Learning to Drive

While my high school classmates were busy taking driver ed, I was busy lamenting the fact that my parents had one car. Because my father was a minister, that car would seldom be available once I learned to drive. And since my mother was a stay-at-home mom and I didn’t have a job, either, the prospects of paying for the extra insurance were nil. So why bother to learn to drive?

I might explain that I was a lot more timid in those days than I am now and was afraid of doing something really dumb if I took driver ed. Unlike many of my classmates, I had never been behind the wheel of a car. Not while it was moving, anyhow.

Flash forward. To 1968. I realized I couldn’t spend my whole life bumming rides off of other people. Especially the girls I wanted to impress.

One of my English instructors at Frostburg State, Alan Stone, wanted to learn to play guitar. He had a brand-new Ford Falcon, but he was willing to take a chance and swap driving lessons for guitar lessons.

His car had a standard transmission. That sounded like fun. Until I realized that I couldn’t drive anywhere in western Maryland without going up and down hills. And discovered how many of those hills had traffic lights at the top. Lights I always seemed to have to stop for.

Learning to keep from rolling backwards–why did the person behind me always have to stop so close?–kept me alert and constantly nervous.

No mishaps, though. But there was the time I made a bad turn and needed to back up. I overshot where I was supposed to stop by a number of yards. Yes, people were watching, and did they evermore give me the funniest looks.

I failed the test the first time, and I was scheduled to work in a different state that summer after graduation. There wasn’t time to take the test again before I left. So getting my license had to go on hold.

But things got complicated once I obtained a teaching position on the other side of Maryland. I was really going to have to get my license.

I brushed up a little on my driving when I got home, but the local DMV wasn’t giving the test every day, and I needed to leave for Maryland’s Eastern Shore. But I learned I could take the test at any DMV office. So, on the drive to the Eastern Shore, my parents took me to the DMV office in a city that was on the way–one that we knew would be testing that day.

I passed! But I was still car-less.

What? You want to know what I did about that? Sorry, but this post is only about getting my license. Hmm. Maybe I’ll give you the rest of the story another day.

What about you? What were your experiences learning to drive? Please leave a comment and share.

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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on “As I Come Singing”–check it out HERE. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

Best regards,
Roger

 

The Next-to-the-Most-Recent Dumbest Thing I’ve Ever Done

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I love my red Honda Civic. It’s not really a sports car, but it’s far sportier than anything I ever had before, and at least it’s not so low to the ground that I have any trouble climbing in and out of it.

But I’m mature enough to recognize that it’s just a thing. When I die, I won’t be riding that Honda to Heaven. I suspect the ride there will be more like being transported, a la Star Trek.

So in spite of the fact that I take the car to be washed periodically and have it waxed probably two or three times a year, I know it will eventually lose some of its luster. Dings are bound to happen. I’m not the kind of person to use two parking places to protect my car.

But I never expected that I would be responsible–in an innocent kind of way–for the slight damage my poor car has undergone.

I was driving to a body shop to pick up my wife and accidentally turned left one driveway too soon. The parking lot looked like the kind that would connect with the roadway I should’ve taken. No such cut-over in the lot, but the driveway led further back. I thought surely I could find a cut-over there.

Hmm. Great idea except for one little thing. Even as slowly as I was driving, I didn’t see a wire hanging low between two posts. Apparently to keep people from driving back there. No sign of a ribbon or marker to make it obvious.

But I heard it. When it ground against the front of my car–what ever happened to bumpers?–and snapped.

I’d not only broken the wire, but put some very conspicuous yellow dings low on the front end of my car. As upset as I was, I could only shake my head at what I’d failed to see and consequently done to my car.

It didn’t matter whether it was my fault or not. As far as my car would be concerned–if it had the ability to assess the situation–I’d done something really dumb.

As it was, the body shop where I was picking up my wife was able to do some minor surgery and a paint touch up for fifty-some dollars. (Fortunately, they’d been working on another car that used the exact same color paint. I didn’t ask whether it had also broken the wire next door.)

I can’t look at the front of my car without thinking about the dumb thing I’d done without even realizing it. Isn’t that typical of many of the mistakes we make in life? We fail to see the barriers, which may be small or inadequately marked, and plow right into them.

How about you? Have you ever experienced anything similar? Please leave a comment.

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on “As I Come Singing”–check it out HERE. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

Best regards,
Roger

Harry Potter & Beanie Babies

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If you’re wondering what Harry Potter and Beanie Babies have in common, you’re probably not the only one.

When my daughter–now twenty-seven–was a teen, she had a profound influence on my life. Most of it was good.

Although she introduced me to some interesting movies like “10 Things I Hate about You” (early Heath Ledger) and “Center Stage,” she also got me hooked on several things I’ve never lost my interest in.

Yep, you guessed it. The Harry Potter books (the movies didn’t exist yet) and those cute little Beanie Babies that became such popular collectables for a while.

The Harry Potter books proved to be the less expensive interest since we had to wait–seemingly forever–for the next one to come out. (Okay, so that proved true of the movies as well, but at least we didn’t depend on the movies to know what the Hogwarts gang was up to.) I reached the point where I once arranged for the next book to be shipped to my in-laws’ home, where we would be vacationing on release day. (I finished reading it the next day.)

Beanie Babies, although less expensive individually, proved more dangerous. New ones came along more often.

Sure, five or six dollars doesn’t sound like much, but the addiction quickly grew costly. Like other BB addicts, I was constantly on the lookout for a new source of the little critters. Strangely–or so it seemed at the time–Cracker Barrel often had Beanie Babies when other places had completely run out of them.

The craze finally died–or at least shrank considerably–and my addiction shrank, too. But I still had a number of Beanie Babies, and I had no interest in trying to sell them. (Boy! What would’ve happened if I’d donated them to the local Goodwill Store?)

I still had my collection when I married Kathleen. I don’t think she’d ever had the interest in Beanie Babies I did. Nonetheless, she was understanding about my love of those little critters and agreed they were less expensive, safer, and more easily aligned with my Christian faith than smoking or drinking. She understood and condoned my occasionally adding another BB to my collection. (Yes, the collection belongs to both of us, but I doubt seriously that she thinks of it as hers.)

In fact, she was so understanding that she agreed we needed something to display our collection in. We ended up buying the cabinet you see in the middle picture above. (Although it has a built-in light, we seldom turn it on.)

As you can well imagine, however, no way could we display them all nice and neat. So we grouped them (cats , dogs , and everything else ) and dumped them on the four highest shelves, one of which you can see in photo number four. We also have a couple of them lounging playfully on top of the cabinet. See picture five.

Beanie Babies also proved less controversial than Harry Potter. Kathleen and I sometimes have to bite our tongues to keep from criticizing ultra-conservative Christians who condemn the Harry Potter books without ever having read one of them. As strong conservative Christians ourselves, we see nothing wrong with the books or the movies. Fiction is fiction, and fantasy is fantasy.

As many hours of pleasure as Harry Potter and the Beanie Babies (Ms. Rowling, wouldn’t that make an interesting book title?) have brought me, I feel it was money well spent. And something I owe my daughter a big hug of thanks for.

What about you? Do you have something you’d like to share about Harry Potter or Beanie Babies? Or do you have some similar addiction you’d like to mention? We’d love to hear about it in a comment.

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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on “As I Come Singing”–check it out HERE. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

Best regards,
Roger

The Dumbest Thing I’ve Ever Done (Recently)

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Yesterday we had a downpour. I mean we had INCHES of rain. While the flash flood in our neighborhood didn’t quite match the one pictured above in 2013, it came close.

But this year I made a mistake I didn’t make last year. I left my sun roof open when I got home from my morning run to Sonic for the diet cherry limeade that lasts me all day. I didn’t intend to leave it open, of course. And, obviously, it wasn’t raining yet.

Well, the rains came. And they kept up a vicious-sounding downpour for quite some time. I was glad to be indoors, nice and dry. The rain on the roof was so loud I had to turn up the volume of the stereo quite a few notches to keep listening to the music.

By the time my wife got home for lunch–she’d had to wait for the rain to lighten up enough to get out to the car–barely a drizzle remained. She didn’t even need the raincoat I took to the car when she got home.

I didn’t bother to look at my car, which was parked beside it. Why should I?

The flood receded, but we had more rain later that afternoon. Not nearly as much, thank goodness.

But the sky looked threatening. We knew we couldn’t safely do our evening two-mile walk in the neighborhood. We’d have to drive to the mall, about a mile down the road.

I went outside first. Something didn’t look right about my car. The sun roof was open. I hadn’t been anywhere since my trip to Sonic, so I knew it had been open all day.

No telling what I would face when I opened the door. I had visions of multiple gallons of water gushing out.

I peered through the driver’s side window. No standing water.

I unlocked the door and knelt on the driver’s seat. Definitely soaked. The carpet would certainly be soaked as well, but I figured that would dry out eventually.

Would you believe the only problem I needed to deal with was three or four inches of water standing in the two-cup drink holder between the front seats? Not surprising. That was right under the open sun roof.

So I closed the sun roof and went in the house for a small cup and a couple of junk towels. Taking care of the drink holder proved a LOT easier than I’d expected, and I was thankful for that.

No rain expected today, so I have the car completely open to let it start drying out.

I’ll never fail to close that sun roof again. Next time could be worse.

Gee. Confessing to my dumbness in leaving the sun roof open wasn’t too painful. Maybe I’ll tell you about the previous dumbest thing I’d done. But not today.

Are you willing to share your dumbest thing? If so, please leave a comment. Let me assure you that it’s not apt to be too embarrassing. After all, none of us is perfect.

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on “As I Come Singing”–check it out HERE. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

Best regards,
Roger

On Color Blindness

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You know what one of my pet peeves is? When I tell people I’m color blind and they ask, “What color is THIS?”

Although I’ve always been color blind, I didn’t know I was for a number of years. I do recall marveling at my sixth grade school picture, in which I was wearing a red sweater–I KNEW it was red–but it appeared green in that picture. In the years since then, I’ve concluded that the picture was printed in just the right shade of red for me to see as green. Who knows?

Once as a high school senior I was visiting in the home of a friend. His father was an eye doctor of some sort. I don’t recall what brought this up, but he got out a book of charts used to determine color blindness and tested me. Yep. Color blind. A red-green deficiency. Uh, okay.

That didn’t exactly wreck my life, but it did lead to a couple of interesting events several years later.

Before I tell you about those, however, let me explain that color blindness doesn’t mean someone sees only in black and white. I see everything in color. Well, except things that really ARE black and white. The problem is I don’t see them the same way people with normal color vision do. And in my case at least, learning of my color blindness made me distrustful of my ability to correctly distinguish the colors I don’t have problems with. For example, blue and purple.

After graduating from junior college, my parents and I failed to notify Selective Service that I would be enrolling in a four-year college to finish my degree. That was during the Vietnam War, and I had to go for a physical to see if I was fit for the military. Although my flat feet should have been enough and the fact I had to avoid contact sports because of acute viral encephalitis in the eighth grade, surely color blindness would be a serious factor in making me unfit for service.

Don’t ask me how or why, but when they tested my color vision at the draft physical, they apparently thought I was faking. How I wish! I passed the physical! Thank goodness we got things straight when I got back home, but passing a physical I should have failed was scary.

The other interesting tale has to do with my learning to drive. I have NO problems telling the colors of a traffic light, but when I went to take my test–I’ll tell you some other time about what I went through learning to drive–the machine told the tester that I was too color blind to get a license.

But bless the State of Maryland DMV’s heart. I must not have been the first person the machine had falsely rejected. The tester got out a strip of wood with three colored reflectors fastened to it. I correctly identified the colors without any problem and received my license without any further problems.

I’ll admit it. Being color blind is a nuisance at times. Like clothes shopping. And getting dressed.

But I know what color my clothes are, whether they look those colors or not, and I know what goes together.

What about you? Are you color blind? More guys than gals are, but not all of us. Do you have anything to share regarding color blindness? We’d love to see it in a comment.

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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on “As I Come Singing”check it out here. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list here.

Best regards,
Roger

(National) Neighborhood Night Out

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After complaining about routine a few days ago, I thought I’d write about a wonderful routine breaker I enjoyed just a few nights ago. Of course, since it happens only once a year, its good effects won’t be long lasting.

My wife and I live in a mobile home park. As you know if you’ve been following me recently, ours is far nicer than a “trailer park” and shouldn’t be thought of that way.

We have well over a hundred homes in our community, and the management does a great job of promoting a sense of community.

Several nights ago was our sixth or seventh annual Neighborhood Night Out. Or is it “National Night Out”? Either way, the only thing I can  complain about is the fact that several smokers (very few people in the crowd were) smoked too close to me. I’m very allergic and still felt all clogged up the next day.

One thing that probably distinguishes our NNO from “block parties” elsewhere is the lack of alcohol.

It was a wonderful family event. Although everyone brings a covered dish–most of them with something inside–the park management gets contributions from a number of local businesses. So along with hamburgers and hotdogs we had pizza and subs.

Because of the number of Latino folks living here, a number of the dishes were quite a change from the normal fare.

The main attraction of the evening was the talent show. Several of us adults participated. I did a couple of my original songs, another fellow played a keyboard solo, and a couple did a line dance. All the more amazing because the lady wears a knee brace.

But the kids were what everyone was waiting for. They did a little bit of everything. Some sang along with recordings and some sang to what I assume were karaoke soundtracks. Some proved to be excellent little dancers, too, and you wouldn’t believe how nicely these children dressed up for their performances.

One of the older boys who didn’t appear to be a part of the actual talent stayed busy working as a stage hand, getting microphone stands in place and adjusted for the next act.

The manager of the park was applauded not just for all the work she and her husband had done, but for her statement that she and her family planned to live in the park forever. It says something good about a place when someone in her position says that and obviously means it. (She and her husband recently bought a bigger mobile home and are renting out their old one.)

One of the nice aspects of the Neighborhood Night Out is the support of the local law enforcement community. We always have five or six officers–plus McGruff, the poor lady dressed in the dog outfit. It’s a great way for people–especially kids–to be around policemen in a non-threatening atmosphere.

We also had a local politician this year.

I don’t know about anyone else, but it’s events like this that make me appreciate our special little community all the more. And to appreciate my neighbors all the more, too.

Do you have anything similar where you live? Is it similar to ours? Please share in a comment.

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday.  If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on “As I Come Singing”check it out here. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list here.

Best regards,
Roger

When Routine Becomes Too Routine

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Routine has a certain element of comfort. Even for a retired individual like myself.

But sometimes it gets to be too much.

I don’t mind getting up at 6:30 on weekdays to fix breakfast for my wife. It’s one way to show my gratitude for the many things she does for me. And if I’m extra tired, she encourages me to stay in bed. She’ll settle for instant oatmeal on those rare occasions.

All I have to do is follow a rather harmless series of steps. (Read as “routine.”) Put my breakfast pills at my place at the counter. Put my hearing aids in. Plug the egg poacher in. Get the toaster out and plug it in. Spray the egg container part of the poacher and the ramekin dish I use for my egg. Put sausage crumbles and liquid egg whites in my dish. Break an egg and put it in the poacher’s container. Put just the right amount of water in the poacher. Get out plates and juice  and milk glasses. Get out bread for toast and an English muffin.

Etc.

Am I boring you yet? If so, then you understand where I’m coming from. I left out a lot of the details, all of which are important. Fortunately, not all of those steps have to be done sequentially, so there’s a little bit of variation.

Hmm. When I retired at sixty-two to write full-time, I never anticipated routine becoming a problem. After all, I had been liberated from the bonds of “real work.” As much as I enjoy writing, I expected to fill each and every day making the most of my imagination and my writing skills.

At this stage, I have two novels out, two under contract, and seven that are waiting for some discriminating publisher to fall in love with.

Some of you may have already suspected this, but probably not everyone. With all of the writing I’ve already done, I have a real sense of “What’s the rush? Why push to write something new when only a small percentage of my books have been published or are awaiting publication?”

One thing that helps is I love to edit and revise. That’s what turns a very faulty rough draft into a real novel–or “manuscript” as unpublished novels are called.

On days when I’m busy working on either a rough draft or a revision, I’m not as conscious of the problem of routine. I can still move at my own pace and do as much or as little as I feel like doing that day.

I think the real problem has to do with the limited number of activities I’m apt to do when I’m not busy writing. I do the laundry–light load on Thursday and dark load on Friday. I vacuum–maybe one every couple of weeks.

I cut the grass an average of once a week during the grassy season. I walk–either at the mall or in the neighborhood–five times a week for exercise. I play my guitar and periodically dig an old song out of the notebook to remind myself how it goes.

Oh, and I do read…fiction, of course. And I play Words with Friends with my wife and with a couple of other people.

And let’s not forget the nursing home ministry every Wednesday of the month but one. Or Wednesday night Bible study at church. Or Sunday morning and Sunday evening worship, with choir practice sandwiched in between.

You’d think all of that would keep me from being bothered by a feeling of routine. But it doesn’t. Not always.

Thank goodness for my afternoon nap!

How about you? Are you locked into a routine? How about leaving a comment to share with the rest of us?

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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on “As I Come Singing”--check it out here. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list here.

Best regards,
Roger