Cody the Wonder Dog Goes to Houghton Lake

In over forty-five years, we have owned several wonderful golden retrievers. I don’t know how a golden could be anything but wonderful. Copper was our first.

Lady, the princess, was our second golden. We raised her from a pup, she helped us raise our triplet sons, had a litter of twelve puppies, and left us all too soon.

Cody was a wonder dog. He was already a year old when he joined our family. We purchased him from a couple who raised retrievers and he was the last of their most recent litter. He was terribly shy and wasn’t sure he wanted to go with us.

When we arrived at home, I let him in the house and he immediately ran into the living room and went behind the big console TV in the corner. All we could see was his head and his big eyes watching our every move. Our daughter came down the stairs, saw him and said, “Is that real?!”

I was the pastor of a small church at the time and we were preparing to build a new facility. Since we sold our old building, my office was in our kitchen. I had a very thick file on a shelf with all of the contracts, invoices, and everything else. We blocked Cody in the kitchen overnight and when I opened the door in the morning, the floor was covered with small shreds of paper. Cody mangled my construction file. I laughed and kept the secret between me and Cody.

Cody was absolutely wonderful. He wanted only to be a companion. He was gentle, quiet, big, squishy, lovable and kind. Everyone was a friend.

I think Cody might have had weak eyes because he was afraid of anything new, like a paper plate lying on the floor. He backed away from it like it was threat.

Cody loved riding in the car and he loved going on vacation. One of our favorite places to spend a week was Houghton Lake, Michigan. The resort we returned to every year was a perfect match of relaxation, swimming, fishing, and boating. There were six small cabins. In the years we vacationed there, we used all but two of them.

There was an old wooden dock with enough rowboats for each of the guests to use. Cody loved swimming, but he especially loved chasing the ducks that were always nearby. He chased them and the ducks let him get just close enough so he didn’t lose interest. They flew back behind Cody and he turned around and started the chase all over again. He played with the ducks until he was too tired.

Cody loved riding in the boat. He didn’t hesitate to jump in and the sound of the motor didn’t bother him at all. He was the perfect fishing dog. Each year we rented a pontoon boat for a day so the whole family could be out on the water together. Cody loved it.

Cody loved our little Shih Tzu, Heidi. The two dogs were pals for life. Heidi was tiny compared to Cody and he was very careful with her.

Cody was showing his age with white hair around his eyes and face. We began to see indications of something that wasn’t quite right. Cody was slowing down and we saw him stumble a few times. As the days passed, Cody’s condition grew worse. The doctor diagnosed him with diabetes and he did our best to treat him.

Cody started having severe seizures and we knew we were nearing the end of this gentle wonder-dog’s life.

I held Cody in my arms and tears streamed down our cheeks as he slipped away from us. Always gentle, always kind, loving until his last breath.

Cody is forever a part of our family. We still laugh about him, and we have an hour-long home movie called, “Cody Goes to Houghton Lake.”

Our love of golden retrievers has carried over to our kids. This is Lucy, our granddog. She’s a big, strong, lovable, happy retriever with a huge voice. Now she has a two-year-old girl and a six-month-old boy to help raise. She’s doing a good job.

Whenever I see Lucy, I think of Cody the wonder dog.

Discover Prompts Day 23: Notes

Obviously, that’s not me. When I’m sleeping I look rather hideous, so I chose to use this guy. He didn’t care. The prompt for today is Notes. I’m supposed to start a diary, which I’ve started many times and have never kept for more than two or three days.

Something else I’ve never done is keep a note about dreams. Usually, I can’t remember anything but bits and pieces, but last night I had a vivid dream and I remember it.

My wife and I were going to catch a flight to Amsterdam. I was driving us through the terminal on a green golf cart. At the gate area she got off the cart and went with a ticket agent to get a boarding pass. In the mean time, I was following instructions and driving the cart up a short ramp to the jetway. I went down into a musty dark basement to get my boarding pass. My wife wasn’t there. I went back up to the gate area and the plane was gone. I assumed I missed the flight and my wife didn’t. I found some other Amsterdam passengers and discovered I was looking at the wrong plane. I was still looking for my wife when I woke up.

I imagine some important reason we were going to Amsterdam. I was going to speak at a major conference on model railroading. Crowds of people were waiting to hear me share my notes about building benchwork strong enough to sit on. Sitting on the benchwork makes it possible to do detail work on the other side of the layout when you discover the bench is too wide to just reach across.

Another possibility for the trip is that I was going to demonstrate the fine radio controlled airplane skills I have gained in seven years of flying. No concerns about the fact I can’t fly anymore because of essential tremors. I can’t control the radio sticks well enough to keep the plane from crashing. That probably wasn’t it.

Maybe I was invited to come to Amsterdam to talk about the fine art of blogging. People want to know how to build a huge number of followers. Someone said, “You’re not a leader if you turn around and no one is following.” I wouldn’t think it would be necessary to fly to Amsterdam to talk about the vast number of followers when, at this moment, I have around one hundred. (I’m really thankful for each reader and follower. This really is a lot of fun.)

I have lots and lots of notes about all kinds of things. Now, since I can’t write with a pen or pencil anymore, I do all my writing on a tablet or laptop. So, taking notes about something and then printing it is a pain. So usually, my notes are only two or three words. More like thought prompts to remind myself of something. For example, “Dr 10:00”.

I had no idea how much I have taken hand-writing for granted. It was always there, hiding in the shadows, ready to use at any moment. For thirty years, all my sermon notes were written by hand. I knew all my scratches, arrows, underlining, explosion marks, exclamations, question marks, and doodles. They all meant something important. Not any more. When I retired I threw files and files of my notes away. When I was a pastor I never used sermon notes more than once. Certainly the same topics, but not the same notes.

Notes are important. If we keep notes we might be able to keep ourselves out of trouble. If we look back over our notes when trouble comes, we can read about what we did last time and not make the same mistakes again. Someone said, “If we don’t learn from history we’re doomed to repeat it.” That is not just true for a country, it’s true for individuals.

Ah, here’s a note I wrote to myself earlier today. “Drink another cup of coffee.” Good idea. I think I will.

Discover Prompts Day 17: Social Distancing. Wait, What?

Who comes up with this stuff? Social distancing? For people like me who are socially distant, nothing has changed. Except, of course for the mask that no two people agree on for more than forty-seven seconds.

I’m ok with social distancing, if it means staying away from crowds of people. I’m really not doing anything different than I was before. The real difference is we quit watching the news. I’m social distancing myself from everybody who does the news. Now that, I can get excited about.

I have a t-shirt with an inscription, “It’s way too peopley outside.” Yep. It is way too peopley outside, not just during all this craziness, (not that I’m one of those who believe the virus isn’t real, it’s real alright), but always. Staying away from people has not been difficult at all. It was hard, however, to follow the rules and stay away from our family for the first month. Not doing it anymore.

This is why I always got into so much trouble when I was a pastor. There were people everywhere! No one ever told me being a pastor was about being with people. Constantly.

I honestly envy pastors I have met who just cannot get enough of being around their people. I heard one pastor say, “If I could just preach and visit my people, I’d be the happiest man in the world.” I was dumbfounded. A retired pastor said, “I miss the burden of the people.” I thought he was crazy. The burden of the people? What does that even mean? Another pastor friend said, “The toughest thing for me to do on my day off is stay away from the church.” I thought, I’ve heard it all, now. This guy is out of his mind. The last place anyone ever found me on my day off was near the church. In fact, they couldn’t find me at all!

I hated visiting, and that’s where I fell on my face. People demanded it. Oh, I didn’t mind going to the hospitals, or doing funerals and weddings. Those were short term, in and out. At least the hospitals and weddings were. Funerals were a lot tougher. I have no idea how many funerals and weddings I officiated. And besides officiating, the ones where I played the piano. Add a whole bunch more. Do I miss it? You have to be kidding. If anyone had told me many years ago it would all involve endless people, I probably wouldn’t have done it. It’s a good thing they didn’t tell me, I guess.

People tell me I was a good preacher, and I appreciate it (I retired from ministry in 2004 after thirty-one years. After I retired I was asked to fill in for several months at a couple of churches. Now that was better! I didn’t have to do anything but preach. Preaching was always easy. If I could preach and head out the back door when I was done, that was like heaven. Finally, I reached the point where I don’t even fill in anymore, and I don’t miss it. Too many people.

Social distancing isn’t difficult at all for introverts. I’m ok when there are people around who I love and trust. I’ve never been a party planner. If I absolutely have to go, ok, I can make it through the night. The love of my life can talk to anyone, anytime, for any reason. I love her for it. Maybe if she could have been the pastor (the word pastor actually means shepherd) and I could have been the preacher, I could have lasted longer. No, she was a middle school teacher for many years. One of the great ones.

Someone gave me a book entitled, “Pastors – They Smell Like Sheep”. Uhh, nope. I never read it. In fact, I think I gave it away. I wasn’t interested in smelling like sheep.

My wife’s mother told her family that during the Great Depression, her family didn’t notice anything different. They raised their own food on the farm. They didn’t have anything of value except their land. They lived as they always had. It’s sort of like that now. For those who don’t live on being around others constantly, social distance is nothing new.

I wonder how much money some advertising agency has made by coming up with the phrase “social distancing”. Wait. I’m not supposed to think or say things like that. Social distancing is the new reality. Or so they tell us. If we’re listening, that is.

My coffee is cold. Time to nuke it again.

Discover Prompts Day 15: The Scent of Lilacs

In my mind, there is nothing more rewarding, after a very long, cold, dreary, mind-numbing, blustery, bone-chilling, limb-freezing, lip-cracking, brainless, heartless, endless, blizzard-loving winter than the scent of lilacs. Lilacs are the gift of spring. Lilacs call to us with welcoming words, “I’ve been waiting for you! You’re finally here! This amazing fragrance is just for you!”

In our area, lilac buds begin to open around the third week of April. It’s a dangerous time for them because the night temperatures can easily dip below freezing and damage the young blossoms. I have tried placing plastic over the bushes to protect them but found the plastic did more damage than the cold. Now I just leave them and hope for the best.

We have four young lilac bushes in our yard. We have taken lilacs with us when we moved in the past, as long as the plants weren’t too big. We were successful with most of them. At our last house we had a beautiful lavender color bush that produced gorgeous blossoms every year. We had moved it from our previous house, but it became so large we had to leave it when we moved again.

When lilacs are young they have to be watered often. It’s important for the small roots to stretch out thoroughly. Soon the plant will thrive and be able to gather enough moisture without constant care. The leaves are beautiful, but nothing matches the beauty and scent of the flowers.

The sad part about the lilac blossom is that they do not last very long. Once the clusters are fully open, the flowers will last about a week, maybe a little longer. We carefully cut some to enjoy indoors.

Our favorite flower colors are white and lavender. There are several different varieties of lilacs, and I can’t name them. I just know the ones we like best, not by the name, but by the appearance of the blossom. There is a variety with a deep lavender and white blossom that does not have the strong fragrance of the lighter lavender and the white. Even the white does not have the rich fragrance of the lavender, but it is still amazing.

Lilac bushes love to spread, and depending on the variety can grow quite tall. If you do not want the bush to spread out, you will want to clip or move the young plants that begin to appear in the ground around the main bush. You can dig out the young shoots and replant them. With plenty of water and good soil, they will develop roots and grow.

Of course, nothing goes better with the incredible scent of lilacs than a delicious cup of coffee. Coffee is the gift of every day like lilacs are the gift of spring.

Discover Prompts, Day 13: Teach

When I think about my teachers, there are two who always come to mind. And, I suspect, they always will. Both were at the same school, Mackinaw Middle School in Saginaw, Michigan.

Both teachers came into my life when I was in the 5th grade. The impact of events during that school year have kept the memories new. Mrs. Vassold was my classroom teacher. Looking back now, she wasn’t old, but she seemed so then. Of course, to a ten-year-old, adults all seem old.

Mrs. Vassold was a caring, kind, and encouraging teacher. Everything seemed doable in her class. She had a real gift of instilling confidence in her students, something that I lacked. I didn’t realize until many years later how much Mrs. Vassold meant to me. As I think of her now, there is still a sense of calm connected to my memory of her.

Harry B. Wallerstein was our middle school band teacher. He was another educator with a gift of reaching into students’ hearts and planting seeds of confidence they might not otherwise ever experience. My chosen instrument was the cornet, which I played because my uncle had a horn I could use. It seemed like no time at all and our band was playing real songs. Mr. Wallerstein was my band teacher four years.

Mrs. Vassold and Mr. Wallerstein were on the same team. They may not have literally planned together, but the results of their teaching strategies and caring spirit changed lives forever.

Through many years of music experience, I am amazed at the music Mr. Wallerstein inspired us to play at such a young age. Those songs were tough! We played them beautifully. I’ll never forget Mr. Wallerstein playing a tape recording of a new song that had just burst on the airwaves. It was called, “Yesterday”, by Paul McCartney.

Mr. Wallerstein made learning music such fun. Every day he was on the lookout for students who were chewing gum, which was forbidden. Right in the middle of a song he would point at the offender and yell, “Ten cents!” He wrote their name on the board. There was always a long list. He collected all those dimes throughout the year. On the last day of school, he brought in a clawfoot tub, filled it with all kinds of pop and provided lots of potato chips. We were welcome to come in throughout the day, as many times as we wished.

I really didn’t realize how much I had learned from Mr. Wallerstein until I was asked to be a band director at a private school. The only training I had was what I had seen Mr. Wallerstein do. I did the same.

In 1997, I found Mr. Wallerstein’s address on the internet, he was living in Florida. I wrote him a letter, not knowing for sure if it was really Harry B. Wallerstein of Mackinaw Middle School fame. My letter began, “Dear Mr. Wallerstein, my name is Dale Parsons. From 1963 to 1967, I was in your band. I don’t know if you’ll remember me…” I was thrilled beyond words when I received a several page, hand-written letter. “Dear Dale, of course I remember you! When I read your name, I immediately saw your face…” I still have that letter and will always treasure it.

A few years ago, I looked up Mr. Wallerstein on the internet again. This time, I found a picture and a record of his obituary. I have looked for Mrs. Vassold over the years, but since I don’t know her first name, I have never been able to find any record of her.

Now, more than fifty-five years later, I can still see their faces. Mr. Wallerstein and Mrs. Vassold. I remain thankful for all my teachers, but these two have a high place in my memory.

That year is etched in my mind forever. I was in Mrs. Vassold’s class, during Social Studies, and the principal spoke on the PA. “Staff and students, I am sorry to inform you that President John F. Kennedy has been assassinated.”

Discover Prompts Day 12: Feeling Light

One of the suggestions for writing about this Discover Prompt is recalling a time of feeling completely carefree and light. I gave that quite a bit of thought and I really can’t remember the last time I felt completely carefree.

We’re talking about a feeling. Feelings come and go. Who knows how many different feelings we have throughout the day? Feelings are affected by all kinds of things like appetite, weather, people, relationships, finances, caffeine, medications, hammers hitting fingers, entertainment, music, movies, conversations, news, social media, clouds, bills, illness, impressions, perspective, thoughts, possessions, lack of possessions, social conditions, religion, non-religion, education, emotions, bad coffee, good coffee, alcohol, smells, traffic, mechanical problems, temperature, rain, no rain, allergies, colds, flu, disappointments, expectations, hopes, dreams, plans, accomplishments, endings, beginnings, new surroundings, old surroundings, new jobs, old jobs, days off, weekends, Monday mornings, Friday nights, alarm clocks, time clocks, chimes, children, no children, parents, missing parents, driving, walking, thinking, purchasing, losing, acquiring, choosing, clean houses, dirty houses, embarrassment, gloating, plants, blossoms, leaves falling, leaves appearing, snowflakes, rain, water, having a boat, not have a boat, snow storms, snow days, lightning, thunder, ice, stubbing toes, getting lost, lights on, lights off, darkness, fire flies, wasps, mosquitoes, fish, dogs, cats, guinea pigs, ants in the house, spiders, centipedes, chocolate, lack of chocolate, politics, oil changes, car washes, flat tires, motor homes, travel trailers, flying, landing, waiting on a tarmac, trips being canceled, getting fired, getting hired, layoffs, hirebacks, recalls, refunds, overcharges, cold food, cold coffee, cold tea, restaurants closed, pizza, bad pizza, Tweets, posts, stats, likes, dislikes, memes, non-memes, misunderstandings, understanding, Instagrams, Snap-Chats, comprehending, confusing, concealing, revealing, knowing, not knowing, finding, dogs barking, dogs licking, cat tongues, cats purring, water boiling, cold water, clean clothes, body odor, dirty fingernails, and living.

To be totally carefree, one would either have to be an infant, which is not really being carefree but to be unaware of cares, or not be living.

Feeling light, whatever that means, evidently is something different. Someone said that seeking happiness as a goal is a mistake. If feeling light is feeling happy, than great. But happiness comes and goes from one moment to the next, depending on what’s happening around you. Being generally satisfied could be equated with happiness, and if it is, you’ll probably say you are mostly happy, if you are satisfied.

If you are consumed with dissatisfaction, can’t get enough, no matter what you have it’s not enough, then you probably feel like happiness is always just beyond your reach. There is nothing wrong with reaching, striving, working, growing, improving, but not with the price of never feeling a sense of accomplishment where you are right now.

What I am striving for right now, is more coffee.

Discover Prompt Day 7: The Desert Below

When I was young, my parents had friends who owned a cottage on beautiful Sanford Lake in Mid-Michigan. The lake provided swimming, boating, sailing, and fishing opportunities for many people in Michigan.

We enjoyed going to the lake and spent many weekends there. I learned how to water-ski on Sanford Lake. I don’t remember exactly where the cottage was, but I remember it being on the east side of the lake, right on the water. The wooden dock stretched out into the water and I loved watching the fish swimming below.

This is how Sanford Lake looks today. A desert, marked by tree stumps of many sizes that were hidden below the surface. They are evidence of water having buried them years before when the lake was created.

On May 19, 2020, torrential rains over many hours caused the water levels to rise in Wixom Lake, several miles to the north, and in Sanford Lake. Wixom Lake was held in place by the Edenville Dam. As the rains continued, the dam failed. A wall of water rushed down the Tittabawassee River, taking trees, boats, docks, and homes with it toward Sanford Lake.

Sanford Lake was a favorite destination for summer and winter sports enthusiasts.

Families were quickly devastated as the water and debris raced toward Sanford Lake. Within hours, the Sanford Dam also failed, releasing the lake from its boundaries, sending it crashing toward the City of Midland.

Two beautiful Michigan lakes were destroyed.

Business and property owners on Wixom and Sanford Lakes and the Tittabawassee River, as well as the residents of Midland, have a very long task ahead of them. I can’t imagine the lakes ever being restored, but then again, the two dams were constructed creating the two lakes. The Edenville Dam was built in 1924. The Sanford Dam was built in 1925. (Wikipedia).

I drove to Sanford and Edenville today. I wanted to see what is left for myself. Memories.

I wish the desert below could have remained covered.

Thirty-Day Blog Posting Challenge

I challenged myself to a thirty-day blogograma. This is day six. I tried this once before. Bust. This time, I am determined to follow through.

Why do this? Blogging is work. I’m talking about writing that means something. Okay, that’s judgmental and I apologize. All writing means something to someone, even if it’s only the person who put their fingers on the keys and actually pushed them down.

I haven’t done the research, so I don’t know where the term “blog” came from. I probably shouldn’t admit that, but there it is, out in the open. Maybe it’s an acronym, something like: Boisterous Longitudinal Ostentatious Gushings. No, it has to be better than that.

Begin Lasting Outreach Gatherings. Now that might be good for a church blog. Especially in relation to restarting face-to-face, or side-to-side, or mask-to-mask, or six-feet-to-six-feet-space-box gatherings.

How about Breaking Long Obvious Goofs. You know, writing about the kinds of things that have been around forever, but no one knows why and no one bothers to find out. However, if you do actually take a step to question something that has been around since there was dirt, you are attacked, despised, slandered, unfriended, blocked, unfollowed, and otherwise placed on the poop list, so you just know it would be better to leave it alone. It’s always been there, so stay away.

Maybe it’s Blending Life’s Occasional Grandeur. Good things do happen to everybody, at least a few times. A blog is a way to rake it all together and give it a title.

Blunders Long Overlooked Glowing. It could be a blog about the funny mistakes people have made that should be remembered. Oh, wait. We already have that! They’re called “Fails”! Millions and millions of fails.

Better Leave Our Group is a blog you send to someone by insinuation. You write an obscure message that seems to maybe be saying something, sort of, that a person just might take to mean their departure from a social group is desired. It contains plausible deniability because the message can’t be pinned on an individual.

Because Love Outlasts Grief. That could be a good one.

Where did I leave my coffee?

How Did You Find Your Niche?

Do you have a niche? How did you know it was right for you?

I need your help. I have been writing for many years. I have written four books, somewhere in excess of a thousand total pages. I have been published many times in curricula and periodicals. I had a weekly column in a local newspaper for two years. Writing has never been a problem, except for maybe being too wordy. My motto has always been, “why say something in ten words when you can say it in forty?” I’m like a friend once said, “The only way that guy could have said less is if he had talked longer.”

Blogging is driving me crazy! I can’t seem to get it right. Maybe I have read too much and I’m making it too hard. I read, “Don’t be personal.” Then someone else says, “Make sure it’s personal.” A blog authority says, “Keep it short.” Another says, “If you’re saying what you need to in five paragraphs, you don’t really have anything to say.” Someone with a ton of followers says, “Be passionate!” A writer with even more followers says, “Make sure you’re not too passionate about what you’re saying. You don’t want to drive people away.” Ahhhhhh!!

This whole thing about “niche” is mind-boggling! I know the definition. The problem is I can’t seem to find mine. I’m a pretty smart person. I’ve had a ton of experiences in many things, probably most of which no one would care about. I’m pretty talented. (Someone said, “If you don’t toot your own horn it won’t get tooted.”) But there are lots of really talented people around no one has ever heard of.

Not only have I done a bunch of writing for readers, I’ve written a big boat-load of music. Most of it absolutely worthless, not worth the space on the manuscript paper. Putting words together isn’t the problem. My problem is settling on something as a niche and sticking with it.

I’m not interested in writing a public diary as a blog. I don’t understand people who take pictures of what they’re eating and write about it. I don’t want to be like a pinball, bouncing around from one topic to the other.

So, I need help. I’m sincerely asking you for your advice. A plebe, a freshman, a neophyte, a beginner humbly asking for assistance.

How long have you been blogging?

What was your experience when you were first getting started?

Where did you find inspiration?

How did you keep going when it seemed like nothing was working?

I’m not trying to make money. I don’t have a website to which I’m trying to drive traffic. Is blogging worth the effort just as an expression of yourself?

Anything else you can offer that you think would be helpful, I will appreciate. Thank you for your time. And, thank you for being an example of how to be blogger.