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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Electrifying Kisses

 

We’re not totally in freezing weather yet, but it’s coming soon…and far too fast.

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 use the plug-in tire inflator.

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 touching. Touching almost anything.

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

Once the weather gets cold enough for that to happen, I’m tempted to put on gloves before touching the front door handle, even if I’m not going outside. Or a light switch.

 

DoorKnob     LightSwitch

 

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. (Yes, I know that probably wouldn’t really work.)

Remaining well grounded is important for a seventy-two-year-old man, anyhow, isn’t it? In every way.

But the most shocking problem occurs when Kathleen and I kiss. If one of us has just scuffed across the carpet,  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 other shock problems, but now Kathleen and I touch  fingertips before kissing. Better to do that and get the shock out of the way so we can have a safe, spark-free kiss.

 

FingerTouch    kiss

 

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

If you have or have had any shocking experiences during winter, how about sharing a comment.

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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Respect for All

I don’t think I’ve ever written a post here that I didn’t have the title for first. But now I do.

When I started working at the International Mission Board in September of 1984–it was still the Foreign Mission Board then–my supervisor shared an interesting bit of information. He said that even though many of the staff had earned doctorates, no one was so important that I couldn’t address him by his first name.

That turned out to be accurate with few exceptions, and the choice to say “Dr. So-and-So” was mine. Not because I was intimidated into doing it, but because I felt an extra amount of respect for those people.

Respect is a funny thing. I’m going to share something that will surprise and perhaps shock you. It’s something I definitely wouldn’t have been stupid enough to do once I got a little older, and I still feel embarrassed at the memory of it.

Once while I was still teaching school–probably during my second or third year out of college–I was sitting in the guidance office (I always enjoyed talking to the guidance counselor) when the Superintendent of Schools came in. I had my feet up on a desk. Not a good thing to be caught doing by someone at the top of my food chain.

This fellow was someone I had absolutely no respect for. Not only didn’t he have the degrees you might expect someone in his position to have, he frequently used horrible grammar. “He don’t…she don’t.” Can you believe that?

So, did I do the smart thing and take my feet down? Nope. I didn’t feel I owed this guy that kind of respect. (I wasn’t thinking in terms of proper or improper.)

The older I get, the more I’ve come to recognize that everyone deserves my respect. Even people I don’t like or am usually at loggerheads with.

I’m not any better than anyone else. God loves everyone equally, and that has become the basis of my respect for all people.

My improved attitude about respect motivates me to show the janitors and security people at the mall the same interest and appreciation I show people I’m closer to.

I don’t expect to receive any additional jewels in my heavenly crown because of that. Why should I? I get my reward from knowing I may have been the only person to share a pleasant word with someone that day.

What about you? What is your basis for showing respect ? Do you pay attention to folks whose jobs are menial? 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 use “As I Come Singing” to post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years. 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.

My new novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is out now. If you’re interested, please check it out at Amazon.

Best regards,
Roger

A Weighty Idiosyncrasy

If you’ve been with me even a short time already, you know I have my share of idiosyncrasies. I hope you do, too. I’d hate to be all by myself that way.

I describe the idiosyncrasy I’m talking about today as “weighty” because it has to do with my weight. See? That’s not very complicated, is it?

I’ve been in a battle with my weight practically my whole life. Don’t ask me why I remember this so vividly, but when I was in the sixth grade I weighed 148 and was a lot shorter than my adult 5’6″ height. The folks at church thought I was cute being so fat. I didn’t.

My parents finally decided to do something about it, and I trimmed down quite a bit

But–doggone it!–weight loss never seems to be permanent. I’ll bet I’ve gained and lost a thousand pounds over the years, although it’s felt more like I only gained a thousand and kept it.

When I started teaching school, I was always eating something I shouldn’t have had, and I managed to gain a good twenty pounds or so. A “good twenty pounds”? I don’t think so!

My clothes didn’t fit and I felt miserable. But I cut back on my eating and starting bicycling a lot. I bought some great looking clothes that wouldn’t fit until I reached my goal. I went from at least 177 down to 148 or less, and I was proud of myself. That was my first weight loss effort as an adult.

But, alas! it snuck back on over the years. It’s hard to pick a weight at which I would automatically decide I had to lose weight again. But it happened. Over and over again.

About three years ago I was diagnosed as being diabetic, type 2. The doctor told me to watch the scales, not the carbs. Huh?

Hmm. I’d made it up to 208. Not good. So I took Dr. Ashe’s statement seriously. I worked slowly and carefully. It took a year-and-a-half to lose fifty pounds, and I was determined that–for once–I was going to control my weight and never have to diet again.

But I’d been equally determined far too many other times, although not motivated by health needs, and I’d always backslidden.

Okay, you say. You understand. Maybe you’ve had an ongoing battle with your weight, too. Or ought to be concerned but you haven’t been motivated to do anything yet. Or maybe you’re close to someone who has a weight problem. Who isn’t?

So where’s the idiosyncrasy?

I keep a datebook in the bathroom and record my weight on a regular basis. I accept the fact that there will be minor fluctuations from day to day, but I make myself aware of those and fret whenever the figure goes up more than seems reasonable.

But that probably still doesn’t qualify as an idiosyncrasy.

How about the fact that I consider the first day of the month a crucial time–and even more so the first day of the year?

Seriously.

I keep an Excel spreadsheet of my weight; it goes back a number of years, although for a while I only kept track of the January 1 readings. I’m already fretting about the likelihood that I’ll probably weigh three pounds more on January 1, 2015, than I did the first of this year.

Fretting. I mean big-time fretting. Here I did so well so long, and I feel like I’m losing the battle. Starting to, anyhow.

I can eat the way I need to forever if I can avoid temptation. But add a week’s vacation away from home to dinner out with friends at a Cheesecake Factory and another dinner out with friends at a Captain George’s Seafood Restaurant (at least I didn’t have the buffet, which would’ve required me to fully pig out to try to eat my money’s worth) and I’m in trouble.

Yes, I know. Three pounds isn’t that much. But every successful diet has always concluded with failures like those. And they’ve always led to more.

I HAVE to keep it off this time, though. I refuse to buy bigger clothes again.

What do you say? Is weight your problem, or is something else equally frustrating to you? 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 use “As I Come Singing” to post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years. 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.

My new novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is out. If you’re interested, please check it out at Amazon.

Best regards,
Roger

Happy Friday Mornings

Friday mornings are special to me.

Not because the weekend is almost here. Since retiring, weekends don’t mean as much as they used to.

But it’s the one day a week I walk at the mall without my wife.

Huh? you protest. You like walking without Kathleen?

Definitely not. She and I have a great time walking together Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday nights. We also walk sometime during the day on Saturdays. And we often do so much talking that our twice-around-the-mall loop goes very quickly.

But Wednesday nights and Sundays are out, and Kathleen’s not available any other time. I need one more walking day, and Friday is normally it.

So, you ask, what makes the Friday walk so special?

I’m glad you asked.

I go early in the morning–usually around 8:00. The only people there are security people, a few store employees setting up for the day, and a number of other walkers. The sense of trust is so great that most of us walkers feel quite safe leaving our coats at tables in the empty Food Court. I sure wouldn’t do that when the mall has other people.

I often start by walking to my left–against the flow of traffic, as it were. Not many yards into my walk, I’m apt to run into another walker. Rarely is it someone I know personally; only one person from the past walks at the same time I do.

Not always someone I recognize from previous Fridays, either. But that doesn’t matter. Walkers seem to share a sense of camaraderie.

Very seldom does the other person fail to respond to my pleasant greeting–or perhaps to greet me first. That happens throughout my walk.

I really enjoy noticing the variety of walkers. I’m apt to see a pretty even mixture of blacks and whites. Practically never do I see anyone I recognize as Latino or Asian.

Although I’m far from being the only person walking by himself, I frequently see groups of two or three people. They’re not always doing the fastest walking, but they seem to be having a great time socializing. I must admit I get a little jealous of the fun they’re having together.

Gee, in seven or eight years, Kathleen will be able to retire. Hope I’m still up to walking by then.

Sometimes I count the closed stores and marvel at the ingenious places that have opened (see my earlier post about what’s happened to malls). Sometimes I pray–for the other walkers, the mall employees, and shoppers who’ll start showing up in another hour or two.

I continue speaking to other walkers and try to keep straight which ones I’ve already greeted. That’s more of a problem than you might think. I’ve always been horrible at remembering faces.

The walking stick I bought several months ago in California–made in Texas, of all places–attracts a lot of attention. Mainly because it’s longer than the ones I’ve made myself.

I don’t know whether I’ve given you an adequate understanding of what I enjoy about my Friday walks, but I’m fairly certain I’ll really bore you if I say much more.

The fans of any given athletic team automatically have something in common, no matter how they differ as individuals. My fellow mall-walkers and I are that way, too.

Do you associate with people you have something special in common with? How about sharing a comment?

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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. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on “As I Come Singing”–check it out HERE . Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

My new novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is out now. If you’re interested, look for it at Amazon.

Best regards,
Roger