Monday, June 4, 2018

Book 188: Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton (Audiobook)

Well now that I've got my blog back, I thought I'd review one of the five or six books I've read during the month of May. 😉  I'll start with the most recent since it's fresh in my brain.

Eaters of the Dead was my first introduction to - well - anything Norse. It's part fiction, part fable, and it's a pretty entertaining book. The audio version - read by one of my favorite narrators, Simon Vance, is awesome.

It's the story of Ibn Fadlan, who was a scholar and a traveler in the tenth century. He's one of the writers that captured the state of the Norsemen and their tribes in historical accounts. He was an outsider, which made his observations on their rituals and behavior all the more poignant.

Ibn Fadlan was sent by the caliph of Baghdad to deliver a message to king in a faraway land. During his travels he was united with the Vikings and kept a firsthand account of his interactions with them. He discussed the way they ate to the way they copulated and everything in between. Anyone who is fussy about their own cleanliness will enjoy this book, as Ibn Fadlan is truly disgusted many times over in this book. I laughed a few times at his reaction to certain standard Viking practices. He also emerges from the experience a different, more resilient person.

The Eaters of the Dead contains a theory that the "monsters" discussed in Ibn Fedlan's account could actually be the last remaining Neanderthals. I hadn't heard of this theory before. Since we don't know for sure, I sort of feel like, "Well, why not?"

I really liked this book and I'd listen to it again in an instant.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Taking the Plunge from Being Employed to Starting Your Own Gig by Mohamed Adel (Guest Blogger)

When Esther kindly invited me to contribute to her inspirational and successful blog, I wasn’t sure what to write about. 

Perhaps I should write about my fascination with world cultures and my passion for snail mail in this age of technology as a means to connect with people from different backgrounds living thousands of miles away? Should I write about connecting with people who might be different from our norms and our beliefs and convictions? Or should I write about understanding and accepting those who are different to us? Or conflict resolution in our communities and in the wider world? 

Instead I decided to settle on writing about entrepreneurship, that glorified and feared word. I wanted to write not the regular everyday PR talk you find in magazines and on websites, but share honest straightforward advice from everyday entrepreneurs and business people who experienced both success and failure.

I came from a long family of employees. My mother was a teacher and father was a military officer.

After completing a degree in Pharmaceutical sciences, and contrary to their advice, I passed on taking a comfortable government job or choosing a career in academia.

I chose to work in retail, sales, and marketing to develop the most important skills to transition from being employed to hanging out my shingle. But taking the plunge isn’t everyone`s game and it isn’t for the faint-hearted.

Over the years I have probably talked to hundreds of entrepreneurs, friends, contacts, and acquaintances, and took paid and free consulting and freelance gigs to be close to founders and entrepreneurs to experience the action first hand and observe their attitude. I asked them questions, seeking advice, trying to analyze their actions and attitude. I loved to listen their insights on various matters from sales, managing human resources, life goals, success to macroeconomy. 

I agreed and disagreed with their opinions, but learned some valuable lessons. I will try to summarize some of those lessons to you:
  1. It is true what they say, you can’t “over plan.” Economy changes, situations change, forecasts in many instances turn unrealistic. But planning makes you prepared. Ready for the unexpected. Like armies when conducting war games to maximize preparation. And don’t forget to write everything down
  2. It all starts with a dream, a decision, and setting your goals, then keeping an eye on the ball, and committing to those goals. The situation might change, and your plans and strategy need to change, but not the essence of your goals.
  3. Surround yourself with like-minded people - those who took the plunge before you. Learn from them, ask questions, listen to their chatter, discuss business with them, seek advice. This will help you to sleep, breath and live your dream.
If you followed the previous points, a lack of capital or dire financial responsibilities won`t deter you.
  1. A good idea, a plan, experience, commitment and consistency and right attitude is the equation to building a successful business.
  2. Failure and committing mistakes is a part of the game. Even most seasoned business people fail sometimes. But their experience, knowledge and acumen developed over years of trying lead them to success. Don`t let your fear of failure and the uncertainty take control of your life. 
  3. Don`t believe all what you read, hear. Analyze, examine, reflect, and filter all advice you get. 
  4. All those business leaders we hear about in the TV and read about in business magazines aren’t flawless. They have biases, anxieties, and they commit mistakes on daily basis. 
  5. Growing up in a rich family, or a family of business owners and entrepreneurs really helps, but it is not mandatory for success. 
  6. You don’t learn starting successful businesses in classrooms, you learn it in the battlefield, in the market. 
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Mohamed Adel is a healthcare sales and marketing professional and pharmacist by education. In 2004, he moved from his home country, Egypt, to Dubai, UAE, where he currently lives and works. He is a snail mail enthusiast and is interested in travel, art, eastern European classical music, entrepreneurship, current affairs, and conflict resolution.

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This blog post was curated and/or edited by The Ardent Reader, Esther Hofknecht Curtis, BSOL, MSM-HCA. The views expressed in this blog post are those of the guest blogger. Visit Esther's page at www.parrotcontent.com for more information

Friday, June 1, 2018

Writing is Not a Career by Michael Dickel (Guest Blogger)

As an 18 y.o., first-year, university student, I took some of my poems to my Humanities professor. I knew I was supposed to be thinking about my “career,” and told her that I wanted to be a poet or a writer (I don’t remember which I said) for my career.

She said that choosing to write was “choosing to not have a career.” I recall her message being that writers did more than the word “career” entails, that being a writer was more than a job, perhaps more like choosing to have many careers.

You might say, it’s a calling.

She also gently critiqued my “poems.” I was a bit disappointed to find out that I hadn’t actually chosen my career yet, but more disappointed that my poems were not brilliant enough to send to The New Yorker immediately.

Yet, I persisted with my writing.

On paper, I could fool you into thinking I’ve had a career. However, the details reveal a wandering path of switchbacks, valleys, hills—of turns taken and ignored.

Here are some of the jobs I had from University undergraduate studies until returning to graduate school a decade later: warehouse order-packer, delivery person, retail home-improvement sales, overnight counselor, counselor, child-care worker, social worker case aid, and mental health worker…

All of that time, I wrote.

I wrote poetry. I wrote short stories. I attempted songs. I tried a novel. But no editor published any of it—until 1987, just before entering a creative writing program.

The truth is, I have always been a writer. The first poem that I remember is from 3rd or 4th grade. I also remember one from 6th grade. Third grade was about 55 years ago. And I revised a poem this morning.

So, I have been writing my whole life.

Occasionally, I have been paid to write or edit. While in graduate school and since, for (not much) money, I have: edited a book review section of the University student paper, written grants, written book reviews and interviews, and researched and written scripts for documentary films. I have even written website content and social media posts.

However, I also have: designed databases, provided technical assistance, and worked as a handyman.

I have not yet made a living by writing. Probably this is because I mostly write literary genres—poetry, flash fiction, short stories, occasional essays. No one has offered to give me a salary for any of it. Even my books provide negligible income.

Yet, I persist as a writer.

Most people who know me or look over my CV might think that I’ve had a career in academia. After all, I have worked in academia for over 30 years. It has not been a career, though—I did not write critical articles that an academic literature career requires, and I have never held a tenure-track job.

Mostly, I have had some form of renewable contract work that was not quite adjunct. A lot of it has been teaching composition, most of it administering writing centers. Directing writing centers is the closest to a “career” for me—I started in the 1990s, as a graduate student, and continued through 2006. I published articles related to writing centers and learning centers. I was active in professional organizations and helped organize conferences.

All of that, though, was for my job.

In 2007, I left the United States for Israel, where I now live. I have taught here most of the time since—as an adjunct, mostly teaching English as a foreign language. My writing has taken off in this time. Although The New Yorker still has not published any of my poems, every year or two I send them a few.

Still, most of my books were published since I moved.

I won some awards (with cash prizes), edited (without pay) some nice journals, and have immersed in the life of a writer. As I look to the possibility of signing up for Social Security and moving my job situation from employment toward semi-retirement, I realize that I have not had a writing career.

But, I have had a writing life.


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Michael Dickel’s writing and art appear in print and online. His poetry has won international awards and been translated into several languages. Breakfast at the End of Capitalism came out in 2017, The Palm Reading after The Toad’s Garden, in 2016. Previous books include: War Surrounds Us, Midwest / Mid-East, and The World Behind It, Chaos… He co-edited Voices Israel Volume 36, was managing editor for arc-23 and 24, and is a past-chair of the Israel Association of Writers in English. He is a contributing editor of The BeZine (TheBeZine.com). With Israeli producer/director David Fisher, he received a U.S.A. National Endowment of the Humanities documentary-film development grant through their Bridging Cultures program. 

BLOGZINE: https://MichaelDickel.info

SOCIAL MEDIA:
Twitter @MYDekel469
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/michael.dekel
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michaeldickel/
Academia.edu: https://independentscholar.academia.edu/MichaelDickel
Instagram https://www.instagram.com/mydekel/

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This blog post was curated and/or edited by The Ardent Reader, Esther Hofknecht Curtis, BSOL, MSM-HCA. The views expressed in this blog post are those of the guest blogger. Visit www.parrotcontent.com for more information.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Past and Future by Carrie M. Goff (Guest Blogger)

You say I live in the past
That I retell stories of what was
You offer me a future
A golden brick path
Cool, deep rivers of safety
Wild stallion passion
And, I talk of the past

I speak of him too often 
And relive what it was like
To dodge his words slung in anger
I question your motives
I distrust your offerings
I look for the hidden rust
Rot, lies, deceit

I am rendered speechless 
When you are unselfish.
I cannot fully trust
Your promises made so casually
The memory of betrayal
As fresh as a slaughtered animal
The smell of blood still in my nose

How can you understand 
What the light you offer me means
Without hearing about how dim it was?
How can I describe what color means:
Oxblood, Azure, Burnt Sienna, Saffron
Without making you understand
That all I had was ghost, bleached, white?

The burlap sacking that was my bed
Makes the satin sheets you offer
So soothing I could weep.
The bitter herbs that were my sustenance
Prepared my palate for the fare
You so tenderly create with your beautiful hands.
How can you understand if I don’t tell you?

The home I had on the hilltop
Willows, and oaks surrounded
Ponds and fountains.
Hidden, charming, unique
Wasn’t filled with love, but indifference
I roamed the empty rooms devoid of laughter
I’d rather live in a tent with your love.

My ears were covered with bloodied hands
To block out the hate
So, I could hear nothing but muffled echoes
How can you fathom what it was like
The first time you pried away my fingers
And held my face in your hands
And played me a symphony?

The bath you have drawn for me
Scalds every scratch, blister and wound
Invisible to the eye, they still make me wince.
I gingerly slip my bruised and bloodied feet
Into the satin slippers you provide
And accept the cashmere gown
Around my scarred shoulders. 

You cannot understand 
How the warmth of your body
Soaks into my frozen heart
And thaws hidden feelings
The tenderness of your touch
Fires neurons long since forgotten
I come alive under your heartbeat.

I fall into a weightless slumber
Wrapped in your iron arms
The nightmares no longer come
During the daylight or midnight
Sleep no longer holds horrors
I am not afraid to close my eyes
Do you know what you have done for me?

The past holds no bitterness
I don’t retell the stories to garner sympathy.
But, I am like a city child who 
Sees a desert starry sky for the first time.
Someone who has only known walking
Riding the bullet train for the first time.
The utter awe; I must compare. I must tell.

It is said that time heals all wounds
The invisible scars that I can still see
Spiderwebs of blistering nerves
Deformed feet, twisted lips, bloodied eyelids
I walk with a limp, my voice is hoarse
But, when I hold your hand
I am whole.

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Carrie Goff, BBA is an aspiring writer who loves to connect with kindred spirits through words. It is her passion to advocate for the voiceless and forgotten. This poem is dedicated to the women who have escaped abuse and found true love, but do not have the words to express what it means to them. And, dedicated to the men who love them.

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This blog post was curated and/or edited by The Ardent Reader, Esther Hofknecht Curtis, BSOL, MSM-HCA. The views expressed in this blog post are those of the guest blogger. Visit Esther's page at www.parrotcontent.com for more information.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

When it’s Time to Change by Stephen Moegling (Guest Blogger)

Your job. The relationship that’s a dead end. That boss who seems to delight in your suffering. Stepping on the scale and seeing the number go up, not down. When it’s time to change, our minds often need to catch up to our hearts. Our minds like to be practical. We come up with loads of reasons why now isn’t the right time to change. But we have to change. I’ve learned the hard way that change is hard. In the last five years, I’ve lost 70 pounds. Gotten a divorce. Gotten remarried. Sold the shares of a company where I was an owner and had worked at for 18 years. Then joined a new company 1,300 miles from my home. That’s a whole lot of change, not including losing my father to cancer and also grieving the loss of my mother-in-law. Change can be chaotic, messy, and stressful. I’ve also learned that change can be transformational. I want to share with you five steps for making lasting change that can help you with the changes you seek, with as few setbacks as possible. Step 1. Write down what you don’t want. Most of us don’t know exactly what we want from our change. For example, when I set out to lose weight, I didn’t know I wanted to lose 70 pounds. I just knew I needed to get healthier. Only later in my journey, as I got more experience and clarity with my physical health I had clarity on the weight and body composition I wanted. That’s why I recommend starting by writing down the things you don’t want in your life. You’re acutely aware already of what you don’t want, hence your soul’s encouragement to change. Later on, you’ll have more clarity to name the things you do want for yourself, including the feelings you want to experience. Step 2. Name the feelings you want to experience more. We do things for the feelings we want to experience. As you reinvent your life with the changes you seek to make, name those feelings you want to experience more often, such as:
  • Feelings of peace, hope, equanimity
  • Feelings of joy, gratitude, happiness
  • Feelings of confidence, security, ambition

Use these feelings and states as guideposts for your decision-making and the process of working through your changes. Step 3. When you have a setback, have a meeting with yourself. I’ve made a lot of changes in my life and I have failed, failed, failed so many times. I used to beat myself up when I ordered the pizza instead of kale salad when I am working to change my scale weight. But beating ourselves up makes changing so much more difficult, if not impossible. Now when I fail, I call a meeting with myself. I invite my higher self (the wise, long-term thinker part of me) to have a meeting with the part of me that keeps getting in my own way. The meeting often goes like this: Higher Self Stephen: “Hey friend. You know that drinking a bottle of wine by yourself isn’t going to help you lose weight.” Lower Self Stephen: “Yeah, you’re right. But it was a Friday night. The weather was awesome. And I just kept pouring myself another glass of Cab until I realized I had drained the bottle.” Higher Self Stephen: “If you keep doing that, will you achieve your weight loss goals?” Lower Self Stephen: “No…” Higher Self Stephen: “So…” Lower Self Stephen: “Okay, wiser version of myself. No wine until I hit my weight loss goals.” Higher Self Stephen: “And…” Lower Self Stephen: “And after that, I’ll assign myself one drinking pass every month. That way I can enjoy my Cab without turning an occasional night of fun into a consistent pattern.” Higher Self Stephen: “Good strategy, dude.” Step 4. Learn and share with others. As much as I try to learn from my wiser, higher self, I know I’m toast if I only seek counsel from myself. For any meaningful change to stick, I have to seek the counsel of others who have faced similar challenges and succeeded. I also have to have a support system to share my feelings. As you change and transform yourself, you will someday be a support to others who seek change. Step 5. The final step is to take a step. Momentum is what powers our souls. Get early wins by taking small steps, one at a time. And the farther down the path we go, the clearer the path to transformation appears. “Before” and “After” photos are inspiring but deceiving. Between those photos is a whole lot of messy stuff. But in that messy stuff lies transformation.


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Stephen helps people to grow their businesses and live abundant lives. In his career, he has helped his clients to achieve $1 billion in revenue. Stephen works for Hailey Sault, a healthcare marketing and branding firm with offices in Duluth, Manhattan, and Richmond. Stephen writes a Friday email series called “Pass the Wine” to share insights and strategies for having abundant businesses and living an abundant life. Sign up here.

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This blog post was curated and/or edited by The Ardent Reader, Esther Hofknecht Curtis, BSOL, MSM-HCA. The views expressed in this blog post are those of the guest blogger. Visit Esther's page at www.parrotcontent.com for more information.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Politics of Color by Elizabeth Ruediger (Guest Blogger)

The politics of color. Sure, the first thing that comes to mind is black and white referencing our nation’s great racial divide, or maybe even blue and red by party affiliation . But what about pink and green? I’m talking about the women and the vets.

There is a wave sweeping across the land and it is not the color of deep sea glass. It is the rising tide of women who are standing up and stepping into politics in numbers: the pink tsunami.

If there is anything the current presidential administration and congressional seat warmers have ushered in is a counter insurgency into the historic oppression of a woman’s ability to be successfully elected and represent a constituency that is equal, if not greater than, the number of men in our general population.

Future female leaders are fearlessly making their mark in the political world from the first Black woman to win a gubernatorial primary in Georgia to the first openly gay Latina candidate taking a primary win in Texas. Congratulations to Stacey Abrams, Lupe Valdez, Lizzie Fletcher, and Amy McGrath who were forces to be reckoned with in deep, red states, hence the only “deep states” in existence.

Women who were once men are taking a transgender perspective to the ballot box like never before. In an interview with Boston.com, Vermont gubernatorial hopeful Christine Hallquist is setting her eye on the prize in Montpelier. “Having lived as both a man as a woman gives her a different perspective,” Hallquist said, “I have a unique experience with women’s issues,” Hallquist said. “As a male I was not aware, unfortunately, of the gender hierarchy.”

According to an article published in The Christian Science Monitor, “An estimated 40 transgender candidates plan to run for office in the upcoming midterm elections, signaling a tidal shift in LGBT representation in government. Many candidates cite what they see as anti-LGBT policies from the White House as motivation to run.”

Alexandria Chandler of Massachusetts and Chelsea Manning of Maryland cross this deep divide from two fronts. They are not only transgender, but former military officers. In her interview with the CSM, Chandler stated, “The real simplistic answer to why I'm running: It's to answer a call. It's to a answer a call to service like I did after 9/11.” In reality, gay representation in elected positions has been on the uptick for several years, however, transgender status in state houses and in congress was a dramatic political revelation, if not revolution, in 2017 with 8 seats filled. Chelsea Manning, as you may recall, was sentenced to 35 years imprisonment for violation of the Espionage Act by providing WikiLeaks with thousands of classified documents, only to have her sentence commuted to seven years by President Obama. Manning may or may not be your flavor of candidate, but it takes rocks to run a political campaign, especially when your rocks are now a pretty, heart shaped box.

But at the ballot box, does the absent enthusiasm of male dominance matter? Not when you have the likes of Pennsylvania’s newest congressman, Conor Lamb, congressional candidate, Randy Bryce of Wisconsin, and gubernatorial candidate, Adam Cote of Maine. “I’ve seen Adam three times during trips to Iraq and Afghanistan and I will say this, if you are looking for somebody who is a born leader, this is your guy. I’ve seen him literally in action and I think that he is more than cut out for this kind of job… If the Democrats are smart and if they want to win a race, this might just be the way they want to lean.” - Bill Nemitz, Portland Press Herald columnist.

These men of honor have served their nation in a military capacity and now seek to serve in a political capacity. This transfer of military power from the battlefield to the political playing field is unprecedented in the most unpresidential term of our nation’s history. They have proven themselves as veterans and as Americans, both men and women, and will commit themselves to this nation’s future, as leaders we have already vested in, can bring their experiences to the political arena and score a knockout punch to the status quo with new perspective and vibrant hues for our future. Everyone wants change, here is hope.

It’s a brave new world.

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Elizabeth Ruediger is a self-described “force to be reckoned with," independent, political junkie, former elected official and uber fresh blog writer.

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This blog post was curated and/or edited by The Ardent Reader, Esther Hofknecht Curtis, BSOL, MSM-HCA. The views expressed in this blog post are those of the guest blogger. Visit Esther's page at www.parrotcontent.com for more information.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Letting Go by Daniel Marelli, MD (Guest Blogger)

Yoga practice helps me to let go of things that restrict me. Thoughts drift in and out of my mind freely. We speak of forgiving ourselves for mistakes or flaws that we are working on. Sometimes we explore our afflictions, together as a group without necessarily sharing specifics. We lift off into Warrior III and discover that by letting go of one position we gain new perspective.

The physical sensations remind me to stay in the moment and focus on my body. Some of the forms such as Pigeon, involve a slight discomfort. This enables courage and self-confidence while strengthening self-compassion. The discomfort is adjustable. It helps me build resilience in my everyday life.

Today we are children of freedom
This is the bread of our affliction
Let all those who are hungry come celebrate with us

As far as I can remember into my childhood, these words initiate the new spring season for my family. We tell the story of how our ancestors became free of servitude and gained their identity. We say that each generation must feel this transition. This has not changed for centuries.

One of the most difficult afflictions to let go of is the mindset of victimhood when a set of circumstances or a person has altered our journey or done us wrong. I became aware of this recently reading a book titled Advice not Given by Mark Epstein. A past trauma cannot always be erased. Rather than forcefully trying to delete a previous affliction, we could try to relate to it differently.

This recalled two personal events after which I had to find a way to let go.

The first occurred in my early teen years when my father died. I felt shame at school, always hoping to keep it a secret. Over the next decade I had dreams that he went off on a secret mission in the cold war and was returning. The dreams eventually formed an image in which he was out of place. The scar faded.

Today I speak freely of my father to my children. I try to inspire them with his love for all things art and architecture. We have some of his paintings on our walls. I have come to appreciate the personal and physical attributes he passed on to me. Most of all, I am grateful for the time I had with him.

The second event occurred more recently. I left my first professional job in Los Angeles in 2002. I knew it had been a bad situation for me, but I was stuck in the mindset of ‘quitters never win and winners never quit.’ I had an essential role within the team, and I was uniquely good at it. I was unable to let go because I had not yet defined the toxic environment. Was this essential? Not really, but for me it was. I felt like I had not done my best to make it work. Over the next couple of years, at every national meeting, my colleagues were all advising me that I belonged there.

Then in 2006 I went back to Los Angeles; to my old position. It was new management with the promise that all would be different. Of course, nothing had really changed, except me. Very quickly I resumed leadership of my former crew, but it was not the role I wanted. I realized that I had grown beyond the setting I was in. I started to understand that previously, my superiors had never been concerned with my development.

I now had a different perspective which unmasked all the imperfections that I had not seen in the past. I had never imagined this could be possible. After about six months I began to look for a new position. I became depressed. The traveling, explaining my difficulty at every interview, and my feeling of failure all weighed me down.

During an airport layover, I purchased a self-help book. I saved it for my office shelf. Thankfully, about a year later I relocated to Dover and resumed my journey.

I picked the book off my office shelf a few months ago. In it, I found the note pictured below …

To Daniel, 

Fire back, one bad decision is less than 10% of all the good ones. The solution to pollution is dilution.


Daniel


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Daniel Marelli is a heart surgeon in Dover Delaware. Prior to settling in the mid Atlantic he lived in Morocco , in Canada as well as in California. He is fluent in English, French, and Hebrew. He has a lifelong appreciation for literature and art and enjoys skiing. More recently, he has taken up yoga practice. 

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This blog post was curated and/or edited by The Ardent Reader, Esther Hofknecht Curtis, BSOL, MSM-HCA. The views expressed in this blog post are those of the guest blogger. Visit Esther's page at www.parrotcontent.com for more information.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Real Hope and Change by Ed Hofknecht (Guest Blogger) (Esther's Brother)

Ed and Taniqua at a Hope
Children's Home fundraiser
with a 1920s theme
When my sister asked me to write for her blog, I felt extremely honored that she would think of me. That’s precisely how I should be starting this blog post, but the truth is I am a last minute fill-in and had to offer my literary services as I was not even considered. ;)

I loved the idea of guest bloggers and thought this might be an opportunity to share my Beast writing skills with the world! I offered and there was a drop-out so I jumped at the chance. Thanks, Esther, for the vote of confidence, love you!

I have been reading along this month and have really enjoyed the pieces shared. I especially enjoyed my mother’s origami story. Because I never quite understood why she was so interested in paper folding, this back story shed some light on a part of my mother’s life that otherwise I may have never known.

I would like to tell a short story of how my life has been changed over the past few years. Seven years ago my wife and I were living a basically normal life. We were relative newlyweds, first time parents, and first time home buyers. Our jobs had plenty of upward mobility and promised comfortable salaries in the upcoming years. It seemed we were at the cusp of being able to fulfill the American dream.

Something was missing though; I couldn’t put my finger on it exactly, but could tell it wasn’t there. With this feeling in mind we decided that a change was necessary and indicated that to our bosses. In one year’s time, Taniqua (my lovely wife) would become a stay-at-home-mom, and I would look for work with a larger salary and better benefits. Little did we know, God had other plans for us.

At the time we were attending Cornerstone Baptist Church in Crossville Tennessee, which is an Independent Fundamental Baptist Church. For those of you who don’t speak church, that means we are not affiliated with any larger church organization, and we believe the Bible is the infallible word of God. There are IFBC churches all over the United States, and we send missionaries to all corners of the globe to reach the world for Christ.

Once a year our church holds a missions conference where we spotlight a few potential missionaries and decide whether we will support their mission. That year my schedule was in such a way that I was able to attend one night of the conference.

That night I heard a man preach about how little the average Christian was actually doing for the Lord. This hit me hard, and reminded me of a time years prior when I had a heard a preacher say that if God called someone to work in his service, any other life would amount to nothing more than a miserable existence. I headed to the altar and prayed God would use me any way he saw fit and give me the boldness to follow his plan.

That evening, I could tell that Taniqua had been affected by the sermon as well. As we drove home in silence, I could not stop thinking about the prayer I had offered up and the magnitude of what I had agreed to do.

We were nearly home when I looked over at my wife and said, “I think we are supposed to be missionaries.” She smiled the biggest smile I had ever seen and said, “Good! I thought it was just me being crazy again!” She then told me of a place in Tampa, Florida called Hope Children’s Home. As soon as we got home, we laid the baby down and pulled up their website. There were videos that told the story of the home’s beginnings, its mission “to rescue the next generation” and their needs. Then I clicked a tab that said, Positions Available. 

To make a long story short, in less than a year, we sold nearly everything we owned, paid off all our debt besides our house, and moved nearly 700 miles away from home. We were hired to be boys’ dorm houseparents, a position that involves the day to day care of boys from all walks life.

We have been in this position for six years now and have seen incredible things happen. I have seen firsthand as lives changed in dramatic ways. Little children living in the woods with no bed to sleep on, no meals to look forward to, no life at all speak of, come here and find a place to call home. I’ve seen children so neglected and abused that they can’t even smile or play, and they turn into some of the happiest kids on the planet. I’ve watched as boys grow into men and start their lives in a way that would never have been possible without Hope.

The changes here are incredible but the biggest change I have seen is what God has done in my life. I am in no way perfect, but my way of thinking has been drastically altered. I see God’s grace and mercy everywhere, and I know that He will provide for us when we follow Him. He has taken the selfish, prideful, unforgiving boy that I once was and changed me into a man that understands that but for the grace of God I could be in a situation worse than any of those that come here for help. He has shown me that through prayer and faith, incredible things can be done.

Realizing that this has gone long I want you to know the biggest change I have seen in my life. God has given me a compassion that was once foreign to me. I read news stories almost daily about parents neglecting or abusing their children in horrific ways. I hear stories of parents using their children for self gain at the expense of the little ones’ innocence. The worst may be those that - rather than ask for help - end the lives of their children because they see no way out.

After hearing these, I always find myself asking why? Why couldn’t we have crossed paths? Why wouldn’t you have brought your children to a place like Hope? Why wouldn’t those parents have just given me a chance to give their little ones a chance to live?

If you find yourself in such a position where you feel helpless to do right by your child, I beg you to reach out, find help, find someone, and find hope for your little ones. You can access our website www.hopechildrenshome.org or call (813) 961-1214 to learn more.

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This blog post was curated and/or edited by The Ardent Reader, Esther Hofknecht Curtis, BSOL, MSM-HCA. The views expressed in this blog post are those of the guest blogger. Visit Esther's page at www.parrotcontent.com for more information.

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Saturday, May 26, 2018

When a father smirks by Leah Subar (Guest Blogger)

My father had a smirk. His smirk generally accompanied a statement that accused his subject of being wrong, dishonest, or hypocritical. And the unnerving part was that my father was always right.

Except regarding my life’s path.

I was his youngest child and only daughter. When I became Torah-observant, my father was beside himself. He didn’t understand why I had to do it; why change my life and embrace the ancient traditions his grandparents left behind?  Why spend a full year forging new relationships with old texts and those who adhere?

My decision came not from intellect. It came from my gut, from someplace so deep I couldn’t translate it into words that made sense. I didn’t have reasons; I had feelings. 

And so his smirk told me I didn’t know what I was doing; that I was making the biggest mistake of my life; that I was too afraid of dorm life and enormous study halls and academic pressure and so… just running away from it all.

But I knew my father loved me. It was the way he held my hand; the cadence in his voice when he called my name.

And his love followed me everywhere -- including over the ocean where I eventually set up my home in Israel. But his smirk followed me as well; I was a chronic self-doubter. 

When my youngest child started nursery school I went back to school, too. Eventually, I entered a graduate program and became a dance/movement psychotherapist. Naturally, I shared my career decision with my father -- but not with enough time to fully describe my dream because as it turned out, my father was quite sick. I lost him one week before orientation day.

As a dance therapist, I pay attention to the body -- and especially how the way we hold our bodies contradicts the words we say, or adds a certain nuance. I have a client, for example, who sometimes flicks her nose with her index finger in such a way that seems out of place in sessions and in her real life. After reviewing the videos of our sessions and doing collaborative work with my client, we discovered she flicks her nose whenever she feels threatened; anytime she feels pushed out of her comfort zone. 

And because I video most sessions, not only do I learn about my clients’ use of body -- I learn about my own. 

I discovered I smirk. 

The first time I saw this I was shocked. I recognized that face; it was his. But it was mine. 

I studied more videos  I didn’t smirk with every client; mostly, my smirk surfaced during sessions with one particular client. She was my most challenging one; the one who stretched me to my limits; who forced me to stay on my toes and keep calm; the client who caught all my contradictions and made me wonder why I ever thought I could do this. 

But the precise moment the smirk escaped was usually after I'd made a subtle yet astute comment that served to shake up my client's reality. I smirked whenever I felt I'd come on too strong. My normal expression would disappear and the smirk came to lighten the effect. It came when I wanted her to get my message, but didn't want it to hurt. 

Not every smirk comes to soften; each gesture is delivered within its own context, depending on its owner. But in those moments that I tracked my own smirk and felt it in my own body, I knew something about my father.

I knew something about him that nobody else did.

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Leah Subar is a dance/movement therapist in Jerusalem and Petach Tikva, offering one-on-one consultations and ExploreMovement workshops. Leah helps women get back their ZEST by engaging the transformative power of emotions and body experience. Join her list and receive a monthly post about living at your emotional best: leahsubar@gmail.com

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This blog post was curated and/or edited by The Ardent Reader, Esther Hofknecht Curtis, BSOL, MSM-HCA. The views expressed in this blog post are those of the guest blogger. Visit Esther's page at www.parrotcontent.com for more information.

Friday, May 25, 2018

How Arté Lives On Washington Street by Bill McCool (Guest Blogger)

Bill McCool
My friend Arté lives in an apartment on Washington Street. I have known him since he was three years old. Today, he is in his mid-thirties. He lives in a spacious apartment, has a job he enjoys, goes out to the movies and shopping, listens to music, and is greatly loved by family and friends. None of this sounds unusual.

Everyone I know who knows Arté will comment about his smile. When his face lights up, you light up too. During the summer, he volunteers at a camp for children with and without disabilities. He attended the camp when he was kid. He knows first-hand how important camp is to them. He knows they love the pool, being with their friends, being outside and playing. He loved it too. All of the kids at camp want their picture taken with Arté and his big smile.

Arté has Cerebral Palsy. He uses a power wheelchair to get around. He cannot stand. He cannot get in and out of his wheelchair or his bed on his own. He cannot use the bathroom on his own. When you realize these things, you might begin to wonder how he does it. Or maybe you don’t realize how significant this is because we see many people with physical disabilities living and working around us every day. It’s so commonplace we might forget to think about how it’s happening.

When he was in his early twenties, Arté lived in a nursing home that had over fifty residents. The place where he lived was wonderful. The folks living there were mostly younger people with the same types of needs as his. The home had lots of fun activities, it had an accessible pool, and it had transportation so that they could get out and about. The staff helped Arté to get his first job; it was part-time, but Arté loved the job. He still has that job.

It’s hard to imagine a young man who would go into a nursing home in his twenties and would then live there for the rest of his life. Arté did not want to live there forever, even if it was a great place.

This is not a story about courage. Arté doesn’t think he has any more courage than anyone else. He is living the life he lives and like everyone else there are good parts and difficult parts.

This story is about how separate pieces of public policy have come together to enabled Arté to live the good and difficult parts on his own terms.

Arté talked to our agency staff when he learned that we were renovating as historical home to be an accessible apartment building. He asked to be put on our waiting list. I admit I was a little skeptical, and asked him if he was sure he wanted to do this. He was sure. He was the second person on our list.

Arté signed a lease and rented an apartment from us. Six year later, he still lives there. He is successful because the planets of his world have somehow come in alignment.

Our building was made possible because of HUD funding that gave us the most of the capital we needed for its construction. It allowed us to put up a three story building with seven apartments and an elevator. We put in wide doorways, accessible bathrooms with roll-in showers, big living areas, and secure entryways.

Just as important as the capital, were the rent subsidies that came with the project. Each resident would pay only 30% of their income toward rent; the subsidy would pay the remainder. Arté didn’t have to work full-time to live there. He could keep his part-time job and afford the rent. If he went full-time, his rent would still be 30% of his income. He could keep his employment and still afford the rent.

Arté would need assistance, but not twenty-four/seven, live-in help. He knew he only needed assistance for particular things at certain times of day. Arté utilized Personal Care Attendants; he needs about four hours a day. He is able to let his attendants into the building and his apartment with remote control door openers. They help him in the mornings to get up, with his personal care, and, in the late evenings, to go back to bed. Arté manages the rest of the day on his own.

A change in Federal funding has enabled folks like Arté to hire, train, and pay for their own attendants, and to utilize those attendants in their home. He would longer have to be in a nursing home to get assistance. Arté is in charge; he sets his own schedule.

Most of us did not know that federal capital to build accessible living spaces, rent subsidies, attendant services were lining up and creating new possibilities for people with disabilities. Most of us don’t know how these things work together, so we might be unaware of how Arté came to live and work alongside us.

Arté fully knows how it works because he is now able to live on Washington Street, the way he wants to live.

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Bill McCool has been the Executive Director of United Cerebral Palsy of Delaware, Inc. (UCP) for over 30 years. He and his wife Kathy live in Wilmington. They have two sons. 

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This blog post was curated and/or edited by The Ardent Reader, Esther Hofknecht Curtis, BSOL, MSM-HCA. The views expressed in this blog post are those of the guest blogger. Visit Esther's page at www.parrotcontent.com for more information.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Geneology by David "Bud" Wisor (Guest Post)

David "Bud" Wisor
I have been interested in genealogy for as long as I can remember.

When I was growing up, although genealogy was fulfilling, it was certainly drudgery. It involved face to face conversations with some of your oldest known relatives, asking them what they remembered about their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. When those were interviews were finished, you would head to cemeteries, churches and other places they might hold records.

If you were fortunate, you'd find confirmation of what you were told. Often the information remembered was either completely wrong or just misleading. My first run in with this was a great-great-great-great grandmother who was referred to as "A grand old lady of the South." However, I later found records clearly indicate she is from Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. Did she pretend to be from the South? Speak with a Southern accent? I'll probably never find out where the story came from.

If you were really lucky, someone else did the work for you. In the 1930's, many families wrote family history books. My grandmother (along with a few generations before her), were in a book called the Eash book, which attempted to identify all the descendants of an Amish Bishop, Jacob Eash. Another book mentions my Great-great grandfather Levi Foust and some of his ancestors. 

The LDS church, more commonly known as Mormon Church, has been collecting copies of genealogical records for a long time, and those records are available through their website and at local family history centers. Many of these records are only available on microfilm, but more and more are digitized.

The "game-changer" for genealogy was Ancestry.com. A combination of free and subscription genealogical records, all online, with a database that grows every year. While there are other online services, and most of the physical copies still exist, Ancestry's library means i can uncover more family history in a day than I used to be able to find in months.

The latest breakthrough has been DNA testing. DNA testing allows individuals to confirm existing relationships, as well as identify new branches of their family tree they weren't even aware of.

I now have a substantial family tree. I know who all of grandparents are back to my great-great-great grandparents. That's 62 ancestors in all, and a few of my lines go back as many as 16 generations. 

Genealogy is a pastime that is quite fulfilling. One of the first things I learned was that, despite our belief that people were different, they were very much the same people we are today. Some lived in multi-generational houses or next door to each other, while others moved thousands of miles away. Sometimes they lived long and happy lives, and others were sickly, and many died fairly young. Yes, they had premarital sex, they cheated on their spouses, they even divorced sometimes. When things were really tough, they might make their kids go to work, or give up their kids to be indentured or place them in a home. At least one of my ancestors even committed suicide. 

All genealogists have these “Wow!” moments, where they realize their ancestors weren't holy, or better than them. They were just people, just doing their best, and trying to live their lives, just like you and me. 

Thank you for your time and if you somehow have made it this far into this blog post, and you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me. I'm happy to help you to start your journey.

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David "Bud" Wisor is a lifelong resident of the Philadelphia tristate region. Bud and his wife Theresa have 4 children and 5 grandchildren. In addition to genealogy, he has a passion for learning new things, and enjoys trivia, karaoke and spending time with his friends and family.

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This blog post was curated and/or edited by The Ardent Reader, Esther Hofknecht Curtis, BSOL, MSM-HCA. The views expressed in this blog post are those of the guest blogger. Visit Esther's page at www.parrotcontent.com for more information.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

In Spirit, Still Here by Gwen Guerke (Guest Blogger)

No one who’s had a long, solid, rewarding friendship since they we were seven or eight years old ever thinks about the absence of that friend, the funeral, the memories, the ache of absence... until death changes the landscape. Sharon and I were friends for more than 60 years. Neither of us could pinpoint where that bond started developing, but we believed it was when we were both in Brownies in the late 1950s. We know we weren’t in the same elementary school classes; we grew up in a Mayberry-esque town. Probably this friendship began at a little Girl Scout day camp on the lake. Believe it or not, it was called Camp We Love It. Really! We were so naïve – and evidently so were the adults – that we never snickered at the name until decades later. After our paths crossed making crafts and some-mores, our parents must have realized that Sharon’s home was a block away from my paternal grandparents, so I could ride my bike to their house and go down the street to hers. This friendship thrived and survived through adolescence and high school, and we shared all the angst of proms, not going to homecoming dances, babysitting, silly crushes on unsuspecting boys, the agony of gym class for the less than athletic girls that we were. But there were plenty of laughs and good times; Sharon had a car. I didn’t. She also had access to a family beach cottage, and generously invited friends for new adventures. Fast forward, and we grew up, went to separate colleges, married – she was a bridesmaid in my wedding, had children. I divorced. My oldest son, her godchild, died of leukemia. Through whatever life tossed us, our friendship flourished even though as adults there were things we didn’t share: I enjoyed running and yoga and going to the gym. She didn’t. She was a very devout Christian. I am a prayer warrior in my own way. We had friends in common, as well as friends separately. We are still friends, only she is in heaven or wherever souls go after they leave this earth. I had almost a year to come to terms with her eventual dying from pancreatic cancer. She texted me to come to the hospital emergency room immediately after she was diagnosed, just before she was transported to another medical center. I knew she had been sick, but who would have thought pancreatic cancer? Not even the doctors she had consulted prior. What follows is somewhat predictable: chemo, weight loss, pain, fear, anger, an urgency to make memories. She set goals and remarkably achieved them, until February when she knew the chemo was no longer working and the tumor was winning the race. When she stopped those treatments, as they are called, she thought she had a couple of months to live, but it was only a couple of weeks. As she was dying, she took time to plan every last detail of her funeral service, an Episcopalian mass. She asked me to present not a eulogy, but her final thoughts thanking her co-workers, friends, family for contributing to the quality of life. Neither her husband nor her children knew what was going on until I stepped up to the lectern and delivered her message. No one, I believe, ever thinks they will be honored this way. I sat by her bedside as she told me what she wanted to say. She had mentally categorized her thoughts. I wrote a rough draft, then came back a couple of days later to read it to her. It wasn’t exactly what she had in mind because I had inserted some editorial comments about what a great person she was. A few days later, as she was obviously declining and aware of that, I read her the revised version. Much better, but she had written an introductory anecdote she wanted to add. When I came back to review the final draft, she was very, very weak, but she had the energy to declare it “perfect.” Two days later she was gone.
At her funeral, a packed congregation plus about 100 people in the overflow room, hung on to every word as I shared her thoughts. There was some levity, but every time I looked out someone was wiping away tears. And when I sat down, I thought I have to tell Sharon – that it went well, who was there, and I had questions for her too. I guess the point of this is that we never know what we can do until we have to, and that friendship and love and gratitude are eternal. Death has no hold. Love prevails.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

No, I don’t have Parkinson’s: My story of PTSD by Bob "B", CMSgt, USAF (Ret.) (Guest Blogger)



I shake sometimes. I have an illness that affects my central nervous system and my spine, plus I have post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD.) My head shakes so fast, it gives me migraines from the muscles firing 10,000 times a day.

I pushed it to the back of my skull for 15 years. I never sought out treatment because I had a bunch of near misses. I never had to have a blood transfusion to save a team member from bleeding out. I never had to scrape brains off my face when my buddy sitting/standing next to me got sniped. I never had to carry my best friend’s stump of a leg back to the aid station to get it sewn back on.

I kept telling myself, I never, I never…  and that I wasn’t worthy to walk the halls of the PTSD psych ward.

I finally decided I couldn't continue that way. My hands and head shake like Parkinson's. It’s from stress related to trauma. I’m lucky to have never killed someone in my life, but I almost wasn’t. I came just two inch pounds of pressure away from juicing an Iraqi man and his friend in March 2003.

That night on the highway outside of Irbil is etched into my mind like yesterday. I have flashbacks of that night to this day.

We were about six weeks into the second Iraq War. I was driving in a two vehicle convoy to get parts for my helicopters. I was riding in the passenger seat of the SUV we bought with a bag of cash driving from Bashur to Irbil, Iraq, on a supply run.

We got a flat tire about six miles outside the city on a major highway. We didn’t have a spare.

A Kurdish family driving a station wagon full of kids stopped to help. The father spoke English and said he’d take our tire into the city to get it fixed. Our coworkers in the operational vehicle went with them, leaving me and a female second lieutenant I’ll call “Jen” on the side of the highway.

We decided not to abandon our vehicle so we could get back to Bashur with the supplies and team members.

The hours dragged on. Cars were whizzing past us. I felt like everyone was staring at the #$%@ing Americans. The day turned to night. We weren’t issued night vision goggles (NVGs) and there were no lights except the those from the cars and trucks that passed us.

I don’t think I can fully explain what it’s like to be in a war zone in an exposed position for hours on end. It felt like the longest 6 hours of my life.

Then it got worse.

Out of nowhere - the bushes maybe - two guys approached us to about 20 yards away and stopped. I propped open the door of the broken SUV as if that would stop a bullet or RPG.

I yelled at them to show me their hands. I’m not sure if they understood, knowing they didn't speak English, and I didn't speak Farsi or Peshmerga, or whatever language they spoke.

I told the second lieutenant to charge her weapon. We didn’t work together often, and she didn’t read the urgency in my voice. Instead, she asked, “Why?”

“I can't see their hands, Ma'am, charge your #$%@ing  weapon.” I switched my M-16 from safe to semi/fire.

I was still yelling at them as if they understood me when the dude closest to us reached into his black robes. My heart was pounding out of my chest. (My hands are shaking as I type.)

I screamed, “Don't make me shoot you, mother#$%@er!”


He pulled out a cigarette lighter and blinded me with the flash.

I didn't shoot. But if he or his friend wanted to kill us, they could’ve done it from the darkness. Then they disappeared into the shadows as quickly as they first appeared.

For the next few hours until our convoy returned, I was terrified they would come back with a bigger force, kill me, rape her, and take her hostage.

All that time, I had no idea who had eyes on us from what distance, and what kinds of weapons they had trained on us. I was on high alert for hours. I had never been so scared in my whole life. We were sitting ducks in pitch blackness. In a surreal moment, a little old man brought us Chai tea from a house in the distance. I was grateful, but I still couldn’t let down my guard.

Our comrades finally returned with the spare. When it was installed, I asked, if we were going into the city to get to the Forward Operating Base (FOB) to sleep “inside the wire.”

The resource officer said, “No, it’s too hot. We’re going back to Bashur.”

Instead, we had to drive over a 4,000 - 5,000 foot mountain range in the pitch dark. There were no guard rails, and cliffs drop straight down 600 feet. We were driving an unmarked vehicle, and the AC-130 gunships flying overhead could’ve mistaken us for the enemy and taken us out. Somehow we made the hour and a half journey with no problems. I came through it feeling unbelievably lucky.


Being under such extreme stress for a long time changed me forever. The night is no longer my friend. I'm terrified if I hear sounds in the dark that I can't see. I know there's nobody there gonna get me, but I can't ever forget that night on the highway outside of Irbil.

I have PTSD. I suffer from recurring nightmares, flashbacks, vivid dreams, and hypervigilance. My mind is on guard all the time.

In a restaurant, I can’t sit still and enjoy coffee and conversation with the person in front of me. Instead, I’m scanning the room around me, mapping out exits, and watching for aggressive acts by fellow patrons which could turn into a fight. There are too many mass shootings in public places these days.

I'm in therapy, but it's gonna be a lifetime of therapy.



I thank God I never had to kill anybody, and I hope I never do. I'm trained to put three rounds in the center of mass. You think it's easy until you actually have to do it, and then it's hell for the rest of your life regretting taking that life. Until I was faced with that choice, I thought, “F%$# that! It's them or me.” But in reality it's not easy to pull the 2-6 pounds of pressure to squeeze off that three-round burst.

PTSD knows no rank, rate, income level, political affiliation. It eats at my soul every day. I can't talk about it without shaking, crying, or throwing up.

Now I know why my Dad never talked about WWII. He was an infantry soldier in the 36th Division, 142nd Infantry Regiment, Company L. He was a Technical Sergeant, with a green bar below his chevrons. They are now called a Sergeant First Class.

My dad got a battlefield promotion to second Lieutenant by Major General Omar Bradley. The general asked, “Where is your Company Commander?” My dad said, “Dead, sir.” The general asked, “Where’s your Platoon Leader? My dad answered, “Dead, sir.” The general asked, “Who’s been leading these men, Sergeant?” My dad said, “I have, sir.” The general responded, “You’re out of uniform... pin these on”.

By the time that paperwork reached HQ Army, the war in Germany was over. They said he had to go to OCS to keep the lieutenant bars and after that, go to the Pacific to continue to fight. He had enough points to go home. He had been wounded twice and seen his share of death. So he passed on the opportunity to attend Officer Candidate School (OCS) at Fort Benning.

He pinned his Tech Sergeant stripes back on and took a ship from Europe back to the States. One thing he did miss about Fort Benning was Jane Russell. She was married to a captain in the Army at the time. They were neighbors. She would sunbathe in the backyard. She was a pin up girl. “Vava vavoom,” he'd say.

Phew… I need a break. I'm OK... this shit is hard.