Insights of Retirement Living


February 10th, 2014 | Posted by David Brenneman in All Posts | Just for Fun - (0 Comments)

Honesty was instilled in my sisters and me at an early age. We were taught the Ten Commandments in Sunday school and we were expected to obey them. The example of Abraham Lincoln walking many miles to return money that was not his, made an impression on me as a child. I would like to relate the following instances of lessons learned.

The first instance of being taught honesty was at the age of eight. My sisters and I were to be baptized in Christ Church located in Alexandria, Virginia, which was our home town. Mother made white dresses with ruffles to wear. After the baptism, I went out to play. Climbing a fence I tore my dress. I quietly went to my room and changed. Mother questioned me and I told her my dress was dirty. I had lied to her which was not acceptable in our home. I didn’t get much sleep that night, and when morning came, I was ready to confess. I did not get punished, but the look on Mother’s face was enough.

The next instance, I was ten years old. A friend invited me to go to the five and dime store to shop. She didn’t do much shopping, but spent much time at the candy counter. She told me that when the lady was busy, we could put our hands in a space at the end of the counter and take candy and not pay for it. What a temptation! I did not have money for candy. I knew it was wrong so I told my friend that this was stealing, and I was going home, which was quite a distance. She left me and I had to find my way alone.

The next two instances were recent. I had purchased a waffle iron and had to correct the cashier on the price. A week later I returned it and didn’t notice the amount credited. As I gathered my slips to file, I noticed the amount was ten dollars too much. I went back and reported the mistake, asking that the amount be charged to my credit card. A supervisor was called and she told me to keep the amount for being treated in a rude way by the cashier. I was not happy about this outcome. My daughter phoned and asked me to go with her to get a battery. I saw this as a chance to go to the bank and withdraw cash for Christmas. It was snowing and there were steep streets. We finally arrived at the bank, and I watched the cashier count the money. I didn’t recount the cash as I was in a hurry to go to the auto parts store to have a battery installed in my daughter’s car. As she was driving, I counted the cash, and found one hundred dollars too much. My daughter said we would go back, but I refused. The snow was getting heavy. There had to be a better solution. An idea came that I could call the bank and have them take another hundred out of my account. I called the teller and told her of the error, stating that because of the weather, I could not return. I told her of my idea and she approved it.

Standing for the principle of truth has cost me jobs and friends. I am grateful to Mother for her stand for truth and honesty.

– Betty L

This is somewhat of a parody about a true incident. The year was 1950. The place was a high school auditorium. The event was a biblical drama sponsored by a local civic organization. The event was supposed to be a serious drama. However, due to such factors as limited rehearsal time, poor volunteer amateur actors, limited stage props, etc., the event turned into a comedy.

The sponsoring group hired a director from outside the area. She was accustomed to working with trained actors. She knew nothing about the limitations of the volunteer cast. Those of us in the play did not have sufficient time to memorize our lines or to get accustomed to our costumes or some of the props which were issued the night before the play.

Following are some of the things that happened which turned the supposedly serious biblical drama into a comedy — actually a farce.

One actor was supposed to eat during a scene. That would have been fine except for one thing — he could not find his mouth through the hole in his mustache. Those of us on stage felt compelled to maintain our composure, but I could tell that all of us were ready to explode in laughter.

Forgetting lines, feeding off the wrong cue, listening to the frantic director standing backstage attempting to prompt the actors, etc. were hilarious.

One especially funny incident was the attempt of one of the actors to “break the ten commandments.” The simulated stone tablet just would not shatter as it was designed to do, regardless of how hard the actor banged it against his knee. Finally, in disgust he threw it onto the floor. It still did not break.

I had a the part of Joseph and had more lines than I could memorize in such a short time. I had the “brilliant” idea of palming my lines on note cards and changing them while someone else was speaking. It actually worked for a while. Then, it happened. As I stood up, there went my cards to the floor. I had to ad-lib and bluff my way through the rest of that scene.

It was in this play, just before I went off stage that I witnessed the funniest episode that I’ve ever seen on any stage. Several high school faculty members were in the cast. Our beloved principal (now deceased) had been caroled into taking a part in the play. His lines included the phrase, “Yea, Oh Lord” several times. He had quipped that if he forgot his lines, he could just say that phrase. Now, you can guess what happened. At one point he completely forgot his lines, as several of us had done previously. He looked up with a blank stare and said loudly, “Yea, Oh Lord.” I could tell that he had forgotten his lines, so I tried to prompt him. I could hear the director behind the curtain trying to prompt him. Our principal had obviously panicked . Again, he said, “Yea, Oh Lord.”

By this time the hysterical director was almost yelling the lines. Tears actually rolled down the actor’s cheeks as he said loudly for the third time, “Yea, Oh Lord.” Finally, after what seemed to be an eternity, our friend caught the correct cue from the director.

When I left the stage with a fellow actor (thankfully for the last time in the play), my friend and I headed straight for the dressing room. We raised the window and leaned out as far as we could (so that we would not disturb others) and just roared in laughter.

During my seventeen years of teaching speech, I directed numerous plays. However, I never witnessed anything as funny as this supposedly serious biblical drama which turned into comedy.

-James Salter

The Hugo Mural

January 27th, 2014 | Posted by David Brenneman in All Posts | Just for Fun | Local History - (0 Comments)

Broken Tree

Reminiscing of the past, I ran across this story. The impact of this incident has had a lasting effect on my life. At the suggestion of my writing instructor at that time, I entered it into a senior writing contest and won first place in a special category, with a prize of one hundred dollars. I still feel the excitement of that day and how it encouraged me to keep on writing.

The heat made the cabin arid and steamy. The wind moaned like a hound dog on a moonlit night and sucked its way through every crevice of the cabin. I was alone and terrified. I pulled the drapes, but I could still hear the eerie banging of tree branches against the roof and the rain hammering against the windows.

It was reported that Hurricane Hugo would gain momentum by late afternoon. Warnings were given to batten down everything. What was I to do? I had already let down the 50 foot TV antenna, breaking three fingernails and almost a finger in the process. The front porch swing had been flung into the evergreen tree at the end of the house by violent wind. Not being strong enough to dislodge it, I left it dangling there, praying it wouldn’t fly through the living room window. There was nothing else to batten down. . .except my emotions.

I began to think about God as I did during the flood of ‘69, when our house was nearly washing away by flood water. God had my undivided attention then as I saw His awesome power and protection during that storm. I hadn’t thought much about God and how faith enters into life’s experiences until that time. Now my faith was being tested again. This time, I was alone, a widow on my own.

The moaning wind intensified and the torrential rains continued pelting the window panes. I walked from room to room, trying to muster enough courage to land somewhere.

The raging elements kept my nerves on edge. I paced. I couldn’t bring myself to settle in one spot. No place seemed safe. Remembering God’s past protection and knowing I could count on Him again, I felt a need to pray and devise a plan. I could not open myself up to fear. I gathered up all my painting supplies, a fan to circulate the still air, a radio to drown out the intense storm, and shut myself in the bathroom.

All I could hear was the music of the radio and the soft whir of the fan as I began to paint on the bathroom wall. I was thankful for a safe haven. As I immersed my energies in the mural that was unfolding on the wall before me, I forgot the fearful storm.

The scene I painted depicted country children standing in a line to go to the Johnny house. Their gestures and anguished positions indicated their anxiousness to get into the “john” as soon as possible. Bright red and yellow acrylics became little girls’ dresses and Amish blue was brushed into tattered overalls. Chiffon pink put rosy cheeks on the little children’s faces. Bare feet stood in muted green grass.

Many hours passed and my legs became stiff from sitting in a cramped position. My arms were tired from hours of continued painting, but distracted by my painting, my mind was no longer plagued by the tortuous sounds of the howling wind and torrential rain.

When my spirit shifted from its creative mode, to “now it’s time to quit”, I turned off the fan and radio, opened the bathroom door, and looked outside. Though the rain continued, the wind had calmed. Looking at the huge mass of debris in the yard, I noticed the swing was still lodged in the evergreen, and after a cursory look there seemed to be no damage to my property.

I returned to survey my bathroom painting. It was incomplete, but the story was there. I knew it would take almost another day to complete the mural, but the project achieved its purpose for me. The Lord had kept me safe as I calmly worked on the mural.

I never completed the work I started on that stormy day, but it stood as a constant reminder that God always watches over us.

I no longer live in that mountain home in Love, Virginia, and I don’t know if the mural still exists. At that time, everyone who visited my bathroom seemed to enjoy the scene that I called The Hugo Mural. I told them I would perhaps finish it someday during another hurricane, but mostly I told them of God’s protection through that storm and how grateful I was. . . and my gratitude always to Him.

-Bunny Stein

Many communities have individuals who, for some reason or other, stand out as unique and colorful characters. Years ago I wrote about some of those individuals in my hometown in Louisiana. As you read about this particular gentleman, perhaps you will recall some special individual that you knew years ago in your hometown.

A deaf and dumb gentleman by the nickname of “Dummy” was well-known and well-liked by many people in my Louisiana hometown for many years. His story is a most unusual and interesting one.

It was in the 1930s that an oil drilling crew outside of town kept seeing a young boy around their rig. The youngster was so wild that they could not approach him. The men set a trap for him, and to their amazement, discovered that he was deaf and dumb. He was dumb only in the sense that he could not talk — his mind was as “sharp as a tack.”

The oilmen took a liking to Dummy, took him to town, and bought him some nice clothes. The people of the town really took a liking to the young man and “adopted” him as one of their own. He made friends easily. A state senator and the town druggist became Dummy’s chief benefactors.

As Dummy grew into a young man, he became a well-known “fixture” in the town. He enjoyed visiting in the churches. Although he could not hear, he sat up front in the center section of the churches and paid rapt attention to the ministers. Evidently he could read lips well. The three largest churches in town were the Catholic, Methodist and Baptist. Dummy took turns visiting them. He was welcomed in all of them.

Dummy could speak only in gibberish, but some of us could carry on conversations with him using our own version of sign language. He would tell me about squirrel hunting with his dog that would tree a squirrel, come back to him, and lead him to the tree.

For a number of years Dummy enjoyed going up to the school during recess. He enjoyed serving as referee for some of the groups. In his last years Dummy was forced to use a walking cane. On Sunday mornings he could be seen walking right down the middle of the street going to and from church. The townspeople knew him and just went around him.

Dummy died in the late 1950s. There were many of us in my hometown who were proud to claim this colorful character as a friend. Dummy’s real name was Frank Rivers. I shall always remember my friend, Dummy.

-James Salter


“I live in Stuarts Draft with my wife Katie and my two young girls, Grace, who is ten years old and Hope, who is six. The girls attend Stuarts Draft Elementary School. My wife and I are expecting our third child at the end of April. I don’t mind saying that I am hoping for a boy. However, if the Lord sees fit to bless our family with another young lady, He will get no complaints from me.

The Karaffa family has lived in the Shenandoah Valley for three generations. My grandfather and his wife, John and Lucille, live in Verona with my Uncle John and Aunt Becky. I have another uncle who lives in Staunton with his wife. Tom works for the organ factory, and Liz is an artist who paints on porcelain. There are, of course, numerous cousins and great grandchildren that would take more than this column to fill. However, most folks know the Karaffa family through one of the members I have listed previously.

My father is Doctor David Karaffa, a neurologist who was formerly with Shenandoah Valley Neurological Associates. However, my mother, Sandra, and my father sought a warmer climate and relocated to Palm Coast, Florida. While I do miss them, they are very happy in their new home.

I moved back to the Valley after I married and we were expecting our first child eleven years ago. We decided that the Valley was the best place with the best environment to raise a family and have enjoyed our life here.

I attended Blue Ridge Community College and obtained my degree in nursing. Shortly after, I was working on the floor at Augusta Medical Center as a nurse. I was quickly moved into the intensive care unit where I spent six years. During the last three years there I was also trained as a cardiac intensive care nurse. I was very proud of everything that I had accomplished at Augusta Medical Center. However, the demands of the job were very fast paced and I wanted to be able to get to know my patients and residents better. Therefore, I left the hospital to enter long term care.

I am very excited to be here at Stuarts Draft Christian Homes. It is a special thing to have such a caring and devoted staff. I love the embrace of God that exists in so many aspects of this community. As a Catholic, this has meant a lot to me. I look forward to getting to know all of you and establishing myself here in your community. I have had such a warm welcome so far and wish to convey the most sincere thanks for the many wishes of luck and prayers. Thank you.”

Have you ever gone through one day and thought about the new things that you saw and experienced that day? I looked up the meaning of the word “new” and there are a number of meanings for that word. Here are some of them: “something that never existed before, different, a new planet, strange, unfamiliar, someone new to the work, and the work new to them.”

Think of the garden — new potatoes. Think of all of the seeds that were planted: the spinach, peas, lettuce, corn, beans, etc. are all new for you!

We just heard that we have a new great grandson in Germany. Now, that is a new baby that we have not seen, and Germany is a new country for us. We’ve never been there.

The Bible has many scriptures referring to the word “new.” Psalms 33:3 states: “Sing unto Him a new song.” Ecclesiastes 1:9 states that there is no new thing under the sun. Isaiah 65:17: “For behold I create new heavens and a new earth.” Ephesians 4:24: “Put on the new man, which, after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” Revelation 2:17: “Will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name writ- ten which no man knoweth, saving he that receiveth it.” There are other scriptures that refer to the word “new.”

One day I saw an unusual cloud partly covering the sun — and then, several hours later, a raindrop hit my hand. I have seen clouds over the sun and have felt rain on my hand before, but this was something new that day. Would you know, that same day I cut my finger. That was new, too! I saw a beautiful butterfly. Now, I know that was new because it only lives for a season.

– Anna Miller