Name Change (…heading for a new location)

I’ve been thinking about the name, “Writerrick” for a while. When I decided to begin blogging, it was the “thought of the moment” and seemed rather clever. But, is it? Time has moved on and, hopefully, I’ve grown a little in my writing skills. Today it seems a bit, shall I say, sophomoric.

While my initial intent for the blog was to promote whatever book I’m currently working on, I don’t feel good about haranguing you to pick up my stuff and read it. If you like what you see here, it seems reasonable to believe you’ll like what gets published in book form.

It appears that my more or less monthly offerings have become a commentary on life in general. So, with my next publication, I will be changing the name from Writerrick to Flying with Rick… (subline: Pondering life in my corner of the world.) I rather like that name because my career involved various aspects of flight.

I encourage you to go to: flyingwithrick.wordpress.com, check it out, and FOLLOW me there.

By the way, I also have a few new goals for myself. While I don’t believe in making New Year’s resolutions, these are worthwhile goals that will hopefully keep you reading.
1. I’ll try to keep the word count down to +/- 500. . . Less is more.
2. I’ll do a better job of editing before publishing.  . . . You deserve the best I can offer.
3. I really welcome your comments, especially if I hit on a topic that can create dialogue. . . There is far too little honest debate in our world today.

I enjoy writing – a gene I apparently inherited from my mother. It’s nice to know that others find what I put on paper of some value. Thank you for your interest.

Sincerely,

Rick Iekel…
Writes reality . . . lightly embellished by fiction

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Housekeeping 101

I have a new-found respect for the chores of those in the family who keep our houses in order. This happens every time my wife gets laid up from illness or accident. The current episode is the result of a slow healing torn meniscus she received while traveling to our grandson’s wedding.

I realize that, by a long shot, I don’t meet the liberated woman’s current standard for carrying  my share of household chores, but I’ve done my part – dirty diapers, dish washing, bedtimes, grocery shopping. In my case, when wife was unable to carry on, I would inform the children in no uncertain terms, “We are on EMERGENCY POWER.” (unspoken) “Deal with it.”

By and large, I’ve maintained the traditional “breadwinner” role. You know – off to work, work all day, come home (too often late) to dinner on the table. Mine was one of those 24/7 jobs where, on a moment’s notice, I might receive a call and be whisked away from wife and family for who knows how long.

Not long after I retired, my wife was diagnosed with cancer, a situation that pretty much put her out of commission for several months. During that time the care of the house became my responsibility. Making the best of a difficult situation, I immediately modified the “Jackie’s Kitchen” sign over the stove with a temporary stick-on label that read, “Rick’s Kitchen”. Meals got leaner, vacuuming was done less often, dusting pretty much not at all. My wife probably welcomed visitors as much for the quick straightening up that took place as for the company.

What kills me is the planning needed to keep on schedule. Long before mealtime, (like the day before) one must decide what to pull from the freezer so it has time to thaw. Then, a couple of hours before mealtime, he or she has to interrupt normal activities to prepare the meal. Somehow, when my wife does it, everything from the oven, stove-top, microwave and toaster oven are actually ready at the same time. (How does that happen?) Oh yeah, just about the time all the dingers are dinging, the dog decides she can’t wait a minute longer for her own dinner.

There’s another thing that drives me nuts. It’s the repetitive nature of the work. I finally get cleaned up from one meal and it’s time to start all over again. I finish washing the last dish, clean the counter top, sop up the water I spilled on the floor while washing the blasted dishes and, finally, the sink looks like it has never been used. Then someone in the family comes along and leaves a bowl, a spoon and a dirty glass on my nice clean counter. And how do I keep the kitchen floor clean? Shedding dog hair nests in wispy dust balls in every corner of the kitchen and, on a wet day, dog prints starting at the back door fade out ¾ of the way across the floor.

Then there’s the rest of the house. By the time I finish picking up snack dishes, assorted paperwork, leftover mail and candy wrappers from one room, another room has begun to gather them. The bathroom, small though it is, simply requires too much time per square foot of space. I don’t mind doing the laundry. It’s folding the sheets, pillowcases and assorted clothing when the drier stops that bothers me. I can fall asleep looking for a matching sock. Oh yeah, vacuuming and dusting – hardly considered a required activity when under “EMERGENCY POWER”.

Hey! I’m not complaining – just amazed. I spent a career dealing with this, that and the other thing while managing the affairs of the airport. I could handle pretty much any issue brought to me, deal with an interruption, even an interruption to the interruption. Never a dull moment. But, how does one carry on these boring household chores day after day without crying, “Uncle”? My hat’s off to our domestic engineers. For me – I’d rather go back to work.

Keeping Christ in Christmas

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It’s been said that only a small percentage of people (…let’s say less than 10%) can bring about significant change. That seems pretty sad to me. I’d like to think that 90% of us would not allow ourselves to be led down a path we don’t necessarily support.

Now, I’m just your average American citizen. I am naive enough to have a certain degree of faith in our government in spite of the antics of many who represent us. And I believe in a higher power. In fact, I am proud to say that I am a life-long Roman Catholic. I attend Church regularly and try to do my part to make the world a better place to live. I’m not trying to brag. That’s just who I am.

With the Christmas Season upon us, I will (once again) be frustrated by the voices of a small percentage of people who will work very hard to keep Christ out of Christmas. I think it’s about time for the non-vocal majority to begin speaking out.

Don’t get me wrong. As a Christian I have no objection to people honoring this season in any way they personally see fit. Hanukkah- Kwanzaa- (others?) I am not personally familiar with those celebrations, so I can’t really comment. But, my point is – this is a time to celebrate peace and goodwill toward our fellow members of the human race.

Here’s my problem. I object to the ability of a relatively few non-Christian, non-religious, non-conformists to badger the rest of us into keeping Christ out of Christmas. That IS what the holiday is about, isn’t it? Jesus was born – lived – was a significant person in history. Whether you believe Jesus was God, or not, the holiday celebrates His birth. That’s no different than celebrating the birth of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, or Martin Luther King.

It is time for believers to take a stand and advocate for our belief. There is nothing offensive about the nativity scene, or (for goodness sake) about Christmas Carolers surrounded by snow-covered evergreens. There is also nothing out of place when one displays a menorah during the eight days of Hanukkah, or kinara candles during the week-long celebration of Kwanzaa.

To those who believe there is no God, I would offer the following – simply acknowledge this as a season of good will. No one is trying to offend you. No one is saying you don’t have a right to your beliefs. This is a time when ALL of us should be making a special effort to acknowledge and be gracious to one another.

To those [leaders] who have chosen to succumb to the will of the minority by NOT displaying a public recognition of the holiday, shame on you. Find the courage to represent the majority, do it tastefully, and do it publicly.

A Perfect Day

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Some time ago, I was given one of those “fill-in” books that my children and grandchildren will find and talk about after I’ve left this crazy world. It’s been both fun and challenging to leave my impression about various aspects of my life. What did I do for fun as a kid? Who was my favorite teacher? What was the craziest thing I ever did? . . . A lot of interesting stuff to think about.

One fun question was, “What are one or two things you did that you didn’t tell your parents about?” (There were plenty of vacant lines for me to spill out my secrets.) I thought about that for a while, then wrote in large bold letters across the entire page, “…AND I’M NOT GOING TO TELL YOU EITHER!”

But, here’s the one that stumped me. “What is your perfect day?” Now, I can think of several activities that could be defined as “perfect”, but – a whole day’s worth? So, I looked up the word in THE NEW COLLEGE EDITION of THE AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY.

Perfect (pῠr’fikt) adj.:1.Lacking nothing essential to the whole; complete of its nature or kind. 2. In a state of undiminished or highest excellence, without defect; flawless

H-m-m-m. Now, here’s the thing. I could easily define my time paddling in a kayak down the Racquette River in the Adirondack Mountains as “perfect”. The peace and solitude of being one with nature is so very satisfying. But, a whole day? I think about my near dunkings when no beach was available for easy egress from my watercraft. Then there’s the resulting stiffness in my back while trying to carry on the next day’s activities. Being alone is a welcome change from life’s busy chaos, but being alone when there’s a bear just around the bend? Well…

My wife and I recently drove from our home in Western New York to Washington DC. The path through New York’s Finger Lakes Region and the Pennsylvania mountains COULD make for a perfect drive on a fall day. But, six hours of drippy rain and overcast mountains pretty much put a damper on that possibility.

Maybe Thanksgiving, the holiday when everyone in the family tries to gather at Mom and Dad’s place, could be “perfect”. The banter of grown siblings and their spouses, the antics of young cousins normally separated by too many miles between their homes, the lure of my wife’s homemade everything on the table. These are the makings of wonderful memories. And yet. . .

I’m not really sure if a whole day of anything is particularly suited to my disposition. In this imperfect world, it seems to me, there are no “perfect” days. Maybe “perfect” moments, but not days.

I happen to believe in a hereafter. God wouldn’t have made this world and put people on I (Yeah, I know. We and the world evolved, but, Somebody had to start it.) without a post-mortem plan. So, the “hereafter” is what I would consider the ultimate PERFECT day.

So, maybe there are perfect moments in an otherwise imperfect day. If I were to snatch a little piece of heaven out of one of my days, it just might look like this:

•  Standing on an overlook high in the mountains on a warm sunny morning;

•  “Sight Supervising” the excavation of a new construction site with my grandson;

•  Paddling around the bend of a lazy wilderness river to come upon a doe and her fawn grazing at the water’s edge;

•  Taking in the breathtaking colors of the leaves on an autumn drive through Western New York with my wife;

•  Relaxing in the shade of a large leafy tree on a hot summer day, a light breeze whispering through  its branches;

•  Settled in next to my wife on a cold winter’s eve with the fireplace flames dancing while we watch a good movie.

I guess it doesn’t take much to make me happy . . . or maybe it does.

The Heart of America

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Recently my wife and I flew from Rochester, New York to Omaha to attend the wedding of our oldest grandson in Seward, Nebraska. On a warm and breezy early October afternoon, Dave and Carrie exchanged vows and committed their lives to each other in a recently cut hay field while family and friends witnessed the sacred event seated on golden bales of hay. It was a simple ceremony, yet elegant because it was nestled in the arms of nature. While not a church, it was a church. It projected the beauty of nature, a creation of the living God.

Family members, normally spread across the country, spent the weekend huddled in sometimes small, sometimes larger groups, catching up on the latest happenings and enjoying the rare treat of togetherness. Following the wedding, the trip offered a rare opportunity to spend a week with our eldest son and his family in Iowa.

I am somehow emotionally connected to the Midwest. My paternal roots are in Iowa.
There, my Great Grandfather peddled boots and shoes while it was still a Territory, crisscrossing the open plains in a wagon. Sometimes, in my mind’s eye, I can see him doing so.

My son lives along a rural highway several miles from town. Early one morning I headed outdoors to find the flavor of this part of the country. As I looked down the road, first one direction, then the other, I observed a land vastly different from my Western New York experience. There were no hills. The countryside more correctly rolled like a wave before it crests on Lake Ontario. Acres and acres of land covered by row upon row of corn or soybeans spread out as far as the eye could see. A pattern of roads, straight narrow strips of concrete or gravel, looked like the empty grid of a tic-tac-toe game.

The autumn morning was so quiet one could hear the tires of an oncoming truck beating on the 12 by 12 sections of concrete pavement for a half mile before the driver reached me. And, when he had passed out of sight, until another caught my attention, the only sound was that of the birds conversing with each other on telephone wires overhead.

A light breeze carried the smell of a nearby farm where a large herd of cattle had gathered for their morning ration of hay and grain. City dwellers might find the aroma offensive, but, for me, it brought back memories of growing up in rural Western New York where small farms and grazing cattle were a way of life.

As I stood there, I realized what a grand and beautiful country we call home. There are so many different landscapes – the Coastal Plains, the old Appalachian Chain of mountains, the magnificent Rocky’s and the heartland in-between. From the Northern Boundary Waters and the Great Lakes to the shores of The Gulf and the Rio Grande, from the metropolitan East to the beaches of the Pacific, we live in a beautiful country. And beyond, Alaska to the north and Hawaii to the west – each is grand its own spectacular way.

Too many times we are really aware only of the locale in which we live. The chance to travel (like our family wedding) provides one an opportunity to appreciate so much more. But, when we take our trip, unless we open our eyes to the beauty of that land – our land – it just might be a missed opportunity.

Happy next trip.

Hot Off The Press

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Well, I’ve done it! Two years ago I was challenged to write a biography about my mother. I had just finished an early draft of a book containing a selection of her poetry. (Beginning at the age of seven, she was a lifelong poet.) My friend and writing critic – no, that’s not an oxymoron – read the draft and offered this suggestion:

“Rick, there’s a story here about her life. You should write a book.”

Though skeptical, I was ultimately convinced to write at least the first chapter. Then I was hooked.

With the help of many people – my writer friends, the Greece Barnes & Noble Writers Group, my wife and family – I gathered the tales that describe my mother’s journey through this world. Searching for those stories – stories that would bring her to life for some future reader – was so much fun. My parents are both deceased, but I was fortunate to have received and retained not only the folder containing all of my mother’s poetic efforts, but also her diaries, notebooks full of a teenager’s ideas, English assignments from college, and a number of short stories she had published describing memorable times in her life. Supporting these were the stories shared by others who knew and loved her. It was a sometimes difficult task, but, Oh! So rewarding.

Countless times, various bits and pieces were reviewed, critiqued, corrected and enhanced by my family and writing peers. With each review I was sent back to my pad and pencil to re-work what I had thought was complete. I must admit, though, with each such episode, the end product was better than before. On one occasion, our writing group’s talented facilitator questioned what I had written about the death of my nine year old brother. (I was only four at the time of his death.) “It’s too factual,” she said. “Go home and write until you cry.” I did as she said. Later, while reviewing a near final draft of my book, my older brother told me he sobbed for twenty minutes when he read it.

When I was a young boy, my mother often told stories of her own childhood. She proudly proclaimed, “I never grew up. I’m just a child at heart.” Her life as presented in “The Candles of My Life” is a mixture of fun stuff and sadness, of earthy goodness and spiritual pursuit. Her underlying strength lay in a close and personal relationship with God. Throughout her life, with only one exception, Helen believed and trusted in her Heavenly Father. At the age of 83, after a quiet family-centered life, she went Home.

For Helen Corrigan Iekel, writing poetry was a life-giving necessity. With a tenacity largely unrewarded by publishers, she used her poetry to express the beauty of her life experience and often found comfort in it when that world seemed to collapse. The reader will find her poetry interspersed throughout the book because, without seeing what she wrote, one cannot fully appreciate the woman that she was.

I am happy that “The Candles of My Life” is finally published – happy to offer it for the world to experience. Check it out at Amazon.com.

I Can Fly

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This is the time of year I want to fly. Not just an airplane ride . . . I mean FLY. Free as a bird, all alone in the cockpit of a single engine aircraft like the Piper J-3 Cub.

Many years ago I dreamed of becoming a pilot. As a college freshman majoring in Aviation Technology, I took on a second part time job just to earn the cost of a one hour flying lesson every two weeks. Often today, when working in my yard on an autumn afternoon, I hear the faint buzz of a single engine airplane, lift my head and search the sky. Where is it? Is the pilot just a beginner heading out to a training area where the instructor will put him or her through their paces? Spotting the object of my search, my own mind begins to travel back in time. I can see it like it was yesterday.

Lined up on a narrow strip of blacktop in a yellow Cessna 150, my instructor by my side, I open the throttle and begin the takeoff roll. As we reach the breakneck speed of 60 knots, the instructor tells me to pull back on the yoke and we lift off. To me, the sensation of that first flight was exceeded only by the first time I went through the same motion – but alone.

Though I flew in two different types of aircraft during fourteen hours of flight training, my best memories are of time spent in a Piper J-3 Cub. This is a fabric covered two-seater first manufactured in the 1930’s with a 65 horsepower engine. The main gear is near the front and a small tail wheel is found at the rear for ease of turning. The seating is tandem and the pilot, when alone, occupies the rear seat to assure proper balance. Its controls consist of a stick located between one’s legs to control the wing and tail ailerons (God, I haven’t used that terminology in fifty years.) and petals to control the rudder. The throttle is a lever on the side wall hooked to a thin wire that disappears into the engine cowling. The instrument panel consists of a tachometer, altimeter, airspeed indicator, compass and an oil pressure gauge. One monitors remaining fuel with a wire stuck to a cork floating on a maximum of nine gallons of gasoline in a tank on top of the engine.

These are the simplest of controls, the most basic tools needed for the pure pleasure of flight. In contrast to the complex instrument panels of today’s commercial aircraft, with autopilots and back-ups to the back-up systems, this machine exists for the sheer joy of being able to sore with the birds.

On a sunny September Sunday in 1964 my flight instructor decided it was time to let me go. Alone. Solo. Unlike my first experience in a small airplane, this time the runway was a somewhat smooth strip of grass amid rows and rows of a farmer’s bean field. The West Bloomfield Flying Club had generously adopted me earlier that summer and stood watching as I turned and taxied to the runway’s end.

Trembling, yet sure, I lined up for takeoff. One last look at the assembled crowd of six or seven, then I turned my head to focus on the strip of land in front of me. There was no roar of the engine, only a hum that grew louder as I pressed the throttle forward. At 20 knots I nudged the stick forward, ever so slightly, and the tail began to rise. The takeoff roll continued and, at 40 knots, I began to pull back on the stick. The jouncing vibration of wheels rolling though grass ended as I lifted off the ground. A safe distance up ( I couldn’t help myself. ) I looked around in the tiny cabin just to be sure no one else was aboard. Then, grinning from ear to ear, peered down at the parting earth below.

One’s first flight consists of the time it takes to fly a rectangular pattern back to the runway you just left. So, moments later, I was flying in the opposite direction to prepare for the day’s real test. Bank to the right, then bank to the right again – I was on final approach. Ease back on the throttle to reduce airspeed . . . push the stick forward . . . just a little right rudder to keep the plane lined up with the runway. Ever so slowly I returned to earth. Then, a brief floating sensation just before landing. [NOTE: The owner of the J-3, beads of sweat covering his forehead, swears I actually stopped in midair.] Wheels touched down and the airplane rolled to a stop.

There’s a tradition among pilots to celebrate this particular event. As I exited the aircraft, someone walked up behind me, pulled my shirt out from under my belt and began to rip a long tear up the middle of the back. I didn’t know about the ritual and was, needless to say, very surprised. But, I still have that shirt. It’s hanging in a frame on the wall in our den. And I still grin from ear-to-ear every time I look at it.

Thanks for reading……………..