My Inner Trekkie

I have been noticing some interesting signs popping up around our local high school and tech college recently.  And when I spot one, I have to smile.  Or I should say, my “inner Trekkie” makes me grin from ear to ear.  As you can see from the photo above, the signs are recruitments for the new US Space Command. 

As an aging baby boomer, I remember watching reruns of the old Star Trek science fiction television series.  By the time I discovered Star Trek, the original series had been cancelled. But reruns of the episodes played over and over in the after-school time slot on my local TV station, and I glued myself to our television to watch and rewatch the episodes. 

The daring adventures and the brave crew members of the starship Enterprise fascinated me.  Looking back, I believe a huge part of the appeal of Star Trek was the promise of the future.  Earth had finally gotten its act together. We lived in peace. The problems of hunger and poverty had been solved.  Things were good on Earth. 

As a plus, Earth was also part of the United Federation of Planets, an interstellar governmental body that governed countless worlds. The Federation promoted things like liberty, equality, and peaceful co-existence.

Of course, the Federation had enemies, such as the Romulans and Klingons, that needed to be dealt with. But the Federation and Earth were the good guys.  Perhaps, it is just a desire to hope for a better future, but I have always preferred the hopefulness of the original Star Trek series over more doomsday science fiction fare.

As the years went on, I followed the Star Trek franchise less closely. I admit to watching some of the later Star Trek series and movies but not all of them. As an adult, I simply had less time.  

However, my “inner Trekkie” never completely left me. To this day, I look up at the sky and wonder what other life might exist out there in the vastness of space. 

I realize that the US Space Command is part of our military, and I wish this wasn’t necessary. Unfortunately, it probably is. Just as in Star Trek, there are dangers out there in space.  In fact, the US Space Command website states, “The space environment is far more competitive and dangerous today than ever before.”

The Space Command site also states, “The United States, along with our allies and partners, will champion and promote the responsible, peaceful, and safe use of space. However, should our nation call, United States Space Command will always remain ready to prevail against any foreign space-related aggression.”

I wish that space would become and remain a miraculously safe and wonderful place for the future generations to explore.  Yup, my “inner Trekkie” is hoping for both peace on Earth and in space.

I still fondly remember the narrated introduction to every episode of Star Trek, and I envy the future generations who hopefully will be able to do this and do so in peace: “Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man human has gone before.”

The First Snow of the Season

Well, yesterday we had our first measurable snowfall. The temp was mild, just cold enough for snow versus rain. So, I decided that it was a good day to take a walk.

As I walked, I was in awe of how beautiful everything looked covered in snow.  I was especially taken with the trees and how the snow glistened as it clung to them. Simply put, the first snow of the season always seems magical to me.

But at a certain point, some of the magic waned as I walked. You see, I wished I had worn boots instead of my summer shoes and that I had grabbed a pair of gloves before leaving.  My feet were wet and my hands cold.  Yes, by the end of my walk, memories of past winters started to seep into my mind—blizzards, icy roads, freezing temps, and the need to dress appropriately for the weather!

However, whether good or bad, I have decided that memories are just memories and should not be allowed to take away from something as enjoyable as the beauty of the first snow.

Moral of the story: Enjoy the little things in life and worry less about the past. 

***

“Happiness is good health and a bad memory.” Ingrid Bergman

“The advantage of a bad memory is that one enjoys several times the same good things for the first time.” Friedrich Nietzsche

A Dream That Haunts Me

It’s Halloween weekend, and I have been planning on writing some sort of humorous take on the holiday.  You know, something about trick-or-treaters, ghosts, and goblins.  But frankly, I have not been able to do so.  My mood is less than joyful right now.

Let me explain, a few mornings ago, I woke from a dream. It was actually more a nightmare than a dream, and it still haunts me.  In the dream, I got into the backseat of a sedan with two other people—another woman and a child.  I am clueless as who they were as my mind did not conjure up much detail about them.  In the front seat was a male driver and a female sitting next to him.

The car sped along a country road, and off in the distance, I spotted a huge dark, swirling mass, stretching from the darken sky right down to the ground.  As the mass moved closer, I watched it churn, twisting its blackness into ever frightening shapes.  I suppose it was a tornado. But to describe it as just an ordinary tornado would be like describing a pit bull as just a poodle.  It frightened me.

I inched forward in my seat and asked the driver if he saw it.  He said that he did and that he would drive me somewhere safe.  It was at this point that I realized that the driver was my father and his companion was my mother.  Even though I’m in my sixties, my mind somehow summoned my long-departed parents as the ones to drive me to safety. I suppose that no matter how old we get, we will always remain someone’s child. I felt comforted by my parents’ presence.

We passed a ditch, but it was filled with water. My father said it was not a safe place to hide.  He then turned onto another country road and asked me if I wanted him to keep driving—to try and outrun the storm.  I don’t remember answering, but the car stopped. And we got out to take shelter behind a sturdy cement wall that lined a driveway on a farm.  It was at this point that I woke.

I was a little shaken by the dream as I feel that dreams are often coded messages. I will let you decide for yourself if dreams are messages from the other side or simply a person’s subconscious mind spinning tales. Either explanation is valid.

Also, I know that dreams about a storm, such as a tornado, is fairly common. And one of the most common explanations for this type of dream is that the dreamer is trying to escape or run from a problem in their life.  Or at least that is what a shrink would say. 

But others might say that I received a message, a heads up, from the other side—from my parents. I wondered if I was about to face some sort of personal dilemma in my life. Anyhow, I thought about the dream on and off for the next few days. 

Well, yesterday morning I woke to the news that the 82-year-old husband of Speaker Nancy Pelosi was brutally attacked with a hammer in the San Francisco home that he shares with his wife. His attacker apparently shouted, “Where is Nancy, where is Nancy?” These were the same eerie words shouted during the violent January 6th attack on the Capitol.  Fortunately, Speaker Pelosi was in D.C. at the time.

I hope that everyone can agree that regardless of how you feel about the political viewpoints of Speaker Pelosi, violence is never okay. Period.

Anyhow, back to the meaning of my dream. As I watched the awful news, it hit me. My dream was not about me per se. It was about the times we live in. 

Simply put, we live in strange and dangerous times.  Today, too many politicians, podcasters, and T.V. personalities spew violent rhetoric that is also often bigoted, hate filled, untrue, and threatening.  Too many politicians and their followers also feel it is okay to only accept the outcome of elections if their side wins. It is also not a stretch to say that many ordinary citizens have come to believe it is acceptable to verbally or physically attack those who hold opposing political viewpoints or simply those who are different than them. 

Why is this? I just don’t know. 

In all honesty, things are not supposed to be done this way. Aren’t we all supposed to be able to believe what we want and to vote accordingly? Aren’t we supposed to accept the results of elections even if our “side” loses? Aren’t we supposed to be able to engage in peaceful debate rather than violent disagreements?

And one other question haunts me. Will our democracy survive these dangerous times? I can only hope so.

Majority rule is a central part of a democracy, and this means accepting the outcome of elections. However, this also means that the losing side should not be ignored. In fact, their views should be respected, and everyone should still be able to speak their minds and share their views regardless of whoever is in power.  

In fact, democracy only survives when everyone is free to share ideas. It will not survive when one side threatens or engages in violence against its opponents.  Free speech and thought are essential to democracy. However, political violence is the fastest way to lose free speech and a first step to ending democracy as we know it. We need to become more tolerant of the views of others, listening not attacking.

I am not going to argue one way or the other on any particular political candidate, position, or party. My point should be acceptable to anyone who believes in democracy. 

As an aside, I don’t feel we ever should be tolerant of things like out-and-out lies intended to promote violence and racial, ethnic, or religious hate speech.  However, even in these instances, violence is not appropriate. Such things should be countered with the truth—swiftly and relentlessly.

To be sure, the U.S. has absolutely never been perfect, but it has always been better than the alternatives—such as military dictatorships or authoritarian/totalitarian regimes.  But there is a darkness upon us, and this should frighten everyone. 

The bottom line is simple. Just as in my dream, we cannot outrun the storm. In fact, I believe that we are in the midst of it now. It is time to find a way to survive it.

Bad Decisions and Rainy Days

Have you ever made a bad decision or mistake in your life? I have, and I’m betting you have as well.

For instance, I made a minor but bad decision a day or so ago that resulted in a somewhat awful experience. Actually, the result was really not as awful as it was, let’s say, embarrassing. You see, when I got up that day, it was cloudy and windy, and a light rain was falling.  Nothing too awful, I thought at the time.

As the morning moved along, my sister and I decided to head out for lunch. Rather than take-out, I suggested eating at one of our local burger joints.  As we drove there, the wind really started to kick up, and the sky grew darker.  But we paid little attention to the changing conditions. 

As we drove into the burger joint’s parking lot, we decided to park at the far end of the lot as it was emptier.  Well, as it turned out, that was an unfortunate decision.

After parking, we got out of the car and started strolling across the parking lot.  However, midway between the car and the burger joint’s door, the dark storm clouds suddenly burst open, and torrential rain poured down. At the same moment, the wind seemed to almost roar, whipping the rain into an angry frenzy.

Needless to say, my sister and I pushed through the rain as fast as we could, rushing into the burger joint’s lobby. We were dripping wet but happy to be inside. My sister headed to the ladies’ room to regroup. But deciding the ladies’ room would be filled with too many other soaked patrons, I elected not to join her. Instead, I dug into my purse to find my comb.  

However, as I searched for my comb, I caught my reflection in the lobby’s glass door. I looked as if I just taken my morning shower fully clothed. I ran my comb through my hair and walked to the counter, trying to look somewhat dignified as the water in my shoes sloshed about. I quickly placed an order for our food and found an empty booth to hide in.  I was so embarrassed.

After a bit, my sister ventured out of the ladies’ room, still soaked but looking much more put together than I did.  By the time we finished eating, the rain had slowed, and we had dried off slightly. On the way home, we laughed about our lunchtime adventure. After all, as my mother would have reminded us, “It was only rain.”

Although this wasn’t a life-altering mistake, I have made some of those in my life, relating to things like jobs, finances, and relationships.  But I have learned from my mistakes, and that is really the key thing, isn’t it?  Well, to be honest, I should really say I try to learn from my mistakes. Unfortunately, I have repeated a few of them over the years.  I’m sort of a slow learner at times.

Anyhow, bad decisions and mistakes will happen in life.  They just will. We are humans; we are not perfect.  But I don’t feel that a person should let mistakes derail their life. Rather, isn’t it better to say lesson learned and then move on?

So, what did I learn from my rainy-day adventure? Well, this one is easy. Remember to always take an umbrella with you on a rainy day. Unfortunately, I have had to repeat this lesson a few times. But I’m pretty sure that I won’t need to relearn it again—I hope!

***

“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” Henry Ford

“Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.” Oscar Wilde

Neighbors

Neighbors—we all have them.  This is true whether we live in the city, the burbs, or the countryside. When I grew up, most people knew their neighbors and were on friendly terms with them. But I grew up in a smaller community and in a different era.  For example, all of the neighborhood kids went to the same schools, and their parents met up at school events or frequented the same handful of local businesses.  There was really no escaping it. For better or worse, neighbors knew each other.

However, this isn’t really true anymore.  I know I’m making a very broad statement. So, perhaps I should dial it back a bit, and just say that in my case, I am happy with not knowing my neighbors.

A few years back, a family member was describing her new neighbors and complaining about how unfriendly they were. Apparently, the new neighbors had fenced in their yard and seldom chatted over the fence. I remained quiet and nodded politely, but inside I was screaming, “Are you crazy! Those are the perfect neighbors.”

Maybe I feel that way because I’m more of an introvert than an extrovert.  I sincerely prefer a quiet evening at home to a wild party.  I have just never been the dance on the bar sort of girl. I’m more the stay at home and read a book sort of girl. 

But the introvert vs. extrovert thing doesn’t really explain the overall trend of folks not knowing their neighbors. I think there is more to it than that. The world has gotten rougher around the edges over the decades—becoming more chaotic and stressful. So, is it wrong to want to escape into our homes and apartments and not interact with our neighbors? I hope not.

For instance, most of my life I have worked in places like office cubicles, dealing with ever-shifting office politics and demands. And for the last many, many years, I used public transit (a bus or train) to get to and from work. As a result, by the end of the day, I had suffered through more than sufficient human contact, and all I wanted was to get to my apartment and close the door to the stressful world outside.

But apartments only provide some relief from other humans.  Over the years, I have had many different types of neighbors. There have been ones who played music louder than a tavern on a Friday night.  And others who I would say had boundary issues. Case in point, I lived in an apartment where a somewhat strange guy lived down the hallway. Too often, he would just appear in the laundry room next to me. Or he would pop out of his apartment when the cleaning lady was vacuuming the hallway and follow her, chatting endlessly as she tried to work. He was probably just lonely, but it was unnerving. 

However, most of the time over the years, my neighbors have been decent and much like me, they kept to themselves. And this is very true of where I currently live.  My neighbors all seem like good folks. Of course, I don’t know their names, and I doubt if they know mine. 

Anyhow, as far as I know, there are no serial killers here.  And although one can never be certain of that, I feel pretty confident. Simply put, there are no strange guys lurking in the laundry room. Like I said, my current crop of neighbors is pretty decent.

By the way, since I don’t actually know most of their names, I have sort of assigned them descriptive names. There is the lady who owns a red car, the lady who smokes, the quiet guy at the end of the hall, and the young couple who bicker like they have been married twenty years. There is also the guy in the baggy shorts, and the new couple with the dog. 

Well, I am not sure if it is actually a dog. I guess so because it barks. When they first moved in, it darted out of their unit and sort of jumped up on me.  I say sort of because the dog is about the size of a very small cat. So, there was no harm done. But regardless, I rather not run into it again. I worry about stepping on it by accident and squashing it like a bug. 

I hope that I’m not offending any small dog lovers out there. That is not my intention. I have a friend who owns a small dog. She adores it and spends lots of loot on its clothes. In fairness, her husband died a few years ago, and this dog has brought her much happiness. Therefore, I take my hat off to all dogs—small or large. One should never doubt the power of a dog’s wagging tail—even if it is very tiny.  But I’m getting off topic. 

Anyhow, there seems to be an unspoken agreement in my apartment building. We are friendly but not friends. For instance, I will stop and exchange pleasantries from time to time, such as with the lady who lives two doors down from me. She seems quite nice. I will also hurry ahead and open a door for a fellow tenant if their arms are full. And when the elderly lady on the first floor fell near her patio one day, another tenant and I helped her back up on her feet.  After all, it would have been rude to step over her.

I guess my true feelings boil down to one thing. Whether a person feels the need to be highly sociable or not with one’s neighbors is a personal choice. But for some of us, our homes and apartments are our havens from a stressful world. They are our quiet zones. No neighbors allowed.

Dancing With the Bees

I have been dancing with the bees lately.  And no doubt, I have danced with a few hornets and wasps also. 

Yup, I know that sounds strange, but that is what it seems like at times.  Case in point, yesterday my sister and I were parked outside of a local burger joint.  We had decided to grab a burger and eat in the car.  Our windows were down so that we could enjoy the breeze. However, as we ate, a pesty bee flew into the car.  Actually, it might have been a hornet or wasp. I honestly don’t know, but at that moment I also didn’t care. 

Anyhow, the bee zoomed in, and I jumped out, holding my burger in one hand and my pop in the other. Of course, the bee followed me. My sister laughed, telling me to get back into the car. I muttered a few salty words before explaining that the “darn” bee would not let me.

Each time I attempted to get back into the car, the bee raced ahead of me, blocking my path. As I darted about, zigging and zagging around my car, the bee followed. I repeatedly took two steps back, one to the side, and twirled once or twice. But the bee shadowed each of my frantic movements, seemingly dancing with me.

And yes, I know that one shouldn’t run from a bee. It only makes things worse as they perceive sudden movements as a threat and will respond accordingly.  But when my inner child screams RUN, I run.  I can’t really explain it, but I have always been extremely afraid of bees, hornets, and wasps. Perhaps I was stung as a child, but I don’t remember that happening.

To be sure, I consider myself very lucky that the authorities were not called as I certainly must have looked like a crazy woman, having some sort of mental health episode. After what seemed like an hour but was probably only a minute or so, I was finally able to hop in the car and escape the attentions of my unwanted dance partner. 

Needless to say, I will not frequent that particular burger joint anytime soon. 

Despite my dislike of bees,  I realize that bees and other pollinators are extremely important, and unfortunately, their populations are shrinking.  This is a true crisis. Food crops require pollinators almost as much as they need water.  I read somewhere that well over half of the world’s food crops require pollinators or at the very least, greatly benefits from them.

This might seem like a minor issue to many people—much less important than other environmental concerns.  But the environment is like a sinking boat. One must address all of the leaks, small or large, to keep the boat afloat. 

Anyhow, I applaud those brave souls who have taken up the cause and have become urban, backyard beekeepers. I remember a middle-aged man from a few years ago, who rode the same bus to work that I did. He shared many stories about his backyard beehive hobby. He often bragged about the number of stings he received and his trove of honey. His stories were interesting but did little to endear me to bees.  In fact, as a child, my name for honey was bee poop.  I know this isn’t true, but the image still lingers in the back of my mind.

Also, there are several initiatives around in my area, encouraging home owners to create more bee-friendly habitats, such as planting gardens with a wide array of flowers.

Although I am not a huge fan of bees and other similar flying creatures, I fully encourage all of these types of things. I believe that we need to fix some of the environmental problems the collective “we” have caused.

I am not suggesting that everyone become a backyard beekeeper. But all of us can help out at least a little with this issue, such as donating to local nature reserves or planting flowers in your backyard. With a little luck, the bee and other pollinators will make a comeback.

And remember, the next time you notice someone running around a car in a crazed manner, please don’t judge. Maybe they are just dancing with the bees.

Out of Time

The summer is over, and I’m a little pissed at myself. I won’t bore you with the details, but I missed several of the goals I had set. I ran out of time.

Time, or the lack thereof, has become an issue to me lately. There was so much that I wanted to accomplish this summer. But time raced by so fast, I was left behind knee-deep in unfinished business.

I realize that time is just time. An hour is 60 minutes, and a day is 24 hours. It is a fixed measurement.

Yet, time ignores the fixed nature of its existence. It seems able to shapeshift from the measured ticking of a clock into a taunting creature, capable of controlling every element of our lives. At least that is how I have come to perceive time.

Let me give you an example. Throughout my working life, time was either moving at breakneck speeds or excruciatingly slow. It controlled everything at work. An employee arrived on time, completed assignments on time, and left work at a certain time. In fact, time management was a category on my annual work appraisals. Yup, time was very important on the job. Isn’t there an old saying that time is money?

Anyhow, as you can probably guess, whenever there was a hard deadline approaching, time took on an especially ominous nature. The office clock became the enemy. A week suddenly seemed shorter. An hour seemingly flew by in what felt like seconds rather than minutes. And then when the deadline was met, we would all sigh, grateful to have beat the clock.

However, time was also capable of taunting in another equally cruel way—slowly and mercilessly. During the last hour of the workday, especially on Fridays, the clock barely moved at all. Or at least, it appeared that way. I worked once in an office where there was a very large, old-fashioned wall clock directly above my desk. Generally I was too busy to pay much attention to it.

But near the end of the workday, the clock seized control of my thoughts. I stole constant looks at it. Each of its slow, merciless tick-tocks became a cruel reminder that quitting time had not yet arrived. I must admit there were many days in which I wanted to throw that darn clock out of the window. Of course, I never did. I needed the job.  

But like I said above, time is just time. I can’t really blame time itself for my lack of time. I have a tendency to misuse or waste time. I have taken time management classes and applied many of the principles during the workday. And to brag a bit, I got pretty good time management scores on my work appraisals.

But that is my working life. My personal life is another matter. This summer I had set some lofty goals. Some I met; some I did not. Why? I wasted time. For instance, there were too many days when I decided to watch TV or take a walk rather than tackle something more important. In the simplest of terms, I procrastinated.

With that said, I don’t believe that we should allow time and our commitments to control us completely. It is really okay to kickback and take a day off. Such a thing is not a waste of time but rather a good use of time. We must all recharge ourselves.

But it is equally important not to completely ignore time. Time touches everything in this world and the universe—living or not. All things age: flowers, people, buildings, and even the stars in the sky. Time is relentless. There is no defense against it.

As I grow older, time has become more important to me. Yes, it is true that the years tend to go faster as we age. Of course, the years do not. It is just how we perceive time. I feel time differently now. At an almost cellular level, I understand that time is not a never-ending thing. It is a simple truth that at some point, a person’s time on earth will run out.

Um, just to be clear, I am not expecting to pass on to the Great Beyond any time soon. I’m planning on hanging around for a very long time. Frankly, the angels will need to take me kicking and screaming.

I’m not going to waste any more time worrying about the time I wasted this summer. Rather, I’m going to set some new goals and get a move on! 

***

“Regret for wasted time is more wasted time.” Mason Cooley, American Aphorist

Orbs

Have you ever snapped a photo and later noticed an orb in it, wondering what the heck that round thing was? I have to admit that I have. And this does not seem to be unique only to me or a handful of others. In fact, if one does a quick internet search, it will yield countless stories of orbs showing up in the background of photos.   

At this point, I should probably explain what an orb is.  An orb is generally a whiteish, spherical shape—something similar to a ball.  However, they do not need to be round nor white in color. In fact, orbs can appear in a variety of colors and shapes.

But this explanation does not fully explain what an orb is.  Many people (myself included) feel orbs are spirits or otherworldly beings. Common beliefs include that orbs are our loved ones just popping in for a visit, angels bringing a message, or perhaps a spirit attached to a particular location.   

I realize that many dismiss orbs (like much of the paranormal) as nonsense.  And I’m not going to try to change anyone’s belief system.  I honestly feel that one can believe what they want—especially with regard to the paranormal.  In fact, many people only start believing in this nonsense after they have had a paranormal experience, such as a ghostly visit.  

Anyhow, these days when my sister or myself sense that a spirit is nearby, I will often grab my phone and snap a photo or two . . . or more.  So, how do we sense that a spirit is nearby anyhow?  With us, there are several things that tend to happen. One of the most common for us is a strong, unexplained perfume-like scent that comes out of nowhere. Other times, I will suddenly feel a coolness next to me.  In all instances, we look around to ascertain if there is a rational explanation.  Usually, there is not.

I know that some will say that we are bonkers. But again, I will not attempt to change anyone’s mind with regard to the paranormal.  I’m only sharing my experiences. In fact, whenever I snap one of these photos, I am hoping to capture evidence to support that we are not bonkers.  Mostly, I do not get anything. But sometimes, I do, and there will be an orb in the photo.  This was the case in the photo above that I took a while back.

There are some, even those who believe in the paranormal, who feel orbs in photos are more likely to be things like dust particles or insects rather than spirits.  And to be fair, I’m sure that in many instances, this is very true. I actually give much credence to the insect or dust theories in photos taken outside or in places like abandon buildings.

However, I have become a believer in spirit-type orbs for two main reasons. First, the only times that I have captured an orb in a photo is when we sensed that a spirit is nearby. I have tried just snapping a photo or two at random times, and the photos have been decidedly orb-less.  If I was merely capturing insects or dust, wouldn’t these appear even in my random photos?  Yet, they do not. Secondly, I have only tried snapping these photos inside my apartment, not outside, which greatly reduces the likelihood of at least flying insects.

Although no one can say with complete certainty what orbs are or where they come from, I take some comfort in believing that orbs are spirits, perhaps loved ones popping in from the other side, either to give a message or just say hello. It is nice to feel that loved ones on the other side are still with us.  Perhaps this is because I have lost quite a few people in my life, starting with my grandmother when I was a child, my father when I was a teen, my mother a few years later, and three siblings over the last couple of decades. 

So, anyhow, I’m not trying to change your deeply held beliefs. You can certainly believe what you want.  But if you spot an orb, maybe say howdy and thank them for visiting! 

Crazy Drivers!

Have you noticed the growing problem of speed these days? I don’t mean the drug, but rather vehicles racing along the roads at breakneck speeds. I have.

My sister and I recently decided to take a short drive to a nearby community. Unfortunately, the closest route is a divided highway. Although we are familiar with this route having taking it many times, we are still frequently stunned by the death-defying nature of it. You might think that I’m exaggerating, and I wish that too. Unfortunately, I am not.

Let me explain. Our drive that day was much like other ones we have taken. My sister (who tends to do the driving) and I were chatting as the car rolled along, discussing our plans for the day. She was maintaining the proper highway speed as she drove, meaning driving at the speed limit or slightly above it.

As usual, we soon spotted a speck far in the distance behind us. It was another car. As if shot out of a cannon, the car was upon us in what seemed like only seconds. The car almost slammed into us, its speed only easing up within inches from our bumper. We cringed at how fast and reckless the driver was. The car then darted into the other lane, racing pass us and narrowly missing our car’s side mirror. We looked at each other, grateful that the crazed driver had quickly zoomed far ahead of us.

I must give credit to my sister, who is an excellent driver. She held onto the steering wheel during this incident, keeping us on the road and out of the ditch. Sadly, she needed to do the same thing several more times that day.

You are probably wondering why we just don’t take another route. To be honest, we often do take other less busy routes or more rural byways. But the less busy routes often turn what should be a short drive into a long, meandering adventure. We don’t always have time for such things. And of course, the so-called quiet two-lane byways are not really much better these days. Crazy drivers are everywhere.

I’m in my sixties, and I suppose some folks will assume I’m complaining about fast drivers because of my age. But I can assure you that there are plenty of excessively fast driving old folks out there as well. And I complain about them too!

This is not a young versus old issue. Rather, it is a safety issue. The simple truth is that too many people are driving more like unhinged adrenaline-junkies than responsible drivers.

At some point over the years, the speed limit on roads became more a suggestion than a rule. But it isn’t just speed, it is reckless, rude, and aggressive drivers as well. I’m sure that we have all seen people texting or talking on phones while driving, tailgating, running red lights, or passing in a clearly marked no-passing zone.

Since I live in a cold weather state, I also cringe at the sight of someone driving way too fast for the weather conditions. Despite what some drivers must believe, no one can stop on a dime when the street is covered with ice.

As a result, I have grown to hate driving. I know that is very un-American of me. After all, cars are a very American thing. We are a land of highways and byways. But I have grown too nervous for today’s roads. So, I mostly leave the driving to others.

I have not always hated driving nor my fellow drivers. I spent years commuting to work, driving 40+ miles one-way. There was a time also when I really enjoyed peaceful country drives, and I have many fond memories of long road trips.

I also have fond memories of learning to drive in high school. As a teenager back in the seventies, it was a BIG deal to get your driving license, a true rite of passage.

Anyhow, my driver’s ed teacher placed a carton of eggs on the front seat of the car and said if the carton flew off the seat, we (my fellow student drivers and myself) would fail the class. Of course, he also said that we would be required to clean up the mess, which would not have been a pleasant task.

Well, we were very mindful of the eggs as we drove. In other words, we made every effort to accelerate smoothly and apply the brakes with a light touch. As I look back, I sincerely doubt if there were any eggs in the carton, but it did the trick.

I honestly don’t know why there seems to be such a prevalence of rude, leadfoot drivers out there. (By the way, a leadfoot is one who floors the accelerator and drives crazy fast.)

The reason might be as simple as the fact that vehicles are now more powerful and capable of going insane speeds. Or maybe, it is related to the ever-increasing day-to-day stresses of modern life. Or maybe both? I don’t know the answer.

To be honest, I still enjoy a nice road trip from time to time. Not every road, or I should say, road trip is something out of a horror movie. And I honestly wish every road was as scenic and peaceful as the one in my photo above. But too many are not.

So these days, I cross my fingers and hope for the best whenever I’m riding in a car.

Please remember to drive safely out there!

Darn it, I didn’t win the lottery!

I didn’t win the $1 billion plus Mega Millions jackpot. What can I say? I was not happy to wake up to the news this morning that someone else won.

I almost never get caught up in the lotto craze. But this time, it seemed that every TV station kept reporting that the jackpot had grown to one of the biggest ever. Over and over, the stations blared out this news. But even though it was a big jackpot, it was unlikely that I would buy a ticket. I seldom did.

However, like so many others, I started to daydream about what I would do with the winnings—maybe buy a cottage by a lake, share it with my family, and donate to good causes.

Well, this past Thursday, I found myself standing in front of a self-serve lottery machine at a local store. I hesitated for a few seconds and nervously looked around. Were there others eyeing me, waiting for their turn? No, thankfully, I stood alone in front of the machine. I had time to ponder the unlikeliness of winning the lottery. But I kept asking myself if I should cave and buy a ticket.

Suddenly an old saying popped into my mind. Nothing ventured; nothing gained.

I dug into my purse and pulled out a few crumpled dollars. As I inserted the dollars into the slot, the lottery machine quickly snatched them like a greedy villain in an old movie. In return for my money, a lotto ticket popped out. I shook my head slightly and walked away with my ticket, wondering if I had just wasted my money.

The drawing of the winning numbers was done last night (Friday at 11:00 pm ET), but I had fallen asleep on the couch well before this. So, it was not until this morning that I learned the awful truth. I was not the winner.

Not a surprise, I know. The odds of winning a lottery is really slim. Of course, I knew this before I bought my ticket.

But I learned something else too. Sure, I didn’t win, but at least I had a chance to win. And it was fun to daydream about it for a day or so.

Not everything in life works out, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least give it a try. Please don’t let fear stop you. If nothing else, you might have fun while trying something new.

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not promoting gambling. It is never a good idea to waste a lot of money on lottery tickets—or any sort of gambling. The odds are always against you, and gambling can be addicting. A few dollars here or there is fine but never your whole paycheck!

Anyhow, there are lots of other things out there. Go for a hot air balloon ride. Hike across the country. Climb a mountain. Vacation in some exotic location. Quit your job and open a bookstore or restaurant. Dye your hair blue. Get a tattoo. Or as in my photo above, buy numerous cutesy fridge magnets.

Of course, you don’t need to do anything as over the top as some of the above suggestions. I just recommend that you take a chance once in a while. Do something that makes you smile or that you really want to do. Don’t worry if you succeed or not. So what if you don’t succeed? The world certainly will not end, and you might have a good tale to tell one day.

My suggestion is simple. Whether big or small, please take a chance once in a while. Sometimes, it is a good idea to play it safe. But sometimes, it is not. After all, nothing ventured; nothing gained.

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As a disclaimer, if you have a gambling problem or know someone that does, please don’t hesitate to get help. In Wisconsin, you can call the Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-426-2535 or TEXT (850) 888-HOPE. Or you can also call the National Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-522-4700. I hope that wherever you live, there are resources that you can reach out to. Please do so if you need help.