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.