Life’s Curveballs

Life always throws you a curveball. Just when you think you have it figured out — pop. You hear that sound.

I like Clint Eastwood. And of late, Trouble with the Curve is a favorite movie of mine. I’ve watched it several times and smile through most of it. It’s a real “feel good” movie for me.

And the life lessons scattered throughout the movie from the perspective of Clint’s character, Gus are not lost on me. Having passed my mid-sixties and entered into my late sixties, I can sympathize and empathize with Gus. Life’s experiences are not to be taken lightly, but life itself must be taken seriously.

Time is fading

Time is fading and so are the physical attributes. Our eyes are weaker, ears are fading, and let’s not forget the brain. Okay, let’s not talk about the brain. Bottom line, the body wears out, and even though we might slow the process, it still happens.

I’m fortunate to still have excellent eyesight with correction — 20/15 and 20/20 with my glasses on. And since I’m near-sighted, I see as well without my glasses at distances of up to eight or ten feet. Beyond that, it gets blurry, quickly.

I admit I can’t hear the high-pitched tone that made the rounds a few years ago. That part of my hearing is gone and not coming back. I do notice background noise more, too.

My Mother-in-Law’s Story

Some years back, my Mother-in-Law always complained about the high level of background music on the television. I didn’t understand because it was not that way for me. Then life and age happened, and now I know what she meant. While younger, my ears filtered out most of the background noise and I heard the dialog perfectly. That has now changed. I have to pay close attention to the dialog because the music is so loud.

They say, “Growing old ain’t for sissies” and I can now attest to that. I do worry about the last few generations, though. If you haven’t noticed, we now have several generations of “whiny babies” complaining about every small struggle of an “unfair life.” How will they react to the real hardships of aging?


I don’t think my generation was anything special, but it was different. I was not unusual in getting my first paying job at twelve. Granted it wasn’t hard work, but it required discipline. After school every day and all day on Saturdays. Then at fourteen my first summer job working at a gas station.

Pumping gas, checking oil and tire pressure for customers at the pump islands was normal. We even fixed flats and sold a few accessories. I worked at stations the next two summers, too. Different places, but same work. Then after graduating, my first full-time job was, you guessed it, working at a busy service station on an Interstate highway.

I don’t remember ever having time to stop and contemplate the “unfairness” of life. Those around me and I just worked. That was expected, and we did it, no questions asked.

We seem to have lost some of that: not all young people, but many.

Let’s Compare the Sixties to Now

Compare today’s generations to the Sixties and Seventies.

  • No draft for military service.
  • They don’t know the reality of war on television every night. Having friends and family killed overseas.
  • They never knew a time without cheap computers (In 1995, a new Dell desktop cost $2500 and is now $499).
  • Cell phones arrived and only cost $29.95/month for 80 minutes. Overages were murder.
  • No texting.
  • No Internet.
  • No cable or satellite television. If you were lucky, you lived where you could get all three channels. Most people received two.
  • No NFL Super Bowl. Oh wait, that’s still around, but we watched for the game. Now they watch for the commercials.
  • No cameras everywhere. Yes, we had Brownie Instamatics and Polaroid cameras, but not the same as today’s phones.
  • No streaming music.
  • No streaming videos. That’s right, no YouTube.
  • No eating out multiple meals each week. My family ate out four times a year. On each person’s birthday and that person picked where we ate.
  • No Avacado Toast

Well, you get the idea. Times are so much different and I believe, better for the most part.

What are your thoughts? I’m interested.

Is Life Slapping You Around?

Life has a funny way of slapping us around—first a jab, then a sharp right hook. And down we go hitting the canvas like a full sack of potatoes then struggling to get up before the count.

It’s been a wild ride the last month. In the middle of starting a new business, the need arose for my wife and me to move 150 miles to get closer to my Mom. This move was not unplanned, but the timing was quicker than expected.

With my recent “retirement” from full-time employment along with a regular paycheck, money was a bit tight. That meant we would have to do the entire move ourselves. Packing, loading, unloading, unpacking was just the beginning. Fortunately, our son took time off and helped—a lot.

Youth is wasted on the young

The saying, “You’re not as young as you think” and “You’re not as young as you once were” are ringing in my ears as I write this. Both of us are past our mid-sixties and believe we can still do all this “stuff” like we once did.

Since 1995, we have moved eleven times.

  • Seven of those my wife and I did all the work packing and moving with help from a few friends
  • One was a work promotion, and the company sent packers and movers, but on the other end most went into storage.
  • Three we did the packing and hired movers to load and unload their truck

And you guessed it, this last move we did it all with the help of our son. It was painful, literally. A month on and there are still boxes waiting expectantly for unpacking. We are still looking for the light bulb box and the battery box.

What is not pictured is the stack of temporary boxes used in the move. I cut them all down and hauled them to the recycling center. They included a lot of Amazon boxes collected over the last few years and others of assorted sizes.

Aches and Pains

The body aches and huts are still present and will persist for some time, I’m sure.


Are you still as young as you think?

Is Technology Good or Evil?


If you don’t know by now, I love technology. It can assist our productivity, automate routine tasks and make life easier. It can also enslave us and bring us under its spell. So is technology good or evil? This is such a good question.

Technology is Good

I love todoist, my todo app. It syncs with my phone and tablet, always keeping me in line with my priorities. I love Evernote for its ability to keep all types of information at my fingertips, no matter the device I have at hand. Technology is a way to make routine tasks take care of themselves. IFTTT and Zapier seem like magic when applied to repeat actions.

motorola-bag-phone.jpgThe beginning of my sales life was without a cell phone. I always had a roll of quarters in my car and knew where most of the pay phones were in my territory. Cell phones made communication faster and easier for people on the go. And laptop computers were a godsend for road warriors.

Technology is Bad

VOIP (Voice over Internet protocol) home phones are a downgrade from the older technology. Copper-line phones did not need electricity or a working internet connection.

The original AT&T (before the government forced breakup) had phone service perfected. The only way it did not work was a physical line cut. Electricity goes out and the phones continued to work. VOIP, on the other hand, is frequently down. It requires both electricity and an Internet connection to function.

Let’s talk modern washing machines and one-gallon toilets. Okay, I won’t, but I will say the new washing machines suck so much. Clothes don’t get clean and they don’t rinse the soap out.  What a terrible use of technology.

I witnessed technology enslaving someone over the weekend and it was an eye-opening experience. I was in the company of a six-year-old with an iPad. Throughout sixteen waking hours, I saw fifteen hours and fifty minutes of Mindcraft play. The ten minutes were bathroom breaks. On occasion he would look up, but only momentarily.

On the highway yesterday, driving at 75mph, a young man was texting on his cell phone. I don’t think I have to even talk about how dangerous and stupid that is. How do you get them to stop? Has the phone taken over their mind? No. Well, maybe.

Good or Evil?

So the question remains. Is technology good or evil?

The correct answer is “neither.” It has no soul and it does not make choices. However, it can control the human mind, if allowed.

I’m not going to get on my soapbox here, but everyone knows the solution to the above issues. Don’t we?


It was a Red 1956 T-Bird

1957 Ford Thunderbird

It was a red 1956 Thunderbird just sitting there, hidden in 5′ tall weeds.

Dad was an avid gardener with a love for growing fresh vegetables. It was his way to relax, and I was generally a part of the labor. Rototilling, forming up the rows, planting, watering, and weeding were things I could always help with. Plus sharing in the bounty at the table. His gardens always produced more than we could eat, so we shared a lot with neighbors.

In the spring of 1965, I accompanied Dad to one of his favorite nurseries. They specialized in tomatoes and offered the biggest variety and the healthiest plants. Dad would spend hours looking at the plants and picking out the ones that met his approval. It was always a lengthy process.

After he shopped for a while, I got tired and wandered off. As a 15-year-old, gardening was not my thing, but wandering and looking at starter plants was boring. I excused myself and went outside.

I saw some old equipment on the other side of one of the big greenhouses and headed that way. The area was full of old farm equipment surrounded by tall weeds growing up to about 5 feet tall. Struggling to get farther into the weeds to see what was hidden from view, I saw something red peeking through off to my left.

Moving that direction, I stepped next to a very oxidized, red 1957 Thunderbird. It looked intact. It had a red hard top and a V8 emblem on the side of the front fender. Getting around to the driver’s door, I could see a white interior with bucket seats. There in the console was a standard transmission. A V8 with a manual transmission.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. As I was running back to get my Dad, he was coming out of the greenhouse with carts full of plants and seeds for garden.

I helped him get the items loaded into the back of his pickup and as calmly as I could, told him about my find. I explained we needed to find out who owned the car so we could buy it because it needed a good home.

After a very short discussion, he explained to me that it would be too much work to get it home and do all the repairs it needed.

A few months later, I had my license and I went back by the nursery to see what I could find out. It was gone. The field was mowed and cleaned of all the old equipment and the T-Bird. Gone.

Heart broken, I got back into my 1960 Ford Station Wagon and drove home. The opportunity of a lifetime was gone.

There are few times I was dumbfounded by my Dad, but this was one of them.

I’m struggling with the term Retirement

Working is in my DNA. Going back as far as my experience allows, both my grandfathers were hard workers. They are still an inspiration to me to this day, even though they have been gone for decades.
My maternal grandfather, Walter, was a cobbler by trade. He was also a deaf-mute. I guess today the term is hearing and speaking impaired. He could “speak” a little, but he was difficult to understand, so most of the time he signed. Not hearing didn’t seem to hold him back.
When WWI started, he succeeded in enlisting in the Army because of his ability to read lips. He managed to make it all the way to basic training before being discovered. As told to me, a Staff Sergeant walked up behind him, without his knowledge, and began barking orders at him. When he didn’t respond, the Sergeant grabbed him, spun him around and asked if he was deaf …
Well, you can imagine what happened next. In a quick and quiet, embarrassing way, the Army sent him home.
He went to work in a shoe repair shop and became quite the shoe cobbler. Learning the trade he succeeding in owning his own shop. 
I had great respect for him and I know it shaped me into who I am. 

A Real Bucking Bronco

The bucking was fierce. Back and forth, up and down. Then, as quickly as it began, it quit. Once again I failed to meet the challenge. But I was determined. Again and again, the bucking continued until I rode to the metaphorical buzzer.


I was thirteen years old and all I thought about was cars. In Texas, a drivers license was freedom from riding the bus to school every morning. And a Texas license was available at age fourteen. It was time to learn how to drive.

For several years, I’d watched Dad drive his old ‘57 Chevy pickup with ease: starting, shifting, braking. His use of the clutch was an art I hoped to learn. Our two family autos had a three-speed transmission with what is now called, three on the tree. We just called it a manual. The clutch was the trick and learning it was the challenge.

Summer Weekends were Family Time

We spent almost every weekend the summer of 1964 on Buffalo Lake—skiing, boating, and fishing. With both Mom and Dad working full time jobs during the week, the weekends were family time. Mom would get home first on Friday evening and begin preparations. When Dad got home, we would hook up the boat trailer to his pickup and then I cranked the handle down to the hitch on the ball attached to the rear bumper.

The drive to the lake took about an hour, then we set up the tent and launched the boat in plenty of time to watch the beautiful Texas Panhandle sunset. A little night-time fishing and then off to bed in our big Army-surplus tent.

On this particular weekend, Dad asked if I was ready to solo. I knew exactly what he meant and immediately agreed. The area around the lake was the perfect place to learn to drive, and Dad tossed me the keys to the pickup and said “Don’t hit any trees.”

His pickup was not the kind you see on magazine covers with brilliant paint jobs and plush interiors. No, this was Dad’s work truck. It was that strange bluish aqua color so popular in the late fifties. The interior was plain and well-worn, and smelled like a welder’s truck. Grease, welding rods, burned gloves, and there was normally a welding helmet on the floor board. 

It was one of those days we dream about. The sun was warm and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. It was still early enough in the season so the lake was not crowded. A perfect day to learn.

Determination Won the Day

I was determined that I would learn to drive the pickup that weekend. Coordinating the clutch and gas pedal more difficult then I expected. More gas, slower on the clutch … more bucking, and another stalled engine. Again and again, until finally …

The first time I got the pickup going without killing the engine, I crept along in first gear, slowly keeping the pickup in the ruts which ran through the trees. In some places, the tree branches reached out from the side of the trail, encroaching on the narrow set of tracks. Some of the trees were bois-d’arc, with branches of sharp, sword-like spikes reaching out to poke and scratch. Dad’s pickup suffered from that day under my control, but he didn’t mind. He spent most of the morning laughing loudly. I believe he was having as much fun watching as I was learning.

Finally, I was getting the right combination of gas pedal and clutch pedal to get the truck moving.

Continuing Challenges

Then came the next goal… shifting into second gear. Another challenge to overcome, that took several tries, but ended in success. Since the truck was all ready moving, second gear was a simpler task. I never needed third gear that weekend, but knew I could win that one, too.

That weekend, I learned to drive a standard transmission without burning up the clutch and later, Dad would work with me on the back roads around the house to make sure I understood all that was involved in driving. Checking the mirrors, paying attention to the gauges on the dash (yes, gauges, not lights), and watching in all directions for the unexpected.

It was the best summer of my life.

My Life with Cars

Looking back, cars have played an important part in my life and this is one of the chronicles of my life. There will be more to come.