Monthly Archives: November, 2018


We have 4 – 6 inches of snow forecast, beginning this evening and continuing until tomorrow evening.  Jim Rasor, our local meteorologist, has said that some areas in Southern Illinois could receive, as much as, 8 – 10 inches.  Now, this is a major, winter in the fall, event, for us!  There are years that we receive little more than a few, dustings, of snow.  There are other winters that we receive 2 – 4 inches…once or twice…and we call it a, hard winter!

I remember the blizzard of 1978.  I was, extremely, interested in a girl named, Mary Jane, and when it snowed 20+ inches…I proceeded to the trailer that she and her friends, Faye and Robbin, shared…and I began to shovel their automobiles out of  a snow…like I had never seen!

I worked, most of the day, and they had me inside for hot chocolate and praise of my accomplishments…and then I proceeded to shovel some more.  I was 20 years old.

My buddy, Steve, and I worked for June’s Janitorial Service.  One of our housekeeping customers was Ziegler Coal Company’s headquarters in Johnston, City.  As the snow, dumped several inches per hour, on us…Steve asked if we should chance driving the, nearly, 20 miles to Johnston, City, and I answered that I was certain that we could do it and that it would not be a problem for us!

As we drove through the, total white-out, I could not ascertain if I was on the road…or where the road was?  I asked Steve if he could stick his head out of the passenger side window and see if we were, still, on the road…or in a field?

Steve began to give me navigation instructions…turn left…turn right…hold her straight…and Oh NO…we are in the ditch!

I asked Steve if he could push us out of the ditch…and I would steer…and if we could succeed…we would head for home…and not look back!  He pushed us out with his, herculean strength, and we subsequently turned around and did not look back.

I began working at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale in October of 1978.  In January of 1979…we had another, massive snowfall, that obliterated roadways and traffic and closed…virtually everything.

Faye heard that SIUC was closed…but I was so appreciative of my, new job, at SIU…that I was afraid not to show up for work.  So, I proceeded to drive to the University…which was 20 miles from my home in Elkville.

There were no, demarcations, for highway #51.  You simply had to trust your instincts.  It was like driving in an open field!

When I, finally, arrived at SIU Building Services, I proceeded to attempt to enter the office, and discovered that the door was locked and that there was only a night light on.  I, finally, understood, that, indeed, we were closed.

My colleague, Elbert Covington, drove up…and I was pleased that someone, besides myself, had made the, peril fraught trip!  Elbert, walked to the front door of our office and pulled on the door knob and began to shout, ‘hey…hey…Brooks and Covington are here and ready to go to work!’

Elbert, was, finally satisfied that there was no opportunity for he and I to work…that evening.  He, subsequently turned to me and invited Mary Jane and I to his house, in Desoto, Illinois…for hot chocolate.  Now, DeSoto was 7 miles closer than my town, Elkville, and I thanked him but assured him that if I could make it back home…I would not be venturing out, again, that night!

Steve and I were the, on-call Sextons, for our little church in Elkville.  I recall, vividly, being requested to shovel snow at our church to facilitate attendance at an evening service on Thanksgiving.  Neither of us liked it…so much.  After all…it was Thanksgiving and we thought that church should be canceled to facilitate families being together for the entire event.  There was a lot of snow…and we wondered what the other, young men and young families, of the congregation…were doing…were they eating turkey…and mashed potatoes…and dressing?

Cody, the fine young man who, expertly, cuts my grass, has asked me if I want him to plow my driveway and shovel around my porch and walkways…and I…enthusiastically answered…yes!

A Few Kind Words…Make a Difference

I was honored to be asked to deliver, a few remarks, regarding what our church meant to me, yesterday.

As I thought about what to speak about…I was reminded of the kindness and kind words that many members of our congregation, who have now passed on, spoke to me in my early days at First Presbyterian.

I recalled how, Tom and Carolyn Jefferson, were so kind to greet me and Mary Jane and Aaron and Jonathon, as well as my mother, Neva June, in the early days of our church attendance.  They were so loving and it seemed that they had known us for years…and they were always glad to see us.

man holding sheep statuette

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David and Mary Rendleman, always had a welcoming word for my little family.  Dr. Rendleman had been the surgeon that had operated on Mary Jane’s aunt Lauretta, and, years after Aaron and Jonathon had achieved adulthood, they continued to inquire about them and remarked, with wide smiles, that they had watched them grow-up.

On our first visit to First Presbyterian, Betty Darling, greeted us so warmly and when she heard that out last name was Brooks…remarked that before her marriage…she had been a Brooks!

Joe Cash, was one of the friendliest and considerate people that I have met.  Joe went out of his way to make us welcome…and seemed to never tire of joking with Aaron and Jonathon and causing them to be included in the activities of the church.  His deep and resonate base voice…I can still hear…during the singing of hymns on Sunday morning.

When, I was consumed with worry about Mary Jane and her diagnosis of Breast Cancer, Sarah Milford spoke to me and told me to tell Mary Jane…not to worry as she had experienced her first diagnosis of Breast Cancer, when she was a young woman, and that she had lived to, senior age, and was still going strong.

Sarah, ultimately, succumbed to the disease, but she never failed to have a smile and a word of cheer and a positive attitude regarding life.

Jonathon is working with Dede Ittner and she is an inspiration to him and to all she encounters.  Dede treats him like a mother would treat a son.

Barbara Bennett has been an inspiration to me since 1998.  I had no desire to serve on a church board, after having done so in every church that I had been a member of over the past 49 years.  However, after her visit to me, along with our pastor at the time, Karen Star Terada, I accepted a position on the board of Trustees.

The chair of the Trustees, when I became a junior member, was Dorothy Baker…and her welcoming of me and her friendly demeanor…made me feel at home.

Even when I have not attended church, for some periods of time, Barbara Bennett…never forgot me.

Rob Jensen is such a cheerful and up-beat individual…he rubs off on all that he meets.  He was my colleague during the three years that I served on the Stewardship Committee and his mentoring was invaluable to me.

I mentioned that one of my first impressions of First Presbyterian in Carbondale, Illinois was there dedication to doing, ‘Christmas right!’

From the midnight Christmas Eve service to the candlelight portion of the service to the, dynamic and dramatic, speaking of the minister, at that time,…the entire experience was a bit like being with Tiny Tim and Bob Cratchit!


Our church building is beautiful and historic…but it is not the Church.  The Church…is the people that attend!

When attending church…and someone reaches out to you…with a kind word…or a smile…or demonstrated concern for you…it is as the scripture admonishes;

‘ A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.’    Proverbs 25:11   KJV




Empathy and Apathy

Please enjoy a great Blog by, Jonathon Brooks.


Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another human being. It’s an excellent mark of character whenever an individual displays empathy. Caring and thoughtful people have this mark about them as they meet their fellow life travelers. Having the character trait of empathy makes life sweeter for the person who has it while also benefitting humanity as a whole. Apathy states that he doesn’t care, but empathy says she cares wholeheartedly.

Special moments for me happen when I share with someone else that I have bipolar disorder and I can see the empathy on their countenance and in their eyes. The person with empathy often proceeds to tell me about someone they love dearly who also has bipolar or they begin to reveal that they personally have bipolar. These moments, and these individuals who understand and care, have been some of the greatest moments in my…

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SIU@ Carbondale…Waits

As I walked the SIUC Campus, today, I marveled at the majestic autumnal beauty of my surroundings.

IMG_2851 2After the, untimely passing, of chancellor Montemagno, our campus waits for the clarion call for renewal and revitalization of our proud institution of higher education.

IMG_2863 2One of SIUC’s greatest, natural assets, is the, profound, natural beauty of its’ physical location.  With two woods on campus and a plethora of wildlife…it is a. learning laboratory, in the great tradition of; Emerson and Thoreau.

There are so many of us, countless thousands, that have received, not only our education, but life opportunities and lessons, regarding the beauty of inclusion and diversity…at our great university…that it is never far from our thoughts and our hearts.

IMG_2862 2The, unique, combination of the friendliness of the Southern Illinois region and the, natural wonders, of its’ environment…with the elite academic programs offered by SIU; has been a, compelling draw for students from across the country and around the world.

IMG_2845Over 40 years ago, when I became a member of the housekeeping department, Building Services, on Campus; I noticed that I soon became a member of the SIUC family.  I, quickly, met students from Malaysia and Turkey and Japan and Africa.

I felt that I wanted to remain a part of the SIUC family…for the rest of my life!

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I met and spoke with the Holocaust survivor and famous author and lecturer, Elie Wiesel.

I spoke with John Updike and Carl Bernstein.

I became friends with two of the nations most noteworthy historians, Peter and Jo Ann Argersinger.

I enjoyed the, unwavering, support of the, superior, Building Services staff…and I was humbled by their confidence in me…and their friendship.

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Miraculous transformations occur…when you allow yourself to be exposed to people and ideas…that, at one time, you had not imagined!

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‘ Thinking outside the box,’ leads to a stadium…which leads to an ocean…which leads to a planet…which leads to a universe…of ideas and acceptance and working together for the…human family!

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The Mystery of Cults

‘A system of religious veneration and devotion toward a particular figure or object.’

‘A relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister.’

‘A misplaced or excessive admiration for a particular person or thing.  A cult of personality surrounding the leaders.’    Dictionary

Many times, I have witnessed the, supremely confident orator, sway people to his or her opinion.

We tend to listen to leaders who tell us what we, already believe, or what we want to hear.

Religious groups and ideologies are, abundant, throughout the world.  When we think of cults, we think of Jim Jones and the People’s Temple, who moved their church from Los Angles, California to Guyana, South America and subsequently drank, Kool Aid laced with cyanide…and over 900 of the parishioners died…at the instructions of their leader.

Or the, Heaven’s Gate cult, where 39 members participated in,’ mass suicide in order to reach what they believed was an extraterrestrial spacecraft following Comet Hale-Bopp.’    Wikipedia

The Heaven’s Gate cult was led by Marshall Applewhite.

The reality of religious cults is much more endemic and profuse in the societies of the world.

Many of us are affiliated with a cult…and do not realize it.

When a religious leader is doing your thinking for you…you are in a cult.

If you are giving more money than you can afford to give to your, faith community, and it is not your idea, but rather the ministers idea…you are in a cult.

If your religious doctrine is centered around hate of others that are different than you and your fellow congregants….you are in a cult.

If your faith dogma is based in hate of other members of the human family….you are not in a Christian Faith…you are in….something else?

I remember, like it was yesterday, when Reverend Jerry Falwell was the minister at the Liberty Baptist Church and his sermons were televised, each Sunday.  I watched him, most Sundays.  He began speaking about his, initial concepts, of creating the Moral Majority…and attempting to have, fundamentalist christianity, have an influence on the political arena.

The concept sounded interesting…but the results have been devastating.

Of late, all fundamentalist standards of holiness and Christian ethics, have been set aside to facilitate the, unwavering support of the current chief executive.

Politics, over the past 50 years, has become; tribal and caustic and vile…and cultish!

We have morphed from a country that had many moderate senators and congressmen.  Our founding fathers created a system of government that is based on compromise.  Fifty years ago most of the south was Democrats.

Now we decide that if our friends and family do not see politics as we see it…something is wrong with our friends and family.

We do not believe the, mainstream news that we see on television, unless it is the news that portrays, only, our political point of view.

I, being an old guy, remember when the news did not contain, by and large, the newscasters political opinion.  I recall, vividly, when cable news shows began to include, talking heads, who would argue the merits of each political or social issue.

Have you ever witnessed a Hitler Rally on an old newsreel?

Adolf Hitler, a failed artist, had a style of oratory that captivated his listeners.  He began his speeches by watching the gathered, thousands of Germans, for several minutes…until many wondered if he was going to speak at all.  He then started speaking, slowly and in a low and calm voice…and, systematically, began to raise the volume of his voice and the passion of his speech…until he had the audience…enraptured…and worshipful.

The eyes of the members of Hitler’s audience are, dilated and manic, and the logic of his points…were not examined by the throngs of spectators…who were in a religious-ecstasy…that promised them a relief from their suffering and a scapegoat for their problems.

How did an entire nation…sit idly by…while 6 million Jews were murdered?

How did an entire nation not say a word when Jews were taken from their homes and their businesses were vandalized and they were placed into box cars, like cattle…no, worse than cattle…to be taken by rail to…Aushcwitz and Treblinka…for the purpose of being…gassed?

Think for yourself!

Do not let anyone tell you what to believe or who to worship…or who to vote for!

I have written and spoken about the wonderful gift that all of us are afforded…the ability to think for ourselves!  When something seems; wrong, or ‘fishy’ or not in concurrence with what our eyes have seen or our ears have heard or what we have understood by research of the subject, being disseminated,…beware!

The day is coming…and soon…when the United States will need all of it’s citizenry to be united against an outside force that wants to; capture us…and enslave us…and take our finances and our homes and our personal possessions…and they will no longer be afraid…because the poem of Emma Lazarus…no longer applies…and it is dry as cotton in our mouth…when we attempt to quote it.

‘The New Colossus’

‘Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame.

With Conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lighting, and her name

Mother of Exiles.  From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

‘Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!’ cries she

With silent lips.  ‘Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’





Welcome Holidays!

It seems that it was only, yesterday, that I was wishing those who I met…Happy New Year!

The next two months will, rapidly, fly by.

‘ Thanksgiving Day is a National holiday in the United States, and Thanksgiving 2018 occurs on Thursday, November 22.  In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest fest that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies.  For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states.’    Wikipedia

‘ A Proclamation’

‘I, Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States of America, do herby designate Thursday, the twenty-first day of November, 1940, to be observed nationally as a day of thanksgiving.’

‘In a year which has seen calamity and sorrow fall upon many peoples elsewhere in the world may we give thanks for our preservation.’

‘On the same day, in the same hour, let us pray:’    The American Presidency Project

Thanksgiving, for me as a child, consisted of the Macy’s Day Parade on television.  Mom insisted that, due to the close proximity of Thanksgiving to Christmas…that she, simply, did not have the time or the energy…for both.

Now, the joys of Thanksgiving…were not lost on me, as we colored and cut out turkeys and pilgrims, at school, and there was usually a roast for the holiday dinner…and mom made, delicious, roast!

But, Christmas…was a different kettle of fish…as the old timers once said.

This was the time that we unboxed the aluminum christmas tree and placed the multi-colored light wheel next to it.  It was the time of; christmas coffee cake and Laughing Santa and the Sears Catalogue Wish Book.

People seemed a little nicer…and there was the Lion’s Club Free Movie at the Orpheum Theatre and afterward a, large, basket of candy and toys…that every, hopeful child, received.

In financially secure years, when my mom and dad were still together…there was a plethora of toys and games and cowboy outfits and laughter and a lightness of being!

During the years when mom and I were going it alone…the gifts were fewer…but special.

Santa Claus came to our house at 116 West Street, the Christmas after mom and Earl got married.  I could not believe, that the majestic man of the season, had time to visit me in Eldorado, Illinois.  He not only knew my name but assured me that I would receive the gifts that I  requested of him…and, lo and behold, I did!

After our boys were born, they throughly enjoyed Christmas in Eldorado…at Grandma and Grandpa Fitzsimmons.

On our drive to the big event, we passed, annually, a, spooky, three storied house that had one, lone, candle in each of the, many windows in the home.  The candles were red and were accompanied by, black,  banners that stretched from the roof to the ground.  It was, much more, reminiscent of Halloween than Christmas.

Grandma Neva June had talked and talked about her grandsons seeing her Christmas Tree that she had, painstakingly, erected for the magical event!

When they arrived, they raced throughout the house to be the first one to see the Christmas Tree in all of it’s holiday splendor!

Finally…they exclaimed…where is your Christmas Tree…Grandma?

She pointed to a table in the dinning room that had a foot tall christmas tree with, tiny, christmas ornaments, attached.

During the latter years of our Eldorado Christmas Holidays, we enjoyed a glass…or two…of Franzia Boxed Wine.  We thought ourselves wine connoisseur.

Grandma Neva June….served the red wine in 12oz water glasses…and she filled them to the top.

The, luxurious, red wine…enhanced the warmth of the holiday!