Discover Prompt Day 4: Our Street

We have actually moved to the small town where we live three separate times. No, I’m not joking. We purposely moved here three times. The picture on the left is beautiful. The old buildings in our little village don’t look anything like it. But it’s our town, and we love it.

One of the things we loved to do as our children were growing up was going “alley riding”. One of the communities we lived in had a pretty large business district for a rather small town, and there were lots of alleys. We rode our bikes down one alley after another. If we rode all of them, it took about an hour.

What I loved most about alley riding was ending up at the “big parking lot”, next to the railroad tracks. The parking lot wasn’t that big, but that’s what we called it. Our three boys loved riding in the open space. I loved watching trains roll by.

One day I decided to go alley riding from our little street where we live now. It took ten minutes. I wasn’t disappointed though, we love our street. We love our town. It’s a great feeling.

The first time we moved to our town was 1987. Our daughter was ten, our triplet sons were three. I taught in a private Christian school and was the youth director and assistant pastor at the school’s sponsoring church. We moved a year later. I was invited to return to town in 1996 to become the senior pastor of the same church. We lived here eight years. After thirty-one years in ministry, I retired in 2004. We moved again, to another small community thirty minutes away. My wife, who began teaching in our public middle school here in 1997, made the thirty-mile drive every day. After four years, we moved back again. This time, we bought a beautiful two-story bungalow that we loved for nine years.

In fact, we still love the house, even though we moved again, three years ago. My wife has always been wonderful at making our house, wherever it was, our home. The house had French doors between the dining and living rooms. We loved the long front porch and spent many hours rocking.

Now we live on our street. She is old and bent over, but she’s ours. She has a family name, well-known in town, also carried by the hardware store, a lumber yard everyone remembers, but no one sees because it was lost in a fire twenty years ago, and a museum. She is mostly pleasant but sometimes allows younger drivers to go too fast. Something frowned upon by people like us.

We actually have two lots, which is very nice because we only have a close neighbor on one side. The house on the other side, although occupied by lots of stuff (we’ve been informed) has no people. Our back yard looks like a park. We have bird feeders that squirrels enjoy. Deer have visited several times. There is a creek that flows across the back of our property, so there is just a hint of sound, if the water is high enough, of water trickling over rocks.

Streets get old. People do too. People on the street come and go, the street stays. Sometimes streets need repair, just like people. Streets do feel bad when people they have loved leave, but it’s part of life.

If we listen to our street, we learn a lot.

“I may look old and broken, but my foundation is still strong.”

“I need fixing sometimes, but my path is always the same.”

“There is a beginning, and an end. Both matter, but real living is somewhere in between.”

“Lots and lots of people helped me be what I am.”

“A street without people is just a connection. It’s the people that make being a street fun.”

“My name is just a tag so people can find me. Who I am is the people around me.”

We love our street, and our town.

Songs I Remember

There’s a song I remember from when I was a kid. It’s been stuck in my head ever since, but I don’t know the name of it. I never hear it anymore, but it was very popular when I was probably five or six years old.

It’s the kind of song Lawrence Welk would have been proud of. In fact, it may have been the Lawrence Welk orchestra that recorded it. My grandparents watched LW every Saturday night. My grandma talked about “Lawrence” as if she knew him personally. “Oh, it’s time for Lawrence!”

This is NOT Lawrence Welk!

Another song I have loved for years is performed by a jazz guitarist named, Earl Klugh. When I was in college, his song, “Doc” was the theme song for the local news broadcast. At the end of the show, a camera crew drove through the neighborhoods waving at people and everyone on the street waved back. Years later, I found Earl Klugh’s CD, “Dream Come True”, and “Doc” is the second cut. We have raised four children listening to that CD. I now have an Earl Klugh station on Pandora. I love it!

Earl Klugh plays acoustic guitar with nylon strings for a mellow, beautiful sound.

Music has always played a very important role in our lives. I started playing piano when I was seven, many, many years ago. I have had the privilege of playing the piano for thousands of people in huge auditoriums. It is a thrill that is hard to describe.

My wife and I have been singing together for nearly fifty years. Singing with her has been the joy of my life. I wouldn’t choose anyone else to sing with.

Music has the power to change lives, if we just take the time to listen.

Open Spaces

The old train station above is near our home town. I have spent many hours sitting in the parking lot, watching trains go by. I always have a cup of coffee. Some days I see two or three trains, if I’m lucky. There have been plenty of times when I didn’t see any.

My wife and I actually took line-dancing lessons in the depot several years ago. I don’t know if I can remember enough to do the dances now, but it was sure fun then. The most fun was hearing the rumble of trains rushing past as we danced the hours away.

The old pictures at the top are fascinating. The top left photo shows two sets of track, perpendicular in the foreground. The tracks running left and right (north and south) are no longer there. The east-west track is still operational and trains run past the old station about fifteen times each day.

Why does a train station say “wide open spaces”? Because the track doesn’t end. The destination is the rider’s imagination. The explorer can ride as long as desire remains. There is nothing more wide open.

There is some restlessness in every individual. Some step into discovery, others hide from the unknown. Wide open spaces can build confidence and experience expands trust.

Joke

I’m very new to the WordPress Discover Prompt. In fact, I’m two months late! Day 1 for April 1st was Joke. We’re encouraged to share the most recent joke we heard.

The real joke was that my sister can’t remember jokes. She started in on one two days ago, and before she was three minutes into the story, she had to go back and start again. The story was told on YouTube by a leading actor as a lockdown entertainment.

“A frog went into a bank for a loan. The loan officer, Mr. Pattiwack, was not very helpful and continually refused to give the frog a loan. The frog took a small trinket from his pocket and handed it to Mr. Pattiwack. ‘What is this?’ he asked. ‘It’s collateral for the loan’ said the frog. The loan officer continued to refuse. ‘Mick Jager is my father,’ said the frog. ‘I don’t care who your father is,’ said Mr. Pattiwack. ‘I demand to see the bank manager!’ yelled the frog. The loan officer was exasperated and ushered the frog into the manager’s office.

‘This frog is demanding a loan. All he has to offer for collateral is this ceramic elephant,’ as he handed it to the bank manager. ‘He says his father is Mick Jager, but I told him we didn’t care’ said the loan officer.

The bank manager looked at the trinket, looked at the frog, and then said, “It’s a Knick-knack Pattiwack! Give the frog a loan! His old man’s a Rolling Stone!”

Many years ago I told my grandmother a joke she didn’t get. “What do you call a cow with no legs?” I asked. “I don’t know,” she replied. “Ground beef!” She laughed politely, but the laughter was missing something.

Over a year later, I asked my grandmother again, “What do you call a cow with no legs?” “Hamburger!” she said, and all of a sudden she burst out laughing hysterically. She cried she was laughing so hard. “I didn’t get it. Ground beef! Hamburger! Hahahaha!!!!” We still laugh about that. Grandma has been gone for twenty years.

Someone said laughter is good like medicine. I believe it.

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 to Brew the Best Cup of Coffee

If you enjoy coffee as much as I do, then coffee is on your mind throughout the day. Finishing one cup just means the pleasure of looking forward to the next has begun.

Enjoying coffee to the fullest requires care in choosing the perfect mug. Don’t just grab something from the cupboard. Think. The handle, weight, lip, and appearance of the mug are all very important.

Are you most comfortable using the same mug every day, or do you prefer variety? I could live with two or three rather than a cupboard full.

The most important factor in choosing a mug is the thought and feeling it inspires. Do you prefer a message on your mug, or do you like blank space? Your mug should not contribute to the pressures of the day. It should comfort and calm. My first mug of choice is tall, with a pleasing weight and handle. The inscription is, “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are grey.” My second choice is my tall mug that simply says, “Papa”.

However you choose to brew your coffee, it should provide you with a steaming, flavorful, cup that tastes great from the first sip to the last.

This antique Pyrex percolator works perfectly on our gas stove. The brewing coffee fills the kitchen with an incredible aroma.

For a six-cup pot, fill it to the line with fresh cold water. Add the stem and basket. Place a round paper filter in the bottom of the basket. Use three heaping teaspoons of ground coffee, maybe a little more, or less, depending on your choice of strength. Place the cover on the basket, and the top on the pot. You’re ready for heat. Put the pot on a medium flame, and wait for the magic to begin.

The beautiful thing about our Pyrex percolator is watching the coffee drip through the basket and slowly turning the clear water to brown. Once the perk is constant, the flame should be turned down to low, not simmer, because the perking will almost stop completely. The coffee should be allowed to perk for five minutes and then removed from the heat. Delicious!

A perfectly brewed, delicious pot of coffee.

Do you enjoy your coffee black, or do you use cream and sugar, or just cream, or just sugar? Do you really doctor it with flavored cream? If so, what is your favorite? We used cream and sugar for many years, but now prefer black.

Are you okay with coffee that isn’t hot? When my coffee begins to lose it’s edge, I nuke it. I know, I know. To some people, nuking coffee destroys it. I don’t believe so. I prefer sipping hot, hot coffee. Nothing tepid.

When I do have the pleasure of going to Starbucks, I usually order a Grande Mocha, Extra-hot. I used to request 190 degrees. One time the server said, “And here’s your insanely hot mocha.” What can I say? I like it hot.

The Keurig coffee maker is an easy and fast way to a good cup of coffee. It does provide aroma, but not as much as a percolator on the stove.

For coffee to be enjoyed fully, thought needs to be given to the brewing process. A clean coffee pot, or automatic coffee maker, is very important.

Coffee is a partner in life. If it is given time, is appreciated, and thoughtfully enjoyed, the pleasure returned will be amazing.

Oh wow, my cup is cold.

The Fun of Writing a Middle Grade Novel

Coming up with the main character wasn’t difficult at all. Maybe I shouldn’t say that. Maybe I should say I spent sleepless nights, endless days in turmoil over the identity of my protagonist. But I didn’t. His name just came to me.

He’s a freckle-faced kid, twelve years old, in the seventh grade. He’s been in love with the same girl since first grade, she just doesn’t know it. In fact, he’s never spoken to her even though they were in the same class twice in elementary school, and now have two classes together. He’s been writing poems and love notes to her since he was six, and still has each one. They’re hidden in a tin box behind a trap door in his closet on the second floor of the old house.

There is another girl driving him crazy, but for different reasons. She’s perfectly perfect. Plays the piano, dresses like a beauty queen, thinks she’s the answer to every question, and likes him.

He and his best friend have been inseparable since second grade when they threw up on their desks at the same time. It seemed planned, but obviously wasn’t. His friend lives on a dairy farm and hates it. The two wish they could trade lives.

His family has owned the hardware store in town for several generations. His father dreams of him taking over the store one day, and he wants nothing to do with it.

Singing “Springtime in My Love’s Caress” in choir class is almost the worst part of his day. “…feeling such a warmth within my breast…” is too much. He can’t sing it.

I read excerpts of my MG novel to classes of middle grade students. I was pleased with their response. Especially when I sang “Softly, softly, sweeping through the meadow, feeling such a warmth within my breast…”. The boys turned red. Just what I was looking for. I told my seventh grade Psychology History class that when the book is published I will include all of their names in the acknowledgements.

Query letter, synopsis, word-count, outline, chapters, editing, thinking, re-thinking, thinking again. It was really sort of a let-down when I typed, “The End”. I missed the characters. Watching them develop and evolve was exciting. I wonder what they’re thinking now.

Ice Cream Research

We lived in Texas for several years. While there we were surprised to learn the term “Cokes” refers to any carbonated drink. At a restaurant, the server asked, “What kind of Cokes do you want?” We’ll have Sprite, or Dr. Pepper, or Root Beer. Sprite Cokes, Dr. Pepper Cokes, Root Beer Cokes. That was Texas.

There are two things you don’t mess with. One is coffee, the other is ice cream. I have had coffee all over the country, and a few other countries. The coffee in Louisiana is served “dark” or “light”. The dark is heavy enough you can almost stand a spoon up in it. Good stuff. In Australia we asked for coffee with cream. The waiter looked at us like we were crazy. She brought us coffee with a bowl of whipped cream. There, you ask for flat white, long black, short black. Not coffee with cream. Gracious.

Ice cream is a serious matter. So serious, that recently we began doing research. We investigated local Dairy Queen’s to discover whether they were creating a proper Mocha-Chip Blizzard. The first time we asked if they could make a Mocha Blizzard, since it wasn’t on the menu, they said, “Sure!”, like it was a stupid question. We were delighted. When we received the non-turned-upside-down blizzard, we were less-than thrilled. It was vanilla ice cream with little flecks of chocolate. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, we thought maybe the chocolate flecks were mocha flavored.

The unset of the research project required us to search out other Dairy Queen’s to discover whether the first Dairy Queen had made a mistake. When we visited another DQ, we asked the same question, and received the same response. We were thrilled to receive a golden-brown swirl of ice cream, standing tall in the cup, about a half-inch above the rim filled with the familiar chocolate flecks. It was delicious! A rich espresso flavor. We knew we were on the right track.

So, that meant we were required, of course, in the interest of proper scientific discovery, to revisit the original DQ, to inquire about their ingredients for what they called the Mocha Chip Blizzard. Obviously, to do a proper statistical investigation, to find whether the null hypothesis was true with regard to the number of chocolate flecks that were in each blizzard, we would have to completely melt the blizzard, count the chocolate flecks, then do the same with a Mocha Chip Blizzard from the first DQ. We decided our research would not reach to that depth. Taste preference would be enough.

At great risk, we took one of our grandsons with us, back to the original Dairy Queen, for the final test. We ordered two Mocha Chip Blizzards, and an Oreo Reeses-Pieces Blizzard for our grandson. When we arrived at the drive-thru window, I asked how their Mocha Chip Blizzard was made. The server said, “With Tiramasu Sauce and Chocolate Chips.”

Once again, we were disappointed. There was no noticeable espresso or tiramisu flavor. Only the familiar chocolate flecks.

At long-last, our ice cream research was complete. The second Dairy Queen served a proper Mocha Chip Blizzard, with a deep and wonderful coffee flavor, enhanced by the chocolate flecks. The original DQ needs to work on what they refer to as a Mocha Chip Blizzard. Like I said, don’t mess with ice cream.

Speaking of coffee, I need some.

How to Eat McDonald’s Pancakes in Your Car

There is a proper way to eat pancakes in your car. Get it wrong, and you’re going to have a mess, all over your lap. You’ll have to go home and change and be late for work.

Eating pancakes on your lap is not for the faint of heart. You have to be bold, willing to take a risk, unafraid, ready for action. You’ve come to the right place to learn the steps to successfully enjoying McDonald’s pancakes, in your car, regardless of weather, while listening to your favorite radio station, savoring each bite, and overcoming the sadness when it’s gone.

The photo is a little deceiving. McDonald’s pancakes only come in threes.

Step one: Find the right McDonald’s. You have to know where it is, how to get there, when it opens, and where to park. You don’t want any sense of anxiety before you even get your pancakes.

Step two: Your order – “I would like pancakes, without sausage (that’s important), EXTRA SYRUP, and a medium coffee with two creams.” It’s best to memorize the script before you order for the first time. If you stumble during the order, you might end up with donut.

Step three: Sitting up straight, remove the pancakes from the bag, and place the plastic tray on your lap. No need to put a napkin tablecloth on your lap. The container is tough enough to keep anything from seeping through onto your clothes.

This is vitally important! Do not open the flip-top on your coffee until you are ready to begin eating. The proper coffee temperature is necessary for the entire experience to be enjoyed fully. Preparation, ready, set, flip-top, eat. In that order.

Step four: (The remaining steps should be completed quickly, so it is important to have everything at hand before you begin.) Open your knife and fork. Unfold your napkin. Pull the tops back on your two packs of butter. Carefully open ONE syrup. Now, and only now, remove the top from your pancakes.

Step five: Place one dob of butter between the pancakes, place the remaining dob on top. Pour the entire syrup container over the pancakes.

Step six: Enjoy your delicious, mouthwatering, perfectly prepared pancakes. Only after a few bites, open the second syrup pack and pour it onto the area you have already cut. This will cause the syrup to seep into the pancakes.

Warning: I do NOT recommend using your knife. You will risk cutting through the plate without knowing it, and a small seepage of syrup will drip onto your clothes. You will not discover this until you are in your business meeting and doing your presentation before the board of directors. They won’t be listening to you. They’ll be staring at the syrup.

Step seven: When you are finished eating, you will obviously feel a sense of loss. This is to be expected. It is normal. However, what you do now will determine how the disappointment affects you long-term. Here is the key: As you sip your still-hot coffee, immediately begin thinking about the next time you will have pancakes in your car at McDonald’s. If it helps, write it down on a sticky-note and put it on your dash. Now you will begin to feel better as you look forward to your next trip.

The world would be a happier place if everyone took time for McDonald’s pancakes!

There you have it. You can now enjoy McDonald’s pancakes in your car, on your lap. Savor it!

You’ll have to excuse me now. I have to find a McDonald’s.

Loving Tennessee

Recently, we enjoyed a week in beautiful Tennessee. While we were there, we visited the Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park in Manchester, TN. What a fascinating place!

The early morning air was cool, but by the time we had been exploring the park for an hour, it was plenty warm. I did purchase a “Old Stone Fort” hooded sweatshirt, just to be sure.

The Old Stone Fort was built hundreds of years ago. The land in the area was used by Native Americans. It is incredibly interesting, and somewhat haunting to walk through what is left of the building. To think that the stones were placed so many years ago, and remain where they were carefully laid is amazing.

While we were there, people were fishing along the river. I don’t know whether they were successful or not. The beauty was smudged just a little, by some careless folks who decided to toss sandwich bags and plastic bottles along the rocks. Some thoughtless parent even left a dirty diaper laying by the water. Unbelievable.

Wooden stairways say so much. How many feet have used these steps? I wonder what the people were talking about. How many children complained of sore feet?

I was intrigued by this old sickle bar mower that was left to rust into oblivion along the river. I actually looked up the serial number and Google returned actual photos of the old machine. History.

If you make a trip to Tennessee, take some time and travel to Manchester. The Old Stone Fort State Park is well worth the drive. On a sunny day, the beauty is unmatched.

It’s time for coffee.