Weaving Lines

With a driving trip coming up in our future, I have begunt he process of going thru my list. And, when I am done with the list, I expand it out and try and take in other issues of concern. Yesterday, I realized a possible big one.

When we bought our new vehicle on February 29th, we were looking forward to driving it. When it arrived in our garage, it had a full tank of gas. With a hybrid engine, we were excited to see how long one tank of gas would last us. Little did we know how long it would last. The first fillup took place this past weekend. If all vehicles got 7 months to the tankful, those who profess global warming would have nothing to complain about.

The problem was not with the gallons per month. The problem was the registration sticker. This sticker is placed on the bottom of the driver’s side of the windshield. This vehicle was a treat, so we were not well versed in when the stickers get stuck. Because it wasn’t there when we left the dealers lot, I thought little more about it. When the replacement for the temporary tags arrived, I saw nothing that resembled a sticker in the envelope. With all the oddities of life during the pandemic, I just had no time to realize I was stickerless.

While grace may be abundant during the pandemic, I don’t like to be caught unprepared. After a call to the dealership where they confirmed they did “everything right”, my only recourse was to go and get a new sticker. My instructions were to, “Take something with your VIN, proof of insurance and ID.” This advice turned out to be accurate. COVID caused a frustrating experience to be visually much more overwhelming. When I entered the line, I was outside of the building. After entering the building, the “reminder spots” were following the walls at 6 foot intervals. Fortunately, they did not force us to follow the hallway completely. The winding was cut short by some erected barriers. Just as in a line for an amusement park ride, you sometimes don’t know how long the line is until you see some of the same faces emerge from the shadows.

It took me approximately 30 minutes until I was checked in by my “reason for being there.” For the next 25 minutes, I was “R161.” I was frustrated by the person who was R159. He tied up one of the clerks by hoping to accomplish a handful of requests in one visit. After the clerk handled him and the other clerk came back from her potty break, my number was activated on the screen. With my sole purpose of just needing a sticker and no new plates, I was done pretty quickly. The most difficult decision I needed to make was whether I would write a check for $6.50 or pay an additional $2.50 to use a credit card. “Tightwad” must have been written on my forehead. She knew which direction I would go.

As I left, I saw the line winding outside the building was longer. Not only was it longer, but it was more densely packed–being socially distanced while outside was a lower priority. I considered telling those at the end of the line, “Plan on at least an hour.”, but what kind of person would I be to take away their hope for a speedy processing?

It Is What Happens

As I was working on the pool today, I was smelling a very unpleasant odor. I knew what it probably meant. I just could not find the source. When going to church this morning and visiting friends last night, the roadkill was quite frequent. With no roads or highways in our backyard, I didn’t expect to find this type of sacrifice. My mind did go back to yesterday when I put new poison in the rat trap…

I wish I didn’t have to police rat/mouse poop, but it goes with being a homeowner. After a significant rat infestation in the garage a number of years ago (When my son’s dog and his dog food resided there.), I am always looking. When the dropping get thick and concentrated, you either have to shrug your shoulders or decide to do something. My “something” was buying another feeder to dispense the special candy. I situated the dispenser in the thickest part of the droppings. They disguise the dispenser as a black box. The disguise allows the rat to think he is such a smart rat for exploring and finding the treat.

As I continued to work on the pool, the odor was unavoidable. The house was the center of the smell. In front of the house, the flower bed would be a likely path for any critters running the perimeter of the house. Slightly covered by leaves, the rat rested lay. I grabbed an inverted plastic bag and used it to pick up his remains. It is likely the rat was chilling in the flower bed the previous day. (It was a warm day, so his “chilling” led to him “smelling” today.) I tied the bag in a knot and tossed into the trash can.

I will keep filling the candy dispenser. If our slain foe was a hermit, he had no problems with irregularity. The most likely scenario was a rat scout who went down. If the dispenser needs filled a couple more times before Halloween, I will turn my nose-dial to “sensitive” and see what else shows up. When rats eat poison, death does happen.

Wasp Meets Man

I didn’t intentionally meet the wasp today.  In the past, I have wreaked havoc in their worlds through a variety of methods.  Primarily, I have done this wasp spray.  I have a small stockpile of spray ready for an active nest.  I am not one to say, “I am too busy relaxing right now.  Let me put that nest on my list.”  I run into the garage and emerge with both hands loaded for action.  When I see wasp landing on an external wall and sneaking into the house (not sure where the path leads, but it does lead in), I put expandable foam on my list so I can fill that void.  And, after I fill a void or spray a nest, I would be lying if I did not admit to taking some small pleasure in watching the chaos that follows.

Today, I was doing a little yardwork.  With buzzing wasp being a regular feature of the backyard landscape, I rarely let them bother me.  With today’s efforts being focused at the pool slide, it only took a quick glance under the slide to see there was a new nest.  I put my small project on hold as I shifted my attention to getting loaded with wasp spray.  Apparently, my previous peek had put me on the wasp “attack radar.”  I had no sooner approached the slide then my proboscis became a pincushion for the attack wasp.  His dance on my nose was not pleasant.  After my frantic shoos and swats dislodged him, it left me with a pricked nose.  There was no stinger protruding from the prick.  Yes, my nose is certain it took on some unhappy juice.  The nose has not swollen, but my sinuses and sneezes are a clear indication they were left a little tickled.  If I would have only been wearing my mask, the wasp might have been afraid of me and sought someone who was willing to sacrifice their nose for his frustrations.

Oh, if it matters, I did spray the wasp nest.  After cursing my bad luck, I completed the spraying of the nest.  Ideally, I could have just killed the angry bugs.  Instead, it approached revenge.  I did not pull a mirror out to see what kind of crooked smile I was wearing as I activated the death button on the can.  At the end of the encounter, the wasps were dead.  And I was grateful I didn’t have my dad’s allergy.  Fortunately, one thing not lost when you age is your ability to take a wasp/.bee sting…or at least I hope.

Rejects And Outtakes

Sometimes, you have something to say, and sometimes you don’t.  I am sometimes possessed by something I egotistically think is sheer brilliance.  Then I walk away without writing it down.  I am left regretting my arrogance.  “Oh, I can remember it.”  When I do this enough times, I attempt to make a blog post with the thoughts that didn’t rise far enough.

  • Furnace Dies:  Technically, I guess this would be the air conditioner.  But, since that is what I started with, I will just go with it. The a/c has been a fickle character over the entire summer.  (The original owners put in 3 air conditioners-not my choice.  The upstairs unit collects all the rising heat.  It is also the area with the most difficulty in zapping the heat and making it cool.  After the upstairs folk survived a couple of warm days (I attempted to freeze us out downstairs and send the cool air upstairs.  Yet, without getting the heat to leave, the cool air was content to hang out on the first floor.)  The cold front spared the upstairs guys when the temperature was 20 degrees cooler the next morning.  Getting the a/c fixed long-term involved bribery and raising my voice, but not to the same person.  The game room upstairs now has a new return and a new vent.  The “non-cooling” problem was resolved by fixing a faulty connection outside.  The inside stuff was only because we finally found an a/c guy who knew how to listen and solve problems.
  • Neighbor on walk:  When new neighbors move in during a pandemic, it may take a few weeks/months until you figure out who they are.  Our newest neighbors have been there nearly 3 weeks…or is it 4?  I have spoken to the wife and talked briefly with her.  Part of our conversation involved their “bark-happy-rescue” dog.  After she apologized for him, I let her know the previous owners whopper-of-a-dog story.  As long as she didn’t surpass the previous neighbor’s accomplishments, she had nothing to worry about.  Fortunately, I am almost certain my failed attempt to start a conversation with a couple I passed while walking was NOT my neighbors.  If it was them, their avoidance of my conversation effort was a formal disapproval of my “neighbor’s ghost dog” story.
  • Vietnamese on walk:  Along my walk, I go through two neighborhoods.  Along one street, I frequently talked to a Vietnamese man.  The last time we talked was last October.  It is his habit to go to Vietnam for the winter.  This past year, they lengthened his trip considerably by cancelled flights.  When he could finally fly back, it was through Korea.  He claimed only about 15% of the seats were full. (out of 350) Lucky for him, he has a neighbor willing to take care of his house.  Presently, he claims there is approximately a 4 week quarantine if he goes back to Vietnam.
  • Smoking Neighbor:  Not having a/c is not a problem when you have enough windows to get things cooled down.  But, if the same windows bring in all the smoke from the neighbors “low and slow” meat efforts next door, then it changes the impact.  The fickle a/c wouldn’t allow us to close the windows, so we got to experience calorie-free smoked meat at our neighbor’s–or was is our–expense.

Normally Scheduled Texting

The contrarian response is somebody has to die so I can live to 100–we can’t all live that long. But, the reality is it is very sad. I have hinted at this before…the big question is whether we/you are ready to die and meet your maker. There is no time for adjustments after you are called out of this world. Okay, the preaching is now over. I return you to your normal texting. 🙂

I replied to a friend’s text yesterday.  At the beginning of the week, a high school classmate died.  I had no idea he was sick or was suffering in any way.  After a couple of decades, you just don’t keep track of that many classmates.  Coming from a small school, I am possibly held to a higher degree of accountability.  Clearly, this post is not about the choices you make in maintaining relationships.

In a senior class of under 100 graduates, my friend and I have counted 5 classmates that have died.  Some went from popularity to obscurity, and one of them died before she graduated from college.  We never know when our time will come.  Our body may tell us it is not well, but it gives us no guarantees.  When nothing is for sure, we better make sure we have eternity locked down, or as much as we can lock it down on this side of the grave.

When I text with this friend, I am often tempted to hop on my soapbox temporarily.  He knows where I stand on faith, and he knows what I have faith in.  But, as we have our regular text back and forth, I don’t make it prominent.  He is my friend, and we share many views.  We just don’t share the same view of eternity.  So, when this death took place, I wanted to make sure I gave a little nudge.  If he responds, I am available for the discussion.  If he doesn’t respond, then I hope this attempt lodges somewhere in his mind.

We are all accountable for the life choices we make.  I care for him enough to remind him, but I will not have a one-sided conversation if he doesn’t want to have it.   I can’t force him or anyone else to accept something he is unwilling to accept.  I can only give out reminders of a day I hope is far in both of our futures.  At some point, we both will die.  At that moment, our ability to change the direction of our eternity is forever revoked.  God locks in our eternal destination.  For the sake of my friend, I hope he eventually hears me or hears someone else.  Eternity is a long time to suffer for believing a good life is enough.

If he never delves into this text, that is okay.  I will probably take liberties when another classmate dies.  Once the text is sent, I can just pray that is the text that will tickle his heart and cause him to ask, “What about that eternity stuff?”

…And Then Day 22

After completing 3 weeks of language studying while walking, I started to think I was going to skate through until day 30.  I even wrote a blog post bragging on how well I was doing.  I bragged on what I was going to accomplish.  And I made it seem like Level 5 was mine if I was only willing to show up every day for 5 months.

The Pimsleur system was holding back a surprise.  On day 22 ( i.e. as I write this, that was yesterday), they switched everything over so they gave the instructions in German.  Now, I had to hear what I was being told to do in German.  After doing some amount of translating in my head,  I would construct a proper German response.  After the first listen, I did fair.  After the second listen, I did a little better.  Finally, after the third lesson, I may have had about 80% of it.  I am not sure if my replies were from memory, but most of the replies communicated the desired meaning.

As I write this after the 23rd lesson, it seems Pimsleur felt guilty in their treatment of us on day 22.  They asked us to convert many English numbers into their German equivalent.  That was easy for me, and an opportunity to rest my mind.  This was a treat compared to the feelings I had prior to my walk.  Maybe I won’t dread tomorrow’s walk nearly as much!

Is A Habit Formed?

Ever since my teenage years, I have thought it would be good to learn a foreign language.  (My desire to write has been around nearly as long, but my ability to summon it has been slow in arriving.)  I took classes in high school and college.  The methods used would not allow it to stick.  Yes, I could memorize nearly as well as anyone.  For responding to “How are you?” in German and Spanish, I could regurgitate the desired response.  If they asked me what I wanted or what I needed, I became the immobile animal awaiting the oncoming vehicle on the country road.  While the pain ended up not being physical, I got very frustrated that nothing ever stuck.  Yes, a few phrases refused to fall out of my ears and into the abyss.  The phrases are few, and the lack of retention has been humbling.

Within the past 5 years, I have been regularly trying to use my computer or phone to learn a language.  On one vacation, I did a phone session near midnight so I could maintain a “streak” within the application.  (I believe it was Duolingo.)  I have tried Rosetta Stone, Babbel and a few others with the hope they would use their brief tryout to convince me they were the one.  Most of them relied on memorizing.  With no explanation, it left me guessing what response the application wanted.  I learned nothing of lasting value.  I learned to “game” the program and guess effectively.  If I told someone I was learning a language, any question they offered left me humbled.  Why study something if I couldn’t use it?

About 3 weeks ago, I realized two things.  I needed to be very consistent in my studying of a language.  After looking at my schedule over the past few months, I have been consistent in walking.  Was there a language learning method that would allow me to study the language while walking?  The application I chose, Pimsleur, promotes itself as “a method to learning a foreign language while driving.”  For me, it gives me a valuable way to learn a new language.

I believe my first 3 weeks on this program have been effective for these reasons:

  • They group the lessons into 30 days per level.  With German, there are 5 levels.  If building a habit can be done in 3 weeks, I have achieved that today.  Then, in just over 4 weeks, I will have a basic understanding of German.  My goal is to go on through the other levels.  But, I am going to allow myself to celebrate the accomplishment of the first level.
  • I don’t have to click my mouse to go to keep the lesson moving.  Each lesson is about half an hour.  My phone starts and ends per lesson length.
  • It has greatly reduced my audiobook time.  This is okay; I have already achieved my reading/listening goal for the year.  Yes, I like listening to books while I walk.  My walks are long enough that I can still find some time to listen a little, too.
  • In fact, my walks are long enough I can go through the lessons twice.  The first time through I may hit the “rewind” button a couple of times.  After a 15-20 minute break of book listening or thinking, I will listen to the same lesson again.  I know what is coming, and I know where I had trouble with the first time through.  At the end of the second lesson, I usually feel confident I understand the day’s concepts.
  • The lessons include a daily review.  It doesn’t feel like a review.  Each builds on the previous lessons. There are also online tools available.  For me, Pimsleur seems to know exactly when to include an old (or rarely used) word in the lesson.  Most times I can recall the word and better lock it into my long-term memory.
  • They encourage you to do only one lesson per day.  Since this doesn’t count replays, it doesn’t feel like an overwhelming commitment.  When the next lesson comes up and I can respond to questions in German with minimal hesitation, it proves my belief in the learning system.

The Gray Of Youth

A recent conversation forced me to confront reality.  I am no longer as young as I once was.  While my hair may not be graying at the pace of some of my peers, I am an expert in pointing out exactly which strands have “flipped” to their next color.  While my graying is obvious, the graying of our youth goes almost unnoticed.

What kind of graying am I talking about?  Beyond my hair, my answer may also show my age.  Many who grew up when I did grew up with cleaner lines between “black” and “white”.  While young, many of my peers may have blurred the lines when making social decisions, but they knew deep down on which side most issues fell.  The generations of today are less able to draw those same lines.  If given a specific question, many of those asked may come up with an answer like, “While I have no opinion, I can’t blame someone for answering either way.”  Or, they may even say, “It is true for me, but that does not make it true for you.”

How did we get here?  When we were a society where the church has a stronger presence, these types of debates were laughable.  While not everyone in my generation is as black and white as I am, we still agree that many issues are not eligible to be gray.  You need to make a commitment to where you want to be.  To use an extreme example, most people have a firm opinion on abortion.  Being gray on abortion is being intellectually lazy.  Abortion is a life ended or the removal of an inconvenience.  In my mind, I can’t find the gray here.

The problem is the gray.  Specifically, I am referring to the gray in the matters of the church.  As a Christian, the Bible is a tool to help us in our Christian walk.  The Bible has black and white answers for many of life’s issues.  While some answers may be less clear than others, the Bible casts its vote.  And, if the Bible doesn’t voice an opinion, I feel comfortable calling those area gray.  For individuals, these unanswered questions may be very black and white.  Yet, the Bible has left them as gray.  My concern is how even topics the Bible has made black and white become gray in the minds of our youth.

If a person states, “I want to love God.”, nothing sounds wrong with that statement.  If a person puts on his “God’s Love” hat and his personal interpretation of the Bible allows him to shift a “black” item into the gray, how should we view this?  Are we allowed to define personal truths rather than global truths?  Does a person with a set of redefined truths make a better witness for Christ, or are they sowing confusion in those they witness to?  If I felt comfortable saying, “Let God sort them out.”, I would not bother to write any of this.  If truths can differ, what is truth?  And, if the Bible is not the source of truth for you, then do we still worship the same God who provided the inspiration for the Bible?  The subtle distinction is important to me.  If we cannot agree that God’s grace as established in Christ’s resurrection is foundational to our Christian faith, then at what point can our spiritual paths ever cross again?

Prior to a person becoming a Christian, I place no spiritual expectations on them.  The Bible does not provide them a guidebook for their lives.  Yet, after they realize their sin and inability to save themselves, the Bible should become a guide as they seek to be more Christ-like.  It might be at this point my friend wearing the “God’s Love” hat and I will differ.  The person wearing the hat and I are in full agreement in how to treat those who are unsaved–you model Christ.  After they are saved, what truths are the new Christians held to?  If the Bible is a series of recommendations, then how can you be held to a recommendation?  But, if the Bible provides truths that we must all seek to reach—knowing full well we are imperfect and not able to achieve them as Christ could–then are the youth with the hat and I on the same path?

I would like to tell my young friend, “Good luck with what you choose to put in the gray.  I am not smart enough to promote something from black to gray if the Bible states a position.  That sounds like you are taking liberties with God’s truth.”

This blog post will have to serve as a warning to my young friend.  I don’t claim to be right, but interpreting the Bible differently than most of its readers is far above my pay grade.  As your life continues and your life experiences accumulate, I hope you will also want to “wash the gray out of your life.”


Screen Scream

As the weather transitions into fall, we can turn the a/c off and open the windows.  In the south, this is something we look forward to.  Summer has its place, but it can keep its temperatures.  When the windows can open, we open them at my house.  I especially like to open the window right next to my desk.  Because the springs in the window are not working correctly, I have to prop up the window with a small vitamin bottle or something similar.  In my excitement last week, I decided the small bit of air the bottle would allow in was not enough.  I grabbed the first thing available–an sample item that was the size of a piece of paper but much more rigid.  After playing with the best way to prop up the window, I left my desk and den and let them breathe in the fresh air.

You can imagine how surprised I was when I sat back down in my chair.  The window was closed, and the tool I used to prop up the window had plunged into the screen.  The screen was not a new screen.  It put up NO resistance.  The tear in the screen was in the bottom right corner.  The hole was about 11″ wide by 8″ tall.  The screen was still connected, but it was no longer eligible for my window in its present condition.  Mosquitoes and what-not could not avoid the temptation.

After watching some videos on how to change out a screen, I went to Home Depot to get a screen-changing kit.  I knew the kit would need to have a rolling tool to work the screen into the frame.  And the video told me I would need “spleen”.  I had no idea what size spleen  to purchase.  I stared down the headlights of the vehicle threatening to run me over in the Home Depot aisle before finding a product called ScreenMend.  As I reviewed the packaging, a memory surfaced about a product on SharkTank.  There was no mention of the product appearing on SharkTank, but it clearly could solve my problem.

Fortunately, it could solve my problem.  The product was easily trim-able.  I cut one sheet into 3 strips.  I placed one of them over the injury.  I applied it in the opposite direction of a Band-Aid.  My goal was to allow as much as possible of the tear to be covered by one strip.  (A Band-Aid does not want any of the sticky parts on the injury.  These strips worked more like a butterfly bandage)  One side of the sheets had a small amount of meltable plastic on it.  If that side of the strip was against the torn screen and a hairdryer was used, it would melt the undercoating enough to allow the healing to begin.  Using multiple strips and some overlapping,  the screen emerged as functional, but still slightly disfigured. If the operation was plastic surgery, the patient would need to go under the knife a few more times.

In conclusion, I would absolutely use the product again.  It was a time and money-saver.  It reminded me to “respect the screen.”  Screaming is optional, but it won’t make the screen whole.

Rejection Of Style

I knew I was going to get a haircut this week; I was not sure of the day.  As I was nearing the end of my walk, I decided today was the day.  I used the online check-in.  I didn’t need to.  There was no one ahead of me, and no one behind me the entire time I was there.  Unless requested, you get the next stylist that comes up.  Today, someone who had never cut my hair before cut was “up.”

This person was of a different faith than me.  She referred to praying while in troubled times.  And she claims to talk to others often about her faith.  I complimented her on her values, and we didn’t talk about much else.  She did compliment me on my full head of hair.  (My dentists used to compliment me on my great teeth…until they didn’t.  It was like I woke up one day and found out my teeth had aged two decades in a 6-month period.)  I didn’t let my “hair pride” get the best of me.  I took her comments about, “Some of our product lines are on sale” and “You should get yourself a new style for your women” as idle chatter.  I would not make any changes.  My only hope was she didn’t make my cowlick into a creature I could not control.

When the haircut was over, she did not comb my hair over.  She left it sticking up in the front.  Her mention of “Brad Pitt” may have been her last attempt to convince me I should try a new style.  As I stood up, I used her mirror and her comb to put my hair back the way it belongs.  Her unsanctioned styling looks to be a battle I will fight with my hair in the coming week.  She did not cut it to comb-over where I like to part it.

Fortunately, I had something to rejoice about as I checked out.  Nearly every year, I buy a hair card and prepay for 15 haircuts.  Two years ago, the card was purchased but soon disappeared.  The “Put it back in the envelope” rule developed soon afterward.  With some encouragement and two key pieces of information from my favorite stylist on a previous visit, I could call the corporate customer service number.  Within a few weeks, I had received a new card MINUS the one haircut that had already been used.

I got a haircut.  Because I used the recovered card, the cost was only the tip.   With this haircut, I have now received a haircut from everyone at this location.  I will only let this stylist cut my hair if I give her very specific instructions.  On the positive side, I have hair to cut, and it grows in quickly.  This puts me ahead of many my age.  It is motivation for me to continue to act and feel as young as I can.  When necessary, I will adopt the philosophy of many of my peers, “Beauty is only hair follicle deep.”