Nature’s Truly Most Perfect Food

Since my wife and I don’t watch TV, I don’t know whether the dairy industry still touts milk as “Nature’s most perfect food.”

Nonetheless, I disagree. Not because I dislike milk. I don’t. I not only love it, I drink eight ounces of milk every morning. Skim, at that. And I have fond memories of drinking fresh milk at the dairy farm where I stayed many years ago on a mission trip to Wales.

No, maybe I’m exaggerating to say I disagree that milk is “Nature’s most perfect food.” I suppose it is.

But there is one food–and one only–that is “Nature’s truly most perfect food.” And that is PIZZA!

That’s me finishing up my half of the pizza we had for lunch last Sunday. Bacon on mine, pepperoni and mushrooms on hers.

Believe it or not, I wasn’t always crazy about pizza. Not because I disliked it at all, but because I never had any until I was in the tenth or eleventh grade. My mother didn’t cook pizza, and those were the days before every corner that didn’t have a church on it had a pizza place.

Not that it would’ve mattered. We wouldn’t have gone there, and since I didn’t know what I was missing, I wouldn’t have bugged my parents about it.

Not that I would’ve bugged them, anyhow. They were fine people, but not very bug-able.

But then came that magic Sunday night when we were invited to somebody’s house for an after-church social. There I had my first pizza, and I fell in love with it. Unfortunately, that was probably also my father’s first pizza, and it made him SO sick. He’d never reacted to other food that way.

I couldn’t convince my parents that the problem was probably something specific to THAT pizza, not pizza in general. Alas, we continued never having it.

I don’t know when the one-eighty came. But definitely while I was in college. I have fond memories of walking the snowy streets of Frostburg, Md.–named after a family of Frosts, not the frigid weather that typified that area in winter–from where I was living off-campus (Frostburg State) to a place downtown where I’d buy two or three slices and eat them out of the box trudging back to my room through the snow and trying to keep from falling down and getting my pizza wet.

Once I was totally out on my own, pizza became a staple. Both with my ex-wife and Kathleen. We don’t splurge as much as we might enjoy, though. “Nature’s truly most perfect” still comes with a calorie-laden price tag.  At our age and stage, we can’t ignore that.

I don’t know what foods will be served in Heaven, but I assume pizza will be available at every meal. And that–Heaven being Heaven, and Heaven being perfect–I’ll not only never grow fat there, I’ll also never get tired of pizza.

What do you think? How about leaving a comment.

 

    

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Roger

What Does a Guy like Me Do on Vacation?

Ah, we’re enjoying the midst of summer here in Virginia. The outside temperature right now is 94; it was 100 in the car before I turned on the A/C. That’s hotter than some days, cooler than others. But at least the sun is shining. What a perfect day to do…to do what?

That question is one I ask whenever my wife, Kathleen, starts talking about planning a vacation. And she understands. She knows that my vacations used to consist solely of visiting distant family members. And she understands that–no matter how much I love my family (I’m counting hers as mine since I have practically none of my own left)–that is NOT a vacation, even if we’re able to do one or two activities apart from family.

She understands something else. I have trouble thinking in terms of “vacation.” I can’t come up with activities that please me. Not vacation-worthy activities, anyhow.

Everything seems to have a drawback. Going on a cruise means endless eating…and having to diet for who knows how long afterwards to lose what I gained on the cruise. Going to a dude ranch would mean hours of horseback riding; a few months ago I learned that even an hour of riding caused enough pain to make that unappealing.

We could go to the beach, as we did recently with our daughters and their families–or by ourselves. But I’m not overly fond of the water. And walking the boardwalk time after time gets old after a while. I’ve avoided skin cancer so far, so I’m not tempted to lie out on the beach. I like certain kinds of seafood, but why go to the ocean just for seafood when I can enjoy it thawed and fixed at home?

Lest you think I’m just being picky and perhaps even a bit difficult–let me assure you you’re correct on both counts–let me point out that I am a better judge of what I dislike (or think I would dislike) than of what I actually like. And because I’m retired and sit around all day writing and/or piddling around, going somewhere just to sit around has no appeal. I can read my Kindle just as comfortably at home. However, I did enjoy a short time here by the pool while nobody else was around.

Going to see interesting and/or beautiful things might sound appealing, but I know me. I would spend my time taking pictures of them and then do hours of editing my photos with Affinity Photo software. I can’t wait till I get home to do that. I have to keep up with it as I go along. Go figure.

What vacation activities have I actually enjoyed? Two or three things really stand out from our recent beach week vacation. Although I hadn’t fished in years, being able to walk out the back door of our rented beach house and fish in the canal for catfish was really nice. I don’t think I could do it for endless hours, though. Especially in the hot Florida sun.

  

And a day trip to the Everglades was actually fun. I loved the wildlife we saw there–alligators galore, black buzzards, deer, a very tame wild racoon, and a good-sized grasshopper. And I’d always wanted to ride in one of those air boats. Nonetheless, I lived behind the camera, except when Kathleen was taking a picture of me holding a baby alligator, and then–not unexpectedly– I spent hours editing my pictures.

            

See? I couldn’t even write this blog post without “inpainting” the picture you see below to cover up the band that kept the alligator’s mouth shut so it couldn’t bite me. Don’t I look bold this way?

Hmm. But looking bold isn’t an exciting vacation activity.

I hasten to point out that I’ve been on numerous mission trips–to Nicaragua, England, Wales, Romania, and Australia. Mission trips are not vacations. If the host pastor has enough vision, he can work his team to death. But each mission trip also has times set aside for enjoying the locale. And I truly love that part. Who wouldn’t want to climb the steps to the Sydney Opera House?

Why can’t choosing a vacation be that simple?

I’m open to suggestions for inexpensive vacations that would suit a fuddy-duddy like me. Please comment.

 

    

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Best regards,
Roger

Guest Post: Key Car Driving Technologies to Assist with Seniors (conclusion)

I’d like to thank Craig Hammontree of Healthmax360.com for sharing this fascinating article, the first part of which appeared on this blog last Sunday.

Voice-activated driving help
While it’s great to have a map on your phone, it isn’t all that helpful when you’re driving. Looking down at a screen while behind the wheel is a very bad idea and not one that you should practice.

However, a GPS system can be a great help. Now, you can have the convenience of a digital map and some help avoiding traffic with a voice-activated navigation system.

These new systems are an extension of the basic map. They alert you to traffic snags to help you avoid them, give you options for alternative routes and find places based on what you already know.

Going to a new restaurant and not sure where it is? That’s okay – just say the name the system will do the rest.

Back-up Cameras


The United States Department of Transportation is a huge fan of these cameras and wants to see a lot more of them by 2018. According to the current data, this basic addition to help drivers back out of a parking space or driveway can make us up to 90 percent safer as we move around in cars. By being able to see what’s directly behind us with the help of some easy tech, we can avoid hitting animals and small children that happen to run into our paths.

The camera gives the driver a quick glance at what’s directly behind the car. The image is projected on a small screen just next to the driver, so no more twisting around to see what’s back there. Not having to guess what’s happening behind your large, heavy vehicle is a relief to any driver and can help us all move more safely on and off the road.

Swivel Seats
This technology is more basic and not as shiny and new as the others, but it deserves a mention because it solves the problem of getting in and out of a car.

The basic addition to your driver’s seat helps with stiff knees or longer legs as it swoops you over to the door side and lets you skip the difficult business of judging the distance between your leg and the car frame. The added handle can help with standing and sitting and just makes exiting a car much easier and smoother.

If you already have some great, slick tech in your car and just need a little boost for your mobility, this is the way to go.

A built-in helper
Automatic systems such as OnStar are made to help respond to crashes, assist in navigation or just make suggestions if you’re not quite sure which place to go for dinner. This quick connection to an actual human is the equivalent to having your phone on during the entire drive – if anything unsafe is taking place, your assistant jumps in and calls authorities, checks on you and keeps you calm. These are especially great if you live in a place where it can be difficult to get roadside assistance, or if you’re far away from law enforcement and want to be safe.

Other systems are 911Assist, BlueLink or SafetyConnect. While it can seem a little intimidating at first, these systems do work. If you get lost or disoriented, they can alert your family and let them know you need help, as well as where to find you. It may feel odd to have someone talking to you in your car, but that same person could save your life.

 


 

    

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Best regards,
Roger

Guest Post: Key Car Driving Technologies to Assist with Seniors (part one)

I’d like to thank Craig Hammontree of Healthmax360.com for sharing this fascinating article, the remainder of which will appear here next Sunday.

Everyone wants their freedom, none more so than the people who raised us and still want active lifestyles as they get older. Just because someone is aging, that shouldn’t mean they can’t have their mobility. Plus, the automotive industry has heard the cry for better technologies in cars. Today’s cars are safer, more aware of their environments and take convenience and ease of movement into account more than ever before.

You may already have a great car caddy to help you get in and out of a deep, soft seat, but how about knowing what’s behind you or getting a warning about speed changes? These and more are all on the horizon for drivers of all ages, standing to benefit senior drivers immensely.

Help with changing lanes
There are some great accessories you can add to a new car that makes sure you don’t stray out of your lane as you drive, helps your car keep centered between hard-to-see markings and even does some minimal steering for you, though you have to keep your hands on the wheel.

Many cities don’t take driving safety for those with poor vision into account as lines fade on the street or rain falls. This new technology steps in to keep you safe as you go along at night or in a storm. While it hasn’t been perfected yet and some versions rely on a camera to keep you centered, it’s worth considering. Staying centered in your lane will prevent accidents and minor fender benders and help everyone in the car feel that much safer.

Smarter headlights
This technology you can put in your car will make you wonder how you ever drove without it. Newer, more aware headlights are the next step in driver safety and help ensure that as the sun goes down, your lights go up to make everything clearer and safer for you and everyone else on the road. Some lights are even designed to move their beams around as the road changes and have special settings for curves and hills. Once you have them, you will never go back to manual.

Better brakes
You may have already heard about Autonomous Emergency Braking or AEB, as it’s something that many car manufacturers have committed to putting in all their new models. Essentially, the brakes help your car know when it’s about to have a collision and stops the car for the driver.

If your reaction time has slowed or if you just want the reassurance of knowing your car can help you out when danger is on the road, these brakes are a must.

A wake-up call
Many of us get relaxed as we drive, but some of us get far too relaxed. A drowsy driver alert system is designed to monitor the blinking patterns of the person at the wheel through a camera or take into account a lot of swerving or drifting. The Drowsy Driver Alert System kicks on and either wakes the driver up with sounds, vibrations or suggestions to the driver that it’s time to take a break.

Sleeping behind the wheel is extremely dangerous and one of the leading causes of accidents. If you know you tend to nod off as you drive, this could be a great addition to your vehicle. 

That’s the end of part one. How about leaving a comment to thank Mr. Hammontree for his willingness to guest post with this article. I don’t know about any of you, but as a seventy-year-old driver, I find this information to be greatly encouraging.

 


 

    

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Roger

What’s He Dreaming About?

I’ve been to Australia more times than I can count, starting with my first mission trip in 1991. Although I’ve been back for a family vacation and also to teach an all-day seminar at a computer users symposium, most of my trips have been mission-related. I’ve spent most of my time in the Sydney area, but have also visited Melbourne, Toowoomba, Port Douglas, and Hervey Bay. Plus a few places I’ve forgotten the names of.

My closest Australian friends lived in or near Sydney, however, and I always managed to visit them for a day or two no matter where I’d spent most of my time. And I always enjoyed two special activities–visiting the harbor and the Opera House and walking around Featherdale Wildlife Park.

I never tired of seeing and even getting to pet koalas. Because of those VERY sharp claws, I was limited to contact with one that was safely situated on a fence or in the crook of a low tree branch. Once I held a toy koala that the real one was safely holding onto.

That fur isn’t soft the way you might expect, by the way. Very disappointing.

But koalas themselves aren’t disappointing. Not unless you expect them to DO something. Even though I once got a video of a koala jumping from one tree to another and running around on the ground, most of the ones I saw were perched soundly in a eucalyptus tree, like this one pictured in the poster hanging on my living room wall.

  

This particular picture has always been one of my favorites. Why would I hang it in the living room, otherwise?

It’s fun to look at him (could be a her; I don’t know) and speculate. Is he asleep? If so, is he dreaming about something nice and quiet? Or is he actually thinking…to whatever degree koalas are capable of thought?

No way to be sure, of course, but I’ve always looked at the fellow from a different perspective. That’s why I call this picture “Praying Koala.”

Okay, so maybe koalas don’t have the same relationship with God we Christians do, but they’re just as much God’s creations as we humans are. So who’s to say he’s not praying?

What do you think? How about leaving a comment?

 

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Roger

A Publishing God-Thing

I’m not inclined to believe in coincidences. I DO believe God sometimes works circumstances out in ways that may SEEM coincidental, however.

First a little back story. On February 17, I received a letter from Barbour Publishing. Barbour was the company that had published my first two books, FOUND IN TRANSLATION and LOST IN DREAMS. Wonderful folks to deal with. I had (and have) nothing but good to say about them.

Nonetheless, they were writing to tell me that not only were those books officially out-of-print, but they were reverting the rights to them back to me. I was free to do anything I wanted with them, including finding a publisher who’d be willing be re-release them.

None of that was bad news in and of itself. But it was HORRIBLE timing. I was just a month or so away from releasing my self-published ROSA NO-NAME, which I’d written ten years earlier as a prequel to FOUND IN TRANSLATION, and I’d been counting on ROSA and FOUND to promote one another. Although either book can be read first, each one is apt to make the reader interested in reading the other one.

Amazon still had a few print copies, but Barbour had Amazon remove the Kindle versions almost immediately. What was going to happen to my mutual promotion plans? Yes, I could self-publish those books, but I didn’t have any money left for professional cover design or editing after having those things done for ROSA. And preparing for ROSA’s release would’ve made it impossible for me to do that any time soon anyhow.

A VERY short time later, I responded to something I’d read on an email loop I belong to. Although my response had nothing to do with my out-of-print books, I “just happened” to mention my situation to the lady I was responding to. When she responded, she recommended her small publisher, Take Me Away Books.

Wow! Godsend idea or what? But I didn’t have time to get in touch with that publisher. I intended to when I had more time, however.

Just a few weeks later I was emailing this same author. But I had forgotten about telling her my problem. Whether she forgot about recommending her publisher earlier or not, I can’t say, but she recommended Take Me Away books all over again.

Okay, Lord! You don’t need to hit me in the head with a Bible.  I’m paying attention now. This is Your idea. It’s NOT a coincidence.

So on April 2 I emailed the owner of the publishing company–at least I think she’s the owner–and on April 5 she offered me a contract not only to republish FOUND IN TRANSLATION and LOST IN DREAMS, but also OVERSHADOWED, my intended third book in the Altered Hearts series that had been completed but not published and THE FLOWERS OF HIS FIELD (tentative title), the still-unwritten final book in the series.

After praying with my wife about it, we felt this was God’s answer. How could we question the “coincidence” of the twin recommendations of this publisher, the coincidence that wasn’t one?

My publisher works uber-fast. By the end of last week, FOUND IN TRANSLATION was available on Kindle again with a different cover, one Kathleen and I found and recommended as a really suitable cover image. Just a few days later, LOST IN DREAMS, which we’d requested to be renamed as A SEASON OF PEBBLES, was available on Kindle.

I’m currently editing and revising OVERSHADOWED with the intention of having it to her by the end of this week. That means it’ll be available on Kindle within a few days of the following week. (Print versions of these books will be available, too, but not as quickly.)

Some things in life may appear to be coincidences, but this whole story was a “Publishing God-Thing” and NOT a coincidence for sure.

Has anything happened in your life that might seem coincidental to others but you attribute to God’s working? How about sharing a comment?

 


         

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Best regards,
Roger

Why I Wrote: Rosa No-Name

Last week I shared with you why I wrote The Devil and Pastor Gus. Today I’ll give you the background on Rosa No-Name, which will release sometime in late April. Pictured above is a proof copy, used for catching final mistakes before it’s too late.

My daughter, Kristi, went on a short term mission trip to Mexico after graduating from high school. When she returned, certain facts about her trip struck my imagination:

  • She was eighteen at the time. Maybe not really spoiled, but in need of doing some more growing up.
  • She failed to pay attention to the directions she’d been sent about what to bring and not bring. Consequently, she paid for extra luggage to bring a number of things she didn’t need and failed to bring some of the important things she did need. Like a sleeping bag!
  • She was part of a house-building project.
  • That area had a lot of trash on the ground.

Struck my imagination? Ha! Fired it up!

One evening I sat down and roughed out the idea of a story involving all of those elements. That short story was the original “Found in the Translation.” You may read it here. I entered the final version in an online contest, and it placed within the top ten of seventy or eighty entries. That was encouraging!

Even while writing the short story, I knew it would ultimately become a full-length novel. The short story was just the warm up.

You wouldn’t believe the changes I made to the short story in writing the novel, but I was pleased with the outcome. Nobody seemed to want to publish Found in the Translation, though, no matter how my wife and I believed in its merit.

At a Christian writers conference I showed the first couple of pages to writing teacher and overall writing guru James Scott Bell. He advised me that I didn’t have a proper start.

So I cut the first fifty pages and wrote a new beginning. I shared a sample with an editor friend who then asked to see the whole thing and subsequently landed me an agent. Within a year Found in Translation–Barbour Publishing dropped the “the”–and its sequel, Lost in Dreams, were under contract. I was on my way!

But there were a number of things I hadn’t brought out in Found in Translation. I was especially fond of Rosa, the mother of the little girl whose right arm ended at the elbow. Why had Anjelita been born that way? And who was her father? Those are just some of the things the protagonist, Kim Hartlinger, didn’t learn during her time in Santa Maria because of the language barrier.

Consequently, I wrote Rosa No-Name as a prequel. But because it dealt partially with adult situations, I never considered it a teen novel. (I’d never considered the previous two to be Young Adult, either, but because the characters were eighteen, that was the only way my publisher could market them.)

Potential publishers weren’t interested in Rosa No-Name. So just as I’d done with the little play The Devil and Pastor Gus was based on, I stuck Rosa No-Name in a drawer and tried to forget about it. That was ten years ago.

But my wife and my daughter have always been especially fond of Rosa No-Name–they like it better than any of my other published novels and unpublished manuscripts–and five or six months ago I decided to reread it. I fell in love with it all over again, and I felt led to ignore the objections traditional publishers had expressed and go the independent route.

Amazon has a couple of amazing free book publishing facilities–the books aren’t free, just the ability to publish them–and soon I was on my way.

God didn’t whisper in my ear and tell me to publish Rosa No-Name, yet I believe this is what He wanted me to do. My prayers are for its success in blessing and entertaining a number of readers.

Do you think you have a book in you, waiting to be written? It may not be one the general public will be interested in, but perhaps one your children and grandchildren would benefit from being able to read. Is that you? How about leaving a comment?

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Roger