Thursday, February 29, 2024

Eat with Eight

Our church has started a new ministry for we older folks. It's called, simply, "Boomers," borrowing from the term used for the period of life in which we were born. 

That would be the post-World War II "baby boom." "Boomers" has caught on as our label. Sometimes the term is not used in a complimentary way, so I did not necessarily agree with the name given to this initiative. But nobody asked me, and I don't feel that strongly about it, so I'll keep my opinions to myself, except for this one time mentioning it here. 

One of the purposes is to give people in our age group an opportunity to meet other people in our age group. Because our church is what is commonly defined as a mega-church, with several thousand attendees and multiple services on two different campuses, there are many church members we do not know.

So, one of the offerings of the Boomer ministry is "Eat with Eight" dinners. Eight people, composed of couples, singles or both, gather in someone's home, have a meal and get to know each other. In theory, you don't know these people until this meeting. 

We do, in fact, know a lot of folks at church, and we are involved in a small group that meets regularly. But, still, there are many we do not know. 

Wife volunteered to host one of these "Eat with Eight" dinners in our home last Friday night. 

She had been given the names of three other couples who wished to participate. She contacted each of them and gave them assignments of what to bring. 

As I wrote in my last piece here, I am an introvert. I love people, but for whatever reason, they make me tired and sometimes anxious. And in a new situation where I do not know the people, I can become particularly uncomfortable. 

But I also believe God made us for relationships. Although because of my personality I keep events such as this to a minimum, I can rise above my comfort level from time to time.

It helps to prepare myself well. I tell myself there will be a starting and an ending, and I know we also gather for a common purpose. I also take cues from a book I recently read (How to Know a Person by David Brooks) in which the author contends all people, at some level, want to be seen and heard. All of this helps. 

Wife knows me and my personality, so she agreed to take the leadership role. In addition to being in charge of getting everyone here, she had a mental list of conversation topics and kept things going throughout the evening. I think she also had some type of game in mind in the event of a lull, but it turned out she did not need it. 

For us, Eat with Eight became Eat with Six. The husband from one of the couples who was supposed to come got sick, so that couple canceled. 

It ended up being enjoyable, and I did fine. Guests arrived at 6:30. We had appetizers for about 30 minutes, then sat down to dinner. We sat at the table until about 9:30. I finally had to get up and stretch because my legs get stiff after sitting that long. (After all, I'm a Boomer.) 

I was not in any way signaling that people needed to leave, but that kind of gave rise to departures. By the time everyone gathered up their dishes and coats, it was 10 p.m. 

The people were very kind. I was the only one who still has a day job (not retired) and I was also the youngest one. (I did not hate that.) I did not ask for the age information -- they volunteered it. 

I think we are supposed to have a couple more of these, so I will await Wife's further instructions. As long as they are appropriately spaced, I'll be a willing participant. 

Friday, February 9, 2024

Branching out

I am in the sunset of my working life. I will find myself retired in about 18 months, perhaps sooner. 

I have all kinds of feelings about my working life coming to an end. Wife and I believe we are prepared financially, but it will be strange not to have an employer that deposits money into my bank account every other Friday. It will now be the government and pension plans making the deposits on a monthly basis.  

That, however, is not my main concern. What I mostly think about for the time I'll not be employed is how I will fill my time. 

And that's really not the main concern, either. What I most fret over is how I will establish a routine

Today my weekdays revolve around what I do between the hours of 8-ish a.m. and 6-ish p.m. My mornings before I start work generally consist of exercise, some reading and devotions, and making a quick morning run to Sonic. (Don't judge me for that). 

I think working exclusively from home has prepared me for not getting up and going somewhere. That' has been the case for four years now, and before that I did it a couple of days a week. So, I have that part well established and I like it. 

But will I have the discipline to still get up and have some type of routine? I will definitely need to do that as I am a creature of habit, and you know what they say about idle hands. 

I've joined a couple of groups lately that, even though I am not yet retired, should be a nice addition to my schedule when that day comes. 

First, I joined a community chorus. I grew up singing in choirs, both at church and school. I love choral music and I had some wonderful choir directors. In my adult life, when I lived in Little Rock, I continued to sing in church -- in the choir, ensembles and even the occasional solo. 

But when we moved to the Nashville area in 1997, we joined a church that does not have a choir. Our music is contemporary, and it is fine, but there is simply not a place for me. Over the years I have thought of going to another church just to sing in their choir, but Wife and I have always loved our church here and it's a big part of our life, so not having a choir, or music I like, was certainly not a reason to join another church. 

I have thought of asking one of the denominational churches nearby if I could sing in their choir without being a member. I am guessing they would have let me do that, but to date, I have never gotten around to pursuing it. 

Recently I learned that our county parks and recreation department has a community band AND a community chorus! An audition is required, so on January 4th I showed up to try out. I was candid with the director, telling her it had been a very long time since I had sung, and I would understand if, after listening to me, she told me I simply didn't have it anymore. 

After all, I'm no spring chicken and vocal cords age like any other part of the body. And I was woefully out of practice. 

She looked at me rather skeptically but let me proceed with the audition. She had me sing a familiar song ("My Country Tis of Thee") acapella. She had me sing several lines of music I did not know (sight reading) to assess my ability to read music. She had me go through vocal exercises, singing up and down the scale. She had me match pitches with her. 

"Well, I think you still have it," she said after going through the aforementioned. She then proceeded to tell me she had only six openings for the spring semester, and at that time she was not sure where those openings were. In other words, I might have to wait until a spot opened up. 

I told her that was fine, and I appreciated her letting me audition. Someday, I thought to myself. I had at least put myself out there. 

The next week I received an email with an invitation to join! I have been to three rehearsals, and I love it. Even though it has been well over 25 years, it all seems very familiar -- the black folder of music that has my name on it, with a pencil pouch and pencil; the vocal and breathing exercises; and, most significantly, hearing the beautiful harmonies and blends of my fellow choristers all around me. It is as if something that lay dormant in me has been reawakened. 

The music is challenging, but not overly difficult. I seem to be picking it up fairly well. 

I did not know one person in the chorus (there are a total of 96), but everyone, especially those in my section (tenors) has been kind and welcoming. We will perform in concert May 5th, then will be off for the summer. 

So, there is that. 

In addition, in January I attended the first meeting of a monthly book club that meets at my favorite brewery. Like the choir, I didn't know anyone there. There were about 20 of us, from various walks of life, and it was great. We discussed Beartown by Fredrik Backman and I thoroughly enjoyed it (both the book and the discussion).

I am an introvert by nature, and walking into a group where I don't know anyone is way outside my comfort zone. These two groups, however, are perfect for me, because there is a purpose, meaning something that takes place other than small talk. I don't have to worry about going and standing around and thinking of something to say. There is a beginning and an ending. 

In both cases, I have ended up talking briefly to people, but again, since we are all there due to a common interest, it is not uncomfortable. 

Wife says I am branching out. I guess you can call it that. 

And hopefully I'll be prepared when retirement comes. 

Saturday, February 3, 2024

Life change

 The title of this post is intentionally misleading, and definitely with tongue planted firmly in cheek. 

What I am writing about is most certainly not life-changing, not in the truest sense of how that term should be taken, something that alters the course of one's life in a permanent or semi-permanent way, whether for good or bad. 

Getting married or having a child? Definitely life-changing and hopefully for good. Sustaining an injury can be life-changing in a not-so-good way.

So, with that out of the way, I will tell you what has happened with yours truly that I have laughingly called life changing. 

I am no longer carrying a wallet. 

Months ago, I noticed a friend whose phone case opened up to reveal his driver's license and a couple of pay cards. I told Wife I might like something like that for Christmas. It's the only thing I asked for and the only thing she got me, and she hit it out of the park. 

If you are a Seinfeld fan, you might remember an episode in which George Castanza catches grief for the thickness of his wallet. Well, I might not have been as bad as George, but until recently one could almost always detect a bulge in my backside from the little leather holder in which I would carry my valuables. 

I have now made the change. If there are any downsides, they are (a) I can't get as much cash in this, but I don't carry much cash these days anyway, so it's not a deal breaker; and (b) I always feel like I'm missing something because I figure I have carried a wallet about 55 years. I find myself reaching for it and, at first, I had some mild nanoseconds of panic thinking I had lost it! 

But so far, I like the new arrangement and it's certainly less to keep up with. That is progress, I suppose.