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.


Update On My Husband’s Cancer Treatment – Post Surgery

By: Terresa Monroe-Hamilton

Garry was in the hospital over a span of five days. Turns out it was not a bowel obstruction, but his gallbladder. The stones had migrated to his liver duct which measured a whopping 2 cm. If they had gone further they would have entered the pancreas and that would have been even worse. The doctor said the gallbladder membrane was so thin it was getting ready to fall apart which could have caused sepsis.

Garry had two procedures over two days. The first to remove the stones from the liver duct. They implanted a stent that will be removed in 6 to 8 weeks. The next day, the gallbladder was removed. Both procedures went very well. Garry’s pain is gone and things have pretty much returned to normal. He is home and resting now.

Thank you for all of your prayers as we go forward with this.

If you want to help Garry out, you can give at GoFundMe. You can donate 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.


Update On My Husband’s Cancer Treatment – Surgery

By: Terresa Monroe-Hamilton

Everything was fine until it wasn’t. Garry had chemo on Monday and his markers are still great. Then he started to get a stomach ache… a bad one. He also could not go to the bathroom. He figured it was just gas and it seemed to get better later in the day. Wash and repeat on Tuesday. Both nights he could not sleep and Tuesday night, nausea started. We were both up all night and I didn’t like the greyness of his color.

He got his pump off Wednesday morning. I told him to talk to a doctor, nurse, or anyone that would listen about the pain. The oncology nurse recommended that he go to the ER and get a scan for a bowel obstruction immediately.

He was so weak he had to come home and sleep a couple of hours first. We then took him to the ER. I had his medical bag, water, masks, and gloves. We got inside and they would not let me go with him. I left him with the supplies and went home more than a little upset.

They did a CAT scan and it was gallstones. They kept Garry there last night and he will have surgery today or tomorrow. This may have been a side effect of the chemo and the ostomy. But it was serious enough they wanted to get it done and over with. The doctor did not want to put it off. Hopefully, Garry will be back in a day or two. He was much better this morning and the pain was gone.

The surgery was unexpected but thankfully it is not one of the more serious ones on his possible list. Thank you for all your prayers and I’ll keep you updated.

If you want to help Garry out, you can give at GoFundMe. You can donate 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.


Seeing Different Sides of a Memory

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

My grandson wanted to look at photographs that had been stored away in some old albums.  There were images of my folks, their townhouse in Houston, my children at various ages along with pictures of my sister and more images of various dogs and cats we’d learned to love over the years.

While turning one of the pages in the album there was a Houston Police Department ‘photo-op’ showing my old walking beat partner, Donnie White, and me receiving a Police Chief’s Commendation.  Lots of memories came to the surface; but interestingly, a line from Charles Dickens’ book,  A Tale of Two Cities, jumped out first.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…”

The department was going through changes and had prioritized Community Policing, a nice way of saying, No Policing; the city wanted public relations at almost any price. I was assigned a new partner and we had little in common other than we wore the same uniform.  We were given a walking beat; if memory serves, it was about six city blocks.  Somebody working in our office had picked out a location for us to park our patrol car and even had special signs erected showing it as ‘Reserved for Police’.  It was up to us to do something positive, create goodwill among those within our assigned beat.

One of the first things my new partner and I noticed was the location they’d picked out to park our patrol car wasn’t well thought out.  We knew most of the time we’d be using it to transport shoplifting suspects from Foley’s Department store to the city jail.  That meant that if we used the spot picked out, we’d have to walk these prisoners two blocks to get to our police car.

We let our supervisors know that it would be much safer for everyone if they’d change the location and reserved a parking spot right there next to Foley’s.  We went much further in our ‘suggestions’ as we made an in-depth study of nearly every aspect pertaining to traffic flow, parking, and safety issues within our six-block area.

We got the proprietors of the businesses to review our suggestions and had them submit their approval on letterhead stationery that identified each business as being positively included in our Community Policing efforts.  In short, our supervisors considered our actions worthy of a Chief of Police Commendation.

“It was the best of times…”

Not too long after being carried through the streets of Houston on our supervisor’s shoulders, lifted up as heroes along with being handed the keys to the city… wait; that never happened…

A month or so later we noticed the limousine used by the Lamar Hotel was parked in the fire zone directly in front of that hotel.  We issued a parking ticket and didn’t think much about having done our duty.  We issued it a parking ticket almost every day for about a week, that is until our immediate supervisor approached us; asking that we ignore that particular vehicle since they, our supervisors, were having to void out the parking tickets. The owner of the Lamar Hotel was a member of the ‘good old boys club’ and didn’t appreciate being ticketed by some lowly patrol officers.

It’s difficult to explain my reaction to their ‘request’; it simply took off from there.  The department called it ‘insubordination’ and did their level best to get my partner and I fired.  I ended up with a 40-day suspension, without pay.  I suppose that was warranted since I really did tell all of the supervisors, to include three assistant chiefs, where they could put their ‘request’.

“…it was the worst of times…”

During my ‘spare time’, if that’s what it could be called, I didn’t sit around the house feeling sorry for myself.  Instead, I used locksmith skills I’d picked up from my friends at Reed’s Key Shop to begin earning a living.  I beat the pavement, so to speak, obtaining customers; visiting small used car dealers that were plentiful and always in need of a reasonably priced locksmith.

Within a very short time, I’d replaced my police paycheck with more than enough to pay regularly occurring bills.  After a bitter Civil Service fight, I was re-instated as a police officer and, at my request, transferred to a completely different assignment and began working night shift patrol.  That meant I could be a fulltime locksmith in the daytime and a police officer at night.

I used to joke that I got my four hours of sleep every day whether I needed it or not. This arrangement lasted until I completed my twenty-year hitch with the Houston Police Department and I became eligible to receive the retirement package I’d earned.

“It IS the best of times…


Update On My Husband’s Cancer Treatment – COVID-19

By: Terresa Monroe-Hamilton

An update is in order. Things suddenly went off the rails here when COVID-19 came into play. Garry had been set for two surgeries… one for the hernia around his ostomy and the other being the major surgery to finish the removal of the colo-rectal tumor that is now apparently dead. When the virus popped up, all elective surgeries here in Reno came to an end, postponing Garry’s two procedures for the near future.

Garry is still in remission as far as we know and other than the intermittent exhaustion that puts him in bed, he’s doing well and is in good spirits. He’s still on chemo every two weeks. After visiting with the cancer doc today just before chemo, it was decided that another PET scan will be done in June. At that time, instead of just reducing the chemo itself as they did last time, they will most likely either stop chemo or reduce the frequency of it. Garry will also at that point be talking about his surgeries again with the surgeon. All in all, it’s good news although the surgeries are the scary part here.

If you want to help Garry out, you can give at GoFundMe. You can donate 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 are still facing the debt issue. We just lost a fight with Aetna on one bill that made no sense at all. But in the end, we will get through this. It’s a fight we will win in the end… we may be very broke, but Garry will win his fight against cancer and that is what matters.

Thank you for your ongoing prayers, well wishes and financial support. Now, more than ever, you are helping us beat this monster and we thank and love all of you for it.


Call Me Theo

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

Before getting started…I thought I’d written and saved this story from long ago, but for some reason can’t find it in any of my files… Today a friend wanted to know what T. F. stood for, True Friend or Truck Farmer.  So, here goes…

Back in the mid to late 1970s while working downtown as a police officer, one of our daily assignments was to stand in front of the Harris County Court House around noontime so we could escort felony prisoners that would be offloaded onto the sidewalk.  We’d then remove their handcuffs and put our handcuffs back on them, take them upstairs to have their Miranda Legal Warning read to them by a county court judge and then take them back down to the street, exchange handcuffs once more and load them back into the paddy wagon to be returned to the city jail.

No, I’m not making this absurd ritual up.  There was a safe prisoner zone in the lower level of the County Court House, but it was reserved and could only be used by the Harris County Sherriff’s Department and strictly off-limits for the City of Houston police officers.  Yeah, we had a wonderful working relationship as you can see.

Think about it this way…we had a felony prisoner (homicide, robbery, burglary, rapist or who knows what) that was in a safe place (the city jail), but some fool (supervisor of higher rank) decided that we should take that felony prisoner outside the jail and drive him through downtown Houston in the paddy wagon with several other felony prisoners and offload them onto the sidewalk in front of the courthouse.  This meant letting them out of the paddy wagon where there was minimal to non-existent security available, taking their handcuffs off and trading them for the ones belonging to a police officer standing there on the sidewalk.

What could possibly go wrong?  But that’s not why I’m writing this today…

Aside from this insanity, there were a collection of odd women, groupies if you will, trolling for police officers like they were band bunnies or something.  They’d start conversations hoping to engage a police officer, flirting or whatever until such time as all the prisoners had been taken upstairs.

One day, while awaiting my turn to take a felony prisoner upstairs, a young woman got up in my face, going on about just about anything.  She handled my name tag, physically touching it as she read the name, T. F. Stern.  Then she asked, “What’s the T. F. stand for?”

Not sure where my answer came from, but sarcasm is a standard file in my personality, as I responded, “It’s supposed to be T. B. Stern but they got it wrong”.

“So what’s the T. B. stand for?”

“Theophanous Bastardo Stern.  Some of the folks call me The Old Bastard, but my friends just call me Theo.”  As I said, I’ve no idea where this stuff comes from; but the young woman huffed a bit and walked away feeling insulted.

On the other hand, one of the other police officers who’d been standing there in front of the courthouse almost lost it, trying to contain his belly laugh.  From that day on he called me Theo.  It would have been a shame to lose a story like this simply because of a bad filing system.


Update On My Husband’s Cancer Treatment – Surgery

By: Terresa Monroe-Hamilton

The good news is they still think Garry is in remission. But the doctors have continued chemo because they say they don’t have an adequate baseline of comparison with the cancer clinic in Oklahoma. Garry will be requesting his records again to go to the surgeon and cancer doc here so they have a better handle on what has gone on previously with his case.

The cancer doc has reduced the chemo a further 20% but it is still occurring every two weeks. They have also stopped Avastin as part of chemo because it stops the healing process. Garry has to be off it for at least six weeks prior to surgery. We took him off his blood pressure medications because we thought that was what was making him so tired all the time and his bp was too low. His bp is now normal but he is still exhausted. It is probably a result of cumulative chemo.

We met with the surgeon last week but he does not want to do anything until he gets Garry’s records. Garry will see him next Thursday. At that time, they will do an MRI, as well as a physical and camera examination of the tumor. He does have a large hernia around his ostomy now and it is not a normal one. The doc says he wants to see if he can reverse the ostomy but when he gets in there, I’m sure he will find it is permanent.

Garry will definitely have the hernia surgery. It is also likely he will have to have the rectal tumor removed because of discharge, bleeding, and pain. That is a harsh surgery that will have him down for almost three months. It’s also a dangerous surgery so prayers are appreciated if we have to go that route.

If you want to help Garry out, you can give at GoFundMe. You can donate 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.

To give you some insight into what gives on the financial end, we paid over 22k in medical bills last year out of our own pocket. We paid almost 11k in additional insurance charges and another 8k to move back to Reno. Without your donations, we would not have made it and frankly, it was a miracle that we did make it. God was looking out for us. We are still 10k in debt and are trying to handle that before we do the surgeries. If you can give, we would really appreciate it as this is a major struggle for us now.

Garry will get through this and I still have faith that the cancer will be eradicated and he will live many more years. We always rely on our faith and take it one step at a time. It’s just that the next step is a doozy.

Thank you to all of you. You give us the strength we need to keep fighting this every day. And you are helping us win this fight.


This Too Shall Pass

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

My remarks are tied in with a talk given during last October’s General Conference, “Thru Cloud and Sunshine, Lord, Abide with Me! ” as given by Reyna I. Aburto.  She described being on an airplane high above the clouds with the light bouncing off those clouds; but as the plane descended and they were surrounded by these very same clouds, darkness surrounded them and took over.

(Image: There is no timeline for healing courtesy of tinybuddha.com)

“Some of those clouds are of depression, anxiety, and other forms of mental and emotional affliction. They can distort the way we perceive ourselves, others, and even God. They affect women and men of all ages in all corners of the world.”

I was on my way home from Florida many years ago, flying into a storm system that had delayed our take-off and delayed my arrival in Houston. The closer we got to Houston the worse the storm got; lightning flashing off the interior of the plane as we sped through the night, the plane being bounced like a toy with each passing air mile.

It came as no surprise when the Captain got on the intercom and explained that our flight was being diverted to New Orleans because the weather in Houston was not suitable for landing. As we made our approach prior to landing, the flight attendant gave the customary instructions, “Please place your seats in the upright position and secure your tray tables. We’ll be landing in New Orleans momentarily.”

About that time a woman near the front of the plane jumped up, having slept through the nasty storm and unaware of our having been diverted, yelled out, “Oh my god, I’m on the wrong plane!” Most everyone let out a huge belly laugh, a much-needed relief from the sheer panic of having ridden out the storm. It took the airline janitorial crew about two hours to clean up the inside of the airplane and deodorize it before we could re-board and resume our flight.

Sister Aburto then related an experience, “A friend described it this way: “Since my early childhood, I have faced a constant battle with feelings of hopelessness, darkness, loneliness, and fear and the sense that I am broken or defective. I did everything to hide my pain and to never give the impression that I was anything but thriving and strong.”

“My dear friends, it can happen to any of us—especially when, as believers in the plan of happiness, we place unnecessary burdens on ourselves by thinking we need to be perfect now. Such thoughts can be overwhelming. Achieving perfection is a process that will take place throughout our mortal life and beyond—and only through the grace of Jesus Christ.”

There is so much wisdom included in that last statement, one that we all need to take into our minds and hearts. Whether we’re looking into the mirror, wondering how we’ll survive the challenges that seemly have taken control of our lives, leaving us with doubt and minimizing our joy; or, perhaps we experience these challenges through the lives of family or friends, it’s important to be aware of the ever-changing mental environment which we all must pass through while on our way back to our Heavenly Father’s presence.

Elder Jeffery R. Holland had this to say, “Broken minds can be healed just the way broken bones and broken hearts are healed. While God is at work making those repairs, the rest of us can help by being Merciful, Nonjudgmental and Kind.”

He also admonished, “For caregivers, in your devoted effort to assist with another’s health, do not destroy your own. In all these things be wise. Do not run faster than you have strength.7 Whatever else you may or may not be able to provide, you can offer your prayers and you can give “love unfeigned.’”

I’m reminded of the soberness of thought contained in 2 Nephi 4, starting in verse 16.

“Behold, my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard.”

If you’re paying attention, this is a man who loves the Lord and has been following the path as almost perfectly as can be done. But then he looks into his own soul…

“Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.  I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me. And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.” (extra spaces included to permit breathing)

He goes on pleading with the Lord to strengthen him, to keep him on the path of righteousness and to avoid sin; being aware that at any time he might fall into transgression should he forget to include the Lord in all his doings.

If you would, make an effort later on to read the entirety of 2 Nephi 4; especially since it’s part of the lesson included in this month’s  Come Follow Me home study manual.

I’ve marked this in my scriptures as a “must-read regularly” and have since joined the Church back in 1978. I am, as yet, unable to read it aloud without forming a lump in my throat and sniffling away as moisture gets in the way.

Quoting Sister Aburto, “Sadly, many who suffer from severe depression distance themselves from their fellow Saints because they feel they do not fit some imaginary mold. We can help them know and feel that they do indeed belong with us. It is important to recognize that depression is not the result of weakness, nor is it usually the result of sin. It “thrives in secrecy but shrinks in empathy.” Together, we can break through the clouds of isolation and stigma so the burden of shame is lifted and miracles of healing can occur.”

While contemplating how to approach sharing this difficult topic, at first I couldn’t place myself as having ever been in a state of depression, ignoring a one week period of time when I’d been ‘Indefinitely Suspended’ from the police department, which for all practical purposes was the same as being fired since up until that time no officer had ever gotten his/her job back from the Houston Police Department after such a ruling. My infraction was summed up in one word, Insubordination, followed by a list of untruths intended to make a solid case against me.

I’d been placed in the awkward situation of performing my duties fairly, while at the same time having supervisors who wanted me to ignore a member of the ‘Good Old Boys Club’, someone I’d been issuing parking tickets to for having parked his limo in the fire zone in front of his hotel. Ever hear the term, “You can’t beat City Hall”? That’s what I was up against.

Long story short, I no doubt exhibited a lack of respect for my superiors and after my appeal was completed, did end up with a 40-day suspension; but during that time I had no gainful employment and the odds were slim on getting back on as a police officer. The first couple of days I must have been in a fog, similar to the black clouds described by Sister Aburto.

It took a couple of more days to snap out of it, mostly with the help of my loving wife who encouraged me to use the skills I’d learned as an apprentice locksmith, to simply move forward with the idea that I could provide for my family, just in a different setting.

I began in earnest the task of looking for locksmith customers and being in business, going out and obtaining small used car dealerships that were not being properly serviced by other locksmiths and not worrying about how my Civil Service Hearing would turn out.

I put aside my depression in favor of life, not the one I’d planned; but the one which the Lord had prepared me for. I did get reinstated as a police officer and decided to work night shift because my fulltime locksmith business had become the real breadwinner and my priorities had been made clear as a result of this challenge.

This all happened in the early 80’s and I completed the requirements for a 20-year retirement from the Houston Police Department in 1992, all the while working my locksmith business in the daytime. I joked that I got my four hours of sleep every day whether I needed it or not. I went on to complete roughly 40 years being a self-employed locksmith specializing in restoring lost automobile and truck keys; putting myself out to pasture a couple of years ago and moving up to our property in Buffalo, Texas.

Returning to the wisdom found in that wonderful Conference talk, “If you are constantly surrounded by a “mist of darkness,” turn to Heavenly Father. Nothing that you have experienced can change the eternal truth that you are His child and that He loves you. Remember that Christ is your Savior and Redeemer, and God is your Father. They understand. Picture Them close by you, listening and offering support. “[They] will console you in your afflictions.” Do all you can, and trust in the Lord’s atoning grace.”

Your struggles do not define youbut they can refine you. Because of a “thorn in the flesh,” you may have the ability to feel more compassion toward others. As guided by the Holy Ghost, share your story in order to “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.” (emphasis added)

I’ve opened an old wound and shared it with you all, one that kept me awake many nights when I should have been sleeping peacefully. I’ve often wondered how I might have handled it differently; should I have bitten my tongue when confronted about writing a silly parking ticket, certainly. Would that have ever happened, not likely; I know myself too well. Perhaps my having shared this will help someone; but even if it’s only one, how great in the eyes of the Lord is the saving of one soul?

In Matthew 11:28-30, this sentiment is recorded for all of us.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

“I testify to you that “thru cloud and sunshine” the Lord will abide with us, our “afflictions [can be] swallowed up in the joy of Christ,” and “it is by grace that we are saved after all we can do.” I testify that Jesus Christ will return to the earth “with healing in his wings.” Ultimately, He “shall wipe away all tears from [our] eyes, and there shall be no more … sorrow.” For all who will “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him,” the “sun shall no more go down; … for the Lord shall be [our] everlasting light, and the days of [our] mourning shall be ended.”  In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”


Update On My Husband’s Cancer Treatment – Remission

By: Terresa Monroe-Hamilton

Today we received the wonderful news that Garry is in continuing remission. He will need to stay on chemo every two weeks for now, but that will probably change. We will meet with the oncologist surgeon next just to make sure all is well.

Our challenge now is covering the medical bills… if you can help, please see below. We could certainly use it after the deluge of bills that have rolled in. If we can get a handle on some of the medical debt, we will come out of this fine and God will have answered our prayers.

If you want to help Garry out, you can give at GoFundMe. You can donate 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.

I just told the whole family who are beside themselves with happiness and gratitude over this. There are no words to thank all of you. You have helped save his life and I am in your debt forever. I get to stay with my best friend for many more years and adventures to come. I am so happy I now have to find more Kleenex. Lol.