Class Valedictorian

Senior class Valedictorian. Not me! My brother has the distinction of earning that honor for his Class of 1964. Obviously one might believe he is the smart one in the family. I was no slouch, graduating 21st (give or take a few places) in my class of 104 (again, give or take a few).

As the younger brother, I believed it would be impossible to compete with my brother, so I did not apply myself to studying as ardently as he did. Yes, he was in the National Honor Society. No, I was not. Yes, he went on to the University of Wisconsin in Madison where he graduated with a degree in Psychology and a thesis of distinction in his major. I went to the university in La Crosse intending to be an optometrist and winding up with a degree in Mass Communications.

I started smoking when I was 14. I have since quit. He never did. I was also known to have alcohol on occasion…and sometimes a bit too much. I got suspended from high school for three days but that’s another story. I was active in school plays and loved playing baseball although we failed to win many games. My brother was a star for the basketball team. I tried to have fun more than win academic honors.

My brother got married before I graduated from high school in 1968. The four year difference in our ages made it challenging to remain close. When I got to high school after graduating from Catholic elementary school (Yes, I did graduate), my brother was already in college. Sure, I did get to see him for a few weeks during the summer but he was attending classes and I was on my own most of the time. Good thing I could get into bars before I was 18.

When I headed off to La Crosse, my brother was married with a young son. He got his Juris Doctorate degree and worked for a law firm near Milwaukee before moving to Eau Claire where he practiced until his retirement. He did well for himself.

Perhaps college is where my lack of applying myself led to trying to be all things to all people. I was active in the acting group that staged college plays. I was good at memorizing lines and putting emphasis on my character portrayals. I switched my major to mass communications with an emphasis on broadcasting. I helped launch WLSU, the National Public Radio affiliate of the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse. I drank a lot and did go to classes occasionally. I had to take 17 credits my last semester to graduate in four years.

I earned a Bachelor of Science degree with a grade point average somewhere above 2.00. I eked out graduating. I did learn a lot about people and my chosen career of mass communications. Photography became a passion. I did radio and television production and learned darkroom procedures (which are, by and large, obsolete now). The college years were exciting and at times tumultuous with fraternity life (my brother was not a joiner) and working in radio. And, of course, spending a few weekends inebriated.

What’s the point of this diatribe? Do you consider my brother more successful than me, or that he turned out better?

Here’s more to the story: Tom and his first wife had three sons before they divorced. He since re-married and travels often in retirement. He has done well financially, or so I assume. He has three grandchildren.

I am married with three children, two of whom are married. I was a staff officer for the United States Jaycees and have met with numerous celebrities, including a private meeting with President Ronald Reagan in the Oval Office. Anyone other than that is a bit less significant in my book. I was editor of Future magazine and became a chamber of commerce executive before finding my niche as a public relations, marketing, and advertising consultant. I have owned three companies and am a published author. Six grandchildren grace my existence!

The point: Even though our lives went in different directions, my brother and I both turned out to be successful offspring of Depression-era parents. We both turned out okay in my humble and somewhat biased opinion.

Independence & Dependency

In the United States of America, we celebrate our independence from Great Britain on July 4th and refer to it as Independence Day. Yet we celebrate our independence and freedom every day, whether we realize it or not. Independence is dependent upon continuous exercising of our freedom and our individual civil liberties.

We must not become dependent on our federal, state, or local government. The task of legislators is to represent the people and our interest in safety, law and order…not to dictate how we live our lives. If we want to protest, let’s resist government interference in our lives and fight to uphold the Constitution of the United States.

We are a nation of immigrants, people from virtually every country on this planet who came to America seeking freedom and the right to escape oppression. We resisted the British to gain our independence. We have obtained — and maintain — the right of freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom to keep and bear arms, and many other freedoms. Freedom being the operative word.

You have the ability to speak without being censored. You have the right to move freely about this great nation. You can make your own choices…and live with the consequences without fear of retaliation. Think for yourself! Be free!

America, as imperfect as it is, is still the beacon of freedom and independence that beckons the world to our shores. That light must continue to burn brightly which brings me to this point: If you have a problem with some aspect of being an American– whatever your race, creed, or gender–work to solve the problem or leave.

There are other nations that would love to have your American dollars in their country. Keep in mind you may not have the same liberties you currently enjoy when you leave.

Christmas 2020

As Christmas 2020 lies but two days ahead on the calendar, the global celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ inspires a time for reflection.

Of course, reflecting on the amazing influence the birth of a child can have on humanity is worth a mention. Think of someone who was born in less than sterile conditions, never drove a car or watched a television program yet is adored around the world. He healed the sick. Raised the dead. Showed us how to live and died for our sins.

Today there are thousands of churches where believers come to share their faith in Jesus Christ and, yes, share their wealth to have that religious freedom, especially in the United States.

And Christmas, which falls at the end of the last month of the year, is an opportunity to look back…and forward. Christmas 2020 sees the world still battling the Corona virus but excited about the potential of vaccines now becoming available. People have had their lives changed. Many have lost their jobs…and in some cases, their identities. Depression, drug use, and alcohol abuse are rampant. We have struggled, yet persevered.

That is the message of Christmas 2020: Be strong and persevere. We can get through this and survive. Can you change what happened in the past year? Six months? Week?

No.

Can you alter what lies ahead?

No.

What you have is today. Now. Tell people you love them. Enjoy life. Appreciate what you have. Know that faith in God gives meaning…and purpose to life. Serve others. Be kind. You are what you are. Embrace it.

Life in a Drawer

(Originally written in 2017)

My life can be analyzed, summarized, and described from the contents of my drawer in the bathroom.

The blood glucose meter has a spotty record of my blood sugar readings.  It lets you know I’m a diabetic who doesn’t do a very good job of monitoring his blood sugars.  Hence a recent visit to the clinic discovered my diabetes is getting worse.  Doh! Three years later it is under control but still with me. Diabetes sucks and is the reason my father and my father-in-law left this world.

December 2020

The Gillette razor tells the story of a man who prefers not to shave if he doesn’t have to and doesn’t change the blade often enough when he does.  It also lets you know I now prefer a straight razor to an electric razor/shaver. Three years later, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and the quarantine, I have grown a full beard and mustache. It is indicative of my preference to avoid shaving but I have expressed a willingness to shave if…and when…I harvest a deer.

The tubes of sunscreen identifies a man who has been advised by a dermatologist to apply the lotion before going outside to avoid another incidence of skin cancer.  I had a basal cell carcinoma removed from my high right cheek in early November of 2011. Three years later, I use sunscreen when officiating soccer matches but otherwise eschew the toner. I remain cancer free but am cautious about too much solar exposure.

The tube of Pepsodent toothpaste is still there in 2020, although it has been replaced a few times in three years. I keep referring to three years since I started on this writing expose in 2017 and it is now near the end of 2020. That brand has been around since my youth and I still remember the slogan: “You will wonder where the yellow went when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent.” It is also economical to purchase but difficult to find in grocery stores.

The nail clippers are useful in keeping my calcium deprived fingernails and toenails trimmed. They are essential to proper grooming, hence I keep both fingernail and toenail clippers in the drawer.

The pen is there for some unknown reason. As a writer, I like to have pens available in the event some thought inspires me and I need to write it down before I forget it. Only problem is I rarely keep any paper near where the pen is. It could be removed to make room for something else, like a pencil.

The medicine bottles are no longer in the drawer three years later. Oh, there is a bottle of ibuprofen on the bathroom counter, but I seldom take any of those pain relievers. My supplements are on my computer desk now. My regular medication is in one of those pill boxes that help you remember what you need to take each day of the week. And now the pill box helps me recall what day of the week it is. Surplus bottles are on a shelf under my drawer…so, close at hand.

The hairbrush resides in the drawer to be used after a shower when I brush my thinning hair back to dry it more quickly. When I have used some of the other items in my drawer, the brush is used to create the look that defines me. I was blessed with two natural parts for my hair, so I can brush my hair either left or right and either one appears natural. The preference is to brush from right to left…but I had to think about that for a second. Funny how what is natural, and commonplace requires thought to define.

There are now other grooming aids in the drawer that I seldom use, like hair pomade and beard balm, but they have a place in my life when I so choose. The fact I can describe what lies in my drawer is indicative of my need to be organized. If I need to use a nail clipper, for instance, I know where to look and if it is not in my drawer, it is in my traveling toiletries case on the shelf in the cabinet under that all important drawer.

That is my life…in a drawer.

Copyright 2017-2020. Terry C. Misfeldt

Look Up! What Do You See?

Copyright 2020 – Terry C. Misfeldt

Look Up! What do you see?

Sometimes it is a clear blue sky

Fluffy white clouds floating by

Rainbows spreading colors

Beauty, peace, and tranquility

Trees holding up the heavens

Leaves and branches swaying in the wind

You see the invisible wind, too

Imagination taking you to deep space

Stars glittering the darkened night

Yellow moon slowly moving by

Birds. Birds. Birds. Cardinals, Wrens, Doves

Eagles soaring up above

Geese migrating in vee formation

Visions of life and goodness

Sunshine and rain provide God’s gifts

Faith in an almighty being.

Look Down. What do you see?

Dirt becoming mud in the rain

Reeking garbage at the curb

Fences. Fences. Fences. Chain Link, Privacy, Barbed

Grass and the need to mow…again

Pavement: Asphalt, concrete and steel machinery

Vehicles in traffic, congestion, noise, pollution

Undone chores, stress, problems, anxiety, mistakes

People hustling and bustling about

Houses, monstrous money pits

Filth, insects, ants, bees, mosquitoes…BUGS

Problems, nothing but irritations.

Moral of the story: Look Up!

Grandpa’s Report Card

Children attending school receive report cards to demonstrate the progress they make in the areas of their education. The cards serve to provide their parents with benchmarks on how their children perform and in which areas they may excel because of heightened interest.

Parents—and grandparents—however, are not graded on their performance as caretakers of their children and surrogate educators. Parents are the first teachers their children experience. A child’s grandparents do not have the responsibility for education that their parents do, and therefore earn passes for teaching…to a certain degree.

Grandpa's Quarantine Beard

Yet, I can’t help but wonder how I’m doing as a grandfather now that I have four and soon five grandchildren. I have the advantage of establishing my own criteria and grading myself accordingly over the last five-plus years of being a grandfather. Here’s my self-rated report card:

  1. Time spent with the grandchildren: C.
    1. The challenge has always been and will continue to be one of distance. My grandsons live with my daughter and son-in-law in Chicago which is at least a three-hour drive from home. My granddaughters live with my son and daughter-in-law near Milwaukee which is about a two-hour drive, depending on traffic. As a result, we generally see the grands on special occasions, when they venture north, or when we’re asked to watch them while their parents attend some event.
  2. Patience with their behavior: D.
    1. Both sets of parents have different philosophies on child discipline, both of which conflict with how my wife and I disciplined our children. Even though one grand exhibited “naughty” behavior, it is not for us to use that terminology with them. So, I have little patience with testing behavior in my belief children need discipline…and that, at times, requires corporal punishment such as spanking. Wrong in today’s parental culture, hence the D grade.
  3. Serving as a babysitter: B.
    1. I’m good at keeping an eye on my grandchildren when I’m in charge of their care. I let them have some rope but am close enough to prevent them from harming themselves. I’m better when they’ve been put to bed and are sleeping…for the most part. I can comfort a grand who has woken up crying and get them back to sleep easily. My magic touch and calming voice come in handy.
  4. Reading and teaching: A.
    1. My mother taught me to read and always emphasized characters and phrases. A skill I inherited to become an exceptional storyteller, or reader. I love it when one or more of my grandchildren sit on my lap and let me read a book to them. As they’ve gotten older, they like to read books by themselves, or at least look at the pictures. I still have opportunities to teach them when we visit museums or similar attractions.
  5. Playing and having fun: B.
    1. Opportunities to play with my grandchildren are fleeting, so I try to have fun and make games or other activities fun for them, too. One of the best times is when we get all four of them in a swimming pool and I can swim or dive and come up in front of or behind them. The youngest enjoys it when I ferry him around the pool in his water wings.
  6. Providing discipline or guidance: Incomplete
    1. I’ll refer this to #2 and leave it there since my children prefer that I keep my distance when it comes to discipline.
  7. Taking care of basic needs: A.
    1. Never had a problem with changing a dirty diaper, wiping a runny nose, or fixing a batch of macaroni and cheese or some hot dogs. And I’ve been able to tell when one of the grands has soiled a diaper. Some smells, to me, are easily recognized. I look forward to the day when diapers are only a memory.
  8. Sharing memories or life lessons: C.
    1. It’s easy to inject some history of our family, especially my parents, and the related life lesson when the opportunity presents itself. I just need to avoid usurping parental rights.
  9. Keeping them safe: B.
    1. As I get older, my reflexes are slowing down but I’m still as quick as ever when it comes to catching a grandkid seconds before a serious injury. One that stands out is saving my oldest granddaughter from running full speed into the downed tailgate of my pick-up. If something does happen and there are no serious injuries, I concentrate on letting the grands know they’re okay and that they’ll be fine…provided I’m confident of that.
  10. Admiration for their parents: A.
    1. Even though I may not show it or express it, I am proud of my children and their spouses and how well adjusted and smart their children have become. Kudos to them.

Greatest April Fool’s Prank

Although I’m not much of an idiot when it comes to attempting April Fool’s pranks that are lame or go unnoticed, I do believe the greatest April Fool’s prank I ever pulled off was on my father. When you read the story, you’ll understand why I don’t attempt many any more.

Here’s the background: My parents had two large shakers for salt and pepper that were always available for meals. They had a white ceramic base or storage compartment that would easily fill the palm of your hand. Yes, they were that large! The tops were metal and screwed onto the ceramic base. Getting a hint where this is going?

Dad, having grown up on a farm, loved eggs for breakfast every morning. He was a meat and potatoes kind of guy. When we lived in Tulsa and he came from Wisconsin to visit, we took him to a fancy restaurant for brunch. They served quiche and other delicacies on the buffet but Dad’s comment was: “Where’s the meat?”

Back to the story. Long before breakfast was served that April 1st morning, I slipped into the kitchen and surreptitiously loosened the cap on the pepper shaker. Then I resumed normal activities and played the innocent son as breakfast was served.

When my father grabbed the pepper shaker to season his eggs, my heart raced a bit but I tried to remain calm and not give away my secret. The lid came off and pepper doused Dad’s eggs in the black condiment to his visible astonishment. I recall his comment starting with something like, “What the?” but I had to bite my lip and remain as stunned as everyone else.

I didn’t have the nerve to exclaim: “April Fool’s!”

Dad likely went to his grave assuming it was a freak accident while I consider it my greatest April Fool’s prank…and don’t do those any more.

Day 7 of Self-Isolation

It’s Sunday, the 29th of March. Day seven of Corona (Chinese) virus self-isolation (quarantine). I have not been in a public place since last Sunday when I ventured out for some basic groceries. Fortunately my spouse and I had a decent stockpile of necessities before entering this period of insulation from other human beings.

We have communicated with our children and grandchildren via electronic channels, but this scary pandemic and self-isolation strip us of being able to hug family members or share a meal with them. Distance also separates us.

We have gone for walks, taking care to avoid close contact with other people. I have visited with my neighbor briefly in his driveway, keeping the requisite six feet of social distancing between us. We’ve had basic groceries delivered, thanks to our daughters.

So…here I am at day 7 of self-isolation. Closets have been cleaned out. Papers have been filed or recycled. All the laundry has been done, including outside clothng several times now. Trying to follow the guidelines. Washing hands according to the CDC. Drinking lots of spring water. Resting.

The bad part is there are no sports to watch on television. Odds are that high school spring sports programs are likely to be cancelled since school’s are closed indefinitely. That eliminates my soccer official’s contracts if it happens…and the accompanying compensation. In my mind, soccer is one of those sports that enables athletes to keep a distance from most of the other players on the pitch and the fans…most parents…able to socially distance themselves as well. But, with no school, there’s no athletics.

I am thankful for my faith, my ability to write, the family tree I’m trying to build online, and my therapy pet, Charley. He’s a rescue cat that I’ve trained fairly well. He enjoys chasing a toy mouse that I throw and he retrieves. He follows me to the basement to do laundry and comes back up when I call him…or when he gets out in the garage. Besides my wife, Charley’s a good companion.

So far we’ve avoided any viral infection. We’ll see what day 8 brings.

Stay well and practice safe distancing.

Corona Quarantine Activities

Most Americans are self-imposing themselves in a Corona quarantine, and I don’t mean drinking a lot of that beer brand. Here are three Corona quarantine activities to while away the time stuck in your place of residence.

  1. Read. Find the books you’ve been wanting to read, turn off the television, find a comfortable place, and read. Most libraries will still let you come in, browse the aisles and choose some reading material if you’ve read every book on your shelves. Check first to make sure your library is still open to the public. Ours are closed! Read magazines if nothing else strikes your fancy.
  2. Write. Sit down with some paper and a pen. Write a letter to a loved one, a lost relative, or a pen pal (remember what those were? I had one who lived in France and I had to have every letter translated). Work on the family memoirs or write the novel you’ve always wanted to write. Take a break every now and then to enjoy the weather and get some exercise, even if it’s just a walk around the block.
  3. Catch up. Clean out the basement or garage you’ve been meaning to de-clutter. Nap or get some extra sleep you’ve been denying yourself. Call a friend and see how they’re doing, especially if you haven’t talked to them in a few months…or years. Make use of this bonus time…and leave the television off. This too shall pass, but remember to wash your hands and get tested if you have any symptoms.

Solitude

There is no better way to experience solitude than in the forest, especially if it is in near wilderness. That’s one of the side benefits of deer hunting in Wisconsin. Solitude.

Enjoying the solitude of hunting.

Where I hunt is known specifically only to those who also hunt the property. That gives every hunter the solitude of their won “territory” where being able to harvest a deer can be done safely. High-powered deer rifles are designed to be deadly. Extreme caution is required to avoid accidents.

Being safe is critical to feeling a sense of solitude.

Sitting in a collapsible blind still requires a minimum of movement to avoid spooking deer that may come near during hunting hours. It also isolates the hunter from the elements and observation by other humans. Solitude.

Solitude is precious. It takes a being away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, the pressure of city living, and the stress of whatever curves life throws your way. Solitude gives you time to think, time to reflect, time to consider options. It is peaceful. It is quiet. It is energizing. It is refreshing.

The camaraderie of deer camp is special. Shared meals. Hunting stories. Work projects. Cards. Alcohol. Friendship. That’s rifle season; 9 days in late November in Wisconsin.

I also bow hunt and that gives me even more opportunities to enjoy the solitude of the forest…by myself. Whether I harvest an animal is less important than being able to rejuvenate my spirit and deepen my faith.

Solitude.