Smoke Gets in My Face

Some of you are old enough to recall the song “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” It was written in 1933, long before I was born, but I have a recording of it by The Platters.

I don’t know about YOUR eyes, but smoke in my eyes is a problem–and actually only a small part of the problem.

I didn’t used to be allergic to tobacco smoke. In fact, I smoked a pipe and an occasional Swisher Sweet cigar for some years in my early young adult years before deciding I didn’t need to do those things anymore. The smoke itself was never an issue.

The same was true when my desk was just across the aisle from the normally open door of the assistant office manager, who was permitted to smoke in his office.

But somewhere along the way, my body started reacting to cigarette smoke. My head would get all stuffy, and I’d get a whopper headache that only a good night’s sleep could get rid of.

So I took full advantage of the “No Smoking” areas that restaurants were finally required to provide. I soon learned which  restaurants didn’t adequately separate the two areas and avoided them. And–boy!–did I rejoice when restaurants and other businesses were finally prevented from allowing smoking inside at all.

So you would think my problem with smoke has gone away.

I wish!

Many is the time I’ve had to close my window or sun roof because of the smoke drifting in from the car next to me at a red light. If I’m running inside a store for just a few seconds, I’d rather not bother to close windows or roof, but I’ve learned that people standing around the parking lot near my car can leave it stinking pretty badly.

This problem came to a head recently when I approached the drive-through at my neighborhood Sonic Drive-in just as the person in front of me tossed her cigarette–not the butt, but two-thirds of a whole cigarette–to the base of the intercom pole, where it burned its way lazily while I sat there with my window down waiting for someone to take my order.

It was certainly not Sonic’s fault that they were super-busy at the moment and it took several minutes for that to happen. But that meant I had to keep my window open–else I might’ve missed hearing the request for my order–and try to keep from breathing the smoke that seemed to prefer my car interior rather than the open air.

When I got to the window to pick up my order, I mentioned the incident to the young lady inside, and she said smokers frequently end up blowing smoke in her face while picking up and paying for their orders. Ugh! I conceded that she had it worse than me.

My mother suffered from emphysema without ever having smoked a day in her life. But she grew up with a father and brothers who did smoke. I’m thankful there’s so much concern now about secondhand smoke.

But smoking laws should be stricter still. Smokers should  be limited to closed in areas that affect only them. No smoking around children or adults that way.

Smokers’ rights? Ask me if I care. Their rights end where mine begin.

If you’re a smoker, this post is nothing personal. Not against you. Just against your habit and the way many smokers affect the rest of us.

I’m not pretending to have presented a balanced view of smoking. If you have a comment, please leave it.

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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.

My new novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is available at Amazon. Look for it HERE.

Best regards,
Roger

 

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What Glitters More Than Gold

WeddingRing    OnyxRing    GoldBracelet

A few weeks ago–maybe it’s actually been months–I talked about Virginia Center Commons, the mall that’s about a mile up the road from us, the one that has seen so many store closures in recent months and now houses some unusual places. Like a Henrico County Police substation.

One thing I probably didn’t mention is that there are still five jewelry stores in the mall, some higher class than others, but all reputable to the best of my knowledge. Could you imagine the competition among those places? No wonder two of them seem to have permanent liquidation sales going on and a third has changed hands and names fairly recently.

As I was pondering those stores during a recent walk at the mall, I couldn’t help thinking about how expensive jewelry is. Posters in the stores make $2500 for a diamond ring sound like a bargain, and maybe it is.

But why in the world do people buy such expensive jewelry? Have they run out of practical things to spend their money on?

Or are they in such a rat race to compete with their neighbors that they feel justified in making such huge purchases? Do they think having better/more expensive jewelry than their friends and associates makes them more admirable?

Do they think an expensive piece of jewelry will give them satisfaction–at least until they eye an impressive, even more expensive item?

I honestly don’t know, and the answer probably wouldn’t be the same for everyone, anyhow.

And I suppose it’s not my business to question or criticize how people spend their money.

But one thing I do know is why the jewelry I wear is special to me. The braided gold ring at the top left of this post is my wedding band. Not the most expensive, but not the cheapest, either. As pretty as I think it is, however, the sentiment glitters more than the gold itself.

The middle picture is of a black onyx ring I bought while we were on a cruise to the Bahamas, where jewelry is considered to be a real bargain. I’d had other rings, including an onyx ring, but none of them quite seemed right for me. Not only do I love the looks of this one, but the memories it brings back of my wife’s and my only cruise gives it a special glitter–in spite of the scratches on the stone itself.

And the bracelet on the far right? A gift from my wife in honor of my first book publishing contract. That was something worth celebrating then and continuing to celebrate every day. A different kind of glitter.

Maybe I’m wrong to question people’s tendency to buy expensive jewelry. Maybe they–some of them, anyhow–have just as special a reason to buy it as my wife and I did. And equally special reasons to wear it.

What about you? Do you have a favorite piece of jewelry? Do you have a fondness for jewelry? I’d love to hear what you think. 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, 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.

My new 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

Right to Life

I’ve never wanted to be a politician. Politicians never please everyone, and they often seem to cave to the loudest voices rather than to the ones that are morally and ethically correct.

Nonetheless, some politicians do pay attention to their electorate—the very people who put them in office—and attempt to do the right thing, even in the face of strong opposition. I commend them.

In the November elections, We the People elected Senators and Representatives we believed were listening to us. In doing that, we sent a clear mandate to Washington about what the majority of Americans think about key issues.

Especially the need to honor and obey the Constitution.

I hadn’t read the Constitution for a while, but I skimmed through it a few minutes ago. Nowhere did I find the familiar “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” No wonder. That’s in the Declaration of Independence.

Nonetheless, no civilized nation permits murder to go unpunished. “Thou shalt not kill” is one of the Ten Commandments God gave Moses, and it applies just as much to America as it did to the Children of Israel long ago.

The issue seems to be “What is murder?”

Sounds silly to even ask, doesn’t it? The answer is obvious. Taking someone else’s life.

But what about war? Killing is taken for granted there.

I’ve heard it explained that God never forbade His people from killing their enemies. The Bible is filled with numerous examples of them doing that.

What about capital punishment, though?

I suppose one might say that the judicial system is executing the enemies of law and order. I’ve heard better explanations, but I don’t recall the details.

Finally, then, what about abortion?

Hmm. The Declaration of Independence is not a legal document. Not in the sense the United States Constitution is.

But if murder is “taking someone else’s life,” then the abortion question is one of  “At what point does someone become a person?”

Back in the days when I felt more neutral about abortion, I hadn’t yet seen any of those graphic pictures of the development of a baby at various stages of his or her life. But I’ve seen them time and again in recent years, and no one can convince me that unborn babies are not yet “persons.” Persons with human features. Persons who can feel pain by the time they’re twenty weeks old.

So I have no choice but to consider abortion the killing of a miniature—but a very real—person. Not the killing of an enemy in war. Not the killing of an enemy of law and order.

But the killing of a person whose continued presence is—at least in most cases—simply inconvenient.

I’m not unfeeling, however. Where rape, incest, or the health of the mother is involved, I’m not nearly as adamant in my opposition to abortion. But even then, abortion is still the killing of a very real person.

God never stops loving his children. He forgives everyone who confesses their sins to Him and asks forgiveness. I believe that is true of hardened criminals who repent and seek God’s forgiveness, and I believe it’s equally true of women who’ve had abortions and ask God’s forgiveness. But He doesn’t free them from the consequences of their actions.

I wonder how God feels about the unrepentant law makers who fail to take We the People seriously. Those who place political expediency above their promises—and above the civilized standard of not committing murder.

They, too, must ultimately live with the consequences of their decisions–including the loss of support from We the People.

[NOTE: My daughter is adopted. I cannot imagine how different–how less wonderful–my own life would have been if her birth mother had aborted her.]

Abortion is a hot topic. While I hope you will feel free to leave comments, I ask that you do it in a thoughtful and civilized manner.

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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.

My new novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is available at Amazon.

Best regards,
Roger

 

 

Authors Are Tough Readers

I’ve read a couple of novels this week. Lorena McCourtney‘s Dying to Read is a cozy mystery–cozy mysteries are ones solved by non-law enforcement people (e.g., Jessica Fletcher on Murder, She Wrote, and in this case an inexperienced private investigator)–and Christy Barritt’s Dubiosity is romantic suspense. I thoroughly enjoyed both of them.

I was already familiar with Christy’s writing because she’s a friend, and I like her writing so much I always ask for a chance to review a new book. I’d never read any of Lorena’s before, but in corresponding with her earlier in the week learned that the Kindle version of this book was free and decided I could afford that.

I’ve pointed out how much I enjoyed both of these novels for a very specific reason. Authors are tough readers, and it’s hard for us to read a book without stumbling at places where the author failed to follow one of the so-called rules of writing.

Generally, those are things a less knowledgeable reader won’t be bothered by. And I don’t mean misspellings or grammatical errors.

One example is using “s/she said” a lot. A more polished author uses what are called action beats to identify the speaker. For example:  He scratched his head. “I’m not so sure about that.”

Another is a failure to show, not tell. Instead of “He was angry,” say “He hit the table with his fist.” This is tough for a number of authors and would be authors. It can take a number of well thought out words to show.

Another thing I stumble over as a reader is the use of any form of the verb “to be.” The “He was angry” in the previous paragraph is an example of this.

I could list dozens of similar “rules” that writers are taught to obey–one is to avoid unnecessary uses of “that,” something I failed to do in the first part of this sentence–but that would be pointless. I’m not trying to educate anyone here about what good writing requires.

What I am trying to do is explain briefly that authors make tough readers because we stumble over abuses related to the rules we’ve been taught to follow, and we tend to be far more critical than normal readers.

That’s why I mentioned the two books I’ve read this week. Their authors are good. Really good. If they broke any of the rules, they did it so well I didn’t stumble.

The interesting thing is that authors tend to be especially critical of best-selling authors who consistently break the rules and get away with it. To which I can only say what I’ve heard a number of times, “Story trumps the rules.”

What about you? If you’re not an author–or even if you are–what makes you stumble when you’re reading a novel? 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.

My new 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

 

 

When Should an Older Adult Quit Driving?

I’m smiling as I think about my father’s driving. For just about as far back as I can remember, he drove as creepingly slowly as any stereotypical little old man. That started years before he became a little old man, although his driving got appreciably worse as he grew older. He continued to drive until a few days before his death. Probably up to the day before he had to be hospitalized for the last time.

As a widow, my mother was in a quandary about driving. Her health wasn’t good, and she readily agreed that it probably wasn’t good for her to continue driving. So on the condition that I would drive her when needed, she let me trade in the Crown Victoria along with my car of the time and get a new car. One that we could conveniently put her walker–and soon thereafter her wheelchair–in.

My parents were in their eighties when they died. My mother had quit driving when she realized she could no longer do it safely. My father probably should have quit, but hadn’t.

What about me? I’m only sixty-eight and in good health.

But a year or two ago I drove through a wire barrier I didn’t see, and a few months ago I backed into a light post I couldn’t have missed seeing if I’d been more alert. I’ve always hated night driving, but it’s getting harder and harder for me to feel even vaguely comfortable doing.

Last night I rode to a meeting with a friend. And I’ve asked my wife to please start being the driver for Wednesday night and Sunday night church activities.

But I’m far from needing to give up driving completely. I’ve never hit anyone or even been in an accident with another vehicle. I don’t feel uncomfortable with daytime driving in familiar territory.

So what’s the big deal? Why write this blog post?

Honestly? I think I just needed to think all of this through and realize that I simply need to be more careful. Especially in parking lots!

What about you? What’s your opinion about or experience with older drivers? How about leaving 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.

My new novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is out . If you’re interested, here’s the Amazon link.

Best regards,
Roger

Respect for All

I don’t think I’ve ever written a post here that I didn’t have the title for first. But now I do.

When I started working at the International Mission Board in September of 1984–it was still the Foreign Mission Board then–my supervisor shared an interesting bit of information. He said that even though many of the staff had earned doctorates, no one was so important that I couldn’t address him by his first name.

That turned out to be accurate with few exceptions, and the choice to say “Dr. So-and-So” was mine. Not because I was intimidated into doing it, but because I felt an extra amount of respect for those people.

Respect is a funny thing. I’m going to share something that will surprise and perhaps shock you. It’s something I definitely wouldn’t have been stupid enough to do once I got a little older, and I still feel embarrassed at the memory of it.

Once while I was still teaching school–probably during my second or third year out of college–I was sitting in the guidance office (I always enjoyed talking to the guidance counselor) when the Superintendent of Schools came in. I had my feet up on a desk. Not a good thing to be caught doing by someone at the top of my food chain.

This fellow was someone I had absolutely no respect for. Not only didn’t he have the degrees you might expect someone in his position to have, he frequently used horrible grammar. “He don’t…she don’t.” Can you believe that?

So, did I do the smart thing and take my feet down? Nope. I didn’t feel I owed this guy that kind of respect. (I wasn’t thinking in terms of proper or improper.)

The older I get, the more I’ve come to recognize that everyone deserves my respect. Even people I don’t like or am usually at loggerheads with.

I’m not any better than anyone else. God loves everyone equally, and that has become the basis of my respect for all people.

My improved attitude about respect motivates me to show the janitors and security people at the mall the same interest and appreciation I show people I’m closer to.

I don’t expect to receive any additional jewels in my heavenly crown because of that. Why should I? I get my reward from knowing I may have been the only person to share a pleasant word with someone that day.

What about you? What is your basis for showing respect ? Do you pay attention to folks whose jobs are menial? 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 use “As I Come Singing” to post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years. 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.

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

Best regards,
Roger

Santa Isn’t God–and God Isn’t Santa

I’m reasonably sure that everyone reading this post is old enough not to believe in Santa Claus anymore. Otherwise, feel free to think of me as the Grinch who stole Christmas.

Yes, I believed in Santa Claus when I was a kid. But my parents told me from early childhood on that Santa was love. That didn’t make sense at the time. I got quite upset the first time an older child told me that Santa wasn’t real. But I eventually accepted the truth and began to understand what my parents had told me.

When my daughter was young, her mother and I agreed to tell her that Santa was make-believe. And asked her not to tell the other kids since we didn’t want her to cause unnecessary disillusionment. We didn’t mind if she had fun pretending–as long as she knew the truth. The best I can recall, that worked well.

As a Christian, I love Christmas carols. But–as a general rule–I’m not fond of secular Christmas songs. After all, Christmas is all about Jesus’ birthday, even though He wasn’t actually born on December 25.

Most secular Christmas songs don’t offend me, however. I can tolerate “Frosty” and “Rudolph.”  “Jingle Bells.” And many others.

But this one is something else. It offends me horribly…

“You better watch out
You better not cry
Better not pout
I’m telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town
He’s making a list
And checking it twice;
Gonna find out
Who’s naughty and nice
Santa Claus is coming to town.

He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows when you’re awake
He knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!

Since parents themselves are Santa, they find those words to be reasonably accurate. Most of the time, they know when their kids are misbehaving. And it’s to the parents’ advantage to convince their children that the quality of their gifts depends on their behavior.

But what about their kids? I wonder how many of them think Santa and God are the same–if they even know anything about God at all. After all, it’s more politically correct to believe in Santa nowadays.

Santa and God sound similar in several ways. God also knows when children have been naughty or nice. And since He never sleeps, He’s on top of their behavior even more than their parents are. And He’s the giver of good gifts–“every good and perfect gift,” to be precise.

Like Santa, God loves little children.

But He loves the rest of us, too.

And Santa didn’t send Jesus to earth to die for our sins. Nor does he adopt whoever comes to him through faith in Jesus as his children. Nor does he care about what’s best for us or provide gifts that aren’t dependent on good behavior.

And he certainly didn’t die on the cross to enable us receive forgiveness. Or to live the most meaningful earthly lives possible. And have eternal life in Heaven.

No, Santa’s not God, and God isn’t Santa. God is so much more. Isn’t it time to tell our children the truth?

If you want to say something about this post, 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, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I use “As I Come Singing” to post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years. 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.

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

Best regards,
Roger