Friday, December 30, 2011

A Picture Can Be Worth A Thousand Words

One of my goals for 2012 is to become more computer literate and make better use all of the things that are available on line to expand my blog readership. If you do follow my blog please click on follow so I know someone out there is reading what I try to write. Thanks to those that have already clicked as followers.

For Christmas I received a wireless mouse and a couple of USB storage devices thanks to my sister-in-law and my son and daughter-in-law. I have already copied all 50 of my storage cd’s, both documents and picture files onto to the new USB devices. I know your probably thinking, “he’s so far behind he’ll never catch up”, but at least I’m trying and do believe that one is ever too old to learn.

Writing projects for 2012 are, first, to edit my current book, “The Coded Letter”. Actually I gave copies to a couple of relatives at Christmas to read, as is, after one edit by me, to see if it’s even worth trying to publish. Next I plan to make my first book, “Anchors Aweigh,” into something that everyone might enjoy reading by removing many of the personal and too often repeated thoughts. It turned out to be mainly copies of the letters I sent home. My third writing objective is to continue writing a sequel to my last book. “The Coded Letter.” It looks like the main location will be one of my favorite places, Key West, Florida and that my main characters will remain the same. My last writing goal is to continue to write blogs as the spirit moves me. I have found one more thing that will be inspire my writings and may help you if you write.

I have been copying all of our slides and pictures from albums all the way back to pictures taken by my grandparents. Looking at all of these pictures makes me question what the people, some that are unnamed, were thinking and doing when these pictures were taken. Many bring back fond memories and could lead to an autobiography.

So this one goes out to all of you writers suggesting that when you get that “what should I write about writer’s block”, pull out some of those old picture albums, shoe boxes with pictures in or get out the slide projector and revisit the past. I can almost guarantee that you will think of something to write about. If you don’t write now, but always wanted to try, then this might give you the ideas needed to start. What’s the worst that can happen? You can bore someone to death with your writing. Hope my writing doesn’t do that too often. Yes, a picture could lead to a thousand words.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year's Eves Remembered

New Year’s Eve has changed many times in the last 40 years for me and I’m sure for most of you also. The first one I actually celebrated was on New Year’s Eve 1968 in Taipei at Club 63 . Not yet 21, but it was legal for us to drink in that country. At 19 years old it was all about partying. There was a floor show, dance band, Champaign for $2 a bottle, a midnight buffet and breakfast if you made it to 4am. I stayed for breakfast. It was the longest I ever stayed out partying.

My next two were celebrated in Yokosuka, Japan. The first one I took a watch so one of the married guys could celebrate with his wife because I knew my wife would be there to celebrate with me the following year. That second year my wife and I had dinner at the enlisted men’s club and stayed for the music and dancing with a bunch of the guys and their wives that had also come over to Japan. Of course I remember this one because it was the first one my wife and I spent together. The other thing that stands out in my mind is that the stage band was drinking as much as we were and one of the saxophone players toppled sideways off the top raiser and the band never missed a beat. He apparently didn’t get hurt, drunks very seldom do, and was back playing the next number.

In 1970, the year we returned to the States, I had already made some friends where I worked and we decided to spend New Year’s Eve with them at a Church party. Yes churches sponsored New Year’s Eve parties. The ticket price paid for the band, a midnight buffet, soda to drink and mix with the booze you brought from home. You also had to bring your own beer. It was snowing so much that we brought a change of clothes and pajamas if we had to stay at our friends parents house, which was close to the church, if the weather got that bad. We made it home safely that night and it was the start of many great times with a great bunch of friends.

Another New Year’s Eve that stands out as a notable one was January 1975 when my wife was seven months pregnant with our son. We actually thought she might be having twins. There was a very long buffet line at midnight and the crowd took pity on us and pushed us right up to the front of the line so she wouldn‘t have to stand too long. Don’t know if that would happen today.

We stopped going out to parties in 1977 when we moved to Green Bay and all of our friends were three hours away. We would spend the evening with the children, have a special dinner and try to keep me awake until midnight. Six years later we moved back to Cedarburg and were once again close to old friends and usually got together with them in one of our homes. After ten years we moved again, almost two hours away from our circle of friends that seemed to be shrinking. Not the hardy partiers that we had been 12 years earlier when the group first went out together.

Now in our mid sixties we will be staying home with our children and grandson enjoying a special dinner, a couple of drinks, wine and maybe Champaign. Good luck trying to keep me awake until midnight, but I make sure someone wakes me up at 11:45 pm so I can eat my boiled potatoes and marinated herring from the old year into the new year to bring us good luck. Yes, an old German tradition that I’m sure my grandparents got from their parents and even farther back then that. What memories and traditions do you have?

I miss the friends and the parties, but not the day after, if you know what I mean. We still, to this day, exchange phone calls with our oldest and dearest friends early on New Year’s Eve to wish each other a healthy and happy New Year. I’m glad that is one thing that has not changed.

Wishing everyone that follows me a Healthy, Happy and Prosperous New Year.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Dear Santa

I’m 64 and have been very blessed to have always gotten something for Christmas. I know that some get nothing and even go hungry, not just on Christmas, but every day. By the way, I know you’re watching all of us, but I’ll remind you I have been pretty good this year, depending upon who you ask. So what could I possibly want? Well, here‘s what I would like if it‘s not too much trouble:

Peace On Earth

No More Wars And An End To Current Ones

Cures For All Mental and Medical Conditions

Acceptance Of All People

Acceptance of All Religions

Jobs For Everyone That Needs One

A Real Living Wage For Those Jobs

Assistance For Those That Really Can’t Work

( A kick in the butt for those that don’t want to or feel they don’t have to)

Affordable Health Care for Everyone

An End To Hunger and Poverty

Clean Air And Water Everywhere

An End To Greed

A Life For Everyone That Is Fair

Common Sense For Those That Lack It

Unconditional Love And Understanding Within Families

Thanks in advance. I know it’s a long list, but I still have hope and still believe. Milk and cookies will be in the usual spot. Have a safe flight.



Sunday, December 18, 2011

Who Changed Sunday ?

It isn’t who changed Sunday, but rather what changed Sunday. Growing up in the 60’s I learned early on that if I wanted something from a store I would have to buy it before Sunday or live without it until Monday. As an old carry over from the “Blue Laws”, no commerce was to take place on Sunday. In the early 1970’s government declared blue laws unconstitutional and businesses could be open on Sunday. Was this something that would do more good than harm? I weighed that question as my son and I watched the Green Bay Packer game together for only the second time this season. He works retail and works almost every Saturday and Sunday. Most employers won’t even let employees off for church on Sunday. You can’t argue with them because of the shortage of jobs at this time. Kind of reminds me of Scrooge. Better not complain.

It does provide a few more jobs for people and makes it more convenient for those working Monday through Friday, but I think it can also cut into family time. If your children are in school Monday through Friday and you have to work Saturday and Sunday there isn’t much time to spend with them. I think stores looked at it as just another day when they can make more money. Can you say “Greedy?” The only thing you cannot buy in Wisconsin on Sunday is a car. As a manager for AT&T I had to work at least one Saturday and Sunday every month. It was one of the reasons I took advantage of early retirement and found an 8-4:30 Monday through Friday job for the 10 years I worked after leaving there. I guess you don’t think about it unless it directly affects you or your family. Unfortunately it also gives many an extra day to shop and spend money they probably don’t need to spend. .

Now stores are also open longer near the holidays, some 24 hours and are even open on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Honestly, you have 364 days to get ready for Christmas. Shouldn’t everyone be allowed to at least have that day off to spend with family. I feel blessed that everyone in our family will be off to celebrate this Christmas Eve and Day together.

This is where you get to call me hypocritical. After church this morning we stopped at our local grocery store to pick up all of the things my wife needed to make Christmas cookies this week. She won’t actually start them until tomorrow, so we could have gone out again tomorrow, but it was right on the way home. If it hadn’t been open we would have had to. Oh Well! I know I don’t have all the answers to fix all the problems of the world, but I for one feel like Sunday’s should go back to being the day we go to church and relax with and spend more time with family. Maybe “the good old days” really weren’t so bad.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Is Progress Worth It ?

If you have just recently turned 65 or are about to like me you may also be having second thoughts about what progress has really brought us. I remember when I was young I would hear older people commenting about “the good old days” and thinking those old fuddy duddies don’t have a clue about how new inventions are continuously making their lives easier. Well, now I feel like I’m becoming one of those old fuddy duddies.

Electronics have probably created more good in our lives than bad, but I don’t think everyone has learned how to use it wisely. I would have given just about anything to talk to my wife and parents when I was stationed overseas in the 1960’s. Cel phones are also a blessing to older people who can carry one with them in case they get into some type of trouble. “Help, I’ve fallen and can’t get up.” It also helps that I can call my wife from the grocery store to check on which of the seven different types of pasta I was sent to buy. The most notable problem with them is the texting while driving. This has been outlawed in Wisconsin because many people do not use common sense and realize how distracting it can be until the accident happens. I feel even talking on one while driving is a distraction and should also be outlawed. This comes from me, one of the don’t trust anyone over 30 generation. I just don’t want to be the other car or person that gets hit. Now don’t let me infringe on your rights.

Texting is something that I am not real happy with either. Too many times I’ve had the experience where I can be trying to hold a conversation with someone when they are texting someone else at the same time. Excuse me, do you even know that I’m talking with you and when and where were you when they taught you the importance of being a good listener. Yes, I know the word “multitasking” and I also know the word “rude”.

I also have reservations about when a child should get a cel phone and when and how it should be used. I think it’s great that we now have better and quicker communication with our children and grandchildren and that we could track them if they ever needed to be found, but how much time do they spend on it calling friends, texting and playing games? Is there a skill here that they are learning that I am some how missing?

I do love my computer, the web and email because of the quickness with which I can get a note to someone and get a response back. It also gives me an opportunity to share my writing with anyone who cares to read it, even when I rant and complain, although it really is usually just to make you think about things. It gives me instant access to the happenings around my city, state, country and the world and quick and easy information about almost anything that might interest me. I still get a daily newspaper because I like the feel of it in my hands when I have my morning coffee. I have not yet progressed to a nook or kindle to read books on, but that too will come. I may even try to self publish my book on line. I know I can’t stop progress and that most of it is good. I also know I have some catching up to do with technology and will maybe even follow my children’s advice and get a smart phone. I’ll let you know if and when I do and how long it takes me to learn how to use it.

Thanks again to all those that follow my ramblings. Quoting my Pastor Paul, ”Why would I say something in one sentence when I can stretch it into a whole paragraph?” A man after my own heart.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Mighty Seymores

Ben Steins comments from a commentary he wrote and recited on a CBS Sunday Morning program were sent to me in an email and it brought back memories of a group that I belonged to in high school. Quite controversial at the time. Matter of fact we were all scheduled to appear in the principals office the day John F. Kennedy got shot. We never did have to see the principal, although we had to promise to not wear our tee shirts with the words, “Mighty Seymores” on the front to school again. Tee shirts were not allowed when I was in high school, although we had them on over collared shirts which we had to wear, so we thought we might have gotten around the rule.

My high school was about 65% Jewish and that was never considered a factor in anything that went on in that school, at least not in any of the groups I hung out with. I even dated a couple of Jewish girls not only because I wanted to, but also to push my dad's buttons. I don’t remember how we came up with the word Seymores, what it stood for or was an acronym for, but we were a group of Jews and Gentiles that bonded and had lunch together everyday in the cafeteria. We were just a bunch of high school junior boys that were friends and religion never got in the way of that.

I’m a fan of Ben Stein’s commentaries even if I don’t always agree with his politics. What I really like about him is his common sense. I know that not everyone follows my blog at, , so I will also send this in an email. It might bring back memories to my high school friends of what I believe was a kinder, gentler time in our lives. If I got any of the facts wrong I’ll just chalk it up to getting older and only remembering the good parts of everything. Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukah to all my friends out there.

Apparently the White House referred to Christmas Trees as Holiday Trees for the first time this year which prompted CBS presenter, Ben Stein, to present this piece which I would like to share with you. I think it applies just as much to many countries as it does to America .

The following was written by Ben Stein and recited by him on CBS Sunday Morning Commentary.

My confession:

I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees, Christmas trees. I don't feel threatened. I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are, Christmas trees.

It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, 'Merry Christmas' to me. I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it
. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu . If people want a creche, it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from, that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it being shoved down my throat.

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship celebrities and we aren't allowed to worship God ? I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where these celebrities came from and where the America we knew went to.

In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different: This is not intended to be a joke; it's not funny, it's intended to get you thinking.

Billy Graham's daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her 'How could God let something like this happen?' (regarding Hurricane Katrina).. Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response. She said, 'I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?'

In light of recent events... terrorists attack, school shootings, etc., I think it started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body found a few years ago) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and we said OK. Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school. The Bible says thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said OK.

Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave, because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock's son committed suicide).. We said an expert should know what he's talking about. And we said okay.

Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right from wrong, why they have no sense of responsibility and accountability, and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.

Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with 'WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.'

Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world's going to hell. Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says. Funny how you can send 'jokes' through e-mail and they spread like wildfire, but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing. Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.

Are you laughing yet?

Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you're not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it.

Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us.

Pass it on if you think it has merit. If not, then just discard it.... no one will know you did. But, if you discard this thought process, don't sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in.

My Best Regards, Honestly and respectfully,

Ben Stein

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas Shopping - Bah Humbug!

I thought I was supposed to get smarter as I grew older, but today that proved not to be the case. Who in their right mind goes into the 2nd largest city in Wisconsin on a Sunday afternoon two weeks before Christmas to shop. That would be me. I got the paper in before going to church this morning and spotted something that someone on my list wanted. It was on sale for 50% off, Sunday and Monday only. I thought for sure if I didn’t get it today it would be sold out. I also figured we would be home from church by 9:30 am at the latest. Wrong! During the announcements I was reminded that we were having a building planning meeting between services that we both wanted to sit in on. Church ran late, the meeting lasted longer than I thought it would and we first got home around 10:45. Ok, I still had time to get into Madison, 20 minutes away, buy a couple of gifts and get home before the 3 pm Green Bay Packer game.

Dropped my wife off at home, changed into Green Bay Packer gear and was out the door by 11:30 am. I stopped for gas and was at the major department store by noon. OK, so it took 15 minutes to find a parking spot. I was still sure I’d get home for the kick off. I looked around for about ten minutes before I decided to find someone to help me locate the item I was looking for. Yes, I am delusional. An employee to help me in one of these big stores? Especially during a Christmas shopping weekend. I stayed around the cash registers until they called for a price check and then asked that person to find the item for me. They in turn called someone else to help me. When that person got to the department I was in they found similar items made by the same company, but not the one I wanted, advertised for 50% off. She told me it was probably sold out already. I didn’t buy that line for a minute. I was nice, but firm and asked for a manager. She called a manager who got to me within about 10 minutes and found the item at another location in the store. We looked at the display together and I asked for a particular size. She simply looked at me and said, “Oh, it doesn’t come in that size.” OK, so much for best laid plans.

Not enough words to connect to tell about the rest of my afternoon shopping adventure. I stopped at 10 more stores in eight locations and finally got everything that I had planned on getting. There were full parking lots, no one to help find things in stores, long lines to check out with many inexperienced check out people, rude customers and then it happened. An older couple was checking out before me and they needed a price check on a piece of jewelry because there was no tag on it. Oh great, another hold up. Why do I always choose the wrong line? The checker called someone who told them the price was $7.95. The couple immediately told the clerk that it was not the price that was on other similar items in the jewelry case and that the correct price was $59.95. The clerk had someone go back and get another box with the same cross with a diamond in it and it rang up at the correct price. It made my entire day to see someone do something so honest and right. I would hope everyone would do the same, but you and I know that is not always the case. I hope the gift of that cross is a blessing to the person that receives it and that the couple that is giving it as a gift is also blessed. Some how I think they already are. I got home in time to see most of the first quarter and only missed the first touch down, but the experience got me back into the Christmas spirit and I wouldn‘t have traded it for anything..

Friday, December 9, 2011

Good News, Bad News

Good news - I woke up this morning

Bad news - Very cold when I rolled out bed

Good news - Shower nice and hot

Bad news - Bathroom colder than when I got into shower

Good news - Electricity on in house

Bad news - Can’t hear furnace running

Good news - Son going down stairs to check furnace

Bad news - Can’t find anything wrong

Good news - Son doesn’t get dirty and gets on road to work

Bad news - I check and find pilot light out

Good news - I get pilot light to light and stay on

Bad news - Burners refuse to ignite

Good news - Local heating contractor will come out today

Bad news - Furnace is 30 years old (I almost know what’s coming)

Good news - Repairman arrives by 9:30 am

Bad news - Can only make temporary fix

Good news - Temporary fix will warm up house

Bad news - Not worth money to fix 30 year old furnace

Good news - They can replace the furnace next week

Bad news - Air conditioner and water heater also 30 years old

Good news - Tax breaks and rebates if we replace everything before Jan 1, 2012

Bad news - This was not in budget right before Christmas or after

Good news - We have stock we can sell

Bad news - I won’t be in Key West for my 65th birthday in Feb

Good news - After taking a hot shower I will be able to sit in my warm house, in Feb, in my shorts and a Hawaiian shirt sipping a rum runner and looking at pictures of the last time we were there. Great memories!

Bad news - There really isn’t any. Life is still good!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

4077 th M.A.S.H.

Harry Morgan died yesterday at 96 and took me back to the movie that came out in 1970 while I was stationed aboard the U.S.S. Oklahoma City. Our home port was Yokosuka, Japan, where my wife lived while I was out at sea on Yankee Station just off of Da Nang, Vietnam. One of the things we enjoyed doing while in port was going to the movies at the base theater. Early 1970 when the movie M.A.S.H. came out the Navy refused to show it at the base theater. They claimed that it would have a negative effect on us because it showed a lack of respect for the military. There was some scuttlebutt about it actually being closely related to what was going on in Nam at that time.

The film came from a 1968 novel about three U.S. Army doctors assigned to a M.A.S.H Unit in Korea during the Korean War. If you’re too young to know what the Korean War was or a M.A.S.H Unit was please look it up. Harry Morgan played Colonel Sherman Potter, Commanding Officer, who came to the television series at the end of the third season replacing McLean Stephenson, who played, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake. Roger Bowmen actually played Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake in the movie.

Morale was getting lower and lower as the war in Vietnam progressed, especially for those of us that were there. It was the longest war that the U.S had been in, up to that point in our country’s history, was not supported by most of the population of the U.S. and the longer it went on the less the troops believed in what they were fighting for. They needed and deserved a good laugh. M.A.S.H. was the laugh that they needed. It only took about a month before they gave in to all the troops and their families demanding to see it. Everyone had heard about it from the folks back home. Many of us thought it was just one more right that they were taking from us. Just plain censorship.

Going to that movie was one of the first things we did after I got into port after it finally was shown on base. M.A.S.H. was the best movie we had seen in a long time and none of us ended up being any more disrespectful of anything or anyone in service than we were before we saw it. There was so much more truth in it than met the eye. It also brings to mind another movie, “Good Morning Vietnam.” Different but similar in so many ways and worth seeing, especially if you were there.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

St Nicholas

Thanks to an old Navy friend and his picture of St Nicholas on face book for the inspiration for my literary offering of the day. December 6th is of course St Nicholas Day. Some believe the true story of Santa Claus begins with St Nicholas who was born in the 3rd century on the southeast coast of present day Turkey. He was a very generous young man, giving away everything that he had to the poor. He became know for his generosity to those in need, his love of children and his concern for sailors and ships. Most of you that know me or read my blog know that my four years in the Navy was very important to me and probably had a lot to do with who I turned out to be. Therefore you can see my connection with St Nicholas.

The entire story is too long to go into, but after reading it one has to hope the giving and sharing links us to the modern day Santa Claus. I see it daily with the bell ringers for The Salvation Army (most of the money collected stays in our town and our church distributes those funds to the needy right here). There’s also The Empty Stocking Club, Toys For Tots and many other generous groups, businesses and individuals that assist those less fortunate, especially during this time of year. I know that economic times are tough for everyone right now but I also know that many are worse off than many of us. My wife rang a bell at a kettle last year and can’t his year so I will for both of us. If you’re in Oregon tomorrow I’ll be ringing at Bill’s Food Center from 8 am until 10 am.

St Nicholas has also been important to my wife and I because she went to Mass everyday until she left for college at St Nicholas Church about two blocks from her childhood home. We also got married there on 6/28/69 by the Monsignor who was a priest when he married her Mom and Dad. Our daughter was also baptized there. Of course she always talks about all of the children getting special treats on St Nicholas day because that was the school she went to for grade school. Sadly the church is gone, but the memories live on. I have also been blessed with memories of many happy Christmases with family and friends.

To you he may be Santa Claus, Old St Nick, St Nicolas or the Spirit of Christmas, but what ever you call him, he should represent giving to those that may not be as blessed as we are. Please do what ever you can to create a happy memory for those that might not have much this Christmas. There are many. Peace and Joy to all.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Homer For Christmas

No I did not make a spelling error in my title. We will be home for Christmas and we’ll also have Homer, as in Simpson, guarding our home from Grinches and ready to welcome Santa when he gets here. Oh, and you can see our house from two blocks away when you make the curve. We all still believe. I leave the milk and cookies out when we go to bed on Christmas Eve and it’s gone when I get up. Our house has a sense of humor and pretty lights both inside and out. We already have a decorated tree up in the living room and one in the family room.

All of our lights, our neighbor’s lights and the lights all over town remind us of the Christ light that shines in each of us and the brightest light ever, the star over Bethlehem. We not only celebrate advent at church on Sunday but also by lighting our own advent candles at home and by opening a door each day on our advent calendar. We went to a Josh Wilson concert this past Saturday night. The ladies of Sarah Circle at church, of which my wife is a member, invited their husbands out to dinner and the concert and of course none of the husbands were too happy because it meant we would have to miss the first Big Ten Legends and Leaders play off game. As it turned out we all got home for the fourth quarter to see our Wisconsin Badgers win. They will now go to the Rose Bowl on January 2nd for the 2nd time in two years. Every man that attended the concert agreed that it was great, got us into the Christmas spirit and most importantly reminded us about the true meaning of Christmas. If you have not heard Christian singer/songwriter Josh Wilson, pull up one of his songs on line. I think you’ll enjoy it.

I hope everyone takes time to experience the true meaning of Christmas.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Military Honors

Anyone that has ever served in the U. S. Military and has been honorably discharged is entitled to Military Honors at their funeral. Funeral homes and planners are supposed to inform next of kin while making arrangements, but many don’t. They are normally performed by the local VFW, Am Vets and representatives of the branch of service the individual served in. They are also entitled to a flag.

Not all VFW groups follow the same procedure so I’ll take you through ours. We always bring and set up at least two flags; the branch of service they served in, i.e. U.S. Navy flag and the era flag of when they served, i.e. WW II, Korea, Vietnam, etc. Yes this is done, usually at the grave site and during all 12 months of the year. We try to have six people with rifles, a sergeant at arms to call what we do and a bugler. We line up three across from one another so that the casket and mourners can pass through. We begin at “Parade Rest” go to “Ten Hut” (attention), then “Port Arms” and “Present Arms” just before the casket passes between us. After the last mourner passes between us we go back to “Order Arms”, “Post Arms” and “Fallout”

After we fall out we change location and get in position to fire our three round volleys in perfect unison. It’s supposed to sound like just one shot each of the three times we fire. We line up so that we can fire over the casket or urn. This is a tradition to open a path for the deceased to enter into heaven. We begin at “Parade Rest”, go to “Ten Hut”, “Prepare To Fire”, (just as the flag is completely opened and is being held over the casket or urn), then fire three rounds on the command of our Sergeant At Arms. (we use M-14’s). We then go to “Order Arms” and “Present Arms”. Three seconds after the last round is fired the bugler begins taps. When taps has ended the branch service representatives fold the flag and present it to next of kin with a thank you for the deceased’s service to our country and a slow military salute. At this point we go to “Order Arms”. Two of our VFW members then break ranks and present next of kin with a commemorative coin for their branch of service and another member presents them with a small velvet bag with seven spent rounds in it. Both people thank the next of kin for their loved one’s service to our country and do what we call the very slow honor salute. They return to ranks and “At Ease” is called followed by “Fall Out”. Next we very quietly hunt for spent shells and leave the area for a few minutes before we go back and take down our flags.

It usually takes from two to three hours to do this, including getting there and back. We do not get compensated for doing this and all of us feel honored just to participate in this final tribute to a fellow Veteran.. The thanks we get from the spouses, children and friends of the deceased is worth more than all the money in the world. The sad part is that we do at least one a week and we‘re just one of many VFW Posts throughout Wisconsin and the United States. Thursday we did one for a Korean Era Vet and today we did one for a Vietnam Navy Vet. Doing these is never easy and always reminds me that we all have a limited time in this earthly body, especially when it is someone my age or even younger. I am just thankful that I am still physically able to participate in this final tribute to my fellow vets. Please remember to thank vets for their service and VFW members for the many things they do for their fellow vets and their communities. If you are a vet and don’t belong to a post please give it some thought. The ranks are diminishing as we loose many WW II and Korean Vets daily. You can be against war and still be supportive of our troops who sacrifice so much for this country.

God Bless America, our troops, their families and our vets.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Lies, Lies, Everybody Lies

If you have never in your life told a lie, not even a itty bitty one, then this post isn’t for you because you are either delusional or you have told the lie so often that you actually believe it. If you can read this you probably know the difference between a lie and the truth, but teaching that to young children is sometimes difficult. As Christians we know that lying is a sin and something we are not supposed to do. However, sometimes we try to justify it by saying we lied so we wouldn’t hurt someone’s feelings.

So what constitutes a lie?

White lies, acceptable or not? Supposedly told to someone for their own good and doesn’t really hurt anyone. But isn’t it still a lie? Does this dress make me look fat? No dear, Rubenesque figures are now in vogue.

Is not disclosing all the facts considered a lie? Our current Governor in WI didn’t mention while campaigning that he was planning to do away with the union’s right to bargain. I was told I should have know that by what he did in Milwaukee, where I haven’t lived for 17 years. I cannot tell a lie. I didn’t vote for him and I signed his recall papers.

Half truth’s - intended to deceive by leaving out half the facts, includes some truth, but also leaves some out on purpose. Very similar to the last paragraph.

Lying to manipulate others. Many politicians promise anything and everything to get elected and then come up with excuses why they couldn’t provide what they promised.

Consequences of lying - You could loose your wife, family, job, even become incarcerated and lose your freedom. Oh, and your self esteem if you had any to begin with. Those that think they will never get caught surely are not thinking about consequences. Do any politicians come to mind?

Getting caught and trying to explain the lie. Whoops! Some don’t think getting caught is that big of a deal. They say they’re sorry and promise they’ll never do it again. Don’t bet money on that one. Too many people in all walks of life to list.

Lies hurt both the person telling it, the person it’s about and those it affects. Yes it will catch up with you eventually. Just like all crooks will get caught sooner than later.

Tell me the truth and I won’t punish you and then you do. We better not be doing this with our children or they will be encouraged to tell those lies with the hope of not getting caught because they learn that punishment will come either way.

How many times do we lie to ourselves? Are we sometimes held captive by our lies?

Compulsive liars - a psychological problem. We have to hope that they recognize their problem or someone points it out and get help.

Government lies to protect us or keep us in the dark? After being out of the Naval Security Group for over 40 years I know there are still things I can’t talk about. It’s for the good of the nation. Is it really or is some one or some group just trying to protect themselves. If this peaks your interest then I know you will love my book entitled, “The Coded Letter”, which is going through it’s first edit as I write this.

Some people get so good at lying and are so convincing that many are taken in by them, especially the elderly and those with mental conditions. Nigerian scams, etc.

Lastly are the lies that are in newspapers, magazines, online news sources and on TV. We should all become more aware that this type of information is commonly influenced by who owns the outlet that is publishing or producing the information. So many things are now taken out of context just to manipulate the truth and confuse us. Is it fair? Many in politics say it is because both sides do it. Is it OK to do something just because everyone else is doing it. How many times have your children pulled that one on you?

This was not written to be judgmental of anyone, just to make you think about what you say and how it affects others. I hope it also gets you to carefully evaluate all that you read, see and hear.

Thanks for continuing to read “ Just Connecting Words”

Monday, November 28, 2011

Reddi Wip

Age, up to this point, has never bothered me. It was just a number. I’ll be turning 65 in about two months and trying to figure out how I got this old so fast. No physical problems except for the normal aches and pains that accompany getting older. I sometimes feel like my wife and I are supporting the people that make Ibuprofen all by ourselves. In our minds we don’t even feel old enough to utilize the senior center in our little town. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people joking that I’m older than dirt. Well I am older than a few things, that I didn’t realize I was older than, but dirt isn‘t one of them.

I have been the breakfast cook of the family for as long as I can remember. Due to dietary concerns and common sense we try to limit my big breakfasts to twice a week and special occasions. I have even cooked a breakfast buffet twice for the entire family when we celebrate Christmas together, usually the Saturday before the 25th. Two of the families favorites at home are blueberry waffles and chocolate chip pancakes. A couple of us have even taken to cutting up the waffles and pancakes and putting a squirt of Reddi Wip on each little piece.

What a shock when I found out the other day that Reddi Wip was invented in 1948 a year after I was born. I may not be older than dirt, but I am older than Reddi Wip. After doing a little research I found many things, we now take for granted, that I am older than. Other things invented in 1948 were the Frisbee and Velcro. Passenger jet airplanes and cake mix in a box were introduced in 1949; 1950 brought the credit card; 1951 super glue; Mr. Potato Head in 1952; tea bags in 1953; fish sticks in 1955. I could go on and on, which I’m very good at, but I’m sure you get the idea by now.

Was there a purpose in all of this rambling? For me there was. The next time someone comments that I’m older than dirt I can come back with, “No, I’m not, but I am older than Reddi Wip. I can’t wait to see the expression on their face. It might even get them to think about what they’re older than. What are you older than?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

It's All About Being Thankful

Like most of you I don’t have everything I thought I would have at this point in my life, but I’m sure blessed and thankful for all that I do have. As part of the “Baby Boomer” generation I’m as guilty as most with thinking “I Gotta Have It” and “I Want It Right Now.” How many of us have gotten in trouble following that philosophy? Many of those “wants” are simply that and not something we “need.” I’ve even gotten some things that I really thought I wanted and after I got them didn’t really want them so much. As we sit down to our Thanksgiving dinner we can find at least something to be thankful for because there is always someone who has less than us. I know times are tough for many.

I’m Thankful For:

Family and extended family - especially my wife of 42 years, wonderful kids and grand kids. Extended family that made me part of theirs from the start.

All of my Faculties - Just waking up each morning and being able to get out of bed and take care of myself. My sight, hearing, taste, smell, mobility and a memory that is still pretty good.

Friends both old and new - especially some that have been friends for 40 years and some even over 60 years. The new ones we are making in our new community.

Our Church - Making us feel at home there from the first time we walked through their door. Also the fact that I can worship where and how I want to.

Living in the U.S. - I have so many freedoms and simple things like clean water, safe food and great medical care that I sometimes take for granted.

The Right To Vote

Those In Service
- Protecting me so I can sleep soundly and not worry while I’m awake.

There are so many things to be thankful for that I could go on and on, but the point is that no matter how bad or desperate things seem I’m sure we can all find something to be thankful for. I believe we would be so much happier if we simply learned to be thankful everyday for all that we have. Oh yes, I’m also thankful that I can write what I want to write and post it for everyone to read. Life is Good and I Am Thankful!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Do You Remember November 22, 1963?


John F. Kennedy was shot and killed on November 22, 1963 at 12:30 pm Central Standard Time. I was a freshman at Nicolet High School in Glendale, Wisconsin when he was elected as our 35th President and a junior when he died. It is one of those times, as it is for many, when I can tell you exactly where I was, even though it happened 48 years ago. I was in a social studies class when some one came to our class room door with a note for our teacher explaining what had taken place. I think our teacher read that note two or three times before he told us a great tragedy had taken place. I remember him choking up as he told us that our President, John F. Kennedy, had been assassinated, shot and killed, in Texas.

I remember many of the girls being in tears and our teacher trying to reassure us that we weren’t in any type of danger because he had been killed. Our teacher also told us that we would remain in his class room until it was time to leave at 3 pm, our normal dismissal time. He asked if anyone objected to having a radio news feed come into our room over the loud speaker and no one did. It was probably around 1:30 when they announced that all after school and weekend activities were canceled. The loud speaker came on with the radio feed and the everyone immediately became silent. I also remember our teacher explaining that the Vice President, Lyndon B. Johnson, would be our next President.

I don’t really remember too much more about that weekend except that we were glued to our television sets. We were also off on Monday the 25th so we could watch JFK’s funeral on TV. We went back to school on Tuesday and were off the rest of the week for Thanksgiving which was on Thursday November 28th. I also seem to remember that most of the conversation at Thanksgiving was about the assassination and about the killing of Lee Harvey Oswald, the man accused of shooting John F. Kennedy, on Sunday November 24th.

I still wonder why someone who seemed to have the ability to do so much good died so young. I also think about what might have been if he had not died. Lastly I wonder if, in my life time, I will find out what really happened and who or what group really orchestrated JFK‘s death. Or maybe you believe the conclusion of the Warren Commission. I do know that day will live with me for ever.

If you’re old enough, do you remember where you were on November 22, 1963?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Not Inspired To Connect The Words Today, But

Nothing to offer today except to direct you to another blogger, John Skipper, from Iowa, who writes “The Writing Life.” As I get closer to my next birthday, my 65th, I feel more and more like one of his Haiku’s :

My Mind Is Alive
It Tells Me To Get Moving
My Body Just Laughs

He’s an author, newspaper reporter, columnist and creative writing teacher who gives writer’s workshops. Please check him out at :

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Past And Present


I don’t know the exact age when I started remembering family events, but it was probably when I was about five. Holidays were all spent at Grandma and Grandpa Baumann’s house which was only 10 minutes from our house. It was always there because they were my only set of grandparents. Our family wasn’t very big. There were only my grandparents, my parents, me, my aunt and uncle and two cousins. We always spent the major holidays together having a home made dinner. Easter was ham, Thanksgiving was Turkey and Christmas was German Sauerbraten with potato dumplings. Holiday meals were always served at noon even if the football game was on the TV. No TV tables, we all sat together around their dinning room table set with the “good dishes.” The men wore suits or sports coats and the women dresses and us in our Sunday church clothes.

Then came my high school years when I didn’t appreciate being with family as much as I should have. After a year of college I joined the Navy and spent four Thanksgiving’s and three Christmas’s over seas and away from family. You really don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone. Whoops, another cliché! But this one was true. My wife was in Japan with me for a year and one half and had to spend our first Thanksgiving alone, far from family and friends, while I was out to sea. There were some other Navy wives that lived near us so she had some company and they were all experiencing the same pain of being separated on a holiday. We did get to spend our first married Christmas together in Japan, but far from our parents in the states. We just kept telling ourselves we would spend the rest of our holidays together with our families.

This is another one of those, “you have to watch what you ask for.” November 1970 was our first Thanksgiving back in the states with our parents and we got more than we asked for. You know what’s coming, don’t you? You probably even experienced it. We had a complete turkey dinner at my parents house at noon and another one at my in-laws at five pm the same day. I’ve never been so full in my life. It took us a couple of years, but we did finally arrange a schedule so we wouldn’t be eating two holiday meals on the same day.

Jump ahead to Thanksgiving 2011. We have lost the grandparents and all but one parent and one aunt over the years, but we have gained a daughter and son-in-law with three grandchildren and a son and daughter-in-law with a grandchild. As they say life continues, the cycle goes on and we celebrate with different family members, but pretty much the same traditions. We have lost the German sauerbraten on Christmas along the way, but I might even try to bring that back this year.

I treasure all the memories of those past holidays, miss the relatives that have passed and only hope our children and grandchildren will have fond memories of the holidays we still celebrate together as family. Enjoy the day and make some memories. Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Back To Blogging

The “Scuttlebutt-Jim” blog is back now as “Just Connecting Words”. I’ve finished my book and I’m about half way through the first edit which leaves time to return to writing a blog. Thanks to my daughter for giving me the original push to start one. Some of my followers told me they missed my daily offerings and even asked when and if I would start a blog again. Well I’m back, not necessarily by popular demand, but more as an outlet for the ideas I feel I have to get down on paper. I probably won’t write everyday, only when I feel inspired to share something that’s on my mind. Or in other words, as spirit moves me.

“Just Connecting Words” seemed like a good title because that’s all writing really is. The hard part is choosing the right words and getting those words in the right order. The goal of course is to end up with something that will interest someone enough to read what’s written and then come back for more. Hope some of my writing is interesting enough to do just that.