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

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A Weighty Idiosyncrasy

If you’ve been with me even a short time already, you know I have my share of idiosyncrasies. I hope you do, too. I’d hate to be all by myself that way.

I describe the idiosyncrasy I’m talking about today as “weighty” because it has to do with my weight. See? That’s not very complicated, is it?

I’ve been in a battle with my weight practically my whole life. Don’t ask me why I remember this so vividly, but when I was in the sixth grade I weighed 148 and was a lot shorter than my adult 5’6″ height. The folks at church thought I was cute being so fat. I didn’t.

My parents finally decided to do something about it, and I trimmed down quite a bit

But–doggone it!–weight loss never seems to be permanent. I’ll bet I’ve gained and lost a thousand pounds over the years, although it’s felt more like I only gained a thousand and kept it.

When I started teaching school, I was always eating something I shouldn’t have had, and I managed to gain a good twenty pounds or so. A “good twenty pounds”? I don’t think so!

My clothes didn’t fit and I felt miserable. But I cut back on my eating and starting bicycling a lot. I bought some great looking clothes that wouldn’t fit until I reached my goal. I went from at least 177 down to 148 or less, and I was proud of myself. That was my first weight loss effort as an adult.

But, alas! it snuck back on over the years. It’s hard to pick a weight at which I would automatically decide I had to lose weight again. But it happened. Over and over again.

About three years ago I was diagnosed as being diabetic, type 2. The doctor told me to watch the scales, not the carbs. Huh?

Hmm. I’d made it up to 208. Not good. So I took Dr. Ashe’s statement seriously. I worked slowly and carefully. It took a year-and-a-half to lose fifty pounds, and I was determined that–for once–I was going to control my weight and never have to diet again.

But I’d been equally determined far too many other times, although not motivated by health needs, and I’d always backslidden.

Okay, you say. You understand. Maybe you’ve had an ongoing battle with your weight, too. Or ought to be concerned but you haven’t been motivated to do anything yet. Or maybe you’re close to someone who has a weight problem. Who isn’t?

So where’s the idiosyncrasy?

I keep a datebook in the bathroom and record my weight on a regular basis. I accept the fact that there will be minor fluctuations from day to day, but I make myself aware of those and fret whenever the figure goes up more than seems reasonable.

But that probably still doesn’t qualify as an idiosyncrasy.

How about the fact that I consider the first day of the month a crucial time–and even more so the first day of the year?

Seriously.

I keep an Excel spreadsheet of my weight; it goes back a number of years, although for a while I only kept track of the January 1 readings. I’m already fretting about the likelihood that I’ll probably weigh three pounds more on January 1, 2015, than I did the first of this year.

Fretting. I mean big-time fretting. Here I did so well so long, and I feel like I’m losing the battle. Starting to, anyhow.

I can eat the way I need to forever if I can avoid temptation. But add a week’s vacation away from home to dinner out with friends at a Cheesecake Factory and another dinner out with friends at a Captain George’s Seafood Restaurant (at least I didn’t have the buffet, which would’ve required me to fully pig out to try to eat my money’s worth) and I’m in trouble.

Yes, I know. Three pounds isn’t that much. But every successful diet has always concluded with failures like those. And they’ve always led to more.

I HAVE to keep it off this time, though. I refuse to buy bigger clothes again.

What do you say? Is weight your problem, or is something else equally frustrating to you? 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. If you’re interested, please check it out at Amazon.

Best regards,
Roger

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

 

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-sailingĀ  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.

Tentative-Front-Cover
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