Sunday, September 11, 2011

The first dance

For weeks, months even, whenever we went walking, whether it was through the kitchen or around the neighborhood, we would practice our first dance. We danced like nobody's looking. We danced in the rain. We danced like spastics, like Elaine on "Seinfeld." We danced nice, close, cheek to cheek.

Then, when the wedding reception occurred, the 10-foot by 10-foot dance floor got covered up by the punch table. No problem. We had visiting to do. We moved from table to table around the reception hall, trying to greet everyone, give them a smile and a hug, thank them for being there to support us on our big day.

Time flew. The music disappeared into the din of conversation. We cut the cake. We played a trivia game. We chatted. We wished we had more time to spend with each of our guests, but it was just not possible. The clock raced. We breathed deep and tried to slow it down, giving smiles and hugs all around.

Soon it was time to walk through a gantlet of guests showering us with parchment butterflies. We hopped in the Prius with the 91011 license plate and sped away from Athena Christian Church, friend Larry chasing us in his Jeep honking all the way, a one-man escort giving us a proper send-off. We saved the first dance for later. We promised ourselves to dance a first dance every day for the rest of our lives, together, forever.

Friday, September 9, 2011

I LOVE this man!!!!!!!!!!

and I am so excited... and honored to get to marry him tomorrow!!!!

9.10.11 ... here we come!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


It's wedding eve. People keep asking, "Are you getting butterflies yet?" We've had butterflies all along. We call them "swallowtail blessings." It might seem weird, but it works for us. Examples include the time we visited the Athena City Park to get an idea of what it might be like to hold a wedding evening family barbecue there. Several swallowtails flitted past. We took that as a good sign that it would all work out and be a fun day. You see, Teri's mom, Helen, loved swallowtail butterflies. When Helen died of leukemia in 2003, Teri took the butterflies with her to give her courage and strength in difficult times.

Now the butterflies give both of us signs that we are doing the right thing. For example, just as I began the climb up 10,945-foot Beartooth Pass in Montana this July by bicycle, I was visited by a swallowtail. The trip -- this huge challenge -- was the right thing to do. Helen was giving her blessing.

If -- when -- we get butterflies at the wedding tomorrow, 9-10-11, it will be a good thing. It will mean Helen is there giving us her blessing.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Daily adventure Part 2

Storm clouds roiled over the Blue Mountains. Still, the daily adventure beckoned. It was late May. Picnic season. Time to grab a few choice items at Safeway and head up river to Harris Park. Time to play some horseshoes. Explore the banks of the snowmelt-choked river looking for choice photo opportunities. Enjoy a few mini Oreos to again celebrate Teri's first e-mail to me some 31 months ago. How time flies when you're courting.

On the trip home, we spotted a yard full of deer and stopped to take pictures. What made the scene interesting was that one deer was grazing adjacent to a no hunting sign. What's more, there was a wild turkey also hunting for morsels amidst the deer. We continued to shoot photos, and at one point caused a minor traffic jam. A pickup went by with a dog in the back, the dog going nuts over the deer, and the deer took off for the nearby woods.

Meanwhile, the homeowner came out and began talking with us about the deer, the river and whatever else came to mind. Next thing you know, she was inviting us to the house to check out her many hummingbird feeders. As we are considering expanding our repertoire at the mountain cabin with hummingbird feeders, we wanted to check out the operation and inquire the best ways to attract the most hummers.

Next Linda Pratt invited us in to see the inside of the house and meet her husband, Keith. We were not disappointed. There were stuffed bobcats and cougars, bearskin rugs, slot machines -- a sensory explosion. Later, the Pratts took us over a suspension bridge crossing the river to see where water had been diverted for a flume. Then Keith and Teri fed the deer bread and graham crackers. All in all, it was a daily adventure to remember for a lifetime.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Gray Seals

When the small group of Navy Seals took down terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden this spring, the entire country cheered. Chants of "USA" ensued. Some celebrated in more subdued fashion. However one celebrated, the mission was inspiring. It inspired me to take my Younger Next Year program to the next level and create something I am calling the Gray Seals. No, we don't burn up 6,000 calories a day, as the Navy Seals do in training, and we don't swim underwater for minutes at a time. What we do is show discipline in following an exercise and nutrition program -- in fact, an entire lifestyle program -- to be all that we can be.

Teri is on board, too. Since she colors her hair, to camouflage her white hair, I call her program Cinnamon Seals. The only pressure is what we put on ourselves to have the sticktuitiveness of a Navy Seal.

The goal is to turn up our metabolisms 50 percent, to reduce the illnesses and injuries suffered in the last third of life by 50 percent. The goal is to turn 30-year lifestyle problems -- things like drinking a latte every morning, eating fast food or parking right next to the store -- into 30-year lifestyle solutions. Every time I'm taking my on-the-hour break and walking stairs at work and someone else passes by to take a cigarette break, I can see firsthand the results.

Both of us have a long way to go to achieve personal greatness. The point, though, is in the journey, not the end of the road. It's in figuring out the best way to maintain the graze, not gorge eating plan while at the same time having the flexibillity to sometimes eat or drink almost everything without guilt, knowing an indulgence now might save a binge later. The Gray Seals and Cinnamon Seals programs are a good way to approach 9-10-11 and to continue the adventure far into the future.

The Wedding of the Century

When the Brits put on their royal wedding in late April, I don't imagine they had to worry about where to pick up an arbor, or pergola, or how, once purchased, it might be transported to the church. They didn't have to worry about whether to purchase the Cinderella dress with cash, or put it on a credit card, and pay installments til death do us part. They have people.

Well, royals, we in America have people too. They all want to help in some small way with 9-10-11. As the time comes closer, we will need that help to arrange the bagpipe band, the National Guard jet flyover, the fireworks, the parade complete with elephants, camels and Shriners driving mini-mini Coopers and whatever else our imaginations can muster.

The first step, though, is to find an arbor to use as a centerpiece. The arbor has to be big enough for the Rev. Delbert to stand in as he performs the ceremony. We had one purchased from a major department store, loaded in the car and driven home to the beach condo only to discover considerable damage to the frame. So we turned around, drove back to town and delivered the arbor back to the store and got our money back.

Then the search resumed. One day, driving home from work on a route I don't normally take, I spotted one in a horse farm's yard. It was just the arbor I was looking for. I was going to knock on the door and ask where it was from but two border collies thought I was going to steal the paint off the side of the house and chased me away. A couple of days later, as I went to a store I normally don't visit to get some grass killer, there was the arbor, only they were calling it a pergola. Teri and I will check it out. It may be "the one." We just have to make sure the Rev. Delbert won't be doing the service from his knees and saying, in pain, "I bloody pronounce you husband and wife."

Thursday, May 19, 2011


The sixth and final counseling session with Rev. Delbert Durfee, Teri's cousin and our wedding minister, went well. Of course, we have more to learn. Married life presents all sorts of challenges, and not just in money, sex and finding a rich kid to adopt.

But we do now have important tools to take with us as we move ahead in this great adventure. We've studied the five love languages -- affirmations, quality time, gifts, acts of service and physical touch. We've studied love and respect. We've studied Dave Ramsey's tough-love approach to family finances.

"Preparation," UCLA basketball coach John Wooden said, "is more important than winning. If you properly prepare, you'll win your share." That's why I was happy when I learned Delbert required six counseling sessions -- a thorough approach. I wanted us to go into marriage with our eyes wide open, and then after the marriage live forevermore with one eye closed, to aim for unconditional love and respect while helping each other reach our best selves.

But marriage counseling alone is not enough. I am also asking good friend and golf partner the Rev. Ernest Smith to be my personal adviser. Ernie knows a lot about relationships and what makes them work, and what can go terribly wrong. He knows I think like a typical man and that it takes a long time for good advice to sink in before I will act on it. He is patient with me. He knows eventually I will see the light.

When I was in my 20s, I used to bristle at constructive criticism. Now I am much more receptive. I know that it is only after we "know it all" that we really begin to learn life's important lessons.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Greatest Bachelor Party Ever

In late July my groomsman Bill Rautenstrauch and I are planning to go on what I call The Greatest Bachelor Party Ever. The challenge? To ride bicycle from Red Lodge, Mont., to the top of almost 11,000-foot elevation Beartooth Pass. For a couple of old boys, this promises to really test our staying power. TV correspondent Charles Kuralt, who traveled this country from left to right and top to bottom, called the road to Beartooth Pass the most beautiful in America. The road was built in the Great Depression to make work for unemployed men, and it was built up a mountainside that normally no roads would go. The entire climb is about 5,000 feet vertical gain, from Red Lodge to the summit.

Bill and I will also tour the Buffalo Bill museum in Cody, Wyo., and check out Yellowstone National Park, which sits on top of the biggest volcano in North America and probably the world. Should be fun! Now we just have to figure out how to do it on a budget so enough money will be left over to pay for the wedding and honeymoon trip so Teri and I can head into marriage sort of in the black and not the red.

Bill is the same guy I rode across Iowa with two summers ago in a ride called Ragbrai with 20,000 of our newest, most close personal friends. It was like a moving party on wheels. What a crazy, crazy scene!

The Greatest Bachelor Party Ever will be more laid back. Maybe will even toast each other, on top of Beartooth Pass, with a glass of grape Nehi.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Daily adventure

Big or small, the daily adventure is important. Just as, in Abraham Lincoln's words, each day you have to choose to be happy, you also have to choose to get up off the couch, flip off the TV and go out and have an adventure. It can be as small as a walk where you kick rocks and dodge falling limbs from vengeful squirrels or as big as going for a ride in a hot-air balloon. No matter. The important thing is to have it as a part of your daily routine so you can break out of the rut and enjoy life. Once again, we're establishing a routine to help break the routine. Sweet!

For Teri and I, weekends are generally the only time for setting this template. We have part of Friday and then Saturday and Sunday together, most times. And the daly adventure doesn't have to cost an arm and a retirement account, however meager. Some of our daily adventures lately have included those springtime classics rainbow chasing and storm chasing. We've also went shopping for arbors for the wedding and tried to see the liftoff of the Walla Walla Hot-Air Balloon Stampede, which fickle weather canceled. That's no problem. We are learning to dance in the rain, which means to enjoy the process of pursuing the daily adventure rather than leaving all our happiness based on the end results.

The important thing is to be engaged not only with each other but with life. To get out there and do things. To see people and say hello, even if all our instincts, our generations of training, our genetics, are telling us to run and hide. Genetics are only 20 to 30 percent of who we are. The rest is the environment we create. By creating the daily adventure template, we are telling ourselves that each day we will be looking for opportunities for adventure, and when opportunities come knocking, we will answer the door with a smile.

Club 54

Teri has a boatload of friends. Mine would fit better in a canoe. When she joined Club 54, a month or so ago, I was a bit envious. Maybe it was some kind of exclusive, secret club. Other Facebook friends were chiming in that they, too, were members. They didn't seem totally happy with membership and all its requirements, but they did seem to be making the most of the situation and poking fun at their plight as members.

Curious minds want to know what's up and what's down and I am no exception. Since envy is one of the seven deadly sins, I decided I needed to get to the bottom of the situation before it drove me crazy.

Teri said "No worries, you'll be the youngest member of the club soon enough." Then the light went on. Club 54 is for all those Baby Boomers who are lucky enough to celebrate their 54th birthday. In late May, God willing and the creek don't run dry, I will become the newest member. Lucky me! I've survived the loss of a wife of 23 years to diabetes, a layoff from a dream job and the loss of a dream home, a chronic illness diagnosis and more to reach this point. I've discovered the Younger Next Year program and begun to create one of my own, the Gray Seals, which has made me more vibrant at this age than I ever thought possible. All the character-building experiences I've had to this point led me to meeting Teri, and in September, after an almost three-year courtship, we will be married.

Ta-Dah! That's what I say to her when she goes above and beyond the call of duty, which is often. Now I want to say a resounding Ta-Dah! to me and all the other soon-to-be members of Club 54 for living, loving and growing a little each day -- and not just around the mid-section.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Chasing rainbows

The mild, mild West equivalent of chasing tornadoes is chasing rainbows. It's all about making the most of a stormy day, of not waiting for the storm to pass but of dancing in the rain. Teri also love sunsets. When conditions are ripe, when a storm is crashing into the Blue or Wallowa mountains, when behind it the sun is slanting low in the blue sky West, we jump in the car and drive until we find a rainbow. Or if we don't find a rainbow, often there are enough remnants of the storm to the West that a brilliant sunset develops.

Sure, with rainbow chasing we won't see Dorothy, Toto or a milk cow being hurled through the air like a missile. It is less of an adrenaline sport and more of a chance to enjoy Mother Nature when there are great contrasts in the sky, light to dark. We get to witness the power of a thunderhead, the strength of the wind, all accentuating the natural beauty of Oregon.

The rainbow colors the sky with a promise that, if we continue to work at it, our relationship will prosper. We may never find the elusive pot of gold. But with each other we have abundance, and the support to get through the stormy times of life to when the sun shines again.

Friday, April 8, 2011

I'd walk a mile for your smile

I'd walk a mile for your smile,
However imperfect or wonderful
I love you unconditionally

When you beam and your pearlies gleam
It makes my heart sing
I'm proud of you, Babe, the courage you've shown
To make your smile your own.

The future is so bright
I must wear shades.
So live well, even if that is only steel-cut oats
Laugh often and love gobz.

And smile because we get another day
of Wonder!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Let's dance

Growing up in a home where irrational exuberance was frowned upon and ample personal space requirements were encouraged, I never really learned to dance. School tried. Occasionally physical education classes were dedicated to coeducational activities involving synchronized movement. Mostly, I just got embarrassed being that near the opposite sex. I also vaguely felt that dancing was a sin, or might lead to a sin, and somehow my fundamentalist church would disapprove.

Later I learned that, no, dancing was not the primary cause of world overpopulation and that it might indeed be a fun recreational pursuit that could burn some calories and perhaps contribute to positive relationship building.

So it was with great enthusiasm that I found a dancing partner in Teri who was neither judgmental toward nor petulant about my dancing abilities but enjoyed cutting a rug, even if occasionally we left that rug in tatters.

Now we are beginning practice for the traditional wedding "first dance." Sure, it would be nice if we had lessons from a patient instructor. We are choreographing the dance ourselves, doing the best we can, and enjoying every minute of the process. Occasionally, it feels as if we need to be wearing shoulder pads, knee pads and dancing helmets even — for the safety of ourselves and those around us. But we're making progress. And most important of all, we are dancing as if no one is watching and enjoying occasional bouts of irrational exuberance. What fun!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Shop til you drop

Shopping for wedding dresses -- so many choices, so little time. It's an estrogen-charged environment. Brides to be from 23 to 53 try on this dress and that to the oohs and ahs of staff and passersby. It's not like a men's shop, where stuff is rented and brought back after the wedding. Here you get a princess dress you can keep for a lifetime. And women shop differently than men. Men like to shop on the run, grab whatever they need quickly and get out of there before they get short of oxygen. Women like to look at things from every angle, get a feel for the aura, feel the fabric, move around, get comfortable, see the emotional reaction of whoever is in the same area code. The problem seems to be finding something that is "perfect" in an imperfect world. Every day we move 24 hours closer to 9-10-11. Decisions must be made. Deadlines loom. Stress builds. Our job is to just be prepared, take the good with the bad, have fun and enjoy the adventure.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

It's in the cards

Love at long distance means giving the post office lots of business. The postmaster and I are on a first name basis, and at this point I may soon get Customer of the Month honors. Despite all the cards I send Teri, I am blown away by the ones she send me. Their messages are incredibly well thought out, chosen with care, absolutely meaningful. Just goes to show men and women shop for cards in a whole different manner. Men tend to shop at a run, grabbing whatever they see, hoping the card doesn't say Happy Bar Mitzvah or Celebrate Gay Pride, not that there's anything wrong with that. Women tend to linger. They try out the cards for effect, sometimes fanning themselves with the card to see if it has the right aura. What I give in quantity, Teri makes up for in quality. Love, in part, is in the cards.

Falling stars

One of my favorite things to do, on those evenings when Teri and I are apart, is to turn out all the lights in the Mountain Cabin, go out and sit in the hot tub and scan the heavens for falling stars. If I see one, I make a wish. What I wish for is a secret. Of course, we all want a love that is enduring. We want financial prosperity, or at least enough money to keep the lights on and spinach on the table. We want good health and friends that care. We want to make a difference in the world, or at least in our small part of it, doing what we do best, whether that is writing, design or just being a good example and living by the golden rule. Watching for falling stars, I think about all these things, and a lot more. Without a lot of light competition, the stars pop out with clarity, or at least as much as one can get with 53-year-old eyes and bifocals. It's humbling to think what a small part of the universe the earth is, and what a small place on earth we inhabit. It's a great adventure, one full of wishes, and wishes realized.

Happy birthday, Oregon!

One of the cool things about Valentine's Day is that it coincides with Oregon's birthday. This year the state will be 152 years old. Not quite as old as granite, but you get the idea. Teri and my relationship is much younger. This Valentine's Day we celebrate one year of being engaged, and what a year it has been. The Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl. I did back to back 100-mile bicycle rides (century rides) over the Blue Mountains. Teri started on a huge quilt, and I continued my Younger Next Year program. We celebrated the birth of a new great-niece, Piper Joy, and began getting our act together for the Wedding of the Century, 9-10-11. Mainly we just lived one day at a time living well, laughing often and loving gobz.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Let there be light

Many studies suggest there is no correlation between money and happiness. We'd still like to give being rich a try. Or maybe we'll adopt a rich kid. At any rate, Teri and I are decorating the "beach condo" a little at a time as money becomes available with items that are not only functional but also are pieces of art. When people visit, they see lamps or vases they will see hardly anywhere else. These items are fun to look at. They inspire us to greater heights of creativity. It's all part of social engineering, creating a fun and positive, relatively stress-free environment. Put two creative minds together and it's fun to see what develops.