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October 2015
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December 2015

20 posts from November 2015

Where do you take an inquiring and energetic 18-month-old on a drizzly day in the Lansing, MI area?

Posing at the MSU sheep barn.
My son and his wife pose with their almost 18-month-old son at the MSU sheep barn. My wife is in the background left.

Because it was drizzling outside, we couldn't take him to a local park.  He sees plenty of shopping malls back home, so we took him to the Michigan State University animal barns just south of the campus.  My grandson's eyes were really big and enthusiastic as he was able to all kinds of sheep right next to him and he could take in their particular smells.  And he heard up close and personal what a lamb says.

Next we went to the cow barn where they were all waiting to be fed by a tractor-driven machine that dropped off feed in front of each cow with its head stuck through special fencing.  His eyes got even wider as he saw the size of these animals.

We stopped after two barns because of the drizzle and the cold, but I bet we will do it again when they come back.  My grandson needs to see how cows are milked and he'd love the horses and the chickens.

Such visits seem to be encouraged by MSU.  I'd recommend it and I bet my young grandson would too.

Inside the cow barn.
Great sign explaining the operation inside the barn.



Cows getting fed.
This is a pretty slick machine for feeding the cows.


My grandson watches the cows being fed.
My grandson watches carefully how the cows are being fed.


Jesus is bigger than Ted Cruz, the State Capitol of Michigan and even Satan

Nativity set on our end table.
See Jesus in the manager of our Nativity set on our end table.

Has the birth of Jesus become just a big yawn here in Lansing, the State Capital city of Michigan?

The supporters of Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz are going to hold a live Nativity on the front lawn of the State Capitol on Dec. 12 and 13 and the Satanists will be erecting a temporary display honoring the devil.  As far as I can see, there's been nary a word about it locally.  

In past years, the ACLU, local atheists and others would be standing in line at court to stop such displays.  There would be speeches and Facebook would be filled with warnings about how Jesus-followers are trying to take over our state.

I see nothing this year, other than a Detroit News story about the Cruz-sponsored Live Nativity.  What's happening?  Nobody cares?  They don't see Jesus as a threat?

The most important question an individual will ever have to deal with is whether they accept Jesus as who he says he is or whether they reject him.

I felt more comfortable when people were riled up.  To me that meant that Jesus was a threat to the status quo.  



I think I better understand why my mother always talked about her brothers and sisters so much

Me and my youngest grandson.
Our youngest grandson and his family was here this weekend. I loved it.

My most used tag on this blog is "Family."  I love writing and sharing about my kids and now my grandkids.  I have more than 2,700 posts on this blog and a great chunk of them is about my two kids, their spouses and their kids.  It's a record of their growth and how I related to them.  

I've often asked myself why do I mention them so much.  Am I bragging?  No, not really.  For me, it's a point of celebration where I can smile and I can see the evidence of the existence and presence of God.  And, it's something that I love being part of with my wife.  

I get my primary identity from being a child of God.  He adopted me.  But, I get my secondary identity from being a dad and a husband.  It hasn't come from the jobs I've held in my life or the things that happened to me early in my life.

Growing up my family was my mom and me and a little fox terrier dog.  That was it.  Now, it's eleven.  My wife and me, our two kids and five grandkids, two of whom are pre-born.

I think this blog has helped me sort through the pieces of my feelings about all this and sometimes I've done this clumsily. 

In the New Year, I hope to bring a little more intention, order and clarity to it.

My mom had six brothers and five sisters.  They all brought a special meaning and purpose to her life.  I better understand why.

Great quote about one of the benefits of writing.
I think this says it well. I've experienced this.

She's playing with our grandson.
My wife plays with our youngest grandson this morning before he and his family left to go home.

Lessons I learned this weekend from my almost 18-month-old grandson

Talking steps with your grandson on Thanksgiving Day.
My almost 18-month-old grandson is learning to go up and down steps. Here he gets a lesson from grandma.


I was reminded this weekend about how much a very young child has to learn in the first couple years of his or her life.  Our son and his wife and their almost 18-month-old son are celebrating Thanksgiving with us.  We baby-proofed everything we could think of.  We even pulled out an old gate for our steps going to the basement, leaving one set of steps without a gate.  

Our grandson is a newly-minted walker and, of course, the first thing that attracts his attention are the steps.  Doing up and down safely is an important learned skill.  It's one that's vital to learn.  Otherwise, you fall.  With the help of all of us, especially his mom and dad, he's learning.

This made me think about the joy of learning and how it's lifelong.  As I approach turning 70, I've mastered going up and down steps, but I have a long list of other things that I want to learn.  When do you stop learning?  I guess, it's when your heart stops beating.  

Our gated stairway.
My grandson knows about respecting gates.


Learning to go down steps.
With help from his dad, our grandson learns about going down steps on your butt.



How long would it take me to list 10,000 reasons to be thankful today?

A selfie with my wife and me.
My wife is heaven sent and I thank God for her.

Heavenly Father,

Open my heart today to remind me on this Thanksgiving Day of how much I have to be thankful for.  I am overwhelmed by how good you have been to me, by what has happened in the past and by what lies ahead in the future.

Before waking up this morning, I kept thinking about how I have 24/7 access to you the creator of the world.  I can go into your presence right now and experience your splendor and majesty.  I'm awed that I can talk to you at any time and you listen in contrast to how long it might take to get into the dentist.  

You loved the world and everybody in it.  You gave us all your son Jesus.  Help me and everybody else to see that love very clearly in our hearts.

Bless our day today with our son and his family and with friends who are coming to celebrate with us.  Amen.

P.S.  And thank you for the very special song 10,000 Reasons which helps me refocus my heart towards you.

It's time for a new family picture for our wall over our mantle

Pictures over our mantle.
Pictures over our mantle need to be updated.

I love being surrounded by pictures of our immediate family.  In our living room and when sitting on our couch, all I have to do is turn my head to the left or right and I see family, our kids, our grandkids and my wife and me.  These were taken at a variety of points in time.

Then go into our kitchen and you'll see more.  There's a huge montage that features our growing grandchildren.  And then in the hallway, there's more.  They are constant reminders of the best part of my life, being part of a family.

But our collection is in need of updating.  We need a new shot of our whole immediate family.  The one of the original four is great.  But, by spring we will be eleven.  Somehow we need to get everybody together and do it.  Two new grand babies are due in the spring.

My taste for family pictures really exploded when we had our daughter 33 years ago.  As I took pictures and got them printed, I put them up on my office wall in the State Capitol Pressroom.  My collection grew until it occupied a whole wall over my telephone and then we had our son.  There were even more.

I love capturing moments in the history of our family.  These are times that once they happen will never comeback unless you have a photo or video.  

Our first "Meals On Wheels" deliveries opened our eyes to need in our city

A hot meal from Meals on Wheels.
This is the hot meal that we delivered.

We did our first Meals On Wheels delivery yesterday.  After doing it and seeing the smiles on the faces of the people we dropped off meals to, we felt good about doing it.  We delivered 17 meals to 11 different people.  They all seemed elderly and had some sort of physical challenge. 

Our meals were ready for us at the program's kitchens and were contained in two coolers.  We also had a clip board with all the information that we needed to make the deliveries.

We enjoyed doing it, especially being able to do it together.  We are down to do it twice in December.

A clip board with Meals On Wheels information.
Our route was organized in a very clear way with a map which made delivery very easy.




Delivering the meals.
Some driveways were not shoveled out and some porches were not clear of snow.


Pick-up for Meals on Wheels.
This is where we picked up our cooler and insulated bag.

Apple's Face Time is a real friend to grandparents with distant grandchildren


Using FaceTime to visit our grandson.
Visiting with our youngest grandson over Face Time.



On most mornings when we get out of bed, the first thing we do is check our phone for pictures from our grandkids scattered in a couple of spots around the world.  We look first to Instagram and then to Flare, a new photo sharing app that is currently in beta.

But, the third leg of our photo sharing stool is Face Time where we can visit over live video on our various Apple devices.  We've seen our two grandsons and granddaughter at various key points in their lives this way.  That includes crawling, walking, talking and a whole host of other milestones.  We love it and we are so blessed that our kids love to share.

Last night, I was sitting at my desk when all of a sudden my youngest grandson popped up on my large computer monitor with a huge smile.  We visited.  My wife and I spent the rest of the evening with big smiles on our faces.

If you have an Apple device don't be intimidated.  It's similar to making a telephone call.  It's that simple.

My wife and I deliver "Meals on Wheels" for the first time today


Getting meals on wheels training.
Vicki Watson trains us on how to deliver the meal so clients get what they asked for.


I vividly remember when my mother in Bay City, Michigan, would have Meals on Wheels delivered to her house.  She was struggling physically, was driving very little and was showing evidence of some dementia.  Every week day, she got hot meals and a friendly face knocking on her door.  It meant a lot to her.

Today, my wife and I will deliver Meals on Wheels to residents in Lansing.  It's the first time and we want to be extra careful about delivering the right food to the right people.

I'm cranking up my inner smile so it shows up on my face.  I want to "pay it forward" for what was done for my mom.

My mother got her first Michigan driver's license when she was fourteen-years-old


My mother's first driver's license.
My mother got her first driver's license in Gagetown, Michigan when she was 14-years-old.


I continue going through several plastic tubs of old papers and pictures from my mother's house in Bay City.  I have found a ton of interesting stuff dating back to the early twenties, the Depression and World War II.

This includes my mom's first driver's license that she got while growing up in the Thumb of Michigan where she grew up with 11 brothers and sisters.  I remember her telling how my Uncle Wes Moll taught her how to drive in the farm fields and the backroads.  There was no driver's training and no tests to take.

I think of my grandkids and when they might get their first driver's license.  Because of autonomous vehicles, will they ever need one?  I'm picking up on the chatter that driverless cars are just around the corner, so to speak.

I was at the University of Michigan stadium when President Lyndon Johnson announced the Great Society in 1964


Ticket stub from President Lyndon Johnson event in Ann Arbor.
We took a school bus from Bay City, Michigan to Ann Arbor to hear President Lyndon Johnson announce the Great Society.


How many of you remember President Lyndon Johnson who took over the top office when President Kennedy was assassinated?

He was a bigger than life figure in national politics who gained notoriety when he was a United States Senator from Texas because he was able to amass power and use it to accomplish his goals.  He was also the father of the Great Society which was supposed to end poverty and inequality in this country.

A month before I graduated from high school in 1964, he came to the University of Michigan stadium to announce his vision for a better life for those who were poor and without power.

My high school--T.L. Handy in Bay City about a hundred miles north of Ann Arbor--got tickets for the event and took students to it in buses.  I went and I saved the ticket stub.  

In the same year, I met U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater who was campaigning in our area from the back of a train caboose.  I was in the background of a picture published in Life magazine.  

Can I gain motivation to eat right and exercise by watching this Casey Neistat vlog post?

I don't want to be corpulent when I turn 70 on the last day of August next year.  I want to be fully in shape to test the contention that 70 is the new 50.  Can I do it?

For most of my adult life, I have been on an up and down cycle of gaining and losing weight.  I admit it.  I have a whole lot of reasons, but they are all pretty garden variety.

In the past year, I've gotten into the habit of watching the daily vlog posts on YouTube from a filmmaker,  Casey Neistat, in New York City.  He telling a daily story about his life and the people in it.  Along with several hundred thousand--mostly half my age--from around the world I feel like I know him, what drives him, his passion for what he does and his passion for his family.

He's also into running which he shares with an insatiable desire for candy and other sweet things.  In this video, he talks about how he realizes that he needs more energy.  He zooms in on his diet.  He reeks of motivation in everything he does.

Can I feed on his energy and his focus to do this?  Let me be clear, he's not overweight and he's in shape for the most part.  He lives every minute of a long day and burns the candle from both ends.

I think I need to take my cue from this guy who's half my age.  This is worth viewing.

At age 90, my Aunt Aileen Anderson is still celebrating life after two major life tragedies

My Aunt Aileen Anderson
My Aunt Aileen is still smiling big after losing her husband of 71 years and her leg all in one week.

Her life story is worthy of a television drama as an example of somebody met the circumstances of a very long life and is still thriving.  She's not done yet at age 90.

My Aunt Aileen Anderson, originally from Bay City, Michigan and now in a rehab facility in Charleston, West Virginia, is one of my personal heroes.  She's one of 12 children born to a farm family in the Thumb of Michigan.  She's my mother's sister and she's always been part of my life.

Her mother and father both died while she was a young child leaving her many brothers and sisters as her care-providers.  It's an amazing story of how my aunts and uncles on my mom's side banded together to care for each other.  It wasn't perfect.  It was real life that was influenced by the Depression and by World War II.  But they did it.

And if you ask Aunt Aileen, she would point to one reason for the family of siblings staying together.  It was the direct hand of God and Jesus in their lives.  It's the same explanation she gives now for how she made it through losing her husband of 71 years and having her leg amputated in one week.  She was not able to be at his burial service in Michigan because of the surgery.

When I talked to her on the phone this past week, she said she's the luckiest person in the world.  She's been blessed, she says and it's because of the hope she has in Jesus.

I think of all the dinners I had at her house as a kid and as an adult.  I think of the times that I stayed with her family when I was a child during times my mother was in the hospital.  She was always ready to help and she did it and continues to do it with a smile.

Christian-singer Matt Redmond sings about having 10,000 Reasons to give God thanks.  Aunt Aileen you're part of my 10,000 Reasons.

I really need to take time to absorb what I learned this weekend at Ada Bible Church

I  have to regularly take time to absorb the reality of what Pastor Jeff Manion of Ada Bible Church is talking about in this clip from last weekend's sermon where he recounts the story of Zacchaeus from the Bible.  I've heard the story many, many times and I've seen in my mind a short guy who claimed a tree to see Jesus walking through his town.  

This story, he said, is an important reminder that Jesus sees each one of us, knows each one of us and wants each one of us.  All we have to do is say he can have us.

This is pure gold as a reminder of a truth that's far too easy to gloss over and put to the side.  I've done it.  With God's help and with YouTube, I'll have this video reminder.



The price of gas in Lansing, Michigan today is $2.13 at Speedway on Jolly and Dunkel


Gas price sign says $2.13
The price of gas on Nov. 17 in Lansing


The tank on my Honda Civic was about a third empty, but I still stopped at the Speedway gas station on Jolly and Dunckel.  The sun was out and it was almost warm, so I decided to take advantage of one of the low prices for the year in the area.

Does anybody know how low per gallon prices will go?  Is the low price just a blip on the gas price experience?

How would I react if I saw Jesus enjoying a cup of coffee with my errant dad at our local Biggby's?

Sermon about discipleship.
Our pastor--Jeff Manion of Ada Bible Church--raised some serious questions in his sermon yesterday about what it meant to be a disciple of Jesus versus a student.

If you don't believe in Jesus, then you might want to skip reading this.  All my life I've heard about the disciples of Jesus and about how their lives were dramatically turned upside down by answering the call to become like him.  

Then during the past two plus months, we've had sermons on what it looks like in everyday 2015 life to be a disciple of Jesus.  I'm still processing what was said and trying to match that up with what needs to be changed in my everyday life.

The last sermon is the series was yesterday and I was causing along with the content until Pastor Jeff Manion posed the scenario where I would meet Jesus at a local coffee shop.  He further framed the story with the proposition that while you're entering the coffeeshop, you see Jesus sitting down at the table with somebody who had deeply wounded you.  And before you went to his table, you saw them laughing and enjoying each other's company.

Our pastor then took the story from Luke 5:30 where Jesus had just invited Matthew, the tax collector, to be his disciple who then threw a party with the local scumbag political set.  The Pharisees criticized Jesus for feating with such people.  Jesus responded about how it was the sick who needed a doctor and not the healthy.

Then my thoughts went back to me seeing Jesus in the coffeeshop yucking it up with the person who's number one on my "Do Not Like" list.

How do I feel about that?  I'm still processing it.  I know he's gives me the power and I just have to grab it.  

I will be noodling this around during the week.  Can anybody identify with this?

Are you old enough to remember using wax paper to wrap sandwiches?


Cook's Waxed Paer
Remember using wax paper to wrap sandwiches and other food? Then came Saran Wrap made in my hometown Bay City, Michigan.

 When we cleaned out my mother's home in Bay City, we found this big roll of wax paper that was used to wrap all kinds of food, especially sandwiches.  It was from Cook Coffee whose salesman came to our house a couple of times a month.  The company sold all kinds of items for use around the house.

Then after wax paper came Saran Wrap which was made by Dow about a mile from our house.  Then for decades everything was wrapped in that thin layer of plastic.  Now it's sandwich bags.  What's next?

Traveling with 15-month-old on an airplane across the AtlanticI

Traveling with a 15-month-old
My daughter-in-law had a dollar store notebook bag of little stuff for each of us to use to entertain our 15-month-old grandson.


I was rummaging through a page of digital images from this past year and I found one of a special collection of little dollar store toys that my daughter-in-law got for our 15-month-old grandson to help entertain him on our plane ride across the Atlantic.

My wife, my son, my daughter-in-law and I each had a notebook storage bag filled with little dollar store toys that could entertain a little guy on a long plane ride.  The bag contained a real assortment of baby-friendly items, including stickers.

Did it work?  Not perfectly.  He was tired and off his routine.  But for five minutes here and three minutes there, it seemed to work.  I used the little stickers to put on the bottom of his feet.  He enjoyed bending to pick them off.

I remember my first visit to Paris ten years ago.


Posing by the Arc de Triomphe.
Paris is one of the most dynamic and historic cities that I've ever visited.

We were only in Paris overnight, but I remember being impressed by a unique sense of world history.  I was part of a mission team that was flying home from Mali in West Africa where we had been working on a school construction project.


I saw enough to know that I'd like to spend more time there to see the places where some of the key events in world history took place.  Our taste for the city was whetted by touring the Lourve and the Notre Dame Cathedral.

That's why I was transfixed to watching the news reports of the tragic events in the city.  It was a frontal attack by terrorists on one of the main stages for the world.  It was hard to concentrate and it was a reminder of what happened in this country on 9-11.

My heart goes out to the people of Paris and to the people of the world as we transition to a new dynamic for settling conflicts.

Happy Birthday to my three-year-old granddaughter Gretchen


My grandkids.
The little lady on the left is my three-year-old granddaughter Gretchen. It's her birthday today. Two guys on her right are my grandsons.

I was standing in line at the pharmacy counter at our neighborhood Walgreen's when my cellphone rang.  My son-in-law Adam was calling to say that our daughter was in labor.

This was happening in Eastern Europe and I was standing in line to get some prescription eyedrops.  The line was crowded and people noticed that I had a really big smile on my face.

He called back after we got home to say that their daughter, Gretchen Kayt, had just been born.  That was three years ago today.

Happy Birthday to our three-year-old Gretchen.  We have visited them at their home in Bosnia, travelled with them to Austria and vacationed with them on an island in the Adriatic.  And we've stayed with them in North Carolina and they've stayed with us in Michigan.

Like her mom and her dad, Gretchen is a winner. She brightens our day and our thoughts.  She has a mind of her own and she has a smile that lights up rooms and our hearts.

Around lunch time, we will have our computer on the kitchen table and our Face Time will be on.  We will be celebrating her birthday virtually with her and her family.

I love being part of a family.