Friday, December 29, 2017

They Refuse to Stay Buried
Many times memories refuse to stay buried and will resurrect. These are mostly what I write about and share. While I was stationed in Keflavik, Iceland, I got a telephone call from my mom, Sybil Beck. With phone rates being so expensive other than local calls, I was surprised. I was 20 years old and no longer a teenaged kid, what she had to say hit me hard. My grandfather, her father had died. He was the first really close family member to die. A coal miner at night and working his farm to feed his family during the day, he had finally worn himself out.
Hardening of the arteries had been overtaking his mind for several years. He was so used to tending the farm and caring for his animals, he was constantly restless creating problems for my grandmother Rebecca. She had to constantly on the alert to keep him from wandering off. All of his animals were sold off and the barn had collapsed, but in his mind, they were still there and needing him.
Multiple times he would rise from his padded rocker and slip on his shoes. Grandma would ask, “Ray, where are you going?” He would reply, “I have to take care of the horses.” Grandma would have him look out the window at the rubble from the fallen barn and remind him, “The animals are gone, Ray.” He would shake his head, kick off his shoes, and settle back into his chair in front of the television. His tobacco spit can beside him n the floor.
Chewing tobacco was a habit that he’d picked up at the coal mines. Many miners chewed tobacco to remind themselves not to swallow the coal dust laden saliva. It wouldn’t be long until he would become restless, finally rising out of his chair and there would be a replay of his desire to check on his animals.
Grandma did have a helper. It was a stray that they got named Laddie. It was a large mongrel, collie mix, mostly black with some brown and white markings in its coat. It was an outside dog and would follow granddad when he managed to escape grandma’s watchful eyes. Laddie was a faithful companion, hanging close to Grandpa’s heels. Laddie seemed to assuage Granddad’s restlessness and the need to have animals near.
The phone call was hard for me to bear. The time, finances, and the distance made it impossible to attend his funeral, but my memories of him refuse to stay buried.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Ice and Cold and Snow
The first days of winter weather have finally settled into Western Pennsylvania. The ice, cold, and snow have been flirting with sunshine and warm days until now. Winter has suddenly become serious. The northwestern wind has blown in thick snow clouds and bitter-cold temperatures from Canada and the Arctic. Several days ago, I saw a flock of geese racing southward ahead of the frigid air. Their loud honking harsh in the quiet evening sky as they passed overhead. Their yearly calling has always left me with a sad and lonely feeling as they make their retreat. The flock’s fading voices overhead somehow made the entire area seem emptier.
I can remember as a school age child walking the 150 yards to the weathered wooden bus shanty. Often I would have to clamber over a thick ridge of ice and snow deposited by the snowplows of the road crew left from clearing the highway. I would stand inside with several friends to avoid the worst of the wind and cold. We would huff thick puffs of steam from our breaths, sometimes pretending we were smoking.
The wait-time would often be 15 or 20 minutes until the yellow and black school bus lumbered into view. The brakes would screech as the behemoth came to a stop. The flashing red light at the front and rear of the bus, top and bottom would halt other vehicles. When the bus came to a complete stop, the driver would open the rubber-edged, wing-like, windowed doors with a harsh squealing sound. Single file we would climb the metal steps to the relative warmth inside.
Kids from three different homes gathered inside the bus shanty on school days waiting to be rescued from the cold. When we went outside, we were bundled in layers of warm sweaters, scarves, toboggan hats, gloves or mittens, boots, and thick coats.
It is different today. Students are collected from each house as the bus makes multiple stops. I’ve watch as high school kids clad in shorts and a “hoodies” jacket stroll from inside a warm house, across a small front yard, and climb aboard the waiting bus. They don’t run. That would ruin their image of “coolness.” Their leg hairs would have frozen off if they would have had to wait in a bus shanty like I did.
As a child I never minded the snow. Sometimes, I actually enjoyed it, especially when the snow was deep and caused a school cancellation. But the cold is a different story. I didn’t like the cold. There were times I can recall the inside of my nostrils sticking together when I took a deep breath. I can’t remember that there were ever any delays for the starting time. It was all or nothing event; either it was school or no school.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas Traditions
There was a time that my house was filled with the scent of pine and other savory aromas the nearer the Christmas holiday came. The artificial tree looks great, but alas the smell of the outdoors is no more. The tradition of bringing a live tree into the house passed when my uncle Theodore passed away. He and I would go roaming through a pine covered area near the farm to cut a tree for my grandmother Miner and one for me and my family.
Finding the perfect tree was a real chore. These pines grew wild and were shaped by the whims of nature. Armed only with a small saw, Ted and I searched the area for likely candidates finding this one too small and that one had bare areas. They were eventually rejected. My grandmother lived in an old farmhouse with twelve foot tall ceilings, so Ted had more leeway than I did. Cindy was very choosey with our tree. It had to be full and the Christmas tree star had to brush the ceiling of our mobile home. This created a problem. When I was among the trees in the grove, sometimes my judgment was off and I would have to cut more off when I got it home. One time, to get the height, I had to choose a very bushy tree. The height was right on, but the bottom of the tree branches spread out wide. They filled half the width of the trailer and we had to be careful as we walked by not to knock off any of the ornaments.
Today, the artificial tree has taken its place. The ornaments that we bought our children each year now reside in their homes on their trees. My tree is far from bare. With the lights, garland, and ornaments collected over the years, I can barely see the green needles.
A tradition that has now replaced eating the family meal at my house is the gathering at my Sister Kathy and her husband Doug’s home for a Christmas brunch. Their beautiful home is the house of our Grandparent’s Beck. Gathering there seems like a tradition is still carried on within these familiar walls. I wish a very Merry Christmas to all of my readers, friends, and family.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Yesterday’s Chores
With Christmas growing ever nearer and colder weather just around the corner I tried to catch up on some unfinished chores. Vacuuming the stairs to remove Willow the cat’s long, white, shedded hair was a necessity. She has a habit of claiming several stair treads as her own napping place. The steps were well on their way looking as though they were made of mohair.
While I waited for the frost outside to depart, I wrapped a few more Christmas gifts. Eventually, I will finish and be able to remove Santa’s workshop from the top of my bed and I’ll be able to claim more than one small side of the mattress. As I wrapped the dolls that I’d bought for my three granddaughters, Celine, Moriah, and Hannah, I became upset that the manufacturers decided to save a few cents by not covering the display portion of the dolls with cellophane like they used to do. Trying to cover the dolls, I poked several holes in the paper. They are making the Christmas paper more cheaply as well. It isn’t as strong as it once was. Even with careful folding, the cheaper paper has a tendency to tear.  The old time paper with metal based dyes was much stronger and after underwear and socks were removed from the wadded up and discarded paper, it was impressive to see the flames change color as the bright piles were burned in a fireplace.
When the sparkling frost coating disappeared, a jolly old fat man appeared, carrying several ladders and chimney cleaning supplies. Not clad in a red suit, but navy sweat pants and an old orange hunting jacket, he climbed onto his newly acquired metal roof. Up on the housetop he sprang, carefully and slowly, thrusting the metal pole deep into the recesses of the chimney. Built-up soot and creosote gave way to the determined force of the old man’s probing.
He thought his antics would go unnoticed by his daughters, but alas, one son-in-law driving his black Chevy sleigh spied the jolly old man and of course he reported the old man’s escapades to his spouse. The old man had already been banned from the house roof several times before and now finds himself confined to the doghouse roof.
On the way home from last evening’s writers meeting, Rocky the raccoon made a wild dash from the darkness, trying to cross the road in front of my car. I wasn’t able to stop in time and alas, Rocky is no more. The black plastic from the front of my car has also bit the dust and is no more as well.
The best thing of the entire day was that the wood burner is working great and my house was toasty warm as it welcomed me home.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Strands of Pearls
When I consider my life from my birth to my death, it will be the string upon which God has placed pearls of different shapes, sizes, and colors. These pearls are the people that have been friends or family. Their size and their beauty have nothing to do with their physical appearance, but everything to do with the amount of time they have been in my life and how much they have influenced me.
Parents, grandparents, and children are the largest and brightest pearls on my string of life. They have been much closer to me for a much longer time than most others I’ve come in contact with. These jewels aren’t always the smooth, round, opulent orbs that we see in a jewelry store, cradled in a velvet box. These pearls have irregularities, more like fresh water variety of pearls, yet they are still iridescent and glow brightly, stored safely in the vault of my mind. Their beauty has been tempered by time and by love. Even though some of these pearls have now gone on to meet their Maker, I can still see them and feel their presence in my life.
In my strand, there are a few off-color pearls, perhaps not the choices that I would have desired, but for some reason they are there. They are pearls that a jewelry maker would have tossed aside and not placed on a string. These rougher, less couth or less polished pearls were placed on my strand, adding interest if not beauty to the whole of my life. Some have worn my strand in places while some I’ve been able to polish, refine, and make shinier.
It is odd that my thoughts wandered down this path at all. Someone mentioned the word pearl and my mind began to recall the women that I’ve known who were named Pearl. I was going to write about them. The first Pearl was a Sunday school teacher and soprano in the church choir. I can recall this plum woman as a child. Then, there was the influence of my wife Cynthia’s grandmother, Pearl Agnes Johnson. These women were who I’d planned writing about. And then my mind was whisked away from the influence that these women had on my life to the influence that others have had as well.
I want to thank all of the pearls that have been a part of my strand of pearls no matter how large or small you think you have been. To those who have passed, to those who are no longer close, and for those who are near, you still shine beautifully as I see you in my mind.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Bits and Pieces
While driving to church Sunday morning, I heard two men on the radio discussing the loss of a child. One man’s son who died after an auto accident became the subject of the talk. The initial impact of the crash hadn’t killed him, but the son and the driver had been at a party drinking alcohol. Trying to avoid legal trouble, both boys fled the scene. The son sustained injuries and slowly bled to death. He hadn’t died in the crash, but died because he hadn’t sought medical help after the accident.
The father shared a story of being at the funeral home. Many of his son’s friends thronged to the funeral parlor to pay their respects. Quoting the father, he told them, “Your being here won’t change anything, but your being here means everything.” I thought how true. Things that we say or do may not be able to change another person’s difficult situation, but our being there often means more than anything that we can do.
I want to share another thought. I heard a biblical scholar semi-explain the visit of the angels to the shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem. These shepherds were raising sacrificial lambs for the Temple to be propitiation for sin. It meant that these yearling lambs had to be firstborn males and without spot or blemish. Often the shepherds would swaddle and wrap these lambs in cloth to protect them and prevent damage from occurring. The angel’s announcement, “Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger” meant something very much different than what we now think. The pronouncement was a foretelling of the Christ child as the sacrifice for world’s sins. Those words of comparison must have puzzled the shepherds.
A final bit is another bit of knowledge that I learned about Christ in the tomb after His crucifixion. When the disciples visited the empty tomb, Christ’s grave clothes were lying, yet He was not in them. The napkin that had covered His face was wrapped together in another place. It was another historical representation of an Old Testament tradition.
When the master sat at his table to eat, he might leave the table for some reason. While he was gone, the servants would look to see how he left his napkin. If it was tossed haphazardly onto the table, he was finished eating and they could clear the table, but if the master folded it and placed it on the table, the master wasn’t finished and would be back. And so it is with Christ, He will be coming back.

Friday, December 15, 2017

The Christmas Candies

I smiled as I lifted the old candy box down from the top closet shelf. It was worn from many years of being handled. I remembered the year when my wife and I had gotten the box of assorted chocolates as a Christmas gift. The candy was long gone, but the box had gained a second purpose of collecting buttons, thread, needles, and a variety of other accumulated odds and ends.
I flipped open its broad yellow and white hinged top. A faint aroma of the chocolate wafted up and stirred the memories lodged in my nostrils. It took me back to an almost embarrassing incident that makes me smile now. My wife was still alive and our three children’s ages ranged from four or five years old to twelve years old.
My wife had invited some of our old friends over for a post-Christmas celebration. It was to be a time for talking, snacking, and exchanging of gifts. Those friends had three children of their own and it made a perfect fit for our friendship and for exchanging of gifts.
My wife had prepared a tray of vegetables and dip, a tray of crackers with a cheese ball, and a tray of assorted cookies to serve our guests. As she showered and got dressed, I set the trays of goodies out on the dining room table. It looked festive, but I thought the cookie tray looked a little plain and would look more celebratory with a few of the chocolates scattered on the tray. I pulled the candy box from its spot under the Christmas tree. I opened it up and lifted the first piece of chocolate from its resting place inside. It was still cradled in its crinkled brown paper cup.
The aroma and the sight of the confection made my mouth water. I hadn’t eaten one of the chocolates yet and it tempted me. I was feeling a bit hungry and seeing all of the food on the table I thought I would try a piece now. As I took the candy out of its paper wrapper, I thought that it felt a bit odd. Turning it over, I had a surprise. I could see that one of our kids had picked the chocolate coating off the underside. Apparently the child hadn’t liked the crème that had been hidden inside and returned it to its brown crinkled paper cup. Then slipping it back into box, they made it look as if it had never been disturbed.
I ate the disfigured piece of chocolate even though I could see that the crème inside wasn’t my one of my favorites. The frugal nature in me rejected the other option of throwing it away. The waste of food would have grated on my upbringing.
I picked out a second piece of candy from its paper nest to put onto the tray. This one felt odd too. When I turned it over, it had the bottom coating of sweets scraped off as well. The chocolate layer was gone and the creamy filling was exposed.
I looked through the candies. All of the chocolates had been mutilated, rendered bottomless, and returned to their candy box homes. That evening none of the sweet confections ever made it onto the cookie tray. Completely by accident, I had discovered and avoided an embarrassing situation.
Even if I hadn’t caught the mutilated bonbon, our friends would have understood. They had three children too. It has become an amusing story in our family and someone will ask, “Anyone want a piece of chocolate?”

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Cold and Windy

No, I’m not talking about myself, but the weather outside. The more I age, the more I dread the frigid temperatures and the gust of winter air. I like to have snow, but when it gets cold and the breeze becomes what my grandfather called a lazy wind, count me out. He said when the wind goes through you and not around you it’s a lazy wind. I want to tell Canadians to keep their refrigerator doors closed when the Arctic clippers decide to sail south.
Don’t suggest that I move to Florida, although some relatives want me to come to Florida and there are some relatives who wouldn’t mind if I left Pennsylvania. I have no plans to make the move below the Mason Dixon Line.
I lived in Orlando, Florida for two years, courtesy of the United States Navy as a corpsman and I didn’t really like it. Mosquitoes, sand spurs, and the humid heat in the summer aren’t on my menu. The only thing I found enjoyable about Florida was the fishing and my relatives. Winters were heavy jacket weather, but no boots unless I was wading in the rain.
My uncle Amos Jacob Stahl and his wife aunt Helen decided to move their family south. He was a stone mason and the seasonal work that the Pennsylvania weather provided could hardly support his large brood. They packed up and moved to Florida where he could work all year round. Their one daughter Anna stayed with us until she finished her senior year in high school.
While I was in the Navy, “Jake” or one of my cousins would want me to visit every weekend that I was off duty. They were all wonderful people. Amos and Helen have passed away, but Florida is still peppered with cousins and kin.
I frequently get invitations from them to come visit and I may. I left Florida the year before Disneyland opened and haven’t been back since. Although the adventure of touring the park is something that entices many, I prefer to keep my memories of the less bustling metropolis of Orlando intact. Perhaps it would be nice to see the faces of my loved ones again. It may become closer to reality and become stronger if these days of the lazy winds persist.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Lunching with Mustang Sally

It was time for the annual Christmas party of the Foothills Writing Group, formerly known as the Beanery Writers Group. Our octogenarian cheerleader, originator of the party, and usual hostess of the party Mustang Sally, has been dealing some ongoing health issues and is also caught up in the process of moving. Several times in the last year because of her health problems has moved closer to her family. Her original home and location for our previous get-togethers is presently rented and was unavailable.
To continue the annual Christmas affair, another writer, Claudette, graciously offered to hold the gathering in her home, but because we are all getting older, we have moved the meal time from an evening social to noon until four p.m. avoiding the drive home at night, especially now with those horrid blue-white headlights.
It was a covered dish affair, with a semi-assigned menu for each to bring. I brought a cheese, cracker, and venison log tray and mixed nuts for pre-meal snacking as the lamb, cauliflower, salad, and other delectable items were unwrapped and last minute preparations were made.
The open rooms and seating arrangements made it easy to circulate, talk, and eat. Many times we have a short reading to share, but not so this year. We were all engrossed in chatting and reminiscing, finding more common threads of our lives. Two other men were there, husbands of other writers. They were of the same generation as me and we shared war stories of the Vietnam era. Although I was able to care for some of the injured, my assignment as a naval corpsman was in the United States.
As the feasting and fellowship drew to a close, I played Santa passing out some candy treats. I guess I was elected because I was dressed in red from my Santa hat head to my feet. Sally distributed copies of her recently reprinted book sharing the adventures of her bicycling tour around the world and thus her nickname Mustang Sally, which is the title of her tales. It’s never too late to share your life and  never too early to wish one and all a Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Four Wheeling Down Memory Lane

Wednesday morning my brother Ken and I tried to fill our antlerless deer tags. Our search was fruitless. Even though we saw several, the area we were hunting in was overgrown and the deer were moving too fast to distinguish if they had antlers or not. We hunted in several areas with the same results.
It was such a relief for me to ride on four-wheelers instead of walking. I appreciated it more as we drove along abandoned logging roads. These vehicles made short work of climbing steep hills, rolling over the rugged and rocky paths, and making the need to wade across puddles and creeks unnecessary. No need for me to work up a sweat or tramp through the woods with wet feet.
One spot on our ride we spooked a red tailed hawk from its perch. It silently spread its wings and soared away. Driving farther we wandered through several acres full of short-needled and long-needled pine trees. Growing wild, they were naturally shaped and in all sizes. The sight was enough to make a Christmas tree vendor drool.
The trail followed ridgelines and through fields until we came to a spot that was familiar to me from my youth, Camp Wildwood. It was the land of strawberry picking and the play ground for my brother and I to ride our bikes. Once while we were riding, we saw our first naked lady. I’ve written about this true redhead before in my posts.
The primitive roadways are no longer as deeply grooved as when I was younger. Less traffic, they filled with leaves over the years. Those channels used to fill with rainwater and would shoot a rooster-tail of water from a speeding car. A friend was speeding in an old Chevy when we came upon a troop of Boy Scouts. I watched as they had to dive for cover to avoid the soaking spray. There is more to the story, but it’s been posted it before.
Our ride eventually took us to the Camp Wildwood’s old dam. The structure once spread its wings across Indian Creek to make a wonderful swimming hole. Much of the concrete has crumbled, but it still trapped much of the stream and kept our old swimming holes intact. The water was clear, but the color was dark green from the depth of the pool.
Our time was finished. We began our return trip, back through the logging trails. Huge towering piles of boulders and steep hillsides guided loggers who came before us who made these zigzag trails to haul out the timber. As we returned home, I was impressed with the steepness of the slopes carved by centuries of water and wind. We didn’t get a deer, but that that trip stirred and updated many of my childhood memories.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Loose Ends
When I’ve written the stories for my Mystery Series, Tommy Two Shoes, I was amazed at how important a small and seemingly unimportant item will become a significant and integral part of a later story. Once they’ve been edited and published, there is no way for me to insert a fact in a previous tale, so what was written has to be woven into the next book. I’m truly gob-smacked at how often it happened from one book to the next. I thought that these coincidences only happened in fairy tales (Or books that I wrote), but not so. Frequently, I have seen this happen in my day to day life.
I was able to meet a long time Facebook friend at his sister’s home. She is a near lifelong friend and former fellow employee. I was invited to her home for a brief visit and a chance to sample her famous sauerkraut/ chocolate cake…again. It was nice to finally talk to him face to face and understand more of what makes this man tick. He’s just a good ole boy from Texas with a commitment to see that there are new chapters of men who have pledged to protect abused children.
He was traveling with another member, driving from Texas to New England and back in an attempt to spread this worthwhile cause. I gave him a copy of the first book in the series and I gave his sister a copy of my latest book, Addie. She has all of the others. I thought it would be a good dinner gift instead of flowers. She gave him the copies that she read to take with him.
He looked across the table and seemed surprised that I’d written so many. Then he said, my wife said, she knew about you before we became friends. It was an odd feeling to think that I was recognized by someone so far away as an author. I didn’t have the courage to ask him how.
I really felt odd when he called, saying that another author wanted to charge him $3,000.00 to write his autobiography. Another would do it for free, but my friend knew the freebie author sometimes liked to embellish the truth to sell his books. My friend invited me to visit his ranch in Texas and to write his autobiography. I was astounded and afraid I would not be able to do it. To this point, I have only written fiction. I did suggest that he sit down and list the facts that he wanted included, then sit down with the volunteer author after something in writing to say, nothing could be published until it was cleared by you. That would keep the book straight and true with its control in your hands.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Texas Traveler

I have been friends and fellow workmate of Debby Keslar, a transplant from Texas. She was a baker in the United States Navy and another employee of Frick Hospital in Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania. Over the years, we’ve laughed and cried together until we’ve both retired. I’ve become good friends with her husband and her two daughters. One family member I hadn’t met was her brother James Curtis who still lives in Texas with his wife Jodi.
James and I became Facebook pals, corresponding back and forth, sharing posts, and generally teasing Debby. That changed last evening when he made a planned stopover at Debby’s. I got an invitation to stop over to eat some sauerkraut chocolate cake and chew the fat. James and his friend “Dragon” were on a return trip from New England where they are trying to set up new chapters for the guardians of children from abuse. He is very passionate and travels long distances on a shoestring budget to help ensure the safety and protection for these young people who are unable to defend themselves. James and his wife reside in Big Spring, Texas and his travel companion Dragon lives across the border in New Mexico.
Because we’d shared so much on Facebook, it was like meeting an old friend, kind of like slipping into a pair of well-worn slippers of moccasins after a long day on the feet. Stories flowed back and forth across the kitchen table. There were a few serious notes, but it was mostly laughter and sharing memories. I learned more about this dedicated man and his compadre. I’d never met Dragon before and it was great listening to this Vietnam Vet share some of his tales. James was a Marine sniper and being a military vet added another bond.
I left early. It was time for the family to reconnect before the troops packed up and left Debby’s the next morning. They had an assigned meeting in Oklahoma the next day. A long, arduous, trip ahead, be safe and God keep you both.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Life is a Carousel
Not all of the time, but there used to be a time when outside of every grocery store and department store there was a machine waiting quietly to seduce children to climb on their backs. The child would jump on, then whine and beg for a dime. Later, it was a quarter to get the machine to rock, to buck, and sometimes to play music or to roar. The manufacturers offered an entire menagerie of animals from horses to hippos, pigs, and pachyderms. Some machines were rockets, stagecoaches, or pony carts. Occasionally, the enticement was a carousel with two horses or some other type of animal that called to the child. I think this was the introduction for many children to ride the much larger version of the merry-go-rounds at the amusement park.
The amusement park’s carousel played loud, whimsical music that could be heard for several yards around the ride. The alluring sounds of calliope notes called youngsters and oldsters to step up onto the wide platform. Eventually, they would find an empty saddle on a lion, zebra, or painted horse. If the child was fortunate enough, he or she could claim a noble steed that pranced in an up-and-down motion driven by a brass crank-shaft above.
Many smaller children were held into the saddle by their parents standing at their side. Child and parent would laugh and enjoy the lighthearted music. The wide twirling motion of the platform and the smell of food from vendors around the ride added to the festive feeling. Sometimes, the less adventurous folk or the elderly were enticed to join, but because they couldn’t or didn’t want to climb on the back of an animal, they chose a seat to rest their feet in the gaily festooned bandwagons interspaced on the merry-go-round platform.
Waiting for the carousel to stop was almost as magical. The music tempo would change as the whirling creatures picked up speed or slowed before the waiting crowd’s eyes. Those people would be touched by a mystical breeze stirred to life by the herd of spinning creatures making the anticipation for their turn seem to last forever.
Then there was the chaos of people exiting the ride and those who were climbing on board clashing like opposing ocean tides. Eventually, the turmoil would cease and the attendant rings the bell with several loud clangs. The lumbering behemoth begins another circuit around the motor-driven gears hidden behind elaborately decorated and gilded panels and the calliope begins to chirp a merry tune. The ride through fantasyland begins.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Going to the Dogs
As we sat around the Thanksgiving table yesterday, the stories began to flow, reminiscences of our past. Hunting stories, fishing tales, and tales about Uncle Dale began to circulate. Small mobile enclaves moved through my sister Kathy’s house. A cluster would form, talk, listen, and then move to another cluster of people. The topics and stories were as varied as the food itself.
We had cranberry salad, but the green leafy one was rendered inedible by the shattering of its glass container. The roughage would have been welcome in our aging body, but it was scarcely missed in the mélange of the food brought to be shared. I was responsible for the ham, so I went a step further by making ham potpie. That one dish was my sister’s favorite. I baked three pies: pecan, pumpkin, and added apple to my usual contribution to the meal.
Photographs were pulled from Kathy’s archive. Someone asked if I had pictures of my grandfather Raymond Miner’s family. Doug made copied of some and I took cell phone copies of others. I shared some last evening on Facebook.
Eventually we talked about the dogs we had as kids. My brother Ken talked about two special dogs that he owned, Sam a docked Doberman Pincher and Bella, the Pomeranian that he owns now. Frisky was a black miniature poodle that Grandma Becky owned. It was a ball of energy and always underfoot. I mentioned the Great Dane my mom and dad owned when I was small. Our home was near busy Rt. 711 and if I’d stray too close, that beast would grab me by the seat of my pants and return me to the safety of the yard. No family dog story would be complete without mentioning my mom’s favorite, Bimbo. He was an intelligent, brown and white Rat Terrier mix. His playful antics could always make Mom laugh.
The direction of conversation changed into other memories of the past, and so it was until the annual Thanksgiving Beck feast was over, except for the dividing of the leftovers.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Toying With Nostalgia
When my grandchildren left my house after a visit, I found two stuffed animals with which they'd been playing. My mother Sybil Miner Beck often held those animals on her lap as the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease became more and more noticeable. As I returned them to their storage bins, I began to recall their importance. One was a fuzzy white dog about twelve inches long and ten inches high. The other was an even fuzzier white cat with almost the same dimensions.
My mom was raised on a farm Near Indian Head, Pennsylvania with seven brothers and sisters: Rachel, Cora, Violet, Dale, Ina, Ted, and Cosey. She used to share stories of her past life as she raised me, my brother Ken, and my sister Kathy. These stories became fewer as she aged. Sometimes we would start a story and look to her to corroborate the facts and she would only respond, “If you say so.” Her past memories became locked away in the dim recesses of an uncooperative mind. It was sad seeing this intelligent, witty woman disappear as Alzheimer’s claimed more of her faculties.
She loved to read, but Alzheimer’s stole that ability from her. Near the end of her life, she forgot how or why it was necessary for her to eat. Occasionally after much coaxing, she would reluctantly take a bite and swallow it.
With that history out of the way, I will return to the reason I started to write this tale. While she still lived with my dad Carl Beck, she was given the dog and the cat. Some women claim a doll to hold and care for as their mental capacity diminishes. My mom claimed the cat and dog instead. She would hold one or the other on her lap, stroke it, or just rest her hand on its back. I can’t remember where she got them, but they were constant companions.
When she and my father passed, I inherited them and kept them with the toys to entertain my grandchildren when they visited. This time as I tucked them away, the significance of what there two creatures meant to my mom struck me and they now have a new resting place on my bed.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Thanksgiving or Giving Thanks
It’s almost Thanksgiving and on what are we concentrating? Is it the turkey, ham, dressing, or the pies, cranberry sauce, and the varied side dishes to serve? Are we trying to decide whether or not to watch football games or making a schedule of which ones to view?
Are we really thankful for what we have? Will we give thanks to our Creator and Lord for what He has allowed us to have? If we have food, warm clothing, a warm place to live, and a family to love, we should be thankful and give thanks to our Maker.
If we aren’t thankful, we can slip into a feeling of entitlement. Like a spoiled child who feels that what he or she has is something that is deserved, something to which we are entitled. We can become discontent with what we have, become unsatisfied with our blessings. It can become an overwhelming desire for the things that our friends or neighbors have. Those feelings may turn to envy and fester into ill will toward even our closest friends or relatives. It doesn’t have to be a possession. It can be the friend’s position, job, or relationship.
We can have a feeling that we are justified in our belief that we should have what they have and be blinded to the things we already have. We may have good health or a loving family that the neighbor doesn’t have and wishes that he had. We can be so consumed and embittered with our lust for things we do not have, we are unable to enjoy what we do have.
Being thankful allows us to reflect on the good things in our lives. To actually see what we have and take into account of the good things in our lives. Not being thankful blinds us. Not giving thanks opens our hearts to sins of greed, envy, and lust. Being thankful opens our eyes to the needs of others. When we have the feelings of good fortune and being blessed, we are more willing to share to those less fortunate than we are and are happy when another person gets a new car, a new job, or becomes engaged.

Psalm 118:1 O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: because his mercy endureth for ever.  

Friday, November 17, 2017

Uneventful Events
Many of life’s incidents we find that are unremarkable fill our days, our weeks, and eventually the years set aside by God to complete the pages of our history book. We don’t know the number of chapters before God places the final period and writes “the end.” Each page is filled with innumerable choices which change the direction of our existence. Even the smallest of choices can change the outcome of the day. Do I vacuum the house, do the laundry, or do I drive to the store to get the potatoes I forgot to buy yesterday?
If I vacuum, will that ready my house for as of yet unknown visitors? If I do the wash, will the washer overflow or the dryer stop working? If I decide to drive to Wal-mart’s, will the car break down or will I be involved in an accident? Each selection and each decision we make often has unseen and sometimes far-reaching consequences, not only for us, but to our family, to our friends, or to complete strangers.
When I am out and about, I try to be polite and friendly. Who knows, I may meet that person again when I could use their help and as an author and writer, I always have to advertise my books and my BlogSpot, so it behooves me to be on my best behavior.
Not only that, but as a far-from-perfect Christian, I need to share my life witness with others as a example of what a Christ wants us to be. I try to be more cordial and less grumpy than my human flesh wants me to be.
I also try to share when I get an answered prayer. This past week, I was praying about finding my lost house key. Somewhere it slipped off my key ring. After frantic searching, I came to the point that I knew exactly where it happened. It had to have fallen off in the church parking lot Sunday evening. I would search there on Wednesday evening. As I exited my car, I saw the individually wrapped Lifesaver candy on the gravel parking lot. I always carry a few to share with kids. The white minty halo drew me like a beacon. I strolled over to retrieve it and nestled there beside it was my key.
That unexpected event caused me to drive to Wal-mart and have several spare keys made. I am in the process of distributing the newly made ones to my kids. I also plan to keep a spare key inside my house “just in case.”
This sin't exactly where I was planning to direct this post, but one small choice led to another.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Postcard Repository
For my friends who follow me on Facebook, they already know that each day I share a different postcard. Being the oldest in my family, I have slowly become the end of the line for many items; glassware, furniture, postcards, and other documents. The postcards now fill a boot box. Rather than allow them to become food fare for silverfish, I photograph them and post them for others to see.
Many of the artist’s drawings or actual photographs of buildings are no longer there and many of the far off places, most people will never be able to see unless they catch a glimpse of them with my daily Facebook shares. Some of these cards are in nearly pristine condition despite their age while others are in poor conditions because of rough handling. A few cards are advertisements for hotels, motels, hardware stores, and even one for a privet hedge nursery. It is almost unbelievable the amount of untold history that is uncovered by looking at the image captured on the front, the date and the message written on the reverse side. Several of the cards were sent during the World Wars eras up to and including a card I just received several days ago from Iceland.
Cards from several foreign countries grace the collection. There are sepia colored portrait cards, a few had no writing to label who these men and women were. Some cards are scenes of war; some are a rendition of boot camp, cadet schools, and a few that poke fun of war.
The most of the collection share scenes from the United States. Some were historical showing the conception of America to the near past. There are Easter cards, Thanksgiving cards, Birthday cards, St. Paddy’s Day cards, and a plethora of Christmas cards. I try to dig them out to post at the appropriate times. These cards are a heritage that I treasure and try to share with you all.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Living in a World of Anger
The world around us seems to be more and more filled with chaos and anger; road rage, violent protesting, stabbings, spouse abuse, child abuse, terrorists attacks, and multiple shootings have gained prominence in the headlines of our newspapers. They’ve captured the lead spots of our televisions and radios. If we are not careful, we will respond in a like manner and perpetuate a hostile world.
Often the media is reporting, “Is there no safe place?” Saying our homes and churches are no longer havens. The sanctuary cities that have been created are to protect those who would try to do evil. These criminals are protected while the general population is put at risk.
Some misguided politicians hold a serpent to their breast under a misplaced sense of goodness and deal inappropriately with these non-citizens at the risk and expense of the actual citizens of the community.
If we are guided by feelings and feelings alone, the world will only become worse. If we have no guide other than our hearts, we are doomed. The Bible tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Jeremiah 17:9. The human heart can be very loving, but in the next instant, it can be filled with envy, lust, rage, hatred, pride, or greed. How can we trust such a fickle entity to guide us? We can’t.
Morality cannot be legislated. Each time politicians enact a law to stop one evil, they allow the criminal minds to find a way to avoid or corrupt the well-meaning regulation. It seems the law-makers try to circumvent and outright deny the truth and principles set forth in the Bible, but their adulterations of God’s Word have failed miserably.
There will be no healing without kneeling and dealing with our sins. There has to be a change in our lives and reveal the way God meant men and women to live. I can hear the groans of my readers, old-fashioned, he’s no longer relevant, but God’s Word has guided mankind for generations. Each time mankind has leaned on their own understanding, it is then that that civilization has collapsed.

Friday, November 10, 2017

A post for veterans that have fallen and those families left at home.

Alone Now

She weeps

Tears fall

Folded flag

Held tightly

Remembering him.

Tall and strong

Young and alive

But no more.


She weeps

Broken hearted

Inconsolable, empty

Ribbons and medals

Clutched in hand

Remembering him.

Gentle lover



But no more.


She weeps

No comfort

Grief stricken

Unbearable pain

Remembering him.

Tender hero

Valiant knight

Blessed hope

To return no more.



Americans and Veterans
Just a few quick lines before I go outside to stack another load of firewood. Tomorrow is Veteran’s Day; a day we as Americans have set aside to honor those who sacrifice time away from their homes. Sometimes they sacrifice limbs, eyes, and mental stability or even the ultimate sacrifice of laying down their lives for their comrades in war and for Americans who are far away from the battlefield. These who are kept safe and secure to carry on their daily life inside the border of the United States owe so very much to these warriors.
I also want to remember the families, the people who are left behind, wondering, worrying, and praying that their soldier, sailor, or airman will come home safely and in one piece. The family is left with the task of repairing any damage caused by the trials of combat, whether physical or mental. They are left with the task of supporting each other in the time of grief should their loved one not return home.
Parents, wives, and yes, even the children are involved in the aftermath of repairing the threads of their lives, putting back together the fragile threads that have in some way been damaged. Often it is a formidable and Herculean challenge. The repairs are not always as beautiful as the original cloth, but we can only hope that the mended areas are stronger and deeper than before.

This is the tribute for our veterans and their families. God bless each and every one of you.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Here Comes the Judge
Jury duty, what can I say. I got the summons several weeks ago and wanting to do my civic duty, I went. My body has deteriorated over the past several years, nothing extraordinary or debilitating, but just enough that I have slowed somewhat. Back pain, right knee and shoulder pain, water pill for my hypertension, and the recent start of insulin for my diabetes have slowly inculcated themselves into my life. I thought with careful planning, I could still serve as a juror.
Monday morning, the perspective jurors were herded into a large courtroom to ascertain who reported and who were delinquent. It was a slow process of showing your jury summons and driver’s license. (But people don’t need I.D. to vote?) Each juror-to-be was issued a button having their juror number. We were required to wear the badge the entire day. The courtroom where we gathered was grand with marble floors, rusty red marble walls, and large ivory colored chandeliers hanging from the gilded and frescoed ceilings. The seats were dark oak benches matching the judge’s bench, witness box, and the carved rail that separated the audience from the court proceedings.
The sorting and selection began. My number was called and was shuffled into another courtroom. From the initial gathering of prospective jurors until we arrived in the newly assigned courtroom took nearly 2.5 hours. As we entered, each juror was assigned a specific seat. Mine was a hard wooden chair. All this sitting on hard surfaces began to cause my right leg and foot to go numb. I was glad that I brought my cane. I sometimes need it to stand. Another 2 hours of inactivity and sitting ensued. I was glad they allowed us to visit the restrooms several times. Standing alleviated some of the worst of the tingling. Noon came and we were sent to find a place to eat, cautioned to be back by 1:30 pm.
After the meal, the judge arrived and handled a few cases without selecting a jury. A short while later, the judge said the case for which we were summoned took a plea bargain and we were dismissed to the hallway until we were needed.
To keep the tingling to a minimum, I walked the hallway. I spoke with the administrator of the courtroom to see if I might leave early, after explaining my predicament. I was asked to stay until the end of the day. I managed to do that, continuing my restless pacing. When I turned in my badge, I was told I would be excused for the week. I was glad to be free of the inactivity and sitting. The wheels of justice turned a lot more slowly than I imagined.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Hurray for the Veterans
This was the third year I’ve attended the Veteran’s Day celebration at Mt. Carmel Christian School. Again it was a great success. The younger children of the elementary classes shared memorized patriotic recitations and songs. The older students, clad in uniforms from the different branches of the military, shared excerpts of letters from military men and women who sent back some of the trials and tribulations from the fighting in which they were embroiled. Letters to wives, children, and parents gave a small picture of what they had endured or were experiencing to keep all Americans and loved ones safe and secure.
The ceremony began with prayer and a parade of military flags: the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Coast Guard, and the Marines. Each banner was solemnly and proudly carried down the central aisle to a place of honor at the side of the dais by students wearing donated uniforms of veterans.
The entire process of the celebration was dignified. It centered around and was dedicated to the men and women who sacrificed their time, their lives, and their limbs to protect all Americans.
There were many times I found a lump in my throat, unable to complete some stanzas of the several patriotic songs. A roll call of each veteran present was made having each veteran stand to be recognized as their name, the number of years they served, and the branch of the service were announced. The respect of these young men and women gave is refreshing in a day when the flag, the National Anthem, and the American veterans are being taken so lightly and with so little regard for their sacrifice.
After the ceremony, a meal was served to all who attended. The food was delicious with pies and cupcakes as dessert. I would like to give a hearty well done to the staff and students to Mt. Carmel Christian School.
Every day I post a different postcard on my Facebook page. I extracted the military postcards in my collection and will share them throughout the coming week. Somehow, I thought of the veterans from WW II for Veteran’s Day, but soon I understood there were veterans of many wars; from the French and Indian Wars, to the Alamo, WW I, Korea, Vietnam, Civil War, and those wars in which we are still embroiled. May God bless our Veterans.

Friday, November 3, 2017

The Weather or Not
The autumn weather has been unusually mild and has limited the bright hues from appearing on the trees. The golds, reds, oranges, crimsons and the intense yellows of the leaves have taken their time to slowly evolve into a dull brown or to just wither and fall off the trees. I don’t mind the warmer fall weather; I just don’t like the thoughts of the winter chill that is just ahead. The short reminder of the colder temperatures and the strong winds made me want to hibernate.
We should be thankful. So much of the country is going through drought-like conditions while southwest Pennsylvania has been blessed with ample rain. So much has happened in the past week. It has been another stress-filled week chock full of things to do. I had the carpeting and flooring installed on Monday. They have to come back to install the trim. They didn’t have what they needed.
Wednesday, I ate lunch with the Grande Dames of Frick. Once each month, the retired nurses from Frick Hospital in Mt. Pleasant Pennsylvania get together to eat, reminisce, and to update each other on our “boring” lives now that we’ve retired. I always say I didn’t know that retired meant feeling tired day after day because I’m still busy.
Thursday, I had an appointment to have my bathroom remodeled. It was a no show. I don’t understand what happened, but I certainly won’t hire them for the job. It was a referral through Home Advisor, so how reliable are their recommendations?
Thursday afternoon was the writers meeting at the Mt. Pleasant public library. I had a headache, but went anyway, escaping back home as soon as the meeting was over.
This afternoon, I plan to attend the annual Veteran’s Day celebration at the Mt. Carmel Christian Academy. Their respect and tribute to veterans is unbelievably moving. These young men and women make me proud to be an American and to know there is still a generation that respects veterans, our country, our flag, and God.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

My New New Year’s Resolution
It’s not too soon for me to think about changes in my life style. Last year about this time my New Year’s resolution was, “If I am grumpy, I don’t leave home. No one wants to deal with a grumpy old man.” I’ve shared this resolution with many people at the checkout counters. Usually they chuckle and thank me. Some of them actually share some horror stories. It makes me happy that I am not on their black list. The good thing is, it is one resolution that I’ve been able to keep so far.
As the year is drawing to an end, I have been ruminating what to do. I want to make another positive change in my life. The past two months I have become extremely busy and can see that November will be another hectic month. My pocket calendar has become far too full and I think that is where my assault should be. After the first of the year, I want to be a recluse, a hermit, a person who loves the feeling of cabin fever; at least for a few weeks, maybe a month. I need to find some time to hide from appointments, meetings, and other events that want to lay a claim on my life.
There were ten days in October without something on my schedule that I planned to do. In those ten days I did the household chores, mow my yard and the neighbor’s yard, as well as do the laundry. I had to move my furniture getting ready for the installation of my flooring and carpet. Of course, I removed the carpet and padding to save a few dollars, shaving off more of my free time.
I guess what I am trying to say is I need to understand the word “no” and be willing to use it much more, even when I am talking with myself. That is the resolution I want to make. Whether or not I can keep it, only time will tell?

Monday, October 30, 2017

Too Sore, Too Old, Too Fast, Too Cold
A combination of thoughts has fueled this morning’s post. Friday, I had dental surgery to remove a dead tooth. Because of my lack of care of a child, I have less than a perfect smile, supplemented by a partial plate. The ache from the work caused me to miss a wedding to go to Wal-mart to pick up some medication for the pain.
On Saturday, I missed a book signing and reading because I didn’t feel like dealing with the public. My mouth was still sore and my son Andrew asked that I help him move his household belongings from the storage unit to their new home. We’d unpacked the 28 feet long Penske rental truck and stored the contents two weeks earlier.
We arrived with a 26 feet long U-Haul another pick-up truck, small trailer, and several other vehicles filled with 8 adults and three children. We managed to get everything loaded under cloudy skies and feeling the sprinkling of the promises of rain later.
The drive to their home just outside of Uniontown was uneventful and after jockeying positions, we began to empty the vehicles, sorting the boxes and bins as they were uncovered. Some went into the garage and shed, some went into the house, and some went into the basement. Because the carpets had just been cleaned, the unloading was in a fire brigade style passing things from outside person to inside people. Seven and a half hours later we were finished, wet from the last 2 hours of unloading in the rain.
Yesterday, with the arrival of cold, damp weather, the soreness caught up with me. Aching knees and leg muscles are feeling the wear and tear greeted me. This morning, little has changed. I am greeted by a cold damp wind and the ache of an overused body.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Frugal McDougal
As a child, I was taught to be cautious with my spending. Money always seemed to be adequate for my family’s needs, but splurging was almost always out of the question. It was a special treat for us every Sunday after church, my dad to make a run to Miller’s store in Normalville, Pennsylvania and buy a Sunday newspaper, a large silver-foil bag of Snyder’s potato chips, and one-pound wheel of “gummy” longhorn cheese. That was our weekly luxury.
As an adult, I’ve continued to watch my pennies, spending it on only things that were necessary. It was a treat for us to eat at a restaurant, even a simple meal at McDonald’s. I always said about being a nurse, I could keep food on the table, a roof over our heads, and clothing on our backs. My kids call me cheap, but I would rather be called cheap than to be a spendthrift and need to borrow money from them.
Lately, I’ve loosened the purse strings a little. I just ordered flooring for my living room and dining room. The remarkable thing is, I’m actually paying someone to install it. The company that I am using has an estimate for removing and hauling away the old carpet. Somehow, that just rubbed against my frugal nature. I decided to remove the carpet and padding myself. It meant that I had to move the furniture left in the rooms to accomplish it. I have to talk to the company today to see if that item can be removed. I’m hoping that I can reduce the cost slightly, being the “cheap” buzzard that I am.
To take breaks from carpet removal and crawling on the floor to extract staples, I took down the curtains from both rooms, washed, dried, and folded them. I’ll hang them again after the installation of the flooring, although with the windows uncovered, I won’t be raiding the fridge in my birthday suit.I needed some fresh air. I got it when I took down the outside clothes line and mowed my lawn as well as the neighbor’s. It was chilly and I was glad to come back inside to finish my tasks. One of my friends said I’ll be too sore to move today, I am, but I feel glad to know that the work is behind me.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

I was thinking back to memories of the way my past relatives dressed and wondered how they would have fared in the world today where much of the person is judged by the clothing that they wear. My uncle Dale Miner would have rated right up there with the homeless street people of today. His clothing was always shabby, in need of repair, and most often grimy. His boots were always scuffed. It was rare that he was shaved. His brother Ted was rail thin and wore shirts and pants that were too large with a belt cinched tight to hold them to his body. My grandmother Rebecca always kept them washed.
She kept my grandfather Ray’s clothing clean. By the time I knew him; he’d retired from the coal mines and farmed only. When he and my grandmother were raising their 8 children, he worked in the mines at night and kept the farm during the day. He wore bib overalls most of the time and the pale blue work shirts. Often a straw hat topped his wispy white hair. His round aluminum lunch pail and his brass carbide head lamp were the reminders of his time underground.
Rebecca was the opposite of my granddad. She was tall and stout while he was short of stature and average build. Grandma Miner always wore a dress. Pants were a no-no then. I can never remember her wearing anything but a front-button down print dress with a tie belt cinched at the waist. She always wore thick, flesh-colored cotton stockings, rolled down to the knees and her black clunky-heeled, tie-on shoes. Little changed in Grandma’s attire. Occasionally she would don a necklace when we’d drive her for appointments with a doctor.
Blue jeans or shorts and high-top tennis shoes were reserved for the cousins. Usually striped tee shirts finished our daily wear for boys and girls, until the girls came of age at about 8 or 9, then they graduated to wearing dresses and Mary Jane shoes.
Money was scarce then. Hand-me-downs were most often the choices we had. There was the old joke, “Hand-me-downs came in 2 sizes, too big or too small” and that was often the case. Getting something new was a big thing then. It was to be treasured. I wasn’t raised during the depression, but the effects of it and World War II still lingered, coloring everything that we did.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Routine Turmoil
I know the title sounds confusing, but that is what my retired life has become. Unlike the housewives of old where she divided the chores to accomplish on certain days of the week, there seems to be little of that in my life since I’ve retired. When I worked as a nurse, having a routine wasn’t in my cards either. My schedule was created, often without regard to the stress it caused on the body. There were times I would work three shifts in a seven day period: afternoons, nights, a day off and then two, 12 hour shifts of daylight. If there was a call-off, I might work 16 hours and because of inclement weather, been called on to work longer periods.
I wrote all of that to say often my life is in constant flux from one week to another. This past Tuesday I attended the Chestnut Ridge Society to listen to Fred Saluga talk about Bigfoot. Thursday was the meeting of writers at the Mt. Pleasant Library. Friday was my catch-up on laundry and Saturday I spent helping my son Andrew and his wife Renee with other family members to clean and start minor repairs on their new home.
I’m not complaining about the cleaning and the repair work, because having them so much closer than Amarillo, Texas is a true blessing. It has been an answer to prayers. No more trying to figure out the weight of something when I have to mail a gift or books I find or write for them. I’ll still forget anniversaries and birthdays and have to send belated cards, but I’ll be able to see all my granddaughters grow and love them more often with hugs and kisses.
I guess Sundays are  one constant with church and Sunday evening services, but I have one writers meeting at the Art Center in Greensburg every second and fourth Sunday afternoon, and of course yesterday was one of the meetings. I guess my life will never grow stale.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Bedtime Buddy
As a very young child, I can remember a stuffed corduroy doll that was 12 or 13 inches tall with stubby outstretched arms having a span of nearly 9 inches. Its chalky-white, hard plastic face smiled with an almost clownish smile. The doll’s chubby cheeks caused its wide open painted eyes to have the least bit of crinkle as if he was about to laugh, and why not. His body and cap were done is a Harlequin jester manner with green and brown corduroy material on alternating sides. His name was Andy. Could this be the reason I have a penchant for that name and called my son Andrew? Not really. I had no recollection of the name until my memory opened and I sat to write this piece.
Andy was my constant companion and not just my bedtime buddy. I carried him through the house throughout the day. From my continual abuse that a child like me gave a toy, the hard plastic eventually cracked and Andy lost his engaging smile. His distorted countenance didn’t lessen my love for him and he remained my faithful companion.
My mother, Sybil Beck, decided that if I wouldn’t give Andy up, she would modify him and make him more presentable. With his distorted face cracking wider, Andy looked like the grotesque and scary clowns of today. You know the ones that lure souls into the sewers. I am not sure what Mom felt, but Andy’s broken plastic face disappeared and she replaced it by creating a soft cloth one. My mom embroidered a new and different face on a piece of white muslin and used it to fill the hole left by the mangled original jester face that she removed.
It was a nice gesture, but I can’t remember exactly what the replacement visage looked like. I know it had a mouth, a nose, and eyes but the image blurs when I try to recall the new features. It saddens me that I can’t remember them. Out of love, my mom took the time to repair my beloved Andy and I have no recollection of it.
I suppose there are some who will ask, “Do I still have Andy?” or “What happened to Andy?” I don’t know. I have no recollection of its disappearance. I can only remember that some of the cotton filling eventually poked out through the seams of his overstuffed body and I suppose that I outgrew the need to carry him around. Obviously he was tossed. Looking back, I can still see him as a sweet memory of childhood and not the tattered and worn entity that he became. Perhaps that’s better for me.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

At the monthly meeting of the Chestnut Ridge Historical Society, the speaker was Frank Saluga, an investigator for Bigfoot sightings from West Virginia. He shared information from the annals of Bigfoot sightings and the suggested explanations for the phenomenon. He shared the history of sightings from Native Americans, early explorers, and those interested with more recent sightings.
Bigfoots are found in every state in the United States and every continent has their version of this hairy, elusive creature. Some cultures believe it to be an actual flesh and blood animal, some believe it is a spirit, others believe it an inter-dimensional traveler or even an alien that is transported by flying saucers. There are theories that Bigfoot is the descendants of Cain or Neanderthal people that are the link between ape and man.
Frank showed a map of the being’s sightings and the highest concentration was on the east coast of the United States, from Maine through Florida. He went on to explain that quite a few Bigfoot reports are from Westmoreland and Fayette County. He also shared that many of the Bigfoot sightings corresponded with UFO sightings, giving credence to those who hold to the theory that they are alien beings.
He had several photographs on crude structures that were supposedly Bigfoot homes or nests. He also shared pictures of teepees of large logs or log X’s that were too heavy for several men to lift.
He shared times when he and fellow explores had rocks thrown at them, noises, and had found tracks. He had two plaster castings of Bigfoot prints.
Driving home, I was being cautious, not that I was afraid of seeing a Bigfoot, but the deer are often active at that time of night and at this time of year. It was a good thing that I was, because a beautiful 8 point buck was standing in the field beside the road and I was blessed to see it without having to hit my brakes to keep from hitting it.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Feeding Thousands
That is exactly what I helped to do, this past Friday and Saturday. It wasn’t like Jesus did on the shore of Galilee by blessing the two fish and five loaves where He performed the miracle of feeding five thousand plus women and children. It was nothing as dramatic as that. I worked at the Ohiopyle Volunteer Fire Department for their Buckwheat, pancake, and sausage festival.
I’ve been volunteering since 1966 when I started to date my wife Cynthia Morrison. Her dad Bud, her mother Retha, and Cindy worked there, so it was only natural for me to start. I began washing dishes and slowly moved up the ranks, frying the pancakes, buckwheat cakes, and hash brown potatoes until I was commandeered to fry sausage.
I imagine I have been marching the seasoned piggies across those grills for almost forty years. Each grill is 20 inches by 30 inches. There are 12 grills, 6 in a row almost touching each other. Fryers are often responsible to watch the sausage on two of the griddles. The finished product is place into roasters to stay warm until they are carried to the serving areas.
We began to fry continuously from 830 am until 530 pm, stopping only to eat and to grab some fresh air. But we weren’t finished. We had to scrape and clean the grills so they were ready for the next day. I was blessed to have my family come out and join me for the evening meal.
Saturday, our church helped the Seedline Ministry located in Ohio. They print Bibles and books of the Gospel in foreign languages that are then sent to missionaries in the countries where they serve. The copies we assembled, stapled, and cut to size were in the Korean language. By the time we finished, we had completed 8,386 copies of John and Romans to be shipped to a missionary in South Korea. Our copies will be joining others designed with a special cover just for the Korean winter Olympics. We were told that 7 people will read each copy and 1 of them will receive Christ as their Savior. Hopefully, some will find their way into North Korea to feed lost souls there as well.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

 Safe at Home
On Tuesday, we were expecting my son Andrew, his wife Renee, and their two children Celine and Moriah to be transferring their home from Amarillo, Texas to a location in southwest Pennsylvania. He with the help of Renee decided to accept an employment position closer to me and his two sisters.
We knew they planned to leave Sunday. I was sure that they would go to church services first to say goodbye to their friends and fellow church goers. They got a late start and didn’t cover as much ground as they expected. The 16 foot box truck lumbered along, bringing them closer, but we became anxious, wanting them back home and safe. They didn’t call to share their progress until they hit Indiana and probably wouldn’t have said anything without the constant prodding of his sisters.
It was the last leg of their journey to the new beginning of their life. We knew that they would be home sometime Tuesday, but we weren’t sure just when. By reckoning the miles that remained between us and them, we imagined that it would be later in the evening when they arrived. We gathered at my older daughter Amanda’s to wait. Amanda and Eric graciously allowed them to stay with them until they could finish the inspection and sign the contract on their home.
The evening grew darker and a text said they were in West Virginia. Tension grew. They were much closer now. Every sound drew someone to the window or door, thinking maybe they were nearer and planned to surprise us, but no and the time dragged. Eight, nine, ten, the hands on the clock never seemed to move so slowly.
Finally, I could not stand the confines of the room and walked out onto the back porch for the fresh air. We’d been talking in whispers to allow my granddaughter Hannah to sleep. My daughters joined me. We could talk and not fear waking Hannah.
Each traffic sound called to us, but it wasn’t the answer that we sought. Finally the roar of a large truck called to us. It was them. The caravan had finally arrived, my son in the box truck, towing the family car. Following close behind was Renee driving their Suburban with another trailer behind. Anna, saw what was on the second trailer and began to cry. It was the Chevy pick-up truck that belonged to my father-in-law, Bud Morrison. It had been taken to Texas on their first move and now, it now returned with the family, reunited.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Life in an Uproar
Last week was out of kilter because of the revival meetings. The confusion of an altered schedule continues into this week. Last week I visited a local flooring and carpeting company for an estimate to do my living room and dining room. At the store, I looked at samples and selected the colors and styles that I wanted. After giving an approximate size and things I would need, the owner’s partner and I went over approximate costs. I left her with my card and phone number.
The owner came out and measured both rooms. As he was measuring with an electronic laser, I was talking and said, “I did an approximation of the size of the rooms by counting the ceiling tile.” I gave him my measurements in feet. I expected a telephone call and after several days had passed and hadn’t heard anything, I was scrolling through my email accounts, where I found their proposal. I’d overlooked it before, thinking it was a bleed-through from my spam emails. After I reviewed it, I sent an email back saying it looked good.
The co-owner had forgotten to keep the styles and colors of the carpet and floor covering. I took the information that she’d given me back to the store on my way to a doctor’s appointment. It was early and the man who’d measured was still in the store. I gave them the information that I had, but when I mentioned that he could bring the carpeting in through the window instead of trying to wrangle it around several sharp turns, he looked as though I’d hit him between the eyes with a pole ax.
He had measured the rooms and estimated both rooms for the numbers of boxes of flooring needed. He hadn’t done the square yards of carpeting, but figured on both rooms having the boxes of tile. Now, we have been hit and miss on getting the measurements done. I guess prayers needed for last week’s revivals are continued into this week for my son and his family’s return from Texas and for the installation of my carpeting.


Monday, October 9, 2017

The Last Night
The last night of the revival services was Friday evening. I was able to finally convince two of my friends to attend one of the meetings to hear Brother Samuel Mills speak. One of which is a Facebook friend who brought her husband. The other is a fellow writer and friend. Her car is in the shop, so I picked her up and taxied her to the church. It was a two-for night. Not only did they get to hear a great message, but there was a dessert social afterwards.
Brother Mills was his normal animated self as he delivered his message, moving out from behind the pulpit and bouncing from place to place on the dais. My friend leaned over and asked, “I wonder what his blood pressure is?”
I said, “He’s a youth pastor and I’m sure that he keeps up with the kids.”
His message could have had three titles: Living in Perilous Times, God is Still Able, but he chose, What’s in a Name. In biblical times, a name was chosen that carries a meaning as to the characteristics or the meaning of the name for the child. Later, names were chosen for their memories, naming children after loved ones or friends.
Then he went on to describe the name of Jesus Christ, a name to be exalted above all others. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: Philippians 2:9. At that name every knee should bow. Philippians 2:10. Every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Philippians 2: 11. That name still has the power to save. Romans 10:13.
Christ is our refuge and strength our protection Proverbs 18:10. The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth to it, and is safe. This was the main course of the message and he talked about a city’s defense was the walls that encircled it. Those walls were the protection of those within from the enemy, but the towers were the safest most fortified part of the citadel. Here the wealth of the city and the people who were more heavily guarded were kept during an attack. The tower was set high above the walls so the enemy would not be able to reach it.
Brother Mills shared a series of names that Jesus had, speaking so fast that I couldn’t take notes. My recollection of his Scripture is faulty and I couldn’t share all that he said, but please accept my flawed sharing of his message.

Friday, October 6, 2017

There is a Place
There is a literal place where we will spend eternity. One place is Heaven and the other is Hell. We can’t be in both places, but decisions that we make while still alive and on earth will cause us to reside in one place or the other. Last evening Brother Samuel Mills explained that the Bible tells us of Heaven and Hell, spending twice as much time warning us of the dire consequences of an eternity in the pits of Hell and the lake of fire. It is a place of torment, of pain, of a burning darkness. It a place void of any comfort, void of God, and void of light. It is a place where Satan himself shall writhe in pain, calling on God to deliver him from the intense suffering.
Satan will call on the Creator that he rebelled against to give him relief and he will find none. It will be too late for those that the Devil has seduced to follow him. There in the utter darkness of Hell, the lost souls will have remembrance. They will recall each evil deed or thought that they ever had, and each chance they had to accept Christ as Savior and Deliverer will taunt them in the darkness.
God doesn’t want that any should perish and go to this place of punishment. 2 Peter 3:19. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
God looked down on this sinful world and still felt love. He sent His only begotten Son to take on a body of flesh, live here for 30 years, and be tempted like we are. He allowed Jesus to bear the pain of the crown of thorns, the scourging like no other person, to hang on a cross in agony to atone for our sins. Christ carried the sins of the entire world in His body and shed his blood that He might cleanse us and provide a way to avoid the punishment for our sins.
Hell is forever. There is no second chance. How many times will you reject God’s precious gift of eternal life? God says in Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
There may be no tomorrow. There may be no other call to accept Christ. The time is now. Will you accept Him as your Savior to have life in Heaven or as your holy judge and be cast into the fires of Hell for eternity?