Tuesday, May 30, 2017

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

Monday, May 29, 2017

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

Friday, May 26, 2017

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

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Continued from Monday’s post…

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

Monday, May 22, 2017

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

To be continued…

Thursday, May 18, 2017

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

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

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

Thank you again, Chestnut Ridge Historical Society.

Monday, May 15, 2017

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

Friday, May 12, 2017

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

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

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

What’s Wrong
My kids love to hear the story that I tell about my wife and their mom Cindy. It happened while Cindy and I were still dating, but let me set the background before I start. Back then, Gabriel’s was an outlet for seconds of clothing, not the collection of stores that it is today. Many of these seconds would likely have been called thirds today. Each item of clothing had to be examined with an eagle’s eye for any flaws. Some were minute like a snag or may be like a dye problem or tear in the cloth. Zippers had to be worked up and down to be sure they functioned properly. There were a number of ways that the item would end up on the shelves or racks of the Gabriel’s store.
This incident occurred one summer afternoon between the time that Gabriel’s store only was two houses in Uniontown, Pennsylvania connected by a covered passageway and a time when they first expanded to be Gabriel Brothers’ chain. Cindy and I had been dating for probably a year and we were sitting on a porch swing at her home at Camp Christian in Mill Run, Pennsylvania. I noticed something and said, “Did you get that blouse at Gabe’s?”
She asked, “Why?”
“The sleeves don’t match.”
She started to look over the blouse trying to see what I’d seen. “The patterns are similar, but different.” I said.
The shape of the designs was about the size of a silver dollar. They had the same colors, in the same spots, and nearly the same pattern. The pale greens, lavenders, corals, and sandy yellows all had the same placement, but one sleeve matched the rest of the blouse with seashells, fish, a sea horse, a sand dollar, and seaweed while the nonconformist sleeve had dragon flies, butterflies, flowers, and grass.
Now let me say that the blouse had been worn for quite some time and no one else noticed. She may have worn it before when we were together, if she had, I didn’t notice the difference until that afternoon. I will finish the story by saying I never saw her wear that blouse again.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Beauty Around Us
Yesterday as I drove to church, I crossed the top of a hill only to see a thick patch of fog crossing the roadway ahead. This is not unusual for the area where I live, but what was unusual is the beauty that the sun, fog, and trees created. The fog’s pale, milky veil covered the newly emerging, wet and shiny, silver clad leaves of the trees. The leaves appeared to almost glow, reflecting back the diffused light of the sun as its rays slipped through curtain of fog. I slowed for an instant, but then the fog shifted, the light changed, and leaves were just wet green leaves.
Coincidences sometimes cause us to slow and to actually wonder if we actually saw something that beautiful. God will share the beauty around us, if we slow down and take the time to look. If we will allow our eyes to register what they see and not be consumed of rushing along, ignoring the feast placed before us.
Last evening, again I was driving to church for evening services and the sun again played in the clouds. It was impossible to miss. The sunlight glowed a silver-white from the edges of other clouds that surrounded the thin cloud it was hiding behind. I say the cloud was thin, because I could see the ball of sun, looking like a full moon. It was too light and too early to be the moon. Again I slowed, it was too beautiful to rush by without enjoying.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Flower Children
I have mentioned before that my grandmother Rebecca Miner’s favorite flower was the Pansy. She said they reminded her of little boys with dirty faces and a huckster would give her a flat of them every year for buying his leftover produce before he left for home. To keep the produce from spoiling, he gave her a good price and with eight kids she could serve or can it to feed them all.
I don’t know what my grandmother Anna Beck liked. I can’t remember any flowers inside her house, but my aunt Estella’s favorite were the plastic ones. She didn’t like anything that might cause dirt in her home.
My mother-in-law’s porch held baskets of dark pink bleeding hearts and honey suckle trumpets. I was blessed my wife’s favorite flowers were daisies. When I wanted to surprise her, I could pick them out of the fields all summer. Our sister-in-law, Susan Reyes Morrison loved black-eyed Susan.
My daughter Amanda Yoder liked calla lilies and had them in her wedding bouquet. One of her wedding gifts was a large picture of them which hangs in her living room. My other daughter, Anna Prinkey likes sunflowers. She carried them in her wedding bouquet and some strange person bought a commode seat as a gag gift one Christmas. I must apologize to my daughter-in-law Renee, I never asked what your favorite flower is, but with your birthday so near Christmas, I’ll give you a poinsettia or a Christmas cactus.
My aunt Cora Hyatt loved all types of flowers, but what I remember from her gardens were the tall swords of color, gladiolas. I can remember mums in my aunt Ina’s gardens. My mom’s favorites were roses, Many of which she would start from cuttings placed under a quart jar.
I had other aunts, but my brain either never noticed a specific flower or has forgotten and I apologize for that. My favorite, I think it might be the lily of the valley with the dark green leaves and the delicate white bells.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Lawn Mowing Memories
Monday I decided to mow my lawn, dodging the several showers. As I rode my along on my mower cutting the grass, I remembered having my son mow the widow neighbor’s lawn next door. I tried to share the Bible verse about taking care of widows and orphans. She has since passed away and her son lives there now. The rain held off and I did their yard as well. They’re older and have some difficulty mowing for themselves.
My uncle Ted would mow grass in the summer to make a bit of money. Because of a head injury early in life, his mental capacity was that of perhaps a fourth grader. It was one of the things he was able to do to earn some cash. He was odd at times and set in his ways. Ted would only buy a “Lawn Boy” mower and would sometimes walk several miles between customers pushing the mower and carrying his gas can.
My dad loved the color red. His mowers had to be red because red one ran better. He once said, the red ones ran like a son-of-a-gun and we’d often kid him about it. He’d just smile and continued to buy red machines.
My son Andrew wanted a four wheeler because several of his friends had one, but keeping him and his two sisters in a private school wasn’t cheap. My wife Cindy and I decided to buy a riding mower instead. It took too much time to use a push mower to cut our acre of yard. While Andrew was at school, I bought and had delivered a riding mower. I hid it in the back of the house. When he came home from school, I told him we bought a four wheeler and gave him strict rules about riding it around the property only. Handing him the key, we told him that it was parked behind the house. A smile spread across his face and he ran outside. I must say, he hopped on it without complaint, turned the key, and immediately sped off trailing clippings behind him. Thank you Son, it is just one of the many memories I have of you. Look out Daughters; you will have memories shared on my BlogSpot too.

Monday, May 1, 2017

On Friday, Evangelist Thomas Engle asked how many have heard sermons on Hell. Then he said he was going to share thoughts about Paradise or Heaven. Every religion from Islam to Hinduism, to Buddhism, all have a higher plane to which their followers aspire or work toward. Mankind’s hearts and souls are hardwired to seek that place. They instinctively seek a place that is better than the world as it is in their lives.
In Christianity, it is called Heaven and is described in great detail, Revelation 21 as described by the Apostle John. He was given a special insight and a “private tour” so those who accept Christ as Savior will have knowledge of what waits for them beyond the veil of death.
We were fortunate to have the music director Doyle Robertson work with our Church’s choir for special music each night of the services. He and his wife also taught special classes for the younger children while we enjoyed the messages.
Because his schedule allowed, he and his wife stayed through Sunday evening, directing the choir. A special bonus was Doyle shared a message Sunday evening on how to praise God and what types of music was actually worshipping God.
God didn’t accept every sacrifice that was offered. Look at Cain and Abel. God rejected Cain’s gift of grain, because it was not the offering to God demanded. There was also Nadab and Abihu who were the sons of Aaron in the priestly lineage. They chose to offer incense on a “strange” fire and God rejected their offering by consuming them in fire.