How I Got FREE UNLIMITED BOOKS, and other Senior Deals!!


How? I joined our local library. But wait, that’s not the end of the story! For me, it all starts about April 1, 1959, when the brand-new Hollywood Library opened in Portland, OR. I was a whole 8 ½ years old, but it was in easy reach when I got my Schwinn bicycle. Exploring the shelves, doing high school homework there to escape the chaos of four younger siblings in the house,  reading, reading, always reading. I loved that library! 

Fast forward a few years, and I found myself working at Multnomah County Library Central branch, built about 1913. What a beautiful building! Working behind the scenes, in the book stacks, in the A/V area, getting the microscopic staff elevator stuck between floors, playing Mille Borne at lunch – and the selection of books was AMAZING! Great memories of an amazing place.

Years later I moved to Bellingham, WA, and found I could walk to the library during my lunch hour, select a half-dozen books, walk back, and still have time to wolf down my brown-bag lunch! I did that for 20 years, when I got another job about 30 miles south, and then eventually moved to Skagit County. Ironically enough, not too long after that, I found a new position back in Bellingham, but with 30 minutes for lunch, and a lot longer distance, library visits became a thing of the past. Yeah, I discovered Amazon books, and the bookshelves at Costco, but it wasn’t the same. I made a list of things I wanted to do once I retired, and getting set up at our local library was one of them.  

We live in a small town, about 12,000 souls, so I wasn’t expecting much, but I had to check it out. It turned out to be reasonably larger than expected, and had some unexpected bonuses! Movies on DVD by the hundreds! All those movies I never had time to watch before, now at my fingertips – going to be great when the winter rains come, and drive me inside. Narrated books on CD by the dozens and dozens! We are planning a couple of major road trips, and these are so much fun, haven’t listened to them in years. 

But wait, there’s more! Free access to Lynda.com, which offers classes in photography, writing, computer programming and more! Hoopla, where I can instantly borrow digital movies, music, eBooks and more! Freegal, free access to 15 million songs! I can go to several genealogical sites, travel info sites, American food culture sites, and language learning software! Yeah, I’m excited about all the possibilities.

Next stop was the Senior Center, right across the parking lot from the library. Also free, but …. I may wait a few years to avail myself of their offerings. One (well, two to be technical) more stops to check out something I read about in my Medicare supplement information, Silver Sneakers (or for some, Silver and Fit). 

I try to keep fit, using an elliptical exercise machine, exercise ball and elastic band, and dumbbells, but I feel like I need help targeting flexibility, balance, and proactive anti-sciatica exercises. I checked it out, and found there are two gyms  – one a mile away, and a much larger sister facility about 12 miles away. Guess what! It’s free!! OK, I will have to pay a personal trainer once for a workout tailored to my exact needs, but I’m excited about the potential. Zumba Gold, tailored for the (ahem) “active older participant,” SilverSneakers for 65+ members, and once I get really toned (I hope) fast-moving PiYo that combines pilates with Yoga.

And my wife is excited about Aqua Pilates. Me, not so much, but I told her I’d be willing to get in a swimsuit if she would. 

I’m enjoying the heck out of this summer, going on lots of fabulous hikes in our beautiful North Cascades, keeping our yard in the best shape it’s ever been in, connecting with friends, neighbors and family, but I know our summers are short up here in the northwest. So when those infamous winter rains set in, if you can’t find me at the gym, there’s a really good chance you’ll find me at  the library.

Five Minute Friendships

We were in Halfwaytonowhere, Idaho a couple of weekends ago for my Cousins memorial service, staying at a nearby resort (the only lodging for miles around). We were having dinner at the restaurant, sitting out on their deck, when a couple of built-up hotrods pulled up. Turns out that there was going to be a small hot rod gathering that evening, so we settled in and waited for all of them to arrive. 

There were some really nice restorations, a couple of unusual vehicles, and some really built-for-racing rigs. We wandered around gawking and admiring, and struck up a couple of conversations. Rod had seen an article about a 1954 GM concept car, and vowed to have one some day. He spent years looking, and finally had one custom made for him – the 1954 Corvette with the Chevy Nomad roof. He is a retired firefighter from California, who travels back and forth between there and Idaho – no more shoveling snow for him! Super-nice guy, very friendly and outgoing. 

Then we met Mark and Katherine – turns out she graduated from Ferndale High School, same school as my daughter! They met in college many years ago, moved to New York, then back out west. If I remember right, his uncle had a home on a nearby lake, where he had spent a lot of time with family as a youth. They were able to purchase that home, and lived there for several years before a neighbor convinced them to sell. They then moved into the resort community we were at, loved it, but are looking for a new place.

So, what’s the point? Both of these are examples of what we call “Five Minute Friendships”. It’s all about being open, and reaching out to people, and connecting with them. Generally we never see these people again, but in the meantime, we’ve taken the time to put our phones down, look people in the eye, and share a bit of ourselves with them, and listen to them share a bit about themselves. In this fast-moving, increasingly impersonal world, we consciously take the time to try and connect with others. 

My wife is currently reading a book called “Life After Heaven” by Steven Musick. She has shared the basic storyline with me, and I’m excited to read it as well. The backstory is amazing and really powerful, then gets into a concept the author calls “Bubbles from Heaven.” Basically it takes the Five Minute Friendship to the next level, when you open your eyes to see a need, then open your heart to meet that need. My friend Don did that a while. Here’s what happened in his words: “I  was at Costco just before Christmas. A woman with three young children had a sizable amount of groceries on the belt. The cashier found that her  husband’s Costco card hadn’t been renewed for a long time. They tried everything to get it to work, but they told her they were sorry and started removing her stuff. When she was taking her toddler out of the cart, I felt a spiritual slap across my head as if I was asleep. I told them to put everything through and I paid for it. She was tearfully embarrassed and thankful. I said “God bless you and Merry Christmas.” In retrospect, I think it had more effect on the cashier and boxer……. and my wallet ;). Look at how many were blessed by this bubble from heaven!

And I guess that’s a part of why I write this blog – I want to make more connections with more people. I want to do my part to experience bubbles from heaven. I love technology, but I love people more. I’m looking forward to many more Five Minute Friendships – or a GREAT friendship – with you!

Life in the Slow Lane

Life in the Slow Lane

Many people agree that my middle name should be ‘Trouble,” although it was often “Mud” when I was growing up, but I’m thinking it should have been “Faster.” I always tried to walk faster to school, and even faster on my way home (it was only uphill one way, and most often in the rain, not snow). I always wanted to be the fastest reader in class, but Candy always was able to beat me. When I finally got a bike, I needed to be faster than all my friends, especially racing down Rocky  Butte in Portland. Once I started driving, I went through cars the way most people go through a box of Kleenex. Then I got a job working for Western Electric in Vancouver, and getting to work was always a race against the clock. I swear to this day that eventually other commuters recognized my big old Chrysler, and pulled into the slow lane when they saw me coming. I actually used to track my time hiking trails in the North Cascades, and tried to beat my previous time the next time I was on the same trail. And I never thought I talked too fast, but that other people listened too slow.

I’m not sure when the change actually took place, but I recently realized things have changed. Sure, I’m still over the speed limit a bit on the freeway, but I pull into the slow lane when I see someone behind me who wants to set a new land speed record coming up behind. And I rarely even use bad words as they barrel past. I find myself timing trips into the megalopolis to avoid traffic stress, and even intentionally take back roads that will take longer so I don’t have to deal with the speeders and crazies on the freeway. I slow my steps when I’m walking to take in more of my surroundings. I stop for a photo op of some leaves dappled by sun and shade beside a trail. I definitely get passed on the trail more than I pass people these days.

I’m consciously slowing down to take the time to check in with my friends and family, and trying to talk less and listen more. I stand in a much longer line at the grocery store (*cough* Kroeger/Fred Meyer) to be helped by a real person, rather than trying to speed through a self-checkout line. I shelved my dreams for a fast sports car, and am more than content with my little four cylinder basic small Toyota SUV. We took the time to engage tablemates at a Yelp dinner event in good conversation, and came away enriched by the experience. 

Nearing age 70, maybe it’s that I’m almost able to see the final grains of sand running out in the hourglass of my life that makes me want to savor each and every one as they pass by. After rushing through my life, I look back and sense how much I missed with my focus on speed. Speed is always about Self, almost always at the expense of relationships. Now that I’ve identified the Speed Demon, I can call him out, put him behind me, and focus on living life to the full. (Warning – cliche’ ahead) “Better late than never” to learn to savor each precious passing moment. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to watch some sloth videos for inspiration.

Yesterday vs. Yesteryear

We went and saw Yesterday with some friends yesterday. Short take, no spoilers, a failed musician gets hit by a bus. The lights go out all over the world, and when they come back on, everything looks the same, but some things no longer exist, and never did – in this case, the Beatles, and all their music. But he remembers virtually all their songs, starts playing them, and everyone thinks they’re his, and the world goes nuts over the music. Interesting premise, and – like most of you – I grew up listening to the Beatles, so I was curious about this movie.

I  had just turned 13 years old when their first hit “Love Me Do” hit the airwaves here late 1963. I was an instant fan. As I grew and matured, so did they and their music. They broke new ground with every album they released; it was hard to say how much they changed the world, and how much they mirrored the incredible changes that were sweeping the world. Lucy In the Sky with Diamonds was released in May of 1967, just as I graduated from high school, with its implicit endorsement of LSD and psychedelia.

So, I was intrigued by the move Yesterday. First, let me say I really enjoyed it on several levels, and recommend it. But what surprised me was the impact the music had on me, even being presented in the extraordinary circumstances of the plot. Several times I found myself on the verge of tears, which blew my mind. I just rode it, but knew I’d have to go back and analyze what the heck was going on as no one else was obviously impacted the way I was.

One thing about me is that always looking for what’s new, and figuring out what that might look like in my life. From bringing home a Commodore 64 (the first affordable home computer) to the first iPhone; from going from vinyl to 8 track to cassette tapes to CD’s to streaming; from Flat-top haircuts to very long hippy hair and back to shorter hair and almost back to Flat-tops, and so on, I’m always on the lookout for the new. Especially in music. While many of my friends and peers music choices today reflect the music they grew up listening to, I’ve adopted more varied new music styles than I can keep up with. For example, right now I’m streaming The Growlers station on Pandora; their music is labeled “Beach Goth”. Sure, I’ll put on BTO or Psychedelic music if I want high energy to clean the house, but that’s about it. 

I guess in many ways I’ve run from my past. It wasn’t horrible like so many have experienced, but it wasn’t very good either, and I’ve been more than happy to shove it back into the spare room closet, rarely seeing the light of day. So when all of this seminal music from my past started playing, one song right after another, it was like I was a disembodied spirit flying over and then becoming emotionally entangled with the feelings from my past. And it kind of feels sickenly indulgent to weep about that sad, lonely kid from over 50 years ago. I can’t go back and change who I was, and frankly, I wouldn’t if I could, because every event in my life then led me to my life right now. Things will never be perfect in this world, but I’ve never been happier than I am now. 

Yesterday was great, but I’m going to let it move into the spare room closet with yesteryear. It was an interesting little side-trip, and I got to learn a bit more about myself. And if you have some tips about some cool new music you are listening to, please let me know!

Why I don’t own a dog

Isn’t Emma cute?

There are two kinds of people in this world; me and everyone else. Not sure why we always like to divide people into groups, but there you go. Another group – those who own dogs, and those who don’t. We don’t. I owned one dog yeeeaaars ago, and was a foster dog parent for a couple of years.

In a previous life, I thought it would be a nice thing to get my wife a dog for a gift. She wanted a Weimaraner; I got her a Saint Bernard. Found out a few things in a hurry. 1) They take up a LOT of room, wherever they are. 2) They slobber a lot, and when they shake their heads at the same time, it often reaches the ceiling. 3) “Picking up” after your dog is a (ahem) big job.

Years Later, while my daughter was attended college in northern California, I kept getting phone calls from her roommates about the damage her dog was doing to the house they were in and to their personal belongings. My daughter insisted it wasn’t her dog. When she moved back home, though, she brought “it’s not my dog” – a pit bull/retriever mix. Super-friendly with people, but that dog had jaws of steel. When my daughter moved out, we learned more about it. Up here on Puget Sound, lots of people use large, round rubber boat floats for tree swings. Zappa learned how to jump up, grab the bumper in her jaws, and swing back and forth.

One time while camping at a lake, I tossed a branchless tree about 10’ long, a good 4” at the butt into the lake like a missle. Zappa would swim out to it, grab it by the thick end, swim back, pull it up to the beach and drop it by my feet – again and again and again. A bystander stood amazed, and in broken english said “Dog have strong jaws!” Yep, we know.

She also needed a LOT of exercise everyday, even in the winter. I’d be out in the total dark, lit only by a yard light, throwing the frisbee for her, rain or snow, for an hour. She could leap six feet into the air to catch that frisbee.

The big lesson I learned was that owning a dog is much like having an infant. They need a lot of attention, they need to be fed often, they can make messes, their poop needs to be cleaned up, and they are not universally welcome. None of these fit well with our new life. We love to travel; most motels and our time-share don’t allow dogs.  Our house and yard aren’t particularly dog friendly – both are pretty small, and generally well kept. Dog hair and dogs digging … and barking, hmm, not so much our thing. You can say what you want about cats, but at least they don’t bark. And – just an observation, not a judgement – we often see where people’s lives end up revolving around the needs of their dogs, which can limit their ability to connect with us. Dogs give a lot of love, which is fabulous for many – but we would rather love on each other.

So, we often appreciate, and even love, others dogs. In fact, I told Terri we may get one – when we are too old to travel, the grandkids are all grown, and we are all alone. Until then, we won’t own a dog – or even a cat, for that matter.

My friend, David C, DOES own dogs, including one named Baxter. He has written a series of posts detailing his challenges with his dog. A few are included here, with his permission, and they are hilarious. And just another confirmation that maybe we just aren’t cut out to be doggie parents.

The Baxter Chronicles

Baxter the Wonder Dog aka the Dean of Duffus U. will give a lecture this weekend entitled “How to Draw Objects into your backyard. This is a must hear for all dogs who have their own air conditioned room with a doggie door that leads out to the backyard/bathroom. Somehow, like a magnet he draws objects into the yard that were never there before. Example: bricks, balls, skateboards, small sledge hammers, other dogs, dead animals,etc. Yesterday while I was in the backyard doing my weekly scanning of the minefield I discover a perfectly good sprinkler head. I checked, it was Not one of mine! Don’t you feel that your dog should have the opportunity to hone this skill? Remember Duffus University, BR 549.

This is the life I lead.

Wake Up America!!

Baxter

Well it once again is time for another tale of The Baxter Chronicles. Sadly, this may be the last chapter in the ongoing tale about Baxter the Wonder Dog, aka The Puke of Earl, Uggy Face, The Junk Yard Poodle, The Turd from Hell, and Fart Face. That’s right, I have finally decided to kill him. Apparently it is not enough that I have spent over $100 on dog beds. There are now two in the bedroom, two by the fireplace, and two in the Dog Cave. Fart face has decided that on sunny days he would like to lay on his bed in the back yard and bask in the sun. The only problem is that there is not a bed in the backyard. This is not a problem for the Puke of Earl. He just somehow pulls the huge dog bed through the tiny dog door and then puts on his sunglasses, fixes him a drink, and basks in the sun. Say a prayer for him, his days are numbered.

Welcome to another chapter of the Baxter Chronicles. I am convinced that JODI purchased Baxter the Wonder Dog from Quinlan Auto Salvage and Gift shop. They have a no refund policy. I can understand why.

So Sunday we went to PetSmart to get Baxter’s vaccination. JODI had to go with me and we took her car. He is no longer allowed in my truck. JODI had to go because, as you will remember from last year he dropped a load on my foot and an innocent young girl standing in line. So I no longer have to suffer the embarrassment that is Baxter the Wonder Dog aka Puke Face.

I made sure not to feed him in the morning so as to discourage puking. I also put two dog beds in the back of the car. He puked any way! On both beds. I am pretty sure he puked up the medicine that we paid $98 for.

If that is not enough Daisy got sick and we had to move her to the dog cave for the night. The dog cave has, by the way, it’s own A/C unit so they won’t be uncomfortable. Baxter doesn’t function without Daisy so we moved both dog beds to the dog cave for just one night. Baxter chewed his up.

This is the life I lead! I can feel the envy!

We’ve Lost Julie

I recently found out we lost Julie. Not that I knew her all that well. But – I have eight first cousins (my wife has 50+, but that’s her story). Four of those cousins are my mom’s sisters daughters. Sally, Julie, Laura and Cara. Sally is a year older than me, Julie was a year younger. Sally and Julie were on their own when their mom – Helen – died. We took the two younger ones into our household, and ended up legally adopting Cara. Too soon after that, my mom (Ramona) also passed from cancer. While we all grieved immensely, my heart hurt the most for Cara, losing two moms in just a few short years.

These events left an indelible mark on all of us. I escaped into marriage, drugs, and Washington, trying to leave the past behind (I’m still in Washington). Others faced their own demons, while some “acted out” by being as perfect as possible. But that bond, formed in that crucible called cancer, could not be broken. Years and life and distance would pull us apart, but that intangible bond remained. Julie had reconnected with Roger, a man she had loved deeply from years ago, and moved to north Idaho. Somehow, my daughter Kalise along with cousin Sally put together a family reunion a few years ago, with several activities being held at Julie and Rogers small ranch. It was great to reconnect to so many, and there was hope in the air.

Sometime later, everything went to hell. Two of her kids struggling with addiction. Heartbreak on the ranch. And – the Big C. Becky, my brother Dougs wife. Julie. My wife Terri. Cindy in remission, but with the occasional scare. Now, a couple of years later, Terri is cured, and Cindy and Becky are in remission. Julie put up one heck of a fight, but in the end, she slipped away from us.

I saw a photo of her a few weeks back, sitting around a campfire with family. She still had her “Julie” smile, which looked SO much like Mona Lisa’s to me. When she laughed, you knew by the unique combination of laugh and chuckle that it was her; her laugh was her signature. I wrote to her a couple of weeks ago, and shared that with her. I also confirmed that we have a hope beyond this earth, a Heavenly Father who loves us dearly, and that He would take good care of her.

We – overall – have been fortunate as a family. I’m the oldest of five, about to get smacked in the face by my 70th birthday. My “baby” sister is 60. The Whiting sisters range from 70 to the late 50’s. Our moms only made it to their mid-40’s.  I am so aware that many siblings in our age brackets have lost loved ones at much earlier ages. I guess it’s our turn now – we have lost Julie. We will see you on the other side.

Challenging Myself

I remember our first computer – a Commodore 64 with a tape drive. I literally had to type in programs I found in a computer magazine, then save them to the tape drive so I could run them. I justified the purchase on the basis that I had an idea about the upcoming computer revolution, and I wanted out daughter to be familiar and comfortable with them from the start (I think she was three years old at the time).

As we all know, things kept moving forward to an astonishing degree. The formation of the internet, wireless technology, WYSIWYG (hah! remember that? What you see is what you get – a huge leap forward at the time), websites, blogs, and the importance of SEO so people could find you.

It has become apparent to me recently of the limitations of the stock WordPress platforms, so I’m going to be moving my blog to GoDaddy. I have all these ideas in my head about what I want my blog/website to do, and WP just doesn’t seem to be up to the task.

Of course, the problem I run up against is I have virtually no idea of what I’m doing, or how to accomplish my vision as I move forward here. The good news is that one of my personal goals as I retire is to keep moving forward, learning new things and challenging myself . So, this is a very long way to ask for your forbearance as I jump head first into the deep end of the pool! My old links won’t work anymore for awhile, but I’ll try and find ways to keep you connected and updated on the pitfalls and successes of this new endeavor. Thanks for reading!!