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14 posts from December 2014

Spending Christmas wrestling with our commode rather than our grandkids


Ninja Turtles light up his eyes.
It was Ninja Turtles for our all boy four-year-old grandson.



How many of you have had the stomach flu this year?

In November, my wife and I were counting down the days till we could wrestle and play with two of our grandchildren because they return to their home in the Balkans where my daughter and son-in-law work for an international development agency, World Hope.  We had  stored up some really great food, some great snacks and some craft beer and special wine.

Then it happened.  On Tuesday night, I felt my supper returning to my throat and mouth for a do-over.  I got the chills and then I got weak and my stomach felt like it took a punch.

So, we had to scale back on eating and on real active play with our grandkids.  Their parents were our surrogates for that while we are recovering.

We experienced the love of Jesus Christ in a new way this year.  It was the strength of family relationships.  I hope my parents, my mother and father in their eternal niches and Gladys' parents could see how much God has blessed us with our family.  All their efforts to pay it forward have seen fruit.  

Here are just a few pictures of a very special Christmas.  Next year, we hope to do it without the stomach flu.


Our granddaughter has a special bond with Christmas cookies and her grandma.




Our granddaughter gives us this bird house which she painted.




We are really proud of these guys, our daughter, son-in-law, granddaughter and grandson



Opening Christmas presents with family over Apple's FaceTime


Our family was together Christmas morning to open Christmas gifts. Our son, his wife and son were with us virtually over Apple's FaceTime.



We were all together on Christmas morning, my wife and me, my daughter, her husband, her son and her daughter, as well as our son and his wife who were at their home several states away.  We opened presents together and everybody had a great time watching the kids and each other as they compared notes and reactions.

We used Apple's Face Time, a tool to easily use webcams to bring people together.  We had done it before and we did it successfully this time.  

It's perfect for baby-boomer grandparents who have kids stretched throughout several states and countries.  We saw a newly-minted sixth month old grandson and the out of state portion of our family were able to catch up with a growing nephew and niece.

How much technical expertise does it take?  Minimal.  Click on a couple of buttons and you're on.  

Was it worth it?  Check the little face above.  We got to see him in real time.  

My Christmas gift from my daughter and son-in-law from Bosnia rates high on the cool chart


My Christmas gift
This is one of my Christmas gifts from my daughter and son-in-law.

 My daughter and her family are visiting our house before they return to Bosnia where they work for an international development organization.  We opened gifts Christmas Day and I had to get a gift from them that tops the cool charts.  

During the Bosnian war which ended in 1995, combatants planted landmines through the countryside with many remaining live and undetected.  The result is that large stretches of land are laced with signs warning that crossing through could result in explosions.  

While traveling a local highway after a meeting a few villages away, my son-in-law stopped at a road side pull out where he could stretch his legs.  He looked down and found one of the warning signs laying in the snow.  It was highlighted by a high caliber bullet hole.

This is an amazing reminder of a war that left lots of damaged infrastructure and populations of people still trying to reconstruct their lives.  

Their organization is World Hope International which has development projects around the world.

On Lansing's southwest side, gas was $1.99 per gallon late yesterday afternoon


Southwest Lansing gas price
This was the gas price yesterday on the southwest side of Lansing, on the day after Christmas



How are low gas prices affecting your travel during the Christmas season?  

Yesterday while riding home from Best Buy, this was the price at the Shell Station on the southwest corner of Waverly and Old Lansing Road.  Most of the pumps seemed to have cars filling up.

When we go to church tomorow near Lowell, we will fill up.  Gas prices there, according to are $1.79 per gallon.  Any guesses about how low prices will go?  This is all positive, right?


Gas prices in Lowell, MI win the prize for us.
These are the lowest gas prices I've seen within a 50 miles radius of us.



My memories of going to Cuba with my friend Charlie Cain in 1978

This was taken at the bar in Havana, Cuba where Ernest Hemingway used to drink rum and coke.

Note:  President Obama announced today that he's resuming normal relations between this country and Cuba.  That's great news.  It about time.  Here I recount my memories of traveling to that country.

In 1977, my friend Charlie Cain, a Detroit News reporter, and I were looking for a place to take a different vacation.  As pressroom manager at the State Capitol in Michigan, I had daily contact with news reporters who shared their suggestions.  Somebody threw out the idea of going to Cuba.

President Jimmy Carter had let the U.S. embargo against Cuba expire which opened up the country to U.S. travel for the first time in a bunch of decades.  We went and we both had our eyes opened to a country full of really friendly people and to overwhelming poverty.

Landing at the Havana airport had a surreal quality with the knowledge that Keywest, Florida was less than a hundred miles away.  It was a communist country closed to Americans, but still with incredibly close ties to this country.  It seemed like everybody there had relatives somewhere in the Midwest, particularly Michigan.  There were people with cousins in Saginaw, grandkids in Lansing and brothers in the Detroit area.

Before we left on our trip, Charlie and I connected with a Cuban family in Lansing where the grandfather was still in Havana.  He was poor.  He had very little freedom and his resources like clothing were meager.  They asked us to take him K-Mart quality clothes to him along with some razor blades.  We did.  Highlights of the trip included:

  • A visit to Varadero Beach on the north shore of the country at a seedy resort right on the Carribean.  This was before the commercial development of the past few years.  Just down the beach was the Dupont Mansion with a restaurant where Charlie and I ate.  We were the only customers.  Everytime, we had a swallow of water a waiter refilled it.  This was repeated for crumbs dropped on the tablecloth.
  • An eerie visit to the Bay of Pigs where soldiers landed via parachute during an attempt to overthrow Castro.  We took a motorboat to an island restaurant where we ate crocodile burgers.  Our guide explained how the soldiers during the attack became food for the crocodiles.
  • We brought a Bible which we got through customs.  At our hotel in Havana, I saw the maid eyeing up the Bible.  I asked her if she wanted it.  She nerviously shook her head no.  We left the room and when we got back, it was gone.
  • A stay at an East German resort on the south coast which was near a Russian sub base.  At the resort bar, we drank vodka shots with a big table full of young Russian sailors.  We toasted everything from Chevrolet to Cassius Clay.
  • A visit to the bar in Havana where Ernest Hemingway used to dirnk rum and cokes.  In the above picture, I stand in front of a Saturday Evening Post article about the bar.  It was big time unreal to be sitting on a stool where he may have sat.
Talking on the phone in my office in the pressroom at the Michigan State Capitol.

Permanently etched in my memory is our visit with the old grandpa that we brought the clothes to.  We arranged to meet him in the lobby of our hotel.  We patiently waiting until a clerk handed us a note telling us where to look for him.

We invited him to our room to get the clothes.  He was stopped at the elevator by the Cuban secret police and hassled.  Concerned that he might be jailed, we asserted ourselves and he was allowed to go to our room

When we delivered the gift, he cried.  Through his tears, he said he had two sons in the United States.  Pointing to us, he said he now had four.  

He gave us each handrolled Cuban cigars.  These were the real deal and not for faint of heart cigar smokers.  As we tried to show our respect to him by smoking them, we could see the gravity of the moment.

During that trip, the world became a whole lot smaller for the two of us.  We met and got to know people who deserve better.  

I'd go back again now that the country's open once more to U.S. visitors.

It's time to reconnect and share.  We have so much to offer each other.


This year's Christmas newsletter--Grandparent edition


We had an amazing year as our family gets older and expands.

I could feel God’s presence in the narrow hallway of our house that connects the kitchen to our bedroom, my study, the bathroom and the stairway to the basement. Gladys brushed by me with a handful of family pictures taken during the summer and fall. She was updating a collage that hangs on our wall.

She showed me her choices to display during the winter, a photo collection that we walk by multiple times a day. It struck me as she showed me pictures that made us both smile and which reminded us how much God has blessed the two of us.

As we close out this year, we look forward to celebrating the birth of Jesus and the hope that it brought to the world at that time and that is alive and well as we move towards an uncertain future in today’s world.

If Gladys and I had a highlight video of the past year, it would include:

  • The birth of our third grandchild in June in St. Louis.

  • The two of us sitting on the couch in our living room at 8 pm one night with a

    bottle of wine and smiles that could be seen through our picture window. Why? Because two of our grandkids were sound asleep after a busy day with grandma and grandpa.

  • Eating a veggie delite at the Subway near our church where we both whip out our sermon notes and spend our time talking about how it applies to us.

  • Gladys sitting in the examining room with me while I have yet one more exam by an ophthalmologist caring for my troublesome eyes.

    We got the call from Justin while Gladys and I were eating lunch in the living room and watching another episode of Desperate Housewives. They were on the way to the

hospital for the birth of our grandson. Needless to say, we could feel the excitement in his voice all the way from Missouri. He and Lauren had invited us and her mom to be there—the waiting room next door—when Miles was born. Within an hour, we were packed, in the car and on the road. Our smiles were so big that we looked like two sixty-somethings who had just visited the marijuana store. We made it in time. Our grandson first said hello to the world just after 5 am on June 19.

Continue reading "This year's Christmas newsletter--Grandparent edition" »

All in favor of honoring Satan on the front lawn of the State Capitol raise your hand

I'm stunned by the lack of reaction from Lansing-area churches about the real possibility that a statute to Satan will be erected on the front lawn of the State Capitol next week as part of the Christmas celebration.



As reported today in the Lansing State Journal, satanists in Michigan will erect a statute of Satan next week for several days as their way of celebrating Christmas.  There will be no Nativity scene.  This is because, according to the story, no Christian church has stepped forward to put one up and take it down everyday.  Did anybody know about it?

There has to be boundaries to what is allowed for the celebration of one of the most sacred days of the year for Christians.  Honoring the author of sin and all the vileness of this world is not one of them.  We have war, murders, hunger, poverty, racism, domestic violence and all other forms of trouble because of him.

I'm offended that this is even a possibility at the hub for state government in this state.

Churches need to step up.  We can't allow Jesus to be taken out of Christmas, especially in Lansing and in this state.  We place ourselves in the bullseye for more of Satan's handiwork if we don't act.

Just my opinion.  Anybody agree?

We paid $2.35 per gallon this morning at Sam's Club on the southside of Lansing, MI

I couldn't pass by the gas station this morning at Sam's Club on the southside of Lansing, Michigan $2.35 per gallon.  I got almost five gallons and the total cost was $11.79. says that the pump says $2.22 per gallon in Lowell, Michigan just down the road and about 10 miles from Grand Rapids.

How about your area?  What are you paying for gas?


Gas pump at Sam's Club in Lansing, Michigan
This was my pump this morning at Sam's Club on the southside of Lansing, Michigan.



Check out the cops in Lowell, Michigan where super-wife and I are looking at houses

 My wife and I were just in this town--Lowell, Michigan--yesterday for lunch at to continue our quest to find a house near our church in Ada.  

We have reached the point in our life where the nest has been empty for awhile and while having four bedrooms for the two of us can be fun, we really don't need the space.  Lowell seems like a really nice small town and it's within 15 minutes.

The cops in this video seem to have a real attitude and it's incredibly positive.  Do their actions here reflect their everyday demeanor or is this an exception?


Great quote from Kara Tippetts who wrote "The Hardest Peace, Expecting Grace In The Midst of Life's Hard


I just found a great reason to share your story about what you're experiencing in life and about how you have faced it.  Kara Tippetts who writes the blog Mundane Faithfullness and who recently wrote the book, "The Hardes Peace, Expecting Grace In The Midst Of Life's Hard."

She wrote:

I have this story, I have this one story to live and to share. It’s my great privilege to share the grace I know. It is my honor to share who Jesus is with anyone who will listen. But I’m no hero.

Everybody has a story and this is a great reason to share it.

Going to the next step in treating my chronic open angle glaucoma


This resembles what they will insert into my eye. It will have drains to get rid of excess fluid in my eye. 

The pressure in my eyes has been creeping higher and higher.  Recent tests have shown that my optic nerve has thinned and that my peripheral vision has narrowed.  What does this mean?

I'm not totally sure, other than I might be nearing a hail Mary pass to reduce the pressure which threatens my vision.

Next is the surgical insertion of a drainage tube in my right eye called a Baerveldt glaucoma implant.  It's scheduled for the middle of next month.  It could work really well.  And there are chances that it may not.

I've got lots of questions and I'm trying to get answers.

How many more baby-boomers out there are struggling with the same issues?


Letter to my five-month old grandson about Brussels sprouts and baseball hats


Miles and food
Miles likes veggies


Dec. 1, 2014

Dear Miles,

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.  


Brussels sprouts
These are the Brussels sprouts made by your mom on that Thanksgiving.

 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.


Grandpa Thorp

A letter to my five-month-old grandson Miles about stuff


Me and my grandson Miles
Me and Miles talk about stuff.


Monday, Dec. 1, 2014

Dear Miles,

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,

Grandpa Thorp


Black Friday weekend was a shopping bust around the country; but what about Michigan?

My son and I noticed the difference in the number of shoppers on Black Friday at the Best Buy on the westside of Lansing.  There were some great prices and there were plenty of items left on the shelves and in the aisles.

It was easy to get around the store.  The line at the cash registers was not long.  This is a contrast to past experiences where Black Friday was a cultural experience.  People jammed the store and the line at the checkouts wrapped around the store.


The local Best Buy on Black Friday.
My son Justin looks at a tablet at the local Best Buy.

Apparently, it was the same experience around the country with Black Friday sales being down.  Here's what the New York Times said this morning:

Sales, both in stores and online, from Thanksgiving through the weekend were estimated to have dropped 11 percent, to $50.9 billion, from $57.4 billion last year, according to preliminary survey results released Sunday by the National Retail Federation. Sales fell despite many stores’ opening earlier than ever on Thanksgiving Day.

Has anybody seen results for Michigan?