Extraordinary Stories

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Friday, December 31, 2010

The "Game of Warri" Story

It was an ordinary day. Just exchanged Christmas gifts with our friends Jerry and Sue. They arrived late this afternoon and we plan to travel tomorrow to Alexandria, Virginia for the weekend. I got a game for Christmas from them. Two years ago the four of us traveled to Barbados for a vacation. Really neat time and as we traveled throughout the island, I saw this unusual game being played by many of the local people. Didn't know what it was called. Found out later from our tour/cab driver that if was called "Warri". Thought it would be neat to have a copy of the game, but never got one before we left the island. Well, Sue remembered that I wanted the game and searched online for it and that is what I just opened. The case, which serves as the game board looks to be made of beautiful mahogany while the playing pieces or round seeds are probably made from Red Sandalwood. Warri is the oldest surviving game on Barbados. It is a pit-and-pebble game that originated in the Sudan over 3600 years ago and came across the Atlantic in the 17th Century with the introduction of African peoples in the Caribbean to work as slaves in the colony's tobacco and sugar plantations. Pit and pebble games are probably the most arithmetical of all games. It is a game of strategy and not of chance. Sugar Island Warri as it is sometimes called or simply - The Game of Houses, is a perfect pastime for persons who like games of strategy .... the Bajan way! It looks relatively simple with the six small compartments on each side of the board and the two large compartments on either end. I did read that you place six seeds in each small compartment and you try to end up with the most seeds in your scoring pit at the end of the board. Now I have to figure out the strategy as to how to get them there. Let you know. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The "Universal Laws" Story

It was an ordinary day. Reading Traveltalkonline.com forum. Always something happening on one of the islands in the Caribbean. When I accessed the forum, it opens with threads about the island that you choose. Once you have opened the forum you can then choose to open People Talk where items related to almost anything can be discussed. I started a thread yesterday about e-readers and which one is the best for the beach. Within an hour I had a dozen responses giving me ideas about the many different e-readers that are on the market. A few days ago someone posted "Universal Laws" which pertain to just about anything. I thought I would share with you a few which seems to affect me the most. Maybe they also affect you.

1. Law of Probability - The probability of being watched is directly proportional to the stupidity of your act.
2. Law of Random Numbers - If you dial a wrong number, you never get a busy signal and someone always answers.
3. Variation Law - If you change lines (or traffic lanes), the one you were in will always move faster than the one you are in now (works every time).
4. Law of Close Encounters - The probability of meeting someone you know increases dramatically when you are with someone you don't want to be seen with.
5. Law of the result - When you try to prove to someone that a machine won't work, it will.
6. Law of Bio-Mechanics - The severity of the itch is inversely proportional to the reach.
7. Law of the Theater - At any event, the people whose seats are furthest from the aisle, always arrive last and are the ones who leave their seats several times to go for food, go to the toilet or leave early.
8. Law of Commercial Marketing Strategy - As soon as you find a product that you really like, they will stop making it.
9. Law of Coffee - As soon as you sit down to a cup of hot coffee, your boss will ask you to do something which will last until the coffee is cold.
10. Law of Doctors - If you don't feel well, make an appointment to go to the doctor. By the time you get there you'll feel better. Don't make the appointment and you'll stay sick.

See yourself in any of these? I know I do. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The "'Mattie' the Workhorse" Story

It was an ordinary day. Working at the Gallery in Neffsville, PA. I have worked at Grebinger Gallery since I retired from teaching in 1999. The owner, Keith, was a student of mine and when he found out I was retiring he asked if I wanted to work for him part-time. My job is to cut mats and frames and put the projects together. Over the years I have had the chance to mat and frame some of the most unusual types of jobs. Military photos with the medals and ornamentation, NFL and MLB Jerseys, golf balls and flags for people who have had a hole-in-one, seashells and sand with photos and the list goes on and on. That's the fun part of the job. During the Christmas season I end up with the grueling part of the job. Cutting mat after mat of the same poster or print for sale at Park City Mall in Lancaster. The first year of so my hands would hurt by December 25. I told Keith I wasn't sure how many years I could do the job. Then he bought "Mattie". "Mattie" is what we call the computerized mat cutter that is housed in unit 12 of the shopping area where the Gallery is located. It does all the cutting for you. All you have to do is program the cutter with the size of the mat, size of the opening and the depth of the mat board. Put the mat on the table, lock in place by hitting the air pressure switch and hit cut. Then you watch "Mattie" do the work. My hands can relax as the cutter does the work. I can now cut word mats with letters on them and add a special design from the book of over 200 ideas. Trees, golfers, stars, anything you can imagine is in the book. During the last 7 years I have found out all the really neat tricks you can do on the cutter to make you job easier. "Mattie" has given me a chance to continue working at the Gallery. And .... I thoroughly enjoy creating the mats and frames for the customers. Keith now lists me on his advertisements as the framing expert. How about that! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The "Tribute to a Good Friend" Story

It was an ordinary day. I was reading "The Dash" which I got last week in the mail from my yearbook representative at Jostens. Every year Al sends me a gift for Christmas as a thank-you for working with him and his company to do the middle school yearbook at Manheim Township. "The Dash" was written by Linda Ellis and dedicated to the life of her father, John William Hicks. "The Dash" is a poem about life and how we live. There are a lot of choices in our lives that we never get to make such as being able to choose to be born, who our parents will be, the country of our birth, and the color of our skin. We also don't get to choose when and the conditions of our death, but we do get to choose how we live our lives. That is what "The Dash" is all about. The poem really made me think about how I lived my life. For when you see in the the newspaper a person's name with his birth date and his date of death, they are separated with a dash. That dash is the time between those two dates that represents all the time you will live on earth. Pretty scary, huh? A little line between two dates is the time you have to live. I picked up the paper when I got home from work today and was looking, as I usually do, at the obits. I was floored!! Oh my gosh, one of my good friends had died! I had talked to Barry only last week asking how he was doing. I knew he was going through Chemo treatments and he told me to stop so we could take a photo of the two of us, since we were both bald now. Barry ran the Tag Shop with his wife Mary Jo and I made photographs, picture frames, stools, and mirrors which he sold in his store. You know, I'm having a hard time writing this. I knew Barry from when we sang together as 10 year olds in St. James Boys' Choir. After the services on Sunday we would hang out in the parking lot on Cherry St. so we wouldn't have to go to Sunday School. We went to church camp together and played summer ball together. I bought carpet for my house from him and two used cars from him when he sold cars for a few years. Barry could sell anything to anyone. He was a real "Salesman". I wonder if he managed to do everything he wanted to do during with his "dash". I'm sure most people don't. Made me think about my life and the time I have remaining in my "dash". I wrote a story about my Bucket List some time ago. I need to re-examine it and see if there are items I should be doing while I still can. Do I have any regrets in my life? Maybe a few. I always worried that I wouldn't find my soulmate, but I did. Always worried that I wouldn't find a job that I loved, but I did. Always worried about raising my kids, but they turned out great. Time to stop worrying isn't it? Doesn't matter anyway. It all works out in the end. Even-Steven! Dear Barry, may your soul rest in peace! I'm sure you'll make everyone in Heaven smile! It all works out in the end, remember. PS - I'm so sorry I couldn't legally reproduce "The Dash" for you. It is very inspirational. You can find out about the book by Linda Ellis at www.simpletruths.com

Monday, December 27, 2010

The "That's A Lot of Bull, Harry!" Story

It was an ordinary day. We are meeting Harry and Barb for supper at the Roseville Tavern on Oregon Pike. The "We" is Carol and I and Jerry and Sue who are visiting from State College for the weekend. I have known Harry and his brother Tom for years. We grew up together at St. James Episcopal Church. Their mom was in charge of the women's group who made sandwiches and snacks for my wedding reception when Carol and I got married. Harry and his wife Barb traveled to Hawaii with Jerry and Sue and Carol and I when Jerry and I retired from Manheim Township HIghSchool in 1999. I haven't seen him since he had his operation earlier this year. Seems that Harry was having heart problems and his doctor had to replace a heart valve. He was telling us all about it as we ate supper. Had to cut open his chest, sawed his sternum down the middle and spread it apart with clamps to expose his heart. Just then my burger arrived. He continued with telling us that they replaced the valve with one from a bull. Yep, a real bull! It was constructed and sewn together by Chinese women. Told us that is why he doesn't eat many burgers anymore, out of respect for bulls. Now Harry can say all this with a straight face, but I couldn't stop from laughing. Carol told me she couldn't listen to anymore because she was getting chest pains just listening to it. He had more problems after the operation when both his lungscollapsed. To hear Harry tell it, it was nothing, but seemed pretty scary to me. We eventually got to talking about his hobby, WWII. He has a very large collection of weapons, uniforms, photos, etc, from the war. He and Barb actually went to France for vacation so he could land on Normandy Beach as the troops did during WWII. Harry had stories to tell about Patton and Eisenhower, as if he were personal friends with both of them. And Barb's maiden name was Doolittle and was related to General Doolittle who was in the Air Force during WWII. Harry was full of stories about WWII. I asked him if he was ever in the service himself and he told me they wouldn't accept him since he only had vision in one eye. Then I remembered when that happened to him. He was working on a car and was hit in the eye by a tool. He worried for a long time that he wouldn't be able to drive again. Then I related to everyone that my dad only had one eye and I never knew that until I was a teenager and found a spare glass eye in his dresser drawer. Then Harry said, "I knew he only had one eye." Needless to say I was surprised with his comment. "How could you know about that, when I didn't even know it?" I asked him. "My mom told me about it." he said. Then I wondered how his mom would know when I didn't even know. Well, we laughed our way through the evening and said our good-byes. Said we have to do this soon again, and I know we will. Laughter is the best remedy for all your ills!! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The "Things Always Work Out For The Best" Story

It was an ordinary day. Frost on the lawn when I went to work. Happens this time of year when the leaves are falling. When we lived on Janet Ave. I would have to scrap the windshield almost every morning from late November to early March before I could drive the car in the morning. Used to hate that. I had a garage at the house, but with three kids, the garage was used to hold the bikes, sporting equipment, lawn mower, and in later years before we moved, my 1987 Corvette. When all the kids were finally out of the house, we decided that maybe we would look for another place. One of my requirements was that it had a garage that I could keep the car in so I wouldn't have to scrap the ice off the windshield in the morning. Maybe even a two car garage so Carol could keep her car in the garage also. Seems that when I did my car, she always asked if I could scrap her windshield. Well we found the two car garage we wanted and in 1996 moved to our current home. Moved in October so we were just in time for the frosty mornings. ONE PROBLEM! Still had to garage the Corvette so my car sat out overnight. At least I only had to do the one windshield in the morning. After a few years, the Corvette started to collect dust while sitting in the garage. Carol didn't want to drive it anymore because of the extremely strong clutch and we only used it sporadically for pleasure drives. Still had to get it inspected, pay the insurance which wasn't cheap, and have the oil changed. So, I reluctantly sold the car to my next door neighbor Hank who had talked to me about selling it to him for over a year. I found that it worked out perfectly since Hank left me drive it any time I wanted to and he paid the insurance and housed the car in his garage. And ...... I no longer had to scrap ice in the morning since I could now put both the cars in the garage! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The "Making It Count" Story

It was an ordinary day. Christmas day. And .... I survived it for the 66th time. Come to think of it, it certainly isn't ordinary. The whole family is here. Son Derek and his wife Barb and son Caden, daughter Brynn with husband Dave and girls Courtney and Camille, son Tad, my mom Dorothea, and my lovely wife Carol. We went to Derek's house early this morning to watch Caden open his gifts from Santa. He was extremely excited, needless to say. At noon, the whole gang arrived and we had a few snacks and opened the gifts. Had a great time. Always did, and always will. Hey, it's Christmas and to top that off it falls on a weekend. You know you only get 52 weekends in a year, so you have to make them count and when a holiday falls on a weekend, that's doubly neat! Well, the gifts have been opened and it's soon time for our Christmas meal. Usual ham, scalloped potatoes, candied sweet potatoes, pumpkin bread, pineapple stuffing, brussel sprouts, cauliflower with butter and garlic sauce, and banana split dessert. Kids finished fast so they could play with their new toys and electronic items. Adults pitched in and cleaned the table and dishes. Time for relaxing and some TV viewing. You know, being it's Christmas and all, you can do just about whatever you want, and it's OK. What a fantastic time we all had. Took my mom home and she was exhausted. Too much excitement for one day for her. Hope your holiday was filled with family, fun, and the joy of the season. Merry Christmas to all!! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - pixs from the top are: Camille and Courtney with their new iPods, Carol reading her new cookbook to Rocco, and Caden with his new electric scooter.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The "Framing ....... According To James" Story

It was an ordinary day. I was just finishing a large framing job where I work. I started this job yesterday and had to wait until Cindy, my boss Keith's wife, had applied a coat of paint to the rear of the frame. We usually don't worry about the rear of the frame since I always place a dust cover on the back before putting the hangers and wire. But, this wasn't your ordinary job. A new customer had brought in two leaves from a Bible and wanted them framed so they were visible from both sides of the job. Created a challenge for me. When Keith first showed be the pages I was overwhelmed. 100% rag cotton linen (instead of paper pulp material) leaves which were about 15" high and 11" wide. I opened one of the envelopes which accompanied the leaves and read the "Affidavit of Originality" that was in the envelope. This leaf is guaranteed to be a genuine original. It is from the First Edition of the1611 King JamesPulpit Bible. This leaf, from the earliest printings of the world's most beloved book, is an unspeakably rare treasure of Christian history. It was beautiful! When I taught school, I had a unit in my Graphics class where we studied early printing methods and early printers. Talked about Johannes Gutenberg, the German printer, and his Bible of 1456 which was printed in movable type on a printing press. First person to use movable type for this purpose. Only printed about 180 of his Bibles. The leaves i was looking at were in "black letter" typeface which was what was used in the 1611 bible. This Bible also was made with movable type and had woodcut illustrations. The pages
were remarkable. Type size must have been at least 24 point. Hard to believe they have lasted this many years. To frame the leaves I cut 2 openings in a piece of acid free B4148 Suedes-moss mat for the front and the same for the
rear side. I sandwiched to leaves between them, holdingthem in place with acid free artist's tabs. I then attached the two mat boards together with acid free double sided tape. I held the pieces up to the light and saw small holes in the paper for the first time. Not quite sure what may have caused that. I then placed a piece of Museum quality glass in the frame and laid the matted job on top of it. On top of the, which would be the rear of the frame, I place a piece of UV clear glass. Now the job was visible from both the front and back. Finished by using framer's pins to hold the glass and mats in place and since the pins were visible, I cut another suede mat of about 1"wide and taped it over the pins. Wow, did it look neat! Going to be a gift for the woman's husband and she plans to display it on an easel instead of hanging it on a wall. Better to see both sides. The cost ........ the two leaves approximately $1,000, the framing approximately $700, and my getting to have the chance to do it - PRICELESS! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - pixs from the top are: sample of a page from the Bible, certificate which tell you the value, and the finished work displayed by LDub.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The "Magic of Christmas: A Pageant" Story

It was an ordinary day. Working at the Gallery in Neffsville. Told Keith, my boss, that I was leaving at 1:30 PM to head to Moravian Manor for my mom's Christmas show that she was in at 2:00 PM. Even at age 88 she still loves to sing in the choir. She gets the center front seat in the choir. Not because she is the best singer, but because she is the senior member, doesn't need a wheelchair or walker, and usually stays awake during the concerts. I got there at 1:40 and headed to my mom's room to put my jacket on her bed. Walked in her room and she was sound asleep in her chair. She woke as soon as she heard me moving around. I asked her what time she had to be ready for the show. "I have to be there at 2:00." I told her I thought that was the time of the show and she said it wasn't until 2:30. I checked my pocket calendar and it said the show was at 2:00. I marked that in the calendar last week when I asked at the desk in the PC unit where mom lives. Oh, well. I have some time to kill. Mom first shows me the TV room and the huge banner that the staff constructed for her. They taped in on the wall under the big screen TV. I could see the excitement in her eyes as she was telling me about finding it in the morning when she went to breakfast. Mom and I walked to Steinman Hall at 2:00 and she sees a few of the choir members and tells me she has to go and prepare for the show. I headed to the Cafe for some ice cream and a soda. At 2:15 I wandered over and found a seat next to Gwen, one of mom's friends. The left side of the auditorium is filled with folding chairs while the right side is empty. Then the staff starts to bring in everyone who is confined to a wheelchair. Unbelievable the amount of residents in wheelchairs. The stage looked great with the panels painted by some of the residents to resemble a house with a lit tree in the corner. Then I took a look at the program and couldn't believe the magnitude of it. The choir is supposed to sing nine songs and then everyone will join in for eight more songs. Before the Nativity Story was presented, staff members entered the stage and removed the painted panels to reveal other panels with the manger scene on them. Now, that drew a round of applause from the audience. Then the Nativity Story began. The Nativity Story had Mary and Joseph, the Shepherds, Angels, and Kings. Each group was introduced by a song with multiple verses and a song or two was thrown in along the way. All participants were staff members of Moravian Manor. By the end of the show I was exhausted. I could just imagine how the residents must feel. As soon as the choir director wished everyone a Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year, the crowd gave a round of applause. Wow, they are awake now. I waited for the staff to return all the wheelchair bound residents, then headed to the choir chairs for my mom. She told me she wanted to go back to her room and sit on her chair. The folding chair she was sitting on for the last 2 hours or more was a little hard on the butt. She did have a great time dressed with her red Santa hat and hearing and singing her favorite carols. But, supper is coming and NO ONE is late for that! I gave her a kiss and told her to call me tonight before she goes to bed. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - Pixs from the top are the sign in the TV room made for mom by the staff, mom singing in the choir (second from the right belting out the song), and the Nativity Story on stage.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The "Christmas In Miniature" Story

It was an ordinary day. Just visited with Jim Mehaffey, a former student, who works for Reese, Lower, Patrick and Scott in Lancaster. They are an architectural firm which has an office about a block away from my house. Their office has to be one of the most beautiful buildings in Lancaster. It resembles an old farmhouse and barn, but was constructed in the mid-1980s and they moved to the building from Lancaster city in 1987. I had Jim in both my Graphics and Photography courses. He graduated from Manheim Township High School in 1991 and went to Penn State to study Architectural Drawing. He did an internship in 1996 with RLPS and has been with them ever since. During my visit with Jim he introduced me to a few other former Township students who also work with him. They all agreed they got a good education at MTHS. Jim shared with them that one of the things he remembers most about my class was that I showed a VCR copy of "Christmas Vacation" right before the holidays. Always was a highlight of my class and the reason why so many people selected my Graphics course! The reason for my visit today was to take photos of the 21st Annual Gingerbread display that the staff of RLPS had constructed in their front window. The name of the display this year is "Peppermint Bay." The entire neighborhood looks forward to the display every year. They stay open a few evenings close to Christmas so neighbors, clients, and the general public can come and visit and see the display. This year the houses in the display were constructed with sugar cubes. Some of the most innovative and interesting ways you can use a sugar cube. Some of the names given to the structures were: Melted Mountain Majesty, Candy Cane Cottage, Amore Capanna (Love Shack), Home SWEET Home, Ho Ho House, Wishing Well Cottage, No Exceptions Mr. Clause and Frank Lloyd White. Also in the display is a train that runs through the village as well as animals, people, a hot air balloon, waterfall, trees and shrubs and vehicles. You can spend an hour looking at the display and still not see everything. We moved into the neighborhood in 1996 and haven't missed a display. Some of my favorites have been: Christmas in Downtown Lancaster, Miracle on Route 30 (1998), SweetLand of Liberty ( 2001 - in honor of the 9/11 attack on NY), Adirondack Snowmen (2002), Nostalgic Noel (2004 - Jim was in charge of this display), and North Pole (2008). Every year Reese, Lower, Patrick and Scott bring the Christmas spirit to our development, Foxshire, with their fantastic gingerbread display. Thanks for the great job!! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - photos from the top are outside view of RLPS, three daytime shots and one nighttime shot of the 2010 Peppermint Bay display, and photos from past years.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The "Hey, Mr. Banjo Man, Play a Carol for Me" Story

It was an ordinary day. Carol and I are headed home from Moravian Manor in Lititz, PA after attending "Our Annual Christmas Party" in the Hern Hut Personal Care unit. My mom resides there with about 20 other people. She is 88 years old and having a great time. One of the few who are able to participate in just about every event that they have. Music presentations, choir, games, speakers, trips, etc. are a few of the events they have for the residents. Today was the party to celebrate Christmas. We arrived at 2:30 PM as the invitation stated. No sooner did we arrive and find a seat, then they started the party. Melissa, one of the aides, had everyone form a circle around her with their chairs and we played a game called "Left and Right." She showed us a small green box that contained a gift. She handed it to a resident and told them that when she started to read the story, they were to pass it to their right. The story began and the box remained still. Melissa had to take the box, pry it from the resident, and hand it to the person on the right of the original holder of the box. She held the story she was reading in one hand and coaxed the box along with the other. When she read .... "and it was left out in"..... she had the person with the box start it back the other way, or to the left. I could see and tell this was going to take forever. Most had no idea what they were doing. Finally, the person to my right happened to have the box in her hand as the story ended. Carol, my wife won the game, much to her dismay!! She opened it and it was 4 cookies! Supper! Next were refreshments. Tough to maneuver all those walkers around in a small space with about 25 other guests. But, we all enjoyed cookies, punch, cheese and crackers and candy. Then the entertainment arrived. "Bob the Banjo Man" stood in front of the group and played and sang Christmas carols. You could tell he had done it before. He involved the residents with questions they could answer and with songs that they could easily sing. And ..... he was really good on the banjo. Most were tapping their foot on the floor or their hand on their knee including me. One resident stood, grabbed who I assumed was his daughter, and started to dance. Bob finished with "White Christmas" and a big round of applause from the group. Just like that the party was over. Some retreated to their rooms while others sat and talked with friends and family. And you know, not a single person fell asleep during the party!! That usually happens, you know! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The "You can call me Father, Brother, or Reverend" Story

It was an ordinary day. Just finishing work and was sitting at home reading the newspaper. Turned the page and my attention was drawn to a color photo of this pretty girl on the stairs. Name was Anna and under her photo the caption said that she was ordained online specifically to perform a wedding ceremony for a close friend. Yea, right! Have to read this story. I just posted two stories on my blog about playing church and having a dream about being a minister. Maybe I really can be one. Seems that more and more people are getting ordained online today. Last year, about one in seven weddings were performed by a friend of the couple. Andre Hensley, president of the non-denominational Universal Life Church, which has been issuing ordination credentials since 1962, estimated that his church has ordained 18 MILLION people. About 3,000 to 5,000 are ordained every month. Takes about 24 hours for the church to process an ordination request, all of which is reviewed by a live person (as opposed to a dead one, I guess). Wow, I really can be a minister. I could perform weddings, baptisms, give communion, give sermons, and even count the money in the offering plate. I'll bet there has to be some kind of tax break for being a minister, also. What the heck, I'm going to do it! Looked up the Universal Life Church on the Internet and right there it was - Get Ordained Online. I hit the "GET ORDAINED" button, filled in my email address, name, and hit the "Continue" button. Viola, the next screen proclaimed me "Rev. Woods". Said I am now an ordained minister and I can take advantage of minister privileges by ordering a certificate to hang on the wall. Iwonder if the State of Pennsylvania will recognize me as a minister. Maybe claim my house as the rectory and not have to pay property tax on it. Hey, anyone need a service performed. Leave a comment for me and I'll be in touch. You can call me Father, Brother, Reverend, or just LDub. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The "Postlude: I Had A Dream" Story

It was an ordinary day. The alarm just woke me. I was in the middle of my sermon. Yep, had a dream last night that I was preaching at St. James Episcopal Church. The part of the dream that I remember started in the back of the church when Father Peck told me that he wanted me to give my first sermon today. He quickly went to the pulpit and removed his notes he had left there. Everything was clear for me. Hey, I just started here at the age of 66. And ..... I'm not prepared to give a sermon. When it was time for the sermon I went to the pulpit and looked down at the congregation. Full house today. I started with, "Good morning." A few minor noises so I said, "Maybe you didn't hear me. I said Good morning!" A loud "Good Morning" arose from the congregation. I hadn't given a sermon since I "played church" on Queen Street. Everyone's still with me. This is a dream, remember. I wasn't scared at all when I started talking. I gave a story of my life at St. James. Told about going to neighboring St. Paul's Methodist down on South Queen as a child and coming to St. James to sing in the boys' choir. Talked about loving to sit in the choir stalls during communion since everyone had to pass me and I got to look at all the cute girls. Also talked about singing with the St. Cecilia choir on the first Sunday evening of the month. This was a girls choir with girls my age in the choir. Ended taking one of them to my prom years later. Was just about ready to talk about graduating to the adult choir when this noise started to ring in my ear. Then again it rang. Geez, it's my alarm clock. And .... I dreamt this entire story. I hope you read my story from yesterday, because the sermon comes before the collection and I didn't get to take anything home from my dream. I believe that writing the story yesterday mentally led me to dream this story last night! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The "Prelude: Playing Church" Story

It was an ordinary day. The service was almost over. Not quite sure what day of the week it was, but I was finishing being the minister at 929 North Queen Street. I lived there with my mom, dad, and brother. We were members at St. James Episcopal Church in downtown Lancaster, PA where I was a member of the boy's choir. I started singing in it when I was about 10 years old. You had to know how to read music before you were allowed to join the choir. My dad was a featured soloist in the choir, so it was only natural that I would join when I could. After a year or two of singing in the choir and going to church twice on Sunday, I thought it would be neat to be a minister like Reverend Batchelder, our minister. So, I started holding my own church services at home. The only people who attended were my mom and dad and sometimes my NanNan (grandmother) if she happened to be visiting with us at the time. My younger brother, Steve, always managed to be in his room or outside when it was time for the service. I would stand halfway up the steps behind the wooden bannister in the living room and read from the Bible, the Prayer Book and direct the hymns from our Hymnal. Had my dad's "Daily Devotions" booklet that I would use to read from for the sermon. Even gave communion using crackers and grape juice. And then, just before the service was over I would pass the small wicker basket that my mom had around for the collection. That, needless to say, went into my pocket! My NanNan always gave me a dollar when she was there for the service. Boy, what a job. And, you got paid for it. Not quite sure why I never became a REAL minister, but I chose a different profession. But you know, the guy who sat next to me in choir is now a REAL minister and has his own church in Maryland. I guess he got more money in his basket when he played church and decided to keep it going. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The "We Named Our Cat After A Cookie" Story

It was an ordinary day. I was talking to my daughter Brynn and she was telling me that Camille, my granddaughter, was having a fundraiser at school and they were selling OtisSpunkmeyer cookies. Wow, the same kind of cookies that my kids grew up on. In the late 80s and early 90s, when my kids were in high school at Manheim Township where I taught, they would talk all the time about the cookies that they had in the cafeteria at lunchtime. The best chocolate chip and sugar cookies that they had ever eaten they would tell us. Now they have to be great because I thought that my wife made the best chocolate chip and sugar cookies. She really does, you know!. I just finished eating a batch of them dunked in milk. Well, one day I finally had a chance to try some in school and they were very good. Really big cookies! They made them fresh everyday in the cafeteria and you could smell them cooking from my classroom which was around the corner from the cafeteria. The kids wanted to know if I could bring any of the dough home so their mom could cook them at home for us. I asked in the cafeteria and they said I could buy them by the box. They would sell them to me for what the school paid for them. A box held a gross and wasn't cheap. No quite sure anymore how expensive they were. They were frozen individual pre-measured units in the box. All you had to do was put them in the oven and heat them up for 18 minutes. So easy, I could do that. We ate then almost every night for dessert. Dipped them in milk and they were great dipping cookies. Absorbed the milk perfectly. I can taste and smell them as I type this! A gross was gone in no time with 5 people eating them. The company, Otis Spunkmeyer, Inc., was founded in Oakland California in 1977. The owner, KennethRawlings took the suggestion of his 12-year-old daughter, and named the company OtisSpunkmeyer. The company originally was a retail store which grew into a few stores and eventually went to just wholesale sales. In 1987 they bought a pair of DC-3 aircraft and put their logo on them and used them to deliver the cookies. Quite a few were and still are purchased for the U.S. Army for the troops. Eventually we grew tired of them and went on to cherry crisp which was made in the cafeteria. in 2002 we bought a Himalayan cat and the kids suggested we namehim "Otis", after the cookies that they were so fond of in high school. And we did. We now have a living, constant reminder of the warm, doughie, sweet smelling cookies we loved so much. Otis is now 18 years old and still never ate a single Otis Spunkmeyer chocolate chip cookie, but he is still warm, sweet smelling, and at times doughie. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The "Fishing, Smoking, and Looking Cool" Story

It was an ordinary day. Just got a Christmas card from my childhood friend Dick W. Dick was in my wedding and we still correspond with greeting cards. Have to visit him someday. Wonder if I would still recognize him. Has to be at least 40 years since I last saw him. Reading the card that came today brought back fond memories of the warm summer nights that I would wait for Dick W. to arrive to take me fishing. Dick was a year older than me and I never really got to know him until I had to take the bus to school in 7th grade. Seems he lived on the other side of Prince Street and I wasn't supposed to be visiting that part of the neighborhood when I was little. That's the side where my friend Jerry lived and I very seldom got to see him when I was little except in school. Well, when I entered 7th grade I got to take the yellow bus to school every morning. Had to walk a block and a half, cross over Prince Street, and wait at Frey's Lumber Yard. They were nice enough to let the 10-15 kids from the neighborhood wait inside in the cold and rainy weather. That's when I met Dick W. We both talked about going fishing and how much we enjoyed it. Then when he turned 16 he bought a 1953 Chevy. It was the neatest car, or so everyone thought. He had wheels and freedom. In the summer after he turned 16 he would pick me up at my house and we would go fishing. Usually 2 or 3 times a week. My parents met him and approved of him so I was good to go. Little did they know that Dick supplied me with some smokes (legitimate ones) when we were fishing. That's when you wore white t-shirts and rolled the sleeves up and kept your smokes in your sleeve. That's what Dick did and he looked really neat. We were COOL! We sometimes fished close-by, but most of the time we went to Safe Harbor Power Plant to fish. You parked and then walked in the guard house to sign your name before you were allowed on the dam. The concrete dam would vibrate sometimes from the power of the Susquehanna River flowing through the gates of the dam. We fished the gates for anything that would bite. Always used worms which we would get the night before from our back yard. If you have never gone worm hunting, you've been deprived of a great time. Have to wait until after dark and the grass gets damp. The worms come out of the ground and you use a flashlight to spot them and grab them before they can get back in their hole. Real fun thing to do! OK, back to the story. At times the alarm would sound on the dam and everyone would have a few minutes to clear the dam before they would open more gates to help generate more power. Weren't allowed on the dam when they opened the gates because of safety. Then the alarm would go again and everyone would return. When it would start to get dark you were expected to return to the guard house and sign out. After I turned 16 and got my 1953 Henry J we took turns driving. I have many fond memories of fishing, smoking, talking about girls, and laughing with Dick W. at Safe Harbor. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - In my wedding photo, Dick W. is in the back row, second from the left with the big smile. I'm sure he's thinking of the good times we had together. He was one of my ushers.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The "Backyard Cemetery" Story

It was an ordinary day. Just buried another animal in the flower garden. Did this pretty regularly when I was growing up on North Queen Street. I can remember the family dog dying and my dad and I digging a big hole in the flower bed and burying him in it. Put him in a wooden produce box that we got at the grocery store. Those are the things you just never forget. I can remember burying my wife's dog a year after we were married in my cousin's junk yard, but that's another story. Getting back to Queen Street, I raised guinea pigs and white mice and they were always dying. Especially when you have close to 60 or more pets at any one time. And, when the guinea pigs are kept in cages in the backyard year-round. I tried to make the cages as warm as I could with straw, but some still could not weather the cold. And, did you ever try to dig a hole in the flower bed to bury something in the middle of winter when the ground is frozen. I got pretty good at it!! The mice were easy, but the guinea pigs were quite a bit larger and I always put them in a shoe box wrapped in a wash cloth. You needed a proper burial, right? Can't see how people can flush a goldfish down the drain. How would you like to be flushed down the sewer? I'm sure that my parents were glad when I gave up raising the pigs and mice. Their flower bed was getting pretty full and then you had the cost of all those washcloths. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - photo is of my dog and I standing on the backyard cellar door on Queen Street. Not sure what happened to this dog.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The "Talk About A Coincidence" Story

It was an ordinary day. Just got an email from Norm. For the last five years I have been following the travel forum "Traveltalkonline.com" (TTOL) and have met many people online who share their passion of traveling to the Caribbean, especially St. Martin. One of those people is Norm Oppliger. We also both belong to "SXM Travel Forum" where we dupe it out for prizes in the photo contests that are sponsored on that forum. A year ago I beat Norm in a photo contest and won a set of coasters from a vendor in St. Martin. We were battling for another contest which featured food photos when the contest was withdrawn from the site. The masthead photo for the SXM forum features photos taken by both Norm and myself. I feel like I know him from sharing threads on the travel forums. Then, Carol and I found that we will be able to travel to St. Martin at the end of January. I saw that Norm will be there about the same time and was having a party for friends of the forum. My problem was that we leave two days before the party. Won't get to meet him in person. So, I decided to email him. Found his home email on TTOL and sent him a letter. His profile on TTOL lists his residence as St. Louis, MO. His wife's name is Betty and he says he is a semi-retired home repair/remodeling contractor. Right up my alley. He has made 14 trips to St. Martin so I have some catching up to do. I also told him about being a teacher in the Industrial Arts area and that we were coming on vacation with another couple and he was also an IA teacher. Told him in my email how sorry Carol and I were that we weren't going to be able to go to his party. Was wondering if we could meet him and Betty before we left. They arrive a day after we do, but are staying for two weeks, while we are only able to stay for one week. Well he replied the same evening telling me he was sorry I would miss his party, but we can meet at 7:30 PM at La Bamba Beach Bar on Sunday evening for classic rock and roll. He told me it's just down the street from where we are staying. If that doesn't suit we can meet at Andy and Cheryl's Baywatch restaurant on Orient Beach any day for lunch. They also will have retired teachers staying with them. And then the last few sentences of his response which took me by surprise: Coincidence - I also taught "shop" for 16 years. Now have stained glass for a hobby along with piano and organ. Let's keep in touch and pick out schedules as we get closer to time. WOW!! Carol read the email and said, "Did you tell him that you enjoy stained glass, also?" "No, but what a coincidence!" I said. Looks like we'll be listening to the oldies or eating lunch together soon. And, I know I will recognize him and his wife because his photo on TTOL shows him with no hair like myself. Can hardly wait. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The "May The Spirit Be With Us" Story

It was an ordinary day. Spent the evening taking photos at the First Annual Advent Art Show at the Parish Resource Center in Lancaster. Carol is the Administrative Assistant for the President of the PRC. The PRC is a place were church congregations or church leaders can come to learn, receive help, or borrow materials that will aide them in their worship. The President, Dave, asked if I could take photos of the art show so they could use them on their web site. I arrived shortly after the show opened at 7:00 PM. Got to meet all the artists and had a chance to take a photo of each one with their artwork. Some had only one piece in the show while others had a full display. The theme of the show was "Longing for the Light" and most had that in mind when they placed their art in the show, but you would have to stretch your imagination quite a bit to fit others into the theme. One artist was a 27 year old refugee from Burma who is being sponsored by the Habecker Mennonite Church. His wife and child are still in a refugee camp. A young girl entered two horizontal five foot long by two foot high panels that were intense blackwith what seemed to be light coming from color on them. One member of PRC Board of Directors, who is also an ordained minister, entered two 16"x20" black and white designs which he made using Wordle on the computer. Pretty neat idea and they actually had the words "Longing for the Light" in them. A fellow in a Washington Redskins baseball cap had two oils that featured candles. After taking a few photos of the great room where the art was displayed I stood back and took a shot of the large poster that Carol made to announce the show. I placed the poster on the left of the photos and the great room to the right. Pretty neat photo. Then I was showing the photos to a PRC consultant who was onduty for the evening and realized that the one with the poster was very strange. There was a face on the poster. You could see a forehead, slight ridge where the eyebrows should be, lower cheek, lips and a jaw line among the words on the poster. WOW! Someone else came to see the show! A Pentecostal pastor was really moved with the frame on my camera and told me he saw a lion's face and told me about an angel who turned into a lion to fight off the witch. Never heard that story before, but I guess he knew what he was talking about. He showed it to a female minister from the UCC Church and she looked at it and said she didn't see a thing. Many thought the Holy Spirit was in attendance to bless the artists. After coming home I downloaded the photos into my iPhoto program and hit "Delete" after it was finished downloading. MISTAKE!! I no longer saw the face on the photo and worse then that, I no longer had the photo on my camera. I have included the photo with the story, but you will struggle to see anything other than a regular photo. The Holy Spirit is off to more meaningful venues than my computer. But, I'll tell you, I certainly was moved! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - Can you see any of the face that was seen by many in the last photo of the story? You know, at times I still can see an image!!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The "It's A Small World" Story

It was an ordinary day. I had just dropped Sally off at her house. I took her to the Parish Resource Center tonight to see the art show they were having. My wife suggested I should take her since she doesn't enjoy driving at night. Sally was my wife's boss when she was the head of the Parish Resource Center. After Sally retired a few years ago, she and Carol and I remained close friends. I still remember when Carol applied for the job at the PRC. She came home from the job interview and told me she was interviewed by the Director of the place. Her name was Sally B. She said Sally liked her outfit and her nails and thought she had a good chance of getting the job. "Does she have a daughter named Renee?" I asked. Carol replied, "How would I know, I just met the lady." The reason I asked her was I had a girl in class years ago who had the same last name, and there can't be many people by that name in Lancaster (Actually Google lists 3 in the country). Well, Carol got the job and Sally did have a daughter named Renee. The same Renee that I had in my Graphic Arts class in the late 80s. Renee was extremely talented artistically and created a calendar of her artwork which she printed on the offset press, assembled, and bound for her project in my class. I submitted it in the Susquehanna Litho Club student printing contest and she won first place. The Susquehanna Litho Club is a professional printer's association in Lancaster and the surrounding area. My Graphics class was the only Industrial Arts class that Renee took in her senior year. I nominated her for the Steven Humphreville award at the end of the year which is given in honor of Steve who was a high school student who died working at a lumber yard. His parents established the award for the senior with the most promising future in the Industrial Arts area. Since Renee had only my recommendation, I didn't think she had a chance to win, but after reviewing the other candidates whose names were submitted by other teachers, she was picked to receive the award at graduation. Renee was the first female to ever win the award at MTHS. Renee entered Rochester Institute of Technology and majored in Graphic Arts. After graduation she worked in the industry, but didn't enjoy the experience because of the unionization of the workers. She then entered Marywood College and got a degree in Art Therapy. She has a studio in Norristown where she now works primarily with children. Still using her artistic skills in her work. Sally, Carol and I visited with Renee a few years ago at her studio, then went to lunch together. We all had a great time reminiscing and talking about what was in store for Renee's new studio. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - photos are from Renee's website at www.alchemyopenstudio.org - check it out and see what she is doing with her artistic talent.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The "Christmas Decorations at LDub's House" Story

It was an ordinary day. We are finally decorating for Christmas. Started about a week ago when our grandkids were here for Thanksgiving. They helped my wife get out the small artificial tree that we place in our family room. They helped her put it together and pull the branches into place and then decorate it with the lights and ornaments. Carol did most of the lights, but she stood back and let the three grandkids put the ornaments on. After they had left, she went back and moved most of the ornaments into a new position. Seems that almost all the ornaments were in the same one foot area. But, the excitement and joy that children have when decorating made it all worth while. Over the next week Carol and I added to the decorations. We set up our nine foot tree in the living room and Carol decorated it with a gadzillion ornaments. Ornaments that have been in the family since she and I were children as well as ornaments that we got last year from friends and family. Then I placed the traditional ornament on the top. An angel that we had purchased the first year we were married. Pretty neat! She finalized the tree decorating with strands of artificial pearls. Beautiful, and it sparkles in the dark. Carol also has collections of Santas which she displays different places in the house as well as a collection of nutcrackers. She usually gets a Santa or nutcracker from someone every year as a gift. Then she arranges one of her favorite presents that she got from her friend Marg. They have know each other since they delivered their firstborns together. Marg made her an entire 18 piece miniature Nativity scene out of a special dough she made. Painted every piece. It is truly beautiful and a fantastic gift. I got our herd of reindeer down from out storage above the garage, plugged them in to test them, had to repair one of them, and placed them in their usual positions in the yard. Ran some lights around the garage door and a few by the front porch and we are now officially decorated! Festive holiday decorations and lights always gets us in the mood for celebrating the birth of Jesus. Hope your holiday decorations gets you in the mood also. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - Photos from the tops are: Carol being helped with the setting up of the Christmas tree by Courtney, Camille, and Caden, Carol working on the decorating of our tree in the living room, some of my favorite ornaments have a beach theme to them, a few of my favorite Santas from Carol's collection, and part of Carol's Nativity that was made for her by her friend Marg.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The "Alexandria, VA: Part 4 - The Torpedo Factory Art Center" Story

It was an ordinary day. Sunday's schedule: up at 8:00 AM, shower and pack the bags. We are in Alexandria, VA for the week-end and enjoying our stay. Carol and I as well as Jerry and Sue traveled to Old Town Alexandria yesterday for the Scottish Parade, shopping, food, and the Light Parade of Boats down the Potomac River last evening. Today we plan to have out final meal in Old Town and head to the Torpedo Factory before driving back to Lancaster. Found a FREE parking space in front of Christ Church. I take that as a sign that our day will be prosperous. Now to find a place for breakfast. Walked a few blocks to King Street and found restaurants on either side of the street. Neither one had eggs and bacon and that is what we were looking for. As we were standing on the corner looking in all directions for an alternate choice a young man walked up to wait for the light to change. I asked him if he was from around the area. Got a negative response. Then I said we wanted a place to eat breakfast. That got a positive response. He told us he worked a few blocks toward the water in a restaurant and they had great breakfast. Even had the eggs and bacon we wanted. We followed him to the Monaco Hotel. Very ritzy! We all agreed we were cold, so let's eat in the Monaco's restaurant, "Jackson 20". Can't be that much! The food, atmosphere, wait staff and price was great. One of the best breakfasts I have ever had. The scones were scrumptious as was the honey smoked bacon, hash brown potatoes and eggs. Got three eggs for the price of two. The price for two was a little extreme, but hey, the atmosphere made up for it. Got to watch the street traffic, since they gave us seats by the window. Perfect! Now, for our trip today. We are going to the Torpedo Factory Art Center which is located along the water at the foot of King Street. The building was used to manufacture torpedoes during WWII. Once WWII ended, production ceased and the building sat empty. Then the US Government used the building as storage for the Smithsonian, Congressional papers, and other stored records. In 1969 the Government sold the building to the city of Alexandria and in 1974 it was renovated to house art studios and to support a community of artists. Really neat building with three floors of small shops filled with every type of artwork imaginable. Got talking to Don Viehman who specialized in contemporary Cloisonne. His jewelry was beautiful. He would start with a piece of silver, coat it with a special enamel and fire it. He then took extremely thin brass wire and make compartments on the piece of silver and re-fired the piece. He then used what he called glass powder to fill the compartments and then fire one more time. The results were stunning. I would have purchased a piece for Carol, but we weren't prepared for the hefty prices that he got for the pieces. I have used a few of the ideas I have seen at the Torpedo Factory for my own artwork, but doubt if I will ever try what Don showed me. He is truly a fine artist. Shortly after noon we walked to our car and headed back toward Lancaster, after having a thoroughly enjoyable trip to Alexandria, Virginia. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - pixs from the top are: Carol and Sue waiting for breakfast, my extra good breakfast, the exterior of the Torpedo Factory, Jerry looking at the explanation of how the factory was established and how it became an art gallery, an interior shot showing the levels of the factory, Don Viehman's glass powder used for his jewelry making, and a pin designed by Don using the Contemporary Cloisonne method.