The Games People Play

Guess who won and who lost …

We recently wrapped up a weekend in Port Townsend with my wife’s sister and her husband where about all we did was eat and play board games. Settlers of Catan, SmallWorld, Splendor and Five Crowns were all … on the table. We had an absolute blast, and pretty much each of us won one game. We can’t wait to go back and test our skills and luck again!

Playing these games did dredge up a couple of memories from years gone by. My sister Susan and I would occasionally get to stay with our grandparents in Vancouver, B.C.; one time we found a very old version of Snakes and Ladders, and played that endlessly, maybe my first introduction to board games.

Then I got introduced to Monopoly. We had a ton of kids in the neighborhood I grew up in, and we all loved to play. And play. And play. We started adding to the rules – you could put as many hotels on a property as you could afford. Soon we had to buy extra packs of Monopoly money, houses and hotels. Then one year, we started a game just as school got out for the summer. That game lasted almost the entire summer! There was never a game like that before, and there will never be another.

Someone “Shot the Moon,” or “ran” them!

I also learned how to play Hearts at an early age. One of my grandmas played it with a cutthroat intensity. She was able to count the cards and remember what had been played, and figure out what was left, and who was most likely to have what was left in their hands. I remember epic games around our dining room table that resulted in shouts of exultation as someone “ran” the Hearts, and cries of anguish as the Queen of Spades got played on an unsuspecting victim.

One time my grandmother came up to visit my wife and I. We naturally started playing Hearts, but somehow, she just kept getting messed up on her plays, and started racking up the points. “I just can’t understand it!” she kept saying. Then … “What is that music you have playing?” Well, I had some great rock’n’roll going softly in the background. “Turn that off!” she commanded, and with that, she was back on her game. Dang.

Just a few years back, I was visiting my uncle, and he taught me how to play a card game he called “Nickel.” Apparently that was because everyone had to ante up a nickel for every hand they played. Such a fun game! Since then my wife and I have taught it to several other couples (although I did have to call my uncle a few times to clarify the rules), and they in turn have taught it to others. I love being a part of keeping this tradition alive! Side note: the game “5 Crowns” turns out to be a commercial version of Nickel, with a very slight variant on the scoring portion of the rules.

And then there is dominoes. I had played with them as a youth, stacking them so that they’d all fall down sequentially, but I had never played a game of dominoes. Then our friends from Texas, Dave and Jodi, taught us how to play 42 and Mexican Train. 42 is a game with partners, and involves a highly evolved strategy. The good news is that David is quite skilled, so we won more games than can be attributed to my contributions. Mexican Train, however, proved to be super fun, easy to learn and teach, and so we acquired our own set of these specialized dominoes, and enjoy playing with anyone who will join us.

We are excited, because it looks probable we will have a game night at our home soon with our granddaughter and daughter. We’ve already made lots of great memories around OUR dining room table, and we can’t wait to make more. Maybe, if you are lucky this holiday season, someone will come up to you with a wish in their eyes, and say “Will you play a game with me?” and I hope you do.

Thanksgiving Blessings

We are thankful for our home.  It may be tiny and very basic, but it is warm, dry and cozy. We are blessed. I’m thankful for our car. It may be a smaller, very basic model, but it is reliable and safe. We are blessed. I’m thankful for our health. We have been through some major issues through the years, but we continue to be able to do the things we love with no restrictions. We are blessed. I’m thankful for this season of our lives, when we can rest from the challenges of daily occupation. We may not have the resources to buy a vacation home, or travel the world to places we’d love to see, but each day is a new and wonderful adventure. We are blessed. I’m thankful for my wife. We share so much in common; we both love to cook together and try new recipes, we love to travel and explore together, we love to walk and hike together, we love to tease and laugh often together and we love to worship and pray together. We are blessed. I’m thankful for our friends and family. There are many differences that could drive a wedge in our relationships, but we focus on what unites us, and we love spending time with you. We are blessed. We are thankful for our faith. We know how often we fall short of the mark as we strive to be a follower after Christ, but our hearts desire is to show His Love, Grace and Compassion to all, and we are in return so very blessed.

Our hope and prayer for you today is that you have an abundance of joy and thanksgiving as you look around and see the blessings that fill your life. And if you are facing challenges that steal your joy, reach out. People love and care deeply for you. May you be richly blessed.

Wanna grab a cup of coffee?

I grew up in a divided household. My mom drank coffee. She’d put on the percolator coffee pot in the morning, and drink from it all day. I remember how fun it was to watch when the water would get hot enough to begin dashing itself against the clear glass top of the coffee pot lid, and how it would begin to turn that dark black/brown color. 

My dad, on the other hand, equated coffee with alcohol; both were tools of the devil, and to be avoided. He was, however, a consummate gentleman. I remember on one of our infrequent times we spent together that we had gone to a minor league baseball game at Portland’s stadium, along with a nearby neighbor and his son (a friend of mine). His dad had gotten up, and when he returned, brought two cups of coffee – one for him, and one for my dad. I watched with interest to see what he would do, knowing his intense dislike of coffee. He drank it. 

Me, I didn’t like either one of them. I drank milk. Lots of it. Sometimes directly from the bottle, and later, from the carton. Working as a painter’s helper one summer when I was a teenager, in addition to a sandwich, fruit, and other items, I’d drink an entire quart of milk with lunch. Maybe that’s why I’m a bit lactose-intolerant now. 

Sometime around 1980, I found myself having to work in Seattle, about an hour and a half from our home. A local drug-store chain – Pay’n’Save (later bought out by RiteAid), and was experimenting with having optical shops in their drug stores; they hired me to manage their location on 4th and Pike in downtown Seattle. I had Sunday and Monday off. And then the director of optical decided it would be a great idea to have mandatory sales training for all of the opticians … at 7:00AM on Mondays. The classes were actually good, and I learned a lot. But at the first class I realized staying awake while driving home was going to be an issue. They had coffee there. I forced myself to drink a cup before I left. Every Monday. For six weeks. I had become a coffee drinker.

The next thing I really remember about coffee is when they “invented” latte’s. I was back up in Bellingham, and during a slow time in the mornings I’d run down and get myself a latte. So good! Until about an hour later when I’d be doubled over in pain. That’s when I discovered my lactose intolerance issue. 

This was about the same time gourmet coffee started to become a thing for the masses. I enjoyed trying coffee made from beans from around the world. I got a series of coffee grinders, and enjoyed coffee in a way I never had before. So rich, delicious, and varied in flavor. I definitely preferred the dark, robust flavors like French Roast. Unfortunately, this was also about the time it became apparent that I had to stop drinking coffee by around noon if I didn’t want my eyes to pop open at 2:00AM and then be wide awake for a couple of hours.

The other big issue around coffee would come around every summer when I’d get out for backpacking trips. I’d always want my pack to be as light as possible, but I also wanted a great cup of coffee to start my day. Initially I would pack a plastic cone, filters and coffee. Taste-wise, it was awesome But the cone was unwieldy to pack, and, being conscientious even back then, I committed to packing out all of my waste, wet coffee grounds in soggy filters and all. So I found a micro espresso maker that would work on my tiny backpacking stove. That was fun, and I loved the enameled tin little espresso cup. But it was a hassle to make the four cups each morning, two for me and two for my hiking buddy. And now the grounds were loose, not in a filter.

Scouring the hiking gear catalogs, I found a French Press coffee maker for backpacking. The coffee was superb, and it made more coffee much more easily, but it was a major hassle to clean up after each use, and again, contain the grounds. 

From there I tried chocolate covered coffee beans. No muss, no fuss, no waste, plus CHOCOLATE! What’s not to love?  Well, the pieces of coffee beans stuck in my teeth, and no hot coffee in the morning. I’m a bit ashamed to admit it, but in desperation, I actually tried instant coffee. Yucky, yucky, yucky. But then, a new innovation – VIA from the coffee company everyone loves to hate, Starbucks. Super lightweight, no muss, really easy to brew as much or as little as needed, and even remarkably coffee-like! Even in decaf for my wife! Even available in quantity from Costco! And because I can’t always remember why I went to Costco, I now have enough to probably last the rest of my life.  I no longer backpack due to the “back” part of “packing,” but Via now goes with us on all of our overnight trips and adventures, just in case. And it comes in handy! 

For some reason I was relating this to my friend David from Texas, and he told me about ADIRchef (note: I don’t have any sponsors for my blog yet, so this mention is gratis). I looked it up, and immediately ordered one, with an extra travel cup. What a great find! My wife can have her cup of decaf, then I can have my cup of “real” coffee. We take this on every trip. Yeah, if it’s in our carry-on we get some funny looks from TSE inspectors, but that hasn’t deterred us yet. We generally just dislike hotel coffee (with rare exceptions), and really like our good stuff. 

At home we remain consistent in our idiosyncrasies by having two coffee makers on our counter. Terri uses the ADAIRchef on a daily basis with her home-ground organic decaf while I use a Keurig. I would have stopped using it when my awareness of plastic waste became a significant issue in my life, but then I discovered the San Francisco  brand that has French Roast coffee in 100% compostable pods. No muss, no fuss, and as much or as little coffee as I want on any day. So now I sit back, sip on a cup of coffee, and start my day. How about you? Wanna grab a cup of coffee with me?

I Need a Day Off from Being Retired!

It was all fun and games when I retired on June 1st. Lots of great hikes and unstructured days off to do this and that … ahh!

Then Terri finally retired as of September 1st. I had been planning for this for some time; in fact, I planned and planned and planned to make the most of our late summer and early fall. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a planner (I think it runs in the family). Yeah, I already have next years road trip all planned out and booked – all 4,000 miles and four National Parks. I may, however, over-planned September, October and early November.

Lake Chelan Sunset

We started off September with several days at our condo in Lake Chelan, exploring, dining and wine tasting, can’t wait to go back! We got to spend time with the Ryan grand-kids, and with the Three Amigos, introducing Rick and Lucy to Woodinville, and ended up with a four day sibling reunion at the Oregon Coast, book-ended by stays in Seaside and Long Beach. There were three whole days with no plans. October started with us still at the beach, ending up traveling to Kelowna to celebrate Aunt Barb Gregory’s 80th birthday, and once again with three whole days with no plans.

Lake Okanogan at Kelowna

I thought once we got to November, things would slow down a bit. Yeah, maybe at the end of the month. We had great weather, fabulous family, and incredible food for four days in Kelowna, right on Lake Okanogan. Then back to Seattle to watch the grand-kids, and heading to Vancouver, BC soon for a Bruce Cockburn concert! Oh yeah, and hiking, walking, doing side gigs, , attending live music events, etc etc etc.

I’m not complaining – we’ve had a ton of fun, and have done so many great activities.

Ironically, before Terri retired, she was quite concerned that we might end up just sitting around, bored to death, and staring at each other. So we sat down and brainstormed a list of activities we’d both enjoy. I had previously made a list for myself of things I’d like to do – learning how to build a website, becoming more familiar with my new camera and image processing software, finding great photo opportunities, going to a gym to enhance my exercise, doing some landscaping on our yard, and hiking as much as possible. It was great to be able to cross one thing off that list.

Just yesterday Terri commented that maybe we’d filled our calendar a bit TOO full since she retired, so I asked her “Which activities should we have given up?” A moment of silence … “None of them.” Exactly. We may be crazy busy, but we are enjoying every moment of this blessed life. We hope you are too

The Three Amigos

The Boogie Corner

Many people form great, life-long bonds with college roommates; others become comrades-in-arms in military service. Then there’s the Three Amigos from the Boogie Corner. Odd how things work out. I had just returned to Portland after Basic and AIT Training for the Oregon National Guard at Fort Lewis, and knew living at home was no longer an option. John D had just gotten back from Texas, where he had gone through the Air Force equivalent of Basic Training. Gary M. had been friends with my sisters, and (as often happened) would make the trek down from Renton to visit with my mom, and he was looking to move to Portland. None of us had enough resources to get our own places, so I said, “What if we all get an apartment together?” And we did.

We found a newer three bedroom, two bath apartment in South East Portland, scraped together some furnishings, and moved in. We were in a corner unit with two other apartments – one had three “girls”, and the other had three “guys.” Those six liked to party hardy with alcohol, and while we wouldn’t turn down a drink, preferred, let’s say, alternative choices. Occasionally we would all join forces, and quite the party would ensue – hence the name, Boogie Corner.

Gary loved to cook, and we loved to eat. John “loved” to clean, and I – hmmm – I liked everything at 11 on a scale of 1 to 10. Music, medicinal herbs, you name it. Think hippy wanna-be’s Odd Couple plus One. But something clicked.

Poor Gary – John and I would get the munchies around midnight, after Gary had been to bed for a couple of hours. We’d cook up cheeseburgers, and wake him up to eat one. He’d actually get up, eat the burger we cooked, and go back to bed. In the morning involuntary bulimia would often afflict Gary. He says that’s why I don’t eat burgers now.

Then there was the time John and I came back to the apartment, opened the door, and tons of smoke rolled out. We thought the apartment was on fire! Turns out Gary had cookies in the oven, and forgot about them until a second before we arrived. Then there was the time when he had cooked up a plate of spaghetti and meat sauce. We were in the process of eating dinner when the landlord came to call. I answered the door, but for various reasons, did not invite him in. Gary came up to the door, holding his plate of spaghetti, until – it just fell from his fingers, as if in slow motion. Still in slow-mo, Gary’s mouth fell open, his eyes widened, and he slowly looked down at the floor where his dinner now resided. The landlord looked at the food, then at Gary, then at me and said “I’ll come back later.”

Celebrating a 50th Birthday in Vancouver, BC

John worked at a major bank, I worked at Western Electric building telephone switching equipment, and Gary held a variety of jobs. One was selling waterbeds (remember those?). The best part about that was that they sponsored rock concerts, so Gary was able to get us in to see Bill Withers on his first tour, Canned Heat, and the James Gang. We did like to rock out.

There was a whole lot more, compressed into what actually was a fairly short time. But we bonded. John still lives in Portland, Gary lives in Olympia, and I’m far north in between Seattle and Vancouver, BC, but we still try and get together once a year. We share old stories, talk about future plans, and just enjoy each other’s company. I treasure the friendship of these two, and am so glad we’ve kept it going for oh my gosh it must be about 50 years now! In the end, we all have memories, but for us lucky ones, we have friends who have touched, and continue to touch, our lives.

The Three Amigos and Spouses getting together again to celebrate about 50 years of friendship

Hugs!

Lake Chelan evening

You may have noticed that my little blog has been AWOL lately. Terri has been retired a bit over two weeks now, and we have been busy, busy, busy. We took a great little trip for a few days to the Lake Chelan area and had a great time exploring that area, basking (okay, baking) in the warm temperatures. But now the rains have settled in for the duration of the Great Gray, so I hope to get back on track here!

Several years ago I read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. The basic premise is that we each have our own ways of receiving and giving love, and if couples take the time to learn and practice giving love to their spouse in the way they need, they will have a much stronger relationship.  What an interesting and informative book- I wholeheartedly endorse it, and recommend everyone read it! It was quickly obvious that my love language is Touch, and I am so happy I share that love language with my wife! But last night, laying awake for a bit, I realized that there is another area of life where that is quite apparent …

… and that is hugging. It’s true. I’m a hugger. I remember the first time I hugged my dad; I was about 22 years old. He and his dad were taking a trip to New Zealand and Polynesia, which seemed like a long way away. While we were never close growing up, I cared deeply for him, and I wanted him to know that before he left, so I drove over to the house, and gave him a big hug, and probably even told him that I loved him. I remember him standing stock-still, arms at his side, totally at a loss of what to do. In later years, he also became a bit of a hugger.

Close as a hug

And guess what, hugging is good for you! The best benefit comes from a hug that lasts 20 seconds or more, as that releases the hormone oxytocin. Scientific experiments show that hugging this long or longer has tons of benefits, from reducing stress to improving the immune system to better heart health and more. Many of you will be relieved to know that I save hugs this long for my wife, our kids, grandkids, and close family members.

It wasn’t too long after that first hug with my dad that I started hugging other people who were important in my life. My long-time backpacking buddy and brother-in-law John was initially more than a bit uncomfortable, then accepting, and now (ahem) embraces my hugs. My great childhood friend John, not an overly demonstrative person, allows and accepts my little hug indulgence. My uncles, Don and Denny, generationally and historically resistant to hugging, allow me in. And so do many others now. More than likely, if we’ve met more than twice in a non-business setting, you’ve been on the receiving end of one of my hugs. 

Sadly, our culture continues to devalue and depersonalize human contact and interaction. Online ordering, self-checkout, drive-thru, robot operators – as we become more and more dePerson-alized, our bonds with others becomes fragmented, torn, and lost. Hugging is one of the most personal, affirming things you can do to create bonds. If you’re not a hugger, why not give it a try today?

The Long and Winding Road to Terri’s Retirement

August 30, 2019 was Terri’s last day at work. I have to admit, I almost didn’t believe it until nearly right up to the end. Oh sure, many were the days when I’d be heading off to a hike or such, and she would say “I wish I was going with you!” But then she’d talk about how she had the perfect job – she could show up when she wanted, leave when she wanted, and generally work as much or as little as she wanted during the week. And then there was the financial aspect, since her wages were completely at her disposal. Hairdresser, clothing, shopping for grandkids, dining out, something special for the house – how would that work once she retired? Plus she was really good at her job, and got a lot of satisfaction from doing it well. And she enjoyed the social interactions with her co-workers.

So we would discuss all the pros and cons with me on a regular basis. One week she’d be ready to turn in her notice, and the next week say that she didn’t know when she’d retire. Was I sure we’d have enough resources to retire? What would she do all day? How would it change our relationship? Where would her funds come from for her discretionary spending? So we talked, discussed, and explored thoughts and feelings. I tried to listen twice as much as I talked. We went back to our financial planner with questions and concerns, and were reassured that if we continued to have a prudent and restrained budget we’d be OK. And we have both developed a couple of side gigs that will get us out of the house, and bring in a few non-budgeted dollars of play money.

A few ideas to start our retired life

But – “Bill, you have your whole retirement planned out! Hiking, photography, your blog, volunteering, 1001 projects – what am I going to do?” So we talked about that. A few times. Or more. The last time, we were in the car, headed out … somewhere. So I suggested we brainstorm a bit, and we did. Fortunately, I always carry a pen and pad of paper in the car, so I had her write the ideas down, and we now have a starting list of 32 things to do! Some of them are one-off projects, and others we can do over and over again. She started to see the possibilities of living a retired life. 

Still, she had said she was going to retire and had changed her mind a few times, so when she said she’d retire at the end of August, I said “Good!”  A couple moments of silence, and she said “I thought you’d be more excited than that…” I affirmed that I would be delighted if she actually retired, but I’d believe it when I saw it. Sure enough, I saw some vacillation in determination, but as the days wore on, I heard an increasing acceptance of the idea of finally being done with work. 

So, on Friday, August 30th, she came home from work for the last time – and even came home an hour and a half earlier than normal. “Let’s go out to Chuckanut Manor and celebrate with a glass of wine,” she suggested, and course I said yes. As we drove, she shared some unexpected moments of sadness and loss as the finality of the situation sank in. She wondered why I hadn’t felt the same way when I left, and I reminded her that I had cut back from five days a week to four, and then to three, and then to two days a week starting this last January. I was able to slowly let go, and absorb my new reality, and immerse myself into this new life, while she worked more days and longer hours up towards the end to fulfill all of her commitments. So we pulled up to the restaurant, with its sweeping views of Samish Bay and the bucolic scene around it, and savored the moment. It was a perfect moment, and I didn’t want it to end, so I told her I’d treat her to dinner to keep the celebration going. You can read about it here if you’d like.

Rose Hips with Bellingham Bay in background

Saturday we went for one of our favorite walks in the historic residential area of Fairhaven, ending up on the waterfront walk from Boulevard park to the business district, then went grocery shopping. Sunday we went to church, then did a reprise of our previous days walk, coming home to sit in our gazebo with a glass of wine, gazing out at our beautiful little backyard garden before coming in to cook dinner together. Today we are headed out on a picnic to Washington park, overlooking the Salish Sea, and Wednesday we leave for a few days at Lake Chelan. Nothing huge or amazing here, but it feels like the perfect start to our new life together. We are both aware that there will be hiccups and challenges along the way, and are already planning strategies on dealing with them. We are also hyper-aware of time slipping by so very quickly, and so we are trying to live wide-awake to every moment that we get to share during this amazing season of our lives. Thanks for sharing some of those moments with us, whether in person, or through this blog!