This is my personal blog, on which I talk about a variety of topics purely as they catch my fancy. Some topics are serious, others whimsical. I love comments and questions so don't be shy, just courteous, even if you don't agree with me. I have another blog, The Story Template, on which I post writing-related topics on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Let's see, a bit about me... I'm married with two children, and spend much time taking care of our family. In my life BC (before children) I was a scientist who did bench research. I am a Christian who came to faith under protest through studying the historic circumstances surrounding the death of Jesus. I've written one novel, A Lever Long Enough, that I'm honored to say has won two awards. I also have written a nonfiction book, The Story Template: Conquer Writer's Block Using the Universal Structure of Story. This book is a programmed learner-type book that helps you, the writer, develop a complete compelling story (novel or screenplay) from a vague idea.

YOU CAN CONTACT ME at amydeardon at yahoo dot com.

Monday, December 31, 2012


Our month of *January* is named after the Roman god, Janus. Janus was the keeper of gates, doors, doorways, and beginnings and endings. He was often worshiped at starting events such as the harvest, planting, marriages, births; and transitional life events such as when a boy was now recognized as a man. A common myth told of Janus causing a hot spring to erupt, thereby foiling an attack against Rome.

Janus is shown as having two faces, one looking forward and one looking backwards. I can't think of a better picture for what we call *ambivalence.*

Dictionary.com defines ambivalence thus: uncertainty or fluctuation, esp. when caused by inability to make a choice or by a simultaneous desire to say or do two opposite or conflicting things. Ambivalence comes from the Latin *ambi* meaning *both*, and *valentia* meaning *strength.*

I think ambivalence is a part of being human in a fallen world, and probably most decisions in life incorporate some degree of ambivalence. Even something as normal as eating breakfast can reflect uncertainty: should I eat the egg or the waffle? (or both?) Or just drink orange juice, or go without... I'm hungry, but I want to lose five pounds by summer...

Have you ever been gripped by a strong ambivalence? Something that is a constant fight within you, that doesn't stop? I imagine that all of us have at least one axis somewhere within our psyche that could make us vulnerable to a frozen ambivalence. What college shall I go to? Should I keep this job, or take that one? Should I marry her?

Should I? Can I? May I?

How horrible this is. I've often wondered if this is why people are so drawn to rules in all areas of life, so that these nagging doubts won't come to visit.

Ambivalence comes in different flavors: intellectual, emotional, moral; and many gradations in between. James 1:8 says *A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.* (AKJV) Yes, this ambivalence, no matter the root, is destabilizing.

It's important to know, really know, your values and goals in life so that when you are faced with these choices, you have a better sense of how to decide. Sometimes, though, life throws you a curve ball, and it's hard to know what to do or how to handle a problem. And then, what?

You will not always know the answer. Or maybe, you know the answer, but can't quite make the final step. Sometimes you hang on: you're too drawn even though you know you should move on.

Immobile, unable to go forward, unable to turn back. Just like Janus.

The solution? First, trust. Trust that God will redeem things, somehow, some way. Then, do the right thing, or the best thing within your power to know.

Being human in this fallen world is hard. I think of the film March of the Penguins, with the Antarctic penguins huddled in a circle through a windstorm with -60 degree temperatures and a four month night. I wonder if the angels look at us humans in this world like this: we don't even know how bad it is. We are battered by ambivalence, despite all of our effort to keep it at bay.

I believe though that God values our good choices, and He will make it right, if not in this world, then in the world to come. Sometimes, that is the best that can be said for a bad situation.

What think you, my friends?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Optimists Clubs of America

In many ways life is just too short to be lazy, shy, scared, mean, prideful, uncaring, angry, unloving and unloveable etc... so promise yourself the following:

~Promise Yourself~

To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.

To talk health, happiness, and prosperity to every person you meet.

To make all your friends feel that there is something in them.

To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.

To think only the best, to work only for the best, and expect only the best.

To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.

To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.

To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.

To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.

~The Optimists Clubs of America~

Thursday, December 20, 2012

One Solitary Life

One Solitary Life
By James Allan Francis (1864-1928)

He was born in an obscure village
The child of a peasant woman.
He grew up in another obscure village
Where he worked in a carpenter shop
Until he was thirty.

He never wrote a book.
He never held an office.
He never went to college.
He never visited a big city.
He never traveled more than two hundred miles
From the place where he was born.
He did none of the things
Usually associated with greatness.
He had no credentials but himself.

He was only thirty three.
His friends ran away, and
One of them denied him.
He was turned over to his enemies
And went through the mockery of a trial.
He was nailed to a cross between two thieves.
While dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing,
The only property he had on earth.

When he was dead
He was laid in a borrowed grave
Through the pity of a friend.

Nineteen centuries have come and gone
And today Jesus is the central figure of the human race
And the leader of mankind's progress.

All the armies that have ever marched,
All the navies that have ever sailed,
All the parliaments that have ever sat,
All the kings that ever reigned, put together,
Have not affected the life of mankind on earth
As powerfully as that one solitary life.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Yogi Berra's Commencement Speech

"Thank you all for being here tonight. I know this is a busy time of year, and if you weren't here, you could probably be somewhere else. I especially want to thank the administration at St. Louis University for making this day necessary. It is an honor to receive this honorary degree.

It is wonderful to be here in St. Louis and to visit the old neighborhood. I haven't been back since the last time I was here. Everything looks the same, only different. Of course, things in the past are never as they used to be.

Before I speak, I have something I'd like to say. As you may know, I never went to college, or high school for that matter. To be honest, I'm not much of a public speaker, so I will try to keep this short as long as I can.

As I look out upon all of the young people here tonight, there are a number of words of wisdom I might depart. But I think the most irrelevant piece of advice I can pass along is this: "The most important things in life are the things that are least important.

I could have gone a number of directions in my life. Growing up on the Hill, I could have opened a restaurant or a bakery. But the more time I spent in places like that, the less time I wanted to spend there. I knew that if I wanted to play baseball, I was going to have to play baseball. My childhood friend, Joe Garagiola, also became a big-league ballpayer, as did my son, Dale. I think you'll find the similarities in our careers are quite different.

You're probably wondering, how does a kid from the Hill become a New York Yankee and get in the Hall of Fame? Well, let me tell you something, if it was easy nobody would do it. Nothing is impossible until you make it possible.

Of course, times were different. To be honest, I was born at an early age. Things are much more confiscated now. It seems like a nickel ain't worth a dime anymore. But let me tell you, if the world was perfect, it wouldn't be. Even Napoleon had his Watergate.

You'll make some wrong mistakes along the way, but only the wrong survive. Never put off until tomorrow what you can't do today. Denial isn't just a river in Europe.

Strive for success and remember you won't get what you want unless you want what you get. Some will choose a different path. If they don't want to come along, you can't stop them. Remember, none are so kind as those who will not see.

Keep the faith and follow the Commandments: Do not covet thy neighbor's wife, unless she has nothing else to wear. Treat others before you treat yourself. As Franklin Eleanor Roosevelt once said, 'The onl y thing you have to fear is beer itself.'

Hold on to your integrity, ladies and gentlemen. It's the one thing you really need to have; if you don't have it, that's why you need it. Work hard to reach your goals, and if you can't reach them, use a ladder. There may come a day when you get hurt and have to miss work. Don't worry, it won't hurt to miss work.

Over the years, I have realized that baseball is really just a menopause for life. We all have limitations, but we also know limitation is the greatest form of flattery. Beauty is in the eyes of Jim Holder.

Half the lies you hear won't be true, and half the things you say, you won't ever say.

As parents you'll want to give your children all the things you didn't have. But don't buy them an encyclopedia, make them walk to school like you did. Teach them to have respect for others, especially the police. They are not here to create disorder, they are here to preserve it.

Throughout my career, I found good things always came in pairs of three. There will be times when you are an overwhelming underdog. Give 100 percent to everything you do, and when that's not enough, give everything you have left. 'Winning isn't everything, but it's better than rheumatism.' I think Guy Lombardo said that.

Finally, dear graduates and friends, cherish this moment; it is a memory you will never forget. You have your entire future ahead of you.

"Good luck and Bob's speed."

Monday, December 10, 2012

Pearl Harbor Photos

These photos are from Will. Incredible.



These Pearl Harbor photos were found in an old Brownie stored in a foot locker, and were just recently developed. They were taken by a sailor who was on the USS Quapaw ATF-110.

Seventy-one years and three days ago, on Sunday, December 7th, 1941 the Japanese launched a surprise attack against the U.S. Forces stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. By planning his attack on a Sunday, the Japanese commander, Admiral Nagumo, hoped to catch the entire fleet in port, but as luck would have it, the Aircraft Carriers and one of the Battleships were not there. The USS Enterprise was returning from Wake Island, where it had just delivered some aircraft. The USS Lexington was ferrying aircraft to Midway, and the USS Saratoga and USS Colorado were undergoing repairs in the United States.

In spite of the latest intelligence reports about the missing aircraft carriers (his most important targets), Admiral Nagumo decided to continue the attack with his force of six carriers and 423 aircraft.. At a range of 230 miles north of Oahu , he launched the first wave of a two-wave attack. Beginning at 0600 hours his first wave consisted of 183 fighters and torpedo bombers which struck at the fleet in Pearl Harbor and the airfields in Hickam, Kaneohe and Ewa. The second strike, launched at 0715 hours, consisted of 167 aircraft, which again struck at the same targets.

At 0753 hours the first wave consisting of 40 Nakajima B5N2 'Kate' torpedo bombers, 51 Aichi D3A1 'Val' dive bombers, 50 high altitude bombers and 43 Zeros struck airfields and Pearl Harbor. Within the next hour, the second wave arrived and continued the attack.

When it was over, the U.S. Losses were:

US Army: 218 KIA, 364 WIA.
US Navy: 2,008 KIA, 710 WIA.
US MarineCorp: 109 KIA, 69 WIA.
Civilians: 68 KIA, 35 WIA.

TOTAL: 2,403 KIA, 1,178 WIA.

USS Arizona (BB-39) - total loss when a bomb hit her magazine.
USS Oklahoma (BB-37) - Total loss when she capsized and sunk in the harbor.
USS California (BB-4 4) - Sunk at her berth. Later raised and repaired.
USS West Virginia (BB-48) - Sunk at her berth. Later raised and repaired.
USS Nevada - (BB-36) Beached to prevent sinking. Later repaired.
USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) - Light damage.
USS Maryland (BB-46) - Light damage.
USS Tennessee (BB-43) Light damage.
USS Utah (AG-16) - (former battleship used as a target) - Sunk.
USS New Orleans (CA-32) - Light Damage..
USS San Francisco (CA-38) - Light Damage.
USS Detroit (CL-8) - Light Damage.
USS Raleigh (CL-7) - Heavily damaged but repaired.
USS Helena (CL-50) - Light Damage.
USS Honolulu (CL-48) - Light Damage..
USS Downes (DD-375) - Destroyed. Parts salvaged.
USS Cassin - (DD -3 7 2) Destroyed. Parts salvaged.
USS Shaw (DD-373) - Very heavy damage.
USS Helm (DD-388) - Light Damage.
USS Ogala (CM-4) - Sunk but later raised and repaired..
Seaplane Tender
USS Curtiss (AV-4) - Severely damaged but later repaired.
Repair Ship
USS Vestal (AR-4) - Severely damaged but later repaired.
Harbor Tug
USS Sotoyomo (YT-9) - Sunk but later raised and repaired.
188 Aircraft destroyed (92 USN and 92 U.S. Army Air Corps.)


December 7th, 1941

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Christmas Story

I received this in an email last year. It made me smile, and I hope you do too.


I remember my first Christmas adventure with Grandma. I was just a kid.

I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit her on the day my big sister dropped the bomb: "There is no Santa Claus," she jeered. "Even dummies know that!"

My Grandma was not the gushy kind, never had been. I fled to her that day because I knew she would be straight with me. I knew Grandma always told the truth, and I knew that the truth always went down a whole lot easier when swallowed with one of her "world-famous" cinnamon buns. I knew they were world-famous, because Grandma said so. It had to be true.

Grandma was home, and the buns were still warm. Between bites, I told her everything. She was ready for me. "No Santa Claus?" she snorted...."Ridiculous! Don't believe it. That rumor has been going around for years, and it makes me mad, plain mad!! Now, put on your coat, and let's go."

"Go? Go where, Grandma?" I asked. I hadn't even finished my second world-famous cinnamon bun. "Where" turned out to be Kerby's General Store, the one store in town that had a little bit of just about everything. As we walked through its doors, Grandma handed me ten dollars. That was a bundle in those days. "Take this money," she said, "and buy something for someone who needs it. I'll wait for you in the car." Then she turned and walked out of Kerby's.

I was only eight years old. I'd often gone shopping with my mother, but never had I shopped for anything all by myself. The store seemed big and crowded, full of people scrambling to finish their Christmas shopping.

For a few moments I just stood there, confused, clutching that ten-dollar bill, wondering what to buy, and who on earth to buy it for.

I thought of everybody I knew: my family, my friends, my neighbors, the kids at school, the people who went to my church.

I was just about thought out, when I suddenly thought of Bobby Decker. He was a kid with bad breath and messy hair, and he sat right behind me in Mrs. Pollock's grade-two class. Bobby Decker didn't have a coat. I knew that because he never went out to recess during the winter. His mother always wrote a note, telling the teacher that he had a cough, but all we kids knew that Bobby Decker didn't have a cough; he didn't have a good coat. I fingered the ten-dollar bill with growing excitement. I would buy Bobby Decker a coat!

I settled on a red corduroy one that had a hood to it. It looked real warm, and he would like that.

"Is this a Christmas present for someone?" the lady behind the counter asked kindly, as I laid my ten dollars down. "Yes, ma'am," I replied shyly. "It's for Bobby."

The nice lady smiled at me, as I told her about how Bobby really needed a good winter coat. I didn't get any change, but she put the coat in a bag, smiled again, and wished me a Merry Christmas.

That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat (a little tag fell out of the coat, and Grandma tucked it in her Bible) in Christmas paper and ribbons and wrote, "To Bobby, From Santa Claus" on it.

Grandma said that Santa always insisted on secrecy. Then she drove me over to Bobby Decker's house, explaining as we went that I was now and forever officially, one of Santa's helpers.

Grandma parked down the street from Bobby's house, and she and I crept noiselessly and hid in the bushes by his front walk. Then Grandma gave me a nudge. "All right, Santa Claus," she whispered, "get going."

I took a deep breath, dashed for his front door, threw the present down on his step, pounded his door and flew back to the safety of the bushes and Grandma.

Together we waited breathlessly in the darkness for the front door to open. Finally it did, and there stood Bobby.

Fifty years haven't dimmed the thrill of those moments spent shivering, beside my Grandma, in Bobby Decker's bushes. That night, I realized that those awful rumors about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said they were -- ridiculous. Santa was alive and well, and we were on his team.

I still have the Bible, with the coat tag tucked inside: $19.95.


Merry Christmas and Happy Hannukah, my dear friends!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

This is a classic that I found on Travis Inman's blog, http://traviswinman.blogspot.com/. Radio announcer Paul Harvey read this story every year as a Christmas tradition. He died on February 28, 2009.

Dec 24, 2004, 01:57 Unable to trace its proper parentage, I have designated this as my Christmas Story of the Man and the Birds. You know, THE Christmas Story, the God born a man in a manger and all that escapes some moderns, mostly, I think, because they seek complex answers to their questions and this one is so utterly simple. So for the cynics and the skeptics and the unconvinced I submit a modern parable.

Now the man to whom I'm going to introduce you was not a scrooge, he was a kind, decent, mostly good man. Generous to his family, upright in his dealings with other men. But he just didn't believe all that incarnation stuff which the churches proclaim at Christmas Time. It just didn't make sense and he was too honest to pretend otherwise. He just couldn't swallow the Jesus Story, about God coming to Earth as a man. "I'm truly sorry to distress you," he told his wife, "but I'm not going with you to church this Christmas Eve." He said he'd feel like a hypocrite. That he'd much rather just stay at home, but that he would wait up for them. And so he stayed and they went to the midnight service.

Shortly after the family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window to watch the flurries getting heavier and heavier and then went back to his fireside chair and began to read his newspaper. Minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound. Then another, and then another. Sort of a thump or a thud. At first he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against his living room window. But when he went to the front door to investigate he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They'd been caught in the storm and, in a desperate search for shelter, had tried to fly through his large landscape window.

Well, he couldn't let the poor creatures lie there and freeze, so he remembered the barn where his children stabled their pony. That would provide a warm shelter, if he could direct the birds to it. Quickly he put on a coat, galoshes, tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on a light, but the birds did not come in. He figured food would entice them in. So he hurried back to the house, fetched bread crumbs, sprinkled them on the snow, making a trail to the yellow-lighted wide open doorway of the stable. But to his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs, and continued to flap around helplessly in the snow. He tried catching them. He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around them waving his arms. Instead, they scattered in every direction, except into the warm, lighted barn.

And then, he realized, that they were afraid of him. To them, he reasoned, I am a strange and terrifying creature. If only I could think of some way to let them know that they can trust me. That I am not trying to hurt them, but to help them. But how? Because any move he made tended to frighten them, confuse them. They just would not follow. They would not be led or shooed because they feared him. "If only I could be a bird," he thought to himself, "and mingle with them and speak their language. Then I could tell them not to be afraid. Then I could show them the way to safe, warm ...to the safe warm barn. But I would have to be one of them so they could see, and hear and understand." At that moment the church bells began to ring. The sound reached his ears above the sounds of the wind. And he stood there listening to the bells - Adeste Fidelis - listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. And he sank to his knees in the snow.

Monday, November 26, 2012

House of Glass

Have you ever heard of the Glass House, also called the Johnson House? This structure was designed, then built, in 1949 by Philip Johnson on his 47 acre estate in Connecticut. The only enclosed space is the bathroom, hidden inside a brick cylinder. Mr. Johnson lived, then died here in January 2005, and the house has since become a National Landmark as a tribute to modern architecture with its use of geometry, proportion, and especially the effects of transparency and reflection.

Sometimes I think about living in this house that Mr. Johnson built, and to say the thought makes me uncomfortable is a gross understatement. The exposure of it to me would be unbearable -- I'm the kid, after all, who hung a blanket over her window so I could feel alone and safe. (Fortunately for my family I've outgrown this practice, although I still feel more comfortable if the curtains are drawn at night :-)

This house draws a metaphor for me, though, about a way this present life might be viewed. First, imagine you suddenly materialize in that glass house at night with no vision at all of what is outside -- if anything -- imagine you do not even know if something IS outside this small world. If all of the lights inside the house are blazing, you will see nothing of the outdoors because the windows will reflect the light, and you will see only reflections of the room. However, if you turn the lights down, and turn your sight to the walls and not the distractions inside the room, you will begin to see the moon, the dark shapes of trees, even stars reflecting on water outside the window. It won't be clear, of course, but you can definitely say that an adjacent environment exists, and a little about what it looks like.

Now, imagine that our present life is like living in that house at night. We can be easily distracted by things of this world, by the blazing lights inside, that reflect the room and shield any knowledge of the next world. But as the lights are dimmed through hardship and negative circumstances, it becomes possible for another world to become more apparent.

My dear friends, don't be too distracted by the reflections of the windows. Instead, when the lights are turned down, welcome their dimming if you can, but if you can or no, always, always, strive to look beyond the glass walls.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! (Phil 4:4, NASB)

During the early 1600s the Puritans (so named because they wanted to restore Christianity to its "ancient purity") relocated from England to Holland, before deciding they would sail to the New World to establish their own colony where they could worship in peace and without secular pressures and temptations.

They sailed from Holland back to England, and were joined by farmers and tradesmen. On September 16th, 1620, the small Mayflower set sail from Plymouth, England, with 102 passengers seeking a new life in America. (The Mayflower originally had 90 passengers, but when a second ship the Speedwell couldn't sail, 12 of those passengers were added).

On November 19, 1620, the land of the new world was first sighted. Two days later the ship anchored in Provincetown Bay, Massachusetts, far north of the Virginia colonies for which they had been aiming.

Although the passengers debated going south, they finally decided to stay where they were for the winter. Before setting foot on the shore, on November 21st, 1620 (November 11th according to the Julian Calendar, 10 days behind the Gregorian Calendar), 41 of the Pilgrims and other colonists signed the Mayflower Compact that read:

In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread* Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God of Great Britain, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, etc.

Having undertaken, for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith and Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the First Colony in the Northern Parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one of another, Covenant and Combine ourselves together into a Civil Body Politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute and frame such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape Cod, the 11th of November, in the year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France and Ireland the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini 1620.

*Note: The "dread sovereign" referred to in the document uses the archaic definition of "dread," meaning awe and reverence (for the King), not fear.

Scouting parties identified Plymouth as a place to settle, and on December 30th 1620 the pilgrims disembarked here. Governor William Bradford, describing the first landing of the Mayflower at Plymouth that December, writes:

Being thus arrived in a good harbor, and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of Heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from the perils and miseries thereof, again to set their feet on the firm and stable earth.... What could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wild beasts and wild men--and what multitudes there might be of them they knew not. The season it was winter, sharp and violent, subject to cruel and fierce storms. What could now sustain them but the Spirit of God and His grace?

The settlers built log huts. Weakened by the long journey, cold, lack of food, and disease, nearly half of the settlers died that first winter. They buried their dead at night so the Indians wouldn't observe their weakness.

In March of 1621, an Indian named Samoset who knew a few English words visited and then introduced the Pilgrims to Squanto, an Indian who had lived in England. Squanto brought corn, and taught the pilgrims how to adapt to the new environment.

In the autumn of 1621 Governor William Bradford set aside a day for public Thanksgiving to God in gratitude for the blessings already received. Chief Massosoit was invited, and brought 60 braves, 5 dressed deer, a dozen wild turkeys and popcorn.

On this day, we are hopefully fortunate enough to sit in our warm homes surrounded by dear ones and enjoying a groaning table full of food. Let us not forget the great blessings and privileges we have and perhaps take as a matter of course. Make a list. Here are a few things I'm grateful for:

God, life, family and dear friends (both here and gone), and the opportunities to pursue dreams

As I read this over, I'm suddenly realizing the things I'm grateful for are the values set forth in the Constitution -- wow, what inspired geniuses they were who set up this country, starting from the Mayflower Compact on up.

I'd love comments to hear what you are grateful for, and how you celebrate Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Cab Ride

This was sent to me by email. I thought it was a good story.


The Cab Ride

So I walked to the door and knocked. "Just a minute," answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.

After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90's stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940s movie.

By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.

"Would you carry my bag out to the car?" she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman.

She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness. "It's nothing," I told her. "I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated."

"Oh, you're such a good boy," she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, and then asked, "Could you drive through downtown?"

"It's not the shortest way," I answered quickly.

"Oh, I don't mind," she said. "I'm in no hurry. I'm on my way to a hospice."

I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. "I don't have any family left," she continued. "The doctor says I don't have very long."

I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. "What route would you like me to take?" I asked.

For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.

Sometimes she'd ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.

As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, "I'm tired. Let's go now."

We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her.

I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.

"How much do I owe you?" she asked, reaching into her purse.

"Nothing," I said

"You have to make a living," she answered.

"There are other passengers," I responded.

Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.

"You gave an old woman a little moment of joy," she said. "Thank you."

I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.

I didn't pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in thought. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?

On a quick review, I don't think that I have done anything more important in my life. We're conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware-beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month

Veterans Day falls on the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I -- the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. It is a day to remember the sacrifices of those in the armed services have made to defend our country.

I have heard war stories, and can't imagine the horrific circumstances that so many have had to fight through. Can you? The green clouds of gas coming for you in the trenches during World War I. The blinding artillery as you disembark from a gunship in Normandy, or the torturous Bataan death march during World War II. The hard-fought and ultimately successful battle of Inchon in Korea, or the frustration and horror of Ia Drang in Vietnam. The horror of a barracks bombing in Beirut. The exhilaration of Desert Storm, the current conflict in Afghanistan, the terrifying stories that are just beginning to emerge with the deaths of our Libyan ambassador and three more men in Benghazi on September 11th 2012.

Our American forces stand strong, fighting to defend our country and liberate others. Individual soldiers can pay a terrible price for our freedom: loss of limbs, loss of peace of mind, loss of friends, loss of family through divorce, loss of life.

Veterans, today is your day when we make a point to honor you. Thank you, Veterans, of war and peacetime, for your service to our counry.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Amazing 5-Minute Chocolate Mug Cake for Election Day

My friends, I have to admit to being more than a bit disappointed in Tuesday's election results. We may have reached and tipped over the point between national freedom and national servitude. I posted this after the 2008 election. I don't have energy to write anything new today.


This is a special treat for a tough day, whether you feel hopeful or afraid. (Almost) instant gratification -- what could be better? Enjoy.

The most dangerous recipe in the world: Night or day, you are only five minutes away from warm, delicious chocolate cake! Use this recipe with caution.

1 coffee mug
4 tablespoons flour (plain flour, not self-rising)
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons baking cocoa
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons chocolate chips
Small splash of vanilla

Quick Chocolate Frosting

4 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 tablespoon baking cocoa
a few teaspoons of milk


Add dry ingredients to mug and mix well. Add the egg and mix thoroughly. Pour in the milk and oil and mix well. Add the chocolate chips and vanilla; mix again. Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes.

The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don't be alarmed! Allow to cool a little and then tip out onto a plate, if desired.

While the cake is baking, mix the chocolate frosting -- add the milk a little at a time until frosting is a pasty consistency. Spread over the cake.

For a complete dining experience, you can also top with vanilla ice cream, instead of or in addition to the chocolate frosting.

EAT! This cake can serve two if you want to share.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Starfish

The story goes that, after a storm, two men walked along the shore near the ocean. Squawking seagulls circled overhead and dove into the debris near the receding tide. It was a mess.

One man reached down and threw an object into the water. Then another. Then another. The second man was puzzled.

"Why are you bothering with those starfish? You'll never be able to save them all."

"No," the first man replied. "I won't. But I make a difference for this one." He threw another starfish back into the wave. "And this one. And this one."


Overwhelming circumstances discourage our best efforts. This past week's destruction of the Jersey shore and New York City seems impossible. Over a hundred storm-related deaths from drowning, electricity, fires, and falling trees -- and we've all heard the wrenching stories of terrible loss. Two little boys ripped from their mother's arms during the storm, and the next day their bodies found not far from each other. Weeping people brought to shelters wearing only a T shirt, jeans, and socks, bearing stories of how everything -- everything -- is gone. No power, heat, food water, car, hotel rooms, for evening after evening as young families with babies shiver near flooded neighborhoods. Sparking wires. New York subways flooded. Six hour gas lines. Talk of passing out granola bars to visiting marathon runners while long-time residents dumpster dive for their next meal.

Overwhelming. And yet... less than a week later, truckloads of supplies are already being brought into the areas. Electricity is being restored. Clean-up has begun.

We want to help. And we do, little by little. Those on the scene do as they can to rescue people, clean out areas, feed people at shelters. Those at a distance, like utility workers from Alabama, come in to restore electricity; others bring in supplies or donate money to the people that do.

None of us can snap his fingers and immediately make things right; truly, things won't ever be the same again. However, although not perfectly lives and ground can be rebuilt, brick by brick. Mitt Romney said something profound a few days ago when speaking of the overwhelming nature of the damage -- MAKE THE DIFFERENCE YOU CAN.

A good principle, not just for those suffering from Hurricane Sandy, but for all of us, all the time. You can't help everyone, and you can't fix everything. But remember those starfish, and throw back as many of those you come across as you can. MAKE THE DIFFERENCE YOU CAN.