For My Parents’ Anniversary – More Writing From Don Becker

Today is my parents’ 47th wedding anniversary. To celebrate I post this piece that my dad wrote some time before he passed away. I remember hearing this sweet story many times growing up and never really appreciated it. Now, I share this wonderful tale with the whole internet in celebration of my mom and dad.

How We Met

There are many unusual stories of how couples meet and became lifelong partners. Some are as romantic as glances from across a crowded room, or a chance encounter at the market, a friend’s party, a blind date, or the girl next door. What sets off events that allow our paths to cross and become connected?  Could it be providence or just part of life’s many twists and turns?  Well, whatever you might want to believe two youngsters met on the playground with no idea of what life had in mind for them, they were more interested in the next Kick the Can game and all that summer has to offer kids in 1958 mid-America.

It was the summer of 1958, in a small trailer park on a small Air Force Base on the edge of Madison, Wisconsin. These were days before video games, Internet, and HDTV. The first thing a kid did was hit the door to go outside and play.  Adventures were in the imagination of those who were there to play. Many hours of building forts, rafts, and exploring the vast reaches of the base.

mom and dad 1That summer a girl arrived around late June to stay with her mother at the trailer park. Kids did not spend much time analyzing why she just visited her mother in the summer and did not live with her all the time. All we knew was that she was here that there was another member of the trailer park with which to play games and have fun. Donnie as he was called in that time of his life, met Jeanie for the first time that summer.  They became good friends as best as a boy and girl of 11 and 10 could and not receive much rebuff from their peers (of course, there was some teasing from all concerned). Donnie and Jeanie would go to the movies, which cost a quarter but Donnie would always sit in the row just behind Jeanie, it is easier to throw popcorn at her from that vantage point. Then at the end of the summer Jeanie would have to go back to her home with her Dad in Florida. There was always a party, which was great with cake and ice cream.

The summer visits went on for about three years, and the friendship grew, but in 1960 Jeanie’s mother and stepfather were transferred to Alaska.  This ended the visits and the two would not meet again until 1965. As it is with most long distance relationships the letter writing slowly diminished to none at all. As the demands of high school and growing up there seemed little time to write. The letters finally stopped and both Donnie and Jeanie went on to their respective high school experiences. Donnie’s dad left for a remote assignment in Greenland for a year and retired from the service and the family moved to Milwaukee.

Then the spring of 1965 a graduation announcement arrived from Barbara Jean Quigley, who was proud to announce her graduation from Lakeview High School, in Winter Garden, Florida, in June of 1965. Well this did stir the memories of Donnie, so he sent Jeanie an orchid for her to wear to her graduation ceremonies. At first Jeanie thought this came from her stepfather who happens to have the same first name. You see Donnie being a high school grad himself signed all his correspondence as Don, for Donnie was his childhood name and the name his mother always called him. When Jeanie realized it was Donnie who sent the flower the correspondence started up again.

Jeanie wanted to spend sometime with her mother after graduation and as all young people wish to do is to leave the little town where she was born and raised and see some other part of the country, so she moved to live with her mother and stepfather in Newburgh, New York. She decided she wanted something else besides what Winter Garden had to offer in 1965.

As the letter writing continued, Don felt a great desire to meet Jeanie again and visit old times, talk about stuff young people talk about and just to see if they had some of the same interests. Well, Don still had strong traditional values even during the 60’s.  So, in August of 1965, the week of the Wisconsin State Fair, which Don’s dad worked for, and only lived a few minutes from the fairgrounds, invited Jeanie to come and stay a week with Don at his parent’s home in Wisconsin. Jeanie finally agreed after some negotiations with her mother. Then Don sent her an airline ticket from New York to Milwaukee.  This was the first time they had met since the end of the summer of 1960. It was a wonderful experience for both of them that week.  It was near the end of this week that Donnie first expressed his love for Jeanie. At the end of the week Jeanie returned to Newburgh, New York, with plenty of things to ponder.

Well, as the curses of world events intruded on any hope of normalcy when Don was informed that it would most likely be the late fall of 1965 when his number would come up and he would most likely be drafted into the US Army. He had already taken is pre-draft physical and was declared fit for duty. Well, Don being a military brat, knew well the difference between the Army and Air Force from which his father had retired.  So two choices were most obvious, first, leave for Canada, or enlist in the Air Force and possibly pick career training. The decision was to enlist in the advanced enlistment program so that he could not be drafted in to Army. He was committed to four years of service and was scheduled to report for Basic Military Training in Jan 10, 1966.

Don needed to see Jeanie at least one more time before he left so he flew out to Newburgh, New York. They spent another week together at her mother and stepfather’s home. There among the beautiful fall colors of the West Point area of New York their relationship grew even more. But the week went by so quickly and Don returned to Milwaukee to work until his enlistment date arrived. The letters flowed back and forth and a few phone calls, but this was in the day when long distance services were very expensive and there was no such thing as e-mail.

Off to the war – on January 10th, 1966 Don left Milwaukee for Lackland, Air Force Base to begin his basic training and then to technical school to learn a skill that the Air Force needed. His parents were there to send their son off to the same branch of the military his dad had served for twenty years.  It was just before boarding began, that Don’s father gave him a brand new two dollar bill and said, “as long has you have this two dollar bill, you will never be broke.” Don has never been broke, for he still has that same two-dollar bill today.

It was at Chanute, Air Force Base in Illinois during a break in the day’s training events that Don called Jeanie from a phone booth and asked her if she would marry him. The conversation was not very long for the pile of quarters did not last long with those long distance phone calls from pay phones. Jeanie said yes.3922_1128007049564_1471157_n

The wedding plans were simple and low budget for two kids with both sets of parents with little money for lavish weddings.  Donnie and Jeanie were married on July 16, 1966; five days after Don had finished his technical training and four days after his 20th birthday. The reception was held in Don’s parent’s basement, and they spent their honeymoon on the way to Don’s first assignment at MacDill, AFB, Tampa, Florida. They had to find a place to live all in two weeks from the day he left Chanute. All that they owned was packed in a 1963 Corvair and off they went. A boy that was closer to 19 years old than 20 and an 18-year-old girl set out to see what life had to offer.

That was [47] years, two children, [two] grand[daughters], three dogs, two homes, numerous rentals ago. What happened during this journey is another story, but the fact that it happened and continues is remarkable.  So is fate, devine appointments, or just a chance meeting between two people that they find themselves and that they found happiness.


“…one bad-ass [effing] fractal.”

I must admit that I am no good at math. I look at mathematical equations and I might as well be looking at a blank piece of paper. Me + Math = No Good. I was, actually, no good in school in general. All the more reason to highly encourage my children to do a whole heck of a lot better than I did. On top of that, with having two daughters I want to make sure that if they have any interest in the math or sciences that I will bend over backwards to make sure that they have the encouragement they need to excel (here and here are articles about girls and science & math). Even if I’m no good at either of them.

Lately, we have been listening to a play list that I have named “Geek Rock?” on the mp3 player in the car. On that list I have some They Might Be Giants, Barenaked Ladies, Leonard Nimoy singing “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins”, Paul & Storm and Jonathan Coulton. Some tunes may not be appropriate for the kids but I don’t focus too much on that and The Elder Extroverted One seems to be alright with it. We discuss words you shouldn’t say and move on. Well, one song in particular has caught the EEO’s attention and has gotten stuck in her head. Which has led to some mathematical explorations in which I am in no way equipped to guide her. So, we are just exploring it together and we’ll find out where it leads us. The particular song is Jonathan Coulton’s “Mandelbrot Set”.

The other night as I was hanging out with the Elder Extroverted One during the night-time routine (stories, backrubs etc.) and she blurts out a line from the song, “Mandelbrot’s in heaven, at least he will be when he’s dead” and says that the song is stuck in her head. So, that led us to Wikipedia for a search on what exactly, if anything, a Mandelbrot Set is and whether it exists. Turns out it is real and it is very mathematical like. From wikipedia:

In mathematics the Mandelbrot set, named after Benoît Mandelbrot, is a set of points in the complex plane, the boundary of which forms a fractal. Mathematically the Mandelbrot set can be defined as the set of complex values of c for which the orbit of 0 under iteration of the complex quadratic polynomial zn+1zn2c remains bounded.[1] That is, a complex number, c, is in the Mandelbrot set if, when starting with z0 = 0 and applying the iteration repeatedly, the absolute value of zn never exceeds a certain number (that number depends on c) however large n gets.

Um…er…okay? Hey wait! I know fractals! Those are cool patterns and stuff! The Elder Extroverted One really enjoyed the examples of fractals. Which led us down another trail of different examples of fractals and we found a fractal based on the Julia Set! How awesome is that? Here’s an example:

Mathematics is COOL! Especially if it has your name in it!

The EEO’s favorite quote from the wikipedia entry is, “Thus the behavior of the function on the Fatou set is ‘regular’, while on the Julia set its behavior is ‘chaotic‘.” Oh yeah, she can be chaotic and in no way regular.

This exploration into fractals and mathematics will hopefully instill a joy and curiosity of math and sciences that will last a lifetime and it was all brought about by the wonderful geeky music of Sir Jonathan Coulton. Wait, what? He hasn’t been knighted? Well, he should be dagnabit!

My new mission is to learn as much as I can about this and try to find this fractal on a t-shirt for the Elder Extroverted One to proudly wear and proclaim her geekiness!

When Worlds Collide

Rarely do certain areas of my geekiness come into contact with each other. But, luckily I can drink beer with the majority of my geeky pursuits. Beer and comics? Done! Beer and movies? No brainer! Beer and cooking? Uh…duh! But beer melding with one of my earliest memories of going to the movies and being enveloped by a whole new experience (and quite possibly was responsible for my love of movies and science fiction) is something to behold. Today my geeky Star Wars world and my Beer Geek world collided when I saw this tweet from nerd news blogger @toplessrobot:

New England Brewing Company in Woodbridge, Connecticut is releasing a Russian imperial stout they have named Imperial Stout Trooper. According to the BeerAdvocate‘s Beer News forum it is to be released December 21. They don’t have too wide of a distribution foot print so my chances of getting my hands on this fine brew in east Tennessee aren’t good so a road trip might be in order. Hopefully, I won’t have to make the Kessel Run to find some.

What dreams are made of
Image: Imperial Stout Trooper label from New England Brewing Co. used with permission

YAY! I’m Going To Hell

Thanks, John Hagee, for your enlightening interpretation of this one verse:

8If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.   1 Timothy 1:8 (NIV)

(h/t: I’m a Blogger)

Does this mean, as a stay-at-home dad, that I am not providing for my family? Just because I don’t make money I am not taking care of my kids?

As a side note, Mr. Hagee, my wife is an ordained Presbyterian(USA) minister (I’m sure you think she’s going to hell, too?) and is taking care of us monetarily while I provide for our children in different ways.

Thanks and God bless.

Does Scholastic Deserve a Failing Grade?

As a parent with a kid in school and having recently purchase books from Scholastic I found this article interesting. Is this a relationship we need to look at closer?


Has the direct-to-classroom publisher and bookseller lost its way, pushing cheap toys and video games straight into your kids’ backpacks, all in the name of promoting reading and kicking a few bucks back to our ailing schools?Does Scholastic Deserve a Failing Grade?, Mar 2009

You should read the whole article.

OMG!!! (Yes I typed that) Check This-LOLCat Bible Translation Project

Genesis 1 – LOLCat Bible Translation Project

Boreded Ceiling Cat makinkgz Urf n stuffs

1 Oh hai. In teh beginnin Ceiling Cat maded teh skiez An da Urfs, but he did not eated dem. . . .

27 So Ceiling Cat createded teh peeps taht waz like him, can has can openers he maed tehm, min An womin wuz maeded, but he did not eated tehm.

28 An Ceiling Cat sed them O hai maek bebehs kthx, An p0wn teh waterz, no waterz An teh firmmint, An evry stufs.

29 An Ceiling Cat sayed, Beholdt, the Urfs, I has it, An I has not eated it.30 For evry createded stufs tehre are the fuudz, to the burdies, teh creepiez, An teh mooes, so tehre. It happen. Iz good.

31 An Ceiling Cat sayed, Beholdt, teh good enouf for releaze as version 0.8a. kthxbai.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Thoughts on the Writers’ Strike

Thankfully, The A Daily Show and The Colbert Report are back on the air. As, the Elder Extroverted Holy One and I were catching up on our liberal elite media fix when we wondered about something: if Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are members of the Writers Guild of America then are they essentially on strike too? They can’t even write for themselves? We have noticed that neither of them have notes in front of them. That must be rough going for guys who are used to writing down their own ideas just so they can say them on the air. Can’t they get a non-WGA member, say a camera man, to write down their thoughts?

Thanksgiving Ruminations

Wow, where the heck have I been? I haven’t been getting much computer time at work getting the new director all trained and situated and I have been busy at home wrestling with a wall in the babies room trying to get it stripped, primed and painted.

The following is a post I wrote right after Thanksgiving and am now getting around to putting it up here:

I was sitting in the rec room of the Elder Extroverted Holy One’s mom’s house watching the Green Bay Packer game on turkey day. EEHO’s aunt, uncle and cousin’s were there watching as well. They’re from the West Virgina/Ohio area and are surprisingly Packer Backers. Unlike myself, who is contractually obligated to be a Packer Backer according to my birth certificate. But, it was nice to have some like-minded folks to watch the game with. As I sat there I looked around the room and said with my eyes glistening just a little, “This is just like being in Wisconsin with a house full of Beckers!” Well, except for the lack of stale cigarette smoke, drunk uncle with hands firmly clasped around my neck and other assorted showings of family love and bar paraphernalia. It was a good day with good food, good sports (not only did the Packers play but the Predators played as well.  I had to settle for watching it on T.V. because the EEHO wouldn’t let me go to the game) and good family.

“What’ll You Have?”

Yet Another Quiz

A quiz that tells me who I should vote for based on only 11 questions. That’s cool. I never thought that I would vote for this guy but I like what he stands for. Would it be a case of throwing away a vote if I voted for him?

h/t: my bro

Dennis Kucinich
Score: 40
Stem-Cell Research
Health Care
Death Penalty
Social Security
Line-Item Veto

— Take the Quiz! —