filter to my head with bobby pins. (I actually had thick hair then.) Our clinical was in an elderly care home, the old people loved it, so I wore it the rest of the day. When I returned for the next clinical, I wasn’t wearing “my cap” and the women asked where it was until I said it was dirty. I washed it and it fell apart. They laughed and it was smooth sailing after that.
I received my degree in 1976 and was married shortly after that. My first job was at Monsour Hospital in Jeanette, but soon after found employment at H. C. Frick Hospital in Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania. It was much closer to home and seemed to have a more friendly atmosphere.
The first three years at Frick, I worked the 11-7 shift, where people go grump in the night. The next five years I was blessed with working in the emergency department with some wonderful physicians and other nurses. The rest of my career there before retiring after thirty-four years, I was blessed/ cursed with the position of a nursing supervisor and responsible for the entire hospital on the off shifts and weekends.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

An Ethiopian Princess
While at my friend’s granddaughter’s wedding this past Sunday, We were able to relax after the wedding ceremony in the reception area of the nearby clubhouse and banquet area. There were buffet trays of fruits, vegetables, and meats and cheeses: including what I think might have been smoked herring steaks. Another area had trays of cookies, candies, and homemade fudge. Nestled nearby was a chocolate fountain surrounded by fruit and other dainties waiting to be dipped and sampled.
While we were teasing our taste buds with the various flavors, several servers began to circulate with trays of hot hors D’ouevres of fried mozzarella sticks and balls of chicken cordon bleu. I managed to sample several items more than once, before I was forced to pace myself, knowing that a meal was to be served at a later time.
Among the wait staff of several lovely young women was an exceptional beauty. Her dark skin, regal face and bearing allowed my creative mind to explore the possibility that she might have been a princess or consort in the court of Candace, the Queen of Ethiopia. Candace was the queen that visited Solomon in Jerusalem traveling from her distant home in Africa. Solomon introduced her to the God of Israel.
I was fascinated with this young, lithe ebon beauty that gracefully filled water goblets, removed empty dishes, and was intent on completing her other duties. Her smooth skin and well-proportioned body was a wonderful asset to her poised nature. Her hair was coiffed to the back of her head in a tight bun allowing her face and slender neck to seem even more regal in appearance.
For me to say that I was impressed by her appearance isn’t quite right. Even at my age, I am able to appreciate the beauty in nature, music, art, written words, and yes, in human beings. I sometimes choose to comment on them with words that do not always convey the full intent of what my eyes can see. This is not to debase this young woman, nor is it to in any way to be construed as the thoughts of a lustful man, it is only to say I was surprised and enamored with this other human being.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Wedding Belle Blues
Yesterday I attended a wedding. I was the chauffer/ escort for a good friend. She doesn’t like to drive due to health issues and it was her granddaughter’s wedding day. It made a busy day for me, but what are friends for if they can’t help? She told me that the ceremony was to start at 1:00 in the afternoon, so I didn’t go to Sunday school after the morning services to be sure we made it on time. According to Google, it should take 45 minutes, but with construction and Sunday drivers, I wanted to be sure that we had plenty of time.
I had never been there before and she brought her GPS for guidance. It took all of the 45 minutes to get there. Google had us driving through twisting roads and unnecessary “shortcuts.” We arrived. It was an outdoor wedding in a pavilion. We walked from the car to an empty pavilion, soon to be joined by one other couple. It was about then two women began to set up the podium. It was about 5 minutes before 1:00 and I mentioned to my friend, “I thought they would have this set up before this.”
As we waited, we were joined by another couple and I found that the wedding was at 1:30. Other people began to gather in the pavilion and we waited. Several messages were sent to the guests advising of the delays. “The hairdresser was late,” “They couldn’t find the veil,” and the kicker, “The groom was missing.”
When he arrived almost an hour late, the ceremony proceeded with a female officiating with a long and flowery speech added to the actual marriage vows. The bride’s colors were blue and gold/ yellow. I was in style. Unknowingly, I was wearing a bright yellow shirt and a blue tie.
We went indoors for the hors d’oeuvres, appetizers, and a buffet meal. The food was good, although some items were slightly overcooked due to the delays. The wait-staff were great, but as soon as the dances, cutting of the cake, and more photos, it was time to leave. My back was sore and my friend ‘s back was in spasms.
Knowing how to get back, the drive time was less and I just had time to make the Sunday evening services before going home. Something I ate at the reception was salty and my mouth was dry the rest of the evening.

Friday, August 4, 2017

It’s Your Funeral
Well, not quite, but at last evening’s writers meeting at the Mt. Pleasant Library, Fred Adams led the gathering by sharing many humorous carvings and famous people’s epitaphs taken from their headstones. For example, “Here lies Johnny Yeast Pardon me For not rising” or from a tombstone in Georgia, “I told you I was sick.” There was the reading of a man, “Here lies Ezekial Alkie Age 102 The good die young.”
Then he asked that we try our hands at it. I must say that mine were more in line with those that rhyme, but there were quite a few that had snappy end lines. Perhaps one like “Thomas Edison, Lights out.” Or Kathy Griffin, “I tried to get ahead and got cut off.” For a deceased teacher, I wrote, “Just Passing Through.” “Napoleon, Generally coming up short.”
And you know what is coming next to try to write your own epitaph. I wrote, “Here lies Tom at your Beck and call.” It was an interesting evening.
Just before I left the house yesterday, the UOS man delivered my updated and corrected novel, The Walls Came Tumbling Down. I was able to trade Fred Adams one of mine for his new release, The Eye of Quang Chi. It is one that he had been describing and I wanted to read. Set in San Francisco near the time of their earthquake, wealthy conjoined brothers are raised and educated to become famous in their own right. Mingling among the high society elite, they still become involved in solving mysteries caused by the dregs of the city.
After I got home, I began to review my newest novel, Addiie. I believe in is my best so far. My co-editor wrote, “Wow” and I didn’t see that coming.” When I can elicit comments like that, it makes me happy. Another friend who read the manuscript said similar things. I hope to have it ready by the end of the month.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Best Laid Plans...
Yesterday, I had ambitious plans with a time crunch involved. I had to pick up my granddaughter Hannah Yoder to babysit her. After a quick breakfast, we started out to complete our first chore. It was to pick up my books that were for sale at The Twisted Vine. It is a consignment/antique shop just outside the town of Ligonier, Pennsylvania on Route 30. Several other writers placed our books to sell and after a few months with minimal to no sales at all, we decided to remove them. The rent for the space was more than our sales.
I checked the posting for hours of operation the night before. Once I picked up Hannah, we drove to the shop. As usual, I arrived early and as we waited, caring for an active six year old, became interesting. The wait was longer than usual. Several other customers arrived and left when they found the store wasn’t opened yet. Their sign read, “M-F: Store hours 10 to 5ish.”
Finally, at 11:00 am, one of the owners arrived. I told her that we’d been waiting and that several others had come to shop and the store wasn’t opened.
She replied, “Well, we posted on the site that we’d be in late this morning. I just got back from New York.”
I said, “Maybe you should change your starting time to an -ish.” All I can say is if you plan to shop there, you may want to check their site every 15 minutes.
The rest of my plans for the day were shot. I was supposed to be in Connellsville for a luncheon at 11:30 and I was an hour away. I was a little more than upset, but I had promised my granddaughter a lunch with Pappy, so we stopped at Brady’s, a restaurant on Route 31. She had her favorite, macaroni and cheese and I had a grilled chicken salad with celery seed dressing and that part of my day wasn’t ruined.


Monday, July 31, 2017

So Much to Think About
Yesterday in Sunday school, our teacher was talking about fiscal responsibility and what the Bible says about finances. The claim for Socialism that some say is found in the Bible is much different to the actual meaning of Christ’s followers giving money into a communal collection for other persecuted and poverty-stricken believers. This act of voluntary kindness was done out of charity and not a forced confiscation and distribution of wealth by the government. The early Christians earned money, gave from their bounty, and yet were allowed to keep what they earned if they chose to do so.
The second thing we talked about was quality. When a person buys something that wears well and lasts a long time, it instills the notion of brand loyalty. Most often the travelling salesman selling snake-oil or other high-promise and low-quality products will not be welcome should he make a second round of the area.
When the subject wandered into long-lasting items, our teacher mentioned that the Hebrew children wandered in the wilderness for 40 years and their clothing and shoes didn’t wear out. Now, that’s quality. Then he said his wife still had clothing in the closet that has been there almost that long.
This leads me to say, I still have several articles of clothing that I bought as a sophomore in high school. I worked on a dairy farm one summer to earn money for school clothes. The one sweater that I bought has a zigzag design of charcoal, red, burgundy and grey that runs across the entire sweater. Because it is so soft and warm, I’ve kept it although it is worn through at the elbows. I only wear it under my hunting clothes for warmth. The fluffiness makes an excellent insulating layer.
I kidded my son that I was going to will it to him when I died. I gave it to him when he visited and immediately forgot that I had. It took two seasons of hunting and me complaining that I couldn’t find it when my son reminded me that I had given it to him. I was embarrassed when he returned it on a trip from his home in Amarillo, Texas. Sorry Andrew.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Off to the Races
I saw a dear friend’s post yesterday saying that it was becoming harder and harder to rise above her daily challenges as she aged. It was taking longer and longer to complete some of the simple things that she never before thought twice about doing. But I have begun to see things differently and my thoughts lead down another path.
Each day when I wake, I have met the minimal daily requirement. My heart is still beating and my lungs are taking in oxygen that I need to survive and allow my eyes to see another day. Everything after that is just icing on the cake.
I roll out of bed and survey the tasks in my schedule, making my plan of attack. That says my brain is still working and I can think. When chores become too difficult to do the way I once used to do, I change my method of dealing with it. I do what I can or work around the problem until I can find something else to fill the bill or I do without.
I can still run the race, albeit much slower than I once could, but I still manage to cross the finish line. My emotions stir as I see the goal getting closer and closer. The anticipation builds. The joy and excitement escapes when the job is done and behind me.
God never promised that the race He has planned for me would be easy. He has never asked me to be the first person to cross the finish line. He just asks that I start the race, continue pushing forward, and to run to the best of my ability. The rewards and crowns that God gives to us are for all those who finish the marathon and not just for those in first place.
In Philippians 3:14, the Apostle Paul writes, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” He was looking ahead, saying he hadn’t reached the goal line, but he was still keeping on course.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Not the SAMA Old Evening
Last Friday evening was the launch of The Loyalhanna Review. It is an annual publication that collects and shares the talent of writers and photographers it its glossy pages. The magazine has been able to gather, spotlight, and focus attention on these skilled and gifted craftspeople of pen and camera. Each year, this magazine gains in prestige and distribution.
Friday’s gala event took place in the Southern Allegheny Museum of Art located just outside Ligonier, Pennsylvania. Ruth McDonald is the Editor in Chief of The Loyalhanna Review and was the emcee for the evening. Several of the writers were chosen then introduced to share their words of art with the gathered crowd. This year, as the reputation of the magazine spreads, so do the writers who enter. This year, we had a writer from Baltimore, Maryland submitted and was accepted for publication. She drove to join us at the event.
The stories and poetry of 30 page magazine is interspaced with colored photographs. Copies were distributed to the attendees, giving them first chance to hold the freshly printed literary collection. They were given the opportunity to see and later hear the offerings inside.
A tantalizing buffet of dainties filled one corner of the art gallery and as people mingled before and after the presentation and readings, sampling the varied foods and drink. The variety of foodstuffs was able to tempt the taste buds of the pickiest of palates.
The inside walls of the museum is lined with wonderfully beautiful paintings adding an air of formality to the affair.

Friday, July 21, 2017

My Cogs Are Slipping
Because yesterday was another busy day, in my rush, I mistakenly drove to the wrong physician’s office. My appointment was for 1:30 and as usual I arrived early. As I got out of my car and started for the door of the Norwin health center in Irwin, Pennsylvania, I had the feeling something wasn’t right. I stopped and as the physician’s name popped into my head. The location of the office and the doctor’s name didn’t jive. It was now 1:05 p.m. and I was supposed to be in Greensburg for the 1:30 appointment.
I hopped back into my car and hustled back on Route 30. There were several red lights and some slow traffic, but I made it with 10 minutes to spare. I think I will have to plan my routes more carefully to prevent another slipped cog in the old mental machine. I was on time and able to get an injection into my right shoulder. It was feeling more comfortable within the hour and I think it even made my sore back somewhat less severe.
But this entire week has been hectic. I had a writers meeting later last evening at the Mt. Pleasant Public Library. And I must say, the roadway in town is almost like a battlefield with deep trenches, fox holes, and construction “soldiers” lining the streets guiding traffic and making more tank traps.
After the meeting was over many of the writers escaped to McCauley’s through the carnage of the streets. The soldier’s were gone, but the traps remained. On the Diamond, the Doughboy on his tall cylindrical perch was watching over us as we were on R & R and ate our rations.
I have the morning free to wash a load of clothing, then later today, I’ll attend the Southern Allegheny Museum of Art on the outskirts of Ligonier for the Launching of the 2017 The Loyalhanna Review magazine filled with photos and writings of local men and women. Short storied, poetry, and beautiful photographs fill glossy pages. It is always an interesting evening.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Another Day
After doing wood stacking, my back has been sore, especially painful when I get up from a sitting position. Monday as I was mowing my yard and my eighty plus year old neighbor’s yard, my riding mower threw a belt. I wasn’t able to get under it and called my local mower repairman and friend. He said that he would be out, but not on Monday. I knew that I would be away most of the day today and I left the garage door open for him.
I called him to see what the bill would be and usual he said we’d settle later. Not only had the belt kicked off, but it sheared a bolt the he also replaced. He’s reasonable, so I know he won’t break the bank. He asked if I had a chance to try it and said no. It was a busy day forme and I had no time for the evening meal, grabbing a sandwich.
I was up early and stopped at “Wally World” for a few groceries before heading to my daughter’s house. I was babysitting for my granddaughter Hannah Yoder. Today, she was a good kid. Some days she can be a little bit stubborn wanting her way. With my back so sore, we settled that problem early while her mom was still there. I placed a wooden spoon beside the couch and the groundwork was laid for good behavior.
I was freed from that duty just after 5 pm and hurried home to grab a bite then hopped back into the car and headed to Stahlstown for the monthly Chestnut Ridge Historical Society meeting, The speaker was from the National Park Services, explaining its history and some local attractions.
One busy day down and gearing up for the rest of the week. Sometimes it seems like retiring means being tired time after time. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

This and That
One of the wonderful treats that I could get was the foil-wrapped and brightly colored box of sweet, caramel-flavored peanut and popcorn snack Cracker Jacks. The delicious snack had buried deep inside the wax-coated flavor-keeping pack was a hidden treasure. It may have been a ring, a whistle, a metal-balled game, or plastic animal. Things have changed. The flavor is still there, but those prizes lack the lure and desire to claim them. The last time my yearning to visit this childhood memory caused me to actually buy and sample this concoction, I was disappointed. The flavor was the same. The popcorn still had the rich caramel coating, the peanuts still settled closer to the bottom, but the prize I found was a lick-em and stick-em tattoo. It wasn’t very exciting for an adult who had sampled the past buried treasures and regaled at the quest of finding these worthwhile little caches.
I often find myself purchasing a similar product fiddle-faddle. It has a buttery, sweet flavor of caramel or toffee and comes in a larger sized package, for my adult sized appetite. It has the peanuts that often sticks to the clusters of popcorn welded together by the toffee or caramel. To me, tasting the peanut embedded in the clump is the hidden treasure and I know that I won’t be disappointed. I know that there will not be some reward lying unclaimed at the bottom of the box.
The only disappointment that I may feel is that there is no more of this scrumptious snack left in the package and a feeling of guilt when I think that I ate the entire package and that I was unable to satisfy my appetite to just two or three of those luscious clumps. My heart and childhood memories of those hidden prizes still belong to Cracker Jack, but my adult appetite belongs to fiddle-faddle.


Friday, July 14, 2017

Choosing Weather or Not
The rain today and the storms last night caused me to think of how the weather we see and experience on the outdoors compares to the emotions that fill our bodies and how the weather on the outside affects the feelings we have inside us. It took many people’s observations and many years of insight to connect the two, but once the connection was made, it is easy for us to see why..
The storms we had last night raged with strong winds, pounding rain, sharp flashes of lightning and loud claps of thunder. They often mirror the confusion and strong upheaval in our lives.
The flashes of lightning may mimic our anger that sometimes causes devastating outcomes with those around us, destroying friendships and relationships that have taken years to build. It may blind others and not allow them to see who we really are.
Powerful devastating winds may push others away or damage lifelong projects in a short violent outburst of a tornado or the longer more persistent winds of a hurricane. Thunder can echo our rumbling complaints or loud rolling bravado. Thick gray clouds overhead can be veils of depression, sadness, or disappointment that hide the sunshine of hope and love.
Sometimes these storms cause flooding and overfill our souls with devastating effects. We cannot retain the rush of it all and our emotions overflow with sadness and weeping and we stand hopelessly by watching things we hold dear fall into rubble.
The coldness of the winter and winds are like bitterness. It stops us from becoming the persons we should be, allowing the fruits of envy, jealousy, and enmity to develop where friendships once grew, while the sunshine of happiness for friends and their achievements can quickly melt the seeds of those divisive fruits and not let them take root.
We can choose whether or not to allow the weather of our emotions to rule our lives and which feeling we allow to grow.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

When Men Were Men and We Were Just Boys
On a local sell or trade blog that is listed on Facebook, there was a listing to sell several round metal miners’ lunchboxes. Seeing the lunch buckets transported me back to my grandmother’s Rebecca Miner’s kitchen when I was just a young child. I saw the lunch pail many times on the countertop. The lunchbox was my grandfather Raymond Miner’s. He was a coal miner by night, working the farm during the day. His brass based carbide light was stored in the basement. My granddad never said much about the struggles that he and my grandmother had feeding and clothing seven children. In past blogs, I often mention my grandmother, sometimes overlooking my granddad. I learned a lot about him after his death. Stories from other family members filtered in adding layers of information about this small-statured, unimposing and quiet man. He was quick to smile with the grandchildren and sometimes all too tolerant as a parent.
I am not sure that I could be a coal miner delving deep underground, but my granddad did. One story that I was told about him made me angry. I didn’t find out until after my uncle’s death. My uncle worked in the coal mines with him and would sometimes sleep. My grandfather would cover for him, digging and loading the coal for two. I don’t see how my uncle could do that to his dad or why my grandfather allowed my uncle to do that and how Granddad could still have the strength and endurance to do the farm work too.
My brother and I would vie with each other to claim the coveted seat beside him when we would visit his house and eat at the granite red and white table. He most often reeked of the barn, but now the same smell has become perfume to my recollections.
When he died, Pastor Smith spoke at his funeral comparing my granddad to the biblical character Enoch. There isn’t much said about Enoch, but in Pastor Smith’s eulogy of my granddad, he described Enoch and my granddad as quiet men who walked closer and closer to God until they were no more. These are just a few of the memories stored inside of my brain of this good and Godly man, my granddad Raymond Miner. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Three More to Go
This year the Rugg family celebrated their 97th annual reunion, only three more to go to hit one hundred. The first one that I can recall was held at my great-grandfather Curtis Rugg farm in Mill Run, Pennsylvania. I have described the food laden sawhorse tables in the orchard and the 20 gallon crock of lemonade that was perched on an end table. My great-grandfather Curtis and my great uncle Wesley sitting on the front porch swing and the old water pump in the back yard.
After Curtis’ death, the next place for the clan to gather was my great-uncle George’s home. Curtis’ farm could be seen from the front yard. George’s back yard wasn’t as spacious as the farm, but there was room for tables and for us kids to run, play, and find things to get into.
When George died, the baton was again passed to the eldest living Rugg, which happened to be my grandmother, Rebecca Rugg Miner and the location shifted again to the picnic areas behind the Indian Head Community center. It was a little less homey and the trek to the restrooms was a little far for the older members. The consolation was there was a ball diamond for the folk to play games of softball.
With the death of my grandmother, the location shifts again. For the past several years, the reunion has met in Indian Head, Pennsylvania at Resh’s Park located behind the fire hall. The pavilions, the playground, and room for the kids to play make it an ideal place to gather. This year, we were able to rent a bouncy castle for the kids. The turnout was lighter this year, due to a recent death in the Rugg family.
It was still well attended and great to see cousins, see their kids, and grandkids. Sometimes names allude me, but seeing familiar faces and meeting new additions to the family is what reunions are about, securing the roots and seeing the new branches.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Grande Dames of Nursing
Wednesday afternoon I met with about twenty of retired nurses for our monthly luncheon. We gathered at a restaurant in Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania. While we waited to order and then for our food to arrive we talked, sharing memories and stories of our past. Sometimes we ask questions to keep facts straight in our aging minds.
Each time we meet, the names of nurses vary some only coming when they are able. We were blessed to have one of our retirees make a rare appearance. I worked with her when I claimed the emergency department as my home. I reminded her of the time that several of the emergency nurses and physicians ate at a Hawaiian restaurant in Monroeville, Pennsylvania. One of the items on the menu was called the Poo-poo platter. We chuckled at the name. One of the nurses went table hopping tasting other peoples drinks. She was so tipsy that she tried to drink from a paper umbrella garnish instead of the straw.
I reminded her of another incident that she was the center of attention. An elderly man came in to the hospital complaining of abdominal cramping and constipation. The doctor diagnosed the man as being definitely constipated. Dr. V. decided that it was time for someone to digitally manipulate and dislodge the impacted fecal blockage. The doc came out from behind the curtain and walked into the nursing station saying, “Hand check.”
We looked at each other with a puzzled look in our eyes, but we held out our hands for him to inspect.
“You,” Dr. V. called, pointing with his pen. “You with the long fingernails, there’s an old man who needs assistance with his impaction.”
The nurse he picked was a very prim and prim person who always dressed neatly and her make-up was always perfect.  Her nails were almost three quarter of an inch long. They were buffed and coated with several layers of clear fingernail polish. Rolling her eyes and giving a disgusted sigh, she disappeared behind the curtain to do her duty.
Later, she revealed that she’d doubled her exam gloves. She was afraid her nails might push through if she wore just one pair and that “just wouldn’t be good.” The patient left the emergency room happy, leaving behind several pounds of feces and one disgruntled nurse.
When she arrived at the hospital the next day, her nails were again impeccable, but they were only a quarter of an inch long. She trimmed them.


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Lonesome Sad Mournful Sounds
What has my mind wandering down this path was the lonesome howl of a dog that misses its owner. Four thirty this morning, a dog at my neighbor’s boarding kennel began its wailing. It was overcome with the thought it was abandoned and left alone to be cared for by a stranger. Torn out of its loving and familiar home, it shared its misery and loneliness with the world and unfortunately me.
Another sound that resonates deeply with my emotion is the calling of the wild Canadian geese as they fly in their v-shaped formation, heading south for the winter. Somehow, their honking high overhead in the cobalt sky of autumn seems so much different and more sad than their calls when they fly north on their return trip to their breeding grounds.
Another sound that stirs my emotions is the far-off wail of a passing train. I remember as a child laying in my bed on a summer night and hearing the locomotive's warning call pour through my open bedroom window.
My grandmother Rebecca Miner said as she faced the grief of making arrangements to bury my uncle Ted, “No mother should have to bury their child.” Those mournful words nearly broke my heart. Hearing her say them with tears in her eyes and listening to her weep at the graveside are memories that even time cannot erase.
At this Independence Day, I think of all the mothers that have wept at the gravesides of their sons and daughters, children who gave their lives to protect our freedoms and our borders. Tied to that thought is the sound of Taps being bugled at the graveside ceremony of a soldier or sailor being laid to rest. Softly, sadly that mournful send-off tribute somehow seems little payment for their sacrifice.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Gone Are the Jingles
Gone are the catchy, cute, or silly jingles that marched across our televisions.  We no longer have Dinah Shore advising, “Drive a Chevrolet in the USA,” or Ethel Merman prodding, “You can trust your car to the man who wears the star, the big, bright Texaco star.” We could look for direction and information, if we, “Let our fingers do the walking in the Yellow Pages.”
Many jingles gave us health tips, “You’ll wonder where the yellow went, when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent.” Focusing on the hair, “Halo, everybody, Halo,” or “Brylcream, a little dab will do you.” Upset stomach, “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz. Oh, what a relief it is, Alka-seltzer.” If you got a boo-boo, “Stuck on Bandaid, ‘cause Bandaid is stuck on you.”
Food jingles seemed to be regulars that enticed you to the kitchen to eat. “I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener, ‘cause everyone would be in love with me.” Armour company didn’t care if you were sick, because “Even kids with chicken pox, eats Armour hotdogs.” How about the “San Francisco treat, Rice-a-roni?” Does anyone remember, “Jolly, yo ho ho, Green Giant.” At breakfast time Kellogg’s wanted you to sing along with “Snap. Crackle, and Pop, Rice Krispies.”
Jingles lured us out of our homes with “Hold the pickle hold the lettuce. Special orders don’t upset us.” and “Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, onion on a sesame seed bun.” Treats like “Dairy Queen with the curl on top” sounded great on a hot day. Candy like “B-O-N-O-M-o Bonomo, Turkish taffy,” or “Nestles, Nestles makes the very best…chocolate” certainly caught our attention between programs on Saturday mornings.
Toys like Slinky, Odd Ogg, Tippy Tumbles (Batteries not included), Sindy Doll, or Hasbros, “Charlie’s Angels caused kids to rewrite their Christmas list. Alas, the jingles have gone away, only to be replaced by abrasive and uninteresting ads without a catchy tune or phrase.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Although the Rugg reunion has been going on for 93 years, I can’t remember its beginning, but can remember when it was held at the old Rugg farm in Mill Run, Pennsylvania. People would gather, planning on spending most of the day socializing and eating. It was a time to reconnect with the roots of our family. We looked at the scarce black and white photos of past generations and were introduced to newly born members of the clan.
Food was possibly a bigger part of the gatherings than the reconnection with aunts, uncles, cousins, great-grandparents, or cousins twice removed. The varied items of the potluck meals filled long tables of bed sheet covered boards resting on saw horses. The fare was placed under the shade in the apple orchard and soon became the center of attention. Even just sampling most the meats, casseroles, and desserts, I can remember the fullness of my stomach. The wonderful tastes made me wish I could eat more. I was afraid I might miss eating a delicious bite of cake, cookie, or pie.
Although the food was always good, what made the biggest impression was the huge, cloth covered crock of lemonade claiming its spot the end of the table. It was filled to the brim with ice, sugar, and squeezed lemons that floated in the concoction. The cloth kept the honey bees from sipping the lemony nectar. Even when nearing the end of the day, the lemon flavor became watered down from the melted ice was still so refreshing. I can remember the cooling liquid as it slid down my dry parched throat after running and playing with my cousins in the hot afternoon sun. Memories can be made from the smallest things, if we keep them precious.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Mow, Mow, Mow My Yard
Lately, when I mow my yard, I have several friends that like to join me. Oh, they don’t actually mow, they come to visit. The first is a bothersome fly. It buzzes at my ears, then at my face. Swatting it away doesn’t seem to do any good, because within minutes, it’s back again, circling my head. It worries me that it is looking for a vacation home in my mouth or nose. That is something that I really don’t want to happen.
I thought my next mowing friends have abandoned me. In the early months, I sorely missed them. They are a family of barn swallows. Hearing my mower beginning to lop off the tops of the grass in my yard, they swoop from their nesting area to catch the insects that my mowing chases from the lawn. Gracefully they swoop, gathering the bugs to feed themselves and their family. I keep hoping that they will catch and eat the fly that bugs me, but no such luck yet. Do barn swallows swallow flies?
A much larger visitor came through my yard yesterday. The back part of my property is very moist. Either a cow or a horse meandered across that area and left about 3 inch impressions in the wet ground. It happens about once a year and it takes me several sessions of mowing to repair the divots.
Today I mowed my elderly neighbors’ lawn as well. I hate to see my lawn neat and theirs wild and untended. As I started to mow, their grandson came to visit them and began to cut the hard to reach areas with a push mower. I was glad to see him. I am like the cowboys of the old west. “If it can’t be done from the saddle, I don’t like to do it.” Now I’m not as daring or as romantic as a cowboy, but sitting in the saddle is more my style.

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Birth of a Notion
As I was thinking of what to write, two thoughts for the title and the direction for the subject were battling in my mind. The first title I thought to name it was “The Birth of a Nation” and I planned to share stories surrounding the birth of my three children. The initial thought was spurred by my post of our visit to Niagara Falls and the trip home. My wife Cindy became nauseated as we drove home. Later as she tried to sleep, the images of electric poles sped past her like a picket fence and the nausea persisted. This was our introduction into pregnancy with our first daughter. After that, I developed a craving for greasy hamburgers at each of the following pregnancies. With the last craving of a hamburger for our third child, Cindy said, “No need for me to go to the doctor. I’m pregnant” and she was.
The second idea that fits the chosen title of this piece was to introduce how an idea, phrase, or incident can set off a spark of creativity which eventually becomes a story, a book, or a poem. Many times I copy down a single thought and it stays on the paper for quite awhile. It was something I wanted to keep, but the words to finish it wasn’t there yet, but it was the germ of a plot, a partial line of a poem, or sometimes it would find its way into a waste basket, rejected because I’d already written something similar or it wasn’t as good as my initial thought.
In my computer room, there are reams of paper with finished manuscripts, partially written stories, and finished poems or Haiku that haven’t been entered into the computer. The stacks pile up, because of laziness on my part. I see the task and because I never took typing, I avoid it. I am a two and at best a three fingered typist.
I did start to clean out some of the clutter surrounding me and I found a check as payment for a book I sold. It was tucked in a Christmas card. The postmark was from November 2016. My bank was kind enough to cash it. I do hope my cousin Barb won’t be too mad that I took so long to redeem it. As you can see, even check that hasn’t been cashed can be an interesting notion to write about.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Sentimental Sorting
Last evening, I was hot and decided to start the Herculean task of cleaning out my computer and general clutter room. Bins of photographs cover the floor of one closet. Some are old photos passed down through the generations. Some are newer photos from trips my mother-in-law Retha Morrison took on trips with friends. There are some pictures and negatives that my daughter Amanda Yoder took when she was in the photography business. School portraits of the kids, my wife, and me are tucked in bins for safe keeping. There are portraits of the family, chronicling our family and the styles through the years.
Some black and white photographs are from World War II era of men wearing uniforms, women in “stylish” outfits strolling down the street, and kids in clothes that haven’t changed all that much, wearing t shirts and jeans.
Christmas cards, birthday cards, thank you cards, and of course post cards were stuck in candy boxes, card boxes, and bins, just waiting for me to sort through. I never know whether to keep or toss, especially when the person that sent it is no longer alive. There is one thing for sure. I’ll never get another card from them. As I sorted through the cards, I found a check from November 2016. I’m rich, that is if the check is still good.
I gathered some newspaper clippings, photos with no names, etc. together and I plan to donate them to a local historical society. They have little meaning to me and will enhance the archives of the area. I still have my papers to sort, but the dust and concern has given me a headache. They can wait for another day.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Youthful Summer Days
I’m sure that we all can remember those days of summer after school was out and the freedom to go outside to run and play or to ride a bike and swim. It was a time of enjoyment that wasn’t limited because the sun was hot or the air still, sultry, and humid. Socks and shoes were optional. Tincture of merthiolate or merchorochrome was applied to scrapes and cuts after being washed with soap. Shirts were only an afterthought and sunscreen was unheard of back then. Mom would dab on apple cider vinegar to cool the sunburned skin when we chose not to wear a shirt.
Rainy days provided mud and puddles to play in and would often earn Mom’s anger when we brought the outside indoors. We had play clothes which were actually good clothes that were getting too small or were near being worn out.
As kids, summer seemed to stretch on forever. Endless days of sunshine slowly flowed by until the days of school and being imprisoned inside approached. The educational walls used up so much of the day. It often allowed little respite because of the tasks assigned by the teacher. It was called homework. The only reprieve came when Mom called for supper or the weekdays finally yielded to the weekend and a short window of escape arrived. Softballs and bats were exchanged for footballs. The fields that were once makeshift baseball diamonds become the football gridirons.
Autumn turns to winter and the footballs are stored. Heavy coats, boots, mittens, and scarves are resurrected. Sometimes larger sizes are purchased, necessary because our size has grown from the year before. Sleds, toboggans, skates, and skis are dragged from basements, sheds, and garages, dusted, and put into use. Ice, snow, and blustery wind do little to deter the escape from the confines of the house. Snow days become a temporary pardon from the weekday work farm of school.
Now, those days fly by all too quickly and we complain about the heat or the cold. Ah, to have the heart of a kid again.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Each day we make hundreds of choices from simple ones where we decide what clothing to wear to getting married. We make choices because of the weather or because of the chores we plan to tackle for the day. We wouldn’t select a suit and tie to repair the car, to garden, or to mow the lawn and we wouldn’t go outside to shovel snow in a bathing suit and sandals, but we have the option to wear what we want, even if they are bad choices.
Having a bowl of chili for breakfast is okay, if we don’t mind dealing with heartburn. We can go outside with a tank top on in the blistering sun, if we don’t mind a painful skin damaging sunburn as a result. Running barefoot in gravel we give us cuts and bruising on our feet, but we have the choice of wearing shoes or not.
Even though we have work and often have a schedule to keep, we have the option of when we go to bed and when we awaken or even if we want to keep that job. We can choose to marry or remain single and whether to raise a family or not.  We can choose in which state we want to live, whether to reside in this country or another, or if we want to live in the city or country. Life is a series of options.
The United States is still a land of opportunity, of freedom, and of choices. Many of our freedoms to choose have been endowed by God as inalienable rights which have been echoed by our founding fathers in the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Now we must choose whether or not we allow government to whittle away at those rights, e freedoms, and options for choice with laws that try to redefinition of those rights.
I started out on one path about the freedom that we have to choose and wandered down this path, so remember to think about each choice that is made during the day and the possible outcomes before making that selection.


Friday, June 16, 2017

Being Passionate
I was thinking about some of the unusual things that have occurred and some odd people I’ve met as a nurse. This is one of the stories came to mind. During my student internship at an Altoona hospital emergency department, a rather slovenly woman came to be treated for a sore throat. She was obese and her clothing was filthy and stained. She reeked of body odor and old greasy fried food. Definitely she needed a bath. The one thing that made her memorable and stick out in my mind was that her neck was covered in “hickeys.” Those sucker bites or hickeys or bruised marks some people leave while nuzzling, sucking on the neck, kissing, and making love.
The E. R. doctor was from India, if I recall correctly and was unfamiliar with some of the customs in America. He examined her throat and wrote a few prescriptions. After the woman left the area, he came over to us nurses and asked. “What were those marks on her neck? I almost asked her what they were. Did someone hurt her?”
We had to smile at his inquiry. The other nurses seemed tongue-tied as to what to say, so I tried to be as delicate as I could when I explained what they were.  I said, “Sometime in the heights of passion, one of the lovers will suck on the neck of the other, leaving those marks.”
He looked puzzled for a second, started to walk away, then turned back and said, “But who could have heights of passion with her?” So much for me trying to be delicate.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Up and Down and All Around
Maybe because I have slowed down just a bit from my youth or maybe my artist’s eye is capturing more of my surroundings, but I have really been impressed with clouds, sunrises, sunsets, and the intricate, delicate beauty of flowering plants. The rich colors and subtle hues my eye sees doesn’t translate to the camera’s eye. What I see is never as precise when it becomes a photo on my cell phone. I try to capture and share them at times, but wish I could share the intense scene that I see.
My home is located in the mountains of southwestern Pennsylvania with a wide panorama of other tree clad mountains. My Chestnut Ridge Mountains are but hills compared to the Rockies or the Grand Tetons, but remain my home. On three sides I have views of each sunrise, each sunset, and storms as they roll in with the massive thunderheads, interspersed with lightning flashes.
Because I am in a rural area, there is a perfusion of wildflowers and many flowers planted by my wife Cindy. One wildflower that was my wife’s favorite is the daisy. Fresh, plain, and innocent, its white petals form a tight circle around an egg yolk yellow center. The irises and the snowball bush have just bloomed. The blossoms of the apple trees, the black berry, raspberry, and strawberry blossoms all are fading and the fruit is forming.
If I look, there is always something new for me to see. Have I slowed down and now take the time to see or have I gained the wisdom to really look around and interpret what I see.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Cantankerous or Confused
There are times when a person is never sure whether another person is confused or just stubborn and cantankerous. While I was still working as a nurse, I came in contact with an elderly man was frequently admitted for CHF (Chronic heart failure) When at home, he would refuse to follow the doctor’s orders limiting the amount of fluids he would consume. This would cause fluid to build in his circulatory system and he would return with shortness of breath and be readmitted.
After a period of drying out in an intensive care unit, he would be transferred to a medical/surgical unit. Even there, he wouldn’t comply with the fluid restrictions the doctor placed on him. One admission, because had easy access to water, he was on the verge of being transferred back to the ICU. The nurses moved him into a private room and had maintenance shut off the water to the sink, thinking he could only get the fluids that the nurses gave him. Not so, a nurse caught him getting water from the bedpan sprayer and when that was cut off, he dipped water from the commode with his drinking cup.
We finally made him use a potty chair and completely shut off all water to his room. After many changes in his treatment and in spite of himself, he improved to the point we could send him home again.
My grandmother Rebecca Miner could almost fall into the same category. One admission, she became confused and was constantly pulling out her I.V.s, so we applied wrist restraints to maintain the integrity of the I.V.s. A nurse walked in and found her doggedly trying to saw through the restraints with a butter knife she’d purloined from her supper tray.


Friday, June 9, 2017

Beginning to Write
I can remember in kindergarten of my attempts to write. They had thick blue pencils that I could almost rest on my shoulder as I began to print my numbers and letters. They must have thought the pencils were heavy enough, because there were no erasers. Perhaps they knew that in erasing and trying to correct mistakes, I would wear holes in the paper.
Now, let me get to the paper. It was coarse and off colored white, having lines of blue drawn on it to keep my lines straight, as well as knowing the height and depth of these English hieroglyphics. The teachers pressed me to learn to make them just so. This task is difficult for a five year old learning the fine art of writing and the fine motor skills needed with the log of a pencil. The paper was of the lowest quality and frequently I would have to write around chunks of tree bark or large splinters.
That mastered, I was required to learn cursive. Cursive was wonderful. The flow and the beauty of the written word made me ecstatic. It was so less cumbersome and slow than printing block letters. I don’t understand why schools want to eliminate this necessary skill. If I lost the ability to read cursive, how could I read the documents of great men of the past? Anyone could put words on a printed page and say this is what our founding fathers said. They are already twisting the meanings and if I can’t read cursive, I wouldn’t know.
My grandfather’s cursive writing was a true delight to behold, although I must say his writing as a squire and justice of the peace was much more flowery than his writing in his accounting books. I didn’t inherit that elegant skill from him. My writing, especially in high school was much more pinched and small, I was always frugal at least that is what I tell myself.

So, letters became words, words became sentences, sentences became paragraphs, paragraphs became stories, and stories became books.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Eating at My Mind
A few days ago, I made wilted dandelion greens, bacon, onions in gravy made from the fat of the bacon. It was one of the meals that I loved that my mom Sybil Beck made and I really enjoyed. She served it over mashed potatoes, not the box kind that now so often graces out tables. Mom would cook them and believe it or not, my dad, Carl would mash those potatoes until they were velvety smooth with lots of butter. He couldn’t or wouldn’t cook, but he was the mashed potato king. It was rare that I could find the smallest lump.
I don’t know if my rendition was not up to my mom’s recipe, but it fell short. One thing I didn’t get the mixture sour enough, but I did make a fair rendition of non-lumpy gravy. My dad would have been ashamed of my mashed potatoes. I checked several the potatoes as they cooked and seemed to be done. They weren’t and there were lumps galore.
Another dish my mom served was a mixture of fried loose sausage, added cooked noodles and sauerkraut. It was served over mashed potatoes. I only make it every once in awhile, because it makes a large batch. I make it if I’m going to a dinner at church where I can have others help to eat it, otherwise, I have to eat it for a week. I don’t do the real mashed potatoes, I use the boxed dehydrated potatoes, I can keep the lumps out of them.
Often Mom would make “Poodlies” as my sister Kathy called them. It consisted of cooked macaroni, melted butter, and home canned tomato juice, heavily salted. It didn’t take long to throw together and because we liked it, she served it for many our lunches at home. Capturing a close flavor with that to Mom’s recipe isn’t hard and I do make it as a trip to the past.

It is a mouthwatering journey, thinking of those flavors and the memories that Mom’s recipes stir up.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Struggle to Reach the Finish Line
It has been a really difficult past few days trying to put the finishing touches on my first full length novel. My other books have been a compilation of short stories with a common theme and common characters. The new one has had to weave many subplots together into a flowing story that holds the reader’s interest throughout. That was the easy part for my fertile imagination.
What has caused the most concern has been the self editing. It was not quite a complete self edit. I have a good friend and fellow writer lending her expertise to this project. She is also the designer of this beautiful cover, front and back. Jan McLaughlin also designed the cover for my last endeavor, Tommy Two Shoes; Partners for Life.
Back to the struggle, yesterday I tried to find where I saved the last rendition after I corrected a few mistakes. I planned on sending it back to Jan for her final eagle-eye review and criticism and I couldn’t find it. I almost panicked. Well, actually I did panic, thinking of all the time and effort lost. Each time I thought I found it, but it was an older copy. I had corrected quite a few problems. Including missed words, one chapter’s misalignment, and having to add a new paragraph to one chapter to keep the page count in order.
I kept thinking that I found it, but hadn’t. Finally, Jan sent the last one back to me and I had to redo much of what I had done. Once she completes her study, it becomes one step closer to being submitted for publication. The writing part is easy. It becomes so much harder to polish it and have it ready for others to read.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Good Gracious Graduation
Yesterday, I attended my youngest granddaughter’s kindergarten graduation at the Rumbaugh Elementary School. It certainly made me feel a bit further along the aging trail. Hannah Yoder was one of our miracle babies. She was born with a shortened and wrapped umbilical cord, either of which could have been fatal. Actually, I consider all of my granddaughters as miracle babies, because the actual event of a birth is such a God created event, how can it be called otherwise.
Back to the graduation, my daughter Anna Prinkey and I rode together to save parking room in the tight lot. We stopped first at a local florist to get a rose and a balloon. I bought the single red rose. Hannah loves the color red and Anna bought the balloon. The florist tied a bag of candy on one end as an anchor to keep the balloon earthbound.
Hannah looked so cute in her “high heels” and new dress. Her parents hadn’t planned on buying a new outfit, but when she tried on the one they thought to use, it was too small. She’d really grown since the last time she wore her dress for Easter.
Hannah was on stage with about 40 fresh-faced boys and girls waiting to share the songs they learned and to entertain the parents and grandparents, each performance drawing appreciative applause from the audience. The only downside was the cafeteria seats at the stage area. They were made for buttocks smaller and younger than mine.
At the end, like a graduation from high school or college, the kids marched across the platform to receive their diploma and to pause there for photos with the teacher. Way to go Hannah.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Driving Miss Daisy
While driving to pick up my granddaughter Hannah Yoder, I noticed that the daisies along the road were blooming. It stirred nostalgic, sad memories of my wife Cindy Morrison Beck. Daisies were her favorite flowers and that was alright with me. I could go outside and collect a vase full to surprise her and brighten her day. It didn’t cause too much energy or money and meant so much to her. A vase filled with daisies did brighten our mobile home, later our house, and always her face. Besides a card and a gift, she always got a bouquet of daisies for her birthday, Mother’s Day, and for our anniversary.
One Mother’s Day she didn’t get a card or the daisies. She complained when I said to the kids, “Go ask Mother” without the “your.” She said it was like calling her old woman, so the next year she was short changed from me. She scolded me saying, “I may not be your mother, but I am Mother to your children” and she was right. I guess she heard other husbands calling their wives “Mother” and didn’t like the connotation.
When Cindy passed away fourteen years ago, we placed baskets of daisies at the head and at the foot of the bier with wide spray of daisies and baby’s breath across the top of the casket. It isn’t a pleasant memory, but the tale I am sharing is about daisies and their special meaning to me.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Illiteracy; the Scourge of Generations
On our way to the Pirates game in PNC Park Saturday, we stopped to eat at a local Popeye’s Restaurant. I was amazed and flabbergasted at the counter staff. The manager seemed to be of Indian or Middle Eastern descent and was a sharp man, on top of everything. He had to be. The two young women behind the counter, pulling the food to be placed in containers to be served, had to be frequently reminded and checked to be sure they were collecting and handing the ordered food to the correct customers.
I didn’t think too much of it at the time He seemed to be accepting of the fact as if it was the normal routine. I would have probably left the restaurant without a second thought, but when I asked for ketchup and honey, the one young girl seemed totally confused as to what to do. She turned to walk away to fetch the requested items. When she returned, she handed over four packets of hot sauce, not any of the requested items. Instead, we asked the manager. He said that they did indeed have the condiments for which we asked and quickly returned with the honey and ketchup.
Back at the table, we were discussing what had just happened and the tight rein the manager that he seemed to have on the serving women. The young women were clean and looked like bright ladies, but we decided that the one woman had to be illiterate. She was unable to read. Not bringing the ketchup, coupled with the constant reminding and checking of the manager to serve the correct food pointed in that direction.
My only thought that in this day and age was why, after the billions of dollars spent to educate the children, is this appalling situation still allowed to exist? It hurts me to think that these minds are being wasted and unable to function in today’s society.
A side note: while we were waiting to be served, two women were talking. One said that she was to work tomorrow. The other said, “”You have to work on Memorial Day. That’s a holiday.” The first responded, “Yeah, I’m supposed to work, but I’m gonna call off.” So much for work ethics too.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Mustang Sally
Yesterday I ate lunch with several of my co-writers. It was to celebrate the birthday of a lovely lady who is an adventurous soul. She is an octogenarian who has done so much in her life. Active in so many areas, she is a true blessing to be around. Sara Mitchell Martin has won medal after medal in swimming meets, skiing, triathlons, and cycling.
Her adventures of cycling around the world are written down in her journal called “Mustang Sally.” It was a remarkable feat for a woman in that early of a time period. She still competes in senior citizen’s events, winning trophies and medals. Sally pooh-poohs the idea is that she is a great athlete, she says she merely outlasted them.
Our indoor celebration was held at The Olive Garden and we were given a small sectioned off area for our group. This was necessary because Sally is hard of hearing and the other attendees being writers had Limericks, prose, or poetry pieces they we’d written and read out loud to her. Loud is the key word. I am sure others in the restaurant enjoyed our presentations as well.
In the middle of the fete her son called and was checking on her. Through Sally, Tom Martin and I became friends on Facebook. I gave him a shout out on the phone and now in this post.
Sally’s husband Chuck Martin was a noted photographer. He was able to capture on film many famous and not so famous people. One of the events that he prized was taking photographs in the Hill District of Pittsburgh the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. He was the only journalist who captured those citizens as they mourned their loss.
We had a great time with Sally, eating, reading, and watching her open her cards and gifts. I was able to get the book she and Chuck wrote together. It’s called Warpath, a slightly fictionalized history of Chuck’s family at the time of the French and Indian War.
Happiest of birthdays to you Sara “Sally” Martin.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Continued from Monday’s post…

Weekday, Workday, Weekend II
While we spent the rest of the afternoon at the cabin, other wotkers were weed whacking, mowing, making small motor repairs, tearing down the old game tent and erecting the frame of the new white Taj Mahal tent. I lost my ladder to the construction crew and finished staining as high as I could reach by the time the supper bell rang. A time of relaxation, for devotions, and showers were next, not exactly in that order. Some of the guys went in for a swim to cool off. I knew better and only pulled off my shoes and socks to soak my feet in the COLD water. It felt wonderfully refreshing, even with the fish nibbling my toes.
Once my shower was over, I joined several people who were talking and relaxing in the bleachers around the crackling campfire. Bullfrogs harrumphing in the background and the gentle splash if the nearby lake waves filled my ears and the canopy of stars overhead helped me to unwind.
Bedtime and breakfast, then we pulled, tugged, and secured the new white tent to the frame. While we were doing that one of the men in our van claimed a small excavator and began to cover some electrical cable with gravel. Many of the teenagers went back to the tasks of staining and applying polyurethane. It was time for us to pull up stakes and head for home.
There were still some unfinished chores on Mr. Fry’s list, but it would be a lot shorter by the time the other church group left. The camp will be that much closer to hosting the different weeks of youth, the teens, and a week set aside for family groups. There are also special retreats for the young at heart (those people over 55), a women’s retreat, a men’s retreat, and later in the year, a wither retreat for teens at a nearby lodge.
I would like to give a special shout out to Mr. Fry, his wife, and to the other cooks who made the visit tasty, busy but enjoyable.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Weekday, Workday, Weekend
I had a wonderful time working to complete chores at the Servant’s Heart Camp located on the outskirts of Ramey, Pennsylvania. I travelled north with three other men from our church to the Christian summer camp to help it expand and make it ready for the various weeks of summer camp. It’s a small, but growing facility. During the 2 and a half hour drive, I found that our driver and Pastor really likes the cheddar and bacon potato skin chips.
A slow drive through an open field and a curving lane through a wooded area led us to the final approach of the camp across the breast of the dam for the 7 acre lake. It was nearing dusk when we arrived and I was glad to get out and stretch my legs. Mr. Fry was there to greet us. After introductions, he introduced us to the list of chores that needed to be done. Like any good manager, the list was longer than he thought was possible, just in case miracles occurred. Because of my limited ability to lift, I was assigned to stain the posts and porch railings of a cabin still under construction for the next day.
We sat around the obligatory campfire until bedtime. After a long and difficult night of trying to sleep, I sat at the edge of the lake and rested until morning when Mrs. Fry came to the cook shack and start breakfast. I had been struggling to write some Haiku and quickly volunteered to help. I played Mr. Tote and Fetch, then began to crack and scramble eggs. Her assistant arrived and I escaped to sit under the dining tent as others joined.
After we ate, another group of young men and women, most were teenagers, arrived. Mr. Fry passed out chores and work began in earnest. Four young women were assigned to staining the outside of the cabin where I was working and two people were applying polyurethane to the wood sided walls and ceiling of the inside. My thighs were sore from squatting to coat the bottom rails when it was time for lunch break.

To be continued…

Thursday, May 18, 2017

How Quickly Things Change
I was doing some investigation on a developing character and decided to speak with a gentleman who knew something about the subject upon which I was doing research. I was hoping he could shed some light on what to do under certain situations. I can’t say too much about it for two reasons. The first is I am still writing and I never give away the plot before I am finished with the story. It’s not considered plagiarism unless someone should steal the words after I’ve written them. I am still a long way off from figuring out exactly where this story is headed. I have no idea where it will end.
The second reason is the man I spoke to, thought I was speaking about a specific person. He never divulged the person’s name, but by the facts that he was sharing. I knew immediately it was a true-to-life real person. He thought I was talking about this person, when I wasn’t. The more he spoke, the more I was certain I knew the guy of which he was sharing stories. Not the fictional stories that I write, but actual, intimate secrets of the real-life person.
Once I realized that it was something I didn’t want to know and something I shouldn’t know, I backed out of the conversation as quickly as I could. Now, I bear the burden of this secret. I am familiar with HIPPA and medical information being a secret. That was never a problem. I was always assiduous with that knowledge.
But this is different, much different. If I am talking to this “revealed” person, will I react differently when we meet? Will I let the “secret” slip out while speaking to others? How can I unhear what has already been said. I can’t, but I pray that my silence will not cause problems farther along.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Behind Me
Last evening I was invited to speak at the Chestnut Ridge Historical Society located in Stahlstown, Pennsylvania. It is a small group of people dedicated to preserving the heritage and history of the area in documents, maps, and memorabilia. Clothing, photographs, and journals line the various display cases and the walls. All in all, it is a wonderful collection of people and presentations.
Because I used to work with the president, Mrs. Gerri Marks, she asked me several months ago to speak at last night’s gathering. Each month, they have someone to visit and speak on a different topic. Since I write to pass my time since I’ve retired from nursing and have four books written, I entered her sights.
I volunteered my time. I’ve noticed that making the promise is easier than to keep than the time I have donated. As the closer the time came to actually giving the speech got shorter, my gastrointestinal tract kept note of the nearing of the date. It wasn’t actually a speech. I only shared the basics of writing and read from past writings of poetry, Haiku, short stories I’d written and excerpts from my four books. The audience was a gathering of young and old. The youngest may have been eight and the oldest in their eighties. They were great listeners. Some of the people I knew from my past, while others, I met for the first time.
One of the younger people is a passionate reader and was just beginning to enter the challenging world of writing. There are so many avenues to pursue. I told him to keep a pad and pencil close. Anytime a thought hit write it down before forgetting it. The actual writing and fleshing out of the idea can come later, but most times the flash of an idea escapes and isn’t captured again.

Thank you again, Chestnut Ridge Historical Society.

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Plot Thickens
When I first began writing, I naively thought that devising an interesting idea for a story plot or to be able to see a special view for a poem was all that it took to become an author. That is the inspiration part of being a writer. It is the germ of a thought process that has only just begun. It is followed by hours of perspiration.
Many items begin to come into play. When you write about people, are the things they do and say consistent? Are conversations they have normal and not stinted? If they have an accent or dialect, is it true to their area? When I choose a location, does it reflect the nature and weather of the place? Time of day, time of year, and the time period and period clothing and customs must remain true to form. There must be an agreement of facts. There is always someone who is more of an expert and will find fault if you stray away any minute detail. All of these items still dealing with the plot and how you share it.
After this, a writer must read through the story time after time, looking for errors in punctuations, misspellings, or grammar. Sometimes the author will insert a word that is not actually there. The reader is confused and doesn’t understand what is missing.
The fun is just starting. Most writers have a friend or several friends to read the writings. Really good friends will tear it apart. They will pick out each and every mistake that you’ve made, everything from weak places in the plot or characters to errors in punctuation, typos, and incorrectly spelled words. It’s back to the drawing board, trying to correct anything that was not done well.
I’m not complaining. I love my eagle-eyed friends. I wanted to share what it takes to have a book ready for publication.

Friday, May 12, 2017

A Store of Store Stories
Wednesday in my blog, I mentioned the stores Gabriel’s and Gabriel Brothers. Last evening I saw a television advertisement saying that they remodeled and renaming their stores. We locals always shortened the name lovingly called the stores Gabe’s. That is now their new name, emblazoned across their bright blue remodeled store fronts.
Wednesday’s story jogged the memory of my daughter Amanda. She reminded me of another Gabe’s story. My mother-in-law, Retha Morrison was shopping with our family. We had a minivan and ferrying three adults and three children wasn’t a problem. It was a winter day. Retha was wearing slacks and black, just above the ankle winter boots. She found a dress that she liked and tried it on. When she came out of the dressing room and asked, “Well, what do you think?” I immediately responded, “You have chicken legs.”
The pale skin of her thin, full calved legs were intensified as they stuck out from beneath the dark colored dress and rose above the black boots. They did indeed look like chicken legs. When Retha looked in the mirror, she had to agree.

Shopping with kids can be exacerbating. This day at Gabe’s was no different. The kids were hiding in the racks of clothing, doing a slow game of hide and seek. It was the parents’ job to keep track of them so they didn’t get lost or weren’t abducted. A rack of stiff darkly dyed jeans was a perfect place for my son Andrew to disappear. It wasn’t long until he reappeared holding out his fist. He said, “Look what I found.”
Opening his hand, he showed his discovery. He’d found about $1.50 in quarters. They’d been in one of the pockets of a pair of jeans. Their darkened color told us that the coins had been in the pants while they were being dyed. Needless to say, it caused his two sisters to join him in an unsuccessful treasure hunt.