Category Archives: Uncategorized

Treating Women: A Primer

Another day, another headline, the news again sullied,

Harassment, disrespect, a woman was bullied.

 

Allegations, denials, the charges span years,

From intimidation and rape, to a pat on the rear.

 

More than incidental, I fear something that’s chronic,

Power plus disrespect, lead to actions demonic.

 

From media to politics, to sports and entertainment,

Each time I shake my head, ashamed to be a gent,

 

From Clinton and Trump, to Affleck and Lauer,

From Cosby to Weinstein, Tis the reckoning hour.

 

Add Conyers and Franken, and Moore, I’m afraid,

Plus Hoffman and Spacey, and Louis C.K.

 

These, just the famous, the ones in the news,

You’ll find them also in classrooms, and boardrooms, and pews.

 

Let justice prevail, through the facts we must sort,

Each victim and accused, deserves their day in court.

 

In the meantime, a solution, for this group we call male,

There is guidance out there, if we’ll only avail,

 

“Honor your wives,” how hard can that be?

You’ll find it right there, in 1 Peter, chapter 3.

 

“Love your wife as yourself,” as long as you’re alive,

It’s not rocket science, it’s Ephesians, chapter 5.

 

But it’s more than that, per Romans 12, verse 10,

“Honor one another,” did you hear that, you men?

 

“Show proper respect to everyone,” says 1 Peter 2,

That includes mothers and daughters, and actresses too.

 

Permit me one more, Hebrews 13, verse 4,

“Keep the marriage bed pure,” your wife and no more.

 

Forgive my intrusion, my stating the obvious,

But some have forgotten, perhaps some in this audience.

 

Treat her well, open doors, such an easy, simple task,

Show respect, have some class, is this too much to ask?

 

For the women who have suffered, the #metoo crowd,

I hope men step up their games, and live lives that make you proud.

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Dear God, Are You There?

Dear God, are you there? Can you hear our plea?

We’re in a bit of a bind, Lord, I hope you’ll agree.

Our numbers are down some, we’ve struggled of late,

Our church baptistry is leaking, our classrooms need paint.

The weeds have taken over, the screen doors won’t shut,

We need a pantry built, and our lawn, it needs cut.

The gutters are full, Lord, and there’s more on the list,

Oh God, if you’re listening , we need an assist!

I see you have issues, I know you’re in a bind,

I’ve heard your prayers, and have a solution in mind.

They’ll arrive by RV, and fill your parking lot,

They are wrinkled and grey, spring chickens they’re not.

But they’ll fix those screen doors, and work your list with their might,

In between card games, they’ll paint everything in sight.

They travel with purpose, and that purpose is you,

They’ll be carrying toolkits, and a love for God too.

Dear God, are you there? Are you listening to me?

Our backs are against the wall, I hope you’ll agree.

Our VBS is scheduled, but there’s so much to do,

We need Bible class teachers, and crafts, and snacks too.

Our neighbors need inviting, Lord, our workers are few,

Doors need knocking, children need to learn of you,

We need drama scripts written, and some people to act,

Oh, God, please send help, so the pews we can pack!

I’ve heard your pleas, your persistence will pay,

The solution is unfolding, yes, help is on the way.

Just give them 50 amps, and some snacks on a plate,

Your VBS will happen, in fact, it’ll be great!

As God of creation, I hear and answer prayer,

I gave you my Son, I really do care.

I sometimes send manna, or a preacher I’ll commission,

But for the really tough tasks, I use the Sojourner mission.

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Why I Stand for the National Anthem

  1. The American flag represents the United States of America. I love our country and am proud to be an American. It is an honor and a privilege to be able to stand and salute the symbol of our great nation.
  2. More than 1.1 million Americans have given their lives defending our nation and keeping it free. We fly an American flag, and not some other, because of their sacrifices. We dishonor their memory, and their next of kin who have also sacrificed, when we dishonor the flag.
  3. I come from a long line of patriotic Americans. My grandfather served in the Army under General Patton in World War II. My dad served 29 years in the Air Force and transported troops and equipment in the Vietnam War. I served 23 years in the Air Force, including a tour in Afghanistan. Those who have stood at attention in a war zone and saluted the flag-draped coffins of their brothers and sisters in arms who have given the last full measure of devotion…are usually going to continue standing up for the country and its flag. (Exhibit A: Alejandro Villanueva of the Pittsburgh Steelers)
  4. Colin Kaepernick and presumably others kneel during the National Anthem to call attention to the oppression of blacks. According to Kaepernick, “there are bodies in the street and people [police officers] getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” While 2% of black people are killed by police officers (some justified and some not, all tragic), 97% of black deaths are at the hands of other blacks. Let that sink in. If, hypothetically, 97% of any ethnic or racial group’s deaths were caused by cigarette smoking and 2% from vaccinations (some a result of malpractice), where would you devote the bulk of your protesting energy? I’d go after cigarette smoking. That doesn’t mean criminally administered vaccinations don’t matter and shouldn’t be addressed…they just make up a much, much smaller percentage of the root cause.
  5. As far as I can tell, kneeling during the National Anthem hasn’t worked. It has divided families, sports teams, and communities. Many are now boycotting the NFL. Race relations, as far as I can tell, haven’t improved. Blacks still face oppression, as do other identity groups, most recently Christians worshipping in Antioch, Tennessee. People who are racist are unlikely to have a change of heart because Mr. Kaepernick and others kneel during our National Anthem. If anything, the protests have probably made racist people even more racist.
  6. If racial problems/oppression justify kneeling for our Anthem, where does it end? There has been racial/ethnic oppression as long as there have been humans. It may get better…it may get worse…but it will NEVER end. There will always be crime and poverty and a host of other problems in our nation. If an imperfect nation is grounds for kneeling during the anthem, then every citizen from every nation should be kneeling. In fact, don’t even play the Anthem…or even have an anthem. And while you’re at it, don’t respect the symbolism of the cross because churches aren’t perfect. Don’t honor your deceased relatives’ graves because they weren’t perfect. Don’t respect ANY role models because they ALL have imperfections (except for Jesus Christ).
  7. To be clear, NFL players and others have a right to kneel during the National Anthem. Many brave men and women have fought to preserve their freedom to protest and dishonor the flag. I don’t have any issue with their “right” to do so. But I also have some rights…the right to not respect them, the right to not wear their jerseys or go to their games, and the right to blog my opinion while sitting at a Starbucks in South Texas. And employers, including NFL owners, have a right not to hire them.
  8. Rather than protest the symbol of our great nation, take action that actually addresses the problem. (To his credit, Mr. Kaepernick has done some of that.) Make friends and spend time with someone who has a different skin color than you. Volunteer in disadvantaged communities/schools to improve the lives of others, including those of different racial/ethnic backgrounds. If you’re white, spend some time with people of color and you’ll eventually witness a fraction of the discrimination/oppression they experience. If you think “cops are bad,” spend some time riding in a police patrol car to see the challenges they face in crime-ridden communities. Teach your children to evaluate others based on the content of their character, rather than the color of their skin. Let’s direct our energy at changing hearts, including our own, rather than disrespecting our country.

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Hurricane Irma Quiz for Florida Kids

A little something for Florida youngsters to complete during the storm.

  1. Sometimes we question where God is during a storm. But this question is about finding the ugly, nasty, hairy Irma storm in God’s Word. In Psalm 23 (New International Version), it’s possible to spell “Irma” six times sequentially without duplicating the same letter. All six “Irma” spellings have to be in order, although there will be letters between them. The first one is in the phrase “The Lord Is my ShepheRd, I lack nothing. He MAkes…” Can you find all six of them?

 

  1. The state of Florida has 3 National Football League teams, 2 Major League Baseball teams, 2 National Basketball Association teams, 2 National Hockey League teams, and 1 Major League Soccer team. That makes 10 professional sports teams in Florida. One of them is the Lightning—but we don’t want to talk about lightning right now. Of the remaining 9, 6 of them have an animal mascot. Can you name those six mascots?

 

  1. Why did the practice of naming hurricanes after women come to an end in 1978?
  • Unlike hurricanes, women are generally sweet, peaceful, calm human beings.
  • Meteorologists ran out of women’s names.
  • It made more sense to save women’s names for volcanoes.
  • In most regions, bad, scary wind gusts come from the men.

 

  1. I’m guessing hurricane preparations in South Florida are really stressful. But stress affects different people in different ways. List the members of your family in order from the coolest and calmest to the one who freaked out and has completely lost his/her mind.

 

  1. If your parents decided to evacuate Florida and take you to one of the following places for 2 whole weeks, which place would you choose? Explain your choice in excruciating detail to the person sitting next to you. They’ve got the time. They’re not going anywhere.
  • Narnia
  • Hogwarts
  • Who-ville
  • The Shire
  • Arendelle

 

  1. Suppose your parents decided to hunker down and ride out the storm in your home. They also decided you would have to eat the same meal for 7 straight days, but you get to choose a meal from the following options. Which would you choose?
  • Pizza
  • Corn dogs and tater tots
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Your favorite cereal

 

  1. Unscramble the following words to get 10 named hurricanes:

EDNWRA         ______________

HYRACLE         ______________

UHGO              ______________

LMAECLI          ______________

RMAI               ______________

TARNIAK         ______________

ANOND           ______________

TAIR                ______________

MWLIA          ______________

KIE                   ______________

 

  1. If A=1, B=2, C=3, etc., what is the total point value for the following phrases:
    • Go Away Irma
    • God is with me in the storm
    • Evacuate
    • Hunker Down
    • Be still and know that I am God
    • My brother smells like a manatee

 

  1. Okay, so you evacuated to some random hotel. You’re not even sure what state you’re in. Pets aren’t allowed so your dad hid the dog in a suitcase under the bed. Then you find out mom only brought one movie to watch. It better NOT be…
  • Frozen
  • Home Alone
  • Garbage Pail Kids
  • Ninja Turtles 3
  • Scooby-Doo

 

  1. There are plenty of not fun things about Hurricane Irma. But maybe some good will somehow come from it. Check off your 3 favorite things from this list of things that Irma may cause:
    • You get to meet and help a neighbor you never knew before.
    • You get to miss school.
    • You get to learn to operate a chainsaw.
    • Road trip!
    • You get to hang out in a closet or bathtub with your siblings.
    • You get to eat a TON of donuts and pizza and snacks and mom just doesn’t seem to care.
    • You get to learn new words/phrases like feederband, eyewall, storm surge, and “did we remember the cat?”
    • Your dad spent 2 hours in line at a gas station with the windows down and now he just sits around smiling.
    • Hotel hot tub!
    • You get to do lame Hurricane Irma quizzes!

 

I hope you enjoyed this little distraction from things going on outside.

If you complete the entire quiz correctly, turn it in to mom or dad after the storm is over to get a Dairy Queen Blizzard!

We love you and our prayers are with you!

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An Interview with Sir Fob W. Pot

As we near publication of Sir Fob W. Pot’s Journey to Katahdin, Volume 2, Mob (the Mother of Boy) sat down with Fob for an interview…

Mob: “So, Fob, you are about to publish the second and final volume of your AT journey. Tell us how you feel?”

Fob: “I feel a sense of joy, relief, and excitement…like giving birth.”

Mob: “Believe me, you know nothing about giving birth.”

Fob: “Valid point, Mob. But from what I’ve observed, both processes are messy, with hopefully a good outcome.”

Mob: “How does the second volume differ from the first?”

Fob: “I think Vol 2 paints a more realistic picture of how physically difficult an AT hike is. In the first half of my journey, everything was new, exciting, and mostly fun. In the second half, we get down to business. The White Mountains and southern Maine opened a jar of whoopin’ on Fob. It was really tough at times, and I hope I captured that in this latest volume.”

Mob: “Anything else?”

Fob: “It’s longer…60 pages and 27,000 words longer. Longer doesn’t necessarily mean better, but in this case, I hope it does. I think I dug deeper and had more ground to cover.”

Mob: “You decided to self-publish both books. Why did you choose that route?”

Fob: “Three reasons. First, I wanted to get both books written and published relatively quickly…within a year of completing my hike. I’m told it can take months to even hear back from publishers (if at all), and years to see the books in print (if at all). Second, I wanted complete control over content. I didn’t want a nature-based publisher telling me to take out all the “God stuff,” nor did I want a religious-oriented publisher telling me to take out the embarrassing stuff related to bodily functions. I happen to be a Christian who had bodily functions and other embarrassing incidents happen on the trail. That was all part of my journey…my story…and I wanted to tell all of it.”

Mob: “And your third reason?”

Fob: “Writing, to me, is a creative outlet, a ministry at times, and a hobby. Like a teenager who considers working on cars his hobby, I wanted to learn the process from A to Z. Can I go from a blank sheet of paper (screen) to a published book? Can I (well, we) edit the manuscript, design the cover, create an author Facebook page, market the book, and the rest of the process? All that has been a challenge…an opportunity to learn and grow. Like that teenager, I wanted to do my own oil change and change my own spark plugs. I also want to become proficient enough to help others self-publish their books.”

Mob: “But are there downsides to that approach?”

Fob: “Absolutely. I don’t have a team of professionals doing the editing, designing and marketing for me. I also don’t get to take advantage of the distribution and marketing channels of big publishing houses. I remember walking into Powell’s Book Store in Portland, Oregon…the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world…with 68,000 square feet of books…and my book wasn’t there. Pretty humbling. If I want it there, it’s all on me.”

Mob: “And your friends and family.”

Fob: “Exactly. I rely on the word of mouth of family and friends who believe in me. They tell a friend about my book, or buy the book as a gift for someone, or order the book for their local library. I suppose if my goal was to be a “professional writer” and make a living doing it, I might have gone with a publisher. Instead, I’m a hobbyist. My goal is to encourage people…to make them laugh, to make them think, to let them experience a trail they may never get a chance to thru-hike. I love the idea that someday, my great, great, great grandchild will be able read these tales. I would love to have something…anything…that my great, great, great grandfather or grandmother wrote about his/her life and adventures.”

Mob: “For those who might be interested in self-publishing, how much does it cost?”

Fob: “Aside from hundreds, no, thousands of hours of time, it cost me $139 per book. $99 for an ISBN (which can be gotten for free but there are downsides which I won’t get into), $30 for a Facebook boosted post (also optional), and $10 to order two proof copies of the book to review (also optional). So, literally, using Amazon’s CreateSpace, I could have published both books without spending a dime. By not having to pay an editor, book cover designer, web/Facebook page designer, etc., I recouped my investment on the day of publication. That was kind of important for a fixed income couple like ourselves.”

Mob: “So, for someone who wants to write a book, they can self-publish and not spend any money?”

Fob: “That’s true. The much bigger hurdle is having the time. And having a story worth telling. There are a lot of great stories out there still waiting to be told.”

Mob: “Without giving away too many details, what else can you tell readers about Volume 2?”

Fob: “Well, Fob dies at the end…just kidding! Let’s see…I can tell you there will be some new characters…I think readers will enjoy meeting Allan from Colorado, Cousteau from Louisiana and Li, my Chinese hiking buddy. I still laugh thinking about Li. There are more flashbacks to my life…what it was like growing up a Johnson. And a few more short, historical lessons on places I hiked through.”

Mob: “And more Fob Fundamentals.”

Fob: “Of course! I learned, or was reminded of, so many lessons during my hike. So, once again, I’ve captured them as Fob Fundamentals. I got really good feedback from readers on them from Vol 1…along with one guy who thought the book was well-written but too religious for his taste. Anytime you put your creative work out there for the world to see…especially personal beliefs related to matters of faith, you can expect some pushback. I’m okay with that. Not everyone sees the world from a Christian worldview. But I’ll continue to write from that perspective, because that’s who I am.”

Mob: “Any surprises in the book?”

Fob: “If I told you, they wouldn’t be surprises. But readers may be surprised to hear my re-writes of songs from artists ranging from John Lennon to the Ooompa-Loompas. I also take on a Billy Joel classic, which I renamed, “We Didn’t Start the Campfire.” It’s amazing what enters the mind when one is alone in the wilderness for long periods of time.”

Mob: “So when does your book tour begin?”

Fob: “There’s not really a book tour, per se. But, I’ve accepted invitations to speak about my AT journey to various groups and churches in Texas, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Florida, beginning in October. If we’re in the vicinity of a group interested in hearing about my tale in person, I’ll do my best to visit.”

Mob: “With all our travels, how would someone know what vicinity you’re in?”

Fob: “On our web page, bigsteveandliljan.com, there’s a link called “Current RV Travel Map” at the top. I try to keep that updated.”

Mob: “Last question. Now that you’ve completed your second and final AT book, do you have other writing projects in mind?”

Fob: “I actually have 5 or 6 book ideas swirling around in my head. The most compelling is an interesting and unique approach to a 365-Day daily devotional book. I’ve been thinking and praying about that. If I think long enough about something, the book tends to write itself.”

Mob: “One more thing…earlier, you mentioned oil changes on a car. I don’t remember you ever doing one of those.”

Fob: “Now hon, that was just an analogy. You know cars aren’t my hobby!”

 

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So you wanna be a billionaire?

I wanna be a billionaire so freakin’ bad
Buy all of the things I never had.”  – Billionaire, Bruno Mars

Janet and I are slowly making our way up the West Coast towards Washington state, where our first sojourn begins next month. We’ll be attending a workshop and then working at Delano Bay Christian Camp, getting it ready for summer camps. Along the way, we’re taking long walks on beaches, visiting historic sites, and doing other touristy things that TripAdvisor tells us we can’t miss.

We recently stayed at Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station, southeast of Los Angeles. Before missiles and ammunition are loaded on Navy ships from the Pacific fleet, they are stored here. Surrounded by bunkers and other restricted areas, we were about as heavily protected as RV dwellers can be.

Being movie buffs and in the vicinity of Los Angeles, we signed up for the Warner Brothers Studio Tour followed by the driving tour of celebrity homes. Warner Brothers was amazing…a behind-the-scenes look at how movies and tv shows are made. We toured the Big Bang Theory sets, the massive movie props archive, and the fake outdoor neighborhoods which are transformed into something that looks real. We played Quidditch and rode Batman’s motorcycle against green screens and sat on the Friends’ couch. While passing Kathy Bates’ RV positioned behind a soundstage, I wanted to tell her, “Hey, we live in an RV too!”

Next came the celebrity homes tours. Most celebrities are well off the beaten path, protected by high fences and manned security gates. I suppose they are trying to avoid people like…us. I can’t blame them. Other homes are partially visible at certain angles, or fully visible but off in a distance. As we drove along Mulholland Drive, our tour guide rattled off a who’s who of celebrities…

  • “To the left is Sacha Cohen’s home…he’s better known as Borat.”
  • “Over there…Drew Carey’s home.”
  • “Off to the left and down, along the canyon, that’s where Katy Perry lives.”
  • “Up on the cliff…way up…with the American Flag flying…that home belongs to Capt. America…Chris Evans.”
  • “Look down this driveway. Oh, check it out! I think that’s her getting out of her car! Yep, that’s Charlize Theron!” (Upon seeing us, she ducked back into her car until our tour bus departed. That might have been her only chance to meet Fob!)
  • “Way down there in the valley…the big one…that’s Bruno Mar’s $18M mansion.”
  • “Up on that ridge, the big one on the left…Gwen Stefani’s mansion…used to be owned by J-Lo.”
  • “Off to the right…see those big gates? Behind that is the mansion where they tape The Bachelor.”
Larry Ellison’s daughters home (he founded Oracle)

This list went on and on…Tyler Perry, Adam Levine, Justin Timberlake, Madonna, Jack Nicholson, Demi Moore, Warren Beatty, Sting, Justin Bieber, Donald Southerland, Jaclyn Smith, Lucille Ball, Debbie Reynolds, Carrie Fisher, etc. As we drove through Beverly Hills, Bel Air, and other high class neighborhoods, I was struck by the over-the-top luxury and million dollar views. Janet and I discussed what it would be like to live like that…with a personal staff attending to every need and millions of adoring fans. Lush gardens, multi-level swimming pools, luxury cars, fountains…the entire world at your fingertips.

Bruno, I’m in town…call me.

It was impressive, to say the least. For a moment, I got caught up in it. I picked out my home…sorry, Bruno, you gotta move. I imagined living the celebrity lifestyle and having what they have. I’d get a daily massage, for sure. I’d drive a different high-end sports car every day of the week. Or maybe I’d have my chauffer drive me. (I’d probably keep the Honda Fit as a reminder of my humble beginnings.) My personal chef would fix all my favorite meals (OK, so I kinda have that now). My clothes would be designed by Ralph Lauren, rather than Bob Dorsey. No wonder these people are always smiling on the Red Carpet, happy to be alive.

I know you’re in there, Charlize!

My fantasy celebrity bubble burst towards the end of the tour. Our guide reminded us that things aren’t always as they seem…

  • “That mansion to the left…that’s where Michael Jackson lived. When he overdosed and died, they took his body by ambulance right through those gates.”
  • “Behind that hotel over there, the Chateau Marmont…see the bungalow behind it? That’s where John Belushi injected a mixture of cocaine and heroin…it killed him.”
  • “See that purple awning over there? That’s the Viper Room. River Phoenix died there of a drug overdose. Collapsed on the sidewalk just underneath the awning.”
  • “Off to the right…the glitzy Beverly Hilton. Fifteen years ago, in room 434, Whitney Houston overdosed and drowned in the bathtub.”

Had we had more time, I suppose we could have morbidly driven by the homes of other celebrities who died tragically…Heath Ledger, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Elvis Presley, Amy Winehouse, Anna Nicole Smith, Nicole Brown Simpson, Chris Farley, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Prince, etc. An even longer list would include celebrity families ravaged by divorce, infidelity, and other issues.

I’m not suggesting there is anything wrong with being super wealthy, or that all (or even most) celebrities will overdose on drugs or have messed up families. There are good and decent celebrities…Tom Hanks comes to mind. Many of them give large sums of money to worthwhile causes…a good thing. I’m also not suggesting that normal, middle class people don’t have drug overdoses or messed up families. These problems affect all classes of society.

My point is simply this: be careful who and what you idolize. God doesn’t call us to be rich, famous celebrities. He calls us to be humble servants, taking care of the needs of others. While it’s possible to do both, that’s no easy task. No wonder Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:23) He didn’t say it was impossible…just hard. With so many distractions and so much luxury surrounding you, I can see where it might be hard to find a need for Jesus. With so many adoring fans and so much seemingly going for you, it might be hard to turn your life over to Jesus and let him call the shots.

If you’re not a follower of Jesus, then perhaps you’ll consider the words of a mere mortal who has “been there, done that.” Jim Carrey once commented, “I think everyone should get rich and famous and do everything they dreamed of so they can see it is not the answer.”

“The answer” is not found in an $18 million mansion on Mulholland Drive. The answer comes from Solomon, another rich man, in Ecclesiastes 12:13 – “Now all has been heard, here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.”

Big Steve

 

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Can We Stop for a Moment?

It’s black! It’s white! I’ll stand my ground,

There’s no grey here, my fists will pound!

I’m right! You’re wrong! You’re a dumb hypocrite,

You lie, you cheat, you clearly don’t get it.

Trump hates! Trump protects! Hope you feel my aggression!

In our body politic, there can be no concession.

Alt left! Alt right! My watchword derision,

As our children look on, they see only division.

Can we stop for a moment? Take a breath, full and deep,

Put a brake on the madness, put our hatred to sleep.

Step away from the post, the score settling tweet,

Find someone in need, be kind and be sweet.

Honest Abe was so right, his pronouncement so grand,

A house divided, my friends, it simply won’t stand,

Let’s seek compromise, or agree to disagree,

But do so with respect, and not make an enemy.

May we love our neighbors, may we seek to understand,

May we tone down the rhetoric, and instead reach out a hand.

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Merry Christmas 2016!

Johnson Family Newsletter

Volume XXIX

Eggnog with family, and holiday cheer,

Presents and snowflakes, it’s that time of year.

Forgo gay apparel, don a bad Christmas sweater,

Then gather around, for our annual letter.

 

Jason and Rachel, Connecticut bound,

New England’s stray animals, about to be found.

We’ll haul a truck with their stuff, the things they hold dear,

Hope Santa brings her mittens, and long johns for his rear.

 

More painting for Rach, and residency for him,

Give Jason a call, if you’re missing a limb.

They’ll explore new lands, and camp in the wild,

And maybe find time, to give us a grandchild.

 

As for Kyle and Laci, they got their degree,

Then she said yes, the two me’s became we.

We thought he’d stay single, I guess we were wrong,

Finding love can be tricky, with a neck a foot long.

 

Then off to St Louis, OT school for Lace,

Ministry for him, all by God’s grace.

He reads everything in sight, she loves a soft couch.

We hope that someday, there’ll be a baby in her pouch.

 

Enough grand baby talk! Give them space, give them time!

Just planting a seed, in this grand Christmas rhyme,

Grand parenting can be tough, can I handle such a cause?

Is it worse, I ask, than Jan’s menopause?

 

Steve went on a hike, it was quite the long journey,

Still can’t feel his feet, might end up on a gurney.

“Fob” lost some weight, gained a new, bearded look.

If you want more details, read his upcoming book.

 

Lil Jan hit the road, while Big Steve was away,

Loving friends and family, allowed her to stay.

Hamm’s, Watt’s, Gentry’s…Deboef’s and Maddux’s too,

Johnson’s, Leasure’s and Diamond’s, each a fun crew!

 

She met up with Steve, reunions are sweet,

The hot tub at Watauga, not a bad place to meet.

The Pennsylvania B&B, could have been the best,

But Steve was so tired, all we did was rest!  😉

 

After the trail, Lil Jan broke the news,

No, she wasn’t pregnant, we weren’t going on a cruise.

“We’re headed to the Grand Canyon, a great RV ride,

But just one more thing, hon…my parents are inside!”

We still live on the road, in our own wheel estate,

It’s not a good life, it’s really quite great!

We travel as Sojourners, to a camp or children’s home,

Or sometimes a church, who knows where we’ll roam?

 

 We’re in Tucson this winter, mid cactus and sand,

Serve at the Food Bank, lots of needs in this land.

Next year it’s California, and Washington too,

Then Montana and Colorado, there’s so much to do!

May your Christmas be great, and your New Year the best,

May you hold family close, and trust God with the rest.

May your pets remain healthy, may you keep them well fed,

Not an issue for us, because our Mandy is dead.

Merry Christmas!

Big Steve and Lil Jan

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AT Thru-Hike #81 – Sir Fob W. Pot, AT Thru Hiker

“You can do anything you set your mind to, man”. – Eminem, Lose Yourself

“I owned every second that this world could give. I saw so many places, the things that I did. With every broken bone, I swear I lived.” – One Republic, I Lived

Day 149

I awoke to the wonderful smell of sizzling bacon. I followed my nose downstairs where Grandma Toni had prepared a huge breakfast. She brought me a plate with four pieces of French toast, two eggs, and three strips of bacon. Grandpa Jerry explained that the syrup on the table was “the good stuff” from their own farm. It was the best syrup I’ve ever had. Sorry, Aunt Jemima. Just as I finished off my first plate of food, Grandma Toni brought out a second plate identical to the first one. “You’re not my first thru-hiker,” she explained. I ate everything but the 8th piece of French toast. After packing up, I thanked this amazing couple for their generous hospitality and gave them each a huge hug. I then returned to the trail and continued my northbound journey to Katahdin.

Trail Magic!
Trail Magic!

Near mile 1782.4, Cape Moonshine Road, a gentleman was set up right along the trail in the woods providing Trail Magic! It had been over an hour since I had Grandma Toni’s breakfast so I was definitely ready for the 4-egg omelette Big Tom was offering. He has been doing Trail Magic on this spot throughout the hiking season and had an obvious love for hikers and the AT.

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After a fairly easy 9.8 mile day, I arrived at NH 25 and headed east .3 miles to the Hikers Welcome Hostel. After eating and re-supplying at a nearby gas station, I joined Firefly, Pyro, Tin Man, Kiwi, Virginia Creeper and several others in the hiker lounge. Later, my hiking buddy Foxfire came strolling in and said, “Fob, John says hi.” “John who?” I replied. Foxfire answered, “Some guy named John in a pickup truck pulled up by me as I crossed a road earlier today and asked me if I knew Fob. When I told him I did, he said he loves reading your blog on Trail Journals and to tell you hello and keep hiking and writing.” That’s just crazy. John, whoever you are, thanks for that message and for reading my blog and following my journey. You and others who have posted comments on Trailjournals or Facebook have had a huge impact on me at some times when I really needed it. I read and appreciate every comment.

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After some discussion on which two movies to watch of the hundreds of options, we settled on the rather strange combination of Road to Perdition and Joe Dirt. If the United States ever ceases to be and a future civilization studies our culture, may they never unearth a Joe Dirt DVD and judge us based on it.

Day 150

As the dozen or so hikers found seats around the table in the hiker lounge, there was a little more excitement and nervous anticipation than normal. Part of that may have been due to the smell of dozens of pancakes about to be served to us by the hostel staff. But even more than that, our minds were on the mighty White Mountains that awaited us. We were like a bunch of anxious football players in the locker room moments before the big game.

Paper Beats Rock
Paper Covers Rock

Most AT thru hikers consider The Whites, which run from New Hampshire to southern Maine, to be the most difficult section of the entire trail. New Hampshire has forty-eight 4000 footer mountains and most of those are in The Whites. They include 6288-foot Mount Washington, home to the worst weather on the planet, and Mount Madison, which some consider the AT’s toughest climb. The Whites are also home to Mahoosuc Notch, a mile long boulder field that is considered the toughest and most fun mile on the AT.

So The Whites are a huge test and challenge for AT hikers. The Whites are where you most need your 2000-mile, rock hard trail legs. The Whites are where you tap the reservoir of courage and determination you’ve been building up since Springer Mountain. The Whites are where you’re glad you had that 4th egg, 6th piece of bacon, and 7th piece of French Toast.

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Fueled by pancakes, coffee, and adrenaline, I exited “the locker room” and excitedly made my way to the base of 4802-foot Mount Moosilauke, the first of the mighty White Mountains.

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And that, dear readers, is where my AT blog comes to an end. I have decided to shift my energies from writing a blog to writing a book! The book will hopefully be released some time in 2017. It will cover my entire journey, to include the not yet blogged about last 35 days on the trail. It will detail, among other things…

– A devastating fall in southern Maine that left me bloodied, shaken, and minus a trekking pole.
– A crazy mile-long rock scramble through Mahoosuc Notch, and a brutal climb up and over Mount Washington in high winds and rain.
– An incredible final week in Maine’s 100-Mile Wilderness.
– An amazing reunion with my wife, dad, and a life-long friend.
– My final climb and (spoiler alert) summit of Katahdin! That’s right, Fob is now officially an AT thru hiker!  On September 13th, I became the 650th NOBO hiker to summit Katahdin!  I hit every white blaze on the 2189.1 mile AT and carried my own pack the entire way.
– The final moments and my thoughts as I delivered my mom’s ashes to their final resting place.
– How my faith in God has changed as a result of my hike.                          – The results of our collective fund-raising efforts to help the Colon family adopt a child.
– My AT superlatives, lessons learned, and recommendations for future hikers.
– My plans for the future to include a few new bucket list items.
– A long list of people to thank who have helped me, cheered for me, enabled my AT journey, and encouraged me to write a book.

If you would like to receive an email when the book is ready for ordering, please send your email address to thebigsteve66@gmail.com. I will not share your email address or use it in any way other than to notify you of the book’s release.

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Hiking the AT has been the most challenging, difficult, and interesting thing I’ve ever done. It was everything I hoped for and more. I’m thankful to God for sustaining me in every way imaginable on this incredible journey. And I’m thankful to each of you for joining me on this journey and encouraging me each step of the way. Thank you so much for reading my blog! And thank you in advance to each of you who will take the time to read my eventual first book.

Trail Flirt
Trail Flirt

Perhaps I should close with some lyrics from a 1985 Mr. Mister song that came to mean a lot to me during my six long months on the AT…

Kyrie eleison (Lord, Have Mercy) down the road that I must travel,
Kyrie eleison through the darkness of the night,
Kyrie eleison where I’m going will you follow?
Kyrie eleison on a highway in the light.

Sir Fob W. Pot, AT Thru-Hiker, Class of 2016

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AT Thru-Hike #80 – Paging Dr. Quinn

“And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” – Hebrews 13:16

“Keep learning about the world. Use your mind to the hilt. Life passes quickly and, towards the end, gathers speed like a freight train running downhill. The more you know, the more you enrich yourself and others.” – Susan Trott

“I’m your ice cream man, stop me when I’m passin’ by, oh my my…” – Van Halen

Day 147

Today was a record day for meeting SOBO hikers. I greeted all of them and spoke a bit longer with a few of them. They were glad to have survived The Whites and offered me some key tips that would pay dividends later. After a fairly tough climb up Holts Ledge, there was a turnoff for the Trapper John Shelter, apparently named in honor of the MASH character. Some day I hope to have a dilapidated, porcupine-infested privy on a blue blazed side trail named after me. It will be called The Fob Pot.

Ice Cream Man's Yard
Ice Cream Man’s Yard

At mile 1764.6, just passed Dorchester Road, I took a short side trail to the home of the late Bill Ackerly. Mr. Ackerly, who passed away just a few months ago, was known in AT circles as The Ice Cream Man. After filling hikers’ bellies with ice cream, he would then beat them at croquet on his perfectly manicured backyard croquet course. According to a note on my AT Guthook app, his family plans to continue the ice cream tradition for one more year. It also said hikers could get water, use the outhouse, access the free WiFi, and ask about camping in the yard. When I arrived at about 4 p.m., no one was home and there were no cars in the driveway. I debated what to do. Should I stay or hike on? I asked myself, what would The Ice Cream Man want me to do? So, I set up my tent in the backyard at the edge of the croquet course, got water, accessed the WiFi, and made myself at home. I suppose I was technically trespassing, but it seemed like a risk worth taking. As the sun began to set on his still perfectly manicured croquet course, I regretted that I was not able to meet Mr. Ackerly, eat his ice cream, or lose to him at croquet. If it’s possible to miss someone you’ve never met, I suppose that’s how I felt about The Ice Cream Man.

Day 148

Prior to entering The Whites, hikers are presented with a couple of 3000′ appetizers known as Smarts Mountain and Mount Cube. It is New Hampshire’s way of saying, “Welcome suckers! If you think this is bad, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!” The climb up Smarts Mountain runs along quartzite-covered Lamberts Ridge and is tough to navigate in a few places. It also lacks water for eight miles, so I was glad that I had cameled up at the spigot at The Ice Cream Man’s house. After descending the mountain, I stopped and got water at South Jacobs Brook and talked to a couple of SOBO Aussies for awhile.

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After climbing over rocky Mount Cube in the heat of the late afternoon, I was drenched in sweat and exhausted. I finally reached NH 25A at mile 1780.6 with about 30 minutes of daylight remaining, after a 16 mile day. I happened to see a hiker’s note in my Guthook app that said there was a sweet elderly couple nearby who take in hikers. It said they have a sign to that effect at the trailhead and that they were .3 miles west up a hill, then a right on East Cemetery Road, and then the second house on the right.

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At the trailhead I looked around and there was no sign. I debated what to do. I could drop my tent right there at a soccer field by the trailhead…the safe, easy option. Or I could follow the directions of some unknown hiker and try to find an elderly couple’s teal home about .3 miles away, in the hopes that they still take in hikers. I decided to go for it and headed west on 25A in search of elderly people who may take in hikers. After a fairly steep, .3 mile climb up the paved road, I came to…absolutely nothing. No neighborhood. No humanity. Nothing. Maybe it was bad Intel. With the sun starting to set, I decided to continue on for just five more minutes before returning to the soccer field defeated. Two minutes later, I spotted a sign indicating a right turn ahead! Could it be East Cemetery Road? I quickened my pace and, sure enough, it was East Cemetery Road!  Just like the seemingly dry ravine of a prior post, the seemingly road to nowhere would also bear fruit, thanks to a little extra effort late in the day.

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I turned right and walked up to the teal house, the second one on the right. I rang the doorbell and got no response. I rang it again and suddenly the second floor window opened and a little grey-headed woman stuck her head out. “Can I help you?” she asked. “My name is Fob and I heard that you and your husband might take in hikers,” I replied. She said, “We normally do but we decided to take this week off. We took the sign down at the trailhead.” “That’s okay, no worries,” I replied. “I’ll just set up down at the soccer field. I’m sorry to bother you.” “No, that won’t be necessary, just come on around to the porch, we’d love to have you,” she said. After apologizing for even being there on their week off and confirming that it wouldn’t be a problem, I made my way over to the porch and met her at the door.

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Rita Pease, in her 80s and better known as “Toni”, invited me in and told me to have a seat on the couch next to the recliner where her husband was sitting. Her husband, Jerry, is in his mid-80s and very friendly. He seemed like a cross between John Wayne and Paul Bunyan. I felt bad sitting on their couch because my profuse sweating made it seem like I had just gotten out of a swimming pool.

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Grandma Toni (as I call her) returned from the kitchen, handed me a ham sandwich, and sat down near her husband. “Fob, here’s your appetizer,” she said. “You can eat this while we watch Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. We have the whole first season on DVD!” “Oh good!” said I, for no apparent reason. Still soaking wet, I sat there on the couch, eating a ham sandwich while watching a very attractive Dr. Quinn administer medicine in 1867 Colorado. If I lived in Colorado in 1867 and Dr. Quinn was my doctor, I think I would come down with the sniffles every day.

As I sat there with my two adopted grandparents, I wondered whether the main course Grandma Toni had planned for me would happen at the end of episode 1 (the sooner option) or the end of season 1 (the later, binge watching option). I also wondered whether all this…being in an elderly couple’s home…in a New Hampshire town I didn’t even know the name of…covered in sweat…eating a ham sandwich…watching Dr. Quinn…was real or just a bizarre dream. It felt like a tv episode that might result if the writers of The Twilight Zone collaborated with the writers of The Andy Griffith Show.

Sugar Makers
Sugar Makers

At the conclusion of the quite good episode of Dr. Quinn, Grandma Toni brought me a TV dinner featuring chicken pot pie, green peas, and peach cobbler. It was delicious, although it made my stomach a little upset and I was afraid we might have to call Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, to check me out. After dinner, Grandma Toni showed me my upstairs bed and bathroom and asked for my dirty laundry so she could put a load in. Bless her soul. She told me to come back down after showering because they had a video for me to watch.

Feeling full and clean, I returned to the family room, hoping it would be to watch the next episode of Dr. Quinn. I’m curious as to whether the obvious chemistry between her and the rugged outdoorsman, Byron Sully, will ever amount to anything. Or is my curiosity just the byproduct of wearing women’s earbuds for several days?

Instead, Jerry showed me a 30 minute documentary done by the Discovery Channel a decade or so ago about their family. It turns out Jerry was a 4th generation sugarer, and his son now runs the business in its 5th generation. Sugaring, I learned, is the process used to create maple syrup, and the video shows Jerry walking around the family farm and explaining the process from beginning to end. There is so much more to it than just squeezing Aunt Jemima at your local IHOP. I learned they have 1200 taps across the farm, half using buckets to collect the sap and half using tubing. I learned how they transport it, boil it, and package it. I learned that it takes 40 gallons of sap to make a single gallon of real organic maple syrup. I peppered Jerry with questions and he happily answered all of them. I found it all quite fascinating. He explained some of their family traditions, like the children pouring newly made, still warm syrup over snow to make candy. I wondered if Dr. Quinn ever tapped a tree to make organic maple syrup but didn’t ask.

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Grandma Toni then joined us to tell some more stories, of which I’ll share one. She and Jerry were traveling the country by train in 2001 and were scheduled to meet a friend and tour the South Tower of the World Trade Center on the morning of 9/11. While on a 4-hour layover at a Chicago train station, they overhead a fellow passenger say that she would be catching a train to New York City in an hour. They went to the ticket window and inquired about changing tickets in order to depart for New York in an hour, rather than four hours. They were able to change tickets and were on their way an hour later. With this earlier than anticipated arrival, they called their friend in New York to see about touring the South Tower the afternoon earlier, on 9/10. The friend agreed and they ended up on the last South Tower tour of the day on 9/10. The next morning at their hotel, they watched in horror with the rest of us as the World Trade Center fell to the ground. They felt like their lives had been spared for a purpose and that they had been given a new lease on life. If their treatment of me is any indication of the way they treat the dozens of other hikers who stay at their home each year, I think they have found that purpose.

As disappointed as I was to never meet Mr. Ackerly, The Ice Cream Man, I was thrilled to have had the opportunity to meet, talk to, and be hosted by Jerry and Toni Pease. When I return home after my AT hike, I plan to send them a thank you note along with Season 2 of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.  After I finish watching it, of course.

Fob

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