Saturday, June 29, 2013

I Get to Wondering. . .

Sometimes something I read or hear starts me wondering about some aspect that I want more information about.

Today I was thinking about the fact that Pharaoh Ramses the Great (and all the other ancient Egyptian kings named Ramses) are now being renamed Ramesses.
Ramses the Great


Who decided, after well over a century of archaeological and historical writing and research about these ancient Egyptians, that the name was wrong and should now, to the confusion of the average reader, be called Ramesses rather than Ramses?

I went online to try to find out. All I found were a couple of other variations in Wickipedia.

Now I can understand where the confusion might have originated. The ancients wrote their records without vowels. So take a bunch of consonants, i.e., rmss, and try to decide which vowels and where they should go.  The possibilities are many. Erimasos? Romesis? Et cetera and et cetera.
Ramses the Great's Mummy

I don't know how "Ramses" was selected as the right form so many years ago. I'm sure a linguist with expertise in ancient Egyptian could explain. I just wonder why scholars have apparently decided to confuse the rest of us by deciding "Ramesses" was better. When I first started running across "Ramesses" I wondered why I hadn't seen references to him before. But the similarities to "Ramses" in the discussions led me to believe that they were the same person. Wickipedia confirmed that, but did not discuss the change from the well-known "Ramses" to the currently acceptable "Ramesses."

Now you might think I'm just nit-picking, or wonder what is wrong with me to bother with such things, but some things just stick in my mind and make me curious.

Who had the power to change the accepted form of the famous pharaoh's name, and why?

OK, I'm done now.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Great Gas Tank Adventure


There were twelve of us that day making the seventy-mile trip to visit Uncle Bob and Aunt Dorothy. They lived on a ranch in the back-of-beyond northeastern Wyoming. Part of the way was on paved highway, part on unpaved country roads. We traveled in two vehicles--Mother's RV and sister Kathleen's Blazer. The travelers were:


Sister Grace and her daughter Julie

Sister Kathleen, her husband John, and their children Diahann, David, and Heather

My family: Michelle, Jerry, Anne Marie, and Jeremy.

It was my first visit to Bob and Dorothy's "new" place. They had done a land swap as part of the sale of the old place to a coal company. The new place was very nice. The house and yard were tree-shaded and very attractive. We even toured the barn and corrals. But the highlight of the day (besides the visiting) was the horses.
Mother (Grandma Rose) riding with Julie, Kathleen, and Anne Marie watching.

Mother grew up as a country girl, living with her family on the homestead sixty miles from the nearest town. She loved horses, but had little opportunity to ride in her adult life. Her brother Bob kindly saddled two horses and those of us who wanted to took rides. But the special part was seeing our 68-year-old Mother having a great time riding.
Michelle and Rose ( the weird thing is that until I saw these pictures from Mother's collection I had
forgotten that I rode that day. I just remembered that Mother did.)
Kathleen's turn.
Jerry and Jeremy riding, with Anne Marie afoot. I think this is the only time I saw my husband and son horseback.
Julie, Grace, Dorothy, ?, Kathleen (you have to look closely to see she is there), Rose, Michelle, Jerry.
Can anyone identify "?" for me? I am totally blank on this other guest of Bob's and Dorothy's that day.

All good things must end and, as the day grew toward evening, it was time to head home. We piled into the two vehicles and started down the country road. We traveled several miles, with the RV following the Blazer. Jerry was driving the RV.

Suddenly. . .

WHOMP! The rear of the RV flew up in the air and came down with a thud! Jerry said, "I didn't even see a bump!" Although everyone (and everything) in the back of the RV was shaken up, no one was injured.

Then the RV stopped.

Jerry got out and walked to the back of the RV. A little way behind it there was something in the road. He walked back to it and discovered the RV's gas tank. The tank had somehow shaken loose and, in falling off the vehicle, had come down vertically, making a considerable hump for the back of the RV to go over and throwing the rear into the air.

Meanwhile, the crew in the Blazer was merrily traveling on down the road. There was nothing for those of us in the RV to do but to wait for them to notice we no longer followed and come back to find us--which they soon did. We crammed all twelve of us into the Blazer (no easy feat) and went back to Bob and Dorothy's. Arrangements were made for Bob to tow the RV back to his place until Mother could arrange to have it towed to town and repaired.

Packing into the Blazer for the trip back to town.
Then we all squeezed back into the Blazer for the seventy-mile trip to town. It was an exercise in endurance. We had kids packed between the tailgate and the back seat. We were squished in as tightly as possible. Some of us had lap-sitters. It was most uncomfortable, but we made it. Anne Marie reports that her legs were numb and hardly worked by the time we crawled out of the Blazer.

And thus ended the Great Gas Tank Adventure.

(P.S. If any of you who were along that day remember other details, I'd love to know. I picked Anne Marie's and Grace's brains for what they remembered, as well as my own recollections. Memory can be such a spotty thing it always helps to compare notes.)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Second Grade

How much do you remember from your year in the Second Grade?

I actually have a lot of memories from that year in my life--the 1948-49 school year. But even though I remember a lot of things that affected me that year, I realized today that I have some significant gaps in my general memory of my second grade year.
That's me circled.

I was looking through a packet of photos that my sister Terry sorted out from Mother's photo collection after her death. Terry was giving individual photos to whichever sister--or sister's family--seemed to feature most clearly in the picture. Among the pictures in my packet I found one of my second grade class. It is a very small photo so I scanned and enlarged it. As I studied this picture I came to the realization that I could identify only a small percentage of my classmates. Bear in mind that this was from when Gillette had only 2,000 people total and I went through 12 years of school with most of the same kids. Of course, some people moved away, some new people came, but most of us went through the school system together.

The fact is, I wouldn't have recognized myself in this picture if someone (Mother?) had not circled me!

The people I have identified so far I have recognized because their basic looks did not change much from second grade through high school. The teacher standing behind the class is Miss Trent. I remember her vividly--she was a great teacher, who always had the class in total control. She seemed much older to me when I was seven. I think the man must be our principal, but I don't remember his name.

Over the years I've read a lot of books where a character describes childhood friends, from their looks to their clothes. I realize that for the purposes of telling a story this was necessary. Unfortunately, my memory doesn't work that way!

And I hate to report it, but there is an inscription on the back of the photo. Evidently a parent had copies made for all the classmates. It says, "To Michelle from Mary Bess Kohes." I have absolutely no memory of Mary Bess. She must not have lived here for very long. Maybe a memory will eventually surface, but at the moment the name is not familiar to me!

But I'm really glad to have this picture.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

More From the Old Album--1945

I have written here before about some of the events of 1945. This was the final year of World War II. Our father left for basic training early in the year. He was home on leave after basic and before he shipped out for the Philippines. In September Mother began a country teaching job. That was described in the blog referenced above. I turned four that summer.

Since I have already blogged about the big events from my memories of 1945, I simply include here a few more photos from that year. (If I use some photos I've used before, I'm sorry. I've gone through and sorted out these photos so much that it becomes hard to keep track.)

The original of this photo is very small and dim. I did the best I could with it. I like it because
of Grace's big gap-toothed smile! We are at our grandparents' place.
Home on leave. Daddy is looking very trim and fit after basic training!

Third-Cousin Harry Prochaska and I. Sadly, Harry was killed a few
years later in a car/bike accident.

At the Mackey place. Rose with a young horse; Grace and Terry on the corral railing.
It is too bad the horse came out better than the people!

This was a favorite picture for me--Mother posing in a formal gown of her sister
Elsie's. Then I learned that the formal gown was actually Elsie's nightgown!
I guess they were just having fun; and it was quite a fancy nightgown.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Mackey Siblings Get-Together 1967

Back: Bob Mackey, Rhoda Mackey (the Matriarch), Vera Rogers, Boyce Mackey
Rose McLaughlin, Bess Sauble, Elsie Tyrrell (not able to be there was Joe Mackey)
Over the New Year's holiday of 1967 my mother's family had a two-day gathering. This gathering took place at my parents' home, as it was the most centrally located. I don't know if anyone counted how many people were there at any one time, but there was quite a collection of Mackey siblings and their children and grandchildren coming and going.

All of Grandma Mackey's living children were able to be there with the exception of her son Joe, who lived in California.
Grandma Mackey and her four daughters.

Those big family gatherings were always fun. I lived in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, at that time, but had vacation time to come home for the holidays. I was still single, and one memory that stuck in my mind came from my Uncle Boyce. My four sisters had all married very young, and Boyce was teasing me about still being single. He said he guessed they'd have to give out Green Stamps to get me a husband! (I was married in June 1967--and I didn't need Green Stamps!) For those of you too young to remember Green Stamps, certain stores gave them out when you purchased something. You stuck them in booklets, and when you had enough saved up you could redeem them for merchandise.
Rose, Bess, and Elsie

I have just a few pictures from that gathering. Photo taking was so very different before the digital age. You had to have film and flashcubes in addition to your camera. You had to remember to get the film developed! The roll of film probably had only twelve pictures on it, so you had to be sparing in taking your photos. And there were a lot of times that I had to wait to develop my film until I could afford it. When you got your photos back, if they did not turn out well you had no do-overs. Today, I love being able to take lots and lots of snaps, look at them on the camera, delete the bad ones and try again if necessary. Then, of course, I can put them on my computer, make certain adjustments, crop out extraneous space, and print the result.
The Spouses
Back Row--Leonard Sauble, Glen Rogers, Lee Tyrrell, Red McLaughlin
Front Row--Dorothy Mackey, Jessie Mackey

Of the six photos I took during the New Year's 1967 gathering, the four best are included here. The camera, film, and developing processes of 1967 were definitely not as sharp as what we can get today, and some color prints tended to fade away--not all processors used the best quality inks. I scanned these photos at a high resolution and ran auto-adjust, then tweaked them a bit myself. This is as good as they are going to get!

June Is Bustin' Out All Over ...And So Are the Cottonwood Trees

Around fifty years ago a piece of prairie on the outskirts of our town was scraped off and remade as a housing subdivision. Streets, sidewalks, and houses were built. People moved in (among them my parents). The new homeowners immediately began the work to beautify the barren neighborhood. Lawns and trees went in. Now, on the high plains of northeastern Wyoming trees are not common. They need more water than nature usually supplies. So a wide variety of trees were planted and carefully tended and watered. Among them were many cottonwood trees. Being a fast-growing soft wood variety, a cottonwood tree could grow into a real shade tree much faster than most types of trees. We are now surrounded by many mature trees of every type, but the tallest are the old cottonwoods. Unfortunately, 50-odd years ago people weren't getting the cottonless cottonwoods. I don't know if they were even available then.

That means that every spring we get cotton! And there is something about the cotton season that really sets off allergies.

Surrounded by Cottonwoods
Nearly forty years after my parents moved into this neighborhood,  my daughter and son-in-law bought a house around the corner from Mother's house.  A few years later, newly widowed, I made plans with my kids to build an addition onto their house. The addition is an oversized three-car garage with my home above. It is a convenience for us all. This is why my "yard" is my big deck. I can look out over the neighborhood from my aerie. To satisfy my need that arises every spring to plant something, and to surround myself with the flowers I love, I now have 30 pots bordering the deck. Through the long, barren winters I look forward to the return of flower season.

When I planted my flower pots this spring, the little plants were definitely on the scraggly side. They desperately needed out of those tiny greenhouse planters. The first couple of weeks after they went into my pots nothing much happened. The nights were still cold, which slowed them down, and they needed to establish their roots into the new soil.

The past few days have been lovely and warm, with mild nights. And I can almost see the little plants grow! New, thicker foliage is appearing. Blooms are popping out. June is bustin' out all over! (A nod of thanks to the song from Carousel.) The only plants that are a little slow are the ones in the few pots that are in the shade through the morning. The pots that look somewhat bare will soon be overflowing with an abundance of blooming plants. I love it!

Geraniums, Petunias, and Violas 

I have lots of pots of petunias

It won't be long until the pots are overflowing with flowers.
My first zinnia bloom (others are opening now).

Friday, June 14, 2013

Continuing Thoughts on the Purpose of Life

In the prior two posts in this series I expressed brief summaries of my problems with commonly expressed beliefs as to why God created humans. If you disagree with my thinking on this, that is quite all right with me. I do not pretend to know all. I do not claim originality. I am not a professional theologian, I am not a philosopher, nor am I a mathematician or physicist (all of whom have expressed opinions on how we got here). But, as stated in the title of this blog, these are my thoughts! And I am a thinking person.

While I was sitting in church thinking about the Purpose of Life, this is what popped into my head. I grabbed a notepad and pen from my purse and jotted it down. It sounds simplistic and, perhaps at first glance, naive.

The purpose of life is.. .

LIFE! Life itself. Life abundant, life teeming over the surface of this planet. Life turning a sterile lump of cosmic rock into a beautiful and amazing place. Life in such a variety that it has not all even been cataloged by humanity. Life so imaginative we must be constantly amazed (consider the little weaver bird, constructing that intricate nest with nothing more than beak and claws).

Without life, this universe would be nothing but a large-scale clockwork construct.

With life it is an ever-changing, intricate, inter-dependant, glorious thing.

Our God is a creative being.

Why does the painter create picture after picture? Why does the sculptor labor to bring a form from the rock? Why does the architect design ever more complex buildings (and why strive to make them beautiful as well as functional)? Why does the little child love to take a crayon and make colored marks on paper? Why does the quilt-maker spend so much time making a beautiful piece of art, when something much plainer and easier would keep her as warm? Why does a cleaner feel such satisfaction when the furniture gleams? Why does the gardener plan and plant flower gardens when the space could be used to grow food plants?

The Scripture tells us that God created man in his own image. We are creative because God is creative. We enjoy a rush of satisfaction when we have accomplished something. So does God. That is expressed over and over in the first chapter of Genesis.

But God did not create robots when he created life. Where would be the satisfaction in that?

And, so, sin entered into this world through choice.

And the perfection of this world was corrupted. Thus, as Jesus said, in this world we will have trouble.

Sin disrupts the beauty of life, spoils its purposes, degrades the creation.  But life remains, beauty remains, even through the trouble and pain that can come. The consequences of sin are endemic and systemic. A person may be suffering, not because of some specific personal sin, but because of being a resident of this world. (That said, some consequences are the direct result of personal sin; i.e., the damage of drug addiction, a prison sentence for a crime committed, etc.)

Within this life and in the world, therefore, we seek our personal Purpose in Life. We seek that which we are good at, that which we enjoy, that which brings personal satisfaction. People of faith understand that we have a purpose in life to do as little harm as we possibly can, to heal, to love, to nurture where we can, to make things better, not worse, for those with whom we come in contact. We desire to leave behind something good. Our individual purposes in life, the way we contribute good, can be immensely varied. Building a house? Make it the best building you can. Cleaning an office? Make it a pleasant place for the people who will work there. Writing a book? Make it the best book you can write. Parenting a child? Love that child, discipline with love when necessary, teach and demonstrate how a human being should behave. Demonstrate the nature of a loving, creative God in your own life.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Continuing the Continued. . .

I had planned to finish the essay on The Purpose of Life today. At 4:30 this morning I was mentally reviewing my thoughts and composing sentences.

However, I have rather crashed at the moment. A day often goes differently than planned. I don't know why I am so washed out, but my brain is as tired as my body.

So. . . I will continue when I feel a bit brighter. If I am awake at 4:30 a.m. tomorrow morning, perhaps I should get up and compose then. It was going so well in my head this morning!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Purpose of Life

Continuing on from the prior post. . .

I have heard and read many statements on the topic of the Purpose of Life. Most of them left me feeling a bit unsatisfied. These answers to the purpose of life seem to boil down to three main ideas:

1)  There is no grand purpose to the fact that we exist and live. We are simply part of the ecosystem and must determine our own purpose for living. When we die, we no longer exist. Our dust can help nourish other things to grow.

2)  God created us to praise and worship Him.

3)  God created us for companionship. Since the rest of creation is without free will (angels, etc.) their companionship is not by choice and therefore less than satisfying.

Now let's take these ideas one by one.

1)  This is the basic atheist view. I can actually understand how someone can be an atheist. Can we scientifically prove God's existence or that there is life after death? However, for me the balance falls on the side of the existence of God, from whom all else springs. The atheist viewpoint seems to me to be an incredibly sterile and pointless view of existence.

2)  Certainly, we the created should praise and worship our Creator. That just makes sense. But can I believe that is why he created us? This idea actually gives me a real sense of distaste. Why would a Creator who made the whole universe and is attended by legions of angels and other heavenly creatures need more worship and praise so badly that he made us? That makes God sound like nothing more than an unbelievably terrifying egotist. We are very puny creatures compared to the angels. We need God, but why would he need us? When we have children of our own, do we bring them into the world just to hang around and tell us how wonderful we are?

3) This concept pictures a God who is so pitiful that he must create humanity to have friends. It is usually presented as God's opportunity to have relationships with beings who, having free will, have chosen to be his worshipful companions, rather than having no other choice. If someone is your friend because there is no choice, it is not true friendship, not true communication. However, if there is no free will for the heavenly beings, how did Satan, the former angel of light, rebel against God? And then there is the Trinity; admittedly this is a mind-twisting concept. But, however you understand the Trinity, remember that Scripture says Jesus was there at creation. God was not without someone to talk to.

So, what is the Purpose of Life? Why did God make us? (Yes, I do approach this from the viewpoint of a believer.)

Tomorrow I will continue this topic.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

While the Pastor Preached

If you are a church goer, I'm sure you have experienced what I frequently do. During the sermon something will be said, or a Scripture will be read, that sets off a chain of thoughts. My mind follows down that rabbit trail (though I think it is, at least some of the time, a worthwhile rabbit trail). By the time I tune back in, I have missed a significant portion of the sermon. I feel badly about that. The preacher has worked hard on the message. It is definitely worth listening to.

I comfort myself over my wandering mind with the thought that it is one of  the purposes of a sermon to stimulate thought in the congregation.

And, speaking of purpose, here is where my wandering mind went last Sunday. . . .

The topic of the message dealt with parenthood--God's parenthood and human parenthood--and the need to instill in our children a sense of purpose in life. Mention was made of the wildly successful book The Purpose Driven Life and the way that demonstrated the hunger for purpose that we all have. That was such a jumping off place for my thoughts.

A few years ago the minister of the congregation I was part of preached a series of sermons based on the book and urged the congregation to read an assigned portion each week. For some people this was an eye-opening, meaningful, helpful, healing experience.

It made me crazy.

There's a little analytical person who lives in the back of my head that cannot accept the concept that God wanted me to be born for a specific purpose and picked out the very parents who could thus produce me and does the same for every single human being. Oh, the child conceived by rape--God wanted that? The brutal, abusive parents--God especially chose them? You see where I am going with that. So, while I so disagree with that warm-fuzzy blanket viewpoint, I certainly do agree that God can and is eager to give purpose to every life. And part of God's purpose is to heal the scars left by the unfortunate circumstances some are born into. And Scripture shows us that God values our lives, no matter how they came to be.

God has from time to time chosen, before they were born or even conceived, certain people for certain jobs. Think Isaac, Samuel, Sampson (though he mostly blew it), John the Baptist, and Jesus, to name a few from the Bible.

In speaking of Purpose, I have come to look at it as actually two things.

The Purpose of Life.

Our Purpose in Life.

They are not the same thing.

This post is growing long. I see I cannot do what I want in one post. So--

To Be Continued.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

How Do You Read?

The title doesn't mean silent reading, lip reading, or reading aloud. It doesn't even ask whether you read newspapers, magazines, or books. I'm not talking about whether you read hardback books, paperback books, books on an e-reader, or listen to recorded books.

Actually, I do all of the above--except for the lip-reading. I haven't caught myself doing that.

I was thinking about whether you read one thing at a time, from start to finish, before getting involved in something else, or whether you have multiple books going at once.

The question came to mind when I realized how many things I have going in my own reading. I usually have several different books and/or magazines/newspapers going at once. Some I read a little at a time because they are fairly heavy going. Some I gobble up--the story gets me in its grip and I can't put it down. My granddaughter and I usually have a book we are reading aloud together; sometimes I'm the reader and sometimes she is. And I have a couple of nonfiction books that are interesting topics and that I started on months ago, but haven't gone back to. Someday I will dig into them further. And I have a continuing read-through-the-Bible project, a different version every time I finish one. I'll admit that it takes me several years for each version.

At the moment, I have a book about the history of the Roman Empire that I'm about halfway through. It is a nibble at a time book. I am listening to the I, Claudius recorded book (seemed to fit with the Roman history theme), but, again, a little at a time. It is interesting, but doesn't grip me yet. (My husband and I used to dash home from church Sunday nights long ago to watch the television version of I, Claudius. It did grip me!) I've also been listening to Outlander. I've read the book, but enjoy the recording. I've put it on hold for a while because I'm almost up to a very traumatic section of the story and I'm not quite ready to experience it in the oral, dramatically read, version. Today I started reading a new book on my Kindle. It's by an author I've never read before, and although I'm just a couple of chapters into it I am captivated by his writing. The author is Phil Rickman and the book is The Wine of Angels. How can you resist an author who writes things like "...Merrily turned away and sighed, and the sigh recorded itself on the frigid air as a tiny white cloud."

Oh, and I almost forgot that I am also listening to The Elusive Mrs. Polifax. I read the Pollifax stories years ago (this one was published in 1971) and find them fun, easy listening. When I am doing my three times a day eye drop routine, which involves keeping my eyes closed for three minutes, it's nice to have Mrs. Pollifax to entertain me. And the Bible version I am in right now is the Contemporary English Version. I'm also reading The Story from The Book (a condensed, paraphrased Bible version).

So many books, so little time! And then I reread my favorites rather than always reading something new.

The simple fact is that I am always reading something. I cannot imagine living without books.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Where Have I Been?

Where have I been for the past couple of weeks? I have been in Egypt. Egypt of the 1884 to 1922 era, that is. As I mentioned in a previous blog, I have been reading and listening to the Amelia Peabody Emerson series of novels by Elizabeth Peters. I am now in the final book--number 18. Many series begin to run out of steam if they go on too long--the author seems to have either lost interest or run out of new ideas. They become repetitious; the characters stop developing; the action is just a variation on events in prior books. This, however is not the case for the "Amelias." Egyptian archaeology plays a big part of the plots, and the author has a degree in Egyptology. The main character ages from late 20s to nearly 70 years old across the span of the series. I'm just sorry that the author reached an age where it is unlikely she will write any more books! What will I do when I finish this last book? Well, I may keep my head in Egypt for a little while longer. The author also produced a compendium as a companion to the series. It has non-fiction articles about Egypt of the era covered in the novels; it has articles about ancient Egypt; it has photographs from the period; it has a section giving summaries of characters (both fictional and real-life) who appear in the books.

Where else have I been? I've been plant shopping with my daughter and putting my plants into the pots and planters on the deck. I have two pots yet to plant--they are not on the deck, but by the side entry to the garage. That is a rather blah spot in an otherwise lovely yard (created and cared for by Anne Marie and Chad), so I like to have some flowers blooming there. The last of the petunias will fill in spots in the front yard flower garden that is our memorial to my mother (Grandma Rose to so many). Anne Marie has planted it with rose bushes and perennials, but until some of the perennials mature there are spots to fill with annuals.

Last week the Birdies and I were part of a group of Sunday School teachers who enjoyed a cookout supper at the home of our pastor and his family.

I've already written about our Memorial Day activities; the day after Memorial Day Anne Marie and I made a quick trip to pick up the flowers from the graves, since rain was predicted for the next several days.

Sunday was a special day at church, as our pastor had his formal ordination. He has had something like fourteen years' experience in campus ministry, then went to seminary. While there he ministered to a small South Dakota church, and has been ministering in Gillette for eleven months. This is an American Baptist congregation, and the delay in formal ordination apparently has something to do with that denomination's procedures. It was an excellent service, and the entire congregation was asked to participate in the laying on of hands blessing.

And, yesterday, I went with a group of family and friends to the movie Epic. We all loved it! It was cute, fun, adventurous, imaginative, and beautifully done. I highly recommend it.