Unexpected Developments Again and Again

Left to right: Associates Sarah Gieseke and Billie Greenwood, who were volunteering not far from one another, met up at the inauguration of the new migrant assistance center in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico.

By Billie Greenwood

For the past several winters, I’ve attended a daily human rights class conducted in Spanish. Considering I first learned the alphabet in Spanish only when I was 50 years old, I didn’t ever expect to be learning human rights en español.

But, surprisingly, my new, broken Spanish became good enough to allow me to volunteer for the last 14 winters assisting migrants on the U.S.-Mexico border.

At the Mexican soup kitchen where I help, providing a hot meal wasn’t the only service. Migrants also learned a daily lesson on their 30 human rights.

Just as important, the migrants taught us daily, simply by being there. They showed us that human rights guaranteed aren’t necessarily rights received. Each could cite human rights they didn’t have.

So, their brave spirits impelled them to leave home and family. They sought to live where they’d find the rights I take for granted.

But, routinely, I saw my nation thwart their praiseworthy quest.

“Why?” Continue reading

The Mortgage Lifter

Home grown tomato season is on the wane in Nebraska for 2020.  My friend Terry regularly plants around 70 varieties each year and generously shares with me and others. Terry has ties to West Virginia, and still has a delightful “brogue”. Last week he gave me a tomato which was quite distinctive in appearance with pronounced “ribs”. It was uniformly red, not real big, but real delicious. I asked him about it today and right away he said “Mortgage Lifter”. What a great name! Poking around the internet I found the tomato originated in West Virginia. The stories that go with this tomato are almost as good as the tomato itself!

John Foulks (1928-2013)

When I was I kid I loved “big iron” (still do). Uncle TR was hauling cattle locally (from Dubuque County to Union Stockyards in Chicago). The usual routine was to load cattle in the late afternoon then drive to Chicago and unload, get a bite to eat and return to Farley.

At the time, John “Johnny B” Foulks drove for Harry Shady, a trucker from Cascade. TR and Johnny would cover each other to meet capacity and demand fluctuations.

One day I wanted to ride to Chicago with Johnny B. Must have been 1965 or ’66 thereabouts. John was pretty new to Farley at the time. Since he wasn’t “from here”, Mom did a background investigation through Aunt Alvina down at the bank. Alvina gave Johnny an A+ rating and I got to ride with Johnny to Chicago. Driving a white IH 4000 COE with red trim and an 8-track player. I got hooked on country music that trip. Johnny had the classic truck tapes. I mostly remember Red Sovine - Phantom 309. A Kiss and the Keys. Six Days on the Road. Looping over and over. I wrote an essay in high school about that trip.

RIP, Johnny. Keep the shiny side up!

The Catholic Church – A Long View

November 7, 2018 Hour 2, Kresta in the Afternoon. This segment featured an interview with Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse. Dr. Morse issues a compelling call to the Catholic laity. These points particularly caught my attention.

1.) Secrets are a debilitating in any family. We (lay members of the Catholic Church) are in the throes of family secrets right now and we will struggle until we are successful in eliminating those secrets.

2.) Many bishops and Catholic theologians are embarrassed by the Church’s teaching on marriage and family life. The senior administration is often dragging its feet, so it falls upon the married faithful to show by their own actions that the official teaching of the Catholic Church on marriage and family life is the right answer.

3.) What to say to people who are “leaving the Catholic Church because it is full of creeps all the way to the top” etc.?

Cut it out! You need to pick up the ball! You need to do whatever is necessary to put the Church in order for your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren….

We stand on the shoulders of those who came before. Look around you. Look at the bricks and mortar. The physical facilities constructed by our parents (and ancestors, going back to the beginning) reflect the faith of our ancestors. Those people literally bled to give us the Catholic infrastructure, churches that we have today. We have no right to turn our backs on it. We have no right to walk away from it. We have no right to leave the deposit of faith in worse shape than it was when we got it as children.

There is an intellectual side of the Catholic Faith as expertly administered by Pope Benedict XVI and many, many other career philosophers and theologians, professional and amateur. The people I interact with are, for the most part, not intellectuals. I’m not a teacher, a professor, a scholar. I live in the world. As a child, the devotional life of the Church is what surrounded me – popular public devotions – masses, rosaries, processions, feast days, fasting, litanies, retreats and the compendium of prayers. Not the intellectual side of the Faith. (Although now I am beginning to appreciate how important that side is.)

Al Kresta daily features interesting guests and offers discussion of current events with a Catholic perspective on Ave Maria Radio.

A Well-Stocked Bar

Searching for help in setting up a bar, I found this site. I’ve stripped out the pretty pictures (another topic deserving of study) for my (and your) ease of reference.

 Essential Distilled Spirits and Mixers to Stock in Your Bar

By Colleen Graham Updated 01/16/17

The liquor you choose to stock in your bar will depend on which cocktails you plan to serve. This list of essential spirits is a good place to begin as it includes the ingredients needed for the most popular cocktails.

Once you have a solid base, you can then build your stock based on other drinks you may want to make. Look through the *recipe collection for ideas and specific recipes you may want to experiment with. Use your personal judgment to decide if you are going to stock everything in these lists or only the essentials to fit your individual taste and budget.

Another topic unto itself — glassware and essential bar tools.

Essential Liquors to Stock in a Bar

You will want to keep the majority of these base liquors stocked in your bar all the time. Having at least one bottle of each will ensure that you can mix up almost any cocktail you want because these are the foundations for many cocktail recipes.

Keep in mind that one bottle of whiskey will not be sufficient for all cocktails that call for whiskey because each variety has their own distinct characteristics and using the wrong one will ruin an otherwise great cocktail.

* Gin * Tequila * Vodka * Dark or Spiced Rum * Light Rum * Bourbon * Brandy * Canadian Whiskey * Irish Whiskey * Rye Whiskey * Scotch

Essential Liqueurs and Cordials to Stock in a Bar

Liqueurs are often used in addition to the base spirits as flavoring agents that contain alcohol, though on occasion they are the only distilled spirits used (see liqueur only recipes). The great thing about liqueurs is that a bottle can last quite a long time so you can gradually add to your stock as you see fit.

The first list are the most common liqueurs that you should consider absolutely essential when stocking your bar.

* Amaretto * Coffee Liqueur (e.g. Kahlua) * Dry and Sweet Vermouth * Irish Cream (or other cream liqueur such as RumChata) * Maraschino Liqueur * Orange Liqueur (e.g. triple sec, Cointreau, Curacao)

A secondary list of essential liqueurs includes those below. Your drinking style is going to determine if these should be stocked in your bar as well.

* Benedictine * Chambord (or other raspberry liqueur) * Creme de Cacao (or another chocolate liqueur) * Creme de Menthe * Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur (or other ginger liqueur) * Drambuie * Frangelico * Galliano L’Autentico * St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur

Essential Cocktail Mixers to Stock in a Bar

Upgrade your soda as well for the best mixed drinks. If everything else in your drink is quality, shouldn’t your soda be? Mixers are the non-alcoholic liquids that add flavor and volume to cocktails. The majority of these will be in your kitchen anyway and are easily found anywhere.

Many mixers will keep in your bar for a long period of time but do remember to keep checking their freshness and pay attention to expiration dates.

It should also go without saying that ice is absolutely the most essential ingredient needed for cocktails. You will use ice in 98% of your drinks, either while mixing or in the glass itself. All ice is not created equal, however, and it is important for you to treat your ice with some respect and know the difference between the different forms of ice.


* Cranberry Juice * Grapefruit Juice * Lemon Juice * Lime Juice * Orange Juice * Pineapple Juice * Tomato Juice

Other Mixers:

* Bitters * Coffee * Grenadine * Half & Half * Milk * Simple Syrup * Sour Mix * Tabasco Sauce * Tea * Water (not just tap water, but distilled or filtered) * Worcestershire Sauce


* Club soda * Tonic * Cola and Diet Cola * Lemon-Lime Soda * Ginger Ale

There are many pre-bottled mixes that allow you add a base spirit to like Bloody Mary Mix and Pina Colada Mix that are available at any store that stocks liquor. These are alternatives to mixing your own cocktails from scratch and, while they are okay, they tend to leave something to be desired in the taste department.

Realistically, the “homemade” version of a Margarita, Bloody Mary, and Pina Colada are not that difficult to make and have a freshness the pre-mixed version cannot duplicate.

That said, I do not think that it’s a bad idea to mix up your own Bloody Mary mix from scratch and have that on hand if you drink them often or are hosting a brunch.

Essential Cocktail Garnishes to Stock in a Bar

Garnishes are that finishing touch that add visual appeal and a splash of flavor to the finished cocktail. Again, it depends on what you plan to make, but this will prepare you for the majority of cocktails.

Sugar and salt are necessary if you like the effect of rimmed glasses for drinks like the Margaritas.

Absolutely Essential:

* Lemons * Limes * Maraschino Cherries * Oranges

Nice to Have Around:

* Celery * Cinnamon * Cocktail Onions * Mint * Nutmeg * Olives * Salt * Sugar * Whipped Cream



Aha! Moments

How did I not know about this? A math whiz I’m not. But a math whiz wannabe? That’s me!

Michele and I recently saw the movie Gifted. Early on in the story the protagonist demonstrated some crazy math skill as a first-grader. Then she explained it was a something-something system.

Recently, talking with my math-whiz and handball-partner friend, Hal, the subject came up and I was motivated to go back and revisit this reference. I found the Trachtenberg System of Basic Mathematics. What a wonderful practical application of higher mathematics to a toolbox of handy widgets useful every day.

Turn, Turn, Turn

You’re all familiar with this song, written by Pete Seeger and of late (?) popularized by The Byrds. A recent program on our local Catholic radio station, KVSS, featured a discussion of the uniqueness of the Book of Ecclesiastes, i.e. “Ecclesiastes makes no claim to bring man a word from God. Instead the writer specifically states that he includes only what he can determine by his own reason and limits himself to data that is available ‘under the sun.’” See below.

Following up, I couldn’t find much, but I found this excellent essay, Is Life Really Worth Living, at Koinonia House. I encourage you to go there where you can have access to their ton of free material and hopefully grow in your faith! (Sorry about the footnotes. I may have to backfill later.)

Is Life Really Worth Living?

by Chuck Missler

We have in our possession a considered response to this basic question from one of the wisest, richest, most powerful men to have walked the earth. And yet even today his counsel is widely ignored or misunderstood!

“Vanity of vanities,” lamented Solomon, “all is vanity!” Solomon used the word “vanity” 38 times in Ecclesiastes as he wrote about life “under the sun.” The word means “emptiness,” “futility,” “vapor”; “that which vanishes quickly and leaves nothing behind.” From the human point of view, life (“under the sun”) does often appear futile; and it is easy for us to get pessimistic. But we should not mistake brutal honesty with pessimism.

Ecclesiastes is the kind of book a person would write near the end of life, reflecting on life’s experiences and the painful lessons learned. Solomon wrote Proverbs from the viewpoint of a wise teacher,1 and Song of Songs from the viewpoint of a royal lover,2 but when he wrote Ecclesiastes, he called himself “the Preacher.”3

The Hebrew title is Koheleth, and it is the title given to an official speaker who calls an assembly. The Greek word for “assembly” is εκκλησια, ekklesia, and thus the Septuagint version gives us the English title of the book, Ecclesiastes.

But the Preacher did more than call an assembly and give an oration. The word Koheleth carries with it the idea of debating, not so much with the listeners as with himself. He would present a topic, discuss it from many viewpoints, and then come to a practical conclusion.

Ecclesiastes is unlike any other Old Testament book and has no parallel in other literature of the Biblical world. It is a philosophical discourse, and yet it is more. Ecclesiastes makes no claim to bring man a word from God. Instead the writer specifically states that he includes only what he can determine by his own reason and limits himself to data that is available “under the sun.”

(The doctrine of inspiration, however, assures us that this book conveys the message that God intended that we should receive, but it does not guarantee that all of Solomon’s statements are accurate!)

Ecclesiastes is different from any other book of the Bible. It does not dwell on the covenant, the election of Israel, redemption, prophecy, sacred history, or the temple. Its focus is on man the creature, his life on earth, and the inscrutability of God and His ways. Ecclesiastes goes beyond the other wisdom literature to emphasize the fact that human life and human goals, as ends in themselves and apart from God, are futile and meaningless.

Relevance for Today

Among other things, Solomon saw injustice to the poor,4 crooked politics,5 incompetent leaders,6 guilty people allowed to commit more crimes,7 materialism,8 and a desire for “the good old days.” 9 It sounds relevant for us, too, doesn’t it? Solomon has put the key to Ecclesiastes right at the front door:

Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labor which he taketh under the sun? -Ecclesiastes 1:2-3

(Just in case we missed it, he also put the same key at the back door. 10) But don’t assume he is cynical or pessimistic: that would miss his real point! Whether he considers his wealth, his works, his wisdom, or his world, Solomon comes to a sad appraisal: all is “vanity and vexation of spirit.”11 However, this is not his final conclusion, nor is it the only message that he has for his readers. We will discover much more as we delve into the depth of the book.

In spite of his painful encounters with the world and its problems, Solomon does not recommend either pessimism or cynicism. Rather, he admonishes us to be realistic about life, accept God’s gifts and enjoy them.12 After all, God gives to us “richly all things to enjoy.”13 [Words related to joy (enjoy, rejoice, etc.) are used at least 17 times in Ecclesiastes.]

Solomon does not say, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you die!” Instead, he advises us to trust God and enjoy what we do have rather than complain about what we don’t have. Life is short and life is difficult, so make the most of it while you can.

Solomon initially opens with three bleak observations: nothing is really changed,14 nothing is really new,15 and nothing is understood.16 After experimenting and investigating “life under the sun,” he initially concluded, “No, life is not worth living!” And he gave four arguments to support his conclusion: the monotony of life, the vanity of wisdom, the futility of wealth, and the certainty of death.

But being a wise man, Solomon, in Chapters 3 to 10, reviewed his arguments and this time brought God into the picture. What a difference it made! By reexamining each of these impressions more carefully he realized that life was not monotonous but filled with challenging situations from God, each in its own time and each for its own purpose.

He also learned that wealth could be enjoyed and employed to the glory of God. Though man’s wisdom couldn’t explain everything, Solomon concluded that it was better to follow God’s wisdom than to practice man’s folly.

And as for the certainty of death, there is no way to escape it; it ought to motivate us to enjoy life now and make the most of the opportunities God gives us.

So he asks his listeners to look up,17 look within,18 look ahead,19 and look around,20 and to take into consideration time, eternity, death, and suffering: these four factors God uses to keep our lives from becoming monotonous and meaningless.

In his final conclusion and personal application, Solomon then presents four pictures of life and attaches to each picture a practical admonition for his readers to heed:

Life is an ADVENTURE-live by faith21
Life is a GIFT-enjoy it22
Life is a SCHOOL-learn your lessons23
Life is a STEWARDSHIP-fear God24

These four pictures parallel the four arguments that Solomon had wrestled with throughout the book: Life is not monotonous; rather, it is an adventure of faith that is anything but predictable or tedious. Yes, death is certain, but life is a gift from God and He wants us to enjoy it. Are there questions we can’t answer and problems we can’t solve? Don’t despair. God teaches us His truth as we advance in “the school of life,” and He will give us wisdom enough to make sensible decisions. Finally, as far as wealth is concerned, all of life is a stewardship from God; and one day He will call us to give an account. Therefore, “fear God, and keep His commandments.”25

Here we have practical advice about life from one of the wisest, richest, most powerful men to have ever lived. His insights about life, money, values, and ordering one’s personal priorities are priceless: this is a rewarding guidebook to the reader who looks behind the initial impressions to find the wisdom this remarkable man gleaned from his unique career.

This article was originally published in the
January 2003 Personal Update News Journal.

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1. Proverbs 1:1-6.
2. Song of Songs, 3:7-11.
3. Eccl 1:1, 2, 12; 7:27; 12:8-10.
4. Ecclesiastes 4:1-3.
5. Ecclesiastes 5:8.
6. Ecclesiastes 10:6-7.
7. Ecclesiastes 8:11.
8. Ecclesiastes 5:10.
9. Ecclesiastes 7:10.
10. Ecclesiastes 12:8.
11. Ecclesiastes 2:11.
12. Eccl 2:24; 3:12-15, 22
13. 5:18-20; 8:15; 9:7-10; 11:9-10.
14. 1 Timothy 6:17.
15. Ecclesiastes 1:4-7.
16. Ecclesiastes 1:8-11.
17. Ecclesiastes 1:12-18.
18. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.
19. Ecclesiastes 3:9-14.
20. Ecclesiastes 3:15-22.
21. Ecclesiastes 4:1-5:9.
22. Ecclesiastes 11:1-6.
23. Ecclesiastes 11:7-12:8.
24. Ecclesiastes 12:9-12.
25. Ecclesiastes 12:13-14.

Favorite Songs

Over the years these are some songs that have caught my eye, er, ear. Granted. some are kind of quirky. (I don’t own the rights to any of these songs)

The Israelites

This one goes back to WWII years but was resurrected in 1962.
I Remember You

One of my first favorite songs

Another one of my first favorites
(They Called The Wind) Mariah

I remember this was on the radio one summer when we visited our Cosgrove cousins. Down in the Boondocks

1969 — On the bus in Chicago during our Senior (high school) Class Trip
In The Ghetto and These Eyes

A couple more from my early “Country” phase (too numerous to mention)
Totally smitten by Stand By Your Man
Honorable Mention: Talk Back Trembling Lips

Kind of fun — Pitty Patter and Tippy Toeing

1971 on the road working in Manning on IA 141 Please Don’t Tell Me How The Story Ends and Rings

Finally (for now) Mostly asleep, waking up to the clock radio sometime in the ’80s.
Sail On

The Eclipse

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been intrigued with eclipses. Witnessing a total solar eclipse? Never gonna’ happen, I thought. Now, it appears that I may! This year, Monday, August 21, 2017, the shadow of the moon will race across the continental United States, bisecting my home state of Nebraska (sadly, totality will completely bypass my native state of Iowa).

From NASA:

You can be hundreds of miles from the theoretical point of Greatest Duration [Trail of Tears State Forest in Southern Illinois] and still enjoy totality lasting within a fraction of a second of the maximum possible (as long as you stay within several miles of the central line). It’s much more important to watch the weather forecasts a day or two before the eclipse and choose a location with the best chance of a cloud-free sky during the eclipse. Even in Oregon, the total eclipse still lasts 2 minutes. Good weather is the key to successful eclipse viewing – better to see a shorter eclipse from clear sky that a longer eclipse under clouds.

My daughter and I got to see Halley’s Comet the last time through (1984). I hope to see this eclipse with my 3 granddaughters. The next total solar eclipse visible in North America will be in 2024 and beyond.

This is no April Fool’s prank! May you all enjoy clear skies and happy viewing!