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.