Sunday, February 26, 2017

History Repeats We Never Learn
Our colonial forefathers expanded into the wilderness building homes, fortifications, and churches. The stockades were constructed for communal safety and most times this place of refuge also contained storerooms for food and gunpowder. Homes and churches were located outside of the fortification and at risk for raids from Native Americans.
These frontier homes, crops, and barns were protected with the weaponry owned by each individual family. On Sundays during the church service, the meetinghouse would post armed guards at the door to defend the worshippers inside from attacks.
As our nation grew and became more civilized, attacks became a thing of the past. The Colonies became a nation, the Constitution became the law of the land, and freedom to worship became an accepted ideal. Churches evolved into bastions of safety without fear of intrusion from government or other enemies.
There came a time when we slipped back. Churches became targets for violence, targets for the lashing out of racism, and the bull’s eye for intolerance. It was a time when the color of a person’s skin was more divisive than the person himself/ herself. Churches were no longer safe. Burning of these sanctuaries and killing tainted the country.
Although those tensions have eased, we are still faced with a similar problem. There are folks with different ideas of religion and culture that are selecting some houses of worship, schools, and gathering places as places for killing, destruction, and to further their agenda. These acts of violence has now made it necessary to place armed guards at locked doors again, to keep those worshippers inside safe from the evils without.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Will It Work
Today, I am treading very close to being political in a general way. The experiment of Socialism was tried at the founding of colonies in America and it failed miserably. Both Plymouth and Jamestown started by having a common storehouse where the colonists could take what they needed and replaced with what they could. It punished the persons who worked long and hard and rewarded the ones who worked little or not at all. The leaders, Captain John Smith and Governor William Bradford decided to give the people their own piece of land saying, “If you don’t work, you don’t eat.” It restated the biblical design and gave an incentive to prosper for each individual. When everyone had everything available to them with responsibility for nothing, it was bound to end up in disaster.
One of the reasons the war for Independence was fought was because of England’s impingement on regulating the finances of the Colonies. The dreaded Stamp Act and the tax on tea were especially odious.
The beliefs of our Founding Fathers further shored up free market ideas. Thomas Jefferson’s views shaped the Land Ordinance of 1785 making public lands available for private citizens. Alexander Hamilton displayed his belief in individual responsibility and the sanctity of contracts when in 1791 and 1792 refused to allow government bailout of banks that were the cause of the panic. Benjamin Franklin supported the belief in Capitalism with his printing business and with the wit and wisdom found in the “Poor Richard’s Almanac.
The United States Constitution is filled with core concepts supporting free market enterprise. It includes the Sanctity of Contracts, the freedom of expression, and a limitation on the government to regulate individuals and to levy taxes. It also lays out a responsibility for paying debts.
The Constitution is a major roadblock to those who seek a Socialist paradise. It is why so many politicians and judicial entities today want to diminish the Constitutions power or to actually do away with this document altogether. They want to remove the individual’s freedoms and God established inalienable rights.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Chore Boy
It has started. Another round of sorting through drawers, rearranging, and cleaning the dreaded basement, the black hole for stored things no longer frequently used or even no longer used. Yesterday, I started to sort those junk drawers. I have two dressers that were purchased for the kids to store their clothing when they were young. At one time, there used to be a store that sold unfinished furniture in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. That is where my wife, Cindy and I purchased them many years ago.
When the kids outgrew them, the bureaus were moved to the cellar to become a hoarder’s haven, a picker’s paradise. The drawers became pockets of the forgotten and designated a magnet for all sorts of used items that were “too good to be tossed and may be needed” at a future date, Much of my upbringing was based on the idea, when you wear it out, save it, you may be able to repurpose it.
I have collected four drawers of plumbing supplies. Some are old and some are new. The old pieces came from plumbing that was replaced. The new items are leftovers that were bought and never used, parts that are still in plastic, because they came as a kit and only the needed object was used.
There are four drawers of electrically related items. Old breakers, face plates, parts of ceiling fans, receptacles, and so forth have gathered themselves together for a possible reunion with the useful world again. There is one entire drawer filled with nothing but electrical cords. The cords belong to old electrical appliances, old computers, and extension cords that have amassed over the years.
There are three drawers that, don’t laugh, have collected plastic thing-a-ma-bobs, metal what-cha-ma-call-its, and one that holds drawer handles, door hinges, latches, pulls, knobs, and a lot of I-don’t-know-what -these-are in metal and plastic. I didn’t get rid of many of this not-quite-antique collection yet. But the good thing is, I now have them sorted and I know where to look if any of those odds and ends are ever called back into service.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Eye Love You
Very little is as precious as our eyes and our sight. The words associated with eyes are varied and many. They take up quite a bit of American vocabulary and idioms. One example is someone who is extremely handsome or extremely beautiful is called eye candy and may deserve an eye wink if we can make eye contact. A person on the other end of the spectrum is called an eyesore. Any person who sees a crime is called an eyewitness.
Some expressions are because of their location to our organs of sight. The orb itself is called the eyeball. Arching above the eyeholes are the eyelids, the eyelashes, and the eyebrows. There are cosmetics called eyeliner and eye shadow.
If they are overworked, we might have eyestrain and need eyeglasses, eyewear, or some other types of eyepiece like monocles, magnifying glasses, or something requiring lenses. Perhaps the eyes might need soothed by eyewash from an eyecup or eye drops from an eyedropper.
If someone knocks at our home, we might peek through the eyehole before unlocking the door. If we’re shopping and see a bargain, that would be an eye opener or eye catching and if the deal was extremely fantastic, it would be an eye popper. Wow, what an eyeful.
When we go to the dentist, he or she checks our eyeteeth and the rest for cavities.  A plastic surgeon may recommend an eyelift to eliminate bags under the eyes.
The military may have documents that are secretive and be stamped with the logo, “eyes only.” Sailors braid rope ends into an eye splice and hardware stores carry metal eyehooks and eyebolts.
Needles have eyes, but straight pins are eyeless. Finally, someone who says they will do something, then doesn’t is giving eye service only.

The eyes have it. Eye think eye am finished.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Superman No More
The “Superman” that I once was has slowly slipped away, disappearing. I have been weakened by the ever present, ever pressing Kryptonite of time. Each year my x-ray vision sees new cracks or finds the widening of an old one on this aging “Man of Steel.” It is extremely disheartening. My will remains strong, but more and more often I find my flesh has weakened. I find there are things that I never thought twice about doing--- I just did them. Now it seems I must plan ahead, finding ways to do things differently or to accomplish them in stages.
My grown children worry when I climb onto the roof to do a quick clean of my chimney. It’s not the cleanest. most pleasant, or the safest job for me, but my dad shoveled snow off his house roof when he was in his late seventies and my grandfather climbed ladders and cleaned his house gutters in his eighties. Somehow, I feel like a slacker if I can’t do the things they did.
I’m not an invalid yet and plan to fight old age tooth and nail until I am toothless and my nails are all broken. I will continue to stack firewood in the fall and haul it into my basement for my wood burner until I have gotten rid of my house or until the Lord calls me to my eternal home.
Because I have developed the condition called benign prostatic hypertrophy, an enlargement of the prostate gland that frequently happens in men as they age, I sometimes have difficulty in voiding. My stream is no longer faster than a speeding bullet, nor stronger than a locomotive, and it certainly doesn’t leap forth in an arced stream. Last night was one of those nights. I was not able to fully empty my bladder. The residual pressure caused me to wake up and fly to the bathroom all night long.
Ah, I remember the simple pleasure found in an empty bladder before the Kryptonite of time struck.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Dad’s Wonderful Idioms
My second round of an upper respiratory tract infection caused me to think on my dad, Carl Beck. Growing up at home when one of us would catch a cold Dad would always manage to pull out some saying that was guaranteed to make us kids feel worse. Noses that were sore and dripping with mucus always brought out, “Snottier than a sheep buck.” I haven’t been around sheep that much, but would assume that the ram sheep had mucous noses.
Or he might say our noses were “running like a maple tree in spring.” This I do know something about. Every spring, many of the locals will drill holes in the maple trees push in a drip spout, and collect some of the sweet sap as it rises to nourish the tree. The sap comes out in a steady drip, drip, drip. The old timers hang individual buckets to collect the sap, but newer generation use a connecting hose system into a large collection tank.
My absolute favorite saying, Dad saved for the days when we had a sore throat, we were coughing, sneezing, running a fever, and were huddled beneath blankets trying to feel warm. He would say, “You know how to get rid of a cold with a sore throat?” We knew what he would say next and although we were feeling miserable we would play along and ask, “What?”
“Drink ten gallons of water and sit on the stove until it boils.” He would smirk and walk away. I’m sure that he wasn’t being mean, it was just a saying as were the others that were passed down to him. These aren’t the loveliest of memories, but are part of what made me the warped and imperfect person that I am.
I must admit that I've shared one or two of his pearls of wisdom with my children.

Monday, February 13, 2017

What a Weekend My weekend of woes actually started Friday. Every other Friday afternoon is one of my writers meetings. I got a call from a fellow writer the night before asking for a ride. That was no problem, she lives along the way. She reminded me to bring my camera. She loves old barns and there were several along our route. Early Friday morning, another writer called and asked for a ride. No problem, she was along the way. I asked for her address for my GPS because she lives along some back streets and is difficult to find with my memory alone.
Once in my car, I found that I’d left my GPS at home. Instead of returning, I asked my first passenger to fetch her GPS. I also couldn’t remember the address so we called the second rider for a repeat of her address. After much twisting and turning of back roads, we made it to her house and to the meeting on time.
After the meeting and dropping off passenger number two, passenger number one and I got our photos of two barns, one I wrote a blog about its beauty and the second was a barn she was making a collage of it in all weather and seasons.
Saturday, was the book signing at Craftique in Greensburg. As I drove through Greensburg, the weather was nice, so I had my car window cracked for the fresh air. All was well until a police car coming in the opposite direction sped through a water puddle, shooting water through the opening. At the book signing, I didn’t sell a single book.
I have the congestion and sneezing of another cold and can you believe it, Willow the cat is also sneezing. I wonder if she has a cold or maybe she’s grown allergic to me.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Dealing With a Stacked Deck
Overnight the snow plows continued to do their job. The wind and snow worked their magic as well. On my deck there is now about eight inches of stacked snow and in my drive is a new layer of snow plowed from the road. Yesterday, I cleaned most of the snow that had been packed into the wheels of my car, but as usual, they were once again filled. This may not sound like much, but try to drive a car with an unbalanced wheel. It makes the car shimmy like your sister Kate. Driving with any kind of speed causes the steering wheel to jump and shake. I went out this morning to attempt to remove more this morning. I poked and pried more out, but I knew it wasn’t enough. I started my car and moved it sideways in my driveway. I am hoping that the sunlight will finish off what I started.
Moving my car proved to be another chore. The snowplows not only filled my wheels, but managed to slide a layer of dense snow beneath my car. Because of that, I was almost stuck in my drive. After rocking it forward and back a few times I was able to drive it into a sideways position.
Since I was already dressed and outside, I decided to finish clearing out the driveway. I was still sore from yesterday’s snow detail, but against the moaning and groaning of my aching body, I finished my chores and hurried inside to the comforting warmth of my wood burner and breakfast. Oh, by the way, my deck is still stacked with eight inches of snow and it can stay stacked until the spring thaw.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

This year instead of the usual layer upon layer of ice and snow, the weather has been doing a striptease show. First, a cold, blustery wind will push the snow and ice clad storm dancer into the area to deposit a load of frozen precipitation. Then the snow plows would come to curl back the drifting snow and spread layers of anti-skid material and salt on the road runways. Home owners have had to bundle up and attack the snow-laden walkways and drives with brooms and shovels. The fortunate ones are identified by the revving of their snow blowers, the engines of their four wheelers or their riding lawnmowers with snowplows attached. A few have plows affixed to the front of trucks. I do have neighbors that have a backhoe with a bucket on one end and a scoop shovel on the other. In past years they have stopped to move piles of snow from my drive when it reaches the point that I can no longer see to exit my drive.
Now, I come back to the striptease. This year that is exactly what “Mother Nature” has done. Winter’s dancer deposits a quick load of ice and snow, before retreating back to Canada. Slowly, the temperature warms and the layer of white precipitation becomes slush. Areas of lawn and earth teasingly appear. The discolored snow melts and the shoulders of the road are exposed. More of the grass becomes bare. The repeat performances tease that spring will soon be here. I don’t cry for an “Encore,” but these dancers return and cover everything up again. I don’t have long to wait for the next show. Rain has come to prepare the stage for the next winter clad dancer. The weatherman has predicted snow accumulation for the next storm. I pray that it will be a tiny dancer, lightly clad, and beautiful. I don’t look forward to removing thick layers of her clothing from my walks and drives.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Winter Wearies
Winter Weary is another malady that afflicts a person during the chill winter months. It is more apt to appear near the end of the season. The first snowfall is often welcome with wide open arms and eyes, a welcome sight, covering the bareness of the trees and the fallen brown leaves with a bright white robe of eiderdown and lace. Slowly, as the shoveling, the cold, the ice, and the repeated discoloration of the pristine white drifts occur, I grow weary of the bleak, gray days and begin to long for the spring melt, the sunshine, and the warm breezes. I grow weary of dragging my homemade wooden wheelbarrow out to the covered wood pile, moving each piece to the one-wheeled conveyance, and pushing the heavy load to be stored in my basement. I grow weary of getting up in the middle of the night to refill my wood burner with the split logs from the fire ring. I grow weary of cleaning out the ashes to carry outside, adding their dust to the discoloration of the snow. Punxsutawney Phil did little to lift my spirits out of these dreary days of doldrum, sharing that there will be six more weeks of the winter wearies. SIGH.
I grow weary of carefully waltzing across the icy surface of my driveway, being extremely cautious not to fall. The slip and fall in 2015 has made me more aware of just how dangerous ice can be. I don’t want another head injury. The two bleeds in my head happening once was more enough.
I can’t wait until the gentle prying fingers of the vernal equinox, the gentle zephyrs and the warmth of sunshine chase the winter wearies away. The time when those dreary, tail end of winter days are replaced with the cheery, colorful days of spring.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Rogue Rodent
The other day, I wrote a note on Facebook about my morning shoveling snow and clearing my drive. It was an imaginative piece about the new fallen snow and the wind. The weather was still cold, the sky remained gray, ant the wind was still wearing its winter bluster, but as I looked around, something had changed. It seemed that something had softened. As I carried each shovelful of snow across the road, dumping it into an empty field, I was able to look around and I noticed the playfulness of the wind and snow. Scattered across my lawn were rolls of snow where the wind lifted some stray plop of snow and began to push it, gathering more snow as it rolled. There were about thirty of these bundles. The largest was almost fifteen inches in diameter. In my fanciful, creative mind, it was though the elements were gathering the material to build snow forts and a battalion of snowmen to wage war on Old Man Winter. It seemed to say, “Hold on. Spring is on its way.”
Then came February second and Phil, that pampered pet of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, was dragged from its snug, warm den to prophesy and forecast the next six weeks. I would be upset if my winter’s sleep was interrupted as was this plump purveyor of the future of weather. This chubby prognosticator of winter’s demise or whether winter will win a reprieve has spoken, responded accordingly and said, “I see my shadow. Now put me back to bed.”
The result of those “good” citizens of Punxsutawney is that we will have six more weeks of winter. I see that the prognostications of the weathermen are showing that there is a cold snap ahead and they confirm Phil’s portend. At times, I feel Phil’s projections are more accurate than the weathermen, but that’s another story.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Feeling Guilty
After years of placing postcards on my Facebook page, sharing them with my friends, I actually feel guilty that I am unable to do so right now. A corrupt file in the memory disc causes my phone to freeze and I lost my Facebook app for now. I hope to get that back up and running soon.
The postcards that I have been sharing are from as far back as the early 1900’s to modern times. Some have the senders, their message, and the postmark of their sending date. It is great reading or trying to read the sometimes faded words on the backs. Many are souvenir cards, unsent and virginal, the inexpensive way of having souvenirs of times and places.
These cards came from stashes that my mother-in-law, Retha Morrison and from my mom, Sybil Beck kept over the years. From the two donors, I have a boot box filled to running over, probably one thousand of these memories. I have been dubbed as their keeper and I decided to post a different one each day, sharing the places and times with others, rather than allowing them to die a slow death, hidden away.
Cards or Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years are tucked among cards of local attractions, distant places, and of times of war. They share camps of soldiers, youth camps for Pittsburgh children, and cards collected from the times we camped out West. Some of the postcards are an artist’s rendering of the place, while others are crisp, clear photographs, sharing a true rendition of a place. They portray a vast panorama of deserts, mountains, cities, celebration, and people.
The great thing about postcards is that they are relatively inexpensive souvenirs and remembrances that quickly transport the reader and collector to another time and another world. They are easy to store and stir memories of a person’s past.