Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Apprehensive with reason

This morning I went in to have the external drain removed from my abdomen; something I’d been dreading, a little like having to look at a dentist appointment on the calendar and with each passing day you know it won’t go away. They put this thing in to collect bile and other fluids after my gall bladder was removed and it had served it purpose.

Many years ago I had a collapsed lung and had a similar type drain in my chest. I had no idea how much instant pain could be generated by the removal of that chest tube. The doctor used some kind of distraction to momentarily catch me off guard and then I felt like I’d been hit with a hot poker. I was told that the removal of the abdominal drain tube wouldn’t be any fun either.

I was told to take two of the high powered pain killer tablets before going in this morning and I took them about fifteen minutes before I arrived. I figured we’d wait around in the reception room awhile and the medicine would be in full gear by the time the doctor got around to seeing me; wrong, there were no other patients and we were led to the treatment room immediately.

The fears that had been working on me were not altogether imagined, the removal process while only a few seconds, was like giving birth to a rattle snake. It wasn’t a raw burning pain like when the chest tube was removed; this was more of an extreme displeasure that just kept on as the tube exited. Once it was out the discomfort continued and even increased; the pain medicine seemed to be of little if any help. The drive home was no fun either and all I wanted was for it to be over.

I went straight to bed and Lucy warmed up some heating pads. I no sooner put my head down than the pain went away and I slept for a couple of hours. I took a second dose of pain medication at the four hour mark to keep it working. The pain hasn’t come back, thank goodness for that; but my head is spinning and it is difficult to think clearly. Other than that it’s been a perfectly splendid day.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Getting things done

On June 28th I got to watch the Astros as Craig Biggio reached the 3000th hit plateau. On the way out of the stadium each fan was given a special memento, a poster which had been printed up in honor of Biggio’s achievement. There was a place set aside on that poster which was intended to match the shape and size of the ticket stub, a means of ratifying that you were in attendance on that day and witnessed baseball history. That poster had been sitting on top of my book shelf all this time while I took care of some medical issues.

Last night I started getting restless from having cabin fever. Lucy was busy on the computer, talking on the phone and didn’t want to be interrupted when I approached her with the idea that I wanted to go to Wal-Mart. Lucy waved me off as I mentioned where I was going, not at all hearing anything I’d said.

There’s a movie with Harrison Ford, “Clear and Present Danger”, that comes to mind. The scene I’m referring to shows an elite sniper testing area with the candidate having to maneuver his way to the target without being observed, all the while taking shots at a target. Each time the target rang out, that it had been successfully disposed of, those intent on discovering the sniper’s position attempt, with futility, to ascertain his exact location.

The head honcho finally declares the sniper’s win and congratulates him on having eluded their every attempt to locate him. When he stands up, his use of natural concealment matching perfectly with his surroundings, he is only a few feet from those who had been seeking him.

“How were you able to get so close?”

“I’m a sneaky bastard, Sir!”

So, how did I get Lucy to go along with my trip to Wal-Mart, knowing that I’m on a short leash and supposed to be resting? I think I’ve already answered that, Sir!”

The poster was easy to insert, my ticket stub held in place with sticky stuff from a glue stick, and the framed unit now hangs above my work area. I’ll have to find a new location for the Declaration of Independence which had been on that spot; priorities. I mean, you have to understand that some things are important like Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness and then there’s baseball…

Friday, July 27, 2007

I Found America While out for Walk

I was out for my recuperative walk around the block this morning, feeling the strength return slowly as I prepare to rejoin the working class. The walking cane I take with me is there just in case I run out of steam and I haven’t used it in a couple of days, standing straight and breathing much easier now.

There’s a house about three fourths the way around where a couple of kittens visit with me each time I make my rounds, about 8 months old from their size. One’s white with gray patches while the other is mostly a dark charcoal grey with sandy patches. I bend down and let my knees touch the curb and these two come running for a chance to purr and rub.

Yesterday a couple of young boys were playing across the street when I stopped by to visit the kittens and they thought it a little odd that a stranger would be playing with their kittens. They didn’t seem to mind and their mother watched from the open front door just to make sure I wasn’t a danger. We talked for a few minutes, explaining about my surgery and how I’ve been walking past each day.

This morning as I walked I saw the boys going from the house across the street, as if they were selling something. They asked if I had any kids and I nodded, then added, “I have two grandchildren too.”

“That’s great”, said the one,”… and how old are they?” I explained that one was 2 and the other was 5 going on 6. “Then you’ll want to buy some of these toys were selling!” They opened up a back pack and dumped everything on the sidewalk leading up to their house. One had a small poster that was folded and creased, “How about this, does he like trucks?”, then pointing to a book, “Is the older one a girl?”

I’d run into the traveling yard sale, a couple of kids with enterprise etched into their souls making a couple of bucks through sheer determination selling off toys they no longer wanted. There was a pair of radio controlled cars, a monster Dodge truck and handful of beads and bangles and even a silver die cast metal Cobra.

“How much you want for the Cobra?” pointing to the only object that I might be interested in. It would look neat next to my green BMW Z3 Coupe on the mantle over the fire place.

“Three dollars?... two?” Then the other jumped in, “A dollar and a half?” I always thought it was my job to whittle the price down but these two had no idea what I was willing to pay as they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

“Okay, you’ve got a deal.” I picked up the Cobra and it looked like it was in pretty good shape with only a minor ding; hardly noticeable. “I don’t have my wallet on me and I live just around the corner. Will you trust me to come right back?” I waved at the mother standing at the front door and asked if she had authorized the yard sale as she nodded back and smiled.

A few minutes later I returned with 5 one dollar bills and handed it to the young man, “Is that enough?” His eyes lighted up at having scored big time and we shook hands to complete the deal. I made sure to hand him my business card to give his mother, still watching from the sidelines. The boys loaded up their backpacks and were one step closer to achieving the American dream.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Fun with Facial Hair

Mover Mike asked “What is it with you two and facial hair?” after I posted a picture of my brother and me sitting on a bench in front of my house. I’ll do my best to answer that. For some reason God gave us facial hair in the form of beards and mustaches and depending on many outside influences, we get to have fun with this element of character. Some jobs don’t lend the opportunity of expression and the desire to grow extra hair on your face isn’t really an option.

I can remember joining the Houston Police Department and being reminded that my mustache would have to be shaved off, the rules were cut and dry, no facial hair. I had fun taking pictures the night before going into the academy and that was the end of my mustache for several years until the Department altered its stance on such manifestations of individuality.

Each year I’d let my beard grow out while on vacation; only to shave it off prior to returning to work. I never liked the feel of whiskers under the chin line and made it a point to groom and shape the short lived extra growth, a crisp and distinct line created with great care as the razor fashioned the magnificent alter ego.

The day I retired from the Department I began to grow a real beard, one that would remind me of my departure from the semi-military organization, my being free to express follicle fancy forever and a day. I grew a full beard in the winter and then, just as baseball spring training came, I’d pear that down to a more conventional goatee in the event the Astros needed a worn out old ball player; it could happen.

One day I got to wondering if my personality was tied too strongly to my facial hair, would I still be me if I had to shave it off as when I was a police officer. I quietly took out the razor and removed the beard after supper one evening. I then sat on the sofa and watched television with the family; nobody noticed and it seemed funny to me as a second and then a third day went by. “Dad, did you get a hair cut, you look different somehow?”, my son asked. The answer to my question; beards had almost no effect on how I looked, a simple and important lesson. I was me regardless of how much hair I had on my face.

About a year ago I was talking with my friend Richard Sutton and found that those working at the temple had been asked to remove all mustaches and beards as same standards which are applied to young missionaries were to be established for temple workers. At the time I wasn’t a temple worker; all the same it caused me to wonder how much my appearance meant to me, my vanity; was I dependent on something as insignificant as my mustache and beard? I shaved them both off and was looking at the stranger in the mirror for several days; not so much the loss of the beard but for the mustache which I’d had for over twenty, going on thirty years.

My friend asked if I’d accept a call as an ordinance worker; did I mention that my friend Richard Sutton was the president of the Houston Temple? I haven’t thought about shaving much; that is until the other day at the hospital. It had been a long two weeks and I was feeling down, not being able to take a shower and having to accept a sink bath as a substitute. I looked in the mirror and saw the build up of whiskers, less than attractive and without form or purpose.

I convinced one of the nursing staff that I would greatly appreciate the use of a disposable razor and that I would be careful not to exert myself while trimming. I took my time washing my hair and softening the whiskers; even so it took several passes under the chin to remove the layers. It’s amazing how much a shave can make you feel. My hair was slicked back and my whole attitude changed; almost like I was getting better and ready to leave.

Upon returning home to mend the rest of the way, the first thing I did was shave off the rest of the beard and mustache, get ready to be me all over again. I looked in the mirror and wondered, is that me or is that somebody who is still in limbo?

I wanted to go to the temple this afternoon, not as a worker; as a patron. There’s a need to return to my Father’s house, to express my gratitude in the form of service. I fell asleep and missed that opportunity, at least my body wasn’t up to that much, not yet anyway. I think it would have been okay if I’d shown up with a beard; not that it makes a whole lot of difference; all the same I felt better knowing I was clean shaven.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Looking for Safety in an Unsafe World

The safety of the public and how to obtain a modicum of perceived sanctuary from those who would do harm is in the hands of government. If you think about it, going back to the arguments of the Federalists, that one task is the purpose of government, to keep the status quo safe from those who would impose upon that status quo through force or threat of force. One of the areas which has caused considerable discussion would be the security of our airports and how to best carry out the implementation of policies which might afford ways of routing out those intent on doing damage with the Pandora’s Box full of possible civil liberties intrusions.

I tend to think that most of the policies which were hastily put into practice around our airports have worked in favor of the terrorists goals of disrupting normal day to day lives of Americans. The minor inconveniences imposed are just that, minor inconveniences; no parking near the terminals , no lighters, no nail clippers, no bottles of liquid or even long lines while passing through detectors prior to boarding. While believing most of these to be of little if any importance that would improve security around our airports, I put up with it in the hope that it makes the terrorist work just a little harder to carry out mayhem and destruction on an unsuspecting populous. We have succumbed to routine searches, without cause, while standing in line to board aircraft. I don’t know about you but that part about “without cause” sticks in my throat and has a terrible taste that has nothing to do with America.

The libertarian construct of thought could be summarized by Brad Warbiany over at the Liberty Papers where he wrote, “A few years ago, I would have told you that government can’t do anything effectively and efficiently, but they could probably at least be effective at providing safety, if not efficient. After all, it’s their actual job, right? But the more I watch, the more I realize they can’t even do that right. I keep asking… Why exactly do we need government?”

I read from Fox News where, “Airport security officers around the nation have been alerted by federal officials to look out for terrorists practicing to carry explosive components onto aircraft, based on four curious seizures at airports since last September.”

{. . .}

“The four seizures were described this way:

— San Diego, July 7. A U.S. person — either a citizen or a foreigner legally here — checked baggage containing two ice packs covered in duct tape. The ice packs had clay inside them rather than the normal blue gel.

Milwaukee, June 4. A U.S. person's carryon baggage contained wire coil wrapped around a possible initiator, an electrical switch, batteries, three tubes and two blocks of cheese. The bulletin said block cheese has a consistency similar to some explosives.

— Houston, Nov. 8, 2006. A U.S. person's checked baggage contained a plastic bag with a 9-volt battery, wires, a block of brown clay-like minerals and pipes.

— Baltimore, Sept. 16, 2006. A couple's checked baggage contained a plastic bag with a block of processed cheese taped to another plastic bag holding a cellular phone charger.”

These types of disclosures would tend to support a continued need for keeping security measures at a higher alert status. I’d like to read a little more; perhaps a disclosure that would indicate the identities of those persons involved in the four listed incidents; were these folks associated in any way shape or form to radical Islam or were these college kids on the way to Science Fair? The individuals who brought the suspicious items listed, what kind of follow up investigations were launched and the results of those investigations; were they fruitful or dead ends? Simple straight forward answers would be helpful when asking an already weary public to remain burdened with what has appeared, at least for the most part, an inept and ineffectively intrusive version of the Keystone Kops.

Monday, July 23, 2007

36 Years Married to my Sweetheart

Lucy and I were married on this day 36 years ago. I’ve known her all my adult life, dating during our high school years while working at the Astrodome. I can honestly say that I knew I wanted to marry her right from the first date and have come to accept that my Father in Heaven must be one heck of a match maker to set so many events in motion whereby we would meet and make our lives one.

I got in trouble today, nothing new; I’ve spent a lifetime getting in and out of trouble. Today I dressed and then walked around the neighborhood, a full block, keeping from becoming totally bedridden and increasing my lung capacity. Lucy had some errands to run and as soon as she left I grabbed the keys to my work truck and drove down to the car dealership to put it in for service. I’d intentionally avoided taking any pain medicine so my head would be clear; wouldn’t do for a retired cop to get arrested for DUI, not in today’s media climate.

I figured as long as I was going to be side lined recovering from surgery I should take advantage of the down time and get all the little annoyances taken care of on my service truck. I had them check the front end, upper and lower control arms, replace all the shocks with original, align the front end, tighten up the transmission, a full tune up with new wires and plugs, change all the fluids and flush the radiator, top off the A/C to make it more efficient and that about covers it. It should take them a couple of days to a week; just as long as it all happens before I’m ready to get back to work. When my truck is down, so am I.

I mentioned that I’m in trouble; Lucy was steamed when she found out I drove the truck, anywhere. I had sense enough to have the folks at the dealership take me home in their courtesy shuttle. The young man recognized me since I make keys for these folks and have for years. I had him take a slight detour past my favorite florist, Flowers by Lois, where I picked out a visually pleasing table decoration for Lucy to see when she got home. I still had to listen Lucy’s tongue lashing for having taken such a risk; getting out in Houston’s traffic so soon after surgery. I can put up with her being angry; it means she still loves me, enough to remain married to me all these years.

If you look carefully there on the table at the base of the flowers is a picture of Lucy and me just married, behind there is Lucy’s high school yearbook picture along with some other family photos.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Gratitude Expressed

I know there were many family members and close friends praying for my quick recovery from surgery and I hope I never forget to say thanks, smile and let each know how much that means; but that’s not the purpose of writing today.

I know my Father in Heaven loves me and that prayers issued for my well being were partially answered by talented Surgeons able to find the flaws in my physical body and make the necessary repairs; but that’s not why I need to extend those thanks.

I wanted to say how much it meant to my spirit to have around the clock bedside care from RN’s, PCA’s, housekeeping staff and hospital volunteers. I had a chance to meet with folks of varied ethnic and cultural backgrounds, all there to perform certain functions and yet the manner in which treatment was rendered made being a patient almost a spiritual experience; hard to define in other terms. One of the administrative staff asked if I was being served properly and I almost broke out in tears attempting to express my gratitude for the Light of Christ which I was treated to, the Golden Rule taken to its highest levels.

Thank You to St. Luke’s Hospital and especially the finest folks, folks I never want to meet ever again, on the 16th floor post operative floor where they woke me up, drew blood, took my vital signs and told me to go back to sleep after asking if I’d made any progress passing gas or producing a bowel movement. These folks were genuine with making necessary “invasions” less threatening to my phobias, real or imagined.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

He’s coming home tomorrow.

Keep your fingers crossed, he supposed to come home tomorrow. I’ll let him tell you all about his stay at the hospital. He has had a rough go of it, but he will be back to normal soon. Thanks, Lucy

Thursday, July 12, 2007


I know you are all wondering how my husbands surgery went….The surgery went well but there have been complications. They took out his gall bladder and two small blood tumors off of his liver. They were able to do a laparoscopic procedure and avoid actually making a larger incision. It looked like things went well and he was sent home from the hospital on Sunday. His belly became extended and he was having terrible cramping pains. A heating pad helped relieve some of the pain but it was getting worse. To make a long story short we ended up taking him back to the hospital, thru the emergency room, on Tuesday. They did all kinds of tests on him and said he was leaking bile into his abdominal cavity. Yesterday they went back in, thru the prior incisions, to see if they could find the area that was “leaking”. They could not find it so they cleaned him out and inserted a drain. Tomorrow they will go in again, and try a different procedure, to see if they can find the leak. Hopefully they find the leak and fix it….Please pray of TF and his doctors. I will update as I know more.

Thanks, Lucy Stern (wife)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

They told me Dan was in London for surgery

The day I went in for surgery I was told my brother Dan was having his shoulder repaired in London. I saw a picture on the CNN website which caused me to doubt and read the first line of the bulletin :

“Cleric Abdul Rashid Ghazi, the leader at the center of the days-long Red Mosque siege in Islamabad, has been killed by government security forces, according to reports from Pakistan's state-run television.”

I guess all you have to do is put a red table cloth over somebody’s head and automatically they must be a terrorist. All the same, if I were about to board an airplane and saw somebody who looked like my brother in line; well let’s just say I’d be a little concerned.

Monday, July 09, 2007

My brother’s kids after the wedding

I didn’t get to attend, other than with my best wishes for a long and happy marriage for Nathan and Nicole. Nathan is my brother’s youngest son and I’ve known Nicole as a friend of my daughter Bonnie all through school and the Westfield Marching Band. We would joke that she was one of my daughters when ever she was over at our house and now she has the Stern last name to go along with that.

Many of my brother’s kids were here to help celebrate and so many pictures were taken as to make it near to work just viewing them. I’ve chosen this one picture to illustrate the good feelings that were in attendance. I love the energy which is captured in these young Sterns just prior to the wedding. Ben had not yet arrived from his deployment with the US Air Force in Honduras; other than that all the older Stern children were here from left to right, Aaron, Emmanuel, Isaac, Maria, Nathan and Jed.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Observations from a patient

I feel a certain obligation to record and share some of the experiences from this past weekend; perhaps by doing so will make for a less traumatic time for someone else, going in for surgery holds so many fears. My particular operation was brought about when an MRI and CT scan found a suspicious tumor on my liver along with a gall bladder which had ceased to operate and was full of stones. I was told that the optimum would be to use laparoscopic technique and withdraw the offending parts through a tiny hole rather than slicing me open and removing them through a large opening. There were variations proposed which would permit the entry of the surgeon’s hand; but would still require considerable recovery time.

On the morning of the operation Lucy drove me to the hospital and we arrived at 6am; everything was prepared the week before and it was just a matter of stripping off my clothes and putting on a hospital gown and a pair of cloth boot/socks. They checked my identification several times to make sure I was going to the right place and then they wheeled me to the operating room area. The hall way was busy with all manner of medical personnel and other patients were lined up, much like airplanes in a holding pattern on the way to a large airport. I didn’t have my glasses on; all the same I was able to recognize my surgeon from among the others as I was moved into a small operating room. I can tell you nothing about what happened from that moment on; not even a memory of any anesthetics being administered.

Several hours later I became aware of my being told I was in the recovery room and that all went very well. I was told that the surgeon was able to use the laparoscopic procedure and that my recovery time would be much quicker because not as much trauma had been inflicted to my organs. Two tumors were removed from my liver; one was more suspicious than the other and would be examined in a lab later in the week. My gall bladder was removed and I now have four very distinct holes in my belly which are covered with gauze bandages.

I was then taken to my room where the rest of the day was used to regain consciousness, having to expel the remainder of the anesthetics through the use of an IV which was in my arm. There was also a bag for antibiotics which was to help stave off infections. My throat was sore, some from before I went in for the surgery and the rest from when they placed a breathing tube in my throat during surgery.

I mentioned that I wore a standard hospital gown; I should explain that there is no such thing as modesty in the hospital setting. A nurse lifted the sheet which covered me along with the portion of the gown covering my lower half. She then checked the catheter which had been inserted and announced that it was doing its job. I mentioned that the skin in that area was itching and she applied some talcum powder. The next day when they removed the catheter I asked, “Is there a way I can leave the room while you do this?”, a mild reminder that I was not accustomed to being exposed in such a way, much less with a total stranger.

I was offered various forms of relief from the pain, morphine via the IV port in my wrist and alternately, Vicodin in tablet form with a little water. The alternating use kept me in some form of pain management the entire time. The morphine was a small dose and went to work in a matter of seconds but only lasted a short time, while the Vicodin took upwards of thirty minutes to take effect and lasted three hours or so.

Saturday, or day two, I was expected to walk around the halls to stimulate healing. I was given a second hospital gown to save the world from viewing my wrinkled old butt. I used the IV pole and the hand rails along the corridor walls to support me. There was a collection of gasses inside me, mostly from the laparoscopic procedure, that were the cause of pain in my shoulders and gut. The walking was to help disperse that gas; it has not gone away yet and this is Sunday evening.

The IV insertion point managed to pull loose from my left wrist and they used the alternative IV which had been put in place at the time of surgery was used. It was in an awkward location on my right wrist and got hooked on the bed rail, pushing the wide portion of the device into my skin. Yes, it hurt and crimped the delivery of drugs to the point of being useless. A third IV was attempted but not successful. I was told that since I was going home in the morning that no more attempts would be made.

Lucy was able to use the couch in my room as a bed; the end pulled out and extended the sleeping surface. It rained so much on Friday as to make me worry about her driving home and I could use the company. I slept with my glasses on, there was an oxygen tube hooked to my ears and two little prongs up my nose. I could not move much to the side and so I had to make do with being uncomfortable in the hospital bed.

We did watch the Astros game, the 17 inning 5 hour and 9 minute loss to the Mets. I have been drifting in and out of sleep for the past couple of days, something like exhaustion followed by limited attempts to return to normal activity. I’m told that I can do almost nothing until a week from now when I go back for a check up next Tuesday.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Forced Time Off

Try to hold it together while I’m taking some time off for repairs; I’ll be out of pocket for a few days.

Eight More Things About Me

Dana of Principled Discovery tagged me; guess that means “I’m it”, actually it means “You’re it” because I don’t plan to let this end. The idea is to explain a bit more about your personality, a little deeper than the fill in the blank questionnaires that float around.
If you want the rules to this you’ll have to go read Dana’s article; why should I do all the work? ( linked via title bar )

This is going to be tougher than I thought; having explained my feelings on a wide range of subjects it would hardly be new information to those who’ve read my blog. I’ll go have breakfast, a bowl of maple and brown sugar oatmeal, and let this work in my head for a bit. I used to have peanut butter and jelly with chocolate milk for breakfast until a few years ago when I became more health conscious. Both are quick and require almost no preparation time or effort; I’m not about spending time in the kitchen, that counts for one of the eight.

I enjoy a good Gospel discussion as long as those involved are sincere in their efforts to elicit information. I’ve no use for those who claim to be interested in a serious exchange; all the while digging for some weakness in my scholastic or biblical knowledge which has little if anything to do with spirituality, that’s two.

On airplanes, something I do infrequently, I used to draw on the library selections stored in my head to get through turbulent weather; but that was before I obtained an iPod. If I eventually go completely deaf I would always have the music that I’ve stored away in my head. This permits me enjoy anything anytime regardless of having access to my stereo, my iPod or a radio; three.

Most folks would have a hard time believing I was into gymnastics way back when I was in college. I was flexible and didn’t have an ounce of fat on my lean mean fighting machine of a body. We used to have races to see how fast we could get from the floor to the top of the rafter beams, all the while our legs at “L-seat”, using only our arms to hoist ourselves up the rope. We would take full extension pulls as if we were monkeys both on the way up and back down. If I tried that today they’d have to call an ambulance; or would that be a “flatulence” since I’m already an old fart? That’s four.

A friend had business cards printed when I was a young cop working in the Traffic Division for the Houston Police Department that read, “T. F. Stern – Traffic Control Artist”. He’d enjoyed watching the way I “danced” among the moving cars during rush hour while helping folks make it out of town in the evening. One of my supervisors wasn’t quite as impressed and instructed me to quit dancing in the street; but was over heard by his boss, my Lieutenant, and I was told to continue doing whatever it was that made folks a little happier on their drive home, it made for some friction between us from then on, that’s five.

I used to work at the Astrodome as an off duty police officer at nearly all the events; baseball, football, bull fights, boxing, Ringling Brother’s Circus, the rodeo, motorcycle races and anything else. My favorite was baseball; go figure. They paid me tow watch every home game and after the game if anyone had lost a set of car keys they’d stop by the security office to see if anyone had turned them in. I’d make even more before going home since I had my locksmith truck where ever I went, talk about having a captive audience, six.

I tried to learn Kung-fu at one time. I was so uncoordinated that I nearly broke my foot while doing a round house kick, striking just below the padded section which put me on the ground. I’d been nursing an injury from working out with riot sticks at the PD and when I drew my elbows in from the pain of striking the wooden post with my foot it re-injured my ribs where the riot stick had bruised me. The Black belt instructor thought I was laughing or not taking the training seriously; fact was I was in so much pain I was doing my best to keep from crying, blowing air out as I rolled on the floor, seven.

I am a fairly good locksmith and know how to get the job done by the book; however, I also know how to “get by” with less than “by the book” depending on the circumstances. When a customer owns a “beater” and can’t afford to replace a worn out ignition switch I know how to toss out the offending worn out parts in such a way as to make the vehicle operate with “diminished security” in order to accommodate the customer rather than get bogged down with “by the book” in order to satisfy the requirements of the industry. At a certain point the “book” means squat since national security isn’t being compromised, it’s a twenty five year old Ford ignition for goodness sakes. That ought to make it eight.

I almost forgot to tag anyone as I started to post;

Ron at Starsplash
Al the Old Whig’s Brain Dump
Probligo from NZ
Mary A. at By Study and also by Faith
TigerSue at TigerSue’s Jungle
David B at the Whole Note
Cold Pizza

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Freedom of Speech

One of the God given rights that we as Americans claim and protect through our constitution, is the freedom of expression. A wicked and perverse generation has taken great liberty with their all encompassing means of rationalizing crimes against their fellow citizens as well as crimes against God’s laws.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
In recent times it has been ruled that strippers and lap dancers in night clubs are not violating laws of moral conduct when they perform; their specific expression of creativity is somehow covered by the free exercise thereof or freedom of speech. Maybe I’m looking at this all wrong; perhaps it was the right of these people to peaceably assemble in close proximity, like table dancers coming in contact with more than willing patrons.

In 1989 the Supreme Court declared that flag burning was part of this freedom of speech, , a protected right to desecrate a sacred emblem; not much different than spitting in the face of every American citizen. The courts have taken the stance that almost any vulgar expression intended to impugn basic dignity, regardless of how repugnant, is covered by the God given right of expression.

. . .We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. . .

This falls into what I’d call a paradox of rationalization ; using rights obtained by God to justify acts which are clearly at odds with the behavior which God has declared corrupt or sinful. Thomas Jefferson wrote, in a letter to John Adams, “If ever the morals of a people could be made the basis of their own government it is our case . . .”

“The concept of Man's rights being unalienable is based solely upon the belief in their Divine origin. Lacking this belief, there is no moral basis for any claim that they are unalienable or for any claim to the great benefits flowing from this concept. God-given rights are sometimes called Natural Rights--those possessed by Man under the Laws of Nature, meaning under the laws of God's creation and therefore by gift of God.”

The all important guiding philosophy involved in the formation of our particular government; that God is the Author of our freedom, is something which has been glossed over by those intent on rewriting the history of our country. We have been quietly and carefully lulled into a state of diminished reasoning through a concerted effort by our public schools, our centers of higher learning, the news media and entertainment industry and other agents of the Devil himself; gosh, I hope that last line doesn’t aggravate the teacher’s unions, the mass media or the actor’s guild.

If we are to accept the God given rights, the rights that are fought over in every court that might hear such arguments, then we also must acknowledge the arrogance of those who would ignore the attached responsibility to adhere and be obedient to the life style which God expects of those whom He has blessed with these same rights. Rights do not come from government; to the contrary, rights need to be protected from government. Those who would deny the existence of God and that He alone bestows upon man these unalienable rights, these are the very ones who scream the loudest if they feel the least bit infringed upon by their neighbors.

I’d planned to post pictures I took with my digital camera; but my computer’s multimedia port has refused to download the images. Where’s my freedom of expression, my right to speak my mind? Maybe it’s just as well; these pictures would only make most of you very angry; images of spray painted windows at entry ways to our chapel and brick walls that will take many hours to clean off the crude “decorations” in black and white enameled gibberish.

Some members of our community visited our building during the night hours prior to the Independence Day celebration at our church building. They left our beautiful building covered with graffiti which will need to be removed. These independent thinkers, only trying to express their rights of free speech; kicked in the bottom glass panel on one of the entry doors making it inoperable; another item which will require time and effort to repair.

We had our pancake breakfast anyway, young children paraded about with traditional patriotic banners on decorated bicycles and we listened to talks by some of our honored military veterans. The choir sang America the Beautiful and tears ran down my cheeks as the words sank deep into my soul. The Spirit of America lives within us and so we celebrate; in spite of the degenerates who would destroy that which is sacred, our house of faith, our belief in each other’s rights and our belief in God.

As I close this Independence Day article I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate the God given freedoms I enjoy this day. All the while I’ve been typing my DVD player and stereo system have been playing Yankee Doodle Dandy with all the patriotic music in the background. I might put on some slick leather shoes and dance down the stairs, clicking my heals with each landed step from the second floor as James Cagney did in his portrayal of George M. Cohan while exiting the White House after he received an award in recognition for his service to all America; but that’s pushing your imagination and my abilities a bit too far.

Those who have stayed with me this long deserve a bonus, “My mother thanks you, my father thanks you, my sister thanks you and I thank you.” Have a safe and memorable 4th of July, taking time to ponder that which has been provided.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

July 4th 2007

I started out to write a Sci-fi piece about a time traveler from the future looking for the America that once was to go along with a piece I wrote last year when I imagined myself as living in the year 1776 . The more I wrote the less I felt like celebrating; being reminded of McCain-Feingold and how it has chipped away at our freedom of speech, the Kelo decision and the loss of private property rights to eminent domain and other current events. I’d wanted to show the present day as not much better off than the future America, a mere shadow of its former glory where a time traveler would jump back into his machine and press ever back in time to when liberties and freedoms were revered and respected.

We stand at a cross roads in time, a chance to restore individual liberties as shown when the District of Columbia lost out to private ownership of handguns in favor of the original intent of the constitution’s God given right of the individual; not to be confused with a group of individuals in the form of a militia. Our hopes kindled if only for a moment as a stand was made and won, even if only temporarily, may that spark keep the embers of freedom alive for the next generation.

The evening holds the promise of fireworks, bottle rockets to light up the night sky, linked firecrackers that pop and fizzle and children holding sparklers making ziz-zags with the help of wary parents. My wife stood up in church and asked us to make believe that instead of a bottle rocket arching carelessly across the darkness, imagine standing across the harbor as Francis Scott Key penned the words which became our national anthem. That popping sound is distant musket fire with fierce and often fatal results as the lead balls tore life from those in the heat of battle. Until the morning mist rose it wasn’t know if we’d survive, our hopes of freedom under constant assault from a significantly superior military force managed to come out with the help of our God.

Let us find a way to acknowledge our dependence on divine intervention, for surely the back woods marksmen who took on the Red Coats must have employed many prayers to overcome such incredible odds as our nation won the day. Take a few moments to recognize the fragile balance between freedom and subjugation and act responsibly that we might hold onto freedom for another season.

The Star-Spangled Banner

O say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro' the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watch'd, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro' the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen thro' the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner: O, long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash'd out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever when free-men shall stand
Between their lov'd home and the war's desolation;
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserv'd us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust!”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!