Friday, June 30, 2017

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

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

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

Monday, June 26, 2017

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

Friday, June 23, 2017

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

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

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

Monday, June 19, 2017

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


Friday, June 16, 2017

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


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

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

Monday, June 12, 2017

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


Friday, June 9, 2017

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

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

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

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

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

Monday, June 5, 2017

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

Friday, June 2, 2017

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