Friday, December 26, 2008

The day after Christmas

I sit is a quiet house. I can breath, listen to silence and allow myself to be washed in the memories of the past few days.

Our kids are home. Last year we drove through a horrific blizzard from our house to O’Hare airport and back arriving around 5 am to snow over the hubs. This year we went to the daughter’s new home in Iowa, enjoyed a quiet supper, Mass and Christmas Day present opening. Then, a trip to our home, Christmas supper, more presents and then today. Slower, enjoying the time together. Tonight the kids are at a college friend’s house, our son is at work, my wife is at work and my Grandpa duties completed – Emily fed and in bed, Addie the same and now it is quiet.

This is Christmas, this is family, these are the truly important things in life – faith, the love of a family and time to enjoy.

I pray you all had a loving and joy filled Christmas. Take time to carry that feeling into every day of the New Year.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas 2008!!!

I always seem to start these letters out in wonderment of how fast the past year has passed – this year is no different. It has been a year of big and wonderful changes. Let’s see if I can bring you all up to date.


Susie continues to support her “habit” by being a pharmacist. But, during her down time she hones her skill as a rider with weekly lessons and quarterly trips to see a Grand Prix school horse near Milwaukee (working in a visit to see her brother Bob as well). Her most recent visit earned her kudos from her riding coach who also happens to be an international dressage judge. To say her head was a bit big might be an exaggeration, but the new, extra wide front door seems to be doing the job.

Her second job is that of Grandma! I must say she is a true pro – DSCN0242 (Small) (2)speaking babble talk, changing  diapers, reading, playing, helping with dress-up, she is a sight to behold! And, she does it with a smile on her face and true Grandma in her heart!


Susie has had a very good year!


A big part of the wonderful news for us this year revolve around family 3 (Small) Chrissy and Jeremy. In June they (and we) were blessed with a healthy, bouncy, giggly baby girl – Emily! She has grown into a 6-month old ball of fire with two teeth and the urge bounce across the floor towards the family kitty.

Addie continues to be the princess that she was born to be. Fancy DSC_0008 (Small) dresses, tutus, shoes – the works. A true girlie girl!! She has certainly found the key to Grandma and Grandpa! She is truly a lot of fun!

And, best news of all for the kids, they moved BACK TO IOWA!!!!! Yep, they now live Emily,move,andhalloween 259 (Small)an hour away rather than 23 hours – much, much, much, much, much better drive!!!!

Jeremy took a teaching position at a regional Catholic Seminary as their art department. Chrissy is being a stay-at-home-mom but being driven slowly insane. She  is looking for substitute work after the first of the year. But, they have purchased a nice little starter home, Jeremy has his in-home studio up and running and they are making good friends in their new community of 450 people. Life is good!


For Mike this was a year of discovery at ISU. After 2 semesters he was clear on one thing, he was not going to be a Chemical Engineer! So, he moved home, started at the local community college and promptly (the day after he got back home) found a DSC_0017 (Small) job at the Olive Garden in Cedar Rapids. This fall semester has seen him working 35+ hours per week and taking 15 credit hours as well. No moss growing under his feet! Best of all for him, he gets to play “Uncle Mike” each Monday while Chrissy volunteers at the local Catholic school. He is a great uncle and Addie has taken no time at all to wrap him around her little finger!! “Mike, Mike” is all she needs to say and he is hers’! He has even become a trained diaper changer!! Such talent! January will see Mike enrolled in culinary arts with an eye towards managing/owing his own restaurant! MMMmmmmmm – free food!!!!


Our family creatures have had a fairly uneventful year. Thumper turns 34 this year and still taking care of his very own little 3-horse harem. He had a bout of ear infection that affected his balance in February. But a weeks worth of antibiotics seemed to do the trick and all is fine with the old boy.

As for Daisy, she continues her on-going training of her humans. She DSC_0021 (Small)is a little skittish around Addie and Emily but has plenty of hiding  places to confound their efforts to seek her out. This time of year she is always quite happy that her own personal “forest” reappears so she can lurk and attack from under the tree.


We have heard from a host of our exchange students. Sophia is expecting her third child. Daniel is working on space probes to measure the magnetic fields of Mercury. Sandra moved into a new apartment. Sini is getting married this coming August. Sabrina continues to expand her photography business. Femka is finishing her masters in theater arts in England and will complete it in May. All seem busy, happy and enjoying life.


As for yours truly, it has been a busy and exciting year. We have created a number of very nice relationships with companies selling management software to hospitals and nursing homes. This has been our best business year in the last 20 and next year looks even better!

Our efforts is Haiti had two tremendous set backs this year. In August our interpreter of the last 2 years, Mark, took a woman into his home to help her get her life back in order. She stabbed him to death. The loss was tremendous as he had been such a great resource for our efforts and his love of Haiti was deep and heartfelt. Then, in September Fr. Antonio, the priest of our villages, was visiting a priest friend. One morning he was found dead in his bed, dying of an apparent heart attack. I am not sure I can adequately explain the devastation to our efforts in Bel Fontaine. Just this month – December – we received word a replacement has been appointed. A small team of us – 4 guys – are headed there is February. We want to just find out how things are. They took three direct hits by hurricanes this year so we have real concern of getting to our village. We have received word of lost souls, lost livestock and lost buildings. And, there are security issues since they were hit so badly, the entire country is in disarray. A group of four is a little easier to handle. While there we hope to find out the direction the new priest wants to go and see how we can get our efforts in education and health care back on track. Then, we will try to go back in August with a full team.

And, of course, I am enjoying being a Grandpa! I say, without DSC_0023 (Small)hesitation, that I have the cutest little granddaughters on the entire  planet! Nothing melts me more than Addie running up to me yelling “Ganpaw!! Ganpaw!!” Very nice feeling!!


So there you have it, 2008 in the life of the Keller/Rudd clan.

We wish you peace, joy and prosperity!

All our love!

Susie, Bill and Mike

PS: We have started two blogs to keep everyone up to date:


Sunday, December 7, 2008

You just sit right there!


We are all around the table, finishing off an excellent meal of beef stir-fry, with the exception of Addie. Supper is near its end.

“You all just sit right there!” she says, from a far corner of the kitchen. She has an odd face on, a bit on the red side, wrinkled brow, drawn up cheek and lips as though she is straining.

Pandemonium explodes!!

“SHE’S POOPING!!” yells Chrissy, as though a grenade has been rolled in the room. She scoops Addie up and runs to their bedroom, the closest entry point to the bathroom. One problem though, the door to the bathroom is locked!


Jeremy, loving husband and father, scrambles to the other bathroom door so he can open the door into the bedroom for Chrissy. “TELL HER TO HOLD IT, I’M ALMOST THERE!!!’

Tick, tick, tick, tick – the timer on the “grenade” continues its count.

“TAKE OFF THE TU-TU!! ( the one over the jeans – Addie is nothing if not fashionable). I THINK WE CAN STILL MAKE IT! GET HER ON THE POT, GET HER ON THE POT!!” Chrissy screams in desperation!!

“GET THE DAMN DIAPER OFF!! GET IT OFF!!!!!!!!!” she begs!!

Tick - - - BOOM!!!!! The grenade had gone off!!

“EEWWWWWWW!! LOOK AT THE SIZE OF THAT LOAD!!! WE ALMOST MADE IT!!!!!” Chrissy is standing holding a diaper in her hand with a “grenade” the size of a grapefruit rising from its folds.

“Addie, why didn’t you just say you had to go potty?!?!?!?” Daddy shows an odd combination of frustration and belly laughs obviously reflecting on the just completed Keystone Cops routine.

“I don’ know” says the cutest little granddaughter on the entire planet?? “I’m done!”

Somehow I don’t think so

Friday, December 5, 2008

Daddy – Daughter Chat

Hey there!

Hey sweetie, what ya doin’?

Not much, how about you? Let me help you with your shirt Addie! No sweetie, it’s on backwards!

Not doing much, just finishing up for the week! How are the kids doing!

Good! ADDIE! Just a second babe!

Addie being good for you today?

Yep, she got her pants on all on her own today!! SAMUEL JAMES!! GET DOWN!!

Cool, how about Emily?

She’s sitting on the floor trying to get to Sammy! She’s moved about a foot already!! She’s leaning out, scooting towards him! YUCK!! She just barfed all over the place!! She’s such a barf bucket!!

Ah yes, well, once all the kids are out of the house, you can replace the carpet!!

How’s the potty training going?

Going to be awhile, still dropping loads while she’s hiding on us!! Just a second Addie, let me put your hair in a pony tail!!

And so the conversation went. Updates of diaper content, meals eaten, play-date results, number of times Emily has barfed, what the kids ate for breakfast or lunch. A Daddy-Daughter chat - it really feels nice!


I was thinking about the "Trees" post and though you might all enjoy some of our many ornaments. In no particular order, here they are:

DSC_0039 [640x480] DSC_0034 [640x480]
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DSC_0037 [640x480] DSC_0029 [640x480]
DSC_0024 [640x480] DSC_0023 [640x480]
DSC_0040 [640x480] DSC_0036 [640x480]
DSC_0031 [640x480] DSC_0032 [640x480]
DSC_0033 [640x480] DSC_0026 [640x480]
A life time of ornaments, each with their own time of creation and story. I look forward to this each year! Enjoy!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Christmas Trees

We put up our family tree the weekend after Thanksgiving. Quite the family event; Susie, Michael, Chrissy, hubby-Jeremy, Addie and Daisy the cat supervising. Brings back 50+ years of tree memories.

As a child Santa put the tree up Christmas Eve. Mom, Grandma and I would go the candle light service and my dad put the tree up. I honestly have only a couple of Christmas memories of him as well as the year he died, Dec 17, 1957. I can look to my left as I type this and see his last present to me sitting on our china cabinet. A metal globe that was to be some kind of game. I never played it, but I seem to have a real need keep it around. It’s a little late in life for me to run that by a shrink – just one of my many quirks I guess.

Anyway, my mom always bought pine trees, put them up Christmas Eve and took them down right after Easter. Yes, I said Easter. By that time you could run your finger along a branch and the needles would cascade to the ground.

After I started dating Susie, their family used firs. Long, soft needles. It was a nice change and her family always included my mom as well.

The next weird little tree was the little 2-footer that mom and Susie sent to me when I went overseas. Nothing odder that a little decorated tree on a table that I leaned my M-16 up against.

For years, after we were married, we continued to buy real Christmas trees. Usually firs, with their needles getting into everything imaginable. Finally, we decided to go “artificial”, “fake”, “un-alive” (Susie’s contribution). We quickly settled into specific tasks. Susie sets it up, puts the branches in and does the “fluffing”. Her purpose, to make it look real – she does a great job. Then, I do the lights. Testing, fixing, swearing and finally stringing. Next, Susie and the kids (now grandkids) decorate it while I document the process with camera and video. And, finally, Daisy examines, reviews and tests her proper place under the tree in her own private one-tree forest.


Decorations have grown. We have an eclectic mix of home made, school made, family made, purchased, gifted, found ornaments that is strangely comforting. I can see my daughters kindergarten career, her ballet years, our exchange kids (all 13 of them), aunts, my son’s school career, my child hood, Susie’s childhood and now the beginning of grand kids. The tree is our life, our history. There are decorations that bring to mind gut wrenching Christmases that I did not know if I would survive. Christmases simply filled with peace. And Christmases filled with laughter, song and fun. Our entire life together as the Keller family. Amazing.DSC_0008

I pray all have the opportunity to build this type of tradition. Life is filled with memories - when better to review our lives than at the birth of our Lord. I pray your tree is filled with a deep, loving and rich history.

OK, what Grandpa can resist posting a photo like this!!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

"I've still got it!!!"

These words sprung from Susie's lips as I told her a story as she was taking her coat off after coming home from work around 1AM this morning.

The story begins with me visiting one of my local customers yesterday afternoon to replace an ailing computer monitor.  Kathy the accountant and I were chit-chatting while I was removing/replacing/connecting - doing my geek thing.  And, naturally, the conversation turned towards kids.  She and her husband do not have children but, being in her lat 30s, she is still thinking very hard about it.  If not their own, then adoption or foster children are in consideration.

Suddenly she asks me how old my youngest is - "he will be 20 in May" I said.  A puzzled look came over her face.  "How old is Chrissy then??"  "She's going to be 31 in February, Addie is 2 1/2 and Emilie is 6 months."  A much more puzzled look appears on her face.

"Well then, how old is Susie??"  OK, I'm NOT stupid - so I reply:  "How old do you think she is??"  Kathy scrunches up her brow, thinks a moment and says"  "43??"

I let the cat out of the bag - "Nope, although I'll share with her your wonderful guess - she's going to be 58 in January."  At this point, if I would have been thinking, I would have whipped out my cell camera and captured the tremendous look of surprise on her face!!  "I never would have guessed that!  She looks SO YOUNG!!"  However, sans camera, I tuck the memory away in my heart to share later in the evening.

1AM - the door opens:  "Helllloooo??"  she calls.  "Hey kid", I reply.  "I have the greatest story to tell you" and so I do, leaving out no detail.

A smile shoots across her face, a little fist pump occurs and she says:  "Giggle, giggle - I've still got it!"

Yep sweetie - you do.

You've still got it!!

A week! Really ?!?!?!


My lovely daughter has me as a favorite on her blog.  It tells me how remiss I have been in posting - kinda like a nagging parent in reverse.  (Is this the "child's curse"?:    "someday I'll nag you like you nagged me through school!!")  Heavy sigh.

A few thoughts on Thanksgiving.  There is much to be thankful for.  A wonderful wife, great daughter and son, great son-in-law that treats my daughter the way I always prayed her husband would, and, of course, grandkids!!  Miss Adeline and Miss Emilie provided much entertainment this past holiday.  Susie and I are truly blessed.

It's odd how holidays are forward looking - the anticipation of the meal, sitting and talking, wiping baby barf off your clothes - pumpkin pie - mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm - pumpkin pie!!  And then you blink and it's nearly a week later!  My mom always used to say: "Willie, when you get older, time will fly by!!"  I would listen and look at her through the eyes of a youth or teenager and say "sure ma" not believing a word.  I am sure she is laughing her butt off at me even as we speak.

So now the focus is on Christmas.  I pray that for just a few weeks I can remember the trick of slowing time, enjoying each and every moment and thanking God for his many gifts.

A little slower please, a little slower.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Hot Spots

My wife is a member of a cult. Their Internet contact point is Fly Lady. Fly Lady is a warped and twisted individual intent on bringing order, neatness and an uncluttered life to all families. In other words, she is the devil incarnate!!

I am a “collector” of things. I got my first job when I was 12. I worked in a TV repair shop. The owner – Mel – gave me permission to take any of the old TVs that couldn’t be fixed. I cut out parts and built the first stereo in my grade. When we moved to Iowa 28 years later, she said she had finally thrown out the dozens of old sets left in her attic.

Years in the military moving between bases forced me to tighten things up quit a bit, but, with marriage came FREEDOM!!! I could collect, keep magazines, electronic components, computer parts, radio parts, guns, - - and books. After Susie and I married we owned our own home – WITH ALL THAT ROOM!!! Honestly I have a very hard time throwing things out – what if I NEED that stuff?? That article – component – radio – computer (doesn’t everyone have a Commodore 64?? Or a SWTB 6800 circia 1978??). How can I possibly part with THAT???

Enter the cult with its "Hot Spot". Susie became committed to bringing order from chaos. Honestly, her success has been startling! I believe the words are “baby steps” and taking 15 minutes to focus on a “hot spot”. I wasn’t very supportive in her efforts but she has been relentless! And, slowly, she has been trying to “convert” me. I am being a “little” resistant. But, every once and awhile one of my prime “hot spots” needs work. The kitchen counter, a landing near our front door and the corner of our bedroom on my side of the bed. I would like to say I have enough discipline to keep those areas tidy – I don’t. Eventually, she can’t take it any more. She looks at me sternly and reminds me she has been waiting for my “hot spot” efforts to pick up – I delay for a bit more. Finally, she gives me “the look”! Geezz, not “the look”! She knows I can’t take it! So, today, I made an effort to clean up the magazines in my corner of the bedroom – Astronomy, QST, Home Power, Handgunner, Rush’s news letter, Writer, Outdoors, Backpacker – probably about 60-100 old issues. That’s all, only 60 – 100 back issues, Geezz!!

It’s not enough of an effort, I know. I keep promising to do better, but there is surly something in those 60-100 back issues that I will desperately some day, it’s such a waste!

And now they're gone!  Gone!. . . . Gone! . . . . Gone!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Men’s jobs – Women’s Jobs

I have been married to my soul mate for 36 years. We dated for 6 years before that. We have been through Vietnam, 2 kids, cancer – both her and me, the trials of owning your own business for 25 years, grand kids – and the millions of challenges life tosses your way just for fun.

We are, what I would call, gender-liberated. I mean that I do not see her of being incapable of any task just because she is a woman. She tells me she believes the same of me – even though a shudder visibly runs through her body when I pick up any kind of tool within the confines of our home. “Should I call Jeremy???” is uttered in a rather hopeful manner – “or how about Edwards Plumbing??” – at the site of a wrench, hammer, or God forbid, a battery powered tool. (Just for the record, I KNOW I could fix anything if only I had one of those really cool compressed air nail guns!!! It’s on my Christmas list!!!!!!!) She clearly has doubts as to my actual God-given talents!!

Through 36 years of marriage, I have discovered however that there are in deed Men’s jobs and Women’s Jobs. One such experience happened this very morning.

One of Susie’s sacred morning tasks is the feeding, watering and litter box cleaning of/for our owner, Miss Daisy the cat. Daisy carefully watches each task, squeaking appropriately if some task is not completed to her specifications. Today there was another tasked needing handling concerning Miss Daisy.

“Willie – Daisy has a chunk of poop on her butt!” I am deep in my daily read, seeing if Obama has taken us entirely to hell or if we are simply at a rest area in between. I am not really paying attention (although that’s not too uncommon for me). “Willie!!!” “Yes sweetie???” “Daisy has a chunk of poop on her butt!” I look at her, seeing she as a piece of paper towel in her hand, and foolishly ask “well, aren’t you going to pull it off?!?!?!?” “Heck no! That’s YOUR job!!” And so I ponder this point. At some time during our marriage, our love and support of each other, our challenges, our joys – it has become MY JOB to remove a chunk of poop from our kitty’s rear end.

I do, of course. I’m not stupid! I have survived, and even thrived, in our 36 years of marriage. Because I know that there are:

Men’s jobs – and Women’s jobs!!

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Not my strong suit really. I grew up an only child. My dad died when I was 7, my mom never remarried – she just sucked it up, got a better paying job and raised me to be independent, have a strong belief in God and know I could accomplish whatever I wanted to accomplish.

She succeeded. I have always had a “plan”. To join the military, to learn electronics, to get a degree in electronics, in computer engineering, to have my own business. Things never seemed to happen fast enough – yet they eventually happen.

Life has seen fit to attempt to teach me patience throughout my lifetime. It keeps trying, over and over and over and over . . . . . .

It often uses my business to teach this lesson.

I need something to happen yesterday – life is unconcerned. It knows things will be fine even if “it” happens next week.

I find this terribly frustrating - Life is uncaring.

I find this just a little nerve-wracking, - Life yawns.

I need $20,000 by Monday!!!!!!! Life looks on, sighs – explains in a quiet, whispered tone: “patience, patience – all happens in its own time”.

Heavy sigh! I know, I know.

UPDATE 4:00 PM Friday Afternoon: The phone rings: "Hello??"

"Bill, it's Mark - no check yet?"

"Nope - still nothing."

"OK, tell ya what, we are going to overnight a replacement check for Saturday morning delivery. Sorry for the problem."

"Thanks Mark, I appreciate it!"

"No problem Bill, enjoy the grandkids!"

Life looks on, sighs – explains in a quiet, whispered tone: “patience, patience – all happens in its own time”.

Heavy sigh! I know, I know.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Long ago – yesterday.


“Happy Veterans Day Dad”. Chrissy has never missed this greeting on November 11th. I never really know what to say, so I say “Thanks sweetie”.  I appreciate her remembering. 

April 23, 1971 – the day I returned to “the world”. 37 years ago – can it be that long ago, that short of time ago? Today is Veterans Day. There are really millions and millions of “Veterans Days” – we all had our own experience, our own tour of duty, our own memories. Mine are as boring as many, more harrowing than some and mine alone.

I spent 21 years in the Air Force and the Air National Guard. I began as an Airman – pay grade E1 and ended 21 years later as a Lt. Col. – an O5. I spent time in 4 countries during that time – with duty ranging from a radio repair man to being the OIC (Officer In Charge) of an Avionics shop for a fighter wing. Yet, when I think of my service, of being a veteran, my memory turns to Vietnam. I do find I get emotional – I have no idea why. I suffered no real trauma. I was never wounded – although I had a watch hit by shrapnel. The number of fire fights I was in could be counted on a two hands. The number of nights I was rocketed – well – that’s a different matter. I was at one of the most active air bases in the Central Highlands – so no real surprise that we were a prime target. But, we had a well informed “mama-san” who would let us know the nights we should spend some time in the bunker. She probably batted .400, not bad when someone is trying to drop high explosives on your delicate little body.

I did spend a little time with the Army – 4th ID. I would tell you what unit, etc. but, honestly, as an Air Force guy, I never really “got it” as far as unit designators. There was a unit of us stationed at Ahn Khe – of “We Were Soldiers Once – and Young”. We were their ALCE unit and provided air support to move supplies, man power – even entertainment.

Vietnam was a “have to” for me. I’m not really sure why. My dad was too young for WWI and too old for WWII. He spent his time in a GM plant building tanks. I even have an award for some sort of innovation he came up for to make manufacturing better. My uncle Victor was a bomber pilot over Germany. He completed his 30 missions loosing only one crewman. My uncle Clemmy was a flight instructor for the war. I was raised on a host of TV shows that showed the man to be the take charge, the get things done guy. And, regardless of the political times of the late 60s, I saw our war in Vietnam as just and believed the people of South Vietnam deserved our support. It was a place I needed to be. And, while I had a full scholarship to a local community college, I enlisted just before graduation and then told my mom what I had done. She didn’t say much – “Oh Willie.”   Vietnam was dinner fare – body counts, dead soldiers. I think she took solace that I was going to the Air Force, not the Army. I graduated 5 months after Tet – if you were male, could walk, the military was in your future. And, the Air Force was perfect for me, I was very interested in electronics and they were very interested it teaching me. From basic to electronics school to - - - Taiwan.

Talk about culture shock. Our primary mission was deterrence of China. We also acted as a repair station for severely damaged aircraft. It was a challenging job, a foreign culture and a true adventure for a 19 year old. December 1969 I presented my mom her Christmas present – a letter saying I would not be home in April, but rather I had volunteered for Vietnam and would be going there directly from Taiwan. I’m told she cried for weeks. The foolishness of a 19 year old. Yet, I was going to where I knew I needed to go.

So, on the evening of April 21st I boarded a plane in Taipei and flew to Tan Sa Nut AFB. We arrived in darkness (I always seemed to travel in darkness). There was no one to meet me, everything was closed, so I curled up in a corner on a concrete floor and slept as best I could. It was strange seeing armed APs in flack jackets walking around – all business.

A couple days later I walked out on the ramp and stepped on to the ramp of a C-123. This was a combination of a turboprop cargo plane with jet assist. You sat sideways in web seats, the pilot stood on the breaks, cranked up all engines and you were airborne in a very short distance. A handy feature since it wasn’t unusual to pick up a couple of rounds on takeoff.

My first base was Pleiku, in the Central Highlands. I got there as we began a real push into Laos to interrupt the Ho Chi Min trail. Thousands of troops left our base in May of 1970 – the same time students were killed at Kent State. The local VC didn’t like this at all and hammered us nightly with rockets. You hear it come, hear it hit and wondered as you halled ass to the bunker whether it’ll go off before you hit the bunker. Based on personal experience, the answer was usually “yes”.

I made road trips to our ALCE unit at Ahn Khe. We road in a 1 ½ truck, sand bags tucked under the seat – our version of “up armor”. The worst patch was MangYang Pass. Very steep, very crowded and a very big target. But, we were never directly attacked. Our number just never came up. Eventually I transferred to our ALCE unit at Ahn Khe. A small team, focused, busy – we were their complete airport support – probably 15-20 guys total. We were technically “outside the gate” of the Army. We were responsible for our own security. So we had our usual duty hours and then hours on guard duty. I was there around 4 months, arriving back at Plekiu the beginning of March 1971.

This was probably the most dangerous time of my tour. The US had begun pulling out. And, while the Vietnamese were still flying missions from Pleiku, most US missions were out of the larger US bases. This made us a easier target. I joined the APs as an augmentee. What that meant was days of duty and nights in secure bunkers around the base on an M60 team. We were tested nightly, probes here in there, sappers coming in trying to take out the A1 Sky Raiders – old WWII aircraft that could absorb tremendous amounts of ground fire. They were called Sandys and were used to protect downed pilots or for close air support for ground troops.

In mid March, we were completely penetrated. Our control tower was severely damaged with two controllers gravely wounded. My roomie, Mike, and I grabbed our weapons, repair bags, and headed to our shop and the tower. The shop had been blown by satchel charges, the tower hit by B40 shoulder launched rockets. The area was unsecured. We spent a hairy night playing hide and seek with some VC intent on damaging more aircraft, more equipment. Finally securing things enough to see how bad off we were, we were able to establish enough communications to let the replacement controllers to contact the aircraft that had scrambled and either land them or guide them to other bases.

The next three days were a blur. A portable tower was flown in from Clark AFB in the Philippines. Mike and I jury rigged it into our communication systems. In the end, communications were only out for a few hours.

More nights in bunkers with M-60s. More days just keeping things going, counting down the remaining days. Finally, on April 23, 1971, I left for the world. When I left men were wearing black suits, white shirts, black ties, black shoes. When I came home, the colors of the 70s were in full bloom – very strange. I landed 11 hours after I took off – international dateline you know. Finally, I was on the runway in Flint, Michigan. The folks around me asked me if I was coming home. They let me out first. Across the ramp I could see Susie waiting at the gate. The first time I had seen her in over 2 years. We got engaged that night. Married the next August. And celebrated our 36th anniversary this past August.

I spent another 15 years both regular and National Guard. Mike and I were presented the Bronze Star for our efforts those 3 days in Pleiku.

I visited the Traveling Wall this summer as it passed through our town – I can’t seem to bring myself to visit the real thing. I got there late at night, very few people around. I was in tears by the time I reached the end. Again I wish I could explain why – can’t really. But there are times I truly wonder – with all those good men and women on The Wall, why not me? What right did I have to pass unscathed – while others came home in a box? I think that is a question many vets ask – there simply is no answer. It was not my time. I pray I have used the time since well.

It all seems so long ago – yesterday.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Was there anything good in the election?

So here it is, 4 days post Obama win and I have been trying to understand what this means for my country.  Nothing good, for the nation as a whole, but how about people like me - conservatives who believe in self reliance, hard work and personal responsibility.

Actually, little will change.  When Obama takes over 401K plans, it won't affect me, don't have one.  When he forces universal health care down everyone's throat - won't affect me, I can afford my own.  When the pensions of all those state government workers goes bankrupt (is anyone paying attention to those??), won't matter, I work for myself.  When the folks who put him in office realize he won't save their homes, give them free gas, save their jobs, clear their credit cards - I won't worry, I depend on myself and my abilities - not a nanny state.

So, all in all, on a personal note, Obama will have little affect on me.

On my country though, on America, on the country that everyone looks to for innovation, growth, freedom - God help us all.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Predicting the Winner

OK, blatant political post!



Wins the Popular Vote by 5%

Wins the Electoral Vote by 3%

So says ME!

UPDATE: Hummmmm . . . . . errrrrrr . . . . . . . aahhhhhhhhh . . . . . . . . . I might have been mistaken. Heavy Sigh

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Hunting Season!!!

It’s that special time of year when natural born hunters fine tune their skills, sharpen the tools and set out in search of their annual prey. The changing Iowa weather and annual crop harvest kick the movement of game to its traditional high and hunters lie in wait looking for tell tale movement in the grasses, the rustling sounds of movement that would indicate a victim approaches, that their patience and skill are about to be rewarded and that a tasty meal is about to be enjoyed.

In my experience there are typically two types of hunters. The first enjoys the hunt in the field, the wild – creeping through the grasses, using their senses and skills to make the perfect kill on the unsuspecting animal. These hunters seem to move with an un-natural grace and stealth. The dedicated have even sculpted their bodies to support their hunting efforts allowing for long stalks, quite waits and lightening responses to insure a successful hunts.

The second is the “seasoned” hunter – who would rather use their knowledge of the habits of game rather than beat about the bushes hoping to flush something out. They usually hunt for shorter periods of time and restrict their efforts to known areas that have proven successful over the years. In fact, in rural Iowa, many of these hunters never have to leave their property (1,000 acre farms you know). Some of the most seasoned, most skilled can start a day late, lounge about during the morning, soak up the disappearing sunshine and still have a successful hunt – all without leaving the confines of their home! In fact, I live with one such huntress and she is on the prowl even as we speak!

Meet Daisy the fierce!!


Yep, there is obviously an intruding mouse under our dining room hutch and she will stay on station – for days if need be – to get her meal! Of course she only has three teeth left, sees them only as a live-action toy that can be caught and released and caught and released . . . . . . . until either I intervene and release outside – or death ensues, which also results in release outside to the critters that clean up such bounty.

This is an annual process. We live in the middle of, quite literally, thousands of square miles of the best farm land in the world. This time of year, all the little critters that inhabit this area, want the same thing I do – a warm, dry place to sleep at night. And many times they feel our home is the perfect place! So, despite our best efforts, we have visitors throughout the winter. Daisy will hunt well, play hard and show that self-satisfied glow of the successful huntress that she is!

Mmmmmmmmmmmm – Daisy?? Isn’t that a little gray tail sticking out from under the corner right there??

UPDATE: 23:55 SUCCESS!!!! The intruder, after three previous captures today, was finally taken down! I released it, but suspect that one of the prowling felines will enjoy the snack provided by Daisy. Count for the winter: 1

Friday, October 31, 2008

I’m a slave!! I’m a slave!!

So said the daughter during our nightly telephone conversation. “All I do is nurse, clean up, play games – my children run my life!!”

Well, like any daddy, I wanted to comfort my daughter – and I reminded her of 6AM swim team practices, early morning dance squad practices, games to go to, dance programs, dance practice, plays, church programs, parties, trips, waiting up for her to come home from dates, worries about grades, boyfriends – the list was long!. Ah yes, the good old days.

And then I laughed! It is such a delight to see the famous “mother curse” is working so well!! “Some day you will have a child just like you!” She’s a great mom. And she really does “get it” – a family takes work, kids take work, marriage takes work! But, in the end, when all is said and done – there is a pay-off:

Yes – kids are great; that’s not it!

Yes – husbands are handy, lovable creatures; that’s not it!

Yes – all children have moments of complete adorability; that’s not it!

Yes – there is a special joy in a date night sans kids; that’s not it!

Yes – the array of “firsts” – steps, teeth, roll-overs, smiles, worss . . . are wonderful; that’s not it!

Watching, listening, enjoying your kids experience these joys with THEIR kids, that’s what it is all about! Our legacy as parents, grandparents, and great grandparents – having a hand in the future!

Besides, it just fun to listen to the whining (in a gently way, of course) and reminding them that – in their day – they acted just like their daughters!

And that’s as it should be!

On Toilets

OK, so I am preparing a little "love note" for a friend. The reasons are neither here nor there, but rather the content.

I have been looking for a toilet flush. Yep, a toilet flush. Using the searching man's favorite - Google - I tried various parameters:

image toilet flush sound Results: 188,000 hits.


Next: toilet flush video Results: 310,000 hits! REALLY?!?!?!?

From YouTube:

Seaching for toilet flush Results: 3,810 videos of a toilet being flushed.

I am trying to wrap my head around what this means. We have achieved a point in our civilization where we take time to record a video flushing, and then care enough about our handy work to display it for all to see, nearly FOUR THOUSAND TIMES!!!

I leave you to your own thoughts with this, the winner!

Of course, now I have to try to understand why I, ME, a fairly sane (quit laughing Chrissy) person would spend nearly an hour finding just the right one!

Where is the number of that shrink again??

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Reading in the dark.

I am a “morning person”, I confess. I am one of those wide awake people first thing in the morning that everyone hates. Actually I blame my mom. She was a morning person, went to work at the post office every morning at 5:30 AM while I was left to watch Captain Kangaroo and Tom Terrific.

However, as fall turns to winter, I notice my mornings are now spent in darkness rather that light – I could do without that. Being the news/political junkie that I am, I start the morning out with “My Daily Read”. I suppose it is the 2008 version of reading the morning paper – only it’s about 25 websites. I cruise through a number of newspapers, news sites, Drudge – of course, RealClearPolitics, and then 10 or so blogs that are also run by data/news junkies that may catch something I might miss. Anyway, the content isn’t the point, but rather that, as I type this, I can just begin to see glimmers of daylight through the wood patch that surrounds our house. 7AM - - - still dark. Heavy sigh!!

That’s the part of fall/winter I truly dislike. Getting up in the dark, spending the morning in the dark, getting off work in the dark. It really brings out all the hibernation instincts in me, sometimes even over riding my natural tendencies and pop up in the morning and I find myself still in bed at 6:30AM. Again, heavy sigh.

I’m officially ready for spring. I want bright sunshine at 6:30AM, warm weather, green leaves rather than brown or none. We could skip past the snow with a one-day exception for Christmas. And, I could get back to my daily read while enjoying the sunshine streaming through the dining room window.

I know, patience is a virtue, but it isn’t my strong suit. I want my sunshine, and I want it now!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Of Wives and Horses

One of my earliest date experiences with my wife-to-be was horseback riding. Not quite sure why it was so important to put my butt on top of an animal who actually had little interest in doing what I asked it to do (in fact, its primary response was: “huh??” “you mean me?” “what the “f” do you mean faster!”) yet, for the achievement of MY goal (wink, wink), it seemed it was important so off we went.

Through much “encouragement” we finally achieved our goal, riding all the way out to a pasture/wooded area. All was well – Susie was smiling, I was actually having fun, the day was warm and sunny and my trusty steed was calm and reluctantly cooperative.

Until - - -

He made the unfortunate mistake of stepping on a Yellow Jacket nest. Kinda pissed ‘em off. And they shared their thoughts with my mount. He decided he’d had enough trail time for the day and at just under “warp 10” (light really does make that cone shape you see on Star Trek as they go to light speed!!!) we headed back to the barn! Across the pasture! Through the woods! Down the trail! Through the gate! Into the stall! And STOP!!! He looks at me: “you still here?” I gather my dignity, dismount (by sliding off and shaking like a baby) and I wait for Susie to catch up (her warp drive was off-line, so it took a bit). Just as well, I had time to recover my cool and check to see if I needed a change of skivvies.

Susie has always loved horses. The love of her life – Thumper – gets an apple and a kiss every day. Then, I do. A kiss that is, not so much on the apple. She has always included me in this “hobby” but, honestly, her focus was on the horses. But, in the spirit of wedded insanity, I too rode – mostly dressage – with her. I/we learned a lot from a horse named Meloed. An odd mix of Tennessee Walker and Clydesdale – with a gate to remember (imagine riding a camel at canter). Along about this time came Thumper – 32+ years ago and still going strong – and years of lunge-line work, riding, lessons, camps, some competitions, babying, bushels of apples, tons of hay, hours of brushing, scratching, grooming, and loving. Yet, for 40+ years her passion for horses and riding has not diminished – if anything it is much stronger today!

What brought this to mind was talking to her last night on the phone. She is off in Milwaukee at a riding seminar/camp/private lesson. She had the same voice on she did 40+ years ago when she asked me to go riding with her for the first time. “It was great!!!!” “Reese listened to everything!!” “Flying changes!” “Serpentines!” “Passage!” “Leg yields!” “My seat was great!!” (yes, it is!! J ) Honestly, it’s hard not to get excited with/for her on these trips. Her passion has only grown, her love for riding has broadened as she has grown in the craft. It is just fun to watch.

So, she’ll be home tonight about 8PM she says. Her clothes will smell like a barn – a Parisian perfume to the horse lover! I will hear 5 days worth of stories, watch the smiles, see the joy in her eyes, hear the excitement in her voice. Plans will be made for the riding sessions over the next weeks. What can she bring to the horses she is working with and helping to train? What can she do different? I can’t wait until March for the next seminar/camp/clinic/lessons!! “Did I tell you how the weekend went GREAT!?!?!?!?” Yep, sweetie, you did. And, I will see the 15 year old who conned me into my first ride and I will realize for the umpteenth time what I lucky man I am and how much I love this woman.

Women and horses – go figure!

Saturday, October 25, 2008



I have been watching, most of the time with jaw dropping amazement, the response of our Government and their hirelings to our nation’s “economic crisis”. Where to start – where to start. Especially with my desire to keep this blog limited to a more general range of topics – not political ramblings.

Yet, I have some thoughts on how an individual could choose to react to these events and this particular time. Let’s see what comes out of my fingers!

I am currently teaching Wilderness Survival to our scout troop. There are important lessons they must know before we can take them on our High Ventures. They are “High Ventures” because they involve much more personal risk than typical weekend campouts and, honestly, more risk than most troops take on their trips. So, we expect our guys to be able to survive the unexpected and make the return trip home. Our troop has never lost a scout but my very first High Adventure with the troop certainly had moments where this could have easily happened – but that’s a whole other post! Preparation and survival takes training, practice and their ability to keep a cool head. The watch word we use to help drum this into their heads is S.T.O.P!

From the website:

"S" is for Stop. Take a deep breath, sit down if possible, calm yourself and recognize that whatever has happened to get you here is past and cannot be undone. You are now in a survival situation and that means . . .

"T" is for Think. Your most important asset is your brain. Use it! Don't Panic! Move with deliberate care. Think first, so you have no regrets later. Take no action, even a foot step, until you have thought it through. Unrecoverable mistakes and injuries, potentially serious in a survival situation, occur when we act before we engage our brain. Then . . .

"O" is for Observe. Take a look around you. Assess your situation and options. Consider the terrain, weather and resources. Take stock of your supplies, equipment, surroundings, your personal capabilities and, if there are any, the abilities of your fellow survivors.

"P" is for Plan. Prioritize your immediate needs and develop a plan to systematically deal with the emergency and contingencies while conserving your energy. Then, follow your plan. Adjust your plan only as necessary to deal with changing circumstances.

The beginning of every training session begins with the question: “What is the first thing you do when you have an emergency?” S.T.O.P.

My second question is: “Who’s responsibility is it to save you?” Yours!! You are responsible for your personal survival.

If our scout can S.T.O.P. and get their head together and then realize THEY responsible for their survival, in all likelihood, they will indeed survive whatever they encounter.

Getting back to my main topic of our nation’s current fiscal situation, I think our leaders should S.T.O.P. Yet, there is just a tinge of panic in their reaction. Monies pledged to this “crisis” now tops 1.5 TRILLION dollars!!! Let me say that again – real slow – 1111……555555 TTTTRRRRIIIIILLLLIIIIIIOOOOONNNNN!! With more to come it seems – another 300 billion after the beginning of the year has been proposed with states, companies and pension plans clambering on the bandwagon saying that they to are too important to be allowed to “fail”. A tipping point of some type has, indeed, been reached and the government seems determined to slide headlong into the abyss of Socialism and an odd mix of Marxism. So where does this leave us, the American citizen? All of this is beyond the control of the individual American. There is nothing we can do, with the exception of the upcoming election, to jar our government from this path. And, honestly, given the rhetoric of the candidates the only difference is that Obama with take us to a Marxist/Socialist state with stunning swiftness while McCain will, while heading us in a generally Socialist direction, do so more slowly. Neither path is good for the long term. But, just as happens when a person rolls their canoe in a swift flowing stream must save themselves first, we need to take care of ourselves and our families first – then when our own survival is assured – turn our attention to our bigger national picture. So what can individuals do right now – today – this very evening to begin their own survival process?

As individuals we all need to S.T.O.P. and assess our own situation. Realize – no one is coming to save us! No one! Get our financial house in order. Pay down bills, mortgages, cars, credit cards. Get a second job if necessary (and yes, there are jobs everywhere if you are willing to work). Look at our situation clearly, calmly and honestly so we can truly realize what our own situation is.

Realize that we have been here before as a nation. 1929. late 70s. 1987. 1999. and now today. There are economic cycles – gravity if you will. What goes up, must come down – but can certainly go up again.

Realize that financial hardship for some means opportunity for others. Perhaps now is the time to buy that house? Heaven knows there will be some good prices out there over the next 5 years or so. Perhaps now is a good time to look for a second job, change a career, learn a skill and develop a side business that can add to your family’s bottom line. I would much rather depend on my own personal skills and abilities to provide for my family than I would to depend on someone else to provide me a job.

Prepare. Action always helps! When you shop, buy a little extra for the pantry. Basics – pasta, rice, flour, sugar, some canned goods. There are some good on-line sites with lists of basics. Build a 3-month pantry and then eat from it and rotate stock.

Get to know your neighbors. If fear and panic win out over cooler heads, friends and neighbors will need to work together in ways that were common for our parents and grandparents, but not so much for us. Have them over for dinner. Introduce your kids to them. And, in doing so, you will make new friends, broaden relationships and find that people are much more interesting that a movie, TV or computer terminal.

Be responsible. I used to have a business partner that had a mirror on the back of his office door. Before a meeting he would close his door and look at the mirror. At the bottom were the words: “You are looking at the answer!” So are we all. We are the answer to our own individual problems. This “financial crisis” came about because individuals were unwilling to be responsible for themselves. There is no “housing crisis” but there is a crisis of individual responsibility – and as individuals we should not contribute to it.

Have a plan. Or plans. What are our family goals for the next week, month, 6-months, year? What is our plan in the event of another 9/11? A continued collapse of our economy? Loss of a job? The best time to plan is before we have to respond. We can game things, look at alternatives, adjust. There is a lot of comfort when “it” hits the fan and a plan is in place. It reduces fear, panic and allows us to think clearly.

And, finally – and most importantly – enjoy the day. After all, if we are unwilling to stop and enjoy our spouse, our kids, our mother, our fathers, our grandparents, our friends – why the hell even bother.

Enjoy the day!!

My Random Droppings


This is my second blog.  My primary blog is essentially a political blog to present my views, comment on current topics and - in general - just vent about the insanities of today's global political climate. 

Meantime, my daughter, her hubby and others have started blogs that are more general  in nature - today's happenings, funny stories, tails of kids and family.  It seems I am drawn to play as well.

So, that will be the purpose of this blog.  To deposit "My Random Droppings" about what's cookin' and share the wisdom of the ages - well, at least my 58 years of ages anyway!