Monthly Archives: December, 2019

A New Decade

So, what kind of year have you had in 2019?  Many of my friends have had difficult years.  There has been a lot of illness…or else I notice illness more since I have gotten older?  I have friends that have been, not only disappointed but disillusioned by reversals in their careers.  I have friends…who have lost loved ones…and they felt, so very alone…during this holiday season.

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The political climate in the United States is more divisive and destructive than I have witnessed during my 62 years on this earth.  Beloved family and friends have parted ways because of political disagreements.  Secular political parties have been equivocated with; God’s chosen…or abject sinners.

Denominational churches are loosing members…across the board. We are in the midst of a change in how we understand church and God’s plan going forward.

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We humans are extremely susceptible to cultish devotion.  Just as the Israelites demanded of Aaron that he fashion for them a god that they could worship, in the wilderness, when Moses was on Mount Horib receiving the Ten Commandments…for 40 days.  We seek a man or woman to lead us and to show us the way.  This type of faith has a basic flaw in that it takes the relationship of the individual to God…away…and replaces it with a fallible human being.

At the conclusion of a terrible storm…is a rainbow.

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I watched a movie, last evening, called, Anesthesia.  The movie illustrated the futility of focusing on the, standard model, of success.  The model would be to receive a good education and get a well paying job and obtain all of the physical accoutrements that accompany a upper middle class life style…only to discover the hollowness of the fulfillment of the ladder of success.  I notice, when MJ and I are enjoying a meal in a restaurant, that many families are, all, peering at their smart phones, until the food is delivered…where they then eat.

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Loneliness is a predominate condition of the human family.  We seek our social interaction though media, and we ignore or are afraid of human, one on one, contact.  The happiest people that I have met, are those people who have relied on their friends and family, and their ever expanding social circle, to ground them in the ultimate meaning of life.

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The opportunities ahead of us are endless.  If you want to write a book, write it.  If you want to loose weight, loose it.  If you want to be more fulfilled…talk to others…help others….read and reflect.  Each day is a miracle in microcosm….our greats gift we, often, fritter away as if it is meaningless…TIME!

We have been handed a precious treasure…something that is far greater than; money, or fame, or position, or power….LIFE!

As Clarance, the angel, in the movie, It’s A Wonderful Life, told George Bailey, ‘You really had a wonderful life, George.’

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It is the Little Things…Kid

I just discovered how to make the format on my blog, larger.  It was so small, I could not see it!  I had searched for several days for a format button, and found none.  I wrote a blog, recently, that had so many spelling errors in it…I determined that I required and, desperately, needed a larger font.

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I remember, when we began attending First Presbyterian Church in Carbondale, Illinois, over 21 years ago…that we provided, large print bulletins, for those who wanted or needed them.  I thought that the print was so large…and now it is just right.

We took the Christmas Tree down this morning.  It was a beautiful tree!  Five nativities returned to their 11 month a year homes, and the Christmas Closet…is full.  The Brooks home is ready to welcome 2020.

We were going to enjoy our New Years Eve dinner at a fine local restaurant, Keepers Quarters, but were saddened to learn that it has chose not to be open on New Years Eve due to having only 10 reservations.  We were one of the 10.  So, we were relieved to discover the Kokopelli will be open.  We are attempting to create a new tradition of going out on New Years Eve…rather than our decades long tradition of my watching the Waterford Crystal Ball drop, in Manhattan, and my going in to wake MJ and wish her a Happy New Year…by waking her with a kiss!

Each Christmas Season, I search for the moments that were memorable and that struck me with their emotional weight, and their feelings of peace and comfort and happiness.

I throughly enjoyed distributing the Christmas gifts from our church board, called the Session in the First Presbyterian Church, and the genuine expressions of gratitude and excitement and awe that the recipients demonstrated.  Thus far, as an elder for personnel, I have experienced a great joy from the staff of our church.

As we made our annual sojourn to St. Charles, Missouri, the day after Christmas…I was excited to discover that the local tobacco shop had, boxed, a pipe smoking kit that held all of the accouterments to facilitate, joyful pipe smoking.  There was a corn cob pipe, just as Frosty the Snowman used, and an ounce of Christmas Pipe tobacco, and pipe cleaners and a, tamper, and most importantly…directions on how to smoke a pipe.

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Aaron got me a wonderful pipe made in Italy.  When I tried it…I was amazed at the wonderful and delightful pleasure of the Italian craftsmanship.

Christmas Day was as warm as spring.  Many of the Christmas revelers played, Throw the Bag Into the Hole, outside in the brilliant weather.  Tara and Mike got MJ and I the largest bottle of wine that I have ever seen!  It contains 3 liters.  It took both of us to retrieve it from it’s box.

I am the proud owner of a new Polaroid One Shot camera.  It reminds me of my, fabled, Big Swinger Polaroid camera, from my childhood.  The fascination of watching a photo develop before my eyes…has always brought me…great joy!

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I think of so many of my friends who are worried about up-coming health tests to be accomplish and the subsequent health diagnosis. We have experienced both the fear and trepidation of illness and the life affirming good prognosis.  It really boils down to the fact that the greatest Christmas gift that any of us have…is the gift of life.  More often that we should…we spend our lives concerned about ephemera and fluff and issues that have no lasting relevance on our happiness or health.

Shall we enter into our new decade…realizing that each day is a miracle in microcosm and that each one has more monetary value than all of the riches of the world.

Movies @ Christmas And New Year — The Jazz Man

We have had a long and rich history of attending movies between Christmas and New Year. The habit began in the latter 80’s and continues to this day. This was my plan to continue the joy of the Christmas Season throughout the, over week long vacation that I enjoyed before Christmas and thru New Year’s Day. When I began working at Southern […]

via Movies @ Christmas And New Year — The Jazz Man

Only Believe

Another year approaches.  The last one zipped past me…like a thief in the night!  We humans are very conscious of our years…since there are not an abundance of them…even if you live to be 101!

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There are many things that happen to us that we have no control over.  Yet, there is also much of our life that we can change…if we only believe.  Each morning brings each of us a renewed list of choices, that can either benefit us or hurt us.  Many of our hurtful choices are little more than bad habits.  The remedy for the bad habits is to develop good habits.  Sounds easy, dose it not?  Not so much…unless you believe that you can!

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I remember wanting to engage in writing, for most of my life.  I purchased a word processor in the late 1980s and simply knew that the magic of having the, very modern and very hip, word processor in my humble abode…would inspire me to write….

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I recall deciding in the early part of the last decade that I was tired of being overweight and vowing that I was going to lose the excess pounds.  Just under 100 pounds later…I felt like a new man!

I, vividly, am transported back to being 12 years old and deciding that I wanted to be a christian and now I am 62 and have never given up on my journey back to Jerusalem.

When I was hired as a Building Service Worker I at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale, I  determined that I was going to be a professional and excel in the field that I had been hired into.  

Much of the battle in realizing our dreams and visions and hopes for a better tomorrow…is between our ears!  We know that there are concrete barriers that prevent us from the success of attaining our goals.  We are satisfied that our lot in life is much harder than our neighbor and our friend…and even other members of our family.  Sometimes we see the dark cloud that is hovering over our head…

Success is repetition.  If you can eat less food for one day…it is little more than the popular shampoo commercial that admonishes us to; ‘Wash…Rinse…Repeat.’  The greater gift that we all share is…life.  It is full of opportunities and excitement and interesting challenges…that can enrich and enliven and energize each of us!

As we age we tend to think that we have done it all and seen it all and that life has no mystery and adventures ahead for us.  Nothing could be further from the truth!  Winston Churchill became Prime Minster of the United Kingdom when he was 65 years old.  

You may think that you are in your 60’s…and that life’s pinnacles have all been climbed.  At First Presbyterian Church, where I and my family attend, there are several people in their 80’s and 90’s who are still climbing the mountains of life…and doing so with determination and gusto!

Do you want to write a book…then begin writing, with the goal of completing your treatise during the first year of our new decade!  

Do you want to lose weight?  Stop eating for entertainment.  Small meals throughout the day…stay away from, excess, carbohydrates and sugars.   Eat a lot of vegetables and fruit.  

Do you remember the feeling of being excited about each day and what it would bring?  Help someone everyday…and your excitement and anticipation and joy of life will renew daily!

‘For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as I also am known.’    I Corinthians 13:22     KJV

Often it is difficult to see the forest for the trees.  Our Screens our crying out to us…all the day long!  Whether it its our IPad or our IPbone or our IMac or our, multiple, flat screen televisions…we see the good life, as defined by our capitalist and consumer orientated society…is just beyond our grasp.

We hear our politicians tell us what they are going to do for us…we know that they are lying…and they know that they are lying.

As a high school student, I believed that, one day I would be a leader in a company.  I had nothing to base it on and little to no encouragement .  

I believed that I could be thin…and I attained my goals in under 6 months…soon to be so again!

I believed that I could write…and I do so, almost, daily.

I know that challenges and opportunities are, just, ahead for each of us in 2020…our new decade.  Shall we greet them with vigor and happiness and the strength of understanding, that we are part of a massive Play that God is both the writer and director of…and that we must play our part…well!

 

2020

I remember the dawning of the year 2000…like it was yesterday.  I was watching the, late,  ABC News Anchor, Peter Jennings, when the Waterford Crystal Ball dropped in Manhattan.  We were afraid of Y2K.  It was, widely, believed that all computers, including those for Wall Street, would freeze-up when the century changed!  Many people had gathered food supplies and water and medical items…for the coming disaster.  I considered that I had 10 more years to work before I would be able to retire.  Our cable television service, shortly after midnight, showed all of their pay per view channels for free…for a few hours.  The, controversial,  Presidential election, had been decide in favor of George W. Bush, by the Supreme Court of the United States ruling that the vote recount was to cease in Florida.

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I have wondered how it felt to have lived in the Roaring Twenties?  Having been born in 1957…I did not imagine that I was going to be one of those people that lived in two centuries.  When I would study the history of persons in the 20’th Century that were born in the 19’th Century…they were as foreign to me as if they had been born on another planet.  To be around in the, 0’s, or the teens, or the 20’s,…was obscure and ancient history!  I pondered how much the 20’th Century must have changed after the death of persons who had lived, only during its’s first half?

Life has, already, changed a-lot in our new century.  On a personal level MJ and I have lost both of our parents over the past 20 years.  Our sons have become men.  We have gone from working every day….To retirement.

We have witnessed the longest war in history, in Afghanistan.  The country altering, 9/11 occurred…and we have never been the same!

MJ and I have been blessed to travel to Europe on 4 occasions and Aaron and Jonathon have accompanied us 3 times.  We were able to rekindle our life-long friendship with our dear friends, Margo and Jeff, who have lived in Europe for many years.  This was a big deal to us and one of the highlights of our retirement!

Yesterday, we so enjoyed being with our, soul-mates, Ron and Ira Kaye, and our Niece, Tara and her husband, Mike…and our nephew and niece, Tyler and Paige.  After the wonderful dinner that Ira Kay had prepared and the coffee, infused with Bailye’s Irish Cream, I marveled, as I sat on the reclining sofa, at the maturity and, wonderful personalities of Paige and Tyler!

We are planning on joining Ron and Ira Kaye in Florida, next month, and we are looking forward to the fellowship.

So, the 20’s await MJ and I, in our senior walk.  We have reached the state that we spoke of in our youth.  We are not longer the young people…nor the, harried, middle aged parent of teenagers,….We are members of the Golden Years Group!

At the conclusion of 2020 I will be retired for 10 years.  The time has passed like a thief in the night!

I write, almost daily,  and have since 2014…when I visited Margo and Jeff, in Nice, France, and observed her dedication to writing.  I think that my writing and my walking/photography have been two of my premier pleasure and hobbies for the retirement years.

Pope Francis said, in his Christmas Homily, that God loves all of humanity.  This truth has been my revelation of faith of many years…and has been enhanced by my 21 years as a member of First Presbyterian  Church in Carbondale, Illinois, and my travels over my retirement.

I was captivated by a beggar outside our flat, in Venice.  He sat on the steps, near our door, each day of our stay, in the magical city.  His eyes were angelic and his demeanor was…Christ like….

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A handicapped man in Edinburgh, Scotland, asked me to assist him in rising from his wheel chair…to facilitate his ordering his dinner at a local restaurant.  As I spoke with him, his compassionate heart…gripped mine!  He welcomed me to Edinburgh and told me of his love for the United States and his desire to visit my country.

We stayed with the sweet people at their, several hundred year old, farm house, in Tuscany, Italy.  The couple was delightful and the wife was eccentric and unique and, unparalleled, in her quirky persona!  The, extremely, narrow, dirt road to the ancient farm house, was like the Biblical Jericho Road, there was room for just one…automobile!  I was amazed at how, Jeff, negotiated the twisty and turn path to reach the summit of our destination!  His driving skills are magnificent!

We attended a town celebration in, Montecatini, Italy…which was at the base of the mountain that the farm was located on.  This was a village celebration….Yet we were made welcome as if we were native to the region!  As I sat and enjoyed a sausage and a beer that I had purchased at the kiosk at the festival…I looked down toward the far end of the table that we were seated at…and I nodded at my host…and  smiled, a broad smile, and he nodded back at me with an equal, toothy grin…and we were one family!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eve

‘So this is Christmas

And what have you done

Another year over

And a new one just begun

 

And so this is Christmas

I hope you have fun

The near and dear one

The old and the young

 

A very Merry Christmas

And a happy new year

Let’s hope it’s a good one

Without any fear

 

And so this is Christmas

For weak and for strong

For rich and the poor ones

The worlds is so wrong

And so happy Christmas

For black and for white

For yellow and red one

Let’s stop all the fight

 

A very Merry Christmas

And a happy new year

Let’s hope it’s a good one

Without any fear

 

And so this is Christmas

And what have you done

Another year over

And a new one just begun

And so happy Christmas

We hope you have fun

The near and the dear one

The old and the young

 

A very Merry Christmas

And a happy new year

Let’s hope it’s a good one

Without any fear

War is over, if you want it

War is over now’

 

John Lennon

And, so, we prepare our hearts for the birth of Jesus.  We know that he was, ‘wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger, because there was no room for him in the inn.’

We read where he was born in humble and mean surroundings and that he was neither accepted by the religious authorities of his day…nor the government of his time.

Although, ‘the common people heard him gladly,’ when it as was the time of his crucifixion….The mob, when given the choice of the release of him or the robber Barabbas…proclaimed….’Give us Barabbas!’

On this Christmas Eve…we pray for peace and security for our family and our friends and our acquaintances.  The people that we encounter,  that our within our social circle and our bubble and who attend church with us on Sunday morning.  We know that we want the people that; look like us, and think like us, and worship like us…to be covered by God’s infinite grace….…

There was a popular saying, for many years, and there was even a bracelet made from the first letters of the proclamation, ‘What Would Jesus Do?’

When we see the homeless sitting, precariously, on the bar stool…WWJD?

When we see the Muslim being persecuted for their faith…WWJD?

When hispanic children are locked in cages at our southern border…WWJD?

When we love the exclusivity of a narrow and hate filled gospel….How will we feel when we fall out of it’s close parameters?

Could it be that the Christ only loves a minute segment of his creation?  If that is the case….He is biased…just like us….

 

Christmas Moments

This morning I was thinking Christmas thoughts, which I often do throughout the year, when the landline rang and MJ answered it.  Lo and behold it was our dear friend from London,  Jeff, telephoning to wish us a Merry Christmas.  What a delight it was to be surprised by this unexpected Christmas Treat!

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I have known Jeff since I was 12 years old…or 50 years!  Over the past 9 years of our retirement we have visited Jeff and Margo, on 4 occasions…and each has been memorable.  I, vividly recall; Aaron and Jonathon and I, planning a trip to the United Kingdom over a Holiday Pint at S & B’s Burger Joint that is in the University Mall in Carbondale, Illinois.  As I enjoyed Dragon’s Milk I reveled in the possibility of the four of us traveling to the UK in 2016!  This planning meeting occurred just before Christmas 2015…and it was so enjoyable that I and my two sons have frequented the establishment since that Premier Meeting!

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I remember going to breakfast with my friend and colleague, Ken, during the Christmas Season of 2000 and asking him if he knew what houses were selling for in Carbondale?  Ken had lived in Carbondale for many years and worked with me at Building Services, on the 3rd shift,  as well as delivering the mail for the Post Office, during the day.  We enjoyed Grand Slam Breakfasts at Denny’s and little did I know that I would be a Carbondale resident…in 3 months.

I think of the warmth that I felt, each year when I was an invited guest of Local #316 Service Employees Union, Christmas Dinner.  As I walked from table to table of my friends who were enjoying a Christmas Lunch, I felt such acceptance and love from them…that they became my family!

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Christmas with, Aaron and Jonathon and MJ, is such a special experience, each year, that I have to pinch myself to realize that I am not dreaming.  I am part of a family that has given me so much joy and love and forbearance that I know that I am the luckiest man  in the world!

I remember going to see the premier of the Walt Disney movie, Lady and the Tramp, in Chicago.  Everything was magnificent and sensory cornucopia for a 3 year old!  The strobing bright lights of the theatre marque and the crush of holiday shoppers, along with being with my, good friends, Steve and Susie, and my mom, and her best friend, Ivy.

The sculptured majesty of the theatre auditorium and the humongous screen, created an otherworldly experience.  And that was all besides the fact that Susie was my girlfriend and I fell in love with Lady…during the course of the feature!

We spent several Christmases with our dear friends, Steve and Faye, first in Kingsport, Tennessee, and later in Gatlinburg.  In Gatlinburg we would rent a condo and stay for a few days to enjoy the beautiful ambiance of the brilliantly lit city and the quaint shops and the, majestic, Smoky Mountains!  A Christmas trip to Gatlinburg is not complete until you visit, Cades Cove.  Cades Cove is a mountain village from the 1800s and it is mesmerizing and hypnotic.  We like it so much, that many years ago we purchased a miniature Cades Cove Village.  When I am in Gatlinburg…I am home!

We visited the Christmas Shop @ Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, when MJ and I visited in 2013.  We were celebrating our anniversary and getting some time away after a difficult beginning to the year.  As we spoke with one of the nicest people, who was working in the Shop, she thanked me for having the Christmas Spirit.

Each time that I enter our church @ First Presbyterian in Carbondale…I am transported into a Christmas frame of mind.  From the numerous poinsettias to the Christmas Trees to the nativity and the singing of Christmas hymns and carols…the Presbyterians do Christmas right!

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A Chicago Christmas

Although I only spent 5 years in the city of my birth…I remember it well!  There was a snow on the ground and more in the air, as mom announced that she had retrieved Laughing Santa…and that I must come to see him!

Before me was the little, stuffed, Chief Elf…with his brightly painted face and the crank on his back.  The more that mom turned the crank…the more heartily Old St. Nick laughed.  I watched his antics and reveled in his laughter and wondered how he was able to be so human and yet…seemed not to be so?

There were many, uniquely wrapped, gifts under the 8 foot aluminum Christmas Tree.   Pointing at the shiny artificial  Tannenbaum was a rotating light with a cover of multi-colors that diffused the spectrum of color of the subsequent glow of the beam.

We had returned from our excursion into the city where we saw the new release of Walt Disney’s movie, Lady and the Tramp.  And, the information overload for me, at 3 years old, was tremendous…and ‘visions of sugarplums danced in my head!’

Soon dad and me and mom sat under the Tree as a, mysterious visitor, took our photo…’and that is the rest of the story.’

It was after dark and our outside Christmas lights were lit…and we heard a terrible commotion on the roof of our house in Sauk Village.  It sounded like someone had been on the roof and fell off.  As dad answered the door, I heard him proclaim…’Why come right in!’  There before us…was Santa Claus in all of his red suited, and white bearded, and pipe smoking glory!

Santa laughed, a lesser laugh, than what I had expected…and he wondered if he could use our phone to call Mrs. Claus?  He went on to say that he and the Missus had been involved in a spat when he left and he needed to ensure that there was a home for him to return to…when the Christmas Eve work was completed.  Dad showed him our one phone in the hall…and he began to dial.  We gave him his privacy…he looked like that he needed it.  We heard him say, ‘but…but…but,’ on several occasions, and then he joined us in the living room.  Santa said that he had patched things up and inquired was there anything that he could do for us…before he resumed his journey.  Mom responded that she would like for him to snap a family photo of us under the Christmas Tree.  Santa took her camera and took two pictures…in case the first one did not come out right.

Dad poured the, ‘spritely old elf,’ some eggnog and asked if he wanted something stronger in it…and he smiled with the rosiest of cheeks and said, ‘absolutely!’

As Santa left, on our carport were the reindeer and a bright red glow…from Rudolph’s nose.  Donner and Vixen called out to Santa and asked, ‘where’s ours?’ referring to the spiked eggnog.

So, that is how the Brooks Family Photo…was taken.

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No Room… — The Jazz Man

And it came to pass in those days that a decree sent out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of […]

via No Room… — The Jazz Man

The First Day of Winter

I have been out and about on this last day of autumn.  Groceries to purchase and Christmas Carols to enjoy!  It seemed that each person that I met, had a spring in their step and a song in their heart.  Christmas tends to bring out the inner child that we have inside of us…often very close to the surface.  There is an air of expectancy as we wait for Christ’s birth.

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The celebration of Advent enriches the Christmas season.  At our church, First Presbyterian, in Carbondale, Illinois, a family lights one of the Advent candles each Sunday of the season.  There is a special joy and an honor to participating in this old ceremony.

red lighted candle

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In our home, we have an Advent calendar box, that has a door for each day, from the 1st of December   through the 24th of the month.  Behind each door is a chocolate treat for each of the four Brooks!  We take our Advent…seriously.

Winter is not so harsh in Southern Illinois.  We are a full 300 miles from Chicago.  Our nearest metropolitan area is, St. Louis, Missouri.  We are also an hour drive from Paducah, Kentucky and Cape Girardeau, Missouri.  A more scenic location to live… cannot  be found in all of Illinois!

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In 1978 we had a blizzard….Or 41 years ago.  Since then our challenges are hit and miss as to inclement winter weather…with ice being the most treacherous element to negotiate.  Three years ago, in December, we were attending our niece’s birthday party and the roads and walkways were clean and clear when we entered the local wintery.  As we enjoyed the fellowship and delicious food and wine grown from the owners vineyard…someone entered and announced that it was not only snowing…but icing!  So, we said our goodbyes and proceeded out into the wintery mix.  Before us was a light skiff of ice that was between us and the car.  I deducted that if I started to fall…that I would, simply, slide down the remainder of the small and short incline to the bottom where there was grass that would provide good traction.  The next realization that I experienced was a tremendous thud as I hit the ground, on my side, hard…like the felling of a Sequoia!  As I sat up and endeavored to breath….Several people called out to me and asked if I was all right?  I strove to respond…but there was no breath for words…and I was unable to speak for one a minute.  Then, we got into our car and I drove 50 miles home…on icy roads.

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I just knew that I was simply bruised…until the muscle spasms began and their repetition was, approximately, every minute.  The next day, after X-Rays, I discovered that I had fractured 3 ribs.  Pain medicine and muscle relaxants help!

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Each day, since the fall, I feel discomfort where my ribs were fractured…but not nearly as bad as when it first happened.

We old folks are afraid of ice…with good reason!

I have always liked winter.  It is peaceful and quiet and serene.  It is a good time to think and to plan and to assess where you have been, and where you are going.  Winter lets you know who is boss.  It doesn’t suffer fools gladly.  It expects to be respected on its own terms…and will bless you with its benefits and wonders…if you obey the rules.