Grandma’s Kitchen

My grandmother passed away when was very young.  Years later, my grandfather remarried a lady who we always affectionately called Marge.  Marge was a lifetime resident of Maine, and had the down east accent to prove it. They lived near Blue Hill, Maine, way out in the country and a short distance from the ocean.   We loved to visit every summer, spending a week or so with them in a cottage.

Marge was an amazing cook, but there are two things I remember most. The first is her omelets.  She would separate the whites and yolks and cook the fluffiest omelets, part of the time on the stove and the rest in the oven.  Then she would cover it with strawberry preserves and fold it in half.  So delicious!  The other dish was a family affair.  My brother and sister and I would go down to the shoreline and dig up clams at low tide.  We would get as many as we could and bring them back up to the house.  Marge would then steam them for supper.  She would place the whole big pot in the center of the table, each of us would get a bowl of drawn butter, and we would go at it.  I would love to be at that table again to enjoy more of those steamed clams.

My wife grew up living at her grandma’s house.  Her mom and dad and five brothers and sisters also lived in the 6-room farmhouse, along with grandpa of course.  It was quite a full house!  Grandma Lundquist cooked just like you would expect a grandma to cook – never used a recipe and cooked for an army.  She was almost always in the kitchen, and my wife was often in there helping her, learning the craft. 

I remember my first meal there.  I had moved out to Iowa from Massachusetts just for this girl, and it was time for me to meet the family.  So Janeen took me out there, and I was greeted not only by her whole immediate family, but cousins, uncles, nieces and nephews and friends.  A huge crowd had gathered to see this city boy who was who was sweet on the country farm girl.  But the most impressive things to me was the spread of food on the kitchen table.  It looked like Thanksgiving minus the turkey!  I thought there was enough food to feed an army, and there was.  Everyone gathered in the kitchen and just went at it, filling their plates and heading back to one of the other two rooms downstairs to eat.

After that event, and marrying that country girl, I watched grandma as she took care of the kitchen.  Janeen would help her when she could, but we had little ones that needed caring, so it wasn’t too often.  Grandma was a country cook, and everything she made just came out right.  From fried chicken, which was often, to noodles – homemade of course – her touch was on everything in that kitchen.  I liked to cook as well, but this was a master at work.  As my wife started to cook more, I found out she was a master as well.

At Thanksgiving time this year, we had one of our granddaughters stay with us for a few days, and grandma, who is my wife, taught her how to make pie crust.  My wife’s pie crusts are amazing.  This granddaughter then made pies for Christmas at her other grandpa’s house.  Then she made pies to raise funds for a school trip.  I think she made something like $300 from that venture, and the pies came out great.

Just a week ago, two other granddaughters were here visiting, and my wife had to make a cake for the pie granddaughter for her birthday.  The two of them wanted to watch and help grandma bake and decorate he cake.  I sat in the living room listening to them, and thought how wonderful it was that the skills and knowledge are being passed down to another generation.  When I married my wife, she was still learning at her grandma’s side.  Now she is the grandma, teach her grandkids the skills they will need.

The bible tells us in Deuteronomy 6:6-7 that we should teach our children about the works and word of God while we sit in our house, or walk by the way, or lie down or rise up.  Basically, all the time!  But this doesn’t just apply to God’s word.  It applies to life!  We need to reach our kids and grandkids about life and all the things that pertain to it.  Cooking, cleaning, finances, relationships, handling troubles and disappointments.  These things are so crucial, and they need to be learned in the home.  I know t takes twice as long to cook when that 4 or 5-year-old wants to help, but what a blessing it is to be able to teach them.  Make sure you are doing all you can to teach the young ones in your life the basic fundamentals of life.  Pass it on!

The Goodale Street Tree Climbing Club

In the early 60’s, our yard was a magnet for kids from around the neighborhood.  We had a big back yard where kickball and baseball games took place all summer long.  In winter, the snowplows tended to pile the snow high right where we lived, and forts were built regularly.  But the big attractions were truly that – big.  We had twin sugar maple trees, one in the front year and one in the back.  Both trees towered over our 2-story house, so they were at least 50 feet tall.  I never took the time to measure them.  They were in the prime of life, so majestic and strong.  It was partly because of these trees that the Goodale Street Tree Climbing Club was formed.

There were six of us in the club.  My brother was the president, and I was vice president.   Believe that is because we were the best tree climbers of the bunch.  Living in Massachusetts, we were surrounded by woods, and trees were prevalent.  It was not unusual for us to get together and make it a mission to climb trees throughout the woods on a Saturday afternoon.  We loved to climb.  It didn’t matter what kind of tree, or how big, we were up to the challenge.  If the bottom branches were too high to reach, we would shiny up he tree to get to them.

But the silver maple in our back yard was our favorite.  It was built perfectly for climbing.  The branches were layered in such a way that you could easily climb it any way you wanted to.  And you could come down and out of the tree in a variety of ways.  My favorite was to walk right out of the tree.  Yes, you read that right – walk out of the tree.  Two of the big bottom branches ran parallel to each other, and you could walk on the bottom branch while holding the top branch until the branch bowed far enough for you to hit the ground. ­ Of course, you had to be fast in getting off the branch, because once your weight was off of it, it would spring suddenly back up to position.  If you weren’t careful, you could get a nasty whipping from that branch.

One of my fondest memories was the day I told my friend David I could climb all the way to the top and stick my hand out.  If you have ever been to the top of a silver maple, you know that the branches get pretty flimsy up there.  He didn’t think I could do it.  Well, for a tree climber, that’s a challenge you can’t let go by the wayside.  David headed over to the back side of the yard so he could see me, and I proceeded up the tree.  The first 2/3 or he tree were easy, but as I got to the top portion, the branches were less sturdy, and I had to carefully maneuver my steps.  But I was able to get closer and closer to the top.  Finally, just barely able to keep myself from swaying down, I reached for the opening in the top of the tree and stuck my hand out. 

“Can you see it” I shouted. 

Ya, I can.  Wow.” was David’s response.

I slowly started back down that tree, proud of my accomplishment.  No one else had ever dared try that kind of a stunt.  David rushed over to me and just looked at me with amazement. 

“Man, you did it!  I can’t believe it”.

“I can’t either.  It was a bit scary up there, and I won’t do it again.”   I said, a broad smile lighting up my face.

And I never did do it again.  And nobody else ever did it either.  I was the tree climbing king in that moment.  I had done something that no one else even dared to try.  And it felt good.

Youth is a wonderful thing.  We were pretty carefree, and a challenge was rarely left on the table for long.  It seems as I grow older, I take less risk.  I am more cautious with my decisions.  In a way that is a good thing because I have more responsibility and a family that depends on me.  But in a way, it’s a bad thing.  I am reluctant at times to step out in faith and share the gospel with people I come in contact with.  I have ample opportunities since I am in the insurance business, but rarely take those risks.  I sometimes wish I would be more outgoing with my faith.

I wrote this when I had cancer many years ago.  I used this platform to share my faith.  It has been such a blessing to me these past 9 months to share my poetry and thoughts with all of you.  So many times, I have received comments of how someone was touched by the words God gave me.  What a blessing to know God can use me to minister from the comfort of my La-Z-Boy chair.  I may never stick my hand out the top of a tree again, but I will lift my hand to God and worship Him with the utmost abandon.  There is no risk in that!

Flip Or Touch

I grew up with a big brother and many friends around. We did a lot of things together such as kickball games and whiffle ball in my backyard, sledding in the winter, hiking through the woods and fishing in the summer and playing baseball on a little league teams. We always seemed to have plenty of fun doing the things we loved.

One thing that kept us busy quite often is baseball cards. Back in those days you could buy a pack of 5 baseball cards with a big slab of gum for 5 cents. Of course, we never knew which cards we were going to get in the pack and so we would usually buy several packs, hoping to get that special card like Carl Yastrzemski or Mickey Mantle. And we didn’t have just a few baseball cards – we had a lot of baseball cards.

The games we played with these baseball cards went on and on and on. One game was called flip. It’s pretty simple.  We would take a card in our fingers and flip it towards the ground.  The card flutters down and come up either heads or tails. Then the next person has to match that. If they match it they take your card. If they don’t you get the cards. Flip was one of my favorite games and I was very good at it. My collection would grow on a regular basis.

The next game we played was touch. Just as it says, we would flip the cards just like before except the object now was to touch the other cars that were already on the ground. This took careful planning because if there was just a little bit of wind it affected the card. Whatever card you touched became yours. If you touched several cards, you got all of those cards. These games could go on for quite a while before anybody touched anything because of the inaccuracy of flipping the cards. Touch was quite frustrating at times but I always seem to come out on top.  And the rewards could be huge.  10, 20 or even 30 cards could be won at once on a breezy day.

The third game was one that I can’t remember the name of. We would lean a card up against the wall and we would toss a card, kind of like a frisbee, against that wall, trying to knock the card down. Whoever knocked the card down first took all the cards that had been thrown up to that point. This was a game that usually lasted a while and could get you a lot of cards at once.

Then there was the trade. We would trade cards quite often. Somebody might want one particular player and so you would trade him for something you had – usually one you had more than one of. Maybe you were trying to get the full team at one time or maybe you just like that player because he was good and you have to give up something really good to get him. We didn’t do this as much because we enjoyed the games more than just trading.

At the end of the year, it wasn’t unusual for me and my brother to get up on the top of our garage and take the cards that we had with us.  We always seemed to have a shoebox full – a thousand or more.  In that collection, there were a lot of rookie cards and famous player cards. We would gather the rest of the neighborhood kids around p 5 or 10 of them – and we would throw our cards to them.  We didn’t see any need to keep them until the next year – we would just get more!

Little did we know that decades later these cards could be worth a fortune. Having over a thousand cards without duplicates was quite a collection. But we never thought about the fact that they could have been worth something. I envy those people who did think they would gain value and kept them. I had several very elite cards, like a Mickey Mantle rookie card and a Roger Maris the year he broke the homerun record. I had Carl Yastrzemski rookie card. For those of you who don’t know him, he was the last person to win baseballs triple crown in 1967. These cards would be worth quite a bit today but I never thought about their future value when I was a kid.

Isn’t that how we are sometimes with the most precious things in life? We don’t see their value until we don’t have them anymore. I look at it the peace that God gives me on a day-to-day basis. I would be frantic without that peace, yet so often I put it behind me to take pleasure in something that I shouldn’t. And that peace can be destroyed because I’m now at enmity with God. In order to restore that peace, I need to repent and come to God asking Him to take away that thing which I’ve done against Him and restore peace to my soul.

God gives us a peace that passes all understanding. But that only comes when we take things to the Lord in prayer and don’t get anxious or worried about His provision, His guidance and His love. It only comes when I strive for the perfection He would like me to have, patiently enduring trials while my faith is growing.  Peace only comes when I am not walking in sin.

He’s always there for us and yet we often forget that. In those times when we forget what He supplies by His grace, His peace will leave because we take it for granted. We get comfortable in that peace, and before we know it, our peace is gone.  We have come to a place where we think that peace is ours no matter how we are walking.  But His peace only comes from the Holy Spirit.  When we walk in sin, the Holy Spirit is there to convict us of that sin so He can bring us back into His peace.

Peace is just one example.  Joy, Hope and other fruits of the spirit are the same.  We can exchange them – trade them – for being more comfortable in this world.  We flip our priorities from Godly principles to worldly principles.  We want to touch the pleasures this world affords, and forget that it is at the expense of the heavenly things we have grown accustomed to when walking with God.   Before we know it, the fruit of the spirit have dried up and we long for them again.

As you go your way today think about the things that are really precious in your life. Make sure that your guard those with all that you can and don’t just flip them away. It can be much harder to get them back once they are gone,

Fix It Right

I wish I had a Rolex watch because it’s simply the best.   For decades they have been the premier watch in all the world. The Swiss have always been excellent watchmakers.  For some reason, it had been in their gene pool for centuries. A Rolex watch symbolizes all that is of the highest quality. 

If I did have a Rolex, and something happened to it that needed repair, I would be foolish to take it to any watchmaker.  I would want to take it back to Rolex, the ones who crafted it and perfected it in the first place.  They would know how best to fix it so the time would once again be accurate, and I could once again trust my watch to fulfill that area in my life it was meant to fulfill.

I wish I had a Mercedes Benz sports car because it’s simply the best. For decades they have been the premier vehicle in all the world. The Germans have always been excellent at making high quality vehicles. Foe some reason, it has been in their gene pool for centuries. A Mercedes symbolizes all that is of the highest quality. 

If I did have a Mercedes, and something happened to it that needed repair, I would be foolish to take it to any auto repair place. I would want to take it to a certified Mercedes mechanic, the ones who crafted it and perfected it in the first place. They would know how best to fix it so the engine would once again run smoothly, and I could once again trust my car to fulfill that area in my life it was meant to fulfill.

If I was going to travel the countryside in a motor home year long, I would want a Winnebago. Manufactured just 35 minutes from where I live, they are simply the best in the world.  I have been through their factory, and have watch the care and precision that goes into each vehicle.  The best of everything.

If my Winnebago broke down, I would not want to take it for repair to just anyone. I would want to find out where the nearest Winnebago certified technician was located and get it to them.   They would best know exactly what was needed to fix the problem and get me on my merry way.

I am much more valuable than a Rolex.  The working mechanism within my body is much more intricate, and it has to last me for 70, 80, 90 or even 100 years.  Mt DNA is woven together in such a way that makes me, me.  My circulatory and respiratory systems are a science wonder, and my eye is a marvelous instrument that no scientist can match.

I am of much higher quality than a Mercedes. The materials that made me might be the equivalent of dirt in this world, but they are all fashioned and framed to make a completely individual person. There is no one like me in all the world.  I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

My ability to take in all that is around me is much more than a Winnebago’s ability to travel everywhere. My eyes, ears, mouth and nose see, hear, taste and smell all the uniqueness that this world has to offer.  These senses teach me what I like and dislike.   They guide me through this world every day, leading me to the good thing in life, and keeping me from danger.

When I had cancer, I chose to go to the best place in the nation for my type of cancer. The University of Iowa, just 3 hours away, was just that. They had the best long range remission rates of anyone in the nation. I wanted to be healed, not just treated. I wanted the cancer gone, not just in remission. And that is what I received. 

When my life seems to be going the wrong direction, or when I get depressed or discouraged why do I go to someone else who may have the same problem?  Why not go to the creator?  After all, I would do that for my watch, or car, or motor home.  How silly of me to think my own life should be any different!  Am I too proud to seek out the one who knit me together in my mother’s womb?  Am I scared because I don’t think He could possibly love me?

Throughout my battle with cancer, He was always with me because I trusted Him. He led me through any discouragement or disappointment, and He strengthened me when I was weak.  My creator was always there, and He always will be near my side.  He knows everything about me. He knows everywhere I go.  He always wants what is best for me.  No matter what I go through, He will work it for my good.

The Bible says that He made all things.   His name is Jesus, and He not only does all these things for you, but He also died in your place. He became the sacrifice for all your wrong doings.   He can fix whatever is wrong in your life today if you just put your faith in Him.  Just like we take our most valuable possessions to the one who made them when they need to be repaired, so also can we go to Him when we need repairs.

Extra-Curricular Activities

Life does not seem complete unless there are things you are involved with outside of the daily living experience.  There i no doubt that was true with me.  It started at age 6 with Cub Scouts.  My mom was a den leader, so that made it easy to be involved with scouts.  I loved the activities and camping out was my favorite thing.  I enjoyed learning different kinds of knots, learning about nature and being outside when it worked out.  For many years, we went to Boy Scout camp.  I remember that my first merit badge was for weather.  I have always had a fascination for weather, even up to this day.  I don’t remember much about the Cub Scout years, and even what the various ranks are.  I know I made it to first class, or star, before I lost interest around 12 or 13.  I also remember a winter camping trip when it got very cold out.  I recall that my tent was hot enough to make the ice underneath us melt, and then it froze again when the fire went out.  My sleeping bag got stuck in the ice!  I also recall one summer camp when we went to wilderness camp and had to catch a chicken (they brought them along), kill it, take the feathers off and eat it, I had done this with my grandfather, so knew the procedure.  That chicken came out really good! 

One of the things I really enjoyed about boy scouts was the penny carnival held every Fourth of July.  This was a huge money maker for our troop every year.  We took up one of the paved tennis courts in the center of all the action.  Fourth of July was the biggest event on the West Boylston calendar each year.  First there was a parade, and as a boy scout I walked in many of them.  The parade went through the center of town and ended up at Goodale Street Park.  This was a very big complex, with two baseball fields, three tennis courts and a basketball court.  There was also a summer house that served as an observation place for many of the events.  A big bandstand was further down on the park, and the high school soccer and baseball fields were on the far end.  On the third of July, the city took about 100 railroad ties, which were full of pitch.  They piled them like a pyramid in the field and covered it with gasoline.  The pyramid was about 20 feet tall, to my recollection.  When they lit I on fire, it went up like a blaze of glory.  This was one of my favorite things about the whole weekend. 

After the parade they had baseball games, and great recreational events like sack races, three-legged races, and egg tosses.  My brother and I were the kings of the three-legged race, as he was left-handed and I was right-handed.  Then we had the penny carnival, which ran until the evening festivities.  West Boylston had the bet fireworks for many miles, and we drew a crowd of up to 20,000 for the fireworks.  Many people came earlier for the penny carnival and other events, which made the carnival a great success.  My brother and I always helped put the booths up and the games together, and then ran the booths as well.  It was fun for all ages!

The Boy Scout pledge was “A Boy Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, obedient, kind, cheerful, brave. clean and reverent.  These qualities are mentioned over and over again in the Bible, and are great to live by.  When I was young, I did, and I am working on them every day as an adult.  It’s a lofty pursuit, but with the help of God I know I can achieve these things, It seem to me that much of our society and culture today steers away from many of these lofty attributes.  There is a lot of distrust in our world today because many have no problem lying to get around a problem.  Add to this to the deteriorating morality we face.  One example I think of is hitchhikers.  We used to be able to hitch hike, or pick up hitchhikers with no worries.  Now, you wouldn’t dare pick one up because you could lose your life.  People are not loyal any more, whether it be to job, souse or church.  Most are too consumed with their own lives to be concerned with someone else’s

The motto was “Be Ready.”  I try my best to be ready for anything that might come my way, and the only way that happens is when we place our complete trust in God.  When we do that, we know that whatever come our way will turn out for our good, so we are ready to endure any trial or test that may befall us. I am ready to serve and worship God. I am ready to go about my life living by the above pledge. I am ready to be the husband, father, grandfather, friend or employee I should be.

Church was a major factor for me in my younger years, then disappeared for about 6 years before I came to know Christ.  After that, it was a major factor.  Another chapter will discuss the various churches throughout my life.  But there were also extra-curricular activities that were church based.  We went to church camp every summer for several years, and I really enjoyed those.  Singing the songs around the campfire, seeing friends we only saw once a year, swimming and being involved in other activities was always fun.  The church had a very big Christmas Celebration each year, and part of that was a craft fair.  There were dozens of different crafts you could make all over the church, and they all had to do with Christmas.  I really enjoyed those fairs.  Vacation Bible School was also big at our church and I went every year.  In my later teen years, a friend and I decided we wanted to start a teen center in one of the upper rooms that was rarely used.  The church was all for it, so we went to work.  There was a big upright piano up there that was in very bad shape and needed to be removed.  We took some sledgehammers and broke it into little pieces in order to get it downstairs.  That was fun!  The place was well received and we had some good times there before we grew tired of it and nobody wanted to keep it going.  I also remember one winter selling live Christmas tree at the church to raise money, I think for boy scouts.  I worked that lot many afternoons and evenings to sll all the trees in time.  That was also a good fundraiser.

Sports were also very big in my life in many ways.  Our backyard was pretty good size, and was the perfect place to have kickball games.  There were easily enough kids in our neighborhood to get a good game going, and we often did.  In the outfield, there were three very big pine tree that worked as a backstop.  There were very few who could clear the trees with a kick, and it happened rarely.  I was one of those.  My friend David (later Jason) and I were the home run champs both in my back yard and on the playground during recess.  We could kick it farther than anyone else.  I was also a pretty good pitcher.  I threw a back-up pitch that caused many newcomers to swing and miss, often falling flat on their rear end.  Behind home plate, in our neighbor’s yard, was a pear tree that we would often raid.  We also played some whiffle ball back there. 

The tennis courts previously mentioned were also a hangout for us.  We would ride our bikes there and play very often, all the way through our young adult years.  It was easy to go down there and just sit around a pick up a game with someone, which we would often do.  And the courts were lit, which made night playing a lot of fun.  These were clay courts and were very well kept all those years.  My brother and I both played on the high school team for all 4 years.  He was two grades ahead of me, but in his senior year, we got to play double together against the other schools, and we did very well.  As I said, he swung from the left, and I from the right.  We looked pretty similar. A fact which made it difficult for opponents to tell where the forehand was at any given time.  Add to that the fact that we were constantly switching sides, and the opposition was baffled!  We went undefeated that year until the state finals.  That was a great year!

Tennis continued into my adult years.  AT Norton Company, where I worked for 7 years, they had a tennis league.  We played once a week, and there were some very good players there.  I made it to the semi-finals three years in a row, and lost to the same player every year!  In West Boylston, they also had a city tournament each year.  One year I was very excited that I had made it to the finals against the guy that had won the last two years. I really thought I had a good chance to win against him this year.  But the night before the final match, I was playing basketball with some friends and tore some ligaments in my ankle.  I had to forfeit the match, which was disappointing to me and the 100 or so people that showed up to watch it.

Then came the Frisbee and we picked it up and ran with it.  My friends and I would take up half of Goodale Street Park and throw that Frisbee what seemed like a half mile sometimes.  Accuracy really didn’t matter much because we loved to run and catch that little disk.  With out four-corner approach, we covered a lot of ground.  And we played a lot!  Personally, I enjoyed taking my Frisbee for long walks in the woods.  I would spot a tree quite a way ahead of me and see how many shots it would take to hit that tree – an early version of Frisbee golf before it became a thing.  This improved my accuracy quite a bit, and I would do it often.  Another thing that happened often were road trips all over New England.  We would take our Frisbees and stop in city parks whenever we felt the urge.  The Frisbee was with me when raising my family as well.  We would throw them all over town and make up a Frisbee golf course of our own.  I would also always have on in my car when I was a travelling salesman, and would stop at Frisbee golf courses in many cities to play during lunch breaks.  I still play Frisbee quite often when I have the time.

Golf has also been a part of my life for most of my life.  I was a caddy for many years at Wachusett Country Club in West Boylston, often carrying two bags and making some pretty good money.  We had the opportunity every year to play in the caddy tournament, and later I played on occasion with friends.  As an older teen and young twenty something, we golfed at several different golf courses.  Once I moved to Iowa, golf went away for many years simply because I was raising my family and just did not have the money of the time.  But in my forties, my company actually paid for my membership in Belmond, and I played almost every morning before work.  I got my core down close to 80 during this stretch, but it was short lived, as my time with that company came to an end after three years of membership.  It was fifteen years later before I joined the country club again, although I still played occasionally.  I even once got a hole-in-one, but it was early in the morning and I was all by myself on the course.

When summer was gone and winter set in, sledding and snow-ball fights took over.  New England is a mecca for sledding, and no place was better suited than West Boylston.  This story would not be complete without a description of perhaps the best sled run in town history.  It started at the second hole of the Wachusett Country Club.  This hole was a long par five which started out with a very steady slope, then went at about a 45-degree angle downhill before coming to a small creek.  Beyond the creek about 10 yards was an elevated green.  Behind the green, a trail went through the woods.  This trail was only wide enough for a double runner led to fit through, but would around trees all the way.  It was about a 45-degree downhill to a bridge over another stream, and then it was uphill before you got into the Bancroft’s’ backyard.  Starting in that backyard, the bigger kids had built a bobsled run, complete with high sides, down through the next two back yards. They had even brought out water to ice it down and make it very slick.  At the bottom of the bobsled run was a bridge that went uphill into a field, where the sleds would stop.

It was extremely difficult to make this run without stopping once.  First, you had to decide, when coming down that second hole, if you wanted to even try to make it.  Because if you wanted to try, you had to jump the creek. If you steered over the bridge on the right side, you could not have enough speed to make it all the way. You see, that hill faced East.  During the day, it was not unusual for some of the snowpack to melt, only to freeze overnight.  This left the entire hill a sheet of ice. To make the bridge, you had to decide at the top of the hill, or you would never get over there in time.  I usually chose the bridge, but once in a while, I would choose to jump the creek.  I made it twice!  On those occasions, I proceeded over the green and onto the trail through the woods. In order to make it all the way to the bobsled run, I could not afford to lose any steam going through the woods.  I would be dodging tree trunks going quite fast all the way down that trial and over the creek.  I barely got to the bobsled run and then went whooshing down that icy stretch and into the landing field.  Not many people were able to make that whole run, and I was one of them.  It was over a mile long, and was one of those things you did once a day, maybe once a year!  We had other runs, and toboggan runs, but none came close to this!

The snow-ball fights were also epic.  It was not unusual that they happened right in front of our house.  The snows in New England were almost always perfect for a snowball fight as they were moist and could pack easily.  This also made for very good snow forts.  We always had huge piles of now in front of our house as well as across the street, so the forts would be constructed there.  Three or four kids on each side of the street would be hurling snowballs for many minutes, creating an atmosphere of laughter and fun that’s hard to duplicate anywhere else.  One particular winter, we had 24” of now one Sunday with two days off from school, and 36” the next, with three days off from school.  The snow forts became snow huts, and we reveled in the size of our forts.  So much fun!  I would have a few snowball fights with my kids, but nothing came close to these wonder years!

One year-round activity was bowling.  I started bowling the junior leagues in West Boylston.  Those lanes are no longer there, and my memories of those early bowling years are few.  One thing that stands out, though, is the one time I watched on of the older boys start throwing strike after strike.  One, two, three four. The place was starting to buzz a little now.  Five, six, seven.  Everyone started to gather near his lanes.  Eight, nine, ten.  We were so excited, yet you could hear a pin drop.  I had never seen anything like it.  He was beside himself under pressure.  We just never saw 300 games in junior bowling.  Eleven.  The air was tense.  The mood was excitement.  We all wanted to see him throw that last strike.  He wasn’t the best liked bowler, but today everyone was rooting for him.  He got up to throw that last ball, holding it up jut like he always did.  Nothing seemed out of place or nervous now.  He approached the line, swinging the ball high above him on the backswing.  That ball came down right where all the other eleven had.  It rolled down the lane just like all the others had.  It hit the packet just like all the others had.  Everyone was holding their breath.  The pins scattered quickly and just disappeared – all but one.  That ten-pin stood there, defiant and unflinching, ruining his perfect game by one pin.  I’ll never forget that day.

In my late teens and early twenties, I became friends with a group of guys I had met in bowling league.  We became good friends, and bowling became our passion – along with beer and pot.  And we were all pretty good.  Every one of us had an average above 180, and we won the league many years while drinking the bar dry.  We were loud, flamboyant and had a boatload of fun.  We went to several state tournaments together, but never could bring home the gold.  Three nights a week we were at the bowling alley perfecting our game and drinking plenty.  Those were fun years

Life really changed when I grew up a little and moved to Iowa.  I got married and started a family.  Extra-curricular activities were few and rare. There was just no time.  I did do some bowling, but not near as much as in my teens and early twenties.  Kids and work kept me plenty busy.  Tennis was also a thing of the past.  From Fairfield to Chariton to Belmond we moved our family.  For the rest of my life, I would not find time for any of what I call extra-curricular activities except for Toastmasters (see the chapter entitled I Love Words for more about this).  Writing also became my passion.

I have enjoyed a lot of fun things in my life, but nothing was as exhilarating as raising my family. And watching them or joining them in more extra-curricular activities.  These things are the icing on life. And I love icing!  God loves us so much that He gives each of us the time and ability to get involved In things and events that make life more interesting. He desires us to have happiness and fulfillment in this life.  I am so glad I serve a God who loves me enough to give me this liberty. I hope you realize how much He loves you.  He has given you abilities to do things I could never dream of. Maybe it’s mountain climbing, or hang gliding, or surf riding. May be your good at football, or baseball, or bocce ball.  Maybe you can curl or twirl or paint surreal.  Play an instrument or lead a symphony.  Be a doctor, a lawyer, a baker, a pilot, or do construction.  Whatever it I you do, whatever it is you enjoy in your spare time, whatever you feel good at, God gave you that talent.  Use it to its fullest.  And Give Him praise!.