Dad’s Website is A Gift of Immeasurable Value
It’s at the top of my list of things that I really love …Follow @vsatech
Many years ago my Dad began writing. He started out writing about his experiences during the Korean War in a memoir called “My Korea“. I think it was a way to share the subject matter with his kids. I believed for a long time that he never spoke about this time because it was so awful and traumatic, and he just couldn’t bear to think about it. More recently I learned that I was completely wrong…although personally, I still kind of think I’m a little bit right.
My Dad contends now, at the advanced age of 89 years, that it wasn’t a particularly scary or traumatic time for him. Rather, to hear him tell it now, it was a life changing experience that, while not enjoyed exactly, was regarded respectfully for what it gave him in terms of growth and knowledge. In one conversation he even said that living in a fox hole for a year and a half was the ultimate camping experience! But I suggest that perhaps the phenomenon of time, which moderates everything, has worked its magic here to lessen, or temper those traumas.
If my chronology is accurate then following the completion of his Korean memoirs, my Dad began to branch out with his writing. He tried his hand at fiction, he translated some favorite old German children’s books that he wanted to share with his kids and grand-kids, and he began to reflect on other interesting events he’d experienced during his long and unique life.
He also wrote one other much longer memoir about the sad demise of the corporation where he’d spent most of his adult career working. That too was a hard memoir I think, because he’d really grown to love the company. His achievements there were certainly far beyond his expectations and this was probably one of the most devastating events in his life. It’s hard for people to understand that this company was so much more than a typical corporation. It was a part of our family, a big part of our social network, and even a significant part of the small Midwestern city where we grew up. So the company’s demise closed one very long chapter for many, many families.
In hindsight, it seemed to many people that the downward spiral may have been avoided. Yet, my Dad’s memoir, which I believe is a profoundly brilliant analysis, reveals that probably things couldn’t have been much different and more importantly, no one was to blame. He recently published that memoir on his site too. Initially he didn’t publish this to his site…for a very long time actually, because there were too many people who were impacted so badly, and so many who were really hurt in the process.
But once again time has tempered the pain of that event, and many who lived that story are no longer with us. I’m not sharing that link because it’s a long, oftentimes technical treatise on the insurance industry, which I doubt has wide appeal for a larger audience beyond those in the industry or those directly connected to the story. But it’s easily found at his site and it’s called “The Wausau Story”.
Dad’s Early (and Unexpected) Retirement Opened Up Many New Opportunities For Him
In retrospect, Dad’s early retirement was a blessing in disguise. He suddenly had a lot more time on his hands than he’d ever anticipated he would have at that point in his life. He welcomed this new-found freedom and he branched out and grew in so many ways. He mastered sailing, he built a beautiful wooden canoe, he painted, he began building model ships, he became a magician, he began to teach himself to fly via his computer, he began as a volunteer via AARP assisting people with income tax questions, he began to chronicle our family history…and he began to write. Those early writings he self-bound and distributed himself. He began researching avenues for better publication options and then the World Wide Web was born.
As the world’s base of computer users grew exponentially Dad realized web publishing wasn’t just a viable, but the perfect platform of communication for his purpose. He found Weebly and he learned how to create his own website for free, with no prior coding or technical background. I so admire his moxie in doing this because when he took this on, user friendly options simply weren’t yet available…to say that it was a challenging endeavor is a gross understatement!
Essentially, Dad created a Blog long before the word ‘Blog’ even existed! This was truly a labor of love and one he continues to this day. His writing now attracts readers from all around the world, and it gives him the positive reinforcement he needs to continue perfecting his craft. His example was the inspirational seed for other family members to explore web solutions as a means for sharing their interests too. Certainly my own website’s creation grew from that seed as well.
Putting the inspirational potential aside for a moment, I’ve grown to realize now, through reading Dad’s essays in a really concentrated manner as I write this, that his website is extraordinarily unique. He’s had many years to perfect his craft, as well as really reflect upon some of the more important moments he’s experienced. Through both his diligence and his good fortune in having had these years, it’s truly been a gift to him, as well as to all of us. He’s gained so many intangible benefits that I doubt he ever could have anticipated and he’s preserved a snapshot in time for his family, our family’s future generations, and future generations all around the world to learn and grow from.
Here Are Just A Few More
Reasons Why I Love Dad’s Website
I love reading about my Dad’s insights into life in general, as well as reading about his own life’s events, because I learn about him in the process. I learn about how he thinks and how his generation perceives things…as well as how different the world was for his generation than it is for my own. How our world has changed so radically in such a short span of time, which is both fascinating and astonishing to me. Hearing things explained through my Dad’s voice, for some reason, makes it more real for me in a way that reading about it elsewhere just doesn’t.
Below on left is Dad with his new baby boy & on right he’s in New Orleans on one of our best vacations ever
Until Quite Recently It’s Possible, In Fact Very Likely, That Dad
Didn’t Know How Much I Both Admired and Valued His Work
Back when my Dad first began writing, I often felt bad when he would excitedly share new content with me, because I didn’t usually have the time to read and really appreciate much of what he wrote. He was prolific to be sure, and I was a young busy Mom who was just trying to meet the demands of creating a welcoming home environment and a well grounded foundation for my young growing family. These demands seemed daunting to me at the time. I’d read my Dad’s essays quickly, in only a semi-focused frame of mind…or with longer pieces, I’d just skim them and then put them aside for a later time which seldom arrived.
So I feel really lucky to have that time finally arrive, and luckier still to be able to share this with him while he’s still so actively engaged in his writing. As I mentioned earlier, his example led to my decision to create my own website. Even though content-wise, our websites couldn’t be more different, they both emanate from similar roots.
It’s clear we’re both still amateurs and neither site is professionally polished in either a graphical design sense or a technical sense. But I think you’ll agree, upon reading a few of my favorites below, that Dad’s website will withstand the test of time and it will inevitably become one small legacy long after he departs this world…which is a pretty cool concept!
Group 1 | Links To My Personal Favorites
OK, I know that the above title is a bit of a misnomer. This whole article is supposed to be about my personal favorites right? And if, as we all learned in childhood, that 2 positives actually make a negative (although I forget the exact reasoning behind why) then does that mean this group really encompasses my least favorites? Well, no…this first group of links includes stories and essays that I like for one very specific reason. That reason is that I’m mentioned in each one!
Not by name, but I think you’ll be able to figure out where I actually make my appearance regardless. I grew up in a relatively large family by today’s American standards. We had four kids in my family. Sadly, I sometimes felt I was the neglected middle child, (maybe I was a bit melodramatic too?) Granted with 4 kids there were really 2 middles…but my cohort was unique in that he was the only ‘he’! So, maybe I’m just a little prouder because I am mentioned more often than any of my other siblings. Maybe that’s even one reason I was able to completely shed my adult psyche of that neglected middle child complex!
Of course, I could be wrong about the numbers, but then one of my siblings would actually need to read everything my Dad’s published to date to prove me wrong. So guys, just in case you’re considering this…let me warn you…you’ll be reading a very long time! A little bit of the old sibling rivalry just never seems to go away!
- A Matter of Miracles This story, about a family trip we originally planned to take with my Dad, is perhaps one of my all time favorites. The plan was to revisit some of the places he’d lived and played during his early childhood. But our plan went awry when he experienced a recurrence of the lymphoma he’d been battling for about 5 years. It came back with a vengeance, necessitating an immediate course of chemotherapy, which took a huge toll on every aspect of his being.
His retelling of the event focuses on just one tiny occurrence, but one which clearly was miraculous for him. In reality, miracles were abundant for the few days we retraced his life. Beginning even with the fact that the homes and buildings on his street, a street which had been renamed and rerouted multiple times and in multiple languages, were some of the only ones left standing following WWI & II. Armed with just an old photo of my great, great grandfather standing in a doorway and a photocopy of an almost indecipherable & unintelligible old map, we found not just his former street, but the actual home where he lived!
We’d reached the point of just about giving up the whole notion of finding his home, and were so thrilled that Dad finally woke up and ‘answered’ his iPad, when we took our river walk with him. There were so many more details than he recounts.
Reinvigorated from that small success, we made one last attempt to find his home. One very likely home’s current occupants became wary and approached us with questions. Armed with a translator we explained our mission, and ultimately were invited inside. More iPad calls and streaming videos ensued, and as daylight faded, we obtained the conclusive evidence that we’d succeeded. An old deed, signed by my grandfather! There had been only one homeowner since my great great grandparents!
Once the family understood we weren’t there to ‘claim title’ to their home…which apparently was a real threat experienced by others living in this tiny preserved area…they welcomed us in wholeheartedly. We shared stories, asked and answered so many questions, and covered so much ground in our remaining time. We were invited to visit all of the floors they both lived in and operated a small family business from, and enjoyed their backyard gardens, which were the least changed from everything Dad remembered.
One of the high points for me was when they asked us about a another incident they remembered from many years ago, when 2 men, one middle-aged and one twenty-something spent an inordinate amount of time wandering the area and taking photos of their home and others close by. I knew immediately that it was my Dad and my brother! They’d made this same journey about 35 years earlier, but weren’t able to conclusively ascertain the exact house!
- My Poor Pronunciation I like this essay because it describes something I never knew about my Dad…and I was actually pretty surprised to discover! But I also like it because I’m mentioned in it :-)
- A Trick Revealed When I was a child my Dad taught me a simple card trick that I used to impress my friends and family with. It’s a simple trick and I still can do it…in fact I taught it to my kids too. I never cease to be amazed that people are impressed with it and don’t figure it out afterwards…because it’s so easy! This article is a much improved explanation of that trick…improved because he applied the knowledge and insights he gained as he learned to perform magic! Improved also, because his example is a much more complicated computer version of the trick which, through some pretty simple coding skills, could easily be replicated and even improved upon.
- Oops While Dad was learning to sail in his very first small sailboat his enthusiasm for the sport was infectious. He invited me to join him one fine fall day during my visit back to our hometown. I’d never sailed before and didn’t know the first thing about it.
It turned out we weren’t just going for a relaxing sail…we were racing! The fine weather changed and the whole experience was horrendous. Everything from Dad barking orders at me (a personality trait I’d never seen in him before) when I didn’t even know how to sail, or could comprehend what he was asking of me, to the finale.
I was trapped under a boat, all caught up in the lines, in the pitch dark. I’d lost my contacts and I was so disoriented that, even though I’m a good swimmer I was really scared! The whole event went on for much longer than his story might lead you to believe. Once we were rescued, the boat still needed to be retrieved. That too, took many hours and many experts. We were soaking wet in freezing temperatures, huddled in someones sailing shack until long after dark, trying to just stop shivering as everyone offered their advice on how to right the boat and get it back to shore. My Dad was thoroughly confused about how it was even possible to ‘turtle’ a boat that supposedly was ‘turtle-proof’. And I never really had any interest in learning to sail following my first outing with my Dad!
- Home Protection This little story about a constant house guest at my parent’s home in Florida includes my photograph.
There are a few more instances, but I decided it was already a pretty far stretch to include even the last one just because I took the photograph! So, if you’re really interested…’My Favorite Books’ he wrote for me one Christmas as I was searching for interesting books for my boys. The others that I thought were “too much of a stretch” were because I was the original impetus for his writing the piece in the first place…at least I think I was…thus the ‘stretch’ comment.
Group 2 | Links to Really Cool Tricks
or Techniques That You Can Use
- The Magic Pen When my Dad decided to become a magician, we were all surprised and amused! Nothing in his life preceding this choice could have helped us predict this would become a passion for him. He was always a quiet and introverted kind of guy. His parenting style was typical for that time period, whereby most father’s interacted with their youngsters on a much less frequent basis than the very involved American Dad’s of do today. What led him down this path is unclear, but I imagine it was a bridge of sorts, to open communication channels with his grand kids…creating an entree for him into a world he didn’t yet believe he had access to…which is pretty creative if I’m right. The Magic Pen describes, in a step by step fashion, how to perform one relatively simple and yet quite engaging magic trick.
- Canceling Nines I’m a self-proclaimed numerical dyslexic. Actually, I don’t even know if such a thing really exists…but if it does, I’m a prime example. Yet, I’ve always been interested in things that require math skills. I worked my way through high school and college as a Bank Teller and then proceeded to get my Masters in Business despite the fact that I could barely muddle my way through an algebraic problem, much less a calculus one.I volunteered my services as the head Treasurer or Bookkeeper for at least 4 to 5 different parent, community, or philanthropic organizations during my child rearing years. So it seems ironic looking back now because it’s obvious that both then and even now, I couldn’t add up a long column of numbers accurately if my life depended on it. I could go on amazing you with stories and examples of my ineptitude with numbers, but it’s getting late and I doubt anyone’s interested. Suffice to say, this essay explaining the concept of how to use the ‘Canceling Nines‘ method to double check for a mathematical error is a really useful one, and I only wish I’d discovered it much sooner! It’s a method Accountants use to double check their math when there’s no one else around to double check it for them.
This is one of my all-time favorite photographs of Dad, sitting at the desk his great-grandfather made, with one of my favorite oil paintings on the wall. All us kids loved the house Mom and Dad built so much that they made an ‘almost’ exact replica of it, for us to play with (we still have it too!)
Group 3 | Links to a few of my favorite short stories Dad’s written
This group warrants a little more introduction. My Dad’s first attempts at creative writing were compiled into a collection of short stories that ended up forming the nucleus of his first completely fictional book. This was bound and distributed to a select group of friends and family members who seemed either to love it or dislike it with equal amounts of passion. I was part of the first group. My eldest sister, who considers her opinion to be far superior to those of her younger, less experienced siblings in this type of subject matter, felt the writing was not his best.
I guess, maybe in some ways she was right, but this was his first effort. My take on it was that it was a really impressive first effort! I love the concept. The plot for each short story centers around a retired military man’s life as he navigates the civilian world and charts a new course for himself. In each story he becomes entangled in some difficult situation that he has to figure out a solution for. Oftentimes his solutions end up aiding someone less able than himself in some life altering way, usually with an interesting little twist or two along the way. Yes, they could be construed as the work of one who’s new to writing fiction, especially the earliest ones, but they’re entertaining and fun too. I’ve included a link to the first in the series entitled ‘How Papa Logan Got His Name’.
I shared my copy with several friends, and everyone I asked also liked the stories a lot. I include this preface because his more recent fiction is so completely different from that first effort. I was really surprised to find that Dad has this macabre sense of humor…which I just don’t love as much as the stories in his first book. Maybe that’s because I’m a girl or maybe it’s because I’m a die hard optimist…I’m not quite sure.
The links that I’ve included here are to a few of my favorites. These tend to be the more lighthearted and less dark of the bunch!
- How Papa Logan Got His Name
- A Suit for Malpractice
- The Klein Family Coat of Arms
- A Matter of Rudeness
- Semper Fi
Dad wrote a new story recently that I really love, so I’m adding it here. He’s always been extremely interested in flying and mastering the art of piloting his own planes, which is the subject matter for Victoria to Vancouver. Of course the fact that this story is essentially named after me too hasn’t escaped my notice!
Group 4 | Links to Dad’s Musings and
Theory’s About Our World
My Dad is interested in a vast array of topics ranging from nature and art to science and theology…and everything else in between! I’m including a few links here to some of my favorite essays in which he either looks at things in a new way or analyzes our world with a fresh approach.
- The Beauty of Mathematics This is just plain cool!
A Palindrome You may remember a more recent version of this brilliant palindrome that went viral as a video about a year and a half ago. I like this version because you can read it and think about it slowly and really appreciate the beauty of it.
- Ciphers A fascinating look at some unsolved mysteries which continue to baffle even the world’s best cryptologists
- Non-Insurance My Dad’s under-appreciated concept to revolutionize the insurance industry
- Time and Eternity and Schroedinger’s Cat Somehow I failed to learn a little bit about quantum physics and Schroedinger’s famous cat in college, so I was thrilled to find my Dad’s piece which is short, simple and easy to follow (well, as easy as anything quantum physics related might be!)
A Few Paintings and Sketches from Dad’s Gallery
Group 5 | Links to a few essays about encounters
or experiences Dad’s had which are either unusual,
insightful, or just downright interesting
- The Wee Lassie This is the story of how my Dad built a beautiful lightweight all wood canoe.
- Muskrat Wisdom Dad gives us a quick glimpse into his life during his early days of retirement with this fun little incident he got to experience.
- An Incident At Parris Island I love this brief look at one day during my Dad’s boot camp training for 2 reasons. The first is because it’s one of the few very early stories I’ve heard my Dad tell of his boot camp training for the Marines, and how he may have felt during the experience. Even though this occurred almost 75 years ago, I suspect it’s an accurate reflection of how most new recruits must feel early on in their training even today. The second reason I love it is because it offers a great idea for personal defense…one that literally anyone can implement…if they can just remember it!
- Tootin My Own Horn My Dad is perhaps one of the most humble people I know. In this essay he talks about a few of the most interesting academic challenges he faced in his lifetime, and how he coped with them. It’s a really interesting story I think because of both the similarities it still shares with some avenues of education today, and also because it shows some aspects that are so different today.
- The Cabby and the Doctor This is a heartwarming short story about medical care and kindness which I defy anyone to read and not come away from feeling just a little bit happier.
- Tax Aid I’ve included this next story because like the previous one it too warms my heart…although it’s a bit of a role reversal because my Dad is the one who does a good deed. For many years my Dad has volunteered his time helping others complete their income tax forms. He loves it and sometimes gets just a little too involved in the telling of a recent experience. So I was really surprised when I read this just the other day for the first time. I think I’d probably avoided it thinking it would be some long involved story about income taxes which would only peripherally interest me. So what I found instead was a real surprise too!
- Inflation at its Worst My Dad retells a story his Grandparents shared with him about the worst inflation the world had ever seen. The stage was Germany immediately after WWI. The retributions Germany faced created an economic situation that led to roughly 3 years of inflation that has been recorded in the history books as the worst inflation the world has ever seen. The situations he describes are downright scary!
- Precise Precision relates a few interesting experiences as a Marine and how important precision can be.
Just one note about this…I emailed my Dad after reading this one again to tell him that he misspelled the word March twice…as Harch. After the 2nd time though I began to think it wasn’t actually a typo, and this is what he replied with:
It is indeed “HARCH”. In giving drill orders or cadence the enunciation of the English language gets really mangled. An order is usually given in two parts. The first describes what you want done and the second, called the “command of execution”, tells you when to do it. That second part has to be given very loudly and as short as possible in order to get all the troops to do the same thing at exactly the same time. So when a drill instructor wants to order the platoon to start moving he orders “Forward HARCH” The “Harch” is shouted by having the stomach muscles contract sharply and expel the air out of the lungs explosively. The “H” is easier to accomplish that than the “M” in “March”. Many times the first part of the order is also mangled to shorten it and to say it loudly. So “Forward” can become “Ford” and “To the Rear March” becomes “Reep” “HARCH”.The cadence is also created to accomplish precision; numbers can be completely changed. When I drilled troops my cadence of “One two three – left right left” became “AWN UP REEP – LLLEFT BYYE LEFT.”
Here’s an example. This shows how the Sgt. uses the command of execution. “Right Shoulder HARMS” for example and also illustrates the cadences used. What you’re hearing are sounds based on words – left and right and one and two, etc. Each drill instructor has his own cadence. In my day they varied much more. We had one DI at Paris Island who whistled his. He gave me a few links to YouTube videos as examples, the best of which is this one: Marine Corps Recruit Training Drill 2011
Well, I hope you like the selections I chose to share from Dad’s website. There are so many others I thought about including, but ultimately I decided to just stop with these gems and let others find them them on their own!