Poetry, musings, reflections, life

Archive for the month “June, 2011”


Monday, will be the Fourth of July. It is more than just a day off from work.  As our nation prepares to celebrate the 235th anniversary of a declared freedom, I reach back to my days as a teenager growing up. When one is raised in a small town, as I was, the celebration seems to take on a flavor that is somewhat different in the large cities. I do not mean to imply that cities do not have great celebrations;  it is just that in small towns, everyone seems to know everyone and it is like a family gathering. That is what it was like in my youth. With the picnics, watermelons and fireworks, the fun in the sun, no worries, no problems, the times were much simpler. And the truths of our republic were much in evidence.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness….”

 I recall having to memorize these words by my civics teacher, Mr. Craddock. He said that it was necessary to know what they mean and memorizing those words was monumental because it would stay with me for the rest of my life. Not being one who could memorize easily, I did not stand up to the task. Very soon thereafter, my grades reflected that. I finally received the necessary motivation to be able to stand in front of the class and recite those words. I thought long and hard about “certain unalienable rights” and “the pursuit of happiness”. I concluded at that time, that it did not work for me. In 1955, teenagers were not allowed to pursue happiness. Unalienable rights? I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I was convinced I had none.

The year, 1956, brought me to the beaches of California. However, I was not there to enjoy the sand and surf. The U.S. Naval Recruit Training Center was located in San Diego. Encouraged by my recitation of “the pursuit of happiness” and at the ripe old age of seventeen fresh out of high school, I enlisted in the U.S. Navy. Little did I know that my “pursuit” would be curtailed for the next nine weeks.

The Navy recognizes the Declaration of Independence and adheres to the principles as set forth in the U.S. Constitution. All personnel are likewise a party to that defense. However, Chief Petty Officer Amadei, my boot camp instructor, had his own “declaration of independence” and it did not include any such language. Well, it did include “certain language” that I shall not repeat here. It may be a little too salty.

Ask any sailor and he will tell you, that, “geedunk stand”, is the place on base where you can purchase ice cream, candy, potato chips and other assorted snacks. Chief Amadei was a sucker for strawberry shortcake. I recall, if one could afford to buy strawberry shortcake for Chief Amadei at the “geedunk” stand, then one could be a little “independent”, at least for that day. Physical exercise was exhausting. Bribery was evident. Chief Amadei had freedom of choice and he chose wisely.

My experiences in the Navy took me to Japan, China, Philippines, Guam, Wake Island, and at that time, Hawaii, a territory of the United States. Over the course of four years, my interpretation of freedom took on a new stance. Though the U.S. military is structured and deliberately so, I observed the freedoms that I have, compared with those in the countries I visited. And visiting the USS Arizona Memorial, I saw first hand, solemnly, what freedom costs. Thomas Paine said, “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it”.

With all the truths being self-evident, I can tell you that as the years have progressed, my definition of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness has also progressed. Each passing year brings new evidence of our freedoms. I need only to observe the tributes for the fallen heroes who once stood up for those principles, to know what they mean.

Mr. Craddock had it right. In the fall of 1955, I stood before the class and recited those words even though I stumbled through them. I may not have got every word in the right place, but today, I realize the true meaning of those words. They have stayed with me. I feel a sense of accomplishment.The last paragraph of the Declaration of Independence” contains these words.

“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”  July 4, 1776,  fifty-six men agreed to this pledge and signed their names. They did not take these words lightly. Nor should we! 

John Adams wrote a letter to his wife on July 3, 1776. He spoke of the decision of the Continental Congress on the previous day, to declare the 13 American colonies “Free and Independent States.”He said,

“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

Ours is the greatest nation on the face of the earth, warts and all. And if you do not agree, well, you have the freedom to express that choice. Aren’t you the least bit thankful?

Celebrate it. Have a great (and safe) Fourth of July

A Nonsensical Story

A couple years ago, I attended a writer’s club workshop. During this workshop, the speaker brought out a small box filled with sand. In the box were numerous small toys. Her idea was to choose several items from the box and write a story about them during the class time.  I chose two toy dinosaurs, a toy helicopter, a toy truck and a small can of green peas. The following story is the result of those choices. As you shall see, the story lives up to its name. It is titled;

A Nonsensical Story

Two dinosaurs were galloping through the sand as best they could when a helicopter lost a prop and caused a sandstorm thereby covering up one of the animals. There seemed to be a connection to Arizona and as the animal was uncovering himself (or herself as the case may be), a truck drove up.

Now you may be wondering how a truck and a helicopter and two dinosaurs met up in a desert. Especially when several thousand years (or million, depending on who you believe) exists between animals and machinery. I haven’t decided how to answer that question, either.

Anyway, Dino Sinclair, (that was the green dinosaur’s name) hinted that some of his ancestors moved from Glen Rose, Texas, to Yuma, Arizona, (because you have to have a sense of Yuma to hear this story).

The closest airbase from where the helicopter came, actually was in Las Vegas, Nevada. For whatever reason, the helicopter was on maneuvers and had to spend a lot of time blowing sand for cover. It was a military secret.

But Las Vegas is where Tweetie Bird, the yellow dinosaur moved from, after he hit the jackpot at the Dunes Hotel and Casino and subsequently lost the same jackpot at the Sahara Hotel and Casino, thereby causing him to have to get out of town. In hindsight, he probably could have got a job at the Circus Circus.

Anyway, back to Arizona!  The Border Patrol was brought to Yuma  from El Paso when it was discovered that the dinosaurs were harboring illegal aliens. When that information was brought to light, they were deported to Mexico. The illegal aliens, that is.

The dinosaurs borrowed a Volkswagen with a sunroof, (how else could they fit)  from the parking lot at Piggly Wiggly, drove to Galveston, with the Volkspeople in hot pursuit,  caught a Volksliner, and went south to the  Dinosaurier retirement village in Costa Rica and lived happily ever after.

The Border Patrol ended the dinosaur searches and returned to El Paso where they continued to guard the Rio Grande River until being replaced by the Texas Rangers.

The helicopter crew became tired of shifting sands and was transferred to Nome, Alaska. Now they use their helicopter to blow snow for cover. Of course, the polar bears are not too happy about that and recently have been corresponding with the retired dinosaurs in Costa Rica.

Dino and Tweetie, the dinosaurs, have invited the bears to visit. There are no helicopters in Costa Rica to blow snow or sand. The bears have made reservations on the next glacier coming their way. They have to take the long way around because they cannot come down the Rio Grande River.                    The Texas Ranger who replaced the Border Patrol, covers the river from El Paso to Laredo and does not want  I.C.E.  in his river. 

 In case you are wondering, this story really does have a moral. Stay in school, study hard and eat your green peas. You never know when you may come across a green pea-brained dinosaur or maybe an ice-covered polar bear who likes green peas.

Have a great day.

A Perfect Dad

 I am a father of two daughters and one son, as well as a grandfather of four girls and two boys, AND a great-grandfather to a lad named Judah, A fine old biblical name. This year, I received my share of Father’s Day cards. As I read the little poem written inside one card, I could not help but feel very inadequate, for I am anything but a “Perfect Dad”.

Way back when (she would dispute the “way back” part) my firstborn made her initial appearance, I was based on an aircraft carrier in Japan and unable to be there for that ultimate experience. Later, when my second born arrived, I was there, however, not allowed in the delivery room. I probably would have fainted anyway. She arrived with as much fanfare as did the firstborn.

I know for sure that I went through the burping, feeding, rocking phases, more so with the second child than the first. However, their mother attended to the diapering functions. You have to understand the times in which we were living during the early 60’s. Most men did not attend to such details. However, times, they were a’changing.

When children are born, they are like a piece of cloth. They sag in places, they have a lot of wrinkles, not much hair, at least not my children, and it looks like they were dyed red. Wrinkled and red. Skin so soft you’d think they were covered with silk. And everything needed support.

In ancient times (again a dispute as to the language) when my son was born, he was no exception. But, like I said, times were a’changing. Through a series of discussions (coerced, I’m sure), I was ready to accept my responsibilities of being a father. Except, my hands were not equipped to handle such difficult maneuvers. I was very deficient in providing this needed aid.

Later, when I felt I had acquired at least some of the necessary skills, I was allowed (?) to take on a few basic functions of caring for him. Feeding him at 2 A.M. was my first privilege. Burping him was another. Always have an extra cloth diaper handy for placing over your shoulder. Notice, I said “cloth diaper”. Disposable diapers had been invented some years before my children were born; however, they were not as prevalent as today. They were expensive, as well. Thus, we used cloth diapers.

As my skills became more proficient, other responsibilities were given (?) to me. One task, though, was overwhelming. Considering the times when my poor child had to go around with a diaper halfway to his knees, it was obvious.

I laughed, not at the amusing sight, but rather at the very thought of my inexperience of placing the diaper on him in the first place. Of course, there were no instruction booklets attached to the “cloth” diaper. I often wondered how his mother did that. I think she wrote a book titled, “how to change a cloth diaper,” which I of course, never read.

Intelligent as I am, I devised a special method for cleaning cloth diapers. (I’m not sure if I was the first one to use this method.) You simply place the used diaper in the toilet, and while holding to one end, very carefully, you flush. The way to do this is to use some sort of device to your nose or you may hold your nose with one hand, the diaper in the other and use your elbow to hit the flush handle.

However, when I received the bill from the plumber I surmised that the flush method for cleaning cloth diapers was not necessarily a proper decision of a “Perfect Dad.” But, trial and error will teach you the proper technique. It must be noted that “Perfect Dads” have a very sensitive gag reflex. I often wondered if one could not use the same method for cleaning the child as well, but I was informed that it was not allowed.

Then, too, the cloth diaper required two safety pins, one for each side. This was not easy. Making the folds while holding the squirming child down required a third hand, which I did not have. If I had a third hand, I would have used it to hold my nose. I never saw a third hand on his mother, but somehow she always managed to pin the diaper on the child without sticking the pins in his skin.

I might also mention that you need protective equipment, such as goggles when changing diapers on little boys. If I were “A Perfect Dad”, I would have known that. (I should have read the book!) As I said, times have certainly changed over the years. Child rearing in this day seems much simpler to me. How hard could it be to change a disposable diaper? Tape it on?

Fathers, Grandfathers, relish in this day. In someone’s eyes, you are a “Perfect Dad.” My Dad has long since passed on but I recall a plaque I once gave him for Father’s Day. It featured a pair of shoes with the inscription, “No one can fill the shoes of my Dad.” Even today, no one can fill my Dad’s shoes.

On this Father’s Day, take a few moments to reflect upon your father, even as you celebrate being a father. Know that our Heavenly Father is the one truly, “Perfect Dad”, who produced a truly “Perfect Son.                                                    God’s Word tells us to “honor our father and mother, that our days will be long upon the land that God has given us”. Ex. 20:12                                                        “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” I John 3:1

                                                    HAPPY FATHER’S DAY                                                                                                                             June 19, 2011

How to change a turn signal bulb

I awoke early this morning. Nothing unusual about that. I wake up early every morning. Seems that as I approach, shall we say maturity, I awaken early every morning. I have a built-in alarm clock. It’s a modern convenience. Requires no energy whatsoever. I plan to leave it to my children. I insist.

I had to keep an appointment with the car dealer to get the oil changed and a turn signal bulb replaced. The closest dealer to where we live is about 35 miles away. I had made an appointment online for 10 A.M to have the oil changed and a new turn signal bulb replaced. The price listed on line for the oil change was $39.95 and I guessed the bulb would be around 20-25 bucks.

I don’t understand how a car manufacturer’s mind works or rather the design engineer. When I was a teenager, I could take out an engine and transmission, make the necessary repairs, reinstall and today, I cannot even change out a turn signal bulb. I must have lost something along the way. I read my manual and the only thing it says is to take the car to the dealer. Seems to be some sort of a conspiracy cooked up by the engineers.  

Whenever I make a trip to the dealer for any repairs, I always visit the show room. A guy can dream, can’t he? In this show room, they had a Cadillac CTS, a red Camaro, A yellow Corvette and a red Corvette.

What got my attention first was the red Camaro convertible. I always wanted a convertible. Now with the years of sunshine on my face and the trips to the dermatologist, I must respectfully decline the indulgence of a convertible. That and the $40,000 price tag.

I shifted my attention to the red Corvette. Now that was a car for the ages. When I was 17 years old, I really wanted one. The $4000 price tag, (included fuel injection, they were called fuelies) was certainly more than I could handle. It was a shock to my system when I discovered the $60,000 tag on this one.

So, I’m sitting in the customer lounge with my computer, I knew it was to be a long wait and they had free Wi-Fi. The adult in charge had brought along her e book reader and we were prepared for the long haul. I’m surfing the web, (the adult in charge was helping me) for homes in the surrounding area. We are constantly on the prowl for idyllic country homes.

The service manager comes in to discuss my email address. It belongs to someone in Springdale,Florida. Could have fooled me. I don’t know how I got from Fruitvale,Texas, to Springdale,Florida. With that correction, he returns to whatever he does while the mechanic is working on the car. I’m back to surfing the web.

The service manager returns to explain something to me. Seems the oil change special is for cars that take conventional oil. Surprise, surprise, my car takes a premium brand and it is not on sale. However, there is a substitute for only $56.00. What a bargain. Immediately from $40 to $56.                                                 I agreed and he was on his way.

I continued surfing the web. Guess what? Here comes the service manager, again. I was concerned that I may have to invite him to dinner. We were becoming such good buds. Anyway, this is the shocker.  Remember when I mentioned that the owner’s manual said to bring it to the dealer to change the bulb? I was right. It is a conspiracy. Here is why!

In order to change the turn signal bulb, one must remove the bumper. Wow, who’d thunk it? The amazing part about this is that the bulb only cost $6.80. That’s a good deal. (I know!!!) But to remove and replace the bumper? A flat $100.00!!!!

So now we have changed the oil, Premium or course, checked all the fluids, brakes, rotated tires AND changed the bulb. My total bill came to $176.00.

Now, I am not suggesting any wrongdoing on the part of anyone. I think it shows the progression of engineering. But I do long for the good old days when I could change a turn signal bulb for 2 bucks. And here some 54 years later, I still cannot afford a red Corvette. If I could get a Social Security increase? As I said, a guy can dream, can’t he?

Have a great day.

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