Peace & Quiet

noTV     classicalRecordings

If the desire for peace and quiet at this stage of my life should ever be declared sinful, I’m not sure I’d be able to repent of it. After all, repentance means recognizing that one is doing wrong and then turning in the opposite direction. No way am I going to voluntarily accept noise in my life now. Not noise I can choose to do without, anyhow.

My wife and I both came from backgrounds where the television set was on all the time. We hated it, although we both had shows we watched. We decided from the outset of our marriage plans that we couldn’t live with that kind of distraction during whatever years we might have together. So we don’t watch television.

We do have a TV set, however. Just for watching DVDs. Although we have a good collection of decent movies, we actually use Netflix and Apple TV to follow programs that have been recommended to us by people whose tastes match ours. So we watched all of Monk, almost all of CSI, and are alternating now between Bones and Castle. I must admit we rejoice when a favored show finally bites the dust; then we can change to something else.

Yes, some of those shows are noisy at times. But at least we can turn the volume down or turn them off whenever we want to. We watch no more than one show per day–during supper. Other people might protest that we should be spending that time with one another, but we have the rest of the evening to do that.

And what a wonderfully quiet evening it is. I have numerous classical recordings on my laptop, and I generally pick something I think we’ll both like and stream it via bluetooth to the stereo. Then we spend the evening doing things that are equally quiet and peaceful. Kathleen crochets or reads, I read or work on one of my novels, and we play Words with Friends with one another from opposite ends of the sofa.

Boy! Aren’t we the noisy couple!

We live in a nice peaceful neighborhood, too. No rowdy kids or adults…at least nowhere near our place.

I’d like to believe the peace and quiet we enjoy so much is a preview of Heaven, which I’m confident will not have telephones or TV sets. And probably only a smattering of politicians, for that matter.

What about you? Do you need quiet as much as we do? Do you have problems dealing with noise? Please drop a comment here and let everyone else know what you think.

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

“On Aging Gracelessly” is one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on my other blog. Click here to visit “As I Come Singing. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of my songs. Check here to see the list.

Best regards,
Roger

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Aging Hasn’t Slowed Me Down

turtle

Aging hasn’t slowed me down. Not one bit.

Sounds like a rather bold boast coming from a sixty-seven-year-old man, doesn’t it? Well, it’s true.

You know why?

Don’t tell anybody, but I’ve NEVER been fast enough to be able to slow down. That’s why I chose a picture of a turtle for this blog post.

You don’t believe me? In high school it took me longer to run the fifty-yard dash than it took most of the other guys to run the hundred-yard dash. I just couldn’t go any faster.

I don’t know whether I was like that when I was a child, but what probably contributed to my slowness–I blame it on this, anyhow–was the fact that I had acute viral encephalitis while in the eighth grade. I was in a coma for several days. The doctors thought that even if I lived, I might end up as a human vegetable.

Well, I lived, as you can should have figured out by now. And I don’t think of myself as a human vegetable. I doubt that you do, either.

But I believe that my brush with death slowed me down some. Physically, at least. Maybe a tad mentally, too. Hard to say about that, though, since I earned wonderful grades in college and then again years later when I returned to college for twenty-four credits of computer programming classes.

I once had a summer job at a place that produced a summer staff yearbook, and I managed to snag the position of staff photographer. I also worked in the auditorium in a janitorial position. That summer I gained the nickname Flash, and it wasn’t because of my camera work. It was because I moved at my own speed cleaning the auditorium, and that speed was anything but fast.

“Rush” and “hurry” have never been in my dictionary. If someone tries to rush me, I dig my heels in and go even slower. If you doubt that, ask my super-patient wife.

Isn’t retirement supposed to be the time in life for a guy or gal to slow down and take it easy, anyhow?

Maybe. But since I’ve lived most of my life that way, maybe my current age is just the time in life when I can start getting away with how I’ve always been.

What do you think? Are you fast, medium, or slow? The comments section is just waiting for you to share that with the rest of us.

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

By the way, “On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I use “As I Come Singing”–check it out here--to post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. Check here to see the list.

Best regards,
Roger

 

A Time to Read

michener

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 years 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 had 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; I remember Go Ask Alice, too.

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 wife (now my ex-) came home announcing that she’d gone with one of our church members who did secretarial work for Mr. Michener to their home and met him. What irony. She wouldn’t have waded through one of his novels to save her life…

For what it’s worth, my ex- was able to introduce me to Mrs. Michener when she recognized her in a department store one day. Not the same as meeting him would have been, though.

Once I’d written 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 actually typical now. Gone were introductory pages (or in Mr. Michener’s case, multiple chapters) of backstory. The author has 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 or be thrown away or returned. Although I had an almost complete set of everything James Michener had ever written (the picture above is of just some of my collection), even I no longer had the patience to plod through his books again.

I could go on now, 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.

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

“On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog.  “As I Come Singing”check it out here–posts lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. Check here to see the list.

Best regards,
Roger

 

 

A Tale of Forgiveness Denied

HandsOff

The older I get, the more I appreciate the importance of forgiveness. When we tell God we’re sorry for a particular sin and will do our best not to do it again, He mercifully forgives it and forgets it so much better than we humans can ever do.

Nonetheless, if we claim to be God’s children, we have a heavy debt: forgiving others. It’s not always easy. And forgetting can be more difficult than forgiving.

Jesus modeled perfect forgiveness when He was dying on the cross. He forgave the men who were crucifying Him. I feel confident that He could have forgiven his betrayer, Judas Iscariot, just as He forgave the disciple who denied Him, Simon Peter.

So Jesus set the example I needed to follow when someone cheated me out of thousands of dollars some years ago. It took years, and—as you can tell from my reference to it—I’ve not forgotten the incident. What you can’t see is in my heart, though. The resentment is gone, even though the memory isn’t.

So, what’s this “Tale of Forgiveness Denied” then?

Some years ago, I used to walk at lunchtime with a couple of coworkers—ladies. One day I brought my camera to work—this was before the days of cell phones with cameras—to take on our walk that day. I thought it would be nice to have a picture of my walking partners.

Wouldn’t you know one of them was absent that day. I already had the camera around my neck when I learned that, however, so I still took it when I went to walk with the other lady.

She told me not to take a picture of her. I know that some people are really skittish about having their pictures taken, but I’m also aware that some folks just say that because they’re modest about their looks and don’t really mind the picture.

I kept holding the camera up as if I were taking a picture, and she kept protesting. Finally, I snapped a picture, and she blew up at me. Only then did I realize how badly I’d misinterpreted her protests. I felt horrible.

Even though I had several other shots on that roll of film, I rewound it, took the film out, and gave it to her, along with my apologies. I hoped that would take care of the problem.

It didn’t. I lost her as a walking partner, and it was years before she was willing to talk to me again. And when she did, it was as if we’d never had any issues. I suppose that meant I was forgiven.

I’m not judging her, but I’m saying she taught me a lesson. If I fail to forgive someone who’s wronged me, I may not only be destroying a good relationship but adding to that person’s guilt. Unnecessarily.

And grudge holding isn’t doing me any good, either.

Have you failed to forgive someone in your life for a wrong he or she has committed? Just think about Jesus and the soldiers who put him to death. He forgave them, and they probably weren’t even sorry for what they’d done to Him.

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Please leave a comment if something in this post has spoken to you. I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. If you’d like to see “As I Come Singing,” check it out here.

Best regards,

Roger

 

 

I See

cataractBefore     cataractAfter

Dr. Everhart smiled after examining my eyes. “Mr. Bruner, have you noticed your vision getting more blurred?”

I wrinkled my brow. “Not overly. But if I hadn’t felt I needed new glasses, I wouldn’t have come to see you.”

She nodded. “Have you noticed little flecks crossing your field of vision?”

“Now that you mention it, yes. My left eye only, though. I’ve almost reached the point of ignoring them, but they really bothered me at first. It’s like watching a tiny insect crawl across my glasses. In fact, that’s what I thought it was at first.”

She continued in a sympathetic tone. “I’m not surprised. Your left eye needs cataract surgery. Your right eye will need it eventually.”

I felt my mouth fall open. “What? Cataract surgery? Surely you’re kidding. I’m just in my lower sixties. Cataracts are a problem OLD people have.” I wasn’t about to admit I was feeling more like an old person with every passing day, and I’m sure my vision contributed to that feeling.

She patted me on the shoulder. “Not restricted to old people at all.”

Hmm. Then why was her waiting room full of only old people. People a lot older than me, that is.

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While that dialogue is partially fictitious, my need for cataract surgery in my early sixties wasn’t.

I knew that cataract surgery was such an established routine that I shouldn’t have anything to worry about. Dr. Everhart was not only a sweetheart of a lady, but a well-established eye surgeon.

I won’t bore you with the details, but the front office scheduled me a few days later to be fitted—probably not the correct word—for my replacement lens. Other than having my eye dilated once more, that was no problem. I was scheduled for the procedure itself for several weeks later.

I awaited that day with a combination of confidence and terror. I prayed a lot for God to replace all of the terror with confidence, and I believe He did—to whatever degree I was willing to trust Him.

The big day came. Kathleen had to be there to drive me home, and we had to be there at the break of day. The outpatient surgical unit liked to get Dr. Everhart’s first few patients ready early so she could move through them quickly. Great idea…except it meant an hour or two of waiting and wondering.

Reading wasn’t really an option. Not with those drops they kept putting more of in my left eye. I almost fell asleep a couple of times, but I was in a busy area. Between receiving more drops, having a visit from the anesthesiologist, and who knows what else, sleep wasn’t practical.

The time came. A couple of nurses rolled me to the operating room. I didn’t receive general anesthesia, but was sedated enough not to give Dr. Everhart any problems.

During the actual surgery, I heard her and her assistant talking, but that’s all I was conscious of. A short time later, I was in the recovery area, where I spent maybe fifteen minutes.

Dr. Everhart checked on me before letting Kathleen drive me home and gave me a bag of “stuff,” including three types of drops I would have to use four times daily until I’d used them all up and a high power set of sunglasses that would fit over my regular glasses. I wore a patch home, which I was permitted to take off at noon; I had to wear that at night for a week.

I had a checkup call from Dr. Everhart that evening and went in for a quick followup visit the next morning. From that point on, I was permitted to drive again. I made an appointment for a regular eye exam for those new glasses I’d expected to get a month or two earlier.

I could see again. Quite well. Maybe it didn’t matter whether the thought of cataract surgery had made me feel older originally.

So, when I learned the right eye needed it now—this was about a month ago—I shrugged. Okay. Let’s get it done. I’m thankful to say I didn’t experience any apprehension this time, and everything went just as smoothly.

In some areas, I suppose I’m aging more gracefully than in others.

What about you? Have you experienced health problems that weren’t super-serious, but made you feel a little older?

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Please leave a comment if something in this post has spoken to you. I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

By the way, “On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. On “As I Come Singing” I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. Check here to see the list.

Because I’ve already posted all of my songs, I revise and re-post a previous post each Wednesday. If you’re interested, please check that blog out here.
Best regards,
Roger

 

Never Too Old to Say Yes

shots     NicaraguaMap     NicaraguaFlag     ManaguaMap

I have no idea how old Abraham was when God told him to pack up his family and belongings and move to a place the Lord was going to lead him to. Neither do I have any idea how old Isaiah was when God asked who would go for Him and Isaiah answered, “Here I am. Send me.”

Fortunately, the Lord isn’t directing me to move. I like being where my wife and I are, just as Abraham probably felt about the home he was having to leave—in faith that God knew what He was doing.

But I heard God asking who would go for Him in a rather round about way.

My church has been partnering with a church in Nicaragua for some years now, and periodically a team goes down there to do whatever needs being done. My wife and I decided two or three years ago that we wanted to be part of that some day, but we would need to save for it. So we’ve been saving $50 a month ever since.

Flash forward to Saturday a week ago. I was working on my current novel manuscript, which involves a mission trip to Nicaragua. I’d been doing some online research about that country—the second poorest one in Central America—but didn’t feel I was really finding what I needed.

I emailed someone who’d been there before to try to arrange a get-together so I could pick his brain, but haven’t heard back yet.

I had a passing thought. We had nearly $2000 saved in our Nicaragua fund. Why not…?

But the “why not?” involved several issues. My wife, Kathleen, suggested that I use our savings to go without her, and she did that without my bringing up the idea.

So the second issue was whether our church had a trip planned any time this year. Even if it was months away, I could continue working on my manuscript and revise it later with what I learned there.

Lo and behold, a small group is going this year. Although it is an exploratory trip to meet some of the pastors other than the one we’ve normally worked with, it will involve going to four different areas.

And guess what? This trip is March 5-10. Just around a very short corner.

I got in touch with one of the team contacts, and the team discussed it and invited me to come. I met the rest of the team this past Sunday—just one week after learning about the trip. I may be the oldest person going, but I felt very comfortable with the other team members.

As you can see from the Band-Aid pictures above, I’ve become a human pin cushion—Hepatitis-A, Typhoid, Adult Polio, and Tetanus shots. I’ve also got Malaria medication to take before, during, and after the trip.

I have a number of other things to do to get ready, but I’m excited.

By now, you may be wondering why I mentioned saying yes to God when my original interest in going was to experience Nicaragua for myself so I could come home and incorporate some of that in my writing.

Reasonable question.

If my interest in going had started the day Kathleen and I had the same idea simultaneously, I would’ve been the first person to question my own motives. But remember that money we’d been saving? I’d been interested in going long before I needed to know more about Nicaragua.

I don’t believe in coincidences. Feeling the need to go, knowing that we had the money to cover the cost for me alone (Kathleen wouldn’t have had enough vacation time, even if we’d had enough for both of us), and then discovering that a trip was imminent all added up to my feeling that God was asking who would go—and suggesting that He has something for me to do in Nicaragua.

Please leave a comment if something in this post speaks to you in a way you’d like to respond to. I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to the top right of this page where it says, “Follow Blog via Email.”

By the way, “On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I use “As I Come Singing” to post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. Because I’ve used up all of my songs, I re-post an old post each Wednesday. If you’re interested, please check that blog out here.

Best regards,

Roger

As Long As Those Fingers Hold Out…

MontoyaOldProgram     MontoyaAlbumCover.pg     MontoyaNewProgram     MontoyaArticle

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

But this post isn’t 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.

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.

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

Please leave a comment if something in this post speaks to you in a way you’d like to respond to. I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to the top right of this page where it says, “Follow Blog by Email.”

By the way, “On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I use “As I Come Singing” to post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. Because I’ve used up all of my songs, I repost an old post each Wednesday. If you’re interested, please check that blog out here.

Best regards,
Roger