Hacked

The word “hack” appears to be undergoing some changes to meaning, and I didn’t get the memo. Our pastor has a sermon series going on titled “Life Hacks”. It’s steps you can take to improve your Christian walk. So, I’m learning that “hack” is a noun meaning “a clever tip or technique for doing or improving something” [Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary].

Who knew? I mean, why didn’t someone issue an announcement about this? Hack doesn’t mean that. It means to chip away at something, as with an ax. It means to cough sharply. It means to attempt to gain illegal access to a computer or related technology item. It doesn’t mean a clever tip or technique.

I’m being somewhat facetious. Yes, I’ve heard this newer use of the word, over the last five to ten years. How in the world the old uses for hack have been supplemented by this newer use I don’t know, but this old Baby Boomer doesn’t approve.

But, using the older meaning [an act or instance of gaining or attempting to gain illegal access to a computer or computer system], this website was hacked. It occurred sometime between Jan 15 and Jan 22. I tried to login on the 22nd to make a post, having skipped my normal post on Jan 19th. I couldn’t get in. Someone had changed either my password or user name, or both. Nothing on the site seemed to be changes; I just wasn’t able to get in to manage the site.

Monday I was in no mental condition to deal with this. I started investigating this on Tuesday, but wasn’t able to get much done. I did some checking through WordPress.org, but wasn’t able to figure out much. Finally, on Wednesday, early morning in my pre-work time at the office, I started dealing with it through my web hosting service. They were helpful. They directed me to a security company they work with. I bit the bullet and subscribed to a service to get a firewall and heavy-duty scanner set up. It took over an hour on the phone, but it got done. I had immediate access to my site.

So, I’m back, after a week of not posting then two days of being locked out. I still have more security stuff to do, and I’m in the self-education phase of that. I hope in a day or two at most I’ll have all the other stuff done, and will feel more confident about jumping back in and posting regularly.

Not Really Feeling It

I missed blogging last Friday. I had a couple of things in mind that I could post, but I wasn’t really feeling it, so I didn’t. Not really feeling it today, either. This is the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, but I’m working. The forecast last night called for snow starting in the early morning, perhaps as early at 5 a.m. I decided if it was snowing when I got up, I’d take the day off. I was up around 5:15 a.m., and looked outside. No snow. Went back to bed, and woke up a minute before the alarm was to go off at 6:00. Looked outside. No snow. So I stayed up and went about getting ready for work.

Next year, on a day like this, I'll be in the sunroom, only moderately heated, with a cup of coffee and a good book.
Next year, on a day like this, I’ll be in the sunroom, only moderately heated, with a cup of coffee and a good book.

6:26 a.m. rolled around; I had everything ready to go to work. Opened the garage door. No snow. So I got in the car and drove to work, stopping for gasoline along the way. Got to work around 7:00 a.m. Still no snow. disappointed in the no-show snow showers, I quit looking out my window. Until around 10:00 a.m., that is, when I looked out and saw it was snowing, just starting to stick to the ground.

Around 10:15 I stepped outside the building, just to be in the snow for a while. As always, I found it refreshing. At noon, if it’s still snowing, I’ll go out for a little longer, just to feel the snow hitting my face, and dreaming about being a kid again.

I’m not sure what to do about the blog. When I began this many years ago, on the Blogger site, the prevailing wisdom was that a writer should have a blog. Now, I’m hearing new prevailing wisdom, that the Age of the Blogs has passed, and maybe a writer doesn’t need one after all. I’ll be thinking about this, and deciding what to do.

Meanwhile, enjoy your holiday, those of you who get one. Enjoy your snow day, those of you who like snow. Possibly I’ll see you on my next regular blogging day, Friday.

A Gathering of Writers

About a month ago a I saw a notice for a writers gathering on Sunday, Jan 2, in Bella Vista. It’s been close to a year since I’ve gone to any writing event, either as a participant or observer. That was a small group, but it was good. So, I put this event on my schedule and looked forward to it.

There’s just something about being with other writers. I can’t explain it. It just gives me a boost, and makes me write all the more.

So yesterday I got home from church after picking up lunch from Wendy’s and dropping recyclables at the AARP recycling center. That gave me an hour to eat, rest a bit, and drive the fifteen minutes to the venue. I got there at exactly the time it was supposed to start, and found…

…one other car there—a pickup, actually—with one man in it. He rolled down his window and said he was calling the organizer to find out what was going on. Two or three calls later he got the word: It was cancelled.

Disappointed, I drove the fifteen minutes home, got some coffee, and checked the website. Now, when I first heard about this event, I didn’t see it on the organization’s website. Rather, it was on a Facebook page for the Ozarks region, a place where a number of organizations share their information. Now, I checked the organization’s Facebook page and, sure enough, there was the notice that the event had been cancelled.

Shame on me for not double-checking, or for not going to the organization’s own Facebook page instead of to that other page.

Ah, well, I went to The Dungeon with the mug of coffee, but didn’t feel much like writing. I looked over a few things, did some planning, but, otherwise, just pulled up some oldies on YouTube and listened to them. That, is always time well spent for me.

2018 Writing Plans

2017 is gone; 2018 is here. It’s time to develop writing plans for this new year, and publish them for the world to see. Okay, not the whole world—just the blogosphere. And, I know, not very much of the blogosphere. Alright, just a handful of readers or fellow writers. I’ve thought about this for months. What should I write next?

Will 2018 see a third novel added to this series?
Will 2018 see a third novel added to this series?

First, let me inventory my works-in-progress.

  • Adam Of Jerusalem: I began this a few months ago. It’s the prequel to Doctor Luke’s Assistant, showing things that went on in Augustus’ family before his involvement with writing the Gospel of Luke. I found the book somewhat more laborious than expected, and haven’t just rushed to my computer to work on it. I don’t know if that means it’s ill-conceived or not.
  • The Gutter Chronicles, Volume 2: The second volume in my workplace humor series, poking fun at my own business, I began this more than a year ago (maybe two years ago), got 25% into it, and put it aside. I picked it back up again in November, and found the writing easy and fast. Holiday activities caused me to lay it aside for a while, but I’m ready to get back to work on it. It will be novella length, maybe 35,000 to 45,000 words, and I’m perhaps 40 percent there already.
  • Stephen Cross of Ipswich: This is a genealogy/family history book. Stephen Cross and my wife’s great-great-whatever-aunt, Elizabeth Cheney, married in 1672 and resided in Ipswich Massachusetts. I did this research as part of broader research on Elizabeth’s father, John Cheney, the immigrant ancestor of the family. Of all of their children, I found the least on Elizabeth. So last year I hit the research hard, and pulled a lot of information and sources together. The full book on John Cheney will have to wait a few years. Meanwhile I thought, since I have all this information on Stephen and Elizabeth, why not publish it as a smaller book? It may not sell much, but, who knows, maybe a few of their descendants will be interested.
  • Thomas Carlyle Chronological Composition Bibliography: I’ve written about this before on the blog. It’s a labor of love for me, partially to serve as my own research aid for Thomas Carlyle. I’ve worked on it off and on for close to three years. I’d say I have another year, maybe more, to go. I imagine I’ll work on it some this year, between other projects, or when the intense research bug flares up, but I don’t anticipate it will be a priority.
  • Carlyle’s Chartism Through The Ages: This book, a study of Carlyle’s short book/pamphlet Chartism, is close to 80 percent done. What’s left is some editing, seeking some copyright permissions, and writing a couple of my own essays to go with it. I could finish this in 2018 if I put my mind to it. Perhaps I’ll at least work on it, but I don’t think it will make the to-do list.
And, perhaps, a fourth to this one?
And, perhaps, a fourth to this one?

Second, I’ll list the works in “gray-cell gestation,” taking up creative space but which haven’t yet found their way to pixels or pen.

  • Documenting America: Constitution Edition: I’d like to write and publish a book in this series each year. This is the one I plan on doing next. So far I’ve done nothing on it, other than to brainstorm.
  • The next Sharon Williams Fonseca short story, tentatively titled “Tango Delta Foxtrot”. This will be only 4,000 or so words. The plot line has come to me—most of it. I should just knuckle down and do it, and perhaps I will.
  • A newly conceived book on life freedoms. This has come to mind from watching my grand-children grow and develop, but has solidified in being a care-giver for my mother-in-law. I’ve noticed that children get these freedoms in stages, and senior citizens lose them in stages. Parents and care-givers should perhaps understand these things. I have no qualifications to write this book, other than being a careful observer of the human condition. Having to qualifications, I should put this out of my mind and find other things to do. But, alas, it keeps tying up gray cells that I should apply to other works. I may find I’ll have to write it just to get it out of my system.
  • Publish one of my Bible studies, though not sure which one. I’ve prepared eight (I think that’s the right number) Bible studies to teach to our adult Life Group at church. I’d like to someday get them published. I don’t that they will sell, but I did a lot of work on them; why not put them in publishable form? Unfortunately, to do so will take a lot of work. I have notes, but not publishable notes. Yes, a lot of work.

These nine items are all candidates for my 2018 writing to-do list. I’d love to put them all on it, but, realistically, I can only accomplish a fraction of this. So, here’s the list in the order I hope to do them.

  • Finish The Gutter Chronicles, Vol. 2. Finish by the end of February; publish by the end of April.
  • Finish Adam Of Jerusalem by the end of the year; publish in 2019.
  • Begin work on Documenting America: Constitution Edition. I hope to be working on this by October.
  • Write “Tango Delta Foxtrot”. At present I’m not going to put a publishing target date on the list.
  • And, one other item, which is really planning for 2019: Decide on which of my Bible studies to publish in 2019.

I’ll revisit this list every quarter, as has become my standard practice, and report any changes on my blog.

2017 Re-cap

While I had much family here for Christmas (some still here, till tomorrow), I didn’t worry about keeping to my blog schedule. So here I am, writing this post on New Year’s Eve, my birthday, for posting tomorrow. I think what I’ll do is just paste in our Christmas letter, perhaps adding a few comments at the end.

=============================================

Christmas displayDecember 2017

Greetings family and friends!

This branch of the Todd family has fallen into routine. Not a rut, for that has a negative connotation. Routine, on the other hand, can be good. It helps you to be efficient in your activities, and to effectively complete all tasks you need to complete. Yes, routine is good.

the four EsOur routine was broken a few times this year, three of them being extra significant. In June we drove, in caravan with our daughter Sara and her family, to the quadrennial General Assembly of the Church of the Nazarene in Indianapolis. Richard was a delegate to one of the pre-assembly conventions. We went along to help out with the four kids, and, of course, to see old friends. Last time we attended general assembly was in 1980 when it was in Kansas City. The trip was good, without unsafe incidents of car trouble. It was indeed a good time. We saw those old friends, worshipped a great God with thousands of others, and were renewed and refreshed. Our accommodation was an older home rented by the week. We had a yard and parks nearby, so the kids had room to run.

Richard and SaraThen, on the way home, we spent a week in Branson, at a townhouse that is part of our timeshare company. We saw plenty of sights there. Branson has so much to do, for all ages. When someone wasn’t up to something, we just stayed at the townhouse. Miniature golf, Silver Dollar City, and a whole lot more filled our five days there. While we were gone for the almost two weeks, Lynda’s brother was here from Santa Fe to be with their mom. So we got to see him.

Another unexpected “event” came from Dave’s genealogy research. For years he has been trying to find out more information about his (supposed) maternal grandfather. Having only a name and a few anecdotal statements by his grandmother, he hit dead ends. Until DNA relatives showed up in 23andMe, and he was able to make connections. It turned out his grandfather had two other families, and he is now in touch with most of his previously-unknown first cousins from those families. Getting to know all these people, through Facebook so far, has been a delight.

And Dave had another “event” that broke up the routine. He’s been Corporate Trainer for CEI for eleven years now, and figured he’d stay that until his retirement at the end of next year. But, in early November his boss asked him to take on management of projects that have moved into the problem stage after construction. It started with three projects, is now up to four, and more are in sight. This has taken him back to his project management days. It has certainly been a change, as his hours have increased as he deals with the problems, leaving him almost no time for training. He thinks this new normal will take him right up to retirement.

Lynda has had some physical challenges this year. She’s had severe aches and pains show up in her legs, that caused her doctor to put her on a new medication. It turned out that med has some bad side-effects, however. She weaned herself off that med before things got bad. Now she’s wondering if other meds she takes have caused other problems, such as morning listlessness and what she calls “brain fog”. She does a lot of studying of health issues, and is hoping to gradually get off some meds and see if that helps. Meanwhile, she continues with stock trading, with Dave’s help from time-to-time. It looks like the year will turn out profitable.

We made several trips to Oklahoma City for grandchildren’s birthdays. They are growing up fast. The three older ones are in school, and little Elijah gets into everything when his sibs aren’t around. They teach him well. All three seem to like school, and to do well at it. Richard continues to split his time between pastoring the church and managing the R.O.C. ministry.

Charles at podiumCharles is now working two jobs. He continues as a dean for the College at the University of Chicago. He is also a dorm parent for an off-campus dorm. In both of these he stays busy. He will surely advance through university administration. The dorm thing is temporary. He plans on doing that for a year or two, then seeing where life and career takes him. Because his dorm job required him to be there over Thanksgiving, our family gathering is a Christmas this year.

EMB at birthdayEsther, now 92, continues as always, a little slower, a little farther removed from the world around her, but still kicking. She hasn’t had any new health problems develop this year. The biggest thing was the death of her sister, Faye, in July. We made the trip back to Meade for the funeral. So Esther, the oldest of four sisters, is the last still alive.

O Come O Come EmmanuelWe close this letter with a wish for the best for each of you. May God bless your lives, filling you with good things, and may they spill out with compassion for others.

Love,

Dave, Lynda, and Esther

===============================================

Emmanuel has come. We had a good Christmas with much family here, and contacting many more by phone. Yesterday I spent a quiet birthday with my mother-in-law and brother-in-law, as Lynda is in Oklahoma City for babysitting. For the moment, all is well. 2017 was a challenge in many ways. May 2018 be better.

Childhood Christmases: The Candy House

Each year, in December (okay, a few have been in late-November), I post about some memory of past Christmases, specifically those from my childhood years. If I keep this blog up long enough, I may run out of those and have to go to teen years. Examples of some of those posts are:

December 2015: Progressive Christmas decoration

December 2014: Wrapping Paper

1953, perhaps first year for the house, before the tradition of adding candy was in place.
1953, perhaps first year for the house, before the tradition of adding candy was in place.

One memory I’ve wanted to write about, but haven’t because of a lack of photo to illustrate it, was our candy house. Other people do gingerbread houses; we did a candy house. My brother got all the family photo albums; one of his sons now has it. I keep forgetting to ask him for a copy of some of the photos. I’ve finally done that. However, as I wait for a good photo that shows the house in it’s full glory, I found this one in the photos I have. It’s from 1953, from before my memories, and it shows an early version of the house that would over the years morph into the one I remember.

Dad built the house out of plywood, put a simple light bulb base in it, with a blue incandescent bulb, and voila: you had a house that would be pretty with that blue light shining through the windows and door. All that was left was the decoration.

It is very hard to find Necco Wafers in stores around here. We have a stash we bought in R.I. years ago, begging to be put on a candy house.
It is very hard to find Necco Wafers in stores around here. We have a stash we bought in R.I. years ago, begging to be put on a candy house.

This happened either on Christmas eve, or maybe a couple of days before. Mom would make a large batch of white frosting (no store-bought stuff for us, if it was even available then). The whole outside was covered with this to represent snow, with the frosting dripped from the eves to form “icicles”. Then candy was stuck to the frosting. Necco Wafers for shingles on the roof. Red and green M&Ms for bricks on the chimney. Also M&Ms for the Christmas tree on the back. Gum drops to line the windows on each side.

The 1987 version in NC. I note we must not have had red and green M&Ms, and we used a white light inside the house.
The 1987 version in NC. I note we must not have had red and green M&Ms, and we used a white light inside the house.

The house was set on a thick piece of glass, which would also be covered with frosting. Spearmint candies made nice landscaping. Either spearmint or gumdrops lined the walkway leading to the house. The final thing was a candy cane stuck to the front door.

On to the dining room table it went. But, the decorating wasn’t done yet. All around the house were put various figurine. Carolers, snowmen, reindeer, someone in a horse-drawn sleigh. And, in the chimney, a right-sized Santa Claus, ready to go down.

Again, from 1987: our daughter and the house display.
Again, from 1987: our daughter and the house display.

The photo I give you here doesn’t do it justice. This was early in the candy house tradition. You can’t actually see any candy on it. In fact, I suspect this was the first year for it, when my sister was 3, I was almost 2, and baby brother would make his appearance two weeks later. They made a nice, white house—very pretty—and went with the external decorations. After this they probably thought, “Why not stick candy on all that frosting?”, and in later years did so.

How long did the candy last, you wonder? With three young kids in the house, you’d think not long. But the rule was: No taking candy off the candy house until New Year’s Day! And we obeyed. On new years day we could begin. I always went for a Necco Wafer first, then a gumdrop, then a spearmint tree. I’d break an “icicle” off and have that. It would usually take four or five days to get the house and “grounds” clean of candy.

Dad built several of these candy houses. I know he gave one to his sister Esther, who decorated it. I’m sure he made at least one more, though I’m not sure who got that.

Our accessories now go in the Christmas village.
Our accessories now go in the Christmas village.

Years later, in the mid-1980s, when we were living in North Carolina, I asked Dad if I could have the candy house. He had no kids in the house and no wife to prepare it. He said yes. I remember we decorated it one year, around 1986: same house, same base, same candies uses, different accessories. We have a very nice photo of our daughter next to the house. If I can find it, I’ll add it to this post. But, I believe it’s in an envelope somewhere in the house, never having been put in an album.

I thought this year would be a good year to make the candy house, for the grand-kids to enjoy. I wouldn’t even make them wait until New Year’s to take candy from it. Alas, I can’t find it. It appears that, from our many moves, the house and glass are gone. Did a mover steal it? Not likely. Did I give it to someone rather than store it when we moved from NC to Kuwait? Possible, but not likely. Is it hiding in a box, somewhere in our large and poorly-organized storeroom? Perhaps. If not, I don’t know what’s become of it. A piece of Dad gone forever.

Perhaps I’ll learn woodworking skills that Dad never taught me, and figure out how to make one; or find a kit at a hobby store. Maybe I can build a house for next year, and the wife and I can figure how to make it look half as good as Mom did. If so, you can be sure I’ll post it here.

Assembling a First Cousin List

That’s what I just did. I put together a joint first cousin list for my wife and me. Later in the post, I’ll say how many are on it.

First cousin is a pretty close relationship. They are children of siblings, grandchildren of common grandparents. First cousins share grandparents. Few people don’t know at least some of their first cousins. Although, I remember seeing an obituary of a person with the last name matching some in my wife’s family. I checked with an uncle of hers, and he said yes, that’s my cousin, but either he’d never met him or barely knew him. I didn’t detect a lot of interest.

Growing up, I always felt our family was somewhat small. Mom was an only child, so no aunts and uncles on that side. Her grandmother had half-sisters, but they never had children, so no first, first or otherwise, there. My dad was one of six children, five of whom lived to adulthood. All together they had 14 children who were first cousins. Four of these lived out of state and we rarely saw them. Almost never did those ten who stayed in Rhode Island ever get together. But, that was the tally: 14 first cousins from my two sets of grandparents.

Then I married Lynda. I came to find out she had a somewhat larger family. On her dad’s side there were four children who had seventeen children, not including three who died in infancy. They would make a total of 20. On her mom’s side, it was two children producing five, plus two who dies in infancy. It would have been more, except two of Lynda’s aunts died in a blizzard while in their teens. So, if you put those two lines together, that’s 23 first cousins. Definitely more to keep up with than me.

Thus, put us together, and it was 37 first cousins. That’s starting to be a big number, the number I had up until 1998.

What happened in 1998? I began making genealogical discoveries. That year I learned about the large family in New York/New Jersey (and some who had moved west) that had been kept hidden from us three siblings for decades. That didn’t produce any first cousins for me, but a bunch for my mom, and a bunch of second cousins for me. Through all this discovery, Lynda’s total stayed at 23 in her blended first cousin group.

Then came 2014, which I learned about my half-sister, the daughter my mother put up for adoption. That added one to the group, now a blended group from two sets of grandparents, so I was one of 15 first cousins. My half-sister had two brothers, who were also adopted, so I didn’t count them. And Lynda’s first cousin group was…still 23, our joint group becoming 38.

Then came August 2017. As I reported previously on this blog, through DNA testing, along with a few statements my grandmother made, I was able to trace who my maternal grandfather was. As I had come to suspect, he had two other families: a small one before WW1 and a larger one after WW1. My mother wasn’t an only child after all; she had five half-siblings, all of whom had children—13 children, in fact, who were my half-first cousins. At that relationship level, it’s a bit silly to keep adding the “half” to the defined relationship. We were cousins, first cousins, having a common ancestor at the grandparent level. That mean my blended first cousin group went to 28. My wife’s…stayed at 23 (how boring!). And our combined group was 51.

Genealogy research took it from 37, a manageable number, to 51, starting to be unmanageable in terms of keeping track of everyone. Of those 51, 39 are still living. The oldest and youngest are still alive. The birth years span 1937 to 1970. Three died in infancy, and none others have passed on. I’ve yet to meet twelve living first cousins.

So, why have I written all this? I really don’ know. It was on my mind today, as I completed for two of the new cousins to take DNA tests to confirm the relationship. I guess I wrote this simply because this is part of my life. This blog is to share my life, more than just my writing.

Death In The Journey

Death does in fact change life, for those who are left to mourn.
Death does in fact change life, for those who are left to mourn.

In my last post, I started talking about the life journey I’ve been on. Several times death has punctuated that journey. At least once that death was life-changing. I allude to this in my most recent publication, When Death Changes Life. While those collected stories are officially fiction, they do come from a point of knowledge about how a death in the circumstances described will impact a family.

In my melancholy moments, I often think about another death: that of Chemala Johanan Babu. He worked for me in Kuwait. When I changed companies there and became a Director of Infrastructure Engineering Services at Kuwaiti Engineers Office, I inherited a crew that was working offsite. We were partnered with a British firm to improve one of the interstate-quality highways in Kuwait. The crew we supplied was mostly CAD technicians. They worked under the supervision of the Brits, in their office, although they were employees of our company. I had no need to do anything regarding this team. The Brits processed everything about them, even their timesheets. All I had to do was watch their billable hours get added to our department’s.

I met them all only once. When I learned that I had this crew working offsite, since I hadn’t met any of them, I made a trip across the city to meet them. They were all names to me, who became faces, but faces I wouldn’t ever have to deal with. Babu was one.

Nothing to do with, that is, until the job they were working on came to an end, and these men (about eight of them) would have to be let go. It was a sad day when I had to write them all a memo, telling them their assignment would come to an end in a month, and that we had no other work for them, and thus would have to let them go. Sad, yes, but they knew it was coming. They knew they took an assignment that would end at some point, and that their employment wasn’t needed after that. Kuwait allowed workers in their position to shop around on the open labor market, and hopefully they’d find a job with another engineering company.

The day after that memo was out, Babu was in my office. I recognized him, and realized I had seen him one other time, at the National Evangelical Church of Kuwait. There were two large Indian language congregations (Tamil and Malayalam, if I remember correctly), typically each over 1,000 in attendance, that met very early Friday morning, much earlier than the English Language Congregation, all of us sharing the same facilities. I had seen him there once, not sure why the two of us were there at the same time. Now here he was, the third time I’d seen him. I’d met him once, and then seen him. Now seeing him again, I realized who he was.

He came to plead his case to remain employed. He really needed the job, he said. There was something about his visa that wouldn’t allow him to stay in the country unemployed while looking for a job. He would have to go home. At least, now 27 years after the event, that’s how I remember it. I felt sorry for him, and said I’d see what I could do.

I checked with the other directors, scoured my own department’s workload, and had nothing. I did, however, have the promise of a couple of projects that would start soon. One was another roadway project with a different British firm; the other was improvements at a university campus. Neither project was guaranteed, but both looked good. We would know on both in a couple of months.

I decided I could take a chance, keep Babu on staff for a month while we waited on those projects, and help him out. If those projects both came through I would have to hire someone. I reasoned that keeping him on staff for a month without billable work would be no more expensive than having to go through a hiring process.

I called the off-site office to tell him the good news. He wasn’t there; had been that morning, but not since lunch. He didn’t call me that day. The next day I called again. He hadn’t yet reported to work. Later in the morning I learned the awful news. The previous day he had been to the Indian embassy on some personal business. Taking the bus to near the office, he crossed a six-lane road on foot. Except he didn’t make it. He was hit by an Iraqi driver who was in the country illegally and driving without a license. Babu was killed instantly.

A day or two later I went to pay my respects to the family. He had lived with his sister and brother-in-law in one of the poorer sections of Kuwait City. I went there to find the streets packed with people from southern India, all coming to mourn with the family. One of our senior mechanical engineers was from Babu’s province and language group. He met me and brought me up to the house, through the crowd.

Inside, I met only the brother-in-law, as the sister was wailing in another room and didn’t want to meet anyone. He and I talked about what would be done with the body, if the police were notified, if there were any mourning rituals I could participate in (such as fasting). It was a good ten-minute visit, and I was off again. The mechanical engineer thanked me over and over for coming. I hope it helped them.

So, this was part of my life journey. Not a happy part, obviously. But, as I said earlier, it’s something that always comes to mind in my melancholy moments. As I get older, and am nearer to death myself than to birth, death will become more and more a part of my life. I’ll have many more chances to grieve, and to mourn with others. Yet, the story of Babu will stay with me, forever a memorable part of my journey.

Thinking About The Journey

Yes, I live in the past. While the discoveries are exciting, they also tend to make me melancholy at times. Christmas is almost always one of those times.
Yes, I live in the past. While the discoveries are exciting, they also tend to make me melancholy at times. Christmas is almost always one of those times.

Something about this season of the year, Christmas, always makes me reflective of all things past. Each year I write a post about something from childhood Christmases. I’ll be doing that, probably next week, possibly the week after.

The last few days I’ve been thinking of the journey my life has been. In my better moments for the last decade I’ve said that I would title my autobiography The Journey Was A Joy. I must admit, however, it hasn’t always been a joy. Sometimes it’s been a struggle. Rarely has it been routine, though in fact I love and crave routine. My journey through life has been anything but routine.

Almost everything I write about is about the past. Very little is contemporary, and, so far, nothing about the future.
Almost everything I write about is about the past. Very little is contemporary, and, so far, nothing about the future.

What’s got me thinking about this recently is looking ahead to the unknowns in the journey. One is retirement, which is now only 1 year 23 days away. Sure, I long for the time of not having to go to an office every weekday and tax my brain. But I also fear doing without the income. I have savings, but far less than I intended to have.

Other unknowns are ahead. Lynda’s mom is now 92, and has been living with us for a little over two years. Her care is becoming more difficult. It falls mostly on Lynda, as I’m away all day, and it’s not easy for her. A woman marries and moves out of her mother’s home, and doesn’t expect to move back again. But with her mom moving in with us, that’s essentially what happened. Lots of water under that bridge, lots of history to deal with. It’s not easy.

There’s the unknown of how long I’ll have the physical ability to keep up our property. We’ve lived at our house almost 15 years, the longest we’ve ever been in one place since we were married almost 42 years ago. Someday I will struggle with the upkeep. When will that be? Five years? Ten? Or hopefully twenty or more? Someday we’ll have a decision to make about that.

Remember, these are short stories which, by definition, are fiction.
Remember, these are short stories which, by definition, are fiction.

So those unknowns about the future are very real. There are also thoughts about the journey I’ve been on. From Mom’s death, to being a latch-key teen, with no parent in the home most of the night, to college experiences, to traveling half-way across the country for work and a fresh start, to traveling to the Persian Gulf area for work and career advancement, to adventures in Europe and Asia. To the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait when we lived there and having no home to return to in the USA, to finding work in (of all places) Arkansas. To revelations about family, learning of many relatives in three major discoveries over a twenty year period.

Sometimes, when I dwell on this, it becomes almost overwhelming. I suppose that’s why people who deal with mental health tell us not to dwell on the past. But as a hobby genealogist and historian, I do live in the past an awful lot.

Ah, well, the melancholy will pass, as will desiring the past more than the present. Winter will fully come, with it’s full on, refreshing chill. Some snow would help, would remind me about joyful childhood romps in the snow. While waiting for that, I’ll leave you with one of my poems.

Conflicted

I long to live that day when I will rest
and cease to tax my brain. Then I will die,
and stand before my Maker. Yet, I’m blessed.
I long to live! That day when I will rest
is somewhere out there, far beyond the quest
that now demands I try, and fail, and try.
I long to live that day when I will rest,
and cease to tax my brain, then I will die.

A Day Late

I often write my Monday blog post on Sunday afternoon, and schedule it to post on Monday at 7:30 a.m. This past Sunday, alas, I spent that time working on our annual Christmas letter. Normally I write this, then Lynda edits it—sometimes lightly, sometimes severely. It gets done, as do the cards, and they go out. Seems like fewer and fewer each year.

That took up most of my free time Sunday afternoon, so I didn’t get my blog post written. I wanted to do it Monday morning, in my personal time at the office before I start my work day. Alas, other things got in the way. My devotional reading ran long, and morphed into editing. I read in my Harmony of the Gospels, either the text or the Passage Notes. Right now I’m in the passage notes. I read those notes related to a certain passage, then I go back to the text and read the harmonized passage. It’s a good way to do it, except I tend toward editing rather than just devotional reading. Still, I enjoy this, and don’t mind if it runs long.

But that meant I had less time than normal before work started, and I had to get to my long to-do list before I could tackle writing this post. So, here I am, writing it a day late.

And, I have nothing more to say, really. The days are busy, the evenings full, and sleep is a welcome escape from all I have to do. Retirement is now 1 year and 26 days away. Perhaps that will be a welcome relief as well.

Author | Engineer