articulate - adjective
1. having parts connected by joints, as in "articulated"
2. made up of distinct words joined together in such a way as to convey meaning
3. able to express oneself clearly and distinctly
4. well formulated, clearly presented

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Timeless Treasures: A Visit with Some Gems

On the southern side of a nearby city, in the poorer residential district among condemned houses, crowded streets, and shouting neighbors, a treasure of great wealth lies tucked away.

One can drive up the hill away from the sprawling hospital complex, away from the manufacturing district, away from the city noises, and turn left onto a wide, brick, tree-lined lane showcasing pristine houses built in the June Cleaver era of our country. 

It was into this utopian atmosphere that I was invited yesterday, into the home that Mr. & Mrs. C. have spent most of their married lives.

That’s a long time. It’s decades longer than I’ve been alive, because Mr. and Mrs. C. just recently celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary.

And yesterday morning, I was invited into their inner sanctum to hear them tell their story.
We sat at a round plastic picnic table on this porch, where we could talk to the mailman as he walked his route, wave at the neighbors driving by, and enjoy a lovely breeze while we chatted. At first they seemed a little formal, despite the fact that we’ve known each other 25 years, like they felt they were being interviewed on television. But when they realized they could just tell me stories and I’d be thrilled, they relaxed and became more animated. Since Mr. C. has had at least two strokes in recent years, he’s a little hard to understand, and sometimes his mind wanders, but I wouldn’t trade the hour I spent with these special people for anything.

They spoke to me of where they were born, describing the streets and the cities, the farms and the coal mines. They told of their parents and their siblings, their schooling and their faith. Their voices faltered as they worked to sort out the order of events in their somewhat foggy memories, but some things are clear and without doubt. 

The day they met. The day they married, a mere six months later. The dates their daughters were born. 

The important mile markers in life. 

When Mr. C. recounts his days in battle, his voice intensifies with energy and clarity. Drafted only six months after they married, he is a veteran of World War II. He remembers swimming ashore on D-Day at Normandy, wading through a mass of dead bodies to surge forward and fight for freedom. He can describe driving a 6x6 as well as an 18-wheeler full of gasoline across Europe’s roads and alleys. And he vividly remembers the Battle of the Bulge.

“The planes were coming out of nowhere. They were our planes, but they had Germans in them, and the shelling just didn’t stop. The Germans infiltrated our trucks, too. We discovered Germans in the chow line. The fact that they didn’t speak good English showed them up. Once they were discovered, a huge fight broke out. By the time I was able to get to chow, I had to walk over their bodies. 

"But it was those airplanes that killed my best friend. Plane after plane came. They shelled us, and I saw him out in the field. I watched him explode. I’ll never forget that as long as I live.”

It’s obvious that he hasn’t. But it’s also obvious that, although he eventually returned to the States battle weary and shell-shocked, he adjusted and lived a productive and happy life. Reunited with his wife, they bought the house we were sitting in and started having babies. He worked hard at a dairy as a milk peddler and later at a manufacturing firm as a carpenter, earning the money his family needed to put his kids through school. He went to church every time he could, and he made a good life for himself and his girls.

All too soon it was time for me to go. As I was picking up my purse and keys, they pulled me indoors to see their wedding photo where it sits on the right side of the mantel. On the left side sits a similar photo, their 70th anniversary photo. Mrs. C. began telling me (again) about the first time they met—at the water fountain at work—and how he walked her all the way home afterward. But this time there was something new.

“And as we walked, he sang to me.”

Really? I had trouble believing it. “He sang to you? While you were walking?” Oh my goodness, how romantic is that?

“Yes, you know the song.” She began singing, quietly at first, a song I’d never heard. With a glance over at him, where he sat watching her with stars in his eyes, her confidence grew and her voice became more sure. A few lines later she paused, and he jumped into the song, eyes on hers, voice singing his love for her with all the strength he could muster. She dropped out and he finished the song with her hand on his cheek and smiles on both of their faces. 

“I have the best husband in the world,” she whispered.

It’s amazing to watch a couple who has been married for seven decades and is still madly in love with each other.

I wiped my eyes, gave them hugs goodbye, and left with a smile in my heart.

Some people look at this elderly couple—she at 91 years old and he at 89—and think what a waste of time it is to have to work to hear their quavering voices, to have to speak loudly and distinctly to make them hear. They view these people as a drain on our society, with her constant need of vision care as she slowly goes blind and with his need for continual oxygen and medication.

But it wasn’t a waste of time to me. It was an incredible blessing to be able to sit down with these gems, to be able to absorb their world and the memories they chose to share with me.

My life has been enriched in a way I will never forget.

Thursday, August 8, 2013


In recent months we have been reminded just exactly how scary it can be to be an American overseas. Even the one place of refuge in each country, the American Embassy, has failed to be the safe haven it should be as it has become the target of our enemies.

Every August my mind turns toward eastern Africa. Yesterday, August 7, was the 15-year anniversary of the US Embassy bombings in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Since this event was the basis for my first book, I invested a ton of time into researching the locations, cultural settings, and people involved. It was incredible to view photos of the actual devastation wrought by the hands of terrorists, to trace the paper trail of warnings ignored and defensive missions aborted.

The US State Department has very strict guidelines for the safe construction of the embassies. Unfortunately, the site in Dar es Salaam did not meet these regulations. Had those who chose the location of that embassy adhered to the criteria, perhaps even fewer lives would have been lost. Instead, they ignored the specifications, evidently thinking that this site would do. Complaints that were sent to the State Department were also ignored. It was pretty safe by most standards, having been built by the safety-conscious Israelis a couple of decades before. Besides, who would attack an embassy in eastern Africa? To quote General Kazim in the movie Sahara, "Don't worry. It's Africa. Nobody cares about Africa." My heart cries out for the needless destruction and loss of lives not only at the hands of terrorists, but also as the result of a complacent arrogance.

Sometimes it's better to fear. 

The old adage says, "Better safe than sorry."

Thankfully, if the information on the internet is to believed, the State Department now rigorously guards it safety regulations. They learned their lesson. Not only was the location unsafe, the attitude was downright dangerous. 

The whole idea of a refuge is intriguing to me. Needing to explain it to some elementary-age children recently, I described to them how a mother hen puffs out her wings when danger is near, calling her chicks to come nestle underneath. Once they all are safely tucked in, she snugs them in under her wings and waits out the trouble until the danger has passed. If you want to get to her chicks, you have to go through her first.

It brings to mind some wonderful verses from Scripture. No one is certain who authored Psalm 146, but if it was King David, he certainly spoke from personal experience when he wrote:
Do not put your trust in princes,
in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that very day their plans come to nothing.
Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God.
~Psalm 146:3-5

The author of Psalm 46 states it even more succinctly:
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
~Psalm 46:1 

When we consider national politics, international events, and even what is happening in our own neighborhoods, our world does not seem to be a very safe place. But the Bible is clear: 
Cast your cares on the Lord
and He will sustain you.

~Psalm 55:22

This encourages my heart.

(questions for you)

*What are some verses or quotes that sustain you during hard times? 
*Who or what is the refuge that helps steady your heart?

I'd love to hear from you!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Friday Favorite: The Beauty of the Earth

It's time to share another of my weekly favorites! 

You do this, too, don't you? At the end of the week, don't you look back and pull out your favorite moments to treasure and give thanks for? I hope so. I'd like to know I'm not the only weirdo out there!

Some of my favorite moments this week were so beautiful, I just had to share them with someone, so here's the latest version of my Friday Favorites. (Yeah, I know it's not Friday, but yesterday I was having trouble downloading images from my cell phone.)

Once a month or so, my husband offers to take me with him to work. He logs in hundreds, even thousands, of miles a week in his job of building and maintaining FM radio tower sites. Since I realize that riding by himself for such extended periods must become monotonous (and since I kinda like being with him!), I take him up on the opportunity when I can work it out. I am SO glad I did this week!

The destination was the Spencer, NY, radio station tower. If you're not acquainted with Spencer, NY, you're in good company. Most of the rest of the world has never heard of it either! It is a tiny crossroads indicated by the red pointer in the center of this map. 

There is really no tower there. The station is called "The Spencer, NY, Station" because that's the general target area of the tower antenna. (Antennas are "tuned" to focus their outgoing signal in very specific directions. Did you know that?)

The actual tower location is about 20 miles south, in the hills just north of Sayre, PA, but still on the NY side of the state border. This is about a 4-hour drive from our house, along both interstate and dirt roads curving through the rolling hills of rural New York's southern tier. 

For those of you who think "Big Apple" when someone mentions New York, please enjoy with me the breath-taking scenery we enjoyed from this tower site! THIS is what most of our state looks like, not the towering skyscrapers and city lights most people imagine.

The tower is located in a field of wildflowers on top of a hill.


Separating the tower site from the dairy farm in the valley below is a rusty barbed-wire fence (not pictured) and a steep hay field.  The view from the site includes the far-off hills of northern Pennsylvania.

Beautiful, isn't it? 

While John replaced the generator starter and performed site maintenance, I just wandered and enjoyed the scenery.



It brought to mind the lyrics of an old song:

For the beauty of the earth
For the glory of the skies
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies

Lord of all, to Thee we raise
This, our hymn of grateful praise!

This past week has been a week of researching some of the poorest places of Africa. And although they have their own kind of beauty which I appreciate, I can't imagine a more beautiful place to live than our country. It's so easy to forget what a treasure we have in the amazing scenery where we live. This week, my favorite moments were wrapped up in simple praise for the beauty of the earth. 
(questions for you)

*What is the scenery like where you live? 
*Do you love it or wish you had a different view? 
*What one place have you visited that you'd most like to return,
merely because of the natural beauty?

I'd love to hear from you!