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

The Thin Line

Hypochondria2
The older I get, the less certain I am where to draw the line—the line between caution and hypochondria.

 I never used to think of myself as even a potential hypochondriac. In fact, to avoid becoming one, I was apt to avoid going to the doctor when I experienced symptoms I’d heard other people talk about because I didn’t want my doctor to consider me a copy cat.

That changed one week about fifteen years ago.

I’d been experiencing some chest discomfort in the early morning for several days. It always went away within a matter of hours, and it wasn’t that severe to start with.

But that day when I got to work, it got worse. Not drastically worse, but bad enough to make me feel I wasn’t up to coping with the day. I went down to the reception area and zonked out on a sofa. I would have felt embarrassed about having people staring at me as they came and went, but I didn’t feel well enough to care.

I finally gave up. No way would I be able to drive myself to the doctor, so I asked the receptionist to call the Rescue Squad. The EMT’s comments in the ambulance convinced me that I’d had a heart attack.

Three days in the hospital proved them wrong. Finally.

I came home with prescriptions for anxiety and acid reflux. No heart problems then or since. I still take omeprozole, but I no longer have a prescription for the anxiety medicine. I’m doing a better job of letting God handle that.

Even though my problem turned out not to be life threatening, it still needed to be diagnosed and dealt with.

After living though that little adventure, it was only natural that I would start paying more attention to anything my body tried to tell me. But before going to the doctor, I take advantage of the Internet to look up my symptoms and—more often than not—discover that they apply to lesser problems as well as to ones that are more serious.

One problem with my anti-hypochondriac efforts is that age seems to bring on certain symptoms that apply more to the aging process itself than to specific conditions.

With the increase in healthcare costs brought on by the implementation of Obamacare, my family doctor co-pay has risen from $10 to $30. And not even the cheapest of my medicines is free now.

So I can no longer afford to become a hypochondriac.

Please feel free to leave a comment about this post. I’ll be back again on Sunday. 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 a previous post each Wednesday. If you’re interested, please check that blog out here.

If you like this blog post, you may want to subscribe to receive my two weekly posts by email.

Best regards,
Roger

Each Time I Visit

JeffChadwick     Creola     RickMike     JeanDonna

Three Wednesday mornings out of four each month, you’ll see me heading out to the car with my Taylor GS-mini guitar, 40-watt Fender amp, and a backpack holding everything from a guitar cable with a built-in volume control to a bottle of water, from a hand-held digital recorder to an apple. Even though I treasure my one Wednesday off each month, each of those outings has become a highlight of my week

My church holds a worship service on Wednesday mornings at a local nursing home, and I’ve been participating there regularly since I retired five years ago to write full-time.

Our services don’t resemble typical worship services any more than the residents’ wheelchairs resemble wooden pews. Although one of the team—usually one of my church’s former pastors who didn’t want to give up this ministry when he became the pastor of a new church—delivers a five-minute devotional, our services consist mostly of hymn singing, with a special or two thrown in for good measure.

Somebody told me years ago that old folks don’t want to hear new or unfamiliar songs. Since I’ve written about two hundred Christian songs in the last fifty years—that’s slowed down since I started writing novels—but didn’t really have any place to share them, I was delighted to learn that I’d been misled. Older adults are appreciative of anything and everything our team does.

Good thing. Although our leader brings a list of the songs we’ll be using, we don’t practice in preparation for our services. But we’ve learned to work together so well that our frequent flubs don’t embarrass us anymore than they bother the worshippers.

This nursing home ministry is something I’d never expected to take such an interest in. And not just because it gives me an outlet for my music.

You see, I never felt comfortable around older people before. At least not older people who were in such wretched physical conditions. I’ll bet some of you feel the same way.

It’s easy to understand why I felt that way. I didn’t want to admit that I might end up having some physical or mental condition that would make my continuing to live at home impractical. Just because it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it won’t, no matter how hard I like to pretend that I’m invulnerable to permanent disabling conditions.

Consider Rick, one of our regular worshippers. He’s only several years younger than me. I don’t know what his specific problem is, but he uses a walker and moves quite slowly. He’s quite an encouragement to me.

And there’s Mike. Okay. I admit it. I’m lousy at guessing the ages of African-Americans. But Mike doesn’t look like he could be beyond his forties—and he has fun calling the rest of us teenagers. He’s recently lost his sight in both eyes. And he rarely gets to attend our services any more because his dialysis is scheduled for Wednesday mornings.

Yes, I could end up as a Rick or a Mike (well, minus the difference in skin color).

When my wife and I recently took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University at church, one of the things we learned about was the importance of Long-term Care insurance. It’s quite costly, but—if needed—it’s cheaper than trying to pay for nursing home care out of the family budget. The only thing holding us back is the “quite costly.”

Although every visit to the nursing home has its uplifting moments, I can’t keep from looking at these individuals I’ve come to love and respect—even without knowing most of their names—and wondering, “Will I come here some day to live? What kind of condition would lead to that? Ad how would Kathleen deal with it?”

And the biggest question of all…how would I deal with it?

Please leave a comment to tell me how you feel about the prospect of nursing home life. 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. Find a list of them here. Because I’ve used up all of my songs, I repost a previous post each Wednesday. If you’re interested, please check that blog out here.

Last, but not least, if you’d like to hear some of my songs from the nursing home, go to RogerBruner.com and click on the Listen tab. You’ll find a dropdown box listing the songs I’ve recorded at the nursing home, complete with flubs and background noise.

Best regards,
Roger

Electrifying Kisses

DoorKnob   LightSwitch   FingerTouch   kiss

I’m not overly fond of cold weather, although it does kill the grass until spring and frees me from having to mow the lawn at least once a week.

And, my word! My Honda Civic, which automatically calculates gas mileage, goes down from an average of 29 mpg in-town driving to 21 or 22. Partially because I have to run the car a little while to defrost it and warm the inside just a tad. And partially because the tire pressure warning light comes on periodically and it takes me a while to get around to dropping by WaWa to fill up with free air.

Regardless of what I said in the previous paragraph, I’m normally a cheapskate when it comes to gas. If I see a line at the Sonic drive-through, I park and order from a stall. If I find myself delayed at the drive-through and think I’ll be there more than a minute, I turn off the engine. Same when I’m stopped at a railroad crossing.

I used to like cold weather better than hot weather. But, with the coming of age, I’ve reversed my preference.

And it has nothing to do with gas or grass. It has to do with kissing. And touching.

Touching almost anything.

Cold weather in our house means that almost everything I touch shocks me. I always hear it, and—more times than I like to think about—I even see the spark.

I’ve grown paranoid about it this winter (more than before, I mean). I’m tempted to put on gloves before touching the front door handle, even if I’m not going outside. I touch the plastic part of the pet gate latch first in the hopes the static electricity will leave me alone for once. I tiptoe across the carpet to try to prevent static buildup. I haven’t totally given up the idea of dragging a chain wherever I walk inside to ground myself.

Remaining well grounded is important for a sixty-seven-year-old man, anyhow, isn’t it?

But the most shocking problem of all occurs when Kathleen and I kiss. In all likelihood, one of us has just scuffed across the carpet, and kissing becomes an electrifying experience. Kissing isn’t supposed to be painful, is it? Or something to be apprehensive about doing?

I don’t know how to solve my other shock problems, but now Kathleen and I touch  fingertips before kissing. Better to shock that way and get it out of the way so we can have a safe, spark-free kiss.

Exciting kisses are one thing. But shocking ones are awful.

Please feel free to leave a comment about this post. I’ll be back again on Sunday. 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 repost a previous post each Wednesday. If you’re interested, please check that blog out here.

Snow & Pizza

SnowAndPizza 001     SnowAndPizza 002

Some things never change, no matter how old I get. Like having pizza when we have snow.

That’s a tradition that started when I was in college. I attended Frostburg State College (now University) and lived in a rooming house a block or two from campus. The town and consequently the college were named after a family named Frost.

But—with the kind of winter weather we had there—the name really fit. While it’s hard to remember many details about my time at Frostburg—I told you I’m aging gracelessly—I remember snow being on the ground on a regular basis.

I didn’t have a car yet. In fact, I didn’t get my license till late summer after graduation and my first car three or four months later. So I had to walk if I needed anything from Frostburg’s modest “downtown.”

But the only thing I ever really “needed” from the main drag was a couple of slices of pizza. I could’ve eaten more, but I couldn’t afford it.

So it wasn’t unusual for me to trudge out while the last little bit of daylight remained and slip and slide up and down a few hills to reach my pizza place.

My intentions were always good: to wait until I got back to the house before eating.

Have you ever carried a box of fresh, hot pizza at chest level? Hard to ignore that delicious aroma, isn’t it? Especially if every part of you but your hands is freezing.

So I inevitably started nibbling on my treat while slipping and sliding my way back to the house. I was careful, though. As careful as possible considering what I was doing. But I don’t question that—had I fallen down—protecting the pizza would’ve taken priority over protecting myself.

After all, broken bones would mend–eventually. But I couldn’t afford to go back and replace any lost pizza.

That started a tradition for me. One that continued with my first wife and has continued with Kathleen. Whenever it snows, we have to have pizza. And we don’t order and have it delivered. One of us goes out to pick it up.

We do NOT walk, however. Neither do we eat in the car on the way home. We have to be practical. Texting and driving isn’t safe, and driving and eating pizza is even more dangerous.

This winter has broken our tradition, though. Or at least thrown it off kilter a little. We’ve had so much more snow than usual that we would look like a pair of Pillsbury Dough Boys if we’d indulged with each snowfall we’ve had.

But talking about it brings back those same fond memories, and I hope I never get too old to enjoy pizza when we have our first snowfall of the season—and periodically thereafter. Living without that would be graceless indeed.

Do you have any quirky traditions? How about sharing them with us?

I’ll be back again on Wednesday. Please join me then. Better yet, go to the top right hand section of this screen and click to follow this blog by email. That way you’ll never miss a post.

Best regards,
Roger

The Facebook in the Mirror (Part Two)

Jenny     Southern Fried Sushi book cover           

If you missed my previous post, The Facebook in the Mirror, you might want to read it before you read this post. I gave several examples of how Facebook has helped me to reconnect with my past, and this one will give several additional examples.

After graduating from college in 1968, I taught junior high English for six-plus years. I thought the kids were great, but the demands on my free time were a real drag. And—years later when I took the Myers-Briggs Inventory—I learned that I am a confirmed introvert.

Not “introvert” as in “very shy person.” But as in “energized by being by myself or among a VERY small group of close friends and totally worn out by being around people in general.” Hmm. Not good for a teacher.

When I discovered Facebook, I couldn’t keep from wondering what had become of my former students. I’m not pretending I could remember all of them—I had trouble remembering some names from the current school year. But I tried one name—I don’t remember who was first—and hit pay dirt.

And—lo and behold—he or she accepted my friend request and seemed genuinely happy to hear from me.

I tried more and more. When I couldn’t remember more names, I checked the friends list of the ones I’d been able to friend and sent many of them friend requests. I’ve ended up with quite a list, and I’m thrilled to report that at least one of them became a teacher. But even more amazing, some of my former students actually credited me with having taught them something.

Truly amazing. I didn’t feel that great about my teaching.

One of my former students is Tom. The top right pictures are Tom then and now. He’s lived and worked in Colombia (yes, the country in South America) for a number of years. He writes poetry and is a chef at his own restaurant. And—doggone it!—he beats the pants off me in Words with Friends. I learned recently that he was responsible for getting a poem of mine published in a free local magazine during the mid-seventies.

Tom is  a reconnect I highly value.

The other Facebook reconnect I want to mention today was a young lady (I call her my sister) who went on the same mission trip I did in 2000 to the Olympics in Sydney, Australia. Jenny and I both worked at the same place and were sitting beside one another when we heard about the mission trip to Oz. I still have a picture of us returning on the train from a day trip to Sydney, both of us snoozing, her head innocently on my shoulder.

We lost track of one another when she went to Japan as a Journeyman missionary (two-year program for recent college graduates). A few years later, one of her former co-workers told me Jenny had married a Brazilian and moved to Brazil.

How does a guy track down his missing “sister” when she’s that far away and he doesn’t even know her married name?

Facebook, of course. When we reconnected, it was like we’d never been apart.

But what makes our story special is Jenny had spent some of her free time in Brazil writing her first novel. I asked her to email it to me, and my wife and I had a great time reading it.

In fact, it was so good I had her write a proposal for me to forward to my publisher. That resulted in a three-book contract for Jenny’s Southern Fried Sushi series. If you don’t know much about writing and publishing, let me share this: practically nobody gets a contract for a first novel from the first publisher she submits a proposal to.

You’ll see Jenny with a toothbrush in her mouth on the train ride to Sydney and the cover of her first novel to Tom’s left at the top of the page.

Facebook has helped me to look into the mirror and see some wonderful parts of my past, along with the chance to bring certain aspects of the past up to date.

If you have any special Facebook or Twitter tales to share, I’d love to hear them. Just leave a comment.

Best regards,
Roger

Aging Doesn’t Mean Quitting

Faubion             FriendMePage


I  remember a fellow who went to the same church I did. When he reached retirement age, he retired—not just from his day job—but from everything. Even singing in the choir.

The funny thing is—to this day—I can still picture him and the unhappy scowl he wore for the rest of the time I knew him. Giving up his previous activities may have given him loads of free time, but it didn’t make him happy.

My situation is just the opposite. I retired from work because I wanted to write full-time. While I monitor my outside activities to keep from being overwhelmed and not have enough writing time, I’m well aware of the importance of balance.

And balance for most people at retirement probably means continuing to do at least some of the things they’ve always done.

I recently received an invitation to review a new book from a fellow named John Faubion (picture at the top of this post). He’s a couple of years older than me and retired after spending  thirty years as a Christian missionary in Southeast Asia.

But you know what? When John retired, he didn’t retire. He wrote a novel.

Writing a first novel is a HUGE undertaking, but he didn’t let his age or lack of prior experience hold him back. His suspense novel, Friend Me, releases in early February, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

He admits that the prospect of following up with a  second novel is a daunting one. But he’s ready to try. Ready and anxious.

Why couldn’t that poor man who quit everything including the church choir have turned retirement into a time of fulfillment the way John and I have done?

If you enjoy this blog, please follow it. And if you have comments or questions, please post them. I’d love to see a good discussion here.

Best regards,
Roger

About Gracelessness

brokenBarrier

I promised to use my second post to explain my use of the word “gracelessly” in my blog name. I do my best to keep my promises.

At first, I thought explaining “gracelessly” would be simple. I write “quirky inspirational fiction.” So why not have a blog that simply sounds, uh, quirky? After all, most people probably expect to see the word “gracefully” after “on aging.” I would, anyhow. But I thought “gracelessly” might really grab people’s attention.

There’s more to it than that, though.

Let me clear up one thing before I go any further. I’m not using grace in the Christian sense of “Amazing Grace,” which refers to “God’s undeserved favor—getting good things we don’t deserve from a loving God.” As opposed to God’s mercy, “Not getting the punishment we deserve from a righteous God.”

Instead, I’m using the word in the sense of “clumsily.”

I think that fits nicely. None of us has ever aged beyond where we are in life right now. So moving ahead necessarily leads us to a humongous amount of the unknown. Even when we pay close attention to people who’re even older than we are, our paths will not be identical to theirs. We have no guarantee that everything will work out the same way for us. Or anything, for that matter.

The process of aging involves a number of mishaps. There’s no way to avoid them.

I rely on God’s strength and guidance each step of the way. Uh, except for those too-many times I try doing things on my own. That’s when I’m most apt to fall down or bring other problems on myself–while trying to scoot around a barrier, for example. God doesn’t seem to believe in providing a solution until I encounter a problem. If I’m not paying attention to Him, the results may be more disastrous than they need to be.

My wife and I have a year-old miniature dachshund, Happy. We trust her in the living room, the kitchen, the master bedroom, and the bathroom. We do NOT trust her to go down the hallway towards the other two bedrooms. Especially the one I use as my music room, with dozens of cables going this way and that. If she pulled one out, I might never figure out where it came from.

So I placed a thin piece of wood across the open doorway leading to that part of the house. Happy doesn’t like it, especially when she knows one of us is somewhere on the other side of the barrier. But we’re thankful it does what it’s supposed to do: keep her out of mischief.

We know the barrier is there, and it’s almost short enough to step over safely every time. Sliding it to the side to step through and then sliding it back into place is a nuisance.

But I’m a graceless fellow, and when I’m not careful—sometimes even when I am—I end up kicking the barrier when I climb over it. Last night I unwittingly broke it into the two pieces you see in the picture at this top of this post.

As a member of the human race, I’ll keep aging until I die. Even though I can anticipate certain barriers between now and eternity, I’m not necessarily prepared to deal with them in the best possible way—the “graceful” way.

So, many of my blog posts will speak of things related to aging that make me feel graceless because of my inability to deal with them as easily as I might have done when I was younger. Or if I was paying adequate attention to God’s loving lead.

I’ll try to make you smile in the process. Nobody wants to listen to an older adult gripe. I sure don’t.

If you like this blog, please subscribe to receive my two weekly posts by email. I hope you’ll leave comments. I’d love to have a good discussion here rather than feel like a teacher standing in front of a classroom of students who are bored to tears.

Best regards,
Roger

Why This Blog

wrinkles One of the hardest parts of starting a new blog—maybe the hardest—is deciding what to blog about.

As the author of two published Young Adult novels—I’m also awaiting the publication of a quirky mid-life romance and a satirical speculative novel—I might be tempted to write about writing. Isn’t that what dozens (hundreds? thousands?) of other writers do?

Many writers blog about how to write better; some of them actually have helpful blogs (check Michael Hyatt’s if you want a good example of a blog that covers help for writers, but so much more). Others help published writers market their books by posting interviews on their blogs. A few writers actually have the courage to blog about non-writing subjects that interest them.

Maybe I’m being modest, but I’m not sure I can tell other writers how to write better–not week after week after week, anyhow. And conducting those blog interviews takes way too much time and effort. Besides that, I don’t want only fellow authors to read my blog.

Hmm. So what non-writing subject could I blog about? I love photography and web design, but I doubt I know enough about those subjects to blog about them without my ignorance becoming all too apparent—all too soon.

As a committed Christian, I should find devotionals or something related to faith and the Christian walk to be natural blog subjects. But I’ve read far better blogs on Christianity than I could ever hope to write. Look at Joel Sutton’s as an example I could never match.

I’ve been playing guitar for over fifty years. Uh, no. Why spoil a fun hobby by writing about it?

“So,” I ask as I look into the mirror, “what’s left?”

Hmm. My hair used to be brown. At least that’s the color I always stated on my driver’s license. Seems to be mostly gray now, though. And there’s much less of it now. Are those wrinkles? I thought only women got those. People used to be amazed when I told them my age. “You can’t be that old. You don’t look any older than—” And they’d give a number maybe ten years younger.

Funny thing. They don’t react that way as often now. Could it be I’m aging—and looking like it? Gee. Maybe that’s why I don’t feel as peppy as I used to.

Okay. Aging sounds like a good blog topic. I mean, everyone does it—unless they die prematurely. And even then, they don’t stop aging until they die. Because we start aging the moment we’re born–actually, the moment we’re conceived–the topic ought to be relevant to people of all ages. Uh, even to younger readers, whether they recognize it or not.

But why “gracelessly”? For that, you’ll need to come back for my next post.

Please feel free to leave comments or questions. And thanks for sticking with me this far. I hope it hasn’t aged you too much. I plan to start out with two blog posts a week—Sundays and Wednesdays. If this blog appeals to you, I hope you’ll sign up to receive posts by email.

Best regards,
Roger