Thursday, February 28, 2013

Just "ducking" out of the spotlight

I did my interview for my book on WJFW, our local TV station, this morning. I kind of figured I wouldn't be in any shape to write coherently after that, so here are pictures of my most recent dumb hobby. No, I don't collect ducks, I just collect their pictures. 
 Sitting Duck
 Lame Duck
 Viking Ducks or maybe Duckings 
 Monkey Duck
 Biker Duck
 Lucky Duck
 A little bit of everything Ducks
Then, holy waterfowl, there are over 400 ducks on this table. Where to even start? Oh, that's right, I was helping set up a fundraiser for Kinship Friday night and we had the ducks all lined up to purchase for the chuck-a-duck. You mean, I can't take any of them home? 
I guess that is why I don't collect ducks, only pictures of ducks. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Just like a movie script

Last week, on February 20, my dad would have been 98 years old. I’ve been writing all month of what little I know about his life before he married Mom.

In the fall of 1944, the depression was releasing its gripe on the nation and he was able to get a job as a school bus driver, making $58.20 a month.  His route was long, 40 miles round trip, twice a day. 

One winter afternoon, as Dad was driving the bus full of kids home, he overheard a group of girls talking about the basketball game that night. One of the girls, Margaret, wanted to go, but she didn’t have a ride. At that point my dad interrupted the conversation.  “I have a horse”.

The high school girls must have looked at him and said “what?”  Margaret, though, rose to the challenge.  When they got to her house, she ran inside and asked her dad’s permission to go to the game that night.  My dad drove her home later in his mother’s car.  He had just turned 30; she was still 17.        

Doesn’t it sound like something out of a movie? She graduated from high school and turned 18 that May. They were married by the justice of the peace on July 6. And the rest as they say is history.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Suffer? Who Me?

What to write about today? Oh, there’s Dino, to the rescue once again.

For Lent, I was talked into giving up chocolate. A co-worker of mine, who is not nearly the chocoholic that I am, wanted someone else to share in her misery. But that is the whole idea of giving up something for Lent, not that we should ever suffer, but we should make sacrifices. No sacrifice we make however will ever compare to the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made for us.

What does this have to do with my dog Dino? He loves cat food as much as I love chocolate. As I was sitting here on the laptop trying to think of something to write, I could hear him on the other end of the basement eating the cat’s food. I snuck around one side of the basement to catch him, but he heard me and scooted around the other way. Silly dog.

Good thing he doesn’t have to give up cat food for Lent. He pretty much always gets his own way. He is one dog who doesn’t have to think about going to heaven in the afterlife; living in my house is heaven for him right now. Hmm? Think that will be us when we get to heaven, being spoiled daily by the Master?

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Romans 8:18 (NIV)
I'd say Dino doesn't suffer much. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Another Circle of Life

Lisa and I both on the right, the night of the banquet.

 Last Sunday, one of life’s many circles was made complete.  

At my first Green Lake Christian Writers Conference in 2010, I met Lisa Klarner. She and I were both in Mary Pierce’s workshop wanting to learn more about writing memoir. I wanted to write about my journey to Africa, Lisa wanted to write about her journey through Social Anxiety Disorder. Our topics seemed so different, we were writing about different ends of the earth, yet what we had to say was so similar.

I haven’t heard much from Lisa over the last two years, and she hasn’t heard anything from me. Shortly before my book came out, I noticed on Facebook that she had published hers. I checked it out and promised myself that I would buy one.

Before I got around to that, Lisa e-mailed me. She had seen that my book also was out and wanted to compare notes on how our respective books were doing. We e-mailed back and forth, sharing insight on this business of promoting our books. Then it dawned on me that I was going to Green Bay this past weekend for a meeting and since she doesn’t live far from there, maybe we could get together.

Who knew thirty months ago that the two of us would someday be sitting down discussing marketing our books?

“Releasing The Secret Pain: Moving Beyond Social Anxiety Disorder” is not only the story of Lisa’s battle with social anxiety disorder, it is a self-help guide, geared towards anyone who suffers from shyness, feels awkward in social situations, or has been bullied. Before reading this book, I didn’t know what Social Anxiety Disorder was. I thought that all the feelings of shyness which I experienced were unique and that no one anywhere on the planet had ever felt the way I did. But now I see that I am not alone in these feelings of awkwardness and insecurity.

There are probably many people out there who can relate to Lisa’s story and can benefit from the treatment options she used to overcome this disorder. If not yourself, someone you know, perhaps a teen-ager or young adult, suffers from social anxiety disorder and would find this book helpful, possibly life-saving.

If you can relate to any of these problems, read this book. It may complete your own circle of life. 

You can purchase Lisa's book at, Barnes and Noble or her website:

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Choose Love

“Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illumines it.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

 On my Peanuts, a page a day calendar, on the reverse side of January 19/20, this quote  was printed as the Daily Extra. Cool, huh, that not only do I get a cartoon a day on the front side, I get a saying or a puzzle or whatever on the back side. Yea, and I am only up to January 23 on the thing.

Anyway, we can choose to hate, and be consumed by it, letting it pull us down, letting it control us. Or we can choose to love, and find peace and harmony, we can be made complete, we can be set free. I choose love. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Tripoli Years

I’ve been writing this month about my father’s life. I have few artifacts from those years; the years were lean and there wasn’t much to keep. My mom has a few items, things my dad’s family picked up at second hand stores of the time. Just dawned on me that second hand stores are becoming more and more popular today; I never thought much of them being around in the thirties and forties, but it only makes sense that people would shop for cheap stuff back then too.

Anyway, here is the most prized possession I have. The ledger which my dad kept when he lived and worked on his mother’s farm in Tripoli.

There are a lot of holes in my dad’s life. His family moved from Chicago to Tripoli, Wisconsin, in 1934. My dad started keeping this ledger in 1939. Sometime in between there, rumor has it, he traveled out west via the railroad looking for whatever work was available. Yep, he was a hobo for a time, but I don’t know any more about it than that.

Sometime during those years he also worked for the Civil Conversation Corps. Don’t know much about that either, except that in much later years, he still talked about the CCC camps with deep respect.

But back to the ledger, coz that I have in writing. A few of the interesting entries included that the income for the month of January, 1939, was $17.88 and the total expenses were $21.90.  The largest portion of the budget for that month went towards groceries for a total of $7.70.   An average of 60 cents were spent a month on tobacco.  In November 1939, someone splurged and went roller-skating, buying a pop while they were there.  The total tab for that night on the town was 85 cents.

The regular monthly income came from the sale of milk. Occasionally they butchered a cow for meat but sold the hide for between two and three dollars. Once a year or so, they sold a bull; in 1940 Guy brought in $35 while in 1942 Andy sold for $80.

Can you imagine? Not quite what my budget looks like today. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

So, what can we do?

All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along. Galatians 2:10 New International Version

When I signed up for that fateful mission trip to Kenya in 2006, this verse popped up somewhere along the line. It surely stuck with me, even as I wondered at times if I was really helping the poor at all. Was I even helping my team mates? Or myself?

I witnessed so much sorrow, so much poverty in Africa. It seemed so overwhelming and what we did seemed like so little. Yet sometimes that’s what counts. A hand held. A smile shared. Just to know that someone cares.

Sometimes the only thing we can do for those living in poverty is to remember them. To pray for them. To ask that God’s will be done in their lives.  
Kari and her Compassion child at the Compassion center in Nairobi. 
 Jen and her Compassion child planting an avocado tree to commemorate our visit, at the Compassion center at Ewuaso Kdong.
 Michelle's Compassion child inside his home.
Michelle receives a gift from her Compassion child's father. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

I really don't want to whine.

Today, upon a bus, I saw a girl with golden hair.
I envied her, she seemed so gay, and wished I was as fair.
When suddenly she rose to leave, I saw her hobbled down the aisle.
She had one leg and wore a crutch.
And as she passed... a smile.

Oh God, forgive me when I whine.
I have two legs, the world is mine

I stopped to buy some candy. The lad who sold it had such charm.
I talked with him, he seemed so glad.
If I were late, it'd do no harm.
And as I left, he said to me, "I thank you, you've been so kind.
It's nice to talk with folks like you. You see," he said, "I'm blind."

Oh God, forgive me when I whine.
I have two eyes, the world is mine.

Later while walking down the street,
I saw a child with eyes of blue.
He stood and watched the others play.
He did not know what to do.
I stopped a moment and then I said,
"Why don't you join the others, dear?"
He looked ahead without a word. And then I knew,
he couldn't hear.

Oh God, forgive me when I whine.
I have two ears, the world is mine.
With feet to take me where I'd go.
With eyes to see the sunset's glow.
With ears to hear what I'd know.

Oh God, forgive me when I whine.
I've been blessed indeed, the world is mine........

I’ve had this poem, handwritten on a piece of yellow paper, for as long as I can remember. An internet search came up with some controversy as to who wrote it. Most sources said that the author is unknown, but several sites credited Red Foley, a country singer from the forties and fifties. I would like to give proper credit, but all I can tell you for sure is that this poem is pretty old, I’ll bet even older than me.

The last week or so, I’ve fallen into the state of “feeling sorry for myself”. I know that we have all been there. I hate that feeling. Working in the medical field, not a single day doesn’t go by that I don’t look at a patient and think to myself, “I am so glad that I’m not you.” I wish I could tell you their stories, but basically, it doesn’t take much to look around and see someone who is having a worse day than I am. So why is it still so easy to whine when things in my own life aren’t going the way I wanted? Lord, please forgive me. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Chicago Years

(Last week, in honor of my dad's birthday this month, I started sharing some of his life story. Click here to see what you missed in the first installment.)

When my dad’s family emigrated from Germany to the United States in the 1920s, they settled in a suburb of Chicago, Illinois.

My dad started selling newspapers on street corners, for three cents apiece, keeping one cent from each paper he sold. It would have seemed like a small fortune. He dropped out of school, after graduating from eighth grade; it was more important at that time to work. It didn’t mean however that it was the end of his education. My dad read everything he could get his hands on and never quit learning.

When the Great Depression descended on America, my dad’s family managed just fine. They had lived through bad times in Germany.

My dad and both of his brothers got jobs at a golf course. With some families having no members employed at all, the brothers didn’t want everyone to know they were all from one family. Frank, being the youngest, started going by his stepfather’s last name. I don’t know how that officially happened at the time, but that became his permanent name, the legal name of his kids and grandkids.

In June of 1934, my dad’s older brother married and moved to the area known as Lincoln Park, Illinois. On the hot evening of July 24, John Dillenger, public enemy number one at the time, was coming out of the Biograph Theatre on Lincoln Avenue in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. He had been set up by a prostitute, and agents of the Division of Investigation, the precursor to the FBI, were waiting for him. Five shots were fired, three of them hitting Dillenger.

People from all around the neighborhood hurried to the scene, and even after the body had been removed, taken to the Alexian Brothers Hospital, gawkers continued to arrive. It was reported that some even dipped their clothing in the puddle of blood on the sidewalk as a souvenir of the famous criminal. My father, nineteen years old at the time, was one of the visitors to the scene, running to the Biograph Theatre as soon as word got out of what had happened. There was no report, though, that he took any souvenir.

Quite the claim to fame, huh? 

(This is the oldest picture I have of my dad. It is July 1945 and he is 30 years old, on his wedding day. I cut my mom out of the picture because she would kill me if I put it on the internet, even though she was a beautiful bride.)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Where does your help come from?

 1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
   where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
Flying over the Andes Mountains in Peru. 
   the Maker of heaven and earth.

 3 He will not let your foot slip—
   he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
   will neither slumber nor sleep.

 5 The LORD watches over you—
   the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
   nor the moon by night.

 7 The LORD will keep you from all harm—
   he will watch over your life;
8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going
   both now and forevermore. Psalm 121 (NIV)

I took this picture out of the plane window as I was flying from Lima, Peru, into Ayacucho where I volunteered for a week back in 2009. Just like my trip to Africa three years before, there were many times when God had my back on this trip as well. It's a good thing that He always has my back. I surely do need Someone watching over me, keeping me from harm 24/7. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

When is it time to quit?

"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There's no point in being a damn fool about it." W.C. Fields

Knowing the nature of Mr. Fields, he may have meant this saying exactly as it came out. I, however, would like to think it really means that if it doesn’t work the first couple of times, maybe you should do it differently, or maybe it just really can’t be done, by you or anyone else.

Sometimes it is ok to admit defeat. The important thing is to move on at that point.
Or maybe it’s more like another saying. “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Albert Einstein

 Just like Cheshire. Maybe it is warm in the electric water bowl, but are you really comfortable crammed in there?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Early Years

Ninety-eight years ago on the 20th of this month, my dad was born near Cologne, Germany. Thinking back on what his life must have been like, I deeply regret not gleaning more information from him. As it is, over the years, I have pieced together a few stories from that past.

He was the second youngest of six children born to Paul and Emma Loehmer. Hannah was the oldest and I have found absolutely no information on her. When the rest of the family moved to America in 1923 and 1924, she stayed behind. I know, I need to set up that account and find her, huh?

The next oldest was Frederick, known as Fritz, born in 1908. The remaining siblings were Emmy, born in 1912; Klara, born in 1914; my dad and finally Franz, born in 1918.  

The only memory my dad shared with me about life in Germany was that he learned to swim when his father threw him into the river.  It was either sink or swim, so he picked up a noble dogpaddle and was able to get himself to the shore. 

I think he spoke very little about life in Germany because it had been so very hard. It’s one of those things they don’t talk about much in the history books. When Germany lost World War I, the victors imposed such stiff retributions on the country, that it seemed the country would never bounce back. Do you remember how well that worked? The poor and destitute population of Germany turned to an up and coming individual who promised to return the country to its former glory. It was so easy to be drawn into his promises, easy to be mesmerized by his oratory style. And just as this man - it doesn’t even seem right to call him a “man” he was so evil – began his rise to power, my dad and his family were packing up to come to America. How different my life would have been had they not left Germany when they did, or more likely I wouldn’t have been born.

(I just couldn't come up with a picture for tonight. There are very few pictures of my dad from back in these days, but this blog post willl shed more light on his early life.) 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Still not fighting

“Stop fighting a fight, it’s already been won.”
From “I am redeemed” by Big Daddy Weave

On Thursday’s blog, I used this verse from a secular perspective. Now that it is Sunday, let me finish that thought.

As a Christian, the reason I don’t have to keep fighting, the reason the battle is over and has been won, is because Jesus has fought it for me. I can let go of my worries, my fears and most importantly my sins because I know that they are taken care of. He has paid my ransom, paid all my fines, cleared my balance. Oh sure there will be days, days that I struggle, days when people will do me wrong, days when I want to crawl back in bed and not deal with life. But all I have to do is remember that I can turn all these problems over to my Savior. He has taken care of it before it even happened.

“The Lord will fight for you and you shall hold your peace.” Exodus 14:14 NKJV