I discovered the program, Fixer Upper, on HGTV and now I am hooked.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
I 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.
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
Once 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.
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.
Another 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.”
Personalized copies of Serpents Underfoot can now be ordered directly from my website. Just click here!
There is a lot of “success in life” or self-improvement information floating around out there; some of it great, some of it good, and some of it not so good. Many people are trying to succeed at their dreams. If you can make your hobby your occupation, that is indeed one form of success.
Rules for Success by Earl Nightingale
Cristian Mihai’s post on Earl Nightingale’s 12 rules made me think. You might want to check it out.
Reading this post made me take a good look at the things I am doing to succeed in my goal to be a successful author. While it would be hard to put all 12 rules into play at one time, we can certainly begin working on one and then expand from there over time. I know I am going to be re-evaluating some of the things I have been doing in the light of Earl Nightingale’s 12 Rules.
So, I would just like to thank Cristian Mihai for sharing this post with his readers. It is one of the more helpful blog posts I have read in a long time, at least as far as reaching my goals are concerned.
What does shape the story? Several people with whom I have spoken after they read my novel, Serpents Underfoot, have asked me if there are some of my life experiences woven into the story. What life experiences helped shape the story? And I answer, of course, there are.
I have about 35 years of martial arts experience as a student, instructor, and dojo owner. That experience plays a crucial role in Curtis’ and especially JD’s interest and development in the martial arts, and for JD, specifically in Isshin-ryu Karate. I based Sensei Tokumura’s character on my last karate sensei, Sherman Harrill, who helped me to understand what real karate is all about. Those who have trained with Sensei know what I mean. It was a real honor to be that man’s student.
An Army of One?
While it also helped shape the story, the military stuff is a bit more complicated. Even as a young child, I wanted to be in the military. The backyard was my battlefield where my brother and I had legions of little green army men with jeeps, trucks, tanks, field artillery, etc., all under our command. We had trenches and foxholes. It was quite a battlefield. If you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d reply “I want to be an army!” I still remember my parents laughing and telling me that one man cannot be an army, but you can indeed be a soldier.
Maybe that is why the recruiting slogan adopted in 2001, an “Army of One” was so short lived and was replaced by “Army Strong” in 2006. Perhaps Army officials either talked to my parents, or they decided “Army of One” was a bit contrary to the idea of teamwork, an approach the military relies so heavily upon.
I did not just want to join the U.S. Army … I wanted to be an Army Ranger. And later, maybe even get into the Special Forces. I still remember that day, when I was perhaps 14 or 15-years-old, being so impressed when a Ranger team put on a demonstration of their skills at a park in North Adams, Massachusetts. That was what I wanted to be! The problem was I stuttered, and in my younger years, it was quite pronounced. However, this did not change my dreams of joining the military.
There was just one problem!
My stuttering seemed to lessen at least in comparison to my earlier school days. Either that or I slowly became better at concealing my stuttering depending on the circumstances. So, in July of 1979, I went down to the recruiting station in Oak Ridge, Tennessee and I enlisted in the U.S. Army. I had just blown the ASVAB right out of the water, so I could pick whatever MOS (job) I wanted. Looking back on it now, I should have probably chosen some good technical skill (maybe “in-flight missile repair technician”), but I wanted Ranger School; so that meant picking 11Bravo (Infantry) as my MOS. I had planned on an initial tour of three years, but I ended up signing a contract for four years (they offered me a $4,000 cash enlistment bonus upon completion of training if I enlisted for a four year period instead of 3 years).
On my way!
According to my contract, I was going to Basic Training at Ft. Knox, Advanced Infantry Training at Ft. Benning, and then directly to Ranger School which, if I remember correctly, was also at Ft. Benning. I guess it was because of the high ASVAB scores that I was able to lock this in. I took the oath, and the recruiter gave me a ride home to get a toothbrush and say goodbye to my parents, and we headed off to Ft. Knox, Kentucky that same afternoon. The recruiter who’d signed me up was going back to Ft. Knox, so he kindly offered to give me a ride. Several hours later, dropped me off at the induction center. Amazingly, I had not stuttered once this whole time, even when taking the oath. It was like a dream come true. I was going to be a U.S. Army Ranger.
Basic training began. And, yes it was pretty freaking tough. But, I loved it! Unfortunately, much to my dismay, some of the drill instructors discovered I stuttered. For me, it was virtually impossible not to stutter when they jumped dead in my shit; they were experts at it. I knew it was only part of the mind game they played to see who could take the stress and who would crack. If you could not handle their crap, you certainly had no business on the battlefield. I will say that, once they figured out what was going on, they did not belittle me for it. They were, however naturally concerned about me screwing up their Army. But, I was also doing very well with the training; physical training, shooting ranges, running, hand-to-hand combat, grenade ranges, mud, running, probing for mines, weapons cleaning and assembly, rain, running, heat, road marches, more running … I was eating that stuff up!
Just one catch!
Then one afternoon, I got called into the Company Commander’s office. I was pretty nervous about that, wondering what the heck I had done. Once I reported, I was ordered to stand at ease. The Company Commander was a young Army captain not much older than me. The Captain told me that the U.S. Army appreciated my volunteering, my efforts, and ambition, etc. He went on to say that by all the reports he had, I was performing outstandingly in my training. However, in spite of that, the U.S. Army could not send me to ranger school. The Captain explained that my stuttering presented too much of a risk, especially with the cost of the training provided during ranger school. I was severely bummed out! But, deep down inside, I could see their point … and I hated it. The Captain went on to explain to me that, because they could not honor the contract they signed with me, I could get out of the Army honorably if I chose to.
My choice was clear!
I did not even have to think about it. For me, that was not an option. I asked if I could remain in the infantry if I stayed. The Captain replied that I certainly could. So, I stated that I did not want out. I would continue my training. The Captain nodded, saying that he had expected no less, and then dismissed me. I completed Basic Training achieving a high score on my end of cycle test, which I felt was quite an accomplishment. I boarded a bus for the Infantry School at Ft Benning, Georgia.
One of my best memories of Ft. Benning occurred on the rifle range. We were conducting rapid-fire exercises with our M-16 rifles, and I was knocking them down. Drill Sergeant Winters stopped pacing and stood behind me for a few minutes, watching. When the range officer called for a cease-fire, I stopped and cleared my weapon. Drill Sergeant Winters looked down at me and stated, “That is some mighty fine shooting, son! Wherever you end up, they will be glad to have you.” I finished AIT by earning the maximum possible score on the Infantry Qualification Test.
Breakfast at Denny’s!
One other great memory. Another soldier and I were eating breakfast at a Denny’s in Columbus, Georgia. We were on our first weekend pass. After we had eaten, we would catch a cab back to the base. We were sitting there in our khaki uniforms when an older woman stopped by our table and started talking to us. We had no idea who she was. She was telling us how good it was to see two such outstanding young men in uniform and told us she was going to buy us breakfast, We both said thank you, but that it was not necessary. She would not argue. The woman then asked us if we knew who she was. We both replied that we did not. She told us she was Lillian Carter, the President’s mother. We were surprised, but finally noticed the men in suits standing around us. Probably Secret Service agents! The President’s mother took care of our check and then wishing us well, left with her escort. That was simply amazing!
Fun, Travel, and Adventure!
So, I served my four years in the U.S. Army Infantry. I traveled the world, saw different cultures, and did some pretty exciting things. In Germany, I was stationed at Wiesbaden Air Base with the 2/22 Infantry. Shortly after arriving, I was asked to report to the Battalion Executive Officer. My first thought was, Dang! Here I go again! I reported to the XO as ordered. He had been looking at my file and needed a driver. I took the job. I served as the Battalion Executive Officer’s driver for almost two years and spent a great deal of time patrolling our Battalion’s area of operations near the Fulda Gap. Our job was to slow the Russians down if they ever came across the border.
Finishing my two years in Germany, I got orders to Ft. Polk, Louisianna. The last place in the world I wanted to go was Ft. Polk, Louisianna! So, I went to the CO and asked how to get out of having to go there. He replied that I just needed to volunteer to go someplace else nobody else wanted to go. I asked him where. He said Alaska or South Korea. I chose South Korea.
During my year in South Korea, with the 1/17 Infantry, I did a 90-day tour on the DMZ between North and South Korea. That was pretty exciting stuff, a real mission. Real guns, real grenades, real bullets, and a real enemy you could see from the observation post. And, sometimes … even stumble on while patrolling the DMZ itself.
I enjoyed the Asian culture and immersed myself in it. This cultural appreciation certainly shaped the story. I got involved with the local Amerasian orphanage and helped put a new roof on their building and also helped feed the kids Thanksgiving dinner. My year was up way too fast!
When I got to my last duty station, I was assigned to the 1/501st Air Assault at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. We later deployed to Panama, flying down on a C-130. We were cruising along at about 30,000 ft, sitting in slippery, canvas bench seats that ran lengthwise on the plane. As we approached Panama, a light turned on, and suddenly the plane stood on its nose and dove. We all slid sideways toward the front of the aircraft. It leveled out at about 400 ft if I remember correctly, and the back ramp opened. A group of men we never even knew were there (they were sitting behind our stacked gear) stood up and ran off the lowered ramp, jumping out into the night sky. When the ramp closed, the C-130 stood on its tail and climbed back to cruising altitude. We all slid back toward the rear of the plane. We were all surprised. I would never have thought an aircraft that big could fly like that. I’d always figured the group of men was a team of Army Rangers on a training exercise, but who knows?
Invasion of Panama?
This action all took place shortly before we took out General Manuel Noreiga, and I always figured we were sent there as a show of force … hoping to calm things down. I am not so sure that worked. However we could not just sit on our collective butts, so while there at Ft. Sherman, we completed the Jungle Warfare School. My squad broke some battalion record for completing the Jungle Obstacle Course. We got a steak and lobster dinner, compliments of the Battalion Commander, for that accomplishment.
When it came time to reenlist, I did give that some very serious consideration. However, the paths I really wanted to take were essentially closed to me because of my speech impediment. So, I decided to seek my fortune elsewhere. I suppose you could say that the military adventures of Curtis Cordell and his son, JD Cordell are fantasies … depictions of the kinds of adventures I would like to have had if things had worked out differently.
All of these experiences did combine to help shape the story.