“I’m going to enter a modeling contest,” I told my wife after putting on slightly skimpy running shorts.

“I didn’t know your running costume qualifies you for Chippendales,” she said.

Let me be clear for a moment: my wife isn’t funny. She sometimes thinks she is, but she’s not.

“Not that kind of modeling,” I said. “AARP magazine is seeking contestants for “New Faces of 50+ Real People Model Search.”

She seemed relieved I wasn’t planning to model underwear, but still wanted proof that I wasn’t in a mid-life crisis.

I read the AARP submission guidelines aloud that asked contestants to “…share your wisdom for living your best life at 50+ by submitting your photo and telling us just how you embrace your age.”

I’m calling my submission, “Seven F-Words for My Fifties.”

Fun. Keep “fun” in your agenda. I do this by watching comedies, reading comics, and sharing dinnertime stories with friends. I write, read, enjoy theaters and museums, ride zip lines and attend my state fair. I do these things because fun releases natural “feel-good” hormones called endorphins. Endorphins combat stress and are therefore good for those I love and for those I serve.

Food. With an empty nest, I’ve escaped the fast food world and found culinary delight in community eateries. I’m even considering attending cooking classes. But I also know that the love of food can turn gluttonous, so I work to counteract negative effects through fitness.

Fitness. God made us to physically interact with our world, so I embrace fitness. I play Frisbee with my dog, go for walks with my wife, swim in the pool, ride a bike down community trails, and jog through town.

Finances. Yes, money helps. The most precious thing money buys is time: family time; beach time; travel time. It’s taken me until fifty to realize that I don’t have to buy everything I want. I don’t need the latest technology, the coolest cars, or the largest house. Those things will count for nothing when I die.

Flight. Reduce your unnecessary expenses and divert your money to travel. Since turning 50, I’ve flown to Hawaii, Alaska, Peru, Panama, Mexico, Honduras, Iraq, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and Jordan this September. Travel helps me to see that I’m not the center of the universe and that the USA has many attributes as well as faults.

Family. A word with multiple shades of meaning. “Family” can be an endearing term, but if family members abuse you, you look for family elsewhere. You find family where you find belonging; maybe at the gym, office, church, or even civic club. My best experience of family is with my wife and the best meaning of “brother” comes with my best friend of 35 years, Roger Williams.
Faith. No, this isn’t the part of the column where I beg you to attend church or solicit donations. I end with “faith” because faith embraces me and keeps me from falling when all else on my list fails.

Faith is the grip the parachutist feels when his harness tightens. Faith is the grip the trapeze artist knows as she hangs for a second in midair only to be snatched by a skillful partner. It’s a grip that comes from just beyond the edge of our darkness. It’s an authority that knows the darkness, but comes from the light. When I keep the faith, faith keeps me.

Finally, if I win the AARP modeling contest, my wife says I have to buy longer shorts. Just to be clear, she’s not funny.