Thursday, June 24, 2010

Granny Camp


Jo's idea...the kids loved it.

In February this year, Jo began thinking of ways to have all of the grandchildren at our house for an extended period of time to do crafts, play games, sleep over, and energize me (I'm not sure that was one of the criteria, but it worked).

June 18 and 19 were set as camping days and plans were set in motion to have the children overnight to "do camp"...

Months of planning resulted in researching those activities and items that would hold the interest of children ranging in ages from 4 to 9--not an easy task. However, Jo is tenacious in her resolve. Notebooks were kept; favorite websites were saved in our browser; items ranging from crayons to scissors to acrylic paints to balloons to paper sacks to other items too numerous to mention began to pile up in our spare bedroom.

We met Mark and Carrie (son and daughter-in-law) near the Muncie exit on I-69 on June 18, collected Evan (4), Mariah (5), Caleb (8), and Lydia (9), and headed to Decatur. Luke (7) joined us in the lobby of the Adams Memorial Hospital where Jo conducted a kiddy tour for our little brood. One half hour of seeing where Grandma worked was sufficient for these five, and it was off to grandma's house where adventure awaited.

Sleeping bags were unloaded, hugs were shared with Grandpa, and the first order of business was a paper sack race outside. Five little souls were lined up, given a paper sack about the size of a lunch bag, and instructed on how the game worked. The idea was to start at the starting line, run to the finish line, blow up the paper sack and pop it, and then, run back to the starting line, completing the loop. The bags, although uniform in size, were perfect for the bigger kids, but the little ones appeared to be carrying duffle bags. However, spirits were high and the game worked perfectly. In fact, three more heats were completed, followed by three more Saturday morning.

After dining on spaghetti, cheese bread, and breadsticks (all eaten with gusto), craft time was spent completing a Father's Day gift for the little ones' daddies. A Ball jar filled with Goldfish crackers and Gummy Worms was decorated with stick-on fish stickers and seashells. A popsicle stick with a piece of yarn and an artificial hook was attached along with a note saying, "Dad, I'm hooked on you!"

The finished gifts were placed safely inside the tote bags that each of the children were given that would hold their other camp treasures as well.

The troop headed back outside after crafts where Grandpa had set up several yard games to test their skills. We were off to a good start when rogue thunderstorms forced us inside. However, our efforts were not dampened...

After bath time and jammies, Walt Disney showed up with "Lady and the Tramp", and the children were content to munch popcorn, view the movie, and prepare to bed down for the night. Teeth were brushed and no complaints were voiced as five little ones snuggled into their beds...

The basement floor provided a perfect "campsite" for five little sleeping bags. The boys were placed in one section of the room, and the girls were tucked cozily into another section where their privacy was ensured. There is something intoxicating about giving final squeezes and kisses goodnight to five sweet-smelling grandbabies. Lights were turned off (except for the hall night light pointing the way to the bathroom, if needed), and soon, little campers drifted off to sleep.

Saturday morning came at 7:00 for Lydia, Mariah, Evan, and Luke. Caleb was the last one up around 8 and breakfast was boisterous and fun. Scrambled eggs, donuts, juice, and string cheese (yep, Granny was prepared to provide a full menu) filled little tummies.

Outside Grandpa had begun secretly filling water balloons. The morning sun was already hot by 9; a perfect day for chucking balloons at each other. No encouragement was needed when Grandma suggested the children put on their bathing suits to play outside.

Grandma organized a nerf-ball game and invited two neighbor children to join as well. The game was at fever pitch when Grandpa invited each of the children to come and select five balloons each from the arsenal he had created. Pandemonium ensued.

For the next two hours, there was not a dry spot on anyone. The original rule was that Grandpa was not to get wet. That rule was broken approximately 10 minutes into the game and it was open season.

Liam, our 8 year old neighbor boy, was running across the yard still dripping from the contact of the last balloon that found its way to his person. He's a cute little guy with two sisters and lots of female cousins. In fact, his mother said that he is the only boy in the family. His reaction to the water balloon battle was the best summary of all...

"Dave", he called, "this is the best day of my life!!"

"Why is that, Liam?" I asked.

"Because", he said, "I'm playin' with the boys!!!"

Priceless.















Next: Wrap up and Awards Day--stay tuned...

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Almost a millionaire…

Jim was a lottery ticket junkie. Every day for the last 35 years, he had bought a cup of Sumatra Blend, a breakfast sandwich, and a scratch off ticket from the Drop-On-In convenience store at the corner of Elm and Main on his way to work. He had never won any serious money; twenty-five here, twenty-five there, just enough to keep him buying one every day of the week.

Janet, Jim's wife of 35 years, had resignedly accepted Jim's routine and had given up admonishing him years ago about the uselessness of purchasing the tickets. Jim's argument was that it was "just a couple of bucks" ignoring the fact that his cumulative spending over the years had become quite significant. He just knew that he was going to be the "lucky one" some day; he could feel it in his bones.

Saturday morning Janet was working on bills and Jim was mowing the yard. For Janet, there just never seemed to be enough money to go around. Every month she performed her own little lottery to see which bills would be paid. She had become adept at fielding the phone calls from the credit card companies, the utilities companies, and the bank seeking payment on delinquent accounts. Although Jim and Janet had never faced foreclosure on their 40-year-old three bedroom ranch, there had been many tense moments over the years. Their old car needed replaced badly and Jim had been advocating that they purchase a new mini-van.

"Zero down and sixty months to pay!" he had stated. "We can make the payments out of the overtime that I'm sure to get this year…C'mon, Babe, be a sport! All of our neighbors have new cars."

Janet had been adamant. There was absolutely no room in the household budget for another payment—even if it was interest free. They would just have to make do as they had managed to do the last 30 plus years.

Arising from her chair after writing the last check for the minimum amount on their credit card bill, Janet gathered up the checkbook, put the remaining unpaid bills that would be dealt with next pay cycle into her well-worn accordion organizer, and thought about what to fix for lunch.

She heard the mower shut off signaling that Jim would soon be inside asking for something to eat. She grabbed a couple of cheese slices from the fridge and four slices of bread. Grilled cheese sandwiches would have to do today. She would shop Wednesday at Aldi's and clip coupons from the Sunday paper tomorrow to replenish the meager supplies that rested on her pantry shelf.

Coming inside, Jim headed straight for the bedroom to change clothes and get ready to watch the afternoon game on TV.

"Be there in a second, Hon. Get me a beer, will ya?"

Janet turned the sandwiches in the skillet and poured two glasses of water—Jim had consumed the last of the beer last night with his bowl of buttered microwave popcorn. She dropped a couple of ice cubes in the water and placed them on the table that she had set for their lunch.

Returning to the kitchen, Jim was carrying the scratch-off ticket he had purchased this morning at the Drop-On-In when he bought his morning paper and his first cup of Sumatra. He always made a ritual of scratching off his Saturday ticket at lunch. That way, he could prove to Janet, when his winning ticket was purchased, that his diligence in buying tickets all of those years had paid off.

The scratch-off numbers held a special attraction to Jim. Three matching numbers would change their lives. Three matching numbers would fulfill all their dreams. Three matching numbers would make him a hero at work and to the boys he played cards with at Freddie's once a month. Three matching numbers would…well, would make him a millionaire!

That had a nice ring to it.

Using a coin from his pocket, Jim scratched the first number revealing a six.

"Jim, eat your sandwich. It's getting cold," sighed Janet.

Taking a bite, Jim scratched off the second number, revealing another six…

Jim's heart rate increased. His palms dampened and he felt light headed.

He let the ticket lay on the table for a moment before scratching off the last number thinking that, somehow, by waiting, his dreams would come true.

So close now. One more six would get them the new car they needed. One more six would pay off their mortgage. One more six would take care of those nasty phone calls from the credit card companies. One more six would make Jim respectable.

Scratching off the last bit of latex ink on the last number revealed another six…

Three in a row; Jim was a millionaire. His wishes were reality.

The kitchen chair banged to the floor as Jim leapt to his feet screaming that he had won.

Quietly, Janet looked at the ticket to confirm Jim's outburst. Yes, it appeared that he was correct. There seemed to be three sixes in a row; however, the last six looked smudged. Perhaps Jim had altered it in his zeal to uncover the winning number.

Jim grabbed the ticket and headed for the door.

"I'm going to the Drop-On-In to claim my winnings!" he shouted, and was out the door.

Entering the convenience store, Jim shouted at Carl the day manager that he "had a winner". With trembling fingers, Jim pulled the ticket from his shirt pocket and placed it on the counter.

Carl looked at the ticket and began completing the paperwork the state required for submission. Carl knew that his store would gain also in the prize and congratulated Jim on his good fortune. The last six appeared a little fuzzy, but Carl wasn't going to challenge Jim. After all, this guy had spent a fortune at his place over the last thirty five years.

Jim pulled into the driveway around 6 p.m. It had been a busy afternoon. After he had submitted the ticket, he stopped by the car dealership and test drove that new mini-van promising that he would be in next week to close the deal in cash, of course. He stopped by the hardware store and ordered that new set of tools that he had been longing for; his buddies were going to be so envious of his new found wealth. Next stop was the sporting goods store where he made an appointment to be fitted for a new set of custom clubs next week. He told the guy at the store to be thinking about accessories, too. In fact, he thought he might even look into his own electric cart that he could keep at the course. He made a mental note of that and headed for home.

The rest of the evening was spent by Jim making list after list of things that they were going to do over the next few months with his winnings. They had arrived…in a few days, they would be millionaires. That had a nice ring to it. They were almost millionaires!

Jim wasn't shy about telling his buddies of his luck Monday at the shop. In fact, he told his foreman that he wasn't sure he was really going to need this job, but he would "hang in there for awhile" until he decided what he was going to do. Jim loved the independence that money afforded.

Jim and Janet were at work on Tuesday when the call came from the state lottery office and they retrieved the following message from the answering machine just before supper:

"Hi, Jim. This is Sally Jenkins from the state lottery office. We have received your ticket submitted by the Drop-On-In convenience store. I wanted to let you know that the ink smudged during the printing process on this batch of lottery tickets. The last number is actually a '26' rather than a '6'. So, your ticket is not a winning ticket. We're sorry for the inconvenience. We will gladly reimburse you for the replacement cost for a new ticket. We will be sending you an official letter in the next few days noting what I have told you in this message. Thanks for playing! Have a nice day."

At the end of the month, Janet wrote the next set of checks to meet the household bills that always came due too soon. The last check that she wrote every month was in the amount of $150.00, payable to the same company. Writing this check had been as regular as clockwork for the last thirty five years. Every day Janet would set $5 aside, calling it her "rainy day fund". She had opened an IRA account the first year that Jim and she were married and had faithfully set aside five bucks a day for it since opening it. At the time she had asked Jim about opening an account for himself as well. He wasn't interested and had long forgotten their conversation about saving for the future. Her meager earnings at the day care center provided enough earned income for her to build her account.

Janet picked up the phone and called Mr. Sullivan, her investment advisor.

"Hi, Mr. Sullivan. I just wanted to let you know that I'm getting ready to send another check to you for you to deposit for me."

"Great, Janet. I'll be looking for it. Thank you."

"By the way, Mr. Sullivan, I'm curious. Could you tell me the approximate value of my account?"

"Indeed I can, Janet. It looks like year-to-date, you have almost $750,000 accumulated. You're almost a millionaire."

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What if the slipper didn’t fit?


Cinderella had attended the ball, lost track of time, and narrowly escaped to her enchanted coach waiting outside the castle. As we know, in her haste to flee the Prince before the stroke of midnight, one of her glass slippers was left lying by accident on the castle steps.

Our story begins with the Prince, having found the tiny slipper, and his desperate search for its owner. The night before was magical for him. He had danced with the girl of his dreams. Now, the only solid evidence of that magical evening was the fragile slipper he held in his hands. Who was its owner? How could he recapture all of the joy he had received in that four hours with her at the Ball? His quest was to find her if he had to visit every house in the kingdom. Whomever the slipper fit perfectly would claim his heart (and fortune) living happily ever after. The search was on.

Sitting among the cinders, Cinderella relived the prior evening's events. What a wonderfully magical time it had been. Fairy Godmother had been so generous in her accouterments. Not a detail had been overlooked. Cinderella had been transformed into the Belle of the Ball and had danced the night away with the charming Prince.

Now, however, the garish light of the morning shone on reality. Her tiny feet were swollen from all of the dancing and she gingerly placed them in the basin of cool water that she had prepared hoping for a good soak before being required to do the house chores that lay before her. There was laundry to do, floors to mop and wax, and today was dusting day throughout the household she shared with her stepmom Lady Tremaine and two nasty stepsisters Anastasia and Drusilla.

"Better get to work," she thought, "or I'll catch it, for sure."

So, grabbing her mop, bucket, cleaning cloths, polishes, and cleansers, Cinderella began her day.

After she had finished drying the last dish from the large lunch she had prepared for her stepmother and sisters (they left the table without even thanking her), she heard pounding at the front door. Drying her hands on the towel, she passed through the large living room to greet whoever was visiting. She wasn't prepared for who was standing at the door when she opened it.

A page, dressed in the royal colors of the court, began reading a decree prepared just that morning by the Prince. It was heralding notice that every female in the kingdom was "hereby ordered to try on the glass slipper" which the page was holding on a satin pillow. Cinderella's heart skipped! That was her slipper!

The page entered the household and required Cinderella to be seated. He held the glass slipper as Cinderella moved her foot toward the moment of truth. But, alas, her poor feet were still so swollen and sore from all of the previous night's dancing, and the grueling work forced upon her this morning, that the slipper wouldn't accommodate her size 5 foot. She tried again. Nothing. Again. Still nothing. She began to feel a sense of dread. Her fortune was passing her by. Her happiness, tied to the proper fit of this cursed shoe, was melting away. Her heart sunk.

"Are there other females in the household?" inquired the page.

"Yes. I'll summon them for you," said Cinderella as she left the room tearfully.

The large room was soon full of giddy, giggling females each confident that her foot was the one that was going to launch them into a life of royalty and riches.

Lady Tremaine was first to try on the prized glass slipper, but found the little article much too small for her plump appendage.

Drusilla was seated next and extended her foot for the prize. Close, but no cigar.

At last, Anastasia was asked to place her foot into the shoe. Since her dance card had remained virtually empty at the Ball, her feet were fine. Remarkably, the slipper fit.

Pandemonium broke out! The three ladies of the Tremaine household shouted and clapped and hugged each other tearfully as the page carefully noted the results of the fitting on the bottom of the royal decree. The slipper's owner had been found! There was going to be a royal wedding! Anastasia was going to be an inheritor of the throne!

Sadly, Cinderella slipped away to her chimney quarters and silently sobbed as the celebration continued elsewhere in the large house. Life was cruel.

The next few weeks found Cinderella busily packing personal belongings for her stepmom and her cruel daughters. The royal wedding was to be held on Saturday and preparations to move the three women's personal items to the castle must be completed today.

Last minute orders were screamed at her by each of the three and poor Cinderella had no time to feel remorse for herself. She was destined to be a servant. Her ship had left the port. She must bear the strain of her low station and not complain. She must do as commanded.

Prince Romanov was confused. The last few weeks had been a blur. The lady selected by the slipper didn't seem as enchanting in the daylight as she had that evening at the ball. She was domineering and demanding. She was not at all what he had envisioned his princess to be. However, the slipper made its choice. He had written the royal decree himself. His fate was sealed. He was reminded painfully that one had better be careful for what one wishes.

The wedding was the biggest the kingdom had seen in years. Royalty from neighboring realms added to the pageantry. Parades were held in the royal couple's honor. Gifts of inestimable value were lavished upon the couple and wishes for long life and reign were shouted by the attending throng. Feasts were prepared to sate even the largest appetites and all remarked at how even the smallest details had the mark of royalty stamped upon them. It was a memorable celebration and the Prince Romanov and Princess Anastasia were soon off on their honeymoon.

Lady Tremaine and Drusilla were appointed as part of Anastasia's court and found the royal castle's quarters much to their liking. Each need was met. Each order was followed precisely. They were made for this lifestyle. Ahhhhh.

Cinderella was left to care for the property abandoned by her pitiless step-family. Lady Tremaine, seeing the treasure and the royal lifestyle beckoning to her family, legally assigned the house and grounds back to Cinderella knowing that there wasn't much there for the girl. It was actually Cinderella's father's place to begin with. Lady Tremaine had grabbed it for herself and daughters after his death. So what? The Tremaine's had given her shelter, hadn't they? They had given her a place to live, hadn't they? They could have put her out on the street where she belonged. Well, she was used to the place anyway, so, why not let her have it back? They were tired of it anyway. Too small. Its fifteen rooms were not nearly spacious enough to provide a venue for the future social functions they would be expected to host. Let the little cleaning girl have it. Good riddance to it; and to her.

***

The uprising in the Kingdom had been festering since Prince Romanov and Princess Anastasia were elevated to the throne seven years ago. The Prince's father and mother had died mysteriously in their sleep and the Prince and Princess were appointed immediate successors to the throne. Their cruel tyranny and disregard for their subjects had resulted in higher taxes and restrictive edicts placing the masses in wretched bondage to the throne.

The Prince, now King Romanov, was rarely seen in public. Queen Anastasia was the architect for all of the schemes designed in creating new taxes levied against the realm and her enforcement squads to collect those taxes from the populace were cruel and heartless. The royal coffers had grown fat. Royal parties were frequent and extravagant. The populace was hungry and destitute, but the throne was deaf and blind to its needs.

Cinderella was fearful. She had never heard such bitter and dangerous language from people in the village. Each day she would overhear someone at the market talking about the oppressive King Romanov and Queen Anastasia. Angry words punctuated citizen's demands to seize the throne and take the kingdom back restoring it to its glory days! Friends and neighbors previously docile and content to live their lives were becoming militant in their demands for action. Calls for militia action against the throne were becoming more frequent.

The kingdom's citizenry had had enough.

***

Cindy opened the morning paper and began her leisurely review of the news while sipping her latte as she had done for the past 4 years.

Her routine was to arrive at the office early, review the schedules for the day, and review the growing client list her company had been blessed with since opening her business 5 years ago.

Cindy's Cleaning and Restoration, Inc. was among the fastest growing service companies in America. Its fleet of 50 distinct and recognizable vans could be seen throughout the region providing residential and commercial cleaning services to an expanding and grateful clientele. The company's service was second to none, paying close attention to detail and providing complete customer satisfaction.

Cindy had immigrated to America 5 years ago having sold her property and meager belongings to exit a country poised for civil war. She had been fortunate to find a buyer for her father's estate. After arriving in America, she posted the proceeds from the sale into a company that would do the only thing that she knew how to do: clean. She found the American lifestyle a perfect niche for what her company offered and an empire was born.

Now, as she read her paper, a small article on page 24 caught her eye. It seemed that a coup had occurred in her homeland. A group of radicals had stormed the castle and its royal occupants had fled fearing for their lives. One of the leaders of the coup had noted that the oppression extended by the former King Romanov's and Queen Anastasia's court had finally reached a crescendo and prompted the militant bloodless takeover.

The article further stated that most of the personal items had been collected by the former royal family and taken with them in their hasty flight from the castle to points unknown. Oddly, however, only one item remained, apparently dropped as the royalty fled…

A tiny glass slipper was discovered on the castle steps.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

She seemed like such a sweet old lady…

Lucy Davis’ alarm screamed for attention at 5:10 a.m.

Lucy’s groping fingers silenced the intruder. Her feet found the fuzzy beige slippers next to the bed and shuffled to her dressing room 10 feet away. Another day in the life to make a difference.

Half an hour later, having gotten dressed, she styled her hair into its familiar bun shape, placed the pearls that Hubert, her late husband, had given her around her neck, and checked details of her modest ensemble in the mirror. The high lace collar on her blouse held in place by a cameo brooch, the A-line skirt’s hem at mid-calf, and her Oxford orthopedic shoes completed the look that had been a familiar sight around the office since the 50’s. Taking her shawl from its resting place in the chintz chair next to the bed, Lucy was ready for the day.

In the kitchen, she took her medicine, sipped her first cup of coffee drawn from the automatic brewer on the counter, set out Meow Mix for Fluffy, grabbed a container of yogurt and her cane, and left her apartment picking up the morning paper placed strategically at her front door. Bobby, the building concierge, made sure the paper was there every morning. His attention to Lucy’s routine needs earned him a nice Christmas bonus every year.

Lucy passed through the stile at the station and took the 6:00 a.m. train downtown. Her thirty minute ride gave her time to finish her yogurt, read the morning news, and outline her day’s activities. She was generally the first one in the office which gave her the leverage she required to make the day run smoothly. Lucy was fussy about details. Predictability and routine were her friends. Surprises were not an option.

“Good morning, Lou”, stated Lucy, as she approached the door of the Stanley Building.

Like Lucy, Lou had been a regular fixture every weekday morning at this spot called the Stanley Building on 38th Avenue.

Upstairs Lucy removed her shawl, re-arranged the doilies placed throughout her office, straightened the magazines in the waiting room, started the coffee in the breakroom, and turned on the lights in the 26th floor suite of offices. She laid the morning dailies on Mr. Biff’s desk and took his appointment book back to her receptionist area. Uncovering her IBM Selectric, she was ready for business. The fight game was Lucy’s income and life. She was the front line for all those wanna-be’s wishing to make a name for themselves in the WWF. Lucy the receptionist. This was her town. This was her domain.

On the south side of town, Hacksaw Harrigan finished his protein drink and stood admiring himself in his full length mirror held by wire to his dilapidated door in his shabby apartment. Hacksaw’s meeting with his parole officer yesterday went as well as could be expected, and Hacksaw was ready for work. Fifteen years in the state penitentiary for assault and battery (the dame had it coming!) had served as a useful platform in developing his trade. His daily workouts in the yard had paid off. He was destined, in his mind, to make it big in the WWF. He had the looks, the brawn, and the savvy to hand it to anyone who crossed him. He was on his way.

All he needed was a break. He was desperate for a spot on a card.

He was going to the Stanley Building today and would demand to see William “Bulldog” Bivens-“Biff” to friends-the best fight promoter in the game. Hacksaw would not take “no” for an answer. Today was the day the world would discover Hacksaw. Today was the day that the fight game would welcome him with open arms.

He stood admiring his body art one last time. The artist’s ink that began at his wrists snaked its way up both arms terminating just below his earlobes. He fastened a gold hoop into his right lobe, and brushed his hand across his freshly shaved head. There was enough prison pallor remaining giving his skin a parchment look and his eyes mimicked a caged animal that had accidentally been set free. Pulling a jacket over his stained wife-beater tee and adjusting his cheap sunglasses on the bridge of his nose, Hacksaw left his room.

Kicking the little kid aside playing on the front stoop of the building, Hacksaw hailed a cab. He had just enough fare for a ride downtown. Why take the bus? In a few short hours, he was sure he would be offered the limo services that all the WWF guys demanded. It was time to start living large.

By mid afternoon, Lucy had accomplished all that she had set out to do. Mr. Biff’s appointments had gone well that morning earning her high praise from his corner office. She had a few promos to finish for the upcoming matches and had just started to call the printer when the double-doors to the office suite burst open.

Standing 10 feet from Lucy’s reception desk was a man about 6 feet tall, two hundred twenty pounds, or so, making heads in the office turn with his belligerent and annoying demands to “see the person in charge!”

Three steps brought him face to face with Lucy.

“Hey, you ol’ biddy!”, screamed Hacksaw. “I wanna see Biff!”

Lucy waited.

“Hey, Grandma! You deef??? I said, I demand to see Biff Bivens!!!---NOW!!!”

Lucy opened her appointment book.

“What don’t you understand, you old Coot? Get me in there to see Bivens immediately!!!”

“May I ask who is calling?” inquired Lucy in her most endearing tone.

“WHO DO YOU THINK IS CALLING, YOU ANCIENT WEASEL? I AM HACKSAW HERRIGAN!”

Lucy flipped over three pages in her appointment book.

“Mr. Bivens will see you 5 weeks from today at 4:30 p.m. I’ll write that down for you.”

Hacksaw’s face became an intriguing color of puce nearly masking the ink tattoos on his neck. His mouth twisted horribly as he reached across for the lace collar the receptionist was wearing. He was an expert at battering women; taking out this old fossil would be a cinch.

Hacksaw screamed with pain as his forearm broke in two pieces. The hoop came easily out of its earlobe location and rested in the corner with small pieces of flesh still attached to it. His right eye swelled immediately as the large stapler on Lucy’s desk found its mark. Hacksaw’s continuing screams were silenced with a strategic blow to his windpipe with the back of Lucy’s dainty left hand.

He fell with a thud.

Lucy erased his name from the register, called 911 for EMS services, and began to clear her desk to go home.

It was time for Fluffy’s milk.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Old things...

Why is it, as we become older, we think more about things that intrigued us in our younger and formative years? We hold dear those few antiques that my wife has received from her family over the years and they hold special meaning to us as they adorn our home. They provide a certain comfort that eludes the shiny, hi-tech gadgetry that visits the consumer today.

Why is that?

As a boy I remember visiting my paternal grandparents. They owned a small farm in Wells County, Indiana, and it was always an adventure to spend time at their house. The place was a treasure trove of memories tucked away in musty old trunks, dust covered shelves, and abandoned, creaky old buildings. One such memory sat across the road, up a rutted lane; an old farmhouse, long abandoned, and lovingly referred to by my Dad as the "home place". It was the residence where he and his nine siblings were born and raised. When it was no longer capable of containing the 12 souls that occupied it, the newer house was built and the "old house" was left containing only the echoes and memories of its past.

A visit to the "old house" was always a part of my trip to our grandparents. Walking across the road and up the lane was a delicious prelude of things to come. There was a rusty hand pump outside the house that served as the water source in bygone years. Walking across the worn boards of the porch to the weathered door never ceased to cause me to wonder how many other footsteps had gone there before mine.

The door opened to a large room, which by today's standards would seem modest. Lighted only by the sunshine cascading through ancient windows, I could easily find my way among the rooms. My imagination would provide scenes of activities that must have taken place in those rooms! The laughter, the kerosene lanterns providing reading lights at dusk, the scuffling of feet on the bare floors; oh, what blessings, tears, and emotions must have filled that place!

Upstairs there were things that had been stored, but forgotten. There was an English sidesaddle that spoke of an earlier genteel period when women sat modestly upon horseback comforted by this instrument of carriage. There were old and faded photographs of stern looking people dressed in their Sunday finest captured for posterity through the magic of the camera. There were farm tools such as scythes and other handtools replaced now by more modern means of production.

All of these, having no animate life, were alive with the memories that clung to them and have become part of the fabric of who I am.

What memories will my children and grandchildren have? What experiences will urge them 50 years from now, to post their childhood shadows to some public place?

How will I be remembered?

Monday, March 1, 2010

March...


There is something magical about the month of March. I like to think of it as a transitional month. Winter is securely fastened behind us and spring beckons. Each day there is some indication that a transformation is occuring...

Going down for the mail this afternoon, I was pleased to see the sun as it muscled its way through the winter sky. Its strength has improved substantially since last week and it looks as though it is going to overcome the waning piles of snow left by last week's winter visit. The muddy season approaches, but will soon be transformed into arable soil by the sun's warmth, and the winds that March usually brings.

My elementary school memories had us making kites, drawing fluffy clouds in art class, and attending recess sans winter wear. We knew, without being told, that the promise of warm weather brought new plans of sandlot baseball, bike rides, and neighborhood gatherings after being sequestered all winter. One could smell the transition in the air.

So, welcome, March. Work your magic for us. I'm glad you're here.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Getting ready for Easter


My favorite time of the year is approaching. Easter is the cornerstone of all that I believe. Had not Christ arisen from the grave, my trust in Him would be futile. He would be classified as any other man that did great things in his life. His resurrection makes the difference.

His shed blood on the cross was for me. It was God's perfect sacrifice and available to those that believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins...It is only in accepting that work on the cross will I find myself spending eternity with Him. Can you imagine? We are designed for eternity! Our souls will live forever. So, our lives should be lived here on earth in preparation for that eternal event.

Today is the day of salvation. If you have not accepted Christ as your Savior, I encourage you to consider doing so today. Rejecting Christ's work on the cross means separating yourself from the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for eternity. God is a gentleman. He will not impose Himself on us. If we decide not to follow Christ, God will allow us to do that, as He honors our free-will.

But a place in Heaven has been prepared for those who believe. Call on Jesus Christ today. Make Easter a meaningful day for you as well.



Nicole C Mullen - Call on Jesus
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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sleeping through a thunderstorm


The kids were elementary school age. Our Sunday School class was active and friendly. A weekend family camping trip to Turkey Run State Park offered the stuff that memories are made of.

We were not seasoned campers, but we were willing. I loaded our "Jimmy 4x4" with a tent, sleeping bags, and other outdoor paraphenalia that would offer us an idyllic 72 hour respite from the mundane. We were pioneers. We were conquerors. We were campers.

It's a long drive from Northeastern Indiana to Southwestern Indiana, but the trip was filled with anticipation and joy as we left our driveway that Friday afternoon heading for Turkey Run to join other families sharing our enthusiasm for the great outdoors.

We arrived there late afternoon. I had read somewhere that pitching a tent on high ground was a reasonable and prudent thing to do. I did just that. The tent went up easily. The sleeping bags were nestled in the erected shelter, the sleeping arrangements were assigned, the campout had begun.

The first night festivities were boisterous. A campfire, s'mores, children's squeals of delight, adult laughter and fellowship, all combined to convince us that we were truly designed for this type of recreation. Plans were made to combine our food for a community breakfast the next morning. Someone had even brought an electric skillet (!) to make sausage gravy for the campfire biscuits that we were planning to make. Extension cords stretched to a nearby outlet would provide the power needed to make a steaming cauldron of gravy. All the comforts of home.

Families turned in to their beckoning sleeping quarters around midnight. Visions of the day's glee filled our heads and thoughts of tomorrow's adventures trundled us off to sleep.

Somewhere around 2 a.m. the lightning was sharp. The thunder rumbled ominously. The rain pelted our defenseless little canvas tent relentlessly. I was smug. I was confident. We could weather out this rogue summer downpour. I congratulated myself on finding high ground. Of providing shelter for my little family; keeping them high, dry, and protected. I was a pioneer! I was a camper! I was naive.

Opening one eye at dawn, I was more than a little surprised to see my Reebok tennis shoe floating by my sleeping bag. Further inspection revealed that all that we owned inside the tent was drenched. Soaked through and through. Not a dry spot in the place. The torrential rain had found our little refuge. It scoffed at my high ground location.

Last night's storm had abated leaving a gray morning with sprinkles mocking us as we slogged over to our community breakfast location. The expressions of glee evident the night before had become more solemn, and in some cases, even surly. Camping? Bah! Whose idea was this, anyway?

Those tending the sausage and gravy preparation were warned about standing ankle deep in rainwater while stirring their creation in the eletric skillet. We certainly weren't prepared to deal with electrocution, or even have the energy to do so if called upon. We were all tired, hungry, cranky, and wet.

My wife is a good sport, but I knew that her good will had been stretched beyond capacity. She disappeared shortly after breakfast with the children. I resignedly took down the tent, wrung out the contents best I could, and stowed everything away in the car anticipating that we would cut our weekend short and head back home defeated, licking our wounds.

The sun came out a couple hours later. Where in the world were Jo and the kids? She hadn't returned to the campsite. She had been very quiet at breakfast. And then her departure to...where? Was this the final straw? Was this the impulsive act that drove her to some desperate measure? I began to feel a rising sense of panic.

At long last, and to my relief, my family came walking back into the campsite. I welcomed them with the pronouncement that the gear was wrung out, the car was packed, and we could leave at will. I was doing all I could to make the transition from our night of Nature's wrath as comfortable as possible.

However, Jo said, "No, we're not leaving."

Excuse me? You want to spend another night in the tent? You want to sleep in damp sleeping bags? You want to what? This woman, I thought, truly is a pioneer!

"No", she replied, "we're not sleeping in the tent. I have plastic. I got us a room for tonight at the Inn."

Ha! We gave in, you say? We couldn't stand the rigors of the outdoors? Well, let me tell you: the room we had at the inn that night offered only black and white television. Roughing it? We were designed for it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

I just remembered...


As I sat reminiscing today, I thought about a convocation years ago at Hartford City High School where I was invited to sing a solo. It was a religious convocation (In a public school, no less!) that occurred at Easter circa 1962.

It was arranged that Ann Clamme, a dear friend and classmate, would accompany me on piano.

The song was unfamiliar to me (I can't remember to this day the name of it), but after several practice sessions with Ann prior to the performance, I became confident that I could handle it. After all, I was an upper classman, had had plenty of solo experience, and felt ready to perform when the big day arrived.

Convocations at HCHS were pretty big deals. The entire student body (grades 7 through 12) were in attendance. During religious ceremonies, the gymnasium became almost sanctuary-like as students were solemn and respectful under the watchful eye of the many teachers and administrative officials who attended.

The message was presented, the closing prayer was offered, and, on cue, the moment came for my solo that would serve as benediction. Ann began the piece flawlessly; opening with an introduction that would, under normal conditions, set the mood for a reflective, grand arrangement designed to complement the tenor of the service. The introduction ended; Ann waited for me to begin. Silence. Ann re-played a bit of the introduction; again, she waited for me to start. More silence. After the third start of the introduction, my mind was reeling, "What is", I asked myself, "the first line of that song???"...

The piano was situated behind me as I stood facing the expectant faces of my audience. After it was clear that I hadn't a clue about where to start, solemn faces turned to nervous glances and muffled giggles. There was a rippling in the crowd that suggested Ol' Dave was having a "senior moment" (and I was only 16 years old). What to do?

The show must go on. Without hesitation, I turned and walked back to the keyboard to look over Ann's shoulder to prompt myself on those elusive lyrics. "Ahhhh," I thought, "that's what I'm looking for!" Again, we began. Ann played, I sang, convocation over.

My next scheduled class that day, after the convocation, was study hall. Study hall was a large room filled with students from all grade levels and tended that day by Mr. David Dick. Mr. Dick taught mathematics and, uncharacteristic of his professional teaching choice, had a light and delightful sense of humor. I was a little late that day in arriving at study hall having had to change out of my choir robe, put my music away, retrieve my books from my locker, and head on down to class.

I reached the rear door of the study hall and saw the huddled masses...a sea of my peers facing forward and settling in for an hour of quiet time before their next class. With their backs to me, I could slide unobtrusively into my seat forgetting the horrors that occurred a few moments before in the gym. However, as soon as I entered the room, Mr. Dick, in his inimitable style, called out from the front of the room, "Hey, look everyone!!!", cried Mr. Dick in a loud and clear pronouncement, "If it isn't ol' Cue-Card McIntire!"

That moment will never leave me.



Monday, February 15, 2010

Post Valentine Day Sentiments


We had a great weekend. On Saturday morning, we left for Greenfield around 6:30 a.m. to watch Caleb and Lydia play in their Upward Basketball League at their church. Caleb's game was at 9:00, Lydia's was at 11:00.

After their games, we lunched at Montana Mike's with Mark's family. Service was slow, and a couple of the menu items had to be sent back, but we enjoyed the fellowship and the time spent with them was memorable, as usual.

Jo and I left for Muncie after lunch and spent a few hours shopping at the Muncie Mall. We hadn't spent that much dedicated time in the Mall since our Ball State days. It was fun browsing, watching the people, and spending time together.

We met our friends John and Jan Michael at Vera Mae's Bistro for dinner around 6:00 and, as always, enjoyed spending time with them. We're laying plans for our early spring/summer bicycle rides together and comparing calendars to see which weekends will bring us together again. Friends are a blessing from God. Such treasures...

We arrived home around 9:30 and Jo wasn't feeling well. She has encountered some sort of respiratory ailment that has come on rather quickly. By Sunday morning, she was feeling pretty miserable and spent most of the day nursing what we hope is the last cold of the season.

Jo did, however, open her Valentine's gift on Sunday morning and was surprised and pleased with her new Wii game. Our six year old grandson, Luke, came over later in the afternoon to give us lessons on how to use the game and, of course, beat us soundly with his skills. He shared with his mother that he thought it was "cool" that "Pappy would give Mammy a Wii for a Valentine's present". Maybe I've set the bar too high for future Valentine's gifts...

Family, friends, fellowship, and fun all in one weekend. I couldn't be more blessed.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Wii challenge...


Each year I wonder what to offer Jo for Valentine's Day. She is not hard to please, mind you. It's just that traditional gifts sometimes lose their attraction. Flowers wilt, candy is a no-no at our age (the old metabolism is slowing down, you know), and commercial cards, while nice, just lack the personal touch.

So, what to do?

This year I bought her a Wii. Romantic? Not very. Practical? Not at all. Fun? I hope so. I got the idea the other evening while dining with friends. They pulled out their Wii game and we had a ball! Jo smoked us in bowling!

While Jo has played Wii with the grandkids (we got each of our children's family a game a couple of Christmases ago), she has gotten a little frustrated that her skills were, well, unpolished. The other evening it became evident that she has caught on how to master the game. She has become a contender. She is in the zone. She can do this game.

So, ebay offered; I bid; I won; the game arrived today via FedEx. I'm going to wrap it for Jo and present it to her on Valentine's Day on Sunday.

Let the games begin.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Bone weary...


What a long day this has been...it is the last night of Finance for Managers (MGT524); a six week intensive course I'm teaching which trains non-financial managers in the finer points of finance. While the students work hard, there is so much preparation work needed to bring everyone up to the same starting point. The students are adult learners and they bring a great deal of work experience into the classroom. However, being adults they are extremely conscious of doing their work well. The most difficult part of the course is designing tests that are fair, balanced, and test the knowledge the students gain in class. I contend that tests produce a higher anxiety level in adult learners than in traditional students (I have taught both); and, frequently, that anxiety gets in the way of the adult's performance.

So, tonight's the night. I have prepared a quiz (their second one, by the way) to measure what they know on present value (time value of money), bond valuation, stock valuation, and capital budgeting. We have covered numerous examples in class, performed dozens of in-class examples, and provided the opportunity for group work outside the classroom to reinforce concepts. Tonight I discover whether it's paid off.

I love teaching. I love the moment where a light bulb appears when a student grasps a concept. I love it when, at the end of the course, one tells me that there was so much practical information gained by taking the class. I love it when they tell me that this was one of the best courses they have ever taken. I live for those moments. I teach for those moments.

So, what will it be tonight? This class has the savvy, but lacks confidence. I've done all that I can; discussed bond valuation from every angle; and have enjoyed these folks immensely.

Regardless of their test scores tonight, I'm encouraged that they are taking the course seriously. It speaks of their character and their desire to do well. Any of these folks will make some employer very fortunate. I am humbled to have served in this way.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Wishing you an UP day!

Tired of bad news? Tired of hearing people whine about unfairness? Tired of "political correctness"? Tired of people not taking responsibility for themselves? Just plain tired of all the crap that the "culture" tries to force on you? Then this video is for you...

video

Have yourself an UP day!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Six more weeks...


Well, it seems that Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this morning. Doesn't he always? So, we need to hunker down for six more weeks and bear up under Indiana's winter coat. The countdown calendar below states 46 days until spring; beckoning us like a light at the end of the tunnel.

46 days: that computes to 1104 hours. If we sleep 8 hours per night, that whittles the hours that we're conscious of winter down to 736 hours. If we divide that number by 24, that puts us right at 30 days of wakefulness before embracing the rites of Spring. So see? Not so bad after all.

Of course, winter has its advantages. Like Clyde Moore says, "There's one good thing about snow, it makes your lawn look as nice as your neighbor's."

So, grab a hot cup of something, prop up your feet, and enjoy the rest of the winter ride. Warmer days will be here before you know it.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

America Rising

video

Patrick touched my heart; he will touch yours, too.

After viewing this video on YouTube, I am humbled.  It is true that Patrick Hughes has overcome great adversity.  However, I was struck by his father's love for him.  It is sacrificial and asks for nothing in return.  Watch Patrick's father's eyes as he talks about Patrick.  I believe that it is a small glimpse into what my Heavenly Father feels for me.  What a beautiful story.  What a blessing it is to see how God works in the lives of all of His children.  No one is "least" in the eyes of the Father.  Every day is a gift and every day brings purpose.  God isn't finished with me yet.  How can I serve Him best today?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Maybe the tide is turning...

The election this week in Massachusetts was, I believe,  a referendum.  Let the pundits say what they wish, but I believe that Americans are fed up with the arrogance demonstrated in Washington DC.  It's about serving the country, Congress; not being self serving!!! I think Ray Stevens' video pretty much says it all.  Take it heart, America!  Let's take our country back in November, 2010!!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Winter blahs? Read a good book!



Indiana winters are typically overcast, gray, and not much fun to experience. How can one make the best of a nasty winter evening? Most television shows are marginal, at best, and the "entertainment value scale" rates close to zero on many choices available. Board games are fun (I particularly like Dominoes) and are a great way to fellowship and develop friendly competition. However, I find the best way to engage your mind is to read a good book.

I just finished "Perelandra", the second book in a science fiction trilogy by C.S. Lewis. Just before Christmas, I finished "The Old Curiosity Shop" by Charles Dickens (I always try to precede the Christmas holidays by reading a Dicken's novel--there's just something warm and engaging about the rhythmic and classic English usage in a Dicken's novel!). Currently I'm working on "That Hideous Strength" by C.S. Lewis, his third in the above mentioned trilogy.

The best results (for me) lie in creating a book list (Ahhhh---a "Book-it List"!!!) posting titles on it that are suggested by others, or being reminded of classics suggested years ago by teachers and professors that I just never found the time (or interest) to pursue. It's amazing what a few years of experience will do to one's reading perspective...

The public library is one of the community's best kept secrets. I love browsing, re-familiarizing myself with card catalogues (most are online now), and, occasionally, just leafing through the pages of those books that look interesting. Checking out those books that I have chosen through my search efforts are like taking home new friends.

Settling down with a cup of coffee in my reading chair at home, and opening the first few pages of my new read dissolves away the nasties that may be lurking outside on a blustery winter day. Reading engages the mind (isn't God wonderful to give us the ability to think??), and dispels the blahs that January and its siblings dispenses. Reading the words and forming mind pictures are food for the soul. There is a huge difference between having an image thrust at one (through television or other media) and building images through what one reads on the written page. The written word can be paused and reflected over--electronic images are a blip on the screen. What a wonderful gift.

So, are you bored? Grab a book today and take a journey anywhere you'd like to go. It is one of the finest ways to rush toward Spring.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Iron sharpens iron...


I am blessed to be a part of a Friday morning men's group that has been actively meeting since 1988. What a joy it is to meet once a week and study God's word (we're currently in Matthew), pray for each other, and hold each other accountable in our walk with Christ.


The attendance numbers have varied over the years, but it has been a real joy to meet and fellowship with the men who have participated. My life is richer as a result of knowing these brothers in Christ.


So Dan, Phil, Barry, Ed L., Ed G., Mark, Gene, Larry, Greg, Dick, and Bob thanks so much for your witness and your willingness to "stand in the gap" for Jesus. Love you guys.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Monday, Monday...




As a retiree, it was suggested by some of my already-retired friends that every day would be Saturday and every night, Friday night. Well, I suppose it would be that way if I didn't have such a heavy class load. However, before you think I'm feeling sorry for myself, I signed on for this.

I have a Monday night class in Kokomo (an hour and forty-five minute drive one way under normal conditions...however, in Indiana's January, is there ever a "normal" day??). The class begins at 6:00 and is over at 10:00 p.m. I should be home by midnight tonight. On Tuesday night, I teach an undergraduate class on campus for IWU in Marion. It begins at 6:15, ends at 9:15. I have Wednesday off (hallelujah!), but travel to Fort Wayne on Thursday evening to the Fort Wayne Education Center (IWU) where I have a 6:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. class. I am finishing an online class for Indiana Tech; I'll submit the grades next Monday (the 25th) for that class, which reduces my class load by one fourth.

The Thursday night class ends on February 4th; the Monday night class ends March 1st, and the Tuesday night class continues until late April.

The good news is, I still feel like I'm contributing. I love (most of the time) the preparation and the classroom time spent with the students. I always come away feeling that I've learned something too.

So: Monday, Monday? Let it come. Like it says on my blog header, "This is the day that the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it"!!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Friendship



Last evening we had dinner with friends at Vera Mae's Bistro in Muncie, Indiana. Besides the wonderful food, excellent service, and the quiet ambience of Vera Mae's, the best part was sharing the evening catching up and basking in the warmth of well-developed friendship.

In a culture where so much is hurried and gratification is expected immediately, it is a rich experience to settle into a booth in an out-of-the-way restaurant with old and dear friends to share family updates, recall old times, and share a fine meal, a decadent dessert, and coffee at the end of the collation. It doesn't get any better than that.

This morning after church we learned that another dear friend of ours has been diagnosed with a malignancy. Stunned by the news, my mind hearkened back to a missions' trip to Jamaica we shared together a few years ago. Our laughter, prayers, tears, and camraderie shared during the trip shaped a friendship that has remained warm and familiar these many years. My friend is strong in his relationship with Jesus Christ. His witness and his testimony has been an inspiration to me since I have known him. Questions always arise as to why dear friends have to suffer chilling events in their lives that cause pain and anxiety. Paraphrasing Pastor Steve Brown of KeyLife Network, " I believe that God allows Christians to suffer so that Pagans can see how they (the Christians) handle it and, perhaps, come to Jesus as a result".

I know my friend's testimony will remain steadfast and God will be glorified throughout this tough time for him, his family, and his friends.

Friends are woven into the very fabric of our lives. I treasure each one that I have.




Monday, January 4, 2010

Welcome 2010

I wish you blessings for the New Year. 2010 is just 4 days old; 361 remaining to
  1. make a difference in your life
  2. make a difference in someone else's life
Of course, making a difference in our lives sometimes results in making a difference in someone else's life.

I have avoided making New Year's resolutions this year. I know the things that I should be working on and I really am going to make an effort to improve the areas I have control over. What sort of things would you like to see changed in your life?

Some of the areas I want to improve include
  • my personal study time in God's Word
  • caring more for the people with whom I come in contact
  • developing a prayer life that is more than a personal "want" list
  • journalizing my thoughts on at least a weekly basis
  • becoming an active listener

I realize that there is a certain amount of risk in commiting those to print. However, perhaps that will assist me in keeping more focused in carrying out my goals.

I truly hope that 2010 becomes the best year ever for you and yours.