Fund Raising Efforts

October 10, 2015
The shopping area near my childhood home.

The shopping area near my childhood home.

Over the years… starting as a young child selling hand made pot holders door-to-door so I’d have money to buy Christmas presents for my family, I’ve been involved in many fund raising activities.

In high school, I was a member of the Key Club (a junior Kiwanis club) and distributed local phone directories in exchange for donations. I also helped sell Christmas trees to raise money for our charitable pursuits.

During my college years, I volunteered as a tutor at the local high school, but my fund raising activities were focused on paying my tuition, room and board, and occasional glass of beer.

After college, I got involved with the LIONS club and sold brooms, light bulbs, fruitcakes, pancake breakfast tickets, and raffle tickets among other items.

At church, I’ve been involved with yard sales, Irish dinners, auctions, and numerous other fund raising efforts.

Is it any wonder that somehow I got snookered into being the Fund Raising chair of our local Family Promise affiliate? Family Promise is an organization whose mission it is to help homeless children and their parents get back into a home of their own. For more information on Family Promise, I invite you to visit the Family Promise web site.

My past endeavors were small potatoes compared with my current challenges. In the past, the most money raised by any of the things I worked with was a few thousand dollars. Now I’m faced with raising at least $50,000 to get the program started and then meeting an annual budget of over $125,000.

Our fund raising committee has started a number of things to get that money flowing. We have Club 180 which encourages donors to help turn a life around (180 degrees) by pledging and donating $180 per year. We’ve also placed donation canisters in many local businesses. (One of those canisters was stolen. It probably contained less than $20 at the time. It’s sad that people would steal from charities, but maybe they needed the money more than our homeless children. Another story for another time!)

In less than a month we will hold our first major fund raising event. It will be Bed Race & Festival. On November 7th, we’ll welcome local citizens at 9:00 AM at Forsyth Central High School where they can visit at least 14 booths selling various items, have their child’s face painted, or let their child create a work of art that will be donated to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta for another fund raising event.

The bed races will begin around 10:00 AM. Each team will compete in two heats and their time will be recorded. The two teams with the fastest combined times will then compete in the finals at noon.

While there will be a trophy for the team with the fastest bed, the big prize – the coveted Brass Bed award – will go to the team that raises the most money for Family Promise.

In case you’re wondering why I bring this up…

My entry in the Bed Race

My entry in the Bed Race

As of last night, my friends and family have donated almost $900 to Family Promise in support of my bed entry. I’ve given my bed the title of “First Day of Retirement” and it will be pushed by a group of retired senior citizens. Our goal is to prove that old age and treachery can defeat youth and enthusiasm any day of the year. If you like that thought (regardless of your age) I’d appreciate your demonstration of support… in terms of dollars donated to Family Promise.

You can make a donation to my bed or any of my competitors by going to our local local Family Promise Bed Race page.

Obviously I feel very strongly about Family Promise. Forsyth County, Georgia is one of the wealthiest areas in the country and yet, as of this past Thursday (October 8th) there were three hundred forty-three children considered homeless since the beginning of the current school year. A child is considered homeless if he or she is living with friends or relatives, living in an extended stay motel, living in a tent or camping trailer, or living in the family car.

You can also help the cause by buying any of my e-books that are available for your Kindle or Nook. I’ve stated that I will donate half of my royalties to Family Promise. If need be, I’ll give it all to Family Promise.

Pure and simple, I cannot do this alone. I need all my friends, family, readers, casual acquaintances, and everyone else to chip in. We have almost 200,000 people living in Forsyth County. If I could find a way to obtain at least $1.00 from each of them, we’d have the money problem solved. Sadly, I have yet to figure out how to do that. So, I’m reaching out to everyone I can think of.

I already received backing from a friend in London, England. Let’s see if we can get donations from other parts of the world!

Please spread the word! Thank you kindly.

Transportation Honor System

January 18, 2011

As I begin to write today’s entry, my mind has gone back twenty-five or thirty years. I’m trying to remember how the public transit system in Vienna worked during my first visit.

I recall buying my ticket in a vending machine. Then I walked down steps to the train platform. There were no turnstiles, just steps. I boarded the train and, several stops later, I got off. I walked up the steps to the street and continued on my way.

Thus, the “Honor System” has been in use for many years in Vienna.

This same system was in use in Munich, and is probably available in many transportation systems throughout Europe.

As I continue to search my memories, I’m pretty sure it was true in Paris. We bought passes that were good for a specified period of time. When riding a bus, we simply showed the passes to the driver. When riding the Metro, we simply got on and off without much ado.

Paris Metro

In London – the foreign  city where I’ve spent the most time – my mind is foggy. For one thing, during my ten-week stay, most of my traveling was on shank’s mare.  When we did ride the public transit, it was for a specific purpose with a specific destination.

The London Tube - Mind the Gap!

On further reflection, on one of our trips to London we did buy a multiple-day pass. So, they must also have the honor system.

One-way and round-trip tickets could be purchased in every one of the cities I’ve named. But the real bargains were with the multiple day passes.

In Munich, we purchased the City Tour Card. It was good for three days travel for up to five people. It also provided discounts at many of the tourist attractions. The cost was forty-eight Euros.

Munich S-Bahn station

On the surface, that sounds expensive. That’s approximately $65. However, to put it in perspective, it cost eight Euros to get from the airport to the main train station in Munich. So, for my bride and I, that would have been thirty-two Euros for the round trip. Then, every time we rode public transit within Munich, it would have cost each of us another two and a half Euros.

We knew in advance that we would be taking one round trip on a tram. That would have been ten Euros added to the thirty-two to get back and forth from the airport. Figuring we would take additional rides just to get a “lay of the land”, the forty-eight Euros was a bargain. It would’ve been an even bigger bargain had our friends been able to join us.

By the way, those people in Atlanta who think the MARTA fare is too high should be happy; $3.50 per ride is almost double what they are currently paying.

If it wasn’t for tax dollar subsidies, MARTA would be out of business unless they raised their fares dramatically. I have no idea if the Munich and Vienna transit systems would operate in the red without tax payers’ support. I do, however, believe that they save a lot of money using the honor system.

For one thing, they have no turnstiles to install and maintain. Next, they don’t have to fuss with tokens. And the operators of the various means of transportation don’t have to deal with selling or collecting tickets.

Tickets are purchased from vending machines or small shops close to the stations. In Munich, we used a vending machine at the airport. In Vienna, we bought our tickets in a small tobacco shop.

Perhaps one of the biggest advantages is also their biggest selling point. Getting on and off a bus, tram, or train is much faster when no one is trying to pay. With no turnstiles, it is much faster to pass through a transit station.

All of these advantages encourage people to use public transit. That’s something MARTA definitely needs to do.

I have ridden MARTA from North Springs to the airport during the morning rush hour and have had no problem finding a seat. By the time the train is nearing downtown Atlanta, there may be a few people standing, but very few. People don’t ride the trains; they’d rather sit in traffic.

That brings another thought to mind. I don’t recall seeing a single parking lot in downtown Munich… nor in downtown Vienna. The only parking was on the street, and most of those spaces were taken.

In Atlanta, there are too many reasonably priced parking lots. If the City Council really wants to make MARTA a success, they need to place heavy taxes on those parking lots and discourage people from driving into downtown.

Combine that move with installing the honor system, and they can expand MARTA and quit using tax dollars to keep it afloat.

By the way, there is one major factor that helps insure the honor system works.

Security personnel spend their days getting on and off transit vehicles. Their sole purpose in life is to ensure that all riders have valid tickets. Being caught on a tram, bus, or train in Munich without the proper ticket results in a forty Euro (about $55.00) fine.

In all four of the cities I’ve mentioned, their mass transit systems are far superior to most I’ve seen in the states. The only one that comes close is New York City. It’s been a few years since I’ve been to the Big Apple, but as I recall, the cleanliness of their trains left quite a bit to be desired.

So, in summary, I think that, next to the real German and Austrian food, the most important European item that we should import is the honor system for our public transportation.

I invite your thoughts.

Wonderful Winter Vacation (Day 6)

January 4, 2011

Looking across the Danube from Passau.

In many ways, Passau reminded me of the city of my birth – Pittsburgh. The hills above the Danube are very similar to Mt. Washington and the hill upon which sits the West End Overlook. (I’m sure that hill has a name, but I have no clue as to what it might be. Perhaps someone who still lives near Elliot and the West End will know and tell me.)

Map of Passau.

Another thing that reminded me of Pittsburgh was the fact that people refer to Passau as the City of Three Rivers. Of course, they are more literal about their count. The Danube, the Inn, and the Ilz do, in fact, add up to three. Had the people who named things in the New World not decided to name the Ohio River and decide it was formed by the other two rivers, then Pittsburgh would be the Two Rivers City. (Minor silly details!)

In any case, it was December 21st and we had been docked for some time. We ate our breakfast and prepared for another day of slogging through the slush and snow to tour yet another German city.

A building near the river being renovated.

Similar to the other cities we’d visited, buildings were no taller than the church steeples. However, unlike the other cities, it appeared that the sidewalks were much clearer. Of course, the people of Passau had an extra day to shovel the mess away.

Church towers dominated the skylines.

It was a cold foggy morning as we began our tour, but we would see the sun before the day was over. The main attraction in Passau was the St. Stephen’s Cathedral and I believe that is the only tourist attraction about which our guide had any in-depth knowledge. Once again, we had a gentleman who was not from the city he was describing and he seemed intent on getting us to the Cathedral and be done with us so he could run down to the river bank and hook up with another group. Many people felt compelled to tip these guides regardless of the quality of service rendered.

Note on the map that there were docking slots for up to fourteen river cruise ships. There were three or four ships docked when we went ashore and there may have been others arriving throughout the day. Our guide may have recognized that the tips accounted for more than his salary.

In any case, we were hurried past numerous other groups that were intently listening to their guides. I couldn’t help but wonder what we were missing.

Within a short time, we had trudged to the top of the hill and were passing through their Christmas Market.

This Christmas Market had not yet opened for business.

As we passed though the booths, we saw many vendors unloading their vehicles and preparing for another day of making money off the tourists.

One of the twin towers of St. Stephen's.

Once again we saw a church undergoing renovation. (Note the scaffolding to the left in the picture.) The inside of this church was probably the most interesting, but not quite the most beautiful.

Another beautiful European Cathedral.

The ceiling in this church was more beautiful than most. And I found all the intricate art work on the columns of the churches to be absolutely incredible. But there was something very special about this church.

A gilded pulpit.

Not all the pulpits in the churches we visited were gilded, but they were all very ornate.

A modern adornment.

This church had a wonderful, modern, pipe organ. The grating in the center of this ceiling panel was an outlet for some of the pipes. True “surround” sound! But this still isn’t what made this church special.

The Altar is what is so special.

It was difficult to get a good photo of the altar, but it has an extremely interesting history. The altar was installed in the early 1950’s and was considered too controversial. Many members of the church wanted it removed. Then the Bishop of the region came to see it and gave it his blessing. That satisfied those who didn’t like it.

And why didn’t they like this beautiful work of art? Because it illustrates torture and acts of violence being committed in front of clergy and civic leaders who watch… and do nothing to stop it. It represented Hitler’s Germany and was designed to send a clear message – Don’t ever let it happen again!

Fifty or sixty years later it is still a message that we all need to be attuned to.

I believe these are grave markers.

If our guide explained the plaques on the walls outside of the church, I missed it. I know that many churches in England regularly buried their dead in the floor of the church (inside!). I don’t know if this wall commemorated folks buried in the church, in the wall, or in the church yard, but there sure were a lot of them.

And why wasn’t I paying attention to our guide? I was too busy looking at the wall on the other side of the church yard.

Anything to keep the building standing.

I’ve seen this in many buildings in Europe. When a two hundred or so year-old structure shows signs of weakness, it is not unusual to run a strong cable along side a weight bearing beam and fasten it on the outside of the building using a steel rod. Had I walked around to the other side of this building, I would’ve found a similar photo op.

These are the sort of things that most tour guides ignore and don’t bother explaining. Often times, if you ask a guide, he or she will not have an answer. Growing up with such things, we tend not to notice. I was fortunate in finding a guide (some time ago) who knew.

Another question I have yet to have answered: Why are so many roads in perfectly flat cities, full of curves? My best guess is that those roads were once the outskirts of the city and curved around walls used to defend the city. But that is only a guess.

One of the sites our guide ignored.

After our tour of the city(?), we were once again on our own. We walked back the way we had come and tried to determine what other guides were pointing out as our group hurried by.

The above photo was St. Paul’s church. I’m assuming it was also a Catholic Church, but the interior – while not as large and impressive as St. Stephen’s – was even more beautiful.

All the woodwork seemed to be made of ebony.

There were numerous side altars, which led me to believe it had multiple priests at one time. The pulpit was also made of the same beautiful dark wood.

The pulpit and some side altars.

Our only mistake at this point was to leave through a door different from the one through which we entered. Somehow we got completely turned around. That led to a very long walk back to our ship for lunch. But that was OK. We needed to burn off some calories if we ever hoped to come home without gaining any weight.

We would’ve never seen this had we not been lost.

When we left St. Paul’s we wandered around until we came to the river. Unfortunately – change that to “fortunately” we were looking at the Inn River, rather than the Danube. Once we realized our mistake, we started walking toward the point where the rivers met.

We walked along narrow passages between buildings.

A church with a covered escalator?

A defensive tower from medieval times?

Anyone for Tandoori food?

A fortress on the hill overlooking the Danube.

We would’ve never noticed this fortress from where our ship was docked. No one bothered to point this out to us, but according to Wikipedia, Veste Oberhaus is a fortress that was founded in 1219 and, for most of its time, served as the stronghold of the Bishop of Passau, Germany.

Once again we saw the power and wealth of the church.

I believe this was the old town hall.

We finally made it back to our ship and enjoyed yet another wonderful lunch. Soon we were back ashore and taking our own walking tour. We were careful not to get lost this time. We didn’t want to miss dinner.

A wonderful produce market.

An old narrow street and markets in Passau.

The umbrellas would indicate it was raining, but I don’t recall that it was. Many folks used the umbrellas in the snow as well as the rain.

Passau’s Polar Express.

The entire trip was based on Christmas Markets, but the sign on the train tells it like it is. In countries where German is the predominant language, the markets are referred to as Christkindlmarkts. For that matter, Santa Claus brings gifts on December 6th (not sure of the significance of that date) and the Christkind (Christ child) brings the gifts on December 24th. December 25th is nothing more than a day to recover from Christmas.

Entering the “other” Passau.

This is the part of Passau that reminded me of modern day London and an article I wrote several years ago. I called it – this is really original of me – “A Tale of Two Cities”. At the time I was working in the West End of London and had spent countless hours wandering the narrow streets and allies and visiting places like The Old Curiosity Shop. I then had reason to tour the “other” London that was filled with skyscrapers and all the trappings of modern commerce. At that point, I felt as though I had left Charles Dickens’ town and entered Manhattan.

Here in Passau, I had the same impression. I was leaving the narrow streets and small shops of a medieval village and entering a large bustling modern city.

They even had a fancy McDonald’s.

The area where the “natives” shopped.

A little bit of everything.

We didn’t walk beyond this point, but it was fairly obvious that there was much more of Passau that would be considered a modern city.

We returned to the small village and tried to get the modern taste out of our mouths. We soon found the perfect place for quiet reflection.

The Marianische Votivkirche.

This was a small church dedicated to the Virgin Mary – think in terms of a votive candle.

Beauty in simplicity.

Very peaceful and serene.

We left the serenity when we were accosted by a woman who might have been trying to get us to join her church, or may have been simply begging. In either case, we left.

We were immediately faced with another paradox of juxtaposition. Outside this ancient church was a modern convenience…

A graffiti covered cigarette machine.

I gave up smoking in 1998. The price – 5 Euros ($6.75) per pack – shocked me, but made the credit card reader much simpler to understand.

I took this picture of window cleaning tools while Lu bought a beautiful German scarf.

When we returned to the ship, Lu took a closer look at her treasure. She then asked me what “PRC” meant. Her triumph was dampened by the People’s Republic of China.

Later we spoke to a couple who had bought a half-dozen lovely Christmas tree ornaments. They were only going to buy a few, but were concerned about getting them back to the states unbroken. That’s when they decided to buy the larger quantity – along with the box that would help keep them from breaking. After returning to the ship, they saw the “Made in China” on the bottom of the box.

Let’s face it, China manufactures most of the world’s goods.

Back on the ship, we realized that the top deck had finally been cleared of snow and was now open for us to go up and see what there was to see.

Shuffleboard Anyone?


Miniature Golf?

Or just set a spell and watch the world go by.

It was then I noticed a passing cargo vessel and got a better picture of the ever present auto on deck.

Auto on board!

And that ended our picture taking in Passau. It also ended the Germany part of the trip. Passau is on the border of Austria. We would soon be sailing for Vienna. Of course, that would only happen after we had our late afternoon snack, the cocktail hour, and dinner.

It was tough keeping up with all of that food and drink, but somebody had to do it.

Universal Health Care

July 22, 2009

I’ve barely scratched the surface in my attempt to get to the truth of this matter and I’ve learned that politicians cannot be trusted. But I already knew that.

I’ve also learned that journalist and talk show hosts cannot be trusted, but I already knew that as well.

I continue to be amazed at how solid arguments can be put together on both sides of an issue. Those ‘solid’ cases are usually built on half-truths and distorted facts. In many cases, the same statistics are used by both sides.

So, who do we believe?

I was once told not to believe anything I heard and only half of what I see.

The two videos below are prime examples of extreme sides of an argument. The first was produced by a union.

The video certainly painted Tommy Douglas as a superhero and Richard Nixon as a lowly dog. It seems that most liberals enjoy kicking Nixon. However, it seems to me that placing the blame on one man is not justifiable. There have been numerous leaders since then who did nothing to further the cause of Nationalized health care. A number of them were Democrats. Let’s be fair!

Speaking of Democrats, Al Gore wrote a book on the environment prior to being elected as Vice-President. For eight years he said nothing about global warming. Was he muzzled by his boss? Did Bill Clinton disagree with Al’s thinking?

Back to the subject at hand. Here is a humorous look at the other side of the argument.

Is this the reality that the union video ignored? I’ve heard of many Canadians coming to the U.S. to get treatment. I’ve read that Canadians have a sixteen percent higher death rate from cancer because it takes so long to get treated.

The union video states that Canadians live longer than citizens of the U.S. But I’ve seen studies showing that people in the northern United States live longer than their counterparts in the South. The extreme weather changes are credited with the longer life spans. Thus, a national health system probably has nothing to do with it. Living closer to the North Pole is most likely the cause.

So who are we to believe?

I’ve a good friend in London. He cannot speak for the Canadian system, but he lives with the English system, which is similar to the Canadian. Therefore I asked his opinion. Here are his thoughts:

The NHS isn’t bad at all. It suffers like all healthcare programmes by consuming too much money – but it’s generally recognised to do a reasonable job.

The current Labour government spent a shedload of money on the NHS a couple of years ago and brought down waiting times for all manner of operations. It also (by mistake) paid the doctors a huge raise, with no commitment in return. So the doctors were happy.

Here are some points:
1    Everyone is entitled to see a doctor and have hospital care, free of charge. A levy called National Insurance paid by employees and employers is supposed to pay for this (and more) but it’s not enough (check this).
2    For accidents and emergencies the NHS is superb. No private hospital can match it.
3    There are lots of private hospitals and health schemes. They’re of variable quality. Basically you pay for nicer surroundings and easier access to specialists.
3    You pay for your prescriptions, but this is a fixed fee (about £5.70 I think). Private patients pay more. Over 60 and children pay nothing (yippee!)
4    Old people are going to cost the NHS dear.
5    Some stuff is controversial – fertility treatment for example, and life-prolonging drugs which are hideously expensive and only work for a year. A committee called NICE arbitrates the subsidy of expensive medicines. It generally gets the balance right.
6    The Labour government made a huge mistake 10 years ago by bringing in a pile of ‘professional’ managers to run the NHS (previously it was doctors and nurses). This put the costs up massively but arguably without making doctors, hospitals and nurses any more available. The Labour government couldn’t manage its way out of a paper bag.
7    The biggest government IT project in the world is the NHS ITification. The aim is to put all doctors, pharmacies and hospitals online ia a private broadband network (called the NHS Spine) making patient records, etc available to everyone. Imagine the security issues. Predictably, it has cost billions (of pounds), made loads of IT consultants rich, and achieved close
to bugger all.

There’s lots more!

It should be noted that the taxes in England are much higher than they are here. And, according to Point 1, it’s still not enough to cover the cost of the program.

My friend is the picture of health and has little need of the system. He also leans to the left. I took that in account while reading the points he didn’t seem to be concerned with.

I think he is absolutely correct with Point 4 – old people will cost the system dearly. They’re (or should I say we’re) already putting a massive strain on Medicare – which is costing about ten times what our politicians predicted when they put it in place.

Point 5 concerns me. A committee (NICE) makes the decisions concerning life-prolonging drugs. What constitutes a life prolonging drug? Insulin?

This combined with Point 6 – government management sucks – are my biggest concern with any nationalized plan.

So, my jury is still out. I’m not convinced that Nationalized health care is good and I’m not convinced it is evil.

What I am convinced about is President Obama and his congress are trying to shove something down our throats and they don’t even know exactly what it is. I’m amazed at how many Americans seem to be unconcerned.

I’m also wondering what the reaction would have been if George W. Bush and his congress had tried similar ram-rod tactics. Were the Bush haters so glad to replace him that they’re willing to let Obama become the next Hitler?

Thank God for the Fleas

April 9, 2009

With the economy struggling and a newly elected President using his majority in the House and Senate to do things I question, I keep reminding myself to give it time. Just because Obama is doing things differently doesn’t mean he’s wrong. For the sake of us all, I pray that he’s right!

In trying to decide what to post today, I ran across an article I wrote in 1997. I’ll update it a bit, but leave the basic message as it is. The message? Thank God for the fleas.


This Thanksgiving, I’ll be in London, England. I’ll be away from my loved ones and I doubt very much I’ll be able to find a turkey dinner with all the trimmings. I won’t be able to watch the traditional football games. I won’t even be able to get the day off from work. Yet, when I finally sit down for dinner, even if it’s nothing more than fish and chips, I’ll bow my head and say “Thank you, God, for the fleas.”

I’ll be stealing that prayer from a woman named Corrie Tin Boom who wrote a book entitled “The Hiding Place.” Corrie and her sister, Dutch Jews, survived a Nazi concentration camp. Her book tells of their experiences during World War II.

The sisters, like many Jews, were hidden by friends in a secret room. Eventually, the Nazis found them and sent them to a camp. The barracks in which they lived for the remainder of the war was infested with fleas. Every evening, during their prayers (which were against the Nazi rules and punishable by death), they would thank God for the fleas. Their thinking was that God had a reason for all things; whether or not they understood the purpose of the flea bites, there must have been a reason. Therefore, they thanked God.

Years later, the sisters met one of their former guards. In their conversation with him, he unwittingly disclosed how God had protected them from being discovered during their prayers. “None of the guards wanted to go near that building.” The former Nazi confided. “Those fleas were terrible!”

Thank God for the fleas.

Over the years, I’ve come to see many things as “fleas.” Fleas are the bad things that come with the good. We seldom understand the value of the bad things until years later. Some things we may never understand.

Last year at this time, I was between positions. That’s the fancy way of saying “out of work” or “unemployed.” For most of 1996, I was between positions. This year started off the same way. My friends, family, and I prayed constantly that I would find something. I had exhausted my savings, had borrowed heavily from friends and relatives, and was on the verge of losing everything. Then I got the phone call.

Since May, I’ve been working in Connecticut. I left for London in the beginning of October. I’ll be in London until the beginning of December. Then, it’ll be back to Connecticut. In seven months, I’ve been home less then four weeks.

I’m tired of living in hotels and eating at restaurants. I miss being able to sit down and relax in my own easy chair. I hate having to dial 30 or 40 numbers to talk to friends and family back home. Being on the road constantly is a royal pain in the butt. BUT, I thank God for the fleas.

I get paid by the hour (in September, I put in over 200 hours) and all my travel expenses are reimbursed. I’ve been able to repay most of my debts and, if the project continues, I’ll be able to put a good bit away for the next time I find myself “between positions.”

Last Christmas was painful for me. I have four children and two daughters-in-law. I like to make their Christmas merry by giving them things they really need or want. Last year, I couldn’t afford to give them much of anything. This year, thanks to the fleas, I’ll be able to give them much more.

The “fleas” of being away from home have shown me other things for which I’m very thankful. My best friend, Lu, has demonstrated just how wonderful and important she is to me. She has faithfully taken care of my dogs and our garden, and she has driven hundreds of miles to take me to, and pick me up at, the airport. She has kept my home looking better than it ever does when I’m around for any length of time. She even does the dusting!

I’m also thankful to my two oldest sons and their wives. They keep track of my schedule so we can get together during my infrequent visits home. Kenn uses e-mail to keep me up-to-date on my granddaughter, Rachel, and tells me he has a video of her that I’ll be able to see… eventually. Hopefully, I’ll be able to witness her first steps and her first words even if I’m out of town at the time of the momentous occasions. Thank God for modern technology!

We all go through trying times. Those difficulties are much easier to cope with if we can look beyond and try to find the blessings. If I find myself having a Thanksgiving meal of “bangers and mash” (a British meal of hot dogs and mashed potatoes) I’ll remind myself that I could be in Atlanta having a turkey dinner… compliments of Hosea Williams. Or I could be spending the night at one of the homeless shelters. Those thoughts will make it much easier for me to see the blessing of being able to pay for my own meal – regardless of what it is – and paying for my own lodging.

Those thoughts also put things in a much better perspective. Things could be far worse. My fleas are nothing compared to the problems faced by so many other people. Although some folks might find it more difficult to say, “Thanks for the fleas,” I think we can all benefit by looking for the hidden blessings in life. We have to take the good with the bad. When we can see the goodness in the bad, life is even better.

I’ll close this article by taking my prayer a step farther. Not only do I thank God for the fleas, I also thank God that I’ve been able to see the blessings brought by the fleas.

Spring is Late

February 6, 2009
I love snow

I love snow

This photo was sent to me by my good friend, Mike Newman, who lives in a suburb of London. I believe this town, Alwalton, is about fifty miles north of London. It’s near Peterborouogh where Mike works.

That picture – combined with the sub-freezing temperatures we’ve had the last few nights – makes me wonder what has happened to Spring in Georgia. Since I became a damned Yankee (a Northerner who came to visit… and failed to go home) in 1977, the end of January has basically signaled the end of Winter.

We even had a few light snow flurries of our own the other night. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough to give us a snowy landscape like the one in the picture.

The last decent snowfall we’ve had in this part of Georgia came in 1993. I believe it came around the beginning of March. That was a total surprise and really killed my theory that the end of January is the end of Winter.

I would imagine Edinboro, Pennsylvania is still blanketed by the white stuff and will see a few more snow storms before the end of April.

I can remember playing softball in Edinboro. I was in the outfield and the snow was falling so hard that I could not see the infield. I listened for the bat to strike the ball; then I ducked and listened for the ball to hit the ground. We finally gave up and called the game off. That was a rare day in May.

So, as long as Winter insists on sticking around for a while, maybe some of those Yankees who still live in the North would be kind enough to set up some fans and blow some of that snow our way. I don’t mind the cold when I can get the snow that goes with it.

A History Lesson

November 5, 2008

On November 5, 1997, I was working in London, England. Ed Sheredy and I were training IBM employees from England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales to use a new software program that monitored customer contracts.

We were staying at the Strand Palace near the Waterloo Bridge. Each morning we’d walk across that bridge on our way to the IBM building on the South Bank of the River Thames. At the end of our workday, we’d reverse our travel, stop in the hotel long enough to drop off our briefcases, and then head back out into the London night to find something to eat.

After returning to the hotel, I’d write a letter to my intended bride, watch a bit of telly, and then turn in for the night.

My room was very reminiscent of a monk’s cell at a monastery. My bed was about the size of a standard door, which meant I had to take care while turning over to avoid finding myself on the floor.

On this particular night, I was barely asleep when the explosions started. I could see flashes of light and hear loud booms. I quickly got out of bed to look out my window.

My view represented both good and bad news. The bad news lied in the fact that my room was on the inside of the building and faced a courtyard… making it impossible for me to see what was happening on the streets below. The good news lied in that same fact – if someone was firing missiles at the hotel, I was relatively safe.

The bombardment continued for about thirty minutes… and then all was quiet. I considered getting dressed and going down to the lobby to investigate. I decided that if the hotel had been hit, some sort of alarm would’ve sounded and we would have been ordered to vacate. I decided to await orders. I soon fell asleep.

When I went down for breakfast in the morning, I was pleased to see that our hotel had no damage whatsoever. Surprisingly, no one was discussing the matter. One would think a terrorist attack would be the only topic of conversation. Ed entered the lobby as perplexed as I was. We went into the restaurant for breakfast and asked our waiter about the late night explosions.

Believe it not, it was simply folks celebrating Guy Fawkes’ Day. To learn more about Guy Fawkes, Click here to view a video about the foiled plot of 1605.

At first I failed to understand. I thought it was a spoof of Guy Fawkes and his group of dissident Catholics in their futile attempt to kill the king and the nobles who comprised the Parliament of the time. I later came to realize that the celebration was based on the fact that the plot was discovered and stopped before any damage could be done.

In any case, you are now officially warned. If you find yourself in London on the evening of November 5th, be prepared for the fireworks!