10/24/17

Behold

By: T F Stern | Self-Educated American

I’d taken this photograph a week ago and posted it on Facebook to share with my friends accompanied by a short but thoughtful text.

“I noticed that fall decided to make an appearance here in Buffalo, Texas. This tree is on our property and should be glorious to behold as the rest of it chimes in.”

Interestingly, the lesson presented by Brother Young in the Priesthood hour this past Sunday focused on the meaning of the word ‘behold’ and immediately I remembered having used that word to express my appreciation for an event that had yet come to fruition.

During the lesson my mind drifted to the scriptural account of Jesus on the cross and the words, “Behold thy mother”.  Had I missed the intended meaning of this simple command?

I went back and read a talk given by Thomas S. Monson in General Conference of 1998,  Behold Thy Mother , where he explained an important link between God, the Creator of all, and mothers who fill a similar role.

“As we truly listen to that gentle command and with gladness obey its intent, gone forever will be the vast legions of “mothers forgotten.” Everywhere present will be “mothers remembered,” “mothers blessed,” and “mothers loved”; and, as in the beginning, God will once again survey the workmanship of His own hand and be led to say, “It is very good.”

May each of us treasure this truth: One cannot forget mother and remember God. One cannot remember mother and forget God. Why?  Because these two sacred persons, God and mother, partners in creation, in love, in sacrifice, in service, are as one.”

Behold…  Do we see the beauty all around us and consider it as a gift… really?  When we contemplate the efforts and sacrifice of others who make our lives a little better can we appreciate, really appreciate all that is done, all that will yet be done for our benefit?  That and so much more is included in that simple word, behold.

09/16/17

Seeing Is Believing

By: T F Stern | Self-Educated American

This morning while catching up on the latest news items via the internet my vision began playing tricks with me.  I found it difficult to focus on the printed words and recognized the onset of a migraine headache, more specifically, an ocular migraine manifestation.  The first time this happened several years ago it scared the bejebbers out of me, thinking it was some kind of stroke and that I’d wreck my truck before I could get off the freeway.

There are many variations in the way ocular migraines present themselves.  Each individual seems to have a different yet similar way of expressing what happens; but it only lasts a few minutes before normal vision returns, at least that’s been my experience.  It did give me a tremendous headache that took most of the morning to get rid of.

Then this afternoon while enjoying the Oldies internet radio station via the magic of a Smart TV and DVD player…I’m rambling, aren’t I?   Where was I…  sitting on the sofa with Leslie Gore singing in the background, I happened to look at the cabinet door which is part of the entertainment center.

Was it part of the original ocular migraine or were my eyes playing tricks and my imagination had kicked into another gear?   I thought I saw the image of Lord Voldemort, or as any true Harry Potter fan would remind me, “He who must not be named”.

The nice part of living in the digital age is that there’s always a camera within arm’s reach, it being part of the magic included in your cell phone.  I snapped a picture of what was embedded within the natural pattern of wood; no doubt about it, that’s Voldemort.

You can laugh all you want; but it looks as much like Harry Potter’s arch enemy as any image of Christ ever spotted on a piece of toast that’s made tabloid history.  This isn’t the first time I’ve captured an incredible or unbelievable image either; there’s the Tomato Fairy that got caught tending to my garden several years ago, that’s proof of sorts.

Having a headache and a great imagination made for an interesting day.  Now if only I could get rid of that tapping, as of some one gently rapping…   Gonna’ have to lay off reading Edgar Allan Poe until this headache goes away completely.

“…While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door—

“ ’Tis some visiter,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—

Only this and nothing more.”

09/15/17

Book Review: Some Dark Holler

By: Terresa Monroe-Hamilton

Purchase from Amazon.com

I have a fantastic new book that I’m recommending: “Some Dark Holler.” Here is the summary:

EPHRAIM CUTLER HAS BLOOD ON HIS HANDS AND A HELLHOUND ON HIS TRAIL

When his mother forces him to kill an innocent man, Ephraim Cutler’s quiet life in the Appalachian Mountains is thrown into turmoil. With a bounty on his head, Ephraim flees to the hills and hollers where he discovers that his crime has drawn more than the law’s attention—the Devil’s in town with his eye on Ephraim’s soul. Desperate to escape, Ephraim is torn between two clashing figures: an outcast granny doctor rumored to be a witch—and the local preacher. As the line between grim reality and the supernatural disappears, Death rides the ridgetops on a pale horse, and the Devil’s hound haunts the backwoods. Ephraim must decide who to trust, evade the hangman’s noose, and find redemption.

It’s definitely a different kind of read for me, but it is well done. The book is written by Luke Bauserman and he has more books on the way. I am not from the Appalachians, but Bauserman catches the heart and soul of the country there and the people. This is his debut novel, but I see a long and very exciting writing career ahead for this author. His writing makes you feel like you know the place and the people involved. It brings it to life.

His writing hits just the right note for horror and he is great at weaving a story and fleshing out characters. What I look for in a book is the quality of losing myself and I did with this book. My hubby is reading it now and it will be passed around. Anyone who can bring the devil to life and tempt evil from the shadows is an author well worth your time. He’s on his way to becoming a legend of the genre.

I’m a sucker for folklore, myth and legend. I got my start with Greek mythology and then Dean Koontz became my favorite. Now I have another author to add to my list and that makes my day. Heck, it’s worth a second and third reading. You can get a copy here on Amazon and I highly recommend it. I love this guy’s style. Mixing down to earth people and witches, the devil and death – if you like horror, you’ll love this book.

09/14/17

Finding Treasure

By: T F Stern | Self-Educated American

It’s been a year since we packed up my parent’s house and sold it after my mom died.  We’ve had boxes of photographs and framed pictures stored in a climate controlled U-haul unit until such time as we could figure out where to put them in our house in Buffalo, Texas.  That time has arrived.

I had no idea what framed pictures were in each box as they’d been professionally packed and boxed; took several hours to get past the Styrofoam peanuts, bubble wrap and plastic adhesive that had been applied to the glass on certain pictures.  It took four large black plastic trash bags to haul off the packing material and that didn’t include cutting the boxes down flat so they didn’t take up the entire dining room.

We now have the guest bedroom lined wall to wall with an odd assortment of pictures and paintings; some of which are probably quite valuable as they are museum quality; but that’s not the kind of treasure I’m excited about.

Other items that were packed away from my folk’s house were thrown into large cardboard boxes and we used anything available for packing material; kitchen towels, bath towels, ornamental pillows, stuffed animals…anything to keep fragile items from breaking.  I found a real treasure among the packing material to protect a table lamp; a hand made quilt that had been sewn by my grandmother, signed on the back.   Priceless!

Other treasures among the packing material would include cross stitched linen table clothes; also my grandmother’s handiwork.  These were placed on a shelf out of the way until this morning when I decided they should be put into service; but you can’t simply toss an old wrinkled up table cloth on the table and expect it to have the same effect as when it’s been carefully ironed and displayed properly.

There’s something to the process of ‘living in elegance’ that requires a little more effort.  It took me an hour to iron two table cloths; there are at least three more cross stitched table cloths that require the same loving care to restore them to usable status.

While filling my glass yesterday I noticed that I’d almost thrown away a ‘limited edition’ Dr Pepper soda can.  So glad I caught that in time or it would have gone to the recycle bin and lost forever.  Exactly what constitutes a ‘limited edition’ can of Dr Pepper?

We have a biscotti jar on the hutch.  It had been a Christmas present many years ago, filled with a variety of chocolate covered biscotti; but the jar was too beautiful to simply throw away after the biscotti had been eaten.  We’d given a similar jar to my sister in law; something of an inside joke.

Her husband, John, died a few years back.  He’d been cremated and his ashes placed in an old shoe box that was kept in the closet; not exactly how John would expect to be treated for time and all eternity.  We quietly hinted that John could use an upgrade; perhaps the biscotti jar would be a better ‘final resting place’ or at least better than the shoe box.

…And it would have been, had she not dropped the biscotti jar.  Maybe we’ll give her our biscotti jar; or better yet, buy her a new one at Sam’s Wholesale, one that’s filled with a nice variety of chocolate covered biscotti.  Treasure is in the eye of the beholder.

02/16/17

Burke’s Gamble – A Book Review

By: Terresa Monroe-Hamitlon

Purchase here…

Recently, I read an incredible book entitled Burke’s Gamble by William F. Brown. I’m a fan of Brad Thor and came upon this author and I have to tell you, I love his books! Very few books keep my attention these days as I am constantly swamped with work, but this one did. You should read the whole series. The book mixes military intrigue with humor, hard hitting action and fantastic characters. I’m a sucker for military guys, especially special ops and having lived in Vegas for over 20 years, the mob is of special interest to me.

Here’s the summary from Amazon.com:

Bob Burke is back! Welcome to ‘American Sniper’ meets ‘The Godfather,’ Round #2, or Bob Lee Swagger takes on the New York City mob. He is a former Army Ranger and Delta Force commander, and one of the quickest, most lethal forces of nature this country has ever produced. When one of his old NCOs is tossed out the fifth story window of an Atlantic City casino run by the infamous Genovese and Lucchese NY mob families, someone’s going to answer, and payback’s gonna be a bitch! Slight of build and easy to dismiss, Burke shed his uniform and left Fort Bragg. He now runs a sophisticated telecommunications company in Chicago. Often mistaken for ‘the telephone guy,’ he is a highly-decorated West Point ‘ring knocker,’ who spent four tours in Iraq and the rugged mountains of Afghanistan running deadly ‘special ops’ missions. He and his men don’t take kindly to one of their own being murdered, but this time it won’t be a simple ‘Gumbah’ hunt with sniper rifles in a Chicago Forest preserve. The target is a Mafia Don holed up in the penthouse of a large hotel and casino complex, backed by a dozen mob gunmen plus and an elite team of foreign Special Ops mercenaries brought in to take down Bob Burke. While there’s always a place for a Barrett .50-caliber sniper rifle or two, and his old Delta Force sergeants, this time Bob calls on a pair of baby-faced computer Geeks, a three-star Army General, a Chicago homicide detective, a female Air Force pilot, a Russian computer programmer, one of the world’s most renowned pickpockets on an overnight.’ pass from Cook County Jail, and his own new wife, Linda. From stealth helicopters to luxury yachts, fishing trawler’s, and bodies in 55-gallon oil drums, the action is non-stop. But this time, Bob and his crew aren’t going to shoot it out in the woods, they’re going to take the Mob’s money, all of it!

If you like a good murder mystery suspense thriller, put this fast-moving Bob Burke series Delta Force action adventure novel into your Cart. It is another war and military best seller novel from the author of “Burke’s War,’ ‘The Undertaker,’ ‘Amongst My Enemies,’ ‘Thursday at Noon,’ “Aim True, My Brothers,’ ‘Winner Lose All,’ and ‘Cold War Trilogy’ three book boxed set. Pick one up and enjoy!

This is an incredibly fun read… if you love Brad Thor, you’ll love William F. Brown. You can purchase a copy at Amazon.com here. The book is the second in a series involving Robert T Burke, former Army Major and Delta Operator. He’s absolutely badass and is totally devoted to his brothers in arms. I have a number of favorite authors out there and now Brown is one of them. Just fantastic and simply superb writing.

12/21/16

Family Christmas Traditions

By: T F Stern | T F Stern’s Rantings

Christmas is just around the corner and having little children around reminded me of how special this time of year is.  A child can express awe, excitement and joy so much easier than grown ups.

William had taken James, our ‘almost two year old’ grandson, out for the afternoon this past week to enjoy the cool weather and have some one on one time.  While they were out we decided it was time to bring the Christmas tree in from the garage where it’s been stored all year.

It’s an artificial tree with the lights already in place making things so much easier, except there’s a row in the middle that no longer works.  I’ll get around to replacing it some day; at least that’s what I said last year, or was it the year before?

James came in from the cold all bundled up with a hood covering his Astros’ ball cap.  As he turned from the entry way he noticed the tree situated in the middle of the living room directly in front of the window, most of the tiny lights sparkling brightly.

He walked over to it, eyes wide open and took it all in, floor to ceiling.  The magic of Christmas landed on him as he gazed and then gazed some more.

“Wow”, he breathed out a hushed reverence for the singularly majestic tree which wasn’t there when he’d left; but somehow appeared in the room as if sent by angels.  “Wow!”

I had my cell phone/camera in my pocket but it didn’t dawn on me to capture the moment; guess that one will have to be stored in my mind along with so many other magic moments.

When I was a young boy one of our family Christmas traditions had to do with writing a letter to Santa around the first week of December.  We’d use our best penmanship skills while making sure to list each item on our bucket list that Santa needed to know about prior to his visit on Christmas Eve.

These letters were put on a plate on the dining room table along with some cookies and a glass of milk before we went off to bed.  Our parents explained that we’d know Santa had visited during the night to read the letters if all the cookies were gone along with the milk; more importantly, we’d know Santa read our letters because his magic mittens would cause the paper to catch fire, leaving only burnt fragments singed on top of the plate.

The next morning we’d marvel that Santa had come, just as our parents said he would.  The cookies and milk were gone and sure enough, the letters had turned into a pile of ashes leaving a scorch mark on mom’s fine china.  “Oh boy, I’m gonna’ get that bicycle, cowboy boots, the erector set, the Lincoln Logs, the rocket that you have to fill with water and pump it till it shoots off, the submarine that really sinks in the bathtub and comes back to the surface; all the neat stuff that was on that letter…and Santa knows about it now.

There were other family traditions; one in particular wasn’t so great.  Mom and dad loved to make oyster stew on Christmas Eve. How they came up with that is a mystery, or is that a misery?  They actually looked forward to putting a bowl of oyster stew on the table, lighting the candles and having us prepare for the coming of Santa.

I couldn’t even look at a bowl of oyster stew without my stomach turning, much less place a spoonful in my mouth.  Mom and dad decided that children weren’t sophisticated enough so we were served Tomato soup instead.  I wasn’t thrilled with Tomato soup either; but at least I could look at it without barfing.

Last on today’s list of family Christmas traditions has to do with the hanging of stockings for Santa to fill with candy, oranges, apples, nuts and small toys. These were placed on the end of our beds just prior to light out along with a warning, “Go to sleep or Santa won’t come”.

That worked pretty well until we reached our teen years.  By then we’d figured out that Santa needed to put toys together in the living room and didn’t want little children disturbing the process.

One night while contemplating life there in the darkness of my room I heard dad coming down the hall.  As he entered the room, carefully hanging the stocking on my bed and turning to leave, I surprised him, quietly greeting him, “Good night, Santa”.  I’ll never forget the smile and wink my father returned as he realized I’d left a part of childhood behind.

May your family find simple traditions that make Christmas memories, memories that will last a lifetime and beyond is my hope and prayer.  Merry Christmas!

This article has been cross posted to The Self Educated American, a publication whose banner reads, “Standing Fast By the Judeo-Christian Heritage, Limited Government and the U.S. Constitution”.

11/19/16

Gratitude and Thanksgiving

By: T F Stern | T F Stern’s Rantings

thankThis morning London, my granddaughter, came over to greet me as I reviewed the latest headlines in the news on the Internet. She pointed to an umbrella which is stored in the corner behind my work-station; a serious look took over her face as she reminded me not to ever open the umbrella in the house. A couple of days ago, London got in trouble playing in the house with the umbrella and she wanted me to know she understood how important it was to follow the rules.

I nodded in agreement as we reviewed how silly it would be to have an open umbrella in the house since its purpose was to keep rain from falling on us. I looked up at the ceiling and explained how blessed we were to have a roof over our heads to protect us from the rain. London looked thoughtfully at the ceiling and smiled.

It’s also nice to have a house for when it gets cold outside; again she smiled and pretended to hug herself as if being warmed by an imaginary heater. And in the summer we have air conditioning to keep us comfortable too.

London may have taken these conveniences for granted up until this moment; but as she considered the light rain falling outside, that she was enjoying the comforts provided by the house which she lived in, gratitude for all these blessings was evident by the look on her face.

May we all have a similar moment of appreciation for whatever blessings have been provided in our lives.

If you watch much television, the advertisements tend to make a mockery of Thanksgiving; a not so subtle way of redirecting our thoughts. Instead of getting down on our knees and thanking the Lord, we’re being desensitized and programmed into accepting this time of year as a spending orgy, a chance to prove we have more money than brains as we go about going into debt for items we really can’t afford.

Black Friday with its door buster sales has, for far too many folks, become more important than sitting around the dinner table with family in quiet thanks for what has been provided and prepared.

This nation was founded under the direction of wise individuals who understood our relationship with God, Creator of all we have, to include Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Our blessings come from above and we are showered with them in great abundance; consider what we have been given, not what you don’t have.

London is correct, you shouldn’t open your umbrella in the house, let God’s blessings fall all around you and be grateful, truly grateful; that’s why we celebrate Thanksgiving.

This article has been cross posted to The Moral Liberal, a publication whose banner reads, “Defending The Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government, & The American Constitution”.

11/8/16

Thanks for the Memories

By: T F Stern | T F Stern’s Rantings
thanks

I went to the Spring Creek Village assisted living center where my dad spent his last days to make sure our account was settled up, no loose ends.  We’d been double charged for a ‘one time only’ fee on the second month’s billing which we were told would be subtracted on the following month’s rent; but dad never made it to the next month.

My father died October 25, 2016 and we made it a point to remove all items we’d provided for his comfort the very same day, leaving the room as it was when he first arrived.

Today I looked over at their ‘occupancy availability board’; they had a large white board in the manager’s office showing new move ins and those who’d moved out.  There was dad’s name showing he died October 25th along with his move out date of….Nov 7th…?

I pointed out the discrepancy to the manager and reminded her that we’d made sure to remove dad’s personal items on the same day he died.  Her response was, “That’s in the contract”.

There is a clause in the residency contract which states the assisted living center can charge up to 10 days rent after the death of a renter.  Apparently we could have left dad’s body in the room for another week; not that the health department would have approved.

I reminded the manager that we’d been over charged by $1500.00, expecting a refund for that amount and perhaps a refund for the last five days of October since dad didn’t occupy the room that last week of the month.

Again the manager explained, “That’s in the contract”, as she handed me a due bill for  $186.50, the difference between the $1500.00 we’d been over charged and the ten days which the assisted living center considered an opportunity to extract additional money from the deceased’s bank account.

Spring Creek Village provided exceptional care while my father was in their facility and I would recommend them to anyone looking for an assisted living facility.  That said, they have an unusual way of interpreting their lease contracts.

I pointed out that this was morally wrong and as a business practice was no different than gouging the dead.  I know, “That’s in the contract”.  But the contract indicated that the assisted living center ‘can’ charge up to 10 days following the ‘move out’ of a resident; it doesn’t say that it ‘must’ charge the full ten days.

I suppose they were only honoring the memory of my dearly departed father as they hit the Enter Key on the cash register, or as Bob Hope used to say, Thanks for the memories.

This article has been cross posted to The Moral Liberal, a publication whose banner reads, “Defending The Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government, & The American Constitution”.