Grandkids are our reward

John's thumbnail(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 4/11/2014)

There’s something about the excited cry of a three-year-old calling “Papa John !” across the yard – or the living room. I am still warmed by the memory Granddaughter Kass running from behind the house as I pulled up, singing my name over and over as she approached my vehicle.

Lately, the warm feeling has been instilled by Grandson Peter demanding similar attention. He wants help with something, or wants to show me something, or sometimes is just happy to see me appear.

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I’d almost surrendered

John's thumbnail(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 4/4/2014)

I finally gave up trying to keep the House Sparrows out of the bluebird house. For about three days.

I feel badly for them, trying to set up a home outside my studio window. They are mid-1800 immigrants to this country from the Mediterranean Sea shores, by way of Europe. I’ve read they were a pest in China; Chairman Mao tried to eradicate them thinking it would make more grain available for his burgeoning human population.

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The nation’s highest court has decided

John's thumbnail

So the nation’s highest court has decided money is speech and corporations are people. Here’s a thought: don’t vote for anyone who tries to “buy the pot.”

During the 2012 presidential election cycle, gazillionaire Sheldon Adelson set records for the amount of money he put into the Republican run for the White House. Republicans lost. It can be done.

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Killing in the name of justice

(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 3/28/2014)

Feb 20 this year, Gov. Tom Corbett signed execution warrant #31 of his tenure. Currently 190 prisoners await their punishment on Pennsylvania’s “Death Row.” One of them is Christopher Lynn Johnson.

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Thoughts on the cost of new homes

John's picture(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 3/21/2014)

An article in the Gettysburg Times reported on “Discovery Gettysburg,” a 2,000-unit housing development proposed for the intersection of US15 and PA394 (Shrivers Corners Road).

It’s a fact that residential growth is the most expensive when compared to agricultural and industrial. For one thing, each new worker living in a residential development occupies a separate home; the same number of employees work together in stores, factories or office buildings.

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Artist seeks to provoke thought

John's picture(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 3/14/2014)

“When power corrupts, art establishes the basic human truths which must serve as the touchstone of our judgment.” President John F. Kennedy in a 1963 AmherstCollege address.

Reina Wooden signs her work as “Reina 76 Artist.” She recently opened a show at WITF Headquarters featuring a set of abstract sculptures I found thought provoking. The eight sculptures depict colonies, each defined by an open ended list of characteristics, and in some instances, names of people.

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How cold was it back in B.C. (Before Cell)

(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 3/7/2014)

A friend told me this week it has been so cold where she lives, kids have been complaining their cell phone keypads have been freezing. They have had to wait until second period before the keys have thawed enough they can be used to text the youngster across the aisle to set a lunch meeting in the school cafeteria.

Being without a working cell phone is rough, but I guess it is all relative. I bet my daughter remembers being unable to satisfactorily explain the necessity of tying up the home phone to talk to friends with whom she had just spent the day at school. Even that was B.C. – Before Cell.

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It’s a small world, and electrons are really fast

John's picture(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 2/28/2014)

Across the years, each generation has found the world a tad smaller. I imagine early hunter-gatherers, accustomed to walking from place to place, were impressed by how much ground could be covered on a horse. And I can almost hear Mr. Ugh grunting to Mrs. Ugh something to the effect that “kids these days move too darn fast. They miss everything that’s going on around them.”

Then came trains, cars and airplanes, and each prompted Mr. and Mrs. U to assert the latest version of, “If God had meant us to fly, He’da given us wings.”

Then came the Internet.

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Thanks to a municipal plow jockey

John's picture(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 2/21/2014)

I was sitting here doing what I do when I heard a truck backup alarm on my street. There are not many trucks with backup alarms on this street, so I got up to peek out the window – to see the Cumberland Township plow stopped, and the driver walking back to where a neighbor was helping an 80-something gent back to his house through the snow.

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Ornithological shift change

Sparrow attempts to chase away a starling(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 2/14/2014)

A few days ago, the first Eastern Bluebird of the season wandered into the yard. I watched as what I am pretty sure was a Tufted Titmouse sat on a branch and dug a peanut from its shell. I’ve been told robins have been seen in Littlestown.  It’s seasonal shift change in the bird kingdom.

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The water is alive

Falls on Middle Creek(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 2/7/2014)

My grandkids never have experienced swimming across lake and finding a cold spot in the warm water, a spring gushing water up from the bottom. I know exactly the location of that spring; as a youngster I swam the half-mile across the lake, over the very spot. There is something about feeling the life of the water, and knowing why that particular place is last to freeze in winter or where, since the lake never floods, the water goes next.

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Visions of snowstorms past

Winter at the lake(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 1/24/2014)

Winters of my youth I remember being way more snowy than those of more recent vintage. I mentioned to an old guy one day that as cold and snowy as it now seems, there was a time when by late October the snow would came up to my, uh, posterior.

He offered the possibility that my posterior was closer to the ground in those days – but I remember being 17 and one afternoon at the start of hunting season pushing my way downhill through the snow below Bates’ farm, hoping to flush a deer out of the pines at the edge of the pasture. Instead, I bagged a pair of Partridge for dinner.

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Feline wizardry makes some enjoyable joe

Plastic-lined burlap bags of in-house roasted coffee beans wait to be brewed(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 1/17/2014)

The Tuesday Noon Coffee and a Movie Philosophical Society meets here, as does a Wednesday night knitting club. During the day, shoppers stop by for conversation and a cup of joe.

“Here” is Merlin’s Coffee, at the far end of a short alley at the Outlet Shoppes, on the outskirts of Gettysburg. Sometimes called by customers “the cat house;” owners Donna and Eric Burns, of Hanover, are deeply invested in rescuing cats, have named the business for one of the animals, and have decorated the interior with cat art and knick-knacks. All their employees agree to allow Eric and Donna to donate the tips to animal rescue efforts.

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Another few inches

Another couple inches of snow

If this would come all at once, it could be an over and done problem. This winter is up to 22 inches, but it keeps coming down a little at a time and going away.

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But, Baby, it’s cold outside

Winter in Maine; that's me in the middle(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 1/10/2014)

The sun is well up as I write this, and still the temperature has climbed only to plus-two degrees Fahrenheit.

You know it’s cold when even in still air you generate enough wind just by walking to frostbite your forehead as the air flows between your wool stocking cap and your sunglasses. New-fallen snow is dry and fluffy, and squeaks beneath your winter boots or snow tires.

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Starlight in celluloid

Memories in celluloid lie piled on the table(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 1/3/2014)

The past week I have largely occupied my time dusting off memories. Literally. Like me, even in a box they collect mold and dust. Unlike me, I can use a soft brush to remove the bulk of the blemishes.

Stacked beside my table are a dozen Carousel trays, most of them full or nearly so, each capable of holding 40, 80 or 140 “slides” – color transparencies recording glimpses of my path to here, including images of Hong Kong mixed with frames of Sicily and Italy and Germany and Thailand, the memories stirred like a marbled cake.

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A special Merry Christmas to those on “the wall”

Published in the Gettysburg Times, 9/6/2013)

In a few days, it will be time for the Jolly Fat Guy to drop in. Our tree is sparkling with ornaments and lights, and there is plenty of space beneath for whatever booty the red-clad elf chooses to leave. Later Christmas Day, a couple of the grandkids likely will stop by to see what has been left for them.

One of my happiest memories of youth was waking to the sound of Dad, outside our window in the darkness of Christmas morning, shouting, “Hey, come back here! The kids want to see you.”

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O! Christmas Tree

Decorated with souvenirs of our trip together (Published in the Gettysburg Times, 12/13/2013)

Ever since the calendar flipped into December, there has been a singular goal on my spouse’s mind.

Selecting our Christmas conifer from offerings of the “40 and 8” – a club associated with the American Legion – was a tradition born many years ago, when my not-yet spouse, a Registered Nurse, discovered the club used its profits to fund scholarships for student nurses.

Alas, the “40 and 8” begins selling on the first weekend in December. The first day of the month fell on Sunday, so that weekend didn’t count. The following Saturday morning came the quiet query: “Papa John (a title bestowed by a granddaughter some years ago), can I have a Christmas tree?”

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Is this really the lesson we intend?

Ice cream cone labeled Tantrum Averted (Published in the Gettysburg Times, 12/6/2013)

Out on the westbound Pennsylvania Turnpike, there is a billboard announcing the upcoming New Stanton service area.

“Tantrum Averted,” it proclaims, the words above a picture of a young boy eating an ice cream cone and grinning. The lesson, for child and parent alike, is either the kids gets an ice cream cone or the parent gets to listen to screaming and pounding.

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Traditions

Ella, nearly 4, learns her mother's mashed potato recipe

Published in Gettysburg Times 11/29/2013

As I write this, I am dreaming of turkey. As you read it, I’m preparing, weather permitting, to enjoy another one. Or I’m still sleeping off the first one, visions of Thanksgiving Past flowing through my gobbler-doped gray matter.

The past few days, She Who Must Be Loved has crafted offerings to the dessert god. Gleman Cheese Cake – a mixture of cottage cheese, eggs and chopped fruit candies, poured into a pie shell and baked to satisfy the demand of her offspring at Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s a tradition rooted in her marriage to her high school sweetheart. He’s no longer with us, but the cheese cake, passed down from his parents, is really good.

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