Extraordinary Stories

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Thursday, March 31, 2016

The "So, What's Up With The Easter Bunny?" Story

Ceramic Easter Bunnies my wife made.
It was an ordinary day.  Helping my wife put her Easter decorations back in the small plastic tub that holds them during the remainder of the year.  Then I began to wonder why most of the decorations have a rabbit theme to them.   What does a rabbit have to do with the death of Jesus on the Cross?  Well, I just had to "Google" it to see.  Seems that the Bible makes no mention of a long-eared, short-tailed creature who delivers decorated colored eggs to those who have been good, or reasonably good, in the time between Christmas and Easter.  Now, I must admit, I did make up those conditions myself, but why can't I when someone else came up with an Easter Rabbit!  Seems that the Easter Rabbit arrived in America in the 1700's when German immigrants settled in my backyard (Lancaster County, PA), so to speak.  
A trio of Carol's rabbits.
They carried with them their tradition of an egg-laying hare called "Osterhase".  Their children would make nests for this mythical creature to lay its colored eggs and place carrots next to the nest for the hare.  Sound like Christmas to you to?  Eventually the general public picked up on the idea and commercialized it while including chocolate, jelly beans (which date back to a Biblical-era concoction called a Turkish Delight) and the whole works to go along with the rabbit and eggs.  In Lancaster we actually have an Easter Bunny that you can visit at the local shopping mall and have your photo taken with him, or her.  
Chocolate Easter bunnies.
I did pass on that this year, but I did take notice that the White House had their annual Easter Egg Roll on the White House lawn on the Monday after Easter.  That first began in 1878 when Rutherford B. Hayes was President.  Remember that guy!  Today, Easter is the second best-selling candy holiday in America, after Halloween.  And naturally, the chocolate bunny is one of the biggest sellers.  That, and the marshmallow Peep made in all colors.  And, guess what .... the marshmallow-flavored peeps are made in Pennsylvania by a company called Just Born.  Easter is named for a Saxon goddess who was known by the names of Oestre, or Eastre, and in Germany by the name of Ostara who is the goddess of the dawn and the spring.  So, you see, Easter is much more than our celebration of Christ's resurrection from the dead following his death on Good Friday.  It is associated to unrelated practices of early pagan religions.  Easter history and traditions that we practice today evolved from pagan symbols, from the ancient egg-laying hare called "Osterhase" to the ancient goddess called Eastre.  Wow!  And I thought Easter was about the death and resurrection of Christ!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The "A Swing And A Prayer" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Naturally, watching a ball game on TV.  Guy hits a home run and as he crosses home plate he looks up and points toward the sky.  I'm sure you've seen that before if you are a sports fan. Just doesn't happen in baseball, but in all sports and at all levels.  I saw a few little leaguers pointing toward the sky during last year's Little League World Series.
The original film clip of Babe Ruth pointing toward the fence.
Was it to ask for help in his at bat?  He did hit it over the fence.
Exactly where he pointed!
Did all this heaven pointing actually begin when Babe Ruth made a pointing gesture in the fifth inning of Game 3 of the 1932 World Series.  During that time at bat it looked as if he was pointing toward the outfield fence, but could he have been asking for divine power while pointing toward the fence?  Could he have been the first person to ask for divine intervention while playing sports?  I guess we will never know, but today's athletes are definitely pointing to the heavens to offer hope or a "Thank You" for a good hit.  
Baseball player pointing after getting a hit.
Used to be that athletes were sensitive about their faith, but that has begun to change.  More athletes are willing to share some of that side of their life with the public.  I believe that some overdo it with all the fist pumping toward the sky or the kisses they send towards the heavens, but that's my opinion.  I can remember playing baseball for many years and saying a little prayer when it was my time to bat.  
Soccer player pointing and looking skyward after a goal.
Never asked for a particular type of hit, like a home run, but did pray that God would help me to do my best and if my best was to strikeout, well I guess the pitcher must have prayed harder than me!  I can remember seeing pitchers, before they stepped on the mound to begin pitching, bow their head in prayer, cross themselves and then prepare to pitch to the batter.  Do they do better because of what they have done?  Perhaps not, but maybe they would have done a whole bunch worse if they hadn't said their prayer.  I recently read a story about our local professional baseball team, the Lancaster Barnstormers.  
Even golfers give thanks for a good shot.
Many of the players belonged to a Bible study group that met a few times a week during the season.  Being away from family and friends and on the road half of the season can take a toll on anyone and the players use the Bible study group to help them get through the tough times.  The article also told of a few players who through different ways would  ask for God's help.  One pitcher said he had a quote that he would say just before he began pitching when he quietly said to himself, 'Do your best and let God do the rest.'  He had the quote on a little card that he had in the inside brim of his hat and looked at it regularly.  At the end of the day he said, "You got to remember 'He's' the one that gave you the athletic ability."  What's your take on all of this?   It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  

PS - For many of my readers from countries around the world who may not be Christians, but of another faith, I suppose there may be ways that your athletes pay tribute to their higher being just the same as Christians do with the finger pointing.  I suppose they too do it for much the same reasons as my story mentioned.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The "Memories of Neighbors Past" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Talking about all the new neighbors we have.  Seems that many of the neighbors that we got to know after moving into our "Beach House" have departed.  Hank, our next door neighbor to the south, who would do just about anything for you, moved because of business, but then shortly after moving, died.  Next to him were friends who we would talk with most every day as they walked their dog past our house.  Now they have departed the neighborhood.  Across the street to  the front of our house lived Jackie and Bill.  Great neighbors whom we shared dinner with many times.  
Photograph of our "Beach House" that our neighbor Bill
took one snowy day years ago.  
Bill became ill and they had to move to a retirement community.  Then Carol and I began to talk about all the neighbors we had when we lived in the neighbor- hood known as Grandview Heights.  We lived in a semi-detatched home on a tree-lined street.  Next to us in the house that wasn't attatched to us lived Frank and Alice.  Frank was a short, frail man who was more than twice my age.  He loved to talk of the "old days" with me.  He had no time for neighbors who didn't take care of their properties.  He would often tell me that so and so's house looks like a whore house.  Frank passed and we sort of adopted Alice as our grandmother, inviting her to holiday dinners and events.  More than once I recall having to walk next door to her house to retrieve her teeth so she could share dinner with us.  Alice had a 1955 Buick sedan that she would allow me to drive.  Neat car that reminded me of my Grandpap's car.  Next to Frank and Alice, in the other half of their semi, lived Blanch and Bill who were about the same age as Frank and Alice.  Bill was disabled, but still had enough energy to curse at Blanche on a daily basis.  Bill eventually died and I ended up doing repair work for Blanche until she too died.  Behind us lived a family who had relocated from Viet Nam.  The father had been a General in the South Viet Nam Army.  Great family, but I do remember one time when Carol and I decided to throw away quite a few items and placed them in the rear alley for the trash man.  The following weekend the neighborhood held a yard sale and while walking past the rear neighbor's house, we noticed all our trash for sale in their yard. Our final neighbors whom we recall lived in the other half of our house.  I have so much I could write about them, but one event will give you an idea about them.  Fred hated to do work of any kind around the house.  One time they decided to play croquet in the rear yard.  They got out the push mower, mowed a croquet route through the foot high grass and put up the wickets.  I think you have an idea how well they kept their half of the duplex.  Memories are fun to share.  Living those memories at times were stressful, but as I look back on them now, I don't think I would have wanted it any other way.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.    

Monday, March 28, 2016

The "Forgetful Disease" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Can't find what I did with my glasses.  I know I took them off a few seconds ago so I could begin typing this story, but can't remember where I put them.  Now, for many, it's no big deal when you can't remember something, but for others it can be devastating.  For me ... well I seem to be able to always find my glasses, but … I often wonder.  I'm sure most of you have heard of dementia.  Just in case, it is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life.  Memory loss is one example of dementia with Alzheimer's being the most common type of dementia.  When my mother and father reached their mid-80s I could see they were more forgetful, but not to the point that it totally interfered with their daily life.  Dad's memory remained fairly strong until his death at age 87 while mom tended to repeat herself many times, not realizing she was doing it.  She did enjoy doing word search until she died at the age of 90.  Recently, in the local paper, there was a story about a fellow who, at the age of 57, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.  
A visual from Harry Urban's website.
He knew he had it, but knew he couldn't stop it from happening.  He knows what his future will hold, but doesn't know if he will ever realize it when it happens.  Harry Urban has several Forget Me Not groups on Facebook as well as talking at nursing homes with people who also have dementia.  Every couple of months he goes to the local hospital where he addresses those who are just now finding out they have Alzheimer's.  He writes a blog that you can visit here: http://www.mythoughtsondementia.com/index.html.  (I found the link may not work at times, but you can copy and paste it to reach the blog)

As for me,  I think often what it would be like to experience dementia.  It only drives me harder to keep my mind active and participate in as many new and exciting experiences as possible.  I find laughter is the cure for so many things in life and try to practice it often.  Today I was making a visit to our local library and as I walked into the building came face to face with a slim children's activity book titled "The Unforgettable Adventures of Grandma's Cape."  
Cover of Activity Book written by Joel Kroft
and illustrated by student Gabrielle Hoffman.
One of our local retirement communities partnered with the Pennsylvania College of Art & Design to produce a children's activity book geared to teach them about an issue that could perhaps affect one or more of their grandparents.  The activity book tells the story of a child's relationship with a grandparent and how it changes because of the "forgetting disease."  Grandparents are held in such high regard and a life-changing disease such as Alzheimer's can be hard for a young child to understand.  The activity book is meant to help with understanding the disease for the child.  
One of the inside sections.  Click on to enlarge.
The author of the booklet was Joel Kroft and senior Gabrielle Hoffman was chosen as the illustrator.  The story deals with Grandma who at times forgets about her cookies in the oven and often looks scared and sad.  She had to go to see some doctors and the little boy in the story asked her if she wanted his cape.  That made her smile.  The booklet tells children how the brain can be changed by dementia and how they can help Grandma cope.  Neat book for children ... and I found that I enjoyed it also.  None of us know if or when we may at some time be diagnosed with a debilitating disease such as Alzhemer's, so we just have to live our lives to the fullest while we can.  I know I'm trying to take my own advice!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.   


Sunday, March 27, 2016

The "A Cross To Bear" Story

It was an ordinary day.  And … A Happy Easter to everyone who celebrates this Christian holiday.  I recently traveled to nearby Columbia, Pennsylvania and discovered a rather unusual "find" in an antique shop along the Susquehanna River.  It was what appeared to be a crucifix from a forgotten church.  
Inside of the antique store in Columbia, PA.
I took a photo of it  as it appeared in the store and then tried a few other angles of the crucifix, knowing I would use it for the main photo on my Easter story.  Just loved the carved crucifix and the lighting I was able to get from the overhead ceiling lights.  Well, after family members have been to Easter services today, they will begin to arrive for Easter dinner at our house.  We expect a dozen people for our annual ham dinner which consists of baked ham, scalloped potatoes, candied sweet potatoes, browned carrots, grape salad, pineapple stuffing, cranberry sauce, potato rolls and Carol's Banana Split Dessert.  The family dinner always begins with a prayer that has been taken from my father's little prayer book titled "Grace Before Meals" for as long as I can remember.  

Directly inside the book is written Paul H. Woods, Christmas 1962.  The book has been used hard over those 54 years that he has owned it.  For years he read the prayer for the day and when he passed a few years ago, I began to read the prayer.  Every so often one of my grandkids will read the prayer, but they are getting "too old" for that now, so I have taken over once again.  The booklet is a daily prayer book with extra prayers for special occasions.  Needless to say, this is a special occasion and the prayer will go like this today:  This day, O Christ, we celebrate Thy victory over death.  Bring to us new life of body through this nourishment, and new life of soul by Thy presence with us now an help us to say with Thy servant of old, "Thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord."  Amen.  From my family to your family, we wish you a Joyous Easter.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The "The Corner of Third and Bohemia" Story

I'm holding the paw of the black Newfoundland.  
It was an ordinary day.  Down on one knee petting one of the biggest dogs I have ever seen.  I gently took it's paw into my hand for a quick photo, then petting it before snapping a photo of it laying by the checkout counter in the Black Swan Antiques Shop in Chesapeake City, Maryland which is located on the northwest corner of Third St. and Bohemia Avenue.  
I have written many tales about Chesapeake City and the houses, shops and restaurants than make this small town in Maryland such a neat place to visit.  Chesapeake City was formerly incorporated in 1850, but began years before that when a canal was begun to connect the Christiana River in Delaware with the Elk River in Maryland.  Carol and I discovered the town in the 1970's when we began to go on yearly vacations along the Elk River with friends Sandy and Gary and our children.  The store that I am standing in, next to the huge furry mass on the floor, is one of the oldest in the town.  
The left side of the store is Toys in the Attic while the
right side is the Black Swan Antique Show.
It was built, as far as I can determine, sometime in the late 1850's and housed the I.O.O.F. which is the Indepen- dent Order of Odd Fellows.  The Cecil County, Maryland Odd Fellows Lodge No. 68 was chartered on February 13, 1850, thus making it the oldest lodge in Cecil County and the second oldest in the state of Maryland.  Trying to trace the history of establishments which have called the building home since that time has been fun and at times nearly impossible.  
1920 photo of the Bryon Bouchelle General Store.  Harry
Bouchelle is the man in the center in black with arms folded.
I have a photo of the building that was taken in the 1920's when it was the Bryon Bouchelle General Store which was established in 1896 at the location.  Since that time I have been able to determine, through word of mouth from residents of the town, that it has also been a Hardware store, Ice Cream Palor, Laundromat, Paint Store, and Bungard's Grocery Store.
The corner at Third and Bohemia as a paint store.
 Today it houses Black Swan on one side and Toys In The Attic on the other side.  Behind the storefront, an open courtyard once housed a wagon shop, paint shop for wagons and carriages, blacksmith shop and today ... garages.  When first built, the second floor of the building served as the practice hall for the Chesapeake City Town Band.  
The Chesapeake City Band.
The band played at local events and serenaded visitors on steamboats which stopped at the Chesapeake City dock.  A few published reports of the quality of the band music said that it was "difficult to dance to" with reports that the "enthusiasm exceeded the skill" of the band members.  When the band ceased to operate I have not been able to determine.  Well, my friend has decided to go to sleep so I feel it is time to depart and find my friends whom are visiting another store in Chesapeake City.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.


Friday, March 25, 2016

The "Phew! It's The Dead Smell Again" Story

It was an ordinary day.  My wife had just walked out of our laundry room holding her nose and saying, "Phew!  It's the dead smell, again!!"  
The little decoration inside our rear door tells it all!
For years we have entertained a variety of critters that enjoy making visits to our rear deck to sample the edible fare that fills the ceramic dish on the deck.  Both Carol and I love animals and can't bear to see them starve to death.  Well, I'm afraid it has finally happened.  Sometime in the past week or so, one of the critters must have starved to death directly under the deck that runs the length of our "Beach House."  Might have been a raccoon, skunk, cat, but more than likely was an opossum that kicked the bucket.  Only half of our home has a basement, since the area where our house is located was at one time a quarry and made it impossible to blast and make a basement under the entire house.  The area that has no basement has crawl space under it with metal grates placed around the area for ventilation.  And ... that area is under our  family room, kitchen and laundry room.  Also attaches to the other part of our basement through a small door than can be opened to allow one to crawl in the crawl space.  Imagine that!  Anyway, have you ever smelled a dead animal?  We have!  And, it reeaaallllyyyyy smells!!  Really gross smell!  And, we have 11 guests coming for Easter Dinner.  
"Larry" is one of our visitors who
stops to eat on a daily basis.
For years we have had a air purifier in our basement to remove any odors from our kitty litter box which we keep in the basement.  Works great.  But the odor that comes from the dead animal, through the grates of the crawl space, through the miniature door and into our heating unit, that pushes the odor through the vent in the house, is horrendous.  What to do?  I unscrewed the small door to make sure nothing had dislodged a grate and entered our crawl space, but found nothing.  So, I placed the air purifier directly under the door, in the furnace room, and turned it on high.  Surprisingly, it has worked.  Kind of!  At times we get a whiff of dead animal smell, but it does go away.  We "Googled" dead animal smell to see how long we can expect the smell to last and it all depends on the outdoor temperature, weather, season of the year and the size of the animal.  Could take weeks!  We are hoping that the odor from the Easter ham, sweet potatoes, scalloped potatoes, pineapple stuffing, etc.  will overpower the dead animal smell and make for an enjoyable Easter dinner.  If not, we may have plenty of left-overs.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The "The Geese Have Departed For Places Unknown" Story

Middle Creek Wildlife Preserve Visitor's Center.
This photo was taken from their website.
It was an ordinary day.  Watching a small flock of snow geese at the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in nearby Cocalico Township.  Populations of snow geese, which were somewhere close to 50,000 birds in the mid-1960s, has now grown to approximately one million birds in recent years.  
A view from today's trip to the preserve.
A large majority of these birds pass through Middle Creek preserve during their spring migration from south to north as they seek cooler weather.  Last weekend the local newspaper reported close to 65,000 snow geese were making a stop at Middle Creek.  Carol and I hopped in the car today to make a voyage to Middle Creek, about a half-hour drive, to see the geese.  What a sight they are as they cover the sky in the distance, making it look as if it is snowing.  As we approached the area today we realized we waited too long to make our trip, since we saw very few snow geese.  We made a visit to the Visitor's Center and talked to one of the game wardens who told us that they had reports of perhaps 5,000 snow geese today and after getting a driving map and directions from the game warden, hopped back in the car to see if we could find them.  
A photo I took years ago of the thousands of snow geese.
Middle Creek is a 6,254-acre facility which was created in 1973.  It is home to pheasants, deer, bluebirds, eagles, egrets herons, and thousands of ducks, geese and swans that make a stop during migration seasons.  A 360-acre lake is part of Middle Creek and provides an area for the birds to gather.  
Photo from today showing a decrease in flock size.For 
Carol and I drove the interior roads of the wildlife preserve and did manage to see a few flocks of snow geese as they were feeding in the fields and swam in the lake.  Middle Creek is in danger of closing at present due to a budget impasse in the State of Pennsylvania.  Middle Creek is run almost entirely on fees paid for hunting licenses and the cost of a license hasn't increased for 17 years.  The Game Commission has been in a bind because the state Legislature has refused to raise hunting fees.  Monies from the state have not been flowing into the preserve, so it may have to lock it's gates and close the visitor's center to the public.  The facility costs $1 million to run each year and is designated as a globally important bird area by the National Audubon Society.  What a shame it would be to close the preserve and deprive people of all ages from experiencing wildlife firsthand.  Hopefully funds can be found to continue the preservation of the area.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The "The Importance of Limin'" Story

Lime kilns in Wrightsville, Pennsylvania
It was an ordinary day.  Jerry and I are walking in front of the lime kilns in Wrights- ville, York County, Pennsyl- vania.  Neat old stone and brick kilns that were used for burning limestone and turning it into lime.  The lime was then used for fertilizer, white-wash, plaster and even a deodorizer for the outhouses of the surrounding area.  Behind the kilns was once a quarry where workers would dig the limestone needed to burn in the kilns.  
This old photo shows the nearby quarry where the
limestone was taken for use in the kiln.
The quarried limestone was also used, along with coal and iron ore, to make pig iron in furnaces at the nearby Aurora Furnace that is located just north of the lime kilns we are standing in front of right now.  In order to make lime, limestone is crushed and loaded along with a load of coal into a tapered, stationary, vertical, refractory lined tube with a wider bottom permitting the free downward movement of the materials.  It is burned out with hot air at a temperature of 2000 degrees to make calcium oxide or what is known as quick lime.  After cooling, the lime is crushed into the powder form.  
A closer look of one of the kilns.
In the late 1890's there were five different sets of kilns operating in the Wrightsville area and York County, PA was known as the largest lime producer in Pennsyl- vania.   A common feature of early kilns was an egg-cup shaped burning chamber with an air inlet at the base, constructed of brick.  The limestone was crushed to a uniform size and successive dome-shaped layers of limestone and coal were built up in the kiln on grates.  When the loading was complete, the kiln was kindled at the bottom and the fire gradually spread upwards through the kiln.  When burnt through, the lime was cooled and raked out through the base.  It would probably take about a day to load the kiln, three days to fire or burn, two days to cool and a day to unload.  
Advertisement from a local paper in 1855.
Standing in front of the kilns was a placard that gave the history of the lime kilns as well as a few very old and hardly recogniz- able photos of the area in the mid-1800's.  Included on the placard was an ad from a local newspaper that listed Superior White Lime for sale.  It told of a subscriber who had opened a quarry of limestone and erected kilns for burning the lime in the borough of Wrightsville.  It said it was suitable for building, plastering, and other purposes in quantities to suit the buyers.  The ad was dated Feb. 22, 1855.  I'm positive many people have never seen a lime kiln or have ever heard of how lime is made from limestone.  Our experience today gave us a better idea into the making of the product in Wrightsville and of its use for the general public.  A little piece of Americana visited today.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The "How To Downsize" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Reading an online version of AARP Magazine that lists 12 items that I need to ditch if I plan to downsize.  Carol and I have been talking about just that thing for over a year now.  Yesterday in the mail was an invitation to dinner in Lititz, Pennsylvania at the Moravian Manor downtown office.  A little over a year ago Carol and I visited the office to talk with someone about the new campus that they are beginning to develop.  I went to a dinner one day to hear their spiel, but Carol couldn't make the meal and presentation because she was needed at work.  Well, the same dinner/talk is being offered once again and …. hey, it's a free meal!  Years ago we often joked that we could avoid buying groceries for weeks at a time if we went to all the open houses and presentations that were offered in the mail from retirement homes and retirement planners.  But, to go along with the joking can the thoughts of what to do with all the "stuff" we have.  Just how do we downsize.  Recently I wrote about the boxes and boxes of old magazines I placed by the curb for the recycle company.  That happened to be one of the items that was in the AARP article I viewed this morning.  A few other ideas they gave to "senior citizens" was:

  • Consider getting rid of the big house and moving into a smaller one.  Would save money for taxes, utilities, insurance and repairs as well as less hassle mowing and shoveling snow for a smaller property.
  • Pay off your debt as soon as you can.  Do you owe thousands on credit cards?  So you still have a mortgage?  The last question is one that I'm not sure of, since our financial advisor suggests not to be in a hurry to pay off a mortgage.  If the rate of interest is low enough on a mortgage, it may be best to take any extra money you may want to put towards and extra mortgage payment and invest it another fund where you will gain more interest than the mortgage interest may be.
  • How about getting rid of some clothes.  
    Hats I'll never wear again.
    We have two large cedar chests that I had made years ago when I taught in the high school woodshop.  They are filled with clothes!  Not my clothes, but with someone else's clothes!  And, how about the boxes of clothes that are in our cedar closet.  Stuff that has been out of style or will never be worn again line the racks in the closet.  Great way to downsize!
  • In the garage is shelf after shelf of old small kitchen appliances.  We have a really neat bread maker that we haven't used in 20 years.  We have two crystal punch bowls that we haven't used since we moved into our "Beach House" and had an open house.  May be time to pass these items on to our next of kin or try and sell at a garage sale.
  • And then the stuff in the coat closet that hasn't seen the outdoors in years.  Scarves, gloves, jackets that were at one time in style and now occupy a hanger in the closet.  More stuff for the garage sale.
  • A few years ago I actually did what the article suggests and got rid of some of the memories of the past.  
    Books I never use again.
    For years Carol and I owned a bright red Corvette.  Every weekend in the summer my youngest son, Tad, and I would enter a car show somewhere in the area.  Every week they would give everyone a small trophy for entering the car show.  They really accumulate!  Plus the shows where we would place 1st, 2nd or 3rd would give out larger trophies.  Some were floor models.  I did keep one large one, but the rest I donated to Good Will who recycle them.
  • Then there is the old furniture that still is usable or the exercise equipment that sits in the basement waiting to be used.  The furniture is tough to get rid of, but I did advertise in the newspaper in the "Free Stuff" section and we did get rid of a few rusting exercise pieces.
  • And, what about the Christmas decorations that haven't been used for years and years.  Well, they tend to be placed back in plastic tubs for future use.  Some things are just hard to discard.  We did move our decorations from an upstairs closet to the basement this year to make it easier to reach when we downsize.
  • Once a year I go through my office and try to reason with myself that I'll never use that again or that hasn't worked for years, so why save it.  
    Bottles that at one time held rum,
    but now hold sand.
    All depends on what kind of day I am having as to whether I throw stuff out or not.  I have an entire drawer full of old camera lenses that are just too hard to get rid of.  And all those old books that tell a Dummy how to use this or that.  I just may use them one day since I will still will be a dummy in the future.  The dictionary, or I should say dictionaries, haven't been opened in years since it is easier to Google a word.  But, the old flowers and mementos from events in the past fill some of the spaces in the books and I certainly want to keep them.  Why?  I don't know!  And all those Ma DouDou Rhum bottles filled with sand from beaches in my past travels.  Hey, they are pretty neat and someone else will have to downsize them in the future, since I don't think I can throw them out.  Oh yeah, there sits my harmonica that I bought years ago, planning to learn how to play so I could accompany Jimmy Buffett on my CDs.  Too tough to downsize that!
  • But, there was one final item that AARP suggested downsizing, and that was the family car or cars.  Does your family really need two or three cars?  Do you and whomever lives in your house with you both work?  Why do you need both, or in some cases, all those cars and trucks?  They cost for insurance, in some case state inspections, registration, and maintenance.  And that stuff isn't cheap in most states or countries.  Maybe time to narrow it down to just one vehicle.  I thought of that when my car died recently.  I decided on a short term lease with a real small payment.  Would make it easier at the end of the least to maybe downsize at that time.  
If you are a senior citizen, such as me, have you found any ideas at all from my story today.  You know, you will have to do something at some point in your life.  The best way to not have to downsize later in life is to get rid of the stuff that you would put in a closet or store in a chest immediately.  When you put something in a drawer thinking you may want to use that in the future, toss it instead. I can tell you that you will never use it again!  I know from experience.  Boxes, cabinets, drawers, etc. of ordinary stuff fill my house.  Time to discard it!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Monday, March 21, 2016

The "A Tale Of Love And Death" Story

St. James Episcopal Churchyard
It was an ordinary day.  Just snapped the last of my photographs of the tombstones that are in the churchyard of the St. James Episcopal Church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania which mark the graves of sisters Ann and Sarah Coleman who both died very mysteriously six years apart in Philadelphia in the early 1800s.  The Coleman family were members of St. James and both sisters were known because of the relationships they had with famous members of the community.  First, I should tell you that Mr. Robert Coleman, an immigrant from Ireland, was employed by Peter Grubb who owned Hopewell Forge, a very successful iron furnace.  
Gravestone of Robert Coleman.  Click on to enlarge.
Eventually Mr. Coleman became manager of Elizabeth furnace which was the former property of Baron Stiegel.  Wasn't long after that he became the most successful ironmaster in Lancaster County, owning the ironworks at Martic Forge which was located next to where my wife, Carol, spent her childhood.  Mr. Coleman was an officer in the American Revolution, a member of the General Assembly in 1783, a member of the Pennsylvania convention which ratified the Constitution, a judge of the Court of Common Pleas and an influential vestryman at St. James as well as a very liberal contributor to St. James.  And, he was a very controlling father!  Seems that his daughter, 23 year old Ann, became involved in a romance with 28 year old lawyer James Buchanan.  Every hear of him?  Well, James and Ann fell in love and he proposed marriage to her and she accepted.  When Ann's father found out about the engagement, he did all he could to stop her from making a "mistake".  He also filled his daughter's head with ideas that James only wanted her for her money.  Because of James' law business responsibilities and his political ambitions, he was able to spend very little time with Ann after the engagement.  
Gravestone of Ann Coleman.  Weather has taken its toll
on this gravestone, making it hard to read.
She heard unfounded rumors of his disloyalty to her, eventually broke off the engage- ment and traveled to Philadel- phia to visit with relatives to get away from Lancaster and all the turmoil.  While there she died of a suspected overdose of laudanum at the age of 24.  Her death was speculated to have been a suicide.  Mr. Coleman forbade James from attending the funeral of his daughter, since they blamed him for her death. Because of the loss of Ann, James never fell in love again and remained a bachelor throughout his life, including his stay at the White House as President.   As for daughter Sarah, the younger sister of Ann, she became enamored with the minister of St. James Church, the Rev. Mr. William Muhlenberg.  They began a romance much like Ann and James.  
Gravestone of Sarah Coleman.  This stone is in
considerably better condition than her sister's stone.
Only problem was that the Reverend wanted to begin a Sunday evening service at St. James and Mr. Coleman, a judge as well as a very influential church vestry member by now, thought it unnecessary.  When Muhlenberg insisted, since it was his duty and right as a clergyman and the head of St. James, that he would begin the evening service, Judge Coleman forbade him from ever entering his house again.  
The Coleman family gravestones stand in a row.
The Rev. wrote in his diary shortly after that: "But for no earthly consid- eration whatever, not even the attainment of the dear object of my heart, will I sacrifice what I believe to be the interests of my church.  O Lord, Help me!"  A few years later Judge Coleman died and Sarah thought she would then be able to marry Rev. Muhlenberg, but the Judge's will said that his sons had the legal right to approve of his daughter's marriage.  
Street marker for our church.  This market
stands alongside the churchyard and church.
Since his son Edward disliked Rev. Muhlenberg as much as his father did, he also forbade her from marrying.  Shortly after that, Sarah, while on a visit to Philadelphia, is said to have died suddenly at the age of 24, just as her sister Anne had died.  A few years later, Rev. Muhlenberg resigned from his position as rector of St. James and when Edward moved to Philadelphia, Rev. Muhlenberg returned to Lancaster for a visit in 1827.  Young and old greeted him as he preached among them once more.  He made a visit to his Sunday School which he had established and the nearby public school which he had founded.  He also made a visit to the churchyard, where I now stand, to visit the graves of the Coleman sisters.  He left with a spray of the sweetbrier that grew on the graves.  He also, never married, since Sarah was the love of his life.  Oh, the stories tombstones can tell!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The "Discovery of Green Fruit Loop" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Reading in the local paper about a mother who was preparing lunch for her kindergartner in Princeton, New Jersey when she made a rather unusual discovery.  A green anole appeared from under a tatsoi leaf, looking around at the kitchen and the woman who had found it.  
The leaves of the Tatsoi plant
Tatsoi, in case you never heard of it, as I hadn't, is a vegetable much like spinach that forms in a rosette of petite leaves and is pale lime green in color.  The woman had purchased the tatsoi at a natural food store and luckily didn't freak out when the little critter appeared cold and lifeless from the center of the plant.  She realized that critters come with the territory when buying vegetables, especially organic vegetables.  The tatsoi came from a farm in Florida which is part of the anole lizard's region.  
This is "Green Fruit Loop" in his new kindergarten home. As
you notice he has changed color to blend in with his surroundings.
The lizard more than likely had been hibernating in the rosette due to recent cool weather in the southern states.  She shared her experience with her daughter who took the reptile to school the next day in a vented Tupperware container and gave it to her science teacher.  The lizard was named "Green Fruit Loop" by the kindergarten class and is now the class mascot.  The teacher told the students that even though it was green when it was found, it can change it's color to brown to blend in with its surroundings.  When Carol and I travel to the Caribbean, I enjoy taking photos of lizards of all sizes.  Some of the largest ones I have found in St. Martin while one of the most beautiful green lizards I found a few years ago during a trip to Hawaii.  Can't imagine what I would think had I found one in a head of lettuce found at the grocery store.  I know I would definitely take a photo of it.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The "A Trilogy: Remembering Chad" Story

Part 1:  It was an ordinary day.  The newspaper gave just the basics.  Chad was 39 years old, married with three children.   Parents were M. Wayne and Barbara and sister was Krista.  Graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a BS in Economics and Villanova with an MBA.  Was a vice-president at State Street Bank in Berwyn, Pennsylvania.  Died of cancer March 8.  But, Chad's death was more than just news; more than just  another cancer statistic.  For you see, my family knew Chad and his family well.  Chad grew up three houses down our back alley in Grandview Heights.  He was only a few months younger than our youngest son, Paul, whom we have always call Tad (his middle name, since his grandfather was Paul).  Many a summer day we would find the two of them playing with their Star Wars people somewhere in the rutted stone and dirt alley.  Or, we would find them at the nearby elementary school, where they were both students, playing "off the wall" or Wiffle ball.  Tad and Chad were best of friends for many years.  When they were eligible to play little league baseball, Chad's dad, Wayne, and I coached the team that they played on.  For eight years they played together while their dads coached, with the final six as part of the Lancaster County youth league.  
LDub is standing on the left with Wayne on the right.
Chad is in the top row, third player from the left.  Tad
is the fourth player from the right on the back row.  This
year we were New Era Champs. The year was 1991.
Chad was the star catcher while Tad played 2nd base.  Tad would usually bat 2nd in the line up with Chad batting right behind him or in the clean-up position.  Our teams were extremely successful over the years, playing in what was known as the New Era Tournament at the end of the season.  This tournament was for the best teams from all over Lancaster County and was sponsored by the local newspaper.  Many years we reached the finals, only to lose to the same team every year.  That was until the sixth and final year of eligibility when we finally one the Championship.  Chad was one of the big "sticks" on the team, knocking in run after run.  
Chad is on the right with sister Krista, Wayne and Barb.
There weren't many players, or coaches, who would challenge his arm if they would happen to reach base.  He became a standout catcher at the high school level at Manheim Township where I taught.  Chad and Tad remained friends, even after our families both moved from the Grandview Heights neighborhood.  They visited frequently and always made time to take in a movie or go to the nearby Stockyard Restaurant for a great steak.  Chad would stop at our house at Christmas to show us how big his children were getting.  Our family was devastated when we got the call from Wayne a few days ago.  We made our plans to visit during the viewing as well as going to the funeral for Chad.  His family and friends mourned the loss of a fine young man.  

Part 2:  Driving in the funeral procession to the cemetery to say our final farewell to a great boy who turned out to be a great young man.  There are 91 cars in the procession which should give you an idea as to how well-liked Chad was as a son, husband, father and friend.  
Krista and Chad
People from all over the country showed up for the viewing as well as attending the funeral.  Tissues were were in big demand by just about everyone and there was nary a dry eye.  Chad's Life Celebration was held at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  21 Pallbearers were listed on the program.  After the service, where his sister Krista gave a very moving and loving Eulogy, the procession, lead by a police escort, began the journey to the cemetery for the Grave Dedication.  The sun was sneaking in and out of the clouds as everyone arrived at gravesite and all gathered for a final chance to hold onto his memory.  

Part 3:  Former students whom I hadn't seen for many years were in attendance.  A few had changed in appearance, but after introducing themselves to me, I once again remembered them.  I'm sure many were taken aback with my appearance as well, but they kindly didn't mention it to me.  
Chad with family Leslie, daughter Kendyl and
sons Nolan and Griffin.
Wayne mentioned to me that the new baseball coach at Manheim Township High School, where I had taught and were Chad had played and was the team captain in his senior year, told him he would see if he could give him his uniform shirt to have framed.  I told Wayne I would gladly frame it for him if he was able to get the jersey.  
Chad's high school baseball shirt.
He mentioned that the shirt was #30, the same number that my oldest son had worn when he was also team captain in his senior year.  I now have the shirt and will work to frame it for the family.  Chad was diagnosed with stomach cancer this past May and died in March.  His best friend from high school had also been diagnosed with stomach cancer two years ago in May and passed in March.  As we arrived at the cemetery his friend's tombstone could me seen near the new grave which had been dug.  After the Grave Dedication and after most had departed the cemetery, it was noticed that the casket had been removed and placed back in the hearst.  We later found out that the grave was supposed to have been dug right next to his friend's grave and would have to be changed.  Stranger things have happened I'm sure, but not too much stranger than that.  Time heals, it has been said, but this may take a long time for all to heal.  I know it has also been said that ... The Good Die Young, but it doesn't make it any easier for those who survive.  Chad was one of those "Good Guys" who liked everyone and whom everyone liked.  The path to his grave will be heavily traveled I can imagine.  I may be one of those tramping down the grass.  It's been a long and tough week.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.    

Friday, March 18, 2016

The "Disturbing Times" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Watching the police cars at the entrance to the high school where I had plans to make a visit.  All started with a trip to the Manheim Township  District Office (DO) which is about a mile from the main high school, middle school and intermediate school campus.  As I started up the walk to the DO, a policeman was trying the doors to the building.  Called to him that he had to ring the buzzer to his left.  He looked puzzled and I told him they just started that procedure a few weeks ago.  No one enters unless they identify themselves into the speaker next to the buzzer.  We both got clearance and entered.  As I walked toward the secretary's desk, she was on the phone telling a parent that the high school was in lock-down.  So that's why the police officer is standing next to me!  Wasn't long before I got the lowdown on what had happened.  Seems a young male had written on the wall of a men's restroom and left a bullet next to the message.  Another student saw the note and notified the high school office.  Immediately a lock-down was announced and the local police were called.  Didn't take long to control the situation, since the same thing had happened two years ago.  At that time all students had to remain in the class they happened to be in at the time.  They missed lunch and were sent home later in the day after each one had been checked with a metal detector.  Today the lockdown went into effect immediately and the lessons they had learned two years ago were apparent.  Being that there are security cameras EVERYWHERE in the building, I assume finding the culprit was an easier task this time.  Someone confessed and the students were sent home just before lunch.  I had plans to stop at the high school to check on the amount of paper I needed for a printing request I had from the office, so I headed in that direction after taking care of my business in the DO.  As I approached one of the entrances I saw the many patrol cars and officers standing guard at the entrance.  Thought it best to bypass my trip for today and hope for the best tomorrow.  Watched the mid-day news to see what might be happening and heard at that time about the dismissal and the capture of the suspect.  Not sure what the motive may be for the actions of the suspect, but it is a frightful and sorry time when things like this have to happen.  I think back 20 years when I was still teaching and the worst thing that might happen was someone smoking in that same restroom.  Very disturbing times we live in now.  I fear for my grandchildren and what they may have to encounter in the future.  Will it ever get better?  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The "Paranormal Happenings At Bootleg Antiques" Story

Our guide, Tom, at Bootleg Antiques.  Tours
aren't something they advertise, but when I
asked a few questions about the building,
Tom asked if we was interested in a tour.
It was an ordinary day.  Standing on the top floor of the Bootleg Antiques store in downtown Columbia, Pennsylvania talking with Tom who had volunteered to take Carol and I, as well as friends Jerry and Just Sue, on a tour of what was one time a washing machine manufacturing plant which was built along the Susquehanna River in 1891.  Neat building that has quite a history to it and a rather creepy aura to boot.    Seems a fellow by the name of Thomas, as well as an un-named young boy, both died years ago in the building.  From time to time they are said to "make themselves known" to those who work at the antique store at 135 Bridge Street.  My wife talked with two female employees who said that their security cameras picked up a few incidents that led to the owner hiring not one, but two, mediums to visit and tell their thoughts of the energy that seems to appear in the building.  
Date of the construction can be seen center right.
The cameras showed a picture frame turn and fall off a shelf as if pushed.  Also showed a pair of picture frames on a table that featured a young boy and young girl and eventually the frame of the young boy fell face down on the table.  The women also told of employees hearing items rolling on the floor above them which may have been children playing.  
These are the wooden wheels for the old washing machine
equipment pulley systems on the second floor.  The factory
made washing machines fro 1891 to the 1960's.
Two mediums were asked to visit, but a month apart.  They both agreed that there were ghosts living in the building and seemed to feel comfortable living amongst the antiques.  When stand holders would bring additional items to the store, some more than likely had energy that attracted Thomas.  
Ceiling of the area in the third floor that was covered
in cork to eliminate noise as they made "moonshine."
One medium said he conversed with the older ghost and asked him if he wanted to "crossover" into the afterlife, but got no answer.  They also said that part of the building displayed a "dark energy", or a mysterious energy that permeates all of space, which they would not enter!  Now for those reading my story that do not believe in ghosts and mediums, you must visit Bootleg Antiques.  
The Hotel where Al Capone stayed while visiting Columbia.
It was daylight when we visited and I was scared at times to wander into the different rooms on the third floor.  They offer a evening tour with flashlights, but that's just not gonna happen with me.  We were led to another location on the top floor that featured an area about thirty feet by sixty feet in size that during prohibition was used to make "moonshine."  
Photograph of the Bootleg Antiques store in Columbia, PA.
The walls and ceiling were covered with layer on top of layer of inch thick cork which would absorb the noise that might have occurred from the machinery used to make the illegal liquor.  The "moonshine" would run through underground tunnels from the basement of the building to the edge of the river where waiting ferrymen should load the liquor on board for distribution at other points along the river.  One of the costumers of the bootleg liquor was none other than Al Capone who would visit Columbia and stay at the nearby hotel along Water Street.  Must have been rather interesting when he would pay a call to the Superior Washing Machine Company in Columbia, PA.  The building is remarkable and our tour with our host, Tom, proved to be the highlight of our trip to Columbia, PA even though we left the building without a single antique, except ourselves naturally.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

A view across the Susquehanna River from the Columbia Hotel.