As Long As Those Fingers Hold Out…

I started learning to play guitar soon after my birthday in September, 1962. I used money I’d been saving for my high school class ring to buy an eighteen dollar Silvertone. I didn’t even know how to tune it, and digital tuners were many years in the future.

With the folk fad in vogue at the time, I focused on learning finger picking. (Although I do strum some songs, I’ve never become comfortable or competent with a pick.) Learning the theory behind some of the basics didn’t take long, but making my fingers cooperate consistently seemed impossible.

As strange as it might sound, John F. Kennedy’s assassination and funeral changed all of that. I was off from school, and nothing but JFK-related programming was on TV, so I had LOTS of time to really polish those finger styles. Although I’ve added a lot to my techniques since then, I count that time as when I really caught on to learning to play.

I do most of my playing now in my church’s nursing home ministry, where accuracy is less important than having a loving attitude. Not that I don’t practice quite a bit for the solo I do each week, but somehow I just don’t feel I still have what I used to have. Occasionally I even cheat and simplify something I’ve been doing a particular way for a number of years.

But what if I reach the point of no longer being nimble enough to play at all?

My mother was a very good pianist, but rheumatoid arthritis silenced her playing several years before her death. I don’t have any symptoms of that disease, but still…I don’t feel like I’m playing as well as I did ten or fifteen years ago.

I didn’t intend for this post to be about me. Not really.

It’s about Carlos Montoya. If you’re not familiar with Mr. Montoya, people considered him the finest flamenco (that’s Spanish gypsy music) guitarist around. He lived from 1903 to 1993.

I went to see him in person while I was in high school—on Saturday, March 23, 1963. “Fabulous” doesn’t begin to describe his playing. Compared to him, I’ve never been a guitar player at all.

MontoyaOldProgram     MontoyaAlbumCover.pg

I saw him again years later—on July 30, 1986—when he was eighty-three. He wasn’t the same guitarist he’d been twenty-three years earlier, but nobody in that audience seemed to care. If anything, listeners were enthralled that he was still playing as well as he was.

MontoyaNewProgram   

Should I ever decline enough in my playing for others to notice, I hope they won’t say, “Oh, he used to be pretty good.” I hope they’ll say, “He never quits trying, does he?”

Do you do something you can’t do as well now as when you were younger?  Please share a comment.

I’ll be back again next Sunday or whenever I next have something to say. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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Vegetating about a Tasteless Topic

When I was in the eighth grade, I was already quite ill a few weeks before Christmas. But then I went into convulsions one night and ended up in a coma for several days. The problem was acute viral encephalitis. The doctors didn’t know whether I would live, and they cautioned my parents that I might end up in a vegetative state even if I survived at all.

As I hope you can tell from my writing, I survived and am fairly normal. Okay, maybe how normal is questionable. But the important thing is I’m not a vegetable.

I have no idea whether the danger of becoming a vegetable somehow worked itself into my system to make me an ongoing hater of most vegetables. Especially the healthiest ones.

Of course, I’d actually started hating vegetables long before that. My mother believed in healthy cooking, and I was supposed to eat whatever was on my plate. All of it. No protests. No compromises.

So my hatred of veggies started at an early age. And the problem wasn’t just the taste. Often it was the texture, too. I’ll never forget stewed tomatoes and those little seeds floating around. Or lima beans–even just regular butter beans–and having to chew on something I couldn’t believe God had ever intended for human consumption. Ditto for yellow squash.

The memories of green leafy vegetables are best left somewhere in the garbage bin portion of my brain. The very smell of broccoli almost makes me sick; it’s impossible to put enough Cheese Whiz or cheese sauce on it to keep the stink from telling my tongue, “This stuff is horrible.”

My mother often served asparagus. (Do they still have the kind that comes in an upside-down glass jar?)  She never heated it, though. If the jar had just been opened, it was served at room temperature. If it had been in the fridge, it was served, uh, cold. Not a very appealing thought, huh?

Strangely enough, though, I found the tips to be tolerable. Probably because they were tender. But too often the rest was tough enough not to be very kid-friendly. Just to be fair, I very recently put one small asparagus spear on my plate while eating at someone else’s house. It had been cooked, and was still warm.

Oh, my! But it was still repulsive. Even more so than during childhood.

My wife likes to fix a dish called Italian Pasta Skillet. It has some spinach in it. Unable to convince her to leave that ingredient out, I used to fish the spinach out and dump it in her bowl. Although I’m still not wild about spinach–please don’t try feeding it to me without the other pasta skillet ingredients to help cover up the taste–I don’t cringe now when I eat it.

Yes, I do like a few vegetable. Who could dislike corn on the cob? Or even corn that’s been uncobbed–or is that decobbed? Or potatoes, baked, mashed, or preferably fried? Oven fries are great!

Oh, and I eat a number of raw baby carrots almost daily. I can’t say I “love” them, but they’re far less offensive than most veggies. And canned french green beans are okay if I pour enough barbecue sauce on them. I just can’t understand why my wife laughs at me when I do that.

Okay, folks. Here’s the bottom line. I agree that kids need to eat healthy while they’re growing up. They can become degenerates like me once they’re adults and take a chance of the effects on their longevity.

But, for Pete’s sake (and theirs, too), if they turn up their noses at one kind of vegetable more than at others and they do it consistently, why not take the hint and look for an acceptable substitute?

Not a problem with my daughter, thank goodness. She loved–and still loves–veggies. Probably all of them.

Your comments are welcome.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

Roger's newest novel

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Live a Long Life: Eight of the Best Tips for Healthy Aging

 

Welcome to another great guest post by Kaki Zell. Thanks SO much, Kaki!

 

Whenever a person turns 100 or older, friends, family and even reporters ask them: “What’s your secret?” Centenarians and supercentenarians (those who have lived past their 110th birthday) often have unique takes on why they’ve lived so long — 117-year-old Emma Murano said the secret to longevity is “being single,” while the third-oldest verified person ever, Nabi Tajima, said the key to a long life is “eating delicious things.”

Based on their responses, there is no one secret to aging past 100 — but there are a few ways to encourage healthy aging at any decade that are backed by cold, hard data. Until we discover the Fountain of Youth, here are some of the things you can do to foster healthy aging.

 

 

  1. Eat Well and Exercise — The two fundamentals to a healthy life at any age are diet and exercise. What you eat and how much you move have major effects on how you age. Nutritionists recommend eating a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and healthy fats in order to provide your body with the right amount of nutrients. This healthy diet will also help prevent weight gain, which could lead to heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.
  2. Get the Right Amount of Sleep — Like diet and exercise, sleep is fundamental to good health. The National Sleep Foundation warns that people with sleep problems are at a much higher risk for significantly diminished health. Untreated sleep disorders — including insomnia, excessive sleepiness and sleep apnea — have also been linked to heart disease, stroke, depression, diabetes, hypertension and other chronic or life-threatening diseases. Beyond getting enough sleep at night, studies also show that napping is good for you, so go ahead and relish that afternoon snooze.
  3. Boost Your Circulation — To live a long, healthy life, you need to get your blood moving. Poor circulation can prevent your body from staying healthy, healing well and functioning properly during everyday activities. In other words, it can hold you back from the things you want to do in your twilight years. Wearing compression gear as part of a compression therapy program is an easy way to improve your circulation so that blood can properly transport essential oxygen and nutrients to the rest of the body. Putting on a pair of compression socks each morning can also help reduce foot and leg pain and swelling as an added bonus.
  4. Travel as Much as You Can — Looking for an excuse to finally book that luxury cruise? Here’s one: it can actually help you live longer. Research shows that those who do not vacation annually are at a 30 percent higher risk of developing heart disease. Other studies indicate that there’s a link between happiness and travel, so sunning on the beach or touring a famous landmark might benefit your mental and cognitive health, too. The primary reason taking a trip can support health and well-being is that it’s a surefire way to decrease stress, which is often the silent culprit behind many of our most pressing health issues.

  1. Take Up a New Hobby — There’s a wide variety of hobbies and activities that are linked to better health and happiness, from sports (for the obvious reasons) to writing, which improves cognitive performance and concentration. There are a few other activities you may be surprised to learn can prolong your life, including reading, gardening, playing chess, playing an instrument and cooking. Learning a new skill or taking up a new hobby is an excellent retirement activity and can connect you with likeminded people to foster social connections, so it’s an all-around win.
  2. Take Care of Your Teeth —Many people are surprised to learn that there’s a connection between the health of our teeth and the health of the rest of our body. The American Heart Association says that gum disease — the buildup of plaque that can cause tooth decay — shares risk factors with heart attack and stroke, and doctors often use oral health as an indicator of heart health. Good oral health also helps prevent bad breath, dry mouth, sores and cavities, which can cause stress and low self-esteem. So, the next time your dentist scolds you about not flossing enough, take it seriously!
  3. Stay Social — Study after study confirms the notion that good friendships help you live longer, so making your lunch and dinner dates a priority is certainly a good strategy to vitality. Loneliness is closely linked to lower mortality rates, with some studies suggesting that it could be as dangerous to your health as smoking. Similarly, those with stronger social relationships have a much higher (as much as 50 percent) likelihood of survival. The fact is that social connections are fundamental to a healthy lifestyle right alongside diet, exercise and getting enough sleep, so make sure you’re spending plenty of quality time with friends and family.
  4. It’s All About Prevention — An ounce of prevention is worth… well, you know the saying. One of the best things you can do to ensure that you live a long, healthy life is to practice prevention. With so many new medical advancements and insight, there is simply no excuse not to take the preventative route as often as you can. You can practice effective prevention through diet, exercise, regular health screenings, quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and limiting your consumption of alcohol and processed foods. Make sure that you monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol regularly as part of your prevention plan.

Thanks again, Kaki!

Comments are always welcome.

I’ll be back again next Sunday–or whenever I next have something to say. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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Hear! Hear!

No two ways about it. I wouldn’t want to lose either my sight or my my hearing. With my love of music, reading, and photography, the loss of either would be a downer. That’s not even counting the effect on my driving!

At this stage of my life (I’m seventy-two), I don’t know that I could handle learning to read braille or communicate using the American Sign Language. Or to adjust to using other ways of doing the things that keep me going.

Even though glasses correct my vision adequately–they do nothing for my color blindness, of course–my hearing is a different matter.

I can’t recall when I first started wearing hearing aids, but it no more than fifteen years ago. I started with Beltone and switched to Widex two or three years ago because my health insurance helped some with the cost.

The Beltone and Widex hearing aids both had/have bells and whistles the wearer can adjust according to taste and circumstances. I rarely messed with those features with the Beltone and have done so even less with the Widex.

I just want to be able to hear and understand what people are saying!

And therein lies the real issue. Even though I hear and understand immeasurably better now than I would without hearing aids, there are certain instances (the reverberation in the halls at the mall, for example) in which complete comprehension is nearly impossible.

The way certain people talk is another issue. Our church music director must think I’m a total grouch for my failure to laugh at her funny stories when everyone else is cackling riotously. I guess I’ll get around to explaining that to her privately–sometime. (I can normally understand her very well one-on-one and can always ask her to repeat something if absolutely necessary.)

I mentioned the mall. What makes that especially frustrating is trying to communicate with several employees I’ve grown quite fond of–at least one Hindu and a whole family of Muslims. Although their English is reasonably good (some better than others), their accents (along with my hearing problems) make it difficult to carry on a serious discussion.

I’m always thankful when my wife is with me–not just at the mall, but anywhere. Everywhere. She understands what I’m going through, and she makes sure I correctly comprehend what others say, although she may not realize I’ve misunderstood something until I respond to someone in a way that makes totally no sense.

No two ways about it. It doesn’t whether years of listening to Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and other loud rock groups through headphones contributed to my current problems or simply age, but I do miss natural hearing.

I’d be hard pressed to function without hearing aids. Even though I hope the Widex will function adequately for the rest of my life, I think I’d be ready to try those three hundred dollar ones I’ve seen so many advertisements for before I spent more thousands of dollars on anything else.

I just want to be able to hear the best I can for as long as I can. Preferably till death. Is that asking too much?

Any comments?

I’ll be back again next Sunday if I have anything to say. Otherwise, we’ll try for the Sunday after that. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

Roger's newest novel

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Healthier Than Thou

Every once in a while, I run into someone I haven’t seen in a while. Someone who’s around my age. Someone who really means it when asking, “How are you?”

But we both know what that question really means. “Are you holding together as well as I am or better?”

The funny thing about that is most “people of age”—a designation inspired by “people of color,” which strikes me as equally silly since all of us are SOME color and all of us are SOME age—pass up the opportunity to be honest.

Probably because they don’t want to chance learning that the other person is healthier. Or in terrible shape.

I’m rarely as honest as I could be. I mean, I’m not about to say, “I have a pain that makes walking, standing, and lying down anywhere from uncomfortable to painful at times, and the doctor hasn’t been able to figure out or solve the problem.” Not unless I’m talking to someone I want to urge to move on without further discussion.

I suppose I can honestly say, “Well, I’m able to get eight or nine hours of sleep every night.” No need to add that I normally still feel tired when I get up and nearly always take a short afternoon nap. Sometimes two. Concurrently.

pillBotlesOr should I whip out the list of medications I keep in my wallet? My doctor’s office loves me because that printed list keeps me from having to pronounce the names of my regular medicines and keeps the nurse from having to figure out what I’m trying to say when I mispronounce them.

 

That kind of list-sharing with other people of age would have drawbacks, though. Mine might look pretty puny next to theirs. I wouldn’t want to think my health might not be as good as theirs.

On the other hand, my list might look humongous. If I take more kinds of medicine, does that mean I’m actually healthier? I don’t want to admit it pretty doesn’t.

Maybe “I’m fine, thanks.” is a sufficiently honest response to “How are you?” from another person of equal age.

Thanks for letting me share these thoughts with you. Please feel free to leave a comment. What do YOU think about this subject?

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

Roger's newest novel

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Christmas or Easter?

Non-Christians probably prefer Christmas to Easter. After all, don’t most people like to give and receive gifts? Gifts that often have more value–probably even more lasting value–than chocolate (or real) bunnies and various other candies.

Too many people–through no fault of their own–lack an adequate and correct understanding of the significance of both of those holidays.

Yes, Christmas is a time of giving. No wonder. The Christmas story in the Bible mentions the gifts brought by the so-called wise men: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Very precious and expensive gifts. But those gifts were brought to the Christ child, not to Mary and Joseph, and gifts were not given to the wise men in return.

No matter how valuable the wise men’s gifts were, they pale in comparison to God’s giving up part of Himself by uniting with a human woman to create a baby who was both human and divine.

His was a gift of the greatest love imaginable.

God had had established a system of sacrifices based for the atonement of sins–that is, to provide forgiveness and to make things right between the ancient Jews and God. The sacrificial system involved the killing of a Passover lamb.

That lamb had to be perfect. Spotless. No blemishes. As perfect as it could possibly be. If an imperfection was discovered at the last minute, that lamb couldn’t be used. It wouldn’t be acceptable.

That sacrificial system didn’t really accomplish everything God had wanted it to do. So, in giving part of Himself through the birth of Jesus, God Himself became the most perfect sacrificial lamb possible. Perfect because Jesus never committed even the least sin.

If He had sinned, even once, He wouldn’t have been good enough to be sacrificed for the sake of mankind.

Yet if He hadn’t been part human, He wouldn’t have been subject to the temptations that plague each of us daily. If He hadn’t been tempted and had to rely on His Heavenly Father for the strength to resist each and every temptation, His sacrifice would’ve been meaningless. Because God is fully righteous, the only acceptable sacrifice had to be sin-free.

The sacrifice of the Passover lamb necessitated that it be killed. Without the spilling of blood, its death would’ve been worthless.

And so it was with Jesus. If He hadn’t been killed on a Roman cross–His blood was spilled in the process–His sacrifice wouldn’t have been acceptable to God the Father.

But Jesus was the perfect sacrificial lamb, and His death paid the price for the sins each of us is born with simply because we’re descendants of Adam and Eve–not only the first human beings, but the first sinners.

The fact that God brought Jesus back to life and then, after a period of days, brought Him back to Heaven gives Easter a whole new perspective. God forgives our sinful natures because of Jesus’s death, but–without a relationship with God through faith in Jesus–God would not consider any of us righteous or worthy of both eternal life in Heaven and a more meaningful life here on earth.

Christmas or Easter? What do you think?

If Jesus hadn’t been born a true miracle baby, Easter would have no significance. So Christmas is definitely something to celebrate.

But Christmas was just the necessary beginning of the story. Easter is the rest of the story.

Your comments are welcome.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

P.S. Pictured below is my latest novel. The Kindle version is free today only at Amazon. Go here to get your copy.

Roger's newest novel

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A Young Boy and His Pets

My parents always had a dog, but they had Melana (from Greek for “black”) probably longer than they had me. They got her from some armed forces folks who’d gotten her in the Tinian Islands (probably misspelled). But she was always their dog more than mine.

Instead I satisfied myself with a child’s variety of snakes, frogs, and turtles.

At one time in my pre-teen years I wanted to become a herpetologist–a zoologist specializing in reptiles and amphibians. I have no idea what I thought that kind of work might involve, but I was positive it would surround me with my favorite animals.

The garage always had a jar or two with punctured lids for air and small snakes, one of which managed to shed its skin while making a getaway.

Turtles were always my favorite pet, however. At one time, I had three or four different kinds, and I discovered that raw ground beef seemed to be a fair substitute for insects.

Still a pre-teen, I decided to write a little book about turtles, sharing everything I’d learned over the years. I drew a cover and some inside illustrations and typed the whole book on a typewriter–this was LONG before personal computers. Here’s the front cover and a sample of inside pages.

    

My father was always looking for turtles for me when he was out in the car. Once while we were visiting his mother in Richmond, he was preaching somewhere out in the country. When he got back to Richmond, he sent me out to the car for the treasure he had found. He explained that he’d seen somebody beating it with an umbrella, and he stopped to rescue it.

Well, wouldn’t you know that–in his innocence about different kinds of turtles–he’d brought home a pretty big snapping turtle! That thing was just as ugly as I knew snapping turtles to be (while still fascinating, of course). It didn’t have any potential as a pet. So the question was what to do with it.

My grandmother’s basement opened to the backyard, but it was necessary to go up some concrete steps to get to yard level. So I put the snapping turtle in that walled in area and put some type of barrier across the top of the steps to prevent the turtle from getting out.

Hmm. That barrier wasn’t sufficient, and I’ll bet I spent hours checking every part of the backyard for the turtle. I never found it.

So, if you live in the fan district of Richmond and unexpectedly encounter a good-sized snapping turtle, I can’t tell you for sure that it’s my old, uh, friend. But it might be. And, for Pete’s sake, don’t take it home to the kids!

Your comments are welcome.

I’ll be back again next Sunday if I have something to say then *G*. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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