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”.

10/19/16

Scattering of Ashes

By: T F Stern | T F Stern’s Rantings

ashes

While visiting with my dad today I brought up an awkward topic, having to write everything down on a tablet since his hearing is all but non existent.  I wrote down, “Where do you want your ashes scattered”, not a normal question to ask except dad’s in hospice now and heaven only knows how long we’ll get to visit.

Back in August when my mother died she’d left very specific instructions; she wished her ashes to be scattered among the Mangroves that were found along the river and so that’s what we did.  Dad is rapidly getting closer to the ‘dropping off place’.  He hasn’t given such a request, only that he wants to be cremated.  I’ve no intention of placing him on the mantle place in a Biscotti Jar or putting him in the closet on the top shelf next to an old worn out pair of blue jeans.

He took his time reading the question and shrugged his shoulders with the universal answer, “How should I know”.  I wrote some more…“How about on a golf course?  Maybe we can put you on a fairway; or in your case, the rough or in a sand trap?”  Again he read the tablet and smiled back at me while nodding his head.  He hasn’t lost his sense of humor.

So if you read about some fool getting arrested for trespassing on a golf course please remember I would be carrying out my father’s last wishes.  It’s difficult saying goodbye, very difficult, a lot like dad trying to stay on the fairways.

05/25/16

Thinking of my father

By: T F Stern | T F Stern’s Rantings

Big FishThe movie, Big Fish, caught my attention while flipping channels.  The story had progressed nearly to the end, the part where the son arrived at the hospital, finding out his father was near death, having suffered a serious stroke.  The young man volunteers to sit by his bed all night and gives his mother a chance to go home.

If you’re familiar with the movie; his father wakes up momentarily and sits up wild eyed saying something that sounds like, “the river”,   His son reaches over as if to hit the Call Nurse button but instead waits to find out his father’s request.

“Tell me how it ends”, the young man wasn’t prepared with a response.  The father had never told his son what he’d seen in the old witch’s eye so many years earlier, a prophecy of how he was going to die.

The son being familiar with the many fantastic yarns his father had shared begins to carefully create the vision his father never told him about, pausing as details sprang to mind in such a way as to fit with other stories his father conjured up throughout his life; all having to do with the river.

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05/7/16

Mother’s Day Thoughts

By: T F Stern | T F Stern’s Rantings

Mothers DaySunday is Mother’s Day, a chance to consider the many blessings we should be grateful for.  Years ago my friend Tim Andersen would be asked to give the Mother’s Day talk at church, something of a tradition that we looked forward to.  He was the youngest son in a large family and his older siblings were much older so his parents had one more child in order to give him a playmate more his age; which is why Dean Andersen came to be.

I saw Dean at the Houston Temple going through the men’s dressing area this past Thursday.  Knowing a little about his family and his brother Tim’s brave fight with Leukemia, a fight that Tim eventually lost; made for a quiet moment as I considered the eternities and how Tim must be carrying out ‘the good fight’ on the other side of the veil.  We quietly acknowledged with a nod and a smile how much we missed Tim without saying a word, interesting how that works.

I used to catch a plane and visit my grandmother, Granny as she was known to everyone, each May, it being her birthday and Mother’s Day, take her out to dinner and let her know what a special lady she was in my life.  As she got towards the end of her life she didn’t want to go out to restaurants, preferring instead a quiet dinner at home.

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