Happy Friday Mornings

Friday mornings are special to me.

Not because the weekend is almost here. Since retiring, weekends don’t mean as much as they used to.

But it’s the one day a week I walk at the mall without my wife.

Huh? you protest. You like walking without Kathleen?

Definitely not. She and I have a great time walking together Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday nights. We also walk sometime during the day on Saturdays. And we often do so much talking that our twice-around-the-mall loop goes very quickly.

But Wednesday nights and Sundays are out, and Kathleen’s not available any other time. I need one more walking day, and Friday is normally it.

So, you ask, what makes the Friday walk so special?

I’m glad you asked.

I go early in the morning–usually around 8:00. The only people there are security people, a few store employees setting up for the day, and a number of other walkers. The sense of trust is so great that most of us walkers feel quite safe leaving our coats at tables in the empty Food Court. I sure wouldn’t do that when the mall has other people.

I often start by walking to my left–against the flow of traffic, as it were. Not many yards into my walk, I’m apt to run into another walker. Rarely is it someone I know personally; only one person from the past walks at the same time I do.

Not always someone I recognize from previous Fridays, either. But that doesn’t matter. Walkers seem to share a sense of camaraderie.

Very seldom does the other person fail to respond to my pleasant greeting–or perhaps to greet me first. That happens throughout my walk.

I really enjoy noticing the variety of walkers. I’m apt to see a pretty even mixture of blacks and whites. Practically never do I see anyone I recognize as Latino or Asian.

Although I’m far from being the only person walking by himself, I frequently see groups of two or three people. They’re not always doing the fastest walking, but they seem to be having a great time socializing. I must admit I get a little jealous of the fun they’re having together.

Gee, in seven or eight years, Kathleen will be able to retire. Hope I’m still up to walking by then.

Sometimes I count the closed stores and marvel at the ingenious places that have opened (see my earlier post about what’s happened to malls). Sometimes I pray–for the other walkers, the mall employees, and shoppers who’ll start showing up in another hour or two.

I continue speaking to other walkers and try to keep straight which ones I’ve already greeted. That’s more of a problem than you might think. I’ve always been horrible at remembering faces.

The walking stick I bought several months ago in California–made in Texas, of all places–attracts a lot of attention. Mainly because it’s longer than the ones I’ve made myself.

I don’t know whether I’ve given you an adequate understanding of what I enjoy about my Friday walks, but I’m fairly certain I’ll really bore you if I say much more.

The fans of any given athletic team automatically have something in common, no matter how they differ as individuals. My fellow mall-walkers and I are that way, too.

Do you associate with people you have something special in common with? 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, 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.

My new novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is out now. If you’re interested, look for it at Amazon.

Best regards,
Roger

Hell Is for Children

Strange blog post title if you’re not old enough to remember Pat Benatar’s song about child abuse. As much as I hated the subject matter, it always struck me as a powerful song. Music and lyrics. I would quote some of the words here, but quoting lyrics without the copyright owner’s permission is illegal, and obtaining permission can be both time consuming and expensive.

I honestly cannot conceive of anyone hitting or punishing a child in some other abusive way. And sexual abuse is even further from my ability to imagine. Those things weren’t part of my upbringing, and–if I knew anyone who’d been abused when I was younger–I didn’t know about it.

As an adult, I’ve met several people who admit they were the victims of child abuse. I really feel for them. Especially since I’ve read several novels in which children were abused.

I know one adult who has gone far beyond simply sharing the fact that he was sexually abused as a child. Cec (Cecil) Murphey, the man who did the actual writing of best-selling nonfiction book Ninety Minutes in Heaven, has written a book called When a Man You Love Was Abused. The target is women who want to help men overcome their continuing trauma about having been sexually abused as a child.

But child abuse takes many forms, at least one of which is disgustingly and legally accepted. Let me be specific.

My wife and I were walking at the mall the other day when we heard a small child start screaming her head off. Kathleen turned to look. A parent was holding the little girl down long enough for a woman to finish the ear piercing, and we were disgusted. Closer to angry.

We don’t know the background–or the conclusion. Maybe the little girl had wanted pierced ears and had now gotten cold feet. But she may have been too young to ask for pierced ears. We couldn’t see well enough to determine her age.

My daughter hated getting shots, but those were required for good health.

What was the justification for putting that one little girl through that kind of legal abuse?

Do you have an opinion on child abuse in general or the ear piercing of young children specifically? 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, 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.

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

Best regards,
Roger

 

YA Novels Aren’t Just for Teens

When Barbour Publishing released my first two Young Adult novels in 2011, I soon discovered that most of the positive feedback would come from adults. Not teens.

Since then I’ve learned that’s the norm. Adults love well written Young Adult novels. And I don’t mean just the Harry Potter books or The Hunger Games.

I’d like to believe that’s partially because conscientious parents want to make sure their kids are reading decent books. But I’m realistic enough to know that probably isn’t the case most of the time.

Why then?

I believe adults enjoy teen stories because we remember our own teen years sufficiently well that we can relate to them. And I believe far fewer teens enjoy (decent) adult novels because they cannot relate. They haven’t lived long enough or experienced enough of adult trials and tribulations.

I periodically agree to become an “influencer” for someone else’s new novel. Among other things, that means I receive a copy of the book–sometimes a print copy, sometimes electronic–and read and post reviews of it.

When I volunteered to become an influencer for Marissa Shrock’s YA novel, The First Principle, I did so because the brief synopsis sounded interesting.

Can you imagine a futuristic time (not too far in the future) when the United States as a nation has been replaced by a nation made up of the former United States, Mexico, and Canada? Freedom as we know it is a thing of the past, and the more affluent are in control. People must trust the government to know what’s best for them under all circumstances; that sounds too much like today.

Christians are enemies of the State and the Bible as we know it is illegal. The government has issued an authorized revised Bible meant to appeal to the members of every religion.

Teens are not discouraged from having sex. That, too, sounds too much like today. Every teen girl is vaccinated against pregnancy, but since the vaccine doesn’t always work, girls must take a regularly scheduled pregnancy test. Any teen who gets pregnant automatically faces abortion, and no one thinks of it as murder.

But there’s trouble in paradise. A rebel faction has been building for years, determined to restore the former United States and the freedoms people used to enjoy. And Christians play a huge role in the conspiracy.

What really grabbed my attention when I first opened the book–a print copy–was the fact that Marissa didn’t have the usual list of endorsements by other authors. Instead, she listed seven or eight brief endorsements by teen readers, giving only their first names and their ages. If I were a teen girl, that would probably have sold me on the book right there.

I’m not going to give away any of the story today. But, if you read the back cover, you learn that Vivica, the teen protagonist, faces some drastic decisions when she becomes illegally pregnant. One thing the author did especially well was to portray Vivica as a well-intended but imperfect teen.

The further I went in my reading, the more drawn in I became. The story was wonderfully suspenseful and the ending quite satisfying–and obviously paving the way for a sequel.

I could’ve live without all of the details about the new country and how it came into being, especially as an information dump at the beginning of Chapter Two. I’m just not sure all of those details were necessary.

But if that’s my biggest criticism, I have to still say that The First Principle is a teen novel well worth reading.

What have you read recently? Any teen books? Care to share with 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.

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

Best regards,
Roger

What Have the Malls Turned Into?

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policeStation  FamilyFitness

When Virginia Center Commons opened in 1991, it was beautiful. And special. A real eye opener. And a popular place to shop.

Today it looks a bit tired. Closer to dead, truth be known. Sure, the custodial staff does a great job of keeping it clean, but cleanliness isn’t the only thing necessary for keeping a mall alive. Especially if it lacks sparkle otherwise.

In all fairness, the state of the economy probably has a lot to do with the condition of Virginia Center Commons–and many other malls as well.

In a recent walk around VCC, I used a scrap of paper to help me keep count of the number of empty stores. Twenty-five, including three places in the Food Court. The not-overly-large-to-start-with Food Court.

And that’s not counting the decreased number of kiosks in the middle of the various hallways.

No more shoppers than I normally see there on my frequent walks–at least black Friday was an exception–it’s no wonder so many stores have closed. Competition for a small number of shoppers must be brutal. I marvel at the existence of five jewelry stores, several of which seem to have permanent liquidation sales going on.

But some people are enterprising in the way they use the mall.

American Family Fitness opened a full-size place, complete with pools. It began in a limited fashion where an Old Navy store had closed. The building of the full facility took forever. Interestingly, even though the AFF is attached to the mall, it’s not accessible from within the mall. Not even any windows for mall shoppers to stare at the exercise-hungry through.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when a Henrico County Police substation opened in a spot long empty of the jewelry store that used to occupy that spot.

Next came a counseling office. I’ve never seen anyone coming or going there–there’s a solid door several feet inside the glass door–but the fish in the aquarium in the window are alive, so at least somebody is feeding them.

Then came a dentist’s office. Appropriately for a mall, they take walk-ins and are open at different times from a normal dental office.

The government is really pushing Obamacare. One former store now houses someone whose job (apparently) is to sell people on the affordability of Obamacare. Good luck on that.

Most recently came the seasonal use of one store. WalMart–VCC is about five miles in either direction from a WalMart–has set up a number of computer terminals for people to use to apply for work at WalMart during the Christmas season.

If Virginia Center Commons can’t sustain itself in normal ways, may it continue to do so through unusual ones.

What about you? Are the malls near you healthy? Do any of them have unusual tenants? How about leaving 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.

My new novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is out now. If you’re interested, please check it out at Amazon. http://tinyurl.com/kktgeqt

Afraid of Being Too Close to the Edge

When Maureen, the older of my two stepdaughters, visited my wife and me for Thanksgiving this year, we had some spirited discussions. But what really caught my attention were her comments about para-sailing¬† and wanting to do sky diving sometime–and obviously meaning it.

Okay, Maureen. More power to you, girl. I was the only one in my group who didn’t even go zip gliding in Nicaragua.

For many years I’ve thought of myself as acrophobic–afraid of heights. I’m not as bad about that now as I used to be, though, and I don’t think I ever totally panicked when I was in a high place.

I’d never flown until I was in my early-to-mid twenties. Not because I was afraid of it. I’d just never needed to or had the opportunity to.

But my landlord owned a small plane, and when he invited me to look at our part of Maryland’s beautiful Eastern Shore from the air, I jumped at the chance. I felt vaguely uncomfortable being up there, especially since the plane was so small, but I didn’t hesitate when my first need to fly on a commercial flight arose a short time later.

But I remember two specific instances when I almost panicked under different circumstances. Both while I was an adult.

I worked summers at a conference center in North Carolina, and one summer I was in charge of filling the numerous canned drink machines throughout the campus. To do that, I loaded a van with what I thought I would need each day and headed off to get as close as I could to each machine to avoid toting the drinks any further than necessary.

The catch was leaving the storage office. A seven or eight foot drop beside the parking lot required some careful maneuvering in a heavily loaded vehicle that came complete with a stick shift. As far as I recall, I panicked every day until I’d safely made that turn.

The other instance took place in the nearby Smoky Mountains. I’d stopped at an overview to look at the distant scenery, but as I approached the wall that was meant to protect people from the severe drop on the other side, I couldn’t do it. I was terrified. So terrified that I finally had to crawl up to the wall on my hands and knees. Even then, was I evermore relieved to get away from that place.

So, there you have it. Maybe I’m not actually afraid of heights–I’ve climbed a few ladders I should’ve been more afraid of–but of being too close to the edge.

Hmm. Wonder if there’s a phobia-word for that.

Are you afraid of anything in an almost-phobic way? How about sharing it with us via 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.

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

Best regards,
Roger

Searching for the Best in Little Things

smallThings

I’ve written some pretty serious posts recently. Today I want to poke a little bit of fun at myself.

The older I’ve grown, the less materialistic I’ve become. No wonder. I’ve had more years to think about the fact that I can’t take it with me. As the old saying goes, “I’ve never seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul.”

So don’t expect me to take a round-the-world cruise, pay cash for a mansion, or test drive even the lowliest of Porsches. Occasional modest vacations and weekend getaways are wonderful, and my mobile home and Honda Civic are just right for me. Fortunately, my wife feels the same way.

One reason we enjoy having a mobile home (approximately 1200 square feet) is it keeps us from buying “stuff” we don’t need and don’t have room for.

Okay, so you understand by now that I’m not extravagant. I’ll probably never even own a better Martin or Taylor guitar than the ones I already have. Why fret about that? I’m blessed to have what I have, and I only get to play at a local nursing home, anyhow, and I feel all too much at home going there to do that.

But I do enjoy buying certain kinds of things. In fact, you might say I’m sometimes obsessed with the search for the most perfect of small items.

For example, years ago I decided it would be prudent to always carry a flashlight. (Except in the shower, of course.) It wouldn’t have to be the most powerful one on the market, but strong enough to help in an emergency. No telling how many small flashlights I went through in my search. I finally found two–no, I don’t carry both of them–at the local Bass Pro store.

I wear the larger one on my keyring and the smaller one on a lanyard around my neck during the night. Silly? Not with a dog, a cat, and pet toys that might be anywhere on a dark path to the bathroom.

Another small necessity was a pocketknife. As anyone who’s ever owned a Swiss Army knife can tell you, that’s a must, and I keep a small one in the man-pouch my wife knitted for me. This one has a blade, scissors, and a nail file. Plus tiny tweezers and a plastic toothpick. Can’t say I’ve ever used the toothpick for its intended purpose, but those tweezers are great!

The problem with carrying a knife that small, however, is that it’s not rugged enough for those occasional heavy-duty cutting needs. So a fair-sized Gerber pocket knife–also carried in the man-pouch–serves as a good supplement.

My only concern with these two knives is remembering to put them in the suitcase rather than having to surrender them at airport security. I’ve lost several that way.

My latest small purchase is a bit larger–but definitely not something to carry around.

No telling how many beard/mustache trimmers I’ve gone through in my lifetime. Some simply weren’t good enough. Others lost their charging power, while I threw away one recently that had never charged enough for a consistent cut. Not even when new.

That’s what got me searching for a cordless trimmer–and reading multiple reviews on Amazon before settling on one. My search ended with the discover of a Wahl Peanut (yes, it is appreciably smaller than most beard/mustache trimmers). Appreciably more expensive than the average trimmer, it came highly recommended.

My Peanut has proven itself consistently as well worth the investment.

My home may not have room for larger extravagances that I really have no interest in, but the little things I get a kick out of looking for the most useful of fit nicely.

Are you always looking for a better kind of something? How about telling us what 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.

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

Best regards,
Roger

Pride’s Not a Problem and I’m Proud of It

The Bible has a lot to say about pride. The verse that comes to mind says that pride goes before a fall.

It does. I learned my lesson the hard way.

I’ll never forget visiting my tenth grade friend Bud and talking to his sister, who was a year older than I was and someone I wanted to impress, even though she was far out of my league. And what better way than by showing off the Spanish I’d been studying for a year or two at that time. I could certainly impress her with my linguistic abilities.

So I started reading aloud from the Spanish textbook I had with me.

She was impressed all right. But not the way I’d wanted or expected.

How was I to know she’d lived in Puerto Rico or some other Spanish-speaking place for years while her dad was stationed there in the navy? Or that her Spanish was far superior to the best I would ever be able to do?

Talk about red-faced…

I wish I could say that was the only time pride got the better of me. Sometimes it wasn’t even my fault–like the time an aunt of my mother’s took my mom and a cousin of mine and me out for a meal at a nice restaurant. Of course, none of realized this place would have a dress code or that what they kept on hand to give naive young men who weren’t properly attired would not only be as ugly as sin, but horribly mismatched.

So much for pride in my appearance. At least I can look back at that now and laugh, but I sure couldn’t at the time.

I must’ve learned my lesson from that. Several times in my adult life I’ve gone to Halloween parties dressed with a sheet folded into a triangle and worn as if it were a diaper. I dragged a blanket behind me and periodically drank milk from a baby bottle. If that had embarrassed me, I never would’ve done it more than once. I just wish I knew what had happened to the picture.

People frequently tell me what a good writer I am. And what a good guitarist. Yes, of course those compliments make me feel good, but I’ve read better writers and listened to better guitarists. So I don’t let it go to my head.

That doesn’t mean I’m not proud of my accomplishments, though. I really am. But I know better than to compare my talents to those of other people. I’ve learned that being myself my way is quite an accomplishment in and of itself.

Years ago I read an article in Guitar Player magazine about guitarist Phil Keaggy. (I’ve been a Keaggy fan for MANY years and still wouldn’t begin to know how to play like him.) But I was really impressed by something super-guitarist Eric Clapton said in the article (I hope I’m quoting him correctly): “I’d like be able to play like Phil Keaggy–and then not do so.”

Amen! to the idea of having talent equal to someone else’s but still being oneself rather than a copycat. I can truthfully say I’ve never tried to play or write the way someone else does, no matter how much I appreciate and enjoy their work. In fact, that’s what makes my songs and novels legitimate: they’re mine and no one else’s.

One thing that keeps me humble about my music is the fact that I normally only get to use my guitar playing and original songs at our church’s weekly nursing home ministry. Those nice old folks would probably love my music, no matter how good or bad. I doubt they would know the difference. And neither would they care. They seem to love and appreciate me–and that carries over to my music.

What are you proud of? Is it a problem or a reasonable pride? 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.

My latest novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is out now. Look for it HERE if you’re interested.

Best regards,
Roger