I Can See!

Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world.  For indeed that’s all who ever have.”  — Margaret Mead

[A repeat from May 28, 2016] A few years ago, Donna and I were on a tour of Vietnam. Always on the scout for autograph and manuscript material, we stopped in a few antique shops.  We found a place called “54 Traditions” in Hanoi. The shop is run by Dr. Mark Rapoport — an American pediatrician who served in Vietnam during the War.   He opened 54 Traditions in 2001 stocking it with his collection of textiles, jewelry, art and tools from Vietnam.   I bought a few nice goodies. But what made an impression was Mark.

During the War as a medical intern, he worked in a hospital. While visiting an outlying village, an old woman was unable to see something on a piece of paper. He handed her his reading glasses.  Tears filled her eyes.  She could see.  Clearly.  Mark was so touched by the experience that he gave the woman his glasses.  She said she could now embroider again. 

Mark went out and bought some extra reading glasses.  And gave them away to others who could not read or see “close up.”  Since then he has given away thousands of reading glasses (1.5x – 2.0x).   And he helped inspire the Reading Glass Project an organization dedicated to providing glasses to those in developing countries who deal with age-related presbyopia (deteriorating closeup vision).

The Reading Glass Project urged travelers when visiting developing countries – to bring along some reading glasses to give to those without.  The motto of this group was
Be more than a tourist.  Be a hero.”

Wow!

In the late summer of 1994, Donna and I drove Lauren to Nashville — to begin her college career at Vanderbilt. As Donna and Lauren went off to do some mother-daughter bonding, I sat in the hotel room and thumbed through the Yellow Pages. I first looked under “Autographs” then under “Books – Antiquarian.” I had been publishing listings and catalogs of historic autographs and occasional rare books for perhaps a dozen years. And I was always on the hunt . . . . .

One old book store caught my eye. So I hopped in the car and drove to the location – a block down from campus. I walked in the door – sniffed – and thought hmmmm this could be interesting . . . . . I walked around for a few minutes then headed toward the back where an elderly chap sat hunched over a desk. “Do you have any old autograph material – old letters or documents?” The old fellow grunted “Nope.” I then persisted – “do you have anything handwritten? Any old signed stuff.” He looked up – grunted again – and shuffled off to a back room. After a few minutes he returned with a two inch thick file folder and – true – he blew dust off the top. And handed it to me. I could tell it was full of really old stuff.

I set the folder on a table and opened it. My jaw dropped. The top item was a Washington College diploma dated June 18, 1868, for “R. C. Morrison.” The second item was a Washington College report card dated May 31, 1867, for “William Cochrane.” Both were signed by the President of the College — Robert E. Lee. “Washington College” later became “Washington and Lee University.” I looked up. The elderly chap was back at his desk burrowed in some papers. I held up the diploma – “whaddaya want for this?” He thought – “a hundred bucks.” The second item he said was a “hundred and a quarter.”

Long story short, I bought the entire file folder for five hundred dollars. It was full of other gems. I sold the Robert E. Lee items to a dealer friend for many times what I paid for the batch. I still have copies of the Lee items. And I remember being glad I checked out the Yellow Pages instead of watching a football game.

The Dead Bug

On March 22, 2020, I discussed how I was dealing with excruciating lower back pain. Add to that was sciatic pain that radiated with a vengeance from my toes to my hip. We’re talking 9.5 on the pain scale. In the mornings, I could barely move. It was physical therapy that caused the sciatic pain to abate — all within the space of a day or two. True. . . .

Given that the back pain has morphed and seesawed, I had a couple of diagnostic injections that have helped considerably. The pain is now manageable at night and during the day – it is barely there. But I wisely continued with the PT.

Two clinicians at Athletico (Sarah and Brittany) helped greatly – with a protocol of exercise, movement and therapy. I sometimes walk out the door after PT winded – like I’d been pummeled by a personal trainer or a drill sergeant at Quantico. The exercises vary – in part to strengthen my back. In part to work on my “core.” And also to work on my weak knees (which is prescribed in Hebrews 12:12 – “Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees“). There is one exercise though – that when assigned, I cringe. It’s called “The Dead Bug.” And I feel like one when I do it. . . . .

Visualize this. . . . the “Dead Bug” is an exercise where you lay flat on your back. Raise your legs – knees bent. And then (are you ready?) raise your arms – straight up in the air. What’s interesting (and I guess therapeutic) about the “Dead Bug” is that . . . . oh wait. Did I tell you? You have to hold the “Dead Bug” position for 15+ seconds. You’re laying there – arms up. Leg’s up and bent. For 15 seconds. This exercise strengthens your core, works your back, your legs, your arms and tests your self restraint when someone walks by and goes “oooh – look at the dead bug.

Three Ministers

A not-for-profit organization started a support group for clergy. At the first session, three ministers entered the room, introduced themselves and sat down. The facilitator gently invited each to share his troubles and concerns.
The first minister lowered his head and said “I am married – but I have been seeing another woman. She is a member of our congregation.”

The second minister shook his head. Tears began to flow down his cheeks. “I have a problem with the bottle. I begin drinking in the morning and I can’t stop until I collapse in bed. Often I give sermons while I am totally intoxicated.”

The third minister hesitated and slowly began to speak – “I . . . I . . . . I am a hopeless GOSSIP. And I can’t WAIT to get out of here!”

Don’t Get Tired

[A timely winter repeat from December 15, 2013]

My friend Al reminded me that in cold weather, it’s a good idea to check car tires since the cold will contract air pressure and tires can flatten out.  So, wisely I did.  And sure enough – my front two tires were low. Really low.  It was night.  Freezing cold.  So I drove to a gas station where they have one of those air pumps where you have to pop in 75 cents. I unscrewed the valve caps, had my air gauge at the ready and dropped 3 quarters. The machine kicked in and I applied the hose to the tire valve. Nothing happened.  The hose and valve were frozen.

Now this is not an issue that I’ve dealt with before so I went into the gas station where a lone clerk sat behind a thick glass partition. I explained the problem. “Valve’s frozen,” he said.  Hoookayyy. . .  “Stick the hose up your exhaust for a few minutes while the motor’s running and . . . . [he grabbed a lighter from the shelf and passed it under the window] warm your tire valves.”  “Bring back the lighter,”  he added. 

I went out and slid the hose a couple feet up the exhaust.  And let it sit for a few minutes.  And warm.  Then I fired the lighter and warmed the tire valves.  After a couple minutes, I took a breath, dropped in another 75 cents and applied the hose to the tire valve.  “PFFFFTT.”  It worked like a charm.  Whew!  The tire inflated and I brought the lighter back.  I thanked the clerk (offered him a tip – he declined).  “I used to drive a semi” he said.  “Used to happen all the time.  It’s one of those little tricks you learn.” 

Now you all know the trick.  🙂   

Retirement

It began when I was four years old – selling water in front of my house on Division Street. The water came from an old garden hose and was delivered in one of four small plastic cups (red, blue, green, yellow). The price for a glass of water was one penny though on one sunny day, a man gave me a nickel. I usually made 10 to 15 cents a day. Big bucks, then. After a long day, I would carry the orange crate back to the house, toss the cups in the sink and count my money. The good news is that I paid no withholding tax on these profits (the statute of limitations for going after me expired in 1955).

Selling water led to peddling Kool Aid on the golf course. Then having my own business cutting lawns for two bucks a pop — “Scott’s Lawn Service” (I still have a few pencils left to prove it). There was work on Saturdays at the family business. As a Boy Scout, I worked at Camp Napowan for four amazing summers. Then college. Law School. Five pretty intense years as an Assistant States Attorney. Eight years off to work the family business – then back into the legal fray.

Thursday, December 31st, will be my last day of “work.” Retirement will come easy – given that since March, our offices have been closed and my work has diminished. And I’m ready. My career will end like the words of T.S. Eliot – “not with a bang but a whimper.”

Christmas 2020

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given . . . . and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.   Isaiah 9:6

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem (because he was of the house and lineage of David). To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.   Luke 2:4-7

Here we are again! Christmas 2020.  Mercy – the days are often long but the years go fast. . . .

Our best wishes to all of you for a Happy and Blessed Christmas, New Year and Holiday Season!!

Further Reviews. . . .

The Kirkus Review in the prior post was a bit disappointing. I have to wonder if the reviewer finished reading Renaissance Hombre given some of the comments. It was curious to read that I have “no interest in fully exploring or questioning why these inequities [poverty, hunger] exist.  [Petersen] simply notes how lucky he is.” From my perspective – there is page after page of challenge, inspiration and hope:

The traces we leave behind . . .  may not mean much to us.  But they could mean everything to someone else.” 

Today is the first day of the rest of your life.  What are you going to do with what’s left of it.” 

Gratitude. . . . . Inspiration to give.  Reasons to be grateful.” 

Who are the saints in your life?” 

Are we doing enough?  . . .  Could we do more to make the world a better place?   If every person – spurred by that simple query – did one extra act of kindness, charity or contribution each day, imagine how much better the world might be.” 

And on and on and on. . . . I much prefer to defer to the earlier critiques of Renaissance Hombre that are mentioned on the book cover:

This book is a treasure chest. Each entry is a golden nugget. Give this book to everyone you know.”
~ Marilyn Crow, literacy teacher

These stories will make you laugh and cry, and wonder where those simple times went, and question what is happening now. Read and enjoy.” ~ Carol M. Santora, photographer and philanthropist

Enjoy these entertaining slices of life, both humorous and serious. What stories might you leave behind?” ~ Sandy Haggart, founder, Feed the Dream

Renaissance Hombre – the Kirkus Review

Renaissance Hombre was just reviewed by Kirkus Reviews – an independent book reviewer based in Texas. Below is the entire review which was released on December 14, 2020 (with permission of Kirkus Reviews). It could’ve been better. But it coulda been worse.

TITLE INFORMATION: RENAISSANCE HOMBRE
Reflections on a Well-Rounded Life
by Scott W. Petersen
AuthorHouse (236 pp.)
$26.99 hardcover, $13.99 paperback
ISBN: 978-1-72837-234-1
September 18, 2020
BOOK REVIEW
A volume of blog posts offers personal anecdotes and addresses serious issues.

Petersen has been running a blog and posting twice a week since 2011. This book is a compilation of his posts over the years. Divided into 17 parts that move thematically rather than chronologically, the collection ranges from humorous childhood memories to book recommendations and is peppered with tidbits of trivia and historical facts. The posts cover both amusing and weighty topics. The author is at his best in the opening pages; the humor is delightful, focusing less on one-line jokes and more on the hilarity of various situations. It’s genuinely funny to learn that Petersen accidentally misdialed a pal’s number when he was a child and then promptly encouraged his friends to make prank phone calls. The author later rhapsodizes about the importance of comedy: “I like jokes. Humor. Comedy. The Three Stooges (are you kidding, Petersen?). The Honeymooners. Seinfeld. I like to laugh. A favorite funny movie? Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Or maybe it’s Airplane! Or Young Frankenstein. Or The Pink Panther. Humor is a great medicine. One of the best.” Petersen also displays sincerity in this well-meaning assemblage. He frequently speaks of tolerance, logic, and rationality when facing the thorny problems of the 21st century. But even when he includes brief quotes or vivid historical moments plucked from his research, his posts, often due to their short length, lack substance, especially for a diverse readership. While he asserts that some of the things he finds “downright icky” include “prejudice” and “intolerance,” he presents a world where, largely, he is not part of the problem. He clearly acknowledges inequality: “Even now there are those who are born into a life of abysmal poverty, suffocating hunger and crippling disease. Raised in countries ravaged by violence, hatred and injustice.” But he shows no interest in fully exploring or questioning why these inequities exist. He simply notes how lucky he is. An amusing but uneven collection.
Kirkus Indie, Kirkus Media LLC, 2600 Via Fortuna Suite 130 Austin, TX 78746

The Berry Washer

Mark Twain once said that the two most important days in your life are the day you are born. . . . and the day you understand why. . . . . Pretty profound. I have just discovered why I am here. I am the berry washer. . . .

Over the years, Donna will sometimes buy raspberries that sit in the refrigerator for weeks. They turn moldy and then we toss them. I’m a blueberry guy myself so raspberries don’t really attract my attention. But often I will wash all the fruit – stick it back in the fridge – and it’s eaten.

This morning, Donna asked if I would wash a container of raspberries. I said “sure” and went to work. And then it happened. . . . . Donna volunteered “you’re much better at washing raspberries than I am.” I blinked. And then it hit me. The wisdom of the ages sparkled in my brain. And in keeping with the admonition of Mark Twain, it dawned on me why I am “here.” I am the berry washer. And here I thought I was just here to make coffee and clean the coffee pot. To kill spiders. Put bowls on the top shelf. Take out the garbage. And carry bags of mulch to the back yard. It is comforting to know that I have a real purpose in life. . . . .