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21 posts from August 2015

#21--69 Things I've Learned--Just a few minutes can determine how you're known to the world


I was named after my Uncle Wes Moll.
Sitting next to my mother is my Uncle Wes who I was named after.


I wonder how my life would have been different if I had been born about 15 minutes earlier on August 30, 1946 instead of just after midnight on August 31.  My dad wanted me to be named after his dad, Durward Dale Thorp.  That would have given me the initials DDT.

However, my mother waited to deliver me until a few minutes after midnight on my Uncle Wes Moll's birthday.  That changed the course of my personal history.

I'm thinking of this today, my 69th birthday and about what I've learned in a whole bunch of life.  

My Uncle Wes was a man with a story.  He and my mother, along with 10 brothers and sisters grew up on a sugar beet farm in Michigan's Thumb in the early 1900s.  He grew up  loving anything with an engine.  Part of the family legend was that Uncle Wes drove booze across the Detroit River for the infamous Purple Gang because of their hot vehicles.  They had big engines and they could go fast.

He loved the roar of a finely-tuned engine.  Even after a heart attack, his eyes would light up when he heard some kid hot-rodding it down the street in his subdivision.

I'm really happy that my mom waited 10 minutes to have me.  I'm happy being named after Uncle Wes.  However, I wish I knew more about Grandpa Durward.



#20--69 Things I've Learned--I know too little about World War II which influenced my life greatly


A World War II ration book.
This is a ration book from World War II that my mother had saved. We found it among hundreds of papers and pictures she had saved.



I am a child of World War II, so to speak.  I'm a member of the first class of baby-boomers having been born in 1946.  I turn 69 on Monday.  This is #20 of my list of 69 things I've learned.

My life and my conception was tied to my dad coming home from the war in the Pacific.  He had served in the Navy and was on the ground in Okinawa.  My mother worked in an Auto-Lite plant which was involved in war production in Bay City, Michigan.  My aunts and uncles dealt with the circumstances of our country being involved in a major war fought on two fronts.

While combing through my mom's papers, I found a ration book with coupons for some of her brothers and sisters.  I forgot that you couldn't just go to a store and buy something.  You had to have the money, of course and you had to have a ration coupon.

As a kid, I heard my mom talk about this period of time.  But, it went in one ear, swirled around a little and then went out the other.  I'm now feeling a desire to learn more about this war and how it affected life in this country.

#19--69 Things I've Learned--John 3:16 was burned into my heart after a second-grade Christmas program

A grade school Christmas program stuck with me for life.
As a second-grader, I memorized John 3:16 from this Christmas program booklet.

I remember being a little nervous about reciting John 3:16 before a church filled with parents and others at a Christmas program performed by the Lutheran school I attended.  I was in second grade and my job was to recite John 3:16.

My mother helped me memorize it and when the time came I was able to get up before the filled church and recite it flawlessly. That simple role had a lifelong effect on me.  I've never forgotten this verse and there haven't been many days in my almost 69 years that I haven't had this verse go through my head.

It stuck with me.  When I was awake during a reconstruction on a broken ankle, it automatically came back to me.  Same thing during a series of eye surgeries.  The night my mother died.  The mornings that my kids were born.  And the middle of the night when I go to the bathroom.

As I continue on my march to remember what I've learned in almost 69 years, the importance of scripture memory has to stand near the top of the list.  

#18--69 Things I've Learned--I wish I could have a do-over on my literature classes from high school and college

The cover of the book, The Cellist of Sarajevo.
I'm just about done reading the Cellist of Sarajevo. Note the cellist from Sarajevo on the computer screen.

For most of my life, works of fiction were something to be tolerated and not something that can be enjoyed and learned from.  In college, I did take classes on Hemingway and Faulkner and I even suffered through a class on poetry.

I wanted real life and not made up life by some author.  That's the way I thought for a good chunk of my almost 69 years.  I read about politics, politicians, biographies and stuff like that.

And then my thinking changed.  The doors to fiction started to open and I could see there was a point to it.  There was something to be learned.

Right now, I'm reading The Cellist Sarajevo by Steven Galloway.  It's about the lives of three fictional characters who lived during 21 days of the siege of Sarajevo where snipers from nearby hills and buildings daily killed residents who were trying to survive their everyday life.  

During this whole time a cellist plays amidst the killing to commemorate the deaths of 21 of his friends.  It's a compelling story.  I'll read it again.

Next book might be one from my high school days, The Old Man and The Sea by Hemingway.  It's time to give it another chance.

#17--69 Things I've Learned--My grandkids helped me find my inner fetish for photography

This is my computer screen of snapshots.
Digital cameras, my iPhone and my grandkids set fire to my interest in taking pictures.

I just loved doing it.  It started in high school when I did it all the time, disappeared for awhile and then came back when my wife and started having kids.

I love taking pictures.  I was the photographer for the high school newspaper and I ended up working around a lot of news photographers.  When our daughter was born and then our son, I filled the walls in my office with pictures of the kids.

Now we have four grandkids.  Three born and one still in utero.  Digital cameras fed my habit.  I not only like to take them, I love looking at them.  

Telling a story through video fascinates me.  I can do it with my iPhone.  High on my to-do list is learning how to edit the video clips.

How many digital photos and video clips do I have?  More than 20,000 and that number is growing.

#16--69 Things I've Learned--Neither Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders or any other politician is the answer for this country

Even Jack Bauer from "24" couldn't solve this country's problems.
It's going to take more than Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders or any other politician to get this country back on the right track.

One of the most important things I've learned in the past almost 69 years is that it's going to take way more than politicians to get this country back on the right track.  This is a lesson that didn't come easily to me.

I grew up wanting to make this a better world and from a young age I saw politics as a way to do this.  

I got involved at a young age in a wide-variety of groups and with an array of politicians.  I even spent my working life in and around politics and politicians.  And then I retired and I had time to think about what I had done and who and what was making a difference in this world.

It wasn't politicians, programs, jobs.  The problems were way bigger than an individual leader, program and job.  Not even Jack Bauer from television's "24" could solve this country's problems.

What's the answer?  It's revolves around changing people's hearts.  They--including me--have to start thinking about others first.  They have to love everybody.  And that means more than raising taxes to start a program.  Is this worth further discussion?  Most definitely.

This is #16 in my list of 69 Things I've Learned as I turn the corner on becoming 69 years old.

#15--69 Things I've Learned--As a kid, my doorway to the world was through philately

Project Mercury stamps.
Remember Project Mercury, the first manned space flight? They issued a stamp when it happened. I got a sheet of them.



You got grandkids?  Do you think they will ever know about postage stamps?

Growing-up in Bay City, Michigan in the 1960s, postage stamps were my connection to the world and to history.  Back then, the U.S. Post Office released new commemorative stamps to recognize people and remember events.

As a youngster, I collected them.  I would regularly sort through them and then match them to the events and stories I saw in the local newspaper.  I learned a lot about the world around me and my reading improved geometrically.  My curiosity level about the world grew and grew because of postage stamps.

How do kids learn about the world now?  Is an alternative?  Check all the vlogs produced during travels around the world.  

Back in the 60s, the U.S. Post Office was probably one of the most important U.S. government agencies.  Now it's future is in doubt.  We have email.


#14--69 Things I've Learned--Keep walking or running and use the phone app Runkeeper

The Runkeeper dashboard.
This is the dashboard for my Runkeeper. My wife has one too on hers.

As I get within days of turning 69 years-old, I know that my running days are over.  I haven't seen them for a long time.  

When my wife and I were dating in the late 1970s, we'd run together all the time. Now we try to walk most everyday.  The tool we use to measure our walking and to keep track of all the salient facts is Runkeeper which is an app for our iPhones. We know where we walked, how long, our pace, our average speed per mile and a whole lot of comparisons with previous walks.

Because it's based on GPS, we can walk everywhere and get an accurate read of our activities.

There are lots of reasons to do this.  We want the cardiovascular benefits and we want our joints to retain range of motion.  We also enjoy the chance to talk with each other.

How are we doing?  

As of this afternoon when we finished our walk, we had logged 507 miles since the middle of May last year.  The only challenge is our state's changing climate where winter becomes a reality around November.

#13--69 Things I've Learned--What do you do with appliance and tool instructional manuals?

Some of my instruction manuals.
I've acquired quite a collection of instruction manuals over the past 34 years.

Could you find the instruction manual for your washer and driver?  For your furnace?  How about that power sprayer?

As my wife and I clean out with the eventual goal of downsizing to a smaller place, I've found several big file folders with manuals for everything from a crockpot to a power sprayer.  In that time, we've had many different coffee makers, as well as telephones.

We will occasionally wonder about when we bought a certain item and we guess.  I bet we've missed it by more than a year or two on several occasions. 

This week we bought a new replacement over-the-range microwave.  This time I've put all the pertinent information on the manual.  I've stapled all the appropriate receipts and submitted online my registration for this.  No guessing anymore.



#12--69 Things I've learned--I'm believing older guys can learn how to cook full, multi-course meals

These veggies are searable, I think.
I'm more used to searing with the written word than with foods like veggies.

My son can cook and so can my son-in-law.  As I get ready to turn 69-years-old, my informal bucket list has cooking a full meal in the top five.  

Today, real guys cook and they cook well and they can cook just about anything.  It wasn't that way when I was a kid, not at all and somehow I slid through life being able to do just the basics, like heat up frozen meals, soup from a can and other very simple things.  

This is very cliche, but I can cook meat and some veggies on the grill and they taste passable.  And I've thrown stuff in the microwave like potatoes and it works.

I want to do more.  Yes, I can read instructions in a recipe.  Part of me is afraid of failing, setting something on fire, but I will try soon.

This is item #12 on my list of things I've learned in almost 69 years of life.  Guys need to be able to cook.  And it's time for this guy to start.


#11--69 Things I've learned--Read your Rick Steves' guidebook before you leave on your trip

Rick Steves' guidebook for Vienna
I have three Rick Steves' guidebooks in my collection, Vienna, Budapest and Germany

Have you ever used a Rick Steves' guidebook on a European trip?  How do you use it?  Do you first read it as you go from point to point?  Do you just skim it before you leave your hotel room?

We've been to three spots where we've had these guidebooks--Budapest, Vienna and Germany.  I loved all the detail about shops, museums, restaurants.  They are filled with plenty of really useful tips about traveling in each location.

I tried to use them in a variety of ways to get the most out of all the information provided.  One time I took the book with me and then review the info as we moved from point to point.  For me that was really hard to do as you try to navigate crowded trains and subways.  

Then, I ripped out the appropriate pages for where we were going on that day.  It was better.

I've learned that I need to read the guidebook carefully before I leave on a sightseeing tour.  That way I can catch all the relevant facts, highlight them and then know what to follow as I go from point to point.

This is #11 of my list of 69 Things I've Learned in Almost 69 years of life.  


#10--69 Things I've learned--There's life-changing value in listening to people's stories

Picture of the cover of Studs Terkel's book Working
This is one of my favorite books. Stories about real people and their daily jobs.

I'm trying to list one thing I've learned for each year of my life.  As a baby-boomer born in 1946, it means 69 things I've learned.  Actually, it would be only 68 because my birthday is at the end of this month.

As I move closer to finishing out my sixties, I've learned the importance of listening to and reading about people's stories.  I remember when my late mother would tell some pretty amazing stories about her life and how after a while my ears could only make out a blah-blah-blah.  I was too young to listen.  And I regret that.

Now, if my mom was still living, I'd be there with my iPhone shooting a video of each and every story.  Such an oral history would become a treasure trove of personal history and lessons learned.

I only have very small bits and pieces of personal history about my father.  Today, I'd be glued to my chair to hear stories about his life.

One of my favorite books is by author Studs Terkel from Chicago.  Many years ago, he took a tape recorder and interviewed ordinary people from all walks of life about their everyday jobs.  Fascinating and thought-provoking stuff.

Why are these stories important?  In a small book, "Overcoming Life's Challenges", it's author Bill Crowder writes, "Life has to be lived in forward motion but can only be understood by looking back."

It's taken me awhile to learn that.

#9--69 Things I've learned--The cliche about the apple not falling far from the tree doesn't have to be right

A picture of washed and cored apples.
We can applesauce every year and when picking apples to can, we find that apples usually don't fall far from the tree. Have you noticed that?

From as far back as I can remember, I was told that I looked just like my dad.  The two words "spitting image" were used often.  I was told that if I wanted to see what my dad looked like all I had to do was look in the mirror.

As I got old enough to understand, I heard the negative part about my father who completely abandoned my mom and me when I was a baby.  He was a complete no-show.  Things got tough and he vanished.

I grew-up thinking that I had the same "get out of Dodge" gene inside of me and that when stuff got tough I'd bolt.  That question haunted me and as I approach birthday number 69, I feel confident that I have a personal answer to that.  I often wondered as I went through the stages and pressures of life.

I've learned that that apples can fall pretty far from the tree.  I'm thankful that mine did.

#9--69 Things I've learned--It's really, really important to keep your gutters clean


We have the really, really wide gutters to catch the rain that comes off our Cape Cod roof.
I've learned through experience to keep my gutters clean


If you live around trees and leaves, your gutters will fill up pretty quickly.  And, if you live in a house with a pitched roof, you will quickly learn about getting water in your basement.  That's never a pleasant experience.

Having had this happen, I learned the importance of keeping your gutters cleaned out.  Over the course of a spring, summer and fall, they become filled with leaves, pine needles and other gunk.

Now I try hard to be proactive.  I get the ladder and the hose, climb up and get my hands dirty removing all the gunk.

Is this worth it?  Definitely.  And that's why I have it on my list of 69 Things I've Learned in my almost 69 years of life.

#8--69 Things I've learned--You don't need a prayer book or a prayer written by someone else


The Lutheran Prayer Book
This was my mother's prayer book. I was raised in a religious culture where pastors prayed and where you used prayer books and prayers written by others.


When I was growing up, it was common practice to pray.  We prayed before and after meals and when I went to bed.  Depending on the occasion, it was always the same prayer.  Then on Sundays, pastors always prayed using high-sounding theological language where it was easy to nod your head at words that sounded great, but didn't penetrate my heart.

I remember my mom always had a copy of the devotional booklet Portals of Prayer under her pillow and in the back of that were written prayers.  She used it and so did I as I grew into adulthood.

As I got past middle age, it became clear to me that prayer, for the most part, is a conversation between me and God.  He wants to hear my words and I want to hear his.

I regret that it's taken so long for me to learn this.  But I'm glad I have.

This is #8 of the #69 Things I have learned in my almost 69 years of life.


#7--69 Things I've learned--I loved stuffed peppers as a boy and I still love them as an almost 69 year old guy


One of my favorite things to eat
I remember when my mom made stuff peppers in an old roaster when I was a young boy. Loved them. My wife still makes them.


There are certain meals that I loved as a boy and that I still love as an almost 69-year-old guy.  Stuffed peppers are one of them.  

I have fond memories of my mother making them in an old cast aluminum roaster and when they were done, eating them was a taste of heaven.  I still have the same reaction today when my wife makes them.

Other personal favorites include meat loaf and tuna fish and noodle.  I grew up eating kielbasa. Love it.  But, I know eating it leads to an open invitation to visit a cardiologist.  I think I'll pass thank-you.

This item number seven of things I've learned as I move closer to turning 69.

#6--69 Things I've learned in almost 69 years; learn how take good sermon notes


How do you take sermon notes?
Some of my past sermon notes at Ada Bible Church


I remember when I first started taking sermon notes in the mid-sixties at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Bay City.  My mother was a little embarrassed because people just didn't do that back in those days. Now it's common.

In the past 50 years, I've taken notes for hundreds of sermons.  Usually, I write on a church bulletin.  This exercise can be helpful in two ways.  First, it forces you to listen and not be distracted and second, it's a good way to capture the main points of a message to go back to later.

In my study, I have a three inch stack of sermon notes that I have saved over the past few years from Ada Bible Church.  I am going to go back over them to harvest whatever learning I can get again.

My next item on my list of 69 Things I've learn in almost 69 years is to learn how to take the best possible sermon notes.  Sermons are written to be remembered and to become part of your life.  

How much more can pastors do to enable their people to drive the truths from a sermon into their hearts?


#5--69 Things I've learned in almost 69 years; take notes and ask questions when hearing old family stories


This is my Grandpa memory book for my grandson Miles
My daughter-in-law Lauren gave this to me to save my family memories for their one-year-old son Miles

 As I approach my 69th birthday on the last day of this month, I can look over my shoulder at a lot of life happenings and at what I've learned from them.  It's time for me to pull some of these items out of my mental drawer to share them with my grandkids and anybody else who would be interested.

My fifth item and I'm not doing these in order of importance is about my regret that I never took notes about my family background and now that I'm well into senior citizen age, my memories of what I was told is starting to get fuzzy.

I was raised by my mother who came from a family of 12 children who were all born and raised in the Thumb of Michigan on a sugar beet farm.  I grew up hearing story after story from my mom and her sisters about their life.  Their parents died when their kids were young and the older kids kept the family together.  It's a real life story that should be remembered and I could have gotten it page, line and verse.

My dad is a mystery man who I know very little about.  My mom shared about him and as I got older, I would nod my head and smile as she told the stories over and over.  

Now I wish I had all this.  With all the devices available to record these stories, I'd have it all.  I wish I had just half of what I was told.  I'm missing some amazing stories.

#4--69 Things I've learned in almost 69 years; learn to talk deeply with and listen your spouse

Our new walking shoes.
This is the third pair of walking shoes that we've gotten from Playmakers, East Lansing, in the last few years.

I remember being on a panel at a conference where they asked me one thing I liked about my wife.  What stood out in  in my mind about my wife, I said, is that she likes to listen to me talk.  But when we were walking this morning is really occurred to me that I really like listening to her talk and we do that a lot.

One of the 69 Things I've Learned as I approach being 69 years old is the importance of having somebody who you can talk deeply too, somebody who will listen to what's on your heart, somebody who will help you sort things out.

We do that most commonly on walks in the neighborhood, in nearby parks and wherever else we might be.  I thrive on these conversations.  And I'm a better person because of them.  

This is something I was to pass on to my grandkids.  Find somebody who you can really talk to and who will listen.

First three of 69 Things I've learned as I approach my 69th birthday in 22 days

In 22 days, I turn 69 years-old.  I'm inching closer and closer to that magic number of 70.  Some say that 70 is the new 50.  What say you who read this?

I'm trying to think of 69 things I've learned in the past almost 69 years.  My birthday is on August 31 and I'm a member of the first class of baby-boomers.

I'm starting my list right here and I'll add to it as thoughts come to my mind.  This is in no particular order.

3.  Floss between your teeth everyday--Somehow I missed this and I'm paying for it.  I brushed, but for most of my life I didn't floss.  Now I know my dentist on a first name basis.  And I have to partials in my mouth and way fewer real teeth than I'd like.


2.  Spend time everyday thanking God--I know how to complain.  In doing that, I found it easy to miss giving thanks to God for a whole bunch of stuff.  I'm trying to give serious time to this everyday.  This song summarizes what I'm talking about.


1.  Keep moving--my wife and I have step counters on our wrists.  We have Garmin's Vivofit which we got through Groupon.  I wish I would have been more attentive to being active earlier in my life and I wish I would have stayed consistent.

My Vivo Fit step counter from Garmin.
I'm off to a slow start this morning. We've had many days with more than 10,000 steps.