Time Gets Better With Age

A good friend surprised me today with this wonderful insight into the development of insight as we age.

Thanks Chuck, I really enjoyed this.

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Grumpa Joe, Grampa Jim, and Sis

Time Gets Better with Age

Read it through to the end, it gets better as you go!

I’ve learned that I like my teacher because she cries when we sing “Silent Night”.
Age 5

I’ve learned that our dog doesn’t want to eat my broccoli either.
Age 7

I’ve learned that when I wave to people in the country, they stop what they are doing and wave back.
Age 9

I’ve learned that just when I get my room the way I like it, Mom makes me clean it up again.
Age 12

I’ve learned that if you want to cheer yourself up, you should try cheering someone else up.
Age 14

I’ve learned that although it’s hard to admit it, I’m secretly glad my parents are strict with me.
Age 15

I’ve learned that silent company is often more healing than words of advice.
Age 24

I’ve learned that brushing my child’s hair is one of life’s great pleasures.
Age 26

I’ve learned that wherever I go, the world’s worst drivers have followed me there.
Age 29

I’ve learned that if someone says something unkind about me, I must live so that no one will believe it.
Age 30

I’ve learned that there are people who love you dearly but just don’t know how to show it.
Age 42

I’ve learned that you can make someone’s day by simply sending them a little note.
Age 44

I’ve learned that the greater a person’s sense of guilt, the greater his or her need to cast blame on others.
Age 46

I’ve learned that children and grandparents are natural allies.
Age 47

I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on and it will be better tomorrow.
Age 48

I’ve learned that singing “Amazing Grace” can lift my spirits for hours.
Age 49

I’ve learned that motel mattresses are better on the side away from the phone.
Age 50

I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a man by the way he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage and tangled Christmas tree lights.
Age 51

I’ve learned that keeping a vegetable garden is worth a medicine cabinet full of pills.
Age 52

I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you miss them terribly after they die.
Age 53

I’ve learned that making a living is not the same thing as making a life.
Age 58

I’ve learned that if you want to do something positive for your children, work to improve your marriage.
Age 61

I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.
Age 62

I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands. You need to be able to throw something back.
Age 64

I’ve learned that if you pursue happiness, it will elude you. But if you focus on your family, the needs of others, your work, meeting new people, and doing the very best you can, happiness will find you.
Age 65

I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with kindness, I usually make the right decision.
Age 66

I’ve learned that everyone can use a prayer.
Age 72

I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one.
Age 82

I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love that human touch – holding hands, a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.
Age 90

I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.
Age 92

 

Mind Numbing State

My story begins long after Obama begins to transform America, and his successor Hillary completes his father’s dream during her first term. She finalizes America into the totally mind numbing state of socialism predicted by Ayn Rand in Atlas Shrugged. Moving forward Hillary initiates a new movement she believes is smarter and stronger than socialism, she calls it factionalism. It is her premise that all members of society fit into one of five factions of personality. They are: 1.  Abnegation for the selfless who renounce or reject all things. 2. Amity for the peaceful who believe all relationships are friendly. 3. Candor for those people who are honest and open in expression. 4. Dauntless for the brave, fearless, and determined.  5. Erudite for the intelligent who show great knowledge or learning.

Hillary’s term ends before she has completed the factional transformation, and her successor continues with the plan. The successor uncovers a bug in the philosophy of factionalism, i.e. what happens to people who don’t fit in any of the five factions, she labels them divergent. They can think outside the box and reject being pigeon-holed into any of the factions. A Divergent is dangerous to Factionalism. There is only one way to deal with a Divergent, and that is to kill him.

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The narrative above is my attempt to presage the real story of “Divergent” written by Veronica Roth as a children’s story. Divergent is the current movie rage that had me on the edge of my seat throughout. It also started my mind spinning into the possibilities of reaching that point in civilization where such a scenario becomes real. The setting is Chicago, and the scene of the abandoned buildings on either side of a dry Chicago River bed gave it real meaning. This story theme reminded me of Hunger Games and its spin on what the world will become in the future. Each film is entertaining, but Hunger Games seemed more entertaining than Divergent. Perhaps it is because Divergent tells the story of a plebe seeking entry into Dauntless through a rigorous and brutal training program. Whereas, the Hunger Games was a more adventure filled, problem solving competition with no punches barred. Each film has merit and each tells a good story. Both are worth watching.

Normally, Peggy and I don’t go for the sci-fi, fantasy, and comic book themed stories of the future, but this one had both of us riveted.

 

To the Woman Behind Me in Line at the Grocery Store

This story is a great example of how all of us can make a difference with simple acts of kindness.

Sunshine & Daisies

Dear woman behind me in line at the grocery store,

You don’t know me. You have no clue what my life has been like since October 1, 2013. You have no clue that my family has gone through the wringer. You have no clue that we have faced unbelievable hardship. You have no clue we have been humiliated, humbled, destitute.
You have no clue I have cried more days than not; that I fight against bitterness taking control of my heart. You have no clue that my husband’s pride was shattered. You have no clue my kids have had the worries of an adult on their shoulders. You have no clue their innocence was snatched from them for no good reason. You know none of this.

What you do know is I tried to buy my kids some food and that the EBT machine was down so I couldn’t buy…

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Deep Seated Impressions

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TRAINS

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PLANES

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MORE PLANES

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AUTOMOBILES

 

A few years ago a movie called Trains, Planes, and Automobiles came out and caused me to laugh my butt off. I just finished reading a book titled “Fly Boys” by James Bradley. The story is about World War Two with Japan in the Pacific. I learned a lot reading this account. First, the history of Japan and its Emperor worship which eventually evolved into their samurai military. I learned that we won the war not with the atomic bomb, but by an endless assault of incendiary bombs on cities built of wooden buildings. We burned the Japs to death. The atomic bombs were just a more efficient method.

During my early years, I read daily news accounts of battles, defeats, and victories. On my paper route, I noticed flags hanging in windows with gold stars on them. I grew up during World War Two. I watched my parents become somber when FDR declared war after the Pearl Harbor attack. I saw families in our neighborhood mourn the loss of their sons. It had an effect on my psyche. I learned to hate the Japanese as well as the Germans, and Italians, but I had a special hatred for Japan. This hatred grew as I grew.

As a young adult when it came time to enter the business world this conflict grew. As an engineer and product designer I favored US made products over those of the inferior Japanese made ones. My Christianity continued to work on me and as my thoughts about heaven and the teachings of Jesus to love my neighbor as myself began to take root my hatred began to dissolve, slowly. By 1969, I opened my mind to Japanese made products and bought a Toyota Corolla. It only served to bolster my attitude about Jap-Crap. My kids were old enough to chastise me about my use of words and that also affected me. I tried like heck to transfer my hatred to them, but they were smarter than me and resisted. The Corolla and I lasted but two years together. It was the worst car I ever owned.

The years passed and my war against Japanese products waged. I preached American made to anyone who would listen. My friends bought Japanese made Toyotas, Hondas, and Datsuns.  I lost the war when my three kids all bought Japanese made cars and loved them, but I kept telling myself that the price I paid for a good UAW made American car was worth it in patriotic pride. In 2006, I finally succumbed to the Japanese automakers. That came after studying their manufacturing methods and their zest for never-ending quality control. America finally woke up to the fact that Japanese manufacturing methods and quality systems were superior. American manufacturers were in catch-up mode. Our employers all scurried looking for the magic bullet that would allow them to compete. I came to believe in the Japanese system, not because it was Japanese but because it was American. They were smart enough to hire Joe Duran an American quality guru who couldn’t find an audience in America. The Japanese studied his system, and then embraced it. They implemented practices until it hurt, but it paid off. The result is a revolution in auto-making that has changed the world. They have won that war.

In 2006, I bought a Toyota Avalon which I so dearly have named the Death Star. It is the finest car I have ever owned. Then came “Flyboys.” Reading a history of the war with Japan in the detail in which author James Bradley tells has reawakened the deep-seated hatred within my heart. The atrocities committed by the Japanese during the war are hard to understand, but author Bradley explains the Japanese warrior psyche in detail and makes an attempt to rationalize their behavior. What is harder to take are the counter-atrocities we committed to beat them. Our methods were the best we could come up with. They were not pretty, but necessary. Japan’s determination was to take over China and the Pacific to expand their empire. They needed room to grow. Their population in the late nineteen thirties peaked at sixty million, and they lived on an island the size of California. Today, California has sixty-four million people and I think it is over populated.

Hopefully, this reawakened hatred will be short-lived as the memory of this narrative wears off. So, what does this have to do with my opening sentence, “A few years ago a movie called Trains, Planes, and Automobiles came out and caused me to laugh my butt off”? The answer is “nothing,” but my fascination with trains, planes and automobiles developed during this time frame. I grew up on a street one block away from a Nickel Plate RR line and I listened to and watched thousands of trains pass by carrying war materials. Airplanes of every type flew over head daily on the way to training fields and to missions in the Pacific, and automobile development stopped causing people to keep the cars they had, or to buy used 1930’s vintage models. To this day I love WWII airplanes, nineteen thirties hot rods, and steam engines.

Another Job I Cannot Do

It has been a week since I posted an original piece and I can’t say that I care too much. I seem to be passing through a period of laziness, and writer’s block. I had fun in the past bashing Obama at every chance, but my effort to get rid of him as president failed.  Now that I am stuck with him I have sunk into despair. I don’t care what he does, nor do I want to know. I can’t do anything about it except to vote for someone different when that time comes. So, my desire to write has waned.

Writing is a hard job, and I don’t like to work hard anymore. My writing skills were never very good, and it showed throughout my education. There were so many obstacles along the way, like grammar, punctuation, spelling, sentence structure, nouns, verbs, adverbs, pronouns, modifiers, subjects, and logical thought. There were a few instances along the way when I wrote something good and a teacher recognized me for it. Like the piece I wrote in college for Professor Will McCarthy titled the “Green Beauty.” That story related a date when I took my Irish girlfriend to her Senior prom at the Del Prado Hotel in Chicago.  The Green Beauty referred to the car I used, my dad’s 1939 four door, dark green Buick Special. The name Green Beauty came to me from a radio show I listened to called “The Green Hornet.” The Green Hornet called his car the Black Beauty. My final grade for this course was “C”.

Dad’s Buick was already sixteen years old when I used it for this date. The door hinges were worn and when a door opened it dropped a couple of inches. If one was not aware of this phenomenon when opening the door it came as a surprise. I wrote about the reaction the Del Prado doorman had when he rushed up to open the door for my date. The look on his face is something that I still chuckle about when I think about it. In fact I’m chuckling as I write this. Professor McCarthy gave me an “A’ for that story. He even read it out loud to the class as an example of good writing.

The next year another prof named Holub gave us an assignment to find a picture of a piece of equipment and to write a short paragraph describing what it was. I don’t remember what piece of equipment I selected but I described it accurately. Again, Professor Holub read the piece in class as an example of good writing. My final grade for this course was “C”.

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It came time to transfer from Saint Joseph’s College to the University of Illinois and they required transferees to take a test to decide if someone doing into the school had proper English writing skill to be worthy of the University of Illinois.  I sweat that one because the idea of taking remedial english courses gave me the willies. The day of reckoning came and I showed up at the auditorium on the south end of the quad for the test. They told us to take a seat, but to leave a space between. We were handed a little blue examination tablet with lined paper, and a list of topics. The test was to write an essay on one of the twenty topics listed. Thankfully, I remember Professor Holub’s advice to turn any topic into what it is you want to write about. I don’t remember anymore which subject line I spotted, but it triggered me to write about the morality of abortion. The words flowed, and I filled the blue tablet with what I believed to be logical and moral arguments against abortion. In today’s world I would have been thrown out of the auditorium for picking such a topic.

Several days went by before I got the news that my essay was good enough to keep me from having to take remedial english, what a relief.

Since those few times when I got lucky with my writing the need to write seriously never occurred. There were many times when I had to write reports for experiments,  but I don’t count that as serious writing. For one thing report writing almost always uses passive voice because it refers to something that was done. In writing today, when I run the grammar check, it nearly always bongs me for using past tense. It seems that using phrases like “was done” are verboten because the reader finds them hard to decipher.

One of the things I realized this week as I struggled with my writer’s block, is that I would never have been able to make a living as a writer. The idea of having to produce essay’s of value on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis scares me to death. I guess it boils down to when it is fun, the words flow, but when it is required your brain goes into lockdown.

Note:  Grammar check found seven instances of passive voice within this essay. I did not rewrite those sentences. My lab report skill is still at work today.

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Socialism is not the Answer

I was on my way home the other day, when I received a phone call from D1969. D1969 was on his way home traveling on a lonely back road in the Southern part of Tennessee when he came upon this truck on the side of the road. He slowed down but continued on and called me. I asked him if he took a picture of it, he said no but then turned around to take one. After taking the picture, some guy comes flying up in a Piece of Crap GMC and tried to bully D1969, wanting to know what he was doing, why he was there and so on until he noticed D had a Beretta in plane sight. Then this guy’s tone changed, he started being nice but this isn’t the end of the story.

The next time D went by the same…

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A Cherry Pie From the Middle Of Nowhere

Our latest adventure was a train ride through the Verde River Valley near Cottonwood, Arizona. We drove the hill climbing 3000 feet in altitude from the valley to Chambers, Arizona. During our scoot from the I-17 toward Cottonwood on AZ-269 I related to Peg the last time I was in this part of the country. It was 1987, and I attended The League of American Wheelmen’s national rally in Flagstaff. It was my second week-long bicycle tour.

My goal at the time was to maximize the adventure by using the train to get to the rally. I arrived at the train depot in Joliet, IL at 4:00 p.m. for a 5:00 p.m. departure. The station was empty and dead. The train I awaited began it’s run in Chicago a mere forty miles away, but didn’t arrive until 8:00 p.m. Gee this will be interesting, the train is already three hours behind schedule before I start, and that is the way it ended too.

Once at the rally city I bussed to the Grand Canyon and joined the tour group which rode back to Flagstaff on bicycles. It took us three days to make that trip. At the rally there were daily bike trips offered in each direction. These trips averaged from 30 to 100 miles each. All were scenic and went to destinations of interest. I chose the one which followed scenic Oak Creek Canyon to Sedona (all down hill) and then across the valley to Cottonwood and finally to the Tuzigoot National Monument. A bus awaited there to haul us back up the hill to Flagstaff.

As Peggy and I approached Cottonwood, the amount of traffic picked up considerably, and the number of shopping malls exploded. I couldn’t get over the amount of development that had occurred since my last visit. My first visit to Cottonwood was a joy as we pedaled through 105 degrees through a sleepy little village. The town which chartered in 1960 consisted of a typical Main street with quaint shops along either side of a three block stretch. On this day, Peg and I  passed through several stop lights passing a Home Depot, Walmart, Papa Joe’s and more before we even came close to Historic Cottonwood. I put all my trust in the slave lady who resides in the box on my dash and gives me instructions about where and when to turn. Eventually, we reached a street that looked like the Cottonwood I remembered. A short distance from the old town we passed the entrance to Tuzigoot.

For the umpteenth time the amount of development that occurred in the USA in the past 30-40 years has amazed me. Where did all the people come from to make every town in America grow so large? The time we visited Santa Fé, New Mexico is the first instance when I suffered population growth shock similar to that which I experienced this week in Cottonwood. Each time, I have gone back to these cities expecting to see the same quaint cute little burgs they were when I first saw them. As Thomas Wolfe wrote “you can never go back home again,” and then re-quoted by John Steinbeck in “Travels with Charlie,” I begin to understand what it means.

Peg and I boarded the Verde Valley Railroad car named Tucson at 12:45 and sat watching the amazing topography of the Verde River Canyon pass us by at a snoozy twelve miles per hour. I dreamed about doing this same tour on my bicycle at the same speed. The problem is that the railroad is the only road that travels this section of paradise. Very few people inhabit the scenic volcanic landscape.

The run down the hill was more fun than climbing in the morning. We chased a sunset all the way at 80 miles per hour. I achieved another goal along the way, I the exited the I-17 correctly to find the Rock Springs Pie Company. There, in the sparsely populated Arizona mountains, is a business consisting of a gas station, bed and breakfast, flea market, café, saloon, and the best home-made pies in the world. We bought a cherry pie to bring home.

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