Monday, September 10, 2012


9.10.11 transformed into 9.10.12

Somehow, 9.10.12 just doesn't have the same snap as saying 9.10.11.... yet, a year later our relationship is still as fresh as ever and we've had a wonderful first year of marriage.

We're still living in two homes, 90 miles apart, due to our employment situation and me taking care of Dad. Yet, we email and text periodically during the day, as time allows. We talk on the phone each evening and make it a priority to see each other each weekend. We spend our weekends at one home or the other... or travel. We love to get away and explore. This is concentrated time. Time together. One on one. Talking about a myriad of topics, laughing and sharing our hopes. Cherished times.

Last night on the eve our first anniversary we ate pizza - we ate pizza at our rehearsal dinner, so we decided to start a tradition. We have something to search for each year on our anniversary eve.

Today we had a wonderful, fun day together... with lots of visiting with people, sharing stories and laughing. Much like our wedding day... I see another tradition in the making. Last year for our honeymoon we went to Squamish, British Columbia, northwest of Vancouver. Highlights of our trip took us around Squamish; to Whistler Ski Resort and up the mountains on a gondola ride, hiking, taking in all the scenery atop Whistler and on the Peak to Peak ride to Blackcomb and back; Shannon Falls; Furry Creek Golf Course; a ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo; a tour of the University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology; and Squamish Harbour.

This year, we're in the midst of another honeymoon trip... this time to Nelson, British Columbia, the eastern part of the province. We've toured the town, taken in the local sites and wonderful hospitality. Tomorrow we're exploring the area out of town. Hoping for more stories and more places to come back to for More Later.

More Later....... definitely something to strive for each day... live well this day and look forward to more later....... So, as we live 9.10.12, we look forward to a year well lived and 9.10.13

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Today is Beer and Oreos Day. Yes, Teri and I celebrate the day she first responded to my wink with a cleverly written email on Personals. She said something quirky along the lines of I suppose you dunk your Oreos in beer. I was instantly smitten. She could not help but be funny.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Creativity Reigns

It rains a lot in Oregon, especially on the west side. That's a given. In our family, creativity reigns. It makes every day new, fresh and different. This week Teri came up with the concept of a local Blossom Festival photo adventure, to take pictures of the cherries and apples in bloom. Should be fun. It's a warm up for our planned trip to Hood River the next weekend for the real Blossom Festival.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Twinkies Day

Teri celebrated her 55th birthday Friday. Since April 6 is Twinkies Day, I made her the traditional Twinkies Cake, with five candles. Next year, since we are not really meant to eat this cake, and if it it turns into a plastic time bomb so be it, maybe I'll get all 56 candles to stick in the cake and light up, which will look like a porcupine on fire.

I also while shopping at a store the size of a factory farm found a kids' happy birthday kit. What a treasure. For a small price it included big rewards — five balloons, a banner to hang across the kitchen, plenty of colorful streamers. When Teri came home to the Beach Condo from a hard week of work, she was in for a surprise, with the extra bonus of a living blue hydrangea plant, our wedding flower in our wedding colors, that we can later transplant outdoors.

Later we went out for dinner at The Marc — the restaurant at the Marcus Whitman Hotel where Teri and I got engaged in February 2010. She ordered the Crater Lake buffalo (8) and I ordered the Cape Cod seafood (4). She had an amaretto sour and I had a Chivas Scotch (pricey). There I gave her the birthday gift — a necklace with a blue stone made from Mount St. Helens ash. Like the mountain, which erupted in May of 1980, both of us have had to rebuild our lives after devastating, cataclysmic events — job layoffs and the loss of Teri's mom and my first wife, Tina. We have sprung back from ashes to bloom again.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Working Like a Rented Mule

Some days to keep up with the varied duties of a small town news editor, I have to work myself like a rented mule. On those days it's hard to keep up with emails from my Sweetie, who often is working her fingers to the bone too. If we don't hear from each other, or if we don't instantly reply, we know that it is not out of spite but out of necessity.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

April Fool's

I just quit my job. I adopted an opossum that I am going to take cute pictures of and blog about, daily. I love it when creditors stick my head in the toilet and flush. I love having a boss who's a Drama King. I want to drive a big ol' good ol' boys four-wheel-drive diesel pickup with a rifle rack in the window and shoot coyotes on the way to and from work. I love really loud country music, and dogmatic people who think their shit doesn't stink. Fast food joints are convenient and fun. Sitting on the couch watching hour after hour of sitcoms on TV is my idea of a good time.

April Fool's! I love this day. It's an absolutely fabulous day to be a contrarian. It's the Contrarian's Christmas.

If I can just fool my sweetheart once, I will be in hog heaven.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Pillow Talk

One of the great joys of our relationship is enjoying "pillow talk." But at 5 in the morning? On a Saturday? Face it. We are both rapidly approaching our mid-50s, and sleep can be a challenge. Sometimes insomnia revolves around physical pain. Sore hips. Swollen legs, Throbbing lower back. Other times insomnia can revolve around mental rumination. This morning, Teri was thinking about getting our taxes done, and those worries kept recycling through her overactive cranium. So it goes. We lay there and chatted for 10 minutes, laughing a lot, playing verbal games, before she finally got up. She went to the beach condo office to do taxes, while I blessedly, after short sleep nights from a week of work, got back to slumber and dream land.

Pillow Talk can't happen every day. Many times, on work days, we'll sleep right up to the alarm going off at a miserable 4:30 in the morning. Then we have to pop out of bed and go through a firemen's drill to get on the road by 5:30. On weekends, however, when there is no alarm, we engage in pillow talk whenever we both are awake, even if it is 2, 3 or 4 in the morning. Or 7 or 8. It's all good.

We laugh. We commiserate. This morning we even joked about a mantra. Mine was "Yes," let's do it. Teri's word was "No." Let's just play around and put off the "main event." Very, very funny. I love my comedian wife so much. Who else gets to enjoy such creative events, original screenplays written for just the two of us? I am indeed deeply blessed.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Existentialism and Other Million Dollar Words

OK, so it's been more than 30 years since I've been lectured at. Sue me. One class at the University of Oregon, however, still has a certain resonance. Existentialism was the name of the class. To me, it is a million dollar word that means don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today. You are not going to live forever. Sure, don't be silly and go into debt, stick your head in the financial toilet and have your creditors flush. But when a window of opportunity opens, when you can spend one less dollar than you make, following Dickens law, step through it.

Teri and I have stepped through windows of opportunity frequently in our nearly four years together. And we plan to continue doing that. At present, we are contemplating mini-vacations to Hood River and Pendleton, maybe even purchasing a sauna. I'm inclined to go ahead, especially once we have all the credit cards paid off and are living on a strictly cash basis. My dad and Teri's mom died of cancer much too young. The same fate may wait us. Yet, if we take good care of ourselves and each other, if we eat and sleep right, if we lift weights and burn and do aerobics and sweat, we are likely to live much longer. Part of it is luck of the draw. Part of it is making more good choices than bad each day — and keeping our fingers and legs crossed.

The important thing for us, since we are both of modest means, is to stretch every dollar as much as possible. To pinch our pennies until Abraham Lincoln shrieks. To have fun with frugality.

However, if there is something we would use the heck out of, that would improve our quality of life, we need to exercise our option. Life is short.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mini Vacations

Because we are working people, and fortunate enough to have decent jobs, we can't get away for vacations every week. And if we could, those vacations wouldn't be so special, anyway.

But we can get away for frequent mini-vacations. Two that we are eagerly anticipating are the Blossom Festival in Hood River in late April and the Sisters quilt show in mid-July. It's always good to have a trip, or in this case a mini-vacation, in the planning stages, as half the fun is the anticipation.

Maybe we can also have a special wall in salute of the mini-vacation, with pictures from our adventures. That would complement our wedding and honeymoon wall and our special vacation wall. So many trips, so little time. We better get rolling.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Having a Ball

Teri was fortunate enough to acquire several books from the collection of Dr. George Ball, an inspirational retired religion professor at Whitman College who died Jan. 1 at age 96. Having the books around will be a visual reminder to us of what Dr.Ball stood for and the lessons he taught: (1) Reach out; (2) Listen; (3) Help people think clearer and feel better; and (4) Always be upbeat. Easier said than done.

We like to have visual cues that remind us of things we need to do to keep our relationship strong. These include the paintings of the blue herons, which remind us of our very first River Walk, on our first date. I also want to eventually get pictures of puppies and river otters, to remind us, as mentioned in the "Younger Next Year" book, to snuggle like puppies and frolic like otters.

For now, we're happy to have these books that were well used by Dr. Ball and will be an inspiration to us to live with joy.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

HIIT is a Hit

Teri and I don't have the kind of money it takes to go out and hire a personal trainer. No problem. We can serve that role for each other. Today while reading I discovered the concept of high intensity interval training, and thought it might be ideal for Teri. She operates on a tight schedule, what with work, cooking for her dad several nights a week and dealing with her high-maintenance husband.

While the federal government guidelines recommend that a person get 30 minutes of exercise five days a week, very few people seem able to fit that into their schedule. With HIIT, or high intensity interval training, you may get even more benefit through four 30-second bursts of indoor cycling. Seems crazy. But it is worth a try, for not only weight maintenance but to do battle with cholesterol. Teri tried it today. Her muscles and heart got a workout, and she recovered nicely.

HIIT doesn't replace going for walks, or doing other activity. But it gives a person another option for exercise. It's also an efficiency expert's dream. You get the most bang for your exercise buck.

I'm hoping Teri can do HIIT consistently, and perhaps add oyster mushrooms to the diet, up until the time she goes in for her annual physical to see what it might do for her cholesterol numbers. We want to control the cholesterol through nutrition and exercise and not by pills, and it is a battle we are in together for the long haul.

Whew! This personal trainer job is hard work. But it's worth the effort when your partner is healthy, happy and energized.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Paying Homage

My mentor, Sandy Busey, entered my life in the winter of 2007-08 several months after my first wife, Tina, died. She had read a tribute column I had written for the daily newspaper and was moved to get in touch with me by email. This began a near daily correspondence that continues until this day. We couldn't be more different — Sandy is East Coast, I am West Coast; Sandy loves animals, I tolerate a couple of cats; Sandy is a card-carrying, flag-waving liberal; I lean toward the conservative on fiscal issues but am somewhat liberal on social issues.

Despite our differences, Sandy was able to counsel me so that I could overcome the blues and gain confidence about entering into a new relationship. She also provided insight — for example, the significance of a blue heron that carved a perfect circle over Teri and I during the river walk on our first date — that helped cement Teri and my feelings for each other.

Sandy has encouraged us every step of the way, from first date to engagement to wedding and beyond.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

In Sickness and Health

Usually when we are apart during the work week, I call Wonder Woman just after 9 p.m. When she called me, last night, just before 9, I knew something was up. She wasn't feeling well. One of the biggest drawbacks of living apart during the work week is not being there to comfort each other, and play doctor. It's nice to have someone physically on hand to watch out and provide a listening ear. To be apart at these moments is excruciatingly painful.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Watching TV "together"

They say love blossoms when lovers share the same moon, no matter how far they are apart. It's also true of TV. Some nights we will be on the phone and Teri will be watching a great show at the "beach condo" and suggest that I turn it on too at the "mountain cabin," 90 miles away. Last night we were watching a public broadcasting special on really old people who were having a gas putting on a musical. Among the songs they sang was the BeeGees classic "Staying Alive." We laughed our heads off. And we paid homage to these golden agers who were making the most of their retirement years.

OK, so TV may not be quite as romantic as a full moon. But there is energy to be gained from sharing that electronic glow, even when 90 miles apart. We also stay in touch through phone calls, text messages and emails. You might say our love is plugged in.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sweet Surprise!

I love surprises. Especially sweet ones. And Teri got me, again, by putting an almond butter cinnamon roll in my lunch box. Now somehow she had given me the impression that there were no cinnamon rolls left. When I unwrapped the foil, I half expected to pizza or some other snack. To get one of the treasured cinnamon rolls, and to know that she loved me enough to forego the pleasure, means everything.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Surprise Party

We went to a surprise 40th anniversary party Sunday afternoon. The guest of honor, who was indeed extremely surprised by her poker-faced husband, said in her wonderful speech to the jam-packed hall, "Life is a celebration every day." She is an exuberant person, a great fan of the local high school teams, a joy to be around. She is just the kind of person we aspire to be as we aim to "win the day." Her spreading of joy reminds me of the late Dr. George Ball, who did similar work around the Whitman College campus. It's all part of smiling in the first three seconds of each encounter, whether we feel like it or not, and smiling with both our mouth and our eyes. It's also about "playing Ball" in the doctor's honor, and helping those who we come into contact with feel good about themselves and their accomplishments.

The party was a surprise. The celebration was not. Every day is a celebration when you choose to be happy and have fun.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Four Eyes are Better than Two

It's amazing how many times Teri will see a detail in the surroundings that I, had she not called it to my attention, would have missed altogether. And vice-versa. Our photo expeditions during the recent second honeymoon to Cannon Beach on the Oregon Coast gave us a chance to discover visual treasures together and independently. It's fun to compare results when we get back to the hotel room. Cries of "Where in the world did you see that?" are common.

Now, instead of buying expensive souvenirs, or other people's artwork, we plan to commemorate our adventure with a nice poster-sized print to hang on the bedroom wall of either the beach condo or the mountain cabin. We have plenty of excellent options to choose from, and several trips to memorialize. The important thing is we surround ourselves with these great memories of past trips and promises of future adventures together.

Sure, because of stormy weather, we had little chances for the annual beach walk. But we did manage to find a sun break at Cannon Beach and at Fort Stevens State Park for brief photo-intensive sand excursions. Every little detail from beach bubbles to silver waves was captured not only in our minds but on our cameras, proving again that four eyes, used to their fullest capacity, are better than two.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Sun Breaks

Lewis and Clark, during the winter of 1805-06, faced something like 120 straight days of rain at Fort Clatsop. We caught a sun break. After a rainy morning and most of a rainy afternoon, we checked into the Hotel Elliott in Astoria. Looking out the window, squinting, straining, imagining, we thought we saw a bit of blue in the billowing gray clouds. That was enough to prompt a cry of "Let's head for the blue." We hopped in the Prius and headed over the bridge to Fort Stevens State Park and to the south jetty at the far northwest corner of Oregon. Waves hammered the jetty. We soaked in the warmth from the sun and the power of the waves and wind.

Later, because sun breaks in this part of the country aren't to be taken for granted, we raced up one of the steepest streets in America to the Astoria Column for a panoramic view of the country. The wind howled. The cold penetrated. The photographers persevered and got some great shots after climbing the 168 steps to the top of the tower.

Sometimes we drive until we find a rainbow. Today we drove until we found a sun break.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Celebrating Pi Day

OK, so I'm not the best role model. So what! Yesterday we celebrated Pi Day the right way. First we found the very best slice of Marionberry pie — our favorite flavor — in Cannon Beach. And good choice, we shared the slice of pie, sans ice cream.

Then, a few hours later, after shopping in a pattern store and touring several galleries, including the Bronze Coast Gallery where we found a river otter sculpture, one of my long-term quests, we went out for pizza pie. We ordered a small pizza, another good choice. The first half was grape reduction, Italian sausage and basil; the second half was Portuguese Linguica sausage. Yum! And not something we can find back home.

Some years — most, in fact — we won't be able to celebrate Pi Day. We won't be together. I'll be working in La Grande and Teri in Walla Walla. So when we are together, we need to take advantage of all opportunities to celebrate.

And some year, alas, health concerns might prevail. Then, if we have to, we'll celebrate Steady Blood Sugar Day. Whatever. We'll have an apple and make a toast to each other's health and to the joyful variety of complex carbs. Then we'll go play tennis.

For now, Pi Day prevails. And we're loving every minute of it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Daily Miracle

There's a reason why every day is 24 hours. Even if the first 23 hours don't go that well, the 24th hour might. You've got to not quit before the miracle. Tuesday of the Second Honeymoon was like that. The morning was blustery, cold, pouring rain and sleet, miserable. We couldn't hardly get the car doors open, much less go for a walk on the beach. No matter. We went shopping at the outlet mall instead and regrouped. We thought about going north but at the last minute chose to go south. We drove through snow, sleet, hail and lots more enroute to Tillamook and its famous cheese plant. We sloshed through the several inches of slushy snow in the parking lot and went inside to sample cheese, watch it being made, try some ice cream, sample fudge and more. Finally, it was time to hit the road for a great adventure to burn off some of those easy-earned calories, and we went to Cape Meares Lighthouse for a long hike through the forest to some fantastic ocean overlooks.

At evening, after dinner, we went quickly to the beach to watch a magnificent sunset plunge into the ocean. We got great pictures and better yet great memories. A day that started off as misery ended as pure joy.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

In Sickness and in Health

Knock on wood but I don't get sick much. I pride myself in building my immune system so every bug that sweeps through the office doesn't knock me on my backside. This time, however, a germ slipped through my defenses. I came down with the common cold on the first day on vacation. One of the "Just for Todays" list that I recite each day is "I'll be grateful in the good times and graceful in the bad times." Sure, I'm tempted to whine. I'm tempted to beg for sympathy. To show symptoms and hope someone cares. Over my history I haven't been a very good sick-o. But I can do better. And now I have a chance to practice with my dearly beloved by my side. I won't pretend to be better when I'm not. And I won't run around like a yahoo until I get walking pneumonia. But I will try to be a trooper and smile in the face of the storm.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Extremely Mundane Outstandingly Average Laugh Minute

Another part of our Groundhog Day is the Extremely Mundane Outstandingly Average Laugh Minute. What inspired this were visits to restaurants to kick off our second honeymoon. Yes, more than food is served up at restaurants. You also get to people watch, and sometimes if you're lucky, or not so lucky, people hear. At the Maple Counter, our favorite restaurant in Walla Walla, which normally has outstandingly exceptional ambiance, we heard a woman laughing repeatedly like a hyena. And at the Full Sail Ale Brew Pub in Hood River, which serves up a terrific pulled pork sandwich and ordinarily outstanding atmosphere, we sat near a man who laughed like a sheep with a Mr. Microphone.

We love listening to people laugh. Most times, we enjoy it immensely. But to overhear the conversations, these people were laughing at anything. Maybe booze was involved. Maybe not. It went something like this: "Then we got up" (laugh track, "Had coffee" (laugh track), "Packed our stuff" (laugh track), "Checked out of the motel" (laugh track).

Having heard of laughing clubs, where people get together just to laugh and feel the benefits, we thought we'd try this ourselves. One of us starts by saying something incredibly mundane "We got up" and laughing hysterically. Pretty soon the laughter becomes contagious. We'll go on like this for a minute or two, just for fun.

Call us weird. Or different. But the Extremely Mundane Outstandingly Average Laugh Minute is a great way to start a day.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Dancing in the Rain

Ah, vacation. Reminds me of a line from John Steinbeck's "Travels with Charley." Poor guy got a flat tire somewhere along the coast highway. "It was Sunday and it was raining and it was Oregon." In Oregon, as Steinbeck knew all too well, if you can't dance in the rain, you can't dance.

As you would expect, with vacation imminent, the storms have descended. They sit off the coast in a big lineup waiting to come ashore. We'll get rain. Mist. Showers. Precipitation. Then the wind will come up and we'll get not just vertical rain but horizontal rain.

If we waited for the rain to stop before doing anything, we wouldn't do anything. We know better. We know Oregon. Whether the rain is gentle or has a mean streak, it is still rain. Oh, it will quit someday, July 4 maybe and we'll see a UFO — the sun.

Teri and I are on vacation. We love Oregon. We love the rain. And a little precipitation — or a lot — won't stop the crows from cavorting in the treetops having a grant time. And a little rain won't stop us from each day having a first dance.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

6 Month Anniversary!!!

Believe it or not, it's already been six months since 9-10-11. Time flies. We've both survived work turmoil and made progress on the home front. Teri being a contrarian likes to celebrates in non-traditional ways, and so we'll have a nice breakfast out at our favorite Walla Walla restaurant, the Maple Counter. At 2 p.m., the time of our wedding, we'll share a good long energy hug, a kiss and a first dance, wherever we are.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Feeling Crabby

We leave Sunday for the Oregon Coast. Yes, I'm tired of day after day of sunshine. We'll trade that for a week of storm watching at the coast — and maybe even finding some tasty dungeness crab to eat. Our target destination is Cannon Beach, Seaside and Astoria, the far north coast. It might blow. It might rain sideways. Still, rain, shine, sleet, or hail, you can't go wrong going on vacation to the Oregon Coast. The coast delivers.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Gloom, Despair and Misery

Ah, the joys of going to work. Too many people bring with them clouds to wear over their heads. They are not uniformly humorous. Other people play the passive aggressive card. They try to get other people to do their dirty work. So it goes. I choose to be happy anyway. Abraham Lincoln said most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be. Let other people be the official carriers of gloom, despair and misery. It's a heavy coat that weighs the shoulders down after a while.

I choose instead to emphasize my mantra, "Freedom!" I'll be a Braveheart, not a Faintheart, and enjoy life, especially my life outside of work.

Another goal is to smile in the first three seconds of every encounter, whether I feel like it or not. I want to smile not only with my mouth but with my eyes. Eventually, I'd like to bring some of the Dr. Ball spirit of the late Whitman professor, who was renowned for making the people he met better off for the encounter. Maybe I can chase away some of the gloom and despair. The misery? I'm not so sure.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Home is Where the Art Is

Slowly but surely, we're turning the Beach Condo and the Mountain Cabin into art galleries. Visitors may not recognize this. But we're buying kitchen appliances that are works of art. We are hanging pictures on our walls reminding us of great moments from our wedding, honeymoon and vacation trips.

The idea is to come home to a gallery-like setting surrounded by items that inspire us and sing to our hearts. Sure, we can't afford to run out and buy Picassos or Van Goghs. But we can occasionally enlarge our own photos, which to us are much more meaningful, and when we do get the opportunity to add to our furniture or appliances, we can keep aesthetics in mind. We make our own environment, and over time our environment makes us. We might as well surround ourselves with beauty.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


A week from now, if all goes according to plan, we'll be arriving at the Oregon Coast. Sure, it might be pouring down rain. We'll be prepared for whatever Mother Nature dishes out. If it's raining, we'll read or visit shops and galleries. If it's nice, we'll talk on the beach and in Ecola State Park.

Half the fun in a vacation is in the planning. Like the song "Anticipation," we grow more excited every day about visiting Oregon's magnificent coastline and enjoying all it has to offer.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Rise and Shine

Some Mondays it's tough to rise and shine. It's 4:30 a.m. The alarm goes off. You're right in the middle of a fair to middling dream. You don't want to quit on the dream until it gets to the good part. There is a good part in every dream, right?

Rising and shining is tough on such days, but it beats rising and being Mr. Grouchy Pants, right? After all, 4:30 is not THAT early. It's just an hour earlier than I rise on other work week days. But psychologically it seems worlds darker, worlds earlier.

It's a true test of the relationship that Teri can be cheerful, funny and make a good breakfast and care package for me, give me a motivational speech and send me on my 75-mile commute. It's just what we have to do, so we try to do it in as good of spirits as we can muster. If we can also squeeze in a first dance and an energy hug before I race out the door of the "beach condo," all the better.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Game, Emotional Set Point, Match

Experts used to think that whatever emotional set point we were born with was our cross to bear forever. If you were raised by a family of wolves or curmudgeons, watch out. Lately, studies have shown most everything, good and bad. But they have shown that people can change the way their brains work and move their emotional set points.

My personal rule of thumb, which is painting with a broad brush to be sure, is that things are determined 20 percent by genetics and 80 percent by environment. We can change our environment, whether that is through exercise, nutrition or just who we hang out with, and change our lives.

According to the "Spontaneous Happiness" book by Dr. Andrew Weil, practicing an attitude of gratitude daily can move our emotional set point 25 percent toward optimism. That's a big change for a small investment.

As part of my Just for Todays, in fact the very first one that I recite each morning, I try to awaken with an attitude of gratitude. I list a few things that I have to be thankful for. Some days the list is much longer than other days. And many days the list repeats from the previous day. But it is a positive habit. To reinforce my gratitude, now I am adding a simple Gratitude Journal to my daily Younger Next Year log. Moving the emotional set point 25 percent is a big deal. And it only takes a few minutes each day.

If you want to serve up some happiness in your life, give it a try. Find what works for you, your own unique approach, and be on the lookout throughout the day for things you are happy for, whether that be a solid exercise habit, a good shopping trip to the grocery store, co-workers that don't eat you for dinner, whatever. Be thankful. It will help you be spontaneously happy more often.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Five Minutes of Bliss

Some men absolutely hate the "Dr. Oz" TV show. Their wives watch the show religiously and continually "suggest" new ways for the family to stay healthy. These "suggestions" can seem as if shot out of a Gatling gun, coming at the man three ways to Sunday. Flush the toilet with the lid down. Eat this. Don't eat that. Take enough supplements to choke a horse.

Well, to make up for all this aggravation, Dr. Oz suggested a new way for couples to make the peace -- the five-minute hand massage. I figured this might be a good, doable item to add to Groundhog Day. I tried it for the first time last night, but maybe went overboard with the massage oil. Our hands were a drippy, gooey mess. Of course, like everything else, the five-minute hand massage is a work in progress. We don't expect instant perfection, or perfection any time. What we do expect is mindfulness and finding new ways to keep the relationship fresh-squeezed and growing like a garden under the influence of Miracle-Gro.

It takes a month to build a habit. We'll see a month from now if the five-minute hand massage is part of our daily repertoire, part of a terrific and dynamic Groundhog Day.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Long Distance Love Languages

Many people have challenges expressing the five love languages when living under the same roof. Try expressing love when you're 90 miles apart most of the week. As you probably know, the five love languages are affirmations, quality time, gifts, acts of service and physical touch. Right off, when 90 miles apart, physical touch is out. Sure, you're under the same moon and all that, and that's wonderful, but the only reaching out and touching someone has to be done by phoning, and nowadays fingers don't do much walking, they just press one button and -- viola! -- the person answers on the other side of the Blue Mountains. It's a miracle. But it's not a love language.

On the days we are apart, I try to remind myself that I still can practice some of the love languages. For example, I can still practice affirmations. I can give Teri encouragement. I can tell her how much I appreciate her creativity and sense of humor. I can praise her McIver and Columbo-like problem-solving skills. Paper clips can do amazing things. I can also give her quality time by calling on the phone and sharing the best and worst parts of my days, and a few laughs to boot.

The gifts I give Teri, on the days we are apart, are the intangibles. I give her some of my time and some of my heart and some of my wisdom. And the only acts of service I can give are to lend an ear and truly, deeply listen.

Still, every day is a chance to practice the five love languages, to remember what's important in life, to keep things in proper perspective. I am so thankful for Teri's cousin, Delbert Durfee, the minister at our wedding, who in a rigorous series of pre-marital counseling sessions shared with us the five love languages. Even 90 miles apart, we can practice the languages and continue to build our love.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Second Honeymoon

OK, so we're making up for lost time. That happens when you get married at age 54. We are looking forward with eager anticipation to a mid-March trip to the Oregon coast and, if we stay healthy and wise, a mid-September trip to British Columbia, eh. It will be fun to make plans for these expeditions to some of our favorite places — and to make new and exciting discoveries. Ah, travel. Adventure awaits.

If we make second, third and fourth honeymoons, and even 20th and 30th honeymoons, it's a really good sign that the relationship remains in dynamic growth mode. Such everyday magic can happen when creative people get together and continue to dream.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Email Bloopers

Today I accidentally sent an email designed for a former coworker to Teri instead. I am happy to announce that I wouldn't mind if Teri read everything I wrote, even if that would most likely cure any insomnia issues she might have. It's good to not have secrets, and to not have secret agendas. It's good not to be on whispering campaigns, to tell one person one thing and another person something entirely different. I hope that anything I say, living most of the time 90 miles apart with different sets of coworkers and friends, will be suitable for Teri to hear, and anything I write will be suitable for Teri to read.

Of course, there are a couple of moments when the cats misbehaved that I'm glad Teri was not on hand to witness my temper. Otherwise, I would be happy to share the movie of our time apart with Teri. Of course, she may find it to be a snoozer, but an honest snoozer, at least.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

You Can Bank On It

Here's a test for newlyweds. Join finances. Teri and I are in the process of combining our checking accounts. Now we will be able to track our every financial move, however modest. I want us to be able to combine resources while at the same time not having our styles cramped. We need to have a family meeting if we want to make any purchases of more than $100. Sure, we have to maintain two homes, and that is a major expense. But I think that by combining resources we will have more spending power — and more peace of mind.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Comfort food

Teri was feeling sub-par Sunday, but that didn't stop her from making a fabulous marionberry cobbler. Now that's comfort food.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Power of the Wind

Yesterday the wind was howling. We were pretty much held prisoner in our own home. Go outside and you risked being skewered by sticks, sheet metal and other flying debris. Cats, dogs and small children were at risk from tumbling away from bus stops and front porches. We could have gone for our normal power walk, and felt the power of the wind, but at the cost of being miserable and having our hair separated forcefully from our head. Instead, we sat home and started a movie marathon and had an Idaho Potato Pancake Festival thanks to a Christmas gift from our niece, Natalie, who lives in the state capital, Boise.

What could have been a boring day turned out to be a lot of fun thanks to my creative wife. Her percolating mind never fails to pleasantly surprise me.

I hope at some point we can take a walk in the wind, to soak in the power of Mother Nature. The after-dinner walk is an important part of a good Groundhog Day. Yet we have to know when it is time to go to Plan B, and yesterday was one of those days. Plan A got blown to Idaho. No Problem. Unless Plan B involves B movies.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Shop Til You Drop ... Five Pounds

Going grocery shopping together is a gas. I sprint around the exterior of the grocery store like my pants are on fire. Teri lingers. I grab and go. Teri compares product. If there is a stack of five items, she looks at each one to determine that none is defective and which is the best quality.

Despite our differences in technique, when we get to the checkout line it is hoped we would come away with similar products. As the "Younger Next Year" authors say, good nutrition starts in the supermarket, not in the kitchen." I worship at the Younger Next Year shrine, Teri not so much. Either way, we both try to follow Dr. Henry S. Lodge's fifth rule, which is "Quit eating crap."

The reason we do it is so we can have many happy and healthy years together. If broccoli turns out to be our comfort food, so be it.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Of butterflies and blue herons

A big snowstorm is expected over the weekend. Mother Nature is winding up to give us a roundhouse punch to the right temple. It may be her last blast before spring begins to show itself with crocuses and daffodils popping up through the mud. There are no guarantees. And the calendar is mostly a suggestion, not a rule. But the season of butterflies and blue herons is not far away, and both are extremely meaningful to our relationship.

Butterflies give us Helen blessings. Teri's mom was a big fan of the swallowtail butterfly, and when we see one we consider it to be Helen letting us know that we are on the right path. Seems strange. But it works. Last July, just as I began the 18-mile ascent of Beartooth Pass in Montana by bicycle, I encountered a swallowtail that seemed to tell me you trained for this, you prepared for this, you can do it and this is the place you need to be.

Blue herons are important to us too. On our very first river walk, at Pendleton along the Umatilla, on our first date, a blue heron carved a perfect circle in the sky above us. It seemed to sanctify our relationship, to tell us we were right for each other, to take the chance and see where this great adventure might take us. Ever since we have been on the lookout for other blue herons. Each time we see one it is a blessing on the relationship and tells us we are on the right path.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Emotional Resilience

I am currently reading Dr. Andrew Weil's book "Spontaneous Happiness." The main purpose is so that I can maintain equilibrium and not often bring work problems home to Teri. Of course, we don't mind providing other counsel. But I don't want to bring up the same problems over and over again if there is no real solution. When my head starts to spin with unresolvable problems, I want to have techniques ready at hand to get off the mental merry-go-round.

As long as we have to work, there will be problems. In fact, as long as we live there will be problems and we will be searching for solutions. The important thing is we be satisfied with where we are, but also be open to better ways of doing things should we discover them in the future.

For now, retirement is not an option. And we have to face a hard fact: not all co-workers will be universally pleasant. Some co-workers may even try to deliberately sabotage our peace of mind. They may not be on the same wave length when it comes to standards of excellence and what is necessary to achieve a quality product. No matter. The important thing is we find ways not to recycle negativity but to break free of it as quickly as possible and return to our optimistic emotional set-points.

Easier said than done. Dr. Weil, though, has some excellent advice on meditation techniques involving breathing and mantras that could work to make this process go more smoothly, and for that Teri and I both can be thankful.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


People sometimes ask how I manage to stay so slim, when Teri is such a terrific cook. The answer: e-treats. Every morning, as we start work 85 miles apart, me in La Grande, Teri in Walla Walla, we send each other e-treats.

Today's e-treat from Teri was especially tasty. The email had me hankering for more.

Hi Sweetie.... Here's to a good day for both of us.

Now, about your e-treat....
A generous Oregon Hazelnut and Cinnamon e-Latte a lovely Spiced Pumpkin Dessert... oh, dessert for breakfast???? That's the great thing about e-treats... we can have ANYTHING we want.

Make it a good day....
Teri ;)

E-treats are a great way for us to connect. It also helps us remember such traditions as "always kiss me good morning" and "the day's first dance." Best of all, e-treats cost nothing but time and are calorie-free.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Eastern Front

Not too long after my first wife, Tina, died at age 48 of complications of diabetes, her cousin, Sandy, entered my life. Sandy, in her late 60s going on 27, had read a column I had written, which had been sent to her from Tina's Aunt Mart, in Minnesota. Sandy lives at the opposite end of the country, near Washington, D.C., and we have been emailing back and forth ever since. We are the odd couple: me in the mountains of rural Oregon, she in suburban Virginia. I consider her my mentor and, even more so, the big sister I never had. Sandy played an instrumental role in getting me through grief recovery and gave me good advice as I launched back into dating.

Even today, almost five years later, Sandy is still there for me on the other end of emails and the phone. She seems almost as amazed at my relationship with Teri, and my good fortune, as I am.

Today Sandy was commenting on Teri's love for cooking and creativity and on her blog, "Channeling Mom."

"She (Teri) is remarkable and both of you are so lucky to have one another. I still think it's a miracle that you found one another.....a beautiful miracle. I love the framed picture you guys sent me for Christmas. It makes me so happy to look at it and it's hanging with my other family photos in the hallway."

Thanks, Sandy, for your part in giving me the courage to move forward with my life and for putting some wind in the sails of this great adventure.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sunday driver!

Teri and I like to grab the cameras and go for Sunday drives. Only this time we were taking pictures only with the cameras of our minds. That's OK. The days are getting longer, and what better way to enjoy waning winter than to check out the wildlife congregating along the South Fork Walla Walla River. Turkeys, mule deer, cougars, oh my! Well, we didn't actually see cougars, just silhouettes of brush that looked like cougars. No matter.

Sweetie Pie can see the spots on a fawn 500 yards away, and I can usually pick out all five fingers on my hand if I hold it close enough to my face. Opposites attract.

Teri enjoys jumping in the car and exploring. There is no agenda, no set plan, no timeline. Sometimes we try to chase down rainbows. Other times we try to see elk grazing on Northeast Oregon mountainsides. Either way, it's fun to get out and see the treasures of our wild Oregon.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Color My World

Teri and I love color, and we want to surround ourselves with beauty. One long-term goal is transforming the mountain cabin from its original snow-white (now off-gray walls) to vibrant colors. We want to paint at least one room a year until the entire cabin is claimed anew as ours. Last summer we painted the master bedroom hydrangea blue. The next room on our agenda is the kitchen, which we hope to paint a golden wheat color.

Today we went to Home Depot, where we have many gift cards from our wedding, in order to choose colors for the rest of the house. It's fun dreaming about seeing the project come to fruition, and it will be great doing all the hard work together. One room at a time we claim the house as ours and see the future as bright.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Big Trip

Half the fun of a vacation is in the planning and anticipation. That's why, by mid-February, I have already signed up for all four weeks of vacation for the year. And I have big plans.

In March, Teri and I plan to go to the Oregon Coast for our annual beach getaway. Sure, with all the excitement over wedding planning, we missed a year. But I don't intend to let that happen again. We both love the ocean, and Oregon has perhaps the best and most accessible coastline in the nation. Around every corner is another treasure waiting to be discovered.

In July, I'm planning to go on a bicycling adventure with friend Bill where we will circle the rim of Crater Lake, the deepest lake in North America at almost 2,000 feet deep and one that fills an old volcanic caldera where the volcano blew its top hundreds of years ago. The rim road is about 40 miles and has lots of ups and downs but averages about 8,000 feet above sea level. Crater Lake is Oregon's only national park, and a real gem.

In September, Teri and I are planning a second honeymoon trip to Canada. This time we'll probably focus on eastern British Columbia, a mountain paradise. We're hoping to also make a Canada trip an annual affair. Teri once lived and worked in Canada, and we both love getting away to see this gorgeous part of the world.

And in late October we'll be going on our fifth annual River Walk. We did the Pendleton river walk on our first date, and since have done river walks in Bend, the Tri-Cities and Boise. This year we plan to give Spokane, where Teri went to college, the honors.

In the meantime, we get to anticipate all these trips — and the joys of new discovery.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Weekends Were Made for Love

Remember the slogan "Weekends are made for Michelob"? I think a better slogan is, "Weekends are made for love." Sure, I love my beer. But I love my life and my wife a lot more, and I want to be around for many years to enjoy both.

Studies show that bingeing on beer once a month (that's just three or more beers) can take six years off a person's life. I'm now in the middle of a lifestyle campaign to no longer bring beer home — and to no longer binge. It's all part of my Gray Seals and Younger Next Year programs to see just how far I can go and how good I can feel. The empty calories of beer (each can is equivalent to a Twinkie) are not wanted or needed.

I'm fortunate that several of my best friends are recovering drug addicts and alcoholics. They've already quit and are living rich lives free of substance abuse. They are role models for me as I pursue a life of quality and quantity. I'm not saying I'm an alcoholic or drug addict. I'm just saying my history of bringing beer into the home has given me more calories than I need, and could lead to health complications if I don't nip the habit in the bud.

I'll still have a beer out on the town from time to time. Sure, buying beer at a restaurant seems more expensive. But now I'm into quality, not quantity. And bringing beer home in the long run costs more, not just to the wallet but to the body in health complications. Let someone else's weekends be fogged by Michelob. I choose to be clear, sharp, vital and alive so that I can see just where this crazy exercise program, and especially this crazy love, wants to go.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Valentine's Month

OK, so everybody celebrates Valentine's Day. It's a wonderful holiday, full of Cupids, dark chocolate, balloons and bouquets. But why stop at just one day? Why not make the entire month of February Valentine's Month? Or the entire year Valentine's Year?

Sure, only Ted Turner or Bill Gates can afford to send flowers every day. But all of us can send our love through one of the five love languages: affirmations, quality time, gifts, acts of service and physical touch. The love languages fit any budget, whether we are dirt poor or can afford to have empty rooms in the house and a gas piggy that squeals from 0 to 60 mph in five seconds.

Celebrating Valentine's all year long requires making the relationship the top priority. It must be more important than the dog, the cat or the bowling league. It must be more important than hunting elk or wearing a cheesehead and rooting for the Green Bay Packers.

I think Teri and I are on track to celebrate a really great Valentine's Month. That's true only because we are trying to create for ourselves a great Groundhog Day. Like in the movie by the same name starring Bill Murray, we are doing the same day over and over, like so many couples, but our goal is to not to hear the grinding routine but instead to let that day evolve and to eventually get it just right.

We want to create a good Groundhog Day, a good Groundhog Week, a good Groundhog Month and a good Groundhog Year. If and when we do, Valentine's Month and Year will take care of itself.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Norman Rocks!

I'm a big Norman Rockwell fan. He painted fun slices of Americana, poignant moments off the beaten path. I feel our wedding photographer, the incomparable Amanda Smith, captured a Rockwellesque moment on 9-10-11, Teri and my wedding day. Amanda took a picture of my bride and I sitting on a bench outside an old farm house. We are straddling the bench, facing each other, about to kiss. Behind me, standing on the bench, is our flower girl, 3-year-old Cadence, covering her eyes, as if horrified by such a public display of affection. Teri used the picture to design our wedding thank you cards.

To me, it is the signature moment of our wedding. Norman Rockwell would have approved, then painted the scene.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Baby She Sent Me a Valentine

Before our first date, Oct. 26, 2008, I was driving over the Blue Mountains from Cove to Pendleton when Joe Cocker's "My Baby She Wrote Me a Letter" came on the radio right at the summit. How appropriate, I thought. Ever since Teri had responded to my personals wink, on Oct. 12, we had been communicating back and forth with longer and longer emails. She had wrote me a letter and then some, more like "War and Peace" only with a better plot.

Today we celebrate Valentine's Day. It's one of our favorite holidays since the day is also Oregon's birthday and we truly love our home state with its infinite diversity, its sea level to ski level, its rain forests and high deserts. On Feb. 14, 2010, we got engaged at the Marcus Whitman Hotel in Walla Walla, celebrating ourselves, love and Oregon. The year before we traveled to Salem to help the state celebrate its 150th birthday and then on to the magnificent Oregon coast.

Now Teri sends me Valentines all sorts of ways. One of my favorites is through text messages accompanied by photos. Love, of course, is more than just a once a year occasion. It's an everyday thing that never gets routine.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Fancy Dancing

Since we didn't get to have a first dance at our wedding reception, we decided to have a first dance sometime during each day we are together. It's another part of a really fine, super terrific A1 Groundhog Day. It's also a lot of fun. The first dance might happen at 5 in the morning (God forbid!) or at 10 at night. It might happen while walking on a sidewalk in downtown Walla Walla or in a grocery store aisle, much to the disgust of younger people half our age who think the AARP set should be heard and not seen.

This morning, as I got ready for my oh so early 5:45 departure for the 75-mile commute to La Grande, we started to dance. Knowing time was of the essence, I led us in a fast dance. We both laughed and had a good time putting new dents in the Beach Condo rug.

While I am no Fred Astaire and Teri is no Ginger Rogers, we enjoy these stolen moments moving in harmony. And to this point there have been no major medical issues. We still have the use of all our toes.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Spoiled Rotten

I am the luckiest man in the world. No, I did not win the Powerball lottery or adopt a button-nosed rich kid. I did not have a million dollars land in my lap, or win employee of the month three years running. What I did was marry the woman I call Wonder. She's the kind of person who loves to experiment in the kitchen and post pictures of her creations online. And guess who gets to sample all these culinary delights? Me. Who would have guessed, in my year of self-imposed exile from dating, when I was in grief recovery, the year after my first wife, Tina, died tragically at age 48, that this kind of treasure would be in my future? I am truly blessed — and life is much sweeter than it might have been. I am loving every minute of being spoiled rotten.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Shop Til You Drop

Ah, Valentine's Week. My Sweetie invited me out for a great breakfast at the Maple Counter Cafe on a rainy Saturday morning in Walla Walla. We shared a Danish cherry pancake. The atmosphere was great. The service was terrific. The coffee cup never went dry. Afterward, while Honey Bunches of Whole Wheat Fruit Loops paid for our meal, I wandered over to window shop at Goodwill, the much maligned store carrying lots of well used merchandise and the occasional treasure. There, much to my astonishment, I found an amazing painting, in a nice frame, by my favorite artist, Norman Rockwell, depicting young lovers and their dog in an all-American scene of romantic unconditional love. And for $7. What a steal!

When we wandered inside to pay for our masterpiece, we also spotted an Oreo bowl for $1.99. Viola! Teri, in her first email to me, made a joke that I probably dunked my Oreos in beer. Ever since Oreos — alas, not beer! —have been an important part of our shared family history. No, we do not indulge ourselves regularly in Oreo sugary-sweet simple carbohydrate goodness. But it is fun to have reminders around the mountain cabin and beach condo of this important bit of sassiness that set the tone for our relationship.

I always encourage Teri to "shop like a man." In other words, keep up a pace in the store and grab stuff on the go. Of course, she does just the opposite, even when shopping at Goodwill.

OK, so we got in and out of Goodwill fairly quickly with our newfound treasures. We may not have shopped like a Real Man, or until we dropped, or until we had to declare bunkruptcy and pitch a tent under a bridge. Still, it sure was fun going on a Valentine's Week treasure hunt with my Sweetie and celebrate love.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Beach Beckons

Half the fun of a vacation is in the planning. Teri and I are in the final stages of selecting a home base for our trip to the Oregon Coast in March. We're leaning toward Cannon Beach. From there we'll explore the far northwest corner of Oregon — Seaside, Astoria, the Astor Column, the Peter Iredale shipwreck, Lewis & Clark's winter headquarters and much, much more. We both love Oregon, and have many places that we each have been separately but have not been to together. Many adventures await.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Oregon Celebrates the Big 153!

Oregon's birthday is a big deal for Teri and I. We love the Beaver State. We think there should be a state holiday called Pioneer Day, a little like Massachusetts' Patriots Day, except with more fireworks.

Oregon this year is celebrating the big 153. We became a state in 1859, and that event just happened to occur on Valentine's Day. This makes Oregon a state for lovers.

Virginia claims this slogan now, but I think it is one that can be shared with a state 3,000 miles to the west. There is a lot to love about Oregon, from sea level to ski level, from the rainy and lush Willamette Valley to the barren high desert of Eastern Oregon.

Teri does a desk calendar each year in celebration of Oregon's diverse beauty. The calendar is also a tribute to her late mother Helen, who died of leukemia in 2003. Helen loved Oregon, and took the three kids on educational tours of the state every chance she got. Her love was passed along to Teri, and I am the beneficiary of this geographical passion.

Oregon is for lovers, no doubt about it.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Hedonism 101

The travel show on TV featuring geeky and effervescent Rick Steves was doing its usual quick romp through museums and Saturday markets. Then, without warning, the host let fly with the following: Bagpipes symbolize hedonism. Eureka! Teri and I thought. We just on 9-10-11 pulled off a most hedonistic wedding. We do pamper ourselves with the raucous and bedeviling sounds of our ancestral home, the Scottish Highlands. And the "victory lap" led by our bagpiper, Steve Pyles, will be a cherished forever memory.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Cabbage Stew

Thank God for fog lines — and for guardian angels. This morning's drive Over the Blues was a great adventure. Fog filled the bog at Milton-Freewater and attempted to climb the infamous Interstate 84 six mile, 6 percent grade up Cabbage Hill just east of Pendleton. I crept along in the fast lane carefully watching the fog line and the freeway ahead for taillights. I'd go in the slow lane, but that is reserved mostly for semi trucks and trailers creeping up this notorious grade.

The tendency in fog is for drivers to speed up. Occasionally, I'd check out my rearview mirror in hopes no one was gaining on me.

All I could say was, Well, it sure beats black ice. Then again, if it was black ice, I hope I would have the good sense to just stay home and try again when the ice on the road melted. Better safe and have 30 or more years together than sorry.

As I emerged from the foggy stew at the top of Cabbage Hill, I said thank you to my guardian angel for helping me, one more hair-raising, central nervous system-testing time, get Over the Blues.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Team Spirit

We're in the process of slowly combining resources. In fact, this week, for the first time ever, both our checks were deposited into a shared bank account. It takes a lot of trust. Over time we've built the trust that neither of us will run out and buy a shar pei dog, or a pet opossum or badger on credit, or gamble away our limited funds at Wildhorse casino. We'll call a family meeting if either of us plans to make a purchase of $100 or more. And both of us can monitor the account online to make sure we have enough of a cushion to pay needed bills or have a little fun.

Over time, we're hoping to find a way to pay off all our credit cards so we get on a cash basis. Of course, we know there may be a time when a medical or some other emergency causes us to go into debt. We'll deal with that then. For now, we are trying to be disciplined and get our financial house in order so that what money we do have stretches as far as it possibly can.

The important thing, for both of us, is to be comfortable with this new arrangement. We need to continue paying our bills and having a little fun without constantly looking over our shoulders or walking on eggshells. We work hard for a living, and we need some rewards for that effort.

Working together, and blending our financial resources, we can make each other's lives just a little more pleasant. And in the end that is what matters.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Life is a Beach

We call the Milton-Freewater home the "beach condo" even though it is 300 miles from the Oregon Coast. Both of us love the coast. We wish we could spend more time there. However, reality demands full-time jobs, mine at The Observer, a daily newspaper in La Grande, and Teri's at Whitman College in Walla Walla. Hence, we have to bring some of the coast to us, and have decorated the condo accordingly with replica lighthouses, paintings and other souvenirs that remind us of past travels and give us hope for future adventures.

Like all things in life, the beach condo is a work in progress. One thing we try to do when we get the chance is to buy particularly artistic kitchen implements or living room accessories. For example, we got a tower lamp and a tower vase for the living room, and bright red spatulas and soup bowls for the kitchen. These may or may not have beach themes, but they are items of beauty and inspiration.

Home, to us, is an art gallery. We are of modest means, but when we do get to purchase something, we consider its function and form. We are looking first for something that works and second for its eye appeal. Both form and function are important. It is comforting and uplifting to surround ourselves with beauty — and to feel transported, upon coming home from a challenging day at work, to the restfulness of the beach.

Friday, February 3, 2012

My Baby, She Sent Me a Photo

You've heard of the Joe Cocker song "My Baby, She Wrote Me a Letter." The song was on the radio as I drove over the summit of the Blue Mountains heading for Pendleton and my first date with Teri, on Oct. 26, 2008.

Now, at least in my heart, I'm singing another song. It's titled "My Baby, She Sent Me a Photo." This morning Teri "texted" me a photo of herself posed in her office with a big smile and a message "I love you." What a beautiful woman. She made my day, and rarely is a day made so early in the morning.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Groundhog Year

You've heard of 'Groundhog Day,' where Bill Murray is a cynical TV weatherman who gets snowed in, in a small town, and gets a chance to relive a day over and over until he gets it right. But what about Groundhog Year? Our Groundhog Year is a work in progress. For now it includes birthday mini-vacations. Another Honeymoon trip each year, to Canada; an annual Oregon Coast vacation; a 10-26 river walk in honor of our first date (in 2008). It's quite a list. If we accomplish this much each year, and grow deeper in love, we will be satisfied. Our Groundhog Year may never be a masterpiece by Hollywood standards, but it will grow over the years to be a labor of love, a work of enduring beauty.

Happy Groundhog Day

We're celebrating Groundhog Day today. Despite its not being listed on my desk calendar at work, Groundhog Day is a major family holiday. For one thing, it's my favorite movie. Bill Murray plays the cynical weatherman who gets a chance to do one day over and over again until he finally gets it right. For another thing, Groundhog Day played a big role in my marriage proposal to Teri almost two years ago this Valentine's Day.

It started like this. When I got a second chance at romance, after my first wife Tina died of complications of diabetes at age 48 in 2007, I decided to make the best of it and in the Murray tradition try to do things right. First I had to spend a year getting over grief and getting my act together. Next I had to meet someone special. When I did, I wanted to try an experiment. What if I could create a good Groundhog Day, a good Groundhog Week, a good Groundhog Month and a good Groundhog Year?

First, though, I needed to concentrate on Groundhog Day. One day at a time. I wanted a good day with positive habits that I could repeat, one that through incrementalism would build romance over time. I think it worked.

Our Groundhog Day, of course, is a work in progress. If together, we have pillow talk, do some tai chi-esque stretching, have a first dance, give and get a 4:44 energy hug, give a back rub and kiss each other goodnight. If apart, we send e-greetings and treats, the occasional text message and email, and finish the day with a nightly phone call.

We celebrate Groundhog Day both once a year and every day. Once a year we celebrate with a decadent Family Holiday Sausage Feast. Every day we celebrate Groundhog Day by continuing to incorporate good daily habits that build the relationship.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Quality Time

One of the five love languages is quality time. (The others are affirmations, gifts, acts of service and physical touch.) Being that Teri and I are in a Living Apart Together, or LAT, relationship, quality time becomes a big deal. The way I manage it when we are 90 miles apart, me in the mountain cabin in Cove and Teri in the beach condo in Milton-Freewater, is nightly phone calls. I try not to call until after 9 p.m., when I know Teri should be home from her dad's, where she often checks in on weekday evenings, makes sure Al is OK and cooks them dinner.

Our conversations ramble all over the place. They range from the joke of the day to how work went and weekend plans. Basically, we just enjoy each other's company. I try to remember to give her an energy hug and kiss her goodnight. It's not the same as in person, of course, but it does help us build good relationship-growing habits over time.

Sure, 90 miles is 90 miles. But through the phone it feels as if we are sharing time, space and dreams.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Apple Pie Surprise

Each week, when I head Over the Blues to go to work early, early, EARLY Monday morning, Teri packs me a nice care package. This "lunch," packed into an old "Little Playmate" cooler, sometimes with incredible precision to use every atom of space, often is enough to get me through several days, even though I like to eat five times a day. This evening I was in for surprise. And it was more than just the typical note she cleverly hides in the care package. Tonight, having already consumed several snacks at work, having already tackled the apple, carrots and cheese sandwich, I opened the cooler at supper time only to discover, wrapped in tin foil, an absolutely gorgeous, beauty contest winning piece of apple pie.

What a way to cap a great Monday. My baby spoils me rotten, and I love every minute of it.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Snowing Hard and Continuously

The wind blew last night enough at the beach condo to turn shingles into missiles. Fortunately, the place is new and the shingles are nailed down well.

Part of our Monday morning tradition, besides getting up at 4:30 a.m., is to take a quick peek at the Oregon Department of Transportation Trip Check. One thing I expected, despite its being 45 degrees down in the banana belt and raining lightly, that it would be snowing hard and continuously at the Interstate 84 Meacham crossing of the Blue Mountains. The mountain range is a storm catcher that snags storm coming off the Pacific Ocean and squeezes as much moisture out of them as it possibly can.

Up top, the visibility on drives like this morning's declines. A driver has to watch out especially for other traffic, what we like to call "flakes." The windshield wipers work overtime, as does the defroster. There are no atheists on the road.

I was thankful this morning that the snowplows were out in force trying to clear the worst of the rapidly falling snow from the road. I was also thankful when I finally descended below the snow line in the Grande Ronde River valley west of La Grande.

It was nice to have another successful trip over the Blues in the Prius snow leopard with the best snow tires ever in my rear view mirror. Life is a daring adventure or nothing, Helen Keller said. This is all part of our daily adventure, and for the opportunity to spend weekends with my Sweetie, no matter how challenging the driving conditions, I am extremely thankful.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Quality, not Quantity

Sometimes I read about couples married 30, 40, 50 years or more. The odds of Teri and I celebrating our 50th anniversary are about 1 in 100,000. We'd both be 104 years old, with more wrinkles than a shar pei.

That's fine. Our marriage is about quality, not quantity. Yet we want to make good choices with exercise, diet and social life most of the time. We can add 10 years to our life just by limiting the times we get angry and not bingeing on food or sugar drinks. We can add 10 years of quality living by lifting weights and doing aerobics, even if that is something as simple as going for the occasional after-dinner walk.

I want to share a lot of years with Teri, see where this adventure takes us. Life is either a daring adventure of nothing, Helen Keller said. We want to make it adventure today, this week, this month, this year and for the rest of our lives.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Key Bowl

One critical element in a successful marriage is the key bowl. Yes, you heard right. The key bowl is where you put your keys when you get home from work, and wallet, bills to be paid, outgoing mail and whatever else is important to deal with right away. It's a great organizational tool, and a nice work of art besides.

Today, while spending a wedding gift card at Target, I found a really nice rubber wood key bowl. It cost only $10, and will pay for itself right away in keeping things organized and helping get bills paid on time.

Sure, key bowls aren't for everyone. Some people like chaos, disorganization, clutter, searching frantically for important papers. Some people also thrive on crisis. They like daily drama.

I am not one of those people. I love the key bowl and think it deserves a prominent place in every home.

Shake it up, Baby

Marriage comes down to hundreds of tiny details. They include shaking up the soy milk before pouring. If I've told you once I've told you one thousand times .... I'm a slow learner. Once I incorporate a habit into my repertoire, however, it is there to stay. If something is important to one person in the couple, it becomes important to both people. And little details, like always changing the toilet paper roll and putting it on so it dispenses in the proper manner, can add in a big way to quality of life. We get enough aggravations in our jobs and in our commutes. We need to make our home life, or in our Living Apart Together relationship our homes life, as seamless as possible. Yes, Dear, I'm learning to shake up the soy milk before pouring. It might take 10 years — but I'm learning.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Black Ice

Wreck ahead, the signs warned. It was the middle of the afternoon on a Friday in late January. The freeway was supposedly in great condition. I crept along in the Prius, my 43 miles per gallon miracle car, in the Grande Ronde River canyon, just west of La Grande. A series of flares warned of trouble ahead. An Oregon Department of Transportation snowplow truck was in the other lane, spreading deicer. Ahead I saw the SUV. It had crossed the bridge on a curve and then rolled. Perhaps it was going too fast. Maybe it hit ice. Probably it hit the invisible black ice. Whatever, it made me thank my lucky stars for being so fortunate as to drive through this mountain ravine time after time without incident. This time of year in this deep mountain canyon shaded areas predominate. Ice lingers. Day after frozen day.

Over the Blues is not just a cute name. In winter it is serious business getting over this mountain range in Northeast Oregon to see each other. We drive as carefully as we can through all sorts of weather to be together as a couple. That is one of the prices to be paid with a Living Apart Together, or LAT, relationship. It is a price, however, that pays rich dividends when I consider my best friend is waiting at the other end of the drive. We want to spend many years together. We want to be careful. Someday the drive won't be necessary. It's a great adventure.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Taking out the Trash

The five love languages are affirmations, quality time, gifts, acts of service and physical touch. Acts of service can be anything from washing dishes to taking out the trash and changing the roll on the toilet paper holder. Or it could mean folding clothes or drying down the walls after taking a shower. None of these is a big deal. But put all together they are a big deal. They tell the other person that you believe love is in the details.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Storm Chaser

Romance is an adrenaline sport when you live 90 miles apart, most days, with a storm-catching mountain range in between. No, the Blue Mountains of Northeast Oregon aren't the Sierras or the Cascades. But the Blues aren't anything to sneeze at either. Storms marching off the Pacific Ocean can pack a fierce punch as they slam into the Blues in a winter weather season that lasts from November through April. Teri and I love the Blues. We love the magnificent views coming down Cabbage Hill. Every time we drive over this hurdle to see each other our love grows stronger, more enduring, as enduring as our beloved mountains. To us, over the Blues means more than just a drive through snowy pines. It means moving beyond sadness and despair to the rarified air of a love that is as strong as a mountain storm -- and much more enduring.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Over the Blues

Semi trucks line the side of the road putting on chains. I am lucky. I can go over the snowpacked interstate with the excellent snow tires on my Prius Snow Leopard. Sure, I'd love to have an all-wheel-drive Subaru. But the Prius gets 43 miles to the gallon and makes this long distance relationship financially more doable. Neither Teri nor I is rich, except in spirit. We are thankful for decent jobs. Warm, dry houses. The ability to make good decisions when it comes to driving over the Blue Mountains in winter time.

The mountain cabin and the beach condo are 90 miles apart, with the Blue Mountains in between. The pass at Meacham is about 4,200-foot elevation. The mountain cabin in Cove is at 3,000 feet above sea level. The beach condo in Milton-Freewater is at 1,200 feet above sea level.

I am the designated driver in the relationship. It makes sense. I work in La Grande, which is 75 miles from the beach condo and 15 miles from the mountain cabin. Teri works in Walla Walla, which is 100 miles from the mountain cabin. This means on Monday mornings and Friday afternoons I have a shorter commute — just 75 miles compared to Teri's 100 miles.

It's a beautiful drive Over the Blues, most days. Pine forests cover the mountains, and in late spring wildflowers blossom in meadows. Occasionally, we'll even see a herd of elk, near Meacham usually. Then there is the descent off Cabbage Hills, six miles of 6 percent grade, or ascent in early morning with the lights of Pendleton flickering in the distance.

When we made our commitments to each other, we knew what we were getting into. It's a big investment in time and energy, but having a lifelong love makes it all worthwhile.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Lucky Girl

Whatever in the world I did to deserve this man... I am certainly glad I did,
whatever it was.

Jeff is kind, thoughtful, generous. He is smart, funny and adventurous.
And... I love him.
Jeff is patient, loving, helpful. He is quirky, interested and comforting.
And... I love him.

Forever and a Day.

I am a lucky girl.

Honey Don'ts

You've heard of honey-dos. The Wonder Woman and I have a series of honey-don'ts. They include don't go to bed angry; stay up and fight. Don't do the Over the Blues drive on black ice. Don't linger on the pity-potty. Don't dwell on depressing thoughts. Don't underestimate the power of Mother Nature or unconditional love. Don't be impatient. Don't judge or be petulant, even, especially, when you get older and it becomes the natural course of events. Don't be sedentary. Don't linger in the processed foods section of the grocery store. Don't sell yourself short. Don't be too serious. Don't jump to conclusions or leap to assumptions. Don't underestimate the power of patting -- or of love.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Riding out the storm

Ever since 9-10-11, the glorious day Teri and I got married, and even before, I've been riding waves of change at work. Just a few weeks before 9-10-11, my boss of more than 15 years announced abruptly that he was quitting as editor/publisher of the newspaper. That was not long after the company announced it was filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which resulted in pay cuts and pay freezes, and my boss announced he was on seven different blood pressure medicines.

Fortunately, Ted stayed long enough on the job so I could enjoy a honeymoon trip to British Columbia. Then, not long after we got back from Squamish, I had to fill his shoes for seven weeks while we hired a replacement editor. There was no plan. There was no direction. There was no new arrangement to share responsibilities. I worked like a dervish for no extra pay to just keep the lights on and the door open, while dealing with some humorless co-workers.

Then, in late November, the new editor arrived. He's a good guy. Extremely smart. Laughs a lot. Still, there were many more changes, and even though I was already overbooked, I was given even more of the mundane jobs formerly carried out by my editor/publisher. I was OK with that. It all pays the same. As long as I can set boundaries, come in at 7 a.m., go home at 4 p.m., remained reasonably healthy, kept the blood pressure at a good spot, it was fine.

Then, just when we were getting Glen's system down, the company brings in a new computer system. We are moving from Quark, which we have used for 15 years and I know all the shortcuts of, to InDesign. That's fine. I look forward to learning the latest thing. But I am the guy tasked with building pages fast. Now I need to learn new shortcuts. And the people teaching seem scattered. Very smart. Yet prone to go off on tangents and tell us about many features we have no need to know and will never use.

Teri, too, had to fill in for a co-worker gone missing from right after the honeymoon until mid-January. She too got no extra pay for a lot of extra work.

All this work stress has only strengthened our relationship. Teri gives me support, and I give her support back. We will carry on and use this as an opportunity to show just what we are capable of when times are tough. Love endures, forever and a day.

Weather warning

The Columbia Basin, where Teri lives at the beach condo, most days, is encrusted in several inches of ice. Roads, schools and businesses are closed. Everyone is hunkered down waiting for the inversion to lift.

The Grande Ronde Valley, where I live, most days, is basking in 40 degree temperatures. Cove, at 3,000-feet elevation, is up in the warm air where the rain is coming from. The rain is falling from that layer of warm air onto the surface in Milton-Freewater where the temperature is hovering around 20. The rain is freezing as soon as it hits the ground, turning the basin into an ice rink.

Now it's Friday, my normal time to commute over the Blues from the Grande Ronde Valley to the Columbia Basin. The weather looks iffy. The roads look dicey. But as the day goes on, the weather will likely change and warm up, Maybe by late afternoon, when I get off work, the roads will be good enough to make a run for it over the Blues, down Cabbage Hill and then up to Milton-Freewater. We'll get on the phone and make an educated decision.

As the Wonder Woman says, better to stay in our respective homes one weekend and not risk our lives, and then have many, many more weekends together. I like how she thinks. Maybe that's why she engraved, on the inside of my wedding ring, Forever and a Day.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Lonely planet

Winter evenings when we are apart, me at the mountain cabin, Teri at the beach condo, can be loooooooooong. That's especially true on dark and stormy nights. And when weather conditions at one place or the other, or both, are frightful. Last evening Teri had to do her 10-mile commute home from work in freezing rain. When I read about it from a friend on Facebook, I was concerned. But when I tried to reach Teri by phone, there was no answer. I just told myself she was driving home and could not answer the phone, then. She'd let me know soon enough that all was OK. When I finally was able to reach her, the relief was palpable.

The good part is, even living 90 miles apart much of the time, we still share the same moon. And through email, text messaging and phone calls, or chatting on Facebook, we can stay in touch. We know there will be loneliness, but with patience, trust, understanding and unconditional love, we can get through to that far distant day when we will actually share the same house full time. It's something to look forward to.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Playing possum

In the interest of making this blog a springboard for a best-selling book, I suggested to Teri that we get a pet opossum. She was not amused. They're ugly and they stink, she said. But what about the young woman photographer who raised a coyote in the heart of Wyoming sheep country and lived to blog about it, I pleaded. She wrote 'The Daily Coyote' book and is probably right now basking in the glory in some villa in Tuscany. No way, no who, no how, the Wonder Woman said, putting her foot down right on top of my arch. So it looks as if the opossums of the world will have to fend for themselves in the cruel streets of nature.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Playing with Food

Teri may not fess up to it, but she is a great cook. Loves to watch cooking shows. Enjoys experimenting in the kitchen. And I don't mind at all being experimented on. It's important in building a relationship to have fun with food, and to both chip in with kitchen chores. It's important to eat well, to savor the dining experience, to sit down together at the table, to pray together. It's all part of long-term bonding. Sunday evening Teri made (with a little assistance from me) orange chicken stir fry and rustic apple pie. We served the pie with some sharp cheddar cheese melted on top. Was that a big hit or what!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Play 60

The National Football League has a great series of TV ads furthering its effort to combat childhood obesity. Play 60 is also a great slogan for couples, no matter what their age. Saturday Teri and I did our Play 60 by taking a walk. The weather was sunny and unseasonably warm. Even the squirrels in the maple tree -- we counted six -- were following the Play 60 mantra. It's not just getting out there and getting exercise and Vitamin D. It's also bringing a spirit of fun. It's dancing in the street when the spirit arises. It's kicking a rock with your Sweetie. We aim to Play 60 every day, whether we are together or 90 miles apart. And it makes all the difference.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Date Morning

You've heard of date night. Well, Teri and I have started a new tradition-- date morning. All you need to do is find a restaurant with great food, great service and great ambiance. After enjoying a leisurely meal and some good catching-up time, you can go to the Saturday farmers market or do some other needed shopping.

Best, even if you romantically split a meal, portion sizes being what they are in America today, you might even be able to bring home lunch.

Of course, it takes a while to establish a tradition. But date morning is shaping up to be part of a great Groundhog Week -- that is, a week that bears repeating and continues to build a life that resonates.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The first love language: affirmations

During wedding counseling, Teri's cousin, Delbert, our minister, introduced us to a book that spelled out the five love languages. The first of these was affirmations. I'm a strong believer in affirmations. In fact, I began reciting a list of positive statements each morning after having been assigned, in my job as an editor in a daily newspaper, to check over the comic page. OK, so the page contained more than just "Family Circus" and "Doonesbury." The page also contained the "Dear Abby" column, which one day recommended a series of Just for Today affirmations. I started out with theirs. But being a contrarian, soon I had crafted my own. The Just for Todays proved invaluable as I went through my first wife, Tina's final illness and untimely death at age 48 in 2007. When times got rough, I had an inner strength to draw on.

Today, with the Living Apart Together arrangement Teri and I find ourselves in, she in Walla Walla during the work week and me in La Grande, I find affirmations to be one of the best things I have going. I remind her she's beautiful, inside and out, whether that is in our nightly phone calls or in the early morning email or through a text message.

Teri being the Wonder Woman, it's easy to find things to praise. I also like to do a takeoff on her initials, T.D., and give her a Ta-Dah! or a Ta-Ta-Ta-Dah!!! when appropriate.

It's great to live in the 21st century when there are so many ways to communicate, a multimedia three-ring circus. You still have to be mindful. But sending out affirmations has never been easier.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Lunch with Larry

Occasionally I have lunch with my friend Larry. We flip and match quarters to choose what restaurant we will go to and who will pay. It's a lot of fun. It also always brings back fond memories of 9-10-11 when after the wedding, after when we had gone through the gantlet of friends and family tossing parchment butterflies and well wishes, we jumped in the Prius and raced off. Suddenly, a vehicle horn started honking repeatedly. We looked in the rearview mirror and there was friend Larry in his Jeep chasing after us. It was great fun losing him in the streets of Athena and finally being together, just Teri and I, for a brief time in this busy day.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wonder Woman

Early on, as a weekly columnist for The Observer in La Grande, Oregon, not wanting to compromise Teri's anonymity, I began referring to her as Wonder Woman. And indeed she is. She's a character with character. She's funny and intelligent. She makes me laugh and makes me think. She also has that womanly instinct for giving just the right card. Today, arriving not by phone call, email, text message but by that now far too underutilized snail mail, was a card with Wonder Woman on the outside and on the inside, as usual, a pithy personal message: "Ta Dah! Just stopping by to say I love you gobz. More later, Teri." Many readers now refer to her not as Teri but as the Wonder Woman. They want to meet this everyday superhero. I am lucky that in my time of crisis she came to my rescue.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Simultaneous 4:44s

Our lucky number - besides 13 because we are contrarians - is 4. And our special time is 4:44- luckily p.m., not a.m. Today we simultaneously text-messages each other at 4:44 from 100 miles distant- me at the mountain cabin in Cove, Ore., Teri at work in Walla Walla, Wash. Such traditions may seem corny. But they are particularly important in Living Apart Together relationships. Simultaneous text messaging. Amazing!

Color for my Sweetie

Every month, on the occasion of the day Teri answered my wink, Oct. 12, 2008, I send her a colorful bouquet. Some people said the tradition would end after we got married. I took that as a big, fat challenge.

Well, that magical day, 9-10-11, came and went, and the bouquets just keep on arriving. They're colorful because Teri absolutely loves color. They are a sign that I am thinking of her, in my office, 85 miles and a mountain range from her office. It gives her something bright and cheery to look at all week long.

Don't tell my honey, but ordering flowers is as easy as picking up the phone. The people at the flower shop are happy to have the business, and I'm sure they wish a lot more husbands would take such initiative.

Sure, a bouquet has to be an agreed-upon monthly budget item. But I can think of all sorts of ways to spend that money -- fast food, potato chips, soft drinks, beer -- that wouldn't be anywhere near as profitable.

Monday, January 9, 2012

In sickness and in health

The Christmas tree glows in the corner. Colorful cards cover the door. Soft music plays on the TV. If I must be sick, it's much better to be sick here, in the beach condo, with Teri nearby, than it would be to be 90 miles apart, me at the mountain cabin, as much sick with worry as with sickness. Sure, our wedding vows were nontraditional, and may have never covered "in sickness and in health," but those words are implied. We aim for an unconditional love. And since no matter what you do, no matter how nutritiously you eat or religiously you exercise, there are no health guarantees, we have to expect some illness. Through the tea, the warm Jell-O, the homemade chicken noodle soup and the frequent pats, I know I am loved and will get better, sooner.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Fear of the Unknown

We've attended two funerals lately. Both men set the bar high for moving on to the next level. Both would help people out whenever needed, and not worry whether the other person could give anything back. They were nonjudgmental.

The ministers conducting the services, however, spent a lot of time on the topic "fear of the unknown." Who has time for such fears? Why not just fear the known? Fear what we can do but aren't. Fear the consequences of eating too much sugar or drinking too much beer. Fear what will happen to our bodies if we don't move at least a half hour a day, five days a week. Fear what will happen if we cut ourselves off from social contact, if we choose not to volunteer or get involved when opportunities arise.

Nothing against good Christians getting prepared for the afterlife. As was said in the Rob Carter service, for a true American hero, it's good to have no regrets when you step up to St. Peter's gate. It's good to know you have made the right choices. It's good to have not been a whiner.

Fear of the unknown? I don't think so. I'll fear the known, and try to be a little more like Carter in providing those around me nonjudgmental love.

Friday, January 6, 2012

No excuses

Once I was working 70 hours a week for a newspaper in Cody, Wyo. Call me crazy. I've been called a lot worse. One week the editor/publisher approached me and asked that I do one more story. I said I didn't have time. He kindly sat me down and gently reminded me that my life would be more pleasant, not just that year but many years down the road, if I never used that excuse again. Excuse? I felt I was at the breaking point. Truth is, most of us live life at 50, 60 or 70 percent of potential. Rarely do we go up to 80, 90 or 95. The only people that give 110 percent are those lifting Volkswagen bugs off button-nosed children when the heroes get a burst of adrenaline in an emergency.

The lesson learned is there is always enough time for what's important. We do what we need to do, in matters of work and relationships. No more, no less.

In many jobs, however, there comes a point of diminishing returns. This economic law works in all areas of life to keep us from expending unnecessary energy in unneeded ways. It helps keep us sane.

Now, in building our married relationship, there are many things to do. The list seems endless. We need to do wills, combine finances, make sure each other knows what we want in terms of funerals. Many people are afraid of death and the unknown and put these things off. We have plenty of things to fear -- a recession, saving for retirement, niggling health details. There is no need to put energy into fear of the unknown. If we can put these things in our rearview mirror in the next few months, it will enhance our quality of life and help build our relationship. Love is in the details.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Living Apart Together

We got married, moved to our dream home on the Oregon Coast and retired to a life of making art. Just dreaming. In reality, after the magical wedding day of 9-10-11, after a wonderful honeymoon trip to Squamish, B.C., we dove right back into our jobs. And both work places were shorthanded, forcing us to double our efforts at labor and battling that fierce enemy, stress. No, we can't give up our day jobs just yet. We need to keep the electricity on and the bills paid. And since those jobs happen to be 85 miles apart, with the Blue Mountains in between, we have kept the "mountain cabin" in Cove and the 'beach condo" in Milton-Freewater. We have two homes to maintain, two jobs, double bills on everything. We are a classic Living Apart Together couple, staying in daily contact through email, text messages, Facebooking and phone calls and rendezvousing on weekends, holidays and vacations. Sure, it's not ideal. But we share the same moon. We see the same shooting stars. And we are making Living Apart Together work, growing and nuturing our love one day at a time.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

"Win The Day"

Our favorite college football team, the Oregon Ducks, have a mantra they live by. "Win The Day." It's what their coach, Chip Kelly, has infused into their collective football life and I am sure it carries over somewhere in their personal lives.

"Win The Day" is a good goal. Jeff and I have encouraged each other by using these words. Yet, this is more that a mere collection of words, it is a good way to live your life. We know we can't win every situation but striving to 'win the day' will serve us well. If we can win the day, we can win the week, we can win the month and we can win the year.

Happy New Year Everyone... now, get out there and "Win The Day."

Monday, January 2, 2012

Do the Duck

2012 started with a bang, not a whimper, as the Ducks beat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. Teri and I celebrated by running around the beach condo living room doing the Duck. It's like doing the Jet except with a little more arm movement. Teri loves all things Oregon. Although having been more of a Beaver fan when I first met her in 2008, thanks to Duck coach Chip Kelly and his slogan Win the Day, she is beginning to see the light.

Even Steven

This year my goal is to write on even-numbered days. Teri vows to write on odd-numbered days. I like the idea of writing on even steven days. I believe for everything bad that happens, something good happens. It's like the Christmas eve sermon at Teri's niece Ashley and her husband Nathan's church in West Richland, Wash. The minister was saying, "When something really bad happens, a person asks, 'Why me, God?' Then when something unbelieveably good happens, the same person asks, 'Why me, God?'" I knew right away what the minister was talking about. That's how it worked with me. Tina's death in September 2007 at age 48 was the really bad, unbelieveably painful thing. Meeting Teri and getting married on 9-10-11 with the incredible outpouring of support from family and friends was the really good, amazingly wonderful thing. Why me, God? Why not me?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012... a new year, a new slate.

Ahhh... the possibilities. It has been 113 days since our magical wedding day, 112 days since my husband last posted on our blog. Here's to hoping that in this new year we'll share more of our time together in this blog.

Today, after a New Year's Eve celebration and a blissful night of sleep, we had a wonderful day. This morning I fixed oat and walnut pancakes and made a three-berry compote to top them off. Yummy way to start off the new year. We also managed some chores around the house, some needed reorganizing and such. Today was also a delightful day for a walk in the winter sunshine. Sunny and chilly, but I had my sweetheart with me. I love going for a long walk with Jeff. We have a chance to share the sights of the neighborhoods and talk about anything we wish. The walk never seems long when I am with him.

This year we won't have wedding planning and such tasks to accomplish so we can get on with our other projects. My part will be trying to clean out the clutter from the garage. My surroundings and my life need some reorganizing... but all in good time. I also plan to work on the two quilts I have in process. Also this year WE are going to the BEACH..... the Oregon Coast to be exact.

Also, I guess we should fill you in on some fun details of our wedding and share some photos we took on our honeymoon to Canada. It's been a marvelous time we've had together and we are looking forward to another year of adventures.