Thursday, November 29, 2012

Five Love Languages

To the best of my knowledge the concept of Five Love Languages was defined by Dr. Gary Chapman, an "internationally respected marriage and family life expert." I first learned of these love languages over a decade ago, in the middle of a personal crisis. What I learned shocked me; I could love someone with all I had in me and they might not understand. How could this be? We were speaking different love languages. In my case the situation went on so long that love faded into the obscurity of the fog-bound recesses of our minds.
Thornton Wilder, in The Ides of March says it splendidly:
“You swore you loved me, and laughed and warned me that you would not love me forever. I did not hear you. You were speaking in a language I did not understand. Never, never, I can conceive of a love which is able to foresee its own termination. Love is its own eternity. Love is in every moment of its being: all time. It is the only glimpse we are permitted of what eternity is. So I did not hear you. The words were nonsense.”
Sometimes you can shout "I love you" with your entire being, yet not be heard.
Now I know why.
Dr. Chapman says there are five different love languages. We are possibly born with a predisposition to speak one of them, or we might learn it as we grow up. That part is immaterial at this point; nature or nurture doesn’t matter. What you need to understand is that you have a primary love language that you speak, and you have a primary love language that you hear. Usually they are the same language (yet I've known people who hear a different love language than they speak). You can certainly have a facility for the other love languages, but most of the time you will need to work to develop them.
Let's go over the Five Love Languages.
Words of Affirmation: You know this one. It's the pat on the back, the "good job" said at the right time, the "you look nice" comment as you step into vision. Words can be used to build up or tear down (Eph 4:29). Since we're talking about love languages, obviously we are talking about the ones used to build up. Everyone likes to hear a compliment, but it is critical if this is the love language you hear. If this is your love language and you don't get enough words of affirmation, love eventually becomes silent.
Acts of Service: You know this one too. It's the time your Dad helped you put up that basketball net. It's the nice dinner you cooked for your wife. We all like it when someone does something nice for us. It doesn't even have to be a big thing. Opening a door is an act of service. If this is your love language and your spouse doesn't do little things for you, love exits out the back door.
Receiving Gifts: Who doesn't love to get gifts? This is the puppy your parents gave you or that first Valentine from the girl you liked. This doesn't need to be expensive or fancy; a pretty poem (NOT a limerick!) written on nice paper will make your wife feel special. Give it to her with a dinner you cooked and you actually manage to do the first three love languages in one package! If this is your love language and you don't get some special little gifts occasionally, love will eventually be out of stock.
Quality Time: I know a lot of people with this as their primary love language. What they want is to sit with me. I don't even have to talk, but that's a bonus. Just being in the same room at the same time makes them happy, and I don't even need to be sitting next to them. It's enhanced, of course, if you're doing some activity together, maybe something that is meaningful to the two of you. You can even just sit with someone as they run a garage sale. If this is your love language and you don't get quality time, love will run down like an old clock.
Physical Touch: People love this one, but it doesn't necessarily mean sex (though it could). Just a light touch as you pass in the hallway works wonders. It is said that people need six hugs a day minimum; I think it is more than that if this is your love language. If this is your love language and you don't get enough physical touch, love will lose touch with you.

I don't know if I did a good job explaining the five love languages, but I know they are valid. Most of us feel some love from each of these, but problems arise if the primary love languages of two people in love differ. It takes a little work to learn another love language. Being aware of these will certainly help.
Here is a web site where you can test yourself to find your love language.
I wrote a post on how to keep your love alive, and that might help also.  
None of this matters if you're "falling in love." The emotional high of being in love lasts about two years, according to most studies. Falling in love is just about the same as being insane. Your emotions filter your entire world and your thinking is clouded by the bedazzlement with another person. We all crave that feeling, for it lifts us from this earthly realm into a fantasy place where our spirit soars. We truly feel happy. Whether it is "true" happiness or not doesn't really matter. Perception is our internal reality.
Again, Thornton Wilder, in Our Town helps us remember falling in love:
“I want you to try and remember what it was like to have been very young. And particularly the days when you were first in love; when you were like a person sleepwalking, and you didn’t quite see the street you were in, and didn’t quite hear everything that was said to you. You’re just a little bit crazy. Will you remember that, please?”

For the rest of us, try to remember there are more love languages than the one we each primarily speak. Look for the language that your loved one has, and work to speak that language to them.
Then when you love someone with all you have in you, they hear and understand.

Why English is Hard

I found this a few years ago and it tickled me. It just turned up again on my computer. Lucky you.

1) The bandage was wound around the wound.
2) The farm was used to produce produce.
3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
4) We must polish the Polish furniture.
5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.
6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was 
time to present the present.
8) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
10) I did not object to the object.
11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
13) They were too close to the door to close it.
14) The buck does funny things when the does are present.
15) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
18) After a number of injections my jaw got number.
19) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
20) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
21) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Finances and You

Over the years I've read dozens (perhaps hundreds) of books on finances and hundreds more web sites and magazine articles.
Handling your finances boils down to a lesson I learned the way most of us learn our valuable lessons - the school of hard knocks. Here's the lesson: Spend less than you make.
Sounds simple, doesn't it? Yet people can't seem to grasp the concept. Most people overspend. The government does the same thing.
When you are not a good steward of your money, you're heading for trouble.
Steward? What does that mean? Isn't the money yours, to do with as you please?
On the one hand, yes, it is. You certainly earn it and can spend it as you wish. On the other hand, like every other physical thing in life, money can be taken from you, lost or destroyed. You can't take it with you when you die; like all your property it then belongs to someone else.
So, in fact, you are simply a steward of the money while it is in your possession. Now before you run out and spend it all on cars and boats and guns and guitars (I live in Texas, after all), you're simply a steward of all those physical things also. Think on that for a bit.

If I ask people what one subject the Bible talks about more than any other, most of them say "God" or "love." According to most scholars, the Bible contains about 1600 verses about money, directly or indirectly. Apparently there are over 500 verses with the word "money" or "riches" or "wealth." That's more discussion than any other biblical topic, including God and love. Regardless of your opinion of the veracity of the Bible, these versions are full of good sense.
I can only talk about my experiences handling money. I'm not always good at it. I sometimes overspend. I sometimes make an impulse buy. I am much, much better now handling finances than I was when I was a young man.
Please let me be clear. I've never been wealthy. My family had very little money, but I don't think I knew that. I just didn't know many people with a lot of money. I take that back. I guess I knew some people with wealth, but they never made me feel poor. You know exactly what I mean.
So I have been frugal most of my life. I pinched pennies to go to school. In fact, if my Uncle had not died when I was a sophomore in college and left me a thousand dollars, getting my college degree would have been delayed or derailed. My scholarships and student loans got me through college - all five years. (A good counselor would have helped me a lot.)
Someone I cared about once called me "cheap" for not buying something she wanted. For some reason, that cut me to the core. After many decades of considering that statement (usually in the dark of the night) I finally concluded that I am frugal and there's not a thing wrong with that. More people need to be frugal and should be proud of it when they are!

Let's try to clear up a common fallacy. The Bible doesn't say that money is the root of all evil. It says "love of money" is the root of all evil. Look around. There are many wealthy people who are good and kind and generous. There are also some who hoard their wealth and strive for just a dollar more. Be honest, now. Didn't a picture of Ebenezer Scrooge pop into your head? What a sad man he was, wasn't he?
So the issue isn't with money, it is with your heart. As my Uncle used to say "No sin in having money as long as money doesn't have you." If the desire for that extra dollar separates you from family and from loved ones, building barriers instead of bridges, then check your heart. The issue isn't the money. As a steward, money is simply a tool; you can use your money to help make the world better or make it worse.
Proverbs 4:23 says "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." (NIV)
If you want opportunities to come your way (and perhaps money as well), then treat others with respect and fairness. Our society seems to think that cheaters prosper, but they really don't. Do not lie, cheat or steal, nor suffer the same in others. If you have bills and don't pay them, you're stealing from someone.
I've known strong people who pale when I say the word "budget," but if you don't know what you have to spend, then you'll spend whatever you want. How foolish is that? If you don't budget for the electric bill, for the mortgage, for the car payment and know what is left over, then you act in ignorance. A budget is a good tool, and an easy one to do, even if it is only an estimate. Remember, the goal is to spend LESS than you make (preferably a lot less). That includes preparing for those incidental expenses and emergency expenses. Ouch.
If you are Christian and go to church, then tithe. That means give God ten percent of what you make. Net or gross? I asked that same question. My big friend Tim smiled at me through his bushy beard and with a twinkle in his eye he said "whichever you want to be blessed on." I tithe on my gross earnings AND give some to charity. What I find is that God is always faithful. There's a saying that you can't outgive God. I've tested that personally and find it is true.
Here's another principle and it totally flies in the face of today's world. If you want wealth, then give to those who have less. Really. I once was down to six hundred dollars in the bank. Recently divorced, I was living in a tiny apartment miles away from my young son. I had a good job, but was despondent over my lack of savings. I prayed and got only one answer. I wrote a six hundred dollar check to the local chapter of Covenant House. Things actually improved for me after that.
Sounds counter-intuitive, doesn't it? In fact, I am thinking to myself as I type this "Well, that wasn't my brightest move." Yet it was. I was prayerful and obedient - and others needed the money more than I did at the time.
Handling money really boils down to who is the master, and who is the slave?
Matthew 6:24 sums that thought up well: "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." (NIV)
There are three prevalent lies about money.
1. We deserve what we have. No, we don't. Everything you have, including your ability to think and earn money, is a gift. I know at least two guys who were brilliant and had promising careers and their lives were totally disrupted by automobile collisions. What you have can be taken away in the blink of an eye, in the blast of hurricane winds, in the cold flow of raging waters or in the blazing furnace of a wild fire. Be grateful and thankful for what you have and realize everything is a blessing - to be shared.
2. Money brings happiness. No, it doesn't. Remember when you thought of Scrooge earlier in this article? Scrooge was miserable - so miserable he didn't even know it. Those seeking money first are never satisfied with what they have. Don't get me wrong. I know that poverty doesn't buy happiness either. Happiness is an attitude, not the result of money.
3. Money provides security. If this was really true, then we'd all have a concrete goal: x amount of money and we're finally secure. We talked about this above, though. Money is fleeting and can be taken away, lost, stolen or devalued. Don't fall for this one either. Love people and surround yourself with those who love you; your needs will be met.

One final note, and I'm done. Credit Cards. Did you just shudder at that? Most people have credit card debt and don't realize how much that hurts their finances (or don't want to admit it). Pay them off. Then pay them off every single month, without fail. If you can't do that, then don't use credit cards. Give them up (radical thought, isn't it?). I'll admit we charge almost everything, and at the end of the month I pay the entire balance. Every month. Some months hurt a lot, but I do it anyway. In over a decade Darling and I have not paid any interest payments to a credit card. We use the card so we can get the miles!
Credit cards are a trap, designed to put you in slavery, to make you work to support someone else with your hard-earned cash. You don't need that kind of bondage in your life.
The bottom line of finances stays the same: Spend (much) less than you make, and your finances will take care of themselves. Be generous with what you have and find ways to help others.
Thanks for reading this post. I sincerely hope it helps some of you. Questions? Leave me a comment!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

An Unintended Plague

Darling and I played World of Warcraft for over five years. We enjoyed it immensely, though we quit because it eventually became a little ... trite. I'm not sure what the word I want is. Boring fits, but it was boring for us, and others didn't get bored with it, so I don't have a good analysis. I miss playing the game because of the interactions with my brother, his family and my son, but I really don't miss playing WoW. I even get a free week occasionally and don't use more than an hour dropping into the world and looking at it.
There were some things that happened in the virtual world of WoW that still make me grin, though. Recently some players exploited flaw in the game and started wiping out the entire population of all the major cities, player and non-player alike. There are some YouTube videos on it.
Of course there was the classic Leeroy Jenkins video, which still makes me grin. As a quick overview, a team discusses their next battle encounter and makes meticulous plans. The odds of survival are slim, but certainly plausible. The Leeroy character obviously returns from a short break, having missed the entire discussion, jumps up, shouts "Leeeeeeeeeeerooooy Jenkinnnnns!" and runs into combat. The ensuing massacre still makes me laugh out loud.
Blizzard added the Jenkins achievement to commemorate that occurrence, acknowledging the exploits of some of the in-game adventurers. They also added a card to their card game.
Blizzard is noticeably silent, however, on the plague that swept through the entire World of Warcraft realms. Like a true pandemic, it was unintentional and swept through the worlds, leaving nothing but ghost towns.
That's a lesson - an unintended reflection of possible reality - I don't want to disappear. Here then, is the entire article from Gear Factor in 2005, written by Robert Strohmeyer. (The misspelled word is his, not mine.)

by Robert Strohmeyer
Thursday, 22 September 2005
Warcraft Plague Runs Amok
Topic: Games
In a bizarre case of art imitating life, players of the Blizzard Entertainment game World of Warcraft suddenly found themselves dying from a mysteriously rampant plague that ravaged their virtual world.

The plague began innocently enough. Blizzard introduced a new dungeon area in the world, intended to give high-level players a bit of a challenge. But when players reached the boss at the end of the dungeon, they got more than they bargained for -- and unknowingly took a little something back to town to share with their friends. The dungeon boss, called Hakkar the Soulflayer, cast a spell called Corrupted Blood. The powerful spell caused about 280 damage points to anyone it hit, and spread to other members of the attacking party as well. Such powerful spell attacks aren't unusual in the World of Warcraft game world. But what happened next was just plain weird.

When infected adventurers returned to town at the end of their quest, they inadvertently passed along the Corrupted Blood infection to those nearby. In short order, the plague ravaged the population. Soon entire cities fell victim to the artificial disease. And while 280 damage points may be easy for a level-58 Night Elf warrior to contend with, it's enough to kill a lower-level player in seconds.

Game administrators were baffled. As they scrambled to quarantine areas of the game world, the disease quickly spread beyond their control. Partially to blame was the game's "hearthstone" feature, which allows players to essentially teleport from one area to another, and which made it possible for the plague to reach the most distant regions of the map in just minutes.

Eventually the game's administrators came up with a "spell" to cure the plague and managed to distribute it to the players en masse. But the legacy of Corrupted Blood remains. While software viruses are nothing new, Corrupted Blood is unique in that it's the first such infection ever to spread through a virtual environment without being deployed by malicious intent. It was, in a certain sense, naturally occuring in its environment. You might even say it evolved and sought self-propagation, just as any lifeform would do.

In the days since Blizzard eradicated the plague, the company has remained surprisingly quiet about what happened. But you can still find plenty of players willing to talk about it. One 14-year-old Orc told me openly of the incident: "Humans were dying left and right. We just laughed and laughed."

I still laugh about it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Bonus Post - A Brothers von Crapp Story Idea

Some ask me occasionally how I come up with story ideas. The ideas are pretty easy, and I've written that before. For instance, I ran across a fantastic picture of tree top camping. I captured the picture, but neglected to capture the photographer, and I'm sorry for that.
Looking at the picture made me wonder if there was a story there. Perhaps a story with the Brothers von Crapp, so I thought I'd start one. Here's the current (draft) beginning, just for your reading pleasure.

"We were younger then." Vic, the Gentleman Adventurer, reached over and picked up the steaming mug of tea with the first two fingers of his left hand slipped through the mug handle and his palm firmly against the thick side of the porcelain. The heat didn't seem to bother him, though he blew across the top of the mug and didn't immediately drink it. The soothing scent of Earl Grey made him smile.
"Yes. Yes, we were. Though age doesn't seem to matter much to us, does it?" BA tossed another small biscuit in his mouth, ignoring the crumbs that littered his crumbled blue collared shirt, the short sleeves tight around his biceps.
The fire crackled merrily in the huge stone fireplace as they both gazed in silent camaraderie at the portrait above the mantle. The smell of burning oak drifted upward from the flames. A log snapped loudly, a small ember shooting in a tall arc to land on the white-veined black marble tiles in front of the fireplace. A wooden mantle clock sat beneath the picture, the hands moving slowly, a quiet tick-tick that could only be heard if the brothers concentrated. Two perfectly carved lion heads, one on each side of the clock face, watched the world impassively as time moved forward.
The room seemed large, and perhaps it was. A well-worn, highly polished wooden floor, darkened by age and years of polish stretched the eighteen feet from wall to wall. Though the fire was low, it sent warmth radiating outward to the two old leather chairs facing it, one for each of the men reclining, each lost in thought. Both had thick woolen socks on their feet. BA had one foot on the floor, tapping to a melody only he could hear, the other on a leather ottoman matching his chair. Vic had his feet firmly planted on his ottoman, crossed at the ankles.
Behind them a large window, frosted on the outside with the chill of an early winter, reflected the fire. The window was surrounded by large, grey stones, carefully fitted and mortared to survive an ice age, so the twenty degree weather outside was merely an announcement of the calendar. The inside of the house remained unaffected.
Great wooden beams stretched above their heads from one end of the room to the other. The walls were wooden panels, where the firelight softly flickered in reflection on the well-polished surfaces. Edged weapons of different kinds, from an early Roman gladius on one wall to a Spanish rapier on the opposite wall gave the room a martial demeanor, though the portrait above the fireplace, with its benign smile, lightened the atmosphere of the room.
"It was a good trip." Vic von Crapp took one of the biscuits from the small table placed between the two large leather chairs. He turned it and viewed the light brown flaky crust on the top and then tilted it to look at the slightly darker brown, almost crusty bottom of the biscuit. He smiled as he put the entire thing in his mouth, licking the few crumbs from his forefinger and thumb. His neatly pressed white shirt, open at the collar, remained untouched by the extinction of the biscuit.
"A fantastic trip. I'm not sure Mom approved." BA von Crapp grinned and picked his mug of tea up in his left hand, ignoring the handle entirely. Taking a deep gulp of the hot liquid, he sighed with content. "I do like Earl Grey."
Vic raised his right eyebrow. "Everyone likes Earl Grey."
"Jasmine didn't." BA grinned, pronouncing the "J" with the sound of a "Y," an exotic lilt somewhat foreign to his normal nature.
Vic's laughter boomed across the room for a moment. "Jasmine didn't like much of anything. She was the cause of most of the trouble, as I recall."
"Well, she liked me well enough." BA munched on another small biscuit and took a deep swallow of his tea, sighing in memory.
"Not at first she didn't." Vic said. "Certainly not when we met with her that first time…"

So the ideas aren't that hard, really. However, coming up with a useful plot and then actually crafting the story - ah, there's the rub.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

iPad Gen4 - A New Toy AND Grapefruits

I just bought the new iPad. A few years ago I watched the Apple announcement of the original iPad and I bought one of the first ones available. I didn't stand in line for a dozen hours like some people, but it seemed like a revolutionary (magical!) device, and I suspected it might change the face of computing.

I wasn't exactly right. That first iPad, I discovered, was excellent for consuming content. I could recline on the couch or in a chair and very comfortably read my emails or the latest news or surf the web. The iPad was pretty snappy too. As far as the apps went, there were only a few that made me sit up and say "wow" but that might have been me and not the apps.

What I was hoping for was a device that would allow me to sit comfortably in my chair and write, transposing the myriad thoughts of my scattered mind into some semblance of order in electronic form.

That's what I'm doing now.

It took more than the new iPad (I call it the Gen4, but only because Apple doesn't differentiate its products well). In fact, I think I could have done this with the original iPad if I had bought the right keyboard.

I did buy an external keyboard for the iPad1, but it somehow just didn't seem to work. It seemed awkward and hard to manage.

I now have an external keyboard and case (from ZAGG, but they are not the only providers of such devices) and it is a simple matter to type this blog. I have about ten different word processors, including Pages, the one designed by Apple. I'm still trying to figure out which to use. It's a process.

The iPad Gen4 uses the new Lightning connector. I haven't noticed any difference in performance between that and the old thirty pin connector, but I also can't do a side-by-side comparison. This machine has the A6 chip, but I have nothing to measure the performance of the chip either. Things do seem "snappier" but that might be because I expect them to be (for the price, they'd better be!).

I still need to do some graphics with this new machine. I like the Retina display, but so far I've only seen the crisper text in my various programs. Still, my aging eyes seem to appreciate the cleaner text.

So far I'm liking it. Some friends from work like the iPad Gen4, too. I took it in for them to look at and they thought it was a pretty good combination. And if my buddy Rex is reading this, I think I found that light, but seviceable wordsmithing tool we were looking for.

I've saved up for this one for a few years and now I have it and I'm glad. Time to save for the next one!

In the real world (non-virtual), I went walking around our (new) neighborhood yesterday down a different path than I usually walk. There was a grapefruit tree in someone's back yard, but a third of this tree was hanging over their back fence. Ripe grapefruits which fell littered the ground. I tried to pick only two, but ended up with three. They are delicious! They seem to be the Ruby Red variety. There are literally hundreds of these hanging on the tree, threatening to fall off or rot on the branches. Today Darling and I took a little walk over there and gathered a few other grapefruits. Some had black scaly patches where they touched each other, a kind of mildew we think. After scrubbing them off, they look lovely!

I might have to try to figure out who the owner is and go talk to them. This much fruit shouldn't just go to waste!

(It only just this second occurred to me - what if the grapefruit is poison because of some treatment near the tree or something? If you see no further posts from me, well...)

<<UPDATE 12/7/2012>>
Darling decided to gather a few more grapefruits.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thanks for Freedom

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

We the People
All of us. Not some of us. Not a few elite. Not simply those elected to Congress or the White House.
Our heritage stretches back to other lands, other nations, but this is the nation we all choose as our home. We are equal, not elitist.
We're in this together. Life. The greatest adventure any of us will undertake. We didn't sign up for it, and we don't get out alive, but we all journey together. Bound together, WE are this mighty and great nation.
Apart we lack the greatness, the identity of who we are as a unified group. WE are the common man, not the elite, not just the governing, but the governed. WE are the people; WE are the states; WE are the nation.
This constitution, as Lincoln said, was written of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Of the United States
We are a single government, whose powers were limited on purpose, whose powers were to protect and defend the nation against all aggressors. This government is composed of the will of WE THE PEOPLE, the common people, guided by the lawful powers of individual states, and these states are united into the uncommon will and purpose of The United States. WE are the nation; WE are the states; WE are the people.

In Order to form a more perfect Union
It doesn't specify a perfect Union. The Framers of the Constitution were all smart men, understanding that perfection is an unattainable goal, not a state of being. However, they looked at the other formed governments, including the existing form of the Articles of Confederation, and they desired a more perfect Union than what currently existed. Our strength as a Union does not come from our divisiveness, but from our cohesion to the principle that we seek a "more perfect Union" and strive toward that goal.
Of all the governments on the face of the Earth, as much as we the people complain, this is the best form of government in existence, providing the freedoms that are not free, the freedoms every person should have.

establish Justice
The desire for Justice permeates the beating heart of every human being since the beginning of time. We look for fairness in our laws, in our relationships with each other, the rules between individuals, the state, the union and foreign countries. When Justice must be meted out, it must be done so in the correct measure, in the correct venue. WE the people must be treated equally and fairly by each other and all governing powers. Justice is our foundation, the one principle that must not be forsaken, or we are forever lost and our government has no meaning.

insure domestic Tranquility
Just as our hearts beat for justice, our spirits seek tranquility, which is more than simply peace. Peace implies there is no disagreement. Yet we, as individuals, can disagree with others and still maintain a tranquil and upright spirit. We look to the government, to each other, to provide an environment where we have the freedom to seek the solace of calm in our lives, free of fear.

provide for the common defence
In this nation, we do not stand alone, but united. If we cannot defend ourselves, others will band with us, and we with them, in time of need. We look for this in small communities, in our cities, in our states, and finally in our federal government. No man should stand alone against injustice or oppression.
Our forefathers fled injustice and oppression and sought a land where they could be free from tyranny; where the government would seek to protect them instead of persecute them. Some in this generation came here seeking the same. This country is great because we are protected by the government, no matter our station in life.

promote the general Welfare
We seek the welfare of each individual, as well as the welfare of the smaller groups among us. We the people prosper when we exist in an environment that allows the individual to prosper to the benefit of all, without infringing on the rights of others.

and secure the Blessings of Liberty
Freedom is not free; freedom is bought by the sacrifice of our best, our brightest. The Veterans among us know this. Those who are not Veterans should be thankful to them for the blessings of liberty that we possess.

to ourselves and our Posterity
The Founders of our great nation wrote this Constitution not only for themselves, but for us. Standing tall, they looked forward through the generations and saw that their descendants would need these freedoms, these blessings, as much as they needed them.
We look around us now, and perhaps we need them more than ever.

do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Not simply writing the rules and publishing them, but passing on a holy mantle from each generation to the next. This is our Constitution. This is our Country. This is our State, United.
We are the People, United, in the States of America.

The document declaring the Foundation of our Country is not a living document, open to interpretation. This document is already comprehensive and complete.

God bless you all, and God bless the United States of America.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Mom's Christmas

Delilah Smith - Onsted

Mom loved to write. I don't know how much she actually wrote; much of it was on paper and in wire binders and is now lost to us. Some few stories actually survived as computer files and I have the ones that I could find.

This is my Mom's story of Christmas, in her own words.

Christmas at home began right after the Thanksgiving weekend as my grandmother would start to bake her wonderful fruit cake. She made many of these cakes and I think gave some of them away as gifts. She made them in the big round bottomed dough pan that she used when she made bread for the family. They were also baked in the bread pans and wrapped in brown paper. I think she probably basted them from time to time with something but I don't remember for sure. We kids were pressed into service as the raisins were ground and nuts were chopped. The kitchen smelled delightfully of cloves, cinnamon, and ginger for ever so long.

The catalogues (wish books) were given to the kids to look at and we knew we could choose a gift for Santa to bring us for Christmas. What a lot of fun deciding on that special gift. But the flip side of this was, if you became really naughty, Santa would leave you a bundle of switches in your stocking and your gift would go to some more worthy child. And oh, it was so hard to be good as the time crept by so slowly and the tension built to a higher level every day. More that once I was told my stocking would hold nothing but switches.

The last few days before Christmas the tree was put up in the parlor and decorated. How beautiful it was! The fire was lighted in the stove in that special room and it was flooded with that cosy, tranquil warmth that only the Christmas season seems to bring. It was wonderful fun just to sit in the parlor and stare at this beautiful tree.

I was also watching the road for a car that would be bringing my mother home for the Holiday. Without her Christmas just wouldn't be. Quite often this would be a cliff hang wait and I would be so anxious that I would even listen in the night for her arrival. But when she arrived the world would suddenly be beautiful again.

Christmas eve night would be spent in fitful sleep, listening to the old mantel clock chime out the hours. Then suddenly it would be-Christmas morning, the biggest day of the year. We would fly downstairs to see if Santa had come. And he did, he really did. There were presents under the tree as if by magic. Some one would be Santa's helper and read the names on the boxes. And sure enough, the special gift you had picked out in the catalogue was there. After the furor of the gift exchanges, while the glow was still with us, my grandmother would serve breakfast. And there would be orange juice. Only the rich people had orange juice for breakfast. Then it was back to earth for awhile as we left the table for the barn to milk the cows and feed the animals. It was often hard to settle down to the basic chores after so much excitement.

After the chores were done we would return to a house filled with busy confusion. The dining room table had been extended as far as possible with the addition of all the leaves in. White linen table clothes covered its old wooden top and it was set with my grandmother's china dishes. Dinner was cooking on all the stove burners. Now people began coming to the house. Uncle Jim and Aunt Jennie arrived, my grandmothers brother and his wife. Uncle Jim would shout, "Ho, Ho, Ho, Merry Christmas" so loudly that I thought the rafters would ring. My uncle George and Aunt Ona would arrive. I believe my Uncle Jerry and Uncle Dwight were still at war in Europe. (The Second World War) As the day progressed Neola and John and their son Leslie would arrive. They were Uncle Jim and Aunt Jennie's children and usually the last ones to come to dinner. My Aunt Jennie was in from Detroit as was my mother. Uncle Don, his son Robert and sometimes Aunt Aquila his wife would come. The house was filled with noisy chatter and laughter as my grandfather and grandmother greeted each guest with gusto. My two aunts, Ida and Jean Ann were still at home. They were about our age with Jean Ann only one year older than myself. She would probably sit in the kitchen with myself and two sisters, Anita and Janice. The big table would be filled with already too many people.

Usually John would say the grace. He was quite long winded and we would grow pretty restless before Amen was finally said. In the kitchen we would usually have first choice of the platters and bowls of food as my aunts and mother went back and forth between kitchen and table. There was such an abundance of everything, including many pies and cakes. And again I don't remember who cleared the table and did the dishes. We returned to playing with our new things when the meal was ended.

Slowly the day came to a close as people began to leave for their own homes. There were the evening chores to do on the farm, with the cows to milk again and the livestock to be cared for and bedded down for the night. When I returned to the house I would curl up in the old wicker rocker near the stove and soak in the beauty of the lighted tree. It was a day to be cherished and remembered. And its magic is still with me.

This story is dedicated to my Grandmother, Ma, who made all this possible. So belated thanks Ma for all the Christmases that you made possible for all of us.

Love, Me

That's one story of the few I have. Mom made all our Christmas times special at our house(s), too. We didn't have a glowing fireplace in an old brick farmhouse, but we always had the same hustle and bustle on Christmas morning. Thanks Mom.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Bugs and Pests

Darling is my hero, for a lot of reasons, but her latest endeavor perfectly displays her combination of velvet glove and iron fist.
I already posted about how well she handled having our current house completed before we moved in. She was relentless in her pursuit of quality work at the very best prices. She had a guy come and put a really fine fence around the back yard. She had workers renovate the inside of the house, painting, plumbing and flooring. I love the laminate flooring in this house even if it means I occasionally leave barefoot footprints across the surface. Maybe especially if I leave footprints. To clean the prints off the floor I put on a nice fluffy pair of socks and skate around the floor, buffing until it shines again. She found a good contractor to install the laminate flooring, though we certainly should not have watched it being installed. She erased a tree AND had grass put in the front yard. I didn't think the grass would survive, but the front yard looks fantastic. She had blinds installed and new trees planted. She even held a massive garage sale at the old house to get rid of stuff (we donated much of what was left).
On top of that, she monitors my health pretty closely and notices things I tend to overlook. I won't go into any more details than what I have already on my health, but she is certainly determined! AND she was key in getting our first book written and published (trust me, folks, she made it readable for the hoi-polloi).
She battled with cancer for the past year and mostly kept her spirits up, which is astounding considering how much pain she went through. She is currently helping to tend a sick friend from church.
Yesterday is just another example of how astounding she is when she handles life. We noticed we had a few more bugs around the house than we should. I sprayed Demon™ (no kidding, that's what it's called) around the house a few weeks ago and we shouldn't be seeing much in the way of bugs. Darling noticed some outside that made her curious and cautious. We had termites in the last house, so we're a little gun shy.
Darling had a pest control guy come out to inspect the house. This guy was from a company starting with "A" and ending with "ty" and if you want more specifics just drop me an email. After inspecting the house he declared we had termites and the house needed to be treated. He gave her a quote and said he could come treat it today. I've never known Darling to stop with a single quote, though. She made numerous calls to local pest control companies to get better (and worse) quotes for treating the house for termites. Finally she called the original guy back and he adjusted his price to something closer to the other bidders. That was a few hundred dollars saved.
Today when the technician came to the house she didn't let him start until he showed her the termites. He couldn't. "Well," he said, "there are signs of subterranean termites."
"Fine," said Darling. "Show me the signs." He couldn't do that either.
She sent him away and we will never use that company again. The company owner called and said he would drop the price another hundred dollars to treat the house. "He couldn't prove we had termites," she said.
"Well," he replied, "it's a preventive thing." She politely told him no thanks.
So she saved us quite a few hundred dollars, as well as the yearly maintenance contract, which costs $125. And, importantly to me, Darling identified a local pest control company that isn't entirely honest in dealing with people.
We still have some bugs that need to be taken care of, but she already took care of a pest.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Meatloaf Matters

Some stories are not mine, but they should be told anyway. For the record, my brother gave me permission to tell this story, so I hope I get it right. One of my other brothers, D, has his own blog and is starting to tell his own stories. I really like that.
Not this meatloaf
My next younger brother, B, is a warrior. There’s no better term for it. Oh, he adapted to civilization well enough, and as a young man was adept at the saxophone, but King David was also a warrior and he composed all the Psalms, so the two skills are not incompatible.
B is married to a Treasure. When B first met L they were both in high school. He asked her out, they had a good enough time, but when he dropped her off at her house afterwards he told her that he would marry her. Understandably, that freaked her out and she refused to date him again. She dated some of his high-school friends, but never again went out with him.
B left high school and did what all males in our family do – he enlisted. (I am the oldest, but failed the physical and ended up going to college. That’s an entirely different story.) As a Navy man B flew in planes and took pictures of the ocean and Russian submarines. It’s confidential and he can’t tell us the whole story or he has to kill us.
Since he was Naval Air and taking pictures in the Pacific, B was stationed in Hawaii. As we all said at the time, a tough job, but someone has to do it.
I’m not sure which Christmas vacation it was, but B came home to visit Mom and Dad. Mom mentioned that L was home from school and B called her. They went out. Next thing we all knew, L moved to Hawaii to finish school at the University of Hawaii. She and B were married. 
B was deployed for a number of weeks on a rock island somewhere around the east coast of Africa. He returned to a surprise welcome home dinner, hand made by his young bride. Not knowing any better, L made him meatloaf and a special mint-chocolate cake.
Well, if you know anything about our Mom’s cooking, you know that meatloaf was not a well-loved dish in our household. Of all of us, I think B hated meatloaf the most. To top it off, he doesn’t like mint-chocolate either.
Sitting down to dinner with his new wife B expressed his disinterest in the meal. I wasn’t there, but I suspect he was his usual blunt self. Without a word L stood up, grabbed the dishes and dumped the food into the garbage disposal. 
Not an auspicious homecoming.
Now, I’ve been married three times, two of which ended unhappily. I’ve learned a few things.
  1. Whenever someone does something nice for you, express your deepest appreciation for what they did. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to like the person or have an on-going relationship with them, but appreciate what they did in an honest fashion.
  2. Always watch your tongue. Proverbs 21:23 says “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.” I’ve found that to be true in my life, usually by not watching what I say and ending up in a bad situation (many times too often for my tender years, I might add).
  3. If you do fail at this, and you will, then apologize immediately and correct the problem. Don’t justify your position. I’ve said for years that when someone says “I’m sorry, but...” it isn’t a true apology. Be bigger than that and braver than that.
I don’t know how B and L resolved that particular issue. They did though. They have been married for a long, long time, through good times and bad, and have three amazing children (and an awesome older brother!). 
I can summarize this with another verse from the Bible, from a book seldom read because it is so short: Titus 3:2 says “to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.”
Thanks, Titus. That’s an excellent recipe for life. Much better than Mom's meatloaf.