Monthly Archives: May 2014

Top ten list of the best things I’ve ever done

Greetings, readers. Here is a top ten list of highlights from my life, plus one honorable mention. They are eleven things or events which I’ve done, that every time I look back on them they bring a smile to my face. Only #1 and #2 are in definitive order. So I hope you enjoy.

#10. Taking a cross-country trip from Pennsylvania to California with my Aunt Marilyn. [Circa the late 70s or early 80s.]

#9. My transatlantic crossing on the Queen Elizabeth 2. [1973. Mom, Dad, Grandma, and I sat at the captain’s table. I have a photo of Dad and me in white hats, on board the ship, most likely on the way to dinner.]

#8. While married to Georgia Barnhart, we took a cross-country trip, via the southern states, to visit my mother-in-law in California, and the subsequent trip to Disneyland.

#7. As a child, learning to play Christmas Carols on my organ. [Ordinarily I’m not good with instruments, but the chords were one finger touch for my weak left hand, so I was able to learn some songs to play for my parents.]

#6. Becoming the Godfather to David and Geri’s older daughter Ashley. I also treasure becoming part of my best friend’s wife’s family as their uncle figure. [Extremely rewarding.]

#5. Meeting and remaining good friends over many years with David Trost, Rebecca Taylor, Georgia Barnhart & Jim Sneeringer.

#4. Wrote my three books and had them published through [I am also proud of my play which got a staged reading at a nearby playhouse, and is currently being turned into a novel by Darren. I also wrote a screenplay for a Charlie’s Angels TV movie back in the day.]

#3. Started my blog in December 2011.

#2. My various trips to Europe with my parents. [Especially Rome, Italy and Amsterdam, Holland.]

#1. Going to Bear Spring Camps in central Maine.

Honorable Mention: Giving several performances of my lip-sync air-guitar show in my apartment building, including a tribute concert to a late friend, Erin Beish.

Well, there you have it. As most of my steady readers will note, Bear Spring Camps is #1. No big shock there folks. Until next week, have a great weekend, take care and happy reading.

My parents’ habits

Greetings, readers. During a writing exercise late last week, both Rebecca and I came to the conclusion that the work would be a good blog entry. We just now read over it and it reads a little choppy. This is the first time that I can recall that we have used a writing exercise as a blog entry. It has some good details that I want to share with you about my parents. I hope you enjoy it.

My mother was a creature of habit. I remember in her final years that she would always get up at precisely 7:00. She must have set an alarm. After getting dressed I would hear her walk down the steps and then the morning ritual would begin. First, she would unlatch the front door, then she would turn and switch on the lamp which was on the credenza. Making her way into the kitchen, she would activate the fluorescent light on our old stove.

Shortly thereafter, I would walk downstairs and join her. I was amazed at the preparation that mom took to make her morning as simple as possible. All the coffee mugs would be laid out. My oatmeal packets would be sitting in the bowl ready to be opened. This was to cut down on as much extra activity as possible. I think my mom was just like me; not a morning person.

One of us would flick on the button to begin the water boiling in the kettle. The other would turn on the coffee maker. As the coffee began brewing, Mom would open up the packets of the instant oatmeal. My two favorite flavors were peaches and cream and strawberries and cream.

Even though I was still in school, I was allowed to have coffee. I began drinking it at age ten. Half coffee, half milk. That is how I liked it. Mom would then continue with her ritualistic ways. I have dreamt of being more like her but I just can’t seem to do it. Many of my problems might be solved if I could develop more good habits.

One of the habits I need to work on is set up days to do specific tasks. For instance, laundry on Wednesdays, shopping on Mondays, and house cleaning on Saturdays. Mom had the right idea though I think she went overboard with it at some points.

Dad was kind of the same way. He never slept in. Pop was always up between 6:45 and 7:00. Got himself dressed and shaved and was down to breakfast by 8:00. In the earlier years, I believe this was because he had to teach a 9:00 class at Penn State, so he was already in the early morning mode. If I’m at Panera café by 11:00 in the morning it is a miracle. I am not a morning person.

When I go to Maine every August, I enjoy getting up early. I want to have a nice long day to do all the sundry activities that Bear Spring Camps has to offer; 9:00 fishing, lunch at 12:30, afternoon swimming and boat rides, and still the occasional happy hour. Every year I tell myself I am going to keep to this schedule when I get home. LOL. That schedule lasts about a week and then I am right back to Mr. Lazybones.

Rebecca has told me that doing something 21 times tends to make it a habit. I think in July, right before I go to camp, I will force myself to get up early and have that long day. That way when I get back from camp, I’ll already be in my new habit. Wish me luck all.

Take care, have a great day, and happy reading.

From Rebecca: The satisfaction of voting

This week we had our primary election in Pennsylvania. I proudly voted, as did Joe, and my husband Darren. Voting in every election is a tradition passed down to me from my folks, especially my late mother, Betty Lee (Durham) Dowlin Rodgers. Mom never took voting for granted. She considered it to be one of the most patriotic duties any citizen could do. She also believed strongly in civil rights, and she was very moved the day Barack Obama was elected the first African-American President of the United States. I am so glad she lived long enough to see that. She voted in every election because she knew the importance of a nation forming its own governing body.

The government of the United States of America, from the smallest local level to the highest federal office, is chosen by the vote of the people of the United States. (I know, electoral colleges choose the president/vice president ticket, but those votes are based on the election counts.) This puts the power in our collective hands, and by voting we wield that power. There is a saying that we get the government we deserve, and we do that by voting. Or by not voting, withholding our voice, and letting others determine our leaders.

Exercising our right to vote is especially important for all women, as it was denied us until the 19th amendment in the year 1920. The country is over 200 years old, and voting rights came for women less than 100 years ago. Our forewomen fought hard for it, and I do not take it for granted.

Some have told me they don’t want to vote because they don’t know enough about the candidates to make an informed decision. I can understand and respect that view. I use the League of Women Voters Guide for most of my information about the candidates, but I could do a lot more research of my own. I do know that an informed vote is a better vote. That said, I feel confident enough using the Guide to go to the polls twice a year. And, I see that as more a reason to do more research instead of a reason not to vote at all.

In local elections we vote for positions that often have the most effect on our daily lives, though we might have the least information about the candidates for them. Or there might be no candidate listed, just a chance to write-in a name. They don’t feel as important as a congressperson or the governor, but those are important jobs too. People who are elected to – or hire people to – register our official papers, regulate safety for different industries, school board, township board, department of transportation, etc. touch our lives in so many ways; government services we use, depend on, or are inconvenienced by (i.e. road construction) daily. When we feel powerless, we need to remember that we do hold power and use it with elections. I also admire those people who chose to serve by running for those small local offices, so that there is a name there instead of a blank line.

Another valid reason for not voting in every election is the problem of Independents being locked out of primaries. I don’t know the solution, but there must be some way, other than registering for a political party that they don’t believe in, for independent voters to participate in the spring elections. In State College this was a particular issue this time, as there was a ballot question that we all needed to vote on, about the township going into debt to rebuild the high school. I heard on the news that independents were allowed to vote on that question.

The night of the election I checked the news to see if my candidates won, and they did not. More people voted for someone else, and I am bummed by that. But all of us who voted collectively chose the people who will go on to work on our behave, representing us and our interests. (Or will keep campaigning for the general election. Then go on to work on our behave, …)  That is a good thing.

We must be true to who we are

Greetings, readers. I have always been an overly outgoing person. This opens me up to one potential problem. When I am walking down the street, or having my morning coffee at Panera cafe, and say good morning to someone, every once in a while I’ll get a look that just screams, Oh, look at the mentally challenged person. I’ve always been self-conscience of this. When I was in eighth grade, I befriended a person who was mildly mentally challenged, and as where I saw the opportunity to make someone happy, others jumped to the conclusion that I had the same challenges. My junior high social life never recovered.

The way I conduct myself is what I call the Bear Spring Camper way. For those of you not familiar with my books, let me briefly explain what I mean by that. At camp, everybody knows everybody else. Greetings, smiles, hugs, and laughter are commonplace. Plans of the day’s activities are openly shared and fun stories abound. I’ve come to realize it might not be the smartest idea to use that approach with people in my town here in Pennsylvania. Many times I’ve told myself just sit down, drink your coffee and shut up. But before I know it, I’m saying hello to one of the nice folks who works at Panera. The bottom line is I just have to be me, and overly nice guy is who I am.

For those of you who are reading this and wondering if I am about to turn into someone who is unfriendly, the answer is no. One time I had a discussion with a friend of mine about this topic and she said she found it refreshing that I could open myself up to ridicule. She also agreed that people must be who they really are deep down inside. I’m a firm believer that the Lord made me just the way He wanted me to be; outgoing, compassionate, trusting to a fault, and lovable. I will always be in Bear Spring Camper mode and do so proudly.

On a quick side topic, Rebecca and I are back at it this week, now that all doctor’s appointments are behind us, and there will be another blog entry up on Friday. Until then, take care, dodge those rain drops, have a good day, and happy reading.

Singing in the rain … inside

Greetings, readers. I got to bed unusually late last night. Around midnight or so, I looked out my window and saw rain coming down in sheets. I figured, this torrential storm will last 15 to 20 minutes tops. LOL. Boy, was I wrong. It kept coming and coming and coming. For a second I thought about building an ark.

I love a good rain storm. Thunder, lightening, a little wind. It adds to the spice of life. However, around 2:00 a.m., I felt a rain drop on my ankle. I looked up and my ceiling was leaking. Out loud I said, “Oh, crap.”

As the rain just got harder outside, another small area of ceiling began to drip with water and a few white flakes of ceiling panel came down on the floor. I quickly ran to get a towel and a bowl. I didn’t want the water to ruin my carpet, or worse, seep down to someone else’s ceiling. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, a chunk of tile let go and four separate droplet leaks were happening simultaneously. If it had not been so late at night, I would have called emergency maintenance. I did not want to go to bed until I was certain that the rain was at least letting up. I decided to deal with the damage in the morning.

When I awoke, I looked out the window and saw clouds but no rain. I was quite relieved. I was shocked to see how many white flakes of ceiling tile lay on my towel. I gathered it up and checked the carpet. Luckily, the carpet wasn’t very wet. For once, I thought ahead, and by putting that towel down, damage to the carpet was avoided.

Our office manager, Kim, is away on vacation, but maintenance is on site today. When I see Brian, I will mention to him what happened, but I’ll also let him know that the roof will have to be fixed first, before any work is done on my ceiling, or else it will just happen again.

On a quick side note, Rebecca and I are back in action today after an unusual week. I worked with Darren yesterday on the Kimberly novel project. On Wednesday, Rebecca went to the dentist and I had a doctor’s appointment, so we didn’t work that day. Next week will be a normal week for us with three days of writing and two blog entries.

Until then, enjoy your weekend, take care, and happy reading.

P.S. If you are having allergies like I am having, Gesundheit.

Sneezin’ season again and other news

Greetings, readers. Oh boy have my allergies gone crazy the last few days. Yes, I love the spring and summer warmth, along with its green trees and grass; the only downside is the pollen. I have been an allergic mess for three days now. The air conditioning in my apartment and in restaurants help quite a lot. If my attacks get worse though, I’ll have to get some generic allergy medication at the drug store.

When I was a child, my allergies seemed to get the better of me from the middle of April, when everything bloomed, until the middle of November, when the leaves finally fell off the trees. That didn’t keep me indoors though. I just put plenty of tissues in my pocket and made the best of it while I played.

On to other news. I had a doctor’s appointment yesterday which went well. Just one of my blood test numbers was elevated, so one of my meds was switched out. “Down you bad cholesterol you!” 🙂 Speaking of my meds, I’m behind in taking them today.

Before I go though, I must tell you about one of the cutest things I’ve seen in a long time. On the street corner I saw a young boy and his mom. The boy was about four years old. He had a toy guitar and a small bucket. He was playing and singing to earn a few bucks. I asked him what he wanted and he told me that it was some kind of dinosaur toy. His mom told him that if he wanted this toy, he’d better think of a way to pay for it. Now, I’m not certain if this was his idea to play of the street corner, or hers, but it was adorable and I gave him a couple of bucks. Two thumbs up, little guy. 😉

Until soon, probably tomorrow, have a great day, take care and happy reading.


Working with my aching back. Grr.

Greetings, readers. Hello from my recliner chair. If you just got finished reading Keekee’s entry, you will already know that I am flat on my back from a back spasm. We shall push on and do this post anyway.

First off, it is a gorgeous, warm, sunny day; the first hot day of the year. It was quite warm yesterday also, and some of the graduating Penn State students were out and about doing what they call the bar tours. It was a zoo by 3:30 in the afternoon. I came home from my errand, and I had the TV and air conditioning on in the evening, which blocked out the downtown noise. I do understand these college seniors are celebrating being done with four years of school. So I am patient and lenient around this time in May. All other weekends when this goes on – not so much.

Continuing with the late spring theme, it seemed like all of a sudden those bare trees that had appeared dead, sprang to life overnight, and it is green and gorgeous outside. Leaves are budding, grass is growing, and what little bit of rain we have received is making the planted flowers grow. Penn State University does take pride in planting flowers to make the University Park campus look great during the spring and summer.

On to my weekend plans. First off, happy Mother’s Day to all on Sunday. I will be going to gaming day on Saturday, and driving to the cemetery to visit Mom on Sunday, probably with flowers in hand. It has been quite a while since I have visited the grave, which has been more of a transportation issue than anything else. I wrecked my own car in ’08, but the Zipcars have been a great substitute.

My Pittsburgh Penguins are playing their second round series in the NHL playoffs versus the New York Rangers. Though I don’t watch hockey every time it is on TV, I do like to keep up with the Penguins when they make the playoffs. A number of years ago I was at a sports bar when they won a multi-overtime game with a truly fantastic shot. The crowd erupted, both at the arena and at the bar. So let’s go, Pens!

Well, I’m going to wrap up this blog entry today, take some aspirin, and get this back whipped into shape. I have doctors appointments over the next couple of weeks and I will bring my concerns about my back to them. It might be time for me to wear a brace. Who knows what has been going on with my spine with my sclerosis. Oh, as the comedian and ventriloquist Jeff Dunham says, poliosis.

Until next time, have a great weekend, take care, and happy reading from Rebecca, Keekee, and me.

From Keekee: Meow, Meow

Greetings, readers. Just kidding on the title. My cat Keekee was staring at me when I was trying to think of a title for this entry. I am having a back spasm and have been trying to relax it away for an hour, without much success, while trying to concentrate during the writing session. So I turned to Keekee and said, “Why don’t you do the blog entry today?” Rebecca laughed and started typing this from Keekee.

Keekee says, “Meow, meow. Meow meow meow, meow.”

So enjoy this short entry focused on my cat. We will do the real one now.

A bittersweet final visit to Godmother’s

Greetings, readers. This past Friday evening I drove over to my Godmother’s house one final time. Two of her three children were there in the midst of cleaning out the house, and I had asked if I could pick up a few things that I had given Godmother over the years; mostly pictures of my dad. We agreed that I should come over around 7:00 and that is exactly what I did. On the drive over though, a melancholy feeling came over me, because I knew it would be the last time in that house.

For years, I would be invited over for Sunday supper and holiday meals, and those memories would always be dear. In her final few years, however, Sunday visits became shorter and holiday meals were sometimes cancelled due to her illness. We of course understood. Even though she wasn’t always able to say it, you could tell that she appreciated any visit.

After parking in the driveway and closing the car door I stopped and took a deep breath. I then proceeded in through the garage and knocked on the kitchen door. Her son, Stanton, invited me in, and he, her daughter Rosalie, and I talked briefly about how all the packing and last minute chores were coming along. Even though there was still a lot of belongings in the house, it looked empty. That was weird. The first thing I noticed was the kitchen table was gone. One of the caregivers got that, for which I am happy.

After a few minutes of pleasantries and hugs, Stanton showed me a small box that they had put together for me, which I thought was a nice gesture. It contained all the pictures of my dad that I had given Godmother over the years, including two passports with pictures of him when he was very young, photographs used for the back covers of his books, and copies of his obituary. I was also told that a picture of me when I was a very small boy was being held for me by one of the caregivers. I’ll get that at a later date. I couldn’t have been more than four years old in that shot. It was one of a set of black and white pictures, that you used to get at a photo booth. Godmother loved that picture. She knew that both Mom and Dad loved me to pieces; so over the years I had given her snapshots of not only Dad but of me as well.

As the visit continued, I asked if I could take a walk around the place one more time, and of course the answer was yes. I slowly moved through every room of the downstairs and it reminded me of the time I left my parents house for the last time. I began to get a little bit emotional but I kept myself in control. While peeking in every bedroom, little memories of Godmother seemed to be in every corner. Old photos, a painting on the wall, the scent of the house which I had come to know so well.

The hardest room to go into was her back bedroom. Not only was the bed taken apart, but everything that the kids wanted to take was being stored there. For some strange reason that’s when it hit me. Godmother’s truly gone and I’m never coming back into this house. This is it.

I saw a radio that belonged to my father packed into one of the boxes. It crossed my mind to claim it, but it was already packed and I don’t have room in my apartment for it anyway, so I decided to let one of them enjoy it. I did take a photograph of my dad and his family when he was child that I had framed and had given Godmother. Soon it was time for me to leave. As I pulled out of the driveway, I said a little goodbye.

Goodbye dear Godmother. You will always be alive in my heart.

Until Friday, take care, enjoy life, and happy reading.

A childhood memory of when I would be head of the house when Dad was on trips

Greetings, readers. Last night as I was trying to get to sleep, my mind wandered back to my childhood. I had a happy memory of when I would take over my dad’s home office when he would go away on short trips. I was roughly 10 years old. I had no brothers or sisters, so when Dad would leave I felt like I wanted to be the man of the house. This is how I would go about accomplishing it.

Around 5:00 in the afternoon, I would get myself a soda and that would be my before-dinner “beer.” I would then sit in Dad’s chair in the living room and watch my favorite TV shows from there, instead of where I would normally sit, which was on the floor. During dinner, I would also sit at Dad’s chair at the table. Mom thought this behavior was cute, though nothing was ever said. She knew exactly what I was trying to do, though the only indication she gave me was a smile. The other big thing I would do is that at 7:00, my homework time, I would walk upstairs to Dad’s office and do my school work there, instead of at the kitchen table. Sometimes if I didn’t have much homework, I would uncover his manual typewriter. I would just start typing my thoughts for the day.

At 9:00 when they evening was over, I would come downstairs, see what Mom was up to, say goodnight and get ready for bed. I have very vivid and fond memories of what I considered taking over for Dad during those early years of my life. Honestly, as I dictate this to Rebecca, I can’t say for certain if I was practicing for real life or if I was just a kid pretending to be Dad. You must remember that imitation is the highest form of flattery.

When Dad would return from his trips though, I was just as glad to see him as he was to be home. As much as I enjoyed using his office, I gladly got back to my routine of doing homework at the kitchen table, snacking on graham crackers.

This behavior stopped around the age of say 13. Why it was so important those two or three years to mimic Dad I’m not quite sure. All I know is it always put a smile on my face. Perhaps it made me feel important.

To conclude this trip down memory lane from some 35 or 40 years ago, I enjoy thinking about my past. There are a lot of memories that I will carry with me until I pass on and while my entire childhood was not peaches and cream, being head of the house for a few days is always one of my happiest memories.

Until next week, have a great weekend, take care and happy reading.