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.