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, July 30, 2013

One Of The 30%

Several days ago I read two articles that really surprised me.  The first was a report on a poll from Gallup that showed only 32% of Americans put together a budget each month to track income and expenditures and that just 30% have a long-term financial plan laying out savings and investment goals.  It also said that only about a quarter of those with a high school diploma or less say they live on a written budget.  I guess to borrow a line from our puppet Spacecat, those results just "blow my mind".  How do people live without following a written budget or financial plan? The poll also asked those who didn't maintain a budget why they skip it.  The most frequent response is that they spend it all anyhow.  So I guess the majority of folks live paycheck to paycheck, without a plan.  No wonder most are deep in debt with little hope of ever digging out.  I would also be in deep trouble if I didn't have a written monthly plan that I attempt to follow.  Of course, most Americans appear to follow the example of our government leaders who are leading us into bankruptcy with their uncontrolled spending and lack of planning or discipline.  The second article that surprised me is very similar.  Two-thirds of adult Americans are estimated to be without a will. Many people mistakenly assume if they die, their spouses will automatically inherit everything. That's simply not the case.  It's shocking how many people don't take the time to write a will to make sure their families are taken care of when they die. Not only does the state get to make this decision, but family fights could tie up your estate in probate court causing expenses and delays;   When you die intestate, meaning without a will, your estate will be divided according to the laws of the state in which you reside. The state will decide how your property is to be distributed. Most states generally distribute estates according to the following rules, with some variations:  1.  If you have no children, your spouse will receive your property.  2.  Your spouse receives half your property, if you leave one child or children of one deceased child.   3. Your spouse receives one-third of your property if you leave two or more children, or one child and descendants of one or more deceased children.  If you are not married and have no children living or deceased, your property will generally be distributed to the following people, in this order:   1. Your parents   2. Your brothers and sisters or, if they are not alive, their children    3. Your grandparents or, if they are not alive, their children (i.e., your uncles and aunts)   4.  The children of your deceased spouse    5.  Any relatives of your deceased spouse   6.  The state of your legal residence.    Of course, if you don't live on a budget, maybe there won't be anything left when you die, so why worry about a will!   I guess I feel strongly about the fact that as a child of God, all that I have belongs to Him.  And, because of that, I need to be a good steward of what He allows me to have.  And doing that requires me to plan wisely and honor Him not only with my money, but with my actions and decisions.  But then that is just the opinion of an old, retired math educator who has a will and has always lived on a written monthly budget.  I guess I am just one of the 33%.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Corn Wagon

Recently we dropped by the famous Corn Wagon located on route 741 near New Danville.  It is about 10 minutes from our house. This farm market has become a favorite shopping place for vegetable bargain hunters from all around.  In fact, we have friends from Northumberland County who annually make the trip just to purchase corn.  From spring to fall the Brenneman family sells fresh produce, straight from their fields.  You can purchase home grown Asparagus,  Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower Eggplants, Green Beans , Hot Peppers (jalapeƱo & cayenne), Peaches, Peppers, Red Beets, Romanesco, Tomatoes, Turnips and Zucchini in season.  But the most popular crop is sweet corn, white and bi-color varieties.  Not only is it fresh, but you can't beat the prices.  Earlier this week the white corn was 13 ears for $3.00.  The day we were there it had dropped to 13 for $2.50.  And from the looks of the bountiful corn crops in Lancaster County - beautiful fields of corn for miles and miles - the price will soon drop to 13 for $2.00 and possibly even lower.  When we arrived there were probably 25 - 30 customers waiting.  Two large wagons had already been emptied and another wagon was on its way.  In a few minutes the next wagon, straight from the fields, rolled in and the crowd pushed and shoved to start grabbing the newly picked ears.  My wife was almost knocked over by one anxious shopper.  We bagged 26 ears, escaped to pay for it and then head home.  
     Everything is on the honor system and I imagine that many of these buyers cheat the Brennemans by taking more than they pay for.  That is sad, but a fact of life in today's society.  Some roadside stand owners in the county have had to install cameras and other security devices to catch thieves. Not much honor today. Many of those caught are tourists but there are some dishonest locals as well.  After our purchase we headed home to freeze the corn. Besides fresh corn on the cob, the next best thing is frozen corn right off the cob during the winter .  When we saw how nice the corn was I decided to go back to get another 26 ears.  A new wagon of fresh corn had arrived just before I got there so I again was able to quickly choose what I wanted.  Incidentally, a crowd was again there filling up their bags.  
     It seems that every time we pass by their location, there are loads of people waiting to buy.  And why not?  Fresh produce, right out of the field, at a great price.  We had just seen corn at our local grocery store - five ears for $3.99.  It was already husked and nicely cleaned, but doing that is just part of the enjoyment of the season in God's Country, Lancaster County.  And was the store bought corn fresh?  Probably a few days ago.  I'll gladly take my $10 purchase rather than the store bought for about $40!  And this winter I will enjoy it, down to the very last kernel.  If you've never been there, make it a point someday to visit the Corn Wagon.  It is an experience.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Keep Cool!

This excessive hear this past week has made me think about the old days, BC that is.  Now that wasn't a mistake. I'm old but I really didn't experience the years Before Christ.  I am talking about the years Before air Conditioning.  Now I am old enough to remember those days and some how we survived them.  I remember the long nights when as a youngster I used to take my pillow and sprawl on the floor in front of the open screen door to our side porch, just hoping to catch a breeze.  I recall trips in our car when all the windows were open in order to attempt to cool off.  And I am sure that I've also forgotten many days and nights of agony trying to survive the heat.  How did we do it?  When we were married one of the first things that we purchased was a window fan and for many years we used that fan to try to pull in cool breezes from windows throughout the house.  My father never lived in a home that had central air.  In his later years he finally did buy a window unit for his bedroom and one for his dining room.  And using those and a fan he survived into his 90's.  
     Growing up I don't remember homes having central air but I guess there were some - those who could afford this luxury.  I guess it might have been the early 1980's when we could finally afford a window unit for our bedroom.  Then in the early 1990's we finally arrived and had central air installed. About a decade later we had problems with the unit and had to replace it with one that was supposed to be more energy efficient and better for the environment.  It uses puron and unfortunately puron doesn't seem to cool like the previous ingredients.  We have it set at 73 and 73 with puron is not nearly as cool as it was at 73 before.  But it is still great.  
     Now my worst experience living without ac came in the months of August, September, May and June for about 30 years of teaching.  Our math classrooms were located on the third level of a building with a flat roof. My classroom and my office were usually on the east side - the sun side.  There was almost no cross ventilation.  It would be 90 when we arrived in the morning and it just never cooled off.  I wanted the district to install big ventilation fans, but they never did.  A service club did buy box fans for each of our math classrooms, but there wasn't much more than hot air to move around.  I don't know how any student learned anything during those months.  It was very exhausting for all of us. Today I don't think parents would even allow their kids to work in such conditions - but we did. I almost felt like I was in heaven when they finally built our new building and we had ac.  
     Now I do not remember when they first began to put ac in automobiles, but that was a luxury and only available to those who were "rich".  Open car windows were the only solution for many years for the rest of us.  I don't remember when we first could afford a car with ac, but it certainly wasn't until after many years of marriage.  Now I can't seem to drive anywhere in the summer without having the ac shooting out cold air.  In fact, the ac is broken in our Intrepid, so what do we do?  We just let it sit when the weather is hot.  I never thought that we would ever reach the place in life where we could even make such a choice.  PTL, we've come a long way.  
     I realized how "spoiled" I had become when we went to Pinebrook a few weeks ago.  For many years we stayed there without ac and survived with a big fan.  However, several years ago they finally installed ac.  But this time ours wasn't working.  I didn't know if I could even stay there without the ac I've learned to depend upon.  But finally they found a hole in the line and fortunately it was quickly repaired.  Have I become that spoiled?  I began to think that this must be the case.  But then, yesterday when the real temperature was about 98 and the humidity made it feel like 105, I went out to get the mail.  And I was shocked to see a young man quickly jogging past our house, with his ear phones on, not even breaking a sweat.  That answered my question.  Yes I am spoiled, but I am also old!  Keep cool!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Follow The Instructions

I admit that I continually get upset at people who can't follow instructions.  Maybe that is a result of teaching for 39 years. On the other hand, I guess not following instructions actually goes the whole way back to Adam and Eve.  And that can sometimes get you into real problems. There was a man who owned a giant gorilla and he'd never left it on its own. But eventually he had to take a trip, so he left his gorilla in the care of his next-door neighbor. He explained to his neighbor that all he had to do was feed his gorilla three bananas a day at three, six, and nine o'clock. But he was never ever to touch its fur.   So the next day the man came and gave the gorilla a banana and looked at it for a while thinking, "Why can't I touch its fur? Nothing seems to be wrong with it."  Every day he came in and sized up the gorilla for a little  while longer as he still couldn't understand. About a week later, he'd worked himself into a frenzy and decided that he was going to touch the gorilla. He passed it the banana and very gently brushed the back of his hand against its fur. Suddenly the gorilla went "ape" and started to violently jump around. Then it turned and began to running towards the man who, in turn, ran through the front door, over the lawn, across the street, into a sports car, and drove off. In the rear view mirror, he could see the gorilla in another sports car, driving right behind him and motioning for him to pull over. He drove for two hours until the engine began to splutter and the car just stopped. He jumped out and began to run down the street, over a brick wall, into someone's front garden, and up an apple tree. He turned around to find the gorilla right behind him beating its chest.  The man jumped down and ran back into the street screaming, until it became dark and he thought he'd lost the gorilla. The man ran into an alleyway then, suddenly, he saw a giant shadow coming down the street ahead. It was the gorilla! This time there was no escape. As the gorilla neared him, the man began to feel faint. The giant beast came face to face with him, slowly raised its mighty hand and said, "Tag! You're it!"

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Where Have Good Manners Gone?

Yesterday I had a major surprise.  We were at Pinebrook waiting for the dining hall to open.  Outside the entrance door are two benches.  As usual they were filled with children and teens who were also waiting to eat.  It was hot and a number of us "old folks" were standing. Almost never do one of these younger folks think to offer a seat to the older ones who would really like to sit. Of course, neither do the young adults who often camp there.  Either they have never been taught good manners or they just don't have any respect for seniors.  But to my surprise, one young lady kindly offered us her seat.  And what made it extra surprising was that she was crippled and on crutches and had every reason to be seated.  We could not take her seat and I kindly thanked her for her thoughtfulness and good manners.  And, of course, when the doors opened, all the children and teens ran to be the first in the dining hall, nearly running over those of us who were waiting.  But this is no different than what I have observed and experienced elsewhere, although it is very disappointing that those most likely from Christian homes would be this rude.  A few days ago when I was walking at Park City, a young girl came around the corner – on the wrong side of the hall – and almost bumped into me.  Of course she was busy texting on her phone.  She actually refused to get out of my way and I was forced to move.  I "thanked her" for her "good manners".  I don't think she had any idea of what I was saying to her.  Seldom do the teens at Park City get out of the way of seniors who are walking.  Seldom do they allow seniors to go through the entrance doors before them.  And, of course, they must always use the automatic doors – I guess the others are too hard for them to open. Do they have no respect for older adults?  At church I often get disappointed during our coffee and conversation time.  I get my coffee and try to walk out of the area only to be bumped and pushed by children who are running to get their drinks and treats.  Sometimes my coffee has spilled.  Have they never been taught good manners?  Do their parents know how they are acting?  Do their parents even care?  Now I admit that I am getting old.  And I know that I am having more problems getting around and with my balance.  But I'm not really looking for special favors.  What I would like to see is some good manners and respect for older people – especially for those older than I am.  But maybe that, too, is a thing of the past.  But, thankfully, there are still a few members of the younger generation, such as the crippled girl at Pinebrook, who still model good manners, thoughtfulness and respect.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Construction Ahead

Our elected officials in Harrisburg did get a Pennsylvania budget passed and once again it was done in time and without any new taxes.  I will give them credit for that.  However, they failed to do anything to solve or help reduce the state's major pension crisis.  That debt is continuing to tear down the economy of the state and especially schools.  But as Nero fiddled while the city burnt, once again our elected officials did nothing but pass the problem on to the future.  And they also did nothing about a critical transportation bill which would have eased the problem of  our crumbling bridges and roads throughout the state.  But that solution, while desperately needed, would have hit us in our pocket books.  So once again they took the easy way out ... they did nothing.  However, despite their inaction, some road repairs are being made this summer.  In fact, I think all of them must be on roads that I travel.  In the last month, on routes 999 and 741, from Central Manor to Columbia Ave., there have been six construction zones, all with one way traffic.  And generally the lines of traffic have been very long. It is very hard to understand how the flaggers determine when to stop a line and when to allow the other a turn. Maybe because they must stand outside in this hot weather they want motorists to be frustrated and uncomfortable as well. I have been learning many new alternate routes, including going through some neighborhoods that I haven't visited in years.  The big challenge is knowing when they are actually working and stopping traffic and when they are just sitting there on their "extended" breaks.  For example, on 741 it appears that the crews show up at 8 am and then sit around or prepare for the work until about 10 am.  Then they begin to hold up traffic.  And even on days that they don't work, the signs are still posted about one-lane traffic ahead.  So do you gamble and continue on that route, or do you quickly seek an alternate route?  That all adds some spice to summer driving.  We also ran into the joy of road construction when we were in Milwaukee.  And, unfortunately, the GPS in our rented car wasn't ready for it.  While driving to the airport at 4 in the morning we were unable to access the roads to the airport because the GPS didn't recognize the construction and didn't get us in the proper lane.  So, in the early, dark morning hours, without a map, we drove around country roads - with the GPS "recalculating" - and finally we arrived at the airport.  But while road construction is needed and is very expensive, Penndot finds interesting ways to spend our money.  They recently installed a new large exit sign on 222 incorrectly spelling Ephrata - EPHARTA.  I understand that it will cost about $1,000 to correct the spelling.  Since spelling seems to be a lost art, I wonder if their spell-check didn't catch this one.  But my favorite construction story is what we saw today on Manor St.  In fact it so distracted me that I almost ran the red light!  One sign proclaimed an end of construction zone while a second sign right next to it proclaimed construction ahead with one-lane of traffic. The second one was correct. I guess they couldn't make up their mind that day or maybe they bill by the number of signs they post.