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Holocaust

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            Through the years we have broached many marriage and family topics, and even some of historical significance. However, with the apparent rise in anti-Semitism and hate crimes, I feel compelled to give some perspective on one of the greatest travesties of the last century, the Holocaust.

As a child I grew up fairly isolated from relatives. I knew my dad’s brother, Max Meinstein, and my father’s Uncle Max and aunt Audrey. I just called them Tante and Uncle. They helped raise dad when he came to the US, before the War, and before his parents arrived.  

I was probably around eleven when we visited the home of dad’s his youth, Zirndorf, Germany. One of my few vivid memories was the local graveyard. There was a section dedicated to the Meinsteins and our relatives. Row after row of relatively small, unadorned headstones, dating back to the 1700s. Many of the older ones were illegible; washed clean by the years of wind and rain.

            Suddenly I had a real sense of history, of belonging, and roots. Years later it occurred to me that, during those early trips to Germany, my parents and I visited with my mother’s relatives and friends, but never my fathers. I thought it curious, but never enough to ask a question.

            I know in his job as a CIC operative, during and after the war, dad had many encounters with death camp survivors, NAZI criminals, and other first-hand witnesses of the horrors of the Holocaust. He mentioned only a few, which I included in our book. While he never shared details of other events, except that he was present at several camps after the war, I always sensed that, the experience had changed him.

            His view of Germany, the world, and even God were changed. As a child he witnessed his nation shift from common purpose nationalism, to political unrest and extremism (sound familiar?). The quiet neighborhoods, with neighbors helping neighbors, were slowly becoming more tense. Political debates were replacing peaceful coexistence. Tensions between political ideologies grew. Fights broke out. Different groups were named as scapegoats for the nation’s troubles.

            As fascism took hold, and Jews became the focus of Hitler and his followers, there became only two options. Jews could either leave the country, or lay low, hope and pray. Dad and his family did the former. Many of his relatives living in and around Zirndorf did as well. A number moved to different parts of America, from New York, to Michigan, to Florida, and Texas. Others moved to different countries. Israel and Africa are two of which I know.

            The latter group, who chose to stay, didn’t fare well at all. Our book documents eight of dad’s relatives, who were part of the six million Jews, killed as part of Hitler’s ethnic cleansing process. May we never forget and always remember those lost. ‘Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.’

            So, what can we learn from this sad time? I have been fortunate enough in my life to meet at least some of my Jewish relatives. In my life, I have also been fortunate to see many parts of this great country, and to Europe several times. I have been with people of different races, religions and ethnicities. What I have found is that, every group has it’s good and bad, but we are all trying to get by the best we can. We love, and want what’s best for our children. Our beliefs are rarely original, but subject to our environments. In summary, people are just people.

            Until most of us acknowledge that, and start focusing on what we have in common, more than our differences, we are at risk. Until we realize that God loves all of us, we will continue to disappoint Him, and fail to fulfill His purpose for our lives. When He says to ‘love our neighbor as ourselves’ (Mark 12:31), He is talking about looking out for the wellbeing of all people (think Good Samaritan, Luke 10:29). Can you imagine a world where everyone believed that?

Dad’s soccer team in Zirndorf, Germany circa 1930 (the coach has his left hand on dad).

Marriage Wows

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            Today is Mother’s Day 2021. And while this post has little to do with the holiday, the topic is related. I do want to thank Crystal, and mothers everywhere, for your dedication and service in the noblest of all causes. It should be Mother’s Month. Now on to today’s topic.

            No that’s not a misprinted title. There are times in every marriage where the only possible response is Wow. After 43 years there a few (which I feel at liberty to share), that stand out in my mind

            The first, of course, was our wedding day. I remember how I was totally relaxed, dressed and ready to marry Crystal. Then it happened. She walked down the aisle. She was as beautiful, more like a portrait than a real person. In her father’s arm, in her hand made (her mother made it) silken white dress, glistening with hundreds of hand sown beads.

            Suddenly, I was a little unsteady. Her sister later confronted me about my somber appearance. It’s not as if I hadn’t thought about that day, for well over a year. But seeing her at that moment, all of a sudden, the wow hit me. This was a permanent commitment, and all our friends and family, not to mention God, were watching. She finally got to me, and when she smiled and looked lovingly into my eyes, I knew it would be OK. Wow.

            The next day, we went on our honeymoon in Arizona. Wow! Enough said.

            The next few years, I hate to admit, had its share of ups and downs. Strangely enough, being married isn’t all bells and whistles, or fun and frolic, even when you think you are with your soul mate. There are family issues, money issues, work and commitment issues, communication issues, etc., etc., etc. Let’s just say it’s a learning and growing experience (not for the faint of heart). But you know even then, there were enough wow moments to make it all seem worthwhile. Many were small: like a walk in the wood, holding hands at the theater, having friends and family over to “our” apartment for food, and/or game night, etc., etc. etc.

            Then, just when some sense of calm seems to be returning, here come the kids. Possibly the greatest wow moment is after all the pain and suffering pregnancy (yes, I suffered too), 35 hours of labor, and a C-section birth, a new life enters the world. Wow!!!

            I had the privilege of carrying each of our three daughters out of the hospital. Proud, overjoyed, and yet somehow terrified would begin to describe it. Somehow, you carry this beautiful child and great new responsibility at the same time. It was a kind of flash back to the way I felt on our wedding day. WOW!

Over at least (Did I say at least?), the next eighteen years, you will be responsible for what you and your spouse have brought into the world. You will lose sleep, take care of them when sick, encourage when upset, praise whenever possible, and guide/discipline as needed. All that time, you have no real clue whether you are doing it right. The funny thing about parenting is, no matter how you choose to proceed, someone will tell you, ‘you are doing it wrong’. Wow.

As they grow and “mature”, at some point your children question you as well. They will be all too quick to let you know how they know better. You might see yourself in them, and at least briefly, feel sorry for your own parents. At some point, they finally get their chance. I still remember when one daughter asked, you mean you have to pay for water and trash pickup? What do taxes pay for? That’s one I still have a little trouble answering.

Eventually, kids will leave, and if you have done your job well, be responsible adults. Then the whole cycle begins anew. Eventually, there may be grandkids as well. At home that leaves just you and your spouse (a kid or grandkid on occasion). If you are OK with that, you are among the few lucky ones. I believe Crystal and I are. Wow!

First our wedding day, then our family.

Crystal’s Corner Registration at Bradley University

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            I came to Bradley University as a Junior.  When I was in community college, we met with our advisor and they helped us make our schedule.  So, I would receive my classes in the mail, with all the information about two weeks before classes started.

            So, when I came to Bradley in August, I thought I would be receiving my schedule the same way, but instead I think I got a letter telling me to come to Bradley Hall to register.  Fortunately, my roommate Debra, was also a Junior and her fiancé had been at Bradley for two years.  He explained to us what was going to happen.  He also informed us that because we were Juniors, we would get into the classes we needed to graduate as Seniors. 

            Going into Bradley Hall that day was stepping into chaos.  There were tons of people standing in lines and wandering about.  I got into the first line for one of my classes pretty quickly, and was accepted into the class.  Then I went to the next line.  I don’t think very many of my lines were long.  I was mainly taking my English major classes.  I did have to take a Calculus class, and that was crowded.  So, I might have just gotten in line early.  I couldn’t believe that a school like Bradley could be so disorganized with registration.  It was such a prestigious school.  Of course, this is before the computer systems had taken over the paperwork that had to be dealt with at colleges.  I was just glad that I got through the process very quicky, without any problems.  Some of my friends had problems getting into the classes they needed, and had to adjust their schedules, and stand in more lines.  I did notice some students swearing as they were refused to be accepted in classes.

            I had not found APO yet, so I didn’t know that the students that were helping with registration were from APO.  I just knew that they were friendly, encouraging and helpful.  I thought that was nice.  I may even have seen Ron that day, but didn’t know him yet.

            I think God planned the way we met and got to know each other.  I had to establish myself at Bradley, and get used to being there before I met him.  I wasn’t ready yet.  Getting to know Debra and my friend, Paula, helped me to adjust.  I was very homesick at first, and had decided to stay at Bradley for about 6 weeks before I went home.  That was a long time for me, but I think it helped me to get settled.

Ron: Some things seem so fun, and even funny, when we look back on our lives. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have the funny stories, without having to go through the stuff? My sophomore year it took all of 8 hours to register. Sophomore were low on the totem pole.

I know this has nothing to do with Registration but I like it. Brandywine Falls near Cleveland (we were just there celebrating our 43rd anniversary}.

Easter, and More

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            Of course, for us Christians, we celebrate new life and Jesus. So naturally, we paint and hide eggs. Fortunately, Crystal and I no longer have young kids in the house. I was a great hider. On March 25th I turned 67. We would probably rediscover eggs in July, based on smell.

            So, a week after us spring chicks (my birthday, along with a few grandkids) are hatched, comes Crystal and my anniversary. Yes, as you might know by now, we were a couple of April fools. This year makes 43 years. What you may not know is that, when we lived in Greensburg, Indiana, some 20 + years ago, we lived next to a very nice family, with another couple of April fools: Crystal and John. That’s right, Crystal and John lived next to Crystal and Ron. They just celebrated their 42nd anniversary.

            It seems that all of us April fools have girls. They had two, Bridget and Lacy. Growing up, they were good friends with our girls. Along with another couple of girls who lived down the street, our house was always a little on the noisy side. I’m not saying that girls talk a lot…..But they do! To this day, I still don’t get how they can talk at the same time, and still understand each other? But it was a lot of fun.

            So that’s it. This time of year, we have spring birthdays (mine in particular), April Fools couples’ day, and Easter. That is hard to beat. We are all looking forward to our families Easter tradition. We get together at a Greek restaurant, “The Mad Greek”, in Columbus for a great, although non-traditional meal.

This was our recent Family celebration of us March Birthday kids

Wishing you all a wonderful Easter.

Category: Holidays

Registration

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            Ok, it’s time for a fun story, from the past. Because APO, our fraternity, did community service project throughout the whole school year, Bradley University’s administration loved us. We helped give the school a good name in the community, and beyond. Our reward was, they gave us more work.

            However, as opposed to our usual volunteer status, they paid us. It really wasn’t a lot of money, but it was nice to know we were appreciated. One of our jobs was helping out at registration.

Unlike today, where so much is done on line, back in the 1970s, everything was manual. You sat in a large auditorium, and the classes, which still had seating, appeared on a large screen. You would write down the classes and times you desired; then the fun would begin. As hapless students wandered back into the halls of the ivy-covered Bradley Hall building, they were directed. It was somewhat similar to cows being herded. They were directed from room to room to pay their various fees, and verify their class selections. Occasionally, by the time they got to the signup room a class had been filled. Then it was back to the auditorium to start over. Of course, if one class changed it might conflict with other classes. So those needed to be changed as well. By the end of the day, many students were wandering around in a daze.

That’s where we came in. We were the directors. Basically, we stood in the hallways on all three floors, and answered student’s questions, and helped to direct them to their next room. We also provided moral support, and some minor psychological therapy. We would say things like, ‘I know it seems impossible, but you can do it. Just one step at a time.’

I don’t know how it happened, but my first day on the job was assigned the most important job of the whole event. I made the coffee. I had never made coffee before. However, I quickly mastered the basics. Turn on the giant percolator. Water goes in the bottom, grounds in the basket, and push the on button. They were so impressed; I was assigned a primo post. It was on the third floor by the payment office. Since everyone needed to stop, all I needed to do was direct whoever made it that far into the office.

About the third day I had a brilliant idea. I used a table to block 2/3 of the hallway. Then I put up a sign on the room door at eyelevel, with a large arrow, saying everyone must stop here. Then I simply stood in back of the table and watched. I thought my plan was fool proof. However, in there dazed and confused state, I watched as about one out of every three college students simply dodged the table, and the sign, to walk past. I then caught and redirected them. I spent the rest of the day sitting on that table and pointing into the room.

Of course, when my time to register came, I don’t think I did much better. At least I knew that I had to stop in that room.

I got this picture of a couple of my fraternity “Little Sisters” working their assigned posts at Bradley registration. Ahh, don’t you miss the short skirts of the seventies?

Winning the Love Game

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            I know Crystal is a big fan of all of those reality TV dating shows. There are so many to choose from nowadays. There is the classic The Bachelor: The Bachelorette, Bachelor in Paradise, 90 Day Fiancé, etc. I have never understood how, dating 25 women in a stressful environment, is any way to find the one person who will become your life partner.

            Whenever I see that Crystal is watching one, I generally just shake my head (involuntarily), turn and walk away. I think I’d rather watch the grass grow (and that’s pretty slow right now). However, the other day something amazing happened, and now I see the light. I still won’t watch, but I see the benefit of these shows.

            As I entered the living room and saw one of the goofy shows on, as per usual, I turned to walk away. I’m sure my head was still shaking when Crystal stopped me. She walked up to me, and threw her arms around me, and planted a big wet one on my lips. All she said was “Thank you for marrying me”. I have to say, that meant a lot to me. It was like I could feel her love and appreciation. All I could think to say was ‘thank you’, followed by; ‘maybe there is some benefit to these shows.’

            I never really gave it much thought until now, but why are these shows so popular? Is it that people are so lacking for a sense of romance and satisfaction in their own lives, that they seek it in any form possible? Or is it simply the love of the interpersonal dramas, available in abundance on these shows. Or is it just a distraction from the viewer’s own life? Regardless, the networks have struck a nerve, and will continue to poke it until it stops getting a response.

            However, in my mind at least, there is a problem. It seems we are getting further and further away from modeling a realistic pattern for finding lasting love. Trust me, reality TV is not the way.

            When I went to college, I definitely was not in search of a wife. However, in my first three years, before I met Crystal, I had three long term relationships. By long term, I mean at least six weeks. That’s a long time in college. Each, ran its course. We spent time getting to know each other, dating, studying together, and just enjoying some distraction from school. Eventually, each relationship came to an end. It always came down to someone wanting something different. One girl was too serious, before I was ready. One just wanted something different (?). The third was quite honest. She had spent a lot of time working on her appearance, and while she loved my company, I wasn’t cute enough. She was beautiful. I was very lucky with all of them. We always parted as friends. Each time, I learned a little more about women (I was vastly ignorant), and about myself.

            By the time Crystal came around, I was frankly, a little more mature, and had a better idea about my own needs. It is what I consider serendipity. That is, when everything just seems to work together for a positive result. In other words, it was the right time, the right place, and most importantly, we were the right two people. I give God a hat tip for that.

            In our case, it wasn’t love at first sight. But somehow, we kept coming back to each other. Crystal had her five-year plan, coming in, and I wasn’t in it. It wasn’t until neither of us could find a date to a dance that, we decided to go together.

            Some 45 years later, the dance continues. Just as a side note, Crystal got to know all of my ‘long term’ ex-girlfriends. I think it was part of her research. We even attended one’s wedding. Another of them came to ours.

            I guess the point of this article is that marriage is all about relationship. There are no short cuts. Use your single time to work on yourself. Work on becoming the prize worth finding. As for dating, I believe, you may have to kiss a few frogs to find a prince/princess. But somehow, finding the one, out of twenty-five (beautiful frogs) at the same time, is for entertainment only. Choosing a life partner takes the right timing, patience, critical thinking (emotions aside), chemistry, and honestly a little luck. Praying is always a good idea as well.

Remember there are no short cuts. Most of these relationships don’t work long term.
Category: Suitable Mate

Missed Valentine’s Day? No Way!

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            OK I’ll admit it. It was me that the pastor used as an example last week. I’m the one who never buys Crystal candies for Valentine’s Day; at least not for the last 30 years or so. Furthermore, I rarely take her out on that day or other holidays. And yet, I’m pretty sure she still likes me.

            It’s bin a while since we talked about what makes marriage work. Being a chemist, I’d love to give you the formula. If I ever figure that out, I will gladly share…immediately after the patent clears (and for a reasonable donation). No, I don’t have the answers for you. I only know what works for us.

            Before you get the wrong idea, you should know that Crystal is perfectly fine with the way we celebrate. It will soon be February 15th. That’s right the day after, the day. My plan is to get up bright and early and drive into town. That’s when I buy twice as much chocolate at half price.

            Crystal and I also go out fairly often; usually on week days. We just don’t like crowds. For us, there is nothing more annoying, and less romantic than being on a date, and having to yell across the table to your date. That happened often when we were dating, and early in our marriage.

            The point isn’t that we are smarter than others; we just have learned about each other over time. It’s not like we never disagree (reference the earlier blog “The great Boot Fight”), we resolve and move on.

            Also, we do celebrate on holidays, usually at home, with a nice meal. This Valentine’s Day, I bought Crystal a nice card, and a couple of top-quality cake pans. Great gift, right! Oh, did I forget to mention that, I first used them to make a really tasty, cherry filled, white cake, with homemade buttercream frosting.

            I think she liked the pans. She loved the cake. Communication is the key. That and extra butter. Hope you enjoyed your holiday as much as we did.

Chocolates are nice, but it’s hard to beat a really good cake! And yes I got her flowers too.
Category: Make Marriage Last

Dad’s Germany

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            For me, writing our book was an act of love, a remembrance, a tribute to our parents and times long past. By the time I was nineteen I had visited Germany, and Europe four times. Dad was like the greatest tour guide ever. He drove around Europe, and spoke about its history, people and places as if it were his home, and he had never left.

            The red brick two floor, slate shingled building, on the Zirndorf cobblestone side street, looked so typical, and unremarkable. It had been, so many years earlier, the home of his youth. The graveyard, in the same town, served as a reminder of things past. I had previously, no idea about the depth of our family’s heritage, or how deeply German we were. I walked all the way back, in the section dedicated to our family, until the tiny (by American standards) headstones were illegible from weathering (around the 1700s).

            Even as I scribed, to the best of my abilities, his accounts of his youth, I could barely imagine what it must have been like. I was thirteen once; a spoiled, carefree, all American boy. At thirteen, he was torn from his small-town home, and sent, alone, to a foreign land, to Chicago, to live with relatives, until his parents came a few years later.

            Even as he assimilated well, there was a certain irony about his story. His return during WW2 must have been extremely difficult. He would be fighting a fight, which he knew had to be fought. However, he would also be fighting against some of the friends of his youth, members of his old soccer team, family acquaintances, teachers, etc.

            Even as he mouthed dirty krauts, and other derogatory wartime slurs, he knew better. I remember a 1985 song by Sting, “Russians”, where he asserts, ‘there is no such thing as a winnable war. Mothers love their children’, no matter what the politicians do. We are all, basically the same, at least in God’s eyes.

            I never thought about that, as I cheered for John Wayne, and the rest of the Green Barats, as they killed all of those Krauts on the silver screen.

            Even as it was his job to interrogate German prisoners, dad spoke, with some pride about those prisoners, drafted to service, who hated the war, and what their homeland had become.

            Sadly, these days, as our own country seems similarly divided, I am concerned. There is a saying; ‘those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it’. Also, ‘those who stand for nothing will fall for anything’.

            America was founded on principles of freedom and democracy for all. That is what our fathers fought to protect. What seems lost today is, we aren’t always going to agree with each other, but we need to respect those who disagree. I think that’s what is missing today, in politics, and on the streets of our country, mutual respect. I’m certain, if they were still here, our parents would have agreed.

            Someone once said, “love your neighbor as you love yourself”. I’m sure I heard that somewhere?

Now a message from our sponsor: We are thrilled with all of the personal and positive feedback from those of you whom have read the book. We would love it if you could review our book, on the Amazon web page. Good reviews will help more people to find us. Reviews are easy and don’t take much time. Let me know if you have any problems (Ron).

  1. Open the Amazon web site.
  2. Type 150 Years of Marriage into the search at the top of the page.
  3. Scroll down to find our book.
  4. Click on the picture of our book cover.
  5. Scroll down near the bottom of the page to the Customer Review section.
  6. Click on “Write a customer review”.
  7. Rate us and write a brief review.

We want to thank you in advance! Have a blessed day.

Dad’s youth soccer team Germany circa 1930: Coach’s left hand on dad.

           

Extra Extra, Read All About It!

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It’s Wednesday January 21st, 2021, and at least in Coshocton, Ohio, our book is big news. Separate articles published is the Coshocton County Tribune and the Coshocton County Beacon came out today.

Apparently, when you live in a small town, you rate slightly higher on the front page than President Biden. We just wanted to share, and thank you for your continued interest in this project: https://www.coshoctontribune.com/story/news/local/2021/01/27/warsaw-couple-shares-tales-150-years-marriage/4252281001/

Memoir Writing

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            First a progress report. Yesterday, Crystal and I were interviewed by the Coshocton Tribune paper. That article will come out next week. We have sold a few books locally and given away a number as well. It has recently gone for sale on Amazon, in both paperback and electronic forms.

            Sales are great, but they are not our only motive. Our plans (once things are more normal) include doing public readings, and speaking engagements. We feel strongly about supporting marriage and memoir writing.

            Since it’s inception, building strong marriages has been a consistent theme of this web page. Today I will to talk a little bit about memoir writing. Why write a memoir?

            My two most dreaded subjects early in my education were Writing and History. One of those I’ve kind of gotten over. The other, while I understand the necessity, still doesn’t float my boat.

            To me, History is just black and white, letters on a page.

            The 1967 Oak Lawn tornado outbreak was a destructive tornado outbreak and severe weather event that occurred on April 21, 1967, across the Upper Midwest, in particular the towns of Belvidere and Oak Lawn, Illinois. It was the most notable tornado outbreak of 1967 and one of the most notable to occur in the Chicago metropolitan area. Wikipedia

            I almost fell asleep reading that. A memoir, however, brings colors, emotions, and personal incite, which can bring history to life. To demonstrate, please enjoy this excerpt from our memoir:

            The second big event of 1967 was a true tragedy. I was riding my bike through a nice subdivision from my Boy Scout meeting around 5:30 p.m. April 21 when I looked up from Henry — my frequently abused, balloon-tired bike — and spotted a tornado in the distance. I felt proud that I recognized the distinctive form, which we had been warned about in school. No, this definitely was not just a triangle-shaped cloud. I looked down at my bike and said, “Look, Henry, a tornado.” As it appeared to veer off, I focused on pedaling the last mile, anticipating dinner.

             Before I could make it home, though, it started to hail. I was glad I had listened to my mom and wore a light jacket. The quarter-inch hail stung the back of my neck. It probably only lasted about fifteen or twenty seconds but was quite annoying. In addition to the stinging, the sound the ice pellets made on the street reminded me of machine gun fire in a war movie. Undaunted, I continued riding. As quickly as it had started, the banging of the hail gave way to the eeriest silence. It was too quiet, not even a trace of a breeze. Except for my bike squeaking, I could have been in an isolation booth.

That’s when it started. Slowly, as if someone were whispering in my ear, the sound of wind began to build, even though the air was still. Inexplicably, the sound grew louder and louder for the next ten to fifteen seconds. Finally, I looked around.

There it was!

            Do you see the difference! Memoirs are worth writing and reading They not only add color to events, they add depth and humanity. They are the permanent record, on a personal level, of stories easily lost in as little as one generation. Memoirs add multi-generational substance to your family tree like the beautiful leaves.

            It will, God willing, be part of our mission to encourage others, and share what we have learned during this journey.

What do you think his story might be? I was a perfectly happy tree when some evil person cut me down, and put this face on my bottom.