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An Unexpected Hero

Greyed Log and Embers, originally uploaded by Shirley Buxton.

About an hour before we were to sit down for our Christmas dinner, a phone call came for Rebecca. I could hear part of the rather lengthy conversation from where I stood, then when she hung up the phone she remained still, yet facing the dining room window.

I went to her and saw muscles working in her face. “What’s wrong, Rebecca?”

“My house caught fire, Mom.”

When she came up to our place, inadvertently Rebecca had left a deep large candle lit. It had been smoldering for two days, finally burned through the candle holder, melted the blinds, dripped to the floor and then exploded into flames.

A background story is important. Some months before, a family moved into a house across from Rebecca’s—a family quite different from others on the block. The man was often out in the yard and had a very loud voice. A parade of unsavory appearing men frequently came by and hung out in the yard with him. Motorcycles were in the mix, and around the neighborhood, there was talk of gangs and drugs and trouble.

Rebecca and I talked of the situation and I advised her: “You need to forge a friendship with that family. ” She agreed, and the day before she came up for Christmas, she baked cookies and took a plate of them to the man, whom I will call Carlos.

On Christmas day, a lady was visiting in the home of Carlos, was looking across the street to Rebecca’s house when she said, “There’s a fire over there.

“No, there can’t be. Rebecca is not even home,” Carlos replied.

Then he looked more closely, and quite visible now through the dining room window were flames. Carlos dashed across the street, smashed in the window, began beating around and grappling for a hose, midst the thick smoke that enveloped the house.

Someone called 911 and soon the fire department was there and took over, breaking out the glass in the front door to secure a better entrance. It was a fireman who called Rebecca about her house.

“That man, your neighbor,Carlos, saved your house, Ma’am. The fire was just moments away from reaching your attic, and there would have been nothing we could have done. You are extremely fortunate.”

What a lesson is here, that of looking past the outward appearance of a person, delving instead into his heart where often is kindness, generosity and heroism. Certainly such is the case with Carlos, and our entire family is grateful for his brave action that saved Rebecca’s house from completely burning to the ground.

Rebecca stayed with us for several days while the smoke was cleared from her house. In the scheme of things she had relatively little damage—most of the losses are from smoke. The short list of her replacements are: In the dining room, living room, family room, kitchen and breakfast room, she must have new floor coverings. The front door, dining room window, and window coverings in all those rooms will be replaced, then everything will be repainted.

Never will any of us forget Carlos. Hidden beneath a hard, loud demeanor beats a golden, heroic heart, a caring heart that saved Rebecca’s house from certain destruction. Heroes come in many shapes and colors.

Edit: 9:55 AM If it’s not fire, it’s water. Rebecca just called to tell me that last night she heard the sound of running water, checked the house and found nothing. Opened the back door and her yard is a lake. A pipe going under the garage had frozen, and burst. A plumber is due this morning. Enough already! 🙂

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America Home My Family My Home Photography Weather/Nature

A Snowy Morning in Crestline

Icicle, originally uploaded by Shirley Buxton.

It was predicted, coming down from Alaska, so at 12:30 I climb from my bed, walk to the window and check. Yes! There is snow. Jerry rouses a bit when I snug myself back beside him, and unable to restrain my enthusiasm, I say softly; “It’s snowing.” There is a muffled, indiscernible response.

At 3:30, I look again. At 5:00, I pull on my warm robe, slip my feet into fur-lined boot/slippers and walk to the kitchen. The thermometer outside the window reads 19 degrees!

It is still dark. I want to see the snow falling, so, in the front, I turn on the yard light and settle myself by the glass door. In the beams cast by the lamp I can see swirling snow and wisps of fog. I open the glass door and for a few minutes I let the cold air drift onto my face. At times the fog lifts, and across the lake, I see a scattering of lights, then they are gone again, extinguished now by the fog and the gathering snow.

It is quiet. I hear no snow plows, nor the moving about of neighborhood cars. Tranquil and unspoiled ends a winter night here in Crestline, for now comes the greyed dawn.

At 6:00, I measure coffee beans, pour in the water, press a button and within minutes, I catch the tantalizing aroma of Starbucks. Soon Jerry joins me and together we sit before the glass doors that give to a winter panorama of beauty here in the mountains of southern California.

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Animals Home Photography Social The World

Timmy, the Cat, Saves Their House

SYDNEY (Reuters) – An alert tabby cat saved an Australian family of four from a house fire by clawing at its owner’s face, emergency officials said Friday.Timmy the tabby sprang into action by waking his unidentified owner when a mattress caught fire as the family slept early Friday in Cairns in Australia’s tropical north.

“The cat was probably the best smoke alarm system … it was clawing at the occupant’s face and got him up and out of bed,” Cairns fire service spokesman Robert White-Macfarlane told reporters.

The man was then able to wake his family and call for help.

White-Macfarlane said the fire was probably started by a cigarette but added that the home had suffered only minor damage because of the cat’s intervention

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America Christianity/Religion Holidays Home Science & Technology Weather/Nature

The Year of our Lord 2007

Of course, God alone created the earth, and the heavens, and all therein… Included in such supernatural orderings was the division of day and night, and the lining up of seasons and their points of influence and degrees of change. There was not, though, a named designation of the division of one year from another. Nowhere in scripture are we told to regard January as the beginning of a new year. Indeed, these divisions are arbitrary and have evolved over many generations into the calendar we observe today.

The following paragraphs by Borgna Brunner contain very interesting material concerning the development of the holiday that we here in America call the New Year, and that we celebrate on January 1st. Read as much as you would like, but don’t leave me, for following Mr. Brunner’s material, I have written other observations.

 
 

The celebration of the new year on January 1st is a relatively new phenomenon. The earliest recording of a new year celebration is believed to have been in Mesopotamia, c. 2000 B.C. and was celebrated around the time of the vernal equinox, in mid-March. A variety of other dates tied to the seasons were also used by various ancient cultures. The Egyptians, Phoenicians, and Persians began their new year with the fall equinox, and the Greeks celebrated it on the winter solstice.

Early Roman Calendar: March 1st Rings in the New Year

The early Roman calendar designated March 1 as the new year. The calendar had just ten months, beginning with March. That the new year once began with the month of March is still reflected in some of the names of the months. September through December, our ninth through twelfth months, were originally positioned as the seventh through tenth months (septem is Latin for “seven,” octo is “eight,” novem is “nine,” and decem is “ten”).

January Joins the Calendar

The first time the new year was celebrated on January 1st was in Rome in 153 B.C. (In fact, the month of January did not even exist until around 700 B.C., when the second king of Rome, Numa Pontilius, added the months of January and February.) The new year was moved from March to January because that was the beginning of the civil year, the month that the two newly elected Roman consuls—the highest officials in the Roman republic—began their one-year tenure. But this new year date was not always strictly and widely observed, and the new year was still sometimes celebrated on March 1.

Julian Calendar: January 1st Officially Instituted as the New Year

In 46 B.C. Julius Caesar introduced a new, solar-based calendar that was a vast improvement on the ancient Roman calendar, which was a lunar system that had become wildly inaccurate over the years. The Julian calendar decreed that the new year would occur with January 1, and within the Roman world, January 1 became the consistently observed start of the new year.

Middle Ages: January 1st Abolished

In medieval Europe, however, the celebrations accompanying the new year were considered pagan and unchristian like, and in 567 the Council of Tours abolished January 1 as the beginning of the year. At various times and in various places throughout medieval Christian Europe, the new year was celebrated on Dec. 25, the birth of Jesus; March 1; March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation; and Easter.

Gregorian Calendar: January 1st Restored

In 1582, the Gregorian calendar reform restored January 1 as new year’s day. Although most Catholic countries adopted the Gregorian calendar almost immediately, it was only gradually adopted among Protestant countries. The British, for example, did not adopt the reformed calendar until 1752. Until then, the British Empire—and their American colonies—still celebrated the new year in March

My thoughts are that although the timing of the particular day is of little consequence, our celebrating of New Year’s Day is expedient and profitable. For us to take this once-yearly day to thoughtfully and honestly consider our lives is a prudent and timely activity. With all candor, let us take a look at the past year, scrutinize our failures and our successes, observe anew our progression or regression, cogitate over the challenges we have met, and with the sterling glow of truth, especially examine our spiritual and intellectual conditions.

For myself, I anticipate 2007 to be a profitable and fulfilling year of growth, both of an intellectual and spiritual nature. For you, I wish the same. May your dreams be rich ones, may truth pervade your atmosphere, and may your mind and spirit be stimulated toward the production of excellence. If He is not there already, allow God to be the center of your life, your focal point, your destination. Dream your dreams accordingly, plan your every activity with Him in mind, make Him your focus, your hope, your desire.

A happy, prosperous and spirited year of our Lord 2007.

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Children Christianity/Religion Home Photography Political insight

World Wide Impact of the Death of Saddam Hussein

Man watching TVs in South Korea

Gentry, Nathaniel and Rebecca are still here with us in Crestline, and today when Rebecca went down to San Bernardino, she took the boys with her. They went to a “fast-food” place for lunch, and there on a television set, Nathaniel saw Saddam Hussein pictured on the gallows with the noose around his neck.

“Why did they put that black scarf around his neck, Granny?”

“Why do the other men wear masks on their faces, Granny?

Quite a conversation has ensued this evening, and these two boys (ages 9 and 10) have discussed Iran, Iraq, World War II, executions, hangings, families, teams, judges, soldiers, armies, juries, evil, and how all these components operate. Difficult concepts for immature minds, for even my well-matured thinking processes have considerable problems with these issues as I try to tidy them up and make them fit smoothly into a precise, white box.

The remarks of Judge Munir Haddad as reported by the BBC are enlightening as to the emotional state of persons who hate evil, and yet take no joy in such a horrific day.

Judge Munir Haddad was present at Saddam Hussein’s hanging on 30 December 2006. In an interview with the BBC’s John Simpson, he explains what he witnessed.

Judge Haddad: One of the guards present asked Saddam Hussein whether he was afraid of dying.

Saddam’s reply was that “I spent my whole life fighting the infidels and the intruders”, and another guard asked him: “Why did you destroy Iraq and destroy us? You starved us and you allowed the Americans to occupy us.”

His reply was, “I destroyed the invaders and the Persians and I destroyed the enemies of Iraq… and I turned Iraq from poverty into wealth.”

BBC: There was no question Saddam was drugged?

Judge Haddad: Not at all. Saddam was normal and in full control. He was aware of his fate and knew he was about to face death. He said: “This is my end… this is the end of my life. But I started my life as a fighter and as a political militant – so death does not frighten me.”

BBC: What happened next?

Judge Haddad: They untied his hands and tied them again behind his back.

They put his feet into shackles and he was taken upstairs to the gallows.

He was reciting, as it was his custom, “God is Great!” and also some political slogans like: “Down with the Americans!” and “Down with the Invaders!”

He said: “We’re going to Heaven and our enemies will rot in Hell!”

And he also called for forgiveness and love amongst Iraqis, but also stressed that the Iraqis should fight the Americans and the Persians.

BBC: And then?

Judge Haddad: When he was taken to gallows, the guards tried to put a hood on his head but he refused.

Then he recited verses from the Koran. Some of the guards started to taunt him – by shouting Islamic words. A cleric who was present asked Saddam to recite some spiritual words. Saddam did so but with sarcasm.

These were his last words.

And then the cord tightened around his neck and he dropped to his death.

BBC: But did he say anything else?

Judge Haddad: He said, “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is God’s messenger.”

BBC: And was he killed instantly?

Judge Haddad:He was killed instantly and I witnessed the impact of the rope and it was a horrible sight.

BBC: Are you happy that Saddam Hussein is dead?

Judge Haddad: Do I look happy to you? I am a judge and I just carry out my duty.

I was entrusted to oversee the execution of Saddam Hussein and that’s what I did.

I am neither happy nor sad.

Yes I do have feelings as an Iraqi citizen, but I carried out my duty the best I could and I gave Saddam Hussein his rights. I wasn’t there to seek revenge.

 

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Children Holidays Home Medical/Technical Photography

Yes! A Set of Triplets and a Set of Twins Within 9 Months

Picture courtesy of the Daily Mail

From Ye Old England comes this remarkable story of a mom, who, within a nine month period gave birth to both a set of triplets and a set of twins.

After giving birth to five children in less than a year, she has vowed there will be no more little surprises. It is a New Year’s resolution Rachel Reidford is desperate to keep.

In the space of just nine months, Rachel, 24, who already had a six year old daughter, Ellie, gave birth to twins, Elliot and Evie, and then triplets Billy, Harry and Alfie.

I was even more astonished as I read further into this article to see that this remarkable couple invited 20 people over for Christmas dinner. They deserve a medal…or something.

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Holidays Home Medical/Technical My Family My Home

Housework and Breast Cancer

I’ve had lots of company over the past couple of weeks, and yet this morning as I write, my guestrooms are happily full, a couple of grandkids are rolled up in quilts on the picture room floor, Rebecca’s on a couch, and I’m loving it. My two oldest sons, Steve and Mike, along with their wives came in yesterday. Golfing is in the plans today for the men–even Gentry and Nathaniel, who really won’t play, but who will ride in the golf carts. The girls and I are off to Lake Arrowhead where we will prowl the shops for after-Christmas bargains, then set ourselves down for lunch at one of the resorts there. It’s going to be a great day.

Throughout these holidays festivities, a bit more housework than usual has been necessary, and I was delighted to read this morning, that as I scrubbed bathrooms, and mopped the kitchen floor, and washed yet another coffee cup, I have been protecting myself from breast cancer.

 

Dr. Lesley Walker of Cancer Research reports:

Clothes Pegs

Chores may be exercise enough

Women who exercise by doing the housework can reduce their risk of breast cancer, a study suggests. The research on more than 200,000 women from nine European countries found doing household chores was far more cancer protective than playing sport.

Dusting, mopping and vacuuming was also better than having a physical job.

Remainder of the article here.

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Animals Children Christianity/Religion Holidays Home Humor Photography Science & Technology Social Travel

Hate to Tell You This, but Santa is Dead

DSC_0367, originally uploaded by Shirley Buxton.

“How do we handle the Santa issue?”

The center of our home has always been reserved for Jesus and His Word; our ears have routinely been open to His direction for our lives—not just for Jerry and me, but of course, as our family grew, such focus and teaching surrounded our four children.

What then, at Christmas time, would we do with Santa? I don’t recall that Jerry and I sat down and formally discussed this, but it evolved that we treated Santa Claus as a fairy tale, much like The Three Bears or Jack in the Beanstalk. We helped the children set out cookies on Christmas Eve, and a glass of milk, whose consumption Jerry and I graciously effected. In the malls, we stood in line with our youngsters and grinned drunkenly, as do most parents, when our charmers sat on the fat red lap. But it was just a story to them…I thought, until a couple of weeks ago, Rebecca told me that at one point, she really believed there was a Santa.

I know for sure Michael (or maybe it was Steve) didn’t believe Santa was real, for once I received a call from his 6th grade teacher. Seems Michael had scoffed at a classmate who was a believer in the North Pole and magical reindeer, and an irate parent had called the school. Michael and I had a friendly talk about respecting other people’s beliefs and not spoiling visions and dreams.

As you regular readers of this site know, I love Christmas and all its surrounds and trappings…the shopping, cooking, lights, music, excitement…all of it. It’s my favorite. And I must confess, I love Santa Claus, and once a few years ago, I bought myself an animated one, whose switch when pressed, sets him to dancing and singing. He’s adorable, and I have been known to smile at him, pat his fat cheeks, and, on occasion, to dance with him.

Imagine my consternation, when a few weeks ago, I learned that indeed there once was a Santa, but he is now dead. The nature of his demise was first revealed in 1990 in the Spy Magazine. (Now defunct—not surprising since they allowed such a negative story to be published.)
So, my job is sad today, as I republish here the Physics of the Death of Santa Claus.

No known species of reindeer can fly. BUT there are 300,000 species of living organisms yet to be classified, and while most of these are insects and germs, this does not COMPLETELY rule out flying reindeer which only Santa has ever seen.

There are two billion children (persons under 18) in the world. BUT since Santa doesn’t appear to handle the Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Buddhist children, that reduces the workload to 15% of the total — 378 million according to Population Reference Bureau. At an average (census) rate of 3.5 children per household, that’s 91.8 million homes. One presumes there’s at least one good child in each.

Santa has 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming he travels east to west (which seems logical). This works out to 822.6 visits per second.

This is to say that for each Christian household with good children, Santa has 1/1000th of a second to park, hop out of the sleigh, jump down the chimney, fill the stockings, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left, get back up the chimney, get back into the sleigh and move on to the next house. Assuming that each of these 91.8 million stops are evenly distributed around the earth (which, of course, we know to be false but for the purposes of our calculations we will accept), we are now talking about .78 miles per household, a total trip of 75½ million miles, not counting stops to do what most of us must do at least once every 31 hours, plus feeding and etc.

This means that Santa’s sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second, 3,000 times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, the fastest man-made vehicle on earth, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles per second – a conventional reindeer can run, tops, 15 miles per hour.

The payload on the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium-sized lego set (two pounds), the sleigh is carrying 321,300 tons, not counting Santa, who is invariably described as overweight. On land, conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting that “flying reindeer” (see above) could pull TEN TIMES the normal amount, we cannot do the job with eight, or even nine. We need 214,200 reindeer. This increases the payload (not even counting the weight of the sleigh) – to 353,430 tons. Again, for comparison – this is four times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth. 353,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance – this will heat the reindeer up in the same fashion as spacecraft re-entering the earth’s atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer will absorb 14.3 QUINTILLION joules of energy. Per second. Each.

In short, they will burst into flame almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them, and create deafening sonic booms in their wake. The entire reindeer team will be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second. Santa, meanwhile, will be subjected to centrifugal forces 17,500.06 times greater than gravity. A 250-pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of his sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force.

In conclusion: If Santa ever DID deliver presents on Christmas Eve, he’s dead now.

At WordPress on Shirley Buxton’s site, a day of mourning is declared.

Edit: Friday Noon on the West Coast After further reflection, I feel the need to remind us all of the power of faith…and, anyway, why should we trust Spy Magazine? Read here what happened when a pastor declared Santa to be dead.