About Me

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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

From Behind the Beard*

The author...um...behind the beard!

*Johnstown, PA Tribune-Democrat
December 25, 2010
as "Santa Memories Always Special"

Copyright © 2010 by Ralph Couey

For 17 years, I've been privileged to be a Santa. What started out as a favor to a friend has become an unforgettable part of Christmas.

It is safe to say that there is no more recognizable symbol anywhere in America, perhaps the world, than the bearded jolly old elf in red and white. From the youngest toddler, to the oldest centenarian, all recognize Santa for who he is and what he represents. For kids, he is unconditional love, and perhaps a moral and ethical rudder.  That hearty "Ho! Ho! Ho!" never fails to lift spirits and bring smiles.  He always brings gifts. You never know what it'll be, but like the Wells Fargo Wagon from "The Music Man," "..it could be somethin' very special just for me!"

One of my special Santa memories occurred, oddly enough, in the middle of summer.

It was a hot, humid miserable Missouri July afternoon.  I was cruising the aisles of Target, searching for a few items when I saw them.  

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Prayer for the Bruised and the Broken-Hearted

Kind and Loving Father,

It is with joy that we celebrate
the miracle of your Son's birth.

In this season, we often find ourselves safely
within the loving arms of our family.

But even in this time of joy,
we know there are many who are alone.

There are those whose family has disintegrated
and scattered to the winds.

There are those who have lost loved ones
to accident, disease, or time.

There are those who, for whatever reason,
are completely alone in this world.

Santa's Prayer for the Children

Our Father in Heaven,
I kneel before you as your humble servant.

It has been my honor to serve you these many years,
sharing the message of unconditional love, generosity, and acceptance,
which is, after all, your blessing to us all.

I bring presents to children the world over,
but no gift I can carry equals the gift
that you gave to us all:

The life of your Son, Jesus.

I want to express my thanks for this gift,
but also to share my burden.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Veering Off the Path of Hate

Copyright © 2013 by Ralph F. Couey
Except for quoted and cited portions
People must learn to hate,
and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love.
For love comes more naturally to the human heart.
 –Nelson Mandela 

It was a moment that has happened all too frequently.  Regular programming was interrupted and in that familiar stentorian tone, we were told of yet another school shooting.  This one in Colorado, only 8 miles from the scene of that tragedy in 1999 that forever changed our lives.  A student had walked into his high school armed with a shotgun and opened fire.  This one, however, ended quickly.  The teacher who was the student’s intended target left the school.  The 18-year-old, seeing the approach of an armed deputy sheriff, turned the gun on himself.  But not before shooting a young girl in the head, a girl who now lies in a coma, her survival unknown.
Most Americans inwardly moaned, “Not again!”  Faces became grim, heads were shaken, and people of faith offered prayers.
The political response was entirely predictable.  Those on the left demonstrated for stricter gun control laws.  Those on the right blamed the culture of casual violence in television, music, and video games.  They were both wrong.  The right’s claim on violence in entertainment, while disturbing, seems to fail on the fact that tens of millions of kids play those games for hours on end and nearly all of them will go through their lives without committing a single act of violence.  The left’s position on gun control also collides with the fact that this was a legal gun purchase by an 18-year-old adult (in the eyes of the law, anyway) who had no history of police involvement, violent behavior, or mental or emotional problems that would have shown up on even the most stringent background check.
But the media attention, curiously, was rather short this time.  Cynics have suggested that this was because the only death was the shooter, and the incident, unlike Columbine and Newtown, only lasted a few minutes, or perhaps the revelation from his classmates that he was a committed socialist, wearing shirts regaling the former Soviet Union. 

Monday, December 09, 2013

The Warmth of Victory on a Cold, Cold Day

Copyright © 2013 by Ralph Couey
It can be difficult to be an NFL ex-pat fan, to live away, sometimes far away from the team of your passion.  Such is the situation with me.
The path of my life has taken me to many places; 49 states and 28 countries.  My formative years, however, were spent in the Kansas City area, Independence specifically.  I was an A's fan when my heroes were players like Rocky Colavito, Mike Hershberger, "Hawk" Harrelson, Ed Charles, and Dick Green.  Baseball was my passion then.  However, when the Chiefs arrived in 1963, my interest in football began to grow.  1966 was fun. 1969 was exhilarating, setting the bar of excellence that hasn't been repeated in a time span approaching a half-century.
Like a good father, I passed this passion on to my son.  Although he hasn't lived in the KC area since he was two years old, he is unmatched in his ardent support for the Chiefs.
We now live in Virginia, he a Navy Chief Warrant Officer, and myself a federal employee.  We still follow the Chiefs online and on television when the opportunity presents.  So it was with glee that my wife announced in mid-October that she had scored tickets for the Chief's visit to Washington DC. 
The Redskins have fallen on hard times, and it is difficult not to feel sympathy.  As the Kansas City Star columnist Mr. Mellinger so poignantly articulated, only a year separates the Chiefs disastrous past from the 'Skins awful present.  The only thing missing over FedEx field has been an airplane-towed banner.  In fact, the unwanted attention brought on by the two teams' nicknames only adds to the shared empathy.
Game Day dawned cold, wet, and miserable.  The forecast was the dreaded 4-bagger, snow, sleet, rain, and freezing rain. But being Midwesterners by experience and attitude, we just shrugged and bundled a few more layers.  DC freeways being a hot mess on a good day, we took the Metro, the area's light rail.  Any new arrival to the Capitol region quickly learns that the only good way to get around is the Metro.  Even as crowded as it gets during rush, it still beats crawling on the freeway for 25 miles at 10 mph.  We boarded at the Vienna station, surprised to see several people in Chiefs gear waiting on the platform.  But the real shocker came when we passed through the Metro Center stop. There, a horde, yes a horde, of Chiefs fans boarded.  The car was already well-populated with Redskins supporters, so the good-natured trash-talk was immediate and loud.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

The Civil War: Events of January 1864

On January 2nd, the Confederate Congress confirmed the appointment of George Davis to the post of Attorney General.

On the 11th, Missouri Senator John B. Henderson proposed the 13th Amendment, ending slavery in the United States.

Union commander of Arkansas, Frederick Steele, was instructed by President Lincoln on January 20th to permit elections after an anti-slavery amendment was proposed for the state constitution.

William S. Rosecrans is ordered to take command of the Department of Missouri on the 22nd.  On that same day, Arkansas selected Isaac Murphy, a pro-unionist, to be the provisional governor until elections could be held in the spring.

The U.S. government lifted trade sanctions on Missouri and Kentucky on January 23rd.

Confederates in Louisiana organize a government around General Henry Allen, designating Shreveport as the state's capital.

Confederate cavalry commander Nathan Bedford Forrest attacks and defeats Union William Smith near Meridian, MS on the 25th.

January 26th saw elections being held in Tennessee in areas where the Federal Government is in control.

On the 29th, steamer Sir William Wallace, loaded with northern supplies, is attacked on the Mississippi River near New Orleans.

The Civil War: Events of December 1863

On December 2, Union General Meade started to withdraw his troops north of the Rapidan River, an action which marked the end of the Mine Run Campaign.

After the Siege of Knoxville, Confederate General Longstreet began a 2-day withdrawal from Knoxville to Greeneville, MS on December 3rd.

On the 6th, Union General William T. Sherman broke the siege of Knoxville, entering the city.

On December 8th, the Union declared a Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction, offering a full pardon to any Southern soldier in exchange for taking a prescribed oath of allegiance to the United States.

As Longstreet withdrew northeast, he was trailed by a Union force under John G. Parke, who had relieved Ambrose Burnside.  On the 13th, Longstreet turned back to capture Bean's Station on the Holston River in northeast Tennessee.  Longstreet approached in three columns, hoping to trap the northern troops in a vise.  His lead forces began attacking Union pickets around 2 a.m. on the 14th.  The pickets held and warned Union General Shackleford, who deployed his forces for an assault.  The battle lasted most of the day, but the arrival of Southern reinforcements forced a Union retirement.  They managed to entrench themselves at Blain's Crossroads on the 15th.  Longstreet, seeing the strength of their position, withdrew and went into winter quarters at Russellville.  Union forces began probing Longstreet's winter camp, after which Longstreet counter-attacked, driving Shackleford's troops back before they made a successful stand.  Later that evening, the Union forces withdrew.

Union Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase, on December 9th, recommends that the words "In God We Trust" be added to U.S. coinage.

Winter brought some changes in the Southern Army.  on the 16th, Joe Johnston was ordered to take command of the Army of Tennessee.  On the 22nd, Leonidas Polk received similar orders for the Army of Mississippi.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

An Empty Page


From honesttogodjo.wordpress.com
Copyright ©2013 by Ralph F. Couey
Written content only.
"Creativity is always a leap of faith."
--Julia Cameron
"A blank page is no empty space.  It is brimming with potential."
--A. A. Patawaran
"The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there,
written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible."
~Vladimir Nabakov
"There are thousands of thoughts lying within a man
that he does not know till he takes up the pen and writes."
 ~William Makepeace Thackeray
It was sharply cold, that Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend.  Part of our family, blood and extended, had gathered to celebrate the long holiday.  Our youngest daughter visited from Colorado and brought with her that alien culture which maintains that frigid temperatures should be no impediment to outdoor activities.  It was largely at her insistence that we fled the warm confines of our home and made the trek to Alexandria. 
Alexandria, Virginia is one of those really interesting places, if you have any sense of history.  It started out as a warehouse for tobacco located on the Potomac River around 1730.  By 1770, it had grown to become a thriving commercial and shipping center.  The historic part, called "Old Town," is lined with mostly brick buildings that have been renovated and retrofitted into a mile-long shopping and dining district, flanked by neighborhoods consisting of picturesque homes, some of which are more than 200 years old.  It is a pleasant place to go and while away the hours of a day off.
We began our explorations at the far eastern end of King Street, where the waters of the Potomac River slide by on their way to the Atlantic.  We drifted in and out of stores, occasionally making purchases, and keeping track of each other's movements via text.  It was in the second block that I made my discovery. 
The sign over the door read "Paper Source, Inc."  Since I am a writer, and writers still use paper, I dropped in.  The shop was exactly what it advertised.  The walls were lined with racks holding samples and reams of various kinds and colors of paper, from the basic stuff you'd find in any copier, to the really fancy stuff.  I saw, and touched, some of these, parchments and the luxurious linen papers with gold-embossed designs across the tops.  As I moved among the shelves, I was overtaken by an irresistible urge to write.