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22 posts from December 2015

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


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.



Here's my reason for continuing this more than eleven years


Here's why I may continue blogging.
This might explain why I continue blogging.

I'm at the part of my life where I have fewer and fewer pieces to take out of my puzzle box where I find the bits and pieces of what remains.  I'm a member of the first class of baby-boomers and we all turn 70 years old this next year.  


I've experienced a lot, seen a lot, made plenty of mistakes, have been blessed beyond any realistic expectation and I still have more to do.  I want to curate my life experiences to see what I've learned and how I can use that in the future.  I also want my five grandkids to know who I am and I want them to know what they can pick and take from my life.

Since I started this blog in October of 2004, I have written more than 2,800 posts.  Some are merely links with a little explanation of items that I found interesting and helpful.  Others are pieces of me.  I have a personal story that for years I've felt should be shared.  On this blog, I would start it, go for a bit and then lose the fire.  I've done that eight or nine times.  Because of this blog I think I've figured out why.

I'm awed and somewhat fearful of my age and of losing my vision.  I know that I need to use time wisely.  I have to carefully cull through my interests and daily life to find what's really important for me.  I've had to slog through the personal mud to get to that front door.  I've talked about some of that in this blog.  There are themes and patterns that re-emerge.

I want to continue with this next year.  I want to be a little more unbridled in my thinking and my writing.  I want Xavier, Gretchen, Miles, unborn granddaughter and grandson to know me  and to be familiar with their roots.


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.


Our 2015 Thorp Report: Gladys and I have been living the adventure


Our family selfie.
Check this family selfie taken at the Split Croatia Airport. I was smiling inside.


Dear Family and Friends,

As Gladys and I solidify our positions as senior citizens, I have to report that in 2015, we continued to "live the adventure."  That phrase describes our life over the past year and we are committed to do the same during the next year.  As we itemize everything that happened, we have to shake our heads in amazement at how God has revealed himself to us.

Our starting point has to be with our five grandkids.  That's right five.  Three boys and two girls.  I'll explain the increasing numbers in a minute.  

In September, Gladys and I along with Justin, Lauren and their 18-month-old son got on a plane for Stockholm, Sweden and got on another for Split Croatia where we met Krista and Adam and their kids.  It was family reunion time.  After adjusting to time zone changes at their home in Bosnia, we headed back to Croatia where we boarded a ferry for a two-hour ride to the Island of Vis in the middle of the Adriatic Sea.  On the southside of the mountainous island, we stayed in a sleepy village of Komiza which is right on the water.

We had our own spacious villa where the kids could play and adults could visit.  On our walks through one lane streets, we saw olive trees  in various stages of growth.  The locally-pressed olive oil had a special flavor.  We ate fresh squid and octopus and had a whole dinner cooked by Adam on an open fire with special cookware using a method called sac, pronounced sash.

While there, I came down with a bad cough that resulted in me visiting a local doctor.  My interpreter was Krista.  The cough which didn't leave me until we got home made my nights short.

What about the two extra grandkids?  Krista is pregnant with a boy and Lauren is pregnant with a girl.  They are both due to deliver in the spring.  

Back home in the states, for much of the winter, I had double vision.  The lens in my right eye fell.  In May, two ophthalmologists, took out the fallen lens and put a new one in front of my iris.  Things are back to normal for the most part.  

Gladys is still a student teacher supervisor for Spring Arbor University which gets her into elementary classrooms in a good chunk of central Michigan and around the edges.  She's passing on what she learned during her time in the classroom.

The biggest part of our adventure this past year has been seeing how God revealed himself to us in everything that happens.  We have been looking and seeing his presence all around us. He was there when we took a family selfie at the Split Airport and I wasn't smiling and he's there everyday here in Lansing.  We see him every time we go to Horrocks Farm Market on the westside of Lansing.  It's a treasure chest of colors and shapes and tastes.  

On our daily walks in the neighborhood, we have seen a plastic baby Jesus in a manger scene on a neighbor's front lawn.  It's a reminder of the very real Jesus who is both the perfect God and perfect man who gives us all hope during a very tumultuous time in our history.

Wes and Gladys

A selfie with Gladys.
Taking a selfie on the beach at the Island of Vis. 

What would Barry Goldwater say about how politics is practiced in the United States in 2015?

Barry Goldwater in Bay City, Michigan.
This picture in Life magazine shows Goldwater in Bay City at a campaign stop. I'm in the back row.

I can't believe that we watched the whole Republican presidential debate this past Tuesday.  But we did.  It reminded me of the glory days of professional wrestling that would come to our town where you would see guys like Leaping Larry Chene and others make lots of noise and shake their fingers at each other.

The debate was disappointing.  These guys and one woman want to govern our country.  And all they can do is trash talk each other.  I found it impossible to pick through the bile filled words to discern the real values of any of them.  It seemed like they changed whenever convenient depending on the audience.

That wasn't the case with another presidential candidate who came to my hometown  when I was a freshman in college.  Barry Goldwater made a whistle stop to make a case for his candidacy in 1964.  I still remember it.  You could disagree with him, but he was clear and he was consistent.

He wouldn't twist his words just to get your vote.  I really respected that.  I still do, but I don't see it much anymore.

Do you like politicians who tell you what they think you want to hear or do you prefer those who are honest about what they feel based on their values?

Last night's GOP debate made me think of the Kennedy-Nixon debates in 1960


Jeb Bush during last night's debate.
We watched the GOP debates last night.


We watched the whole GOP presidential debate last night on CNN.  We weren't glued to our television, but we got the gist of all the comments from the candidates.  Nothing was said that got us excited nor did we produce any extra bile from any of the feigned anger and sharp exchanges.  Best part was probably the thimble full of Baileys that we had during the whole thing.

But, it did remind me of the first presidential debate that I watched between Kennedy and Nixon in 1960 when I was a freshman in high school.  

With two buddies, John Hebert and Bill Young, we watched from the small apartment that my mother and I lived in on Marquette Street in Bay City.  The television set was black and white and it was portable.  

It was a historic moment.  That was the first time such a debate was done on live television.  Bay City was a blue collar town that had a strong identification with labor unions.  

But, there were lots of doubts about Kennedy.  It had a high proportion of Lutherans and Catholics with the Lutherans kind of wondering if the Pope might move into the White House.  Really, that was the talk among many.  During that time there was a social gap between the two groups.  The town stopped the night of the debate.  People watched and they talked about it.

That debate cinched it for Kennedy.  The contrast between he and Nixon was stark.  It was an easy choice for my neighbors.  

We didn't have the same reaction last night.  None of them on either side are moving me.  

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.



A Fort Apache Playset, Mt. Olive Lutheran School in Bay City, a Christmas program in 1954 and John 3:16


It was a Christmas program at a small Wisconsin Synod Church on the westside of Bay City, Michigan and I had one verse to say.  My mother helped me learn John 3:16.  I shared it that night in the dimly lit Mt. Olive Lutheran Church and never forgot it.  I was eight years old and that verse has been firmly in my memory ever since.

As I get a whole lot older and I wake in the middle of the night, the verse comes to my mind.  I've taken it apart in my head hundreds of time.  I think about each word and what it means.  

I mention this because we are in the Christmas season and there's so little mention of Jesus.  Fewer and fewer people know or seem interested in Jesus and why he came to earth.  As our culture struggles and as the world vibrates with conflict and dissension, Jesus seems to have disappeared.  

He's still there.  I see that in John 3:16.  That Christmas program was probably one of the most important nights of my life.

And when my mother and I got home, I found a Fort Apache Playset under the Christmas tree.  It was all set up.  I loved it.  But, I never figured out how or who set it up.  My mom never told me.  Maybe, it was our dog Chummy.



Drinking Founders Backwoods Bastard for the second year in a row with my son


Backwoods Bastard beer from Founders.
Drinking this Backwoods Bastard with my son was special

When was the last time that you had a really good beer with your son?  My son Justin and I on the day after Thanksgiving this year went to Horrock's Farm Market on Lansing's westside where they have a bar with a huge selection of craft beers.  For the second year in a row, we had a glass of Founders Backwoods Bastard, probably the best beer I've ever drank.

It would be easy to believe that they serve this beer in heaven.  It has that special kind of taste that you just want to sip and has an alcohol content that's over 11 percent.  

I really enjoy these times with him where we have an enthusiasm and openness of conversation that goes back a long ways.  Back when he was in grade school and on the weekends when we would grocery shop, we would preface the outing by drinking a cappuccino.  It became a ritual where the conversation was open and wide-ranging, but usually settled around tech and politics.

We still drink coffee together, but now we've added craft beer.  Justin has a son and I bet there will be a coffee shop in the St. Louis area where you will see the two of them talking and enjoying each other.  And when they get to having a beer together, I'd recommend Schnickelfrtiz from Urban Chestnut.  I've had a few of those too.

And when the time comes bring your son-in-law.  We've done that also.


My son Justin Thorp.
My son Justin has broadened my appreciation of beer tastes.


The beer bar at Horrocks has an eclectic selection of beer.
This is the bar at Horrocks Farm Market where we got the Backwoods Bastard.



How much has the decline of newspapers affected the decline of our culture?


A Chicago Tribune newspaper box.
This is the price of a Chicago Tribune at a newspaper box in the Windy City.



I was rummaging through digital photos from this past summer and found this shot of a newspaper box at the Morton Grove train station just north of the Chicago limits.  Check the price--$1.50 per copy.  I was incredulous.  How many people actually pay that.

You need to know that when I grew up in Bay City drug stores had a small newspaper stand and it usually included the Tribune.  As a kid, I bought it and when I went to Michigan State University, I bought it.  I also bought the local paper along with the Detroit papers.

Why is this a big deal?  Historically, newspapers have played several roles in our culture.  Reporters were the eyes and ears for readers.  They would listen, learn and ask questions and share what they learn.  

Newspapers would also reflect what was happening in the culture.  Many times they would take an issue and give readers a really close look at themselves.  Many times readers would not take it well.  Sometimes they would demand action.

That's changed.  For a buck-fifty, readers in Chicago get a skinned down version of what used to be.  The result:  Readers have lost an impartial source to keep their leaders honest and they have lost a mirror where they can see themselves.

We all lose.

P.S.  I forgot to mention that my first full-time job was a reporter was at the Chicago Tribune.

Where does God reveal himself in Lansing, Michigan?


Big mounts of apples at Horrocks.
This was taken yesterday while shopping at Horrocks Farm Market in Lansing.


Where do you go to see the presence of God?  This question won't make sense if you don't believe in a Creator and your heart is shut to the possibility that one exists.

Here in central Michigan, I feel I see God reveal himself at an incredible farm market on the west side of Lansing, Horrocks.  I've gone through periods the last few years where my vision has been compromised with the quality of my visual future in serious doubt.  When I needed reassurance that God was in control, my wife and I would go to Horrocks.  

I would see all the shapes and colors of vegetables and fruits from Michigan and throughout the country and the world.  It was amazing if you looked at them closely.  Yesterday, it was the apples that grabbed my attention.  The various colors popped out.  

In Psalm 104, the writer says about God: 

He makes grass grow for the cattle,
    and plants for people to cultivate—
    bringing forth food from the earth:

I thank God for Horrocks and all the other ways that he reveals himself to us.

Our front lawn is decorated with a Star Shower Laser Light that I saw advertised on television


I was attracted to the Star Shower Laser Light I saw in the television commercial.  But over the years I've learned that these ads over-promise what the product can do.  You usually order the product over the phone and pay a shipping charge too.

It still attracted me because I wanted to fill our front yard with Christmas lights, but I didn't want to string lights, get out a ladder or any of that stuff.  The Star Shower is a laser light that shines hundreds of colored light looking things at whatever it's aimed at.  On the tv ad, it really looks neat and easy.  

You just put the light on an included stake, put it in the ground, hook an outdoor power cord, turn it on and wait for night fall.  When it turned dark, I was impressed and so was my neighbor's grandchild who got excited about all the lights in our yard.  Bingo.  We did it.  We now have one of the cool decorated houses that people look at.  We even had the laser lights shine in the darkened rooms of our house.

Neighbor wanted to know how much we paid.  I found it on Amazon and paid $49 and no shipping with their Prime membership.


Remembering my Uncle Paul Moll on the eve of Pear Harbor Day


My Uncle Paul and his wife during World War II.
My Uncle Paul Moll and my Aunt Eileen in Bay City, Michigan.



When I was growing up in Bay City, Michigan, there was always talk about World War II.  My mother and my aunts and uncles were directly affected by it and talked often about where they were when Pearl Harbor was bombed on Dec. 7, 1941.  Their memories of that period was vivid and they had plenty of stories.

My mother's brother, Paul Moll, served in the South Pacific during that period.  He served with my dad who was introduced to my mother by him.  I never knew my dad, but I got to know my uncle really well.  He served as a quiet mentor, a template for what a real man looked like in all aspects of life and somebody who lived during one of the most tumultuous times in our history.

I wish I would have had an iPhone video camera during our many conversations.  He talked about growing up with five brothers and six sisters on a farm in the Thumb of Michigan and losing both parents at a young age.  He grew up in a family unit where the older brothers and sisters parented and provided for the younger ones.

Then he went into the Navy and was shipped off to the South Pacific.  Through it all, he persevered, raised two kids, got to know his grandkids and touched a whole lot of people including me.  

I pray that I can "pay it forward" and share the same qualities with those around me.


Norma at the Lake Lansing Road Meijers fed my son a lot of food twenty years ago


Meet Norma.
I couldn't believe that Norma was still greeting people at the Meijers on Lake Lansing Road in East Lansing.


Since we moved to a different part of town more than 15 years ago, we shop at a different Meijers here in the Lansing-area.  Going to this grocery store which sells everything has become a ritual in our family.

Twenty years ago my son Justin and I did the grocery shopping there.  It became a ritual for the two of us after complaining to my wife that she forgot to buy certain items.  When she offered to let us do it, we jumped at the chance.  It became a father-son bonding experience that made an impression on both of us.

One of the persons we got to know every Saturday was Norma, a sample person who offered free tastes of all kinds of food.  She loved his enthusiasm for trying most everything that was offered and occasionally would give him a double portion.  She always took time to talk to us.  We almost always bought whatever she was selling.  

Over the years, she became a door greeter.  We don't get to that Meijers often, but when we do and when we see her, we smile.  She adds greatly to our Meijers experience.  She's aware of everything in the stores, loves people and makes grocery shopping way more personalized.

It was great to see her yesterday.  I'm still smiling inside.  She brings back great memories from these Saturday excursions with my son where we both grew together and as individuals.  

I hope the people at corporate headquarters read this.  Norma is special.  She is an example of how to treat customers who come into the store.

CASEY NEISTAT: Am I the oldest "Beme" user in the world?


A Beme t-shirt.
Baby-boomers should be Beme users.


How many of you under 30 have heard of an app called Beme?  It's a photo-sharing app developed by the young film-maker Casey Neistat who shows his extensive body of work mainly on YouTube.  As an avid follower of his vlog for the past year, I can see how he has influenced film-making and how he has tapped into the hearts of young visual learners.

Look on YouTube and you see a multiplicity of Neistat copycats and some of them are quite good.  Why is this important?

This new generation of film-makers are opening up a new channel of communication for anybody with something to say or share.  It's something that can be used by everybody from local city council members, to state legislators, churches, students and just about everybody else.  I get it.

That's where Beme comes in.  Install it on your iPhone, open the app, hold the phone to your chest or cover up the top sensor on the screen side and it automatically takes four seconds of video.  You can keep on taking these video chunks which are processed at Beme headquarters.  Your video stays up for a short period of time and then is deleted.

Have I mastered it?  No.  But I'd like to use it more and get better with my camera skills and my ability to narrate what I'm seeing.  

With his YouTube vlogs, Neistat has built a world-wide community, mostly those under 40, I'd guess.  How old am I?

I will be 70 next August.  By the way, my Beme name is west846.

Below is a Beme I took a few days ago when my wife and I did an early morning walk in our neighborhood.  No narration.  I have to practice and become more confident with that.

Young parents: Would you use a smartphone app that would show baby and toddler friendly restaurants?

Posing at McDonalds in East Lansing.
It was a drizzly day and a perfect time to take our young grandson to McDonalds for a hot chocolate.

How do you find restaurants who understand and cater to the needs of young families, especially those with babies and toddlers?

I was reminded of the need for these when my son Justin, his wife Lauren and my grandson Miles visited for Thanksgiving last week.  After taking their son to the Michigan State University cow and sheep barns, we stopped at an East Lansing McDonalds for a hot chocolate.

We sat in a booth with a long table.  Our youngest grandson has graduated from sitting on your lap to moving, screeching and exploring.  It's just normal toddler stuff.  No problem at McDonalds, but what about other places.

Justin, in his Oatmeal Stout blog wrote about a restaurant near his home in St. Louis which was very aware of the importance of early weekend brunch time hours for toddlers with early awake times.  My son also casually mentioned the desirability of having an app that would be focused on finding restaurants and other businesses with the same kind of sensitivity to this special need.

Are there any apps like that out there in app-dom?  If not are there any developers who would be attracted to such a project?