Category Archives: Humor

Issue 375 – Old Friends, Revisited

Logo -- The Paregien Journal -- 2018--01--18 -- 800 X 195 pix X 400 dpi

Issue 375     –     June 17, 2018     –     An Occasional Journal

Old Friends, Revisited

Friends -- it takes a long time to grow an old friend

There just ain’t nothin’ quite like old friends.

Oh, sure, new friends are wonderful, too. That’s one reason we moved from Edmond, Oklahoma here to Bradenton, Florida exactly five years ago. Back there we lived in a larger, comfortable house in a very nice neighborhood. We were involved in church activities, and I often performed my original cowboy poetry and stories at Western venues and events from Arkansas to California and from Texas to Montana. We also hosted many music jams and church groups in our home with as many people as we could crowd into our spacious living room. But, still, we could only name a few of our neighbors on our street. And not one ever reciprocated our hospitality by inviting us into their home even for just a cup of coffee. Maybe we should have changed our deodorant more often. I don’t know.

After we both retired, we were thinking of moving to a “nice beaches and warm water” area. We liked the idea of living in a gated 55+ community with a clubhouse, a pool and lots of scheduled activities from which to choose. Our hopes were high that kind of environment would make it easier to make new friends. And I am delighted to say that is exactly what happened. Now as we take our regular two-mile walk around the inside perimeter of our community of some 270 homes, I am amazed at how I can look at so many houses and recite the owners names. We found the situation here encourages mixing with the current residents and getting to know the new ones. Peggy and I are very pleased with our lives down here. We are thankful for the way our little Florida experiment has worked out over the past five years. 

Having said that, I’ll return to my main point: there is really nothing quite like maintaining old friendships. That is no small or easy thing to do, though, is it? Over our 56 years of marriage, and because of our different memberships and activities, some of our closest friends are those we only get to be with for two or three days each year . . . or two . . . or five years or more. Still, it is a joy each time we get together.

Friends in Council Bluffs, Iowa

2018--05--22 002-B -- Area map of Council Bluffs, Iowa2018--05--24 05 Council Bluffs, IA - Southside Christian Church - by Stan Paregien

For example, Peggy and I moved with our two small kids from Stroud, Oklahoma to Council Bluffs, Iowa in 1975. That was so I could serve as the preaching minister for the Southside Christian Church at 1919 S. 10th Street. During our relatively brief two-year stay, we made many friends. Lots of ’em. We were in and out of each other’s home, playing cards and games and going to the lake and on picnics and shopping trips to nearby Omaha, Nebraska. They were a great group of folks to be around.

Then in 1977, we moved back to Oklahoma where I became the preacher for our “home congregation,” the Stroud Christian Church in Stroud, Oklahoma. During the next three or four years, at least four families from Council Bluffs went off the beaten path to visit us. Slowly, though, we lost track of most of them. Life moved on. Oh, yes, there were a few we corresponded with for several years by letters and an occasional phone call. But it was more difficult to stay in touch, back then. You see, Virginia, there were no such things as “texts,” “emails,” or Skype back in the Dark Ages.

Time and distance took its toll on those friendships. Fast forward to 2018. We were invited to attend the 75th anniversary of the Kearney Church of Christ in Kearney, Nebraska. That’s where Peggy’s father preached from 1945 to 1954, before accepting a pastorate in Ventura, California. To attend this celebration, we would need to fly into Omaha and rent a car. Hmmmm. That got us to thinking. Council Bluffs is just across the Missouri River from Omaha. We wondered whether we should try to see whomever might be left of our old friends — from 41 years ago. We reasoned that many if not most of the people we had know fairly well in Council Bluffs had died. No doubt others had moved away or for whatever reason might have no interest in seeing us. Hmmmm. But . . . just maybe . . . . 

I was able to contact one of our dear friends from that era, Robert J. (“Bob”) Anderson. He and his son, Ron Anderson (who was a close friend with our son, Gene), and another Southsider named Larry Buckles (a current elder in the congregation; and a guy from Fletcher, Oklahoma) took the idea and ran with it. They decided to invite some of the old-timers to a reception for us at the church building on Wednesday, May 23rd at 1:00 pm. We wondered whether anyone would show up. After all, it had been . . . 41 years . . . yep, 41 years since we last set foot in Council Bluffs.

Larry and Bob picked us up at our nearby hotel about 9 am on Wednesday morning. We went by the Southside church building and looked at the improvements they had made. Then we went to the upstairs offices and I got to stand inside my old office for the first time in 41 years. It was occupied by the current preacher, Scott Weber, and we visited with him for quite some time. He is a new friend but with an interesting connection. He laughed as he told me he heard me speak a long time ago. In about 1976, I was invited to speak at a Bible lectureship at Nebraska Christian College in Norfolk, Neb. (Johnny Carson’s hometown, by the way). “I was a student in that audience,” Scott said with a smile. Any, another nice memory to add to my collection. I really liked Scott and I pray he will have a long and productive ministry with that congregation. 

Among those at the 1 pm reception were Bob Anderson, Larry Buckles, Gary and Barb Williams, Leo and Roberta Martin, George and Pam Roush, Jack and Carol Swanger and another couple, Craig and Annette Kruse. It was a wonderful time of hugging each other and sharing a lot of “Remember when . . . ?” moments.

2018--05--23 05--B2 Council Bluffs, IA - Southside Christian - Roush - Paregien

2018--05--23 06--B Council Bluffs, IA - Southside Christian - Larry Buckles

2018--05--23 07--A Council Bluffs, IA - Southside Christian - Roberta Martin

2018--05--23 07--B Council Bluffs, IA - Southside Christian - Leo Martin

2018--05--23 08--A Council Bluffs, IA - Southside Christian - Jack Swanger & Leo Martin

2018--05--23 09--A Council Bluffs, IA - Southside Christian - Gary Williams

2018--05--23 10--A Council Bluffs, IA - Southside Christian - Bob Anderson

2018--05--23 10--B Council Bluffs, IA - Southside Christian - Craig & Annette Kruse

2018--05--23 11--B Council Bluffs, IA - Southside Christian - group of men

Peggy and I first met George and Pam Rouse in 1975 or so when they were truth seeks, hungering for a closer walk with God. So Peggy and I and possibly some others met with them for prayer and Bible study over a long period of time. One evening Pam said she wanted to accept Christ, so we rejoiced at that and I baptized her. At this reception in 2018, she told me: “You gave me an inscribed copy of your brand new book, The Day Jesus Died. And in your inscription you suggested four things to remember and practice in my walk with the Lord. I have made those ideas part of my spiritual life ever since.” Another new memory for me, a very sweet and precious one.

George, on the other hand, was not ready to follow Pam’s lead. Not at that time. So we kept studying with and praying for him and loving on both of them. At this reception, George reminded us that one night we were all leaving the church building. Peggy was already in our car, but as George walked by she rolled down the window and said, “George, you know you really need to go ahead and accept Jesus as your Lord.” George smiled at her and said, “Peg, you’re kinda pushing me, aren’t you?” To which Peggy replied, “No, it’s not me. It’s the Holy Spirit pushing you, George.” He didn’t know quite what to say to that. But it wasn’t long before he, too, accepted Christ and I baptized him just as the apostles did Believers in the Book of Acts. Pam and George are still serving the Lord, and that is a tremendous encouragement to us.

The next day, on Thursday, May 24th, we spent all of the daylight hours being guided around to beautiful and historic sites in Council Bluffs and Omaha by Bob Anderson and Larry Buckles. The four of us nearly laughed ourselves silly, as we had often done “back in the good ol’ days.” Mid-morning we were joined for coffee by long-time Southsider Jerry Cook and also by Gary and Barb Williams (Gary retired from the CB Police Department some years ago with the rank of Assistant Police Chief).

2018--05--24 38--B Council Bluffs, IA - Gary & Barb Williams - by Stan Paregien

Larry Buckles drove us over to where his son, Travis Buckles, lives with his wife and children. Travis was just a pup when we knew him, a skinny blond-headed pre-teen who played on the church baseball team with our son. Travis has seven children and hasn’t strayed far from Council Bluffs all these years.

2018--05--24 39 Council Bluffs, IA - Stan Paregien, Travis and Larry Buckles - by Peggy Paregien

That evening, Bob Anderson invited us to his home for light refreshments. To our delight, we were joined by his son and daughter-in-law, Ron and Kelli Anderson, and by our mutual friend Aaron Jones. Aaron’s late parents, Harvey and Lilly Jones, were always kind and gracious toward us. And Aaron got the same gene. He actually worked with me as the Associate Minister at Southside for a time. He is a diligent student of the Word and a strong Believer. Aaron now lives at The Center in downtown Council Bluffs, a very nice senior citizen apartment complex built and operated by the city.

Ronnie Anderson spent a lot of time at our house there in Council Bluffs. He only lived a couple of blocks south of us, and he and our son were about the same age and on the church baseball team together, etc. Likewise, our son spent many hours at Bob and Chris Anderson’s house (she passed away, but he still lives in the same house) playing with Ronnie. Ron and Kelli have been active in youth ministry for several years, while working at other full-time jobs. Their son Noah Anderson is now a youth minister in Omaha.

2018--05--24 81 Council Bluffs, IA - Aaron Jones, Stan Paregien & Bob Anderson - by Peggy Paregien

2018--05--24 83--C Council Bluffs, IA - Ron & Kelli Anderson, S Paregien - by Peggy Paregien

As we hugged Ron and Kelli, I mentioned to her I had heard a lot of good things about her and I was so pleased to meet her. She smiled and then sort of shocked me when she said, “Oh, you have met me before. Both my sister and I were baptized into Christ by you.” Yikes. No covering up my senior moment that time. She reminded me she is a granddaughter of the late Wayne and Esther Rutledge (he was an elder back then and she played the organ in church).

When we left Council Bluffs on Friday morning, it was with both joy and sadness in our hearts. Extreme joy from such an uplifting and inspiring reunion with friends from 41 long years ago. And some sadness from knowing we’ll probably not see most of them again in this life. We praise the Lord, though, that there will be an eternity of reunion time when all of the Redeemed reach heaven.

NOTE:  I have posted a large number of “Albums” on different topics on my FLICKR account. You may view lots of photos of our visit to Council Bluffs in the “Iowa” Album on my FLICKR account, found at:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/114140996@N07/albums/72157695908387504

A High School Friend: John Ford

John Ford and I are right about the same age (I think he turns 77 this summer and I do so in October). His first eight years were spent with his parents in Bakersfield, Calif. Then his parents moved to Fillmore (Ventura County), California. That’s where he started 2nd grade. His father was a certified welder, working mainly in the oilfields. His folks (or maybe his grandparents) had migrated to California from Balko, Oklahoma — a tiny community in sparsely populated Beaver County in the panhandle.

I, on the other hand, was born in tiny Wapanucka, Oklahoma (south central Oklahoma, south of Ada and north of Durant). My parents (Harold and Evelyn Paregien), paternal grandparents (Frank and Mattie Paregien), and several uncles and an aunt and maybe an outlaw or two headed for Ventura County in 1942 to take advantage of all the war-time jobs available in the area. Several went to work for the U.S. Navy at Port Hueneme. My dad did that until the war ended, then he went back to farming. This time it was on the Todd Estate about three miles west of Santa Paula, working in the orange orchards. 

We lived for about three years near the Los Angeles County/Ventura County line on Highway 126, about six miles east of Piru, Calif. My dad worked in the orchards of English walnut trees owned by the large and historic Newhall Land & Farming Company (aka “Newhall Ranch”). The company provided an old, wood-framed house (no insulation) for us, located on the south side of the Highway, about 150 yards inside the Los Angeles County line. That was just enough that my sister Roberta and I could not go to the nearby schools in Ventura County (Piru and Fillmore). Instead, we rode the school bus a long way over to Castaic Elementary and me on to William S. Hart High School in Newhall (now Santa Clarita) for junior high. 

We left the Newhall Ranch in the summer of 1955 and moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma. Not since 1942 had my mom been able to live close to her parents, John and Vada Cauthen, who lived maybe four miles west of us. However, the wages were much lower there, so we loaded up another U-Haul trailer and moved back to Ventura County. My dad went to work farming orange trees on the Edwards Ranch, about a mile west of Piru. My mom soon became the Cafeteria Manager at Piru Elementary School. Later, she would be promoted to Cafeteria Manager at San Cayetano Elementary in Fillmore, then to Supervisor of all the school cafeterias in Fillmore and Piru. After a while that position was eliminated and she gracefully returned to her starting place: Piru Elementary, with Glenda Gregory DeJarnette helping her. Glenda also graduated with the Fillmore Class of 1959 and, when my mom retired, she became the manager.

So in September of 1956, I enrolled in the 10th grade at Fillmore. That is when my path crossed that of John Ford. In the spring of 1957, we were both on the Boxing Team under coach Simmons. We were both in the Lettermen Club (the he-man, me Tarzan organization on campus), though John lettered three years in track and I played two years of football, lettering my senior year. We were also in the social . . . and may I dare say, Christian . . . organization called Hi-Y. John played a mean clarinet in the band, while I horsed around in the Choir where the girls far outnumbered the boys and I liked the odds. And, of course, we attended various classes and special events together.

1950G graphic - a blast from our past1957-004--A Fillmore, CA - Boxing Match brochure - March 21, 1957

1957-004--B --Boxers - Stan Paregien

1957-004--C BoxingTourament - FillmoreCA

1957-022--A Boxing Team FillmoreCA - March, 1957

1957-022--B Boxing Team FillmoreCA March, 1957

1957-023--A--BoxingClips1957-023--C--BoxingClips

1957-024zzz-- BoxingCoach EdSimmons

1957-025 Boxing Team Winners

1957-026 FootballTeam-FillmoreCA

1957-001--C Stan Paregien---football - fall of 57

1957-252 Fillmore, CA - Track Team

1958-001--G--Football--FillmoreCA--Fall1958--StanParegien

1958-045--H--1984 article about '58 Football Team by Charles Mozley

1958-109-FUHS-HiY--Stan

1958-128-FUHS-Lettermen

1958-143-FUHS-track

1959-026--K1 Seniors--Large Group - Stan Paregien, John Ford - Fillmore, CA

1959-026--K2--C---Seniors-- John Ford - Fillmore, CA

1959-026--K3--Seniors Fillmore, CA -- Stan Paregien

1959-026--K4--Seniors Fillmore, CA -- John Ford

1959-031 LettermanClub-StanP

1959-031-B Fillmore, CA - Letterman Club - StanParegien, Clint Anderson, John Ford

1959-071 Fillmore, CA -- Officers for the Class of 1959

1959-120--B Hi-Y-Club---FillmoreCA Ferrill Williams, Stan Paregien & John Ford

1959-136--D--TRACK - Fillmore, CA

1959-136--E--TRACK - Fillmore, CA - John Ford

1959-202---FUHS-Band--FillmoreCA

1959-203---FUHS-Band--FillmoreCA

However, . . . John and I never did double-date at the drive-in movie theater in Santa Paula or take our respective dates up in the balcony (passion pit) at the Fillmore Theater; we were not beer drinkin’ buddies; we never backed each other in street rumbles; we never did sleepovers at each other’s houses; we never burned any midnight oil together at any late-night study sessions; we never did go fishing together up Sespe Creek; we never got together and went cat hunting at night, driving by the orange orchards and shining lights down the rows; we never did drag racing together; etc., etc., and so forth. There were just a whole lot of thing we never did together. We were certainly acquainted, but we ran in different circles I guess.

Then came graduation night in June of 1959. And afterward, like those tiny fluffy cottonwood seeds, we scattered with the wind to here, there and everywhere. I would never see most of those classmates again. Ever. That fall I drove my 1955 Ford to Amarillo, Texas to study ministry at a small private school. John Ford, meanwhile, put his track shoes on and tried to outrun the military draft. Yes, Virginia, the government did such a thing back then. Ever hear of Viet Nam? It was coming, and eventually John would go there. But before that he enrolled at nearby Ventura College. He told me he lasted about 13 weeks before seeing he was not college material right then. So he decided he would join the U.S. Marines, but . . . their recruiting office was way up in Santa Barbara or such. “Not to fear,” he thought, and turned around and joined the U.S. Navy because their office was in Ventura.

While in the U.S. Navy, he was trained in electronics. Very sophisticated electronics. He worked in that field the rest of his working career. Somewhere in that process, John married a Fillmore girl from the Class of 1962. They moved to the Washington, D.C. area, where he eventually earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He went to work for the Department of Education in their Information Technology department. He and his first wife had a family, then as things sometimes happen, he and his first wife divorced. Later, he married a native of China named Ying, who had a son by a previous relationship. They are all active in hikings, biking, etc. Ying Ford even competes in the “Iron Woman” world events, the next being in Chattanooga, Tenn., in late September.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch in Piru, . . . I married a foreigner myself, a cutie named Peggy Allen (daughter of W.W. “Woody” & Pauline Allen) from way over yonder in Ventura, Calif. That was on May 31, 1962. We moved to Nashville, Tenn., that August and I entered Lipscomb University. I graduated with my B.A. in Speech Communication in 1965. Next we moved to Albuquerque, N.M. Peggy went to work as a new accounts rep at the Bank of New Mexico and I started work on my master’s at the University of New Mexico. Little did we know, there was something suspect about the water supply there . . . because in a few months she was very much pregnant. 

We received a bouncing baby boy in Las Cruces, New Mexico in September of 1966. And I received my M.A. in Speech Communication from UNM. Upward and onward, as I worked toward my goal of one day teaching speech in some college. In the summer of 1968, we moved to Oklahoma City. I enrolled at the University of Oklahoma. Sixty class hours and one language later, I received . . . nothing. I had run out of both energy and money without completing two more things: (1) one more language requirement; and (2) writing my dissertation. 

So I dropped out of graduate school and took a sales job. Later, I would return to preaching full-time, and then back to sales of one kind or another, mainly. We spent twenty years (1993-2013) living in Edmond, Okla. Peggy spent most of that time working at the Southwest Airlines reservation center in Oklahoma City. After we both retired, we moved here to Florida. We had two children: Stanley Jr. (aka Gene through high school and Stan, afterwards) and Stacy.

We have been married for 56 years and are now grandparents and great-grandparents, thank you very much. When Peggy slipped up and accepted my marriage proposal, some folks said it would be a “slip knot” and it wouldn’t last. Most of those folks are dead, now, and we are still in love. Those doubters just didn’t know what a loving and forgiving person Peggy was and is. That is the plain secret of our longevity. 

Well, neighbors, let’s return to our mini-reunion with John Ford. Somehow, a point lost in my foggy memory, John and I began touching base once in awhile via emails and/or Facebook. Recently he told me he and Ying would be vacationing at Treasure Island Resort on Gulf Avenue in Treasure Island, Florida. That is a small beach community due west of St. Petersburg and about 40 miles north of us. So we exchanged more emails and a couple of phone calls and made a meeting happen. Together, again, after only 59 years. It was really nice meeting Ying and John, as well as John’s son Jeff and his family.

1950B Treasure Island, FL - Ying & John Ford with Stan & Peggy Paregien - by Peggy Paregien

1950A Treasure Island, FL - John Ford and Stan Paregien, classmates in Fillmore, CA in 1959 - by Peggy Paregien

Well, John Ford and I are card-carrying members of that big group of “Fillmore Flashes” (our school’s dorky mascot), only our cards have “Emeritus” on them. And the “Flash” in our “Fillmore Flashes” has dimmed considerably with the passing years. Still, our’s was a very enjoyable reunion and I found out more about John than I ever knew before. John, old buddy, we’ll have to get together just a wee bit more often than every 59 years.

In June of 2018, John and I and the remaining folks of our original 125 classmates in 1959, will celebrate the 60th anniversary of our graduation. John has already told me he cannot make it out to Fillmore for that Alumni Association meeting. I’m still debating the pros and cons of such an event. 

Cartoon-ClassReunion-Shoe

Anyway, here is a copy of the lyrics and guitar chords for Roger Miller’s song, “Old Friends.” I like it a lot, and so I share it with both old friends and new . . . like you.

Old Friends -- song by Roger Miller

True friendship brings sunshine to the shade, and shade to the sunshine.  — Thomas Burke

If a man does not make new acquaintances as he advances through life, he will soon find himself left alone. A man . . . should keep his friendship in constant repair.  — Samuel Johnson, quoted in Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson (1775)

friend-like-a-bra

A friend is always a friend, and relatives are born to share our troubles. — Proverbs 17:17, Contemporary English Version

A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere. Before him I may think aloud. I am arrived at least in the presence of a man so real and equal that I may drop even those undermost garments of dissimulation, courtesy, and second thought, which men never put off, and may deal with him with the simplicity and wholeness with which one chemical atom meets another. — Ralph Waldo Emerson (American philosopher) in Friendship

Friends -- Peanuts -- 02 -- Snoopy

The sweet smell of incense can make you feel good, but true friendship is better still. — Proverbs 27:9, Contemporary English Version

My grandfather Wood advised his large family of seven daughters and one son, “When you move to a new place and want to make friends, go to the church, for there you will find the best people.” I agree with him. They may not be perfect people (indeed, who is?), but most of them know that. That’s why they go to church—for help to become better people and to grow in the knowledge and love of God.  – Dale Evans Rogers (1912 to 2001; singer, actress, movie star and author; wife to cowboy movie star Roy Rogers), Time Out, Ladies! (1966), p. 81.

Friends -- make new friends, but keep the old

Don’t desert an old friend of your family or visit your relatives when you are in trouble. A friend nearby is better than relatives far away. — Proverbs 27:10, CEV

 

Friends - until we are old and senile, then we'll be new friends

You are better off to have a friend than to be all alone, because then you will get more enjoyment out of what you earn. If you fall, your friend can help you up. But if you fall without having a friend nearby, you are really in trouble. — Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, CEV

friends -- forever

 

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Issue 373 – Six Freebies for You

Logo -- The Paregien Journal -- 2018--01--18 -- 800 X 195 pix X 400 dpi

The Paregien Journal  —  Issue 373  —  Feb. 24, 2018  —  Published Occasionally

Six Freebies for You

Free--002--round, red button

I have a number of free documents posted on my Google Drive storage account in a public folder.They are all in the popular PDF format, and all you have to do to read them is to go to the link below.

In addition, you may download any or all of them to your own PC’s hard drive . . . or upload them to your own cloud storage. One big advantage of a cloud account – such as Apple – iCloud; Google – Drive; Microsoft Outlook – OneDrive; etc. – is this: then you will be able to access that material through your PC, your tablet, your laptop, your smartphone, and so forth.

Here are the items I’ve posted there so far:

  1. Evelyn Cauthen Paregien Spradling: Her Story  (1922-2011)

Article cover -- 1975 Photo of Evelyn Paregien Spradling

This is my personal tribute to my mother. I completed this 179 page document and released it on the 7th anniversary of her death – Feb. 23, 2011. This is a remarkable story of her growing up in south-central Oklahoma during the Great Depression, the daughter of dirt-poor sharecroppers, getting married and moving to California where life became a whole lot easier and better. I worked hard to let her love, faith and integrity clearly show. 

This essay really amounts to a book, since it is 180 pages long. It contains well over 300 photos and documents, mainly from her total of 30+ years in Oklahoma and 52 years in Ventura County, California. Many of the stories and photos relate, specifically to towns in which we lived: Santa Paula, Fillmore, Piru and Newhall (in Los Angeles County).

  1. An Open Letter to Christian Friends  (May 18, 1972)

Book cover -- 02 - Open Letter -- May 18, 1972

This document will be of special interest to who grew up in (or are still in) religious groups which grew out of the “Restoration Movement” which started in the United States in about 1804 and rapidly grew. It was a recognition that followers of Christ by those days had divided into warring factions, and an effort to unite those Believers by using the Bible (not denominational creeds and disciples) as the standard for work and worship.

I wrote this letter to a few dozen friends way back on May 18, 1972 to explain why Peggy and I were changing from one Christian segment to another. Then in 2018 I rediscovered the letter and added an explanatory preface and a list of resources. It may also be of historical interest to those who study . . . or have to deal with . . . divisions within Christianity.

One of the factors in our leaving the group we’d been part of for our whole lives was their theological position regarding the use of instrumental music in worship. They were a’gin it. That is, they favored a cappella (voices only) in worship. There are other churches who advocate the same thing, though maybe not was loudly as we did. But that is only a part of the equation, as you will read.

  1. The Day Jesus Died (eBook in 2013)

1968-001 Cover of The Day Jesus Died

This book was published as a hardback in Austin, Texas in 1970. Back then I was a minister, first with the University Church of Christ in Las Cruces, New Mexico and then with the Mayfair Church of Christ in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. It was a collection of my sermons and magazine articles. It went out of print, but in 2012 or so I started revising many of the chapters. So, as with the more than a dozen other eBooks of mine, you may find them and buy them by simply Googling “books by Stan Paregien.” This PDF copy, however, is free.

  1. Oklahoma Almanac of Facts & Humor: Part 1

Cover--Part 1 -- Oklahoma Almanac--2013 --- Nigh 1773w x 2400 x 95dpi

Published: May 21, 2013. Category: Nonfiction. Foreword by the Honorable George Nye, former Governor of Oklahoma. This eBook is Part 1 of 2 containing facts about the state of Oklahoma. Part 1 covers Achille to Nowata. It is not your grandpa’s boring history book. The author starts by telling the unique stories of 148 towns, including those which are a county seat in one of Oklahoma’s 77 counties. He includes photos, prominent people and humorous stories. Part 1 covers such towns as Ada, Atoka, Broken Arrow, Catoosa, Chandler, Claremore, Clinton, Del City, Durant, Eufaula, Elk City, Erick, Lawton, McAlester, Midwest City, Moore, and Norman.

  1. Manatee County, Florida: Facts, Folks and Photos

 

Master Cover -- Manatee County, FL -- Stan Paregien 01 1,900 X 2,561 X 600 dpi

This eBook is a combination of one part travel guide for the beaches and other attractions in Manatee County, one part who’s who of today’s leaders and yesterday’s heroes and heroines, one part family photo album, and one part a history book containing over 450 photos and 470 biographical sketches. It is written in a conversational style with touches of wit, wisdom, mystery and spice. There’s all kinds of factual information about our beautiful beaches and our vibrant history. But you’ll want to spent a lot of time in Chapter 3. There you’ll see photos and biographical sketches of hundreds of Manatee County people. Learn why the heck we do things like we do them (Hint: “Because that’s how grandma and grandpa used to do it.”) You’ll meet some of our wonderful pioneer families, a great many solid citizens, plus a lot of folks who work doggoned hard to make this County an even better place to live or to visit.

  1. A List of Stan Paregien’s eBooks

This lists the 16 eBooks by Stan Paregien which are available at various retailers online. Also a brief bio.

Here’s the magic link for any or all of the above:

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1AYwU8g8IZo9v4nwXIBnDaXrpqmd6InRI

PLEASE NOTE:  The link above is subject to being changed at any time without notice.

Happy reading, my friends.

— Stan Paregien

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Issue 371 – Christmas Truces in 1914

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The Paregien Journal     –     Issue 371     –     December 8, 2017

A true story worth sharing . . . 

Christmas Truces in 1914:

Peace in the Trenches of World War I

 by Stan Paregien

Copyrighted Dec. 8, 2017

War and Peace - The Christmas Truce on Dec 25, 1914 During World War I - painting in the ILLUSTRATED LONDON NEWS - Jan, 1915

World War I began as a dispute between Austria-Hungary and Serbia on July 28, 1914, but soon involved many countries of the world. It pitted the “Allied Forces” such as Serbia, Belgium, France, Great Britain and Ireland, Italy, Japan and Russia against the so-called “Central Powers” such as Serbia, Germany, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire. The United States did not officially join the Allied forces until 1917.  Many journalists and politicians billed this military struggle as “the war to end all wars.” By the end of World War I on November 11, 1918 , some 25 million people – soldiers and civilians – had been killed or serious injured. And when the smoke cleared, no one saw it as an antidote to future wars.

By November of 1914, all allusions about this war being a short one were gone. Along the Western Front, each side was dug-in to fortified, well-defended trenches and underground tunnels. This had become a war of attrition, depression and sometimes boredom.

1915--War--World War 2 -- digging trenches

War--WW 1 -- British solders on the Western Front opposite Germans - slighly damp trench -- 01

War--WW 1 -- Map of the Western Front in 1914

However, a striking example of human decency and goodwill took place mainly on the Western Front between some of the British troops and some of the opposing German troops just five months after the war had started in Europe. One hour these young soldiers were trying to kill their enemies in their trenches often less than a hundred yards away. Each army was hunkered down in their respective muddy trenches, cold and lonely and experiencing a mixture of fear and courage.

1915--War--World War 2 -- military-- medical -- shellshock

It was shortly just before midnight on Christmas Eve that a series of purely spontaneous and often unauthorized truces broke out along the long battle line. Most believe it was the German boys who started it when they stopped firing their rifles and machine guns and artillery. As that awkward peace lingered, those German troops began singing Christmas songs. In a few places, some even accompanied the singing with harmonicas or bugles.

Naturally, the leaders of the British troops were at first skeptical of this “truce” and viewed it as a trick to lull them into a false sense of security. But it wasn’t that at all. Soon, here and there along the Western Front, British troops began singing out their own Christmas carols with both pleasure and gusto. Their own musicians kicked in with whatever instruments they had at their disposal. And the Germans began yelling out in their own language or even in broken English, “Merry Christmas.” And the British troops in those spots along the war zone responded with their own shouts of “Merry Christmas to all.”

1914 -- World War 1 - German soldiers with an Xmas tree and singing carols

That kind of activity lasted through the early morning hours of Christmas Day, Dec. 25, 1914. Then just after dawn, amazingly, a handful of young German troops stood up with their arms outstretched to show they were not armed. After a few minutes they slowly walked toward the opposing troops and across “no-man’s land.” Just as bravely, a few of the British troops crawled out of their trenches and walked toward the Germans with their own arms outstretched in a sign of friendship. The two groups met in the middle ground, shook hands and even embraced in generous expressions of friendship. In a few minutes, many others from both sides joined the group standing exposed in the middle of the battlefield. They sang Christmas songs with the same melodies, but their different languages. And they laughed. A lot. A few even brought out leather-bound soccer balls and the two sides played “kick ball” or “kick about.”

1914 -- World War 1 - British and German soldiers sharing a Christmas tree

It was during these brief but enthusiastic kick ball competitions that the Germans got both an education and a chuckle or two. In one location there was a regiment of British troops from Scotland and they wore their traditional kilts on the battlefield. A German lieutenant, Johannes Niemann, years later recalled the scene this way:

1914--War--World War1 -- Scottish & German solders playing kick ball on Xmas Day

“Us Germans really roared when a gust of wind revealed that the Scots wore no drawers under their kilts—and hooted and whistled every time they caught an impudent glimpse of one posterior belonging to one of ‘yesterday’s enemies.’ But after an hour’s play, when our Commanding Officer heard about it, he sent an order that we must put a stop to it. A little later we drifted back to our trenches and the fraternization ended.”

Scottish soldiers in kilts in 1915 during WW 1

This entirely impromptu show of the brotherhood of man soon had them exchanging small gifts – perhaps a coin from their own respective currency, chocolate bars, military dress buttons, a pack of cigarettes, a can of peaches or plum pudding, a spare patch of their military unit or whatever they had at hand. In a few instances, prisoners were even exchanged and each side given time to bury their dead. This scene was repeated in many places along the Western war front as spontaneous gestures of goodwill, if only for a day.

Peace in the trenches, what a marvelous Christmas gift.

Of course, not all units of either Army participated in the truces. Some never even heard of them, since they were spontaneous and unauthorized beyond low-level officers right there in the field. Others among  both the German and the British sides actually opposed such unauthorized fraternization with the enemy. When reports of these truces and fraternization reached the higher commanders, stern rebukes were issued and penalties imposed for such unauthorized actions. One of those who stood opposed to such truces was the French military leader Charles de Gaulle, and another was a young German officer named . . . Adolph Hitler of the 16th Bavarian Reserve Infantry. 

Meanwhile, away from the actual battlefields there were pockets of anti-war protestors who saluted the spontaneous truces but protested for far more. When the United States began drafting young men into the military in 1917, it was labor leader Eugene V. Debs who opposed it and was sent to a Federal prison until 1920. Bertrand Russell, one of Britain’s leading intellectuals, spoke out against the war and spent six-months in a London jail for his efforts. Likewise, Rosa Luxemburg was an anti-war German leader who was imprisoned for two years for her protests.

Also, unfortunately, even on that Christmas day in 1914 killing and dying took place not far from some of those truce celebrations. Here are two examples.

In the darkness just before dawn, near the French village of Festubert—just a half-mile from some of the truce celebrations, several German soldiers hoisted lamps up above their trenches. “Those lamps looked like Chinese lanterns” some said. Then they called out to their British counterparts across the no man’s land. The men shouted out an offer for a day of mutual piece on this Christmas day. A British officer, thinking it was a ruse, ordered his men to shoot out those glowing lamps and they did. The German troops got the message, dismissed their generous overture to the British, and had their own short period of singing Christmas carols.

 

Huggins, Percy - British soldier killed on Dec 25, 1914 -- 02

Photo of  Private Percy Huggins

(1) So it was that later that day  a  23-year old private from England named Percy Huggins (1st Battalion Hertfordshire Regiment ) was at his assigned post.  It was business as usual on his part of the Western Front. He was stationed on the line less than a hundred  yards from a German  trench   Private Huggins peeked over the mound of dirt in front of his own trench and that is when a German sniper fired a fatal bullet through his head.

(2) The men of Huggins’ regiment were enraged by his killing on this Christmas day. Immediately, his platoon Sergeant, Tom Gregory, demanded and received permission to take his comrade’s position to give him a chance at avenging his friend’s death. Sgt. Gregory, was 36-years old and an expert marksman himself. Back home in Watford, England he had worked for the postal service. On this frigid day he lay still on the frost covered dirt and soon saw the German sniper and killed him with one shot. Instantly, he detected the movement of another sniper but before he could aim his own rifle the second sniper shot and killed him.

These two British soldiers were among  their 149 fellow soldiers who lost their lives on that Christmas day in 1914 (some who died that day had had  previously-inflicted battle wounds). And, of course, a number of German troops – like the one sniper mentioned above — were killed on that day as well.

By 1915, both sides had perfected new technologies of killing their enemies such a machine guns and tanks. One of the most frightening weapons, but not terribly efficient, was the release of poison gas, a tactic used by both the Allied Forces and the Cenral  Powers. By 1917, both sides were experiencing  sharp increases in deaths and carnage. So, not surprisingly, all sides demonized their opponents. And no more opportunities occurred for such spontaneous truces as those in 1914.

Still, those amazing displays of brotherhood and humanity between opposing troops on Christmas day in 1914 are still poignant reminders of what can happen between people of goodwill. That unique day has inspired poems like that of Carol Ann Duffy (Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom) in 2013 titled “The Christmas Truce” and songs like “Christmas in the Trenches” by John McCutcheon in 1984, as well as scores of articles like this one you’re reading and dozens of books like scholar Adam Hochschild’s volume titled To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918.

So let’s all stop for a moment, making our own truce in the middle of our busy lives. Is there a person or a group of people with whom you have had difficulties that you might take a first step of peace . . . and perhaps of reconciliation? 

The apostle Paul certainly was echoing the ministry of Jesus when he wrote in Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Maybe you could break the ice between you and an estranged relative . . . or between you and a group of people . . . or between your congregation (or club or organization) and another by handing key people a copy of this article. And say something to the effect that you’d like to stop shooting at each other and have a truce, with a view toward lasting peace.

My hope is the examples of these warring troops who reached out to each other on Christmas day in 1914 will motivate us to establish our own spontaneous truces where the influence of the Prince of Peace is desperately needed.

Sources:

Bajekal, Naina. “Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce of 1914.” Published online by Time magazine at: http://time.com/3643889/christmas-truce-1914/. Accessed on Dec. 7, 2017.

Brown, Malcolm and Shirley Seaton. The Christmas Truce: The Western Front December 1914. London: Papermac, 1994.

“Christmas is for Sharing.” This was a Christmas-time ad (video) which was produced in 2014 as a TV commercial by the Sainsbury’s chain of grocery stores in the eastern United State. You may view it on YouTube at:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KHoVBK2EVE

“Christmas Truce.” Wikipedia, accessed on Dec. 1, 2017. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_truce)

“Christmas truce of 1914 was broken when German snipers killed two British soldiers.”

Posted to the web site of the London Telegraph newspaper on Dec. 22, 2014 near the 100th anniversary of this event. Accessed Dec. 2, 2017 at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/world-war-one/11307513/Christmas-truce-of-1914-was-broken-when-German-snipers-killed-two-British-soldiers.html ]

Cleaver, Alan and Lesley Park (eds.). The Christmas Truce 1914: Operation Plum Puddings, accessed December 22, 2011.  

Dash, Mike. “The Story of the WWI Christmas Truce.” An article for the Smithsonian Museum Magazine which was published on their web site on Dec. 23, 2011. Accessed on Dec. 2, 2017 at:  https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-story-of-the-wwi-christmas-truce-11972213/   

Ferro, Marc and‎ Malcolm Brown and‎ Rémy Cazals and Olaf Mueller. Meetings in No Man’s Land: Christmas 1914 and Fraternization in the Great War. London: Constable & Robinson, 2007.

Cleaver, Alan and Lesley Park.  Not a Shot was Fired: Letters from the Christmas Truce 1914.  Alan Cleaver, Publisher. 2nd Edition in full color, 2008.

“Christmas Truce of 1914,” a video.  History.com   Accessed on Dec. 7, 2017 online at: http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-i/christmas-truce-of-1914

Hochschild, Adam. To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914–1918. New York: Mariner Books by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011.

Kuper, Simon. “Soccer in the trenches: Remembering the WWI Christmas Truce.”  Published on the ESPN sports web site on Dec. 25, 2015. Accessed on Dec. 7, 2017 at: http://www.espn.com/soccer/blog/espn-fc-united/68/post/2191045/christmas-truce-soccer-matches-during-world-war-one.

Rees, Simon. “The Christmas Truce.” Published online on Aug. 22, 2009 at http://firstworldwar.com/features/christmastruce.htm . Accessed on Dec. 7, 2017. “First World War.com” bills itself as “a multimedia history of World War One.”

Snow, Dan.  “What really happened in the Christmas truce of 1914?”  A presentation on the British Broadcasting Company’s TV channel. Accessed Dec. 1, 2017 online at

 http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/zxsfyrd.

“The Christmas Truce.” A song written by John McKutcheon in 1984 about the truces in the trenches of World War I along the Western Front in Europe. See and hear him perform his song on YouTube at: https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=chords+for+the+song%2c+%22Christmas+in+the+Trenches%22&&view=detail&mid=2E284897E6744A13B6DE2E284897E6744A13B6DE&&FORM=VDRVRV

Twitter, Jon Wiener. “The Day the Troops Refused to Fight: December 25, 1914.”  Published in the online version of The Nation magazine on Dec. 23, 2014 to mark the 100th anniversary of this remarkable day. Accessed on Dec. 1, 2017 at:

https://www.thenation.com/article/day-troops-refused-fight-december-25-1914/ ]

Weintraub, Stanley. “Demystifying the Christmas truce.” The Heritage of the Great War.  __________.  Silent Night: The Remarkable Christmas Truce Of 1914. London: Simon & Schuster, 2001.

“World War I.” Wikipedia. Accessed on Dec. 1, 2017. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_I.

 

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Some Thoughts on Cats and Dogs,

Candles, and Romans 14

 By Curtis K. Shelburne

Copyrighted Dec. 4, 2017

Getting ready. That’s what Advent is about.

At church we lit the first candle of Advent this morning, and, as I write on this Sunday evening, I’m sitting in a quiet house, enfolded by the warm glow of the light from our Christmas tree.

I didn’t grow up observing Advent or, for that matter, any of the other seasons of the “Christian calendar.” I was unaware that there was such a thing, and in our non- or anti-denomination denomination, there most certainly was not. I was blessed by “our” folks and still love them, but our bunch back then wasn’t even very sure about celebrating Christmas as a “religious” holiday. We weren’t the only ones. Chalk that, and a lot of this, up to our common Puritan ancestors, I think, who tended to be suspicious of both color and celebration.  But, honestly, I need to read more history to be sure I’m being fair with them.

As I grew older, I suppose I became vaguely aware that Lent was a time preceding Easter and, I thought, seemed to have something maybe to do with eating fish on Fridays. What else? I didn’t know.

As is the case with all of us pretty much all of the time, I needed very badly to learn a little more history to be able to make more sense out of the present and plot a wise course for the future. And, as a Christian, I desperately needed to read more church history for the very same reasons.

I also needed to learn some things other members of Christ’s family could teach me if we’d just try to cross over our walls occasionally and visit a bit. Not only do we honor our Lord by doing so (he prayed poignantly for the unity of God’s people, you know, in John 17), we also put ourselves in a position to learn some things. We might or might not choose to make some changes in our own situations, but at least we might come to understand more about the decisions and practices of other folks who love and honor their Lord every bit as much as our own little group does. The guy who said that cats and dogs who try spending more time with each other often find it to be a very broadening experience was on to something.

Differences among Christians regarding the keeping—or not—of special days is nothing new. When the Holy Spirit made it clear that God wanted the doors of his church opened wide to both Jews and Gentiles (the gulf between them was vastly wider than that between, say, a Baptist and a Lutheran) well, you never saw cats and dogs have a harder time figuring out how to live under one roof.

Ironically, then it was the more conservative folks who felt duty-bound to observe special feast days, and folks on the other end of the spectrum who felt perfectly free not to. Read the amazing Romans 14 to see God’s incredible counsel to his kids about dealing with differences. Don’t stand in judgment on each other, he says. Make a decision that you believe honors Christ. In love, let your brothers and sisters do the same. And don’t you kids dare look down on each other or try to make laws for one another! You’ve got one Master. You’re not him.

By the way, it turns out that Lent has precious little to do with fish. Advent does have something to do with candles (and I like candles). But both have a lot to do with preparing our hearts to more fully receive what God is doing. Personally, I like that a lot. Personally, I need that a lot.

[Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne of Muleshoe, TX. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice. You’re invited to visit his website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com ]

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Issue 370 – Christmas Cheer

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The Paregien Journal     –     Issue 370     –     Dec. 4, 2017

Christmas Cheer

Ah, here we are. Another holiday season with both Christmas and New Years Day fast approaching. Amid the din of noisy TV and radio commerials and the ads packing each issue of our newspaper, there is still an opportunity now and then to push the pause button and reflect on what the Christmas season means to me and to our society.

Oh, sure, there are those who see Christmas as just a time for more than a “cup of cheer,” more like a keg of beer and pretzels and tacos. Their anthem is,. “Let’s party! And, oh yeah, Merry Christmas and all that stuff.”

I was reminded recently about how a great many Americans and people in other cultures around the world still pause on Christmas to speak a word of kindness or to actually do a neighborly act for someone as a way of honoring the man Jesus who outgrew that manger in Bethleham and devoted his life to doing good for everyone.

On Saturday, November 17, 2017, we were guests of our son and his wife at whole day walking around Silver Dollar City near Branson, Missouri. People were there for the amusement rides, the Christmas parade, the lights and the vast selection of food items. In addition, though, at about 1:30 pm we joined an overflow crowd (I’d guess about 500 people) who found seats in the beautiful theater there. And then we were all treated to a live play, a really fine production of Charles Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol.” Like many of you grey-haired or no-haired folks, I have seen several versions of that play. 

However, I must say that this production on that day was the best I’ve ever experienced. The actors were simply superb. The orchestra was magnificent. The sets were like candy for the eyes. And the audience, . . . well, they clapped enthusiastically at the right times and wiped their eyes, as did I, at the quiet and emotional moments. I was so glad I got to experience that production and to do so with family and friends. Despite the fridgid north wind and the occasional rain, I was overjoyed to be there. Again I was reminded that people really do enjoy good stories with good moral values — honesty, loyalty to family and friends, sacrificial love of dedicated mothers and fathers for their children, and that still wonderful bond of community between people of diverse backgrounds.

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On Sunday, Dec. 3rd, we were out kicking around with friends Michael & Penny Letichevsky. Since Peggy and I had outfitted in “Christmas colors,” we all stopped by the Desoto Mall in Bradenton for Penny to take a few photos to try to get one we could insert in a few Christmas cards.

This shot was a great one, by our standards, but it came in 2nd place.

2017--12--03 03B Bradenton, FL - Stan & Peggy Paregien by Penny Letichevsky

The “1st Place” photo was totally unexpected. Ol’ Santa himself left his station where he was available for photos with kids . . . and sneaked up behind us and got into one of our photos. We love it, because we were blissfully ignorant he was right behind us and getting in on the fun.

2017--12--03 03A Bradenton, FL - Stan & Peggy Paregien by Penny Letichevsky

Yep, as you can probably tell from the above photo, both Peggy and I have trimmed down considerably over the last four months or so. I feel better now than I have in many years. And prettier, too. Yuk-yuk.

2017--12--03 09 Bradenton, FL - Stan and Peggy Paregien - by Penny Letichevsky

And Now, . . . A Word About

Football

Sooners.

Yes, as in the University of Oklahoma Sooners football team. They sport a record of 12 wins and one loss. And on New Years Day they will play the University of Georgia Bulldogs at the one-and-only Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. Later that night, the Clemson Tigers will play the Univerity of Alabama Tide. Then the winners of those two games will play for the National Championship.

2017--10--12 Logo for the University of Oklahoma Sooners

Congratulations to the OU football players, to their coaches and to their supporters — “the Sooner Nation.” I am of the humble, unbiased opinion that the Sooners will neuter the Dogs in their semi-finals game and will finally reign as the National Champions.

2017--10--13 Logo for the University of Oklahoma Sooners

After all, we have a not-too-secret weapon in our quarterback, Baker Mayfield, likely the next Heisman Trophy winner as the best football player in America, the world and our universe.

2017--10--10 Baker Mayfield, quarterback at Oklahoma University Sooners

Go Sooners!!

 

Betts, Don -- Wagging a Yuletide Dogs Tale -- 2017-12-25 Page 1 of 3

[Don Betts’ poem, Wagging a Yuletide Dogs Tale]

Betts, Don -- Wagging a Yuletide Dogs Tale -- 2017-12-25 Page 2 of 3

 

Betts, Don -- Wagging a Yuletide Dogs Tale -- 2017-12-25 Page 3 of 3

Bravo, Mr. Betts. Another amazingly creative and always linguistically challenging poem. Keep up the fine work, my dear friend.

2012--Christmas--tree--Blondie Cartoon--Dagwood trims the new tree--2012--12--16

[“Blondie” cartoon about an ugly Christmas tree and how Dagwood made it uglier.]

Christmas Trees Don’t Have To Be Perfect

To Be Beautiful

 By Curtis K. Shelburne

My earliest Christmas memories are mostly wrapped around our family’s Christmas trees.

 I remember Mom making creamy hot chocolate and my sister stacking the spindle of the old record player with an inch-high pile of vintage vinyl Christmas music by Nat King Cole, Perry Como, Tennessee Ernie Ford, and the Norman Luboff Choir.

 Most years the tree had already been bought at (where else?) Amarillo’s Boy Scout Troop 80 Christmas tree lot. I was a member of Troop 80 and thus expected to help sell trees each year. My younger brother was not, but he was a wheeler-dealer sort who liked selling trees and often, as I recall, managed to pawn off more trees than most of the bona fide boy scouts. Jacob (I mean, Jim) always felt Jacob of old settled for far too little when he sold his hungry brother Esau that bowl of stew and only got a birthright for it. Jim would’ve held out for hard cash and then the birthright at the end as a balloon payment.

Christmas Tree-- imperfect trees are okay

[photo of a not-too perfect tree]

We’d lean the tree in the garage for a day or a few on its amputation-site stump in a bucket of water while it waited to be lit and glorified. Anchoring the tree in the stand was a chore. Jim and I would crawl under the scratchy boughs and slide around on our wood floor to turn each screw just the right amount. It was never straight the first time.

Then my 15-years-older sister, the unquestioned head honcho of the process, would ascend to perform the task of highest honor as she put on the lights (bubble lights, snowball lights, and all), a job in later years graciously bequeathed to me.

 Then we would hang the ornaments, a tedious task but nothing like as bad as the final stage in the process: hanging the icicles.

I don’t see those long, thin, silvery strands of foil or plastic, those “icicles,” on trees much anymore. I hope never again to have to put them on one of mine.

1940s Christmas tree - with lots of tinsels

[ photo of a 1940s style Christmas tree with lots of icicles]

According to my sister, they had to be hung with great care, one at a time. Ten million or so came in a box. You’d drag one out of the box and carefully place it over a tree branch. It was essential, my sister assured us, to start at the back near the trunk and make sure the icicle hung straight down on both sides of the branch. Straight down. No clumps. Which is why Jim’s preferred method of grabbing a paw-full of icicles and launching the whole wad in the general direction of the tree was sternly forbidden. No. One at a time. Until you froze there, died there, decayed there, and Christmas never came, and it was spring and you were still hanging icicles. One at a time.

 I don’t know what we thought would happen—apart from sure death—if we didn’t hang the icicles exactly right. Would Santa’s sleigh suddenly crash in flight and the FAA later determine and publish for the whole world full of weeping giftless children to see that the cause was icing—not on the sleigh but improper tree icicling by two Shelburne boys at 125 N. Goliad, Amarillo, Texas, whose wanton and reckless disregard had killed Santa?

I’m sure we never did it “right.” But I remember wandering into the living room as a little lad clad in those great PJs that came complete with feet, lying down almost under the tree, looking up through its branches, and drinking in the beauty.

By God’s grace, Christmas trees don’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. Neither do lives.

[Copyright 2011 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.]

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an-christmas tree

Christmastree-dog

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Poem 139 - The Truth About Santa Claus -- copyrighted by Stan Paregien on Feb 1, 1992

[ Stan Paregien’s poem, “The Truth About Santa” ]

Poem 393 -- A Holiday Greeting -- copyrighted by Stan Paregien on Oct 13, 2014

[Stan Paregien’s poem, “A Holliday Greeting” ]

Poem 402 Christmas Time in Florida - by Stan Paregien Nov 14, 2014

[ Stan Paregien’s poem, “Christmas Time in Florida” ]Poem by S Omar Barker - One Snowy Christmas Eve - in THE ROUNDUP for Dec, 1978, page 7
[ S. Omar Barker’s poem, “One Snowy Christmas Eve” ]S Omar Barker, 'The Cowboy's Christmas Prayer'
[ S. Omar Barker’s poem, “A Cowboy’s Christmas Prayer” ]

2017--12--03 06 Bradenton, FL - Be still and know that I am God - Psalm 46 v10

[ “Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10 ]

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Honor Roll of Visitors

to The Paregien Journal

http://www.paregienjournal.com

I enjoy writing, as all of you can attest. My first published article was in the student newspaper at the first college I attended, back in the fall of 1961. Since then I have had hundreds of articles appear in scores of different newspapers and magazines. And three hardback books, two paperback books and 15 eBooks later, I haven’t lost that drive to find ideas worthy of sharing with all of you.

There is something singularly satisfying about my little blogs published as the title of THE PAREGIEN JOURNAL at http://www.paregienjournal.com. That satisfaction comes from knowing that on any given day there may be people visiting my site from all over the world. Instantly. Amazing.

I am pleased and thankful that – just since January 1, 2017 — people from 72 nations visited this web page. Heck, I don’t even know where many of them are on a map of the world. But here is that list as of Nov. 10, 2017:

Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Estonia, European Union, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong SAR China, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Latvia, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mexico, Moldova, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland,Thailand, Trinidad & Tobago, Turkey, Taiwan, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe.

Thanks to all those who live in other nations and have honored us with a visit to this site. We appreciate it very much. Please feel free to leave a comment.

I’m giving some serious thought to doing a series of profiles next year about each of the nations listed above. I’m start with the first three — Albania, Algeria, Andorra — and see how that goes. If you are from one of those nations  or can put me in touch with a knowledgeable person with first-hand, recent information, I’d appreciate a note to me at:  paregien@gmx.com . Thanks.

an-christmas-fiveCats

A very merry Christmas to each and every one of you. And if you haven’t done so as yet, why not take a small gift or a dish of food to someone who is sick or lonely? You could certainly cheer them up. Then that person would be blessed and so would you, especially if you warmly and graciously offer to pick that person up in your car and spend maybe just an hour driving around looking at all the Christmas lights.

Until next year, Lord willing.

— Stan Paregien

2017--12--03 04 Bradenton, FL - Stan & Peggy Paregien by Penny Letichevsky

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Issue 369 – Trouble in Florida

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The Paregien Journal     –     Issue 369     –     Nov. 10, 2017

Trouble in Florida

Yes, friends, Florida is a wonderful place to live. Its name even conjures up the good life: the Spanish word “florida” means “land of flowers.” And so it is. Plus the land of perpetual sunshine and gentle, warm surf. Ah, yes, the good life. 

Only Hawaii and Florida among the U.S. states have truly tropical climates. That is a tremendous draw for tourists from other states and around the world to visit Florida. Florida is the 3rd most populous state in the Union and is the 8th most densely populated state. As of July 1, 2015, our resident population stood at a whopping 20 million well-suntanned folks and a few sunburned ones. The bean counters say that was nearly an 8% increase just in five years (since the Census of 2010). And newcomers keep pouring in, a fact which keeps the pressure on increasing real estate prices.

Of course, we do have a few wee issues such as (1) we are the lightning capital of the United States; (3) we are usually hit by at least one significant hurricane during the season which runs from June 1 to November 30); and (3) if you include waterspouts (actually tornadic winds over a body of water), then we also are the tornado capital of the United States (no, we don’t get much press because our dinky tornadoes very seldom come close to the F5 monsters in Oklahoma and other southwest and midwest states).

 

Oh, and there is one other increasingly bothersome issue.  We have 1,350 miles of coastline with about half on the Gulf of Mexico to our west and half on the Atlantic Ocean to our east. Way back in pre-historical times, Florida was not just surrounded by water it was mostly underwater. Not so surprisingly, then, today most of Florida is at or very near sea level.

Ah, yes, and there is the really big rub.

Our local yellow sheet, the Bradenton (Florida) Herald, has this bold front-page headline this morning: “Rising seas could cost area $25.4 billion in homes.”

The rub, you see, is climate change and rising sea levels are already causing major problems in many cities in Florida (Miami, Tampa, Anna Maria Island, etc.). And a new study by the folks at Zillow.com (the real estate search engine folks) — based on the data released by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration —  warns that the following 10 cities nationwide will be in a catastrophic world of hurt within 100 years (that means being swamped by an additional 6 feet of water):

  1.  Miami, Florida
  2. New York City, NY
  3. Tampa, FL
  4. Fort Myers, FL
  5. Boston, Mass.
  6. Upper Township, New Jersey
  7.  Salisbury, Maryland
  8. Virginia Beach, Virginia
  9. Bradenton, FL  (yep, right here in Paradise)
  10. Naples, FL

 

Do you see a pattern here? Five of the ten listed cities are in Florida. Yikes.

Florida -- climate change - 'Visit While you Still Can'

More specifically, the study warned that the 15 or so cities and towns from the Bradenton area down to North Port could have more than $25 Billion in damages to our homes by the year 2100. Bradenton and beautiful Siesta Key would each have over 5,000 homes destroyed or heavily damaged.  

Because of that, I just won’t hang around for 100 years. I’m reminded of a joke about a scientist who was lecturing about how some distant planet would hit and destroy Mother Earth in 2,400,000 years. Some redneck in the audience widely raised his hand and asked the professor to repeat the timeline. “Yes, sir. Approximately 2,400,000 years.” And ol’ Bubba said, wiping his brow, “Oh, gee, I’m glad you cleared that up. I thought you said only 2,300,000 years.”

Put it in your “Facts to Remember” file.

Try a Little Kindness

2016--97--11 'Smile and Wave' - Bradenton Herald - Part 1 of 2

2016--97--11 'Smile and Wave' - Bradenton Herald - Part 2 of 2

A Last Word on Hurricane Irma

2017--11--08 House Prices Still Increasing in Manatee and Sarasota Counties

Aging -- Florida -- rooster saying, 'The older we got the less we care'

Amen, Brother!

Share this with your friends who just can’t wait for deer hunting season to start.

Animals - deer - hunting -- CLOSE TO HOME cartoon 2017-11-08

Smile . . . And Be Happy

Bradenton, FL -- 14th Happiest City in USA - 2017-10-25

[Bradenton, Florida named one of America’s happiest cities]

Florida -- we live where you vacation

 

2017--11--08 Waterloo, IL -- Stan Paregien Jr's 1937 Oldsmobile

[photo of Stan Paregien Jr.’s 1937 Oldsmobile in Waterloo, IL on Nov. 8, 2017]

2017--10--02 01 Scott AFB, Belleville, IL - Lt Col Stan Paregien and new recruit

Lt. Col. Stan Paregien Jr. helps induct a law enforcement officer into the Air Force Reserves. Scott AF Base in Belleville, IL.

2017--10--04 01 Peggy Paregien and Allie - Bradenton, FL

Some people and some pets have it rough . . . and some, like Queen Allie, above,

do not. Peggy bought this “doggie stroller” a while back.

2017--10--13 01 Palmetto, FL - Bob and Jean L'Hullier with Peggy & Stan Paregien on Peg's birthday

Stan & Peggy Paregien (right) with neighbors and friends Bob and Jean L’Hullier in Palmetto, Florida at a riverside restaurant in October.

2017--10--28 07 Bradenton, FL - Peggy Paregien at the Halloween party at Plantation MHP - by Stan Paregien

[Peggy Paregien in photo on Halloween]

One reason why I keep posting items on this account is because I enjoy reading the statistics on who is visiting my blog. Please understand, I don’t really get t-h-a-t many visitors per day. But, boy, I do get a variety. Just in the last two weeks, people from these nations have stopped by:  the United States, Germany, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, Philippines, Latvia, Russia, Norway, China, Switzerland and Netherlands.

Pretty neat, huh? Welcome to all of my long-distance readers and . . . I hope . . . friends. Please stop by again, real soon.

Until next time,

Stan

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Issue 356 – Joy of Aging & Other Lies

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The Paregien Journal  –  www.paregien.com  –  Issue 356  –  July 6, 2017

The Joy of Aging & Other Lies

Okay, buckeroos and buckerettes, make sure your butt is firmly planted on your saddle and your boots are in your stirrups, and your age-spotted hands and arthritic fingers have a firm grip on your horse’s reins. We are about to take a ride down memory lane.

Only this won’t be your Grandma’s memory lane about all the veggies she and Grandpa used to gather from their big garden out back and how she “canned ’em” (i.e., pressure cooked them and put  them in quart jars) and stacked in the basement to be enjoyed some cold day in January. It is not about Grandpa’s musings about how unusually large the fish were that he used to catch in just a few hours at the lake. Nope, none of that stuff.

This little essay is about the here and now, about what a short time it took we old geezers to get from wherever we neaked through high school to the place far away where we live and how things have changed 360 degrees from then to right now. 

So I’ll say like they do on cable TV just before reporting on some awful story, “A fair warning. The content of this next report might be upsetting to some.” Yeah, right. Like to 99.9 percent of people with at least half-way functioning brain matter.

Let’s start with this little book:

1,003 Great Things About Getting Older

Birnbach, Lisa et al - 1,003 Great Things About Getting Older -- 1997 by MJF Books -- front cover

My wife Peggy, otherwise known as the World’s Greatest Optimist (aka “sweet thing”) gave me this little book a while back. I thought it was a joke book. You know, it says “1,003 Great Things About Getting Older” but you open it up and the pages are blank. Sorta like that one “Everything Your Daddy Told You About Women But You Forgot.” But, no, this one actually has pages filled with stuff.

Lisa Birnbach, Ann Hodgman, Patricia Mars and David Owen had their fingers in the pie when it came to compiling these gems of politically correct wisdom. So here are a few sayings to help you get through your first cup of coffee. My comments are in the brackets.

**** It doesn’t take so long for summer to come again. [Not a good thing here in Florida — SP]

****  You’ve paid off your student loans [unless you’re a doctor or a lawyer — SP]

****  You receive mail every day, even if it’s only catalogs and bills. [Yeah, and most of the catalogs are from nursing homes and hearing aide companies. — SP]

****  Your arthritis makes you less likely to lose your wedding ring. [Wrong. I lost mine while frolicking at the beach. “Flrolicking” at my age means wading knee-deep in the water when it is still cool (70’s) to avoid shock to the part of my anatomy which actually probably needss shock treatment — SP]

****  All moral issues are conveniently black and white. [Right. Except those which are not — SP]

****  Weekends suddenly have meaning. [Hey, weekends slip in and out like a thief in the night. I stopped wearing a wristwatch when I retired. Now that we’ve been retired in Florida for four years, I’m also gonna give up my calendar — SP]

****  Dental implants let you eat corn on the cob, again. [Thanks, but I was robbed by my last two dentists. So I’ll just sip soup through a straw. — SP]

****  By age 74, refilling the bird feeder is a good morning’s work. [That or changing a flat bicycle tire. — SP]

****  By age 88 you can still identify half the people in your photo albums. [Ah, ha. Got you there. I have converted most all of our photos to digital images, complete with the names and locations of the subjects. That is what has kept me out of the pool halls most of my life. And most of ’em — well over 13,000 — are stored not only on my computer but also online on my FLICKR account which has 1 Terrabyte of storage — SP]

****  By age 100, all your enemies are dead.

****  A  little sex goes a long way. [Darn it, speak up. Your little grandson Rex does what? — SP]

****  People get out of your way when you drive down the street. [Only the smart ones. — SP]

Men Will Understand This One

All Too Well

 

Medical - prostate_exam_ 04sign_100dpi

My cousin Jerry R. Paregien is my favorite patriot-in-exile from California. He and his wife have lived about 20 years now on a mountain outside of Kingsport, Tennessee. From their back balcony, they can look across a wide valley and see the beautiful Clinch Mountains of Virginia on the horizon to the north.

Like Steve Martin, Jerry is a wild and crazy guy. Though he is showing early signs of  . . .  eh, . . . dement- . . . eh, . . .  Alzhei . . . something or other, Why, that Prune Picker still remembers every joke he ever heard and delivers each punch like with vim and vigor. Actually, I don’t know whether he remembers any of those “farmer’s daughter and the salesman” jokes from our teenage years, but if he does he ain’t admitting to it.

Boys, now what I’m about to tell you is the gospel truth. ‘Cause I heard it directly from my ‘Cuz. And pert near everything he tells me is resonably precise. 

Medical - prostate exam -- 03 - doctor smiling

Jerry told me that a couple of years or so ago, his appointment with his doctor for his annual physical rolled around. When they called his name from the cattle corral (waiting room), one of their nurses took him aside and took his weight and vital signs (yes, he still has some). And she escorted him to the Great Waiting Room down the hall where he twittled his thumbs for 15 or 20 minutes.

Finally, the doctor came in and they exchanged pleasantries. The doc checked his chart and his medications and declared him not-exactly-brain-dead. Said he seemed to be in mite near perfect condition for an old man with not long to live on Mother Earth. 

Then the doc began to stammer and stutter and finally got out these dreaded few words that send a chill up the spine of any red-blooded American male. He said, “Well, Jerry, stand up, turn around  and drop your pants and BVD’s to your knees. Time for me to check where the sun don’t shine.”

Medical -- prostate exam -- DR - 'I don't enjoy them either'

Jerry turned his head around, as much as his arthritis would allow, and looked his doc in the face and said in his professional, deadpan comedian way: “Well, Dr. Jones, I should darn well hope you’re going to check my prostate. I didn’t wash my butt today, like this, for just anybody.”

When the doctor finally quit laughing, and after visiting that Dark Domain, he said to my ‘Cus: “Jerry, for years now I have kept a log of funny things that my clients say to me. You will be pleased to know that your comments will go down in history.”

Medical - prostate exam -- 02 - using a baseball glove

NOTE: The above cartoon is especially for my two old friends, Bob L’Huillier (Bradenton, FL) and Victor Knowles (Joplin, MO), who are devoted baseball fans. 

Carter, Jimmy -- The Virtues of Aging -- 1998 - NY Ballentine Publishing - page 01 - front coverCarter, Jimmy -- The Virtues of Aging -- 1998 - NY Ballentine Publishing - page 02 - back cover

Now surely all of you, well maybe not you young ‘un’s under 50 or so, remember ol’ Jimmy Carter, long-time peanut farmer from Plains, Georgia. He was born there on Oct. 1, 1924.

Now my Grandpa Paregien was a “yellow-dog” Democrat until his dying breath. Somehow I went down the Republican path. But I came through the wringer of the Hippie Years and the Anti-Vietnam War Years. So I did my own thing and I castigated my first vote for a Democrat when I voted for Jimmy Carter. I mean, gee whiz, after all the duds we’d had before, I felt we just couldn’t go wrong voting for a certified man of the soil, a tried and true peanut farmer. After all, a distant relative of mine — Johnny Walters of Wapanucka, Oklahoma–was “Peanut Farmer of the Year” one time in Johnston County.

Well, I’d admit I was wrong about that premise and have made two or maybe three fair-to-middlin’ mistakes since then. But how the heck was I to know that he was also an expert on atomic submarines and other useless stuff like that. Ignorance is often bliss, and I was in la-la-land that day I voted for Mr. Carter.

Shootfire, ol’ Jimmy was a sure ’nuff nice guy. He even taught a Sunday morning Bible class almost everywhere in the world he happened to be, and still teaches his “Adults 101” Bible Class today in Plains (they call it 101 because that’s about the average age of the class members). But even nice guys don’t necessarily make good presidents. Of course, comparing him to Donald J. Trump today I have to say that ol’ peanut farmer looks better and better.

Do you remember Jimmy Carter’s dear, free-spirited momma? Lillian Gordy Carter often shot from her lip, saying just whatever she wanted to say whether it was approved by the Southern Baptist Convention or by the Geneva Convention either one. She was a corker to be sure. And then there was Jimmy’s junior brother, good ol’ Bubba — no, wait a minute, it was Billy. Billy Carter, whose only claim to fame was getting his name on some beer cans — “Billy Beer.” They didn’t serve it in finer restaurants back then, but you might have been able to get one out in Luckenbach, Texas.

But I digress, as I’m prone to do.

Here are some of President Carter’s words of wisdom about the virtues of growing old. He is still a Card-Carrying Baptist so I hope the Lord will excuse him for stretching-the-blanket a bit” (as the old-time cowboys used to refer to any cowpoke who stretched the truth). Keep in mind this remarks are from his 1998 book, noted above.

“Even before leaving the White House, Rosalynn and I received a notice from the American Association of Retired Persons that we were qualified for membership, but we considered ourselves too young to face the stigma of senior citizenship. However, once back in Plains [Georgia, population 700 — SP] the point was to be driven home most firmly and clearly.

“We live 120 miles south of Atlanta and habitually drive back and forth toThe Carter Center and to Emory University, where I am a professor. One morning we left our house quite early and stopped to eat breakfast in Thomaston, Georgia, about halfway to Atlanta. There were four of us in the car, and we all ordered about the same thing. But when the waitress brought my bill, I noticed that it was less than the others. Perhaps seeking credit for being an honest customer, I called her back and began to tell her that she had made a mistake. An older farmer, dressed in overalls, was sitting at a nearby table and apparently overheard my conversation. He looked over at us and called out in a loud voice, ‘Your bill ain’t no mistake, Mr. President. Before eight o’clock they give free coffee to senior citizens.’

“A wave of laught began at our table, and it still resonated through the restaurant as I paid my bill and hurried back to the car. For several weeks afterward, every time we approached Thomaston I knew that someone would say, ‘Why don’t we stop here for breakfast? There’s free coffee for some of us!'” (pp. ix-x).

When Jimmy Carter was voted out of the Presidency, he and his wife found that their “Blind Trust Fund” had been badly managed and their home and farm in Plains were deeply in debt, too.  And then they faced another issue, as he tells it:

“There were other reasons as well why moving from Washington back to our home in Plains was not a pleasant experience. It was not easy to forget about the past, overcome our fear of the future, and concentrate on the present. In this small and tranquil place, it was naturual for us to assume–kike other retirees–that our productive lives were about over. Like many other involuntary retirees, we had to overcome our distress and make the best of the situation.

“When one of our friends pointed out that more than a third of American men in my age troup were retired, and that we could expect to live until we were eighty years old, I had one disturbing reaction: What was I going to do with the next twenty-five yeears?” ( pp. 2-3)

“. . . as we entered our seventies there was another potential threat to our happiness: the forced realization that both of us fit almost any definition of ‘old age.’ I guess it is unpleasant for any of us to face our inevitale gray or thinning hair and the tendency for our waistline to spread, especially when advancing years correspond to a reduced income. This brings a challenging but inevitable transition in our lives — from what we have been to a new type of existence as ‘senior citizens.'” (p. 8)

“So then, when are we old? The corrrect answer is that each of us is old when we think we are — when we accept an attitude of dormancy, dependence on others, a substantial limitation on our physical and mental activity, and restrictions on the number of other people with whom we interact. As I know from experience, this is not tied very closely to how many years we’ve lived.” ( p. 11)

“Driving on the interstate highway in Atlanta to go to The Carter Center, for several months we regularly passed a large billboard advertising country music. The sign said, ‘My wife ran off with my best friend, and I miss him.’ This doesn’t apply to us [i.e., he and Rosalynn]. We seem to be bound together with ever-increasing bonds as we’ve grown older and need each other more. When we are apart for just a day or so, I have the same hollow feeling of loneliness and unassuaged desire as when I was away at sea for a week or more during the first years of our marriage.” ( p. 39)

We’ll share more from this book in a future issue of THE PAREGIEN JOURNAL.

****

Well, here it is — another 4th of July. 

I’m sitting here looking at the “celebrity” birthdays for July 4th and, shazam, I do know more than a couple. Those include . . .  Eva Marie Saint (actress, 93), . . .  Gina Lollobrigida, atress, 90; as an early teen . . . or maybe a pre-teen, I fell in love with that beautiful lady on the flying trapeze in the movie starring she and Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster, a for-real former circus trapeze star) . . . Neil Simon (90, playwright) . . . and that’s as “young” as I can recognize on the list. Of course, that doggone lists includes somebody named Malia Obama, age 19. Oh, wait a minute, I remember. Nah, never mind.

Then there was this historical oddity under “Today In History,” where on July 4, 1826 — exactly 50 years after the Declaration of Independence was adopted — two of our nation’s former presidents died, that being John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

Finally, on July 4, Charles Kuralt died in New York at the age of 62. You remember Charles Kuralt, don’t you? He was the CBS reporter who, with only his TV camerman/soundman as a companion, traveled the backroads of the United States. He was born Sept. 10, 1934 and died on July 4, 1997.

51K-Z1STf6L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_

“On the Road” was one of the most popular TV programs–actually, filler spots in the CBS news–that CBS had at the time. He always seemed so doggoned friendly, with a lot of homegrown wisdom, and he could sniff out a seemingly insignificant story and make it a masterpiece. Here are a few of his quotes:

The love of family and the admiration of friends is much more important than wealth and privilege.

 Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything.
The everyday kindness of the back roads more than makes up for the acts of greed in the headlines.

 

I recall, in particular, one time he and his cameraman were rolling down a back road in Tennessee or Kentucky . . . and Charles notes a bunch of clothes hanging out back of an old farm house (very few of those new-fangled “clothes dryers” out in the country). So he stopped and visited with the lady and her family and wound up with a very informative and enjoyable six minutes of film. He never won a Pulitzer Prize, but he was one heck of a fine reporter. We still miss you, Mr. Kuralt.

*****

Wise Words for the Young and the Old

From a Member of the Royal Family

 

Be generous: Invest in acts of charity.

Charity yields high returns.

 Don’t hoard your goods; spread them around.

Be a blessing to others. This could be your last night.

 

When the clouds are full of water, it rains.

When the wind blows down a tree, it lies where it falls.

Don’t sit there watching the wind. Do your own work.

Don’t stare at the clouds. Get on with your life.

 

Just as you’ll never understand  the mystery of life

forming in pregnant woman,

So you’ll never understand the mystery at work

in all that God does.

 

Go to work in the morning

and stick to it until evening without watching the clock.

You never know from moment to moment

how your work will turn out in the end.

Beauty in a sunny day - Ecclesiastes 11  

 Oh, how sweet the light of day,

And how wonderful to live in the sunshine!

Even if you live a long time, don’t take a single day for granted.

Take delight in each light-filled hour,

Remembering that there will also be many dark days

And that most of what comes your way is smoke.

 

 

You who are young, make the most of your youth..

Relish your youthful vigor.

Follow the impulses of your heart.

If something looks good to you, pursue it.

But know also that not just anything goes;

You have to answer to God for every last bit of it.

 

Live footloose and fancy-free  —

You won’t be young forever.

Youth lasts about as long as smoke.

 

Honor and enjoy your Creator while you’re still young,

Before the years take their toll and your vigor wanes,

Before your vision dims and the world blurs

And the winter years keep you close to the fire.

 

In old age, your body no longer serves you so well.

Muscles slacken, grip weakens, joints stiffen.

The shades are pulled down on the world.

You can’t come and go at will. Things grind to a halt.

The hum of the household fades away.

You are wakened now by bird-song.

 

 Aging -- Man - very old with white hair and beard -- 05-A copyrighted by Antonio Silvas

 

Hikes to the mountains are a thing of the past.

Even a stroll down the road has its terrors.

Your hair turns apple-blossom white,

Adorning a fragile and impotent matchstick body.

Yes, you’re well on your way to eternal rest,

While your friends make plans for your funeral.

 

Life, lovely while it lasts, is soon over.

Life as we know it, precious and beautiful, ends.

The body is put back in the same ground it came from.

The spirit returns to God, who first breathed it.

 

It’s all smoke, nothing but smoke.

The Quester says that everything’s smoke.

 

Besides being wise himself, the Quester also taught others

knowledge. He weighed, examined, and arranged many

proverbs. The Quester did his best to find the right words

and write the plain truth.

 

The words of the wise prod us to live well.

They’re like nails hammered home, holding life together.

They are given by God, the one Shepherd.

 

But regarding anything behind this, dear friend, go easy.

There’s no end to the publishing of books, and constant

study wears you out so you’re no good for anything else.

The last and final word is this:

 Fear God.

Do what he tells you.

 

And that’s it. Eventually God will bring everything

that we do out into the open and judge it according

to its hidden intent, whether it’s good or evil.

 Solomon -- a painting from the internet

                         Painting of Solomon

 

Ecclesiastes 11:1 to 12:14 ( The Message) by King

Solomon (aka “The Quester”).  He was a son of King David

of Israel and was appointed King himself at the age of 12.

He only lived 52 years, from 848 B.C. to 796 B.C.). His

major accomplishment was in completing the Jewish

Temple in Jerusalem. Well, that and finding out how to

keep his 300 wives and 700 concubines happy.

 

— See ya the next time. I’m trying to get back into the groove of posting every Thursday. Well, that’s my goal, anyway. — Stan

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Issue 353    –     March 17, 2017

Horsin’ Around in Florida

Retired folks in Florida just don’t have many empty days on their calendars. First of all, there are all those coffee hours, bingo games and shuffleboard games that beckon every week. Then there are all those Yankees who come down from up North to visit “during the season.” And then, if that were not enough to keep one busy, there is a lot of just plain ol’ horsin’ around on my agenda. 

For example, we dearly love all of the beautiful beaches here on the Gulf side of Florida. Some of the best anywhere are from Clearwater to our north and down to Venice on our south. But undoubtedly, the first choice for a broad, pearly white beach and beautiful water the prize goes to Siesta Beach on the west edge of Sarasota. That’s about 20 miles from our house. So . . . hi-ho, hi-ho . . . it’s off to the beach we go. 

2017--02--23 07 Siesta Beach - No 1 in US, No 5 in World

Ralph Iacovacci (“The Italian Stallion,” so named because he liked to put in a quarter and ride those horses outside Walmart) and his wife Eunice told us about a “Night of Nashville Music” program put on by their church. So Peggy and I saddled up and joined the fun.

2017--02--25 01 Bradenton, FL - Nashville Music Show

2017--02--25 02 Bradenton, FL - Nashville Music Show

2017--02--25 03 Bradenton, FL - Nashville Music Show

Now about that “Best Western Outfit” contest mentioned below in the program, . . . well, shazam . . . I won the doggoned thing. Got a new Dodge Ram pickup truck, too. Hey, I can dream can’t I? The real prize was dinner for two at a local restaurant. That was close enough to satisfy me.

2017--02--25 04 Bradenton, FL - Nashville Music Show

2017--02--25 05A Bradenton, FL - Nashville Music Show

2017--02--25 05B Bradenton, FL - Nashville Music Show

2017--02--25 07 Bradenton, FL - Stan and Peggy Paregien

“Hey, babe, ya wanna fool around . . . er, I mean pucker up??”

2017--02--25 06 Bradenton, FL - Stan and Peggy Paregien

2017--02--25 08 Bradenton, FL - Stan and Peggy Paregien

2017--02--25 09 Bradenton, FL - Stan Paregien's boots and spurs

And next . . . . 

2017--03--02 01 Myakka, FL - Herrman's Lipizzan Stallions - by Stan Paregien

2017--03--02 03 Myakka, FL - Herrman's Lipizzan Stallions - by Stan Paregien

2017--03--02 04 Myakka, FL - Herrman's Lipizzan Stallions - by Stan Paregien

2017--03--02 05 Myakka, FL - Herrman's Lipizzan Stallions - by Stan Paregien

2017--03--02 06 Myakka, FL - Herrman's Lipizzan Stallions - by Stan Paregien

2017--03--02 07 Myakka, FL - Herrman's Lipizzan Stallions - by Stan Paregien

2017--03--02 08 Myakka, FL - Herrman's Lipizzan Stallions - by Stan Paregien

2017--03--02 09 Myakka, FL - Herrman's Lipizzan Stallions - by Stan Paregien

2017--03--02 10 Myakka, FL - Herrman's Lipizzan Stallions - by Stan Paregien

2017--03--02 11 Myakka, FL - Herrman's Lipizzan Stallions - by Stan Paregien

2017--03--02 13 Myakka, FL - Herrman's Lipizzan Stallions - by Stan Paregien

2017--03--02 14 Myakka, FL - Herrman's Lipizzan Stallions - by Stan Paregien

And then an afternoon spent in Sarasota looking at old (i.e., classic) cars. And we returned that evening for a very good singer (Jimmy Mezz) doing “A Tribute to Music of the 1950’s.” 

2017--03--03 06 Sarasota, FL - P Paregien, G and James Cotton - Classic Cars - by Stan Paregien

2017--03--03 05 Sarasota, FL - James Cotton at Classic Cars - by Stan Paregien

2017--03--05 01A Palmetto, FL - James and Glenda Cotton - by S Paregien

2017--03--05 01C Palmetto, FL - James and Glenda Cotton - by S Paregien

2017--03--05 03 Palmetto, FL - Stan and Peggy Paregien - by G Cotton

2017--03--07 01 Bradenton, FL - James and Glenda Cotton

2017--03--07 02 Bradenton, FL - Peggy Paregien and Allie - by Stan Paregien

And next, . . . we and our neighbors/friends Michael and Penny Letichevsky went over to Aracadia, Florida (about 1 hour southeast of us) on March 11th to enjoy the 89th Annual Arcadia Rodeo. We all enjoyed the cowboy and cowgirl action. They’re even supposed to have a brand-new arena ready for next year’s event.

2017--03--11 01 Arcadia, FL - rodeo - by Stan Paregien
2017--03--11 02 Arcadia, FL - rodeo - by Stan Paregien

2017--03--11 03 Arcadia, FL - rodeo - by Stan Paregien

2017--03--11 04 Arcadia, FL - rodeo - by Stan Paregien

2017--03--11 05 Arcadia, FL - rodeo - by Stan Paregien

2017--03--11 06 Arcadia, FL - rodeo - by Stan Paregien

2017--03--11 07 Arcadia, FL - rodeo - by Stan Paregien

That clown is being just a little too nosey, if you catch my drift. 

2017--03--11 08 Arcadia, FL - rodeo - by Stan Paregien

2017--03--11 09 Arcadia, FL - rodeo - by Stan Paregien

2017--03--11 10 Arcadia, FL - rodeo - by Stan Paregien

2017--03--11 11 Arcadia, FL - rodeo - by Stan Paregien

2017--03--11 12 Arcadia, FL - rodeo - by Stan Paregien

2017--03--11 12B Arcadia, FL - rodeo - by Stan Paregien

2017--03--11 13 Arcadia, FL - rodeo - by Stan Paregien

2017--03--11 14 Arcadia, FL - rodeo - by Stan Paregien

2017--03--11 15 Arcadia, FL - rodeo - by Stan Paregien

2017--03--11 16A Arcadia, FL - barrel racing - by Stan Paregien

2017--03--11 16B Arcadia, FL - barrel racing - by Stan Paregien

2017--03--11 16C Arcadia, FL - barrel racing - by Stan Paregien

2017--03--11 16D Arcadia, FL - barrel racing - by Stan Paregien

2017--03--11 17A Arcadia, FL - rodeo - by Stan Paregien

2017--03--11 17B Arcadia, FL - Michael Letichevsky - by Stan Paregien

2017--03--11 17C Arcadia, FL - Penny Letichevsky - by Stan Paregien

2017--03--11 17D Arcadia, FL - Peggy Paregien - by Stan Paregien

2017--03--11 17D1 Arcadia, FL - Stan Paregien

And here’s the old cowboy himself.

2017--03--11 17E Arcadia, FL - Peggy Paregien - by Stan Paregien

2017--03--11 19 Arcadia, FL - Clydesdale - by Stan Paregien

2017--03--11 20 Arcadia, FL - Penny Letichevsky with Clydesdale - by Stan Paregien

2017--03--11 21 Arcadia, FL - Michael Letichevsky with portapotties - by Stan Paregien

2017--03--11 22 Arcadia, FL - Michael Letichevsky with portapotties - by Stan Paregien

2017--03--11 23 Arcadia, FL - bull - by Stan Paregien

2017--03--11 24 Arcadia, FL - bull - by Stan Paregien

Well, as you can clearly see, we have been doing a lot of horsin’ around here in Florida. So you might just as well come on down and join the fun.

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Issue 348 – This Land Is Your Land

 

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Issue 348     –    February 6, 2017

This Land Is Your Land

I did not watch the Super Bowl football game on Feb. 5, 2017. Half-time entertainer Lady Gaga seems to have gotten favorable reviews from lots of folks. I did catch a news clip of her singing a portion of Woody Guthrie’s popular song, “This Land Is Your Land.” It is a populist, kind of get-together-and-sing-Kumbaya song. 

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However, as the late radio broadcaster Paul Harvey used to say, . . . here is the rest of the story.

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I made the following statements about the history of the song, “This Land Is Your Land.” in my 2012 eBook, WOODY GUTHRIE: HIS LIFE, MUSIC AND MYTH (Chapter 5):  

“On Feb. 23, 1940, Woody wrote ‘This Land Is Your Land’ while living with friend and fellow folksinger Burl Ives at the Hanover House in New York City. He wrote it to counteract what he considered the mindless sentimentality of ‘God Bless America,’ penned by the great Irving Berlin. That song just really irritated him something awful.

“Slowly but surely he worked out the words of his own song and, as usual, simply matched the lyrics up with an existing song. In this case it was the melody of a gospel song, ‘Oh, My Loving Brother,’ a melody that was also borrowed by the Carter Family for their song, ‘Little Darling, Pal of Mine’. Woody titled his song, ‘This Land Is Your Land’ and pretty much forgot about it until April of 1944.

“When the song finally surfaced and was recorded, it only included the first four verses (see below). And it quickly gained traction. Today the first few verses are sung by people all over the world, sometimes with a few adaptations to fit the Canadian or Japanese or Irish or whatever culture. It has been recorded by virtually everyone under the sun, from Bing Crosby to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. In the 1960s President Lyndon Baines Johnson was one of the first to wonder if maybe it should replace our national anthem. And various big-name corporations, including United Airlines and the Ford Motor Company, have used bits of it for their sales pitches on TV and radio.

“Here is how those first four verses read:

1   This land is your land, This land is my land
From California to the New York island;
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and Me.

 2  As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway:
I saw below me that golden valley:
This land was made for you and me.

 3  I’ve roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.

 4  When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:
This land was made for you and me.

“The problem with most of the admiration for this song is that the four-verses-only version hides or at least ignores the whole point of the complete song. With all of its verses intact, ‘This Land is Your Land’ stands as a Marxist chant for communal property. Here is how those last three verses read:

5   As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

6   In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

7  Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

“Now, go back and read the first line of the first verse. Doesn’t it take on a much darker meaning? It should because this song is, in fact, radical leftist Guthrie’s most clear challenge to life as most American’s know it.

“He understood that private property rights were, more often than not in the United States, used by land-owning corporations to put down the workers. They and their henchmen, the courts and law enforcement, constantly trampled on workers’ constitutional-granted rights of freedom of speech and freedom to assemble.

“So he was calling on people to join the fight against the concept of private ownership of property which, historically, has been the lynchpin of American politics and economics. Woody reasoned that he was taking the high moral ground in advocating that all Americans should share equally in America’s wealth and property.

“Keep in mind, too, that one of the reasons Guthrie wrote this song was to protest the idealism of the big hit song of 1939-1940, ‘God Bless America.’ And it is in verse 6 that he makes the point that the America he saw, from sea to shining sea, was filled with poor and unemployed people standing in welfare lines. And he felt that capitalism and its innate greed were responsible for the awful situation in which there was a great gulf between the bankers and the guys digging ditches or even those who just wish they had a job of any kind. So nothing would change—the poor will continue to be with us en mass—until we change capitalism to communism. And, though not stated in the song, it was his belief that the labor movement—and unions, in particular—could accomplish that goal.

 “Was Woody a Communist Party Member?

 “Was Woody Guthrie a member of the official Communist Party or was he just a sympathizer on the outside looking in or was he just a guy who sympathized and identified with poor, hard-hit people and sought help from any source?

“Guy Logsdon expressed his point of view when I interviewed him in 2006: ‘Woody loved the United States of America. He loved Oklahoma. And he loved Okemah. He never wrote anything bad against them. He wrote against greed and anything having to do with the suppression of innocent people. If that makes him a Communist, then Jesus was a Communist. Woody was the poet philosopher of the people, the voice of the ordinary person.

“’However, Woody was not radical enough to be a communist. The Almanac Singers, some of whom later became stars as a group called The Weavers, wrote and performed pro-labor and anti-war songs. You know Franklin Roosevelt had a program to rebuild the economy and get production and prices stabilized. It involved killing every fourth cow and plowing under every fourth acre. So the Almanac Singers recorded a song called, ‘Plow Under Every Fourth Soldier’ in protest to the war. That offended a lot of people.

“’And the public sentiment changed radically when Germany waged war against Russia. So the Almanac Singers dropped that song from their programs very quickly. And they started writing and performing anti-Hitler songs.

“’When Woody went to New York City, he was in awe of what they were doing. And he sometimes attended meetings of the Communist Party but, as Pete Seeger has often said, ‘Woody was not a Communist. The Communist Party was a tightly structured organization. And Woody Guthrie wouldn’t join anything like that, because his nature was too independent and unstructured.’”

“Perhaps so. But as we have quoted previously, Woody made that admission or assertion of membership himself. And he did it in what my dear ol’ English teacher at Fillmore (California) High School—Mrs. Percy—would call a simple declarative sentence: “The best thing I did in 1936 [he got the actual date wrong; it was 1939] was to sign up with the Communist Party . . . ” (see Chapter 4.)

“When all views are heard, it seems clear that Woody Guthrie was at the least a solid sympathizer and supporter of the Communist Party. He was a man of his times, and those times were very hard for the working class. So whether he was a card-carrying member of the Party seems immaterial today. And it seems to me that, in the final analysis, Guthrie really had more faith in the unions than he did in Communism. In 1944 he said, ‘I live union. I eat union. I think union. I see union. I walk it and I talk it. I sing it and I preach it’ (Quoted by Ed Cray, Ramblin’ Man: The Life and Times of Woody Guthrie [2011], page 283).

 “Well, as I said, he filed the song away and pretty much forgot about it for several years. But it would finally end up as his signature song and in its four-verse form one of the most sung songs in the world.”

One more thing. The big news right now is about our immigration and deportation policies (or lack thereof). It is old news, really.

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Woody Guthrie had a big place in his heart for the frequently abused immigrant workers and their families. He spent a great deal of time traveling around to make-shift worker’s camps to listen to their problems and to encourage them with his songs. 

In 1948, an event happened that triggered a great deal of anger in Woody.  The U.S. Immigration & Naturalization Department had chartered a DC-3 airplane to deport back to Mexico both illegal immigrants and those Mexicans whose work permits had expired. They left Oakland, Calif., on Jan. 28th with 28 such deportees on board, plus the pilot, a co-pilot, a guard and a stewardess. The plane crashed in a ball of fire near Los Gatos, California.The news reports mentioned the staff members by name and said 28 deportees were also killed. No mention of their names, leaving the impression they were of no importance.

Guthrie took that as a personal insult and an outrage. He went into a writing frenzy, pouring his heart and soul in a song he titled, “Deportees” (also known as “Plane Wreck at Los Gatos”):

Plane Wreck at Los Gatos

(also known as “Deportees”)
by Woody Guthrie

The crops are all in and the peaches are rott’ning,
The oranges piled in their creosote dumps;
They’re flying ’em back to the Mexican border
To pay all their money to wade back again

Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye, Rosalita,
Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria;
You won’t have your names when you ride the big airplane,
All they will call you will be “deportees”

My father’s own father, he waded that river,
They took all the money he made in his life;
My brothers and sisters come working the fruit trees,
And they rode the truck till they took down and died.

Some of us are illegal, and some are not wanted,
Our work contract’s out and we have to move on;
Six hundred miles to that Mexican border,
They chase us like outlaws, like rustlers, like thieves.

We died in your hills, we died in your deserts,
We died in your valleys and died on your plains.
We died ‘neath your trees and we died in your bushes,
Both sides of the river, we died just the same.

The sky plane caught fire over Los Gatos Canyon,
A fireball of lightning, and shook all our hills,
Who are all these friends, all scattered like dry leaves?
The radio says, “They are just deportees”

Is this the best way we can grow our big orchards?
Is this the best way we can grow our good fruit?
To fall like dry leaves to rot on my topsoil
And be called by no name except “deportees”?

Sad to say that the practice of devaluing other people is still alive and well. We often find fault with those who are different from ourselves — morally, culturally, racially, religiously and politically. The list goes on.

Now, friends, if you look at this thing strictly logically and scientifically (not morally or religiously) the woes and injustices to the poor, the weak and sickly and the disenfranchised should be of no concern to those of us who are winners in the lottery of life. After all, scientist Charles Darwin preached the survival of the fittest as being in the best interest of the world. So why should one glob of atoms (a human) give a flip about another glob (another human)? You know the routine: (1) Look out for Number 1; (2) What’s mine is mine and I’m after yours; (3) The real “Golden Rule” is that whoever has the gold rules; (4) Greed is good; and (5) Don’t get involved.

Well, . . . if you buy that premise, then it is kinda irrational to do otherwise, don’t you think? Maybe that’s why you’re never seen anywhere a hospital founded and funded by the American Association of Atheists. That’s why there are no major philanthropic foundations operated by the American Humanist Association. That’s what the Society for Humanistic Judaism sits around gazing at their navels. 

Thankfully, however, there are people of goodwill and generous acts of kindness in every group and country. Concern for others, whether a friend or a neighbor or an enemy, is still alive and well.

For example, loving concern is a fundamental theme in the sacred Jewish texts. Here is a sampling from Exodus 23:1-9: “(1) Don’t spread rumors. Don’t plot with evil people to act as a lying witness. (2) Don’t take sides with important people to do wrong. When you act as a witness, don’t stretch the truth to favor important people. (3) But don’t privilege unimportant people in their lawsuits either. (4) When you happen to come upon your enemy’s ox or donkey that has wandered off, you should bring it back to them. (5) When you see a donkey that belongs to someone who hates you and it’s lying down under its load and you are included not to help set it free, you must help set it free. (6) Don’t undermine the justice that your poor deserve in their lawsuits. (7) Stay away from making a false charge. Don’t put an innocent person who is in the right to death, because I will not consider innocent those who do such evil. (8) Don’t take a bribe, because a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of those who are in the right. (9) Don’t oppress an immigrant. You know what it’s like to be an immigrant, because you were immigrants in the land of Egypt.” — from the COMMON ENGLISH BIBLE (used with permission)

Christians, too, recognize their duty and honor to serve others who have hit hard times. John the Baptist, who was in prison at the time, sent word to this new teacher named Jesus and asked him for some proof that the was the longed-for Messiah. Jesus did not cite as evidence that he had formed a large anti-Roman army, nor that he had a large political campaign war chest, nor that the Who’s Who of Israel were his backers. Amazingly, Jesus told the messengers, “Go, report to John what you hear and see. Those who were blind are able to see. Those who are crippled are walking. People with skin diseases are cleansed. Those who were deaf now hear. Those who were dead are raised up. The poor have good news proclaimed to them.” (Matthew 11:4-5, CEB)

A lawyer with the Pharisee sect of Judaism tried to trap Jesus one time by asking him what the greatest commandment was in the Law of Moses. Jesus said, ” (37) You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. (38) This is the first and greatest commandment. (39) And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” (Matthew 22:37-39, CEB)

It is clear in both Judaism and in Christianity that love for others–not just a good feeling but positive, practical help–is fundamental to religious faith.

The apostle James chided his peers by saying, “(2) Imagine two people coming into your meeting. One has a gold ring and fine clothes, while the other is poor, dressed in filthy rags. (3) Then suppose that you were to take special notice of the one wearing fine clothes, saying, ‘Here’s an excellent place. Sit here.’ But to the poor person you say, ‘Stand over there’; or, ‘Here, sit at my feet.’ (4) Wouldn’t you have shown favoritism among yourselves and become evil-minded judges?

“(5) My dear brothers and sisters, listen! Hasn’t God chosen those who are poor by worldly standards to be rich in terms of faith? Hasn’t God chosen the poor as heirs of the kingdom he has promised to those who love him? (6) But you have dishonored the poor. Don’t the wealthy make life difficult for you? Aren’t they the ones who drag you into court? (7) Aren’t they the ones who insult the good name spoken over you at your baptism?

“(8) You do well when you really fulfill the royal law found in scripture, Love your neighbor as yourself.” (James 2:2-8, CEB)

That, my friends, is why you see hundreds of hospitals and universities and homes for the needy founded by and funded by the faith community. Highly respected Jewish hospitals and Christian hospitals are found across America, as are homes for the homeless and abused. Back in my old stomping ground, Oklahoma City, we had the Baptist Hospital, Deaconess Hospital (Methodist), and Mercy Hospital (Catholic), each of them a fine facility caring for anyone who walked through the door. Other religious organizations work every day to help migrants with legal work or with learning English, or helping pregnant women save their babies from abortions, or rescuing young men and women from sex traffickers and drug dealers. And the list of good works goes on and on.

“This Land is Your Land” is a nice song title and sorta give us a warm, fuzzy feeling. In fact, I have personally adapted it to create songs for the people of Rwanda (“Rwandans, This Land Is Our Land”), for the people of Honduras (“Hondurans, This Land Is Your Land”), and for the people of Ireland (“Ireland Is Your Land).  View videos of those songs and 50 others on my “Stan Paregien’s Studio” on YouTube at:https://www.youtube.com/user/CowboyStan/videos

My point is this: it takes that “good feeling” and $5.00 to get you a cup of java at Starbucks. Fact is, it is up to you and to me to look for opportunities to honor God by doing good wherever we go and by teaching others to do the same.  

So if you are looking for hope and purpose in your life, please take a serious look around you. Observe how your neighbors are living. Is it the Believers who are more happy and fulfilled . . . and busy helping others . . . or is it the Non-Believers? There are exceptions, of course, for no one is perfect in practicing their philosophy of life. But my 75+ years of experience has shown me that people of faith actually believe that history is headed somewhere and they are not just sitting hopelessly on a spinning earth.

Just sayin’.

[NOTE: My eBook, WOODY GUTHRIE: HIS LIFE, MUSIC AND MYTH, is available in seven popular formats at:  https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/StanParegien . You’ll find over a dozen more of my eBooks there as well. And before long there will be another one on the list, right now tentatively titled MANATEE COUNTY, FLORIDA: FACTS, FOLKS AND PHOTOS. Stay tuned.]

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Issue 346 – Laughter Therapy

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Issue 346     —     January 9, 2017

Whenever I am able to laugh in the middle of a problem, it always makes me feel like I can get through the ordeal someway, somehow. Isn’t that the way it is for you?

Laughter is simply a poor person’s psychiatric therapy, and it may even be more therapeutic in many cases than the high-dollar stuff. Hey, in another life (i.e., many years ago), I worked for the Texas Department of Mental Heath as the Director of one of their centers. And I was a full-time preacher for over ten years. So I have seen people in a world of hurt in many contexts. And spirits were always lifted when we were able to laugh together. 

It was the legendary English author Charles Dickens (A CHRISTMAS CAROL) who wrote, “There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.” And the late actress Audrey Hepburn said, “I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It’s probably the most important thing in a person.”

I don’t know if Vladimir Putin, the despotic ruler of Russia, ever laughs. But here is what Russian writer and philosopher Fyodor Dostoyevsky had to say on the subject:  “If you wish to glimpse inside a human soul and get to know a man, don’t bother analyzing his ways of being silent, of talking, of weeping, of seeing how much he is moved by noble ideas; you will get better results if you just watch him laugh. If he laughs well, he’s a good man.” 

Then there is this rather practical point of view from an apparent religious guru, Swami Satchidonanda, in his book THE YOGA SUTRAS: “We are not going to change the whole world, but we can change ourselves and feel free as birds. We can be serene even in the midst of calamities and, by our serenity, make others more tranquil. Serenity is contagious. If we smile at someone, he or she will smile back. And a smile costs nothing. We should plague everyone with joy. If we are to die in a minute, why not die happily, laughing?” 

So in this issue I have focused on cartoons and essays that give you a chance to exercise your smiler — i.e., the muscles that cooperate to produce a big ol’ smile when you laugh about something.

So sit back and relax. Take this opportunity to laugh on the inside, and then — what the heck — let it fly. Laugh out loud and enjoy it. 

Let’s get started.

 

 

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Poem 420   Prayer and a Professional Man -- copyrighted by Stan Paregien - 2015--11--10

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Poem 422   Cowboy's Memory Problem, A   -  copyrighted 2015--11--24 by Stan Paregien -- Page 1 of 2

Poem 422   Cowboy's Memory Problem, A   -  copyrighted 2015--11--24 by Stan Paregien -- Page 2 of 2

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In Observation of Tolerance

by Jiggs McDonald

(Mr. McDonald, a broadcaster in the National Hockey League’s Hall of Fame, made these statements before an audience in Toronto, Canada. Sent to me by a friend in Bakersfield, Calif., a town with a high threshold for tolerance. After all, they let Buck Owens & His Buckeroos live there for decades.)

I am truly perplexed that so many of my friends are against another mosque being built in Toronto. I think it should be the goal of every Canadian to be tolerant regardless of their religious beliefs. Thus the mosque should be allowed, in an effort to promote tolerance.

That is why I also propose that two nightclubs be opened next door to the mosque; thereby promoting tolerance from within the mosque. We could call one of the clubs, which would be gay, “The Turban Cowboy,” and the other, a topless bar, would be called “You Mecca Me Hot.”

Next door should be a butcher shop that specializes in pork, and adjacent to that an open-pit barbecue pork restaurant, called “Iraq of Ribs.”

Across the street there could be a lingerie store called “Victoria Keeps Nothing Secret,” with sexy mannequins in the window modeling the goods”, and on the other side a liquor store called “Morehammered.”

All of this would encourage Muslims to demonstrate the tolerance they demand of us.

[Someone else added this footnote: Yes we should promote tolerance, and you can do your part by passing this on. And if you are not laughing or smiling at this point . . . , it is either past your bedtime, . . . or its midnight at the oasis and time to put your camel to bed.]

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Poem 432-- Just Following Instructions   --  copyrighted by Stan Paregien Sr - 2016-01-23  -- Page 1 of 2

Poem 432-- Just Following Instructions   --  copyrighted by Stan Paregien Sr - 2016-01-23  -- Page 2 of 2

 

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Poem 440   A Solution for Marital Problems  -  by Stan Paregien Sr - Copyrighted April 15, 2016

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Vice-President Pence & President Donald Trump

doing a celebratory dance at their inauguration.

[Aw, relax. I’m a Republican . . . with a sense of humor.]

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See there, now don’t you feel better? I sure do hope so.

Best wishes,

Stan

RESOURCES FOR YOU:

Briar, Jeffrey.  The Laughter Yoga Book: Laugh Yourself to Better Health.

F., ED.  God Grant Me the Laughter: A Treasury of Twelve Step Humor.

Goodheart, Annette.  Laughter Therapy: How to Laugh About Everything in Your Life That Isn’t Really Funny. King, Brian.  The Laughing Cure: Emotional and Physical Healing: A Comedian Reveals Why Laughter Really Is the Best Medicine.

Laughter the Best Medicine: A Laugh-Out-Loud Collection of our Funniest Jokes, Quotes, Stories & Cartoons(Reader’s Digest): Editors of Reader’s Digest

Lloyd, Jessica.  Laugh Your Way to Enlightenment: The Art of Spiritual Laughter

Martin, James.  Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life.

McCloud, Ace.  Laughter Therapy: Discover How to Use Laughter and Humor for Healing, Stress Relief, Improved Health and Increased Emotional Wellbeing.

Peter, Laurence.  The Laughter Prescription. 

Pierce, Chonda.  Laughing in the Dark: A Comedian’s Journey through Depression. 

Trueblood, Elton. The Humor of Christ.

 

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Issue 345 – Facts and Fun

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Issue 345      –        January 4, 2017

As one radio broadcaster used to say, “Hello Americans and to all the ships at sea.”

Actually, I’ll just say hello to you. Thanks for stopping by for some facts and some fun. 

The following “Letter to the Editor” should get your hackles up, if you depend on Social Security for your income or known anyone else who does. This writer does a bang-up job of confronting our local Congressman, Mr. Vern Buchanan, with the injustice of the current system. And note how in his last statement he mentions the elephant in the Capital Building in Washington. That is the fact our beloved Congressmen set themselves up on an automatic pay raise of several thousands of dollars each and every year. That really stinks. Let ’em key their pay raises to the same standards ruling what people on Social Security get. 

So, please . . . print off a copy of this letter. Then write letters to all of your representatives and include a copy of that “Letter to the Editor.” 

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Hmmm. Maybe we ought to force President-Elect Trump (Republican), House Speaker Paul Ryan (Republican) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (Democrat) to get inside a man-sized “Get Along Shirt” for the next 60 days or so to make sure they are working together for us — the American people. It is far past time for our leaders to stand tall and work for the common good as Americans, not as partisans.

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Back in 2011, Peggy and I visited Bradenton and Sarasota, Florida as we thought about whether to retire somewhere on the Gulf coast. On the day shown above, Peggy took a photo of me visiting with another old geezer down in Sarasota about all there is to see and do here. To my surprise, my eloquence left this obvious Yankee from New York or New Jersey absolutely speechless.

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Now, friends and neighbors, this is what retirement is all about. Notice that I am not wearing a watch, either. Photo taken late in 2011 by Peggy Paregien when we spent a few nights in a hotel near the gulf at Santibel Island, just west of Fort Meyers, Florida.

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Amen, brother. Tell it like it is.

See ya next time.

— Stan

 

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Issue 343 – ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

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Issue 343 – ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas – December 10, 2016

Lest I forget, let me say to all of you that Peggy and I wish for our family and our friends, as well as our followers around the world, a blessed Christmas Day. 

In this issue, I just want to share some Christmas-related poems, essays and cartoons. Happy reading.

 

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

(aka “A Visit from St. Nicholas “)

[A copy of the first publication of this poetic account of a child’s happy visit from St. Nicholas in the Troy (NY) Sentinel (1823) is reprinted and analyzed by English literature scholar MacDonald P. Jackson on the InterMedia Enterprises website. While authorship credit is debatable, some experts agree that the original poem was the work of a Mr. Henry Livingston (according to the Huffington Post).

[A later publication attributes the poem to writer Clement Clark Moore, who claimed to have written it in 1822. Unbeknownst to Moore, the poem was published anonymously in a newspaper in upstate New York in December 1823. Additionally, Moore, who was a professor of Oriental and Greek literature at General Theological Seminary in New York City, is thought to have written “A Visit from St. Nicholas” for his children, without any intention of publishing it. He first published it under his name in 1844 after others tried to take credit for it. So . . . the true authorship is debatable.

[Note: the following version is a modern English version, whereas the original was written in somewhat archaic English.]

 

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

 Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

 The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

 In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

 

 The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

 While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;

 And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,

 Had just settled down for a long winter’s nap,

 

 When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

 I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

 Away to the window I flew like a flash,

 Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

 

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow

 Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,

 When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

 But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

 

 With a little old driver, so lively and quick,

 I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

 More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

 And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

 

 “Now, DASHER! now, DANCER! now, PRANCER and VIXEN!

 On, COMET! on CUPID! on, DONDER and BLITZEN!

 To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!

 Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

 

 As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,

 When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,

 So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,

 With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

 

 And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof

 The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

 As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,

 Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

 

 He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,

 And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;

 A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,

 And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

 

 His eyes — how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!

 His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

 His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

 And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

  

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;

He had a broad face and a little round belly,

That shook when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.

 

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,

And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

 

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,

And laying his finger aside of his nose,

And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

 

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

 

Santa Claus: Man or Myth?

by Stan Paregien Sr.

 

Here is the story of one man’s answer to be the classic childhood question as to whether Santa Claus is real or not. It is not the only answer, of course, and there are some who raise legitimate concerns about problems an answer like this might cause to children as they grow older. However, those issues are for another occasion. Right now we go back more than 100 years in time to see how one man dealt with the issue.

In September of 1897, a little girl wrote a letter to Mr. Francis P. Church, the editor of the New York Sun newspaper. She asked him to please answer an important question for her. And, after considering her dilemma for some time, on September 21, 1897, Mr. Church published the little girl’s question and gave his answer.

Here is what the little girl named Virginia wrote:

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“Dear Editor: I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun [newspaper], it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus? — Virginia O’Hanlon, 115 West Ninety Fifth Street”

What the editor, Mr. Church, told her has become the most widely reprinted newspaper editorial in the entire English speaking world. It is an established part of Christmas folklore in many parts of the world. Here is what he said:

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“Viginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little.

 

“In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.

“We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

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“Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

“You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else more real and abiding.

“No Santa Claus! Thank God! He lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

You may be interested to learn that young Virginia O’Hanlon later earned a doctorate degree and spent her life teaching and serving as a school administrator. She died at the age of 81. Mr. Church, the newspaper editor, died in 1906 at the age of 67.

 

So far this editorial written in 1897 by Mr. Church is the only one ever set to music. That happened in 1932 when NBC radio commissioned and broadcasted a “Yes, Virginia” cantata set to classical music. On Dec. 8, 1991 a made-for-TV movie titled, “Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus” was shown. It starred actors Richard Thomas (“John Boy Walton” in the TV series “The Waltons”), Ed Asner and tough-guy Charles Bronson.

In fact, the expression “Yes, Virginia, There Is A . . . ” has become a common way of saying that a certain thing or person is real and does exist. Such as, “Yes, Virginia, there is an honest politician.” Well, okay, that may not be the best example but you catch my drift.

There remains the deeper question of how or when children should be properly educated about such “make-believe” characters as Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny Rabbit, and fairies tiptoeing through the tulips. One rather sarcastic and know-it-all eleven year old told a questioning younger child, “Aw, heck. Santa Claus is just like the Devil. He is your old man.”

That is probably not the best approach.

Here is a better one, especially when they suspect that their mom or dad is really Santa Claus. Just relax and be honest with them. Here is my general letter to kids about ol’ Santa, a letter that would be appropriate for most families:

“Dear Kids,

“You may be wondering whether Santa Claus is a real person under that red hat and long, white beard. Well, let me help you understand.

“First, your mom and dad are not Santa Claus. Oh, yes, they are the ones who shop for your gifts, pay for them, wrap them and put them under your Christmas tree. After all, a fat Santa couldn’t drag a big bag of gifts down a chimney. But when your parents do all of that it does not make them Santa Claus. And, you know what, their own parents and grandparents probably blessed them the same way with the legend about a wonderful man who was just full of love and generosity.

“The tradition of a Santa Claus is a wonderful experience for most families, but that doesn’t really make any of us Santa Claus. Playing like Santa is real, you see, is a fun way of reminding all of us — parents and children — that there are times when it is important to believe in things we cannot see with our eyes or touch with our hands or measure with a ruler. Things like love, God, trusting in others, cooperation in getting everything done, hope when life is hard, thankfulness for being together as family and friends, joy in giving to others and happiness in receiving gifts and best wishes from others.

That is really what the idea of Santa Claus is all about. Santa is an attitude, a happy and good way of thinking, rather than a person. The job of spreading cheer around the world is too big and wonderful for just one person to do. So most of us are part of “Team Santa.”

“Next year you can help us find the right gifts for other people, and you can enjoy wrapping them and giving them away. Maybe someday you will decide to bless your own children by passing on this tradition, but that choice will be entirely up to you.” 

 

Well, friends, I hope that is helpful to some of you.

Some of my Christian brothers and sisters may seriously object to “playing Santa” and putting an emphasis upon a mythical man rather than on “the reason for the season” – the birth of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

Frankly, my wife and I went through a cycle of beliefs and behaviors when our children and grandchildren were young. Early on we observed a deep appreciation for this period as a time of celebrating the birth of Jesus and we included the Santa myth as something distinct from that holy celebration.

Then at some point we decided that the “distinct” part may not have been understandable at all by our children. So, much to the dismay of both sets of our parents, we went through one or two Christmases without Santa and without gifts. Then we returned to our normal practice.

So, . . . I would suggest adding this statement to the letter above for those Christians who are struggling with what to do:

“Kids, the reason we have this Christmas season at all is because of the birth of Jesus the Christ. Notice the spelling of Christmas: “Christ-mas.” We believe in Jesus as the baby born in Bethlehem, but we also believe in him as our savior, our hope for eternal life, our helper in this life. We have to tell you, because God wants us to tell the truth and not lie (1 Peter 3:10), that Santa is not any of these things.

 

“You see, when I was a boy we would play lots of games of make believe. Cowboys. Space travelers. Kings and queens. There were always good people and bad people in those kid games. But we knew they were not real or somehow magical. They were just for fun. That is how it is with Santa, too. So you can have fun with Santa, but God is for real and wants us to love him with all our hearts.”

Maybe that will help.

 

Now, for those who might be interested in reading alternative opinions about what to tell children about Santa Claus, here are some sources:

Brown, Laura Lewis. “Is It Okay to Lie About Santa?” PBS-Parents: http://www.pbs.org/parents/holidays/is-it-okay-lie-about-santa/

 Holidays or Holy Days: Does It Matter Which Days We Observe? This is a 48-page booklet which is free upon request by writing to The United Church of God, P.O. Box 541027, Cincinnati, OH 45254-1027.

Johnson, David Kyle. “The Santa Claus Lie Debate: Answering Objections.”

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/plato-pop/201312/the-santa-claus-lie-debate-answering-objections

Strobel, Lee.  The Case for Christmas: A Journalist Investigates the Identity of the Child in the Manger.

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1 Corinthians 13

(A Christmas Version)

by an unknown author

 
If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I’m just Another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family, I’m just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend myriad holiday parties and sing in the choir’s cantata but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.

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Love stops the cooking to hug the child.

Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.

Love is kind, though harried and tired.

Love doesn’t envy another’s home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.

Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful they are there to be in the way.

Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return but rejoices in giving to those who can’t.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails. Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust, but giving the gift of love will endure.

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Christmas Is Only As Strong

As Its Weakest Link

By Curtis K. Shelburne

I don’t usually think of Christmas and chains as going together, unless I’m reading about the ponderously-chained Ghost of Christmas Past who so terrorized old Ebenezer Scrooge! But I believe this to be true: Christmas is a “chain” which is only as strong as its weakest link.

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If Christmas deals only with lights and tinsel, egg nog and poinsettias (all of which I enjoy very much, I hope you understand), and the Yuletide joy and peace, love and good will, we sing about are just artificial twinkles and largely illusory light, then Christmas is a weak and pathetic thing which can’t possibly stand the test of life and time and which will fade a long time before the January sales (and credit card bills) end.

If Christmas has to do only with parties and good times, but nothing to do with hospital rooms and disgusting diagnoses . . . 

If Christmas has to do only with smiles and “Merry Christmases” and nothing to do with hope at a graveside . . .

If Christmas has to do only with sales and not souls, presents and not His Presence, holiday cheer but not lifelong Joy . . .

If Christmas has to do only with Jingle Bells and nothing to do with “God with us,” well, then, Christmas is not up to the task of making a real difference in our lives, and it’s just one more momentary diversion for the despairing, one more false hope for people who know no hope, and it certainly won’t make much difference in life, or in death, or in anything at all very real or substantial.

But if Christmas, and all that is best about this good season, points to real light and hope, glimmering reflections from the Father of Lights, the Giver of Joy, the Sender of the very best Gift, then the Christ of Christmas can use this time of celebration to point us to light that truly is stronger than darkness, hope that is genuinely stronger than despair, and life that is ultimately and infinitely stronger than death. 

Then we discover that the Light of Christmas is real indeed because He is real, and life is far more substantial than death.

Then Christmas means something beautiful and wonderful and real. And Christmas joy can and will last forever.

[Copyright 2013 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice. You are invited to visit his website at http://www.curtissheldburne.com. ]

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A Christmas Remembrance
By Carolyn B. Leonard

For people who are dealing with the loss of a loved one, the holidays are often a daunting and difficult time of year. The Holiday season will be not as bright for families who have lost someone or something precious. One of my writer friends who lost her husband in 2012 described it as a year of “unmitigated Hell.” 

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In my tiny rural no-stoplight hometown of Buffalo up near the Kansas border, the home-owned and operated Wilkinson funeral home is doing something to help this season. They are preparing lovely glass angel ornaments which will be personalized with the name of each person they took care of this year. In a special “Christmas In Heaven” program at a church, the personalized Guardian Angel ornaments will then be presented to the family to be placed on their own Christmas tree or otherwise displayed in remembrance of the loved one for years to come.

Not just the immediate family, but the entire town and county are invited to participate in this opportunity to remember and honor all those lost this past year — because in a community like Buffalo it really does take a village to raise a child, and each soul has played a special role in every life. This program will give them the chance to publicly acknowledge their share of the loss.

It is always better to talk about grief and deal with it directly than to ignore or suppress it. When our first grandchild was killed in a car accident just before Christmas the whole community grieved with us. It was a horrible time for our family giving up that beloved and precious toddler, but knowing our grief was shared helped ease our pain. Friends, neighbors, acquaintances – not knowing what else to do – came with tearful hugs, flowers, and casseroles. Those gifts of love, but even more their comforting presence at that time, will never be forgotten.

Everyone feels a little awkward and are unsure what to say, but I liked to hear — “I heard about what happened …I can’t imagine what this has been like for you.” Each broken-hearted person feels their grief is unimaginable, their life has been changed forever. The word ‘imagine’ implies that whatever the griever says will be accepted, not judged or criticized. And then you can do the most important and helpful thing ever … just listen.

The stages of mourning and grief are universal and are experienced by people from all walks of life. Grief is the normal and natural reaction to loss. The seven emotional stages of grief are disbelief, denial, bargaining, guilt, anger, depression, and acceptance or hope. There is no neat progression from one stage to the next and no set timetable.

The stages we must work through also apply to the loss of a job, a loved pet, a friendship, a marriage, health, or any other negative effect that changed your life. We all know about the collective grief that envelops everyone touched by tragedies such as the Murrah Bombing, the senseless 9-11 deaths, the spring tornado disaster, those life-changing events when everyone mourns. It takes a long time, but healing comes – very slowly, but it comes and you move on.

As you start to adjust to life without that part that is missing, your life becomes a little calmer and more organized. You can finally move to acceptance.


Acceptance does not imply happiness. Instead, you can now remember and think about the loved one with sadness, but without that wrenching, intense emotional pain.

Holidays and events filled with tradition can be especially hard to deal with. Death is a topic everyone wants to avoid, even tho the unfortunate truth is that at some point we will all be faced with the uncomfortable reality of loss. Cherish the memories associated with the event, and with the person who is gone. Perhaps a glass ornament Guardian Angel, inscribed with the person’s name, is just the trick you need to find some joy in a Christmas remembrance.

[ Note: The above article was written by our dear Christian friend, Carolyn B. Leonard, of Oklahoma City. Our relationship dates all the way back to about 1985. And for a time we both worked for the same company as newspaper editors, she in Buffalo, Okla., and I in Meade, Kansas. Carolyn is also the author of a helpful book on genealogy. It has the catchy title of Who’s Your Daddy? ]

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Prelude to Christmas Prayer

by Don Betts

Bradenton, FL – Dec., 2013

 Our house is your house, we wish you good cheer,

On this special day we’re glad that you’re here!

Christmas is a time of special reflection,

And to some, a day of great expectation.

 

Our thoughts are mostly of friends and family together,

Without grievous thoughts or fear of the weather.

At our house its always a beautiful day.

So we now take a moment to pray.

 

Let’s pray for peace, tranquility and accord,

And ask a special blessing as we give thanks to our Lord.

Lets be happy with His blessings.

That come in such abundance.

And rid ourselves of earthly things

That come with such redundance.

 

Lord help us to love one another

To be to each  other, sister and brother.

Help us to know, with all due reason

The true meaning of this special season.

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The Boy Who Laughed at Santa Claus

by Ogden Nash

APR 1 1959, APR 2 1959; Ogden Nash; Americans too serious.;“Frederic Ogden Nash (August 19, 1902 – May 19, 1971) was an American poet well known for his light verse. At the time of his death in 1971, The New York Times said his “droll
verse with its unconventional rhymes made him the country’s best-known producer of humorous poetry”.[1] Nash wrote over 500 pieces of comic verse. The best of his work was published in 14 volumes between 1931 and 1972.” – Wikipedia Dec. 8, 2016.

 

In Baltimore there lived a boy.

He wasn’t anybody’s joy.

Although his name was Jabez Dawes,

His character was full of flaws.

 

In school he never led his classes,

He hid old ladies’ reading glasses,

His mouth was open when he chewed,

And elbows to the table glued.

 

He stole the milk of hungry kittens,

And walked through doors marked,

“NO ADMITTANCE.”

He said he acted thus because

There wasn’t any Santa Claus.

 

Another trick that tickled Jabez

Was crying “Boo!” at little babies.

He brushed his teeth, they said in town,

Sideways instead of up and down.

 

Yet people pardoned every sin,

And viewed his antics with a grin,

Till they were told by Jabez Dawes,

“There isn’t any Santa Claus!”

 

Deploring how he did behave,

His parents swiftly sought their grave.

They hurried through the portals pearly,

And Jabez left the funeral early.

 

Like whooping cough, from child to child,

He sped to spread the rumor wild:

“Sure as my name is Jabez Dawes

There isn’t any Santa Claus!”

 

Slunk like a weasel of a marten

Through nursery and kindergarten,

Whispering low to every tot,

“There isn’t any, no there’s not!”

 

The children wept all Christmas eve

And Jabez chortled up his sleeve.

No infant dared hang up his stocking

For fear of Jabez’ ribald mocking.

 

He sprawled on his untidy bed,

Fresh malice dancing in his head,

When presently with scalp-a-tingling,

Jabez heard a distant jingling.

 

He heard the crunch of sleigh and hoof

Crisply alighting on the roof.

What good to rise and bar the door?

A shower of soot was on the floor.

 

What was beheld by Jabez Dawes?

The fireplace full of Santa Claus!

Then Jabez fell upon his knees

With cries of “Don’t,” and “Pretty Please.”

He howled, ‘I don’t know where you read it,

But anyhow, I never said it!’

 

“Jabez” replied the angry saint,

“It isn’t I, it’s you that ain’t.

Although there is a Santa Claus,

There isn’t any Jabez Dawes!”

 

Said Jabez then with impudent vim,

“Oh, yes there is, and I am him!

“Your magic don’t scare me, it doesn’t.”

And suddenly he found he wasn’t!

 

From grimy feet to grimy locks,

Jabez became a Jack-in-the-box,

An ugly toy with springs unsprung,

Forever sticking out his tongue.

 

The neighbors heard his mournful squeal;

They searched for him, but not with zeal.

No trace was found of Jabez Dawes,

Which led to thunderous applause,

And people drank a loving cup

And went and hung their stockings up.

 

All you who sneer at Santa Claus,

Beware the fate of Jabez Dawes,

The saucy boy who mocked the saint.

Donner and Blitzen licked off his paint.

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Christmas Trivia Questions

 

  1. After leaving Bethlehem, to which country did Joseph, Mary, and Jesus travel?

          Answer: Egypt

  1. Every elf has this ornament on the tip of their shoes. Which ornament are we talking about?     Answer: a bell
  1. Name the eight original Reindeer.   Answer:  Blitzen, Comet, Cupid, Dasher, Prancer,    Vixen, Dancer, and Donner
  1. How does a Mexican sheep say “Merry Christmas”? Answer: “Fe-leece Navidad”
  1. Which country is credited with the creation of the Christmas beverage, eggnog?

          Answer: Turkey

  1. Which country does St. Nicholas originally belong to? Answer: Norway
  1. Which was the first state in the United States to recognize Christmas as an official holiday?  Answer:  Alabama
  1. Here is a two-part question about the song, “White Christmas.” (1) In what movie did it first appear . . . and (2) what year did the movie appear?   

          Answers:  “Holiday Inn” in 1942

  1. James Stewart & Donna Reed starred in “It’s A Wonderful Life” in what year?

          Answer: 1946

  1. In that same movie, what was the first name of the angel? Answer:  Clarence

 

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

(Brooklyn Version)

 The author cannot be identified because

he is in a witness protection program.

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 ‘Twas the night before Christmas,

Da whole house was mellow,

Not a creature was stirrin’,

I had a gun unda my pillow.

 

When up on da roof’

I heard somethin’ pound,

I sprung to da window,

To scream, “YO! Keep it down!”

 

When what to my Wanderin’

eyes should appear,

But dat hairy elf Vinny,

And eight friggin’ reindeer.

 

Wit’ a bad hackin’ cough,

And da stencha burped beer,

I knew in a moment

Yo, da Kringle wuz here!

 

Wit’ a slap to dere snouts,

And a yank on dere manes,

He cursed and he shouted,

And he called dem by name.

 

“Yo Tony, Yo Frankie,

Yo Sally, Yo Vito,

Ay Joey, Ay Paulie,

Ay Pepe, Ay Guido!”

 

As I drew out my gun

And hid by da bed,

Down came his boot

On da top a my head.

 

His eyes were all bloodshot,

His body odor wuz scary,

His breath wuz like sewage,

He had a mole dat wuz hairy.

 

He spit in my eye,

And he twisted my head,

He soon let me know

I should consider myself dead.

 

Den pointin’ a fat finga

Right unda my nose,

He let out some gas,

And up da chimney he rose.

 

He sprang to his sleigh,

…..screaming,

And away dey all flew,

Before he troo dem a beatin’.

 

But I heard him exclaim,

Or better yet grunt,

“Merry Christmas to all, and

Bite me, ya hump!”

Christmas Time in Florida

by Stan Paregien

Oh, the lovely plastic holly is secured in our window tonight,

And our electric fireplace, glowing reddish orange, is pretty and bright.

There’s newly sprayed artificial snow on our green plastic palm tree,

So most all of the holiday decorating is through for the Mrs. and me.

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Here in Florida at our large, gated 55-plus retirement community

We have an exciting annual Christmas parade for everyone to see.

All the high-dollar golf carts and bicycles have ribbons and lights,

And party-time reveling is done up to almost 8 pm on some nights.

 

Ah, yes, again here in sunny Florida it is obviously Christmas time.

And many of our home-grown traditions are both weird and sublime.

You see, here ol’ Santa Claus can really kick back and relax,

For no one ever phones him or sends him a text or even a fax.

 

Down here in Florida, Santa Claus is really hip and on the ball.

He has a new cellphone, a GPS and a deep southern drawl.

His staff of elves is so organized he gets presents out on time

Even to Snowbirds temporarily down here for the warm clime.

 

Santa retired from the bitter cold North Pole to right near here

And he has a nice luxury stable at the beach for his reindeer.

Santa’s elves also relocated to condos and they help him a lot,

Making sure Santa Baby quits golfing on the deadline’s dot.

 

Then they hitch the famous reindeer to his amphibious sleigh,

Equipped to land anywhere at all on that extra special day.

He flies so doggone fast the wind tugs at his beachcomber hat,

And he travels around the world delivering this and that.

 

Oh, it is absolutely true: Christmas time in Florida can’t be beat.

You can sit outside on your patio and drink a ice-cold treat.

Or you can stretch out at a warm beach and catch the sight

Of Jimmy Buffett, John Travolta or a swim suit too slight.

 

Friend, during Christmas time in Florida don’t get in a rush,

Just always go for the “Early Bird Special” to avoid a crush.

‘Cause Snowbirds clog the beaches, cafes, theaters and the like–

And they cause our living expenses here in Florida to spike.

 

Well, Christmas time in Florida is about perfect in every way:

We leave pretzels and a margarita for Santa on that special day.

In Paradise we scrape no ice and shovel not an ounce of snow,

So we’re happy here in Florida and we ain’t putting on a show.

[This poem copyrighted by Stan Paregien in 2014.]

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Some Punny Poems & More

The Paregien Journal  –  Issue 339  –  July 25, 2016  –  Stan Paregien, Editor

2015--10--13   2167--N   Sedona, AZ  -   Stan Paregien and Don Betts -  copyrighted by Peg Paregien

Don Betts and I and our much better halves– Judy and Peggy — spent a delightful week together in Sedona, Arizona last year. But the point of this current issue of THE PAREGIEN JOURNAL is to put down persistent rumors and to established beyond a reasonable doubt . . . that Don and I can do something other than sit around and look pretty.

Or not.

Well, we’re going to try, anyway.

Secondarily, we have had thousands of people begging on bended knees for poetry based on puns. 

Or not.

Mostly not. However, I kinda like ’em. Most of my are short and on the funny side. Anyway, kind of like indigestion, I sure feel better getting them out of my system. So I am including several here.

However, we begin with a poem by my dear friend Don Betts. The man is a remarkable writer and poet, especially considering the fact he never tried his hand at it until he was 82. So we lead off with his extremely appropriate poem titled “Conventional Confusion.” It is just in time for the beginning of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, and that is what it is all about. And, as with many of Don’s poems, the last few lines jump up and bite you on the butt. You’ll enjoy it.

Or not.

But mostly you’ll enjoy it, I think.

Friends, the pilot has turned the warning light signifying that we are about to take off. It may be a bumpy ride, so please buckle up.

Betts, Don  -  Conventional Confusion  -- July 19, 2016

And then things kinda go down hill from there.

Poem 447   About Those Old Accountants  --  by Stan Paregien Sr - copyrighted  June 14, 2016

Poem 448   Old Anesthesiologists  --  by Stan Paregien Sr - copyrighted  June 14, 2016

Poem 449   Procrastinators and Death  --  by Stan Paregien Sr - copyrighted  June 14, 2016

Betts, Don   --   Home, Sweet Home  -- April 29, 2015

Poem 450   Old Quilters Never Die  --  Stan Paregien Sr - copyrighted June 14, 2016

Poem 451   Aging Football Quarterbacks  --  Stan Paregien Sr - copyrighted June 14, 2016

Poem 452   Four Sets of Twins  --  Stan Paregien Sr - copyrighted June 14, 2016

Poem 460  The Warning Sign -- A Punny Poem - by Stan Paregien 2016--06--28  - pun

Poem 461  Canned at the Cannery  --  A Punny Poem - by Stan Paregien - 2016-06-28  - pun

Betts, Don - Unproblematic Solution - July 16, 2016 - Matt 1 v1-17

Poem 462  Excuse My Confusionality --  by Stan Paregien - 2016-07-2016

Poem 463  The Deer Slayer - A Punny Poem  --  by Stan Paregien - 2016-07-24 - pun

Poem 464  Sausage Links - A Punny Poem - by Stan Paregien - 2016-07-24 - pun

Poem 465  How to Attract Women  - A Punny Poem - by Stan Paregien - 2016-07-24 - pun

Poem 453    A Cure for Chili's Main Problem   --  Stan Paregien Sr - copyrighted June 14, 2016Poem 456   What Happened to Customer Service  -   by Stan Paregien Sr - copyrighted 2016-06-16Poem 457   The Legend of Mystery  Mountain -- by Stan Paregien Sr - 2016-06-16  -  Page 1 of  6

Poem 457   The Legend of Mystery  Mountain -- by Stan Paregien Sr - 2016-06-16  -  Page 2 of  6

Poem 457   The Legend of Mystery  Mountain -- by Stan Paregien Sr - 2016-06-16  -  Page 3 of  6

Poem 457   The Legend of Mystery  Mountain -- by Stan Paregien Sr - 2016-06-16  -  Page 4 of  6

Poem 457   The Legend of Mystery  Mountain -- by Stan Paregien Sr - 2016-06-16  -  Page 5 of  6

Poem 457   The Legend of Mystery  Mountain -- by Stan Paregien Sr - 2016-06-16  -  Page 6 of  6

Some of you know that Peggy and I recently spent ten delightful days in bonnie ol’ Scotland. The photo below shows us standing in front of our hotel in Ayr, Scotland.

Or not.

2016--07--07   03G  Calzean Castle -  S and P Paregien -  by E Sklair

Right, it ain’t our hotel. But we did visit there. And in the near future I hope to have many of our Scotland photos posted online. More about that another time.

Thanks for stopping by the ol’ bunkhouse to visit a spell. Y’all come back soon, ya hear?

— Stan Paregien Sr. (aka, “Cowboy Stan”)

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Life in Florida, Part 5

The Paregien Journal  –  Issue 337  –  June 21, 2016  –  Stan Paregien, Editor

Life in Florida, Part 5

2016--05--08   A--1C    Bradenton, FL -- Peggy Paregien on Mothers Day -- by Stan Paregien

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Hillbillies and Flatlanders

My cousin Jerry Paregien and his wife Muriel live in the nose-bleed heights of the far northeast mountains of Tennessee. I am told that he generates his house electricity from the same system that operates his still a hundred yards down in the woods from his house. But that is another story.

Since we have lived here in the Flatlands of Florida, they have been to see us about three times. And we have a boat-load of fun doing whatever we want. I had a sister and no brother, but ol’ “Jay-ree” is about as close as I’ve come. He is a scholar (written a couple of eBooks about particular firearms), a Southern gentleman (he is actually an immigrant, from that other country, . . . California) and our Christian brother and friend. 

Part of the fun we have and the bond we share is that Peggy and Muriel get along so doggoned well. Of course, each of them was a “P.K.”  For the uninitiated, that is a code for “Preacher’s Kid.” And they were. Muriel’s father was a well-known preacher in the mid-West and central California. He had qualms about tying the marriage knot for her, considering her mate selection; but it appears to have worked out. Her brother, Victor Knowles, is a long-time preacher who has lived in the Joplin, Missouri area for decades. He is the editor of ONE BODY, a magazine advocating Christian unity. And . . . Peggy’s father was a preacher in Nebraska (Kearney and Albion) and mostly in Ventura, California. Plus, Peggy was married to a guy who preached full time for about ten years ( I know him well). So Peggy and Muriel have fun discussing the pluses and minuses of living in the glass house of a parsonage.

Anyway, these photos show a little of what we did here this time.

2016--05--14   A1  Bradenton, FL -- Peggy Paregien and Muriel Paregien.jpg

2016--05--14   A2  Sarasota, FL -- Cousins - Stan and Jerry Paregien - by Peggy Paregien

2016--05--14   A3  Sarasota, FL -- Jerry and Muriel Paregien - by Peggy Paregien

2016--05--14   A4  Sarasota, FL -- Stan and Peggy Paregien - by Jerry Paregien

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Note the electric scoot-mobile Jerry has been using for about six months for longer walks. It is an amazing little thing that folds up compactly and only weights about 35 pounds, as I recall. So it gets an amazing number of miles per gallon of gas.

2016--05--17  B01   Bradenton, FL  --  nearly 30 million tourists visited Florida in the first quarter of 2016

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2016--05--15  A8B  Sarasota, FL - Old Guys Napping

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2016--05--20   A01   Bradenton, FL  is 6th fastest growing town in Florida, 46th in the nation

2016--06--15  05A   Venice, FL  -  Dr Brian Smith on his tricycle - by Peggy Paregien

2016--06--15  05B   Venice, FL  -  Dr Brian Smith on his tricycle - by Peggy Paregien

2016--06--15  05C   Venice, FL  -  Hand-made quilt given to Dr Brian and Ruth Smith - by Peggy Paregien

This beautiful quilt, above, was given to the Smiths recently by a friend — Jean Pendergrass. And . . . that reminds me of a poem about quilters . . . 

Poem 450   Old Quilters Never Die  --  Stan Paregien Sr - copyrighted June 14, 2016

2016--06--15  05D   Venice, FL  -  View from condo of  Dr Brian and Ruth Smith - by Peggy Paregien

2016--06--15  05E   Venice, FL  -  Stan and Peg Paregien with Ruth and Brian Smith  - by Bonnie Hamill

2016--06--19   01--A  Bradenton, FL  -- 8 dogs in the back of a convertible car - by Peggy Paregien

2016--06--19   02--A  Sarasota, FL  -- Don Betts and Judy - by Peggy Paregien

These are two of our favorite people in Florida. No, make that the United States. Naw, make that the continent of North America. Aw, shucks, you catch my drift. 

2016--06--19   03-A    Sarasota,  FL  -- Clay Landes -  by Stan Paregien

Be sure to check back for the next posting on THE PAREGIEN JOURNAL, as it will tell more about Clay’s story of faith. And it will have a copy of that great song he wrote.

Now, a very important personal note . . . 

Mr. and Mrs. Stan Paregien, Jr.

2016--05--10   Anniversary of Becky and Stan Paregien Jr - May 10, 1986 in Stroud, OK

2016--05--29--B   30th Anniversary renewal of wedding vows of Becky and Stan Paregien Jr -  married May 10, 1986

2016--05--29--C   Waterloo, IL - 30th Anniversary renewal of wedding vows of Becky and Stan Paregien Jr -  married May 10, 1986

Major Stan Paregien Jr., U.S.A.F., and wife Becky renewing their vows  on their 30th wedding anniversary. Columbia, Illinois. May 29, 2016

2016--05--29--C2   Waterloo, IL - 30th Anniversary renewal of wedding vows of Becky and Stan Paregien Jr -  married May 10, 1986

2016--05--29--C7   Waterloo, IL - Stan Paregien Jr, and Becky with kids - Daniel and Jodi - 30th anniversary

Becky & Stan Paregien Jr. with their children: Daniel (also in the U.S.A.F.) of St. Louis, Mo., and Jodi P. Barrow of Arkansas

2016--05--29--D   Waterloo, IL - Brandon Barrow, Jodi P Barrow and Bailee

Jodi Paregien Barrow with her husband Brandon (U.S. Coast Guard) and daughter Bailee (not shown, son Dominic)

Our 54th Wedding Anniversary

Peggy and I celebrated our 54th wedding anniversary on May 31, 2016. This year it was just a little different. Okay, a whole lot different.

Previously, we celebrated it together by eating at a nice restaurant or going some place special. On our 25th anniversary we made our first trip to lovely Hawaii. On our 50th we flew to London and took a bus tour of England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and one day in France. 

This time we also celebrated it with a trip to a special place. Only she went alone. And all day and night on May 31st she was enjoying being at sea on a 12-day cruise aboard the Holland American Oosterdam, as the guest of our friend and neighbor Evelyn Skliar. Meanwhile, I was home walking the dog and watering the flowers, neither of which I bargained for when we moved to Florida [upon her return I turned in my license to do such].

Oh, well. One of the little zigs and zags in life. 

Poem 445   Another Anniversary, My Love  --  by Stan Paregien Sr - copyrighted  May 31, 2016 -- Page 1 of  2

Poem 445   Another Anniversary, My Love  --  by Stan Paregien Sr - copyrighted  May 31, 2016 -- Page 2 of  2

 

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Issue 332 – Stan Paregien’s 15 eBooks Online

The Paregien Journal  –  Issue 332  –  May 4, 2016  –  Stan Paregien Sr., Editor

Periodically I need to stop and introduce my newer internet friends to some of the other things I have written over the years. So what follows here are thumbnail descriptions of the fifteen (15) eBooks of mine which are currently for sale online in a variety of popular formats.

I hope to have another eBook finished by the end of the summer, this one a non-fiction book with loads of photos and information about places and people in our recently adopted state, Florida. When that one is complete, I plan to start the most challenging non-fiction book of my entire career. Can’t tell you much about it, except that it will probably take a year or two for me to complete it. And I hope it will be my best and most-widely received.

After those two very serious projects end, I’ll ease off the keyboard and chip away at my “bucket list” of over 15 more writing projects. Do you know the story of Mrs. Winchester of the famed, odd-ball “Winchester House” in San Jose, California? Well, her hubby invented the Winchester brand rifle. He made a king-sized fortune on the manufacture of his guns and ammunition. After his death, Mrs. Winchester began listening way too much to a gypsy fortuneteller who convinced her that she would not die as long as there were carpenters at work on her house. So this dear lady with deep pockets kept crews of carpenters busy 24-hours of every day for years. So her house had doors and stairways that led nowhere and rooms that had been remodeled dozens of times. But, bless this mislead lady, her heart stopped way before the hammers and saws would have.

Unlike Mrs. Winchester, I really am not working away at my eBooks under some similar delusion that as long as I’m working on a manuscript I will not die. I’m a realist in the awareness that I may not even finish this page, let alone another manuscript, before the Good Lord calls me  to that Writers Retirement Home in the Sky. God knows I’m ready when He is, but I just don’t want to get on the Gospel Train today if it can be helped. So I keep writing.

In the meantime, please read through this information about what I have already done.

 

2016--05--03   Stan Paregien's Online eBooks  --- list of 15 -- page 01 of 13

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