Where I Wouldn’t Want to Be


Although the whole title of this post is “Where I Wouldn’t Want to Be When I Die,” I was afraid nobody would read it if I didn’t at least get people to read the first sentence before they gave up. Actually, this post is not going to be morbid.

That’s my intention, anyhow.

I dare say that–given a choice–most of us would prefer to die in bed. Of pure old age without any painful or debilitating illnesses leading to our demise. That would be my preference, but it’s not something I pray for. In fact, the only thing I pray for regarding death is that God will continue to keep me mentally active until the time He’s designated for me to die.

Yes, if I can keep writing songs and novels and knowing who I am and who the people around me are, I’ll have a lot to be thankful for. Life–or should I say death?–doesn’t come with any guarantees, however, and I have to trust that God will do whatever He deems best with the rest of my earthly life.

There. This hasn’t been morbid yet. But neither has it been exactly on topic. Let me try again.

Here are some of my preferred places not to die:

  • In the shower. That would be a real hassle for Kathleen to have to deal with.
  • At a nursing home ministry worship service. Those poor patients probably see enough death.
  • Outside cutting the grass. No telling how long my body would burn in the hot sun before I was discovered. Can a dead body get a sunburn? Hmm. At least I wouldn’t feel it.
  • In the woods looking for something to make a new walking stick from. Especially if I was bitten by a poisonous snake.
  • At church during the Christmas musical. I wouldn’t want to take everyone’s attention off of the presentation. Especially when the nurses in the choir quit singing in the middle of a song and came to attend to me.
  • At a restaurant. I wouldn’t want other patrons to wonder if I’d eaten something they should avoid–unless, of course, that was actually the case.
  • On vacation. No matter how much I’m looking forward to Heaven, that would be a real downer for Kathleen.
  • At a writers conference. I still recall when the mother of an author friend actually suffered some kind of health problem that led to her death several days after the conference. I’d rather be remembered for my writing than for my departure.
  • Around little children. I’d hate for their parents to have to explain what had happened to me.
  • Around knowledgeable medical personnel who understood what was wrong but couldn’t do a thing to help. I wouldn’t want them to live with that regret.
  • At somebody else’s funeral. Talk about trying to steal the show…!

I suppose I could come up with more places and situations, but that list will suffice for now. Do you have any places you’d rather not be when you die? How about leaving a comment?

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

Best regards,
Roger

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A New Normal (in One Room, Anyhow)


Last week I talked about waiting, and I mentioned that we were waiting for someone to come give us an estimate on new flooring for the living room, kitchen, and maybe the bedroom.

Our wishes turned out to be a little ambitious.

What we had saved would take care of the living room alone, and–after three or four years (maybe longer) of being totally out of debt–we weren’t about to even do a one-year interest-free arrangement. That would still have meant being obligated to spend money we didn’t have yet.

We also had to compromise on the specific wooden flooring we’d originally wanted. But the laminate we settled on looks great and will serve well. Why spend enough for a floor that would outlive us?

Today’s (this past Tuesday) the big day–a lot sooner than we’d expected–and two quiet Latino men are in the midst of the installation. Fortunately, THEY do the furniture moving. But we still had to move breakables, spillables, and other miscellaneous small stuff. I dread having to put everything back in place later.

        

I must admit I’ve been fascinated watching the men as they work. And just as fascinated at how much Spanish I’ve forgotten since high school and college. But one thing hasn’t changed. I still can’t listen fast enough to comprehend even the Spanish I would recognize if I saw it in writing. Spanish is indeed a beautiful language, but those words seem to connect in what for me are incomprehensible ways.

I envy Kathleen. She got to go to work today while I sit here with my laptop at the end of the counter where I normally sit to eat breakfast. Right now I have one foot draped over the pen we were smart enough to keep when our miniature dachshund, Happy, no longer needed it otherwise. She keeps jumping up and barking (not necessarily in that order), but I think my foot gives her some assurance.

As of this moment, I’d say the guys are more than half done. If it weren’t for corners, heating vents, and a place where the cable comes through the floor, it would undoubtedly be a straight shot.

Nonetheless, the new normal is coming. The six-by-six rug we ordered last weekend–we wanted a splash of color–is due today, and it can’t take but so long to put everything back in place.

I hope.

Here’s the finished job. We’re thrilled!

Do you have a tale of some home improvement you’ve done and had done? Please leave a comment.

~*~

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

Best regards,
Roger

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A Time to Wait

During the mid-1900s, Samuel Becket wrote a play called Waiting for Godot. The title refers to a character who never arrives, although the play’s two main characters wait continually throughout the play.

Doesn’t that seem a little like life?  We do a lot of waiting. Although some things come, not everything does.

How many everyday things involve waiting? If we wait long enough for the hot water to actually get hot, it does–as long as the hot water heater is working. Traffic lights eventually turn green. Grocery store lines eventually shorten. The mail arrives. As does the end of the work day for those who’re not retired.

And, yes, the weekend eventually comes as well.

Not all waits are created equal. We might be waiting for a bill we wish would never come. The weekend may involve activities we’d rather avoid.

Sometimes we’re waiting impatiently for something because it’s really special. A long-awaited purchase. A far-better-than-average vacation. Retirement. The publication of a writer’s first book. Or the birth of a baby–no matter whether it’s the woman’s first or her dozenth.

Sometimes we’re waiting for something bad to get better. For cancer treatments to work. For an abusive spouse to learn to control his or her anger. To get debt under control.

I suspect we’re all waiting for some things we’re not overly optimistic about. Honest politicians who work for their constituents and who believe in biblical principles and constitutional law. The end of nuclear weapons. Peace on earth.

And of course there are things like The Rapture and Jesus’s Second Coming, depending on which you believe will come first. Christians wait as expectantly as they can, hoping those events will happen soon. Unfortunately, despite the signs we see daily, there’s no guarantee anything related to the end of the age will happen during our lifetime.

At the moment–you don’t really think I wait till Sunday morning to write these posts, do you?–my wife and I are waiting for someone to come give us an estimate for some new flooring. That wait is okay, though. We’ve had to–there’s that word again!–wait a long time to save enough to pay for it.

Honestly, though, I’m more concerned about how much longer I’ll have to wait to pass this kidney stone!

What about you? Are there some things you are especially conscious of or bothered about having to wait for? How about sharing a comment?

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

Best regards,
Roger

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The Lost Sunrise

In 1996 my daughter and my first wife and I took a family vacation to Australia. I’d been there several times on mission trips, starting in 1991, but this was the first time to be there without any responsibilities, and it was a wonderful time to catch up with friends I’d made over the years as well as to revisit familiar places and see new sights.

It was also a great time for taking photographs, and I still have an album–a thick one–full of them. Although it would be difficult–maybe impossible–to pick a favorite picture from that album, one of my favorites has actually been missing for a number of years: a sunrise over the ocean at Port Douglas.

Why? Why is it missing, you ask.

I used to have a big poster made from my print of that photo, but when my first wife moved to another state, the poster (and all of the negatives) inadvertently went with her. It’s entirely possible they were later destroyed in a flooded basement.

But what about the print that used to be in the photo album?

In my desire to have another poster made from the original, Kathleen and I headed to a camera store with my only print copy of that sunrise in a brown envelope. Unfortunately, neither of us thought to close the envelope. Can you imagine our shock when we opened the envelope while heading down the hall towards the camera store and found that the picture had fallen out somewhere?

Panic! We must’ve searched every inch of the path we’d taken, but to no avail. We’d lost it. Forever.

Hadn’t I scanned a copy at some point in time, though?

Definitely.

But the only copy I could find is so small and of such low resolution that another print could never be made from it, much less a good-sized poster. I tried using software that is supposed to help with problems like that, but it didn’t work. Not sufficiently well.

So this little picture is the best one I have…the only one I have. If you click on it, you’ll see it the same size you do now.

It’s no wonder I’ve almost become a fanatic about sunrise pictures (and making sure I have good digital versions stored in multiple locations.

This photo, taken at Sandbridge, Virginia, is probably my current favorite.

I’ve also become fond of sunsets–perhaps because of the symbolism relating to growing older. This is my current favorite.

Do you enjoy taking pictures? What’s your favorite subject? Have you ever lost a photo that was extra-special–or perhaps had a very special picture turn out horribly? How about sharing a comment?

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

Best regards,
Roger

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Parable of a Walking Stick

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I enjoy walking. In fact, it’s the only kind of exercise I do. I’m not concerned about building arm muscles or tightening abs. I just want to strengthen my heart and keep it functioning properly as long as I can.

You may also know that I like to use walking sticks when I walk. As a fellow who could trip over a line in the floor, I’ve found walking sticks to be a simple–but necessary–thing for me to keep in the car and beside the front door as well.

Although I don’t use one for non-exercise walking, I foresee that changing in the near future. Why chance an unnecessary fall?

Although I have a couple of purchased walking sticks, the two in each of our cars are ones I lovingly made. So are the three or four by the front door and the dozen or more sitting out in the shed.

Several months ago I noticed a piece of tree branch lying in the drainage ditch while I was walking through our neighborhood. My first thought was, “Good grief! That’s seen better days. Too bad. It’s the perfect length. But would it be sturdy enough and not so dead it would simply snap in two?”

After passing it by several times and thinking the same thing each time, I finally stopped and examined it. I couldn’t break it.

So far, so good. It was strong enough. Maybe that piece of a branch wasn’t totally unusable after all.

Probably half of the bark was already pealing off. What could be easier than to remove the rest?

So I brought it home, finished stripping the bark, and cut off the worst of the nodes where smaller branches had been attached. Then I did my usual sanding with coarse sandpaper and then with fine. I applied one coat of linseed oil–boy, did that bring out the grain!–and three coats of polyurethane. Maybe a little excessive, but I not only wanted to protect it against rain and other water, but also to give it a super-glossy sheen.

Then I fitted a rubber tip on it. (Furniture tips are a lot less expensive than cane tips.) I couldn’t tell you the number of compliments I’ve gotten on it. I love telling people the story of how I turned an otherwise useless length of tree branch into a thing of beauty–and something that’s extremely useful as well. Something to lean on when needed.

The left-hand pictures below are of a piece of branch I rescued earlier this week. The only thing I’ve done to it was to break off enough of the little branches to get it in the car. The right-hand pictures are of the walking stick I’ve been talking about.

             

I believe God sees us when we’re broken, whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually–and useless to anyone, including ourselves. He sees the potential. He knows what it will take to rejuvenate us and turn us into something more beautiful and more useful.

How easily He takes us into His perfect hands and strips away the useless parts, cleans off the rough places, and puts on us a special finish of love, mercy, and forgiveness–and we end up shining like never before.

Only under God’s workmanship do we become useful for other people to lean upon as the walking sticks He knows they need for their journey.

Your comments are welcome.

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

Best regards,
Roger

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Habit or Obsession?


I suspect you would agree that each of us does a number of things daily out of habit–without even thinking about them. I imagine we also do at least a few things quite intentionally. As if obsessed about it.

When does an obsession become a habit, though? Or vice versa?

I think back with some embarrassment to this obsession from my post-college years. I started scheduling practically everything I did in fifteen-minute increments. If something took longer  than I’d allotted an adequate number of fifteen-minute slots for, I got seriously bent out of shape.

In order to track my time properly, I had to start on one of the quarter hours. Oh, my! If I was five minutes past one of those times getting on the road for a trip, irritable wouldn’t adequately describe my state of mind.

That was definitely an obsession–one I’ve long since outgrown.

Let me share a few other things that I’ve done in the past or I’m currently doing.

  • I used to always take a hot dog for my lunch before I retired. I continued to do that years after retirement. Then I suddenly desired to have something different. For the last several years I’ve been eating peanut butter sandwiches. Not just on weekdays, but for Saturday lunch and Sunday supper.
  • When dressing, I sit on the bed to put my left sock on first and then my right one.
  • When my Harry’s razor blades are a few days later than expected in arriving–I use one a week and change them on Sunday–I’m apt to email Harry’s and ask why they can’t be more consistent in their shipments.
  • When riding with my wife I tend to keep my eye on the speedometer. Even though she’s never gotten a speeding ticket, she tends to push the limit. I don’t hesitate to let her know I doubt the police might not be as tolerant of the excess as she thinks. A speeding ticket is certainly not in the budget.
  • While visiting family out of town, I’m apt to pick up my guitar and play quietly while other people talk. If I hear something I want to comment on, I do. Otherwise, it’s just me and my guitar.
  • After I take clothes out of the dryer–yes, I do the laundry–I do three things: clean the filter, set the dial to optimum dry, and throw a clean dryer sheet inside the machine. I get mildly irritated if I have to one of those things the next time I use the dryer.
  • When I buy a carton of my favorite frozen yogurt flavor, I allow myself exactly half a cup per day, confident that amount of sugar won’t hurt. If I get really daring, I use a half-cup container, not a bowl.
  • I don’t like crispy bacon. I’m not going to be rude if served overdone bacon at someone’s home, but I’ve been known to ask for different bacon when eating breakfast out.
  • My mother always watered the grape juice down with water when I was a kid; that’s what I got used to. So when I started buying grape juice a year or two ago and found the taste of straight juice unappealing, I started watering it down slightly, too.
  • I always wear a nice leather man-bag when I go out. I have too much stuff to carry in my pockets: small notepad, pen, and pencil; hearing aid batteries; emery board and nail clippers (I have to have my fingernails just right for my guitar playing); a comb; two business card cases; a flash drive; and the coins referred to in another bullet point. Oh, and–of course–my cell phone. I feel absolutely naked if I forget my man-bag.
  • Ditto if I fail to have my cell phone with me when I go out, even though I rarely use it for anything.
  • I keep two one-dollar coins in my man-bag for emergencies. I don’t cheat and use them for anything else just because I don’t have any other money on me at the time. I wouldn’t even think of doing that.
  • At bedtime, I have to clean my hearing aids and put them away before I brush my teeth. The two things have nothing to do with one another, but I get mildly frustrated if I do them out of sequence.

What do you think? Maybe I’ve simply confirmed your suspicions that I’m at least a little weird, and that’s okay. I write quirky fiction, so I should have the right to be a little quirky, too.

Regardless of that, which of those things are habits and which are obsessions? Do you have any particular habits or obsessions you’d be willing to share in a comment?

Sometime I may ask my wife for a list of what she thinks I should’ve included in today’s list.

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

Best regards,
Roger

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A B&B-Hoppin’ Vacation


Only since marrying Kathleen in 2003 have I learned what staying at a bed-and-breakfast is like. We’ve done it on several short getaways in the past, but this time we took a week-long vacation on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Staying ONLY at B&Bs, we returned home this past Wednesday.

What a unique experience! No two places were alike.

Probably the nicest one was at Cape Charles, just a mile north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel coming from Virginia Beach, where we’d spent the day at the Virginia Aquarium and on a Dolphin spotting cruise. The rooms were spacious, and we had a wonderful private balcony, from which I enjoyed taking pictures of the sunset.

    

From there we went to Ocean City, where we stayed at the Inn on the Ocean, which is supposedly the only B&B in Ocean City. What made it so special was it’s right on the boardwalk. Despite Kathleen’s arthritic knee, walking some on the boardwalk wasn’t too much of a problem.

One high point of our time in OC was meeting a former English student of mine–she “just happened” to be coming to OC for the week on one of our days there–for an evening meal. Another high point was a visit to Assateague Island, where we were able to see some of the wild horses.

    

Our room in OC was smaller than at Cape Charles, but the breakfasts were great, and so was sitting on the front porch to eat.

After two days in Ocean City–it has a much better boardwalk than Virginia Beach–we spent two days in Cambridge. Our B&B there, the Albanus Phillips Inn, has quite a history–it’s a restored mansion, and we actually had a suite for the price of a room. Our host sat at the breakfast table with us and told us tale after fascinating tale about the house and about Albanus Phillips himself.

    

Because I used to live in Cambridge, a visit to my old church enabled us to see some of the folks I hadn’t seen in more than forty years. It was the pastor’s last day at the church–he’s retiring–and we were blessed by seeing him and his wife, both of whom had been students of mine while I was still teaching school.

We spent much of Sunday afternoon visiting two of the best friends I’ve ever had and then a lengthy supper with two others. We had to go to Walmart to say hi to one old friend who had to work during the time we didn’t already have plans for.

    

On Monday we drove to Crisfield to take a forty-five minute ferry to Smith Island; although the islanders have vehicles, visitors aren’t allowed to.

    

Since the Island’s two restaurants close at 4:00 when the last ferry to the mainland leaves, our B&B hostess was nice enough (for a reasonable extra cost) to fix us the most wonderful crab cake dinner that evening and provide a slice of famous Smith Island cake, Maryland’s state dessert; it has from eight to ten VERY thin layers. Interestingly, she doesn’t live in the B&B. Since we were the only guests that night, we had the house to ourselves.

          

The house faces the water. Smith Island is VERY small. I don’t know how many people live there, but I suspect the number is in the lower hundreds. Church–the island has only a Methodist church–plays a big part in the lives of the islanders. Most of the islanders are water-men, although some people commute (by ferry, of course) to the mainland to work. Incidentally, the streets are few and quite narrow, and cars don’t have license plates. Crime is non-existent among these folks, all of whom probably know one another.

We enjoyed a private boat ride around the island (Smith Island is actually made up of several tiny islands, each with a town of its own; we stayed at Ewell, the largest town.)

         

On Tuesday we ferried back to the mainland, returned to Cape Charles, and spent another night at the same B&B we’d stayed at on our first night. Not counting the suite in Cambridge, the rooms there were unquestionably the biggest and most comfortable.

It’s impossible to describe a week’s vacation–especially one that was one of our best vacations yet–in a few hundred words or to show you more than a few of the dozens of pictures I took.

If you’ve never stayed in a B&B, you might want to consider trying it sometime. 

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

Best regards,
Roger

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