Friday, September 25, 2020

Yes, We Have No Revolution

I am NOT a political person. I place no great trust in politicians to fix me, and I am not invested in a political party. On September 7, 1972, I took an oath which stated, in part, that "I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same." It has no expiration date. And THAT'S the beginning and the end of my politics. (I hope.)

That may mean that I become stone tone-deaf, when it comes to political things. So, a special THANKS to daughter Tobhiyah for previewing this, to make sure I didn't sound political.

I don't go to places where politics are discussed, because it has, at best, no interest for me, and is likely to aggravate me. Even so, TWICE this morning I have encountered people I respect who believe that the US is about to descend into chaos. They point to the mass protests/riots over the summer, and the rhetoric that the world will end if _________ (fill in the blank with whatever name you prefer) is elected. 

I beg to differ. I am disinclined to believe that mass uprisings are going to take place, either as a result of the November elections, or in the near term.

I think it INEVITABLE that there will an amplification of the whining we saw after the November 2016 election, and I think it LIKELY that those who are advocating and performing street-level violence will also escalate.

BUT: folks ain't hungry. The communications net is still up. And the weather is getting cooler. And the COVID-19 restrictions have eased. As long as we have bread and circuses (a classical reference), and we have some freedom to travel, and it's not roasting inside our dwelling,  we aren't going to have an uprising. 

Here's another factor: there IS no organization with power to move large groups of people to violence, on ANY side. 

I live in Georgia; within my lifetime, there was Klan activity. Now? Zip. Nada. Nothing. There has been NO organized reaction against black folks, protesting or not, and to me, that speaks volumes about the potential for violence. The Klan was the PRIMARY collection point for the extremists who killed people trying to get out the black vote, such as Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney in 1964. And for you young people out there: Yes. That sort of thing really happened. 

Michael Schwerner, 24; James Chaney, 21; Andrew Goodman, 20
They died working to bring YOU a better country.

Now? There IS no corresponding rally point like the Klan, because there IS no monolithic power base being threatened by an organized opposition. Back then, you had a solid white establishment, with a lock on political power. That isn't true today! Now, not only black folks but LOTS of different kinds of folks are in positions of power; even the ranks of us white folks include SOME people who aren't vile.

As for the forces trying to burn it all down: those doing violence in our cities have primarily been opportunistic thugs, with absolutely NO shared revolutionary ideology. Sure, there are loud voices of those WITH an ideology, and some of them have deceived themselves into believing they are providing leadership to the thugs. However, the thugs do not give a rip for revolutionary zeal; the thugs are motivated by individual benefit, and NOT some classist rhetoric. As the weather gets cooler, the streets will get empty, and there goes the 'revolution.'

Just my opinion; I do not claim to be a prophet. Except to predict this: my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, is going to whop me upside the head for publishing this. She prefers that I keep such opinions to myself. I accept this action on her part; it's part of the package.

Peace be on your household. (And on mine, too!)

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The Freezer Fairy is Joined by the Pantry Fairy

 Greetings to all of my friends and neighbors out there in Internet Land, and to those family members who have stumbled on this site: YE KNOW WHEREOF I SPEAK!

Hooray for science! It's given us some GREAT ways of living longer, healthier lives. What we DO with those lives is up to us, but for that, we also have the Scientific Method. Define the issue; study it; form a hypothesis; test the hypothesis; rinse and repeat!

Or, if you want to go somewhat old school :

 "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." (I Thess 5:21, KJV)

It's the same thing, really.

And yet, despite science, and the scientific method, and all the lovely technology that exists to prevent us from having to slave all day, hoping to get enough to eat and a place to sleep, a persistent believe in fairies seems nearly universal.

Sure, it's transformed somewhat since my great-great-great-multi-greats were leaving offerings for them in Scotland and Africa, but only in the location and composition of the sacrifice. Instead of bowls of milk by the door, or porridge by the hearth, my offspring leave half-eaten bowls of cereal under their beds, popcorn in bags by the television in the family room, and significant meal remnants on un-scraped plates, which are often, but not always, placed in the approximate location of the kitchen sink.

Now, these are not just sacrifices offered out of the goodness of their hearts, although I do not deny that goodness, not for a second. My offspring have ALWAYS had certain expectations for the fairies. While my ancient ancestors may have expected that their placations would prevent the cow from going dry, or keep the potato crop healthy, the modern expectations are more techno-centric. This is likely due to the fact that we no longer keep cows or plant potatoes, and why should we, when their are three major grocery chains within two miles, and three convenience stores as well as a stand-alone pharmacy? If the milk turns up sour (*), we can have a fresh gallon in under five minutes, guaranteed.

*My offspring eat a lot of breakfast cereal, so the likelihood of the milk going sour is pretty slim. They usually go through a gallon of milk every four or five days.
(I have discovered, however, a way to stop them from drinking so much milk: buy TWO gallons, instead of one. If I buy TWO gallons, milk consumption IMMEDIATELY ceases, and some two to three weeks later, I'm dumping clotted dairy product to feed the garden. )

No, the expectations which I believe have been universal in my family, at least those in the pre-adult stage, but not limited necessarily by youth, are quite modern. They simply expect the fairies to turn the lights off. At one point, it was the job of the fairies to turn the television or game systems off as well, although I took steps to disabuse them of that misbelief, by confiscating power cords.

For the last significant period of time, though, I have become aware that everyone else in the house  is a firm believer in the power of the Freezer Fairy.* My recognition of this roughly coincides with the closing of the schools last spring, which meant that I was daily joined by the teen members of the Chattahoochee Pattersons, every day.  

* Before you assume that I am some sort of MONSTER: Maybe some 25 or 30 years ago, I bought a state-of-the-art-ish refrigerator-freezer, with an automatic ice-maker and water dispenser in the door. It worked great for about 5 years or so, and then water started leaking out uncontrollably. So, I turned off the water supply, and we went to ice trays. And we have never HAD any ice in any form other than ice trays since sometime in 2001 or 2002. Which precedes the arrival of my current brood by nearly a decade; thus, they have never experienced, on a regular basis, the delight of on-demand crushed ice, etc. Except when we go visit Heath, Eliott, and Evelyn. They have a BRAND NEW refrigerator freezer, and Kenneth and Alicia stand fascinated as frozen and macerated water drops into their glass...

But, on the home front, the belief in the Freezer Fairy persists. Somehow, they believe, those ice trays WILL be filled! It's not THEIR job, oh, my, NO! PERISH the thought! Refill the ice trays? Why, that would deprive the Freezer Fairies of the reason for their existence! And, if the Freezer Fairies move out, who will eat the half-consumed sandwich placed carefully under the bed?

So, I have often gone to get some ice, from one of the four ice trays we keep. It is VERY rare that I will find an ice tray without a single cube; on the other hand, it is quite common to find two or three ice trays which each have but two or three cubes remaining. On one occasion, I found all four ice trays in that condition, and I promptly threw all four of them into the living room, where Kenneth and Alicia Ann were engaged with electronics, and didn't say a word. They got the message, though. On THAT occasion, they got the message.

But, life goes on. And this morning, while waiting on my Black Rifle Murdered Out coffee to emerge from the Keurig, I went to the freezer to ice my water glasses (I keep TWO water bottles with me, because I guzzle it). And that's when I discovered that in addition to the ice tray duties, the Freezer Fairy is now responsible for re-filling empty popsicle containers as well. A closer examination of the kitchen table revealed that a Pantry Fairy is expected to be on the job, as an empty box of popcorn bags was also present. (I don't like those bags. I go old school with popcorn.)

Freezer Fairy: two things to refill.
Pantry Fairy: just one.

Alas, since I have no real expectation that either fairy will appear, this will be my job. At least, they still find SOME use for the Old Man. All is not left up to me, however: yesterday, Alicia Ann, completely on her own, made up a shopping list for me, and told me she wanted to go with me to the store. She then agreed to make up a meal plan for the rest of Fall Break, so, today, the boxes will all get refilled. Even the boxes that weren't left on the table.

Peace be on your household.



Monday, September 21, 2020

Grieving: The Bleak Time


Photo by Dave Freer

My gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, and our adult daughter Tobhiyah arrived safely home on Sunday morning. They had gone to North Carolina for the Celebration of Life service for Kole Norris and Nehemiah Pratt, held on Saturday afternoon. 

Vanessa said it was a beautiful service, a tribute to the young men, and that the entire time was a time of healing for the families and community. And then, probably just before noon, she went to bed, and didn't get up again until this morning at 6:00 AM to go to work. 

I thought she needed another day, but she was too aware of the needs the law firm had, so she chose duty to others, rather than maintenance of herself. I tried to get her to take another day off, but she was determined. 
Actually, I can see value in that for her; they DO need her experience and proficiency at work. They rely on her to get the job done, but they also rely on her for the maturity and calm she brings to her co-workers. And, since they need her, she will receive good wishes from her colleagues, AND she will be able to fill her mind with all the critical details of legal filings, interviews, etc. Having something to do can be a part of her healing.

This is the bleak time of healing. I thought the picture, a cedar gum growing in volcanic rubble on a mountain somewhere in Tasmania, fit this period pretty well. So, I stole it without permission from a blog I'm subscribed to. (Sorry/Not Sorry, Dave.) I encourage you to read the post, called "Delusions," to get perspective on perseverance, which is what the picture means to Dave. And. hopefully, we all will persevere as well. Because this is the bleak time.

If you want to review the widely accepted stages of grieving, look up Kubler-Ross. That really isn't what I'm trying to re-create here. I'm wanting to describe the gritty, boots on the ground, experience many of us are going to live over the next little while. It's the third step in grieving, and it will last much longer than the first two. This blog will apply best to the people who were closest to Kole and Nehemiah; their family and friends. It's been my experience that it's applicable to other emotionally draining times as well, but it's been with the deaths of loved ones that I found it to fit most closely.

The first part of this experience was the shock, anger, fear, and disbelief we experienced when first we heard of the deaths of these two young men. It was just IMPOSSIBLE to believe; our minds couldn't comprehend it. Some of us just sat in shock; others sought, even DEMANDED to know the facts, something that would somehow help them to make the transition from a world with Kole and Nehemiah, to a world without them.
That's made worse by the truth that I talked about in my post of September 13: this is not something that makes sense. Yes, all deaths are shocking, but they are more expected in certain cases. If someone is a soldier in a combat zone, death can intrude. People who are engaged in certain illegal behaviors have no reasonable expectation of a long life. Fire-fighters, as a part of their jobs, risk their lives on a regular basis. But Kole and Nehemiah had NOTHING to do with any risk factors. Their deaths were totally unexpected. And that made the first step so very hard for many of us.

The second stage of this experience came in the immediate aftermath of the accident. There were people who had to be notified. Arrangements had to be made. Some of these were awful. I was the initial point of contact for my family, and I had to tell Nehemiah's adult cousin Tobhiyah, and then his aunt Vanessa, the person who gave him the name Nehemiah. That was awful. I hope you never have to do that; but, if you do, expect unexpected responses. Those are mostly going to be shock and rejection, but don't take it personally. I've had to break bad news to people before, and sometimes, that role sticks to us. DON'T TAKE IT PERSONALLY.
Other aspects of this second stage are quite healing, even redemptive. For me, writing about these young men was powerful and encouraging. I hope you read Jodi Johnson's tribute to her son and Nehemiah; it was beautifully moving, and it gave her a chance to speak of the joy and brotherhood these two young men found with each other, and with other friends and family. 
While the preparation is going on, either for a conventional funeral, a a Celebration of Life, it gives all of the bereaved a focus on something. Whether you are planning the service, or just planning to be there, you have a focus on something in the future, something which can be accomplished. It leaves little time for anything else.

The third stage starts after the ceremony. It can start immediately after, or when you get in the car for the drive home, or when the last guest departs. This is the bleak time. 
The grief is still palpable, and there are no arrangements you can distract yourself with. During this time, your task is acceptance, and learning. Both of those are exceedingly hard for everyone, but the closer you are to the one who has passed, the harder they are. They are also mixed so thoroughly that one blends into the other.  
The acceptance is a continuation of the first stage: understanding that they really, really are gone. This is FORCED upon you, by circumstances, which for the first time do not include the physical presence of the person who is gone.
And the learning comes with it: we are forced to LEARN how to deal with various events and circumstances, which have always included the other. It's in the bigger events, like the first Halloween, the first Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays; it's also in the little things, when you see a movie, and think, "I'll bet THEY will like that;" and then, you remember.
It's the bleak time.

I really do think that, for those hit most strongly by the loss, a year should be designated as a mourning time. That doesn't mean that you wear black for a year, although you can. It does mean that you might expect to be ambushed by a flood of emotions, at any time, and that you should be prepared to accept that as a part of your life, for the season. 

Talking helps, as long as you are talking to someone who understands grief. That doesn't HAVE to be a counselor or pastor, but they are usually good at this. Fortunately, there are usually a number of grief groups that are available in most locations of any size. Atlanta probably has a million of these, but even in the smallest place I've lived (population 4,000), the funeral home offers grief support. 

The bleak time is not forever. That message is also available in the picture at the top of this blog. In the midst of desolation, live prevails; growth happens. And, eventually, we DO learn how to live our lives in a new way. 

Two final thoughts: 
1. Grief can make you act badly toward other people. Hopefully, the people you are around will cut you some slack. That's REALLY important when you have two people, living together, both grieving. The best you can hope for, really, is that you don't both have your disturbances at the same time. It's not always going to work out that way, though. Give yourself, and give other people, some room to act strangely. It WON'T last. And, if you have just blown up on someone over a trivial matter, as soon as you realize it, make a heartfelt apology, and TRY NOT to go off on them again in the same conversation.

2. I'm not telling you anything I haven't been through. Grief has pounded me flat on multiple occasions. But, I have learned wisdom from two books.
The Big Book says "No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we can see how our experience can benefit others."
The Big Big Big Book says "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort that we ourselves have been comforted by God. "

And it's from my own experience, informed by these sources (and others), and not some academic program or seminar,  that I offer up these words to you.  I hope you find something of value here; perhaps for yourself, perhaps for others. If you have found it meaningful, won't you please put a comment below? It encourages me, you see. 

Peace be on your household.

Friday, September 18, 2020

A minor change in travel plans


No, Alicia Ann is not driving.

A week or so ago, we discovered that the reason that the air conditioning in the Suburban has gone out twice is that the compressor is busted. And to fix it,  needs a new compressor, accumulator, and orifice tube, @$602.47.

Summer is over, we don't have THAT many hot days, I don't drive the Suburban much anyway, there are plenty of other things we can do with the money, let's just put that off until spring. No problem.

Except that we REALLY don't have another car that is comfy and trustworthy for long trips. Vanessa's Toyota Corolla and Tobhiyah's Hyundai Excel are GREAT commuter cars, get there and back with no big fuel expense, but a 350 mile trip? One way? Barely doable, not preferred. The Suburban is GREAT, it's like sitting in your living room. But a trip at this time of year, with the humidity from the hurricane, and no air conditioning? Not going to end well. Sure, we used to do that all the time. But, that was because there were no options.

No problem. I've had to rent cars before when one of the vehicles was down. I got this. I'll pick up the vehicle today, we'll leave at O'Dark:30 in the morning. Nope. to my dismay, I could NOT arrange for a rental yesterday. I even went in person to Enterprise, but: no cars. 

And in checking all of the other locations, from Canton to Marietta: no cars. Maybe the internet was lying to me , but even in person, I had to put my name on a waiting list. (which bore no fruit.)

My gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, promptly skunked me when she got home from work, and got a vehicle from Avis. And I resembled a dork.

So, this morning, I drove them to Avis, conveniently located next to our Goodwill, and did the paperwork. And,  at 11:00, she and Tobhiyah climbed into a brand new Jeep Wrangler, and headed up to High Point. If you see them in your rear view mirror, I'd take the next exit, if I were you.

I stopped by the store on the way home, and bought ribs, chicken, and popsicles. Dry rub and slow roast. Comfort food.

Wish I could send some comfort food along with them. As it was, prayers and blessings were the best comfort I could provide. Would you send along some of them as well?

Peace be on your household.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

A Mother's Tribute to Kole and Nehemiah

Jodi Johnson is Kole's mother, and, for the last two years, was Another Mother to Nehemiah as well.

She wrote this beautiful tribute to both young men, and posted it yesterday. I can't think of anything else that would better serve to speak of their love for life, for friends, and for each other. With her permission, I post this here.

Peace be on your household - Papa Pat


Kole came to me on a Sunday night in the Fall of 2002. And Kole left me on a Sunday night in the Fall of 2020. He followed his best friend, Nehemiah Pratt, to heaven after a great weekend hanging out together with their group of friends.

Kole was on his way to drop Nehemiah at home and then head home himself around 8:10 when they were struck in an intersection by a car traveling at ultra-high speeds. They passed away, together there.

Kole was my only child, just me and him, for a long time. We had a terrific life together the two of us. He was my reason for living and for working hard so we could play hard. He was my good times. When we met Jeff and became a family, Kole stretched his heart and made room for us all.

He was a loud, active, fun loving guy all his life long.

He was a fantastic athlete while he played sports. He loved children. He was better at playing and understanding children than I could ever hope to be.

Kole's passion for helping the homeless was one of his better kept secrets since he was a young kid. He would befriend folks around town panhandling, give them his shoes, buy them a meal when he had a bit of money on him. He often reminded me to do the same.

Kole loved a fairly simple life. Passionate about history and social justice, he took stands on issues and challenged me regularly. Kole helped me grow as a person in so many ways. He made me into me.

He had a hard time accepting love and he often questioned the love of those around him. But he loved those who loved him. He tested us regularly to make sure it was there. And I hope he always found it us when he sought it out.

Kole had several close friends during the chapters of his life. These past few years he had found his place in a group of friends he called “The Boys.” They spent the summer together golfing, fishing, sitting around the fire, cooking out, talking about life, and being afraid for the future. Though there were things he looked forward to about adulthood, my baby was not yet ready to grow up. He was not sure what he wanted to do with his life. But he knew he wanted to spend it with his friends. And he did.

Kole always told me he would die young. He kind of liked to razz me up by telling me he would not live past 18. He told his aunt the same and his girlfriend told me the other night he upset her with the same. But in reality, somehow Kole knew he wasn’t long for this world.

My heart has a 10-mile hole down the center of it right now. Kole brought Nehemiah into our family two years ago. Nehemiah became a son to me too. He was a loving young man with a good heart. He was quiet with a strong sense of humor who had faith in people and living and letting live. Nehemiah and I shared many cups of coffee over these past years. It was our special thing to do – make coffee and sit side by side for a little chat and reading our phones. Nehemiah valued loyalty and devotion above all else. He loved his family and he loved us. And we love him.

Kole and Nehemiah were great big brothers. They would both do anything for Sophia. And she thinks the world of them.

I am devastated to lose them both. I hoped for many good times all together in the coming years. I hoped for so much for both of them.

The greatest comfort we find right now is knowing that they had a good day with their closest friends followed by a quick death by the side of their best friend. Death is often something we each face alone. Nehemiah and Kole were so so very blessed to die with each other. G*d bless them and give them the greatest peace wrapped in our love.

Go play boys. Play and have a blast! Mama loves you both.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Grieving for Nehemiah

Kole Norris                     Nehemiah Pratt

I don’t know how it happened that my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA was extended the privilege, but she is the one who named her nephew “Nehemiah.” 

 On Sunday, September 13, 2020, at a little after 8 PM, Nehemiah Pratt, and his friend and roommate Kole Norris, were killed in a traffic accident in High Point, North Carolina. Their car was struck by another car on the city streets. Police estimate the other vehicle was traveling 80 – 100 mph. 

 According to the news article, both Nehemiah and Kole were 18 years old. I’m pretty sure Nehemiah had just turned 19, and from the little I can find about Kole, he might have been a bit older as well, but one thing is true: death came too soon. 

 Don’t try to make sense out of this one. It doesn’t MAKE sense. As far as I am able to determine, Kole and Nehemiah weren’t doing anything wrong. They weren’t engaging in any reckless conduct. They just happened to be at an intersection when another person’s reckless behavior cost them their lives. 

 And all the people who loved Kole are now in pain, and all the people who loved Nehemiah are in pain, and there is no making sense out of it. 
We get no sense of peace by pointing fingers at the driver or passengers in the other car. This was not a planned act of aggression. Nobody meant for Nehemiah and Kole to die; it just happened. 

 So, what do we do with this big, gaping wound in our lives? 

Right now, immediately, we grieve over the loss. 
We grieve for these two young men, and for all the experiences they will never have. 
We grieve for ourselves, who are left on this planet in sorrow and pain and emptiness. 
We grieve for each other, because there are mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters, and cousins, and each of us has suffered a great loss, through no fault of our own. 
So, first, we grieve. 

That’s going to take a long time. 
It will take some much longer than others. Right now, for those closest to these two young men, it seems that the grief is overwhelming, and that there will never be any more happiness and peace. That’s not true, by the way, but it seems to be true at the moment. 
In the old days, a full year was dedicated to the grieving process, and I find value in that. 
For some, it might not take as long, and for some, it will take longer; but, a year is a good place to start.
Then what? 

 Then, we start trying to make some sense out of this. Then, we start asking “WHY?” 
 Not now! It’s far too early to be asking ‘why’ now, because we MUST allow the pain to teach us the truth of our loss. 
 And it’s also too early to be asking ‘why’ because these ARE senseless deaths. Trying to find meaning NOW will only cause us more pain; unnecessary pain; unhelpful pain. 

 Even so, we can prepare ourselves for that question. 

We MUST understand that when the time comes around, that there are (at least) TWO different interpretations on the question “WHY?” 

The first interpretation of the question “Why did Kole and Nehemiah die” is “What was the cause of Kole and Nehemiah’s death?” 
Let me give you some very important information: we already know how to answer that question, and it does not satisfy the pain in our souls one bit. 
 What was the cause of Kole and Nehemiah’s death? Somebody else was driving 80-100 miles per hour on city streets, and they lost control, and ran into them. 
 Absolutely true. Absolutely useless. Yes, at first, we look for all the details, trying to understand, but it’s a losing proposition. The answer to that interpretation of the question NEVER satisfies. 

 It’s the second interpretation of the question that matters. 

The second interpretation of the question “Why did Kole and Nehemiah die” is “What does the death of Kole and Nehemiah MEAN?” Or, “What is the SIGNIFICANCE of their deaths?” 
Please, please, please do NOT try to answer that right away! If you do, you are liable to get stuck with some silly religious talk about how God needed His special angels, or the unseen plan, or something New Age and goofy. I don’t think anybody ever got blessed by those answers. In fact, every time I’ve heard that bit about God wanting His special angels, I thought, “GREAT. You just gave this person a reason to be mad at God.” 
There are stories about the ancient Greek/Roman/Celtic/Norse gods acting that way, but not the God of the Bible. 

 But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t an answer to that question. 
There IS an answer to that question. 
And you are going to have to find that for yourself. How are you going to know you found it? 

It’s by the way you complete this sentence, in three months, or six months, or a year or two: 
“Because of the death of Nehemiah and Kole, I __________________________.” 
And that’s what their death will mean. You find it that way, and, you get to DECIDE what goes in the blank:
 “Because of the death of Nehemiah and Kole, I will never love another person as long as I live.” And then, that will be what their deaths mean. 
 “Because of the death of Nehemiah and Kole, I will make sure that I never leave home without telling my family that I love them.” And then, that will be what their deaths mean. 
“Because of the death of Nehemiah and Kole, I now volunteer to work with people who have been incarcerated for reckless driving.” And then, THAT will be what their deaths mean. 

And, as you might guess, it might change over time; it might mean more than one thing. 

But, this is the ONLY part where you are in control. 
None of us can control the past, and we only have the most feeble grasp on the present and future, but we DO have the ability to control how we will respond. 

 I’m not there yet. I have some more grieving to do, by myself and with others. 

But, based on the little bit I know about these two young men, I have a glimmer of what I WANT to choose. 

I want to believe that my wife was inspired by God, when she named him Nehemiah. 
Do you know what Nehemiah did in the Bible? He found the walls of Jerusalem all broken down, and he built them back up. 
Not by himself! He inspired other people to do it, too. 

 Does anyone NOT know that our country seems to be on the brink of insanity right now? Political tension, racial tension, small businesses struggling, and worries about epidemics. 

 And what does Nehemiah do, when he finds his country all broken down, with riots and killing? He builds it up. With a white friend and roommate. 


 And by the way: Kole wasn’t his first name. His first name: Joshua. That name means “The Lord Delivers.” 

I know almost NOTHING about this young man, but I do know that he made some positive, affirmative statements. 
I know people loved him. 
I know that this white kid and this black kid hung together. 


 So, what I HOPE I will be able to say, in three months, six months, a year, whenever, is: 

 “Because of the death of Nehemiah and Kole, I am determined that I will be committed to love, and committed to evaluating people on the content of their character, and not the color of their skin. 

I will open my life and my home to my brothers and sisters. 
I will be a Nehemiah. 
I will be a Joshua.” 

 Peace be on your household.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Planetary Anthology Series: PLUTO (!): A Red Friday Post

NEWS UPDATE:  I think I got this book a year ago. The review was begun on August 7, continued on  August 13, and then the last two thirds finished on September 12.

 And, here's a link you can use if you want to check out this particular tome. NOTICE: If you click on the link, it tells Amazon you came from my blog post, and if you BUY this, or anything else following the referring click, I get some paltry amount for the referral. Doesn't cost you anything, but it's only fair to let you know. 

A great good RED FRIDAY (again: August 7) greetings to all of my friends and neighbors out there in Internet Land, on the day we Remember Everyone Deployed. A special shout-out to all the writers who have given me such GREAT material to be reviewed, only to be greeted with deafening silence from me. And, to family members who stumble on this: Yes, we are yet holding on, and daily discovering new ways to celebrate God's provision in the storm.

And a SPECIAL note to the developers of the Google Blogpost software: this revision is AWFUL, SLOW, and GLITCHY. I am ONLY trying it this one more time, and if I can't go back to the previous build, I'm leaving the platform. NEWS UPDATE: As of September 12, 2020, it's a little better.

A brief explanatory note. For months, I haven't been able to write.  I think I can blame some of the struggle to get words on paper (or on a monitor, to be precise) on some singularly horrific family illnesses. The worst of these was NOT COVID-19, but happened just at the time hospitals were locking down, and as a result, a family member grew gravely ill in isolation. 

Not only have I not been able to write, but I really wasn't able to read NEW work. Under stress, I seek comfort-food-for-the-mind, from favorite works by Robert A Heinlein, David Drake, Eric Flint, John Ringo, Michael Z Williamson, Larry Correia, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, Rudyard Kipling, G. K. Chesterton, Tom Kratman, and collections produced by John Carr. 

This book was, I believe, the last NEW book I tried to attempt to read.  I was behind on my reviews; I was having to deal with some environmental stressors that ranged from trivial to life-threatening; I received a review request from a person who has been a source of quite a lot of GREAT work in the past. I grabbed the book, and eagerly attacked it....

...and then closed it and went away to do something else. 

I didn't like what I was reading, AT ALL, and, since that had NEVER happened before with a book from this referring source, I figured it was because I was just in a bad mood. So I rested; went back again, later; got the same result. At least three cycles of this,  probably more before I shelved it, and dived into my old favorites. Then, around the first of August, I tried it again, and got the SAME reaction. 

But THIS time, I struggled through. And, I started writing. And then: I quit. This time, for a different reason: I was writing a review about a story I hated, and I very much did NOT want that review to appear, without giving the writer some advance warning that I was going to eviscerate his work. So, I found his website, emailed him, and let him know it was going to appear, within the next day or so. And then, I abandoned it for another month. Therefore, what you have here is 1/3 of a review written in August, and 2/3 of a review written today. There were places where I felt I needed to insert some clarification, and those are designated by NEWS UPDATE

The review:  Somewhere, there is likely an explanation for this series, as collections of stories with themes related to a specific heavenly body. Other than a slight reference in the "From The Publisher" chapter at the end, I didn't find it in the text of my book. But, Amazon lists this as the first in a series. It DOES provide some opportunity for vile calumny to be poured on the  perpetrators of the banning of Pluto from the Nine. Some of the stories are quite lovely, in the Trees in the Fire Swamp sense.

Westley: [entering the fire swamp] It's not that bad.
[Buttercup stares at him incredulously.]
Westley: I'm not saying I'd like to build a summer home here, but the trees are actually quite lovely.

NEWS UPDATE: After re-reading the stories again for this review, I find this overall negative approach to be unwarranted.     

Like So Many Paper Lanterns by B. Michael Stevens. Not a Lovely Tree; in fact, this is by far the Ugliest Tree in the Fire Swamp. Undoubtedly, there is an audience which greatly enjoys writing of this type. I am not included in that number. This is the fourth sentence, but I could have picked just about any other; ALL of the writing is like this:

With every passing day, I drink deep of guilt and anguish, but when the Leviathans pass over, I taste something sweet in the normally bitter brew of my reflections; I taste hope. Too purple.  There IS a story of love, pain, sacrifice, desolation wrapped up in the black sparkly packaging, but getting to it was just too tedious for enjoyment. And I don't know what it had to do with Pluto, either. Possible explanation: the blurb says the author writes horror. I do not READ &*^%$% horror, mostly because I'm a sissy, but having to read stuff like this is a sufficient reason in itself to avoid it, IMHO. YMMV. NEWS UPDATE: Here's the deal: I did not like the first story, at all. I didn't like the characters. I didn't like the plot. And the execution was worthy of a Hugo nomination, and I mean that in the worst way possible.

Time Out For Pluto by P. A. Piatt . A BARELY Lovely Tree. Spoiled brat/adolescent godling Pluto is aggravated at his loss of planetary status, and sulks. And then he plots. NEWS UPDATE: I didn't like the protagonist. He's a nasty teenager, even if he may be a few thousand years old. I don't like nasty teenagers; I was a middle school counselor for 16 years. Still, the story holds together.

NEWS UPDATE: From this point on, the stories are delightful; they are clear, cool, refreshing water. The funny stories are funny. The dramatic stories have drama. They. W.O.R.K!

A Brush by J.D. Arguelles. Another pleasantly Lovely Tree. I'm not sure why this on Pluto, BUT it's a cool story. The pen might be mightier than the sword, but the brush is even better.

The Pluto Chronicles by Bokerah Brumley. A happily Lovely Tree. Truly, a ridiculous concept (a giant, marauding chicken), told as if it is a matter of fact occurrence.

Bat Out Of Hellheim by Corey McCleery. For all, I think this will be at least a nice background Lovely Tree. For some, though, could be the LOVELIEST TREE in the Fire Swamp. Uplifted Space Vikings from Midgard fight the undead denizens of Helheim.

The Rainbow-Colored Rock Hopper by J. Manfred Weichsel. A classically great Lovely Tree! A wicked bad guy of the "If you don't give me the deed to your ranch, I'll tie you to the railroad track" type against the poor-but-honest pioneer-type. So, naturally, he must catch a leprechaun (figuratively speaking).

The Heart Of Pluto by Christine Chase. This one is a personal contender for Loveliest Tree in the Fire Swamp. We have an old dude astronaut, first to land on Pluto, and about to become the first to die on Pluto. So, he hallucinates; except maybe he isn't. Loved this one.

NEWS UPDATE: Everything that follows was written today. Everything above was written in August. And, since I had the epiphany about these all being well-written, I dumped the “Lovely Tree” approach.

The Case For Pluto by A.M. Freeman. Pluto was deprived of planetary status by a wicked cabal of vampiric earth creatures, bent on crushing the spirits of nice people everywhere. In this legal procedural, will the right win out?

Marathon To Mordor by Karina L. Fabian. It's a space race, with all the glam and glitz and hype that we are accustomed to when the Super Bowl or the Olympics rolls around. Not the World Series, though; people CARE about this sporting event.

Miss Nancy’s Garden by Jim Ryals. Some cooks are sweet and polite, and always ready to give you a cookie. Some cooks will cut you in half for showing up late for meals, BUT they will go the last mile to get your food to you, hot and yummy, in the middle of a flooding earthquake. Got it? Well, Miss Nancy is like the second type. And she doesn't put up with anything. By anybody.

On Eternal Patrol by L.A. Behm II. Dead submariners save the world, even when the world is more bizarre than the concept expressed in the first four words of this sentence. Sea monsters and technological limitations combine. Work it out, people, we have a job to do!

Pluto Invictus by W.J. Hayes. On a cruise ship in space, con men, semi-heroes, and priests have to work together to destroy Vile Evil plots and robots.

 Worst Contact by Arlan Andrews, If you think about the gold disc that got sent out with Voyager, you'll recall it had our best wishes and info about the planet and people. Well, not every galactic follows that pattern.

Ambit Of Charon by David Skinner.  When the advanced-technology-indistinguishable-from-magic shows up, somebody still has to make sure the lights get turned of and the blinds get closed and the cat gets fed. Not much drama in that; just essential. But when the boogums slide down the chimbley, those are the guys you need.

 Sunset Over Gunther by Frank Luke. The statement "All is fair in love and war" becomes even more meaningless, when war is a prerequisite for love. How many impossible choices can you make, and still be a person who can love, and be loved?

Adaptive Reasoning by John M. Olsen. Andy's job is to prepare for the triumph of his people. He is willing to do whatever it takes, in order to reach that goal. But it seems that more is being taken than was in the original plan.

 Judgment Of Anaq by Andy Pluto. When I was three, I asked my grandmother if it was true that if you put salt on a bird's tail that you could catch it. She said it was, so I took the salt shaker outside to catch birds. Didn't work. They flew away! And that is the kind of story that this is: the more you grasp some things, the further they slip away. It also reminds me of 'Appointment in Samarra.'

Life At The End by Jake Freivald. This is an excellent story to study and discuss, and to seek some understanding about isolation. The physical distance between Earth and Pluto is isolation, but is easily overcome with travel. The isolation of the heart is the greater problem.

A Clockwork Dragon by Allen Goodner. Wait, WHAT? You sacrifice your daughters to a DRAGON? Are you out of you MINDS? I'm gonna kill that monster, if it's the last thing I do! You people are CRAZY!

The Collector by Declan Finn. Evidently, there are some museum collections which will never be shown, because there is simply too much in storage, and not enough space. And there are other reasons, as well. Listen kids: Stay in school; don't hoard.

Yes, Neil D. Tyson, Pluto Is A Planet by Richard Paolinelli. A nice, old-fashioned, feel-good story about the average family on the average vacation. Well, average for SOME locations.

Okay; that’s it. Now, let us discover whether with this one completed, I can start cranking out reviews for the dozen or so I have in the queue.

Peace be on your household.

How the Patterson Arsenal Came To Be

A great good Saturday morning to all my internet friends and neighbors, and for those family members who have stumbled onto this post, I'm feeling much better. It wasn't the evil "C" thing, just a gut virus.

I'm trying to shift to MeWe from Facebook. Their politics have been intrusive for quite some time, but I could work around that, since I am apolitical as I can be. However, their peremptory demand that I learn their new interface is too much. If I have to learn a new interface, why not learn MeWe? So, that's what I'm doing. This is where you can find me; please join and add me to your contacts and so on.

I WAS doing a post on MeWe, but as often has been the case, discovered I had a lot more to say than a courteously brief, expecting-to-be-read post would be. So, a blog post, and I hope you don't faint from shock!

In November of 2001, coyotes killed my good old dog Jumper Bill.

In frustration and rage, I bought a Mossberg 500 12 gauge shotgun from a pawn shop, and tried to come up with a plan to eradicate the varmints. (BTW: coyotes ARE varmints; there is no season, and no bag limit. I verified that.)

That plan didn't work out, but I found I liked having the security of the shotgun. It felt...MANLY!

Six months later, I bought a S&W 422 .22 caliber plinking pistol from the same pawnshop, followed shortly by purchase of a Marlin 60 .22 rifle. I took Mickey and Bess on summer field trips to the outdoor range, AFTER I had given them classes in firearms safety, how to use rifle sights, etc, and afterward, how to clean the firearms.

I think the next thing that happened was that GrandBebe gave me her pistol, a S&W Model 60, .38 Spl snubnose. Ralph bought it new in August, 1969, for $100, according to the receipt.

And then, I discovered that there was a .22 League Competition! It met every Monday night at a local range (now, sadly, out of business) and they were very welcoming. In the competition, we fired 30 shots, five at a time, at standard competition bull's-eye targets. As you can see, hits in the outer circle counted 5 points, going up to 10 points, with the tiny center being 10 points and an 'X.' The max score was 300, with 30 X.

My first score was 116, no X.

Now, it's a poor workman who blames his tools, but after a couple of weeks of truly dismal performance, and seeing the firearms my fellow shooters were using, I realized I was, and I do mean this LITERALLY, not in their league! The S&W 422 is a nice little plinker, lightweight, but not tiny; it's just not designed to be a target pistol. The other competitors were equipped with one of these:

The Baikal IZH 35M, and the Ruger Mark IV

Both of these are excellent, purpose-designed target pistols. And both of them were priced WAY out of my budget. I think I paid $85 for my pawn shop S&W 422. So, I grabbed my buddy Virgil, 
You'd have to know him to see his smile...

an older man who Knew Things, and we went to the gun show which was fortuitously being held that weekend, and Virgil helped me pick out an entry level target pistol.

The Browning Buckmark Camper

With no other changes made, on my first week back I improved my score by over 80 points, and, with lots and lots of practice, I worked my way up in the ratings. I finally came in THIRD! in a monthly awards presentation. It was a $5 gift certificate. I still have that certificate in my possession.

I'm changing the way this blog post is going. My INITIAL intent was to show off more recent acquisitions, but this has gone on long enough, and I want to end with an important rabbit trail.

I told you that I got my buddy Virgil to help me pick out the pistol. Why Virgil? Well, as I said, he Knew Things. But I had ZERO evidence that he knew ANYTHING about firearms. As far as I know, until I grabbed him that day, he and I had never broached the topic.

But I knew he was THIS kind of guy!

BUT: Virgil was an older guy. He LIKED me. He would TALK to me. And that was huge in my heart; I don't know if it was in his.

Susie was huge in his heart, and he in hers.

I missed out on a lot of the relationship that sons are supposed to have with their fathers, and once upon a time, that was a source of much pain and anger for me. I give thanks to God that with both my biological father and my stepfather I was able to reconcile as an adult. When they passed, there were no regrets left. But, there was still a hole in my life, even as a fully grown man with teenage kids of my own, a need for a relationship with an older, wiser person. 

I have now, and had then, some TRULY excellent friends who are my age and younger.  But there was still a older guy/younger guy mentor relationship that was missing. Some day, I might tell you about how I started to fix that; but right now, I just want to make the point that while I doubt Virgil knew it, because we never talked about it specifically, I sought him out to fill that role. And he did a wonderful job.
Faithful and true.

I say this because someone might read this who is, or who knows of, a person who NEEDS to have that hole filled, and/or a person who can FILL that hole for someone else. And I want to encourage you: look for the person you need; look for the person who needs you. They are all around.

Peace be on your household.