Living in the Past, Present, or Future?

We older folks are often accused of living in the past and thinking everything back then was so much better than now. I’m not one of them.

As a few of you may recall from a former blog post, I don’t seem to have nearly as many memories of my childhood and teen years as adults typically have. I attribute that, whether correctly or not, to the acute viral encephalitis that could have killed me or left me in a vegetative state, but from which God restored me to a reasonable normal condition. But one that was somewhat fuzzy about the past.

That was in the eighth grade. I wouldn’t want to relive that part of my past.

College years were fine, but not exciting. Neither was my teaching career or my years at the Maryland State Job Service as a counselor/interviewer.

Life grew more meaningful when I took some computer programming courses and went to work at the International Mission Board. Working behind the scenes of something important gave me a feeling of significance I’d never experienced before. I had some wonderful successes before I started having problems with a new job assignment.

And then I got downsized after almost nineteen years.

Those memories aren’t things to dwell on. Despite the many good moments, I’ll never think of those years as “the good old days.”

 

What about the future?

As a Christian, I’m not afraid of death, although I would love to have the assurance that the process of dying would be quick and painless…and that my wife, Kathleen, and I would die at the same time so neither of us would have to face life without the other.

But the future–at least the part where I’m still alive on earth–isn’t knowable.

I don’t have many dreams about what I’d like the future to hold. Yes, of course I’d like for my novels–some of them, anyhow–to suddenly take off and start selling. Not because I care about the income, but because I want to know they’re blessing and entertaining readers.

I can’t help wishing and hoping (yes, and praying, too) that at least one of my songs will end up in a collection of praise and worship songs. Maybe even in a hymn book!

I hate to admit it, but when I’m expecting a shipment of some tiny something-or-other from Amazon, you’d almost think I was a little kid waiting for his parents to wake up on Christmas morning so he can start opening presents.

That’s a bit weird, maybe, but that’s how I am. My future on earth doesn’t promise to be the best time of my life. Especially as my body falls apart a little more year by year. I hope and pray my mind doesn’t do the same thing.

And the present?

That leaves the present. I’ve ended up with two skills–two things I love using–I’m not able to use the way I’d like to. Yes, I’ll keep working on developing them even more, but knowing I may be doing it only for my own benefit is discouraging.

Until yesterday–or was it this morning?–I was super-frustrated at what I perceived as my lack of usefulness. I couldn’t see myself accomplishing anything, and that thought was more depressing than I’d like to think about.

It’s no wonder. Many–maybe most–of the authors I know have more book ideas running through their heads than they can use in a lifetime. I don’t.

I’d started working on a sequel to one of my teen books. I’d even designed a cover for it and written a few chapters.

But I just couldn’t get excited about it and haven’t been able to proceed. It’s not a matter of writer’s block, but of questioning whether this was what I should be doing.

You can better understand now why I was feeling useless and insignificant, at least in the areas of my life that are so important.

But I prayed, and I kept praying, and God led me back to an idea I had begun considering in January of this year. Why I set it aside then, I couldn’t tell you.

But I’ve fallen in love with it. Working on it won’t restore my losses in other areas, but I feel good again. Great!

Living in the present seems to work best, as long as I don’t totally forget the past or fail to consider the future. And when today’s present becomes the past, I’ll find something in that future time to make that present time the best.

Where do you live–past, present, or future? How about leaving 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

P.S. Here’s the new cover and title for what was previously published as PROJECT MUFFINTOP.

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Always Ask Your Users…or Your Readers

A number of years ago I worked with a fellow who was clever at making small wooden objects. Although they were all very nicely done, the only one I remember was a small desk plaque that had a Susan B. Anthony dollar coin mounted on it. Inscribed beneath it was something like “Always ask your users.”

Whatever equally clever government employees came up with the Anthony dollar obviously failed to consider the needs, wants, and wishes of the American public. By the time my co-worker starting making those plaques, that coin had long since proved as unpopular as a stomach virus and eventually disappeared. Hence the “Always ask your users.”

Flash forward to very recent times.

I’d published a book called Project Muffintop. Cassie was disgusted with being nineteen pounds overweight. She talked her best friend, Jason, into helping her come up with a weight loss program to help her attract a hot prom date and maybe even a boyfriend. But she didn’t know Jason was crazy about her and he realized that helping her would simply make her even less interested in him except as her best friend.

He was afraid that telling Cassie how he felt about her would ruin their special friendship if she didn’t feel the same way about him–which she didn’t. He couldn’t chance having that happen. So he kept quiet.

The preacher’s daughter came up with a godly plan, however. Jason could tell Cassie everything he wanted to as her anonymous Secret Admirer.

If you want to know how everything turns out, the book will be available again shortly.

Okay, you say. What does that have to do with paying attention to users…or, in this case, to readers?

More than I’d ever dreamed of, to be honest.

I belong to a Facebook group called Avid Readers of Christian Fiction. When I realized how much of a turnoff the original cover was, I designed a new one that my wife and I thought was pretty catchy. So I submitted the following graphic to Avid Readers.

All I was expecting was a simple #1 or #2 answer. But what I got was overwhelmingly more helpful, once I got over the initial shock.

Dozens of women (and one man) not only objected to both covers (those that expressed a preference liked #1, the original one, better), but to the title and the emphasis on the importance of weight loss. Not to mention that the shorts on the muffin mold were objectionably tight. Etc.

I knew the diet was just the backbone of the story and that Jason had actually tried to convince Cassie that her weight was fine to start with. And, as her Secret Admirer, he’s able to convince her that weight didn’t affect who she was inside.

What I knew didn’t count, however. If that many avid readers wouldn’t give any consideration to Project Muffintop with that name and either cover, I had to pay attention to them. They would never even look at the back cover and see everything from a different perspective.

Tonight I plan to share with them the new cover and new title. Although I feel confident they’ll approve of it heartily, I’ve learned too well that I need their input–no matter what they say.

Since I don’t think any of them follow this blog, let me share the new cover with you.

There you have it. If you have some kind of product you want others to take seriously, make sure to get some feedback before you go deeply into something that might prove unsuitable.

Any comments–like whether you’d look at the back cover copy after looking at the front? I’d love to hear ’em.

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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How Will You Be Remembered?

What probably sticks out the most in my mind from last Saturday’s luncheon for people who graduated from Frostburg State University fifty years ago wasn’t seeing a few familiar people, but having a time of remembrance for former classmates who’ve passed away.

 

A good-sized list of those stood on a table at one end of the room, and co-master of ceremonies Pat Garrett went through that list name by name as part of the luncheon’s events. He told whatever he knew about each person and asked attendees to share anything they knew or remembered about the deceased.

A number of the deceased were remembered only as having been good people–or nice ones. But those were still positive memories.

Many of the deceased either weren’t commented on at all, however. Whether they had truly been that inconspicuous during their college years or attendees didn’t feel it was right to say bad things about them, I couldn’t say.

I can’t help being curious. Once I’ve passed away, what will people at future reunions remember about me? I wasn’t an athlete. I wasn’t in any activities except the Baptist Student Union. (If any of my friends from the BSU came to the reunion, I didn’t see them.) I did play my guitar and sing at the Leaves of Grass coffee house on Friday nights, but that probably wasn’t overly memorable, either.

Hmm.

Death for a Christian is a good thing, not something to dread or regret. We believe we’ll be in a better place. Such a perfect place it makes the best earth has to offer seem trivial and worthless.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t want to be remembered–and hopefully in a good way. I don’t know about other peoples’ legacies, but I hope and pray that my novels and songs (maybe even some of my blog posts) will prove to be a worthy legacy, even if they’re not overly popular.

Success with the masses now or later isn’t the important thing. Blessing lives–eve a few lives–is, even if people don’t remember my name.

Twenty-five years ago I wrote a song called “What Will You Leave Behind?” Several years ago I did a video selfie of myself playing and singing that song. I keep the DVD in a lock box under the bed…to be played at my funeral, which I hope won’t be anytime soon.

The lyrics go like this:

When you die, you can’t take it with you,
But what will you leave behind?
Precious memories for your friends and family
Or relief that you’re no longer there?
Will the faith you’ve shared bring them comfort
Or your hopelessness cause them more grief?
When you die, you can’t take it with you,
But what will you leave behind?

When you pass away, you can’t take it with you,
But what will you leave behind?
Will your words continue to encourage
Or the harm they’ve engendered linger on?
Do your teachings tell of God’s Kingdom
While your actions point the other way?
When you pass away, you can’t take it with you,
But what will you leave behind?

When you depart this life, you can’t take it with you,
But what will you leave behind?
Will the good you’ve planted bloom like flowers
Or the problems you’ve sown spread like weeds?
Is your life well invested in others
Or will your influence die at your death?
When you depart this life, you can’t take it with you,
But what will you leave behind?

How I hope I will be remembered for the good. What about you? How do you think you’ll be remembered?

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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You Can’t Go Home Again…or Can You?

I’ve never been to a high school reunion, although I’m keeping watch for information about the 55th year reunion next year. But when I received a very nice invitation to a special luncheon for those of us who graduated from Frostburg State College (now University) fifty years ago, I found myself more interested than I would typically be for something like that.

I’d lived in Cumberland, Maryland, the four years I was in college. I attended  Allegany Community College (now the Allegany College of Maryland) which was just a few blocks from home and then transferred to Frostburg for my last two years. I stayed off-campus at the college during the week.

My memories of college life are pretty spotty, but the older I’ve grown, the greater my desire to see people and places from my past. So my wife, Kathleen, encouraged me to plan on us attending the reunion, which was to be held during Homecoming. I agreed. Gladly.

As time drew closer, however, I wasn’t able to determine that very many of the people I really wanted to see would be attending. And when I saw the names of people who would be attending an informal Friday night restaurant get-together, most of even the familiar names were people I hadn’t really known. Thank goodness one of my old roommates and his wife were going to be there!

So I felt slightly apprehensive about being in even a small gathering of basically strangers. That wouldn’t be “home” the way being with some of the folks I really wanted to see would have been, but I not only felt comfortable in that group, I enjoyed it.

There was only one problem. Everyone looked so old! Or so much older, anyhow. I didn’t even recognize my former roommate at first, although he recognized me.

But if physical changes to my fellow grads were, uh, sometimes more substantial than others, changes to the campus were even more drastic. Kathleen and I drove around the campus for a little while before heading to the restaurant, and I didn’t recognize anything! The number of new buildings was beyond my ability to comprehend. Very attractive, but nonetheless very strange to eyes that had seen things the way they used to look.

I’m writing this half an hour before Kathleen and I drive to the campus again. Thank goodness for the map we were provided for finding where to park and where at the building housing the luncheon!

Today is a dreary, rainy day. I’m afraid we won’t be walking around to view the campus. That’s frustrating,

Kind of. But the people–even just a few–will make Frostburg seem more like home than the university itself.

P.S. We enjoyed the luncheon today, but there were far more people than I’d expected. I couldn’t very well go around inspecting every name tag to see if it belonged to someone I knew. However, I did run into one person I’d known even before attending Frostburg. He’d belonged to the church in Cumberland my father had pastored, and my father had even married him and his wife. That was extra special.

I have to add that the president of the university welcomed the group, and his remarks really helped to put the relative newness of the university into perspective. Nonetheless, we 1968 graduates represented one phase in Frostburg’s development. But the university has moved far past where we were.

So it wasn’t home. Not the “home” we knew back then. But a worthy one for future students.

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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Seniors on the Move: Why Your Loved One Should Join Adult Swimming Lessons

I recently received an offer of some guest blog articles from Chris H at backyardpoolsuperstore.com; they were all relevant to senior adults, but I told Chris I wanted to use this one first. Next Sunday I’ll post the other half of this article.

 

Everyone needs to stay active regardless of their age. And that goes for your elderly loved ones as well. If you’re looking to keep your senior active and in control of their own body, you might want to enroll them in adult swimming lessons. Building above ground pools and dealing with pool chemicals can be expensive and tiresome for some older individuals, so taking them to a community pool might make the most sense. With dozens of different classes to choose from, everyone can find a class that suits their needs and experience level. It’s never too late to learn how to be more comfortable in the water. Learn about the many benefits of having your loved one sign up for adult swimming lessons.

Joint-Friendly Fitness

Swimming and other water-based exercises are known for being easier on the joints. This makes this form of exercise all the more appealing to older individuals who might be dealing with joint pain and arthritis. Seniors can work every muscle in the body when they get in the pool, from strength training to endurance and cardio, without damaging their joints or seeing their arthritis flare up.

It’s important for seniors to stay active if they want to stay mobile and independent. But instead of jogging laps around the neighborhood, they can get their heart pumping by doing those same exercises in the pool. If swimming seems like a tall order, other activities such as aerobics, yoga, crunches, weight training and more can be done in the pool. Regardless of how your loved one likes to exercise, you can find the right class for them.

Joining adult classes also helps them stay on top of fitness goals instead of just wandering around the gym or lounging in the backyard pool. The water adds resistance that helps build muscle and burn calories without the discomfort that comes from bouncing up and down on the treadmill. Joining a class will also help older adults maintain good posture during their routine, so they don’t accidentally hurt themselves.

Improved Mental Health

Studies have shown that water-based exercises can improve mental health in a variety of ways. This can be a major benefit if a person is having trouble remembering information or struggling with dementia. Swimming and other water-based exercises help improve memory, reduce depression and improve the person’s mood. This can be a great way to boost your loved one’s spirits if they are dealing with grief or a loss in the family. Joining a class also provides a group environment where the senior can focus on learning a new exercise or skill, instead of getting lost in their thoughts as they try to work out in isolation.

Spending time at the local community pool can also bring family members closer together. Studies show that engaging in water-based activities can strengthen relationships, helping you reconnect with your loved one.

I’ll be back next Sunday with the rest of this great article. 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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Elvis Is Still Alive…Kind of


When the church my father was pastoring gave us our first stereo, I was thrilled! Excited!

Sometime previously, I’d started listening to a radio station that played pop music–something I wouldn’t have heard at home otherwise because my parents were big on classical music (on public radio, probably)–and never missed listening to the top thirty countdown on Sunday afternoons.

So, with the gift of the stereo, I was all set to buy some of my favorite 45s. Thanks to a timely birthday party, I had five dollars to spend at an actual record shop. Yes, I bought Sheb Wooley’s “Purple People Eater” and the Everly Brothers’ “Bird Dog,” but I HAD to have Elvis’s “Hard-Headed Woman,” which I still remember so fondly I refer to it on the first page of Do I Ever, one of my quirky romantic novels.

That wasn’t the last of Elvis’s records I bought over the years.

I was no longer much of a fan at the time of his death forty-one years ago however; I preferred his older songs. Honestly, I was probably badly disillusioned at the condition he’d ended up in and at the circumstances of his death.

But several things started working on my mind–and on my point of view. I had a couple of Elvis’s greatest hits albums, and I enjoyed listening to them occasionally.

But I also had at least an in-law relationship with Stan Kesler, who wrote Elvis’s first nationally popular song, “I Forgot to Remember to Forget.” He’s the father of one of my wife’s sisters-in-law, and he’s just the nicest ninety-year-old you could ever hope to meet in spite of bad health, poor vision, and equally poor hearing. And he’d worked at Sun Studio, where Elvis got his start.

How could I possibly not at least have some interest in Elvis because of Stan?

I’d heard the tale years earlier from a co-worker, Sharon, who used to live in Memphis and babysit for a local songwriter. She sent me this reminder of the circumstances a few years ago:

” I met Elvis when I was babysitting for one of his song writers, Stan Kesler (I Forgot to Remember to Forget), in the late 1950’s. He came to the door dressed in all black with the collar of his shirt flipped up and hair in his eyes. He wanted to pick up some music Stan had for him. I made him stand on the front porch while I called Stan to verify, also to get my ‘senses’ back. Elvis was so impressed that I made him stay on the porch that he invited me to dinner at Graceland. I was picked up in a pink Cadillac. After dinner, we looked at photo albums in the music room.”

Sharon’s encounter with Elvis–even her original telling of the story–occurred years before Stan Kesler became an “in-law in-law.” But the fact Sharon had babysat one of my wife’s sisters-in-law made Elvis seem even more down-to-earth than I’d thought previously.

We just got back from vacationing in Memphis, and I bit the bullet–I HAD to see Graceland while we were there and possibly get a fresh understanding of why people are still so crazy about Elvis.

Walking through that mansion and learning about the various things about it that make it so special made me realize that perhaps Elvis hadn’t simply been trying to spend as much money as he could. He put himself into every aspect of his home.

No wonder I couldn’t help feeling a sense of Elvis-ness in every room.

I know Elvis isn’t really still alive, but since he appeared to have been a sincere Christian in spite of the fact that his life didn’t always show it (he’s probably entertaining folks in Heaven right now), I’ve come to appreciate how much more he was and continues to be, even in death, than I’d ever realized.

I have to concede that maybe he is still alive…kind of.

Your comments are welcome.

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

Best regards,
Roger

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Today’s Political Dirty Trick

I’m writing this post on September 26, the day before Judge Kavanaugh’s accuser is set to make her accusations in person. So I don’t know what the outcome will be. But I’m firmly convinced that the Democrats are making the most of this to throw substantial kinks in the midterm elections, especially if the Republicans do as I think they should and stand up for Judge Kavanaugh because the evidence is so weak and the timing of her coming forward and her accusation being made public was so intentionally last-minute.

Chances are you either strongly agree with me or are ready to lynch me for having an attitude you perceive as being unsupportive of women. That couldn’t be further from the truth, and here’s one reason I have the opinions I have.

A few months ago, I read a novel by Jim Callan called Political Dirty Trick, and I thought it rather strange until I realized how realistic it was.

The book is about what was supposed to be a minor crime, one that would keep the opposition candidate from winning when he was accused of committing it. From the beginning, it was to be a crime he would ultimately be found innocent of. But the exoneration wasn’t to happen until after the election, when the proof of his innocence would be too late to help him win the election.

 I’m not going to share any spoilers about Jim Callan’s book, but I would strongly urge you to get a copy on Amazon–look at it on Amazon here–and see if Jim didn’t accurately predict something similar to what’s happening with Judge Kavanaugh.

If Judge Kavanaugh is actually guilty, of course I wouldn’t want him to be appointed to the Supreme Court.

But he deserves due process as much as anyone else, especially since the Far Left is so determined to prevent his appointment. They know he stands for the Constitution, but they want to finish turning America upside down and he’ll stand directly in their way.

If you choose to comment on this post–and I hope you will–be thoughtful and polite. I can eliminate any comment I feel to be inappropriate, but I don’t want to have to. Even it says something I strongly disagree with.

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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