What kind of birthday cake do I want for my 70th birthday?

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My wife and my daughter both asked me what kind of birthday cake I wanted this year.  Considering that on the last day of this month I'll be celebrating my 70th birthday, this is an important choice.  I love good old-fashioned carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, but I was introduced this year by my two-year-old grandson to Elmo cupcakes.

That opens a whole world of possibilities, including Cookie Monster cupcakes and even more traditional choices.

In the meantime, I'm grappling with what this birthday means.  Ten more years, I'll be 80.  The term bucket list has taken on new meaning.  I'm no longer able to describe myself as a young senior citizen.  The idea of moving into a house with one floor has taken on a new attraction.

I'm processing these age-related questions.  How productive can I be during the next 10 years? Look at Moses from the Bible.  Wasn't he in his eighties when he went to Pharoh and told him that the Israelizes no longer wanted to make Egypt their home.  Then he led his people across the Red Sea while God parted it.

Between now and my birthday on the last day of this month, I will be contemplating these questions.  All the while, I'll be hearing a song in my head by Matt Redmond that has become an anthem for many, 10,000 Reasons.  

Looking back over the past almost 70 years, I have way more than 10,000 reasons to thank God.  I don't think I can count that high.

God, help me as I enter the next chapter of this adventure.


Was the snow in mid-Michigan a few minutes ago some kind of sign?

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It's still spitting snow here in the heart of mid-Michigan on Sunday, May 15.  We had just gotten up looked out the window and saw the snow coming down hard.  It even stuck on our deck.  What does that mean?  A sign from God?  Move to Florida or just a fluke.  Probably the latter.  But it's worth marking down and remembering for the next family dinner.

 

Snowing in May.
Here's the evidence about snow on May 15.

Drinking less expensive wine-under $3 a bottle-while living on a pension and Social Security

Winking Owl merlot
We bought this under $3 per bottle of Merlot this week at Aldis

What wine do you drink when you watch television on a Sunday night?  While watching Madam Secretary or the Good Wife, we occasionally get out our stemless wine glasses and have a taste of wine.  This can be expensive, especially if you're a retiree living on a fixed income.

This week we shopped at one of the Aldis in our area and found Winking Owl Merlot for under $3 a bottle.  We haven't opened it yet.  We hope it's drinkable.  Perhaps, we don't have to spend the equivalent of three gallons of gas for a decent bottle of wine.

Have any of you drunk Winking Owl wines?  What do you think?


Our past week here in mid-Michigan in pictures

My summary of this past week would be dominated by the weather where normally we would be using the grill, giving the lawn a first cut and giving our car a good cleaning.  Instead, we have been flopping between snow, rain and some occasional sunshine.  These photos are from my phone and record some of the highlights.  

Most important was from the sermon at church last night where we heard Pastor Jeff Manion of Ada Bible Church  talk about "The Land Between." It was a reprise of a sermon we heard him deliver a few years ago.  We found it valuable then and more as we get older.  It's about the times when we find ourselves in unwanted transition of life.  Those might be related to health, family, jobs, marriage and any other situation we did not want or ask for.

 

 

What about those life changes that turn life upside down?
What does God's Word say about transitions that we're forced to make.

 

 

 

 

Books from Ding Dong School.
How many of you older baby-boomers remember the old television show "Ding Dong School?" I found these on our bookshelves this week.

 

 

Okay, older baby-boomers, do you remember Miss Francis and Ding Dong School?  This past week I was going through one of our book shelves and found these two books that were mine when I was really young.  My mom would read this to me.  Miss Francis was a precursor to Sesame Street.  It was on in the fifties.  

 

 

Special orange muffins.
These were made from a recipe that my mom used when I was a very young child.

 

My wife was sorting through an immense collection of recipes that she's used during the past almost 35 years.  This one for orange muffins was from my early boyhood days.  My mom made them on very special occasions, like maybe once a year.  They contained orange juice from freshly squeezed oranges, shaved orange peels and lots of sugar.  Gladys made them this past week. My memory machine was in full gear.

 

 

Milestone for our Honda Civic.
We turned over 100,000 miles this past week on our seven-year-old Honda Civic.

 

Our seven-year-old Honda Civic turned over 100,000 miles a few days ago.  The car has been relatively trouble free with our regular maintenance.  We have shaved down our fleet of cars to one.  Before the kids made us empty-nesters, we had four.  The Civic is great for visiting our kids and grandkids who live in different states.

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We do our taco salads healthy style here at our house.  Nutrition is something we try to watch, especially as I move into my 70th birthday.  Most of our meals our consumed on our couch with a fold down middle section that we use for a table.  Most lunches are eaten in front of Everybody Loves Raymond.  


My experience with getting punctual plugs for my chronic dry eye

My chronic dry eye was getting worse and worse.  I was taking more and more over the counter artificial tears and if I missed a dose when I needed them my eyes would scratch, feel like they had sand in them, my vision would sag and I would be miserable.

I entered a new chapter of my dry eye experience yesterday when one of my ophthalmologists Dr. Joseph Wilhelm of Lansing Ophthalmology inserted punctal plugs into my tear ducts.  The idea is to block the ducts to retain more of my tears in each eye.  

When Dr. Wilhelm proposed the plugs, I checked out You Tube videos about the procedure.  I was impressed  by how uncomfortable the procedure looked, but I still decided to give it a try.

Waiting for my punctal plugs.
This was taken yesterday with my wife just before the procedure.

I told my kids and their spouses about my decision.  They were aware of my eye challenges including a lense that would not stay in place, chronic open angle glaucoma, a detached retina and my dry eye.  They knew I went through periods where my vision would be degraded.

Before the procedure, they all texted me that they were praying for me.  This included my son's mother-in-law who is a good friend.  They even texted me pictures of grandkids who they knew would make me smile.  

I did feel a level of anxiety going into the procedure.  I was ready for anything.  Then Dr. Wilhelm started.  He lowered the back of my examination chair and it was "go" time.  As quickly as it started, it was over.  I felt nothing.  The plugs were in.  That was it.  I go back in six weeks.

This morning my vision seemed a lot better and there was none of that dry sensation.  I will continue taking artificial tears as I need them.  But, hopefully, it will be a longer period between doses.  In the last hour, I've noticed a couple of tears coming from my left eye.

This is not a recommendation for this procedure.  It's an account of my experience.  So far, it has been good.

 

 


What did I say to my two-day old grandson while holding him for almost an hour?

Getting to know my grandson
Talking with my youngest grandson, two-day old Jacob Wesley Jones

My youngest grandson and I sat on the couch yesterday at his house talking for almost an hour.  Even though, he was only two-days-old, he's a good listener.  It was almost an out-of-body experience to hold the newborn child of your child.  This was the fourth time I've done it.  He's the third grandson.  I also have one granddaughter with another on the way this spring.

What did Jacob Wesley and I talk about?

We talked about his mom and how I was there when she was born just like his dad was there when he was born.  Knowing that his eyes were closed most of the time while we were talking, I told him that I had a beard as did his dad and his Uncle Justin.  Then we talked about his brother and sister and how he was born into a family that was filled with non-stop love.

We chatted about his Grandma Thorp and how great she is and what she has meant in my life and that of other people.

I told him about his Uncle Justin, Aunt Lauren and his cousin Miles.  We also talked about his other grandparents who live in North Carolina and how he would see them soon.  

There's still time to talk about Facebook ice cream, the Spartans, driverless cars, a guy named Goldwater and the Island of Vis.

After spending time with our daughter and family, I feel like I just won the grand prize in the state lottery.  I love being part of our family.  Having grandkids is like eating a big gooey carrot cake with thick creme cheese frosting.  They make me smile big time.

My new grandson and I share a name.  Wow.  His parents gave him my name for his middle name.  And I was named after my Uncle Wes.  I can't wait to tell him and my other grandkids about him and my other aunts and uncles and the my mother, a very special person in my life.

Yes, God has blessed me big time.  I'm way past the 10,000 Reason that Matt Redmond sings about.  

Jacob welcome to our family.


Our St. Patrick's Day has never been the same since March 17, 1982 when our daughter was born

My wife, my daughter and my son.
The little beauty on the right is our daughter Krista who was born on St. Patrick's Day in 1982. The baby being held by my wife is our son Justin.  Check the baby below, our daughter when she was three months old.

Dear Krista,

It's 8:48 am and mom and I have been talking about your birth 34 years ago today.  And we've also gone through a checklist of memories since that day.  One of my favorites from that era was from the period right after your brother was born.  Mom would be feeding Justin and I would put you to bed.  

But before I turned out the lights in your room, you would ask me every night to talk about the day you were born and I would tell you.  The more we talked about that day, the closer I got to appreciating life and what it means.  That process started the day when mom went for one of her first pregnancy checkups and I heard your heartbeat.  I know that my eyes lit up big time from the realization that there was a life in there.

Then you were born.  During labor I saw a side of mom that I had never seen before.  After being in the hospital for about twelve hours, I saw the top of your head.  They rushed mom to the delivery room and told her that if she had one big push, you'd be here.  She grabbed onto the handlebars of the cart and gave it everything she had.

Dr. Rajan then smiled and said we have a daughter.  He sat you on mom's belly and then cut your umbilical cord.  And you really wailed with  your lower lip curled down.

Those were your first moment in this world.  Keep in mind that I was an only child and held a baby maybe one time before.  I pushed your bassinet down to the nursery after mom nursed you.  It was a proud moment in my life, comparable to the time when I walked you down the aisle.

That was the start of an adventure where there are still chapters to be written.  You are a wonderful mom, a loving wife and great daughter.  

As you get closer to delivering "Al", I want you to know that you have been a world-changer in our family.  You and your brother Justin are gifts from God who knew exactly which kids we needed.

We are proud to call you our daughter.

Love,

DAD

 


I'm still smiling from our family get-together over the weekend

 

My wife and daughter.
I am proud of both of these women, my wife and my daughter.

 I don't know when I lost my natural smile, but I know when I refound it.  My grandkids played a big role in helping me find my way back to my inner and outer smile.  I'm still smiling from this past weekend when we were all together.  I can't believe that this all started with just my wife and me and now there are eleven of us.

I'm often reminded of the song 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redmond where he talks about having that many reasons to praise God.  I've wondered how long it would take me to get to that number if I sat down and made a list.  Would it take more than a morning?

 

My wife, our youngest grandson and me.
My wife and I spend some time sitting with our youngest grandson.
 
Playing with bubbles.
There's nothing like playing with bubbles when you are a toddler.

 

 


Happy snow-covered Thursday here in mid-Michigan

My son and his son.
My son and my grandson would really get into this snow.

Our neighborhood is just starting to come awake with the sound of snowblowers after a really big storm that came through yesterday and early today.  Nothing's moving on the streets.  The mayor has warned people to use them only for emergency travel.  We have plenty of food and wood for the fireplace if we lose power.  

But what impresses me are our neighbors.  They beat me to cleaning off the sidewalks.  They did ours too.  It's a regular thing for them to watch out for each other.  Again, I'm impressed.

I will be going out shortly to clear our driveway and front and back steps.  My grandkids would enjoy this, at least three of them would.  


The time has come for me to be honest about my story and its effect on my life

 

My family.
We started with my wife and me and we are now up to eleven.

The time has come for me to be honest about my story.

I’ve really struggled to put my life into words.  I feel like I’m sitting in an airplane with a barf bag over my mouth trying to vomit and very little is coming out.

I’m at the point where I need to stick my fingers down my emotional throat to admit what’s been a big part of me all my life and to draw this part of my life story to a close.

This involves changing the name of my father on my birth certificate.  I’ve come to the point where I have to admit to the world and me who my real dad is.

Let me be clear by using a churchy word.  I have been blessed beyond measure all my life.  Starting from the present, I have a wife who has loved me unconditionally for more than three decades.

My two kids are great.  They have wonderful spouses and my five grandchildren make me smile always.  We’ve always had a house and we’ve always had food to eat.

Along the way, I had a mom who was heaven sent.  She too loved me without condition and she gave up everything to see that I had a chance at life.

The sticking point for me has always been my father.  He abandoned me and my mother when I was 18 months old.  He walked out, never came back, never called and never wrote.  He vanished.

This happened in the forties when social services were non-existent and when it was just tough luck when a spouse skipped out.  

Continue reading "The time has come for me to be honest about my story and its effect on my life" »


Has the scourge of dandruff been overcome in our culture?

Head & Shoulders in my shower.
Do you remember when shampoo commercials dominated television and magazines?

Are you old enough to remember when dandruff was a big thing in our culture?  There was a time when you could walk into a church service and see somebody scratching their head or you could see the little white flecks of skin on a dark piece of clothing.

I remember having dandruff and the times when I would sit in front of the television scratching my head with a comb.  I was maybe teen or pre-teen.  And I had lots of hair and now I don't.  Television commercials were dominated by dandruff shampoos like Head & Shoulders and others.  Dandruff was a condition that really touched our culture.

Look around you.  Do you see any evidence of dandruff?  White specks on people's clothing?  Shelves of anti-dandruff products in stores?  Head scratching?

One minute it was there and the next it was gone.  Could it be that there are lots of aging baby-boomers who have little or no hair?  Does baldness make a difference?  Where do shampoo-makers advertise these days?  

The top of my head is pretty much hairless these days.  Check this picture of me five-years ago when my oldest grandson was born.  I had a hint of hair.  Today, the hint has vanished.

I'm almost hairless here.
I'm holding my grandson here as I show off the top of my head with a little hair.

 


Looking back at my Vietnam era training at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri

My mom and me at Fort Leonard Wood.
My mother and me pose at the Chapel at Fort Leonard Wood.

Thousands of guys went through Army training in the late sixties and early seventies at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri.  I was one of them.  

It was a time of turmoil in this country as baby-boomers were faced with the draft and then with a lottery for the draft.  The Vietnam War during that time was incredibly unpopular and the perception seemed to be that anybody joining the military back then was the real enemy.

I was able to join an active U.S. Army Reserve unit in the Detroit area.  But the first requirement was to go through several months of training.  

I still remember individual drill sergeants, exercises we went on and fellow recruits I trained with.  The picture above was taken when my mom visited me at the post.  Notice the sign for the services for different denominations.

 


Gas in Lansing, Michigan for $1.59 today-Jan. 15-at this Shell station

Gas for $1.59 per gallon in Lansing.
This was the per gallon price this morning-Jan. 15-at the Shell station on Waverly and Old Lansing Road.

Even though it wasn't convenient to stop at this Shell station on Waverly and Old Lansing Road on the edge of Lansing, I probably should have to fill a half empty gas tank.  This was the price when we drove to the grocery store and two hours later, it was $1.54 a gallon.  Anybody have a lower price?


Baby-boomers: How many of you still stay in touch with your cousins?

A picture of me and my cousins.
This is a picture of me and four of my cousins. I'm not sure of the year.

I come from a very large extended family.  My mom had six brothers and five sisters and most of them had kids.  Her brothers and sisters lived near each other and they stayed in touch.

This meant that I had a lot of cousins.  Even though I was an only child, I had cousins who I would see often at family functions, especially Sunday dinners when the whole clan would get together.  My cousins had a variety of interests.  One was into cars and machines.  Another was into two-way radios, while others covered the rest of the waterfront from politics to carpentry.  A few were into playing games, like anything with cards.

As we grew-up and moved away, our contact was less and less.  Some had major life changes like losing a spouse.  One was killed in Vietnam.  They had kids and developed interests where our paths would not cross often.

Now most of us are firmly past middle age and some of us are get into the period of being full-fledged senior citizens.  We do have some contact at funerals of aunts and uncles.  But that's becoming less with only one aunt left.

Is the interest in renewing relationships still there?  With social media, it's much easier.  There's a whole lot of catching up that can still be enjoyed.

I still stay in touch with a couple.

 


Baby-boomers: Do you remember getting National Geographic in your home?

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Holidays like Christmas remind me of going to my aunt and uncle's house for dinner where I would see one of my favorite things on their bookshelf.  It was the National Geographic magazine that was stacked on their bookshelf and which served as a doorway to the world from my hometown in Michigan.

At the very least, I would thumb through their collection and look at the pictures and read the cutlines to the pictures.  I learned a lot about geography then.  I learned about different countries and saw scenes that fueled my imagination.

This love for the magazine and for geography really got started when I was a lower grade student at Mt. Olive Lutheran School in Bay City where they had a bookshelf the length of the room that also housed a Webster's Unabridged Dictionary that quite often grab my attention.

The collection of National Geographics at my elementary school was huge.  During an inside recess, I could travel to just about anyplace in the world.  

During that era, you had to be recommended to get a subscription to the magazine.  Those who subscribed got a special certificate of membership with their name on it.  Now the magazine is available on supermarket newsstands and content-wise it is much thinner.

 

 


Watch this "All Is Well" video when hope for any reason seems to be far-away

All Is Well
This is from the "All Is Well" book.  See the video below.

I was sitting with about 25 guys from the Jackson Prison segregation unit many years ago listening to a recording on a small cassette recorder on a long table.  Some were sitting, while some were standing so they could hear what was being said.

They were listening to a kid's Christmas book titled "All Is Well" by Frank Peretti about a young girl being raised by her mother.  They had little money and it seemed like they had little hope.  Their world, it seemed, was crumbling.  And, it wouldn't be long before they would hit rock bottom with a splat.

The little girl didn't see it that way.  She was able to see the world through a different lens.  

When this played in our prison Bible study, you could hear a pin drop.  These guys were looking for hope.  This story made them rethink the places where they put their hope.  It made a difference for some of them.  That night just before Christmas, there was some peace in that prison meeting room and there was hope.

 


Do you send Christmas cards, a newsletter or none at all?

Our Christmas newsletters.
I have a full file of our past Christmas newsletters.

Do you like getting Christmas cards?  Christmas newsletters?  Both?

This year are you sending cards.  More or less than past years?  And how about a newsletter?  Have you written yet and what will you include?  What do your friends and family want to read about your past year?

We've been married 34 years and we started sending out cards in year one and then our daughter came along the next year and we added a newsletter.  Then two years after that we added our son.  And we had plenty to share.  People wanted to know about the kids.

And we did a newsletter just about every year after that.  One year we tried e-maling most of them and sending paper copies to those we knew didn't have a computer.

Then we became empty-nesters, our kids got married and they had kids.  This year I will write one more newsletter.  We will email some and send some with cards.  It will include plenty about the grandkids and their parents with some reaction to engaging with life as full-fledged senior citizens.

What about you?  Have you already sent cards?  Newsletters?  None?  Received any?  


For My Grandkids: Because of this house, I can say in grew up in Banks

 

My childhood home on the Banks of the Saginaw River
This is the house I grew up in. It faced the Saginaw River.

 This is for my five grandchildren, two of whom are unborn and are expected early this coming spring.  This is to show you where I grew up.  Living here for the first 18 years of my life helped shape me into the person I am today.  

The section of Bay City where I grew up is known as Banks because it's on the banks of the Saginaw River which goes out into the Saginaw Bay.  The town was divided by the river and connected by a series of bridges that swung open whenever a boat needed to go through.

I grew up watching boats, all kinds of them, gravel boats, foreign ships, guided missile destroyers built at a nearby shipyard and sailboats.  I never lost my fascination with tugboats, little boats with lots of pushing and pulling power.  I even rode on two local tugs as they pushed around boats to turn them in and out of tight spots.

Our house had five apartments.  My mom and I lived in one and she rented the others.  As you can see in this picture, the house was really old.  I know that it went back to the time of the lumber barons who made fortunes being close to water where they could float logs to local mills.

I remember lots of Christmases spent in our little apartment.  It was basic housing for us.  It was our home.  My mother finally moved after I graduated from college.  


I will be thinking of my grade school principal this morning when I'm singing Christmas Carols in church

 

My grade school principal.
He was my grade school principal for two years.

 

 My mom said that when I was little that I loved to sing, especially in church.  I don't remember that.

I do remember being in seventh grade at Immanuel School in Bay City, Michigan and being called before the class to sing by myself to try out for a school choir.  My teacher was Principal Victor A. Drogemueller who led the choir and who played the organ at the church.  

He had great musical gifts and I didn't have any other than knowing how to turn on a radio and a 45 rpm record player.  And, at home, I occasionally saw Perry Como on tv at my aunt and uncle's house.  However, I was intimidated by people who could sing and play instruments.

When my name was called in class, I froze big time.  With all the bluntness of a drill sergeant, he demanded that I continue and I botched it big time.  He frowned and shook his head is disdain.  I've never liked singing since then.

At church today, I know they will be singing some Christmas Carols.  Can I do it?  If I do, it will be in honor of "Vic" as a few people would refer to him.  


To My Grandkids: I want to introduce you to your great grandmother and great grandfather

 

My mom and dad.
This my mom and dad on their wedding day.

 

 

I have five grandchildren and I want them to know why their Grandpa Thorp--that's me--pulled out the Great Lakes Red bottle on Tuesday, Dec. 15 and drank a toast to their great grandparents, my mother and dad, Frieda and Claude Thorp.  If they were still living, it would be their 70th wedding anniversary.  They got married on Dec. 15, 1946 after my dad came home from service in World War II where he served in the U.S. Navy.

This picture taken on their wedding day shows how my mom was a beautiful bride.  My dad seemed to have that World War II handsomeness.  

She grew up on a farm in the Thumb of Michigan and gradually made her way to Bay City, Michigan with her six brothers and five sisters.  My dad was from upstate New York and had lived in New York City.  They met through my uncle who introduced them while serving on the same ship in the Pacific.

I was raised by my mother and never knew my father.  However, I recently discovered a treasure trove of letters that my dad wrote to my mom.  I'm learning more and I will share with my grandkids what might help them better understand their family background.

The Great Lakes Red bottle is on the kitchen counter unopened till Tuesday.  These are my parents who God gave to me.