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.

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

Walking and Talking

Paradoxical. Yeah, that’s me. I admit I check my Facebook account a couple of times a day, I post photos onto Instagram, play Words with Friends, read the news, text and FaceTime, and even – when necessary – write emails. Oh yeah, and I’m working on this blog. So I may be over-connected, just me and my little digital bubble.

At the top of Burlington Hill

But I also enjoy people – whether it’s in Five Minute Friendships, chatting to the cashier at the grocery store, you name it. But while it seems simple, it’s really become apparent how conducive walking is to conversation. We live about 10 minutes away from Burlington Hill. It’s only 450’ at the top, but we like to park about a quarter mile away and walk to the top and back, just short of an hour. Our primary objective is to get some exercise, but invariably we find ourselves discussing – life. What did you think about xxx? How do you feel about xxx? How did yesterday go? What do you want to do today? So, about that trip to xxx, should we xxx? I always look forward to these walks with my wife. I feel we have pretty good communication skills, but it just seems so natural to walk and talk.

On the trail to Hannegan Pass

One of my retirement goals this year was to get in as much hiking in my beloved North Cascades as possible. I’ve often hiked these mountains solo, but at this point in my life, it feels more prudent to have a hiking companion when my wife can’t join me. Rick, newly retired to this area, is a member of our local Sierra Club, as am I. We talked a bit about hiking, and headed out on the trails. It has been fun and interesting to walk and talk with him, and to show him some of my favorite places up in the mountains. And the more we walk and talk, the better we get to know each other, and connect as fellow travelers on this adventure we call life. 

I think of others I have walked and talked with. Multi-day backpacks in the Utah red rock wilderness with my brother-in-law John; backpacks and canoe trips with my great childhood friend John; a difficult conversation with a close family member while we walked and talked; walks in beautiful parks with visiting friends, walks with my wife’s sister and her husband around their adopted town of Port Townsend, and so many more. 

Find someone to walk with

In this most interesting and introspective stage in my life, connections and relationships mean more than ever before. I think we all feel a loss of deep, true and meaningful connections in these days of instant, impersonal digital communications. It feels like our entire social fabric is coming unraveled as we become more and more dependent on our devices, and we become an isolated island of loneliness and quiet desperation. I think we would all do well to find someone and take a walk – and talk. You may not only improve your physical health, but your emotional health as well. Let’s get walking!

Pre-tirement Test Trip

So, I’m pretired right now. I cut back from five to four days a week a couple of years back, and enjoyed a wee bit of extra time off. Then I cut back to three days a week last year and relaxed a bit more. Starting in January 2019, I have gone to only TWO days a week, and our new manager is generally scheduling me for Thursdays and Fridays! I call it “backing into retirement.” This approach is working for me, both financially and emotionally. Part of this blog will be about how we – and others – get the highest quality retirement within a very modest budget.  And part of it will be looking at how we adjust to this new stage in our lives when it’s just the two of us, 24/7.

Hitting the road, heading to distant horizons, and exploring are a huge part of what we like to do, but expenses can really add up! One approach that has worked very well for us so far is investing in a timeshare. Some limit you to a single location, for a specific date. The one we chose (no free ads here) has tons of locations in the west, more limited east of the Mississippi. We didn’t have enough cash for “New” credits; buying aftermarket (no free ads here either) saves about 75%!! Right now you can buy 6,000 annual credits for $2,400, which is enough to spend five nights every year at a beautiful resort at the foot of the South Mountain Preserve in Phoenix, with change left over.

The part where it really gets worth it is Monday Madness, where there are specials at various resorts each week, again for $0.08 a credit. And then there’s what they call “Bonus Time”. Once you are a member, if someone cancels their reservation two weeks before their stay, it is put up on the website, and you can grab it for $0.08 a credit, or $480. Anyhow, that’s what we used last weekend to head to Vancouver, B.C..

And – magic! We got completely packed and loaded nearly an hour ahead of our usual time. The sun was shining, and there was virtually no traffic on the freeway. The border wait was only 15 minutes or so. We saw at least two dozen bald eagles between the border and Vancouver. There were WAY fewer rude drivers in the city using their 500 horsepower trophy cars to commandeer the right lane (on city streets) to cut in front of lesser vehicles. There was a parking place right in front of the check-in office. AND – our room was ready two hours before check-in!

While this unit is was a wee bit smaller than in other locations, it had two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a full kitchen, plus living and dining rooms – and an incredible view of the city, local mountains and the water! We quickly unloaded our luggage, then walked the half-dozen blocks down to the Hornby Street dock to catch the Aquabus to Granville Island. This fleet of cute little walk-on ferries are a legacy of the 1986 World Expo, and they remain a very vital part of transportation around this vibrant city. Granville Island is home to shops, restaurants, lodging, artist studios, bakeries, a cement plant (!) and a HUGE public market, jam-packed with fresh produce, specialty purveyors of coffee, meat, chocolate, poultry, cheeses, and so much more. We were on a mission to hunt and gather comestibles for our stay, and as always, had trouble limiting ourselves to what we could actually consume during our stay.

We headed to the Vancouver Art Gallery Monday morning. We had heard about their current exhibition “French Moderns: Monet to Matisse,” and were excited to check it out. The gallery is located in the old Provincial Courthouse, which opened in 1911, and is a visual treat all by itself. Our luck continued – the first Monday of the month is Senior Monday, admission by donation! And we got there just a few minutes before a docent-led tour gave us the historical context of the rapid metamorphosis of art between 1850 and 1950. They also have a great Emily Carr portfolio, and showcased some recent art designed to challenge our expectations on the story we expect art to tell.

That was an amazing experience. Now, quick, hotfoot it down to the ferry and to Granville Island again for lunch overlooking False Creek and Burrard Bridge. Check out the shops, do a bit of home-grown whiskey tasting at Liberty Distillery, pick up a few things for the grandkids, have a small appetizer and glass of wine at Bridges under the Granville Bridge, and head back home. Share a quick conversation with a couple from Tulsa who spend two months here every year. He only started up his car after being here 5 ½ weeks for a drive because he heard his battery might go dead if he didn’t. Watched the alpenglow on The Sentinels (twin peaks in North Vancouver).

Changed things up for breakfast with Lemon and Blueberry Scones, an Almond Croissant  collected at A Bread Affair, and an orange, on Granville Island the day before. We looked at each other and thought, this could work. Our out-of -pocket (not including my splurge on Trust Whiskey) was only about $230, and we didn’t feel deprived in the least.

With all of that, we didn’t even scratch the surface of what Vancouver has to offer. The huge expanse and views from Stanley Park, turn-of-the-century buildings in Gastown, stunning Queen Elizabeth Park, the West End, shopping on Robson Street ($6,000 boots, anyone?), Canada Place, pedestrian friendly paths along all the waterfronts, cuisine from around the world, and so much more.

How did we save a ton of money, plus drink great coffee every morning? Thinking that has to be a future post. How do YOU save money when traveling? What’s a destination you keep returning to because you love it so much? Leave your comments, I’d love to hear and share them!

Want to see all the photos from the trip? Please go to my Facebook page, I Am Gray!

#aging #seniorcitizens #seniortravel

Adventures In Aging Begins!

Hello! My name is Bill, and I Am Gray. I’ve been noticing for awhile that I’ve been aging, and that I’ve been getting gray. I’ve been seeing changes in myself and those around me. Some of them are tough, and some are funny, and some are a curious mix of the two. Sometimes I am right in the midst, up to my neck as I deal with all the various impacts of my body getting older. Sometimes I feel like I’m an interested bystander, watching all of these things unfold. One day I realized that this is a story that is played out in the lives of so many, and that we can share our stories of the joys and travails of the shared journey of aging. Why not tag along, and see what happens?

So, who am I? I’ve been a Licensed Dispensing Optician for 45 years – I’m the guy who helps you find the perfect pair of of eyeglass frames, and recommend the right type of lenses, then make them fit perfectly, and work with your doctor to solve vision problems. I’m still working two days a week as I “back into retirement.” I’ve been backpacking around the West, and rowed my own raft on several whitewater rivers in the West. I love to eat great food, and drink decent wine – oh, and have a micro-brew beer now and again. If you’d like to see reviews of my dining experiences, please follow me at William “Bill” G on Yelp. My wife and I love to travel, and explore places large and small – we love to find places that have their own unique character. We are now exploring ways we can continue to travel and explore with a very limited retirement budget, and I will be sharing those travels here as well. You can follow those adventures on Instagram at AdventuresInGraying and at I Am Gray on Facebook. In the meantime, this blog is very much a work in progress, so I beg your indulgence as I work out all the kinks in getting it set up to work and function the way I’m hoping.

This blog will not be just about me – I will be interviewing others who are willing to share their stories dealing with physical changes, financial challenges, changing natures of relationships, and all the joys and heartaches of aging. Looking forward to sharing our Adventures In Aging!