Oct 4, 2020

Wishing a dear friend, "Happy Birthday", on this special occasion

 Four score years ago....No, this isn't the beginning of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address but just my way of addressing a significant milestone in a great friend's life. My close friend celebrates his 80th birthday today.

Denny Wintersteen is one of my oldest and yet oldest friends. Simply meaning I have known him most of my life and yep, he's kinda gettin' up there. But you'd never know it.  He's one of the most active octogenarians I know. Still playing golf, still an avid photographer and still able to spin tales of his and my childhood growing up in Dayton, Ohio.

Denny is also the older brother of my best friend, Gerry, or as we always knew him, "The Jer".

Denny didn't pay much attention to me or any of the other kids that hung around with "The Jer". It wasn't that he was ignoring us, but there was a number of years difference in age and mostly, Denny was just one of the the coolest if not THE coolest guy I knew back in the 50's and, well, there were more important things than snot-nosed kids. He was probably the only teenager I knew who drove as well as have one the the neatest cars on the street. Sadly, my mind can't remember the make or model but all I remember was that his car was cool and we weren't allowed to touch it let alone ride in it.

Denny has also been my historian. 

A couple of years ago I made it my mission to learn about the demise of "The Jer" and then compile and publish many of the short stories I had written about him over the years into a book.  After seeking out and finding  Denny on Facebook, he graciously spent hours with me on the phone and correspondence as we brought those stories and book into fruition.

Denny has also been the closest of friends when I needed him most. 

He and every member of his family reached out to me with the passing of my wife not too long ago, Denny knowing first hand my pain and what such a loss can be like.

Denny has also been a wonderful host each time I have come to Dayton since the resurrecting of our friendship.

Again, his beautiful family along with Denny and his lovely wife, Sue, always making me feel at home as I return to my roots either at a dinner in their home or local restaurants.

And finally Denny always stays in touch with me, whether it be as a recipient of his risqué emails or comments to my Facebook ramblings.

I am fortunate to have him as my friend and I wish him the best on this special day.

"The greatest gift of life is friendship, and I have received it."

 Hubert H. Humphrey 

Love ya' Denny

Aug 17, 2020

Confession is good for the soul and the sole...

When I was a little "Skeeter" kid growin' up in Dayton, Ohio and growin' up in the Catholic church there, one of the obligatory duties of a good Catholic boy was to go to confession every Friday with your elementary school class and of course under the watchful stern eyes of the nuns.

Although it made me a better person and it also made me kind of a "clever" person if you will....kinda along the lines of the "Artful Dodger" and sadly if you don't know who the Artful Dodger then I suggest during this time of searching for things to do, you add all of Dicken's classics to your reading list.

Back to my confession...

Confessing was simple...as your turn came up and as your entire class watched, you walked into a little box and told the priest who was listening there and waiting to absolve you of your sins and let him know all of the bad things you had done all week.

I wasn't necessarily a bad kid so sharing my weekly exploits  and throwing in a few "white" lies that I'm sure the priest didn't care one way or another wasn't nuthin'. And then adding a couple of "impure" thoughts as I got older and then, well a couple of um, uh..let's just call it some events of a young boy kinda exploring and learning about himself as he was approaching puberty. So, all in all, like I said it wasn't any big thing.

The hard part though was going back to your pew and saying your penance. For you non-Catholics, that's the part where you have to say prayers to finish the absolution of the sins. It wasn't saying the prayers, it was the timing. And how long you spent on your knees asking for forgiveness.

Oh, the nuns knew me for sure. They knew most of what I did and how often. So I always had to be careful not to spend too much time praying afterwards, so if it didn't register that the sentence didn't match the crime,  then maybe I needed some more whacks on my knuckles with their "ruler wrath" and on the same note, I couldn't jump up after just a few minutes on my knees even though they were hurting, because they figured, "Yep, that Skeeter boy didn't confess ALL of his sins, particularly those "impure actions" and they figured that would call for more "ruler wrath"... I guess it was kind of a lose-lose situation for me and a win-win for them.

Now, fast forward to 60 some years later and the whole purpose for this background on my confessing. Yep, I got something I need to unload on all of you.

This morning as I was getting some stuff out of my closet for a morning of swimming at my pool, I was holding my flip flops kind of under my chin as a few items began to fall from the closet shelf.

Something smelled like it had died in the closet and as I sniffed around I realized it was my nasty-a** old smelly flip flops. These things were at least 35 years old and had been my walking support through beaches, creeks, and swimming pool entrances as well as ingrown toe-nails, bunions and an occasional nail fungus over the years. Yep, they were nasty.

So, my confession that I am throwing out to all of you is that, well, just maybe I haven't been taking as good as care of myself as I haven telling you. Obviously, I still got some house cleaning and grooming that needs my attention and I'm working hard to get that part in order.

I take very good care of myself, I eat properly and usually tie my shoes and keep my zipper up when I leave the house. But wow, I think I need to get some new flip flops.

I do need to quit callin' them thongs. I did get the weirdest of looks this morning when I was sharing this story to some friends here at the "home" when I mentioned my thongs were getting kinda smelly. The friends here looked confused since they thought all I wore was a Speedo and didn't wear a thong.

Anyway, just another day here at my "home".


Jul 22, 2020

The time has come....

A little over 50 years ago two events occurred on the same day that changed my life forever. One caused me to be a shameless coward and it's something I have never shared before today and the second caused me to become a man and dig deep down in my soul to learn how to never fear anyone or anything again.

I was at the University of Oklahoma in the Spring of 1970 and although the students and campus for the most part remained quiet and orderly during a time of upheaval as other universities around the country faced protests about the Vietnam War.

That changed however in Norman, Oklahoma, with the shootings that occurred at Kent State University in Ohio on May 4th.

Angry mobs of students, almost all of whom were just quiet young men and women became violent, vicious and horribly disrespectful and attempted to destroy my University.

I found myself in the midst of hundreds of them on my way to a Journalism class while walking past the Student Union. A band of them proceeded to haul the American flag down from the flagpole and began to stomp on it and attempt to burn it. I was completely alone in attempting to prevent the hideous disrespect from happening and struggled to free myself from allowing my flag from being desecrated. I quit fighting them and turned away, ashamed of myself and hated myself for being such a coward.

Later in the day, the second event occurred which helped heal my cowardice behavior.

I was in R.O.T.C and we were standing "ranks" as we did each week. We simply stood in formation and marched around a simple parade ground learning to obey commands from our flight leaders.

Many of the same angry mob who had desecrated my flag began to taunt us, shove us and in several cases spit in our faces including mine. We stood ranks at attention  in total disbelief as our classmates, the same people we sat next to in class, acted in such a hateful manner.

I learned that day that I was not alone and I would always have fellow citizens to support me.

And, I promised that day to never be shamed again for being an American, a serviceman and a patriot.

Later in that year, I enlisted in the Air Force and served my country honorably along with both of my brothers, all three of us serving during the Vietnam War. The oldest of whom, David, received the Silver Star for his valor in an attempt to free P.O.W's.

A couple of years ago for my 50th High School Reunion, I made a video honoring my classmates who served during Vietnam. By God's Grace none of my classmates died during the War.  I also found out the number of classmates who served our country, it reminded me once again that I was not alone.

Today we are under siege again. And, just as I vowed 50 years ago ...

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed.

The key word here is domestic.

Enough is enough. I will no longer let our cities burn, our citizens live in fear and my flag be desecrated and I know I am not alone in my beliefs.

The time has come to stand up for America.



Jun 28, 2020

"Tommyboy, the decisions you make will always be yours, all I do is provide you the opportunity"...God

As I prepare to bid goodbye  to my childhood home, Dayton, Ohio I again thank all of those who continue to help make my life the most blessed of all. And, of course my brother and his wife for graciously inviting me to stay with them but also indulging me and my peculiar oddities. If anyone would care to know what those oddities are, well, then you can invite me to spend a few days with you as well, especially those of you in Hawaii.

The days here gave me a chance to put things in perspective and isn't that what life is really all about...our perception of how things are around us.

For four consecutive days, I've continued to write and share my stories with you. This is something that has been missing from my life as I desperately struggled to regain the confidence to put down on paper my interpretations and open myself up for criticism, my worst enemy. But here I am and I hope I keep the feeling deep in my soul.

Something I began to do about two years ago was express my thoughts with my "Conversations with God". I developed the format while sitting at my favorite and favorites, South Padre Island. It's there where after a lifetime of silence, I heard His voice once again and we chatted and texted and in some instances brought some peace and even humor into other  people's lives.

So, I'll share a brief conversation we had early this morning..

GOD: So Tommy, hangin' out in Dayton, I see. Any news to report?

ME:  Hey Buddy. Well, it's just like you told me it would be.I got my head-brain all cleared out and I'm at peace. How do you know all of this stuff, anyway.

GOD: Dang it, Tommy. I built the place and you know that. You know I gave you the playground and all of the fixin's and opened the gate and said, have at it.

ME: I know, I was just funnin' with you. I have a question though. Why is it that you let people do what they want to do, even when they tear the place up. I mean it's YOUR house and all, I'd kick somebody's butt if they came into my house and threw stuff all around and didn't put the lid down on the toilet. Why do you let that happen?

GOD: Tommy, as I said many times before. All I do is give you a place to either have fun or raise h***. It has always been your decision. There's a few rules that have to be followed, ten exact, and if you choose to follow them, well, there will be even a greater and more wonderful place I'll invite you to visit. But, the choice will always be yours.

ME: By the way, on another subject. I wanted to thank you once again for findin' me that cool place to live now. You know, The Overture down in Texas. I'm havin' fun down there. You need to come visit some of the wonderful people I have met.

GOD: Tommy,  I have met all of them, and yes they are wonderful people. But what about those friends of yours who are deep in despair and haven't found the peace that you and your friends have found. What about the ones who haven't been able to make the choice of transitioning out of their now lonely homes and finding a group of friends like you have found.

ME: Wow, GOD, there you go again, opening my dang eyes up to help people in need. YOU really know how to run this Universe thing. YOU'RE right. I've got some friends that need my advice, or rather YOUR advice and I'm going to do something about it. So many people have good wonderful years left in their lives and I think with a little help from YOU and me, we might be able to make it happen. I'm tellin' you, GOD, you are one smart dude.

GOD: No Tommy, you're the smart dude for opening your heart up and be willing to have these conversations with ME. Okay, get your butt in gear. You have a plane to catch and some people to save. Glad you took the time to talk with ME again. Catch ya' later.

ME: Thanks GOD. And thanks again for always being there when I need you. Peace.

GOD: Okay, Tommy. Be safe and quit bein' so dang stubborn about refusin' to wear a mask. I haven't invested this much time and effort in you to have you doin' something stupid and joining me way before your time to get here. And quit forgettin' to zip up and tie your shoes, your Mom taught you better than that. By the way, she says, "Hi", and is real proud of how you're comin' along.

Jun 27, 2020

It was me, not you...

Confession and Public Apology Time:

First of all, apologies with a caveat are meaningless. In other words, if one says they are sorry and then they include the following word, "BUT", well then they are not truly sorry for their sin, they are simply trying to transfer their guilt and shame to you rather than keep it themselves.

So, with all of the honesty and sincerity and some humor,  I hereby proclaim to my dearest and sweetest cousin, Janice, :


This whole trip has been a whirlwind filled with many emotions from seeing old familiar sites, hearing old familiar sounds, smelling old familiar scents and of course seeing dear friends and family. It left me exhausted, even to the point I could not convince myself that yesterday was Friday and I couldn't understand how I could have lost a day.

I'm seeing things for the first time with a new set of eyes and appreciation. 

I'm not here for nostalgia. I'm not here to remember old times. I'm here for inspiration and growth and what better way to fill those needs than with friends and family who have been there and meant so much to you during difficult and troubling times.

After lunching with dear friends, Denny and Sue Wintersteen, I concluded the afternoon with a much needed visit with my very close cousin, Janice.

I have admired her for my entire life as a strong, hard working woman who carries the spirit of the "Kender Clan", records their history, though she is still looking for some of the lost pages that she placed in her special location so she could find them when needed, and keeps the tradition of cooking ethnic Hungarian foods to remind us of a past when meals and food were enjoyed by the entire family all seated at the table at the same time with no phones or tablets.

Janice, please forgive me. It wasn't you it was me!!... Love you.