Saturday, December 23, 2017

I Believe in 'Heros' and 'Sheros'

This is a special season for many of us. Truth is, what follows is about as 'preachy' as I get on these pages. Though I've posted this piece before it seems to say what I want to say. Hopefully it speaks to everyone, regardless of their spiritual leanings. And as a extra holiday treat it comes with desert.


I replied---”Shirley, your post reminded me of this little essay I wrote for a class assignment a few months ago---about those battles we all fight, and what I believe.”

Caring, unselfish, willing to face adversity and do what must be done. Those are some of the things that define a hero. I happen to believe in heros. More to the point, I believe in “heros” and “sheros.”

Like most folks I remember the heros of my childhood---for me that meant The Lone Ranger, Red Ryder, Jack Armstrong. They were the good guys, and they always won. Later there would be Mickey, Willie, and Johnny U---who seemed bigger than life, and although they didn’t always win, they won more than anyone else. 

Fast forward to the present. Perhaps it’s not surprising that by now much of what I know about real-life heros has been learned in the context of my church family. I’ve learned that God’s blessings often arrive in the form of "hes" and "shes." 

Over the years Roma and I have had the opportunity to visit with more than one hundred twenty individuals and couples from our congregation, getting to know them while creating short profiles of their lives and battles. Along the way we were constantly amazed at how many heros we met in the course of those visits. For the last thirteen or fourteen years we’ve also visited shut-ins, and in the process discovered a whole different crop of heros.

Along the way we've learned some important lessons. First of all, heros don’t always win. They become heros by the way they try. In fact, they’re often at their best when it seems that life has turned against them and the bad guys are winning. In times like that those heros are on the job, doing their good work and giving their best---encouraging and comforting, healing and praying. I’m pretty sure you’ll find them in every church on any given Sunday. (Though of course they don’t have to be in any church at all.) In any case, I know for a fact that you’ll find them in my congregation every Sunday morning.

Sometimes we’ll know who they are. Their efforts will be obvious. But at the same time there will be dozens of others dealing with their own struggles---fighting battles we will never know about. For those 'undercover, out-of-sight' heros the focus may not be on winning. Often it’s about coping---dealing with their personal adversity, relying on their own resources and the power of prayer to make it through hard times. I see those heros in every pew, every Sunday, seeking the strength and renewal to carry them through another week.

It’s comforting to know that when I’m in need of inspiration I can find examples all around me. And if you pay attention, you can too.

"Caring, unselfish, willing to face adversity and do what must be done"---those are the characteristics of the heros I believe in, including the pair of special heros who keep me going. Each of us will have our own special list, but our reliance on heros will be the same. Everyone needs “heros,” and “sheros” to help them cope and carry on. That’s why I believe in heros.

Finally, just in case your holiday is starting off a little rocky, this update from Roberta Morin may explain the problem.

Sunday, December 10, 2017


  I suppose there is some comfort in knowing that it is not normally an October/November thing---falling victim to the newest fad, jumping in headfirst before knowing how deep the water is. 
  After all, how many of us late-lifers are willing to make a drastic change of course? Not many, I'm guessing. But perhaps we should be a little bolder. How can the thriving and becoming I so often rant about take place if we refuse to leave the same old rut?
  I won’t pretend to speak for you---not in light of my own sometimes suspect history. For any of us, climbing out of our comfortable rut to move toward something more or better is apt to be a formidable task---a daunting mental journey from the known to the unknown, or at least the less-well-known. 
 As sometimes happens in my November storytelling world, an evolving Tanner Chronicles storyline is apt to have me pausing to examine some “taken-for-granted” part of my own late-life routine. Ironically, the story I am presently dealing with is about an October fellow sunk deep in his own personal rut.
  The new friend I have imagined into being, I call him Neal, is a semi-disabled, apartment-bound senior who has reluctantly resigned himself to a narrow and limited, television-centered life. His most basic of Basic Cable packages allows him a boring routine of morning game shows, afternoons of dated situation comedy reruns, and evenings spent nodding off in the midst of mind-numbing old movies. For all practical purposes that has become his life.
  Of course, scattered throughout those endless hours of uninspired detachment are the quiet moments that overtake all of us from time to time---when bittersweet recollections of times past float to the front of our mind. Remembered bits of childhood, some of them sentimental, some traumatic, may capture our attention. Or the unsettling highs and lows of long-ago school days may hold court. For Neal those reveries will also include endearing, but hurtful memories of special times spent with his recently-departed wife of forty-some years.
  After months spent adapting to his new lifestyle he has come to accept the latest, and apparently final stage of his long life as the only future in sight, the best he can expect.
  But what he has not foreseen are the insistent efforts of his daughters, who are determined to steer their father toward a more fulfilling future. Most surprising of all, they are setting out to expand his nearly-destitute lifestyle by taking advantage of capabilities he had never considered. 
  Though he will grumble each step of the way, railing against the possibilities ‘the girls’ are trying to sell him, there will be no denying the impact of their seductive sales pitch. What can they possibly offer that would move him beyond his rut? Let’s see if I can explain?


  Perhaps like you, I grew up in front of a television set, weaned on dramas, comedies, and variety shows that reflected the 1950s and 1960s world I knew. Sadly, in today’s 2017 universe, with its too-violent dramas, phony fantasy, too-graphic relational tales, and unfunny comedies there is little left for someone like me to watch. Beyond my nightly news fix, Rachel Madow, a good ballgame or documentary it too often feels like I have been left behind.
  In those long-ago 50s and 60s my peers and I stumbled through our adolescent years with music playing all around us---more than any earlier generation had experienced. The music we heard was new, unlike anything heard before. Moreover, the technology that made it possible was just as new. 
  Today we all know how that music has remained with us in ways we never imagined. Yet, like everything else in this world of ours, both the music and the technology have continued to change, until all these years later they have become something very different than we remember, something totally foreign to an old fossil like me.
  Then, about the time we had resigned ourselves to being left behind, out of step with today’s cultural tastes, we came face to face with the most disruptive change of all---a technological firestorm that rewrote the rules and changed the landscape.
  Could you and I have imagined such a thing in our well-remembered glory years? Just think about the timid, perhaps overwhelmed teenager you were back then. Could you have made your way in the intimidating new world of Twitter and tweet, Gmail, and Facebook?  Could we have handled today’s internet? 
  Of course, that was then. This is now. Here we are, a tick or two past our prime---living, if not thriving, in that brave new internet world. If you are at all like me you have set up shop on the fringes of that on-line techno-world, holding on by your finger tips.
  For a long time my internet involvement was limited to Gmail, Facebook, my own blog, and the Daily Mail. Those became the elements of my after-breakfast routine, before I moved on the day’s more mundane activities---until, that is, I started looking around for more 'online candy.' The more I looked, the more I found, and the more I realized how much the internet, aka ‘the web,’ has to offer.
 In the course of late-life conversations I have met dozens of peers for whom the internet is at best a foreign idea, and at worst a threat they would rather avoid. You probably know folks like that. You might be one of them. It is not my place to say those concerns are wrong. But I do feel an urge to explain, even briefly, what I think they are missing. At least I will try.


  First of all, long story short, my fictional friend Neal will use the internet possibilities his daughters are selling to expand his life. That is the story I want to tell---how so many of us October/November folks could use those tools to broaden our own horizons. More to the point, if you have been told, or have told yourself, that you can’t do that, YOU ARE WRONG. Again, allow me to explain.
  They tell us that younger generations no longer rely on newspapers to stay current on the issues of the day. But I’m guessing that many of us October/November types have never outgrown our reliance on a morning newspaper with our breakfast coffee. What many of us don’t know is that If you are a ‘newspaper person’ the internet is definitely for you. 
 By now nearly every major newspaper in the world has an online, English-language edition. It has never been easier to follow international events, in a format we can read, often presented from a very different perspective than our home-town press. As an avowed Anglophile one of my personal favorites is the site that lists websites for virtually every newspaper in England.
  Or maybe you are the social sort---perhaps the kind who fostered pen-pal friendships as a youngster. Rest assured that virtually every country has online senior pen-pal sites, making it easy to meet and visit with international friends---including October types like us. While following a few common sense rules, (Do not disclose personal information, succumb to romantic overtures, or send money.) it is still possible to create satisfying and lasting international friendships.
    Or you might be a senior who would rather use the internet for your personal entertainment. It is hard to overstate the range of entertainment and educational videos that await your viewing. There are literally thousands of videos featuring your favorite performers and their music from years gone by, along with classic stand-up routines and the situation comedies you remember from your own glory days.
  And finally there is the ultimate retirement staple---late-life travel. In both photographic and video formats the internet offers an incredible selection of travel material to whet your appetite. Most every country is represented--- each with their own enticing photo essays and comprehensive video presentations, documenting the virtues of travel to and within their country. 
   Whatever your imagined destination, no matter what you hope to see or do, you can be sure that someone has been there, camera in hand, to illustrate the possibilities from every angle. Their efforts have literally taken 'armchair travel' to a whole new level.
  And how do you find all those treasures? If you don't know by now, you  should certainly learn. It is called 'Google.'
 You call it up, type any question you want answered, ("Where can I find old music videos?") and bingo, your screen will be filled with hundreds, if not thousands of answers. That works for any question you can imagine.
  So, it is those possibilities, along with many more, which will finally win Neal’s attention---providing a multitude of ways for him to move beyond his numbing retirement experience. And in the end, when the time comes for a break from those online diversions, his ‘most-favorite-of-all’ internet destination ---Sixteen Exciting Solitaire Games---will remain just a click away.

  Finally, as I am prone to do, I will end with one more bit of context for the ‘Neal’ story I am telling. It was only a few months ago when an upsetting cancer diagnosis had me seeking a late-life purpose, a reason to keep going.
  I would never claim to speak for the Divine. But it feels as though my meanderings through today’s tangled, but satisfying October/November landscape---trying my best to shine a light, dim as it may be, on late-life opportunities and challenges---is as close as I will find to a valid reason to keep plowing ahead. 

  Too often we allow ourselves to approach these years with dread, when we ought to be focused on the possibilities and potential. That’s what I would like to do. Hopefully, my friend Neal will lend a hand in that effort.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Finally, the truth


Perhaps like me, you are cursed with an inquiring mind. If so, you will probably be as glad as I was to see the truth spelled out more clearly than ever before. To give credit where it is due, it was my good friend Ron Staples who finally uncovered the long hidden secret. (Is "Oregon Staples" as catchy as "Indiana Jones"?)

Please do not Google or check this with Snopes. They will lie to you. Trust me!

In ancient Israel, it came to pass that a trader by the name of Abraham Com did take unto himself a healthy young wife by the name of Dorothy.   And Dot Com was a comely woman, large of breast, broad of shoulder and long of leg.  Indeed, she was often called Amazon Dot Com. 

And she said unto Abraham, her husband, "Why dost thou travel so far from town to town with thy goods when thou canst trade without ever leaving thy tent?" 

And Abraham did look at her as though she were several saddle bags short of a camel load, but simply asked, "How, dear?" 

And Dot replied, "I will place drums in all the towns and drums in between to send messages saying what you have for sale, and they will reply telling you who hath the best price. The sale can be made on the drums and delivery made by Uriah's Pony Stable (UPS)." 

Abraham thought long and decided he would let Dot have her way with the drums.  And the drums rang out and were an immediate success.  Abraham sold all the goods he had at the top price, without ever having to move from his tent. 

To prevent neighboring countries from overhearing what the drums were saying, Dot devised a system that only she and the drummers knew  It was known as Must Send Drum Over Sound (MSDOS), and she also developed a language to transmit ideas and pictures - Hebrew to the People (HTTP). 

And the young men did take to Dot Com's trading as doth the greedy horsefly take to camel dung.  They were called Nomadic Ecclesiastical Rich Dominican Sybarites, or NERDS  And lo, the land was so feverish with joy at the new riches and the deafening sound of drums that no one noticed that the real riches were going to that enterprising drum dealer, Brother William of Gates, who bought off every drum maker in the land. Indeed he did insist on drums to be made that would work only with Brother Gates' drum heads and drumsticks. 

And Dot did say, "Oh, Abraham, what we have started is being taken over by others." And Abraham looked out over the Bay of Ezekiel, or eBay as it came to be known.  He said, "We need a name that reflects what we are." 

And Dot replied, "Young Ambitious Hebrew Owner Operators."  "YAHOO," said Abraham. And because it was Dot's idea, they named it YAHOO Dot Com. 

Abraham's cousin, Joshua, being the young Gregarious Energetic Educated Kid (GEEK) that he was, soon started using Dot's drums to locate things around the countryside. 

It soon became known as God's Own Official Guide to Locating Everything (GOOGLE). 

That is how it all began. And that's the truth. 

I would not make up this stuff.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Dull Men's Club

The first time I highlighted this hallowed organization on these pages I thought I would be a natural for membership in their club. If that was true then, it is even more so today.


Can you believe it? Turns out I have become a follower of an organization I didn't even know existed. Truth is, I am a natural fit for any club whose motto is ---”It’s okay to be dull.”
The Dull Man's Club is my kind of group. There are no dues, the few meetings are optional. And there seem to be few rules. Who can argue with an organization that claims it’s greatest achievement is --- “Remaining dull in spite of ever increasing pressure to change.” You can tell that these folks have taken Creative Dullness to a whole new level.
It is, after all, about using ones time in a wise and prudent manner. If you are one of those ‘on the go’ sort, who hurry around, never having time to take your time, I urge you to learn more about The Dull Men’s Club. Because in the end it is all about time. 
As one of their members explains --- “Time is what keeps everything from happening at once.” And besides, another one says --- “Slow motion gets you there faster.” Turns out, if there is one thing Dullers are good at, it is taking their time.
Did you ever stop to realize that even ‘coincidence’ can be dull. Over the years I have posted several times about the year our family spent living in Winchester, England. Heck, Roma and I even wrote a book about those months. So, a few days ago, when I learned that the contact for the Dull Men’s Club has a Winchester address, it felt a bit like going home.
During our time in Winchester we got to know several Hampshire men. As I remember, they were not a typically ‘dull’ crowd in those days. Still, I’m not surprised to learn that at least some of them have crossed the late-life bridge into ‘dullness.’ I for one am glad to have their company.
These folks have found ways to make even the ‘dullest’ activity sound appealing. That, of course, requires both a lively imagination and the time to sit back and mull the possibilities. Apparently they are especially good at ‘sitting back and mulling.’ You have to admire men like that.
As for imagination---I invite you to view this Dull Men’s Club video, which offers delightful insights into ‘dullness  in action,’ as practiced by the pros. After that, a visit to the Club’s Website offers a window on the amazing range of the members’ ‘dull’ projects. These fellows have taken 'ordinary' to extraordinary lengths, while helping the rest of us see things that have always been there, but are not always appreciated.
Scrolling through the website confirms what I probably have know all along. My all-too-obvious dullness is clearly of the mundane, pedestrian sort. The truly Dull Men you meet there have taken dullness to a higher level. They deserve our admiration and acclaim for the way they have made dullness something to strive for.
If you are one of those ‘on the go’ folks, I hope you will check this out. And if you know someone whose ‘Dullness Quotient’ might make him or her a candidate for Dull Men's Club membership I hope you will share this post with them.

Now I must remember to remind the wife that “dull is good.” Near as I can tell she knows that I’m ‘dull,’ but doesn’t always see the ‘good’ in that. Perhaps she just needs more time.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Silent Generation

This seems to me a most fitting Thanksgiving reminder, and a ‘spot on’ depiction of the special time our October / November generation has been blessed to experience, offering a no-nonsense picture of the times we grew up calling ‘normal,’ which it turns out were so much more than that.

I’m sure that October/ November folks will see themselves here. Hopefully our children and grandchildren will take a few minutes to digest the reality that made us old folks the way we are, and why we sometimes struggle to make sense of today’s world.

Thanks to Joyce Carlson Oliver, a long-ago classmate, for helping us remember.


Children of the (1930s) & (1940s)

Born in the 1930s and early 1940s, we were the smallest number of children born since the early 1900s. We were The Silent Generation---remnants of a very special time.

We were the last generation to climb out of the depression, who can remember the winds of war and impact of a world war that rattled the structure of our daily lives for years.

We are the last to remember ration books for everything from gas to sugar to shoes to stoves.

We saved tin foil and poured fat into tin cans. 

We hand mixed ‘white stuff’ with ‘yellow stuff’ to make fake butter.

We saw cars up on blocks because tires weren’t available.

We can remember milk being delivered to our house early in the morning and placed in the ‘milk box’ on the porch. (A friend’s mother delivered milk in a horse drawn cart.) We sometimes fed the horse.

We are the last to hear Roosevelt’s radio assurances and to see gold stars in the front windows of our grieving neighbors.

We can also remember the parades on August 15, 1945, VJ (Victory in Japan) Day.

We saw the ‘boys’ come home from the war, build their Cape Cod style houses---pouring the cellar, putting on a tar-paper roof, and living there until they could afford the time and money to build it out.

We were the last generation to spend our childhood without television. Instead, we imagined what we heard on the radio.

As we all like to brag about, with no TV we spent our childhood ‘playing outside until the street lights came on.’ We did play outside, and we did play on our own. There was no little league. There was no city playground for kids. 

The lack of television in our early years meant, for most of us, that we had little real understanding of what the world was like.

Our Saturday afternoons at the movies included a brief newsreel of the war, sandwiched between westerns and cartoons.

Telephones were one to a house, hung on the wall, with lines we shared with our neighbors.

Computers were called calculators. They only added and subtracted and were hand cranked. Typewriters were driven by pounding fingers, throwing the carriage, and changing the ribbon. The ‘internet’ and “Google’ were words that did not exist.

The GI Bill gave returning veterans the means to get an education and spurred colleges to grow. VA loans fanned a housing boom. Pent up demand, coupled with new installment-payment plans, put factories to work. New highways would bring jobs and mobility. The veterans joined civic clubs and became active in politics.

In the late 40s and early 50s the country seemed to enjoy the embrace of a busy, but quiet order, as it gave birth to the new middle class. (Which became know as the ‘Baby Boomer.s’)

The radio networks expanded from three stations to thousands. The telephone started to become a common method of communication and ‘Faxes’ sent hard copy around the world.

Our parents, suddenly free from the confines of the depression and the war, were exploring opportunities they had never imagined before. While we were busy playing by ourselves until the street lights came on, they were busy discovering the post-war world.

Most of us had no life plan, but with the unexpected virtue of ignorance and an economic rising tide we simply stepped out into the world and started to learn what it was all about.

We entered a world of overflowing plenty and opportunity --- a world where we were welcomed.

Based on our naive belief that there was more where this came from, and secure in our future, we shaped our lives as we went.

Of course, just as today, not all Americans shared in that experience. Depression-era poverty was deep rooted. Polio was still a crippler. The Korean War was a dark presage in the early 50s, and by mid-decade school children were ducking under their school desks.

Russia built the ‘Iron Curtain,’ and China became ‘Red China.’ Eisenhower sent the first ‘advisors’ to Viet Nam, and years later Johnson invented a war there. Castro set up camp in Cuba and Khrushchev came to power.

We were the last generation to experience an interlude when there were no existential threats to our homeland.

We came of age in the 40s and early 50s. The war was over and the cold war, terrorism, the civil rights movement, technological upheavals, ‘global warming,’ and perpetual economic insecurity had yet to haunt our lives. 

Only our generation can remember both a time of apocalyptic war and a time when our world was secure and full of bright promise and plenty. We have lived through both.

We grew up at the best possible time, a time when the world was getting better, not worse.

We are the ‘Silent Generation’ - ‘The Last Ones.’

More than 99.9% of us are either retired or deceased, and feel privileged to have ‘lived in the best of times.’

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The New Senior Man

  I don’t believe we called them “Chicks” in the days of my misspent youth. I came along before that time. Yet, whatever name we used, and we had several, you can be sure those fine-looking coeds were noticed and appreciated.
  Though it probably did not feel that way when I crawled out of bed this morning, it seems that some things don't just change over time---they actually get better with age. Take for instance, today's Elderchicks.
  That is what these friends of mine call themselves. Fact is, they seem rather proud of the label. I must confess, I am proud to have made my personal connection with these ladies, aka 'Elderchicks'. (Actually it is my second, since Roma surely qualifies as my number one Elderchick.)
  I have mentioned Thelma Reese’s Elderchicks website before on these pages---along with their new book The New Senior Man, the follow-up to their earlier The New Senior Woman.

 Together, their two books explore and document some of the many ways that today’s seniors, women and men, deal with the opportunities and challenges of late-life in the twenty-first century---where retirement often lasts for twenty or thirty years. Each volume contains dozens of ‘up close and personal’ profiles of seniors making the most of the years that await them.
  I think Marc Freeman’s review of The New Senior Man sums it up well when he writes, “This  moving and insightful book....and the thoughtful men in it.... encourages us to seize the opportunity to write our own encore, and live our legacy. What a gift!”
   "The opportunity to write our own encore." That sounds a lot like the 'thriving in our October Years' I've been selling for years.  Beyond that, I do believe we have an obligation to 'live our legacy.' 
   In their books my Elderchick friends, Thelma and Bobby, offer dozens of varied and unique examples of men and women 'living their legacy,' each in their own way.
  I suppose the ladies’ first book, about Senior Women, was a logical extension of their Elderchicks perspective. I for one found their feminine observations on Senior Men both interesting and revealing.
  Truth be told, I must admit to an unfamiliar humbleness at finding myself officially labeled one of those ‘New’ Senior Men. (I can hear Roma cheering at the possibility of a ‘new’ me.) You see, the Elderchick’s new book includes my own unlikely story among the many ‘New Senior Men’ they profile. 
    Moreover, their website’s most recent post includes an embarrassingly complementary article about my Tanner Chronicles stories. That was enough to warm my old and not-so-humble heart. 
   I hope you will take time to check out the Elderchicks' Website. Just Click Here. It's a fun place, with a wealth of October Years wisdom among their pages.