There comes a time when there is no time


Ronnalee NetteburgIt’s easy to forget about life and those who mean something to you, and then it’s too late. There isn’t the chance to spend time with that person, to let them know what they meant to you.

A dear friend passed away several days ago after a long illness. She died peacefully in her home surrounded by her loving and devoted husband, Kermit, and family who equally loved her.

It had been years since I’d last seen her. It was a few years after I’d married my wife. We met them at a popular pizzeria in Washington on a Sunday.

A couple of years before I met the couple one Saturday in church. Kermit invited me to their home for dinner. It was something they did regularly every Saturday, often inviting new members. There was easily eight to a dozen people at their home every Saturday to share a meal and fellowship. It was always a beautiful time.

Going to their home on Saturday afternoons became regular for me. They expected me. It came to the point they gave me the keys to their home to let myself in and welcome guests they had invited because they stayed behind at church to meet new people to invite. It was if I’d become the “son they never knew they had.”

They helped me maintain my faith after returning to the Washington area. For that, I’m forever grateful.

The friend was Ronnalee Netteburg. She was a beautiful woman, the epitome of what Christ wants of His followers. The world was a better place with her in it. I will miss her.

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Four years and still no niche


It’s been almost four years since I’ve really written anything for this blog. I’m probablyfullsizeoutput_1a7c the only one who knows.

This blog doesn’t have a lot of readers. That’s OK. I don’t do this blog for any particular reason other than to have a writing platform for myself.

Asked an award-winning journalist friend feedback on a blog I wrote about 9/11. He wrote back saying I needed to ask myself a question:

“Do I have a unique enough of a voice for anyone to be interested in what I have to say on a general interest blog?”

“So what is your niche?” he later wrote.

The blogging stopped because there wasn’t a niche or unique voice. His expectations for blogs weren’t in mine, so I stopped.

Never expected my writing to make me the next Ernest Hemingway, Mike Royko, or Ernie Pyle. Not Irvin S. Cobb or Russ Metz, either.

What I should expect to be is Russ Petcoff. If other people read it and like it then great. In the meantime, continue writing my blogs the way they come.

No niche at the moment. Don’t see one emerging either. I blog to be a part of the American conversation because everyone has something to say.

Starting to believe that’s my niche.

Onward and upward.

Jesus saves the day at St. Arbucks


Blog’s Inspiration: Jennifer Fulwiler posed a question on her show on Sirius XM’s The Catholic Channel. She asked what type of coffee would Jesus order? Fulwiler blogs at Conversion Diary.

How are we to approach the Gospels in this current age? Certainly, Jesus’ words are timeless. There is no need to rewrite or “punch up” what the Gospel writers penned. They are beautiful how they are.

Do people really understand the context, the setting? Even if they can understand the setting, does it ring true to them because it’s not something they can easily visualize?

Take, for example, the Wedding at Cana (St. John 2:1-12). Sure, people understand weddings but do they understand wedding feasts that went on for days? Probably not.

At the wedding, the host ran out of wine. Mary, Jesus’s mother, encouraged Him to do something. Jesus ordered the servants to fill jars with water. The Christ then proceeded to turn the vats of water into the best wine anyone had ever tasted.

What if the story took place at a busy Starbucks on a Saturday morning. The store is full of young families with kids in tow, hunters on their way to the woods, youth soccer players in day-glow kits and so forth.

The long line teems with people desperately needing their caffeine fix. The baristas are busy working until one announces—quite shockingly—they’ve run out of coffee. (As improbable as this may seem at a Starbucks, work with me for the sake of this story.)

Mary and Jesus are sitting on comfy chairs with their morning coffee. They are on their way to a local craft festival. Mary plans on selling shawls she knitted, and Jesus is going to sell rocking chairs he made.

Mary hears the commotion and anguished cries. She tells Jesus to do something.

Jesus goes to a barista and tells her to take the customer’s order: soy, no whip, skinny Caramel Macchiato.

“Name for the cup?” Jesus asks.

“Jill,” says the impatient texter glued to her smart phone. “Aren’t they out of coffee?” she asks while still texting.

“Jill, thank you,” says Jesus. He writes “Faith” on the cup and hands it to the barista.

Taking the cup, the barista says, “We don’t have any coffee to make this order.”

“Put some hot water in it,” Jesus says, “and complete the rest of the order.”

The barista completes a hot-water version of a soy, no whip, skinny Caramel Macchiato. “This is going to be one nasty tasting drink,” the barista mutters. Jesus hears.

“Faith, I have a soy, no whip, skinny Caramel Macchiato,” says the barista as she places the drink on the counter and turns to the next order.

“It’s about time,” says Jill with a snarl. Turning to the woman behind her Jill says, “Faith? Starbuck’s is always getting the names wrong.” The woman ignores Jill because she cherishes her relationship with a smart phone.

Jill takes a sip and stops with an astonished look on her face.

“I thought you said you were out of coffee? This is the best coffee I’ve ever had.”

The astonished barista looks bewilderingly at Jesus. He hands her another cup for a double shot, three vanilla pump latte. The name, again, is “Faith.”

“What happened?” the barista asks.

“Another day at St. Arbucks.” He smiles and takes the next order for “Faith.”

On this 12th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001


I remember 9/11.

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Photo illustration courtesy of PEO Soldier.

It was Tuesday morning. I was in Montana, stationed with the 341st Space Wing at Malmstrom AFB. We were in the second day of a wing-wide exercise.

At 6 o’clock that morning, I came into the battle staff to start my 12-hour shift as public affairs representative to the commander. It was going to be a day filled with various exercise scenarios and long periods of tedium.

Not much was going on after the change-over briefing. Everyone was waiting for the scenarios to begin.

Shortly after 8:45 someone from the adjoining support battle staff came in and told us to turn on the news. A plane had just struck the World Trade Center. The battle staff director did.

We saw coverage of the clear blue New York City sky. We also saw its iconic skyline marred by smoke billowing from one of the towers.

We all sat stunned and in disbelief.

I thought how could anyone not see such a large building on such a beautiful day.

People began calling their offices and families to tell them what was unfolding.

The live coverage kept unfolding before us. The assumption was this was some type of accident. Shortly after 9 a.m., I noticed the second plane slide into the screen. It came from right to left and was momentarily hidden by the towers. Nobody else seemed to see it, certainly not the broadcasters.

The second fireball erupted at 9:03 from the second tower.

This was no accident, I thought.

Everyone in the battle staff now knew America was being attacked.

And it didn’t end. Approximately 30 minutes later, another plane struck the Pentagon.

What was going on?

A lieutenant colonel sitting in front of me knew I had an upcoming assignment to the Pentagon. He turned to me and said rhetorically, “Do you still want to go to the Pentagon?”

Then the news reported a plane crashing in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Again, what was going on?

The base went into lockdown. No one came on, no one left. Everyone began refocusing their work to support whatever the future had in store for us.

The rest of my day consisted of preparing my commander for media interviews. Eventually, he turned that responsibility over to me. Requirements of the job and from higher headquarters demanded his time.

It was a busy day of answering media queries and conducting on-camera interviews.

After almost 16 hours, I finally came home. There was a voicemail on my answering machine.

“I know you’re probably at work…,” the voice of my mother came through the phone. She was crying. No mother wants her son in a war.

I will always remember 9/11.

‘Let’s go to Luckenbach, Texas,. …’


How is it one can spend years not hearing a song and then suddenly several times?
This anomaly recently happened with an iconic country song.Lisa and I have a ritual when driving on the weekends. We listen to the 70s station on satellite radio. The station generally features old broadcasts of Casey Kasem’s “American Top 40.”
We hear songs that we haven’t heard for years. Often times the long-forgotten songs bring back memories. Sometimes we look at each other and wonder not only how the song became popular, but who thought it was a good idea to record it.

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The Luckenbach, Texas, sign over the post office.

The other weekend were driving, and yes, listening to Casey Kasem. I forget all the songs, but one stood out. It was Waylon Jennings’ “Luckenbach, Texas” featuring Willie Nelson.

I can’t remember the last time I had heard that. Hazarding a guess, it was in April 1977 when it was popular. I was 14 then. I probably last heard it during a family Sunday drive in dad’s Dodge Polara. The car the radio tuned to a country station.

The next day, Lisa and I drove to church. It was a different time of the day than the day before. Casey Kasem was doing his countdown. Wouldn’t you know, it was the same broadcast from the day before. Out of the 40 songs from the broadcast, we heard…

“Luckenbach, Texas.”Twice in two days, that made us chuckle.After church, we ate at Moe’s Southwest Grill. Noise from the patrons and the music filled the restaurant. We sat down, said grace and began eating. The music was just loud enough to be barely heard over the commotion. Nothing was particularly distinguishable. Then we heard…Let’s go to Luckenbach, Texas
With Waylon and Willie and the boys
This successful life we’re livin’
Got us feuding like the Hatfields and McCoys
Between Hank Williams’ pain songs and
Newbury’s train songs and Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain
Out in Luckenbach, Texas, ain’t nobody feelin’ no pain

For the uninitiated, that was the chorus to “Luckenbach, Texas.”

We had just experienced a Luckenbach hat trick.

As of today, it’s now been six days since I’ve heard Waylon and Willie wailin’ and warblin’.

Are you really seeing what there is to see?


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“Two of those shirts are for you,” my wife said. She recently came home from a quick stop to our favorite megastore to by herself a couple of blouses.

I noticed the two checked shirts. “Are these mine?” They are, she said.

“They are the same color,” I said. Lisa knows I’m colorblind but is still taken aback when my weakness appears.

“No they’re not,” she said. “One is blue and the other is pink, which are the two colors you have the hardest time seeing.”

I’ve known my whole life that I am colorblind. It doesn’t really bother me. I don’t know anything else. People often ask me what being colorblind is like. They can’t imagine it. I tell them I can see colors but can’t always distinguish them. I say it’s like seeing a sign in Arabic–and you can’t read Arabic. You see the shapes of the letter but can’t understand them.

Another example is I invariable confuse red and brown M&Ms. (I would of had a hard time fulfilling Van Halen’s contractual provision of no brown M&Ms if it came down to me!)

That’s colorblindness.

This got me to thinking about how this was a metaphor for life. We all have weaknesses and limitations that constantly affect our lives. Sometimes we know about them, and sometimes we don’t.

Sometimes our family and friends know about them, and sometimes they don’t.

Is it no wonder disagreements, miscommunications and misunderstandings arise? We assume everyone “sees things” as we see them and is capable of understanding us.

But what if you can’t see pink…or blue?

Or what if your impression of a chair conjures up an overstuffed leather recliner but to someone else it’s a straight back chair?

People think and see things differently. No one is either right or wrong–unless they are violating law, ordinances or mores. They just see something differently from how you see it. Do you think that’s the secret to life?

Blue or pink checked shirts, I don’t care. I appreciate the lesson they taught me.

What have they taught you?

Son of Snowmageddon…maybe


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In the interest of veracity, this isn’t a photo of the impending snow storm for the Washington, D.C., metro area. It’s Brinkley standing on a pile of snow from Snowmageddon. Three blizzards slammed this area in December 2009 and January/February 2010.

However, listening to the news it’s not hard to conjure up an image of this is what Washingtonians are expecting. The meteorologists are calling for 1-3 inches for northern Virginia. They forecast more further south in Virginia and across the Chesapeake Bay into southern Maryland.

However, just the hint of snow in this area tends to cause great consternation. People flock to the grocery stores to stock up on milk, bread and toilet paper.

People race home trying to get ahead of the traffic tsunami…only to get caught up in the commuting chaos.

Oh, the joys of living in Washington.

Not sure if the snow’s coming. I do know the sun will come up tomorrow…and there’ll probably be no snow.