07/4/21

Washing the Car and the Sacrament

By: T.F. Stern | Self-Educated American

Last Sunday I drove my clean and polished 1999 BMW Z-3 Coupe to church.  As I pulled into the parking lot a few raindrops began to fall and it was a close call getting in the back door as buckets of rain fell.

I didn’t think much of it until after church when it was still raining.  Driving from Madisonville back to Buffalo wouldn’t be near as much fun with the roads wet.  I’d have to drive conservatively rather than my normal aggressiveness; letting the car have fun while going through the gears was not an option.

The last couple of miles to my property are on ‘county roads’.  That means leaving the asphalt pavement and driving on crushed rock or dirt.  If it’s dry then a cloud of dust follows you, covering the lower portion and back end of the car.  If it’s wet the road becomes a slip and slide covering the lower portion and back end with a layer of mud.

Since it was still raining, all I wanted to do was park the car in front of the house and get inside; spraying off the mud would have to wait.  As it turned out it waited all week.  It was depressing just looking at my pretty green jewel sitting there covered with a film of dirt, but there were plenty of chores around the property that took priority.

One of the ongoing tasks is splitting firewood from stacks of tree trunk sections that are behind our storage trailer.  At one time that wouldn’t have been such an ordeal; but after you reach 70 there isn’t much get up and go in this body.  So, after chopping a small bundle of firewood down to size it’s time to cool off, take a nap, and try again later.

The property needed mowing, something I usually break down; doing the front two acres one day followed by the back acre the next.  Feeling spry and wanting it done, I got all three acres mowed.  That back acre needed to be double-cut so it’s more like doing two acres.

Then today we drove down to Huntsville to get our grocery shopping done as we prepare for Independence Day; our kids and grandkids coming up to visit.  I’m glad the property got mowed as it looks so inviting, but that dirty BMW sitting in front of the house wasn’t going to let me off the hook.

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01/26/21

Working on the Engine

By: T.F. Stern | Self-Educated American

This morning there was a photograph of an airline mechanic standing on top of a ladder while putting what looked like Duct Tape around the front of the jet engine.  The likelihood of Duct Tape being used for that particular function is minimal at best, but it might have caused a mild panic for passengers looking on.

Back in 1970, while on my way back to Ft. Jackson, South Carolina (it might have been Ft. Gordon, Georgia, to complete Military Police School), I was awaiting a delayed flight out of IAH in Houston.  The delay had something to do with one of the four jet engines as I watched the mechanic standing on a huge ladder as he went over the schematic printed on the engine cover which was propped open.  His finger followed the diagram to a certain point whereupon he’d turn his head and try to follow the information offered by running his finger across the jet engine.  He did this several times; each time a scowl crossed his face as he grimaced in dissatisfaction.

He had my attention.

While talking into a portable radio, he again ran his finger along the schematic diagram while listening to the instructions being offered.  He repeated the ritual of feeling his way across the jet engine which didn’t match up with the diagram; his finger stopped as if there was a hole preventing it from moving further.  He put the jet engine cover down, similar to slamming the hood on a car in anger, and fastened the screws that held it in place; not having done anything other than shake his head in disgust.

My attention to his every action was intense as I followed his getting off the ladder and his using the stairs that led up to the passenger jetway.  After getting his attention, blocking his forward progress by standing in such a way as to make it impossible for him to ignore me, I asked if the plane was okay to fly.

His answer did not put me at ease.  “Oh, these newer planes fly just as well on three engines as they do on all four.”  He probably thought that was a clever comeback line as he walked away, thinking that he’d have a good laugh once he reached the employee’s break-room.

I, on the other hand, was about to fly across the county in an airplane that had been delayed for about an hour and a half.  From what I could tell, nothing had been done to correct whatever had been the cause of the delay.  Aside from that, the odds of meeting up with my connecting flight were slim.

About the only positive mark was that all the seats in Coach were filled and they had to put me in First Class.  One of the perks of being in First Class…speaking as a young Private in the Army who had never flown First Class…they served alcoholic beverages at no charge from the moment the doors closed until the airplane reached its final approach into Atlanta.  I got ‘properly snockered’; I believe that’s the appropriate term.  I figured if the plane was going to crash, I was going to be smashed before anyone else.

Amazingly, the flight across the country caught a terrific Jet Stream which pushed the arrival time making it possible for me to catch my connecting flight.  I hurried across the airport and was happy to see the connecting flight had also been delayed due to mechanical issues.  Running through the airport with a heavy buzz was a new experience; plowed would be a more accurate description, I was plowed.

They boarded everyone onto the plane while a team of mechanics dressed in overalls continued with their repairs.  I managed to engage one of them in conversation and found that something wasn’t working with the air conditioning system.  I told him about needing to get back to base to avoid being late and not to worry about the air conditioning.  He explained that the air conditioning and passengers being able to breathe were all part of the same system.

Looked like we might have to wait for repairs; I was going to be late reporting back in, about two hours late.  I took a bus back to base around ten o’clock; it was raining, just perfect.

The Duty Sergeant listened to my lame excuse for being late, observed my alcohol-induced state of readiness along with my sincere attempt to sober up.  He determined the situation really was out of my hands as I stood before him with my travel bag and paperwork.  Instead of writing me up, he assigned me to work a guard post the remainder of the night.

As I stood guard that night it might have been nice to have a roll of Duct Tape, something to hold me up till sunrise.


t-f-stern-1Self-Educated American, Senior Edi­tor, T.F. Stern is both a retired City of Hous­ton police offi­cer and, most recently, a retired self-employed lock­smith (after serving that industry for 40 plus years). He is also a gifted polit­i­cal and social com­men­ta­tor. His pop­u­lar and insight­ful blog, T.F. Sterns Rant­i­ngs, has been up and at it since January of 2005.

12/18/20

Christmas Magic

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

There was a challenge handed out the other day, what did your family do at Christmas?  A handful of memories floating around so I’ll start with writing a wish list.  This was done either on Thanksgiving or very soon thereafter.

We’d jot down, in our very best handwriting, items we considered worthy of asking Santa for. It didn’t matter if the requests were based in reality; but as a rule, these items had been seen on television or in one of the many catalogs, catalogs which many folks referred to as Wish Books.

After completing the assignment we’d place our lists on a plate along with some cookies and a bottle of Coca-Cola.  The idea was to make sure the Big Guy was rewarded for having traveled over to our house and considered our requests.  We were told that Santa wore magic mittens and that while holding up our notes to be read, those mittens would catch the pieces of paper on fire; proof that he’d read them would be ashes left on the plate.

We didn’t need an alarm clock to get up the next morning as we all raced to the dining room table to witness the miracle which had occurred during the night.  There would be a scorch mark on the china and a small clump of burnt up ashes.  It was the beginning of the Christmas Season, official and verified.

My folks must have been gluttons for punishment as they’d also told us that Santa was the one who decorated our Christmas Tree, that all we had to do was pick out a good one, keep it watered out behind the garage until Christmas Eve, and then haul it inside to the living room; Santa would do all the rest.  Once the tree was in the living room it was easy to convince us to get to bed.

I should mention that I learned some of my locksmith trade vocabulary from my father, who never was a locksmith, as he struggled to get the trunk of the tree to fit inside the classic tree stand.  Apparently, other trades, auto mechanics and carpenters come to mind, use similar vocabulary to express frustration.  I later found these magic words remarkably similar to terms used by police officers.

I can’t imagine how late my folks stayed up that night putting lights, ornaments, and tinsel on the tree as they also put together bicycles, dollhouses, wrapped and sorted gifts to be put under the tree, and… I almost forgot, fill our stockings and hang them at the end of our beds.  It makes perfect sense, now that I’ve gotten older, that my folks would want to sleep a little later on Christmas morning as our excitement level climbed slightly higher than the Empire State Building.

We were to wait in their bedroom while my father made sure Santa had actually come.  That translated means he went to the living room and plugged the extension cord into the wall so the Christmas Tree lights would be on when we came in.  Remember, the night before when we’d gone to bed that very same tree was bare; but as we entered the room it was dazzling pure magic.

In my teen years, having pretty much figured out the Christmas magic thing, I remember hearing my father carefully open the door to my room as he carried a stocking to place on the end of my bed.  As he did his best not to make a sound I smiled and respectfully called out to him as he exited, “Goodnight, Santa.”  He smiled back and accepted the fact that I was no longer a little boy, and, as I recall, he even winked back.

12/11/20

Taking Care of Families in Need

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

Several years ago, there was a story printed, or perhaps I might have heard it from the pulpit; some of the details have left my memory so I’ve taken ‘creative license’ to replace that which I’ve forgotten. Accept my apology for not remembering the original author.

A congregation was asked to donate an extra portion during the Christmas Season to help families that were struggling. The challenge was given the week of Thanksgiving with the intent of having enough money collected before Christmas to offer relief for several families; a fine meal with all the trimmings, new clothing, and shoes, some toys for the children, and such depending on how much money could be collected.

One family had a meeting when they got home from church to consider various ways they could help with this wonderful project. The father said that after getting home from work he’d collect firewood and sell it. The mother would take in laundry and use that income to add to their contribution. Their son said he’d collect empty soda bottles and redeem them at the store while the daughter would babysit.

They did this for the entire month of December leading up to the final week and collected a little over fifty dollars which they proudly handed over to their minister. The father knew their contribution was probably smaller than most since he wasn’t one of the more affluent members of their congregation; but he wanted to know how much had been collected, thinking perhaps he could figure out a way to make up the difference by cutting down on some of his regular expenditures.

The minister sat quietly considering the moment as he tried to explain the situation in a way that would make sense. “We’ve received just over forty dollars in contributions so far, you being the only ones to have taken up the challenge.” The minister sat silent for a few more moments before continuing his thoughts.

“You see”, he looked heavenward for assistance as he struggled to further explain, “…your family was on my shortlist of those who could have used a little help during the Christmas Season.”

I’m sure there are many among us who could use the message contained in this story as we approach the day we celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

10/18/20

Appreciating the Moment

By: T.F. Stern

These last few weeks have been fun as I’ve been able to improve the audio-video capabilities of our modest home theater system.  We updated the audio quality by switching to an optical digital cable that’s now hooked to our television, and anything that goes through the television to the soundbar speakers.  I had no idea the difference would be that noticeable, speaking as a half-deaf senior citizen.  We also changed out the RCA type cables that run from the LaserDisc player to the back of the television to ‘Monster Cables’ that are supposed to have the better transfer of information.

But that’s not why I’m writing today…

One of the laserdiscs enjoyed this morning was Horowitz in Moscow.  There were images of various patrons soaking up the music produced by this world-class pianist. There was a camera shot from the balcony seating area where someone had placed their personal cassette recorder hoping to capture the experience so it could be played again once they’d gone home.

Here I am on the other side of the world watching and listening to a command performance given many years ago as if I were there.  I’m fortunate to own a laserdisc that captured each moment visually along with crystal clear reproduction of music.  It’s a good bet the audio reproduction on my copy far exceeds anything that was on the cassette recording made from the balcony.

The image shown includes a couple of items of importance.  Center stage is Horowitz as his fingers carefully and methodically move across the keyboard; but secondarily, as the laserdisc progressed, are images of those in the audience taking in the performance.  It occurred to me that I was among those in the audience, no different than if I’d purchased a ticket to sit among them as my reflection ghosts in from my vantage point on the sofa, nearly invisible until you study the image looking for that ghost.

Do we express our appreciation for the gifts we’ve been provided?  Perhaps we should say Thank You more often, not only for the things which are pleasing; but for the challenges that make us appreciate when things aren’t quite so hectic.  Gratitude is our way of paying for those moments, tears of sorrow for the passing of someone close, someone who was part of our world and made a difference, tears of happiness that they’ve gone home to continue their eternal progression.

Think I’ll put on the laserdisc with Harry Chapin’s Final Concert, the one that has Cat’s in the Cradle; yeah… “but he smiled as he did and he said, I’m gonna’ be like him, yeah, you know I’m gonna be like him”.

It dawned on me, my father passed away four years ago, those tears must be for the beautiful music I’ve been enjoying; yeah, must be the music…

08/26/20

Update On My Husband’s Cancer Treatment – Difficult Times

By: Terresa Monroe-Hamilton

It’s been a bit since I have sent an update on Garry’s fight against Stage IV colon cancer. I wish that I had better news, but things have gotten tougher for Garry at this point.

But before I get into that, to the person who wished that my husband and I both die quickly, you’ll be waiting a long time. Death comes to us all eventually, but what counts is how you live your life and face challenges thrown at you. We choose to live our lives as devout Christians and ardent Constitutional conservatives and patriots who love our country. We believe in morality, the rule of law, and achieving goals through hard work. Your words mean nothing to us and show you as the shallow, evil individual that you are. You won’t see his comment here as he has been banned.

Now back to what is important. Over the last two weeks, Garry has lost ten pounds. He has mostly been bedridden with exhaustion and pain. There have been other developments as a result of the increased chemo such as bleeding and infections. It has been alarming and I insisted that Garry let his oncologist know every little detail as I believe he should skip a treatment, reduce the chemo, and possibly get a blood transfusion. His blood numbers have cratered.

The doctor agreed with me on two out of three. They will skip the next two treatments and reduce the chemo. A CT scan has also been ordered in two weeks so they can see whether the cancer has shrunk or progressed especially in his lungs. They have delayed the surgery to remove the rectal tumor because it would delay chemo too long. This is also causing Garry great pain as he cannot sit due to pain.

Right now, Garry is resting a lot and I am getting any kind of food I can into him. His mouth is sore from infections and he’s taking antibiotics via a mouthwash. I believe he will gain weight and get his strength back with some rest and an adjustment to his treatment. He’s in good spirits and is determined more than ever to beat this. He’s a fighter and together we are giving this all we have.

I am still waiting to hear if the hospital will write off the 20k incurred because of my appendectomy. I really pray they will.

Thank you for all your prayers and kind thoughts. They are needed more than ever.

07/7/20

Update On My Husband’s Cancer Treatment – More Medical Adventures

By: Terresa Monroe-Hamilton

As many of you know, I just had my own adventure in the hospital. Sunday before last, after a couple of days of mounting pain, I woke up at 1:30 am and told Garry it was time to go to the ER. It was my appendix. We went to Renown and wonderful people helped us there – I knew when it happened I had two choices… go or die. I have not had insurance since Garry fell so ill. There was not enough money and I put him first. But there was no way I was going to leave him now so we went.

Dr. Malone was very friendly and did immediate tests. He came back and said the bad news was that my appendix was incredibly inflamed but the good news was that it had not burst. It was very close. I also had sepsis — a bacterial infection that had reached my kidneys. Emergency surgery was undertaken and they began to nuke me with antibiotics I’ve never heard of.

Last Tuesday I was discharged and sent home with a wound drain. I will see the surgeon on the 14th to have it removed and to test me for sepsis again. I’m confident all of this is okay now but getting on my feet has been slower than I thought. A couple more days should do the trick. As ill as Garry has been he has taken care of me, changing my dressings and making sure I eat to take the antibiotics. When this started, I did not eat for 5 or 6 days and my body was beginning to shut down. God was watching out for me though once again.

The bills for this medical adventure start arriving today. Don’t know how we will manage but we’ll set up some kind of payment plan and limp along I guess. There is nothing else we can do at this point.

Garry takes a class next Monday on a new treatment being added to his chemo regimen starting next Wednesday. Treatments will now go from two hours to four or five. The class is to brief him on side effects that may appear because of the treatment.

The last two years have been hellish for us but we are fighters and will never give up. In those dark hours of the night when fear comes to me, I feel God by my side and it gives me the strength to fight another day. I am certain Garry can still beat this. Thank you for all your prayers, donations, and kindness.

06/22/20

Update On My Husband’s Cancer Treatment – Not What We Expected

By: Terresa Monroe-Hamilton

Garry goes in to have the bile duct stent removed tomorrow morning and we foresee no issues with that procedure. The PET scan, however, was another matter. Here are the results and they are the opposite of what we expected:

1. Bilateral pulmonary metastases are larger and more numerous since January 2020, consistent with disease progression.

2. Nonspecific patchy areas of hypermetabolism within the liver, more focal than expected. While they may be physiologic, consider MRI to evaluate for hepatic metastatic disease.

3. Linear uptake in the anal canal and in the perianal region. This is likely inflammatory, and there is a suspected blind-ending perianal fistula. Recurrent/residual malignancy is also possible but considered less likely.

What this means is that the cyberknife evidently got rid of one tumor but there seem to be others in the lungs. There is also a possibility it has spread to his liver. Because of pain in the anal area, there will also have to be major surgery to remove the tumor and finalize the procedure down there. None of the above is good news but Garry took it in stride. Much better than I did. I go from being incredibly angry at his doctors, to terrified and crying in private.

Friday, Garry had to have a COVID-19 test. He went one place for blood to be drawn and then had to wait in a car line to get swabbed. He was only allowed to have water that day. That evening, he had an aphasia episode, or what we call chemo brain. He could not find the right words to speak with which is similar to a stroke but not as serious. However, it was enough to terrify me. It only lasted half an hour or so. The doctors here said it was due to not getting enough electrolytes. However, Garry’s white blood and red blood cell counts have been low since the beginning of May and we were not told about that. His hemoglobin is low too. But the doctors won’t do an infusion of blood right now. They just said if it happens again to go to the ER. It’s infuriating.

Adding insult to injury, Aetna decided to claw back all payments to an anesthesiologist who was out of network and we got hit with another bill for 1k.

Garry is very tired, but his counts are beginning to rise. He will speak to the oncologist Monday before his next round of chemo. Looks like our fight is far from over and it was a shock because the doctors had said how great his numbers were and that he was in remission. Please pray for Garry — he needs it now more than ever.

I would ask that, if you can, please give whatever is possible. Garry’s GoFundMe account is here. You can also donate on PayPal. My email there is [email protected] or you can use the PayPal link on the upper right side of NoisyRoom.net to get there. If you would like to donate some other way, email me at [email protected] and I’ll send you instructions.

So many have given and are praying for my husband. I can’t thank you enough. I’m trying to stay strong during all this and my faith is sometimes all that keeps me going.

Also note, Spectrum (our Internet provider) is having severe issues, so I am on and offline for the last few days. That is the computer. not me and I will post as I can.

06/3/20

Update On My Husband’s Cancer Treatment – The Near-Future And A Request

By: Terresa Monroe-Hamilton

There are two parts to this post…

As many of you know, for the last year-and-a-half, my husband Garry has been battling Stage IV colorectal cancer. He is now in a semi-remission and his numbers are good. He just had gallbladder surgery and a stent put in his liver duct. It is a side-effect of the intense radiation and chemotherapy he has undergone, but he is doing really well and there were no complications.

Garry will have a PET scan on June 18th. If it shows that the chest tumor and the colorectal tumor are dead, they will most likely reduce or cease the chemotherapy which will be a blessing. Garry will be able to rest and recover from the constant fight against cancer. Since his numbers are so good, there is an excellent chance the tumors are now dead. Fingers crossed.

The next step after they cease chemo will be looking at two future surgeries. One to repair his ostomy hernia. The more substantial and serious one will be to remove the colorectal tumor itself. He could be down three months after that surgery. It is a complicated and serious procedure but we have known that in the end, it would probably be necessary. Prayers are appreciated in all of this.

That brings me to the second part of this post. We are still up to our necks with medical bills and this will add to that battle. Much of this is covered by Medicare but not all of it and it is the excess that is strangling us. We are really struggling since my business has been seriously impacted by COVID-19 and all the political nonsense going on. Right now, I’m down to a handful of clients and that income was used to pay the bills. I know many, in not most, of you are struggling too, so I don’t ask this lightly.

I would ask that, if you can, please give whatever is possible. Garry’s GoFundMe account is here. You can also donate on PayPal. My email there is [email protected] or you can use the PayPal link on the upper right side of NoisyRoom.net to get there. If you would like to donate some other way, email me at [email protected] and I’ll send you instructions.

We have come so far and it would be ironic if the medical bills were what took us down. I don’t think that will happen but I am asking for help here if you can.

Thank you to each and every one of you who has helped us. It means the world to us and we could not have gotten through all of this without you. Your prayers have kept us going and this is a fight we will win.

05/15/20

A Transformative Experience

By: T.F. Stern | Self-Educated American

My grandson, James, is up here at our house in the country.  He was asking lots of questions about various things on the property, pointing to a pair of upright four by four support posts that at one time had been covered with metal roofing.

I mentioned while pointing to the metal roofing material that had been stacked on the ground next to the fence, that the shed got damaged when a tornado passed close to our house.  We’d been extremely lucky the tornado only took off a couple of sections of metal roofing from the shed; that it could as easily have hit our house and done lots of damage.

The idea of a tornado passing through our property kicked his mind into overdrive as I watched him trying to put all these ideas into a completed thought.  I then explained that the tornado that had barely touched down at our property, that very same tornado made its way over to where the freeway is; again I was pointing in the general direction of the freeway for James to be able to follow the story.

I asked if he remembered being in my truck going into Buffalo on the service road that goes next to the freeway.  I explained that the tornado had destroyed three huge transformers and torn them from off their supports right next to the road and that the electric company had to come out and repair all the damage.

“Wow! The tornado broke the transformers?” Looking at his expression let me know he was thinking of a completely different kind of transformer, those featured on television shows where one moment it’s a pickup truck and seconds later it’s turned into a giant fighting machine standing tall, shooting lightning bolts or rockets out of its extended arms.

I could see an additional explanation would be required as I pointed to the electrical transformer attached to the pole next to our house.  “That’s the kind of transformer that got destroyed; only they were much larger.”

James might not have understood how I could be as confused about something as simple as a transformer, heck; any kid knows what transformers are, just look at what’s available at the toy store.

This exchange reminded me of my son William when he was about the same age.  We’d been planning our vacation and invited Lucy’s dad, Bob Spitler, to go along.  He lived on the other side of town and was about to leave when a terrible thunderstorm moved through knocking out power to his house.

He called letting us know he’d been delayed while waiting for the power company to replace a broken transformer.  Upon hearing this William started bouncing off the walls in excitement.

“Gran-Bobby has a transformer in his backyard!”  Nothing we could say changed his mind, “Gran-Bobby has a transformer in his backyard; Wow!”  Visions of twenty-foot tall superheroes and villains stomping on trees as they marched across his grandfather’s back yard knocking out power lines to the house were running rampant in William’s mind.

About an hour or so later Bob showed up and we were able to leave on our trip.  William made sure to sit next to his grandfather wanting to hear all about the transformer and how it got broken, how it got fixed and how come he’d never told him he had one in his backyard.  It was a great way to start our vacation, one of those delays that you can’t complain took away anything simply because we didn’t get started on time.

Having a conversation with a five-year-old can be a transformative experience.  You can take my word on that.


t-f-stern-1Self-Educated American, Senior Edi­tor, T.F. Stern is both a retired City of Hous­ton police offi­cer and, most recently, a retired self-employed lock­smith (after serving that industry for 40 plus years). He is also a gifted polit­i­cal and social com­men­ta­tor. His pop­u­lar and insight­ful blog, T.F. Sterns Rant­i­ngs, has been up and at it since January of 2005.