Welcome to my blog, or should I say to the ramblings of an old man. I doubt that my ramblings are of much value, but at least I have an opportunity to share them.  So, please be kind and humor me. If nothing else of value stands out in these thoughts, I hope that you at least sense the value I place on a daily walk with the Lord.  That walk is what has provided me with motivation and a sense of purpose throughout my lifetime.  My prayer is that you, too, are experiencing this direction and joy in daily living which is available to everyone who puts his trust in Christ.  So, thanks again for joining me.  Please don't go without leaving some comments here so I can get to know you better as our paths intersect today in this blog.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Phun or Phrustration?

Phun or Phrustration? That is the annual plight of a Philadelphia Phillies baseball fan. I have always been a Phillies fan. Growing up I collected all their cards. I rooted for the Whiz Kids in 1950. I loved Robin Roberts and saw him pitch against Brooklyn's Don Newcombe several times in old Connie Mack Stadium. I cheered for Richie Ashburn, Del Ennis and Curt Simmons. Later my favorites were Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton and Pete Rose. But I, like other true Phillie fans, have suffered through many, many years of sad, average baseball including 1964 when leading by 6.5 games with only 12 to go, the Phils lost ten straight and once again blew the championship. But there have been some good years, especially recently. And all true Phillie diehards thought that finally this year we had the team of the ages, a sure bet to win the World Series. The team traded away their farm system to secure what might be the best five man pitching rotation ever. This was our year! But in Phillies history little has gone the way it was planned. Failure always seems to come through Philadelphia. Who expected the "Big Five" to have two of its members (Oswalt and Blanton) on the disabled list? But it happened! Who expected that one of the very best bullpens to have their three closers on the disabled list (Lidge, Contreras and Madson)? But that is where it stands now. Who expected one of the best second basemen in baseball (Utley) to spend a third of the year on the disabled list? But he did! Who expected that there would be nobody in the farm system with a bat to replace Jayson Werth when he wasn't resigned? But there isn't! Who expected that slugger Ryan Howard would become average after he signed a major longtime contract with the Phils? But he did and he has lost his spark at the plate! Who thought that Phillie favorite Jimmy Rollins would show his age so quickly and become an average hitter? But that appears to have happened. And who thought that Raul Ibanez's age would make him an offensive liability? But that appears to be the case. Today the team can't hit and can only score one or two runs a game. Mental mistakes have stood out and hurt because of the team's offensive drought. Their outfielders can't throw, their pitchers can't keep runners from stealing, their runners can't steal, and they can't or won't bunt and play "little-ball". Phrustration for fans almost every night. And yet, can you believe it, they still have the best record in baseball today! Amazing. But longtime Phillie fans wonder how long can their playing keep them in the lead? Can three great pitchers get them to the play-offs? Do they have a chance if they do get there? Phillie fans are hopeful but at the same time we've been there before and the bottom often falls out of our expectations. Some days they are amazing and Phun to watch, other days it is agony or Phrustration to try to do so. This team is now getting old in baseball years and the farm system is empty. What do following years hold? Well I guess we'll know that soon enough. The question now is, what does the remainder of this year hold? Will it be Phun to watch and support potentially one of the best teams ever, or, in typical Philadelphia fashion, will it again be Phrustration? Will the PHade or will they PHrolic? Stay tuned - we'll know in October.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Schools In Crisis?

I have spent 51 years in the public schools of Pennsylvania. They have been good years. Twelve of those were as a student in four different districts. I feel that I received a quality education that prepared me for the future. Thirty-nine of those were as a teacher/administrator. I am proud of those years. I believe that we provided a quality education, for all abilities, while being very frugal with our funds. My biggest problem during those years wasn't with the students, administrators, boards or parents. My biggest problem was with the legislators who were continually making decisions - often bad ones - that affected my classroom and my students. Each new administration would throw out the policies of the previous administration and implement new programs, often costly, of their own. We could expect major changes every four or eight years. And these changes were usually politically maneuvers made by folks who never spent a day teaching in a public classroom. But I guess because they were once students, they felt they knew all the answers. Now my present concern is that the politicians are killing our public school system in this state. Here are four reasons I feel that way. First, the legislators passed a new pension bill a decade ago to increase their own pensions. To get it passed they included the public teachers who never even asked for the change. But they never fully funded the new plan. With a funding crisis coming they again failed to solve the problem and passed the bill on to the local districts and future generations. The crisis is now hitting and local school districts are stuck trying to fund these huge deficits. Second, the new governor, in an effort to cut the state deficit, has cut drastically funds for the local districts. The new budget calls for $800 million dollars in cuts for K-12 schools. This comes at a time when schools are also faced with the pension funding crisis. And what is happening? Schools are making drastic cuts, eliminating programs and firing about 10,000 teachers throughout the state. I agree that cuts are needed to eliminate the state budget deficit but why make education bear the brunt of it? Why not cut the legislature which is one of the largest in the nation? Oh, but politicians would never cut their positions - especially with the fat pensions they have approved for themselves. Reason number three - the governor is pushing for a voucher system. And those of you who support private schools are probably excited about it. They are saying that it is just for the poor students, but once it is approved, like other government programs, it will expand. And again, the money will come from the local districts. More schools will be in financial distress if they lose students and funding. But, of course, if you have a strong athletic program, good athletes will want to move to your school. Without a voucher system, that already happens statewide with the parochial schools. If you don't believe that, just look at the teams who have won the state basketball play-offs the last few years. Fourth, there is a push to make school budgets subject to a vote by the local taxpayers. Now come on, who would ever vote for a tax hike no matter how necessary it may be. I think such votes have already happened a number of times around the state and only once did it pass. The secret is to elect good board members who will exercise proper control. But only about 12% of the voters take time to show up for such elections. But to vote against a tax hike, the turnout will be much higher. Well there is my basis for my concern. Schools will never again be what we remember. And as legislators continue to attack them, public education can only get worse. And that isn't a great prospect for our nation.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


I am on Facebook. Most of the time I'm not sure why I am on it. The majority of my "friends" never post and never respond to my posts. But I do enjoy hearing from some friends every once in awhile and hearing what is happening in their lives. I do enjoy seeing some of the pictures of things happening to them. But there are many things that disturb me about posts I see. For example, I just don't enjoy seeing pregnant women post pictures of their bare enlarging stomachs. Now I grew up in a time when folks didn't even use the word "pregnant" and I guess I think such personal pictures are just for the couple - not for the world to see. Then there are those who share their plans to be away from home. That could be like telling a thief my home is wide open for you to visit while I am gone. Then there are the personal love messages to each other shared by married, engaged, or dating couples. Some how I think those messages should be shared privately with each other, not the world. But if that isn't enough, I've noticed that usually when men share such love messages publicly, loads of other women respond and tell him how great and thoughtful he is. Those responses bother me. Are these women wishing their boyfriend or husband would tell them such things? I think this could potentially be a dangerous situation. But then I am old-fashioned. I'm also bothered by the folks who appear to spend hours on Facebook playing games. I also note teens who are posting during school hours through their phones. Maybe the phones need to be confiscated unless they are earning straight A's. Don't folks have anything better to do with their time? And speaking about time, Facebook has become a major use of time in the lives of many in today's society. Yesterday we ate at Denny's. A young mother and her daughter - probably a second grader - sat in the booth next to us. They both had their laptops. They both were on Facebook. We ordered and ate before they were even ready to place their order. And during that time they didn't even talk to each other. What a sad waste of what could have been mother-daughter quality time together. Maybe my granddaughter has the right idea. She has closed her Facebook account because it was taking too much of her time. Now that might be the best reaction to Facebook.

Friday, June 17, 2011

It Has To Get Better!

This is our thirtieth year leading our Awana program. For many years I wished that I could attend the three levels of training called Commander College. But the costs were always too prohibitive and the locations not convenient. However, this winter the first level training was held in Hershey and Dianne and I decided to kick in the required fees and attend. We thoroughly enjoyed the three day training and met some very nice dedicated people. And we passed. Since I know that I don't have too many years left to serve as Commander, I decided that I would really like to try and attend the second of the three levels while I still can. The course was announced to be held this weekend in Pittsburgh. After much prayer and consideration we decided to again pay the $600 fee and attend. I thought it would also be good to extend our stay there, going one day prior and staying two additional nights after the training. I went on the internet and found a senior rate at the hotel which was actually less than the Awana rate and I booked these extra nights. Doing this also qualified us for an additional free night sometime in the future. Then the problems began. About two weeks before the conference I was notified that because we were part of the conference I would be required to pay the higher Awana room rate for all of our extra nights and I wouldn't be able to use my credit card. I would need to pay Awana directly. This made no sense to me - not only would it cost me additional money but I would not get the points towards a free night. Now here comes the problem. I believe in standing up for my rights. I often write letters when things are wrong. I'm not afraid to protest. But in this case I didn't want to ruin Awana's testimony or my testimony. So I felt in the middle. When we registered I was told that we couldn't do it any other way. I considered going to another hotel but it would have cost me almost twice as much and that was out of the question. I asked to meet with the manager and we finally reached a compromise. Then I was told that even though I had requested early check-in, our room wouldn't be available for two hours. So we "calmly" waited. Finally we were given a room only to find it was three floors down. There were no luggage carts and even if there were, it wouldn't have done any good because there were no elevators. I hadn't told them that Dianne is wearing a cast on her foot and is receiving physical therapy for her hip. So we hauled our luggage and food supplies down the long steps. It took several trips. And after the problems with the room rates I felt that I couldn't go back and complain again. At least we finally had a room. Then we found out that while there is a refrigerator, the rooms don't have microwaves. That wouldn't normally be a problem but since I am now off gluten we had brought things that I could make to eat in our room. But alas, I guess I will eat the gluten free food cold the next few days. We also found that the room had very limited electrical outlets which we needed for things like my computer. And the bathroom is very small. Oh yes, the door is very hard to open and bangs when it is closed. Sorry neighbors. I guess we are just spoiled since we normally choose to stay in Marriott family hotels which are guest friendly and in good shape. We're not used to places like this Comfort Inn and Conference Center in Monroeville. However, we did find that they have a beautiful, large indoor pool and we enjoyed using it - until a group of kids suddenly appeared. Then walking back to our room we had to wind our way through a group of teenage girls who were practicing to canned music for some sort of dancing performance. They are practicing just down the hall from us. And so we got back to our room and watched a movie - at least we were watching it when the cable, telephone and wireless systems crashed. I guess it was good that the phone was out so I couldn't call the desk and ruin my testimony. I wonder how that movie turned out. So we will soon head to bed - I don't know when I will be able to upload this blog. Tomorrow the conference begins and hopefully tomorrow will be a better day. I guess the positive spin on this is that even with the higher room rates, it is still about half of what we would be paying at nearby Marriotts. Oh yes, we did check for signs of bed bugs!

Monday, June 13, 2011

The "Gravy Train"

In my past life - ten years ago - it was usually this time of the year that I would begin to hear the comments about how easy teachers had it with three months off. Now actually it was more like two months off (mid June to mid August) minus up to two weeks worth of required in-service days, probably a few weeks of grad school classes, and a few days to set up your classroom before the start of school. And people forgot that I couldn't ever take a cruise or a vacation to Florida in the winter and that I couldn't even count on other scheduled days off during the year because they would generally be replaced by making up snow days. And snow days weren't that great - what could you do but shovel snow knowing that the days would need to be made up. As far as sick days, to take one I would have to spend many hours in preparing detailed lesson plans for a probable non-math substitute - it was a pain to take a sick day. But rather than argue the point of how easy a teacher had it, it was just easier to say, "If it looks so great to you, then get on the "gravy train" (a very lucrative or rewarding situation or arrangement, likely to continue for some time) like the rest of us." Now I guess everybody feels that their job hours are tough and often inconvenient. But when you do the math most other jobs aren't quite as bad as one thinks. So you want a day off??? Let's take a look at what you are asking for: There are 365 days per year available for work. There are 52 weeks per year in which you already have 2 days off per week, leaving 261 days available for work. Since you spend 16 hours each day away from work, you have used up 170 days, leaving only 91 days available. You spend 30 minutes each day on coffee breaks, which counts for 23 days each year, leaving only 68 days available. With a 1 hour lunch each day, you used up another 46 days, leaving only 22 days available for work. You normally spend 2 days per year on sick leave. This leaves you only 20 days per year available for work. We are off 5 holidays per year, so your available working time is down to 15 days. We generously give 14 days vacation per year which leaves only 1 day available for work and there's NO way you're going to take that day off! So there you are. Maybe you better work harder today to earn your salary. Or, better yet, just retire. Except for the many days you have doctor visits and tests, you can then get up with nothing to do and go to bed with it half done. Maybe you want to join that "gravy train".

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Ice Or Humidity? That Is The Question

What is your choice - the ice of winter or the humidity of summer? About five months ago we fretted about the ice. We were concerned about ice storms which would bring down power lines. We despised icy roads which kept us from traveling safely. Now heavy snow is bad enough, but ice just brings everything to a halt. And remember how we longed for warmer temperatures? Well now we have them. And like the snow, the temperature isn't that bad in itself, it is the humidity which brings us down. When I was attending Florida State in the summer, it was hot. But they never had the humidity which we have in good old Lancaster County. Florida was bearable in the summer, but sometimes Lancaster County isn't. And what can you do about it? Very little except to try and relax. Maybe swim if you have access to a pool. Pray that the air conditioning or power doesn't fail. In the winter you can put on more clothing to keep warm but in the summer there is a limit to what you can take off to keep cool - at least in public. In the winter I often need to make decisions about whether to cancel Awana and that is the leadership task I dislike the most. In the winter we pay huge and growing bills to heat our home - especially since we use oil. In the summer we pay huge and growing electric bills to pay for the air conditioning. You can't win either way. Of course then there is the spring - my second favorite season - when all you need to worry about are floods, hail storms and tornados. We've had three tornados hit within a few miles of our house and we've learned to move to the basement when we need to. But there is little else one can do about those. Maybe ice and humidity are better. Then there is the fall - my favorite season - with the tail end of the hurricane season and sometimes draught conditions. Not much you can do about that either. And of course at any season you can have earthquakes. Wow, this is quickly becoming a depressing blog. Sorry about that. But in between all these bad days and events are the many beautiful days that we experience. And maybe the bad days just help us appreciate even more the good days. I guess that is really true about all the bad things that happen to us in life - they should make the good days that much better. Then there is also the reminder summed up in that great hymn "Great Is Thy Faithfulness". It says "summer and winter and springtime and harvest .... join with all nature in manifold witness, to Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love. Great Is Thy Faithfulness ..." Sometimes I just need to be reminded that my days are really in God's hands and that He is with me every moment - in the good times and in the bad. He has promised never to leave me or forsake me. And that means that He will be with me even in the ice, humidity, tornados, earthquakes, hurricanes or whatever. Do you recognize His constant presence by your side? Now which do I really prefer, the ice or the humidity? That is easy. In the winter I prefer the humidity and in the summer I prefer the ice. With an answer like that, maybe I should be a politician. In the meantime, I think I'll fight the humidity with some ice - in my glass. Keep cool - at least for now!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Questions To Ponder

Sometimes I wish that I were bolder. When I walk at Park City I pass strangers with whom I would like to have a civil conversation. But I know that these conversations will never happen since these folks might feel threatened or embarrassed by my questions. But I think about them anyway. Here are five questions that I would like to ask. (1) Why do you always walk against the flow of walkers? There are a couple of people who always walk the opposite way, often walking through groups of walkers. Why? Do they just enjoy being different? Are they from England? Do they just want to observe everyone else? I guess there are people everywhere who just enjoy going against the flow. (2) There is a nail salon which has a statue of Buddha on its front counter. And every week there is a new piece of fruit or a flower in front of the statue. Is this a sacrifice for good luck? Has it done any good? What happens to the food when it gets old? When they opened, they had an altar outside of the salon and ladies in traditional garb were burning incense in the hallway. Now I would really like to stop and ask them about all of this ... not to argue or debate ... just to attempt to understand their beliefs and traditions. (3) Then there is the middle-aged man we see there each morning who appears to be homeless. Why is he homeless or is he actually homeless? Where does he stay when the mall is closed? He always has a bag with him that we assume must include some clothing or possessions. We often see him walking or sitting reading a newspaper. Now I wouldn't want to embarrass him, but if he is homeless I'd like to ask him about the circumstances that brought him to this point. (4) Then there are the regulars who buy lottery tickets at the mall and sit on the benches scrapping them off to see if they've won. I'd like to ask them how much they spend each day. I'd like to ask them how much they win. (5) Then there are the young people with brightly colored hair or baggy and torn clothing. A few weeks ago we saw a boy with pants so low that most of his blue underwear pants were exposed. Now he might be a member of some "gang" but I'd love to ask him how he keeps his pants on and how comfortable this really is. I just can't imagine that it is the least bit comfortable. (6) How do some of the "old" ladies walk so fast. A few of them almost sprint around the mall. I couldn't even move that fast when I was 40 years younger. And I don't see "old" men walking nearly that fast. But these are questions that I will only ever ask in my head. Of course there could be a seventh question I should ask. Why do I faithfully walk there six days a week? Actually, I do ask myself that question everyday as I begin to walk and I'm not sure that I ever come up with a good answer. Oh well, I guess having these questions gives me something to ponder while I trudge along and get passed by some of the sprinting women, some of them going the wrong way.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Still Waiting!

I hope that you read my blog for May 12, "Just Wait!" In case you did I thought that I should give some updates on what has happened in the past 22 days. (1) We are still waiting for our air conditioning service. That will come, hopefully, on June 28. Of course we are on a "waiting" list in case any earlier openings develop. Do I think that will happen? That has just about as much chance of happening as it does of snowing here on July 4. Or in probability terms - 0! (2) How about our plumber? We are still "patiently" waiting - for two months now. Despite three phone calls it is still "probably next week". It's good we don't have a broken pipe or we'd now have a gigantic swimming pool in our basement. (3) But there is a success - last week our tree trimmer did return to pick up the remaining limbs - it just took him a month and a half to return. (4) Our two new pine trees? We are still waiting - if they come by Christmas we can decorate them. (5) Our mulch - still waiting - hopefully before winter. (6) Our tombstone? Promised in April - still not done. But we aren't in a hurry for that yet. And if the rapture happens first, we won't pay the other half of the bill. (7) The Awana survey forms? The good news is that 10 have since been returned. The bad news is that we are still waiting for 21 others. The deadline was May 8. Oh well, they are volunteers. (8) Doctor appointments. Dianne will finally have one with the specialist next week. But in trying to make another appointment with a specialist she has been told that she will be placed on their September schedule and they will call when they have a date. (9) And then there is the May 20 predicted rapture. I'm still here, are you? But I am looking for that special day as believers have for thousands of years and only God knows when it will happen. But while I get impatient with those companies and workers that can't get around to doing the work that I will pay them to do, I do know that it is an important spiritual principle to learn to wait on the Lord. I think David must have learned this principle because he talks about waiting on the Lord so often throughout the Psalms. Meditate upon some of his thoughts as you read the following. Psalm 25:5 "Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day." Psalm 25:21 "Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; for I wait on thee." Psalm 27:14 "Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD." Psalm 33:20 "Our soul waiteth for the LORD: he is our help and our shield." Psalm 40:1 "I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry." Psalm 62:1 "Truly my soul waiteth upon God: from him cometh my salvation."