An Unsolved Mystery

During the few years I taught junior high school English, I became friends with a fellow teacher I’ll refer to as JM just in case anyone knowing her should see this. She had a boyfriend back home–wherever “home” was–and we had no romantic interest in one another.

But we enjoyed talking, and I frequently visited her and her roommates. We shared a pleasant relationship.

At some point during the school year I learned that JM had resigned unexpectedly and returned home. No other explanation was given, and I soon quit visiting her former roommates.

One Friday night months later, my telephone rang. Although I’d been snoozing, I was completely awake when I answered and heard JM on the line. She told me she’d come back to the area to visit her roommates and wanted to say hi to me. She gave a reason for her sudden departure from the area, but I’ll refrain from mentioning it here except to say that it made sense. We probably talked for half an hour. Maybe longer.

I ran into one of her former roommates a short time later and asked how their visit with JM had gone. She looked at me as if I’d lost my mind. “What visit?”

I told her about the call. Together we tried to figure it out. I was still positive that I hadn’t been dreaming. I KNOW when I’m dreaming and when I’m not. And it wasn’t a student playing a clever prank. JM had talked about things no student could possibly have known about.

To this day, I can’t be sure what happened, but I’ve made an assumption I can neither prove or disprove. JM felt like talking to me for whatever reason–we had been friends, after all–and called from “home,” claiming to be visiting her roommates to avoid making me suspicious about calling.

I still puzzle over this whole thing.

JM, if you happen to see this, please contact me via my website. And if any of my other readers have any thoughts about this unsolved mystery, please leave a comment. Or if you have an unsolved mystery of your own.

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

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website. Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My newest novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is available at at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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Best regards,
Roger

Overly Well-Fed Americans

On a trip to Romania around fifteen years ago, I was desperately trying to locate my flight to Budapest, Hungary. It didn’t help that nobody at the Paris airport seemed to speak English. Nonetheless, I got on board in time. Unfortunately, my suitcase didn’t.

In America we’re used to late luggage being delivered in as timely a way as possible, but on this trip, the best they could do was to hold on to my stuff till I returned to Budapest a week or so later. No wonder. The mission team I was traveling to catch up with faced many hours of driving to reach the border between Hungary and Romania and on to the small town we were to serve in. No way any airline would’ve delivered my luggage to Romania under those circumstances.

But that left me with a problem. The only clothes I had with me were the ones I’d been traveling forever in.

Fortunately, the team leader had some discretionary funds he could use to buy me a few essentials. The town was having a market day the next day, so I didn’t have to wait long to go shopping.

Oh, but I discovered something horrible that day. Romanian clothes don’t often come in the sizes worn by overly well-fed Americans. I had to settle for one pair of pants that was big enough–way too big, if I recall correctly–a sweater, and a couple of shirts.

When I asked my host if the pants and sweater matched–color blindness can be such a nuisance at times–he said, “Pants dark, sweater dark. They match.”

As we went about our activities that week, I’m not sure that I saw any overweight Romanians, much less any that were my size at that time. When I got home, I was all too aware of how drastically overweight too many Americans are.

I don’t agree with the Obamas about many things–and I don’t think overweight is a problem the government has any business trying to deal with–but Mrs. Obama is certainly right on the ball in being concerned about America’s weight problems. Especially among children and teens.

Every time I go to the mall, I invariably see one or more teens with fat bulging out over the top of a pair of jeans–all too often bare. And it’s not just teens, either. Do they actually think “muffin tops” are attractive?

Is it any wonder that the Young Adult (teen) novel I’m writing currently is called Project Muffintop? It deals with that problem. But it won’t help most overweight Americans.

You see, my protagonist knows she’s overweight and wants to do something about it, but I’m not sure whether most people really care. Maybe not until–like me–they find themselves diabetic when maintaining a desirable weight would’ve prevented the development of diabetes. And maybe they wouldn’t care even then. Not until a heart attack knocks them down.

I don’t know what the answer is. Americans have grown accustomed to the convenience and tastiness of the unhealthiest of foods, foods that are almost guaranteed to put on undesirable weight and keep it there. We’re spoiled.

I’ve read a dystopian novel or two–those are books about situations that have gotten as bad as bad can be. Including severe shortages of even the most basic foods. Not something any of us would enjoy having to live through. But what’s going to turn us away from the luxury of our unbridled eating, otherwise?

I’d love to have your feedback on this. Please leave a comment.

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

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website. Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My new novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is out now. If you’re interested, please check it out at Amazon.
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Best regards,
Roger

Three Generations

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These days it’s not unusual for a family to span four generations. There seem to be a number of great grandparents around.

And why not? If each generation marries at, say, age twenty and has a first child within the first two years, the grandparents will be in their early-to-mid-forties and the great grandparents under seventy.

But that’s not going to happen with my family.

I had just turned forty when we adopted Kristi and I was sixty-five when she married Robert Aaron. Their son, Robert Austin, is now three. If my mathematical skills haven’t deteriorated too much with age, that means I would be eighty-seven if Robert Austin marries and has a child at twenty-two.

In these days of major medical advances and increased lifespans, maybe I should revise my original statement. Eighty-seven isn’t necessarily an impossibility for me, but it’s certainly not something I can count on. As old as I feel at times, there’s no guarantee I will still want to be alive at eighty-seven.

All of that to say that we just had a great visit with Kristi, Robert Aaron, and Robert Austin and look forward to more of those three generation get-togethers in the future.

One of the most interesting aspects of their visit has to do with the relationship between Kristi and me. We’ve always gotten along well, but it’s really great to relate to her adult-to-adult. Of course, I’ve experienced some things over the years that she hasn’t–and hopefully won’t–but at least she’s far past being a child I have to look after and try to rear properly.

In fact, I’m more than satisfied to leave the parenting to the parents.

Now that Kristi and Robert Aaron are parents, they can undoubtedly look back at some of the frustrating aspects of their own youth and childhoods and see that what’s going around is starting to come around. Not that Robert Austin isn’t the greatest kid on the face of the earth, but parenting can’t help but make even the finest of young adults feel like they’re experiencing the back side of deja vu.

Being a grandfather is special. I like it.

But won’t it be interesting to see how Kristi and Robert handle grand-parenting if I survive long enough to become a great grandfather?

What’s longevity like in your family? How about sharing a comment?

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

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website.  Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My new novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is available  at Amazon.  Take a look if you’re interested.

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Best regards,
Roger

More Political Now–More Conservative

Some of you may have read my post about my decision not to major in political science in college. Attending one political rally during an election year really killed my enthusiasm. And that was during the mid-1960s, before things reached the point of deterioration they’re in now.

Let me make a couple of things clear, however. I always voted in presidential elections and occasionally in state and local elections. But it was a challenge.

For most of my adult life, I would probably have described myself as “apolitical”–not interested in or concerned about politics.

I suppose, however, that I got at least a mild charge out of shaking hands once with soon-to-be Vice President Spiro Agnew.

Agnew. Wasn’t he the one who later had to resign his office to avoid prosecution on a bunch of nasty criminal charges? Hmm. Not someone to help build my confidence in American politics.

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, he served as VP under Richard Nixon. Need I say more?

Fast forward. Barack Obama was running for the presidency. He seemed like a pretty decent guy at the time, and I had no problem with the possibility of a black president.

But some people whose opinions I highly respected were dead set against him. And it wasn’t a racial thing for them, either.

Only when Mr. Obama took office and failed to live up to expectations did I regain an interest in politics. And whereas I had considered myself moderate in my outlook on a number of subjects up till then, I found myself becoming more and more conservative.

I signed up for email from a number of conservative groups. Boy, did I learn enough to discourage me. One of the most disillusioning revelations was the fact that most of the media I had counted on for truth were so much in the hands and pockets of the liberals that I would never learn anything bad about what was taking place in our country if I paid attention to them. Fox News seemed my best alternative, but they weren’t perfect, either.

Ironically, I’ve read that the BBC–the British Broadcasting Corporation–is probably the least biased news organization out there. Doesn’t say much for the United States media, does it?

The last few years have proven to be the time for me to assess what I believe about the United States.

I believe in the Constitution of the United States and the integrity of the men who created it. I believe–among other things–that the Constitution allows citizens to own guns. It also denies the President the power of making laws. I believe in and value the American way of life.

I question how many of our officials in Washington believe in the same things I do.

I also believe that the majority of Muslims are peace-loving. But the radical minority is the most dangerous threat America has ever had to face. Well, except for the people in Washington.

What am I really saying? And do I even feel safe in saying it?

America is losing her power and her status in the world, and her people are losing their freedoms at an alarming rate. Christians are treated as the enemy and homosexuals are treated as a long-mistreated minority.

I don’t belong to or support the Tea Party. Too inflexible. Neither am I a Republican. Too many broken promises by the very people I was counting on to turn things around.

The only thing I can count on is God’s ability to save the United States. The problem is, what reasons have we given Him for wanting to?

This post was originally much stronger. Much more critical of those in office. Should I have said more…or have I already said too much? Your comments are welcome.

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

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website. Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My new novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is out now. If you’re interested, please check it out at Amazon.
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Best regards,
Roger

Photography–from Hobby to Ministry

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The pictures above are three of my favorites.

I started developing a real interest in photography–no pun intended with “developing”–around 1966 or 1967, when my church had a friend of my parents for a revival preacher. He was in and out of our home several times, and he became interested in my Zenith Transoceanic shortwave radio, something that had given me hours of pleasure over the years, but which I was no longer using at all then.

And he had a camera he no longer had a need for. An Argus C-3, if I recall correctly. Of course, that was a long time before the advent of digital photography. As a college student, I didn’t have much money for film and processing, so I focused (no pun intended here, either) on black-and-white photography. I didn’t go crazy taking pictures, though. I still couldn’t afford to.

But then–that summer or the next–I was working at a summer job in North Carolina at a Baptist conference center that produced a yearbook of and for summer staff. I don’t recall how the editor of the yearbook came to see some of my photographs, but I was asked to be the yearbook photographer. That meant taking as many candid pictures as I could–not the individual staff pictures–at no cost to me personally.

In fact, they not only borrowed a light meter and a tripod for me, they allowed me to keep all of the prints they couldn’t use. How could things get better than that?

Although I still glance through that yearbook occasionally and take pride in a number of my pictures, I can’t help feeling embarrassed over duds they had to include because no better pictures were available.

Skip ahead a number of years to my first mission trip–Australia. By then I was lugging around a good-sized video camera that used VHS tapes–and not a film camera. It took several more mission trips for me to realize that–although being able to show certain activities “live” was desirable–it was a poor substitute in other ways for good  photographs that people could peruse casusally.

After several years of doing both videos and still photos, I gave up the video recording. I moved slowly through a progression of increasingly nice film cameras until I finally made the move to digital.

I was hooked. I could finally take as many pictures as I wanted to, delete the duds, and print only the ones I needed prints of. I could even doctor them up electronically. How wonderful!

For a number of years I adorned my living room walls with 24×30 inch posters of some of my favorite pictures. (I’ve since downsized to ledger-sized prints in order to include more.) And I’ve posted many of them on my website as well. Check HERE for a page of them. (The pictures OF me are NOT selfies, however.)

Sometimes I’ve felt a little funny about having so much money invested in camera equipment. Not that a professional photographer would look at my gear with more than mild curiosity.  But it’s turned out that God had a purpose in providing me with the interest, the talent, and the equipment .

I may not have an official title like “Church Photographer,” but I’ve become one of several people they always ask to take pictures of special events. Events like the yearly Family Fishing Day. The Shoebox Party. Special choir events. And numerous other occasions. Being useful that way not only makes me feel good, but encourages me to keep sharpening (okay, pun intentional this time) my skills.

I’m thrilled that God has chosen to turn my hobby into a ministry.

What about you? Do you have a hobby that has turned into a ministry to other people? How about sharing a comment?

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

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website. Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My new novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is out now. If you’re interested, please check it out at Amazon.
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Best regards,
Roger

 

 

Looking Back: Miss Norsworthy

This past Sunday, I posted about one of my most influential high school teachers, Mr. Keith Matney. Today I want to tell you about a very different teacher and the very different reasons I remember her so fondly.

Miss Norsworthy was short. At least I remember her to be. Probably far under five feet. And she was an older lady. Of course, in those days, anyone over thirty was ancient, but Miss Norsworthy was probably at least in her fifties.

She was my Spanish teacher for two of the three years I studied Spanish in high school, and she always wore a flower in her hair in what I assumed to be a Spanish kind of way. Of course, popular  opinion was that she was bald in that spot and just trying to cover it up. I doubt that anyone actually believed that, however.

I learned a lot of Spanish from her, Spanish I wish I could recall better now. But thanks to her good grounding, I wasn’t totally cut off from comprehending the people I met on last year’s mission trip to Nicaragua. The biggest problem is that native Spanish speakers tend to talk faster than I can listen and comprehend. Ah, well. I need to converse with people whose Spanish is tinged with a good old Southern drawl.

Or maybe not. I believe one of the beauties of Spanish is that it’s far too easy for one sentence to flow into the next.

Oh, okay. You’re right. Whatever happened to talking about Miss Norsworthy?

I remember two things about her. Things I’ll never forget. The first was the day she was chasing a nuisance housefly around the classroom and finally cornered it on Tommy Coggins’ face. Talk about embarrassing…

The other thing is far more serious. I had a last period study hall and was permitted to leave. Although I’d gone outside, I wasn’t waiting for a city bus the way I normally would’ve done. After a few minutes, Miss Norsworthy came outside and asked me if I wanted to listen to her car radio with her.

Weird! But she was too old and too prim and proper to have been up to no good. She seemed to be in an especially serious mood, and I couldn’t help wondering what was up.

The news was on. But not a regularly scheduled news report, but something that seemed to be happening. After a few minutes I learned that President Kennedy had been shot. Although I’d never been a fan of his, that was a horrible thing to hear about. Like so many other Americans, we remained glued to that radio as long as we could.

Looking back, I’m glad I didn’t have to be by myself on hearing of President Kennedy’s assassination. And I will always value that precious little lady who invited me to share those moments of shock and grief with her.

What about you? Are you old enough to remember that fateful day? Do you have any particular memories you could share in a comment?

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

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website.  Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My newest novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is out now. If you’re interested, please check it out at Amazon.

Best regards,
Roger

Looking Back: Mr. Matney

I participate in an online program called the Daily Challenge. It presents something for its members to do of a health-promoting nature–often physical, but sometimes mental and emotional. Participants receive points and work their way up the ladder to higher and higher rungs. I can’t say that I always find DC to be beneficial, but I’ve made friends with some of the people who exchange comments with me.

Today’s Challenge–I’m writing this three days before you see it–was special. To share one’s favorite class or school subject from way back whenever and list three reasons it was so special.

At first I was stymied, as I often am by that type of Daily Challenge, but once I thought about it, I had to mention two classes rather than one.

I thoroughly enjoyed my Government class in high school; I guess they call that Civics now. My teacher was a wiry little fellow named Keith Matney. (It seems strange that I would have even known his first name.) That man was energetic, and that was good. He could keep me awake even while other kids were dozing. I’ll never forget an impromptu speech he gave about the fact that nobody is free unless everyone is.

I don’t recall the details, but that made me want to become a teacher. A teacher of Government at that.

When I transferred from junior college to senior college, still firm in my conviction that I wanted to follow in Mr. Matney’s footsteps, I took a class called The American Political Party System. We were required to attend a particular political rally–1966 was an election year–and that was my initial introduction to the realities of American politics.

Forget teaching Government. Especially if it meant taking more classes like that one. I’d been naive enough to think that majoring in Political Science was all about the kinds of things I’d studied in Mr. Matney’s class.

Nonetheless, I didn’t lose my desire to teach. Since I’d accumulated more English credits than anything else in junior college, I changed my major to English.

Once I started teaching, I learned that the one thing my education classes had failed to to teach me was how to teach. I’m greatly relieved to hear periodically from former students on Facebook who remember my classes as beneficial.

But I was no Keith Matney, and I changed careers shortly after the beginning of my seventh year.

I have to admit I never totally lost my interest in teaching, though. I taught a computer programming class once at a Black and Decker plant in Easton, MD. I taught guitar off and on part-time for a number of years. I did a little bit of Sunday School teaching. I gave technical presentations at nationwide computer user conferences and even taught a full-day class once in Australia.

Even now I’m tutoring/mentoring a writer friend on a regular basis.

Maybe I do have at least a little of Keith Matney in me after all.

What about you? What was your favorite subject in school? How about leaving a comment?

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday with a post about my other favorite high school teacher. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website.  Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My newest novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is out now. If you’re interested, please check it out at Amazon.
Tentative-Front-Cover
Best regards,
Roger