Extraordinary Stories

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Saturday, December 31, 2011

The "Who will you laugh at when I'm gone?" Story

It was another ordinary day. Had just finished shopping at Park City Center in Lancaster for Christmas gifts. While there we were surprised to see Justin Bieber at the Bon Ton Department Store. Yep, the same Justin Bieber that is an idol to so many children, tweens and teens as well as some adults. Got to stand next to him and have my photo taken with him even though I'm not a fan. Not fair that a kid that age makes more money in a month than I will make in my lifetime. Just because he's cute. Can't really sing as far as I'm concerned. He was nice enough though to stand with me for a photo. After Carol took our picture together she sent the photo to our daughter in Maryland so she could show it to our granddaughters. I'm sure they would be thrilled. After about 2 minutes Carol got a return text on her phone that said, "Dork." I guess at this time I should tell you that Justin was actually a full sized cardboard cutout that was in one of the isles to promote some of his clothes. I posed next to it and even held my hand the same way as he did. And I will not get my wife involved in this too much by telling you that it was my idea to take the photo, even with store clerks and other customers looking at me like I was nuts. Evidently my daughter thought the same as the clerks and customers. For many years I have acted this way. Don't know why, but it just comes natural to me. Many times I do things that I don't realize are funny or stupid and the family will laugh at me, and then there other times when they make fun of me. I know it isn't meant to be nasty, and I don't take it that way. At times I don't hear a certain word they may have said and my response may sound humorous. Don't mean it to be, but it just is. Whenever we get together they will talk about the time when dad did this or dad did that and everyone will laugh. Actually some of the stuff is really funny even though at the time I didn't think it was. Well, today when my daughter returned the "Dork" response I said to Carol, who will they make fun of when I'm gone. "Where are you going," was her response. And you thought I was the funny one! It must be heriditary. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - I'm sure that if you know me and have been around me for years, you probably have a good story to tell about me. Right?

Friday, December 30, 2011

The "Coach" Story

It was an ordinary day. My daughter Brynn, son-in-law Dave and two grandkids Courtney and Camille are visiting for the holidays. Gets pretty hectic with four extra people in the house and Rocco. Oh yeah, Rocco is their dog. Otis our cat is never happy when Rocco comes to visit. Otis has to stayed penned in our bedroom to protect him. We always have a great visit and I get to see Dave a little bit more than when we visit at our daughter's home in Maryland. Dave is the head coach at Quince Orchard High School in Montgomery County, MD. He has been coaching football for many years now and has finally reached the top. In 2007 his team won the Maryland State Championship and almost did it again this year. For Christmas this year I gave him a memento of the season and one of the articles in it was about his special award. Rather than tell you about it, I'll just include the story I wrote about him. Here goes:

Mencarini named 2011 “Coach of the Year”

Washington Post picks Quince Orchard coach for annual

prestigious award.

Since taking over the Cougar Football program in 2004, Dave Mencarini and his staff have helped to build Quince Orchard into one of the state of Maryland’s elite programs. Mencarini oversees all aspects of the program while coaching the quarterbacks and coordinating the special teams.

Coach “Mac” has guided the Cougars to 8 consecutive state playoff appearances. The Cougars capped off the first undefeated season in school history going 14-0 and winning the 2007 4A State Championship, the schools 2nd state title, the other being in 1991.

The 2007 team was ranked #1 in the Washington Post and State AP Poll while finishing ranked 40th nationally by Rivals.com. The Cougars won the 4A West Regional title in 2007 and 2011 and were runners up in the region in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, and 2010. In 2011 the team finished with its third undefeated regular season in 5 years. The Cougars won 10 or more games starting in 2005 through the 2009 season, and again in 2011.

This year’s team made it to the State Championship with play-off wins over Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Churchill, and Charles H. Flowers while advancing to the state championship game at M&T Bank Stadium on December 3rd in Baltimore against Old

Mill. The thrilling Championship Game went to overtime where the Cougars lost 36-35 when Old Mill successfully ran for a 2-point conversion. Quince Orchard ended the season with a state ranking of #3.

Coach “Mac” received the 2007 Maryland State Coach of the Year award, the Montgomery Sentinel Coach of the Year, the Washington Redskins Coach of the Year and was also picked by the Montgomery county coaches for the same honor.

Before taking over as head coach at Quince Orchard, Dave was an assistant coach for the Cougars from 2002-2003 and was an assistant coach at Seneca Valley High School from 2000-2002. Dave began his coaching career in 1998 at Poolesville High. He was a former Rockville High receiver during his playing career.

With a record of 85-14, Dave Mencarini has been picked as the 2011 Coach of The Year by the Washington Post. Congratulations Dave!

This award is a very prestigious award in that it covers the states of Maryland and Virginia as well as the District of Columbia. Quite a few high schools in those three areas. An added feature about coaching for an extended amount of time and having such an excellent program is that you get to watch Bowl Games over the holidays and see some of you former players. This year Nebraska and Stanford are both in bowl games and both have starting players that graduated from Dave's program at Quince Orchard. As you can imagine, we are extremely proud of Dave and his accomplishments. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The "Gift" Story

It was an ordinary day. Just gave our son-in-law his Christmas gift. I suspect he knew what he was getting. Every year we give him something that I have made and framed or just bought and framed at the gallery where I work. He has framed stadiums from Penn State, Notre Dame and the Washington Redskins. He has inspirational posters about coaching and playing football. I even bought a few old ticket stubs from when the Baltimore Orioles won the World Series and framed them for him. Got a piece of the floor from the old Maryland University field house and framed that. And in 2007, when his Quince Orchard High School football team, which he is the head coach of, won the Maryland 4A State Championship I made a 32" x 40" framed tribute that had stories about him and his dad who helps him coach as well as his record, team photo and game photos with a story about the final game. Pretty neat if I may say so. So when his team lost 36-35 on a two-point conversion in overtime in this year's championship game, he knew something was in the works. Especially since I kept calling my daughter and asking her to ask her husband about this team and that player and where I can get a team photo, etc. Well the 32" x 40" tribute this year contains stories about their run through the playoffs with photos from each game as well as a team photo and a story about him and the major award he won this year. Across the top of the tribute declared he was Runners-Up in the 4A Finals and across the bottom the saying that graces the Quince Orchard web-site; We play for those who came before - We set the standard for those who follow. I worked hours typing the stories, gathering the photos and planning the size. Then another hour or more laying it out on the computer at the Gallery where I made it and then watching as the mat cutter cut all the openings and words. Did it in black with a red accent mat which are the colors for Quince Orchard High School. Took it home three days before Christmas and showed it to my wife. She said "Wow" and starting reading all the stories and headlines. Then ....... she looked at me and smiled. "Oh No!!" I said when I saw her face. "What did I do wrong?" She softly said, "It's the saying at the bottom." Whew, I was relieved for a moment. "I couldn't get the one "We" on the last line, but it still means and sounds the same without it," I told her. "I saw that, but that's not it," she said as I could see the sympathy in her eyes. "You spelled "THOSE" on the bottom line wrong." I spelled it "TOSE". "Holy S*#t!" was my response. ALL THAT WORK! "Do you think they will notice or do you think that is the way they talk in Maryland?" I asked her, fully knowing the answer. "Maybe not," she replied. I knew she didn't mean that. I grabbed the frame, gave her a kiss and out the door I went. "I'll be back in an hour or two," I yelled to her as I closed the door. Well it does look better with the word spelled correctly and our son-in-law Dave loved it, as usual. Asked where I got all the stories from and I told him I wrote them myself from articles in several newspapers and adding my own touch. Hey I'm an author, you know. He looked at me, impressed. Now all he has to do is find a place to hang it. Could be harder to do than it was to make it. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - I have included the mat for you to see, but I know you can't read it or see the photos too well since it is so small and you can't make it any larger. Sorry for that! Please read my story tomorrow and you'll see about the one special story I included in the tribute.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The "Reason for 99 Cents" Story

It was an ordinary day. Needed gas for the car. Today the price of gas is $3.29.9. Three dollars and twenty nine cents and .9. What is that .9 after the 29? It's 9/10 of a cent. So why don't they just say that the gas is $3.30 and be done with it? Well, it's the same thing as spending $0.99 cents for something instead of $1.00. Your mind thinks it is cheaper. And, it is. One cent cheaper. I read not long ago that we may some day soon get rid of the penny. Geez, what will we do when that happens. How will they put that on the message board at the gas station. For years people have been making items that would have a price that was one cent away from a price that seems dramatically higher. A piece of furniture may cost $999.99. That just seems so much cheaper than the same piece at a store down the street that charges $1,000.00. Hey, its one cent cheaper! Bet if you were buying it you would go to the store with the $999.99, but yet if you have too many pennies in your pocket you may just get rid of a few before they make a hole in your pocket. When I was teaching in high school I often noticed students throwing pennies at each other. Pulled one to the side one time and asked him what he was doing. It's only a penny, was the reply. He didn't realize a penny can hurt the same as a dime. Besides the fact that he shouldn't be throwing anything. A penny means nothing to the younger generation. If I ever found a penny on the street I would pick it up and put it in my pocket. Many will tell you not to do that unless the head is up on the coin when you find it because if may bring bad luck, but I figure that if you accumulate enough of them you'll make your own luck. So many things are one cent shy of a dollar amount today to make them seem cheaper. In the iTunes Music Store most songs are $0.99. How Steve Jobs, in 2003, convinced all the music companies to offer their singles for that price is amazing to me. Most still remain that price, but in 2009 they made some changes and now offer hit singles for $1.29 while others remain $0.99 and the obscure songs can be purchased for $0.69. Notice it is not $1.30, $1.00 and $0.70. Probably wouldn't sell as many. In the retail clothing market, clothing that carries a price of say $14.99 will sell 20% more clothing than if it were $15.00. Also, a store employee would have to open a cash register to give a penny change and therefore be less likely to pocket the whole dollar amount. I recently bought an iPad. Price was $499.00. I know it should have been $499.99, but it wasn't. And then I decided I wanted to buy some apps (applications) for it so I could play different games on it. Bet you know what the price was for most of the apps. Yep, $0.99. So they got their extra $0.99 after I bought my first app. It's crazy, but $0.99 cents just seems like a more throw-away figure than a dollar. You agree? How many pennies do you have in your pocket or purse? It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The "Tombstone Picnic" Story

It was an ordinary day. Telling Carol about when I used to sing in the boy's choir at St. James Episcopal Church in downtown Lancaster. I know, you probably read some about it here, but I enjoy telling it. Used to have choir practice on Monday after school, Thursday evening with the men's choir, and Saturday mornings. On Monday and Saturdays it was daylight when we arrived at practice and most choir members made sure they arrived early so we could play in the cemetery before the start of practice. The church was founded in 1744 and the cemetery was opened in the same year. Many of Lancaster's leading citizens are buried there. Thomas Cookson, the town's first burgess, Edward Shippen, the county's chief magistrate and Jasper Yeates, a justice of the state Supreme Court are all buried there. And, they all had really neat tombstones to hide behind. We would play hide and seek before practice and on a Monday, when practice didn't start until 4:30, it would start to get dark and make for great times amongst the tomb stones. Mr. Mac, the choirmaster, would warm us not to play in the cemetery, but that didn't seem to deter us. If caught by him, he would fine you 5 cents from you monthly pay envelope. Doesn't seem like much, but back in the late 40s and early 50s, that was a big punishment. If the fun in the cemetery continued, a call to our parents would stop it for maybe, oh, a month. Now, we never were destructive or disrespectful of the tombstones, but they made for great places to hide. Half a dozen or so where large pieces of stone about four feet by 8 feet that were held up by stone or concrete pillars so they were about the height of a table. Some even had solid slab sides on two or three of the sides. Really great for hiding in. Ah ha, I finally got to my story for the day. Recently there was an article in the Lancaster newspaper about a family that was found in our grave yard having a picnic on one of the table tombstones. Seems that in the mid-1800s, having picnics in the churchyard, around the tombstones, was commonplace. It was part of a Victorian tradition. Our minister, Rev. Peck, who lives in the rectory which is adjacent to the churchyard, saw the eight or nine members of a Plain denomination sitting on benches, eating on the tombstones while enjoying the quiet and serenity of the churchyard. Very strange for a Plain sect family to visit an Anglican churchyard. "They came and spread a tablecloth on this tombstone and brought food and had their picnic there. It was a respectful and proper use. It warms my heart to see people using the churchyard in different ways," Rev. Peck related. "It was like looking at a 19th century dream," he continued. "They stayed for about three hours, ate their lunch, then the children played elsewhere in the churchyard while the adults talked." The tombstone the Plain family used memorializes Ann Eliza Aldridge, who died in 1815. Could be the family was related to the deceased and were paying their respects as they did 150 years ago. Hey, I bet I could give the kids a few hints as to where to hide if they wanted to play hide-and-seek. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - photo shows Rev. Peck at the tombstone that was used for a picnic, one of my favorite hiding places.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The "Do You Know When To Change?" Story

It was an ordinary day. Trying to decide if I want the book Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson for a Christmas gift. I have always had a Macintosh computer and recently purchased an iPad, but for some strange reason I am typing this story on my Toshiba laptop. Bought it a few years ago to take with us on vacations, since it was less expensive than a Mac laptop. It works, but not half as well as my Mac. I have always liked Macintosh products, probably because that is what the school where I taught put into all the classrooms. Steve Jobs was a genius when he made sure that all schools were able to buy computers at a fairly inexpensive price. He knew that many would continue to use them in the future. Look at me! I learned on a Mac and have been using one ever since. Steve Jobs had a vision that no one else could see. He built a company based on that vision, but the leaders of the company still couldn't see that vision so they eventually managed to dismiss him. Apple computers came upon hard times and Steve eventually returned and reinstituted his vision. Many of the original doubters were now gone and he assembled an army of loyal supporters who helped lead Apple to what it is today. Steve was the leader in many aspects of the technology explosion that hit the world. He and David Kelley of IDEO helped develop the first commercial mouse. The prototype used a steel ball and when you rolled it on a table it could be fairly loud. Steve said it was unacceptable so they coated the ball with rubber to reduce the noise. Most CEOs care about the product, but not the details. Steve was different. He demonstrated that design can lead a company to greatness. In 2005 Steve was named graduation speaker at Stanford University. Most wanted Bill Clinton and were disappointed when the announcement was made. He started his speech telling how Apple fired him and then his doctor told him he had cancer and was going to die. Told the graduates that he was adopted by parents who had never went to college. Told them that he gets up every morning and asks the image in the bathroom mirror: If today were the last day of my life, would I want do what I am about to do today? If the answer is "no" too many days in a row, then it is time for a change. Wow, can you say that you have followed that advice in your life? I never looked in the mirror, but do believe that I knew when it was time for a change in my life. That came in 1999 when I retired from teaching. His final words of wisdom to the class was: Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Amen! You know, I have read enough and heard enough about Steve Jobs that I really don't need to put that book on my Christmas list. Don't want to tarnish the image I have of him, and I fear by reading the book it might do that. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The "Ho, Ho, Ho! Merry Christmas" Story

It was an ordinary day. Christmas morning! And ...... a Merry Christmas to you!! The shopping for gifts is completed for what seemed like the multitudes as well as planning for the traditional Christmas dinner at our house today. Worked at the Gallery in Neffsville yesterday, to help pay for the gifts, listening to the radio and singing along to the Christmas carols that now fill the airways. Since I normally work alone, I can sing as loud as I want, or until the guy that runs the weight-lifting shop next to the Gallery pounds on the wall. I had just finished singing a song that I had heard both at Thanksgiving as well as Christmas. Goes like this: "Over the River and Through the woods" ....... Remember that one? The last part of the song on the third stanza can be sung with: "Hurray for Thanksgiving Day" or "Hurrah for Christmas Day." The song came from a poem written by Lydia Maria Child in 1844 and was titled "A Boy's Thanksgiving Day." Most know it as a song instead as a poem. And, most know it as; "Over the River and Through the woods, to Grandmother's house we go", but it was originally written as "Grandfather's house we go." The poem/song still remains a reminder of a simpler time when the mere thought of seeing relatives at a holiday meal was as exciting as the meal itself. And for LDubs family, it is still that way on Christmas. When I taught school I taught a unit in hand lithography methods and for many years the students had a chance to produce a limestone lithography. They would draw on a prepared limestone tablet with a grease crayon or pen, moistened the stone with water, ran a roller with an oil-based ink on it over the limestone and placed a piece of paper over that and rolled with a dry roller. Pulled the paper off the limestone and viola! You had a lithograph. The reason I am telling you this is that the two fellows known as Currier and Ives made this procedure famous. Their lithographs were produced on lithographic limestone printing plates on which the drawing was done by hand. A stone often took over a week to prepare for printing. Each print was pulled by hand. Their earliest lithographs were printed in black and then colored by hand and represented every phase of American life, and included the themes of hunting, fishing, whaling, city life, rural scenes, historical scenes, clipper ships, yachts, steamships, the Mississippi River, Hudson River scenes, railroads, politics, comedy, gold mining, winter scenes, commentary on life, portraits, and still lifes. One of my favorites that Currier and Ives did was called "Home to Thanksgiving" and was based on a 1867 painting by John Schutler. Well, getting to the good part of my story for today, I love music so much and I enjoy the "Over the River and Through the woods" song so much, and since it is Christmas day, I wrote my own lyrics to the song. It is a reminder of the simpler times, past and present, when my daughter Brynn and son-in-law Dave and two granddaughters Courtney and Camille traveled on Christmas morning from their home in Maryland across the bridge over the Susquehanna River to our home in Lancaster to celebrate with Christmas dinner and opening of gifts. Are you ready for my rendition? Please sing with me. Here goes .....

Over the river, across the bridge,

To Tampah's house we go;

Our Dad knows the way to steer the car

through the white and drifted snow.

Over the river, across the bridge,

To Tampah's house away!

We hold our breath as we cross the bridge,

For this is Christmas Day.

Over the river, across the bridge—

Oh, how the wind does blow!

It stings the toes and bites the nose

As over the bridge we go.

Over the river, across the bridge,

With a clear blue winter sky,

Rocco will bark, and children hark,

As we go jingling by.

Over the river, across the bridge,

To have a fun-filled day.

Hear the bells ring, "Ting-a-ling-ding",

Hurrah for Christmas Day!

Over the river, across the bridge,

No matter for winds that blow,

For if we drive the car too fast

Into a bank of snow.

Over the river, across the bridge,

To see GG and Tad.

We will kiss them all, and play snow-ball,

And throw one at our Dad.

Over the river, across the bridge,

Drive safe, we all will say!

We’re across the bridge and almost there,

For this is Christmas Day.

Over the river, across the bridge—

Make sure that we’re not late,

We seem to go extremely slow,

It is so hard to wait!

Over the river, across the bridge,

Old Otie hears our bells.

He shakes his head, with a loud meow,

And thus the news he tells.

Over the river, across the bridge,

When Amah sees us come,

She will say, "Oh, dear, the children are here,

Bringing gifts for everyone."

Over the river, across the bridge—

Now Amah's face I spy!

Hurrah for the fun! Is the ham all done?

Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!

Corny I know, but I love it! And in a few minutes my daughter and her family will be on the road to my house , surely singing my song. Have a Merry Christmas everyone! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The "Face Timing the Grandkids" Story

It was an ordinary day. Waiting for Christmas to arrive. Last year Santa visited our house and left a pair of handheld iPod Touch for our two granddaughters ages 9 and 7. They loved them and now have their favorite songs and games on them. They also have the capability to Face Time with others that have iPods. Face Time is a free application that allows you to communicate with others who have iPhones or iPods. You dial the other person and are able to talk to them and see them and they can see and talk with you. Pretty neat. All you need is a wireless connection or a 4G device. We got the girls the basic iPod Touch so they must have an Internet connection available to them in order to use Face Time. After we purchased our iPad we were able to Face Time with them. When we went on vacation to Barbados this past Fall, we had a wireless Internet connection in the condo where we stayed and could dial their number and see and talk with them without cost to us. Really neat! We even were able to point our iPad towards the Caribbean Sea from our second floor balcony and let the girls as well as our daughter see the color of the water and the beautiful beach. Unbelievably neat! After we returned we were visiting with our grandson who is 6 and told him we weregoing to Face Time the girls and talk to them. He found it so amazing and now he has asked Santa for an iPod so he can keep in touch with his cousins. If only I had this technology when I was a child. The transistor radio was about as technologically advanced as I was able to be. Well, I hope Santa got Caden's message and will be able to leave an iPod Touch at our house this year for him. I'm sure the girls will have so much fun showing him how to use Face Time so they can talk and visit with each other whenever they want to. And, when Carol and I take out next trip we will be able to show Caden the same things that we showed the girls on our last vacation. Oh, I'm sure Santa got the message!! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The "Twelve Days of Christmas: Part 2" Story

It was an ordinary day. Getting ready to finish my list of the gifts I would like during the "Twelve Days of Christmas." You ever sing that holiday song? I usually mess up one or two of the verses when I try it. I read in the paper a week or so ago that the 2011 cost of all the gifts listed in the Christmas carol would be $24,263 if you purchased one of each. Now when you purchase all 5 gold rings, all seven swans-a-swimming, all eleven pipers piping and so forth, the total cost would be a grand total of $101,119. The cheapest one is still the partridge at $15 and the cost of the 5 gold rings has actually decreased from last year. The calling birds, French hens, turtle doves, geese, swans and partridge really upped the cost this year because the cost of shipping live birds has increased tremendously. Buying the items by going from store to store is also much cheaper that buying all the items online. Again, because of the shipping costs. All the items combined was 4.4% higher than last year. Well, my list of gifts is a bargain in comparison. Check yesterdays story for the first half of my list, and now I will finish the last 6 items of the list. DAY 7: Seven gallons of Cabot stain that I can use to finish the front and east side of my house. I used to buy it from my brother who had a paint and baseball card store (Yeah, he really did sell both those items in the store), but Walmart came to town and he went out of business. That's a whole different story! I now can buy the stain at Lowe's at a fairly reasonable price. I chose Cabot in the first place because my brother said it was a superior stain and that's what he sold. Two summers ago my son Tad and I did two sides and it's now time to finish the rest. DAY 8: Eight new pieces of art. I love paintings, drawings, ceramics, stained glass and all the rest of the arts. My friend Denny R., when he visits, says it's like being in an art gallery when he walks in the door. I enjoy the purchase and displaying of the art, but a gift of a few items would be even better. DAY 9: Donation to the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation of $9, $99 or $999 in my granddaughter Courtney's name would be greatly appreciated. Someday there will be a cure and she will greatly benefit from it. DAY 10: Ten lunch dates along the Chesapeake Bay with my lovely wife. Now this would truly be a neat gift to receive on day 10 of the Christmas carol. Any location such as Chestertown, Chesapeake City, Havre de Grace, or Northeast would be a treat. DAY 11: Eleven Family Birthday Celebrations for the new year starting with son-in-law Dave in February. Now this gift is not really a gift but a time for the family to get together and celebrate not only the person who is having the birthday, but to celebrate the entire family. Always a fun time for everyone. DAY 12: Twelve gallons of Applesauce. Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE applesauce. No matter the price or the brand, I'll eat it and plenty of it. Have to have it with almost every meal. The times we are having apple dumplings for a meal, I can pass on the apple sauce. My favorite is the cinnamon apple sauce, but can eat the regular and even the sugar free if I have to. Well folks, there you have my wish list for the "12 Days of Christmas." I have tried singing it to myself a few times and it works, with a few adjustments. And, I'm sure that the cost of all my requests is a minute part of the $24K, some odd dollars that the original song requires. May all your dreams and requests be filled this holiday season. MERRY CHRISTMAS from LDubs' house to yours. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The "Twelve Days of Christmas: Part 1" Story

It was an ordinary day. Waitin' to see what I get for the "12 Days of Christmas." Don't you get something for each of the 12 days of Christmas? I'm sure you have heard of the English Christmas carol by that name that enumerates a series of increasingly grand gifts given on each of the twelve days of Christmas. The twelve days in the song are the twelve days starting Christmas day, or in some traditions, the day after Christmas (December 26), to the day before Epiphany which is January 6th. A bit of modern folklore claims that the song's lyrics were written as a "catechism song" to help young Catholics learn their faith, at a time when practising Catholicism was discouraged in England (1558 until 1829). There is no evidence supporting this claim, and no evidence that the claim is historical, or "anything but a fanciful modern day speculation." Regardless of the origin of this idea, a number of Christians give the following meanings to the gifts:
A partridge in a pear treeJesus
Two turtle dovesThe Old and New Testaments
Three French hensThe three kings bearing gifts
Four calling [sic] birdsThe four Gospels
Five gold ringsThe Torah or Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament
Six geese a-layingThe six days of Creation
Seven swans a-swimmingSeven gifts of the Holy Spirit
Eight maids a-milkingThe eight Beatitudes
Nine ladies dancingNine fruits of the Holy Spirit
Ten lords a-leapingThe Ten Commandments
Eleven pipers pipingThe eleven faithful Apostles
Twelve drummers drummingThe twelve points of the Apostles' Creed

I like to interpret the song my own way and therefore have decided what I would like for the 12
days of Christmas to bring me. DAY 1: ONE VISIT to Dr. Nicole at Neffsville Veterinarian Clinic to provide shots and a general exam for our "outdoor" cat we call Creamsicle (Orange and white colors). She was probably dropped off near our house a few years ago and has adopted us as her new owners. She is still somewhat apprehensive about coming in the house, but will enter the back door for treats and petting, but then "freaks out" until we re-open the door for her to leave. Carol and I have gained her trust over the years and I believe we could put her in a carrier and get her the medical treatment she deserves. DAY 2: Two new tech toys to make life easier for me. Don't care what they are, but something such as my GPS system or my Kindle. The gifts are up to the giver! DAY 3: You knew this would have to be on my list - Three healthy vacations! By healthy I mean vacations where Carol and I are both healthy enough to go on vacation and enjoy ourselves. Seems to be slightly harder to do as we age. DAY 4: Four rubber tires for the Mercury Mountaineer. We have owned our Mountaineer for 5 years now. We have looked at replacement cars for quite some time, but have come to the conclusion that we love our car and want to keep it. We drive it very little as shown by the 39K miles on the speedometer so the 15 to 19 MPG that we get aren't really a factor to us. Our last payment arrives in another month, so we decided to buy a new 3 year warranty that will cover a gadzillion things that may go wrong with the car. We do need to replace the tires soon, so hence, it made my list for Christmas.DAY 5: Five new novels to read so I can take them on the healthy vacations that I hope I'll be getting. Most of my favorite authors have one, or in one case, two new novels. Books such as Stuart Woods' D. C. Dead, Clive Cussler's Devil's Gate, the late Michael Crichton's Micro, and the prolific James Patterson's 11th Hour and Private. DAY 6: Six gallons of ice cream. I have many favorite flavors and the six gallons certainly won't last me forever, but maybe six gallons of Peanut Butter Twirl would be a start. Well, I have my list half finished and will share some more about the carol "12 Days of Christmas" with you and complete my list in my story tomorrow. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The "Having A Messy Good Time" Story

It was an ordinary day. Cleaning up the kitchen table. Got a little sticky last night when the grandkids and I worked on our gingerbread houses. About a week before Thanksgiving I came home from shopping for groceries for Thanksgiving dinner and showed my wife this really neat kit I got at the store. "You don't expect the kids to do that by themselves, do you?" she said after seeing the complexity of the stuff in the box. I guess I didn't! "You know how much of a mess that will be on Thanksgiving when they start that?" she continued. I guess I didn't! "They'll have icing all over the sofa," she said. "OK, I'll forget about it," I responded. Well, dinner ended and most everyone went home except Carol and me and our daughter Brynn and her two kids as well as my son Derek's son. So, three adults and three kids. "Why don't you get the gingerbread kit out now and help them make the houses?" Carol said to me. Why me? Too late. The grandkids heard her and were now all excited about the stuff I BOUGHT! The kit had 5 houses in it so they each could have one. I started cutting the first piece of gingerbread along the lines as indicated and ..... whoops. Now there are only 4 houses. Then I read the instructions and cut the rest as I was told to do in the instructions. Then the fun began. Opened one of two packets of frosting/glue and helped all of them to glue their houses together. Frosting everywhere and on everything as they tried to hold them together as the frosting set. We all washed up while the housed cured or set for an hour so the frosting could harden. Couldn't wait an hour! After half an hour we were back at the table with 5 packets of "stuff", ready to finish the houses. One packet had gummy green Christmas trees, one had colored things that looked like BBs, one had colored round candies that looked like paper punched pieces and one had colored things that looked like Jujubes. Remembered them from my childhood. The final packet had red frosting in it. Well, the only way to hold the candies on the gingerbread was with the other packet of white frosting as well as the new red packet of frosting. Boy did we have a mess!! But, they had the best time making the festive houses. I pitched in with suggestions and encouragement when things kept falling off the houses. Finally we were done and clean-up started. I told them to leave them on the table overnight to harden and we went to grab a snack before bedtime. Got up early the next morning to clean up the mess and had their houses waiting for them when they crawled out of bed. We wrapped them in bubble wrap for the trip to their homes. Haven't heard how they survived the car ride, but for this Christmas there will be no more gingerbread house making in LDub's kitchen. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - Top two photos show Caden's house, middle two show Camille's house, and the bottom two show Courtney's house.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The "Anniversary Celebration" Story

It was an ordinary day. Getting ready to celebrate AAA Central Penn's 105 birthday. I know, big deal. And, I kind of feel that way also. I have been a member of AAA since 1980. 31 years of carrying that card in my wallet. I can remember when my dad died and I had to go through all his files and decide what was important to keep and what needed to be pitched. One of the unusual items, maybe I should reword that since most of the items he kept were unusual, I found were every AAA card he ever was issued since he had joined. A whole big stack of them. Well anyway, I have made use of my AAA membership many times for items such as maps, tour books, and a few towing trips when a car would break down. But, I'm sure they have collected more money in dues from me than I have received in services. Something like an insurance policy my dad would always say. At this point I'm afraid to stop my membership for fear that the day after my card runs out, I'll be stranded somewhere with a flat tire and no gas. The Central Penn, or our local club, was founded 105 years ago because of poor road conditions and needed improvements. Today they offer a variety of services to serve the travel and safety needs of it's members. Since most people living today weren't around when the club was founded, they gave a time line in their latest AAA issue of important events from the club's first 30 years. Such items as: 1912 - A $50 reward is offered for arrest and conviction of thieves who steal member's cars (that had to be a huge sum of money at that time), 1918 - The club proposed drastic action against all township supervisors who fail to erect direction signs to keep roads in repair (wonder how that worked out), 1919 - AAA took steps to secure uniform gas prices in Pennsylvania (wouldn't that put a damper on free enterprise?), 1921 - Members vote to give 10-mile free towing service, 1923- Club voted to give free emergency road service to affiliated members when the club's territory, 1924 - A complete mapping service is available, 1926 - The club engaged motorcycle patrolman to ride highways in its district assisting members, 1927 - Club begins a weekly radio broadcast and give 2 cents per gallon on gas and reduced prices on grease jobs to members, 1928 - Club institutes schoolboy patrols in it's territory (Hey, I was a patrolman in elementary school and my certificate says AAA on the top of it), 1934 - Club membership dues are $5, 1937 - Membership stands at 5,360. In the first 30 years the Central Penn club grew from the 80 charter members to 5,360. Quite a history. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

The "Santa Bell Beach - Christmas in Miniature" Story

It was an ordinary day. Just finished my visit to Reese, Lower, Patrick & Scott Architects (RLPS) to see Jim. Jim was a student of mine years ago. After graduation he went to Penn State and became an architect. Has a great job at RLPS. And, this time of year he gets quite a few visits to his office, since they are having their 22nd Annual Christmas display. Everyone in the firm has a part in it and they build a miniature display of gingerbread houses that carry a different theme every year. The theme for this year is "Santa Bell Beach." All houses and accessories are supposed to be made according to scale which is 3/8" = 12". I just had to go and take a few photos of it, since I am a beach lover and Jim was kind enough to walk me around the display and point out the different and unusual aspects of this years' display.Wasn't disappointed in what I saw. The display is in a large window near the entrance to the building which is located at 1910 Harrington Drive in Lancaster, PA. You can walk around the display inside the building to view it and also see it from outside in the evening when it's lit. This year there are 15 buildings with names such as Santa's Skate Shop, Rudolpho's Pizzeria, Frosty the Doughman (a bakery and my favorite named building), The Bear Necessi-Tees, Taffy and Bail Money, Snow Balls, Santee's Souvenirs, Candyland Sno Kones, Frosty's Magic Hat Hotel and Candyland Mini Golf. The last one I listed is naturally on top of a few of the other places just as it is at most of the Jersey boardwalk towns. In the rear of the display are a few high-rise hotels and condos as well as the traditional water tower with the name "Santa Bell Beach" on it. There are also a sizable amount of accessories to draw your attention and amuse you. Such items as Frosty's Red Hots, Candy Christmas Carousel, 3 Snowman Band, Shiver's Pavilion, Occupy Boardwalk, Toasted Marshmallows, Christmas Break, Snowman Walking Penguins and Wright Bros. Ad Agency (you have to look up in the sky for this one). There is so much to take in that a few trips are necessary to see everything. The display is open from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM on Thursdays until January 1. Gives you two more times in which to take in this great holiday display. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - Photos follow with a description ........

Reese, Lower, Patrick & Scott on Harrington Drive. The display is in the far left window.

Frosty's Magic Hat Hotel on the Boardwalk and beach activity among the snowmen.

The rooftop Mini-Golf course and the Ferris Wheel

Dolle's Taffy & Bail Money store in the center of the display. Check out the tree made of lifesavers on the left of the photo.

View of Candy Christmas Carousel. Every Boardwalk has at least one carousel!

A view down one side of the Boardwalk showing a few of the stores as well as the "snowmen" shoppers along the Boardwalk.

Rudolpho's Pizzeria which is one of my favorites. Inside you can see the stools at the counter which are made with pasta and a piece of candy as the seat.

This display is titled Here Comes Santa Claus

Monday, December 19, 2011

The "Meeting Interesting People!" Story

It was an ordinary day. Sitting with my Kindle in my hand, reading James Patterson's seasonal novel, "The Christmas Wedding." This novel is much like his "Suzanne's Dairy for Nicholas" and "Sam's Letters to Jennifer" in that it is so much not James Patterson and his thrilling killer type novels. Story about a woman with four grown children whose husband had died and she plans to re-marry at Christmas. But ...... hasn't told her children who will be the groom. Has a few choices and one is a Jewish Rabbi. Some real thought provoking chapters in it. I must tell you that I have learned quite a bit about the Jewish faith while reading the book. As one of her other suitors proclaims in the book - Nowhere will you meet more interesting people than in books. Amen, or Amein in Jewish! Did you know that the Unetanah Tokef, a religious Jewish poem that is meant to strike fear in Jews, is part of the Jewish liturgy, primarily as part of Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is the day that Moses came down from Sinai with the second set of tablets of the Ten Commandments to replace the original set that he broke upon witnessing the children of Israel worshipping the Golden Calf. The poem follows:

On New Year's Day (Rosh Hashanah) the Decree is inscribed,
And on the day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) it is sealed.
How many shall pass away and how many shall be born
Who shall live and who shall die.
Who shall perish by water and who by fire,
Who by sword and who by wild beast,
Who by famine and who by thirst,
Who by earthquake and who by plague,
Who by strangulation and who by stoning,
Who shall have rest and who shall wander,
Who shall be at peace and who shall be pursued,
Who shall be at rest and who shall be tormented,
Who shall be exalted and who shall be brought low,
Who shall become rich and who shall be impoverished.
But repentance, prayer and righteousness avert the severe decree.

If you're Jewish, or even if you're not, you may want to do some repenting, praying and being righteous to avoid the previously stated lines from the religious poem. Sure struck fear in me! Extremely thought provoking. After reading a few parts of "The Christmas Wedding" I had to "Google" several items to learn more about items in the book. Guess that is what a good book should do; provoke thoughts. I won't tell you any more about the book except for the fact that you should read it yourself. Great reading for the Holidays, no matter what your religious beliefs may be; for you know, Nowhere will you meet more interesting people than in books. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The "Your Choices are 'A' or 'C'" Story

It was an ordinary day. Getting ready to have supper. Last week at the grocery store we bought a box of crab cakes. Carol told me I wouldn't be happy with them, but after seeing the photo on the front of the package, I thought I might like them. Ever since we found Woody's Crab House in Northeast, Maryland we have not found a better crab cake. Woody's crab cakes are fantastic. Totally all crab meat and no fillers. Their crab bisque is also one of the best we have ever tasted. Creamy with plenty of crab meat in it. Well, the photo on the package of crab cakes showed really good looking crab cakes. They had to be good. Not! Half filler and very little taste to them. I know, she told me! But, that doesn't really matter because my story isn't about the crab cakes, but about what to have with them. We usually have sweet potato fries from Costco along with either applesauce or cranberry sauce. Now, I could eat, and usually do, applesauce with every meal. We, no make that me, go through a large jar a week. But, sometimes I do like cranberry sauce. Has to be Ocean Spray jelliedcranberry sauce. The kind you have for major meals such as Thanksgiving and probably Christmas. At our house we not only have it for those holidays, but also once or twice a month; along with the applesauce. I like to cut the top off the can, carefully run a very small knife around the inside edge of the can to release the vacuum and dump it onto a dish. Has to have ridges around it to make it good. You know, the ridges from the tin can. That way you know it is Ocean Spray. It's like a log of happiness in our house. Slice it into 1/2" pieces and your ready to go. On Thanksgiving Day the cranberry sauce is just as important as the turkey and pumpkin pie. At least to me; even with the applesauce. It's like getting 2 servings of fruit. So, what would be your choice with the crab cakes? The 'A' or the 'C'. And one final question for you; how does the cranberry sauce keep those ridges in it after you take it out of the can? It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


It was an ordinary day. Just got finished voting for my photo. I assume I can do that. Well, I have entered another photographic contest. This one is sponsored by My Island Art which is an online store which sells art from and about many different islands in the Caribbean. The money from the sale of the art is used to help the I-Can Foundation to assist at-risk children from several Caribbean island nations. I recently announced that I had won a photo contest sponsored by SXM Travel Forum and someone sent me a comment telling me to check out the My Island Art photo contest. Because of the anonymous comment, I was able to get my photos entered a few days before it closed and was lucky enough to be one of the 6 finalists in the contest. The contest attracted exactly 100 photos from all over. The prize is a wooden jewelry box with the prize winning photo on the lid of the box. Pretty neat prize! Now, to get to the point .... I am giving you the website where you can vote and I am asking you to help me in the contest. Type in the following (http://blog.myislandart.com) and when the page opens, click on "IslandArt Blog". Once you open the site you will read about the contest and see the 6 final photos. Vote for your favorite, but keep me in mind as you vote. I must admit that the competition is amazing. I enjoy all of the photos. You have until midnight on December 23, 2011, EST to cast your vote. You can place your vote on that page or click the link and go to their Facebook page and give a thumbs-up to the photo of your choice. I have included the photos below for you to look at ahead of time. Thanks in advance for visiting the site and considering me for your vote. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

#1 - Lower Key, Florida - Barbie Wilson

#2 - Megan's Bay, St. Thomas - Bridget Skjordahl

#3 - Baie Rouge, St. Martin - Eileen Cocoran-Olsen

#4 - Trunk Bay, St. John - Jerry Goehring

#5 - St. Thomas - Justin Hamlin

#6 - Bathsheba, Barbados - Larry Woods