"Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset." Saint Francis De Sales

Friday, June 24, 2011

My Slow Takes (vol. 3)

1. Last Saturday evening we attended a performance by "The Champion Greater Richmond Chorus." This was my first encounter with a woman's harmonizing chorus. They were terrific.

In addition to their chorus group they have five four-women quartets that perform. Each one specializing in a different type of harmony. They also have a community outreach group, the "Extension Chords." This group of ladies perform for senior citizens, schools, churches and other community functions throughout the Richmond area. Check out their website at grcsings.com.

2. I was blessed on Father's Day to have all three of our sons spend time with us. We started at Panera's with brunch being handled by our youngest son Stephen. My mother-in-law came over and got into the cooking and preparation for our evening meal. She is a joy to be with and we all love her. The oldest son Eric came over after brunch with his sons and the puppy, Logan. We had Stephens three girls with us, so they all enjoyed running around playing a variety of different games. I call this "controlled chaos, and love it. 

Later in the afternoon the middle son, Todd came in joined by Stephen and his wife. I grilled chicken kabobs and some small steaks for dinner and invited two special friends Pam and Tony to join us.

After Eric and Stephen left with their family, we listened and sang to Italian music that Tony brought. It was a full day of sharing, laughing and enjoying.

3. The "Song of Roland" is a 12th century French poem about the legendary hero Roland. He was a knight of Charlemagne's court and also his nephew. My middle name is Roland, named after one of my uncles. I love stories of knights and deeds of valor. So this poem became one I read when I was younger. This week the memory of the poem came back to me. 

The climax of the poem is a classic battle fought between the French Christians and the Saracens from the city Saragossa in Spain. An ambush, for the French rear guard, was set at the pass of Roncevaux. Commanding the rear guard was Roland. He was joined by his best friend Oliver and a warrior clergyman named Archbishop Turpin. The Saracens, numbering four hundred thousand, charge into the small French force of twenty thousand. Many heroic knights, both French and Saracens, are killed in valiant chivalrous combat. In the end the French are defeated but Roland manages to blow "three long mighty blasts on his oilphat," which Charlemagne and the main French army hear. Roland then turns and facing his enemy dies a heroic death. Saint Gabriel and Saint Michael arrive to escort him to heaven. Charlemagne returns and defeats the Saracens.

An "oilphant" is a wind instrument made from the tusk of an elephant.

4. I just discovered that the "time zone" for my blog was set at Pacific time. Since I live in Virginia it made sense that an adjustment should be made. So now I am on Eastern time. My apologies if I confused anyone.

5. Today, June 24th is Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day in Quebec, Canada. For those of us with French Canadian ancestry, Pope Pius X designated St. John the Baptist as our patron saint in the year 1908. 

6. Saint Francis De Sales has a beautiful daily prayer that I say every morning. "My God, I give you this day. I offer you, now, all of the good that I shall do and promise to accept, for love of you, all of the difficulty that I shall meet. Help me to conduct myself during this day in a manner pleasing to you. Amen."

End of the Weekend - A Short Story - Part 2

It didn't take long for Heather to gather her things and get back to Sarah. It was a pleasant surprise to see Sarah awake and talking to Roy.

"Are you okay Sarah?" Heather's voice was shaky and she had a worried look on her face.

"Oh, my head hurts and I feel like it's going to explode!" She was smiling, letting Heather know that she was okay. Heather gave her a hug, not wanting to let go right away.

"Heather, I'm okay, you're squeezing me too hard!" Heather let go and both girls laughed.

"She hit her head hard, so it will take some time for the headache to go away. I gave her something for the pain, so she should start feeling better as the medication gets into her system." Roy's voice was serene and reassuring.

"Thank you, thank you!" Heather exclaimed, and with tears in her eyes gave Sarah another hug. "I thought you were going to die and I would lose my best friend."

"Well," said Sarah, "I don't know what happened, but I'm not dead. I'm here and I'm not going anywhere."

Roy opened one of the bags and pulled out some road flares. He handed them to Ed and Tom.

"Gentlemen, please light these flares starting at the other side of your car. Space them about ten paces apart walking at a slight angle back toward the edge of the road." Both men took the flares and did as directed.

Roy turned to Vivian. "Would you please stay with Sarah while I check Heather?"

"Yes, I'll do that." She replied, "You showed up really fast, did someone call you about the accident?"

 "No," Roy smiled, "I was in the area"

He put a blanket down on the side of the road and asked Sarah and Heather to sit down. Vivian took Roy's last blanket and wrapped it around Sarah.

Roy checked Heather's blood pressure, pulse and temperature. Everything was okay and she felt relaxed, knowing that they were both okay.

Sarah was listening to what was going on and asked how they were going to get home. Vivian said that her and Ed lived in Williamsburg and could drive the girls to their house. Heather's parents could pick them up there. Heather liked that plan and thanked Vivian.

About ten minutes later the Virginia State Police and the Goochland Fire/Rescue Squad came pulling up behind them.

"The cavalry just arrived," said Tom. "They got here quickly."

"Yes," agreed Ed, "We should be able to get things wrapped up and get the girls to our place."

"It's nice of you to help  out the girls; Elizabeth and I were trying to figure out how we could get them home as well." Tom had a relieved look on his face, he was concerned about the girls being so far from home.

"We have a young son and daughter who are about the same age." Ed explained. "We're just doing what we would want someone else to do if it were one of our children." 

Marcus Brown parked his squad car behind Tom's car and walked over to Ed and Tom.

"Good afternoon, I'm officer Brown. I understand we had a minor mishap here and a possible injury." His voice was not commanding, but he had a definite air about him that made you realize he was in charge.

Ed and Tom gave a brief description of what they saw and then introduced Marcus to Heather.

"Hi, I'm officer Marcus Brown. Are you and your friend alright?"

"I'm fine, but Sarah doesn't feel well. Fortunately the fire rescue gentleman has her wrapped up and ready for the ambulance. He's right over there." Heather turned but did not see Roy. She looked all around and then started asking everyone where he went.

"He was just standing here a minute ago talking to me," said Vivian. "But when I turned to see you drive up I lost track of him."

"I see," said Marcus. "What type of vehicle was he driving?" Each person turned turned to the other, but no one remembered seeing Roy pull up in a vehicle.

Marcus continued with his questions. "Well, if he was with a fire/rescue squad, did he have on a uniform? If he did what name was on it?"

"I couldn't make out the name," remarked Vivian, "and I was the closest to him. It was strange because the words fire/rescue were very clear. I don't think I was imagining any of that."

"Okay, no vehicle, unknown squad name, but he did tell you his name. Is that correct?" Marcus was looking at everyone hoping that some sense would come of this.

"That's correct. You know he just sort of showed up." said Ed. "In fact it was like he just appeared."

"He said his name was Roy Arnoe," Heather added, "and he did just show up."

"Perhaps he was Sarah's guardian angel," Marcus remarked. "I'll check with the Goochland squad and see if anyone knows him."

While the discussion about Roy was going on, the Goochland Fire/Rescue Squad had Sarah on a stretcher and was placing her into the ambulance. They said she looked fine but wanted to take her into VCU Hospital for further observation.

Marcus did talk to the crew but he didn't like the answer he received. There was a Roy Arnoe on the squad, but he died about two years ago. He was working a major accident close by here involving a number of vehicles. One of them was a gasoline truck.  Roy had pulled the driver from the truck and was heading back to the ambulance. The truck exploded and Roy shielded the driver, saving him but loosing his own life.

Writing this accident report was going to be a challenge. Marcus wondered how he could explain Roy and then realized it was simple. Just write the truth.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

End of the Weekend - A Short Story - Part 1

College football games were always fun to attend, although it might have been better to watch this game from home. Heather and Sarah had driven in from Portsmouth. The weather was sunny and relatively warm for late October. They had made the trip to see the game and tour the campus. Unfortunately, the Cavaliers lost to the Miami Hurricanes in overtime. Not what the home crowd had expected, but it was still an exciting game. That night the girls went to "The Corner" for dinner and then just walked around. They were up most of the night talking so the morning wake up was a little later than normal. They spent the rest of the day getting a tour of the campus and headed for home around three in the afternoon. The last stop before getting on route 64 was Starbucks. It would be a good idea to have some caffeine for the long ride. Heather ordered her favorite, a Caramel Frappuccino, while Sarah tried a Cinnamon Dolcee Latte. Both selections turned out to be perfect.

Traffic on 64 was normal, busy but not overpowering. Heather liked driving the Tahoe because it was big and it gave her a better view of her surroundings. The vehicle handled well and made the driving enjoyable. She had taken it in for service prior to this trip so she was confident there wouldn't be any mechanical issues. Sarah was also enjoying the drive and they both used this time to talk about their college selections for next year. Heather's plan was to attend UVA and study law. Sarah liked UVA but had chosen Longwood University to pursue a career as a teacher. The conversation continued and they assured each other that they would keep in contact and visit each other throughout the school year. They were best friends and nothing would interfere with their relationship.

It wasn't the sound but the sudden loss of control that scared Heather. She had never been in a moving vehicle that had a tire blow out before. Her first reaction was to hit the brakes which caused the Tahoe to turn sideways in front of traffic, first one way and then another. She thought they would tip over, but the vehicle stayed upright and then hit the guard rail. The left front hit the guard first which caused it to spin around and then hit the back end. It came to rest with the back end about two feet from the guard rail placing the Tahoe perpendicular to the guard rail with the driver side facing oncoming traffic. Fortunately she maintained enough control so that she did not hit anyone. Traffic was spread out enough so that cars were able to get around her or slow down behind her. She sat there dazed, confused and thankful she was okay.

Heather turned to Sara, "Are you okay?"

But Sarah was slumped back in her seat. She had hit the side of her head against the passenger window and was not moving.

"Sarah! Sarah wake up!" There was panic in Heather's voice. Please God, let her be okay.

She got out and went around to the other side to get her.

The first couple to reach the girls was Ed and Vivian Galloway. They were in the car in front of the girls when the blowout occurred. Ed is one of those "watch everything that is going on around you" type of individuals. He watched everything that happened to the girls and thought the worst. When they reached the girls they saw that Sarah was unconscious and Heather was crying and asking for help. Ed got on his cell phone and called 911 requesting an ambulance. He then checked over the car to make sure there was no gas leak while Vivian tried to calm Heather.

Tom Rhea and his wife Elizabeth were a few vehicles behind the accident. While other cars passed the spinning Tahoe and continued on, Tom slowed down and parked some distance back after everything stopped. Elizabeth stayed in the car while Tom went to check on things. He met up with Ed and they both agreed that Sarah should not be moved until the ambulance arrived. Sarah was breathing, but very shallow.

Roy Arnoe stood five feet eleven and weighed about a hundred and sixty pounds. His dark brown hair was slightly visible from under his baseball cap. There was some type of Fire/Rescue emblem on the cap and one on his blue jacket. However, no one could make out the name. He appeared from behind the Tahoe and went directly over to Sarah. He carried a small first aid bag in one hand and a larger black bag in the other. Hanging around his neck was a stethoscope. As he approached the group he noticed that Heather did not have any shoes on nor was she wearing a jacket. The day was warm, but not the type of weather that was conducive to her type of dress.

"Hello, my name is Roy Arnoe, are you okay?" His voice was soft and calming. Heather could tell that he was concerned by the look in his eyes.

"I'm Heather and I'm fine but Sarah is hurt. She hit her head and needs help!"

"Heather, I suggest that you get some shoes and a jacket or blanket for yourself. We don't want you to start getting chills and go into shock. I'll take care of Sarah."  He maintained his composure reassuring Heather that everything would be okay.

Heather, with the help of Vivian, gathered some clothing as Roy suggested. This allowed him to focus his attention on Sarah.

Friday, June 17, 2011

My Slow Takes (vol. 2)

1. I was reading some information on the French and Indian War and discovered there was an African America who was part of the famous Rogers Rangers. His name was "Duke" Jacob. Here is an excerpt from Burt Loescher's "History of Rogers Rangers, Volume 4," describing him.

"Another Ranger veteran was "Duke" Jacob,  a 26-year-old Negro, and a gifted fighting man. The story of his life was a sad but frequent commentary of the times. For his three years of valorous service in Rogers' Rangers his owner in New York had granted him his freedom. Jacob, one of the colorful characters in Rogers' Rangers sported the regulation green Ranger jacket but lined it with red; regulation "buckskin breeches" but blue Indian stockings. He wore "fine white shirts, with 'chitterlings,'" a spotted handkerchief and his "gun" was "Iron mounted." Jacob gained fame for his valor at the Battle of Ticonderoga."

2. We selected a new kitchen sink and faucet set for our home. My experience in dealing with installations of anything having to do with water is not positive. So I enlisted our youngest son and we spent a long afternoon putting in all the new stuff. Of course the old stuff was "contractor grade" material. So that meant we ran into issues. Not major ones but just enough to make the process a wee bit irritating. We finally completed everything. One minor leak in the sink basket. We fixed that and now everything is fine, for the next 15 years.

3. This week was the final for the Stanley Cup playoffs. The two teams; Vancouver Canucks and the Boston Bruins. I'm a Buffalo Sabers fan, but hockey is an exciting game so I follow the playoffs no matter who is playing. Monday night was game 6 and the Bruins needed the win to continue. They completed that by starting off the first period with 4 goals. Ending the game 5-2.

Game 7 was in Vancouver and prior to the game Boston player Nathan Horton poured water, that he brought from Boston, on to the Vancouver Canucks ice. I love sports superstition, it makes the games more interesting and gets the fans and players "into" the game. Boston started the first period scoring a goal and continued scoring until the third period. Boston 4, Vancouver 0. It's a beautiful day in Boston.

4. One of my responsibilities at work is to set up laptops in different rooms for use by various teams in our organization. It is interesting how a group of people can make a mess of a work area. They start with a clean organized area and proceed to slowly clutter their environment. I wonder how their homes are. Do they live in this same type of disorder? Do they feel that since this is work they can not be concerned about how it looks? No matter, I just move on to the next room.

5. Father's Day is this Sunday. God's blessings to all of you. Enjoy your day and remember your Father.

6.  I listened to NPR "StoryCorps" this morning. Walter Dean Myers was interviewed by his son Christopher. Walter is a writer who grew up thinking that he was not loved by his father. At one point Walter published stories that were told by his father. When he presented these to his father to read there was no acknowledgment, no feedback as to what he thought of the writings. Walter later discovered that his father could not read. He didn't know this at the time and his father never shared this with him. Walter shares with his son Christopher and they work together "writing and illustrating."

My father was not one to share, but I believe that he still loved me. His generation was different from mine and he did what he felt was right. I learned through my spiritual journey to love and share with my sons. They know my beliefs, my opinions about many things and that I love them.

Walter, thank you for sharing your story. 


Friday, June 10, 2011

My Slow Takes (Vol. 1)

Jennifer Fulwiler, Conversion Diary, and Trisha Niermeyer, Prints of Grace, write "7 Quick Takes Friday." Both of these women have been writing a long time and I enjoy their blogs. I am starting my variation of their theme which I hope you will enjoy.
1. I attended a talk by the Reverend Ben Campbell of Richmond Hill. He started his discussion with the reading from Mark, Chapter 1:15, "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel."

Rev. Ben suggests that Jesus means that the kingdom of God is now, not just in the next life. We should be doing things now, loving each other, helping each other and learning to live with another. If everyone could do this there would be a more peaceful relationship between people.

There is an excellent article written by Scott Bass of "Style Weekly." The title is "Bridge Work," and be found at Styleweekly.com. Scott provides information on all the work Rev. Ben has done and what he is attempting to do.

2. Went to the Outer Banks the last week in May. The weather was excellent and the beach relaxing. I read, ate delicious food, drank wine, painted figures, went shopping, and climbed both the Currituck and Hatteras Lighthouses. I gained about five pounds but enjoyed the vacation. This is an annual trip that has been going on for the last six years. It has become my favorite vacation place.

3. I purchased a beautiful curio cabinet from Izzie's, a consignment shop in Midlothian.The inventory changes as people bring in their furniture and related goods. It's fun to browse and the pricing structure provides an opportunity to get great deals.

The cabinet is a walnut color, has glass on three sides with a mirror on the back. There are three glass shelves that can be placed at different heights. I am using the cabinet to display some of my historical figures. My wife Dee selected the second floor alcove for placement which of course is perfect.

4. Pictionary is a board game that is similar to Charades. The difference is that you must draw the word instead of acting it out. This is where the fun is as most of us are not capable of drawing such things as a sundress, shrew or picnic. There is a time limit and you can't use numbers or letters. But the fun is in trying to guess what is being drawn as fast as possible.

Last Saturday night we enjoyed playing Pictionary with three other couples. It was "guys" versus "girls" and we managed to pull out a win. 

We followed that game with a couple of rounds of Catch Phrase. This is another team type game where each team must guess the phrase or sometimes just the word. It is an electronic game with a "beeping" timer. Each person takes the device gets his or her team to guess the phrase and then passes it on to the next person. The next person gets a new phrase and repeats the process. This continues until the "buzzer" sounds. It is a fast moving game with a plethora of phrases that challenges everyone. This is always fun and gets everyone laughing.

5. Friday is my breakfast at Panera Bread day. A while back a friend showed up that I hadn't seen for awhile. He said he was meeting with a group that shows up on the first Friday of each month. So, I made sure to arrive early those Fridays and we started eating breakfast together. He is now showing up on a regular basis. I know that this is not a coincidence, just another one of God's whisper moments.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Lisa Geneova is the author of the novel "Still Alice." It is a story that follows two years in the mid-life journey of Alice Howland. 

Alice is a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard who develops early-onset Alzheimer's disease. The story was beautiful and provided a look at Alzheimer's which touched me unlike most books I read.

I liked the book and at times I didn't. The problem was me. It brought back memories that were difficult to deal with. I would read a chapter and my heart would ache. Feelings of confusion and regret would cause me not to pick up the book for days. Then I would return to the book and read more. Sometimes two or three chapters but never more than that. I found it difficult to read and enjoy the book. Many times I would read other books to get myself into a better mood. Eventually I finished and was relieved. I am glad that I read the story. It helped me to look at myself and my relationship with my Dad during his illness.

There is no cure for Alzheimer's disease as of this writing. My Dad had Alzheimer's for many years and died on Monday October 8, 2007. I was there when he opened his eyes, looked at me and then slowly closed them. I know that he wanted to make sure he was not alone. He was not one for much talk so it was also his way of saying goodbye. Dad, you were never alone, I was there and so was your family. I love you, but during your illness I never told you that. I felt that you didn't know who I was, so it would have no meaning. I was wrong.

When my Mom was alive she would tell us that Dad was not remembering things. We did not support her statements as he always seemed fine when we visited them. It wasn't until after Mom died that we began to notice things. Unfortunately my knowledge of Alzheimer's was not very good. I didn't know what to look for and I didn't know what to do once he started getting worse. We finally put him in Charlotte Hall Veterans Home, Maryland. This made it easier for my brother and his wife who were trying to care for him in their home. It was easier for me because I didn't have to be a "care-person." Someone else would be looking after him. This was not Christ-like at all, but at the time I was fine with it. I managed to visit him each trip we made to Maryland. My interaction with him was not one of love but more of responsibility and duty. The good son visiting the sick father.

In the chapter "March 2005," Alice speaks before an audience at the Dementia Care Conference. She is still in the early stages of Alzheimer's, not confident as she once was, but reads her speech without any issues. The following paragraph is one small part of the speech that touched me. I wonder if my Dad had similar thoughts as the disease slowly destroyed his memories. 

"I often fear tomorrow. What if I wake up and don't know who my husband is? What if I don't know where I am or recognize myself in the mirror? When will I no longer be me? Is the part of my brain that's responsible for my unique 'meness' vulnerable to this disease? Or is my identity something that transcends neurons, proteins, and defective molecules of DNA? Is my soul and spirit immune to the ravages of Alzheimer's? I believe it is."

Loving one another is a simple but powerful, and at times, difficult thing to do. During my journey through Dad's disease I traveled the road of darkness of denial, anger and fear. I did not love him as I should have.

"This is my commandment: love one another as I love you."  John 15:12

Dee convinced me to read this novel and God made sure I finished it. I have learned from her what love is and I am blessed she is my wife.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

In Between Time

We have entered the 'in between time" at our church. There was an issue with our pastor where he was accused of some wrong doing. On Sunday it was announced that he was exonerated of all charges. However the Bishop placed him on a one year sabbatical and said he would be re-assigned. Now we are waiting to see who our new pastor will be. Terry Murphy's blog this morning seems timely for what we are going through. "How do you restore honor?" What do we, as parishioners, do? We have lost our pastor and the accuser faces no consequences. I don't believe that those who founded our nation expected this type of justice. We are suppose to be innocent until judged by our brethren. The guilty are suppose to be held accountable.

Last night a small group of us met at our church. We were brought together by the loving women of our parish. There was no debate nor issuance of a "parishioner backed statement." We were simply led in prayer. The prayers were for our pastor, the priests and staff of the Bishop, the Bishop and the accused. We prayed for strength to get through this "in between time." And we prayed that our church community would welcome the new pastor with open arms. We have placed our faith in God and will go forward knowing that He is there with us.

"Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset." Saint Francis De Sales