Category: Personal Notes

Brace Yourself: You’re Going to be Offended!

offended
Offended much?

Well, it finally happened. I offended somebody simply by wearing my “Unapologetically American” T-shirt! I really don’t give a crap. If you are offended by someone who is proud of the country you are living in, you are the one with the problem. And besides, you can always move.

offended

No, that’s not me in the T-shirt. I didn’t want to offend anyone!

That’s the T-shirt model from Ranger Up where I ordered the shirt sometime ago. And, this is not really a plug for the shirt or Ranger Up. I just wanted you to see exactly what it was this snowflake was offended by. But, if you want to order a shirt to see who you can offend, click here!

What really offends me is how people are now so easily offended!

I have just a couple of things to say about people who are that easily offended.

  • Being offended doesn’t make you right
  • If you are shocked by what I say, then you really have no clue as to who I am.
  • If you don’t care enough to learn about who I am, why should I waste anytime on you?

So, boys and girls, buck up … and put your adult underwear on. This country would not exist today if early explorers, our Founding Fathers, or those who fought to build and protect this great nation were offended every time they heard an opinion that differed from their own.

Put down your cocoa, turn loose that puppy, wipe away those tears, hitch up your britches, and get out into the real world. Develop some backbone and a thicker skin. You will be happier, healthier, and probably live longer.

And, that’s about all I have to say about that!

By the way, if I haven’t offended you so much that you are now quivering in your Nikes, on the verge of tears, and hear the cocoa calling your name, check out the cover to my new book and let me know what you think. Just click here!

The Montagnards: The Green Berets’ Secret Vietnam Warriors.

montagnard
The Montagnards: The Green Berets’ Secret Vietnam Warriors symposium is Aug. 14 at 7 p.m.

Back in 2015, the Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum hosted a panel discussion of the Green Berets’ Use of Montagnard Tribesmen During the War in Vietnam

I have been to Patriot Point several times and always enjoy touring the aircraft carrier. the USS Yorktown, and seeing the many naval aircraft on her deck, as well as the destroyer, the USS Laffey (which has an absolutely heroic history), and the submarine, the USS Clamagore (which I understand is destined to be sunk as an artificial reef).

I have done a great deal of research into the Montagnard people for both Serpents Underfoot and it’s “sequel in progress,” Montagnard. I am sorry I missed this symposium. It would have been interesting and helpful.

While really a short description of the symposium, there is also a good bit of information about the Montagnard people. Anyone interested in reading the article can click this link!

How to be a “Fixer Upper”

I discovered the program, Fixer Upper, on HGTV and now I am hooked.

fixer upper

Chip and Joanna Gaines own and operate Magnolia Homes, a remodeling and design business based in Waco, Texas. The show “Fixer Upper” shows the process by which this amazing couple turn dilapidated but potential-rich houses into amazing showplaces. These two are helping revitalize whole neighborhoods throughout central Texas.

They show clients a series of houses based on the client’s total budget for purchase and renovation. Typically, the houses are the worse houses in otherwise good neighborhoods. However, sometimes they go off on a tangent and take a real chance, always it seems, with incredible success.

This show actually has me wondering if I should move to Texas on the off chance I’d be lucky enough to have this amazing team remodel a house for me. Maybe someday!

Chip manages the demolition, construction, and realty side of Magnolia and Joanna is the lead designer. I think she is brilliant as a designer. The tears and looks on their client’s faces during the big reveal says it all. And the couple play off each other in a manner that is very humorous, entertaining, and wholesome. I also like how they include their children in their remodeling business.

Chip and Joanna also act as part-time counselors to clients who can’t always initially see a homes true potential through the current damage or blemishes. This dynamic duo saves homes that look beyond redemption by renovating them, and revealing them as the forever-homes they were intended to be. Sometimes, they do get into the unexpected “oops,” but always find some way to make it work. I have been total amazed at the work they do and have also learned a great deal about renovations. The show is very educational.

I find very little worth watching on television these days, but this show is certainly an exception. I give it a 6 out of 5 Star Rating and highly recommend it to anyone. It is good on so many levels that anyone can find something to enjoy. You really need to check this program out. I don’t know what HGTV’s plans are, but this is one program I hope they continue for awhile.

Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence

I recently came across an article in Imprimis, which is a publication of Hillsdale College. The article, titled “Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence” was written by journalist Alex Berenson. Berenson has written for the Denver Post as well as the New York Times. He served as an Iraq War correspondent and has written several acclaimed novels and works of non-fiction.

“So, why are you writing a post about marijuana?” you might ask.

That would be a very good question. I am not sure myself except that this article really struck a personal chord with me. And, I have become increasingly concerned about the direction some are trying to take our country in. And besides, it’s my blog, so I will write about whatever the hell I want to! You don’t have to read this post if you don’t want to.

Write about what you know …

First, I do want my readers to understand that I am not coming at this from a “non-experienced,” “puritanical,” or “holier than thou” attitude. Therefore, in the name of full disclosure, I started smoking marijuana in the eighth grade and smoked pretty heavily until my late twenties. It was having a family of my own that had me questioning my lifestyle choices up until that point. I eventually succeeded in walking away from it, but it took a change of scenery and new friends to succeed.

I am not proud of that part of my life and often wonder how different things might have been had I turned down that first joint. Much of my life has been a struggle. And, while there have been some real successes, for example … in martial arts and writing … they have come later in life for me. When I see politicians and “marijuana merchants” praising the miracles of medical marijuana and calling for its legalization, I wanted to remind people that to make an intelligent decision, you have to look at both sides of any story. And, marijuana use does certainly have its “dark side.”

There is a real “Dark Side” to marijuana use!

marijuana

Berenson started his article by describing the Mid-Hudson Forensic Psychiatric Center located about 70 miles northwest of New York City. It is one of the places New York State houses the criminally mentally ill. These are defendants found not guilty by reason of insanity. Berenson’s wife had worked as a senior psychiatrist there.

The article points out that many of the 300 patients housed at this facility are killers and arsonists. At least one, it seems, is a cannibal. Diagnosed with psychotic disorders like schizophrenia, they’d committed extreme acts of violence against both family members and strangers.

Berenson highlights in his article that, during a passing comment to him, his wife once stated:

Of course, he’d been smoking pot his whole life.

Of course, I asked?

Yes, they all smoke.

So marijuana causes schizophrenia?

Alex Benson, Imprimis, January 2019

As recently as 2017, the National Academy of Medicine found that “cannabis use does increase the risk of developing schizophrenia and other psychoses; the higher the use, the greater the risk.”

In states like Colorado, emergency room physicians are becoming quite expert at dealing with cannabis-induced psychosis!

The really scary thing for me is that the marijuana kids are smoking today is about 10 to 15 times more potent in THC content than the pot I used to smoke.

How come we don’t know more about this?

The truth is that in the United States tracking cases of psychosis and its causes is impossible. Perhaps this is due to a concern for Constitutional rights to privacy. The government does carefully track diseases like cancer with central registries. However, no such registries exist for tracking schizophrenia or other mental illnesses.

In his article, Berenson points out that other countries such as Finland and Denmark do track mental illness comprehensively. And, they show a marked increase in psychosis since 2000, coinciding with a increase in marijuana usage.

Also according to this article, a large Federal survey conducted in September of last years shows a serious rise in mental illness in the United States as well. And, especially among young adults, the heaviest users of marijuana.

Why does this matter to me?

I cannot help but wonder how many of the young kids we see today engaging in violent behavior such as school shootings are heavy marijuana users? How many members of MS 13 are marijuana users? I am not saying I have any answers. But before we go skipping down the path to legalizing marijuana and classifying it as “harmless as Oreo cookies and milk,” maybe we should be sure we have all the facts, and not just the memes you see on the Facebook or Instagram created by those in a position to make oodles of money if “pot” becomes legal.

To read other posts, click here!

Great Auto Service Can Still Be Found!

Atlantic Tire & Service

auto service

This is not the type of post I typically put up on my blog, but I feel I need to share this with any of my readers in the Cary/Raleigh, NC area. If you need to get your vehicle serviced, Atlantic Tire and Service is the place to get your auto service done.

I get my vehicles serviced and repaired there, and have done so since moving to Cary about three years ago. First it was my Ford Escape and now my Nissan Xterra. I have recommended Atlantic Tire & Service to several others friends and they have all thanked me for doing so.

Examples of great Auto Service

Here is an example of what I mean. My 2011 Ford Escape had an ongoing problem with the air conditioning. It was most inconvenient! I had it checked at three different auto service centers beginning on Hilton Head Island where it first quit working while on a vacation and sitting in a traffic jam on a very hot day. It was not a happy experience! Later, a service center in Knoxville checked it several times, and finally a Ford Dealership checked it when I moved to Cary.

Each time it cost several hundred dollars and would work great for six to eight weeks. Then it quit cooling again. I knew it was leaking coolant! Each shop recharged the system. Each shop said they put dye in the system but could not find a leak. I later learned that this probably meant the leak was in some kind of condenser under the dash and they just did not want to fool with it. The Ford dealer charged me $500 and changed a lot of parts under the hood, but eight weeks later … no AC!

Enter Atlantic Tire & Service

After the Ford Dealership flop, I tried Atlantic Tire & Service. They found the leak right away. It wasn’t a condenser under the dashboard. It was the lower connection on the compressor unit under the hood. Parts and labor turned out to be about $400 … but it worked great thereafter!

During the oil change Atlantic Tire and Service did for me just yesterday, I asked them to check an annoying rattle I had been hearing lately to get an estimate to have it fixed. I was pretty sure it was the heat shield over the exhaust. They looked and found it was just loose. The mechanic tightened it up free of charge. No more rattle.

On a last note. On several occasions I witnessed service technicians sitting down with women customers in the waiting room and explaining their repairs in detail, showing them the needed parts or the old parts, and giving priorities or options when budgeting was necessary. Atlantic Tire & Service really treats their customers right! As long as I am in the Cary area, I will use nobody else.

Shameless plug …

Also, check out my military action thriller, Serpents Underfoot, and my entertaining collection of true tales about encounters with black bears, Adirondack Bear Tales! Read other great blog posts here!

Thoughtful Solitude … A Source Of Strength!

Thoughts in Solitude

Some of my readers may have noticed I took a small break in posting to my blog. Sometimes life can take the wind out of our sales and we simply need some time to get our feet planted firmly back under ourselves. I recently found myself in such a state. That is because my mother recently passed away. This came as an unexpected, sudden shock to us all. Diagnosed with lung cancer just before Easter, she went to be with her God on Sunday, June 10th. Needless to say, my mind has just been elsewhere for the past few weeks. Solitude can sometimes be a helpful, healing thing.

While Mom will most certainly be deeply missed, the purpose of this post is not to engender sympathy or condolences. My mother was a strong woman and led an amazing life. Growing up in the small town of Ilion, NY with blue collar parents, she became a registered nurse at Albany Medical Center and then later, an excellent mathematics teacher. Quite the artist, she specialized in pastels and watercolors and was a member of the Fine Line Art Gallery for 10 years. A lover of music, she sang in choirs, and served as a choir director at several churches. Mom also sang with several choral groups and performed on concert tours in Central Europe, Turkey, at Carnegie Hall, and the White House. She traveled most of the world and much of the continental United States and Canada. She embraced life firmly standing on her own two feet and she lived her life to the fullest.

Quiet Faith

Mom was a woman quietly strong in her faith. She accepted her situation with grace, strength, and courage, and when the outcome became clear, her faith and courage made things easier for the rest of her family. How many of us wonder how well we will handle things if we find ourselves in such a situation. How do we hope to find the strength to deal with situations like this? It is seeking an answer to this question that is my motivation for writing this post. I do believe that, like my mother, I am a person of quiet but strong faith. I certainly do not attempt to push my beliefs on anyone; nor will I argue with people about their beliefs. That is what “Freedom of Religion” is truly all about … not the political manipulations we see all over the news today. I can only hope that when my time comes, I can meet it with the same grace, strength, and courage exhibited by my mother. So where does that grace, strength, and courage stem from?

Solitude and Reflection

Shortly after my mother died, my father discovered a quote my mother had saved to a folder on their computer. He shared it with my brother, my mother’s sister, and me. With the grief over my mother’s death still very new and raw, I must admit reading it brought real tears to my eyes. While it was difficult to read, at the same time, it had a very different affect on me. I suddenly understood so much more about my mother and the source of her strength and courage.

I seem to remember that my mother spent a week at some kind of retreat which I believe was held at a Trappist Monastery. It was a week spent in silence, prayer and personal reflection. Maybe this was where she found this quote … or maybe it came later from reading inspired by her experience. I am not sure. However, when I read the quote, I was struck by the simple, open honesty of the words, and the trust in a pure relationship with a loving God. I cannot help but feel that such a faith could only be beneficial to whoever kept it.

The quote is from Thomas Merton, a Trappist Monk of the Abbey of Gethsemane, KY.  Merton was a prolific poet and writer on spiritual social themes. He lived from 1915 until 1968.

From “Thoughts in Solitude”

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going, I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead my by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

 

Is that not a powerful statement of faith? I do not normally share such personal things on my blog, but in this case, and especially if it helps someone else find the hope, courage, or strength they need, I think my mother would approve.

Healing: A Trip To The Adirondacks Is Good For The Soul!!

 The Adirondack Park in upstate New York

healingI had a need to take trip to upstate New York this weekend. I flew into Syracuse and drove up to Raquette Lake in the Adirondack Park. My family has a small camp (called a cabin in the South) at Raquette Lake. We built it ourselves when I was a young teenager. My family has a history at Raquette Lake that spans several generations, and I understand I made my first camping trip to Raquette Lake when I was about six months old.

How Raquette Lake got its name … maybe!

The origin of the name is uncertain. One account is that it was named for snowshoes (raquette in French) left by a party of Tories led by Sir John Johnson in 1776. Traveling by snowshoe while fleeing American rebels, the spring thaw caught up with them. The snow was gone when they reached the lake. They left their snowshoes in a pile on the shore.

Back to the camp …

Sometime ago, we added a screened in porch to the camp. It has two skylights. One is leaking, so I flew up to take some measurements and see what materials might be needed to repair the problem. Every time I visit Raquette Lake it seems to have a healing effect on my soul. Whenever I drive into the Adirondack Park, it is almost like someone drew a line across Hwy 28. The air changes and I can breathe freely again. It is really quite a remarkable feeling.

healing

Hwy 28 North from Utica

Once you leave Utica and head north, it is a short distance to the Adirondack Park entrance. From there the drive becomes a trip down memory lane. It is very beautiful in a desolate sort of way. You pass through small towns like Remsen, Alder Creek, Otter Lake, Thendara, Old Forge, Eagle Bay, Inlet, and then Raquette Lake.

The Fulton Chain

You pass the Fulton Chain of lakes which are eight lakes formed by damming the Moose River. The chain starts near Old Forge and ends with Eighth Lake. The next lake is Raquette Lake which is a natural lake.  The Raquette River flows out from Raquette Lake winding its way northward to the St. Lawrence Seaway. Raquette Lake has 99 mile of shoreline, making it the largest lake in the Adirondack Park. Eighty percent of its shoreline is owned by the State of New York and is constitutionally forever wild. It is truly a wilderness adventure.

The Tap Room

healingOnce I got my measurements and figuring done, I headed to Raquette Lake Village for lunch at the Tap Room. I also need to drop a copy of my book, Serpents Underfoot, off at the Raquette Lake Library. The librarian, Carolynne McCann Dufft, a friend of my parents, was kind enough to add my book to their collection. After dropping off the book, I had a great burger at the Tap Room. The Tap Room is a historic place … probably as old as the village itself. While it can get a little loud in the evenings (it is a small place), the food is really excellent and it has a genuine rustic Adirondack atmosphere.

The Library!

I should also mention that the Raquette Lake Library, while small, is quite nice. Like the post office, it is a newer new addition to the village. Other than the post office and the library, the village remains pretty much the same as it was when I was a child. I love that. Maybe that accounts for part of the “soothing” effect it has on my soul.  The village, the lake, the air, the memories … all has a calming, peaceful feeling that recharges me like nothing else I have ever experienced.

Unplugged

healingAnother positive (or negative, depending on how you look at it) is that I can’t get a cell phone signal at all when at Raquette Lake. Sometimes, if you walk out on the end of the dock, stand on one leg, each as far out over the water as you dare, you can get the glimmer of a signal. But, I could never actually make a call from that position … never mind send a text or read an email.  For me at least, that is a good thing. We all need to unplug from time to time.

Where do you go for healing?

We all need a place to go to unwind, to de-stress, and recharge our batteries. It is important for maintaining both physical and mental well-being. For me, Raquette Lake is that place. Raquette Lake provides solitude, peace, and a great rustic atmosphere. I hope you find the time to find your own “Raquette Lake.”

Also,

Personalized copies of Serpents Underfoot can now be ordered directly from my website. Just click here!