Monthly Archives: December 2013

How Do I See the End of 2013?

It is with some degree of sadness that I mark the passing of the incandescent light bulb.

Actually it is for one reason in particular – you could understand, and therefore teach others how a light bulb work. If you run electricity through a high resistance wire, the electric energy becomes heat and light.

You could tell your kids how Thomas Alva Edison knew he needed the resistance, and a vacuum would keep the filament from burning out immediately. How, as he tried different materials for the filament, he said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” How Edison then went on to invent many things – how to record sound, motion pictures, medical fluoroscopy and how these inventions spawned whole industries.

How it was this date in 1879 when Edison first demonstrated the light bulb to the public and that one of those basic light bulbs has been glowing almost continuously for 112 years.

How when you add a second electrode to an incandescent light bulb and you have a diode rectifier; add a third, making a triode that can amplify an electric signal – an important step leading to the proliferation of radio and eventually television.

What a great teaching tool!


Can you clearly explain how an energy efficient compact fluorescent bulb works? How about an LEDs (light emitting diode)?

Didn’t think so – me either.

Family Traditions


Not all traditions look like a Norman Rockwell painting. Even more importantly, you never know what events are going to become traditions. Maybe you grew up with the entire family driving to Grandma’s for a particular holiday meal, but after you became an adult, that changed. Maybe Grandma went to Florida each winter, or maybe the family scattered well beyond driving distance.

Today, my older son and his wife invited us over for a marathon viewing of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy (extended version.) I’ve read the books perhaps 10 or 12 times since I first was introduced to Tolkien about 1966, so I’m the Tolkien fan. My older son and I used to spend weekend evenings watching movies at home. Videos fit our budget, and were time flexible. If laundry or cooking took longer than expected, no problem. So it seemed appropriate to do some holiday movie watching together.

Of course, we didn’t just sit there staring at the TV screen. There were sandwiches, gyros and pizza for lunch, cheese fondue and cookies for a snack, as well as a spaghetti dinner. We all peeked at tablets and smartphones as necessary; those who aren’t diehard Tolkien fans did so for diversion, those who are checked various websites for clarification. Why wasn’t Galadriel’s ring corrupted the way the Ring Wraiths were? Did Peter Jackson, the director, show up in a bit part?

Cole was in charge of noting all the “Wilhelm” screams; these are screams originally recorded for an old movie in which a soldier gets bitten by an alligator; later it was used when a character named Wilhelm was shot with an arrow (hence the name). Since then it has appeared in over 200 films. Each of the Ring trilogy films use it at least once.  Cole dispatched his duties not only impeccably but with both style and grace.

We played “pass the baby” so that whenever Lily needed attention, burping, changing, rocking, or whatevering, the pleasure was shared among all participants. However, I have to mention that among all participants, I was the only one whose shirt was color coordinated with her outfit. (just saying.)

Film festivals could become a family tradition. “Lord of the Rings” is probably the l-o-n-g-e-s-t movie series to watch. There’s also “Back to the Future” and “Indiana Jones” for future years, both of which are of more reasonable durations. “Star Wars” IV – VI is a totally different movie than I – III so there’s no need to watch all six in a single sitting.

Family traditions rise and fall. The key is coming up with a great excuse for family to get together and enjoy each other’s company, food, laughter and just being family.

Anne & Paul – great start!

The Day After Christmas

In some parts of the world, today was “Boxing Day” – a day for exchanging gifts.

It’s the feast of St. Stephen – my patron saint, who is believed to be the first to have accepted death rather than denying Christ.

It’s a big day to find the Christmas items on sale for big savings.

But most importantly, it’s a day to move forward, to embrace the blessings we’ve received and to do something good. The blessings of a Savior; the blessings of family; the blessings of a prosperous season.

Christmas Night

What more can be said about Christmas that hasn’t already been said?

Among the gifts, one that many overlook –

A gift whose value is beyond measure.

A gift that need not, and indeed cannot be returned.

A gift that surely elicits the response, “It’s just what I wanted and just what I needed.”

A gift that doesn’t need the label to say, “From:”

A Savior.

Breaking News – We’re Irrelevant!


In the 1970’s, Fleetwood Mac, on their “Rumors” album had a song in which Lindsey Buckingham sang, “I’m just second hand news.” Little did he know that he was predicting the future.

I subscribe to the Virginian-Pilot, my local newspaper. Yes I get weekdays and Sundays, and yes, I actually read it.

I really don’t read the newspaper for the national stories. Everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY, runs the same news service stories. My understanding is that the once fierce rivalry among AP, UPI, Reuters, etc. has been reduced by the consolidation of companies and customer lists.

The end result? I see the same story in almost exactly the same words on CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, ETC, etc. When I see it once again in my morning newspaper, I pass over it and read the stories generated by the local reporters and editors. These local stories tell me what is happening and how it might affect me. The local articles are also well researched, well written and enjoyable.

In the meantime, the on-line internet and on-cable providers continue to run the same material over and over. In some cases, they’ll change its location or even its title, but the same stories can continue to re-appear like zombies in a cheap movie. They try to jazz it up, but even the jazzy statements are regurgitated.

[Starlet’s name] rocks [article of clothing]!

[Starlet’s name] sizzles [article of clothing]!

[Celebrity’s name] did WHAT?

You won’t believe what [insert totally believable item here]!

Bottom line is that online I often encounter the same story in various forms on and off over a month.

So, Lindsey Buckingham – thanks for the prediction.


Everybody sing!!

I’m just second hand news!     I’m just second hand news!

A Bm/A A Bm/A A D E





Being a believer is often inconvenient; there are rules to be followed. What’s with that?

Let’s just look at the Ten Commandments. There a real drag on our lifestyles*. How might these tenets look if they were modern and politically correct?.


1. I, the Lord, am your God. Your other gods are wealth, power and celebrity.

2. You shall take the name of the Lord God in vain only as a sign of frustration or anger.

3. Remember to celebrate the Lord’s Day with golf or football, depending on the season.

4. Your father and mother should honor you. Do not let father and your mother stifle you or negatively affect your self-esteem.

5. Killing is inconvenient and messy and should be avoided, unless you’re standing your ground.

6. It’s not adultery if he or she is really hot.

7. You shall not steal, but loopholes, off-shore dummy corporations and golden parachutes don’t count.

8. You shall not bear false witness, but anything that gets you your own reality television show is okay.

9. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife; instead keep trading up your own wife until you get a trophy wife your neighbor will covet

10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods; either get bigger, faster, better for yourself or else sneak over and vandalize them.

Somehow I think God’s rules make more sense.

*Incidentally, the commandments appear twice in the Bible – in Exodus and later in Deuteronomy – and the two instances use words that don’t exactly match, although the ideas are the same. This has given experts all kind of ammunition to argue, modify or parse them.

Magic and Other Illusions

The Amazing Mumford The Muppets Thanks, Jim Henson

The Amazing Mumford
The Muppets
Thanks, Jim Henson

Magic is wondrous fun – it’s kind of like telling a joke. You lead the audience down a path and at the last moment you make a hairpin left turn.

“That was no lady, that was my wife.”

“Where did that rabbit come from?”

Puppets are great, too, whether the puppeteer is visible (think Jeff Dunham) or not (think Muppets). The puppet can tell someone something off-the wall, like “Did you know you have hair growing out of your ears?” and everybody laughs. If the same guy, the puppeteer said that WITHOUT the puppet, he would run the risk of being punched.

Besides, you get to make up a funny voice and a funny personality for the puppet. It doesn’t get much better than that.

I’ve studied both magic and puppetry; with each, like music, my talent is limited although my appreciation is not. A maestro is a maestro whether it is with strings, woodwind, wand or puppet. You have to appreciate artists and more importantly, their art.

It’s a wonderful world.

Even the Trees Pray


As I walked out to get the morning newspaper, my attention was drawn to the nearby trees.

In the spring, trees have that newborn green of freshly grown leaves. In summer they stand tall and strong, in autumn they display a blaze of colors.

But in winter, it’s different. As I looked at them, it was as if the trees branches were reaching up in supplication. No longer proud but naked, their branches reminded me of hands uplifted in prayer.

We too are often self-focused when we’re young, strong, interesting, attractive. But when things get difficult, we – like the winter trees- suddenly look to heaven and remember that there is a God and ask for His help.

Instead of asking us why we waited so long, or why we ignored Him, He answers us with love.

So What Is Christmas?


Isn’t that the question? What is Christmas?

Whatever you want it to be.

When you look at Christmas, it reflects your thoughts, your wants, your needs.

To a child, it’s a day that will never come. A day of wonderment and, of course, TOYS!

To a merchant, it may be the time of year when he gets his reward for keeping his doors open and his shelves stocked.

To some, it may be the time of year they can count on getting a job – even if only for a few months.

To a Christian, it may be a time of great joy – or even a time in which you wonder why you aren’t feeling great joy.

To a non-Christian, it may just be puzzling.

When Christ was on earth, He did the things only He could do. In other things, he expected His followers to take action – “Give her something to eat.” “Go out and take neither staff nor purse.”

He was trying to teach us to see things the way He did.

Not a leper. Not a despised tax collector or a prostitute. Each a person, loved by God.

This Christmas, look at it and try to see the best you can. A time of caring. A time to demonstrate what Christianity is about. Listen to others. Appreciate the fact that each of us is unique. O not judge.

Then take Christmas as a starting point and carry it with you as we head into the new year.

Trust me. Christmas will be what you want it to be.

Week by Week

Last week at this time I was trying to fit between storms on my way home from my father’s after his death.

Tonight we decided to go grab a bite and our daughter-in-law and grandkids joined us. Our son is currently at sea, so he couldn’t join us. I spent some time playing tableside games with Cole and sometime cradling Lily, the youngest.

What a difference a week makes.

Life is life; life is death. It’s a circle – a journey – a process. The trick is to make the most of each and every part.



Pansy wikipedia


Around here, in the fall they plant pansies.

When I was a kid, “pansy” referred to a weakling; someone who couldn’t survive a challenge.

Yet pansies are planted as a winter flower around mailboxes and around offices to give a little color to the otherwise drab winter.

While it’s true that Virginia winters are not like winters in Ohio, the Yukon or Siberia, it’s still winter. You’re not going to catch me sleeping outside.

I think pansies have not been getting the respect they deserve.

Well, I Hope You’re Happy

I sarcastically thought that a million times – aimed at my parents – when I was a teenager. I may have even said it, although it was either under my breath or well out of earshot.

Well, I hope you’re happy.

Now that my parents are both gone, I say it gladly, proudly and out loud.

I hope you’re happy.

Mom and Dad, I know that you are happy through the mercy of God, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is my prerogative to wish you well – the very best, in fact.

When Scott Carpenter the astronaut died, John Glenn rephrased the wish Scott had given to him.


It’s a wonderful expression.

“Godspeed and God-dwell, Mom and Dad.”

And, well, I hope you’re happy.



No Title Necessary, or Provided

Sorry this is so long. I don’t mean to be selfish, but today I’m writing for me, not anyone else. If you want to know what my soul looks like, here you go.

Monday, my father called my sister and they talked. He was at the rehab hospital; he knew he wasn’t going to get better. The last time she saw him there he was physically in pain and crying.

My father doesn’t cry, except for missing his wife.


By Tuesday evening, he was moved to a hospice. His told her, “Thank you, Sis.” When she walked into the hospice room he was sitting up, looking around with a smile.

His words? “This is nice, like a hotel room.”

His meaning? “This is nice. I could live die here.”

Wednesday morning, about 6:45, I was on the road. One of my ham radio systems allows my car to show up on the map on a computer. My brother tracked it so my dad knew I was coming.

Wednesday, 8:00 PM or so, I arrived at the hospice. My sister had been in for much of the day; my brother stopped by while I was there.

I told my dad that I would be there for him. If I left his side it was to grab something and I’d be right back. He was too tired to pray the rosary, his favorite prayer. I prayed it out loud for him. Afterwards, when he’d wake up, he’s wake up saying the end of an “Our Father,” or a “Hail Mary.”

The hospice people were wonderful. To them, Dad (like all their other patients) was a person whose dignity was to be respected. When he was in pain or distressed, they were there for him and if medication was called for, it was prompt.

The first time I walked into the room while they were bathing him, I got a quiet, polite unspoken challenge. “Do you belong here at this moment? Are you being respectful?” When they realized I was, they were fine. Every one of his needs were attended to. (I know God knows all this, but when I get to be with Him, I’m going to (respectfully) point out how wonderfully these people minister to the dying. I know pointing isn’t polite, but I’m going to proudly point and say, “See that? See that?”)

Dad slept fitfully. The hospice people had set up a cot for me. Clean sheets. Two pillows, Extra blankets. Coffee and tea in the Family Room.

“Dad, I’m going to get a cup of tea.”

“Get me one too.” Because of the various medical issues, the staff asked me to only give him a little using a syringe to squirt it into his mouth. I added two sugars. Usually he likes cream, but when I asked if he wanted cream he said, no. I gave him a taste of tea via the syringe.

My sister’s daughter, who has replaced me as the family medical expert was in an auto accident. Since she’s pregnant, all appropriate family members (yes, including me) were distracted.

I got a few hours’ sleep here and there. My father would mumble from his dreams. At least some of them must have been nice, because he said “it was on sale.”

Occasionally I could stretch out on the cot. At other times, I sat in one of those hospital recliners positioned – just – so – in order to make it for him to touch my hand.

I reassured him that I was there for him. If I left, I wouldn’t be far or long. We were in this together. I couldn’t offer him anything except myself.

He often reached forward as if he could see something there. We hear of a lighted tunnel, and, blah, blah, blah. I don’t know. There was something, or some hallucination, or some whatever in front of him that demanded his attention.

Frequently he would grip my hand. At first it was a firm guy-grip; thumb to thumb, fingers to fingers. I told him he still had a strong grip; my Dad – even now, being strong for me.

I believe modern people don’t bless one another often enough. We leave that to the clergy. Why? Did we subcontract? Do we believe we’re unworthy?

Spoiler alert – we’re all unworthy. Just forgiven and ransomed.

Ten years ago, when a priest friend of ours was headed to Iraq, I blessed him.

A few weeks ago I blessed my father.

I did so again last night.

“May the Lord bless you and keep you;

May the Lord look upon you and be gracious unto you;”

May the Lord let His face smile upon you”

And I bless you in the name of the Father, and the Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.”

As the night went on, when he touched me, he liked to put his hand on top mine. He was the father. He was in charge. He was strong.

But then again, perhaps, he was blessing me.

I told him something my brother and sister had already told him. It’s okay to go.

Okay – I need a side note here. My mother and father were two halves of a whole. Bookends are less matched than they were.

Last night while my brother and his wife were visiting, the door to his room suddenly swung open.

They decided it was our Mom coming to help Dad.

My sister woke up at 03something after a dream in which Mom called her and said it was time.

After so little sleep I asked if there was some place where I could get a shower. The hospice staff showed me where, and I showered and shaved. In the meantime, the hospice staff was bathing my father.

I came back.

I knew what was coming and asked Dad’s nurse that if she saw the signs – to let me know, so I could call my brother and my sister. The volunteer coordinator stopped by and told me that they always honored veterans, but she was afraid that there wouldn’t be time.

The nurse came in to insert a new needle for one of his meds. As she started, Dad opened his eyes, but they were vacant. He breathed here and there, but it was obvious that he was leaving.

I told him, “Dad, it’s okay. You advanced beyond your parents and you allowed us to advance to the next level.” My dad’s father finished 8th grade. His mother 5th. That was the norm at the end of the 19th century. My dad graduated high school, enlisted in the Navy and became a Lieutenant on the Police Department. All of his children have completed college – and then some. “You did your job. It’s okay. You’ve done what you were here to do. It’s okay to go.”

I spoke, quietly. “Eternal rest grant unto him, Oh Lord and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

He wanted me there. He waited until I could be there. My sister brother who had carried the load up until then? He’s our Dad. You can’t put all the chores on any one child.

Nancy had been headed in. I called her. Traffic was crazy. A train stopped at the crossing for a l-o-n-g time. I called Jim. He was immediately on his way.

We think Dad told Mom that this one was my job, she may have had some part in the train-stuck-at-the-crossing thing

When my brother and sister arrived, we sat in Dad’s room and talked about family stuff. He looked at peace. We took a break to let them remove all the medical stuff so the funeral people could take him. While we waited, they cleaned him up, put him in fresh linens, arranged the sheets and, placed his hands on his chest.

We sat in the room and talked. We shared experiences. We laughed. We cried.

If Dad heard us from this world or the next, he knows…

We were family, We ARE family.

(Any grammatical errors, etc. Get over it. Thank you, And, oh by the way, a most sincere, “God bless you.” And I truly mean that.)

You Judge


If I am pro-widget, and I listen to only those commentators who are pro-widget; if I only read pro-widget articles, I am not being intellectually honest.

On the other hand, if I am willing to hear those who are anti-widget, those who are pro-widget-substitute, alter-widget, pre-widget, post-widget as well as pro-widget, I am forced to use my intellect to discern a rational resolution.

Today I found out several significant things.

First, Pope Francis worked as a bouncer at a night club. He also ran tests in a chemical laboratory and swept floors. In addition, after he became a Jesuit, he was the “laundry guy” for his monestary.

Second, Rush Limbaugh has described Pope Francis as teaching Marxism.

Limbaugh’s position on many issues strikes a chord. Personal responsibility? Agreed, we don’t have enough of that. Does competition encourage innovation? Yes. It encourages people to come up with a better product.

But it can also encourages people to “cook the books” to make things look more attractive than they are.

My perspective?

Before I got established I did various jobs that weren’t career focused. Fast food worker? Yep. Library clerk? Done that. Retail sales at the mall? Three different jobs. Bouncer? Sorry, too short, and after working in the Emergency Room, not willing to take on big hostile drunks.

So the Pope didn’t start at the top. Wow. I’m s-o-o-o-o surprised.

There are many entertainment figures who I never want to meet because I am afraid that I would be completely put off by them. I may like their music or movies or whatever, but know that a real life encounter would burst the bubble.

There are a few who I would be willing to meet in person – just to find out what they’re really like. G. Gordon Liddy is one, as is Rush Limbaugh.

Don’t ask me why.

It might be interesting.

On the other hand, I would be both thrilled and terrified to meet Pope Francis.

Thrilled to be encouraged and inspired.

Terrified with what he’d expect me to do.

Life’s Surprises

My son was due back from Louisiana where he visited family and saw LSU football up close and personal.

The good news is he returned with an LSU stocking cap, LSU hoodie, LSU headphones, LSU socks and, of course an LSU collar and leash for the dog.

The bad news is that his flight – due to arrive just after midnight (why in the world did I pick that flight?) was diverted to an airport an hour and a half away. I drove over to meet him; the airline was offering bus travel on a “first come – first served basis.” I didn’t like that idea; first, I would have had to pick him up at 3:00 AM at the local ariport. Second, his mother – the most wonderful person in the world (in my humble opinion) would ask me, “What in the world were you thinking?”

Given the fog, and the hour, I decided my son and I would just spend the night and drive back in the morning.

While there, I received a call from my brother and sister that our father is not doing well. In a nutshell, he’s waiting for God to call him home. I expect to head that way in the next few days after they sort things out. My sister is hoping to let him go back to his apartment with hospice care. If so, I plan on staying there with him until he leaves us.

It’s different, but then again, not different to be with my son and to be with my father when they need me.

Heavenly Father, guide me.


With so much going on, it snuck up on me that today is the First Sunday of Advent – the preparation time before Christmas. I walked into church and was surprised to see the Advent Wreath.

Our priest, Father Brian mentioned that as he was growing up in Western Pennsylvania, Catholics didn’t use Advent wreaths. Advent wreaths were a Protestant custom. In Northwest Ohio, either we did use Advent Wreaths or my memory has decided to alter the past and believe we did.

It really doesn’t matter. What matters is what we do through whatever avenue we communicate with God. Do we place Him where He belongs? Do we look out for those who need our care and support? Do we try to do what’s right even if it’s not easy or popular? However we celebrate – with a Menorah, an Advent Wreath, a prayer wheel, worry beads, whatever – let’s just do some good.

We owe it to each other. We owe it to Him.