Extraordinary Stories

Act of kindness (2) Acting (2) Adoption (3) Adventure (762) Advertisement (5) Aging (9) Agriculture (41) Airplanes (6) Alphabet (4) Americana (84) Amish (20) Ancestry (2) Ancesty (2) Animals (28) Antiques (5) Architecture (23) Art (149) Art? (5) Arts and Crafts (66) Athletics (4) Automobiles (28) Awards (1) Banking (2) Barn raising (1) Baseball (68) Basketball (2) Beaches (85) Bed & Breakfast (1) Bee Keeping (4) Beer & Breweries (1) Bikes (1) Birds (2) Birthdays (30) Bookbinding (4) Books (7) Boxing (1) Brother Steve (7) Buisiness (1) Business (3) Canals (1) Cancer (11) Candy (24) Caribbean Islands (2) Caribbean Villas (15) Cats (1) Chesapeake Bay (59) Children (20) Chocolate (2) Christmas (40) Church Adventures (113) Cigars (1) Circus (2) Civil Rights (4) Civil War (4) Classic Cars (6) Climate Change (3) Coin club (2) Coins (1) Collections (67) Comedy (2) Comic Books (2) Commercials (1) Comnservation (2) Conservation (33) Craftsmanship (9) Creamsicle the Cat (11) Crime (10) Crisis (277) Cruise Travel (6) Crying (1) Danger (12) Daughter Brynn (50) Daughter-In-Law Barb (7) Death (4) Death and Dying (39) Downsizing (2) Dunking (2) Easter (2) Education (35) Energy (13) Entertainment (156) Entrepreneurial (61) Etchings (1) Eternal Life (4) Facebook (5) Factories (3) Fads (6) Family (243) Farming (26) Father (40) Father Time (65) Favorites (59) Firefighting (1) Flora and Fauna (24) Fond Memories (457) Food and Cooking (148) Food and Drink (80) Football (10) Forgetfullness (3) Former Students (5) Framing (16) Friends (328) Fun (2) Fundraiser (6) Games (1) Gingerbread houses (1) Giving (5) Golf (3) Grandkids (121) Grandparents (2) Grandview Heights (28) Great service (2) Growing Old (5) Growing Up (176) Guns (1) Handwriting (3) Hat Making (2) Hawaii (45) Health and Well Being (18) Health Care (1) Health Hazards (83) Heartbreak (4) Heroes (13) High School (128) History (546) Hockey (1) Holidays (111) Home construction (7) Horses (2) Humorous (68) Hurricanes (1) Ice Cream (3) Inventions (27) Islands (3) Italy (12) Jewelry (3) Job Related (60) Just Bloggin' (54) Just Wondering (11) Juvenile Diabetes (5) Labor (3) Lancaster County (414) Law Breakers (3) LDubs In-Laws (3) Lefties (1) Life's Lessons (156) Lists (69) Lititz (16) Love (4) Magazines (1) Magic (1) Maps (1) Marching (1) Market (3) Medical (140) Memories (5) Middle School (3) Mother (49) Movies (3) Music (93) My Brother (16) My Wife (255) Neighbors (6) New Year's Day (2) Nuisance (3) Obsolescence (4) Occupations (1) Old Age (1) Pain and Suffering (8) Panama Canal Cruise (13) Parish Resource Center (14) Patriotism (2) Penmanship (1) Pets and Animals (97) Photography (198) Playing Trains (2) Poetry (2) Politics (27) Polution (1) Postal Service (2) Presidents (7) Pride (3) Printing (65) Protesting (2) Public Service (63) Questionnaire (1) Race relations (3) Reading (3) Religion (1) Revolutionary War (3) Rock & Roll (1) Rodents (2) Saints (1) Sand (1) Scouting (2) Shakespeare (1) Shelling (1) Shopping (20) Simple Pleasures (118) Slavery (4) Small Towns (3) Snow (1) Son Derek (26) Son Tad (30) Son-In-Law Dave (24) Soup (1) Sports (132) St. Martin/Sint Maarten (253) Stained Glass (1) Story-Telling (21) Stragers (2) Strangers (1) Stress (3) Stuff (3) Surfing (1) Tattoos (1) Teaching (43) Technology (79) The Arts (3) The Beach House (62) The Flag (1) The Future (4) The Shore (78) This and That (15) Timekeeping (3) Tools and Machines (23) Toys and Games (30) Track & Field (1) Tragedy (2) Trains (11) Transportation (10) Travel (3) Trending (2) TV Favorites (18) Underground Railroad (3) USA (1) Vacation and Travel (537) Vehicles (80) War (7) Watches and Watchmaking (4) Weather (47) Weddings (1) Wisdom (3) Yearbooks (9) York County (1)

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The "2016 Really Sucked!!" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Just watched the final 2016 episode of "The Price Is Right" which is one of my three favorite quiz shows on TV.  It all came down to the "Showcase Showdown" which pitted the two contestants who won the most on the 'Wheel' during the show.  Both contestants had fantastic showcases on which to bid; one featuring a BMW Sedan while the other featured a trip to Bala along with a bright red Mazda Miata.  Wouldn't you know it, both overbid and nobody won!  Kinda been that kind of year for Carol and me this year.  
Creamsicle helping with my story for today!
Early in the year we found our cat, Creamsicle, had eating problems and was told it was a kidney disease.  After over $1,200 in tests, we brought him home to be with us for what we thought was the end of his life.  One of the few good highlights of the year was the fact that he is still with us at the end of the year.  End of January I had to have two kidney stones removed after discovering them at the end of the previous year and after not being able to pass them.  Not much fun!  Not long after Carol went through a month of pain with a gall bladder attack and eventual removal of it.  Not long after the gall bladder was removed that she had pain again and found she had appendicitis.  Happened five days before our spring trip to St. Martin.  The surgeon in the ER said it could be treated with antibiotics and we left for vacation as scheduled, but with a funny feeling that it might happen again.  While on vacation I was having trouble walking due to a severe pain in my left foot.  After returning home I found I needed a few shots for plantar fasciitis.  For those who have experienced the malady, you know the pain associated with the shots in the heal of the foot.  Sometime after returning from vacation I lost close to 80,000 photographs from my desktop when I pushed the wrong key on my computer.  Went to the local Apple store and they said they could reboot my entire computer, but I would lose anything I hadn't saved, so I opted not to do that for fear I would lose something more than photos.  Shortly after, while mowing the grass at home, I was riding down an incline when the steering wheel pulled our of the mower.  Managed to get it stopped, but found the front axle was broken and needed replaced.  Could have just about paid for another mower for the cost of repairs.  Then I began an ongoing problem with headaches, blurred vision and sinus pain.  Went to the eye doctor a few times and finally told it wasn't my eyes.  Went to the family doctor who ordered a scan of my head and that didn't show anything abnormal.  Still fighting the headaches.  Early October I found I have prostate cancer and will need to begin treatment in the near future.  We decided to take our scheduled vacation to the Turks & Caicos Islands anyway and halfway through the vacation Carol's appendicitis returned and she had to have her appendix removed on the tiny English island of Provo.  After returning I went to an eye, ears and nose doctor for the headaches and was given 20 days of antibiotics for an infection in the sinus cavity.  That didn't work and before long I was back for another visit and 20 more days of antibiotics. As of the end of the year, I still have the headaches.  Then, with two turkeys in the freezer of our garage refrigerator, it stops working.  Call and find we need a new part for the three-month-old fridge, but manage to keep the turkeys cold enough until Thanksgiving.  Naturally the new part and service isn't part of the limited warranty; thanks Frigidaire!  Then in early December, Carol gets pain in her right side near her kidney once again.  Can't be the gall bladder or appendix, since those organs are no longer in her body.  Diagnosed as bladder infection, but scan given anyway to make sure it isn't kidney stones.   Then we find the family won't be together for Christmas for the first time since our grandkids were born.  Didn't matter anyway since quite a few of the remaining members became sick during Christmas anyway.  Carol and I still enjoyed Christmas with visits from the kids at various times.  Then, two days before the new year, we get a call asking if we could try and locate the Ugg's boots we gave to one of our granddaughters. She had forgotten then when they left for their home in Maryland.  Found them and were able to find a way to get them to her.  Throughout the year the nerves in my left foot have become more numb caused either by my shingles I had two years ago while on vacation or because of the three back surgeries I have had.  No doctor wants to make a guess which one is the culprit or how to solve the problem.  And, oh yeah, the back pain seems to be returning.  Then to top all that off, my placard to allow for handicapped parking ran out and no one will renew it.  And, of course, there was the Presidential election!  So, we are so glad that 2016 is over. It really sucked!!!  It can only get better … we hope and pray!  Happy New Year anyway!!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Friday, December 30, 2016

The "A Gift For The Ages" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Just called my brother, Steve, to give him the bad news.  My story today started last evening when Carol and I were visiting with my brother, Steve, and his family who live about twenty minutes to the north of Lancaster in a small town known as Ephrata.  We always get together the evening after Christmas Day to celebrate the holidays with pizza and cookies.  
My new Rocky Springs shirt.
And, Steve and I have the best times reminiscing about all the relatives and times past.  Wasn't long before Steve pulls out a Christmas shopping bag and hands it to me.  "Merry Christmas.  Here's a gift I know you'll love!" Steve tells me.  We decided years ago that we'd no longer exchange gifts since it was tough enough buying presents for all our own kids and grandkids let alone buying gifts for each others kids and grandkids.  We stopped that practice a few years ago, but he just couldn't stop from buying me a gift when he saw it this year.  Steve is five years younger than me and we very seldom did much together after I began high school.  Seems we have been making up for that in the past dozen years or so with frequent outings and parties at each others homes.  And now a gift from him.  "You know, I bought you a gift also, but didn't bring it at the last minute since I thought you'd get upset when I gave it to you," I told him.  "Nah!  This isn't really a gift, just something I knew you'd love so I bought it for you," he replied.  Pulled it out of the bag and there was a t-shirt that must have been twenty-five or more years old.  "I found it today at the antique market when I went to look around.  Knew you'd just love it," he told me.  Sure enough, I know I had a big smile on my face when I saw the front of the t-shirt which read "Rocky Springs Park, Lancaster, PA".  

"Wow, pretty neat," I said to him. "I've never seen one like it."  Steve is a "Picker" in that he loves to find old items, bargain for them and resell them.  He knew that I made visits to Rocky Springs Amusement Park just about every week when I was in high school and first couple of years of college. Worked at the Acme Supermarket with a fellow whose grandfather ran the "Wildcat" roller coaster at the amusement park and we frequently made visits to the park to ride the coaster after work.  His grandfather would allow us to remain on the coaster as long as we wanted and never asked for a ticket.
If no one was standing in line and we were the only ones on the ride, he wouldn't even stop the coaster when it returned to the station.  Spent many summer evenings riding and riding that coaster.  Well, Steve had the biggest smile on his face when he gave it to me.  Knew I would love it. I never opened the package with the shirt in it until later in the evening when we had returned home.  Held it up and asked Carol if she thought I could fit into it.  She looked at me holding the shirt and said, "That's either a woman's or a child's shirt!" "I kinda thought so myself.  It's marked large, but must be a woman's large.  Figured it that way because of the sleeves" I responded.  "Steve's gonna be disappointed when I call him tomorrow."  Yep, he was rather upset that his find would not fit me, but told me to give it to someone else in the family or bring it back to him and he'd give it to his daughter-in-law who could wear it.  The thought was well received by me, and I know I could find someone to wear it, but I'll return it to him and he may be able to get his money back to spend on something else.  I know he will search high and low for something for me for he's that kind of brother everyone should have.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The "Best Present Of 2016" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Looking at the multitude of gifts I received this Christmas from my wife, children and grandchildren.  Gift cards seemed to be the item that most gave me, since I already have just about everything I need in my life.  Cards for food, books, and car washes were fantastic gifts, but perhaps my most favorite card was the card my wife gave me that will allow me to explore President James Buchanan's home on President Ave. as well as the many rooms and files in the Lancaster Historical Society on President Ave. in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  
Every since I began writing my blog I have made a few visits to LancasterHistory.org for information or to take photos of their public displays, but I have never had the chance to explore their vast array of old Lancaster County photographs and memoribilia they have on their large ten-acre campus which features the historic grounds and gardens of Wheatland, President James Buchanan's Lancaster home, as well as the Louise Arnold Arboretum.  Many times I made visits and was able to see the special events they featured, but was never able to enter the research library or archives.  Now I will have free reign when I enter the main building and show them my LancasterHistory.org card that Carol got me for Christmas.  A friend of mine from church has a daughter who is in charge of historical photographs and on my first visit I will ask for Marianne to show me the library of photos that will give me a better chance to document stories that I have planned for future blog stories.  In the basement of LancasterHistory.org are some of the neatest rooms that hold the key to historical events in the city of Lancaster and surrounding areas.  Anxious for my first visit so I can see Marianne's photographic exhibit titled "The Great Fair."  Hopefully I will be able to give you more insight into one of the most historical cities in the young United States.  All this is possible because of my most favorite Christmas gift this year.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The "A Few Of My Favorite Holiday Things" Story

It was an ordinary day.  I have just survived my seventy-second Christmas and have been blessed with family and friends who have come to visit over the holidays.  As usual, my wife has decorated the house and made it look festive for all the guests.  As for me, well I have enjoyed once again all the decorations and tasty treats that she has created.  My story today will give you a chance to see some of my favorite items that we use or have around our home during the holiday season.  Hope you will find a few that you too think are amazing and interesting as I do.  So, here goes …..   It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - click on photos to enlarge them.

My wife loves to bake and the cookies she makes at Christmas are delicious.  I love her chocolate chip, snicker doodles,  pumpkin with caramel icing, …. well I love all of them.  And, when she begins the kitchen counter is filled with ingredients as well as mixing bowls and utensils until she is finished.  
This really neat Christmas tree is made from aqua limpet shells with a tiny starfish on top.  We found it a few years ago while wandering through a few small stores in Cape May, New Jersey.
I know the holiday season is upon us when I see this small lamp shade on the tiny light we have had on our kitchen table for 20 years.  Every season or holiday a new shade appears to usher in the time of year. 
We only added one new ornament to our tree this year.  Placed it on the tree in memory of Chad Peters who was one of our youngest friends and died this year of stomach cancer.  His dad and I coached baseball together for years and we won many league and tournament championships because of Chad's baseball prowess.  Chad was a champ in everything he did and is still missed by all who knew and loved him.  He is my inspiration as I begin my journey through my cancer treatments!  A true hero to many a well as myself!!
Another reminder of a great person is this sock that hangs on our jelly cupboard.  My mother, Dorothea, made and gave this to Carol and me in 1993.  
My wife has a collection of deer which are displayed every Christmas season on our coffee table in the living room.  This is my favorite deer from her collection.
Carol's best friend, Margaret, is a talented artist who has given the two of us many pieces of artwork, either in greeting cards or as small pieces of art such as these figurines made of dough.
Our dining room table is decked out in red and green and features my favorite tree made from twine and seashells.  Carol decorates the tree each Christmas with small lights that are battery powered.
This is a 1994 needlepoint that Carol and our daughter Brynn made together.  Always fills a spot on the wall during the holidays.
These are Clementines that Carol has dipped in liquid chocolate and covered with coconut and pecans.  Just delicious.
A yearly favorite ornament that we purchased in St. Thomas a few years ago and features a hand-painted boat with oars.
Another very fragile ornament which is beautifully hand-painted and comes from the Bahamas.
Our travel friend Just Sue made this needlepoint pillow for us for Christmas  two years ago.  It gets quite a few comments and has found a place in our family room during the Christmas season. 
This beautiful Christmas statue, cast in papier-mache using an old candy mold, was made by Kelly Gallagher who is the wife of one of my teaching friends who was the co-advisor of the high school yearbook with me for over 30 years.  She also makes jewelry and I have purchased a few pieces of her jewelry for Carol for Christmas in the past.
This old tea kettle has once again come to life after being painted by an unknown artist.  We made this purchase years ago in Chesapeake City, Maryland.
This old guy is actually a bird house which we had purchased for my mother for a gift and reclaimed when she died a few years ago.  It was purchased at a craft show in Lancaster, PA.  Fits in perfect with Christmas decorations since it resembles Santa, at least to Carol and me.
This waist-high piece of driftwood was also purchased in Chesapeake City.  Perfect for the season, but this is one item we display year round.  

But, perhaps the best of the favorite holiday things would have to be this little tree which my daughter Brynn made for my wife for Christmas about 40 years ago.  As a young child, Brynn and I made this tree in our basement on Janet Ave. She pounded nails into the wood around the edges and strung green yarn around the nails.  Added a ribbon bow and decorated the tree with small paste-ons.  She added her name on the rear and proudly wrapped it for her mother who has displayed it every year since it was made.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The "The Ancient Art Of Bookbinding" Story

Water Street Bindery
It was an ordinary day.  Knocked on the old blue door that sits under the historical sign that tells of the one and a half story house that demonstrates the architecture during the period of early settlement of Lancaster which dates from 1730.  The doorknob is a round brass sphere with a small brass shield over a keyhole to the left of the knob.  On the side of the home, high above the alleyway, is a sign that states "Water Street Bindery".  House caught my eye as I walked past, since I recently talked to the President of the Ephrata National Bank who told me the Water Street Bindery rebound the Santa book that is kept in the safe of the bank when it is not being signed by generations of children who made visits to Santa and signed the book telling of their love of Santa and what they wanted for Christmas.  
Tony preparing a piece of leather for
one of his restorations.
Lost yet?
  Well, I just had to stop in the bindery to find out what they do in this neat little old house on Water Street in the historic city of Lancaster, PA.  Knocked a few times until a young woman opened the door and asked if she could help me.  I entered the shop and was greeted with memories from the past.  By now, many of you probably know that I taught Graphic Arts in high school and part of my curriculum was a section on bookbinding.  There, sitting in front of me in the center of the small room, was a small guillotine paper cutter which at the moment was serving as a coat rack.  Looked much like the one I have in my garage I use for trimming jobs I still print for the high school where I taught.  The young woman, Anna, had taken her seat by a window and continued with her preparation of twine that she would use on the spine of a book she was working on at the time.  
Guillotine paper cutter disguised as
a clothes tree.  
I walked into the next room to meet Tony, the owner of the bindery.  Tony has been in the bindery business for 40 years and the owner of the Water Street Bindery for 30 years.  It is obvious the skill he possesses just by watching him at his trade.  I stood next to him as he worked on a piece of leather that he was scraping to reduce the thickness of the leather at certain areas in order to be able to shape it to the back or spine of a book he was working on.  At the time, he and his daughter Anna were rebinding a 27 volume collection of small books, that were an early edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, for a collector who lived in San Francisco, California.  Tony and I talked about some of the binding procedures that he uses that have been used for ages as well as used by me in my classes I taught.  
Part of a set of Encyclopedia Britannica books that
have been rebound at the Water Street Bindery.
The shop was filled with an assortment of old binding tools and book presses as well as quite a few beautifully bound books.  I loved everything about the old house on Water Street, but knew it was time to leave and allow my hosts for the past half hour a chance to perform their skilled art of bookbinding.  
Anna prepares cords to be used on the spines of the books.
Oh yeah, Tony also remembered working on the book that had been signed for ages by young children who had made their way to visit with Santa in Ephrata and tell the jolly old guy what they wanted for Christmas.  As for me, I find that as I write stories for my blog, I meet some of the most interesting people who love to share their life's experiences and occupations with me.  I in turn have gained a great understanding of the people who, along with me, call Lancaster home. It's a wonderful city!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. 

Book press holding a set of backing boards which are used to form and round the back of a book.
One of many beautifully bound books that are found throughout the bindery.
The front door is a good display of the architecture throughout the homes on Water Street in Lancaster, PA
Anna works on the spine of one of the books in the Encyclopedia Britannia collection.  It is being held in the book press illustrated in an above photograph.

Monday, December 26, 2016

The "Decorating With The Moravian Star" Story

The traditional Moravian Star
It was an ordinary day.  Day has just turned into night and Carol and I are taking a drive around Lancaster County, PA looking at all the Christmas decorations and lights that brighten the night time landscape.  When we lived in the Grandview Heights area of Manheim Township, we always filled the windows in our three-story Tudor house with candles as well as hanging a Moravian Star from the ceiling of our screened-in porch which was attached to the side of our home.  Really looked festive and went well with the design of the early 1900s home.  After we moved to our "Beach House" in the late 1990s, we decorated with lighted deer, colored lights on some of the trees and hanging the Moravian Star in the laundry room which has an octagonal window at the entrance to our home.  That, too, looked very festive.  
Display of Moravian Stars at a local grocery store.
Now, for those who have no idea what a Moravian Star may be, I will have to give you an explana- tion.  Lancaster County, Pennsyl- vania is home to one of the earliest Moravian Church congrega- tions in the United States.  The religious sect settled in the small town of nearby Lititz, Pennsylvania.  The Moravian Church began as a Protestant denomination in Bohemia and Moravia during the late 14th century with Jan Hus as the founder of the movement.  Hus rejected the Roman Catholic Church's teachings and wanted to return to more simpler religious practices.  He eventually was burned at the stake in 1415.  The first Moravian star is known to have originated in the 1830s at the Moravian Boys' School in Niesky, Germany.  
Trees and a Moravian Star for sale at the store.
It has been said that it was probably part of a lesson in geometry in the school's curriculum.  It was in 1880 that Pieter Verbeek, a graduate of the schjool in Niesky, opened a small bookstore where he sold the Moravian Stars.  Eventually the Verbeek family opened a factory in Herrnhut, Germany where they made the stars.  Evidently Pieter put his math lesson to good use.  The stars were adopted by the Moravian Church as a symbol of the birth of Jesus and represented the star of Bethlehem.  It is usually hung or displayed the first Sunday of Advent and remains displayed until Epiphany or the time of the coming of the Magi.  
Another variety of the Moravian Star.
The star reminds one of a regular star, but with many more points than a regular star.  The star can have anywhere from 20 to 110 points with the most common one a 26-point star composed of eighteen square and eight triangular cone-shaped points.  This shape is technically known as an augmented rhombicuboctahedron.  Each face of the geometric solid in the middle, the rhombicuboctahedron, serves as the base for the pyramid augmentations or starburst points.  The Moravian Star always has a symmetrical shape which is based on polyhedra.  Therefore, stars must have either 20, 26, 32,50, 64 or 110 points with the 26-point star the most popular.  In the 1990s one of the math teachers at Manheim Township High School, where I taught, gave her students the task of making a Moravian Star.  
A rather unique Moravian Star made from music sheets.
Tough to do since my son was in the class and I tried to help him with the project and finally gave up.  This admission comes from someone who at one time wanted to be a math teacher.  Well, the first Christmas tree at Williamsburg, Virginia was decorated with Moravian stars in 1842 that were made by a German immigrant who happened to teach at the college of William and Mary.  Perhaps he taught math!  The stars are beautiful.  I tried once again, a few years ago, to make one with a very thin and lightweight plastic material.  After an hour or so I gave up and headed to the store to purchase one.  It was only a few years ago that the Moravian Star that hung in the laundry room window bit the dust.  The plastic that it was made from became so fragile and brittle that I had to dispose of it because of safety issues.  As of now we have not replaced it, but did think of hanging one above our lighted deer which fill the hill to the side of our "Beach House".  Thought it would look neat with a big star above the deer, high in the tree.  We looked and found that a rather large star was going to cost us close to $150.  Will have to rethink that addition to our display.  The Moravian Star is an iconic symbol of the Christmas season in Lancaster County and if you have the chance to visit the area, you will be greeted with the beauty of the season.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The "A Visit From St. Nicholas" Story

On this holy Christmas morning, a very Merry Christmas to all my readers, no matter what religious beliefs they may hold. 

 It was an ordinary day.  Talking with our three children about past Christmas memories.  Always comes around to stories about Christmas morning and how they managed to sneak down the stairs right outside our bedroom to peek at the presents around the tree.  Carol and I always told them they had to wait until we called their grandparents, who lived a few houses down the street, and gave them time grab their coffee and arrive before they could head down the stairs to open their presents.  Sounds cruel to many I guess, but my parents loved to watch them open their gifts and I always felt an obligation since I too had restrictions when I was younger as to when I could descend the stairs to open my gifts.  I lived a very sheltered life as a child and always listened to my parents.  Really!  At least until I was a teenager!!  I never once snuck down the stairs to look at my gifts and made sure my younger brother never did either.  So, now I find out thirty years later that my kids had a routine worked out so at least one of the three of them could sneak down the steps while Carol and I slept to check out the gifts.  But hey, they still turned out great even though they were sneaks on Christmas morning.  
Another tradition we had for years was reading Clement C. Moore's poem "Twas the night before Christmas" at some point during the week before Christmas.  You know ... "Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house ..."  Did you also know that it was also known as "A Visit from St. Nicholas" and even just "The Night Before Christmas."  And to top that off, it may not have even been written by Mr. Moore.  The poem was published anonymously in 1823 and Clement finally claimed ownership to the poem in 1837.  It has been said that the poem was actually written by Henry Livingston, Jr. and was published anonymously in the Troy, New York Sentinel newspaper on December 23, 1823.  It was also said to have been sent to the newspaper by a family friend, Miss H. Butler who insisted it's author remain anonymous and therefore no name attached.  Eventually Mr. Moore took ownership to the poem when he included it in one of his books of poems he published in 1844.  It was said that Mr. Moore didn't want to be connected with the unscholarly verse since he was a respected professor.  It was his own children who insisted he include it in one his books books.  Mr. Moore conception of St. Nicholas came from his friend Washington Irving with one exception ... Santa arrived on Christmas Eve rather than on Christmas Day as Mr. Irving had written.  Clement C. Moore's father was Benjamin Moore who was the Bishop of New York who officiated at the inauguration of George Washington.  "The Night Before Christmas", or "Twas The Night Before Christmas", changed the image of St. Nicholas as the patron saint of children to a chubby and plump, jolly old elf.  And, my kids loved the old guy who dropped off their presents and place them under the Christmas tree so they could sneak down during the night and get a head start on their parents.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.   PS - the entire poem follows ... click to enlarge.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The "Just ..... I Was Nice!" Story

The book of names from visitors to see Santa in Ephrata, PA.
It was an ordinary day.  Standing next to the REAL Santa Claus in Ephrata, Pennsylvania so he could have a photograph taken with me.  When I told him the reason for my visit, he insisted he have a photo taken with me.  Nah!  I really asked if I could have a photo taken with him, since he has been my hero ever since I could walk.  Actually, the real reason for my visit today was to view and take a photo of the town's Christmas book.  
Page one of the book is filled with names from all years.
That's the book that holds just about every signature of every child that has made a visit to Ephrata's Old Saint Nick over the past forty plus years.  The book holds many memories of years past and is considered the borough's historical holiday book.  The original book contains close to 1,500 pages and is fun to view.  Page after page of names, some with short "want-lists" while other have sketches, draws many parents and grandparents as they leaf through the book, looking for names from the past that they might remember.  
Page after page of names from as early as the 1970's.
The earliest signature with a date is from the mid-1970's.  The book isn't in chrono- logical order which would make it hard to research the entire book looking for a specific name.  The book is so valuable to the community that it is kept in the Ephrata National Bank's vault when not on display at the Welcome Center during the Christmas season when Santa arrives to take notes on the gifts his visitors would like for Christmas.  
One family lists names and ages along with mom and dad.
After reading about the book in the local newspaper, I called the bank and talked to Mr. Brown, the facilities director, who told me that the book had recently been rebound at the Water Street Bindery in downtown Lancaster, PA.  Now making a visit to Santa is a fantastic experience to just about every child who steps in the door, but for me, I enjoyed looking at the book of names on the stand next to Santa.  
The new book that is being used.
Some pages were packed with names while others held just a few.  The one page that really caught my eye was a page that contained only .... "I Was Nice!" and had a stick drawing of perhaps the author as well as a Christmas tree with a present under it.  Loved it!  Another page carried the names and ages of a family that made a visit.  Page 1 in the book is crowded with many names placed there to hopefully attract Santa's attention.  My stay lasted about 20 minutes as I looked through the book and examined the new book which is now being used for names.  One family of four arrived and all gathered with Santa for a photo before signing the new book.  Then it was my time to have my photo taken with Santa.  
Plain and simple!
He graciously stood so I didn't have to squash his lap.  Gave him my wish list and headed for the door.  In burst two young boys on a mission.  As they hustled toward Santa, I told them they were in luck because Santa was giving out extra gifts this year.  As their grandmother, or so I assume it was, walked in after them and hearing my comment said, "No way.  Not after what they just did down the block!"  Good luck to Santa!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Santa and LDub.

Friday, December 23, 2016

The "One Child's Memory From The Past" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Opened the morning paper and there it was … once more.  Seems every year about this time some newspaper in the United States publishes the letter about a little girl named Virginia who writes to the editor of the newspaper inquiring about Santa Claus.  Our Lancaster newspaper usually publishes the story and every year I read it.  Still is fun and interesting to read after all these years.  So, just in case you have never seen the letter, or in case you may want to refresh your memory about Virginia's interest in Santa, here is the story.  The original story was published in The New York Sun on Tuesday, September 21, 1897.  Hope you enjoy it one more time. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

Dear Editor—I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
– Virginia O’Hanlon
Virginia — Your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
 You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
No Santa Claus! Thank God! He lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The "Yesterday .... All My Troubles Seemed So Far Away! : Part I - The Dianosis" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Monday, October 3rd, 8:08 PM and I just got the call from Dr. Sieber with the news that my recent prostate biopsy showed I have prostate cancer.  How should I react?  PANIC!? FEAR!?  For some strange reason it didn't affect me that way.  I have heard over and over again from several sources that if I live long enough the chances of getting prostate cancer are likely.  Did I look at it as a death sentence?  Nah!  My dad had it and lived for many years after he was diagnosed with it.  Died of something else.   So, what should I do?  I'm going to find out after a visit with Dr. Sieber in a month.  Well, for those males that are wondering how it was determined that I have prostate cancer, here is the background information.  For years, and I mean many years, I have had a routine physical every year.  And … every time I had the physical I had blood drawn for a PSA test.  PSA stands for prostate-specific antigen and is a protein produced by cells of the prostate gland.  The test measures the level of PSA in a man's blood and is a measuring device to check for any chance of cancer in the prostate. Quite a few years ago I had a high reading so Dr. Sieber ordered a biopsy.  I won't kid you, the test was tough.  The test showed I didn't have cancer.  At that time I had young children and was scared to death.  This year on my initial visit to Dr. Sieber, he told me he had good and bad news.  The good news was that the kidney stone I had was gone.  The bad news was that my PSA level was elevated.  He ordered a MRI of my prostate.  Piece of cake compared to the biopsy.  On a return visit he said the test was inconclusive and his intuition told him I should have a biopsy.  He just didn't feel that with my history that he should just let the issue drop.  Love the guy for that decision!  This time I was sedated so I didn't know what they were doing.  The call tonight gave me the results.  Went in to his practice the next day for a few more blood tests he wanted and set a time to visit with him to talk about our plan of attack to conquer my prostate cancer.  For those males who have a history in their family of prostate cancer or those who have had an elevated PSA, you may want to know what to expect.  I have decided to share my story as it progresses in hopes that you can follow my journey as I attempt to conquer this cancer and hope that my story will give you a chance to see what I have chosen to do to prolong my life and rid myself of this cancer. As of now, nothing seems to be a big rush.  Well, today is the end of October and I'm back sitting in Dr. Seiber's office once again.  My wife has joined me to make sure I hear everything he tells me during my visit.  He explains the informational results that I hold in my hand, explaining where in my prostrate I have cancer cells.  Three of the dozen test samples show signs of cancer.  He goes over several scenarios with me and tells me what he thinks I are my best options.  Asks me if I would like to continue in the General Health system that he is a part of and I confirm that at present I do.  I have trusted him all my life and they're no sense changing now.  He is an accomplished physician with great credentials and a few trial tests to his credit.  He explains that I can choose to no nothing at present and wait half a year and have my PSA tested again and perhaps have another biopsy.  But, if I care to, he can make an appointment at the nearby Barshinger Cancer Institute so I can talk to a prostate cancer specialist.  I choose that route and have a visit with Dr. Romito in a few weeks with a follow up visit with Dr. Seiber a week after that appointment. I also chose to have genetic testing done so I can tell if I happen to have any genes that will give me a clue as to what to expect in the future.  It was as simple as giving a sample of my blood for analysis.  My wife felt it was necessary so our children can find out what may be in store for them in the future and to plan accordingly.   So, for now, I am waiting, but not worrying ... yet!  Follow with me as I journey through the health care system, trying to find my way through the many choices available, hoping I make the correct choice; for you see, my life depends on it!!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The "A Sweet Treat Adventure" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Reading the sign that warns the patrons with nut allergies that the Christmas Ginger- bread display contains peanuts, wheat, soybean and tree nut products.  About two weeks ago I opened the mailbox and there, amongst the rest of the mail, was an invitation to the 2016 RLPS Gingerbread Village Display on Sunday, December 18. The display was also open for three days for others in the surrounding areas to come and visit.  For years Reese, Lower, Patrick and Scott Architects occupied a beautiful building at the top of the hill from our house.  A few years ago, after outgrowing the building, they moved the business to a much larger building they naturally designed themselves about a mile from my house.  
Following the hallway to the display.  Previous
displays are depicted along this hallway.
The invitation I received was for a special showing for friends and neighbors from the old neighbor- hood.  If you have been following my blog for the past couple of years you probably have seen many of the other displays that their architects have created using only items that can be consumed.  The imagination and creativity is amazing and Carol and I look forward to our visit every year.  This year's display was titled "Sweetscape" and featured 19 houses designed and build by company employees to a specific scale.  A few employees assembled the houses and with the help of others added more than a dozen accessories to add to the display.  As usual, the village was remarkable, but I will let you judge for yourself as I show you photos of the buildings and the detail and lighting that were used to create the best holiday gingerbread house display you will ever witness.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - Click on the following photographs to enlarge them to view them better.  Remember that all buildings are edible.

This building is titled "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."
Tinker Bells, Tinker Bells, Tinker All The Way.
Home Sweet Home
Better Now than Later
Bee's Knees Boutique
Merry Cheesemas
Shakey's Barber School
Mickey's Good Deed
A Christmas Eve Dance 
Soon Fatt Chinese Restaurant
Engine Company 25 with Pumper Truck #25 
Mrs. C's Bakery
This is the corner of the streetscape featuring three houses.  Doc's Drugstore on the left, Tiddlewinks Toy Shop in the center and Catty Shack on the right.
Under the street is Nog's Head Distillery.
Another view of Catty Shack
For Pet's Sake 
Rose Bowl Bound
And, the final building titled Picasso's Place