For the past two years, using an idea from blogger Amy Parmenter, I chose three words that represented the growth I wanted to achieve in each of those years. Last year my words were joy, because I wanted to cultivate greater joy in my life; freedom, because I wanted never to have to remain in a bad situation because I couldn’t afford to leave; and courage, which I felt would be necessary to focus on the first two watchwords.
Courage became the overarching theme for 2013 when I left a stable big-corporate job to join a startup company in a leadership role. And it has taken enormous courage and effort to meet that job’s stiff challenges.
However, working in this entrepreneurial setting has provided considerable freedom as I get to do things largely the way I see fit. And I did save a little money last year to help provide some financial freedom, but I still have more do to there.
I did not, however, materially increase my joy. If anything, I experienced less joy while I was trying to juggle the big job, parenting, and responsibilities with the Historic Michigan Road Association, while still making time for road trips, photography, and this blog.
Actually, I spent too much of 2013 upset over things that did not go the way I wanted and that I could not control. The ongoing stress of it sometimes made me ill. That I want to change this about myself reflects in these, my 2014 watchwords. I will use them as themes every day as I make decisions all year.
- Anger – I don’t like to feel angry. So when something happens that makes me angry I tend to quickly and subconsciously set it aside and move on as if nothing is wrong. Sometimes, after enough such moments, some minor irritating thing will cause me to vent all the set-aside anger. I want to just let myself feel angry when things don’t go my way so that I keep a clean emotional slate.
- Serenity – I want to cultivate greater serenity, the kind where you accept the things you can’t change, find courage to change the things you can, and seek the wisdom to know the difference.
- Faith – It sure seems like turning to God is the right way to seek that wisdom that leads to serenity. I want to remember and trust that God is in control of the universe. When things don’t go my way, I want to trust God’s bigger plan. But also, I feel like my faith has stagnated over the past couple years as I’ve taken on so much responsibility. Maybe it’s a form of kicking at the goads. I want to rest in God more this year.
What three words might you choose as your focus for 2014?
I don’t want to forget a lesson
in faith I learned in this story.
It’s my year-end tradition to highlight the year’s posts that were most read, commented, and liked.
But this year, I’d like to start with my five favorite posts from 2013. This blog is mostly about my hobbies, primarily photography and trips along old roads. But sometimes I write more serious posts about my life experiences or my faith and personal growth. I pour my heart into them. So please, if you missed any of these the first time, click through and read them now.
- Seven things I want my sons to know about making their way – My teenage sons live in a time of unprecedented, albeit nontraditional, opportunity. This post summarizes things I’ve said to them this year about how to capitalize on that opportunity.
- Schools driven by standardized tests take all joy out of learning – Measuring school performance by standardized tests has ruined them, squeezing out everything that can make a kid love to learn.
- The mechanics of forgiveness – Why we should always forgive, and some things I’ve learned about how to do it.
- Forgiveness isn’t reconciliation – Why we sometimes shouldn’t be reconciled with those we’ve forgiven, and how to tell when to reconcile and when not to.
- It’ll be stronger than it was before it broke – A story about mending broken relationships.
These five posts got the most visits this year.
- What’s a guy who still shoots film supposed to do? – This post has ended up being a top-10 result when people search Google to find whether their favorite drug store still processes film. It gets 10 to 20 visits a day.
- 1966 Ford Custom 500 – This was my favorite car at this year’s Mecum Spring Classic muscle-car auction.
- Schools driven by standardized tests take all joy out of learning – Hooray! One of my heartfelt posts made the top five!
- Death of a radio station – Reflections on my college radio experience as that station stops broadcasting over the air and only streams on the Internet.
- Film photography has never been less expensive – Adjusted for inflation, film photography has never been such a bargain.
These five posts gathered the most comments from you.
- What’s a guy who still shoots film supposed to do? – I asked your advice about processing my own film at home. You gave it. I still haven’t taken it.
- 46 – You wished me well on my 46th birthday.
- Good night, Gracie – You offered your condolences when my dear dog passed away. It’s been a month now, and I’m shocked by how hard it’s been to deal with this loss.
- Death of a radio station – Several people who worked at my college’s radio station, which went Internet-only this year, found my post and offered their perspective.
- More photographer than camera collector – My thoughts about photography with old cameras resonated with my like-minded readers.
You clicked “Like” most often on these five posts.
- Chuch cornerstones – I photograph church cornerstones whenever I come upon them. I’m glad you like them, too.
- Captured: Snow-covered dog – A photo of my dog Gracie after snow fell off the roof and onto her back. It charmed many of you.
- What’s a guy who shoots film supposed to do? – Look! This post scored the hat trick, appearing in all three lists.
- A Kodak Brownie Hawkeye and expired film on the Mother Road – When my sons and I traveled Route 66 this spring, I took this old camera along. You liked the results.
- More film on Instagram – I upload my film photos to Instagram and apply filters to them. It’s great fun. You must think so, too, given by how many “Likes” this post got.
Finally, just for giggles, here are the five most popular posts of all time (going on 7 years!) on Down the Road:
- Defending good grammar, sort of – I reran this post a couple weeks ago. The original was Freshly Pressed and got more than 5,000 visits in one day.
- Vintage TV: The CBS Late Movie – Do it: search for “The CBS Late Movie” and watch this post appear in the top ten results.
- Cameras – This is the home page for my camera collection, listing all the cameras I’ve written about.
- Kodak Junior Six-16 Series II – This post about a folding camera is another top-ten search result.
- Minolta Hi-Matic 7 – This post about a rangefinder camera is another top-ten search result.
A post that got no love when I first ran it in 2009. So let’s try again.
I grew up in a very sedate family. We weren’t joiners and we weren’t goers. So except for grocery night on Thursdays we were home, Dad hidden behind the afternoon paper and the rest of us in front of the television. On warm-weather weekends I mowed a couple lawns for a few extra dollars, and in the winter I shoveled several neighbors’ driveways for cash, but that didn’t fill the time so I read a lot. I didn’t appreciate all the time I had on my hands. What I wouldn’t do for that kind of time today!
Instead, I whined and complained about being bored. Mom would say, “If you’re that bored, you can (insert chore here).” I did a few extra chores before I learned to be less vocal about my boredom! Then Mom decided I needed to be more active and take an interest in sports. She never insisted, but I was bored enough to take her up on trying out for basketball a couple years, going to sports camp one summer, and joining a bowling league in high school.
I was a lousy bowler. And I didn’t much enjoy how I had to get to the bowling alley every week: on my bike, along a US highway, carrying my 14-pound ball. But I liked bowling league anyway because before and after I bowled I could play the games in the arcade room.
This was in the era when video games were just starting to crowd out pinball machines. I liked to zip around the field in Tempest, shooting the flippers, tankers, spikers, fuseballs, and pulsars (play a clone here), and I enjoyed chasing the vector-graphics tanks in Battlezone.
But I loved pinball. The bowling alley had one of the first electronic pinball games, the classic Black Knight. When you dropped a quarter into Black Knight, it growled, “The Black Knight will slay you!” And slay me it did, over and over again, its silver ball streaking across its bi-level play deck. But I got better and could play longer and longer on each quarter as I figured out the tricks to activate the Magna-Save electromagnet, enable multi-ball play, and win an extra ball (at which the game said, “Fight me again, Knight!”) I could happily spend all of my lawn-mowing money fighting Black Knight every week. What a great game!
Oh, yeah, and our team won the championship. One of my former teammates reminded me of that today.
I first posted this in 2010 and again last year. May this Christmas Day truly bless you and those you love.
Even though I’m a Christian, I don’t celebrate the birth of Christ at this time of year.
The home in which I was raised followed no particular faith. My parents acknowledged the God the Bible described, but their devotion went no further. For us, Christmas was a big family holiday where we got to see all of the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, and I have loads of warm memories from those gatherings. Many of my friends talked of the baby Jesus (after, of course, talking excitedly of the presents they anticipated). Many of my classmates were Jews and several were Serbs; they had their own celebrations at different times. And so I have always has this sense that the holidays are what you make of them.
My mother said more than once that Christ couldn’t possibly have been born in December – his birth was more likely sometime in autumn. She also said that the whole reason the Christian church celebrated Christ’s birth on December 25th was because in the church’s early days, non-believers already celebrated a winter festival at about that time, and it was easier to convert them if the church had a celebration then, too. Christianity should be a faith of truth, she reasoned, and she couldn’t reconcile how Christmas was predicated on a falsehood. It sounded good to me, and when I grew up I looked into it and found that there was plenty of evidence to support Mom’s claims. That didn’t stop her from playing her records of traditional Christmas hymns every December, though!
None of this was enough to deter me from seeking God as an adult. Perhaps unsurprisingly, when I got serious about God I did it in the Church of Christ, a branch of Christianity that celebrates Christmas only as a secular holiday. Most Church of Christ congregations hold a restrictive view of Biblical authority that leads them to observe only what they believe God commands in the Bible. The Bible tells us to celebrate Christ’s death, but never once to celebrate his birth. So they take communion (the Lord’s Supper, they call it) every week, but during December their mostly a cappella congregations sing no Christmas songs and their preachers avoid talking about Christ’s birth.
Eventually I left the Church of Christ’s narrow interpretations in search of greater love from God. Of course, I landed in a church that celebrates Christ’s birth all December; it was nearly impossible to avoid it. Until we fell on hard times, we always held a big Christmas production with a chorus singing traditional Christmas songs and a telling of the nativity story.
I never said this to anyone at church, but this was very hard for me to accept for a long time.
I’m unlikely ever to fully personally embrace Christmas as a celebration of Christ’s birth. Not only were the wrong seeds planted in me as a boy, they were well cultivated when I became an adult.
Don’t feel sorry for me. I love the Lord deeply and don’t feel like I’m missing out on one iota of his love for me. But let me tell you why I have come to think that celebrating Christ’s birth at Christmas is not just all right, but just wonderful:
Because his birth is so openly and joyfully celebrated each December 25, who in the western world has not heard of Jesus Christ?
I know, I know, the holiday has been tainted with commercialism, and because of political correctness we now say “Happy Holidays” to each other rather than “Merry Christmas.” Still, I don’t think the holiday’s connections to Christ and his promise for us have been lost. And when I consider all that celebrating Christmas has done to introduce people to Jesus, my mind boggles. Who cares about the celebration’s origins? God has certainly used it for good.
May God use this Christmas season for good in your life.
What’s your favorite personal Christmas tradition?
Mine is to watch the film It’s a Wonderful Life. It is my favorite movie – and has been for so long that I’ve watched it pass from obscurity to being discovered and well loved. Now I’m seeing it start to be considered cliché and passé. But that won’t deter me from watching it.
I first saw It’s a Wonderful Life when I was 11 or 12. I was spending Christmas with my grandparents at their home in rural southwestern Michigan. Grandpa’s big antenna picked up stations all over Michigan, and I liked to watch the late shows after everyone else had gone to bed. I came upon this film while flipping channels. I was quickly drawn into the story of George Bailey, a well-known and -loved little guy of modest means who plays the hero against a wealthy and patently evil man named Potter. It’s simplistic and sentimental, but I’m a sentimental man. I fell in love with the film.
TV made It’s a Wonderful Life popular. Even though the film was nominated for several Academy Awards after its 1946 release, it did poorly at the box office and lost money. But after a 1974 copyright snafu put the film in the public domain, television stations everywhere began airing it each Christmas and the film caught on. By the late 1980s it had become an enduring classic.
Through the 1980s I searched for it on TV every Christmas season. Some years I came upon it, and some years I didn’t. Then I received a VHS copy as a gift, and later I bought a DVD copy, and now I never miss it. Meanwhile, a court decision placed the film back under copyright, and now the only place you can see it on TV is NBC every Christmas Eve.
My most bittersweet memory of watching this film was at Christmas in 1987. A beautiful old theater in my hometown was showing the film one night. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to see the film in such a wonderful environment on a big screen and share it with an audience. But then my grandmother died suddenly and unexpectedly. I had been very close to her, and her death tore me up something fierce. I wanted to be alone, but I went to see the film anyway. I found a seat near the back and tried to put away my grief for a little while. It worked right up until the end, when George Bailey is rescued by all of this friends. I always tear up a little, but that night I sobbed openly.
I love how watching the film puts me in touch with my memories of my grandparents, who have been gone for more than a quarter century now. They were of the same era as fictional George Bailey; when this film was released, they has been married ten years and their third child, a daughter, my mother, was still in diapers.
If you have a Christmas tradition that holds special meaning for you or that is something you do just for yourself, please tell about it in the comments.
It’s not Christmas at my house until we
break out the Johnny Mathis. Read about it.
I’m still having fun cropping and filtering my film photos and uploading them to Instagram. If you’d like to follow me there, I’m mobilene. Look me up! Or here’s a link to my stream: http://instagram.com/mobilene.
I really enjoy just noodling around with these images, seeing what happens when I try this filter or that. I love how I often get a completely different feel compared to the originals. The results are lo-res, most suitable for viewing on a phone or, as long as you don’t look at them at full resolution, on a computer. I’m sure they’d make terrible prints.
I tag all of my work on Instagram with #ishootfilm, among other tags. It’s also fun to see what work others are posting under that tag. Using it, I’ve found and followed a few other photographers who do interesting work.
Here are a few of my favorite photos since the last time I shared these with you. This is the covered bridge at Bridgeton, shot with my Kodak Monitor Six-20 on expired Kodacolor II film which wast misprocessed as black-and-white. The filter I chose added the yellowing effects around the edges, which makes the bridge itself pop.
A sculpture outside at the Indiana State Museum, shot with my Pentax Spotmatic on probably Arista Premium 400. I applied a tilt-shift filter.
A daylily, shot with my Nikon N60 on expired Kodak Gold 200. The filter I used promised a sunlight effect, which washed out the upper right corner a little.
The Methodist church in Morgantown, IN. Nikon N60 on expired Kodak Gold 200. I forget what filter I used but it really brought out the colors in the bricks.
A suburban street corner. Rollei A110, expired Fuji Superia 200 film, size 110. I applied three separate filters to get this unreal look.
Dodge Charger at the Mecum auction. Olympus XA on Arista Premium 400. The filter I used only added this blue tint.
1963 Corvette at the Mecum auction. Olympus XA on Arista Premium 400. I applied a light-leak filter that gave this purple effect, and tilted the image off center.
Here’s a gallery of even more of these photos.
For years now, I’ve photographed old cars when I’ve encountered them. For the past couple years, I’ve shared the ones I’ve found with you here (see my 2011 and 2012 lists). But now I look for old cars still serving as transportation, because I write about them for Curbside Classic, a blog about these cars and their stories. So this year I have a bumper crop of old cars to share with you. Buckle in, it’s going to be a long ride.
1975 Oldsmobile Ninety Eight Regency. The Meijer where I shop for groceries is fertile ground for old cars. I wrote about this car for Curbside Classic here.
1988 Toyota Camry DX. I was in Terre Haute to visit an old friend, but first stopped at the Saratoga Restaurant for a little lunch. This Camry was parked outside. These aren’t exactly rare, but because the Camry was the first non-American car I ever drove I wrote about it for Curbside Classic.
1951 Chevrolet truck. I spotted a bunch of great old cars on my Route 66 trip this year. This one was in Carlinville, Illinois. (I wrote about the Route 66 trip for Curbside Classic here.)
1956 Chevrolet. This rolling advertisement sat facing Route 66 in Edwardsville, Illinois.
1964 Ford F100. This truck was for sale somewhere in Missouri on Route 66.
1965 Oldsmobile F-85. This fake cop car advertised a store selling homemade candies and jerky in Galena, Kansas on Route 66. We stopped and bought some of both and nibbled at it for the entire rest of the trip.
1951 International Harvester tow truck. This tow truck was the inspiration for the Tow Mater character in Pixar’s Cars franchise. Also in Galena, Kansas.
1987 Renault Alliance. I found a gob of old Alliances on Route 66 in Quapaw, Oklahoma. This one is from 1987. I wrote about them all at Curbside Classic here.
1983 Renault Alliance MT. In the Alliance boneyard in Quapaw, I found this first-year Motor Trend Car of the Year edition. I had one of these back in the day. It had terrible acceleration, but was very comfortable. Read about it here.
1970 Ford Mustang. I forget where in Oklahoma on Route 66 that we found this convertible, but it was in front of a restaurant where we stopped for dinner.
1960 Studebaker Lark. Another find along Route 66 in Oklahoma. I wrote about it for Curbside Classic here.
1957 Chevrolet wagon. We used a spiral-bound turn-by-turn guide to follow Route 66, and it was written by a fellow named Jerry McClanahan. He lives just off Route 66 in Chandler, Oklahoma. In his book, on the Chandler page, he invites travelers to call him to schedule a visit to his art gallery. So we called, and we visited – and I photographed his car.
1963-66 Siam Di Tella Argenta. I found several old cars on a visit to Chicago. I found this car-based truck in an architectural salvage store. It turns out to be an Argentine vehicle that somehow found its way to the United States. I told the Argenta’s story at Curbside Classic here.
1965 Datsun Fairlady. This little Japanese roadster was in a courtyard at the architectural salvage store. More details here on Curbside Classic.
1961 Land-Rover Series IIa. This safarimobile was parked in front of the architectural salvage joint. Curbside Classic writeup here.
1971 Mustang Grande. This, too, was parked in front of the architectural salvage store. And I wrote about it for Curbside Classic, too, here.
1985 Pontiac Parisienne. Back home in Indianapolis, I went coffee-table shopping and found this pristine Pontiac sedan in front of Value City Furniture. Read about it on Curbside Classic here.
1986 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera Brougham. I met my brother for dinner in South Broad Ripple and found this showroom-fresh Cutlass parked outside. The Ciera (and its twin, the Buick Century) was made for nearly two decades and are quite plentiful – but early ones like this are becoming harder to find. Curbside Classic writeup here.
1974 BMW 3.0 CS. Like I said when I wrote about it at Curbside Classic, I think these are the most beautiful Bimmers ever. I found it in Fountain Square, a hip Indianapolis neighborhood.
1978 Mercedes-Benz 300 SD Turbodiesel. I found this parked in front of a Goodwill store on the Northwestside of Indianapolis. Details here at Curbside Classic.
1979 AMC Jeep CJ7. This was in my mechanic’s lot, for sale. He’s up in Home Place, which is near Carmel. Curbside Classic writeup here.
1969 Volkswagen Westfalia Camper. I drove by this every day on my way to work this summer. More about it on Curbside Classic here.
1988 Toyota Pickup. This truck is parked on the street behind my church. Nice to see it still doing its duty.
1963 Ford Fairlane. I found this one evening while in South Bend. Curbside Classic writeup here.
1979 Ford Fairmont. This Fairmont was parked in a Target parking lot in South Bend. When I wrote about it on Curbside Classic, it became by far the most-commented post I ever wrote there.
1977 Ford Bronco. My State Road 45 excursion this summer ended in Bloomington, where I found this final-year original Bronco in a parking lot.
1970 Volvo 164. I came upon this old Volvo on a lunch break on Indianapolis’s far Northwestside. More details about it can be found here on Curbside Classic.
1988 Toyota Corolla FX. Another find at my nearby Meijer store, I met the 90-year-old lady who owns and drives this car. It has 35,000 miles on it. More information about it here at Curbside Classic.
1988 Buick Century. Yet another Meijer find, this Broughamified Century is in a particularly unappealing color scheme. Read about it here on Curbside Classic.
1985 Dodge Omni. It seems like Dodge painted 80% of its Omnis this blue. But this one looks brand new. I found it in a shopping-center parking lot in the Traders Point area in northwest Indianapolis.
1985 Honda Accord. Another Meijer find. I guess everybody needs to go to the store sometime, regardless of what they drive.
1971-85 Land-Rover Series III. I’d never seen a Land-Rover in person before this year, and now I’ve seen two. This one shuttles guests around Traders Point Creamery, a small dairy farm in northwest Indianapolis.
1976 Cadillac Sedan DeVille Yet another Meijer find. I don’t recall seeing many Caddies in this color back in the day, so it’s good this one survived.
If you made it all the way down here,
then you’ll like my visit to the car auction.