Singin’ them Olympic blues

My family celebrates the Summer Olympics and Winter Olympics every time they happen. Not only do we have the television broadcasts playing whenever we are home and they are on; we have other ways of marking the occasion as well. I have a large paper Olympic torch that I hang on the wall of the living room from the time the Olympic torch is lit during the opening ceremonies until it is extinguished during the closing ceremonies. The Olympic rings are my wallpaper on my home computer and on my work computer. Sometimes, during the Olympics, I set my alarm to wake me with the Olympic theme.

For some reason, this year I have not been watching many Olympic competitions. The television is on and most of the family is watching, but I find that I prefer to be at the other end of the house curled up with a book. The fact that Henry Kissinger’s memoirs are more interesting to me than gymnastics and races and volleyball surprises many people, including me.

I have noticed how odd the Olympic broadcasts sound from across the house. Hearing the voices of the announcers without being able to distinguish their words is peculiar—it’s nothing like hearing a movie or music or video game at the same distance.

I have tried not to analyze why I take no interest in this summer’s Olympics… but I’m not very successful at avoiding analysis of myself. I have found several possible explanations for this noninvolvement on my part.

  • I’ve seen the Olympics many times in my lifetime, and they don’t change much from one time to the next. My Olympic memories satisfy me; I don’t have to add new experiences to appreciate the Olympics.
  • It’s been a busy and stressful summer, and I have a lot on my mind. Already this month I have taken a test to become certified in my current occupation, and I am awaiting the results around the end of the month. At the same time, I’ve updated paperwork which could lead to changing careers, returning to full-time church work. There’s no telling when (or if) I might receive a response to that.
  • Every Olympiad, I find the broadcasters increasingly annoying. This reminds me of the fact that I used to love watching the parades on television Thanksgiving morning and New Year’s Day morning. The way the networks interrupt the parade broadcasts with inanity and commercialism ended my parade-viewing inclination. I think the NBC commentators may be doing the same thing to my Olympic-viewing inclination.
  • It’s rare that the Chicago Cubs are doing well this late into the summer. The last time they were playing meaningful games during the Summer Olympics was in 1984, so my sports loyalties are divided.
  • As a parent, I am increasingly sensitive about the time and energy young athletes must invest in their chosen competitions. It seems as if, in many cases, these athletes have lost their childhood to training and preparing for these performances. In many cases, they are also unprepared for a normal life after their days of competing have ended. I don’t sit and think about that topic all the time while the Olympics are happening, but I do feel sorry for these performers who have sacrificed much of their lives for our brief entertainment.
  • Other years I have become emotionally involved while watching these competitions. The last thing I need right now is for some Kassidy Cook to be added to my list of Olympic sweethearts, even if a short story or two could come out of the emotional investment.

Perhaps later this year I will regret not taking the time to watch the Olympics while they were happening. I doubt it. I’ve been through the room enough times, and have even sat down to watch an event or two, so it’s not as if I have been boycotting the Olympics from start to finish. Meanwhile, Henry Kissinger’s memoirs are keeping my interest. J.

A heavenly conversation

I wish I could take credit for writing this conversation. I must be honest, though, and confess that I found it at work this morning. The author is unknown; what I found was an email sent and printed in 2002. Aside from depicting the Creator as less than all-knowing, I think it is a very clever way of saying what I have been saying all along. J.

GOD: Francis, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there? What happened to the dandelions, violets, thistle, and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect, no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought, and multiply with abandon. The nectar from their long-lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees, and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colours by now. But all I see are these green rectangles.

ST. FRANCIS: It’s the tribes that settled there, Lord—the Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers “weeds” and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.

GOD: Grass? But it’s not colorful. It doesn’t attract butterflies, birds, and bees—only grubs and sod worms. It’s temperamental with temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?

ST. FRANCIS: Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.

GOD: The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.

ST. FRANCIS: Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it—sometimes twice a week.

GOD: They cut it? Do they bale it like hay?

ST. FRANCIS: Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

GOD: They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

ST. FRANCIS: No, Sir, just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.

GOD: Now let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And when it does grow, they cut if off and pay to throw it away?

ST. PRANCIS: Yes, Sir.

GOD: These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.

ST. FRANCIS: You aren’t going to believe this, Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

GOD: What nonsense! At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so Myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn the leaves fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. Plus, as they rot, the leaves form compost to enhance the soil. It’s a natural circle of life.

ST. FRANCIS: You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.

GOD: No! What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter and to keep the soil moist and loose?

ST. FRANCIS: After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call “mulch.” They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.

GOD: And where do they get this “mulch”?

ST. FRANCIS: They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.

GOD: Enough! I don’t want to think about this anymore. Catherine, you’re in charge of the arts. What movie have they scheduled for us tonight?

ST CATHERINE: “Dumb and Dumber.” Lord, it’s a really stupid movie about…

GOD: Never mind. I think I just heard the whole story from Francis.

 

Capturing all fifty

Yesterday morning I rode the elevator with a young woman—with bright blue hair and tattoos, not that any of that matters—who, after saying hello, was staring intently at the device in her hand. Evidently she was about to capture a Pokemon right there in the parking garage.

I remembered the days when telephones had to be plugged into the wall, when they had a headset connected to the main part of the phone with a long coiled cord. You couldn’t do much more with a telephone than talk to another person; about the most exciting app phones had was a number where you could hear the correct time and the temperature. Dick Tracy had a wristwatch that could do amazing things, and Maxwell Smart had a cell phone hidden in his shoe, but Star Trek communicators were going to have to wait until the twenty-third century… or so we thought.

Even in those primitive days we had a game that was as exciting as Pokemon Go. We generally played the game only on vacation road trips, but in theory it could be played around town. The goal was to “capture” license plates from other states by seeing them clearly in traffic or in parking lots. Complete victory was won only if at least one plate from each of the fifty states was spotted during the trip.

I suppose everyone has his or her own special rules for this game. As far as I am concerned, license plates only count if they are on private vehicles. Eighteen-wheel trucks, delivery vans, rental vehicles, and the like don’t count—basically, the plate is disqualified if the vehicle has any writing on the side.

Nearby states and states with large populations are easy to spot. The small states in New England and the sparsely-populated states in the west are harder to find. Delaware and Hawaii are among the hardest. The game was easier to play when each state had one unique design. Now most states have a number of special plates, and sometimes the modern plates take on similar designs and colors. Minnesota, Iowa, and Missouri all have the same shades of blue in different combinations. Massachusetts and Arkansas are almost identical.

I’ve played the game starting on January 1 to see how long it takes to spot all fifty states. I’ve played the game starting over each morning to keep track of how many I see each day. Once I played the game trying to capture the fifty states in alphabetic order. That took close to three years, with Rhode Island requiring more than half a year to “capture.” When we were on a road trip, I mentioned the game to the children in the car and told them I was going to win when the next car passed us. One of them deduced, “Wyoming must be one of those states that has plates on the front of the car as well as the back,” which is correct.

On a good day, I can capture ten or more license plates. This morning I captured only seven. I didn’t spot any in the elevator of the parking garage. J.

Ruth

Our Sunday morning Bible class covered the four chapters of the book of Ruth today. I already knew many of the things that were said, but I learned some new things as well.

The book of Ruth is more than a study of ancient history. Its main point is to show how outsiders enter the kingdom of God. The title character is a citizen of Moab; by God’s own Law, she and her descendants should have been forbidden a place in Israel (Deuteronomy 23:3-6). Instead, Ruth becomes an Israelite and turns out to be the great-great grandmother of King David.

Ruth learns about Israel and about its God from Naomi, her mother-in-law. Yet Naomi is dreadful at evangelism. Not only does she encourage Ruth to return to her people and to her gods (Ruth 1:15); she proceeds to blacken God’s reputation, saying, “the hand of the Lord has gone out against me” (Ruth 1:13). Naomi may believe that the deaths in her family were punishment from God, punishment for leaving the Promised Land during a famine and seeking help among foreigners. She may be trying to spare Ruth a share of the family punishment, or she may simply be trying to avoid this reminder of her time spent in Moab.

Either way, Ruth will not be deterred. In the most famous verses of the book, she declares, “Do not urge me to leave you or return from following you. For where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you” (Ruth 1:16-17). If Naomi believes that she is cursed by God, Ruth offers to share that curse, and Ruth calls down a curse upon herself if she is separated from Naomi.

Boaz is, of course, a foreshadowing of his great descendant, Jesus Christ. The frequent use of the word “redeemer” in the book of Ruth makes that conclusion inescapable. From the time he notices her, Boaz provides for Ruth and protects her from danger. Only gradually does the writer of the book reveal the risk assumed by Ruth when she offered to glean the fields near Bethlehem. Boaz keeps her safe from harm and he is generous to her, so that she brings home a bountiful harvest. When he awakes at midnight and finds her sleeping at his feet, he promises to be her redeemer. He protects her, not sending her home at midnight when it would be dangerous, but sending her home early enough in the day that no one would know where she had been. He provides her with six measures of grain already threshed; now that she has a redeemer, she needs to do no work, neither gathering nor threshing the grain.

An unnamed man has the right to be a redeemer instead of Boaz. Boaz calls a meeting of the town council for a legal discussion and hearing. He begins by saying that Naomi is selling land that belongs to her family. Needless to say, she needs money now, and an unplanted field has no value to her. The potential redeemer is willing to buy the land. Under the law of God, the land would not remain his in perpetuity—at the next Jubilee year, it must be returned to Naomi or her heirs (Leviticus 25:13-17). Since the land had been unfarmed for at least ten years (Ruth 1:4), the redeemer would need to work hard to reclaim the farmland, knowing that in time he would return that land and have no more benefit from it.

The unnamed man is willing to purchase the land, probably out of compassion for Naomi. He is then reminded of his responsibility to the widow—he must take her into her house and provide her with a son to inherit the property that belonged to the widow’s husband (Deuteronomy 25:5-6). The ties between family and land were important to God. He had made a triple promise to Abraham: Abraham’s family would become a mighty nation, they would own the land where Abraham wandered as a rancher, and from that family on that land would come a blessing for the entire world. Therefore, the land was carefully parceled to the tribes of Israel in the days of Joshua. Strict laws forbade moving stones marking property lines. Keeping inheritance within families resulted in the laws about Jubilees years and about providing an heir for one’s brother.

Because of this tie to the land, Joseph took Mary his espoused and pregnant wife to Bethlehem at the time of the Roman census. Most people living in the Roman Empire were counted and taxed wherever they happened to be at the time of the census. Joseph was a son of David, though, and he was determined to be counted as a citizen of Bethlehem, David’s hometown. Jesus, the ultimate Son of David, was therefore born in Bethlehem, and thus he was entitled to inherit David’s throne and kingdom.

Boaz seems to have been coy about which widow the men were discussing. He used Naomi’s name when discussing the sale of land and then mentioned both Naomi and Ruth when speaking of the widow who must be allowed to produce an heir for her late husband. Some English translations make it seem that Ruth is intended (Ruth 4:5), but the Hebrew is vague. The unnamed man may have thought, “To acquire this land, I must also acquire Naomi, that old bitter woman. It’s not worth it.” After all, Ruth is not even an Israelite. He declines the offer to buy the land, saying that it would complicate inheritance within his own family. Imagine his surprise and regret when he learns that Boaz intends to marry Ruth, not Naomi—and must have intended that all along.

The ceremony ratifying the sale of land and accompanying women involves taking off the sandal of the redeemer who declines to redeem. The original regulation about providing an heir for a childless brother also involved taking off a sandal if a man should refuse to produce an heir for his brother. In this case, the widow was to pull off his sandal and spit in his face, and his family was to become known as the Unsandaled (Deuteronomy 25:7-10).

“Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer!” (Ruth 4:14). If Boaz serves as a picture of Jesus Christ the Redeemer, then Ruth is an image of the Bride of Christ, the Church consisting of all who have been redeemed by Christ. Jesus pays the necessary price to make us his people. He protects us from evil and generously supplies us with all that we need. He cheats the devil out of the devil’s claim on our lives by taking our burden upon himself. All this is ours, not because we bought it or earned it, but because Jesus is loving and merciful. J.

 

First Friday Fiction: The Mystery of the Yellow Mustang

“That yellow car is in that neighbor’s driveway again,” Dorothy Dimmerton observed one morning.

“So what, Mom?” Johnny asked, yawning between bites of cereal. “Maybe he’s bought a new car.”

Dorothy shook her head. “I don’t think so,” she said. “That car was parked there one morning last month, and then it was gone for three weeks. Now it’s back. I think something funny is happening next door.”

Johnny yawned again. “Maybe he test-drove it last month and kept it overnight, and now he’s finally bought it,” he suggested.

“I looked for a sticker in the window or for a temporary paper plate. No, that car belongs to someone else, and I’m guessing that whoever she is spent the night at his place.”

“Welcome to the twenty-first century, Mom,” Johnny said. “What the two of them do in his house is their business, not ours.”

Dorothy cleared her throat, and then said nothing else. However, she resolved that she would keep an eye on that neighbor’s house and driveway until she had solved the mystery of this yellow car.

Dorothy Dimmerton had spent most of her life on army bases. Her father had been a soldier. Her husband had been a soldier. They had needed her help to keep their houses on base tidy and efficient. Dorothy followed the same pattern of tidiness and efficiency today. The problem was, nobody really needed her. Johnny didn’t care how the house or the yard looked. That neighbor next door obviously didn’t care either. All Johnny needed was a bedroom where he could sleep or play video games or watch movies when he wasn’t at work flipping hamburgers. He even bought his own breakfasts. Dorothy kept the door to Johnny’s room closed so she didn’t have to see its disorder.

Johnny might not need her, but the house needed her. It wouldn’t clean itself, as Dorothy’s mother had frequently said when Dorothy was a girl. The lawn needed her—it relied on her to water it every day and to mow and trim it once or twice a week. The deck behind the house needed her—every day she had to blow leaves and other debris off the deck. That neighbor next door seemed content just to run a mower over his grass every week or so. She didn’t know what kind of job he had or who his family or friends might be. So far as she was concerned, he was useless, taking up space in the world for no good purpose.

Now that she was watching, she saw that yellow car in his driveway every morning except for weekends. She didn’t know what time of night it arrived—early to bed and early to rise was one of her mottos. She did sometimes see the driver when she left in the morning. She was young and slender, well-dressed, but Dorothy tried not to stare at her while Dorothy pulled weeds or raked leaves or moved the sprinkler from one place to another.

Then, one Saturday, she was able to declare triumphantly, “I finally saw her face!”

“Whose face?” Johnny asked as he poured milk on his cereal.

“The driver of the yellow car. Usually she isn’t here over the weekend, but the car is there this morning. Right after I started the mower, I looked up, and she was staring out the window at me.”

“Yeah, what time was that? Seven o’clock? Six-thirty?” Johnny deliberately yawned as he asked.

“You know I have to get the work done early, before it gets too hot outside,” Dorothy answered, “but you’re missing the point. I know who she is now…boy, are you going to be surprised!”

“Surprise me, then,” Johnny told her.

“She’s the woman who murdered her husband last spring.” When Johnny didn’t react, she said, “Don’t you remember? It was on the TV news.”

Johnny thought for a minute before he said, “Yes, Mom, I remember. But you’ve got the story wrong. She didn’t murder her husband. A girlfriend he had on the side killed him.”

“Maybe,” she sneered. “Maybe they worked together.” Dorothy shook her head and snarled, “I wonder if he knows that he’s sleeping with a murderer.”

“Who says that they’re sleeping together?” Johnny asked. “Maybe Tom’s letting her use a spare bedroom.”

“I’ve seen her,” Dorothy retorted. “I doubt it. I doubt it very much.”

Every morning but on Saturdays, the suspicious woman would leave that neighbor’s house and drive off in her yellow car. A few minutes later, that neighbor would lock the front door, get in his own car, and drive away. Dorothy fumed at their effrontery. Didn’t they know that they were bringing their filth into a nice, respectable neighborhood? Dorothy didn’t say a word to either of them. She didn’t even make eye contact with them. If she pushed the mower with a little more vigor as one of them came out the door, she doubted that they even noticed. Well, if they were going to ignore her, she could keep on ignoring them. She had no intention of lowering herself to their level by treating their malfeasance as normal behavior.

Summer ended and school began. Schoolchildren walked past Dorothy’s house on their way to the bus. She kept a careful eye on them, making sure that none of them set foot on her grass. Most mornings she was outside, blowing leaves off the deck, then gathering them into piles she could scoop into a bag and leave on the curb. After one such morning of diligent work, she glared at Johnny at the kitchen table and exclaimed, “I can’t understand how she can show her face in public like that!”

Johnny sighed. “Who are you talking about, Mom?”

“The whore who is living with that neighbor next door. The way she walks to her car, you’d think she owns the place.”

Again, Johnny sighed. “If you ever spoke with Tom, you’d know that there is more to the story than you have imagined in your dirty little mind.”

“I suppose you believe whatever he told you,” she snarled at Johnny.

“I do believe him, and you should too. After her husband was killed, Jessica went and stayed with her parents for a while. Then she tried to come back home, but she couldn’t bear to walk into her own house. Memories of the murder were too painful for her. For a while she tried living in a motel, but that was using up her money too fast.

“Tom and Jessica work at the same office. He found out what she was enduring, and he offered her a spare room in his house. They have separate rooms, even separate bathrooms. They both drive their own cars downtown so no one at work suspects anything is going on between them. The main reason they do that, though, is that—really—nothing is going on between them.”

Dorothy paused. Perhaps she was being too hard on that neighbor and his friend. Perhaps, in his own way, he was being helpful and useful to another person in this mixed-up world. Dorothy didn’t often consider the possibility that she could be wrong. Even now, a thought in the back of her head suggested that that neighbor had lied to Johnny to cover up his sin. She guessed that she would never know the truth. Not knowing, she felt no regret for the cold shoulder she was showing them.

Demagoguery, political polarization, and violence

I was doing some reading for leisure last night, and I read the following paragraph:

“Even now, the domestic political implications are still working themselves out. The political dilemma of democracy is that the time span needed for solutions to contemporary economic problems is far longer than the electoral cycle by which leaders’ performance is judged at the polls. How many politicians dare to risk their offices in proclaiming that the good times are over? Who is willing to tell his constituents that a wise policy will bring with it a decline in the standard of living, at least for a while? And what happens in the inevitable period of disillusionment when young men and women leave school and college to find their skills rejected and join the millions thrown out of work since the oil crisis? The way is open for demagoguery, political polarization, and violence.” Henry Kissinger, Years of Upheaval, 1982, page 886.

Kissinger was writing about the energy crisis of the 1970s. The decade began with bountiful and inexpensive energy—industry had been booming since the recovery after World War II. When the oil-producing nations began making demands of the oil companies early in the 1970s, the American government chose to remain uninvolved, to let the market correct itself. The problem exploded with the war of October 1973, when Egypt and Syria attacked Israel, and Israel prevailed—in part because of an airlift of military supplies by the United States. From Libya to Iran, Muslim governments boycotted oil sales to the United States and raised the price of oil precipitously. This unexpected increase in the cost of energy led to a recession with inflation of prices, a combination rare enough that economists were not sure how to fix both problems simultaneously.

Around the time Kissinger’s book was published, the American economy began to recover. Fueled by constantly changing technology involving computers, American companies hired college graduates, and the turmoil Kissinger feared did not come to pass.

Kissinger’s central point is valid. Leaders in a democracy must be politicians, and politicians who warn of hard times ahead tend to lose elections. Big problems are hard to fix without difficult periods of transition. Ignoring big problems does not make them go away. Sooner or later, the difficult period of transition happens anyhow, and politicians respond by blaming one another.

During the last ten years, the economy has struggled. College graduates are unemployed or underemployed. Honors students with respectable degrees are working in fast food service, in stores such as WalMart, and at low-paying part time jobs in their chosen careers. The unrest described by Kissinger more than thirty years ago has arrived as he predicted: “demagoguery, political polarization, and violence.”

Is the United States of America facing its darkest days ever in 2016? I beg to differ with those who answer “yes.” Times were worse for the United States in 1861 through 1865, and probably during the years leading up to the Civil War. Times were hard during the Vietnam War and during the Watergate crisis. The Great Depression was another time of struggle and hardship for the United States. Political polarization and violence characterized those times.

Even though things have been worse, they are not good today. The word “demagoguery” is used by opponents of both major candidates for U.S. President to explain their fears. Many voters are dismayed by the choice they are being asked to make this November. Still, I believe in the balance of powers in our government. I believe that the United States which survived the 1860s and the 1960s can also survive the election of 2016. When Americans vote, I hope they will choose wise men and women to serve in Congress, men and women able to turn back the wrong ideas and plans of a dangerous President. With God’s help, America will endure. J.

Powerless

One evening last month a line of summer thunderstorms rushed through the state, bringing high winds, thunder and lightning, and heavy rains. Roughly 50,000 customers lost electric power that evening, and my family was one of those customers.

I would like to say that I was busy keeping a classroom filled with college students calm during the storm, but that would be an exaggeration. As the storm first approached, I was chatting with two of the students who had arrived early—class was not scheduled to start for another twenty minutes. When the tornado siren was heard, both students grabbed their phones to check for weather warnings. The National Weather Service had detected rotation in clouds at the other end of the county, twenty miles away, and that rotation was not moving in our direction. I reviewed with them the school’s policy in the event of a tornado warning that actually applied to us. The siren silenced after a moment, and we talked about other matters until the rest of the students arrived.

About forty-five minutes later we were aware of heavy rain striking the classroom windows. Although the blinds were closed, some flashes of lightning were evident as the storm raged. The classroom lights flickered once, but for the most part we remained focused on history, with barely a thought to the weather outdoors. By the time the class ended, the violence of the storm had moved on, and we merely had to walk to our cars in a soaking rain. I was surprised, as I drove home, to see large branches and even a tree lying by the side of the road.

When I arrived home, the house was dark. Even the orange light in the doorbell button was dark, so I knew the power was out. My family told me that the outage began the same instant as a bright flash of lightning and a loud crash of thunder; they all happened simultaneously. With no electricity, we were isolated. The telephone and the internet were inoperative; even battery-powered handheld devices could not access the internet. We could not entertain ourselves with computer games or television; we could not cook food with the stove, the oven, or the microwave. The air conditioner was not running, but the storm had cooled the air outside, so we opened the windows and allowed the breeze to blow through the house. About all that we had that was working was the hot and cold water and the grandfather clock.

But we did have candles and we did have books. I reflected upon how much I resembled Abraham Lincoln, reading the memoirs of Henry Kissinger in the flickering candlelight. One by one, we set down our books, blew out our candles, and went to sleep.

We awoke at sunrise, and the power was still out. I took a shower in the dark and then drank cold coffee with my granola bars. After breakfast I drove to work, where I had access to a working computer with internet, as well as the benefits of air conditioning, and a microwave to warm my lunch. My daughters had similar daytime benefits, thanks to their jobs at the mall.

Power was restored about eighteen hours after it had been interrupted. Most of our electronic devices and appliances still worked, although the washing machine would not work. Also a ceiling fan/light fixture was not working. I tested the electrical socket for the washing machine with an electric pencil sharpener to verify that it was receiving power. (I would have used a nightlight, but we don’t have one in the house.) It was working, so we knew we would have to call a repair worker to fix the washing machine. We emptied the ice out of the icemaker bin, knowing that the ice would have softened during the outage and would freeze into one large solid lump.

The next day we found out that our cable TV was not receiving a signal, even though the telephone and internet—which run on the same cable—were working. The cable company’s tech support talked me through the process of rebooting, but the signal did not come back. They had me try several other steps without success. They next promised to mail a new box for the cable TV. That arrived a few days later. I installed it according to instructions with no success. I got back to tech support, and after two more failed reboot attempts, they decided to send a repair worker to the house. He arrived two days later as scheduled, replaced several parts and cables, and got everything working again. I’m glad to say that the cable company did not charge us for the service. Repairing the washing machine will cost four hundred dollars, and the repair worker is still waiting for a part.

A few days after the storm I was mowing, and I was surprised to find several wood splinters in the back lawn. The first splinters I saw were by the neighbor’s fence, but I didn’t see any damage to the fence. Then I found more splinters, some longer than a foot. One was impaled in the ground at an angle, pointing in the direction of the utility pole at the corner of the property. Apparently the lightning struck the pole and traveled through the ground to my house. It’s a blessing that the damage was limited; things could have been far worse. J.