Thoughts and assorted philosophical musing about: Family, Friends, Fun, Hobbies, & other everyday things.
My continuing efforts to serve as a First Sergeant (Top) in the Army of God.
My latest interest is in Letterboxing.

NOTE: This blog uses a blogger template that is among the large mass of standardized page coding which Microsoft Internet Explorer is unable to interpret and reproduce correctly. To see the actual full content I recommend that you use
any one of the other browsers that are readily available for free download. My personal preference among these is Firefox.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Simple Truths - Some one liners for New Year Smiles


Some simple thoughts garnered from hyperspace that I offer for your New Years Enjoyment.

He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.

The truth will set you free, but before it does it will make you angry.

If you wait for tomorrow, tomorrow comes and if you don't wait for tomorrow, tomorrow comes.

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.

Kindness is more important than wisdom and the recognition of this is the beginning of wisdom.

I destroy my enemy by making him my friend.

Seeing death as the end of life is like seeing the horizon as the end of the ocean.

Although the world is full of suffering it is also full of the overcoming of it.

When childhood dies its corpse are called adults.

Believe those who are seeking the truth, doubt those who find it.

The afternoon knows what the morning never suspects.

Home is not where you live, but where they understand you.

Life must be lived forwards, but can only be understood backwards.

God gives food to the birds, but does not throw it in the nest.

He who mounts the wild elephant goes where the wild elephant goes.

May God grant you wealth, wisdom, health and happiness throughout the year to come.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Moving on

I have decided to make minor modifications to the Blog theme to reflect that Christmas is over and the New Year will soon arrive. I have changed only the top banner and the background picture as I expect to switch to a new winter theme in a week or so. I hope that you enjoy these small changes.

Well it is true, sadly Christmas is over for another year. I have enjoyed it but I need a rest and I suppose a change of pace. Last Friday afternoon The family began arriving at our home to enjoy a time together. I managed to finish my Christmas cookies before they arrived so felt satisfied that I had done my part. Things finally got underway about 5:00 p.m. with the grand kids opening their gifts, then we ate, and all settled down for opening of stockings and gifts. At some point the young ones were shuffled off to bed. We visited late into the night then more on Saturday. Sunday morning the inevitable departures commenced leaving only Donna and I here last night. We had some great family time, but I really allowed myself to be seduced by the good food, cookies, and other treats. I ended up putting on over a pound last week... not good for my heart. Of course we also had a Cake and sang Happy Birthday to Jesus.

A new brightly illuminated magnifier (mounted on a heavy base with a flexible arm) was included among my Christmas loot as well as a cushy chair for my computer desk, so now I can park at the computer longer without tiring and I can see better when carving stamps. This week I expect to be working on several letterbox projects that had taken a back seat to other maters during the holidays. I had reports of some of my letterboxes being found over the weekend as the weather set a record high Saturday and people had leisure time.

Donna, as a public school teacher, is working at home this week. Some people really believe that teachers have a lot of time off not realizing that they spend many "Off" hours planing, preparing, reviewing, grading, and recording information. In that respect her task as a Special Education teacher is particular demanding as she must plan for the needs of each individual student, not for one class as a whole.


Of course we also have to insure that the New Year arrives in the proper style. Donna and I have seldom made any effort to "Party" in the New Year and we have no plans that would make this year any exception. We will probably attend a New Years Eve church service, then come home and putz around 'till midnight.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas

Yes it is Christmas! This year Christmas has been a special time of reflection for me. I have been somewhat philosophical, but perhaps in a melancholy way. I think that it is because of the latest round of discoveries about my health. I feel very vulnerable and perhaps a little depressed.

At any rate I have been thinking a lot about past Christmases and trying to maximize this one. We spent last weekend with my Daughter near Detroit. There we enjoyed the Family Christmas celebration at her church. It was a very unusual production. We enjoyed it, and our enjoyment was enhanced by the part that our Grandson played. He had the only speaking part in the nursery through kindergarten age group, and he did a marvelous job during both services. I know that I am a somewhat biased proud grandpa, but I don't think anyone would argue otherwise. We arrived late Friday Night and stayed until noon Monday, It was fun family time.

Our entire family group will coverage on our home Friday Night for our Christmas celebration.

This morning, Christmas Day, I awoke at about 4:30 and have been unable to get back to sleep. In thinking on the true meaning of Christmas, and of our celebrations of it down over the years, the thing that seems prominent in my mind today is the Manger. We have kept a nativity set in the house for many years and recently added an outdoor one. This year it had not been put up because I could not climb up and retrieve it from it's high closet shelf. Yesterday we finally did manage to get it out and setup with the help of my eldest son. It is a "Precious Moments" set which we have added onto with many extra pieces. It just would not have been Christmas without it. A few years back when my son-in-law's family put up their yard Nativity set, Payton our grandson in common, adamantly insisted that Baby Jesus needed a bail of straw to help keep him warm... Grandpa Gene complied!

Letterboxing took a backseat again this week. This time to cookie baking as I have experienced a compulsion to bake as I had in years past. We went to church last night so I still have some to finish today. I am wearing myself out but I am loving it.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Thank God we just keep going, and going, and going

Tree, garland, rugs, pillows, dishes, glasses, linens.
Whew!
Shop, select, buy, wrap, send, give.
Rest awhile.
Mix, roll, cut, drop, bake, cool, clean, store.
Take a break.
Pack, drive, visit, see, hear, laugh, enjoy.
Time for a Nap.
Cook, serve, pray, eat, talk, laugh some more.
Relax awhile.
I'm loving it!!

The time will soon be here to celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.
Contemplate, meditate, be thankful.

We are off to Michigan for the weekend, then back for the final countdown to God's Birthday.

One of my favorite Christmas tunes is "How should a King come", I would put it here for you to hear, but can't get around the license restrictions. However, it can be heard at this link.

"How should a King come."

Even a child knows the answer of course,
In a coach of gold with a pure white horse.
In the beautiful city in the prime of the day,
And the trumpets should cry and the crowds make way.
And the flags fly high in the morning sun,
And the people all cheer for the sovereign one.
And everyone knows that's the way that it's done.
That's the way that a King should come.

How should a King come.
Even a commoner understands,
He should come for His treasures,
And His houses and lands.
He should dine upon summer strawberries and milk,
And sleep upon bedclothes of satin and silk.
And high on a hill His castle should glow,
With the lights of the city like jewels below.
And everyone knows that's the way that it's done,
That's the way that a King should come.

How should a King come.
On a star filled night into Bethlehem,
Rode a weary woman and a worried man.
And the only sound in the cobblestone street,
Was the shuffle and the ring of their donkey's feet.
And a King lay hid in a virgin's womb,
And there were no crowds to see Him come.
At last in a barn in a manger of hay,
He came and God incarnate lay.

And the angels cried "Glory,Glory to God".
Earth was silent so heaven rang,
"Glory, Glory to God."
Men were dumb so the angels sang,
"Glory, Glory to God",
Peace on earth good will to men,
"Glory, Glory to God".
"Christ is born in Bethlehem"
"Glory to God".
"Glory in the Highest"
"Glory to God".
"Glory in the Highest"
"GLORY TO GOD".


(Carol and Jimmy Owens)

Sorry folks no letterboxing tales today. But I do have one nearly ready to plant. Stay tuned, maybe next week.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hum a Drum



Well the last few days have been pretty normal. On Saturday I played taxi for one of my kids whose car broke down, then I was off to church to help with the Angle Food distribution. I came home from there and kicked around the house the rest of the day while Donna did some Christmas shopping. Sunday was church which was followed by the church Christmas dinner and a piano concert. Although I like the pianist and planned to stay I ran out of steam and came home before the concert. Monday morning I was out running errands then I came home for my "Quiet Time". Last night we ate pasta at a local Italian place then Donna took me to select the Christmas present she wanted to give me, A new chair for my computer desk.

I have also been toying with a new "Winter" theme which I may use to follow this one. While I can usually learn the mechanics for developing something on a web page, I really have very little design sense. I am not happy with it yet.

The weather has kept me in so my letterboxing has been limited to planning for some new letterboxes that I will plant near my home.

I have been thinking a lot about Christmas memories. One of my favorite family recollections is not totally a Christmas one. it is just a wee bit broader. When our daughter was just a young girl we kept a rocking chair in her room. Our practice was that whoever took her back at bedtime would sit in that chair to read a bedtime story and then rock with her until she was asleep. At times she would fight going to sleep just to be rocked longer. Whenever it was my turn to put her down for the night I would hum to her. She loved to have me hum "The Little Drummer Boy". She would always go to sleep quickly as she pressed her head against my chest to feel the vibrations as I made drumming noises. For many years when she was sick, tired, or just a wee bit down, she would come to me and want me to hold her and hum the Drummer Boy. My "humming a drum" was soothing or monotonous enough to lull her to sleep or to calm her fears. Do you suppose that could be the origin of the word humdrum?

This weekend we are heading off to the Detroit area to visit her and her family so my next update may be sometime next week.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Oh Christmas Tree!

I received a routine promotion while I was assigned to Vietnam. However, I was now considered a "Senior NCO" so my records went into the database at the Pentagon. Shortly after Christmas the 1st Calvary Division was notified they would be moving north in early January. My unit was in direct support of that division so I was tasked with going up north and doing some coordination for this change. The weather was bad, I had a difficult time getting a flight back to my unit. Arriving back on New Years Eve I was greeted with ... "What are you doing back here, DA (Department of the Army) says that you have been assigned out of the US for too long and wants you out of here now!" A few days later I was on my way home with orders for Ft. Carson, CO. If I had not been ordered out early I would have been trying to exit as the Tet Offensive began. Several of my comrades did not make it.

Donna and I enjoyed our time in Colorado. We were on a tight budget but learned that we could cut a Christmas tree in the nearby Rocky Mountain National Forest for a very modest fee. The next two Christmases we Drove up in our VW beetle and cut our own tree. The roads were typical rutted and bumpy Forest Service roads, but as impetuous youngsters we didn't care, we just enjoyed the drive. If and when you got stuck others on a similar quest would assist you... they had to... there was only one way out. The rules have changed now, but at that time they were that you could take any tree from the designated area, but that you were to cut it down at the base, top off the part that you wanted, cut the branches from the trunk left behind, then go on your way. Our second year there we went up during the first weekend (6th or 7th) of December. The tree we selected was at the least 15 feet tall, the portion that we kept hung out over both ends of the car. It was a long, and bouncy trip back down the mountain but we only needed a little push twice.

We had to shorten the tree another three feet in order to stand it up in the house. It looked smaller on the car than in the house. Donna then went to work with the left over branches fashioning them into a giant wreath which filled the five foot square front picture window of our on base housing unit. We had a very spectacular Christmas display. Today I would not even consider that drive in those conditions, but we were young and felt invincible.

But the best part of this story I saved 'till last, it was scarcely two weeks later on Friday night that I again took Donna for an adventure in the VW. This time it was to the base hospital where Loren, our first born, was delivered early in the morning of Saturday, 20 December. She surprised everyone as she was there in labor for less than two hours. Did I mention something about young and foolish!


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bunged Up


The Special Education teachers at the school where Donna works planned to provide lunch on Wednesday as their Christmas Gift for all of the staff. Donna asked me to pick up two party trays on Tuesday as her contribution. By coincidence Travel'n Turtle, one of the more accomplished letterboxers in our area, reported Monday night that her seasonal boxes had been changed for Christmas. So Tuesday morning it was off to the wholesale club to get party trays and assorted other things, then I stopped by and acquired her new letterboxes. Her stamps are amazing and I always enjoy finding a new one. So that was a fun day as I made the spouse happy by running an errand for her, and also got in some letterboxing, both on a rainy day without getting very wet.

Earlier I related how Christmas went the first year that I knew Donna and how we were married the following July. The next December found me in route to Vietnam. We returned to her home town, Columbus Ohio, a week or so before the holiday. Christmas morning was spent there, then midday we were off to Seattle to enjoy sharing our Christmas with my parents. We had not realized that we had been so wrapped up with each other that we had neglected to tell our families very much of anything about or new mates. Apparently there had been considerable unstated misgivings by each of our families about the nature of that special person we had encountered and married in Africa, but it all worked out well.

Thinking about that Christmas I recalled a moment of Humor that we shared. Although I was born in Indiana, I was raised primarily on the West Coast. My family lived in the Seattle area during the last 6 or 7 years before I joined the army. Donna was raised in the Columbus area and had spent most of her life in the Midwest. The first time that I can recall the cultural differences between the two areas becoming apparent to me was during a walk on the beach after Christmas but before I left for Vietnam. Dad had lent us his car in order to give us time alone together. I had driven to Whidbey Island which is one of my favorite spots in Western Washington. We had enjoyed the drive with it's spectacular views and then we had stopped for a romantic stroll along a lonely strip of beach. I spotted an unusual piece of driftwood, picked it up, and examined it. It was a hardwood plug perhaps 6 inches long and tapering from a diameter of around 5 inches at one end down to about 3 inches at the other. Although it had been eroded by the surf so that the grain of the wood was prominent, white paint that had been used to seal it was still clearly visible on the large end. I concluded that it was a bung from a ship or a cask. She asked what it was and I told her. She then asked, "what do you do with a bung", to which I responded in a mater of fact manner "You put it in a Bunghole!". As she rolled on the beach in laughter I came to realize that in her Midwestern upbringing a bunghole had an entirely different meaning than that with which I was familiar.

The last few days have found me searching the Internet for a few Christmas presents. I think I am done, but I am probably wrong about that! :o)

I am really looking forward to next week when we are on the final leg of the Christmas countdown. Donna and I will be off to visit with Ellisa in order to enjoy Payton's part in a Christmas children's pageant and then we will return to all of those last minute tasks. We both tend to procrastinate and usually put off our wrapping until we are down to the wire.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Food, Family, and Friends

Military families quickly learn to deal with the inevitable fact that friends and acquaintances will soon come and go as you and others receive new assignments, or retire, or decide to return to civilian life. Unlike the situation found in many civilian communities their isolation from home support groups requires military families by necessity to be open and accommodating to all new arrivals without exception. Friendships are formed quickly and lost slowly. Social life tends to center around parties, dinners, cookouts, and similar gathering. These families are on limited budgets so normally each family participating contributes something to the gathering in a potluck manner. As most of your friends have had assignments different than your own, you get to sample their favorites that they have picked up locally or in exchange during their travels. The result is exposure to an array of foods from all over the world that represent various inexpensive local dishes well suited to a western appetite. You learn to eat, cook, and appreciate a wide variety of robust and spicy flavors. Donna enjoyed this lifestyle and learned to cook a large assortment of delicious foods which became the focus of our own family meals.

Not surprisingly our four children all enjoy eating and preparing a wide variety of unusual dishes. Our eldest is a professional chef, and the others cook when they can, none of them eat bland foods. For our Thanksgiving meal Loren (The Chef) fixed corn and sweet potato casseroles along with a cranberry relish and some spicy roasted walnuts. Ellisa contributed asparagus bundles wrapped in prosciutto and bacon and a unique yummy apple cake. The other two guys helped with the shopping and early preparation while Donna, I, and everyone present, prepared and/or assisted with the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, rolls, fruit platters, cheese and relish trays, pie, and etc.

With Christmas coming soon I checked my spices to see what was needed after that meal and with cookies to bake. So yesterday it was off to Penzy's. While out I stopped and looked for two letterboxes in the Cleveland Films series. I was not able to identify the correct starting point for "American Splendor" but logged "The Deer hunter" into my finds.

One of the local Christmas traditions that we adopted from our travels was from Japan. The Japanese people love Christmas. Beginning a week or so before Christmas day "Christmas Cakes" i.e., birthday cakes for Jesus, begin to appear at groceries and bakeries. These are now Strawberry and cream filled marvels similar to Cassada cakes. However when we were there they were the ordinary Japanese sponge cake (A little dryer and not as sweet as ours) with flat plastic Christmas theme ornaments pressed into the top. Our boys loved them and we fixed Christmas Cakes for many years.


Monday, December 8, 2008

Over the years - Memories of Christmas at Home

My wife Donna enjoys keeping Christmas as well as any soul alive. Given her way every nook and cranny would contain some type of Christmas decoration. I have not been much inclined to help her with this for quit some time. In fact as the years go by her desire to decorate seems to increase while my own is diminished. Now when the family comes around for Thanksgiving she cajoles them into getting things out and starting the preparations by applying all of the wiles and ways know only to a mother. The last few years her primary elf has been our daughter Ellisa. So while she was here Ellisa, in what is becoming a new tradition, got the tree up with no small measure of help from 5 year old Payton. When they departed our family left the boxes of Christmas items scattered around my home office. Since then the collection of items that Donna has found and drug out has continued to grow daily.

As I think back on Christmas over our years together I am reminded of several things. Our first Christmas together was in Eritrea where we met. I was stationed at Kagnew Station, an American Army base, where she had been hired to teach at the school for military family's. We had been dating for several months when she decided to use her Christmas break time to go on an East African Safari. On Christmas day I was celebrating with several friends when she walked in looking for me. She had cut her trip short to be with me on Christmas. That was a real epiphany for me as I came to realize how much she cared for me.

We were married the following July. The home we shared there was typical in many ways to those occupied by middle class people throughout the world. We had a household maid and a security guard. Both of these household workers are considered very necessary to protect your property from theft, damage, and other harm .

Two notable features are worth mentioning.

First there were the hot water heaters... we had a small propane "Hot Water On Demand unit" providing hot water at the sink, and a large tank which was heated by a wood fire under it to use for larger jobs such as laundry and bathing.

The second item was a tree in the back yard. It was about the size that you would expect for a fruit tree but it was a Poinsettia. That's right a Poinsettia tree. We were near the equator at an altitude in excess of 7000 feet, the resulting weather was very moderate, so the thing just kept on growing and blooming and growing and blooming and growing and blooming. Now I can't see a Poinsettia without thinking of that one.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

It's begining to look a lot like Christmas

I Couldn't resist the temptation to change the Appearance of the Blog for Christmas. I do love this season of the year, I had time on my hands because I couldn't sleep last night, and it just seemed like the thing to do.

In the process of putting it together I learned more about modifying blogger templates. Experimenting with various aspects of web design is one of the few things that I have found which allows me to keep my mind busy while minimizing physical activity to keep my heart ticking.

I really didn't have much new going on anyway. It has been a slow weekend and the weather has kept my in. Of course there is always Christmas shopping on the internet, but I have to watch that I don't overspend.

OH! Did I tell you.... Jesus is the reason for the Season.

Friday, December 5, 2008

This and That

We really enjoyed having ALL of my family in for the Thanksgiving Day Weekend. Did I mention that Loren, my eldest son, is a chef. He came up with some really good dishes for us to enjoy. Most of the leftovers are now gone except for some turkey. My brother was with us for dinner and our 27 year old "baby" son also brought his girlfriend.

I pretty much stayed home except for some time that I enjoyed letterboxing with my Grandson. Although he is not yet in the first grade he is an excellent reader. He is really quit precocious and enjoys reading the clues and trying to figure them out. He located two boxes that I had planted and one other that did not require a long walk in the cold.

In order to accommodate everyone's schedules we celebrated on Friday Night. Of course on Friday morning and on Saturday folks were running out to take advantage of the sales. My daughters family and my wife rode downtown on the rapid to shop and see all the Christmas fal-da-rah. They all seemed to enjoy that.

Last month Donna and I spent a Saturday Morning helping to distribute food at our church for "Angel Food Ministries", a food cost reduction program. We enjoyed the opportunity to be with other like minded folks and to help reduce the burden on our neighbors that has been created by our current economy. We are planning on doing it again this month. There is no need requirement for this program, it is open to everyone. We are also considering placing an order ourselves.

Wednesday I had an appointment with my cardiologist to see if the changes we made in my medications and lifestyle were doing any good. In the past using most diuretics has yanked my potassium down to dangerous levels so it must be monitored closely. Everything checked out, we have reduced the strain but have a long way to go. I must continue to try reducing the risk factors, but I will never be out of the woods, the heart is just too far gone.

When I was young my Aunt Bessie would make her special imprinted Christmas cookies which she would then share with us. When she passed away my mother inherited her molds. Mom then gave them to me when she learned that I still had such fond memories of the cookies. These "Springerle" cookies are an old tradition of Germanic people which I enjoy. I have acquired additional molds including one with scenes depicting the 12 days of Christmas.It is time to start preparing them for Christmas as they must age for about two weeks to reach their peak. Yesterday while gathering stuff together I discovered an article on the origin of "The 12 days of Christmas". I found it interesting enough that I want to share it with you.

In the church, “Christmas” refers to a 12-day period that starts with Christmas day.
This is the story of the origin of the lyrics of
The Twelve Days of Christmas

The world celebrates Christmas for twelve hours, but the Church celebrates it for twelve days because the gift of Christ is with us for twelve months of the year. When most people hear of “The 12 days of Christmas” they think of the song.
The song had its origins as a teaching tool to instruct young people in the meaning and content of the Christian faith.

From 1558 to 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not able to practice their faith openly so they had to find other ways to pass on their beliefs. They were prohibited from any practice of their faith by law – private or public. It was a crime to be a Catholic. “The Twelve Days of Christmas” was written in England as one of the “catechism songs” to help young Catholics learn the tenets of their faith – a memory aid, when to be caught with anything in “writing” indicating adherence to the Catholic faith could get you imprisoned… or worse.

The song’s GIFTS are hidden meanings to the teachings of the faith:

The “true love” doesn’t refer to an earthly suitor, but rather refers to God Himself.
The “me” who receives the presents refers to a Christian.

1. The “partridge in a pear tree” is Jesus Christ, who died on a tree as a gift from God.
2. The “two turtle doves” - the Old and New Testaments, another gift from God.
3. The “three French hens” - faith, hope and love –
the three gifts of the Spirit that abide (I Corinthians 13).
4. The “four calling birds” - the four Gospels that sing the song
of salvation through Jesus Christ.
5. The “five golden rings” - the first 5 books of the Bible, called the “Books of Moses.”
6. The “six geese a-laying” - the six days of creation.
7. The “seven swans a-swimming” - “seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.”
(I Corinthians 12:8-11, Romans 12, Ephesians 4, I Peter 4:10-11)
8. The “eight maids a-milking” - the eight beatitudes.
9. The “nine ladies dancing” - nine fruits of the Holy Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23)
10. The “ten lords a-leaping” - the Ten Commandments.
11. The “eleven pipers piping” - the eleven faithful disciples.
12. The “twelve drummers drumming” - the twelve points of the Apostles’ Creed.

Source: Anderson Independent-Mail newspaper, SC, Jan. 21, 1996,
Dr Wm. Hunter; article by Fr. Hal Stockert, Fishnet.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thankful?, Some thoughts on why I am Thankful.

It’s Thanksgiving Day, and the house is quiet. Tuesday night my daughter Ellisa and her two boys rolled in from their home near Detroit to stay with us for the holiday. My son Loren and his wife Jennifer also converged on the area from their home near Newark Delaware. They are staying a short distance away with her parents. Yesterday the house was alive with action as Ellisa and our Grandchildren filled the house with fun and laughter, Loren came over to cook several dishes to be shared with Jennifer’s clan today. Ellisa also prepared a dish to take to her in-laws for Thanksgiving dinner today.

We will be having our family Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow night which will include dishes prepared by Ellisa and Loren plus others items provided by our other two grown sons Jason and Damon. We also expect to have Loren’s wife Jennifer and Ellisa’s husband Matt. To top it off my Brother Don will be joining us. Today I smoked a Turkey breast while Donna is getting stuffing prepared for a whole turkey.

So today the children are off with other segments of their family. With the rapid change from a house full of family to just Donna and I, I am sitting here thinking - am I thankful and if so what am I thankful for?! I have mentioned several times recently that my health has become an ongoing concern which has contributed to an overall feeling of malaise. Yes my health does keep me from accomplishing many things that I think I would like to do, but I know many many people with maladies that render them physically far less capable than I. The truth is that even if I were able I would probably not get around to doing most of those things that I lament.

I am truly thankful that I can still see, smell, hear, taste, and touch things in my environment. Yes my eyes, my ears, my teeth, and my sense of touch are not those of a young man, but they still work well enough for me to enjoy life. I surely am enjoying the sounds, sights, smells, and soon the flavor of the Holiday Feast preparation. I can still walk for short distances. I still have the original number of all of my appendages and they are in reasonably good shape. I am still able to experience the enjoyment of being around my family and companions. I can still eat most of those exotic foods we had come to enjoy from our travels.

The poor economy has not helped our financial situation, but we are not in immediate danger of being out on the street, having inadequate clothing, or of missing meals. During our 20 plus years of military service we traveled throughout the world. Although they probably exist due to some aberration, I have never witnessed situations in America that are even remotely close to those considered normal in most of the world. We simply do not have conditions in which people routinely experience large scale immense suffering resulting from every conceivable type of deplorably inappropriate circumstance.

We have the freedom to explore opportunities, to make mistakes, to accomplish great things, or to do nothing at all. Ours is a great country and I love it.

Yes I am Thankful because I have adequate clothing, food, shelter & health care. I am thankful that I have the freedom to attempt virtually anything that I desire, and also for a never ending litany of the many other things we tend to take for granted.

But the one thing that I really need most at this point in my life is to be wrapped in love and caring. To be smothered with hugs and kisses from my wife, my children, my grandchildren, my brother, and my friends. Perhaps even from strangers and enemies, I just need that extra support to keep me going. Thankfully I have a family support group that is there to provide for those extra needs, I am getting my share. Thank You Family for being there when I need you the most. Thank you God for providing me with such a loving family, for the wondrous world that you created, and thank you for providing your son Jesus.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Happy Days are Here Again!

I just found the source of that stupid blue line that has been appearing near the right side of my blog space and got rid of it. I like this template as I have modified it but could not get rid of the line that recently popped up. Yesterday Donna would not let me go to church because she was concerned about the effect that the cold would have on my heart. So I tried several other templates and variations looking for a solution to no avail. I just can't find anything I like better. I did find out why my favicon was not appearing most of the time and fixed that. It seems that the Blogger bunch had been playing with the scripts. That got me to thinking in a new light, and today I saw the light... those folks had slipped in a couple of changes.

While sitting home in the cold I have tried to keep busy doing Letterboxing things. My new printer arrived and I set it up. My Son Jason had convinced me that in the long run a laser printer was cheaper to operate and produced better quality print than an Ink jet unit. That fit in nicely with my desire to have one to make transfer of images for stamp carving easier. We have used an "All in One" printer for years and would not be happy with anything less. I found the least expensive All in One Color Laser Printer possible, and that is our new toy.

I had an image that I wanted to carve for my "Boxing Buddy" mascot. It was pretty complex and I could not get it the way it would actually look on the stamp. I carved it and liked the result except that there were several areas that I wished that I had done differently. Ah! - time to test the new printer. I made a impression from the first stamp, scanned it with the new unit, edited it with Adobe Photoshop, and then printed it out. The color image transferred very nicely making the re-carving a much simpler matter than before. Black and white would have been OK, but The color made it easier to distinguish features. Previously I had to print out the image, then take it to a copy service to get a copy made that would transfer well. While the stamp could still be improved it is acceptable for me with my present skill level. Now I have to make "Bearly First" a small logbook.

This is the original image that I found, the image as I had modified it to serve as a carving pattern, and the actual stamp.

It is time to start on prep for Thanksgiving day. I will put the turkey breast in an apple cider and brine solution overnight, then it will be ready to smoke. Our eldest son whined that he was looking forward to the traditional whole Turkey with stuffing, so now we are doing a bird in the oven and I will smoke a breast. Right now it looks like the big meal will be late Friday night with our entire family. I am really looking forward to that.

The Buckeyes won over the weekend, but Penn had a better season so Penn is off to the Rose Bowl. I wonder which bowl Ohio will end up with. Anyway it was nice to have something going well. I'm not talking about the Browns.

I need to get some lab work done tomorrow or Wednesday to have for my heart doctor next week. I hope that things are a little more under control now.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Almost bird day.

I am sitting here thinking that I can not believe it has been a full week since I last posted anything here. What have I done with the time??

It does not seem as though I have done much of anything. Just normal day to day stuff. I did get out for a few hours on two days to do some boxing. The weather has pretty much kept me in but I do enjoy the fall.

My old printer is on its last legs, so I have ordered a new one which should arrive in a day or two. I have also spent some time trying to figure out where that annoying blue line down my blog is coming from. The template which I am using is a standard one that I modified by stretching it for more width and changing the colors. It worked fine until about a week ago when the line popped up. I must have modified the code somehow but I can't spot where it is at. Now I am thinking of changing to a new template.

We are now beginning the countdown to Thanksgiving, I will be smoking a Turkey breast and we will cook a second one without smoking it to satisfy all tastes. It looks as though all of my family will be here... brother, wife, 4 kids, 2 spouses, and 2 grandchildren. It should be a lot of fun.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Obsessed - A Veterans Day Tribute Letterbox

Well it happened to me again. Monday morning I woke up thinking about Veterans Day. I usually don't make a big deal of it, but Monday it occurred to me that it would be nice to have a nearby letterbox honoring our Vet's. That was the end of rational thought. I then HAD to produce a box.

I quickly went through options.

1. I could use one of the extra small lock-n-lock boxes that I have in reserve - Check.

2. Make a smaller logbook for it - Get some small notepads and lighter thread to bind it. I found some thread in my old military emergency sewing kit and started a shopping list (Small Note Pads and light but durable stock for the cover).

3. Find an illustration that would be on topic, but be OK for a hasty carve. After some surfing down the web-trails I found a Liberty Bell that I could modify and use.

So I ran to the nearest office supply and got my stuff, edited the bell photo, transferred it to some PZ Kut, and made a quick carve. Then I assembled the logbook and the assorted inserts, dug through my military things and found a first finders Easter egg, covered the box with camo, and assembled the whole kit and kaboodle.

I had an idea of where I wanted to put it but that location was so pristine that it would be difficult to plant it where it wouldn't be accidental found. My first alternate location had the same problem, so I settled on a location in the middle of our small town where there are several war memorials. I planted it then came home to work on the clues.

I hate it when I get OCD about something like this. Anyway the results of this rush job sure weren't the prettiest I have ever seen but it is done and I can stop dwelling on it.

The weather has been cold and wet since then which has pretty much kept me at home. But I need to finish up here and go do the grocery shopping, so till next time.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Remember a Veteran


Make it a point to thank a veteran today for the freedom that you enjoy. It came with a terrible price.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.


Lt.-Col. John McCrae

Last year Lizzie Palmer, then a 15 year old High School student from Ohio, produced this video as a tribute to our veterans. I can do no better than to place this link for you to consider the consequence of war and the debt we owe to those who serve.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Who Flung Fall?

It's 4 a.m. and I have been tossing and turning in bed for over an hour. My thoughts have kept returning to the idea of how much I used to enjoy the sounds and sights of fall. Then it occurred to me... why used to? It seems somehow these pleasant aspects of fall have been flung out of our lives.

Consider that today in our effort to keep our landscape and environment prim and proper we hastily gather the evidence of changing seasons and cart it away. We listen to the roar of lawnmowers, whine of leaf blowers, the crunch of mulchers, and hungry sucking of vacuum trucks all leaving us with a pristine patch of green turf. The only odor we are left with is the stench of gasoline engines.

The things that my fondest memories are made of include the scrape of leaf rakes, the crinkle of leaves, and the giggles of children as they gleefully fling themselves into those pile of leaves they were told not to scatter. And the smells... is there any more memorable than that of burning leaves? Perhaps that of the wet leaves carpeting our flowerbeds and pathways, or that of cooking over a campfire (pass the somemores).

During our years in Japan we would often smell the charcoal fires as people cooked their delicacies. While we were there our home was warmed to a tolerable temperature by a space heater. To humidify the house we would keep a pot of water on top of it in which we would often cook up some pumpkin.

The Japanese people know how to enjoy the outdoors. There is a national park located not far from where we were stationed in northern Honshu. Lake Towadai, a volcanic mountain with twin craters which now form a beautiful lake (similar to our own Crater Lake in Oregon) is the central feature of Towadai-Hachimantai National Park. The road running up and down the mountain follows the bed of a flowing stream on it's way to the sea. In the fall this drive is a stunning sight. Yes for the outstanding fall colors everyplace you look. But also because of the throngs of people, families of all ages and abilities, hiking their way up the gorge to the top just to be out admiring and enjoying the beauty of the season.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Cold, Damp Days

I think our short "Indian Summer' is over. Yesterday I saw that a new letterbox had been planted nearby and thought I might get out and find it. I did not want to go for just one box so I checked for others close to it. The ones that seemed most available were a box that I had failed to find the first time, and a mystery box for which I was still trying to decipher the clues. I only had part of the information needed to complete the clues for the mystery box, but after an hour or so of study I was able to piece together a probable location. Then off I went, about the time that I arrived to look for the first box the storm front came in, the temperature dropped sharply and it was raining.

Rather than returning home I stopped and did some grocery shopping first. There is nothing like food to cheer me up when I am down so I cruised the isles looking for promises of gastronomic ecstasy. By the time I got home and unpacked all of my food finds the day was shot.

I have not been sleeping well. Last night was no exception, I awoke, then had trouble getting tack to sleep, then slept in this morning. When I did get going Donna was off to meet her sister for lunch, the rain had stopped and it was about 5o degrees out. Rather than stay home alone I again went out to do try my selected boxes. I could not get to the new box due to hills and wetlands that were beyond the ability of my scooter and/or I. We may try it again when the weather is nice. I found the box that I missed previously and the really fantastic mystery box. The mystery box, which is probably the nicest box that I have found yet, also guided me to two bonus boxes.

It was really a good boxing day picking up four boxes without straying far from the car. Even though it has been cold it is still nice to be in the woods in the fall observing and enjoying all of the tricks God can play with the trees and shrubs. Just one more reason to be happy that I am still alive.

It's almost 7 pm, Donna just got home from visiting and shopping, and my Son Jason is bringing pizza over, so we will now settle down for a night at home.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The good, the bad, and the ugly

Donna and I paid a visit to my cardiologist yesterday. The good news is that the stress test did not indicate any new blockages, so angioplasty and or bypasses are not options at this time. The bad news is that my heart is getting weaker and I am carrying too much fluid in my system, especially in the pericardium. The plan of attack at present is to adjust my diet and medications, working at reducing the amount of weight and water that my body is carrying. All strenuous activity is prohibited, so exercise is very limited making it more difficult to lose weight. Also it is necessary for me to return to a low sodium diet, these things will challenge my self discipline. The ugly, sooner or later, probably in a few years, a heart transplant will probably be the last remaining option.

Yeah, no Hospital stay in the near future!! I have always know that someday I would die, and have suspected for several years that it will be my heart that does me in. Perhaps now I have a better idea of the time frame. As I quipped to me Pastor last week when my time comes I am ready, but I am not in a hurry to go so I don't want to rush things.

The new box we planted Tuesday has been found several times already.

I did get out letterboxing today but didn't do very well only finding one box. This may be the last nice day for awhile so it was a good day to be out.

Tomorrow may be a stay at home day, I have several more boxes in progress so I may work on them if I can't get out.

Tonight the Brown's are starting Brady Quinn, perhaps that will help them to make it into the postseason.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Family Time

Friday the weather was pretty nice so I was able to get to one letterbox. The box that I went for, Pam's Pumpkin, was close by and was to be pulled after Halloween so I wanted to get it while I still had the chance.

Friday afternoon was the time to pick up odd and ends then do prep for the trip to Detroit. We actually got away pretty early, but got stuck in a snarl of detours in downtown Detroit. By the time we got settled in the motel it was after nine and I was fried.

Saturday morning we slept in a bit then we were off to watch Payton's last soccer game of the year. The game went well and I felt Payton did a good job, but I don't know much about soccer and it is possible that I may be a bit prejudiced. After the game we went to Ellisa's house and hung out until evening. It was nice being able to just interact with the boys. We went out for dinner at a Max & Erma's located in one of those new distributed shopping center areas - a mall without a roof like we used to have everywhere. New is old and old is new. It was a nice area with lots of things for the women to spend money on plus a few guy toys stores thrown into the mix. We had a good dinner and everyone seemed to have a good time. It was getting late by the time we finished dinner, but Ellisa still brought the boys to the motel for a dip in the pool before calling it a night.

Sunday we met at her church. The mission group was having a Pasta Dinner as a fund raiser so we grabbed dinners for our crew and took it back to Ellisa's house. Then we hung out some more (I grabbed a nap) and eventually had to head back home. It was a nice time "doing family", I'm glad that we went.

Yesterday I finished putting together "Berea - The Grindstone City", my first letterbox to be planted near home. Donna was off from work today as the schools were closed for election day. She went with me to plant the box, then she was off to whittle down her task list. After we planted it I located two other local boxes leaving my long suffering hitchhiker "Love & Peace" in one of them. This may be the last good Fall day I have to be out, I enjoyed it. A short while after we went separate ways Donna's muffler fell off, so by the time it was fixed she was unable to get everything done on her list. Tonight she is at a church board meeting

Tomorrow morning it is off to see the Doctor - joy joy. I still dread what he will have to say. Pray for me.