A Second Career Update-Fun things this time!

It’s been a long time since I wrote anything here. just too busy with life and things to get to it. This is a short update on me, to those that care. Those not interested should find another web page. No politics, no meanderings about the world, Just an observation about my life and I suspect many others out there.

I’ve been busy painting, writing, and doing woodworking these past few months. The pictures are examples of my painting and woodworking (the frames). I have also started a part time job at a cabinet shop. It’s hard work but watching those rough pieces of lumber turn into fine furniture quality cabinets is a pleasure. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t getting paid, but it is a pleasure to work with my hands and be involved in manufacturing things rather than the stress of service and construction. There is still manufacturing in the USA. That slipped out-I promised no politics!!

I am also writing a weekly fishing column for the Stanly News and Press, our local newspaper. It’s fun to write and the necessary research keeps me on the lake a fair amount. What can I say!

The observation I mentioned is this. At least for me the best thing about retirement, other than spending more time with my lovely bride, is doing things I really enjoy. Getting paid to do woodworking and write about fishing makes for a happy life.

The third in my Tucker crime novel series is finally edited and when I have a cover finished it will be published. I’ll let you  know when it’s available for download. 100_1707

Half Way

In college a hundred years ago (so it seems) I took a course called Point Set Theory. All I really remember was the concept that if you approached a goal by taking a step halfway there, you would take an infinite number of steps and never arrive, never quite getting there, only halfway. That was the basic premise of the course and a way of proving there were an infinite number of points between zero and one on the “X” axis.  It seemed a totally useless concept at the time.

But, I found that in life I proceed the same way. At nine I was halfway to adulthood. At 35, I was half way through my life. At 45 I was halfway to retirement. At 50, I was halfway through my middle age. At 65 I am halfway through old age. It makes me wonder what I will think if I reach 75, perhaps I’ll find myself halfway through my dotage or halfway to the “other side”.

I believe that we progress in half steps, always believing that where we are is not the last place we’ll be, but rather halfway to somewhere.

Our minds, unable or unwilling to accept the end is approaching, like to think we have more to come. That time is unending. Perhaps this is because it’s so difficult to look at time as finite, even in our own existence. But alas, on this earth our time is finite and in reality whatever came before us or will follow us here has meaning only to our families and closest of friends and even then for only a brief period of time in the overall scheme of things. When that time here is over, we will take the next half step to what is to come.

Some believe in the promise of a Paradise. Some profess to believe there is an end to our existence. Some believe life is just another horizon, that there is something unknown in the distance hidden from view by that horizon. Belief that when we cross that horizon we will be only halfway on our journey!

What a wonderful journey it is!! 

Thoughts as winter ends and spring begins. Halfway to Summer and what a glorious Summer it will be.

Duck Dynasty-A Cost for Freedom in the USA!

Unless you live under a rock I’m sure you’re familiar with Duck Dynasty. While I don’t watch the show I occasionally see bits and pieces as I channel surf past, looking for something more to my taste. Recently I, as well as  millions of other people around the world, have been inundated with articles, TV interviews, videos, etc.. In short, more about Duck Dynasty than I ever cared to know, leading me to write this.

The family patriarch, Phil Robertson, during an interview for a leading magazine, spoke his mind about topics which almost always lead to controversy when uttered out loud in this country. Topics such as homosexuality and civil rights, when verbalized, will inevitably increase media coverage and comments by folks like me.

Being the cynic that I am, my first thoughts were that Mr. Robertson had used this controversy to stimulate media activity and thus increase the Duck Dynasty market in this holiday season. It follows that A&E, the network, could have done the same thing for the same reason. Remember the old adage, there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

Taken at face value and not as a publicity stunt, Robertson’s comments define a man who has strong opinions and is not embarrassed to publicize them. In this country he has the right to express himself and we, as fellow Americans, have the right to agree, verbalize counter comments, ignore him, or express ourselves in similar fashion. While my beliefs are not important to this article I will say that I find nothing of value in anything he said. I question how he could have been raised in the South and think that African Americans were better off under Jim Crow laws. As to his comments regarding gays, he’s a product of his religious beliefs. But these are topics for another time.

Back to the idea that this is all a publicity stunt, dreamed up by the network and/or the Robertson clan. Consider this, Phil Robertson was a teacher early in his career and has a Masters in education, hardly the ignorant poor white trash millionaire portrayed on the series. It seems unlikely that the comments were made without careful consideration of the resulting media frenzy.

To my point-We live in a country that allows us the freedom to have diverse opinions. A country that gives us forums for this expression, such as this blog. A country where we can all choose our own path, our own lives, a free country. These freedoms come with a cost. All opinions, whether or not we agree, are free to be expressed here.

Robertson is free to express himself. A&E is free to fire him. Viewers are free to support him or stop watching the show if they choose. The media is free to make this a circus or to let it die quietly.

As a veteran, I treasure this country and the rights afforded citizens here. I believe that we have the right to our own opinion. I only wish that mass media would let things like this just die and not make it headline news for weeks on end.

Having said all this, it’s obvious that the publicity stunt worked. I, having never seen the show, wrote this article, didn’t I?

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!!!

 

Where were you? President Kennedy Assassinated!

Everyone remembers where they were on that fateful day. I was a sophomore in high school, appropriately in a world history class, that afternoon when the announcement came over the loud speaker. The exact words escape me but went something like this.

“Our President, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated today in Dallas ,Texas. Everyone is to assemble in the auditorium immediately.”

The mood was somber as the six hundred or so students in our small high school walked through the halls and into the aisles, sitting class by class, assembled to hear more about this horrible scene in the days before computers or cell phones. We waited quietly for further news, the room filled with the low buzz of individual conversations.

Our school Principal stepped onto the stage after a time and the room fell silent instantly. He lead the us in a prayer and then briefly went over the meager facts available at the time. I remember him saying..

“We’ll all remember where we were when this took place. Try not to forget how you feel this minute.”

The next evening watching the news with my parents, the world was shocked by the sight of a murder occurring on live television. I was unable the grasp the enormity of the deed as it unfolded, no instant replays, live on the small black and white TV in our den. The alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was killed as he was being moved, live coverage capturing everything, by a nightclub owner with no real connection to any of this.

This entire situation began to feel surreal, almost as if written by a mystery writer, not real life. Today, fifty years later, the world still doesn’t know what really happened those two days, but we must all agree that on the face of it, it was a very odd time.

Many people think that Kennedy would have kept us out of Viet Nam, a war that cost over fifty thousand American dead and negatively affected millions more young men whose lives were disrupted by the dark cloud of the draft hanging over their heads.

Others believe that Kennedy’s death affected the Civil Rights movement, in its infancy at the time. Johnson, Kennedy’s replacement, was vocal in his support of Civil Rights, Kennedy not so much.

There is nothing gained by contemplating ‘What might have been?’ but it’s intriguing to think that if the accepted version of the assassination that day in Dealy Plaza is accurate, then one man, not a particularly bright one at than, can change the world in an instant.

Frightening, isn’t it?

 

 

An Adventure for the Summer

camperMy wife and I just returned from an exciting camping trip which lasted 18 days and covered 7 states. The intended goal was Denver and a visit with a daughter and grandson, but we decided to camp our way out there rather than fly and make the trip a part of the fun as well. Eight campgrounds, 4300 miles and roughly 380 gallons of gas later the adventure is over and the memories begin.

One highlight in the  adventure was three days in Branson, Missouri which turns out to be a Myrtle Beach for senior citizens. We loved all of it including the thrift stores on every corner, the Hollywood relics (King Kong climbing the Empire State Building), and most of all a romantic evening dinner cruise on a paddlewheel boat which included a wonderful show.

After three more days on the road, we arrived in the Denver area and were delighted to have the company of our grandson for several days as we spent time in a KOA campground. The campground had all the normal amenities including a pool, game room, hot tub, and several quiet retreat areas to enjoy. Our daughter joined us as well and made the stay wonderful.

Reluctantly we turned back toward home and started the long trek across Kansas. to yet another campground. A second daughter, who happened to be heading west on a California adventure of her own, met with us at a KOA in Salina, Kansas. This meeting happened on my birthday and made the day a memorable event. The next day while she headed on to Denver to visit her sister, we continued back toward North Carolina.

I won’t bore you with any further details of the trip but be assured that a photo album with written comments will be forced on everyone we know!!

Oh yes, my second novel THE DINGBATTER CASE is now available on Barnes and Noble. Please post comments as you finish the book but make sure the comments are about the book and not the author. The first in the series, THE NATIONAL PARK CASE underwent a major re write and is now (I believe) a much better book. Comments on this one would be welcome as well. It’s still on Barnes and Noble and now on Amazon as well.

The finale to the Tucker Trilogy is in process and will be published in time.

 

Summer Rains, Never Ending

boy in rain

 

This will be remembered as the summer of never ending rain!  Stuck inside, yet again, as the rain falls continuously outside, brings memories of living in Florida with it’s constant summer rain. At least there the rain was expected and not as big a deal. Here, we simply aren’t ready for it.

Good things about all this rain: Yard is greener. Don’t have to wash cars. Don’t have to water the garden (mixed blessing, as ours has drowned). Cooler, so lower power bills. Time for reading and writing, if so inclined. Good sleeping weather.

Bad things about all this rain: Can’t go fishing. Can’t go for a bike ride. Clothes wet all the time. Yard grows several inches a day (or so it seems). Everything is moldy and green (not with envy). Sleepy all the time.

Well, you get the picture.

I’m just about done with my ARK. A fine vessel, waiting in my back yard with almost enough water to float it. Perhaps today’s rains will cause it to rise up and we can ride it to dryer climes. Or more likely, the rain will stop today and I’ll have the most unusual looking storage building on the block.

I predict in August we’ll have weeks of dry, hot weather and will look back fondly on these wetter times. However, we’ll be looking from outside, under the sunshine, and that will be much better.

One last thing, my first book THE NATIONAL PARK CASE, has been substantially revised. The new version, with minor character and plot changes and significant editing improvements, is available free, both on Smashwords and Barnes and Noble. Please read the new version and make comments.

The second book in the Tucker Trilogy, The Dingbatter Case, is in edit as we speak and will be on line shortly. I’ll let you know.

Until next time. Live, Laugh, Love and be happy!

In Light of Recent Events

I’ve waited for a while after the terrible events that occurred in Boston to record my thoughts here. I’m just unable to grasp what was in the mind of those two youths that possessed them to brutally explode bombs meant to kill and maim people only out to observe a sporting event.

In my youth, as now, I felt passionately about causes, but was never led to take my passion out on people I didn’t know. These two young men, apparently mad at our government for it’s perceived actions against their homeland and their religion, chose to vent this anger on innocent members of our society. For the last few days I’ve tried to fathom their motives and have had to face the fact that sometimes motives are simply impossible to determine. Call it insanity, religeous fanaticism, evil, or just murder. Whatever you call it, I believe that we will never know what led these men to commit such an atrocity and will have to be satisfied to try to understand the act only, not the motivation.

Most important to me is what we do to prevent such occurances in the future. Cameras and good investigative work only seek to punish the crime. Threat of punishment will in no way prevent these individuals from perfoming their acts, as they are not threatened by earthly penalties. If we cannot threaten them into stopping, what recourse do we have? These two men were legal immigrants, welcomed to our country as political refugees, seemingly happy with our way of life, and still they did this act of terrorism.

I don’t purport to have answers to this dilemma, merely an observation. In the eyes of the world, I believe that we sometimes come across as meddling, perhaps even threatening, to other societies that are different. Should we consider tempering our urges to make their society a reflection of our own and simply allow them to grow to maturity in their own manner? We’d create fewer enemies that way, I believe.

To illustrate the point, history shows that the US was responsible for putting Saddam Hussein into power in Iraq or, at a minimum, supporting his rise to power. Ultimately, we were forced to remove him from power with force when he and his regime turned on its own people. Is that country significantly different today due to our involvement or would it have arrived at the same place down a different path?

Should we have simply let this country grow up in it’s own way?  This situation is, of course, more complicated than I’m expressing, but the gist of what I say is true. Unfortunately, as is always the case, hindsight is 20-20!

If I appear to be an isolationist, there is good reason!

TO A BETTER WORLD!

 

 

Spring at Last

nestrobinAs I sit here looking out on a dreary, dark spring day I am moved by watching the birds at our feeders happily eating the seeds we provide them. There are too many to count, of a variety of species, some small, some large, brown, red, blue, most colors of the rainbow.

This scene has been repeated for countless years all over the world each spring providing reassurance that all is well. These beautiful animals are not concerned with the myriad of worries that occupy human minds. They are simply happy to have an abundance of food, clean water, and a hole in a tree or a fancy bird house to live in. We “superior beings” dwell on nuclear armed terrorists, unpaid national debts, gas prices, all the things that make us superior, and forget the simple joys of spring. New growth, a new beginning to life, pretty flowers, baby animals, all the things that spring brings, should be in our minds. We need to worry about the bad things in our world, but not to the exclusion of considering the good, even great, things happening around us.

I know that tomorrow will be a warm, sunny day that will quickly make me forget about this cold, dark, spring day. At least that’s what Weather.com says and as we all know, they’re never wrong. These birds outside my window don’t have that reassurance but still choose to sing, fly around joyfully, build nests, and generally enjoy life.

Just for today, let’s ignore North Korea, Al Qaeda, Sequestration, all those things and simply enjoy the spring.

Comments welcome!

What is Sequestration, really?

pentagon-says-to-resume-f-35-fighter-jetsJust a little politics on this auspicious occasion. .Back to last summer when a last minute deal was made to raise the debt ceiling that involved mandatory spending cuts to take effect today. Among others, cuts to social programs that the Democrats love and cuts to defense that the Republicans love. Sounds pretty straight forward, doesn’t it?

It was a  deal that was supposed to scare each side so much that they would surely reach an agreement rather than let these cuts go into effect. Let’s look at some numbers. We have a national debt of around 16 TRILLION dollars. The cuts are 85 BILLION dollars.. Annual budget of around 3.6 TRILLION dollars. This frightening cut represents cutting the annual spending by a whopping 2.4%. If your annual household budget is 50 Thousand dollars this would represent a cut of 1200 dollars. Your debt equivalent to the national debt would be 220 Thousand dollars. Let’s call this credit card debt.

So, the question in its simplist form. Would you be willing to cut your expenses by $1200 a year to pay off your CC debt rather than leave it for the kids to pay? I believe that most of us would say “Absolutely” to that question.

Of course this scenario is ridiculous on its face. Simple math indicates that even without taking into account interest, it would take 183 years to pay off this debt if we only reduce spending by 2.4%.  Obviously MUCH MORE SEVERE cuts would be necessary and/or you’d need to increase your annual income. In the case of a government that means taxes or depending, as we often do, on economic growth to increase the tax revenue, a chancy proposition at best.  Logically, both severe cuts and real tax increases are  necessary to get this problem under control. This is so obvious to most of us but the folks in our government just don’t seem to get it.

The administration adamantly wants to limit cuts to most programs. The Republicans are adamant that there can be no tax increases on anyone, wealthy or not. Something as simple as our defense budget is central to the argument about what cuts we can make. We spend more than the rest of the world combined on our defense, about 700 BILLION annually. One example of our bad policy is an aircraft called the F35 which was to be the fighter that would protect us in the event of another war. So far it has cost $400 Billlion in development and while some are in the field it is not yet operational as a fighter. Each plane, when finally operational, will cost around $100 million to build. With the advent of unmanned Drones it is likely that the F35 will die before it gets fully deployed. Oh yes, it’s usless against terrrorists or ICBM’s carrying nuclear weapons (N. Korea). The only good news is that part of the cost of this plane was spent here in the US providing jobs to our own citizens.

Completely eliminating social programs such as Head Start, WIC, and the like would not create enough revenue to pay for the F35 program. Which of these programs potentially being reduced represents what we want to separate us from the rest of the world? I hope we would like to be known as a country that values its citizens above all else. We denegrate the North Koreans for spending all their money on their army while their people go hungry!   Would eliminating such defense programs as this make us more vulnerable to the current threats? See the comment re ICBM’s and terrorists above.

Comments welcome. Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

A Valentines Day Thought

The story that follows is just over a year old but today seems an appropriate day to share it with my friends. It appeared today in the Stanly News and Press, the Albemarle local newspaper, with other similar stories. This one of course is about my beautiful wife and me and was the first step in my trip to this Web page and the writing I am enjoying so very much. I hope you enjoy it, as well.

Another event of note. Those of you that enjoyed my short story The Egg Gathering Incident will be pleased to know that it won first prize in a Short Story contest and will appear this summer in a ebook and print book anthology of short stories. I will let you know where you can get a copy when it becomes available.

 

AT LAST A CRUISE

At long last, after nearly thirty five years of debate, we were headed toward Charleston to depart on a Caribbean Cruise, headed to Key West followed by two days in the Bahamas. I have to admit I was the reluctant member of this family, having always felt that boats were for fishing and knowing I had no rods long enough to fish off such a high deck as this cruise ship promised to have. As we approached the dock I reflected, thinking back on how we had arrived at this point in our lives.

Several months before, I’d started working part time in anticipation of my impending retirement and had quickly realized that being home four days a week was better than being home two days a week, at least for me. I did, however, realize that everything was not one hundred percent perfect. My wife and I had found, over thirty five years of marriage, that we’d drifted further and further apart, as I believe most couples do. Without expressing it aloud, we both feared that if I retired completely we might find that we’d be unable to enjoy constantly being together. We found ourselves spending every evening in separate  rooms, hypnotized by the ever present television while enjoying no intimacy at all. We were simply going through the motions of marriage, waiting for whatever was to happen. I’d finally agreed to go on the cruise in hopes that it would rekindle our feelings and clarify what the next step in our lives was to be.

We walked up the ramp boarding the ship side by side without touching, both anxious to see what this short trip would bring for us. We were soon settled into the stateroom and after that decided to check out the food that cruise ships are so famous for. After a great meal, eaten mostly in silence, we returned to our room and retired for the night.

Our first port of call was Key West where we were scheduled to take an excursion bus on a tour of the area, visiting the local sites. We passed Ernest Hemingway’s home complete with six toed cats, Margaritaville without Jimmy Buffet but with lots of tequila, walked past million dollar homes that were at best shacks, in short we saw the whole of Key West that a tourist sees. Knowing no one on the bus we found it convenient to talk to each other and before long we were conversing more openly than we had in years. That evening we returned to the ship tired but happy, as I recall.

Morning comes beautifully on a cruise ship and this one was no disappointment. We woke up early and went to the deck railing to watch as the ship arrived in Freeport.  Again we were scheduled to take a bus ride about the island, visit the typical tourist spots and to shop, of course. As the day progressed I began to realize that this lovely woman walking beside me was not only beautiful but full of insightful comments about our surroundings. She entertained me all day with her observations of the scenery and the unusual people in the crowds we were with.

By the time we returned to the ship I was feeling a bounce in my step that had been missing for too long and beginning to see my lovely bride of so many years ago resurrected in this woman I was with.

That was the evening of the dress up meal scheduled periodically on a cruise ship but we’d decided to forgo this because I had no real dress clothes with me as I’d conveniently forgotten to bring them. To my surprise my bride suggested that we go dressed as we had each evening in very casual clothes and brazen our way into the dining room. You’d have to know her to realize how very out of character this was and I was thrilled that she suggested it and immediately agreed, after all, as she’d said, “What could they do but say no?”

When we arrived at the dining room entrance the maître d listened intently as my wife explained our dilemma and immediately escorted us to a secluded table passing by all the tuxedos and ball gowns, all the while smiling down at her with a mischievous gleam in his eye. I followed proudly.

The next day we arrived at our last port of call, Nassau, and departed early for an island tour followed by several hours of free time for shopping. Hand in hand we walked down the ramp into town and for the entire morning we walked, talked, basically enjoying each other, until after a meal in a local bistro we decided that we’d seen enough of Nassau. As we walked slowly back I turned and asked this woman I’d been with constantly for the last several days the question that was burning in my mind.

“Do you think we could stand this togetherness full time for the rest of our lives?”

She raised her head slowly, looked me in the eyes, nodded, kissed me, and putting her hand in mine led me down the hall to our stateroom.

You know what they always say about cruise ships being romantic. Well, it’s very true.  By the way, as soon as I went back to work I gave my boss notice of my impending retirement and am now pursuing a career from home and enjoying the company of the love of my life. I’m writing novels, but that’s another story.