We are sitting on our living room couch with our computers in our laps listening to singer Petula Clark from the 1960s sing Downtown and other classic hits that she sang. It's all on our Apple Music where we have a free three month subscription.
While listening to these great sounds from my high school days, I'm poring over pictures taken with my iPhone from our past week.
We found the perfect gift to give each other on our 34th anniversary, but I'll get back to that shortly. The best part of my life has been my relationship to Gladys. I don't know why I didn't propose to her in a conventional way.
She was teaching at Immanuel Lutheran School in Bay City, Michigan and I went to her classroom after school one day where I pulled out my checkbook and found the page with the calendar. I pointed to it and said, "What day would you like to get married."
She said "yes" and the rest is history. Living life with her everyday and experiencing her unconditional love has been a life-changer for me. She has been a steady reflector of the only person that she loves more than me, Jesus Christ.
To cover all the things that I'm thankful for in my marriage to Gladys, Christian-singer Matt Redmond would have to change his song from 10,000 Reasons to, at least, 100,000 Reasons.
Okay, here's our anniversary presents to each other. We got each other new iPhones. We can call and text each other, as well as take photos and videos to share.
What's next? Stay tuned.
Right now, we have the Ada Bible Church worship service in our living room through its live streamed service. We went to the service last night and we were excited about having the service in our living room this morning.
The sermon will about to begin. It's start of a new series--Movement. Text for today's teaching is Acts 11: 19-21. I need to hear it one more time.
When we walked into church--Ada Bible Church--we were greeted by "Giving Tables" where we show our support for people and groups in need of support. Last night, it was a crisis pregnancy center and church members scheduled to go on mission trips.
The tables are filled with stickers listing items to be purchased. These range from disposable diapers to strollers.
Individuals then purchase them, attach the sticker and then bring them back to church the next Sunday.
It's been a little more than two weeks since I had major surgery on my right eye to deal with a implanted lens that keeps falling off its anchors.
In the process of this experience during the past seven plus years, I've learned a lot. The first time it happened, it was intimidating when I had double vision that wouldn't go away. Then it was reattached and I took a "stuff happens" kind of attitude.
Then from late 2012 to this year, it happened four more times. In the process, I was examined by more than a dozen ophthalmologists from various sub-specialities and had a surgery after each time it happened. Along the way, I had a retinal detachment.
This process made me acutely aware of the importance of my vision and how being able to see is not overrated.
I don't know what the future will bring for my eyesight, but I have it now and it's getting closer to normal.
I was reminded this past week of how thankful I am to be able to see when my wife and I went to Horrock's Farm Market on the edge of the Lansing area.
The mountains and variety of multi-colored fruit caught my attention right off and so did their shapes. I hated geometry in high school. But walking through the store, all I saw was shapes of all kinds and lots of color.
Thank-you God for the vision that I have right now.
The lens in my right eye has run amuck for the fifth time. I've had four different ophthalmologists examine it with one saying it has completely come loose and others saying it's partly attached, but flapping around. What does this mean?
Right now, I have double vision most of the time. I also have trouble reading, including the web on my new 27-inch monitor attached to my laptop.
Here's the fix: on May 13, two surgeons will work on taking out the lens and replacing it with a new one that will be placed in front of my iris. It's about a two hour surgery that has risks, but appears to be the only way to fix it.
To be honest, it would be easy to let the condition of my present vision, the surgery and the uncertainty consume my thoughts. With my wife's help and with the help of family, I am going to work hard to avoid that.
But most important is turning this over to God. It easier said than done. Even so, I just have to do it. I pray fervently that he will give me that kind of faith.
Our pastor, Jeff Manion of Ada Bible Church, shared this prayer a few years ago. He says he starts everyday by asking God to give him the grace to trust him everyday. "Dear Lord, I am asking the same."
I will report on the next leg of my eye journey from time to time. Today, I will teach myself how to use my cell phone to dictate posts right into this blog, just in case, I can't see well enough.
I stumbled onto Kara Tippetts' blog about her life as a young mom dealing with incurable cancer. I was drawn by her spirit and her focus on God. Her transparency makes her experience even more real. I've read her book The Hardest Peace-expecting grace in life's hard.
This video clip is a trailer that's part of a documentary being produced about her and her reaction to her disease.
My heart is touched by this very real family dealing with some really tough stuff. For me, I see it as a template for how to deal with circumstances that bring you to a wall that seems impossible to get through.
It was just before 7 p.m. last night and I felt myself being pulled away from watching Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy, two television shows that give me a minimum mental workout. Like a dripping faucet that you can't shut off, I kept hearing last Sunday's sermon by Pastor Jeff Manion at Ada Bible Church.
His current sermon series is on the Five Days of Jesus that lead up to the day that he is crucified. He is essentially retelling that part of the story from the Bible and trying to show how it gives us a window into the heart and actions of the person we celebrate on Easter Day. Keep in mind, he's human and he is also God. He's God in skin.
While I heard on the TV, contestants telling Pat Sajak, give me this or that letter, I read about Jesus passing through Jericho and then going over to the Mount of Olives where he paused to look down on Jerusalem.
During the sermon, Jeff Manion said, it was his prayer that during the sermon series that we would understand him more, that we would feel some of the same things he felt, see some of the same things he saw and that we love and trust him more.
I really want to give this a chance. For far too long, my view of Easter has been numbed by hearing it all my life. I need to concentrate more on the "so what" of what happened as recorded in the Bible. My view of Easter started to be shaped by a Bible story book read to me when I was a small child. The problem is that it probably hasn't changed much as I have gotten older.
Here's a link to a clip from the sermon.
I'm really looking forward to spending time this weekend with my youngest grandson who's nearing nine months old. I can't wait to talk with him, read him some stories, glance at the newspaper and play with all his neat toys.
There are lots of stories I can tell him about our family, about his dad, his grandma and me. If you're in our neighborhood, our house will be the one with the big smile, like the one we had this summer and at Christmas when our older grandson and our granddaughter, along with our daughter and son-in-law visited.
After I publish this, I'm going right over to Amazon to check on selfie poles for my iPhone. I'd like to see if I can take some cool video of the visit.
A NOTE: I just ordered a selfie pole from Amazon which extends to 50" and allows use of my iPhone camera through a bluetooth connection. I paid for it with Discover Card bonus credit.
Dec. 1, 2014
It's Monday evening and I'm sitting at the kitchen table writing you a letter which you can read when you're older. Grandma and I are still smiling from your visit last week for Thanksgiving and we are happy that you brought your parents along.
We had the excitement of watching you eat solid food for the first time when you were here. You loved it. You tried some vegetables, including squash in a squeeze tube. You ate the whole thing.
A whole new world of tastes, smell and textures are opening up for you. When your dad was your age, he loved vegetables of all types. He loved almost all food. However, he didn't like peanut butter or Cheerios.
So, if you really like vegetables, you got some of that from him. I'm not sure about your mom's food preferences.
I grew-up loving just about all vegetables, including red beets, peas, squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, corn and the list could go on. But one vegetable I need to tell you about to make sure you try it is Brussels sprouts. Put a little butter on them and it's like tasting pure heaven.
When your mom and dad lived in Washington, D.C., we visited for Thanksgiving and your mom made Brussels sprouts. She can tell you how they were made, but they went 100 steps beyond delicious. So, when you get old enough be sure to try them. Let me know what you think.
About baseball caps, you, your dad and I were born with heads that are at the top of the size scale. Not many hats fit him or me. When I was in grade school I tried out for Little League where young guys played baseball. I wanted the hat.
Every guy needs a baseball hat. I can't wait to give you a Detroit Tigers cap. Your dad and I have been to their games, as I'm sure you'll go with him to the St. Louis Cardinal games. I can't wait to go with you.
Say hello to your cousins, Xavier and Gretchen.
You are a winner.
Monday, Dec. 1, 2014
We first met within an hour or so after you were born in June. I remember proudly holding you with a big smile and thinking "Wow." This is Justin's son. All the while your mom was laying in her hospital bed looking really tired, but showing a smile that was so bright that it lit up the room.
Then we saw you in August when we came to St. Louis with your Aunt Krista and Uncle Adam and your two cousins, Xavier and Gretchen. I forgot to mention that we were all there in July too.
It was a chance for all of us to become better acquainted with you. Your uncle also baptized you at your house in a gown that I wore, as well as your dad and your aunt. The day was a very special occasion.
This past week when you and your folks came to our house for Thanksgiving was very special.
You and I had plenty of chances to talk and to read books. I saw you eat your first solid food. You devoured it. You also sat on Santa's lap for the first time.
Boy, I think about all the adventures ahead of you and I smile. You've been to the St. Louis Zoo, but you were napping in your stroller. The next time, you will be able to watch the elephants, the lions and all the other animals. I can see your wide-eyes now.
You need to know that you have a whole cadre of people who love you and who are there for you when you need them. Your mom and dad are really special. You have two grandmas and a great grandma. And I'm your grandpa on your father's side who can explain how all that works.
As you grow, there's one person who is above everybody else and that's Jesus. He need's to be your focus. Ask your parents about him, as well as your extended family, including me.
I am sending this to your own email address. I invite you to read these when you get older.
We will talk more later.
You are a winner!
I love you,
Last night, my wife and I went out for a night on the town where there was a trip to a local hospital for an MRI of my brain. This was my third visit inside the tiny tube where my head was imaged to see if a menginoma tumor had grown.
It's all part of a journey with my vision and my eyes that started with cataracts and then glaucoma. Most recently, my eye examinations have shown that the glaucoma has progressed with my optic nerve getting thinner and a lessening of my peripheral vision.
A highlight of this whole experience has been the times when the lens implant in my right eye would fall down and then have to be repositioned. This happened four times and each time I had to have surgery to place it back in the right spot. Along the way, I got a detached retina which had to be reattached on an emergency basis.
I've been to many different eye doctors who have their own specialties and I have gotten to know the people at the practice that manages my situation.
Now my situation appears to be going in a negative, sight threatening direction. And I know that I have to be actively involved in its treatment.
I see two areas of personal concentration, one is my attitude where instead of freaking out about possibly losing vision, I gain strength in my faith that God is in control of all of this. My attitude will be paramount.
And the second is that I have the intellectual firepower to understand this, ask the right questions and make the right decisions.
It's also important to note that my wife is with me on the front lines dealing with this and my kids and their families are an invaluable support group.
I will be back with more.
A cycle of bad fathering can be broken. I know because I've seen it happen right in front of my eyes. My late father was a terrible dad and I had fears for a long time that I'd pass along his traits and that my kids would be the recipient.
I knew that God had laid his hand on my marriage and on my kids. The best parts of my life have been being married and being a dad. I had no template to follow for either role, other than loose relationships with various uncles. But deep inside of me I always felt I had those genes that would make me a "loser" in both roles.
It was like a malignancy that wouldn't go away. That fear would go into hiding and then jump out from behind the bush and then duck back.
This week I got the clear message that the cycle had been broken. It has been smashed. It's no more. My dad left behind a trail of family wreckage in multiple states. I am an only child, but I know I have some half-siblings that I know about and probably many who I don't.
My dad stuck with my mother and me for 18 months and then vanished. I found him 25 years later with a whole new family and he totally rejected me. I always felt like I was never part of any one group.
That's changed. That's changed. This week my son Justin and his wife Lauren and their son Miles came for Thanksgiving. At some point, the big arc light went off in my head that my dad's bad fathering had been stopped.
Justin is an all-in husband and dad. I knew that before. But the bright beams on my internal headlights really made it standout. His wife Lauren is all-in. She's a great mom and a wife who really loves her husband.
The best job in the world is being a dad. I learned that with the birth of Justin and his sister Krista. I've had a bunch of jobs and enjoyed most of them. But being a dad tops the list.
I feel the same about our daughter Krista and her husband Adam and their kids Xavier and Gretchen. They are stellar.
In my head, I've seen the image of a big rubber stamp which says, "The cycle has been broken."
Thank-you God. Thank-you Gladys. Thank-you mom.
Our house is filled with pictures of our kids and grandkids. They are a constant reminder of how much God has blessed my wife and me. Being raised by a single mom, I never got more than a 50 percent view of real family life.
Then I married Gladys and the adventure started. There's never been anything better than doing life together with her.
This Thanksgiving, we celebrated with our son Justin and his wife Lauren and our grandson Miles. And during Christmas, we will have Krista and her husband Adam and their kids Xavier and Gretchen.
Here's some pictures:
I know the importance of getting my day started right. I know the power of my eating a good breakfast. And I don't forget how walking early in the morning to get my day started right. It jump starts my system.
But Rick Warren suggests before I get out of bed to intentionally name 10 things I can be thankful for that day. Can feeling thankful before my feet hit the ground make a difference? I need to give this a try.
I could talk about the fun of drinking a beer with my son on Thanksgiving Eve at Horrocks in Lansing. It's a mid-Michigan version of Trader's Joe with the difference being that you can drink one of 50 beers on tap or sniff and swish on a wide-variety of wine.
The conversation and the visit was great, but what really grabbed my attention was a craft beer called "Backwoods Bastard" by Founders. It makes me think that I might never drink Bud Light again.
We each got a snifter and drank it during our conversation around shoppers looking for Thanksgiving wine and for that just right beer for the holiday.
First sips produced a quick "wow." With the first taste, you got a distinct and strong note of scotch along with carmel. It make me wish that I was home sipping it on the couch where I could just contemplate it carefully. As we moved through the store doing last minute shopping for Thanksgiving.
Would I recommend it? It makes Bud Light taste like flavored water.
What about the 10.4 percent alcohol in it? Drink just one. Even then, you might feel like you need to drink a coffee before doing something else and with a second, you definitely need a designated driver.
Right now our four-year-old grandson from Bosnia has been visiting our house along with his sister and parents. He's just getting into super-heroes. Spider Man has really gotten his attention. There's one more that he needs to add to his list, my mother and his great grandmother.
She was the real deal and not the figment of some writer's imagination. She was born and raised on a farm in Michigan Thumb and has five sisters and six brothers.
They lost their parents early, but the whole brood of siblings stuck together with the older taking care of the younger. The process wasn't perfect, but it worked.
My mom married my dad in 1945 only to have him disappear and never come back. Social services were non-existent. She was on her own in her burning goal to see me raised in a healthy way and to get an education.
She did it. I have an amazing family. She lived long enough to spend lots of time with my daughter and son. Now there's a son-in-law, daughter-in-law and three grandkids. They are stellar.
Today's her birthday. She's worth thinking about and I thank God for her everyday. She accomplished her goal and now she's being rewarded in heavenly-places. "Happy Birthday, Mother. You were a world-changer for me."
Who says there's nothing valuable on Facebook? My old friend, Walt Sorg, posted on his Facebook this YouTube video about how vinegar can save the day in a variety of daily needs, especially those "oh, man" sort of moment. This is worth watching.
This is what the YouTube video says about the video and how to use vinegar.
Published on Sep 25, 2013
We've put together a list of 10 interesting ways to make that bottle of vinegar work for you. Audible Trial: http://audible.com/household
1. Unclogging a drain
2. Removing adhesive residue
3. Getting rid of awful smells.
4. DIY Cleaning Products
5. DIY Fruit fly Trap
6. Getting Wrinkles out of clothing (My favorite)
7. Preventing pets from scratching
8. Make flowers last longer
9. Cleaning your glasses perfectly
10. Removing baked on gunk in a frying pan
My 50th high school class reunion is early this fall and as part of that we have been asked to write a summary of our lives during that time. Here's my first draft.
I don't know where to start about how I spent my last 50 years since graduating from high school. There were the years when I was in and out of prison. There was the small boat ride through the Bay of Pigs in Cuba. There was a whisper in my ear while sitting in a small bar in Bosnia asking me if I was a spy. Then there was my audition for a hugely popular televsion show.
But I'd guess that many of you are just like me in trying to pin down individuals and where they fell on the high school radar.
During my junior and senior years in high school I was the one wandering through the halls of the school and attending activities with a Nikon camera around my neck. I was the photographer for the school paper, the Handy Pep. I was actively involved in politics and in getting Republican candidates elected to office.
My interests and involvements stayed pretty much the same over the past 50 years with several significant additions. I got a journalism degree from Michigan State, worked at a wide-variety of newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune, a newspaper chain in Michigan and managed the pressroom at the State Capitol for many years. I went on to become a career legislative staffer working for a variety of lawmakers on both the House and Senate side.
The world-changer in my life has been my marriage to my wife who was a teacher at Immanuel Lutheran School in Bay City. Of all the things I've done I'm most proud of my family, my wife Gladys, two kids, both grown and married, their spouses and three grandchildren. That's where the real action and satisfaction has been for me. Just ask to see their pictures when you see me at the reunion.
I was in and out of prison at various institutions. I was a volunteer for Prison Fellowship. Many of those years were spent helping incarcerated dads learn or gain fathering skills. I did take a boat ride through the Bay of Pigs in Cuba. Another reporter and I took advantage of a small window to get a visa to that country. We spent more than a week there and were interviewed by NPR when we got home.
And it was kind of scary when I was sitting on a bar stool in a small village in Bosnia with my son-in-law drinking what the locals drink when a Telly Savalas looking guy asked me in broken English if I was a spy. He was serious. My son-in-law, our daughter and their kids are in the country to do humanitarian work after the war there.
My son and I auditioned for the Amazing Race. We had a whole lot of fun filling out the application and doing an audition tape. We didn't even get a nibble of interest.
I'm really grateful for my Handy years. It served as a launching pad for my later education and for my career. I count it as one of the 10,000 reasons that Matt Redmond sings about in his song with that name. Looking back I have more reasons than I can count to thank God for what he has given me. Four years at T. L. Handy is at least one of them.