Thoughts for the new Year

This is not a complete guide, but thoughts on how I got to where I am now. 

My Niece, Becky, just graduated from college and has a plan for her future education.  Her plan to graduate was a lot like the one I and her father Rick had.  It wasn't a matter of if, but it was when!  We both persevered in the effort to get there and applied our efforts to the result.  The goal to graduate just consumed us until it came to fruition.  For some people, it was easy, for others it was hard.  Whatever it is to you, do it until you succeed.

Very soon after I got to Vietnam,  my unit was hit with a mortar attack that killed a bunch of people and wounded many more.  I think that in the rebuilding effort of that attack, I realized that life in combat was binary.  You either lived or died.  There was no good or bad, trained or untrained in the toll.  Either you are alive or dead.  Now that I am much older, I realize the same in our life is true.  What you do with the time you have is the important thing. I, for one, do not want anyone to grieve when I am no longer alive.  I want them to celebrate that this big old guy was able to live life in a way that brought me much happiness.  I can hope that you share this happiness, but I don't live my life for that thought.

I read one day that even the most mediocre plan worked well is better than best plan if you don't work that plan.  I have attended many workshops that gave us blueprints on how to plan our life.  There are many ways to plan and many ways to work.  One of the first steps was for me a dream.  Thankfully, Barbara shared with me a lot of her vision for the future and between us we have been able to work to get there.  I would recommend that you start by putting your feet up and dreaming of what you want the future to look like.  Rich, famous, well fed, respected, healthy or just what you see the future looking like.  I would encourage you to divide you life up into segments.  The near term is this year and perhaps up to 3 years.  Next would be 4-10 years and then 10+ years.  It might even be that how and where you retire might be your vision.  I think age is a major factor.  I would then ask you to put these visions in writing.  If you look at a vision, what are the steps do you need to take to get there?  You might even break these steps into smaller steps and make them goals.  A quick and dirty listing of how you can accomplish these steps is a plan.  Let me tell you that not every plan can be accomplished in one year.  What you can afford in this year would be your budget basis.  Keep looking at this plan and someday you will be a lot closer to accomplishing your plan.

Many years ago, I was in the Guard in Topeka and one of the guys I worked with was a Financial Planner and agreed that one weekend he would look at our finances for an evening of dinner and the chance to meet my family.  Cheap at twice the price.  I guess I had just not put the pen to the paper and written down just where our retirement plans were headed.   One question we had was just how much did we think we needed in retirement.  To put it mildly, we were almost way cheaper than the reality of the cost, but also in the amount we would have.  After a short period of looking at what we had, it was clear that what we had been doing was way over planned.  His advice was "Just keep doing it."

In the area of finances, we had a talk with my grandfather in Arkansas years ago.  He retired in his 50's and told us that his way to retire was to ensure that he saved at least 7% in his personal savings.  We all know that the Federal Government saves 7% through Social Security but Curly (MY Grandfather)  said he recommended 7% above any Government program.  If you start down that road, the first step will seem large but once you start getting promotions and higher pay grades, you just keep doing that and you won't really miss the money.  For Barb, she had the KPERS that teachers contributed to but she aggressively also put money in IRA's early and then the 503b retirement program.  I put money in IRA's and the Civil Service program.  I found out that I could buy the 3 years of Military Service as credit in the Civil Service retirement program and jumped on that like a duck on a June bug.  When they revised the retirement system, they offered some of the old guys a chance to buy into a 401k  and I hit it full force.   The end result of this we have a great life and are able to share with our son and his wife in ways we didn't think possible.

One thing we did is because we moved a couple of times with the Guard. We were kind of made aware of the appreciation in real estate over time.  Barb found a couple of properties and we were able to rent them to pay them off while we were working.  Now, there is a profit being reaped that is far in excess of where any investment program would have taken us.  Yes, at least once a year when the taxes are due, we do have to give a significant part of our cash to the County for taxes.  Oh well.

Let me warn you up front that there are a lot of people that will separate you from your money and not look back.  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  What ever you do, read about the investment first and understand what it completely entails. 

Good Luck in 2014.



One of the family traditions for our family is to get together near Christmas and have soup.  Everyone brings their best and we vote for our favorite.  The winner takes home the traveling trophy and we have some great food.  For a couple of years I have taken a seafood gumbo and next year I am going to elevate my game. Did I mention that I didn't win?  My gumbo is good but man the competition is fierce.  We follow our soup lunch with a White Elephant Gift exchange.  That is always a lot of fun. 

I was glad to see that K-State won their Bowl game last night.  Their efforts make the large group of travelers feel like it was worth the cost.  I will admit that after a long day I didn't see the final of the game.  It was fun to watch K-State own the first quarter and do well.

Our 'Nother daughter, Mel is due here today with her new boy friend and three Australian Cattle Dogs.  Will be fun to have her here and I am looking forward to having a dog or two, or three around.  I think this is about the longest time we have been without a dog.  It does make it nice to be able to jump in the car and go somewhere without having a dog to worry about. 

Yesterday was in the 60's and today it is predicted to be in the 20's.  A cold front passed through without much moisture in the air so it will be mostly cold and blustery without wet.  Good thing I don;t have a lot of things to accomplish outside today. 

Oh well, it is early and I need a couple of cups of coffee.



Post Christmas Green

I know that a lot of people get the blues after Christmas but I like to think of think of it as the green's  because that's when Barb does a lot of her shopping.  We have a gift closet that when pressed into service has a gift for about anyone.  It is a lot like the tools in my garage.  If I need one I have a tool for about everything somewhere out there.  I keep promising myself that I will build storage lockers in the new shed to help organize the clutter and chaos.

One of my Facebook friends posted "The Little Drummer Boy" on Facebook.  It was by the group Pentatonix.  They were last year's winners of the Sing Off.  I have looked in every store in Topeka and Lawrence for a copy of their CD's and have struck out.  Dave downloaded PTX Vol. 1 & 2 from his I Tunes Account and gave them to me for Christmas.  I have listened to then and love the close harmony and rich sound they make.  In return, I loaned him my Tom Clancy Book.  I don't know how long he will have it but I will have a lot of winter to read it.

Have you thought about your New Year's resolutions?  I think of them kind of like the 2014 bucket list.  Here are some of mine
  • I am going to move a bunch of stuff out of the garage and into the new metal building.  I am going to build storage lockers and get it all organized.  Well, somewhat.
  • I am either going to find a nice 327 motor for the 57 Chevy or go with a new crate 350 motor.  I am also going to see if I can find a good rack and pinion steering system and disc brakes to make it go straight and stop quick and an AC.  Either that or I am going to sell it to someone that will use it.
  • I am going to dedicate this year to finding and putting Barb into a new(er) car.  Her old Buick is on its last leg.  I think I will put a survival kit in that car.  The kit is a cell phone and a screwdriver.  She can call me and take the license plates off the car when it dies ugly - and it will.
  • Dave's house needs a garage and a tornado shelter.  Perhaps a combination might be what the doctor ordered.  I will try to not be directive about where and what they get. 
  • With the high number of relatives in their 90's, I feel assured that we will have one or two get togethers.   Perhaps I will get to stop and see a couple more National Parks this year.
  •  I am going to do my best to become the best "Barbershopper" I can be this year.  Practice, Practice, Practice... 
On thing I am going to try to do is to get everyone to accept that in spite of the fact that someone disagrees with you, they have every right to say whatever they feel.   If we start with removing stupid speech, soon the opposing speech will get banned and then finally our right to stand up on a soap box and shout at things we see as wrong.  That, dear one's is one of the basic tenants of our country.  The rest of the world doesn't understand it, but they live where they live.  We need to celebrate the fact that we have not had a Monarchy, a Theocracy or a Dictatorship rule us in our over 200 years.    This is why we feel it is important to keep our free speech. 



181,000 Hits

This blog has had over 181,000 visitors and I have written 2,500 blogs.  Merry Christmas again.



Merry Christmas

I want to wish all of you a Merry Christmas.  I probably won't blog much more this week so I want to get that in.

It snowed over the weekend here in the Heartland and the daytime high today is to be less than 15 degrees.  Needless to say Barb won't be out much and I will be out only to get from the house to the car and back.  I do have about 150 lbs. of cracked corn in the trunk for ballast so the Ford might get me around.  If you see an old guy with a silver Ford and silver hair driving slow, it is probably me.

Have a safe one out there.



The Secret Life of Walter (aka MUD) Petty

Years ago, I read the book, "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" by Thurber.  At the time, I didn't realize that many of those adventures we going to be the story of my life.  While I played war with my friends, I had no concept that I would take a trip down that road and go to Vietnam.  In fact, as a child, I could have not put a pin in a map to locate Vietnam. 

I had seen a post card from my Grandfather when he went to Panama but to imagine myself there was a stretch as a kid.  I went there in the fall of 67 and lived some of my most grand adventures.  I got to do a slide for life across the Rio Chagres, make a raft with a poncho and swim back across the river.  I rappelled down a waterfall and lived in the jungle for most of two weeks.  On the Escape and Evasion aka Land navigation course we ventured into a Mangrove swamp and was eaten alive by mosquitoes. 

There was a time in my military career that I had doubts that I would ever make Major.  After the Vietnam War, there were more officers than the Army needed and only the cream of the crop got early promotions.  I didn't realize that the slow rate of promotion for me as a Lieutenant and Captain would allow me to not be in the range of the cuts needed.  I finally moved to Topeka and the State headquarters.  There, I floated to the top rank of Colonel when I retired. 

I dreamed of leading men as a kid and little did I know that I would get to command both a Battery and a Battalion.  The promotion to Lieutenant Colonel got put on hold for a year so I could be the S-3 of a battalion and then command that unit.  They had failed a major unit test (ARTEP) twice and were on the verge of being decertified if they did it for the third time.  I worked my butt off and convinced everyone that the secret to success was that everyone had to know their job and like the Nike ad, "Just Do It."  I am pretty sure that my promotion to Colonel was a lot based on that.  It didn't hurt that the first year I hit that list we had a record number of Colonel's retire.  I think there were 8 or 9 Colonel's retired that year and a bunch of the Vietnam Vets got our bird's. 

As a kid, I always loved great cars.  One of my most favorite was the 57 Chevy.  In High School  had a 55 Chevy but it was a 6 cylinder rust bucket we called Bad News.  A while back, I was given a Christmas present of a 57 Chevy and took that sucker apart bolt by bolt down to the frame and back together again.  I'll bet I used ten gallons of WD-40 taking apart all of the rusted bolts.  I am sure that is when Barbara started washing our clothes separate.  I would come home from work and go to the garage for hours of "Piddling Around"  (That was Grandma Bessie's word for doing something that didn't produce immediate results)  It did take most of a year and a lot of my Guard Check to bring it back to my high level of production.  I swear this summer I am going to finally figure out why the motor doesn't run well and also put an A/C on it. 

One time, I picked up a Popular Mechanix magazine and saw a car that was worth $20,000.  I wondered how anyone could afford such luxury.  I was working full time and making $55.00 a week. We spend more than that when we stop at Wal*Mart for a few items.  I will admit that our last car did only cost $10,000 but if you knew how hard Barb looked to find that bargain, it wouldn't surprise you. 

Barb and I grew up poor.  Not dirt poor but not middle class either.  I think we both grew up in a hose where central heat and air were a pipe dream.  A vacation was often a short trip to Grandmother's house.  I can remember getting two pairs of shoes a year.  One of those was generally a pair of Converse gym shoes that I also wore the rest of the day and not just in gym.  I'll bet the last pair of gym shoes I bought cost more than my parents spent the entire time I was in school.  

I will admit that I didn't think being poor as a child made a lot of difference to me.  Several of my friends said it did to them but I was kind of like Walter Mitty and thought denial was de river in  De Africa.  I had the opinion I could out talk, out cuss, out fight or out run most of the rich kids so it mattered little to me. 

To end this little tale, I must say that like my own Walter  Petty story that I now have everything I need and dang near everything I want.  The beauty is that when the month's over I generally have more money than month. 

Someone once told me that I would be the source of my own happiness.  I think early that I didn't pay attention and now I have fulfilled most of my dreams.  Hope you can say the same thing one day.



Blog Problems

If strange things happen when you open this blog, do not act surprised.  I have no understanding of the reasons they are happening but they are.  For a while yesterday, there was no blog available.  When I notified BlogSpot that I had no one visit according to the system counter, they did something.  Later on, I tried to write and I did not have that ability.  My only concern is that there are near 2500 blogs out there that I do not have a backup for.  A lot of them, I don't care about but the war stories I would love to have a back up on. 

Barb and I got to visit with my niece and her new spouse for lunch the other day and today we are going to KC to make cookies with Jenn and Julia. Julia's girls will get ho help me decorate cookies.  I will have a smile a face wide at the end of the day.  Yes, Barbara had promised that she will take pictures.

Yesterday, I went out to work on cutting down a tree where the shed will be built.  To help haul off the downed logs, I had to work on the tractor.    I spent more time on the tractor than I did on the tree.   The good thing is that I finally got the tractor working and  it started this morning when I took the recycle bin out to the court.  It does smoke me out when it starts in cold weather but hey, it did start.  I really am looking forward to having a building for the tractor where I can at least warm up the diesel on cold days. 

I learned yesterday that on Monday, our son, Dave will start working for the Automation Department for the Department of Revenue in Kansas.   He will be keeping the systems working and I hope they put him to work with the Customer Service part of that Department.   He is so cool and level headed and I know that the employees will appreciate how hard he works to  get everything working well. 

I will cut this off here and see if things get back to normal soon.



Sunny Days

After a few cold days, we are getting what to me is kind of normal December weather.  The nights are just below freezing and  the days are mid 40's.  If the wind is not blowing hard, it is almost light jacket weather outside.  For me, a sweatshirt does it.  I do have some chores left outside but I am not really into raking leaves as long as Barbara doesn't care.  I do have one tree yet to cut down as it encroaches in the right of way of the proposed building.  I say proposed as God only knows when it will finally get built.

Barb finally pressed me to get a tree and she is decorating it with natural decorations.  I saw her headed out with her camera and a pair of scissors yesterday and headed to the neighbor's decorative grass.  We need to add some more but I am not on the "Do Pretty" list of people so I will just admire her work.  I did fetch the lights up from the basement storage room and will take the boxes back down today (or tomorrow)

We just made contact with my niece, Janet, who is in KC visiting.  She stopped in Iowa and got married on the way here.  She is one half of the couple knows as Twyla Susanne and Janet Goff-Dieffenbaugh.  Whatever she wants to call herself, I hope she knows that we love her and Sue lots and lots.  If the Pope doesn't feel that he has any right to comment, who am I to have anything but good thoughts of them for the happiness in their life.  We are going to Kansas City to meet them for lunch at 1 PM.  Barbara is making bread to take to our Daughter-in-law along with some apple butter.  I am sure there is a shortage of treats in their office.

I hate to think about how many extra calories are shared at workplaces during this week.  The Adjutant General's office would give each office a day during the last week prior to Christmas and the treats were always so great.  One of the guys would always bring a crock pot full of KC Masterpiece BBQ sauce and little Smokies.   By the time to serve the smell would about drive my hunger button crazy.  People would kid Charlie about his predictability but I did notice there were never any left over. One of these days I will have to write my tribute to Charlie.  He is one great guy. 

Well, I had better get cracking on at least one of my Pre-Christmas projects.  The vacuum is laying right where I left it yesterday. 



Investing 101

A sister to my Daughter-in-Law asked my wife if there was a secret to investing smart so she could at the end of her working years be well off.  Here are some of the basic facts we have learned over the years.  WARNING the following is worth the cost of the advice.   No Guarantees!
  • One time at the beginning of our marriage we had a sit down talk with my Grandfather, Curly Fruits.  Curly had led a frugal life and retired early from Shell Oil and passed on some pretty good advice. He said we needed to save and invest at least 7% of our total income in a personal investment above what the Government was doing in our name with Social Security.  The earlier we got started doing that, the better off we would be in the end.  We did. (Just a note, we had this talk early in the day as Curly was known to sneak out to the shed and have a few drinks and later on in the day was not as reliable --Except in the area of fishing.)
  • Any investment without a high front end cost and tax advantages are the best.   There were no Roth IRA's when we started so we just put money into the traditional IRA's.  We invested about $4,000 ($2,000) each for a few years. That money built nicely during the early 70's but is now just holding it's head above water. The sad part is that because it was not a Roth IRA soon we will have to start paying taxes on the net appreciation. 
  • One of the career choices for us was into a system that had a retirement plan above and beyond the Social Security system.  Barb was a teacher and paid into the Kansas Public Employee system and I was Civil service.  It might have seemed tough to have an additional 14% of our combined salaries withheld but right now it looks pretty good.  Even if they run out of money we will have both got most of our money back. 
  • I talked with Barbara about Real Estate being a good foundation to our overall investment program and she said "You're Welcome."   Barbara has a way of looking for a good buy and at every step of the way she has been the guide for solid investments.  One of the schemes is buying the worst house in the best neighborhood and improving our investment with sweat equity.  I am not sure what the Real Estate market is like where you are, but there are almost always run down houses with good bones.  Get some tools and hire done what you can't do yourself.  Good roofs, good plumbing and keep it painted are essentials.  The first time out, granite counters are not a good investment.  Wood floors are.   We now have two rental houses and a house we are selling on contract plus the one we live in.  I haven't sat down and computed the exact return on those investments but it feels pretty good. Our son is in a house that cost about $40,000 and is now worth $90,000.  Thanks Barb.
Now days, investing is a matter of risk vs. what you are able to stand.  If it sound too good to be true, it probably is.  Read, read and try to understand what is the current rate of return.  From there, you will understand that all investment returns are based on the amount of risk involved.  What ever you do, don't do in the stock market what I did.  I have not made a dime on anything I picked out for myself.  I do have one IRA that is OK and a part of that is stock market based.  Now, the stock market is doing well and so is that investment.  I am in it for the long haul so I don't worry about the exact amount or fluxuation.  I will share with you that at the beginning I was able to accept a larger risk because we were investing way beyond the 7% threshold.  Now the return of my money is a lot more important than the return on my money. 

Another basis for the stability of our investments is a good insurance plan.  We keep all of our property insured and with a tornado ripping our house apart in 1983, we now have replacement value for all of our goods.  Now that we have a good base for our lives, we no longer have large life insurance plans and have increased the size of our deductibles on the house and cars.  When we were young and had a young child, we kept much larger life insurance policies in force.  If the agent starts talking about the rate of return inside the insurance policy, he is making stuff up.  I had one policy I bought in 1965 and it was never worth anything near what the accumulated value was supposed to be.  I converted it to a policy that did not accumulate value and had a lot more insurance than the other policy.  When we got to the point that we no longer had a need for coverage we dropped that. 

I will admit that because I don't have any feeling that I will outlive my wife, I have the insurance within the plans to have a portion of my retirement plans pay Barbara after I pass.  These plans do cost some but I think they will be worth the cost.  My dad didn't have coverage on his retirement and when he died, Mom had only Social Security to live on.   

The most important thing for people to do is to pay themselves first.  Buy used cars and save as much as you can.  Do not wait until later on to start saving.  Once you start spending the higher amounts, saving will be hard.  Start out frugal and later on it will be gravy.   I do recommend the Dave Ramsey method of financial management to start out.  We started doing his plan before his plan was published.  In the long run even a fair plan worked hard is better than the best plan not followed.  Good Luck.


Classy Lady

I just learned of the passing of a real classy lady and I want to share with my nieces on the Johnson side of the family one of my first meetings with their Great grandmother.  Mary Jane Johnson will always stand out as one of my favorite people.

One of my first full time jobs was in a Phillips 66 station in Wichita.  We were only about four blocks from the Office of Phillips 66 in that area and we were often visited by one of their people.  As the lowest totem on the pole, it fell to me to keep the bathrooms up to snuff.  Don't let anyone tell you that women will help keep their bathroom any cleaner than men.  The biggest difference was that most of the women didn't clean their hands with solvent, then hand cleaner and wash in the bathroom sink.  Because it is so close to the time I finished breakfast, I'll skip the details of that adventure and move on to the next phase of the story.

Because my Brother-in-Law moved way the heck and gone south in Wichita, I went to the station where my other Brother-in-Law worked and applied for a driveway attendant job at Rock Road and Kellogg.  If you were anywhere near then, you might recall it being called the Standard station with a round house in the middle of the drive.  I hustled cars there for a couple of years but it was my first meeting with Mrs. Johnson that comes to mind.

One thing I hated about the Standard station right from the first was the low standards the guys there had for cleaning the toilets.  The men's restroom would have passed for a barnyard had there been a goat or two.  The women's restroom was a little better but not much.  Near the end of my first shift, I looked at the bathrooms and just charged in and cleaned them up.  I know it took some really strong chemicals to remove the layers of grime.  After a thorough cleaning, I waxed the floor to help make it easier to clean the next time.  The men's restroom because of the heavy traffic was still way below the Phillip's 66 standards but at least you didn't come out of the bathroom and feel like you needed to scrape your bots and rewash your hands.  The women's restroom was gleaming and I don't think it had many faults.  It might have even passed a test by Phillip's 66 people.

I was working on the drive the next day and Ace and Mary Jane stopped in the station.   I wasn't paying attention to what they did because there was a driveway full of people needing gas.  I was pumping it as fast as I could.  Somewhere about 10 minutes after they arrived, Mary Jane came out and hollered to all of us, "Who cleaned the Bathrooms?"   I stopped what I was doing and went over to confess that I had done it.  I was sure that I fell short in some important item or two. I didn't have the key to the sanitary napkin dispenser and had no idea if it need refilling. She heard me say I did it and she gave me a hug.  She said that the women's restroom had never been that clean and she was proud of how much work I had put into that cleaning job. 

Guess who earned himself the job of cleaning the bathrooms for the next couple of years?  The good news is that I never had her complain about anything I did the rest of the time I worked there.  She was a nice person to me and I am sad that my nieces and nephews in the Johnson Family lost their Great grandmother. 




There are times I wake up from a nap and I am totally disconnected from what time of the day it is.  There are markers in my week about the day and date but mostly the day.  On Mondays, I go sing with the Barbershop Chorus and on Friday I have to put the trash out.  Every other Friday I put out the recycle container.  Being retired, Monday and Holidays are a lot alike.  After 66 Christmas's they don't stand out as much anymore. 

I will admit that we can afford to be a lot more generous in the last few years but the later Christmases don't stand out as much as some of the earlier one's.  Yes, there are a few details about the first three or four I just can't even link to but there are a lot of good one's out there. 

One year we had been to Susank, Kansas just north of Hoisington and I am sure it was a hunting trip for my Dad.  We would go to my Grandparents house and eat copious quantities of food and then sing songs till the cows came home.  (There really weren't any cows there, that was later in Arkansas)  Grandmother always sent us home with Christmas presents and really didn't put up a tree.  My mother said that she wanted to do something different that year.  She saw tumbleweeds blowing across the road and had my father stop and get a nice round one that hadn't been hit by a car.  How he got it home undamaged was tribute to the size of the trunks on those old cars in the 50's. 

Once it got home, My Dad had the job of making it stand proud and stable.  There would be no water pan needed as it was long since dead.  He did manage to pick up some pink paint and some flocking spray and it looked like a pink tumbleweed that had been left out in the snow.  Mother did her best to find small ornaments and lights that would make it pretty.  I remember there was a couple of dozen 1 inch gold glass ornaments and about the same number of silver one's.  I don't remember any lead tinsel that year I am sure that more than one cat got sick eating that stuff.  When complete, Mom insisted that the tree be placed on a table in the living room.  Back in those days we didn't have a console TV so a table had to do.  The main thing I remember Dad saying was "Jesus Christ, we spent more decorating that damned tumbleweed than a real tree would have cost."  Dad always did say what was on his mind.

One of the first Christmases I remember here at Rabbit Run was the year that Barb asked for and got a tree that was at least 10 feet tall.   I just did fit in the dinning room if I moved the table.  She decorated the heck out of that tree and we still have ornaments from that tree.  To tell the truth, somewhere there is at least one ornament from about every year.  Many were gifts from her students and I think there is even a pie plate with a macaroni tree that Dave made in about the third grade. 

This post was inspired by the fact that today I finally got a "round tuit" to get Barb a tree.   There is a nice 8 foot white pine tree in the dinning room drinking water and relaxing in the heat of the house.  I will be on the decoration duty sometime today.  I will carry a bunch of those storage tubs upstairs and Barb will sort through them and decide on what theme we will use this year.  No, I don't do pretty, I am the hanger of lights and carrier of tubs.  Come New Years, I will get the job of removing ornaments and tasking the tree outside where it will be until spring or so.  From the deck you can still see the skeleton of at least one tree (or two)

Barbara and I got married in February and by the next Christmas I was in Vietnam.  Our first real Christmas together was in December 1969 and we were snug in an 8X38 foot Trailer.  We were young students doing our best to learn to live together and survive college without having a ton of student loans when we finished.  I think the Christmas tree craze started when we had out own house in Lansing, Kansas circa 1973.  We have been collecting Christmas stuff since and I am pretty sure it would take one load of a U-Haul truck for just the Christmas stuff.  Oh well, what is life for if not to please your family with a nice set of decorations.

Merry Damned Christmas from MUD the Grinch.


'Nother War Story

During the year of 1968, I was in the Republic of Vietnam.  I went there assigned as a Forward Observer in a unit that trained at Fort Irwin, California but was ever sent out as a Forward Observer from that unit.  Our first night in the field we got our asses mortared off and I went from Forward Observer to Unit Commander in one 15 minute timeframe.  As I recall, I never signed an assumption of command order but never the less I did all the work for a couple of weeks.  After telling the 41st Field Artillery Group Commander that he was either the biggest ass hole I had met or he needed to study his Field Artillery facts better I got infused to a 155 unit over in the 52nd Artillery Group in Pleiku.  For me, that was the best thing that ever happened.  No, Barbara is the best thing that ever happened to me but getting "Infused" to a new unit was about the best thing that happened while I was in Vietnam.

In the new unit, the 1st Bn, 92nd Field Artillery (155mm Towed) I was initially assigned as the Battalion Ammunition Officer.  What I didn't know was that it was an ash and trash assignment and I spent most of my time doing odd jobs that the Battalion needed done.  One of the additional duties I had was that of Aerial Observer.  Right behind out headquarters was a very short PSP (Perforated Steel Planking) runway that an 0-1 bird dog (Cessna 2 seater) plane could land on.  On a lot of days, I would be told that I was to meet the 0-1 and fly where they needed me to go. 

In addition to covering my convoys, I often was given the mission to go out west and "Register" a battery.  What that entails was shooting at a known point on the map to align the guns with the real world.  This increased the accuracy of a unit and was vital in getting several units all aligned on one spot.  It wasn't a very exciting job but one that did a lot to make the Artillery really effective.  Normally we would pick out a stream junction on the map and the unit would send those coordinates to their higher headquarters to get clearance to shoot at it.  From the air, stream junctions were fairly easy to spot on the map and in the air.  Most of the time we had between three and four hours of flight time and the registration part would take between 1 and 2 hours. 

One day we were west of Kontum and finished a registration for a battery located in LZ Mary Lou south of Kontum and had roughly 2 hours of flight time to go west and se what the hell was out there.  There was a dirt road that went west and straight (if there is anything straight in Vietnam) to the border area.  Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam had a border and that area was called the Tri-border area.  Along the border ran what was well known as the Ho Chi Min trail.   It was an area that was outside the Vietnam area and the North Vietnamese used it to bring supplies and men south so they could attack across the border somewhere south of there.  It was pretty easy to spot because the Air Force did a pretty good job of bombing the jungle out of existence all along the border.  The rumor was that we had sensors all along the border and anytime there was a major reading in an area they would bomb the hell out of that area.

The pilot I was with was a Captain and a pretty salty dude.  He had an elephant stenciled on the side of his Bird Dog and he reportedly shot one of his marking rockets into the side of an elephant and because it was carrying a boat load of rockets, the elephant exploded and damn near blew him out of the air.  As we got closer to the border, my map was about to run out when we crossed a small set of hills.  There in all of its glory was the border and the beaten zone.  Spread out along that trail was a military convoy. 

At the head of the enemy convoy was what was one of the most feared weapon systems.  The Russians had given the North Vietnamese units radar controlled 23mm quad barreled weapon called a ZSU 23-4.  The only thing that saved us was that the convoy was halted and it appeared that the crew of the weapon system was dismounted and taking a break.  had they been at their station and had they been ready, the Bird Dog would have been toast along with the pilot and his observer, ME!   The first thing the pilot said over the intercom after the expletive "Holy Shit" don't do anything and hang on.  We dove to build airspeed and at the last minute he pulled up and went back over the short hills.  I can't even begin to tell you how scared we both were.  I immediately go on the radio back to Kontum and reported what we saw.  I know that our units weren't cleared to shoot into another country but I had been in one of the 175mm unit Fire Direction Center and seem the holes on that side of the border. 

The pilot called back through his unit on the higher frequency radio and soon there was a Forward Air Controller over the area.  We left it in his hands and we "beat feted" it back to   the airfield at Kontum to refuel.  By the time we got back to Pleiku, they wanted us to go directly to the Aviation headquarters to brief on what we had seen and how we saw it.  The pilot warned me to say that we had observed the convoy by flying high enough to see the convoy from above the ridgeline and not to mention that we had actually been if the airspace of another country.  Works for me.  It might have been difficult to explain had we actually been shot down. 

The strange result of this whole incident was that when I returned to my base camp, the word was out that I need to go to the battalion tactical Operations Center.  I was assigned out as a Forward Observer to the 3rd Bat, 503rd Infantry (173rd Abn) and would be gone for at least two weeks.  It turned out that that stay lasted about 6 weeks and I always felt that I was sent out of the area to hide me from any fall out of what had happened.  The Company I served with kept telling me that the Forward Observer they sent home on emergency leave had developed Malaria and I was stuck until they could find a replacement. 

While I was out on the Temporary Duty Assignment (TDY) with the Air born unit, the Field Artillery Group assigned two young officers to the Aerial Observer slots and that ended the flying for the Battalion Ammunition Officer.  The only really bad thing was that both of those young officers were killed in a crash while I was gone.  They had been flying  high low hunter killer sweep and when the low plane took ground fire from a 51mm machine gun it pulled up into the flight path of the high bird.  That crash took the lives of four fine people. 



Singing Christmas

Today we will go to about four different retirement communities and sing our Christmas songs.   I have the opportunity to sing with a quartet late tonight as their Bass is not available.  I am torn if after four hours of singing there will be and voice left.  I am honored that the quartet did ask me to sing.  I was a baritone the last time I sang the Christmas songs and am just learning the Bass parts.  We'll see how it looks at the end of the day. 

It will be interesting to see if KU men's basketball team can find the right mix of players and tempo to return to their early level of success.  Most teams with four or five freshmen would have a team that played well individually and struggled as a team.  There was a time during the Florida game that they struggled playing as a team and as individuals.  KU beat Florida point wise in the second half but had dug themselves such a hole that it was more than they could dig themselves out of.  Tonight at 6 PM we'll get a chance to see what the heck they have worked out for New Mexico State. I will set the DVR just in case I am singing.

The weather here in the heartland took a nasty turn this morning.  It was almost 45 yesterday and this morning it is mid 20's with a 20 MPH wind.  The weatherman says it won't get much warmer as the day goes on. The roads will have salt and sand on them out in the city but I don't know what it will be like getting there.  We'll see.

I guess I'd better start getting ready to sing.  Khakis and Christmas sweaters will be the uniform of the day.  I thought it very interesting that the person that send out our scheduling information mentioned to shine those brown shoes.  Our Chorus has three retired Colonels' in the bass section.  We do need a top tenor or two but can't find many that want to sing Barbershop with us.  Col Wayne Cline was given a "Man of Note" award for recruiting me initially.  When he invited me to rejoin, they gave his another "Man of Note".  I wonder if he should share one with me?  No, I don't need any more awards or decorations on my "I Love Me" wall.  I know who I am and don't need any further encouragement. 

Have a great time out there.   I sure as hell will.  Nothing beats the sound of dentures clicking as the old folks try to sing along.



What Did You Know and When Did You Know it?

One of my Facebook Friends asked when did you learn the most in your life?  Here is a snapshot of the decades in my life.

  • From Birth to 10.  This is the period that I learned to play well with my friends and most importantly how to read.  I am pretty sure that because of the lack of the electronics back then I grew up pretty unexposed to higher thinking.  Good basis for life but pretty limited.
  • From 11 to 20.  The first 8 years of this period I spent majoring in girls and was fairly limited in the focus.  Exploration and growth in the area of sexuality was a focus and I also learned how to work a job and stay employed.  From the start of my 19th year, the Military took charge of my life and I learned so much that it is difficult to even begin to tell you how much.  I went from a Civilian to 2nd Lieutenant in 9 Months and 25 Days.  I knew it would prepare me to stay alive in Vietnam and It was an intense period but life for me didn't really start until I got home safely from Vietnam.
  • 20 to 30.  I turned 21 in Vietnam and there I learned that war is Binary.  Either you get your ass killed or you don't.  I didn't.   The most important thing I learned in this period was how to live with my wife Barbara.  I got to see how another person really worked and how her strengths offset my weaknesses.  I spent four years of this period in College and saw the world from a different perspective.  I joined the Guard and made Captain commanding a Battery in Horton, KS.  I should write a book about that time in my life.  I also worked my first Non Military job in my career.  The Automobile business went in to the trash and I hated that job about as much as anything I ever did.  This period was where I learned a lot about life as an adult. Paying taxes, Insurance, buying a house and role of an adult was a lot to learn. The start of my life being a father was  an eye opener.  It was still before the start of the electronics revolution.
  • 30 to 40.   I went to work for the Guard full time and this was a time right before electronics rules my life.  I still wrote a lot of training schedules and cut them on stencils.  A Lot more of learning to be a good father and husband.  Moved twice and bought two houses.  I completed the Artillery Officer Advanced Course.  Moved to Topeka and started the real rat race for my career with a focus. During this period in life, we had mostly a black and white TV and a rotary dial phone.
  • 40 to 50.  I can even begin to describe the full impact of electronics on this phase of my life.  To try to get our son involved in Electronics, we bought an Apple 2C.  One day in a staff meeting the Chief of Staff walked in and asked, "Who has a Computer?"  I was the only person with one and I got the Job as the Director of Information Management for the Kansas Army National Guard.  It was one of the most intense periods of my life to learn the requirements and architecture for information.  We wrote our first plan and a good part of that was used for the next five years.  During this period I also completed the Command and General Staff College and Commanded an Artillery Battalion.  I went from a major to Colonel during this period and with the full impact of automation, I probably learned more varied things during this ear of my life.  I did feel that I went from an expert in a few areas to a mile wide and 1/4 inch deep in more things that I ever thought possible. 
  • 50 to 60.  I retired from the Military on my 50th Birthday.  I think this was the start of more good things that rounded out my life.  The intense career fight went away and I think I would have stressed myself out had I continued that pace.  For over three years I was an instructor for the customer service training at a call center.  I dearly loved meeting 25 new people and teaching them for 6 weeks.  I got to meet the future of the USA during that period and some of the group were the nicest people I had met.  Sure, there were a few bums but mostly it was the cream of the crop and I loved most of that time.  I saw the advent of cell phones and how automation could really change the fabric of the lives of people.
  • 60 to Present.  One thing I haven't mentioned through most of the above part is how much My wife helped in the planning for our retirement.  She pushed, pulled and enabled us to get ready for the rest of our lives.  I can't stress how well she did that job and how well we are set because of that.  I am consistently learning new things and because of the advent of electronics, there is almost no end of the things available to see, learn about and do.  I think I have written about 2500 blog posts, read at least a 10,000 from other people and more Facebook than anyone should. 
If I had to bail out of this life tomorrow, I would not want anyone to be sad that I didn't have a chance to live life as full as it could be lived.  I have lived, loved, learned and had life so great for as long as I could ever hoped for.  I have exceeded every goal I have ever thought of.  I don't know what the pinnacle of your life will be, but I have pretty much reached as high on that vine as I ever dreamed.  I think I have to start thanking my mother for teaching me to laugh and love.  All the girl friends to learn how to deal with women.  To my wife, the care she has shown for me has been as infinite as the love I have for her.  My son has been a joy to be with and I wish him and his wife nothing but the best for the future.   



Hump Day

I have been singing the Christmas songs getting ready for the sing out this weekend.  As I did that, I ran into Pentatonix, an "a cappella" group.  Had to look that one up as spell checker would not get me close or give me anything.  What it means is that it is a musical group that uses no real instruments in their music.  Pentatonix is a group with 5 members that not only are great they are entertaining with their own vocal percussion and a Bass that is out of sight good.  I tried to find their Christmas album but Wal Mart and Barnes & Noble both didn't carry their music.  It is available on line.

Last night I went up the stairs and saw the moon with a haze around it.  The old wives tale is that if the moon has a haze either your eye balls are frozen or the weather is headed for a change. This morning it is at least 20 degrees colder than yesterday.  It got up in the mid 40's yesterday.  Won't break freezing today according to the weatherman.  Going out to get the paper this morning was an adventure.  Cold with a cutting wind of at least 20 MPH. 

Our deer seem to be holding up and the trail camera didn't take a picture in 4 days.  Not sure what the problem is but it is possible I had it in the wrong setting.  I'll reset it this morning when I take down some more corn.  There were three deer at the feed pan yesterday when I went out to put some more corn out and the ran off.  I watched and during the day they didn't return. 

Today is a combo day.  It is hump day and laundry day.  Better get busy



Porcine Action

Dave said this was saving his bacon or a porcine action.  Dave's car had a dead battery this AM and I went over and took his wife to work.  Good news is that she was on time, bad news, the battery is dead, kaput, and fairly expensive. We replaced it as it was 5 years old.  It only had 200 cranking amps out of the rated 550.  Oh well, it is an early Christmas present.

On the way back and forth, I kept hearing Dave's cell phone sending him messages. (or so I thought)  After we finished the battery work and his car up and running I drove home only to continue to hear that damned noise.  I checked and it was a Tea cup under Barb's seat from our last trip.  It was banging against the seat frame and I swear it sounded like Dave's Text alert.  Oh well, my hearing isn't completely gone. 

Dave's in-laws are currently living in Las Vegas and are going to be able to retire in a few short years.  The hope is that the housing market will recover enough to not leave them completely in the hole when they do.  Dave thinks they will want to move back to the heartland to be near friends, their church and family.  They are great people and we sure hope things work out well for them.  They are the kind of people that make the Heartland a great place to live.

For some reason, the Barbershop Chorus practice was a lot of fun last night.  We had a pretty full turn out after a shut out last Monday.  We are going to sing at 4 retirement homes this weekend.  We decided to start the next Monday night practice at the local Mall and do a flash Mob thing in the food court.  Should be fun to sing there.  That is one of the three places I want us to sing.  The rotunda at the Topeka Library is a wonderful place and I want us to sing there at least once.  The third place I want us to sing is to do our Director's version of Home on the Range in the Capitol Rotunda.  I would want it to be on Kansas Day but it might not work as the place is pretty busy with other activities. 

Did I mention that it is one cold bear out there this morning?  I know I need to take down some food for the deer.  Barb had prepared some sliced apples to go with the bread.  She is so nice to those critters.  I think it is about time to bring the Trail cam up and download the pictures.  In good weather I do it every day.  In bad weather about once a week is enough.   Yesterday when I went out to fetch the paper, there were lots of dog and deer tracks out in the driveway.  I think the dog tracks were from the neighbor's black lab and not dogs chasing the deer on purpose. 

One thing kind of interesting is that since the start of Deer Hunting season here in Kansas, I have not seen one buck.  The doe's with their yearlings seem to be showing up regularly but no Bucks.  They are probably hiding down in the creek bottoms and away from the hunters.  They may be dumb animals but they aren't stupid.

Oh well, better get moving or I'll get stuck to this chair.




It Warmed up and What did We Get? SNOW!

Last week the weatherman predicted 2 to 4 inches of new snow and I thought it was too cold to snow.  We normally get snows only when the wind shifts to the south and that warm moist air meets the cold.  That's what happened yesterday and we got an inch of new white ground cover.  Pretty but as soon as that snow left, the clear sky let the heat out and now it is pretty, cold.  Walking out to get the paper I could feel the wind blowing through my coat and it sure was nice to get back in and drink a hot cuppa coffee.

One nice thing is that our trip to Oklahoma was delayed from today to a little later on.  Now sure when the lawyers will get their schedule together and make it happen.  One way or the other, I will be glad to stop the trips to Shawnee, OK.  I have driven about every way to get there and none of them are very exciting.   It has been nice to see Rick in Skiatook and the Quicks over in Cleveland.   With that said, The Ford is about to turn over 100,000 miles and we are wearing it our fast. 

Speaking of Ford's, the paper today had an ad for one of the new Ford's that claims to get 100 MPG.  It is some kind of electric motors and a 2.0 gas motor combination.  It was the only car without a price shown.  I guess if you have to ask, you can't afford it.   My brother has a Prius with a lot of miles and it gets 50 MPG and is still running down the road well.  That has to be the future of cars.

Dave and His wife came over yesterday and I attempted to fix shrimp and grits.  It was pretty much a failure.  They tasted pretty darned good when I fixed them last time.  This time the grits just never got firm and the shrimp sauce had to be remade as the 1st batch of Cajun seasoning for the shrimp was too salty.  We ate it but there was no raving over the quality.  On the other hand, Barb put some chicken breasts in the crock put and added a package of  wild rice soup and man was that ever good. 

When the girls finished eating and they made Christmas cookies for Barb's parents.  They made wedding cookies for her mother and a version of the Uncle Chuck's Chocolate Chip cookies for her dad.  They just aren't the same without coconut and with Splenda.  I guess they are a lot better than no cookies.  I know that Barbara and her sisters worked hard to find the perfect cookie recipe.  I know it was tough work to eat all those near perfect cookies to reach perfection.  I know they don't last long whenever they show up here. Somehow they manage to incorporate coconut and oatmeal into a cookie that is just yummy.  I'll bet there are all sorts of family recipes for Christmas goodies.  There is Mom B's fudge that is also mighty fine.

The deer are still looking pretty good as I feed them cracked corn.  If the December weather is any hint of what's to come,  look out come January.  That's when the sick lame and lazy deer show up looking for food.  Perhaps I need to move the feed pan a little closer to the house so I don't have to slip and slide down the hill. 
It's hard work but someone had to feed them.

Feed them and they will come
Global Warming is a hoax.  It is only December and colder than hell out there.



What Did You Do in the War Daddy?

This is mostly a compilation of the stories I was told about my Daddies service in WWII.  I will confirm only that this is the way I remember the stories I was told and the actual facts may vary as my memory does and because some of the stories were told after and during periods of alcohol consumption.  Sit back and enjoy.

When Pearl harbor happened, December 7, 1941 my parents has two little girls and my mother told my dad that he could not just go down and enlist.  It just made sense that he would wait until he was called.  I have little doubt that he would have volunteered for pilot training had he gone early.  By the time he was called, the Pilot program was full and he was drafted.

According to Dad, he was taken to Kansas City by train and after the physical and the testing, he was sent to the basement of the building.  They counted off 1-2, 1-2, 1-2...  The 1s were to be in the Army and the 2's in the Navy.  Dad said he was a 1 and he asked the Sergeant if he could be a 2 because he was a Aviation Mechanic and had worked for McDonald Douglas and he could repair most of the navy Aircraft.  I am sure that had they known he had worked for Steerman Aircraft he might have been sent to the Army Air Corps.  As it turned out the person in charge allowed Dad to go to the Navy line. 

Dad went to Great Lakes for his Basic Training.  There are pictures of his Brother, then an Air Corps Lieutenant visiting him there.  From there, he went to Pensacola Florida for Advanced Aviation Repair Training.  He spent a short time in Oklahoma at a Naval Airbase.  During this time, My Grandfather Lee died and Dad was allowed to come home for the funeral. 

Dad said that at one time he had to fill out a Dream Sheet where he was to be stationed.  He said it didn't matter to him as long as it was on dry land.  He was sent to Barber's Point, Hawaii.  The story I hear from there will be told here but this is at best stories.

Dad said one of his toughest job was to drink enough beer on the weekend so they would have beer cans to patch bullet holes on the aircraft the carriers brought into Pearl.  He said that when a carrier would land in Pearl, they would use their cranes and offload piles of shot up aircraft.  The planes that were flyable would fly to Barber's Point  and his unit there performed all the higher level maintenance needed.  When the carriers were to put out to sea, the pilots would come to Barber's Point and fly the refurbished aircraft back out to the Carriers.  While the carriers were at sea, Dad and his unit would continue to put together as many aircraft as they could.  Dad said he was a sheet metal mechanic but rated as an airframe and engine mechanic. 

Dad said that the only shot he heard fired in anger in the war was the time one of the guys on guard duty dropped his rifle and it went off.  He stayed in Hawaii until the end of the war.  He said that near the end of the war they asked him if he wanted to put to sea with the fleet as they were to go to Japan for the surrender.  He said no thanks. 

My story was that every time Dad would talk about his time in the service he would get a little tear in the corner of his eye.  When I was in Vietnam in 1968, I go an R&R to meet Barbara in Hawaii.  We went to Barber's Point and I too had a little tear in my eye when I had to leave there to go back to Vietnam. 

One funny story Dad told was the time he was on duty in the headquarters and one of the guys bet him that he couldn't open the security safe there in the office.  He said he worked on it for several hours and finally worked the right combination and it opened.  He thought it was funny as hell until he realized that he needed to work the combination to re-lock the safe.  he said he got that damned thing locked just before the staff reported for duty the next morning.  He said he would have been courts martialed for sure had he been caught.

I don't know if it was true, but Dad said that he made Petty officer third class twice.  He came home from the Navy and put his uniform in the cedar chest.  I think that most of us wore it for Halloween once or twice.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.




As I read the paper, Facebook and my E-mail today, I am reminded that the one question there is often not an answer for is, Why?   Over and over when bad things happen, people ask why?  Here is my simple understanding of people and only offered as a partial explanation, not the final and by no means the complete answer.

I think that all of us (or nearly all of us) have had an impulse to perform an event in our lives that just doesn't fit in our nature.  Even the woman that has never held a gun will turn savage if her children are threatened.  In most cases, these impulses are mitigated by the social training we have received over the years.  These stray thoughts can cross your mind and are often not acted upon.  Rules, limitations, boundaries and norms in our society shape us to what we are and what we do.  Normally this is true.

I do not forgive those that perform acts that are against the above reasons and blame it on a fault in their training, upbringing or life.  Blame is what we know about ourselves and to not accept it is foolish.  We know better, it is when we don't do better that the question "Why?" is asked.  Character is not what you do when people are watching.  Character is better described as what you do when no one is watching. 

I am often reminded that in my training, I have always been told to stress that there are limits in behavior.  I describe these as the lower limits that if crossed often causes the behavior to be illegal.  The other things this lower limit crossing can cause is unethical or immoral behavior.  There is not any one of them that is exclusive.  Many cases an unethical lie started the action and illegal acts follow.  Once the reality of the illegal act sets in, immoral acts follow to cover the true facts up or just because.  Simple stated, the person performing the act might not understand how they got to there in their actions but once the line is crossed they forget that often there is mitigation in justice and that further bad actions preclude any hope of forgiveness. 

 OK, thump your bible here if you think that a true believer can and will give forgiveness for every action.   The papers are filled with people of all religions performing bad faith acts all the way and including murder.   Muslims committing bombings and priests molesting children all the way back to the middle ages where the church sponsored crusades.  History is replete with examples of mass murderers in the name of religion or types of government.

Probably one of the hardest things for me to do in life was to engage in the taking of a life of the enemy in war.   We invented all sorts of terms and made up silly sayings to mitigate the fact that war is about the worst thing you can do to another person. We created names for the enemy that somehow made it less than a crime. We didn't kill a person, we wasted gooks, japs or (insert a name here) To completely negate the other person's right to live. In the Military training, you were taught to react not think. War should never be the reason or the solution to any complex situation.  It is the failure of statesmanship that is the cause of war.  It is only when the other person is made to feel that there is no other way that we revert to the binary fact of dead or alive.  I can say this now that I probably will never be tasked to go to war again.

Where this gets confusing is when my "Mad Dog Law" kicks in.  I feel and have always felt that if you do something  that takes the life of another person and it is witnessed by two or more people, or completely supported by the facts (evidence for those crime and reality TV shows) or your admission, you should be just taken out behind the jail and shot like a mad dog. 

Justice is blind and mitigation is conditional.  I often feel so strong about justice that I forget mercy.  This is my cross to bear and I do not want you to ever ask "Why" about my actions.  The last thing I want you to do is to ask about nature and nurture in my case.  You can sum me up by combining, my upbringing, education, training, situation and interaction with people.  It sure was hell won't be simple and answerable to the question Why?  In most cases we do what we do because...



Changes in the Weather

Yesterday I was outside without a coat and I can't say the same about today.  If I wanted to see the daytime high today, it was just as midnight arrived.  The Temperature has been steadily falling since and is just above freezing with a light mist falling and a 20 MPH north wind, it isn't fit for man nor beastie out there.  I probably will go down the hill and feed the deer but little else.

This morning Barb asked me what was on my agenda.  (Insert the sound of silence here)  By the time I finished reading the paper and drinking a cuppa coffee, I had about half of the day's planned events done.  I am drinking the second cup of coffee and writing here and that was about the other half of what I planned to do.  I think I will do the floor in the kitchen and the dinning room but that's is about it.  Oh, I am listening to the Bass part of the songs for the year for the Barbershop Chorus and that's about it for dual tasking.

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours moving leaves to their final resting point for the winter.  I hate to have them piled up against the house on the deck and in front of the garage doors.  I worked on the leaves on the sidewalk in front of the house and started a leaf pile.  Perhaps by spring they will have composted down into something I can sprinkle on the garden.  I might have to get a bag or two of composted manure to help the leaves really break down. 

Barbara has the Christmas packages sent off to Morocco and today she will probably work on the family treat packages for her family.  They get fudge, cookies and divinity at Christmas.  Barb will probably do a little more shopping for the kids in both of our families.  She loves to shop for others. 

One task I have today is to pay the property taxes on the rental houses.  It is that one year event that helps me realize that rentals aren't completely as much income.  There is a fair amount of outgo to offset the income.   I guess I should sit down and figure out what the return is.  Both houses are due a roof in the near future.  The little house won't be a large expense but the bigger house could be cause to have a loan for a year of two.  We'll see.




I guess the Barbershop Chorus doesn't have a good communications tree.  Last night only 5 of us showed up and I am not sure why.  The good news is that when I came home, there was a Christmas program on ABC with Jennifer Nettles as the host, and they sang their hearts out.  It was really nice to sing along with that show as they did a lot of the traditional songs with great music and background singers.  As usual, Jennifer's voice is still in great shape and she did a wonderful job.   

There was an article in the paper yesterday that indicated that Shell Oil gave up their efforts to find new oil in Southern Kansas.  The mineral rights for 625,000 acres is available.  I don't think I'll bid on much of it. I do wonder what the effect on the value of our mineral rights will be.  If the increase in taxes is any idea, the value won't change much to the negative.  I guess every oil producer is out there doing their best to bring up all that $90.00 a barrel oil they can.

Today is predicted to be the last nice day for a couple of weeks.  There is an artic cold front headed this way and tonight at midnight is said to be the warmest temperature for tomorrow and then for 7 to 14 days thereafter.  I guess I will get out some today and see what I need to do to ready the place for snow.  I know that Barb will want to make a trip to the library some time today.

Is it possible that a house is bad luck?  There is a house in Topeka that had a murder about five years ago and then over the weekend three people were murdered there.  Probably because the house is a rental in the poorest part of town.  The latest is probably a murder suicide as there was an ex-husband found dead and his ex shot in the head several blocks from the house.  Sad that people see death as the answer to their problems.  I can't imagine any situation that would make me give up hope.   But then again I have never been hopeless.

Speaking of being outside, There is one more tree I need to remove on the pad site of my new building.  The really bad news is that the builder is backed up and cold weather won't help them get faster.  It should have started this week but now I'll bet it will be mid February.  I have figured out that the diesel tractor will start in the cold weather, I am not as in a hurry as I was.  I think I need to see what I can do about the leaves also.  If I don't kind of push them off the yard and into the forest, they will be there come spring.  I guess that's been the way it was for years and years and Barb doesn't really care.  It is only my problem. 

Better stop writing here and get ready for some work. 




'Puter Problems

I guess I'll have to get Dave over soon and have him look at the USB port and external drive problem I seem to be having.  He has his A+ Certification and I will see if it was a good investment or not.  I have a lot of things stored on an external drive and can't seem to get the computer to recognize it since I upgraded to windows 8.1.  The USB ports on the front of the computer seems loose and I don't get a good connection from them.   Oh well, Dave to the rescue.  I am sure that he is always up to a trip to the computer store on Metcalf in KC. 

The KU Basketball coach has a dilemma that about any other coach would love to have.  He has a talented team with about 11 great players and he can't seem to get them motivated to play as hard as their talents allow.  It is a tough balance to keep them all happy and involved.  The one constant is the play of Perry Ellis who must have learned to play from a poker player.  His facial expression and body language doesn't change.  Make a tough shot, miss an easy one and all he will do is run back down the floor to play defense. 

I want to send a shout out to the NCAA Rules committee.  I applaud your efforts to raise the foul standards for defensive players.  Now, get the referees to call fouls for the offensive players evenly.  A foul is a foul on both sides.  I would also ask they spend a little more time educating the referees so the fouls are consistent on both sides of the floor.  I applaud them for trying to bring the art back into the game.  It should not be a contact sport and it was headed that way.

Since we have all of our property paid for, we have to pay the taxes out of our pockets rather than from an escrow account.  This month, the Clark and Shawnee County taxes are kind of a wake up call.  The good news is that we have the money to pay them but it was a surprise.  Add to that the property insurance payments due this month and for some it could have been a bleak Christmas.
thankfully for us it is not. 
I think Barb is going out to shop for our family in Morocco.  There are just a few odds and ends they can't get there.  I think Vanilla is hard to buy because most of it has alcohol in it.  But, I don't understand food coloring being in shorty supply.  Oh well, we love to shop for them and they pay us back by stopping for a visit when the come to the US.  Someday they will be back in the USA and we'll get to see them more. 

Oh well, better listen to some of my Christmas music for tonight's chorus practice.  I need to learn the words and the Bass part a little better.  Last week at the end of one song I sang the Baritone part and led the bass section astray. 



Life Ain't Fair

 Let me start out with that this isn't intended to be one of those downer posts where I tell you about all the unfair things that have happened to me.  I will share with you a few lessons I learned in life and a few stories and you can go on your merry way and use them - or not!

There comes a time in your life that you become aware that you have family members that are getting old(er) and some of them die.  It isn't fair, it is the way of life.  You get one chance to live between birth and death.  Most people don't try to create a legacy, they live and try to enjoy what they have. I find it strange that some people remember the date when a friend or relative died.  Heck, if it were not for Facebook, I wouldn't remember most birthdays.   I try to keep my focus on what's important today to me and my family. 

From the Civil War to the latest war, we have had at least one conflict in every generation where we sent our young men and women into harm's way.  For some reason we always think that it is the duty of America to try to make things right in the world.  It isn't fair, but it is the way we do things. 

At one time, there was a dream that if you got an education and worked hard, you would be a success. Somehow that statement is being lost on the younger generation and a lot in the minority population.  I am not sure what the cause of this is, but it darned sure is sucking the life out of some people.  I personally cannot think of a time where I wanted someone to provide me with the basics of life but I do understand wanting a little better.  Are we one of the first generations that our children will not have it better than we did?  Who am I to say what is better?  For now, there is room for us to share with the poor but where will we be when we are forced to balance the budget?  

There is a lot of Joy out there in life no matter what your lot is.  Food, sex, children and small things can be a real treat for people that try to see it that way. In Command and General Staff College there was one statement that stood out to me.  "If a man has one bowl of rice a day, he might just be happy with that.  Cut it to 1/2 of a bowl and he will feel deprived." Many of us would feel really starved if one bowl of rice was all we had while we watched our big screen TV's and texted each other.   There is also a lot of sadness for those that don't share my positive outlook.  An example of this is my feeding the animals here at Rabbit Run.  I don't do it just for them, I do it for me.  I set up a trail camera and capture the deer and raccoons as they come in to eat the cracked corn I put out.  I keep the Black Oil sunflower seed feeder full and suet blocks out where I can watch the birds come in and out.  I do get to see an occasional hawk fly in and eat one of the little birds but that's the price they pay for being where they are on the food chain.  I much prefer seeing the deer  looking good and well fed to the poor sick one that hung around last year.  The crop of yearlings makes me glad.

The other day Barbara and I were on our way home and I saw a buck deer in the middle of a field.  He was standing there in the middle where he had full view of anything trying to sneak up on him.  As usual, Barbara had her camera and she took a great picture.  I turned the car around and she got to take several pictures.   Yesterday I saw a coyote along the side road as we drove by.  It made me think that Barbara and I make a good photography pair.  I spots 'em she shoots 'em.  I saw an Owl in Oklahoma and she got some good shots of it.   I guess it is all those years as an Artilleryman where I looked for targets.  With old age, my eyes aren't what they were a few years back. 

The other day I bought a recorder so I could hear the Christmas songs the Barbershop Chorus will sing this year.  I got to hear myself and I am not nearly as good as I thought.  I won't throw rocks at anyone else.  That is a good example of life isn't fair.  My reality might not be as good as the reality.  But, who do I have to please?   ME I guess.

Who do you have to make you happy, sad or whatever you are?   You  That's really the secret of life and my mother said it her way.  "What ever floats your boat." 




There have been times that my dreams were great places to work out a problem.  Many times I have awakened with what is a logical answer to a question I had when I went to sleep.  I know that many times before I travel I won't sleep worrying about the events that could transpire when we are traveling.  On the other hand, many days I wake up wondering what the hell that was all about.  You know, those crazy dreams that are so separated from reality that no practical lesson could possible evolve from something that crazy.  I am not sure that people who don't remember their dreams aren't blessed versus those of us that have vivid memories f the crazy times.

There are times that I know that I am dreaming and do my best to let it become a free for all.  The main marker is when I light up my pipe.  I am not sure when I quit smoking my pipe but it was years ago.  This dream almost always occurs when I have dreamed that I just ate a great meal.  For some reason, I just don't have those thoughts about drinking.  Perhaps drinking is just so natural that I don't even think about it.  I know I stopped drinking in the early 90's so it has been at least 20 years since I have had the need to take a drink.  I bought a box of wine to take to Carrie's house for Thanksgiving and did take a small sip to taste it.  I just didn't feel compelled to drink a glass of it.

I think that was when I really started to think about drinking.  It was way and well on its way to the "go to" solution to my problems.  I think the term Mom used was "Self Medicated."  The more I drank, the more I wanted to use it as the solution to my problems.  It became the avoidance medicine in my life and just had to stop.  Today I don't try to stop others from drinking, I do point out that when you really need a drink, is the time you should stop and think about taking that drink.  If you can take it or leave it, then feel free to have a drink. 

Back to dreams,  One good thing for me is that my dreams of Combat don't happen when I am asleep.  There was one time I had just come home from surgery and I was watching "Platoon" I had a flash back when they went into a village.  I swear I could smell, taste and feel the fear from my time in Vietnam.  We had one trip into a village that felt like that scene from the movie. 

We didn't have the firefight or the violence the movie had but we did have a pretty significant event that day.  One of the children in the village was very sick and the women had began to wail that he was going to die.  The mood that day was tense and all the crazy noises from the women made it really chilling. Our Medic tried to help but he said that unless we could get the child to a Hospital there was little hope.  We set up a perimeter and call a Med Evac chopper from Pleiku. I have no idea where they took that child or the outcome but it was a fairly significant event and I'm sure the basis of that flash back.

One thing I am blessed with is fact that I seem to forget the really sad or hurtful things that happen.  They are soon buried in the great events that happen to me and people I know.  I am sad to see someone lose something significant to them but I am always more glad (Gladder) to see someone win or get an award. 

Oh well, better get cranking.