More Time to Read and a Different Way to Write

 

I love reading. I always have. I have fond memories of the old Dr. Doolittle books and Ben and Me and oh, so many other great kids books of ages long gone by.

As I entered my teen years, my tastes matured as well, although I don’t recall what I read then other than science fiction. Especially space travel, which at that time seemed like an impossible dream.

Then I ended up majoring in English in college, and I HAD to read so many books that I seldom (if ever) had a chance to read for pleasure anymore. I’ll never forget the course on the 20th Century Novel I took in my very last semester. We studied some pretty weird books, but one of the slightly less weird books really caught my fancy…John Barth’s The Floating Opera.

As it turned out, I moved to Cambridge, Maryland, after college and taught there for six-plus years. And that’s the setting of The Floating Opera. I was fascinated to reread that book and walk down the street from my boarding house and look more closely at the places Barth described so vividly.

Teaching 9th grade English, I got caught up in handling book club orders for my students, and I fell in love with some of the best of teen fiction at the time. Who could ever forget The Pigman or any of the other popular teen books from the late sixties and early seventies? Not all of them were pleasant. Like Go Ask Alice.

michener

Once I got away from teaching, however, I also got away from the teen book influence. James Michener’s novels captivated me. Not just because they were excellent reads, but because he was living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland at the time, and that fascinated me.

Especially when my former wife  came home announcing that she’d gone with one of our church members (who did secretarial work for Mr. Michener) took her to his home to meet him. What irony. She wouldn’t have waded through one of his novels to save her life.

For what it’s worth, she did introduce me to Mrs. Michener when she saw and recognized her in a department store one day. Nice, but not the same as meeting him would have been.

After writing my first novel, I discovered how much novels had changed over the years. Those books I’d barely tolerated that last semester of college were pretty typical. Gone were numerous introductory pages (or in Mr. Michener’s case, multiple chapters) of backstory. The author needed to hook the reader in the first paragraph. Preferably in the first sentence.

Modern life is fast-paced, and the contemporary novel must maintain the reader’s interest from start to finish or be thrown away or returned. Although I have an almost complete set of everything James Michener wrote (the picture above is of just some of my collection), even I no longer have the patience to plod through his books again.

I could tell you more, but I think you get the idea.

Not only did I have to learn to write differently than I’d learned to write in college, I learned to read and enjoy a different style of fiction.

And one of the joys of retirement is having the time to read as much as I want to. Not that I ever expect to return to James Michener. Like the man himself, my interest in that kind of reading has died.

Do you read fiction or non-fiction? What’s your favorite book? Do you still remember a favorite childhood book? Please share a comment with the rest of us.

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

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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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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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The Right Age (a guest post by Cecil Murphey)


Cecil Murphey, known to his many friends as Cec, is an amazing eighty-five-year-old. I’ve lost count of the number of books he’s authored, co-authored, or ghost-written, but the one most of you are familiar with–at least by name–is Ninety Minutes in Heaven, which he wrote with Don Piper, who experienced the astounding visit to Heaven the book and the movie are about.

Cec isn’t selfish about sharing his talents. Years ago I had a private meeting with him at a Christian writers conference (when we were both a tad younger and I was a lot bigger), and I’m still attempting to apply his gracious advice. When I asked for his permission to share the following article, this was his response. “Roger, I’d be delighted and feel honored… ”

He meant it, too.

Enough from me. Here goes…
The Right Age

“I’m too old for that,” my 53-year-old friend said.

I regularly hear such comments from those who have hit the big zero years (50, 60, 70). Once-attractive women complain, “When women reach a certain age, men ignore them.” When I hear that, I think, So what? Do you need approving stares to be happy?

I’m tired of hearing friends cringe at the mention of aging. I have no desire to be 30 or 60 again and am grateful for the years behind me.

Just because we reach “a certain age” doesn’t mean we stop living or enjoying life. Instead, we have an opportunity to add to our lives, to explore new ideas, and take pleasurable risks.

This year I turned 85, and I’m delighted to admit it. Here are a few things I say about my age:

  • “I’ve earned every wrinkle and creak in my body.”
  • “This is the cost of living longer.”
  • “I’m happy being who I am right now.”
  • “This is exactly the right age for me.”

Getting older isn’t only a downhill slide; we can always find positives. No matter how dismal life seems, we can choose to stay positive.

For example, my faith has grown stronger and my attachment to others is deeper. I’m free to say no. The older I get, the more I know the relationships I want to maintain and those I want to let go.

Regardless of the number of my years, I’m exactly the right age to increase my joy and appreciate all the goodness of life. I relish the freedom and the joy of life instead of thinking how terrible it is to get old. I regularly say to myself, “This is the life I’ve been preparing to live. Now I’ll enjoy it.”

What about you and your age? Can you say these words below?

 

Cecil Murphey

 

Thanks to Cec for permitting me to publish this article from his most recent monthly newsletter. He has said what I so often think (or realize I should think), but he’s done it much more eloquently.

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

          

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Am I Really Aging Gracelessly?

Whenever I look at myself in the mirror–that’s impossible to avoid doing when shaving or brushing my teeth–I see an ever-aging man looking back at me. Although it seems like only yesterday when my hair–I had more of it then, although it’s never been as thick as some men’s–was brown. Dark brown. And when those hearing aids weren’t as necessary as they are now. And when I don’t look older in a million and one other ways.

Looking older wouldn’t be so horrible if feeling older didn’t go along with it. How many times have I heard people say, “You’re only as old as you feel” and felt like responding with a nasty “Easy for you to say; I FEEL older”?

Yep. I don’t sleep as well as I used to. And I have a mystery pain that isn’t bothering my sleep as much as it used to, but it still affects my standing and my walking. Uh, I didn’t say it keeps me from walking. Even reasonably fast. But it does hurt. Of course, my sense of balance seems to have come unbalanced; I don’t need a cane, but I often feel more comfortable with a walking stick in my hand. Especially going up steps.

And I’ve given up my desire for a top quality guitar because I can tell that my playing has deteriorated during the past couple of years. So far the problem is more in my wrists than my fingers, but I don’t expect my playing to start improving again.

I don’t know what’s going on in that head of mine, but I can’t believe all the things I have trouble remembering now. Perhaps most troubling are the names of people I’ve known for a number of years. Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t forgotten the names permanently; just at specific times when I’ve really wanted or needed to remember them.

What complicates matters somewhat is the fact that my wife is a little over ten years younger than me. So I can’t help noticing how much younger she looks and seems to feel than I do. Yet even she’s getting gray hair and occasionally complaining about her knees.

Doggone you, Adam and Eve! If you hadn’t sinned and gotten kicked out of the Garden of Eden, we’d all be living in Utopia. Agelessly.

Okay, so somebody else would’ve sinned and started mankind’s downfall if Adam and Eve hadn’t, but the point is….uh, what’s the point? I’ve forgotten.

I may not like the negative aspects of aging, but that doesn’t mean I’m not thankful for life. Or that I’m not enjoying it.

I thank God daily that I’m still alive and doing as well as I am. And I ask Him to please keep me around as long as He has something worthwhile for me to accomplish. Preferably to write more novels and maybe even a few more songs. But He’s going to have to give me more drive. I’ve never been good at pushing to do things, and that’s not getting any better. Lord, I could use more pep.

Hmm. So am I “aging gracelessly”? No matter what I’ve complained about today, I don’t think I am. Aging, yes. But gracelessly, no. Not as long as my eyes are on God and I sense His Spirit living within me. And leading and strengthening me just enough to function the way He intends.

What about you? Are you aware of your own aging? How do you feel about it? How about leaving a comment?



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

Best regards,
Roger

Aging: Plus or Minus?

I just spent an hour or so trying to write a decent post on a serious subject, and I ended up too depressed to finish it. Not good. So I decided to try something different.

As many of you know, I’m just a few months away from turning seventy. What you may not know is I have mixed feelings about it. So if you’ll permit me to look at the pluses and minuses of aging, I’ll be grateful.

Plus: I’m retired, and I have very few required activities. Most of those can be done at my leisure. I’m free to pursue my writing and play my guitar whenever I like and continue recording my compositions at home.
Minus: Despite the variety of activities I enjoy doing, if I’m not careful, even the best of those activities can become routine.

Minus: I take a variety of kinds of medicines and still have aches and pains that seemingly have no cause.
Plus: Those medicines help to keep me in what I would basically consider good health.  Why should I be upset? I don’t gripe about having to wear glasses, do I? And the undiagnosable aches and pains aren’t that horrible. Yet.

Minus: Each week at my church’s nursing home ministry, I can’t keep from wondering whether I’ll someday need to use the LTC (Long term care) insurance we finally decided we’d be foolish not to have.
Plus: I’m not in a nursing home yet, and I don’t have any conditions that make LTC living seem likely in the foreseeable future. And if I do end up in a nursing home, maybe by then I’ll be sufficiently, uh, not-myself to care.

Minus: I can’t do everything I used to be able to do.
Plus: I should be thankful for how many of them I can still do. Sure, my agility makes my guitar playing harder at times, but at least I can still play. In fact, I can’t think of anything I can’t still do at all. Maybe just not as well or as quickly.

Minus: I’m becoming more forgetful.
Plus: At least I haven’t forgotten anything important. And I’ve always had trouble remembering people’s names and faces. Did I honestly expect that to improve with age?

Minus: With the extra time I have now, I’ve become more interested in politics. And I’ve become more concerned about the decline in American values, especially during the last eight years. It’s depressing. Especially considering our choices in the upcoming election.
Plus: I can still vote and I can still pray. It may not be in God’s will to restore America’s greatness, but I have every confidence that He can.  I believe in the power of prayer, and that makes me feel so much better.

Minus: In spite of everything, I know I’ll continue to age and deteriorate until the end comes.
Plus: Hmm. That’s true for all of us, isn’t it? But as a Christian, I have the promise of Heaven to look forward to. That should relieve me of my complaints about any aspect of aging.

Do you have any particular pluses and minuses about the idea of aging? How about leaving a comment?

NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. Go all the way to the bottom of this post, beneath my “Best regards, Roger.” On the very bottom line of that last section just above the previous post you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.

~*~

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

Best regards,
Roger

Is it Hypochondria or Is it Age?

I sometimes wonder whether I’m a hypochondriac. At other times I think I must be one because of the very fact that I wonder whether I am.

Out of curiosity, I recently took a look at the Mayo Clinic Staff’s article about the symptoms of hypochondria. Most of them didn’t fit me at all–thank goodness–but several made me take a second look.

  • Worrying that minor symptoms or bodily sensations mean you have a serious illness.
  • Thinking you have a disease after reading or hearing about it.
  • Obsessively doing health research.

I’m not sure I actually worry about my symptoms, especially the minor ones, but I sometimes wonder  whether a particular ailment might signify something important. Although hearing about a disease doesn’t make me think I have it, it does put me on the alert for the symptoms.

I’m not obsessive about doing health research, either. But if I have a problem, I’m going to look it up on the Internet. As often as not, however, the discovery that my symptoms often signify something quite simple relieves my potential anxiety.

Even the Mayo Clinic Staff noted, “There’s nothing wrong with informing yourself. ” It’s good to be able to talk more intelligently with the doctor if a symptom appears worth seeing a doctor about.

So maybe I’m not a hypochondriac after all. Could it be that my health issues are simply the results of age?

My participation in our church’s nursing home ministry places me weekly in the midst of a group of very frail and unhealthy folks, most of whom are older than I am. Doing that for five or six years now, I’ve watched people deteriorate further and eventually die.

But even the ones who’ve kept hanging on for quite some time suffer conditions I hope and pray I never develop. Honestly, I’d be afraid to think I was developing any of their problems. If those are a part of aging, I’m not in a rush to get there.

I guess I’ll just have to be patient with those minor aches and pains than seem unrelated to anything else. I should look at myself in the mirror and accept the fact that age brings physical changes, and probably none of them are good.

I’d love to have your opinion on this subject. Please leave a comment.

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

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website.  Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My newest novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Go HERE for links to those places.
Tentative-Front-Cover
Best regards,
Roger