Honorary Grandpa

Last Friday, Norma and I sat in the Pleasant Ridge Waldorf School gym in Viroqua, Wisconsin. Casually-dressed folks packed the bleachers as grade by grade the students formed a semi-circle on the floor. A dozen young boys trouped in toting a rolled-up carpet. Older students filed in carrying classroom chairs.  Norma’s grandson Ethan jiggled and grinned among his fourth-grade comrades. Grandparents Day festivities were about to begin. I was a proud to be an honorary grandpa.

The fifth and sixth grade string orchestra took their places to kick off the program—every class member with an instrument. I sat back to endure—I’ve heard young musicians before. The first notes brought me up straight. Whoa! This wasn’t Twinkle, Twinkle. The kids played serious music and played well, setting the tone for a remarkable morning.

Waldorf education is based on the vision of Rudolf Steiner, Austrian-born philosopher and theologian. Instruction is student-centered rather than subject/grade-centered, recognizing the varying developmental pace among children. A unique feature: teachers move through the grades with their students. Multi-layered learning units engage the whole person, head, hands, and heart.

Norma and I spent the morning with Ethan’s fourth grade class. We trekked to an outdoor area to inspect a sturdy, student-built playhouse, every board measured, squared, and sawed by hand. The kids had constructed and erected proper roof trusses. “Lots of bent nails,” said one student.  We observed the Eurythmy session, contemplative movement blending mind, spirit, and will, followed by circle games.

The broad Waldorf curriculum captured my interest.  In addition to basic language, math, and social skills, the students explore world cultures and religions as the move through the grades. They focus on understanding life rather than simply memorizing dates, places, and events. Each Waldorf school adapts its curriculum to the local community. Parent involvement is required. I greatly enjoyed Grandparents Day at Pleasant Ridge.

To learn more about Waldorf education, go to www.whywaldorfworks.org.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

The Mountain Stood Exalted in its Place*

People speak of conquering a mountain when all they’ve done is climbed up or skied down it. What they have accomplished is not the subduing of a mountain, but the inflation of their egos. The mountain is not diminished by human contact. The mountain tolerates us and our bent for civilization, but it is a not always a friendly host.

Early settlers took all the sparse flat spots long ago. Latecomers level their own spots to build houses or open businesses. A few hours’ drive on the winding roads carved into the mountainside takes you past the abandoned homesteads and failed enterprises of those the mountain has rejected.

The mountains remain pretty much as they have been for eons and likely will for eons more.

Such were my thoughts while looking over this vast expanse.

View from 3000 feet

View from 3000 feet

Young Grandpa Keith

* Closing line of Robert Frost’s “Moon Compasses”

Mountain Views

I have returned to North Carolina where everywhere is either up, down, or around from where I am at any given moment. You have to drive a long way to find a mile stretch of level straight road. Staying on your side of the centerline is always wise, but on these roads it’s a matter of life and death. Nevertheless, thousands of tourists crowd the narrow winding roads in their RV’s to enjoy the fall color and jam the sidewalks of the towns that do everything they can to get them to stop, shop, and eat.

I’ll do my share of stopping, shopping, and eating this week. But I’ll also hike to some waterfalls and look for photo ops. Here are the first few.

Rhodes Big View

Rhodes Big Fall View

Another View

A shot taken along the way to North Carolina. I believe I was still in Georgia when I took this.

Mountain Lake

A Mountain Lake

Young Grandpa Keith

Brush Fire Philosophy

Keith and I have neglected the Hole news for several days. He has been traveling, and I am just back from a long weekend visiting Pleasant View Waldorf School in Viroqua, Wisconsin. What I observed impressed me. Awed would be a better word. Future Hole News posts will tell the story.

Meanwhile, I need to vent some spleen. If you choose not to get vented on, you may go do something else.

Far too often I hear from friends heartsick over fights in their churches, particularly Baptist-like churches, where each congregation claims to be an independent, self-governing democracy. [Disclaimer: the following is not universally true. Some Baptists get along just fine, so I am told.]

According to the rules, Baptists must vote on almost everything, particularly money-related things. But, as they say, rules are made to be broken; at least amended. Amending calls for change, and change dredges up the famous Seven Last Words: We Never Did It That Way Before.

In any voluntary association, change almost always begets tension. Choose up sides and have at it; winners take all; losers pick up their traps and move on. Church fights are among the most effective church-planting strategies yet devised.

You Methodists, Lutherans, and Episcopalian would be amazed by how slight an issue can ignite a brush fire among Baptists. Having been Baptist all my 91 years, I can tell horror stories.

How did I fair as a pastor? I’m proud of my record. I served eight small Baptist churches and never got kicked out. Nor did I experience a church split. Did every parishioner like me and stay around? No. Did I commit blunders? Yes. Would I do better next time around, if I had opportunity? Probably not. Do I have the final solution for church fights? I can talk all day about spiritual principles, but quelling all brush fires? The very idea is gospel Pollyanna. Even Jesus’ Twelve squabbled.

I attribute my relative success to a principle learned early on: When fighting a heavyweight, clinch a lot. They can’t slug you when you’re hugging them.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Write Right

A bunch of Hole News readers are writing a book, or planning to write one. A bunch more blog or produce newsletters. I say to the purists among them, I know Write Right is bad grammar, but I bet you got my point.

Seems to me, making your point is the purpose of writing, hang the grammar. Before you break the rules willy-nilly, however, you better know what they are. Sometimes a dangling participle of fragment sentence best makes your point.

Bad writing abounds, led by government documents and how-to pamphlets. Really good writers possess a poet’s heart, yet even the most gifted hone their craft. We ordinary folks have to work hard to write well, leaning on help wherever we find it. The cardinal rule: all good writing is rewriting.

The prime source of help is reading good writing, eye and ear alert for words and techniques that carry the reader along. My most helpful exercise is studying what editors did to my stuff. The most helpful comment on writing to come down my pike in a long while is a lecture by Steven Pinker cited in Bob Kelly’s latest KellyGram. I read The Source of Bad Writing and cringed. Sign up for the KellyGram at www.wordcrafters.info.  It’s warm and writer-friendly.

Twenty-five years ago George Nordling became my friend. His emails told me he was a diamond-in-the-rough writer, though he didn’t to think so. Review the October 13 Hole News and tell me what you think. Then check out his George’s blog, Toivo’s Front Porch Musings (yooper517.blogspot.com). Walking to the Light, George’s book, fleshes out his long journey to sobriety.

Watching a friend sharpen his writing talent has been one of life’s great pleasures.

Old Grandpa Lloyd


God Stuff

Today’s Hole News comes from Toivo’s Front Porch Musings, George Nordling’s occasional blog. Though it violates our short-post rule, the message merits the infraction. George’s book, Walking to the Light, tells the full story. Respond to this post with your address and I’ll send you a copy.

My 25th A.A Anniversary

I am an alcoholic. I haven’t taken a drink in a long time. (My sobriety began on Oct. 1, 1989, the day I tearfully left the rehabilitation center at Memorial Hospital in Ashland, Wisconsin.)  I was also full of trepidation for the future, rooted in lectures by counselors, “After five years only one in five will still be sober. Alcoholism is a disease characterized by relapses.”

I arrived at the aforementioned facility, in a state of tremors and a mental blackout. I remember the tremors, holding a Styrofoam cup (filled with coffee only halfway) with both hands. I was brought there directly from Grand View Hospital by my wife, Lois who had saved me from swallowing my tongue and by a dear friend, Judy Schulze.

My brain began to operate beyond the reptilian level the next day and I was astonished at my surroundings. The windows were reinforced and the place was spotless. I had no idea how I had arrived or where I was. The nurse came in to monitor my hand tremors, take my temperature and blood pressure and watch me wash down several pills with a glass of water. “Relax, George. No one is going to harm you,” the nurse said in a soothing voice. I had heard the term, ‘detox’ and thought this must be where I was.

Boredom set in and I had a book about the Twelve Steps of A.A. I had read it and it was boring at the time. It would come alive later as I progressed in recovery. At the end of the book were several blank pages. I was thinking about an algorithm to get me out of this mess. The whole universe is defined by mathematics and the solution was there! I just had to solve it. I went to the desk and asked for a pen. I wrote what I thought to be profound mathematical discoveries revealing the process of becoming sober. I would come to dismiss these great discoveries as delusional scribbling.

After being released from detox and integrated with the 17 other treatment patients my thought processes began to clarify. I no longer dismissed the treatment program as a foolish waste of time. God had removed the hostility and fear that had held me hostage. One day I came to the realization that the awful, grinding craving for booze had left me. Was this possible? Other patients confessed that they still had cravings. I declared that the cravings had left me, bringing a sharp rebuke from one of the counselors. I yielded to this counselor but I knew that the cravings were gone.

Before the dawn of my recovery I could not go without a drink of vodka for more than about two hours. That meant taking drinks during the night to ward off the poison dreams that would have me sit up screaming. It also meant that I would need several hearty swigs from a pint bottle when my legs failed to work. I couldn’t move them. I would crawl to my stash of booze and with shaking hands put the bottle to my lips. In a few minutes I could walk again. It also meant furtive trips to the liquor store, driving while I was drunk.

I told a doctor that I had been the recipient of a miracle and the doctor dismissed this, saying, “The alcohol must have burned out the brain cells that caused your addiction.” This postulate that I had cured myself by drinking was laughable, I thought, but out of respect I did not argue with the doctor.

On October 1, 2014 twenty-five years will have passed since the dawn of my recovery. I have not had a craving for a drink in all that time. I still attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, which help me to remember that I am still an alcoholic and will be until they shovel dirt on my coffin. The meetings also help me remember the power of alcoholic craving, the hopelessness that I felt, and the welcoming spirit and acceptance of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Psalms 18:17-20 came to be my favorite Scripture, “He delivered my from my strong enemy, from those who hated me, for they were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the Lord was my support. He also brought me out into a broad space.” Verse 20 is the amazing part, because I had thought the Lord was through with me, a quivering booze hound who passed himself off as a born-again Christian. “He delivered me because He delighted in me.” My twenty-five years of sobriety have been ‘God stuff.’

Thanks, brother George

Old Grandpa Lloyd


Beware the Temptation to Do Right

She was a single mother whose young son came to Sunday school and our midweek club program regularly. She attended the morning service sporadically. She didn’t have much money so she often wore the blue blazer required of her job in a real estate office to cover tattered clothing she couldn’t afford to replace.

When she had surgery I visited her in the hospital. She was discharged and, so far as I knew, was recovering. In a few days her mother called me. Her daughter’s incision had become infected and had to be cleaned and rebandaged daily. She was too squeamish and became ill at the sight and smell of her daughter’s wound. Did I know someone willing to help? A nurse in my congregation cheerfully volunteered. I felt good about my church, satisfied that compassion was alive and well among us.

One day later another passion reared an ugly head. One of the most active, highly regarded young women in my church confronted me as I arrived at my study. She said she had prayed earnestly about what to do and concluded she just had to do the right thing. She proceeded to tear into the ailing woman’s character. She used terms like adultery, fornication, lesbian, and sexually transmitted disease. How dare I condone someone like that! Was it wisdom or cowardice kept my anger in check? I let her have her say and worried I might have other angry visitors. I didn’t.

This experience faded eventually into well deserved forgetfulness. These lines by Robert Frost brought it back.

Right’s right, and the temptation to do right
When I can hurt someone by doing it
Has always been too much for me, it has.
From “The Pauper Witch of Grafton”

Young Grandpa Keith

Incredibly Rich and Exciting

The Hole News has made the big time. Click on www.thewomantoday.com and flip to page 70 for kind words from Pat Sherman, owner/publisher of Duluth’s premier magazine, plus Old Grandpa Lloyd’s thoughts on aging.

Thursday morning found me back to Amity Coffee with Clyde, the Sage of Juniata Street. The place was packed; noisy with good noise. Students laptopped and friends coffeed. Clyde and I found a leather-upholstered couch far back. An ankle-biter escaped and sneaked over to inspect us. Ex-mayor Ben Boo showed up. He and Clyde dredged up names from antiquity. Dave Rogotske, our salmon/syrup guy, dropped by. He is always good company.  Patti, Amity Coffee owner, refilled our cups and stayed to chat. Two hours sped by. Coffeehouses serve a vital role in our stratified American culture. The coffee is almost incidental.

Thursday afternoon brought an email from Steve Krueger, our man at Arrow Printing, Bemidji.  He assured me How Do You Know That’s a Tooth? will reach us in good time for our November 9 campmeeting sing at Emmanuel Church. We’ll fill the evening with old time music and present of my final print book. I hope some Hole News friends will show up. Festivities begin at 6:30. 1505 Eklund Ave. in Duluth Heights.

Keep an eye on www.lloydsstorytree.com for news on the Wordshed eBookstore webmaster Jackie McBride is setting it up. The Story Tree will feature books I want to preserve plus two new somewhat-fiction titles. Elsie and I never imagined where our retirement mission would lead; a story in itself. Life is incredibly rich and exciting.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

A Word with You

I love words. You might say I have an affinity for words, an intuitive feeling of closeness. The more words you master, the better you can think. Words are the substance of thought. Ever try thinking without words? Or not thinking? You can’t not think.  Awake or asleep, your brain is working, the control tower of your body and self-awareness.

Thinking is simply talking to yourself. Problem is, self doesn’t always come up with good answers. How about projecting your thinking Godward? You talk to God rather than yourself. No special language, no taboos, you can’t fake it; God knows all about you. Work to make God-think kick in whenever the mind is free from duty.

And study up on words. Their nuances and flavors are grist for the poet’s mill. Good writers paint verbal pictures, often agonizing for just the right word. Mark Twain said, “’The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”

Some words sing. Listen to affinity, intuitive, amity, serendipity, friendly. I particularly like mosaic, a sturdy baritone. Mosaic gives us a parable of providence. Each tile possesses a shape, color, and texture the Artist uses to form his big picture. Individual tiles can’t see the picture; you must stand off some distance to study a mosaic, .

I spend no energy seeking God’s will in particular matters. I try to live godly and tend to whatever falls my way, aware of Philippians 2:13: “It is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Click on Cover below to see my final print book, How Do You Know That’s a Tooth?. The tooth in question anchors the lower right corner. Maybe you can afford  ten bucks to help fund printing and shipping. I’ll mail you the book. My next Hole News will tell the Wordshed Mission story. Over 30,000 books out there somewhere.