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Ronald Reagan, the Great Communicator on the farm . . .

To paraphrase Art Linkletter in his old-time television show, Kids say the darndest things, humor can be found in the darndest places. I received this video recently in an e-mail from a lovely retired couple in Florida that migrated from North to South, legally of course, leaving the winters of Ohio and fleeing for the flora and fauna of Florida, going from icicles to iguanas, from shoveling snow to seeking shade, and apparently living and loving every minute of life in the sunshine state.

If this seems familiar, it’s probably because I’ve used this same paraphrase in a previous post. Click here to read that post. It’s a really funny story well worth reading, featuring bagpipes, burials, blunders and septic tanks—that should pique your curiosity.

This is the video from YouTube that the Florida couple sent, a video that has already been viewed one and three quarters of a million times—you can keep it moving towards the two million mark, but please be forewarned that it makes a strong political statement, an incredibly funny one but still definitely political.

If you tend to lean toward the left on the political spectrum you might want to skip the video—it might make you laugh even if you are so tilted to the left that you are lying down, so view it at your own peril. However, if you tend to lean toward the right even ever so slightly, you will be doing yourself a gross disservice if you don’t watch it. Please note that the audience found humor in four separate places in this brief portion of the president’s speech, but their laughter and applause reached a crescendo when the Great Communicator delivered the punchline. And at the time of this posting, 2, 625 viewers say they liked the video and only 80 have voiced their dislike. None of the votes is mine—I strive to remain neutral in this area, a position that is rather difficult to maintain and I sometimes stray, but I still try.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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Bagpipes, burials, blunders & septic tanks . . .

To paraphrase Art Linkletter in his old-time television show, Kids say the darndest things, humor can be found in the darndest places. I received this e-mail recently from a lovely retired couple in Florida that migrated from North to South, legally of course, leaving the winters of Ohio and fleeing for the flora and fauna of Florida, going from icicles to iguanas, from shoveling snow to seeking shade, and apparently living and loving every minute of life in the sunshine state.

I freely admit, with not a smidgen of shame, that I took a few liberties with the original e-mail and in my not-so-humble opinion I approved it immeasurably. In the original e-mail, for example, the bagpipe player said he felt badly about being too late for the graveside services.

No, no, no, never—not no, but hell no! If one feels badly, then one has a deficiency in one’s ability to feel, to exercise the tactile sense of touch. Consider this: Does anyone ever say that they felt goodly about anything? No, they say they felt good, not goodly, about whatever the feeling was that generated how they felt. There were numerous other improvements involving wayward commas, failure to capitalize when needed, attempts to reflect regional dialects of Kentucky and redundant terms such as like I’ve never played before—the word never does not need before.

I rest my case, and I now offer the edited e-mail:

Bagpipes at a funeral . . .

As a bagpiper I play many gigs. Recently I was asked by a funeral director to play at a graveside service for a homeless man. The departed had no family or friends, and the service was to be at a pauper’s cemetery in rural Kentucky. I was not familiar with the backwoods and got lost, and being a typical man I didn’t stop for directions.

I finally arrived an hour late and saw that the funeral workers were gone, and the hearse was nowhere in sight. Only the diggers and their equipment remained, and the men were eating lunch in the shade of a nearby tree.

I felt bad about being too late for the ceremony and I apologized to the workers. I went to the side of the grave and looked down and saw that the vault lid was already in place. I didn’t know what else to do, so I started to play.

The workers put down their lunches and gathered around with their hardhats in hand. I played my heart and soul out for that man with no family and no friends. I played for that homeless man like I’ve never played for anyone.

I played Amazing Grace, and as I played the workers began to weep. They wept and I wept, and we all wept together. When I finished I packed up my bagpipes and started for my car. Though my head hung low, my heart was full.

As I opened the door to my car I heard one of the workers say, I have never seen or heard of anything like that, and I’ve been putting in septic tanks for twenty years.

Apparently I was still lost—it must be a man thing.

Postscript: The internet offers several versions of this story by different bloggers—none are better than this one and some, while not necessarily worse, are not as good as this one—take your pick.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

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One soul departs, and another arrives . . .

One soul departs,

and  another arrives.

I have read the letter that follows many times and each time my heart—my soul, my spirit—soars to incredible heights, and then descends to incredible depths. I know that I am not worthy of those heights, but I would like to believe that I do not deserve to remain at those depths.

I have vowed that in the time I have remaining above ground on this sphere—this earth—I will dedicate my efforts, my will, to live my life in a way that honors my wife, my family, my friends and my God. I hasten to add that I will accord that honor in my own way and not necessarily in ways favored by our society, nor by actions sanctioned by various religious denominations. I know that I cannot undo the things I’ve done in my lifetime that I should not have done, but I can try with all my might to do the things I should do in the time I have left in this realm.

I will begin this writing by saying proudly that I have the finest neighbors anyone could possible have, a beautiful couple that lives just a few feet away on the west side of our house. The husband is a self-employed architect and the wife is an educator-at-large in local school districts. They have two grown sons and a brand-new granddaughter.

My wife was in hospice care, and shortly before she died our neighbor gave her a gold chain with a pendant fashioned into the I Love You symbol in American Sign Language. She expressed her sorrow to my wife for her illness and her sorrow that she could not be with her until the end—her elder son’s wife, living in a distant city, was near child delivery and the doctors anticipated problems with the baby. My wife died before the neighbor left, and the neighbor’s sorrow—her sadness—is eloquently expressed in the letter she gave me before she left.

With her permission I have reproduced the letter and am posting it exactly as written, including the pen-and-ink sentence at the top of the page. She professes little talent for writing, but in my opinion, unlettered and unfettered though my opinion may be, she has a tremendous talent for writing and should pursue that talent, whether as a vocation or as an avocation.

Her letter follows, exactly as written. The first sentence just above the poem—This was in my heart today—was written in ink in the upper margin:

This was in my heart today:

Courage is not the towering oak
That sees storms come and go,
It is the fragile blossom
That opens in the snow.
—Alice MacKenzie Swalm

Dear Mike,

You hurt so deeply…..so, so deeply. You are sad, on top of sad, on top of sad. And all I know to say is, “I’m sorry.” So trite…..it screams out that I can’t even begin to feel your pain. I want to just sit and cry, cry, cry with you. Janie left you for another. That will always break your heart. She left you, she left you…how could she? You were always there for her. Year after year, day after day, hour after hour, minute after minute, second after second…..you were always there for her. But she left anyway. Gone, gone, gone. You always knew that she would leave you. It never mattered. You would do it all over again if you could. If only you could.

She said that you were a “Good Man.” A good man. A loving man. A caring man. A clever man. A funny man. A loyal man. A knowledgeable  man. An interesting man. But a man all the same. Not perfect, but not a requirement for Janie.

And there lies the real beauty. Janie left room for others to live their own lives. To make their own mistakes. To make their own amends. To write their own stories. To make their own verses and rhymes. To be their own selves. To find their own beauty. To find their own strengths. To find their own weaknesses. No matter where you were in life, whether in the good or the bad, she welcomed you home when you were ready to be home. She didn’t push or prod. She just waited. She knew you would eventually come home. She led by example. Every needle, every probe, every surgery, every bruise, every doctor visit…she said, “Be strong. Be strong, be strong, be strong. It was her battle cry. No words needed. She screamed it out with the softest of cries. So strong…..yet so, so gentle.

I’m your neighbor. I’m just simply a neighbor. How could I be touched this way? For me, death and birth are coming at the same time. I didn’t want to choose one over the other. But here it is, saying choose, choose. Janie’s example said to pick life. Choose life, she said. It is with sadness that I go. Even when I should be filled with bubbling joy. Be strong, she says. Go and be strong.

You are a good neighbor. The best. Be strong. Be strong. Be strong. “Live” she says. Be strong. She will wait for you to come Home.

With Sad, Sad, Sadness,

Your Neighbor, Your Friend,

Kathy

Postscript: At the memorial for my wife, our daughters placed the “I Love You” pendant in their mother’s hands, along with a small card with Biblical quotations given to her many years ago by her sister, Christine. The only other jewelry was a gold chain with a small pendant that I brought home many years ago from a foreign assignment while in the military. The pendant has a French quotation that translates as “I love you more today than yesterday, but less than tomorrow.”

My neighbor is back home now and back in work harness. Her granddaughter, Caitlan, was delivered successfully by Caesarian surgery. The baby weighed eight pounds and two ounces at birth, and she is healthy, happy and growing by leaps and bounds.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

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Re–post: Dear Abby poem, a letter from those beyond . . .

The letter that follows below is from my original posting dated November 25, 2009, entitled Dear Abby poem, a letter from beyond . . . Click here to read the original post. I am re–posting it now for the benefit of a recent subscriber to my blog, a nephew, the first of two sons born to my sister. His mother was the penultimate—the second to the last—family member to shuffle off this mortal coil. I am the ultimate, the last of seven children born to our mother and father and the last one still standing.

The poem below appeared in the San Antonio, Texas Express-News daily on Sunday, July 11, 1993, in Dear Abby’s column. It’s a moving message from one and all that, as voiced by Shakespeare’s Hamlet, have shuffled off this mortal coil, and is for us a solemn reminder of our own mortality.

These are the words of Hamlet:

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Must give us pause.

Several years after her husband died, I sent this letter to my sister:

July 11, 1993

Dear Sis,

It’s Sunday morning here and I just finished wading my way through the Sunday issue of San Antonio’s Express-News. This poem was in Dear Abby. I know it’s very sad, and I know it won’t be easy for you to read. But I’ve read it over and over and I found that, at least for me, it becomes more uplifting and less sad with each reading. It was untitled, so I guess we are supposed to furnish our own title.

Nice touch, that. We can simply leave it untitled, or we can dedicate it to someone or something we’ve loved and lost, whether it be a person or pet or place or idea. Or we can title it We are not dead and attribute the poem to be from all those we’ve loved and lost.

Whether the voice of one or the voices of all, and regardless of the title, the poem must give us pause:

Do not stand at my grave and weep;

I am not there. I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow;

I am the diamond glints on snow.

I am the sunlight on ripened grain;

I am the gentle autumn’s rain.

When you awake in the morning’s hush,

I am the swift uplifting rush

Of quiet birds in circled flight.

I am the soft star that shines at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry;

I am not there. I did not die.

In the seven months since I posted the poem it has garnered ten votes, all excellent, but no viewer has taken the time to post a comment. I realize that many of us, perhaps most, are reluctant to focus our thoughts on those that are no longer with us, but when they are in our thoughts they are not dead—they live, if only for a brief moment, and the finest tribute we can pay is to never forget—always remember.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!


 
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Posted by on June 2, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Ode to a cheesecake . . .

In the winter of 2009 during the heavy snowstorms in and around Washington, D.C., an incident occurred in Alexandria that generated several postings on Word Press. Pending their annual Chocolate Party my son-in-law, the one that’s married to my daughter that lives, loves and works in Virginia, buried a huge cheesecake in their backyard flower garden under two feet of snow, an interment necessitated by the lack of storage space in their refridgeraterrefrigereter—refrigeretar. Oh, damn it, in their icebox!

Click here to read my daughter’s explanation of the unprecedented backyard burial.

I composed a rather brilliant poem—well, somewhat brilliant—well, at least it rhymes—and used it to comment on the incident. That comment, unlike the cheesecake arisen from the grave, remains buried under an avalanche of postings by my daughter. I am resurrecting it, bringing it up from and out of the Stygian darkness of the nether world of comments and into the bright light of day for others to enjoy.

Because I took the liberty of borrowing a few words and phrases from several prominent writers and using them in my poem—horribly fractured, of course—I humbly offer my abject apologies to the preacher John Donne, to the poet Joyce Kilmer, to my favorite author Henry David Thoreau and to my daughter in Virginia, the author of An apology to the wood anemone.

I also apologize to visitors to my blog—I apologize in advance for wishing a pox on those that do not visit, and a double pox on those that visit and fail to comment on my postings. Finally, I apologize for making so many apologies—I cannot help myself—it’s something I cannot control. I apologize often in an effort to dodge or divert or at least minimize criticism—it’s in my nature—mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa maxima.

Please note that I freely admit that I apologize far too often, but I am thankful to report that it’s one of only two faults. In addition to the fault of copiously apologizing, I am also modest to a fault. Sans apologies and modesty, I would be perfect!

Ode to a cheesecake

Breathes there one with soul so dead
That never to one’s self hath said
Methinks that I shall never see
A word so lovely as anemone.

Offed from my tongue it rolls
Sadly as the bell that tolls
Not for thee and not for me
Nor for the lovely anemone.

But for the cheesecake in its bower
Not ‘neath trees nor plants nor showers
Nay, ‘neath snowstorms full of power
Lying beneath the snow for hours

In wait for the chocolate party
To be eaten by goers hearty.

But wait, what’s that I see
Beside the cheesecake ‘neath the snow
The anemone arises ready to go
With the cheesecake to the table

Petals eight to be divided
‘Mongst the diners so excited
A ‘nemone to see.

They smell the petals
They hear the bell
They’ll come to know
As time will tell

If snow and cheesecake
Sounds their knell
Or leaves them alive
And well.

— H.M. Dyer (1932-     )


I neglected to give credit to Sir Walter Scott for his poem The lay of the last minstrel in my Ode to a cheesecake—credit is now given. I also neglected to say that I loved your poem An apology to the wood anemone—well done! Your cheesecake arising from the snow is reminiscent of Thoreau’s Walden in which he tells of a golden bug that in the spring gnawed its way out of a table after being entombed in the wood for many years.


 
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Posted by on May 22, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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I remember Earl Wilson . . .

I remember Earl Wilson . . .

The purpose of this posting is to introduce Earl Wilson to the multitudes of people that were not around to enjoy his contributions to our society through his varied writings, and in a small way to bring him back, even if only for a brief time to a brief few.

From Wikipedia: Earl Wilson (May 3, 1907 in Rockford, Ohio—January 16, 1987 in Yonkers, New York) was an American journalist, gossip columnist and author, perhaps best known for his nationally syndicated column, It Happened Last Night. Wilson’s column originated from the New York Post and ran from 1942 until 1983. For a biographical sketch of the famous columnist, click here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earl_Wilson_%28columnist%29.

I read Earl Wilson’s column faithfully over a period of many years, and I still remember many of the quotations attributed to him. For a comprehensive listing of those quotes, click here: http://creativequotations.com/one/2506.htm.

Earl sometimes referred to his Earl’s Pearls as Oil’s Poils—Brooklynese, perhaps, for the term. An internet search for that expression was fruitless, as was my memory of Wilson’s treatment of Thirty days hath September . . .

The following web site has 73 variations of Thirty days hath September—http://www.leapyearday.com/30Days.htm, but it does not include the one I remember best—the one I have parroted frequently over the years—this one:

Thirty days hath Septober,

April, June and Octember,

All the rest eat peanut butter,

Except grandma

And she drives a Cadillac.

Did I mention that I read Earl Wilson’s columns over a period of many years? Well, I did, and I still remember many of the quotations attributed to him. As a starter for those not familiar with Wilson’s wit, here’s a sampling of his quotes:

An exhaustive study of police records shows that no woman has ever shot her husband while he was doing the dishes.

Poise: the ability to be ill at ease inconspicuously.

Benjamin Franklin may have discovered electricity, but it was the man who invented the meter who made the money.

Snow and adolescence are the only problems that disappear if you ignore them long enough.

This would be a much better world if more married couples were as deeply in love as they are in debt.

Saying Gesundheit doesn’t really help the common cold, but its about as good as anything the doctors have come up with.

Success is simply a matter of luck—ask any failure.

Somebody figured it out—we have 35 million laws trying to enforce Ten Commandments.

Always remember, money isn’t everything, but also remember to make a lot of it before talking such fool nonsense.

Spend enough time on the quotations site, and I promise you that you’ll garner enough one-liners to dominate almost any cocktail party, reunion, pajama party or any other gathering—the younger people there will have never heard of Earl Wilson, and the older people there will have forgotten both him and his prodigious output of Earl’s Pearls.

Trust me on my analysis of people at cocktail parties, reunions, pajama parties and any other gathering—I was a younger person for a considerable length of time, and I’ve been an older person for an even longer length of time—I know whereof I speak and therefore have earned the right to advise—so trust me!

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2010 in Humor, newspapers, Writing

 

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Dear Abby poem, a letter from those beyond . . .

The lines that follow were excerpted from Hamlet’s soliloquy in Shakespeare’s play:

To die, to sleep, to sleep,| perchance to dream;
Aye, there’s the rub, for in that sleep of death,
what dreams may come

when we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
must give us pause.

The poem below appeared in the San Antonio, Texas Express-News on Sunday, July 11, 1993, in Dear Abby’s column. It’s a moving message from one and all who, as voiced by Shakespeare’s Hamlet, have shuffled off this mortal coil, and it is for us a solemn reminder of our own mortality. My sister’s husband had recently died and I included the poem in a letter.

This is the letter I sent to my sister following the death of her husband:

July 11, 1993

Dear Sis,

It’s Sunday morning here and I just finished wading my way through the Sunday issue of San Antonio’s Express-News. This poem was in Dear Abby. I know it’s very sad, and I know it won’t be easy for you to read. But I’ve read it over and over and I found that, at least for me, it became more uplifting and less sad with each reading. It was untitled, so I guess we are supposed to furnish our own title.

Nice touch, that. We can simply leave it untitled, or we can dedicate it to someone or something we’ve loved and lost, whether it be a person or pet or place or dream. We can title it I am not dead and accept it as being the voice of one we’ve loved and lost, or we can title it We are not dead and accept it as being the voices of all those we’ve loved and lost. Whether the voice of one or the voices of all, and regardless of the title the poem, in the words of Hamlet, must give us pause.

I choose to entitle the poem as the voice of one we’ve loved and lost:

I am not dead

Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there. I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow;
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain;
I am the gentle autumn’s rain.

When you awake in the morning’s hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft star that shines at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.

Re: Dear Abby—the following biographical sketch was extracted from Wikipedia:

Pauline Phillips (born July 4, 1918 as Pauline “Popo” Esther Friedman) is an advice columnist and radio show host who founded the “Dear Abby” column in 1956. The current Dear Abby is her first-born child and only daughter, Jeanne Phillips, who now writes under the pen name of Abigail Van Buren, which was also used by Pauline. She also has a son, Edward Jay Phillips.

Pauline Esther Friedman Phillips was an identical twin; her sister, Esther Pauline Friedman Lederer, wrote the Ann Landers column until her death from multiple myeloma in 2002, at age 83. As children, the two grew up in Sioux City, Iowa, and went by the nicknames “Popo” and “Eppie,” respectively. Both are alumnae of Morningside College and both wrote for the college newspaper. They were so close then that they had a joint wedding in 1939 when both women were 21 years old. They were both Jewish.


 
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Posted by on November 15, 2009 in death, Family, newspapers

 

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