When Will They Ever Learn?

June 17, 2013

The song that has been running through my mind the last few days was written by Pete Seeger as a protest against war – all war. On Facebook, I posted the Kingston Trio’s version of the song. Here I’ll include Peter, Paul, and Mary’s version.

Today my problem has to do with teenagers more than war. This is not to say we should ignore the evils of war. It simply says that, of late, I’ve been more concerned with the mistakes made by youngsters who are at the age where they think they know everything, but haven’t a clue.

This past Saturday I had an opportunity to talk with my sixteen-year-old granddaughter. This is what I told her.

When a child is born, the parents, grandparents, other family members, and friends are initially concerned about the health of the child. They count the toes and fingers and are relieved when the doctors and nurses reassure them that the child can see and hear. It is at this time that all concerned are informed of any potential problems – either physical or mental. It is at this time, also, that some parents must steel themselves to the challenges that lie ahead.  Fortunately, most parents are assured that everything will be just fine.

That’s when everyone begins to concentrate on the potential for that child. Many people see their child as a future athlete, musician, writer, doctor, lawyer, scientist, or even a President of the United States! While most parents are careful not to push the child in a particular direction to meet the dreams of the parents, most parents do what they can to see that the child gets a good education and is given the proper support, nurturing, and encouragement.

What parents want most for their child is for that child to grow up and become an independent adult. This can also be said for the parents of the “less than perfect” children – those whose physical or mental handicaps will always hold them back to some extent. But, if the child can get a job and live in a group home and enjoy relative independence, the parents have done their job well and they can take great pride and joy in their offspring.

The next thing that comes into the life of the child – in the ideal setting – is for that child to meet his or her soul mate. They date for a while and come to the conclusion that they want to spend the rest of their life with each other. They get married and, once again, the family and friends share in the joy.

If all goes well, the happy couple is soon blessed with a pregnancy. For all too many parents, that moment never arrives, but, like most of us, they sincerely want a child to call their own, and will go to great lengths to make it happen. Some couples will spend thousands of dollars attempting to get pregnant before joining the long line of parents hoping to adopt.

When the couple finally comes home with a baby, there is even more joy in the family.

At this point I explained to my granddaughter how all that happiness and joy can be shattered by youngsters who have no idea of what it takes to raise a child.

When I was a teenager, girls in our high school classes sometimes went missing. We had nothing to go on but the rumors, which were always the same. The girl got pregnant and was sent to a convent to have the baby. The baby would immediately be put up for adoption. The young mother usually did not return to the same school because of the shame involved. (Notice that there was nothing said about the boy who helped create the problem. In those days, the boy usually didn’t brag about his “accomplishments” in that arena.)

Nowadays it seems that girls intentionally get pregnant and take pride in their accomplishment. The ignorance on the part of these girls absolutely astounds me. They honestly believe they are emotionally and physically prepared to take care of a baby.

I think part of this problem stems from the fact that the “shame” has been removed. Schools now have day-care centers to help teenaged moms stay in school and all their friends get all excited seeing the baby.

The bigger part of the problem, as I see it, is that parents, grandparents, family, and friends, do all they can to help the young mother. That means the young mother does not have to deal with the reality of a baby.

I once had a case worker explain to me that young girls see a baby as someone who will love them unconditionally. Babies are so cute; they smile and do funny things. Going blindly into motherhood, they are shocked when they find a human being that is totally unequipped to love anyone or anything. The infant is helpless. The infant needs fed – when he or she is hungry; he or she needs diapers changed on a regular basis; he or she needs bathed, and changed into clean clothes numerous times a day. And all of this is on demand. A screaming baby needs attention – NOW! Quite often, the baby cries even though the diaper has been changed and he or she has been fed. It may be colic or some other problem, but it is a major problem. A parent can spend hours holding and rocking an infant while the baby continues to scream and cry. That’s about the time young girls wake up to the fact that they want nothing to do with the baby.

The case worker told me this when we were trying to adopt a girl. To be honest, I was shocked when I realized we were not adopting an orphan. In truth, there are very few orphans available for adoption.

Most adoptable children fall into one of two categories. Infants, born to unwed mothers, are the primary source of babies. The waiting list to adopt those children is extremely long and many people wait years for their infant child.

Older children, some with special needs, form the other group of adoptable children. These are the children of young parents who believe they are capable of rearing a child and refuse to consider adoption until the child is older. In many cases, the child has already bounced around several homes and foster families and is distrustful of any adults.

Because we already had three sons, we decided not to wait for an infant. We gladly accepted an older (almost three when we got her) child. Our daughter had been born to a young girl who was convinced she could do a better job of raising her baby than her mother had done with her. After a couple of weeks, she left the baby with a neighbor saying she was going to the store and would be right back. A week later, the neighbor called Family and Children Services and had them pick up the baby. No one knew where the baby’s mother had gone.

For more than two years our daughter’s birth mother refused to give up her parental rights and allow the baby to be adopted. Yet she did nothing to straighten out her own life so the baby could be returned to her. Finally, she signed the papers and released her daughter.

Perhaps that girl’s parents (our daughter’s grandparents) did what I think all parents should do – force the young girl to take care of her own baby. Make the child realize that taking care of a baby is not all fun and games. Make the young mother pay the bills for the baby: diapers, formula, baby food, doctor’s visits, clothing, shoes, and everything else. If the youngster has to drop out of school and get a job, so be it! As one family friend recently stated, “Don’t hand the girl her baby on a silver platter.”

Sad to say, our adopted daughter repeated the actions of her biological mother. Although she did not intentionally get pregnant, as a result of statutory rape a baby came into our lives. We were not ready to become grandparents, and failed to realize we would actually become proxy parents because we tried to make it easy for our daughter.

We wanted her to finish high school, so we did all we could to take the burden of the baby away from her. At one point, my daughter and her son came to live with me (my wife and I were divorced by then). I was unemployed at the time, so I stayed home with the baby and sent my daughter off to school.

The sad reality of that arrangement is I became the momma. When the baby would cry in the middle of the night, nothing my daughter could do would quiet the baby. Only when I held him would he settle down. He saw me as his primary care giver.

When I got a new job and went back to work, I tried to get my daughter to take more responsibility for the baby. She was too young and immature to perform the duties. Eventually she came to realize it was more than she could handle and, when the child was about 17 months old, she did what she should have done in the beginning; she gave him up for adoption. We all agree that, although it took too long to happen, it was beyond a doubt the best action for all concerned.

So, why am I bringing up such a sad story? Because one of my granddaughters (not the one I had the talk with) has proudly announced that, at fifteen, she is pregnant and has no intention of giving the baby up for adoption. She knows she can do a better job than her mother and doesn’t need to listen to any adult who is simply being negative and refusing to see the joy in her announcement.

Please pray for our family and, if you have any advice that might help us get through to the child, I will be more than glad to listen. I am not ready to become a great-grandpa, and I’m sure my daughter and her husband aren’t real thrilled about becoming grandparents.

Also, if you have a teenaged daughter and think this story might keep them from making a similar mistake, feel free to share it.

Preparing for Another of Life’s Milestones

May 14, 2013

In a few months, my bride will retire from her job and I will change my status from “semi-retired” to “fully retired.” In the past I’ve written about “Rites of Passage” and this is one for which we’ve been preparing for many years, but it’s a bit more frightening than all the previous stages of my life.

In the first place, there are the retirement savings accounts. My oldest account was started more than thirty years ago. It saw me though a long period of unemployment when I had to borrow from it to pay my bills. I’ve managed to repay those loans and add to it. But in a few months, I will stop adding to it and, (GASP!) begin withdrawing from it.

At the same time, we will transfer my bride’s 401K to a dividend paying mutual fund and virtually end the growth of that account. Hopefully, the dividends we collect from our retirement accounts will supplement our Social Security payments so we won’t have to move in with our kids… for at least a little while.

Many people who retire, do little more than sit in front of the TV and wait for the final curtain. I doubt if my bride could ever do such a thing, which means she won’t let me do it either. That’s one of the reasons we bought our new toys.

Our new travel trailer.

Our new travel trailer.

Our new tow vehicle

Our new tow vehicle

Some retirees go out and buy a two seater sports car and drive off into the sunset – stopping at fancy hotels along the way. Lu and I prefer to travel more frugally, and also hope to be able to take a few grandkids along with us to some of our as-yet-to-be-planned destinations.

To give those grandkids and their parents something to think about… our potential destinations include Tybee Island, Georgia, various parts of Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Yellowstone National Park, Illinois, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, New Jersey, Texas, and a number of Canadian provinces.

In 1984, I dragged my first wife and our four children on a cross-country camping trip. That was done with a pop-up camping trailer and an 8-passenger van. We saved a lot of money by staying at camp grounds, but strained a lot of relationships by having to deal with a daily allotment of chores, dirt, flat tires, dead batteries, lost pieces of the trailer, and spartan meals. I think I’m the only one who absolutely loved the adventure, but, then again, it was my idea. I had to love it!

That 1984 trip was carefully planned almost down to the number of miles to be driven each day.

Now, we’re looking at a trip that has no definite destination and no detailed advanced planning. However, technology has advanced significantly over the last 29 years. We now have cell phones, GPS navigators, Wi-Fi computers, and 29 years of experience in the art of living. We also have a better financial picture and hope to keep that improved picture by keeping our travel expenses as low as possible.

Some of my readers may take that last statement to mean “We’re coming to visit you and expect you to house and feed us for some period of time.” I promise you that we won’t stay long. So don’t worry.

In 1984, I had to estimate how many bills would be delivered in our absence, and how much we would owe. I paid most of the bills in advance and wound up with credit balances on most of them. Today I can review my bills on line and pay most of them by simply making a few keystrokes on the computer. Hopefully, our bank account will not run out on us.

Needless to say, even with all the advancements in technology, our additional knowledge and wisdom that comes with age, and all the other assets in our possession, our future remains a vast unknown and leaving home is a somewhat scary proposition.

Fortunately, we have family, friends, and neighbors who we can count on to drive by the homestead from time to time to let us know that things are OK, but I’d hate to be in Timbuktu when we learn that a tree has fallen on the house. Perhaps that is why many RVers sell their homes and take to the road on a permanent basis.

Perhaps that will be our next significant rite of passage.

Who You Gonna Call?

December 7, 2012


This is the house in Northfield, New Jersey my grandmother lived in until her death in 1943. As of two days ago, it is still standing and appears to be in good shape. It appears to be unscathed by Hurricane Sandy.


This home was not as lucky. It is no more than twenty miles from my grandmother’s house. That’s the way hurricanes do their thing. Some places appear virtually untouched while others look like a fleet of bombers came through.

The news media had a field day with Hurricane Katrina and the victims in New Orleans. They ignored the victims in southern Mississippi (especially Waveland) where the people took the brunt of Katrina – because people stranded on bridges and stuck in an overly crowded superdome were far more newsworthy. Beside, they could quickly illustrate that FEMA and the President were failing to do their jobs.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the President and FEMA are once again falling short.

We recently took a trailer load of food and other supplies to King of Kings Community Church in Manahawkin, New Jersey. There we learned that a group of Amish men from Lancaster, Pennsylvania were volunteering to travel to New Jersey to help in the rebuilding process. The men wanted to build their own temporary housing to maintain their religious beliefs, but the local government insisted they needed a building permit that would require weeks to go through the bureaucratic process. When the state was asked to intervene to speed up the process, they declined… as did FEMA.

The Red Cross? They had already left the area.

I did not stop at Grandma’s house to inquire about the damages. But I did learn from people living nearby that many homes that look like they made it through the storm without damage had considerable damage caused by the wind and rain.

Many homes had flooded basements. In some cases, the flood waters reached the first floor. The fact that it was salt water added to the problem. While a home may look good from the outside, the wallboard had to be ripped out and replaced. In addition, many homes had to be treated for mold. (Many are still waiting for those steps to be taken.)

Another problem was caused by the sand blowing underneath homes that did not have basements.


A home such as this had the heating ducts and, in some cases, electrical and plumbing lines destroyed. In order to repair the damage, the sand must be removed. This is not an easy task.

Yet, because the home is still in reasonable condition, the owners are moving back in. There are not a lot of shelters and the people feel more comfortable in their own homes. However, without light and heat, they are at risk from the elements as the temperature drops. A propane area heater (and carbon monoxide) can be deadly… more so than freezing temperatures.

Our church out-reach committee sent a number of labor parties to the Gulf states to help in the rebuilding effort following Katrina. We hope to do the same for the victims of Sandy.

The recovery work in New Jersey has already begun.


People are emptying their homes and businesses of the useless furniture and building materials destroyed by the hurricane. That is Step One. The next step is to see what the insurance companies, FEMA, and other groups can provide in the way of money to repair or rebuild the structure.

In the not too distant future, these communities will welcome volunteer laborers to help restore and rebuild what was lost. In the meantime, they need help in the way of food and shelter. Cash donations are more than welcome. When people learn they cannot count on FEMA or the insurance companies to finance their rebuilding efforts, they will desperately need the help of generous fellow Americans. (One would think our government that sends billions of dollars to foreign countries to be used to purchase military weapons could stop those payments long enough to help out American taxpayers in need, but perhaps that is expecting too much.)

I recently heard one person say he was more than willing to help the poor, but the millionaires who own the ocean-front properties should fend for themselves. On the surface, that is a reasonable statement. However, a closer examination should shed new light on that thought.

Let’s assume that the million dollar home on the shore is jointly owned by two or three families who combined their resources to buy it. They share the rent it brings in to supplement their social security payments. They are now looking at a need of thousands of dollars to repair it so it can be rented out again. They may not have that money.

In the meantime, there is that “rich guy” who owns the restaurant a block away from the beach. His business was badly damaged by the storm and he needs thousands of dollars to repair the structure before he can reopen. Of course, when he does reopen, if the million dollar beach houses are not available to rent, he will have very few customers. So, he needs the tourist trade to remain in business.

Finally, we have the working class citizens who live several blocks away from the beach or on the mainland. Without the beach front rental properties and the tourist eateries and gift shops, there is no employment.

In plain words, South Jersey relies heavily on tourists. All areas of the coast must be rebuilt or the entire economy of the state is toast.


I included this picture because it seemed so ironic. Our church annually has an Angel Tree and we encourage our members to buy Christmas gifts for underprivileged children. This year we asked for a number of bicycles. Here are at least three bicycles that will never be ridden by children again.

The two groups we encountered in New Jersey that are making a difference and honestly providing for those who truly need the help are: King of Kings Community church in Manahawkin and the Ocean City, New Jersey C.A.R.E. project.

I encourage you to make a monetary donation to either one of these groups, or send your donation to Christ the King Lutheran Church in Cumming, Georgia and we’ll see that it goes to the people who are in the most need.

Let me warn you that the scam artists are already at work in the area. One family was taken for $2,000.00 by a guy who claimed he could remove the water under their home by setting up two fans to blow the water out. Obviously, he was a blowhard who stole their money!

What Makes Something “Newsworthy”?

November 24, 2012

Our church is trying to collect food and blankets for the people left homeless by Hurricane Sandy. In the past we sent aid to the victims of Katrina (food as well as laborers) and figure the people facing a cold winter needed our help even more.

So, I submitted information to various community newspapers and bulletin boards, but the information was never made available to the people of Forsyth County, GA. Many service and social events are listed, but the publishers haven’t found room to let people know about our efforts.

Perhaps I’m not doing it right. Any thoughts or suggestions?

Another Busy Weekend

September 26, 2012

Looking back, my bride and I first got to know and like each other while camping. We both enjoy spending nights listening to the tree frogs, crickets, and other night creatures.

When we first married, one of our first joint purchases was a pop-up camping trailer. At the time we had a Ford F-150 pickup truck that was more than capable of pulling that trailer anywhere we wanted to go. But then the cost of gasoline began to skyrocket. (Obama said that skyrocketing is necessary!)

We decided to sell the truck and buy a fuel-efficient Toyota Yaris. The car is five years old and we’re still getting around 40 miles to the gallon. However, we had to sell the F-150 to pay for the Yaris. Without the tow vehicle, it soon became necessary to sell the pop-up. We did.

A couple of years ago we replaced a Mitsubishi Diamante with a Ford Ranger. That little baby truck is a 1997 model and had around 77,000 miles on it. We now have it up to over 90,000 and were concerned about its towing capacity.

But, we bought the 4,200 pound travel trailer anyway.

Our new travel trailer.

Since we had nothing better to do, we took four grandchildren along for the ride when we went to the dealer, Peco Campers, to pick it up.

Some of our future camping buddies.

Thanks to good friends, Ed and Carol Terry, we learned of a camping resort, Unicoi Springs Camping resort and are now proud members of the place.

Yesterday we hauled our new baby up to Cleveland, Georgia and left it at a storage place that is much closer to the resort. Eventually, we’ll be able to leave the trailer at Unicoi Springs and won’s have to haul it anywhere until Lu is fully retired and we hit the road to look for America!

In the meantime, while all of this was going on, I published the first two chapters of my family history book “Quakers, Politicians, and a Pirate (or two)” as an e-book.

It is available at Amazon.com for Kindles or Barnes & Noble for Nooks.


The Supremes

June 28, 2012

Interesting that President Obama looks down on those justices when they rule against him. Today, he lauds them as the HIGHEST COURT OF THE LAND.

In truth, my hat is off to them, although I totally dislike their ruling. I can’t say I disagree because they based their ruling on the laws of the land – not their personal opinions. That’s what the Supreme Court Justices are supposed to do.

There are any number of points we can argue – regardless of our side of the political spectrum. BUT, they ruled based on the Constitution and precedent. That’s what they are supposed to do. Therefore, I applaud their decision.

Our president will speak highly of them until they do something he disagrees with. Then he will speak with disdain as he has done in the past.

There are many points with which I disagree with this President, and the way they passed the Healthcare bill is the biggest. However, the point they made that I will never forget is that none of our representatives bother to read bills prior to voting on them.

It makes me wonder why we are paying our representative and senators?

Take the Time

June 17, 2012

Sixteen family members vacationing in Hilton Head, South Carolina

My bride and I have been to many places over the last decade, but our most enjoyable vacations have been the ones we’ve shared with family and friends. Unfortunately, I had come to take those “shared times” for granted. Then, a woman I worked with at IBM sent me the following:

A young man learns what’s most important in life from the guy next door. 

Over the phone, his mother told him, “Mr. Belser died last night. The funeral is Wednesday.” Memories flashed through his mind like an old newsreel as he sat quietly remembering his childhood days. 

“Jack, did you hear me?” 

“Oh, sorry, Mom. Yes, I heard you. It’s been so long since I thought of him. I’m sorry, but I honestly thought he died years ago,” Jack said… 

“Well, he didn’t forget you. Every time I saw him he’d ask how you were doing. He’d reminisce about the many days you spent over ‘his side of the fence’ as he put it,” Mom told him. 

“I loved that old house he lived in,” Jack said. 

“You know, Jack, after your father died, Mr. Belser stepped in to make sure you had a man’s influence in your life,” she said. 

“He’s the one who taught me carpentry,” he said. “I wouldn’t be in this business if it weren’t for him. He spent a lot of time teaching me things he thought were important. Mom, I’ll be there for the funeral,” Jack said. 

As busy as he was, he kept his word. Jack caught the next flight to his hometown. Mr. Belser’s funeral was small and uneventful. He had no children of his own, and most of his relatives had passed away. 

The night before he had to return home, Jack and his Mom stopped by to see the old house next door one more time. 

Standing in the doorway, Jack paused for a moment. It was like crossing over into another dimension, a leap through space and time The house was exactly as he remembered. Every step held memories. Every picture, every piece of furniture. Jack stopped suddenly… 

“What’s wrong, Jack?” his Mom asked. 

“The box is gone,” he said 

“What box?” Mom asked. 

“There was a small gold box that he kept locked on top of his desk. I must have asked him a thousand times what was inside. All he’d ever tell me was ‘the thing I value most,'” Jack said. 

It was gone. Everything about the house was exactly how Jack remembered it, except for the box. He figured someone from the Belser family had taken it. 

“Now I’ll never know what was so valuable to him,” Jack said. “I better get some sleep. I have an early flight home, Mom.” 

It had been about two weeks since Mr. Belser died. Returning home from work one day Jack discovered a note in his mailbox. “Signature required on a package. No one at home. Please stop by the main post office within the next three days,” the note read. Early the next day Jack retrieved the package. The small box was old and looked like it had been mailed a hundred years ago. The handwriting was difficult to read, but the return address caught his attention. “Mr. Harold Belser” it read. Jack took the box out to his car and ripped open the package. There inside was the gold box and an envelope. Jack’s hands shook as he read the note inside. 

“Upon my death, please forward this box and its contents to Jack Bennett. It’s the thing I valued most in my life.” A small key was taped to the letter. His heart racing, as tears filling his eyes, Jack carefully unlocked the box. There inside he found a beautiful gold pocket watch. 

Running his fingers slowly over the finely etched casing, he unlatched the cover. Inside he found these words engraved: 

“Jack, Thanks for your time! -Harold Belser.” 

“The thing he valued most was… my time” 

Jack held the watch for a few minutes, then called his office and cleared his appointments for the next two days. “Why?” Janet, his assistant asked. 

“I need some time to spend with my son,” he said. 

“Oh, by the way, Janet, thanks for your time!” 


Sadly, I have no idea who wrote those words. Likewise I have no idea if it’s a true story or not. What I do know is that they are words of wisdom. We all need to devote more time to those we love, and to recognize and appreciate the time they spend with us.

A smaller, but just as important, group at Edisto Beach.

The other day I had lunch with a man who is planning his fiftieth wedding anniversary. He has already told his children that he and his wife do not want a big fancy dinner or any other “surprise” party their children might think of planning. What he and his bride want is to repeat a vacation they took several years ago. Their entire family rented a large house near the beach and spent a week together. They took turns preparing meals and cleaning up and thoroughly enjoyed their time together.

I think he and his wife have already recognized and appreciate the value of time spent with loved ones.

New Jersey 2006. A great time with great nieces and nephews!

Whoever came up with the “quality time” phrase needs to spend “quantity” time with loved ones. They are much more important than the job or anything else.

So, get started in planning that big family vacation. You’ll be glad you did!