Wednesday, November 25, 2015

An Attitude of Gratitude

  Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. It's hard to believe that it's that time of year again. I can attest to the fact that the older I get, the faster the time seems to fly. Last Sunday I was watching Dr. Charles Stanley on TV. He's a preacher who has a program on every Sunday on TBN. I really like what he has to say. Because Thanksgiving was just around the corner, he spoke about gratitude, and how Thanksgiving has become more of holiday revolving around food, football and shopping, and much less about acknowledging God and his goodness to us. When I went to church later, our pastor also spoke about gratitude and giving thanks, and being thankful even for those people or circumstances that don't seem be what we would consider good things in our lives. Many years ago, when I left the farm where we had lived for ten long years, I had mentioned to one of my friends, who happened to be an elder, that I hoped to be able to go halibut fishing with him again, even though I wasn't part of the community any more. I was told that he only took members of the community and I wouldn't be able to take part in the halibut fishery with him. I was devastated, and a little angry. As it turned out, I was able to acquire my own boat and fished during some years that qualified me for halibut quota. That quota has been worth tens of thousands of dollars over the years, but I wouldn't have it if I had just remained a crew hand. God knew all that in advance. To me it looked like a raw deal initially, but it turned out to be a great blessing. The moral of the story is just what the apostle Paul mentioned, give thanks for ALL things. Even that which doesn't look good at the time.  By the way, he wrote those words while in chains in a Roman prison.When I came in to my office today, I started sorting through some papers and I saw a note I had written. I had copied it off of something, I don't recall what right now. Anyway, the note says- What if you woke up today with only what you thanked God for yesterday?  I know one thing, I sure wouldn't have to worry about all the clutter around the house. Would I have my wife though, or my kids? What about my good friends? The abundance of food that I enjoy every day wouldn't be here. My house, my work, my health, they'd all be gone. I'm an expert at bitching and complaining. There's no end to the things that get me upset- the weather, the boneheads running this city, state, country; the neighbors, prices at the store, things that don't work; good Lord I could write for the rest of the day and still not be done; but what if I instead turned it around and thanked God for the weather, and the neighbors, and our leaders. We're supposed to be praying for those over us- politicians, bosses, teachers. What if we did that? What if we thanked God for the president and asked the Lord to give him integrity and wisdom? Frankly, I can't stand the guy, but being angry won't change him, prayer will. We have major issues in  our lives today. Health issues, family issues, terrorism issues, job issues. Let's not get overwhelmed with all that's wrong in the world, but lets thank God for all that's right.  I know that God is far above us in all things, but there are some similarities between man and God as well, one being that we're more apt to do things for someone who appreciates what we've done than someone who only complains. In any event,  I hope that tomorrow as you sit down to your holiday feast, before the football games or a trip to the store for some Black Friday shopping, you'll remember who makes our very lives possible, and the very many blessings we all enjoy. Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Dark Sky Island

   Wooo Hoooo! One of my favorite musical artists has just released her latest album today. Of course I'm talking about Enya and her album, Dark Sky Island. I was able to pre-order one song about two weeks ago from I-tunes, and there was a teaser video put out by the Enya web site that you could get on to both view and listen to the songs available. I've already ordered five of them, and depending on what happens, I may order more.Something that just came out today as part of the promo package is a video of Enya singing Echoes in Rain from this album. She's accompanied by an all female orchestra, and it's quite pleasant to view. Prior to the introduction of the I Pod, if a person wanted to hear a particular artist, they had to order the whole album and listen to songs they may or may not enjoy in order to hear the ones that they really care for. Back when I was growing up, individual songs were available in vinyl records the played at 45 RPM's. Entire albums were also available that played at 33 RPM's. As mentioned, when you ordered the album, you usually got songs that were not your cup of tea. Much like when I was a kid. My mom would buy boxes of candy called Bridge Mix. Inside were chocolate covered goodies of assorted shapes, sizes and flavors. I had a particular fondness for the chocolate covered peanuts, which I always honed in on. Occasionally, I would accidentally grab a raisin instead. At the time, my tastes weren't so well defined and I would spit them out. As all the peanuts disappeared, I would resort to eating the other candies. Some were OK, but many of them had questionable fillings, no doubt made to discourage young children from partaking in candies that were meant for adults, hence the name Bridge Mix. I used to bite the candies in half, and if a white or pink filling was inside, I would spit them out and return them to the box. Of course I got in big trouble for such behavior, but how else could you tell if the candy was any good or not? As mentioned, in the realm of music, the good folks at Apple took care of that, so now we can order individual songs of our favorite artists. Anyway, back to Enya. Until the release of Dark Sky Island today, her most recent album was a Christmas one titled, And Winter Came. What a great title! If you're sick of Jingle Bell Rock and Santa's Coming to Town, and all the conventional Christmas songs that start playing just after Halloween, you might check that one out. In typical Enya style, it captures the mood of the holiday without the usual sounds associated with the season.
   For those who might be wondering, Enya used to sing with members of her family in the Irish group Clannad. Her sister is Maire Brennan, whose voice rings out in several movie soundtracks including Last of the Mohicans and Circle of Friends. Enya is unmarried. She mentioned in an interview that she puts so much time and effort into her music, that at the end of the day she didn't feel like she would have the energy to devote to a relationship and it would be unfair to her partner to subject them to that. If memory serves me correctly, she lives in a castle, I believe in Ireland. It's a little unconventional, but then, what would you expect from such a person who has been blessed with such talent? In any event, I hope that you'll check out her web site or I tunes and listen to a few songs. If you've never heard her before, you may discover a whole new venue that you might enjoy. Good listening.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Whatever happened to the class of "70"?

   Recently we received a package in the mail from a friend of Jan's who still lives back in our hometown. She had attended the class reunion for Marion Harding High School. It's been forty five years since we graduated; hard to imagine. Where does the time go? I've never had any inclination to attend. For one thing the reunion always takes place during the height of fishing season. Even if there wasn't a financial component involved, I would much rather fish than fly back to Ohio to meet with a bunch of people who for the most part I don't remember. While high school was much more enjoyable for me than any of the previous grades that I  had attended, largely because we had more freedom, I can't say it was especially fun. I'll admit, it's where I met Jan. First day of Art class. I was smitten right from the start, but other than that, I don't remember having much fun. Of course like any endeavor, the more you put in the more you get out of it. I didn't care for sports; wasn't academic, good with my hands, outgoing or charismatic. I had a tendency to be a bit of a wise guy, outspoken perhaps on occasion. The only competitive thing I participated in was ping-pong up at the YMCA, but that wasn't sanctioned by the school, which was just as well or I might not have enjoyed it, or even joined in. What I enjoyed most was fishing, which isn't a team sport. For some unknown reason I pursued a general course of study- kind of a middle of the road education. I could do all the basics, read, write, arithmetic. I ended up taking Spanish for at least one year for reasons I still can't fathom. I'd taken it in Jr. High and hated it then, so how I ended up with it in high school is a real mystery. One year I took Business Math, percentages and decimals and all that. I rather enjoyed it because I could do it and get A's. Plus, Mr. Bell, the teacher was pretty cool.  Somehow I had this unrealistic approach to life, kind of an Ozzie and Harriet way of looking at things. I just assumed things would come out ok without too much effort on my part. Anyway, this post isn't supposed to be about me per se. It's about the class of "70" - the group of kids that Jan and I graduated with so many years ago. In the packet that we received was a music CD with some of the songs that were popular back then. Of the 21 songs listed, I realized that I only like about four. Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress/ The Hollies, To Love Somebody/ The Bee Gees, Piano Man / Billy Joel and.... well, maybe I only liked three. I guess I didn't fit in to  the pattern of the rest of the crowd.  I was looking at the program for the 45th reunion. 6:00 - Welcome by the Planning Committee. Class photo at 6:45. 7:00 Prayer and Dinner. Whoa... I was surprised that its still ok to have a prayer at a function like this. I'm glad to see that. At 8:00 was the start of the regular program, beginning with remembering classmates who have passed on.  I was quite taken aback by the number of my classmates who had died. Of the roughly 400 students who graduated with me, 57 have since died, including three just this year. That number seems uncommonly high. I picked up the yearbook and looked through the pictures. Some of the folks I remember as being a little bit on the fringes of society, living a fairly risky life style even back then. A number of those who passed on were overweight even in high school. Whether or not that had anything to do with their early departure is hard to say, but it probably didn't help any either. It doesn't say how these folks died. Perhaps to satisfy my curiosity I may spend some time looking up obituaries this winter. Was there a car accident, were they ill, could it have been a drug overdose, did they drown while out fishing in a leaky boat...what happened? I saw that one set of twins had passed away. One in 2008 and one in 2011. They were both big guys, football players and shot put throwers. The first guy on the list of departed was a fellow I worked with at Super Duper supermarket when we were in high school. Others I remember the name but not the person. Jan had all the stuff related to class reunions together, so I happened to find our 30th class reunion book. It gave names and addresses and some folks had opted to give a little information about themselves. A startling number of my fellow classmates elected to stay in Marion Ohio. Wow! I could not do that! A number of them had been married for 25-30 years. One gal whom I had home room with had 12 children. That was fifteen year ago. I wonder if she cranked out any more since then. I thought we were pretty prolific with seven. I checked out a newspaper article from 2010, our fortieth reunion. Ninety classmates attended that one. At least two of the people shown have passed on, including one of the twins. Some of the faces look familiar. Lots of grey hair (mostly on the men), some folks are getting bald, again, mostly the men. Of course we've all aged, there's more pairs of glasses showing, and probably a little more weight. I'm sure there's wrinkles, but it's hard to see them from a distance. I see one fellow has an eye patch. Wonder what happened. Who knows maybe he thinks the pirate look will help him get a date. In any event, seeing the picture, and reading the list of the deceased makes me realize once again that life is short and life is precious. It's to be guarded and enjoyed. We don't have an expiration date on our birth certificates. Who knows when time's up. I hope I have a few more years and I hope I use that time wisely. I think that when 2020 rolls around, if I'm still in the land of the living, I'd like to attend the class of "70" reunion. It will be interesting to see what each of us has wrung from life fifty years later. In the interim, I hope that God's hand of blessing and safety will be one each one of us and our families. If I had a glass in hand I would raise it in a toast to each and every one of my fellow classmates. I hope to see you again.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

And Yet Another Grand Idea...

 I was down at Hoonah Trading shopping the other day. I'm usually there at least daily, sometimes multiple times per day. They have the only hardware store in town as well as groceries and fuel, plus Jan works there, and I often drop in when I'm picking her up for lunch.  I frequently end up buying something and of course automatically get a receipt, which I usually just put in my pocket.  It's not all that uncommon for me to have six or eight of the blasted things cluttering up  my pockets or the seat of the truck. Often they're scattered around the house, on the kitchen counter or the dining room table. When I received my mandatory receipt the other day, I happened to mention, wouldn't it be great if they made the receipts out of toilet paper? Then you would have something useful. If you went out hunting and the call of nature struck while  you were in the woods, you just reach right into your pocket and pull out a handful of receipts and you're good to go. No searching around for leaves or cutting the bottom of your favorite hunting shirt off. You might feel better about going shopping if after ending up with a cart full of groceries you realized that at least you didn't need to buy TP this time around, because the receipt was so long you'd have the family covered for a week. Even though you wouldn't have to purchase so much toilet paper at the store, the folks at Kimberly Clark or Kirkland wouldn't be too upset, they'll be increasing their bottom line by making the paper for the cash registers. It would be a win-win situation. If you happened to be walking down the street and your nose started to run, and you had forgotten you hanky, don't use your sleeve. Drop in to the local 7/11 and buy a slushy or a pack of gum. Wipe your nose with the receipt and you're on your way. It seems like the environmentalists would like it- you'd be using less paper. I mean, lets face it, aside from proof of purchase, what good is a receipt? I would venture to say, most of them go into the trash. The only time you might run into a problem would be during an audit by the IRS. When the accountant asks where's the receipt for this or that, it probably wouldn't go over too well if you mentioned that you flushed it down the toilet.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Onward to Marcellus

    It was with a sense of sadness that I departed Vermont and my long time friend Buffalo Bob. It had been thirteen years since we had last spoken face to face. I doubt that we can allow another thirteen years to pass if we are to be together again on this earth. Not that he couldn't be around. That would put him at ninety and me at seventy six. He's in surprisingly good shape for a man his age, still chopping firewood and mowing his two acres of land. He's got a fairly stress free life so chances are he could outlive me. In any event, I hope that sometime in the next few years the opportunity will arise again for a visit. He's made it plain that it would fall on me to do the traveling, but a road trip sounds good to me, so maybe it will happen again soon. Though I was sorry to be leaving Buffalo, I was quite excited to see my good friend Renee again. The first time I saw her she was sitting in front of me in church. I could see that she was young and attractive, and for whatever reason I feared that she would be the target of some of the less than honorable young men around town. She was alone in a strange town in a new job with no friends, and I felt protective of her. Renee was the school counselor for several years and became a family friend of both Jan and I and our daughter Jen. We invited her for dinner periodically and even hosted her for Thanksgiving two years- once with her sister who was visiting over the holiday. We used to play Gin Rummy after dinner and always had a good time. Several times in the few years she was here in Hoonah, well meaning people tried to pair her up with someone, but Renee was very particular about what she wanted in a husband, so much so that I feared that she would grow to be an old maid. However, this past March she married her husband Mike, a man whom she met at a swing dance event. It was on this trip that I met Mike for the first time, and it was as if we had known each other for years. I liked him immediately. He's a city planner for the city of Syracuse. He's also a World War Two buff, and this past spring he made the trip to Normandy France for what I believe was the seventieth anniversary of the the Normandy invasion. Apparently he's quite good at swing dancing and he certainly chose wisely in his search for a wife. I don't know if he was really looking for one, but considering the engagement period was only a year, I guess he knew a good thing when he saw it.  Though my time with Mike and Renee was brief, I spent an afternoon, the night and a few hours the next day, I have seldom felt more welcome anywhere. They went out of their way to make me feel at home. Unfortunately I had contacted a cold on the trip to Vermont and I had called questioning whether I should even visit. They assured me it would be fine and upon my arrival made cough drops, throat lozenges and a powdered drink filled with Vitamin C available to me. We went to lunch at a lovely restaurant in a town twenty or so miles from their home. I can't remember how to spell it, but it was pronounced, Skinny Atlas. I thought at first they were kidding me, but that was really the name. Nice little town, right on one of the finger lakes. After lunch I was shown around  the area a bit. When we returned to their home we took a walk in the park, which borders their property. It's a big, beautiful park with a trout stream running through it. It would have been nice to watch Mike fish for a bit, but there wasn't time. We talked well into the night, way past Renee's normal bedtime. I remember when she was here that she retired early. The next morning Renee got up early and sent me off with a breakfast of French toast and sausages. Before I left they presented me with two sweatshirts, one for Jan and one for me. They are bright orange- the color of the Syracuse Orange Men. I guess that's the college basketball team. I was assured that it was fine for me to wear my sweatshirt out fishing on the boat. Then if I fall overboard, someone can at least find my bloated body more easily. They also wanted to make sure I had an ample supply of cough drops and Mike yarded out a half dozen cans of lemon lime soda for the road. I guess he wanted to make sure I stopped plenty. While I was sorry to leave, I nonetheless went off with such a good feeling of well being and a feeling of being loved that I couldn't help but be happy.I'm hoping that the next time I see Mike and Renee it will be here in Hoonah, and Jan and I will be able to somewhat repay the kindness I was shown at their home. I drove off for the New York Parkway a very nice road, but one which you will pay for the privilege of driving on. My next stop was to see my Mom in an Ohio assisted living facility.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Road Trip- Vermont

Welcome Center in Vermont
Buffalo Bob Holden
The grave markers of Buffalo's Great Grandparents
The Holden Homestead
One of the lovely old homes in small town Vermont
Inside the Country Girl diner
A popular cooling off  spot for the youth

  When Jan and I first came to Alaska, some 39 years ago, we had to take a ferry from Prince Rupert, British Columbia to Juneau, and another ferry to Hoonah. There are no roads to Hoonah, it's on an island. The few roads in town were basically mud, with a smattering of gravel and had craters in them that could float a boat. After traveling across the country  from South Carolina, there was really no place left to drive. In order to get to the farm where we would reside for ten years, we had to take a boat. The only road there was from the tabernacle to the fields, a rocky ox cart pathway that was only suitable for running a tractor or horse drawn wagon, and even then it could jar your teeth out with all the ruts, bumps, roots and boulders. It definitely wasn't fit for automobile travel. I didn't realize until it was no longer an option, that I really missed the freedom of driving. I had withdrawals, much like when I quit smoking. I used to dream of going south and driving a car.
  Well, at the beginning of the month, because of the generosity of a friend, I was able to fly to the East coast and drive west, all the way to Colorado Springs.  I flew in to Hartford Connecticut and rented a car from the good folks at Budget Car Rental. I had gone through the Costco Travel site and got a discount, something I'll be sure to do again. The folks at Budget set me up with a Volvo four door vehicle complete with built in GPS, something I highly recommend if you're going to be traveling in areas that you are unfamiliar with. It relieved me of so much stress, wondering where to turn or how much further I had to go. The Volvo was such a fine car too, very comfortable.
   I met up with my good friend Buffalo Bob in Brattleboro  Vermont and followed him to his home about twenty miles away. Buff lives  on a couple of acres of land in a hunting cabin that his father had built back in the 1950's at the end of a dead end road. There are a few other cabins scattered up and down the road and the entire area is surrounded by woods. I was surprised to see just how much of Vermont is wooded. I didn't run across any really large towns, but about every five miles or so there would be a village or small town. Most of the buildings are fairly old, dressed in white with dark green shutters and trim. Very neat, very rustic. In the three and a half days I spent with Buffalo, we covered probably a fifty mile radius. We stopped in at an antique store where he had purchased a new wood cook stove which he used to fix breakfast one day. We often took one of the many gravel side roads to go view some sight or another.I was surprised at the number of apple orchards in the area. I was also somewhat surprised that I never saw any deer the whole time I was there, although Buffalo assured me they were around, just wary. I did spot several flocks of wild turkeys though, something that we don't have here in Southeast Alaska.He wanted me to see the grave markers of his great,great grandparents. The grandfather's name was Squire and his wife's name was Lucy. On Lucy's marker it reads, Lucy, wife of Square Holden. For whatever reason  the name was never corrected and I guess she will forever be remembered as the wife of Square Holden. I guess that's not all bad. Sounds like an upright kind of guy.
   We got out on several occasions to walk around the woods and check out various sites. I noticed that no matter where we went there were stone walls. Years ago, when the first white settlers arrived, the ground was so rocky they couldn't use it for farming unless they first removed the rocks, which were plenteous. Rather than pile them up, they made fences, I guess to mark their property or separate fields. Bob says that you could walk for miles in the woods and find endless stone walls. One other thing I noticed, which was much less attractive, was thousands of yards of blue plastic tubing that is being used to transport the sap of the maple trees to the place where they make maple syrup. Gone are the days when they would tap a tree and hang a sap bucket. Now the trees all sport a tube that connects to an even larger tube that runs down hill into the collection point. It was rather unsightly and I was disappointed to see it, but I guess that's considered progress.
  In our travels we stopped at several diners. We dropped in at the Country Girl cafe in one of the little towns and had a delightful meal. The place was really hopping and it was obvious that the locals enjoyed patronizing the diner. The outside looked like a really large Airstream trailer and inside it reminded me of a fifties diner. It was quite fun, and the food was good.
  Buffalo took me to a spot where a small, swift running creek cuts through the limestone rock and forms several deep pools and chutes, much like a water park. There is a stationary ladder set up at the main pool with a sign stating that the ladder is just there so people can get back out of the pool instead of trying to slide down the chute to the next pool, which is probably a good thirty foot drop. The sign also states that over twelve people have died there and they discourage people from swimming there.
  For three and a half days we drove around and talked and looked at various  places of interest. Buffalo was my tour guide and I got to see things that I normally would have missed had I been on my own. I ate fresh tomatoes from  his garden that actually tasted like a tomato should taste. I listened to his stories and enjoyed his hospitality and then it was time to move on to my next  spot on the map, Marcellus New York. I'll do a post about my short visit there, hopefully in the not too distant future.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Air Freshener? Really?

 I  invited my daughter Jen over for dinner last night. She and her daughter came. It was a delightful meal  I must admit. I made Halibut Olympia and English pea salad. We also had some pickled beets and green jello with pears. Lovely. Afterwards she wanted to either go on a walk or a drive. I opted for the drive since my legs were sore from climbing up and down the ladder yesterday slapping some paint on the house. For whatever reason, Jen loves car air fresheners. I don't know why. There have been plenty of times when I wish I'd had one for my car, like after I've hauled bait in the front seat or packed a load of neoprene gloves that I use to clean fish. Inevitably they get holes in them and of course the blood and slime gets inside and it doesn't take long for them to exude a stench that can take your breath away, or perhaps you just wish it would. Anyway, we went for a drive in her car last night, and upon entering I noticed an overpowering smell. Initially  it wasn't totally unpleasant, but as we drove along, it started to bother me. The air freshener said it was lemon, but that's not what I smelled. Perhaps it was because she had six or eight other fresheners hanging on her shift lever, dangling like fruit on a tree. I don't know why she doesn't just discard the old one's. Perhaps she's being frugal and trying to extract every last molecule of scent from each one. Maybe she's just lazy and doesn't want to take off the old ones, I don't know She claimed it smelled strong because it was new. I replied that I'd rather smell a fart, and of course that started a whole new conversation; hence this blog post. We discussed marketing a line of air fresheners that stank. We could call them HIG's-  short for Hot Intestinal Gasses. You could purchase varying degrees of stench, depending on who you were trying to repel. We've all experienced uninvited or unwanted guests in our life. If you had company that was only mildly annoying, you could buy the popcorn fart HIG. Unpleasant, but not totally overwhelming, just enough to make the guest uncomfortable. For the guest who doesn't know when to leave perhaps the Wet One's HIG would be in order. You only bring it out after numerous yawns and glances at the clock have failed to imply that you are tired and want to go to bed and you wish they would leave. For really hard core cases, the Pants Load HIG would be in order. You would plug it in to a socket and a small fan would circulate the stench throughout your home. That way regardless of whether you're talking in the kitchen, the dining room, den or living room, the whole house will stink. We once had a couple who befriended us. I didn't know either one of them all that well, but in the course of an innocent conversation I had mentioned not having shot a deer yet. The man insisted on giving us one. He even butchered it and packaged it up. I was thankful and somewhat overwhelmed by his generosity. Well, pretty soon his wife was coming down to visit Jan during the day. Initially she would stay for an hour or two and then leave. As time progressed, she would come  every day and stay until almost supper time. Then it got worse. After spending the whole afternoon here, her and her husband would come by after supper. This went on for weeks. Finally we stopped answering the phone, for fear it was one of them. Jan was familiar with the sound of the lady's car, and when she heard it pull up, she would drop to the floor and hide. They finally got the message, but it was a most painful experience. Had there only been HIG's around then, we could have dealt with the situation in a much timelier fashion. I'm going to be traveling soon, and will be a house guest at several different homes. I hope that if the unmistakable scent of hot intestinal gasses starts to waft around the room, I'll take the hint and go get a hotel room.