As Christmas 2020 lies but two days ahead on the calendar, the global celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ inspires a time for reflection.
Of course, reflecting on the amazing influence the birth of a child can have on humanity is worth a mention. Think of someone who was born in less than sterile conditions, never drove a car or watched a television program yet is adored around the world. He healed the sick. Raised the dead. Showed us how to live and died for our sins.
Today there are thousands of churches where believers come to share their faith in Jesus Christ and, yes, share their wealth to have that religious freedom, especially in the United States.
And Christmas, which falls at the end of the last month of the year, is an opportunity to look back…and forward. Christmas 2020 sees the world still battling the Corona virus but excited about the potential of vaccines now becoming available. People have had their lives changed. Many have lost their jobs…and in some cases, their identities. Depression, drug use, and alcohol abuse are rampant. We have struggled, yet persevered.
That is the message of Christmas 2020: Be strong and persevere. We can get through this and survive. Can you change what happened in the past year? Six months? Week?
Can you alter what lies ahead?
What you have is today. Now. Tell people you love them. Enjoy life. Appreciate what you have. Know that faith in God gives meaning…and purpose to life. Serve others. Be kind. You are what you are. Embrace it.
My life can be analyzed, summarized, and described from the contents of my drawer in the bathroom.
The blood glucose meter has a spotty record of my blood sugar readings. It lets you know I’m a diabetic who doesn’t do a very good job of monitoring his blood sugars. Hence a recent visit to the clinic discovered my diabetes is getting worse. Doh! Three years later it is under control but still with me. Diabetes sucks and is the reason my father and my father-in-law left this world.
The Gillette razor tells the story of a man who prefers not to shave if he doesn’t have to and doesn’t change the blade often enough when he does. It also lets you know I now prefer a straight razor to an electric razor/shaver. Three years later, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and the quarantine, I have grown a full beard and mustache. It is indicative of my preference to avoid shaving but I have expressed a willingness to shave if…and when…I harvest a deer.
The tubes of sunscreen identifies a man who has been advised by a dermatologist to apply the lotion before going outside to avoid another incidence of skin cancer. I had a basal cell carcinoma removed from my high right cheek in early November of 2011. Three years later, I use sunscreen when officiating soccer matches but otherwise eschew the toner. I remain cancer free but am cautious about too much solar exposure.
The tube of Pepsodent toothpaste is still there in 2020, although it has been replaced a few times in three years. I keep referring to three years since I started on this writing expose in 2017 and it is now near the end of 2020. That brand has been around since my youth and I still remember the slogan: “You will wonder where the yellow went when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent.” It is also economical to purchase but difficult to find in grocery stores.
The nail clippers are useful in keeping my calcium deprived fingernails and toenails trimmed. They are essential to proper grooming, hence I keep both fingernail and toenail clippers in the drawer.
The pen is there for some unknown reason. As a writer, I like to have pens available in the event some thought inspires me and I need to write it down before I forget it. Only problem is I rarely keep any paper near where the pen is. It could be removed to make room for something else, like a pencil.
The medicine bottles are no longer in the drawer three years later. Oh, there is a bottle of ibuprofen on the bathroom counter, but I seldom take any of those pain relievers. My supplements are on my computer desk now. My regular medication is in one of those pill boxes that help you remember what you need to take each day of the week. And now the pill box helps me recall what day of the week it is. Surplus bottles are on a shelf under my drawer…so, close at hand.
The hairbrush resides in the drawer to be used after a shower when I brush my thinning hair back to dry it more quickly. When I have used some of the other items in my drawer, the brush is used to create the look that defines me. I was blessed with two natural parts for my hair, so I can brush my hair either left or right and either one appears natural. The preference is to brush from right to left…but I had to think about that for a second. Funny how what is natural, and commonplace requires thought to define.
There are now other grooming aids in the drawer that I seldom use, like hair pomade and beard balm, but they have a place in my life when I so choose. The fact I can describe what lies in my drawer is indicative of my need to be organized. If I need to use a nail clipper, for instance, I know where to look and if it is not in my drawer, it is in my traveling toiletries case on the shelf in the cabinet under that all important drawer.
Although I’m not much of an idiot when it comes to attempting April Fool’s pranks that are lame or go unnoticed, I do believe the greatest April Fool’s prank I ever pulled off was on my father. When you read the story, you’ll understand why I don’t attempt many any more.
Here’s the background: My parents had two large shakers for salt and pepper that were always available for meals. They had a white ceramic base or storage compartment that would easily fill the palm of your hand. Yes, they were that large! The tops were metal and screwed onto the ceramic base. Getting a hint where this is going?
Dad, having grown up on a farm, loved eggs for breakfast every morning. He was a meat and potatoes kind of guy. When we lived in Tulsa and he came from Wisconsin to visit, we took him to a fancy restaurant for brunch. They served quiche and other delicacies on the buffet but Dad’s comment was: “Where’s the meat?”
Back to the story. Long before breakfast was served that April 1st morning, I slipped into the kitchen and surreptitiously loosened the cap on the pepper shaker. Then I resumed normal activities and played the innocent son as breakfast was served.
When my father grabbed the pepper shaker to season his eggs, my heart raced a bit but I tried to remain calm and not give away my secret. The lid came off and pepper doused Dad’s eggs in the black condiment to his visible astonishment. I recall his comment starting with something like, “What the?” but I had to bite my lip and remain as stunned as everyone else.
I didn’t have the nerve to exclaim: “April Fool’s!”
Dad likely went to his grave assuming it was a freak accident while I consider it my greatest April Fool’s prank…and don’t do those any more.
It’s Sunday, the 29th of March. Day seven of Corona (Chinese) virus self-isolation (quarantine). I have not been in a public place since last Sunday when I ventured out for some basic groceries. Fortunately my spouse and I had a decent stockpile of necessities before entering this period of insulation from other human beings.
We have communicated with our children and grandchildren via electronic channels, but this scary pandemic and self-isolation strip us of being able to hug family members or share a meal with them. Distance also separates us.
We have gone for walks, taking care to avoid close contact with other people. I have visited with my neighbor briefly in his driveway, keeping the requisite six feet of social distancing between us. We’ve had basic groceries delivered, thanks to our daughters.
So…here I am at day 7 of self-isolation. Closets have been cleaned out. Papers have been filed or recycled. All the laundry has been done, including outside clothng several times now. Trying to follow the guidelines. Washing hands according to the CDC. Drinking lots of spring water. Resting.
The bad part is there are no sports to watch on television. Odds are that high school spring sports programs are likely to be cancelled since school’s are closed indefinitely. That eliminates my soccer official’s contracts if it happens…and the accompanying compensation. In my mind, soccer is one of those sports that enables athletes to keep a distance from most of the other players on the pitch and the fans…most parents…able to socially distance themselves as well. But, with no school, there’s no athletics.
I am thankful for my faith, my ability to write, the family tree I’m trying to build online, and my therapy pet, Charley. He’s a rescue cat that I’ve trained fairly well. He enjoys chasing a toy mouse that I throw and he retrieves. He follows me to the basement to do laundry and comes back up when I call him…or when he gets out in the garage. Besides my wife, Charley’s a good companion.
So far we’ve avoided any viral infection. We’ll see what day 8 brings.
Most Americans are self-imposing themselves in a Corona quarantine, and I don’t mean drinking a lot of that beer brand. Here are three Corona quarantine activities to while away the time stuck in your place of residence.
Read. Find the books you’ve been wanting to read, turn off the television, find a comfortable place, and read. Most libraries will still let you come in, browse the aisles and choose some reading material if you’ve read every book on your shelves. Check first to make sure your library is still open to the public. Ours are closed! Read magazines if nothing else strikes your fancy.
Write. Sit down with some paper and a pen. Write a letter to a loved one, a lost relative, or a pen pal (remember what those were? I had one who lived in France and I had to have every letter translated). Work on the family memoirs or write the novel you’ve always wanted to write. Take a break every now and then to enjoy the weather and get some exercise, even if it’s just a walk around the block.
Catch up. Clean out the basement or garage you’ve been meaning to de-clutter. Nap or get some extra sleep you’ve been denying yourself. Call a friend and see how they’re doing, especially if you haven’t talked to them in a few months…or years. Make use of this bonus time…and leave the television off. This too shall pass, but remember to wash your hands and get tested if you have any symptoms.
There is no better way to experience solitude than in the forest, especially if it is in near wilderness. That’s one of the side benefits of deer hunting in Wisconsin. Solitude.
Where I hunt is known specifically only to those who also hunt the property. That gives every hunter the solitude of their won “territory” where being able to harvest a deer can be done safely. High-powered deer rifles are designed to be deadly. Extreme caution is required to avoid accidents.
Being safe is critical to feeling a sense of solitude.
Sitting in a collapsible blind still requires a minimum of movement to avoid spooking deer that may come near during hunting hours. It also isolates the hunter from the elements and observation by other humans. Solitude.
Solitude is precious. It takes a being away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, the pressure of city living, and the stress of whatever curves life throws your way. Solitude gives you time to think, time to reflect, time to consider options. It is peaceful. It is quiet. It is energizing. It is refreshing.
The camaraderie of deer camp is special. Shared meals. Hunting stories. Work projects. Cards. Alcohol. Friendship. That’s rifle season; 9 days in late November in Wisconsin.
I also bow hunt and that gives me even more opportunities to enjoy the solitude of the forest…by myself. Whether I harvest an animal is less important than being able to rejuvenate my spirit and deepen my faith.
Soccer officials generally like to avoid having penalty kicks decide the outcome of a soccer match. For the uninitiated, a penalty kick is warranted when a defending player denies a goal scoring opportunity to the attacking team within the penalty area.
When teams have played the regular time allotted for a match and remain tied, the match goes to overtime periods for most high school competition. If no winner is decided but a winner must be determined for one team to advance, a penalty kick shoot-out is in order. In the shoot-out, each team has five players take penalty kicks against the opposing goalkeeper.
Whichever team scores the most wins. If it’s still tied after the first five, the shoot-out continues with single players from each team until there’s a winner.
From this explanation you can hopefully understand why officials prefer to avoid penalty kicks to determine a winner…but that does not mean referees give an unfair advantage to one team or another to avoid a shoot-out.
During a recent tournament for high school varsity teams, it was imperative that a winner be chosen to advance to the championship bracket or be relegated to the consolation bracket. Two of the three matches we officiated required a shoot-out to determine a winner. They were tied after regulation and went direct to penalty kicks as the rules didn’t allow overtime periods.
It is rather common for officials to award a direct free kick from just outside the penalty area instead of signalling a penalty kick to influence the outcome of a close match.
In three successive matches–two junior varsity and one varsity game–I awarded five penalty kicks. In both sub-varsity matches the penalty kicks (PKs) influenced the final result because the kickers scored goals against their opponent. In the varsity competition, the keeper stopped both shots but the opponent still won the match by making other shots on goal.
First, allow a definition. Standard transmissions enable a
driver to shift gears in a vehicle by depressing a clutch before changing from
one gear to the next. This is in opposition to the standard in most vehicles on
the road today: Automatic transmissions. Avoid confusing “standard issue”
automatic transmissions with standard or manual transmissions. I know, we can’t
call it a manual transmission because it implies only males can operate them. Malarkey!
It is my firm belief that driver education vehicles should
only be equipped with manually shifted standard transmissions. Anyone learning with
a manual transmission should be able to drive anything.
The tricky part was going from low to high range. You had to
coordinate pulling up the low/high lever on the gear shift correctly as you
changed during clutch depression. Many times, double clutching was required to
properly engage gears. Going down from sixth to fifth was also a slowing down challenge.
I learned to drive a farm tractor when I was 12 years old.
Knowing how to drive a standard enabled me to get a job driving flat bed trucks
for a lumber yard when I earned my driver’s license at 16. The trucks were 10-speeds
(not counting reverse or neutral) requiring you to start in first gear, low
range, and work your way up to fifth gear, then shift to high range and work
your way up from 6th to 10th gear to increase speed.
Technical stuff, I know, but learning to drive with a
standard transmission teaches you how to keep proper distances from vehicles in
front of you, especially on hills, and how to ensure you have enough room to
slow down and avoid collisions. The coordination to stop involves clutch,
shifting to neutral to disengage gears, and braking; all requiring conscious thought.
Most passenger vehicles with standard transmissions only have five speeds and
the shift pattern is tight compared to a larger truck’s gear shift. There’s
also a reverse gear set slightly apart from the shift pattern to avoid
accidentally shifting into reverse; that’s hard on the transmission.
Learning to drive with a standard transmission usually involves the grinding of a few gears as you get the hang of the pattern, clutch smoothness, and shift requirements. Try it sometime; some place safe.
Far too many of us are impatient drivers when we’re on the highway. Fact of life because we’re usually in a hurry to get somewhere to do something…or we’re already late for an event for some reason. Never mind that the other drivers have no clue why you’re so impatient.
If you’re like me, when some impatient driver comes up fast behind me and rides my back bumper, I hit the brakes or slow down to teach them a lesson. I want them to be courteous and respect my right to be on the road as much as I respect theirs. This usually makes them irate and more impatient.
It has that effect on me. But then I stop and think for a second, cool down, and back off a few car lengths. That shows concern for avoiding accidents and often leads to a perfect opportunity to pass them safely.
Granted, an impatient driver is quite likely to be considered a fast driver, as opposed to a slowpoke. From my perspective, I’d rather deal with some driver who understands the perils of speed. Better than one who is oblivious to how much their snail’s pace endangers other motorists. There have been occasions when a burst of speed has saved a collision from happening by clearing the situation. Being alert and braking is a good option, too.
What I fear more than impatient drivers is inattentive drivers. With today’s technology, far too many drivers are yakking away on their smart phones, trying to text or read messages popping up on their devices. They need to pay attention to the highway! It only takes a second for an obstacle like a deer crossing the road to result in an accident.
In the same boat are drunk drivers, who generally have no clue what they’re doing. The solution: Pay attention and obey the law!